Monday, November 30, 2009

1976 Topps #283 - Merv Rettenmund

  • Merv Rettenmund played for four teams from 1968-1980. Merv signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 1964. He played in the minors from 1965-1968. Rettenmund spent the first couple of weeks of 1968 with the Orioles and then was sent back down. He batted .331 with 22 HR at AAA Rochester and was brought back up to stay in late August 1968. Merv got into 31 games and batted .297 in 64 at bats. He also walked 18 times to end up with a .452 on base percentage. Merv was usually a patient hitter and his on base percentages were usually in the upper .300s.
  • Rettenmund was a backup outfielder in 1969 and batted .247 in 190 at bats. In 1970 Merv had a nice season as a backup -- he batted .322 with 18 HR and 58 RBI. He was 3 for 8 in the postseason and homered in game 5 of the World Series.
  • Merv was the regular right fielder and had another good year in 1971. He batted .318 with 11 HR and 75 RBI. He also scored 81 runs and had a .422 on base percentage. He didn't do as well in the postseason (.250 in the ALCS and .185 in the World Series).
  • Rettenmund went back to a backup role in 1972. He slumped to a .233 average in 301 AB in 1972. Merv did a little better in 1973 (.262 with 9 HR in 321 AB). He was 1 for 14 in the 1973 ALCS. After the '73 season he was traded with Junior Kennedy and a minor leaguer to the Cincinnati Reds for Ross Grimsley and a minor leaguer.
  • Merv spent the 1974 and 1975 seasons with the Reds. He won a second World Series ring as a backup for the '75 club. He batted .216 in 208 AB in 1974 and .239 in 188 AB in 1975. After the 1975 season he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Rudy Meoli.
  • Rettenmund was with the Padres in 1976 and 1977. He batted only .229 in '76 but had a .361 on base percentage. In 1977 he was in 107 games but batted only 166 times (.286 average, .432 on base percentage). After the 1977 season Merv became a free agent and signed with the California Angels.
  • At this point in his career, Merv was a pinch hitter, DH, and late-inning outfielder. He batted .269 in 108 at bats in '78. In 1979 Merv batted .263 in 76 at bats. Rettenmund was released by the Angels on June 24, 1980 after going 1 for 4 in two games.
  • Merv has two websites: here and here.
  • Liked to face: Mike Kekich (.467 in 30 AB); Sam McDowell (.351 in 37 AB); Dick Drago (.385 in 26 AB)
  • Hated to face: Tommy John (.160 in 25 AB); Doug Rau (.154 in 26 AB); Steve Carlton (.150 in 20 AB)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1976 Topps #282 - Dan Osborn

  • Dan Osborn had a very short major league career. He made his major league debut on April 26, 1975 and pitched in his final major league game on September 23, 1975. He had a record of 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 24 games (58 innings) for the Chicago White Sox.
  • Dan Osborn was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1968. He pitched for several teams in the Reds organization from 1968-1974. The back of this card says he was the American Association Relief Pitcher of the year in 1973. Osborn was 8-3 with a 2.56 ERA in 109 innings that year. There is no record of how many saves he had.
  • After going 7-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 1974 (which was his poorest minor league season) Dan was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Mike Hedlund. As mentioned above, Osborn was in the majors for the entire 1975 season.
  • Osborn was traded with Ken Henderson and Dick Ruthven to the Atlanta Braves after the 1975 season for Larvell Blanks and Ralph Garr. The Braves assigned Dan to AAA Richmond, where he was 8-5 with six saves and a 2.63 ERA in 54 games. Osborn pitched in three games for Richmond in 1977 and that was it for his career.
  • According to Baseball Reference, Dan's nickname was Ozzie. Here is a video of Ozzy (not this one) doing Take me out to the Ball Game" in 2006.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

1976 Topps #281 - Dave May

  • Dave May is probably remembered most for being the guy the Braves got in exchange for Hank Aaron. I was 8 years old when the Braves made the trade and I remember wondering how the Braves could be so stupid. Things like age (about all Aaron could really do at that stage of his career was to hit) didn't enter into my mind at that time.
  • Dave May was signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1961. May played one year in the minors for the Giants (.379 at Class D Salem), then the Baltimore Orioles drafted him in the "first year player draft" in 1962. Dave spent the next several years playing in the minors. He made his major league debut on July 28, 1967. May was mostly a pinch hitter and spare outfielder in '67 and batted .235 in 85 at bats.
  • May spent most of 1968 with the Orioles except for a one-month stint at AAA Rochester from mid-June to mid-July. Dave batted .191 in 152 at bats for the Orioles in '68. May was in the majors to stay in 1969. He batted .242 in 120 at bats and was 0 for 3 in the postseason.
  • In 1970 Dave wasn't getting used very much by the Orioles (.194 in 31 at bats, mostly as a pinch hitter) and on June 15 he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Dick Baney and Buzz Stephen. He played in 100 games for the Brewers and finished the season with a .236 average in 373 at bats.
  • Dave became the starting CF for the Brewers in 1971 and showed some ability with the bat. He homered 16 times and batted .277 with 65 RBI that season. In 1972 May tailed off somewhat, batting .238 with 9 homers and 45 RBI in 144 games.
  • May had his best season in 1973. He was named to the AL All Star team (he was 0 for 2) and was 8th in MVP voting. Dave batted .303 with 25 HR, 93 RBI, and 96 runs scored. He also led the AL in total bases with 295. May slumped badly in 1974, batting .226 with 10 HR and 42 RBI. After the 1974 season Dave was traded with a minor leaguer to the Atlanta Braves for Hank Aaron.
  • In 1975 Dave was used as a 4th outfielder and played in 82 games. He batted .276 with 12 RBI and 40 RBI. May was a backup again in 1976 and batted .215 with three home runs in 235 at bats. After the 1976 season Dave was shipped to the Texas Rangers as part of a big trade that brought Jeff Burroughs to the Braves.
  • Dave started most of the time in RF for the Rangers in 1977. He batted .241 with 7 HR and 42 RBI in 340 AB. May wasn't in the Rangers' plans for 1978 and on May 18 he was sold to the Brewers. he saw his first action of 1978 on May 21. Dave didn't do a whole lot for the Brewers (.195 in 77 AB) and was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 13. He went 0 for 4 for the Pirates and was released after the season. Dave tried to catch on with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979 but was cut during spring training.
  • Dave May is the father of Derrick May, who played in the majors from 1990-1999.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Can you name the NL Gold Glove winners from the 1970s?

1976 Topps #280 - Burt Hooton

  • Burt Hooton was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1968 but he didn't sign. Hooton stayed in school for a few years and then was the second player taken in the 1971 draft (secondary phase). Burt started a game for the Cubs on June 17 (a 3.1 inning no-decision) then went to AAA Tacoma. After going 7-4 with a 1.68 ERA in Tacoma, Hooton came back to the Cubs to stay in September 1971 and won two starts. His record for the Cubs in '71 was 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA in three starts.

  • Hooton entered the Cub rotation in 1972 and was 11-14 with an ERA of 2.80 in 31 starts. Burt's ERA rose by almost a full run in 1973. He was 14-17 with a 3.66 ERA. The upward climb of Hooton's ERA continued in 1974 as he was 7-11 with a 4.81 ERA in 48 games (21 starts).

  • Burt started the 1975 season 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA in three starts. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 2 for Eddie Solomon and Geoff Zahn. Hooton pitched much better for the Dodgers and finished the season 18-9 with a 3.07 ERA. Burt's record wasn't as good in 1976 (11-15) but he still had a solid 3.26 ERA.

  • In 1977 the Dodgers made the playoffs for the first time since 1966 and Hooton was a valuable part of the pitching staff. He was 12-7 with a 2.62 ERA in 31 starts. Burt was rocked by the Philadelphia Phillies in game 3 of the NLCS (3 runs in 1.2 innings) but the Dodgers went on to win the game 6-5. In the World Series Hooton was 1-1, winning game 2 and losing game 6.

