Thursday, March 31, 2011

1 - All-Time Home Run Leaders (Babe Ruth / Hank Aaron / Willie Mays)

About This Opening Day
As Opening Day started in 1973, baseball enthusiasts watched in anticipation as Hank Aaron was closing in on baseball's all-time home run record.  Only 42 homers away from breaking Ruth's mark, and considering Aaron his 34 the year before and 47 the year before that, there was a small possibility that Hank Aaron could break the record in 1973.

Babe Ruth held a mythic record long thought to be unattainable.  Before Aaron and Mays began their careers, the player second on the home run list was Jimmie Foxx with 534 home runs, 180 short of Ruth.  Ruth would hold the record for 53 years.

Hank Aaron, 39 years old at the time, still remained a productive hitter.  Despite never hitting more than 50 home runs in a season, Aaron continued to rank in the home run ranks with his consistency and longevity.  Aaron would end the 1973 season with 40 home runs, only one short of Ruth's mark and two from breaking the record.

Willie Mays was third on the home run list at the time and still active in 1973.  When Mickey Mantle retired in 1968, third on the list at that time, Mays ranked second and looked like he could take the record.  However, his production decline in the following year.  In 1973, Mays would hit only 6 home runs in his final season with the New York Mets.
About This Card
Topps capitalized on the home run chase by featuring Ruth, Aaron and Mays as the first card in the first series of the set.  Topps continued featuring all-time records later in the fourth series.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

617 - Rich Chiles

About This Player
Rich Chiles enjoyed parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues for the Astros, Mets and Twins.  He bounced between the big leagues and the minors early in his career.  Chiles was acquired by the Mets in a trade that sent Tommie Agee to the Astros.  He did get his chance to play in center field for the Mets, but, after eight games and batting only .180, was sent back to the minors.  Chiles did see some significant playing time when he was picked up by the Twins.  He served some time as an outfielder and designated hitter for two seasons before the Twins release him.
About This Card
When Topps went to a single series starting in 1974, they lost the advantage of having players updated with their new teams in their later series.  In this sixth series card, Chiles is depicted with this new team... even if an airbrushing job had to be done to show part of the Mets logo on the cap.

Monday, March 28, 2011

485 - Norm Cash

About This Player
Norm Cash enjoyed 17 seasons in the Major Leagues with his big league debut in 1958.  While Cash played his first two seasons with the White Sox, his career catapulted when he joined the Tigers in 1960.  Also known as "Stormin' Norman", Cash established himself as the team's starting first baseman.  His finest season came in 1961 in which he led the American League in hits (193), batting average (.361), on-base percentage (.487) and OPS (1.148) and was selected as an All-Star for the first of four times.  Cash had the highest season batting average of any player during the 1960's, but was overshadowed by Roger Maris' historic home run chase.  Cash never had numbers close to his 1961 season, but continued to remain an offensive force and a four-time All-Star for the Tigers for many years after.  At the time he was released by the Tigers in 1974, Cash ranked fourth in home runs among left-handed hitters and ranked second in home runs in franchise history.

Cash was also known for his sense of humor in the game.  Late in Nolan Ryan's 1973 no-hit game against the Tigers, Cash brought out a sawed-off table leg to the plate instead of a bat.  When asked by the umpire, Cash said, "Why not, I won't hit him anyway."

Cash drowned in an accident off Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan on October 12, 1986 when he slipped while aboard a boat, fell and struck his head.

For more information:
"Former Tiger Norm Cash" - Baseball Digest.

About This Card
Teammate, Jim Northrup, described Cash as someone who "lived to play baseball" and that certainly shows in this photograph.

Friday, March 25, 2011

219 - St. Louis Cardinals TC

About This Team
The St. Louis ball club was first established in 1882, but adopted the Cardinals moniker in 1900.  In 1972, the Cardinals finished in 4th place in the National League East.  In 1973, they finished in 2nd place.

