Saturday, October 31, 2009

1976 Topps #253 - Bill Buckner

  • Thanks to a pinch-hitting appearance late in 1969, Bill Buckner ended up being one of those rare players to play in four decades. Bill played from 1969-1990. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1968 and spent most of 1968-1970 in the minors. Bill never batted below .307 in any of his minor league stops. He was brought up for good at the end of the 1970 season after batting .335 for AAA Spokane. Bill batted .191 in 28 games for the Dodgers in 1970.

  • In 1971 Bill started 77 games in right field for the Dodgers and played a few games at first base and in left field. All together Buckner played in 108 games and batted .277. He never was a real power hitter, but he developed doubles power as he got older. Bill had a nice year in 1972, which was kind of a pitcher's year. He batted .319 in 383 at bats while striking out only 17 times. Buckner could be counted on to make contact most of the time -- he didn't strike out much but he didn't walk much either.

  • Buckner split time between 1B and the outfield again in 1973 -- he started 131 of his 140 games but didn't have a regular position. He batted .275 but had only a .297 on base percentage. In 1974 Bill became the starting LF for the NL Champion Dodgers and batted .314 with 30 doubles and 31 stolen bases.

  • Bill didn't fare as well in 1975. He broke his ankle in April and batted .243 in 92 games. He didn't play after August 31. Buckner was the LA starting LF in 1976 and had a nice comeback season. He batted .301 with 28 stolen bases and 28 doubles. After the 1976 season Buckner was traded with Ivan DeJesus to the Chicago Cubs for Rick Monday and Mike Garman.
  • In 1977 Buckner played in 99 games at first base and made the rest of his appearances (122 games total) as a pinch hitter. He batted .284 in 426 AB. Bill batted .323 in 446 AB in 1978 and finished 17th in MVP voting. (August 1978 Baseball Digest - Bill Buckner: Pain is his Companion)
  • Buckner returned to full-time duty in 1979 and batted .284 in 149 games (August 1979 Baseball Digest - Bill Buckner: Profile of a Contact Hitter). Bill won the NL batting title in 1980 with a .324 batting average. In 1981 Buckner made the NL All Star team, batted .311, and led the NL in doubles with 35 (a lot for a shortened season). He tied Tom Seaver and Pete Rose for 10th in MVP balloting.
  • Bill played in 161 games in 1982 and led the NL with 657 at bats. He batted .306 and got 201 hits. In 1983 Buckner led the NL in doubles with 38 and batted .280 in 153 games.
  • In 1984 Buckner was having a hard time getting playing time with the Cubs. Leon Durham had become the starting first baseman and there wasn't anywhere else to play Bill due to his bad ankle. He batted .209 in 45 at bats, mostly as a pinch hitter for the Cubs. On May 25 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley and Mike Brumley. Buckner became the starting 1B for Boston and batted .278 for the Red Sox in the remainder of the season.
  • Buckner had one of his better years in 1985. He played in 162 games at 1B and had career highs in doubles (46) and RBI (110). He got 201 hits, batted .299, and stole 18 bases (his highest total since 1976). May 1985 Baseball Digest - Bill Buckner: The Odyssey of a Major League Survivor
  • In 1986 Bill tailed off in batting average (.267) but still had a big year in RBI (101) and in doubles (39). He was famous for missing that grounder in the 1986 World Series. He ended up wearing the goat's horns, but there was plenty of blame to go around for the Boston loss. Buckner had a tough time in 1987 and was released by the Red Sox on July 23. He signed with the California Angels on July 28 and ended up batting .286 in 132 games for the two teams.
  • Bill started slowly in 1988 (.209 in 19 games) and was released by the Angels on May 9. He signed with the Kansas City Royals on May 13. Bill ended up batting .249 for the year. Buckner was mostly a backup 1B and DH in 1989, batting .216 in 176 at bats. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Red Sox for the 1990 season. After starting the season batting .186 in 43 games the Red Sox released Buckner on June 5, 1990.
  • After his retirement from baseball Buckner moved his family to Boise, Idaho and invested in real estate. He also was a minority owner in Bill Buckner Motors in Emmett, Idaho from 2006-2008. Bill was welcomed back to Boston to throw out the first pitch and attend the raising of the Red Sox' 2007 World Championship banner on April 8, 2008.
  • Liked to face: Burt Hooton (.383 in 94 AB); John Montefusco, Ron Reed, Bob Welch (.354 in 65 AB vs each); Dick Ruthven (.359 in 64 AB); Rick Reuschel (.444 in 45 AB)

  • Hated to face: Tom Seaver (.221 in 104 AB); Jack Billingham (.217 in 83 AB); Doyle Alexander (.159 in 44 AB); Joe Niekro (.143 in 42 AB)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Can you name the 1976 American League leaders?

Trivia time.

Can you name the American League leaders in 1976?

1976 Topps # 252 - Tim Nordbrook

  • Tim Nordbrook was a backup infielder for several teams from 1974-1979. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1970. Tim's minor league stats were never very impressive, but in 1974 he earned a September look after batting .287 in 100 games for AAA Rochester. Nordbrook played in six games and batted .267.
  • Nordbrook stayed with the Orioles in 1975 but batted only .118 in 34 at bats. In 1976 he batted .167 in 22 at bats for the Orioles. He was purchased by the California Angels on September 9 and was hitless in eight at bats to finish the season.
  • Tim became a free agent after the 1976 season and signed with the Chicago White Sox. He didn't get much playing time with the White Sox (.250 in 20 at bats). Nordbrook was sold to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 30, 1977. Tim became Toronto's starting shortstop for the month of September and batted .175 in 63 games.
  • In 1978 Nordbrook started with the Blue Jays and was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Tim Johnson on April 28. He only batted nine times for both teams. In 1979 he went 1 for 2 for the Brewers and spent most of the year in AAA Vancouver where he batted .192 in 75 games. He didn't do much better in 1980 (.203 in 84 games at Vancouver). Tim didn't play in 1981.
  • In 1982 Tim became the manager of Pikeville in the Appalacian Rookie League. He made one appearance as a pitcher and that was it for his playing career. Tim managed in the minors in 1983 and 1984. Nordbrook does community appearances for the Orioles now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1976 Topps #251 - Rick Monday

  • As the back of this card says, Rick Monday was the first player drafted (by the Kansas City A's) in the first Free Agent Draft in 1965. It didn't take him long to make it to the majors. After a good 1966 season in AA Mobile (.267, 23 HR, 89 BB), Monday was brought up to the majors for a September look-see. Rick batted .098 in 41 AB, but he was in the big leagues to stay.

  • Monday became the A's starting center fielder in 1967. He batted .251 with 14 HR and 58 RBI. In 1968 Rick made the AL All Star team and batted .274 with eight HR and 49 RBI. During his career Monday had a propensity to strike out, but he also drew a lot of walks and usually had on-base percentages in the upper .300s. Here is an October 1968 Baseball Digest article about Rick - Always on Monday.

  • Rick had similar seasons in 1969, 1970, and 1971. He apparently tried to hit more home runs in '71 -- he hit a then-career-high 18 homers, but his on-base percentage slipped to .335. After the 1971 season Rick was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Ken Holtzman.

  • After he came to the Cubs Rick got more playing time. In his five years in Chicago he played between 136 and 148 games each year. After having a so-so year in 1972 (.249, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 68 runs scored), Monday had a string of four nice years for the Cubs. He scored at least 84 runs in each of those years and hit over 20 HR in three of those four seasons. Here is a Baseball Digest about Rick (August 1975 Baseball Digest - Rick Monday: New Leadership for the Cubs). His best year for the Cubs was probably 1976 when he batted .272, hit 32 HR, and scored 107 runs.

