Friday, July 31, 2009

Trader Crack's contest

Here's a little plug for a contest at Trader Crack's page. You should go over there and check it out.

1976 Topps #161 - Bruce Kison

  • Bruce Kison pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1971-1979), California Angels (1980-1984) and Boston Red Sox (1985). He started in the Pirates' organization in 1968 and progressed through the system. He showed he was ready for the majors when he started the 1971 season 10-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 12 starts for AAA Charleston. Bruce made his major league debut on July 4, 1971 and finished the season 6-5 with a 3.40 ERA. Kison won games in relief appearances in both the National League Championship and the World Series. Here is a Sports Illustrated article about Bruce from April 1972.
  • During winter ball in 1971 (according to his Wikipedia entry) Bruce injured his rotator cuff. He changed his throwing motion and was able to pitch for 14 more years. **note: this may have happened in the 1972 off-season since the aforementioned article doesn't mention an injury and Bruce spent a large portion of the 1973 season in the minors ** Kison went 9-7 with an ERA of 3.26 in 32 games (18 starts) for the Pirates in 1972 and won one game in the NLCS. In 1973 Bruce pitched for Charleston and was brought back to the Pirates in September. He went 3-0 in seven starts to finish the '73 season.
  • In 1974 Kison was 9-8 with a 3.49 in 40 games (16 starts) and won another NLCS game. Bruce moved into the Pittsburgh rotation in 1975 and was 12-11 with a 3.23 ERA. Here is a 1975 article about Kison from the Pittsburgh Post-GazetteHe had a better year in 1976 (14-9, 3.08) but had one of his poorest seasons in 1977 (9-10, 4.90).
  • In 1978 Bruce was 6-6 with a 3.19 ERA in 28 games (11 starts). He improved to 13-7 with a 3.19 ERA in 1979. Kison didn't pitch in the NLCS. He was given the start in game 1 of the World Series and only retired one batter, allowing five runs as he absorbed his only career postseason loss.
  • After the 1979 season Kison was granted free agency and signed with the Angels. An injury shortened his 1980 season (he pitched in only one game after June 11) and he went 3-6 with a 4.91 ERA. He pitched a one-hitter against the Minnesota Twins on April 23 (the no-hitter was broken up by a Ken Landreaux single in the 9th inning).
  • Kison didn't pitch until after the strike in 1981. He appeared in only 11 games and was 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA. Bruce came back with a 10-5, 3.17 ERA season in 1982 and had a complete game win in game 2 of the American League Championship Series. He left the deciding game 5 in the 6th inning with the score tied 2-2 but the Angels eventually lost the game.
  • Bruce was 11-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 1983 and then slipped to 4-5, 5.37 in 20 games in 1984. After the 1984 season he was granted free agency and signed with the Red Sox. Kison was 5-3 with a 4.11 ERA in his final season. During one game George Bell charged the mound and attempted to karate kick Kison. Bruce calmly stepped aside and then flattened Bell with a punch.
  • After his playing career Kison was a pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles. He is currently a scout and a pro baseball instructor.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

1976 Topps #160 - Dave Winfield

  • Dave Winfield had a lot of accomplishements in his career: twelve straight All-Star games (1977-1988); seven Gold Gloves; six Silver Sluggers; 3110 career hits; 465 career home runs; elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001.
  • Winfield was the fourth pick in the 1973 draft by the San Diego Padres. The players taken ahead of him were David Clyde, John Stearns, and Robin Yount. Dave immediately started with the Padres and never played in the minor leagues. He batted .277 in 56 games in 1973. Winfield was also drafted by the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, and the ABA's Utah Stars.
  • Dave steadily improved his skills from 1974-1976. He batted in the .265-.285 range with double-figure home run and stolen base totals. Winfield's first All-Star year was 1977, when he batted .275 with 25 homers and 92 RBI. He improved to .308 with 24 homers and 97 RBI in 1978. Winfield's biggest year with San Diego was 1979 -- he batted .308 with 34 HR and a league-leading 118 RBI. He finished third in MVP balloting in '79. Dave had a bit of a drop-off in 1980 (.276, 20 HR, 87 RBI) but that didn't diminsh his value in the free-agent market.
  • Before the 1981 season Winfield signed a 10-year, $23 million contract with the New York Yankees. George Steinbrenner mistakenly thought he was signing Dave for $16 million, which helped lead to a bitter feud between the two. Winfield batted .294 with 13 homers and 68 RBI in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He did well in the divisional series against Milwaukee (.350 in 20 AB), but struggled in the ALCS against Oakland (.154 in 13 AB). He also had a poor World Series against the LA Dodgers (.045 with one RBI in 22 AB).
  • Dave had nice years in 1982 (.280, 37 HR, 106 RBI) and in 1983 (.283, 32 HR, 116 RBI). The 1983 season was marred by an incident on August 4in which Winfield unintentionally killed a seagull when he threw a ball at it during pregame warmups in Toronto. He was arrested for cruelty to animals after the game. He was released after posting bond and the charges were dropped the next day. Dave donated two paintings to be auctioned off for Easter Seals in Toronto after the season, but fans still stood and flapped their arms every time Winfield appeared in Toronto.
  • In 1984 Winfield and teammate Don Mattingly battled for the American League batting title. Mattingly won the title by batting .343 to Winfield's .340. Dave also hit 19 homers and had 100 RBI. In 1985 the Yankees were battling the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East title. Mr. Steinbrenner derisively said about Winfield that the Yankees needed an "Mr. October" and not a "Mr. May." Winfield was consistent from 1985-1987, batting between .262 and .275 and hitting 24-27 homers each year.
  • The 1988 season was Dave's last full season with the Yankees. He batted .322 with 25 homers and 107 RBI and appeared in his last All Star game. Winfield sat out the entire 1989 season with a knee injury.
  • By 1990 the feud between Winfield and Steinbrenner got so nasty that Steinbrenner was actually banned from baseball for a couple of years for his connections with a mobster that he had paid to try to dig up embarassing information about Winfield. Dave started the 1990 season by batting only .213 in 20 games. He was traded to the California Angels for Mike Witt on May 11 and finished the season with a total of 20 homers and a .267 average, which was good enough for Winfield to win the AL Comeback Player of the Year award.
  • In 1991 Dave batted .262 with 28 homers and 86 RBI. After the season he left the Angels and signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent. Winfield won his last Silver Slugger award (as a DH) in 1992 as he batted ..290 with 26 HR and 108 RBI. He finished 5th in AL MVP consideration as he helped the Blue Jays to the World Championship.
  • In 1993 Dave signed with the Hometown Minnesota Twins. He batted .271 with 21 HR and 76 RBI in 1993 and got his 3000th hit off of Dennis Eckersley on September 16. Here is a link to a Sports Illustrated article written right after the milestone was reached.
  • In the strike-shortened 1994 season he played in 76 games and batted .252 with 10 HR and 43 RBI. During the strike Dave was traded to the Cleveland Indians on August 31 for a player to be named later. The season was later cancelled and there was no "player to be named later," so Cleveland executives took Minnesota executives out to dinner to settle the trade.
  • Dave signed with the Indians in 1995 but didn't play much. He retired after playing in 46 games and batting .191.
  • Dave was the first player to enter the Hall of Fame as a San Diego Padre in 2001. He is now an executive vice-president with the Padres and an analyst on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Dave has also done a large amount of charitable work with his Winfield Foundation.
  • Here is a link to Dave Winfield's official site.
  • Here is a link to his Hall of Fame page.
  • Gellman at Sports Cards Uncensored ran into Dave at the airport a few days ago. Story at the end of this blog entry.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

