Thursday, December 31, 2009

#222 Ron Hassey

Who is this player?
Ron Hassey, catcher, Cleveland Indians
Based on a solid performance in Spring Traning 1980, coupled with an impressive end to the 1979 season, Ron Hassey earned the starting catcher position for the Cleveland Indians. In his first full season, the lefthanded hitting Hassey led all major league catchers in batting average in 1980 when he batted .310. While leg injuries would begin to take their toll on his defensive abilities, there was no doubt that Hassey could hit. At 27 years old, he was apparently part of a core of young Indians players that would hopefully lead the Tribe into contention in the 1980s.

Ronald William Hassey enjoyed baseball success at every level he played. He was part of an undefeated, state-champion in high school, and was a star at the University of Arizona where he still holds several records. Ron was also selected captain of the USA team for Pan Am Games in 1975 and the following year, he helped lead Arizona to the National Collegiate title. In the afterglow of a collegiate championship, the Cleveland Indians drafted Hassey in 1976. He batted over .300 in several minor league stops, and made his major league debut in 1978.

Hassey spent almost seven seasons in Cleveland as the Indians regular catcher but they never did become a contender. The most memorable moment during his Cleveland days was catching Len Barker when he threw his perfect game in 1981. During the 1984 campaign, he was included in the famous deal with the Cubs that sent him and Rick Sutcliffe to Chicago. Injuries prevented Hassey from appearing in the postseason in 1984 as the Cubs fell in the NLCS to San Diego. At the end of the season, Hassey was on the move again, traded this time to the New York Yankees.

Although Hassey played in 156 games over two seasons in New York, he is fondly remembered for a home run he hit on September 12, 1985. As the Yankees challenged the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East title, Hassey had a monster three-run home run that helped win the game for New York and move them within one game of the division lead. Thanks to Youtube, that home run can be viewed here. Hassey became a journeyman player, able to find a spot on a major league roster due to his potent bat.

After a year and a half with the White Sox, Hassey spent three seasons (1988-1990) as a member of the Oakland A's. It was in Oakland that Ron had his only taste of postseason action as the A's advanced to the World Series three years in a row. He was a .323 batter during the postseason for Oakland and they won the World Series in 1989. The final year of Hassey's 14-year career was 1991 with the Montreal Expos. On July 28th, he became the only man in major league history to catch two perfect games when he was behind the plate for Dennis Martinez's perfect game against the Dodgers.

Why I love this card
We used to joke that if anyone ever 'looked' like a catcher it was Ron Hassey. In fact, whenever someone "had to" catch (since no one ever volunteered to do it) it was referred to as "Hassey-ing" or "Playing Hassey." Those terms could also be applied to a slow runner or if someone wasn't paying attention (I understood the slow runner connection, never did get the other).

Something else.....
Hassey spent several years coaching and was on Tony LaRussa's staff in St. Louis during the 1990s. He was inducted into the University of Arizona's Hall of Fame in 1997.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

#221 Joe Cannon

Who is this player?
Joe (J.J.) Cannon, outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays
A strong Spring Training earned the lefthand hitting Joe Cannon a spot on the Toronto Blue Jays roster in 1980. He was used sporadically, mainly as a pinch runner, thanks to his tremendous speed. J.J. did not notch his first base hit until June 17th. Cannon appeared in 70 games in 1980 and batted a meager .080. He scored more runs (16) than he had hits (4). J.J. did not return to the major leagues after the year, ending his four-year career.

The Camp Lejeune, North Carolina native, Cannon was the son of a retired marine who gave his son a passion for sports, specifically baseball. He was drafted in the first round of the 1974 amateur draft out of Pensacola (FL) Junior College. Cannon established himself as a prospect in the Astros organization, batting no less than .290 in four straight minor league seasons. He was given two brief looks at the end of the 1977 and 1978 seasons, appearing in only 17 games.

However, the Astros included him in a package following the 1978 season in a trade for catcher Alan Ashby. He split time between Toronto and Triple-A in 1979, batting .211 with the Blue Jays. In 148 big league games, he batted .176 and returned to the minor leagues for the final three seasons of his professional career (1981-1983).

Following his playing days, Cannon began a long career as coach and manager. He managed for 11 season at the Rookie and Single-A level for the Blue Jays, being named Manager of the Year for the New York-Penn League in 1993. He returned to the Astros organization in 2001 where he spent six seasons in several coaching capacities. He moved on to the Orioles organization in 2007 and has spent the last three years coaching with the Frederick Keys.

Why I love this card
At this stage in my life, I didn't understand the difference between minor league and major league baseball. When I saw a guy do well in the minors, it didn't make sense to me why they couldn't do the same at the major league level. It seemed unfair to see the .300 averages scattered in his batting record with a bottom line of .203.

Something else....
Not only is this Cannon's rookie card, but it is his only card. So far in the 1980 set, he is the fourth card to have that distinction (Eddy Putman, Fred Howard and Tony Brizzolara)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Eighth 25 - A Roster

A brief look back in team form at the last 25 player cards in the 1980 set (#187 through #220) as if constructing a fantasy league team.

Manager - Bobby Cox
Coach - Jim Fregosi

Two managers included in this grouping, Cox gets the nod based on that he won a World Series with the Braves. Fregosi led two different teams to division championships, including a NL pennant with the Phillies in 1993. He serves as a coach here.

1B - Mike Jorgensen
2B - Ted Martinez
SS - Dave Concepcion
3B - Buddy Bell
OF - Jim Rice
OF - Mike Easler
OF - Sixto Lezcano
C - Lance Parrish
DH - Jose Morales/Terry Crowley

Not a bad lineup, led by the Hall of Famer, Rice. The left side of the infield is air tight with Bell and Concepcion, All Stars in the prime of their careers. You really can't do much better than Parrish behind the plate, and Easler and Lezcano are very serviceable outfielders. Martinez gets the nod at second although Mankowski can play there and there is a platoon at DH. Jorgensen beats out Cage at first.

Alan Ashby, Dell Alston, Wayne Cage, Von Joshua, Dave Skaggs, Phil Mankowski

Ashby would be a starter if not for Parrish, but the rest of these guys are truly backup material.

Steve Carlton
Dave Goltz
Mike LaCoss
John Montefusco
Kevin Kobel

Like the batting order, the rotation is anchored by another Hall of Famer, Steve Carlton. He is backed by Goltz and LaCoss, two decent, albeit pedestrian, starting pitchers. Montefusco and Kobel round out the remainder of the rotation, even though Kobel was done by 1980.

