Tuesday, November 11, 2014

# 43 Chico "Super Sub' Salmon of the Cleveland Indians

Next in the set is the Indians utility infielder, Chico Salmon. I never heard about or knew much of anything about this player. This is partly why I do this blog. Learning a little more about baseball's past is a hobby. Learning about the players is a massive part of that. Every player who makes it to the Majors, excelled in the profession. If they got up there and had batting averages like Mario Mendoza or Wayne Tolleson, they still made it to the peak of their profession.

The Panamanian born Chico Salmon is one such player. Salmon neverSalmon was a fill in for most of his 9 year career in the Majors. He earned the nickname 'Super Sub' while in Cleveland. Cleveland fans are alot like Phillie and Blue Jay fans prior to the '94 strike. Players were able to settle in with a team and play out a career there. This allowed fans and the local press to learn more about the players they were rooting for. This is something missing in the game today. Fans have to root more for the team and less for players because the majority of them don't last long on the same teams (watch out for that Royal fans)

Salmon didn't have the greatest career batting average (.249) but this could be due to his lack of regular play. Salmon was an instinctive base runner and a quality infielder.

Salmon spent five full seasons with Cleveland. The Indians left him unprotected in the expansion draft and the Seattle Pilots claimed him. He was traded to the powerhouse Orioles before ever appearing in a Pilot game and that spared him from playing on one of the worst teams in the league to the AL pennant winning Orioles. He went on to make appearances in the first ever NLCS in '69, the '69 Series against the Mets and getting his sole World Series hit for the 1970 Champion Orioles.

Salmon saw less and less work with the Orioles in '71 and '72. He was done in the Majors toward the end of 1972 at the age of 31.

He remained devoted to the game and was a part of it up until his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of 59.

Topps made plenty of cards featuring Chico Salmon. He had a card every year of his career. '64 to '72. He even had a '69 Topps card stating he was on the Pilots.

His '67 card didn't stand out from the rest. I saw it as a common card. Commons never stood out. The Beckett Baseball Card Monthly was a regular purchase and the cards that were named, were the cards I looked at in the set. The rest were lumped in together as commons, all with the same price based on where they were placed in the set.

I find Salmon's card interesting now because it looks like the photo of him was taken in Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I don't see the white facade of Yankee Stadium lining the roof, I don't recognize the scoreboard in the back, and the stands are too large to be a spring training facility.  It's rare finding a photo of a player not from Florida, Arizona or New York in this set.

#42 New York Mets Team Card, the Miracle wasn't on the radar yet.

Team cards were a thing in the past by the late 1980's so I loved seeing them in this set. They were foreign to me and that made them more fun to look at.

The '67 Topps team cards, feature the team embedded in a sea of color. Most of the cards were yellow but later cards feature red backgrounds or no background at all.  The team name colors remained uniform with the single player cards from the team. The Mets with it's striking purple look well in the yellow.

The idea that the Mets would be the team to beat in the Majors only two years later (three years after the photo taken, had to be laughable back then.  The '66 stats on the back say t all. They had alot of young pitchers coming up but Ron Hunt led the team in hits with only 138. The ERA leader was Ribant with a pedestrian 3.21. Ken Boyer had only 61 RBI and Kranepool had only 16 home runs, but they were both good enough to lead the team in '66.

The '66 Mets were still in the hands of their second manager, Wes Westrum. They appointed Casey Stengel by this time up and out of uniform.  'Basement Bertha', Joan Payson was still not rewarded for her and her husband's efforts to bring National League baseball back to New York. Her time would come though in '69. Much of the lineup was different by then but the young pitchers, McGraw, Seaver, Koosman were coming along. Nolan Ryan would find himself fully with the Angels in the 70's.

Just a note on the Mets uniform. I don't know how well they were received at the time but talk about a mashup job. Take Dodger blue, mix it with Giant orange and throw in Yankee pinstripes. Then put them in the rat infested Polo Grounds until their Flushing, Queens stadium was done and ready to go. They had devoted fans though and they still do. I never was a Met 'fan' but I admire their devotion. And that goes double for the fans from day one and stood by them during the years when Ed Kranepool and Ron Swoboda was seen as their Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris

#41 Joe Hoerner , south paw bullpen all star and Proto Robert Wuhl lookalike.

I often compare faces in my mind. Some people focus on names, my mind works in images. With my mind working this way, I see Robert Wuhl when I see Joe Hoerner on this 1967 Topps baseball card.

I admit it, I may be the only person seeing it, but I do see it with the way my brain operates. Hoerner was bigger in physical stature but at the time, seeing Wuhl in movies like Bull Durham and Batman, I couldn't help but think that I saw him before and here is where I thought I saw his face. That's what I remember most about his '67 card. It has a standard head shoulder photo. Good color on the photo. Nothing looking washed out in the image.

Hoerner was late starting in the Majors and when he did it was with a very young Houston team. Hoerner was almost 27 when he debuted. This was due to health problems early in his pro career. Hoerner was a workhorse reliever and he had hitters baffled with his pitches. His ERA was excellent throughout his time in St Louis and even better when he went on to pitch for the Phillies. Hoerner was a part of the contentious trade involving Curt Flood. Flood refused to report and his fate in the Majors was all but sealed after that.

