Monday, October 31, 2011


It's well-known that this guy is one of the more notable Hawaiian natives to play major league baseball, but it's not so well-known that he's the first American player whose ancestry was Japanese. He's also the only player of any nationality who ever pinch-hit for Hank Aaron:

Card #266 -- Mike Lum, Atlanta Braves

Mike Lum was born shortly after the end of World War II, by a mother who was Japanese and a father who was a serviceman. He ended up being adopted by a different family and becoming a star in both baseball and football as a high school player in Honolulu.

Lum played for the Braves on two different occasions. He came up with the team in 1967 and stayed with them through 1975. He rejoined thme in '79 as a free agent. He split those two tours of duty with the Reds and then finished up his major league career with the Cubs in 1981. The next year, he spent a season in Japan, the homeland of his ancestors.

After his retirement, he became a hitting instructor and a coach. He still holds the record for most lifetime homers for a player born in Hawaii, though Shane Victorino appears to be poised to break the mark next season.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Bahnsen Burner

This pitcher won the American League's Rookie of the Year Award in 1968 while pitching fo rthe New York Yankees:

Card #20 -- Stan Bahnsen, Chicago White Sox

Stan Bahnsen almost didn't make the club that year. He arrived late for spring training because of a commitment to the Army. However, the Yankees were a shadow of their former selves and needed his services. He would go 17-12 and lead the team in ERA. However, the rest of his Yankee days were disappointing. His best known moment after his superb rookie season was an on-field brawl where the Indians' Vada Pinson floored him with a single punch.

In 1971, Bahnsen would be traded to the White Sox, where he would become part of a short rotation. In 1972, manager Chuck Tanner decided to go with Wilbur Wood, Bahnsen and Tom Bradley. The White Sox finished above .500 for the first time in years. In 1973-'74, he went with a rotation of Wood and Bahnsen, with his other starters filling in for them to give them an occasional rest. That old-school approach backfired, especially in the days where few paid attention to pitch counts. In 1973, he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, only to have ex-teammate Walt Williams break it up with two outs.

In 1976, Bahnsen rejoined Tanner with the Oakland A's, then was traded to the Expos in 1977. He remained with them through 1981, with short stints in California and Philadelphia in 1982 before he retired.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


In 1973, this player was a year away from securing the starting third baseman position for the Twins:

Card #577 -- Eric Soderholm, Minnesota Twins 

This is Eric Soderholm's first appearance on a Topps card, but he'd been with the club ever since a late-season call-up in 1971. In 1973, his time was limited as he was sent back down to the minors for more seasoning. In 1974, he was back for good. Unfortunately, a knee injury sidelined him for the entire '76 season.

Despite being out for that entire season, Soderholm tested the free agent waters that year and quickly signed with the White Sox. He responded with a career year in '77, which saw him win the Comeback Player of the Year award. In that campaign, he clubbed 25 home runs, with 16 coming after the All-Star break. He continued with the "South Side Hitmen" through 1979, when he was traded to Texas. He was a part-timer in Texas as well as an occasional DH, a role he continued in 1980 with the Yankees.

Soderholm would sit out the 1981 season and failed to make the cut with the Cubs in a spring training tryout in '82. He worked as a private hitting instructor after his retirement, running baseball camps with his name on them. He also ran a business that resold tickets for sporting events and entertainment venues.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Great Caption

In celebration of the ongoing World Series, here's a card from the World Series subset of the 1973 Topps issue. It's one that actually has a great caption:

Card #203 -- 1972 World Series, Game 1

At Riverfront Satudium, Gene Tenace made major league history as the first player ever to hit home runs in his first two Series at-bats. Those two blasts scored three runs, which was enough to beat the Reds by a 3-2 score. Considering Reds pitcher Gary Nolan only allowed four hits (and the two relievers allowed none), Tenace made the difference at the plate for the A's.

The picture here shows Tenace celebrating after the first blast in the top of the second inning with George Hendrick, who also scored on the shot. Dick Green is getting ready for his appearance -- he would line out to third to end the inning -- and Johnny Bench waits to get back into position. The home plate umpire is Chris Pelekoudas, who appears to be trying to reset his device that counts balls and strikes. All this info can be found on Baseball-Reference.

The funny thing...Gene Tenace only managed 5 round-trippers all year and 20 in his four seasons up to that point. You can safely assume that his power display was a surprise to those watching. However, it would continue, as Tenace went on to get double-digit totals every year afterward until 1980.

Friday, October 21, 2011

One Not-So-Colorful Commentator

The World Series is going on now, and this man is doing the color commentary for his 22nd Fall Classic, a string that stretches back to 1985:

Card #269 -- Tim McCarver, St. Louis Cardinals

That said, Tim McCarver is one of those announcers that tends to grate on the nerves of some fans, much the same way as Howard Cosell did for Monday Night Football around 1973. Ironically, when he called his first World Series, McCarver was a last-minute replacement for Cosell. However, I'm not going to get too deep into his second career here, since he was still a player at this time.

