A Thwarted Comment, And I Didn’t Want To Waste The Time Spent Researching The 1976 Topps Mets Team Card

On Monday, Brian from “Highly Subjective And Completely Arbitrary” posted a very interesting unopened (or was it?) pack of 1976 Topps, and after sharing a Mets team card he pulled, he pointed out Willie Mays on the bottom right and said “I’m guessing this team photo wasn’t taken in 1975.”

Well, I got intrigued, started researching and wrote a long comment on his blog only to find that….

GAAAAHHH!!!!

The only commenting option is “Google Account”!!!

I don’t *HAVE* a Google Account!

To paraphrase Barbara Billingsley from the movie Airplane!, “Chump don’t want no comment, chump don’t GET da comment.”

(Kidding aside, there were new internet privacy laws that kicked in at the end of May which affected a lot of default settings, so all bloggers should check to make sure your blog allows for comments without a Google account.  The More You Know.  TSR Cares.  And so on)

At that point I’d already put a good 15-20 minutes worth of research into it, so I decided to make a quick post out of it.

You see, I think the photo *is* from 1975, although not from spring training of 1975 since it doesn’t match what’s in my 1975 Mets yearbook.

So you’ve got Yogi Berra near the front and in the center;  Yogi took over before the 1972 season (after Gil Hodges’ fatal heart attack), and was fired late in the 1975 season.

Willie Mays is sitting up front because he stayed on as one of of Yogi’s coaches after his final season as a player (1973).

I believe this is Jesus Alou (back row, third from left) and his only season with the Mets was 1975.  Alou joined the Mets on 4/12/75 and was released at the end of 1976 spring training.  He wore #23 while with the team.

Here’s Alou on his 1976 card.

In the second row on the far left is a dark-skinned gentleman with muttonchop sideburns;  I believe this is Gene Clines, who wore #1 and played for the Mets only during the 1975 season.

Over on the right we have two players wearing #5 and #9;  they look like Mike Phillips and Joe Torre (#9).

Torre was acquired after the 1974 season (you may remember his airbrushed 1975 card).  Phillips was picked up from the Giants on waivers on 5/3/75,  here’s his 1976 SSPC card (my copy was autographed with a not-great pen).

So, in conclusion I believe that this is a mid-season team photo from 1975, possibly used in the “Revised” version of the yearbook (which I don’t have).

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Card #179 from 1974 to 1978 Topps

Today is the 179th day of 2018.

1974 through 1978 are the first five sets I collected (and among the first I completed).

Combining them together allows me to revisit cards from my early days of collecting.

1974 Topps #179 – YOGI BERRA AND HIS COACHING STAFF

This is the first Mets coaching staff I was ever aware of, and also the one which had the biggest impact on my collecting goals. Rube Walker, Eddie Yost and Joe Pignatano All came to the Mets as part of Gil Hodges’ coaching staff in 1968;  Roy McMillan joined in 1973.  I have modest player collections of everybody on this card… less so for Yogi only because his vintage cards are quite a bit pricier.

Yost and McMillan would coach with the Mets through 1976; Walker and Pignatano through 1981.

1975 Topps #179 – TOM BRADLEY

Bradley was a solid pitcher for the White Sox and had a couple of seasons where he won 15 games and struck out over 200 batters. He tailed off after a certain point, possibly due to overuse stemming from Chisox manager Chuck Tanner’s experimentation with a 3-man pitching rotation.

I had a small epiphany regarding Tom Bradley; forgive my small side-trip in explaining…

In early 1986, Joe Jackson came out with his “Big World” album. Coinciding with the release of the new album, the Alternative Rock station I listened to at the time played a bunch of his older songs. That was when I came to realize that the guy who had new songs like “Wild West” and “Right And Wrong” was the same guy who did “Is She Really Going Out With Him”, “It’s Different For Girls”, “You Can’t Get What You Want”, “Breaking Us In Two” and “Sunday Papers”… I’d just never put the pieces together before that. After that realization I became a JJ fan.