  • After the 1976 season he was traded with Mike Garman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus, and a minor leaguer. Rick's stats weren't all that great for the Dodgers, but he was credited with helping to stabilize the Dodgers' outfield (April 1977 Baseball Digest - Rick Monday: A Touch of Class for the Dodgers). In 1977 Rick batted .230 with 15 HR and 48 RBI. He started off well in 1978 (.333 with 11 HR at the end of May) and was named to the NL All Star team but he tailed off as the season wore on and ended up batting .254 with 19 HR and 57 RBI.

  • In 1979 Rick was off to a good start but was injured and didn't play after May 7. He batted .303 in his limited time (12 games) in a season where a lot of things went wrong for the Dodgers.
  • His chronic bad back forced Monday into a reserve role for the remainder of his career. In 1980 he batted .268 with 10 HR in 96 games. Used mostly as a pinch hitter in 1981, Rick had a career-high in batting average (.315) and homered 11 times in 210 at bats. He also hit a very famous home run that helped put the Dodgers into the World Series (discussed later).
  • Rick continued to be used as a pinch hitter/backup outfielder in 1982 (.257 in 210 at bats) and in 1983 (.247 in 178 at bats). He started off batting .191 in 47 at bats and was released on June 20, 1984.

  • After his playing career Monday became a sports anchor for KTTV in Los Angeles in 1985 and did some broadcasting for the Dodgers. Rick did television and radio play-by-play for the San Diego Padres from 1989-1992, then rejoined the Dodgers in 1993 as a radio broadcaster and pre-game show host. Monday has been at that job ever since.

Monday had two moments that made him famous:

  • The first was when he rescued an American flag from being burned in center field at Dodger Stadium in 1976.

  • The second was when he hit the game-winning home run in game 5 of the National League Championship Series in 1981. Actually, it was in the top of the 9th inning and the Dodger bullpen held the lead in the bottom of the inning). I remember watching the game in my sophomore English class--I think I was the only one in the room who wasn't rooting for the Dodgers. :(

  • Liked to face: Tom Seaver (.349 with 11 HR in 86 AB); Bob Forsch (.351 in 57 AB); Dick Ruthven (.408 with 7 HR in 49 AB)

  • Hated to face: Steve Rogers (.176 with 26 strikeouts in 74 AB); J. R. Richard (.125 with 20 strikeouts in 48 AB); Jim Perry (.186 in 43 AB)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1976 Topps #250 - Fergie Jenkins

  • Ferguson Jenkins pitched for four teams from 1965-1983. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had 284 career wins, 3,192 career strikeouts, and a 3.34 career ERA.

  • Jenkins had a long and successful career. I'll put up some highlights, but a much better place to read about Fergie is in this link to his SABR biography.
  • He was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and was traded to the Chicago Cubs with a couple of other guys for Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson. Buhl won six games for the Phillies and was done in 1968. Jackson had a couple of pretty good years but retired after the 1968 season after he was drafted by Montreal in the expansion draft.
  • Fergie started out as a reliever/spot starter and was moved into the Cubs starting rotation in 1967.

  • Jenkins was a league leader in victories (2 times), complete games (9 times), and home runs allowed (7 times). Fergie won the 1971 NL Cy Young Award.
  • Won 20 or more games every year from 1967-1972 and again in 1974 (July 1969 Baseball Digest - Fergie Jenkins: The Best Pitcher in Baseball?).
  • Traded to the Texas Rangers after the 1973 season for Vic Harris and Bill Madlock.
  • Fergie had one good year (25-12 in 1974) and one so-so year (17-18 in 1975) for the Rangers before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Steve Barr, Juan Beniquez, and Craig SkokJ
  • Things didn't really work out in Boston--Jenkins was 12-11 in 1976 and 10-10 in 1977. He ended up in Don Zimmer's doghouse and was traded back to Texas after the '77 season for John Poloni and cash (April 1978 Baseball Digest - Fergie Jenkins and the Red Sox: A Marriage That Failed).
  • Jenkins had a good comeback season in 1978 (18-8, 3.04 ERA). May 29, 1978 Sports Illustrated - Back on the Comeback Trail Again. He was 16-14 in 1979 (August 1979 Baseball Digest - Fergie Jenkins Wants to go out a Winner) but fell to 12-12 in 1980 and 5-8 in 1981. Jenkins was arrested while crossing the Canadian border with a small quantity of drugs in 1980. He was permanently suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (the first time this was ever done for a drug-related offense) but was reinstated a couple of weeks later by an arbitrator.
  • After the 1981 season Jenkins signed with the Cubs as a free agent and pitched for them in 1982 and 1983. He was released during spring training in 1984.
  • Fergie's official site.

  • Here is a link to the Fergie Jenkins Foundation, which supports several charities.

  • Fergie's Hall of Fame page.

  • Liked to face: Deron Johnson (.174 in 109 AB); Bobby Bonds (.181 with 29 strikeouts in 94 AB); Dick Allen (.160 with 24 strikeouts in 75 AB)

  • Hated to face: Pete Rose (.316 in 114 AB); Tony Perez (.333 in 93 AB with 8 HR); Al Oliver (.330 in 88 AB)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1976 Topps #249 - Cliff Johnson

  • Cliff Johnson played for seven teams from 1972-1986. Cliff started out as a power-hitting catcher, but his best position was probably designated hitter. Johnson was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1966 and played in the minors through the 1973 season. He had late-season looks in 1972 and 1973. He was deemed ready for the majors after batting .302 with 33 HR for AAA Denver in 1973.
  • In 1974 Johnson played in 83 games. He batted .228 in 171 AB and homered 10 times (pretty good for playing home games in the Astrodome). During his Houston career his home/road home run splits were virtually equal. In 1975 Johnson improved to .276 with 20 HR in 340 AB. Cliff slipped to .226 with ten homers in 1976. The Astros didn't really know where to put him -- he caught in 66 games, played 20 games in the outfield, and 16 games at first base.
  • Johnson started the 1977 season with the Astros and was doing pretty well (.299 with 10 HR in 51 games) but he was traded to the New York Yankees on June 15 for three players. Cliff continued his fine hitting in New York (.296 with 12 HR in 56 games) and did well in the American League Championship Series (.400 in 15 AB). He made only one appearance as a pinch hitter in the 1977 World Series.
  • In 1978 Johnson fell off the cliff (sorry about the pun). He batted .184 with six homers in 174 AB. There aren't any large gaps in his playing time that year--he just wasn't used very much. He was 0 for 1 in the ALCS and 0 for 2 in the World Series.
  • The 1979 season also wasn't a good one for Johnson. He started off better offensively (.266 with six HR in 28 games), but he got into a fight with Goose Gossage in the clubhouse. Gossage was injured and missed several months of the season. Cliff was traded to the Cleveland Indans for Don Hood on June 15. He played in 72 games for the Indians and batted .271 with 18 home runs.
  • Johnson was used exclusively as a DH by the Indians in 1980. He was batting .230 with six homers in 54 games when he was traded on June 23 to the Chicago Cubs for cash and Karl Pagel. Cliff played in 68 games for the Cubs and did about the same (.238 with 10 HR). After the season he and Kevin Drumright were traded to the Oakland A's for a minor leaguer.
  • Cliff was mostly a DH for the A's in 1981. In 84 games he batted .260 with 17 homers. In 1982 he played in 73 games and batted .238 with only seven home runs. After the 1982 season Johnson was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for Al Woods.
  • Johnson was the regular DH for the Blue Jays in 1983 and 1984. In 1983 he batted .265 with 22 HR and 76 RBI. Cliff batted .304 with 16 homers (his only .300 season) in 1984. After the season Johnson became a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers.
  • Cliff didn't stay with the Rangers for very long. He was the DH in 82 games and was batting .257 with 12 HR when he was traded back to the Blue Jays in late August for two minor leaguers and pitcher Matt Williams (not that Matt Williams). Johnson batted .274 with one HR in 24 games to finish the 1985 season. In the 1985 ALCS Cliff batted .368 in 19 AB.
  • Johnson's last season was 1986. He had one of his typical years (.250 with 15 HR in 336 AB) but wasn't signed by anyone after being granted free agency.
  • Cliff Johnson set the record for most career pinch-hit home runs (20).
  • Here is an audio interview (the Sports Mavericks show) with Cliff from December 18, 2007.
  • Liked to face: Scott McGregor (.338 with 5 HR in 68 AB); Tommy John (.342 in 38 AB); Floyd Bannister (.317 with 4 HR in 41 AB)
  • Hated to face: Ron Guidry (.149 in 47 AB); Jon Matlack (.170 with 12 strikeouts in 47 AB); Charlie Hough (.111 with 10 strikeouts in 27 AB)

