Thursday, February 4, 2016

1973 Topps J.R. Richard

Houston Astros CTNW Favorites #3

J.R. Richard is another tragic story of what might have been. He was the first round draft pick of the Astros in 1969. But it wasn't until 1975 that he broke through. Although he was wild, leading the league in both walks and wild pitches, he managed a 12-10 record and 176 strikeouts. The following year he would win 20 games, lower his ERA to 275 and strikeout 214.  He won 18 games in each of the next three seasons, leading the league in strikeouts in 1978 and 1979. Ha had the lowest ERA in 1979.

With the addition of Nolan Ryan in 1980 the future never looked brighter. On July 30, 1980 James Rodney Richard had a stroke during warm-ups before a game in Philadelphia. Less than 2 weeks after his first All Star game, Richard's career was over. He played minor league ball for the Astros in 1982 and '83 but he was clearly not the same pitcher. He was ultimately released by the Astros just before the 1984 season.

This 1973 Topps card is a missing link in Richard's collection. After sharing a "Rookie Stars" card with Bill Greif and Ray Busse in 1972, his next Topps card would be in 1974. Not that I can blame Topps, J.R. spent most of 1972 pitching for the Oklahoma City 89ers.

Friday, January 29, 2016

1972 Topps Bad-Ass Photos of the Stars: Walt "No-Neck" Williams


I was saddened to hear the news that one of the favorite White Sox players of my childhood passed away last week. Walt Williams, affectionately known as No-Neck, played for the southsiders from 1967-1972. He along with Carlos May, who lost a thumb during a military training exercise, and Pat Kelly made up the Early '70s White Sox outfield which Harry Carey referred to as "no neck, no arm and no thumb".

I had made a card of Williams once before for my other blog "Rating the Rookies" seen to the right. But I wanted to make a tribute card of him during his White Sox tenure. So while scanning the interwebs for an appropriate picture I came across this photo of him on his motorcycle in old Comiskey Park. So I figured I'd modify the 1972 Boyhood Photos series for this card. 

I also ran into problems finding a decent photo of Walt in a 1972 era Sox uniform. So what I did was take the half-assed airbrush job Topps did on him for their 1973 card to the left and "fixed" it. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

1969 Topps Deckle Joe Morgan

Houston Astros CTNW Favorites #4

Joe Morgan was one of early stars of the Houston Astros and to this day fans are bemoaning his trade as the worst in Astros history, perhaps baseball history. But hindsight is 20/20.

This was an eight player trade. The Astros gave up Morgan who hit .256 in 1971, first baseman Denis Menke and his .246 batting average, back-up outfielder Cesar Geronimo who hit .220 in limitedplay, pitcher Jack Billingham who went 10-16 in 1971 and a minor leaguer, Ed Armbrister.

In exchange they got second baseman Tommy Helms who was 2 years older and not a stolen base threat like Morgan, However he was coming off his 2nd consecutive Gold Glove year and had a similar .258 batting average. They got Lee May who was an all star in 1971 and had hit 38, 34 and 39 homers in 1969, '70 and '71 respectively. They also got Jimmy Stewart who was a career .306 hitting pinch-hitter and utility man. On paper it looked like a fairly even trade. At the time...

After the trade Billingham had back-to-back 19 win seasons in 1973 and '74. Geronimo became a Gold Glove center fielder and turned his .228 career batting average with the Astros into a respectable .261 with the Reds. And we all know what became of Morgan. In Houston, Stewart was released after the 1973 season. May's numbers declined and he was traded to Baltimore after the 1974 season. Helms lasted the longest. He was traded to the Pirates after the 1975 season for Art Howe.

Since Morgan was one of the bright spots of the early Astros teams, I had to dip into the insert sets to find a Card That Never Was for him. The 1969 Deckle set was a favorite of mine and of Topps, too. They revisited it in 1974 and most recently in the Archive sets from both 2012 and 2014. Topps did actually make a Deckle Edge card of Morgan inserted into the 2012 Archives set. But as you can see the photo they used is not from the 1969 era. It is clearly from his return to the Astros in 1980.

In the comment section, Brett brought up a good point. I called out Topps for using a photo from the wrong era, but my photo would not have been used by Topps in 1969 either. That is not unintended. I try to keep the photos historically accurate (or close to it) but I also want to make the cards look the way I would have wanted them. (Right under the title of this blog it says "What cards would look like if I had my way.")  Topps used all posed photos in the original 1969 Deckle set. But even Topps went to candid or "action" shots when using the design in their Archive sets.

Realistically, Topps would have used a photo like I posted below.  Due to a trademark dispute by Monsanto, in 1968 and the first 3 series of 1969 the word "Astros" didn't exist on Topps products, nor did any Astros logos. So most likely if Topps had made a card for Morgan it would have been a head and shoulders shot of him in his away uniform (Houston on front rather than Astros). It would also have had either no hat like Morgan's 1969 base card or an airbrushed hat like Rusty Staub and Jim Wynn had on their Deckle Edged cards.

 So if I wanted to make a card like Topps would have in 1969, I think it would look more like this. I didn't know how to include a picture into the comment section so here it is:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

1975 Topps Joe Niekro

Houston Astros CTNW Favorites #5

It has been months since I've made my Top 5 "Fan Favorites". For this one I've chosen to do the Houston Astros. There are several worthy players from the 90's and beyond but as usual, I chose to make cards of players I remember from my early collecting years,  which would be primarily 1980s and earlier. In case you need to be reminded, this is simply an exhibition, not a competition. So please no wagering.

