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

A Zesty Met Acquisition

One of the cards I picked up in the COMC Black Friday frenzy – and yes, I’m still working through those cards – was this 1978 Topps Zest Willie Montañez.
1978 Zest Willie Montanez

This is a card I’ve been tracking down for years and years. As a Mets collector who grew up in the 1970’s, and as a former kid who used to imitate the way Willie Montañez flipped his glove after he made a putout at first (and sometimes inadvertently flipped the ball behind him in the process), I couldn’t look myself in the mirror and not have this card.

There are four other cards in this set, but I don’t have any interest in them because they have the same photos as their Topps counterparts, with only some minor back differences to distinguish them. 1978 Zest cards are sort of like a small Mexican O-Pee-Chee set. The main differences on the back are the bilingual text, the card numbering, the MLB and MLBPA logos replacing the game part of the back, and proper spelling of Montañez with an ‘ñ’ instead of an ‘n’.  I wonder why they didn’t change this on the front, especially since its fairly clear that they reset the type on the front of the card (the type is narrower than on the Topps card).

1978 Zest Montanez back

Contrast and Compare: This is the front of the 1978 Topps Montañez.
1978 Topps Willie Montanez

Many of your favorite sportscard bloggers have written about this card; for more deets on the Zest set as a whole, check out this Topps Archive post here.

As for Willie Montañez himself… Willie came to the Mets as part of a complicated December, 1977 trade which sent players flying in every which direction:

  • The Braves sent Montañez to the Mets.
  • The Rangers sent Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine and Eddie Miller to the Braves,  sent Tom Grieve and a PTBNL (Ken Henderson) to the Mets and sent Bert Blyleven to the Pirates.
  • The Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Rangers and John Milner to the Pirates.
  • The Pirates sent Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to the Rangers.

Willie lasted for most of two seasons with the Mets, and was sent to Texas in August, 1979 for PTBNL’s which would end up being Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen (a long-time Shlabotnik favorite).