Sunday, February 28, 2010

#253 John Montague

Who is this player?
John Montague, relief pitcher, California Angels
In what would be the final year of his seven-year major league career, John Montague of the California Angels was very effective to start the 1980 season. He earned two saves the first month and was the most reliable setup man on the Angels' staff. However, he had a rough second half and had a 11.25 ERA in August. Like many Angels that year, he became injured and missed the last month of the season. The righthanded Montague finished the year 4-2 with three saves and a 5.13 ERA.

A native of Newport News, Virgina, John Montague played college baseball at Old Dominion University and was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 1967 amateur draft. He spent several years pitching in the Orioles system and was traded to the Montreal Expos in April, 1973. He made his major league debut that year but spent his Expo career shuttling between Quebec and the minor leagues. Unable to find a consistent role for him, Montreal released Montague at the end of the 1975 season.

He was quickly signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he made only three appearances. John again was assigned to the minor leagues in 1976, where he won 14 games and was named American Association Pitcher of the Year. This caught the eyes of the expansion Seattle Mariners, who selected John to be a member of the inaugural team in 1977. He was team's first ever relief pitcher and earned the first save in Mariner history on April 9, 1977.

Montague saw some action as a starting pitcher, but made history as a reliever. He set an American League record in mid-season when he retired 33 consectutive batters. He finished second on the team in wins, appearances and innings pitched. Montague was sidelined with hip pain in 1978; a benign tumor was found and removed after the season. He was traded to the Angels in late August of 1979 and won two games and saved five, playing a key role in the Halos division title.

He appeared in the postseason for the only time in his career and allowed the famous home run to John Lowenstein in the 12th inning of Game 1. The Angels would lose the ALCS to Baltimore in four games. He was released in Spring Training of 1981 and was not picked up by another team. Any information on his current whereabouts would be most appreciated.

Why I love this card
There are not many blatant example of airbrushing in the 1980 set. Airbrushing was a staple of many Topps sets over the years, but so far there haven't been any really obvious ones. Montague's card, however, falls into that category, as it appears Topps used a picture from earlier years. Case in point, here is Montague's 1979 card:

Here's some pertient parts of that card up close:

Compare this with the 1980 Montague card and it appears that the shots were taken on the same day, down to the cloudless blue sky.

Something else....
Montague's record was actually shared with Royals' hurler Steve Busby who accomplished the feat in 1974. The record has since been broken and is held by Mark Buehrle. He retired 45 consecutive batters in 2009. The National League record belongs to Jim Barr of the San Francisco Giants who retired 41 straight batters in 1972.

On this day in 1980:
Musical theme today: Dizzy Gillespe appeared on the Muppet Show, Pink Floyd performed at Nassau Colisuem and Queen had the #1 song in the country with "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

#252 Ted Cox

Who is this player?
Ted Cox, utility, Cleveland Indians
When the 1980 season began, Ted Cox was beginning a new chapter in his major league career. Traded to the Seattle Mariners in December, 1979, the righthand hitting Cox was hoping to win the third base job in the Queen City. He won the job after a good Spring Training and had two RBI in the Mariners' Opening Day victory over the Oakland A's. From there, however, Cox went into a terrible slump in April and began splitting time with Bill Stein. Ted had career highs in many categories and a highlight came on April 9 when Cox became the first designated hitter to collect a game-winning RBI. This statistic that was new in 1980 and only official from until 1988.

Today, Ted Cox is best known as holding the record for most consecutive hits from start of career. Called to the major leagues by the Boston Red Sox in late 1977, his first game was a 4-4 performance against the Baltimore Orioles and two more against the New York Yankees. His second hit was a swinging bunt single that resulted in a close play at first. Cox told an interviewer:
"The first-base ump called me safe and Earl Weaver came storming out of the dugout to argue the call," Cox said. "I watched the argument and said to myself: 'Wow, that's Earl Weaver. This is great.'"

Cox was the Red Sox first-round draft choice out of high school in 1973. He climbed the minor-league ladder in the Red Sox system, and was International League MVP with Pawtucket in 1977. Unfortunately, he was unable to find a spot with the parent club at that time since the squad was deep with hitters. After his record-setting start, he drew attention from around the league and the Red Sox used that to acquire pitching. They package Cox along with three other players to the Cleveland Indians for future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley.

In two seasons in Cleveland, Ted was unable to earn regular playing time and served primarily as a backup infielder and outfielder. After batting only .212 in 1979 with the Tribe, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. Cox only spent one year in Seattle as he was released near the end of Spring Training in 1981. After the 1981 Player's Strike, he appeared in a handful of game with the Toronto Blue Jays, the last of his five-year career.

Since, Cox was selected the United States Specialty Sports Association Oklahoma State Baseball Director in 1997. He has since been made a USSSA national committee member and consulted with several other state directors, helping them to get the program started in their states. Ted has also worked with the Oklahoma Sports Museum and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

Why I love this card
I don't know why, but even today, I preferred this Indians cap over the Chief Wahoo logo. I realize that I have said in past posts that I am not fond of straight headshots but this photo of Cox shows the cap in all its glory. I was always jealous of those little leagues that used the MLB replicas and a friend at school had this hat through his league. Unfortunately, my little league had teams like "Eagles" or "Hawks" which to me was just wrong. One year, I played for the Yankees and our uniforms were green! Plain wrong.

