2022 Heritage: Fears, Wishes, Guesses And Speculation

Earlier this week Topps unveiled some preview images for 2022 Heritage, which will be based on the 1973 Topps baseball design. The design of this set is pretty simple (but not in a bad way) which (hopefully) minimizes the number things they might do to irritate old school collectors like me.

The images look pretty good to me… Don’t know why the position is in italics, but I can think of worse things for them to futz with.

One of the things which makes 1973 Topps fairly unique among Topps sets is that there are pictograms (or icons, if you prefer) for each position, which in some ways make the cards more visually oriented towards those positions rather than they are towards the teams. I had only a handful of these when I was a kid, because they came out the year before I started collecting, but I know I spent a fair amount of time sorting my cards by position, something I didn’t really do with other years (BTW, this preview image is for Heritage Chrome)

I love these little guys, for me there’s just something inherently joyful about them.

Each position has its own little silhouette, and each has its own distinctly colored ball behind them. You hardly even need the text position below each one.

Thinking about these pictograms got me thinking about the limitations that come from using them, and also some of the other aspects of the 1973 design that will be interesting in terms of what Topps will do, as well as what they *could* do, what I fear they’ll do and what I wish they would do… And so, a post was born.

Wish: Topps will splurge, sign a bunch of managers to contracts and include them in the base set
… or make them short prints or inserts, I won’t be picky.

They can even leave out the coaches, just give the manager a standard vertical card and use the Manager pictogram.

I consider this to be very unlikely, though…

Speculation:  Will they create a DH pictogram?

Back in 1973, the Designated Hitter was a new position, and it wasn’t certain that teams would have a player who would be exclusively used as a DH. As a result, there is no pictogram for Designated Hitters. Players like Frank Robinson and Rico Carty, who would be used primarily as a DH during the 1973 season, were listed as “OUTFIELD” on their cards.

That’s certainly not true today, though. Topps could shoehorn guys like J.D. Martinez and Yordan Alvarez into the set as “OUTFIELD”, but what about Nelson Cruz?  He hasn’t played the field since 2018.

Honestly, a DH pictogram wouldn’t be hard to create… just pick a photo of a batter, make a silhouette out of it and put a colored circle behind it.  I whipped one up quickly using a photo of Nelson Cruz as a basis, and using the yellow of the Manager pictogram, assuming that Topps will not be using it for managers.

The edges are jaggy, but this was whipped up in about 10 minutes, including picking out the source image.  I can do better and I would hope Topps could as well.

Speculation:  And what about Utility Guys?

This might be more of an issue for this set.  Chris Taylor has split his time fairly equally between the outfield and 2nd base, which position would you ‘shoehorn’ him into?  The Diamondback’s Josh Rojas is even more Super-Sub-y, playing at 2nd, short, left and right.  Even if you labeled them as “IF/OF” or “UTILITY”, which pictogram would you use?  I suppose they could create a new one, but what would the silhouette be?

I don’t have any answers for that, I’m guessing they’ll just pick one position and go with it.

Fear:  Topps will either use one pictogram for all pitchers, or will screw up and use a RHP pictogram for a LHP

For those who don’t know or just hadn’t realized it, the pictograms for pitchers reflect their handedness, and even had different colors for each – red for righties, blue for lefties

I thought I remembered Topps getting this wrong when the used the 1973 design in 2014 Archives, but I misremembered, and they did use the right pictograms for lefties and righties… although I can’t swear that they *always* got it right.

Prediction:  Shohei Ohtani will get two cards

Since the design of this set is so centered on position, I’m thinking that there will be one Ohtani card as a pitcher and one as… Well, that depends on whether they do have something separate for the DH.

Observation:  Topps will get an easy way to start into the Cleveland Guardians era, and also get off easy for Heritage Minor League

As you probably heard by now, the baseball team in Cleveland is planning to switch from “Indians” to “Guardians” once the 2021 season has ended.   I’m sure the graphic artists at Topps cursed a blue streak when they realized that there’s one more team to factor in when they are preparing for a throwback set and can’t fall back on copying “Indians” from the original cards… especially 1978.

But they get off easy this year, at least for Heritage.  Modifying the team name in the 1973 design is as easy as changing the player’s name.  Same goes for Minor League Heritage, they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to work “Grasshoppers”, “Mighty Mussels” or “Cannon Ballers” into the card design, they can just type it in and they’re done.  I made the following custom within my lunch hour yesterday, just as an illustration of that.