  • Burt had probably his best year in 1978. He was second in NL Cy Young Award balloting and was 15th in MVP voting. Hooton had a 19-10 record with an ERA of 2.71. In the 1978 playoffs Burt was roughed up again by the Phillies (4 runs in 4.2 innings but no decision). He won game 2 of the World Series and lost game 5.
  • Hooton had another solid season in 1979, one of the few bright spots in an injury-riddled Dodger pitching staff. He was 11-10 with a 2.97 ERA in 29 starts. Burt made his last start of 1979 on September 4 and went only 1/3 of an inning (probably an injury). In 1980 Hooton went 14-8 but saw his ERA climb to 3.66.
  • Burt's last big year was 1981. He was picked for the NL All Star Team (he allowed 3 runs in 1.2 innings) and was 11-6 with a 2.28 ERA for the world champion Dodgers. In the 1981 playoffs Hooton won game 3 of the Divisional Series and won games 1 and 4 of the NLCS. Hooton was named the MVP of the NLCS. This time Burt reversed his previous World Series pattern -- he lost game 2 and won the deciding game 6.
  • Hooton missed two months (mid June-mid August) of the 1982 season. His record slipped to 4-7 with a 4.03 ERA. In 1983 Burt was 9-8 with a 4.22 ERA. He was used mostly as a reliever in 1984 (54 games, 6 starts) and had a record of 3-6 with four saves and an ERA of 3.44. Burt became a free agent after the 1984 season and signed with the Texas Rangers.
  • The 1985 season would be Burt's last year. He was 5-8 with a 5.23 ERA in 29 games (20 starts). Hooton was released during spring training in 1986. According to baseball reference his salary for the '86 season was $690,000. If that was a guaranteed salary, it was an expensive release for the Rangers.
  • Throughout his career Burt was known for his "knuckle curve" pitch. Tom Lasorda gave Burt the nickname "Happy" because he rarely smiled.
  • After his career Burt did some coaching, including a stint as the pitching coach of the Houston Astros from 2000-2004. Hooton is now the pitching coach for the Round Rock Express (Houston's AAA club).

  • Liked to face: Larry Bowa (.174 in 86 AB); Roger Metzger (.156 in 77 AB); Terry Puhl (.169 in 65 AB)
  • Hated to face: Bill Buckner (.383 in 94 AB); Greg Luzinski (.351 with 6 HR in 77 AB); Willie Stargell (.380 in 50 AB)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

1976 Topps #279 - Roy Howell

  • Roy Howell played for three teams from 1974-1984. Howell was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1972 (4th overall pick in the draft). Roy played in the minors from 1972-1974. He earned a late season call-up in 1974 after batting .281 with 22 HR for AAA Spokane. He batted .250 in 44 AB in '74 and became the starting third baseman for Texas the following season.
  • In 1975 Howell batted .251 with 10 HR in 125 games. He was a below-average defender--his fielding percentage was usually below the league average. Roy batted .253 with 8 HR in 140 games in 1976.
  • After starting the 1977 season 0 for 17, Howell was traded to the expansion Toronto Blue Jays for Steve Hargan, Jim Mason, and $200,000. Roy missed the last week of June and most of July but still batted .302 with 10 HR in 381 AB. In 1978 Howell represented the Blue Jays in the All Star Game, appeared as a pinch hitter, and grounded out. He batted .270 with 8 HR and 61 RBI in 140 games.
  • Howell had his biggest power year in 1979. He homered 15 times and had a career-high 72 RBI while batting .247 in 138 games. Roy's last season as a regular was 1980. He played in 142 games and batted .269 with 10 HR. After the 1980 season Howell became a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • In 1981 Howell played for a winning team for the first time in his career. Roy batted .238 in 244 AB and homered six times. In the divisional series Roy was 2 for 5 with two walks. Roy batted .260 in 300 AB in 1982 but was hitless in 14 AB in the ALCS and the World Series.
  • By the 1983 season Howell was mostly a DH. He batted .278 in 194 AB in 1983 and .232 in 164 AB in 1984. After the 1984 season Roy was released. He signed with the San Francisco Giants but was cut during spring training in 1985. He played in 68 games for Philadelphia's AAA Portland club and then retired.
  • After his retirement Roy opened an insurance business and played in the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1989. He did some coaching and managing for the San Diego Padres organization during the early 2000s. Roy now manages and is the president of the San Luis Obispo Rattlers baseball club. He also conducts youth baseball clinics in San Luis Obispo, CA.
  • Liked to face: Mike Flanagan (.375 in 40 AB); Nolan Ryan (.343 in 35 AB); Glenn Abbott (.382 in 34 AB)
  • Hated to face: Jim Palmer (.175 in 80 AB); Bob Stanley (.162 in 37 AB); Luis Tiant (.190 in 42 AB)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

1976 Topps #278 - Bernie Carbo

  • Bernie Carbo was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1965. He played in the minors through the 1969 season and showed his readiness for the majors by batting .359 for Indianapolis in '69. Carbo came up at the end of the season and was hitless in three at bats.
  • In 1970 Carbo was a close second to Carl Morton in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He batted .310 with 21 HR, 63 RBI, and 94 walks in 365 at bats. His .454 on base percentage and good power gave him one heck of a strat-o-matic card that year. Bernie was hitless in 14 at bats in the NLCS and the World Series. This was the only year Bernie would be a starter.
  • Carbo had a major sophomore jink in 1971. His batting average dropped to .219 and he hit only 5 HR in 310 AB. After a slow start in 1972 (.143 in 21 AB) Carbo was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on May 19 for Joe Hague. Bernie hit .258 for the Cardinals in 302 AB in '72.
  • Bernie batted .286 in 308 AB with an OBP of .397 in 1973. After the season he and Rick Wise were traded to the Boston Red Sox for Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum.
  • Carbo was a useful 4th outfielder/DH/pinch hitter for the Red Sox in '74 and '75. He batted .249 and hit 12 HR in 1974. Bernie did better in 1975, batting .257 with 15 HR and a .409 on base percentage. Carbo didn't play in the ALCS, but he had an excellent World Series against his former team (Cincinnati), hitting 2 HR and a double in eight at bats. His home run in the 8th inning of game 6 tied the game.
  • In 1976 Carbo split the season between the Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. He played in 17 games for the Red Sox then was traded on June 8 for Bobby Darwin and Tom Murphy. For both teams Carbo batted .235 with 5 home runs in 238 AB. After the season the Brewers sent Carbo back to the Red Sox (along with George Scott) for Cecil Cooper.
  • Bernie had a good season as a backup in 1977, hitting 15 HR and batting .289 in 228 at bats. In 1978 Carbo again played for two teams. He started with the Red Sox and then was purchased by the Cleveland Indians on June 15. He batted .282 in 220 AB for the two clubs. Bernie became a free agent after the 1978 season and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Carbo played sparingly in 1979 (.281 in 64 AB mostly as a pinch hitter). In 1980 he was exclusively a pinch hitter. Bernie started with the Cardinals (.182 in 11 AB) and was released on May 27. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Carbo on September 1. He was 2 for 6 as a pinch hitter for the Pirates and then was released at the end of the season. Bernie tried to hook on with the Detroit Tigers in 1981 but hung 'em up after batting .190 in 19 games for AAA Evansville.
  • After his playing career Bernie spent some time as a hairdresser. Several years after the end of his career Carbo was able to kick drugs and alcohol and in 1993 he founded Diamond Club Ministry in Alabama. Here is a June 23, 2009 newspaper article about Carbo and his ministry.
  • Here is a "Where are they now" article about Carbo.

