Monday, August 31, 2009

1976 Topps #193 - NL Home Run Leaders

  • Mike Schmidt was on a lot of these HR leader cards. This was his third league leader card. Mr. Schmidt led the NL in home runs eight times between 1974 and 1986.
  • Ralph Kiner had quite a run in the late 40s and early 50s. Ted Kluzewski (1954) was the only non-HOFer to lead the NL in home runs from 1946-1975.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

1976 Topps #192 - AL Batting Leaders

Another batting race that wasn't very close. Mr. Carew won his 6th batting title by 28 points over Rookie of the Year Fred Lynn. It's interesting to see how large of a gap some players have between their first title and their last title. Mr. Cobb's first title was in 1907 and his last one was in 1919. Mr. Williams had his first title in 1941 and his last title in 1958 -- that's quite a gap!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

1976 Topps #191 - NL Batting Leaders

  • The 1976 Topps league leader cards are probably my favorite ones from the 1970s. The top two or three players in each category are presented well, and the backs show the leaders from each season since 1901. It's cool to see the dominance of some players in a category. Rogers Hornsby really had a great run in the early 1920s. There are a lot of great names on this card (Musial, Wagner, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Hornsby, Rose, just to name a few).
  • The race for the 1975 NL batting title really wasn't much of a race. Bill Madlock won it by 22 points. Ted Simmons had a nice year though---it isn't very often that a catcher finishes second in a league batting race.

1976 Topps #190 - Jon Matlack

  • Jon Trumpbour Matlack pitched for the New York Mets and the Texas Rangers from 1971-1983. His career started off well, but he tailed off and ended up with a 125-126 lifetime record.
  • Matlack was chosen in the 1st round (4th overall) by the Mets in the 1967 draft when he was 17 years old. He pitched in the minors from 1967-1971. Jon was brought up to the Mets in July 1971 and pitched in seven games (six starts). He had a record of 0-3 with a 4.14 ERA.
  • Jon was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1972. He was 15-10 with a 2.32 ERA in 32 starts. Matlack also gave up Roberto Clemente's 3000th (and final) hit on the last day of the season.
  • He followed that season with a 14-16, 3.20 ERA effort in 1973. His skull was fractured by a Marty Perez line drive during the season. Jon pitched a shutout in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series and lost Game 7 of the 1973 World Series.
  • Matlack had three more good seasons (13-15, 16-12, 17-10) with the Mets as part of the Seaver-Koosman-Matlack trio of starting pitchers. Matlack made the NL All Star team in 1974, 1975, and 1976. He was the co-MVP of the 1975 game (with Bill Madlock).
  • Jon had an off year in 1977 (7-15, 4.21 ERA) and was involved in that complicated four-team trade after the 1977 season. Matlack ended up wearing a Texas Rangers' uniform.
  • In 1978 Jon rebounded and had a good year. He was 15-13 with a 2.27 ERA. Matlack had injury problems in 1979 and made only 13 starts. He didn't start until May 1 and didn't pitch again after July 1. He ended up 4-5 with a 4.13 ERA.
  • In 1980 Jon was 10-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 34 starts. Jon slipped to 4-7 with a 4.14 ERA in 16 starts in the strike-shortened 1981 season. In his last two seasons Jon was used as a fifth starter and a reliever. He was released by the Rangers after the 1983 season. It has been said that part of the reason for his release was his activities as a union leader during the 1981 strike.
  • After his playing career Jon was a coach in several minor league systems. Here is a "where are they now" article from 2008. Jon is now the minor league pitching coordinator for the Detroit Tigers.

  • Jon loved to face Bob Boone (.214, 0 HR in 56 AB) and Steve Garvey (.226, 0 HR in 62 AB) and hated to face Tony Perez (.355, 3 HR in 62 AB) and Ted Simmons (.377, 2 HR in 53 AB).

Friday, August 28, 2009

1976 Topps #189 - Claudell Washington

  • Claudell Washington had a long career from 1974-1990 playing for seven teams. He was one of the youngest players ever to be named to an All Star team (20 in 1975).

  • Washington started in short-season A ball in the Oakland A's organization as a 17-year-old in 1972. After hitting .361 in half a season at AA Birmhingham, Claudell was called up to the A's and made his debut on July 5, 1974. He batted .285 in 73 games as an outfielder and DH.

  • Claudell had a big year in 1975. He made the All Star team and was 11th in AL MVP voting. Washington batted .308 with 10 homers, 77 RBI, and 40 stolen bases in 148 games. Here is a March 1975 Baseball Digest article about Washington. He tailed off in 1976 (.257 with five HR and 37 stolen bases in 134 games) and was traded to the Texas Rangers for Jim Umbarger, Rodney Scott, and cash during spring training in 1977.

  • Washington bounced back in 1977 and batted .284 with 12 HR and 68 RBI. He started off slowly in 1978 (.167 in 42 at bats) and was traded with Rusty Torres to the Chicago White Sox for Bobby Bonds. Claudell took four days to report to the White Sox. His excuse was that he overslept. He ended up batting .253 in 93 games for the two teams. Claudell had a good year for the White Sox in 1979 (.280, 13 HR, 66 RBI).

  • In 1980 Washington was on the move again. He started with the White Sox and was traded to the New York Mets for a minor leaguer on June 7. For the White Sox and Mets, he batted .278 with 11 HR and 54 RBI. At the end of the 1980 season Washington became a free agent and signed with the Atlanta Braves.

  • Washington spent more time with the Braves (1981-1986) than he did with any other team. During that time he batted between .266 and .291 and made the NL All Star Team in 1984. His power and stolen base numbers were up and down. Claudell's best year for the Braves was 1984 when he batted .286 with 17 HR and 61 RBI. Claudell talked about his drug abuse in a February 1984 article. Washington was ordered by a judge to go to a drug diversion program in October 1985 rather than go on trial for marijuanna possession.

  • On June 30, 1986 Claudell was traded by the Braves with Paul Zuvella to the New York Yankees for Ken Griffey and Andre Robertson. He finished 1986 with the Yankees and played for them through the 1988 season. Washington was the starting center fielder in 1988 and had one of his better years (.308, 11 HR, 64 RBI). After the season Washington was granted free agency and signed with the Califorina Angels.

  • In 1990 Claudell played in 110 games for the Angels and batted .273 with 13 HR and 42 RBI. He played 12 games for the Angels in 1991 and then was traded back to the Yankees for Luis Polonia. He finished the '91 season as a pinch hitter for the Yankees and was released after the season.

  • Washington was one of the few players to hit three home runs in a game for teams in both leagues. He did it for the White Sox in 1979 and for the Mets in 1980.

  • Washington struck out 39 times against Nolan Ryan, which was the most of any batter.

  • Claudell loved to face Bob Welch (.301 with 5 HR in 73 AB) and Fergie Jenkins (.300 in 60 AB) and hated to face Nolan Ryan (.144 and 0 HR in 90 AB) and Jim Palmer (.152 in 46 AB).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

1976 Topps #188 - Fred Scherman

  • Fred Scherman pitched for three teams from 1969-1976. His best years were for the Detroit Tigers in the early 70s. He was mostly a reliever -- he pitched in 346 career games and made 11 starts.