Steve Mingori
Ed Halicki
Dave Roberts
Byron McLaughlin

Probably the weakest part of the team, because of a lack of depth. Only four pitchers here, and the best one (Mingori) didn't even play in 1980. McLaughlin could fit the role of closer, but his effectiveness is suspect. Halicki was done at the end of 1980 and Roberts wasn't too far behind.

Other Cards: 1979 League Leader Cards

OVERALL: Thanks to Rice and Carlton, this team is better than the previous outing, Team #7. Some parts of the supporting cast (Bell, Concepcion, Parrish) are outstanding, but there are question marks on the right side and in the bullpen.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#220 Dave Concepcion

Who is this player?
Dave Concepcion, shortstop, Cincinnati Reds
As an integral member of the legendary "Big Red Machine" at the time of this card, Dave Concepcion was lauded as one of the top shortstops in the National League. He was in the midst of eight straight All Star appearances in 1980, but began the season slowly, batting as low as .210 on June 8th. He raised his average 35 points in less than a month and was selected as a reserve, scoring an insurance run in the NL's 4-2 win. He had four hits in a September game against Chicago, but the Reds faded down the stretch and were unable to successfully defend their division championship.

A native of Venezuela, Dave Concepcion would go on to inspire a generation of future major leaguers that currently dot the professional landscape. Ozzie Guillen, Omar Vizquel and Carlos Guillen have all cited him as a significant influence. However, he was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as a pitcher. He made his major league debut on Opening Day 1970, and spent the next three seasons platooning at short. When he followed a .205 season in 1971 with a .209 performance in 1972, his manager Sparky Anderson had Tony Perez room with and mentor him. It would positively effect the remainder of his career.

He earned the starting position outright in 1973, but a broken ankle ended his season early. Dave was batting .287 at the time of his injury and named to his first All Star team. The Reds would become two-time World Champions in 1975-76 with Concepcion emerging as a solid hitter and yearly Gold Glove fielder. He scored the pennant winning run in the 1976 NLCS and batted .357 during the 1976 World Series. While the Big Red Machine slowly began to dismantle in the late 1970s, Concepcion remained a fixture in Cincinnati.

The Reds returned to the playoffs in 1979 and Dave clubbed a career high 16 homers and 84 RBI. He batted .429 in the NLCS, but the Reds were swept by the Pirates. During the strike-shortened 1981 season he batted .306 and was fourth in the MVP voting, but the Reds missed the playoffs despite having the best record in baseball. The following year, Concepcion was named MVP of the All Star Game due to his eventual game winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley.

In the second half of his career, Concepcion is often credited with originating the practice of deliberately bouncing a difficult throw to first base. The idea is that Dave used this method to take advantage of the artificial turf prevalent in the National League. He began to be hampered by age and injuries and groomed his successor at shortstop, Barry Larkin. His final seasons saw Concepcion become a valuable utility man and he played all four infield positions, even pitching in a game in 1988, the final season of his 19-year career.

Why I love this card
Seeing this card always made me wish we lived in a National League city. Concepcion always seemed so friendly and is pictured here signing autographs. I was convinced that if the Reds played the Tigers, I could get Concepcion's signature. Come to think of it, I still don't have his autograph.

Something else....
Dave (or is it Davey?) is enjoying a quiet retirement in his native Venezuela. Occasionally, he returns to the game; he was the Manager of the World Team at the 2002 Futures Game and in 2007 is #13 was retired by the Cincinnati Reds.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

#219 Steve Mingori

Who is this player?
Steve Mingori, relief pitcher, Kansas City Royals
Released by the Royals at the end of 1979 season, Steve Mingori's 10-year major league career was over by the time kids were pulling this card from packs. Based likely on a poor 1979 in which he posted a 5.79 ERA, the lefthanded sidearmer did not receive any offers from other major league clubs. While his name was mentioned in print regarding a spot with the Cubs or A's, things never materialized.

Born on Leap Year Day in Kansas City, Missouri, Mingori was a standout at Rockhurst High School and in the youth Ban Johnson League. He went on to atttend and star at Pittsburg State University. He wasn't drafted but was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 1965. The "book" on Mingori read that he had the stuff to be solid relief pitcher and he was groomed as such by the Reds. Cincinnati traded him to the Cleveland Indians shortly before the 1970 season was set to begin.

With Cleveland, he made his major league debut and settled in as a important member of the Tribe's bullpen. He led the team in ERA in 1971 and in saves in 1972. Despite that, he was traded to the Kansas City in June of 1973 and Mingori would be returning to his hometown as a member of the Royals.

Mingori was part of the Royals bullpen that won the AL West three years in a row (1976-1978). He appeared in the ALCS each year (all against the Yankees) but the Royals were unable to defeat New York and advance to the World Series. Mingori was normally used as a situational pitcher designed to get a tough out against a lefthanded batter in a crucial situation. He helped define this role years before it became an accepted part of baseball strategy. His best season likely came in 1976 when he finished in his leagues Top Ten in saves (10) and appearances (55) and posting a 2.32 ERA.

After his playing days, Mingori was a pitching coach in the Toronto Blue Jays organization in the early 1990s and was active in the Royals' Alumni. He was a fixture at several fund raising events and helped dedicate a field for disabled children in 2005. Unfortunatelt, Mingori died in 2008 at the age of 64 of natural causes.

Why I love this card
Mingori was born on Leap Year Day. This intrigued me as a kid. If it wasn't a Leap Year, when would he celebrate his birthday? February 28 or March 1? Did his age really count each year or every Leap Year? He would have been nine years old in 1980 using that logic, just like me, so it worked. Steve is also the third out of the last four cards to have their last name end in the letter "I." How's that for obscure?

Something else....
In 1962, the youth league that Mingori was part of, the Ban Johnson League, featured four future major leaguers: Mingori, Chuck Dobson, Paul Lindblad and the recently-famous Steve Renko. And to think that the guys I played Little League with never even played high school ball.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

#218 Jose Morales

Who is this player?
Jose Morales, utility player, Minnesota Twins
Although the position flag on this card lists Jose Morales as a catcher/first baseman, his primary position in 1980 was designated hitter. Also used as a pinch-hitter, Morales led the league with 13 pinch hits, the third time he had done so in his career. His average remained over .300 for most of the season, topping out in early June when he reached .375. Jose also hit a career high eight home runs, including a grand slam against the Tigers and a two-homer, 6 RBI performance in July. In December, he signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Born in Frederiksted, St. Croix, the small Virgin Island is linked closely to its larger neighbor, Puerto Rico. The righthand hitting Morales was like many boys, playing on the sandlots year round, honing his craft. He attracted the attention of scouts for the San Francisco Giants, who signed him in 1963. Jose began a long journey to the major league, playing in the minor leagues for four organizations for ten seasons. He finally made his debut with the Oakland Athletics in 1973, moving on to the Montreal Expos later that season.

