Thursday, July 21, 2016

#383 Ed Ott





































Who is this player?
Ed Ott, catcher, Pittsburgh Pirates

Coming off a World Championship season, Ed Ott was the primary receiver for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1980. The veteran catcher started approximated two-thirds of the Bucs games and he appeared in a career-high 120 games. His production dropped slightly from years past, but that was primarily due to a foot injury that Ott played through. It cost him nearly 50 points off of his batting average (.307 on August 1st) to finish the season at .260. However, he was an acknowledged team leader, sometimes getting ejected from games in the process. He saved his most stinging criticism for umpire Jerry Crawford, who had issues with Pittsburgh all season. After an ejection on September 8th, Ott said that the second-generation umpire said the National League had to "protect daddy's little boy."  Here is a 1980 interview with Ott from late in the season:



Ott's path to the majors was an unusual one, in the the did not play baseball in high school as his school did not have a team. Instead, Ott made his mark as an athlete in wrestling and football, where he made the finals of the state wrestling tournament with a broken hand. For his prowess, he was offered a scholarship to Arizona State University. Despite this, he was drafter by the Pirates in 1970 as an outfielder. He would lead his league in outfield assists, but in time, the Pirates converted him to a catcher and send him back to the minors to learn the position.

When he made it to the major leagues for good in 1977, he found himself sharing the position with Duffy Dyer and later, Manny Sanguillen. He did make himself known that season for his role in a brawl with Mets' infielder Felix Millan. In a brawl at second base, Ott slammed Millan to the ground after Milan punched Ott with the ball in his hand. Millan would suffer a broken collarbone and dislocated shoulder and would never play in the majors again. Ott would also suffer an injury in the fracas, a torn shoulder muscle that would effect his defensive play well into the 1978 season. Here is what seems to be the only recorded image of the brawl:




























Over time, Ott would become a key member of the "Lumber Company" that would end up winning the 1979 World Series in come-from-behind fashion. However, by the end of 1980, Ed would be very disgruntled with Pirate management in regards to his contract negotiations, even going so far to tell the press that he would not play if he was not 100% physically. That, along with the emergence of Tony Pena, led the Bucs to trade him before the 1981 season for Jason Thompson. Here is Ott in the glory days of his Pirate tenure:

1981 in Anaheim would be the final season of Ott's eight year major league career, despite attempts to return by spending time in the minor leagues. By the mid-1980s, he embarked on his second career as coach and manager at the minor league and major league level.

On incident, widely misidentified, occurred during the 1992 season. Ott by now was coaching with the Houston Astros. The team had a history with Rob Dibble and Cincinnati Reds going back to the previous season when Dibble threw behind batters. When the Astros retaliated on June 24, 1992, Dibble and Ott found themselves in the middle of the fracas. According to reports at the time, Ott told the media:
I watched him turn red; I watched him turn purple; I watched him turn blue. Then I let him up. Maybe now he'll value life. He doesn't know how much damage he can do throwing a 100 mile per hour fastball at somebody. I could have given him another 45 seconds and let him turn black, but I let him go. 
Ott ended his long coaching career in 2015, where his number was retired by the New Jersey Jackals, a team that he coached for many years in the 2000s.


Why I love this card
The series of things going on in the background. The wooden bleachers, the random tree and of course the ladder that leads to who knows where. Either way, Ott doesn't seem to pleased with his surroundings either. That and the fact that with five letters, Ott has the shortest name in major league history.

Something else...
For a couple seasons, Ott was often featured in Sports Illustrated subscription cards and advertisements. Ott's hook slide avoiding Rick Dempsey's tag during the 1979 World Series would continually remind me of first favorite team and elevate Ott in my mind as a upper tier player. After all, only stars would be featured in a manner like this, right?



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#382 Dave Freisleben

Who is this player?
Dave Freisleben, relief pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays
By the time this card was being pulled from packs in the 1980 season, Dave Freisleben had already appeared in his final major league game. Dave had already moved on from Toronto and had signed a contract with the California Angels. The Angels, however, released him shortly before Spring Training had ended and he was unable to catch on with another team. He did pitch for the Monterrey Sultanes in the Mexican League that year, but his six year major league career had come to an end. 

First, its pronounced FREEZE-Leb-En. 

Today, when you Google the name Dave Freisleben, two bits of trivia are the most prominent. The first was arguably the best pitching performance of his major league career, a 13 inning shutout against the Cincinnati Reds on August 4, 1974. It was ultimately a 14 inning game and despite his excellent outing, Freisleben did not get the decision. 

