Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dollar Tree Sells Baseball Cards

Just as I was bemoaning the fact that you can't find baseball cards for sale anymore, my wife sends me on a shopping trip to Dollar Tree. Sent to get paper plates, sandwich bags and double-A batteries. Standard fare, nothing special.

Imagine my shock, surprise, amazment, bewilderment, excitement when I saw a large display selling, of all things, sports cards. There were several sports represented, most packs were from 2008. There were Donruss Americana Football, Upper Deck First Edition baseball and football, Upper Deck Football Heroes, and MISL set and then these:

As you can see, the wrapper advertises "40 years of Baseball Trading Cards," with "Historic Star Card in Every Pack." The packs advertise that you may get a card from as far back as the 1960s. The company is Cards One and you can find their website here.

A-ha! Here it is, the fine print on the wrapper:
Approximate odds per pack: Historic Star Card 1:1 Packs, Vintage Baseball Trading Card 20 Years or Older 1:5 Packs, Vintage Baseball Trading Card 30 Years or Older 1:10 Packs, Vintage Baseball Trading Card 40 Years or Older 1:100 Packs
Now, I know I should know that this is merely a recycled way to get me to buy a bunch of commons. There is no earthly reason that I should expect anything good to come out of my dollar investment. Doesn't matter. It's a pack of baseball cards and I am a sucker.

Without further ado, here is who I received

1977 Topps Leon Roberts #456
1986 Topps Traded Gary Redus #90T
1988 Topps Len Matuszek #92
1988 Topps Mike Stanley #219
1989 Fleer Mike Moore #285
1989 Fleer Erik Hanson #549
1989 Score Kevin Elster #130
1989 Topps Bret Saberhagen #750
1990 Donruss Jerry Reed #614
1990 Fleer Jim Deshaies #229
1990 Fleer Bobby Witt #315
1990 Leaf Steve Sax #96
1990 Score Dave Magadan #46
1990 Score Gregg Olson #63
1992 Fleer Bill Krueger #285

Considering that eight of the 15 cards are 20 years or older, I didn't do too bad. I don't ever recall being excited to see a Leon Roberts or Gary Redus card but I was today. I guess they consider Bret Saberhagen to be the "Star" card. Or maybe it is Len Matuszek. And you can never have enough Mariner pitchers. Good Lord, I forgot how bad they were.

All in all, it was a fun way to spend a buck. On Halloween I would consider it a treat like chocolate. Its good to have one or two but I think a whole bunch of these might make me sick.

Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

#181 Moose Haas

Who is this player?
Moose Haas, starting pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers
As a 24-year old control pitcher entering his fifth season, Moose Haas enjoyed his most successful season in 1980. He won 16 games that year and established himself as one of the best pitchers on the Brewers staff. He placed in his league's top ten in twelve different categories, including ERA, complete games and shutouts. However, he also placed eighth in losses and home runs allowed.

Born Bryan Edmund Haas, here is how he earned his famous nickname:
"Moose" earned his nickname after an unfortunate weekend run-in with a full grown moose while on vacation in the Appalachian mountains. The confrontation resulted in the 12 foot tall moose felled at the hands of Mr. Haas. The head of the moose (later named "Wallace") was hung in his dining room as a memento of that infamous meeting and remains on display to this day.
He signed with the Brewers in 1974 as a hard throwing righthander out of Franklin High School in Reisterstown, Maryland. He made his major league debut two years later and earned a spot in the starting rotation in 1977. He won ten games in his first season and looked to be a major part of the Brewers' future plans. The path was delayed somewhat in 1978 when he blew out his elbow in an April game against Boston. He missed the remainder of the season and when he returned in 1979, he transformed himself from a power pitcher into a finesse pitcher. He won 11 games in his comeback season.

Haas followed up his strong 1980 season with an 11-7 season during the strike-shortened 1981 season. The Brewers qualified for the playoffs that year, but Haas lost his two starts in the divisional playoff, including the Game 5 finale against the Yankees. He had better luck in 1982, defeating the Angels 9-5 in Game Four of the ALCS, but he was hit hard in two appearances in the World Series.

He had an excellent season came in 1983 as his 13-3 mark gave him a league-leading .814 winning percentage. However, the Brew Crew never returned to the postseason. Haas remained a durable and reliable part of the Brewers rotation through 1985, averaging 13 victories a season. To this day, his name still dots the Brewers record book in several career pitching marks. The Oakland A's gave up four players to get Haas in March of 1986 and started quickly with a 7-2 start. However, he began to have arm trouble that ended his season and despite a brief comeback in 1987, his 12-year career was over.

Why I love this card
His name. As an eight year old, not many names in baseball were much better than that.

Something else....
Probably due to the sour feelings surrounding the 1981 strike and split season, the Eastern Division Playoff between the Brewers and Yankees in largely forgotten today. Four of the five games were close and featured six future Hall of Famers and other All-Star caliber players. It was the Brewers' first postseason against the veteran Yankees and I was eager to see the Brew Crew take the Yankees out. The Brewers got off to an early 2-0 lead and I went to bed happy. Haas couldn't hold it and the Brewers lost the game and the series. I can still remember how disappointed I was when I went to school the next day. Don't worry Moose, I have forgiven you.

#180 Warren Cromartie

Who is this player?
Warren Cromartie, leftfielder, Montreal Expos
Originally part of the "Outfield of the 80s," Warren Cromartie was shifted to first base when the Expos acquired Ron LeFlore. "Cro" handled the transition flawlessly, appearing in all 162 games and clubbing a career high 14 home runs. Typically batting fifth in the lineup, his batting average hovered over .300 for most of the season and he led the league in intentional walks. The Expos faded down the stretch and lost the NL East flag on the final weekend of the season.

Cromartie played high school baseball with future Expos' teammate Andre Dawson and was Montreal's first round pick in the 1973 amateur draft. He debuted a little over a year later as a September call-up in 1974. The lefthanded hitting Warren split time between Montreal and the minor leagues the next two seasons before finally earning a starting position in 1977. Cromartie would team with Dawson and Ellis Valentine as a group of promising young players on a rising Montreal team.

Unfortunately, the Expos never quite attained the greatness predicted of them. Cromartie moved back to the outfield in 1982 when the Expos acquired Al Oliver. A fan favorite, he even had a candy bar with his name on it sold at Olympic Stadium. Cro was a dependable part of the Expos lineup for seven seasons, typically batting around .280. However, when his contract expired at the end of 1983, the 30-year old Cromartie took the unprecedented route of signing with the Tokoyo Giants. It was one of the only times a player went overseas during the prime of his career.