Morales was a tireless student of the game that played winter ball in Puerto Rico every season of his professional career. He never developed as a solid defensive player, leading four different minor leagues in errors. Jose had his breakout season in 1975 and was a .289 hitter in his five seasons in Montreal. Morales went on to set the pinch-hit record of 25 hits in 1976, breaking the single-season mark en route to a .316 season. He was sold to the Minnesota Twins in March of 1978.

He led the league in pinch hits during his first season with the Twins where he solidified his role as clutch hitter and part-time DH. He was a .297 batter in three seasons in Minnesota before moving on to Baltimore (1981-1982) and then to the Los Angeles Dodgers (1982-1984). He saw his only postseason action as a Dodgers, appearing in the Dodgers' four game defeat in the NLCS. Upon his retirement, he was the third most prolific pinch hitter in baseball history (he currently stands eighth with 123 pinch hits).

He immediately became a coach at the end of his playing days, first with the Giants, then moving on to the Indians and Florida Marlins. Several All-Stars and MVPs (such as Wally Joyner, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Kenny Lofton) directly credit Morales. He has been offered coaching positions in recent years but has turned them down, instead preferring a quiet retirement. However, the game is still in Jose's blood as he has independently worked with Rockies' catcher Yorvit Torrealba and Cardinals' receiver Yadier Molina.

Why I love this card
The two bats on Morales' shoulder. This was a fairly common look during this era and I can remember swinging two bats in practice and the on deck circle. Never mind that I couldn't handle just one bat, but if the major leaguers swung two, then darn it, I was going to swing two also. The two bats almost distracted me from noticing the collar Morales is sporting. What is up with that?

Something else.....
Morales is the uncle of former major leaguer Melvin Nieves who spent a couple of forgettable years as a Detroit Tiger. Nieves remains the only player that I saw to hit a home run so hard that fans moved out of the way of the ball as it landed in the stands.

Friday, December 18, 2009

#217 Ed Halicki

Who is this player?
Ed Halicki, starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants
After nearly a year of injuries, disappointments and public complaints, Ed Halicki's welcome was just about worn out as the 1980 season began. The imposing 6'7" righthander feuded with Giants brass over his role on the pitching staff and he began the year in the bullpen. He did not pitch well, yet continued to criticize management in the press. Tired of his antics, he was sold to the California Angels in June. He finished the 1980 season in Anaheim in what would be the seventh and final season of his major league career.

A graduate of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, Ed Halicki was a two-sport college star in baseball and basketball. He scored 1,777 career points with over 1,500 rebounds and still holds the school record with 40 rebounds in a single game. He chose a career in baseball when he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1972. He quickly worked his way through the bush leagues and made his debut two years later.

The following season, 1975, Halicki achieved his greatest individual feat by pitching a no-hitter on August 24. Although he was in the midst of a 9-13 season, the general consensus was that Halicki was part of a group of young pitchers that would lead the Giants into contention. By 1977, Halicki was the Giants most effective starting pitcher, leading the team in victories, ERA and innings pitched.

Things came together briefly for the Giants in 1978 as San Francisco led the NL West for most of the season before finally fading. Halicki was part of the team's strength, starting pitching. He pitched a one-hitter that year and was ninth in the NL in ERA. However, Halicki and the Giants were unable to recapture that magic as the 1979 season imploded among injuries and dissension. Halicki spent part of that year on the DL, feuded with manager Joe Altobelli and was fined for drinking on a team flight. He finished 5-8 with a 4.68 ERA.

Halicki tried catching on with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981, but was released near the end of Spring Training. He pitched in the Senior Professional League in 1989-90 and was a fixture at Giants Old Timers events and the closing of Candlestick Park in 1999. He was inducted into the Monmouth Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

Why I love this card
I always loved this version of the Giants hat. Something about the two-toned cap with the orange bill appealed to me. However, Halicki looks like he put on a kid's cap for his 1980 picture - it appears way too small. I always wanted this hat when I was a kid, never did get it.

Something else....
In reviewing Halicki's career, in hindsight, I can't imagine why he was so insistent on ripping the Giants' managers, GM and organization as a whole. Back then, "outspoken" was often used as code for "pain in the a**." Halicki must have known that his performance on the mound combined with his mouth was not reflecting well on him and sure enough, he was out of the bigs by age 30. I never understood why athletes, both then and now, would do that.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

#216 Phil Mankowski

Who is this player?
Phil Mankowski, reserve infielder, Detroit Tigers
On Halloween 1979, the Tigers traded Phil Mankowski, along with Jerry Morales, to the New York Mets for Richie Hebner. Originally penciled in to be part of a Mets platoon at third base, Mankowski developed shoulder problems and was placed on the disabled list. He also contracted a case of hepatitis that wiped out much of this playing time in 1980. In all, Mankowski appeared in only nine games at Triple-A Tidewater and in eight games for the Mets. In limited action, he batted only .167.

A native of Buffalo, New York, the lefthand-hitting Mankowski was signed out of Bishop Turner high school by the Detroit Tigers in 1970. He steadily worked his way up the minor league ladder, winning a championship in 1975 as a member of the Double-A Montgomery Rebels. A solid season at Triple-A Evansville in 1976 earned him the promotion to the parent club and he was given a late-season look. He replied with 5 multi-hit games in approximately a month and would be given a serious look heading into 1977.

When incumbent third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez went down with injury, Mankowski responded with three hits in his first game and batted .316 as his replacement. This created a platoon situation for the remainder of the season that saw Phil bat .276 and achieve career highs in nearly every offensive category. He was the Tigers Opening Day third baseman in 1978 and 1979 but never saw consistent playing time as as a regular. He began 1979 in a batting slump and then missed most of the summer with a fractured hand. With Tom Brookens looming in the Tigers' future plans, he was traded to the Mets.

