Monday, October 31, 2011

#270 - Ron Santo

The second double post in a row is of a guy a bit more familiar than the last post subject. Sometimes these Traded cards come in bunches and this one pretty much represents the last hurrah of Ron Santo's playing career. In '73 he hit .386 early in the season as the Cubbies made their last serious division run for a few years but both he and the team faded right after the All-Star break and only Don Kessinger would return from the infield starters for the '74 season. This card has a pretty good supporting cast on it in what looks like the Cubs' spring training facility. That looks like Bobby Bonds in the Giants uniform and that guy without a cap is Leo Durocher, then the Cubs' manager (between this card and the Houston manager one we have two near misses for Leo the Lip in this set). That means this photo is from '72 at its most recent since Leo left the team during that season.

Ron Santo grew up in Seattle where he was a super athlete and played third base in high school until his senior year when he switched to catcher and made a national team. He was signed by the Cubs in '59 and in spring ball that year so impressed the Cubs' hitting instructor, Rogers Hornsby, that he went to Double A that year and had no problem hitting .327 with 11 homers and 87 RBIs while playing third. In '60 he moved to Triple A where his offensive numbers down-ticked a bit but his defense improved considerably. By the end of the season he was up in Chicago where he would take over third base from Don Zimmer and hit and field well enough to come in fourth in NL ROY voting and make the Topps rookie team. Ron then settled in for a long run as one of the NL's best third basemen. After a great sophomore season in '61 his average took a hit in '62 but his RBI total stayed pretty fat. Then in '63 began a long run of accolades. That year he made the first of what would be nine All-Star selections in the next 11 seasons. In '64, perhaps his best offensive season, he won the first of his five successive Gold Gloves. That season he led the NL in triples and walks and for the next eight seasons he would average over 90 walks a season, giving him some pretty hefty OBA totals, peaking in '66 at .412. By that year the Cubbies' solid infield turned them from losers into contenders, no year moreso than in '69 when they held a pretty significant lead over the Mets most of the season. Ron was involved in that run in two big ways that had nothing to do with his playing: he would jump up and click his heels at the end of every Cubs win which the fans loved (and then hated); and he famously had a black cat cross in front of him while playing third in a game that began the team's fall from grace that year. In the Seventies he continued to post pretty good power numbers and in '72 put up his second highest average. After his hot start and fade-out in '73 he moved across town in this trade, clearing the way for the next Cubs super third bagger, Bill Madlock, who came over in the Fergie Jenkins trade. While big things were expected with the ChiSox - a sort of power platooning at first, third, and DH with Dick Allen, Bill Melton, Carlos May, and Ron was the plan - Ron's average took a big hit as he played as much second base as third and way too much DH for his liking. He retired after the season leaving behind a lifetime .277 average with 342 homers and 1,331 RBIs and a .362 OBA. He is yet another guy whose stats put him right on the cusp of HOF levels and there has been some pretty strong advocacy for his inclusion.

Santo was pretty successful off the field and while playing he began his own insurance agency - and employed his buddy and teammate Glenn Beckert there - which he later sold. After playing he moved to the broadcast booth and was a Cubs color guy for as long as he could be. In 2010 after a couple amputations his diabetes finally caught up to him and he passed away at age 70 but not before endearing himself to a whole new generation of fans as an announcer and a spokesperson and fund-raiser for his disease. He has another very detailed bio on the SABR site that I have linked to here.

The Traded card is another pretty generic one for which there is no shot at guessing a locale. The artist got pretty lazy this time and didn't even put on a logo.

Nicely, Topps gives Ron props for his fielding, which despite the Gold Gloves, was often overlooked for his offense numbers. Ron grew up near Sicks Stadium in Seattle and worked there as a kid. Sicks would rather infamously be the home of the Seattle Pilots in their initial season.

This trade was sort of a push for both sides. I'd give the edge to the Cubs since Swisher - Nick's dad - would be a quasi-starter and All-Star for them in the mid-'70s. Stone won a bunch that one year but he did that for the Orioles. That last line would unfortunately not be true as Allen's MIA the last month of the season, Melton's drop-off in power, and rundown pitching would keep the Sox from making a big play for the division.

Over in the music world, on October 30, 1973 the Osmonds began a UK tour by being mobbed at the airport by thousands of fans. Wow. That's enough to bring this site back to baseball only.

This trip takes us through both leagues:

1. Santo and Larry Gura '70 to '73 Cubs;
2. Gura and Cookie Rojas '76 to '77 Royals;
3. Rojas and Bob Johnson '70 Royals.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

#269 - Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson stands in Candlestick which is appropriate since he pitched what was probably the best game of his career against the Giants. That game was Game Three of the 1971 NL Championships in which Bob started at the last minute due to an injury to Nelson Briles. Bob would pitch five-hit ball with seven strikeouts in eight innings and only give up one unearned run to give Pittsburgh the series lead while beating Juan Marichal. There are a couple of Pirate players in the background on the regular shot. The low butt of the guy leaning on the wall leads me to believe it's Manny Sanguillen but I have no shot on the other guy. Bob looks pretty serious in this photo. And also old. He'd have been about 30 when it was taken but I could easily add ten years to that based on this shot. We'll get into a potential reason for that below. These two cards would be the final ones in Bob's career.

Bob Johnson came out of Illinois and pitched for two years at Bradley University there before being signed by the Mets in 1964. He went 10-9 that year in A ball splitting time between the rotation and the pen. In '65 he improved to 10-2 as a starter at Single and Double A. He spent the bulk of '66 at Double A before getting in some games at the next level. Bob threw some serious heat and he was averaging nearly a strikeout an inning at this point in his career. In '67 he was off to a great start back in Double A - 3-1 with a 1.02 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 53 innings - when he was in a motorcycle accident that nearly wrecked his left leg. After missing the rest of that season he also missed all of '68 for military duty. When he returned in '69 he again put up excellent numbers at Double A Memphis - 13-4 with a 1.48 ERA that took him through Triple A and into a couple games for the Series winners up top. After the season he was traded to the Royals with Amos Otis for Joe Foy.

The Royals were a pretty exciting young club that had a pretty good expansion season but in '70 they took a step back, losing 97 games. As a result, Johnson only went 8-13 despite an ERA of 3.07 and 206 strikeouts in 214 innings. It was an excellent rookie season, and he finished second to Bert Blyleven for TSN rookie pitcher of the year. Following the season he was traded to the Pirates with Jackie Hernandez for Fred Patek, Jerry May, and Bruce Dal Canton. For Pittsburgh in '71 he would get 27 starts but disappointed with a 9-10 record and only 101 strikeouts in 174 innings. After his show in the playoffs he would not pitch terribly well in the Series. But he got a ring and in '72 when moved to the pen as the long guy and spot starter he recorded a nice season, adding three saves to his four wins and 2.96 ERA. In '73 he continued his good work, adding four saves, although his ERA moved up a bit.

When Johnson went to Cleveland in this trade he was moved into the rotation and early in the season he was 3-4 with an ERA around 4.00. They weren't spectacular numbers but his behavior was significantly worse. Bob, who'd had a severe drinking problem since his trade to Pittsburgh, got into some ugly altercations with various people while saucing it up and he was placed on waivers by the Indians before the end of June. Texas claimed him and put him in Triple A where he posted pretty good numbers in the rotation (5-3 with a 3.24 ERA). But he injured his arm late in the season and was cut during '75 spring training. Over the next two years he would be signed and dropped by both the Yankees and the Royals as he went a combined 4-8 for them in Triple A. In '77 he signed with the Braves but threw poorly for them in a few games up top and was done. Bob finished with a 28-34 record with a 3.48 ERA, 18 complete games, two shutouts, and twelve saves. He went 1-1 in five post-season games with a 3.32 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings. He cleaned himself up in '75 and since '77 has owned a construction company in Oregon. He has also coached American Legion ball. He has a detailed bio by the SABR guys linked to here.

Bob's Traded card is yet another one in an unrecognizable place. He looks much happier here but not much younger.

These star bullets invite commentary. The first one is impressive because Bob led in those two categories despite only playing about half a season at that level. He is one of very few guys to get over 200 strikeouts in his rookie season. And the third bullet is just wrong - he was the starter in that game.

The Traded card back recycles some info from the regular card. The best part about this card is the name of the guy for whom Bob was traded. Burnel Flowers would have been a great name on a card or being rolled out by stadium announcers. For a little background, Burnel was a speedy outfielder from Alabama whose best season was probably his '74 for the Pirates in Triple A: .275 with seven homers, 40 RBIs, 70 runs, and 29 stolen bases. He never made it to the majors.

