1976 SSPC: Mike Torrez, Bob Montgomery, Fernando Arroyo

Here’s another in the sporadic series about the 1976 SSPC set…

Mike Torrez had 20 wins in 1975 while also leading the league with 133 walks. According to his baseball-reference.com bio, he’s the last pitcher to win 20 games while walking more batters than he struck out.

Despite the fact that all of his 1976 cards show him with the O’s, he pitched for the A’s in 1976, swapping teams in the famous Reggie Jackson / Don Baylor deal. Torrez spent only one season with Baltimore, having come from Montreal in a trade for Dave McNally.


Before I get into this card, I want to point something out:  Right by Bob Montgomery’s hands you can see a Yankees logo on the Shea Stadium scoreboard. This was the matter of some discussion on a recent Night Owl blog post which briefly discussed the Yankees taking up residence in Shea Stadium in 1974 and 1975.

Montgomery was such a mainstay with the Red Sox that I was a bit surprised to find that he never played more than 88 games in a season… but that’s largely because he played behind Carlton Fisk for most of his career.  In some circles he’s best known as the last player to bat without a helmet.


Fernando Arroyo pitched for 3 different teams over 121 appearances and 8 seasons, but the only season where he had a winning record was his 2-1 rookie season of 1975.  Despite this, he had 12 complete games and 2 shutouts.  For some reason his SSPC card refers to him as “Fred”, even where other players have their full name listed.

Arroyo would spend all of 1976 in AAA Evansville.  Evansville, IN had a AAA team through the 1970’s, but have been out of affiliated baseball since 1984.  Since 1995 the city has been represented by the independent Frontier League’s Evansville Otters.


Shea-o-meter:
Montgomery is definitely at Shea;  Arroyo goes under “pretty sure”;  Torrez falls in the “Can’t tell” category.
Shea: 82
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 15
Can’t tell: 23
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
None of these three are excessively Seventies-looking.  I’m going to file Arroyo under “Long Hair”.
Total Cards: 128
1970’s Sideburns: 73
Fu Manchu: 5
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 40
Afro: 2
Perm: 3
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 32

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1976 SSPC: Mike Tyson (No, Not That One), Dale Murray & Steve Stone

From when I was a kid and up until I was in my 20’s, when you spoke of “Mike Tyson”, you meant this guy.

“The Original Mike Tyson” was a middle infielder with the Cardinals and Cubs from 1972 to 1981, and he was a starter in many of those seasons.  I think Mike has a pre-production sample of “Big League Chew” stuffed in his cheek.


Dale Murray pitched in 518 games over his 12 year career, and started just one of those (more on this in a bit).  In 1975 he went 15-8 as a reliever… I don’t know what that says about him or the 1975 Expos.  Murray pitched for both Canadian teams (Expos and Blue Jays) and both New York teams (Mets and Yankees).

Murray lead the Majors by pitching in 81 games in 1976;  that ties him with a bunch of other pitchers for 74th best all-time.

His one and only start came while pitching for the Reds on July 28th, 1977.  The Reds scored 6 runs before Murray took the mound, but he pitched 1+ innings and gave up 6 runs, including home runs to Bill Buckner, Bobby Murcer and George Mitterwald, and doubles to Ivan deJesus and opposing pitcher Ray Burris.  Burris would also have a bad start, giving up 8 runs in 2+ innings.  The Cubs would win 16-15 in 13 innings; the two teams would combine for 43 hits.

One of these days I’m going to cave in and just admit that I’m looking to collect any card which shows a player in the Expos’ tri-colored cap (which they wore from 1969 to 1991).


Steve Stone is looking very Seventies on this card.

He’s probably best known as a broadcaster with the Cubs and White Sox, but he won the A.L. Cy Young Award as he went 25-7, 3.23 with the Orioles in 1980.


Shea-o-meter:
Tyson and Stone are probably both in Shea, but it’s not like anything I decide would hold up in a court of law.  I’m declaring those two “Can’t Tell” and the Dale Murray Card as “Shea”.
Shea: 81
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 14
Can’t tell: 22
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
Steve Stone seems to have pretty wavy hair based on his later cards, but I’m going to go ahead and declare this a perm.
Total Cards: 125
1970’s Sideburns: 73
Fu Manchu: 5
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 40
Afro: 2
Perm: 3
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 31

1976 SSPC: Carew, Cardenas & Currence

I’m overdue for another batch of 1976 SSPC cards… I’ll start with HOFer Rod Carew. I’ll let you write your own caption to this picture, because I made several attempts and figuratively crumpled and tossed each one into the trash.