Something else....
This is the third card in a row in which the players' first and last name are both one syllable. Also, Cox and Kip Young were both briefly teammates on the 1980 Seattle Mariners, even though neither one is pictured as a Mariner.

On this date in 1980:
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish ends DePaul's twenty-five game basketball winning streak, as the Irish defeat the #1 ranked Blue Demons, 76-74, in double overtime at South Bend. Mark Aguirre of DePaul and Kelly Tripuka of Notre Dame were both the game's high scorers with 28 points.

Friday, February 26, 2010

#251 Kip Young

Who is this player?
Kip Young, swingman, Detroit Tigers
With Sparky Anderson at the helm for his first full season in 1980, Kip Young was not in the Detroit Tigers' plans. He was sold to the Seattle Mariners in November 1979 and made the club coming out of Spring Training. When the Mariners signed Dave Heverlo on Opening Day, Young was the odd man out and sent to Triple-A Spokane. He was unexpectedly released by the Mariners in late May, but caught on with the Cincinnati Reds organization. Kip spent the remainder of the year at Indianapolis and did not make a major league appearance.

A native of Georgetown, Ohio, Young holds virtually every season and career pitching record at Bowling Green University. A graduate of Whiteoak High School, he was a regular in the Bowling Green pitching rotation for four years. For his collegiate career, he had a 37-6 record with a 2.11 ERA and 232 strikeouts in 295 innings. The wins, strikeouts, ERA, and innings pitched are all Falcon records. After his senior season, Young was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1976, a draft that saw the Tigers select Alan Trammell, Jack Morris and Ozzie Smith.

In less than two years, Young was inserted into the Tigers' rotation after the All Star break and immediately reeled off four consecutive complete game victories. He showed tremendous promise as the 1978 season came to an end, as he won six games, posted a 2.81 ERA and had seven complete games. It appeared that Young was an excellent candidate for the Tigers starting rotation in 1979. However, inclement weather in the first month of the year allowed only two appearances and Young struggled with his control. He was sent to Triple-A Evansville to get some work in and when he returned, Sparky Anderson was named new manager of the Tigers.

Young was unable to find a spot on the Tigers pitching staff and struggled as both starter and reliever. It would prove to be the final campaign of Young's brief, two year career. He would pitch at the minor league level for two more years before finally calling it a career. Today, Young is a physical education teacher for the Eastern-Local School District in Brown County, Ohio.

Why I love this card
I have already professed my fondness for any Detroit Tiger card, but I was always intrigued by the fact that Kip was not a nickname, but Young's given name. I had never known another Kip and even today, the only other Kip that I ever heard of was Kip Wilson, Tom Hanks' character from Bosom Buddies.

Something else....
Speaking of Bosom Buddies, I'll use that as a cheap transition to post a picture of Donna Dixon who was on the show as well. Hello, Mrs. Dan Ackroyd:

On this date in 1980:
The Academy Award nominations were announced today. Nominees for best picture were: Kramer vs. Kramer, All That Jazz, Breaking Away, Norman Rae and Apocalypse Now. Kramer would go on to claim the prize.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#250 Jim Kaat

Who is this player?
Jim Kaat, relief pitcher, New York Yankees
Like many Yankees before him, Jim Kaat began the 1980 season irritated with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. As Kaat wrote in his 2003 book, first Steinbrenner reneged on his 1980 salary and then made him report to Spring Training as a non-roster player. His pride challenged, he pitched 19 consecutive scoreless innings and made the squad. He only appeared in four games and was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of April. He was very effective in middle relief for the Cards, winning six games, losing four and lodging a 3.40 ERA.

When Jim Kaat retired in after 25 seasons in the major leagues, he had spent more time in a major-league baseball uniform than any other player. in a career that spanned four decades, he originally broke in with the Washington Senators in 1959. In the next quarter century, he won 283 games with five different teams, but made his mark as a member of the Minnesota Twins. He led the league with 25 wins in 1966 and won 10 or more games for fifteen consecutive seasons. He was consistently among the league leaders in innings pitched and after he transitioned to the bullpen, he became a World Champion with St. Louis in 1982.

History will remember Kaat for two things: his 16 consecutive Gold Gloves and his reputation as a fast worker on the mound. Legendary pitching coach once said he never saw a pitcher work as quickly as Kaat and his games consistently were little more than two hours. For example, in 1974, the year Kaat won 21 games for the Chicago White Sox, his games averaged 2 hours 12 minutes per start. Nine starts finished in under two hours and the only two games that went longer than three hours were 12 inning affairs.

For many years, Kaat held the record for Gold Gloves by a pitcher until it was eclipsed by Greg Maddux. However, recent studies have attempted to question his real prowess as a fielder. Cited as evidence is his 1969 season, when he won a Gold Glove in spite of eight errors and a fielding percentage of .826. Kaat's smooth delivery and excellent pickoff move did enhance his reputation, but one does not win 16 consecutive Gold Glove by reputation or accident.

When his playing career ended, Pete Rose hired him as a coach with the Cincinnati Reds for a two years (1984-1985). He then transitioned to a lengthy broadcasting career for Twins and Yankees, but also for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox Sports, ESPN, TBS and the MLB Network. He also broadcast the College World Series and the World Baseball Classic, winning seven Emmy Awards for excellence in sports broadcasting. In 2009, Kaat retired from his broadcasting career and also ended his longtime blog, Kaat's Korner.

