Hostess Card Of The Week: 1975 Sparky Lyle

1975 Hostess Sparky LyleI started writing this post thinking that today was the 41st anniversary of the trade where the Yankees acquired reliever Sparky Lyle from the Red Sox for 1B/3B Danny Cater and player to be named later, but I was wrong; that trade was made on March 22, 1972. Today is actually the 41st anniversary of the “naming of the PTBNL”; infielder Mario Guerrero was sent from AAA Syracuse to AAA Louisville to finish off the deal.

Screw it, I’m finishing this post anyway.

Sparky Lyle is a very rare type of player: He’s a Yankee I kinda like. It helps that he was a Yankee when I was young and naïve and liked both New York teams.

Sparky was one of the dominant closers of the 1970’s and won the Cy Young award while helping the team win the World Seies in 1977. How did the Yankees show their appreciation for their award-winning reliever? They signed Goose Gossage to a big contract and gave him the closer job. This is the kind of crap that drove me away from the Yankees (although, let’s be honest, my being driven away from the Yankees was inevitable).

The acquisition of Gossage obviously didn’t make Sparky happy. After the 1978 season the Yankees granted his wish and sent him to the Rangers in a 10-player trade. A newswire article I found about the trade quoted Yankees president Al Rosen as saying that the key to the deal was a 19-year-old AA pitcher named Dave Righetti.  Righetti would be the 1981 AL Rookie Of The Year and lead the AL in saves in 1986. It’s kinda nice to see a trade involving a key prospect where the prospects pans out.  FWIW, Righetti has been the Giants’ pitching coach since 2000.

Getting back to Mr. Lyle, he’s standing in the left field corner of Shea Stadium; the Yankees played at Shea in 1974 and 1975 while extensive renovations were being done at Yankee Stadium.

I really need to read Sparky’s book about the 1978 season, “The Bronx Zoo”.

Hostess Card Of The Week: 1979 Phil Garner

1979 Hostess Phil GarnerEven with the reddish tint my card has, you can still bask in the glow of Phil Garner’s very yellow Pirates jersey.  You can tell from the guys in the background that the uni of the day included yellow pants as well.  Even though I came of age in the 1970’s , it was a happy day in the Shlabotnik household when the Pirates went away from the mix-and-match combinations of the white/yellow/black jerseys, white/yellow/black pants, yellow & black “pillbox” caps and yellow & black stirrups.

Phil Garner split his time between second and third in 1978 and 1979, but but moved over to second base full time when the Bucs traded for Bill Madlock in June, 1979.  He batted .500 (12 for 24) with three walks in that year’s World Series as the “We Are Family” Pirates beat the Orioles in 7 games.

Garner was an All-Star with three different teams (A’s, Pirates & Astros) and has managed the Brewers, Tigers and Astros.  He’s currently a Special Advisor for the Athletics.

Hostess Card Of The Week: 1976 Dave Cash

Dave Cash came up through the Pirates system, and took time at second base away from fading Hall Of Famer Bill Mazeroski. Cash put in some good seasons with the Pirates, but also had to contend for playing time with Rennie Stennett. The Pirates also had minor league prospect Willie Randolph coming up, so after the 1973 season, Cash was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Ken Brett.

1976 Hostess Dave CashI guess something about Dave Cash and Philadelphia just clicked, because the three years he spent with the Phillies from 1974 to 1976 were the best of his career.

This is what he accomplished with the Phillies that he didn’t manage elsewhere: Three All-Star game appearances, three years of MVP votes, three years of leading the league in at-bats, leading the league in hits in 1975, leading the league in triples in 1976. In fact, in all his time with the Pirates, Expos and Padres, Dave Cash never lead the league in any sort of significant category.

After 1976, Dave Cash became a free agent and signed a 5 year/$1.5 million contract with the Expos. He had two good seasons in Montreal, but lost the starting job to Rodney Scott and was traded to the Padres where he played one last year before retiring.

Oh, and his 65th birthday is this coming Tuesday! Happy birthday, Dave!

