Sunday, May 31, 2009

1976 Topps #97 - Wilbur Howard

  • Wilbur Howard played from 1973-1978, mostly for the Houston Astros. He started in the Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers organization in 1968. Howard pitched 18 games in 1968 then was converted to the outfield in 1969. Wilbur played in the minors from 1968-1973 and was called up to the Brewers in September 1973. He batted .207 in 16 games.
  • Howard was traded to the Houston Astros in 1974 for a minor leaguer and Larry Yount. He probably tells his grandchildren that he was once traded for "Yount." Wilbur spent some time in the minors, then came back to the Astros and batted .216 in 111 at-bats.
  • He had his best year in 1975. Wilbur batted .283 with 32 stolen bases in 121 games. He dropped back to .220 in 1976 and didn't do much better in 1977 (.257 with an 11-game stint in the minors). Howard's last major league season was in 1978 (.230 in 148 at-bats). He played in the minors in 1979 and then retired.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

1976 Topps #96 - Doug Bird

  • Doug Bird pitched for 11 seasons (mostly as a reliever) and had a record of 73-60 with a 3.99 ERA and 60 saves. Doug was drafted by the Kansas City Royals and started in their system as a 19-year-old in 1969. He progressed through the minors and debuted with the Royals in April 1973. He had a 4-4 record with a 2.99 ERA and 20 saves in 102.1 innings in his rookie season.

  • Doug had similar seasons in 1974 and 1975, then was mostly a starter in 1976. He went 12-10 with a 3.37 ERA in 27 starts in '76. Bird went back to a swingman role in 1977, going 11-4 with a 3.88 ERA. He fell off in 1978 (6-6, 5.29) and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979 for Todd Cruz.

  • He had an off-year in 1979 (2-0, 5.16 in 61 innings) and was released before the 1980 season. Doug was picked up by the New York Yankees on April 30, 1980 and spent part of the year pitching for AAA Columbus. He came back up to the Yankees at the end of the season and went 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA.

  • Bird pitched well for the Yankees in 1981 (5-1, 2.70) but was traded to the Cubs as part of the Rick Reuschel trade on August 5. Doug became a starter again and was 4-5, 3.58 in 12 starts for the Cubs. Bird didn't have a good year in 1982 (9-14, 5.14) and was traded after the season to the Boston Red Sox for Chuck Rainey. He went 1-4 with a 6.65 ERA in 1983 and that was it.

  • Here is a February 2003 Baseball Digest article about him looking back at his career.

Friday, May 29, 2009

1976 Topps #95 - Brooks Robinson

  • There isn't much to be said about Brooks Robinson that hasn't already been said. He was a heck of a third baseman for a LONG time with the Baltimore Orioles. When I was a kid I liked getting the cards of guys who had a lot of stat lines on the backs (as long as it didn't say major and minor league batting record).

  • Brooks didn't play high school baseball and was discovered while playing second base for a church baseball team.

  • Here is a Sports Illustrated article written about his offensive woes toward the end of his career.

  • Here is his official site.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

1976 Topps #94 - Jim Dwyer

  • Jim Dwyer had an 18-year career (1973-1990) as a pinch hitter and role player. He appeared in over 100 games only three times in his career. Jim had a great nick name (Pig Pen).

  • Jim spent at least some amount of time in the minors every year from 1971-1977. He batted .332 with a .582 slugging percentage in 1977 for AAA Wichita, so at that point he had nothing left to prove as a minor leaguer.

  • Dwyer started his major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. He played for the Cards until the middle of the 1975 season then was traded to Montreal. He had his best year to that point in '75, batting .272 in 206 at bats.

  • Jim stayed with the Expos until the middle of the 1976 season and was traded to the New York Mets. His 1976 season was a pretty bad one (.181 in 105 at bats). He was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the season and spent most of 1977 in the minors. Dwyer was cut loose by the Cubs in September of 1977 and picked up by the Cardinals. He managed to get into a few games at the end of the season.

  • In 1978 Dwyer split time between the Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. He was sold to the Boston Red Sox in March of 1979 and had two pretty good years with them as a pinch hitter and backup OF (.265 in 1979 and .285 in 1980). Jim was granted free agency after the 1980 season and signed with the Baltimore Orioles.

