Random Team Review: 1980 Topps Cleveland Indians

The 1980 Cleveland Indians had a 79-81 record and finished 6th in the AL East ahead of the 4th year Blue Jays (67-95).  Finishing a couple of games under .500 *and* in 6th place says a lot about how strong the AL East was (and how many bad teams were in the AL West).

The Indians were a young team, with a starting lineup which featured three 25-year-olds and nobody over the age of 31.

Best Offensive Player:
This was a tough call because there were several players who had very good seasons, but nobody who truly dominated offensively. I finally let Baseball Reference’s 1980 Cleveland Indians page make the decision for me; they have Toby Harrah as the top player with a 4.4 WAR.

Harrah played 160 games at third, batted .267 with 100 runs scored and 72 RBI.

The only candidate for “Best Offensive Player” who doesn’t get featured elsewhere in this post is Jorge Orta, who was the team’s representative at the All-Star game.

Best Pitcher:
Len Barker went 19-12 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.336 WHIP.  He also lead the league with 187 strikeouts.

Best Name:
Andre Thornton missed 1980 due to a knee injury, but he’s got the best name on the team.

Best Nickname and Best Full Name:
Mike Hargrove used to take forever (relative to the day) to get ready for each pitch, thus earning the nickname “The Human Rain Delay”.

His full name is Dudley Michael Hargrove, and he was also a candidate for best offensive player (.304, 85 RBI, 86 runs)

Favorite Card:
Nothing much to say about this Bo Diaz card, just a nice candid shot.

Best In-Game/Action Shot:
This team set is not full of tremendous action shots, but I like this shot of Duane Kuiper ready for action in Yankee Stadium II.

Best Rookie Card:
Hassey was the starting catcher in 1980, and still batted .318 with 65 RBI.  He was also a candidate for “Best Offensive Player”.

Hassey would play for 14 years with 6 different teams.  He caught two different perfect games (Len Barker in 1981, Dennis Martinez in 1991) and between December, 1985 and July, 1986 he was traded from the Yankees to the White Sox, traded back to the Yankees and then traded back to the White Sox.

Best Cartoon:
The cartoons in 1980 Topps were kinda short on goofy appeal, but I liked this Tom Veryzer cartoon that shows him winning half a trophy.

Best player not on a card:
“Super Joe” Carboneau had a breakout year in 1980, won the A.L. Rookie and captured the attention and imagination of Cleveland.  He was also a candidate for “Best Offensive Player”. This is his rookie card in 1981 Topps:

“Super Joe” batted .289 with 23 homers, 83 RBI, 76 runs, 17 doubles and 2 triples..  Due to back problems his celebrity faded as quickly as it came and he became the early 1980’s cautionary tale towards investing in rookie cards.  In 1981 he batted .210 over 48 games, his numbers dropped further in 1982, and then he was gone from Major League baseball.

Best player pictured with another team:
When I was looking at Baseball Reference’s “Top 12” players from this team, I was surprised to see Miguel Dilone in there with a 3.0 WAR.  As it turns out, Dilone was purchased from the Cubs on May 7th and went on to have a career year.

Dilone batted .341 (3rd in the league), stole 61 bases (also 3rd in the league) and finished tied with Tony Perez for 22nd in the AL MVP voting.

Most Notable Airbrushing:
I was about to write off this category completely and declare that there is no airbrushing at all in this team set… and then I took a closer look at Bobby Cuellar on this card:

Even though he looks to be wearing the same uniform as his card-mates, the logo on his cap looks a bit odd… So I’m going to venture that he’s got an airbrushed cap because he’s wearing the cap of an Indians farm team.

Random Team: 1974 Topps Philadelphia Phillies, Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m breaking this long Team Set post into two parts because for all the time it’s taken me to do what was meant to be “a fun and relatively quick post”, I want to get one day’s worth out of it.

Favorite Card
I just love this candid shot of Greg Luzinski sitting in the dugout. I like the Carlton and Bowa cards (from the prior post) as well, but this one is top of the heap.

Greg Luzinski played only 85 games in 1974 due to injuries, but he broke out in 1975, hitting 34 homers and leading the league with 120 RBI.

Best Cartoon
Catcher Mike Ryan

Best Rookie Card
Dick Ruthven, just because he had a decent career and he’s faking a pitching pose in front of the Shea Stadium bullpen.