  • Scherman originally signed with the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent in 1964. He pitched one year in the Twins' system then was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in something called a "first year draft" (I've never heard of it). Fred then spend 1965-1969 in the Tigers' system. Fred pitched in four games for the Tigers in 1969.

  • In 1970 Scherman made the Tigers for good and was 4-4 with one save and a 3.23 ERA in 48 relief appearances. Fred's best year was 1971. He was 11-6 with 20 saves and a 2.71 ERA in 69 appearances (1 start). He didn't fare quite as well in 1972, but he still had 12 saves and was 7-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 57 games (3 starts). Fred pitched 2/3 of an inning in game 2 of the American League Championship Series and held the Oakland A's scoreless.

  • He wasn't used as much in 1973, and it looks like he had at least one stint on the DL. Fred was 2-2 with one save and an ERA of 4.23 in 34 games. His wikipedia article says he didn't pitch in 1973, but his baseball reference entry disagrees. In 1973 Fred was ordered to put vaseline on his fingers before pitching in retaliation for the greaseballs being thrown by Gaylord Perry of the Indians. This incident led to a suspension by AL President Joe Cronin and Martin's eventual dismissal from the Tigers. This incident probably happened on August 30.

  • After the 1973 season he was traded to the Houson Astros. In 1974 Scherman was 2-5 with four saves and an ERA of 4.11 in 53 games. Fred started the 1975 season with the Astros and was sold to the Montreal Expos in June after making 16 appearances. The Expos used him as a reliever and a spot starter--he pitched in 34 games for the Expos and made seven starts. In all, Scherman was 4-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 50 games.

  • In 1976 Fred returned to the bullpen and was 2-2 with one save and a 4.95 ERA in 31 appearances. He was released on July 8, 1976. In 1977 Fred pitched in 49 games for AAA Columbus (Pittsburgh Pirates organization) but didn't make it back to the big leauges. He retired after the 1977 season.

  • Fred gave up Frank Robinson's 500th home run on September 13, 1971.
  • It looks like Fred is now running a lab consultant job in Tipp City, Ohio.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1976 Topps #187 - Pedro Garcia

  • Pedro Garcia played for three teams from 1973-1977. He was originally signed by the Seattle Pilots in 1969. Pedro played in the minors from 1969-1972.

  • Garcia made the Brewers in 1973 and had a good rookie year. Pedro finished second to Al Bumbry in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Garcia led the AL in doubles (32), hit 15 homers, and batted .245 in 160 games. The sophomore jink hit Pedro hard in 1974.. Although he hit 12 homers, his average dipped to .199.

  • In 1975 Garcia split time at 2B with other players. He played in 98 games and batted .225 with a .271 on base percentage. In 1976 Pedro started the season with the Brewers and was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Gary Sutherland on June 12. For the two teams combined Pedro batted .204 in 118 games.

  • The Tigers released Garcia after the season and he signed with the expansion Toronto Blue Jays. He started the season with the Blue Jays but was sent down to AAA Hawaii in early June after batting .208 in 41 games. Pedro never made it back to the majors. He finished the '77 season with Hawaii and played the 1978 season for the Islanders before calling it quits.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1976 Topps #186 - Tom Walker

  • Tom Walker pitched mostly in relief for five teams from 1972-1977. He was a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1968. Tom pitched in the Orioles' system from 1968-1971 and his highest ERA was 2.82. He never got to the big leagues with the Orioles (they had a few good pitchers back then) and was drafted in the Rule 5 draft by the Montreal Expos in 1971.
  • Walker made the Expos in 1972 and was used as a reliever. He pitched in 46 games and was 2-2 with two saves and a 2.89 ERA. Tom was a reliever again in 1973 and was 7-5 with four saves and a 3.63 ERA in 54 games.
  • For the first part of the 1974 season Tom was used as a reliever. By July 5 he was 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA. The Expos decided to make Walker a starter and sent him down to AAA Memphis to start some games. Tom was 5-0 in five starts for Memphis and was recalled in early August. He didn't have as much success in Montreal. He was 0-4 in his first six starts for the Expos after his August recall. Walker started two more games (both in doubleheaders) and won both times. He also made several relief appearances to finish the season.
  • After the 1974 season Walker was traded with Terry Humphrey to the Detroit Tigers for Woodie Fryman. Tom was used as a swingman in 1975. He had a record of 3-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 36 games (9 starts). After the 1975 season Walker was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Tom spent most of the 1976 season with AAA Tulsa. He pitched in 10 games with the Cardinals as a September call-up and was 1-2 with three saves and a 4.12 ERA. Walker didn't make the St. Louis team in 1977 and was released in spring training. On April 10 he was signed by the Expos and assigned to AAA Denver. He was recalled in June and pitched in 11 games for Montreal, going 1-1 with an ERA of 4.74. Tom was placed on waivers on July 13 and selected by the California Angels. He pitched in one game for the Angels and then was assigned to AAA Salt Lake City. He was granted free agency at the end of the season. Walker pitched in six games for AAA Columbus (Pittsburgh Pirates) in 1978 but didn't make it back to the majors and retired after the 1978 season.
  • Tom's son Neil is playing 3B for the AAA Indianapolis Indians in the Pirates' organization.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I guess I need to do a contest sometime. Perhaps when I get to some sort of milestone on this blog I'll do one.

This blog (Coolio Cards) has a contest going. He's giving away 2009 hits.

1976 Topps #185 - Dave Parker

Dave "Cobra" Parker. Seven All-Star teams. Three Gold Gloves. Three Silver Sluggers. Five t0p-5 MVP seasons. One MVP award. If it weren't for the dump he took in the middle of his career he'd be in the Hall of Fame.

Dave Parker played in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league system from 1970-1973 and made his major league debut on July 12, 1973. He was a part-time player in 1973 and 1974 and batted in the .280s both years.

The 1975 season was Dave's breakout year. He led the NL in slugging percentage (.541) and batted .308 with 25 HR and 101 RBI. Parker was third in MVP voting behind Joe Morgan and Greg Luzinski. Dave had a better batting average (.313) in 1976 but he had a dropoff in power (13 HR).

Parker made his first All Star team in 1977. He led the NL in batting average (.338), hits (215), and doubles (44). He won his first Gold Glove and was third in MVP voting (behind George Foster and Greg Luzinski).

Interestingly, Parker didn't make the NL All Star team in 1978, but he was the NL MVP and won his second Gold Glove. He led the NL again in batting average (.334), hit 30 HR, and had 114 RBI. He also led the league in slugging percentage (.585).

After those two great seasons, Parker was bound to have a bit of a dropoff in 1979. It didn't matter as he helped lead the Pirates to the World Championship. Dave was an All Star again and showed off his great throwing arm by throwing out two runners from right field. Dave was named the All Star Game MVP. Parker batted .310 with 25 homers and 94 RBI and won his third (and final) Gold Glove award. Here is a 1985 Baseball Digest "Game I'll Never Forget" article that talks about a playoff game in 1979.

