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.

1977 Hostess Rennie Stennett

NOTE: At one point in this blog’s 3-year history I featured a Hostess card every weekend, but I stopped doing that because I got tired of “having” to stick to a schedule. This card’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since, and needs to be liberated.

Fly and be free!

1977 Hostess Rennie Stennett

Thanks to the highlight card in the 1976 Topps set, the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Rennie Stennett to me is his feat on September 16, 1975 when he went 7-for-7 in a 9-inning game. The Pirates routed the Cubs 22-0 that day, which is how Stennett came to have 7 AB’s in the first place.

In 1977, Rennie Stennett was having an outstanding season, stealing a career-high 28 stolen bases and making a run at the batting title with a .336 average. In August of that year he broke his ankle sliding into second base. He was out for the season, and would never be the same again.

After being replaced at 2nd by Phil Garner in 1979, Stennett became a free agent and signed a 5-year contract with the Giants.  He was a starter in 1980, a backup in 1981, and released in 1982 with 3 years left on his contract.

Beautifully Poor – 1959 Topps “Danny’s All-Stars”

I was going through a dealer’s bargain bin at a show not too long ago, when I ran across this card from 1959 Topps:
1959 Topps Danny's All Stars

This card seemed to be in pretty nice condition for a bargain bin, not to mention that it featured Ted Kluszewski as well as original Met Frank Thomas. I turned it over to see what might’ve been wrong with the back… and that’s when I discovered the result of some child’s boredom:
1959 Topps Danny's All-Stars back
As someone who “double-bags” in 9-pocket sheets, I like vintage cards that have writing on the back, because it brings the price down in a way that I don’t mind… but I have to admit, I kinda liked this piece of original “colored pencil on cardboard” artwork. At least they stayed within the lines.

These two guys weren’t Danny’s All-Stars for very long. Frank Thomas was traded to the Reds before the 1959 season, and Big Klu was traded to the White Sox that August.

1976 SSPC #574 – Richie Zisk (Pirates)

1976 SSPC #574 Richie Zisk

Richie Zisk… was an outfielder who played primarily for the Pirates, Rangers and Mariners, as well as a “walk year” stint with the White Sox. He was a two-time all-star, and while he never dominated or lead the league in a major category, he was often one of the better outfielders in the majors. Over his career he hit 207 homers with 792 RBI and a .287 career average.

In 1976, Richie Zisk… was the regular left fielder in his last season with the Pirates. He batted a nicely symmetrical batting line of .289/21/89 and finished in a 4-way tie for 25th in MVP voting… the other three were Lou Brock, Cesar Geronimo and Cesar Cedeno.

Shea-o-meter:   It’s Shea.
Shea: 33
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 6
Can’t tell: 6
Not Shea: 5

Idle musings: Richie Zisk would most certainly be a starting outfielder on a “Starts With Z” team. Hmmm… Ryan Zimmerman, Don Zimmer, Todd Zeile, Gus Zernial, Paul Zuvella, Pat Zachry, Barry Zito… There might be a future post in this. Maybe I can even find a spot for Joe Zdeb.

1976 SSPC #574 Richie Zisk back

Black Friday: Bob And The Red Men

When COMC had it’s Black Friday promotion, I bought somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 cards.  I’ve shown a few cards here and there over the past few days, but this is the official kickoff of this particular round of “show and tell”.

I’ll start off the festivities with a trio of oversized cards, two of which feature Hall-of-Famers.

First off, we have a beeeeee-yoootiful 1955 Red Man Henry Thompson card.

1955 Red Man Hank Thompson

This card is in quite nice shape for a 58-year old card;  there’s a pinhole up in the corner of the box, the corners are slightly dinged, and the tab is missing from the bottom, but I don’t care about any of this.  I just see an awesome addition to my collection.

