Sunday, May 31, 2009

#1 Update

As I have been going on, I have noticed that some new tags might be needed to make navigation on the blog a bit simpler.

On the right, you will see some new ones, including:

(All Star Card)
(DP Cards)
(Last Card)
(Last Season)
(Rookie Card)

I put these designations in parenthesis so that they will stay at the top and not get included in the team list. I didn't want to screw that up. Thanks for staying with me and I appreciate the words of support to keep me going. Special thanks to Project Baseball 1976 and The Phillies Room for all of your great work as inspiration.

Friday, May 29, 2009

#49 Mario Guerrero



Who was this player?
Mario Guerrero, infielder, Oakland A’s
The diminutive right-handed hitting Guerrero had lost his starting position in 1979, primarily due to a mid-season benching. New A’s manager Billy Martin was hired in Spring Training 1980 and he made Guerrero his primary shortstop, sometimes sharing time with Rob Piccolo. Guerrero would appear in 116 games and achieved career highs in runs scored and stolen bases.

Signed as a free agent by the Yankees in 1968, Guerrero was the player named later in the trade to Boston that sent relief ace Sparky Lyle to the Big Apple. He served primarily as a utility player in 1973, but won the Red Sox shortstop position from future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio in the spring of 1974. Mario promptly lost the job to minor league teammate Rick Burleson at midseason and he returned to the bench. The progress of Burleson along with a spring holdout (the first by a Sox in 18 years) prompted Guerrero’s early Boston departure. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in April 1975.

Guerrero played sparingly in St. Louis and he was traded again, this time to the California Angels in May 1976. It was in Anaheim that he achieved career highs in batting, hitting .284 and .283 in 1976 and 1977 respectively. However, he never received an opportunity to play on a daily basis and he signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent in December 1977. Surprisingly, Guerrero was then traded to Oakland in a package that made Vida Blue a Giant.

In Oakland, Guerrero became a starter, and helped Oakland off to a fast start in 1978. While the A’s faltered and finished 6th, Guerrero batted .275 and achieved career highs in nearly every offensive category. After the 1980 season, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners, but he was released in Spring Training 1981, ending his eight-year career.

Why I love this card
Kiko Garcia's reign as "best action shot" of the 1980 set has come to an end, with Guerrero completely in the air for this shot. I was always curious to the identity of the sliding Detroit Tiger in this shot and in 1980, it was the subject to much conjecture. I always thought it was Eddy Putman, my dad suggested either Mark Wagner or Champ Summers. Through the miracle of the internet, 29 years later, dad was right, it was Wagner. Here's the box from the likely 1979 game.

Something else....
In retirement, Guerrero developed a reputation in the Dominican Republic. Raul Mondesi had to sit out part of the 2004 season due to a court battle with Guerrero and he won a similar settlement against Geronimo Berroa. This brought Guerrero criticism from other Dominican-born players, because he sued these players for 1% of their career earnings in exchange for advancing their careers. A detailed article can be found here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

#48 Rick Miller



Who was this player?
Rick Miller, centerfielder, California Angels
In addition to centerfield, the left-handed hitting Miller was often times the leadoff batter for the defending AL West Champion California Angels. As the Angels looked to return to the postseason in 1980, Miller was looked at as the defensive captain of the outfield and the table setter at the top of the order. Unfortunately, injuries doomed the Angels as they lost 95 games and finished sixth.

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Miller was invited to a pre-game workout with the Detroit Tigers in the summer of 1966. Along with a fellow Michigan high school standout, Ted Simmons, where he had the chance to meet his boyhood hero Al Kaline. He went to Michigan State University and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1969. Miller was called up for the final 15 games with the Red Sox in 1971, and he played reserve roles in the outfield. He wound up going 11-for-33 with a home run, batting .333 in the month of September.

In 1972, Miller played in 89 games, but usually as a late-game defensive replacement in center field. He hit three home runs with a .214 batting average. His efforts were recognized as Miller was also named Red Sox' "Unsung Hero of 1972" by the Boston Baseball Writers Association. Miller became the regular in centerfielder in 1973, but the arrival of Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in Boston moved Miller back to the bench. He appeared in a reserve capacity for the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series.

However, Miller wanted to play everyday, and he signed a free agent contract with the Angels in 1978. In his first year in Anaheim, he was awarded with a Gold Glove award and was in the postseason in his second, batting a career high .293. After the Angels disastrous 1980 season, he was traded back to the Red Sox where he would spend the remainder of his 15-year career. He was the regular starter in center in 1982 and 1983, but moved to the bench again when the Sox acquired slugger Tony Armas. At this stage in his career, Miller became one of the most dangerous pinch hitters in the league, ranking high among the leaders in the pinch hits and average.

Most recently, Miller was manager of the independent Nashua Pride in 2008. The team folded after the season and Miller did not follow the team when it became the American Defenders of New Hampshire.

Why I love this card
It's the first in action shot in a while and it captures Miller in full swing. Miller has every late 1970s/early 1980s accoutrement of the typical baseball player. Eye black? Check. One batting glove? Check. Wrist bands? Check. If Miller was photographed in the field, I'm sure that he would have had flip up shades.

Something else....
As mentioned on the back of this card, Miller married the sister of Red Sox teammate Carlton Fisk. Interesting that they are only 8 cards apart. More interesting is the depiction of Miller's wife/Fisk's sister. Is there a Jessica Rabbit thing going on here? Shame on you for clicking.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

#47 Bill Bonham



Who was this player?
Bill Bonham, starting pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds were penciling in the right-handed Bonham as their #4 starter in 1980, a similar role that he filled in 1979 when he won nine games for the NL West Champions. There was some concern about Bonham’s shoulder as he missed three weeks in 1979 with soreness. Arm problems would continue to plague him in 1980 as he only appeared in four games and was unable to return to the major leagues.

Bonham was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1970 and made the pitching staff the following season. His debut was rather auspicious as he walked three and allowed four runs without retiring a batter. He spent the season pitching unspectacularly out of the bullpen. The following year he began the year in AAA before being recalled in mid-year and pitched well in 1972 and again in 1973, primarily as a swingman.

His career as a starter in Chicago was one of extremes. He earned a spot in the starting rotation for the 1974 season and he and was the team’s Opening Day starter. However, he would lead the majors in losses (22) that season, despite his 7.07 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, third best in the NL. Also that year, he accomplished the rare feat of striking out four batters in one inning, while his eight balks tied what was then the ML record.