It Japan, Cromartie would play for the legendary Sadahara Oh. He would spend seven seasons in Japan and was named the MVP of the Central League in 1989 when he batted .378 with 15 home runs and 78 RBI. Cromartie was a productive player in Japan and again was one of the most popular. His tenure in Japan was loosely reflected in the movie "Mr. Baseball," and he wrote a book detailing many of his experiences in the Japanese league. He returned to Major League Baseball in 1991 with the Kansas City Royals and batted .313 mainly as a reserve over the course of 69 games. It would be the final season of his 10 year major league career.

Today, he hosts a radio show "Talking Hardball with Cro" in Fort Lauderdale. He served as a broadcaster for the Expos in their final season in 2004 and was the manager of the Japan Samurai Bears. The Bears were all-Japanese team in the independent U.S. Golden Baseball League which existed for one season, chronicled in this film. (** Warning - the trailer contains colorful language)

Why I love this card
I liked the Expos in 1980. Granted, I was more of a Pirate fan, but the Expos intrigued me. Whether it be their multi-colored "M" on their cap (still think it's and ELB) or their core of young players like Cromartie, the Expos were a favorite. I thought that this card was an error card when I got it due to the number on Cro's jersey being blue instead of red (yes, I paid attention to that stuff). What I realized much later was that Topps simply used a 1978 photo of Cromartie as they changed their uniform subtly in 1979.

Something else....
In 2007, Cromartie made his professional wrestling debut in a charity match against Japanese legend Tiger Jeet Singh. Coming to the ring with a baseball bat and in a uniform with "Samurai Man" across the front, Cromartie emerged victorious, likely after this amateur wrestling move:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

#179 Ron Davis

Who is this player?
Ron Davis, relief pitcher, New York Yankees
A hard throwing righthander, Davis was entering his second full season in 1980. He was slated to serve as setup man to Rich Gossage after an effective performance as closer when Goose was injured in 1979. In a largely unheralded role, Davis won nine games, saved seven and finished the year with a 2.95 ERA. His success was instrumental in leading the Yankees to the AL East title, despite their loss in the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals. Soon, many successful teams would begin to use this formula of a solid setup man to their closer.

Originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs, he was traded while still in the minor leagues to the New York Yankees in 1978. He made the most of his first major league opportunity the following season winning 14 in relief and saving nine in 44 appearances. His performance earned him Rookie of the Year consideration as Davis finished fourth in the balloting.

1981 was arguably the best of Davis' career. He was recognized for his effective work by being named an All-Star, appeared in the World Series (a six-game loss to the Dodgers) and set a record for striking out eight consecutive batters as a reliever in a May game against the Angels. Davis would prove that this was no fluke as he struck out three or more in 11 of his 43 appearances. With his stock high, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Roy Smalley.

In Minnesota, Ron never attained the same level of success that he had in New York. Playing for the worst team in the American League in 1982, Davis lost nine games and his ERA ballooned. He placed in the top 10 the next four years in saves (1982-1985), totalling 106 over that span. However, Davis was the scapegoat for a Twins organization that was going through growing pains. He set a record in 1984 for blowing 14 saves a mark that still stands. In 1986, he lost his closer's role with two spectacularly blown saves early in the year. You can read about those in Davis' Wikipedia entry here.

Davis was traded to the Chicago Cubs midway through the 1986 season and spent the last two seasons of his career in middle relief with the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. His major league career ended in 1988 after 11 seasons. Davis played in Japan in 1989 and married Kendall Davis, lead singer for the Groove Merchants. Today, he runs the Major League School of Baseball Camps for Children in Arizona and his son was drafted by the New York Mets in 2008.

Why I love this card
I can recall the date that I received this card. Sunday, August 16, 1981. The strike had just ended and the Yankees were visiting Tiger Stadium. The game was broadcast locally in Detroit. Louie down the block was a major Yankees fan and we were watching the game at his house. He was really rubbing it in when the Yankees entered the ninth with a 4-1 lead. The Tigers rallied to score four in the ninth, capped by a dramatic Kirk Gibson home run to win the game, one that will remain with me probably as long as I live. Louie was so disgusted with Davis (who allowed the home run) he traded it this card to me on the spot. That is the one you see above.

Something else....
Fitting that a Yankee card would follow a Phillie card during the World Series. During the 1981 Strike, Davis worked as a waiter in a Kansas City restaurant. He was part of the rescue efforts when a walkway collapsed on July 17, 1981 that killed over 200 people. I remember this happening at the time, but it had been pushed from my memory until I was researching Davis for this post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#178 Tim McCarver

Who is this player?
Tim McCarver, reserve catcher, Philadelphia Phillies
As the 1980 season began, Tim McCarver had already announced his retirement from baseball and had moved to the Phillies broadcast booth. Although he announced his retirement in October 1979, Topps interestingly made a regular issue card of him for this set (but no Lou Brock?) In September, the Phillies activated McCarver primarily so that he could become the 11th player in major league history to play in four decades. The lefthanded batting McCarver appeared in six games and had a two-run double in the final game of his 21-year career.

It is ironic and fairly fitting that Tim McCarver is the subject of today's post. As I type this, Game 1 of the 2009 World Series is being played and McCarver is covering his 20th Series, the most by any broadcaster. He is equally respected and reviled by fans and critics alike and have become one of the dominant voices of the game during this generation. He has covered the game on four networks and has been present at nearly every historic postseason event of the last 25 years.

When I first got this card, however, McCarver was just an old guy at the end of his career. There was no real inkling of what was to come later, just what he had accomplished. He broke in as a 17-year old in 1959, appearing in eight games for the 1959 St. Louis Cardinals. He eventually assumed the starting position behind the plate in 1963 and he was a key member of the the two-time World Champion Cardinals of the mid-1960s. A very complete biography of McCarver can be found here.

McCarver's playing days have been overshadowed by his broadcasting career. An offensive threat in an era where that was uncommon for a catcher, McCarver was a two-time All-Star that was the MVP runner up in 1967. He led the league in triples in 1966 and batted .275 during his first 11 years as Cardinal. When the 1970 season ended, McCarver was part of the Curt Flood-Dick Allen trade and went to the Philadelphia Phillies. McCarver bounced around during the early 1970s, playing for four teams in six seasons (Phillies, Cardinals again, Expos and Red Sox).