  • Liked to face: Bill Hands (.366 in 41 AB); Mike Torrez (.429 in 35 AB); Steve Blass (.333 in 33 AB)
  • Hated to face: Gaylord Perry (.167 in 54 AB); Jim Palmer (.147 in 34 AB); Pat Dobson (.148 in 27 AB)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1976 Topps #277 - Chicago Cubs

  • I wonder why the Cubs (and sometimes the White Sox) got the "floating heads" team cards. I like them since it's easier to figure out who was who.
  • The Cubs were a mediocre team in 1976. They were 75-87 (4th place in the NL East). Jim Marshall was replaced as manager by Herman Franks after the 1976 season. The Cubs had identical 75-87 records in Jim's two full seasons managing the club. Jim also managed the Oakland A's in 1979 (54-108, .333) and is currently a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • Attendance: 1,026,217 (7th in NL)
  • Team Batting Average: .251 (6th in NL)
  • Team Home Runs: 105 (4th in NL)
  • Team ERA: 3.94 (11th in NL)
  • Team Fielding Pct: .978 (5th in NL)
  • NL All Stars: Steve Swisher (C)
  • Team batting leader: Bill Madlock (.339)
  • Team home run leader: Rick Monday (32)
  • Team RBI leader: Bill Madlock (84)
  • Team Wins leader: Ray Burris (15)
  • Team Losses leader: Ray Burris/Bill Bonham (13)
  • Team ERA leader: Bruce Sutter (2.70)
  • Team Strikeout leader: Rick Reuschel (146)
  • Team Saves leader: Bruce Sutter (10)

Monday, November 23, 2009

1976 Topps #276 - Mickey Scott

  • Mickey Scott was born in Weimar, Germany in 1947. There have been 29 major league players who were born in Germany--all but three of them were born in 1900 or earlier. Only one player (Tobi Stoner) was born in Germany after Mickey Scott.
  • Mickey Scott was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1965. He had good stats in the minors in 1965 and 1966, but didn't pitch in 1967. Mickey came back in 1968 and pitched well in AA (8-6, 2.58 ERA), but didn't fare as well in AAA in 1969 (6-5, 4.76 ERA). After the '69 season Mickey was traded with cash to the Chicago White Sox for Pete Ward. According to baseball reference, he pitched for Baltimore's AAA club (Rochester) in 1970 but wasn't dealt to the Orioles until September 23, 1970. Perhaps he was on loan to the Orioles and then they decided to acquire him.
  • Scott was in Rochester again in 1971. He made the Orioles in 1972 and appeared in 15 games (0-1, 2.74 ERA). In 1973 he started with the Orioles and was traded to the Montreal Expos after appearing in one game. Scott went 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA for the Expos in '73.
  • In April of 1974 Mickey went back to the Orioles. He was the player to be named later in a deal for John Montague which was made a year earlier. Scott was sent back to Rochester for the 1974 season and then was shipped to the California Angels after the season.
  • Mickey spent three years (1975-1977) with the Angels. He had good years in 1975 (4-2, 1 save, 3.29 ERA in 50 games) and in 1976 (3-0, 3 saves, 3.23 ERA in 33 games). In 1977 he wasn't as good (0-2, 5.62 ERA in 12 games). He made his last appearance on June 6, 1977. Scott spent some time pitching for AAA Columbus (Pirates organization) in 1977 and 1978 and then finished up with AA Charlotte (Orioles organization).
  • Hated to face: George Brett (.615 in 13 AB); Rod Carew (.385 in 13 AB)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1976 Topps #275 - Rick Manning

  • Rick Manning played for two clubs from 1975-1987. This card and his cover shot in Baseball Digest in June 1976 made me think he was a great "Pete Rose" type of player. Manning was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 1972 draft (2nd overall pick) when he was still 17 years old. Rick played in the minors from 1972-1975 and was promoted to the Indians after batting .316 in 30 games for AAA Oklahoma City in 1975.
  • Manning had a good rookie season in '75. He batted .285 in 120 games and stole 19 bases. He didn't receive Rookie of the Year consideration since a couple of guys named Fred Lynn and Jim Rice were also rookies that year. Here is a September 1, 1975 Sports Illustrated article about Rick and the Cleveland Indians. Here is a November 1975 Baseball Digest article.
  • Rick's best season was probably 1976. He batted .292 in 138 games and won the Gold Glove Award. Manning was a center fielder for most of his career and usually had fielding percentages above the league average.
  • Manning missed a good chunk of time from mid June through August. He played in only 68 games and batted .226.
  • From 1978-1982 Manning played CF in most of the Indians' games, usually batting in the mid-.200s. He didn't have a lot of power and didn't walk all that much either. In 1983 Rick started with the Indians and was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on June 15 for Gorman Thomas and two others. He finished the '83 season as the Brewers' starting CF and was also the regular in 1984. During the last three years of his career Rick was a fourth outfielder. He retired after the 1987 season. One highlight of his career was catching the final out of Len Barker's perfect game in 1981.
  • In the late 1980s Rick (along with Ralph Bruno) popularized the "Cheese Head" thing that is worn by many Green Bay Packer fans.
  • Manning has been broadcasting for the Indians for almost 20 years.
  • Liked to face: Mike Torrez (.358 in 58 AB); Larry Gura (.314 in 51 AB); Dennis Eckersley (.364 in 44 AB) -- I wonder if Eck knocked Manning down a few times.
  • Hated to face: Dennis Leonard (.186 in 59 AB); Dave Stieb (.156 in 45 AB); Ron Guidry (.075 in 40 AB)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1976 Topps #274 - Tommy Harper

  • Tommy Harper was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1960. After playing in the minors from 1960-1962, Harper had a cup of coffee at the end of the 1962 season. He batted .174 in 23 at bats.
  • In 1963 Harper became the regular right fielder. He batted .260 and stole 12 bases while being caught only once. Except for one season (1968 when he was a backup guy), this would be Tommy's lowest stolen base total until his last season in 1976.
  • Harper was a fourth outfielder in 1964 but still managed to steal 24 bases. Here is a May 1964 Baseball Digest article about Tommy. He had his first big season in 1965, leading the NL in runs scored with 126. He also homered 18 times. He started in RF in 1966 and had a better batting average (.278), but his numbers in the other areas were lower. Here is a September 1966 Baseball Digest article about Harper. Tommy was a fourth outfielder in 1967 and batted only .225 in 365 at bats. After the season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for three players.
  • Tommy started in LF for Cleveland in 1968 but batted only .217. After the 1968 season Harper was picked by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft. In 1969 Harper's batting average wasn't much better (.235), but he led the AL in stolen bases with 73. Here is an August 1969 Baseball Digest article about Harper.
  • The Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and the move seemed to agree with Harper. Tommy had his best season as he batted .296 with 31 home runs. He appeared in the 1970 All Star game and was caught stealing after being inserted as a pinch runner for Harmon Killebrew. Harper was a versatille player in 1970 as he started over 50 games at 2B and 3B and 21 games in CF.
  • Tommy played all over the place again in 1971 but his numbers were down (.258 with 14 HR and 25 stolen bases). Harper was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the season in a multi-player deal.
  • Harper spent three seasons (1972-1974) with the Red Sox. He started in CF in 1972 and had a season that was similar to his '71 season. In 1973 Tommy started in LF and received some minor MVP consideration. He led the AL in stolen bases with 54 and batted .281 with 17 HR and 71 RBI. His legs started to go in 1974 and he became a backup, batting .237 with 28 stolen bases in 118 games. After the '74 season Harper was traded to the California Angels for Bob Heise.
  • Tommy was a fourth outfielder with the Angels in 1975. He didn't do much with the Angels (.239 in 285 AB) and he was purchased by the Oakland A's on August 13 for the stretch run. Harper played well for the A's in the last six weeks of the season -- he batted .319 in 69 at bats and stole seven bases without being caught. He finally appeared in the postseason in 1975 and walked in his only plate appearance. Harper was released after the season and caught on with the Baltimore Orioles during spring training in 1976. He didn't do a whole lot for the Orioles (.234 in 77 at bats) and was released after the season.
  • Harper had several stints as a coach. He coached for the Red Sox from 1980-1984 but was fired during spring training in 1985 after complaining in the media about the team allowing the segregated Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL to invite only white personnel to its establishment. Tommy later sued the Red Sox for wrongful termination and won his case. He coached with the Montreal Expos from 1990-1999 and then went back to the Red Sox to coach from 2000-2002. He is still a player development consultant with the Red Sox.
  • Liked to face: Dave McNally (.375 in 56 AB); Clyde Wright (.381 in 63 AB); Jim Perry (.351 in 57 AB)
  • Hated to face: Mike Cuellar (.192 with 29 strikeouts in 99 AB); Vida Blue (.189 in 74 AB); Bob Gibson (.158 in 38 AB)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can you name the AL Gold Glove winners of the 70s?

