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.