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.