1976 Topps #273 - Joe Niekro

  • Joe Niekro was overshadowed by his Hall of Fame brother Phil, but he was a good knuckleball pitcher in his own right. Joe pitched in the majors for 22 seasons and had a lifetime record of 221-204 with a 3.59 ERA.
  • Joe was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1966. He pitched at three different levels in the minors in 1966 and then made the Chicago pitching staff in 1967. Niekro went 10-7 with a 3.34 ERA in '67. He didn't do quite as well in 1968 (14-10, 4.32 ERA in a pitcher's year). Joe started the 1969 season with the Cubs and was traded on April 25 to the San Diego Padres. For the two teams, Joe was 8-18 with a 3.70 ERA. After the 1969 season Joe was traded to the Detroit Tigers.
  • Niekro spent three seasons (1970-1972) with the Tigers. He was in the starting rotation in 1970 (12-13, 4.06 ERA in 33 starts) and was used as a spot starter and reliever in the other two seasons. In 1971 Niekro was 6-7 with a 4.49 ERA in 31 games (15 starts). Joe missed the first month of the 1972 season and also missed a month from early August to early September. He was 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 18 games (7 starts). Niekro made two starts in the minors in 1972 -- probably a rehab assignment.
  • He spent a good portion of the 1973 season in the minors and the Tigers waived him on August 7. The Atlanta Braves selected Joe off of waivers and he was able to become a teammate of his brother Phil. Joe pitched in 20 games (all in relief) for the Braves in '73 and was 2-4 with three saves and an ERA of 4.12.
  • Joe started the 1974 season with AAA Richmond and after making 30 appearances for Richmond was brought back to the Braves in early June. Joe was used mostly as a reliever by the Braves (27 games, 2 starts) and was 3-2 with a 3.56 ERA. During spring training in 1975 Joe was purchased by the Houston Astros.
  • Niekro's most memorable seasons occurred with the Astros. He spent the bulk of his career (1975-1985) with the club. From 1975-1977 Joe was a fifth starter/reliever type of pitcher. He had good seasons in that role (6-4, 3.07 ERA in '75, 4-8, 3.36 ERA in '76, 13-8, 3.04 ERA in '77). From 1978 through the end of his career, Niekro was a starting pitcher. He went 14-14 with a 3.86 ERA in 1978.
  • Joe's best season was in 1979. He made the NL All Star team, finished second in Cy Young Award voting, and was 6th in NL MVP voting. He was 21-11 with a 3.00 ERA and a league-leading five shutouts. Niekro was almost as good in 1980 -- he was 20-12 with a 3.55 ERA and finished 4th in Cy Young voting. He was the winning pitcher in the one-game playoff against the LA Dodgers that decided the NL West title. Joe pitched a memorable game 3 in the NLCS -- he allowed no runs in 10 innings of work before giving way for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 10th. The Astros won the game in the 11th inning.
  • Niekro's W/L record wasn't as good in 1981 (9-9), but he had another great start in the playoffs. Joe started game 2 of the Divisional Series and pitched eight shutout innings. The Astros also won the game in the 11th inning.
  • Joe pitched well for the Astros for the rest of his tenure there -- 17-12, 2.47 ERA in '82; 15-14, 3.48 ERA in '83; 16-12, 3.04 ERA in '84. In 1985 Niekro didn't have as good of a record for the Astros (9-12, 3.72 ERA) and on September 15 he was traded to the New York Yankees for Jim Deshaies and two minor leaguers. Joe started three games for the Yankees and was 2-1 with a 5.84 ERA.
  • In 1986 Joe started 25 games for the Yankees and was 9-10 with a 4.87 ERA. He started eight games (3-4, 3.55 ERA) for the Yanks in 1987 and then was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Mark Salas. He started 18 games for the Twins during their improbable World Championship run and was 4-9 with a 6.26 ERA. Joe served a suspension during the 1987 season for having a fingernail file in his pocket while on the mound. He pitched two innings in the 1987 World Series, again allowing no runs.

Letterman's "Top 10 Excuses" when Niekro appeared on the show - August 6, 1987:

10. The emory board is a new super-grip popsicle stick.
9. I only used it to apply Vaseline to the ball.
8. I needed it to scrape dried wads of chewing tobacco off the bullpen telephone.
7. Delicate double-knit uniforms easily snagged on rough nails.
6. I was using it to make a statue of commissioner Ueberroth.
5. I used it as a bookmark for my dugout copy of Shirley MacLaine's autobiography.
4. Rules of fair play are for saps and squares.
3. I've been hypnotized by evil dogs.
2. It was all William Casey's idea.
1. I like to give pedicures to ballboys.

  • Niekro finished his career in 1988. He was released on May 4 after going 1-1 with a 10.03 ERA in five games (two starts).
  • Joe is the father of Lance Niekro, who played first base for the Giants for a few years and is now trying to make it as a knuckleballing pitcher.

  • Joe Niekro suffered a brain aneurysm on October 26, 2006 and died the following day. The Joe Niekro Foundation aids in the research and treatment of brain aneuryisms. Here is a 2009 New York Times article about Joe's legacy.
  • Liked to face: Dan Driessen (.205 in 88 AB); Dusty Baker (.174 in 69 AB); Gary Carter (.138 in 58 AB); Garry Templeton (.186 in 55 AB)
  • Hated to face: Chris Chambliss (.338 in 71 AB); Tony Perez (.368 in 76 AB); Willie Stargell (.421 in 57 AB); Reggie Smith (.449 in 49 AB)

Here is a tribute to Joe Niekro:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

1976 Topps #272 - Rick Dempsey

  • Rick Dempsey managed to play in four decades. He started in 1969 and ended his career in 1992. Rick was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1967. He played in single-A ball from 1967-1969. Dempsey was given a September call-up as a 19-year-old in 1969 and had three hits in six at bats.
  • Dempsey spent most of the next several seasons in the minors. He had brief appearances in the majors in 1970 and 1971 (total of 20 at bats) and stayed around a bit longer in 1972 (.200 in 40 AB). After the 1972 season Rick was traded to the New York Yankees for Danny Walton. In 1973 Dempsey spent most of the season in AAA and was called up by the Yankees in September (he played in six games).
  • Rick stayed up with the Yankees in 1974 and became Thurman Munson's backup. He batted .239 in 109 at bats in 1974 and .262 in 145 at bats in 1975. Dempsey started the 1976 sesaon with the Yankees and was traded with Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, Scott McGregor, and Dave Pagan to the Baltimore Orioles for Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Freeman, Ken Holtzman, and Grant Jackson. The deal was a good thing for Rick since he was given more playing time with the Orioles. Rick didn't fare very well in 1976 (.194 in 216 at bats for both teams), but he improved later.
  • In 1977 Rick split time at catcher with Dave Skaggs. Skaggs had the better offense and fielding percentage, but Dempsey had the better arm. Rick ended up batting .226 in 270 at bats.
  • Dempsey became the starting catcher in 1978 and held that position most of the time through the 1986 season. He wasn't in there for his bat (his highest batting average during this time was .262 in 1980), but for his glove. Rick's fielding percentages never dipped below .984 during this period, and until the last few years of his run as Baltimore's starting catcher he usually threw out at least 45% of opposing base stealers.
  • Rick did well in the post season. In 1979 he batted .400 in the ALCS and .286 in the World Series. In 1983 he didn't do so well in the ALCS (.167), but he batted .385 in the World Series and was named World Series MVP.
  • After the 1986 season Dempsey became a free agent and signed with the Cleveland Indians. He was part of a three-catcher rotation in Cleveland in 1987 and batted .177 in 141 at bats. The Indians released Rick after the '87 season and he caught on with the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training in 1988. For the next three seasons Dempsey served as Mike Scioscia's backup and got another World Series ring with the Dodgers in 1988.
  • Dempsey became a free agent after the 1990 season and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. He played in 60 games as a catcher, first baseman, and even a pitcher (two one-inning stints), batting .231 in 147 at bats. Rick was released after the 1991 season. He was unsigned until June of 1992 when the Orioles picked him up. Rick played with the Orioles for two weeks and .111 in nine at bats before his release on July 8.
  • After his playing career Rick managed in the Orioles' system for several years. He then coached with the Orioles (usually at first base) and also did some broadcasting for the team.
Rick has just released a CD entitled "Home Run Holiday":

