Monday, December 30, 2013

194 - Jorge Orta

About This Player
Jorge Orta enjoyed 16 seasons in the Major Leagues and eight of them with the Chicago White Sox.  Orta, born in Mexico, is the son of Pedro Orta, a Cuban-born outfielder who was a baseball superstar during his career in the Mexican League.  The younger Orta also turned down a basketball scholarship at UCLA to start his professional career in the Mexican League.

Orta was signed by the White Sox out of the Mexican League.  He made his Major League debut in 1972, although he spent much of the year with the Double-A Knoxville Sox.  Orta earned the starting second base position in 1973. Orta hit for a batting average of .316 in 1974 and finished second in the American League batting race to the Minnesota Twins' Rod Carew.  Orta earned the first of his two All-Star selections in 1975.

Orta signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians in 1980 and became the team's starting right fielder. Orta got six hits in a game on June 15, tying an American League record for most hits in a game.  (In the same game, Toby Harrah drove in seven runs in the 14-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.)  Orta was later selected to his second All-Star game.

For more information:

Orta would be traded later to the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays before arriving to the Kansas City Royals.  As a member of the Royals, Orta would become a platoon designated hitter sharing the role with Hal McRae. 

Orta became the center of a controversial blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.  In the ninth inning, Orta coming in as a pinch hitter, would be called safe on a close play at first base.  Replays showed that the pitcher tagged the base before Orta reached, but the momentum would shift in the Royals' favor and the would win the game and the series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Orta played his final game with the Royals in 1987.

Orta was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

About This Card
Jorge Orta's 1973 Topps card is a true rookie card without any "Rookie" designation and long before Major League Baseball and Topps created the "Rookie Card" logo. There are a small number of rookie cards in the 1973 set without the "Rookie" designation.  Today, however, you will rarely see a rookie card go by without Topps making any mention of it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

353 - Steve Brye

About This Player
Steve Brye enjoyed nine seasons in the Major Leagues and seven of them with the Minnesota Twins.  Brye was drafted by the Twins in the first round (17th overall) of the 1967 amateur draft and made his big league debut in 1970.  He soon established himself in a platoon role in the outfield.  Brye had his finest season in 1974 in which he played 128 games in center field, hit .283 with 2 home runs and 41 RBI, and led all American League outfielders with a .997 fielding percentage.

Brye found himself in the middle of controversy surrounding the 1976 American League batting title.  The Royals' George Brett and Hal McRae and fellow Twin, Rod Carew were caught up on the batting race on the last game of the season in which the Twins played the Royals.  In the ninth inning, Brye misplayed a ball hit by Brett that resulted in an inside-the-park home run.  McRae in the next at-bat grounded out.  McRae alleged racism from the Twins and Twins' manager, Gene Mauch, angrily denied it.  Carew and Twins outfielder, Larry Hisle, both also black, denied any racism claims.

“No way. … If any error was involved it was mine. Gene Mauch had nothing to do with it. Gene told me to play in shallow. The last couple of innings I played deep not to allow a ball to get over my head and keep alive the possibility of a double play if a man got on base. I was indecisive. I didn’t get a good jump on the ball. All during the series balls I thought would fall in front of me were going over my head. Cookie Rojas was jammed and hit one over my head once. It’s tough to pick up the ball here because there’s a gray background, plus you don’t hear the ball off the bat that well. It’s a very dead sound. When I play center field, which I usually do, I follow the pitch and the sound of the bat has a lot to do with the way I react. Then after I ran in I stopped because I didn’t think I could get to the ball.”
- Steve Brye, after being told at the airport of McRae's accusations

For more information:
Minneapolis Star Tribune - October 4, 1976 - Brett wins batting title, McRae angry

After seven seasons with the Twins, Brye spent a season each with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates before playing his last game.

About This Card
So far in this blog, Brye's photo marks the fourth Twins card at Yankee Stadium Photo Day.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

576 - Montreal Expos TC

About This Team
The Montreal ball club was one of four expansion clubs in 1969 and Major League Baseball's first expansion into Canada.  The Expos would finish the 1973 season with their best record at that time at 4th place in the National League East.

About This Card
The Expos had never finished higher than 5th place in the National League East through their first four seasons.  Rusty Staub, at the time, held all of the Expos batting records.  However, Staub did not have a Topps card issued in 1973 (or 1972).

Friday, December 27, 2013

212 - Joe Lahoud

About This Player
Joe Lahoud played in 11 Major League seasons for five different teams.  Lahoud, of Lebanese decent, made his big league debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1968.  He spent most of his career as a backup outfielder and pinch hitter.

Lahoud has a distinction of being involved in trades involving at least nine players twice in his career.  In his case, the trades took place on both sides of his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers.  After the 1971 season, Lahoud was traded from the Red Sox along with Ken Brett, Billy Conigliaro, Jim Lonborg, Don Pavletich, and George Scott in exchange for Pat Skrable, Tommy Harper, Lew Krausse, and Marty Pattin.  After the 1973 season, Lahould was traded to the California Angels along with Ollie Brown, Skip Lockwood, Ellie Rodriguez, and Gary Ryerson in exchange for Steve Barber, Ken Berry, Art Kusnyer, and Clyde Wright.

Lahoud would later spend time with the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals before playing his last game in 1978.

