Thursday, April 20, 2017

#56 - Jose Tartabull of the Boston red Sox

Up next is someone who I grew up thinking of as just Danny Tartabull's father. The New York Yankees slipped into irrelevancy in 1989 and fell even further in 1990 with Steinbrenner's temporary ban/suspension/agreement for his involvement in the Spira affair centered on Dave Winfield. The Yankees were slowly developing young talent but still were fishing in free agency for players. After replacing Winfield with Barfield didn't work out, they tried Danny Tartabull and he did for 4 strong years. His production numbers remained respectable though his batting average dropped from its peak. In alot of ways, Danny Tartabull is the forgotten New York Yankee. The team was becoming relevant but were in the shadow of the Toronto Blue Jays. The '94 strike year also diminished the Yankees on that team that were not around in '96 for their championship run. Luis Polonia, Steve Farr, Steve Howe, Mike Stanley, Matt Nokes, and Danny Tartabull aren't names as readily remembered by Yankee fans.

Jose Tartabull wasn't the power hitter his son turned out to be , in fact he has two home runs in his career. Tartabull however was a gifted base stealer and a valuable utility player in the outfield. He went on to see action in all 7 World Series games in 1967. His pro career began when he was 19 in the Giants farm system and ended in the Athletic's farm system when he was 33.

I like the look of this card. It's a picture taken in Yankee stadium, Tartabull in this pose takes up alot of space within the borders, and the orange lettering compliments the look of the Red Sox uniform well in this setting. The cards with Sox players photographed in Spring Training with the yellowish looking grass aren't as striking to the eye. It's the grass that does it I think.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#55 LA Dodgers HOFer Don Drysdale

 Next up is 5 card. Topps saved their biggest star cards for cards ending in 5 or 0 and this time it's Don Drysdale whose Major League career speaks for itself. Miuch like Sandy Koufax, and Carl Erskine in the 50's, Drysdale saw alot work and it took its toll on his arm. So much so that all three had careers end in their early 30's. It is unheard of today having starters appear in over 40 games in a season. Drysdale did it 5 seasons in a row. It paid off for the team since they won 2 titles during that stretch. He was an 8 time all star, led the majors in strikeouts 3 seasons and had a 3-3 record in the World Series. You could make an argument that Drysdale's arm began to give out in '66. The Dodgers won the pennant but he still had a losing record and was 0-2 in the World Series with a 4.50 era against the Orioles who sailed to a championship in a sweep.
I had an opportunity to get Drysdale's autograph at a card show on Rt 27 in New Jersey. My parents opted to get the Duke of Flatbush's autograph and I was thrill to meet him. Drysdale wasnt as high a priority as the man who hit the most home runs of anyone during the 1950s. Drysdale however died about 5 years after that card show of a heart attack. I never had the opportunity to meet him again. Him doing shows, especially in New Jersey turned out to be rare given his busy broadcasting career.

The card itself looks great for the set. The Dodger card have that great red lettering which implies they are America's team with the red superimposed against the white and blue of the Dodger jersey. I believe the photo is from Shea Stadium but I could be mistaken. It's not an angle you can clearly identify which stadium it is. Visiting teams occupied the 3rd base side dugout so it makes sense where the picture is taken. Shea Stadium was easier to identify after it was renovated in the mid 80s.

#54 Dick Green Kansas City Athletics - Those Minty Green cards

 I'm sure this isn't the time to rant but I must say, the Athletic cards in this set are the blandest most unremarkable cards possible and Dick Green's card is the starkest example of how bland they are.

You have the light blue lettering against the uniforms which themselves are mostly grey and maybe a shade darker than winter green. Truly unremarkable. Compare this to some of the cards with vibrant lettering like the bright red of the Dodgers or Yankees or the YELLOW on the Orioles. Was Topps planning to do that? Make the player cards on the prominent teams of the era stand out over the lesser teams?

The Athletics were definitely a lesser team who hadn't managed a winning season since the Mack family owned it in 1952, It was after Finley moved the team to Oakland that the franchise began to win again. The Athletics did not have a single winning season in Kansas City.Their best season was in '58 with a 73-81 record.