Wish: Topps will ditch the All Time Home Run Leaders card this time around
Don’t let the extremely poor condition of my card detract from my point…

Back in 1973, Babe Ruth’s record was being challenged by two active players. Sure, Willie Mays hadn’t hit double-digit homers since 1971, but Aaron, of course, was coming after the record. This card was significant at the time, it’s not really significant today.

As I write this, it occurs to me that my wish might come true for legal reasons… Unless Topps has the rights to the likeness of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, then an updated version isn’t happening.

It occurs to me that the whole All-Time leader subset might also be endangered by the fact that Pete Rose is the Hits leader. I won’t lose sleep over that subset being excluded.

Prediction:  There will be base cards with the very 1973-ish distant action shots

Maybe not as distant as 1973, but if Topps were smart they’d lean into this quirk of 1973, especially given that there are plenty of current shots which are being taken from a distance due to social distancing.

Wish:  A card where the background includes parked SUVs

‘Nuff said

OK, I guess that’s enough rambling and brainstorming about 1973 and 2022 Heritage.  Do you have any wishes, fears, etc. you’d like to add?  I’d love to see your comments!

Card #270 From 1972 – 1978 Topps

Today is the 270th day of 2018, so I’m featuring card #270 from seven different 1970’s sets.

I do these posts because I enjoy pulling out cards from the very core of my collection (1974 to 1978 were my first five years of collecting), but I also enjoy the randomness of saying “I think I’ll do a Card Number post on Thursday… what day of the year is that?” When used my little Excel spreadsheet formula to determine that 9/27 is the 270th day of 2018, I knew that we’d have some good cards because Topps traditionally assigns card numbers ending with zero to good players.

…But in this case, not the absolute BEST players. The six or seven tippity-toppest players get the card numbers which are divisible by 100 (100, 200, 300, etc.), the next tier generally gets the “fifties” (150, 250, 350… ) and so on. Anybody on a card with a number like 270 are generally among the best players in the game, but weren’t THE TOP PLAYERS.

Because it was a card number ending in zero (and because I happened to have the appropriate cards), I decided to add in 1972 and 1973 this time.

…and so we’ll start off with Card #270 from 1972 Topps:  Jim Palmer

What Jim Palmer did the year before to earn a card number ending in zero: In 1971 “Cakes” won 20 games, making him the fourth member of the Orioles rotation to win 20 games.  That’s just amazing, especially considering that there won’t be four pitchers in all of the Majors to win 20 games in 2018.  As for Palmer in 1971, he was an All-Star, but didn’t win an award or lead the league in any particular category… probably the epitome of “divisible by 10-ness”

Card #270 from 1973 Topps – Luis Tiant
Tiant always looks strange to me without his trademark Fu Manchu mustache.

What Luis Tiant did the year before: Went 15-9, lead the league with a 1.91 ERA and got Cy Young and MVP votes.  More importantly, he re-established himself as a starting pitcher and won the Comeback Of The Year Award.

I enjoyed the cartoon on the back of El Tiante’s card:

Card #270 from 1974 Topps – Ron Santo

What Ron Santo did the year before: He batted .267 with 65 runs and 77 RBI and was an All-Star… but there’s probably a significant element of “He gets one of these numbers because he’s Ron bleeping Santo”.

Here’s a freaky little fact: Ron Santo batted .267 in three of the four seasons from 1970 to 1973, and in 1970 and 1971 he had the exact same number of hits and at-bats. This seemed so unlikely that I went to a couple of different sources to verify these numbers.

After the 1973 season, Santo was traded to the White Sox, to the dismay of Cubs fans everywhere.

Before Ron Santo was traded across town, a trade had been worked out to send him to the Angels; however, Santo vetoed it.  Several years ago I’d shared a card which I’d received in an interdimensional PWE from my counterpart in an alternate universe:

I haven’t heard anything from Alternate Universe Joe in a while, I’ll have to reach out to him.

Finally, Santo’s card had a good cartoon:

Card #270 from 1975 Topps – Ron Fairly
Had there been a Traded set in 1975, Ron Fairly would’ve likely been featured in a badly-airbrushed Cardinals cap. In the December 1974 Winter Meetings, Fairly was traded to St. Louis for two minor leaguers.

