Tuesday, June 30, 2009

#71 John Milner

Who was this player?
John Milner, reserve outfielder & first baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates
The left-handed hitting Milner was a key member of the 1979 World Champion Fam-A-Lee Pirates. He platooned with Bill Robinson in left field and often spelled captain Willie Stargell. A similar role was in the cards for 1980, but a injury to Stargell made Milner a regular at first. He slumped badly in '80, dropping 30 points in batting average and his HR/RBI totals were nearly cut in half. Not surprisingly, the Pirates did not earn a return engagement to the postseason.

Taking the nickname "Hammer" after his boyhood hero, Henry Aaron, the Atlanta-born Milner was a draft choice of the New York Mets in 1968. He rose quickly through the Mets farm system, earning a September callup with the Mets in 1971. He was the Mets primary left fielder in 1972 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting.

1973 was perhaps Milner's finest season. Now moved to first base, his 23 home runs led the team as the 'Ya Gotta Believe' Mets won the National League pennant. Unfortunately, the Mets lost the Series in seven games, to the Oakland A's. Milner had 20 HR in 1974 and developed was seen as a budding star. However, recurring hamstring problems prevented Milner from achieving that status. Milner was a productive hitter for the Mets throughout the mid-1970s, alternating between first base and left field. After the 1977 season, he was involved in a blockbuster, 10-player, four-team trade. When the dust cleared, Milner was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. While serving as a valuable utility player, it was during Milner's time in Pittsburgh that he became a cocaine user. Already a heavy smoker, Milner's substance abuse likely had a hand in shortening his career.

He was traded to Montreal in August of 1981 to bolster the Expos bench as they made a postseason push. He appeared in both the NLDS and NLCS that season in a pinch hitting role. Over his career, Milner thrived in pressure situations, hitting 10 grand slams throughout his career. He began 1982 with the Expos, but was released when he got off to a slow start. He returned to the Pirates to finish the 1982 season and his 12-year major league career.

Milner made headlines in 1985 as part of the Pittsburgh Drug Trials when he named Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Willie Stargell in his testimony. Milner acknowledged his cocaine use, stating that he bought cocaine in a bathroom stall at Three Rivers Stadium before a game in 1980. He also stated that Stargell and Bill Madlock routinely distributed amphetamines. Milner developed lung cancer and died of the disease one week after his 50th birthday in 2000.

Why I love this card
Because it reminds me of how naive I was at the moment I got this card. Looking at it now, I feel sorry for John Milner, how he died so young, how his play was effected by drugs. At the time, he was simply a Pirate - my favorite NL team. He had the gold uniform, the Stargell stars, the vicious swing. He was a ballplayer. I had no concept that he (like all of these players) was a human being too.

Something else....
It took 70 cards, but Milner is the first player to be featured that is no longer with us. Accordingly, I have added a label so going forward they will be grouped together. It is also a double printed card as well.

#70 Gary Carter

Who was this player?
Gary Carter, catcher, Montreal Expos
Hall of Famer, Class of 2003.
1980 was the season that Gary Carter moved out of the shadow of Johnny Bench as the best catcher in baseball. The season before, the young Expos were narrowly edged in the NL East race by the veteran Pittsburgh Pirates. Many pre-season predictions felt the Expos would win the division in 1980. That year, Carter was named to the All-Star Game, won his first Gold Glove and finished second in the NL MVP voting, hitting 29 HR and driving in 101 RBI. The Expos, however, were edged out again in the NL East race, this time by the Phillies, losing the division on the final weekend.

As a 7-year old, Carter was the inaugural national champion of the Punt, Pass & Kick competition in 1961. He also originally signed a letter of intent to play football at UCLA before signing with the Montreal Expos in 1972. Nicknamed "Kid" and later "Camera" by his teammates, he made his major league debut in late 1974. The following season, he was selected to the All Star Game (catching the final out) and was runner up in the Rookie of the Year voting. However, that season, he did so as a right fielder as Barry Foote was being used behind the plate for Montreal.

He was moved behind the plate for good in 1977, where he would remain for the rest of his career. The Expos, led by Carter, made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1981 season. 1981 was a banner year for Carter as he won another Gold Glove, his first Silver Slugger and was elected to start for the National League in the All Star Game. Carter was named MVP of the game when he hit two home runs in the NL's 10th straight win. The Expos, despite finally winning the NL East, lost the NLCS in five games in heartbreaking fashion to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite yearly predictions of their dominance, the Expos never returned to the postseason. Carter, however, continued to receive individual honors, winning the All Star Game MVP again in 1984.

By 1985, the Expos were being dismantled, and Carter, even after leading the league in RBI, was traded to the New York Mets. In his first game as a Met, he hit a dramatic opening day home run and the Mets challenged for the division title. The following year, the 1986 Mets ran away with the NL East and Carter was their star cleanup hitter. He had a dramatic single in Game 5 of the NLCS that gave the Mets a 3-2 series edge. The Mets would win the NCLS. He also began the historic Mets rally that led to an improbable win in Game Six of the World Series. The Mets would win in seven games. They would return to the postseason in 1988, but the Mets never regained the dominance that was predicted of them. Carter had an injury-filled 1989 season and was released by the Mets the following year. He became a journeyman the next three seasons, closing out his 19-year career in 1992 by returning to Montreal.

In retirement, Carter wrote a book and was a broadcaster for the Marlins. He remained an active spokesman for the Leukemia Society of America, a disease that claimed his mother when he was eight. Carter orginally intended to enter the Hall of Fame as a Met, but he was overruled by Hall President Dale Petrosky who made Carter the Expos only Hall of Famer to date. Carter recently began a second career as manager of the independent Long Island Ducks.

Why I love this card
The first baseball card show I ever went to featured Mickey Mantle signing autographs for $10 in 1981 or 1982. My Dad took me to see "The Mick." While that was impressive, I distinctly recall holding up the line so that I could purchase this Carter card from a vendor for ten cents. I never got this card in 1980 and was thrilled when I found it at that show. After all it was a great deal!

Something else....
I know that this card is a Spring Training shot, but I think the photo they used of Carter here was two or three years old at the time. While it is a great photo, the patch on Carter's right sleeve commemorates the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I am assuming the Expos wore them that season, but did they wear them all the way until 1979? The uniform database wasn't much help, so if anyone knows, I would be most appreciative.