Mankowski spent all of the 1981 season at Triple-A, unable to return to the major leagues that year. He would play his sixth and final year at the major league level in 1982, appearing in 13 games as a reserve with the Mets and batting .229. Phil appeared in the 1984 film "The Natural" as New York Knights third baseman Hank Benz. You can see Phil mainly in the National Anthem scene when all of the players were sporting the "Wonderboy" patches. Phil was hired for the movie since most of it was shot at War Memorial Stadium in his native Buffalo.

In recent years, Phil has been a coach to his daughter's high school and travel softball teams and is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

Why I love this card
Remember the batting average listings in the Sunday newspaper? After Mankowski left Detroit, I would look for him once in a while in the Sunday paper. I had no idea about his injuries in 1980 and thought he dropped off the face of the earth. This card was the only evidence that I had that Mankowski was still a major league player. Information was so much harder so come by in those days, I guess.

Something else....
Mankowski shares a birthday with a eclectic group of people. Lee Van Cleef. Gypsy Rose Lee. Fernando Lamas. Bob Denver. Bart Starr. Jimmy Page. One that caught my eye was also Crystal Gayle. My Dad had a bunch of her records (yes, records) and her hair always creeped me out.

Monday, December 14, 2009

1980 MLB Winter Meetings

A couple of things led me to this particular post; first, the induction of Whitey Herzog to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In looking back at some of those Cardinal teams of the 1980s, I remain amazed that Herzog got those teams as far as he did. I had forgotten his role as GM and principal architect of the team.

Second, yesterday's post on Sixto Lezcano reminded me of one of the biggest blockbuster trades of my childhood, between the Brewers and Cardinals on December 12, 1980. The Cardinals traded Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers to Milwaukee in exchange for Lezcano, Lary Sorenson, Dave LaPoint and David Green. The trade was largely responsible for both teams making the World Series in 1982.

In additon to an addiction to baseball cards, I also have a (ahem) "problem" with collecting baseball-related magazines, newspapers and books. Many of these I have used in my research on some of the players in this blog. One such article comes from the old "Inside Sports" magazine, in their 1981 baseball preview issue.

In it, is a great article titled "Swapped," written by Daniel Okrent, the founding father of fantasy baseball. It is a very detailed and descriptive account of the four days that led up to this trade and all of the possibilities considered by GMs Harry Dalton of the Brewers and Whitey Herzog of the Cardinals. The magazine even had Whitey pose for this picture for the article:

Notice the 1980 baseball cards Whitey is flipping in the picture (albeit blurred). How cool is that? I think two of them are Rick Miller and Fred Howard, but I'm not positive.

Anyway, the article mentioned some interesting items. Some I recall, some I did not:

* The week began with St. Louis signing free agent Darrell Porter and announcing an 11-player trade with the San Diego Padres that netted them Rollie Fingers.

* The Cardinals had three catchers (Porter, Gene Tenace and Simmons) along with two Hall of Fame closers (Bruce Sutter and Fingers) at the same time.

* The Cubs almost traded Sutter to the Brewers stright up for Paul Molitor. When Dalton called for a vote among his baseball men, it was tied 4-4. He slept on it and decided against it the next day.

* Herzog originally had no intention to trade Simmons. He wanted to move him to first and play Keith Hernandez in left field. Simmons didn't want to play first full-time.

* Milwaukee almost traded Sixto Lezcano to the Orioles for Dennis Martinez and Sammy Stewart, but the Orioles backed out.

* Gorman Thomas was discussed, to San Francisco for Gary Lavelle and John Montefusco. When the Giants wanted another player, Milwaukee declined.

* I forgot how highly regarded David Green was. In the article he is compared favorably to Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Pete Rose in one paragraph.

* Herzog approached the Brewers about Simmons. They didn't know he was avaialable.

* Simmons negotiated with Milwaukee regarding his ability to veto a trade. While they were doing so, Herzog reportedly had another deal on the table with the Yankees that included Ron Guidry. Of course, Simmons agreed to the trade and Guidry stayed in New York.

All in all, it was a fascinating read from the viewpoint of two general managers and the thought processes that led up to a big trade. You don't see that kind of depth so much in journalism anymore.

We now return you to regular programming.....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

#215 Sixto Lezcano

Who is this player?
Sixto Lezcano, right fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
With two home runs on Opening Day, Sixto Lezcano began the 1980 season in historic fashion. One of his home runs in the Brewers' 9-6 win was a grand slam and Sixto became the only player in history to clear the bases on Opening Day twice (the other was in 1977). However, a horrible slump ensued and Lezcano was batting under .200 well into May. He struggled to regain his stroke, and when it appeared that he had, he was struck on the arm with a pitch that ended his season. The Brewers included him in a package in a major trade that December with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Originally part of a group of young players designed to lead Milwaukee to prominence, the righthanded Lezcano was signed as a amateur in the Brewers first season, 1970. He made his debut in 1974, along with teammate Robin Yount. The following year, he earned the starting position in right field and would remain a fixture there for six seasons. Like his childhood idol, Roberto Clemente, the Puerto Rican born Lezcano displayed a strong throwing arm, leading the league in assists (1978) and winning a Gold Glove (1979).

1979 would prove to be Lezcano's most productive season at the plate as well. While batting .321, Sixto was third in the AL in slugging percentage and fourth in on-base percentage. He hit 28 home runs and drove in 101 for a Brewers team that won 95 games and was poised to challenge for the AL East title. When the Brewers slumped in 1980, management decided it was time to shake up the team. Lezcano spent only one season as a Cardinal as he was promptly traded again, this time to San Diego as part of the deal that brought Ozzie Smith to St. Louis.

Lezcano had a good 1982 season with the Padres, but the team was largely forgettable and Sixto's performance (8th in the NL in OBS+SLG) was largely overlooked. The following year, he was traded for the third time in four years, this time at the August 31st trading deadline to the Philadelphia Phillies. He helped the Phils reach the World Series that year, hitting a two run home run in Game 4 of the NLCS that eventually clinched the National League pennant. He appeared in the World Series for the only time in his career, but the Phillies fell to the Baltimore Orioles.

He platooned in right field for the Phillies in 1984, but left the team as a free agent after the season. He signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985 and was used mainly as a pinch-hitter. It would be the 12th and final season of his major league career. After his playing days, he pursued a passion for coaching, making several stops in minor league stops across the country. In 2009, he was the batting coach for the rookie league Gulf Coast League Braves.

Why I love this card
Below you will find a shot of Lezcano's 1980 Super Card. I got both of these cards on the same day in 1980. I actually went without a Slurpee to instead buy a pack of cards and a pack of Supers. I knew immediately that the two pictures were taken on the same day, otherwise I never would have put the two together.

