Random Team: 1978 Topps Kansas City Royals

I shoulda known.

I did my first random team set, had fun doing it and I got positive comments to that first post.  I thought that, at worst, I was building on the “Five Random Cubs Cards” posts that Wrigley Wax does every Sunday (as well as other people’s randomly-based posts).

…Only to realize that what I did was not some great idea out of the blue, not an adaptation of a different idea, but instead was the same as something that Night Owl’s been doing for a couple of years.  Damn.

After some deliberation I decided that I needed to go where inspiration takes me, no matter how lacking in originality it might be.  So with credit and apologies to Night Owl, I’m going to keep doing these posts as long as I enjoy them and you read them.

Anyway, I fired up the randomizer again and came up with the Kansas City Royals from 1978 Topps.

This is very welcome to me, because 1978 was the 5th and final year of my initial “Topps can do no wrong!” phase where I completed every set within, at most, two years of starting it.

Sadly, there are no cartoons on the backs of 1978 Topps cards and there are no airbrushed Royals in this team set, so the “Best Cartoon” and “Notable Airbrushing” categories will get a rest time around.

The 1978 Royals finished in 1st with a 92-70 record, 5 games ahead of the Angels and Rangers.  They lost the ALCS to the Yankees in four.

Manager Whitey Herzog had taken over the Royals midway through the 1975 season and had had nothing but success with the team.  His prior two managerial jobs didn’t go as well.  He lost 91 of 138 games with the 1973 Rangers before being fired.  He went 2-2 as an interim manager for the 1974 Angels.

Whitey is in the HOF as a manager;  as an outfielder he kicked around with the Senators, KC Athletics, Orioles and Tigers for 8 seasons.  As is all-too-often the case with manager cards, this “old guy” from my youth was younger (46) than I am now.  *Sigh*

Best Offensive Player: 

Nope, not George Brett.  I’d almost forgotten how good Amos Otis could be.  He batted .298 with 74 Runs, 30 doubles, 22 homers, 96 RBI, and 32 Stolen Bases.

Best Pitcher: 

Dennis Leonard went 21-17 with a 3.33 ERA, 183 K’s, 20 complete games and 4 shutouts.  Just to pick a random current veteran pitcher, Justin Verlander has 23 complete games spread out over his 11 full seasons.

Best Performance In A Supporting Role: 

Larry Gura went16-4, 2.72 with a 1.096 WHIP.  Like Elston Howard in Monday’s post, Gura gets an extra brownie point for being with the Yankees during the short time I liked the Yankees.

Guy I can’t NOT mention (and, yeah, fine he also has the All-Star shield): 

George Brett lead the league with 45 doubles and batted .294, but Amos Otis’ overall numbers were better.

Best Name:

You’re welcome, 11-year-old boys of all ages.  Joe Zdeb came in a close second.

Something about this photo reminds me of George Harrison.  Pete LaCock doesn’t really look like George Harrison, but I think there’s something about his expression that reminds me of George.  I don’t know… it’s stupid but I mention it anyway.

Best Rookie Card: 

U.L. Washington can brag about how much his rookie card is worth, and maybe he’ll forget to mention that he shares it with two HOFers a HOFer, a player who probably should be in the HOF… AND the awesomely-named Mickey Klutts.

Best Player not on a card:
Pitcher Rich Gale’s rookie card would come in 1979 Topps.  As a 24-year-old in 1978 he went 14-8 with a 3.09 ERA and 3 shutouts.  He finished 4th in AL ROY voting (Lou Whitaker was the winner) and finished tied with Ken Singleton for 34th (!!!!) in AL MVP voting (Jim Rice was the winner;  Rick Burleson and Frank Tanana tied for 36th).

Best In-Game/Action Shot: 

I modified the name of this category because Darrell Porter’s not actually doing anything and the true action shots in this team set are kinda boring.  This is also the winner of the “Favorite Card” category.

