Scott comes through again

Roland

So it turns out that despite being a Yankees fan, Scott Ottenweller is a pretty good guy.

You may recall that Scott came through a few weeks ago with more than 100 cards I needed to get me closer to my goal. Well, I’m happy to say that Scott has resurfaced with another lot of cards. This lot included regular issue cards of HOF members Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams as well as a Bill Buckner rookie and In Action cards of Willie Stargell and Maury Wills. Also included in the lot was HOF manager Earl Weaver.

Weaver

 

I LOVE Earl Weaver, especially since I’m not an umpire. Weaver’s 1972 card listed him at 5’6″ and 160 pounds, but that didn’t stop him from pretty much wanting to fight everybody.

I could seriously watch this clip of Weaver all day. It’s an absolute classic. Completely NSFW, just hide the women and children, then sit back and enjoy.

You gotta love how umpire Bill Haller keeps his calm as Weaver just lays into him. To me, it speaks to how all the umpires knew Weaver’s act and didn’t take it personally. This particular incident took place in September of 1980 after Haller called a balk on Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan. It was the 78th ejection of Weaver’s career. Haller happened to be wearing a mic for a documentary.

Watson

#355 – Bob Watson

Bob Watson is a legend for multiple reasons.

He played 19 seasons in the big leagues, accumulating more than 1,800 hits and a career .294 batting average. In 1975, Watson’s hustle on teammate Milt May’s home run earned him a spot in the record books.

Watson scored the one-millionth run in major league history on May 4th. On that day, updates were being delivered to every ballpark so it was known that run #999,999 had scored when May homered. Watson was on second base and went full tilt to cross home plate. He scored just seconds ahead of Dave Concepcion, who had homered in Cincinnati and was also racing around the bases. His hustle earned his team $10,000 and himself a new watch and one million tootsie rolls. I wonder what he gave out for Halloween that year.

After he retired, Watson served as the General Manager for the Astros and also held a position in the front office of Major League Baseball. Impressive accomplishments, but neither are the other reason he’s a legend in my eyes.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s a legend for one sentence words uttered in the Astrodome 30 seconds into this clip.

May

#480 – Lee May

Watson’s teammate Lee May was also included in the lot and this card struck me when I first saw it.

Lee doesn’t look happy and the first thing that popped into my mind was that the reason he looks so out of sorts is that he had been recently traded away from what would become one of the most dominant teams in the history of Major League Baseball.

At the end of the 1971 season, May was dealt, along with Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart, from Cincinnati to Houston in exchange for Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke and Joe Morgan. Those players became a huge part of the Reds back to back World Series championships in 1975 & ’76.

But a closer look at the card reveals that he’s wearing a Reds uniform in the photo. Topps did one of their famous bad airbrush jobs on the helmet. Interestingly enough, of all the players involved in this trade, Morgan was the only one who was shown with his former team, which meant that despite the fact that they were traded form one another, the 1972 Topps set showed Morgan and May as teammates. Morgan did have a high number traded card which showed him in a Reds uniform.
Marshall

#505 – Mike Marshall

Marshall has always fascinated me as a figure and his 1972 card was at the beginning of when he really began to make a name for himself.

He led the league in appearances in 1972 with 65, earning 18 saves for the Expos. He also finished 56 games. But that was just the beginning. He appeared in 92 games in 1973 and an amazing 106 in 1974 with the Dodgers. Walter Alston called on him so often that season that he won 15 games and threw 206 and a third innings, all in relief, which earned him the Cy Young award.

Marshall was a controversial figure, which led to him being persona non grata in many baseball circles. He had his own ideas about pitching and they didn’t sit well with many.

Allen#240 – Rich Allen

“If a horse can’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.”

Allen was an immensely talented player who always seemed to run afoul of teammates and more so the front office of whatever team has was playing for.

Fron 1964 through 1971, his average season was a .294 batting average, with 29 homers and 92 RBI. But he was outspoken and moody and had a tendency to wear out his welcome despite the fact that he consistently put up good numbers.

There are a few things that stand out to me about his 1972 card:

The first is that he’s not looking at the camera which is reminiscent of the Alfred Hitchcock silhouette.

Secondly, Allen played for the Dodgers in 1971 and was a member of the White Sox in 1972, yet this photo shows him in a Phillies uniform, a team he hadn’t played for since 1969. It’s tough to tell he’s wearing a Phillies uniform until you see his 1970 Topps card, which looks kind of familiar.

1970 AllenThe 1970 card isn’t cropped as tightly and you can see the Phillies script logo on his uniform a bit better.

So if you’re keeping track, Dennis and Scott have now sent me more than 200 cards, which has been invaluable for me. It should be also noted that Dennis Scott has been no help whatsoever.