In 1970, Hoerner represented the Phillies in the All Star game as a left handed reliever. This was the days when starters would pitch 16 innings if they had to. A reliever making a name for himself was still a rarity. He hadn't saved many games, only 99 in a 14 year career, but when he did pitch he did his job well.

Hoerner went on to play for 5 major league teams and was one of the oldest players to appear in the National League game at that time in his career. His career ended as part of a depleted 1977 Reds bullpen.

Hoerner died in a farming accident. This article offers more information about the man too. Former Tiger pitcher, Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych died in a similar accident.

#40 Rick Reichardt and the mountain of hopes.

Up next is another 'star' card or card of interest based on it's placement in the set. Topps cards with numbers like 10, 25, 40, 115, all have prominent players on them and Rick Reichardt at that time in his career was on that short list.

Reichardt was a highly touted college athlete who the Angels paid a fortune for. I imagine the media saw him as the second coming of Harry Agganis. A major college athlete who chose baseball over football. He fell well short of expectations for the Angels.

Reichardt was one of the young up and coming stars that Topps was confident would succeed. They made a slew of cards for Reichardt while they made cards of players like Lou Piniella sporadically. Topps weren't fortune tellers, they didn't predict where Piniella ended up and they overrated Reichardt out of the gate.

This is not to say Reichardt wasn't a solid player who had a fairly successful career in the Majors. Reichardt was a righthanded left fielder with power. He had double digit home run seasons and early on in his career. In '68 he had 21 homers and 73 RBIs. He also struck out like a power hitter usually does.

He went on to play for four teams in ten seasons. He arguably had his best season in 1971 for the White Sox. The Sox were rebuilding from the solid teams they had throughout the 60's and Reichardt saw considerable work. He played in 138 games in '71, had 19 home runs, 62 RBI and got his strike out total down.

This is not a good looking card but I don't like how any of the Angel cards look. I did see alot of the Reichardt card growing up because I had a double of it. I didn't think too much of it because the player wasn't someone a kid, new to following the game would know about. Card has a good shot of the player with the original Yankee stadium stands and scoreboard, blurred in the background.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#39 Curt Simmons - former Phillie and Cardinal pitching great's last card.

Curt Simmons had a long and successful career pitching in the Majors and this is his final card. It is a timely choice for his final card because his career ended in October of '67. Simmons was a 5'10" lanky southpaw who., with Roberts, helped anchor the Phillies starting rotation. He won 17 games in 1950 as one of the Phillie 'Whiz Kids' though he did not appear in the Series that year. He spent 1951 in the service but returned to be an all star in '52, '53 and '57.

Injuries caught up to him in '60 and during this time he was a 31 year old free agent. He was unemployed for all of three days before the Cardinals signed him. It wasn't long before he picked up where he left off in the mid 50's. In '64 he won 18 games for the pennant winning Cardinals. He earned a loss in his two starts in the World Series but gained a World Series ring.

Following the series, Simmons, 36 struggled to regain the form he had for much of his career. He went 9-15 for a .500 Cardinal team in '65. He split his time in 1966 with the Cardinals and Cubs and finished his career in '67 with the Cubs and Angels.

Simmons had 20 major baseball cards made during his career dating back to 1949. Bowman made 7 of them and they were bought out after making their final set in 1955. The players who were regulars on the '1950's cards always grabbed my attention because even at an early age, I felt the older the card, the better. Collecting the latest rookie star card or the latest slick set was cheaper and easier to do (just by packs at the Thrift Drug store), Getting the oldies were harder. You needed to beg to go to a card show or a card store. I have fond memories of both of these places.

I admit, I never collected any of Simmons' cards. But I would have gladly if I were a Phillie fan living near Philadelphia. His cards would be easier to find, I'd know more about his history and best of all, I could afford them because Robin Roberts and Bob Gibson's cards were expensive, but Simmons' cards were affordable even though he was valuable to the same teams those pitchers played for.

This is a good looking card. It is closer than a standard head and shoulder shot of the player. But the photo used works well with the color of the Cubs lettering. The signature however is half lost in Simmons' hairline.

Again, I am feeling my age. Simmons didn't look like a young man in this photo. To a 9 year old, he looks every bit his age and then some; you'd add up on the back and then add 15 more years. But now, I am rapidly catching up to his retirement age. and I admire this man's longevity in the league.

#38 - Bob Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles.