Most Likely To Succeed (Down The Road):

Buck played for the Brewers in 1978 after being involved in an offseason 3-team trade.  He’d later manage the Blue Jays, and was also the manager of the USA team in the first World Baseball Classic.  He currently is a broadcaster for the Blue Jays.

Player I scanned and uploaded by mistake and, well, here he is:
I could’ve also listed him as “Best Aviators”.

Not that Al Cowens was a slouch;  he was second in 1977 MVP voting, and in 1978 he batted .274 with 63 runs and 63 RBI (not a typo).

1994 Capital Cards Miracle Mets Postcards, Part 5

Quick recap of what we’re looking at here… The cards in this post come from a 1994 box set of 32 postcards which commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1969 “Miracle Mets”. The postcards feature paintings by Ron Lewis.

During his playing days, Eddie Yost was known as “The Walking Man” for his ability to draw walks.  During his 15 year career, he lead the league in walks 6 times, and his 1614 career BB’s currently ranks 11th all time.  To throw out a few names, he walked more than Stan Musial, Pete Rose, Harmon Killebrew, Chipper Jones, Lou Gehrig, Mike Schmidt and Willie Mays, and he did it in fewer games than any of them.
Yost was the third base coach for the Mets from 1968 to 1976.

Jack DiLauro was used mainly as a reliever and his 2.40 ERA and 1.068 WHIP was among the lowest on the team.  Despite this, he didn’t appear in the postseason, and was selected by the Astros in the Rule V draft after the season.
In his first career start, he shut the Dodgers out over 9 innings and gave up 2 hits… and got a no-decision as the Mets won 1-0 in 15 innings.  Dodgers pitcher Bill Singer also pitched nine 2-hit, no run innings.

Bud Harrelson was the Mets starting shortstop for a good many years, and in 1969 he mainly contributed with his exemplary fielding, although he had three RBI in the NLCS despite going 2-for-11.

Bud is currently co-owner and Sr. VP of Baseball Operations for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.

Jim McAndrew was used mainly as a starter and went 6-7, but he also had back-to-back shutouts in August and had three tough-luck no-decisions late in the season where he pitched 27 combined innings while allowing just 4 runs.
Like DiLauro, McAndrew did not get to pitch in the postseason.

Ron Swoboda is famous for the diving catch he made on Brooks Robinson in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series.
He also batted .400 during the World Series and doubled in the game (and Series) winning run in Game 5.

Many of you might be familiar with middle infielder Al Weis as the disembodied head floating next to Pete Rose’s disembodied head on a valuable 1963 baseball card. In 1969 he batted .215 during the regular season, but went 5-for-11 during the World Series, including a game-tying homer in Game 5.

Weis had 7 career regular season home runs, but his World Series homer was the only one he ever hit at his home ballpark.

There’s one more post left in this series, I won’t let it sit for a month like I did with this post and the one before it.

Cheap, Misplaced Vintage

I spent all of this weekend’s “card time” organizing and creating yesterday’s customs, so this is going to be a short post.

While organizing, I ran across some cards which had been in the garage being aired out because they positively reeked of musty basement smell, and where I’d semi-forgotten them for over a year. I remember the card show I got these at, but I can’t remember picking them out and buying them… so I don’t remember what I paid, but I know they fell into the “I can’t pass these up” category so by extension they were cheap.

Elston Howard was the 1963 AL MVP, a 12-time All-Star and the first African-American to play for the Yankees.

I liked the Yankees for about three years when I was a kid, and Elston Howard was a Yankees coach during that time, so he’s one of the relatively small group of Yankees upon whom I look favorably. This is my first card of Elston Howard.

Richie Ashburn – or “ASHBUP”, thanks to a red magic marker – finished his 15 year career with 2 seasons with the Cubs and one season with the Mets.

Given that the 1962 Mets are almost legandary to this lifelong Mets fan, I’m not fazed by the idea of Richie Ashburn as a Met, but Richie Ashburn as a Cub looks tremendously odd to me.