Why I love this card
You had to love a guy that played for the original Washington Senators. Any connection to the pre-expansion era was a plus for me. However, Topps did an interesting thing with Kaat's card the following year. The cards were nearly identical Compare:

Something else....
Kaat was the last of the original Washington Senators to play in the major leagues. A ballpark complex in his hometown in Zeeland, Michigan bears his name.

On this date in 1980:
If you were settling in to sit down and watch Flo's farewell on "Alice" on CBS 30 years ago, this is what you would have seen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

#249 Jim Clancy

Who is this player?
Jim Clancy, starting pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays
Entering the 1980 season, Jim Clancy's role on the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff was unclear. Coming off of an injury that ruined his 1979 campaign, Clancy responded by leading the club in nearly every pitching category. He won 13 games, completed 15 and recorded a 3.30 ERA, good for tenth in the American League. Clancy also led the league in walks with 128. At the end of the season, the Toronto baseball writers voted him pitcher of the year.

In the early days of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise, one of the names synonymous with the club was Jim Clancy. The durable righthander was a cornerstone of the early Blue Jays' pitching rotation along with Dave Stieb. He was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers out of St. Rita High School in Illinois in 1974. He struggled in the Rangers chain and was left unprotected in the expansion draft and selected by Toronto with their third pick.

Clancy made his major league debut in that inaugural season and made the starting rotation in 1978. He would remain there for the next 11 years. Jim had his best season in 1982 where he was named to the AL All Star team and received a nice hand from the Canadian crowd in Montreal. He pitched a perfect inning in the American League's 4-1 loss. Clancy finished the year with a league-leading 40 games started and a career high 16 wins.

Throughout his Toronto career, he Clancy seemed to alternate between some very solid seasons with sub par performances. For example, after a 15-win season in 1983, he posted a 5.12 ERA and losing record in 1984. Injuries limited him in 1985, the year the Jays advanced to the ALCS before losing in seven games. He helped the Blue Jays remain in contention throughout the decade, but the team was often on the short end when it came to winning the division. His final season with Toronto was 1988 and when he left via free agency, he was the team career leader in victories, games and innings pitched.

He signed with the Houston Astros but was in a season-long slump as he finished 7-14 with an ERA over 5.00. Clancy split time between starting and working out of the bullpen in 1990, where he struggled with a 2-8 record and a 6.51 ERA, and had a stint in the minor leagues. In 1991, Clancy was effective in relief and was traded to the Atlanta Braves for the stretch drive. Jim was one of several veterans used by the Braves to help bolster the bullpen. He appeared in the World Series that fall, earning a win in Game Three. Even though the Braves would lose that classic Series, it would serve as the final appearances of Clancy's 15-year career.

Why I love this card
July 5, 1980. Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium. A trip to the ballpark was always special and with the Tigers playing the lowly Blue Jays a victory seemed certain. After all, the Jays were a last place club and I had never heard of most of these guys, including Clancy. Instead he ruined our plans by pitching 7.2 strong innings to earn the win. In 30 career starts against Detroit, Jim was 4-17 and I was fortunate enough to be there for one of them. In retrospect, that doesn't seem as bad as I remembered.

Something else....
The 1991 Braves went through a bunch of guys at the end of their careers to help out in their bullpen. Juan Berenguer was their closer and went down in the summer with an injury. The Braves tried replacing him at various times with Clancy, Dan Petry, Doug Sisk and even the returning Rick Mahler before finally settling on Alejandro Pena. For all the success that the Braves enjoyed with their starting pitchers, they never could quite find the same fortune at the back end of the bullpen.

On this date....
Much has been made of the the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game at the 1980 Olympics. One of the specials shown this week quoted captain Mike Eruzione as saying that people still come up to him and recall in vivid detail where they were when the USA beat the Soviet Union. He goes on to say that most moments like that are sad (Pearl Harbor, 9-11, JFK, Challenger) and that he doesn't know of any other sporting event that is shared in the same way. Indeed. May their legend continue to grow. Here is the ABC radio call, largely lost due to Al Michael's historic call on television.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

#248 Jamie Quirk

Who is this player?
Jamie Quirk, utility player, Kansas City Royals
Behind the plate for the Royals on Opening Day 1980 was Jamie Quirk who was filling in for Darrell Porter after the All-Star entered an alcohol treatment program. He did well at the plate, but in the first eight games Quirk allowed nine stolen bases and two passed balls. From there, he became George Brett's backup providing the future Hall of Famer a spell as Brett attempted to bat .400. A highlight came in August when Quirk went 4-4 with two home runs against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals advanced to the World Series in 1980, but Quirk did not appear in the postseason.

Born in Whittier, California, Quirk was a prep star that was originally slated to attend the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship. When he was drafted by the Royals in 1972, Quirk opted instead for a baseball career. He would make his major league debut in 1975 and would spend the next 18 years in the major leagues. While noted for being an exceptional athlete and intelligent player, Quirk was never a regular, appearing in more than 100 games only once in his career.

The lefthanded batting Quirk played for eight teams during his major league career and played in two World Series, winning the championship with Kansas City in 1985. In the second half of his career, he became noted as a dangerous pinch-hitter. There is an interesting quirk on his playing record as he appeared in only four games in 1984. He spent most of the season as a coach in St. Louis before the Chicago White Sox inquired about his availability as a player. He went to the White Sox and resumed his active playing career.