Slightly older and in worse shape is this Ralph Kiner:

1953 Red Man Ralph Kiner

Yeah, the cards a little rougher, but he’s also a HOFer so you’ve got to have some give and take here.    As you can see, someone “updated” the card with a ball point pen.  What you can’t see is that some of the back has been torn away; it looks like this may have been pasted into someone’s album.  The actual artwork remains unblemished, which makes it more than nice enough for me.

Ralph Kiner went to the Cubs in a mid-season trade that involved 10 players and $150,000.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Inflation Calculator, that’s equivalent to $1.3M in today’s dollars.  That’s a hell of a deal.

Moving forward to the 1960’s, we have another Hall-Of-Famer;  an affordable copy of this card has eluded me for years…

1964 Topps Giants  Bob Clemente

Yes indeed, it’s “Bob” Clemente.  It seems ridiculous now to think that “Roberto” was too exotic for the youth of America to process, but apparently it was.  You could make a good drinking game out of the number of times “Bob” is used on the back of the card.
1964 Topps Giants Bob Clemente back

Now that I’ve got “Bob”, I need just 7 SP’s to complete the set…. Hah!  “Just 7 SP’s”.   Among the seven are Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays… it’ll be a challenge to finish this set off while staying within my budget, but we’ll see what happens.


Breaking Down 1972 Topps By Team

Last week I wrote about the 47-card 1972 Topps Mets team set, the largest team set in 1972 Topps and quite possibly of any “flagship” set.

As I was writing that post, I got to wondering…  There can’t be this many cards for all the teams, not without the entire set going well over 1,000 cards.  So if that’s the case, who else is up near the top?  How quickly does it drop off?  And which teams have relatively small sets to keep the entirety of 1972 at 797 cards?

You see, after spending the work week doing research and analysis, I like to kick back by coming home and doing research and analysis.  I’m weird that way.

1972 Topps Tommy Davis IA

So I did a little poking around and got some numbers…

…And just to be clear about something:  Although these numbers are, to the best of my knowledge, correct, please do not take them as gospel.  I can’t swear that they are absolutely correct.

Let  me put it this way;  if  you’re trying to cross the Bridge Of Death and the bridgekeeper asks you “How many California Angels cards are there in the 1972 Topps set?”  my advice to you is this — RUN AWAY!  RUN AWAY!

The most well-represented teams in 1972 Topps are the Mets (47 cards), Pirates (46), A’s (41), Orioles (40) and Giants (37).

1972 Topps Bruce Kison

FYI, I counted all eight World Series cards for both the Orioles and Pirates, even though 5 cards have photos of just a Pirate and 2 have just an Oriole. I figured that a Pirates or Orioles collector is going to want to collect all of the World Series cards, regardless of who’s featured.

I had expected the least number of cards to come from one of the four teams that had been expansion teams 3 years prior – the Expos, Padres, Royals and Brewers.  That was surprisingly not the case.

The award for the fewest cards overall goes to the Cleveland Indians with 26.

1972 Topps Gaylord Perry

Just above them are the Angels, Rangers and Brewers with 28.
1972 Topps Rudy May

That’s a big disparity; going from 47 Mets to 26 Indians…but  the real story here is how the Mets came to have 21 cards more than the Indians.

If you count just the “regular” cards – team cards, managers, players and team-specific “Rookie Stars” cards – the disparity isn’t all that notable.  When you take out the League Leaders, “In Action” and “Boyhood Photos”, the Mets have 29 “regular” cards.  The Royals surprisingly have the most “regular” cards with 32, and the Tigers, Twins and Padres have the fewest with 25.

1972 Topps Cesar Tovar

Obviously, what I getting at is that the big difference among teams comes from the subsets.  Nobody on the Indians, Astros, Rangers or Brewers was among the league leaders, was ever “in action” or even had a “boyhood”.

Where it really gets interesting is in the breakdown of the “In Action” cards.

