Friday, July 31, 2009

#102 Rich Dauer

Who was this player?
Rich Dauer, second baseman, Baltimore Orioles
The regular second sacker for the defending AL Champions, in 1980 Dauer was in the midst of his finest offensive season. An exceptional fielder, he was the toughest player in the American League to strike out. Alternating between the second and ninth spot in the batting order, Dauer achieved career highs in hits, RBI and games played. A stabilizing influence in the lineup and in the field, Dauer was one of the most valuable (and unheralded) Orioles during this period.

An All-American with a USC team that won the 1974 College World Series, Rich Dauer was drafted three times before he signed his first professional contract. As a member of the Rochester Red Wings of the Oriole organization, Dauer shared the 1976 International League MVP award when he batted .336. Called up to the Orioles in September, he singled in his first at bat, but stuggled thereafter, going going 4 for 39 the rest of the way.

Dauer spent most of 1977 as a backup infielder before winning the second base position for good in 1978. Despite raising his batting average nearly 20 points, Dauer earned headlines for his fielding. He established a major league record for going 86 games without an error and handling 425 consecutive chances flawlessly. In 1979, he earned his first postseason appearance as the Orioles made it all the way to the World Series. Dauer showed his ability to hit in the clutch as when he hit a home run in Game 7 that gave Baltimore a brief lead. The Orioles would eventually fall to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1981, Dauer would again be the toughest hitter in the AL to strike out in addition to leading his league in fielding. He topped the Orioles in doubles and finished with a .263 batting average. While not as known as some of his more famous teammates, Dauer was a player that did all the proverbial "little things" that helped a team win. He appeared in 158 games and batted .280 in 1982, a season that saw the Orioles challenge for the division title, losing on the final day of the season.

Even though his batting average tumbled 45 points in 1983, that season was special for Dauer and the O's as Baltimore won the World Series. That season, Dauer and teammates Todd Cruz and Rick Dempsey were affectionately known as the "Three Stooges," and Dauer had a three-hit, three-RBI performance in a Game Four win. Rich would be the regular second baseman for the Orioles for one more season (1984) and played his final season in 1985, wrapping up a 10 year career.

Why I love this card
The eye black that Dauer is wearing in this card. Though fairly common in 1980, I don't think anybody wore as much as Dauer is in this card. As a kid, this was always something that "real" ballplayers did. Don't know why we thought that, but it was definately part of the image. Do players even wear eye black anymore?

Something else....
Like most players, Dauer stayed in baseball after his playing days. He was the third base coach for the 1990-91 Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Royals from 1997-2002. He was the Milwaukee Brewers bench coach from 2003-05 and the Colorado Rockies minor league infield coordinator from 2006-08. He is currently the third base coach of the Rockies. Some of his handiwork can be seen here, here and here.

#101 Aurelio Lopez

Who is this player?
Aurelio Lopez, closer, Detroit Tigers
Coming virtually out of nowhere in 1979, Lopez excelled in the closer role for the Tigers. Appearing in 61 games, he won 10, saved 21 and finished with a 2.41 ERA. He finished 7th in the Cy Young voting that year and "Senor Smoke" was suddenly one of the premier relief pitchers in the American League. He was penciled in for the same role in 1980. Lopez matched his 1979 output with 21 saves in '80, but his ERA was up a run and a half (3.77). The portly righthander could bring serious heat and was one of the most popular players on the Tigers at this time.

Before he became a star in the major leagues, Aurelio Lopez was a legend in the Mexican League. He made his professional debut as a 19 year old in 1967 and made his debut the following season with the legendary Mexico City Diablos Rojos. He was a starting pitcher for the first six seasons of his career, with moderate success. In 1974, he was converted to a relief pitcher exclusively and struck out 134 batters in 113 innings, while notching 20 saves and posted a 2.54 ERA. His season attracted the attention of major league scouts and his contract was purchased by the Kansas City Royals. It earned him late-season look, but Lopez did not pitch well in eight games, notching a 5.62 ERA.

Sold back to the Red Devils, he resumed his role as a dominant closer in the Mexican League. Lopez had his best and last year in the Mexican League in 1977, when he went 19-3 with 30 saves and a 2.01 ERA in 73 games. He struck out 165 and cut his walks to 49 in 157 innings and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. This earned him another look from the big leagues and his contract was sold this time to the St. Louis Cardinals. He served unspectacularly as a setup man in the Cardinal bullpen and at the end of the year was traded to the Detroit Tigers.

In 1981, he started to experience some arm trouble and lost the closer job to Kevin Saucier. He even made a few starts for the Tigers that season. He pitched well in a setup role but found his career in jeopardy when shoulder trouble ruined his 1982 season. He rebounded in 1983. Fully healthy, he was nearly invincible in the first half, with an ERA barely above a run a game. For his efforts he was named an All-Star and finished the season with 18 saves. In 1984, he teamed with Willie Hernandez to form a solid combination in the bullpen as the Tigers won a World Championship. Lopez in particular was outstanding, going 10-1 (the one loss coming after the Tigers clinched the division) with 14 saves and a 2.94 ERA.

1985 was his final season as a Tiger as Lopez saw his workload reduce and his ERA rise. Citing a desire to be used more, Lopez signed a free agent contract with the Houston Astros. He again served as a valuable setup man, winning three and saving seven for an Astros team that won the 1986 NL West. He played one more season with the Astros and his 11-year career ended when he was released in June, 1987. In retirement, he returned to Mexico and was elected mayor of his hometown. He died in a car accident in 1992 one day after his 44th birthday. Today, a statue in his honor stands in the town where he grew up.

Why I love this card
I smile every time I see a picture of Senor Smoke. And its not because of Ezzerhodden (one of you will get that joke). He was a popular player in Detroit where I grew up, partially because he had that great nickname. I love that the reverse side covers his Mexican League career and gives it the credibility it deserves. It opened my eyes as a kid that baseball was played elsewhere in the world outside of the major leagues.

Something else....
How's this for eerie - there have been three players in Major League Baseball history named Aurelio (Lopez, Rodriguez and Monteagudo). All three were killed in car accidents at a relatively young age (between 44 and 53).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The First 100 Cards - A Review

Here's a brief review of the first 100 cards of the 1980 set. The division leaders so far are:

AL East - Boston - 5 cards
AL West - Kansas City - 5 cards
NL East - New York - 5 cards
NL West - San Francisco - 5 cards

All of the teams have been represented between 3 and 5 times with the exception of the Chicago Cubs, who have only had two cards so far.

