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1977 Topps #534 Paul Splittorff

Posted by Andy on May 26, 2011

Paul Splittorff of the Royals has died at the age of 64.

He is the Royals' all-time leader in Wins:

Rank Player Wins IP
1. Paul Splittorff 166 2554.2
2. Dennis Leonard 144 2187.0
3. Mark Gubicza 132 2218.2
4. Kevin Appier 115 1843.2
5. Larry Gura 111 1701.1
6. Bret Saberhagen 110 1660.1
7. Tom Gordon 79 1149.2
8. Charlie Leibrandt 76 1257.0
9. Steve Busby 70 1060.2
Al Fitzmorris 70 1098.0

It would appear he's likely to hold that record for a long time.

Interestingly, Splittorff is best-remembered by most for facing the Yankees a lot in the playoffs. In fact he is among the leaders in most post-season games pitched against the Yankees before the wild card era (which also happens to cut out a ton of Yankee playoff appearances):

Rk Player #Matching W L W-L% ERA GS CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP
1 Clem Labine 12 Ind. Games 2 2 .500 3.26 1 1 1 2 30.1 37 11 3 7 14 1.45
2 Carl Erskine 11 Ind. Games 2 2 .500 5.83 7 2 0 0 41.2 36 27 2 24 31 1.44
3 Hugh Casey 9 Ind. Games 2 2 .500 1.72 0 0 0 1 15.2 14 3 0 3 4 1.09
4 Art Nehf 7 Ind. Games 3 3 .500 2.01 7 5 2 0 58.1 34 13 1 22 21 0.96
5 Steve Mingori 7 Ind. Games 0 0 4.32 0 0 0 1 8.1 9 4 1 3 2 1.44
6 Dennis Leonard 7 Ind. Games 2 3 .400 4.31 6 2 0 0 31.1 34 15 3 7 23 1.31
7 Paul Splittorff 6 Ind. Games 2 0 1.000 2.68 4 0 0 0 37.0 35 11 2 10 11 1.22
8 Don McMahon 6 Ind. Games 0 0 2.16 0 0 0 0 8.1 6 2 1 6 10 1.44
9 Burt Hooton 6 Ind. Games 3 3 .500 3.69 6 1 0 0 31.2 29 13 3 14 18 1.36
10 Joe Hatten 6 Ind. Games 0 0 8.44 1 0 0 0 10.2 16 10 1 9 5 2.34
11 Larry Gura 6 Ind. Games 2 2 .500 4.18 5 1 0 0 28.0 43 13 3 5 12 1.71
12 Harry Gumbert 6 Ind. Games 0 0 27.00 0 0 0 0 4.0 12 12 1 5 3 4.25
13 Lew Burdette 6 Ind. Games 4 2 .667 2.92 6 4 2 0 49.1 43 16 6 8 25 1.03
14 Doug Bird 6 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 2.35 0 0 0 0 7.2 10 2 1 0 3 1.30
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/26/2011.

Here are a few of Splittorff's regular season gems:

A note on this card: it's one of the very few cards I could find of Splittorff with an action shot. He seems to have an awful lot of posed shots for some reason.

In enjoy the 1977 Topps design like a lot of their late 70s designs but my favorite thing about this set is the fact that they made each player's name as large as possible on the back, expanding it to fill the width of the card. I guess it's not ultimately the most efficient use of space but it certainly lends some gravitas to each card.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2011 at 7:10 am and is filed under Card of the Week. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

26 Responses to “1977 Topps #534 Paul Splittorff”

  1. So is it a 1979 card or a 1977 card? The stats and copyright on the back of it suggest it is a 1977.

  2. 1977. Fixed that typo, thanks.

  3. Thanks. Feel free to delete the earlier comment. :)
    I'd love to know your thoughts about what Topps set from the late 70's or early 80's has the most interested card BACK design.

  4. That was such a great era for baseball. I loved watching the Royals and Brewers grow through the '70s from expansion teams to contenders.

    http://pinetarandbrickbats.blogspot.com/2011/05/remembering-royals-during-their-heyday.html

  5. the Royals-Yankees playoff series' remain in my memory more than any other short term rivalry I can think of. 1980 was like a relief when they finally got past the Yanks. I wasn't even a KC fan.

  6. When I was first collecting cards, I just loved the name "Splittorff". It was so unusual.

  7. A couple of things:

    Dan--what is it you're doing exactly? Do you write a blog post based on a post you see here, and then link to it when you write a comment? Is that actually generating a lot of traffic for you? I've read a couple of your own posts and I like your writing but I have a tough time imagining that this tactic is getting you a lot of readers.