Friday, June 26, 2009

#69 Rick Williams

Who was this player?
Rick Williams, swingman, Houston Astros
Williams did not appear in the major leagues in 1980. The tremendous pitching depth of the Astros that season prevented Williams from returning to the majors, even after the stroke of staff ace J.R. Richard. Williams had a decent 1979 season in which he was fifth on the team in starting assignments, winning 4. The off-season acquisition of Nolan Ryan undoubtedly left Williams the odd man out in Houston's 1980 pitching plans.

Signed by the Astros as an amateur free agent in 1972, Williams spent five seasons in the minor leagues working his way up the Astros chain. He pitched well in his minor league career, and gained attention from the parent club when he posted nine wins and a 3.01 ERA with the Charleston Charlies. He made the Astros staff in June of 1978 after a hot start in Charleston and won in his major league debut. With the exception of one game, he pitched entirely out of the bullpen for Houston.

He began the 1979 season again in the minors, but was quickly recalled to Houston in May of 1979. He was inserted into the starting rotation due to injuries to Vern Ruhle and Ken Forsch. Williams made 11 starts in a row from mid-May to early-July, going 3-4 in the process, two of the wins being impressive, complete game shutouts. When his teammates returned from the DL, Williams was shifted to the bullpen. He returned to the rotation for the stretch drive as the Astros contended for the NL West crown, but both he and the Astros faded as Williams went 1-3 in four late-season starts.

Williams spent all of 1980 at AAA Tuscon, winning 14 games as the Astros won the NL West. However, his high ERA (5.03) did not earn him a return engagement as the Houston battled the Dodgers to the final day. He spent two more seasons before finally ending his professional career.

Why I love this card
Williams' minor league record is more accurate on this card than it is over at baseball-reference.com. There is no on-line mention of 8-1 start in 1978.

Something else....
I know that I have previously expressed my unhealthy love to the Astros uniform of this era, and here it is again. That's three Astros cards so far in this set and the whole rainbow uni is on full display. No head shots here, no sir. Wear that orange with pride!

#68 Larry Harlow

Who was this player?
Larry Harlow, reserve outfielder, California Angels
Although he began the 1979 season with the Baltimore Orioles, Harlow was traded in June to the California Angles. He was a reserve outfielder most of the season and had the game winning RBI in the Angels' only win in the ALCS that fall. In the offseason, he entered into a weight lifting and conditioning program, something that was not as common as today. Harlow received more playing time in 1980 due to an injury to Dan Ford and batted .276.

Larry Harlow was drafted by the Orioles in 1970, a part of a huge influx of talent that the Orioles produced throughout decade. Unfortunately, that influx also prevented the left-handed hitting Harlow from cracking the major league lineup. He made his major league debut in a late-season call up in 1975. He did not appear in the majors in 1976 but made the team out of Spring Training in 1977.

He stuggled at the plate and was returned to the minors. When Al Bumbry was injured in 1978, Harlow took over for him in center field. He achieved career highs in nearly every offensive category, appearing in 146 games, even appearing as a pitcher in one of them.

1981 was Harlow's last season in the major leagues, batting .207 in only 43 games. While he returned to the minors for a couple of seasons, his six-year major league career had come to an end. He also played both seasons in the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989 & 1990.

Why I love this card
Harlow's helmet. While not quite on par with the Great Gazoo, his helmet jumps out at you. If you look closely, you can see the reflection of a couple of his teammates in there.

Something else....
Harlow in the same season played for the two teams that faced each other in the post-season (1979 ALCS). I know that there have to be other players who have done this, but for the life of me I can't think of any.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

#67 Doyle Alexander

Who is this player?
Doyle Alexander, starting pitcher, Texas Rangers
1979 saw Alexander miss some playing time, first by being demoted to the bullpen and later suffering a broken jaw when a ball struck him in batting practice. As a result, his five wins in 1979 were the lowest total in a season in his career up to that point. The Rangers traded him in December to the Atlanta Braves and Alexander thrived in the Atlanta rotation, making 35 starts and winning 14 as the Braves #2 starter behind future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. He was unhappy with his salary, however, and was traded again at the end of 1980 to the San Francisco Giants.

The winner of 194 major league games with eight different teams, today Alexander is more remembered for the trades he was involved in over his 19-year career. The first came after the 1971 season, Alexander's rookie year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After earning a spot in the Dodger rotation after a mid-season callup, he was part of a package to Baltimore that brought Frank Robinson to the Dodgers. With the Orioles great pitching depth, Alexander was in and out of the Orioles rotation for 4 1/2 seasons while establishing himself as a reliable and versatile pitcher.

Midway through the 1976 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees in a deal that brought Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey to Baltimore. Alexander helped complete the Yankee rotation and he pitched in his only World Series that fall, but he and the Yankees lost the Series to the Cincinnati Reds. When owner George Steinbrenner refused to guarantee Alexander 20 starts as a Yankee in 1977, Alexander left the Big Apple and signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers.

In Arlington, he immediately won 17 games in his first season as the Rangers won 94 games and finished in second place. However, both the Rangers and Alexander struggled to achieve the same levels in the following seasons and he was traded to Atlanta. The early 1980s saw Alexander become a baseball vagabond with stops in Atlanta, San Francisco and back to the Yankees between 1980-83. In late 1982, was put on the disabled list when he punched a wall. He was so embarrassed that he offered to return his salary. Instead the Yankees released him in early 1983.

He was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, where he helped the young team into contention with consecutive 17-win seasons in 1984 and 1985 and was carried off the mound when he pitched the AL East clincher in 1985. When he struggled in 1986, he returned to the Braves. Near the end of the 1987 season, the Braves traded him to the Tigers for minor league prospect John Smoltz. Alexander went 9-0 for the Tigers as they won a narrow AL East Division race. He continued his hot pitching in 1988 and was elected to his first All Star Game. The Tigers collapsed in 1989, but the reliable Alexander still made 33 starts (leading the AL in losses) and retired at the end of the season

Why I love this card
Alexander had a reputation of being one of the more grumpy ballplayers of his era. In his three years in Detroit, I remember him vividly as the stereotypical grizzly veteran getting by on guts and guile. Imagine my surprise when I reacquainted with this card and Alexander has a big grin on his face. I believe that this is a first. I cannot recall ANY other Alexander card throughout his career in which he is smiling.

