Friday, March 27, 2015

1969 Topps NL Stolen Base Leaders: Lou Brock, Maury Wills, Willie Davis

In 1968 Lou Brock led the N.L. in stolen bases again with 62. He also came in 6th place in MVP voting. He was behind 2 of his teammates, Curt Flood (4th) and Bob Gibson (1st). In all, 6 different player from the NL Champion Cardinals received MVP votes in 1968.

In 1968 Maury Wills returned to the lead-off position in the batting order. As a result his stolen base total went from 29 in 1967 to 52.  The Dodgers' center fielder, Willie Davis came in 3rd with 36 stolen bases.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

1969 Topps AL Stolen Base Leaders: Bert Campaneris, Jose Cardenal, Cesar Tovar

Bert Campaneris led the league in stolen bases for the 4th consecutive time in 1968. He also earned himself his first All Star Game appearance. He had a career high 62 stolen bases. 

Jose Cardenal was traded from the Angels to the Indians after the 1967 season. The Angels got Chuck Hinton, who had been a threat on the basepaths. But Hinton was 34 and clearly on the downward side of his career. At 24 year, Cardenal stole a career high 40 bases for the the Indians in 1968.

Cesar Tovar had 35 stolen bases in 1968. But that was not his most impressive feat that year. He mimicked Bert Campaneris's 1965 act by playing all 9 positions in one game. On September 22nd, with the Twins 26 games out, He played all nine positions against Campaneris and the Oakland A's. He actually was the starting pitcher for the Twins and didn't surrender a hit or a run. In fact, nobody hit a ball in play. He got Campy to foul out, then struck out Reggie Jackson! Next he issued a walk to Danny Cater then balked to send him to second. Finally he got Sal Bando to pop out in foul territory. He then moved to catcher in the second, then 1st, 2nd, SS, 3rd, LF, CF and RF all for 1 inning each.  At the plate he walked, singled, stole a base and scored a run in 4 plate appearances. In a game with 3 fielding errors, none went to Tovar. 



My last version had a shot of Luis Tiant instead of Jose Cardenal. Fortunately, it was caught by one of the readers. Thanks Greg!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

1969 Topps NL Leading Firemen: Phil Regan, Joe Hoerner, Clay Carroll

This is an unusual leaders card in that 2 of the 3 leaders played for 2 different N.L. teams in 1968. Phil Regan was The Sporting News Fireman of the Year on the strength of his league leading 25 saves. Although he started the year on the Dodgers, all 25 saves came for the Cubs as well as 10 of his 12 victories. Regan came to the Cubs along with Jim Hickman in a trade for outfielder Ted Savage and Minor League pitcher, Jim Ellis.

Joe Hoerner and Clay Carroll were tied for second with 17 saves a piece. Hoerner posted an 8-2 record for the Cardinals. Carroll was 7-8 with one of those losses coming in a Braves uniform. He was part of a 6 player trade between the Reds & Braves that sent pitcher Milt Pappas to Atlanta.

Friday, March 20, 2015

1969 Topps AL Leading Firemen: Al Worthington, Wilbur Wood, Dennis Higgins

Here is another example of when the saves leader, Al Worthington with 18, was not awarded The Sporting News Fireman of the Year. The winner was Wilbur Wood with 16 saves. 

Worthington was 4-5, all in relief with an ERA of 2.71. Wood led the league with 88 overall games and led in games finished with 46. He was 1-1 in his 2 starts and 12-11 in relief giving him an overall record of 13-12 and an ERA of 1.87. I think it was the fact that he was such a workhorse for the White Sox that gave him the edge. This despite having fewer saves and 5 blown saves compared to 4 by Worthington. Dennis Higgins was 3rd in the A.L. in saves with 13. He had a 4-4 record for the Senators, all in relief. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

1965 Topps Howie Koplitz

This 1961 Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year blew out his shoulder in 1966. He had Topps cards in 1962. 63, 64, and 1966. But not in 1965. He is featured on my sister-site, Rating The Rookies.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

1978 Topps Steve Garvey All Star MVP

Going Horizontal

The 1978 All Star Game was played in San Diego, but it may as well been a home game for the Dodgers. The home team manager, Tommy Lasorda had 2 Dodgers in the starting lineup (Steve Garvey and Rick Monday), 3 more on the bench (Reggie Smith, Ron Cey and Davey Lopes), and another in the bullpen (Tommy John). 