Monday, October 26, 2009

1976 Topps #248 - Dick Tidrow

  • Dick Tidrow pitched for five teams in his career, but I remember him most for his stint with the New York Yankees. He had a great nickname ("Dirt") and he excelled as a setup man and middle reliever.
  • Tidrow was drafted by three different teams (Senators, Giants, Reds) in 1965 and 1966 but didn't sign with any of them. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 1967 and he finally signed with them. Dick spent the next five seasons in the minor leagues. He made the Indians in 1972 and was 14-15 with a 2.77 ERA in 34 starts. He was named the Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year. It's surprising that a season like that didn't get him at least some Rookie of the Year consideration. Carlton Fisk was the unanimous choice for the award that year.
  • In 1973 Dick started 40 games and was 14-16. His ERA went up to 4.42 that year. Tidrow started the 1974 season with the Indians. After making four starts he was traded to the New York Yankees along with Chris Chambliss. This trade netted the Yankees two important pieces of their 1977 and 1978 World Championship teams. Altogether Tidrow was 12-12 with a 4.16 ERA for the two teams.
  • The Yankees made Tidrow a reliever in 1975. He made 37 appearances and was 6-3 with five saves and a 3.12 ERA in 69 innings. He didn't pitch after August 16. Dick made 47 appearances (2 starts) in 1976 and was 4-5 with 10 saves and an ERA of 2.63. He was the winning pitcher in the decisive game 5 of the American League Championship Series, but he was knocked around by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series.
  • In 1977 Dick was 11-4 with five saves and a 3.16 ERA in 49 games (7 starts). He pitched 151 innings that season. He appeared in two games in the ALCS and two games in the World Series but didn't figure in any decisions. Tidrow was used more as a starter in 1978 (25 starts out of 32 total appearances). He was 7-11 with a 3.84 ERA. He made two appearances in the ALCS and one appearances in the World Series.
  • Dick started slowly in 1979. He appeared in 14 games for the Yankees and was 2-1 with a 7.94 ERA. On May 23 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Ray Burris. Tidrow righted the ship when he got to Chicago. He appeared in 63 games for the Cubs and was 11-5 with a 2.72 ERA. In 1980 Tidrow led the NL with 84 appearances. He was 6-5 with six saves and an ERA of 2.79.
  • Tidrow fell off badly in 1981. He made 51 appearances and had nine saves, but he fell to a 3-10 record with a 5.06 ERA. He bounced back in 1982 with an 8-3 record and an ERA of 3.39. After the season Dick was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in a multi-player trade that brought Steve Trout to the Cubs.
  • Dick made 50 appearances with one start for the White Sox in 1983. He was 2-4 with a 4.22 ERA and seven saves. He made one appearance in the ALCS and allowed one run in three innings. The White Sox released Tidrow after the season. He caught on with the New York Mets, but they released him on May 8, 1984 after he appeared in 11 games and had a 9.19 ERA.
  • Liked to face: Larry Hisle (.182 in 44 AB); Toby Harrah (.211 in 38 AB); Bobby Grich (.227 in 48 AB); Sal Bando (.227 in 48 AB)
  • Hated to face: George Scott (.420 in 50 AB with 4 HR); Don Money (.333 in 48 AB); Jim Northrup (.395 in 38 AB); Carl Yastrzemski (.333 in 36 AB with 5 HR)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

1976 Topps #247 - Terry Harmon

  • Terry Harmon played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1967-1977. He was drafted in 1965 and played in the minors from 1966-1968. Terry had two at bats as a late season call-up in 1967.
  • Harmon spent his entire career as a backup infielder. His best season was 1972 when he batted .284 with a .372 on base percentage in 73 games. Terry appeared as a pinch runner in game 3 of the 1976 National League Championship and scored.
  • Harmon was released during spring training in 1978 and retired.
  • After his retirement Harmon has coached teams in Phillies fantasy camps.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

1976 Topps #246 - Cesar Tovar

  • Cesar Tovar played for five teams from 1965-1976. For some reason I used to get him mixed up with Vada Pinson and Tony Oliva.
  • Tovar originally signed with the Cincinnati Reds and played in their system from 1959-1964. After the 1964 season Cesar was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Gerry Arrigo. He started the 1965 season with the Twins and was batting .308 in mid-May but he wasn't getting much playing time. Tovar was sent to AAA Denver to get more playing time. He batted .328 in Denver and was recalled in September. Altogehter during the '65 season Cesar played in 18 games and batted .200 in 25 at bats.
  • In 1966 Tovar played 2B, SS, LF, and CF for the Twins. He batted .260 in 134 games. Cesar's versatillity was a great asset. In 1967 he played in 164 games but he isn't listed as the regular starter at any position (he played six positions that year). He led the AL in at bats (649) and batted .267 with 98 runs scored. Tovar finished 7th in AL MVP voting. He got one first place vote, which kept Carl Yastrzemski from being a unanimous selection. Here is a July 1967 Baseball Digest article about Tovar.
  • In 1969 Tovar was the starting CF for the AL West Champion Twins. He batted .288 in 158 games, scored 98 runs, and hit a career-high 11 home runs. Cesar had his best season in 1970. He led the AL in doubles (36) and in triples (11). Tovar batted .300 in 161 games and had a career high in runs scored (120). He batted .385 in the 1970 American League Championship Series.
  • Tovar moved to LF in 1971 and led the AL in hits (204). He batted .311, which was a career-high, and also led the AL in caught stealing with 14. He usually was in double figures in both stolen bases and caught stealing. In 1972 Cesar was the starting RF for the Twins. His average slipped to .265 in 141 games. Tovar hit for the cycle on September 19. After the season he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for three players.
  • Cesar platooned with Mike Schmidt at 3B for the Phillies in 1973 and also filled in at 2B and in the outfield. He played in 97 games and batted .268 in 328 AB. After the 1973 season he was sold to the Texas Rangers. Tovar started in CF for the Rangers in 1974 and batted .292 in 138 games.
  • In 1975 Cesar returned to a "jack of all trades" role. He was sold to the Oakland A's on August 31 for the pennant drive. Altogether Tovar batted .256 in 121 games. The 1976 season was Tovar's last year in the majors. He was mostly a pinch hitter and did not play from June 1-August 14. Late in the season Cesar was released by the A's and signed by the New York Yankees. He ended up batting .167 in 42 games. Tovar was released after the season and retired.
  • During his career Tovar broke up five no-hit games.
  • Liked to face: Mickey Lolich (.419 in 86 AB); Tommy John (.333 in 78 AB); Mel Stottlemyre (.342 in 76 AB)
  • Hated to face: Catfish Hunter (.181 in 105 AB); Jim Palmer (.213 in 75 AB); Andy Messersmith (.227 in 66 AB); Dave McNally (.227 in 66 AB)
  • Cesar died of pancreatic cancer on July 14, 1994.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Can you name the 1976 National League leaders?

Trivia time. Can you name the NL league leaders for 1976?

1976 Topps #245 - Felix Millan

  • Felix Millan was a second baseman for the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets from 1966-1977. He was originally signed by the Kansas City A's in 1964. Felix was taken by the Milwaukee Braves in the first year players draft in 1965 and played in their system from 1965-1967. Millan made his major league debut on June 2, 1966. In 1966 he batted .275 in 91 at bats as a backup infielder.