Something else.....
The Alexander-for-Smoltz trade today consistently gets included in most "worst" trades of all-time lists. As a Tiger fan, I maintain to this day that this trade was a win-win. I mean, Alexander was unbeatable down the stretch. They won all 11 of his starts and he pitched or combined on five shutouts. The Tigers would not have won the division without him. And he took the Tigers to within one game of a repeat in 1988.
Sure Smoltz became a Hall of Famer, but he has said that he didn't think he would have become the pitcher he did had he stayed in Detroit. And if he did, he would have left long ago as a free agent. The Tigers were a mess in the 1990s and even Smoltz would not have helped them. Here is another article on the trade in proper perspective.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

#66 Jim Frey Kansas City Royals Team Card

What is this card?

Team Card, Kansas City Royals, Jim Frey Manager

Jim Frey was entering his first season as manager of the Royals in 1980, replacing the popular Whitey Herzog. Herzog had led the Royals to three straight division titles (1976-1978) and finished in second place in 1979, three games out. However, a conflict with management led to Herzog's dismissal. Frey was the hitting and first base coach for the Baltimore Orioles since 1970 and was widely seen as Earl Weaver's right hand man, but he was an unknown. The Royals were expected to contend for the AL West crown, but there was serious concerns about the bullpen and pitching depth.

During the offseason, the Royals traded outfielder Al Cowens to the California Angels for first baseman Willie Mays Aikens. They also did not resign long-time shortstop Fred Patek, instead giving the job to U.L. Washington. They signed former All Star Dave Chalk as a free agent, but added no new pitchers to the staff coming into 1980.

The Royals were one of the best hitting and fastest teams in the AL, and they led the league in batting average and stolen bases. They were led by All Star George Brett, who batted .390 and outfielder Willie Wilson, who had 230 hits, 79 stolen bases and a record 705 at bats. They were supported by solid veterans Frank White, Amos Otis, Hal McRae and All Star Darrell Porter.

The starting rotation was solid, led by the righty-lefty combination of Dennis Leonard (20-11) and Larry Gura (18-10), who was also selected to the All Star Game. The bullpen question was solved by Dan Quisenberry, who appeared in an league-leading 75 games and saved a league-leading 33. Veterans Paul Splitorff and Rich Gale solidified the rotation and the bullpen was aided by Renie Martin and Marty Pattin.

Free agent Jose Cardenal was signed in August and batted .340 to help Clint Hurdle in right and George's brother Ken was signed to help the pitching and did not allow a run in eight appearances.

The Royals won the AL West handily, the only drama of the season was Brett's pursuit of a .400 batting average. They finally defeated their nemesis, the New York Yankees, sweeping them in three games, to win their first AL pennant. The ride came to and end in the World Series, however, when the Royals lost to the Phillies in six games.

Why I love this card
Of course, the obvious. There is no picture of Jim Frey. I don't understand why Topps couldn't have put a photo of him there as he was hired in October 1979 and other manager cards (Dick Howser, Yankees for example) were able to have a picture. You can see Herzog in the front row pretty easily as this is clearly a 1979 team photo. As an aside, eight Royals listed in the 1980 set either did not play for KC that year or did not finish the season with them.

Something else....
When this 1980 Royals team faced the Phillies in the World Series, it was the first time since 1920 that the two teams who squared off had never won a championship. It has never happened since.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

#65 Al Bumbry

Who was this player?
Al Bumbry, centerfielder, Baltimore Orioles
The fleet, left-handed hitting Bumbry was the leadoff man and centerfielder for the defending AL Champion Orioles. In 1980, Bumbry had a career year, achieving highs most offensive categories. He was third in the AL in runs scored (118), fifth in hits (205) and games played (160) and ninth in batting average (.318). He was elected to his first and only All Star Game that summer. The 1980 Orioles won 100 games that season, but finished second in the East to the New York Yankees.

Alonza Benjamin Bumbry was drafted by the Orioles in 1968, but his minor league career was interrupted by a tour of duty in Vietnam. He was a lieutenant and platoon leader and won the Bronze Star, which is given to soldiers for “heroic or meritorious achievement or service.” Upon completion of his service, he arrived with the Orioles in 1973 and promptly led the league in triples and batted .337. The Birds won the AL East that season and Bumbry was rewarded with the Rookie of the Year Award. He would play in the ALCS in 1973 and 1974, but both times the Orioles lost to the eventual World Champion Oakland A's.

He would become a fixture in the Baltimore Orioles lineup for the next decade. Along the way, he consistently placed on the AL leader list in stolen bases and finished 7th in batting in 1977 when he hit .317. The only interruption during his time with the Orioles came in 1978 when he suffered a broken leg and ligament damage to his ankle.

The following year, at full strength, he helped spark the Orioles to the 1979 World Series, which they unfortunately lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games. Despite the loss, Bumbry was one of the most popular players on the team and a fan favorite. He continued to be a reliable weapon in the Oriole attack and hit .275 in 1983, the year the Orioles finally won the World Series, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. When he was not offered a contract after the 1984 season, the 38-year old Bumbry signed on with the San Diego Padres where he played his final season in 1985, wrapping up his 14 year career.

Bumbry remained active in the game after his playing days, serving as first base coach for the Boston Red Sox and later with the Baltimore Orioles. He was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1987 and remains third all-time in Orioles franchise history in stolen bases.

Why I love this card.....
Do not adjust your sets, we have our first miscut card of the series. I don't know why, but I liked to get cards like this from time to time. To add to the theme, check out Bumbry's hometown on the reverse: Cockeysville, Maryland. Fitting.

Something else....
It was kind of glossed over earlier, but special thanks to Mr. Bumbry for his service and sacrifice for our country. Many of the WW2 era players get a lot of publicity (and rightfully so) for putting their careers on hold, but we don't get as much emphasis on the Vietnam era guys. I never knew that Bumbry led a platoon and something tells me I should have before this blog entry. Nonetheless, thanks from someone who has benefited from your commitment.

#64 Joe Nolan

Who was this player?
Joe Nolan, reserve catcher, Atlanta Braves
When the 1980 season began, the Braves were carrying three catchers on their roster. Nolan began the year as the backup to Bruce Benedict. When former All Star Biff Pocoroba came off of the disabled list in June, the Braves attempted to send Nolan to the minor leagues. Since he had five years of major league service, Nolan refused. The Braves front office told Nolan that they were unable to trade him since there were no suitors so Nolan was declared a free agent. He was signed with the Cincinnati Reds the following day and batted .312 for the remainder of the season.