Something else....
Like all of us, Lezcano collected baseball cards. In 1980, he told the Milwaukee Sentinel:
I used to collect all those baseball cards.....Those cards were like my treasures. Nobody could touch them. I used to trade if I had more than one of a player. Sometimes I'd traded 25 different cards for one I needed. Now, I'm collecting mine. I put them in an album every year. Someday, I'll show them to my son and tell him, 'Here, this is what I looked like when I was playing baseball.'
While I never played in the major leagues, I sure can share the sentiment that Sixto is talking about here.

Lastly, Lezcano had a 1980 Topps Super Card which is pictured below:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

#214 Jim Fregosi California Angels Team Card

What is this card?
Team Card, California Angels, Jim Fregosi Manager

As the 1980 season began, the defending AL West California Angels were faced with a "good news/bad news" scenario. First the good news....

The Angels had 47 injuries in 1979 but were still able to win the division. Granted, the AL West was the weakest division in baseball, but that still doesn't deter from the accomplishment. Don Baylor won the MVP Award and the Angels had two young stars in catcher Brian Downing and third baseman Carney Lansford. Bobby Grich was arguably the best second baseman in the league and they had a future Hall of Famer (Rod Carew) at first base. Dan Ford was a 100-RBI man and despite having off-season knee surgery, the Angels added outfielder Al Cowens and added Fred Patek as a free agent shortstop. On paper they had the best offensive attack in their division.

Now the bad news....

After eight seasons as the cornerstone of the Angels' pitching staff, Nolan Ryan left the club as a free agent. To replace him, California signed Bruce Kison from the Pirates and were counting on a strong return from Frank Tanana. There were also some concerns regarding their bench depth and left handed hitting, but most publications predicted that the Angels would repeat as division champions. Besides, no team could be unlucky with injuries two years in a row, could they?

The Angels could. Almost immediately, they lost Downing to an ankle injury and Baylor to a series of different problems. Lansford slumped, largely due to little protection in the lineup. Kison was a bust as Ryan's replacement and was also injured. Ford did not recover from his knee surgery and their lack of depth was clearly evident.

Initally the Angels tried to fill the holes by adding Dave Lemanczyk, Dave Skaggs and Jason Thompson. Grich and Carew were named to the American League All Star team and Carew was fifth in the league in batting. However, their pitching woes were too great and only the Indians had a worse team ERA. The Angels finished 1980 with 95 losses and finished a distant sixth in the AL West.

Why I love this card
You can't beat a picture of a division champion. When I got this card early in the season I made a mental note to take good care of it, by summer it didn't matter any more.

Something else....
It appears that Topps is working through the AL West in regard to the team cards. Five of the seven teams in the division have now been covered and the other two are also West teams (albeit NL), the Braves and Astros.

Friday, December 11, 2009

#213 Mike Jorgensen

Who is this player?
Mike Jorgensen, first baseman, Texas Rangers
Traded to the New York Mets at the end of the 1979 season, Mike Jorgensen was returning to the National League after two and a half years in American League, most recently with the Texas Rangers. As a Met, the lefthand hitting Jorgensen split time between first base and right field, and batted .255 in 119 games. He had a grand-slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Mets to a 6-2 victory over the Dodgers in June for his most notable moment of the season.

Born on August 16, 1948, Jorgensen was born on the day that Babe Ruth died. Originally selected by the New York Mets, he made his debut in 1968 as a late-season call-up. Unfortunately, Mike missed the "Miracle Mets" World Championship season the following year, spending the season in the minors. After three years of limited action, Jorgensen, along with fellow prospects Tim Foli and Ken Singleton were traded to the Montreal Expos for Rusty Staub.

Jorgensen was immediately installed as the Expos regular first baseman where he enjoyed the greatest success of his major league career. He was the National League Gold Glove winner in 1973, batted a team-high .310 in 1974 and had career highs in nearly every offensive category in 1975. When the Expos traded for Tony Perez in 1977, his days in Montreal were numbered. The Expos traded Mike to the Oakland A's, where he spent the second half of the 1977 season. The A's did not make an attempt to resign him and Jorgensen caught on with the Texas Rangers.

Midway during the 1979 season, Jorgensen fell victim to a vicious beaning that left him hospitalized and at one point threatened his life. He returned to the Rangers after a month on the disabled list, but never regained his batting stroke and he was traded to the Mets at the end of the season. His beaning was so serious that when Montreal's Bill Gullickson pitched too close inside to Jorgensen in 1980, it prompted a bench-clearing brawl led by Mets' teammate John Stearns.

Mike played with the Mets until 1983 when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves and finally, to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985. It was in St. Louis that he experienced his first taste of the postseason, in the NLCS and World Series. The final game of his 17-year career would be Game 7 of the World Series, an 11-0 Cardinal loss to the Kansas City Royals. Jorgensen stayed in the Cardinals organization in several capacities, notably as manager in 1995 and most recently as special assistant to the General Manager in 2009.

Why I love this card
There was a kid in my class named "Jorgenson." Don't know how it began, but we used to drive him crazy that he was spelling his name wrong and the only true way to spell it was -en. This card was literally the trump card. Boy, did he get mad. That was the only reason we did it. Kids can be so mean.

Something else....
I had forgotten who the Cardinals manager was before Tony LaRussa, but it was Jorgensen. Interestingly, Jorgensen was sandwiched between two future Hall of Fame managers as he was the interim replacement for Joe Torre when he was fired by the Cardinals.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Topps Super Card #27 Bob Horner

In a continuing series to post the Topps Super Card of players already featured on this blog, up next is Atlanta Braves third baseman Bob Horner.

Bob Horner was card #108 in the regular issue Topps set and was featured on August 6, 2009. You can read the write-up here.

Here is his 1980 Topps Super Card

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

#212 Dave Roberts

Who is this player?
Dave Roberts, relief pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates
Shortly after the 1980 season began, the Pittsburgh Pirates sold lefthanded pitcher Dave Roberts to the Seattle Mariners. He pitched in only two games with Pittsburgh and appeared primarily in relief with the Mariners. Pitching for the worst team in the American League, Roberts appeared in 37 games winning two and saving three. However, he was not in the Mariners' long term plans as he was granted free agency at the season's end.