The following season, he set a ML record when he allowed seven consecutive hits to start the game, yet he achieved a career high in wins (13). In 1977, Bonham was on the mound for one of the worst half-innings of defensive play in baseball history. Facing the Cardinals in Busch Stadium, Bonham faced Lou Brock, Garry Templeton, and Tony Scott in the first inning. Each of the speedsters bounced the ball into the turf and beat out errant throws to first base. Before the debacle was over, five errors had been charged to the Cubs, two to Bonham, and Cubs made seven overall.

A trade to the Reds in 1978 jump-started his career, and he immediately helped their rotation winning 11 games his first year despite bone chips in his elbow. Arm problems began to plague him the following season as the Reds won the NL West and again during 1980. Although he attempted a comeback in the minors, he never pitched again in the majors after 1980 and ten seasons.

Why I love this card
The optimism on Bonham's face. Granted, this may be a token spring training shot, but it does look as if Bonham is truly enjoying his status as a major league pitcher. Hair flailing from under his cap, he doesn't appear to have a care in the world. Sad foreshadowing that this would be his last season in the big leagues. Sorry for the downer folks.

Something else...
Bonham had a great quote to describe his major league debut in which he failed to record an out: "I guess I was due for a bad outing." You would almost think he was a lefthander. This card is also the 4th double printed card.

#46 Rico Carty




Who was this player?
Rico Carty, Designated Hitter, Toronto Blue Jays
“The Beeg Mon” as he was affectionately known throughout his 15-year career, Carty was at the end of the line when this card came out. In fact, 1979 would be his last season and he did not appear in a game in 1980. It was understandable for Topps to include him in this set, as that he was still under contract with the Blue Jays when the cards were released.

Born in famous San Pedro de Macoris, he was signed in 1959 by the Milwaukee Braves. In 1964 he made a splash as a regular outfielder, hitting .330 (2nd in the league) with 22 HR and 88 RBI. In spite of that, Dick Allen was the almost unanimous choice as 1964 Rookie of the Year. He became the Braves left fielder, but it was a challenge to match the success of his rookie season. It was also during this period that the Braves moved to Atlanta and also started to become a pennant contender.

In 1968, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he missed the entire season as well as the first month in 1969. He played an integral role in helping the Braves win the NL West that season and Carty played in the postseason for the only time in his career in 1969. He hit .300 in the series but the Braves were swept by the eventual World Champion Miracle Mets. In 1970, he became the first ever write-in starter in the All Star Game and he won the National League batting title, with a .366 average.

Just when it appeared that he made a full comeback, misfortune returned when Carty was stricken first with a knee injury and then with phlebitis, and he missed the entire 1971 season. He returned to the Braves in 1972, but Carty’s health caused teams to be cautious with him. He spent 1973 with three teams before landing in Cleveland in 1974.

It was in Cleveland where Carty would benefit from the new DH rule in the junior circuit. He hit his customary .300 three out of his four seasons with the Tribe, but injuries and conflict eventually led to his departure. He found a home in Toronto, with the newly-created Blue Jays and had a great 1978 season, hitting .282 with 31 HR and 99 RBI. His production dropped in 1979, but he seemed set as Toronto’s DH for 1980. His release late in spring training led many to wonder if it was a ploy by management to “send a message" to the Players Union. Carty was not signed by another team.

Why I love this card
Here is the first appearance of the “Des Hitter” on the position banner. At the time, it seemed as if Topps was very reluctant to specify a player as simply a DH and there are very few cards in this set with DH as the formal position.

Something else....
This card was Carty’s final card issue as an active player. For those of you keeping score at home, that makes three so far (Balor Moore and Rusty Torres were the others)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

#45 Frank White



Who was this player?
Frank White, second baseman, Kansas City Royals
At the time this card was in circulation, White was the incumbent American League All Star and the premier defensive second sacker in the game. While he didn’t return to the All Star Game in 1980, White helped lead the Royals to their first World Series appearance and he was named MVP of the League Championship Series.

Frank White is the most successful graduate of the Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy - established by team owner Ewing Kauffman and run by Syd Thrift. The purpose of the Academy was to refine the skills of athletically-gifted prospects that had been neglected by other major league teams because they had not played much baseball in high school or college.

When he made his debut in 1973, he was seen as a good defensive player with limited skills at bat. Indeed, he won his first of six straight Gold Glove Awards in 1977. In time, White would hone his craft to become one of the important bats on a Royals team that won the AL West three consecutive seasons (1976-78) and was elected to the All Star Game for the first time in 1978.

He hit .545 in the Royals three game sweep of the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS, but Kansas City lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. He would hit 22 home runs in 1985 and 1986, helping the Royals win the 1985 World Series. In fact, White served as Kansas City’s cleanup hitter for most of the Series. During the 1986 All Star Game, his seventh-inning home run gave the AL a lead that they would not relinquish.

White has been decorated as one of the greatest Royals of all time, having his number 20 retired in 1995 and a statue erected of him at Kauffman Stadium in 2004. His teams won the AL West six times in his 18 seasons (all with the Royals). He is still ranked prominently on the Royals all time lists in every offensive category and his eight Gold Gloves is the team’s best.

Why I love this card
Here is our first All-Star card! I was always more partial to the individual player card having the All Star designation instead of the separate All Star subset that Topps did before and after 1980. I also think that this All Star designation is the best of its era. It doesn’t have the shield or star of previous editions or the bolder banners used before and after. Simple. Effective. It was always special to get an All Star card.

Something else....
After the end of White's playing career, he coached with the Royals and then the Boston Red Sox. He then managed the Wichita Wranglers for three years before moving in Kansas City's front office. In February 2008 it was announced that White was joining FSN Kansas City to serve as a part-time color commentator on Royals telecasts as well as an analyst on the channel's Royals Live postgame show

Saturday, May 23, 2009

#44 Bill Fahey



Who was this player?
Bill Fahey, reserve catcher, San Diego Padres
In 11-seasons in the major leagues, Fahey served as a durable backup behind the plate. 1979 was his first in San Diego, spelling Gene Tenace and he would resume the same duties in 1980. It was during 1980 in which Fahey reached career highs in games played, base hits and runs batted in.

A product of the University of Detroit, Fahey was drafted by the Washington Senators in 1970 and appeared in two games with them the following season. That year was the Senators final season in Washington and Fahey’s manager was the legendary Ted Williams. He traveled south with the team as they became the Texas Rangers in 1972.

He was given an extended look in the second half of the 1972 season, appearing in 39 games from mid-July, but batted only .168. He spent all of 1973 in the minors and when he would return to Texas sporadically the next four seasons, it was primarily to serve as backup to starter Jim Sundberg.

After spending all of 1978 either on the disabled list or minor leagues, Fahey was part of a trade that sent him to San Diego. After two seasons in California, the Michigan-born Fahey returned home, when his contract was purchased by the Tigers in Spring Training of 1981. Acting as Lance Parrish’s understudy, it was in Detroit that Fahey would begin the second stage of his baseball life.