Dodger Fans Rejoice! Jim Wynn Is The Hostess Card Of The Week!

1975 Hostess Jimmy WynnMuch to my chagrin, this is the first Dodger in nearly a year to be the Hostess Card Of The Week. If it makes you feel any better, there are six other teams which have been just as neglected.  (Phillies fans, you’re up next week.)

Jim Wynn was the first Major Leaguer I ever met in person, during his single season with the Atlanta Braves. It was the summer of 1976 and despite my nearly complete lack of athletic abilities, I was attending a local baseball day camp. That’s how much I loved baseball, I was willing to look foolish and get yelled at all in the name of experiencing the game.

One day when the Braves were in town Jim Wynn made an appearance at our camp in full uniform. Looking back on it, he seemed like a nice guy, but even though I was thrilled to meet a baseball player, someone who appeared on a baseball card, I was so shy and intimidated that it was about all I could do to get his autograph in the first place. I had him autograph a 1976 Topps card… and now that I think of it, I probably should’ve saved this story for when I feature that autographed card. Do me a favor… When I get there, just be polite and pretend you’ve never heard the story before, OK?

Hostess Of The Week – 1979 Terry Whitfield: Jerseys, Japan, Johnson City

Terry Whitfield was an outfielder and pinch hitter who played for the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers, with a stint in the Japanese Pacific League sandwiched in the middle.
1979 Hostess Terry Whitfield

I’ll be honest, I’d mentioned Johnson City in the header mainly to keep the alliteration going… In 1971 Whitfield was a first-round draft pick (19th overall) of the Yankees, and started his professional career in Johnson City, where he was teammates with Louisiana Lightning himself, Ron Guidry.

Whitfield moved up through the Yankees farm system, but never established himself with the parent club after a couple of “cups of coffee” with the Yanks. He shares his 1975 rookie card with Fred Lynn, Ed Armbrister and Tom Poquette.

During spring training of 1977, Whitfield was traded to the Giants for Marty Perez (known on this blog as the Latin Davy Jones)…
1977 OPC Marty Perez
…and much to the dismay of the airbrush artist who did this card for the 1977 O-Pee-Chee set, Perez played in one game for the Yankees before being shipped off to Oakland as part of a package for pitcher Mike Torrez.

Terry Whitfield established himself as a regular outfielder with the Giants with good offensive stats, although maybe not what may have been expected of him.

Whitfield is notable in that he may have been the first American player to spend his peak years playing in Japan; his contract was sold by the Giants to the Seibu Lions for the 1981 season, when Whitfield was 28 years old.

He’d play three years in Japan, helping the Lions win Japan Series titles in 1982 and 1983 while hitting 88 homers over the 3 years.

After Japan, Whitfield was signed to a three-year contract by the Dodgers, who must’ve figured that they signed a guy who’d sorted out his hitting issues while overseas, but it didn’t work out that way. Whitfield ended up as more of a pinch hitter than a regular and would hit just 7 homers in three years with the Dodgers.

OK, I’ve covered Japan and Johnson City… what about the Jersey?

The jersey Whitfield is wearing is fine in and of itself, but I view it as a mistake along the lines of the New York Rangers’ uniform change of the 1970’s…
1977-78 Topps Walt Tkaczuk
You’ve already got a classic uniform, why would you change it?

…And the answer to that is, of course, it was the 1970’s.

Because Everybody Loves An Embarrassing Yankee Loss (1979 Hostess Amos Otis)

1979 Hostess Amos OtisOn this day in 1978, Amos Otis was involved in a moment in Yankees history that I wish I could say I remember.

Here’s the scene:  In Royals Stadium that Friday, Ed Figueroa was pitching well for the Yankees, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, and going into the 9th inning with a 3-2 lead.  Figueroa g0t Hal McRae and Al Cowens to pop out, but with two outs he walked catcher Darrell Porter and then went 2-0 on Amos Otis.  Billy Martin decided he’d seen enough, and brought in closer Goose Gossage.