The second is that his photograph wearing the potential road uniforms of the National League club in Washington pending the transfer of the San Diego Padres to D.C. for the 1974 season.

A prep star from Pasadena, Texas, Dave was drafted by the Padres in 1971 and immediately led the Texas League in shutouts. The following year, he led the Texas League in wins (17), ERA (2.32) and innings pitched (190). By the time he was 22 years old, Freisleben was in the major leagues.

He started his big league career quickly, winning two complete-game efforts to start the 1974 season and then defeating future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in his third start. However, the league would eventually catch up with Freileben. He struggled with his control, walking over 100 batters, and finishing in the top five in wild pitches and hit batsmen. Nonetheless, he was named by San Diego sportswriters the Padres' rookie pitcher of the year.

Freisleben would be a mainstay in the Padres' starting rotation for the next three seasons (1975-1977), with a highlight coming in 1976 when he was named Player of the Week for his two shutouts on May 24 and May 29th. 

Injuries began to befall Dave, and his spot in the rotation was lost. He tried working his way back, but struggled before the Padres traded him to the Cleveland Indians in 1978. At the end of the season, he was traded again, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays where he would spend his final major league summer in 1979.

In retirement, he coached in the minor leagues, but also had a long career in law enforcement. He was honored by his high school and even spent some time playing golf professionally. Today residing in his native Texas, he his active on Facebook and Twitter and working as a Galveston Bay Fishing Guide.

Why I love this card
Often times, the kids in the neighborhood had trouble pronouncing certain players names. John D'Acquisto, Ivan DeJesus, Gary Rajsich. Dave Freisleben was one of those players. It got to the point that there was no consensus on how to pronounce his name and everyone had their own variation. So much so, that it ended up delving into calling Dave "Funky Winkerbean," off of a comic character in the newspaper at the time. Apparently, that was all we could agree on as 10 year olds. 

Something else...
For reference (and for those who may not recall), here was the comic we were referencing. It had nothing to do with baseball and none of the characters had any common ground, it was just a silly word association that I can recall 36 summers later. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

#381 Preston Gomez Chicago Cubs Team Card



What is this card?
Team Card, Chicago Cubs, Preston Gomez Manager

Not much was expected out of the Chicago Cubs and they didn't disappoint during the 1980 season. Or then again, maybe they did. Preston Gomez was named manager prior to the season and it would turn out to be the final managerial position of Gomez' career. 

Like all Cub seasons 1980 began with the hope and promise of Opening Day. The Cubs had a decent April, even spending a little time in first place. Their bullpen was a strength as was Dave Kingman, who would win Player of the Month honors for April, batting .345, swatting 6 home runs and driving home 16 teammates. Jerry Martin also started the season hot, batting .368 for the month.

Briefly, some Cub highlights from April, what would be their only winning month of 1980:



May began optimistically, but reality began to set in, as did injuries and gaping holes in center field and third base. By mid-month, the Cubs had slipped to the .500 level with no realistic prospects of returning to the first division:

 

By summer, the Cubbies had lost 8 out of 9 and were sinking fast. Cliff Johnson was added to the roster and rookie like Jesus Figueroa were seeing more playing time. Third base was a revolving door as by this point in the season, five players had seen action at the hot corner. Dave Kingman was also banged up, injuring his shoulder in a home plate collision:




A highlight came in July as Dave Kingman was named to the NL starting lineup at the All Star Game in Los Angeles, and Bruce Sutter picked up the save in the National League's ninth straight victory. However, Kingman took to complaining about the press coverage he was receiving and Cub management decided that a change was needed and Preston Gomez was fired, replaced by coach Joe Amalfitano:





video






As the dog days of August rolled in, the Cubs found themselves 25 games under .500 by the end of the month. 1980 would wind up being the third worst season in club history to that point, as the Cubbies lost 98 games, finishing last, 27 games off the pace. At this point, in the season, the Cubs would take outs any way they could get them:




By the time September rolled around, the only thing left really for Cub fans was to see if Bill Buckner would win the National League batting crown. He came from behind to win the race, edging out the Cardinals' Keith Hernandez and Garry Templeton:




In the off-season, the Cubs made some moves to improve on their standing for 1981, obtaining third baseman Ken Reitz from the Cardinals in a trade. Reitz had started the All Star Game at third for the NL in 1980 and it was hoped he would bring stability to the position. Also coming from St. Louis was highly touted prospect Leon Durham. However, it cost the Cubs their closer Bruce Sutter

In retrospect, trading a Hall of Famer away seemed like a poor move, but at the time it made sense. The Cubs finished last in fielding in 1980, 41 errors coming from their third basemen. And the Cubs only bright spot in 1980 was their bullpen. In addition to Sutter, Bill Caudill and Dick Tidrow had solid years. Willie Hernandez would be a future MVP and making his major league debut in 1980 was their closer of the future Lee Smith. 