1976 Topps #159 - Jerry Terrell

  • Jerry Terrell was a utility player who played wherever the team needed him. The only thing I can remember about Jerry is that he voted "no" on a strike vote in 1980. He was the only player to do so (he said it was against his religion).
  • Terrell started in the Minnesota Twins' system. He played in A ball in 1968 then didn't play in 1969, possibly due to military service. Jerry came back and played in the minors in 1971 and 1972. He made the Twins in 1973. Jerry batted .265 in 124 games but had an OBP of only .297.
  • Jerry played in 116 games in 1974 and batted .245. He played every infield position and LF that year. Terrell played all over the place again in 1975 and had his best season (.286 in 108 games). He also played in 45 minor league games that year and batted .320. Jerry played in 89 games in 1976 but had only 186 plate appearances and batted .246. Terrell had a similar year in 1977 (.224 in 214 AB). After the 1977 season he was granted free agency and signed with the Kansas City Royals.
  • Terrell had much less playing time with the Royals from 1978-1980. In 1978 he played in 73 games (133 AB) and batted .203. Jerry was in only 31 games in 1979 (40 AB) and batted .300. Jerry even got to pitch in a game. The story of Jerry's appearance is quite amusing. He was asked to pitch the 9th inning of a blowout game (the Royals were down by 13 runs) and managed to set the Yankees down in order---on three pitches! All three batters popped out. Jerry got a standing ovation for the feat, and then got a second standing ovation when he knocked in a run in the bottom of the inning.
  • In 1980 Terrell split time between the Royals and AAA Omaha. He wasn't called up in time to be eligible for the playoffs, but he was allowed to sit on the Royals bench and was included in the introductions. Jerry ended up batting .063 in 16 at bats for the Royals that year. He was released in spring training of 1981 and retired.
  • Since his retirement Terrell has been a coach and manager in the minor leagues. In 2002 he was the advance scout for the Montreal Expos. Here is a link to a 2002 "where are they now" article. Here is a link to a future "biography" of Jerry that will appear later this year. I think Terrell is an analyst for a sports station but every time I click a link I get a "bad security certificate" error.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

1976 Topps #158 - Ken Reitz

  • Ken Reitz played for four National League teams from 1972-1982. He won one Gold Glove award (1975 3B) and was an NL All Star in 1980.
  • Reitz played for various teams in the St. Louis Cardinals' system from 1969-1972 and consistently hit .270-.290. He was called up to the Cardinals in September 1972 and batted .359 in 21 games. That would be a nice Stat-O-Matic card!
  • During his career Ken's fielding percentace at 3B usually exceeded the league average by at least 20 points. His nickname was "The Zamboni Machine" because of the way he scooped up ground balls. In 1973 he batted .235 in 147 games but earned his keep with his great defense. Reitz improved to .271 in 154 games in 1974 but led the NL in "grounded into double plays" with 25. Ken won the NL Gold Glove in 1975 and batted .269 in 161 games.
  • Before the 1976 season Ken was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Pete Falcone. He had one of his typical seasons (.267 in 155 games). After the season Reitz was traded back to the Cardinals for Lynn McGlothen. In 1977 Ken had his biggest power year with 17 home runs, 36 doubles , and a .261 average in 157 games.
  • Ken had three more similar years from 1978-1980 and started at 3B for the NL All Star team in 1980. After the 1980 season he was traded with Leon Durham and Ty Waller to the Chicago Cubs for Bruce Sutter. Ken had his worst season as a full-time player in 1981--he batted .215 in 82 games. Reitz was released by the Cubs during spring training of 1982. He was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 16 and went hitless in ten at bats before being released on June 5.
  • Reitz signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in 1983 and played three games in AAA Louisville. He didn't play in 1984 but played in the minors (A ball) from 1985-1987. Ken even pitched a few games in each of those seasons.
  • Ken Reitz does speaking engagements now. Here is a link to his page. He also works in public relations for the St. Louis Cardinals. Ken also is a good golfer--in 2002 he carried a 2 USGA handicap.

Monday, July 27, 2009

1976 Topps #157 - Mike Caldwell

  • Mike Caldwell pitched in the majors from 1971-1984. "Mr. Warmth" (the nickname that was on his APBA card for a few years) started in the San Diego Padres' system in 1971. He was a reliever in A ball and was called up in September to pitch and was 1-0 in six games. Mike was used by the Padres as a swingman in 1972 and was 7-11 in 42 games (20 starts). He went 5-14 in 55 games (13 starts) in 1973.
  • After the 1973 season Mike was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Willie McCovey and Bernie Williams. He had a good year in 1974 (14-5, 2.95 ERA), but his 1975 season wasn't so good (7-13, 4.79). Caldwell went back to a swingman role in 1976 (50 games, 9 starts) and was 1-7 with a 4.86 ERA.
  • Mike was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1976 season in a multi-player trade. He never played for the Cards--he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Darcy during spring training. Caldwell pitched in 14 games for the Reds and then was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 15, 1977 for two minor leaguers. Mike finished the 1977 season with a 5-8 record.
  • Caldwell had his best season in 1978. He went 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA and finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting. Mike had another good year for the Brewers in 1979 (16-6, 3.29). He continued to pitch well for the Brewers for the next several years. He had records of 13-11 (1980), 11-9 (1981), 17-13 (1982), and 12-11 (1983). The ERA started to creep up into the upper 3's and lower 4's. Mike pitched well in the 1982 World Series, winning two games for the Brewers in a losing effort.
  • Mike's last season was 1984. He went 6-13 with a 4.64 ERA. He was released after the 1984 season and retired.
  • After his career Caldwell coached for various minor league clubs. He is currently the pitching coach for the Scottsdale Giants of the Arizona League (rookie league).

1976 Topps #156 - Rico Carty

  • Beeg Mon!!
  • Rico Carty was definitely a hitter. Carty had a .299 lifetime batting average and rarely batted below .275. He won the 1970 National League batting championship with a .366 average.
  • Carty started in the Milwaukee Braves' system in 1960 and played in the minors through the 1963 season. Rico was given a September call-up in 1963 and made two pinch-hitting appearances. In 1964 Carty had a great rookie season. He batted .330 with 22 home runs and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting (Dick Allen won the award in a runaway). Carty played in only 89 games in 1965 but still batted .310. He had another good year in 1966, batting .326 in 151 games.
  • Rico tailed off in 1967 and batted only .255 in 134 games. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and missed the entire 1968 season. He may have been struggling with the disease during the 1967 season.
  • Carty bounced back with a .342 average in 1969 and finished 13th in NL MVP voting even though he played in only 104 games for the NL West Champion Braves. In 1970 Rico had his best season. He made the NL All Star team and finished 10th in NL MVP voting. Carty was the NL batting champion with a .366 average and he hit 25 home runs and had 101 RBI.
  • Rico broke his knee in a collision in winter baseball and missed the entire 1971 season. In 1972 he missed a month (mid-July to mid-August) and also missed two weeks in September. Here is an article from the Rome News-Tribune that asks if Rico Carty is an asset or a liability. Carty batted .277 in 89 games. Before the 1973 season Rico was traded to the Texas Rangers for Jim Panther. Carty had his worst season in 1973. He batted .229 for three different teams. He started with the Rangers, was sold to the Chicago Cubs on August 13, then was sold to the Oakland A's on September 11. He did not appear in the postseason for the A's and he was released after the season.
  • Carty started the 1974 season in the Mexican League and was purchased by the Cleveland Indians on August 17. He batted .363 in 33 games for the Indians. Rico spent most of the 1975 season as Cleveland's DH and batted .308 in 118 games. In 1976 Carty again was the main DH for Cleveland and batted .310 in 152 games. After the 1976 season Rico was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the expansion draft. He was traded back to the Indians for Rick Cerone and John Lowenstein. Apparently Rico was one of the main reasons why Frank Robinson was fired as the Cleveland manager in 1977. Carty played in 127 games in 1977, slipped to a .280 average, and was traded back to the Blue Jays for Dennis DeBarr.
  • In 1978 Carty had a career high 31 home runs. He started the season with the Blue Jays and was traded to the Oakland A's on August 15 for Willie Horton and Phil Huffman. He finished the season with the A's and then was sold back to the Blue Jays. He batted .256 with 12 home runs in 1979. Rico was released during spring training in 1980 and retired.
  • In his book, Ball Four, Jim Bouton wrote: "[Carty] doesn't trust banks. He also doesn't trust the clubhouse valuables box. So that big lump you see in his back pocket during baseball games is his wallet."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