1976 was Carew’s first season as the Twins’ first baseman, and while he did make the All-Star team, 1976 was the only season between 1972 and 1978 that Carew didn’t lead the league in batting average… Carew batted .331, Hal McRae batted .332 and George Brett batted .333.  Carew also didn’t lead the league in hits, OBP or any other major category that he was known for;  it says a lot that batting .331 with 200 hits, 90 RBI and 97 runs could be argued to have been an off year.

Leo “Chico” Cardenas is a player who often gets overlooked when people talk about the 1960’s or 1970’s. Over his 16-year career primarily as a shortstop, he won a Gold Glove, was a five-time All-Star and got MVP votes in a number of seasons.

Cardenas would be released by the Rangers at the end of Spring Training in 1976, and that would be the end of his career.

I’d just mentioned Lafayette Currence (and his awesome name) in a post last week. He started his career in promising fashion, getting Brooks Robinson to pop out to right, Mark Belanger to ground out and Ken Singleton to strike out in a 1-2-3 ninth inning of a game the O’s won 10-5.

Unfortunately, that was the highlight of his career; he’d struggle through many of his 8 appearances in 1975 and wouldn’t appear in the Majors again.

Shea-o-meter:
Carew and Cardenas are definitely Shea; Currence looks like Shea, but as dark as it is I’m hesitant to commit 100%
Shea: 80
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 14
Can’t tell: 20
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
This post features two sets of sideburns and a mustache.
Total Cards: 122
1970’s Sideburns: 71
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 39
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 30

1976 SSPC: Bill Gogolewski, Bob Stinson And Billy Smith

Bill Gogolewski is from Oshkosh, WI (b’gosh!) and pitched 19 games of relief in 1975 to finish his pitching career.  Before that, he pitched six seasons, mainly for the Senators/Rangers, and bbref.com lists his main accomplishment as a 1-hitter he pitched against Nolan Ryan and the Angels in 1972.  This SSPC card was his final baseball card, and I just like the shot of him doing a fake pitching pose with all those people behind him.

Gogolewski’s grooming habits are unusual for the mid 1970’s….  Short hair?  Clean shaven?  If it weren’t for the powder blue Chisox unis, you’d be hard-pressed to identify this as a 1970’s photo.  I think the player wearing #22 behind him might be Buddy Bradford, but Jerry Hairston Sr. also wore #22 during part of 1975.  Any input from someone more familiar with either/both of those players?

Bob Stinson was a backup catcher for the Royals in 1975 and 1976.  Although I would never advocate the chaw in his cheek, I like the 1970’s of it… and by the way, you can tell from the twin light towers, the blurry parking lot light pole and outfield dimensions  just about his shoulders that this is, in fact, Shea Stadium.

Bob Stinson’s first three baseball cards – all “Rookie Stars” cards – showed him with three different teams, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros, and he had short stints with all three teams.  It wasn’t until he was with the Expos in 1973 that he exceeded 100 plate appearances, and he didn’t become a starter until he was an original Seattle Mariner.

“Billy Smith” makes me think of the New York Islanders goalie of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  This Billy Smith started with the Angels – this is his only card with that team – and became a regular for the 1977 Orioles.

He’d play two more seasons for the O’s, play in the minors and then made a brief appearance with the Giants in 1981.

Here’s the Billy Smith I’m more familiar with… This is a recent dimebox acquisition from 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee Hockey:

Shea-o-meter:
All three of these SSPC cards were photographed at Shea.  (The OPC Hockey card was not.)
Shea: 78
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
Total Cards: 119
1970’s Sideburns: 69
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 38
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 30

1976 SSPC: Chris Arnold, Mike Ivie, Andy Messersmith

This SSPC post features players from the Giants, Padres and Dodgers, giving a California flair to the proceedings…

1976 was Chris Arnold’s last year in the Majors, and his stats for that year momentarily threw me for a loop. The first thing I noticed was that he’s listed as playing every infield position… Then I noticed that he appeared in 60 games, but played 8 at 2nd, 4 at 3rd, 1 at 1st and 1 at short. Then I went back and noticed 76 plate appearances in 60 games… so…  pinch hitter? With a .276 OBP?