In 1973 a new song hit number one on both sides of the pond. Stateside "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips took over from "Angie", a slight downtick but a pretty good song. But in the UK "Daydreamer" by David Cassidy of The Partridge Family finally displaced that "Eye Level" song. Cassidy was so huge in the UK that year that his songs were banned from the "Top of the Pops" show there after there was a riot at one of his shows. In '74 on the 26th "Then Came You" by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners took over in the States and "Everything I Own" by Ken Boothe in the UK. I used to think Dionne was a classy lady until she started doing cable ads for those clairvoyant phone lines a few years ago. But The Spinners were pretty cool. The Ken Boothe song is actually pretty good - it's a reggae version of the hit by Bread from '72. A day earlier in '74 the singer Nick Drake died of an overdose in England.

Nothing like a Hall of Famer to bring people together:

1. Johnson and Gaylord Perry '74 Indians;
2. Perry and Tom Grieve '75 to '77 Rangers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#268 - Tom Grieve

In another serious pose we get Tom Grieve in Oakland holding onto his bat at this point as hard as he's trying to hold on to the Major Leagues. Tom was experiencing his third try up top when this photo was taken, and though not used too much, he would lead the Rangers in batting average in '73. He would end up sticking for an exceptionally long career as a Ranger, but not always as a player.

Tom Grieve was a huge deal when he was selected by the Senators as a first-rounder in the '66 draft. He had led his high school team to the state championship and then played Cape Cod ball in the summer, hitting .416 in 89 at bats with 19 RBIs. He began the following spring in A ball and while producing a low average did knock in 44 runs in just 58 games. He had some trouble in his few games when moved to a better league, however. Then in '68 he lost time to the military but would hike his average up at the same level. In '69 he jumped to Triple A and had an OK year before he improved things at that level significantly in '70. He was then pulled up to Washington where he continued to play outfield in a supporting role. After a poor spring in '71 he spent the whole season back at Triple A Denver. He then returned up top, this time in Texas, for good in '72, where he raised his average a bit in a reserve role.

In '73 Grieve wouldn't get too much playing time in a young outfield, but he did make the most of it, hitting .317 with 22 RBIs in 123 at bats. That season would lead to increasingly more playing time, both in the outfield and at DH. He also escalated his offensive numbers the next three seasons. His homer totals moved from nine to 14 to 20, his RBIs from 32 to 61 to 81, and his average from .255 to .276 and back to .255. In '77 the Rangers traded Jeff Burroughs to Atlanta and Tom lost his starting role in the new outfield of Claudell Washington, Juan Beniquez, and Dave May while Willie Horton put a stranglehold on DH. After hitting .225 in just 236 at bats he was part of the huge multi-team trade that took him and Ken Henderson to the Mets and brought Jon Matlack to the Rangers. But with no DH time his at bats continued to drop and before the '79 season he was sent to the Cards for pitcher Pete Falcone. After a few at bats for St. Louis he was released whereupon he re-signed with the Rangers. For Texas he finished things up playing outfield and first base for their Triple A Tucson club. Tom finished with a .249 average with 65 homers and 254 RBIs.

But Grieve wasn't done with baseball, nor with Texas. In 1980 he did a bit of radio color work while also becoming director of group sales. In '81 he moved to assistant director of player development and after the '82 season was named director. In '84 he became the Texas GM, a position he held for 11 seasons. He brought Nolan Ryan and Rafael Palmeiro to the Rangers (but famously gave up Sammy Sosa). Upon stepping down in '94 he returned to the booth where he has been the local color guy ever since.


Regarding the first star bullet, Tom initially wasn't getting the bonus he wanted from Washington which is why he opted for Cape Cod ball. He also signed a letter of intent to go to Michigan which pressured the Nats into paying up. He was recently inducted into the Cape Cod League's hall of fame. Tom homered twice in the infamous "25 cent beer game" in Cleveland and as he crossed the plate after the second one, a naked fan slid into second base. Tom's son Ben would follow his dad as a first rounder, win AL Rookie of the Year in '98 and post some big seasons for Oakland in the late Nineties. The book "Seasons in Hell" notes that Ben's signing bonus was more than Tom made his whole MLB career.

Another Angel helps this hook-up:

1. Grieve and Jim Spencer '73 to '75 Rangers;
2. Spencer and Andy Messersmith '68 to '72 Angels.

So Joe Rudi was the 40% mark of this set and I'd like to throw some milestones out there from the set at that point, although I'm a tad late. So here goes:

Post-Seasons: like the last milestone, every season is represented by at least one player from a post-season team that year from 1957 to 1989 except 1960. 1974 still leads the way with 41 players.

Awards: There are 14 MVPs in the set and ten Cy Young winners. There are also 15 Rookie of the Year winners, 15 Comeback Player of the Year winners, and seven guys who have won The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. Managers of the Year have jumped to twelve but Fireman of the Year is stuck at nine.

Milestones: There has only been one rookie card in the last 66 making a total of 25. There are now 27 Hall of Famers and 27 official or unofficial Traded cards. There are 15 guys whose card in the '74 set is the final ones of their careers and 26 players who have since deceased.

Rookies: The Topps Rookie All-Star Team for '73 remains stuck at six. The other years have been represented as follows:
'59-2 '61-2 '64-3 '65-3 '66-4 '67-2
'68-4 '69-3 '70-4 '71-3 '72-6

Random: There have been 67 action shots, 89 photos of home uniforms, and 144 of away uniforms. There have been 21 players with the parenthetic names. Both the ugly cards and the cards of players that served in Viet Nam remain the same at five and four, respectively.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

#267 - Andy Messersmith

After a bunch of posts where the subject's photo is appropriately in a ballpark we get this one of Andy Messersmith in someone's backyard. Andy doesn't look too happy here but he should be. He is about to embark on his best season, one in which he would be the best starter on the best team in the NL and have an excellent run until the Series when the Oakland juggernaut stopped LA cold. If it wasn't for teammate Mike Marshall's record-breaking season, old Andy here would have won the Cy as well. After that season and another excellent one the following year things would get rigidly un-fun for him in baseball as injury and being a high-profile trail-blazer pretty much stole his career from him. Then the glum face would have been appropriate.

Andy Messersmith was born in Jersey, moved to California and then went to Berkeley where he was an All-American pitcher his sophomore year in '65, going 8-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He was drafted by the Tigers but when they wouldn't meet his price instead played a summer in Alaska (with Graig Nettles, Danny Frisella, and Tom Seaver) and returned to Berkeley for his junior year. He was then drafted by the Angels in the first round of '66 with whom he signed for a $30,000 bonus. He went right to Triple A and while his stats were pretty good - 4-6 in the rotation with a 3.36 ERA - he was moved a rung lower in '67 where his 9-7 record was pretty good but his 4.34 ERA and over a hit an inning made Angels manager Bill Rigney think he was a washout. But in '68 he was back at Triple A Seattle where his command of pitches and 2.96 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 85 innings moved manager Joe Adcock to convince Rigney to pull Andy up top. It would be a good move as he put less than a baserunner on base per inning and added four saves and a shutout to his four late-season wins. In '69 things began badly as he went 0-5 to start the season with a 3.98 ERA and was briefly pulled from the rotation. But he then picked up a screwball and mastered it well enough to go 16-6 the rest of the way with an ERA under 2.00 and held the AL to a .190 average against him. In '70, an aggressive guy at the plate and on the basepaths, he hurt his shoulder sliding into second and his totals came in although his control continued to improve. '71 would be his first season in which he started exclusively and the result was pretty huge as he won 20 with four shutouts and came in fifth in the AL Cy race. After the season Baltimore would offer up Frank Robinson and Tom Phoebus for Andy but California shot the deal down. In '72 a broken finger would drop a bunch of starts off his calendar and the resulting losing record would instigate the Dodgers to go into overdrive to get him, the final arrangement being Andy and Ken McMullen for Bobby Valentine, Frank Robinson, Billy Grabarkewitz, and Bill Singer.

In his first year as a Dodger Messersmith more than turned his record around as he posted another fine ERA and expanded his pitching repertoire to include a fastball, two curves, and two change-ups. By now he was considered the league's best at the last pitch, mastering its speed so that it looked so much like a fastball that batters were constantly well ahead of it. Everything would come together in '74 as he went 20-6 to lead the NL in wins, posted a 2.59 ERA, and recorded a career-high 221 strikeouts. He also won the first of two consecutive Gold Gloves and hit .240 with eight doubles and 11 RBIs. He won his only start in the playoffs against Pittsburgh but then lost two against Oakland. When it came time to negotiate his '75 contract things turned testy when GM Al Campanis made it personal and Andy played that season without a contract, refusing to negotiate with Campanis. His numbers didn't suffer as he won 19 with an NL-leading 2.29 ERA, 40 starts, and seven shutouts. When the player's union sued the owners over the reserve clause, Andy's was the name on the suit and after an arbitrator ruled for the players free agency was born. He signed with the Braves for three seasons for $1,000,000, $400,000 of it up front.