The history of how the Athletics came to end up on KC is worth researching. Here is a brief summary. The Mack family failed to adapt to the changes in Major League Baseball during the Depression and the war years. After the war ended in '45, other teams were more prepared to bring a competitive team back to the field, the Athletics, still reeling from their money troubles before the war floundered. The Mack family ultimately was forced to give up their team to former Yankee executives who I believe maintained a strong tie to the Yankee franchise. It was such a strong tie that the Athletics seemed like a Yankees triple A team that happened to be in the Majors. Players that could fill a hole in the Yankee lineup came from the Athletics and when the Yankees ran out of room for someone or was shipping someone out at the end of their career, he ended up in KC. The Yankees got Hector Lopez, Roger Maris, and Bobby Shantz from the Athletics.They shipped out and later brought back Enos Slaughter from KC. They sent Hank Bauer, Billy Martin, Norm Siebern and Jerry Lumpe out to KC when they were done with them. People have tried to debate that these transactions actually benefited the Athletics more than the Yankees but I look at the records. The Yankees appeared in 9 World Championships while the A's were in KC, winning 4 of them and the A's never had a single winning season. The A's started to keep their young talent when Charlie Finley took over the team and this started to pay off only after he moved the team to Oakland but it wasn't until the Royals in 1971 that the people of KC got to see a winning MLB franchise.

Dick Green was one of those young prospects the Athletics were fully planning to keep around and they did during the entirety of his Major League career. Green was one of those utility players who saw action from 1st to 3rd and even catcher on rare occasions. His career batting average of .240 was good but it's his career fielding percentage of .983 that made him indispensable to the A's. He saw action all three of their World Series championships from '72 to '74.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1955 Bowman #97 Johnny Podres Photo Variations?

This is obviously not 1967 Topps set related but this really has been bugging me. Are there photo variations in the '55 Bowman set or is this a printing issue? I don't own the specific cards pictured here but I do have the two cards with the two differences. Podres on the top is looking toward the camera and Podres on the bottom looks to be looking well over it.

I never noticed it before last night because I never owned two at the same time before and I tried to consult a bonafide expert in the field but learned he passed away last January so, anyone out there with info. Please comment. Given the value of error cards in the Bowman set, I am not expecting much in the way of value difference but if this is a sign of a characteristic in the Bowman set, it could open the door to other variations.

#53 Philadelphia Phillie Catcher - Clay Dalrymple

 Up next is long time Phillie catcher, Clay Dalrymple. Dalrymple had regular work with the Phillies from '61 to '68 before being a backup Catcher on the Orioles from '69 to '71. He has a 1.000 batting average in World Series play. Going 2 for 2 in the '69 World Series.

His career batting average remained in the low to mid ,200s with some power. His fielding was considerably more impressive with a career 49% caught stealing percentage. That's equal to Yogi Berra's percentage.

The card has a good friend. The bright red hat stands out, the cold blue eyes, the yellow lettering and especially the field in the background all adds up to a good looking card. Typically, you just see massive sky in the back, here, you have a good shot of the stands, and the left field foul line. A nice break from the standard images used.

'Dimples' was featured regularly in Topps sets from '60 to '71. His rookie is a high number which carries some value. While he never made it to an all star game, he no doubt developed into being a fan favorite in Philadelphia.

#52 Dennis Higgins - Chicago White Sox Pitcher.

Dennis Higgins is featured on his first solo card in this set. Higgins hit the ground running in the Majors. His '66 stats are very impressive for a reliever. He pitched in 42 games, starting in one, saving 5 and with a 2.52 ERA. He went on to see alot of work for the Senator in '68 and '69 and with the Indians in '70. His career ended with St Louis in '72. Relievers didn't get much respect until the mid 70s with pitching counts making their role more prominent. That's when they started getting national attention. Only the World Series teams seemed to have relievers that national audiences really noticed. Fans saw pitchers like Larry Sherry, Ron Perranoski, Moe Drabowsky, Joe Page, Bob Kuzava be called on to save a team's season in the clutch and respond in heroic fashion. The Higgins' of the league on teams that never made it to a 90 win season didn't get much recognition unfortunately.