  • Parker's numbers really started to suffer in 1980, in large part due to the distractions and controversy surrounding the huge contract he signed. Dave batted .295 with 17 HR and 79 RBI. During this time Dave had weight, injury, and cocaine problems. The 1981 and 1982 seasons were the worst seasons for Parker. In 1981 he played in only 67 games and batted .258 with nine HR. In 1982 he played in 73 games and batted .279 with six HR and 29 RBI. If I remember right, he was the first star to wear an earring on the diamond. Now it's commonplace, but it was a big deal back then.

  • In 1983 Dave had an uptick in his numbers. He played in 144 games, batted .279, and hit 12 homers and had 69 RBI. Dave testified against a dealer in the Pittsburgh drug trials and was fined by Major League Baseball for his admitted drug use. After the season he became a free agent and signed with the Cincinnati Reds.

  • Dave had a nice year in 1984 (.285, 16 HR, 94 RBI), but he had a huge comeback year in 1985. Parker was second to Willie McGee in NL MVP voting, won the Silver Slugger award, and was an NL All Star. He led the NL in doubles (42) and RBI (125) and batted .312 with 34 home runs. Here is a November 1985 Baseball Digest article.

  • Parker played in all 162 games in 1986 and was an NL All Star and Silver Slugger Award winner again. He finished 5th in MVP voting as he batted .273 with 31 HR and 116 RBI. In 1987 Parker .253 with 26 HR and 97 RBI. After the season he was traded to the Oakland A's for Jose Rijo and Tim Birtsas.

  • Dave's power number were down in 1988. He hit 12 homers, had 55 RBI, and batted .257 as the A's designated hitter. Parker did better for the 1989 World Champion A's (.264, 22 HR, 97 RBI). After the 1989 season Dave left as a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1990 Dave won the Silver Slugger award as a DH and made his last All Star team in his only season with the Brewers. He batted .298 with 21 homers and 92 RBI.

  • Before the 1991 season Parker was traded to the California Angels. He spent most of the 1991 seaosn with the Angels and hit 11 homers and batted .232 in 119 games. From Sports Illustrated: Dave Winfield, Angel outfielder, on hitting in front of newly acquired Dave Parker in the batting order: "You're going to hear pitchers saying, 'Nobody told me there'd be Daves like this.' "

  • Dave was released on September 7 and the Toronto Blue Jays picked him up for the stretch run. Parker played 13 games for the Blue Jays and then retired after the season.

  • After his playing career Parker was a first base coach for the Anaheim Angels and a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. He owns several Popeye's franchises. Dave has had both of his knees replaced.
  • Dave loved to face Rick Reuschel (.333 with 5 HR in 105 AB) and Bob Forsch (.347 in 95 AB). He hated to face Scott Sanderson (.214 in 70 AB) and Don Sutton (.213 in 75 AB).

  • Here is an interview Dave did before a celebrity softball game in 2007:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1976 Topps #184 - Bill Greif

  • Bill Greif had a lifetime record of 31-67. It seems rare for a pitcher who has that many decisions to have twice as many losses as wins. Bill pitched for some pretty awful San Diego teams in the early to mid seventies.

  • Bill was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1968 and spent a few years in the minors. He was brought up to the Astros at the end of the 1971 season and was 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in seven games. After the season Grief was traded with Darrell Thomas and Mark the San Diego Padres for Dave Roberts. The 1972 season was a tough one for Greif -- he was 5-16 with a 5.60 ERA in 34 games (22 starts).

  • The 1973 season was Bill's best. He was only 10-17, but he had a 3.21 ERA in 36 games (31 starts). Greif was 9-19 with a 4.66 ERA in 1974 and led the NL in hit batsmen with 14.

  • In 1975 Greif was moved to the bullpen. He had a 4-6 record with a 3.88 ERA and nine saves in 59 appearances. Bill moved back to the Padre starting rotation in 1976 and struggled. He averaged fewer than five innings a start and was 1-3 with an 8.06 ERA in five starts. Greif was mercifully traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Luis Melendez on May 19. He made 47 relief appearances for the Cards and was 1-5 with six saves.

  • After the 1976 season Greif was traded to the Montreal Expos in a multi-player deal. Bill didn't pitch at all in 1977 -- he was released during spring training. Greif tried to pitch in the minors for AAA Tidewater (Mets) in 1978 but hung 'em up after appearing in three games.

  • After his playing career Bill was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Texas with a BA in Psychology and has also earned a Masters in Education with a major in Counseling and Guidance from Texas State University. Greif went into real estate and currently makes his living from real estate investments. He was the co-founder of Cancer Connection in Texas.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

1976 Topps #183 - Steve Braun

  • Interesting cartoon on this card -- I wonder if that homer was an inside-the-park shot.

  • In 1976 Steve Braun was coming off of a top-ten finish in batting average. He played for five teams from 1971-1985. Steve was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1966. He played in the minors for two years and then didn't play in 1968 or 1969 (probably military service). Steve batted .279 in A ball in 1970 and then made the Twins' roster in 1971.

  • Braun played five positions in his rookie year of 1971. He appeared in 128 games and batted .254 with 48 walks (OBP of .350) and five home runs. Steve had on-base-percentages of .350 or better every year through the 1977 season.

  • In 1972 Braun played a utility role and upped his batting average to .289 while keeping his other stats pretty much the same in 121 games. He played a lot of third base in 1973 but wasn't known for his fielding. Steve contributed with the stick by batting .283 with a .408 OBP in 115 games.

  • Braun played more outfield in 1974 but his fielding percentage was still below average. He posted another solid offensive season (.280 with a .361 OBP in 129 games). Steve's best season was 1975. He had career highs in batting average (.302) and home runs (11). He had another typical Braun year in 1976 (.288 in 122 games) and then was taken by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft.

  • In 1977 Steve had a big dropoff in offense. He batted .235 in 139 games, even though he walked 80 times and had a .351 on base percentage. Braun started the 1978 season slowly (.230 in 74 at bats) and was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Jim Colborn on June 1.He batted .263 for the Royals in 137 at bats. He was 0-5 with a walk and a strikeout in the 1978 Americna League Championship Series.

  • Steve wasn't used much in 1979 (.267 in 116 at bats with a .384 OBP). He didn't really have a place in Kansas City and he was released on June 2, 1980 after starting the year 1 for 23. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him up on June 21 and sent him to AAA Syracuse for 19 games. Steve hit .328 in Syracuse and was brought up to Toronto on July 10. Steve batted .273 in 55 at bats the rest of the season with the Blue Jays.

  • After the 1980 season Braun was granted free agency and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. He didn't do much in 1981, but was an effective pinch hitter from 1982-1985. Steve singled in a run in the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. It wasn't the game-winner, but it increased the Cards' lead to three runs.

  • Braun was released by the Cardinals after the 1985 season. He played for the Cards' AAA Louisville club but he didn't get back to the majors and retired after the 1986 season. Steve retired with a lifetime .271 major league batting average.

