1976 SSPC: John, Garner & Montanez

No Hall-Of-Famers in this post, but we’ve got three players who are familiar to anyone who loves and/or collects 1970’s baseball.

Tommy John… is well-known as short hand for ulnar collateral ligament surgery, but thanks in part to Tommy John’s Tommy John surgery, he pitched another 14 seasons, 26 in total. He had 288 career wins, three 20-win seasons, was a 4-time All Star and twice was the runner-up in Cy Young voting. I tend to think of him as a Dodger, but he spent just 6 years with the Dodgers (plus one lost season after his surgery).
1976 SSPC #69 Tommy John
In 1976, John… was the N.L. Comeback player of the year after having sat out 1975 while recovering from his surgery.

Betcha Didn’t Know: Tommy John pitched in three World Series, two with the Dodgers, one with the Yankees. All three Fall Classics (1977, 1978, 1981) matched up the Dodgers and Yankees, all three went 6 games, and all three times Tommy John was on the losing side.

Phil Garner… played 16 years in the Majors, playing in over 100 games for many of those seasons. He was a three-time All Star and made the postseason four times, including World Championship with the 1979 Pirates.
1976 SSPC #495 Phil Garner
In 1976, Garner… was an All Star and his 12 triples tied Rod Carew for 2nd in the A.L. (George Brett had 14).

Willie Montanez… played 14 seasons with 9 teams. He finished second to Earl Williams in 1971 N.L. Rookie Of The Year voting in 1971 and made the Topps All-Star Rookie team. He was also an All-Star with the Braves in 1977. At various times in his career he lead the league in Sacrifice Flies (13 in ’71), Doubles (39 in ’72) and Grounding Into Double Plays (26 times each in ’75 and ’76).
1976 SSPC #103 Willie Montanez
This card (and much of the 1976 SSPC Giants team set) is Night Owl’s Nightmare.  It’s a NIGHT CARD!!!  …But it’s a SAN FRANCISCO GIANT!!!

In 1976, Montanez… was traded to the Braves in June, and the timing of the trade combined with his playing every day allowed him to lead the league with 163 games played.

All three photos were taken at Shea Stadium.
Shea: 59
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 8
Can’t tell: 15
Not Shea: 7

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends…
I’m going to say we’ve got 3 pair of 1970’s sideburns, two mustaches and one case of long hair.

Total Cards: 88
1970’s Sideburns: 47
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 27
Afro: 1
Perm: 2
Aviators: 6
Long Hair: 19

Contrast & Compare: The *Interesting* Airbrushing of Manny Sanguillen, 1977 Topps vs. 1977 O-Pee-Chee

About a week ago, this card was featured on the excellent “When Topps Had (Base) Balls” blog…
1977 Topps Manny Sanguillen
The gist of the post is that the Topps airbrush artist did a notably bad job in painting an A’s uniform on the former Pirate Manny Sanguillen.

What he may not have known is that the 1977 O-Pee-Chee Sanguillen card features a different photo of Manny, also handpainted in a manner that could also be described as “a doozy”.

1977 OPC Manny Sanguillen

While neither one can be considered a first-rate example of airbrushing, I think that OPC job is bad enough to make me wonder why they thought it was an improvement over the Topps card (OPC went to press after Topps, so they were able to change things up in this set).

Which do you think is the worse of these two airbrushing jobs?  Topps or OPC?

Contrast & Compare: 1977 Topps & O-Pee-Chee George “Doc” Medich

1977 was the first year that O-Pee-Chee baseball started wandering far afield of its Topps counterpart. Today we’ll look at the Doc Medich card that OPC was able to update because they went to press well after Topps did.

Doc is from western Pennsylvania and went to the University Of Pittsburgh, but unfortunately only got to spend one year in the Pirates’ black & gold.
1977 Topps George Medich
During Spring Training of 1977, he was sent to Oakland in a 9 player trade that also involved Phil Garner, Tony Armas, Rick Langford and Mitchell Page.

I don’t know when the OPC set was “put to bed”, but perhaps the last minute aspect of the trade would account for this airbrushing job:
1977 OPC George Medich
Doc was in his “walk year”, and moved around a lot in 1977. He went 10-6 for Oakland but was sold to the Mariners in mid-September. He made three starts for the M’s and went 2-0 before being claimed on waivers by the Mets. Medich gave up 6 hits and 3 runs and took the loss in his only game for the Mets. After the season he signed with the Rangers as a free agent, and was airbrushed into a Rangers cap on his 1978 card.

I’m not sure how I missed Medich’s one game Mets stint when I did my two-part series on “Short-Term Mets“… At some point I may have to do a follow-up to those posts.

If You Travel Back In Time And Stop Charles Finley From Buying The A’s…

…Being an exercise in nonsense and sheer conjecture about what COULD HAVE happened, as devised by the esteemed Mr. Joseph Shlabotnik, whose knowlege of baseball history is sufficient to label him as someone who “knows just enough to be dangerous”.

If you travel back in time and stop Charles O. Finley from buying the Athletics, the alternative buyer could’ve been someone who would keep the team in Kansas City.