Why I love this card
The uniqueness of the floating heads made the Cubs different. Like no lights in Wrigley, their team card was one that always made you stop and look at it. Of the Cubs pictured on 1980 cards, only two (Miguel Dilone and Ken Holtzman) would not play for the Cubbies that year.

Something else...
The video clips above feature a couple of things that we will likely never see again: a game suspended by darkness and a July 4th doubleheader. The game has certainly changed. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

#380 Garry Maddox


Who is this player?
Garry Maddox, centerfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

The 1980 season was one of redemption for the Phillies' Garry Maddox. After failing for three consecutive years in the postseason, Maddox was at times a symbol of that frustration. When the year began, there were some question marks that surrounded the Phillies. While not as solid offensively as years past, Maddox was very reliable in center field and at the plate, especially down the stretch in September. Garry earned his sixth Gold Glove award in 1980 as Philadelphia advanced to the World Series for the first time in 30 years, winning their first World Championship. Maddox was instrumental in leading them there, primarily in the NLCS where he was lifted on the shoulders of his teammates. 


Garry Maddox did not take the traditional route to baseball stardom, instead he first served his country in US Army in Vietnam after what he termed his "disallusionment" with organized baseball. He returned home after his father suffered three heart attacks and his family (eight siblings) needed assistance. He was allowed out on the condition that he have a job. It was then that Maddox turned back to baseball.

The Giants, though, held Maddox's rights after his time in the service, and he was given a look. In 1971, he became the only player in California League history to go 6 for 6 in a game twice. That got the attention of the parent club and he was in the Bay Area within a year's time. Named to the 1972 Topps All Rookie team, Maddox was doing very well for a 22-year old that was saddled with the pressure and responsibility of being Willie Mays' replacement in center field for the Giants.

The following year, he was the third best hitter in the league, with a .319 batting average. Within 18 months, however, the Giants had dismantled much of their young core of talent, shipping away several future All Stars such as Dave Kingman and Gary Mathews. Maddox was traded to the Phillies in May of 1975, where his career and reputation began to blossom.  

He would be known in Philly as the "Secretary of Defense," and that he was responsible for the third of the earth that wasn't covered by water. Garry would quickly become a fan favorite, earning raves for his defensive prowess and explosive bat. He would win eight Gold Gloves in a Phillie uniform and helped lead them to the postseason six times in an eight year period (1976-1983). He was a regular on "This Week in Baseball" for his defensive gems, well before the instant highlight era of today.

He would have highs and lows throughout, as evidenced in 1980, but he is also known for this; in the 1978 NLCS:
video

And this, his home-run in Game 1 of the 1983 World Series that was the Phils only win of the Series:


And this, his home-run in Game 1 of the 1983 World Series that was the Phils only win of the Series. 

Garry walked away from the game in April 1986, spending 15 seasons in the major leagues, but he had spent several years preparing for the next stage in his life. He has been involved in numerous charitable and civic causes in the City of Brotherly Love, served on the board of the Federal Reserve bank of Philadelphia and is the CEO of A. Promerantz & Company, a multi-million dollar furniture company.

Why I love this card
I knew nothing of the famous Oscar Gamble card or afro in the summer of 1980. Maddox's card was the next best thing for me. I found his facial hair, afro and huge smile positively compelling. Even now, this card still makes me smile. What I never knew was that exposure to chemicals in Vietnam left his skin highly sensitive, and he has always worn a full beard to protect his face. In fact, the Phillies had to waive their clean-shaven rule to accommodate Maddox. 

Something else...
I know that this was posted before, but it is too good not be posted again. Here's Maddox as part of a singing quintet with Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Dave Cash.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

#379 Kevin Bell


Who is this player?
Kevin Bell, third baseman, Chicago White Sox

The Hot Corner was up in the air on the South Side as 1980 began. Despite earning an extended look at the end of the 1979 season, Kevin Bell found himself in a Spring Training competition for the job with Alan Bannister. Ultimately, Bannister was named as Opening Day starter, but Bell ended up starting and appearing in the most games at third for the Pale Hose. His struggles at the plate kept the position opened all season as manager Tony LaRussa started six different players at third in 1980. Bell even went so far to consult an hypnotist to help him out of his season-long slump. Bell batted only .178 with one home run during the season and was eventually released in December. 