1972 Topps Wilbur Wood IA

Since I started working on this set , I knew that there was a disparity in the way these cards were assigned — certain players get overlooked while less-deserving players get chosen, certain teams better represented than others – but I had no idea it was as “unfair” as it turned out to be.  Check out the way the “In Action” cards are broken down by team:
11: Mets
10: Giants
5: Pirates, A’s, Reds, Yankees, Padres
4: Red Sox, Cubs, Twins
2: White Sox, Braves, Tigers, Dodgers, Phillies, Royals
1: Expos, Angels
0: Orioles, Cardinals, Astros, Brewers, Rangers, Indians

The reason the Mets and Giants are so heavily represented is because many of the photos used were taken in Shea Stadium or Candlestick Park… even when the card didn’t feature a Met or Giant, like with the In Action cards of Hank Aaron, Maury Wills or Willie Stargell.  I can only guess that Topps’ best “Action” photographers mainly worked out of those two ballparks.

A little later in the week, I’ll feature some of these In Action cards which were photographed in Shea or Candlestick.

Just a reminder that today is Election Day in the United States. It’s the duty of all Americans to go to your local polling place and cast your ballot for the candidate you think will do the least harm.

The Kind Of Thing That Strikes You When You Stare At Baseball Cards Too Long

1981 Fleer has a minor flaw that had escaped me for the past 32 years… Take a look at the baseball in the lower left:

1981 Fleer Willie Stargell

The “stitching” is wrong. Both the top and bottom stitching run in the same direction, while on a real baseball the stitching goes in opposite directions.


Well, OK, it appears as if it’s going in opposite directions when viewed from that angle; in reality it’s going in one direction – around the ball and then back again.

For what it’s worth, Topps got it right in 1975…

1975 Topps Frank Taveras

…and in 1979.

1979 Topps Rod Carew

Missed Topp-ortunity – 1972 Topps “Traded” Minis

For Series 1 and 2 this year, Topps included an insert set that was “mini” versions of the 1972 design. Why they were minis instead of full-sized 1972’s… Well, I have a thought or two about minis, but I’ll save it for another time.

When the Update Series came out, the minis suddenly became 1971 minis. Don’t know why, at this point I’m not sure I care.

But I did have a thought about that… how completely awesome would it have been if they made a third series of 1972 minis AND some of them were made up as “Traded” cards?
1972 Topps Traded Faux Mini Marlon Byrd

Abso-freakin’-lutely awesome, that’s how awesome it would’ve been.

Side Note #1: A Pirates “Traded” card should have blue and gold borders, but I started out with a Jim Fregosi traded card, and as it is I spent way too much time on this custom.

Side Note #2:  This was almost a Jake Peavy card, but the best photos I could find were recent World Series shots and the black “TRADED” stamp blends into nighttime game shots quite nicely, thank you very much…  just a little FYI for my fellow custom makers

Pack Animal! — 2013 Topps Update

A lot of you consider Topps Update to be SSDW – “Same Stuff, Different Wrapper”.  For others it means updated base cards, different subsets and a couple of different inserts.

…And for bloggers, it means a day of not having to think about what to write… and that made the impromptu, hasty trip to Target completely worthwhile.

For those who haven’t seen these in the store yet, this is what the wrapper looks like.
2013 Topps Update Wrapper
Unfortunately, Matt Harvey here is as close as I got to getting a Met, but I did get some Orioles.

Topps likes to load the Update set with rookie cards, like promising Orioles rookie Henry Urrutia.
2013 Topps Update Henry Urrutia
I’ve seen Urrutia play in AA, I’ve seen him play in the majors, and I’m still not sure how to pronounce his last name. Oo-roo-TEE-ah? Oo-ROO-tee-ah? I certainly can’t count on the Orioles announcers, who never met a Latino whose name they didn’t mangle. I tried going to, the official Spanish-language MLB site, but my meager Spanish knowledge – thanks to a former co-worker I know more “bad words” than anything  – prevented me from navigating the site to find out if there should be accent marks over any part of his last name.


