Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Uncommon Balor

This was the first player drafted by the Montreal Expos during their first season in 1969:

Card #211 -- Balor Moore, Montreal Expos

Unfortunately, Balor Moore would be drafted by another organization -- the U.S. Army -- a couple of years later and miss the 1971 season. After a 9-9 record in 1972 and a 9-16 showing in '73, his career was affected by a number of injuries. In 1974, he injured his ankle during Spring Training and then elbow surgery ended his season. He wouldn't return to the majors until 1977 with the Angels, then a three-year stint with the Blue Jays. He spent '81 in the minors before hanging it up.

Though Moore's career didn't end up living up to the high hopes the Expos initially had for him, he did have one highlight that needs to be mentioned. After the '72 season, Moore pitched the first nine-inning no-hitter ever tossed in the Puerto Rican League. After retiring, Moore entered the steel business and owns a pipe company in his native Texas today.

Monday, February 27, 2012


This player was only in the major leagues for parts of two seasons, but was a big enough star in the Mexican League to be inducted into their Hall of Fame:

Card #103 -- Celerino Sanchez, New York Yankees

The card above shows that Celerino Sanchez was a third baseman. While he played that position exclusively in 1972, he was largely of the good field/no-hit mode, and the Yankees' acquisition of Graig Nettles ended any chance of getting any significant time at the position. He filled in where he was needed (including DH, at shortstop and in the outfield), but was little more than a bench player in 1973. As a result, he returned to Mexico. His final game as a Yankee was also the final game for Yankee Stadium before its renovation. He replaced Nettles in the seventh and drove in a run; however, the Yankees lost the game late to the Tigers.

Sanchez had been a star in his native country during the 1960s. In 1966, he won a Triple Crown in the Mexican League, hitting .448 for the season. The Yankees saw potential in him and traded to get him in 1971. After returning, he would spend the rest of the decade in Mexico (except for 1978, when he didn't play at all) to round out his career.

Tragically, Celerino Sanchez was killed because of a car accident in 1992.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Yes, His Middle Name Was Henry

In 1972, this player was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Texas Rangers. It was his first chance to be an everyday player:

Card #299 -- Ted Ford, Texas Rangers

Unfortunately, the Rangers ended up sending Ted Ford back to Cleveland in the Spring of 1973. It would be Ford's final season in a major league uniform, getting into 11 games. He stuck around in the minors through 1974, however, before calling it a career.

Drafted by the Indians in 1966, Ford was drafted again -- by Uncle Sam -- and missed the 1968 and '69 seasons while serving in Vietnam. Once his military hitch was up, he returned to the game and made the Indians' roster in 1970. Ford was shuttled back and forth between the Tribe and their AAA affiliate in Wichita for the next couple of seasons until his trade to Texas.

Ford played all three outfield positions, filling in wherever he was needed. In Texas, he was mianly used in right field. His grandson Darren Ford came up with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Keeping Track, Part 3

Today is one of the five days I can just show a card, be lazy and still get in a post to this blog before my self-imposed deadline passes:

Card #338 -- Checklist 3

There's really nothing to research with a checklist card. This is the third of the five checklists in the 1973 Topps set, and the third that's been featured on this blog.

That said, it looks like the original owner of this card had all the cards in this run in his collection. The back is all marked off, as well.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where's Floyd the Barber?

While this "Mayberry" didn't have Opie, Barney or Aunt Bea, he was a "classic" in his own right:

Card #118 -- John Mayberry, Kansas City Royals

John Mayberry originally came up with the Astros, with call-ups between 1968 and 1971. The team grew concerned that he was striking out too much, so he tried to be a little less wild at the plate. Unfortunately, his power numbers dropped off  and he was traded to the Royals after the '71 season.

He immediately stepped into a starting position at first base in Kansas City, and that trade is considered one of the worst of the decade. Mayberry was one of the few heavy power hitters in the team's lineup and enjoyed career years from 1972-'75. His numbers tailed off in 1976 and a falling out with manager Whitey Herzog ended up with Mayberry getting benched for the ALCS and then blamed for the team's subsequent loss to the Yankees. He was soon traded again, to Toronto, a team that had just finished its first season.