  • In 1967 Felix was with the Braves in April and May and then spent most of the rest of the season in AAA Richmond, where he batted .310. He was recalled in September and ended up batting .235 in 136 AB.

  • Millan became the Braves' starting second baseman in 1968 and held that position through the 1972 season. In '68 he batted .289 in 570 at bats, quite good for that offensively-starved season. Felix was an NL All Star in 1969 (he was 2-4 with a double, a run scored, and 2 RBI) and also won his first Gold Glove. He batted .267 in 652 AB and scored 98 runs.

  • Felix made the All Star team again in 1970 but didn't play due to an injury. He played in 142 games and batted a career-high .310. Millan also scored 100 runs. In 1971 Felix was a late-inning defensive replacement in the All Star Game. He batted .289 in 143 games that season.

  • Millan missed 2 1/2 weeks in July and played in only 125 games, but he still managed to win his second Gold Glove. Felix batted .257 and after the season he was traded with George Stone to the Mets for Danny Frisella and Gary Gentry.

  • In 1973 Millan had a good comeback year (.290 in 153 games). He was the Mets' starting second baseman from 1973 until the end of his major league career in 1977. Felix missed two weeks in 1974, but he still led the NL in sacrifice hits with 24. In 1975 he led the NL in hit by pitch (12) and in games played (162).
  • Millan's last full season was 1976. He batted .282 in 139 games. In 1977 Felix played in 91 games and batted only .248. His last major league game was on August 12, 1977. He and Ed Ott got tangled up at second base when Ott slid in hard to break up a double play. Felix shouted at Ott with the baseball in his hand, prompting Ott to slam Felix down to the turf. Millan hurt his shoulder and missed the rest of the season.
  • After the 1977 season Millan's contract was bought by the Taiyo Whales of the Japanese Central League. Felix played in Japan from 1978-1980. He won the Japanese batting title in 1979 but had a bad year in 1980 and was released.
  • Here is an "Ultimate Mets Database" entry about Felix. Now he does some instruction in Florida and does the "Dream Week" camps for the Braves and the Mets.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

1976 Topps #244 - Bill Sharp

  • Bill Sharp was an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1973-1976. Sharp was drafted by the White Sox in 1971. He played for a farm team of the Cincinnati Reds in 1971 (perhaps on loan or something like that) and in the White Sox' system from 1972-1974. He made his major league debut on May 26, 1973. Bill finished the '73 season with the White Sox and batted .276 in 77 games as a backup outfielder.
  • Sharp started the 1974 season in the minors and was recalled to the White Sox in early June. He batted .253 in 320 AB for the White Sox in 1974. In 1975 Bill played in 18 games for the White Sox (.200 in 35 AB) then was traded to the Brewers for Bob Coluccio. Sharp got regular playing time with the Brewers and he batted .255 in 125 games and also had 27 doubles.
  • The 1976 season would be Sharp's last year in the majors. He played in 78 games but batted only 180 times and had a .244 average. He injured his knee on September 17, ending his season. Bill didn't make the Brewers club in 1977 and went to AAA Spokane. Sharp played in five games and then retired at the age of 27.
  • About the comic on the back of the card---they got Hank Bauer's face just about right. In the classic "The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book," they say that Hank Bauer had a face like a clenched fist. The dude looked like someone you didn't want to mess with. I still have my original paperback edition from 1974 or so--I highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1976 Topps #243 - Jim Rooker

  • Jim Rooker pitched in the majors from 1968-1980. He had his best years in the mid-70s with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1960. Jim was in the minors from 1960-1968. Rooker was originally an outfielder and was moved to the mound in 1964. Jim pitched in a few games in late June and early July 1968 for the Tigers.
  • In 1968 Jim was purchased by the New York Yankees. He was then selected by the Kansas City Royals in the expansion draft. Jim started the 1969 season in the minors and was recalled in late April. He went 4-16 with a 3.75 ERA for the expansion Royals in 1969. Rooker stayed with the Royals for the entire 1970 season and improved to 10-15 with a 3.54 ERA.
  • In 1971 and 1972 Jim spent time in AAA and with the Royals. He was 2-7 with a 5.33 ERA in 1971. In 1972 Rooker was 5-6 with an ERA of 4.38. After the 1972 season Jim was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Gene Garber.
  • Rooker was a swingman for the Pirates in 1973. He was 10-6 with five saves and a 2.85 ERA in 41 games (18 starts). Jim probably had his best season in 1974--he started 33 games and was 15-11 with a 2.78 ERA. He allowed two runs in seven innings in game 2 of the National League Championship Series but did not get a decision.
  • Jim had a similar season in 1975. He started 28 games and was 13-11 with a 2.97 ERA. He lost game 2 of the 1975 NLCS--he allowed 4 runs in 4 innings. Rooker also had good years in 1976 (15-8, 3.35) and in 1977 (14-9, 3.08).
  • In 1978 Rooker slipped to a 9-11 record with an ERA of 4.24. The Pirates won the World Championship in 1979. Jim missed the first six weeks of the season and started only 17 games. He was 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA. He didn't pitch in the NLCS, but he appeared in two games in the World Series. He was a reliever in game 1. Bruce Kison had allowed five runs in the first inning. Jim pitched until the 5th inning without allowing any runs. He started game 5, which the Pirates won, but he only went five innings and the Pirates scored their runs in the 6th and later.
  • Rooker's last year in the majors was 1980. He started four games (2-2, 3.50) in April and May. He left his last start (May 2) after pitching 1/3 of an inning and allowing two runs.
  • After his playing career Rooker dabbled in politics. He ran as a Democrat for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and for the U.S. Congress. Jim lost both races.
  • Rooker was a Pirates broadcaster from 1981-1993. On June 8, 1989 he gained some noteriety by saying that he would walk home if the Philadelphia Phillies were to come back from a 10-run lead that the Pirates had. The Phillies ended up winning the game 15-11. Jim made good on his promise after the season by doing a charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh (about 300 miles).
  • Jim now writes children's literature, combining reading and baseball for young children.
  • Liked to face: Lou Brock (.192 in 62 AB); Rick Monday (.216 in 51 AB); Willie Montanez (.157 in 51 AB)
  • Hated to face: Pete Rose (.418 in 55 AB); Dave Kingman (.250 in 48 AB but had 6 HR); Manny Trillo (.400 in 50 AB)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1976 Topps #242 - Dan Meyer

  • Dan Meyer played for three teams from 1974-1985. He was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1972 and played in their system from 1972-1974. After batting .302 for AAA Evansville, Dan was called up at the end of the 1974 season. He batted .200 in 13 games for the Tigers at the end of the '74 season.
  • In 1975 Meyer split time between left field and first base. He batted .236 with 8 HR in 470 AB. Dan didn't play as much in 1976 (.252 with 2 HR in 294 AB) and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft after the season.
  • Meyer had his best season for the Mariners in 1977. He batted .273 with 22 HR and 90 RBI in 159 games as the starting first baseman. Dan had a tough 1978 season. He got off to a poor start, didn't play from May 9 - June 9 and batted only .227 in 123 games.
  • Dan moved to third base for the 1979 season but didn't field his position very well. He made 19 errors at 3B and had a .936 fielding percentage (league average: .954). Meyer did bounce back offensively -- he batted .278 with 20 HR and 74 RBI in 144 games.
  • Meyer played LF in 1980. He hit only 11 home runs, but he batted .275 in 531 AB. Dan probably started the 1981 season with an injury. He made only pinch-hitting appearances until April 27. Meyer played in 83 games in the strike-shortened season and batted .262 with only three home runs. After the season he was traded to the Oakland A's for Rich Bordi.
  • In 1982 Meyer saw time at LF, RF, 1B, and DH. He batted .240 with 8 HR in 120 games. In 1983 Dan missed about five weeks from late July to early September. He played in 69 games and batted only .189 in 169 AB.
  • The A's sent Meyer to AAA Tacoma in 1984. He batted .293 in 124 games and was called back up to Oakland in September. Dan batted .318 in 22 at bats (mostly as a pinch hitter) for the A's in '84. Meyer started the 1985 season with the A's but was released in late May after going hitless in 13 at bats. He played in 51 games for AAA Nashville (in the Tigers' organization) but batted only .225. Dan didn't play in 1986. He made a comeback attempt in A ball in 1987 and went 3 for 12.
  • Liked to face: Fergie Jenkins (.300 with 3 HR in 40 AB); Moose Haas (.333 with 3 HR in 39 AB); Bert Blyleven (.361 in 36 AB)
  • Hated to face: Jim Slaton (.226 in 62 AB); Mike Torrez (.196 in 56 AB but homered 4 times); Jack Morris (.220 in 50 AB); Dennis Leonard (.171 in 41 AB)