About This Card
The 1973 Topps Photography blog written by Chris Stufflestreet points out the big mound of dirt in the background of this card and of Jim Lonborg's card.  This photo was taken at Tempe Diablo Stadium in which there is a big hill outside the park down the left field line.  (Credit to "K Wc" who posted on Chris' blog.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

419 - Casey Cox

About This Player
Casey Cox pitched in eight Major League seasons and two of them with the New York Yankees.  Cox played the majority of his career in relief for the Washington Senators.  Cox experienced his finest season in 1969 in which, as a relievers and spot starter, he pitched to a 12-7 record with a 2.78 ERA.  Cox was traded to the Yankees on August 31, 1972, pitched in five games for New York that season, and was released after pitching one game in 1973.

About This Card
I've stated before that I will take any card, regardless of condition, as long as I need it to build my set.  Here is one example, which has been marked with "OR" on the back.  There are a few other cards marked like this in my set.  Perhaps the initials of a previous owner?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

99 - Carl Taylor

About This Player
Carl Taylor spent six seasons in the Major Leagues and three of them with the Kansas City Royals.  Taylor started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent this career as a backup catcher, outfielder, and pinch hitter.  Taylor had his best season with the Pirates in 1969 in which he hit .348; he did not have the at-bats to qualify for the National League batting title.

Taylor is also stepbrother to Orioles slugger, Boog Powell.  In 1971, Powell had talked to Taylor after he pulled himself out of a game, told his manager he quit, and burned his uniform and baseball equipment in the clubhouse.  Taylor went AWOL, but, eventually, returned to the team.

For more information:

After his playing career ended in 1973, Taylor attempted a career in hair styling.

"Believe it or not, there are similarities between the two professions. An error in a baseball game is made in view of some 40,000 people. A terrible haircut can also be seen by possibly the same number of people."
- Carl Taylor

For more information:

About This Card
Carl Taylor is specified in his card as a "Catcher", although he has a career of being more versatile. However, Taylor did play more games behind the plate in 1973 than at any other time during this career.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Team Checklist - Boston Red Sox

About This Card
The 1973 and 1974 Topps sets are the only Topps sets in which the team checklists are separate from the main numbered set.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

321 - Rich Hinton

About This Player
Rich Hinton enjoyed a brief career in the Major Leagues pitching in parts of six seasons for five different teams from 1971 through 1979.

Hinton was drafted five different times, but did not sign until he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Chicago White Sox in 1969.  Hinton would spend his career bouncing from team to team (playing for the Yankess, Rangers, Reds and Mariners), but he was a part of the White Sox organization on three different occasions.

About This Card
The airbrushing jobs on this photograph might have been necessary.  Hinton was not with Texas Rangers long enough to have a photo taken.  His contract was purchased from the New York Yankees in September 1972 and he was later traded to the Cleveland Indians in March 1973.

Friday, December 20, 2013

133 - Dave Roberts

About This Player
Dave Roberts played in 10 Major League seasons and six with the San Diego Padres.  Roberts was also one of four players named "Dave Roberts" and one of two who played in 1973.

Roberts began his professional career as a phenom with high expectations placed upon him becoming the sixth player since the amateur draft was instated to go straight to the Majors without spending time in the minor leagues.  He was drafted out of the University of Oregon as the first pick overall in the June 1972 amateur draft.  He was signed to a big league contract later that month and made his debut that day entering in the 12th inning of second game of a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Roberts spent most of the season at 3rd base, but was moved to 2nd when the Padres promoted Dave Hilton that September.

Roberts would begin 1973 as 2nd base, but was demoted to the minors after struggling in April.  After hitting successfully for the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders, Roberts was promoted back to the Majors and took over the starting third base position from a struggling Hilton.  Roberts posted his most successful numbers in 1973 hitting .286 with 21 home runs and 64 RBI.

However, Roberts would start to struggle the following year and the Padres would continue to have trouble finding their regular third baseman.  Roberts would lose the starting role to and win it again from Dave Hilton in 1974. He would also be replaced by Mike Ivie, a converted catcher, and win the job again in 1975.  Roberts would spend the entire 1976 season at Triple-A and return the following year as the Padres' backup catcher. 

As Roberts struggled offensively, he would expand his defensive flexibility by playing at other positions and, thus, extending his playing career.  Roberts would play his first games in the outfield in 1978.  He was traded to the Rangers and spend the next two seasons as their utility player.  Roberts would later play one season each with the Astros and Phillies before ending his career.

Roberts was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

About This Card
In his first Topps card, Dave Roberts is celebrated with the Topps All-Star Rookie Cup.  Considering the excitement surrounding rookies in today's sport card market, I wonder how much fan fare Dave Roberts received as a first overall pick entering the Majors immediately.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

585 - Joe Niekro

About This Player
Joe Niekro pitched in 22 Major League seasons for seven different teams and three of them with the Detroit Tigers.

Niekro spent the majority of his career with the Houston Astros, with whom he had his greatest success.  He pitched back-to-back 20-win seasons in 1979 and 1980 to become the first Astros pitcher with consecutive 20-win seasons.  He was also selected to his only All-Star Game in 1979.

However, Niekro might be best known for his ten-game suspension in 1987 while pitching for the Minnesota Twins. When asked by umpire Tim Tschida to empty his pockets during a game against the California Angels, an emery board flew out of his pockets.

Niekro also has a son, Lance, who played four seasons with the San Francisco Giants.

Niekro was inducted into the Nationals Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.  Niekro passed away in 2006 after suffering from a brain aneurysm. His legacy lives on in the Joe Niekro Foundation, founded by his daugter Natalie, which donates money toward aneurysm treatment and research.

About This Card
This card happens to be the last card I needed to complete my 1973 Topps set.  In this case, it was a simple eBay purchase, but it finished my long quest.