Sunday, January 30, 2011

#89 - Jackie Brown

What's going on here? Another non-Traded traded card? Nope. Jackie Brown had only pitched up top for one major league organization at this point in his career. It is definitely an air-brush job though. Given what appears to be a red hat brim, Jackie is in an old Senators uniform, which means this photo is probably from '71 since he put in no time for the Rangers in '72. Senators caps were red so the folks at Topps just air-brushed over the top part of the cap. They could have at least air-brushed out the sweat while they were at it. At least Jackie is in a uniform unlike his teammate-to-be Fergie from a few posts back.

Whatever Brown was wearing, he had one of his better seasons in '73. A year after being banished to Triple A and some horrible numbers, he began the season at that level strongly the following year and by mid-July was 10-1 with a 2.34 ERA in a spot role. Those numbers got him back to Arlington where he again had a fast start and by the end of the month he threw a complete game shutout at Oakland in his first start in many moons. After that game his '73 MLB ERA was at 1.38 but that dry desert heat wasn't conducive to keeping his number that low. So over the summer it returned to normal - for Jackie - territory. Still, he recorded his first two MLB saves and overall it was his best career season to date.

Jackie Brown was signed by the Phillies out of rural Oklahoma in '62 and sent to D league ball. I am guessing by his age at signing - 19 - and his stats that Jackie had some military commitments but I have not been able to confirm that. Initially it was slow going through the minors. He  went a combined 5-11 with a high ERA his first couple seasons but then in '64 put up a 2.01 ERA with eight wins for one of his A level teams and the following season went 15-11 with 214 strikeouts at the same level. But after an abortive jump to Double A in '66 - 3-5 with a 4.83 ERA - he was back in Single A, a level at which he remained.when he was cut loose by Philly in May of '68. He was immediately picked up by Washington and things turned a bit. DC moved Jackie up to Double A and at that level through '69 he went 12-8 with a 2.65 ERA for his best run. That was followed by a better season in Triple A in '70 - 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA again in a spot  role - prompting a call-up to the majors that year.

Brown's rookie season was OK, with most of his appearances in relief and some spot starts. He then started the '71 season in the rotation, but after some not great starts he returned to the bullpen and then back to Triple A where he remained for a horrible '72 (6-17 with a 5.51 ERA). After his resurgence in '73 he made a fan in new manager Billy Martin, who the following season put Jackie in the rotation. Brown responded by posting career highs in every major category, going 13-12 with a 3.57 ERA as the Rangers finally became a real divisional threat. But the Ranger magic wore off fast and in '75 Jackie's stay in the rotation didn't last too long though he did put up some quality starts. That June he, Jim Bibby, and Rick Waits went to Cleveland for Gaylord Perry. For the Tribe he worked mostly as a middle guy out of the pen in '75 and then was a starter in '76. That year he went 9-11 with a 4.25 ERA. The following December he went to Montreal - in a pretty bad trade for the Expos - for Andre Thornton. After a sub-.500 season for the Expos he was released. He re-signed with Texas and spent '78 at Tucson, their new Triple A club. He won 12 but had a pretty high ERA and was then again released, ending his time as a player. He finished with a record of 47-53, with 39 complete games, eight shutouts, three saves, and a 4.18 ERA.In the minors Jackie was 91-88 with a 3.87 ERA.

Jackie immediately moved into coaching following his playing career and in '79 took over as the Rangers' pitching coach. He stayed there through '83. From '86 to '91 he coached in the Pittsburgh system and then moved up top for the White Sox ('92-'95). He then moved to Tampa where he coached in the minors ('96-'98) and for the Rays (2002). In between and since ha has worked the family spread back in Oklahoma.

These are some OK star bullets. '65 was the year he won 15. I find the cartoon interesting as he never played a position but pitcher professionally. One of the more memorable moments of Jackie's career had to be when he was the seventh-inning stretch representative for the Rangers in a cow-milking contest - he lost - during a game in which lucky winners got to take home a bag of Ranger fertilizer, whatever that was.

We are on an AL run here so this should be easy:

1. Brown and Dave Nelson (what the hell) '70 to '71 and '73 Rangers;
2. Nelson and Patek '76 to '77 Royals.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

#88 - Freddie Patek

In another nice segue we move from one of the biggest guys playing baseball at the time of this set to the smallest. Here Freddie Patek takes an imaginary cut in Oakland during a year in which his offense had a nice bounce pretty much across the board from his '72 numbers. And he probably should have been an All-Star again. In researching articles for this post I was struck by how many times Freddie was called a dwarf or midget by the writers. Very non-PC of them, but it was a different era. I did, however, find one funny incident which I will share before moving on to Freddie's bio: in '69 the Pirates got into a bench clearer with the Expos. When Dick Radatz, a reliever who was 6'6" came running out of the bullpen looking for someone to tussle with, the only available guy was Patek. Radatz said to him "I'll take you and a player to be named later."

Freddie Patek played baseball in high school and then the service. He used service ball to leverage a tryout with the Pirates and was then drafted in a late round in '65. After completing his hitch in early '66 he put up some nice numbers in A ball that got him looks at the two higher levels. He stole 41 bases that year and then 42 the next in a Triple A season. While most of Freddie's field time was at short, he would also spend time at second and in the outfield in the minors. In '68 a nice start at Triple A Columbus - .304 and 18 steals in 38 games - helped propel him to Pittsburgh that summer. His push up was aided as well by Bill Mazeroski's pretty rapid decline in offensive production at the time. He stole 18 up top as well, did good work at the plate and in the field, and in '69 became the starting shortstop due both to incumbent Gene Alley being hurt and Alley's time at second due to the above. With the emergence of Dave Cash in '70 Alley returned to his normal infield spot, Freddie's time declined and following that season he went to the Royals in a multi-player trade,

Patek quickly became an institution in KC and was the starting shortstop for the next nine seasons. He teamed up with Cookie Rojas and then Frank White to give the Royals one of the best defensive middle infields of the '70s. He was a hustler and put up big stolen base totals. In '71 he and Amos Otis became the first teammates since 1917 to grab a combined 100 stolen bases in the AL. Freddie also led the league in triples that season and got some serious MVP consideration, finishing sixth. The next year his offense tanked but his D was excellent and he nabbed his first All-Star nod. His '74 numbers were roughly equal to '73's though he added a bunch of walks to post his best MLB OBA of .324. After a similar '75 season a .300-plus start to the '76 season got him more All-Star time and in '77 he topped out with 60 RBI's and 53 stolen bases, a total that led the AL. In both '76 and '77 he hit .389 in the playoffs against the Yankees. In '78 after another strong offensive start he was named starting shortstop for the All-Star game. By '79 toothpick-chomping UL Washington was grabbing more and more playing time and following that season Freddie became a free agent, signing with California. In '80 he had a decent season for the Angels splitting time with Bert Campaneris at short. After playing very rarely in '81 he was released. Freddie posted a lifetime .242 average with 385 stolen bases. He played in those three All-Star games and also hit 55 homers, a record for a guy that small. In the post-season he hit .288 with eleven RBI's in 15 games. He had a pretty good sense of humor about his size. Once when asked how he dealt with being the smallest guy in the majors he said "It's better than being the smallest guy in the minors."

Patek had a tough run of things when he stopped playing. Investments in real estate and a restaurant went south and for a while he was a salesman for a computer paper company. He saved most of his time and energy for his family. He started having kids young and was already a grandparent in his early 50s. In '91 he returned to baseball as an infield coach in the Milwaukee system. The next year he was inducted into the Royals hall of fame and then something terrible happened: his daughter was paralyzed in a car crash and Freddie's insurance didn't cover her medical costs so he would be actively involved in fund-raising to help pay her medical bills and for paralysis research throughout the rest of the decade and into the 2000's. She passed away in '95. Freddie continues to reside around the KC area.

'71 stands out as Freddie's best offensive season. He was an excellent defender with a great arm and is in the top 60 all-time in shortstop putouts and assists and the top 40 in double plays.. Whitey Herzog called him the best fielder he ever saw on artificial turf and he coached Ozzie Smith. Freddie's another guy who had to subsidize his baseball income.