There has been a pretty interesting breakdown of cards by position. The first six are Highlight cards and then it goes like this:

Catchers - 12
Firs Basemen - 4
Second Basemen - 5
Third Basemen - 1
Shortstops - 7
Outfielders - 15
Designated Hitters - 1
Utilitymen - 10
Starting Pitchers - 18
Relief Pitchers - 14
Swingmen - 3
Team Cards - 4

There have been 4 regular issues of Hall of Famers, three of them catchers (Fisk, Carter, Bench). In fact, catchers far outdistance all of the other infield positions.

Finally, there is a pretty even breakdown in the type of photo on the card:

First, the traditional headshot of a player - 33 cards
A posed "action" shot - 19 cards
Game action photos - 38 cards

That last number pleasantly surprised me. I didn't realize that the 1980 set had as many action shot as this. It will be intersting to see if this pace continues as we go forward.

Thanks again to all of you who have been following along, I appreciate your comments and support.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

#100 Johnny Bench

Who was this player?
Johnny Bench, catcher, Cincinnati Reds
Hall of Fame, Class of 1989
At the moment this card came out, Johnny Bench was not only one of the most famous faces in baseball, but in all of sports. He was also entering a phase of his career in which milestones and career accolades started to become more frequent. He set record for most home runs by a catcher in 1980 and another record when he caught in 100 games for the 13th consecutive season. He started his 10th All Star Game for the National League and finished 10th in the league in home runs. When the season ended, the man most synonymous with catching announced that he wanted to play another position in an effort to extend his career. He was the Cincinnati Reds.

To baseball fans, Johnny Bench's story is fairly well known. Born in Oklahoma, he was heavily influenced as a young boy by Mickey Mantle to play baseball. His father encouraged him to catch as that would be his fastest route to the major leagues. An exceptional athlete, he was also the valedictorian of his graduating class in high school. Drafted by the Reds, his time in the minors was short as he was projected as a future star, primarily after he was named Minor League Player of the Year in 1967.

The prophecy proved correct. Rookie of the Year in 1968. National League Most Valuable Player in 1970 and 1972. 10 Gold Glove Awards. The cover of Time magazine. The Reds, meanwhile, were becoming one of the best teams of all-time. The "Big Red Machine" made six postseason appearances during the 1970s, playing in four World Series. The Reds won back-to-back titles in 1975 & 1976, with Bench being named the MVP. During this period, Bench faced the most serious threat to his career when a benign lesion was removed from his lung. He made a complete recovery. He would finish the decade of the 1970s with the most RBI of any player in the game.

In later years, worn out by catching, the Reds finally moved him to first base in 1981. On May 28, Bench fractured his ankle, with his batting average at .343. He missed two months and finished the season at .309, as the Reds finished with the best record in the strike-shortened season. Bench played primarily third base the next two seasons, but went back behind the plate for his last game at the end of 1983, dramatically hitting a home run in front of his Cincinnati fans. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

His lasting legacy is likely the way he revolutionized the position of catcher unlike any player before or since. Prior to Bench, most catchers typically lacked the fielding skills or quickness to play elsewhere. His athleticism inspired young athletes to become catchers and teams began seeking and developing more athletic ballplayers for the position.

Why I love this card
When I got this card, I thought it was an error when it did not have the "All-Star" designation. After all, it's Johnny Bench. It was inconceivable to think that anyone else could possibly take his place as THE All-Star. Its hard to imagine now, but Bench's accomplishments were groundbreaking, both offensively and defensively. There was no other catcher in history like him. How could a kid not love a card of a superstar of Bench's caliber?

Something else....
In retirement, Bench made a career out of being Johnny Bench. Most kids of my generation remember the "Baseball Bunch", Krylon Spray Paint, or Sugar Daddy commercials. He was the color commentator on CBS Radio for the playoff and World Series. In recent years, he has appeared on "Married With Children," "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and with Joe Morgan appeared on the "Ellen" show with George Clooney. He remains a popular figure making personal appearances across the country.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#99 Victor Cruz

Who is this player?
Victor Cruz, relief pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Following a 1979 season that saw him post a losing record (3-9) and high ERA (4.23), the righthanded Cruz served as a setup man to closer Sid Monge. Despite his 4.00+ ERA, he was one of the most durable and reliable pitchers on the team and he was expected to resume his role as setup man in 1980. When Monge faltered, Cruz stepped in and shared the position with Monge. Victor posted the best ERA on the team (3.45) and finished with 12 saves. The Indians decided to capitalize on Cruz's marketability and included him in a package to Pittsburgh in the Bert Blyleven deal.

Discovered as a amateur free agent in 1976, Cruz was originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. His windup and delivery was reminiscent of contemporary Luis Tiant. After an impressive season in the Rookie League, Victor had a solid start to his 1977 season in Single-A. Moved up in mid-season, he struggled at Double-A Arkansas and at the end of the year, the Cardinals included him in a package that made Pete Vuckovich a Cardinal. Cruz had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Even though he began the season in the minors, the pitching-starved Blue Jays called him up and he made his major league debut on June 24, 1978.

Cruz pitched exceptionally during his first season. He was unscored upon in his first 13 appearances, winning two and saving six. In all, he would only be scored upon seven times in 32 total appearances. He won seven, finished with nine saves and finished 23 games. He posted an impressive 1.71 ERA, all in his rookie season and was recognized as Blue Jays pitcher of the year at the conclusion of the season. Desperate for everyday players, however, the Blue Jays traded him to the Cleveland Indians for shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1979.

Despite his strong 1980 season, the Pirates had several quality in the arms in the bullpen and he failed to make the Pirates roster in 1981. After a month in Triple-A, he was recalled and spent the remainder of the season with the Pirates. He appeared in 22 games and notched a 2.65 ERA. The crowded bullpen situation eventually found Cruz traded again, this time shortly before the 1982 season to the Texas Rangers. He did not appear in a major league game in 1982, but returned in late 1983, appearing in 17 games. Despite notching an impressive 1.44 ERA, he was saddled with three losses. He pitched in the minor leagues for two more seasons (1984-1985) but he never returned to the major leagues, ending a five year career.

Cruz died on September 26, 2004 in his native Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Why I love this card
So many things. The fu manchu on full display should be enough, so should his signature that looks like "Vrito Ash". However, the first appearance of Chief Wahoo makes this an impressive card. During this era, he didn't appear on the Indians hats so the only way you could see this logo was through the Fleer Stickers from this era. Good to see him make an appearance.

Something else.....
In reviewing Cruz's career, I can't understand why he had such troubling sticking on a major league pitching staff. He did well in relief and never had a "bad" season per se. Likewise, I cannot find any information as to how he died at such a young age (46). Any information that can solve these mysteries would be most appreciated.