Dennis Scott

1972 OttoThanks again Scott!

 

 

 

Tackling the high numbers

High Numbers

Rock and Roll fans may know that my all-time favorite band, The Who, were once known as The High Numbers. Thanks to the miracle of some extremely poor Photoshop work, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltry, Keith Moon and John Entwistle have been replaced on this album cover with Frank Robinson, Kim Kaat, Joe Morgan and Moe Drabowski.

That’s right, I have now added some high number cards to my collection!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a friend of mine “Scott” who sent me about 100 cards to aid me in my quest. This week, a new friend and faithful reader, “Dennis,” has come through with a slew of high number cards. The high number cards are tough to find and, as a result, they can get expensive. But due to my history of clean living, Dennis has graciously offered to aid me and for that I’m extremely grateful.

So let’s get to it.

Card # 749 – Walter Alston

Alston

When I opened the package from Dennis, this Walter Alston card was sitting on top. At first glance, and I’m ashamed to admit it, I said to my wife, “This is great, except someone wrote on it.”

It was only after I read the letter Dennis sent along with the cards that I realized that the person who wrote on the card was Alston and what he wrote was his name.

Alston was from Ohio and after he retired from a tremendously successful career as skipper of the Dodgers, he moved from Los Angeles to the bustling metropolis of Darrtown, Ohio. Talk about culture shock. When he was a kid, Dennis got Alston to sign a few cards and among that lot was this 72 Topps.

Managers today complain about heading into a season with only one year remaining on their contract. They hate being labeled a lame duck and feel it undermines their ability to manage the team. Alston managed the Dodgers for 23 seasons on 23 one year contracts. He won 2,063 games, two World Series titles and six Manager of the Year awards.

He retired at the end of the 1976 season and was succeed by some guy named Lasorda. What ever happened to him?

Card #687 – Del Unser

Unser

Del Unser’s 1972 Topps card shows him as a member of the Cleveland Indians, one of five teams he played for in his ten year major league career. As far as I’m concerned, Del Unser will always be a Philadelphia Phillie.

He joined the Phils in 1973, the spent time with the Mets and the Expos before returning to Philadelphia for the 1979 season. He was a key part of the 1980 Phillies World  Series championship team. In Game two, the Royals scored three runs in the top of the 7th to take a 4-2 lead and trotted out Dan Quisenberry to protect the lead.

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But Unser came through with a big pinch hit double into left center field as part of a four run rally to spark the Phils and give them a two games to none lead in the series they ultimately won in six.

Del Unser, I salute you!

SeguiCard #735 – Diego Segui

Segui had a 15 year career, primarily as a relief pitcher but he is the answer to one of my favorite trivia questions. He is the only player to appear in the first ever game for both the Seattle Pilots and the Seattle Mariners.

On April 8th, 1969, Segui pitched three innings in relief of starter Marty Pattin in a 4-3 Pilots win. Eight years later, he was the Mariners’ opening day starter, going three and two thirds and surrendering a home run to Joe Rudi in a 7-0 loss. Noth games were against the Angels.

Additionally, Segui’s son, David, hit the only foul ball I ever caught. It was at a spring training game in Clearwater and Segui was playing for the Orioles at the time. He sliced a ball foul down the left field line that I snared on the fly. My efforts were rewarded with a free beverage from the beer guy.

I love spring training.

Russell

Card #738 – Bill Russell

Russell was a young shortstop entering just his 3rd season with the Dodgers under the aforementioned Alston.

Russell was a fine big league shortstop who later managed the Dodgers. One of the first things I noticed about this card was that, like his teammate Jim Lefebvre, Russell was rocking the single black batting glove on his left hand. That must have been a thing with the Dodgers that year.

My other memory of Russell was being in attendance when Russell was playing against the Reds at beautiful Riverfront Stadium and suffered a broken finger after being hit by Mike LaCoss in a 1980 game against the Reds. Russell’s loss was a big blow to the Dodgers that season, who ultimately lost the NL West crown to the Houston Astros by one game. The Dodgers were forced to turn to Derrel Thomas at shortstop for the remainder of the season.

Card #680 – Dave Johnson

Johnson

Most remember Johnson as the manager of the juggernaut (both on and off the field) 1986 Mets as well as the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers and Nationals.

I’ve always remembered Johnson for one incredible season. From 1965 through 1972 as a member of the Orioles, Johnson hit .259 with 66 homers in just under 3,500 at bats. At the end of the ’72 season, Johnson was traded to Atlanta in a six player deal. All he did in his first season as a Brave was hit .270 with 43 homers. One of Johnson’s homers came as a pinch hitter, but 42 bombs at second base still stands as a single-season record, one he shares with Rogers Hornsby.