 Up next is Bob Johnson of the reigning world champion Baltimore Orioles. Bob Johnson is a generic name. You'll find 4 on Baseball Reference's webpage. Johnson had a long career in the minors before finding his way to the Athletics then the Senators. He was on the Orioles from 1963 through to half of '67. Then he went to the Mets, Reds, Braves, Cardinals and ending his Major League career with the Oakland Athletics in 1970 at the age of 34. Johnson was a career .272 hitter.  That's a decent batting average for a utility infielder.A batting average like this is also laudable for even pinch hitters. Johnson played all infield positions save only for Pitcher and Catcher. I can't say whether or not this remains something common for utility infielders in the Majors. Back then, the guys who could do the most jobs at least had a shot at playing on the major circuit. Bert Campaneris made history in the mid 60's by playing every position in a single game for the KC Athletics. Being an avid Yankee fan in the late 80's and early 90's, the last utility infielder I remember was Jim Leyritz who played catcher, third base and outfield.

Johnson's card is a good representation of how the typical Orioles card looked like in this set. The palm trees lined the outfield wall in many of the backgrounds. Same bright blue Florida sky. I suspect all of these pictures were taken the same day either by Topps or an Orioles photographer who then sold the pictures to the company. This is something I have noticed in older Bowman cards. Player pictures featured in team yearbooks showed up on the Bowman cards from the same year or the following year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

#37 Rick Wise of the Phillies.

Rick Wise had to have had the greatest game of any player in the Majors. Not only did Wise pitch a no hitter on June 23rd, 1971, he hit two home runs and drove in three of the four RBIs of the game. A no hitter and a two home run game? I call that the greatest single game performance in the league.

Wise has a great looking card, though it looks like mine has a nasty crease in the bottom right corner. Luckily,this Wise card is still a low number in the set. I'll get more into high number values when I get there. Wise's cards aren't known for being pricey though his career was long and respectable.

He began his career with the wildly successful though doomed for failure '64 Philadelphia Phillies. He was just working his way back to the Majors by the time this card was printed. '67 started a seven season string of 30+ appearances in a season. He made two All Star teams during this stretch, had double digit wins every season except '68 and of course, had the greatest single game of any Major Leaguer.

Wise a vital starter for the '75 Red Sox team winning 19 for the pennant winners, the most in his career. He ended up doing alot of work for the Indians in '78 and '79 before winding down his career in San Diego for the Padres.

As I said the card is a good. It looks like a quality example of what the set looks like. A good pose of the player. Good view of the Shea Stadium infield, even a good complete shot of the classic of the mid '60s Phillie uniforms.

Good signature in a good place and the yellow lettering works well with the red in the Phillie jersey as well. A good compliment of colors and everything is well balanced. Not an expensive card but a good one to have.I just bought a replacement for this creased one for two bucks. Now to replace those cards with blurred photos.

#36 Bob Tillman of the Boston Red Sox.

Up next is one of the lesser known players from the 1967 pennant winning Boston Red Sox, Lesser know because he wasn't even on the Red Sox when they actually won the pennant. He was sold to the Yankees in August of that year. Tillman was a regular catcher for the Red Sox but ultimately lost his job by 1967 to the catching tandem of former Yankee Elston Howard and Russ Gibson. 

What I never knew was that he was one of three players the Yankees dealt to the Braves for future Hall of Fame manager (but then a career minor league player) Bobby Cox.

Tillman's best season in the majors was in 1964.  That season was his only full time season as a catcher. While seasons were 162 games long, a catcher typically get day games after night games off. Russ Nixon filled in during his absence. The Red Sox lost 90 games in '64 but Tillman managed to bat .278 and show decent power numbers for a catcher. Tillman's lone post season appearance came in 1969 with the Braves. The league restructured and split into 4 divisions thus opening the door to regular league championship series playoff games. The '69 Braves were soundly beaten in the NLCS by the Mets. 3 games to none.

The card itself is a good looking one. The Red Sox cards grab your attention with the orange lettering. You have to admit that orange is a better choice then pale blue or burnt lawn green.

The photo used is a good one as well. It's a good posing shot of Tillman. This and the previous Carty card look like what you'd expect a card from the set to look like. Someone can say this about these cards. They wouldn't point to the Cimino card with the Angels name in front of a photo of the player, sans hat, obviously wearing another team's jersey.

It's anyones guess where this photo was taken, Tillman has a home jersey on but I imagine the photo was taken where most of the Red Sox photos were taken, in Florida during spring training, perhaps Winter Haven, where the team called home starting in '66 through to the 90's.

#35 Rico Carty, an unsung Brave.

Up next is a player well worth the 0 or 5 card number distinction bestowed on him, Rico Carty. Carty is one of the major talents to come into the majors from Latin America in the mid 60's. Latin American players began to make their way into the Majors in the early 50's. Then as the decade moved along toward a close Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou (followed by his brothers, Matty and Jesus) arose to not only make the Majors but to excel in the league. Following their lead were players coming up in the middle 60's. Manny Mota, Tony Oliva and this man, Rico Carty come right to mind.

Carty by 1967 wasn't even an all star yet, but his '66 stats speak for themselves. .326 batting average in 151 games played. 15 homers and 76 RBIs. Carty had the misfortune of being overshadowed on the team in a national press sense, by Hank Aaron. The Braves by the time they moved to Atlanta were struggling to regain the dominance they experienced while playing in Milwaukee. The Braves were nothing less than a success in Milwaukee but despite a World Series title and winning back to back pennants, the team was sold and moved to Atlanta only 12 years after moving to Milwaukee from Boston.