#98 Jerry Terrell

Who is this player
Jerry Terrell, utility, Kansas City Royals
A little-used utility player with the Royals, Terrell recalls fondly a game in 1979 in which he received two standing ovations in one inning. He batted .300 primarily as a backup for All Stars George Brett and Frank White. He split time between Triple-A Omaha and the Royals in 1980, appearing in 22 games, but only getting one hit. Even though he was not on the playoff roster, the Royals allowed him to be in uniform for the ALCS and World Series, even getting introduced in pregame festivities. It would be the last taste of Terrell's big league playing days, which ended after eight seasons.

Born in Waseca, Minnesota, Terrell was a rare player to play for the hometown team. He was a high school prep star, pitching no-hitters in high school and enrolling at Minnesota State University. Originally a Minnesota Twin, he began his major league career with a bang playing three infield positions (mainly shortstop) and was named to the 1973 Topps All Rookie Team. Terrell would spend five seasons in the Twin cities, mainly as a super-sub, ready to play virtually any position at a moment's notice. During his big league career, he played every single position, except catcher.

In 1975, Terrell had his best single-season batting average, but that was also the season he became a born-again Christian. He also had an important role as a guy who helped keep morale high in the dugout and in the clubhouse. He left the Twins after the 1977 season and joined the division champion Kansas City Royals via free agency. While he didn't fill in as much as his Minnesota days, he was just as valuable to the Royals cause. He spent three years in Kansas City and was the team's player representative to the ballplayer's union. He was the only player to vote against a player's strike in 1980 (for the '81 strike) because he believed it to be immoral.

He was released in 1981 but all his observations from the bench would lead to his next career opportunity. He managed and coached in the minor leagues and he eventually became the advance scout for the Montreal Expos. When teammate and friend Darrell Porter passed away in 2002, he acted as the family's spokesman to the media and delivered his eulogy. He remains a scout for the Royals today.

Why I love this card
I remember the pregame introductions of the 1980 World Series. I distinctively recall sitting on the shag carpet in front of the old Zenith console with all of the 1980 Topps Phillies and Royals. I would pull out each player as they were introduced and kept them sorted by lineup, pitching staff, bench. Those cards got a lot of wear that Series, but Terrell's stayed in pretty good shape.

Something else....
Midway through the 1979 season, Terrell broke his finger taking ground balls during infield practice. He was placed on the disabled list. Rather than replace him with an infielder, the Royals called up pitcher Dan Quisenberry, who remained with the Royals for ten seasons. Quisenberry used to credit Terrell's finger with providing his "break" into the major leagues.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

#97 Bill Lee

Who is this player?
Bill Lee, starting pitcher, Montreal Expos
Coming off his first National League season, "The Spaceman" finish the year with 16 wins (7th best in the NL) and 3.04 ERA (8th best). He was the #2 starting pitcher on a team that narrowly lost the NL East crown. 1979 was also the season that the left-handed Lee made headlines by proclaiming that he sprinkled marijuana on his pancakes, something alluded to in this interview. Lee was expected to resume his role in the starting rotation but began slowly. As he recounted in his autobiography "The Wrong Stuff"

...I passed a friend's house and decided to see if she was in. Rather than risk waking her by ringing her doorbell, I thought it best to climb up the facade of the house's outer gate, grab onto its awning and gently tap on her window. It was an older building, and when I pushed up to grab the awning, a brick broke and I began to fall. I grabbed a piece of wrought-iron trim to support myself, but it snapped. Falling over ten feet, I caught my left hip on a small iron fence below. I lay on the floor, curled in a little ball, unable to breathe.

Lee missed over a month of the 1980 season and pitched ineffectively upon his return. He finished the season 4-6 with a 4.96 ERA.

Rather than provide a write-up to Lee's career and current whereabouts, I will instead provide a link to the 2006 documentary, "Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey. The first 20 minutes or so provide an excellent summary of his baseball career as well as his trip to Cuba. It's much better than anything I could write in five paragraphs.

More recently he was participated in the Midnight Sun game in Alaska.

Why I love this card
The older kids in the neighborhood all knew about the pancakes. Me and my friends my age had absolutely zero clue to what was so funny when we pulled this card from our packs. We didn't get it. I remember that there was something about him beyond being a decent pitcher, but it was done in a language that a nine year old did not understand in the summer of 1980. This card makes me think of how naive we were at one time.

Something else....
Warren Zevon (y'know, Werewolves of London) released a song named "Bill Lee" on his 1980 album "Bad Luck Streak." You can hear the song at the bigging of the documentary that I posted above.

#96 Jim Marshall Oakland A's Team Card

What is this card?
Team card, Oakland A's, Jim Marshall Mananger

The team pictured here, the 1979 Oakland A's had just completed one of the worst seasons in major league history. They had lost 108 games, were almost relocated to New Orleans, and drew a meager 306,763 the entire season. Even more amazing, they drew only 653 for one early-April game. Their owner, Charlie Finley, was one of the most disliked men in sports at the time. Marshall was a former manager of the Chicago Cubs that was hired shortly before the 1979 season began.

During the winter of 1979-80, rumors were still rampant that the A's would move, this time to Denver. In an effort to give his club value, Finley hired Billy Martin as manager. Martin, along with a core of young players, turned things around in Oakland almost immediately. There style of play was deemed "Billyball." A good video of the A's during this era can be seen here.

Led by a group of young pitchers and a future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, the A's roared out of the gate in 1980, winning seven in a row in April. They finished the month in first place and only 2.5 back as June began. However, a summer swoon and a weak hitting infield returned the A's to the middle of the pack. Nevertheless, the A's finished with a winning record and the groundwork was there for Oakland to build on. Finley meanwhile, sold the team in August, 1980.

Henderson, in only his second season, set the American League record for stolen bases in a season (100), breaking a record set by Ty Cobb 65 years previously. It would be foreshadowing of what was to come in Rickey's career. Teamed with the slick-fielding Dwayne Murphy and the power-hitting Tony Armas, the A's suddenly had one of the best outfields in baseball. Murphy had won his first of six Gold Gloves in 1980 and Armas led the team with 35 home runs and 109 RBI.

Mike Norris led the pitchers with an outstanding 22-9 season. He would finish second in the Cy Young voting and also won a Gold Glove. He was supported by the durable Rick Langford, who won 19 games and completed 22 starts in row. Matt Keough was the #3 starter, and he also won 16 games with a 2.92 ERA and 20 complete games. The A's rotation was so reliable that their bullpen only recorded 13 saves the entire year.