The Giants released Chris Arnold early in 1977 and he signed with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Pacific League in Japan. It so happens that I have his card from the 1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball set, so it’s “bonus coverage” time.

BTW, the card is misscanned, not miscut.


Mike Ivie was a high school catcher who was drafted 1st overall in 1970.  While he wasn’t the superstar one hopes for with the first overall pick, he was a solid player for 5 seasons, and he appeared in 11 seasons overall.

In 1976, Ivie lead the team with a .291 average and 70 RBI.

Check out the entire first round in that June 1970 draft;  there’s very little in the way of “star power”, with one exception: Mike Ivie, Steve Dunning, Barry Foote, Darrell Porter (the exception), Mike Martin, Lee Richard, Randy Scarbery, Rex Goodson, Jim Haller, Paul Dade, Jim Browning, Dave Cheadle, John Bedard, Chip Maxwell, Gary Polczynski, Jimmie Hacker, John D’Acquisto, Dan Ford, Gene Hiser, Terry Mappin, Ron Broaddus, Bob Gorinski, George Ambrow, James West.

Yikes.


Andy Messersmith is probably best known these days as a pioneer of free agency, but he was a two-time 20 game winner, a four-time all-star, a two-time gold-glover and in 1975 he got 19 wins while leading the league in Complete games and shutouts in 1975.

Messersmith signed a 3-year, $1 Million contract with the Braves before the 1976 season, and while he did make the all-star team for a fourth and final time, his numbers were down across the board, finishing the season 11-11, 3.04 (to be fair, the ’76 Braves lost 92 games).  Messersmith was also part of the late 1972 Angels/Dodgers trade that involved Frank Robinson, Bobby Valentine and four other players.

Although Messersmith looks a little uncomfortable with the bat on this card, he did bat .240 in 1974 and went 2-for-4 in that year’s World Series.

Shea-o-meter:
All three are at Shea.
Shea: 75
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
Total Cards: 116
1970’s Sideburns: 67
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 37
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 29

1976 SSPC: Phil & Joe Niekro, Tony Perez

Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro was only 37 in 1976.  For anyone else, that would come across as trying to be funny, but Phil was still over a decade from throwing his last knuckleball.

Phil went 17-11 with a 3.29 ERA… and that’s for a Braves team that lost 92 games.  According to baseball-reference.com, he was the last active player who had been born in the 1930’s, the last active player to have played for the Milwaukee Braves, and the last pitcher to win 20 and lose 20 in the same season.  In that 1979 season, Phil Niekro went 21-20 and lead the league in games started (44), complete games (23) and innings pitched (342.0).

For what it’s worth, when I got this Phil Niekro card off of COMC, it completed my Braves team set.  The only other complete team set I have from 1976 SSPC is the Orioles, and I bought that as a team set on eBay (The original lot I bought had no Orioles in it).

Phil’s brother Joe was only 31 in 1976, and went 4-8, 3.36 for his Astros team.  In that same 1979 season where Phil Niekro went 21-20, Joe went 21-11.  I’d have to think that’s a record for wins by brothers and decisions by brothers in a single season, but you never know.

I never knew that Joe Niekro was a first-year Padre.  He started 1969 with the Cubs, and appeared on his 1969 Topps card as a Cub.  On April 26th, 1969, he was traded to the Padres in a deal for Dick Selma.  That December, the Padres traded him to the Tigers, and it is as a capless Tiger that he’s shown on his 1970 Topps card.

Hall-of-Famer Tony Perez didn’t win 20 games at any point, and never played for the Padres, but he was an All-Star in 1976 and helped The Big Red Machine become World Champions in 1976 before being traded to Montreal for 1977.

I love the composition of this photo… it’s not unusual to see a player fake-swinging with the end of the bat up in the camera, but fake-bunting?  It’s not something one sees often.

Shea-o-meter:
All three are at Shea.
Shea: 72
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
The Niekro Brothers have the sideburns going for them.
Total Cards: 113
1970’s Sideburns: 65
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 36
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 27

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…

Shea-o-meter:
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.