Friday, July 29, 2011

#215 - Al Kaline

This is the final regular card of Al Kaline's career. He would get a feature card in the '75 set as a tribute to his joining the 3,000 hit club, but there would be no more stats for Al. Here he gets an action shot in what may be Comiskey as he gets his game face on at first base.Al missed quite a it of time to injury during his career so that he got to that magic 3,000 number is very impressive. '73 was one of those seasons as between his two DL stints he missed almost two months. Ironically the only two other seasons he missed as much time were '68 and '72, both post-season years for Detroit during Al's run. But being the gamer he was, he would make up for those lost games in spades with his series stats. And he did all that on only one good foot.

Al Kaline came out of a Baltimore high school right to the major leagues, signed as a bonus baby by the Tigers in '53 for $35,000. Al hit well over .400 during his HS career despite the fact that a childhood condition and corrective surgery forced him to run on the side of his left foot, which would continue through his MLB days. Unlike many of those big bucks signees Al never played a game in the minors and by '54 was starting in the Detroit outfield. In '55 he became the youngest player ever to win a league batting title - he was 20 - by hitting .340 and leading the league with 200 hits and in total bases. He came in second that year to Yogi Berra in MVP voting. In '56 he had his best power season and in '57 he won the first of what would be ten career Gold Gloves. The Tigers weren't too hot of a team in the Fifties and though Al hit well, he would only cross the 100 RBI mark one more time. After very good seasons in '58 and '59 he had a protracted slump in '60. Also, by then Detroit had acquired Rock Colavito and Al decided he'd go less for the big power numbers and be more of an on base guy. A nice bounce followed in a '61 in which AL led MLB with his doubles total and won AL Comeback Player of the Year. '62 looked like it was shaping up to be his best power year ever if he didn't miss so much time to injury. Then came his big '63 in which he again finished second in MVP voting followed by two seasons impacted by injury, although in '64 he spent zero DL time. Two good years followed in '66 and '67 with Al missing a month the second year with a broken hand.

In '68 Detroit finally made it to the post-season, but for a large part of that year the Tigers got there without Kaline, who lost over two months to a broken wrist. Al was able to come back in time for the pennant run but by then Detroit was set in the outfield with Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, and Jim Northrup. To get Al back in the Series lineup manager Mayo Smith moved Stanley to shortstop for the Series, benching regular Ray Oyler and it worked like a charm as Detroit won in seven. Al hit .389 for the Series with eight RBIs. Al would then have three solid seasons and in '71 returned to the All-Star game - he'd been in every one from '55 to '67 - and in '72 he got some MVP votes as the aged Tigers made the playoffs, though he again missed some time. In '74 Al upped his at bats by being the team's exclusive DH in getting his 3,000th hit; he would finish with 3,007. He also made his last All-Star team. For his career he hit .297 with 399 homers, 1,583 RBIs, and a .376 OBA. In the post-season he hit .333 with three homers and nine RBIs in 12 games. Defensively he was a star as well as he resides in the top ten all-time for putouts from right field and the top 25 for assists and double plays. He was elected to the Hall in '80, his first year of eligibility.

Kaline stayed with the Tigers after his playing career ended. From '75 to 2003 he was the team's color guy in the broadcasting booth. Since then he has been an admin guy for the team.

Al has an interesting name, when you resort to Google to do your research like I do. Along with some posts on Al you get lots of stuff about batteries. Al has a great card back except that '73 was his first year of lifetime sub-.300 career average since his rookie year. He did that coaching work while he was injured. During his baseball career Al partnered with Gordie Howe to run an auto supply group. He has a SABR bio.

A lot of Al's contemporaries stuck around forever so this may be tough:

1. Kaline and Tony Taylor '71 to '73 Tigers;
2. Taylor and Larry Bowa '70 Phillies;
3. Bowa and Billy Grabarkewitz '73 to '74 Phillies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

#214 - Billy Grabarkewitz

Now this is a smile. Sandwiched between Billy G's two horribly airbrushed jobs we get a happy Grabs - I am obviously avoiding spelling the last name - at Shea. This gap-toothed smile would precede that of other future NY luminaries like David Letterman and Sandra Bernhard. Billy began '73 as an Angel but while in a new league Grabs really couldn't get things going for the Angels, which was too bad because shortstop was pretty much up for grabs (no pun intended). He stayed in California as a backup through August and then went to Philadelphia in a trade that would eventually bring Denny Doyle out west. For Philly he again did backup work - for the guy for whom he'd been traded - but at least boosted his average 100 points. I believe this is the first card in which we get to see an airplane taking off in the background. Given the smog-ridden day evident in the background, I am sure the people on that plane were happy to be going anywhere.

Breaking the string of recent posts, Billy Grabarkewitz was a born and bred Texas kid who wouldn't get to Cali until he was an adult. A great athlete, Billy was initially a quarterback in high school with a big gun but at only about 5'6" he couldn't see over his linemen's heads. His last two years he moved to baseball which he then continued in college, first at Southwest Texas State in '65 and then St. Mary's in '66 (Danny Heep also played at the latter school). He was drafted by the Dodgers out of St. Mary's. He began well enough that season and then started cranking in '67 in A ball, hitting .289 while playing shortstop. He could hit for power and was a speedster, stealing 90 bases his first three seasons in the minors. He struck out a ton but also walked a bunch and would leave behind an OBA of over .420 in the minors. In '68 he moved up to Double A and was hitting over .300 with 31 stolen bases through half the season when he was involved in a nasty collision with catcher Hal King. It left Billy with a broken ankle that was so bad it was a week before it could even be set. Rehab was long and lasted into the next season at Triple A where he moved back to second with reduced mobility. And the huge stolen base totals were now done.

In 1970, Grabarkewitz came up to play third base for LA. He essentially replaced prior-year rookie Bill Sudakis who moved to catcher. This Billy took off from the start and by mid-season was hitting over .300 with 50 RBIs. LA went with a big write-in campaign to get Billy in the All-Star game which was hindered in part by fans' inability to spell his name - most just wrote in "Billy G." It worked as Gil Hodges named him a reserve and Billy got a key hit in the 12th inning rally that wrecked Ray Fosse. While his production tailed off the rest of the season, he still led the team in homers and OBA (.399) and finished second in RBI's. But early in '71 he hurt his shoulder and when he returned his spot was covered by Dick Allen and new youngsters Bobby Valentine and Steve Garvey. Plus Billy's hitting never got on track so that by the time he was more-or-less healthy in '72 he was relegated to backup duty as his average continued to plummet. The following winter he would be part of the big trade with California that brought Andy Messersmith to LA and sent Frank Robinson to the Angels.

Grabarkewitz started slowly in '74, barely playing in an infield now replete with starters who rarely sat. In July Billy was sold to the Cubs as one of a bunch of second basemen to take over in the wake of the Vic Harris failure. He would hit OK in that role - .248 with a .358 OBA - but still strike out a bunch and with the '75 acquisition of Manny Trillo be released before spring training was over. He hooked up with Oakland for whom he played primarily all over the infield for their Triple A Tucson club, hitting .279 with an almost .400 OBA and cutting down on the K's. He got in a couple games up top but that December was released, ending his time in baseball. Billy finished with a .236 average and a .351 OBA.

After baseball Grabarkewitz returned to Texas where among other things he founded Southwest Alliance Marketing, which may or may not be involved in local real estate and apparently worked in insurance. He also joined a group called the Pro Players Foundation that works to bring sports to underprivileged kids.

As noted in the star bullets and the cartoon Billy had great base-running skills and at one point some serious wheels. In '67 he also hit 24 homers and put up a .433 OBA in his last season before being hurt. Billy had a rep as a pretty witty guy and when the Dodgers finally put player names on uniforms in '72 he opined that "with the expense of putting my name on my uniform, there's no way the Dodgers will trade me."

While we have had a good run of west coast guys recently, let's use the Midwest to hook these two up:

1. Grabarkewitz and Rick Reuschel '74 Cubs;
2. Reuschel and Dave Rader '78 Cubs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#213 - Dave Rader

Dave Rader gets to demonstrate his catcher's crouch for the second year in a row, this time next to the batting cage at Candlestick. On his '73 card he had an action shot. Dave would enjoy a pretty decent '73. Fresh off his big rookie year - see below - his average dropped 30 points but his OBA went up by 20 points. Dave seems small here but I could be mistaken. More on that on the back of the card commentary. There are a couple other Giants in the background. The one at the plate looks freakishly thin and tall and may be missing a head. I cannot tell who either he or the guy reclining on deck is, but they seem at ease.

Dave Rader is yet another future player who migrated to California as a kid, he from Oklahoma. Dave was a standout at both football and baseball and was drafted in the first round by the Giants in '67 out of high school in Berkely. He started off in Rookie ball hitting .301 though his specialty would be defense. By '71 he was hitting .314 in Triple A and demonstrating some decent power, punching 20 doubles in under 300 at bats. Up top incumbent catcher Dick Dietz had a big season in '70 but then got hit hard by being player rep - lovely how the owners used to crucify those guys back then - so by '72 there was room for Dave and Dietz would be sent to LA. Dave had a nice year, batting .259 and continuing to play well behind the plate. He won the TSN Rookie Player of the Year and came in second in NL ROY voting to Jon Matlack. But he didn't make anyone's rookie team because '72 was also the year a certain Boston catcher made his debut. He was a pretty good contact hitter and would only strike out about once every 15 at bats during his career. In '74 and '75 he would hit .291 each season but lost playing time, first to Ken Rudolph, and then to '75 rookie Marc Hill. In '76 he hit .263 but was by now splitting time with Hill. All three seasons his OBA would be around the .345 mark.