  • Dwyer had several successful seasons with the Orioles from 1981 to the middle of 1988. Jim's main weakness was a lack of power (only 78 lifetime HR in 18 seasons). His best year with the Orioles was probably 1987 (.274, 15 HR in 241 AB).

  • Jim was traded to the Minnesota Twins in the middle of the 1988 season. He stayed with the Twins until late 1989, when he was traded to the Expos. He went back to the Twins in 1990 and finished his career with them.

  • Dwyer had a good year as a pinch-hitter in 1989. He batted .315 in 235 AB. I was in an APBA league and made Jim a late-round draft pick. I was laughed at, but he got some key hits for me that year.

  • After his playing career he coached and managed in the minor leagues, mostly in the Twins organization. Jim is currently the hitting coach for the class A Fort Myers Miracle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

1976 Topps #93 - Mike Phillips

  • Mike Phillips had an 11-year career as a utilityman with five National League teams from 1973-1983. He played in the Giants' farm system from 1969-1973 and posted batting averages of .216, .248, .233, .248, and .250 before being called up to the Giants. In his rookie season, Phillips batted .240 in 112 at-bats.

  • Mike batted .219 in 283 at-bats for the Giants in 1974 and batted .194 in 31 at-bats in 1975 before being put on waivers on May 3. The Mets selected him and he batted .256 in 383 at-bats. That was the peak of his career. Mike batted .256 in 262 at-bats in 1976 and then batted .209 in 86 at-bats for the Mets in 1977. Phillips was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 15 for Joel Youngblood. He finished the year with the Cardinals, batting .241 in 87 at-bats.

  • Phillips played three more unremarkable years for the Cards, then was traded by the Cardinals with Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Al Olmsted, Kim Seaman, Steve Swisher and John Urrea to the San Diego Padres for Rollie Fingers, Bob Shirley and Gene Tenace. The San Diego Padres sent Bob Geren (December 10, 1980) to the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the trade.

  • He played in 14 games for the Padres before being sold to the Montreal Expos on May 10. He only batted 62 times for the Expos. Mike then spent most of the next two years in the minors, coming up for a couple of cups of coffee with the Expos in 1982 and 1983. Mike was released and re-signed with the Expos in 1982. He was released and re-signed twice in 1983 before being released for good on September 16, 1983.

1976 Topps #92 - Eduardo Rodriguez

  • Eduardo Rodriguez was a reliever and spot starter for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Kansas City Royals from 1973-1979. He went 9-7 with a 3.30 ERA as a 21-year-old for the Brewers in 1973. Rodriguez followed that with a 7-4, 3.63 year in 1974.
  • Eduardo had another good year in 1976 as a middle reliever (7-0, 3.49, 7 saves in 87 2/3 innings) but then gave a lot of those wins back in 1976 (5-12, 3.64 in 12 starts and 136 innings).
  • He had a couple more very average years (5-6, 4.35 in 1977; 5-5, 3.93 in 1978). He was purchased by the Royals before the 1979 season.
  • Rodriguez went 4-1 with a 4.84 ERA for the Royals in 1979, then was released in spring training of 1980.
  • Rodriguez holds the distinction (along with Scott Munninhoff and Eric Cammack) of hitting a triple in his only major league at bat. He did it in 1973.
  • He played in Puerto Rico after he left major league baseball.
  • Eduardo died of a heart attack on his 57th birthday at his home in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.

1976 Topps #91 - Tom Hutton

  • Tom Hutton played for the Dodgers' A team (Santa Barbara) in 1965 and split time between AA Albuquerque and AAA Spokane in 1966. He batted .323 for the two teams and came up for three games with the Dodgers. He then went to the minors until 1969. He put up great numbers from 1967-1971 in Spokane, but couldn't stick with the Dodgers. He was named MVP twice in the minors (1966 Texas League and 1971 Pacific Coast League).
  • Tom was traded to the Phillies before the 1972 season for Larry Hisle. He got a chance to play for the wretched Phils and had a pretty decent year (.260 BA, .354 OBP in 381 at bats). He had 38 doubles that year, but only a .354 slugging percentage.
  • Hutton remained with the Phillies as a backup firstbaseman (used mostly as a defensive replacement) through the 1977 season. He only had 81 at bats in 107 games in '77, so he was sold to Toronto after the season.
  • In 1978 Tom played in 64 games for the Blue Jays before he was sold to the Montreal Expos on July 20. Hutton played for the Expos until his release on September 8, 1981.