Why I love this card
I love team photos. There are very few historical records of the bad teams in baseball history and this card is a reminder of that 1979 team. I also like the alternating yellow and green jerseys the players wore, it adds a bit of liveliness to an otherwise mundane team. Also, fortuitous timing that Rickey Henderson's first team would be featured on the day he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Something else....
It truly is amazing what the 1980 A's accomplished. If you take their outfield and starting rotation out of the mix, the rest of the team contributed very little to the overall team effort. Billy Martin is renowned for his managerial abilities (albeit short term) and nowhere is that more evident than with the 1980 A's. To wit, 94 complete games. Think about that. 94. In the age of pitch counts and setup men, we will never see that again. Not even close.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

#95 Cecil Cooper

Who is this player?
Cecil Cooper, first baseman, Milwaukee Brewers
At the exact moment this card was new in packs, Cecil Cooper was likely the best first baseman in the game. While Cooper had a breakout season in 1979, he reached his zeinith in 1980. Not only did Cecil win the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and get selected to the All-Star Game, he led his league in RBI and total bases. He also had the best batting average in the game in 1980 (.352) for someone not named Brett. Cecil Cooper had arrived in 1980 as one of the major offensive forces in Major League Baseball.

Currently the manager of the Houston Astros, the left-handed hitting Cooper was a selection in the 1968 amateur draft of the Boston Red Sox. He was a career .327 hitter in parts of six minor league seasons, but he found his path to the majors blocked by Red Sox first basemen George Scott and Carl Yastrzemski. His bat was too good to be left out of the lineup and he made the Red Sox roster primarily as their designated hitter. He resumed that role the following season as Boston won the American League pennant, primarily as the Red Sox leadoff man. When his batting average dropped almost 25 points in 1976, Cooper was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers - ironically for George Scott. It would be the biggest break of his career.

In his first year in Milwaukee, he appeared in 160 games and batted .300, beginning a streak of seven straight seasons with a .300 average. He earned his first All Star selection and Gold Glove award in 1979 and led the league with 44 doubles. He also had his first 100 RBI campaign. By 1981, Cooper and the Brewers were terrorizing baseball as one of the premier offensive teams in the league. Cecil more than held up his end as the Brewers made the postseason in 1981 & 1982. As part of "Harvey's Wallbangers" in 1982, he started the All Star Game and had a career-high 32 home runs. He also clanged 205 hits, 121 RBI and 104 runs scored. Milwaukee finished one game short of a championship in 1982, falling in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cooper led league in RBI for a second time in 1983 and was recognized as the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award. He remained an offensive force for the Brewers even as the team slipped. He was elected to the All Star Game for the fifth and final time in 1985 when he hit .293 and drove in 99 runs. Two years later, at the age of 37, he played his final game with the Brewers. In his 17 year career, he had three 200-hit seasons, 4 100-RBI seasons and nine seasons hitting .300 or better. To this day, his named is scattered on the franchise leaderboard as their fourth all time hitter, and third in most categories, behind only Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount.

Following his active career, Cooper first worked as a player agent. In the late 1990s, he was named the Milwaukee Brewers' Farm Director. In 2002, he was a coach with the Brewers coinciding with the election to the team's Wall of Fame. He became a manager for the first time in 2003 with the Indianapolis Indians and in 2005 was named a coach with the Houston Astros, the season the team won the National League pennant. He was named manager of the team when Phil Garner was fired in 2007.

Why I love this card
Cooper was probably the most underrated player of this era. In the best season of his career, he was overshadowed by George Brett's .390 average and when the Brewers won the AL pennant, he was overshadowed by Robin Yount. He was a great player during his time but his numbers have been overshadowed by the steroid era. In their time, they were exceptionally impressive.

Something else....
No post about Cooper would be complete without a mention of his batting stance. Simply put, one of my most favorite ever, and one that every kid in the neighborhood could emulate. Between Cooper, Rod Carew and Pete Rose you had some of the most distinctive batting stances ever. I don't think that there is anyone in the game today with stances like them.

#94 Neil Allen

Who is this player?
Neil Allen, relief pitcher, New York Mets
As a rookie in 1979, Neil Allen was the youngest player in the National League. He began the year in the starting rotation and faltered, going 0-5 with a 7.48 ERA in his first six appearances. After a stint on the disabled list, he flourished when moved to the bullpen, winning six games and saving eight. He took over the closers' role in 1980 and saved 22 games for a Mets team that lost 95. The right-hander finished fourth in the NL in saves and games finished.

Signed as an eager 18-year old out of Kansas, Allen reluctantly chose pro baseball over college football. Allen was a hard thrower that would make his way through the Mets' minor league chain in less than three seasons. By 1981, he was one of the top closers in his league, finishing third in saves and posting a 2.97 ERA. Only the Mets poor team performance during this era prevented Allen from posting an even higher save total. During 1980-81, Allen had a hand in 54 of the Mets 108 victories. However, the pressure of playing in New York and shaky self-confidence, eventually began to erode Allen's effectiveness.

In the early part of the 1983 season, the stress became too much for Allen. A series of poor performances (at one point he lied about his wife being in the hospital to avoid going to the park) and a bar brawl led him to admit an alcohol problem. It was determined that the alcohol was not a long-term problem, but something brought on by stress. To accommodate, the Mets made him a starting pitcher, but there was little success. Eventually, they traded Allen to the St. Louis Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. He finished the 1983 season in the Cardinal rotation and won 10 games. His career was back on track.

In 1984, he served as a productive setup man to Bruce Sutter, winning nine games and posting a 3.55 ERA in 57 appearances. When Sutter left the Cardinals the following season via free agency, the closer role was handed back to Allen. On his first appearance, he allowed a game-winning home run to Gary Carter. It would be a foreshadowing of things to come as Cardinals' closer, primarily the comparisions to Sutter and harsh treatment by St. Louis fans. With a 1-5 record and an ERA hovering around 6.00, the Cardinals traded him back to New York, this time with the Yankees. He was effective with the Yankees, posting the best ERA of his career in the 17 games he appeared.