McCarver was returning to the Cardinals in 1973 after splitting 1972 between the Phillies and Expos. Since the picture on this card doesn't look like it's been airbrushed, I'm guessing that it's from his first stint with the team (1969 or earlier). It was during that first period with the Cardinals that McCarver befriended pitcher Steve Carlton. Over a period that included one stint in St. Louis and two in Philadelphia, he became Carlton's favored catcher. During his late career, McCarver would return to the Phillies in 1975 and mostly caught when Carlton was pitching. It was joked that when the two players died, they would be buried 60 feet, 6 inches apart from each other.

McCarver's career as a broadcaster began in 1980 doing both the local Phillies broadcasts and serving as a backup for NBC's Game of the Week. Aside from a short return to the Phillies for the last month of the 1980s season (making him a four-decade player), he's worked in the booth ever since his retirement.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blue-Bordered Redbirds

Most people who follow baseball -- even casually -- know that the New York Yankees have won more World Series than any other team. But, how many know the team in second place?

(No Number) St. Louis Cardinals Checklist Card

The St. Louis Cardinals have won ten World Series Titles, several of which came at the expense of the Bronx Bombers. Tonight, they begin taking another shot at adding to that total when they face off against the Texas Rangers.

Let's take a look at the twelve players picked to appear on this checklist card. Six of the signatures belong to pitchers -- Gibson, Cleveland, Santorini, Granger, Wise and Spinks -- and two are catchers (Simmons and McCarver). That leaves just four more players: two infielders (Torre at third and Sizemore at second) and two outfielders (Brock and Melendez). This may be the most lopsided lineup yet featured on this blog.

This is the fifth blue-bordered checklist card featured here, and the fourth that didn't show a full field-ready team on the front.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cool Hand Kooz

For many collectors, this player is best remembered for being the "other guy" on Nolan Ryan's rookie card:

Card #184 -- Jerry Koosman, New York Mets

However, Jerry Koosman was the pitching star for the Mets in the "Miracle" 1969 World Series, rather than Tom Seaver (who lost Game 1) or Ryan (who only pitched a single game). In fact, when the Mets won the final game of that Series, it was Koosman who took the mound and helped get out of an early 3-0 deficit with his pitching.

The funny thing is that Koosman was close to being cut from the Mets as a minor league player in 1966. He was kept on the payroll to pay back a loan the team sent him when his car broke down on the way to spring training. Fortunately for him (and for the Mets), he improved before the funds were repaid. In his first full year with the parent club, he won 19 games, struck out 178 and had a 2.08 ERA. Those marks set the franchise record for rookie pitchers set by Seaver the year before.

Not only was Koosman helpful in 1969, he would star in the 1973 postseason, with both of his wins getting the team within a victory from the championships. In 1976 he enjoyed what may have been his finest season, with 21 wins and 200 strikeouts, but the Mets began falling off and trading away their star players. Koosman was sent to Minnesota after the '78 season. He responded by winning 20 games for the Twins in 1979.

He went to the White Sox in 1981 and helped the team to a postseason appearance in '83, before two final years in a Phillies uniform.

An odd coincidence: when Koosman was traded to the Twins, the "player to be named later" was Jesse Orosco, which meant that the two people on the mound as the Mets won their only two World Series titles were traded for each other. He also was remembered in the 1980s TV show Growing Pains. Where the main family was the Seavers, the next door neighbors were the Koosmans. For a show set on Long Island, it's safe to say the creators of the show had at least one Mets fan among them.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Backup Backstop

In this shot taken at spring training, here's a player who didn't get to play in the majors at all in 1973:

Card #186 -- Bill Fahey, Texas Rangers

He looks like he's a little annoyed to stop what he's doing to pose for the photographer.

An advertisement from Fowlkes Chevrolet appears on the wall in the background. A Google search tells me that the dealership was located in Pompano Beach, Florida. And Pompano Beach is where the Senators and then the Rangers trained every spring from 1961 through '86.

Bill Fahey played the entire '73 season at Spokane before coming up to the parent team in 1974. He was a weak hitter who spent his entire major league career as a backup catcher. He was the understudy for Jim Sundberg in Texas, Gene Tenace for the Padres and Lance Parrish in Detroit. His career was a lot longer than many would have expected, with eleven campaigns in all.

After retiring in 1983, he managed in the Tigers' minor league system in 1984 before following Roger Craig to San Francisco the following year. He would remain on the Giants as a coach until 1991.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More "Catching" Up With the New Guys

It's been a longer time than I'd thought since there was a multi-player rookie card on this blog. The last one was in January! So, here's another one to make up for the wait:

Card #601 -- 1973 Rookie Catchers

This is the fifth rookie card featured in this blog, and the fourth that has at least one player who'd already appeared on a Topps card before 1973.

This was Sergio Robles's first of two Topps cards. Thanks to Earl Weaver's platoon system of Andy Etchebarren and Elrod Hendricks in Baltimore, he only managed  two short stints with the team in 1972 and '73. He showed up again with the Dodgers in '76, but was quickly sent back to the minors. In 1977, Robles went to the Mexican League for a decade before becoming a manager there.