Although his level of play was reduced from what he'd shown a few seasons before, Mayberry was a veteran presence for the Blue Jays. He remained with the team through 1982, when he was traded to the Yankees. That proved to be his final season.

His son is John Mayberry, Jr., who curently plays for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Comeback Kid

Last time, I featured a player who enjoyed a long career and excelled during the later years. This guy did that, too:

Card #109 -- Doyle Alexander, Baltimore Orioles

Doyle Alexander looks sad in this picture (despite the more tropical spring air and the palm trees around him), but 1973 would be his first winning season. However, it was the only one he would enjoy between his rookie season with the Dodgers in 1971 and his tenure with the Orioles. As a result, he was included in a massive ten-player trade between Baltimore and their A.L. East rival New York Yankees. The change paid immediate dividends, both for the Bronx Bombers, who went to the World Series for the first time in a dozen years, and Alexander, who had a 10-5 record with them as he helped to get them there. He lost game 1 of that year's World Series and signed as a free agent with Texas afterward.

Over the next several years, he pitched for the Rangers, Braves, Giants and the Yankees again. He was effective in 1977, but inconsistent after that, watching his ERA rise and his record dart around. In '83, the Yankees dropped him and he signed with the Blue Jays, a move that once again jump-started his career. He would win 17 games in both 1984 and '85 and helped the Jays win their first division title in the latter year. He went to Atlanta once again in 1986, but was traded once again the next year.

In that trade, Alexander became a Tiger, and the deal paid dividends for both teams. The Tigers' part paid off immediately, as Alexander (who at 36 was assumed to be washed up) ran up a 9-0 record and once again served as a catalyst for a division title. 1988 was another decent year, but his age finally reached up to him in '89 and he retired after the season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Man Called "Suds"

This player is airbrushed into the uniform of the team that purchased his contract midway through the 1972 season:

Card #572 -- Gary Sutherland, Houston Astros

Sharp-eyed readers might recognize the background as a similar area where many Montreal Expos players are shown, and that's the team where Gary Sutherland filled a roster during Spring Training in 1972. In fact, he moved around a lot, playing on seven different teams in 13 overall seasons.  He first came up with the Phillies in 1966 and moved to the Expos during thier inaugural season in 1969. His tenure with the Astros was over after '73.

He then went to the Detroit Tigers, where manager Ralph Houk made him the team's leadoff hitter. That might seem odd given his low batting average, but Houk seemed fond of placing second basemen into the first spot on his lineup (Bobby Richardson and then Horace Clarke with teh Yankees, and later Jerry Remy in Boston). He stayed in that position until Ron LeFlore arrived with the Tigers, and finished the 1976 season with the Brewers. He then spent partial seasons in San Diego and St. Louis before retiring after the '78 season.

After his retirement, Sutherland tried his hand at selling real estate in California. Eventually, he missed baseball and became a scout for the Padres in 1980. While there, he was the person who brought Tony Gwynn to the team. He remained a scout for several years afterwards, and works for the Angels today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's "Howdy Doody" Time

His nickname was "Howdy Doody," due to his similarity to the TV "star" of the 1950s. At the time this picture was taken, this player was just getting started on a very long career:

Card #374 -- Darrell Evans, Atlanta Braves

Darrell Evans played through the 1989 season, with a single season in Atlanta, the same team that first brought him up to the majors in 1969. 1973 would be his breakout year, seeing him hit more home runs in a single season than in the combined three partial seasons and one full season he'd played to that point. In fact, the Braves had three players who hit 40 homers that year (the first trio of teammates in history to do that), with Evans swatting 41 in all. He was joined by Davey Johnson, who hit 45, and Hank Aaron, who hit 40.

Evans was a solid slugger who didn't hit for average but was able to draw a lot of walks. As a result, his on-base percentage made him a much more valuable player to his team than many might have realized. However, he played third base at the same time as Ron Santo and then Mike Schmidt, so he always tended to be overlooked as a position player. His Braves coach (and then magager) was Eddie Mathews, who helped him develop into a decent-fielding third sacker; his skills at the position were sorely lacking when he first arrived as a big-league player.