Jenkins' move to the AL helps here:

1. Patek and Dave Nelson '76 to '77 Royals;
2. Nelson and Jenkins '74 to '75 Rangers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#87 - Fergie Jenkins

Okay, so let's start with the good things. First of all, it's Fergie Jenkins. Second, how often do you get a card whose player's first name is the same as the last name of the guy on the last card! Now for the bad. It's a non-Traded traded card. Because of that, Topps used a photo with no hat and no discernible uniform. But it's not a uniform; it's an undershirt! And how far back did they go for this card? Pre-mustache obviously. This card could be anywhere between one and six years old. Sorry Topps, but Fergie Jenkins deserved a lot better than that. And Fergie also deserved a lot better than his '73 season. After winning 20-plus for six straight seasons, nearly everything went awry for him in '73: he led the league in homer give-ups, but he almost always did that. But the complete games dropped by over two-thirds; the ERA floated up to league average; he posted his first losing record since '66; and during the season he indicated that year would be his last in baseball. Did all the Chicago pratfall seasons over the years take their toll? Who knows. But what probably nobody figured on was that it would take this trade - to the worst team in the AL - to revive Fergie's achievement level in baseball.

So what kind of guy is Fergie Jenkins? About the best, to which I can attest from personal experience (probably the only time I can say that about a guy in this set). I was lucky enough to spend some time with him a few years ago. For anyone interested there is a wonderful SI article regarding him here. It was written around the time he got in the Hall and is very poignant and gets to the nature of the guy pretty completely.

Fergie Jenkins is from Ottawa, Canada, from a small town outside Chatham. He played hockey and hoops growing up and his dad played in the Canadian version of the Negro Leagues. Fergie picked up baseball relatively late and honed his skills tossing rocks down a coal chute. A local scout got him a tryout with the Phillies in '62 and they signed him to a minor league contract. He started off really well at the lower minor levels - a combined 19-7 in two years of A ball; 10-6 in a '64 in Double A - but couldn't get a decent Triple A run until later that year when he went 5-5 with a 3.16 ERA. A better '65 (8-6 with a 2.95 ERA) at that level followed and he then came up at the end of that season and threw some very nice ball in relief. Fergie's trademark pitching style was already apparent - lots of hits and homers, but excellent control resulting in some miniscule walk totals. He remained on the Philly roster to start the '66 season but only got in one game before he was on the right side of one of baseball's worst trades: in late April Fergie went to the Cubs with Adolpho Phillips for Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson.

Jenkins spent his first season as a Cub initially in the pen - he recorded five saves - and then the rotation. The next spring manager Leo Durocher installed Fergie in the rotation full-time, a very good move as Mr. Jenkins would win at least 20 each of the next six seasons. He tended to give up a bunch of home runs - his 484 career total is third all time - and to compensate he became a low ball specialist which also helped his strikeout totals since the NL Is a low ball strike league. He also had amazing control and his K to walk ratios generally led the league. During that time frame he also led the league in starts three times and complete games three times. In '67 he came in second in the Cy race. In '68 he added innings and dropped his walk totals. In the heartbreaking season of '69 he led the NL in strikeouts. In '70 he led MLB in baserunners allowed per nine innings. In '71 he won the Cy via his NL-leading win total and a sick total of only 37 walks in 325 innings. '72 was a third-place Cy year and was followed by his last forgettable season in Chicago, at least for the first run. That October he was traded to the Rangers for new infielders Vic Harris (second base) and Bill Madlock (third base).

Jenkins continued his record of doing well in new environments as well as performing well for difficult managers. Going from Leo Durocher to Billy Martin wasn't anybody's idea of a picnic but Fergie made it work. In '74 he went 25-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 225 strikeouts, and six shutouts to nearly ride the Texas train to a divisional championship. He came in second in AL Cy votes and won comeback player of the year. But because things never went well in Billy-land for long, the following off-season Fergie hurt his knuckles punching out a guy in a pick-up hockey game and his stats declined the following year and he went 17-18 as the homer tally ratcheted up a bit. In November he went to Boston for Juan Beniquez as the piece to guarantee the Sox' continued playoff presence. While Fergie put up way better than average numbers league-wise he was only a game over .500 the next two years, winning just 22 in that span, and ended up in manager Don Zimmer's doghouse (he was viewed as way too friendly with Bill Lee, a personal adversary of Zimmer's). From there, Fergie's career reversed itself geographically. In '78 he returned to the Rangers where he won 18 his first year and was the best Texas starter for three seasons. He had an off '81 and the next year went to the Cubs as a free agent. He won 14 in '82 at age 39, pitched one more season and was done. He finished up with a record of 284-226, a 3.34 ERA, with 3,192 strikeouts, 267 complete games, 49 shutouts, and seven saves. He, Greg Maddox, Curt Schilling, and Pedro Martinez are the only guys to have over 3,000 lifetime Ks and less than 1,000 career walks. Not a bad hitter, he poked 13 homers with 85 RBI's lifetime and made four All-Star teams. He got in the Hall in '91 on his third attempt.

Following his career Jenkins coached a bit, first for Texas, and then for other organizations. But he has since spent most of his time running his working farm back in Texas.

The card back is not nearly as bad as the front, but I'd tweak it a little. For the cartoon, Fergie definitely played hockey, but by his own admission he wasn't so great so I am pretty sure he didn't get several pro hockey offers. He did, however, get to show off his basketball skills by touring with the Harlem Globetrotters a couple years. The year he won the Cy he also hit a ton: .243 with 6 homers and 20 RBIs in 115 at bats. He still holds the season K mark for the Cubbies. And this is the first card that we see the little notation regarding the trade. There will be a couple of these. And that number sucks. 87??!! Even if his '73 was below standard for him, Fergie was deserving of at least a "5" card.

So how do we connect the Fergusons?:

1. Jenkins and Bill Buckner and Ron Cey '83 Cubs;
2. Cey, Buckner, and Joe Ferguson '73 to '76 Dodgers.

I love the guy, but Fergie gets an ugly card here, just because of the t-shirt.

Monday, January 24, 2011

#86 - Joe Ferguson

Well I like this. Two action shots in a row, this one of a young Joe Ferguson. This is Joe's third card - first one post-mustache - despite the fact that technically '73 was his rookie year. Here he is in Philadelphia which seems odd since a bunch of the Topps shots were taken on the west coast. It looks like he is returning to his spot behind home plate after chasing a foul pop-up. So who's the Phillie in the photo? It's Craig Robinson who we've already seen in this set. This is already the third card on which Craig has been prominently displayed in this set. That ties him with the amount of non-Traded Dodgers cards have been in the set so far. As for Joe, an action shot is appropriate for him in this set. A big part of the LA resurgence in the mid-Seventies was the strengthening of the defense up the middle and that happened in '73 as Joe, Davey Lopes, and Bill Russell all became regulars that season. Plus Joe had arguably his biggest offensive year, topping out in runs (84), homers, RBI's, and walks (89) in '73. He also put up a whopping total of three errors behind the plate that year. So those fans should all be watching our boy during his biggest season. Instead they are all looking over their right shoulders at something in the stands. Maybe Apollo Creed had just arrived.

If you are of a certain age and love baseball, Joe will always be famous for The Play. There have been a lot of better Series, but I think few better plays than Ferguson's Game 1 catch and throw home of Reggie's fly out to nail Sal Bando. There is a clip of the '74 Series on YouTube and I have linked to it here. It is an amazing play.

Joe Ferguson was drafted in '68 by LA out of The University of the Pacific where he was an outfielder. He averaged .287 his first couple seasons in A ball as he transitioned to being primarily a catcher. Although he had a tough start defensively at his new position - 25 errors in '69 - he became very good defensively in that role. He bumped up his average in a '70 spent in Double A and then put up discounted numbers in half a season at Triple A Spokane in '71. He also got a good look that season as one of LA's revolving door of catchers. He returned to Triple A for most of '72, put up much better numbers at that level and got back upstairs to stay at the tail end of the season. After his big rookie season in '74 with the emergence of Steve Yeager, Joe started playing more in the outfield. Though his plate time and stats came in a bit, he put up his best OBA at .380 and got to the post-season. After being injured in '75 - a key reason LA did not repeat as pennant winner - and missing two-third's of the season he had a slow start in '76 and was traded mid-year with a couple minor leaguers to the Cardinals for Reggie Smith.

Ferguson was still damaged goods after the St. Louis trade and he would hit at Mendoza levels the rest of the way for the Cards. But following that season he went to Houston for Larry Dierker and had a nice offensive rebound, posting his best numbers since '73, with a .257/16/61 line with a .379 OBA. After a very discounted start to the '78 season he returned to LA for outfielders Rafael Landestoy and Jeff Leonard. Pretty good timing for Joe as he was able to revive his average a bit and was able to see action in that post-season. He then had a very good '79 - 20 homers and 69 RBIs in under 400 at bats in a year split pretty evenly between catcher and outfield. By 1980 Joe's knees were pretty shot and his playing time was significantly reduced, although he did hit the homer that forced the playoff game that season against Houston. He was released early in '81 and signed as a free agent with the Angels. For the next three seasons he was the backup catcher to Ed Ott and Bob Boone and served as pretty much a player-coach. '83 was his last season. He finished with a .240 average, 122 homers, and 445 RBIs. He also became pretty adept at getting on base and had a lifetime .358 OBA. In his two post-season years he hit .200 with four RBI's and a .378 OBA in his 13 games.