In fact, Johnson was one of three Braves to hit 40 or more home runs that season, joining Hank Aaron and Darrell Evans. They were the first team in major league history to boast three players to hit 40 or more. It’s a feat that’s only been accomplished three times in history and the other two were in Colorado… during the steroid era. Yet despite hitting 206 home runs as a team, they finished 5th in the NL West.

Thanks again to Dennis for his assistance!

Next week, the mysterious “Scott” resurfaces with more help. Thanks for reading!

A team full of managers… and then some Part II

Last week, we looked at a starting infield comprised of players in the 1972 set who later became managers in the big leagues.

C: Jeff Torborg

1b: Cecil Cooper

2B: Tony LaRussa

SS: Larry Bowa

3B: Joe Torre

This week we’ll fill in the outfield, a DH slot and name our starting pitcher.

Outfield: Lou Piniella

Lou Piniella

Piniella won the Rookie of the Year award with the Royals in 1969 and had a nice career, ending with a .291 batting average and two world Series rings (1977 & 1978) as a member of the New York Yankees.

He then endured a managerial trial by fire by working for George Steinbrenner and Marge Schott back-to-back. Those jobs enabled him to hone the much-needed managerial skills of avoiding the back page of the tabloids and also avoiding and dog poop on astroturf.

Lou won a World Series with the 1990 Reds (beating LaRussa) and then moved to Seattle where he won three division titles and two Manager of the Year awards. His 2001 team won 116 regular season games before losing to the Yankees in the ALCS.

After three years in Tampa Bay, Lou piloted the Cubs to back-to-back division titles in 2007 & 2008.

Lou was a good player and a good manager, but if there’s one thing he was known for, it was this:

Outfield: Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson

Robinson sits atop this list as far on-field accomplishments go. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1956 and MVP awards in 1961 with the Reds and 1966 with the Orioles, a year in which he also won the Triple Crown. But Robby did more than just lead the league in batting average, homers and RBI that year. He also led in runs scored, on base %, slugging %. total bases and, just for good measure, sacrifice flies. He finished his career just shy of 3,000 hits, a .294 batting average and 586 homers. Hall of Fame credentials all the way around.

But he also became the first African-American manager in major league history when he took over the Cleveland Indians in 1975 as player/manager. Unfortunately, not even he could save the Indians of the mid-70s. Robinson also headed the Giants, Orioles and Expos/Nationals where he was famously asked by one of his players, “You played?”

It was also during his time in Washington that this outstanding event took place.

Outfield: Dusty Baker

Dusty Baker

Dusty was a solid major league outfielder for many years, hitting .278 with 242 homers over 19 seasons. I’ve always been interested with people who were on the fringes of history and Dusty fits that description since he was the on deck hitter when Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. That record still stands to this day as far as I’m concerned, but that’s another story.

Baker was also part of a Dodgers team in 1977 that became the first in history to have four players with at least 30 home runs. Dusty was the last to join the club, smacking home run #30 on the last day of the season off of J.R. Richard. He joined teammates Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith in the Dodgers 30 homer run club that season.

Baker has enjoyed a lot of success and a lot of controversy as a manger of the Giants, Cubs and Reds.

He certainly has won a lot, including five division titles and a National League pennant with the Giants, but he also seems to really wear out his welcome and things ultimately end badly for him.

Side note: It took nearly 20 years for another team to have four 30 HR guys. Not surprisingly, it was the Rockies. Colorado did it four times in a five year period between 1995 and 1999. The year they didn’t pull it off during that time was 1998 after Andres Galarraga left to go to Atlanta. The addition of Gaglarraga allowed the ’98 Braves to join the 4×30 club too.
Quick summary: Professional baseball goes 100+ years before a team has four 30 homer guys, then one guy does it four times in four years with two different teams. But Galarraga never managed and was 10 years old when the ’72 set was released.

Designated Hitter: Hal McRae

Hal McRae

As a long-time National League fan, I was on the fence about adding a DH on the team, but I caved because there were simply too many guys to talk about. I also added a DH specifically so I could include Hal McRae whom I chose for a multiple reasons:

1: I like his style of play. He played old school baseball and was a master of the lost art of the takeout “slide” at second base, just ask Willie Randolph.

2: He could flat hit.

3: Former Rays manager and that’s gotta count for something.

But mostly I chose McRae because it gives me an excuse to include one of the best post-game meltdowns in big league history.

Pitcher: Larry Dierker

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Dierker is our starting pitcher because of the 33 guys I found in the set who later became managers, he was the only pitcher among them. I must have been asleep during his career though because I didn’t realize how effective he actually was.