The Braves success in Milwaukee (particularly in terms of their attendance) opened the door for other Northeastern teams to move west and seek out their own market instead of competing with other teams for one. O'Malley saw the Braves shatter attendance records while his Dodgers, make it to the World Series and not only lose the battle for season attendance to the Braves, but lose it by almost 700,000 fans. 1.163 Million showed up to see the Dodgers win the pennant in 1953. 1.826 million showed up to see the Braves finish 12 games back in 2nd place that year.

Carty had a bright future. A career .300 plus hitter. before injuries got him in 1967. He rebounded to win the batting title in 1970 with an average .366. Then injuries got him again and that's when he started having trouble finding teams willing to build with him. He went to the Rangers, Cubs, and Athletics in 1973 alone before settling in with the Indians  in 1974. He saw alot of work in Cleveland and had very good production for them through to 1977. The Indians were not a good ball club as a whole though and whatever he was doing wasn't attracting much attention. He went on to the Athletics and Blue Jays in '78 and '79. Again, neither team was good and appearing on these lackluster teams pushes Rico Carty's name and accomplishments on the back burner of Major League history.

As for the card. I didn't like it when I was a kid simply because it was a Braves card. The Braves were a team I was able to follow on basic cable regularly growing up, but never did. Basic cable in the late 80's had some local tv stations syndicated as a basic cable channel. I could watch the Yankees on channel 11 and the Mets on channel 9 off of an antenna in my bedroom. I could watch the Cubs on channel 19, the Phillies on channel 21 and the Braves on channel 39. I regularly watched the Yankees and Cubs, sometimes watched the Phillies, rarely watched the Mets and never watched the Braves. The team was awful in the late 80's. The only Braves I ever heard of back in 1987 were Hank Aaron and Dale Murphy.

Not caring about the team means not caring or even noticing the card when I first got it. The card looks like one of the better ones in the set. You get a good shot of the player. The signature is in a unique spot, up over left shoulder then arching up toward the batting cage set up before a Braves Mets game at Shea stadium. Can even see a good (though out of focus) amount of the Shea Stadium scoreboard in back. You also get a little of the Braves logo on Carty's left shirt sleeve instead of just the A on the blue and red baseball cap.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

# 34 Pete Cimino from the Twins to the Angels.

A 9 year old looking at old baseball cards can be forgiven for glossing over some cards at the time. Pete Cimino's card is one of those cards. I couldn't have cared less about the Angels. They were like the Athletics in my mind back in the late 80's except they weren't good. I started following the game the year after their near historic first pennant but ultimately ill fated trip to the 1986 ALCS.

Topps didn't make it any easier by picking a parched dying lawn green for the team name on the front. The color is still better than the Reds

This is Cimino's second of three cards. His rookie is an expensive high number in the '66 set. He is half of the Twins rookie star card, sharing it with Cesar Tovar.

This, to me is the least of Cimino's cards. The Twins jersey is clearly being worn by the player. His other cards feature him in the uniform that's stated on the card.

The signature looks good and of course, the no hat photo (I keep wondering what was going on through there minds when Topps asked for a shot without a hat.) Did they think it was bad luck when they heard something like "In case you're traded"??

Cimino's career in professional baseball was brief. His ERA was pretty good. 3.07 is respectable for a career spanning 89 games. He had only 13 decisions in his career but he also only had one start. Win/ loss totals aren't easy to come by when you're a bullpen pitcher often either closing games or doing mop up duty after a starter's bad outing. He saved 5 games in his career.

He was traded as part of a deal that sent Dean Chance to the Twins.

He went on to spend part of the '68 season with the Angels and the rest in their minor league system. He pitched in only 9 games in the minors that season. This leads me to believe injuries caught up to him.

While his card doesn't mention it, Pete Cimino famously scored 114 points in a single game for his Bristol High School basketball team.

#33 Athletics Rookie Star Card, Sal Bando/ Randy Schwartz

I already stated my views on Rookie Star cards. It's a shame great player's rookie cards get a little buried  on half and sometimes one quarter of a card. Recently found out that the '78 Topps Burger King rookies of Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell are far more desirable for collectors to find because they have their own card. They aren't rookie stars, they are Tiger players as part of the team set.

This card itself didn't grab my attention like other rookie star cards in the set. Athletics were a team I didn't appreciate in the late 80's. They were always beating the Yankees senseless. They even swept the season series on them in 1990. The photos used are just head and shoulder shots and I can't even tell you what the A's called home in KC. The players depicted show a quiet cool confidence in their expressions.

#33 features Sal Bando. This is the first prominent player to appear on the rookie stars card in the set. Bando was a 4 time all star and near MVP winner 3 times. His power numbers speak for themselves. 10 years straight of double digit home runs, 10 of 11 straight seasons of at least 20 doubles, an average .250 hitter but dependable. He didn't miss many games until injuries began to catch up to him in Milwaukee at the age of 35.