He started a World Series game with the A's in 1990 and appeared in his last major league game in 1992. After failing to make the Cincinnati Reds roster in 1993, Jamie finally called it quits and got into coaching. Quirk has been on a major league roster ever since either as a bullpen or bench coach. He has been with the Royals (1994-2001), Rangers (2002) and Rockies (2003-2008) and even had an opportunity to manage. In November 2009, the Houston Astros hired him as a bullpen coach, where he will spend the 2010 season.

Why I love this card
The facimile autograph and the in-game action shot are two reasons to love this card, but in retrospect, that is not what warrants mention today. Quirk is one of those guys whose career began before I collected, was part of my peak years (80-88) and finished when I had stopped, when the cards all became glossy, foil stamped or UV coated. Indeed cards had come a long way from this issue to say Quirk's 1991 Stadium Club, but I was always more impressed with the older cards.

Something else....
Quirk's name was often mentioned in the early 2000s as a possible managerial candidate as he interviewed with the Rangers, Athletics, Blue Jays and Rockies. He did not get the top spot with any of those teams and remains hopeful of fulfilling his dream of one day being manager of the Royals.

On this date in 1980:
There's a one-day only coats and suits sale at Sears! See the commerical here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ninth 25 - A Roster

A brief look back in team form at the last 25 player cards in the 1980 set (#221 through #246) as if constructing a fantasy league team.

Manager - Ken Boyer

1B - Lamar Johnson
2B - Rob Wilfong
SS - Alan Trammell
3B - Bill Stein
OF - Dave Winfield
OF - Andre Dawson
OF - Lou Piniella
C - Ron Hassey
DH - Dave Kingman

A very strong middle of the order featuring Trammell, Dawson, Winfield, Piniella and Kingman. Dawson and Winfield are both members of the Hall of Fame and Trammell is a borderline candidate. Kingman is a multi-time home runs champion and Piniella is a career .291 hitter. This group of five players won an MVP, two Rookie of the Year awards, 30 All-Star selections and 19 Gold Gloves. Hassey was a solid receiver with a long major league career and Johnson, Wilfong and Stein were starters for several seasons. If not the best lineup seen so far, this one is close.

Bench: Joe Cannon, Willie Montanez, Johnny Oates, LaRue Washington, Tim Foli, Marc Hill

Nice distribution of talent on the bench. Montanez provides some pop off the bench and Foli can play nearly every infield position if needed. Cannon provides speed for late inning pinch-running situations and Washington can play both infield and outfield with a decent glove. Oates and Hill are backup catchers to give Hassey a rest.

Phil Niekro
Scott McGregor
Len Barker
Jim Bibby
Steve McCatty

Can't really find much wrong with this rotation. Niekro is the unquestioned ace, fluttering his way to the Hall of Fame and 318 wins. He's followed by lefty control artist McGregor and then two fireballers, Barker and Bibby. With Niekro, McCatty could be used out of the bullpen if need be. An excellent rotation to take into battle over a long season.

Bullpen: Don Aase, Bob Sykes, Frank Riccelli, Vern Ruhle, Jerry Augustine

Aase would eventually become an All-Star closer, so he's the fireman here. Ruhle would start on most teams, but he's the swingman here and a good one at that. Three lefthanders close out the bullpen with Sykes, Riccelli and Augustine and you can never have too much lefthanded pitching. At least that's the theory.

Other Cards - Checklist #2

OVERALL: From top to bottom this team is the most solid so far. Three Hall of Famers and several other productive major leaguers with long and notable careers. No position is left unmanned and there is perfect distribution between the pitching staff and everyday players. A manager is even included as is a checklist. Can't imagine it getting any better than this group.


Friday, February 19, 2010

#247 Frank Riccelli

Who is this player?
Frank Riccelli, relief pitcher, Houston Astros
When the Houston Astros set their pitching staff to start the 1980 season, lefthanded pitcher Frank Riccelli was not with the club. The pitching-rich Astros released Riccelli on February 21, shortly after Spring Training had begun. Riccelli disappeared from the baseball scene completely as he did not appear with a professional team at all that season.

A graduate from Christian Brothers High School in Syracuse, New York, Frank Riccelli was the first round selection of the San Francisco Giants in 1971. He was considered one of the Giants top pitching prospects and was given a hard look each year during Spring Training. However, he was unable to make the club and was invariably sent back to the minor leagues. After toiling for six seasons in the minor leagues, he finally made his major league debut near the end of the 1976 season.

In his first game, he faced the defending World Champion Reds who were on their way towards repeating. He earned his first victory in his next start, a nifty 2-1 decision over the San Diego Padres. Despite that, he began the 1977 season again in the minor leagues and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the conclusion of the season. He never appeared in a major league game with the Cards who also traded him, this time to the Astros on June 8, 1978.

He made two appearances with the Astros at the end of the 1978 season and made the Astros pitching staff out of Spring Training in 1979. He was unscored upon in his first five appearances in '79 earning a victory in the process. This performance earned him a couple of starting assignments, the highlight being a 8-inning, seven strikeout win over the Reds, the Astros primary division rival. Unfortunately, an injury cut his season short and in November he was replaced on the 40-man roster by rookie reliever Dave Smith. He had made 17 appearances over the course of three seasons during his career.

