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.
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.

Two 1977 O-Pee-Chee Cards Without Peer

I’ve been featuring 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards for a while, and usually when I write one of these posts I’ll feature the OPC card and the corresponding Topps card.  This time around, however, I won’t be featuring the Topps card… because there isn’t one.  Not a direct corollary, anyway.

We’ll start off with the Blue Jays Coaches card.  These guys did share a Topps card with Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield, but they get more “real estate” in O-Pee-Chee.

First Base coach Don Leppert was a catcher who broke into the Majors with the 1961 Pirates as a 29-year-old rookie. Two years later, he’d be an All-Star with the “New” Senators, aided by a relatively hot first half.

Pitching coach Bob Miller is “Righty Bob Miller” who pitched for 10 different teams from 1957 to 1974… including with the 1962 Mets where he was a teammate of “Lefty Bob Miller” (as I talked about here a couple of weeks ago).

Third base coach Jackie Moore played just 21 games in 1965 with the Tigers, but he was a long-time coach with the Brewers, Rangers, Jays, A’s, Expos, Reds and Rockies.  He also managed the A’s in the mid-1980’s

Bullpen coach Harry Warner was a long-term minor leaguer who never made it to the Majors.

This leaves out the hitting coach, who is probably the most accomplished and well-known of the bunch.

Bobby Doerr, who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame and have his #1 retired by the Red Sox, was the hitting coach for the Blue Jays for their first couple of seasons, and yet he wasn’t included on this card.  I have a theory – or a guess, depending on how you want to look at it – as to why this was… but first I have a couple of more scans to show you.

First off, here is the back of this card.  “Instructeur” sounds a lot more impressive than “Coach”, but I guess that’s the case with a lot of job titles when translated into French.


Here’s the Topps card which shows the Jays’ field staff:  Manager Roy Hartsfield and the same four coaches.
1977 Topps Hartsfield and Coaches

OK, now it’s time for my theory:  In 1977, Doerr had been out of baseball for a number of years, so it’s not unreasonable to think that Topps didn’t include him on their card because they didn’t have any photos to use.  As a result, the bullpen coach who would be largely unknown to most fans gets priority over someone who, as a player, had started for thirteen years and been an All-Star for nine.  Later, when O-Pee-Chee made their version of the set and presumably had photos of all of the Jays’ coaches, they followed Topps’ lead, used these four coaches and left out Doerr.  Again, this is only a theory.

Because we’re talking field staff and I haven’t shown this card in 3 years, here’s the O-Pee-Chee card that features just manager Roy Hartsfield and his non-airbrushed uniform:

1977 OPC Roy Hartsfield

Moving on to the other “card without peer”… This is Doug Howard’s only mainstream baseball card, made even more interesting by the fact that he never played for the Blue Jays in a regular season game.
Howard played a few handfuls of games for the Angels, Cardinal and Indians, and was one of the first players obtained by the Jays when he was acquired with Alan Ashby in a 11/5/1976 trade with the Indians. Howard, however, got cut just before the Blue Jays broke camp, and he never made it back to the majors.

Here’s the back of his card.

After being cut by the Blue Jays, Howard’s career was over even though he was just 29 years old.

Update:  Apparently today is Bobby Doerr Day, because by sheer coincidence, When Topps Had (Base) Balls is featuring a 1979 Topps custom of Bobby Doerr with the Blue Jays.  I swear we did not coordinate on this one!

For Lack Of Better Ideas, I’m Calling This “Expansion+40”

Forty years ago I had just turned 11 and had just finished my third season of being a baseball fan and card collector… But that winter of 1976-1977 was unlike the previous two offseasons because the American League would be expanding to Toronto and Seattle.  This did not affect me directly, but it would be my first baseball expansion and I was completely fascinated by the entire concept.  New team names, new uniforms, new combinations of players selected via draft… not to mention that I would need to rearrange the dresser drawer where I kept my cards in order to make room for two new stacks of cards (I kept all my cards in one drawer, with each team represented by its own stack… Much easier to do when my collection numbered was under 2,000 cards).

I think my first significant exposure to the Blue Jays and Mariners uniforms was from the airbrushed cards in the 1977 Topps set… and to this day, those cards remain special to me even though the players were predominantly guys like Dan Meyer, Jesse Jefferson and Steve Braun.  Expansion teams, you know.

Early this year I had some fun creating a couple of custom versions of the 1976 Traded set, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary, and that lead to another idea… Wouldn’t it be fun to create custom cards in homage to those expansion teams, featuring the 1977 design, 1977 uniforms and faux airbrushing?

At the same time, I didn’t want to get crazy with it, so I decided to make it an offshoot of my annual “Hot Stove” set and feature only players acquired by the Blue Jays and Mariners during the offseason.

Well, this past week I had my first “call to arms”:  The Mariners acquired Carlos Ruiz from the Dodgers.  As a result, Chooch gets the faux-airbrush treatment.


I tried something different to attempt to simulate the hand-airbrushed originals… I drew a 1977 Mariners “trident” logo on paper with a Sharpie, scanned it, changed the colors and and then layered it on top of Ruiz’ colorized cap.

Let me tell you something, it was a bear trying to find a decent photo of Ruiz wearing some sort of headgear which had a visible logo on it.  Most of the photos have him either in catcher’s gear, or batting with his head turned to the side.   I didn’t prefer using a Phillies “Photo Day” image with a dark background and side lighting, but my options were few.

There are a few more things I have in mind for the next one of these I try, but as a first effort I’m happy with it… and I hope you like it as well.  Maybe one of you can come up with a better name than “Expansion+40”.

I hope to go live with my annual Hot Stove set next week.  As I’d done the past two years, it will be based on a Kellogg’s 3-D set from the 1970’s… and I will say no more.

LAST CHANCE! Tomorrow morning I’ll be closing out the voting on the design I’ll use for next Spring’s World Baseball Classic custom set! Choices are laid out below with the voting at the bottom. Thanks again!


1977 O-Pee-Chee vs. Topps – Bobby Murcer & Bill Singer

1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball was one of the more unique sets put out by Topps’ Canadian partner.  Instead of what had been a sort of bilingual parallel set, OPC took advantage of their later production dates in an expansion year, giving us new and different cards featuring the Montreal Expos and newly-born Toronto Blue Jays, and updating some other transactions in the process.

Here is the 1977 Bobby Murcer card most of us are familiar with… Bobby trying to hide behind Cardinals’ catcher Joe Ferguson.
Murcer, who had been “The next Mickey Mantle” during his early career with the Yanks, was traded to the Cubs in a five-player deal that saw Bill Madlock heading to San Francisco.

For his part of the deal, Murcer got a pretty decent airbrushing job:
At this point, Murcer’s best years were behind him, but he’d put in another few years as a slightly-above-average player.

Bill Singer was the 28th pick in the expansion draft that filled the rosters of the Blue Jays and Mariners. Singer was drafted from the Twins, as you can kind of see from the un-airbrushed jersey.

As they did with Blue Jays and Expos, O-Pee-Chee went the extra yard and got a picture of Singer in Spring Training.


Singer was the starting pitcher in the Jays’ first game, but he’d go 3-8 for Toronto before being released in July.  That would be the end of his career.

Quick reminder… We’ve got real barn-burner going on in the vote to determine the template I’ll use for next Spring’s World Baseball Classic set! If you haven’t voted yet, the choices are laid out below with the voting at the bottom. Thanks again!


Contrast & Compare: 1977 Burger King Bucky Dent & Mike Torrez

Bucky Dent and Mike Torrez will go down in history on opposite sides of one of the most famous at bats in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry… But in 1977 they were teammates and both had cards in the 1977 Burger King Yankees set which were “variations” from that year’s Topps set.

We’ll start with Mike Torrez, a guy who ended up being in a lot of big trades. The Expos traded Torrez and Ken Singleton the Orioles for Dave McNally and two others, a trade that ended up weighing in the Orioles favor. The Orioles traded Torrez to Oakland in the deal that also saw Reggie Jackson and Don Baylor switching teams for a year.
In 1977, Torrez started 4 games before being traded to the Yankees in a deal for Dock Ellis, Marty Perez and Larry Murray.
Torrez would go 14-12 during the regular season and won 2 World Series games that October. He’d cash in on his success and sign a contract with the Red Sox.

Moving on to Bucky Dent… Bucky came up with the White Sox and proved himself to be one of the better shortstops in the league.
The Yankees knew they needed an outstanding shortstop, so just before the season started they sent Oscar Gamble and several other players to the White Sox for the Buckster.
Bucky Dent also helped the Yankees get to the World Series in 1977, but the historical moment I’m talking about happened the following season.

At the end of the 1978 regular season, the Yankees and Red Sox finished with identical 99-63 records. The teams played a 1-game playoff in Fenway with Mike Torrez facing up against the Yankees’ Ron Guidry.

The Sox had a 2-0 lead going into the 7th inning. Torrez got Graig Nettles to fly out to right, but then gave up singles to Chris Chambliss and Roy White and then got pinch-hitter Jim Spencer to fly out to left.

It was at that point that Bucky Dent, who had 22 career homers at that point, hit the ball over the Green Monster to put the Yankees ahead to stay, and for many people Bucky Dent’s legal name became Bucky F’ing Dent.