What Ron Fairly did the year before: Ron Fairly batted .245 with 35 runs and 43 RBI, and he had been an All-Star in 1973… I’m thinking that Fairly got his semi-star card # by being good for quite a long time – he played 21 years over his career, spanning 1958 to 1969 with the Dodgers, 1969 to 1974 with the Expos, and 1975 to 1978 with the Cardinals, A’s, Blue Jays and Angels.

One other fun Fairly fact: He was the Toronto Blue Jays’ first All-Star.

Card #270 from 1976 Topps – Willie Stargell

What Willie Stargell did the year before: By this point in his career, you couldn’t really give “Pops” just any old number… But Stargell got MVP votes while batting .295 with 22 homers, 90 RBI and 71 Runs

Card #270 from 1977 Topps – Dave Parker

What Dave Parker did the year before: Parker was still a fairly new player and when this card initially came out he had yet to be an All-Star, an MVP or a Gold Glove winner, but he did bat .313 with 90 RBI and 82 Runs.

Card #270 from 1978 Topps – Carlton Fisk

What Carlton Fisk did the year before: Obviously, Fisk was an All-Star.  He batted .315 with 102 RBI, 26 homers and 106 runs. He was also the 1972 Rookie of the Year and a 1975 World Series hero.

Random Team Review: 1973 Topps Detroit Tigers

The 1973 Detroit Tigers finished with a 85-77 record, 12 games behind the Orioles.  They had, however, finished in 1st place the prior year, finishing a half-game ahead of the Red Sox before losing to the A’s 3 games to 2 in the ALCS.

The 1973 Tigers were 1st place as late as August 14th, when they went into a skid and fell to 3rd place, 7.5 games out of first, which contributed to the firing of…

Billy Martin, who would be replaced by coach Joe Schultz for the remainder of the season.  Schulz would not be brought on full time;  Ralph Houk would be the Tigers manager in 1974.

Funny thing… I don’t think I’d ever noticed that Joe Schultz’s name is missing from this card.

Best Starting Pitcher
Joe Coleman went 23-15 with a 3.53 ERA, 13 complete games, 2 shutouts and 202 K’s.

File this under “It was a different time…”:  Despite his 23 wins, Coleman didn’t get any Cy Young votes.  He did finish 23rd in the MVP voting, though.

Best Relief Pitcher
John Hiller went 10-5, 1.44 with 38 saves.  He had 124 K’s in 125.1 innings pitched.

Hiller finished 4th in Cy Young voting… By the way, this happened after Hiller suffered a heart attack at the age of 28.  I wrote about John Hiller a couple of years ago, if you want to know more.

Best Offensive Player
This team was not an offensive juggernaut.  There was nobody who stood out in this category so I’m going to go with Willie Horton who was an All-Star, lead the team with a .316 batting average and had 17 homers and 53 RBI.  Arguments could also be made for Norm Cash and Mickey Stanley.

Best on-field photo; Favorite card
Without a doubt:

The Yankees’ Celerino Sanchez evades Bill Freehan’s tag… I’m guessing I’m not the first person to try to figure this play out, but I believe it’s from August 8th, 1972.   In the bottom of the 4th the was game tied 1-1, Mickey Lolich on the mound, one out and Felipe Alou had singled. Sanchez was hit by a pitch, moving Alou to 2nd.  Ron Swoboda singled, scoring Alou and sending Sanchez to 2nd base.  Gene “Stick” Michael flied out to right and then pitcher (and Shlabotnik favorite) Fritz Peterson – FRITZ!!! – singled, but the throw from left fielder Willie Horton nailed Sanchez at the plate.

Best Name
Aurelio Rodriguez

Best (relatively speaking) Rookie Card
There are three rookie cards in this team set. All three feature pitchers. None of them had a long or ourstanding careers. I ruled out Bob Strampe from consideration (he shared a “Rookie Pitchers” card with Jesse Jefferson and Dennis O’Toole), but I couldn’t decide between the other two, so I decided to just feature them both.

As I was finishing this post I discovered two things about Bill Slayback which would’ve put him over the top from the start, had I only realized…

First off, Slayback no-hit the Yankees through 7 innings in his 1972 Major League debut.  Johnny Callison led off the 8th inning with a single, which broke up the No-No, but Slayback would get the win (and Seelbach got the Save).

The other thing which really floored me was that Bill Slayback wrote a song with Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, Slayback would record that song… and it’s a song I know!  …Although, to be fair, it’s a song I know from a CD called “Baseball’s Greatest Hits”… but still!