Monday, October 19, 2009

1976 Topps #241 - Hector Torres

  • Hector Torres played for five teams from 1968-1977. Hector pitched for Monterrey, Mexico in the 1958 Little League World Series (they won for the second straight year). He was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent in 1962 at the age of 16. Hector played in the Giants' system from 1962-1965, then he was traded to the California Angels for Dave Marshall. After spending two more years in the Angels' system Torres was traded to the Houston Astros.
  • Torres won the Houston shortstop job in 1968 and played in 128 games, batting .223 in 466 at bats. It would be his best season until 1975. He split the 1969 and 1970 seasons between AAA Oklahoma City and Houston. Hector played in 34 games in 1969 (.159 in 69 at bats) and 31 games in 1970 (.246 in 65 at bats). After the 1970 season he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Roger Metzger.
  • Hector stayed with the Cubs for the entire 1971 season but only played in 31 games. He batted .224 in 58 at bats. During spring training in 1972 Torres was traded with Hal Breeden to the Montreal Expos for Dan McGinn. He got to play more in 1972, but he batted only .155 in 181 at bats. During spring training in 1973 Torres was purchased by the Houston Astros.
  • Torres played even less in 1973. He played in 38 games and batted .091 in 66 at bats. After the season he was traded to the Chicago White Sox and then purchased by the San Diego Padres. In 1974 Hector was sent to AAA Hawaii. Hector spent the entire season there and batted .259 in 123 games.
  • In 1975 Hector had his best season. He was a late inning guy for the first three weeks of the season, then he played infield for most of the remainder of the season. Torres batted .259 in 112 games. In 1976 Torres mostly played shortstop for the first two months and then was an extra infielder for the rest of the year. He batted .195 in 215 at bats. After the season he was traded by the Padres with Johnny Grubb and Fred Kendall to the Cleveland Indians for George Hendrick. Three months later the Indians traded Hector to the Toronto Blue Jays for John Lowenstein.
  • The 1977 season was Hector's last year in the majors. He batted .241 in 266 at bats as a utility infielder. Torres was released by the Blue Jays during spring training in 1978. He played in the minors during the 1978 season and retired after the season.
  • After his playing career Torres coached in the Toronto system from 1979-2002. He then coached in the Giants system in 2004 and then joined the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2005. Hector is now the hitting coach of the Bowling Green Hot Rods (a class A team of the Rays).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

1976 Topps #240 - Pete Rose

  • I'm not even going to try to do a synopsis of Pete's career. It would take many, many paragraphs and I wouldn't be able to do it justice anyway.
  • Pete Rose was my favorite player when I was growing up. I liked his aggressive style. Pete's love for the game showed through every time he played. I was too young for Pete's weaknesses to register in my mind. I just saw what he did on the field.
  • When I was growing up there were posters, cards, and magazine clippings of various ballplayers on my bedroom wall. A good number of them were of Pete. I got mad at the Reds and stopped rooting for them when Pete left after the 1978 season. I did the same thing when the Phillies benched Pete for a game in the 1983 World Series and let Pete leave after the series was over.
  • When the gambling scandal hit, my first reaction was, "it can't be true." I didn't think Pete would be that stupid. I didn't think he would sacrifice the thing he loved the most just for some instant gratification from betting. I learned a lot about how much pride and addiction can bring people down. A while before his banishment from baseball (I forget exactly when) I had an inkling that something bad would happen. He was due to come to Phoenix for a card/autograph show. I bought a ball and a case and was in line ready to have Pete sign. A guy came out and said that Pete missed his flight and wouldn't be there. Our admission fees were refunded but I was still disappointed. That was the last time that I even considered going to an autograph show and paying for an autograph.
  • Does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame? If the Hall is a museum of baseball history, then Pete should be in there somehow. His banishment should be noted on his plaque. Future baseball fans should be able to see both the triumphs and tragedies of Pete's life and career. Should he be allowed to work as a manager or a coach? No way.
  • Liked to face: Don Sutton (.339 in 177 AB); Juan Marichal (.341 in 123 AB); Larry Dierker (.343 in 102 AB); Ron Reed (.376 in 101 AB)
  • Hated to face: Jerry Reuss (.244 in 119 AB); Bob Forsch (.198 in 101 AB); Don Wilson (.234 in 107 AB); Randy Jones (.183 in 93 AB)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

1976 Topps #239 - John Curtis

  • John Curtis was a first round draft pick (10th overall) of the Boston Red Sox in 1968. He was in the minors from 1968-1972. Curtis was given late season looks in 1970 (1 game) and in 1971 (2-2, 3.12 ERA in 5 games). John was called up to the Red Sox for good in late May 1972 after going 4-3 with a 2.01 ERA in eight starts for AAA Louisville. He went 11-8 with an ERA of 3.73 in 26 games (21 starts) for the Red Sox in 1972.
  • In 1973 Curtis started 30 games. He had a record of 13-13 with a 3.58 ERA. After the season John was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. John was mostly a starter for the Cardinals in 1974, going 10-14 with a 3.79 ERA in 29 starts. The Cardinals used Curtis as a 5th starter and a swingman in 1975 and 1976. He was 8-9 with a 3.44 ERA in '75 and 6-11 with a 4.50 ERA in '76.
  • After the 1976 season Curtis was involved in a multi-player trade that sent him to the San Francisco Giants. In 1977 John started 9 games appeared in a total of 43, and had a record of 3-3. He had a high (5.49) ERA and was also quite wild (5.6 BB per 9 innings) that year. The Giants used John exclusively as a reliever in 1978. He bounced back to go 4-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 46 games.
  • The Giants' starting rotation struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness in 1979 and John resumed his swingman role. He made 27 appearances (18 starts) and was 10-9 with a 4.18 ERA. After the season Curtis became a free agent and signed a much bigger contract with the San Diego Padres. Here is a May 12, 1980 Sports Illustrated article about John's departure from the Giants and his side career as a writer.
  • John had a good season for the Padres in 1980. He was 10-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 27 starts. In 1981 Curtis wasn't as effective. He appeared in 28 games (8 starts) and was 2-6 with a 5.13 ERA. John bounced back in 1982 by going 8-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 26 games (18 starts) with the Padres before being sold to the California Angels for their stretch drive on August 31. He appeared in eight games for the Angels but had a 6.10 ERA in 12 innings and didn't pitch in the post season.
  • The 1983 season was John's last full season in the major leagues. He was 1-2 with a 3.80 ERA in 37 games (3 starts). In 1984 John split the season between the Angels and AAA Edmonton. He was 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 17 games for the Angels. Curtis was granted free agency after the season but no team signed him and he retired.
  • After his playing career John worked as an editor and as a free-lance writer. In 2003 John was a pitching coach for the Long Beach Breakers in the independent Western Baseball League. He was also reviewing books for the San Diego Union-Tribune and had written articles for various magazines. Here is a "Where are they now" article written by Curtis.
  • Liked to face: Dave Winfield (.216 in 37 AB); Dusty Baker (.132 in 38 AB); Frank Taveras (.200 in 40 AB)
  • Hated to face: George Foster (.350, 4 HR in 40 AB); Steve Garvey (.386, 4 HR in 44 AB); Ron Cey (.343, 4 HR in 35 AB); Johnny Bench (.475 in 40 AB)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can you name the NL All Star starters in the 1970s?