Here is an amusing compilation of bloopers from "Dempsey's Dugout":

  • Liked to face: Tommy John (.389 in 36 AB); Rick Waits (.472 in 36 AB); Mike Caldwell (.361 in 36 AB)
  • Hated to face: Bert Blyleven (.133 in 30 AB); Britt Burns (.100 in 30 AB); Bruce Hurst (.148 in 27 AB)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1976 Topps #271 - Jim Lonborg

  • Jim Lonborg was a major league pitcher from 1965-1979. Lonborg was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1963 while he was a student at Stanford University. He pitched in the minors in 1963 and 1964. Jim made the Red Sox in 1965 and went 9-17 with a 4.47 ERA in 32 games (31 starts). In 1966 Lonborg was 10-10 with a 3.86 ERA in 45 games (23 starts).
  • The 1967 "Impossible Dream" season was by far Jim's biggest season. He was the AL Cy Young Award winner, was an AL All Star (he didn't pitch in the game), and finished 6th in AL MVP voting. Jim was 22-9 with an ERA of 3.16 in a league-leading 39 starts. Jim led the AL in strikeouts with 246. He also led the AL in hit batsmen with 19. Lonborg picked up the nickname "Gentleman Jim" for his willingness to pitch inside. Jim won games 2 and 5 of the 1967 World Series (game 2 was a one-hitter) but came back on two days rest and lost game 7 to Bob Gibson. Here is an October 1967 Baseball Digest about Jim.
  • On Christmas Eve of 1967 Lonborg injured his knee in a skiing accident and was never the same pitcher. Here is an article about "What Could Have Been." Jim didn't appear in a game until May 28, 1968. He dropped to a 6-10 record with a 4.29 ERA in 23 games (17 starts). Oddly, in a season dominated by pitching Jim batted .282, which was the only time except 1970 (when he was 4 for 9) that he batted above .176.
  • In 1969 Jim started the year 6-0 with a 2.23 ERA but tailed off badly and ended up 7-11 with an ERA of 4.51. Lonborg started the 1970 season with the Red Sox but continued to struggle and was sent to AAA Louisville to try to work out the problems. He started two games in Louisville then shut it down for the year.
  • After starting the 1971 season in Louisville, Jim came back to the Red Sox in late May and had a pretty good year. He went 10-7 with a 4.13 ERA in 27 games (26 starts). After the '71 season Lonborg was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a big trade that also sent George Scott to the Brewers and Tommy Harper to the Red Sox, among others. He had a good season in Milwaukee in 1972 (14-12, 2.83 ERA in 32 starts), but after the season Jim was traded again, this time to the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Jim had a so-so 1973 season (13-16, 4.88 ERA), but he continued to improve after that. In 1974 Lonborg was 17-13 with a 3.21 ERA in 39 starts. He no longer depended on his fastball. Jim developed a good curve ball and a slider. Lonborg missed the last month of the 1975 season and ended up 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 26 starts. Here is a May 1975 Baseball Digest article.
  • Lonborg had his last really big season as the #2 starter in 1976. He was 18-10 with a 3.08 ERA in 32 starts and was on the mound when the Phillies clinched the NL East and made the playoffs for the first time since 1950. Jim took the loss in game 2 of the NLCS -- he pitched 5.1 innings and allowed 3 runs (1 earned). Here is an August 1976 Baseball Digest article.
  • Jim missed the first seven weeks of the 1977 season and took a while to return to form. He ended up 11-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 25 starts, but was 10-2 in the second half of the season. Jim had a memorable game on September 2. He learned in the third inning of the game against the Reds that his wife had gone into labor with his fifth child. He hurried through the game (which he won) and headed to the hospital in time to see the birth. But he didn't have time to ice his arm properly. He didn't pitch as well after that, and he took the loss in game 2 of the NLCS.
  • In 1978 Jim's effectiveness declined (8-10, 5.23 ERA in 22 starts) and he wasn't used by the Phillies in the postseason. He didn't expect to make the team in 1979 but ended up on the opening roster when several young pitchers were injured. He was 0-1 with an 11.05 ERA in four games when he was released on June 16. Rather than try to catch on with another team, Jim chose to retire.
  • After his playing career Jim went to Tufts University Dental School and has been a dentist in Hanover, MA. He has been active in several charities (The Jimmy Fund, Catholic Charitites, Little League Baseball). On the TV show Cheers, the picture of "Sam Malone" is actually that of Jim Lonborg.
  • Here is a good SABR biography of Jim.
  • Liked to face: Luis Aparicio (.203 in 79 AB); Dick McAuliffe (.194 in 62 AB); Felix Millan (.158 in 57 AB)
  • Hated to face: Dave Parker (.571 in 21 AB); Bill Russell (.536 in 28 AB); Harmon Killebrew (.483 with 6 HR in 29 AB); Mickey Mantle (.406 in 32 AB)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1976 Topps #270 - Willie Stargell

Willie "Pops" Stargell was a much-beloved Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder and first baseman who played from 1962-1982. He took over the mantle of leadership after Roberto Clemente's death in 1972. Willie won one MVP award (1979 - shared with Keith Hernandez) and could have won at least one more -- a strong case could be made for him in both 1971 and 1973. He had a lifetime .282 batting average with 475 home runs and 1,540 RBI.
Here are some highlights and memories of Willie Stargell:
  • Don Sutton once said of Stargell, "I never saw anything like it. He doesn't just hit pitchers, he takes away their dignity."
  • He had a unique way of waving his bat like a windmill before pitches.
  • Stargell made the NL All Star team seven times: 1964-1966, 1971-1973, 1978)
  • Willie was on two World Champion teams: 1971 and 1979
  • Stargell is the only player to win the MVP of the league championship series, the world series, and the season (all in 1979)
  • Voted to the Hall of Fame in 1988.
  • Gave his teammates stars (called Stargell Stars) for their caps to commemorate good plays or good games. He started doing this in 1978.
  • Some Sports Illustrated Articles: 12/24/79 (Sportsmen of the Year--Willie and Terry Bradshaw); 8/20/79; 8/2/71 (article about the Pirates -- Stargell is on the cover)
  • Stargell died of complications from a stroke on April 9, 2001. It was the same day that a statue of him was unveiled at the opening of PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He had thrown the last pitch at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000 as part of the farewell ceremony.
  • Liked to face: Gaylord Perry (.343 with 7 HR in 102 AB); Don Drysdale (.400 in 70 AB); Milt Pappas (.348 with 7 HR in 66 AB); Joe Niekro (.421 in 57 AB)
  • Hated to face: Juan Marichal (.179 in 106 AB); Claude Osteen (.192 in 78 AB); Jim Bunning (.190 in 63 AB)

Monday, November 16, 2009

1976 Topps #269 - Rick Austin

  • Rick Austin had two stints in the major leagues. He spent two years with the Cleveland Indians and two years with the Milwaukee Brewers. Austin was the 6th pick (chosen by the Indians) in the 1968 draft. He pitched in the minors from 1968 until the middle of the 1970 season. Rick made his debut for the Indians on June 21, 1970. He was 2-5 with three saves and a 4.79 ERA in 31 games (8 starts) in 1970.

  • In 1971 Rick split time between the minors and the Indians. With the Indians in '71 he was 0-0 with one save and a 5.09 ERA in 21 relief appearances. Austin bounced around in the minors in 1972 and 1973 and didn't post very impressive numbers. He was released by the Indians in the middle of the '73 season and picked up by the Brewers. After the 1973 season Rick was released by the Brewers. He spent the 1974 season pitching for the Hankyu Braves in Japan.

  • Austin signed with the Brewers again before the 1975 season. He started the season in the minors and was brought up in late June. In 32 relief appearances Austin was 2-3 with two saves and an ERA of 4.05. In 1976 Rick spent most of the season in the minors. He appeared in three games with the Brewers in late June and that was it for his major league career.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1976 Topps #268 - Del Unser

  • Del Unser was drafted by the Washington Senators in 1966. He is the son of Al Unser, who was a big league catcher for a few seasons in the 1940s.
  • In the minors Del batted .220 in 1966 and .231 in 1967. Despite the low averages, Unser was brought up to the Senators and became the starting center fielder in 1968. In 156 games Del batted .230 with 66 runs, 1 HR and 30 RBI. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to Stan Bahnsen. Here is a September 1968 Baseball Digest article about Del.

  • In 1969 Unser led the AL in triples with eight. He batted .286 with 69 runs scored and 7 HR in 153 games. Del was a fourth outfielder for the Senators in 1970 and played in 119 games (.258, 5 HR, 30 RBI). Unser got his starting CF job back in 1971. He batted .255 with 9 HR and 41 RBI. After the 1971 season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a multi-player trade.

  • Unser spent one year (1972) in Cleveland and was the starting center fielder. He batted .238 with 1 HR and 17 RBI and was traded with a minor leaguer to the Philadelphia Phillies after the season for Oscar Gamble and Roger Freed.

  • Del spent two seasons as the starting CF for the Phillies. His offense improved -- .289, 11 HR, 52 RBI in 1973 and .264, 11 HR, 61 RBI in 1974. Here is a Baseball Digest article from November 1973 about how he found new life in Philadelphia. Unser was involved in yet another multi-player trade after the 1974 season and went to the New York Mets. John Stearns went with Del to New York and the Phillies ended up with Tug McGraw in the deal.

  • Unser started in center field for the Mets in 1975 and had a pretty good year. He batted .294 with 12 HR and 40 RBI. Del started 73 games in CF for the Mets in 1976 and then was dealt to the Montreal Expos on June 21. He played all three outfield positions for the Expos and ended up batting .228 in 146 games for the two teams.

  • From 1977 until the end of his career in 1982 Unser was a 4th outfielder and pinch hitter. He did well for Montreal in '77 (.273, 12 HR, 40 RBI) but he tailed off considerably in '78 (.196 with 2 HR in 179 AB). Del became a free agent after the season and signed with the Phillies.
  • Unser batted .298 with 6 HR and 29 RBI in 141 AB in 1979. He batted .264 with 0 HR and 10 RBI in 110 AB in 1980. Del had a good run in the 1980 playoffs -- .400 in 5 AB in the League Championship Series and .500 in 6 AB in the World Series. Here is an October 2000 Baseball Digest article about how he contributed to the Phillies' 1980 title run.
  • In 1981 Unser's average plummeted to .153 in 59 AB. After starting the 1982 season 0 for 14 he was released on June 8.
  • Del is currently a scout for the Phillies.
  • Liked to face: Mel Stottlemyre (.341 in 82 AB); Lynn McGlothen (.400 in 50 AB); Ray Culp (.380 in 50 AB)

  • Hated to face: Stan Bahnsen (.161 in 56 AB); Jim Palmer (.182 in 55 AB); Steve Rogers (.163 in 43 AB)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

1976 Topps #267 - Aurelio Rodriguez

  • Aurelio Rodriguez played third base in the major leagues from 1967-1983. He was known for having a very strong arm. Rodriguez was purchesed from Jalisco (Mexican League) by the California Angels in 1966 and never played in the minor leagues. In 1967 he played in 29 games and batted .238 in 130 at bats. Rodriguez was never known for his bat, but was a good-fielding third baseman.
  • Rodriguez played in 76 games in 1968 and then was made the starting third baseman in 1969, playing in 159 games. In 1970 he was traded to the Washington Senators after playing in 17 games for the Angels. Rodriguez had his most productive power-hitting year for the Senators in 1970, hitting 19 home runs. Despite the productive year, he was included in a trade to the Detroit Tigers (along with Joe Coleman, Ed Brinkman, and Jim Hannan) that brought Denny McLain and three other players to the Senators. The Tigers got the better of that trade.
  • Rodriquez was the starting third baseman for the Tigers for most of the decade. He usually had batting averages below .24o and wasn't much of a power guy. Aurelio won the AL Gold Glove at third base in 1976, which was the first time someone besides Brooks Robinson won it since 1959. In 1977 he missed about six weeks with an injury.
  • In 1979 Aurelio's playing time started to diminish. After the 1979 season he was sold to the San Diego Padres for $200,000. He played in 89 games and batted .200 in 175 at bats for the Padres in 1980 before he was sold to the New York Yankees in August. Rodriguez started at third base for the Yankees for the rest of the 1980 season (Graig Nettles must have been hurt or something).
  • Aurelio didn't play a whole lot for the Yankees in 1981. He appeared in 27 games and batted only 52 times during the season. He did bat .417 in four games in the 1981 World Series. Rodriguez was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a minor leaguer after the 1981 season. He never played for the Blue Jays -- he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Wayne Nordhagen during spring training in 1982.
  • Rodriguez started in 87 games at 3B for the White Sox in 1982. He appeared in 118 games but only batted 277 times. After the 1982 season Aurelio became a free agent and signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He played in 45 games and batted .119 in 67 at bats before he was released in mid-August. The White Sox picked Rodriguez up for some help during the stretch run and he was used mostly as a defensive replacement for the rest of the season. Aurelio was granted free agency after the '83 season, didn't sign with anyone, and retired.
  • After his major league career Aurelio played in the Mexican League until 1987 and then coached in the Cleveland Indians organization. He managed off-and-on in the Mexican League from 1985-2000.
  • Rodriguez was hit by a car and killed on September 23, 2000. Thousands of people, including the President of Mexico, attended his funeral.
  • Liked to face: Jim Palmer (.321 in 81 AB); Mike Cuellar (.297 in 74 AB); Pat Dobson (.339 in 56 AB)
  • Hated to face: Wilbur Wood (.133 in 83 AB); Jim Hunter (.132 in 76 AB); Vida Blue (.167 in 60 AB)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can you name the 1976 AL opening day lineups?

Trivia time

Can you name the 1976 AL Opening Day lineups?

1976 Topps #266 - Alan Foster

  • Alan Foster pitched for five teams from 1967-1976. Foster was a 2nd round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965. He pitched in the Dodger organization from 1965-1968. A highlight of his minor league career is shown on the back of this card --two no-hitters against Seattle in 1967. Foster had a short stint with the Dodgers in 1967 and went 0-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four games (two starts). After going 8-5 with a 2.60 for Spokane in 1968 Foster was brought up to the Dodgers and went 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in three games.
  • In 1969 Foster was used as a 5th starter and long man. He was 4-9 with a 4.38 ERA in 24 games (15 starts). Alan became a regular starter in 1970 and went 10-13 with an ERA of 4.26 in 33 starts. After the 1970 season he and Ray Lamb were traded to the Cleveland Indians for Duke Sims.
  • Foster went 8-12 with a 4.16 ERA in 1971 for the Indians. After the 1971 season he was traded to the California Angels. Alan bounced between the Angels and AAA Salt Lake City in '72. He appeared in only eight games (0-1, 4.97 ERA) with the Angels.
  • During spring training in 1973 Foster was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals. He had his best season in '73. Alan was 13-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 35 games (29 starts). In 1974 Foster didn't do quite as well -- he was 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 31 games (25 starts). After the 1974 season Foster was traded with Sonny Siebert and Rich Folkers to the San Diego Padres for Ed Brinkman and Danny Breeden.
  • Alan appears to have been hurt during the 1975 season. He pitched in only 17 games (4 starts) and didn't make any appearances after late June. He had a 3-1 record with a 2.42 ERA in 1975. In 1976 Foster was a swingman (26 games, 11 starts) and was 3-6 with a 3.22 ERA. Foster was released on August 13, 1976.
  • Liked to face: Jimmy Wynn (.192 in 26 AB); Mike Lum (.167 in 30 AB); Cito Gaston (.185 in 27 AB)
  • Hated to face: Pete Rose (.417 in 36 AB); Tony Perez (.344 in 42 AB); Hank Aaron (.366 in 41 AB)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

1976 Topps #265 - Willie Davis

  • Willie Davis was in the twilight of his career when this card was produced. After spending 14 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres were Willie's fourth team in three seasons.