A California native whose father was a minor league player, Kevin Bell was an outstanding high school and college player that was a #1 draft pick by the White Sox in 1974. He was sent to Appleton, Wisconsin, which in time would become his home state, meeting his future wife Bonnie, a Wisconsin resident. 

Eventually, he made it to the Major Leagues in 1976, apparently after a trade with the Baltimore Orioles to bring Brooks Robinson to Chicago fell through. Given the third base job, Bell would appear in 68 games, the highlight being and inside the park grand slam in his seventh major league game. It appeared that Bell would be in the White Sox' long term plans, but the acquisition of Eric Soderholm (along with several others that would become the South Side Hit Men) led to Bell starting the year in the minors. When he returned, a devastating knee injury slowed his progress, taking almost two years to return to his full strength.

After the 1980 season, the Padres signed him as a free agent, but he did not appear in a Major League game in 1981. Traded to the Oakland A's. before the 1982 season, he appeared in three games in a late September call up before the right handed hitting Bell ended his six year big league career. 

Bell relocated to the Wisconsin area where he has remained since the mid-1980s as a business consultant for US Venture, in the AutoForce division. In 2001, he was inducted into the Appleton Hall of Fame.

What I love about this card
When I was in Little League there was only one way to hit a home run: Inside the Park. The fences were way too far away in the parks we played in, so our only chances were to hit one over the outfielders heads (usually the opposite way). It helped if you could run fast and if someone missed the cutoff man (which they usually did). Seeing Bell's greatest feat recognized on the back of is 1980 card gave credibility to all of us Little Leaguers everywhere.

Something else...
The TV announcer for the White Sox during the 1980 season was none other than Harry Caray. More known for his time with the Cubs, Caray began his tradition of singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on the South Side. The "Nancy" that he refers to in this clip is Nancy Faust, the longtime organist at Comiskey Park. It is also from the game in which Kevin Bell hit his only home run of the season, against the Indians on August 18, 1980:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Forgotten Stories: Disney All Star Extravaganza


Yesterday's post discussed the simplicity of baseball coverage during the regular season of 1980 and how that elevated the prominence of the All Star Game every summer. However, with the game in Los Angeles in 1980, the Hollywood crowd in southern California certainly had a presence although it was much more subdued than it is today.

Then as is now, Disney was represented mainly, I suppose, because of Disneyland's proximity to Dodger Stadium. However, this was not the same Disney juggernaut that runs the world today. It was a company in transition. Creatively, things were beginning to stall but that did not stop the folks at the Magic Kingdom from trying to put on a good show.

The cast of characters took the field prior to the start of the game in a series of short songs designed for the viewing audience at home. It culminated in a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" that was led by Mickey Mouse, in full Dodger regalia:


As the ABC cameras panned the action on the field, there were several curious observations to be made as apparently all the Disney characters were wearing MLB caps. Some of these characters may not be as immediately recognizable to some younger readers but were stars of some of Disney's most recent efforts. 

There were Bernard and Miss Bianca from "The Rescuers" (1977), in St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirate caps. 


Also shown were Little John and Prince John from 1973's Robin Hood. Little John is featured in a Philadelphia Phillies cap and Prince John is dressed in the emperor's garb from "The Emperor's New Clothes." To accentuate the royal garb they put him in.....a Cleveland Indians cap.




Also shown were Captain Hook (no, not Sparky Anderson) and Mr. Smee, from the 1953 film "Peter Pan." Not sure when the last time Mr. Smee has been seen at any of the theme parks since as a supporting character such as him likely has been retired. Appropriately, they are wearing Pittsburgh Pirates caps. 



Several other characters appeared on the field, in difficult to determine caps. King Louie and Baloo from "The Jungle Book" appear, but from a distance, it's hard to make out their caps. Same with the Seven Dwarfs and Three Little Pigs. Some, such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Snow White do not appear with a MLB hat at all. 

