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

1976 SSPC #95 – Dave Heaverlo (Giants)

It’s been over three months since I featured one of my SSPC cards, but it took a special card to get me back on track… I pulled this one from a 100 card repack. Not something I ever would have expected.

Ladies and gentlemen, this… is Dave Heaverlo.
1976 SSPC #95 Dave Heaverlo

Dave Heaverlo… was a relief pitcher who pitched for 7 years with the Giants, A’s and Mariners. He appeared in 60 or more games in four different seasons and was one of six players traded to Oakland for Vida Blue

Dave Heaverlo was an unusual guy… and he wasn’t even a lefty! He wore #60 for most of his career and, most notably for a kid of the 1970’s, he shaved his head. You’ve got to remember, this was a time where even the older players had long hair and sometimes perms. The only bald guys around were two actors who were both viewed as being exotic in their baldness: Telly Savalas (1970’s TV detective Kojak – “Who loves ya, baby?”) and Yul Brynner (who was in The Ten Commandments, The King And I and The Magnificent Seven, but for me and my friends, he was the robotic Gunslinger from the movie Westworld).

In 1976, Dave… pitched in 61 games for the Giants and finished with a 4-4 record with 1 save.

Shea-o-meter: Many of the photos in 1976 SSPC were taken in Shea Stadium; Every team came through Shea because the Yankees were temporarily playing in Shea while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. “Can two Major League teams share a ballpark without driving each other crazy?”

That’s the left field auxiliary scoreboard just below Heaverlo’s ear.
Shea: 53
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 8
Can’t tell: 15
Not Shea: 7

1970’s Census
We’re going to keep track of all the instances of 1970’s facial hair and other 1970’s trends… Sideburns, afros, mustaches, Aviator glasses…

Dave obviously bucked the general hair trends of the 1970’s… but he does have a mustache!
Total Cards: 82
1970’s Sideburns: 41
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 26
Afro: 1
Perm: 2
Aviators: 6
Long Hair: 18
1976 SSPC #95 Dave Heaverlo back

1976 SSPC #98 – Charlie Williams (Giants)

1976 SSPC #98 Charlie Williams

Charlie Williams… is the one guy in the history of the Major Leagues who can say he was traded for Willie Mays.  On May 11th, 1972, the Mets brought Willie Mays back to New York by sending Williams and $50K to San Francisco.

Williams pitched 1 season with the Mets and 7 with the Giants.

In 1976, Charlie Williams… worked mainly out of the Giants bullpen.  He  made 48 appearances, 46 of them in  relief.  He went 2-0 with a 2.96 ERA and one save.

Shea-o-meter:   It is, indeed, Shea.
Shea:  37
Pretty sure it’s Shea:  7
Can’t tell:  6
Not Shea:  5

Betcha didn’t know… Charlie was born in Flushing, not far from Shea Stadium, and grew up a Mets fan.

SSPC vs. Topps: Charlie’s 1976 Topps card shows him wearing a cap which covers up his notable perm.

1976 SSPC #98 Charlie Williams back

Two Small Things That Warmed My Nerdy Little Heart Today

I keep my recent cards in binders organized by current rosters, and I just got finished updating some player’s rows with recently acquired cards.  Two in particular made me smile…

The first smile came when I put this card into the appropriate Blue Jays page in my AL East binder…
2013 Topps Erik Kratz_0001
…Erik Kratz was traded to Toronto in December…

It made me smile partially because I got to replace a hand-written placeholder with an actual card, but even more so when I turned the card over and saw this guy’s career:
2013 Topps Erik Kratz_0002
I like to see a guy who’s been around the block a few times get a baseball card… Yes, Kratz was on a Bowman Prospects card a few years ago, but it’s not the same.

The second smile came when updated the Jerome Williams row in my AL West Binder (he signed with the Astros as a free agent).
Jerome Williams row from AL West binder
Before I put this 2013 card into the far left slot, the entire row was occupied with 2005 cards… The 2013 Topps card ended up bumping a 2005 Heritage card out of the far right slot. I love it when a long-dormant row gets new life. Jerome Williams was a hot pitching prospect who ran into problems and ended up playing in the minors and overseas for a number of years, so he was absent from the “card scene” for a while. He did have a couple of cards in between, but I don’t own those cards.