Trivia time.

Here is a quiz that asks to name all of the NL Starters in the All Star games from 1970-1979. I scored a 78/90.

1976 Topps #238 - Larry Biittner

  • Larry Biittner was a career backup OF/1B who played in 14 seasons from 1970-1983. He was drafted by the Washington Senators in 1968. He played in the minors from 1968-1971. Larry made his debut with two at bats late in the 1970 season. He came up to the Senators in mid-May of 1971 after batting .356 in 25 games for AAA Denver. Larry got into 66 games and batted .257, but he only had a .292 slugging percentage. He was a good singles hitter but wasn't blessed with a whole lot of power.

  • Larry played in 137 games in 1972 and batted .259 in 382 at bats. In 1973 he batted .252 but experienced a reduction in playing time (83 games). After the season Biittner was traded to the Montreal Expos for Pat Jarvis.

  • Biittner was in the minors for most of the 1974 season. He was called up to the Expos on August 1 but he didn't play very much. Most of his 18 appearances (.269 in 26 AB) were as a pinch hitter. Larry had his best season in 1975, batting .315 in 346 at bats as a fourth outfielder. Larry started 1976 with Montreal (.188 in 32 AB) and on May 17 he was traded with Steve Renko to the Chicago Cubs for Andre Thornton. He batted .237 all together for the two teams.

  • Larry's best season was 1977. He played in 138 games and had 493 at bats. Larry batted .298 and hit a career-high 12 home runs. It was the only season in which he would hit more than four home runs. He had an opening day walk-off home run. Biittner even pitched in the second game of a July 4 doubleheader.He had an ERA of 40.50 as he allowed five runs in 1.1 innings and was warned by the umpires when they thought he was throwing at Del Unser when something resembling a curveball went behind Unser's head.

  • Biittner spent the next three seasons as a backup 1B/OF for the Cubs, batting about 250-300 times a season and posting averages of .257 (1978), .290 (1979), and .249 (1980). On September 26, 1979, playing right field, a ball hit by the Mets' Bruce Boisclair went over Larry's head, his cap flying off as he chased it. The ball went under his cap -- searching frantically, Biittner heard us behind him yelling, "Hat! Hat!" Finally locating the ball, he picked it up and threw Boisclair out at third.
  • Larry became a free agent after the 1980 season and signed with the Cincinnati Reds. In 1981 Biittner was used mostly as a pinch hitter and batted .213 in 61 at bats. He bounced back in 1982 and batted .310 in 184 at bats, but he was released after the season. Larry signed with the Texas Rangers and batted .276 in 116 AB in 1983. He was released by the Rangers after the season.
  • Larry is now retired and living in his hometown of Pocahantas, Iowa.
  • Liked to face: Don Sutton (.356 in 45 AB); Phil Niekro (.471 in 34 AB); Bert Blyleven (.375 in 32 AB); John Montefusco (.379 in 29 AB)
  • Hated to face: Larry Christenson (.211 in 38 AB); Nolan Ryan (.200 in 30 AB); John Denny (.179 in 28 AB); J.R. Richard (.167 in 30 AB)
Here is a clip from a home movie taken on May 16, 1977. At 0:30 Larry singles, scoring Ivan DeJesus.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1976 Topps #237 - Dave Hamilton

  • Dave Hamilton pitched for four teams from 1972-1980. He was a swingman for the Oakland A's during their World Series years.
  • Hamilton was drafted by the Kansas City A's in 1966. He pitched in their minor league organization from 1966-1973. In late May of 1972 Dave was brought up to the major league club and appeared in 25 games (14 starts). He was 6-6 with an ERA of 2.93. In game 4 of the AL Championship Series Hamilton came in with the A's leading 3-2 in the bottom of the 10th. The bases were loaded with one out. Dave walked Norm Cash to force in the tying run. Jim Northrup singled in the winning run. Hamilton also made two appearences in the 1972 World Series.
  • In 1973 Hamilton didn't make the team and was sent to AAA Tucson. He was there until early June and then was up and down for the remainder of the season. Dave made 16 appearances (11 starts) for the A's in 1973 and was 6-4 with a 4.39 ERA. He did not appear in the postseason.
  • Dave had a good year as a 5th starter/long man in 1974. He was 7-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 29 games (18 starts). He didn't appear in the post season in 1974.
  • In 1975 Hamilton was with the A's until June 15 when he was traded with Chet Lemon to the Chicago White Sox for Stan Bahnsen and Skip Pitlock. Whoops. The White Sox moved Dave to the bullpen and he did well for them (6-5, 2.84 ERA, six saves). He remained as a reliever for the White Sox in 1976 (6-6, 3.59 ERA, 10 saves) and in 1977 (4-5, 3.65 ERA, nine saves).
  • Hamilton was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1977 season as one of the players to be named later in a trade that the White Sox had made for Clay Carroll. Dave struggled in St. Louis in 1978. He was 0-0 with a 6.43 ERA in 13 appearances before being sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 28. Hamilton finished the season with the Pirates (0-2, 3.42 ERA, one save) and then was granted free agency.
  • Dave signed with the A's and spent the last two years of his major league career with them. He was 3-4 with five saves and a 3.70 ERA in 40 appearances (7 starts) in 1979. In 1980 Hamilton had a really hard time. He was 0-3 with an ERA of 11.40 in 21 games (1 start) and also spent some time in the minors. Dave pitched for AAA Tacoma in 1981 but hung 'em up after four appearances.
  • Dave Hamilton now lives in San Ramon, CA. He coaches high school baseball and is a project manager for a roofing contractor.
  • Liked to face: Carl Yastrzemski (.185 in 27 AB); Tommy Harper (.091 in 22 AB); Roy White (.208 in 24 AB)
  • Hated to face: Chris Chambliss (.409, 1 HR in 22 AB); Carlton Fisk (.500, 2 HR in 18 AB)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Secret Santa

A Rookie (baseball) Card Collector is setting up a Secret Santa for our little blog community. It sounds like fun. If you want to sign up, go here and follow the instructions. :)

1976 Topps #236 - Kansas City Royals

  • The Kansas City Royals were 90-72 and won the AL West in 1976. They finished 2.5 games ahead of the Oakland A's and 5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. They lost an exciting AL Championship Series to the New York Yankees 3 games to 2 when Chris Chambliss homered off of Mark Littell in the bottom of the 9th in the final game.
  • Attendance: 1,680,265 (3rd of 12)
  • Team Batting: .269 (2nd in AL)
  • Team Homers: 57 (11th in AL)
  • Team Stolen Bases: 241 (2nd in AL)
  • Team ERA: 3.21 (2nd in AL)
  • Team Fielding: .978 (4th in AL)
  • League Leaders: George Brett (.333 BA, 645 AB, 215 hits, 298 total bases, 14 3B); Hal McRae (.407 OBP); Amos Otis (40 2B)
  • Gold Gloves: none
  • AL All Stars: George Brett (starting 3B); Amos Otis (OF); Freddie Patek (SS); Hal McRae (OF)
  • Whitey Herzog was in his 4th season as a major league manager, and 1976 was his first full season. He ended up managing all or parts of 18 seasons from 1973-1990. He had a total of six division titles (3 with Kansas City and 3 with the St. Louis Cardinals), three World Series appearances (all with St. Louis), and one World Championship (1982).
Some Whitey Herzog quotes:
  • "I'm not buddy-buddy with the players. If they need a buddy, let them buy a dog. "
  • "The only way to make money as a manager is to win in one place, get fired and hired somewhere else. "
  • "Some people asked me if I would be interested in managing the A's. I said a definite no thank you. At night, that place is a graveyard with lights. "

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1976 Topps #235 - Bert Blyleven