After ceding a 3 run lead to the American League, the N.L. tied it up in the bottom of the 3rd on a 2 run single by Garvey. The game remained tied at 3 until the bottom of the 8th when Garvey tripled then scored the winning run on a wild pitch to Dave Concepcion. (Coincidentally, that is Concepcion racing back to first in the card above). The Nationals would score 3 more runs for a final score of 7-3. Garvey was named the All Star Game M.V.P. This was Garvey's second All Star MVP. He also won the award in 1974. It was also the second year in a row the award was won by a Dodger. The 1977 winner was Don Sutton.

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. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

1974 Topps Dave Freisleben

This is the only color picture that I know of that shows the proposed uniform of the ill-fated Washington Stars. Those who have been in the hobby for decades remember the 1974 Topps "Washington  Nat'l Lea." cards that Topps made instead of San Diego Padres cards during some of their print runs. 

Here is a 1974 Topps card taking it a step further, using the proposed name and a photo of a player wearing the proposed uniform. I also chose a color scheme on the card more befitting the new team colors. But this card raises even more questions. Like: What would the home uniforms look like? Why is the uniform being modeled by rookie pitcher Dave Freisleben? Why is a pitcher posing with a bat? 

I don't have answers to any of these, but I have my suspicions.  I think there are pictures somewhere of the proposed home unis and sooner or later they will turn up on the internet. But judging by the road uni, my best guess is that they will be equally ugly. 

As for why Dave Freisleben? I have to go with the "Johnny Bravo" syndrome from the Brady Bunch. Greg was given his big break as a "Rock Star" only to find out they chose him because he "fit the suit".  

Freisleben was actually a fairly serviceable pitcher for the Padres as a rookie in 1974. He won 9 games which tied him with 4 other Padre pitchers for the most on the club. He also had the lowest ERA of any of the Padres starters with 3.66.

In one particular game in 1974, Freisleben pitched the first 13 shut-out innings of a 14 inning marathon against the Reds. He was even allowed to bat in the bottom of the 13th before being lifted for Rusty Gerhardt. The Padres broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the 14th and Gerhardt got the win.

I have seen another look at the same uniform. Again it was modeled by Freisleben obviously from the same photo shoot. It was on a team issued "Schedule Card" in 1977:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2015 Topps Mickey Mantle

I think it is safe to assume Topps will not be making a Mickey Mantle card this year. One of the oldest running themes of this blog  (in fact THE oldest) has been filling in the missing Topps Mantles.

 Just to get everybody up to speed, "The Mick" appeared on regular issue Topps cards from 1952-53, then 1956-69. After Mantle died in 1995, Topps retired the number 7 card in their sets (it actually took affect in the 1997 set). In 2006 Topps began making a Mantle card in the #7 spot. They also inserted  Mantle cards from the 1996-2005 sets into the 2006 set. Mantle continued to appear in Topps sets on card #7 until their deal with the Mantle estate expired in 2012. 

With various inserts and special editions Topps filled in many of the missing years. I have been filling in the rest. So it is with great pleasure that I present the "2015 Topps Card #7 That Never Was".

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Minnie Minoso


Another one of my all-time favorites passed away today. It's odd that the player who broke the color barrier for the White Sox died within weeks of the player who broke the color barrier for the Cubs. I can't express what these 2 great men meant to the city of Chicago and to baseball. Today's news just amplifies the tragedy of the recent "Golden Age" Hall of Fame ballot.

Minnie Minoso has always been one of my favorite subjects.I made the card above back in 2011 to commemorate his brief appearance playing for the Sox in 1980. I changed up the Topps cap design a bit to look more like the Sox cap of the era. Ultimately, I wasn't happy with it and never posted it until today.Instead went with this 1981 Fleer card:

I had also created 2 different cards for Minnie from 1951 sets. A 1951 Bowman of Minoso on the White Sox:

And a 1951 Topps card of Minnie on the Indians:

He even made it onto one of the leaders cards that never were, this 1961 RBI leaders card: