US vs. Canada In The “1977 Baseball Card” Competition

It’s been a busy week and the past day or two I’ve been spending my small amounts of free time watching Olympic mixed doubles curling… So out of necessity this post is going to be relatively quick, and will involve comparing three 1977 Topps Baseball cards to their corresponding (yet different) 1977 O-Pee-Chee Baseball cards.

First off, we’ll start with the Blue Jays’ John Scott.  Scott was the Padres’ 1st round draft pick (and 2nd overall behind Chris Chambliss) in the January, 1970 draft.  In 1976 he played for the AAA Hawaii Islanders under Roy Hartsfield, who would become the Jays’ first manager… so it’s no coincidence that he was among the first players obtained by the Jays (purchased from the Padres on Oct 22, 1976).

For Topps, he shared a rookie card with Andre Dawson, Gene Richards and Denny Walling.

But since he was a Blue Jay, he got his own card in the O-Pee-Chee set.

John Scott did not play well in his only long look in the Majors, batting .240 with 26 runs, 15 RBI and 10 stolen bases.  He’d never play in MLB after 1977, but he would play in Japan for the Yakult Swallows and make his way into the 1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball set.

As long as I’m sharing John Scott cards, here’s his 1976 SSPC card from his time with the Padres.

OK, getting back to 1977…

In 1976, Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner was the starting second baseman for the Oakland A’s, and was named to the All-Star Game, backing up starter Bobby Grich.

The A’s were, at the time, cleaning house of all of the players who were likely to leave as free agents, and Garner was involved in a 9-player trade that had him going to the Pirates.

Garner’s numbers with the 1977 Pirates were similar to his numbers with the 1976 A’s, except he went from 54 runs scored to 99, and his homers more than doubled from 8 to 17.

…and how about that airbrushing job?

For the most part I’m collecting 1977 O-Pee-Chee cards which have photos which have different photos or are airbrushed, and I skip past cards which have different cropping.  This last card falls into that category, but I didn’t realize it until after I got the OPC.  Here’s the Topps card…

In 1977, Larry Parrish was 23 and in his third season as the Expos’ starting 3rd baseman.  He struggled a bit in 1976 and 1977, but would bounce back nicely in 1978 and have an All-Star season in 1979.

O-Pee-Chee cropped his photo much tighter than Topps did.

Like Phil Garner, Parrish would later manage in the Majors.  Like John Scott, Parrish would play in Japan for the Yakult Swallows (and also the Hanshin Tigers).

 

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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…

Contrast And Compare: Three From 1977 Burger King Yankees

I thought that some of you might appreciate having something to read this morning, so this is my Christmas gift to you. I hope your day is merry, no matter how you spend it!

I recently got a COMC shipment which contained a number of 1970’s Burger King cards. Here are the first three, all from the 1977 Burger King Yankees set, along with each card’s Topps counterpart.

Don Gullett turned a steady career with the Reds into a 6-year contract with the Yankees, and it was early enough in the offseason that Topps was able to airbrush him into a Yankees cap (and somehow mistakenly put his name in green type).

His 1977 Burger King Yankees card is a similar portrait, but shows him in an actual Yankees cap. His expression on the BK card seems to say “Can you believe how bad my Topps card is?”

Injuries curtailed Gullett’s career in the Bronx. He only pitched 2 seasons with the Yanks, and was done with baseball at the age of 27.

Jim Wynn spent 1976 with the Braves. I got to meet him and get his autograph that year, the first Major Leaguer I’d ever seen up close, and despite his 5’10” height which contributed to his knickname as “The Toy Cannon”, he seemed huge to me.

Wynn was purchased from the Braves during the offseason, a move reflected in his 1977 Burger King card.

He unfortunately put up anemic offensive numbers with the Yankees and was released in July. He’d hook up with the Brewers, but would not play after 1977.

Paul Blair was an 8-time Gold Glove center fielder with the Orioles.  His 1977 Topps card shows him in Yankee Stadium, which could be considered to be foreshadowing if not for many AL players having their photos taken at Yankee Stadium.