And now we have a long-distance dedication… Here’s Bill Slayback with “Move Over Babe (Here Comes Henry)”

I’ve got another music-related comment about Bill Slayback that I’ll save for the end of the post.

Best Cartoon #1

Here’s another MLB debut of note… On April 11th, 1963, Chris Zachary came in to pitch the 9th for the Houston Colt .45’s against the San Francisco Giants.  With the Colts down 4-1, Zachary walked Willie Mays, gave up a single to Willie McCovey (sending Mays to third) and then gave up a 3-run homer to Orlando Cepeda.  A rough debut for sure… but then Zachary settled down and got Tom Haller, Felipe Alou and Jose Pagan to get out of the inning.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I have to mention it:  The awesomely-named Conrad Cardinal also made his MLB debut in that game, pitching the 6th, 7th and 8th for the Colts.  Cardinal’s entire MLB career consisted of 6 games in 1963 with Houston, so Cardinal never pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Even more sad:  His only baseball card, a 1963 Rookie Stars card shared with Dave McNally, Don Rowe and Ken Rowe, lists him as Randy Cardinal.  Bummer.

Best Cartoon #2

Best Cartoon #3

Best Cartoon #4


James Brown had a song in 1973 called “The Payback”, and when I look at Bill Slayback’s card I hear James Brown singing “Gotta get ready for the Bill Slayback!” I’d have to think that somebody on the team gave him grief over that.

I don’t know karate, but I know ca-razy!
(Some of the lyrics found on the internet say “…But I know ka-razor”.  Really?  “Ka-razor”????  NEVER trust internet lyrics.)

Cherry-Picking The 30-Day Challenge: A Card I Spent More Than $10 On

A little over a year ago I got this card in a COMC shipment:

Nice little card, right?  A pretty decent addition to one’s collection, plus it completed my 1973 Topps set.

I’ve been meaning to write about it since I got it… No, wait, strike that;  it’s not entirely true.  I’ve written plenty about it, I just never finished a post… Until now.

I’d been keeping an eye out for this card on-and-off for 40 years.  The basic issue all along has been finding one that fits within my “hobby budget”.

I say “budget”, but it’s more involved than what I can or can’t afford.  A large part of it involves an understanding of how much joy a purchase will bring me.  Generally speaking, I usually get much more joy from four $5 cards than I would from one $20 card.

There’s also fear involved…  Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I was instilled with a healthy dose of cynicism and caution.  There’s always the fear that I’ll unwittingly spend $50 on a card that turns out to be fake.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to say that when my 1973 Topps set got to 659 cards, I took some time, meditated on it for a while, and came to the conclusion that acquiring card #615 was almost completely about completing the set.  The fact that it is Mike Schmidt’s rookie card is fun, but honestly doesn’t carry much weight for me.

I decided that the amount of satisfaction I would get out of having 660 cards instead of 659 would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-$25.  If this was a realistic goal, fantastic.  If not… Oh well.  My life will go on and I’ll spend my money on cool cards from other sets.

Condition was never an issue.  I didn’t care if it was creased, dog-eared, gum-stained, miscut and pulled out of a scrapbook into which it had been glued down.  I didn’t care if someone had drawn glasses, a beard and Martian antennae drawn on Ron Cey.  I’m not even sure I cared if Mike Schmidt was the one with blue ballpoint facial hair.

I mean, come on.  My copy of card #1 in the set looks like this:

Obviously, I’m not a stickler for condition.  I originally told myself that I was going to upgrade this card at some point, but I’ve actually become kinda attached to this mangled bit of cardboard.  As Charlie Brown would say “This card needs me”.

Anyway, back to the rookie card…. I mentioned my hoped-for price range to a couple of dealers I’m friendly with.  Because of the relationship we already had, they didn’t laugh in my face and call me delusional.  Instead the merely cautioned me not to get my hopes up.

One weekday morning I was poking through my RSS reader to see if anything I’d been looking for had entered COMC’s inventory.  As usual, going down the list resulted in nothing, nothing nothing… until I got to the bottom of the page where the entry for 1973 Topps #615 was.  There was a new one in lesser condition that showed up overnight…  let’s take a look at what they want for it.

They have it on sale for $21.45?

And I froze up as if the entire world were buffering.

