Monday, August 1, 2016

#387 Fred Stanley

Who is this player?
Fred Stanley, infielder, New York Yankees

Widely known as a defensive specialist, by 1980 Fred Stanley had seen his playing time decrease for the third consecutive year in the Bronx. It was unfortunate timing for Stanley, seeing that incumbent Bucky Dent was out of the lineup due to injuries. Mainly hampered by injuries himself, Stanley saw much of his playing time usurped by both Brian Doyle and Joe Lefebvre. This made Fred expendable and Stanley was not included on the postseason roster of the AL East Champion Yankees. New York was swept by the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. Before the calendar would turn to 1981, Stanley's time in Gotham was over, as he was traded to the Oakland A's on November 4, 1980.

Today, Fred Stanley is commonly referred to as a "baseball lifer." A respected judge of talent Stanley most recently helped architect the rise of the San Francisco Giants, serving as the director of player development from 2008-2013 and prior to that was the Giants coordinator of minor league instruction. Players such as Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum were all under Stanley's watch as the Giants won three World Championships in the past decade. Presently he serves as a special assistant to the Giants.

But prior to his long and successful career developing major league talent, Fred Stanley was a boy from Farhamville, Iowa with major league aspirations. Like most players of this era, Stanley was a high school star, which resulting in a selection by the Houston Astros in the early days of the amateur draft. Houston sold him to the Seattle Pilots in their first and only season, where he made his major league debut in 1969. In time, Stanley would be the last active Seattle Pilot in the major leagues. During this era, the position of shortstop was seen as a defensive one, and anything a player could contribute with the bat was additional, but not primary.

Nicknamed forevermore "Chicken" in the minors due to youthful exuberance of young men, Stanley provided that "good glove," but he was often moved from team to team early in his career, from Seattle to Milwaukee to Cleveland and then to San Diego. To help himself with the bat, Stanley batted from both sides of the plate during the first few years of his career before giving it up and staying a right-handed hitter. When Fred was traded to the New York Yankees prior to the 1973 season, it would begin the longest association in which he is most remembered.

Fred Stanley was present as the Yankees were purchased by George Steinbrenner and began their ascent in the standings. He was present when Billy Martin was named manager and for two seasons, was the everyday shortstop. He was the starter as the Yankees won their first pennant and played in their first World Series in 12 years. Stanley would play a major role that season, batting .238 and finishing as the runner up in his league in fielding at his position. And perhaps unfairly, was singled out by his owner as a primary reason that the Bombers did not win that year. This was the error that ended up costing the Yanks Game Two, but lost to history was Stanley's role in starting the late rally that tied up the game in the first place.

Stanley would spend three more years in the Bronx Zoo, winning two championship rings before following manager Martin to Oakland where he would finish his 14-year major league career. A memorable part of Stanley's A's stint came in 1982, when he was fined over getting picked off second base. It was contended at the time that Stanley did so intentionally to give Rickey Henderson an opportunity to set the single-season stolen base mark in front of the home fans. A picture is below:

Why I love this card
I knew absolutely nothing about the Seattle Pilots when I first saw the back of this card. Even though it was only 11 years after their only season, it was like discovering life on Mars. Totally mind-blowing. My dad filled in the gaps, although he didn't recall many of the players, except for a certain knuckleball pitcher that once pitched for the Yankees.  It would begin a life-long fascination that I would have with the Pilots, accentuated by Ball Four that I read in high school and a Pilots hat I purchased in Cooperstown in 1989. I still have the book, but wish I still had the hat.

Something else...
An alternate printing of the Stanley card with a yellow hue in his name is one of the few "error" cards from this set. I knew nothing about that at this time either as those cards never filtered down to the plebeians getting their cards from Collie Drugs and Jerry & Goldie's Party Shoppe. If you can find one, it can fetch you a little scratch, but that's about it. A PSA 9 grade of this card (I assume that's good) is currently listed for $1,100 on ebay.  Here's a shot of it:

Thursday, July 28, 2016

#386 Darrell Jackson

Who is this player?
Darrell Jackson, starting pitcher, Minnesota Twins

As the 1980 season began for the Twins, Darrell Jackson was originally not in the starting rotation, narrowly losing out the #5 spot to Terry Felton. Felton's early struggles led to an opportunity for Jackson and he responded with a solid first half of the season, highlighted by a 5-1 mark in June. Jackson's first victory was a season highlight and came courtesy of a 10-inning performance against New York at Yankee Stadium on May 10th. While he struggled a bit over the summer, Jackson finished the season strongly, finishing 1980 with a 9-9 record and a claim on one of the spots in the Twins starting rotation. Below is the 10th inning of the aforementioned game at Yankee Stadium:

Darrell Jackson is a success story.