One last screen shot encapsulates Disney during this period. Having characters in MLB hats is really, really cool. Yet opportunities are missed. Take for example this shot of Chip. Or Dale. Either way, both were rocking a sweet Montreal Expos hat. And yes, I am glad to revel in its splendor glory. But really you have two chipmunk characters that essentially look alike and don't make them the Minnesota Twins?? Nonetheless, a minor complaint to what was a combined totally awesome and horrendous pregame at the same time. 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Forgotten Stories: 1980 Baseball Coverage


The All Star Game is quite possibly my favorite part of the baseball season. As the first half of the 2016 baseball season comes to a close today, I was thinking about All Star Games past, specifically, the 1980 edition that was held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. It was special because it was the first one that I was able to stay up and watch complete. I was nine years old.

In those days, there was no Futures Game, no Home Run Derby. It was the game and the game itself. It marked the halfway point for most of us during the summer and at least in my neighborhood it was an truly an event. It was marked by promotions during the spring and summer (via Pitch, Hit and Run and the All Star Ballots) and was a marked event in TV guides (remember those)?


The 1980 game was broadcast on ABC, then in their fifth season of televising Major League Baseball. It was their third ASG broadcast (the others coming in 1976 and 1978). All the heavy hitters were present: Keith Jackson, Al Michaels, Don Drysdale, Bob Uecker and the irrepressible Howard Cosell. Cosell, of course, was the polarizing figure and voice of Monday Night Football. His impact is largely forgotten today, but his presence at a sporting event definitely made it "must see."

In the years that have passed since, I have often wondered about how things have changed. The All Star Game has become niche programming, available really for those who want to see it (and judging by the ratings that's debatable).

I wonder if back then the All Star Game was more special because of the mystery that surrounded it. For clarification, many of these players I did not see regularly, if at all on television. Of course, the technology is almost archaic by comparison, but consider what a baseball fan had as options in 1980:

NBC carried the Saturday afternoon "Game of the Week"

ABC carried "Monday Night Baseball" during the summer months and periodically carried "Sunday Afternoon Baseball" in the fall to go head-to-head against the NFL and highlight in-demand pennant race games.

That's pretty much it. ESPN was not in every home as of yet as it was still new and most folks didn't have cable TV back in 1980. At least I didn't. The extent of our technology was making up games/stats/leagues using this:



For example, I lived in Detroit. Here is advertisement in the 1980 Tigers Yearbook. I loved this ad with the Tiger eating the logo of the other teams in the American League:


And this was pretty much their coverage: 



No replays from a hundred angles. No over-analysis. No screen clutter with multiple graphics. 


Today, we are accustomed to seeing every game televised live. If we miss it, we can still see it on-demand, or several other forms of media. In 1980, there were 52 games available and that's it. And we were happy to get that many. If you notice, most were road games, so there was very little coming directly from Tiger Stadium.

But back to the All Star Game and it's sense of mystery. We saw the stars of the American League, but the National League was foreign territory. We were NL starved. Consider that they won the darn game every year and it made it that much more intriguing. Yes, we read about them and even saw clips on "This Week in Baseball" but that was just about it. 

So while I settle in this week to get my fill and enjoy all of All Star coverage both televised and on the web, there is part of me that will recall another, simpler time that made me appreciate the game as much as I do today.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Fourteenth 25: A Roster


As part of a continuing series, every 25 cards or so, we take a brief look back at previous posts as if constructing a fantasy league team. In this case, we will be looking back at cards #352 through #378.

Manager - Jerry Coleman

Starting Lineup:
1B - Willie Aikens
2B - Lou Whitaker
SS - Rick Auerbach
3B - Wayne Gross
OF - Cesar Cedeno
OF - Jerry Mumphrey
OF - Gary Matthews
C - Darrell Porter
DH - Bobby Murcer

Glass half full:
Pretty solid lineup here. Great speed at the top of the lineup with Mumphrey and Whitaker. Cedeno was still a franchise-type player even if he is slightly past his peak in '80. Aikens is about to break out and Porter and Newman are coming off of All-Star seasons. Matthews is an excellent all around pick at this time as well.

Glass half empty:
Auerbach as the every day shortstop is a bit problematic due to a weak bat. Murcer will likely be platooning as at this point in his career he stopped being an everyday player. While Porter and Newman are coming off of All-Star seasons, they never duplicated their production in the same way as they did in 1979. Also Whitaker was still in the formative stages of his career in 1980, and it was by far not his best season.