After a year away from the game, Riccelli signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent the season in low minors. He did the same the following year, this time with the Toronto Blue Jays organization before finally ending his professional career. Frank played in the Senior Baseball League both years that the league was in existence (1989-90). Any information on his whereabouts during the last 20 years would be most appreciated.

Why I love this card
Riccelli is the spitting image of my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Fassen. While I was not in sixth grade in 1980, by the time we did reach Grade 6, this card made a comeback. Mark LeBrera was the first one to make the connection and it was the funniest thing going for a week. We even tried to start the rumor that Mr. Fassen was Riccelli himself in disguise. Mr. Fassen didn't see the resemblance or the humor in our efforts.

Something else....
While this is the last card of Riccelli's career, his only other card came in the 1974 set. As a prospect for the Giants, his rookie card is #599. He shares the card with three other pitchers (Ron Diorio, Dave Freisleben and Greg Shanahan).

Has any other player gone longer (five sets) between card appearances during their playing days? I'm sure that there is, but until then, Frank Riccelli is the unofficial record holder.

On this date in 1980:
Eric Heiden sets an Olympic record in the 1000m speed skate en route to a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid New York. Heiden was one of the more dominant athletes in Olympic history, winning five gold medals.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

#246 Tim Foli

Who is this player?
Tim Foli, shortstop, Pittsburgh Pirates
As the 1980 season got underway, shortstop Tim Foli had already endeared himself in the hearts of Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Known for a good glove and a quick temper, Foli was one of the keys to the Pirates' championship in 1979. As the #2 hitter in a potent lineup, Foli was inconsistent at the plate to start the season and missed the first two weeks in June due to a leg injury. Foli was hot upon his return, twice having four hit games and finished the year batting .265. When the season concluded, Pittsburgh fans voted Foli the most popular player on the team.

A multi-sport star at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, Foli was offered a football scholarship by USC. When the New York Mets drafted Tim with the first overall selection in the 1968 draft, he instead decided on a baseball career. Foli worked his way up the minor league ladder and made his debut with the Mets in September, 1970. The following season, he spent the entire season in New York, splitting time between second and third base. However, before the 1972 season he was part of a package of young players traded to Montreal for Rusty Staub.

Foli immediately became the Expos' starting shortstop and would remain there for the next five seasons. The man known as "Crazy Horse" was a popular player in Montreal where he gained a reputation as an excellent contact hitter that was difficult to strike out. Although he batted only .246 during his Montreal tenure, he did hit for a natural cycle during the 1976 season. Shortly after the 1977 campaign began, he was traded to Montreal for Chris Speier. He went back to the Mets for 1978 before being on the move again, traded to Pittsburgh early in 1979.

His acquisition was seen as a primary catalyst as the Pirates surged to the World Championship in 1979. Posting a career high .291 batting average and .333 in the NLCS and the World Series. It was the epoch of Foli's professional career. Within two years, however, management began to dismantle the championship club and Foli was traded to the California Angels. Initially relegated to the bench, injuries to Rick Burleson gave Tim an opportunity and he helped the Angels to the AL West title. Unfortunately, the Angels lost a heartbreaking series to Milwaukee.

After leaving Anaheim in 1983, Tim bounced from the Yankees and back to the Pirates for his 16th and final season in 1985. He immediately found a role as a coach with the Texas Rangers (1986-87), the Milwaukee Brewers (1991-95) and Cincinnati Reds (2000-06). He was the manager of the Syracuse Chiefs in 2009, but was removed in October. Tim retained a position within the organization and will be involved with the Washington Nationals in 2010.

Why I love this card
Foli's card is one of the best action shots in the 1980 set. Then and now, I love everything about this card; the Stargell Stars, the signature highlighted seperately and not across the player's body, Joel Youngblood sliding into Foli (I think he's out). The only thing better would have been to photograph Foli with his trademark batting stance, choked up high on the bat. I can't recall a player since Foli that choked up as much as he did.

Something else....
Foli's temper wasn't relegated to his playing days. As manager of a Puerto Rican team, he was fired in the middle of the Caribbean World Series, when he clashed with the General Manager, and fought with fellow Reds coach Ron Oester in 2001. Foli had to have stitches and Oester had a bite mark on his thigh. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

On this date in 1980:
Robert Redford appeared on the cover of People magazine. An article in this issue details Bruce Jenner's divorce opening the door for the whole Kardashian mess to come.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jim Bibby 1944-2010

I am sad to report that former major league pitcher Jim Bibby has died. He was 65 years old.

Community Funeral Home in Lynchburg, South Carolina said Wednesday that Bibby died Tuesday night at Lynchburg General Hospital. The cause was not disclosed. The family asked for privacy but said a statement would be released later.

Bibby played 12 years in the majors and pitched the first no-hitter in Texas Rangers history, beating Oakland 6-0 in 1973. He was a member of the Pittsburgh team that won the 1979 World Series, starting two games against Baltimore - including the deciding seventh game.

He also played for St. Louis and Cleveland during his major league years from 1972 to 1984.

Bibby was featured on this blog back in January.