  • After his playing career Steve became a hitting coach. He coached in the Red Sox, Yankee, and Cardinal organizations and he coached for the Trenton Thunder most of the time from 1999-2004. Steve now runs a baseball camp in New Jersey.

Friday, August 21, 2009

1976 Topps #182 - Harry Rasumssen

  • This card threw me for a loop. I searched on for "Harry Rasmussen" and got nothing. I searched for "Rasmussen" and got three hits. One of the hits was Eric Rasmussen, who pitched for several teams from 1975-1983. He legally changed his name to Eric between the 1976 and 1977 seasons.

  • He was originally picked by the Boston Red Sox in the 1971 free agent draft but he didn't sign. Eric was then picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1973 draft. Rasmussen pitched in the minors in 1973 and 1974. He started the 1975 season in the minors and was brought up to St. Louis in July. Rasmussen was 5-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 13 starts in 1975. Eric pitched a shutout in his debut on July 17 against the San Diego Padres.

  • Eric was used as a fifth starter and a reliever in 1976. He pitched in 43 games (17 starts). Rasmussen was 6-12 with an ERA of 3.53. In 1977 Eric was 11-17 with a 3.48 ERA in 34 starts. He started the 1978 season with the Cardinals and was traded to the San Diego Padres for George Hendrick on May 26. Combined, Rasmussen was 14-15 with a 4.09 ERA for the two teams.

  • In 1979 Eric went back to a fifth starter/reliever role. He started 20 games and relieved in 25 more games. Eric's record was 6-9 with an ERA of 3.27. Rasmussen had the same role in 1980 (40 games, 14 starts) and was 4-11 with a 4.37 ERA.

  • Rasmussen didn't make the Padres in 1981 and was released in spring training. He hooked on with Yucatan of the Mexican League. Eric was purchased by the Cardinals in December 1981 but apparently didn't make the club in 1982. He was sold back to Yucatan in April. Eric pitched for Yucatan for a while and was purchased again by the Cardinals on August 11. He pitched a few games in the minors and then was called up to the Cards in September for the stretch run. In his first game back he got credit for a hold even though the only two batters he faced got base hits. Apparently someone was thrown out on the bases since he pitched 1/3 of an inning. Eric was 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight games in 1982.

  • Eric started the 1983 season with the Cardinals but he appeared in only six games and was sent back to the minors in May. He went 8-1 in 11 starts with AAA Louisville then was purchased by the Kansas City Royals on August 2. In his first game in the American League he shut out the Boston Red Sox. Eris is still the only pitcher to pitch a shutout in his debut for both the NL and the AL. All together Rasmussen was 3-6 with a 5.67 ERA in 1983.

  • Rasmussen was released by the Royals after the 1983 season. He pitched for several minor league teams through the 1987 season but didn't make it back to the majors. Eric pitched for the Fort Myers Sun Sox of the Senior League in 1989 and 1990. Since he stopped pitching he has been a coach in the Cleveland Indians' system (1988-1990) and in the Minnesota Twins' system (1991-present). He is currently the Twins' minor league pitching coordinator.

Eric Rasmussen

Thursday, August 20, 2009

1976 Topps # 181 - Willie Montanez

  • Willie "Hot Dog" Montanez played for nine teams from 1966-1982. He had a .275 lifetime batting average. Montanez was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965. He was picked by the California Angels in the Rule 5 draft in 1966 and appeared in eight games for the Angels in early 1966. Willie was sent back to the Cardinals and spent the next four seasons in the Cards' minor league system.

  • In 1970 Montanez was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies as compensation in the Curt Flood trade after Flood refused to report to the Phillies. He played in AAA in 1970 and was called up by the Phillies in September 1970. Willie batted .240 in 25 at bats.

  • Montanez became the Phillies' starting center fielder in 1971. He hit a career-high 30 home runs and had 99 RBI. Willie finished second to Earl Williams in NL Rookie of the Year voting in '71. Willie played center field again in 1972 and led the NL in doubles with 39. He batted .247 with 13 home runs. In 1973 Montanez split time between center field and his natural position (1B). He batted .263 with 11 homers.

  • He became the full time first baseman in 1974 and played only one game in the outfield. Willie didn't play a fielding position other than first base again until his final year in 1982. Montanez batted .304 with 33 doubles in 1974.

  • Montanez started the 1975 season with the Phillies. On May 4 he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Garry Maddox. He had a similar year in 1975 (.302 with 34 doubles and 101 RBI). Willie also led the NL in times grounded into double plays with 26 that year. In 1976 he started the season with the Giants but was sent to the Atlanta Braves on June 13 in a multi-player trade that sent Darrell Evans to the Giants. Willie ended up playing in 163 games in 1976 due to the trade (the Giants had played one more game than the Braves at that point) and batted .317 with 29 doubles and 84 RBI. He again led the NL in grounded into double plays with 26.

  • Willie made the NL All Star team in 1977 as the Braves' representative. He was 0-2 with a strikeout in the game. Montanez batted .287 with 20 home runs that year. Before the 1978 season Willie was part of a complicated 4-team trade (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New York Mets, and Texas). He ended up with the Mets and batted .256 with 17 homers and 96 RBI in '78.

  • In 1979 Willie had a bad start (.234 in 109 games) and was traded to the Texas Rangers in August. He batted .319 for the Rangers in the remainder of the 1979 season. Willie was shipped to the San Diego Padres before the 1980 season and batted .272 for the Padres. On August 31 he was sent to the Montreal Expos and he finished the season as a pinch hitter for the Expos.

  • In 1981 Willie was a pinch hitter and backup first baseman for Montreal. He didn't do much (.177 in 62 at bats) and he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for John Milner on August 20. He had the same role with the Pirates and batted .263 for the remainder of the 1981 season for the Pirates.

  • Willie's last year was 1982. He started with the Pirates and had some success as a pinch hitter and backup OF/1B (.281 in 32 at bats) but was released by the Pirates on July 1. Montanez was signed by the Phillies on August 10 and sent to AAA Oklahoma City for eight games. He came back to the Phillies but was 1-16. Willie was released after the season, didn't sign with anyone, and retired.
  • I have no idea what he's been doing since his major league career. Does anyone know?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Topps set is complete--thanks Dean family!!

I got a nice surprise in my mailbox today. Mr. Dean from the 1980 Topps Blog sent me a mailing with some 1978, 1980, and 1981 Topps cards from my wantlist. But the best surprise was in a top loader. It was Mr. Billy Williams, card #525, in all his glory.
Now that I have the 1976 Topps set completed, I'll concentrate on completing my 1976 Kellogg's set. After that I'll work on SSPC and Hostess. Thanks again!!!