Bench: Danny Goodwin, Billy Smith, Joel Youngblood, Jim Gantner, Gary Allenson, Junior Kennedy,

Glass half full:
Youngblood is a super-sub that can play nearly everywhere. Allenson provides some relief behind the plate as does Gantner at several infield positions. Goodwin can spell both Murcer and Aikens at times.

Glass half empty:
Kennedy's best season was 1980 and it will unfortunately be spent on the bench in place of Whitaker. Not much power off the bench from this group.

Starting Rotation:
Jack Morris
Dan Petry
Ray Burris
Wayne Garland
Ross Grimsley

Glass half full: Morris is the standout as he would be for the rest of the decade. His sidekick Petry is there to back him up and there are veteran arms to round out the rotation.

Glass half empty: If it was based on 1984 instead of 1980, the Morris-Petry tandem at the top of the rotation would be that much more formidable. Burris is decent as a number three, he will eat innings. Garland and Grimsley are both past their primes and spent most of 1980 on the disabled list.

Bullpen: Jim Kern (closer), Randy Moffitt, Andy Hassler, Bob McClure, Rob Dressler

Glass half full: Kern was a premier closer heading into 1980. McClure is a great pick as a setup man. Hassler also showed considerable effectiveness at times as did Dressler when used in relief.

Glass half empty: Like some of his teammates in this fantasy, Kern peaked out in 1979 and never had that type of season again. An argument can be made that Hassler was over the hill at this point and Moffitt's best days were similarly behind him. Dressler was inconsistent as a spot starter with a bad Mariners team.

OVERALL: A solid entry of players submitted here, with some that would stand out well into the decade. The lineup, with the exception of shortstop, has no immediate weakness with the bat, although fielding from the left side may be a concern. Great outfield that combines power and speed. The pitching staff, however, has a series of questions and is susceptible to injury. An untested manager is also a question. Depending on the division that this team would be placed in, it may have an outside chance to contend, if everyone stays healthy. Those are some really, really, big ifs.

GRADE: B

Thursday, July 7, 2016

#378 Jerry Mumphrey






















Who is this player?
Jerry Mumphrey, outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals

By the time kids were pulling this card from packs in 1980, Jerry Mumphrey had already been traded twice since he was pictured as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. First, he was sent to the Cleveland Indians in December 1979 as part of a trade for Bobby Bonds. Then, shortly before Spring Training began, Mumphrey was traded to the Padres. With San Diego, Mumphrey settled in as the Padres' centerfielder, playing in a career-high 160 games and having personal bests in outfield putouts, assists, plate appearances and base hits. He also teamed with Ozzie Smith and Gene Richards as becoming the only three teammates in Major League history to steal 50 or more bases in a single season. Mumphrey in particular was effective with his base running, being caught only five times and placing second in stolen base percentage with 91%

Jerry Mumphrey was popular during his career with teammates, the media and with fans. Accordingly, much has been written about him over the years, including a comprehensive biography by the people at SABR. For this post, we decided to include some video of Mumphrey over the years:

1978: With the Cardinals, earning a walk in the 9th inning of Tom Seaver's no-hitter:

video

1981: One of his finest performances on a national stage, Game 2 of the 1981 ALCS, where he had four hits in a 13-3 Yankee victory. Mumphrey's fourth hit set a record at the time for most hits by a team in a LCS game:

video

1984: Representing the Astros in the All Star Game. Mumphrey had been traded to Houston during the 1983 season despite batting over .300 in the previous two seasons as a Yankee.
video

1986: Traded to the Chicago Cubs, Jerry spent the final three seasons of his 15-year major league career in the Windy City:
video


In retirement, Jerry returned to his home state of Texas. Any update on what he is doing today would be most appreciated.

Why I love this card
My dad grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That made me a very impressionable Steelers fan at the time their dynasty was in near it's end. Mumphrey's card indicated his place of birth as Tyler, Texas. Immediately, I thought of (and feared) the great Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell. To this day, I can still hear John Facenda's voice: "Earl Christian Campbell.....The Tyler Rose." I had always wondered if Mumphrey and Campbell knew each other. What 10-year old sports-obsessed fans think about....

