Friday, September 28, 2012

A Statistican

Not a lot of people can say they struck out Willie Mays on their 18th birthday. But this guy could:

Card #375 -- Larry Dierker, Houston Astros

In 1964, Larry Dierker made his debut the same day he turned 18. Taking the mound for what were then called the Houston Colt .45s, he struck out Willie Mays in the first inning. Staying with the team through their name change to the Astros, he remined in Houston through 1976. He was the Astros' fist 20-game winner in 1969 and tossed a no-hitter against the Expos in '76. He pitched one last season in St. Louis before retiring as a player.

Known to many as a smart baseball "numbers" guy, Dierker was a member of SABR and was known to crunch the numbers of the game. He worked as a broadcaster and was also a very successful manager, taking the Astros to the postseason four of the five years he led the club. In 1999, however, he suffered a Grand Mal seizure and missed 27 games while he was unergoing brain surgery to correct the problem.

Fired after the 2001 season, Dierker returned to brodcasting and has written several baseball-related columns and two books about the game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Six-Time Draftee

This guy was drafted five times during his USC collegiate career, and ended up signing with a different team:

Card #387 -- Jim Barr, San Francisco Giants

Jim Barr was a teammate of both Dave Kingman and Bill Lee when he was with Southern California, where he was part of the team that won the 1968 College World Series. He finally signed with San Francisco in 1970 and was playing with them in 1971. By 1972, he was a regular in the starting rotation.

During that 1972 season, he showed that he was a force on the mound by retiring 41 batters in a row (over two starts, but neither was a no hitter). From 1973 through '77, Barr won at least ten games for the Giants. After the '78 season, he signed with the Angels as a free agent and pitched with them until injuries cut short his 1980 season. He was signed to the White Sox for '81, but was unable to get out of the minors. For 1982, he returned to San Francisco and pitched with the Giants through the 1983 season.

After his playing days were over, Barr spent 16 years as the pitching coach at Sacramento State.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Foul" Ball?

I've seemed to neglect a lot of Hall of Famers on this blog lately. It's been six months since the last one was featured. Rest assured, there are plenty of them and I still have some big names left in the set including two rookie cards of Hall of Famers. But, let's toss out one of the more unflattering shots of the entire 1973 Topps set:

Card #380 -- Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Reds

From another angle, this might have been an excellent picture. Johnny Bench is making a catch of a foul ball. But...(maye that's not the word to use here) Bench's shot is taken from the worst possible angle, showing him from the back. It's been said that he sometimes refuses to sign this card because the photo is so ridiculous. Now, whether that's truth or simply a hobby legend depends on somebody taking this card to Bench at a card signing. And I'm not paying for him to scribble on this card.

I probably don't have to recap Bench's career, as he was one of the biggest stars of his day. He played his entire 17-year career in Cincinnati and led the Reds to back-to-back titles in 1975 and '76. He was a perennial All-Star, getting picked from 1968-'80 and again in 1983, and won every Gold Glove Award from 1968-'77. He was the National League's Most Valuable Player twice, in 1970 and '72. After his career was over, his number 5 was retired by the Reds.

As a rookie, he immediately showed who was the boss. Pitcher Jim Maloney kept shaking him off when he was signaling for a breaking ball because he wanted to throw a fastball. When Bench yelled, "your fastball's lost its pop!", Maloney let out a stream of expletives at the rookie. To prove his point, Bench took off his glove and caught the fastball barehanded. Maloney eventually trusted him enough to throw a no-hitter under his tutelage in 1969.

In my own youth, he was the leader of The Baseball Bunch, where he instructed the kids on the team about baseball fundamentals (along with dozens of his fellow players) and kept the San Diego Chicken in line. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be in Oakland...

Since the last two players featured this week were in airbrushed threads, let's just close the week out with one more:

Card #222 -- Rob Gardner, Oakland A's

Ironically, Rob Gardner didn't stay with the A's very long. His contract was purchased in May by the Brewers. It was another in a long line of transactions for the southpaw -- he played with six teams in eight seasons -- and Milwaukee ended up sending him back to the A's that July. He never played in the majors again after that, though.

 Rob Garner came up with the Mets in 1965. From there, his itinerary gets a little bit fuzzy. After the Mets, he was with the Indians, the Cubs, the Yankees, the A's, the Yankees again, the A's again and the Brewers. Add to those tours of duty the trips down to the minors and you have one well-traveled player. He stuck it out in the minors through 1975 before he retired.

One thing that pops up in the long list of transactions is the fact that he was traded twice for different Alou brothers. The two times he was dealt to the A's, he was traded for Felipe and Matty Alou.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Un Hombre Se Llama "Huevo"

For the second entry in a row, Topps had some work to offer its airbrush artist:

Card #381 -- Vicente Romo, San Diego Padres

Vicente Romo was just beginning with the Padres in 1973, after a trade brought him from the White Sox. He came up to the majors in 1968, where he pitched a single inning before being returned to the Cleveland Indians, the team that had originally signed him in 1964. He also pitched for the Red Sox from 1969-'70. A reliever, he stayed in San Diego through 1974 and then went back to Mexico, his native country.

In Mexico, Romo was an unparalleled star. During his U.S. career, he would sometimes go home and pitch, before giving another try in the North. During the 1960s and 70s, he was one of the most feared pitchers in the LMP. He pitched a perfect game in 1967 and amassed a record 182 wins and the all-time lowest ERA in the league. His nickname "Huevo" (meaning "egg") came from the zeros that were racked up on the scoreboard when he pitched.

He did make it back to the majors, pitching for the Dodgers again in 1982. He then returned again to Mexico, where he played into his 40s. He was inducted into that country's Hall of Fame equivalent in 1992 and is still considered one of the legends of the sport there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Man Called "Fly Rod"

This guy's cap is an obvious airbrush job:

Card #74 -- Billy Champion, Milwaukee Brewers

Until 1972, Billy Champion had spen his entire career with the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he debuted in 1969. The Phillies weren't a great team at the time, and Champion's overall record with the team was 12-31 during the four seasons he spent with the team. When he was traded to the Brewers, it may have seemed like a lateral move, but he was able to have a couple of quality seasons there. In four years there, he actually had a winning record with the team.

Champion was largely employed as a "swing man," alternating from the starting rotation to a mop-up role in relief. Not a really efficient strikeout artist, he managed one really good season in 1974, going 11-4 on a staff that was fairly mediocre.

Champion became a scout for the Cubs after his retirement, and a pitching coach after that.

Friday, September 14, 2012

That's Pronounced "KWAY-ar"

This player has a pretty cool 'fro peeking out underneath his Orioles cap. While it isn't Oscar Gamble-worthy, it's still cool:

Card #470 -- Mike Cuellar, Baltimore Orioles

Between 1969 and 1973, Mike Cuellar was part of one of the most feared starting rotations in the major leagues. He shared the 1969 American League Cy Young Award, made the postseason  five of those six seasons and was part of the only staff besides the 1920 Chicago White Sox with four 20-game winners. Today, it's something special when one pitcher gets 20 wins; having four on the same team is a phenomenal feat. In fact, it's been 10 years since the last time a pair of teammates (Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox) turned the trick.