Allen was traded again in 1986, this time in a package to the Chicago White Sox. He did well as their #5 starter going 7-2 with a 3.82 ERA. The 1987 season was horrendous as Allen was 0-7 with a 7.07 ERA and was released by Chicago in August. Given another look by the Yankees, the yo-yo continued as Allen pitched well in a setup role in 1988 for the Yankees. His career ended the following year in Cleveland wrapping up 11 roller-coaster years. In retirement, Allen served as pitching coach for the Yankees at Columbus. He is widely credited with introducing the sinker to Chien-Ming Wang that has become his signature pitch. He is currently the pitching coach with the Montgomery Biscuits of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Why I love this card
The cartoon on the reverse side. I love the batter with the Swiss cheese bat representing Allen's strikeout totals. This is also a Rookie Card and was from a time when Allen's career was just beginning. You can almost feel the optimism.

Something else....
Depending on where you look, Allen appears to be the answer to a trivia question: "Who is the only man to have struck himself out?" Allen himself discussed that here. Problem is, though, it didn't happen. At least not officially. The only year that this could have happened was 1983 when he was traded from the Mets to the Cardinals. The Mets dealt Allen to St. Louis on June 15. The Cardinals that year were scheduled to play the Mets at Shea Stadium in single games on April 8 and 9, and in a double header on April 10.The game on April 8 was rained out. The Cardinals beat the Mets, 5-0, on April 9. Then, the double header games the next day were canceled because of rain. The next time the two clubs met was in a double header on June 20 at Shea. Allen as a member of the Cardinals did not pitch in either of these games. He started games against the Mets on June 21 and September 14, neither of which were continuation games.

Friday, July 24, 2009

#93 Dave Roberts

Who is this player?
Dave Roberts, utility player, Texas Rangers
In 1979, Dave Roberts was splitting time between Triple-A and the Texas Rangers and was struggling to find a full-time spot on a major league roster. In 1980, mainly due to his versatility and injuries to other players, he appeared in the most games in four seasons. He played in every position except pitcher that season but hit only .238. The Rangers did not seek to resign him when the season ended but the Houston Astros signed him to a five-year $1.3 million dollar contract.

A star at the University of Oregon, Dave Roberts was the first overall draft pick in the 1972 amateur draft. He signed with the San Diego Padres on June 7, 1972 and made his major league debut later that day. In his first three weeks in the majors, he broke up a no-hitter, hit his first home run and collect four hits in one game. Despite not being on the Padres roster for the first two months of the season, he was fourth on the team in runs scored and base hits. He initially didn't make the club in 1973 but was quickly recalled. Roberts proceeded to have his best and last good season, hitting .286 with 21HR and 64RBI. His future appeared to be bright.

He nagging back injury ruined his 1974 season in which he batted a meager .167 in 116 games. His poor performance led to only a handful of appearance with the Padres in 1975 as he spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Hawaii. The Padres left him off the 40 man roster completely in 1976 and he spent the entire year in the minor leagues. While in the minors, he attempted to rejuvenate his career by learning how to catch. At the end of the season, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays who only kept him for four months and returned him to San Diego before the 1977 season began.

Roberts was a backup catcher for most of the 1977 & 1978 seasons behind Gene Tenace. After the '78 season, the Padres finally gave up on him and he and Oscar Gamble were traded to the Texas Rangers. When he signed his multimillion dollar contract with the Astros prior to the 1981 season, it was widely seen as a questionable contract for a part-time player, but it was a harbinger for the changing economic times in baseball. Nevertheless, 1981 brought Roberts only postseason appearance, in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite his contract and ability to play many positions, the Astros traded him prior to the 1982 season to the Phillies, Dave's last campaign in a 10-year career.

Why I love this card
It should be for the afro on a white guy, but its not. Dave Roberts reminds me of the confusion between the two Dave Roberts playing at the same time. There was this Dave Roberts and then there was this Dave Roberts. Ironically, one week prior to this Dave Roberts being the #1 pick in the nation, this Dave Roberts was born. Talk about confusing. I would have the same problem in the late 1980s with Jeff Robinson(s).

Something else....
Roberts' multi-million dollar deal with the Astros may have changed course of baseball history. During this era, the Astros had signed many free agents, Roberts, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton. By doing so, they lost a draft pick in the amatuer draft for each free agent signed. One that they had their eye on in 1981 was a outfielder named Tony Gwynn. Houston wanted Gwynn badly, but did not have a pick in that draft due to their signing of Roberts. Gwynn wound up a San Diego Padre. The rest is history.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

#92 Rick Rhoden

Who is this player?
Rick Rhoden, pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates
Traded for Jerry Reuss at the start of the 1979 season, Rick Rhoden pitched in only one game in 1979. Sidelined by a bone spur in his right shoulder, Rhoden became a forgotten member of the 1979 World Champions. Fully healed in 1980, he was the #5 starter on the Pirates, winning seven games and finishing the year with a 3.84 ERA.

As a youngster, Rick Rhoden went on a slip and slide and impaled his knee on a pair of rusty scissors. He then developed symptoms of osteomyelitis. He used a cane to walk with until the age of 12 and underwent an operation to remove part of his left knee so that it would not outgrow his right one. Rhoden became a pitcher when he could not run fast and found his calling. He excelled in high school and was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a few seasons in the minors, he was promoted in 1974.

He made the Dodgers out of Spring Training for good in 1975, altrnating between the bullpen and starting rotation. The following year, he went 8-0 in the first half and earned his first All Star selection. In 1977 and 1978, Rick won 26 games as the Dodgers were back-to-back National League champions. He appeared in the NLCS both seasons and pitched in Game 4 of the 1977 World Series.

Rhoden would spend 8 seasons in Pittsburgh, a bright star at time when the franchise was at its lowest depths. A reliable starting pitcher, Rhoden was also valuable with the bat as he won three Silver Slugger Awards. In 1984, he put together an 11-game hit streak, the longest ever for a pitcher. In a Pirate uniform, Rick batted .251 with 5HR and 48RBI, which was typically better than the Pirate shortstops of that era. He was elected to the All Star Game again in 1986 and his 15-win, 2.84 ERA season placed him fifth in the Cy Young voting that year.

Unable to pay him, the Bucs traded him to the Yankees in 1987, where he won 11 games in the first half. He stayed with New York for two seasons before he was traded to the Houston Astros where he finished his 16-year career in 1989. Since retiring, Rhoden found a second career in golf. He has qualified for the United States Senior Open, and has become a dominant player on the Celebrity Players Tour. Most recently, he won the American Century Championship for the eighth time.

Why I love this card
An Oriole and a Pirate in back to back cards. Nice 1979 Series reference, even if it was unintentional. Also, I am fairly certain that Rhoden's card is airbrushed. He was traded to Pittsburgh in April 1979 and only appeared in one game so there weren't many opporunities to get him photographed as a Buc. Then again, Topps can airbrush Rhoden, but not some of the more obvious player moves (LeFlore, Ruppert Jones, et. al.)?