He returned to the Phillies in 1976 and served primarily as Steve Carlton's personal catcher. McCarver signed a unique contract after the 1976 season. He was offered a job as broadcaster for the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Phillies countered with an offer to stay on as a player then have two years as a broadcaster after the 1977 season, he played until 1979 when he became the Phillies broadcaster. In addition to his national duties, McCarver has served as analyst for the Mets (1983-98), the Yankees (1999-2001) and San Francisco Giants in 2002. Away from baseball, he hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics and hosts the syndicated "Tim McCarver Show."

Why I love this card
At the time, I was only familiar with McCarver simply because he made the last out of the 1968 World Series. In Detroit, the highlight film of that Series was shown often during rain delays or at other points during the season both on TV and at Tiger Stadium. I didn't have an appreciation for him as a All-Star caliber player, simply a guy who played with Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.

Something else....
Where to begin with McCarver....

Is it the "Grand Slam Single" in 1976 when he passed a teammate on the base paths....

Or Deion Sanders dunking him after the 1992 NLCS when McCarver criticized "Prime Time" for simultaneously playing for the Braves and Falcons.....

Or the recent post by our friends at Dinged Corners. Perfect for Halloween. Listen to how scary this is here......

I'll go with this little selection on Youtube. Ten seconds of pure goodness.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#177 Dave Heaverlo

Who is this player?
Dave Heaverlo, relief pitcher, Oakland A's
The A's sold the righthanded Heaverlo to the Seattle Mariners on Opening Day 1980. He arrived to the Kingdome in the fifth inning, entered the game in the eighth and earned the save. Despite being one of Oakland's better pitchers, he was shipped out primarily due to his outspoken nature as the A's player representative. He complained about the A's front office and travel schedule and he returned to his native Washington as the Mariners setup man. He set the Seattle club record (since broken) for appearances in 1980 with 60.

Beyond the statistics, Dave Heaverlo's career is marked by words like "colorful" and "jokester." He was one of the first players ever to shave his head, unheard of a generation ago. You can see that slightly here and here. He also kept the number 60 that he recevied as a non-roster rookie throughout his major league career. According to Heaverlo's profile, the 1980 Complete Handbook of Baseball said:
Grew weary of listening to "funeral home music" on Oakland Coliseum public address system so he took matters into his own hands and changed the station on a transistor radio he found sitting, unattended, in front of the open microphone."

However, Heaverlo was an outstanding athlete. A prodcut of Central Washington University, he was a first round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 1973 amatuer draft and as a professional was used exclusively as a relief pitcher. His outstanding performance in the minors earned a quick ticket to the major leagues and he made his debut in 1975. He became a fixture in the Giants bullpen for three seasons, averaging 53 appearances a season and compling a 3.11 ERA. He was one of the key players in a multi-player package the Giants sent to Oakland for Vida Blue.

In Oakland, Heaverlo assumed the role of closer on a truly terrible A's team that lost 201 games in two seasons. He unfairly garned a reputation of being unable to hold a lead, but appeared in 60+ games in both years and having one of the best ERAs on the team. In Seattle he cemented his reputation as a clubhouse comic with a series of wigs and ghoulish masks. However, he was released during Spring Training in 1981, primarily due to a personality conflict with manager Maury Wills. He signed on with the A's again, but lasted only six games in the final season of his 7-year big league career.

Away from the game, Heaverlo has stayed in his native Washington as a radio show host and color commentator for Central Washington Football. He also serves as pitching coach for the Big Bend Vikings in Moses Lake, Washington.

Why I like this card
I have mentioned the 1980 Complete Handbook of Baseball in other posts. This book provided a perfect compliment offering a bit more substance to these players. The entry above about Heaverlo makes me laugh as much now as it did then. It was how I recognized Heaverlo when I finally got this card late in the year. Can you imagine a major league team today with a microphone up to a transistor radio? Great stuff. A little disappointed that his head isn't shaved in the photo, though.

Something else....
Here's how truly terrible the A's were in the final days of Charlie Finley. When he traded his last marketable star, Vida Blue, he received seven players in return from the Giants. By the time these cards were out a little more than three years later, none of them were still with the A's. Granted, none of them became superstars, but not even one of them stuck? Sheesh. And with that, all of the players in the Vida Blue trade have now been featured. It will not be mentioned again. Really.

Monday, October 26, 2009

#176 Champ Summers

Who is this player?
Champ Summers, right fielder, Detroit Tigers
A popular fan favorite in Detroit, Champ Summers was coming off a strong and surprising performance in 1979 and looked to repeat it in 1980. Used sometimes in right field, but mostly at DH, the lefthanded hitting Summers took advantage of the short porch at Tiger Stadium. Champ batted over .300 for most of the season, with a highlight being a two-home run game against the Twins in June. He finished the year at .297 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI in just 347 at-bats.

Champ Summers road to the major leagues was truly unique. Born John Junior Summers he was tagged "Champ" by his father. According to family legend, the elder Summers said young John looked like he went "10 rounds with Joe Louis" at birth. Champ came from a family of athletes, his mother a professional bowler and his father a prizefighter in the US Navy. A teenage Summers even defeated a young Jimmy Connors in a youth tennis tournament.

However, Summers did not follow a path straight to the majors, he enlisted in the United States Army and served a tour of duty in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. After his discharge, he played in a men's softball league where he was discovered and signed by the Oakland A's in 1971. The A's brought him up for a brief look but he batted only .125 in a month's worth of action and was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

Summers spent two years in Chicago seeing limited action as was traded again, to the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. He appeared in only 99 games in three seasons and failed to bat .200. He was, however, named MVP of the American Association and Minor League Player of the Year in 1978 when he batted .368 with 34 HR and 124 RBI. The Reds traded Summers to Detroit in May of 1979. It was in Detroit that he received his biggest break. He took over in right field and batted .313 with 20 home runs and 51 RBI in just 90 games.

The Tigers traded Summers to the Giants in 1982 and he never attained the success he enjoyed in 1979 & 1980. He was a part-timer for two seasons and the Giants shipped him to the Padres in 1984. As a veteran pinch-hitter and outfielder, Summers personality was his most valuable asset to the eventual NL Champions. His last game, ironically, was at Tiger Stadium in Game 5 of the World Series. He looks like he knows it here. Today, he owns and operates "Champ Summers' Summer Camp for Champs" a motivational sports retreat for kids.