Joe Nolan is one of the few players in major league history to wear glasses behind the plate. Originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1969, the left-handed hitting Nolan spent nearly eight seasons in the minor leagues working his way up the ladder. Even though he achieved All Star status in the minor leagues, the Mets traded him to the Braves in 1975. It was with Atlanta that he finally made the major leagues in 1977.

While primarily a reserve in Atlanta, a memorable moment with the Braves came when Nolan caught a foul tip off the bat of Pete Rose that ended Rose’s 44-game hitting streak. He remained a substitute until the time of his free agency in 1980. The Reds were looking to extend the career of Hall of Famer Johnny Bench and Nolan became the everyday catcher for the only time in his career in 1981 and again batted over .300. However, Nolan’s defense was suspect and when the Reds acquired Alex Trevino, Nolan was traded again this time to the Baltimore Orioles.

In Baltimore, Nolan received his only taste of the postseason when the Orioles won the AL East in 1983. He appeared in the ALCS and World Series that season as the Orioles defeated the Phillies in five games to win the World Series. Nolan remained an Oriole for two more seasons until he was released at the end of the 1985 season after 11 years in the major leagues.

Why I love this card
Nolan is probably one of the least likely looking baseball players in this set. Not to be disparaging to a man with a decent career and a World Series ring, he just didn't look like a ballplayer to me. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment but its not meant to be. Maybe its because it looks as if no one even cared to put his name on the back of his warmup jersey.

Something else.....
In researching Nolan's career I found that had one of the worst ratios for throwing out base stealers (about 20%). However, a few years ago, I sent him an autograph request through the mail and included 5-6 cards, asking him to keep some if he wished. He signed them all with a beautiful signature (much better than the facsimile 1980 card). Thanks Mr. Nolan for 100% success rate with me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

#63 Bob Stanley

Who was this player?
Bob Stanley, relief pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Although an All-Star as a starter in 1979, Bob Stanley would finish the 1980 season pitching out of the Boston bullpen. He began the season as part of the Red Sox rotation, but was inconsistent. When the Red Sox called up rookie John Tudor, Stanley was moved to the setup role for closer Tom Burgmeier, an All Star closer in 1980. In that capacity, Stanley won 4 games, saved 14 and chalked up an impressive 2.30 ERA.

Although he is the Red Sox all time leader in saves, the man known as “Steamer” is probably best known today for the one game that he didn't save. However, the right-handed Stanley was a sinkerball specialist that jumped from AA ball in 1977 to the Red Sox and spent the next 13 seasons in Beantown. He was one of the Red Sox best pitchers in the memorable 1978 AL East pennant race, compiling a 15-2 record with 10 saves. However, he gave up two more runs in the Bucky Dent game that gave the Yankees the padding they needed to win the one-game playoff.

After winning 16 games in 1979, Stanley would go on to pitch the next seven seasons primarily out of the bullpen. As he eventually became the Red Sox closer, Stanley would routinely pitch multiple innings in each appearance, sometimes going three or more innings. He finished second in the AL in ERA in 1982 and the following year, he was named to the American League All Star team, en route to a 33 save season (2nd best in the AL). Stanley was one of the few pitchers in history to be an All Star as both a starter and reliever.

Stanley had lost his closer role by 1985 and when the Red Sox won the American League pennant in 1986, Stanley was a vital part of the bullpen-by-committee. While Stanley had the most saves, rookie Calvin Schiraldi had assumed the closer's role by the time the postseason began. Of course, when Schiraldi faltered, Stanley was on the mound in the infamous Game Six and was also on the mound in Game 7 when the Mets scored three runs off of three pitchers to clinch the World Series.

Partially due to the World Series, Stanley returned to the rotation in 1987, but did poorly, losing 15 games and posting a 5.01 ERA. He was returned to the bullpen again in 1988 and did well, helping the Red Sox win the AL East again. However, the A's swept the Sox in the ALCS. Stanley's final season was 1989 when a hand injury forced him to retire. He coached, ironically, in the Mets organization after his playing days and today works with USA Training Centers.

Why I love this card
When I think of Bob Stanley, this is exactly how I picture him. Road uniform, looking as if he is coming right at you. It as almost as if I can freeze him in this spot to somehow stop the wild pitch/passed ball to Mookie Wilson.

Something else....
A member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, no one in Boston Red Sox history has appeared in more games as a pitcher than Bob Stanley. Think about that for a minute. Cy Young? Roger Clemens? Luis Tiant? Pedro Martinez? Curt Schilling? None of them had more appearances than Stanley. His team record of 132 saves will likely be passed sometime in 2009 by Jonathan Papelbon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Today, please allow me to make a non-1980 related blog entry.

As you may have read, this blog has been inspired by my own father, who in 1980 bought me my first pack of cards. This set has special memories for me as they are cardboard reminders of my childhood, the kids I grew up with and most importantly my Dad. In some ways, it is like looking through an old photo album. I am currently sharing them with my son, who is about the same age as I was in 1980, although understandably he is more interested in today's stars.

I am fortunate to still have my Dad with us, although the past six months has been rough for him. In December, he had a cancerous tumor removed from his lung - the byproduct of 50 years of smoking. If any of you out there smoke or have a relative who does, I implore you to do all that you can to get them to quit. It's simply not worth it.

Luckily, at the moment, it appears that the removal surgery was successful and the cancer has not spread to any of his organs. However, this week he will have prostate surgery. He has kept his spirits and humor throughout this entire ordeal and is determined to be as healthy as he can for as long as he can. One of his goals in fact, revolved around baseball as in February he wanted to attend the Tigers-Pirates series in Pittsburgh with me and my son (alas the prostate issue didn't allow him to make the trip). So even in his most trying time, baseball has been a focus.

This is my first Father's Day where I fully realize that he is not going to be around forever. I bought him a subscription to the USA Today since the local papers do not carry all the box scores as they used to, something I have heard my father lament since the start of the season. Today, more than ever, certainly has made me reflect and appreciate.

Part of the mix has been this great game. Through it, and by extension these cards, we don't grow old. We don't get sick. We don't have bills and wonder where the money will come from. For a moment or three, we are the eight year old boys holding our Dad's by the hand and seeing a ball game. And for that moment or three, we feel good. We feel safe. And all is well. Thanks Dad for giving me that gift. Hopefully a few box scores can somehow repay the debt.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

#62 Mike Ivie

Who is this player?
Mike Ivie, first baseman, San Francisco Giants
Ivie's emergence as a power hitter in 1979 (27HR 89RBI) fully established him as the Giants everyday first baseman and in essance retired legend Willie McCovey. However, the comfort of finally establishing himself as a regular did not last long. First, he sliced a finger in the off season with a hunting knife. Next, there were ankle injuries. Then, Ivie's 1980 season was interrupted by a shocking retirement. Citing a displeasure with travel and missing his family, his retirement lasted three weeks and he eventually returned. However, Giants management soured on him and he never found a consistent rythm, finishing the year with just four home runs.