From 1968 through 1976, Dierker went 114-95 with a 3.28 ERA as a starter on some mediocre Astros teams. His best season was 1969 when he went 20-13 with a 2.33 ERA. Dierker was one of three members of the 1969 Astros rotation to record 200+ strikeouts, joining Don Wilson and Tom Griffin.

After retiring, Dierker broadcast Astros games on radio and TV until 1996 and then managed the team from 1997 through 2001, winning four division titles.

Summary:

Major League Baseball had 24 teams in 1972. Each team carried a 25 man roster (before September 1) which equates to 600 active players. Of those 600, 33 later became managers. That means an amazing 6% of players in the big leagues in 1972 later became managers. If we were to apply those figures to the upcoming season we would be watching 41 future managers in 2014. Somehow I don’t see that happening.

Here’s the complete list of skippers from the 1972 set:

Player Wins Losses Win % Pennants World Series Wins
Jeff Torborg 634 718 .469 0 0
Cecil Cooper 171 170 .501 0 0
Tony LaRussa 2728 2365 .536 6 3
Larry Bowa 418 435 .490 0 0
Joe Torre 2326 1997 .538 6 4
Lou Piniella 1835 1713 .517 1 1
Frank Robinson 1065 1176 .475 0 0
Dusty Baker 1671 1504 .526 1 0
Hal McRae 399 473 .458 0 0
Larry Dierker 435 348 .556 0 0
Bobby Valentine 1186 1165 .504 1 0
Bud Harrelson 145 129 .529 0 0
Tony Perez 74 84 .468 0 0
Jim Fregosi 1028 1094 .484 1 0
Don Kessinger 46 60 .434 0 0
Mel Queen 4 1 .800 0 0
Tommy Helms 28 36 .438 0 0
Felipe Alou 1033 1021 .503 0 0
Buck Martinez 100 115 .465 0 0
Frank Howard 93 133 .412 0 0
Jim Lefebvre 417 422 .485 0 0
Cookie Rojas 76 79 .490 0 0
Cito Gaston 894 837 .516 2 2
Maury Wills 26 56 .317 0 0
Don Baylor 627 689 .476 0 0
Johnny Oates 797 746 .517 0 0
Doug Rader 388 417 .482 0 0
Pete Rose 412 373 .525 0 0
Bobby Wine 16 25 .390 0 0
Davey Johnson 1372 1071 .562 1 1
Pat Corrales 572 634 .474 0 0
Gene Michael 206 200 .507 0 0
Bill Russell 173 149 .537 0 0
Totals 21,395 20,455 .511 19 11

So there you have it. Thirty three players in the ’72 set became managers. Between them they won more than 21,000 games, 19 pennants and 11 World Series championships. Not too shabby. If I missed anyone, please let me know!

A team full of managers… and then some

Quiz time: Name 5 active major league players you think will be managers some day. There are undoubtedly some who could handle the job, but my guess is many won’t and a big reason why is money. Guys today make enough money to retire and simply walk away. It takes a serious love of the game to make the kind of money today’s players do and then manage after your playing career is over.

That wasn’t the case in 1972. According to this SABR article, the highest paid player in 1972 was Carl Yastrzemski. Yaz raked in $167,000 that year. Good money, especially at the time, but nothing compared to what players make today. In fact, the major league minimum for 2014 is $500,000 and the average salary in 2013 was just under $3.4 million.

As I began to put my set together, I noticed what seemed to be an extremely high number of players who later became managers. By my tally, 33 players in the 1972 Topps set later became managers at the big league level. Fast forward 25 years to the 1997 set. To this point, a grand total of five of the players in that set are/were big league managers. In fairness, the 1997 set only had 496 cards, but even if you make the mathematical adjustment AND round up, that still gives you just 9 managers. Times have changed.

Thirty-three future managers is enough to make a full team with a few September call ups, so let’s put a starting lineup together!

Catcher: Jeff Torborg

Torborg

Torborg is our catcher based on historical significance. He caught three no-hitters, including a Sandy Koufax perfect game in 1965. He also caught a Bill Singer no-no in 1970 and was behind the plate for Nolan Ryan’s first no hitter in 1973. He’s also my all-time favorite player of Danish decent.

He began his managerial career in 1977 when he took over for Frank Robinson as skipper of the Cleveland Indians. Taking over for Robinson began a trend for Torborg. He managed the Indians, White Sox, Mets, Expos and Marlins from 1977 through 2003. In each of those stops, he took over for someone who had a card in the 1972 Topps set. Coincidence? Yea, probably.