    Doug - well I don't have particularly strong feelings about Topps card backs in the mid 70s to 80s--since they were pretty much identical the whole time. I like some of the more unusual colors, such as the 78s, but in general the layout and content is pretty similar.

    Friend of the blog, Night Owl, has been doing a card back countdown for a while on his blog, with a lot more information on each design. He's covering all cards, not just Topps and not just those years, but you'll find a lot of info in your particular area of interest too:

    http://nightowlcards.blogspot.com/search/label/card%20back%20countdown

  8. I love those Powder Blue uniforms. in the 1970's Topps usually did a good job matching the Team Name to the Light Blue (1974, 76, 77, 78) even if the Royals were the only team with that color on the cards.

  9. What a pointless fact on the back of Splittorff's card. Why would you put the seating capacity of Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium on a Paul Splittorff card? Who cares?

    @3 Jay,

    I liked the simulated baseball game you could play with the backs of the 1978 cards.

    The 1979 Cards had an odd esoteric type of question and answer on the back of the cards that only Rain Man could answer. I think they used to list a date, such as: "What happened on July 29, 1956?" And the answer would be: "Gil Hodges hit two doubles against the Chicago Cubs in the first game of a double header".

    I think the 1981 cards were the first to start listing larger sets of data like OBP or Slugging, maybe SB/CS data as well.

    The back of a card that really changed things and stands out to me was the back of the 1989 Upper Deck cards that featured a full color photo.

  10. Andy - I think part of the reason you may have a hard time finding Splittorff cards with action shots is because I believe Topps used to use a lot of posed shots (not just of Splittorff - of everyone). Here is a site I found with pictures of Mantle's Topps cards:

    http://www.themick.com/cards.htm

    There are very few action shots. I know Mantle's time is before Splittorff's but I think Topps still used a lot of posed shots during the 70s and even into the 80s. Thinking to my collection of Keith Hernandez cards, the 1976 Topps one is the only one from 1975-1980 which has an "action" shot (and he's standing in the field). The 1980 Topps card has an "action" shot if you consider batting practice "action". Or you can just search Google images for 1977 Topps to see that most of the cards are posed shots.

    Part of the reason I liked the 1988 Score set as a kid is that it had a lot of action shots and few posed shots. Do a Google image search for 1988 Score and you will see a vast difference in the number of action shots when compared to 1977 Topps.

  11. Thanks for the nice post Andy. I'm not a Royals fan, so I really only know Splittorff through old baseball cards. It sounds like he was a really good guy, and a really good pitcher. It's always interesting to read about someone who didn't win because of pure, raw talent, but rather through smarts. It sounds like Splittorff was kind of a Jamie Moyer-style pitcher, he wasn't going to overpower you, but he would find some way to get you out.

    I think it's really weird that Splittorff didn't start during the 1980 World Series. I've watched game 6 of the 1980 WS on DVD, and the announcers talk a lot about Jim Frey going with a 3-man rotation in the Series, which didn't include Splittorff. He pitched well in the ALCS, so why not let him start in the Series?

    It's too bad that Splittorff retired in 1984 and wasn't able to be a part of the Royals WS win in 1985, I'm sure that would have meant a lot to someone who played for them for so long.

    I was looking through some of my old baseball cards earlier this week, before Splittorff died, and came upon this very card, and I thought to myself, "What an awesome card!" Good card to choose. And he had an awesome name, Splittorff just sounds intimidating.

  12. Mark, that's a good point about lack of action shots on cards before 1988. That was actually the first year I collected cards--I was a big fan of 1988 Score too--and to some degree I forget that cards before then had a lot more posed shots.

    I did an entire blog on the 1988 Topps set, card by card. Here are the Royals cards, for example:
    http://88topps.blogspot.com/search/label/royals

    I also did a blog on the 1988 Score update and traded set here:
    http://88scoretraded.blogspot.com/

  13. @10 Artie Z,

    As far as "action shots" go it depends on the year with Topps and the player. Some sets seam to feature a lot of photos from spring training and if I remember correctly the '77 set had a lot of those. I think '72 & '73 were mostly posed shots. There was a subset of "In Action" cards in the '72 set. I think '78 had a lot of posed shots but I remember Reggie Jackson was featured in an action shot.

    I think 1983 & 1984 featured a lot of action shots with a picture of the players face in the corner.

    There's quite a few action shots in the '74 set. Seaver, Matlack, Garvey, Rose, Morgan, J. Bench, Murcer, R. Jackson, Ryan, Bando, Grich, B Williams, R. White, Rollie Fingers, Al Kaline, Gary Mathews, K. Holtzman, J. Mayberry, L. Bowa, T. Simmons, J. Rudi, R. Cey, J. Marichal, W. Davis, H. Killebrew, D. Money, D. Concepcion, R. Fosse, J. Kaat, B. Powell, V. Pinson, L. May, and J.R. Richard.