Cuellar first came up with the Reds in 1959, pitching four innings and notching a 15.75 ERA. After several transactions and some time in the Mexican League, he returned with the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals, where the Cuban native took a relief role and helped the team get to the World Series. He went to the Astros the next year, where he transitioned to the rotation. After several years as Houston's prime lefty, he joined the O's in 1969.

Cuella was a four-time 20 game winner with the Orioles and logged a 143-88 record in his time with the team. But, as his advancing age dropped him to a 4-13 mark in 1976, the team released him. In 1977 he signed with the Angels as a free agent, but only pitched in a couple of games with them. He wasn't finished though; Cuellar returned to the Mexican League and continued to pitch, even making the Senior League when he was over 50.

Sadly, stomach cancer claimed him in 2010.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The "Redbirds"

This team has won more World Series Championships than any other team outside of the Yankees:

Card #219 -- St. Louis Cardinals Team Card

It's also the team that has retired the most jersey numbers of any team outside of The Bronx. Counting a microphone for Jack Buck, a logo for Rogers Hornsby (who played most of his career before the numbers were added) and a made-up number honoring owner Gussie Busch's 85th birthday, there have been 14 numbers retired by the team.

However, the team's dominance would be muted during the 1970s, as the team failed to win a pennant depite having a Cy Young Winner (Bob Gisbon, 1970) and a pair of MVP winners (Joe Torre, 1971 and Keith Hernandez, 1979). Despite having several Hall of Famers in the field and another in the dugout (Red Schoendienst) the team that made three World Series in the 1960s were unable to finish any higher than second place for a dozen years after the realignment into divisions.

The picture above features the 1972 team that finished in fourth place in the N.L. East, finishing 76-81 in a strike-shortened season. In 1973, they fared a little better, going 81-81 but finishing in second place in a contentious division. That said, the fans stuck by the team until "Whitey Ball" brought them more success in the next decade.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Kinda Guy

After retiring from the game, this guy worked as a freelance writer:

Card #143 -- John Curtis, Boston Red Sox

That said, John Curtis actually had a fairly long pitching career, spanning 15 seasons from 1970-'84. He finished with the Red Sox -- the first team he pitched for -- in 1973. After the season, he was traded to St. Louis and was there through 1976. He was dealt to the Giants then, and pitched with that team until 1979. Free agency sent him to San Diego for a few years, and a purchase by the Angels in 1982 sent him to his last big league team.

His stints in Boston. St. Louis and later San Diego saw him used in the rotation, while the other teams were content to use Curtis as a set-up man. He notched 10 or more wins 5 times in his career; unfortunately, he lost more in a season (14) than he ever won (13).

After retiring, Curtis wrote pieces for Sports Illustrated as well as for several newspapers. The upstate New York-raised, Clemson educated Curtis eventually returned to the diamond as a pitching coach, beginning in 2000.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

This Guy Could Have Been in a Stroh's Commercial...Or Maybe Not

Shortly after the time this card appeared in packs, this guy was placed on waivers by the only team he'd ever played for:

Card #457 -- John Strohmayer, Montreal Expos

With the Montreal Expos, John Strohmayer had accumulated an 11-9 record since 1970. He was largely a reliever, but occasionally called to start as well, especially in 1971. With the New York Mets, he went 0-0. With only a single inning at the end of 1974 after a season in the minors, his career was finished.

A South Dakota native, Strohmayer was bothered late in his career by shoulder problems. So he went to school and became a teacher. He taught in California from 1976-'92 and worked his way up the rakns from there, eventually becoming a superintendent by 2002. He retired from that career in 2009 after 32 years.

That year, he took a share of a lottery jackpot worth millions.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Switch at the Keystone

At the time this card was issued, this player was a regular shortstop. The next year, he switched to second base:

Card #144 -- Marty Perez, Atlanta Braves

Here's a little-known fact about Martz Perez: he is one of the few players who ever pinch hit for Hank Aaron. Even late in his career, few could say they ever picked up a bat and stood in for "The Hammer."

Perez came up in 1969 with the Angels after growing up in Visalia, California. After the 1970 season, he would be traded to the Braves, the team that used him most on the diamond. He stayed with them through 1975, when he was sent to the Giants in a deal that also included Darrell Evans. After that, he seemed to move around frequently: in '77 he was dealt to the Yankees but only used in a single game. A month later, the Yanks sent him to Oakland. He became a free agent at the end on the season, but resigned with the A's. However, the team released him in 1978 and he signed with the Mets. Once that team -- as bad as it was -- kept him in the minors, he saw the writing on the wall and retired.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Jason's Dad

1973 was this guy's first full year as an everyday major league catcher:

Card #221 -- Fred Kendall, San Diego Padres

Unfortunately, he played with the Padres, who lost over 100 games that year. That may account for the "deer in the headlights" look that Fred Kendall gives in this portrait. After first coming up with the team in 1969, he backed up Chris Cannizaro, Bob Barton and Pat Corrales. And those guys took a real licking on the early Padres teams (in fact, Corrales's card shows the result of the battering those guys often took). In the 1972 season, Kendall was the next guy on the firing line.

He remained the Padres' regular backstop through 1976, an era where the team never saw a winning season. In 1977, he was finally given a chance to play with another team; unfortunately, that team was in Cleveland and they weren't much better. The next season, he was traded again to the Red Sox. It was a team that was in contention for much of the year and reuinited him with his old skipper Don Zimmer...but had a Hall of Fame-caliber presence behind the plate in Carlton Fisk.

So, he went back to his original team as a free agent and spent the next year and a half there before retiring. After his playing days, he followed the lead of many catchers and went into managing. For four years, he was a skipper in the White Sox's system and then became Buddy Bell's preferred bullpen coach. His son was Jason Kendall, who was also a big league backstop from 1996-2010.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Jim Ray from Hookerton

This player was a decent hitter, and the picture highlights that well:

Card #538 -- Jim Hart, San Francisco Giants

But then again, with teammates like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda batting around you in the lineup, you're going to get your share of good pitches. While this card shows Jim Ray Hart as an outfielder, he actually came up as a third baseman in 1963 and supplanted Jim Davenport from his regular position. Since Hart's bat was better than his glove, however, Davenport eventually retained his spot in the late 1960s as age and injuries began making Hart more of a liability at the "hot corner."

At that point, Hart moved to the outfield primarily, but still backed up his old position occasionally. While he never appeared in a postseason and only got into one All-Star game, Hart was a critical part of the Giants' attack in the 1960s. As his skills diminished, Hart was sold the the Yankees during the 1973 season with the hopes that the new designated hitter position could capitalize on his hitting prowess and keep his glove off the field. He lasted in that capacity until early in the 1974 season, when he retired.

After his playing career, Hart went to work as a warehouseman for Safeway in California.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Red All Over...