In '77 Rader was traded to the Cards with Mike Caldwell and John D'Acquisto for Willie Crawford, John Curtis, and Vic Harris to be Ted Simmons' backup. He again hit .263 - he seemed to like the paired averages thing - but was on the road again after the season, this time to the Cubs, with Hector Cruz for Steve Swisher and Jerry Morales. In Chicago he won the starting gig but unfortunately only hit .203 and then was heading yet farther east, this time to Philly with Manny Trillo and Greg Gross for Ted Sizemore, Barry Foote, Jerry Martin, and some other guys. At least he wasn't lonely during his many moves. In Philly he assumed Foote's role as backup to Bob Boone, not playing too much and hitting .204 (pretty close). Finally, after the '79 season he was sent to Boston - about as far east as he could get - for Stan Papi to back up Mr. Fisk. In his final season Dave hit .328. While he was signed in '81 to a free agent contract by the Angels, he wouldn't play for them. Dave finished with a .257 average with 30 homers and 235 RBI's.

Chasing down Rader's life since baseball has been tough; I've got nothing.

Dave gets a star bullet for his defense and a slice-of-life type cartoon. Money-wise, he also helped pay for pitcher Ron Bryant's huge teddy bear which was apparently his inspiration in winning 24 in '73. What some catchers won't do to help out their aces. What throws me are his personal stats: 6'2" and 210 pounds. Everywhere else Dave is listed at under six feet and about 165 pounds so either he had a one-year experiment with 'roids or Topps got his measurements messed up. According to his Topps card in '75 Dave had an unassisted DP in April '73 in which he sprinted to second base to get the second out. Now that would be a great YouTube moment.

Dave gets across the bay like so:

1. Rader and Marty Perez '76 Giants;
2. Perez and Billy North - again - '77 A's;
3. North and Rollie Fingers '73 to '76 A's.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

#212 - Rollie Fingers

That last post was a killer. I am so happy to just be posting on one guy and this one is a good one. Rollie Fingers is bearing down in what has to be a playoff game given the attendance. Rollie has his game face on and looks like he's throwing heat. Besides a fastball he had an awfully good slider. He also threw a curve and a changeup, but the first two were his money pitches. In '73 Rollie lowered his ERA a ton, got 22 saves and his first All-Star gig, and appeared in nine games after the season, killing a few NY rallies in the Series.

Rollie Fingers was born in Ohio and relocated to Cali as a kid. He was a high school baseball and basketball star like a lot of the taller guys in this set. He was signed by Kansas City late in '64 and spent the next four seasons - '65 through '68 - in Single and Double A as a starter where he had awfully nice stats: a 35-30 record with a 2.78 ERA. After an inning in '68 up top he came up for good in '69 and would repeat the same performance the next couple seasons: start out in the rotation and end up in the bullpen. In '71 he pitched a bunch of innings in a game against the Yankees in relief of Blue Moon Odom, did well, and was on the spot named the team closer by then manager Dick Williams. It would be a good move as Rollie would spend the next decade-plus as one of baseballs premier relievers and certainly the most consistently good one. After averaging just over ten saves a season his first three full years, he would put up 21 in '72 and then throw in nine post-season games as the A's won their first Series since the '30's. In '74 his saves ticked back under 20 but Rollie led the league in games and again had an excellent post-season, appearing in six games. In '75 he won ten, saved 24, again led the AL in games, and despite a not-great playoff vs Boston, came in third in Cy Young voting. '76 was more of the same with a twist. Looking to avoid the loss of pretty much his entire team, owner Charlie O Finley engineered a sale of Rollie at the trading deadline to the Red Sox. It was nullified by Bowie Kuhn "for the good of baseball" and Rollie returned to have probably his best Oakland season: 13 wins, 20 saves, and a 2.47 ERA. At the end of the season he left anyway, going to the Padres as a free agent.

The next two seasons for San Diego were a mixed blessing for Fingers. While he was far away from being with a winner, he ramped up his saves totals huge, getting 35 and 37 his first two seasons while leading the NL both years. '79 would be a bummer year as Rollie fought some nagging injuries, threw 25 fewer innings, and only saved 13. He bounced back in '80, winning 11 with 23 saves and a 2.80 ERA. He also broke Hoyt Wilhelm's then career record for saves during the season. It was his last year with San Diego as he went to the Cards in a big swap - 11 bodies - that saw fellow free agent signee Gene Tenace depart as well.

Right after St. Louis got Fingers they swapped him in another big trade to Milwaukee. '81 would be a the big strike year, but not for Rollie. He would go 6-3 in 47 games, finish 41 of them, grab 28 saves, post a 1.04 ERA, and return to the All-Star game for the first time in three seasons. He also returned to the playoffs, winning one game in a losing cause against the Yankees. For all that he won not only the Cy but the AL MVP as well, becoming the first reliever to pull off that double. Rollie continued rolling in '82, picking up 29 saves by the end of August. He then pulled a muscle in his forearm and was out the rest of the season - and all of '83 - including the Series which the Brewers lost in seven. Tendonitis compounded his arm problems in '83 and pretty much wrecked his career thereafter. Rollie was able to return in '84, save 23, and post a 1.96 ERA in limited use. But '85 was a big downtick and he was released at the end of the season. He finished with a record of 114-118, a 2.90 ERA, four complete games, two shutouts, and 341 saves, a record that would not be broken until '92 by Jeff Reardon. Ironically that was the same year Rollie was elected to the Hall. In the post-season he was 4-4 with a 2.35 ERA and nine saves in 30 games.

Following his career Fingers would work for a couple businesses on the west coast, but his passion was golf, which he played as both an amateur and a professional, on a celebrity golf tour. He has done work in commercials, appearances, and speaking engagements. He just did a commercial for Pepsi with a bunch of other former big leaguers. It is on YouTube.

Rollie has excellent star bullets. In '74 he won Series MVP. Neither his brother nor his dad ever made it to the majors. His mustache was obviously a big deal. When Reggie showed up unshaven to spring training in '72 Charlie O decided that since he couldn't get Reggie to shave he would have a contest to see who on his team could grow the best mustache. Rollie went all out with the handlebar and the wax and won the top prize of $300. That was a year's worth of meal money back then.

We get from Rollie to the '73 Cubs pretty quickly:

1. Fingers and Billy Williams '75 to '76 A's;
2. Williams was on the '73 Cubs.

Friday, July 22, 2011

#211 - Chicago Cubs/ Cubs Team Records

Ah, another floating heads Cubs team card. I don't know why the Cubbies almost always did this. I would have thought that the ivy wall would have made a great backdrop for a photo. In '75 the Cubs actually had a real team photo; just to keep things aligned with the universe the White Sox went with the unattached heads.

So what kind of season did the Cubs have in '73. Not one terribly different from other recent seasons. Whitey Lockman had replaced Leo Durocher a little past halfway through the '72 season and the team's reaction was not terribly dissimilar to that of the '78 Yankees when Bob Lemon replaced Billy Martin. Lockman's laid back style helped revive the team to go 13 games over .500 and second place in the division. In '73 the Cubs were looking to build on that momentum and they got off to a pretty good start. The veterans were hitting, notably Billy Williams who continued his '72 surge; Ron Santo who kicked the year off with a .349 average; and Glenn Beckert who did so with a .325 average and a 26-game hitting streak. They got help from young pitchers Rick Reuschel and Burt Hooton, who both started the year well. At the end of June, after spending virtually the whole season in first, they were up by seven games. But things cooled off after the All-Star break as they went into a 6-17 swoon, the vets aged fast, first base became a shambles, and the pitching sputtered (even Fergie Jenkins had a losing season). The Cubbies finished with a 77-84 record, dismantled their storied infield, and would not compete again until '77.

On the checklist front there are a lot of pitchers, mostly young guys since Fergie had been traded. Reuschel back then signed his name Ricky, which seems comically youthful given his later longevity. Almost all the veteran starters are represented except Beckert who went to San Diego. '74 would be a transitional year for Chicago and while the outfield would be more-or-less preserved, outside of Kessinger the infield and catcher would be completely different.

A lot of these guys are old-timers so let's go:

Billy Herman was a Hall of Fame second baseman. Out of Indiana, he was playing in a local league when he was signed to a minor league contract in '28 by Louisville owner William Neal. After a couple seasons in the lower minors he moved up to Double A Louisville by the end of '29 and played there the next two seasons. He was then signed by the Cubs in '31 and pulled up right away to spell Rogers Hornsby at second. By the end of that season he was the team's starter and he would go on to fill that role for the Cubs the next nine seasons. '35 was his best offensive season for Chicago as he led the league in hits with 227, doubles, and sacrifice hits with 24. While with the Cubs he was a seven-time All-Star and a defensive leader as well as an excellent hit-and-run guy. Early in '41 he was traded to the Dodgers for whom he was an All-Star for three more seasons. In '43 he got his only 100-RBI season (on just two homers). In '44 and '45 he enlisted and played service ball in the Pacific. He returned to the Dodgers in '46, was traded to the Braves halfway through the season, and finished things up with Pittsburgh in '47. In all he hit .304 with a .367 OBA, 2,345 hits, and 839 RBIs. He hit .242 in 18 post-season games and still has the record for putouts in a season at second. While with the Pirates he began his managing and coaching career which also saw him in the Giants organization, with the Dodgers, the Red Sox, the Angels and the Padres, his last gig in the late '70s before retiring. Billy went 189-274 as an MLB manager and 129-126 in the minors. He was elected to the Hall in '75 and passed away in '92 at age 83.