Ferguson almost immediately went into coaching following his playing career. He coached at the MLB level for the Rangers ('86-'87) and the Dodgers ('88-'93) before moving into roving instructional work. He then began managing in the minors for Baltimore ('96-2002) and then moved to managing in the independent leagues ('03-'04 and '07-'09) around another gig as a catching coach for San Diego ('05-'06), his last stint being with Camden in '09.

This is a really crooked card. Given Joe's status at the time, his star bullets have some minor-league info; '69 was also the year with all the errors but he was certainly a hustler with those other stats. I always like when athletes were artists - it sort of gave them that dual energy thing. One of the tough things about doing research on Joe Ferguson is getting lots of info about the other Joe Ferguson, the NFL quarterback for the Bills whose career pretty much overlapped this Joe's.

Two NL West guys that were probably fierce competitors are going to get linked through a third NL West club:

1. Ferguson and JR Richard '77 to '78 Astros;
2. Richard and Morgan '80 Astros.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#85 - Joe Morgan

Well, this is weird. Joe Morgan in action against Oakland. As much as the baseball gods back then expected, this card was NOT from '73, but from '72 when these two teams did meet in the Series. Joe looks pretty intense here, like he's following a ball hit to left field and it's at Riverfront. So I am guessing it is the seventh inning of game six when he hit a single off Dave Hamilton, scoring Dave Concepcion. In '73 Joe was still running: another All-Star season included a big bump in homers, a .406 OBA, and a Gold Glove. Joe was in the midst of his most productive MLB time and though in that year's playoffs he wouldn't make too much noise against the Mets - a big reason Cincy went down that year - he would get his in a couple seasons.

As a Yankee, Red Sox (I know), and Phillies fan of the mid-70's Joe Morgan was a tough guy for me to like. But I had to respect the guy. From that perfectly erect batting stance and the cocking of his left arm to all those runs and walks and stolen bases, the guy was as complete a player as you got in his prime. He was a very serious guy as a player; in the book on the Reds excerpted last year in SI it said that when Morgan came to the Reds management deliberately put his locker next to Rose's so that Pete could pull Joe out of his shell and so that some of Joe's studiousness would rub off on Pete. I guess it worked. But after Morgan's response to "Moneyball" when it came out I realized why so many people thought he was a jerk. Every time he opened his mouth about that book he sounded foolish. I never got that: the type of player Billy Beane adored as described in the book was every inch a Joe Morgan-type player. Everything about the book idealized the player Morgan was so why he took such offense to the book's existence was beyond me. Anyway...

Joe Morgan grew up in Oakland, was signed by the Colt .45s in '62 and immediately indicated the type of player he would be during his two minor seasons: a decent to high average, a very high OBA (.471 and .440 in A and Double A, respectively), very good power for a middle infielder, and good stolen base totals. He made short appearances in both '63 and '64. During those short seasons he showed some signs of trouble with major league pitching. Nellie Fox, a player-coach for the .45's at the time, told Joe his back elbow would drop during his at bats and suggested he wiggle it while awaiting the pitch to remind him to not drop it. So that is from where the elbow-cocking came. In '65 Joe replaced Nellie at second and had a bang-up first year, leading the league in walks and finishing second in ROY to Jim Lefebvre. In '66 he had better full-season numbers but his playing time decreased due to a broken kneecap. He did get his first All-Star nod that year and was the first starting Colt .45/Astro ever named. Another very good season followed in '67 and then Joe hurt his knee again in '68 and missed pretty much the entire season. He came back in '69, putting up good numbers and upping his stolen base totals to the 40's. But over the next three seasons - one of which was an All-Star one - his average slipped to about 20 points less than it had been before he got hurt - his OBA stayed about the same - and he was viewed with his roommate Jimmy Wynn as a troublemaker by Harry Walker, his manager. Those plus the desire for a power-hitting first baseman prompted Houston to make what is considered one of the worst trades ever: Joe, Dennis Menke, Cesar Geronimo, Jack Billingham, and Ed Armbrister to the Reds for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart.

Needless to say Morgan blossomed with the Reds: his average popped to around .300, his OBA jumped well above .400, and his homer and RBI totals shot up. For the rest of the '70s he would grab 8 All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, two MVPs, five division winners, and two Series championships. In '72 he led the NL with 122 runs, 115 walks, and a .417 OBA. In '74 his OBA was .427. His numbers during his two MVP seasons were pretty amazing - a .327/17/94 line with a killer .466 OBA in '75; a .320/27/111/.444 in '76 - and both years the Reds won the Series. Another excellent '77 followed and Joe didn't really slow down until '78 when his average dropped 50 points (he still had 75 RBIs that year) and '79 when his RBI totals got quashed. For 1980 he returned to Houston for a year as a free agent; they made the playoffs for the first time so there was still some magic. He then went to the Giants for two seasons earning Comeback Player of the Year in '82 (14 homers, 61 RBIs, .289). In '83 he had his last hurrah, rejoining Rose and Tony Perez on those ancient Phillies and returning to the Series. In '84 he finished things up with Oakland. He made the Hall in '90 based on his 2,517 hits, 689 stolen bases, 1,650 runs, 268 homers, and a .392 OBA to go with all the awards. In the post-season Joe hit .182 with five homers, 13 RBI's, 26 runs, and 15 stolen bases. Since his playing career he has been a high-profile announcer, most recently for ESPN, a job he just left.

This is another card that could have a wealth of star bullets. That first one is odd - maybe Topps named their own guy? or TSN? - since it wasn't even close in that year's voting (Lefebvre was on a Series winner which is probably why he won). Anyway, it's wrong. Maybe the trips to the pool hall got him in dutch with Harry.

This will require more steps than I thought it would. These guys opposed each other in the '75 Series:

1. Morgan and John Batemen '65 to '68 Astros;
2. Bateman and Don Money '72 Phillies;
3. Money and Rick Wise '69 to '71 Phillies.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

#84 - Rick Wise

There is a lot to say about this card. First of all, it nicely ends the recent streak of slanted cards. But now things get tricky: didn't we just see a Boston card? And why does Rick look perplexed? And why is he at Candlestick, an NL field? The answer to all these questions is related. Rick Wise is actually wearing a Cards uniform here and has been airbrushed - pretty nicely I think - into a Red Sox hat. Therefore Topps did not purposely put two Sox in a row; it just turned out that way after the airbrushing. So then why didn't Rick get a Traded card, especially since his trade was pretty meaningful? The deal with the Traded cards is this: as Topps went through their photos for the '74 cards, they realized that an inordinately large amount of players went to new teams. As a response - and to make more money - they decided to issue the Traded set as a late season add-on. But they didn't make that decision until December or so and the earlier traded players had already gone to print. So for most trades that occurred before December '73 - Rick's here took place in October - those players just have the regular airbrushed cards. For guys traded in December or later, they got the Traded cards. But there will be exceptions.

But back to Mr. Wise. He had some nice moments in '73, the best which was probably being named the starting - and winning - pitcher in the All-Star game. He went 8 1/3 innings of no-hit ball against Cincinnati in a June game (next post subject Joe Morgan broke up that non-no with a single). And while he would cool off a bit after his 11-3 start to the season, his full year was still a nice counter to the one posted by the guy for whom he was traded a couple years earlier. So despite his concerned look, it was a pretty good year for Mr. Wise.

Rick Wise was signed by the Phillies in '63 out of high school in Portland, Oregon. As a kid he had played in the Little league World Series. In '63 he pitched for Bakersfield, a Single A team in the California League and at only 17 went 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA. Here things get blurry. I have read that Rick was a Bonus Baby which is why he went up to the Phillies in '64 but unless the rules were changed, he would not have been allowed to play minor league ball in '63. At any rate he DID pitch in Philly that second season and did OK enough in a spot role to be around for the famous big fade. He then went down to Triple A for all of '65 where his numbers weren't so hot - 8-16 with a 4.45 ERA - and started there in '66, posted much-improved stats, and then came back up top for good. He had a pretty good arsenal of pitches - two fastballs, a slider, and a curve - and moved into the rotation by the end of the '66 season. He would move back and forth the next few seasons between good years and not great ones - in the odd years from '67 to '70 he was a combined 26-24 with a 3.25 ERA; in the even years he was 22-29 with an ERA of 4.34. But then in  '71 he went 17-14 with a 2.88 ERA and took a spot in his first All-Star game. It was also the year he pitched the no-hitter (more on that on the back). When contract talks came up after that season, Rick wanted a bit more than what management was offering. There was another guy in St. Louis in the same situation (both pitchers were asking for $65,000). When neither would yield they were traded for each other. Thus one of Wise's more dubious honors is being traded one-up for Steve Carlton.