By the way, at least two of the cards he had in between were Upper Deck cards… The fact that they would give cards to guys like Jerome Williams is one of the few things I miss about UD.

I thought it was also worth mentioning that Williams is from Honolulu and Baseball-reference.com describes him as Hawai’ian-Chinese-Portuguese-Spanish-Japanese-Norweigan-African-Filipino-American.

Black Friday: 2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Set

Back in 2002, Topps issued a 3-card promotional set of cards for the then-upcoming inaugural Topps Total set.

Thanks to Nick over at the “Dime Boxes” blog, I found out about these cards in time to include them in my COMC Black Friday frenzy.  I got all three for under $1.50.

All three promo cards feature different photos, and have some variations on the back as well.

First off, we’ve got Ichiro.  Mr. Suzuki was coming off his ROY/MVP season when this card was issued, so it’s no surprise he would be featured here.
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Ichiro

…and here’s the “regular” Topps Total card; they should’ve stuck with the pre-production photo:
2002 Topps Total Ichiro

Like Ichiro, Barry Bonds had also been the MVP the previous season. Here’s the pre-production card:
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Barry Bonds

…And the regular card; again, I prefer the pre-production card of the big jerk:
2002 Topps Total Barry Bonds

The final card of the trio is for Hank Blalock, who was a top prospect at the time… Baseball America ranked him at #3 in 2002, calling him “the best pure hitter in the minors”. I believe this photo is from the 2001 Futures Game.
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Hank Blalock

You want to know who the two guys ranked above Blalock were, right? Josh Beckett and Mark Prior.

Here’s the regular Total card. This is the only one of the three where the pre-production card is the lesser of the two.
2002 Topps Total Hank Blalock

And because I can’t just let things slide without showing how the backs differ… The most obvious difference is the card number. The numbering of the “team set” in the lower right-hand corner differs as well in that they went from a two-letter to a three-letter abbreviation (“SM” to “SEA”).  Topps also couldn’t decide whether to put Ichiro’s name up top or down low.

2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Ichiro back

2002 Topps Total Ichiro back

Ichiro and Bonds have different write-ups on their backs.  Blalock’s back has the same text, but some minor differences in how the minor league stats are presented.

In terms of how much I enjoyed it at the time, 2002 Total is one of my top sets of the 21st century.  After being bombarded with shiny, foily, garish, “More is MORE!” sets since the early 1990’s, the idea of an understated, simply designed and relatively appealing 990-card set which included relief pitchers and bench players was very exciting to me.  I first saw packs of Total at a show;  I bought a couple of packs and immediately ripped them… I can still remember standing in a show aisle, thumbing through cards and maniacally giggling about my wishes coming true.

I won’t suggest that the set has held up well over the years, but it’s still a personal favorite and is the only Total set I’ve completed to date.

I miss Total, and while I know it’s never coming back, I do wish that the base Topps set would be more Total-y.

1976 SSPC: #105 Chris Speier (Giants) …And An End-Of-The-Regular-Season Sigh


So this is where we are this morning.

The regular season is now officially over and we’ve got just one game’s recap to look at.

No checking on my fantasy team.

No Mets and Orioles highlights to watch.

My football team, the Steelers, is 0-4.

Its been about 10 years since I got completely fed up with the NHL, and I never could get in to basketball.



When do the Winter Olympics start?

OK, enough navel-gazing, let’s get on with our latest SSPC card.

1976 SSPC #105 Chris Speier

Chris Speier… played just one season in the minors and 19 years in the majors, mostly with the Giants and Expos, but also with the Cubs, Cardinals and Twins.  He was a three-time All-Star in the early  1970’s and was  named to the 1971 Topss All-Star Rookie team.  Speier is currently Dusty Baker’s bench coach on the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1976, Chris Speier… Was the starting shortstop for the Giants, batting .226 with 51 runs scored and 40 RBI.