Rogers Hornsby was another HOF second baseman and has an excellent and informative Wiki page linked to here. He played minor league ball for two seasons before being purchased by the Cards in '15. Initially a shortstop he put up excellent offensive numbers for the rest of the teens and then exploded in the '20's. During that decade Hornsby would average .382 with 208 hits, 120 runs, 40 doubles, 12 triples, 25 homers and 115 RBIs, along with an amazing .444 OBA. During that time he won two MVPs, had two triple crown seasons, hit above .400 three times, and won seven batting titles, including six consecutively. He stayed with the Cards through '26, went to the Giants after a contract dispute for '27, to the Braves for '28, and the Cubs in '29. Along with the stats on the card he had 47 doubles, 39 homers, and 149 RBIs that season, his final great one. He would injure his ankle in '30, recover to post a nice '31, and then move around a bit the next six seasons as a player/manager which he'd also done as early as '25. He finished things up with the Browns in '37 and had a lifetime .358 average with 301 homers, 2,930 hits, and 1,535 RBIs, along with a .434 OBA. He was elected to the Hall in '42. Hornsby would manage and coach most seasons over the next 24 years in Mexico, the minors - both franchised and independent - and the majors where his record was 701-812 including a Series winner with the '26 Cards. In the minors he was 465-401 as a manager. He was with the Mets when he passed away of a heart attack in '63 at age 66.

Earl "Sparky" Adams was yet another - primarily - second baseman who began his career in the minors in 1919 when he was already 24 and spent the next three seasons there as a great offensive shortstop, the last for the Cubs' Single A Wichita Falls club. He was a little guy - most "Sparky's" are - going only 5'5". In '23 in Chicago he moved between shortstop and the outfield and in '24 between short and second before he settled in as the Cubs' regular second baseman the next three seasons, all of which he led the league in at bats. Following the '27 season he became the Jim Fregosi of his time by being sent to the Pirates for Kiki Cuyler, who would go on to have a bunch of wonderful years for Chicago. After a decent '28 in which he moved around the infield, Sparky was a utility guy in '29 and was then sold to the Cards. For St. Louis he experienced a revival at age 35, moving to third, and hitting a career-best .314. The next season he led the league in doubles with 46. Both seasons he played in the Series, winning it in '31. After being hurt in '32 he again became a utility guy and early in the '33 season he was sent to the Reds for, among others, Leo Durocher. He finished out his career starting a year-plus at third base for Cincinnati. After a comeback attempt in the minors in '35 - he was 40 - he was done in baseball. For his career he hit .286 with almost 1,600 hits and an OBA of .343. He then returned to PA where he owned and ran a service station until he retired. He passed away at age 94 in 1989.

Frank Schulte was an upstate NY kid who played in the local minor leagues until discovered by the Cubs and signed in 1904. He would then be an outfield starter for the Cubs from '05 midway through the '16 season. He led the league in triples, with 13, in '06, and homers, with 10 in 1910. His biggest season by far was in 1911, when he also had 21 homers, 30 doubles, 105 runs, 107 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases, along with a .300 average to win NL MVP. He was the first player in the 20-20-20-20 club (20 doubles, triples, homers, and stolen bases). He had also by that time participated in four World Series for the Cubs, winning two, and posting a .321 average in 21 games. In '16 he was traded to the Pirates. He moved to Philly in '17 and finished things up with Washington in '18. Lifetime he hit .270 with 92 homers, 792 RBIs, and 124 triples. He then put in some more time for upstate minor league teams, finishing at Oakland in the PCL in '22 when he was 39. He apparently became paralyzed in 1930 and passed away in '49 at age 67. There is a bio of him by the SABR guys here.

Vic Saier came from the local leagues of Michigan, where he grew up, to the Cubs in 1911. In one season of D ball at Lansing in 1910 he had hit .339. He was the club's first regular first baseman after Frank Chance, who was initially Saier's manager. He was building a great early career and his best season was '13 when he also had 14 homers, 92 RBIs, and hit .289. After an off year in '14, in '15 he was coasting when he injured his leg sliding home. That injury pretty much killed his career as his stats fell pretty hard the rest of the season and into '16. Early in the '17 season he broke his leg, missing the rest of the year. In '18 he didn't play to fulfill wartime commitments. Prior to the '19 season he was sold to the Pirates for whom he played a partial season before quitting. He finished with a .263 average with 55 homers and 61 triples in 865 games. After his career ended he returned to Michigan where he managed some local independent clubs. He also has a detailed SABR bio linked to here. He passed away in '67 at age 76.

Hack Wilson came out of the coal mining towns of PA and started playing ball shortly after he dropped out of sixth grade to work. By '21 he was playing D ball in West Virginia, and he would rip the ball with pretty good power as he worked his way to B Ball in '23. There he was scouted by the Giants who bought him that September and threw him in a couple games where he had to wear manager John McGraw's uniform because of his size - only 5'6" but 190 pounds. After a season of being a semi-regular in the outfield in '24 in which he hit .295, Hack had a not-great Series and in '25 slumped pretty hard, spending time in both NY and the minors. He was also establishing himself as a hard partyer and was left unprotected on the roster; the Cubs snapped him up. In the next five seasons Hack would crank it in Chicago. He led the league in homers four times, RBIs twice, and walks twice as the Cubs' regular center fielder. In '29 he returned to the post-season and hit .471 but also made two big errors leading to ten runs by the A's and a loss in the Series. He came back with his huge '30 season in which he also hit .356 with a .454 OBA. In '31 Hornsby was named manager and he and Hack didn't hit it off which, combined with a sharp reduction in stats, led to Wilson being sent to the Cards who almost immediately flipped him to the Dodgers. He put up a nice '32 season - .297 with 23 homers and 123 RBIs - but then continued his spiral downward in '33. In mid '34 he was traded to the Phillies and finished out his career there. He hit .307 lifetime with 244 homers, 1,063 ribbies, and a .395 OBA in 12 seasons. He made a series of bad investments after ball, managed a basketball team, and had a series of jobs before falling in his home in '48. He passed away from complications from the fall at only 48. He, too, has a very informative Wiki page.

This is a huge post. Here are the pitchers.

Ted Abernathy was a big - 6'4" and 215 lbs - reliever out of North Carolina. He was signed by the old Senators in '52 and won 20 with a 1.69 ERA that season in D ball. After a nice start in AA the next season he went to the military for the remainder of the year and all of '54. When he returned in '55 he went to DC where he would spend significant time over the next three seasons as a starter and reliever without very good numbers (8-22 with an ERA above 6.00). He returned to AA ball for a poor '58 and then after a crappy start in '59 hurt his shoulder and required surgery. Due to scarring he then adopted a submarine-style delivery to compensate which completely revived his career, now strictly in relief. Over the next three-plus seasons he did the rehab route at various levels in the minors and put up excellent stats: 17-11 with a 2.52 ERA. By then he had also traveled to Cleveland with whom he came back up in '63 and had a nice season. After a step back in '64, Ted was sold to the Cubs. For them in '65 he became the first reliever to post over 30 saves and he led the NL in games and saves. After a poor start in '66 he went to the Braves and following that season to the Reds in the Rule 5 draft. For Cincy he had two excellent seasons, both years leading the NL in games and once in saves. In '69 he returned to the Cubs, then went to the Cards, and finally in '70 to KC where he settled the rest of his career. He finished up there in '72 recording a lifetime record of 63-69 with a 3.46 ERA, seven complete games, two shutouts, and 148 saves. He twice won Fireman of the Year. After playing he returned to NC where he worked in building management and landscaping. He passed away in 2004 at age 71 from complications of Alzheimer's.

Jack Taylor was an excellent turn-of the 20th century pitcher who grew up in Ohio and was covered on the Card's team post. In '02 he pitched 34 complete games with a 1.29 ERA for the Cubs so those numbers should be represented for the two stats on the back of this card.