The first overall pick of the 1970 amatuer draft by the San Diego Padres, the right-handed hitting Ivie was a highly touted catching prospect. When he made his major league debut late in the 1971 season, he was the second youngest player in the league that season. The following year began a series of mental blocks and injury caused Ivie to be moved to other positions, namely third and first. He became the Padres regular third baseman in 1975 and made the Topps All Rookie Team.

Ivie had solid seasons in San Diego in 1976 and 1977, but Padre management grew impatient with Ivie and he balked when they asked him to return to catching. He was traded to the Giants for Derrel Thomas on February 28, 1978. Ivie hit a career-high .308 for the Giants in 1978 as a backup. Ivie was a useful pinch hitter. He went 12-for-31 in the pinch and tied a major league record with two pinch grand slams that season. One, a May 28th blast against the defending NL Champion Dodgers, was voted the top 1970s moment by Giants fans in 2003.

While his pinch-hitting performance eventually won him a job, the Giants still attempted to trade Ivie, in a deal for Rod Carew that eventually fell through. Shortly after the 1981 season began, the Giants did finally trade Ivie, to the Houston Astros. He only appeared in a handful of games for the Astros in 1981 and in 1982 he asked the Astros to be released and they complied. He came to the Detroit Tigers that season and while he showed some pop in his bat, his batting average hovered at the .230 mark. When he started slow in 1983, Detroit released him and he retired shortly thereafter, completing a 11-year career.

Why I love this card
When Ivie came to the Tigers in 1982, I remember my Dad being excited by this acquistion. At the time, the Tigers were stuggling for a regular first baseman and Dad (perhaps blinded by the 1979 Ivie) convinced me that this was a great move. I was even told to "save his baseball cards." Alas, Dad missed this one, but this particular card had been in a plastic sheet since the summer of '82.

Something else....
Ivie developed a mental block about throwing the ball back to the pitcher that ended his catching career (something similar also happened to Dale Murphy). Ivie was so adament about not catching that he had it inserted into his contract that he could not be asked to catch.

Friday, June 19, 2009

#61 Gary Serum

Who was this player?
Gary Serum, relief pitcher, Minnesota Twins
Nicknamed “Truth” by teammate Roy Smalley, Gary Serum had a difficult 1979 season that saw him split time between Minnesota and AAA Toledo, posting a 6.61 ERA during his time with the Twins. He failed to make the major league club coming out of Spring Training in 1980 and never again appeared in a major league game.

The right-handed Serum was a graduate of St. Cloud State University, but was not drafted by a major league club. In 1975, he attended an open tryout and was signed by the Twins. After two years in the minor leagues, he made his major league debut against the California Angels and pitched two innings of scoreless relief. He was one of the youngest players in the major leagues that season and his late-season showing earned him a spot the following season on the Twins pitching staff.

He began the 1978 season in the bullpen, but was soon moved into the starting rotation when injuries struck the Twins pitching staff. In his first start, he pitched a complete game win, and he was a .500 pitcher for the Twins that season. The highlight of his season came on August 19th when he pitched a complete game two-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was definitely the best performance of his career. He finished the 1978 season 9-9, with 23 starts and six complete games.

When he was unable to make the Twins in 1980, he spent the season in Toledo pitching primarily in relief. The following season, he was traded to the New York Yankees organization but his poor performance at Columbus led to his release and he was through with organized baseball after the 1982 season.

Today, Serum owns and operates a popular restaurant in Anoka, Minnesota, Serum’s Good Time Emporium.

Why I love this card
The first game I ever went to was the Twins visiting the Tigers at Tiger Stadium. We had great seats near the opposing team’s dugout. I was new to the autograph collecting thing and had no idea what to do. Dad told me to ask the players to sign my ticket stub and one of the players hanging about was Serum. He waited for me to fumble with my scorecard pencil and hand him the ticket. Looking at this card now reminds me how nice he was to a 8 year old kid at his first game. Thanks Gary.

Something else....
I had always thought that this photo was taken at Yankee Stadium. However, in researching Serum's career, I noticed that he never made an appearance against the Yankees, so that can't be it. Stadium watchers out there....anybody have a clue where the Twins are playing in Serum's card??

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

#60 Bucky Dent

Who was this player?
Bucky Dent, shortstop, New York Yankees
Entering the 1980 season, Dent was coming off a tumultuous 1979 season that saw him experience marital problems, a season-long slump and become a media sensation and poster boy. His agent, future NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, negotiated a new contract in the off-season and Dent responded strongly and was elected to the All Star Game. He raised his average 30 points from the previous season and helped the Yankees win the AL East for the fourth time in five years.

Born Russell Earl O'Dey, he was raised by an uncle and aunt who adopted him and he took the name Dent. He was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1970, and called up during the 1973 season. He became the team's regular shortstop the next year and over the next three seasons established himself as a scrappy, sure-handed infielder, even making the All Star Game in 1975.

He came to the Yankees prior to the 1977 season and landed in the fabled “Bronx Zoo.” The Yankees won the World Series and the following year, they came back from 14 games back in July to win the division again. Dent’s career defining moment came in that AL East playoff game against the Boston Red Sox. He became Bucky “F-ing” Dent for his famous home run and followed it up with an MVP performance in the 1978 World Series. He capitalized on the media attention of his memorable October with commercials and personal appearances.

Dent was again elected to the start the All Star Game in 1981, but soon found himself on the outs in New York, who traded him to Texas for Lee Mazzilli in mid-season 1982. He was the Rangers’ regular shortstop in 1983, but they released him prior to the 1984 season. He played the end of the ’84 season with the Royals before retiring as an active player. It was during the summer of 1984 that Dent also filmed and later appeared as an extra in the movie “The Slugger’s Wife.”

After his playing days, Dent became manager of the Yankees for the end of 1989 and start of 1990. He was a coach for the Cardinals, Rangers and bench coach for former teammate Jerry Narron in Cincinnati. Today, he runs a baseball academy with minor league teammate Larry Hoskin.