But things went south pretty quickly for Messersmith. Experiencing both recurring injury problems and fans' wrath for his perceived greed, he began the season 0-4 but recovered to 9-7 by the All-Star game for which he was selected. Shortly thereafter he broke his elbow and finished with 11 wins. In '77 the win total fell to five as the elbow required an operation and after the season he was sold to the Yankees. There, according to Sparky Lyle's book "The Bronx Zoo" he was having an excellent spring training when he hurt his shoulder covering first base. He wouldn't get his first start until late May when he gave up one hit in five innings. His next few games weren't as good and after an 0-3 record had been accrued Lyle noticed that when Andy dressesd he couldn't even lift his right arm. He wouldn't pitch again that season and was released in November. The Dodgers signed him but his arm was toast and after going 2-4 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 starts he was released. Andy finished with a record of 130-99 with a 2.86 ERA, 27 shut-outs, and 15 saves. He was a four-time All-Star. In the post-season he was 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA. Only Sandy Koufax (2.76), Jim Palmer, and Tom Seaver (2.86) have pitched as many innings as Andy since WW II and have as good a lifetime ERA.

Since he finished playing Messersmith has twice taken on head coach stints at Cabillo Community College in Soquel, California: from '86 to '91 and from 2008-'09. Outside of that he has done some youth league coaching but it has been very difficult to get good info on how he has spent his time since baseball (when asked, he still won't talk about the personal issue in his '75 negotiations with the Dodgers). When asked about him, though, the players on his teams at Cabrillo were universal in saying he was a great coach. Quality over quantity.
Regarding the star bullets, he is one of very few guys to win 20 in both leagues as well as strike out over 200 in both leagues. He was 8-8 at the '71 All-Star break. Regarding his signature one wonders how Andy gets out from John Alexander.

The California connection helps here huge:

1. Messersmith and Aurelio Rodriguez '68 to '70 Angels;
2. Rodriguez and Jim Northrup '71 to '74 Tigers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

#266 - Jim Northrup

Detroit of the late '60's and early '70's really did a good job of corralling local sports stars, didn't they? Jim here grew up in Michigan, as did Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, and Mickey Stanley. Jim is smiling here while admiring the end of his bat in Detroit but all was not well for him in '73. Although he posted the highest average of his career that season he had a bad relationship with manager Billy Martin which led to his being benched a significant amount of time and being moved way down in the order, killing his RBI totals. It was too bad because most of the time Jim was an agreeable guy who prospered when the team was rocking. In the end he would only outlast Martin in Detroit by about a season.

As indicated above Jim Northrup was a local Michigan boy, an all-around athlete in high school who went on to play five sports at Alma College in Michigan. In baseball there he pitched and played outfield and first base. In '59 he threw a no-hitter. He was a QB in football and both the Bears and Titans showed some interest, but Detroit put some money on the table so Jim opted for baseball and signed with the Tigers in '60. He began his career the following spring in C ball but didn't start off too hot so moved down to D ball where his stroke improved. In '62 the same thing happened in A ball and he revived things in C ball, hitting .324 with some power and a .434 OBA. In '63 he moved to Double A without needing a reboot, and in '64 to Triple A. Both seasons he won his league's rookie of the year award and after stats of .312, 13 triples, 18 homers, and 92 RBI's the latter year he came up for good.

In '65 Northrup would be the fourth outfielder behind Willie Horton, Al Kaline, and Gates Brown even though he saw more games in right field than anyone that year. The next season he took over that position and would occupy it more-or-less for the duration of his time in Detroit. On occasion he would move to center - like in '67, '69, and '71 - when either Al Kaline or Mickey Stanley was injured or had to play elsewhere. He would show increasing power, particularly in clutch situations, peaking with 90 RBIs in '68, and 31 doubles and 25 homers in '69. He was a very competitive guy and a hard worker, endearing him to the Detroit fan base. in '71 Jim missed a few games to injuries and when Martin arrived to manage his playing time got crimped further, ostensibly due to platooning but probably truly due to Jim's troublesome relationship with his manager. He would have an excellent playoff in '72 and an eight-RBI in day in '73 but late in August of '74 he would be traded to the Expos right before his tenth anniversary as a Tiger which would have allowed him to nullify the deal. After a few games in Montreal he was sold to the Orioles. He would play a full season in Baltimore as a back-up outfielder in '75 and then retire. Jim finished with a .267 average, 153 homers, and 610 RBIs. In 12 post-season games he hit .286 with two homers and nine RBIs.

After taking some time off to be with his family Northrup returned to Detroit where he worked color on local Tigers broadcasts from the mid-'80's to the mid-'90's. He also sold insurance and worked in marketing. He passed away earlier this year at 71 from complications of Alzheimer's.

Jim, whose nickname was The Grey Fox, was for a time also known as The Grand Slam Kid, He hit four in the '68 regular season and then the big one in the Series. He was also inducted into the State of Michigan hall of fame, another future employer.

On October 20, 1973, "Angie" by the Rolling Stones, took over first place in the stateside charts, a marked uptick from Cher's "Half-Breed." In '74 "Nothing From Nothing" by Billy Preston was number one in the States while in the UK "Sad Sweet Dreamer" by Sweet Sensation took over from John Denver's " Annie's Song." That song is a mellow R&B number reminiscent of the Chi-Lites stuff. The video is pretty funny (it can be seen on YouTube) in that there is a sax solo and there is no sax player on stage.

These two guys probably would have hit it off but they never played each other:

1. Northrup and Tony Taylor '71 to '73 Tigers;
2. Taylor and Tug McGraw '75 to '76 Phillies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#265 - Tug McGraw

Like his '73 Series opponent on the prior post, Joe Rudi, Tug here had a very mixed pennant season. After getting five saves by the end of April his season blew apart and as late as mid-July he was 0-4 with a 6.00 ERA. But after a team meeting that month Tug coined the "Ya Gotta Believe" mantra and took the team with him on a tear. The final two months he went 5-2 with 14 saves with a 1.61 ERA. His fist-pumping enthusiasm became infectious as he solidified his role as a fan favorite and helped galvanize the Mets to their late-season run.

Frank "Tug" McGraw grew up outside of Vallejo California and then attended Vallejo Junior College where he pitched. After a poor showing in the JC state playoffs most teams lost interest. But Tug had a brother Hank who was a big baseball star ahead of him and had been signed by the Mets a few years earlier and Hank insisted the Mets sign Tug which they did in '64. It proved to be an opportunistic signing as he went a combined 6-4 with a 1.64 ERA as a starter that summer in Rookie and A ball. In '65 the Mets took him all the way up top to keep him out of the first year draft where his record wasn't so hot but he put up a very nice ERA. In his second win that year he became the first Met to beat Sandy Koufax in a start. While he pitched mostly out of the pen that year in '66 he grabbed mostly starting assignments in a year split between NY and Triple A. He'd hurt his shoulder working out before the season and it showed in an elevated ERA up top and not so great numbers at the lower level. But he DID pick up a pitch that season - a screwball - which became his signature pitch. While his few games in NY the '67 season were a wash he would put up excellent seasons with his new pitch the next two years in Triple A going 19-18 with a 2.71 ERA in the rotation. In '69 he came up for good.

After a few starts in '69 McGraw was pulled aside by manager Gil Hodges who told Tug he believed his future lay in the pen, which Tug embraced. He would put up killer stats the rest of the season as the Mets came from far back to be Series winners. He would throw well in the playoffs but not be needed against Baltimore. After an OK '70 he put up back to back seasons of 1.70 ERAs in '71 and '72, recording a career-high 27 saves the second season and earning his first All-Star selection. In '73 he had 25 saves but in '74 he had only three as his record fell to 6-11 and his ERA moved above 4.00 after he again hurt his shoulder. He also made a few starts that season including one in which he threw his only career shutout. After the season he went to the Phillies with outfielders Don Hahn and Dave Schneck for Mac Scarce, Del Unser, and John Stearns, leaving NY as the Mets career saves leader.