In 1976, the Braves traded Evans to the Giants and was a consistent player there for eight seasons. By the early 1980s, he had started to play first as well as third. When he became a free agent after the '83 season, it is said that 18 of the 26 teams were interested in him. He was 36 years old; his fielding ability was about to decline due to age, but his hitting was considered highly enough that an American League team could use him as a DH and keep him active. And that's exactly where he ended up when the Detroit Tigers signed him.

With the Tigers, he got to play in the 1984 World Series, where he won the only ring of his career. However, he exploded for 40 home runs in '85. That made him the first player to ever smash 40 or more in each league, as well as the oldest player (at the time) to ever win a home run title. Interestingly, he beat out Carlton Fisk, who was another long-time player enjoying a late-career resurgence.  He played with the Tigers throgh 1988, before returning to Atlant for that final season.

Though he was never really considered for Hall of Fame induction, Evans was the second player with over 400 career home runs to get passed over for induction (the first was Dave Kingman, who was largely seen as a one-tool player). That said, he's been cited as an "overlooked" player by fans including Bill James.

Friday, February 10, 2012


This guy was one of the many catchers who went on to become major league managers after taking off the "tools of ignorance":

Card #154 -- Jeff Torborg, California Angels

Jeff Torborg was able to catch three no-hitters during his ten year career, including two that were quite significant. In 1965, he was behind the plate for Sandy Koufax's perfect game and in 1973 he called the pitches for the first no-hitter of Nolan Ryan's career. The other one was in 1970, when he was the catcher of Bill Singer's no-no.

Torborg came up with the Dodgers in 1964 after a standout career at Rutgers University. While there, he ran up a .537 batting average and a phenomenal 1.032 slugging percentage the year before. Despite those numbers, he was never a feared hitter during his days in the majors. Torborg was a lifetime .214 hitter, but his defensive abilities and intellectual control of the game's flow were strong enough to keep him around. He stayed with the Dodgers through 1970, and was sold to the Angels after the season. 1973 would be his final year in the majors, and this was his last Topps card as a player.

His managing career began in 1977 with a three-year tour of duty in Cleveland (you might call it a "stint," but I'll opt for a different military metaphor in this case) but that team was -- to put it mildly -- underachieving. He returned in 1989 with the Chicago White Sox and turned them around to second-place showings in both 1990 and '91. In '92 he took over the Mets...who clearly weren't the same team they were just a few years prior to that. He resurfaced in 2001 with the Expos and then guided the Marlins beginning in 2002. While that team won the World Series the next year, Torborg wasn't leading them. He had been fired early in the season.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This guy was an original member of the San Diego Padres but claimed a couple of significant feats during his career as a manger:

Card #159 -- Clarence Gaston, San Diego Padres

In 1992 and '93, "Cito" Gaston led the Toronto Blue Jays to World Series wins. With those two seasons, he piloted the only team from outside the United States to a title, a distinction that is still in force today. At the same time, he also became the first African-American manager to win a championship. As of this writing, he's still the only one, but I suspect that distinction should be a short-lived one (Ron Washington might be a good bet to win a title, maybe even Dusty Baker).

Gaston was a late-season call-up with the Braves in 1967, where he was a roomate with Hank Aaron during road trips. When the Padres grabbed him in the expansion draft the next year, he became one of that team's original players. He didn't appear in their first game, but was their regular center fielder over the course of the season. 1970 was his breakout year, seeing him hit a personal best 29 home runs and hitting over .300 for the only time in his career. He was traded to Atlanta before the 1975 season and played for the Pirates in two games at the end of '78 before calling an end to his first career.

Gaston took the role of hitting coach for the Blue Jays beginning in 1982 and worked under both Bobby Cox and Jimy Williams there. As part of that coaching staff, he mentored a group of great if underrated hitters. I was living in Upstate New York during that time and one of my best friends was a rabid Blue Jays fan. While the team's exploits were often unknown outside of the area (except for 1985, when they took the A.L. East from the Yankees), you can bet that my buddy kept me informed about it. In 1989, he took over the skipper position when Williams was fired. The team was at 12-24 and in last place when he was promoted, but eventually won the division. In fact, the Jays took their division in four of Gaston's first five seasons.