Something else....
On June 11, 1988, New York Yankees manager Billy Martin made him the Yankees' starting designated hitter, going 0-1 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly. He batted 7th in the lineup, ahead of Rafael Santana and Joel Skinner. He was the first pitcher to start a game at DH since the AL's adoption of the DH rule in 1973.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

#91 Rick Dempsey

Who is this player?
Rick Dempsey, catcher, Baltimore Orioles
The starting catcher for the defending AL Champions, Dempsey was a popular player in Baltimore as much for his take-charge attitude as for his playful demeanor. In 1979, he led the AL in assists but was also a highlight-reel staple for his rain-delay performances. When the Orioles began slowly in 1980, Dempsey was briefly relegated to the bench and demanded to be traded. He raised his average nearly 30 points and the Orioles won 100 games, yet they were narrowly edged in the AL East race by the New York Yankees.

The son of vaudeville entertainers, Dempsey had a 24-year major league career and is one of only three catchers (McCarver, Fisk) to have played in four decades. Orignally drafted by the Minnesota Twins, Rick appeared in only a handful of games over four seasons. At the end of the 1972 season, he was shipped to the New York Yankees where he served primarily as a backup for Thurman Munson. He got his big break in 1976 when he was involved in a 10-player trade that brought him to Baltimore.

As an Oriole, he would be the starting catcher for the next ten seasons. The highlight was undoubtedly the 1983 World Series in which Dempsey was named the MVP. He had the game-winning RBI in Game Two and homered and doubled in the Game Five clincher, hitting .385 overall. Curiously, Dempsey is the only player to be named Series MVP despite having been pinch-hit for twice.

Dempsey is widely remembered for entertaining the crowds during rain delays. He sometimes wore his underpants over his uniform, making fun of teammate Jim Palmer’s advertisements for Jockey, mimicked Babe Ruth and once in 1982 at Milwaukee when he wore a Robin Yount jersey and mimicked hitting a home run complete with a rain-soaked belly flop at home plate. He then often led the crowd in a rendition of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

He left the Orioles and signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians in 1987. He suffered and injury in a home-plate collision and also had elbow surgery. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a backup in 1988 as the Dodgers went to the World Series. An injury to starter Mike Scoscia saw Dempsey catch the final two games of Los Angeles' World Series championship. He would spend three seasons in LA and one in Milwaukee before finishing his career as an Oriole in 1992.

Why I love this card
A catcher bunting. Haven't seen this since Jake Taylor in Major League. Dempsey is also the uncle of former major league catcher Gregg Zaun.

Something else....
A later memory of Dempsey, Friday, September 20, 1991. Tiger Stadium. At the conclusion of the game, Dempsey is signing autographs for the fans sitting along the bullpen. Here's mine. There are not many and we persuade our friend Harry (always carried a memo pad and pen) to get an autograph. Not being a collector of anything baseball, he does so at our prodding. An hour later we are going back to the campus of the University of Detroit and Harry does not have his parking pass. We briefly freak until Harry provides the solution and clips his Dempsey autograph to his rear view mirror. The guard lets us pass. What was really funny is that Harry used it for the remainder of the fall term without incident.

Monday, July 20, 2009

#90 Manny Trillo

Who is this player?
Manny Trillo, second baseman, Philadelphia Phillies
Acquired prior to the 1979 season, Trillo solidified a Phillies infield that was widely predicted to win the NL East. Philadelphia disappointed that year, and Trillo missed over a month with a broken wrist. Despite that, Trillo still earned the Gold Glove. In 1980, Trillo won the Silver Slugger at second base as he hit a career high .292 and helped lead the Phillies to the NL East title. In the NLCS he hit .381 in their win against Houston and was named the MVP. The Phillies rode that momentum to their first World Series championship.

Originally signed by the Phillies in 1968, he was selected by the A's a year later as a Rule V choice. In the minors, Trillo developed his reputation as a solid hitter and an outstanding glove man. His defensive prowess got had the attention of his owner, Charlie Finley. Finley badly wanted Trillo on the postseason roster and Manny unwillingly found himself in the middle of controversy in the 1973 World Series. During Game 2, A's second baseman Mike Andrews made two crucial errors and Oakland lost the game. Finley essentially fired Andrews and wanted to replace him on the roster with Trillo. The move was not allowed by the Commissioner.

At the end of the following season, Trillo was traded to the Cubs for future Hall of Famer Billy Williams. He was instilled at second base and became a reliable player and popular for the Cubs for the next four years. He placed in the Rookie of Year voting in 1975 and was the Cubs representative in the 1977 All Star Game.

Trillo won three Gold Gloves with Philadelphia and again helped lead the Phillies to the playoffs in 1981. They were unable to successfully defend their title when the lost the NLDS to the Montreal Expos. The following season, Trillo was selected to start the All Star Game for the NL and he set a major league fielding record. However, at the end of the season, the Phillies traded him to the Indians in a package for the highly-touted Von Hayes. He was again selected to start the All Star Game, this time for the AL, and was Cleveland's first All Star starter in 15 years. The Indians did not keep him long as Trillo would be a free agent at the end of the year and they shipped him to the Montreal Expos.

He signed a contract with the San Francisco Giants in 1984 and spent two years by the Bay before he was traded back to the Chicago Cubs. He spent the three seasons (1986-1988) as a utility infielder in Chicago, twice hitting over .290. Manny briefly appeared with the 1989 Cincinnati Reds where he batted only .205 in 17 games and was released, ending his 17-year career. In recent years, Trillo was served as a minor league coach in the Cubs, Phillies, New York Yankees, and Milwaukee Brewers organizations. He is currently an infield instructor in the Chicago White Sox farm system.

Why I love this card
Yes, I wanted the Astros to win the ALCS in 1980. And yes, I wanted the Royals too. However, I learned at a young age that if a team was to be successful they had to have a guy like Trillo around. His performance in the postseason this year was very impressionable to me. Not a superstar in mold of Rose or Schmidt, but no less valuable to the overall team effort. From then on, guys like Trillo (solid defensively, clutch hitter, doing little things well) had always caught my attention.

Something else....
As much as I respected Trillo, I was pissed at him for being named as the starter in the 1983 All Star Game. Lou Whitaker was among the league leaders at the break in batting and was coming into his own as a star player. I really wanted him to be the starter and stuffed the ballot box, going so far as to take several ballots from the Gillette display at Great Scot! supermarket and personally deliver them to Tiger Stadium on Kids Day. Oh well, at least Manny got to be on base when Fred Lynn delivered his historic grand slam.