Grover Cleveland Alexander was one of the game's best all-time pitchers. He grew up in Nebraska and was pitching in the minors by his late teens. Twice during his minor league career he was beaned, at least one of which either caused or worsened his epilepsy. He recovered by 1909 when he won 15 and the next year was drafted by the Phillies after winning 29. In '11 he came up and won 28 to lead the NL. He also led in complete games and shutouts. He would stay with the Phillies through '17 and during that time would have as good a run as any pitcher: 190-88 with a 2.49 ERA, leading the NL in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts five times, ERA twice, and twice winning the pitching Triple Crown. He led the team to the '15 Series, in which he pitched excellently, although they lost to Boston. He was also a big drinker and due to his seizures his drinking was viewed as more affecting than it may have been. He was traded to the Cubs before the '18 season and missed most of it for WW I duty in Europe. There he got hit with both mustard gas and shrapnel, injuring his hearing and worsening his epilepsy. He returned to lead the NL in ERA and shutouts in '19 and then won 27 as part of another Triple Crown in '20. While he would post another 20-win year for the Cubs his best days were behind him. In '26 he went to the Cards in a mid-year deal - he was 39 - and both started and relieved down the stretch. He then delivered an amazing Series, shutting down the Yankees in two starts and perhaps the best Series relief effort ever in the seventh game. He would win 21 in '27 and then play out his career for the Cards and back in Philadelphia. He finished with a record of 373-208 with an ERA of 2.56, 436 complete games, 90 shutouts, and 32 saves and in the post-season was 3-2 with a 3.56 ERA, four complete games, and a save in his seven games. He also hit .209 with eleven homers and 163 RBI's. He was elected to the Hall in '38. After his career he played with the House of David team for eight seasons, constantly getting in trouble due to his drinking. He took on menial jobs as his health declined to the point where he fully lost his right ear. By 1950 he was back in Nebraska advising a local American Legion league when he passed away at age 63.

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown lost his index finger in a farm accident in Indiana when he was a kid. He used it to his advantage in creating a very efficient sinking curveball. After doing some mining work he was an immediate hit in the minors, winning 25 in D ball and 27 in A ball. The latter year, 1902, he was signed by the Cubs although he was already 26. He had a losing year in '03 - but with a 2.60 ERA - and then took off. The next eight seasons he went a combined 181-77 with a killer ERA well below 2.00. He won 20 or more six straight seasons and led the NL once in wins and ERA, twice in games, complete games, and shutouts, and four times in saves (he seems to have been multi-purposed). He was the top pitcher on four Cubs pennant winners and for the two Series winners he threw shutout ball. After a knee injury led to a relatively poor '12 he was traded to the Reds where he had a lackluster season. He then jumped to the Federal League for its two seasons, managing as well in one of them, going 50-63. In '16 he returned to the Cubs for a partial season, his last in the majors. He finished with a 239-130 record with a 2.06 ERA, 271 complete games, 55 shutouts, and 49 saves. In '06 he led the NL with an ERA of 1.04 so that should trump both Alexander and Taylor on the record card. In the post-season Mordecai went 5-4 with five complete games, three shutouts, and a 2.97 ERA in nine games and as a hitter hit .206 for his career. After his career ended he played and managed in the minors for a few seasons and owned and operated a service station back in Indiana. He was inducted to the Hall in '49, a year after passing away at age 71.

Long Tom Hughes was a Chicago kid who was signed by the Cubs late in 1900 out of Omaha. In '01, his true rookie season, he went 10-23, so the number on the card is wrong, although he had a better than average ERA. Baltimore then grabbed him and he pitched there until later in the '02 season when he was distributed to the Red Sox. In '03 he won 20 for Boston's Series winners but after a poor start in the Series was traded to the Yankees. He lasted half a season in NY and was then sent to the Nats for whom he was probably the best - though losing - pitcher until the arrival of Walter Johnson. In '08 he won 18 with a 2.21 ERA. He was then hurt in '09 and was sold to an A ball team in '10 for whom he won 31. Washington then bought him back and he had a decent revival by 1912. After a poor '13 season he was released, ending his time in the majors. He went 132-173 with a 3.09 ERA, 227 complete games, 25 shutouts, and 15 saves. Another good hitter, he put up a .198 average with 79 RBI's. He then continued to play in the minors, winning 24 in '14 and 19 in '15 which he followed up with years of semi-pro ball. He returned to Chicago to live and there worked in a tavern and also did some groundskeeping for the city. He passed away in '56 at age 77. He also has a very detailed SABR page.

Leonard "King" Cole was another early-20th century pitcher. Out of Detroit, he was another late-starter whose first season in the minors was in '09 when he was 23. He won 21 that year and was purchased by the Cubs for whom he threw a couple games. In 1910 he had an excellent rookie year, going 20-4 with a league-leading 1.80 ERA. He won 18 in '11 but then had a crappy start to his '12 season and was traded to the Pirates for whom he wasn't much better. In '13 he was demoted to Double A Columbus where he won 23 and was subsequently sold to the Yankees. For NY he won ten in '14 and then a couple in '15 when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. That ended his season and killed him early in '16 when he was only 29. He went 54-27 with a 3.12 ERA, 47 complete games, nine shutouts, and two saves in his career.

Toothpick Sam Jones began his career as a catcher in the Negro Leagues in the mid-'40s. By '47, with the help of Satchel Paige, he had become a pitcher for the Cleveland Buckeyes for whom he played through '49. In '50 he was signed by Cleveland who put him in A ball. He would pitch the next five seasons in the minors at various levels, going a combined 62-41 as a curveballing starter. He made a couple appearances for the Tribe during that time but couldn't break into its high powered rotation. After the '54 season he was traded to the Cubs for Ralph Kiner, among others. In two seasons for Chicago he went 23-34 with a 4.00 ERA and led the NL both seasons in both walks and strikeouts. After the '56 season he went to the Cards in a big trade and there turned his stats around pretty well, in two seasons going a combined 26-22 with a 3.30 ERA, again pulling off the double leader thing in '58. In '59 he went to the Giants for Bill White and had his best season, going 21-15 with a 2.83 ERA and four shutouts, finishing second in Cy voting (there was still only one award back then). He won 18 in '60 and then was injured in '61 and saw his stats come in pretty hard. He was selected by the Colt .45's in the expansion draft and then traded to Detroit for whom his pretty good season was impinged by a diagnosis of neck cancer. He would then return to the Cards for a bit before finishing up with Baltimore in '64. He finished 102-101 with a 3.59 ERA, 76 complete games, 17 shutouts, ten saves, and 1,376 strikeouts. He pitched in two All-Star games and threw a no-hitter. He would continue throwing in the minors until '67 for Columbus, Pittsburgh's Triple A club and posted a lifetime record at that level of 101-66. He also played winter ball in Latin America. His cancer recurred by '71 and he passed away from it that year. He was 47.

Orval Overall was yet another of the Chicago pitching stars of the early 1900's. He came out of Cali and was drafted by the Reds in the '04 Rule 5 draft out of Tacoma, for whom he had 57 decisions, going 32-25 that year. His late start was due to attending the University of California for whom he played football and baseball. Up with the Reds in '05 he went 18-23 but with a 2.86 ERA. After another losing start to the '06 season he was sent to the Cubs for Bob Wicker and finished 12-3. In '07 he won 23 and led the league in shutouts which he also did in '09 when he won 20. He was on four pennant winners and threw very well in the Series, going a combined 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA. He slowed down a bit 1n 1910, winning just 12 and then retired. After a brief comeback in '13 he was done. He finished with a record of 108-71 and a 2.23 ERA, 133 complete games, 33 shutouts, and twelve saves. He was very successful after baseball, working in a brewery, for a family business, and then as a banking executive. He passed away in '47 at age 66.

Big Bill Lee came out of Louisiana and by 1930 was playing on area minor league teams. In '31 he won 22 in C ball and made it to Columbus later that season. The next year Columbus became a St. Louis franchise and Bill would win 20 each of the next two seasons there before being traded to the Cubs following the '33 season. He had a nice rookie season for the Cubs in '34 and then won 20 for the '35 pennant winners. In '38 he had his best season with 22 wins and a 2.66 ERA, both of which led the league, as did his shutout total. He came in second in NL MVP voting that season and again made it to the Series. After winning 19 in '39 his record fell substantially and by mid-'43 he was traded to the Phillies. He had an OK '44 then moved around a bunch before finishing things back up in Chicago in '47. He went a combined 169-157 with a 3.54 ERA, 182 complete games, 29 shutouts, and 13 saves and in the post-season was 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a save in four games. After his career ended he returned to Louisiana to work in the insurance business. He passed away there in '77 at age 67.


So how do the Cubbies do representing the '73 team? Catching is good and Glenn Beckert has a card with the Padres, so second is good too, as is shortstop and third. In the outfield we're missing Rico Carty who came over late in '73 from Texas, but he only had 70 at bats. This is pretty good but apparently the club had no first basemen. While Fanzone, Marquez, and Williams each put in over 100 innings there, the top three guys are missing. Pat Bourque had been traded to Oakland and has a card there. Jim Hickman was the number one guy and he was sent to the Cards before the '74 season. Joe Pepitone was banished to Atlanta but neither of these guys has a '74 card. On the floating heads shot Jim is the fourth guy in the second row and Joe may be the last guy in row three, but I can't really tell. On the pitching side, Jenkins had a Rangers card and Juan Pizarro went 0-1 in his final season. That means we have 160 of 161 decisions represented in the set. That almost makes up for the no first baseman thing.