  • Davis was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. He batted .352 in 1959 and .346 in 1960 to earn a promotion to the Dodgers at the end of the 1960 season. Willie batted .318 in 88 at bats for the Dodgers.

  • In 1961 Davis started 84 games in centerfield and played in a total of 114 games at that position. Willie batted .254 with 12 HR in 330 AB. After the '61 season he became the starting centerfielder for Los Angeles, a job he would hold until his trade after the 1973 season.

  • Davis had a good year in 1962, leading the NL in triples with 10. He batted .285 with 21 homers, 85 RBI, 103 runs scored, and 32 stolen bases. In 1963 Willie had a drop-off as he batted .245 with nine HR in 515 AB. This would be a recurring pattern with Davis---a good year followed by an off-year. He also had only a .281 on base percentage in 1963. Willie didn't take a whole lot of walks, so if he didn't hit then he wasn't a good guy to have at the top of the lineup.

  • Willie bounced back in 1964 with a .294 average, 42 stolen bases, and 91 runs scored. He regressed again in 1965 (.238 with 52 runs scored) and then improved to a .284 average in 1966. Davis hung around the .250s in 1967 and in 1968.

  • In 1969 Davis began a string of good offensive seasons. He batted .311 (1969), .305 (1970), and .309 (1971) and he led the NL in triples with 16 in 1970. In 1971 Willie was selected to his first All Star team and he singled off of Jim Palmer in the 5th inning. He also won his first of three straight Gold Glove awards in 1971. Here is a May 1969 Baseball Digest article about Willie's changed attitude. Here is an October 1971 Baseball Digest article about Willie's penchant for hitting triples.

  • Willie's average dropped to .289 in 1972 but he homered 19 times, the most since 1962. Here is a May 1972 Baseball Digest article about Willie.

  • In 1973 Davis was selected to the NL All Star team and went 2 for 2 with a home run. He batted .285 with 16 HR, 77 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in '73. After the 1973 season Davis was traded to the Montreal Expos for Mike Marshall.

  • Davis played well for his new team in 1974. He batted .295 with 86 runs scored, 12 HR, and 89 RBI. After the season Willie was traded to the Texas Rangers for Pete Mackanin and Don Stanhouse. Davis didn't stay with the Rangers very long. He was batting .249 in 42 games when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ed Brinkman and Tommy Moore on June 4. Davis finished the 1975 season batting .291 in 98 games for the Cardinals.

  • Davis was traded to the San Diego Padres after the 1975 season for Dick Sharon. In 1976 Willie played in 141 games and batted .268 for the Padres. He was released after the 1976 season and spent two seasons in Japan. In 1979 he signed with the California Angels and batted .250 in 61 at bats (mostly as a pinch hitter). Willie retired after the 1979 season.

  • Willie had substance abuse problems after his career but has managed to beat the problem. He is now on the LA Dodger speaker's bureau speaking about the evils of substance abuse.

  • Here is a September 1, 2009 Baseball History podcast about Willie. These podcasts are great!

  • Liked to face: Bob Gibson (.320 in 125 AB); Tom Seaver (.389 in 108 AB); Bob Friend (.427 in 75 AB); Milt Pappas (.417 in 72 AB)

  • Hated to face: Juan Marichal (.181 in 193 AB); Bob Buhl (.162 in 74 AB); Phil Niekro (.221 in 113 AB)

Here is an interview with Davis in 2009:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

1976 Topps #264 - Steve Renko

  • Funny -- Steve Renko recently came up in the 1980 Topps blog. Steve was drafted by the New York Mets in 1965. He didn't start pitching until 1966, and he split time between pitching and playing OF and 1B during his entire time in the Mets' system (1965-1969). Steve pitched pretty well in the minors from 1965-1968, never having an ERA over 3.29. In 1969 Renko had a record of 3-5 with a 5.45 ERA in AAA Tidewater when, on June 15, he was traded to the Montreal Expos as part of the deal that sent Don Clendennon to the Mets.

  • Renko was inserted into the Montreal rotation and went 6-7 with a 4.01 ERA in 18 games (15 starts). Early in his career Steve had an above-average number of walks. From 1969-1972 he usually walked about 4.4 batters per nine innings, except in the rough 1972 season when he walked 6.2 batters per nine innings.

  • Steve was a pretty solid pitcher for Montreal in 1970 and 1971. In 1970 he was 13-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 41 games (33 starts). In 1971 he was 15-14 with an ERA of 3.75 in 40 games (37 starts).

  • Something happened in 1972. There aren't any large gaps in Steve's appearances in 1972, but he wasn't used as much. His record was 1-10 with an ERA of 5.20 in 30 games (12 starts). He did have his best batting average (.292) during that season.

  • Renko bounced back with his best season in 1973. He was 15-11 with a 2.81 ERA in 36 games (34 starts). He was starting to solve his control problems -- he walked 3.9 batters per nine innings in 1973 and it number wouldn't get that high again until 1978.

  • In 1974 Renko led the National League in wild pitches with 19. He had a 12-16 record with an ERA of 4.03 in 37 games (35 starts). Steve apparently had some injury problems in 1975. He started only one game before May 10 (he made three relief appearances and one start before that day). His record dropped to 6-12 with a 4.07 ERA in 31 games (25 starts).

  • Steve started slowly in 1976. He was 0-1 with a 5.54 ERA in five games (1 start) when he was traded with Larry Biittner to the Chicago Cubs for Andre Thornton. The Cubs put Renko into the starting rotation and he went 8-11 with a 3.86 ERA in 27 starts. In 1977 Steve had more injury problems -- he missed over a month early in the season. He was 2-2 with a 4.56 ERA for the Cubs when he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Larry Anderson and cash on August 18. Renko started eight games for the White Sox during the stretch drive and went 5-0 with a 3.54 ERA.

  • Renko was traded (with Jim Essian) to the Oakland A's for Pablo Torrealba during spring training in 1978. He went 6-12 with a 4.29 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) for the A's. After the season he became a free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox.

  • Steve spent two seasons with the Red Sox. In 1979 he was 11-9 with a 4.11 ERA in 27 starts. In 1980 Renko was 9-9 with an ERA of 4.19 in 32 games (23 starts). After the 1980 season he and Fred Lynn were traded to the California Angels for Frank Tanana, Joe Rudi, and Jim Dorsey.

  • Renko had a pretty good season in 1981. He was 8-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 22 games (15 starts). In 1982 he was 11-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 31 games (23 starts). He didn't appear in any games for the Angels in the 1982 American League Championship Series. After the 1982 season Steve was released by the Angels and signed by the Kansas City Royals.

  • The 1983 season was Steve's last one. He went 6-11 with a 4.30 ERA in 25 games (17 starts) for the Royals. Renko was released after the season and retired.

  • Renko pitched five one-hitters in his career.
  • After his playing career Steve did some coaching in the minors. His most recent assignment as a pitching coach was with the High Desert Mavericks (Class A California League) in 2006.