Why I love this card
Very few cards in this set are the Summer of 1980 for me like Champ Summers. I traded for this card on the playground at school when I wasn't supposed to wrapped in a huge rubber band without a care towards condition or quality. As kids, we couldn't understand why Sparky Anderson didn't play him more often, after all, wasn't 'Champ Summers' an awesome baseball name? It seemed like everybody liked him. My only regret is that I didn't get to sit out in "Champ's Camp" in the right field stands. We all tried to emulate a version of his stance.

Something else.....
For some reason, and I don't know why, it was a big deal that Summers had the Playboy bunny logo tatooed on his shoulder. Also, Summers was a principal in one of the most infamous baseball fights of all time, in 1984. The Padres and Braves "Bean Brawl" was featured recently at and you can see footage of it here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

#175 Rick Reuschel

Who is this player?
Rick Reuschel, starting pitcher, Chicago Cubs
The mainstay of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, "Big Daddy" had just completed eight consecutive seasons of at least ten or more victories. He was the Cubs starting pitcher on Opening Day, the third season in a row he was given that honor. 1980 was inconsistent for Reuschel as the Cubs struggled in the standings. Rick found a groove in midseason, winning six games in a row and lowering his ERA by a full run. He finished the campaign with an 11-13 record and led the league in games started and was fourth in innings pitched.

The righthander first gained attention by going 10-0 with a 1.29 ERA at Western Illinois University and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs on the third round of the 1970 draft. He quickly became the best pitcher in the Cubs farm system and was promoted to Chicago at midseason in 1972. In an era where the Cubs rarely finished in the first division, Reuschel was the team's most reliable and durable pitcher. He would win 131 games in his first stint on the North Side, being named an All-Star in 1977. That would also prove to be his best season, winning 20 games and finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting.

Despite his appearance, Reuschel was a tremendous athlete. He was an excellent fielder and smart baserunner that was often used to pinch run. He also could handle a bat fairly well for a pitcher, several times batting over .200 for the season. He was also briefly teammates with his brother Paul, and the two teamed up to shutout the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1975. In 1981, with the Cubs and Reuschel struggling, Rick was traded to the New York Yankees where he received his first taste of postseason action. He appeared in two games of the 1981 World Series, but the Yankees dropped the Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The wear of all those innings in Chicago took their toll and Reuschel lost the entire 1982 season with a torn rotator cuff. He was released by the Yankees the following year but was determined to return to the major leagues. He returned to the Cubs very briefly, but wasn't used often and was released again. He latched on with the Pittsburgh Pirates where he experienced a renaissance, despite the Pirates being the worst team in baseball. He won 31 games in two and a half years, and was Comeback Player of the Year in 1985. He was also named an All Star in 1987 and won a Gold Glove in 1985.

Reuschel was traded again, this time to the San Francisco Giants at the trading deadline in 1987 and he helped the Giants reach the NLCS. He won 19 games in 1988 and again led the league in games started. The following year the Giants, led by Reuschel, won the NL West and this time advanced to the World Series. Rick was honored by being appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was named starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game. Rick spent two more seasons in San Francisco before his 19-year career ended in 1991. Today, brothers Rick and Paul tend to their farm in Quincy, Illinois.

Why I love this card
I always pronounced his name "Roo-shell" when I was a kid. Through the magic of, I am pretty sure that the photo on this card was taken on Sunday, July 15, 1979. This appears to be Riverfront Stadium and this was the only day game Reuschel appeared in that year. Retrosheet sure would have settled several arguments regarding our cards a lot quicker had it been around in 1980.

Something else....
There is a great story about Reuschel and the Phillies Larry Bowa at his Wikipedia entry here. It is definitely worth the read. In the age of Baseball Tonight and cameras at every game, even if this story is embellished the fact that no footage of this exists for multiple review just adds further luster to the story.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

#174 Ray Knight

Who is this player?
Ray Knight, third baseman, Cincinnati Reds
A year removed from replacing Pete Rose at third base for the Reds, Ray Knight began the 1980 season slowly. He was in an 0-15 slump in mid-May when he slammed two homers in one inning in a 15-4 rout against the New York Mets. He still holds the distinction of being the only Red to accomplish this feat. He was selected to the All Star Game, had a hit, walk and stolen base and scored the game-tying run in the NL's 4-2 victory. He played in all 162 games and even though his batting average dipped, he was still fifth in the National League in extra-base hits.

The righthanded hitting Kinght was born in Albany, Georgia, which is still his home today. Part Cherokee Indian, Knight's father was a major influence in Ray's road to the major leagues. A semipro player, the elder Knight would hit ground balls to the youngster for hours on end. The Reds drafted him out of Dougherty High School in the 10th round of the 1970 draft. His minor league career was marked by two serious beanings to his face that slowed his progress to the major leagues. Even though he recovered and made his major league debut in 1974, he spent most of his early career as Rose's understudy.

Largely because of who his was replacing, Knight was not initially popular in Cincinnati. Winning changes everything, however, as the Reds won 90 games and won the National League West. For his part, Knight finished third in the league in batting (.318) and placed fifth in the MVP voting despite several minor injuries. The Reds 1979 ride ended in the NLCS with a three game sweep by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As the Reds fortunes drastically declined in the early 1980s, Knight was traded to the Houston Astros prior to the 1982 season. In his first season as an Astro, Ray was again an All-Star and led the teams in base hits and batting average. He remained in Houston for two and a half years where he was traded again, to the New York Mets at the trading deadline in 1984. He would reach his greatest fame as a member of the Mets as the starting third baseman for the 1986 World Champions. The was named MVP of the 1986 World Series, in large part for scoring the game winning run in the famous Game 6 and his Game 7 home run that gave the Mets a lead they would not relinquish.

In a controversial move, the Mets did not choose to resign Knight following the World Series and he signed on with the Baltimore Orioles. He played his 13th and final season in 1988 in the American League with the Detroit Tigers. In his post-playing days, Knight served as an analyst on ESPN and manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the mid 1990s. Today he is a brodcaster with the Washington Nationals. A commerical that he did for the club can be seen here.