About This Card
A couple of things to note.  First, unlike most team photos which are shot on the field, this one, comparing lighting, background and shadows, appears to have been shot in a studio.  Second, while the Cardinals had been in existence for many years, one current Cardinal at the time, Bob Gibson, as can be seen on the back of the card, had already attained team records in strikeouts, shutouts and ERA.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

72 - Ron Reed

About This Player
Ron Reed spent 19 seasons in the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher and a reliever.  Reed made his big league debut with the Braves in 1966.  He was still considered a rookie in 1968 and was send to the All-Star Game, the first Braves rookie to have been selected.  His finest season was in 1969 in which Reed won 18 games with a 3.47 ERA, 160 strikeouts and guides Altanta to their first National League Division title.  Reed continued his role in the starting rotation throughout his years with the Braves.  After Reed was traded in 1976, the Phillies converted him to a reliever and pitched in six postseasons for the team.

For a brief time, Reed was a two-sport athlete.  At 6 feet, 6 inches, he played for the Detroit Pistons from 1965 through 1967 before devoting himself full-time to baseball.

Ron Reed was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

For more information:
National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame

About This Card
Another fun action shot from the 1973 set, this time of Ron Reed fielding a play from the pitchers mound.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

189 - Greg Luzinski

About This Player
Greg Luzinski enjoyed 15 seasons in the Major Leagues.

Luzinski, also known as "The Bull," was drafted in the first round of the 1968 draft and made his debut with the team in 1972.  He soon established his spot as the starting left fielder late in the 1973 season.  Luzinski earned four All-Star selections with the Phillies, with three of those starting in left field and one of those as the National League's top vote-getter.  He also finished 2nd in MVP voting twice.  Luzinski also received the Roberto Clemente Award in 1978.

The blog, Phillies Nation, regards Luzinski as number 17 on their listed of 100 Greatest Phillies.

For more information:
100 Greatest Phillies: 17 Greg Luzinski - Phillies Nation

After a poor 1980 season with the Phillies, his contract was sold to the Chicago White Sox, with whom Luzinski would become their regular designated hitter.  Luzinski played his final game in 1984.

In 1989, Luzinski was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame

For more information:
National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame

Still a Philadelphia fan favorite, Luzinski's popularity lives on at "Bull's Barbeque" in Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

About This Card
Although he was just starting his big league career, Topps captured Luzinski in, what soon came to be, his signature form.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

542 - Pat Corrales

About This Player
Pat Corrales spent nine seasons as a backup catcher.  Corrales made his Major League debut with the Phillies in 1964.  After another season with the Phillies and one with the Cardinals, Corrales spent the majority of his career with the Reds backing up Johnny Bench.  He played in two games for the Reds in 1972 before being traded for another backup catcher, Bob Barton, to the Padres.  Corrales closed his playing career with the Padres in 1973.

Corrales later spent another nine seasons as a Major League manager for the Rangers, Phillies and Indians.  Corrales is the first Major League manager of Mexican-American decent and also the only manger to be fired from a team in first place.  He was fired from the first-place Phillies in 1983 and, 13 days later, managed the last-place Indians.

About This Card
The photograph on this card shows game action that took place on June 14, 1972.  In the bottom of the 2nd inning, the Cubs #31, Fergie Jenkins, attempts to score when he is called out after, what appears to have been, a mighty collision at home plate.  This game was Corrales' second with the Padres and Jenkins would earn the win in a 12-9 Cubs victory.

Monday, March 21, 2011

365 - Rico Petrocelli

About This Player
Rico Petrocelli was known for his outstanding play in the field during his entire 13-year career for the Boston Red Sox.

Petrocelli played one Major League game in 1963.  Two years later, he returned to the big leagues and established himself as the team's starting shortstop.  As a shortstop, Petrocelli started in two All-Star games and led the American League twice in fielding percentage.  In 1969, Petrocelli hit 40 home runs, a record at the time for a shortstop and tied a record for fewest errors by a shortstop.  When the Red Sox acquired Luis Aparicio, Petrocelli moved to third base, where he also led the American League twice in fielding percentage.  Petrocelli retired in 1976 after suffering from a series of injuries.