One of the more prolific Jewish pitchers in Major League history, Roberts ended his career second all-time in appearances (he is current third) among all pitchers of Jewish descent. He began his career in 1863 when he was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amatuer free agent. Over a 13-year major league career, he would play for eight different major league teams; San Diego, Houston, Detroit, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle and the New York Mets.

Roberts' career had several highlights. He was an original San Diego Padre and in 1971 finished second in the National League in ERA. It would be the only time that Roberts would receive Cy Young consideration (he finished sixth overall). Two years later, with the Houston Astros, Dave had likely his best season when he won a career high 17 games and finished with a 2.85 ERA. He was traded to Detroit where he won 16 games as second fiddle to Mark Fidrych. He had surgery on his knee and it would be the last time that he would be used exclusively as a starter.

In 1979, Roberts appeared in the postseason for the first and only time in his career. He began the campaign with the San Francisco Giants, but found himself traded to the Pirates in the Bill Madlock trade. The Pirates went on to win the World Series and Roberts appeared in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched with the Mets in 1981, the final season of his major league career.

On January 9, 2009, Roberts died of lung cancer at his home in Short Gap, West Virgiia. He had developed asbestos lung cancer from a young age working as a boilermaker. He was only 64 years old.

Why I love this card
The things kids argue about. I can't remember who I argued with about this card, but I was convinced that Roberts was about to throw a pitch. My antagonist insisted that he was only stretching his arms behind his back. Really now, does it matter? But I did waste part of my young life debating this particular point.

Something else....
Only seven players featured so far have passed away, but three of them played on the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, Roberts, John Milner and Dock Ellis.

Topps Super Card #41 Craig Swan

Swan was card #8 in the regular issue set featured way back on April 20th.

Looking back, I sure wrote a whole lot less then - it looks like I just kept the post related to mainly 1980.

Here is his 1980 Topps Super Card

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

#211 Dave Skaggs

Who is this player?
Dave Skaggs, reserve catcher, Baltimore Orioles
As the backup to Rick Dempsey, Dave Skaggs began the 1980 season returning from back surgery in the off-season. After only two games, the Orioles sold Skaggs to the California Angels. In Anaheim, he resumed a backup role, starting 26 games to spell regular catcher Tom Donahue. He struggled at the plate, batting only .197. The highlight of his year was his first game as an Angel, when he had three hits, including a home run and five RBI.

Drafted out of North Torrance High School in Lawndale, California, Skaggs was a 6th round selection of the Orioles in the 1969 amateur draft. He would spend seven seasons working up the minor league ladder and was a member of a successful 1976 Rochester Red Wings squad. That team featured a core of players that would go on to become 1979 AL and 1983 World Champions. Skaggs was the starting catcher.

Skaggs made his major league debut in 1977 and had his most successful season. In 80 games, he batted .287 and was named to the Baseball Digest All-Rookie Team. However, Skaggs never enjoyed the same level of success at the plate during the remainder of the his major league career. In 1979, as the Orioles won the American League pennant, Skaggs batted .248 and appeared in both the ALCS and World Series. He was the starting catcher in the Orioles 9-6 Game Four win, going 1-3 and threw out Bill Madlock trying to steal.

Shortly before Spring Training began in 1981, the Angels released him but was quickly signed by the Seattle Mariners. After only a month, the Mariners likewise released him. He did not return to the major leagues and his four year major league career came to an end. He played in the Senior League during 1989-90 and has been an attendee at Orioles Old-Timers Games.

Why I love this card
The Oriole on Skaggs' helmet always transfixed me. For some reason, it just didn't look right. Is the Oriole too large? Is there more white paint on the right side than the left? It's funny what little boys (and now grown men) would spend hours discussing, debating and analyzing.

Something else....
Dave Skaggs hit three home runs in his major league career and two of them were against Rick Wise. Skaggs is also the last Oriole to wear #8 before Cal Ripken, although the #44 is clearly visible on his helmet. This card is also another Double Printed card.

1980 Topps Super Cards

The post on Steve Carlton led me to dig out my card binder to review some of my card collection. In reviewing my Carlton collection, I was reminded of the greatest snub since Marlon Brando refused his Oscar for The Godfather.

Let me explain.

During the summer of 1980, Topps released a 60-card set in cello packs. They are about 5x7 inches and if I remember correctly, they were a dollar each and you would get three cards. I have noticed on ebay that some of the packs contained five cards, but I have no recollection of them. The cards feature a facsimile autograph on the players photo, much like the regular card issues. The backs of these cards are gray and included the players name, team, and position. There was no checklist, but the backs of the cards indicated, for example, "Card Number 1 of 60."

I remember these appearing at the 7-11 sometime during the summer and I know that between all of us, we never did figure out who all 60 players were. What we did know, was that Steve Carlton was not part of the set. Later on we figured out that all teams had at least one player, yet Carlton was not one of them. Outrage!

I completely forgotten about this set until today. There have been several players that I have already featured that had a card in the set, the most recent being Jim Rice (below). From this point, I'll include them as they come along much like the Burger King cards. I'll also catch-up posting pictures of the other players that have already been mentioned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

#210 Steve Carlton

Who is this player?
Steve Carlton, starting pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
Hall of Fame, Class of 1994
As one of the premier pitchers in baseball, Steve Carlton turned in one of the finest performances of his career in 1980. Not only was he named National League Cy Young winner for the third time in his career, but he helped lead the Phillies to their first World Championship. "Lefty" was clutch in the postseason for Philadelphia, going 3-0, including two wins in the World Series. Carlton led the league in victories, strikeouts and games started and his 304 innings pitched marked the last time any pitcher has topped the 300+ mark in a single season.

Trailing only Warren Spahn, Steven Norman Carlton would eventually become the second-winningest lefthanded pitcher of all-time. He had his beginnings with the St. Louis Cardinals and worked his way into the starting rotation of the great Cardinal teams of the late 1960s. Twice an All-Star with the Cardinals, he appeared in both the 1967 and 1968 World Series. He finished second in the NL in ERA in 1969, and when he won 20 games for the first time in 1971, he asked for a pay raise and held out. Rather than capitulate, the Cardinals traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies.

In that first year in Philadelphia, he had possibly one of the greatest pitching seasons ever. Not only did he win the pitching version of the triple crown (Wins, ERA, Strikeouts), his 27 wins marked 46% of his team's victories is a record in modern major league history. His success was attributed to his mastery of the slider and training regimen that was ahead of its time. He employed martial arts, running and strength conditioning in his regimen but is perhaps best known for working his hand to the bottom of a large canister of rice.