Bando also played on three World Series winning Athletic teams. He got 6 hits in 12 at bats against the Red Sox in a losing ALCS effort for the A.s. He ended his career after the Brewers were beaten by the Yankees in the '81 ALCS, by that time Bando was a 5 year veteran in Milwaukee after spending 11 seasons with the A's. He was also one of the few remaining players from the Kansas City era Athletics left when he retired. Campaneris and Reggie Jackson retired later.

Randy Schwartz when compared to Bando, is just along for the ride on Bando's rookie card. Schwartz appeared in only 16 games in the majors and never returned to the circuit after the 1966 season. He had 3 hits in 17 career at bats and 2 RBIs. Schwartz's minor league career was also brief. Schwartz was a 230 lbs, 6'3" rookie. He was bigger than Bando who was 6' and a shade under 200 lbs. Topps was a card maker, not a prophet. They never knew where these guys were going in their lives. Or if injuries would short change their potential as professional athletes. Looking at just the minor league stats on the card, you'd think Schwartz would be the player with staying power,

#32 Bob Bailey of the LA Dodgers/ and the dreaded blurred photo.

Up next is another member of the '67 Dodgers, Bob Bailey. I'm sorry to say this but the image of the card is the one I have in the set and the picture is as bad as it looks. I can't stand cards with blurred images on them. I don't know what causes them. I imagine every X amount seconds or even minutes, the Topps printing machine burps a bit and the little glitch shows itself on the printing sheet like this. And what do you get? A card with a flaw on it.

Other flaws are cards miscut so bad that top 3/4" inch is missing and is replaced with the bottom 3/4" inch of a completely different card on the bottom. Other flaws are wax pack stains on the back. but because these card backs are bright, the stains don't show.

Printing flaws, miscuts and stains are not to be confused with errors in design. An error would be the Dodgers lettering being printed in white until a quality control man caught it, corrected it, then have the corrected version printed in bulk. The value of one or the other version increases dramatically depending on the number of mistakes (or corrections) made.

As for Bob Bailey, He was utility player and judging from the back of this card, he was a major minor league prospect when the Pirates picked him up in 1961. The give away is the $135,000 bonus he received to sign with the team. The term for these players are 'bonus babies'.

His batting average was decent in Pittsburgh. He suffered a dropoff in LA and was left unprotected in the '69 expansion draft. The draft made him a charter member of the Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals).

Bailey found success and more regular playing time for the Expos. He also became a bit of a power hitter.He hit 104 home runs over a 5 year span up there. His batting average improved back to a respectable high .200's area.

After Montreal, he went to the Reds and was on their '76 World Series winning team though he didn't appear in the Series and spent the final season and half of his career up in Boston. He retired after '78 and went into managing but only in the minor leagues

He also shares the same birthday as my father. 10/13/42.

As for the card, I think I made it clear why I don't like it. The image is wrecked. This is one card I'd like to replace in the set with a better image. The signature makes me wonder if it's genuine too. Some wonder if Topps used real signatures on the front of their cards. Not many players give those out readily and the lesser known players as Bailey was still at this stage of career are even harder to find.

The photo itself is of Bailey while with the Pirates. The trace of yellow and black lining on the front is the give away. I assume that's the lighting fixtures of old Forbes Field out of focus in the background but that really could be anywhere. There wasn't stands beyond the outfield walls from left to halfway between center and right field, There were more prominent trees beyond the walls at some point but that too may have changed toward the mid 60's (and not long before the team's relocation).

#31 Jim Brewer of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Next in the set is. Dodger bullpen pitcher. Jim Brewer. Brewer jumped fron the hapless Cubs to a World Series contender and he went on to appear in three of them for the Dodgers. He saw the most action in the '65 fall classic. He wasn't overly successful but the Dodgers did win the series. He went on to pitch an inning in relief in '66 and a 3rd of an inning in the '74 series.

Brewer also was a mainstay on the LA roster from '64 to '75 when he was traded to the Dodger American League counterpart organization, the Angels. Players that stick with franchises that long tend to be fan favorites and Brewer's low ERA and career as a LA closer, also the heir apparent to the role when Ron Perranoski left for Minnesota leads me to believe this is the case. This is pure speculation on my part because finding information about Jim Brewer's career and how he was seen in the eyes of LA fans is a mystery.

As for the card, I don't like it. Dodger cards from this set have their appeal. The red is on purpose. It grabs your attention and the players from the defending NL champs were something collectors would seek out.

The signature is nice and legible but the picture used is just head and shoulders and because Brewer isn't exactly a player that comes to mind easily, his card is lost in the shuffle.

Another issue I have with Topps cards from this era is bad airbrushing jobs. This Brewer card doesn't have it but at first, I was certain Brewer's hat was actually a Cubs hat and the Red and white bordered C was blued out and replaced with the interlocking Dodger LA logo. I prefer the hatless pictures to the airbrushing jobs they would go on to do regularly for decades Below is a 1987 Topps example of airbrushing on their Mike Laga Cardinals card.

Not too good but it's
better than what
they tried to do in the
70's. like this '76
 Lolich card on the right.