When he retired as an active player in 1983, he was given a position in the Detroit farm system, as manager of the 1984 Lakeland Tigers. In 1986, he was asked by his former Detroit pitching coach, Roger Craig to serve on the San Francisco Giants coaching staff, where Craig was now manager. Fahey was a coach on a Giant team that won the NL West twice (1987, 1989). Today, his son Brandon is currently an infielder with the in the Toronto Blue Jays organization after three seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.

Why I love this card
Fahey's career stats include our first mention of the Washington Senators. Seeing that his season in DC matched the year I was born, naturally as a kid this was of interest to me. Funny to think now, but I didn't make the Rangers-Senators connection in 1980 and it was up to Dad to explain. It was about then that I learned about Frank Howard and the previous incarnation of the Senators with Walter Johnson.

Something else....
During the 1982 season, Rickey Henderson set the all time single season stolen base record. In a game against the Tigers with Fahey catching, Henderson stole bases #116 and #117, one away from tying Lou Brock’s record. Controversy arose when Fred Stanley was picked off of second, giving Henderson, the runner at first, a chance to tie the record at home. Fahey gunned down Rickey instead allowing him to break the all-time record for times caught stealing in a single season. As a Tigers fan, I am endeared to Mr. Fahey for having Rickey wait another day to accomplish the inevitable.

Friday, May 22, 2009

#43 Bombo Rivera




Who was this player?
Bombo Rivera, left fielder, Minnesota Twins
Jesus Manuel "Bombo" Rivera Torres claimed a starting position in the Minnesota Twins outfield in 1979 and would return in left in 1980. The Twins had lost outfielders Lyman Bostock and Larry Hisle to free agency and traded Dan Ford, enabling a position to open up for Rivera.

At the age of seven, his youth baseball manager started calling him “Bombo”, which meant “fly ball,” and the nickname stuck. Aside from baseball, Rivera was also an excellent athlete and musician. He was signed by the Montreal Expos as a free agent in 1970.

After several seasons in the minors, Rivera made his major league debut in 1975 with the Expos. After playing just five games in the majors for Montreal that season, he spent the entire season in the majors the following year, as part of a rotation of players tried out in left field. In 68 games that season, Bombo batted .276. He spent the entire 1977 season back in the minors, and in October his contract was sold to the Minnesota Twins.

The loss of Hisle and Bostock broght Rivera back to the majors in 1978 and he appeared in 101 games and batted .271. He achieved career highs in most categories in 1979, but and injury and a prolonged slump in 1980 saw him finish the season batting just .221. With the rise of several young outfielders in Minnesota (namely Gary Ward), Rivera was released during spring training in 1981. He was signed by the Royals shortly after his release, but he only appeared in five more major league games in 1982.

Bombo traveled to Japan with and joined up with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He hit 31 home runs in 1985, but was released in 1986 after suffering a hamstring injury. In 1989, he participated in the Senior Baseball League. Today he lives in Mayag├╝ez, Puerto Rico and works for a non-profit organization that offers sports clinics to disadvantaged Kids free of charge. He also stays close to Puerto Rican youth baseball by umpiring local games.

Why I love this card
Duh. His name is Bombo Rivera. The only Bombo in baseball history. Can't get any better than that.

Something else....
Despite his short career, Rivera did achieve a bit of cult status. In 1979, he received hundreds of write-in votes as president of student council at the University of Minnesota and he is mentioned in W. P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, the basis for the film Field of Dreams. However, that isn't even the most enduring. He was immortalized in song, The Ballad of Bombo Rivera. Bonus points if anyone can find me a copy of this song.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

#42 Dave Palmer



Who was this player?
David Palmer, relief pitcher, Montreal Expos
Palmer was a 22-year old right-handed pitcher coming off his first full season as 1980 began. He had pitched well for the Expos in their failed bid for the NL East in 1979, winning 10 and saving 2 with a 2.64 ERA. Though primarily a spot starter and reliever in 1979, he would be tried out in the rotation for the 1980 season as the Expos prepared to challenge for the division crown.

Drafted out of Glen Falls High School, Palmer was a high school teammate of another future MLB pitcher, Dave LaPoint. He rose through the Expos system as a starter, consistently posting a good ERA. He made his debut as a September call-up in 1978 and also made his first start.

He made a strong impact on the Expos pitching staff in 1979 and was inserted into the Expos starting rotation in May of 1980. Near the end of the summer, he suffered an elbow injury that limited his effectiveness for the remainder of the season. The Expos were narrowly edged by the Phillies for the NL East flag on the final weekend. The injury kept Palmer sidelined for all of 1981 as the Expos finally won the National League East.

Palmer finally returned to the Expos in May of 1982 and pitched well while healthy. He injured his elbow again near the end of the summer and was shelved for the rest of the season and all of 1983. He returned in 1984 and in his second start of the season pitched a perfect game in a rain-shortened game. Injuries again slowed his 1984 season and as the Expos fell out of contention, Palmer pitched well but with a losing record.

He signed with Atlanta for the 1986 season and had his two durable and injury free-seasons. He signed with the Phillies for the 1988 season and finished his 10-year career a year later in Detroit. He retired with 64 wins and a 3.78 ERA.

Why I love this card?
Other than the prominent display of the Expos logo on Palmer's jersey, and the Jarry Park reference, I love the scoreboard in the background. Security First Federal as a sponsor and the fact that the hometeam is Daytona. I like being able to pick out the background on a card.

Something else....
It took a while, but Palmer's card is the first appearance of a desireable "rookie" card in this set. Rookie cards would become huge in the 1980s and change the face of the hobby. Indeed, this set is most known for one rookie card in particular. Palmer's is the first one that we see.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

#41 Pat Corrales: Texas Rangers Team Card



What is this card?

Team card, Texas Rangers, Pat Corrales Manager

Pat Corrales was the 38-year old skipper of the Texas Rangers in 1980; a team looking to achieve status as contenders in the American League West. A third place finish in 1979 made pundits weary of the Rangers chances in 1980, but most felt that Texas could be a formidable team.

They addressed one of their biggest needs prior to the season by trading for pitcher Gaylord Perry to strengthen the starting rotation, historically a Ranger weakness. Question marks surrounded staff ace Jon Matlack and his ability to return from injury, but the bullpen was solid headed by All Star Jim Kern and former Cy Young winner Sparky Lyle.

The batting order was a mixture of youth and veterans, led by 1980 All Stars Al Oliver (.319 19 117) and Buddy Bell (.329, Gold Glove) Outfielder Mickey Rivers (.333, 210 hits) came through with a great season. Other veterans were catcher Jim Sundberg (Gold Glove) and Richie Zisk (.290 17 77). Bump Wills and Pat Putnam were seen as coming stars. Rusty Staub was added in spring training to provide veteran leadership.