  • Bert Blyleven had a long career (1970-1992) for several teams. He is currently the most hotly debated Hall of Fame candidate. Bert had a lifetime record of 287-250 with a 3.31 ERA. He struck out 3701 batters (5th all-time) and struck out over 200 batters eight times in his career. Blyleven has a 5-1 lifetime record with a 2.47 ERA in postseason play. In his baseball reference similaritiy scores, the only players in the top ten who aren't in the Hall of Fame are Jim Kaat and Tommy John.
  • Blyleven was drafted in 1968 by the Minnesota Twins. He pitched in the minors in 1969 and in the first part of the 1970 seasons. Bert showed he was ready for the majors in 1970 when he started the season 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA for AAA Evansville. He made his debut as a 19-year-old on June 5, 1970. Bert was 10-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 25 starts for the AL West Champion Twins and was named Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
  • Bert was a workhorse for the Twins from 1971-1975. He started at least 35 games a year in each of those seasons and his lowest number of innings pitched during that time was 275.2. His highest ERA during that span was 3.00 in 1975. Blyleven experienced some criticism from Twins fans during that time in part because his records were usually around .500. He had records of 16-15 (1971), 17-17 (1972), 20-17 (1973), 17-17 (1974), and 15-10 (1975). Here is a July 1971 Baseball Digest about Bert. Here is a February 1975 Baseball Digest article about Bert's early career. I remember reading this article when I was a young 'un and thinking Blyleven was baseball's best pitcher.
  • In 1976 Bert was traded to the Texas Rangers in a six-player deal. Blyleven was playing out his option and the Twins woudn't have been able to sign him. He pitched well for the Rangers, but was actually under .500 in 1976 (13-16 for both teams combined). Bert pitched a no-hitter against the California Angels on September 22, 1977. He was slowed by a groin injury during the '77 season and made "only" 30 starts (14-12, 2.72 ERA). During the season Blyleven flipped off a camera during a nationally telecast game, and he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1977 season. He was part of the first four-team trade in major league history.
  • In 1978 Blyleven came back to have a good season. He led the Pirates in several categories and was 14-10 with a 3.03 ERA in 34 starts. Bert helped the Pirates to the 1979 World Championship by going 12-5, although his ERA was an uncharacteristically high 3.60. He won game 3 of the National League Championship Series and game 5 of the World Series.
  • Bert slipped to 8-13 in 1980 and had his highest ERA to date (3.83). After the season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. He pitched well for the Indians in the strike-shortened 1981 season. In 20 starts Bert was 11-7 with a 2.88 ERA. In 1982 Bert had an elbow injury and made only four starts. He struggled in 1983 (7-10, 3.91 ERA) but bounced back in 1984 to go 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts. He missed a few starts in 1984 after he broke his foot while joking around in the bullpen.
  • Blyleven started the 1985 season with the Indians but was traded back to the Twins in midseason. For both teams combined he was 17-16 with a 3.16 ERA and led the AL in complete games with 24. Are Bert Blyleven's Best Years Still Ahead? (March 1985 Baseball Digest article).In 1986 Bert set a record by allowing 50 home runs. He had a 17-14 record with a 4.01 ERA and also recorded his 3000th strikeout during the season. Here is a July 1986 Baseball Digest article about Bert's durability. Blyleven allowed 46 homers in 1987, went 15-12, and helped the Twins to a World Championship by winning two games in the ALCS and one game in the World Series.
  • Bert's last season with the Twins was 1988. He led the AL in losses and had his highest ERA. He ended up 10-17 with a 5.43 ERA. After the season Blyleven was traded to the California Angels. Bert had his last good season in 1989. He was 17-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 33 starts and led the AL with five shutouts. He was the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Here is a September 1989 Baseball Digest article about Bert throwing Father Time a curve. Blyleven was 8-7 in 1990 before injuring his rotator cuff in early August. He missed all of the 1991 season and didn't make his first start in 1992 until May 19. Bert was 8-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 1992 and was not resigned by the Angels after the season. He tried out for the Twins in 1993 but announced his retirement after failing to make the club.
  • Bert Blyleven looks back on his storied career (June 2006 Baseball Digest).
  • For the last nine years Bert has been a color analyst for the Minnesota Twins. He has been known to have some slipups from time to time (using bad words, etc.). He has a website on which he talks about baseball-related things and about the Hall of Fame.
  • Liked to face: Robin Yount (.182 in 110 AB); Pat Kelly (.149 in 87 AB); Bill Melton (.123 in 65 AB)
  • Hated to face: Lou Whitaker (.385 in 65 AB); Ben Oglivie (.316 in 79 AB); Willie Wilson (.321 in 78 AB); Reggie Jackson (batted only .214 vs. Blyleven but homered six times)

Monday, October 12, 2009

1976 Topps #234 - Mike Sadek

  • Mike Sadek spent his entire career (1973, 1975-1981) as a backup catcher with the San Francisco Giants. I remember him more as a Phoenix Giant since he spent several years there.
  • Sadek was originally drafted by the Giants in 1966, but he didn't sign. Mike was then drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1967. He spent three years in the Twins' system, but never played more than 81 games. After the 1969 season Mike was taken by the Giants in the Rule 5 draft.
  • Mike played in the Giants' system from 1970-1972, never getting into more than 91 games. He made the Giants club in 1973 and stayed with them all season. Sadek played in 39 games and batted .167 in 66 at bats.
  • In 1974 Sadek spent the entire season with AAA Phoenix, where he batted .251 in 117 games. In one of those "They Said It" blurbs in Sports Illustrated, here is what Mike had to say: " Mike Sadek, .132 batter for the Phoenix Giants of the Pacific Coast Baseball League before getting three solid hits in four at bats as 208 fans watched: "It was so quiet in the park, every time I came to bat I could hear the radio announcer giving my average. I was so embarrassed I decided to do something about it."
  • He started the 1975 season in Phoenix and played 50 games there. Mike was brought up in early June and spent the rest of the season in San Francisco. He batted .236 in 106 at bats for the Giants in '75.
  • Mike's seasons from 1976-1980 were similar. He played in 42-64 games a year, batted about 90-150 times a year, and usually batted somewhere around .230. In 1981 he played in 19 games and was batting .167 in 36 at bats when he was released on August 3.
  • After his playing career Mike was involved in community relations with the Giants for several years.
  • Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper were once asked their opinions about several things by Giants Magazine. About who was the worst-dressed Giants of all time, Krukow said, "Then there was Mike Sadek. He was so bad he was awesome. He would wear a pair of green pants with orange shoes and a gold shirt with a navy blue blazer. And he thought that looked good! It was like, whatever came up off the floor, he put on." (Baseball Digest, December 2002)
  • Sadek has an autographed ball from Pope John Paul II. Apparently Mike sent Monsingior Lacey the ball and the Pontiff signed it as he was flying into San Francisco to celebrate mass at Candlestick Park on September 18, 1987. He signed it, "J.P. II."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

1976 Topps #233 - Grant Jackson

  • Grant Jackson had a long career for several teams, mostly as a reliever, from 1965-1982. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961 and pitched in their system from 1962-1966. Grant earned a September call-up in 1965 and appeared in six games (1-1, 7.24 ERA). He made two appearances in April 1966 before being sent to the minors for the rest of the season.

  • In 1967 Jackson was a reliever and spot starter. He appeared in 43 games (4 starts) and was 2-3 with one save and a 3.84 ERA. Grant had a better season in 1968. He was in 33 games (6 starts) and had a record of 1-6 and an ERA of 2.95.

  • Jackson became a starting pitcher in 1969. He was 14-18 with a 3.34 ERA and had 13 complete games in 35 starts. He also was chosen for the NL All Star team, but he didn't pitch in the game. Grant appeared in 35 games (23 starts) in 1970 and slipped to a 5-15 record with an ERA of 5.29. Jackson was traded with two other players to the Baltimore Orioles for Roger Freed after the 1970 season.