Petrocelli would continue to remain involved in baseball after his playing career as a minor league coach and manager and as a broadcaster.

Petrocelli authored a book titled Rico Petrocelli's Tales from the Impossible Dream Red Sox, which chronicles his time with the 1967 Red Sox.

About This Card
It is hard to tell from the scan, but this card in particular is full of creases.  I wonder if this card had a lot of love from a Red Sox fan before arriving as part of my set or if it just got stuck at the bottom of a toy chest.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

34 - Pat Dobson

About This Player
Pat Dobson pitched 11 seasons in the Major Leagues spending time with the Tigers, Padres, Orioles, Braves, Yankees and Indians.

Dobson's finest season came in 1971 as part of the Orioles' "Big Four" pitching staff, along with Dave McNally, Mike Cueller and Jim Palmer, who each won 20 games that season.  Dobson pitched to a record of 20-8 with an ERA of 2.90 and 187 strikeouts.  He posted a twelve game winning streak (including nine consecutive complete games) and a scoreless inning streak of 23.  Later that fall, Dobson threw a 2-0 no-hitter against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo, the first no-hit game in the Japanese-American baseball exhibition history.

Dobson was traded before the 1973 season to the Altanta Braves and later traded again in the middle of the season to the New York Yankees.

After his playing days, Dobson remained in baseball, working as a pitching coach, advance scout and later as a baseball executive.  Dobson joined the Giants as a special assistant to the general manager in 1997 and remained in that position up to the time of his death.  Dobson died a day after he was diagnosed with luekemia on November 22, 2006 at the age of 64.

About This Card
Despite a 20-win season in 1971, I would have thought Topps could have found more to say about Dobson on his card than he "suffered a broken toe."

Friday, March 18, 2011

606 - Rookie Outfielders (Gary Matthews / Tom Paciorek / Jorge Roque)

About These Players
Gary Matthews enjoyed 16 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Giants, Braves, Phillies, Cubs and Mariners.  Matthews was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1973 with the Giants and selected to the All-Star Game in 1979 with the Braves.  His son, Gary Jr., last played in the Major Leagues for the Mets in 2010.

Tom Paciorek enjoyed 18 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers, Braves, Mariners, White Sox, Mets and Rangers.  His finest season came in the strike-shortened season of 1981 with the Mariners in which he hit .326 with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs and was selected as an All-Star.  His brothers, John and Jim each saw playing time in the Majors very briefly.

Jorge Roque played in 65 games over four Major League seasons.  Roque played for the Cardinals from 1970 through 1972.  He was traded to the Expos prior to the 1973 season for veteran catcher, Tim McCarver.  Roque played his last game in the Majors in 1973.

About This Card
Matthews appears on a Topps first for the first time in the 1973 set.  Paciorek appears for the first time in the 1971 set while Roque appears for the first time in the 1972 set.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

282 - Steve Hovley

About This Player
Steve Hovley played five seasons in the big leagues in the out.  Originally drafted by the Angels, Hovley was selected by the expansion Seattle Pilots and made his Major League debut in the middle of the 1969 season. Jim Bouton, Seattle Pilots pitcher and author of Ball Four, recounts in his book problems Pilots' management had with Hovley because of his long hair and penchant for reading Dostoyevsky.

For more information:
Wit, wisdom and social commentary - Jim Caple

Hovley was with the team when they moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers.  He was traded in the middle of the 1970 season after an incident with Brewers' manager, Dave Bristol.  Hovely showed up late for a day game against Cleveland and refused to pay the team fine.

For more information:
Brewers' Hovley Won't Pay Fine, Put on Trading Block - UPI News

After Hovley was traded to the A's, his numbers dropped significantly.  After batting .111 with the A's in 1971, he was sent to the minors and spent the rest of the season with AAA Iowa.