Along with rookie cards, we also have rookie debut cards, which allows Topps to get more Rookie Card logos in there… even though I wouldn’t think that anybody considers these to be rookie cards.
2013 Topps Update Gerrit Cole
The “Rookie Debut” text looks black in this scan, but it’s silver foil.

A new insert also seems to focus on rookies…
2013 Topps Update Franchise Forerunners Miller Gibson

There’s also the usual cluttery subsets of All-Stars and Home Run Derby participants. This card confused me briefly because I didn’t see the All-Star logo on the card, but it gets lost in Darvish’s jersey.
2013 Topps Update Yu Darvish AS

You may have heard that the Update series is introducing 1971 Minis rather than extending the 1972 minis of the regular set.
2013 Topps Update 1971 Mini Stan Musial
I will now officially declare that minis have jumped the shark.

I generally don’t care for minis, but last year’s 1987 minis were OK. This year’s 1972 were “meh”, and when I saw this card I declared it “stupid”.

…Out loud, but it’s OK because I was sitting in my car in the Target parking lot.

Something about these minis just diminishes the 1971 design, one of my favorite designs of the 1970’s… and when 1971 Topps are diminished, aren’t we all diminished a little bit?

Yeah, I don’t like minis.

One last thing I ran across in my packs — there are also traded players!
2013 Topps Update Bud Norris
I know!!!!!

Remember when the set was called the “Traded” set?  Yeah, that was awesome…

So, yeah, that pretty much covers what I found.  I also got a couple of parallels, a “Chasing History” insert and a “Making Their Mark” insert, none of which I deemed worthy of scanning.

I’ll be buying more of this, but as is always the case with Topps Update, I’m really just looking for the base cards that do what the wrapper says they do – update the base set.  I want rookies I don’t already have, I want players in new uniforms. I can do without the clutter, except when its for a player I collect.

As Manager / As Player #1 – Chuck Tanner

I’ve long had a certain fascination with baseball cards which picture players who would later be managers. I think the fascination started with these cards from 1978 Topps:
1978 Topps Chuck Tanner

Before then, I don’t know how much it had registered that managers were usually former players.  Sure, Yogi Berra was famous enough that I knew that he’d been a star with the Yankees… But guys like Chuck Tanner and Bill Virdon?  They’d always been old guys who managed teams, right?

As a 13-year-old, seeing photos of then-current managers as young men was pretty mind-blowing… Like seeing the English teacher you have a crush on out in a supermarket with her family.

“She has a life outside of school?  She has a husband?  She has a baby?”

“…So maybe I don’t have a shot with her when I get older…?”

So anyway, Chuck Tanner is probably best known for managing the “We Are Family” 1979 Pirates to a World Championship.  He’d also managed the White Sox, A’s and Braves, but never saw the success with those teams that he had with the ’79 Pirates.

He’s second-most-famous for having been traded as a manager – after one season managing the A’s to a second-place finish, he was traded to the Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillén.

But Chuck Tanner was also a player from 1949 to 1962, spending a good amount of time in the Boston Braves system before making his MLB debut.

1960 Topps Chuck Tanner

As a Major League rookie in 1955, he hit a home run on the first major league pitch he saw.  In 1957, while with the Cubs, he and Ernie Banks both hit inside-the-park homers in the same game against the Pirates.  After playing for the Cubs, he put in some time with the Indians and expansion Angels.  Most of  his Major League playing career was as a 4th outfielder and pinch hitter.

One thing I found interesting about his minor league career was how many cities he’d played in which were future MLB cities… he played in A ball with the Denver Bears, in AA with the Atlanta Crackers and in AAA with the Milwaukee Brewers, Minneapolis Millers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas/Ft. Worth Rangers.  That’s largely a result of spending a lot of time playing in the upper minors in the days before widespread relocation and expansion, but it’s just something that caught my attention.