Friday, April 29, 2011

"Kison" the Cheek...

Quick...who earned the win in the first night game in World Series history? The answer:

Card #141 -- Bruce Kison, Pittsburgh Pirates

This picture shows how lanky Bruce Kison was. However, his body size allowed him to use his log arms to give a sidearm delivery that kept batters on their toes. He was also known for being wild, hitting several opponents. Later, he admitted that blisters caused much of that, but it didn't make him popular during his playing days.

On October 13, 1971, Bruce Kison took the mound against the Orioles. While taking until 1971 to get a night game might be surprising since all Series games are played at night now, it is more surprising how quickly the Series day games disappeared after that. A couple of other significant things happened in that Series: Kison tied a record by hitting three opposing batters in that night game, and got married the same day his team won the championship.

Kison stayed with the Pirates through 1979, which gave him a second Series ring. He was a key member of the rotation despite never getting more than 14 wins in any season. In 1980, he went to the Angels and helped them get to the postseason in 1982. He finished his major league career in Boston in '85. He went on to play in the Senior League in 1989 and coached for several teams before becoming a scout. He's still doing that today, for the Baltimore Orioles (the same team he beat in two World Series).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another Really Busy Picture

Chris Speier scores, and a bunch of players are on hand to witness it:

Card #273 -- Chris Speier, San Francisco Giants

Among the Giants, the batter in the on-deck circle is watching the play, while third base coach (John McNamara?) looks on. The entire Phillies bullpen is in the shot, as well as Don Money at third. The catcher is either Tim McCarver or John Bateman, since both would wear uniform number 6 for the 1972 Phillies as they were traded for each other. I'm guessing it's McCarver. In the middle of the action, there's a sliding Chris Speier.

Chris Speier enjoyed a long career, playing 19 seasons from 1971-'89. He bookended his big league career with two stints in San Francisco. Most of the rest of his career was spent in Montreal. He was a solid player, even if he didn't live up to his initial potential. He would be named to the All-Star team three straight years (1972-'74) and played in three National League Championship Series. Interestingly, the Giants made the Series in 1989 but Speier sat out that postseason.

After retiring, he became a minor league roving instructor and a hitting coach. Today, he is the bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Card That Finished it Up...

Today is the one-year anniversary of this blog. At the rate I feature cards here, I should be able to keep this going for about four more years.

Marking the milestone, here's the final card I picked up (at the Chicago National in 2005) to complete the base set:

Card #590 -- Deron Johnson, Philadelphia Phillies

Johnson moved around often during his playing days, and 1973 was no exception. He was traded to Oakland a month into the season, which meant he immediatey went from a developing team to a contender. He managed to win a World Series title with the A's, something he didn't get do enjoy as a Yankee early in his career. As his career wound down, Johnson would be picked up by the Red Sox to help them in their '75 pennant drive after Jim Rice was injured, but it was too late to qualify for the postseason roster. As a result, that '73 Series ring would be the only one Johnson managed to earn.

When the A's picked up Johnson in 1973, it was one of the first times a team specifically looked for a player who could be a full-time designated hitter. Since it was the first year of the DH rule in theAmerican League, few had considered the value of going after a player whose field time was limited due to injuries and age. While it's a common thing today, Johnson was one of the first to fill that role.

After retiring in 1976, Johnson would go on to become a minor league manager and coach a number of major league teams through 1991. Sadly, he was diagnosed with lung cancer that year and died in '92.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nice Shirt...

This is a really obvious case of a Topps artist painting a new uniform. The cap is actually pretty good, but the shirt gives it away:

Card #321 -- Rich Hinton, Texas Rangers

His Texas uniform is airbrushed because he was traded away from the Yankees really late in the 1972 season, but he never appeared with the Rangers in 1973. He was traded before the season to Cleveland and sent to the minors. He wouldn't return to the majors again until 1975, as a member of the Chicago White Sox. It would be the second of three stints for the Southside nine.

Hinton played parts of six seasons between 1971 and '79, and never really managed to fit in as a regular. He was normally a relief specialist -- or a set-up man as they're called today -- and managed to toss two complete games in 1978.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Defending Senior Circuit Champs

No, this post has nothing to do with an over-50 league, even if a few of the players featured stuck around in the majors until they were over 40. For those who don't keep up with old newspaper sports jargon, the Senior Circuit is the National League.

While some collectors might consider this to be a worthless card, I say it's a one-of-a-kind item that belongs in my collection:

Card #641 -- Cincinnati Reds Team Card

Really, who else has an eight-cornered Reds team card? It's unique.

Taken at Riverfront Stadium, the team photo is loaded with stars. Not only are Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez in the Hall of Fame, so is manager Sparky Anderson. Pete Rose is pictured as well, as is another man who was incredibly popular when he was a Reds player: Ted Kluzsewski. Davey Concepcion, George Foster and Ken Griffey are also part of what was a solid team.