Here at last is the hookup:

1. Fergie Jenkins on the '73 Cubs;
3. Jenkins and Bill Singer on the '76 Rangers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#210 - Bill Singer

We follow up a card with a pose on it bent at the waist with another bent at the waist shot, this time of a pitcher. Bill Singer gets a "10" card which deems him special goods. He certainly did have an excellent '73, winning 20 and putting up a bunch of strikeouts. Mr. Singer shows us his follow through at Yankee Stadium. If he normally held on to the ball that long, no wonder he had some issues during his career. One of them was that due to his pretty stunning comeback, he was accused from time to time of throwing a spitball, among other notorious pitches. In fact, the Yankee Stadium setting is pretty ironic since the complaint given the highest profile was from Yank manager Ralph Houk. One time as Bill was putting on his warm-up jacket when on the bases a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush fell out of his pockets. Immediately some suspected nefarious reasons for their presence but I think Bill was just practicing good oral hygiene. That number on his back is huge. I guess some teams were still using those "TV number" uniforms in '73.

Bill Singer was a hot property as a high school baseball player in Pomona, California. A big guy with a huge fastball he was headed to the University of Arizona when the Dodgers stepped in and snapped him up to the tune of a $40,000 bonus in '61. Since he was only 17 when signed he had to wait a year to start off which he did in C ball in '62 going 9-3 with over a strikeout an inning. But his ERA was pretty high and he also gave up a bunch of walks. During the next three seasons, one in Double A and two in Triple A, Bill worked through his control issues and improved his win totals (his losses rose also) as he added a slider and a change-up to his pitching array. He also hurt his shoulder in '63. In '66 he put up a nice season at Triple A Spokane, going 13-11 with 217 strikeouts (up 90 from the prior year) in 233 innings as his ERA fell a run to 3.48. He also had an operation on his pitching shoulder that year which was apparently so enlarged that it restricted blood flow in the artery that ran through it. A rib had to be removed to relieve the pressure. I guess one could be too strong for his own good.

In '67 Singer was ready for life at the top, all healed from his operation, with his control issues solved. He had an excellent rookie year, going 12-8 with a 2.65 ERA and going nearly three to one on his strikeouts to walks ratio. In '68 he had a losing record but the Dodgers were pretty bad that season and his other numbers were very good. He also picked up a curve that year. Then he wowed them in '69, grabbing 20 wins and 247 K's in his best season. He also got his first All-Star nod that year. But in '70 things started falling down. Early in the season he got hepatitis, apparently nearly dying and missing two months. He returned, threw well, and then broke a finger on his pitching hand on the basepaths and had that fixed by having a knuckle removed. It seems every time Bill got injured he lost a body part. He actually had nice numbers in between his ailments but in '71 and '72 he seemed to suffer the after-effects going a combined 16-33 as his ERA climbed and his control issues resurfaced. When the big Dodgers - Angels trade went down after the '72 season, Bill was a part of it and moved to Anaheim.

Singer's big '73 season got him back to the All-Star game and things seemed back on track even though his walk totals were almost double what they were in '69 when he pitched exactly the same amount of innings. In '74 he got off to a fast start before he went down with back problems and had to have lumbar surgery. That followed with a pretty disastrous '75 in which he had calcium deposits removed from his elbow, went 7-15, had an almost 5.00 ERA, and walked more guys than he struck out. After the season he went to the Rangers for Jim Spencer and cash. He started off well for Texas, going 4-1 in ten starts with a 3.48 ERA. He was then part of the trade that got Bert Blyleven out of Minnesota and he then went 9-9 with a 3.77 ERA for the Twins. While his strikeout to walk ratio now seemed stuck at one-to-one, it was a pretty good comeback season. So thought the new Blue Jays who made Bill one of their picks in the expansion draft.

Singer would start the first Toronto game ever, getting a no-decision in a win, but things went south pretty quickly as his back and shoulder problems recurred and general ineffectiveness followed. He would go 2-8 in '77 with a 6.79 ERA. While he would hang out with the Blue Jays through '78 he wouldn't pitch again. His final tally was a record of 118-127 with a 3.39 ERA, 94 complete games, 24 shutouts, and two saves.

Like many California-based ball players Singer would move into real estate and by 1990 he had his own commercial real estate company. He was also very active in local Little League and Connie Mack ball, in '83 establishing a league in Newport Beach and then in '90 starting an Orange County league. He would also hook up with major league ball again in administrative positions. Beginning in the '80's he scouted for the Dodgers, Marlins (early '90's to 2002), and Pirates ('02 to '03). He was then hired by the Mets as assistant to the GM but that gig only lasted a couple weeks since he was canned over some insensitive remarks he made to a Dodgers employee. In '05 he got a scouting gig with Arizona then moved with GM Mike Rizzo to the Nationals after the '06 season. He is still Washington's director of Asian scouting.

These are some good star bullets. The no-no nearly ended up a perfect game. Bill issued no walks and the only guys to get on base were Oscar Gamble (HBP) and Don Money on an error. He struck out ten in the game. I like how they focus on the '69 All-Star game; in '73 he gave up three runs. Like Steve Renko, Bill must have been a sight on skis.

This one is easy:

1. Singer and Ted Sizemore '69 to '70 Dodgers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

#209 - Ted Sizemore

We return to the regular player cards with Ted Sizemore who shows off his backhanded fielding stance at Candlestick. Ted had a pretty good season in '73. Moved to the number two spot behind Lou Brock late in '72 he worked on his bunting skills with coach Harry "The Hat" Walker and saw a significant uptick in his sacrifices from four in '72 to a league-leading 25 in '73. In Keith Hernandez's excellent book "Pure Baseball", in which Keith dissects two games from the '93 season, he mentions that Ted was the best number two hitter he ever saw. Those are some pretty good props.

Ted Sizemore was born in Alabama and moved to Michigan as a kid. There he played baseball and football in high school. He was his school's star fullback which is pretty impressive since Ted only went about 160 pounds back then. He also played in those NABF tournaments I mentioned on Willie Horton's post. After high school Ted went to Michigan where he was an All-Big Ten catcher and seemed to excel defensively since the school's defensive player of the year award is named after him. In the summers Ted played in the Western Canada Basin League (it also included the Dakotas and Montana). He was drafted by the Dodgers in '66 and kicked things off nicely that season in A ball with a .330 average and a .429 OBA. In '67 he moved up to Double A and hit .295. That year, in addition to catching, he put in a bunch of time in the outfield. While LA was real happy with Ted offensively and defensively - he was also a great handler of pitchers - they considered him too small to be a big league catcher and so moved him around. In '68 at Triple A he hit .314 primarily as an outfielder. When '69 rolled around, Ted was ready for LA.

In 1968 the Dodgers were a bit of a disaster in the infield. Wes Parker was still a defensive knockout at first. Jim Lefebvre, an All-Star at second in '66, was out with an injury for two months so Paul Popovich started there. Zoilo Versalles and Bob Bailey were complete flops at shortstop and third base, respectively. Bailey got drafted by Montreal and Lefebvre was moved to third so the Dodgers needed somebody at second. Coach Monty Basgall was assigned to Sizemore to help hm work on his conversion to infield and it worked mighty well. Ted hit .271 and fielded excellently to win the '69 NL Rookie of the Year. In '70 Ted missed about two months of the season - I can't tell if it was to injury or military commitments (probably the former) - but still hit over .300 with an OBA of .367. Going into '71 the Dodgers were desperate for power and had some new young guys skilled at second - notably Bobby Valentine and Lee Lacy - and Ted was sent to St. Louis with Bob Stinson for Dick Allen.

For the Cards, Sizemore took over from longtime vet Julian Javier and made a pretty seamless transition. While his average fell a few points his first couple seasons, he didn't strike out too much, played the new turf pretty well, and was becoming adept at hitting behind runners, which got him elevated in the order behind Brock. In '73 his OBA came back up to .365. In '74 as Lou chased the record, Ted's average and OBA came down pretty hard as he had to take a lot of pitches. '75 was more of the same and in '76 with young Garry Templeton coming up at shortstop, Mike Tyson got pushed over to second, and Ted got pushed back to the west coast, returning to LA for Willie Crawford. There he had a sort of nothing season as he spelled Davey Lopes at second more than expected due to Davey's injuries and slump. LA could tell Ted wasn't happy and that December they sent him to the Phillies for Johnny Oates. In '77 Ted had a big comeback, hitting .281, posting his first OBA above .300 in three seasons, and teaming with Larry Bowa to lead the league in double plays. He also got his first taste of post-season play against his former team. In '78 he jammed his throwing hand early in the season and his stats tumbled pretty hard, although he revived to have a nice playoff series. '79 saw him on the road again, first to the Cubs in the deal that brought Philly Manny Trillo, and then to the Red Sox for Mike O'Berry. For both he posted pretty good upticks from his prior season but did not approach his best numbers. After a partial season off the bench for the Sox in '80, Ted was done. He hit .262 for his career with 188 doubles and a .325 OBA. In the post-season he hit .308 with a .379 OBA in eight games.

In off-seasons Ted did some elementary school teaching. By '84 he was an executive at Rawlings, basically serving as liaison between the company and the leagues. He is now CEO of the Baseball Assistance Team, the non-profit that helps out older former players.

Ted has some decent star bullets and his cartoon references another off-season gig, although I do not know for which beverage maker he worked. He was traded for a guy whose last name was Ted's middle name but I'm not going anywhere with that one. On Ted's scouting report in '68 he was indicated as a Triple A utility player at best. Nice to see those guys be wrong sometimes.