Like Wynn, the end of his career was approaching and the O’s traded him for for Elliott Maddox (who scarcely played for the O’s) and Rick Bladt (who played the season with AAA Rochester before the end of his pro career).

Blair would play the 1977 and 1978 seasons in the Bronx, get released early in 1979, hook up with the Reds and then go back to the Yankees in 1980 to close out his career.

I’ll close out with an interesting Paul Blair fact:  He played in 28 World Series games and 6 World Series – four with the O’s and two with the Yanks.

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.

Fast Five: Card #339 From 1974 – 1978 Topps Baseball

Why #339?  Today is the 339th day of 2017.

Why 1974 to 1978?  Those are the first five sets I collected, the first five I completed and among my all-time favorite sets.

Yeah, OK… but WHY?  Because I need to devote time to organizing my collection, which means I wanted some ideas for posts I could do without much mental effort… and featuring five different cards with the same card number from those five sets seemed like a potentially fun idea.  I guess we’re about to find out if this is the case…

#339 from 1974 – All-Star Pitchers (Jim Hunter and Rick Wise)

You’re probably not surprised at Catfish Hunter starting the 1973 All-Star Game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the most you know about Rick Wise is that he’s the guy the Cardinals got for Steve Carlton in 1972.

In the All-Star game, Rick Wise pitched 2 innings and got the win.  Hunter got a no-decision.  Rick Wise had also been traded after the 1973 season, so his regular 1974 card shows him airbrushed into a Red Sox cap.

#339 from 1975 – Jim Fregosi
Speaking of players who were traded for future HOF pitchers… Jim Fregosi was a 6-time All-Star, but those days were well behind him in 1975.

You know what struck me about this card when I was pulling it out of the binder?  Yes, it’s miscut, but why is there a strip of yellow at the top?  Every 1975 Topps uncut sheet I’ve seen is laid out so that the bottom color of one card is the top color of the card below it on the sheet…  A  miscut 1975 Fregosi like this should result in more red at the top, not a yellow strip.  Anybody have any insight into this?

#339 from 1976 – John Denny

John Denny’s 2.52 ERA in 1976 was best in the N.L., and he was just 23 years old.  He’d win the Cy Young in 1983 with the Phillies.

#339 from 1977 – Adrian Devine

Adrian Devine actually played for the Rangers in 1977, after a 12/9/76 trade.  His 1978 card shows him with the Rangers… but Devine had been traded back to the Braves on 12/8/77.  Just to screw with Topps one more time, Devine was traded back to the Rangers on 12/6/79, but he appeared with the Braves in the 1980 set.

#339 from 1978 – Mario Guerrero

Guerrero played his last game with the Angels in 1977.  He signed with the Giants as a free agent in November 1977… and at the beginning of the 1978 season, he was sent to the A’s as the “Player To Be Named Later”  in the trade which sent Vida Blue to the Giants.

Just to make it even more fun from a baseball card standpoint, Guerrero’s first game of 1978 was against the team he’s pictured with.

Contrast And Compare: Six Cards From Three Decades

Running through some Topps cards and their variations-of-sorts, as an admittedly last-minute post.

Doug Ault had a cup of coffee with the Rangers in 1976, got selected by the Blue Jays in the expansion draft, and shared a rookie infielders card with Rich Dauer, Orlando Gonzalez and Phil Mankowski.

Because he was a first-year Blue Jay, O-Pee-Chee gave him his own card.

Ault hit two homers in the Jays’ first game, was a regular with the team and made the Topps All-Star Rookie Team.  He wouldn’t repeat the success he had in his first year and was done in the Majors after 1980.


In 1980, Omar Moreno was coming off two seasons of leading the N.L. in steals.

That got him into the 1980 Burger King Pinch Hit & Run set in the “Run” category and a different photo was used… but he’s still pictured with a bat instead of running. Go figure.