Why I love this card
I have mentioned in previous posts how different it was in 1980 to get a card of a guy without his hat on. This is just the fifth of that type so far out of the first 174 cards. Compare that to some of the late 1960s sets that Jim from Downington is reviewing on his blogs. The 1980 set was an impressive mixture of different styles of photographs and Knight without his hat makes the card stand out much more than if he were merely wearning it. This shot reminds me of the Opening Day Little League parades that we used to have every year before the season began, complete with the rickety stands in the background.

Something else....
Knight was married to golfer Nancy Lopez in one of the higher profile sports marriages of all time. Sports Illustrated called theirs a "model marriage" in a 1986 article here. Knight even served as caddy for Lopez at a time. Their 27-year marriage came to an end earlier this year.

Finally, thanks to Greg at Night Owl Cards and his new 1975 Topps blog provided me with this scan of a 2005 Topps Fan Favorite of Knight

The polls are open once again on which version is the better Ray Knight. Polls are on the right, fire away.

#173 John Henry Johnson

Who is this player?
John Henry Johnson, relief pitcher, Texas Rangers
A young lefthanded pitcher with future potential, John Henry Johnson did not make the Texas Rangers out of Spring Training in 1980 and began the season at Triple-A Charleston. He was called up to the Rangers at mid-season and was used as a setup man and sometimes closer. In 33 appearances, he won two games, saved four and posted an impressive 2.33 ERA. Over the last month of the season, he allowed only two runs in his final 14 appearances and earned a spot on the Rangers pitching staff for 1981.

A Texas native that moved to California as a boy, Johnson is also very proud of his Native American heritage. He didn't begin playing organized baseball until high school, but was an impressive athlete in almost every sport and learned the game quickly. He gathered attention from major league scouts and he was a late round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1974. After an adjustment period, Johnson went 27-4 in two seasons in Single-A ball and suddenly was one of San Francisco's top pitching prospects. The Giants reluctantly included him as part of a package of players to the Oakland A's for Vida Blue.

Promoted quickly to the major league level, the 21-year old Johnson was immediately inserted into the A's starting rotation in 1978. He responded with his best season, winning 11 games for an Oakland team that lost 93 games. He led the team in shutouts and complete games and posted a 3.39 ERA. His best performance came in late May when he pitched a three-hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox. He was also named to the Topps 1978 All Rookie Team.
He began the 1979 season poorly, winning only two of ten decision with Oakland before Charlie Finley shipped him to the Texas Rangers. He was placed into the Rangers rotation, but his fortunes did not improve in Arlington and he finished the season with a combined 4-14 record.

Johnson spent the remainder of his eight-year career as a journeyman relief pitcher with the Rangers, Red Sox and Brewers. He spent the entire 1982 & 1985 seasons in the minor leagues and he developed the reputation of being a "thrower" and never learning how to become a "pitcher." Nevertheless, Johnson was an effective setup man for the second half of his career, typically appearing in 25 games a year in a variety of roles and posting a decent ERA and WHIP. His career ended in 1987.

Why I love this card
I'm a sucker for cards taken at Tiger Stadium and this is one of them as evidenced by the blue cement dugout behind Johnson. Also notice the Tiger Stadium usher in the background with his back to the camera and the orange hat. Seeing the occasional card photographed at your home park just further strengthened my bond with the game and these cards. Bonus points for the Harpo Marx hairstyle, even though I thought Johnson was copying Mark Fidrych at the time.

Something else....
Much like Bill Russell, when I was a kid, I had no idea that there was another John Henry Johnson in another sport that achieved Hall of Fame status. To this day, when I hear the name, my mind instinctively goes to this guy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#172 Ron Hodges

Who is this player?
Ron Hodges, reserve catcher, New York Mets
As the third string receiver on a Mets team that lost 95 games in 1980, Hodges started only nine games and batted only .238 in 54 at bats. He was known primarily for his defensive prowess and often times served as a late inning replacement. His pinch-hit RBI single against the defending World Champion Pirates in June won an 11-inning thriller at Shea in a season highlight. A separated shoulder suffered in early July prematurely ended 1980 for Ron and he spent the remainder of the season on the disabled list.

Mostly a backup throughout his 12-year major league career, the lefthand hitting Hodges was drafted by the Mets in 1972 out of Appalachian State University. Hodges was called up quickly in June 1973, when Jerry Grote, Duffy Dyer & Jerry May all went down with injuries. He established himself quickly with the pitching staff and contributed to the Mets' stretch drive to the NL East title. He made the 1973 postseason roster and pinch hit in Game 1 of the Series, drawing a walk in his only appearance.

Hodges averaged 56 appearances a season with the Mets and was a backup to a string of Mets catchers, from Jerry Grote to John Stearns to Alex Trevino. He batted a career high .265 in 1977 and began to receive more playing time as his career reached its later stages. In 1983, he was finally rewarded with the Mets full-time starting catching position, appearing in 110 games. He started on Opening Day and hit .260 for the season but returned to bench duty in 1984, his final season in the majors.

In 1981, Hodges was involved in two bizarre incidents. First, he fractured the rib of teammate Craig Swan when he hit Swan with a throw trying to throw out Tim Raines. Later that year, he was suspended by Mets' manager Joe Torre when he refused to leave a Montreal bar.

Today, Hodges sells real estate in his native Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Why I love this card
On the cartoon on the back of this card, Hodges is depicted as reading the newspaper in his catching mask. In my nine year old mind, I could totally picture a major league catcher sitting around reading the newspaper, watching TV or having his morning cereal with his mask on. Completely plausible and I laugh at the memory now.

Something else....
Hodges was the only bridge between the "You Gotta Believe" Mets and the eventual World Champions of 1986. His career began with Tom Seaver and Willie Mays as teammates before dipping to five last place finishes and seven 90+ loss seasons. In his final year, his teammates were Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.

#171 Fernando Gonzalez

Who is this player?
Fernando Gonzalez, second baseman, San Diego Padres
After achieving career highs in games played, home runs and RBI in 1979, Fernando Gonzalez had completed his second season as the starting second baseman for the San Diego Padres. However, his batting average dropped over 30 points and when the Padres acquired free agent Dave Cash, Gonzalez's status on the club on was in jeopardy. He was released by the Padres in February 1980 and caught on with the Angels' Triple A club at Salt Lake City. He never again appeared in a major league games.