If you keep the Athletics in Kansas City, then you obviously wouldn’t have the Kansas City Royals.
1971 Topps Buck Martinez

If you keep the Athletics in Kansas City, you also would not have the city of Kansas City threaten a lawsuit.

If Kansas City is not going to sue, you can take your time in expanding and wait an extra year or two to allow for better-financed expansion team ownership.

If you allow for better-financed ownership, the Padres don’t nearly leave San Diego in 1974.
1974 Willie McCovey WNL

If you allow for better-financed ownership, then the Seattle Pilots don’t leave town after one season.
1970 Topps John Gelnar

If the Seattle Pilots don’t leave town after one season, the city of Seattle doesn’t threaten to sue.

If the Seattle Pilots don’t leave town after one season and the city of Seattle doesn’t threaten to sue, you don’t need the Seattle Mariners.
1978 Hostess Bruce Bochte

If you don’t need the Mariners, you don’t need to expand in 1977.

If you don’t expand in 1977, you don’t have the Toronto Blue Jays.
1980 Topps Rick Cerone

If you don’t have a team in Toronto, you have a large market ripe for relocation.

If you have a large market ripe for relocation, the White Sox get to kiss aging Comiskey goodbye and you get the Toronto White Sox.
1979 Topps Don Kessinger

If the White Sox move to Toronto and the Cubs get the city to themselves, the Cubs then have the wherewithal to field a winning team and…………..

…Nah, let’s not get crazy here.

Other side-effects of keeping Finley away from the Athletics:

You wouldn’t have the Athletics wearing green & gold.  You wouldn’t have a team whose official name is the “A’s”.
1973 Topps Reggie Jackson

You wouldn’t have anybody to give Jim Hunter the nickname “Catfish”
1976 Hostess Jim Hunter

Topps wouldn’t spend two years taking measures to avoid showing the “KC” on players’ caps.
1968 Topps Sal Bando
1969 Topps Joe Nossek

You wouldn’t have anyone deciding to have a “Designated Pinch Runner” on his roster.
1975 Topps Herb Washington

Does anybody have any other potential ramifications?  Just make sure that when you travel back in time, you don’t step on a butterfly…



1976 SSPC #490 – Joe Rudi (A’s)

1976 SSPC #490 Joe Rudi

Joe Rudi… played in the Majors for 16 years, mostly with the A’s and Angels.  He was a three-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and won three World Series with the A’s.  In 1972 he lead the American League in hits and triples, and in 1974 he lead the A.L. in doubles and total bases.

In 1976, Joe Rudi… won a Gold Glove and batted .270/13/94… But the most interesting thing about Joe Rudi in 1976 is what didn’t happen to him.  In June, A’s owner Charles O. Finley, knowing he was going to lose several players to free agency after the season, sold Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox for $1 million each.  Vida Blue was also sold, going to the Yankees for $1.5M.  Commissioner Bowie Kuhn declared these deals to be “not in the best interest of baseball” and voided the transactions.

Shea-o-meter:   Yep, it’s Shea.
Shea:  30
Pretty sure it’s Shea:  6
Can’t tell:  6
Not Shea:  5

Sudden thought to the back of the head: “Rudi” seems like the kind of name that was longer before family members came to the United States… perhaps the name was originally something like Rudicchiofirenza, Rudicziensko or Rudischestonbandgerät.

SSPC vs. Topps: blah.
1976 SSPC #490 Joe Rudi back

1976 SSPC: #481 Vida Blue (A’s)

1976 SSPC #481 Vida Blue

Vida Blue had a career year in 1971. He won the Cy Young and the MVP awards, was an All-Star, lead the league in ERA and Shutouts, won 24 games, struck out 301 and had a WHIP below 1.000.

Outside of 1971, he was in 5 other All-Star games, had 2 other 20 win seasons and 8 other seasons with 200+ strikeouts.  He also had 2 career no-hitters and his Oakland A’s won the World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

In 1976, Vida Blue… went 18-13 with a 2.35 ERA and finished 6th in Cy Young voting.

So… take your time… and tell me… Is it Shea?  Nope.  Looks like old Yankee Stadium again.

Betcha didn’t know… that the team’s official name in the 1970’s was the Oakland A’s (as opposed to Athletics).

SSPC vs. Topps: This isn’t a great card, but the 1976 Topps Vida Blue has a kind of weird, tilted portrait… so I’ll give SSPC the edge on this one.

1976 SSPC #481 Vida Blue back

Favorite songs from 1976:

What better way to finish up a post about Vida Blue than with (Vida) Blue Oyster Cult!

Playing God With 1991 Fleer

While purging a number of 1991 Fleer cards from my collection, I was looking at this card, which I decided to keep:

1991 Fleer John Smiley

I kept it because I liked the action shot, and because the yellow and black borders worked well with the Pirates uniforms.

As I was absent-mindedly pondering the card, thinking that 1991 Fleer suffers more from bad colors than bad design, it occurred to me:  What if all the cards were done in colors that worked well with the uniforms?  Would they have been better received?