In 1980 Moreno got a career-high 96 stolen bases… but would finish one behind Montreal’s Ron LeFlore who had 97. In 1981 he’d finish second to a different Expo, Tim Raines.


In 2013 Doug Fister went 14-9, 3.67 for the Tigers, surprising people by breaking out when he was 29 years old.
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After that season, the Tigers traded him to the Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. Since Opening Day gets released after Topps Series 1, a different photo of Fister was photoshopped into a Nats uniform.

Fister went 16-6, 2.41 in that first season with the Nats, but has been inconsistent since then and is currently with the Red Sox. The argument could be made that the best player in that trade was Robbie Ray, who was an all-star this year for the Diamondbacks. He was traded to Arizona in the three-team trade that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees.

Not Flagship Topps, But An Incredible Simulation

Today’s cards are all recent acquisitions which look like Topps cards at first glance, but are actually something different.

We’ll start off with this 1977 O-Pee-Chee card of original Blue Jay Chuck Hartenstein, who had an interesting career path.

Although he’d been a reliever his entire career and made his pitching debut in 1966 with the Cubs, Hartenstein appeared in one game in 1965 as a pinch runner.  He’d pitch from 1966 to 1970 with four different teams, then was out of the majors for six years until the Blue Jays came along.  First year manager Roy Hartsfield had previously managed the Padres AAA team in Hawaii, and he encouraged the Jays to pick up a few players he’d managed there, including Hartenstein.  He logged 13 games worth of  unimpressive relief to cap off his playing career.

Here’s the corresponding 1977 Topps card, gloriously airbrushed.


I recently did a post about the 1990 Topps Major League Debut set which featured everybody who had, in 1989, appeared in a game for the first time.  That put me in mind to get some cards from the other two Major League Debut sets, so here (speaking of gloriously airbrushed) is the 1991 Topps Major League Debut card of outfielder Chuck Carr.

I’m thinking that this photo was taken in a minor league ballpark with Carr wearing a minor league uniform, because there’s no other reason for his cap logo to be airbrushed.  For what it’s worth, Carr appeared in the base sets for 1991 Upper Deck and Fleer, but this appears to be his only Topps card from that year.

Here’s the back.

Carr would become an original Florida Marlin in 1993 and would lead the National League with 58 stolen bases.


At my recent show I ran across a couple of semi-recent Topps retail team sets for $1 each, and for a price that low I was willing to take a gamble to see if there were any cards which were different from the same player’s “regular” Topps card. First up is the 2013 Topps Los Angeles Angels team set.

The final card in the set was one of the ballpark.  I’m honestly not sure how common that is in team sets, I generally only buy them if they’re really cheap.

The only other card which wasn’t a parallel-of-sorts was this Jason Vargas card.

The prior winter, Vargas had been traded from the Mariners to the Angels for Kendrys Morales.  Vargas’ base Topps card shows him with the Mariners, and while he does have a card in Update which shows him in an Angels uniform, it’s a different photo (and not photoshopped like this one is).  Vargas was an All-Star this year and is currently tied with Chris Sale for the most wins in the A.L., so I should be able to flip this card on eBay for BIG MONEY!  Yup.  Uh-huh, uh-huh… that’s just what I’m gonna do.


The 2014 Red Sox set turned out to be even less interesting…  The only card which wasn’t a renumbered, foil-free pseudo-parallel of the corresponding Topps card was Fenway Park.

Not that anybody from Topps is likely to listen to me, but I’d rather have cards like this than the random assortment of celebrating players that are currently the team cards used by Topps.

I was also amused by the inclusion of this nearly three-year old coupon which came with the set.

…So if you’d like to save fifty cents on the purchase of some 2014 Topps MLB Chipz, I’m your man.


This last card looks like a 1975 Topps card of Luke Walker, but it’s from the “Mini” set.

As much as I love 1975 Topps, I’ve never been much for parallels and/or mini versions… But I made an exception for my Luke Walker player collection.