Alas, it was not to be. The bullpen was erratic, there was no regular shortstop and the hitting was inconsistent. By summer, the Rangers found themselves behind by double digits in the standings. Perry and Lyle were traded and Fergie Jenkins was arrested in Toronto in August for possession of cocaine. Dissention began brewing between the front office and the ballplayers. The Rangers finished the 1980 season 76-85 in fourth place, closer to last than to first. Corrales was fired at the end of the season.

Why I love this card
The Arlington Stadium scoreboard in the background, complete with the state of Texas auxiliary. I can’t tell what the advertisement next to it is for, but the fact that it says “Texas Favorites” adds a nice touch to the card.

Something else.....
After Corrales was fired, the Rangers had an 11-player trade that essentially came down to Richie Zisk for Rick Honeycutt. Honeycutt would lead the league in ERA in 1983, but the Rangers traded him too, this time to the Dodgers.

Longtime Ranger Charlie Hough joined the team in 1980 in June after his contract was purchased from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rangers also drafted future Blue Jays closer Tom Henke in the amateur draft also in June.

Monday, May 18, 2009

#40 Carlton Fisk



Carlton Fisk, catcher, Boston Red Sox
Hall of Famer, Class of 2000
In 1980, Carlton Fisk was already a perennial All-Star, if not the best catcher in the game. The New England-raised Fisk was already a hero in Boston and he suffered and injury-shortened 1979 season. 1980 would be his last year in Fenway as a clerical error following the season allowed him to leave via free agency. He would go on to catch the most games in major league history.

Fisk was a four-decade player, breaking in with the Red Sox in 1969. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1972, leading the league in triples and won his first Gold Glove. In 1974, Fisk suffered a devastating knee injury. Many believed the torn ligaments would end his career. Injuries continued as he did not make his 1975 debut until June 24 due to a broken thumb but he helped lead the Red Sox to the AL pennant.

As everyone knows, Fisk is most famous for his Game 6 home run in the 1975 series. The image of him waving the ball fair changed the way baseball was televised. During this time, cameramen covering baseball were instructed to follow the flight of the ball. In a 1999 interview, NBC cameraman Lou Gerard admitted that the classic shot was not due to his own skills as a cameraman, but rather because he had been distracted by a nearby rat. Unable to follow the ball, he kept the camera on Fisk instead.This play was perhaps the most important catalyst in getting camera operators to focus most of their attention on the players themselves.

Fisk became a free agent when he wasn’t offered a contract for the 1981 season on time by Boston management. After joining the Chicago White Sox, he helped the team win its first AL West title in 1983. After injuries reduced his playing time in 1984, he began a new training program which he would use for the rest of his career. In 1985, he came back to hit a career best 37 home runs and 107 RBI. Fisk often credited the training program to extending his career. There was quite a controversy in 1986, when the White Sox decided to put Fisk in left field. The White Sox had a plethora of catching arms, and that may have been the reason. However, Fisk had rarely played outfield before and was there for only 31 games, during which he made 4 errors. As he settled into a position of elder statesman, he took his role seriously, not just for teammates, but for the opposition. He was named an All Star for the final time at age 41 in 1991 and retired two years later.

In 2005, Fisk was feted at Fenway Park where the left field foul pole was renamed "Fisk Pole." Also, a statue of Fisk was unveiled in August 2005 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. His number #27 has been retired by the Red Sox as has his #72 with the White Sox.

Why I love this card
When I think of Fisk, this is the image I have of him. Hard nosed, intense, almost pissed off. You didn't see Fisk smiling or posing on his baseball cards, it was if the camera man had to catch him on the field or not catch him at all. The current statue at Comiskey Park captures this exact image of Fisk.

Something else...
Our second Hall of Famer so far in the 1980 set. This post also sets the record for most links within the texts. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

#39 Rowland Office



Who was this player?
Rowland Office, centerfielder, Atlanta Braves
At the time of this card’s release, Office had already left Atlanta and signed a free agent contract with the Montreal Expos. He was an exceptional defensive player who had been Atlanta’s starter in center for five seasons but was finding himself in a crowded outfield situation in Montreal.

Office was signed by the Braves in 1970 as a 16 year old out of McClatchy High in Sacramento. When he made his major league debut two years later at age 18, he was the youngest player to appear in the big leagues that season. After a return to the minors in 1973, a strong performance in spring training earned him a permanent spot on the Braves roster in 1974.

That season was also the year that Henry Aaron passed Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list and Office was designated to spell the 40-year old Aaron. 43 times Office finished games for Aaron in the field and 48 more times he took Aaron’s place in the outfield when the Hammer had a day off.

The following season, Office became the Braves starter in center and hit .290, a career high. He also set a team record with five consecutive pinch hits in September on the odd day he did not start. His 1976 season was highlighted by a 29-game hitting streak and his play in the field was being punctuated by several spectacular diving catches. A knee injury in 1977 saw his batting average drop by more than 40 points, but he returned in 1978 with a power stroke, achieving career highs in home runs (9) and RBI (40).

He played out his contract with the Braves and signed with Montreal after the 1979 season. For the first time in his career, Office played with a contending team in 1980 as the Expos lost the NL East on the final weekend. However, he did see his playing time reduced and he settled into a role as fourth outfielder and defensive replacement. The Expos won the NL East in 1981 and played in the NLCS, but Office was a minor contributor, playing in only 26 games. He spent most of 1982 in the minor leagues trying to reestablish himself, but appeared in only three games with Montreal that year and was released. After two games with the Yankees in 1983, his 11-year career came to an end.

Today, a blog inspired by Office makes its rounds on the Internet.

Why I love this card
On the back of this card, it talks about an Office catch in 1977 being the greatest in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. A little research finds that the ball was hit by Mike Ivie, ironically the #1 pick of the 1970 draft. I have not been able to locate a picture or video of said catch, although it has been replaced by Otis Nixon as the ‘greatest’ catch in Fulton County Stadium history.

Something else....
I love the mini-themes that Topps has in this set so far. After the pinch-hitter homage earlier in the set, we now have recognition to defensive speedsters in the outfield. In the last six cards, three have featured a similar style of player (Scott, Torres, Office). Also, the tab is running on guys in this set photographed with one team and actually with another during the 1980 season (10 now).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

#38 Dan Spillner



Who was this player?
Dan Spillner, starting pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Spillner was a versatile spot starter and long reliever for the Indians in 1979, but manager Dave Garcia inserted him into the starting rotation for 1980 and he was the team’s Opening Day starting pitcher. He responded with a career high 16 wins, good for 10th in the American League that season.

Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres, Spillner was a hard throwing right hander from the Pacific northwest. The pitching-starved Padres brought him up to the big club in 1974 and he made his major league debut in June at the Astrodome. He finished his rookie year with nine victories, which led the club.

He started out part of the Padres rotation in 1975, was moved to the bullpen after a series of bad starts and back into the rotation to finish the season. Back surgery derailed his 1976 campaign, the only time in his 12-year career that he was placed on the disabled list. He returned strong in 1977, appearing in a career high 76 games and posting a 3.73 ERA. He was one of three relievers on the Padres that year that appeared in over 70 games.

Inexplicably, he was traded to the Indians in June of 1978. It was during this time in Spillner’s career that he helped define the role of a designated long reliever. He was so dependable in this role, it led to his promotion to the Indians rotation in 1980. While Spillner’s ERA was very high (5.25), he did provide thrills, even losing a no-hitter in the ninth inning.

His high ERA and the acquisition of Bert Blyleven had him returned to his familiar long relief role the following year, and in 1982, he was the Indians best reliever, winning 12, saving 21 and posting a 2.49 ERA. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox during the 1984 season and despite his durability and versatility, he did not receive any free agent offers following the 1985 campaign. He reluctantly retired at 33 years old.

Why I love this card
Spillner's moustache. That is a ballplayer's moustache. Nothing more needs to be said about the awesomeness of it. This is also the fourth of 66 cards that were double printed that season.

Something else....
In retirement, Spillner worked with Little League kids and as a construction worker. Collusion by the owners in the mid 1980s prevented him from getting a contract and in 1995, Spillner was awarded a $486,000 settlement for being frozen out of the big leagues by owners attempting to control salaries.

Friday, May 15, 2009

#37 Kiko Garcia



Who was this player?
Kiko Garcia, shortstop, Baltimore Orioles
As the starting shortstop of the defending AL champion Baltimore Orioles, the 1980 season began with high hopes for Kiko Garcia. After taking over shortstop for longtime Oriole Mark Belanger, Garcia batted .400 on a national stage in the World Series. He was slated to be the Orioles everyday shortstop in 1980.

After rising through the rich Orioles farm system of the 1970s, Garcia made his major league debut in 1976 and settled into the majors the following season. After hitting .263 in 79 games as Belanger’s understudy in 1978, he was given the position outright for the 1979 season.

The Orioles won 102 games that season with Garcia predominantly batting eighth and playing a solid shortstop. He shined in the postseason, batting .273 with a run scored and two RBI in the ALCS against the California Angels. He was even better in the Series, driving in six, including four in a Game Three victory for the Birds.

An alarming drop in batting average in 1980, coupled with the ascension of a young man named Ripken suddenly made Garica expendable and he was traded to the Houston Astros shortly before the start of the 1981 season. He was a substitute with the Astros that season, but he did see action in the NL West Divisional Series that season. After two years in Houston, he signed a free agent contract with the Phillies for the 1983 season. He was on the roster of the NL Champions that season, but he did not appear in the postseason and the Phillies lost the World Series to Garcia’s former team, the Orioles. He played two more years in Philadelphia before retiring in 1985 after a 10 year career.

After baseball, Garcia carved out a successful career as a high school softball coach

Why I love this card
What a great action shot here. Taken between innings, there is even a nice view of the ball leaving Garcia's hands. This may be the best action photo so far in the 1980 set, especially after a series of closeups. Bonus points for this photo being taken at Yankee Stadium.

Something else...
I don't know if there is a error on the cartoon regarding on the reverse. While it mentions that Garcia led the Appalachian league in triples, he did so with five and the cartoon character appears to be holding up eight fingers. Oh well.

#36 Rusty Torres



Who was this player?
Rusty Torres, reserve outfielder, Chicago White Sox
Rosando “Rusty” Torres was a defensive specialist in the outfield . He was released by the White Sox as spring training was coming to an end in 1980, and he signed on with the eventual AL Champion Kansas City Royals. He did not finish the season in Kansas City as he was released shortly before September callups.

Because of his defensive mastery, Torres was able to find a space in the outfield for three different teams, the Yankees, Indians and Angels. As a regular player, however, his batting average never rose above .211. However, Torres is most remembered for being in uniform at three of the most infamous games of the 1970s.

The first was the final game of the Washington Senators:
On September 30, 1971, the Washington Senators were leading 7-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth and Torres was in the on-deck circle. In a 2007 interview, Torres gave his view of the situation: "Bobby Murcer hits a ground ball. He gets thrown at first. They thought it was three outs. It was only two outs. And they rushed us! They rushed the field. They took dirt. People were taking dirt, taking the bases. They were tearing up the seats. It was unbelievable. That was a real scary experience. Thankfully, none of us got hurt."

The second was 10-cent Beer Night:
Torres did not start the 1974 game, but was inserted as a pinch hitter. With the game tied the game at 5-5, and Torres (now with the Indians) on second base, the inebriated crowd took over. After Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs violently reacted to a fan stealing his glove, hundreds of fans poured into the outfield, many of them throwing whatever they could lay their hands on, even several chairs. As a result, the head umpire forfeited the contest to the Rangers—the same franchise, of course, as the old Senators.

The third was Disco Demolition Night:
This time, at least, Rusty wasn't on the field when the madness started. The first game had ended and Torres who had started in right field, singled and scored the Sox' only run in the 4-1 loss, was in the dressing room when disc jockey Steve Dahl "blew up" a box of disco records. Thousands of fans overran the field, which was eventually cleared by police in riot gear. Tigers’ manager Sparky Anderson refused to field his team citing safety concerns, which resulted in the forfeiture by the White Sox to the Tigers.

Why I love this card
Torres signs his complete name on this card. I am glad that he did, because nowhere else Topps acknowledges his given name, Also the appearance Torres as a White Sox here means that every MLB team has now been represented by at least one player.

Something else....
This is Torres final card as an active major leaguer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The First 25 - A Roster

A brief look back in team form at the first 25 player cards in the 1980 set as if constructing a fantasy league team:

1B - Ron Jackson
2B - Dave Cash
SS - Mark Wagner
3B - Derrell Thomas
OF - Dan Ford
OF - Lee Mazzilli
OF - Jay Johnstone
C - Jerry Narron
DH - Pat Putnam

Bench:
Mike Lum, Del Unser, Steve Braun, Jimmy Sexton, Ron Pruitt

Not a whole lot of power in this lineup, but there are some good glove men here and versatility. Mazzilli was an All-Star, Ford an 100-RBI man. The bench is definately a strength, as some of the best pinch hitters in history are here. They could tip the scales in a tight game, especially with the pitching staff this team has.