For me, Tom Bradley was the baseball version of that. In writing this up I realized that I have all of his Topps cards from 1972 to 1976 (I still need his 1971 rookie card), but for some reason never mentally put them all together as the same guy’s baseball cards.

1976 Topps #179 – GEORGE FOSTER

Foster finished second to teammate Joe Morgan in the 1976 MVP voting, and would be the MVP in 1977. One of these days I should make an all-star team of big name players who the Mets acquired after their prime. I think George Foster is the left fielder on that team… although he wasn’t bad for the Mets, just in his 30’s and exposed in the batting order.

1977 Topps #179 – PAUL HARTZELL

This is the rookie card for Paul Hartzell, who played four full seasons for the Angels & Twins and parts of two others with the Orioles and Brewers. He was one of four players the Angels sent to the Twins for Rod Carew.

I pulled this card out of the 9-pocket sheet and the first words out of my mouth were “Wow, I’ve got to upgrade this thing”.  While the creases readily show up in the scan, it’s also got water damage like it had been rescued from a puddle.  I’m normally pretty passive about upgrading my childhood cards, swapping them out only if I happened to come across something significantly better, but I’m starting to look at some of these and thinking “Man, that is ugly”.  I’m going to put a little more effort into upgrading the cards which are truly “Poor”.

1978 Topps #179 – DICK TIDROW

Dick Tidrow began as a starter and would be a reliever on two Yankees World Champion teams in 1977 and 1978. He’s currently with the San Francisco Giants as the “Senior Vice President, Player Personnel and Senior Advisor to the General Manager”.

Something I hadn’t known before: Dick Tidrow was the 1972 Sporting News Rookie Pitcher Of The Year… that came while he was a starting pitcher with the Indians.

Something else I hadn’t known before: Tidrow is one of a handful of players who have played for the Mets and Yankees AND Cubs and White Sox. Tidrow pitched 11 games for the Mets in 1984 before being released (and thus ending his MLB career).

Tidrow’s time with the Mets came after his last baseball cards (which showed him with the White Sox), so “Dick Tidrow as a Met” gets added to my “someday I’ll make a custom of this” list.

Fast Five: Card #135 from 1974 to 1978 Topps

Today is the 135th day of 2018; hence, card #135.

1974 Topps #135 – Roy White
Like with most in-game shots, I really liked this card as a kid.  Roy White seems like such a classy guy that he’s exempt from any Yankee-hating activities.

1975 Topps #135 – Charlie Spikes
I remember getting Charlie Spikes’ 1974 card as part of a panel stapled into Scholastic’s Dynamite Magazine… Possibly the first issue (which I really need to find and feature here). I thought Charlie Spikes was a cool name.  The replica signature is of his full name, Leslie Charles Spikes.

1976 Topps #135 – Bake McBride
Bake McBride made his only All-Star team in 1976, but he didn’t appear in the game.

I’ve always liked the red and green combo on the 1976 Cardinals cards

1977 Topps #135 – Mark Belanger
Like Bake McBride, Mark Belanger made his only All-Star team in 1976. Unlike McBride, Belanger got into the game, coming in to play short in the 6th inning. Belanger won 8 Gold Gloves over his 18 year career.

I completely forgot that Belanger finished his career by playing 54 games with the Dodgers.

1978 Topps #135 – Ron Guidry
“Louisiana Lightning” dominated the American League and won a Cy Young in 1978. Guidry went 25-3, 1.74 with 9 shutouts. He struck out 18 Angels on June 17, 1978, a mark which remains a team record.

Fast Five: Card #82 From 1974 To 1978 Topps

I kind of stumbled on these posts as a fun, largely mindless way to come up with a post topic and to reconnect with cards from the first five sets I collected… and this week has been crazy at work, so “fun” and “largely mindless” are what the doctor ordered.

Today is the 82nd day of 2018;  hence, card #82.

1974 Topps #82 – Dave Giusti

How’s this for an arcane fact:  There have been two Major Leaguers who went to Syracuse University and were All-Stars… and both were pitchers who didn’t start a single game during their All-Star seasons!