Something else...
When Mumphrey began his professional career, he played rookie ball with a fellow 18-year old catcher/first baseman known as Randy Poffo. Poffo would go on to attain greater fame as professional wrestler, Randy "Macho Man" Savage. I love the baseball reference the Macho Man channels in this clip:

video

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#377 Junior Kennedy


Who is this player
Junior Kennedy, second baseman, Cincinnati Reds

The Joe Morgan era in Cincinnati was over and the Reds were in a period of transition. For the 1980 season, Junior Kennedy would be the primary second baseman, starting the majority of the games but still sharing time with Ron Oester. As the season began, manager John McNamara did not definitively name either man as his everyday player, but Kennedy found his name in the lineup on Opening Day. Batting eighth, he contributed a Morgan-esque double, triple and three runs batted in. Kennedy earned his keep after that, batting a steady .261 with some small pop in his bat. The Reds would finish 1980 in third place, 3.5 games behind the division champion Astros. Below is a shot from April 1980 that shows both Kennedy and Morgan at a game in the Astrodome.

Junior Raymond Kennedy was his given name. Despite misconceptions, it was not Kennedy's nickname, even with an older brother that had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970. A fantastic athlete, he was the tenth overall pick of the Orioles in the 1968 amateur draft, names like Tim Foli, Thurman Munson and Bobby Valentine taken before him. He would never play for the Orioles, as he was part of the Ross Grimsley trade that sent him to Cincinnati prior to the 1974 season.

A starring performance in the American Association earned him a look by the Reds near the end of 1974, but the incredible depth on one of the all-time greatest teams kept him in the minors for the next few years. The right handed hitting Kennedy finally made the main roster in 1978 and spent the next four season as a reliable infielder both at the plate and in the field, telling reporters how happy he was just to be in the major leagues and fulfill his dream.

The successes of Ray Knight and Dave Collins with the Reds in 1979 was instrumental in Kennedy's insertion at second base. Even though Kennedy would tell reporters "I'm no Joe Morgan," fans were hopeful for another success story. In a way, they got one as Kennedy enjoyed his finest season in 1980 before being beaten out by Oester the following year.

Traded to the Chicago Cubs prior to 1982, he was the understudy for Bump Wills and the next year, Ryne Sandberg. His seven year major league career would end there in July of 1983. Another blog writes about his final days in Chicago, here. In 1986, he would be elected to the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame. Kennedy apparently still lives in the Bakersfield, California area, although not much is written about these days of what he has been up to. Any information on that would be greatly appreciated.

Why I love this card
I have spoken several times about photos of the Reds being taken at Tiger Stadium. This one is another example. The Tigers and Reds would play each other every year on an off-day exhibition to benefit charity. The 1979 game was in Detroit and several Reds made their 1980 card appearance there. This absolutely fascinated us that summer as Inter-league play was stuff that was only dreamed about. It was for the World Series - ONLY! To see a National League team in an American League park led to all sorts of What If? discussions that entertained 10-year olds for hours. It was a different era.

Something else...
One of Junior Kennedy's best game of the 1980 season came on May 20, 1980 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Kennedy recorded four hits in the Reds 7-6 win in Philadelphia and scored what would be the winning run in the ballgame. Through the miracle of the Internet, audio broadcast of this game exists here. Marty Brennaman on the call.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth of July


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Enjoy the holiday everyone! As a special treat from your friends at 1980 Topps, here is our country's national anthem from that summer 36 years ago. 

This is prior to an August 15, 1980 game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

#376 Gary Allenson



Who is this player?
Gary Allenson, catcher, Boston Red Sox

Despite starting 82 games behind the plate in 1979 (primarily due to injury to Carlton Fisk), Red Sox management was not high on Gary Allenson as 1980 began. Even though he was solid defensively behind the plate, the Red Sox were looking for more offense from Fisk's understudy. This, even though Allenson spent the off-season playing winter ball in  Santurce, Puerto Rico under Frank Robinson.  Near the end of Spring Training, Boston landed Dave Rader in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. With a healthy Fisk returning and veteran Rader batting .328, Allenson saw limited action in 1980, appearing in only 36 games. A highlight, however, game on June 25th against the rival Yankees, which saw Gary collect two hits and score the game winning run in the 10th inning.

The man known affectionately as "Muggsy" came to Boston via the campus of Arizona State University and helped lead Team USA to a Silver Medal in the 1975 Pan American Games. After he was named the 1978 International League MVP he debuted as a Red Sox rookie in 1979 where he received a baptism by fire due to Fisk's injury.

Fisk's departure from Boston (as well as Don Zimmer's) opened the door for Allenson to be the Red Sox Opening Day catcher in 1981. Coincidentally, the Red Sox played the Chicago White Sox on that day - the heralded return of Carlton Fisk. Allenson, however, showed his mettle before the home town fans, homering to give the Sox a short-lived lead:

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Allenson would be Boston's starting catcher for the next three seasons. His defensive abilities were always praised by his teammates and he had a strong and accurate throwing arm. Eventually, however, a harder hitting Rich Gedman would replace him in the starting lineup. He stayed with the Red Sox for one more year and finished his 7-year major league career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985.

