Sunday, April 6, 2014

484 - Ernie McAnally

About This Player
Ernie McAnally pitched in four Major League seasons with the Montreal Expos from 1971 to 1974. McAnally was drafted originally by the New York Mets in 1966, but he was selected later by the Expos in the expansion draft in 1968.

McAnally was in the Expos' starting rotation for his four seasons. His rookie season proved to be his finest with career highs in wins (11), innings pitched (177.2), and complete games (8).

In 1975, McAnally's contract was purchased by the Cleveland Indians. He spent the season in the minor leagues before retiring from the game.

About This Card
Just as the Topps cartoon states, McAnally, just like many other Major League Baseball players at the time, had jobs during the off-season.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

222 - Rob Gardner

About This Player

Rob Gardner spent eight seasons in the Major Leagues bouncing around between six different teams. Originally signed out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1963, Gardner was selected by the New York Mets in the 1963 first-year draft. He made his big league debut in 1965 and spent two seasons with the Mets before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He would later be traded throughout his career to the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, and Oakland A's before playing his last game for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gardner does hold a distinction for being traded for two of the three Alou brothers throughout this career. In 1971, Gardner was traded from the Yankees along with one other player to the A's for Felipe Alou. (Gardner was traded back to the Yankees two months later.) He would be traded again from the Yankees along with a player to be named later (who would be Rich McKinney) to the A's prior to the start of the 1973 season for Matty Alou.

About This Card
Just as Gardner had bounced around different Major League clubs, he also bounced around the minors. His Topps card states that we has pitched in 10 minor league cities. Gardner will have pitched for 12 different minor league clubs by the end of his professional career.

Gardner had only spent four games with the A's in 1971; hardly enough time for a photograph in an A's uniform.

Friday, April 4, 2014

199 - Bert Blyleven

About This Player

Bert Blyleven pitched in 22 big league seasons with five different teams and two tenures with the Minnesota Twins for a total of 11 seasons. Though born in the Netherlands, Blyleven was raised in California. He was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 1969 amateur draft and made his Major League debut the following year at the age of 19.

Blyleven, known for his wicked curveball, had one of his finest seasons in 1973. He led the American League in shutouts, pitched his only 20-win season, and was named an All-Star. Blyleven also pitched the first two of his four career one-hit games that season.

Blyleven was selected to the All-Star team twice (1973 and 1985). He lead the American League three times in shutouts. He pitched on two World Series winning teams (1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 Minnesota Twins). Despite never having lead either league in strikeouts, Blyleven ended his career third all-time in strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. (Blyleven currently ranks fifth.)

Blyleven was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.  In the same season, the Minnesota Twins retired number #28 in his honor.

About This Card
The back of his Topps card calls Blyleven "one of the finest young pitchers in the American League." More than a fine pitcher, Blyleven would go on to complete a Hall of Fame career.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

541 - Bob Bolin

About This Player
Bobby Bolin pitched in 13 big league seasons and his final four with the Boston Red Sox.  Bolin made his Major League debut in 1961 with the San Francisco Giants and started his career in relief.  Eventually, Bolin would serve in a combined starter/relief role during his tenure with the Giants.  Bolin finished 1968 with the National League's second-best ERA with 1.99; Bob Gibson was first with a record 1.12 ERA. In 1970, Bolin was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.  He was traded again that season to the Boston Red Sox and finished his career as a full-time reliever. In his final season in 1973, Bolin led the Red Sox bullpen with 15 saves.

About This Card
Comparing all of the Red Sox cards, I have covered so far, it looks like Bolin's photo was taken at the same time and location, most likely spring training, with Ken Tatum, John Curtis, Mike Garman, and John Kennedy.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

362 - Eddie Watt

About This Player
Eddie Watt pitched in ten Major Leagues seasons and the first eight of them with the Baltimore Orioles. Watt was signed as an amateur free agent by the Orioles and he made his big league debut in 1966. He started 13 games in his rookie season, but would continue his career exclusively as a relief pitcher.  Watt was a member of four American League Championship Orioles teams with three of them being World Series winners.

Watt pitched a season each with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs before playing in his final Major League game in 1975.  

Watt started the 1976 season on the Padres' AAA-affiliate Hawaii Islanders. He became a player-coach in the following year and pitched his last professional game in 1968.  He continued to coach in the minor leagues until retiring in 2003.

About This Card
One of the reasons I enjoy the design of the 1973 Topps set is because of its simplicity.  Simple portraits attract more attention simply because the design does not overshadow it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

403 - Sonny Jackson

About This Player
Sonny Jackson played in 12 Major League seasons split between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. Jackson made is big league debut with Houston in 1963 at the age of 18. After a few years seasoning in the minors, Jackson was established as the starting shortstop in 1966.  While still qualifying as a rookie, Jackson led the National League in singles (160) and sacrifice hits (27) and established his career high in batting average (.292).  Jackson also set a then record for most stolen bases by a rookie (49).  Despite his success, Jackson come in second to Tommy Helms in Rookie of the Year voting.