In 1973 Ruthven had gone straight from Cal State–Fresno to the Phillies. He didn’t pitch in the minor leagues until 1975, when he spent a good chunk of his 3rd pro season at AAA Toledo. He’d go on to pitch in 14 seasons with the Phils, Braves and Cubs.

Best Name, Front Of The Card
Aurelio Monteagudo is referred to on the back of the card as a “journeyman reliever”. He was acquired from the Angels in an early December trade.

He would never pitch for the Phillies, or appear in the Majors after 1973, but still…

Aurelio Monteagudo.

Best Name, Back Of The Card
Mac Scarce is a pretty good name…

…but “Mac Scarce” hasn’t got anything on “Guerrant McCurdy Scarce”!

Two Best Variations
There are two Rookie Pitchers cards which include Phillies and have variations; the variations don’t involve the Phillies pitchers, but I’m going to share these here anyway.

Because it involves a Mets pitcher, the best variation is the one where Bob Apodaca’s name is misspelled “Apodaco”.

Mike Wallace would pitch for four teams over five seasons, and was traded to the Yankees in May, 1974. He appeared on three Topps cards in his career, and this is the only one which isn’t airbrushed; In 1975 Topps he was airbrushed into a Yankees cap, and in 1977 Topps he was airbrushed into a Rangers cap. He did appear in 1976 SSPC in a Cardinals uniform.

The second-best variation is the card which labels Dave Freisleben as being with “Washington”. This is, of course, part of the whole “Washington Nat’l. Lea.” thing.

Ron Diorio made 23 appearances in 1973 and 2 in 1974, all in relief. He did pitch well in 1973, flashing a 2.33 and 1.241 WHIP while getting a save.

Best insert
OK, one of the “Traded” cards would probably qualify as a better insert, but the unnumbered team checklist card will also do nicely.


Don’t forget to check out the series that I didn’t realize I was “borrowing” from: Night Owl’s “Joy Of A Team Set”!

Random Team: 1974 Topps Philadelphia Phillies, Part 1

Once again, I’ve fired up the Random-itron 2000 and it generated the next team set in this series; the 1974 Topps Philadelphia Phillies.

…But before I get started, you may be wondering what’s up with the “Part 1” in the subject line. Executive Summary: I spent too much time on this post and want to get at least two posts out of the work I put in. Detailed summary is down below.

Anyway…

The 1974 Phillies went 80-82 and finished 3rd in the 6 team NL East (8 games behind the division-winning Pirates).

The Phillies were managed by Danny Ozark, who was born Daniel Leonard Orzechowski.

He played 18 years in the Dodgers organization without ever making it to The Show, and was a coach with the Dodgers for a number of years before getting the managing job with the Phillies. He would manage the Phils for 7 years in the 1970’s, finishing in 1st place 3 years in a row, but never winning the NLCS.

Best Offensive Player
Mike Schmidt was a 24-year-old in his second full season, made his first All-Star team and lead the Majors in homers (36) and the N.L. in slugging percentage (.546).

He also had 28 doubles, 7 triples, 116 RBI and for good measure he stole 23 bases.

For anyone who is not familiar with this card, I will direct your attention to the Phillies bullpen cart parked on the left-hand side.

Best Pitcher
Steve Carlton was an All-Star in 1974, went 16-13, 3.22 and lead the league in K’s (240) and BB’s (136). He also had 17 complete games, which was 2nd in the NL.

This card was a finalist for “Best Action Shot” and “Favorite Card”, but I’ll admit I didn’t want to have one card represent three categories.

Best Player In A Supporting Role
I always forget that Jim Lonborg won a Cy Young award with the Red Sox in 1967. That year he went 22-9, 3.16, had a 1.138 WHIP and lead the league with 246 K’s.

In 1974, Lonborg went 17-13, 3.21 and pitched 16 complete games with 3 shutouts.

Here’s a fun Lonborg fact courtesy of Baseball-reference.com: “In the TV show ‘Cheers’, the picture behind the bar that was supposed to be Sam Malone pitching for the Red Sox is actually a picture of Lonborg.”

Most Notable Airbrush Job; Best Offensive Player In A Supporting Role
On 10/18/73, the Phillies acquired Dave Cash from the Pirates for Ken Brett.  This card and Ken Brett’s 1974 card both feature good airbrushing jobs, which goes to show that the airbrush artists could do good work when they weren’t up against a tight deadline.