Since his playing days, Allenson, like so many of his contemporaries, stayed around the game as a manager and coach, first in the early 1990s with Boston, then with the Brewers, finally with the Orioles, where he last coached in the majors in 2010. In between, he has had a long career managing in the minors where he managed future All-Stars such as Jake Arrieta, Bobby Abreu, Matt Weiters and Brian Roberts. Today he is the manager of the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Why I love this card
It reminds me of one of my favorite trades that summer. Like most kids, George Brett was huge for me in 1980. And, even though I already had a card of his, I couldn't resist when one was offered to me in a trade. However, my buddy Peter didn't feel that Brett straight up for Steve Garvey was fair so I had to pad the deal. One of the "players to be named later" was Allenson. I think it ended up being a 10 for 1 deal. I only remember Allenson's inclusion because Peter said his helmet reminded him of Dairy Queen.

Something else...
Since everything is recorded these days, Youtube has posted an ejection of Allenson's when he was a manager, in this case with the Norfolk Tide where he spent five seasons. And since those are always fun to watch....enjoy, this one is unique!!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

#375 Ross Grimsley




Who is this player? 
Ross Grimsley, starting pitcher, Montreal Expos

Just 18 months after becoming the first 20-game winner in the history of the franchise, Ross Grimsley reported to camp angry at the way he was being used by manager Dick Williams. Still upset after the way he was used down the stretch in 1979, Grimsley made it known that he would rather be traded. He began the season as the Expos' fifth starter and often went long periods of time without being used in a game. Grimsley took to taping a number on his locker to indicate how many days he went being appearances, similar to the Iran Hostage Crisis. By the middle of June, he was moved out of the rotation, with a 2-4 record and 6.29 ERA. Ross did not do much better in the bullpen and within a month was traded to the Indians for what he called "a bag of bats and a couple boxes of Fruit Loops." Despite winning his first three decisions with the Tribe, Grimsley was hit hard and finished 1980 with a 6-9 record and a 6.59 ERA.

The son of a major leaguer with the same name, Ross Jr, was raised in Tennessee and drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1969. Despite his considerable talent, Grimsley became more well known as a metaphor for the flaky, unpredictable nature of left-handed pitchers during this era. To wit:

* One of the primary reasons for his trade from the Reds, perhaps the most conservative team of this era was due to his resistance of the team's strict grooming policies (Grimsley was traded to Baltimore after the 1972 season at age 23 despite being a major part of their rotation).

* While with the Reds, manager Sparky Anderson asked him to stop corresponding with a "witch" who was sending him good luck charms in the mail. Grimsley reportedly refused. He clarified this in a 2013 interview here

* He was often accused of doctoring the ball, primarily throwing a spitball. Many sites on the net attribute Billy Martin as being a primary critic of Grimsley using grease from his hair to doctor the ball. While this accusation is out there (see the links) I have been unable to find a definitive source that cites Martin in 1977. If anyone can pass along, please let me know. 

* With the Orioles in 1975, Grimsley, while warming up in the Orioles bullpen, responded to a Boston fan's heckling by throwing a ball into the right field bleachers. The ball passed through a protective netting, striking a fan. Grimsley was later sued over the issue.

The Indians sent him to the minors at the end of Spring Training 1981 and he did not appear in a major league game that season. He returned to the Orioles in 1982, where he finished his 11-year major league career.

Former Reds teammate Bill Plummer asked Ross to coach with him in the Seattle organization shortly thereafter. From there, he began a long second career as a widely respected pitching instructor and coach. He earned three World Championship rings with the Giants this decade as he was instrumental in the development of several of the Giants' pitchers such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Today, the longtime Baltimore resident provides analysis on the Orioles radio and television broadcasts. 

Why I love this card. 
Just look at it. Very few cards from this set look cooler. If I have to pick something else about it, however, I would say the cartoon on the back makes Ross Sr. look like King Kong Bundy.

Something else...
As much as I loved this card in 1980, Grimsley's 1981 card positively terrified me. I had not known at the time that his nickname was "Crazy Eyes" but I wouldn't have had to be told twice. This card was never, ever, at the top of any pile of cards I owned that season.