Back to the hookups, Ted gets with Cesar like this:

1. Sizemore and Claude Osteen '69 to '70 Dodgers;
2. Osteen and Cesar Cedeno '74 Astros.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#208 - 1973 Leading Firemen

This card represents another award/stat that tends to have random leaders. In '73 it was John Hiller in the same stadium as on his player card which I now believe is Baltimore, judging by the red fence between the dugout and the stands with that weird overhang is that looks like the Wright Brothers plane. John came back from his heart attack to lead the AL. Mike Marshall's photo is another mystery as it is an airbrush job from what I believe is his days as a Tiger, making it at least six years old. I remain amazed that Topps couldn't come up with a more recent photo, especially since his regular card was current.Both John and Mike have their game faces going and they both led their leagues by pretty fat margins. And like the guys on the strikeouts card, they both pitched for the same team at some point in their careers.

John Hiller's AL save number was a record. There are a lot of two-fers on this list: Yankees, White Sox, Royals, and Twins. Six of 11 relievers had been or would be Fireman of the Year. These guys averaged 117 innings pitched in '73. That's not happening any more, certainly not for closers. The doubles mentioned above averaged 250 innings between them. That's pretty impressive given the number of complete games pitched in '73. In the AL there were 614 complete games thrown that season; in 2010 there were 93. My, the game has changed. This list also leans toward the old guys; one pitcher here, Bobby Bolin, would never throw another inning. Only Cy Acosta, Doug Bird - a rookie in '73, Terry Forster, and Roy Corbin began their careers in the '70's.

The NL list, like the AL, tends to be skewed toward the older guys. Elias Sosa was a rookie and only he, Pedro Borbon, and Randy Moffitt began their careers in the '70's. The Reds back then tended toward bullpen by committee and are not surprisingly represented by two pitchers. So are the Giants, who split closer time for years. Diego Segui's saves total was a team record for the Cards. So was Mike Marshall's for the Expos, but at least it's a good total. In '73 saves were still not considered that impressive a stat; the team leaders list doesn't even include it. These relievers averaged 109 innings in '73, which we would expect to be lower than the AL average. In '73 NL starters threw 447 complete games (a big discount to the AL guys); in 2010 they threw only 72. Here's something odd: while researching this post I used the baseball-reference 2010 NL summary page and the league record totals were 1,288-1,304. How does that happen?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#207 - 1973 Strikeout Leaders

On this card we get some attitude as Nolan Ryan looks a little peeved to be back in NY. But Tom Seaver is still smiling. Were it not for Ron Bryant's blowout season, Tom would have won the pitching Triple Crown in the NL. A couple seasons earlier and this card would have been impossible since these guys were teammates for a while. Nolan should really be smiling also since he is fresh off his record K year and threw two no-hitters. Tom is still in the midst of his record steak of seasons with 200-plus strikeouts. These guys were no strangers to this leader list.

This is one stat list in which the AL finally dominates. We clearly have some premium pitchers here: eight of these pitchers were on the victory leader board; five made the ERA list. Ryan's total kills and he and Bill Singer also set a record in '73 for strikeouts by teammates. Early in his career Bert Blyleven nearly kept pace with Seaver for the consecutive 200-plus strikeout seasons. Gaylord Perry and Mickey Lolich were frequent 200-plus guys as was Joe Coleman while he was with Detroit. Young Steve Busby looked like he would be a regular on this leader board until he got hurt. The rest of these pitchers threw tons of innings.

The NL featured a race that was a little tighter. Steve Carlton probably would have given Seaver more of a run if his confidence wasn't shaken by his lousy start. This would be Jon Matlack's only season with 200-plus. Wayne Twitchell and Steve Renko had their best seasons in '73 by pretty wide margins and were one-timers here. The rest were regulars: Don Sutton thew heat and the other guys were innings hogs. Lots of double representations here - the Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, and Phillies all have two guys on the list. Four pitchers in each league would make the Hall. That ties the homer card with highest representation on the leader cards.

Friday, July 15, 2011

#206 - 1973 Earned Run Average Leaders

Back to New York with the two Cy Young winners of '73, Jim Palmer at Yankee Stadium and Tom Seaver at Shea. They both look pretty happy and they almost faced each other in the Series again in '73. These two always seemed to be close to the top in ERA in the early to mid-Seventies and Palmer seemed a lock to win 20 every year as well. We are also back to two HOF players leading the league. Palmer was just starting his new work in advertising and Seaver was getting busy with his vineyards. I guess these guys had reason to be happy.

This is another statistical category where the NL kicks the AL's butt. Despite what I said up top about Palmer and Seaver, ERA lists tended to be pretty random back then. Bert Blyleven was a regular and so was Nolan Ryan for a couple years but the rest of these guys were not normally visitors to the top ten. There are a couple Yankees which seems to belie what I said on an earlier post about their pitching back then, but after Doc Medich and Mel Stottlemyre there was nothing in the rotation. A bunch of the 20-win guys are here and check out number ten. Terry Forster, a reliever, makes the list. It's been a long time since something like that happened.

The NL swamped the AL in homers and ERA by its leaders. That's a pretty weird double. These are some numbers as we don't get anything close to 3.00 on the list. Seaver beats Don Sutton by almost half a run. Again a reliever makes the list with Mike Marshall at number four. Outside of Steve Renko and Wayne Twitchell, these guys would be on this list multiple times, even Dave Roberts who had a stunning ERA for the Padres in '71. There are two Dodgers and a Dodger-to-be which sets the table for the '74 pennant winner. And two Expos and two Mets; the NL champs finally get some major representation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

#205 - 1973 Victory Leaders

On to the pitchers. Just like on the RBI card the AL guy is in Oakland and the NL guy in San Francisco. When this photo was taken Wilbur Wood was starting just about every other game for the Sox but he still looks like he's ready to go. Ron Bryant is staring off pensively, hopefully not seeing what's down the road in his career. If he turned around he'd see some ET-type guys behind him. Both these pitchers rode fast starts to capture the league titles, but they really couldn't be more different. Wilbur had a pretty good streak of finishing close to the top of the pitching leaders. Ron had this season and that was pretty much it. And neither of these guys won the Cy. We'll see the winners on the next card.

Now this card back invites tons of commentary. First of all, look at all the 20 game winners in the AL. There are 12 of them which has to be a record. In '72 there were six guys who won 20. Why the big uptick? Two letters: DH. The imposition of the new DH rule allowed managers to keep their starters in longer since none needed to be pulled for a pinch hitter. In fact these 12 guys averaged 300 innings pitched in '73. In 2010 the top ten winners in the AL averaged 225 innings. The old guys say the kids today are coddled. Are they? Let's see how these 300-inning guys fared. Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven, and Luis Tiant pitched forever. Wood would have also probably, had Ron LeFlore not shattered his kneecap. Vida Blue and Paul Splittorf had reasonably long careers. Bill Singer tended to get hurt, but it doesn't seem to be from overuse. The rest of the guys - Joe Coleman, Ken Holtzman, Catfish Hunter, and Jim Colborn - all ran out of gas in their early thirties. The first three had long streaks of lots of innings but Catfish could have slowed down from early onset of ALS and Holtzman really only went south when he WASN'T used. That leaves Colborn. So at least from this group, lots of innings pitched seemed to not unduly influence their careers in a negative way. Only three of these guys - Blyleven, Colborn, and Splittorf - would only win 20 once, so this group was used to being in the limelight victory-wise.

Contrary to the AL, the NL only had one 20-game winner. The NL winner leaders averaged 258 innings pitched, a pretty steep discount to the AL guys. Had they averaged as many innings, it is conceivable that everyone down to Dave Roberts would have won 20. All these pitchers had been on the leader list before or would be again. Like in the AL, they tended to be innings hogs and none of them seemed to suffer from overuse. Don Gullett was a great pitcher but he was always hurt and would be done by age 27 so he never got a chance to be overused. Claude Osteen was on his way out but he'd had a long career and Tommy John was about to be headed to the experimental surgery that would probably double his time pitching. Bryant's career got derailed from an injury off the field. So again there's no definitive evidence that big innings meant short careers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#204 - 1973 Stolen Base Leaders

Here are some new faces in Tommy Harper and Lou Brock. I can't tell where they are although Lou could certainly be at Shea and Tommy appears to be next to an away batting cage. This was Tommy's second and last time leading the league in stolen bases; it is Lou's seventh of eight times to do so. Mr. Harper is the first guy on these leader cards not to be in the Hall away from Pete Rose, who certainly would be had he had different hobbies. And Lou was just warming up in '73 for his big year the following summer.

Here again the AL falls pretty far back to the NL, at least in each league's top three. In both of Tommy Harper's league-leading seasons he was well above his norm. A bunch of these guys would be regulars on this list but there are some surprises. Reggie? And Don Money. That last one is really surprising and will invite a closer look at his stats when the blog visits his card. A bunch of little guys make this list, notably Harper, Freddie Patek, Sandy Alomar, and Al Bumbry. Once again the Oakland boys are well represented. This race was the closest of the four offensive ones represented by this set. Billy North would up his total significantly in winning the '74 title.