While Wise pitched well enough for the Cards, Cartlton of course became the HOF guy. '72 was what Rick would later recall as his best season. He went 16-16 with a 3.11 ERA, but he had 13 one-run losses and got zero saves from his bullpen in any of his starts that year (I find that stat amazing). In '73 Sparky Anderson named Rick to start the All-Star game (Sparky loved Wise and said he would win 20 for Boston; he was almost right). In October '73 Rick and Bernie Carbo went to Boston for Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum. Three of those four are airbrushed in this set. '74 ended up being a wash because Rick got hurt, but in '75 he won 19 for the pennant winners. He had a good AL playoff then got bombed in his first Series start. He did, however, get the win in relief in the Carlton Fisk home run game. Two more decent seasons in Boston followed during which he went 25-16 but that second year he missed some more time and his ERA got toppy. Following the '77 season he went to Cleveland in the big trade that brought Dennis Eckersley to the Sox (the second HOF guy for whom he was traded). Rick lost 19 for the Tribe in '78, leading the league, but came back to win 15 for them in '79 with a much better ERA. He then turned free agent and signed with the Padres. He pitched well enough for those guys the next couple years but only got a decision in about half his starts, while going a combined 12-16. He was released early in '82 and was done. He went 188-181 with a 3.69 ERA, 138 complete games, and 30 shutouts which would be really high today. In that '75 post-season he was 2-0 with a 4.97 ERA in his three games. He also hit well: a .195 average with 15 homers and 66 RBIs.

Following baseball, Wise took the summer of '82 off to spend time with his family since his San Diego contract paid him through '84. Things went quickly south after that as it became apparent that Rick's agent, a guy named LaRue Harcourt, made some terrible investments on his behalf and in a few years would lose all the money Rick had saved from baseball, roughly $3 million. Rick and his family would lose their home and a bunch of other possessions, owe a chunk of change to the IRS, and both he and his wife would need to return to work. For Rick that meant back to baseball and beginning in '85 he had a long run as a pitching coach for various MLB organizations - Oakland, Boston, and Milwaukee among others - as well as semi-pro and independent teams. After a four-year run with Lancaster, an independent franchise for which he was also a manager, Rick retired in 2008.

The star bullets focus on Rick's hitting as much as his pitching, but he continues to be the only pitcher to do the first and nobody has topped the second. He also pitched a game in which he retired 32 straight batters. Rick returned to school after playing to finish his degree and for a short time dabbled in restaurants.

I am going to use the same guy to link these two:

2. Wise and Lou Brock '72 to '73 Cards;
2. Brock and Orlando Cepeda '66 to '68 Cards.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

#83 - Orlando Cepeda

So while there have not been a lot of BoSox so far in this set (that will change fast) this is the second Hall of Famer Red Sox in a row. It is also the second last card for each guy in a row. And it is the first card with Designated Hitter as its position. Plus after a pretty good run it is also the second slanted card in a row. The Baby Bull deserves better than that! Especially after his big comeback season in '73. Orlando's knees were pretty much toast by the end of the Sixties and he was able to put in only one full season in the Seventies before the DH rule came along and gave him a one-year resuscitation. With a chance to rest his legs between at bats Orlando posted arguably the best season of any DH in its rookie year (at least the best outside Tommie Davis) in a season that may have helped seal his HOF legacy a few years down the road.

This shot is taken in Oakland just a few feet from where Frank Duffy's of a few cards ago was. The site is a little ironic since Orlando's '73 card was as an A (that looks pretty weird, ending the sentence that way). And who is that behind him? My vote says Carlton Fisk since the guy has some pretty big calves, but what do I know? Well, I do know a little about Orlando Cepeda.

Orlando "Cha Cha" Cepeda has had about as colorful a history as anyone in this set. He was born in Puerto Rico to a dad, Pedro, who was an island legend in baseball. His father reportedly wouldn't play in the States because he found them too discriminatory. Through his dad and a couple local ballclub owners some of the younger black MLB players - like Willie Mays - would come down and play a little winter ball in PR. On one of those trips Orlando joined them in traveling the island and got viewed by some Giant personnel. They then signed him to a minor league contract when he was 17 in 1955. Unfortunately the team he was assigned to was from Virginia and Orlando had to deal with some Jim Crow crap; at the same time his dad died, so he had a terrible first month plus, hitting only .247. The Giants moved him up to Kokomo and the change helped huge as he hit nearly .400 the rest of the year. After he moved up a level to C ball in '56 (he hit .355 with 26 homers), the Giants wanted him to go to B ball. Orlando balked and the Giants put him in Triple A where he hit over .300 with 25 homers and over 100 RBIs. That got him to the majors in '58.

Playing first base for the now San Francisco Giants in his rookie year, Cepeda hit .312 with 25 homers and 96 RBIs, winning Rookie of the Year. In '59 he moved to the outfield to make way for the next ROY, Willie McCovey. But the hitting didn't stop. In '60 his numbers were only a slight discount to his rookie ones. In '61 he had a monster year with 46 homers with 142 RBIs while hitting .311 but lost MVP to Frank Robinson. The next season the numbers were ONLY .306/35/114 so at contract time in '63 the Giants wanted to cut his pay. Baseball was so different before free agency. Cha Cha also suffered reputationally: he had bad knees and they were getting worse on the astroturf. He thought he was playing hard; a lot of others thought he was loafing it. After two more big years, by the end of the '64 season, Orlando had 222 homers, 747 RBIs and an average of around .310 in seven seasons and he was only 27, on pace to have one of the biggest careers ever.. But in '65 the knees really went south and he either did or did not get them operated on, depending on the source of the story. It was also around this time that self-medication, in the form of marijuana, became included in the retinue. What for sure happened was that Orlando missed nearly the entire season. But rested up for '66 he started strongly but he and his manager, Herman Franks, were so at each other's throats that Cha Cha was sent to St. Louis that May for Ray Sadecki.

While Cepeda's power numbers were down big the rest of the way for the Cards, he finished at over .300 and may have won Comeback Player of the Year for someone (not the "official" one given out by The Sporting News, however; that went to Phil Regan in '66). He DID grab MVP in '67 for sure, leading the Cards to a Series victory with a .325 average, 25 homers, and 111 RBIs. But along with a lot of guys, he fell hard in '68 and after the season went to Atlanta for Joe Torre. In 1970 he put up his last great numbers. In '71 the knee struck again and he barely got in half a season. Then early in '72 he went to the A's for Denny McLain, played a game and then went on injured reserve. After an argument with Charlie O he was released. The Sox then signed him exclusively as a DH and after his big season they released him during spring training in '74. Orlando played some ball in Mexico and then signed mid-season with the Royals, put up mediocre numbers and was done. In the end he hit .297 (with a .350 OBA), with 379 homers, and 1,365 RBI's. He played in seven All-Star games. After failing to make the Hall on writer votes, he was elected in '99 by the Old-Timers.

Orlando had a tough time after baseball initially: too many drugs and too many women. In '75 he was busted for accepting a bunch of pot at the airport. Sentenced to five years, he served 10 months. He lost pretty much all his money and even got booted out of Dodger Stadium in '84. With the help of the Giants, though, he turned himself around, first as a scout and then as a goodwill ambassador. I would say that was the more meaningful comeback.

No room for star bullets, but we get another parentheses. And after all my whining, thanks to reader Smedcards I now know to what it refers. It is the player's maternal name (his mom's maiden name) which is common to be included in a full Latin name. Mystery solved! The cartoon is ironic in a bad way; it was playing hoops that Orlando first damaged his knee.

Two more guys that just missed each other as teammates:

1. Cepeda and Lou Brock '66 to '68 Cards;
2. Brock and Dave Giusti '69 Cards.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#82 - Dave Giusti

This is my first truly crooked card so I get out of blaming myself for a bad scan. Also, I would be real surprised if this shot isn't from the same set of shots that Dave's '73 card is from (it is almost exactly the same pose on the same field) which would make the shot from the latest 1972. Plus I believe it is a spring training shot. Dave is another guy whose '73 was smack in the middle of his most productive years: his 9-2 record, 2.37 ERA, and 20 saves helped get him his only All-Star nod as he was the Pirates closer the fourth year running. '72 was a pretty good year for Dave too so maybe that he was stuck there for a while was a good thing.