This player's nickname came from his mane of red hair, but the picture here skews the color out of proportion:

Card #591 -- Mike Hedlund, Cleveland Indians

However, despite the airbruhing job, Mike Hedlund didn't even make it onto the Indians' roster in 1973 and never pitched a major league game after 1972. He had played for the Indians, though: he came up with the team in 1965 and again in 1968. However, he appeared in a total of six innings for them in his two stints before being claimed by the Kansas City Royals after the '68 season in the expansion draft.

The Royals used Hedlund as both a starter and reliever during their first four seasons, and was most effective when used from the bullpen. Unfortunately, he contracted the Hong Kong Flu with pitching in Venezuela after the 1969 season and suffered after that. When the 1972 season ended, he was dealt back to Cleveland; after spending all of '73 in the minors for them an '74 in the White Sox' farm system, he hung it up after he discovered he was about to be dealt to the Reds in '75.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The (Other) Hammer

This player's nickname was derived from the fact that he was a Hank Aaron fan:

Card #4 -- John Milner, New York Mets

The Atlanta native was still a teenager when the Braves moved into his hometown. Unlike many fans, he actually spent several years on the same diamond as his idol. His nickname wasn't ironic, either: he had some power, slugging ten grand slams in his career even though hit hitting might not have been up to the same standards as Aaron's.

John Milner came up with the Mets late in the 1971 season and finished third the next year in Rookie of the Year voting. At first, he was in a platoon system with Cleon Jones in left field, but transitioned to first in 1973. Despite suffering a hamstring injury early that year, he managed to return and help his team into the World Series. Milner remained with the Mets through the 1977 season before being dealt to the Pirates.

In Pittsburgh, where Willie Stargell was ensconced at first, Milner accepted more of a utility role with the club. While backing up Stargell and Bill Robinson in left, he also filled in wherever he was needed and was a key cog of the team's 1979 World Series-winning "Family." He was sent to Monreal in 1981, but returned to the Pirates in 1982 and finished his career.

In 1985, his name popped up again in the sports pages when he testified in the Pittsburgh cocaine trials. He admitted to using the drug during his time in Pittsburgh and even confirmed the oft-repeated rumour that amphetamines and "greenies" were readily available as long as he was in the majors.

Also during the 1980s, his cousin Eddie Milner suited up with the Reds and Giants. Sadly, John Milner died in 2000 of lung cancer.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Thanks to the advent of free agency, this man was on the World Series-winning team for four consecutive years:

Card #595 -- Don Gullett, Cincinnati Reds

At the time this card was issued, Don Gullett was coming off of a disappointing 9-10 season, with an additional 0-2 mark in the postseason.1972 would be his only losing campaign, however. In nine years, he would post a final 109-50 mark, a terrific .686 winning percentage. While you might think that having players like Rose, Bench, Morgan, Perez and later Reggie, Thurman and Chambliss helping him out, he was known as a crafty pitcher who could get the job done on his own. Pete Rose said he was "the only guy who can throw a baseball through a car was and not get the ball wet."

Gullett was signed in 1969 by the Reds and came up to the team the next year while still 19 years old. As a rookie, he appeared in the 1970 World Series, earning a save against the Orioles. He would return to the Series with the Reds in 1972, 1975 and 1976, winning rings in the last two. Despite showing signs of injuries, his arm was as much a factor in the Reds' back-to-back titles as the fabled hitting of its stars, and Gullett was one of the early recipients of the free agent bonanza. He signed a six-year, two million-dollar deal with the Yankees after beating them in the 1976 Series.

Gullett's arm troubles would pop up again and limit his time in pinstripes, but not before seeing him lead the American League with a .778 winning percentage in 1977. In 1978, his arm troubles finally caught up with him, requiring surgery after eight games. He remained on the Yankee's roster through 1980, but was unable to pitch in the majors again.   He returned to the Reds after retiring, serving as their pitching coach from 1993-2005.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slip Him a "Mickey"

Here's a player who was really popular with fans of the Detroit Tigers:

Card #88 -- Mickey Stanley, Detroit Tigers

"Mickey" is a great American name.While it was most associated with a guy who played outfield for the Yankees from 1951-'68, There were others, and Mickey Stanley was another outfielder. A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, he played in the Motor City for his entire career. However, it was a short-term move to shortstop in 1968 that the Tiger faithful remember best about him.

Originally an outfielder who had been a part-timer since coming up in 1964, Stanley was moved to shortstop late in the 1968 season once the Tigers had already clinched the pennant. He replaced weak-hitting Ray Oyler, whose anemic batting average was considered one of the team's problem areas. Since the outfield was already packed with Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Jim Northrup, manager Mayo Smith hoped that Stanley's speed would make up for his lack of familiarity at the position. The move was considered to be one of the top 10 best coaching decisions of the 20th century, and the Tigers won the World Series against a formidable St. Louis Cardinals team.

Oyler was drafted by the Pilots the next year, but the experiment at short didn't last long into 1969. With his outfield range and ability to get a quick step against balls heading towards the gaps, Stanley returned to his original position and stayed out there for the remainder of his career. When the designated hitter position opened up, Kaline's assumption of that role allowed Stanley to play the most games of his career in 1973. He remained a full-timer until Ron LeFlore arrived in 1975, then returned to a part-time role as a utility player and late-inning defensive replacement. From then until 1978, Stanley took the field where he was needed, at every position except pitcher and catcher. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

What's Better Than Playing For Your Idol?

Here's another player whose career was basically over before it was issued:

Card #512 -- Dalton Jones, Texas Rangers

Finishing his career in Texas meant that Dalton Jones played for his boyhood idol Ted Williams, who managed the team at the time. And it was Williams who was used as a recruiter to entice Jones to sign with the Red Sox in 1961. He played with the BoSox from 1964-'69, and was a part of their "Impossible Dream" season of 1967. A backup for both Joe Foy at third and Mike Andrews at second that season, he played in six of the Series' games and put up a .389 average.

Before the 1970 season, Jones was traded to the Tigers. It was with Detroit that he made his most infamous hit: a three-run single that should have been a grand slam. When Jones hit the towering shot, the runners weren't certain if it would land in the seats or on the field. As a result of poor communication, Jones passed Don Wert between first and second and was called out. Jones was the goat, he blamed Wert for not running, and I say the first base coach was partially responsible. He should have seen what was going on.

Jones was traded to Texas early in the '72 season, reuniting him with Williams. The Rangers released him in the spring of '73, or just about the time his card showed up in packs. Jones signed with the Expos but failed to rise above the AAA level and retired when the year was over. As a result, the staitsics on the back of this card show his final record in the majors.

After his retirement, Jones pursued opportunities outside of baseball, working for a bank and then the Exxon company.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Part of the "Veale, Lamb and Moose" Combination

This pitcher spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, which in 1970-'71 also boasted Bob Veale and John Lamb in their arsenal:

Card #499 -- Bob Moose, Pittsburgh Pirates

Veale is perhaps the best-known of these pitchers, but Bob Moose was the only one who tossed a no-hitter in the majors. He tossed his gem against the eventual World Series champion Mets in 1969. At the time this card was issued, he had just made a big mistake, uncorking a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth during the final game of the NLCS -- the result was the image on this card -- that allowed the Reds to advance to the World Series and was the last game Roberto Clemente ever played.