…and my brain stayed frozen for a few moments, until the rational part of my brain rebooted,  whacked me upside the head and said “Joe!  JOE!  Snap out of it!  This is EXACTLY what you’ve been looking for!  Don’t let someone else buy it out from under you!  Click on “Buy Now”!  Click on it!  Click!  Click!  ClickClickClickCLICKCLICKCLICK!!!!!!!”

And I clicked on the “Buy Now” button.

Well, OK, first I examined the COMC images as closely as I could to make sure that the card looked legit.  THEN I clicked on “Buy Now”.

And I confirmed the purchase.

And the card was sitting in my inventory.

And I wasn’t ecstatic.  I wasn’t euphoric.  I didn’t walk around all day with a big smile on my face.

I was stunned.  I went to work in a state of disbelief.  During the day, I checked my email to make sure that nobody at COMC said “Sorry, it was all a big mistake, we’re refunding your money”.

When I got home, I double-checked my “Ready To Ship” inventory to see if the card were truly there and I didn’t imagine it.

When I got the card shipped from COMC, I examined it as best I could, still wondering if it might be a counterfeit.  As someone who’s handled 1973 cards for 40+ years, I’m pretty confident that this card is legit, but if anyone wants to point me towards any resources on how to spot a counterfeit Schmidt rookie, I’ll try to be open-minded.

So once I got this valuable card, this key part of the 1973 set, what did I do with it?

Hell yeah, I put it in the binder with the rest of my set.

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.

PWE Playhouse: One PWE, Two PWEs, Who Knows

I’ve been so bad at sharing the PWE’s I’ve received from Shoebox Legends that I honestly don’t know which of these scanned images came from the latest PWE and which came from the one before that… I guess it doesn’t matter, I’m still very appreciative of the cards I received… and as usual I need to reciprocate… I think. Probably. I’ve been a little disorganized lately. OK, a lot.

But not too disorganized to use my new “PWE Playhouse” artwork…
PWE Playhouse

Studio was a hit or miss set for me, fortunately 2004 falls into one of the “hit” years. And it’s a newly-minted HOFer to boot!
2004 Studio Mike Piazza
I know that’s the Empire State Building on the right; I feel like I should know what the tall building on the left is.

Buddy Carlyle is one of those middle relievers that almost never gets on a card, so was happy to receive this “Pride and Perseverance” card. I believe that Carlyle’s previous cardboard appearance was in 2009 Upper Deck.
2015 Topps Update Pride And Perseverance Buddy Carlyle
2009 was also the year that Buddy Carlyle was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which is why he’s featured in this insert set. Not technically part of the team set since it’s an insert, but one I am very happy to have.

Former Oriole Jason Johnson is also diabetic, and was the first player to wear an insulin pump on the field.
2015 Topps Update Pride And Perseverance Jason Johnson

Another 2015 insert I’m really enjoying is the Rookie Sensation set. I tried to count my Cal Ripken PC to see what this card brings the total up to, but I started to lose count somewhere north of 300. Let’s call this card #307, that’s close enough for government work.
2015 Topps Update Rooke Sensations Cal Ripken
The Cal PC is sort of driven by Mrs. Shlabotnik; she enjoys seeing new cards I pick up, but she never looks at the Cal binder I have set up. Not a big deal, I like both players and player collections are fun, no matter what the motivation.

Doc Gooden is a player I would be collecting regardless of my marital status. And this is a fine looking example of Doctor K cardboard.
2015 Topps Update Rooke Sensations Dwight Gooden

I am ThisClose to finishing my 1973 set, so this card wasn’t technically a need…
1973 Topps John Milner
…but much of my 73T set is in fairly rough shape, so this was a much-appreciated upgrade of “The Hammer”.

The rest of this post is taken up by cards from insert sets and subsets I hadn’t been aware of. First off is a 1997 Fleer Ultra Rookie Reflections insert of Rey Ordonez.
1997 Fleer Ultra Rookie Reflections Rey Ordonez

Rey Ordonez was a good-glove, no-hit shortstop that I always enjoyed watching… And he’s one of three Mets to wear #0 (along with Omar Quintanilla and Terry McDaniel).

Next up is a die-cut team checklist featuring Todd Hundley from 1998 Pacific Paramount.
1998 Pacific Paramount Team Checklist Todd Hundley
It’s kind of odd to have a die-cut subset within a non-die-cut base set, but that’s Pacific for you. Pacific did some odd things sometimes, but I miss them despite/because of that.