  • Steve's son (Steve Renko III) played pro baseball for 12 years and reached the AAA level.

  • Here is an interview from February 2009 on Behind the Stats radio.
  • Liked to face: Joe Morgan (.184 in 49 AB); Richie Hebner (.197 in 71 AB); Larry Bowa (.208 in 72 AB)
  • Hated to face: Al Oliver (.412 in 68 AB); Ken Singleton (.400 in 50 AB); Johnny Bench (.385 in 52 AB)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1976 Topps #263 - Lyman Bostock

  • Lyman Bostock's promising career was cut short on September 23, 1978 when he was shot and killed in Gary, Indiana. Bostock was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1972. He played in the minors from 1972-1975, hitting well at every stop. He was promoted to the Twins in early 1975 after batting .391 in 22 games at AAA Tacoma.
  • Bostock actually started the 1975 season with the Twins but was sent back down to Tacoma in late Apri after starting the season batting .219 in 36 AB. After his recall he continued to struggle until the All Star break. Bostock was batting .195 at the break but came on strong to finish the season with a .282 average in 99 games.
  • Lyman became the Twins' starting center fielder in 1976 and had a nice season. He batted .323 in 128 games and finished fourth in the AL in batting average. Bostock's best season was 1977. He batted .336 with 36 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers, and 90 RBI in 153 games. Lyman finished second in the AL in batting, two points behind teammate Rod Carew. He became a free agent after the season and signed with the California Angels.
  • Bostock started slowly in 1978 and offered to forfeit his salary in April when he wasn't hitting well (he batted .147 for the month). The Angels refused the offer, but Lyman donated a month's salary to charity because he didn't think he deserved it. Bostock's bat heated up in June and on September 23 he was batting .296.
  • The Angels were in Chicago and Lyman went to visit relatives in his hometown of Gary. He was being driven by an uncle and a woman he had only known for 20 minutes was in the back seat with him. The woman's estranged boyfriend pulled up alongside the car at a traffic light. The man got out and fired a shot into the back seat. The blast was meant for the woman but it struck Bostock in the right temple and he was pronounced dead two hours later.
  • Here is an ESPN story called Fifth and Jackson about Bostock's death.

The Lyman Bostock Story (2 parts)

  • Liked to face: Jim Slaton (.500 in 28 AB); Fergie Jenkins (.387 in 31 AB); Doug Bird (.423 in 26 AB); Doc Medich (.481 in 27 AB)
  • Hated to face: Nolan Ryan (.172 with 12 strikeouts in 29 AB); Rick Wise (.143 in 28 AB); Pat Dobson (.182 in 22 AB)

Monday, November 9, 2009

1976 Topps #262 - Checklist 133-264

  • Ooh whee - a checklist.
  • When I was a kid there were about four of us around the block who collected cards. Jimmy collected mainly cards of teams that were good at the time (A's, Reds, Yankees, Dodgers) and he also liked Pirates cards since he was from the Pittsburgh area. Lupe was a big Reds collector. Brian liked the oddball cards (checklists, team cards, leader cards, etc.). I was the set collector in the group. I always tried to fill up those checklists.
  • This one isn't checked, which means it isn't one of my "originals." I probably picked up this card as an upgrade for an already really beat-up card. I have another upgrade in a box that I need to get into my notebook.
  • Checklists have their place, but I think they should have been unnumbered cards so that more real cards could be put in the set. The way Topps did the team checklists in 1974 was a good way to do it -- team checklists were inserted in packs and weren't very hard to get.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

1976 Topps #261 - Gary Thomasson

  • Gary Thomasson played in the majors from 1972-1980. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1969. He batted .359 as a 17-year-old in Great Falls (Rookie-League level). He also fared well in the minors from 1970-1972, batting between .270 and .280 in all three years. At the end of the 1972 season Gary got into 10 September games with the Giants and batted .333 in 27 at bats.
  • Thomasson played all three OF positions and 1B for the Giants in 1973. He batted .285 in 235 at bats. For the next three years (1974-1976) Gary had the same role with the Giants -- fourth outfielder and backup first baseman. He batted just over 300 times per year and had averages of .244 (1974), .227 (1975), and .259 (1976).
  • In 1977 Thomasson was the starting LF for the Giants. In 145 games he batted .256 with 17 home runs, 71 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. After the season Gary was sent to the Oakland A's in the big trade that brought Vida Blue to the Giants.
  • Gary started slowly for the A's in 1978. He was batting .201 in 154 AB when he was traded to the New York Yankees for Dell Alston, Mickey Klutts, and $50,000 on June 15. Thomasson performed much better for the Yankees -- he batted .276 in 116 AB as a backup OF and DH. He played in a total of six games in the ALCS and the World Series, going 1 for 5.
  • After the 1978 season Gary was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Brad Gulden. He was a backup outfielder and first baseman for the Dodgers in 1979 and 1980. He played in 115 games in '79 (.248 with 14 HR in 315 AB) and 80 games (.216 in 111 AB) in 1980. After the 1980 season Gary was sold to the Yomiuri Giants (Japanese Central League).
  • Thomasson played in Japan in 1981 and 1982. Gary set the all-time strikeout record in Japan in 1981, then he had a career-ending knee injury in 1982.

  • Liked to face: Phil Niekro (.400 in 40 AB); Jack Billingham (.389 in 36 AB); Bob Forsch (.367 in 30 AB)
  • Hated to face: Andy Messersmith (.105 in 38 AB); J.R. Richard (.189 in 37 AB); Dick Ruthven (.083 in 24 AB)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

1976 Topps #260 - Steve Busby

  • Steve Busby pitched for the Kansas City Royals from 1972-1980. He was drafted in 1971 and spent 1971 and part of 1972 in the minors. He earned a promotion to the Royals after going 12-14 with a 3.19 ERA in 30 starts at AAA Omaha. Steve went 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in five starts for the Royals to finish the 1972 season.
  • In 1973 Steve finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Al Bumbry (.337 batting average) and Pedro Garcia. He was 16-15 with a 4.23 ERA in 37 starts. On April 27 Busby pitched the first no-hitter in Royals history.
  • Steve was a real workhorse in 1974. Busby was 22-14 with a 3.39 ERA in 38 starts. He completed 20 games and pitched 293 innings. He was selected for the AL All Star team but didn't appear in the game. Busby pitched a second no-hitter on June 19. It's hard to believe Busby's 20 complete games was 8th in the AL that year.
  • Busby had another good year in 1975. He was 18-12 with a 3.08 ERA in 34 starts. He made the AL All Star team again (2 IP, 1 run allowed).
  • In 1976 Steve was 3-3 with a 4.40 ERA in 13 starts when he had a torn rotator cuff and missed the remainder of the season. He became the first pitcher to undergo surgery for a torn rotator cuff. Busby missed the entire 1977 season. He came back in April 1978, started four games (only getting past the 4th inning once), and went back to the minors to do some rehab work. Steve came back in September and pitched in three more games for the Royals. He ended up 1-0 with a 7.59 ERA in 1978.
  • Steve pitched in 22 games (12 starts) in 1979. He was 6-6 with a 3.63 ERA. He started with teh Royals in 1980 and then spent two months in Omaha in 1980. He was pretty successful at Omaha (3-2, 2.48 ERA in 8 starts), but was 1-3 with a 6.17 ERA for the Royals. Busby was released on August 29, 1980. He tried to catch on with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1981 but retired during spring training.
  • Busby, along with Amos Otis was one of the first two players elected to the KC Royals Hall of Fame. After his playing career Steve did some sportscasting with the Texas Rangers and was an instructor at a baseball school. Here is a good "Where are They Now" article about Busby.
  • Liked to face: Reggie Jackson (.180 in 50 AB); Mickey Rivers (.149 in 47 AB); Ed Hermann (.133 in 30 AB)
  • Hated to face: Pat Kelly (.400 in 50 AB); Carlos May (.341 in 44 AB); Mark Belanger (.345 in 29 AB)