Our sympathies go out to the Bibby family.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#245 Phil Niekro

Who is this player?
Phil Niekro, starting pitcher, Atlanta Braves
Hall of Famer, Class of 1997
In March of 1980, Phil Niekro of the Atlanta Braves was honored with the Clemente Award for his work raising money and awareness for spina bifida. However, the veteran's season began slowly, losing his first four decisions and losing ten times before the All-Star break. The durable knuckleballer was nonetheless the cornerstone of the Braves pitching staff, leading the league with 38 games started. Phil also led the league in losses (18) and home runs allowed (30). He was rewarded after the season when he received his third of five Gold Glove Awards in his career.

A childhood friend of NBA Hall of Famer John Havilcek, Phil and his younger brother Joe learned the knuckleball at an early age from their father. Phil would make the knuckleball his signature pitch, en route to 318 career victories, starting with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. He worked his way into the Braves starting rotation and in his first season as a starter (1967), led the National League in ERA. Two years later, he won 23 games as the Braves were the very first NL West Champions and qualified for the playoffs. Unfortunately, Niekro and the Braves lost in three straight to the eventual World Champion "Miracle" New York Mets.

Niekro would spend 20 years in Atlanta and was the teams' most recognizable player as the team slipped into mediocrity in the 1970s. He pitched a no-hitter in 1973 and four times led the league in innings pitched, each time topping over 300 innings. He twice led the league in victories and in 1979 became the first starting pitcher since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1971 to start 44 games. "Knucksie" was so reliable that he averaged 38 starts and 288 innings pitched per season during the 1970s.

As the elder statesman, Phil helped lead "America's Team" to another division title in 1982 and led the league in winning percentage. At age 44, the Braves erred in thinking Niekro was at the end of his career and released him. He was quickly signed by the New York Yankees and was selected to the All-Star team in his first Yankee season. The following year, he won his 300th game, an 8-0 shutout on the final day of the 1985 season. It would be his final Yankee appearance.

Niekro bounced between Cleveland and Toronto for two seasons before returning home to the Atlanta Braves in 1987. It would make only one appearance for the Braves before finishing his 24-year career at the incredible age of 48. Even with 300 wins, Phil had to wait five years before finally achieving the honor of the Hall of Fame in 1997. Phil also famously managed the Colorado Silver Bullets, the all-female professional baseball team in the mid 1990s. Currently, Niekro is a member of the Kiz Toys Board of Advisors, lending his expertise on the company's baseball line.

Why I love this card
I remember looking at the back of this card and seeing that Niekro was older than my Dad. And it wasn't close, Phil had over two years on my Dad. Phil immediately had my respect at a young age for that reason alone. When I asked my Dad how come he wasn't in the majors when Phil was, the answer was simple. "I can't throw a knuckleball," was th reply.

Something else....
Phil also had a Burger King issue in 1980 (See below) as well as a Topps Super Card. The Burger King card is framed a little tighter (and better) than the regular set issue with all the extra background. Awesome red warmup jersey that Phil is sporting here, even if he has one of those trucker-mesh caps on.

On this date in 1980:
A total solar eclipse occurred on this particular day 30 years ago. It wasn't visible in the United States, but I do remember us talking about this in class. Invariably it led to playground discussion that you would go blind if you looked directly at an eclipse.

Monday, February 15, 2010

#244 Ken Boyer St. Louis Cardinals Team Card

What is this card?
Team Card, St. Louis Cardinals, Ken Boyer Manager

The St. Louis Cardinals were a team in transition in 1980 as the Lou Brock era had come to an end in 1979. The Cardinals won 86 games in '79 finishing a promising third behind Pittsburgh and Montreal. The Cardinals were seen as a team with a fine core of young and exciting players. Shortstop Garry Templeton was one of the fastest men in the game, a proven All-Star player and .300 hitter. First baseman Keith Hernandez was a Gold Glove winner and the defending batting champion and Most Valuable Player. Ted Simmons was considered the best catcher in the league not named Bench and George Hendrick was steady and excellent in the clutch.

If the Cardinals had a weakness, it was generally thought that it may have been their pitching. The Cards did not have a dominant "fireman" in a bullpen consisting of journeymen and veterans. There were some bright spots in the starting rotation, notably Bob Forsch and Pete Vuckovich, dependable if unspectacular.

The Cardinals began the season under manager Ken Boyer who was entering his third season as St. Louis' skipper. Injuries decimated the pitching staff and the Cards struggled early in the season and they found themselves in last place by early June. Boyer was fired on June 8th and replaced by Whitey Herzog, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Herzog managed the team for two months before being promoted to GM, turning the reigns over to Red Schoendienst to finish out the 1980 season.

St. Louis played .500 ball the rest of the way, to finish 74-88, in fourth place, 17 games behind Philadelphia. In October, it was announced that Herzog would be GM and field manager, and he began rebuilding the Cardinals immediately. The series of moves that Herzog would make at the 1980 Winter Meetings would set the stage for the team that would win three National League pennants in the decade and become World Champions in 1982.

Why I love this card
This card was one of my "white whales" of the 1980 set. I never did get a Cardinals team card that season and for some reason, neither did my normal trading partners. It wouldn't be until 1987 that I would get a nice version of this card at Nostalgia Nook one of the first card/comic stores that I can remember. The store has been gone 20 years but every time I drive by that store I think of this card and a 1978 Dave Concepcion, but that's another story.

Something else....
This was Ken Boyer's final card before his premature death at 51 years of age from cancer in 1982.