1976 Topps #155 - Jack Billingham

  • Jack Billingham pitched for five teams from 1968-1980. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1961. Jack pitched in the minors from 1961-1967, mostly as a reliever. He finally got his shot in 1968 and had a 3-0 record with a 2.17 ERA and eight saves in 50 games for the Dodgers. After the 1968 season Billingham was selected by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft. He was traded to the Houston Astros before the 1969 season. He was one of the players sent to Houston in place of Donn Clendennon, who had refused to report to Houston in the original trde.
  • In 1969 Billingham was used mostly as a reliever (four starts in 52 games) and was 6-7 with an ERA of 4.25. He started more games in 1970 (24 starts in 46 games) and was 13-9 with a 3.98 ERA. Jack went into the starting rotation in 1972 and was 10-16 with a 3.39 ERA in 33 starts.
  • After the 1971 season Billingham was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a lopsided trade that netted the Reds Joe Morgan and center fielder Cesar Geronimo (along with Dennis Menke and Ed Armbrister) for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart. In his first season with the Reds, Jack went 12-12 with a 3.18 ERA in 31 starts.
  • Jack had his best season in 1973. He went 19=10 with a 3.04 ERA in 40 starts. He was selected to his only NL All Star team and finished 4th in Cy Young Award voting. Billingham was 19-11 in 1974 and finished 6th in Cy Young Award voting. He gave up Hank Aaron's 714th home run on April 4.
  • Jack had a nice 15-10 season for the World Champion Reds in 1975. His workload started to decrease in 1976 as he had only 177 innings pitched. He went 12-10 and won game 2 of the World Series in relief of Fred Norman. (By the shows the games as being played at Cinergy Field. The games were actually played at Riverfront Stadium. How can that be corrected?)
  • Billingham's last season with the Reds was in 1977. He slipped to a 10-10 record with a 5.23 ERA in 23 starts. After the season he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for John Valle (minors) and George Cappuzzello. Jack had a good year for the Tigers in 1978 (15-8, 3.88 in 30 starts). He started only 19 games (35 total games) in 1979 and was 10-7 with a 3.30 ERA.
  • The 1980 season was Billingham's last year. He started with the Tigers but was ineffective (0-0, 7.36 in eight games). He was dealt to the Boston Red Sox in a conditional deal on May 12. Jack was 1-3 with a 11.10 ERA in seven games (4 starts) and was released on June 21.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

1976 Topps # 154 - Bucky Dent

  • Bucky "Bleeping" Dent was a shortstop in the AL from 1973-1984. He is best known for hitting an improbable home run in the AL East playoff game in 1978 which put the Yankees ahead 3-2 in a game the Yanks would eventually win 5-4.

(the home run is at 2:11 of the video clip below)

  • Bucky started in the Chicago White Sox' system in 1970 and progressed through the system from 1970-1973. He batted .296 for AA Knoxville in 1972 and .295 for AAA Iowa in 1973. Dent made his major league debut at the age of 21 on June 1, 1973 and batted .248 in 40 games.
  • Dent played in 154 games in 1974 and batted .275. He was second in AL Rookie of the Year voting (Mike Hargrove won it). In 1975 Dent was selected to his first of three AL All Star teams and batted .264 in 157 games.
  • After batting .246 in 158 games in 1976, Bucky was traded to the New York Yankees for Bob Polinsky (minors), Oscar Gamble, La Marr Hoyt and $200,000. Although Dent didn't hit much, he stopped the revolving door that the Yankees had at shortstop for the previous few years.
  • Bucky usually hit in the .240s, but he fielded his position well and was selected to two more AL All Star teams (1980 and 1981) during his tenure with the Yankees. Bucky batted .417 and was named the World Series MVP in 1978.
  • In 1982 Bucky struggled. He started the season batting .169 in 59 games for the Yankees. He was then traded to the Texas Rangers for Lee Mazilli on August 8. Dent batted .219 in 46 games but still finished the 1982 season below the Mendoza line at .193.
  • Dent batted .237 in 131 games in 1983. He was even used as a DH for one game (gasp!). Bucky was released at the end of spring training in 1984. The Yankees picked him up in June and sent him to AAA Columbus. After playing for Columbus for a month Bucky was released by the Yankees on July 9. He signed with the Kansas City Royals on August 16 and batted nine times. He was released by the Royals after the season and retired.
  • After his playing career Dent managed in the Yankees' farm system from 1985-1989. He finished the 1989 season as manager of the Yankees (18-22) and started the 1990 season as Yankee manager. He wasn't successful in 1990 (18-31) and was replaced by Stump Merrell on June 6.
  • Dent returned to managing in 2002. He managed AAA Omaha in 2002 and AAA Columbus from 2003-2005. Bucky became the Cincinnati Reds' bench coach in 2005 and was let go in 2007. He is now working at his baseball school full time.
  • Here is a Sports Illustrated "Where Are They Now" article from 2008.
  • Here is a little article in the New York Times from April 2009.

Friday, July 24, 2009

1976 Topps # 153 - Buzz Capra

  • Lee "Buzz" Capra pitched for the New York Mets from 1971-1977. He started in the Mets' system in 1969. He worked his way up the ladder and earned a September call-up after going 16-3 with a 1.88 ERA for two teams in 1971. Buzz was 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in three games at the end of the '71 season.
  • Capra spent the 1972 season on a shuttle between AAA Tidewater and the Mets. He didn't pitch for the Mets after July 7. Buzz finished the 1972 season in Tidewater and ended up with a 3-2 record for the Mets.
  • Buzz started the 1973 season in Tidewater and made ten starts before being called back up to the Mets. He went 2-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 games for the Mets and did not appear in the postseason.
  • On March 26, 1974 Capra was purchased by the Atlanta Braves. It ended up being a good buy for the Braves as Buzz had his career year in 1974. He was 16-8 with an NL-leading 2.28 ERA and made the NL All Star team. Here is a 1974 Sports Illustrated article about Capra and Tom House.
  • “There have been a lot of players who have had one good season and then were never heard from again. I don’t want that to happen to me.” – Buzz Capra, April 1975 (Baseball Digest article)
  • Capra started only 12 games in 1975 (4-7, 4.25) and didn't pitch after June 8 after hurting his shoulder. He started four games for AAA Richmond in 1976 and then pitched in five games for the Braves in September (0-1, 8.68). Buzz was used as a swingman in 1977 (45 games, 16 starts) and went 6-11 with a 5.36 ERA. He was released by the Braves just before the 1978 season.
  • After his playing career Buzz was a pitching coach in the Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies' systems.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

1976 Topps #152 - Leroy Stanton

  • Gotta love that gum stain on the back of this card! It's a character builder.
  • Leroy Stanton played outfield for three teams from 1970-1978. He started in the New York Mets' system in 1965. He played in the minors in 1965 and 1966, then there is a two-year gap in his stats. He was serving in the military during that time. Stanton resumed his minor league career in 1968 and played four more seasons in the Mets' system. He made four pinch hitting appearances for the Mets in late September 1970. Leroy showed he was ready for the bigs by batting .324 with 23 homers and 101 RBI for AAA Tidewater in 1971 and he had 23 at bats for the Mets at the end of the season.
  • After the 1971 season Stanton was traded to the California Angels with Nolan Ryan and two other players for Jim Fregosi. He became the Angels' starting right fielder and batted .251 with 12 homers and 100 strikeouts in 1972. Leroy didn't walk very much (he had a lifetime on base percentage of .311).
  • In 1973 Stanton batted .235 with eight homers in 119 games. Leroy batted .267 with 11 home runs in 1974. He probably had his best year for the Angels in 1975 (.261 with 14 homers and 82 RBI. Stanton slipped badly in 1976 and batted .190 with two homers in 93 games.
  • After the 1976 season Stanton was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft. Leroy had his best season in 1977 -- he batted .275, hit 27 home runs, and knocked in 90 runs. He slipped again in 1978 and only batted .182 in 93 games.
  • Stanton played for Japan's Hanshin Tigers in 1979. He tried to come back in 1980 but was cut by the Mariners before the season. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 1981 season but didn't make the team.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1976 Topps #151 - Bill Bonham

