Friday, December 7, 2012

#13 Detroit Tigers pitcher Joe Sparma, Short career. short life...

Up next in the set is card #13 which features Detorit Tigers pitcher Joe Sparma. This card never made a major impression on me when I was a kid because I didn't know the players name and I didn't care much about the Detroit Tigers. If anything the photo of Sparma looked to me like it was taken in someone's expansive backyard. I got that impression with a lot of the photoes featured in this set because I always saw players in those massive cathedrals known as Major League Baseball Stadiums. How often do you see Whitey Ford posed as though he just through a legendary curveball on a barren open field? I grew up in the 1980's with cards mostly featuring game action shots during the season, not preseason poses. That all said the Sparma card basically missed my eyes as a kid even though he doesn't seem to have a well fitting hat.

 Sparma played in the majors only from 1964 to 1970. He started his major league career at the age of 22 after graduating college. He was done before he was 30. He played football for Ohio State in the early 60's, one of the best NCAA football programs ever. Wikipedia has a nice little story of Sparma and his meeting Mickey Mantle for the first time while pitching against him on Mickey Mantle Day.

Joe Sparma was primarily a starting pitcher in his career. He had a rocky injury prone career as a pitcher up until the '67 season where he went 16-9 and throwing 5 shutouts. He did all of this with a fairly high 3.76 ERA for that time. Earned Run Averages were plummeting toward the end of the 60's as were also home run totals. This prompted the lowering of the mound in 1969. Starting pitcher ERAs rarely approached the likes of Denny McLain (1.96 in '68) and Bob Gibson (1.12 in '68) ever since.

Sparma's high ERA leads me to believe that while he was probably a hard throwning pitcher (short career), his pitches didn't have much movement. Hard throwers didn't last long in the Majors in those days unless they try to reinvent themselves as knuckleballers once the wear and tear set in. Sparma didn't seem to do this.

His career continued to go fairly well for the 1968 World Champion Tigers team. He managed a 10-10 record in 31 starts, throwing 1 shutout and recording a 3.70 ERA. He was included in the World Series roster of the Tigers but he only appeared as a reliever. He managed only a third of an inning surrending in a two run home run in his lone appearance.

That series appearance was just after the end of Sparma's brief peak in the Majors. In 1969 he managed 23 starts a 6-8 losing record for the season. While a pair of those wins were shutouts his season ERA ballooned a full ERA point (4.76). The next season, Sparma found himself with the year old Montreal Expos. That was where his career came to an end without managing to win a single game for the 73-89 Expos. While his career was brief, he managed to do something Ernie Banks, Robin Roberts so many other players failed to achieve in long careers, earn a World Series ring.

Sparma passed away in 1986 because of serious heart troubles. He was 44 years old.

Pardon the interruption. Sandy came to town

Hello, I live in South Seaside Park, New Jersey. This is one of the hardest hit barrier islands on the Jersey coast by the combined strengths of Hurricane Sandy and the Noreaster. One storm ran into another and the worst case scenario was made all the more worse because it happened at high tide and during October's full moon. I luckily live in an area of the barrier island which has large protective dunes and am surrounded by houses which are set on concrete (not on sand). For an idea of what other areas of the island looked like after Sandy click here.

I was without power for 30 days, without water for only one day and I continue to be without natural gas (the source of my hot water and heat). There has been a lot of other things happening on the island which is more regarding the actions of local officials which, for me, has been far worse than the storm but I wish to not discuss that now and it doesn't belong on this blog anyway. I'm back online now and on with the tribute to a great baseball card set.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Card #12 Dodgers 1967 Rookie Stars Campanis/ Singer

 The madness of this overlong political campaign season got me thinking it was time to get back to moy card blog honoring the 1967 Topps baseball set.  This also happens to be the time where post season Major league baseball reaches its crescendo. Unfortunatly, fewer and fewer people are interested in America's first national past time. It's pretty clear now that the NFL has trumped the MLB in terms of grabbing ahold of the national consciousness and will likely retain it as long as either sport, or this country exists. I say all this because the pivotal seventh game of the NLCS pitting the Cardinals against the Giants in San Francisco drew an audience of only 8 million viewers. The thought of such an important NFL football game drawing that small a crowd is unthinkable.

If the MLB continues to lose interest in the minds of the masses, the size of the league will begin to shrink because fewer teams will be able to  stay afloat. Fewer fans means fewer dollars to cover still growing player salaries.Such problems didn't exist in the pre free agency era of MLB, but like most labor deals, the short term benefits fail to take into account the long term effects it will have on the sport and the business. Eventually, the golden goose is just going to get cooked.