On this date in 1980:
Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers sets an NHL record when he records 7 assists in a game against the Washington Capitals. The Oilers would finish the season with a losing record, but qualified for the playoffs, where they were swept by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

#243 Jerry Augustine

Who is this player?
Jerry Augustine, relief pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers
As the 1980 season began, most experts predicted that the Milwaukee Brewers would win their first division title. Relief pitcher Jerry Augustine had been rewarded with a long term contract and was supposed to be the ace of the bullpen. Somewhere, however, his effectiveness in this role seemed to disappear. He finished April with an ERA over 5.00 and opposing batters hit at a .331 clip against him with runners on base. Augustine's performance was one of the reasons the Brewers pursued a big-name relief pitcher in the free agent market, notably Rollie Fingers.

A strong-armed lefthander from Kewaunee, Wisconsin, Augustine was selected by the hometown Brewers on the 15th round of the 1974 amatuer draft. Within a year he had been promoted to Milwaukee for a September look and inserted into the starting rotation in 1976. Armed with a good curveball, Augustine was voted as the lefthanded starting pitcher on the Topps Rookie All-Star team and was the Brewers' Rookie of the Year. In 1977, Jerry was the team's top winner and also led the club in complete games and had his best season as a starter the following year, winning 13 games. In three seasons in the Brewers starting rotation, Augustine won 34 games.

Moved to the bullpen in 1979, he set a personal high in winning percentage and posted a 0.95 ERA during the seven weeks of the season. He also earned five wins during that stretch and the Milwaukee brass was convinced he was the answer to the team's question mark in the bullpen. When Fingers joined the club in 1981, Augustine was moved to a setup man and was part of the club that won a postseason birth in 1981 & 1982. Unfortunately, while part of the team, Augustine did not make a postseason appearance in either of those years.

During the last two full seasons of his career, Jerry was inconsistent and finished both the 1982 and 1983 seasons with an ERA over 5.00. At the start of the 1984 season, he was sent to the minors and the career Milwaukee Brewer played his tenth and final major league season. He spent the next two years in the minor league chains of five clubs and retired after the 1986 season. In the winter of that year, he opened Jerry Augustine Insurance in West Allis, Wisconsin and is still in the insurance business today.

He returned to his alma mater (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) in 1995 as head baseball coach. Jerry spent 12 seasons as the Panthers' coach, where he won coach of the year twice and Panthers qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2001, finishing second in the country in batting.

Why I love this card
Augustine had the look on his face that someone was about the jump out from behind him and scare the dickens out of him. In addition to collecting baseball cards, that was also one of our favorite hobbies as a kid, scaring people when we could. That came to an abrupt end when we scared my Dad one day hiding in the garage. He let us know in no uncertain terms that our days of jumping out from behind things yelling "Boo!!" were over.

Something else....
Augustine is responsible for turning around the baseball program at UW-Milwaukee. He won 315 games during his tenure, and in 1999 provided one of the most stunning upsets in recent college baseball history when the Panthers defeated the #1 seed Rice University during the tournament.

On this date in 1980:
The XIII Winter Olympics open in Lake Placid, New York. I remember getting some of these sticker sheets from Kellogg's cereal. My grandma always had Special K and I think that's how I wound up with these:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#242 Lamar Johnson

Who is this player?
Lamar Johnson, first baseman, Chicago White Sox
Splitting his time between first base and DH, Lamar Johnson was one of the top run producers on the Chicago White Sox. The righthand hitting Johnson led the team with a career-high 81 RBI. Lamar started off the 1980 campaign hot, hitting .381 in April with 17 RBI en route to being named Player of the Month. He was moved to the designated hitter's role almost exclusively in the second half, earning 39 RBI in that role. He was the White Sox cleanup hitter and twice had four hits in a game during 1980.

Johnson was selected by the White Sox in the third round of the 1968 amateur draft and slowly moved up the minor league ladder. He led the Midwest League with 26 HR and 89 RBI at Appleton in 1972 and eventually was give a brief look by the White Sox in 1974. He won his promotion to the parent club with a sensational 1975 season at Triple-A Denver where he hit .336 with 101 RBI. Despite consecutive .300 seasons in 1976 and 1977, Lamar was often used in a reserve role, filling in at either first base, DH or pinch-hitting.

Given a full-time opportunity in 1978, Lamar appeared in a career high 148 games, and driving home 72 runs. He fared even better in 1979 when he fashioned a 19-game hitting streak, finishing the season with a .309 batting average, 12 HR and 74 RBI. Unfortunately, the White Sox were not a very good team during this period, and the Pale Hose expected more production from their first baseman. Perhaps this was an unrealistic expectation as Johnson was one of the more reliable White Sox of this era, but nevertheless, Chicago did not attempt to resign him as a free agent and he left for the Texas Rangers prior to the 1982 season.

Lamar played only one year with the Rangers, the last in his nine-year major league career. In 1989, Johnson played for the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. In the league's championship game against the Johnson hit a home run and drove in three runs to help lead the Pelicans to the title. Johnson was named the "Star of Stars", the name given to the MVP of the championship game. He returned to the SPBA in 1990 and stayed with the league until it folded.

Johnson spent several seasons coaching and managing at the minor league level. He earned major league coaching experience with the Milwaukee Brewers (1995-98), Kansas City Royals (1999-2002) and most recently, the Seattle Mariners (2003). When Hall of Famer Larry Doby died in 2003, Johnson was quoted in his obituary.