Carlton also became noted for his silence with the media. Upset at some of the things attributed to him, he stopped speaking to the media in 1977 and continued his stance until his release from the Phillies in 1986. During that time, he won three Cy Young Awards, leading the league in victories and strikeouts three times each. He was selected to the All-Star team five more times (10 times total) and started the 1979 game. He won his 300th game in 1983 against the old team the Cardinals and for a time, traded the all-time lead in strikeouts with Nolan Ryan.

Lefty signed with the Giants in 1986 and bounced around to the White Sox, Indians and Twins during the last few years of his 24-year career. In 1987, he and Phil Niekro became the first teammates and 300-game winners to appear in the same game. Steve was selected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1994 with 95.8% of the vote. He created a brief controversy with some of his comments regarding the Elders of Zion, but he has enjoyed a quiet retirement as a regular at Hall of Famer ceremonies each year. He maintains his own website and continues to make personal appearances.

Why I love this card
During the summer of 1979, my Dad sat me down to watch the All Star Game for the first time. I was instructed to watch the two starting pitchers: Nolan Ryan for the AL, Steve Carlton for the NL. These two immediately captured my attention and imagination. When I got this card during the summer of 1980 (complete with the All Star designation) I knew Lefty was something special. He became a cornerstone of my baseball card collection and it was special to be in attendance at his induction in 1994.

Something else....
When Carlton signed with the San Francisco Giants, much was made of the fact that Lefty was finally going to speak to the media. Dad told me that I should tape it since it was so rare (he never told me to tape something). I still have that somewhere, along with Carlton's appearance on Married...With Children.

Lastly, below is Carlton's 1980 Burger King Card. It is very similar to the regular Carlton issue except that it is moved slightly up and to the left. I actually think that this card is framed better than the regular Carlton.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

#209 Von Joshua

Who is this player?
Von Joshua, outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
In the final season of his 10-year major league career, Von Joshua spent the 1980 season with the San Diego Padres. Used primarily as a pinch-hitter for most of his tenure as a Padre, he batted .238 in 53 games. On August 8th, Von had a pinch-hit double against the division-leading Houston Astros that tied the game and scored the go-ahead run in San Diego's 5-3 victory. Unfortunately, Joshua was released two days later and was not picked up by another team.

The Oakland, California native grew up an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, so much so that when he was selected by the San Francisco Giants out of high school he refused to sign. After a year in college, he attended a 1967 Dodger tryout camp and impressed enough to be signed by Los Angeles. The left-handed hitting Joshua was part of a very deep Dodger farm system that produced several future major league players. At one time, Joshua was considered one of the brighter prospects, twice winning minor league batting championships and being named a minor league All-Star.

Joshua made his major league debut in late-1969 and spent his first full major league season with Los Angeles in 1970, mainly as a defensive replacement. He appeared in only a handful of games in 1971 and played the entire 1972 season in the minors and Dominican League winning batting championships in both leagues. It was this experience that convinced Joshua that he could be an everyday player if only given the opportunity, an opinion that he began sharing in the media.

He was given the starting left field job and was batting .333 two weeks into the season before a broken wrist cost him a month's worth of playing time. When he returned, he had lost his starting job and spent the next two seasons on the Dodger bench. Von appeared in his only World Series in 1974, appearing in four games as a pinch-hitter as the Dodgers fell to the A's in five games. Frustrated by his lack of playing time, he asked Dodger management to be traded. In January, 1975 Los Angeles traded him to the San Francisco Giants in a move that would rejuvenate his career.

Joshua had the best season of his career in 1975 when he finished seventh in the National League with a .318 average. He also placed in the Top Ten in triples (10). However, he didn't get along with manager Bill Rigney and was sold to the Milwaukee Brewers in June, 1976. He was the Brewers' regular centerfielder for two seasons but again didn't get along with his manager (George Bamberger) and was released near the end of Spring Training in 1978. Unable to land a job in the majors, he spent the season in the Mexcian League and his performance there earned a contract with the Dodgers in 1979. After his playing days, he spent 25 years as a coach, most recently as the Chicago Cubs hitting coach for the 2009 season.

Why I love this card
Today, you never, I mean, never see a guy with his cap under his batting helmet like Joshua is pictured here. Even in 1980, Joshua wasn't unique in doing this as several players (Willie Stargell, Carl Yastrzemski) used to do it. I really tried to emulate this but hated how it felt. I still can't understand how guys could hit with both on, it felt like you had a football helmet on your head.

Something else....
I don't know what circumstances led Joshua to Michigan, but he lives in a suburb of Detroit; South Lyon, Michigan. Several years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting him at a sparsely attended card show in the dying days of the Livonia Mall. There weren't many people there, and he was very gracious of those of us who were there, sharing stories of his major league days, especially with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

#208 Wayne Cage

Who is this player?
Wayne Cage, reserve first baseman, Cleveland Indians
Playing the entire 1980 season at Triple-A, Wayne Cage played first base and outfield for the Tacoma Tigers. Cage failed to make the Cleveland Indians out of Spring Training, but responded by batting .308 with 19 home runs and drove home 89 for Tacoma. The lefthanded hitting Cage was not recalled to Cleveland for the Septemeber call-ups and after ten years in the Indians organization, his future in Cleveland was in doubt.

A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Wayne Cage was the third selection of the Cleveland Indians in the 1971 draft, originally as a pitcher. He attracted the attention of major league scouts by going 10-0 with a 0.86 ERA in high school. However, he tore his rotator cuff in his second professional season, ending his pitching career. Undeterred, a determined Cage worked his way back, this time as any everyday player.

He was a popular player at several different minor league locales, as he was a solid hitter, batting a combined .290 in ten minor league seasons. After years of perserverance, he finally made his major league debut on April 22, 1978. He appeared in 36 games as a first baseman and designated hitter, batting .245 with four homers and 13 RBI.

1979 would be his second and final major league year, appearing in only 29 games and batting only .232. After his return to Spokane, Cage was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 1981. He never appeared in a game with Seattle, as they promptly sold him to the Hankyu Braves of the Japanese Pacific League. He spent two years in Japan before ending his professional baseball career.

Why I love this card
This is a great pose on this card, but what I really love is how clearly you can see "CAGE" printed on the batting glove on Cage's right hand. Maybe it was subliminal but when I got my first pair of batting gloves, I wrote my name very similarly.