Dave Giusti was another college guy, having gone to Syracuse after growing up in upstate NY. For the Orange, Dave played a couple years of hoops and helped take the team to the CWS his last year there. He was then grabbed by the new Colt .45's in the '61 draft and that year - since the Houston franchise hadn't officially opened shop yet - went on loan to the Cubs for some time in A and Triple A ball, posting a 2.38 ERA on the season. In the game in which he pitched his first shutout at the lower level he also went 4-for-4 at the plate. Dave then started the initial Colt .45 '62 season on the Houston roster and did some spot starts but mostly relieved. After putting up not great numbers, he returned to Triple A for the balance of the season and most of the next two. During that time he went a combined 25-20 with a 3.45 ERA and missed some '62 time for an elbow operation. After some relief time back up top at the end of the '64 season he was up for good.

Giusti returned to the Astros in '65 and after that season of again both starting and relieving (and posting three saves), he became Houston's most dependable starter the next three seasons. He was their only guy to get double figures in wins each year. In a 1966 start he blanked the Reds while grabbing six RBIs! In '67 he began the year 0-5 while dealing with tendonitis, but had a strong second half. In '68 poor run support led to a losing record though his ERA was quite good. Following the '68 season Dave was traded to the Cards for Johnny Edwards, who became the Houston starting catcher. The Cards left Dave unprotected in the expansion draft and the Padres grabbed him. The Cards then used four players - including a pitcher named Phil Knuckles; too bad that guy never made it - to bring Giusti back. Unfortunately Dave didn't have a bang-up year - 3-7 with a 3.61 ERA - and St. Louis sent him to Pittsburgh shortly after the season for Carl Taylor.

For the Pirates Giusti blossomed. After a poor spring training in '70, Danny Murtaugh moved him to the bullpen and there Dave responded. His 9-3 record and 26 saves were, according to Willie Stargell, the primary reason the Pirates won their division. In '71 Dave led the league with 30 saves for the Series winners. He also didn't give up a run in over 10 post-season innings. The next two seasons he also recorded over 20 saves and in '73 he had the All-Star year. Two more effective years followed: 7-5 with a 3.32 ERA and twelve saves in '74; and a 5-4/2.95/17 line in '75. Then, after a sub-par '76, Dave was traded to the recently destroyed Oakland A's in the big trade that brought the Pirates Phil Garner. He actually had a very nice partial season for Oakland. In August he was sold to the Cubs for whom he did not do so well. Chicago released him after the season ended and that it was it for Dave. For his career he went 100-93 with a 3.60 ERA, 35 complete games, nine shutouts, and 145 saves. His post-season record was not nearly as good: 0-2 in 16 games with 2 saves and a 4.87 ERA. As indicated above, Dave was a pretty good hitter with four homers, 46 RBI's, and a .187 average in 412 career at bats.

During his career, Giusti was able to get his Masters in Education from Syracuse and he spent at least some time teaching science (his baseball-reference site is sponsored by a former student). But after his career he became a corporate sales rep for American Express and is reported to have retired in 2002.

This is actually a really good scan of a slanted card. The star bullets are nice but kind of ho-hummy. Dave's specialty pitch was a palmball which is sort of like a changeup; it looks like a fastball and is an out pitch because the batters are usually ahead of it. He picked it up while attending Syracuse.

How do we go from a Pirate to an Indian? Through the Phillies:

1. Giusti and Bill Robinson '75 to '76 Pirates;
2. Robinson and Oscar Gamble '72 Phillies;
3. Gamble and Frank Duffy '73 to '75 Indians.

A lot of hair on that one.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

#81 - Frank Duffy

Here is Frank Duffy looking very Kingman-esque - by that I mean tall and sluggerish - in Oakland (I hope). Frank was actually a pretty big boy for a shortstop back then but was about as far from a slugger - although more of one than his DP partners - as you could get. Taking nothing away from him as a player or a man, Duffy's lasting contributions to baseball are being part of two of the most one-sided trades in baseball history. Still, this card memorializes what was probably Frank's best season and that .263 average and 50 - not 49 - RBI's he put up in '73 are nothing to sneeze at, given he only had 361 at bats and put up those numbers as a shortstop.

Frank Duffy grew up not too far from where this photo was taken and was a Stanford guy who made third-team All-American his junior year of '67. He'd been selected by Atlanta in '66 but passed to stay in school and in the first round of the '67 regular draft he got nabbed by the Reds. He put in a year at Double A and two at Triple A, always just behind Dave Concepcion, which to a degree restricted his playing time. But at both those levels he put up serviceable to good offense and excellent defense, which was about right since he was drafted for the latter quality. He appeared for the Reds briefly in both '70 and '71 before he was traded to the Giants in May of the latter year with Vern Geishert for George Foster in bad trade number one. Frank would get up 28 times for San Francisco the rest of that season, plus once in the playoffs. After it he would be traded with Gaylord Perry to the Indians for Sam McDowell.

The trade to Cleveland was bad trade number two, but at least this time, Duffy was on the good side of it. McDowell would win one game in half a season with the Giants while Perry won 64 the next three seasons for pretty bad Cleveland teams. Plus the Indians got a reliable defensive full-timer in Frank, who would be their starting shortstop the next six seasons. In '72 he supplied the best stability the position had seen in at least five seasons. His '73 was the best seen offensively or defensively - he finished first in AL fielding percentage - at shortstop for the Tribe in over a decade. While he was with the Indians his double play partners were Jack Brohamer (30 career homers) and Duane Kuiper (1 career homer), hence his relative slugging ability. In '74 he topped out at 158 games and 549 at bats, though his offense was generally a discount to '73's and his '75 was very similar to his prior year. In '76 Frank's average tumbled to .212 and he gave away some field time to new guy Larvell Blanks, but he returned to the top of AL in fielding percentage. Frank stayed with Cleveland through the '77 season when his average fell a bit more and Blanks took a few more games. Frank then left in a trade for Rick Kreuger to Boston where he served as a backup to Rick Burleson, hitting .260 in that role in '78. After a season plus in Boston, Frank was released in May of '79 and that ended his career. He finished with a .232 average and struck out in his only post-season at bat. Defensively he is 20th all-time with a .977 lifetime fielding average at shortstop.

Duffy basically relocated full time to Arizona after his time as a player ended. There he has spent a bunch of time involved in real estate.

These are actually pretty cool star bullets and add some color about summer baseball in the States. Wichita had two teams that played semi-pro, the Rapid Transit Dreamliners and the Service Auto Glass. I am not sure for which one Frank played, but the three previous years one of them won the nationals. In '67 Frank was MVP for the Boulder Baseline Collegians which won the summer tournaments in both '66 and '67. One of the teams all the above would play against was the Alaska one for which Tom Seaver and Rich Troedson - and others coming up - played. The last bullet is interesting; led shortstops in what? He WAS the top fielding shortstop that year for the AA Southern League Asheville team; Sparky Anderson was his manager. And he's a southern Cal guy: of course he plays guitar!

Let's hook up these guys away from summer college ball:

1. Duffy and Del Unser '72 Indians;
2. Unser and Tom Seaver '75 to '76 Mets.

Friday, January 14, 2011

#80 - Tom Seaver

If there is a New York icon in this set, this guy is it. Tom Terrific (I never liked that nickname) was the most consistent NY All-Star of his time and again was a pivotal reason the Mets got into the post-season. While he came up just shy of 20 wins, his miniscule ERA, NL-leading strikeout totals, and very nice post-season work helped him grab his second Cy in '73. Here he is pitching at Shea with John Milner in the background as well as some blob-like thing right over Tom's butt. It looks like Topps blurred that bit out intentionally, but I wonder why? If it was something untoward in the stands, I cannot imagine it would be seen clearly, since nothing else that far back is. It does look like Tom is throwing heat here, so maybe it's just something thermal.

Tom Seaver had an interesting time of things even before hitting the majors. He graduated high school in Fresno in '62 and did a stint in the Marines. He attended Fresno City College from '63 to '64 and in the summers of '64 and '65 played baseball in Alaska. He initially went there at the suggestion of Rod Dedeaux, the USC coach, who was interested in signing Tom but wanted to see him first against some major college competition. Tom passed the test and went to USC for the '65 and part of the '66 seasons. He was drafted by the Dodgers in '65 but shot them down (he thought it would take too long to reach the majors with them). The Braves signed him in early '66 but the signing was voided as a sort of tampering case. The Mets then signed Tom as a free agent to their Triple A Jacksonville Suns team and he had a nice season in his only minor league time, going 12-12 with a 3.13 ERA. Then it was all MLB time.