  • Tom had an uncanny ability to hit Tom Seaver (.320 in 62 at bats).
  • After his playing career, Hutton became a broadcaster. He worked for the Expos (1982-1986), the Yankees (1987-1989), the Blue Jays and ESPN (1990-1996), and the Marlins (1997-present). He also has done broadcasting work for FOX.
  • He married Dick Ruthven's twin sister Debbie.
  • Tom and Debbie once ran in the Boston Marathon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1976 Topps #90 - Sal Bando

  • Sal Bando played 16 seasons (1966-1981) as a third baseman for Oakland and Milwaukee. He played his college baseball at Arizona State University and was drafted by the Kansas City A's in 1965. He spent the rest of '65 in A ball, then played AA in 1966. He had a cup of coffee with the A's at the end of the 1966 season. Sal played AAA ball in 1967 and played well enough to earn a promotion to the big club about 2/3 through the season.
  • Sal played all 162 games in 1968 and batted .251. He was selected to his first of four AL All Star teams in 1969 as he batted .281 with 31 homers and 113 RBI. Sal also developed a good eye at the plate, walking 111 times.
  • Bando was a very durable player. He appeared in 150 or more games every year but one between 1968 and 1978. The only exception was 1974, when he played in "only" 146 games.
  • Sal was in the top 5 in MVP voting in 1971 (2nd), 1973 (4th) and 1974 (3rd). The 1974 vote was especially interesting since he only batted .243 with 22 HR and 103 RBI.
  • Following Game Two of the 1973 World Series, he prompted the black armbands the players wore to show their feelings over the Mike Andrews incident, when Finley roasted the unfortunate second baseman's two-error performance.
  • Bando left the A's after the 1976 season as a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. He played for the Brewers from 1977 to the end of his career in 1981.
  • After he retired, Sal was a front office executive with the Brewers. He was their general manager from October 1991 to August 1999. Sal is now the CEO of Middleton Doll Company.
  • Here is a "where are they now" article that Sports Illustrated did about Sal in 2007.
  • Here is a link to an audio interview with Sal on "Jimmy Scott's High & Tight."
  • Sal and Gene Tenace appeared in a cameo on The Simpsons in 2007.
  • How many more World Series would the A's have won had they been able to stay together?

1976 Topps #89 - Vern Ruhle

  • Vern Ruhle pitched for 13 seasons, mainly for Detroit and Houston. He started with the Tigers in 1974 and became a regular member of their rotation in 1975. He was 11-12, 4.07 for a bad Tiger team. He had a better ERA in 1976 (3.92), but slipped a bit to 9-12.
  • Ruhle struggled in 1977, going 3-5, 5.70 in Detroit and 1-4, 6.86 in Evansville. The Tigers released Vern in spring training of 1978. The Houston Astros picked him up and he pitched well for AA Columbus and AAA Charleston (8-5, 2.50 for both teams). Vern was promoted to the majors started ten games for the Astros in 1978, going 3-3 with a 2.12 ERA.
  • Vern went 2-6 with a 4.07 ERA in 66 innings for Houston in 1979.
  • His best year by far was 1980. After JR Richard had a stroke, Vern stepped into the starting rotation and went 12-4 with a 2.37 ERA. Ruhle started game 4 of the NLCS and left in the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead, but the Phillies came back and won the game 5-3 in 10 innings. Here is a little article that talks about a key play Vern was involved in.
  • Vern was a spot starter in 1981, going 4-6 with a 2.91 ERA in 15 starts. He started game 4 of the 1981 NLDS but lost a complete game duel to Fernando Valenzuela 2-1.
  • He continued to pitch for the Astros through the 1984 season. He had a poor year in 1984 (1-9, 4.58) and was granted free agency. Vern signed with Cleveland in 1985 and went 2-10 with a 4.32 ERA. He moved on to California in 1986. Vern pitched some for AAA Edmonton and moved up to the Angels in the second half of the season, going 1-3, 4.15 in 47.2 innings. He pitched for AAA Edmonton in 1987 and hung 'em up after going 0-7, 6.26.
  • After his playing career Vern did a lot of coaching. He worked as a pitching coach for Houston, Philadelphia and the New York Mets prior to joining the Reds organization in 2004. He began 2006 as a pitching coach, but was diagnosed with cancer (multiple myeloma) in February during a routine physical and missed the entire season. Ruhle died on January 20, 2007 after complications from a stem cell transplant.