Starting Rotation:
Vida Blue
Dennis Martinez
Jim Slaton
Bruce Kison
Craig Swan

Bullpen:
Bruce Sutter, Bill Campbell, John Curtis, Balor Moore, Manny Sarmiento, Marty Pattin

Excellent rotation headed by Martinez and Blue. They log a lot of innings and should keep the team in the game Like the bench, a lot of versatility in the bullpen. Sutter is a HOFer, Curtis and Moore are good swingmen.

OVERALL: Topps did a good job of filling a team with its first 25 players. It would at least have been as competitive as the 1980 Mariners or Blue Jays; alas no manager card to complete the team.

Grade: B

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

#35 Luis Tiant



Who was this player?
Luis Tiant, starting pitcher, New York Yankees
“El Tiante” had just completed his first season in pinstripes in 1979, winning 13 games. While his best days were behind him, he was slated to again be the #4 starting pitcher on the Yankees in 1980. He finished the year 8-9 with the highest ERA in his career.

Born the son of a Negro League legend, pitching success seemed all but destined for Luis Jr. Under the recommendations of former AL batting champion Bobby Avila, Tiant was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1961. Tiant progressed through the Indians farm system and Tiant debuted in 1964 with a four-hit, 11 strikeout, 3–0 shutout victory against the defending AL Champion New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Making the debut sweeter was the fact that it was against future Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Tiant finished his rookie season with a 10-4 record, 105 strikeouts, and a 2.83 ERA in 19 games.

In 1966, Tiant tied a major league record when he pitched four straight shutouts, and in the “Year of the Pitcher” 1968, started the All Star Game and posted the lowest ERA in the AL since the dead ball era. It was also in 1968 that Tiant perfected the delivery that would make him famous. An injury filled 1969 brought about a trade to Minnesota and another injury in 1970 threatened to end his career. Without a team, the Boston Red Sox took a chance on Tiant and signed him in 1971.

Tiant rebounded in 1972 to again lead the AL in ERA, shutouts in 1974 and won 20 games three times in four seasons. In 1975, with his father watching from the crowd, he won two games in the World Series, a famous encounter that saw the Sox lose in seven games to the Cincinnati Reds. After the 1978 season that saw Boston famously blow a huge lead in the AL East, Tiant was not offered a contract and he signed with the New York Yankees. He did not appear in the ALCS with the Yankees in 1980 and two years later, his 19 year career came to an end.

In his post-baseball career, he has produced line of a cigars, and has hosted a golf tournament to raise money for diabetes, a condition he was diagnosed with in 2004. He has also been elected to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame

Why I love this card
Tiant in a Yankee uniform. Today, I can’t imagine him in anything else but a Red Sox cap twirling and willing himself to victory during the 1975 World Series. It is almost forgotten today that a generation before Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens left Fenway for the Big Apple, El Tiante did it first. Still weird seeing him as a Yankee.

Something else....
Tiant is the subject of the documentary film "The Lost Son of Havana", produced by Kris Meyer and the Farrelly brothers, and directed by Jonathan Hock. It had its world premiere on April 23 at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, and was promptly acquired by ESPN Films.

#34 Jeff Newman



Who is this player?
Jeff Newman, catcher, Oakland A’s
Newman was the starting catcher for the A’s and their lone All Star representative in 1979. During the off-season, there was speculation that the A’s would move to Denver, talk that ended once Billy Martin was named manager. Newman was slated to be catcher, but would also play first base and outfield.

After six seasons in the minors, Jeff Newman was ready to give up the game until the Oakland A’s purchased his contract from the Cleveland Indians. He almost immediately made his major league debut the next season for an A’s team that would finish the year in 2nd place after five straight AL West titles.

The decline of the A’s dynasty corresponded with Newman’s increase in playing time. Since becoming a semi-regular player in 1977, the A’s lost at least 90 games the next three seasons, topping out at 110 losses in Newman’s 1979 All Star season. The A’s rebounded in 1980 under new manager Martin and finished in second place. Newman split time between first base and behind the plate.

The A’s won the AL West in 1981 and played the Yankees in the League Championship Series, a season that saw Newman’s power numbers drop drastically. He failed to get a hit in nine post-season at bats and the A’s lost the ALCS in three straight games. After struggling to hit .200 in 1982, the A’s traded Newman (along with Tony Armas) to the Boston Red Sox for the 1983 season. He assumed a substitute role in Boston and after nine seasons in the majors, retired after the 1984 campaign.

After his playing career, Newman was a coach on the 1986 A’s and was the interim manager before the A’s hired Tony LaRussa. Newman was the Indians third base coach from 1992-99, and served as the Orioles bench coach in 2000. Newman spent 2005 as third base coach for the Mariners.

Why I love this card
If there was ever to be a card to feature an All Star catcher, this is it. Newman is sporting the half helmet and old school mask. Two for two on the team name pennant being the correct colors as it blends perfectly with Newman’s road uni.

Something else....
Newman’s card is also the third of the 66 double printed cards in the 1980 set. That’s three of these in the first 34 cards.

Monday, May 11, 2009

#33 Tony Scott



Who was this player?
Tony Scott, centerfielder, St. Louis Cardinals
Scott was entering his second season in 1980 as the Cardinals everyday centerfielder. He was given the position in 1979 by manager Ken Boyer and his speed led Cardinal fans to believe he was the heir to retired Lou Brock. While his offensive numbers dipped in 1980, he was an excellent defensive outfielder, making only one error all season.

Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1969, Scott rose through the Expos minor league system as a excellent fielder with blazing speed. If there was one knock on Scott during his career, it may have been that he struck out too often and didn't make enough contact. Scott made his major league debut as a September call-up in 1973, and split time the next three seasons between Montreal and the minor leagues.

After spending all of 1976 with the Expos AAA affiliate in Denver, Scott's career was rejuvenated when he was traded to the Cardinals for the 1977 season and he became St. Louis' full-time centerfielder in 1979. However, when Boyer was fired and Whitey Herzog took over in 1980, he fell out of favor with the new GM/manager and was traded to the Houston during the 1981 season.

Scott reached the postseason for the only time in his career in 1981, as Houston's centerfielder against the Dodgers. Scott only managed three hits in the five game series as the Dodgers prevailed. He returned to the Astros in center for the 1982 season, but his .239 average led the Astros to obtain Omar Moreno. Since Moreno was also known for speed and defense, Scott was relegated to a substitute. After a slow start to the 1984 season, Scott returned to Montreal to put the wraps on an 11-year career.

Why I love this card
Topps finally got the color scheme on the team name pennant right! After purple for the Phillies, red for the Royals and blue for the Reds, the Cardinals hit a home run with the red and white pennant. Bonus points for the players name also being in red.