1979 Topps #180 - Rich Gossage

  • On the front is a picture of a pre-Yankee, pre-facial hair Rich "Goose" Gossage. He hadn't become the famous intimidating stopper that he would be later in his career. It's another "gum stain" card too.
  • Rich Gossage was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the 1970 amateur draft. He spent 1970 and 1971 in the minors. Gossage made it to the majors in 1972 and was 7-1 with a 4.28 ERA in 36 games (1 start). In 1973 Rich split time between the minors and the White Sox. He was 0-4 with a 7.43 ERA in 20 games (4 starts) for Chicago in '73.
  • In 1974 Gossage started the season with the White Sox but was sent to the minors to make two starts in May. His record in 1974 was 4-6 with a 4.13 ERA in 39 games (3 starts). Rich had his first big season as a reliever in 1975. He led the AL in saves with 26 and he had a 9-8 record with a 1.94 ERA. Rich made his first All Star team in 1975.
  • For some reason in 1976 the White Sox converted Gossage to a starting pitcher. He made the All Star team again but had a 9-17 record with a 3.94 ERA in 1976. After the 1976 season Gossage was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates with Terry Forster for Richie Zisk and Silvio Martinez. Rich went back to the bullpen (he never started another game in his career) and made the NL All Star team. Rich was 11-9 with a 1.62 ERA and had 26 saves.
  • Rich left the Pirates as a free agent after the 1977 season and signed with the New York Yankees. The Yankees already had a great reliever (Sparky Lyle) and Sparky wasn't happy about the signing. He was an All-Star again, led the AL in saves (27), and was 6th in Cy Young Award voting. Rich had a win and a save in the 1978 American League Championship Series and had a win in the World Series as well.
  • The 1979 season wasn't as good for Gossage or for the Yankees. He missed almost two months of the season after a thumb injury sustained in a clubhouse fight with Cliff Johnson. Rich didn't make the All Star team for the first time since 1974 and had only 18 saves in 36 games.
  • Gossage bounced back in 1980 and led the AL with 33 saves. He was an All Star again and finished third in MVP and Cy Young award balloting. Here is a September 29, 1980 Sports Illustrated article about his season. Rich pitched in only one game in the 1980 ALCS and gave up a 3-run home run to George Brett as the Royals finally got past the Yankees and into the World Series. Here is an April 1981 Baseball Digest article about Gossage.
  • Gossage had another good year in 1981 (AL All Star, 3-2 with a 0.77 ERA, 20 saves in the strike-shortened season). Rich had saves in all three Yankee victories in the 1981 ALDS and the series-clinching save against the Oakland A's in the ALCS. He also saved both of the Yankee wins in the World Series but it wasn't enough as the LA Dodgers won the series in six games.
  • Rich made his last AL All Star team in 1982 and had 30 saves. He had another nice year in 1983 (13-5, 2.27 ERA, 22 saves). He was granted free agency after the '83 season and signed with the San Diego Padres. Gossage helped lead the Padres to the World Series by going 10-6 with a 2.90 ERA and 25 saves. He had the series-clinching save in the National League Championship Series, but he didn't pitch much in the World Series.
  • Gossage continued to be the main closer for the Padres through the 1986 season. He finished 30 games in the 1987 season but his save total was down. After the '87 season Rich was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He spent the 1988 season with the Cubs and saved 13 games, but was released in spring training of 1989. Gossage signed with the San Francisco Giants and pitched for them until August 16, when he was waived. The Yankees selected Rich and he finished the season with New York.
  • Rich missed the entire 1990 season and then signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent in 1991. He pitched a few games in the minors and then appeared in 40 games, mostly as a setup man. Gossage left as a free agent after the season and signed with the Oakland A's. Rich was mostly a setup man for the A's in 1992 and 1993. The A's released Gossage during spring training in 1994. The Seattle Mariners picked him up and he pitched one season with the Mariners before retiring after the 1994 season.
  • Rich Gossage retired with a record of 124-104, a 3.01 ERA, and 310 saves in 1002 games pitched. Gossage was basically a one-pitch pitcher, but that pitch was one heck of a fastball that was usually in the upper 90s. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. Gossage owns a burger joint in Parker, Colorado called Burgers and Sports.
  • Here is an April 1992 Baseball Digest article in which Goose recalls his Yankee days.
  • Here is an October 2000 Baseball Digest "Where are they now?" article about Gossage.
  • Goose hated to face Steve Braun (.342), Ken Singleton (.343), and Carl Yastrzemski (.375) and liked to face Rod Carew (.189), Robin Yount (.162), and Amos Otis (.184). All batters with 30 AB or more vs. Gossage.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1976 Topps #179 - George Foster

  • George Foster started out with the San Francisco Giants. He was in the minors from 1968-1970 and earned September looks in '69 and '70 (24 total at bats). In the minors George didn't show the power that he would develop later, but he did hit .308 for AAA Phoenix in 1970.
  • In 1971 George started with the Giants but was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on May 29 for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert. The Giants had come up with a lot of good outfielders in the early 1970s (Bobby Bonds, Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, Dave Kingman among others) and George was considered to be expendable. I wonder what the Giants might have been like had they had hung onto a few of these guys. George played in a total of 140 games in 1971 and batted .241 with 13 home runs.
  • Foster was a backup in 1972 and didn't get much playing time. He batted .200 with two home runs in 145 at bats. In 1973 George spent most of the year in AAA Indianapolis. He was called up in September and batted .282 in 17 games. Foster was an extra outfielder and pinch hitter again in 1974 and batted .264 with seven home runs in 276 at bats.
  • In 1975 Reds' manager Sparky Anderson moved Pete Rose to third base and made Foster the starting left fielder. Foster responded by batting .300 with 23 home runs to help the Reds to the World Championship. George had an even better year in 1976, leading the NL in RBI with 121 and batting .306 with 29 home runs. He made his first NL All Star team and was second to teammate Joe Morgan in MVP voting.
  • The 1977 season was Foster's best. He led the NL in home runs (52), RBI (149), and runs (124). He also batted .320, was an NL All Star, and won the NL MVP award. Here is a December 1977 Baseball Digest article announcing Foster's selection as Player of the Year.
  • In 1978 George again led the NL in home runs (40) and RBI (120), was an NL All Star, and was 6th in MVP voting. Foster made the NL All Star team for the fourth year in a row in 1979 and hit 30 homers and knocked in 98 runs while batting .302 for the NL West champion Reds.
  • Foster had an "off year" in 1980 (.273 with 25 home runs and 93 RBI) but bounced back in 1981 with 22 homers and 90 RBI in the strike-shortened season. George made his last NL All Star team in 1981, won the Silver Slugger award, and was 3rd in NL MVP voting. Here is a June 1980 Baseball Digest article about Foster.
  • Before the 1982 season Foster was traded to the New York Mets for Jim Kern, Alex Trevino, and Greg Harris. George was given a five-year, $10 million contract by the Mets. George did not perform at the same level that he did with the Reds. In 1982 he batted only .247 with 13 homers and 70 RBI. He hit 28 homers and had 90 RBI in 1983 but his batting average dropped again (.241). Foster's batting average climbed to .269 in 1985 and he hit 24 homers with 77 RBI.
  • The 1986 season would be Foster's last one. He started poorly and was benched in favor of Lee Mazzilli. He was batting .227 with 13 home runs when he was released by the Mets on August 7. Apparently manager Davey Johnson gave the Mets a "he goes or I go" ultimatum after Foster had criticized Johnson's choice of outfielders. George signed with the Chicago White Sox on August 15 but stayed with them for only three weeks before being released on September 6. No other team signed George and he retired.
  • George loved to face Randy Jones (.360 with 4 HR in 86 AB) and Joaquin Andujar (.362 with 4 HR in 69 AB) and hated to face Ray Burris (.214 with 1 HR in 56 AB) and Scott Sanderson (.216 with 0 HR in 37 AB).