Monday, May 25, 2009

1976 Topps #88 - Duffy Dyer

  • Duffy Dyer was born in Ohio but his family later moved to Arizona. He played at Cortez High School in Phoenix and then played his college baseball at Arizona State University and was a first round pick of the New York Mets in 1966. He didn't do so well in the minors from 1966-1968, but was called up for a cup of coffee at the end of 1968 and played in one game. Duffy started the 1969 season in AAA Tidewater but put up great stats (.313 BA, .515 SA, 1.000 fielding pct) and was called up to the Mets. He played in 29 games in 1969 and had his best batting average (.257).
  • Dyer was a backup catcher for the Mets from 1969-1974. He was traded to the Pirates after the 1974 season for Gene Clines. Duffy was a great defensive catcher, but the Mets already had one of those guys (Jerry Grote).
  • He spent the 1974-1978 seasons as the backup catcher for the Pirates. His best year for the Pirates was 1977 when he played in 94 games, batted .241, and had a .370 OBP. He was granted free agency after the 1978 season and signed with the Montreal Expos.
  • Duffy played in only 28 games in 1979 -- Gary Carter was pretty durable and didn't take many days off. Dyer was traded to the Detroit Tigers after the '79 season for Jerry Manuel.
  • He batted .185 in 48 games for the Tigers in 1980. He played in two games in 1981 and then was released on May 15, 1981.
  • After his playing career Duffy did some minor league managing (1984-1988, 1999-2000, 2005). He also did some coaching at the major league level--he was a bullpen coach (Minnesota 1983), third base coach (Milwaukee 1989-1995), and coached for the Oakland A's from 1996-1998). In 2007 Dyer was named the minor league catching coordinator for the San Diego Padres.
  • He once explained to a group of Little Leaguers that his nickname came from the popular radio show Duffy's Tavern. His mother had been listening to the show when she went into labor, and asked "How's Duffy?" after giving birth.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1976 Topps #87 - Tom Burgmeier

  • Tom Burgmeier was a reliever for five teams from 1968-1984. He appeared in 745 games and started only three of them. He had a lifetime record of 79-55 with a 3.23 ERA and 102 saves.

  • Burgmeier pitched for quite a while (1962-1967) in the minors before finally getting his start with the California Angels in 1968. He appeared in 56 games that year, then was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the expansion draft.

  • Tom pitched for the Royals from 1969-1973, with stints in the minors in 1970 and 1973. His best year for KC was 1971 (9-7, 1.73, 17 saves). He was traded to the Twins after the '73 season for a minor leaguer.

  • He pitched for Minnesota from 1974-1977. Tom had a nice year in 1976 (8-1, 2.50 ERA), but fell off in 1977 (6-4, 5.09). 1977 was his "walk year" -- not the best time to have an off season.

  • Tom signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in 1978 and pitched for them through the 1982 season. His best year was 1980. He was 5-4 with a 2.00 ERA and 24 saves. Burgmeier was named to the AL All Star team that year.

  • After the 1982 season Burgmeier signed with the Oakland A's as a free agent and finished his career with them in 1984. From 1979-1984, Tom's highest ERA was 2.87.

  • Tom is currently the pitching coach for the Omaha Royals.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

1976 Topps #86 - Mike Tyson

  • When I see the name Mike Tyson, I think of this guy, not the boxer.
  • Mike Tyson had a 10-year career with the Cardinals and the Cubs. He came up with the Cardinals in September 1972. He must have had a good glove -- he never batted above .245 in the minors before coming up to the bigs to stay in 1973.
  • Mike's best year was probably 1975 when he batted .266 in 368 at-bats. He batted .286 in 1976, but he only had 245 at-bats.
  • Tyson was traded to the Cubs for Donnie Moore after the 1979 season. He played for the Cubs for two years, then was released in spring training of 1982.
  • His son, Torre Tyson, manages the Charleston RiverDogs (the Yankee A minor league team).