Not because he was part of a cradle of baseball excellence in Southern California and was high school teammates with future Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Eddie Murray.

Not because he was a member of a loaded College World Series championship team in 1977 at Arizona State University. Several members of this team would become major league players, including future All Stars Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks.

Not because of his minor league performances which saw him pitch 9 innings of no-hit ball in his first professional start and quickly move his way through the Twins system, making his major league debut at 22 years old.

Not because of his success at the major league level which saw the lefthander win 20 games in his short five year career, out-dueling future All Stars such as Jack Morris, Dave Stieb and Mark Fidrych.

And not because he very publicly entered an alcohol rehab program in early 1981 and gained assistance from former major league pitcher Don Newcombe.

Darrell Jackson is a success story because after a shoulder injury along with substance issues hastened his exit from the game, Jackson has spent the remainder of his life giving back, providing education and guiding others to a better path.

Today, Jackson provides the benefit of an example to the youth of his hometown over the course of the last three decades. Clean and sober for 30 years, Jackson went from using marijuana and drinking regularly to creating the 10-20 Club Inc.  Using the mission statement: Helping Youths Help Themselves, the Club provides a series of programs all designed to make a difference. A generation of youth owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Jackson and his efforts in making the world a better place.

Why I love this card
I have mentioned numerous times my preference for action shots and Jackson's card fits the bill. I'm pretty sure that this shot is from Yankee Stadium. Jackson pitched in day games at there in both 1978 and 1979, but with Topps tendency to use text from the player's 1978 season over 1979, I'll assume that this shot is from this game.

Something else...
Jackson went 10 innings not once in 1980 but twice. On the second occasion, Jackson hooked up with Mike Norris of the Oakland A's in a pitcher's duel. Norris was in the middle of his finest season and defeated Jackson in 11 innings by a score of 2-1. Norris went all 11 innings and Jackson went 10. Norris was 25 years old and Jackson was 24. I can't imagine in this day and age, any pitcher, let alone a young pitcher, being allowed to log that kind of work load during a regular season game.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#385 Enos Cabell

Who is this player?
Enos Cabell, third baseman, Houston Astros

As the Houston Astros were making their run to their first divisional championship, Enos Cabell was the team's everyday third baseman. By 1980, Cabell was pretty much a fixture in Houston and began the season as the sixth place hitter in the order. As the summer wore on and the Astros found themselves in a pennant race for the NL West flag, manager Bill Virdon moved Cabell to the second spot in the batting order. While he did provide a consistent bat in the lineup, Enos did lead all National League third basemen in errors, sometimes at crucial junctures. However, he often responded when his team needed him most, as he did during the one-game playoff for the division title against the Dodgers.

Much is already on the web in regards to Cabell's career. Two excellent articles can be found here  and here. There is even substantive coverage given to Cabell's brief appearance in "Bad News Bears in Breaking Training."

Rather than repeat what has already been documented, for this post we would include a couple of items surrounding Cabell that may not be as immediately apparent.

The first came on Friday, May 14, 1982. Cabell by this time had moved on to the Detroit Tigers and was playing regularly if not at a set position. On this evening, he was the Tigers' #2 hitter and third baseman. The Tigers and Minnesota Twins were involved in a very tense game that would see two bench clearing brawls, multiple ejections and a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th by Kirk Gibson. Cabell was was brushed back in the bottom of the 11th igniting the second brawl of the game that saw some wild haymakers by Larry Herndon, Sparky Anderson get knocked to the ground and Dave Rozema be stretchered out when he attempted to karate kick a Twin and his knee gave way. Luckily, footage of this brawl exists:

