Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rating the Rookies: 1974 Topps Rookie Pitchers

Wayne Garland, Fred Holdsworth, Mark Littell, Dick Pole

I am spinning off the "Rating the Rookies" theme into its own blog CLICK HERE. I enjoy digging into these cards. I like learning about the players, many of whom are fairly obscure.  I also like the challenge of finding photos of these players and creating relevant "Cards That Never Were" of them.

I was never quite sure this recurring theme meshed with this blog. I think it might be better as a stand-alone. But I intend to keep the 2 linked but making abbreviated posts here with just the cards I created. So (for now anyway) this will be the last complete post of "Rating the Rookies" on this blog.

For the first time the random number generator has picked the 4 player card for me. Specifically this 1974 Topps Rookie Pitchers card, so this will be a lengthy post.

Wayne Garland went 5-5 in 20 starts in 1974 but that was still not enough for Topps to give him a card in 1975. In 1976 he was back in good graces with Topps. He got his own card and 20 wins and even a Cy Young award vote (just one). After the 1976 season, he got 3 things: a nice big free agent contract with the Indians, a Sporting News cover story, and a sweet fro:

He promptly lost 19 games in 1977 to lead the league in futility. Despite his fat contract, he never had another winning season and retired in 1981. For his Card That Never Was, here is his missing 1975 Topps card:

Fred Holdsworth pitched in only 8 games for the Tigers in 1974. He lost all 3 of his decisions. This was enough for Topps to grant him a card in the 1975 set. He spent the entire 1975 season in the minors and was traded mid-season to the Orioles. In 1976 Topps gave up on him but the Orioles didn't. He was 4-1 with 2 saves in relief and was back on cardboard in 1977. He continued to bounce between the majors and minors until 1981. Overall he was 7-10 in parts of 7 Major League seasons with a 4.40 ERA. Here is his missing card from the 1976 Topps set:

Despite going 1-3 in 8 games (or perhaps because of it) as a 20 year old rookie in 1973, Mark Littell didn't pitch a single inning at the big league level in 1974. He would come up again for the Royals in 1975 and have a similar 1-2 record in 7 games and Topps would again feature him on a rookie card in 1976:

1976 would be his career year, coming out of the bullpen with 8 wins and 16 saves. He also garnered a few MVP votes. He would go on to have a respectable career as a solid relief pitcher for the Royals and Cardinals. He went 32-31 with 56 saves over 9 seasons. But it was his post-career that I found interesting while researching him. First I found this card of questionable judgement from 1990:

Apparently Swell has a fairly liberal definition of "Great".

Mark Littell is also a renown inventor.  He invented and sells the Nutty Buddy. No, not the cookies, but rather a high-tech personal protective device for your "boys".  It comes in 5 sizes (and I am not joking): the hammer, the boss, the hog, the trophy, and mongo!

Rather than fill in a missing 1975 card between his 2 rookie cards, I made a 1978 Hostess card depicting him on the Cardinals. His 1978 Topps card still had him on the Royals even though he was traded in December of 1977 for the "Mad Hungarian", Al Hrabosky.

On the heels of  Littell's Nutty Buddy, I am doing my best to stifle my inner 9-year-old's snickers at the name of the next guy.  In 1974 Dick Pole was 1-1 with a save in 12 games. From 1973-76 he pitched for the Red Sox compiling a record of 14-14. He was picked up by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft and was 11-23 over the 1977 and 1978 seasons. He was released by the Mariners in the spring of 1979.  

But it was his career as a coach that was more impressive. In 1983 he began as a minor league coach for the Cubs. Greg Maddux credits Dick Pole with helping him develop his style. He spent time as a pitching coach with the Cubs, Reds, Giants, Expos, Indians, Red Sox and Angels. Here is a Card That Never Was of him on his second tour of duty with the Cubs in 2003:

And now for the important part. The 4 pitchers on this card were a combined 6-9 with 1 save in 1974. Not a single one of them ever made an All Star team, but they all had serviceable careers. A couple had even better careers after their playing days were over. Overall not a great card but still it gets my highest grade yet. 


  1. I love that Dick still has the sticker on the brim of his Cubs cap; perhaps he was looking for some street cred?

  2. I subscribed to The Sporting News in the late 1970's and early 1980's, and seeing that image of Wayne Garland made me think two things:
    1) I miss The Sporting News
    2) I would absolutely buy a card set featuring TSN covers.

    When I first saw the Baseball Greats Littell, my reaction was "Isn't that interesting, he made a custom for that set". (...wait for it...) "Oh!"