The White Sox cards in the '67 set must have been a little confusing for fans at the time. The White Sox were one of those teams that changed their uniforms, often and I mean, often. This did not really begin to kick in until 1967. Higgins is featured in the '66 uniform which is still like the Go GO White Sox uniforms of the 50's. '67 featured a navy blue tinge to the road and home jerseys in place of the black and white uniforms of the era Higgins is featured in here. This blog post has gone on long enough without me going into the 5 or 6 other changes in their uniforms up until 1991 so I will leave it at that.

This card never made much of an impact on me. The grass looks a little yellowish and it is a standard spring training photo from probably 1966.

Higgins had cards in the '66, '67, '68. '69, '71 and '72 sets.

Random thought. Did Topps hire photographers to take photos, pay the teams for photos or paid for photos already taken by freelancers? Topps during this era broke from their tradition of taking photos during a season at local ball parks. Spring Training photos were not as common in the late 50s as they would become by the 60s. I feel it was a change in company policy to hire their own photographers and fly them to Florida or Arizona and work for a handful of weeks and be done with the whole project instead of keeping photographers busy all year taking photos at Shea or Yankee Stadium. They surely did both but spring training photos became characteristic of Topps cards until the early 90s when the demand for more action photos in the sets was elevated by Score and Upper Deck.

#51 Astros Rookie Stars Dave Adlesh & Wes Bales

Next is our 2nd rookie star card in the set and our first for the Houston Astros. These cards were hit or miss depending on the success of the prospects featured. I never liked them although I do like that the '67 card doesn't stick four prospects on it like in '63 or in the mid to late 70's sets. Dave Adlesh struggled to gain a toehold in the Majors. Astros looked at 3 or 4 catchers a year in those days and usually settled on John Bateman. Adlesh knocked around in the minors until 1970 but he never quite developed.

Wes 'Lee' Bales also had his struggles breaking into the Majors. He too went through various levels of the minors for years.

Bales was never featured on a card again while Adlesh appeared in the '68 set on his own card in the semi high number series and in the '69 set, posed without a hat and listed as being on the Cardinals although he never played for them in the Majors.

It's just a reminder how difficult a game it is to break into. If it's not injuries, it's the competition and in those days, the draft was an additional complication.

The card never appealed to me any more than the other Rookie star cards with the yellow borders, maybe even a little less with the terrible airbrush job done to Bales hat. They were no doubt trying to hide the fancy A of the Atlanta Braves on the hat. Bales debuted with them in '66.

Friday, March 3, 2017

#50 Minnesota Twin Outfielder - Tony Oliva -

Baseball spring training is heating up. I haven't yet come down from the high of seeing the Chicago Cubs not only in a World Series but winning one and to do it dramatically, coming back from down 3 to 1. I was content to enjoy that lone Wrigley Field  World Series win and hope for the best back in Cleveland. What followed, was a pleasant shock. Perhaps in hindsight, I shouldn't have felt that way. The Cubs struck out alot but they had a better team batting average than the Indians and a lower ERA than Cleveland. Stats are just stats, it's the wins that count but more often than not, the team with the better stats in a series win it in the end.

I was gravitating back to baseball and away from football before last season but my interest in this set has increased.

We're back to a card ending with a 5 or 0 so we have another contemporary star card from the mid 60s. Tony Oliva was one of the major Latin American stars of his day. Like in every sport, when one team is able to find first class talent in a new way, the others follow their lead. Tony Oliva was not just a great player, he was a pioneering great along with Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou. Technically, Oliva followed their lead but unlike them, Oliva was featured in eight straight All Star games as well as the '65 Series. Perhaps it was that the Minnesota Twins, like the San Francisco Giants, added more than one or two players from south of the border. Along with Oliva, the Twins had Cesar Tobar,Zoilo Versalles, Camilo Pasqual,and Sandy Valdespino on a team that took the Dodgers to 7 games in another nail biter of a fall classic in 1965,

Sure, Latin American players go back to the late 40s in the Majors but the trend of teams scouting in this area of the world didn't take hold until the 60s. Horace Clarke, Rico Carty, Manny Mota, Felix Mantilla, Juan Marichal and the three Alou brothers come to mind immediately. It is hard to imagine today's game without such talented players from Latin America taking it to the next level.