First Base: Cecil Cooper

Cooper

There were lots of good choices at first base. I could have gone with Don Baylor, Frank Howard, or Tony Perez, but I chose Cecil Cooper because I always felt bad for the guy. Simply stated, Cooper suffered the misfortune of having his best season at the wrong time.

Cooper was a heckuva hitter and in 1980 he had a career season. He hit .352 and led the American League with 122 RBI but no one noticed. That’s because in his career year, Cecil Cooper hit .352 and lost the batting title by 38 points. George Brett hit .390 and led the Royals to the World Series. Cooper was an afterthought. So much of a afterthought that his season line of .352-24-122 AND a gold Glove earned him 5th place in the MVP voting. Fifth! Not even one first place vote.

After he retired as a player, Cooper finally got a shot to manage in the big leagues with Houston but didn’t have a lot of success, going 171-170 in one full season and parts of two others.

Second Base: Tony LaRussa

Tony

LaRussa was not a standout player and earns the starting nod based strictly on his managerial record. LaRussa hit just .199 in 132 games over six years with the A’s, Braves & Cubs. The 1972 card was his last as a player. He retired after playing one game for the Cubs in 1973 where he pinch ran for Ron Santo and scored on a bases loaded walk from Mike Marshall.

He did turn into a half-decent manager, however. He took over the White Sox in 1979 at the age of 34 and won a division title with them in 1983. He also pulled off a rare feat by managing both the White Sox and the A’s in the same season (1986.)

Oakland is where his managerial star began to rise. He lead the A’s to the World Series in three consecutive seasons (1998-1990) and won the famous 1989 earthquake series.

In 1996, he moved on to St. Louis where he won seven division titles and two more World Series championships. Like him or not, the guy was a great manager and won more than 2,700 games and three World Series championships.

Shortstop: Larry Bowa

BowaFull Disclosure: Larry Bowa is the starting shortstop on this team in large part due to personal bias. He was one of my favorite players growing up and I chose him over several other deserving candidates, including Maury Wills, Bill Russell and Jim Fregosi for no reason other than the fact that I like the guy.

Bowa is often described as a good field-no hit shortstop, thought I’m not entirely sure that’s fair. He finished his career with a .260 batting average and did hit .305 in 1975 in an era where you didn’t expect offense from your shortstop. What you expected was exactly what Bowa gave you: a solid glove. He finished his career with a .980 fielding percentage; 15 points higher than the league average over that time. He won a Gold Glove in 1972 and again in 1978.

I have two enduring in person memories of Bowa as a player. As a young Phillies fan, I would ask my parents to take me to see them play the Reds each summer. On August 28th 1977, Bowa and the Phils were at beautiful Riverfront Stadium to face the Reds. Bowa hit a ground ball to Rick Auerbach at 2nd base and was called out on a very close play at first. Bowa flew off the handle and got tossed. I flew off the handle and cried. I remember my Mom and two guys sitting near us trying to comfort me to no avail.

Three years later, I went with a friend to see Bowa and the Phils play the Reds in the glorious season of 1980. My friend and I were  walking around the outer concourse when we heard the P.A. announcer say Bowa was up, so I ran up the ramp to see him hit against Cincinnati starter Tom Seaver. Bowa hit a ball between left fielder Dave Collins and center fielder Sam Mejias, who ran into each other and collapsed to the turf. Right fielder Hector Cruz had to come over to field the ball and Bowa easily had himself an inside the park home run. Seeing that in person somewhat made up for “The Great Ejection of ’77.”

Bowa retired after the 1985 season and took the helm of the San Diego Padres in 1987 after leading their AAA team to a championship the previous year. That didn’t work out too well. He later managed the Phillies and also served as a coach for the Phillies, Angels, Mariners, Yankees & Dodgers. He returns home in 2014 to serve as a Phillies coach under Ryne Sandberg.

3rd Base: Joe Torre

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Torre is a slam dunk starter because he excelled as both a player and a manager. Notice how sweaty he is in his photo. That’s probably because he spent the entire 1971 season destroying National League pitching. Torre hit .363 for the Cardinals that year and drove in 137 runs, which earned him National League MVP honors. He would finish his playing career with more than 2,300 hits, an MVP award and nine all-star appearances.

Torre began his managerial career in 1977 with the Mets and later managed the Braves & Cardinals.

Behind MVP Dale Murphy, Torre’s Atlanta Braves won the division title in 1982, but they were swept by the Cardinals in the NLCS. He finished his tenure in Atlanta with a second place finish in ’83 and 3rd in ’84 before moving to St. Louis. After being fired in mid-season by the Cardinals in 1995, Torre owned  a .471 winning percentage in just under 1,900 career games.