1976 Topps #85 - Mickey Rivers

  • Mick the Quick played outfield for 15 seasons (1970-1984) for three teams. He got his start with the California Angels, splitting time between AAA and the majors from 1970-1973. Mickey stuck with the Angels in 1974 and led the AL with 11 triples. He also stole 30 bases that year.
  • Mickey's last year with the Angels (1975) was a good one. He led the league in triples again (13) and also led in stolen bases (70). After the 1975 season, Rivers was traded with Ed Figueroa to the New York Yankees for Bobby Bonds.
  • Rivers had his only All-Star season in 1976. He batted .312 with 43 stolen bases and 95 runs scored. Mickey was 3rd in MVP voting. He had good years in 1977 and 1978 as the Yankee starting center fielder.
  • In August 1979 Mickey was traded with a bunch of players to be named later to the Rangers for Oscar Gamble and another bunch of players to be named later. He had a good year in 1980, batting .333 with 210 hits and 96 runs scored. Mickey batted .286 in 1981, which was his last year as a full-time outfielder. He batted only 68 times in 1982 (he had knee and ankle injuries). Mickey played more as a DH than as an outfielder in 1983 and 1984 and then was released in spring training of 1985.
  • Mickey put up some good numbers in three American League Championship Series, batting .386 in 57 at bats. He didn't do as well in the World Series, batting .238 in 63 at bats.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

1976 Topps #84 - Brent Strom

Brent Strom's major league career was relatively short (1972-1977). He was up and down between AAA and the majors from 1970-1981. Brent had some good years with the Padres in 1975 (8-8, 2.54 in 16 starts) and 1976 (12-16, 3.29 in 33 starts).
Brent helped pitch USC to national championships in 1968 and 1970. Strom started in the Mets organization in 1970 and had a standard progression through the Mets' system. He had good years in the minors but was never able to stick with the Mets. He was traded to the Indians after the 1972 season. Brent spent the 1973 season with the Indians, posting a 2-10, 4.61 record.
Strom was in the minors in 1974, starting in the Cleveland organization and then being traded to the San Diego organization. He made the Padres in 1975 and had his two best seasons. But in 1977 Brent only appeared in eight games for the Padres and had a 12.42 ERA. He started six games for AAA Hawaii that year, and then missed the entire 1978 season. An elbow injury was the culprit. Strom spent 1979 and 1980 pitching for the Houston organization and then pitched for the Dodgers' AAA team (Albuquerque) before calling it quits.
After his pitching career, Brent was a pitching coach for Houston and Kansas City. He is now a minor league pitching instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals.
He now runs Strom Baseball Institute in Tucson, AZ. He wrote an essay about long toss here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

1976 Topps #83 - Jim Spencer

The back of this card says that Jim's grandfather played one season with the Senators in 1913. I wonder if young Jim ever spent time at Grandpa's house talking baseball.
Jim Spencer was a first baseman and DH for five American League teams from 1968-1982. He won two Gold Gloves (1970 and 1977) and was named to one All Star team (1973). He had some power, posting eight double-figure home run seasons. His best power year was 1979 when he hit 22 homers and slugged .596.
Jim came up with the Angels in 1968 and played with them until the middle of the 1973 season. He was only 22 when he won his first Gold Glove in 1970. Jim, along with George Scott, was considered to be the best fielding 1B in the AL in the 1970s. He had a few good power years for the Angels but was traded on May 20, 1973 with Lloyd Allen to the Texas Rangers for Mike Epstein, Rich Hand and Rick Stelmaszek. It's interesting that Jim made his only All Star team during a year when he was traded. Texas was pretty wretched that year, so perhaps they had trouble finding a representative for the team.
Jim played with the Rangers through the 1975 season. On December 10, 1975 he was traded to the California Angels with $100,000 for Bill Singer. The next day the Angels traded him to the White Sox. Jim played for the White Sox in 1976 and 1977. He had one of his better years in 1977, winning his second Gold Glove and hitting 18 homers.
After the 1977 season Jim was involved in a multi-player trade and was sent to the Yankees. Cash was involved--the Sox probably needed the money. Jim spent the next 3 1/2 seasons as a part-time first baseman for the Yanks. In the middle of the 1981 season he was sent to Oakland, where he finished his career in 1982.
After his playing career, Jim worked as a scout and a college assistant coach. He also made appearances at benefits for the Yankees. He died of a heart attack in Fort Lauderdale, FL On February 10, 2002.