Born Jose Fernando Gonzalez Quinones in Puerto Rico, the righthand hitting Gonzlaez was a draft choice of the Seattle Pilots in 1968. He signed on as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971 and made his major league debut a year later. Although he only appeared in three games with the Pirates, Gonzalez had an opportunity to play alongside Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, his idol as a young boy. When Clemente's plane crashed on New Year's Eve, 1972, Gonzalez was one of many that was part of several search parties that went looking for Clemente's body.

Gonzalez would spend the next four seasons primarily in the minor leagues, with the occassional stretches with a major league club. He appeared in 37 games with the Pirates in 1973, nine with the Royals in 1974 and 51 with the New York Yankees, also in 1974. He struggled to bat over .200 during that stretch but was valuable as a late inning defensive replacement. Fernando also honed his skills in the off-season, as he has the distinction of playing for all six teams of the Puerto Rico Winter Baseball League.

He returned to the majors with Pittsburgh in 1977, but earned a starting position when he was traded to the San Diego Padres in 1978. After his six-year major league career ended in 1979, he spent two more seasons in the minor leagues. He made one final comeback in 1984 with the Yankees Double-A squad where he was also doing some coaching.

Fernando returned to action in 1989 as part of the Senior Professional Baseball League and was interviewed for David Maraniss' 2008 book about Clemente.

Why I love this card
You can't really appreciate it by the scan, but this card (like many in this set) is pretty badly cut, or off center. Looking at it today, I am reminded that back in 1980, this didn't matter to me in the least. Granted, I wanted my card to be in as nice shape as possible, but I was just happy to have the card. When did centering become all that important anyway?

Something else....
Gonzalez relayed an interesting story about Clemente in this game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Eager to learn as much as he could from Clemente, he wondered why Clemente laid off a couple of pitches that Clemente earlier banged for hits. Clemente told Gonzalez to "wait and see." Clemente homered off of Jenkins to win the game, explaining to Fernando that he allowed Jenkins to think that he was "getting tired." Gonzalez claimed that he never saw a player like Clemente who could literally do whatever he wanted on a baseball field.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

#170 Burt Hooton

Who is this player?
Burt Hooton, starting pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Opening Day pitcher for the Dodgers in 1980, Burt Hooton had already established himself as a valuable member of the Los Angeles Dodgers vaunted pitching staff. The master of the knuckle-curve, Hooton began the 1980 campaign inconsistently. He then rattled off seven consecutive wins after Memorial Day to help keep the Dodgers in contention in the National League West. He faltered down the stretch somewhat, but still finished the year ninth in the league with 14 victories and a very respectable 3.66 ERA.

The pride of the University of Texas, Hooton was perhaps the Longhorn's greatest pitcher, posting a 35-3 collegiate record and firing two no-hitters. He was a first round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1971 and made his major league debut without spending a day in the minor leagues. Hooton eventually was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma for 12 games, one of which was a 19-strikeout performance that tied a Pacific Coast League record. Hooton lived up to his advanced billing in his very first appearance in 1972, firing a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite his promising start, Burt was unable to win consistently as the team's fortunes declined in the early 1970s. The competitive Hooton grew tired of the Cubs losing ways and clashed with manager Jim Marshall. It resulted in his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers in May 1975. In LA, Hooton would achieve his greatest fame and his most success. He would win 112 games in a Dodger uniform and was consistently among the league leaders in ERA. His best season was probably 1978, when he won 19 games, finished third in the league in ERA and was second in the Cy Young voting that season. His only All-Star appearance also game in Dodger Blue, during the 1981 season.

Hooton's pitching led the Dodgers to the World Series three times, finally winning the elusive championship in 1981. Hooton helped lead the way, being named MVP of the 1981 NLCS against Montreal and was the winning pitcher in the Game 6 clincher of the World Series. Overall, Hooton was 4-1 with a 0.82 ERA in the 1981 postseason. He won six postseason games in his Los Angeles career and appeared in seven different postseason series.

His effectiveness began to wane after the Series win and he finished his Dodger career pitching out of the bullpen. He played his 15th and final season in the American League with the Texas Rangers. He spent the early part of the 2000s as the pitching coach of the Houston Astros and is currently the pitching coach with the Astros' Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express. Hooton has also been honored by the University of Texas by having his number retired and he has been inducted into both the State of Texas and College Baseball Halls of Fame.

Why I love this card
Tommy Lasorda nicknamed Hooton "Happy" because he never smiled (as evidenced on this card). Long before we knew that, we called Hooton "Mr. Mean" because he looked exactly like the guy in the corner house who would bark at us every time somebody walked on his lawn. It could have been February and 10 degrees, he would still chirp. As we got older, we outgrew "Mr. Mean" but at least two of the neighborhood kids still called him Burt Hooton.

Something else....
Hooton is also famously known for his "Black Friday" meltdown in Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS against the Phillies. According to Wikipedia:
Dodger starter Burt Hooton began to dispute ball/strike calls issued by home plate umpire Bob Engel. Hooton's attitude and delay of the game aroused the displeasure of Philadelphia's infamous "boobird" fans, who took out their wrath upon their team's opponent. As the volume of the boos escalated to a deafening level, Hooton uncharacteristically lost control of both his pitches and his composure, issuing three walks with the bases loaded giving the Phillies a 3–2 lead.

Two weeks later, Hooton also gave up the first of Reggie Jackson's three home runs in Game 6 of the World Series.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1980 Topps vs. The Field

First, I forgot to include a picture of the 1980 Luis Gomez in the post about him yesterday. That has been update to include one.

Two 1980 cards recently won the reader polls as the better of the alternatives that are out there in some other forms.

The 1980 J.R. Richard card defeated its 2005 Fan Favorite couterpart by a score of 7-2. Similarly, the 1980 Omar Morneo issue defeated its 1980 Burger King card by an 8-3 score.

In four seperate votes so far, only one 1980 regular issue card (Vida Blue) lost the popular vote.

So far the scoreboard reads:

1980 Topps Baseball Base Set Cards: 3

Other 1980 Style Cards: 1

1980 Topps Super Pack

Ebay can be a wonderful thing sometimes.

Today, I came across this:

When I was a kid, there were essentially three places where I could get my cards. Nearest to my heart were the wax tray grocery packs. These were the packs my Dad first bought for me and at least half of my 1980 cards came from them. We bought them at Great Scott! Supermarkets (yes, they had the exclamation point as part of their name). Eventually, I found the wax packs at the closest 7-11 and finally, as a special treat, I would get a cello and rack packs at Collie Drug store.