Another Piazza, this one from the 1999 Upper Deck 10th Anniversary insert set.
1999 Upper Deck 10th Anniversary Team Mike Piazza
Can’t think of  much to say about this.  Piazza.  Yay!

This card is a 2000 Upper Deck “Second Season Standout” card of Edgardo Alfonzo.
2000 UD MVP Second Season Standouts Edgardo Alfonzo
Fonzie’s second season was in 1996, so I’m not sure what the point of this subset is, but it’s all good, it’s a nice-looking card of an underrated Met.

So that wraps up my PWE… or PWE and a half… whichever.

Thanks so much, Shane! Hope you survived the snow!

The Impressive Comeback By John Hiller

A while ago a co-worker was telling me about an MLB Network show he’d seen about the 9 best seasons by a reliever. He said that one of the top seasons was by a Tigers reliever in the 1970’s, but he couldn’t remember the guy’s name. It took a little research to figure out he meant John Hiller, and the more I dug into his story, the more interested I got.

1973 Topps John Hiller

John Hiller is from Toronto, and made his Major League debut in September, 1965. He’d always primarily been a reliever, but also did his fair share of starts; in August 1967, he threw back-to-back shutouts. Over the course of that season, he had 5 times as many strikeouts as walks.

In 1968, he set a big league record when he struck out the first six batters in a game against the Indians, and a couple of weeks later he hurled a one-hit shutout against the White Sox. In another game that year, he pitched 9 shutout innings in relief.  He wrapped up 1968 with two appearances in the World Series against the Cardinals.

On the last day of the 1970 season, he threw a two-hitter and struck out seven straight Indians.

…and this is where it really gets interesting…

On January 11, 1971, at the age of 28, Hiller suffered three heart attacks which kept him out of baseball for a year and a half. After the heart attacks he was told that his career was over, and based on that diagnosis the Tigers released him.

Hiller didn’t let others determine when his career would be over, and by the summer of 1972 he made his way back to the Tigers. As if coming back from a heart attack wasn’t impressive enough , he would win Game 4 of the 1972 ALCS against the A’s.

1974 Topps Leading Firemen
1973 would be a career year for Hiller. He set a Major League record (at the time) with 38 saves, won the AL Fireman Of The Year, the AL Comeback Player Of The Year, and finished 4th in MVP and Cy Young voting. He also got 10 wins and lead the A.L. with 65 appearances.

In 1974, he had 17 relief wins, 13 saves and was an All-Star.

In 1975, he had 15 saves before an injury ended his season.

In the following five seasons, he got 44 saves and 34 wins, and retired during the 1980 season.

Hiller was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

1975 Topps John Hiller

Loria Purchases Mets, Holds Fire Sale, Moves Team To Sacramento

What would it take for me to stop being a Mets fan?

I started thinking about that after two other blogs made me think “If I weren’t a Mets fan, I could definitely see myself as a fan of the blanks“.

Wrigley Wax showed off 60 years of Cubs programs that got me thinking about the North Siders…

…and Tru School Sports got me thinking about the Rays.

Before I get into the teams I might get behind if I were no longer a fan of the Mets (or Orioles), I’m going to speculate what it would take to get me to stop being a Mets fan.

Some people would stop being a fan if their team left town, but I left town first and I live several hundred miles away, so that’s not really a factor.  I suppose if they moved out to the West Coast then games would start late at night for this East Coast boy, and I’d also have fewer chances to see them as the road team.  Sacramento is the largest west coast market without an MLB team, so I’ll pick on them for this exercise.

The Wilpons are not the greatest owners on the face of this Earth, but there’s always the “At least the Mets aren’t owned by Jeffrey Loria” factor… especially if the team holds a Marlins-style fire sale as part of the process.  Barring a clone of the late George Steinbrenner, this would be my greatest ownership fear.

Another nail in the coffin would be to get the uniforms designed by whomever it is at Nike who comes up with those constantly changing but unerringly fugly Oregon Ducks football uniforms.  I’m thinking black, silver, midnight green and blood red uniforms with chrome helmets.

Finally, to really drive me away, they’d have to pick some gimmicky name for the team like the SacTown RivvaHawkzz Of Sacramento.

OK, that was a lot of setup, let’s get to the main point… Which teams could I see myself being a fan of?

1)  Chicago Cubs
I gravitate towards underdogs, and from an underdog standpoint, are the Cubs really that much different from the Mets?