After spending most of the 1960’s as a starter, the Pirates converted Giusti to relieving and they were rewarded with four straight seasons with 20+ saves.  Jim Konstanty, the other relieving Orangeman, was an All-Star and the N.L. MVP with the Phillies in 1950.  He went 16-7, 2.66, and lead the Majors with 74 appearances – nearly half of his team’s 154 games – and 22 saves.

1975 Topps #82 – Pat Kelly

This Pat Kelly is the first of three Pat Kellys to play in the Majors, and one of two Morgan State University players to appear in the Majors;  the other was Dodgers pitcher (and 1952 NL Rookie of the Year) Joe Black.

1976 Topps #82 – Von Joshua

This is one of those shots that wouldn’t be impressive on a 2018 card, but was a favorite of mine in 1976.

I’ve always felt that the border colors enhanced this photo.

1977 Topps #82 – Jim Rooker

Jim Rooker started out in pro ball as an outfielder, but was converted to a pitcher before reaching the Majors.  He was a decent-hitting pitcher, batting .201 with 54 runs and 56  RBI over 668 career AB’s.

As a broadcaster with the Pirates, during a game in Philadelphia in which the Bucs took a 10-0 lead in the first, he said that he would walk home if the Pirates lost.  The Phils won 15-11, and after the season Rooker walked from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to raise money for a Children’s Hospital.

1978 Topps #82 – San Francisco Giants Team Checklist

It’s a bit hard to see on a 2.5″x3.5″ card, but the Giants are posing on a cable car!  Talk about your San Francisco Treat!

I didn’t blink at the Astroturf at the time, but now – thankfully – it’s an odd-looking sight.

The Guy Before The Guy: Trammell And Molitor

It’s been a while since I did a “Guy Before The Guy” post, so to recap the idea behind this topic… I do a little digging into retired uniform numbers and find out who the next-to-last guy to wear the number was …In other words, the guy before the guy for whom the number was retired.

This time around I thought I’d focus on two Hall-Of-Famers who share a 1978 rookie card, Alan Trammell and Paul Molitor.

Alan Trammell, Tigers, #3
Tito Fuentes wore #3 for the Tigers in 1977 but after the season his contract was sold to the Expos so Tito and his headband headed north of the border.

Side note for any musicians out there trying to find a good name for your band: You could do a lot worse than “Tito And The Headband”.

Meanwhile, Alan Trammell wore #42 during his September, 1977 callup – BOTH of his numbers are retired, ooooh — but took over #3 starting in 1978.

In one of those situations at which I scoff – SCOFF, I TELL YOU! – there had been two players who wore #3 *after* Trammell retired: Gary Sheffield and Ian Kinsler.  I suppose there could’ve been bad blood after Trammell’s managerial stint, but otherwise it doesn’t seem like his number should’ve been retired if they were willing to give it away twice.

OK, off the soapbox and on to the next number…

Paul Molitor, Brewers, #4

Mike Hegan played his second stint with the Brewers from 1974 to 1977; however, he wore #6 for most of that time.

When the Brewers signed three-time World Champion and four-time All-Star Sal Bando after the 1976 season, Hegan switched to #4 so that Bando could continue wearing #6. The Brewers released Mike Hegan in July, 1977 and nobody wore #4 until Molitor made his MLB debut on opening day of the 1978 season.

And now you know who was the guy before the guy.

BONUS CARD
I started this post back in December and the first draft included this scan of a 1976 Topps Terry Humphrey… Only I can’t remember why.

If anyone can establish a link between Trammell (or Molitor) and Humphrey… well… have at it.

Fast Five: Card #383 from 1974 to 1978 Topps

I’ve done this type of post before as a way to do a quick post that requires little thought, but also gives me a chance to revisit cards from my first five (and favorite five) baseball card sets.

I said “Requires little thought” but in truth I had to do some math…  I was going to stick to my theme of using the Julian date, but card #18 from these sets includes 2 team cards which didn’t give me much to talk about, so I extended 2017:  18 + 365 = 383.

…And it’ll actually be *six* cards when I’m done, but “Fast Six” doesn’t have the alliteration going for it.