They’re Here: The First Virtual Pack of 2017 TSR World Baseball Classic

I have to say, the World Baseball Classic has been fun so far, and I haven’t even been able to watch it on TV (minor rant about this down below).  At the time I’m writing this, there have been several fiercely fought extra-inning games, two different comebacks from five-run deficits, and Israel is 4-0.  Israel!

Since last fall I’ve been talking about doing a custom card set based on the WBC.  A reader poll voted 1980 Topps in as the design I’ll be using for this set.  I’ve taken this mandate seriously and tried to do what I can to make this set more interesting than a sort of “Topps Archives Lite”.  I even came up with a 1980-esque wrapper.

So let’s rip it open and see what we’ve got.

You’ve probably never heard of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo – I know I hadn’t – but he was named the MVP of Pool B after batting .364 with 2 homers in three games.

His “daytime” job is as an outfielder for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan’s Central League.  Tsutsugo had quite a year in 2016, batting .322 and leading the league with 44 homers and 110 RBI.

The Angels’ Andrelton Simmons hasn’t been lighting the WBC on fire, but he did hit a double.

More importantly, a good photo of him was available. For this set, that will play a bigger role than you might think.

As I’d mentioned, Team Israel is doing a good job of surprising people. The MVP of Pool A, in which Israel ran the table, was Ryan Lavarnway.

Like many of his teammates, Lavarnway is not on a 40-man roster. He’d signed a minor league contract with Oakland and has an invitation to big league camp. With Israel moving on to the second round, I think it’s safe to say that Lavarnway’s missing more time from A’s camp than anyone there had guessed. Lavarnway went 5-for-9 in the first round, walked four times, homered and drove in three runs during those three first-round games. His slash line was .556/.692/.889.

Speaking of Israel – this pack is admittedly heavy on Israel, but they’ve been my favorite team so far –  here’s an insert based on one of the other card design candidates in last fall’s voting. This custom is in the style of the 1976 Wonder Bread Football set, and shows the Israel team’s unofficial mascot, “The Mensch On A Bench”.

The Mensch is a take on the creepy “Elf On A Shelf”, was featured on the TV show Shark Tank, and has become the team mascot. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “Mensch” is used to describe a good, honorable person, someone of integrity.

Going into the WBC, I didn’t really expect to make any customs for the Chinese team… but that was before I found out that Bruce Chen, former Orioles, Mets, Royals, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox, Rangers, Indians, Reds, Astros and Expos pitcher, was on the team! Bruce has been a favorite since his bad jokes were featured on the scoreboard during his time in Baltimore. Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes? A: No-eye deer. (This joke works better when said out loud)

Bruce gets the honor of being part of one of my “innovations” in this custom set; he ges a horizontal player card! Woooo!

It didn’t affect the play of the game to any great degree, but one of the interesting moments in a first-round game came when 6’8″ Israel batter Nate Freiman (who played for the A’s several years ago) faced off against 7’1″ Netherlands pitcher Loek van Mil (who’s played in AAA the past few seasons).

It’s believed to be the tallest face-off in professional baseball history. Despite Freiman’s large strike zone, he drew a base on balls.

Australia didn’t accomplish as much as they would’ve liked to this time around, but I had to create a custom to show their nice unis paired with the natural fit of the Oakland A’s colors from 1980.

Travis Blackley is a reliever who has pitched for the Giants, A’s, Rangers and Astros.

The Mariner’s Nelson Cruz has batted .333 with a homer thus far…

…but he’s here because of the aforementioned “good photo” rule.

Chris Archer pitched 4 shutout innings against Colombia on Friday, but did not get the win.

The US team is currently 1-1 and would greatly improve their chances of advancing by beating Canada tonight.

Former Oriole and current Mariner Yovani Gallardo gave up four runs in four innings, but I wanted to get a card of a familiar Mexican player.

Here’s another card new to the set. 1980 Topps didn’t have a postseason subset, so I had to create one.

This is loosely based on the League Leader cards from that set.