Something else....
Scott almost singlehandly made the Cardinals World Series champions in 1982. First, he was traded for Joaquin Andujar, who would win 15 game and two in the Series. Secondly, he unwillingly was one of the causes for the Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith trade. Templeton was unhappy with a lot of things in 1981. One of them was the trade of his best friend, Scott. On Ladies Day, he grabbed his crotch when fans booed him for failing to run out a grounder. Whitey Herzog grabbed Templeton into the dugout, suspended him and traded him for Ozzie Smith. The rest is history.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

#32 Julio Cruz




Who was this player?
Julio Cruz, second baseman, Seattle Mariners
An original Seattle Mariner, by 1980, the switch-hitting Cruz was a fixture at second. Typically the Mariners leadoff hitter, the sure-handed Cruz would steal at least 40 bases a season from 1978 to 1983.

An outstanding minor league player, Julio Cruz was picked from the Angels farm system in the 1977 expansion draft and joined the Mariners in July, hitting .256, stealing 15 in 21 tries and taking the second base job from Jose Baez. Ron Luciano called him out in a close steal attempt that year. When Luciano felt guilty about possibly making the wrong call for a rookie, he came up to him later in the game and said it was pretty close. Julio said "I'm just so happy to be here in the major leagues."

While he remained a Mariner regular, his batting average would fluxuate from season to season in Seattle, something that Cruz now says came from inconsistent coaching. During his time with the Mariners, Cruz says his "biggest thrill" was playing with Gaylord Perry. Manning second when Perry was winning his 300th game, Cruz says he kept thinking "[I]f the batter hits the ball to you, make sure you grab it on the dry side."

Midway through the 1983 season, Cruz was traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he would help the Sox with the AL West pennant. In fact, he scored the division-clinching run against his old team, the Mariners. He played in 160 that season and received a vote for AL MVP. He performed well in the ALCS against Baltimore, batting .333, but the Sox lost the Series in four games.

Inconsistency with the bat saw his batting average drop 30 points in 1984 and he lost his starting position the next season. He was released during the 1986 season after ten seasons in the majors. He became a Spanish language broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners after he retired and has been been co-coach, with former teammate Bill Caudill, of the Eastside Catholic High School in Kirkland, WA since 1995. He has also participated as a Mariners fantasy camp instructor

Why I love this card
This was the second of the 66 different cards that were double printed "DP" in the 1980 set. I believe that completely as I have six Julio Cruz cards currently and I remember destroying or defacing at least three more. It seemed like every pack that season contained a Julio Cruz. At least there is something you can count on.

Something else...
On display here is the greatest Seattle Mariner uniform ever. The "M" pitchfork on the hat, jersey front and sleeve is awesome. Add to that the polyester pull over jersey and the elastic waistband pants, and you have one of the best uniforms of the era. Or at least in the AL West.

#31 Jay Johnstone





Who was this player?
Jay Johnstone, reserve outfielder, San Diego Padres
Johnstone spent time with two teams in 1979, first New York Yankees who then traded him to the San Diego Padres in mid-season. He signed a free agent contract with the Dodgers in December, 1979 and planned to be a part of the Dodgers bench in 1980. Johnstone would prove to be a valuable addition, batting over .300 as the Dodgers lost a one-game playoff for the NL West to the Houston Astros.

Jay Johnstone survived 20 years in the Majors primarily as a utility player - with 500+ at-bats in only one season (1969). Johnstone was signed by the Angels in 1963 and came to the majors in 1966. Jay spent five seasons in Anaheim primarily as a left-handed bat off the bench and defensive replacement. After that, he would never spend five full seasons in a row with another major league team.

He was traded after the 1970 season to the Chicago White Sox, and hit only .188 in 1972. After being released at the end of 1973 spring training, he caught on with the Oakland Athletics for a cup of coffee. The St. Louis Cardinals bought him in early 1974 but released him before the end of spring training and he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he would play four seasons and part of a fifth before being traded in mid-season 1978 to the Yankees, with whom he appeared in the 1978 World Series. He was also part of the Phillies NL East champions in 1976 and 1977.

In 1981, he hit a pinch-two run home run in Game Four of the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees, the home run rallying the Dodgers from a 6-3 deficit to win 8-7. The victory also enabled the Dodgers to tie the Series at two games each; they won the next two games to win it all. He released by the Dodgers and signed by the Cubs in 1982. Johnstone stayed with the Cubs until he was released shortly before the 1984 NLCS. He ended his career in 1985 after a return to the Dodgers. In seven postseason series, Johnstone batted a combined .435 (10-24)

A notorious practical joker, he was a Yankees broadcaster from 1989 to 1990 and a Phillies broadcaster in 1992 and 1993. He appeared in The Naked Gun and hosted a syndicated sports bloopers program.

Why I love this card
The appearance of the hideous Padres warmups. I didn't realize that these had numbers on the sleeves. Not that it matters or anything.

Something else....
Another candidate for the 1980 Topps Traded set. Let's see in the first 31 cards, we have 25% (8 guys) who did not finish 1980 with their photographed team. Several, as in the case of Johnstone (Kison, Cash) signed even before the year 1980 began.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

#30 Vida Blue





Who was this player?
Vida Blue, starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants
As the ace of the Giants pitching staff, Blue was coming off a tumultuous 1979 season in which the Giants were expected to contend. Blue pitched poorly that year (a career worst 5.01 ERA) and refused to speak to the press. He rebounded during the 1980 season and was named to the All Star team. Injuries interrupted the '80 campaign and likely another 20-win season for the lefthander.

Vida Blue arrived on the baseball landscape throwing a no-hitter late in the 1970 season and exploded as a phenomenon during the 1971 season, when he won the AL Cy Young and MVP awards, all at the age of 22. A bitter contract battle with A's owner Charlie Finley ensued during that off season that led to a disasterous 1972 campaign. He did however, pitch well during the playoffs and World Series to help the A's win the title.

He was a crucial component of the A's dynasty of the early 1970s, winning 20 games twice more as a member of the A's. With the onset of free agency however, Finley dismantled his champions and tried to sell Blue; first to the Yankees and later to the Reds. Comissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed both transactions. Prior to the 1978 season, he was traded across the bay to the San Francisco Giants. In 1981, he became the first (and only) pitcher to win an All Star game in both leagues.

Blue's career was derailed in the early 1980s by drug use and addiction and he was suspended for all of the 1984 season while with the Kansas City Royals. He returned to the Giants in 1985 and was a .500 pitcher in his final two seasons. He retired after the 1986 season and 17 years in the majors.