Oliva finished up as a career .300 hitter and perhaps the only reason he does not receive regular consideration for Hall of Fame honors is his somewhat short career. He played in 14 seasons but his career totals on offense are an apparent handicap for Hall honors.

Oliva was certainly one of the premiere players on a strong Minnesota ball club and few got higher recognition in his day than him.

The card features Oliva posing in the original Yankee Stadium with the trademark facade in the background. Other Twin players featured in this set were clearly taken in this location, if not the same day.

There is a change with Twin cards in the '67 set. A combo card has the banner on the bottom colored in deep purple block letters, Twin cards in the lower to mid series have the green lettering and, for some reason, the semi high Killebrew card has bright yellow letters for the tea name.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#49 Roy Face - Pittsburgh Pirates - Closer before the era of pitch counts

Pitch counting is something that was not so popular until around the time of the '69 Mets and their fleet of incredible young arms. Preserving their natural strength while they built their mechanics made sense. It made even more sense during the era of free agency which came about in the early 70's. Higher investments means higher concerns for a pitcher's throwing arm. A solid bullpen player wasn't as revered as it would become during the 70's with Rollie Fingers or Tug McGraw or Al Hrabosky. That brings me to one of the unsung bullpen aces of his day, Roy Face. All one has t do is look at the stats of the '67 Topps card to see how a career relief pitcher's best stats are ignored. A career 91-84 record and a 3.56 ERA is not very impressive when you look at it on the back of the card. The card looks like his one highlight was his winning 18 consecutive games in relief in 1959.

Digging deeper into the stats reveals Face's true worth as a pitcher. Three times he led the league in games finished and three times he led the league in saves. Face came up when the Pirates were struggling for wins. They had a string of 9 straight losing seasons until they named Danny Murtaugh their manager and that's when they became serious.

Face had a length career which spanned 3 decades and ended in his early 40's. I have admiration for Face since we're both the same height but he made the most of it as a professional athlete, having a career last 17 years in the Majors is impressive by every standard and it's doubly impressive when considering he was a 3 time All Star. He was featured strongly in the '60 World Series where he registered 3 saves in their 4 wins.

This Face card is a bit of an enigma. I want to think the photo was taken in a Major League ballpark but it looks more like a spring training field. The stands look to be a single tier and spring training photos weren't unusual for this set. The action behind Face is a nice change of pace from other posing photos are standard fare.

Much like the Tiger cards, the Pirates lettering is striking with a deep purple color super imposed against the photo. The black/white/gold color of the uniforms with that lettering in the foreground is a nice touch.

#48 Bill Freehan - Detroit Tigers - Why is he not in the Hall of Fame?

 I am not wild about turning this blog into an advocate forum for action. Debatable discussions distract from what the mission statement of my blog is which is to honor the 1967 Topps baseball card set.

However, I do ask the question with an impartial attitude. Why is Bill Freehan not in many discussions when it comes to being included in the Hall of Fame?

Perhaps his career batting average of .262 is a handicap when talking HOF but his 11 All Star appearances should make up for that. Maybe the era of heavy hitting and talented fielding catchers short changed Freehan when it comes to HOF honors. Whatever the reason. I do wonder. He had a tremendous career that maybe ended a little too soon at the age of 34.

Freehan made numerous appearances on Topps cards. He was well featured and for good reason with the All Star appearances. His cards are good for collecting if you want star cards that are not priced into orbit. Examples of these cards in the 1950's were Minnie Minoso, Bobby Thomson Ted Kluszewski and Gil Hodges. Bill Freehan is an example for the 1960's. There's more of course but I'll cover them when they come up.

As for the card, it's clearly a Spring Training photo. It features a good pose instead of a dull head and shoulders photo. The striking color of the letters works well with the green turning yellow grass field in the background. I wonder if the color of the field in most of the photos featuring Tiger players inspired the use of the purple letters.

The signature is somewhat obscured by the grass background. The back of the card isn't shy about the real reason Freehan was a regular all star. His career fielding percentage of. 993 and 38% caught stealing pct is still impressive. Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter didn't manage career averages as high as Freehan did with those two stats. All three are in the Hall of Fame by the way.