The NL had another tight race but gets beat out by homers in the thinnest margin department for the league. Lou would put up three seasons of 70-plus. There are no real surprises on this list although the inclusion of a number in the teens seems like an anomaly for the times. I believe Davey Lopes and Bumbry are the first rookies representing both leagues among the leaders to date. Cesar Cedeno was truly cranking then; Joe Morgan, the guy above him, once said that if Cedeno was a Red he'd be the best player in the NL. Yet again multiple Braves are represented. Need I say more?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#203 - 1973 Runs Batted In Leaders

Reggie and Willie are both back. This time Reggie looks nearly angelic in Oakland while Willie looks like he just heard something mildly disconcerting at Candlestick. They both have the earflap-less helmets on which is, I guess, appropriate for a hitting leaders card. And both guys have photos from different shoots than on the homer card: Reggie has the windbreaker thing going and Willie is sporting much more serious muttonchops. This card's pretty crooked by the way, but is oddly so on the short ends. Normally the cards get crooked on the long ends. See how far one can stretch when he needs filler?

Now these leading totals are a lot tighter than the homer ones were. The NL still holds an advantage but it's not a romp. Not surprisingly, most of the AL guys were on the home run leaders list. Only Carlos May, Bobby Murcer, and Yaz didn't make the homer cut. Outside of the two - unrelated - May's there are no real outliers here, although '73 would be Frank Robinson's last big power season. Apparently Amos Otis' ribbies all accrued to the Brewers which is the first time I have seen that arrangement. Back to guys named May, I know the Dimaggio's pulled it off in '41, but this may be the first time since then that two brothers were on the league leaders for RBI's.

In the NL four guys on the RBI list were not on the homer one: Johnny Bench (surprisingly), Ken Singleton, Dusty Baker, and Al Oliver. Hank Aaron just missed this list with 96. The Braves had four guys with over 90 RBI's and they couldn't post a winning record. That has got to be a record of its own but I'm too swamped to check. The old Big Red Machine was still cranking things out with it's three power members - Bench, Lee May, and Tony Perez - still occupying top spots on the board. At least all the NL guys are on the correct team.

Monday, July 11, 2011

#202 - 1973 Home Run Leaders

The next league leaders card gives us a look at the AL MVP and the guy who many thought should have been the NL MVP. Reggie Jackson appears to be at future home Yankee Stadium and Willie Stargell - who knows? Somewhere windy perhaps, since he appears about to lose his hat. Willie had a fine season in '73 but not for a division winner, which is probably what allowed Pete Rose to beat him out for MVP. These guys both had long productive careers and are both in the Hall. in this age of regular inter-league play it is pretty amazing to think that outside of a few All-Star games, Reggie and Willie never played against each other.

Reggie led the AL with 32 homers. Outside of strike seasons and war years, that amount is tied for the lowest total to lead the AL going back to 1919, when Babe Ruth led with 29. 32 homers would lead the AL six times, including '74 when Dick Allen had that many. '73 was the middle of what many call the Second Deadball Era, a claim that might be boosted by these low totals. Again, despite its emergence this year, only one DH makes the top ten, Frank Robinson of California. Three A's, two Royals, and two Brewers make the list; ironically all three teams were strong in the pitching department that year. Dave May shows up again as does rising star - at least for a little while - Jeff Burroughs. Not to be outdone by arch rival Thurman Munson, Carlton Fisk makes a leader board here as well.

Again, the NL kicks the AL's butt in league leader totals. Reggie would only have come in sixth place in the NL. Like the batting leaders and the AL homer leaders, the West takes center stage in the power department, getting eight of 12 spots. Willie's total would represent the last of five consecutive seasons of 40-plus for the NL leader. Then you have the three Braves, pulling off a first by teammates with 40 or over. It's pretty amazing that Atlanta had a losing record in '73, but they had almost no pitching. We don't get a division winner representative until Tony Perez in ninth place. Davey Johnson's the only guy really overstepping his normal power limits here. And these guys are up there: Greg Luzinksi and Darrell Evans are the only guys whose careers began in the '70s.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

#201 - 1973 Batting Leaders

After some major scanning issues - I had to figure out how to do on Windows what was a piece of cake on Apple - I am back with some new posts. I also was noodling about how to make these cards interesting since they can be yawners on their own. Obviously all that would be done on the back of the card since we just get the two (or more) head shots on the front. Nothing too interesting here. Rod Carew looks a little baffled in Oakland and Pete Rose is in what looks like a mug shot - pretty appropriate - in Candlestick during his MVP year. Both these leaders should be HOF guys. But...

All the themes I thought of for these cards would make the posts tediously long and since I tend to go in that direction anyway, I'm just going to opt for some light commentary just on the relevant info here.

In the AL, our boy Rod really dusts his competition, doesn't he? It was the widest winning margin since Ted Williams hit .406 in '41 beating Cecil Travis at .359. Carew would make a habit of fat victory margins though, as he would win his next three titles (he won six overall) by an average of 43 points. Tommy Davis is the only DH in the top ten and he was a very interesting story that year. Thurman Munson is the only catcher on the list; everyone else was normally a first baseman or outfielder except Carew who was heading in that direction. Three Yankees make the list which invites a comment on how spotty their pitching must have been. There is a career season represented by Dave May and Reggie Jackson makes the top ten in what was his MVP year.

Speaking of MVP's, Rose leads the NL in his award-winning season. The NL West guys hog the top five spots in a list loaded with relative newcomers: seven guys had their first meaningful season in the '70's. Again there is a stray catcher in Ted Simmons while everyone else is either an outfielder or first baseman. The top ten also gives us the '73 ROY in Gary Matthews. In the first year of the DH the averages of the top guys in the NL average out to a bit higher than the AL guys. The real effect of the DH will be seen on another card.

A few posts ago, Dave Cash's card represented a milestone in that it was the 30% mark of the set. To honor that passing, I will do a statistical review of the set.

Post-Season: Every year is now represented from '57 to '89 with the exception of '60. Again, '74 has the largest representative amount of participants with 31.

Awards: We are up to ten MVP winners and nine Cy Young winners, increases of only one apiece in the last ten percent of the set. There have been 14 Comeback Player of the Year winners, 13 Rookie of the Year recipients, and seven Sporting News Minor League Players of the Year. We have also seen nine Fireman of the Year winners and nine Manager of the Year takers. A few of these would increase if I included coaches from this set.

Milestones: There have been 24 rookie cards and 12 final cards among the players which means the first to last card ratio remains at two to one. There have been 21 members of the Hall of Fame and 21 cards of players who switched teams following the '73 season, including the official Traded cards. Sadly there are now 19 player cards of guys who have passed on, a significant jump since the last counting.

Rookies: Two players have been added to the Topps 1973 Rookie All-Star Team, which gets us to six. The other years are represented as follows:
'59 - 1 '61 - 2 '64 - 3 '65 - 3 '66 - 3 '67 - 2 '68 - 3 '69 - 2
'70 - 1 '71 - 2 '72 - 4

Random: There have been 55 action cards thus far, which means the pace of those occurrences has slowed down a bit. There have been 63 home uniforms and 116 away ones. There have been 16 guys with parenthetical names, a pretty good pop, and four players who officially served in Vietnam. Cards I have deemed ugly were stuck on five, which should be a good thing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#200 - Cesar Cedeno

This guy was another of my favorite players. I remember reading an article in a baseball magazine early in Cesar's career which had a photo of him squatting with a huge grin on his face and I was hooked. Here he is a lot more contemplative and he sure had reason to be. On the plus side he is fresh off perhaps his best season, the one that solidified him in '74 as the best young player in the majors. While that designation wouldn't last - too many injuries and perhaps personal demons - when this photo was taken Cesar was on top of the world, or at least on top of the Astrodome. But all was not right in Cesar's world. After the '73 season there were rumors that he killed a guy in a bar fight back in DR. What really happened was that he was in a motel room with his girlfriend - he was married at the time - and as she was fooling around with his gun it went off and she was killed. Cesar fled, turned himself in the next day, spent a few weeks in jail, and eventually had voluntary manslaughter charges against him reduced to involuntary ones.

Cesar Cedeno was a phenom and by 15 he already had an amazing reputation in the States for his ability to play ball in his native Dominican Republic. The Astros got to him first, scooping him up in '67 at age 16 in front of the Cards, among other teams that scouted him. Cesar didn't disappoint, the next year hitting the crap out of the ball in Rookie ball and then turning defensive gems in Single A. In '69 he improved his numbers at the latter level and then in '70 got off to a torrid start in Triple A before being called up to Houston.

With the Astros Cedeno hit .310 in just over half a season and came in fourth in NL ROY voting. The next seven seasons Cesar would have as good a run as anyone playing, averaging .290 with 34 doubles, 18 homers, 51 stolen bases, and 80 RBI's even though he spent a bunch of time hitting from the top of the order. He spread it out, hitting .320 in '72 and '73; leading the league in doubles in '71 and '72; getting 100 RBI's in 74; and becoming only the second guy - after Lou Brock - to hit 20 homers and steal 50 bases in the same season, which he did for three consecutive years. He played a mean defense too, scooping the Gold Glove for center field every year from '72 to '76. He also got four All-Star nods during that time.

Then in '78 Cedeno, a very aggressive outfielder, lost most of the season to both ankle and knee injuries. He was slow coming back and would spend a deal of time at first base in '79, putting up sub-par numbers. In '80 he revived and posted numbers comparable to those in his prime - a .309 average with 32 doubles, 73 RBI's, and 48 stolen bases - in helping Houston to its first division title. But beginning with the playoffs, his numbers tanked a bit and after an uninspired '81 season that saw the Astros return to the post-season, Cesar was sent to the Reds for Ray Knight.