Moose signed with the Pirates in 1965 and came up to the team late in 1967. By 1968, he earned his spot in the rotation and posted double-digit win totals from 1969-'73. In 1971, he pitched in three games in the World Series en route to winning the only ring of his career. In 1974, however, a blood clot under his pitching arm required surgery (and the removal of one of his ribs). Moose was never really an effective pitcher after that, but pitched through 1976.

Sadly, on October 9, 1976 -- his 29th birthday -- Bob Moose was driving a car to Bill Mazeroski's golf course when his car veered off the road and into the path of another car. Tragically, he died in the accident.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Pale Hose

This team was in the middle of a an 88-season championship drought as this card was issued:

(No Number) -- Chicago White Sox Checklist

It was slightly longer than the celebrated "Curse of the Bambino" that was lifted the year before, but shorter that the one that the other baseball team in Chicago is still enduring. And for all of the celebrated "Crosstown Series" that have been held between the Yankees and their N.L. counterparts over the years, it was old hat to Chicagoans, who hosted the first cross-town Series in 1906, 15 years before the Yanks ever got into the Fall Classic.

And...sorry, Cub fans, the White Sox won that series in 6 games. They were one of the powerhouse teams of the American League's early years, but an association with gamblers in 1919 earned the team a black eye that lasted for years. It would take 40 years before the team was once again competitive, but the Yankees were the powerhouse then and perennially kept them in second. The one year they did beat the Yankees (1959), the Dodgers were ready to deliver a smackdown of their own. By the time the 1970s rolled around, the team was back in their regular doldrums.

The names on the front of this card have a full outfield (Kelly, Jeter, May), Ed Herrmann at catcher, Dick Allen at first, Mike Edwards Andrews at second and Bill Melton at third...but no one at shortstop. So, this card won't show a full "game-ready" lineup. The pitchers are Wood, Bahnsen, Acosta, Forster and Gossage.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sweet Lou

Here's a guy who was well-known for throwing hissy fits in the dugout after getting called out:

Card #140 -- Lou Piniella, Kansas City Royals

At the time, we should have realized that the top temper tantrum-thrower in baseball was practicing for the time he could direct his anger at the umpires as a manager.

Collectors remember Lou Piniella for having three multi-player rookie cards: in 1964, with the Senators (he actually played with Baltimore for four games that year), in 1968 with the Indians and in 1969 with the Pilots (who traded him to the Royals in the spring). In 1969, Piniella was still carrying "rookie" status despite playing in 1964 and 1968 and was an immediate hit in Kansas City, where he went 4-for-5 the first day they played and ended up winning the Rookie of the Year award. His 1970 Topps card had an All-Star Rookie trophy, which seemed to be odd for collectors who found him on all those "rookie" cards of the past.

Piniella remained in Kansas City through 1973 as one of the team's biggest early stars. He was named to the All-Star team in 1972 and though he wasn't speedy or powerful and didn't draw walks, he was able to hit for a .300 average. After the '73 season, he was traded to the Yankees, where he would become an unmistakeable part of the "Bronx Zoo" during his 11 years as a player there. As a fixture in the outfield or at DH, he was able to contribute to the team's 1976-'81 "dynasty" that saw five division titles, four pennants and two World Series titles.

By the early 1980s, Piniella's playing time was limited as his skills declined, but he was kept on the Yankees as a part-timer who also helped as a veteran presence. In short, he was transitioning to become a coach, and that became permanent once he retired in 1984. Beginning as a hitting coach, Piniella was inserted into the revolving door of managers that George Steinbrenner used, twice being named the team's skipper between 1986 and '88. He also served as the Yankees' GM in the interim.

When he moved over to the Reds in 1990, Piniella led his team to the World Series title. He stayed at the helm there through 1992, and then managed the Mariners from 1993-'02, the Devil Rays from 2003 to '05 and the Cubs from 2006-'10. He was generally successful; the Mariners years were often the most productive in the franchise's history (even tying the all-time record for most wins in 2001). There were six more playoff trips, but no more appearances in the World Series.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Red Rooster

This player's nickname (as well as his other one, "Rojo") came from his red hair, which isn't really evident on this card:

Card #76 -- Doug Rader, Houston Astros

However, don't let the fact that he looks like he's taking his position at the county fair fool you...Doug Rader was one of the best defensive third basemen at the time. He was the reigning Gold Glove winner at his position, winning the award for five straight years from 1970-'74. His career batting average of .251 makes him look like a one-tool player, but he was unfortunate to play most of his career in the Astrodome. The vast expanses of that stadium killed many player's averages and masked the fact that Rader possessed some power. He hit more than 20 homers three times (and 155 overall) in an era not known for its long balls.

Sadly, Rader's skills were in decline when he finally escaped that cavernous stadium. In 1976, he went to the Padres, who then traded him to Toronto midway through the '77 season. In the spring of '78, the Blue Jays cut him, along with some other veterans who didn't figure in their long-term plans. Rather than try to catch on with a new team, Rader retired.

He became a manager after his playing career was over, beginning in the PCL in 1980. In 1983, he took the reigns of the Texas Rangers. Despite the belief that he was well-suited to lead a winning team, none of his squads were able to stay in contention. He remained at Texas until 1985, was an interim skipper with the White Sox in 1986, and led the Angels from 1989-'91.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Mom Always Liked YOU Best!"

Here's a guy who's airbrushed in a Phillies uniform but never played an official game for the team:

Card #454 -- Tom Haller, Philadelphia Phillies

Tom Haller spent 1972 in Detroit, where he served as the catcher on July 14, in the same game where his older brother Bill was the home plate umpire. That's one of those situations where insulting the other guy's mother after a bad call is counterproductive.

Haller -- a former Fighting Illini quarterback -- came up to the Giants in 1961, where he and Ed Bailey platooned behind the plate. The next year, the two helped the team to a World Series that went right to the ninth inning of the seventh game, but they were on the losing end to the Yankees. The platoon continued through 1963, when Bailey was traded and Haller became the undisputed starter. He took the spot behind the plate for four seasons, directing several 20-game winners and a Cy Young award winner (Mike McCormack, 1967). However, the Giants always seemed to come up in second place behind either the Dodgers or Cardinals, so he was made expendable and traded to the Dodgers after the '67 season was over.

The trade was the first made between the Dodgers and Giants since their move to the West Coast a decade earlier. Rather than focus on the fact that the two teams are bitter enemies (enough to see Juan Marichal take a bat to John Roseboro's head once), Haller spent four years behind the plate as the Dodgers' catcher and earned his third straight All-Star berth the first year he spent with the team. After the '71 season, Haller was traded to the Tigers, where he settled in as a backup to Bill Freehan. He spent one year with the Tigers and opted to retire after being traded to the Phillies.