#89 Don Hood

Who is this player?
Don Hood, relief pitcher, New York Yankees
A veteran lefthander, Hood began the 1979 season as a member of the Cleveland Indians. He was obtained by the Yankees in early June, who were in need of relief pitching. Closer Rich Gossage had broken his hand in a clubhouse brawl, and Hood was acquired to help patch the hole. He pitched well for the Yankees, occasionally starting, but was not offered a contract and left New York as a free agent. He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched in a similar role. He was very effective throughout most of the season, but allowed 10 earned runs in his last two appearances.

Drafted in the first round in 1969 by the Baltimore Orioles, Hood quickly moved his way up the minor league ladder. Every season he was promoted to the next level, and by mid-1973, he was ready for the major leagues. In his debut, he pitched four innings of shutout relief against the World Champion A's, allowing only two hits. He pitched well down the stretch for the Birds, helping them win the AL East. He even appeared in the ALCS, albeit as a pinch runner. Hood and the Orioles again won the AL East in 1974, but in both seasons, the Orioles lost in the playoffs.

Prior to the 1975 season, Hood was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he would spend the majority of his career. His manager there was Frank Robinson, who at the time was receiving national attention as the first black manager in baseball. Robinson made Hood a starting pitcher. Don would alternate between starting and relieving throughout most of his tenure in Cleveland.

Hood was not on a major league roster for the 1981 season, as he spent the entire season at the Royals Triple-A affiliate in Omaha. His work there eared a return to the majors in 1982 where he pitched effectively out of the Royals bullpen for two seasons. His career came to an end after the 1983 season and 10 years in the majors. He finished with 34 wins and a career ERA of 3.79.

Why I love this card
The "So. Car" designation on the back of his card under 'Born' and 'Home.' I don't think that I have ever seen South Carolina referred to that way and still can't understand why they just didn't use "S.C."

Something else....
I couldn't find anything on Don Hood's post-baseball career. I would be most appreciative if someone had an update on what he is up to now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

#88 Ken Landreaux

Who is this player?
Ken Landreaux, centerfielder, Minnesota Twins
As the centerpiece of the Rod Carew deal, Ken Landreaux spent his first season in Minnesota establishing himself as a rising star. Playing both center and left, he led the team in hits and batted over .300. 1980 started off even better for Landreaux. He put together a 31-game hit streak and tied a record with three triples in one game. His first half exploits earned him a spot in the All Star Game as the Twins lone representative. He was unable to maintain his hot hitting for the remainder of the year, but still finished with a respectable .281 average.

The left-hand hitting Landreaux was a product of Arizona State University at the same time of numerous other major leaguers and was the #6 pick in the 1976 draft. Ken played only two seasons in the minor leagues, 1976-77, before becoming a major league regular after he .357 with 27 home runs for two minor league teams in 1977. He came up to the majors originally in September 1977 and then appeared in 93 games for the 1978 Angels.

However, rather than provide Landreaux a raise, Twins owner Calvin Griffith did what he did with most of his talent during this era, and traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Landreaux stepped into center for the Dodgers and provided them with a consistent bat and solid defense, but never again reached All-Star status. He helped LA to the postseason and caught the final out when the Dodgers clinched the 1981 World Series. He would become a fixture in center for Los Angeles for the next six seasons as the Dodgers won the NL West again in 1983 and 1985. He was a popular player and one of manager Tom Lasorda's favorites.

He remained in Los Angeles through the 1987 season when he wasn't offered a contract by the club. Likely due to owner's collusion at the time, Ken wasn't offered a contract for the 1988 season and his 11-year career came to an end.

After his major league days ended, Landreaux played in the Senior League, was part of a lawsuit and recently assisted with the Urban Youth Academy and helped return baseball to the Compton Little League after a ten year absence.

Why I love this card
Landreaux's departure made me really hate the Twins for quite some time. Even though I pronounced it "Land-ree-ucks," it seemed they traded everyone on the team that was any good: Carew, Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock, Dan Ford, Dave Goltz, Bill Campbell, the list seemed endless. When I asked my Dad why the Twins let all their good players walk away, the explanation was money. No wonder the following season my sympathies lay with the players during the 1981 Strike.

Something else....
Landreaux is the cousin of former major leaguers Dick Davis and Enos Cabell.

#87 Pepe Frias

Who was this player?
Pepe Frias, shortstop, Atlanta Braves
Given the opportunity to be a regular for the first time in 1979, the switch-hitting Frias put together a solid campaign. Known mostly as a glove man, Frias hit his only home run that season and achieved career highs in every offensive category. However, he also committed 32 errors at short, the second most in his league. At the end of the season, Frias was traded to the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Doyle Alexander a Brave.

He was born Jesus Maria Frias in Consuelo, a sugarcane village near the larger town of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. The youngest of 15 children, his father earned $1.50 a day as a sugarcane worker and Frias left school in third grade to toil in a tractor shed near the cane fields. The family survived on food from its fruit and vegetable garden. For recreation, Frias, like nearly all Dominican boys, played baseball. It was in 1967 when he was signed by a San Francisco Giants scout for $500, money his family would live on for two years. After a summer playing in Class A, Frias was released. The next year, the Dodgers brought him to spring training but he was cut. The Giants signed him again in 1969, then released him again.

In 1970, Frias gambled on playing for a semi-pro team in Canada because "I was the only hope for my family." A Montreal Expos scout saw him and offered a contract but no money. In 1973, after three years in the bushes, Montreal brought him up and he immediately made himself valuable to the club by playing five different positions. He broke his nose in 1975, missing almost a month and batting a meager .125 for the season. The following season (1976), Frias taught himself how to switch-hit in an effort to remain on the club. The move paid off as his batting average raised nearly ten points the next three seasons. He never received regular playing time, however, and was typically a defensive substitute.

Traded to the Texas Rangers for the 1980 season, Frias began the season as the everyday shortstop. His batting average fluctuated all year, at one point reaching a high of .283 and a low of .222 in a little more than a month at midseason. He was traded in mid-September to Los Angeles when the Dodgers were in a hotly contested race for the NL West. Starter Bill Russell had fractured a finger and Frias was insurance for the stretch drive. He began the 1981 season on the Dodger roster but was released shortly after the strike, missing the Dodgers run to the 1981 World Series championship.

One of the first major leaguers to hail from the famous San Pedro de Macoris, he is one of the few stars to return to live in Consuelo. The town fathers were so grateful to have his presence here that they named the street where he lives with his wife and two children "Pepe Frias Boulevard."