Monday, August 17, 2009

1976 Topps #178 - Tom Buskey

  • Tom Buskey was a relief pitcher for three American League teams from 1973-1980. He started with the New York Yankee organization in 1969 and progressed through their minor league system. Tom was called up to the Yankees at the end of the 1973 season and had a 5.40 ERA in eight appearances.
  • Buskey pitched in four games for the Yankees in 1974 and then was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a lopsided trade that got the Yankees Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow. Tom appeared in a total of 55 games in 1974 and was 2-7 with 18 saves and a 3.38 ERA. Buskey had some good seasons with Cleveland. He was 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 1975 and was 5-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 1976.
  • In 1977 Tom split time between the Indians and AAA Toledo. With the Indians he made 21 appearances with no record and a 5.40 ERA. Before the 1978 season Tom was traded with John Lowenstein to the Texas Rangers for David Clyde and Willie Horton. He didn't make the Rangers club and was released in spring training. Buskey signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and spent most of the season with AAA Syracuse. Tom was 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight appearances for the Blue Jays in September 1978.
  • Buskey spent some time with Syracuse in 1979 but was with Toronto for most of the year and was 6-10 with a 3.43 ERA in 44 appearances. The 1980 season was Tom's last one -- he was 3-1 with a 4.46 ERA in 33 games before his release on August 8. Tom retired with 288 appearances, all out of the bullpen.
  • After his career Buskey was involved with the Sesquehanna Employment and Training Corp. He was cited as a contributor to technical and career special needs education in 1997. Tom died on June 7, 1998 of injuries sustained in an auto accident in his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. Here is a link to a picture of his gravestone.
  • Edit: According to his daughter Tom died of a heart attack, not in a car accident.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

1976 Topps #177 - Marty Perez

  • This is a great "school playground" picture.
  • Marty Perez was an infielder for several teams from 1969-1978. He originally signed with the California Angels at the age of 18 as an amateur free agent in 1964. Marty played in the minors through the 1970 season. He had a couple of major league looks in 1969 (13 at bats) and 1970 (3 at bats).
  • After the 1970 season Perez was traded to the Atlanta Braves for a minor leaguer. He became the Braves' starting shortstop in 1971 and batted .227 in 130 games. Marty had a similar season in 1972--he batted .228 in 141 games and led the NL in grounded into double plays with 21. In 1973 Perez batted .250 and set career highs in home runs (8), walks (49), and RBI (57).
  • Marty's batting average continued to climb in the next two seasons (.260 in 1974 and .275 in 1975) and he moved over to second base. Perez started the 1976 season with the Braves and was traded with Darrell to the San Francisco Giants for Willie Montanez and some other guys. He had a utility role with the Giants, playing 2B, SS, and 3B.
  • After the 1976 season Perez was traded to the New York Yankees for Terry Whitfield. Marty played in only one game for the Yankees in 1977 then was traded with Dock Ellis and Larry Murray to the Oakland A's for Mike Torrez. He was a utilityman for the A's in 1977 and batted .231 in 115 games.
  • Marty was cut loose by the A's in May of 1978 after he started the season 0-for-12. He was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent and played for AAA Tidewater. Marty retired after the 1978 season.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1976 Topps #176 - Dick Lange

  • Dick Lange's major league career was over when this card was made. He pitched for the Califorina Angels from 1972-1975.
  • Lange was drafted by the Angels in 1970 and was assigned to the rookie level Idaho Falls club. He overmatched the competition by going 13-0 in 14 starts with a 1.95 ERA and no home runs allowed. Dick started the 1971 season with AA Shreveport and moved up to AAA Salt Lake. He was a combined 10-9 for the two teams.
  • Dick spent most of the 1972 season with AAA Salt Lake and was 11-11 with a 2.97 ERA. He was called up to the Angels in September and appeared in two games. Dick started the 1973 season with Salt Lake and was recalled in mid-July. He was 2-1 with a 4.44 ERA in 17 games (4 starts) for the Angels in '73.
  • Lange was able to stay with the Angels for the entire 1974 season. He started 18 games (21 total appearances). Dick had a record of 3-8 with a 3.80 ERA. He started the 1975 season with Salt Lake again and was recalled after three starts. Lange finished the '75 season with the Angels but didn't fare very well (4-6, 5.21 ERA in 102 innings).
  • Dick didn't make the Angels in 1976 and again pitched for Salt Lake. He also pitched in Salt Lake in 1977 before calling it a career. Dick was probably a fan favorite there as he spent time there from '71-'77.
  • He was inducted into the Central Michigan University Hall of Fame in 1987.

1976 Topps #48 - Dave Concepcion

  • A few days ago I got a package from the Dean family (1980 Topps Blog). It had a lot of SF Giants cards that I needed for my team set project. Also in the pack was this nice 1976 Dave Concepcion card. Now I'm only one card (#525 Billy Williams) from completing the set. Thanks a lot for the card! :)
  • Dave Concepcion was a great shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds in the 70s and 80s. He spent his whole career (1970-1988) with the Reds. I think Dave may merit some consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He had nine All Star selections (five as a starter) and five Gold Glove awards. There are several "Concepcion for Hall of Fame" pages out there.
  • Dave signed with the Reds as an amateur free agent and played in the minors in 1968 and 1969. He made the Reds in 1970 and batted .260 in 265 at bats in his rookie season. His hitting fell off in 1971 (.209) and 1972 (.205).
  • Concepcion was off to a great start in 1973 and made his first All Star team. Two days before the All Star game he broke his ankle and missed the rest of the season. I wonder if the Reds would have been able to win it all in 1973 if Dave would have been there. He played in 89 games and batted .287 with 22 stolen bases.
  • Dave played in 160 games in 1974 and won his first Gold Glove. He batted .281 with 14 HR and 82 RBI. It was the only year from 1973-1982 that Concepcion didn't make the All Star team. Here is an August 1974 Baseball Digest article about "The Making of Dave Concepcion"
  • From 1975-1982 Concepcion had solid seasons. There are a lot of AS and GG abbreviations in his baseball reference stat sheet. He usually batted between .280 and .306, usually had 10-20 stolen bases, and about 25-30 doubles a year. In 1982 Dave homered in the All Star game and wsa named the game's MVP. It was his last All Star game. Here is a December 1979 Baseball Digest article about "The Best All-Around Shortstop"
  • Dave usually did well in the postseason. He had a lifetime .297 average in 101 post season at bats. He batted .455 in the 1975 NLCS, .357 in the 1976 World Series, and .429 in the 1979 NLCS.
  • In 1982 Dave had shoulder surgery. The surgery and an elbow injury affected his performance in 1983 (.233 in 143 games). He continued to start at shortstop through the 1985 season but he didn't hit as well. Then Barry Larkin came along. Dave became a utilityman and even pitched an inning in his last season (1988).
  • Dave was inducted into the Reds' Hall of Fame in 2000 and had his #13 retired by the Reds in 2007.