Seaver came up in '67 and went 16-13 for a team that would lose over 100 games. He won that year's Rookie of the Year award and never looked back. In '68 he won 16 again and put up his first year of over 200 K's under Gil Hodges. Then came the magic year of '69: 25 wins, a 2.21 ERA, his first Cy Young, and the big Series win. From then until '73 he would average over 20 wins, over 200 Ks and never top 3.00 in ERA. In '70 he led the NL in strikeouts and ERA. He turned that trick again in '71, posting a sick ERA while coming in second in the Cy race. After another excellent '72, by '73 he had begun acquiring his vineyard interests in California and he hurt himself moving cases of wine, missing some starts and almost for sure another 20-win season. He also won the division-clincher against the Cubs and had that excellent post-season, even though he only went 1-2 (he put up 35 Ks in 31 innings and had a 2.00 ERA). In '74 hip problems dropped his record to 11-11 as he missed a few more starts and had a tough time completing games - the Mets were pretty awful that year - but he bounced back in '75 to win 22 and grab his third Cy. '76 was Jerry Koosman's year and Tom would post the last of his nine successive 200 K seasons as his decisions dropped substantially and he went only 14-11 despite another excellent ERA of 2.59. The next season, in the wake of bitter contract negotiations between Seaver and Mets GM Donald Grant, Tom was on a nice early season roll when at the June trading deadline the unthinkable happened: he was sent to the Reds for a bunch of young players: Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry, and Dan Norman.

For pretty obvious reasons the trade of Seaver was hugely unpopular in NY, and while a couple of the kids would have some decent seasons, that Tom went on to win 21 games that year really cemented the bad feelings generated by the transaction. It certainly wasn't all bad for him though. NY was at the beginning of a downward spiral that would produce some ugly teams and last though the early Eighties. Meanwhile, Cincy was still tough and after a 16-14/2.88 year in '78 that was his final one of over 200 strikeouts, Tom returned to the post-season in '79 with a 16-6 year. In '80 he missed a bunch of starts to the hip again and his record fell to 10-8 in the first year his ERA was sub-par to the NL's. But a big season followed in the strike year of '81 when Tom went 14-2 with a 2.54 ERA to nearly nab another Cy. Unfortunately that year was followed by an '82 when he had his arguably only bad season: 5-13 with an ERA that exceeded 5.00.

In '83 Seaver returned to the Mets in another trade with a bunch of kids on the other side. NY made a huge deal about Tom's return but after a middling year for him they then left him unprotected following the season. The White Sox picked him as a free agent compensation pick as they had lost Dennis Lamp to Toronto. Then any team losing a player to free agency had the right to pick any unprotected player from any team. Tom then won 31 games in two years for the Sox, including his 300th win at Yankee Stadium. In '86 he pitched for both Chicago and Boston. It was his final season and he saw no action in that post-season. Seaver retired with a record of 311-205, a 2.86 ERA, 231 complete games, 61 shutouts, a save, and 3,640 strikeouts. In his three post-seasons he was 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA and 51 strikeouts in his eight games. On top of his three Cy Young's and ROY he made 12 All-Star teams. He went in the Hall on his first ballot in '92. He has become a professional vintner and done lots of broadcasting, first for the Yankees and then the Mets.

At this point in Tom's career he could have had about 30 impressive star bullets. The game with the 10 consecutive K's was against the Padres in which he struck out a total of 18. He actually did enjoy playing bridge. That was what he was doing when Jerry Koosman had a locker room guy impersonate Howard Cosell on the radio in the early 70's and say Seaver had been traded to Houston for Doug Rader. At the time trading Tom was unimaginable. Little did they know...

Tenace and Seaver again met in the '73 Series. How do we get them together?:

1. Seaver and Keith Hernandez '83 Mets;
2. Hernandez and Gene Tenace '81 to '82 Cards.

Another All-Star. That's appropriate.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#79 - Gene Tenace

I have been picking up what seems to be some trends in this Topps set. For instance, this card is the fourth in a row of a west coast guy. Plus we have an A's guy which means the next card will be a Met. But this card belongs to Mr. Tenace, so let's concentrate on him. Or the card.

First of all, I like it. It is an action card taken when a pitcher is being yanked, given the other personnel on it. Second, it is an action shot that actually designates Gene as the correct subject of the card, unlike his action shot in '73 when he was called Joe Rudi. Also, Gene was a daring guy: he apparently wore no helmet while catching. And speaking of catching, this card is a bit deceptive because in '73 Gene spent by far most of his field time at first base. There he had a typical Tenace season: good D, quite good power, not a terribly high average but an OBA that pushed .400. Finally, it looks like he is holding a bag of rosin. It could have been a warm day, but I bet it had more to do with whomever was pitching. I think I have too much time on my hands.

One last segue before I get into Gene. I alluded to this on the Preston Gomez post and since Dick Williams is in the photo, now is as good as any a time to get into him a little bit. Williams was the manager for the A's during the '73 season. He quit right after the Series ended because he was tired of owner Charlie O's meddling, which came to a head during the whole Mike Andrews thing (more on that on the Series cards). When Williams tried to take on a new job - as manager of the Yankees - Finley would not let him out of his contract. Therefore, there was a shot he would be back. In the meantime, Al Dark was hired to manage the A's but I guess the situation was in too much turmoil by the time the Topps set went to press for them to issue an Oakland manager card.

Now back to Tenace. He was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the 20th round of the first draft in '65. Most of the reason he went so late was that he was from a tiny town in Ohio that didn't get on scouts' radar and so area players generally didn't get viewed until they played in regional tournaments, which Gene didn't do until his senior year. In this set, though, Larry Hisle and Al Oliver were also from the same neck of the woods so maybe the scouts should have spent more time there (that's a pretty good trio). Gene was an outfielder/pitcher in HS and initially in pro ball played the former position and every infield position but shortstop as well. And when he DID pitch, the results were pretty good: in the minors he went 0-1 with a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings. At the plate though it would take him a while to establish himself and it wasn't until '67 in A ball that his average got above Mendoza levels. In '68 he put up his first big offensive numbers at that level with a .283/21/71 line. That year was also his first behind the plate and his defense there was so good that it would be his primary position the next bunch of years. Then in '69 he went crazy in Double A with a .319/20/74 line in only 276 at bats. It was around this time that Gene also developed an affection for walks, posting a .438 OBA. He came up late in '69 and then, after another big but short Triple A season, made Oakland his home.

Tenace established himself the next three seasons as the primary backup to Dave Duncan behind the plate after Phil Roof got sent to Milwaukee. In '70 and '71, despite not too much plate time, he posted some good offense numbers and right away excellent OBA's. In '72 his playing time increased but his numbers all fell pretty hard though he then got a bunch of playing time in the post-season and had a rough go of it against Detroit: Playing second base (?!!) he dropped a ball that would have been a third out after which Detroit rallied; he then made up for it by singling home the winning run of the playoff. But he then cranked it against the Reds in the Series as his four homers and nine RBI's won him the mvp award. And the starting first baseman slot, the position at which he primarily played the next two seasons. After his first year as a starter in '73 went well, he would get on base the next two Series at a better than .400 clip. '74 saw his average tumble to .211 but his power remained and his AL-leading 110 walks kept his OBA high. In '75 he moved back to primarily being a catcher, which is ironic since he was named starting first baseman for that year's All-Star team in what was his only appearance in that game. That year his average rebounded and he topped out with 29 homers and 87 RBI's. After missing a little time to injuries in the '76 season - though otherwise his numbers were comparative to '75's - he left town in the big diaspora that hit Oakland hard as free agency began.

Tenace, along with teammate Rollie Fingers, was among the first big free agent signees and the two of them headed south to the Padres. In San Diego Gene continued switching between catcher and first. And he kept piling on the walks; his '77 season total of 125 led all of MLB. Gene generally posted lines that were slight discounts to his ones in Oakland - his line average was .237/17/60 - though that OBA killed at .403. While he got no post-season work for the Padres, following the '80 season he went to St. Louis in the big trade that brought the Padres Terry Kennedy. There he backed up Darrell Porter for two seasons, raised his OBA to .426 (though on only 253 at bats in his two seasons), and was again on a Series-winning team in '82. After that season he went to the Pirates where he did spot duty at first and was then done. For his career, Gene hit .241 with 201 homers, 674 RBIs and a .388 OBA. In the post-season he hit .158 with 14 RBI's and a .338 OBA in his 42 games. He was also an excellent fielder.