Although the Reds lost the '72 World Series to the Oakland A's, they didn't let it bother them. Instead, they won back-to-back titles in '75 and '76, beating two teams that have perhaps the most vocal fans in the game.

But check out the guys on the left. I'm assuming those are the clubhouse manager and traveling secretary (please add to the comments if you know), but they remind me of Mr. Carlson and Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinnati. Yes, that show may have come out five years after this card, but the fact that both are set in the same city doesn't escape me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My "Heavens," That's a Good One!

This is actually a fairly decent airbrush job that looks almost like he's wearing a brand-new cap:

Card #402 -- Jack Hiatt, California Angels

Jack Hiatt split the 1972 season between Houston and California, the franchise he debuted with in 1964. Over the course of nine seasons and five teams, he wasn't able to get regular time behind the plate unless somebody got injured. However, those last several games he played with the Angels were exactly that: his last. The bottom stat line on the back of this card end up showing his final career numbers.

He had one brief chance to rise above the obscurity, though. In 1969, starting catcher Dick Dietz hurt his hand early in the season and Hiatt took his place. Taking advantage of the change in fortune, he got off to a hot start and even clubbed a game-ending (nobody called them "walk-off" back then) grand slam. However, his streak cooled considerably and he was soon below a .200 batting average. When Dietz came off the DL, he resumed his place in the lineup.

After Hiatt walked off the field...or out of the dugout, in his case, he became a minor league manager for several years and then served as the Giants' director of player development for 16 years through 2007.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Back of the Binder...

Today is April 15, a day that is normally synonymous with the IRS in the United States. This year, the filing deadline has been extended to Monday, but in commemoration of the day, here's a picture of somebody saying "Give me what you've got."

Card #648 -- Tom Egan, Chicago White Sox

Card number 648 is twelve cards away from the end of the set.

When I was a kid and only had a handful of '73 cards in my collection, Tom Egan was the last card in my binder. At the time, my means were limited and I had to use the few pages I owned to fit my growing collection. That meant the vintage cads were placed back-to-back -- 18 per sheet -- and in number order. When I picked up a new stack of cards, I had to do the labor-intensive work of reordering every card in the binder, which really wasn't a lot of fun if I picked up cards that had low numbers. However, in my '73 Topps set, Tom Egan was the first one I had to move to fit a new card.

As the years have gone on, I've slowly gotten my collection so my cards can be placed in their own spot when I get them and the backs can be read without having to take them out. While it's a lot quicker to put away my cards, it probably isn't a coincidence that my math skills improved considerably around the same time I was having to constantly rearrange those cards. But enough about me...

Despite appearing in the final series of Topps cards that year, Tom Egan didn't play a single major league game in 1973. Instead, he was sent down to the White Sox's AAA affiliate in Iowa and never made it back to the parent club. After the season, he was left unprotected and drafted by the Angels, the same team he played with until 1970. In his second stint with the Angels, he managed to catch Nolan Ryan's no-hitter on September 28, 1974. His career ended when the Angels released him halfway through the '75 season.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Man of Many Positions

The cap is obviously airbrushed, as he had played his entire career in Minnesota through 1972:

Card #405 -- Cesar Tovar, Philadelphia Phillies

On September 22, 1968, Cesar Tovar became the second person in major league history to play all nine defensive positions in a single game. Interestingly, when he took the mound to pitch, the first batter he faced was Bert Campaneris, the only other player who had achieved the distinction. He was a better hitter than most people remember; though he normally hit in the .280 range, he managed to get 195 hits in '70 and 204 in '71. He also broke up five no-hit bids between 1967 and '75.

1973 was the only year Tovar played in Philadelphia, since his regular centerfield slot was being shared with both Del Unser and Mike Anderson. Between 1974-'76 he played with Texas, Oakland and the Yankees. While in the American League, he sometimes hit at DH, which made him the second person (again, after Campaneris) to play at all 10 positions on the field.

Cesar Tovar returned to his native Venezuela after retiring, and died there of pancreatic cancer in 1994.

Monday, April 11, 2011


This guy looks like he's warning the photographer about what will happen if takes one more step.

Card #422, Bob Robertson, Pittsburgh Pirates

According to the statistics on the back of the card, Bob Robertson only hit .193 in '72, so the cameraman may not have felt any pressure, despite the piercing eyes and flared nostrils. Not only that, but with fans coming in to take their seats, there would be plenty of witnesses in case of an assault.

That said, Robertson was known for crushing the ball. He led three minor leagues in home runs on his way up to the Pirates, was the first player to put a ball into the upper deck at Three Rivers Stadium and hit three home runs in a single playoff game in 1971. In fact, Pirate announcer Bob Prince famously said of him, "He could hit a ball out of any park...including Yellowstone."