After his retirement, Haller returned to the Giants. He was a coach from 1977-'79, the team's farm director from 1980-'81 and them served as the team's GM through 1985. He was the manager of the Birmingham Barons and then the assistant GM for the White Sox in '86.

Sadly, Tom Haller died in 2004 after suffering from what was called a "long illness."

Monday, August 6, 2012


This guy looks like he's in the middle of nowhere, waiting for something to happen:

Card #106 -- Terry Humphrey, Montreal Expos

Actually, several of the Expos in the 1973 Topps set are pictured in this seemingly remote location. Really, check it can simply scroll down the right side of this page and click on the label for "Montreal Expos" and see. Go ahead, this blog can use the additional traffic.

Terry Humphrey's career lasted from 1971-'79, where he mainly appeared as a backup catcher. He came up with Montreal, where he worked as a #2 catcher behind John Bateman, Tim McCarver, John Boccabella and Barry Foote. By 1975, a new kid named Gary Carter was being converted from the outfield to a backstop, so Humphries was traded to Detroit. However, the Tigers already had their own regular catcher, and Bill Freehan wasn't ready to give it up yet. So, Humphries got traded again when the 1975 season ended; this time, he went to the Astros. Since the Astros had three dependable catchers (Ed Herrmann, Skip Jutze and occasionally Cliff  Johnson), Humphries was sent down to the minors.

Halfway through the 1976 season, Humphries was traded to the California Angels. Andy Etchebarren was their regular catcher, but his age was rapidly catching up with him. Finally, Humphries was able to become an everyday catcher and was "The Man" through 1977. Unfortunately, his age was also beginning to catch up with him. By 1978, Brian Downing was the Angels' regular catcher and Humphries was done in '79.

Speaking of age, his birthday was a couple of days we wish him a belated happy one.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Movin' On

This player spent 13 years in the majors but never more than two seasons for any team:

Card #425 -- Alex Johnson, Cleveland Indians

As a talented hitter who didn't have similar fielding abilities, the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973 should have helped Alex Johnson. Unfortunately, his surly demeanor and sometimes lackadaisical attitude hastened him to another team even as the 1973 season was beginning.

Johnson first came up to the majors in 1964 with the Phillies, a team that also counted future malcontent Dick Allen. After two years with them, he spent another two in St. Louis and two more with Cincinnati. Two more years followed in California, where Johnson won the 1970 batting title but was involved in incidents throughout '71. A year in Cleveland followed in 1972. Traded to the Rangers during the Spring of '73, he went to the Yankees the next year and the Tigers in 1976.

After a year in Mexico, he returned home to Arkansas, There, he took over his father's truck repair and leasing service.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Makeover, 70s Style

As a young collector, I picked up this guy's 1976 Topps card in a trade with a friend's older brother:

Card #197 -- Ed Goodson, San Francisco Giants

On that card, Ed Goodson looked a lot different than he does here. On that 1976 card, Goodson rocks a righteous perm and is smiling. You can credit the laid-back L.A.atmosphere, but it's an airbrushed photo so he hadn't gone to Southern California yet. Here, he has a scowl and looks like he's taking it personally that he's batting (or that the photographer told him to pose). Really, you can't get much farther on the spectrum of human emotion than these two pictures.

Goodson played with the Giants from 1970 through 1975, when he was traded to Atlanta. He played for te Dodgers in 1976 and '77. In his final plate appearance, he struck out in the World Series. After the Dodgers released him in the Spring of '78, he signed with the Indians but was unable to make the parent club.

After retiring, Goodson returned home to Pulaski, Virginia, where he eventually became a high school baseball coach.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Current Bosox Skipper

At the beginning of this year's baseball season, this guy took the manager's position of the Boston Red Sox:

Card #502 -- Bobby Valentine, California Angels

This picture is airbrushed, as Valentine spent his entire career through 1972 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. You can pay an artist to paint red and blue stripes on the uniform and white out the Dodgers' distinctive jersey features, but it was apparently to much to ask somebody to crop out the rest of the Phillies player sitting in the lower right corner.

Starting with California in 1973, Valentine got off to a .302 average, but was injured by the outfield chain-link fence while trying to rob Dick Green of a home run. During the attempt, his spikes were caught and he suffered multiple fractures in his leg. Not only did that injury end his season, it robbed him of his speed, As a result, he never stayed long with his teams as a player. He moved to the Padres in 1975, the Mets in 1977 and the Mariners in '79. He retired that year and moved on to coaching.

In 1985, Valentine was tapped to be the Rangers' manger. A few days before his 35th birthday, he was the youngest non-playing manager in years. He remained with the team through 1992. After a short stint as a manager in Japan, Valentine was named the New York Mets' manager in 1996 and guided them to the 2000 World Series. He was fired by the team after 2002, and he returned to Japan to manage the Chiba Lotte Marines again. He moved to the ESPN broadcast booth in 2009, where he remained until the Red Sox called.

Bobby Valentine is regarded a smart baseball man. Hopefully he's smart enough to keep ESPN executives on his speed dial. Especially if you hear what Red Sox fans have been saying about him.

Friday, July 27, 2012


This guy had already played his last major league game before this card was printed:

Card #157 -- Denny Riddleberger, Cleveland Indians

1972 was Denny Riddleberger's only year with the Cleveland Indians. He spent part of 1973 in the minors but retired during the season. Originally signed by the Pirates in 1967, he came up with the Senators late in 1970 and pitched with them in 1971 as well. After the team moved to Texas, they traded him to Cleveland before he even would have had time to unpack.

There really isn't a lot of information about Denny Riddleberger to be found Online, so I'll talk about this little fact: though he was a left-handed pitcher, he batted righty. That is an interesting distinction...did he get forced to do that, or was it simply because he learned to bat the same way his friends did? I don't know, I'm just asking.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Future Yankee...and a Future Yankee Killer

This player bookended his career as a Cub but was better remembered for the other two teams he played with:

Card #501 -- Larry Gura, Chicago Cubs

Larry Gura first came up with Chicago in 1970, but was used sparingly through 1973. An occasional starter, he also worked the bullpen. He was traded to the Rangers, and then the Yankees before the 1974 season. Beginning in 1975, the Yankees used Gura as a member of the starting rotation.That said, they should have known what they were doing when they sent him to the Royals in 1976.

Gura's best years were in Kansas City. He particularly irked his former team, going 11-6 against them and seeing them four out of five years (1976-'78, '80) in the ALCS. In 1978-'81, he won every game against them where he had a decision, including two ALCS games. He was a member of the team that went to the '80 World Series; ironically, he was released by the team in 1985, the same year they finally won a championship.

1985 would be Gura's final year. He went back to Chicago, and the Cubs also released him before the year was over.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Not the Spanish Painter

There was an artist in Spain during the 1700s with the same name. However, this blog doesn't pretend to embrace high art, so we'll focus on this player instead:

Card #47 -- Luis Melendez, St. Louis Cardinals

This Luis Melendez was nicknamed "Torito," the Spanish term for "baby bull." He came up to the Cardinals in 1970 and was solid enough with his glove to be regular for a couple of seasons. However, Bake McBride came up in 1974 and Willie Davis was brought to the team the next year. With Lou Brock and Reggie Smith already playing out there, it was getting crowded, and with more talent coming up through the farm system, it was clear that something needed to be done.