For the Phillies McGraw would have another long, successful run. In '75 he became the top guy in the pen, earning his second All-Star nod with a 9-6 record, 14 saves, and a 2.98 ERA. From then on he would be a strategic part of the Phillies' bullpen-by-committee as he was joined by Ron Reed, Warren Brusstar, Gene Garber, and others in helping Philly reach the playoffs in five of the next six seasons. He averaged records of 7-5 with ten saves in 59 games and a 2.77 ERA over the three division-winning seasons of '76 to '78. In '79 shoulder issues returned and his ERA popped above 5.00 although he recorded his second most saves as a Phillie, 16. Then in '80 he put together a wonderful season during another title run - 5-4 with 20 saves and a 1.46 ERA in 57 games - to get some serious Cy votes and capped it with an excellent Series against the Royals. He would then put up pretty good numbers as his innings declined over the next four seasons. When he retired after the '84 season he also finished as the Phillies' saves leader. Overall Tug went 96-92 with a 3.14 ERA, five complete games, that shutout, and 180 saves. In the post-season he went 3-3 with seven saves and a 2.24 ERA in 26 games. He also hit pretty well: .182 with 18 RBIs in 214 career at bats and .200 in the post-season. He has a very detailed bio by the SABR guys.

After he played McGraw did a bunch of speaking gigs and was a color commentator and news guy for a Philadelphia station from '85 to '91. In the early '90's he became actively involved in the fledgling music career of his son Tim. He would also do some work in spring training with the Phillies through 2003. It was in spring training that year that he found he had an aggressive form of brain cancer from which he would pass away in January '04. He was 59.

I like how the Tug in the signature is printed while the rest is in script. Those are two pretty good star bullets although the second gives no indication of the drama Tug endured during the season. It's too bad he didn't do the jewelry gig later. He probably would have been an excellent pitchman on cable.

On this date back in the music world in '74 Al Green was hospitalized with second and third degree burns resulting from his girlfriend pouring hot grits over him while he was in the shower. She then shot herself. Al's big hit was "Let's Stay Together" although he had a bunch of other Top Ten songs. After he recovered he became a gospel singer, turning his back on his self-proclaimed hedonistic life style. Drama all over back then.

Another two Series opponents. Thankfully the itinerant Alou's help here:

1. McGraw and Tom Seaver '69 to '74 Mets;
2. Seaver and Jesus Alou '75 Mets;
3. Alou and Joe Rudi '73 to '74 A's.

Monday, October 17, 2011

#264 - Joe Rudi

This card is sort of a big deal in this set. First of all, Joe Rudi's back! Joe took a hiatus in the '73 set since he was not one of the three players featured on his own card. It was an action card, but of Gene Tenace. Joe gets another action card in '74 and it's actually him lofting what appears to be a hit to right-center. And it's a big crowd which leads me to believe this is a playoff or Series shot since Oakland never filled the stands in the regular season. Joe's card also represents a milestone in the set as it represents the 40% mark of the total amount of cards. That means a recap is coming, but it'll be on the next post.

'73 was a mixed season for Rudi. He got hurt and missed a bunch of games. He was hitting around .217 in early June when he got benched by manager Dick Williams as Oakland was sort of floundering around the .500 level. But he and the team caught fire and Joe hit over .300 the rest of the way as the A's won their third division title in a row and returned to the post-season.

Joe Rudi grew up outside of Modesto California where he was a multi-sport star in high school. He was signed as a free agent by Kansas City in '64 after a few other teams lost interest because his hand was broken by a pitch his senior year. After a hot start in rookie ball that summer in a few games he cooled off in Single A ball. Until then mostly an infielder, Joe had a tough time at third base in Single A in '65 and it affected him at the plate. In '66 he stayed at that level but moved to Modesto - his hometown - and revived his average while hitting 24 homers and moving to the outfield. In '67 he sandwiched a Double A season in which he played mostly first and retained his stroke with a few games up top. Then in '68 it was back to the outfield in a few games at Triple A (where he certainly didn't have 74 RBIs as baseball-reference reports) but did well enough to spend the remainder of the season in Oakland, which turned out to be a bit challenging. In '69 an awesome season back in Triple A - .354 with 65 RBIs in 240 at bats - brought him back up for good as he rode out the season as an outfield and first base reserve guy.

In 1970 slugger Reggie Jackson held out and Rudi got his first significant starting time, responding well with a .309 average and 23 doubles in about half a season. In '71 Joe took over left field after the trade of Felipe Alou to the Yankees. He was doing pretty well offensively until he had to take two weeks off for his military hitch. He would then also miss a few weekends for the same reason and his offensive stats sort of tailed off the rest of the year. But '72 would be a huge year for him as his average pushed back above .300, he led the AL in hits and triples, and in the wake of his first All-Star nod Joe came in second to Dick Allen in AL MVP voting. In '74 he had perhaps his best offensive year, reaching a career high with 99 RBIs while leading the league in doubles, with 39, and total bases. Again he made the All-Star team and finished second in the MVP race and he also added his first Gold Glove. '75 was another All-Star and Gold Glove season although he missed some time and played primarily first base. His '76 season would be noteworthy because his mid-season trade to the Red Sox was nullified by Bowie Kuhn and in protest Charlie O benched Joe, which hurt his average. But he still put up 94 RBIs and won his third Gold Glove. After the season Joe left Oakland for California as one of the first big-name free agents.

Rudi got off to a pretty rocking start for the Angels but mid-season he would hurt his Achilles tendon and its condition would impact the rest of his career. He wound up hitting 13 homers with 53 RBIs in only 242 at bats. In '78 he was healthy as California improved significantly and his offense provided 17 homers and 79 RBIs. The next two seasons he would still be the primary left fielder but his playing time was hampered significantly by his Achilles ailments. In '79 he missed his last playoff action. Following the '80 season Joe went to Boston with Frank Tanana for Fred Lynn and Steve Renko. For the Sox he would do some reserve work and after the season would sign with Oakland for one last year of more of the same. '82 was his last year as a player and he finished with a .264 average with 179 homers and 810 RBIs. In the post-season Joe hit .257 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 38 games.

Rudi became involved in real estate while he was playing and has continued in that field on and off ever since. He also has done some work in insurance and even coached for Oakland a bit. In the late '80s he bought a farm in Oregon where he started and coached a local high school baseball team and went crazy with his ham radio hobby, putting up huge antennas on his spread (there was a small article about him with a photo in one of the "Where Are They Now?" SI issues a few years back). He has moved back and forth between there and the Modesto area since. His son played some minor league ball.

Joe gets one of those group of year-old props in his star bullets. The catch from the second one was pretty amazing as he pancaked himself on the outfield wall and barely held onto the ball (there is a photo montage of it linked to here). Joe was a big kid growing up and was six feet tall before he was 12, so the wresting is no surprise. He must have had lots of friends.

On the music side, in '73 Chet Atkins became the youngest guy inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but country music's not really my thing. Also around this time Joe Perry and Steven Tyler met for the first time at an ice cream store in New Hampshire, a significant moment for any Aerosmith fan.

These guys both played almost exclusively in the AL West:

1. Rudi and Reggie '67 to '75 A's;
2. Reggie and Lou Piniella '77 to '81 Yankees;
3. Piniella and Ed Kirkpatrick '69 to '73 Royals.

Friday, October 14, 2011

#263 - Checklist (Cards 133-264)

Here's the second checklist card of the set. It's marked. They're all marked. I suppose I could get clean cards as an upgrade but it just hasn't been a priority. I have pretty much nothing to say about these cards so I'll meander a bit and do a little promoting. The blog I have listed on my watch list is authored by my daughter. She's ten and it's about some kittens she and her brother found that were born outside our place. It's pretty cute and if anyone has someone who likes cats it's a pretty quick read. She doesn't post much and the whole thing can be knocked off in about five minutes unless you get carried away feeding the fishes at the bottom. Yup, she's already a much better handler of the bells and whistles on this Blogger thing than I am. But I bet she doesn't know what the A stands for in A. Monteagudo's name (number 139). Dad still has some props.

Back to the cards, this group of cards has as its special set the league leaders, which you already know if you've been reading this stuff. In fact the only real upside to these posts is taken away because the checklist card is the second to last card on the checklist card (huh?). You only get to see one future post but at least it's an All-Star.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

#262 - Ed Kirkpatrick

Ed Kirkpatrick was a fun-loving guy, despite the sneers he employs in his two cards in this set. On his regular card he strikes a pose in Oakland and his position designation is outfield, which was his major role in '73, after Fran Healy returned to take over the starting catcher gig. Ed was also the team's first DH that year (he went 0 for 3 against Nolan Ryan) and did catch a few games. As a Royal he played everywhere but pitcher and shortstop which was ironic given an earlier incident in his career.

Kirkpatrick's Traded card shows a different position, catcher, which is where Topps presumed he would spend the bulk of his time for the Pirates. He actually played more at first base than anywhere else, only catching six games during his stay with Pittsburgh. As for the rest of the card, it's a middling Traded one. The airbrush job isn't terrible although the artist again opts for the yellow hat. Like most of these cards it is tough to place the photo. But he sure looks pissed.