Unfortunately, Robertson had some health issues that complicated things for him. A kidney obstruction took him out for the entire 1968 season. Surgery on both knees limited him to part-time status after '74. When the Pirates released him in March '77, he sat out the entire season before coming back to play with both expansion franchises. He played for the Mariners in 1978 and the Blue Jays in '79.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not Princess Leia's Father

Eddie Fisher had been appearing on Topps cards since 1960, and this one would be his final one:

Card #439 -- Eddie Fisher, Chicago White Sox

It's interesting that Fisher is shown in his White Sox uniform, as he spent most of '72 on the Angels. It was his second stint with the ChiSox, after playing with them from 1962-'66. They used a different uniform then, so there wasn't the option of just digging into the Topps archives for an old photo.

Notice how the uniform number appears on Fisher's sleeve. The Chicago White Sox liked to put them in different places. While it's easy to blame owner Bill Veeck for that, they continued the practice after he sold the team (and after he passed away), eventually placing the number near the crotch by the late 1980s.

During Fisher's first stint with the Sox, he was traded to the Orioles and helped the team in its run for the pennant. He missed out on getting into that year's World Series, however, as three of the four games were complete-game wins for the O's.

Shortly after this card showed up in wax packs, Fisher was playing for the Cardinals, who released him after the season was over. His major league career was over.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Player That Never Was

The photo on today's card is definitely airbrushed. That's because the player had not been in a major league game since 1970:

Card #466 -- Jose Arcia, Kansas City Royals

As it turned out, he never made it back to the majors for the Royals or anybody else.

Jose Arcia was a Cuban-born player signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962 but ended up taking a long road to get to the majors. After six years, a change from pitcher to fielder, eleven minor league teams and three trades among the major league clubs, he didn't get to "The Show" until 1968 when the Cubs selected him in the Rule V draft. He stayed with the Cubs for the entire year, mostly as a bench player. In 1969, Arcia was drafted again to be a member of the Padres. He spent two years for the Padres but turned out to be a poor hitter and baserunner. After the '70 season, he was sent back down to the minors.

Topps may have assumed he'd make the Royals' roster for '73, but he would remain in the minors until 1976.

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Award-Winning Year

Although Nolan Ryan had an amazing year in 1973 -- setting the all-time single-season strikeout record and throwing a no-hitter -- he didn't get the Cy Young Award that season. He was beaten out by this guy:

Card #160 -- Jim Palmer, Baltimore Orioles

In fact, despite all his records and the fact that he was a feared pitcher, Nolan Ryan never won a Cy Young in his Hall of Fame career. Jim Palmer, on the other hand, won three of them in a four-year period. He was arguably the best American League pitcher of the 1970s because he had a luxury that Ryan didn't always have: a terrific team backing him up.

The photo on the card demonstrates the high-kick delivery that was Palmer's trademark. He was a boy wonder when he came up as an 19-year old. In his first major league win, he helped his own cause by hitting a home run. He pitched his first World Series game in 1966 and beat Sandy Koufax with a complete game shutout. He went through a rough time the next couple of years, needing to be sent back to the minors and having surgery on his arm. In 1969, he regained his form and threw a no-hitter.

In 1970, he notched his first 20-win season. In 1971, he was one of four pitchers who won 20 games for the Orioles. In fact, from 1970-'78 he had at least 20 victories in every season but 1974. That season saw him develop elbow trouble that placed him on the DL for eight weeks. In 1983, Palmer's age was showing. After being sent to the minors for a while, he came back and helped the team to the World Series once more. The Orioles released him early in 1984 and he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1990. Despite that status, he still attempted a comeback in 1991 but hung it up for good during Spring Training.

A bit of trivia: Jim Palmer is the only pitcher who has ever won World Series games in three decades. He's also the only player who appeared in all of the Baltimore Orioles' six World Series.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Busy Picture

Sliding at home and scoring is a man who celebrates his 63rd birthday today:

Card #97 -- Willie Montanez, Philadelphia Phillies

It's pretty obvious he's playing at Candlestick Park, considering the number of Giants players shown in the photo. There's a catcher waiting for the throw and a pitcher backing him up, while a third baseman and left fielder are visible as well. Meanwhile, the next batter waits his turn. With that many players showing (even without uniform numbers), perhaps the game can be pinpointed.

Montanez scored in three games at Candlestick during '72. In the first one, he scored on a home run. In the second, he was the first of two who scored on a triple. That doesn't match with the action. That leaves the third game on July 16, when he ran from second on a Don Money single in the 4th inning.

Willie Montanez had a long career. He first came up in 1966 with the Angels but wasn't a full-time major leaguer until 1970. He was with the Phillies until '75 and bounced around with seven other teams between then and 1982, when he finished his career back in Philadelphia.

He was known as "Hot Dog" due to the way he played. At first base, he would often do a move after catching a fly ball that looked like he was putting a gun into its holster. During a pickoff attempt, he sometimes tagged the runner repeatedly even if he was safe. If he hit a home run, he sometimes ran around the bases slowly. These antics often irritated teammates, opponents and fans alike. It definitely rubbed raw nerves on his managers.