Monday, May 18, 2009

1976 Topps #82 - Von Joshua

Von Joshua had a 10-year career as an outfielder for four teams. Joshua started with the Dodgers in 1969 but spent more time in the minors than he did in the bigs. He made it to the majors to stay in 1973. Von spent 1973 and 1974 with the Dodgers as a reserve outfielder. Von broke his wrist during the 1973 season and by the time he recovered he had been passed by the other players in the bountiful Dodger farm system. Von asked to be traded and he was selected off of waivers by the Giants before the 1975 season.
When this card was made, Von was coming off of his best year. In 1975 he batted .318 with 10 triples and 20 stolen bases. In the middle of the 1976 season Von was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants seemed to be involved in a lot of these types of transactions in the mid-seventies.
In 1977 Von batted .261 but only had a .286 on base percentage. In 1978 he didn't make the team and was released at the end of spring training. Joshua spent 1978 in the Mexican League and then was purchased by the Dodgers before the 1979 season. He spent one year with the Dodgers and then was claimed off of waivers by the San Diego Padres before the 1980 season. Von played for the Padres in 1980 but was released in August and didn't play again.
Since 1984 he's been a coach for various minor league teams. He is now the hitting coach for the Iowa Cubs.

1976 Topps #81 - Darrell Evans

When I was a little one I sometimes got Darrell and Dwight Evans mixed up.
Darrell Evans was a solid third baseman for several years. He had a great batting eye, twice leading the NL in bases on balls. Darrell had pretty good power--he was always in double-figures in home runs and he hit over 30 homers four times. Darrell was named to two All-Star teams (1973 and 1983).
Evans started with the Braves in 1969, playing 12 games in both the '69 and '70 seasons. He split time between 3B and LF in 1971 and had his first double-figure HR season. Darrell became the regular 3B in 1972 and had his best season in 1973 when he batted .281, homered 41 times, had 104 RBI, and led the NL in walks with 124.
Evans got off to a bad start in 1976 (.173 with one home run in 139 at bats), so on June 13 he was traded with Marty Perez to the San Francisco Giants for Willie Montanez and some spare parts. The 1976 season was basically a lost season for Darrell, as he didn't do much better with the Giants. But he bounced back in 1977 by batting .254 with 17 homers. He had several similar years with the Giants through the 1983 season. His best year with the Giants was 1983 when he batted .277 with 30 home runs.
Darrell signed with Detroit as a free agent after the 1983 season and they won the World Championship in 1984. Evans didn't have one of his better years that year, but he got a ring. He had good power years in 1985 (40 HR) and 1987 (34 HR). Here is a 1987 New York Times article about Evans. He left the Tigers as a free agent after the 1988 season and finished his career with the Braves in 1989.
Darrell has spent time in various minor league managing and coaching capacities since his retirement. He and several other former major leaguers started a website to try to raise environmental awareness.
"No better feeling (hitting a home run) in the whole world. It is what you live for. Sometimes it is what you die for. You put one up there and it makes you feel young again." - Darrell Evans in Baseball Digest (July 1986)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

1976 Topps #80 - Jim Kaat

Sometimes I wonder what goes through a GM's mind when he's thinking about a trade. Jim Kaat was coming off of back-to-back 20 win seasons for the White Sox, but he was traded to the Phillies before the 1976 season. Perhaps the White Sox knew that Jim was close to the end of his days as a starting pitcher. Jim had three more seasons as a regular starter before he was converted to a reliever/spot starter in 1979.
Jim Kaat was one of those rare guys who played in four decades. He started with the Washington Senators in 1959. He pitched for the Senators/Twins until 1973, when he was put on waivers by the Twins. The White Sox picked him up and got 2 1/2 good years out of him. Here is a 1975 Sports Illustrated article about "Jim's Jolly Rejuvenation."Jim played for the Phillies from 1976 to the beginning of the 1979 season, then he was sold to the Yankees. He was sold to the Cardinals in April 1980, and he pitched for the Cards until his release in July 1983.
In 1976, Kaat went 12-14 with a 3.48 ERA for the Phillies. It was his last season in which he would have a double-figure win total.
Does Jim Kaat belong in the Hall of Fame? Here are some possible "yes" and "no" answers:
  • Yes:
  • 283 career wins
  • 16 straight Gold Glove awards (1962-1976)
  • Pitched for 25 seasons
  • Seven of the top ten in similaritiy scores are in the Hall now. Only Tommy John, Bert Blyleven, and Frank Tanana are not in the Hall
  • His great pitching down the stretch in 1967 that almost helped the Twins to the pennant. Here is a Hardball Times article about it.
  • No:
  • Only received Cy Young Award consideration one year (1975 with the White Sox)
  • Won more than 20 games only three times in his career
  • Was named an All-Star only four times
Jim Kaat was a broadcaster for many years after his playing days. He retired from regular broadcasting after the 2006 season. He now does a few games a year and does some work for MLB network. Here is an article about his broadcasting career.
Jim has a blog called Kaat's Korner