After five seasons in Houston, Jackson was traded to Atlanta. Although he struggled offensively, Jackson played seven seasons at shortstop and center fielder for this club.  Jackson played his final Major League game in 1974.

About This Card
The glasses that Jackson wears made its Topps card debut in 1970.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

76 - Doug Rader

About This Player
Doug Rader played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues and his first nine with the Houston Astros. Rader made his big league debut in 1967 starting at first base as the Astros were considering trading an aging Eddie Mathews. When Mathews was traded, Rader became the regular starter. In 1968, Rader became the starting third base taking the job from Bob Aspromonte, who had been the starter at third since the Astros' inception. As a defensive star, Rader earned the first of five straight Gold Gloves in 1970. Rader finished his final two seasons with the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays.

Rader had a reputation for being easy going and never letting the game get him down. He's been accused of being a "flake," which he would debate.
"A 'flake' to me is someone who is willfully irresponsible. I'm not. Possibly I've been said to be one because I feel people take the game too seriously at times. Fans and players alike. I think they have a tendency to lose perspective. We play it for money and it is our profession but baseball is still a game. That's the way I try to look at it, and I feel I should derive some pleasure in what I'm doing. I'm happy to say I do. How? By being myself."
- Doug Rader
For more information:
The Hour (Norwalk, Connecticut) - September 19, 1972 - Baseball Still A Game: Doug Rader

After his playing career ended, Rader went on to manage. He managed the Rangers (1983-1985), White Sox (1986) and Angels (1989-1991) before retiring from the game.

About This Card
As the cartoon states, Rader was called "The Red Rooster." He received the nickname because of his red hair.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

177 - Bill Plummer

About This Player
Bill Plummer spent ten seasons in the Major Leagues.  Plummer made his big league debut with the Cubs, but spent most of his playing career catching with the Cincinnati Reds and backing up Johnny Bench. Plummer was a member for five of Cincinnati's playoff teams, including their two World Series wins, but never played in the World Series.  

Despite being a .188 hitter, Plummer had some big moments. In 1974, Plummer slammed two home runs in one game against Philadelphia's Steve Carlton. 

For more information on Plummer's career with the Reds:

Plummer spent his final season with the Seattle Mariners in 1978. Plummer stayed with the Mariners coaching and managing throughout the minor league system.  Plummer became manager of the Seattle Mariners in 1992, but was fired after one season.  

Afterward, Plummer continued to manage in both independent and minor league baseball.  He joined the Arizona Diamondback system in 2000 and was last coaching in 2013 with the Single-A Visalia Rawhide.

About This Card
Although Plummer debuted with the Cubs in 1968, he did not have an appearance on a Topps card until five years later.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

538 - Jim Hart

About This Player
Jim Hart, better known as "Jim Ray Hart", spent 12 seasons in the Major Leagues and 11 of them with the San Francisco Giants.  Hart's entry into the big leagues in 1963 started with a rough welcome. In his second game, Hart was hit with a Bob Gibson fastball and broke his left scapula. A few days after returning from injury, he was beaned by Curt Simmons and missed the rest of the year. 

Hart had his breakout season the following year as the team's starting third baseman and was one of three Giants to hit at least 30 home runs; Hart hit 31 home runs in 1964, while Orlando Cepeda hit 31 and Willie Mays hit 47. Hart was also one of three Giants with at least 30 home runs in 1966; Hart hit 36 home runs, while Willie McCovey hit 33 and Willie Mays hit 37. Hart finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1964 to Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Hart had very strong seasons from 1964 through 1968 averaging 28 home runs a year in this span, receiving MVP votes in three of those seasons and earning an All-Star berth in 1966.  

A shoulder injury in 1969 led to a significant drop in playing time, although on July 8, 1970, Hart hit for the cycle and also earned a distinction of collecting six RBI in one inning.  The New York Yankees purchased Hart's contract early in 1973 and Hart received significantly increased playing time as a designated hitter. Hart played his final game in 1974 and was released.

About This Card
Hart was always better known as "Jim Ray" throughout his career, but his Topps cards are shown as JIM HART.  Only his final card in 1974 Topps is shown as JIM RAY HART.  In addition, Hart is specified in this card as an outfielder, although he played exclusively at third base the previous season.  Also add in that even though Hart started 1973 with the Giants, he was well established in the Yankees lineup by the time this card was released.

Monday, January 6, 2014

346 - Young Gaylord Perry

About This Player's Boyhood
The story on this card is just as much about Jim Perry as it is about Gaylord Perry.  In high school, Gaylord played third base while Jim pitched.  When Jim needed relief, Gaylord would pitch and Jim would play third.

In addition to high school, Gaylord and Jim played together with the Cleveland Indians in 1974 and 1975.