That’s all the cards in this pack… Let’s see what the offer is on the wax pack wrapper…

That looks pretty cool, but I don’t have the money… Maybe after I get my allowance.

OK, up at the top I promised a minor rant.

I’ve been looking forward to the WBC for a while now, although I didn’t plan on watching entire games. I figured I’d watch a few innings here and there, maybe check in when I heard about a game that seemed exciting. That’s pretty much what I did during the last WBC in 2013.

But I forgot about one thing… back in 2013 the MLB Network was part of my cable tier. That’s no longer the case; it got taken away from us, and we didn’t watch it enough to shell out the money for the higher tier of channels.

I’d assumed that some of the games might be on another cable channel, but that’s not the case.  I found out that it’s also on ESPN Deportes, and I can deal with the announcers speaking Spanish…

…But nope, I don’t get ESPN Deportes either.

OK, then what about MLB.TV?  During the regular season they always have free low-demand games along the lines of Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay.  A first round game airing early on a weekday morning isn’t exactly “Must See TV”, they should have free games like that, right?

Nope, struck out again. Well, poo.

I honestly don’t get this. The organizers (i.e. MLB) have said that the World Baseball Classic doesn’t get the attention in the U.S. that they would like it to get, but the cheapest option to watch ANY of it is $25 for a month of MLB.TV.  No, thank you. I’ll stick with listening to the occasional game on satellite radio, and reading about the games afterwards.

End of rant.

By the way, I expect to have more virtual packs of WBC cards coming the next two Sundays.

1976 SSPC #594: Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca & Pee Wee Reese (Checklist #6)

This was meant to be a quick post… You’ll soon see that this goal was not met.

In my last post about 1976 SSPC, I featured a checklist card that has Keith Hernandez and Lou Brock on the front… but much to my chagrin when I had been asked about the checklistiness of the card, I didn’t scan the back, so you couldn’t see the checklist part.

Today I’m going to rectify that by featuring another such checklist card, and give you some Dodger legends to boot.

No explanation was provided with the card, but this appears to be from a Mets’ Old Timers Day…. possibly 1973, but I have my doubts.  More on this in a bit.

The checklists cards are the only ones in 1976 SSPC which have text on the front of the card;  as you can see, it’s only the card number and the names of the subjects.  I presume this is because there isn’t room on the back for this information, or they just didn’t want to have that information get mixed in with the checklist.

As 1976 SSPC was only sold as complete sets, one could question the need for a checklist in the first place.  Maybe it’s strictly informational, maybe it’s just because it was considered traditional to include checklists in a card set, maybe it’s just a matter of seven cards which wouldn’t need text on the back.

Here’s the back:

There are 7 checklists, and six of them have the “Subscribe” message on the bottom. The 7th checklist, card #595, instead has this information on the back:

And there you go, in case you were wondering about what SSPC stood for:  Sports Stars Publishing Co.

Getting back to the Old Timer’s game…  I found this post from Centerfield Maz which discusses Saturday, June 9th, 1973.  On that day, there was a ceremony to retire the #14 worn by Gil Hodges, who had suffered a fatal heart attack just before the prior season.  Along with the ceremony, there was also an Old-Timers game between the Mets alumni and Dodgers alumni.

The Centerfield Maz post features images from the 1974 Mets yearbook, so I retrieved my own copy and scanned that page to present the evidence as to why the photo on the SSPC card may – or may not – be from that day.

Here’s the page at a reduced scale;  I’ll save the entirety of the page for a later post about the yearbook as a whole.

First off, Exhibit A: Carl Furillo and Pee Wee Reese. As you can see, Pee Wee is wearing an L.A. Dodgers cap, just like in the photo above.

Ah, but here’s Exhibit B, which throws the whole thing into question… In this photo of Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca, Erskine is wearing a different Brooklyn cap (this one looks like something of a knockoff), while Branca is wearing an L.A. cap.