As a result, it was decided to convert Melendez into a shortstop. That proved disastrous, however, and Melendez moved back into the outfield. In 1976, he was traded to San Diego, where he served largely as a late-inning fill-in. He stayed with the Padres through 1977. The next year, he signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent, but never made the big league squad.

After his retirement as a player, Melendez returned home to Puerto Rico and eventually became a successful manager. He also managed in the minors in spurts since the late '80s, winning a South Atlantic League championship in 2004.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Great Job!

The subject line has noting at all to do with this player. He's in front of an empty seating section, and it looks like the police officer in the background can rest easy to know he's doing a great job:

Card #113 -- Jerry Grote, New York Mets

Actually, the title line would be an adequate description of Jerry Grote, as well. He was one of the best defensive backstops of his era. I've always said that catchers should get more credit than they do -- there's a reason so many of them are managers -- and he was a big part of the Mets teams that went to the World Series in 1969 and 1973. He also backed up three World Series-bound Dodgers teams late in his career.

When Grote came up to the big leagues, he was with the other "new" team of 1962, the Houston Colt 45s. After taking over behind the plate for the team in 1964, he went back to the minors for '65 and then was traded to the Mets during the offseason. He immediately took his place in Shea, and became the director of pitches for a talented young staff that would soon include Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw.

Known for his habit of rolling the ball back to the far side of the mound when a strikeout ended the inning so the opposing pitcher would have to walk a few extra steps, Grote was a competitive player who helped to get the team out of its "lovable loser" routine after showing up. His presence was a big factor in 1969, when the team rallied to win the World Series against the heavily favored Orioles. He played every inning of that Series and his pitch-calling helped hold the O's to a .146 batting average.

Injuries began to slow Grote down and limit his time in 1972-'74, and then Duffy Dyer and John Stearns began to take over. In 1977, Grote was dealt to the Dodgers, where he was a backup to Steve Yeager on two straight pennant-winning clubs. Though he retired after the 1978 season, he was enticed by the Royals to return in 1981. He split that season with the Royals and the Dodgers before retiring for good.

After his retirement, Grote spent a few seasons managing in the minors, and also raised cattle on his Texas farm. He's also a color commentator for his local minor league team.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sporting the Chops -- The New Guy Edition

All three of the guys here are sporting sideburns. It was the 1970s, what else were they going to wear? Once again, not all of these guy were truly "rookies":

Card #602 -- 1973 Rookie Pitchers

In Mel Behney's case, he had already appeared on a Reds' rookie card in 1972. Those were his only cards, which was interesting because his only major league action came in a two-week trial in 1970. He went 0-2 and never made it back out of the minors. In fact, during Spring Training of 1973, Behney had been traded to the Red Sox and was playing his final season.

Ralph Garcia also didn't make the majors in 1973, reaching the Padres for short stints in 1972 and '74. He stayed in the minors through 1975, and then went to Mexico, where he became a star. This would be his only appearance on a Topps card.

Doug Rau managed to stay around until 1981 and had several more cards in the process. The was a Dodger from 1972-'79, missed all of 1980 due to rotator cuff surgery, and then went to the California Angels in 1981. He was initially a reliever and worked his way into the starting rotation by 1974. He was a capable pitcher, but is perhaps best remembered by a mound conference with Tommy Lasorda during the 1977 World Series that isn't suitable for a family broadcast but lives on thanks to the Internet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Early Hobby Lesson

Early on in my hobby pursuit, when I was a little less knowledgeable about what was available, I picked up two totally different 1974 Topps cards of this guy:

Card #539 -- Tom Murphy, Kansas City Royals

One showed him with the Cardinals, while one explained that he had been traded to the Brewers, and even added a "T" to the card number to update it. I was 11 years old (it was 1984) and was pretty sure I'd picked up something unique out of the same dime box. I was soon introduced to the separate "Traded" series of 1974 as I looked through a book about cards.

That has nothing to do with Tom Murphy, though. From 1968-'79, he appeared with six different clubs, so his appearance on a Traded card really wasn't going to be unique. He came up with the Angels, where he stayed through early in the '72 season. He was then traded to the Royals (as seen above) and then spent 1973 in St. Louis. His trade to Milwaukee after the season led to the card I found. In 1976, he traveled to Boston and then joined the Blue Jays for their inaugural season in 1977. He remained with the Jays until the end of his major league career. While he started with California, Murphy was almost exclusively a reliever on his other stops.

In 1974, he was one of only two American League pitchers to collect a hit (Fergie Jenkins was the other). It was the year after the implementation of the designated hitter, and there was an occasional tweak that placed pitchers in the lineup. That's pretty cool, but when I see him, I immediately think of his place in my own Hobby history.

Friday, July 13, 2012


This guy spent parts of eight seasons in the majors, but never spent more than two years with a single team:

Card #594 -- Vic Harris, Texas Rangers

This card, which shows Vic Harris striking a batting pose taken in front of the dugout (really natural, I might add sarcastically), was the first of his career.

The "journeyman" tag applies to Vic Harris for his position as well as his teams. He played at six different positions during his career. Originally signed by the Oakland A's, he had already been traded to Texas before he came up to the league in 1972. He was largely a second baseman that year, taking the place of Lenny Randle. In 1973, however, he took the outfield more often. In all, he appeared in all three outfield positions as well as second, third and shortstop.

After playing for two season with the Rangers, Harris moved to the Cubs for two seasons, spent 1976 in St. Louis and then went to the Giants for two more years. He spent all of 1979 in the minors, but made it onto the Brewers' roster in 1980. After being released for his weak hitting, Harris moved on to Japan. He spent three years there with the Kinetsu Buffaloes, starting off strongly but fading in his final two seasons. In 1984, he attempted a comeback but was unable to get out of the Cardinal's farm system and called it a career.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ivy Leaguer

This guy was a pitcher for Dartmouth before his major league career:

Card #51 -- Chuck Seelbach, Detroit Tigers

Chuck Seelbach pitched during four major league seasons (1971-'74), and all of them were spent with the Detroit Tigers. 1972 was really his only notable year, but what a season it was. As a reliever, he pitched the bulk of his major league innings that year and won 9 of his 10 games. More importantly, he was called in with the division title on the line against the Red Sox in the final game of the season. In dramatic fashion, he struck out Dwight Evans and Cecil Cooper, and the got Ben Ogilve to fly out. With that, the Tigers clinched the division.

Unfortunately, an arm injury limited him in '73 and ended his career in 1974. However, Seelbach did something that is more notable after hanging up his glove. He went back to his former high school in Ohio and became a history teacher, where his influence was arguably greater than it would have been if he'd stayed an athlete.