Gossage’s first pitch to Otis was hit to right-center field, and centerfielder Paul Blair seemed to catch it for the final out, but…

…and this is the part I like…

…he collided with rightfielder Reggie Jackson, the ball and Blair’s glove went flying and a shaken Paul Blair wasn’t able to get to the ball before Otis came all the way around with a walk-off  inside-the-park home run!

Royals Win!  Thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Royals win!!!!

Coincidentally, the Yankees are in Kansas City this weekend.  Maybe something similar will happen today and the Royals can avoid the sweep.

Incidentally, there are sources on the web which say the collision was between Jackson and Mickey Rivers, but Blair had pinch-run for Rivers in the 7th.  I wonder if there were extenuating circumstances, because I can’t imagine why you’d need to pinch-run for “Mick The Quick”.

Hostess Card Of The Week: 1975 Larry Hisle

1975 Hostess Larry Hisle

Today is Larry Hisle’s birthday! Let’s celebrate with a number of fun Hisle facts!

Larry Hisle played for the Phillies, Twins and Brewers from 1968 to 1982, but he was also in the Dodgers organization in 1972 (as reflected on his ’72 Topps card) and late in 1972 he was the property of the Cardinals for just over a month before being traded to Minnesota … Was named as an outfielder on the Topps Rookie All-Star team in 1969 … Had two seasons with 100+ RBI … Was an All-Star in 1977 and 1978 … Hit for the cycle on June 4th, 1976 against Doyle Alexander and Mike Flanagan of the Orioles; in that game Hisle went 4 for 5 with 2 runs and 4 RBI, and hit a 2-run homer in the top of the 10th as the Twins won 8-6 in 10 innings.

Hostess Card Of The Week: 1976 Willie McCovey

1976 Hostess Willie McCoveyIf you have a 2013 Baseball Hall Of Fame desk calendar like I do, you’ve been spending the last couple of days looking at Willie McCovey. This card is also my most recent Hostess acquisition, so I figured that it was kismet.

In 1976, Willie McCovey was 38 years old, and struggled for most of the season. He would eventually lose his starting job to Mike Ivie, and get sold to the A’s on August 30th, where he would serve as a DH for the first and only time of his career. In 82 games that year, he batted .204 with 7 homers and 36 RBI. For those into Wins Above Replacement, McCovey was 0.4 with the Padres and -0.2 with the A’s. I didn’t even know you could have a negative WAR.

After such a lackluster season it seemed like Willie’s career was over. However, he convinced the Giants to give him a spring training invite in 1977, and he would go on to hit .280 with 38 HR’s and 86 RBI, earning him the NL Comeback Player of the Year award and the Hutch Award. I was only generally aware of what the Hutch Award is, so I looked it up, and according to, “The award is given to a Major League player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication on and off the field of former baseball great Fred Hutchinson”. The 2012 winner was Barry Zito.

Hostess Card Of The Week: 1976 Jerry Morales

1976 Hostess Jerry MoralesFun Facts about Julio Ruben (Torres) Morales!

Signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1966 . . . Selected by Padres in the 1968 Expansion Draft . . . Made his M.L. debut in September, 1969 . . . Was an N.L. All-Star in 1977;  was HBP and scored a run in the N.L’s 7-5 victory . . . Aside from Padres and Cubs, also played for the Cardinals, Tigers and Mets.

1979 Hostess Rick Manning

1979 Hostess Rick ManningRick Manning is probably better known for the 20-plus years he’s spent as a color commentator on Indians broadcasts, but he was also a pretty durn good outfielder.

The Indians selected Manning out of high school with the second-overall pick in the 1972 June draft, just after the Padres took Dave Roberts.  Other notable names in the first round were Scott McGregor (Yankees), Roy Howell (Rangers), Dick Ruthven (Twins) and Chet Lemon (A’s).

Rick Manning played 13 years with the Indians and Brewers, and was known for his speed and his defense.  He won the A.L. Gold Glove in 1976.