Who was this player? Bruce Kison, starting pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates Kison had left the 1979 World Champion Pirates to sign a 5-year, 3 million dollar contract with the California Angles. The Angels were counting on Kison to be a significant part of their rotation to help ease the loss of Nolan Ryan.
Kison broke in the majors midway during the 1971 season with the Pirates. He would start 13 games (winning 6) and won the clinching game as a reliver in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. He won another game in relief in the World Series, a game that was also the first night game in Series history. The Pirates would defeat the Orioles in seven games to become World Champions.
As a swingman on a contending team, Kison would win games in the 1972 and 1974 NLCS, although the Pirates did not advance to the World Series either year. By 1975, he was moved into the starting rotation. He had one of his best years in 1976, going 14-9 with a 3.08 ERA. A poor season in 1977 saw him moved back to the bullpen in 1978, but for the 1979 champions, he regained his form, again a member of the rotation. He was one of only three Pirates (Stargell, Sanguillen) to play for both the 1971 and 1979 teams.
In California, injuries wiped out most of his 1980 and 1981 seasons, as Kison won only 4 games in those two seasons. A healthy Kison would help the Angels claim the 1982 AL West pennant, with Kison getting a complete-game win in Game Two. In his career, he would post a 4-0 record in LCS play. He would also develop a repuation as a clutch pitcher, compling a 30-12 career record in September.
After two more seasons in Anaheim, Kison's contract was up and he signed on with the Boston Red Sox. He retired after 15 seasons and 115 wins. In retirement, Kison played in the Senior Professional League, was a minor league pitching coach in the Pirates organization and in 2007 was the pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles.
Why I love this card Sunday, June 1, 1980. Angels at Tigers. My dad brings me to the game early to watch batting practice, et al. Me being a Pirate fan, I wanted to get Kison's autograph since he was with the "Fam-a-lee" championship team. Kison is more interested in some fine young thing near the dugout and shoos a bunch of kids (me included). As soon as I turn away, my dad bellows "I BROUGHT HIM HERE TO SEE YOU KISON!" He ended up signing. The only time I have ever got an autograph through shame. Good thing too since the game was rained out.
Something else.... Kison was one of the principals in a bench clearing brawl with George Bell in 1985 that featured Bell doing a karate kid impression by kicking Kison in the stomach.
This blog is inspired by several influences; first, the other blogs dedicated to a single season of Topps sets and the folks at http://www.deanscards.com/, who provide a great resource of all years of cards (and from whom I stole the awesome header).
Mainly though, this blog is inspired by my Dad who during the summer of 1980, fully introduced me to the great game of baseball through these cards. Every one of these cards is somehow connected to a memory of that time.