Why I love this card
Because I had no idea what "loops" were when I read this card. At this stage in my life, the only loops were Fruit Loops. My dad eventually told me what they were and I found this feat quite impressive. But not before I got over seeing the word "loops" on the back of a baseball card.

Something else....
Here's a pretty good day: On June 19, 1977, against the A's, Johnson sang the National Anthem before the game, and followed up with two homers, the only White Sox hits on the day, as the Sox won 2-1. An accomplished singer, Johnson sang the national anthem quite a few times in his career before a ball game.

On this date in 1980:
Speedskaters Eric and Beth Heiden appear on the cover of Time magazine. The Winter Olympic Games were soon to take place in Lake Placid, NY and the Heidens were the story going into the Games. Of course, this Olympics would become memorable for a certain hockey team....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#241 Checklist #2

What is this card?
Checklist #2, cards #122 to #241

While the checklists are probably some of the least "fun" cards in a set, it does mark a milestone of this blog. I know I said this before, but I still can't believe that I have made it to 241 cards.

Why I love this card
Hard for me to put a positive spin on a checklist but I'll try. Seven Hall of Famers have their name listed here as does my personal favorite player of the 1980s (Alan Trammell)

Something else.....
On the last checklist post, I compared the lists from the 1979 and 1981 set. Later on, I learned about the checklist of the 1960s. Great cards that featured pictures of the stars of the day. Check these out great cards from the 1967, 1968 and 1969 sets.

When did Topps lose its creativity? Now these are checklists! Couldn't you imagine a checklist from 1980 featuring George Brett, Pete Rose or Nolan Ryan? How awesome would those have been? Unfortunately, Topps trotted out the same standard fare that they had been for several years.

On this date in 1980:
The number #1 movie in the country at this moment was American Gigilo. A trailer can be seen here. This motion picture made a star out of actor Richard Gere

Saturday, February 6, 2010

#240 Dave Kingman

Who is this player?
Dave Kingman, leftfielder, Chicago Cubs
The man known throughout the league as "Kong," Dave Kingman was one of the most feared power hitters in the game as the 1980 season began. He was voted to start for the National League in the All-Star Game that summer, but that was probably the only highlight for Kingman that season. His year started acrimoniously as he dumped a a bucket of ice water over the head of a Daily Tribune reporter. This led to a year long feud in the media. Thanks to a shoulder injury, his power numbers slipped considerably and this earned him the wrath of Cub fans.

The free-swinging, righthanded Kingman attended the University of Southern California and starred both on the mound and at the plate. He was an All-American and led the Trojans to a College World Series championship. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1970 and quickly gained a reputation for prodigious home runs blasts. Within a year, he was on the Giants roster playing outfield and first base. Kingman showed signs of stardom when he hit for the cycle in early 1972, but his penchant for striking out and committing errors in the field saw him sold to the New York Mets following the 1974 campaign.

With the Mets, Kong became the most prolific home run slugger in club history to that point. He hit 73 home runs in two seasons and was voted to the All-Star Game in 1976. But his time in the Big Apple was short as he was traded to the California Angels in June 1977 as part of a Mets fire sale. Kingman would also play for the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees in 1977, the only player to appear on a team in all four divisions in the same season. He signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs in 1978, where he achieved his most notable achievements.

He led the league in home runs in 1979 and was second in RBI with 115. True to form, Kingman also led the National League in strikeouts. After his disastrous 1980 season, Kingman was on the move again, this time back to the Mets, where he rebounded and led the National League in home runs again, this time in 1982. However, he only batted .208 in three seasons and led the league in strikeouts twice.

Kingman spent the final three seasons of his 16-year career in the American League with the Oakland Athletics. It was a return of sorts as Kingman finished his career in the Bay Area, where it began. He was the Comeback Player of the Year in 1984, finishing second in home runs (35) and third in RBI (118). He hit 30+ home runs every season as an Athletic still holds the record for most home runs in the final season of a career (35). Collusion prevented him from getting an offer for the 1987 season and he retired. Today, Kong is enjoying retirement as one of the preeminent sluggers of his era.

Why I love this card
This card makes me think of David, my next door neighbor and two years younger. I had a terrible time trying to explain to him why Kingman did not have an "All-Star" designation on this card. His rationale was that anyone who led the league in home runs was All-Star worthy. A solid argument, sure, but I tried to be patient. To make matters worse, Kingman was a starter in that year's game that confused the issue further. I think I just gave up at some point.

Something else....
Today, when I think of Kingman, I immediately think of "What is your opinion of Kingman's performance?" I still try to get that line in at work on occassion. The other is from 1985. After hitting two home runs, Kong hit a monstrous shot in the Kingdome that hit a speaker on the roof. The ball caromed back into play and was caught by Phil Bradley for an out. That game kinda sums up Kingman's career.

Included below is Kingman's 1980 Topps Super Card.

On this date in 1980:
Today is my Mom's birthday. She was 39 then and is still 39 now (at least that's what she says). There has been a lot of discussion of my Dad on this blog, but the person who held everything together growing up was always my Mom. Like many of her era, she stayed at home and provided the stability and support that was so crucial for me growing up. As a parent, many of the things that I do can be traced to her in some way. Thanks Mom, in two lifetimes I cannot repay you for the childhood that I was given.