Why I love this card
When I noticed the crease in this particular card, it triggered a long-forgotten memory of how I got it. Louie down the block was from New York and moved on our street in 1978. His aunt was visiting when I made a trade for this Dent card. When she saw that I now had the card in my possession (I think for a Mitchell Page) she smacked him in the back of the head and screamed “YOU CAN’T TRADE BUCKY DENT!” It scared me initially, as this crazy lady was really angry over a Dent card. However, whenever any of got a Dent card, sticker, slurpee cup from that point forward, it invariably invoked a chorus of “YOU CAN’T TRADE BUCKY DENT.” Completely forgot about that.

Something else.....
The Bucky Dent baseball school has been operating for 30 years. To give you an idea of how long that is, one of its former students is Jamie Moyer, currently in his 23rd Major League season.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

#59 Eddy Putman

Who is this player?
Eddy Putman, reserve catcher, Detroit Tigers
Putman’s major league career lasted 43 games, 21 of them coming in 1979 with the Detroit Tigers. When the Tigers acquired Duffy Dyer in Spring Training 1980, he failed to make the club since the Tigers now had four players who could catch (Dyer, Lance Parrish and John Wockenfuss). The right-handed hitting backstop never again appeared in a major league game. This is his first and final card.

Eddy William Putman made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs on September 7, 1976. He singled in his first ever at bat. However, his stint with the Cubs was brief and he did not make the team in 1977. He returned in 1978 and hit .200 in 17 late season games.

He was sold to the Tigers for the 1979 season, where he spent most of the summer on the roster, starting eight games. He was usually behind Parrish who won the job that season, and the versatile Wockenfuss. He was sent down for the 1980 season and eventually traded/sold to the Baltimore chain. Putman was finished with organized baseball after the 1981 season.

Why I love this card
I remember getting this card in 1980 and having zero recollection of Putman the previous season. I recall my Dad saying that he was in the minor leagues, which led to the discussion of what the minors were and why guys were sent there once they made the majors. I distinctly recall my Dad saying something to the effect of “He may get called up again.” Alas, he never did and this card is my only memory of Putman, even for a Detroit kid.

Something else....
In looking back at what I could research on his career, it looked like the numbers game doomed his Tigers’ career. Hit his decently in the minors and in Spring Training, even in the exhibition games the Tigers did with the AAA affiliate (in this case Evansville). He tried playing multiple positions. I have no idea what happened to him after his career ended so any news to that effect would be most welcome.

Friday, June 12, 2009

#58 Doug Flynn

Who was this player?
Doug Flynn, second baseman, New York Mets
This era was a dark time for the Mets as they finished last 5 out of 7 seasons (1977-83). Flynn was one of the brighter spots on the 1980 team that did not finish in last place. Typically batting eighth and playing second base, Flynn was a defensive specialist that saved as many runs with his glove as he drove in with his bat. He was recognized for his prowess at the end of the 1980 season when he was awarded the National League Gold Glove.

The nephew of basketball legend Adolph Rupp, Flynn originally broke in as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds were ruling baseball at the time as “The Big Red Machine.” He won a World Series ring his first two seasons in the majors, but he was stationed behind the two-time league MVP Joe Morgan. In mid-1977, Flynn was involved in a blockbluster trade with the Mets that brought Tom Seaver to Cincinnati.

In New York, he continued initially in a utility role with the Mets, but became the regular second baseman the following season and appeared in 156 games. He reached career highs in 1979 at bats, hits, doubles and RBIs and would become a popular fixture at second base in New York for the next three seasons. A front office change in 1982 brought about a trade to Texas, where he spent about half a season. He finished the 1982 season in Montreal and was the Expos starter in 1983 & 1984. He was released by Montreal in June 1985 and he was picked up by Detroit where he finished his 11-year career.

After his playing days, He was a coach and manager for the Mets in the minor leagues in 1996 and 1997. In 2000 Flynn became a banker in his hometown of Lexington, Ky. and is a devout Christian. Doug was on hand for the final closing ceremonies at Shea Stadium in 2008 and was honored by his high school in 2009.

Why I love this card
Flynn's hair. It might be a late 1970s New York thing, but he's got the Tony Manero look going on here. I can almost hear "Watch the Hair!"

Something else....
Shortly before Flynn's trade to the Mets, his younger sister disappeared, a case that to this day remains unsolved.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

#57 Pete Vuckovich

Who was this player?
Pete Vuckovich, starting pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals

As the 1980 season began, the right-handed Vuckovich was one of the top pitchers in the St. Louis rotation. He would lead his team in innings pitched that season, en route to winning 12 games and finishing fourth in the National League in shutouts. After the season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a blockbuster that would be of benefit to both teams.

Originally a member of the Chicago White Sox, his first full season was 1976. He pitched unspectacularly as a swingman and he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and selected by the Toronto Blue Jays. Even though the young Jays lost 107 games in 1977, Vuckovich managed a 7-7 record with eight saves. He recorded the first shutout in franchise history, a 2-0 victory over Jim Palmer and the Orioles. He also recorded the first save in club history.

Involved in a multi-player trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, Vuckovich's career went to the next level. In 1978, he started more often, winning 39 games for the Cardinals in three years. He finished third in the NL in ERA with a 2.55 mark in 1978. His colorful personality and quirky mound antics made him a fan favorite. It was in Milwaukee, however, where he would achieve his greatest success.

With the Brewers, he led the American League in wins (14) during the strike-shortened 1981 season. When Milwaukee won the AL pennant in 1982, Vuckovich won the Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, Milwaukee lost the Series to his old team, the Cardinals, in seven games. It was discovered in Spring Training 1983 that Vuckovich had a torn rotator cuff and had been pitching in pain during his greatest seasons. He skipped surgery in favor of an exercise rehabilitation, but was unable to comeback. He tried valiantly, but by the end of the 1986 season, Milwaukee released Vuckovich ending his 11-year career.

Following his retirement, Vuckovich worked for three years as a sportscaster for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1992, he was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitching instructor. Since then, he worked his way up through the Pirates organization to the position of Assistant General Manager. As of the 2009 season, Vuckovich was serving as a Special Assistant to the General Manager.

Why I love this card
The tarp in the background. It looks like it is on the attack. That and "VUCK" on his mitt. I had to check that twice. I thought for a moment we had a Billy Ripken situation on our hands.

Something else....
For all of his accomplishments, Vuckovich will likely be most remembered as Yankee slugger Clu Haywood in the movie Major League.