Cash was an All-Star in his first season with the Phils and batted an even .300 in 1974, with 11 triples, 89 runs scored and 58 RBI.

Best Action Shot
Larry Bowa was also an All-Star in 1974, batted .275 and scored 97 runs.

Picking the “Best Action Shot” card was a tough decision, but I’ll stand by the Bowa card.

Best Player Not On A 1974 Card
Jay Johnstone had been in the Majors since 1966, but since he only appeared in 23 games in 1973, he did not appear on a 1974 baseball card… and even if he had, it wouldn’t have shown him with the Phillies, who picked him up in early April after the Cardinals cut him loose near the end of Spring Training.

Johnstone started the year with AAA Toledo and got called up in early July. Over the second half of the season, he appeared in 64 games and batted .295 with 30 runs scored and 30 RBI. Needless to say, he did get a card in 1975.

I will get into the rest of the categories in Part 2. And speaking of parts 1 and 2…


The original idea behind these posts was that they were supposed to be relatively quick… Scan and post a bunch of cards from a particular team, and let the cards do the talking.

Then, of course, my own tendencies took over, I started researching the players and the team and the cards and the next thing I know, I’m spending just as much time on these posts as any other I write.

Since this post was already in progress when I realized I was waaay down the rabbit hole in terms of research, I broke it down into two parts because I figured I might as well get two days’ worth of posts out of all the research I did.

I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do for the next team. I’ll probably cut back on the research and just go with the original idea of “This guy is good, this card is cool, this action shot is the best” and leave it at that… but we’ll see.


Don’t forget to check out the series that I didn’t realize I was “borrowing” from: Night Owl’s “Joy Of A Team Set”!

Random Team: 1978 Topps Kansas City Royals

I shoulda known.

I did my first random team set, had fun doing it and I got positive comments to that first post.  I thought that, at worst, I was building on the “Five Random Cubs Cards” posts that Wrigley Wax does every Sunday (as well as other people’s randomly-based posts).

…Only to realize that what I did was not some great idea out of the blue, not an adaptation of a different idea, but instead was the same as something that Night Owl’s been doing for a couple of years.  Damn.

After some deliberation I decided that I needed to go where inspiration takes me, no matter how lacking in originality it might be.  So with credit and apologies to Night Owl, I’m going to keep doing these posts as long as I enjoy them and you read them.

Anyway, I fired up the randomizer again and came up with the Kansas City Royals from 1978 Topps.

This is very welcome to me, because 1978 was the 5th and final year of my initial “Topps can do no wrong!” phase where I completed every set within, at most, two years of starting it.

Sadly, there are no cartoons on the backs of 1978 Topps cards and there are no airbrushed Royals in this team set, so the “Best Cartoon” and “Notable Airbrushing” categories will get a rest time around.

The 1978 Royals finished in 1st with a 92-70 record, 5 games ahead of the Angels and Rangers.  They lost the ALCS to the Yankees in four.

Manager Whitey Herzog had taken over the Royals midway through the 1975 season and had had nothing but success with the team.  His prior two managerial jobs didn’t go as well.  He lost 91 of 138 games with the 1973 Rangers before being fired.  He went 2-2 as an interim manager for the 1974 Angels.

Whitey is in the HOF as a manager;  as an outfielder he kicked around with the Senators, KC Athletics, Orioles and Tigers for 8 seasons.  As is all-too-often the case with manager cards, this “old guy” from my youth was younger (46) than I am now.  *Sigh*

Best Offensive Player: 

Nope, not George Brett.  I’d almost forgotten how good Amos Otis could be.  He batted .298 with 74 Runs, 30 doubles, 22 homers, 96 RBI, and 32 Stolen Bases.

Best Pitcher: 

Dennis Leonard went 21-17 with a 3.33 ERA, 183 K’s, 20 complete games and 4 shutouts.  Just to pick a random current veteran pitcher, Justin Verlander has 23 complete games spread out over his 11 full seasons.

Best Performance In A Supporting Role: 

Larry Gura went16-4, 2.72 with a 1.096 WHIP.  Like Elston Howard in Monday’s post, Gura gets an extra brownie point for being with the Yankees during the short time I liked the Yankees.