Saturday, May 16, 2009

1976 Topps #79 - Jerry Morales

Jerry Morales was an outfielder for five teams (including two stops with the Cubs) from 1969-1983. He batted .195 in 19 games for the expansion San Diego Padres in 1969. He played a few games for the Padres in 1970 and 1971, batting .155 and .118, before sticking with San Diego in 1972. After batting .281 in 1973, Jerry was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of the Glenn Beckert trade.
Morales played four years with the Cubs, posting seasons of .273, .270, .274, and .290 with double-figure HR totals in each year. He made the 1977 NL All Star team. He was hit in the knee by Sparky Lyle and scored a run in that game. The injury limited his effectiveness for the rest of the season.
After the 1977 season Jerry started to move around a lot. He played for the Cardinals in 1978, the Tigers in 1979, and the Mets in 1980 before signing with the Cubs as a free agent before the 1981 season. He batted .286 in 1981 and .284 in 1982 as a part-time OF but was released after the 1983 season after batting .195 in 87 at bats.
After his playing career he was a coach and a scout for several teams. Jerry was the first base coach for Montreal from 2002 to 2004 and coached first base for the Washington Nationals from 2007 to 2008. His Wikipedia entry says he was named as a coach of the St. Lucie Mets in 2009 but his name isn't on the roster on the team website.

Friday, May 15, 2009

1976 Topps #78 - Cecil Cooper

Cecil Cooper was a five-time all star who didn't really come into his own until he went to the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977. Cecil started with the Boston Red Sox and was about a .280 hitter with a little bit of power for the first six years of his career. He was traded to the Brewers after the 1976 season for George Scott and Bernie Carbo.

Cooper was given the job as starting 1B for Milwaukee and responded by batting .300 with 20 home runs. He fell off a bit in 1978, but bounced back in 1979. He led the AL in doubles, batted .312, hit 24 HR and had 102 RBI. He also won the first of two Gold Glove awards and was named to his first of five All Star teams.
In the ensuing few years he led the AL in RBI twice, led in doubles once more, and batted over .300 several more times. His great year in 1980 (.352, 25 HR, 110 RBI) was overshadowed by George Brett's chase of .400. He retired in 1987.
Those Milwaukee Brewer teams of the late 70s and early 80s were fun to watch. They used to train in Sun City, AZ. My father and I usually made it to 4-5 spring training games a year. That was before spring training became a big expense.
Cecil Cooper is now the manager of the Houston Astros.

1976 Topps #77 - Pedro Borbon

Pedro Borbon was a solid setup man for the Reds in the 1970s. He started out with the California Angels in 1969 and was acquired by the Reds as part of the Alex Johnson trade before the 1970 season. Pedro split time between the Reds and the minor league Indianapolis team in 1970 and 1971 and was in the bigs to stay by 1972. He had a nice year in 1972, going 8-3 with a 3.17 ERA and 11 saves. His best year was probably 1973 when he went 11-4 with 14 saves and a 2.16 ERA. In the famous Pete Rose-Bud Harrelson fight, Pedro ripped a Mets cap with his teeth.
Borbon averaged almost two innings per appearance throughout the 1970s. He had solid years from 1972-1977, but fell off a bit in 1978. He was 8-2, but his ERA jumped to 4.98. In the middle of the 1979 season he was traded to San Francisco for Hector Cruz. He was released by the Giants on April 3, 1980 and he signed with the Cardinals on April 30. The Cardinals released him on May 27 and that was it for Pedro.
From his Wikipedia entry:
  • A local Cincinnati urban legend claims that Borbon, incensed about being traded from the Reds in 1979, placed a voodoo losing curse on the Reds until the last member of the Reds front office management left in 1990. In 2002, Borbon admitted that this was a hoax.