Hovley was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the Rule 5 draft and played the next two seasons as the fourth outfielder.  Hovley played his last Major League game in 1973 and would spend the next season in the minors before retiring.

About This Card
Appears to be a Spring Training photo of Hovley.  I don't know what Spring Training was like in 1973, but, based on the bleachers and the fencing in the background, I'd imagine it was like playing in Little League ballparks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

49 - Frank Quilici MGR

About This Manager
Frank Quilici is the only person to play, coach, manage and broadcast for the Twins.  Quilici enjoyed five seasons as a utility infielder for the Minnesota Twins from 1965 through 1970.  Quilici, however, started in 56 games in 1965, after second basemen, Bernie Allen, went down to injury.  He also started all seven games of the 1965 World Series.  In Game 1, Quilici singled and doubled off of Don Drysdale in the third inning to tie a World Series record for most hits in an inning.  Immediately after his playing career ended, Quilici became a coach for the Twins and took over the role of manager in 1972.  In his four seasons as a manager, Quilici finished with a 280-284 record and never the Twins never finished above third place in the AL West.  After he was dimissed as manager, Quilici went on to work in the broadcast booth calling Twins games throughout the '70's and '80's.

About This Card
In addition to Frank Quilici, the card also features Vern Morgan (former Cubs third baseman), Bob Rodgers (former Angels catcher and future Major League manager), Ralph Rowe (career minor leaguer) and Al Worthington (former Twins pitcher).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

157 - Denny Riddleberger

About This Player
Denny Riddleberger enjoyed a very brief three year career as a Major League reliever.  Riddleberger was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, made his pro debut with the Washington Senators and was traded in 1972 to the Cleveland Indians.  A sidearm pitcher known for his curve, Riddleberger led all Indians relievers with a 2.50 ERA, but 1972 would be his final season in the Major Leagues at age 26.

Riddleberger had a career earned run average of 2.77 in his three seasons.  He pitched the 1973 season in the minors, but he would never return to the big leagues.  It is not clear to me why a player with modest numbers only played in the big show so briefly.

Former Washington Senators coach, Wayne Terwilliger recounts in his book a story on Ted Williams, Baseball Hall of Famer and Senators manager,and his thoughts regarding Riddleberger and Orioles slugger, Boog Powell.
"It always surprised Ted when players who had been around awhile didn’t think about hitting the way he did, when they didn’t learn to pay attention to what a pitcher was throwing and how the ball moved. He told a story about watching a game on television and seeing Boog Powell, Baltimore’s big left-handed-hitting first baseman, being fooled again and again by a slow looping curve ball. Powell had a big stride and a big swing; he’d swing himself almost into the ground. Ted said that as he watched the game, he thought for sure Powell would start looking for that curve ball but he never seemed to, and it had made Ted laugh to see Powell keep making that big swing of his and keep missing the ball. I don’t know who the pitcher was in the game that Ted saw on TV, but in ’70 and ’71 we have a young left-handed pitcher named Denny Riddleburger who also had a big slow curve ball. When we played Baltimore, Ted would bring Riddleburger in to pitch to Powell. Denny would serve up a big slow curve and Powell would stand there and cock and cock and cock the bat, and then swish, he’d swing and miss it entirely. Every time Denny pitched to Boog, Ted would be hiding in the corner of the dugout where the fans couldn’t see him, laughing, with tears running down his face. Riddleburger would throw another one and Ted would throw up his arms and his legs and laugh and laugh. Once in a while Powell would foul one off. I don’t know how many times Powell faced Riddleburger but I doubt he ever did hit a fair ball off of him." - Wayne Terwilliger, Terwilliger Bunts One
About This Card
While many collectors cite the 1973 Topps design as the most lackluster from the decade, I enjoy it because of its simplicity.  The thick black border around the photograph brings the focus of the card to the player and action.  The player name stands out, but does not distract.  The team name is subtle, but noticeable and the position icon in the bottom right enhances the card.

Monday, March 14, 2011

582 - Darrell Porter

About This Player
Darrell Porter spent 17 seasons in the Major Leagues and his first six with the Milwaukee Brewers.  Porter was the Brewer's first round draft pick in 1970 and made his pro debut in 1971.  Porter finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1973 and was selected to the All-Star team for the first time in 1974.

His finest seasons, however, came after he was traded to Kansas City in 1976.  As a member of the Royals, Porter was selected to three more All-Star teams, including a start in 1979.  Also in 1979, Porter scored 101 runs, drove in 112 and walked 121 times to become only the sixth catcher in Major League history to with 100 runs and 100 RBIs in the same season (preceded by Mickey Cochrane, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk) and only the second also with 100 walks (preceded only by Mickey Cochrane).

Porter signed as a free agent with St. Louis in 1981 and earned NLCS MVP and World Series MVP honors to lead the Cardinals to the championship in 1982.

Porter signed with the Texas Rangers in 1986 and played his final game in 1987.

Off the field, Porter was known to have substance abuse problems and one of the first American athletes to admit his problem publicly.  He fought to overcome his problems, became a born-again Christian and served actively with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a spokesman for the "One Way To Play Drug Free" program.  Unfortunately, Porter died August 5, 2002 from complications of cocaine use.

For more information:
Associated Press Sports Editors: Darrell Porter's sad final chapter

About This Card
This is another portrait shot from Yankee Stadium, a common locale for Topps photography.  I will have to go through the set again and count the portraits were shot from Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

256 - Chris Zachary

About This Player
Chris Zachary enjoyed nine seasons in the Major Leagues, though bounced in and out of the minors throughout his entire career.  Zachary made his big league debut in 1963 with the Colt .45's and spent his first five seasons in Houston.  Zachary spent time later on with the Royals, Cardinals, Tigers.  Zachary played his final Major League game in 1973 with the Pirates.

Zachary passed away on April 19, 2003.

About This Card
Not much can be said about Zachary's career, but, probably, the biggest highlight of his career is featured on the back of his card.  Zachary pitched against Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda in his pro debut.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Team Checklist - California Angels

About This Card
This card is the first of the team checklists I will feature on this blog.  Although the team checklists are not part of the official 1-660 card numbering, I have decided to include these as part of my set and seek them out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

335 - Bob Tolan

About This Player
Bobby Tolan played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues and four of those seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.  Tolan made his big league debut in 1965 with the Cardinals.  Tolan was traded to the Reds before the 1969 season and began to flourish as a star outfielder in Cincinnati.  Tolan enjoyed his finest season in 1970 in which he hit .316 and lead the National League with 57 stolen bases.  Tolan missed the entire 1971 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon playing basketball, which violated a clause in his contract.  Tolan came back strong in 1972 with winning the Hutch Award and the Comeback Player of the Year Award; he was the second player to win both awards and the first to do so in the same year.

His 1973 season, however, was disastrous.  His batting average plummeted to .206 and Tolan became a distraction on the team.  Struggles grew between him and management, who were still unhappy about his 1971 injury.  Tolan left the team without two days notice in August and grew a beard, which violated team rules.  Tolan was suspended by the team on September 27 and missed the remainder of the season and the post-season.  After the season, the Reds traded Tolan to the Padres, but the MLBPA filed a grievance on his behalf.  Tolan won the grievance and demanded a public apology from the Reds, but never received it.

Tolan also spent time with the Phillies and Pirates and played one year in Japan before playing his final game in 1979

Bobby's son, Robbie Tolan, was a prospect in the Washington National's organization.  On December 31, 2008,  Robbie was shot by a policeman allegedly investigating reports of a stolen car after a confrontation in the Tolan driveway. The younger Tolan was unarmed and driving his own vehicle. The bullet lodged in Tolan's liver; the injury may have ended his professional baseball career. An investigation into the shooting is on-going.