  • Bill Bonham had a ten-year career as a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds. Bonham began his career in the Cubs' system in 1970 and had a good year for the short season Class A Huron club. Bill started the 1971 season with the Cubs but was sent down in early May to get more innings. He went 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA for AAA Tacoma and was brought back up in early June. He ended up 2-1 with a 4.65 ERA in 33 games for the Cubs.
  • Bonham started the 1972 with AA Wichita, where he started 18 games. He was brought back to the Cubs in late July and was 1-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 19 games. Bill saw more action in the 1973 season when he pitched in 44 games (with 15 starts) and went 7-5 with a 3.02 ERA.
  • Bill led the NL in losses with 22 in 1974. He was 11-22 with a 3.86 ERA. Bonham had a much higher ERA in 1975 (4.71) but improved his record to 13-15 in 36 starts. In 1976 Bill started 32 games and was 9-13 with a 4.27 ERA. Bonham was 10-13 with a 4.36 in his last year with the Cubs (1977).
  • After the 1977 season Bill was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Bill Caudill and Woodie Fryman. He started 23 games in 1978 for the Reds and was 11-5 with a 3.53 ERA. He struggled with bone chips in his elbow, was put on the shelf a few times (April 17 - May 12, July 7 - August 6) and he didn't pitch after September 15.
  • In 1979 Bill helped the Reds to the NL West crown by going 9-7 with a 3.79 ERA in 29 starts. He didn't appear in the League Championship Series. Bonham struggled with injuries in 1980 and started only four games for the Reds. On May 3 he got hammered (5 runs, 5 hits, 1 walk in 1/3 of an inning). He started one more game in July and didn't pitch in the majors again. Bill attempted comebacks in the minors in 1981 and 1982.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

1976 Topps #150 - Steve Garvey

  • To say that Steve Garvey had a nice career would be an understatement. His accomplishments include one NL MVP award (1974), ten All Star games (1974-1981, 1984, 1985), two All Star MVP awards, four Gold Glove awards (1974-1977), two National League Championship Series MVP awards (1978, 1984), the Roberto Clemente Award (1981), and the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (1984). The San Diego Padres also retired his #6. By the way, why wasn't his number retired by the Dodgers?
  • Garvey started in the LA Dodgers' system in 1968. He had a great year for AA Albuquerque in 1969 and he was given a little look-see (3 at bats) by the Dodgers at the end of the 1969 season. Steve started the 1970 season with the Dodgers but was sent back down to AAA Spokane at the end of April after batting only .087. After a couple more months of minor league seasoning he was brought back to the Dodgers in early July and ended up batting .269 in 93 at bats.
  • Steve didn't become a regular until 1973. In 1971 he batted .227 in 81 games, and in 1972 he batted .269 in 96 games. He spent most of his time at 3B during this time. In 1973 Garvey spent most of his time at 1B (76 games) and played 10 games in the outfield. He batted .304 in 114 games. After the 1973 season, Garvey didn't play a single game at a position other than 1B.
  • Garvey burst on the national scene in 1974. He was elected as a started for the NL All Star team as a write-in at first base. He also won his first Gold Glove award and the aforementioned NL MVP award. Steve batted .312 with 21 homers and 111 RBI. It was also the first of six season in which he would have 200 or more hits. Garvey topped off the season by batting .389 in the NLCS and .381 in the World Series.
  • In 1975 Garvey started his famed consecutive game streak that lasted 1207 games (September 3, 1975 to July 29, 1983). Between 1975 and 1982 Steve never batted below .282 and had four seasons of over 20 home runs. It looked like he was headed for the Hall of Fame.
  • After the 1982 season, Garvey became a free agent and signed with the San Diego Padres. He appeared to be headed for another typical Garvey season when he broke his thumb in a home plate collision against the Atlanta Braves on July 29, 1983. He was out for the season. In 1984 Garvey came back to play in 161 games and bat .284 for the NL Champion Padres. He played in all 162 games in 1985 and batted .281 with 17 home runs.
  • Garvey slipped to .255 in 1986 but hit 21 homers (his highest total since 1980). He slipped badly in 1987. He was batting .211 in 27 games when he played his last game on May 23, 1987.
  • Steve had the nickname "Mr. Clean." His clean image irritated some people. He and Don Sutton had a memorable scuffle in the vistor's clubhouse at Shea Stadium in 1978 which damaged Garvey's reputation around the league. Garvey was hit with several paternity suits which further diminshed his reputation. Now Steve is a motivational speaker and does some VIP greeting for the Dodgers.
  • Here is a 2006 LA Times article about Steve's financial problems.
  • Here is a link to several other LA Times articles about Garvey.
  • Here is a link to Steve Garvey's official web site.
  • Here is an article in Hardball Times about whether or not Garvey should be considered for the Hall of Fame.
  • By the way, I just noticed that GCRL sponsors Steve's page on Cool!

Monday, July 20, 2009

1976 Topps #149 - Tommy Davis

  • Tommy Davis was in the last year of his long (1959-1976) career when this card was made. He started out as a good outfielder for the LA Dodgers and ended up as a good DH for several teams.
  • Davis got his start in the Brooklyn Dodgers system in 1956 when he was 17 years old. After batting .365 for the Dodgers' AAA Spokane club in 1959, Tommy was brought up to the big club and struck out in his one at bat in 1959. He played 110 games in 1960 and batted .276 with moderate power for the Dodgers. Davis finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1960 (teammate Frank Howard won it). In 1961 Davis played 59 games at 3B and 86 games in the outfield. He batted .278 with 15 homers.
  • In 1962 Tommy had his best season. He led the NL with a .342 average, 230 hits, and 153 RBI. Davis finished third (behind Maury Wills and Willie Mays) in MVP voting and made the NL All Star team for the first time. He also hit a career-high 27 home runs and scored 120 runs.
  • Tommy made his second (and last) All Star team in 1963 as he led the NL in batting again with a .326 average. In 1964 Davis dropped to a .275 average. The 1965 season was a lost season for Tommy -- he broke his ankle sliding into second base against the SF Giants on May 1 and was out until the last game of the year (he had a pinch-hitting appearance on October 3). In 1966 Davis played in 100 games and batted .313 but hit only three home runs.
  • After the 1966 season Davis began an odyssey that saw him play for 10 teams in 11 years. In November 1966 he was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Derrell Griffith to the New York Mets for Jim Hickman and Ron Hunt. Tommy batted .302 with 16 homers in 154 games for the Mets in 1967, but he was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the season in a multi-player trade that got the Mets Tommie Agee and Al Weis.
  • Davis spent one season with the White Sox (1968) and batted .268 with eight home runs in 132 games. After the season Tommy was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft. He batted .271 in 123 games and was traded to the Houston Astros on August 30 for Sandy Valdespino and Danny Walton. He played in 24 games for the Astros to finish the 1969 season.
  • In 1970 Davis played for three teams. He started with the Astros (.282 in 57 games). On June 22 he was purchased by the Oakland A's. Tommy batted .290 in 66 games for the A's and was sold to the Chicago Cubs on September 16, where he played in 16 games. Davis was released by the Cubs after the 1970 season. He signed with the A's again during spring training of 1971. Tommy batted .324 in 79 games for the A's in '71.
  • During spring training in 1972 Davis was released by the A's. He signed with the Cubs in July and he spent six weeks with the Cubs. Davis batted .269 in 15 games and then was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Ellie Hendricks. Tommy played in 26 games and batted .256 with no homers for the Orioles.
  • Davis had a career resurrection in 1973 when the AL adopted the designated hitter rule. He batted .306 with seven homers in 137 games for the Orioles and finished tenth in AL MVP voting. Tommy had another good year as DH in 1974 (.289 with 11 homers in 158 games). He batted .283 in 116 games in 1975 but then was released by the Orioles in February 1976.
  • Tommy was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees before spring training, but was released before the 1976 season. The California Angels signed Davis in June 1976. He played in 72 games for the Angels and batted .265. Davis was sold to the Kansas City Royals on September 20 and he played in eight games to finish the season. He was released in January 1977 and retired.
  • Davis had the highest pinch-hitting average in history (.320 in 197 at bats).
  • He served as a Seattle Mariners coach in 1981, and published a book called Tales From the Dodgers Dugout in 2005.
  • Here is a link to a chat session on ESPN with Davis and Al Downing.
  • Here is a link to a 2-minute clip about Tommy Davis on
  • Below is a YouTube clip of an interview with Davis and Joe Pignitano:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