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Unheralded Ace

In 1972, this guy finished with a record over .500:

Card #112 -- Gary Ross, San Diego Padres

Okay, he went 4-3 as a reliever. But when your team loses 95 games that year, anything over .500 is noteworthy. On the entire staff, only he and Mark Shaeffer (2-0) won more games than they lost. And that, in a nutshell, sums up the 1972 San Diego Padres.

Gary Ross was on the Padres' original squad in 1969, but not its Opening Day roster. He began that season as a member of the Chicago Cubs, the team he debuted with the previous season. A trade during the first month of the season made him part of the expansion team, and he went 3-12 -- losing 11 of those in a row -- as a reliever and spot starter. Ross stayed with the team through 1975, where he occasionally went back to the minors and worked as a starter. Seeing that, the California Angels dealt Bobby Valentine to get him just as the season was about to end.

Through 1977, Ross took a spot in the Angels' rotation. However, his 10-21 record with the team led to his release by midseason, and that was the end of his career. To date, the 11 straight losses he suffered with the Padres in 1969 stands as a club record.

Friday, July 6, 2012


This guy was a high school teammate of Tim McCarver in Memphis,Tennessee:

Card #69 -- Phil Gagliano, Boston Red Sox

McCarver would join him again in St. Louis, where the two would be part of two World Series champs during the 1960s. Phil Gagliano's tenure with the Cardinals would run from 1963-'70. He would be traded to the Cubs for the second half of that season, and then traded again to the Red Sox after the season was over. By the time this card was issued, he was on the move again. He spent the 1973 and '74 seasons in Cincinnati.

Largely a utility player and pinch hitter, he's listed on the card as a third baseman despite playing at second more often...but since none of the cards in 1973 split the position due to the set design, Topps were forced to put him somewhere. He also played in the outfield and at first during his career, and two games at shortstop. In short, Gagliano played wherever his team needed him.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Setting Off the Fireworks

Seeing as how today is the Fourth of July, here's a team that provided plenty of fireworks -- both on the field and off -- in 1973:

(No Number) -- Oakland A's Team Checklist

The Oakland A's were right in the middle of their three-year run as the best team in baseball. 1973 would see the team win its second of three straight titles, so this checklist is as close as you'll get to a great team at the time.

But is it complete? The infield is solid, with Tenace at first, Green at second, Campaneris at short and Bando at third. A reserve first baseman (Mike Hegan) is present as well. Dave Duncan takes his place behind the plate, but there are only two outfielders here (Reggie and Rudi). Two starters -- Hunter and Blue -- take the mound, with Fingers and Knowles in the bullpen.

They come very close to fielding a "complete" team...but, like the players that made up the roster, they're just a little bit off.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Jumbo" Jim

This player had played his final major league game by the time this card appeared:

Card #509 -- Jim Nash, Philadelphia Phillies

This card shows some light signs of airbrushing, the result of a midseason trade that sent him to the Phillies. The Phillies released him during the 1973 preseason; he signed with Oakland and spent all of that season in the minors before calling it quits.

For Nash, the A's trial was a full-circle move, as he originally came up in 1966 while the club was still in Kansas City. The A's were a sub-.500 team that year, but Nash went 12-1 in 18 games and racked up a 2.06 ERA, which would have given him second place in the league if he'd racked up enough innings to qualify. He matched his 12-win total the next year; unfortunately, he matched it with 17 losses. A 13-13 showing in 1968 and 8-8 mark in '69 but him on the trading block, and he was a Brave in 1970.

After two and a half years with the Braves and a half season in Philadelphia, it was over. As for his nickname? At 6-foot-4 and weighing 240 pounds, there's not a lot of downside to calling him "Jumbo."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Half the Way...

The title of this post has almost nothing to do with this player. It's actually a mention that this blog is now at the halfway point. It's hard to belive that, as I feel like I have yet to scratch the surface on this set. From here it's all downhill (or so they say), but hopefully it doesn't seem like I'm coasting. And now to the regularly scheduled entry...fittingly, a man who often came to the mound in the middle of a game:

Card #248 -- Jerry Johnson, San Francisco Giants

Jerry Johnson wasn't in a Giants uniform when the 1973 season began. After three years as a relief specialist and a big help in getting the team to the 1971 postseason, he was considered expendable and placed on waivers during Spring Training. The Indians picked him up. And so, the revolving door of teams continued for Johnson, who managed to play on seven different teams in his ten major league seasons.

Johnson was signed by the Mets is 1963 as a third baseman. However, he struggled with his defense and became a pitcher in order to stay in the game. When he finally came up to the majors in 1968, it was as a Phillie. After being involved in the Curt Flood trade, he split 1970 between the Cardinals and San Francisco. After the one season in Cleveland, he stopped in Houston and spent two years with the Padres before joining the Blue Jays in their inaugural season.

In fact, Jerry Johnson earned the win the first time the Toronto Blue Jays ever took the field, coming in during the fifth inning to preserve the victory. He retired after that season with a career 48-51 mark and a 4.31 ERA.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Underrated at Third Base?

In 1973, this guy was returning to the Dodgers after nine years away:

Card #196 -- Ken McMullen, Los Angeles Dodgers

That's why this picture was chosen for the card. Though Topps could have used a photo of him as a fresh-faced rookie in the correct uniform (and they've been known to recycle photos from several years in the past), they went with an old Angels picture that required minimal airbrushing. In fact, it looks like this picture was likely taken at the same session as the photo on his 1972 Topps card.

Signed out of high school, the Oxnard, California native first appeared as a Dodger in 1962 and was part of the team's World Series-winning team the next year. He was dealt to the Senators after the 1964 season. Taking over the "hot corner," he remained as the regular there through 1970. While overshadowed by Brooks Robinson, he was a very good defensive threat that Mickey Mantle called "underrated" at the position.

Early in the 1970 season, he was dealt to the Angels and contributed at third there as well. However, when he was traded back to Los Angeles, he was limited to pinch hitting and late-inning replacement. He spent three years with the Dodgers -- batting during the 1974 NLCS -- before moving on to Oakland in 1976 and the Brewers in '77.

Today, McMullen serves as a representative of the Dodgers' Legends Bureau.

Monday, June 25, 2012

All-Time Team Leader...

It's hard to believe that 164 homers would be the all-time Chicago White Sox record until 1987, but it was, and this player held it:

Card #455 -- Bill Melton, Chicago White Sox

It looks like Bill Melton was asked really quickly for a pose when this picture was taken. He came up to the White Sox in 1968 and was a regular at third through 1975. Not particularly noted for his glove prowess (in fact, Harry Carey would often criticize him on the air for his miscues), his home run production made up for the hope that no liners were hit near the "Hot Corner."

In 1969 and '70, he led the team in home runs, and in '71, he led the entire league in the statistic. It was the first time a White Sox player had ever lead the American League in homers...but when you think of it, the White Sox really weren't known for the ability to hit for the fences at that point. Before 1968, they were chiefly remembered for being dominant as a team during the Dead Ball era, and also for throwing the 1919 World Series. Melton was rewarded for his season by being named to the 1971 A.L. All-Star team.