For more information:
CNN: Questions surround shooting of baseballer's son

About This Card
Tolan has always been recognized as "Bobby" in official Major League records and throughout baseball, but Topps has always displayed his name as "Bob" on all of his cards.

Also interesting that the cartoon on the back refers to Tolan playing basketball in the off-season to keep in shape since he missed the entire 1971 season from playing basketball and playing basketball violated a clause in his contract.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

471 - All-Time Hit Leader (Ty Cobb)

About This Player
Ty Cobb, also known as "The Georgia Peach", enjoyed an illustrious 24-year career with the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Athletics.  Throughout his career, Cobb won 11 batting titles, led the American League in hits eight times, won one Triple Crown in 1909 and a Most Valuable Player award in 1911.  At one time, Cobb held the all-time records for nearly every major batting category, including batting average, hits, and runs scored.  Cobb also managed the Tigers while as a player for six seasons.  Cobb was one of five charter members of the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted in 1936.

Ty Cobb had held of the record for career hits for 62 years until the record was broken by Pete Rose in 1985.

For more information about Ty Cobb:
The Official Web Site of Ty Cobb

About This Card
Ty Cobb is shown with a total of 4,191 hits.  In 1981, however, The Sporting News reported that a historian from the Society of American Baseball Researchers (SABR) discovered that Ty Cobb was awarded two hits too many in 1910 and that his true hit total was 4,189.  With Pete Rose in the midst of reaching Cobb's record, Major League Baseball had ignored overwhelming proof that a mistake was made.  Announced by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn at the time, "The passage of 70 years, in our judgment, constitutes a certain statute of limitation as to recognizing any changes."  Cobb's official total of 4,191 hits remains today, while most baseball encyclopedias and record books use 4,189.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

112 - Gary Ross

About This Player
Gary Ross enjoyed ten big league seasons and six of them with the San Diego Padres.  Ross was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and made his Major League debut in 1968.  Ross was traded, along with Joe Niekro, in the middle of the 1969 season to the Padres for Dick Selma.  Ross enjoyed his finest season in 1972 in which he pitched in 60 games (ranking 4th in the National League) with a 4-3 record, 3 saves and a 2.45 ERA.  Ross was traded in the last month of the 1975 season to the Angels for Bobby Valentine.

About This Card
This card shows the standard portrait shot.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

648 - Tom Egan

About This Player
Tom Egan played ten seasons at the Major League level.  Egan began his career with in California and played six season as the Angels' backup catcher until he was traded to the White Sox after the 1970 season.  Egan played two season in Chicago as the White Sox's backup catcher. 

After a horrid 1972 season in which he batted .191, Egan was sent to the minors and spent the entire 1973 season with the Iowa Oaks of the American Association.  Egan was selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 1974 season and remained on the big league roster for the next two seasons.

On September 28, 1974, Egan caught Nolan Ryan's third no-hit game.

About This Card
The White Sox have gone through a lot of uniform changes throughout their history, probably more so than any other Major League Baseball team.  However, it always puzzled me why, from 1971 through 1975, the White Sox wore red.  The color always makes me think of another Major League Baseball team on the east coast.

Monday, March 7, 2011

450 - Joe Torre

About This Player
Joe Torre enjoyed 18 seasons as a Major League catcher, third baseman and first baseman.  A nine-time All-Star, Torre spent his playing career with the Braves, Cardinals and Mets.  Torre's finest season came in 1971 in which he led the league in hits, RBIs and batting average and was selected the National League Most Valuable Player.

Torre might be better known for his managerial success.  In 1977, Torre played as a player/manager for the Mets.  He later went on to manage five different teams, including leading the New York Yankees to four World Series championships.  Torre also received Manager of the Year recognition in 1996 and 1998.

Joe also has a brother, Frank, who enjoyed seven seasons with the Braves and Phillies.

About This Card
Joe Torre is listed as a third baseman in the 1973 Topps set.   While Torre did play mostly 3rd in the previous season, he started most of his games at 1st base in 1973.