1976 Topps #148 - Stan Thomas

  • Stan Thomas had a short (1974-1977) career as a pitcher for four American League teams. He was originally drafted by the Washington Senators in 1971. He was used mostly as a starter in the minors in 1971 and 1972. In 1973 and 1974 Stan was used exclusively as a reliever.
  • Thomas made his major league debut on July 5, 1974. He made 12 relief appearances and had no record with a 6.59 ERA in 13.2 innings. He didn't pitch after September 3--he may have been hurt or the Rangers may have decided to look at other guys.
  • Stan appeared in 46 games with one start in 1975. He had a 4-4 record with a 3.10 ERA and three saves.
  • Thomas had his best season for the Indians in 1976. He had an identical 4-4 record, but he improved his ERA to 2.30 and had three saves.
  • Stan was taken by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft. He had knee surgery and it affected his pitching. Thomas had a record of 2-6 with a 6.02 ERA for the Mariners and pitched only once in June and once in July.
  • Apparently he had an incident with former minor league roommate Mike Cubbage that helped expedite his departure from the Mariners (read comment #10 in this Cardboard Gods blog entry). In the first inning of a game, Stan threw four straight balls at Cubbage. None of the balls hit Cubbage. Darrell Johnson pulled Thomas from the game and a few days later he was shipped to the Yankees in a "conditional deal." I'm not sure it happened quite like that -- he pitched to nine batters in his last appearance for Seattle on July 10. Stan started the game, pitched one inning and allowed four runs in a 15-0 loss to the Twins. He pitched for the Yankees' AAA club until being called back up in September. He made three appearances for the Yankees (1-0, 7.11). Thomas pitched for AAA Tucson (Rangers) in 1978, but a 6-12, 6.47 record convinced him that it was over.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

1976 Topps #147 - Larry Bowa

  • Larry Bowa was a good-fielding shortstop who played mainly for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1970-1985. He won two Gold Glove awards and led the NL in fielding percentage six times. In high school he tried out for the baseball team but never made the team. He played for Sacramento City College but was undrafted. The Phillies sent a scout to see him play but he got thrown out of the game that day. The scout had a winter league team in the area and gave Bowa a chance to play. The Phillies liked what they saw and signed him for a $2000 bonus.
  • Bowa spent the 1966-1969 seasons in the minor leagues. He made the team in 1970 and played in 145 games. Larry batted .250 and finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting (Carl Morton won it). In 1971 Bowa led the NL in at bats with 650. He batted .249 and stole 28 bases.
  • Larry led the NL in triples (13) in 1972, batted .250, and won his first Gold Glove. Bowa slipped to .211 in 1973 and missed the entire month of August. In 1974 Larry bounced back with a .275 batting average and played in his first All Star Game. He also had a career-high 39 stolen bases.
  • In 1975 Bowa set a career high in batting average (.305) and made his second NL All Star team. Larry made his third straight All Star team in 1976 despite batting only .248. He batted .280 in 1977 but wasn't an All Star.
  • Bowa's best season was probably 1978. He was an NL All Star, won the Gold Glove award, and finished third in NL MVP voting. Larry batted .294 and set career highs in hits (192) and doubles (31). He also batted .333 in the League Championship Series.
  • Larry was an NL All Star for the last time in 1979 but he dropped back to a .241 batting average. In 1980 Bowa batted .267 for the World Champion Phillies. Bowa batted .267 in his last year for the Phillies (1981).
  • After the 1981 season Dallas Green (now GM for the Chicago Cubs) traded Ivan DeJesus for Bowa. He also got a guy named Ryne Sandberg in the deal. Larry batted .246 in 1982 and .267 in 1983. In his last full season (1984) for the Cubs, Larry batted .223. He batted .200 in the League Championship Series.
  • The 1985 season was Larry's last season. He started with the Cubs and was released on August 13 after batting .246 in 72 games. Bowa was signed by the Mets on August 20 but batted only .105 in 19 at bats. He played four games at 2B, which was the first time he played a position other than SS since his rookie year. Bowa was granted free agency at the end of the year and retired.
  • Bowa was hired as manager of the San Diego Padres in 1987. The Padres were 65-97 in 1987 and Larry was dismissed in 1988 after the Padres started at 16-30. After his stint with the Padres, Larry coached third base for several teams from 1988-2000. Bowa was hired as manager of the Phillies in 2001. He led them to a second place finish after they finished last in 2000. He was voted NL Manager of the Year in 2001. Larry managed the Phillies from 2001-2004. He was fired in the last week of the 2004 season after the Phillies weren't able to win the NL East during Larry's tenure.
  • Larry spent the 2005 season as an ESPN analyst, then was hired to coach third base for the New York Yankees in 2006. He stayed with the Yankees through the 2007 season, then went with manager Joe Torre to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Larry now coaches third base for the Dodgers.
  • Larry Bowa has always been a firey player, manager, and coach. He has numerous ejections to his credit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

1976 Topps #146 - George Medich

  • George "Doc" Medich pitched for several teams from 1972-1982. Medich was in medical school in the early 1970s, hence the nickname. He went on to become an orthopedic surgeon. Doc went into the stands twice during his career to aid fans who had suffered heart attacks. He performed CPR on one fan in 1976 (the fan died later in the day) and in 1978 he revived a man who was suffering a heart attack (the man lived for several more years).
  • Medich started his career in the New York Yankees system in 1970. After going 11-3 with a 1.44 ERA for AA West Haven, he was brought up in September 1972 and started one game. He faced four batters, walked two of them, allowed hits to the other two, and left without retiring a batter.
  • The 1973 season was much kinder to George. He finished in third place (Al Bumbry won it with a .337 batting average) in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Medich had a record of 14-9 with a 2.95 ERA. He followed that season with a 19-15 record with a 3.60 ERA in 1974. He got a decision in 34 of his 38 starts that season.
  • George went 16-16 with a 3.50 ERA in 1975. In both 1974 and 1975 he pitched over 270 innings. All of the work may have affected him---he pitched over 200 innings only one more time in his career. After the 1975 season Medich was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a multi-player deal that brought Willie Randolph to the Yankees.
  • Medich was 8-11 with a 3.52 ERA for the Pirates in 1976. In 1977 he pitched for three different teams. Before the season George was traded to the Oakland A's in a multi-player deal that netted the Pirates Phil Garner. The A's also got Tony Armas and Rick Langford in the trade. Doc spent most of the season with the A's (10-6, 4.69 in 25 starts). He was purchased by the Seattle Mariners on September 13, started three games, then was waived and picked up by the New York Mets, where he lost his only start.
  • George became a free agent after the 1977 season and signed with the Texas Rangers. He pitched for the Rangers from 1978 to the middle of the 1982 seasons. His best season for the Rangers was in 1981 (10-6, 3.06 ERA, a league-leading four shutouts).
  • The 1982 season was the last one for Medich. He started with the Rangers and was 7-11 with a 5.06 ERA when he was purchased by the Milwuakee Brewers for the stretch run on August 11. George started 10 games for the Brewers and was 5-4 with an ERA of 5.00. He pitched in one game in the 1982 World Series and got blasted (four earned runs in two innings). Medich retired after the 1982 season.
  • After his career Medich was a successful orthopedic surgeon, but he struggled with drug addiction for several years. It caught up with him in 2001 when he pleaded guilty to 12 counts of illegall possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to nine years probation.
  • AAOS (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons)
George F. Medich, MD
Aliquippa, Penn
In March 2002, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine suspended the license to practice medicine of George F. Medich, MD, for one year. This action followed Dr. Medich’s guilty plea to 12 counts of knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance obtained through prescriptions written in the names of patients. Dr. Medich received nine years of probation for these misdemeanors. As of April 2006, Dr. Medich’s medical license remains suspended in Pennsylvania. The AAOS Board of Directors voted to expel Dr. Medich from the AAOS.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