However, it was downhill from there. A freak injury at his home (he herniated a disc in his back while breaking his son's fall from the garage roof) shortened his season in 1972. Unfortunately. he was never the same. Though still able to produce double digit home run totals from 1973-'75, Melton was clearly on the way out. He was traded to the Angels after the '75 season. He played there for a year, and finished in 1977 with the Indians.

After his career, Melton was a real estate agent before getting a job in the White Sox' marketing department. Today, he's a broadcaster for the team. His all-time homer record is long gone (just like Comiskey Park). Harold Baines topped it in '87, then Carlton Fisk beat that a few years later. Then, Frank Thomas rewrote the club's record book.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Here Comes Amos...

This player lost his spot on the Miracle Mets team due to a clash with Gil Hodges. Instead, he went to a new team and became a part of a different winner:

Card #510 -- Amos Otis, Kansas City Royals

Shown here taking his turn at the plate against the Brewers, Amos Otis was given short looks with the Mets in 1967 and '69. However, Hodges was set on moving him to third base and Otis disagreed. That got him sent back to the minors, and after the 1969 season, he was traded to the Royals for Joe Foy. That trade worked in Kansas City's favor; Foy was out of baseball by 1971 and Otis was a fixture in the Royal outfield for over a decade.

He took part on a team that won three straight division titles from 1976-'78, but ended up losing the ALCS each year to the Yankees in hard-fought contests. A five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Otis also led the league in steals for 1971. By 1980, though, his skills diminished and Willie Wilson took over centerfield. That didn't stop Otis from crushing three homers in that year's World Series against the Phillies. He remained in Kansas City until 1983, then finished his career in Pittsburgh in '84.

After retiring, Otis was a coach. He worked with the San Diego Padres in 1988-'89 and for the Rockies during their inaugural season in 1993. He also admitted in the early 1990s that he used a corked bat for part of his big league career.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Also Known as Tommy...

As the 1973 season got underway, this guy was beginning with a new team:

Card #86 -- Tom McCraw, Cleveland Indians

Tommy McCraw was traded to the California Angels on April 2, just before the season opener but after Topps issued the card you see above. Which is too airbrush artist really could have gotten the "correction" made pretty quickly on the action shot.

McCraw had been a fixture in the White Sox' outfield from 1963 through '70. After that, he moved around, from the Senators in '71, the Indians in 1972, the Angels in '73 and back to the Tribe in a 1974 trade. He finished his big league career in Cleveland in 1975. During his year in Washington, McCraw recorded the team's last out before they moved to Texas when he was caught trying to steal second in the 8th inning. He would also be the Angels' first-ever designated hitter in 1973.

When he retired, McCraw was a teammate of player/manager Frank Robinson; he went on to serve as a batting coach for 23 seasons, and four teams he coached were managed by Robinson.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pinch Hitter Deluxe

Though his skills really didn't translate to an everyday position, this guy still played for 13 years in the majors, and all of them with the same team:

Card #508 -- Gates Brown, Detroit Tigers

A member of the Tigers since 1963, Gates Brown had largely been called upon as a bench player but was only a regular in 1964. Since the Tigers also had Al Kaline, Mickey Stanley, Jim Northrup and Willie Horton, his outfield time was limited and he helped whenever he was called. In 1968, he had one of the all-time finest years of a pinch hitter, hitting .462 over the season in that capacity. In 1973, Brown was available to fill the new DH position and appeared in the most games (125) in any season of his career, but reverted to a pinch hitter for the final two years of his career.

Before becoming a major leaguer, however, Brown had some off-field issues that landed him in an Ohio reformatory as a teenager. His baseball skills helped to set his life straight, and he never regretted getting a second chance. In fact, as his playing days wound down, he served as a mentor for Ron LeFlore, who had a similar early-life hard-luck story.

After his retirement, Brown served as a hitting coach for the Tigers from 1978 through 1984. He still instructs at a Tiger fantasy camp in Florida and has long been a fan favorite.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Man Called "The Blade"

At 6 feet tall but only 150 pounds, this pitcher was nicknamed "The Blade" due to his physique:

Card #8 -- Tom Hall, Cincinnati Reds

An occasional starter but mainly a setup reliever, Tom Hall pitched with four clubs in his major league career. Coming up with the Twins in 1968, he was traded to the Reds after the 1971 season. After two division titles and one pennant, he was traded to the Mets in 1975 and then the Royals in 1976. When he was released halfway through the '77 season, he signed with the Twins again but never made it back to the club.

Though he notched a respectable 52-33 lifetime record and a 3.27 ERA, Hall was noted during his career for his control. He tossed a two-hitter against the Angels in 1968 and twice notched 12 strikeouts in a game. However, injuries limited his effectiveness late in his career.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Brew Crew

To fill out this team picture, it looks like several players brought along neighbors and relatives. Maybe this was taken during a team cookout:

Card #127 -- Milwaukee Brewers Team Card

It had only been a few seasons since this club had entered the league as the expansion Seattle Pilots and then moved to Milwaukee just six days before the 1970 season. Though the Braves had already been there from 1953-'65, there was another Milwaukee Brewers in the American League's inaugural season..the moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns. The name Brewers would also be used for the city's minor league franchise from 1902-'52, and was used as far back as 1884.

In 1972, the team moved to the A.L. East when the Senators went to Texas and took their place in the A.L. West they brought from Seattle. They also brought in a former Brave (Del Crandall) to manage the club. The moves made little difference, as the team finished in the same place -- last -- as they did in 1971. They would improve to fifth in 1973. The highlight of the Brewers' '73 season occurred off the field, when they drafted a young shortstop named Robin Yount.

The team would make gradual improvement from year to year, but never posted a winning season until 1978. Few of the players shown here would be around to see that, however. But the Brewers were a strong  team for several years in the decade after that. Today, however, they aren't even in the same league (moving to the National League in 1998).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Keeping Up With the Joneses

This player is probably best known for being a hero in the 1969 World Series:

Card #540 -- Cleon Jones, New York Mets

Although Cleon Jones caught the final out of the Series, it was an incident earlier in that game that helped spark the rally he is remembered for. A pitch that seemed to hit Jones in the shoe went unnoticed until manager Gil Hodges showed the umpire that the ball had shoe polish on it. The next batter was Donn Clendenon, who slammed a home run to get the Mets within one run of Baltimore. On his next trip to the plate, Jones doubled in what proved to be the winning run.

Jones came up to the Mets for short stints in 1963 and '65, and became a regular in the Shea Stadium outfield in 1966. He was basically a fixture there through 1974 and possessed what was considered one of the game's best arms. He showed that strength in September '73 against the Pirates, connecting with Wayne Garrett to cut down Richie Zisk at the plate. At a time when the Mets were fighting for the division title, Jones showed he was still valuable to the team.

Unfortunately, Jones was released after an altercation with Yogi Berra in 1975. The next year, he was with the Chicago White Sox but was released after thirteen games and retired. He remains as a beloved figure to Mets fans for his place on the 1969 "Miracle" team and is a member of the team's Hall of Fame.