On fan appreciation day in 1989, Vida was married at Candlestick Park. Orlando Cepeda gave away the bride and Willie McCovey was the best man. Over 50,000 fans were in attendance. Blue continued to work with the Giants as part of their community relations department, but he continued to be plagued by substance issues.

Why I love this card
The spring training setting in which this photo was taken. With the several trees in the background it looks like any kid's little league photos (in my case at Brys Park). Just another similarity where a 9-year old can identify with a major league player.

Something else....
From 2001-2004, there was an band named Vida Blue. The band was fronted by Page McConnell of Phish and included Oteil Burbridge of The Allman Brothers Band and Russell Batiste of The Meters. Blue himself joined them on stage at least on one occassion. In addition, Demi Moore's
dog is also named in tribute to him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

#29 Mark Wagner




Who was this player?
Mark Wagner, infielder, Detroit Tigers
Wagner was primarily a shortstop being reduced to a part-time player with the emergence of Alan Trammell in Detroit. With the rise of Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker, there was little place for Wagner in the Tiger infield and he would be traded to the Texas Rangers at the conclusion of the 1980 season.

In 1976, when Mark Fidrych was making a national splash, several young players began dotting the Detroit Tigers' landscape. One of those players was shortstop Mark Wagner, who in limited duty, batted .261. While never seeing regular playing time, he reached career highs in 1979 in games played, batting average and hits. He faltered at the plate in 1980, which led to his trade to the Rangers.

In Texas, Wagner resumed his subsitute role, but in 1982 was given a chance as the regular shortstop. In August, the Rangers traded for Bucky Dent and Wagner was slated as his understudy. After spending most of 1983 in the minor leagues, he caught on with Oakland A's in 1984.

On August 20 of that year, his old team, the eventual World Champion Tigers, were hammeing the A's in Oakland. Wagner took to the mound against his old mates, allowing no runs in his 1 2/3 innings of work. After 1984 and 9 seasons, Wagner never reappeared in the majors.

He returned to the Tigers in the early 1990s, first as manager of the Bristol Tigers (A) before moving up to Fayettville and Lakeland (AA). In 1996, he was manager of the Princeton Reds (A).

Why I love this card
Being from the Detroit area, it was always special to get card of a hometown player. This particular card was the last one in 1980 that I needed to complete the Tigers team set. I ended up trading a Carl Yastrzemski card for it. I didn't care if I had doubles of Yaz, I still would have done it even up to complete the team. Thank you Johnny Rashid, wherever you are.

Something else....
In late 1976, Wagner had a 3 hit game at Yankee Stadium followed by a 4 hit game against the Indians a couple of weeks later. This late season performance led many fans to believe that Wagner would be the shortstop of the future. Then along comes this Trammell guy......

#28 Bruce Kison




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.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

#27 Del Unser



Who was this player?
Del Unser, utility player, Philadelphia Phillies
Unser's 1979 season was previewed in a previous blog for his "Highlights" card. I won't recap that again here.

Born the son of a major league catcher, Delbert Bernard Unser enjoyed a 15-year career with five teams, primarily with the Phillies. Unser broke in with the Washington Senators in 1968 and won the Sporting News Rookie of the Year award that season. The following year, he led the American League in triples and was ninth in the league in hits. Unser was the Senators regular center fielder for four seasons before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1972 and was the Phillies CF in 1973 and 1974.

He was part of the trade that brought Tug McGraw to Philly when he was shipped to the Mets in 1975. In New York, he reached his career best in batting (.294) but was traded again in mid-season 1976, this time to the Montreal Expos. It was in Montreal that Unser's playing time as a regular began to diminish. He went back to the Phillies as a free agent for the 1979 season.

After establishing himself as a record-setting pinch-hitter, he helped the Phillies win the World Series in 1980. In the decisive Game Five of the LCS, he went 2-for-2 after coming in as a pinch hitter and then staying in the game, and he drove in a run and scored two, including the game winner in the tenth inning. In Game Two of the World Series, he hit a pinch double off Royals relief ace Dan Quisenberry in the Phillies' eighth-inning come-from-behind rally. In Game Five, another pinch double off Quisenberry in the ninth inning tied the game; Unser moved to third on a sacrifice fly and scored the game winner on an infield single. Unser retired after the 1982 season.

Why I love this card
The previous post, I commented on Marty Pattin's hat. With this card, Unser is the first player featured to not be sporting any headwear. While Unser doesn't sport the traditional 1970s hairstyle it does have a REO Speedwagon look to it.

Something else...
Unser threw out the ceremonial
first pitch at the first game of the Washington Nationals. It was fitting since Unser began his career in Washington, and Nationals were the recently transplanted Montreal Expos (another of Unser's former teams). To complete the theme, the Nationals were hosting the Philadelphia Phillies.

Friday, May 1, 2009

#26 Marty Pattin




Who is this player?
Marty Pattin, relief pitcher, Kansas City Royals
Coming into 1980, Pattin was entering his sixth season as a valuable swingman on a very deep and solid Kansas City Royals pitching staff. Used mostly as a reliever, Pattin won 39 and saved 17 ballgames in his current stint with the Royals.

Much of Pattin's early life was detailed in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four. He was drafted by the California Angels out of Eastern Illinois University and made the major leagues during the 1968 season. He appeared in 52 games for the Angels, mostly as a reliever, posting an impressive 2.79 ERA.

He was drafted by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft, and Pattin holds the distinction of being the first (and only) Opening Day starter of the Pilots in 1969. The Pilots left Seattle for Milwaukee the following year and became the Brewers. Pattin was chosen to represent the Brewers on the AL roster in the 1971 All Star Game. At the end of the season, he was traded to the Red Sox in a blockbuster trade featuring Tommy Harper, Jim Lonborg and George Scott.

He won 17 games for the 1972 Red Sox and 15 in 1973. His 4.31 ERA was a bit high however, so the Red Sox shopped him around, nearly dealing him to Cleveland only to have the trade fall through. The Royals had been looking to add pitching and he came to the team in 1974. Pattin was a key pitcher on a Royals team that appeared in the ALCS for three straights seasons, 1976-1978. He helped the Royals finally reach the World Series in 1980 and retired after the season ended.

Why I love this card
Pattin's hat. In today's game, hats are either too big, too flithy or all feature the curved bill. Pattin is sporting the fresh-out-of-the box stovepipe hat look. And it appears to be during pregame! You won't see a shot of a current MLBer wearing a hat like this today. Unless it's retro night.

Something else....
Pattin has spent his whole life in the Charleston, IL area, starring at the local college, Eastern Illinois University. He not only had his number retired by the school, but he also has the only bar on campus named after him. Now that's an honor most players never achieve.