That’s when the Yankees called and things began to turn around. After selling George Steinbrenner on his skills as a manager, Torre had some work to do in the eyes of the New York media.

Daily News

Welcome to New York!

As it turned out, Torre did OK, winning ten division titles, six pennants and four World Series championships. In 29 years, managing five teams, Torre won 2300+ games and was just elected to the Hall of Fame along with LaRussa.

Our infield is all set. Next week, we’ll take a look at the outfield, DH and pitching. Thanks so much for reading!

The Capital Punisher

I’ve been working on this project for about two months now and as would be expected, I’m beginning to play favorites. I grew up a Phillies fan, so any Phillies get bumped to the top of my mental list. The Rays may not have even been a twinkle in Vince Naimoli’s eye in 1972 so they’re not a factor, though there are some players in the 1972 set with Rays connections. One of those players is Frank Howard and as such, one of the early front-runners for my favorite card of the set is his card, #350.

First of all, you just gotta love the simplicity of the pose.

Frank Howard

In a previous entry, I detailed a number of stock poses used over and over again by Topps. This particular one belongs in the Pantheon of boring Topps poses of the 1970s.

I can imagine the photographer saying, “OK Frank, now let’s get one with you looking longingly into the sky.”

Frank would respond with, “What’s my inspiration?” to which the photographer would reply, “You’re missing a loved one. You’re wondering where they are, how they are and what they’re doing and you’re looking into the heavens for answers.”

“Got it. How’s this?”

On a much more basic level, I simply like Frank Howard. I met him when he was a coach with the Rays in 1998 & 1999 and he’s among the nicest people you’ll ever come across.

He’s also an extremely large man. His 1972 Topps card lists him at 6’7” and 275 pounds, but most references to him I’ve seen list his height at 6’8″. When I met him he may have slimmed down a bit, but he hadn’t shrunk. He’s just a big dude and a walking definition of the term, Gentle Giant.

He’s also quite a character and I mean that as a compliment. Whenever I saw him at Tropicana Field I always made it a point to say hi to him because I knew he didn’t know my name. Whenever someone he didn’t know would say hi to him he would respond with, “How ‘ya doing champion?”

Frank called EVERYONE champion. Occasionally he would mix in a “champ,” and he once called me, “young champion” but more often than not it was simply, Champion. He had a big booming somewhat gravelly voice and I can still hear him saying it. It was fantastic.

He also wore exactly the same outfit to the ballpark every single day. Tan slacks and a tight tan knit shirt. My guess is that despite the fact that he wore it every day, he only had it on for the time it took him to drive to the ballpark and back.

Howard was a very accomplished athlete. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and went to Ohio State where he was an All-American in baseball and basketball. In a holiday tournament at Madison Square Garden, Howard once grabbed 32 rebounds in a single game.  In addition to being drafted to play major league baseball, he also was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors, which means he and Wilt Chamberlain could have potentially been twin towers in the NBA, predating Sampson and Olajuwon by decades.

mlb_besttools_04

But Howard chose baseball and quickly established himself as one of the game’s most feared sluggers. In his first stop in the minor leagues he won MVP honors by hitting 37 homers and driving in 119 runs. The performance earned him a September call up to the big leagues with the Dodgers where he homered in his second at bat off Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. A week later in Cincinnati, he hit a foul line drive that struck teammate Duke Snider in the head, knocking him out and ending his season.

Howard got to the big leagues to stay in 1960, hitting .268 with 23 homers and 77 RBI and winning Rookie of the Year honors. He won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1963 and parlayed that into an appearance on the Joey Bishop show.

There’s good old #25 on the far right. He’s tough to miss because he’s a head taller than everyone else on stage.

But perhaps the thing he’s most known for is an incredible run during the 1968 season while a member of the Washington Senators.

howard

Date Opponent AB Hits RBI HR
May 12 Detroit 4 2 2 2
May 14 @Boston 4 3 3 2
May 15 @Boston 4 2 2 1
May 16 @Cleveland 3 2 4 2
May 17 @Detroit 4 1 2 1
May 18 @Detroit 5 3 4 2
Totals 24 14 17 10

Six games, 24 at bats, 10 home runs. Even more remarkable was that it was accomplished in four different cities in seven days. Howard would lead the American League with 44 homers and 340 total bases that season and he finished second in RBI with 106. His display of power with the Senators earned him the nickname of “The Capital Punisher.”

This streak was accomplished while playing first base, but Howard played most of his games in 1968 in LEFT FIELD. Quick, name all the 6’8″ outfielders in the game today…

Sources:

SABR

Retroshet

Let’s Make a Deal!