After his playing career ended, Tenace almost immediately began his coaching one, first with Houston and then with the Blue Jays, where old friend Cito Gaston put him in as hitting coach. With those guys Gene won two more Series rings in the early Nineties. He then went to St. Louis and in 2008 back to Toronto to reprise his role when Gaston did the same. He has gotten some serious props from current Blue Jays for helping with their swings. He has been subject to some serious debate over his HOF worthiness. He was pretty much dismissed on the ballots right away but advocates point out his OBA and defense numbers relative to his peers and they apparently make him a shoo-in. I'm on the fence; I'm a Munson guy.

This is a great card back, if only for that name. Just on that, Fury should be in the Hall. His birth name is actually Fiore Gino Tennaci - even better - and I guess Fury is the anglicized version. Lots of stuff about the '72 Series and this is the only instance I remember him being called "Steamboat." My one critique is with that last bullet: I assume it is a record for a seven game Series since Donn Clendenon posted a slugging average of 1.071 in five games in the '69 Series.

For the double connection we have:

1. Tenace and John D'Acquisto '77 to '80 Padres;
2. D'Acquisto managed by Charlie Fox on the '73 to '74 Giants.

For Fox as a player we have:

1. Tenace and Felipe Alou '70 As;
2. Alou and Whitey Lockman '58 Giants;
3. Lockman and Mel Ott '45 Giants;
4. Ott and Charlie Fox '42 Giants.

Now that's pretty good. 31 years in five guys.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

#78 - Charlie Fox/Giant Manager and Coaches

These cards are always hard to label. Do I use "Charlie Fox", the front of the card, "Giants Field Leaders", the back of the card, "Giants: Mgr./Coaches", the regular checklist name, or "Charlie Fox & Co'h's", the team checklist name? Sometimes these blog posts can be quite a semantic exercise.

For people of a certain age, Charlie Fox approached iconic status, since he was the only manager to take the Giants to post-season play for an interval of 25 years. And Charlie was a company man: he was nearing the end of an affiliation with the Giants that had run over 30 years. But '73 was no picnic. Despite a nice pickup record-wise from '72, the Giants did their annual June fade, his star pitcher had a teddy bear, the rest of the pitching wasn't so hot, and he got in a fight with the Dodger third base coach, a guy named Tommy Lasorda. He probably spent a bunch of the season longing for '71. Plus it wouldn't be great again to be a liberal - which I assume he was since his card leans to the left - until later in '74 when it really hit the fan.

Charlie was a lifelong Giants fan who grew up in the Bronx and was a mean American Legion ball catcher, signed with the team in '42, played three games in the majors, hitting .429, and went down to class D ball. Those three games turned out to be his whole major league playing career. He went to the Navy late that year where he worked the North Atlantic and came back to baseball in '46 about 35 pounds heavier. Those pounds really crimped his playing time so after a year of part-time catcher duty at class B he took on managing in the minors along with playing at the ripe old age of 25. His playing career lasted through '56 and he finished with a .279 average in over 3,000 minor league at bats. From '47 through '70 the only times he was not managing in the minors he was either scouting ('57 to '63) or coaching in the majors ('65 to '68). He got called up to manage the Giants in mid-season '70 and during his tenure that season had the best record in the NL West. That continued in '71 when he won the division crown and also won Manager of the Year. '72 was tough as both Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal got hurt and Bobby Bonds slumped after Willie Mays was traded to the Mets. '73 was the rebound year that ultimately failed and after a poor start in '74 Charlie was let go. He then moved to Montreal where he initially did admin work, managed in '76, and then was GM through '78. He then left Montreal for Chicago, again in an admin role, until in '83 he again did the transitional managerial stint. After that he was primarily a scout and coach, moving to the Yankees in '89, and then Houston in the early '90s. Charlie passed away in 2004 at age 82. For his managerial career he was 377-371 up top and 981-731 in the minors.

Joey Amalfitano was another guy with a long Giants affiliation, being signed by them in '54 as a bonus baby out of his junior year of Loyola after growing up in California. Any player signed as a bonus baby had to stay on the major league roster for two years or go through waivers, which meant that Joey got a full Series share that year even though he only had five at bats. After not playing very much again in '55 he went to the minors. He spent time at every level from A to Triple A over the next four seasons and generally hit well with not too much power while splitting time between second and third. He peaked in his '59 Triple A season, posting a .308/7/43 line. He then returned to the Giants - now in San Francisco - in '60 and for the next two seasons spent time all over the infield as a semi-regular, putting up a combined .265/3/50 line in just over 700 at bats. In '62 he went to Houston in the expansion draft, spent a year as the Colt .45 starter at second (hitting .237), and returned to the Giants the following season for Manny Mota where he hit only .176 in his backup role. He then got sold to the Cubs for whom he split time at second in '64 and then played out his career as a player/coach, finishing in '67. For his career he hit .244 in 643 games. He immediately started his coaching career with the Cubs, with whom he stayed through '71. The Giants followed, from '72 to '75, then the Padres ('76-'77), then the Cubs again. He managed the team for a bit in '79 and then from the second half of '80 through '81, although not terribly well (his record as manager was 66-116). After a year with the Reds he went to LA where he was the third base coach from '83 until '98. He has since done some special assignment work, mostly with the Giants.

Andy Gilbert had cups of coffee with the Red Sox in '42 and '46 sandwiched around time in the military for WW II. He was signed by the Sox in '37 out of semi-pro ball in PA and played pretty much every outfield and infield position except shortstop. That first year he was going great guns in D ball when he broke his neck mid-season sliding into second and missed the rest of the season. He returned the next year to post another big average at that level and generally hit well at the lower levels before a .296, 87 RBI year at Double A in '42 got him that short look in Boston. Then it was all Navy in WW II until '46. He was 31 when he came back that year so his future was pretty much written. After a couple decent Triple A seasons - one in '47 when he was traded to NY -  he began managing at the minor level in 1950. He continued playing a bit through the '59 season and put up a lifetime .290 average with 206 homers in the minors (.083 in his twelve MLB at bats). As a manager he taught Juan Marichal how to throw a slider and a change-up and was quite successful. By '72 he had won five league championships and from then until '75 he coached at the major league level. He then returned to manage in the minors, first for the Giants and then the Braves. He retired after the '82 season with a lifetime record of 2,009-1,899. He then coached at St. Vincent College and helped out in the Latrobe Little League, both in PA, until he passed away in '92 at age 78 from complications of Alzheimer's and respiratory disease.

Don McMahon actually could have had a player card in '73. Although already a pitching coach he was activated when the bullpen fell apart and pitched in 22 games, going 4-0 with six saves and a 1.48 ERA. He was 43. McMahon was another NY guy and was signed by the Boston Braves in 1950, also out of semi-pro ball where he played third base. Converted to a pitcher, he started his career well, going 20-9 his first year in D ball. Then after a couple games, Don missed the better part of two and a half seasons to Korea. He got back late in '53, had a couple middling seasons and then in '55 had a disappointing Triple A one (2-13 with a 5.01 ERA). The next year he was turned into a reliever, his numbers improved, and after a nice season in the Triple A pen in '57 came up to Milwaukee, just in time to make the Series roster. He pitched well at the MLB level right away and enjoyed his sole All-Star selection in '58. In '59 he led the league in games finished and saves. A tough '60 and a very good '61 followed and in early '62 he was sold to Houston and then his travels started. During the Sixties he went to the Indians, Red Sox, White Sox, and Tigers (another Series), all of for whom he pitched well. In '69 he landed at San Francisco and he stayed there the duration of his playing career (he actually pitched again in '74). He finished with a 90-68 record, a 2.96 ERA, and 153 saves. He has some nice career rankings including in hits per nine innings (19th all time). games finished (39th), and saves (75th). He became the pitching coach for the Giants in '72 and remained in that role through '75, then moved to the Twins ('76-'77), back to the Giants ('80-'82), and then Cleveland ('82-'85). From '78 to '80 he was a salesman for Rawlings. He was also a long-time football scout for the Raiders; he and owner Al Davis were high school buddies. In '85 he took a gig as a scout and batting practice pitcher for the Dodgers.In '87 he was performing that latter role prior to a game when he had a fatal heart attack. He was 57.