I did some quick research using other Mets yearbooks. Given that many of the photos in the 1976 SSPC set were taken in 1975, it stands to reason that this photo might have been taken at the 1975 Old-Timers day. I looked at my 1976 Mets yearbook, and Pee Wee was there, but there weren’t any photos of the other two. I then dug out my 1975 Mets yearbook, and there were numerous Dodgers pictured, but none of these three… which doesn’t mean that the three of them weren’t there.  So take that however you will.

After all that, I almost forgot to update the running SSPC totals…

This whole post is based on the assumption that this was taken at Shea, but to be honest nothing conclusive in the background which would hold up in a court of law, so I’ll wimp out and say “Pretty Sure”.
Shea: 69
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 13
Can’t tell: 20
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
I didn’t think this would be necessary with three “Old Timers”, but damned if Oisk and Pee Wee don’t have 70’s sideburns.
Total Cards: 110
1970’s Sideburns: 63
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 36
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 27

Bonus image:
Public spirited as I am, I would like to help somebody save a buck. For anyone who’s only interested in what this year’s album stickers look like without actually collecting and/or sticking them, here are the contents of a pack I bought last night.

Random Team Review: 1973 Topps Expos

As a fun idea in general, but also an excuse to go back and appreciate cards in my collection that I might not have looked at in while, I’m going to try doing posts on 1970’s or 1980’s team sets – baseball, football or hockey – selected by a random number generator from a list.  For each team, I’ll talk a little bit about that year’s team and share cards from a number of categories. I won’t necessarily use every category with every team, and I expect that I will think up new categories as we go along.

True Confessions: I put my thumb on the scale for this first post. I wanted to start off with an Expos team set, so the randomizer was only involved in selecting which particular Expos team I’d start with.

1973 Topps Montreal Expos

The 1973 Expos went 79-83 under manager Gene Mauch, and finished in 4th place in the 6-team National League East.

Mauch was the Expos manager for the first 7 years of their existence.


Ken Singleton was easily the best offensive player, batting .302 with 23 homers, 103 RBi and 100 runs scored.


Steve Renko went 15-11, 2.81 as a starter and was their best pitcher over the full season.


Reliever Mike Marshall made 92 appearances, going 14-11 with 31 saves and a 2.66 ERA.

23-year-old Steve Rogers didn’t come up until mid-July after spending the first half of the season with the AA Quebec Carnavals and the AAA Peninsula Whips. During the second half he had a 10-5 record, 1.54 ERA and 1.060 WHIP. His rookie card was in the 1974 Topps set.


Tom Walker is the father of Mets 2nd Baseman Neil Walker. He beat out Pepe Frias and Jorge Roque (both of whom shared a card with two other players) for this honor.


This was not a fierce competition. There were only two action shots in this team set. Trust me, this is the better of the pair.

Mike Marshall’s card, shown above. Marshall is airbrushed because he had been acquired via trade from the Astros…. IN JUNE 1970! Assuming that’s a Tigers jersey, then the photo predates Marshall being taken by the Seattle Pilots in the October, 1968 expansion draft.


In the case of 1973 Topps, it’s the only insert… the unnumbered team checklist cards.  This card looks miscut because it didn’t scan properly and I didn’t want to go back and fix it.

Since many of you probably aren’t familiar with these cards, I’ll include the back.

…Well… that was fun!  I think I’ll have to do more of these.

Sports Card Haiku

CommishBob of Five Tool Collector fame recently had a 100-word post that made me think of haiku (although it wasn’t meant that way… I don’t think).

…But I will gladly take inspiration from anywhere I can find it, so I figured I’d try some sports card haiku. I’m thinking that the Haiku Society of America will not be beating a path to my door.

Airbrushed Flyer guy
Red paint goes through the number
What is up with that?

Saw him with Akron
He looked pretty good out there
Trade for Brandon Moss

Say he’s with the Tigers
Red piping on a black cap?
You’re not fooling me.

A Golden Gopher
Winfield looking real bad-ass
Wish it were color.


Grich is clean-shaven
Is that the Eiffel Tower?
Card is not 3-D.