Ed Kirkpatrick came out of Glendora California where he was signed by the Angels in '62. A sought-after kid, he signed to a bonus of $20,000 and hit the ground running. That summer be hit .375 with 12 homers and 69 RBIs in only 216 at bats in D and C ball. He moved up big the following season and hit .326 with 14 homers and 61 RBIs in 307 at bats between Double and Triple A. Exclusively a catcher his first season he began playing the outfield his second year and continued in that position when he began the '64 season up top. Although his numbers there were pretty good - especially for a 19-year old - he was sent down during the season and only hit .216 the rest of the way in Triple A. He had a big rebound year at that level in '65 - .291 with 20 homers and 82 RBIs - where he continued to excel in getting on base (his OBA through then was over .400). One of his few games in the majors that season was against Oakland when Bert Campaneris played all nine positions, a gimmick that teed off some of the Angels. When Campy was catching Ed was chugging home attempting to score when Dick Green threw Bert the ball. Expecting a slide, Campy was surprised and injured when instead Ed barreled into him, dislocating Bert's shoulder, and initiating a brawl (he was also out). Ed then spent all of '66 up top but his light average had him back in Triple A in '67. After another season with the Angels outfield in '68 he was traded to the expansion Royals with Dennis Paepke for Hoyt Wilhelm. The guy that sponsor's Ed's baseball-reference page has an excellent article about his time with the Angels to which I have linked here.

Kirkpatrick had a much better go of it in KC. Although he continued to move around - mostly between first, all outfield spots, and catcher - and technically wasn't a regular, he got lots of starting time and put up some nice offensive numbers for a reserve guy. In '69 he led the team in homers and in '70 led AL catchers in RBIs. '71 was an off year but he rallied in '72 when he was the first string catcher and in '73 when he was used most often in right field. His .386 average early in the season was one of the big reasons KC made a mid-season run at the division and he was still north of .300 at the end of June. After the trade Ed did his thing for the Pirates getting a decent amount of at bats in '74 while posting similar numbers to his '73 ones - six homers and 38 RBI's in 271 at bats - and while he lost a few points from his average, put up his best MLB OBA of .369. The next two seasons he saw less action as a reserve to Willie Stargell at first as his offense contracted a bit. He did get some post-season work his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. In '77 he moved around team-wise, going to the Rangers in June for Jim Fregosi, a former teammate with the Angels, and in August to the Brewers for Gorman Thomas (that's weird). At all three stops he was mostly a pinch hitter or DH. He was released in spring training of '78, signed with the Angels, and hit .325 as a catcher and first baseman for their Triple A club. He then retired. Ed hit .238 for his career up top with 85 homers and 424 RBIs. He went hitless in eleven at bats with a couple walks in the post-season.

After playing, Kirkpatrick got a gig as a sales rep for Rawlings which he did until he retired. In '81 he was involved in a car accident from which he suffered a blood clot in his brain. The clot caused him to enter a five month coma and when he awoke he was paralyzed from the waist down. He passed away at age 66 in November 2010 after a lengthy battle with throat cancer. He had returned to Glendora where the town has named an award after him given annually to a person for youth-based community service.

That was some couple of days in '69. Four of those hits were homers, the first being an inside-the-parker. He also had nine RBIs in those two days in which he combined for a cycle. That must have been fun. This post misses Ed's birthday by only a couple days.

The back of the Traded card gives Ed's nickname and the cast of characters involved in the trade, all of whom had Traded cards that year. Mike Ryan would actually get the most back-up catcher work for the Pirates in '74.

Again, these guys missed being teammates by a few years:

1. Kirkpatrick and Ellie Rodriguez '69 to '70 Royals;
2. Rodriguez and Jerry Bell '71 to '73 Brewers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#261 - Jerry Bell

This is Jerry Bell's third and final card. It memorializes his busiest season up top when he joined the rotation pretty much full-time and despite an escalation in ERA had one of the staff's better records. His first card was the '72 rookie one in which I am pretty sure his photo and the one of Darrell Porter are swapped. And his '73 shot is pretty much exactly the same as this photo except that the giant anthill in back is in a different place (both are taken at the Brewers' spring training facility in Arizona). So Jerry only really had one legitimate photo his whole Topps career but at least he made it count: look at those muttonchops!

Jerry Bell grew up in Tennessee and was a baseball and basketball star in high school. He attended Belmont University in Nashville on a sports scholarship and continued to excel there in both sports, winning all-conference honors from '65 to '67 and being voted into the school's hall of fame in '92. He then transferred to Rhodes College in Nashville and was drafted out of there by the Pilots in '69 after an aborted draft by the Army the year earlier (aborted because ironically Jerry failed his physical due to herniated disks in his back). He kicked off his career that summer in Single A ball with some awfully good stats. Those continued in '70 at the same level and in '71 spread between A and Triple A leagues. That September he threw well in a September showing of a few games. A starter those years he occupied that role in Triple A to start the '72 season going 3-0 in five starts before he was called up to Milwaukee. He earned the team's rookie pitcher of the year award as he spent most of the time in the pen. In '73 he got in more innings than the rest of his MLB career combined. In '74 he won his first game with an excellent relief showing but then his back went out and he returned to the minors to do rehab work. That return didn't go so well as he went 6-12 with a 6.64 ERA in '74 and 7-14 with a 4.29 ERA in '75 as he moved from the Brewers system to Cleveland's. He was released following the '75 season and then retired. Jerry finished up top with a 17-11 record and a 3.28 ERA, eight complete games, and a save. In the minors he was 52-53 with a 3.35 ERA.

Bell returned to Tennessee after playing where professionally he took on a couple of sales jobs. He also began a side business tutoring kids on pitching. He has stayed close to organized ball on a few levels: joint commissioner of the state's American Legion leagues; authorized advisor on NCAA recruiting; principal of MVP Sports Training and Diamond Athletics Group which coach and train kids in various sports; and scout for the Dodgers. Since 2010 he has been pitching coach for the Nashville Outlaws, a summer collegiate league.

Jerry had posted some excellent numbers at this point of his career and it would seem that he could have been quite good - despite some control issues - if he hadn't been hurt. Those three starts in the second bullet were his only ones of the year. While his surname was rather popular - he pitched with Gary on the Pilots and pitched against Buddy - he wasn't related to any other players.

This guy was a Brewer well before Ted Simmons was:

1. Bell and George Scott '72 to '74 Brewers;
2. Scott and Reggie Smith '66 to '71 Red Sox;
3. Smith and Ted Simmons '74 to '76 Cards.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#260 - Ted Simmons

This card always cracked me up as a kid. First off, Ted's hat here looks a lot like a gypsy-style bandana that was huge with the "burnouts" (the kids who got stoned) in my school back then. Then this chest protector looks absurdly small on Mr. Simmons and his huge frame and annoyed expression seemed to me to indicate he didn't need the damn thing anyway. I didn't even notice the Giant bending over behind him. Now I'm guessing that's Darrel Evans but Ted still looks pretty big and ornery. So I guess I got that part right. Whatever the energy behind the expression, it worked for Ted yet again in '73 as he posted another excellent offensive season and solid work behind the plate.

Ted Simmons grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and was drafted and signed out of high school as a first-rounder by the Cards in '67. He was in A ball by the end of the summer and in '68 would rip a .331 average with 28 homers at that level. In '69 he was promoted to Triple A where he hit .317 with 16 homers and 88 RBIs. He began attending the University of Michigan in the off-seasons around this time and would eventually get a degree in speech there. After another hot start in Triple A in '70 he came up to The Show where he spent the season swapping catching time with Joe Torre. Ted would impress people enough that Torre was moved to third base - just in time to post an MVP season - and he became the starting catcher for the next ten seasons, and a damn good one at that. Ted justified the move right away by topping .300 his first season. He then held out in '72 which was pretty ballsy back then and played without a contract for half the season. But it didn't affect his hitting as his high average and RBI totals got him into his first All-Star game. '73 was more of the same although he was being more and more compared unfavorably to Johnny Bench, both in terms of power and on defense (his arm wasn't the best and he was always near the top in passed balls). In '74 his average came in a bit but he put up his first season of over 100 RBIs. Then in '75 he hit .332 to garner sixth place in NL MVP voting in probably his best offensive season. Over the next five seasons he would hit over .300 twice, get three All-Star nods and in '80 win the first Silver Slugger for his position. By then Ted, who was a pretty outspoken guy, had a less than perfect relationship with manager Whitey Herzog and after the '80 season he left St. Louis with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich for Milwaukee for Sixto Lezcano, Larry Sorenson, Dave LaPoint, and David Green. He left behind ten seasons of averaging .301 with 16 homers and 90 RBIs. He also played in six All-Star games.