The Second 25 - A Roster

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

Manager – Pat Corrales

1B – Jeff Newman
2B – Frank White
SS – Kiko Garcia
3B – Bill Madlock
OF – Ben Oglivie
OF – Tony Scott
OF – Rick Miller
C – Carlton Fisk
DH – Rico Carty

Rowland Office, Julio Cruz, Bobby Valentine, Bill Fahey, Joe Ferguson, Rusty Torres, Bombo Rivera, Mario Guerrero

This is a loaded lineup, including a Hall of Famer behind the plate (Fisk), a batting champion (Madlock), an All-Star slugger (Oglivie), and a Gold Glove infielder (White). This group can hit and they can field, as attested to by a cumulative 24 All Star appearances and 10 Gold Gloves. The bench is similarly loaded with air-tight defenders and guys with some pop in their bat.

Starting Rotation:
J.R. Richard
Dan Spillner
Bill Bonham
Luis Tiant

Dennis Lamp, Warren Brusstar, David Palmer

Here is the Achilles heel as there is only seven pitchers overall and two (Richard & Bonham) didn’t even finish 1980. Brusstar had arm trouble most of the year and Tiant is near the end of the line. No matter how well you can hit, you still need someone to get the outs, and it isn’t here, simply because of numbers.

OVERALL: Not as even a distribution as in the first collection of 25 player cards as the pitching staff is left short. However, this team does have a manager unlike the previous team and an awesome lineup from top to bottom. Again, the lack of pitching makes this team’s long-term chances tenuous.

Grade: C

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

#56 Bobby Valentine

Who is this player?
Bobby Valentine, utility player, Seattle Mariners
When this card was active during the 1980 season, Valentine was not. The 30-year old right-handed batter had ended his active career and had begun pursuing other interests. He was hired by NBC to be a commentator and he opened a restaurant in his home town of Stamford, CT that is still open today.

Valentine was considered the top Dodger prospect at a time when the Dodgers farm system was loaded with names like Garvey, Lopes, Bucker, Cey and Russell. He made his way quickly through the minors, earning a brief September call up in 1969, only appearing as a pinch-runner. While considered one of the organization’s top athletes, misfortune began occurring even in the minor leagues, including beanings and knee injures

He spent two years with the Dodgers in 1971 and 1972, acquitting himself passably as a utility player but showing none of the dominance he had displayed at lower levels. He found himself bundled into a massive trade in the fall of 1972 that brought star pitcher Andy Messersmith from the Angels. In Anaheim, he began the 1973 season as a shortstop before taking over center field duties. He suffered a broken leg trying to scale the outfield fence, ending his season. While he returned as a regular in 1974, he suffered numerous injuries and spent the rest of his career with three more teams (Mets, Padres, Mariners) in limited capacity.

He was named manager of the Texas Rangers in mid-1985 and led the Rangers to a second place finish in 1986. Much like his minor-league manager Tom Lasorda, Valentine was an attention grabber, even when his team did not perform. The Rangers never again finished as high as they did in 1986, and Valentine was let go midway through the 1992 season. He was hired by the New York Mets in 1996 and he led them to three second place finishes, two playoff appearances and the 2000 World Series. His strange antics marked his reign as Mets boss and a slip in the standings combined with run-ins with players led to his dismissal in 2002.

Japanese baseball welcomed him in 2004, as he took over the Chiba Lotte Marines and won the Nippon Series the following year. In 2008, Valentine was the subject of the ESPN Films documentary ""The Zen of Bobby V." The film followed Valentine and his 2007 Chiba Lotte Marines team.

Why I love this card
Besides any reason to see the Mariner pitchfork logo, Valentine is the first player pictured in this set to become a future manager. That and his father-in-law is Ralph Branca. That's pretty cool.

Something else.....
A master of hyperbole, Valentine also claims to have invented the wrap sandwich.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

#55 Bill Madlock

Who was this player?
Bill Madlock, third baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates
Among all active National Leaguers, Madlock held the highest career batting average at the time this card was released. He was the catalyst in the “Fam-A-Lee” Pirates as his midseason trade propelled Pittsburgh to a World Championship. As 1980 began, the Bucs were a preseason favorite to repeat, mainly because Madlock would be with the team the entire season. Injuries killed the Pirates chances, however, and the "Mad Dog" slumped and was issued a suspension that at the time was the longest in National League history.

Called up to the Texas Rangers in September 1973, Madlock batted .351 in just 21 games and became the prize prospect in a trade to the Cubs for Ferguson Jenkins. Madlock was originally unpopular with the Wrigley faithful because of Jenkins’ departure and that he was replacing popular veteran Ron Santo. He quickly won them over, first by batting .313 as a rookie and receiving Rookie of the Year consideration. For an encore, he won consecutive batting championships in 1975 (.354) & 1976 (.339) and was even named All Star Game MVP in 1975.

After his second batting title, Madlock became engaged in a contract dispute with the Cubs owner, Phil Wrigley who criticized him in the press and vowed to trade him. True to his word, Wrigley shipped Madlock to the Giants, enraging Cub fans. He was moved to second base and he attributed a drop in average to Candlestick Park. He was traded to the Pirates in mid-1979 and returned to third. The Pirates went 62-31 and he helped them win the World Series with .375 average and a 4-hit performance in Game 5. Madlock would win two more batting titles in 1981 (.341) and 1983 (.323) establishing himself as the premier batsman in his league, but he was overshadowed at his position by future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.

By 1985, the Family was gone and Madlock, as team captain, tried to be positive. He was traded again, this time to the Los Angeles Dodgers and he helped them reach the NLCS, losing to the Cardinals in six games. Two years later, he was picked up by the Detroit Tigers and helped them edge the Toronto Blue Jays and win the AL East. The Tigers released him after the season and he spent a year in Japan before finally retiring after a 15-year career and a .305 batting average.

After his career, he spent some time coaching, notably as Phil Garner's hitting coach in Detroit. He is also lent his name to the Hitters Challenge Internet League coming in 2010.

Why I love this card
If you look really close, I believe that this card is airbrushed. First, the hat does not appear to be the shape of the pillbox Pirate hats that the Bucs wore in other cards in this set and the the "P" looks a little small. Granted, its not as bad as some other Topps airbrushing, but there was always something fishy about this card to me.