After Cabell left Detroit, his name would be among those accused in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials of 1985. Cabell testified that his usage decreased after being confronted by Anderson. To his credit, Cabell admitted his wrong doings, estimating that he used cocaine 100 times between 1978-1984 and saying through his testimony he was "embarrassed" and "figured it was time to pay"

In his retirement, Cabell has become a fixture in the Houston area working as a special assistant to the general manager since 2004. Also, he has worked  with the Joe Niekro Foundation. Neikro, Cabell's former teammate died of a brain aneurysm as  did Cabell's wife. The foundation's purpose to support patients and families effected, providing education, and also helping fund research. Here is a story that appeared with Cabell and Joe's daughter Natalie, who created the Foundation:

Why I love this card
The mesh backing of Cabell's hat. This was similar, if not exact, to the replica hats that you would by at the souvenir stands at the ballpark. Also, every Little League hat in existence had a mesh backing, along with the plastic adjustable straps. If you weren't careful and pulled that strap too hard, you might bust the tiny plastic tabs that would hold your hat in place. And then that would be a disaster that could ruin your whole season. To know that Cabell, just might, have the same problem? Made the major leagues that much more reachable.

Something else...
Cabell also had a card in the Burger King Pitch, Hit and Run set. A curious selection since Cabell had never appeared in an All Star Game or any of the "key" stats of the day. Maybe he was included for the "run" portion of the contest since he had 238 stolen bases in his 15-year career with the Orioles, Astros, Giants, Dodgers and Tigers.

The Cabell card is very similar to the 1980 base card with the exception that the photo is shifted a bit to the right to include a complete view of Cabell's hands on the bat.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

#384 Joey McLaughlin

Who is this player?
Joey McLaughlin, relief pitcher, Atlanta Braves

Coming to a team that had the worst bullpen in the majors the previous season, anticipation was high when Joey McLaughlin arrived in Toronto for the 1980 season. Seen as the key piece to the Chris Chambliss trade, McLaughlin earned this acclaim by way of his solid rookie season with the Atlanta Braves in 1979. The Blue Jays, however, were a terrible team at this point,  losing 95 games and finishing last in the AL East. McLaughlin had a difficult year, primarily due to control issues, with his best stretch coming in during June that saw him lower his ERA by nearly a run and a half. He was moved to the starting rotation near the end of the season, which saw him split his four decisions.

A right-handed high school star pitcher and football player out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, McLaughlin was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1974. He was tabbed by former major league hurler Bob Veale as "the Braves future" as he worked his way up the Braves ladder. He would make his major league debut in 1979. Here is a video of him a month into his major league career, pitching against the Cubs on July 10, 1979:

After a rough 1980 season, McLaughlin settled in the Jays bullpen as the team slowly started to improve. He led the team in saves with 10 in 1981, and transitioned into more of a situational specialist when Bobby Cox took over the team. He in time established himself as a dependable, if not excitable relief pitcher that relied on his out-pitch, the knuckle curve.

Here is a clip of McLaughlin talking about the pitch on Opening Day, 1983:

However, 1983 would be a frustrating season for McLaughlin and the Jays and he was perhaps unfairly singled out by the boo-bird fans for the Jays late-summer fade. Nonetheless, the Jays made a move to obtain Dennis Lamp in their bullpen and McLaughlin's time in Toronto was coming to an end.

Toronto released Joey in May of 1984 but within a week he caught on with the Texas Rangers for the rest of the season. Although he would spend three more years in the minor leagues waiting for a call to return, 1984 would be the final major league season of McLaughlin's seven year major league career. He would earn 29 wins, 36 saves and appear in 250 major league games.

Since he left the majors, McLaughlin has enjoyed his retirement, assisting in the careers of his son's who followed a baseball path and as a coach in youth baseball. These days, he enjoys the company of his family and grandchildren in the Oklahoma area.

Why I love this card
Any player sporting sunglasses on a baseball card has to be cool. Nothing more.

Something else...
For no other reason than it is out there, here is a photo of the fun-loving McLaughlin during Spring Training 1984 getting his eyes tested for depth perception. Granted, not as cool as the sunglasses, but still...

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:

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:

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.