Friday, August 14, 2009

1976 Topps #175 - Ken Singleton

  • Ken Singleton was a major league outfielder from 1970-1984. He spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Ken was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and lived in a house once owned by Ralph Branca. Si ngleton was drafted by the New York Mets in 1967 (3rd overall pick). He played in the Mets' system from 1967-1970 and was called up to the big club after batting .388 with 17 homers in 64 games for AAA Tidewater. Ken made his major league debut on June 24, 1970. He batted .268 in 198 at bats in his rookie season.
  • In 1971 Singleton batted .245 with 13 home runs in 115 games. Just before the 1972 season he was traded with Tim Foli and Mike Jorgensen to the Montreal Expos for Rusty Staub. Ken became the Expos' starting left fielder and batted .274 with 14 home runs. The Expos had to order special double-knit uniforms for Ken because he had a troublesome rash from the Expos' wool uniforms. He had his best year with the Expos in 1974 when he batted .302 with 23 homers, 103 RBI, and 100 runs scored. He also led the NL with a .425 on-base percentage.
  • Ken hit only nine home runs in 1974 -- the only season besides his rookie year and his last year when he didn't have at least double figures in that category. After the season he and Mike Torrez were traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Rich Coggins, Dave McNally, and a minor leaguer. The trade definitely worked in Baltimore's favor, and Ken spent the rest of his career as an Oriole.
  • From 1975-1983 Ken was a very consistent player for the Orioles. His best seasons for the Orioles were 1977 (.328, 24 HR, 99 RBI, 3rd in MVP voting) and 1979 (.295, 35 HR, 111 RBI, 2nd in MVP voting). He had a good post-season for the Orioles in 1979 as he batted .375 in the ALCS and .357 in the World Series.
  • Ken slowed down during the 1984 season and batted only .215 in 111 games. He retired after the season. After his retirement he became a broadcaster. Ken was an analyst for the Montreal Expos from 1985-1996. He then joined the MSG network in New York and now works as the game analyst for the YES network.
  • Singleton wasn't a Hall of Famer, but his name always came into the conversation when people talked about the top outfielders in the AL in the seventies. He made three AL All Star teams (1977, 1979, 1981), was in the top ten in MVP voting four times, was in the top ten in on-base percentage nine times, and won the 1982 Roberto Clemente Award.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

1976 Topps #174 - Charlie Hough

  • Charlie Hough pitched forever. The knuckleballer pitched from 1970-1994. He spent more time with the Texas Rangers, but I'll always think of him as a Dodger. It looks like this picture was taken at Vero Beach during spring training. For some reason I don't think the Dodgers' new facility in Glendale, AZ will ever have the same charm or personality as Dodgertown. It's a nice facility, but the newness and the fact that it's shared with another team dimishes the luster.
  • Back to Charlie Hough. He was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers in 1966. He kicked around in the minors from 1966-1969 with limited success. Hough learned the knuckleball during spring training in 1970 and things changed. He strove to perfect his knuckler as a reliever in AAA for the next three seasons before joining the Dodgers full time in 1973. Charlie had cups of coffee in 1970, 1971, and 1972 and pitched a total of 14 games for the Dodgers in those three years.
  • From 1973-1978 Charlie was a valued member of the bullpen for the Dodgers. His best season for Los Angeles was probably 1976 when he was 12-8 with 18 saves and a 2.21 ERA in 142.2 innings. He averaged almost two innings per relief appearance in those years.
  • Hough was pressed into service as a starter for part of the 1979 season due to a rash of injuries to Dodger starters. He had his worst full season for the Dodgers, going 7-5 with a 4.76 ERA in 42 games (14 starts).
  • In 1980 Charlie started poorly (1-3, 5.57 in 19 games) and was sold to the Texas Rangers on July 11. Charlie went 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 16 games for the Rangers to finish the 1980 season. Hough improved in 1981. He pitched in 21 games (5 starts) and was 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA.
  • The Rangers converted Hough to a starter in 1982. Charlie would start 30 or more games in each of the next nine seasons. He was in double figures in both wins in losses in those seasons and his ERA was almost always under 3.80. There is some amount of black ink in Charlie's stat lines during those years. They aren't always positive stats--he led the AL twice in hit batsmen, once in home runs allowed, once in bases on balls, and once in hits allowed. He also led the AL in starts twice, complete games once, and innings pitched once. He was a valued starter for the Rangers in the 1980s. Charlie made his only All Star team in 1986.
  • After a 1990 season in which he was "only" 12-12 with a 4.07 ERA as a 42-year-old starter, Charlie was granted free agency and signed with the Chicago White Sox. When Hough left the Rangers, he was the team leader in strikeouts, games pitched, wins, losses, innings pitched, and walks.
  • He pitched for the White Sox in 1991 and 1992 but was under .500 both seasons. After the 1992 season he was granted free agency again and signed with the expansion Florida Marlins. Charlie finished his career as a starting pitcher for the Marlins in 1993 and 1994. His stats weren't all that great (14-25 in the two years combined), but he was a great resource for the younger pitchers on the club. He retired at the age of 46 with a lifetime 216-216 record.
  • After his career Hough coached for various minor league teams as well as the Dodgers and the New York Mets. Charlie is currently the pitching coach for the single-A Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino in the Dodgers' organization.
  • If you are a Charlie Hough collector, here is a checklist of his cards.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1976 Topps #173 - Steve Swisher

  • Steve Swisher caught for three teams from 1974-1982. He was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1973. Steve was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 1973 season with Steve Stone, Ken Frailing, and Jim Kremmel for Ron Santo.
  • Steve played for three teams in the White Sox' system in 1973. In 1974 he started with the Cubs' AAA Wichita club. Swisher was brought up to the Cubs in June. The Cubs must have had a real need at catcher -- Steve was batting only .196 for Wichita at the time of his promotion. Swisher played in 90 games for the Cubs in 1974 and batted .214 with five home runs.
  • In 1975 Swisher started with the Cubs. He had a seven-game stint at Wichita in late May and was with the Cubs for the remainder of the season. Steve batted .213 with one home run in 93 games.
  • Swisher was selected to the NL All Star team in 1976 but did not play. Apparently Sparky Anderson picked Steve because he wore out Reds' pitching. He batted .394 against the Reds that year but didn't do nearly as well against the rest of the league. He played in 109 games and batted .236 with five home runs. The 1977 season was the last one Steve would spend with the Cubs. He played in 74 games and had a .190 batting average. After the season he was traded with Jerry Morales and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dave Rader and Hector Cruz.
  • With Ted Simmons starting, Steve didn't get a whole lot of playing time in St. Louis. He played in a total of 101 games from 1978-1980. After the 1980 season Swisher was involved in that huge trade that sent Rollie Fingers from the San Diego Padres to the Cardinals. Steve got even less playing time in San Diego -- a total of 42 games in 1981 and 1982.
  • Steve was granted free agency after the 1982 season. He didn't sign with a major league team and ended up playing for the Atlanta Braves' AAA Richmond club in 1983. He batted .218 and retired as a player at the age of 31.
  • From 1985-1988 Steve managed in the Cleveland Indians' system. He managed in the New York Mets' system in 1989-1993 and was a coach for the Mets from 1994-1996. He returned to managing in 1997 and was the general manager of the Ohio Valley independent club in 1997 adn 1998. Steve managed AA Reading in 2005.
  • Steve is the father of major leaguer Nick Swisher. Here is an article about Steve's hopes for Nick as he was preparing to leave college in 2001.
  • Just for kicks, here is an ad for a fundraiser Steve and Nick were doing for Ohio Valley University in 2006:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Virgil Trucks contest--enter it!