Something else....
The Detroit Tigers' acquistion of Madlock was the turning point in their 1987 season. When he arrived, the team was in fifth and an afterthought in the AL East. The team roared during the summer, with Madlock hitting 14 HR and 50 RBI in a little more than 80 games. His vicious slide wiped out Tony Fernandez, breaking his forearm in a crucial late-season series against the Blue Jays. Madlock received death threats and the Tigers edged the Jays on the final day to claim the division. 1987 was the first summer I could drive and we were at Tiger Stadium often that year to see that team. Thanks for the memories Mad Dog.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

#54 Dennis Lamp

Who was this player?
Dennis Lamp, starting pitcher, Chicago Cubs
Though not immediately remembered today, Lamp began his career as a durable starting pitcher in the Chicago Cubs rotation. He was a solid #3 starter who in 1979 led the rotation in ERA while posting 11 wins. Even though he started 37 games in 1980, his ERA jumped more than two runs a game (5.20) and he led the league in earned runs allowed. This likely put the right-hander on the trading block by the end of 1980.

During his 16-year career, Lamp began as an effective starting pitcher, transitioned to a closer role and became a dependable set-up man throughout the 1980s. He toiled for seven years in the Cubs minor leagues before finally making the Cub rotation in 1978. That year he finished 7-15, but he received little run support as evidenced by his 3.30 ERA. He also pitched a one-hitter during his rookie year, against the San Diego Padres. Traded to the White Sox in 1981 Spring Traning, Lamp began the transition into the second phase of his career.

With a young rotation already in place, Lamp was a valuable swingman who pitched out of the bullpen and starting occasionally, even pitching another one-hitter in the process. By 1983, the White Sox were contending for the AL West title and Lamp was the standout in Tony LaRussa’s “bullpen by committee.” Even though he led the team in saves, the White Sox were unable to advance to the World Series. His versatility in Chicago led to a contract offer from the Toronto Blue Jays who signed Lamp as a free agent. There, he was exclusively a set-up man and in 1985, finished a perfect 11-0 as the Jays won the AL East and Lamp received minor MVP consideration. Again, however, his team was unable to make it to the World Series as Toronto fell in seven games.

His ERA ballooned in 1986 and he was not resigned by the Jays. His career appeared over in 1987 when he was unable to make the Cleveland Indians in Spring Training and did not pitch well for the Oakland A’s, logging two consecutive seasons of an ERA over 5.00. The Red Sox took a chance and signed him as a free agent and he made the club. He helped the Sox reach the ALCS in 1988 and posted the best ERA of his career in 1989. The Red Sox returned the ALCS in 1990 again with Lamp serving a prominent role in the bullpen as a set up man. He pitched four seasons with the Red Sox, the longest he pitched with any one club. At age 39 he was given a brief opportunity in Pittsburgh before his major league career ended in 1992.

Today, he makes his living with a career in sales. He was even a workhouse in this industry, taking the majority of telephone calls in Dave Winfield’s ill-fated "Call of Fame" project.

Why I love this card
No, it's not the Cubs road uniform, although it is awesome. No, it's not that Lamp has the creepy smile like someone told him a Nantucket joke. No, it's not because he looks like Goof Trupiano (that's for you Harlem). I love this one because I am intrigued by Lamp's #15 necklace. What meaning could that have had? It wasn't his number. It was the total amount of losses he had in 1978, but I can't imagine that would be what its for. Now that would be funny. Maybe that's why he's laughing.

Something else....
Lamp also was part of the destiny of two Hall of Famers. First, he was the pitcher that allowed Lou Brock's 3000th hit in 1979. Additionally, his departure from the White Sox in 1983 brought Tom Seaver to Chicago. Since Lamp was a "Type A" free agent, the White Sox could select an unprotected player to replace him. Seaver was unprotected by the Mets when they mistakingly thought that no team would selecet him.

Friday, June 5, 2009

#53 Ben Oglivie

Who was this player?
Ben Oglivie, leftfielder, Milwaukee Brewers
After nine seasons in the majors, Oglivie was blossoming as one of the premier power hitters in the game when this card was issued. After achieving career highs in most offensive statistics in 1979, he had a breakout season in 1980, leading the American League with 41 home runs. He started in left for the AL at the All Star Game and finished the year with a .304 average and 118 RBI.

Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox, “Benji” made his major league debut in 1971 but was unable to crack the regular lineup and was traded to the Detroit Tigers after three seasons in Beantown. While his playing time increased each year he was in Detroit, he was alternated between several positions and was unable to find a permanent spot in the field. At the conclusion of the 1977 season, he was traded to Milwaukee for pitcher Jim Slaton and was put in left field. He stayed there for seven seasons.

Oglivie’s arrival in Milwaukee coincided with the Brewers rise in the standings. In his first year, the Brewers won 93 games and they were immediately tabbed as a contender. It would take a couple of seasons for the Brewers to claim that elusive title, as they began to add pieces to a championship puzzle. In 1981, the players strike created an odd playoff structure in which there would be two champions in each division and they would play for a spot in the LCS. The Brewers won the second half of the AL East, but lost the series to the Yankees in five games.

The following season was the greatest in Brewers history and Oglivie was in the center of Milwaukee’s success. Even though his batting average dropped, he still hit 34 home runs and drove in 102, but it was his glove that made the most memorable play of the Brewers’ season. The Brewers and Orioles entered the final day of the season in a dead heat for the AL East title. The Orioles hosted the Brewers with the winner claiming the title. Tentatively holding on to a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning, Oglivie made a spectacular diving catch with two on and two out to preserve the lead. The Brewers went on to not only win the game, but the American League pennant by defeating the Angels in five games.

He was an All Star twice more while in Milwaukee (1982, 1983) but by 1985 he had lost his starting position. He would finish his major league career in 1986 after 16 seasons. Today, his name is still prominent on the Brewers’ franchise career leaders, including 5th all-time in home runs and RBI. He played two more seasons in Japan before leaving organized baseball.

Why I love this card
Anyone remember this commercial? If you are a dude, you would have no reason to. We used to play a game where we would flip the cards and you had to copy the players stance. Louie down the street could copy Oglivie perfectly and for some reason would use this commercial as the backdrop. It got to the point where we would have him copy the stance and do a stupid imitation of the commercial just for laughs. This card makes me think of that.

Something else....
After that silly story, what else more could I add? However, I will add that last season, Oglivie was a coach for the Montgomery Biscuits. How cool is that name? Today, he is the hitting coach for the less-spectacularly named Gulf Coast Rays.