'86 World Series - 2014 World Series. The near parallel.

Now that 2014 World Series is over. I can say that my prediction was wrong. I recently revisited the entire 1986 World Series. I watched every game on youtube in detail and I thought the Royals, though not nearly as good a team as the Mets, would succeed in the series the same way they did over the Red Sox. The pattern of the games was nearly identical until Game 7. The Red Sox took two in Shea Stadium led mostly by Bruce Hurst who completely shut down the Met offense. Roger Clemens wasn't as dominate as Hurst in Game 2 but the Sox won anyway thanks to their timely hitting against Dwight Gooden. This Series started with a split in KC but it will be remembered mostly for Bumgarner's equally dominate performance in the opener to Hurst's.

Both series' shifted to opposing cities in Game 3. The Mets came alive for a couple games to even up their series. The Giants and Royals split the next two games. Game 5, Hurst shut down the Mets again. Bumgarner did the same for the Giants. Both games were also lopsided home wins too. The Red Sox were riding a huge wave of momentum when they went back to Shea. The Giants were doing the same against the Royals.

Both Game 6s were the same in the sense that both were huge momentum builders going in the opposite direction. The Mets, capitalized off of the Red Sox weakest point, their bullpen. The same thing happened to the Giants in the series more often than they care to remember.

Then came game 7 and here is where Bruce Hurst proves to have not been in the same class as Madison Bumgarner. Hurst had a lead and the game was getting late. Hurst was even named prematurely as the MVP of the series but the Mets fought back in the game and eventually put it away against the Boston bullpen.

Maybe Giants manager Bochy saw that and learned from history. Sox manager McNamara was happy to stick with his pen even though they blew the lead on Saturday in game 6, Blew the lead in Game 4 of the ALCS in the 9th and they cemented their own fate in game 7 of the series. Bochy turned to a starter, Bumgarner in relief and the rest is history. McNamara's initial plan was to have Dennis Oil Can Boyd start game 7 and he would have had the Sunday game not been rained out but since it was, he turned to Hurst to start. Had he started Boyd and turned to Hurst in relief at the first sign of trouble (even with short rest), things might have been very different.

But the Giants won and former Yankees, Hensley Meulens, Dave Righetti and Roberto Kelly are part of a dynasty (arguably a dynasty, because they wouldn't have been near the 2014 World Series without the new post season rules)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#30 Albert William Kaline, Mr Tiger

Al Kaline was a genuinely great player and Topps subtly acknowledge this with his card number.

During the 60's (and perhaps late 50's) Topps began posting the most notable players in the league that season in 5's and 10's and the most prominent players on 100's. You can see the pattern. The three base cards featuring hall of famers to this point are #5 Ford, #20 Cepeda and now #30 Kaline. # 10 Matty Alou, #15 Earl Battey and #25 Elston Howard each were prominent players as well. Topps, as far as I can recall kept this trend going well into the 1990's. It helps fans to remember the card numbers to chase and Kaline's was a card worth chasing for any baseball fan.

Kaline up to 1967 was on track to a similar career as Ernie Banks in terms of ever reaching a World Series. It's not like the Tigers were a bad team either. They won 101 games in '61 but they couldn't catch the Yankees who were still a powerhouse in the American League. The Tigers throughout much of the decade were battling the White Sox, Yankees and Twins for tops in the AL. This trend began to change for them in 1967 when they finished tied with the Twins who were both a game behind the Red Sox. Their fan's misery was far more short lived than either team when the Tigers turned around and won the last classic league pennant (playoffs started the following season) and stormed past the Cardinals for the World Title. Kaline rose to the post season challenge. Batting .379 in the series.

I was never a Tigers fan and frankly never liked his baseball card from this set but as I became more and more of a fan of the game, Kaline is on the list of players I wish I could have seen play.

He earned just over 3000 hits in his career which started in 1953 when he was only 18. In 1954, he batted .276 during his first full season in the majors. He wouldn't have that low a batting average again until 1969. That says all you need to about how great a hitter he was.

As I said. I wasn't much of a fan of this or any of the Tigers cards from this set. There is one Tigers card from this set which did cement itself in my memory but I'll save that for when it comes up.

Kaline is clearly pictured posing at a preseason facility. The size of the stands are the give away. Tigers Stadium was walled with double decker seats. Background in this picture shows what is probably a clubhouse behind a fence. This, possibly is the building in the back ground. Joker Marchant Stadium was the Tigers spring home starting in 1966. The colors match.

The picture itself looks real washed out in terms of color. Either there was a drought in Florida during some mid 60's spring or Topps needed to brighten the image somehow to cut down on the shadow over Kaline's face.

Final thing I didn't understand about Kaline's appearance on this card is how much he changed from his rookie card.  He looks slender and youthful on his rookie but he definitely does not look like the same person on his '67 card. He put on the weight which, judging from his power numbers and longevity in the league, was all muscle.