Lets-Make-a-Deal_Monty-Hall-hosting

When I began this project and this blog, my plan was to purchase cards on EBay and put my set together slowly. But in the process of blogging about my collecting exploits, I’ve begun to gain a following. In fact my last post went viral, earning 20 page views. I was concerned it might shut down the internet, but fortunately there was enough band width to handle all that traffic.

One of the nice side effects of blogging about my quest is that I been contacted by people wanting to help. Among these who reached out was a fraternity brother who happens to be building the 1972 Topps set at the same time I am. I’ll call him, “Scott” because that’s his actual name.

Few things were better than getting together with a friend and trading cards when I was a kid. I made many trades back in the day, many coming just moments after we sat side by side opening wax packs. It’s 2014 and Scott and I live in different states, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other. We exchanged want lists and last week I sent him 63 cards.

Earlier this week, the box he sent me arrived and I must say I got the better end of the deal.

IMG_0213

Nicely packed!

101 cards, the equivalent of a little more than 10 packs back in 1972

Going through the cards was like opening those packs. They would have cost me a buck back in ’72.

At the top of the pile was this one:

Billy Martin

Martin was in his second year as the Tigers’ skipper. He led them to a 91-71 record in 1971, which was good for a second place finish in the American League East. Unfortunately for Martin and the Tigers, Baltimore won 101 games and the division. The Tigers would win 86 games in 1972, but that was enough to win the division. I also like this card because apparently Billy wasn’t down with getting his picture taken on this particular day.

018

It’s my second favorite “obscene” baseball card.

Next we have card #191, Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs.

Burroughs




Burroughs was a first round draft pick in 1969 and made his major league debut in June of 1970 at the age of 19. He went 2 for 14 in 1970 and hit .232 in ’71. 1972 was not kind either as Burroughs hit just .185 in 22 games. But in 1973, he became a starter, and also a force. Over the next six seasons, Burroughs hit .268 with 166 homers and 574 RBI. He won the A.L. MPV in 1974. You would think the Rangers would have learned their lesson in rushing a top pick to the big leagues too quickly. But in 1973, they drafted a Texas high school pitcher named David Clyde and inserted him right into their rotation. That didn’t work out.



My cards from Scott also included some “Rookie Star” entries, including these three from the Dodgers and the Pirates.

Dodger Rookies

I always like to look at these cards and wonder what happened to “the other guys” on the card. Knuckleballer Charlie Hough spent 25 years in the major leagues and was the starting pitcher for the inaugural game in Florida Marlins history. In fact, if you have 2 hours, 13 minutes and 22 seconds you can watch that game right here:

But what of Bob O’Brien and Mike Strahler? Glad you asked…

O’Brien started four games in 1971, including throwing a shutout on June 21st to beat Bob Gibson and the Cardinals. At the end of the 1971 season, he was traded to Baltimore in a five player deal that netted the Dodgers Frank Robinson. He never pitched in the big leagues again.

Strahler went 6-8 over four seasons and was out of baseball by 1974.

Pirate Rookies

Now on to the Pirates prospects. Richie Zisk had a nice career, but Fred Cambria appeared in six games in 1970 and was done. To me this says either Topps didn’t do their homework or the Pirates farm system was atrocious. How come they only have two guys on their Rookie Stars card? How come the career of one of them was already over? These are the things that keep me up at night.

Reggie

A huge score in this lot is the 1972 Reggie. This was right about the time where Reggie began to become Reggie. He had hit 47 homers in 1969, but Oakland finished in second place that year, nine games behind the Minnesota Twins, who were managed by Billy Martin, who would later manage (and fight) Reggie with the Yankees. 
Reggie really burst into national consciousness in the summer of 1971 when he announced his presence with authority in the All-Star Game:

Reggie would lead the A’s to three straight World Series championships beginning in 1972.

 Stennett

Rennie Stennett was a rookie and the Pirates leadoff hitter on September 1st, 1971 against the Phillies. The Buccos would win the N.L. East crown that year and go on to win the World Series while the Phillies finished 30 games out. But that Pirates team made history on that day by fielding the first “all black” starting lineup in the history of Major League Baseball. It would be more precise to say they were the first team to not start a white guy since the lineup included Roberto Clemente, Manny Sanguillen and Jackie Hernandez.

Stennett would really make a name for himself in September of 1975 when he went 7-7 in a 22-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. His first hit came off starter Rick Rueschel to lead off the game and his last hit came off Rick’s brother, Paul in the 8th.

Series

I love these cards and they did it up in 1972 with a card for each game of the World Series and then a celebration card. They don’t do these anymore, which is a shame. Since the cards come out so early now, my guess is they can’t get them produced in time to include in the set.