John McNamara was signed by the Cards in 1951 and got in about a year of C and B ball before he went into the service the following year. He returned in '55 and then more-or-less established himself as a light-hitting minor league catcher. His career average in the minors - he never made it to the majors - was .238 so his directional path if he wanted to stay in baseball was pretty clear. During that time he moved to the Giants, the Phillies, and finally the A's for whom he began managing in the minors in '59. He played through '64 and continued to manage in the KC system through '67 and by then was a league champ three times. He came up to coach for Oakland in '68 and '69 and was made manager the tail end of the latter season. In '70 he had a great year, again finishing second to the Twins, and that sparked his firing by owner Charlie O. He moved to coach the Giants from '71 to '73. Then came managerial stints with the Padres ('74-'77), Reds ('79 -'82), Angels ('83-'84), Red Sox ('85-'88), Indians ('90-'91), and back in California ('96). He was named Manager of the Year in '86 and then had the heart-breaking Series loss to the Mets. He ended his managerial career with an MLB record of 1,160-1,233 and in the minors of 647-631 and is one of a handful of guys to pilot six major league franchises.

All these guys have SABR bios.

I am going to do the double link again, first for Fox as manager:

1. Fox and Mike Caldwell '74 Giants;
2. Caldwell and Rich Troedson '73 Padres.

Now for Fox as a player:

1. Fox and Mel Ott '42 Giants;
2. Ott and Whitey Lockman '45 to '46 Giants;
3. Lockman and Orlando Cepeda '58 Giants;
4. Cepeda and Tony Gonzalez '69 - '70 Braves;
5. Gonzalez and Cito Gaston '69 Padres;
6. Gaston and Rich Troedson '73 Padres.

Now that's a record.

Monday, January 3, 2011

#77 - Rich Troedson

Another Padre/ Washington guy! I like these posts because they force me to be creative with the narrative. Especially this one, since this guy only hung out for just over a season. One observation I have - and I am sure that it is a nuance of my cards specifically - is that Rich appears much tanner on his San Diego card than on his Washington one, which is of course appropriate.

Rich Troedson was a stud pitcher at Santa Clara University and before that at Camden HS in San Jose. From Camden he was picked by Oakland in '68 but Rich opted for school. While at Santa Clara he was a four time all-conference player while winning 40 games out of his 58 starts and 445 strikeouts in his 437 innings - all still school records - and a 2.10 ERA. He was a first rounder by Houston in '71 - he passed again - and in '72 was the WCC (West Coast Conference) player of the year. During his SCU time he also played summer ball in Alaska with major leaguers to be Brent Strom, Steve Dunning, Jim Barr, Pete Broberg, and Dave Kingman. San Diego made him a first rounder again in '72 and this time he signed. He pitched well in A ball that year - more than a K an inning - and after a good spring was on the opening day roster for the Padres in '73.

Troedson would both start and relieve for San Diego during the '73 season. While his numbers did not get him on the Topps rookie team, they did land him on the Baseball Digest one. In '74 he sort of blew up to start the season - 1-1 with a save but a 9.00 ERA in 18 innings - and was sent down to Triple A Hawaii in May. There he settled into the rotation but the ERA was still a bit toppy. So in '75 Rich moved to double A and although he had an OK year there - 8-9 with a 3.96 ERA, he didn't advance. A telling stat that season was that his big K totals were done: only 24 in 134 innings that year. In '76 he threw for Monterrey in the Mexican League in what was his final season as a player. For his career Rich went 8-10 with a 4.74 ERA, two complete games, and two saves. In the minors he was 21-21 with a 3.86 ERA. This is his first and last card.

Shortly after playing Troedson took over managing a sporting goods store for about ten years. Beginning in '88 or so he began a long career in real estate banking and judging by some information available online he is still at it near his hometown.

The records mentioned in the first star bullet include the four named above. He had some nice company on that '70 team including Mike Caldwell, Burt Hooton, Johnny Grubb, and John Wathan. The US came in second to Cuba in the tournament. Dave Roberts - the third baseman one - was also on a bunch of Troedson's teams including the '70 one and the Alaska ones. And the Padres of course. I do not know if his graduate pursuits were in finance but given his subsequent career it would make sense.

A one-year NL guy! This may be tough:

1. Troedson and Johnny Grubb '73 to '74 Padres;
2. Grubb and Mickey Rivers '79 to '82 Rangers.

I guess not.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

#76 - Mickey Rivers

This is the first post that I have been somewhat intimidated by because Mick here was one of the guys that revitalized the Yankees and if you were around in the late 60s and early 70s for those guys, then he is due a certain amount of reverence. And his performance in '73 sure built a nice foundation for that. After a big Triple A year, Mick came up top in September to take over center field and continued his hitting magic the rest of the way. Between the two teams he got nearly 800 plate appearances. That said, this is the first Rivers card that I think captures his public personality: the slow-moving, fast-running, good-fielding, weak-armed, horse-loving, malaprop-inventing center fielder that shared a name with a famous guy he probably never heard of. In fact he looks like he might be thinking about the answer he would give someone asking about his expectations for the coming season: "Hit .300, score 100 runs, and stay injury-prone."

Mick the Quick Rivers was drafted - and signed - by the Braves out of Miami-Dade Community College in the summer of '69. He had previously been drafted by the White Sox, Mets, and Senators the previous 18 months but shot them all down for school where he hit a combined .362 his two seasons. After a half season in the Rookie League in which he hit .307 he was sent to the Angels for Hoyt Wilhelm, the knuckleballing reliever. For the next four seasons, he hit no less than .322 in the minors, piling up hits, triples, and runs. He lost some time in '72 to military reserve duty and also popped up to the majors each season. While his speed was apparent, his outfield inadequacies and problems with righty curveballers - he was a lefty - kept him from garnering a full-time position. That finally got fixed in September of '73.

Rivers joined the starting Angel lineup full-time in '74 and led the AL in triples that season. In '75 he again led the league in three-baggers as well as with 70 stolen bases, which was the biggest seasonal total in the AL since Ty Cobb played. Both years he hit in the mid-.280s. He then went to NY with pitcher Ed Figueroa for Bobby Bonds. Mick replaced Bonds in center, providing less power but also way less strikeouts. His first three seasons there NY won three pennants. '76 and '77 were his best seasons: a .312 average, 95 runs, his only All-Star appearance, and third place in MVP voting in '76; a .326 average, 12 homers, 69 RBIs, and 11th place in MVP voting in '77. The one consistent knock on Mick was that he didn't walk - he didn't strike out that much either - and in '77 he was replaced at the top of the lineup by Willie Randolph, who had a much higher OBA. In '78 Mick's average took a hit, the Yanks were way out of the race by mid-summer, and his enjoyment of the racetrack got to be an issue. But the Yanks had the big comeback as  his average revived, the team won another Series, and besides, "[he] and Reggie and George were two of a kind." In '79 Mick's average recovered to close to .300 but the team's poor performance and continued issues with the track forced the Yanks to trade him to a more benign place, that being - ironically - Texas. He went to the Rangers for, primarily, Oscar Gamble. There he pulled his average up 13 points and the next year set a club record for hits with 210 while hitting .333, his highest average in the majors. He got hurt in '82 and spent '83 and '84 as a semi-regular. Although he hit .300 in '84 it was his last season. For his career, Mick hit .295 with 267 stolen bases. In the post season he hit .308 in 29 games. And though he was constantly criticized for his defense. Mick's speed allowed him to reside in the top 75 all-time in all major defensive categories in center. And there were lots of great quotes. One more (when explaining how to play center field to a group of kids): "the first thing you want to do is wet your finger, hold it up, and check the windshield factor."

Sparky Lyle was not a fan of Mick in his book "The Bronx Zoo" and in it Rivers comes across as a bit of a malcontent. I also read somewhere that when he played center field at Yankee Stadium, he would always ask the guys in the bullpen how a horse he had bet on did in a race. If it won, he would be a demon in the field; if it lost, he would not hustle at all. Once the bullpen guys realized that, they always told him his horse won. But all that just made him more interesting.

After baseball, Mick worked some with horses - of course - played Senior baseball, and did some local work in the parks and with kids back in FLA to which he relocated. He has an "official" website here that showcases his bio and a bunch of his quotes. He also has recently started working with the Yanks again as a spring training coach and there are a couple interviews from '09 on the web. He looks good.

John Milton was of course the guy that wrote "Paradise Lost." Rivers was not named for him but for some relatives. I had not known that he ever signed with his real first name before I saw it on this card. The triple A numbers make you wonder why he wasn't given more of a shot in the majors: back then the Angels weren't exactly awash in All-Stars out there. That second star bullet was slower by a second to the record. If I remember correctly, I think Ken Griffey Sr. ultimately broke it.

We have had quite a run of AL cards now so this is easy:

1. Rivers and Joe Lahoud '74 and '75 Angels;
2. Lahoud and Jim Colborn '72 to '73 Brewers.

Happy to throw an ex-Red Sox in there since they have been woefully under-represented so far in this set.