Putting the words into the mouth of another blogger:
My guess at Night Owl‘s reaction to this card would be as follows…
It’s a night card! Yay!
It’s a San Francisco Giant card! Boo!

People forget that… Chris Speier’s son Justin was a reliever who spent 12 years in the Majors with (takes a deep breath) the Cubs, Marlins, Indians, Rockies, Blue Jays and Angels. He also spent 10 days on the Mets roster without appearing in any games.

1976 SSPC #105 Chris Speier back

Custom Set Preview: 2013/14 TSR Hot Stove

Those of you who were with me last off-season are familiar with the “Hot Stove” custom set which I used to feature offseason trades, signings, uniform changes, manager hirings and the like.  It also gives me an opportunity to play around with my graphics software and see how well I can “photoshop” players into their new uniforms.  Here’s one of last year’s cards:

2012-13 Hot Stove #7 - Zack Greinke

That design was based on the 1960-62 Bazooka set, a simple, yet appealing set which I’ve grown fond of over the past few years.  …And yet, I still don’t have any.  Those little suckers are hard to find!  OK, to be fair, it’s ones that are selling for a price I’m willing and able to pay that are hard to find.

For the upcoming Hot Stove design I wanted to replicate a different vintage oddball set, and I considered a number of designs, most notably 1970 Kellogg’s (even though I wouldn’t be able to replicate the “3-D” part).  I ultimately decided to go with 1959 Bazooka… another Bazooka set I don’t have any cards from, and one that is considerably more budget-busting than the 1960-62 cards.


1959 Bazooka is an unnumbered, blank-backed 23 card set with 14 short prints;  Nine cards were originally issued, with 14 more being added later.  Here’s an image I borrowed from another website:

1959 Bazooka Cepeda Snider

Each card made up the entire back of a 25-count box of Bazooka gum, and they’re fairly large cards, measuring just under 3” X 5”.  Since buying a box of 25 pieces of Bazooka was a a significant up-front investment for a kid, these cards were relatively scarce to begin with, and that scarcity naturally hasn’t improved over time.  Just as a quick example, the cheapest one I could find in the “Sold” listings of eBay was a non-short-printed Jim Davenport which went for $14.  Another example of their relative scarcity:  There isn’t a single 1959 Bazooka baseball card listed for sale on COMC.

Late in 1959, an 18 card football set with the same design was issued.  Those cards are similarly hard to come by.


Here’s the first “Promo card” for 2013/14 Hot Stove:

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #1 Matt Garza

By the way, this custom is not so much a prediction as it is a theoretical possibility which nicely illustrates some of the points of this post.  As they say when odds and point spreads are involved, this is “for entertainment purposes only”.  Matt Garza will be a free agent after the season, but I’m not aware of any interest or disinterest on the part of the Diamondbacks.

Of course, if Garza does sign with the D-backs, you heard it here first!

Fair warning

The rest of this post goes into details about what I was trying to do and how I went about doing it.  This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I wanted to write it anyway.  I will not take personal offense from anyone skipping the rest of this post…

…but if you do skip the rest of the text, at least scroll down a bit to look at the other “promo card”.

Also, if you have any suggestions, constructive criticism or the like, please feel free to let me know in the comments.


The original cards are considerably taller than my custom… but those dimensions are hard to work with in terms of cropping photos to fit properly, so I made the dimensions more conventional.  Like last year’s Hot Stove set, these customs are slightly taller and slightly narrower than standard size.

I naturally tried to match the fonts, colors, and such as much as possible.

One thing I noticed about 1959 Bazooka is that the two lines of text are justified so that they begin and end at roughly the same spot on the card… but the way it’s done is different on the two lines.

When adjusting for longer and shorter player names, in addition to making the font slightly wider or narrower, they adjusted the space between the letters.  If you look at the originals above, you’ll notice that “DUKE SNIDER” has slightly more space between letters than “ORLANDO CEPEDA” does.