  • During the next five seasons Jackson found a role as a left-handed reliever. His best season for the Orioles was 1973. Grant was 8-0 with nine saves and a 1.90 ERA in 45 games. Here is a June 1974 Baseball Digest about Grant Jackson: An Unheralded Reliever.
  • On June 15, 1976 Jackson was involved in a huge trade with the New York Yankees. He was traded with Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Freeman, Ellie Hendricks and Ken Holtzman to the New York Yankees for Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, Scott McGregor and Dave Pagan. Grant finished the 1976 season with the Yankees, where he was 6-0 with a 1.69 ERA for the AL Champs. He wasn't as successful in the 1976 post season. Grant had an 8.10 ERA in the ALCS and a 4.91 ERA in the World Series.
  • After the 1976 season Jackson was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft. One month later he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Craig Reynolds and Jimmy Sexton. Grant spent the next 4 1/2 season with the Pirates as a reliever and occasional closer. His best season with Pittsburgh was 1979. He was 8-5 with 14 saves and a 2.96 ERA in 72 games. Grant also won a game in the NLCS and was the winning pitcher in game 7 of the World Series.
  • In the middle of the 1981 season Jackson was purchased by the Montreal Expos. He struggled with the Expos and after the season Grant was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Ken Phelps. In 1982 Jackson was 3-1 with a 5.17 ERA in 20 appearances. He was released on July 9 and signed with the Pirates on September 8. Jackson made one appearance for the Pirates and was released after the season.
  • Liked to face: Joe Morgan (.189 in 67 AB); Richie Hebner (.214 in 28 AB)
  • Hated to face: Keith Hernandez (.367, 2 HR in 28 AB); Billy Williams (.367, 2 HR in 30 AB)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

1976 Topps #232 - Frank Duffy

  • Frank Duffy was an infielder for several teams from 1970-1979. He had his most successful seasons with the Cleveland Indians. Duffy was a first round (6th overall) pick of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1967 draft. He played in the minors from 1968-1970 and then was called up to the Reds in September 1970. Frank played in six games and batted .182.
  • In 1971 Frank started the season with the Reds. He didn't get much playing time (.188 in 16 at bats) and was traded with Vern Geishert to the San Francisco Giants for George Foster. Ouch. Duffy didn't get much more playing time for the NL West-winning Giants -- he batted .179 in 28 at bats. After the season he was traded with Gaylord Perry to the Cleveland Indians for Sam McDowell (ouch again).
  • The Indians made Duffy their starting shortstop in 1972. He would start for Cleveland for the next six years. His seasons are virtually interchangeable -- he batted in the mid-.200s without much power. His batting average tailed off in his last two season with Cleveland. He batted .212 in 1976 and .201 in 1977. After the 1977 season Frank was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Rick Kreuger.
  • Duffy was a backup infielder for the Red Sox in 1978. He played in 64 games and batted .260 in 104 at bats. In 1979 he was 0 for 3 when he was released on May 22.

Friday, October 9, 2009

1976 Topps #231 - Tom House

  • Tom House pitched for three teams from 1971-1978. He was famous for catching Hank Aaron's 715th home run in the Atlanta bullpen. Tom was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1967. He pitched in the minors (mostly for AAA Richmond) from 1967-1972. Tom had late season call-ups in 1971 (1-0, 3.05 ERA in 11 games) and in 1972 (0-0, 2 saves, 2.89 ERA in 8 games).
  • In 1973 House appeared in 52 games and was 4-2 with a 4.68 ERA. He had his best season in 1974. Tom made 56 appearances and had 11 saves, a 6-2 record, and an ERA of 1.93. Tom also had a good year in 1975 -- he was 7-7 with 11 saves and a 3.18 ERA in 58 games. After the season House was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Rogelio Moret.
  • House had some injuries in 1976 -- he missed a month from late July-late August and had a couple of other shorter interruptions. Tom was 1-3 with a 4.33 ERA and four saves in 36 games in 1976. He had a slow start in 1977 (1-0, 12.91 ERA in 8 games) and was sold to the Seattle Mariners on May 28. The Mariners tried Tom as a starter and he made 11 of his 22 career starts. He was injured again, this time from early August - early September. All together House was 5-5 with a 4.64 ERA in 1977.
  • The 1978 season would be Tom's last one in the major leagues. He had more injury problems -- he pitched only once in a 5-week period late in the season. He was 5-4 with a 4.66 ERA in 34 games (9 starts). House didn't make the club in 1979 and was released toward the end of spring training. He appeared in two games in 1983 for AAA Las Vegas, but that was probably a case of a coach being used for emergencies.
  • After his playing career Tom earned a PhD in Psychology and became a pitching coach. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Nolan Ryan credited Tom with having a positive influence on his career. House was the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers in the mid-late 1980s and later coached for the Houston Astros and the San Diego Padres. He is an advisor with the American Sports Medicine Institute and is the co-founder of the National Pitching Association. Tom has written or co-written 19 instructional books on baseball. Tom has his own website

    House admitted to using steroids for "a couple of seasons" in the 1970s. He said that it was a failed experiment that didn't add anything to his fastball but did cause some knee injuries due to the extra bulk.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

1976 Topps #230 - Carl Yastrzemski

  • Mr. Yastrzemski had a long and distinguished career with the Boston Red Sox. Carl has a lot of black ink on his baseball reference stat page:

  • batting (1963, 1967, 1968)

  • home runs (1967)

  • RBI (1967)

  • hits (1963, 1967)

  • runs (1967, 1970)

  • doubles (1963, 1965, 1966)

  • walks (1963, 1969)

  • on base percentage (1963, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970)

  • slugging (1965, 1967, 1970)

  • Lifetime:

  • 18 All Star Games

  • 1 MVP (1967) - 5 top-ten finishes

  • 1 Triple Crown (1967)

  • 7 Gold Gloves

  • 2nd in games played (3,308)

  • 3rd in at bats (11,988)

  • 6th in hits (3,419)

  • 8th in doubles (646)

  • 6th in walks (1,845)

  • Carl also had a lot of success in the post season. He batted .400 with three home runs in the 1967 World Series, .455 with one HR in the 1975 ALCS, and .310 in the 1975 World Series.

  • The first time Carl came on my "radar" was in the 1975 World Series. My father had bought a scorebook and was teaching me how to keep score. I didn't know why he wrote in "Yaz" until I saw the full name on the TV screen. I was really proud of myself later when I learned how to spell his last name.

  • Yaz was signed by the Red Sox in 1958. He batted .377 as an infielder for Class B Raleigh in 1959 and .339 for AAA Minneapolis in 1960. Carl had the unenviable task of succeeding Ted Williams as the Boston left fielder in 1961.
  • Listed below are articles that were written throughout (and after) Carl's career. They can probably tell his story better than I can.

  • Here is a May 20, 1963 Sports Illustrated article about Carl

  • Here is a December 25, 1967 Sports Illustrated article announcing that Yaz was Sportsman of the Year for 1967.

  • Here is a March 16, 1970 Sports Illustrated article about "The Team that Eats Managers."

  • Here is a July 10, 1972 Sports Illustrated article about Yaz that wonders whether or not he has lost his power after some injuries.

  • Here is a September 24, 1979 Sports Illustrated article about Carl's 3000th hit.

  • Here is a September 1981 Baseball Digest article recalling Carl's most memorable games.

  • Here is a November 1989 Baseball Digest about how tough of an opponent Yaz was.
  • Here is a November 2000 Baseball Digest article about Yastrzemski.

  • Carl's identity was stolen by his late son Mike late in his life. Carl was stuck with quite a few of his son's debts.

  • Liked to face: Jim Perry (.300, 5 HR in 140 AB); Jim Slaton (.409, 4 HR in 88 AB); Wilbur Wood (.324, 4 HR in 74 AB); Blue Moon Odom (.447, 5 HR in 47 AB)

  • Hated to face: Gaylord Perry (.161 in 87 AB); Jim Hunter (.219 in 114 AB); Sam McDowell (.190 in 63 AB)