Something else....
Along with contemproraries Ralph Garr, Don Wilson and Lynn McGlothlen, four natives of Monroe, Louisiana played in the majors during the 1970s and three have cards in the 1980 set.

#207 1979 Earned Run Average Leaders

What is this card?
1979 Earned Run Average Leaders Card
Ron Guidry was the defending AL ERA Champion in 1979 and successfully defended his crown, even though his ERA was nearly a run higher than the previous year. J.R. Richard of the Astros led all of baseball with a 2.71 ERA. Richard is the only player to appear on two leader cards in 1980.

How was the race? Guidry's teammate, Tommy John was the American League leader for much of the first half, until two disasterous starts swelled his ERA and allowed Guidry to take the title. In the National League, Tom Hume was a late season challenger into the race, primarily since he was a releiver. Richard was able to nip him with 16 consecutive scoreless innings to close the 1979 season.

Where are the 1980 League Leaders? Neither Rudy May, the 1980 AL Champion nor Don Sutton, the NL Leader posted in the Top Ten in their respective leagues in 1979.

Did these players ever repeat? No. As mentioned in other posts, Richard's career was over by 1980 and the closest Guidry would ever come again was seventh in 1985.

Why I love this card
I was always intrigued by the contrast between the 5'11", 162lb Guidry and the 6'8" 225lb Richard, both of whom led their league in the same category. It truly amazed me how both could be such dominating starting pitchers. I was convinced that both would wind up in Cooperstown.

Something else....
For a New York Yankee, it seems that Ron Guidry's accomplishments have largely been overlooked. Even his 25-3 1978 season seems to be glossed over. While I'm not a Yankee fan and find that many of their players have been overrated, Guidry is one guy that I thought never received his fair share.

Friday, December 4, 2009

#206 1979 Strikeout Leaders

What is this card?
1979 Strikeout Leaders Card
J.R. Richard had completed one of the most dominant seasons of the post-expansion era in 1979. His 313 strikeouts had established a National League record for righthanded pitchers, breaking his own record of the previous year. When this card came out, it was the seventh time that Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts. He left the Angels after the season and in 1980 both of these guys became teammates.

How was the race? Richard was, far and away, the most dominant strikeout pitcher in the game at this time, including Nolan Ryan. He outdistanced his closest pursuer in the NL by over 100 strikeouts and was never challenged. Ryan, meanwhile, led the American League for nearly the entire season with nine first-half starts of 10+ strikeouts. He withstood a late-season surge by Ron Guidry of the Yankees who struck out 10, 11 and 11 in three of his final five starts.

Where are the 1980 League Leaders? Len Barker of the Cleveland Indians, who led the American League with 187 punchouts, is not listed here on this card. Meanwhile, Steve Carlton of the Phillies led the National League in 1980 and was runner-up to Richard in 1979.

Did these players ever repeat? Yes and No. Richard didn't pitch again after 1980 due to his career ending stroke. Ryan would go on to add to his Hall of Fame career by leading the league in strikeouts four more times. Amazingly, he would do so at ages 40 through 43 for the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.

Why I love this card
As mentioned, the fact that Richard and Ryan were teammates made this a very popular card that summer. Luckily, I had two of these that year, and it was one of the few cards that I had that I refused to trade. It was the reason that I rooted for the Astros that season

Something else....
Largely forgotten today, but a rotation of Ryan, Richard and Joe Niekro was pretty awesome. Had it not been for Richard's misfortune, one wonders how well the Astros would have really done in 1980. Sports Illustrated also speculated this in 1993 and a reprint of that article can be found here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

#205 1979 Victory Leaders

What is this card?
1979 Victory Leaders Card
Mike Flanagan of the defending American League champion Orioles led the baseball world with 23 victories in 1979 while the brothers Niekro both had 21 to lead the National League. Interestingly, 40-year old Phil managed 21 wins for a Braves team that only won 66 games that year.

How was the race? Obviously, the Niekro brothers led the NL during 1979. Joe rattled off nine straight wins during the first half of the season while Phil was more methodical. Flanagan, meanwhile, won 9 of 10 decisions near the end of the season to outpace Tommy John of the New York Yankees.

Where are the 1980 League Leaders? Steve Carlton of the Phillies was the 1980 National League victory leader, he was third here. Steve Stone of Orioles led all of baseball with 25 wins in 1980 did not place in the Top Ten on this card.

Did these players ever repeat? No. Joe would come the closest, finishing second in 1980 and three more times in his career. Phil would also finish in the Top Ten four more times, never higher than fifth. Flanagan would only once more place among the league leaders, 10th in 1980.

Why I love this card
Two knuckleballers leading the league in wins? How awesome is that?? Especially in this era with so many legendary fireballers: Richard, Ryan, Seaver, Guidry and the Niekro brothers top them all. In the previous post, I mentioned the diversity of skills in MLB at this time and this card is an example of that. Also cross off the Twins as now Jerry Koosman has placed 25 of the 26 teams somewhere in the Top 10 in five categories.

Something else....
Phil is the last player to have won and lost 20 in the same year, reflected on this card.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

#204 1979 Stolen Base Leaders

What is this card?
1979 Stolen Bases Leaders Card
In only his second full season, Willie Wilson of the Royals led both major leagues with 83 stolen bases. His total was the most tallied in the American League since Ty Cobb in 1915. Omar Moreno of the Pirates led the National League with 77.

How was the race? The only challenge that Wilson faced was from Ron LeFlore of the Detroit Tigers. LeFlore was the defending champion, but Wilson stole 14 bases the final two weeks to claim the championship. Moreno did not face a significant challenge and won the NL crown handily.

Where are the 1980 League Leaders? Rickey Henderson of the A's finished tied for seventh in the AL. LeFlore, who finished second in the AL, would be traded to the Expos and lead the National League in '80.

Did these players ever repeat? No. Moreno was two-time champion that finished second in 1980 and 1981. Wilson was one of the premier base stealers of his era, 11 times finishing among the Top Ten in his league. However, he would never again be a league leader.

Why I love this card
These leader cards continually remind me of why I love this era. In looking at the several names listed on the backs of these cards, its shows the diversity of skills on display in Major League Baseball. Sluggers who specialize in the long ball, excellent batsmen who hit for high average and burners like Moreno and Wilson who were threats on the base paths. Additionally, every team has had a player in the Top Ten so far with the exception of the Twins and Blue Jays.

Something else....
Noted on this card is the first appearance of all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson. Little did anyone know at the moment this card was out what a revolutionary force Henderson would eventually become.