About This Card
If the 1972 Topps set was the 787-card full-featured baseball card set, then the 1973 Topps set was the basic 660-card minimalist alternative.  In addition to the basic design of the cards, the 1973 set cut down on some of the different subsets from the previous year.  Boyhood Photos of the Stars was one of the subsets that survived the cut.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

283 - Ray Sadecki

About This Player
Ray Sadecki had an 18-year career in Major League Baseball and played six years with the New York Mets. Sadecki made his big league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals on May 19, 1960 at the age of 19. Sadecki played in seven seasons with the Cardinals before we was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1966. He was traded again to the New York Mets before the start of the 1970 season.

Sadecki was a member of the Mets pitching staff from 1970 through 1974. He played the role of a swingman: pitching mostly in relief, but making the occasional spot start. As part of a pitching staff in 1973 that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the rotation, Sadecki helped the Mets come back from being nine games behinds the Chicago Cubs in the standings to win the National League East Division and, eventually, the National League Championship. Sadecki pitched in four games of the seven-game World Series and earned the save in Game 4, but the Mets ultimately lost the series to the Oakland A's.

Sadecki bounced between different teams late in his career. He was traded in 1975 and returned to the St. Louis Cardinals. He was traded again in 1975 to the Atlanta Braves and later to the Kansas City Royals. He was released by the Royals in 1976 and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. Sadecki joined the New York Mets again in 1977, but was released after pitching in four games.

In 2002, Catholic Charities of Kansas City and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund renovated a baseball field and renamed it in honor of Sadecki, who is also a Kansas City native.

Sadecki was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

About This Card
The back of Ray Sadecki's card highlights his achievement of 19 career shutouts. He finished his career with 20 shutout with the last one earned in 1974 with the Mets.

Friday, January 3, 2014

453 - Checklist (4th Series)

About This Card
Off-centering is common occurrence for cards in the 1973 Topps Baseball set.  In this case, part of the image gets cut off at the top of this checklist card.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

81 - Whitey Lockman MGR

About This Manager
Whitey Lockman only managed the Chicago Cubs for parts of three seasons, but he had a career in baseball that spanned more than 59 years.

Lockman started his 15-year playing career with the New York Giants in 1945 at the age of 18.  He hit a home run in his first Major League at bat. During his career, Lockman played in two World Series (losing to the Yankees in 1951 and winning against the Indians in 1954) and was named the starting first baseman in the 1952 All-Star Game. In addition to his time with the New York and San Francisco Giants, Lockman also played with the Cardinals, Orioles, and Reds before playing his final game in 1960.

Immediately after his playing career ended, Lockman started coaching. He joined the Reds coaching staff in 1960 and, then, joined the Giants as a third base coach in 1961. Lockman joined the Cubs in 1965, first, as a minor league manager, then an MLB coach, and later as supervisor of player development.

Lockman succeeded Leo Durocher to manage the Cubs in 1972 and revitalized the team with a 39-26 record to finish the season and jump two places in the standings. However, poor records in 1973 and 1974 cost Lockman his job and he moved back to the front office.

For more information:
Sports Illustrated - May 28, 1973 - First Place Always Rattles A Cub Fan

Lockman served as the Cubs' vice president of player development in his front office return and remained in the role through 1989. Lockman also served in front office roles with the Expos (1990-1992) and Marlins (1993-2001). Lockman retired from baseball in 2001.

Lockman died March 17, 2009 at age 82.

About This Card
In addition to Whitey Lockman, this card also features Hank Aguirre (16-year All-Star pitcher), Ernie Banks (19-year Cubs Hall of Famers), Larry Jansen (9-year All-Star pitcher) and Pete Reiser (10-year All-Star outfielder).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

639 - Willie Crawford

About This Player
Willie Crawford played 14 seasons in the Major Leagues and 12 of them with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A high school standout in baseball, football, and track, Crawford was signed two days after graduation by Tom Lasorda, who was a Dodger scout at the time. All 20 Major League teams were interested in the left-handed hitting Crawford, but the Los Angeles native signed with this hometown Dodgers for a $100,000 bonus.

Crawford made his Major League debut in 1964 at the age of 18.  Because of the "bonus baby" rule in place before the amateur draft was instituted, Crawford spent the entire 1965 season on the Dodgers roster though he only had 27 at bats. Crawford spent the next three seasons mostly in the minors though he was finally established as a big league outfielder in the middle of the 1968 season.

Although he never became the superstar the Dodgers hoped he would be, Crawford hit very well against right-handed pitching and was cast as a platoon player during his tenure. His finest season came in 1973 in which Crawford hit .295 with 14 home runs and 66 RBI; he hit .325 against righties while batting .205 against lefties in that season.  Crawford played his final two seasons, through a number of trades, with the Cardinals, Astros, and A's.  The Dodgers signed Crawford for spring training in 1978, but was released before the regular season began.

Crawford spent 1978 and 1979 playing in the Mexican League before retiring from baseball at age 32.

Crawford passed away August 27, 2004 from kidney disease at age 57.

About This Card
Willie Crawford struggled against left-handed pitching throughout most of his career hitting 50 points higher against righties: .275 vs. righties and .225 vs. lefties.  However, his Topps card highlights the one season in which Crawford hit much significantly better against left-handers.  In 1971, Crawford his .377 against lefties and .263 against righties.