1976 Topps #145 - Houston Astros

  • Bill Virdon managed the Houston Astros from August 1975 to July 1982. The Astros won the NL West under Virdon in 1980. Bill also managed the Pittsburgh Pirates to the NL East title in 1972. His lifetime managerial record (4 teams from 1972-1984) was 995-921.
  • As a player, Bill was the National League Rookie of the Year for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955. He played for the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and won a Gold Glove in 1962.
  • The Astros were 80-82 (3rd in NL West) in 1976.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1976 Topps #144 - Al Fitzmorris

  • Al Fitzmorris pitched in the American League from 1969-1978. His best years were with the Kansas City Royals from 1973-1976. Al was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox. He was in the White Sox' system from 1966-1968 then was taken by the Royals in the expansion draft.
  • He had a good year in 1969 for AAA Omaha, was brought up at the end of the season, and pitched in seven games.

  • Fitzmorris was used by the Royals as a swingman from 1970-1972. He had seasons of 8-5, 4.44 (1970); 7-5, 4.17 (1971); and 2-5, 3.74 (1972).

  • Al started the 1973 season in Omaha. He was brought back to the Royals in mid-July and was 8-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 13 starts. Fitzmorris started 27 games for the Royals in 1974 and was 13-6 with a 2.79 ERA. He had his highest win total in 1975 (16-12, 3.57 ERA).

  • Al's last good season was in 1976. He was 15-11 with a 3.06 ERA in 33 starts. After the season Al was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the expansion draft. He never pitched for the Blue Jays -- Fitzmorris was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Alan Ashby and Doug Howard before the 1977 season.

  • Fitzmorris started 21 games for Cleveland in 1977. He was 6-10 with an ERA of 5.41. He went back to the bullpen in 1978 but was ineffective (0-1, 6.28 ERA in 7 games) and was released by the Indians on July 7. Al was picked up by the California Angels and pitched better (1-0, 1.71 ERA in 9 games).

  • After the 1978 season Al was granted free agency and signed with the San Diego Padres. He was assigned to AAA Hawaii. He was 2-2 in 8 starts for the Islanders but didn't make it back to the majors.

  • After his career Al spent some time as an analyst on Kansas City Royals broadcasts. He worked in sales positions in various companies and he currently owns an apparel company that manufactures youth league uniforms. He also has a production company that deals with music and writing. Here is a good interview with Al by Baseball Prospectus.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1976 Topps #143 - Jerry Grote

  • This is a pretty good action shot of Jerry Grote. He's wearing a mask, but most of his face can be seen.
  • Jerry Grote played for four teams (mostly the New York Mets) from 1963-1981. He didn't play in 1979 and 1980. Jerry made his debut as a September call-up for the Houston Colt .45s in September 1963. He only played in three games in 1963, but he played in 100 games the following season. Jerry batted .198 in 298 at bats and was sent back down to AAA for the 1965 season.
  • After the 1965 season Jerry was traded to the New York Mets for Tom Parsons and cash. He caught in 115 games in 1965 and played in 120 total games. Jerry batted .237 with little power. Grote caught in 119 games in 1966 but slipped to a .195 average. Manager Wes Westrum said, "If he ever learns to control himself, he might become the best catcher in baseball."
  • The 1968 season was a good one for Jerry. He made his first All Star team and batted .282 in 404 at bats. Since 1968 was such a pitcher's year, that .282 mark was especially good. Grote had another solid year for the 1969 world champions, batting .252 and handling the pitching staff well.
  • Jerry had similar seasons in 197o and 1971, but in 1972 his playing time begain to decrease. He caught in only 59 games in 1972. He must have been hurt, but I can't find anything about it. There are two-week gaps in June and August (probably trips to the DL) and he only played in 4 games in September.
  • Jerry missed two months of the 1973 season (May 11-July 11), but he hardly missed a game in August and September as the Mets returned to the playoffs and almost won another World Championship. Grote was named to his second (and last) NL All Star team in 1974. Jerry had a good year in 1975 as he batted .295 and caught in 111 games. Grote batted .272 in 1976 and caught in 95 games.
  • Grote started the 1977 season with the Mets and played in 42 games. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent two minor leaguers to the Mets on August 31 to acquire Jerry for the stretch drive. Grote caught in 16 games for the Dodgers and appeared in the NLCS and the World Series.
  • Jerry got into only 41 games for the Dodgers in 1978 and did not appear in the postseason. He became a free agent at the end of the season and retired. In 1981 the Kansas City Royals needed some catching help and lured Grote out of retirement. He batted .304 in 22 games before being released on September 1. He signed with the Dodgers on September 8 but played in only one game and didn't appear in the postseason. Jerry was released by the Dodgers after the season.
  • Grote did some managing and coaching in the minor leagues. In 1985, at the age of 42, he appeared in one game for Detroit's AA Birmingham club. Baseball Reference lists him as manager of both AA Birmingham and Class A Lakeland in 1985, but the Birmingham listing is probably correct.
  • After retirement Jerry raised prize Texas Longhorns at his ranch near Austin. He also has a web page which has contact information and instructions on how to get things signed TTM.
Joe Torre, on catchers: "Most people don't understand catchers. For example, Jerry Grote is a catcher who hits. Johnny Bench is a hitter who catches. There is a big difference." (August 1975)
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench once said of Grote, "If Grote and I were on the same team, I would be playing first base."