In the strike year of '81 Simmons' Brewer career started off slowly with a .216 average. But he got his first post-season action that fall and in '82 revived his stats with a .269 average, 23 homers, and 97 RBIs as he joined the rest of Harvey's Wallbangers in the Series. In '83 Ted had his best season since '75 as he hit .308 with 13 homers and 108 RBIs. In '84 and '85 he would play primarily at DH as his offensive stats began to fade. After that second season he was traded to the Braves for Rick Cerrone and a couple minor leaguers. He would play three seasons for Atlanta, mostly as a backup first baseman and pinch hitter before retiring following the '88 season. Ted finished with a .285 average with 248 homers and 483 doubles among his 2,472 hits. He also had 1,389 RBIs and a .348 OBA, all of which rank favorably with HOF catchers' lifetime stats. In 17 post-season games he hit .186 with three homers and eight RBIs. He was an excellent contact hitter only striking out about once every 12 at bats. He is right on the cusp of HOF-worthy performance.

After playing Simmons moved to the admin side of baseball, first as director of player development for the Cards ('89 to '92), and then as GM for the Pirates ('92 to '93). In July of '93 he had a heart attack - he was only 44 - which led him to resign from that job and take the rest of the year off. He came back to baseball in '94 as a scout for the Indians through 2000. He then moved to San Diego, first as the player development guy and then as assistant to the GM, which lasted through '07. In '08 he moved back to Milwaukee as bench coast and then did the same in '09 for the Padres. Since late 2010 he has been assistant to the GM for the Mariners.

Ted gets some minor league and defense props in his star bullets. Although he had a bunch of criticism for his D work, he was great at blocking the plate and worked hard to improve his game there. Not to get all nit-picky on Topps here, but how exactly does one post more putouts than chances? In the mid-'70's he had awfully long hair so would have looked right at home on a hog.

Baltimore was such an intact team back then that these are tough:

1. Simmons and Moe Drabowski '71 to '72 Cards;
2. Drabowski and Jim Palmer '66 to '68 and '70 Orioles;
3. Palmer and Bob Reynolds '72 to '75 Orioles.

Monday, October 10, 2011

#259 - Bob Reynolds

This is the fourth card of Bob Reynolds issued by Topps but the first solo one. That means he had three shared rookie cards which may or may not be a record. Each of them was with a different team which has to be a record. In '71 he was an Expo, in '72 a Brewer, and in '73 an Oriole. The '71 card was an interesting one because all three rookies had the surname Reynolds and none was related. There's a little bit of Topps history for ya. Enjoying his freedom, Bob is airing it out in Baltimore, showing a follow through pose not terribly different from his '75 card. '73 was essentially his rookie year and Bob posted some awfully nice numbers in the pen. And dig those matching cleats.

Bob Reynolds grew up in Seattle with a blazing fastball and by the time he hit his senior year in high school there, his pitches topped 100 miles an hour. After a senior year in which he went 11-2 with a 0.81 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 86 innings he was drafted and signed by the Giants in the first round in '66. That summer he went 10-1 with a 1.89 ERA in Rookie and Single A ball. He then missed all of '67 and part of '68 for military duty. He returned the second year to go 8-6 with better than a strikeout an inning in Double A. After the season he went to the Expos in the expansion draft. Montreal, recognizing that Bob was a one-pitch guy, would give him a bunch of bullpen time while they had him. In '69 he put up pretty good numbers in Triple A (5-3 with a 3.09 ERA and four saves) but '70 was pretty much a bust. After a strong start in '71 out of the pen - 4-2, 2.07 ERA, four saves with over a strikeout an inning - he was traded to the Cards for Mike Torrez. He would get into a couple games up top with not great results before being sent a month later to the Brewers with Jose Cardenal and Dick Schofield for Ted Kubiak. Bob would pitch the rest of the season at Triple A for Milwaukee now as a starter and finish out the season with as good a set of numbers - 2-1 in seven starts with a 1.73 ERA - as he started it. After that year he was sent to the Orioles as the player to be named later in a trade that got the Brewers Curt Motton.

By '72 Reynolds had finally added a slider and change-up to his pitching selection and he put up excellent numbers for the O's in Triple A, going 8-7 with a 1.71 ERA and nine saves in 45 games, again with well over a strikeout an inning. In a couple games up top that fall he did well also. Finally at 26 he got to experience a true rookie season in which he did not disappoint, corralling his walks and grabbing nine saves to join his excellent ERA. In '74 Bob would move from a long guy to a short guy and nearly match his '73 numbers, going 7-5 with a 2.73 ERA and seven saves. Both years he got playoff time and he posted a 2.57 ERA with six strikeouts (and six walks) in seven innings. Early in '75 he was sent to Detroit for Fred Holdsworth and for the Tigers he joined the rest of the team in posting not great numbers: 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA and three saves in 21 games. He was placed on waivers mid-season and scooped by the Indians for whom he put up nearly identical numbers the rest of the way. In '76 he moved back down to Triple A where he went 6-10 with a 3.71 ERA and three saves out of the pen. In '77 he went to Japan to pitch for the Taiyo Whales and that winter and part of the following season he pitched in Mexico. He was pretty much done after that. Bob finished with a record of 14-16 with a 3.15 ERA and 21 saves.

A lot pf the info for the post I got from a local Seattle newspaper article (linked to here) which describes Reynolds' career and attempts to get a baseball pension. It also provides info on what he did after baseball which was to work as a truck driver from about 1980 to '95 and then as a security guy from '96 until the article was written in 2003. I can't pull up anything on Bob since although it looks like he still resides in the same town he did when the article came out. It's a good read and also references a high-profile incident he had with Frank Robinson. A little more color on that event may be gleaned from the book "The Curse of Roccky Colavito" which I've used as reference on past posts. In spring training of '76 Bob found out he was going back to the minors from a sportswriter instead of from Robinson, his manager (Robinson had been told that the GM at the time would inform Reynolds). When Cleveland came to Toledo for an exhibition game Reynolds, still pissed about the way he was sent down, told people he was going to knock Robby down if his manager came up against him. When Robinson stepped in for the first pitch Reynolds threw one behind his head. Robby called Reynolds gutless, Reynolds then asked him why he didn't tell him he was being sent down, and Robby popped Reynolds twice in the face. So the story in the Seattle paper leaves out a huge part of the back story.

Some decent star bullets are joined by an informational cartoon. Obviously given the nickname because of his lively fastball, when Bob played in Japan in '77 he was asked by a team employee what he was called. Reynolds responded that when he was younger he was called "Bullet" so when he received his uniform it had Bullet on the back since the employee interpreted Bob's answer to mean that that was his actual name.

This one will be a little longer because we have to cross leagues:

1. Reynolds and Earl Williams '73 to '74 Orioles;
2. Williams and Cito Gaston '75 to '76 Braves;
3. Gaston and Jerry Morales ''69 to '73 Padres.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

#258 - Jerry Morales

Here is the flip side of the Glenn Beckert trade from several cards ago. Like the Beckert card this one is unusual for this set in that the player retains his old uniform but is listed on his new team. I actually think it's an uptick to the air-brushed cards although this one is not nearly as good as Glenn's. Then again, it's not an action shot and it has one of the ugly old-school road Padres uniforms. But Jerry does have a slamming '70s 'stache. It would have been cool if he displayed his true batting stance too. Jerry used to hold the bat way high - sort of opposite to Ricky Weeks - when awaiting the pitch, the knob of the bat about even with his head. He was only about 160 pounds back then and sometimes he looked like he was going to fall over.

Jerry Morales was signed as a free agent out of PR in '66 by the Mets when he was only 17. He hit .345 in Rookie ball that summer and the next couple seasons, while he hit pretty lightly in A ball, he did impress people with his skills in the outfield. A fast little guy, he would race to the ball and at the last second make a basket catch, a style he took to the majors. Following the '68 season he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft. With San Diego the next three seasons Jerry stuck mostly in the minors, at both Double and Triple A, where he upped his average to the .270 levels and showed some selective power. In '72 he came up and was the Padres' most regular center fielder, a position he also played in '73 when he moved his offensive numbers up considerably. After the season he was traded to the Cubs for Beckert and Bobby Fenwick, a reserve middle infielder.

Morales would hit his stride in Chicago as he would start pretty much everywhere in the outfield the next four years. He kept his average in the mid-.270's, added some hefty RBI totals (he got 91 in '75), and became an entertaining figure and fan favorite with his catches and his unorthodox hitting style. In '77 a fast start got him named to the All-Star team. It would turn out to be a mixed blessing because while he scored a run in the game he also got clipped in the knee by a Sparky Lyle pitch. He would then miss some time which contributed to the Cubbies' fade that season and would also see a general decline in his stats the rest of his career. After the season he was traded to the Cards with Steve Swisher for Dave Rader and Hector Cruz.