His '73 Topps card got a mention in an episode from the Simpons back when the show was new. Bart Simpson said he was looking for a Al Kaline card, "the one with his sideburns"

Friday, October 24, 2014

#29 Tommy McCraw, Member of the Chisox 'Hitless Wonders' club

Tom McCraw was one of several 60's era White Sox who couldn't live up to the defense they provided. McCraw managed to bat over .250 three times during his eight years with the White Sox. Must have been something in the water fountains in Comiskey Park which caused their regular position players to not put up the numbers on the board because McCraw's average jumped after his career with the Sox ended. The team batted around .245 throughout the 60's.

I can't prove this but I believe the poor hitting was the reason the astroturf was installed on the infield of Comiskey Park in 1969.

While the hitless wonders had their shortcomings, they were one of the winningest teams of the 60's. They won 94 games in '63, came up a single game short of winning the pennant in '64 with 98 wins, won '95 in '65. They were over '500 every season in the decade except for '68 and '69. The secret to their success was excellent pitching and defense. McCraw was an integral part of the team.

This isn't the first Sox card in the set so I'll try not to repeat myself. McCraw looks like he could have been suited up anywhere. From my child's eyes, I imagined this was taken in a park in New Brunswick. There's no sign of seats in the background, no light fixtures, just trees.

McCraw is wearing the classy White Sox uniform. It predates the navy blue on white duds in the later 60's and the garish red ones that came around after that.

I was never a fan of the cards with just head and shoulder shots of the players but the card still looks great with the lettering. Great choice for a picture as well. It goes well with the story of how McCraw broke into the majors. The smile convey's a satisfied sense of sucess. He did make it. and he stayed in the Majors for 12 seasons.

#28 Barry Latman of the Astros

 What makes the project a little difficult sometimes is commenting on cards from this set which I never thought much about in any way. In that sense, I'm learning about the cards and the players as I type.

This is one of the cards that I didn't think too much about when I got this set in '87. The main reason is the team Latman is associated with on the card. The Astros. A team named after the surface they played on in the Astrodome. Or were they named after the dome itself? Before the dome, they were the Guns or the Colt 45's to be exact. A name like that wouldn't exist in today's world but would the modern PC culture want to call them the Astros? Well, the space age isn't what it was in the 1960's and the Astrodome while it is considered a national relic, isn't garnering the wonder it once did. I mean we've already been to the moon since then. And it's Texas too, that's too far a distant drive on Route 1 from New Brunswick NJ. Too far for me to care much about the baseball teams on the other end.

As for the player presented, Barry Latman's career in the Majors ended in Houston, and in 1967. From his stats, it looks as though he was a fill in pitcher, working both as a starter and out of the bullpen.  10 career shutouts and 16 career saves. An ERA, a shade under 4. for his career. He was also a member of the GoGo White Sox of '59. The team that brought the pennant to the city of Chicago for the first time in 24 years (and the last time for 46 years).

The design of the Astros cards from this set is as unimaginative as the Senators. You have the team lettering in purple. The color doesn't grab your attention and has nothing to do with the team's colors. Perhaps the Topps company, located in New York cared as little about Texas teams as I did.

Speaking of Topps' location, New York. The photo used of Latman was taken in Yankee Stadium. The spires in the distance give away the location's identity instantly (even with it out of focus in the background).

I sometimes wonder if the players asked why the bubble gum company wanted pictures of them without their hats on. "Do they know something I don't know?" might of crossed their minds. Here's why. Barry Latman, the Houston Astro pitcher is in an Indians uniform but maybe most people won't spot it, especially kids.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Update At World Series Time.

Doing the lovely hobby of cataloging this fine set for your aesthetic baseball pleasures and perhaps edification in the blog itself has taken a backseat to life. Losing the scanned images of my '67 Topps baseball set doesn't help things either.

I was using an ancient Dell laptop which wasn't compatible with the operational system upgrades which became necessary when XP ended. I went fishing on Ebay for an economical laptop replacement and found an HP (C700 I think) with Vista for $125. This was all last March before the support for XP officially ended. If you believe in serendipity an example of this would be the ancient Dell laptop's hard drive officially going belly up about a week after the new, used HP Compaq laptop arrived. I had long since wore out the keyboard on the Dell and was plugging in a portable USB keyboard. For some reason it was trying to find the software to automatically install for it to function even though I had been using it for years on the machine and then ZAP! Black screen.

No major loss losing the Dell, everything was moved over to the Compaq already and I went about getting used to Vista. The Ebay seller's refurbish job wasn't the best. Occasionally the screen would flicker wildly for no reason and require me to shut it off and turn back on. I was in a chat room/movie watching site called watch2gether when ZAP! The Compaq shut off. I turned it back on and found all the security certificates for all of the websites were lost. Nothing was accessible. I did what I could to get it up and running online and then I couldn't turn it on anymore. This time I did not back up my files. My faith in seller refurbished laptops on Ebay has remained permanently shattered. I now wonder if I didn't return the damaged goods, if it would have caught fire just for the kicks. Dreaded machines.

Already a long story, far too late to make it short. I ended up buying a HP2000 from a seller on EBay which looked to be an online pawn shop of sorts. So far so good, warranty, Windows 8.1 blah blah blah.