From his entry at

  • An unabashed cockfighting enthusiast, macho Borbon reportedly could warm up faster and throw a ball farther than anyone else in the NL during the mid-1970s when he was a top reliever for Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine." He liked to show off by throwing strikes to home plate from the center field warning track during batting practice.

His son, Pedro Borbon Jr., pitched in the majors from 1992-2003.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

1976 Topps #76 - Willie Crawford

By the time this card was released, Willie Crawford had already been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ted Sizemore. Willie had a pretty good career with the Dodgers. His best year with the Dodgers was probably 1973 when he batted .295 with 14 home runs.
Crawford batted .304 with 9 HR and 50 RBI for the Cards in 1976, but was traded to San Francisco after the season. He never played for the Giants, as he was traded to Houston before the 1977 season. He split the '77 season between Houston and Oakland and was granted free agency at the end of the year. He went back to the Dodgers, but didn't make the team and was released in spring training of 1978.
Willie died in his home in 2004 at the age of 57, apparently of kidney disease.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

1976 Topps #75 - Larry Dierker

Larry Dierker had a very nice 14-year career (13 of those with Houston). His best year was 1969 when he won 20 games and had a 2.33 ERA. He made the All-Star team that year and again in 1971. Larry had a lifetime record of 139-123 with a 3.31 ERA. Here is a 1971 Sports Illustrated article about him.
His last season as a regular pitcher was in 1976. He went 13-14 with a 3.69 ERA that year. Dierker pitched a no-hitter against the Expos on July 9, 1976. Larry was traded to the Cardinals after the '76 season. He broke his leg during spring training and pitched only 39 innings for the Cards. He retired during spring training of 1978. He was only 31 years old.
Larry went on to be a color commentator for the Astros from 1979-1996. He then was named the manager of the Astros and guided them to four first-place finishes in five years. The Astros didn't have success in the playoffs, and he was fired after the 2001 season. He collapsed in the Houston dugout during the 1999 season and had to have surgery for a tangle of malformed blood vessels in his brain. Here is a description of the procedure Larry underwent. He missed a month but returned to guide the team to a division title.
He did some more broadcasting for the Astros and is now a community representative for the team. His number 49 was retired by the team in 2002.
Here is a little synopsis of his career.

1976 Topps #74 - Oscar Gamble

The afro. Is there anything more iconic for 1970s baseball cards than Oscar Gamble's afro?
Oscar Gamble was a good-hitting platoon outfielder for seven teams from 1969-1985. He started out with the Cubs and was traded to the Phillies after the 1969 season. He stayed with Philadelphia as a reserve outfielder for three seasons and then was traded to Cleveland before the 1973 season.
His best season for Cleveland was probably 1974 when he batted .291 with 19 homers. The Yankees acquired Gamble in a trade with the Indians before the 1976 season. George Steinbrenner wouldn't let Oscar have a uniform until he got rid of the afro. He spent 1976 with the Yankees but didn't have a real good year (.232 with 17 homers). He was traded to the Chicago White Sox (with $200,000, LaMarr Hoyt, and a minor leaguer) after the season for Bucky Dent.
Oscar bounced back with a good year in 1977, batting .297 with 31 homers and 83 RBI. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Padres. He played one year in San Diego and then was involved in a multi-player trade with the Rangers. He played part of the 1979 season with Texas and then was traded back to the Yankees. He had a great year for those two teams in '79 -- .358 with 19 homers.
He stayed with the Yankees through the 1984 season, usually getting 200-300 at bats and hitting 10-19 homers. After the '84 season he signed as a free agent with the White Sox but was released in August 1985.
Here is a 2008 "where are they now" article about Gamble.
"When I'm at bat, I'm in scoring position." - Oscar Gamble

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

1976 Topps #73 - Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles were always successful in the 1970s, but won only one World Series (1970) during the decade. During the decade they won fewer than 90 games only twice, and they were over .500 both of those years. They won at least 100 games three times in the 70s and they went to the World Series all three of those years.
Earl Weaver was a heck of a manager who got a lot out of the teams he managed. He didn't always get along with his players, but he was very successful. The Orioles were probably at their least successful in 1976. Eddie Murray hadn't arrived on the scene yet, Frank Robinson was long gone, and guys like Brooks Robinson and Mike Cuellar were winding down. Baltimore still managed to win 88 games that year.

"The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers."

Here are some more great Earl Weaver quotes.