Why I love this card
What an awesome name, one of only two Pepes to play major league baseball (Mangual) and they were teammates. Before there was Tony Fernandez, there was Pepe Frias. Before there was Juan Samuel, there was Pepe Frias. Before there was Pedro Guerrero, there was Pepe Frias. Before there was Sammy Sosa....well, you get the idea.

Something else....
Please correct me if I am in error, but I believe that this card is Frias' last Topps issue as an active player. He played in 130 games in 1980 and did return to the majors in 1981, yet I cannot find him included in the 1981 set. Wonder why he didn't get an '81 card?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

#86 Dave Hamilton

Who is this player?
Dave Hamilton, relief pitcher, Oakland A's
A member of the A's "Mustache Gang" of the early-1970s, Hamilton had returned to Oakland in 1979, primarily as a lefthanded relief pitcher. His 3.70 ERA in '79 was the best on the club, a full run under the team's average. However, the A's had lost 108 games that season and there were rumors of a move to Denver. It was expected that Hamilton would fill a similar role in 1980 but injuries and ineffectiveness led to the worst season of his career. After the season, he did not appear in another major league game ending a nine-year career.

When Hamilton broke into the majors in 1972, it was a much different story in Oakland as the A's were beginning their reign as kings of the baseball world. In the early part of 1972, the A's starting rotation was in disarray as Vida Blue was holding out and veteran Denny McLain was not pitching well. Hamilton was inserted into the rotation and he promptly won five of his first six decisions. While he didn't maintain that level of success, he helped lead the A's to their first World Championship, pitching in the ALCS and the World Series. It was the A's first title since the club moved to Oakland.

Hamilton was the fifth starter on the A's in 1973 winning six games in 11 starts. He moved up to the fourth starter in 1974, winning seven in 18 starts. While he was on the playoff and World Series roster both seasons, he did not appear in the postseason. However, when the A's lost Catfish Hunter following their third championship, Hamilton's career was indirectly effected.

Desperate for veteran pitching, in 1975, A's owner Charlie Finley traded Hamilton and prospect Chet Lemon to the Chicago White Sox for Stan Bahnsen. The following season, he pitched out of the bullpen as the Sox' closer as Chicago experimented with Goose Gossage in the starting rotation. He was effective as a setup man for the 1977 "South Side Hitmen" one of the more popular teams in White Sox history, but as that team was dismantled in the dawning days of free agency, Hamilton was shown the door as well, traded to the Cardinals. He split the 1978 season between St. Louis and Pittsburgh before returning to Oakland as a free agent in 1979.

In retirement, Hamilton still continued to play the game and shared his knowledge as coach for many years at California High School in San Ramon, California.

Why I love this card
Not until I researched this card did I even realize that Hamilton earned three rings with the "Swingin' A's" and was with them through their glory years. I guess that the 1980 set is still teaching me something new 29 years later.

Something else.....
The A's farm system of the late 1960's and early 1970's produced many major leaguers among them Hamilton. In fact, on Hamilton's first professional team the 1966 Lewiston Broncs, he was teammates with another player on his first professional team, Reggie Jackson. This is also Hamilton's final baseball card of his career.

#85 Ted Simmons

Who is this player?
Ted Simmons, catcher, St. Louis Cardinals
A standout catcher for several years, Simmons broke Johnny Bench's streak of nine-straight All-Star elections in 1979 when he was voted to start by the fans. He was unable to enjoy the game however, as a broken wrist took a chunk out his season. He was hitting .321 at the time of the injury. 1980 was an even better season for Simmons, as the switch-hitter hit .303 (9th in the league), finished 6th in slugging and on-base percentage, hit 21 home runs and drove in 98. At the end of the season, the Cardinals signed free agent catcher Darrell Porter and Simmons was not in favor of switching positions. He was later involved in a major trade to Milwaukee.

Drafted in 1967, Simmons was managed in the minor leagues by future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. He made his big league debut only a year later with the defending World Champions, but returned to the minor leagues for more seasoning. He stuck with the Cardinals for good in 1970 and almost immediately became one of St. Louis' most valuable hitters. Simmons was also not above challenging the status quo. In 1972, in only his second full season, refused to sign his contract. This was extremely rare in his era, a full four years before Messersmith-McNally. Simmons eventually signed that year, but his actions proved his determination and mettle.

He was no less so on the field. Ted Simmons has never received the national attention he likely deserved while with the Cardinals, even though he was a six-time All-Star, hit .300 or better six seasons, topped 20 homers on five occasions and twice drove in more than 100 runs. This was done in an era where total offensive numbers were much lower than today. He was forever playing in the shadow of Bench, which kept him from earning more recognition.

In 1981, now a Milwaukee Brewer, he again made the All-Star Game and helped the Brewers to their first postseason appearance. The following season, he was part of the greatest Brewers season ever as he helped lead Milwaukee to their only World Series. In a bit of irony, Simmons and the Brewers lost to his old team the St. Louis Cardinals. Simmons had another All-Star season in 1983, hitting over .300 and driving in 108 runs. The Brewers, however, had peaked and had begun to decline, finishing in last place in 1984. Simmons was traded to the Atlanta Braves for the 1986 season, where he would spend the last three years of a 21-year career, retiring with a .285 average.

Almost immediately upon his retirement, Simmons became involved in the management side of baseball, culminating in him being named GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992. A heart attack abruptly ended his tenure as Simmons made some necessary life changes. He eventually returned to the game as bench coach of the Brewers and in 2009 was named bench coach for the San Diego Padres.

Why I love this card
Another local boy! Simmons was born in Hazel Park, Michigan. I also liked this card because it was good to see Simmons get his due as an All-Star. Besides, who these days wears their caps backwards in a game situation? That jumps out at me now, but it wasn't a big deal then.

Something else....
I didn't realize until researching this that Simmons almost Merkled away the 1982 AL East title. In the 3rd inning of a Brewer-Oriole game on June 16, 1982, with runners on first and second with 1 out, Pete Vuckovich struck out John Lowenstein. Simmons received the pitch and, thinking that it was the 3rd out, rolled the ball back to the mound and began to walk off the field. The Oriole runners each advanced. Joe Nolan then singled both runners home before making the true 3rd out trying to stretch the hit to a double. The game then went into its second rain delay and was finally called after midnight. The game was replayed as part of a double-header on the last Friday of the season. The Brewers held a 3 game lead over Baltimore with 4 to play that weekend and proceeded to blow that lead by losing both ends of the double-header as well as the Saturday game. Finally on Sunday, the Brewers saved Simmons from an ill-fate by winning on the final day of the season.