Until right now, I had never come across these Super Packs before. Granted, I knew all about the wax, cello, rack packs and wax tray grocery packs. Had them all, opened them all at some point. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see something new even though it is almost 30 years old.

This 59 cent package contained 28 cards and three pieces of gum that I am assuming are Bazooka-style squares and not the thin pieces found in the traditional pack. Extra points that Hall of Famer Joe Morgan is the one pictured on the front.

Today, a Walgreen's sits on the site of the Great Scott! and the baseball cards that they sell are older cards packaged in a 75 count for $3.99. My son loves these as they are a mixture of newer and older cards, mostly 1988 Donruss and 1987 Topps with some 2005 Fleer thrown in here and there. That's at least better than the 7-11 and Collie's which have long stopped selling any type of baseball cards. Kids used to be able get cards I can only find 2009 cards at Target. And don't get me started on the price!

Ah, for simpler days!

Anybody with info on these packs Super Packs and how long Topps used them, please share.

Monday, October 19, 2009

#169 Luis Gomez

1980 OPC issue:

Who is this player?
Luis Gomez, reserve infielder, Toronto Blue Jays
As this card was being pulled from packs of cards in 1980, Luis Gomez was already long gone from Toronto and was given the starting shortstop position of the Atlanta Braves. Replacing Pepe Frias, Gomez was an excellent defensive player and was considered an upgrade at the position. He set an Atlanta record in 1980 with a .968 fielding percentage at shortstop and strung together 42 consecutive errorless games. However, he had a horrible year at the plate, batting a meager .191 with only six extra-base hits (all doubles).

Luis Gomez was the first Mexican native to be selected in the amateur draft, when the Minnesota Twins picked him out of UCLA in the 1973 amateur draft. Gomez was a tremendous athlete; he played basketball as a freshman at UCLA with Bill Walton and starred on the diamond for three seasons. He made his debut in Minnesota less than a year later. He appeared in 82 games during his rookie season, mostly at shortstop, and batting .208.

In four seasons with the Twins, Gomez established a reputation as a fine fielder, which earned him a spot on a major league roster. However, his difficulties with the bat did not earn him significant playing time. In 241 games, he batted only .199 and appeared mainly as a defensive replacement. At the end of the 1977 season, the Twins did not resign him to a contract and he caught on with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays were in their second season in 1978 and the talent pool was extremely thin. Gomez had his finest season, appearing in 153 games and achieving career highs in almost every category. He had four three-hit games and had 32 of his 90 career RBI. However, when the Jays acquired Alfredo Griffin in a trade prior to the 1979 season, Gomez was returned to the bench. Griffin meanwhile went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award. After his poor offensive performance in 1980, Gomez again lost his starting position in Atlanta, this time to Rafael Ramirez. 1981 was the final season of his 8-year career as Gomez was released in Spring Training 1982.

Gomez joined the Mormon Church, largely in part to the influence of teammates Alan Ashby and Dale Murphy. Ironically, when Gomez joined the Senior Professional Baseball League for the 1989 and 1990 seasons, he hit .293 during and .340, far outdistancing his career bests.

Why I love this card
In addition to baseball cards, one of the staples of my childhood were Saturday morning cartoons. Whether it was Looney Tunes, Disney or Tom & Jerry many times a character had the proverbial devil and angel on their shoulder. You know, like this:

The two Blue Jays in the background over each one of Gomez's shoulders reminds me of a baseball version of that. Especially with Gomez leering in from the infield with a bat in his hand and a donut on it. I'll let you determine what an appropriate caption would be.

Something else....
Had it not been for Mario Mendoza, George Brett may have entered Luis Gomez into the cultural lexicon. Behind Mendoza, Gomez was the second-worst hitter of the 1970s (.216) and was consistently near the bottom of the Sunday morning batting average listings. In fact, Gomez had a lower career batting average than Mendoza (.210 to .215). Not only did Gomez finish his career with a .210 average, he did not hit a home run and was caught stealing 17 of 22 times.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#168 Rick Waits

Who is this player?
Rick Waits, starting pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Having established himself as a reliable starting pitcher in the Indians rotation, Rick Waits was on the mound as Cleveland's starter in the home opener in front of the largest crowd of the season. His victory made him only the second Indian in club history (Bob Feller) to win the home opener two years in a row. Waits added a screwball and a slider to his repertoire and he finished the year with 13 victories. Also known for his singing abilities, Waits sang the national anthem on several occasions prior to the game and even appeared on The Today Show.

In his 12-year career, all in the American League, Waits never came close to playing for a contending team. He was signed by the Washington Senators in 1970, and made his debut with the Texas Rangers in 1973. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that brought Gaylord Perry to Texas. He would spend nearly nine seasons in Cleveland as a dependable starting pitcher, six times making 20 or more starts.

Today, Waits is most known for his performance on the final day of the 1978 season. With the Indians long out of the AL East race, and his team in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, Waits was matched up against Catfish Hunter. If the Yankees won, they would clinch the AL East. His complete-game five-hitter defeated New York and forced a one game playoff against the Boston Red Sox. As New England watched, the scoreboard at Fenway famously proclaimed "Thank You Rick Waits!"

Waits followed that with perhaps his best season in 1979, when he won a career-high 16 games and finished sixth in the AL in shutouts. He would win 74 games in an Indian uniform, but his performance dropped two years in a row (1981 & 1982) mainly due to a knee injury. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in June of 1983. After being traded to the Brewers, he injured his shoulder and was sent down to the Brewers' Triple A Vancouver. He was shuttled back and forth over the next two seasons, and he spent all of 1986 in Vancouver before being released at age 34.

In 1987, Rick traveled to Italy where he pitched for the Rimini Pirates baseball club and served as player-manager. Waits led the squad to the European Cup in 1989. He returned to the United States that fall to participate in the Senior Professional Baseball Association. When the league folded, he became a pitching coach with the New York Mets association for many years, and in 2009 was named the Mets' minor league pitching coordinator.

Why I love this card
It reminds me of sitting on my parents' porch trading cards. One of my buddies Ricky Carnaghi wasn't supposed to be out of the house because he did something I can't recall. He had all of his cards spread out (as we all did) as we proposed and rejected numerous proposals. He saw his mom coming down the street and quickly gathered all his cards and took off. He left some behind (including a Nolan Ryan we all wanted) until the rest of us yelled "Rick, Wait!" He kept on running home and didn't come back. When we asked him the next day, he thought the card we were holding up was this one. "I didn't care about that card," he said. Yes, we did give him back his Ryan but it cost him. I got a Richie Hebner in the deal.