    Johnny Bench was featured in an action shot in '73, '74, '76, '77, '78, '79, 80, and '83.

    It seams like Fisk was a popular subject in action shots for Topss, '74, '76, '77, '78, '79, '80, '81, '83, '84, '85, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90. '91, '92, '93.

    Though not exclusively, it seams Topps issued a lot of Star players in "action" shots.

  14. Always sad to see such a familiar name from my baseball card days pass so young. From that list of Royals pitchers, Splittorf, Leonard and Gura were all together for each of the team's first five playoff appearances from 1976-81. That was quite a run in pre-wildcard days ('81 excepted).

    Good card choice. From 1977-81, Topps made the stat field on the backs white (or very pale gray) allowing for much easier viewing. I appreciate that more now than I did then for obvious reasons. I noticed that Splittorf's '78 card already cites him as the franchise's winningest pitcher (with 89). He has been since passing Dick Drago back in '75...quite a run.

  15. Awesome (as usual)

  16. Split was not in the starting rotation in the 1980 World Series because manager, Jim Frey, believed that the Phillies had too many tough right handed batters. Split was not happy about it and he was not a big fan of Jim Frey.

    I went to college with Split and we were frat brothers. He was a total class guy with a great sense of humor. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.

  17. Interestingly, neither Splittorf or Dennis Leanard ever made an all star game.

  18. Clem Vennison Says:

    Splittorff was one heck of a competitor when he was on the bump. The only thing sadder than Split missing out on that '85 team is the fact that he won't be around to see this new batch of KC youngsters grow together.

  19. Here's the all time Royals leaders according to WAR:

    1-Kevin Appier-44.1
    2-Bret Saberhagen-37.3
    3-Mark Gubicza-35.6
    4-Dan Quisenberry-25.2
    5-Dennis Leonard-25.0
    6-Zach Grienke-22.7
    7-Jeff Montgomery 21.5
    8-Charlie Liebrandt-21.4
    9-PAUL SPLITTORFF-20.9
    10-Larry Gura-16.6

  20. That's gotta be among pitchers obviously. George Brett must be #1 all-time.

  21. @20 Andy,

    Good catch, I should have been more clear on that one. Here's the top ten for Royal position players:

    1-George Brett-85.0
    2-Amos Otis-42.3
    3-Willie Wilson-35.7
    4-Frank White-26.9
    5-Hal McRae-26.1
    6-Carlos Beltran-24.6
    7-Mike Sweeney-22.2
    8-David Dejesus-22.0
    9-John Mayberry-20.2
    10-Daryl Porter-17.3

    That a huge gap between #1 and #2. I wonder if that's the biggest gap between a team's best player and their second best player.

  22. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'm thinking Padres, Gwynn vs.....Nate Colbert? Let's see

    1...Tony Gwynn...68.4
    2...Dave Winfield...30.4
    3...Adrian Gonzalez...22.6
    ....
    10...Nate Colbert...15.3

    Edge, Brett.

  23. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Maybe the Rockies and Helton? Nope, not close, only up by 15 on Walker.

    A long career on a younger franchise is the key. But I'm not thinking of any other good candidates.

  24. @23 Twisto,

    Actually it's mainly players on the oldest franchises. I think the main reason is the reserve clause. Brett and the Royals and Gwynn and the Padres are kind of the anomalies in this situation.

    Tigers:

    Ty Cobb-153.7
    A. Kaline-91.0
    Difference-62.7

    Braves:

    Aaron-141.2
    E. Mathews-95.9
    Difference: 45.3

    Royals:

    Brett-85.0
    A. Otis-42.3
    Difference: 42.7

    Pirates:

    Wagner-123.6
    Clemente-83.8
    Difference:39.8

    Padres:

    Gwynn-68.4
    D. Winfield-30.4
    Difference:38.0

    Red Sox:

    T. Williams-125.3
    Yaz-88.7
    Difference: 36.6

    Cardinals:

    Musial-127.8
    Hornsby-91.6
    Difference: 36.2

  25. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Good finds. That was a dumb theory on my part. The inner circle greats just accumulate so much more WAR than the run-of-the-mill stars. Gwynn looks like he's probably the leader on a percentage basis.

  26. @25 Twisto,

    Williams would have had this mark if it hadn't been for WW2 & Korea. He probably missed something like 30-40 WAR.

    It's very rare these days to see players have long careers just with one team. I remember reading an article a few years ago about Jose Reyes being first or second on every Mets all-time record and now just a few years later it's not going to happen.