In Cincinnati, Cedeno's career found its new arc as for three-plus seasons he was an above average fielder and average hitter as a mostly regular starter. Due to his leg injuries the stolen base totals crashed and his days as a superlative player were over. His last hurrah came late in '85 when he was traded to the Cards for their pennant drive against the Mets. He was pretty awesome, batting .434 with six homers and 19 RBI's in only 76 at bats. Although he wouldn't have great post-season numbers, he got a game-winner in the Series against KC. He then left as a free agent, was signed and released by Toronto, then signed by LA for whom he got some token at bats in his final season. For his career Cesar hit .285 with 2,087 hits, 436 doubles, 199 homers, 976 RBI's, and 550 stolen bases. In the post-season he hit .173 in 17 games. He is currently ranked in the top 50 all-time for putouts, assists, and double plays in center field.

Cedeno would go on to coach a bunch in Latin and South America, working his way to the minor leagues by the early 2000's. As recently as '09 he was an outfielder coach in the Nationals' system. He had some bad times in the late '80s, getting arrested for drunk driving, assault, and twice for beating his girlfriends. I think it's safe to say he's no longer one of my favorite players.

This is a card back for someone who looked like he was headed straight to the Hall. Only 23, Cesar already had over 600 hits, 64 homers, and 148 stolen bases. He's got that extra symbol in his signature and I believe has the longest maiden name thus far in the set. As for the cartoon, he won the Gold Glove in '73 also; I don't know why the Topps guys couldn't be more current.

These guys played for LA but 20 years apart. We hook them up through the AL:

1. Cedeno and Bob Watson '70 to '78 Astros;
2. Watson and Bobby Murcer '80 to '82 Yankees;
3. Murcer and Mike Kekich '69 to '73 Yankees.

Friday, July 8, 2011

#199 - Mike Kekich

Poor Mike Kekich. He'd been underground all these years and had to resurface this year when a couple of Red Sox fans - that hurts - decided they were going to make a movie based on his life. In this shot taken in Oakland it looks like he has just heard the news: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck announced earlier this year that they are making a movie based on the (in)famous family swap Fritz Peterson and Mike enacted with each other before '73 spring training. It WAS the 70's. Mike doesn't want the movie made and is trying to block it. Frankly I don't think there's enough there but what do I know. When the Peterson-Kekich swap was announced it was decided the two players should be split up which meant that Mike - by far the worse pitcher - was traveling. He went to Cleveland for Lowell Palmer early in the '73 season and it was a season to forget as Mike got very little starting time for the Tribe and his numbers went the wrong way in a hurry.

Mike Kekich grew up in San Diego and was signed by the Dodgers in '64, a year out of high school. Mike had an excellent fastball but could be a bit wild. His first season at Single A was pretty good as a starter but he walked nearly a batter an inning. He also struck out over a batter an inning including 11 straight in one game. So the Dodgers thought they had something and to prevent his loss to the Rule 5 draft they promoted him to LA for all of '65. There in only a few innings he did nothing special and in '66 he was back in the minors. He got hurt that season only throwing a few innings but came back strong in '67, going 17-5 with a 3.01 ERA split between Single and Double A. That would get him promoted to LA for real in '68 where he joined the rotation, had a less than stellar year, and was traded to the Yankees after the season ended for Andy Kosco.

Kekich would spend his best years in NY and over the next four seasons went a combined 30-31 with an improving ERA. He would work his way from spot starting to a regular spot in the rotation in '71 and '72.  In '74 he was released by the Indians in March and then would travel for real - all the way to Japan to pitch for the Nippon Ham Fighters. While there he would sign a free agent deal with Texas and return to the States to throw a few games at Triple A Spokane. After a strong start there in '75 - 7-4 with a 3.40 ERA - he came up, threw 31 innings, and posted his only season of better than league-average ERA. But the Rangers cut him the following March and he went down to play ball in Mexico. In '77 the new Seattle Mariners bought him and that year he threw all in relief, putting up a 5.60 ERA with three saves. But he WAS the only Mariner pitcher with a winning record (5-4). When they released him in spring training of '78 that was it for him in the majors. He would pitch the '78 season in Triple A going 9-4 but with a high ERA in 65 games. He finished his major league career with a record of 39-51 with a 4.59 ERA, eight complete games, a shutout, and six saves. In the minors he was 44-26 with a 3.84 ERA.

In '79 Kekich coached and played in Santo Domingo in the DR in the Inter-American League. He then returned to Mexico where he was still pitching in '82 when SI did a profile on a bunch of guys there. While south of the border Mike attended medical school which he used to eventually set up a business in Arizona that performs health checks on insurance policy holders. He did that for a bunch of years and then apparently moved into real estate as well. He has intentionally kept a very low profile until this year when he was discovered by reps for the Affleck/Damon team who were searching for advisors for their movie (tentatively called "The Trade"). He gave an emphatic no.

The middle initial in Mike's signature looks a lot more like a W than a D. One wonders if the two star bullets are referring to the same games. I could probably check but that would be too much work. Mike was also a big skin diver and parachutist.

This will be a relatively long one:

1. Kekich and Bob Bailey '68 Dodgers;
2. Bailey and Willie Stargell '62 to '66 Pirates;
3. Stargell and Dave Cash '69 to '73 Pirates.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

#198 - Dave Cash

Now we get to another one of the coolest guys in the set, Dave Cash. Dave had it going on, but his card sure doesn't. First off, it's a non-traded Traded card and shows Dave in a Pirates road uniform in spring training that is airbrushed into a Phillies one. Dave had a pretty good '73 but both offensively and defensively it was a bit of a discount to his prior seasons in Pittsburgh. Because of his military obligation, it was tough for Dave to get full-time traction with the Pirates, but that would end when he moved across the state. The script "P" on his hat is quite good but the red on black thing just doesn't work. And Dave is sweating up a storm which makes him all shiny. Finally there is another one of those taped-over arms in the background.

Dave Cash grew up in Utica, NY where he was a high school hoops and baseball star when he was drafted by the Pirates in '66. After a decent start in Rookie ball in which he played primarily shortstop, he hit .335 in his first season of A ball in '67. Another season of A ball followed and then in '69 Pittsburgh was making plans to find a successor for Bill Mazeroski so Dave was moved to second base while at Triple A Columbia. It was there too that he enlisted in the Marines. He would pull a reserve gig so that his two year hitch would be spent doing two weeks a summer and another weekend every month for the next six years. In the meantime he hit .291 in '69 and .279 in a few games up top. After a strong start at Columbus in '70 (.313 with a .400 OBA) he came up for good, spelling Maz at second while hitting .314. That average would get him named to the Topps Rookie team that year.

Cash's military time would make his playing situation a little problematic. While he took over as the starter at second in '71 and did quite well, hitting above .280 the next three seasons, his time away allowed Pittsburgh to give time to Rennie Stennett, another good hit/good field player. But Dave did get plenty of post-season action - he hit .421 against the Giants in the '71 NL series - and was a positive, if quiet, presence in the clubhouse. In '73 he asked out and the Pirates obliged him by trading him to the Phillies for Ken Brett.

In Philadelphia, Cash's career bloomed. He became the for-real regular second baseman - he missed one game in three years - and one of the league's best hitters, averaging over 200 hits in the same time span. He made three successive All-Star teams, led the league once in hits and triples, teamed well with Larry Bowa, and stepped things up in the clubhouse becoming a team leader. He also rarely struck out: in '76 he K'd only 13 times in 727 plate appearances. That same year he returned to the post-season and hit .308 in the NL championships. Dave and the Phillies would be far apart in contract talks - he played without one in '76 and wanted a three year deal with a big increase from the $100K he made in '76 - and so he left for Montreal after the season. His '77 card would be another awful air-brushed one. Dave began his Montreal career pretty much where left off in Philly, but in '78 his average slipped almost 40 points. He would rebound to hit .321 in '79 but by then Rodney Scott had taken over second, Tony Bernazard was in the wings, and Dave would be sent to the Padres for Billy Almon and Dan Briggs. After a season as a semi-regular during which he hit only .227 he would be released, ending his playing career. He hit .283 with 1,571 hits in 1,422 games. In the post-season he hit .236 in 21 games.

After playing, Cash became involved in a business that leased-to-own semi truck cabs that was pretty successful until the '86 tax laws took away the accelerated depreciation deduction that made the business work. He then hooked back up with the Phillies and in '87 began his coaching career as a roving instructor in the minors. He did that for ten years, finishing as Jim Fregosi's first base coach in '96. From there he did minor league managing and coaching in the Baltimore chain for a few years and then moved on to doing the same thing for some independent league teams. He is currently the hitting coach for the Yuma Scorpions. I have inserted an audio interview with him from a couple years ago here. He still has a great voice.

Two more demerits for this card from the back. One is that Dave doesn't even get the little type saying he was traded. Two is that this card is awfully crooked. Dave finished his military hitch by the '74 season which allowed him to play all the time.

Finally an NL hookup and this one is all Padres:

1. Cash and Dave Winfield '80 Padres;
2. Winfield and Vicente Romo '73 to '74 Padres.