George Pena is definitely airbrushed into his Indians uniform on this card. As it turned out, it would be as close as he would get to the majors. He never rose above AAA and this would be his only Topps card.

Rick Stelmaszaek was already on a card in 1970. He had already had a short trial with the Washington Senators in 1971. When the team moved to Texas the next year, he remained in the minors. His stint with them in 1973 was a short one, since he was traded to the California Angels before this card could be placed into wax packs. At three seasons, he is the player on this card who had the longest major league career. He's the current bullpen coach for the Twins, where he has coached under five managers in 31 seasons.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's a Major League Record Regardless...

This player has the lowest non-zero batting average in major league history:

Card #17 -- Fred Gladding, Houston Astros

As a relief pitcher, Fred Gladding wasn't always able to take a lot of walks to the plate, but his career avearge was .016 (1 for 63). He did get one distinction that was more positive, though: 1969 was the first year saves were counted as an official stat, and he led the National League that season with 29.

Gladding first made the majors in 1961, when he joined the Detroit Tigers. Through 1964, he was frequently on the bus between the Tigers and their top minor league club. He stayed in the Tigers' organization until after the 1967 season, where he was sent to Houston as the "player to be named later" as part of the trade for Eddie Mathews.

At the time this card was printed, Gladding was nearing the end of his career. In June of '73, he was sent to the Astros' AAA affiliate in Denver, where he would remain for the rest of the year. He was released after the season.

Friday, October 7, 2011

One Small Error From Perfection

This card appeared in the final series of cards during the 1973 Topps set. By the time this card showed up in backs, this guy was no longer pitching for the Texas Rangers:

 Card #640 -- Dick Bosman, Texas Rangers

The picture shows him after a delivery, but he does look like he's about to kick something.

On May 10, 1973, Dick Bosman was traded to the Cleveland Indians after spending his entire career with the Washington Senators and moving with them to Texas. While with the Tribe in 1974, he pitched a no-hitter that would have been a perfect game if it weren't for his own throwing error in the fourth inning. That little factoid is ironic, because Bosman was also a control pitcher noted for his highly competitive nature. The man who was known to say "if you don't hustle when I'm pitching, I'll kick your ass" to teammates had only himself to blame for the one blemish of the game.

In 1975, he was traded to the A's, where he helped pitch the team to a postseason appearance. He would finish his career in the spring of '77 when the A's cut him before the season. He has served as a coach since then, currently working in the Tampa Bay Rays' organization.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Seen here posing in front of the old facade of Yankee Stadium, this catcher spent parts of 15 seasons in the major league with eight different clubs:

Card #598 -- Phil Roof, Minnesota Twins

He spent six of those years with the Twins, which was the longest stint of his career. By the time he came to Minnesota as part of a trade for Paul Ratliff in 1971, he had settled into a position as a backup catcher, a role he would serve until the end of his playing days.

He came up in 1961 and again in '64 for one-game trials with the Braves in Milwaukee, then split 1965 between the Angels and Indians before being traded to the A's. Beginning in Kansas City and moving with the team to Oakland, he would become a regular catcher from 1966-'69. He would carry the role of regular backstop back to Milwaukee when he played for the Brewers in their first season in 1970. 

He was with the Twins from 1971-'76 before heading to the White Sox and then finishing his career in Toronto during their inaugural season. Roof became a coach after his retirement and then a minor league manager until 2005.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Belated L'Shanah Tovah

 Last week was Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. Later this week, Yom Kippur is celebrated. What better time to feature a player who was nicknamed "Superjew"?

I started collecting baseball cards in 1979. It wasn't until 1984 that I'd worked my way back to the 1973 Topps set, but this was one of the first cards from the set I ever owned:

Card #38 -- Mike Epstein, Oakland A's

Actually, it wasn't this card. I've updated that original, which had several creases on it and a water stain. It's a great picture, showing Mike Epstein waiting for the throw from the pitcher to hold Jim Spencer on first.

Born in the Bronx, raised in Los Angeles and an alum of Berkeley, Epstein came up with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966. Since the O's already had Boog Powell handling the first base duties, they tried to convert Epstein to the outfield. It didn't work, and he was traded to the Senators in '67. The first time he faced his former team, he hit a grand slam against them. His finest season was probably 1969, under the tutelage of skipper Ted Williams. He was traded to the A's early in the 1971 season.

In 1972, he was a member of the World Series champions. During the last half of the season, he wore a black armband to remember the Israeli athletes slain during the '72 Munich Olympics. Teammates Ken Holtzman and Reggie Jackson also donned armbands that season. After the season, he would be traded to the Rangers.

Early in the '73 season, Epstein was traded to California, where he would wrap up his career in 1974.

While known for his power, Epstein was also good at getting on base despite his low batting average. He walked or was hit by pitches often enough to have an OBP more than 100 points higher than his career average.