Joe Niekro was purchased by the Astros just prior to the start of the 1975 season. He began his MLB career with the Cubs. He then played for the Padres, Tiger and Braves. It was in Atlanta where he honed his knuckler with the help of his teammate, future Hall of Famer, and big brother Phil Niekro. When Joe came to Houston he was used out of the bullpen. When the knuckle ball became his reliable go-to pitch he earned a starting roll. In 1980 he became the first Astro to win 20 games in two seasons.

I chose the 1975 design because Topps pictured him in a Braves uniform that year. It was also the first season the Astros wore the infamous "Tequila Sunrise" uniforms.  These unis would not appear on Topps cards until the 1976 series. That first season was slightly different than the other years in that the player's number was in a circle on the back. They also had a black #40 patch on their sleeve in honor of Don Wilson. Wilson was an All Star pitcher for Houston from 1966-1974. He died in January of 1975. You can barely make out that patch on his left shoulder.

Here is a better look at those first year uniforms. Sorry I couldn't find a decent color photo that showed both the patch and the circle number.

This photo features pitcher Doug Konieczny and manager Preston Gomez.  I know this is a post about Joe Niekro but I have to point out that in 1974 Gomez had actually brought in a pinch hitter for Don Wilson (whose patch is on his sleeve) when Wilson was pitching a no hitter after 8 innings. Granted, the Astrros were down to the Big Red Machine 2-1 on a costly 2 run throwing error by shortstop Roger Metzger. But pinch hitter, Tommy Helms grounded out and reliever Mike Cosgrove gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, Tony Perez. The 'Stros lost 2-1. Gomez was fired in August 1975 after going 47-80.  He was replaced by fired Yankees manager, Bill Virdon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

1957 Topps Monte Irvin

1919 - 2016

Honestly, this is a card I should have made a long time ago. It would have fit in well with a series I did a while back of tribute cards. Cards that are made the year after the player has retire. Irvin played his final MLB year in a Cubs uniform. Chicago claimed him in the rule 5 draft after the Giants demoted him in 1955. After the 1956 year with the Cubs, Monte tried to extend his career with the Los Angeles Angels, a minor league affiliate of the then Brooklyn Dodgers. Unfortunately, back injuries led to his ultimate retirement from the field, but he didn't leave the game behind. He was later a scout for the Mets, then worked in the Commissioner's office. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973 and in 2010 the Giants retired his number 20.

This is not the first card I created for Monte Irvin. I also made this 1949 Bowman card of him as part of my New York Giants Fan Favorites list. He and Hank Thompson broke the color barrier for the Giants on the same day in 1949. At the time of his death, Irvin was the oldest living Negro League player at 96.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A few more from Rating the Rookies

Over at my other blog, Rating the Rookies, I am still creating Cards That Never Were. Here a a few of my latest creations:

Dan Boitano, Willie Mueller, and Lenn Sakata shared a 1980 Topps Future Stars card while on the Brewers. You can see the whole story by clicking here.

In 1975 Marc Hill, Dan Meyer, and Leon Roberts shared a Topps rookie card with future Hall of Famer Gary Carter. The full post is available here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cards That Never Were - 31st Series Checklist - Yogi Berra

Despite spotty posting at best recently, I have amassed more than enough cards to require another checklist. With the passing of Yogi Berra this past September, I decide to include his photo on this checklist.  Coincidentally, Yogi also appeared in this series. He was part of the All Star Game Honorary Captains series I created a couple months before his passing.  Given the retro seventies/eighties design of my checklist, I chose a photo of Yogi during his stint as a coach on the Astros. This series, as usual, includes several Cards That Never Were that were originally posted on my other blog, Rating the Rookies.  As always you can click here to see all the cards from this series in one page. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

1980 Topps Ken Griffey All Star MVP

Going Horizontal

Been gone for a while, but I have some unfinished business. Here is one of my running themes. I've been making horizontal cards in sets that didn't normally have them. For the subject I've been using the All Star Game MVP from that season. And yes, I do understand that the 1980 All Star MVP would not be included in the 1980 set, but my blog, my rules.  In 1980 the senior Griffey showed why the NL (at that time) was the "Senior Circuit".

Coming off a 48 home run season, the Cubs Dave Kingman was the fans choice in left field for the 1980 All Star game. But Kingman was also just coming off the disabled list with a shoulder injury. In the third inning Kingman re-injured his shoulder trying to throw Rod Carew out at second. Ken Griffey Sr. came in and went 2 for 3 with a homer. The National League went on to win their 9th straight All Star Game 4-2.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It ain't over 'til it's over....

With the passing of a baseball legend, I just wanted to pay tribute in the only way I know. Here are a couple cards I made in the past featuring Yogi.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Checking in with "Rating the Rookies"

This has been a busy time for me and I haven't really had the time to commit to this blog. Although I haven't been very busy on this blog, I have still been occasionally creating Cards That Never Were for my other blog, Rating The Rookies.


Here is a 1975 Topps card for Lloyd Allen and a 1973 Topps card for Winston Llenas. They shared a 1970 Rookie Stars card while on the Angels. You can see that post here.


Craig Reynolds, Lamar Johnson, Johnnie LeMaster and Jerry Manuel all share a Rookie Infielders card in the 1976 Topps set. 


Jim Miles and Jan Dukes were both on a Senators Rookie Stars card in 1971. Here they are representing the same team in 1968 and 1971 repectively.



Sammy Ellis and Mel Queen were both on the 1964 Reds Rookie Stars card.

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