Morales was pretty much a disappointment in St. Louis. Playing in roughly the same number of games as in the prior year, his offensive numbers fell pretty hard: his doubles were cut in half, his RBIs by a third, and his average fell from .290 to .239. After the season he was sent to the Tigers with Aurelio Lopez for Bob Sykes in a deal that worked out super for Detroit in the '80's, but not because of Jerry. His average dipped to .211 and following the season he was sent with Phil Mankowski to the Mets for Richie Hebner. He only played about half a season in '80 for NY and while his average recovered by over 40 points, he left as a free agent and was signed by the Cubs. Back in Chicago Jerry hit .285 the next two seasons as an outfielder reserve and pinch-hitter. In '83 his average fell to under .200 and he was released, ending his time in the States as a player. He finished with a .259 average, 95 homers, and 570 RBIs.

Like other recent post subjects Morales would stay close to baseball after he played. From '84 to '86 he was the Cubs' minor league roving batting and outfield instructor and from '87 to '90 a scout for the Dodgers. From '86 to 2002 and from '05 to '06 he coached in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues where he also played during his career. From '99 to 2000 he managed the San Juan team there. From '02 to '05 he coached up top for the Expos and since '06 has been with the Nationals after finishing a gig coaching the Mets' franchise in PR.

Jerry gets star bullet props for his defensive work, but is that first one really necessary? There is a funny bit from when he played for the Mets in '80. The postgame show forever was hosted by Ralph Kiner. a Mets announcer. Once when Ralph had Jerry on he reminded the player that when he was a Padre he always bowed out of appearing on the show, claiming he couldn't speak English well enough. When told that he would be paid to appear, all of a sudden Jerry's English got markedly better. As for the cartoon, it reminds me of all those bucolic photos and videos of people riding horses on the beach. It always looked so nice. When I vacationed in Costa Rica once I got to experience the downside of that activity: to get out to the surf I had to paddle through a nice layer of horse poop. That part never makes the commercials.

More cross-league stuff going on. This guy helps:

1. Morales and Leron Lee '71 to '73 Padres;
2. Lee and Buddy Bell '74 to '75 Indians.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

#257 - Buddy Bell

Like Larry Bowa of a couple posts ago, Buddy Bell here is a baseball lifer. His dad played in the majors. His kids played in the majors. He is still affiliated with baseball. Also like Bowa, Buddy was a rookie all-star guy, he in '72. That makes three out of the last four posts (and Tom Griffin should have been). Finally, like many teammates in this set, Buddy gets his photo taken at Yankee Stadium, during a sophomore season that saw him return to his natural position at third and ramp up his offensive stats pretty impressively, earning an All-Star nod even. I guess he was just a guy who liked to fit in.

Buddy Bell grew up just outside of Cincinnati - his dad had played for the Reds - and was drafted out of high school by the Indians in '69. After a slow start that summer in Rookie ball he ramped things up in A ball the next year, switching from second base to third. In '71 he jumped up to Triple A, preserving his numbers. In '72, then, he was a heralded rookie when he made the cut. That season was Graig Nettles' last one in Cleveland so Buddy began his major league career as a right fielder for a terrible team. So even though his offensive numbers weren't great he made the Topps team that season, as well as the Baseball Digest one. Then in '73 he made a pretty seamless transition to third after Nettles was traded. In '74 he missed some games due to knee problems but kept his stats up and in '75 he returned to a full healthy season. From '76 to '78 Buddy would hit .283 with an average of 62 RBI's at third as one of a young team's leaders. After the '78 season he would be traded to the Rangers even up for Toby Harrah.

In Texas Bell cruised. In '79 he had an offensive breakout, hitting .299 with 200 hits, 42 doubles, and 101 RBI's and won his first of six successive Gold Gloves. In '80 he missed over a month to more knee stuff but put up his highest average of .329 and returned to the All-Star game, which would also be an annual occurrence the next two years. In '81 he put up 64 RBI's in the strike season, '82 and '83 were reminiscent of his best years in Cleveland, and in '84 he made his final All-Star team while winning his first Silver Slugger for a .315/11/83 and personal best .382 OBA season. His full years with the Rangers Buddy averaged .297 with 18 homers and 83 RBI's. After a slow start to the '85 season he was traded to Cincinnati for Jeff Russell and Duane Walker. He finished the season hitting .219 for the Reds but after off-season knee surgery he returned in '86 to post a .278 average with 75 RBI's and a career-best 20 homers. After a similar season in '87 Buddy missed a bunch of games to start the '88 season because of his knees and was sent to the Astros that June, for whom he put up OK numbers the rest of the season. After Houston released him that December he signed as a free agent back with the Rangers and played a bit of DH but by then the six knee operations had reduced his mobility and he retired mid-season. Buddy hit .279 for his career with 2,514 hits, 201 homers, and 1,106 RBIs. His OBA was over .340. On the defense side he won three fielding titles and is fourth all-time in assists for a third baseman.

As indicated above Bell got right into coaching after playing. After coaching in the White Sox system in '90 he became their head of minor league instruction from '91 to '93, a role he reprised in 2008 and which he is still doing. In between he has coached in the minors: Reds ('99); coached up top: Indians ('94-'95 and '03-'05); and managed: Tigers ('96-'98), Rockies (2000-'02), and Royals ('05-'07). As a manager he has a lifetime record of 519-724.

Buddy got shut out from the post season in the majors but he had a good run right before his career began. The '71 mvp was at the Triple A level. That's a pretty interesting off-season job for a baseball player.

This hook-up will be all NL:

1. Bell and Cesar Cedeno '85 Reds;
2. Cedeno and Tom Griffin '70 to '76 Astros.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

#256 - Tom Griffin

Ah! Back to the horse farm with another beautiful Astro spring training shot. Tom Griffin just let a horse chip fly in this photo just before the tornado struck. My what gloomy pictures these guys had to endure in this set. Tom must have been particularly bummed as he had a great action shot in the '73 set. The '73 season was a mixed bag for Tom. His ERA moved up a bit but he was able to get himself more rotation time as he continued working his way back from arm ailments.

Tom Griffin threw heat while playing high school ball in southern California and it was his arm and his size that made him a sought-after first rounder in '66 by the Astros. But he was wild. His first two seasons played at every level from Single to Triple A he put up a record of 6-15 with a 5.65 ERA, 152 strikeouts, and 86 walks in 145 innings. In '68 he settled down a bit to drop his ERA down over a run and go 7-14 at Oklahoma City. In '69 Tom came up to Houston, nabbed a spot in the rotation, and had an excellent rookie season, recording over a strikeout an inning. He won a bunch of rookie honors although he got shut out from the Topps team (too bad because he would have been the third guy in a row) and hopes were high for an award-filled career. In '70 he kicked things off with an early shutout but then everything fell apart. Tendinitis just wrecked his pitching shoulder and though he put up good numbers when he was sent down for rehab work - 3-2 in five starts with a 1.29 ERA - his numbers up top were terrible. In '71 it was more of the same: pretty good numbers in Triple A (6-8 with a 3.11 ERA back at Oklahoma City) but no wins and a high ERA in Houston. By then Tom was working some in the pen and in '72 he would pitch relief almost exclusively. It seemed to work as he lowered his ERA by over a run, racked up pretty good K totals, and had a winning record to go along with three saves. In '73 he added some spot starts back to his routine and while his ERA rose, it was a significantly better season than '70 or '71.

In '74 Griffin would post a nice comeback, going 14-10 in over 200 innings with three shutouts and a 3.54 ERA, by far his best numbers since his rookie season. Unfortunately though his career mimicked itself and the next two years were busts in Houston as the arm problems resurfaced. He went a combined 8-11 with an ERA well over 5.50 before he was selected off waivers by the Padres in August '76. Tom finished nicely for San Diego though, posting a 4-3 record in eleven starts with a 2.94 ERA. After a less than stellar '77 split between the rotation and the pen he left San Diego as a free agent and signed with the Angels. There his pitching was restricted by arm pain again and after a 3-4 record and a 4.02 ERA in only 56 innings he was released. But he stayed on the coast as the Giants signed him and for the next three seasons Tom did OK as a set-up guy ('79 and '80) and a starter ('81), going a combined 18-15 with a couple saves and an ERA of 3.48, better than league average. In '82 he was traded to the Pirates for a guy I never heard of but after a few sub-standard games there he was released and at 34 done with baseball. Tom had a record of 77-94 with a 4.07 ERA, 29 complete games, ten shutouts, and five saves. He had a couple good hitting seasons and overall batted .163 with four homers during his career.

Griffin was pretty tough to track down after baseball ended but eventually he got pretty high-profile. Since '89 he has been running a business with his wife Lorri that customizes furniture arrangements for homes and businesses. They have a website that I have linked to here.