Monday, July 13, 2009

1976 Topps #142 - Dick Drago

  • Dick Drago was a pitcher for several teams from 1969-1981. He is probably most remembered for his two tenures with the Boston Red Sox.
  • Drago started in the Detroit Tigers organization and pitched in their minor league system from 1964-1968. He was taken by the Kansas City Royals in the expansion draft and was used by the Royals as a starting pitcher. In his rookie year of 1969, Dick was 11-13 with a 3.77 ERA in 26 starts (41 games total). He was 9-15 with a 3.75 ERA in 34 starts in 1970.
  • Dick had his best season in 1971. He was 17-11 with a 2.98 ERA and was fifth in AL Cy Young Award balloting. He was only 12-17 in 1972 despite an ERA of 3.01. Dick was 12-14 with a 4.23 ERA and he was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the season for Marty Pattin.
  • Drago was used as a swingman in 1974. He started 18 games and relieved in 15 more games. Dick was 7-10 with a 3.48 ERA and 3 saves.
  • Dick was a vital part of the Red Sox' run to the AL title in 1975. Rick Wise returned to the Boston rotation so Drago was moved to the bullpen full time. He had a high ERA (3.84), but he was 2-2 with 15 saves. Starting on August 27, he got one win and eight saves in 13 appearances. He was used a lot in the AL playoffs and the World Series as well. He lost game 2 of the series and pitched three scoreless innings in the 12-inning game 6.
  • In spring training of 1976, the Red Sox made an ill-advised deal with the California Angels. Drago was sent to the Angels for John Balaz, Dick Sharon, and Dave Machemer (none of whom would ever play for Boston). Dick was 7-8 with a 4.46 ERA for the Angels in 1976. Dick gave up Hank Aaron's 755th (and final) home run in 1976. He appeared in 13 games for the Angels in 1977 and then was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Dyar Miller. He ended up 6-4 with 5 saves and an ERA of 3.43 for the two teams. After the season Drago became a free agent and signed with the Red Sox.
  • In 1978 Dick was 4-4 with a 3.03 ERA and 7 saves. He repeated his 3.03 ERA in 1979 and was 10-6 and had a career-high 13 saves. In 1980 he got seven starts (out of 43 appearances) and was 7-7 with a 4.14 ERA.
  • Before the 1981 season Drago was dealt to the Seattle Mariners. He was upset because Boston didn't release him and make him a free agent. Dick had his highest ERA (5.53) and was 4-6 for the Mariners. Seattle released him in spring training of 1982.
  • After his career Drago had problems with the IRS. Several tax shelters he claimed were disallowed. He also was divorced twice and had large child support payments. He was arrested in Florida in 1992 and returned to Massachusetts on charges of failure to pay child support. A settlement was soon reached and he returned to Florida. Drago was running a printing business in Tampa, FL in 2001.
  • Here is a SABR biography of Dick Drago. Here is Dick's facebook page.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

1976 Topps #141 - Larry Parrish

  • Larry Parrish played in the majors from 1974-1988, mostly with the Montreal Expos and the Texas Rangers. Parrish started as an 18-year-old outfielder in the Montreal organization in 1972. He moved to third base in 1973 and played in the minors in '73 and '74. Larry made his major league debut on my 8th birthday (September 6, 1974) and batted .203 in 69 at bats.
  • Parrish was given the Expos' starting 3B job in 1975 and he ended up 3rd in NL Rookie of the Year balloting. He batted .274 with 10 homers in 145 games. Larry didn't do as well in 1976 (.232 with 11 HR in 154 games) or 1977 (.246 with 11 HR in 123 games). His 1978 season was similar to his rookie sesaon (.277 with 15 HR in 144 games).
  • Larry had his best season in 1979. He batted .307 and hit 30 home runs. Parrish was selected to the NL All Star team and was fourth in MVP balloting.
  • Larry's 1980 and 1981 seasons were very similar to his 1975-1977 seasons, and he was traded to the Texas Rangers with Dave Hostetler for Al Oliver during spring training of 1982 to make room for Tim Wallach. Since the Rangers had Buddy Bell at 3B, Parrish was moved to right field and batted .264 with 17 homers in 128 games. Larry hit three grand slams in one week in July 1982. He had more power in 1983 (26 home runs) and in 1984 (22 homers).
  • Larry slipped in 1985 (.249 with 17 homers in 129 games) due to torn carilage in his left knee but bounced back with 28 home runs in 1986. Parrish made the AL All Star team as a DH in 1987 as he hit 32 home runs and had 100 RBI. Parrish was batting .190 with 7 home runs when he was released by the Rangers on July 9, 1988. The following week he was picked up by the Boston Red Sox, where he finished up with a total of 14 homers and a .217 average. Larry was released after the season. Parrish played in Japan in 1989 and 1990.
  • After coming back to the U.S., Parrish became a coach in the Detroit Tigers system. He managed and coached until 1997, when he became the bench coach for Bell in Detroit. When Bell was dismissed in the middle of the 1998 season, Parrish was named manager of the Tigers. He finished the 1998 season and managed the Tigers through the 1999 season before he was replaced by Phil Garner. Larry scouted for the Tigers from 2000-2002, then returned to managing in the minors. Parrish is currently managing the AAA Toledo Mud Hens.

1976 Topps #140 - Vida Blue

  • Vida Blue had a good career from 1969-1986. One cannot help but wonder what kind of career he would have had if it weren't for the drug problems he had in the latter half of his career.
  • Blue was in the minors from 1968-1970. He had late season call-ups in 1969 (1-1, 6.64 ERA in 12 games) and in 1970 (2-0, 2.09 ERA in 6 starts). One of those wins was a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals on September 21.
  • Vida had an awesome season in 1971. He was 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and was invited to his first All-Star game. He also won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards. Blue lost to the Baltimore Orioles (5 runs in 7 innings) in his only start in the American League Championship series (he was 1-5 in the postseason in his career).
  • After the 1971 season Blue held out for more money. He made $15,000 in 1971 and wanted an increase to $90,000. The A's at first didn't budge but finally relented in May 1972. But Vida wasn't in shape when he reported to the team and had a poor (by his standards) season (6-10, 2.80 ERA in 23 starts.
  • Vida bounced back in 1973 by going 20-9 with a 3.28 ERA. Here is a 1973 Sports Illustrated article about his rebound. He went 17-15 with a 3.25 ERA in 1974, then had his final 20-win season in 1975 (22-11, 3.01 ERA). A's owner Charlie Finley tried to sell Blue to the Yankees in June 1976 but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn invalidated the sale "in the best interests of baseball." Blue ended up 18-13 with a 2.35 ERA for the A's in '76.
  • The Oakland A's didn't have many of their good players left by 1977. Vida had a 14-19 record for the last-place A's in '77. Sal Bando, when asked about Blue still being with the A's, said, "We look upon Vida as a hostage." After the season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for seven players and a bunch of money. Blue came back with an 18-10 record and a 2.79 ERA for the Giants in 1978. He made the NL All Star team and was 3rd in Cy Young Award balloting as the Giants almost managed to take the NL West. Here is a May 29, 1978 article about Blue and the Giants' improbably rise to contention.
  • Blue had just about his poorest season in 1979. He was 14-14 with a 5.01 ERA. Vida bounced back in 1980 with another All-Star appearence and a 14-10 record with a 2.97 ERA. Blue made his last NL All-Star team in 1981 and was 8-6 with a 2.45 ERA in the strike-shortened season.
  • During spring training in 1982 Blue was traded to the Kansas City Royals in a multi-player trade that got the Giants Atlee Hammaker. Vida was 13-12 with a 3.78 ERA for the Royals in 1982. In 1983 the bottom fell out for Blue as he was 0-5 with a 6.14 ERA. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for cocaine possession and Kuhn suspended Blue for the whole 1984 season.
  • Vida signed with the Giants as a free agent on April 6, 1985 and was 8-8 with a 4.47 ERA for the last-place Giants. He was 10-10 with a 3.27 ERA in 28 starts in 1986. He was signed by the Oakland A's in 1987 and was slated to rejoin Reggie Jackson, but he flunked a uring test and Blue retired rather than face further scandal.
  • In 1994 Vida was named commissioner of the "Junior Giants." Here is a 2004 article about that.
  • Blue had many legal troubles after his baseball career. He had several arrests for drunken driving and violation of probation.
  • Here is a YouTube link to an interview a 9-year-old boy did with Vida in 2007.
  • According to his Wikipedia entry, Blue is now living in Costa Rica.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