He remained in the manager's position through 1997, and then took the team over again from 2008 through 2010. He was regarded as a "players' manager" when the team was winning, but derided as a "push-button" manager then the team wasn't doing so well. It's funny how fickle baseball fans and writers can be simply based on the W/L column.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Big Shoes to Fill

Here's another one of the more well-loved cards sitting in my 1973 Topps binder. It shows a man who's listed as catcher but began the season taking over in center field:

Card #250 -- Manny Sanguillen, Pittsburgh Pirates

In fact, Manny Sanguillen was the only member of the Pirates who wasn't in attendance at Roberto Clemente's funeral. As a close friend, he was busy diving in the area of the plane crash and searching for his body. And when the 1973 season started, he was standing in rightfield to replace his long-time friend. However, the new position turned out to be a bigger change than expected and he was back behind home plate by mid-June.

Sanguillen spent 13 seasons with the Pirates and was a member of their World Championship teams in 1971 and '79. He spent one season in Oakland, however, after being involved in a trade for their manager Chuck Tanner. He would spend 1977 with the A's and then get traded back to Pittsburgh during the offseason.

One of Sanguillen's talents was an ability to chase bad pitches and turn them into base hits. While that helped give him a lifetime batting average that was just below .300, he was also notorious for not drawing that many walks and his on-base percentage was lower than you'd think it might be. He was also noted for doing a lot of chatting with opposing batters in order to distract them from watching pitches.

Today, Sanguillen runs a barbecue joint inside PNC Park, where he greets fans, poses for pictures and signs autographs.

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Roger" and Out

This guy was a fairly effective pitcher who took turns in the rotation and the bullpen. However, it was the way his career ended that people remember him:

Card #291 -- Rogelio Moret, Boston Red Sox

Scheduled to pitch for the Texas Rangers early in 1978, Rogelio Moret was found in the locker room before the game in what can only be described as a catatonic state. He was placed on the disabled list and admitted to a psychiatric facility, and only pitched in six more games after that. The incident is mentioned in the movie Fever Pitch as an example of Boston's bad luck that year, but Moret hadn't been with the team since 1975.

Though he first came up with the Red Sox in 1970, it wasn't until '73 that he showed he was ready to play in the majors full time. He had always shown moments of brilliance mixed with control issues, but in 1973 he ran a string of 11 straight wins that lasted from April 22 to September 16. Always deemed to be on the verge of taking a regular spot in the rotation but never seeming to have the endurance to go deep into games, he made the most of his position as a "swingman." Moret finally took the fifth starter spot in July of 1975, which Bill Lee credited in his book The Wrong Stuff as the moment that set the Red Sox on the path to the pennant.

Though he ended the season with a 14-3 mark, he was involved in an accident where he ran into the back of a stalled truck and went to the hospital with cuts to the head. He was retained for the Red Sox' postseason roster but saw limited action. Those would be his final games in a Red Sox uniform, as he was traded to Atlanta in November. He would spend one season with the Braves before being traded to the Rangers in the Jeff Burroughs deal.

He remained in baseball after 1978, trying unsuccessfully to return in Spring Training in both 1979 and '80. He played in Mexico through 1982 and in his native Puerto Rico for several years after that. He still lives in Puerto Rico today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cubbie "Blue"

Here's another one of the unnumbered blue-bordered checklists that were included in the wax packs with the high-numbered cards in 1973:

(No Number) Chicago Cubs Team Checklist Card

The border color is actually suitable for the team that's featured. Here's something worth sharing here, since I missed mentioning it in my post that featured the team photo card: 1973 was the only year between 1945 and 1984 where the Cubs were in contention going into the final day of the season. Due to rainouts, they still had four games to play against the Mets (the same team that denied of the division in 1969). They just needed to win all four games, but weren't able to.

This is the sixth team checklist card featured on this blog. So far, the only team that's "fielded" an entire team from the signatures was the same team that beat them to win the 1945 World Series...the Detroit Tigers. So let's see. Randy Hundley is behind the plate. Hickman at first, Beckert at second, Kessinger at short and Santo on third. We have Williams, Cardenal and Monday in the outfield. There are even three starters (Jenkins, Pappas and Hooton) and LaRoche in relief. For only the second time, we have a balanced team among the signatures.