Card #383 from 1974 Topps – Phillies Team

…and of course I start with a team card.  The 1974 Phillies went 80-82 under Danny Ozark.  The best players were Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton… I’ll leave it to someone else to find those two in the photo.

Card #383 from 1975 Topps – Jim York

Jim York was a reliever who spent most of his career splitting seasons between the Majors and AAA.

I can’t find a whole lot to say about him – sorry, Jim – other than this:  Searching on “Jim York Baseball” brings up everybody named ‘Jim’ who ever played baseball for a New York team.

Card #383 from 1976 Topps – John Ellis

John Ellis played 13 seasons in the Majors and was the Indians’ first designated hitter.  He was traded to the Rangers during the Winter Meetings in December, 1975…

…which leads to the “Bonus Card” for this post…

Card #383T from 1976 Topps Traded – John Ellis

The Topps airbrush guy got a break with this one… he basically had to change the Indians’ navy blue to the Rangers’ royal blue.  Ellis was traded for Ron Pruitt and Stan Thomas.

Card #383 from 1977 Topps – Stan Bahnsen

Stan Bahnsen was the 1968 A.L. Rookie of the Year, going 17-12, 2.05 with the Yankees that year.  Bahnsen would pitch for 16 years with 6 teams.

Bahnsen’s nickname was “The Bahnsen Burner”… I’d never heard that before, but I really like that.

The cartoon from the back of Bahnsen’s 1977 card is a bit… racier… than you’d expect on a baseball card.

All of the adolescent boys were probably thinking “Hmmm… ‘Damn Yankees’, huh?  I’ll have to check that out…”

Card #383 from 1978 Topps – Mario Mendoza

As soon as I saw this card, the first thing I wanted to know is whether Mario Mendoza hit above The Mendoza Line in 1978.

Yep, he batted .218 in 57 games.  He was traded to the Mariners for the 1979 season, played a career-high 148 games… and batted .198.  Needless to say, he was an exceptional defender.

…and after 40 years I’m still not sure how I feel about those Pirates gold and black pinstripes…

Fast Five: Card #349 from 1974 to 1978 Topps

Today is the 349th day of 2017 and I’m featuring five cards numbered 349 from 1974 through 1978 Topps. The first time I did this, the response was “crickets”… but that’s better than “sad trombone”, so I decided to give it another try.  Perhaps this time I’ll move up from “crickets” to “Whuh?”

Card #349 from 1974 Topps – John Vukovich
John Vukovich was the 10th overall draft pick in 1966, but he’d never play more than 74 games in any Major League season. While he struggled to hit above The Mendoza Line, he was a defensive standout and a favorite among fans and teammates. He spent 24 seasons in a Phillies uniform as a player and coach, and would be inducted into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame in 2007.

Card #349 from 1975 Topps – Ray Sadecki
Ray Sadecki pitched 18 years in the majors, put in two stints each with the Cardinals and Mets, won 20 games in 1964 and lost 18 in 1967. In 1966 he was traded straight up for future HOFer Orlando Cepeda.

Card #349 from 1976 Topps – Walter Johnson from the All-Time All Stars subset
Walter Johnson… What do I say about Hall-Of-Famer Walter Johnson? For a quick visual representation of how dominant a pitcher he was, go look at how his Baseball Reference page is peppered with bold “league leader” type.

Card #349 from 1977 Topps – Jim Holt
Jim Holt didn’t play in the Majors after 1976; he spent 1977 with two teams in the Mexican League, and that ended his career. Before that he played 9 seasons with the Twins and A’s, and went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI in the 1974 World Series.

Card #349 from 1978 Topps – Rick Camp
Rick Camp pitched 9 years for the Braves and his only career homer came against the Mets at 3:30am in the bottom of the 18th inning of a game which started on July 4th, 1985 and which the Braves had been losing 11-10. The Mets would score 5 runs in the top of the 19th, the Braves would score two in the bottom of the 19th and Camp took the loss. The final linescore: Mets scored 16 runs on 28 hits and 2 errors, the Braves scored 13 on 18 hits and three errors.

…Oh, and the post-game fireworks show went off as scheduled… at 4am.