Tom's rookie season gets some serious star bullet props. In '69 he was also one of three Astros - Larry Dierker and Don Wilson were the other two - to have over 200 K's.

More music news. On this day in '73 a new number one song was unveiled: "Half-Breed" by Cher. I think my comment on yesterday's post works for this one as well.

Still going with the rookie all-star theme, I offer up this hookup:

1. Griffin and Greg Gross '73 to '76 Astros;
2. Gross and Larry Bowa '79 to '81 Phillies.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#255 - Larry Bowa

This is the second card in a row of a player on a former Topps rookie team. Larry Bowa, seen here about to run to first in Philly, was the shortstop on the '70 team which was pretty odd because the '69 shortstop, Don Money, was also a Phillie. But Larry was too good defensively not to get a place in the lineup so Money moved to third, eventually gave way to Mike Schmidt, and after a decade Larry and Mike would be the infield anchors on a Series winner. That time was still a few years away and while Larry had established himself as a defensive marvel by the time of this card - see below - '73 was sort of a nadir for him offensively as an injury contributed to lost time and discounted numbers. But that would change pretty quickly.

Larry Bowa grew up in Sacramento where he came from baseball lineage but had a tough time cracking his high school lineup. His dad had played minor league ball and was nearly killed by a beanball when Larry was a kid. Larry then played for two years at Sacramento City College, a community school where he was all-conference and then was signed by the Phillies (by the same scout who signed Bob Oliver) when passed over in the draft late in '65. The next year he was a hitting machine in Single A and in '67 once he finished his military hitch he hit pretty well in Double A. In '68 his average fell but he began wowing people with his defense at the same level and in '69 he ramped up everything in Triple A, including stealing 48 bases. In both '68 and '69 he played for Frank Lucchesi which would be beneficial up top.

Bowa came up to stay in '70 and immediately took over shortstop from Money, who moved to third base. While his D was quite good his hitting was miserable and halfway through the season he was still in the low hundreds when he got a show of fealty from his manager, who happened to be Lucchesi. Larry picked things up, hitting close to .300 the rest of the way, finishing at a respectable .250. He came in third in NL ROY voting and made the Topps team. '71 began pretty similarly and mandated another late rally as on the field he tied a record for best fielding percentage by a shortstop. He topped that the following season as he led the majors in triples and won his first Gold Glove. Joined by Dave Cash in the middle in '74, Larry started hitting like his teammate and upped his average 64 points and stole 39 bases in that season to grab his first All-Star appearance. The following season he topped .300 and in '76 while his average dipped a bunch he got his lifetime high in RBIs with 49. He also saw his first post-season action that fall and the next two seasons as the Phillies won their division he hit well over .280. In '79 the average tumbled again as the Phillies failed to repeat but Larry upped his record fielding average to .991 by putting up only six errors during the season. In '80 it all came together for Philly and Larry had his best post-season, hitting .316 against Houston and .375 against the Royals. After an '81 that was a bit acrimonious he left the Phillies in a trade to the Cubs with Ryne Sandberg for Ivan DeJesus. Larry left behind five All-Star nods, two Gold Gloves, and a lot of playoff games.

With Chicago, Bowa played the elder statesman, helping to groom Sandberg at second as he took DeJesus' spot at short. The first couple seasons he kept his average up but in '84 he lost some starting time to a couple other veterans. He did, however, get to be part of an exciting division championship, the Cubbies' first title in almost 40 years. In '85 new kid Shawon Dunston showed up and Larry got moved to a reserve role and then to the Mets where he finished out the season and his playing career. He finished with a .260 average with 2,191 hits and 318 stolen bases. On defense he grabbed six fielding titles and ranks high for just about every major category. In the post-season he hit .254 in 32 games.
In '86 Bowa immediately got a managing gig, leading the PCL Las Vegas Stars to a title. That got him promoted all the way to the top, where he managed the Padres the next two seasons. He has stayed connected to baseball since, either as a manager: Phillies (2001-'04); coach: Phillies ('89-'96), Angels ('97-'99), Mariners (2000), Yankees ('06-'07), and Dodgers ('08-'10); and analyst: ESPN and Sirius ('05), and MLB ('11). His record as a manager up top is 418-435 and in '01 he won NL Manager of the Year as he revived the franchise. He's been a busy boy.

Larry's star bullets of course are all D-related. He broke each of these records himself later in his career. The cartoon is interesting. I wouldn't have considered the fiery Bowa patient enough to write anything down but he sure showed a lot of patience while managing.

On this date in '74 a new number one song took over in the States, the very syrupy "I Honestly Love You" by Olivia Newton-John. The song sort of punctuated what a sorry state of affairs popular music was in that year.

Since these two guys were Topps Rookie all-stars let's see if we can hook them up through another one:

1. Bowa and Del Unser ('68 team) '79 to '81 Phillies;
2. Unser and Stan Bahnsen '77 to '78 Expos.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#254 - Stan Bahnsen

Stan Bahnsen was probably pretty tired when this photo was taken. In '72 and '73 Stan and Wilbur Wood started over half of Chicago's games. But Wilbur threw a knuckler while Stan - the "Bahnsen Burner" - threw a mid-90's fastball and a curve so the experience affected him a bunch more and within a couple seasons of winning 20 he was pitching out of the pen, his fastball basically gone. Here he poses in Oakland, a future home to both him and his manager. If that is number 24 in the background then it is outfielder Ken Henderson who has the posture of a much older guy. I know '73 was a bit of a disappointment for the Sox after their performance the prior year, but it wasn't that bad.

Stan Bahnsen grew up in Iowa and was a small forward in basketball and pitcher in high school. He then pitched at the University of Nebraska where he was a third team All-American before being drafted and signed by the Yankees his junior year of '65. He had a good start that year in Double A - 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA - before going 10-7 with a 2.91 ERA in the rotation at Triple A in '66. Late that season he got a few starts in which he pitched well. In '67 he returned to Triple A where he won nine and after the season began his military hitch which forced him to miss the following season's spring training. It seemed to not matter as now up in NY, Stan won 17 with a superb 2.05 ERA. Those numbers got Stan the AL Rookie of the Year title. His follow-up year was pretty disappointing as the lowering of the mound contributed to a reversal of his record and an almost two-run jump in ERA. The next two seasons he put up good numbers as the team's third starter behind Mel Stottlemyre and Fritz Peterson. After the '71 season the Yankees, desperate for a third baseman, sent Stan to the Sox for Rich McKinney in a trade that was a bust for NY but worked out pretty well for Chicago.

In 1972 manager Chuck Tanner decided to streamline his rotation and so Bahnsen, Wood, and Tom Bradley started 130 of the team's 154 games. Each guy put up quite good numbers as they combined for 60 wins and the Sox nearly won the division. In '73 Bradley was traded to the Giants but Tanner threw Wilbur and Stan out there for over 90 starts and even though they combined for 42 wins they also each lost 20 as the Sox slipped to fifth when Dick Allen went down mid-season. In '74 Tanner got his new third guy in Jim Kaat and the trio started 122 games but although Wood and Kaat had nice seasons, Stan's numbers fell to 12-15 and his ERA ballooned to 4.70. After a poor kick-off to '75 the Sox sent him to Oakland that June with Skip Pitlock for Dave Hamilton and Chet Lemon. There he recovered well enough to go 6-7 with a 3.24 ERA and help the A's to their fifth straight division title.

In '76 Bahnsen was reunited with Tanner in Oakland but this time in a supporting role as he pitched spot starts and long relief. Early the following season he would go to the Expos for Mike Jorgensen where he would get 22 starts while winning eight but with a high ERA. The next season he settled in as the Montreal middle reliever for a three-year run during which he went 11-12 with a 3.31 ERA and 16 saves. His pitching time would decline significantly in '81 although he did grab his first post-season experience that season. After being released following spring training in '82 Stan would sign first with the Angels and then the Phillies for whom he would spend most of the season in Triple A. After an abbreviated season at that level in '83 he was done. He finished with a 146-149 record, 16 shutouts, 20 saves, and a 3.60 ERA.

In the late '80s Bahnsen would play in the Senior League both seasons but he has spent most of his professional time since playing as a representative for cruise ships that offer tours with former major leaguers.

These are some pretty good star bullets. Stan was a sought-after property because of his fastball. He also nearly had a no-hitter in '73 against Cleveland, former teammate Walt Williams breaking it up with a late-inning single.

On the cultural relevance stuff, on this date in '73 David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young reunited for a long session at Winterland. Later this month there would be reports that Young had passed away in Europe. That one was obviously wrong.

A fellow rookie honors pitcher hooks these two up:

1. Bahnsen and Steve Rogers '77 to '81 Expos;
2. Rogers and John Boccabella '73 Expos.