NOW ABOUT THE CARD. This is the lowest numbered Rookie Stars card of this 1967 set. As a kid, I was fasctinated by them mainly because I never saw anything like them in the 1980's Topps sets. Two reasons for this, 1. The sets in the 80's had nearly 800 cards so featuring players on their own card was not difficult. 2. Maintaining who should be featured on these rookie stars cards must have been a royal pain in the butt. Bobby Murcer, Hal McRae and Lou Pinella were all featured on more than one "Rookie Stars" cards. A collector may think they had the Pinella rookie card in the 1969 set because it says rookie on it, but his 1968 and his 1964 cards ALSO say "Rookie Stars" on them. You'd think Topps would fix that problem or just abandon this format. Well they did the former and infact incresed the amount of players featured on them. SEE BELOW. I don't know about anyone else, but these 4 player cards are lousy and think about how some of the rookies who didn't make it feel when their rookie card shoots up in price because a future hall of famer is featured on it. I guess that serves as good trivia but I'd be put off by it.

This 1967 Topps card is a good example of thi. Jimmy Campanis' career never really took off. The most games the catcher/pinch hitter ever played in a season during his six year career was only 41 and his career batting average was a meager .167.  However, Bill Singer became a star pitcher. Twice Singer won more than 20 games and was elected to the All Star team in each of those years (1969 with the Dodgers and 1973 with the Angels). He went on to a 14 year MLB career and winning 118 games over the course of that time. Today, Bill Singer's cards aren't considered collector worthy but I imagine this rookie card was a hot item for young Dodger fans in 1969 and Angel fans in 1973. I am sure, in most cases, the kids who sought and eventually got this card asked themselves "Who is Jimmy Campanis?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

#11 Washinton Senator Robert Barry Moore

Up next is  pitcher Barry Moore. This is the first Senator card of the '67 set and the light purple lettering does not make for an attractive looking card. The '67 set is classic, don't get me wrong but some of those colors for the lettering just makes the cards look a little off for me.

This of course was the second of the now three Washington DC teams. The first moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. This Senator team moved to Texas to become the Rangers and the Montreal Expos moved to Washington to become the Nationals (the original name of the original Washington team before it changed to the Senators).

Barry Moore had a very short five year career in the Majors. Like the Alou card before, this one was produced during Moore's two year peak as a Major League Pitcher. His ERA was under 4 and while he didn't have a winning season until '69 he had his only shutout in 1967. He didn't win many games but neither did the second Washington ball club who only won more than half of their games in 1969, the year Moore broke.500 as well.

Judging from his stats, Moore lost something off his pitches in 1970 and that resulted in him getting roughed up on the mound. He went from the Indians to the White Sox in that year and he went winless after the trade. In December of 1970, the Sox traded him to the Yankees for Bill Robinson but he didn't make the team.
He struggled in the Yankees and Pirates farm system for awhile before quitting. He definitely caught Topps attention in the 60's and he deserved to be featured on his own card because he was a pitching prospect.

As I said the Senator cards were never a favorite of mine. This picture definitely looks to be taken in a Major League Stadium and it may even be D.C. Stadium

#10 Pittsburgh Pirate Matty Alou. Baseball's Royal Family

 Up next is one of three of the Alou brothers, Matty Alou. Mateo Rojas "Matty" Alou, who I am sorry to say passed away from diabetes complication on November 3, 2011 was the middle of the three Alou brothers who all had long successful careers in the Majors. Also, all three brothers have cards featured in this '67 set. The Alou trio all started their Major careers with the Giants (all three played for the team at some point of the '63 season) but all had equal or better success with the teams they went on to play for after San Francisco. This is definitely the case with Matty Alou.

Matty was in the prime of his career around the time this card came out. He had a string of over .300 avg seasons, a pair of 200+ hits in a season and, while he wasn't a power hitter, he was an excellent contact hitter with many doubles and triples to his credit. He didn't have many stolen bases so I question whether or not he was a speedster on the base paths. This tells me he really hit them where they weren't during his peak.

Matty was still hitting the ball well when he left the Pirates to play for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971. In '72, he was traded to the A's. He went on to win a championship with the team that year and while he hit well in the ALCS, he was virtually hitless in the actual series.

It seems a player's career is all but done when they start to bounce around
from team to team and this is true for Matty Alou as well. While he continued to hit well with all of the teams he played for, teams just didn't keep him on. In '73 the Yankees brought him on and though he was a .300 hitter, he ended up with the Cardinals for the rest of the season. In '74, Matty didn't hit well for the Padres and that was the last of his 14 seasons in the Majors. Of the three Alou brothers, he had the shortest Major League career.

This card features the same purple lettering featured on the White Sox card and like much of the earliest cards in this set, the photo looks to come from spring training. I imagine this photo was taken prior to the start of the '66 season and the photographer likely asked Matty to take the same picture without his hat on in case he was traded. Later Topps just airbrushed out the wrong logo but back in the 60's they featured pictures of hatless players.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Card #9 Ron Hansen of the ChiSox

Pardon my shameful absence from this blog. I can sum up my departure with one simple word. SCHOOL. I have returned for now and here is card #9 of the 1967 Topps set featuring Ron Hansen.
Unlike most of the previous cards, this one appears to be taken in a Major League stadium during a previous baseball season. I am only assuming this because of the size of those press boxes in the background. On the other hand, why are there no stadium seats over those press boxes? Maybe this is the Sox's spring training home back in the mid 60's?