1976 Topps #139 - Gorman Thomas

  • "Stormin' Gorman" was the first player ever taken by the Seattle Pilots in the amateur draft in 1969. He spent the 1969-1972 seasons in the minor leagues. Gorman started the 1973 season with the Milwaukee Brewers but was sent back to the minors in late June. He came back in September but had an underwhelming stat line of .187, 2 HR, 11 RBI in 155 at bats.
  • Thomas played most of the 1974 season for AAA Sacramento. He batted .297 with 51 home runs and also struck out 175 times. Gorman was brought back to the Brewers in September and batted .261 in 17 games.
  • Gorman was used sparingly in 1975. He started off slowly and his batting average bottomed out at .091 on June 4. He became the starting center fielder for the Brewers and his average began a steady climb, peaking at .307 on July 2. Thomas tailed off after that and finished the year below the Mendoza Line (.179 with 10 homers in 227 at bats).
  • Thomas had a similar year in 1976 (.198, 8 HR, 36 RBI in 99 games) and ended up back in the minors in 1977. He had a good year for AAA Spokane in '77 (.322, 36 HR, 114 RBI, 105 BB and 115 SO) and was able to come back to the majors to stay in 1978.
  • The 1978 season was the first of a string of five good power years for Thomas. He hit 32 homers and batted .246 in 137 games. In 1979 Gorman was 7th in MVP voting as he batted .244 and led the AL with 45 home runs. He also had career highs in RBI (123), runs (97), and strikeouts (175). Here is a September 1979 Sports Illustrated article about Gorman.
  • Thomas had another good power year in 1980 (38 homers) but also led the AL for the second year in a row with 170 srikeouts. Gorman was selected to the AL All Star Team in 1981 and he hit 21 home runs in the strike-shortened season.
  • Gorman's last big power year was in 1982. He led the AL with 39 home runs and he knocked in 112 runs. Thomas was 8th in MVP voting that season.
  • Thomas started to slow down in 1983. He played in 46 games and was only batting .183 with 5 home runs when he was traded by the Brewers with Ernie Camacho and Jamie Easterly to the Cleveland Indians for Rick Manning and Rick Waits. Gorman picked it up a bit and ended up with 22 home runs for the season.
  • After the 1983 season Gorman was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Thomas had rotator cuff surgery in 1984 and he didn't do a whole lot (.157 with 1 home run in 108 AB). But Thomas had his last good year in 1985 (32 home runs but a .215 average in 137 games) as a designated hitter.
  • Gorman played part of the 1986 season with the Mariners (.194 with 10 homers in 57 games) and was released on June 25. The Brewers picked him up on July 16 and he finished the season (.179 with 6 homers). Thomas was released by the Brewers after the 1986 season.
  • Gorman Thomas now works under a personal services contract with the Brewers and makes appearances. He also greets visitors at Gorman's Grill at Miller Park.

This is a video of Thomas talking about the Brewers' 2007 playoff chances and reminiscing about the 1982 team:

Friday, July 10, 2009

1976 Topps #138 - Lerrin LaGrow

  • Lerrin LaGrow pitched for several teams from 1970-1980. He was born in Phoenix, AZ and attended Arizona State Univeristy. I never noticed this before, but he lived in Glendale, AZ in the offseason. I grew up in Glendale---I wonder what part of Glendale he lived in. At the time Glendale had only about 40,000 people. Now it has a population of about 300,000.
  • LaGrow started in the Detroit Tigers system in 1969. He put up some good stats in 1970 (11-4, 2.10 ERA) for AA Montgomery and was brought up to Detroit in mid-July. He pitched 10 games for the Tigers and was 0-1 with a 7.30 ERA. Lerrin spent the 1971 season at AAA Toledo but didn't have a good year (2-6, 6.00 ERA). LaGrow did much better for the Mud Hens in 1972 (8-6, 2.43) and was brought back to the Tigers in early August. He was used as a reliever by the Tigers and was 0-1 with two saves in 16 games.
  • Lerrin was involved in a famous incident during game 2 of the 1972 American League Championship Series. Bert Campaneris of the Oakland A's came up to bat in the 7th inning. Campaneris already had three hits and two runs scored. The first pitch from LaGrow hit Bert in the ankle. Campaneris flung his bat at LaGrow. The bat was about 5 feet off of the ground. Lerrin ducked and the bat landed behind him. A benches-clearing brawl ensued and Tiger manager Billy Martin had to be restrained from going after Campaneris. Both Campaneris and LaGrow were suspended for the remainder of the LCS. LaGrow was 6'5" and weighed 220 lb. It would have been interesting to see a mano y mano fight between him and the smaller Campaneris.
  • LaGrow started the 1973 season with the Tigers but was sent back to Toledo in mid-June. He came back to Detroit in September. Altogether, Lerrin was 1-5 with a 4.33 ERA for the Tigers in 1973.
  • Lerrin was used by the Tigers as a starter in 1974 and 1975. The Tigers were pretty bad during that time, and the W-L records reflected that. He was 8-19 in 1974 and 7-14 in 1975. The Tigers sold LaGrow to the St. Louis Cardinals just before the 1976 season.
  • The Cardinals assigned Lerrin to AA Tulsa and brought him back as a September call-up. LaGrow was 0-1 with a 1.48 ERA for the Cards in '76. St. Louis traded Lerrin to the Chicago White Sox for Clay Carroll during spring training of 1977.
  • LaGrow spent two seasons as a closer for the White Sox. In 1977 he was 7-3 with a 2.46 ERA and 25 saves in 66 games. Lerrin was 6-5 with a 4.40 ERA and 16 saves in 1978. He pitched in 11 games (0-3, 9.17) for the White Sox in 1979 before he was sold to the LA Dodgers on May 11. Lerrin pitched pretty well for the injury-racked Dodgers in 1979 (5-1, 3.41, 4 saves).
  • Lerrin became a free agent after the 1979 season and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched in 25 games and was 0-2 with 3 saves and an ERA of 4.15. LaGrow was released on July 17 and that was it. I wonder what kind of World Series share he got.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

1976 Topps #137 - Bill Robinson

  • Bill Robinson played for four teams from 1966-1982. He started in 1961 at Class D Wellsville in the Milwaukee Braves organization. Bill remained in the minors through the 1966 season. The Braves brought him up for six games at the end of the 1966 season. After the season Robinson was traded to the New York Yankees as part of a deal that sent Clete Boyer to the Braves.
  • Robinson came to the Yankees as a highly-touted (even hyped) prospect, but he didn't really pan out in New York. In 1967 he batted .196 with 7 homers in 116 games. Bill's best season with the Yankees was 1968 when he batted .240 with 6 homers in 107 games. Robinson had another tough year in 1969 (.171 in 89 games).
  • Bill spent the 1970 season in the minors, then was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Robinson never played for the White Sox. Bill was assigned to the Sox' AAA club in 1971 and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the season. Robinson started the 1972 season in AAA Eugene and was brought up to the Phillies in late June. Bill batted .239 in 82 games for the Phillies in 1972.
  • The 1973 season was a good one for Robinson. He was the Phillies' starting right fielder and batted .288 with 25 homers in 124 games. He didn't do as well in 1974 (.236 with 5 home runs in 100 games) and was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the season.
  • Bill spent the next 7 1/2 seasons with the Pirates and became part of the "Lumber Company." He batted .280 in 92 games in 1975, then had a nice season in 1976 (.303 with 21 homers in 122 games. Robinson followed up that season with a .304 average with 26 homers and 104 RBI in 1977. He was 11th in NL MVP balloting in '77.
  • Robinson slipped to .246 with 14 homers in 1978, then batted .264 with 24 homers for the 1979 World Champion Pirates. Bill was more of a bench player in 1980 (100 games but 272 at bats) but still batted .287. He didn't play much in 1981 (.216 in 88 at bats). Bill played in 31 games for the Pirates in 1982 and then was traded back to the Phillies for Wayne Nordhagen on June 15. Bill batted .261 in 35 games for the Phillies. After appearing in 10 games in 1983, Robinson was released by the Phillies.
  • He was the hitting coach for the New York Mets from 1984-1989. Bill was an analyst for ESPN's Baseball tonight in 1990 and 1991. He was later a batting coach in the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies systems and then was a coach for the Florida Marlins for four years, including the World Champion 2003 team.
  • Bill was found dead in a hotel room in Las Vegas on July 29, 2007. He was in his second year as the LA Dodgers' minor league hitting coordinator and was visiting the AAA club at the time. The cause of death still isn't known, but Robinson was suffering from diabetes.