I've gotten interested in watching the MLB post season this year while I work at scanning the '67 and starting this where I left off. I can say the sport isn't the same as I remember when I watched it on a regular basis. It's not much different from 2004 when I did watch it religiously but it isn't the same as it was in the 80's when I was a kid. Pitchers then played with the speed of their pitches more. Now they all look like Roger Clemens clones. RA Dickey is the only knuckler that I know of and he is pushing 40 years old. 

About 40% of the league is bearded now too. I think of this as the player's way of thumbing their noses at us guys who have to be clean shaven to earn a living (I think this started with the goatees in the post strike era of the '90's too). Us normal guys need to look like we actually grew up when we became adults instead of trying to feel like a grown up by having beards that likely stink of seven levels of sweat by 11 pm every night. 

The beard could also be a great love tester. The players way of thinking might be "Hm....is she into me or does she want me for the money?" "I got it, I'll look like a lumberjack and then I'll see what she does" and stylistic trend is set. 

The baseball has been ok. I find myself rooting for the teams with the coaches whose names I recognize the most. I was a huge Yankee fan before the '95 strike so I was rooting for Buck Showalter's Orioles and the San Francisco Giants (again) because Dave Righetti, Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens and Roberto Kelly on their coaching staff. 
 Righetti was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. He is Italian American, like me, He is a southpaw like me and his '87 Topps record breaker card was in the first pack of baseball cards I ever got. The pack of cards was a gift I got for singing in the chorus up on stage for an hour (long night for a 9 year old).

Roberto Kelly was a fan favorite for us Yankee fans. I was dumbfounded when he was traded away for Paul O'Neill but it paid off for the Reds and the Yankees in the end
His Score rookie wasn't worth much but it was valuable to me back then.  Hensley Meulens always seemed like he might be a huge star in the majors but one thing or another seemed to hold him back. His career in the majors started out like Alfonso Soriano's. Alot of home runs in a few at bats but unlike Soriano, he never really made it in the big leagues. 
I had high hopes for the Dodgers, managed by another childhood favorite, Don Mattingly but no such luck. He was the hero of the Yankees growing up. Unlike recent Yankees, the Captain (when I was a kid), got no fanfare in his final season. His career ended in his first ever post season in a long career. He did what he could but the Yankees fell to the Mariners in the first ALDS in 1995. 
 Try as  I might, I never had much luck getting his 1987 Topps baseball card. Had the worst luck pulling it from the packs. I had such rotten luck that I ended up buying it separately. This wasn't uncommon. Pulling a Mickey Mantle I hear from a pack of 1960's Topps cards was much harder than pulling a Hal Reniff.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

# 27 Bob Saverine of the Washington Senators "The Rabbit"

Next up is a player I knew next to nothing about on a team I didn't care much about either. There was no Washington DC baseball team when I was a kid. I saw the '60's era Senators for what they were to me, a failed ball club which moved to Texas and became the Rangers (another team I never cared about)

As for basically all of the players, I viewed them all as commons. These cards weren't even listed by name in Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, just grouped together by numbers and a value. How can a boy develop any interest in first a Senators team that doesn't exist and a common baseball player?? This is a common thing you will read in this blog I'm sorry to say because this is what card collecting was for me in my adolescence. This blog is partially my attempt to learn about the players and teams I didn't think much about. Now that I'm older, I've learned that players on common cards are actually some of the elites in the sport. Most not only don't make it to the Majors, they never appear on a bubblegum card either.

That being all said Bob Saverine was predominately a utility ball player. Topps has him list as an infielder but he played Left and Center fields to go along with his play at Short stop, 2nd and 3rd base. He started his career with the Orioles where he didn't see too much action when he first came up in the league as an 18 year old rookie in September 1959. His low batting average and lack of power at the plate kept him strictly as a fill in position player. Nowadays utility players do not seem to be as common as they were prior to the era of massive contracts. Players like Saverine would be regulars in the minors and brought up to fill in with a multimillion dollar signed regular while that player is on the DL. These players used to be regulars on the team.

Saverine didn't see much minor league action after he became a regular Major league in 1963. He ended up spending '65 in the Baltimore farm system before being dealt to the Senators where he played the '66 and '67 seasons. He finished his pro career in the minors with the '68 season being played in Buffalo.

Saverine was a regular on Topps cards from 1964 to 1968. His usual appearance in Topps sets leads me to belive that he was a fan favorite like Mario Mendoza for the Royals and Doug Dascenzo. Saverine even earned the nickname The Rabbit. Probably for his quickness on the base path. Odds are his baserunning skills are the other key reason he maintained a career and a following int he majors. He is only credited with 23 career stolen bases (9 caught stealing) but Johnny Damon taught us in the 2009 World Series that bass runners do a heck of a lot more than just run bases.

I've already discussed my dislike of these Senator cards in the '67 set. Very bland lettering, dull looking hat (featuring a W which made no sense if you were introduced to the set in the 80's and 90's.