Something else....
Today, Waits' 1978 performance has earned him the reputation of being a "Yankee Killer." However, Waits did not in fact perform that much better against the Yankees than normal. He had several no-decisions in his career against New York and lost to the Yankees three times in 1978.

Friday, October 16, 2009

#167 Jack Clark

Who is this player?
Jack Clark, rightfielder, San Francisco Giants
One of the games bright young sluggers as the 1980 season began, Jack Clark was enjoying another standout season at the plate. As the Giants number 3 hitter, he led the team in home runs and RBI in 1980 and was gathering a reputation as one of the most feared hitters in the National League. Jack was leading the NL in game-winning hits when he broke his hand in a game against the New York Mets. He missed a month of action, returning near the end of the season. Clark managed only thee RBI in his final 13 games but finished the year at a respectable .284 with 22 HR and 82 RBI.

The righthand hitting Clark was signed by the Giants out of Gladstone High School in Azusa, California in June of 1973. He was originally a pitcher but his hitting led the Giants to switch Clark to an everyday player during his minor league days. After a brief look in 1975, and after 26 games in 1976, Clark became a regular outfielder as a 21-year old in 1977. He had his breakout year in 1978 when the surprising Giants were contenders for most of the season. Clark was the team's All-Star and MVP candidate (finishing 5th) and was among the league leaders nearly every offensive category.

When the Giants slumped in the following years, Clark became the symbol of that decline. While "Jack the Ripper" didn't achieve the Willie Mays-esque success that was unfairly predicted, Clark had a keen eye for the strike zone and a clutch hitter. He spent 10 years in San Francisco, hitting 20+ home runs five times and making the All-Star squad twice. However, during that span, the Giants never finished higher than third in the standings and lost more often than they won.

In February, 1985 Clark was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for four players. As a Cardinal, he would help lead St. Louis to the postseason in two of his three seasons there (1985 & 1987). Both years, the Cardinals went to the World Series, thanks in large part to Clark. His 9th inning home-run in Game 6 of the NLCS paved the way to the 1985 Series and his 35 HR and 106 RBI paced the Cardinals before he missed the postseason due to injury. Both times, however, Clark and the Cardinals failed to win the championship.

He signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Yankees in 1988 but the season was a disappointment for Clark and he was traded to the San Diego Padres after only one year. His tenure in San Diego was most memorable for the feud he engaged in with Tony Gwynn. He spent the final two seasons of his 18 year career in Boston as the Red Sox' DH. One of the greatest sluggers of his era, he was a four-time All-Star and retired with 340 home runs. He spent some time as a coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers and today is the manager of a collegiate summer wood-bat team, the Springfield Sliders.

Why I love this card
Topps did a fine job in the 1980 set of including many full shots of several players and this Jack Clark card is no exception. Much like some of the other players in this set, Clark is pictured from head to toe in game action. This style of card always commanded extra attention because it had so much more detail than the standard posed or headshot, especially for an American League kid that didn't see much of the NL West. Bonus points for the apparent dog kennel door pictured in the background behind Clark.

Something else....
Chew on this stat - in 1987 when Clark hit 35 home runs for the NL Champion Cardinals, it represented 37% of the team's total (the '87 Cards hit 94). You almost have to go back to Babe Ruth's time to find a similar breakdown and it only happened 22 years ago. Clark seems to be forgotten today. His 1985 NLCS home run has been totally overshadowed by Ozzie Smith's home run that merely gave the Cards a 3-2 series lead. I know that Clark wasn't popular among his teammates and he popped off recently about the 1980's Mets, here and here. Maybe that's why.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#166 Glenn Abbott

Who is this player?
Glenn Abbott, starting pitcher, Seattle Mariners
After a difficult season in 1979, Glenn Abbott was slated to be the fifth starter for the 1980 Seattle Mariners. In his first start of the season, Abbott pitched a complete game four-hitter defeating the Oakland A's. He won six of his first eight decisions and became the Mariners most reliable starter. While Seattle lost 103 games, Abbott finished the season with a 12-12 record, leading the team in victories and shutouts.

Originally drafted in 1969 by the Oakland Athletics, Abbott was a righthanded pitcher out of the University of Central Arkansas. He made his major league debut in 1973 while the A's were in the midst of one of the greatest runs in baseball history. Even though he did not appear in the postseason in 1973 & 1974, Abbott figured to play a prominent role in the A's continued success.

In 1975, the A's again won the AL West and Abbott pitched in the ALCS as Oakland fell to the Boston Red Sox. A highlight came in September when Abbott teamed with Vida Blue, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers to pitch a no-hitter against the California Angels on the final day of the season. Following a poor performance in 1976, the A's left him unprotected in the expansion draft and he was selected by the Seattle Mariners.

Abbott would spend seven seasons as a Mariner, experiencing highs and lows. He set many of the early Mariners pitching marks, but missed significant time due to bone chips in his elbow, meningitis and tendinitis. When Spring Training opened in 1983, Abbott was the only original Mariner player still around. In August, he was sold to the Detroit Tigers for the stretch drive and went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA. Abbott was slated to be the #4 starter for the Tigers in 1984 and was part of the team that began a record 35-5. He pitched poorly in limited action and was released, making 1984 his 11th and final big league campaign.

After his playing days ended, he has spent over 10 years as a minor league pitching coach, most recently with the Porland Beavers of the San Diego Padres organization. During his career he coached future major leaguers Jeremy Bonderman, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito.

Why I love this card
I liked the windup pose that was a staple of baseball cards throughout this era. Sure it was staged and fake, but I didn't mind. I liked this pose, but Abbott must have loved it. He not only posed that way in 1980, but three other times as well:

Something else....
Abbott lost the entire 1982 season due to viral meningitis. As he told in 2002:
"I kept losing weight and didn't have any energy," he said. "I was in bed for about three weeks and the doctors thought it was just a virus. But I kept having bad headaches, blurred vision and lost some of my hearing. I lost something like 30 pounds. One doctor thought I had multiple sclerosis."
Obviously, Abbott returned to the major leagues, but lost 20% of his hearing in his left ear.