Guy I can’t NOT mention (and, yeah, fine he also has the All-Star shield): 

George Brett lead the league with 45 doubles and batted .294, but Amos Otis’ overall numbers were better.

Best Name:

You’re welcome, 11-year-old boys of all ages.  Joe Zdeb came in a close second.

Something about this photo reminds me of George Harrison.  Pete LaCock doesn’t really look like George Harrison, but I think there’s something about his expression that reminds me of George.  I don’t know… it’s stupid but I mention it anyway.

Best Rookie Card: 

U.L. Washington can brag about how much his rookie card is worth, and maybe he’ll forget to mention that he shares it with two HOFers a HOFer, a player who probably should be in the HOF… AND the awesomely-named Mickey Klutts.

Best Player not on a card:
Pitcher Rich Gale’s rookie card would come in 1979 Topps.  As a 24-year-old in 1978 he went 14-8 with a 3.09 ERA and 3 shutouts.  He finished 4th in AL ROY voting (Lou Whitaker was the winner) and finished tied with Ken Singleton for 34th (!!!!) in AL MVP voting (Jim Rice was the winner;  Rick Burleson and Frank Tanana tied for 36th).

Best In-Game/Action Shot: 

I modified the name of this category because Darrell Porter’s not actually doing anything and the true action shots in this team set are kinda boring.  This is also the winner of the “Favorite Card” category.

Most Likely To Succeed (Down The Road):

Buck played for the Brewers in 1978 after being involved in an offseason 3-team trade.  He’d later manage the Blue Jays, and was also the manager of the USA team in the first World Baseball Classic.  He currently is a broadcaster for the Blue Jays.

Player I scanned and uploaded by mistake and, well, here he is:
I could’ve also listed him as “Best Aviators”.

Not that Al Cowens was a slouch;  he was second in 1977 MVP voting, and in 1978 he batted .274 with 63 runs and 63 RBI (not a typo).


Random Team Review: 1973 Topps Expos

As a fun idea in general, but also an excuse to go back and appreciate cards in my collection that I might not have looked at in while, I’m going to try doing posts on 1970’s or 1980’s team sets – baseball, football or hockey – selected by a random number generator from a list.  For each team, I’ll talk a little bit about that year’s team and share cards from a number of categories. I won’t necessarily use every category with every team, and I expect that I will think up new categories as we go along.

True Confessions: I put my thumb on the scale for this first post. I wanted to start off with an Expos team set, so the randomizer was only involved in selecting which particular Expos team I’d start with.

1973 Topps Montreal Expos

The 1973 Expos went 79-83 under manager Gene Mauch, and finished in 4th place in the 6-team National League East.

Mauch was the Expos manager for the first 7 years of their existence.

BEST POSITION PLAYER

Ken Singleton was easily the best offensive player, batting .302 with 23 homers, 103 RBi and 100 runs scored.

BEST PITCHER

Steve Renko went 15-11, 2.81 as a starter and was their best pitcher over the full season.

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Reliever Mike Marshall made 92 appearances, going 14-11 with 31 saves and a 2.66 ERA.

BEST PLAYER WHO DIDN’T APPEAR ON A CARD
23-year-old Steve Rogers didn’t come up until mid-July after spending the first half of the season with the AA Quebec Carnavals and the AAA Peninsula Whips. During the second half he had a 10-5 record, 1.54 ERA and 1.060 WHIP. His rookie card was in the 1974 Topps set.

BEST ROOKIE CARD

Tom Walker is the father of Mets 2nd Baseman Neil Walker. He beat out Pepe Frias and Jorge Roque (both of whom shared a card with two other players) for this honor.

BEST ACTION SHOT

This was not a fierce competition. There were only two action shots in this team set. Trust me, this is the better of the pair.

MOST NOTABLE AIRBRUSH JOB
Mike Marshall’s card, shown above. Marshall is airbrushed because he had been acquired via trade from the Astros…. IN JUNE 1970! Assuming that’s a Tigers jersey, then the photo predates Marshall being taken by the Seattle Pilots in the October, 1968 expansion draft.

BEST CARTOON

BEST INSERT
In the case of 1973 Topps, it’s the only insert… the unnumbered team checklist cards.  This card looks miscut because it didn’t scan properly and I didn’t want to go back and fix it.

Since many of you probably aren’t familiar with these cards, I’ll include the back.

…Well… that was fun!  I think I’ll have to do more of these.