This is not a new thought for me, I’m pretty sure I pondered the same thing back in ’91.  The difference is that now I can “do something” about it.

So I did some quickie digital manipulations and came up with these.  What do you think?  Would you look more favorably on this set if the cards had looked like this?

1991 Fleer Revised Barry Larkin 1991 Fleer Revised Rickey Henderson 1991 Fleer Revised Robby Thompson

OK, Which One Of You Guys Is “Fiscal Cliff”?

On the TV, on the radio, all I hear is “Fiscal Cliff”, “Fiscal Cliff”.

I wish someone would just tell me who Fiscal Cliff is.

I don’t think it’s Cliff Johnson, but you never know.

Cliff Lee makes a boatload of money, maybe he’s Fiscal Cliff.

Cliff Floyd? Could be… (I feel like I’m doing the opening credits to “Hong Kong Phooey”)

Cliff Pennington was recently part of a three-team trade involving a Marlins salary dump… Is that enough to make him Fiscal Cliff?

Cliff Mapes passed away 16 years ago, so I don’t think he’s Fiscal Cliff… but he was the last person to wear #3 for the Yankees (and you thought that was Babe Ruth, you silly person, you).

1951 Bowman #289 - Cliff Mapes - Courtesy of COMC.com

1951 Bowman #289 – Cliff Mapes – Courtesy of COMC.com

An Overview of 1975 – 1979 Hostess Cards

In light of the apparent demise of Hostess as a entity – and don’t worry, Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s and the like will resurface, it’s just a matter of who purchases the brands and when they gear up production – I thought this might be as good a time as any to give you a run-through of the 5 years of Hostess baseball cards.

Hostess cards were printed on the bottom of “family sized” boxes of Hostess snack cakes from 1975 to 1979.  Each year’s set consists of either 150 cards (if you’re me) or 50 3-card panels (if you’re looking for a greater challenge and have a greater budget).

Certain cards/panels are somewhat rarer if they were printed on the box for a less-popular snack cake (i.e. Chocodiles).

Topps provided the images, and did the airbrushing as needed, like on the above 1975 Joe Torre.

The 1976 set had bold red, white and blue stripes, because it was THE BICENTENNIAL and you couldn’t not do something to commemorate the fact that the country was 200 years old.  I think there was a federal mandate or something.

Business as usual for 1977;  I find this set the least appealing, but that’s a matter of relativity;  none of the sets are what you’d call beautiful in and of themselves, but the card design is not why I collect these.

1978 was more subdued than the previous two years, but not bad looking in a minimalist sort of way.

1979 just took the footer and moved it to the header.

You’ll see references to Hostess Twinkies cards…  There’s not a huge difference between Hostess cards and Twinkies cards.  Hostess cards were sold on the box itself, Twinkies cards were inserted into the individually-sold Twinkies packages (and they often have Twinkie stains on them).

Twinkies can be distinguished by the black stripe on the back, and the fact that they come in single panels rather than panels of three.

Hostess cards don’t have the black stripe, but every year’s card looks pretty much like this:
1975 Hostess #130 - Hank Aaron SP - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

If you collect individual cards, there’s almost no reason to distinguish between Hostess and Twinkies, and not everybody does. I don’t, and I’ve noticed that COMC.com doesn’t.

Not every card has a Twinkie counterpart; In 1975 and 1976, there were only 60 cards which were Twinkified, and there aren’t any Twinkies cards from 1978 or 1979.

If you really want to go crazy, or have a larger collecting budget than I do, negatives used for Hostess sets have turned up in Topps Vault auctions.

The mid-to-late 1970’s were my peak collecting years as a kid, but I long ago completed the Topps sets from 1974 to 1978.  Collecting Hostess cards allows me to keep collecting the players of my youth without getting into some of the more arcane sets of the era.

Q: Are We Not Stars? A: We Are Rookies.

I’ve got a bunch of these 1972 “Rookie Stars” and I want to find out how close to stars these rookies got.

Dwain Anderson

Anderson played 4 years in the majors (1971-1974) with 4 different teams (A’s, Cardinals, Padres, Indians).  He was the 1972 Topps All-Rookie Team’s shortstop, although he played most of the season for the Cardinals.  I don’t believe he appeared on cardboard after his 1973 card with his “All-Rookie” trophy.

He was once traded straight up for former MLB Player and current broadcaster Dave Campbell.

Chris Floethe

Floethe pitched in the minors from 1968 to 1974, was on the 1972 A’s Spring Training roster, but never made it past AAA.  I believe this is his only card.  The photo seems to be one which Topps pulled out of the files, since he’s wearing a cap that wasn’t worn by the A’s after 1969 (green bill, “A” rather than “A’s”).

2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Prospects Aspirations #88 - Jake Floethe/200 - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Prospects Aspirations #88 – Jake Floethe/200 – Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

His son Jake currently pitches for the Single-A Bowling Green Hot Rods (Tampa Bay).  In one of those “sign of the times” situations, Jake’s got more cards than his father, despite being in just his second year of pro ball.