Carl Crawford Cards is doing a contest. The prize is a 1954 Bowman autographed card. Here is the link.

Is anyone else having a problem with Blogger dashboard?

Right now it shows that I'm not following any blogs. Is anyone else having that problem? If so, is it a problem on my end or is it a problem with Blogger?

1976 Topps #172 - Texas Rangers

  • The Texas Rangers were 76-86 (4th in AL West, 14 games behind Kansas City) in 1976.
  • The Rangers had one Gold Glove winner (catcher Jim Sundberg) and one AL All Star (starting shortstop Toby Harrah)
  • Frank Lucchesi managed the Texas Rangers from the 2nd part of the 1975 season through the first part of the 1977 season and had a 142-149 record. The Randers were 31-31 when Frank was dismissed. He was fired in part due to problems with Lenny Randle, who he had benched. Randle punched Lucchesi several times. Here is a 1977 Sports Illustrated article about the incident.
  • Here is a 2007 article about Frank.

Monday, August 10, 2009

1976 Topps #171 - Greg Gross

  • Greg Gross had a long career spent mostly with the Philadelphia Phillies. Gross was originally signed by the Houston Astros. He played in the minors from 1970-1973 and was called up at the end of the 1973 season. Greg batted .231 in 39 at bats for the Astros in 1973.
  • Greg was given the starting right fielder job in 1974 and batted .314 in 156 games. He stole 12 bases but was caught 20 times. Gross finished second to Bake McBride in NL Rookie of the Year balloting. In 1975 Greg split his time between left field and right field and batted .294 in 132 games. Gross stayed in RF in 1976 and batted .286 in 128 games. After the 1976 season Greg was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Julio Gonzalez.
  • In 1977 Gross was the fourth outfielder for the Cubs. He batted .322 and hit his first five career home runs. Greg got more playing time (mostly in center field) in 1978, batted .265 in 347 at bats, and hit one home run. It would be his last home run until 1987. The 1978 season was also the last season that Greg would get more than 300 at bats.
  • Before the 1979 season Greg was traded to the Phillies in a multi-player deal. Manny Trillo also went to the Phillies in that trade. Gross was a pinch hitter and extra outfielder and had his highest batting average (.333 in 174 at bats) in 1979. He had a nice on base percentage of .422 in '79. Greg batted .240 in 154 at bats for the World Champion Phillies in 1980.
  • Gross struggled in 1981 and batted .225 in 102 at bats. He improved his average each of the next three years (.299, .302, .322). Greg continued to be a bench player for the Phillies through the 1988 season. He had a drop-off in batting average in 1988 (.203) and he became a free agent after the season. Greg signed with the Astros and batted .200 in 75 at bats in 1989. He wasn't offered a contract in 1990 and sat out the season. He tried out with the San Diego Padres in 1991 and had a good shot at making the team, but the Padres signed Mike Aldrete instead and Greg was done.
  • After his playing career he did some broadcasting, dabbled in real estate, and did some high school baseball coaching. Since 1995 Greg has been a coach at various levels in the minor leagues. He is now the hitting instructor for the Phillies' AAA Lehigh Valley team. The annual Greg Gross open is played at the Anetsberger Golf Club in Northbrook, IL.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

1976 Topps #170 - Rick Wise

  • Rick Wise pitched for five teams from 1964-1982. He had a lifetime record of 188-181 and a 3.69 ERA. He was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963 and pitched well in single-A ball as a 17-year-old. Wise made the Phillies in 1964 and was 5-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 25 appearances (8 starts). Rick spent 1965 in the minors and was promoted to the Phillies to stay in 1966.
  • Wise was a 5th starter/reliever in 1966 but after that he was almost exclusively a starter for the rest of his career. He was generally in double figures in both wins and losses with pretty good ERAs for the Phillies from 1967-1971. Rick had a few highlights in 1971--he no-hit the Cincinnati Reds on June 23 and hit two home runs in that game. He homered twice in an August 18 game against the San Francisco Giants. On September 18 vs. the Chicago Cubs he retired 32 batters in a row (4 short of the record) and knocked in the winning run in the 12th inning.
  • After the 1971 season Gussie Busch (owner of the St. Louis Cardinals) ordered his GM to trade Steve Carlton after a contract dispute. The best offer the Cardinals got was Rick Wise. So Rick ended up in St. Louis and Carlton had a Hall of Fame career with the Phillies. Rick won 16 games in both 1972 and 1973, but it was still a very lopsided trade (article about the trade here).
  • Wise was traded with Bernie Carbo to the Boston Red Sox after the 1973 season for Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum. He pitched on a very cold day in Boston and hurt his arm (torn triceps), which wrecked his 1974 season. Rick started only nine games that season. In 1975 Rick won 19 games for the Red Sox, won game 3 of the American League Championship Series, and was the winner of the famous game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
  • Wise won 14 games in 1976 and 11 games in 1977, but he started only 20 games in '77. On March 30, 1978 Rick was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a multi-player trade that netted the Red Sox Dennis Eckersley. He led the AL in losses with 19 as he pitched for a bad Cleveland team. He ended up 9-19 with a 3.73 ERA. Rick rebounded in 1979 to go 15-10. Wise became a free agent after the 1979 season and signed with the San Diego Padres.
  • Rick didn't do a whole lot with the Padres. In 1980 he was 6-8 in 27 starts and in 1981 he was 4-8 in 18 starts. The Padres released him on April 16, 1982 after he pitched in one game in relief. Wise had a guaranteed contract that paid him through the 1984 season so he took advantage of the time off and enjoyed his summers. From 1985-2008 he coached and managed a little in the minor leagues. He retired from coaching after the 2008 season.
  • Trivia: Rick Wise was one of the few players to play in both the Little League World Series (1958) and the major league World Series (1975). He also pitched in the Babe Ruth League World Series in 1961.
  • Rick was an NL All Star in 1971 and 1973. As the card says, he was the winning pitcher in the 1973 game.
  • Here is a September 2001 Baseball Digest about Rick looking back on his career.
  • Here is his SABR biography.