However, that’s not what makes me think it would be fun to be a Cubs fan.  It seems like the Cubs have always had a good relationship with their dedicated fanbase… Even if the on-field product is weak, they know how to treat the people who ultimately pay the bills.

1972 Topps Don Kessinger

There’s also those abso-freakin’-lutely beautiful program covers the Cubs had for three decades.

Not to mention Wrigley Field, known here as “Cadaco All-Star Baseball Field”.
Cadaco All Star Baseball

2)  Tampa Bay Rays

1979 Joe Maddon

I’ve mentioned that I like underdogs… So tell me what other team can, within the past 5 years,  have 5 straight winning seasons, play in a World Series, win the division twice and despite all that, still be underdogs?  Besides that, I just like the way they do business… They play the game right, run the team right, treat their few fans well.  What’s not to like?

3)  Minnesota Twins
1980 Topps Geoff Zahn

I’ve never been to Minnesota, but over the years it seems like a lot of players have taken less money to sign with the Twins, and that makes me think it must be a nice place to play… Plus I love the “TC” caps.

4)  Pittsburgh Pirates
1972 Topps Milt May
I’ve mentioned here numerous times before that I have a sort of mini-crush on the Pirates going back to childhood… And since I’m a Steelers fan, it wouldn’t be a stretch to switch to another Pittsburgh team… and unlike Minnesota, I’ve been to Pittsburgh.  Well, OK, fine… I drove through Pittsburgh.  Squirrel Hill Tunnel, baby!

5)  San Francisco Giants
1973 Topps Chris Speier

When I lived on Long Island, people would sometimes ask me what team I would’ve been a fan of had the Dodgers and Giants not left for the West Coast.  My answer has always been the Giants, mainly because my mother had been a Giants fan back in the day, and I just couldn’t picture myself as a Yankees or Dodgers fan.  It’s probably academic, because if the Dodgers & Giants hadn’t left town together, it was pretty likely that the Giants would’ve left by themselves, maybe to Minneapolis where their top farm team was in the 1950’s.  At any rate, I feel a tiny, tiny little connection to the Giants.

Honorable Mention:  I have friends who are fans of these teams, and through those friends I’ve seen the appeal of following these teams (in order by city):  Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays

So, what about you?  What would it take for you to stop cheering for your current team? If your team were to suddenly become the SacTown RivvaHawkzz or the Buffalo Snow, what would you do?

On The Threshold Of Complete

Two of my goals for 2012 are to complete two sets I’d started collecting back in the 1970’s: 1973 Topps baseball and 1975 Topps football.

My latest attempt to complete these sets came when COMC had their Black Friday promotion. In both cases I made progress, but didn’t QUITE get to my goal… at this point, it looks like these goals will carry over to 2013.

For 1975 Football, I needed two cards. I found the first card I needed at a price and condition I could get behind:
1975 Topps Football Cliff Branch

When I decided to complete the set a couple of years ago, this rookie card was one of the costliest needs on my list (the Dan Fouts rookie was at the top). It took a while to find one within my (low) budget, and I’m very happy to be able to cross this one off the list.

However, when I went looking for the other card I need, the only one available was from someone whose asking price was book. I thought about buying it just to complete the set…

…But there’s just one thing, you see…
buy nothin’
at book price.

Since I wanted to be like a shark and keep moving through the COMC waters – and to be honest, it’s taken me 37 years to get this far and I can wait another couple of months – I passed that card by without making an offer. Let that be a lesson to you, Mr. Book Value Guy.

Just like with 1975 Football, I went into Black Friday needing just a couple of cards for 1973 baseball. One of the three is the Schmidt rookie, and I’m trying to find a well-loved copy that I can get in the general $20 area. I didn’t expect to find a card like that on COMC, and I didn’t.

The third-most-wanted 1973 card is a checklist, and even though I’m not particular about condition or whether it’s been used as a checklist, this card has eluded me. COMC was no exception, but I’m not going to sweat it too much, since I’m sure I’ll find a copy of that before I find “The Perfectly Imperfect Schmidt”.

Ah, but the third card I needed is one I got in my COMC shipment… The Dwight Evans/Al Bumbry/Charlie Spikes rookie card, which I got in decent condition for $5.
1973 Topps Bumbry Evans Spikes

I have to say, it might be more fun when the final cards come one at a time… I’m enjoying the anticipation and the sense of the hunt.

I did complete some 1970’s Steelers team sets, but given that I’m already running late for work, those will have to wait for another day.