I don’t know a whole lot about Joe Pepitone except that he liked the night life and was a pioneer in Major League Baseball. Pepitone was the first player to ever have a hair dryer in a big league clubhouse. A three-time All-Star and gold glove winner, Pepitone ran into legal trouble and actually spent time in prison on drug charges. He also posed nude for Foxy Lady magazine. But you already knew that.

Joe

Lefebvre

You know, not a lot of guys could pull off the single black batting glove, but I think Jim Lefebvre totally nailed it.

Forsh

Can’t see Ken Forsch without thinking about the fact that he and his brother Bob are the only brother combo to both throw no-hitters. Ken no-hit the Braves in 1979 and Bob threw two; one in 1978 and another in 1983.

I talked earlier about the In Action cards and how many of them weren’t really action shots at all. This trilogy features a nice shot of Leo Cardenas in mid throw, John “Blue Moon” Odom just after releasing a pitch and Ron Santo… hitting a foul ball. I guess they sent guys to one game and got what they got, but that seems a bit weak for a guy who was a pretty good player.

In Action

But the Santo foul ball In Action card is top notch compared to the Ed Kirkpatrick, “I’m shaking dirt out of my catcher’s mask” In Action shot.

Kirkpatrick

Kaline






Yet another way Scott hooked me up. Kaline is one of four Hall of Famers included in my haul, including noted underwear model Jim Palmer. I love the way this card is very similar to the Billy Martin card, minus the bird. Kaline was winding down his Hall of Fame career in 1972. He would play another three seasons and collect 312 more hits, finishing with 3,007.








Awards

Another of the unique features of the ’72 set were these award cards. I don’t think Topps had ever done them before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t done them since. I think they’re pretty cool. My guess is most card collectors in 1972 didn’t know what a lot of these trophies even looked like. The backs of the cards listed past winners.

Huge thanks to “Scott” for giving me a big boost as I continue to work towards completing the set. Back in the day, you bought packs and traded face-to-face with your friends. Now, you buy cards on EBay and negotiate trades via email with people you haven’t seen in more than 20 years. Not as personal, but still effective. This is collecting baseball cards in the digital age.

Strike a Pose

In my first post, I mentioned the simplicity of the poses in many of the cards in the 1972 set. This was not exclusive to the 72 set by any means. Topps was famous for many bland poses. I’m not sure how much of that was Topps and how much of it was the era in general. Once Donruss and Fleer entered the fray in 1981, the poses didn’t get much better. The quality of the photography in baseball cards in general didn’t really improve until Upper Deck issued their first set in 1989.

I lived in Clearwater, Florida for about 10 years and worked around baseball for the entire time I was down there. One of the things I noticed early was the photographers in spring training would tape rosters to their telephoto lenses. The names would have various marks next to them. I once asked about the system and I was told that one slash represented a portrait, one was another type of pose (I don’t remember) and if the photog would draw a circle around the “X” that meant they also had an action photo of the player in question.

My guess in in the 1970s those marks would have stood for:

1) Portrait staring up in the air

2) Hokey batting stance photo

3) Some horrible pose indicative of that player’s position.

Pitchers got this one: “Here I am, in the middle of my windup. Watch out ‘cause here it comes!”

Windup

The other pitcher variation was this one: “I just threw a pitch and this is my follow through. Bet you can’t hit it!”

Followthru

Catchers got this beauty: This one reminds me of Crash Davis saying, “No, no. Serve it up,” right after he and Nuke LaLoosh argued about how the batter had never seen Nuke’s fastball.

Catchers

Middle infielders got this one. “Check me out! I’m about to field a ground ball!”

Infielders

Bonus points were also awarded if you got your picture taken in your positional pose while wearing a really, really shiny jacket.

Oliver

I had a few of the Starter jackets back in the 80s but none of them were nearly that shiny.

There were also plenty of photos of guys wearing those rubber undershirts. Nothing screams 1970s baseball card like the guy wearing the rubber undershirt. Those were the days when you had a second job in the offseason selling insurance and showed up to spring training 25 pounds overweight. That problem was addressed by simply wearing a rubber undershirt and sweating off those pesky excess pounds. Foot Note: I may need to buy some of those rubber shirts.

Undershirt

If you were known as more of a hitter, there were poses for you too.

Check me out, I hit right handed

Righty

Oh yea! Well I hit lefty!

Lefty

BUNT!

BUNT

There have been many changes in baseball cards over the years. Some are good in my opinion and some have been horrible. Vastly improved photography is certainly one of the better ones.

But there’s a part of me that longs for the old days. I’m not sure if that makes me nostalgic or just old.