However, the second line with the team name and player’s position was handled differently… On that line, there is some very minor adjustment to the spacing between letters, but they did most of their ‘adjusting’ by adding or removing space between the position and team.

To allow for space, Topps would sometimes abbreviate the city in somewhat odd ways… “DET. TIGERS”, “SAN FRAN. GIANTS”, “PHILA. PHILLIES”.  Topps did this in other sets at the time, and I really like that little detail, so I’m going to try to work those in to the customs.

Like the 1960-1962 Bazooka set, the 1959 set uses a variety of colors in the bottom of the card, and the colors have no relationship to the team pictured.  I’ve noticed that the football cards used some color combinations that weren’t used for baseball, and I’ll be using combos from both sets.


The original cards have team logos, but at the time – I would presume because of the limitations of the printing process used – the logos were slightly simplified in both details and colors.  I gave brief thought to using logos from 1959, but then I’d be outta luck when I needed to create a custom for any of the teams which didn’t exist in 1959.

So what I did instead was take a current logos and tried to put myself in the shoes of a 1959 Topps artist by following these two rules:

  • Make it as if I were going to print these with 1959 technology
  • Make it as if I were going to sell these to kids.

When there were multiple current logos to work with, I went with the one which was most “kid friendly”.  For example, with the Red Sox I went with the “pair of socks” sleeve logo rather than the “B” cap logo.

I also took each logo and simplified it as much as I could.  If a color fell outside of the “Topps color pallet”, I changed it to something that was Topps-like.  I also eliminated shading, drop shadows and other 21st century detail.  Here’s an example of what I did with the Diamondbacks’ logo:
Hot Stove Diamondback Logo Comparison

If I felt the logo needed a box around it, I did so;  otherwise, I added a colored border around the logo to help it stand out against the colored background.

Here’s the second promo card:

2013-14 Hot Stove Promo #2 Bronson Arroyo

Again, this custom is here mainly to illustrate some points.  Unlike Garza, I have read of a very tenuous connection between Arroyo and the Mets, along the lines of “The Mets are one of several teams which may be interested in Arroyo”.

BTW, this attempt to change Arroyo’s Reds uniform into a Mets uniform is far from my best work, but I’m a bit out of practice and I didn’t want to spend too much time on an image that could very well look comical in 6 months’ time.

If you compare the names “MATT GARZA” and “BRONSON ARROYO” in the two promos, you get a good example of what I was talking about above.  Both cards are using the same font in the same size, but Garza’s name is spaced out more in order to make up space.

So that’s what you’ll be seeing over the winter…

If teams behave themselves and hold their major announcements until after the World Series, like they’re supposed to, you’ll be seeing these go live in late October or November.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  I’m not 100% satisfied with what I’ve got, so there are at least a couple of minor changes I’m going to make.  I’d be more than willing to consider any constructive criticism you might have.

Saved From The Purge: 1990 Upper Deck

I’ve recently been purging cards from Upper Deck sets of the 1990’s. With the exception of 1993 – which I bought as a hand-collated set back in ’93 – I’m pretty indifferent to these sets.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I am never going to try to complete these sets, so why hang on to Mike Henneman and Randy Ready?

…But there were several cards that I held on to even though they don’t fit into any of my conventional “needs”. Here are three action shots from 1990 Upper Deck that were cool enough to hang on to.

1990 Upper Deck Don Robinson

1990 Upper Deck Ron Oester

1990 Upper Deck Domingo Ramos

1976 SSPC #97 John Montefusco

1976 SSPC #97 John MontefuscoHi, I’m John Montefusco!  You may remember me from… Winning the 1975 Rookie Of The Year award and pitching for 13 years, mainly with the Giants.

‘Round here, folks call me:  The Count

In 1976, John Montefusco… Lead the league in shutouts, won a career-high 16 games and pitched two scoreless innings in the All-Star game.

This card is… A nice portrait and one of Montefusco’s rookie cards.

So… take your time… and tell me… Is it Shea? Yep… Batter’s eye on the left, scoreboard on the right.

1976 SSPC #97 John Montefusco back