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Archive for the 'Card of the Week' Category

Card of the Week: 1980 Topps #129 Craig Reynolds

Posted by Andy on August 23, 2011

Oh wow--I love this card.

38 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the Week: 1990 Score #84 Tony Phillips

Posted by Andy on August 11, 2011


I promised a post about Tony Phillips, and I'll get to his career in a moment. Bear with me as I speak first about this 1990 Score card.

69 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the Week: 1973 Topps #593 Jack McKeon MGR

Posted by Andy on June 22, 2011

Jack McKeon is the interim manager of the Florida Marlins right now. This card gives you an idea of just how long he's been managing in baseball. This 1973 Topps card (now 38 years old!) is McKeon's first baseball card and it was issued in his first year as a big-league manager. To put the age of this card in a bit more perspective, keep in mind that hitting coach Charlie Lau passed away 27 years ago (in 1984 at age 50). That 1973 campaign is so long ago, that regarding the Royals McKeon managed that year:

  • John Mayberry's son is now a big-leaguer
  • Lou Piniella retired as a player, became a manager, and retired as a manager
  • Ed Kirkpatrick and Paul Splittorff are deceased
  • Hal McRae retired as a player, his son retired as a player, and McRae retired as a manager

I love the 1973 set. It's well-known for having a lot of great action shots, such as the Johnny Bench card.

25 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

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.

26 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the (ahem) Week: 1979 Topps #336 Bobby Thompson

Posted by Andy on May 4, 2011

I just saw on the front page of Baseball-Reference.com that Bobby Thompson died. He had an unremarkable playing career, appearing in just 64 games, all in 1978, with the Rangers. I presume this is his only major-league baseball card.

But Thompson was a little bit more famous than the average cup-of-coffee major leaguer since his name is a homophone for that of a much more famous player--Bobby Thomson. Thomson died last year while Thompson, born 30 years after Thomson, died on April 25th of this year. I feel bad for Thompson, as Google searches for him invariably lead instead to Thomson.

Anyway, take a look at that photo above. It is a great example of what Topps was well-known for at this time: airbrushing of photos. Clearly the photo they had of Thompson must have shown him in a different uniform, or perhaps no uniform at all. They painted a Rangers cap on his head and blue and red stripes on his shirt, and left a large amount of space open on his jersey. It's kind of weird, and if you ask me I'd rather have the original photo even if it shows a different team. (Mind you, Thompson was drafted by the Rangers, so if he's wearing a different uniform, presumably it would be for a Rangers minor-league team.)

Though he was in the majors for just one year, Thompson had a few moments in the sun. In one June game, he stroked a walk-off single after the Blue Jays intentionally walked Bump Wills to get to Thompson. Bobby Bonds scored the winning run and the Rangers went over .500. In this May game, Thompson pinch ran for Richie Zisk, moved to third on a single, and then stole home with the winning run as part of a double-steal. A couple weeks earlier, he had been involved in three different innings in which the Rangers scored, his two RBI helping to hold off Reggie Jackson's homer and the Yankees.

The back of the card shows Thompson's entire professional career, including those 64 games in the majors with the Rangers. I love the backs of the 1979 set, and this card even mentions Nolan Ryan in the baseball dates quiz.

Rest in peace, Mr. Thompson.

32 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the Week: 1974 Topps Traded Fernando Gonzalez

Posted by Andy on February 10, 2011

Night Owl, our blog contributor to Card of the Week posts, recently posted a 1974 Topps Traded card featuring Fernando Gonzalez.

Here, I'm even going to steal his card image:

This set was a really weird set of cards. These days, a traded or update set is quite typical. It's been happening pretty much every year since 1981, when Topps issued a traded set that included traded players as well as rookies such as Tim Raines and Fernando Valenzuela. The weird thing is that they issued this special set following the 1974 set but then stopped until 1981. This 1974 set also features a lot of strange photos, I think in part because Topps tried to get shots of players without helmets or caps to hide their old team logos.

Anyway, I had never heard of Fernando Gonzalez until I saw Night Owl's post. Apparently he was a bit of a utility player, seeing 249 games at second base but also 64 at third base, 16 in the outfield, and even 5 at shortstop. That's good stuff.

I got curious about his 17 career homers and clicked on his HR Log. Check it out:

1973 HRs #car #yr #gm Date @Bat Pitcher Score Inn Out RoB RBI BOP Pos WPA bWE Play Description
1 1 1 1 1973-05-27 PIT HOU Dave Roberts behind 0-5 b 6 0 --- 1 1 5 0.036 8% Home Run
1974 HRs #car #yr #gm Date @Bat Pitcher Score Inn Out RoB RBI BOP Pos WPA bWE Play Description
2 2 1 1 1974-07-02 NYY @ DET Luke Walker tied 0-0 t 2 2 --- 1 8 4 0.115 58% Home Run
1977 HRs #car #yr #gm Date @Bat Pitcher Score Inn Out RoB RBI BOP Pos WPA bWE Play Description
3 3 1 1 1977-05-02 PIT @ ATL Bob Johnson ahead 9-1 t 9 1 1-- 2 7 5 0.001 100% Home Run; Stennett Scores
4 4 2 1 1977-07-06 PIT STL Al Hrabosky behind 6-8 b 7 2 12- 3 9 PH 0.551 76% Home Run; Fregosi Scores; Ott Scores
5 5 3 1 1977-08-08 PIT CHC Rick Reuschel ahead 3-2 b 6 2 --- 1 7 4 0.120 83% Home Run (Line Drive)
6 6 4 1 1977-08-28 PIT @ SDP Bob Shirley ahead 2-0 t 3 2 1-3 3 6 7 0.181 91% Home Run; Macha Scores; Oliver Scores
1978 HRs #car #yr #gm Date @Bat Pitcher Score Inn Out RoB RBI BOP Pos WPA bWE Play Description
7 7 1 1 1978-07-14 SDP @ CHC Dave Roberts ahead 1-0 t 1 2 12- 3 6 4 0.221 81% Home Run; Perkins Scores; Gamble Scores
8 8 2 2 1978-07-14 SDP @ CHC Dave Roberts ahead 5-2 t 6 0 1-- 2 6 4 0.072 95% Home Run; Gamble Scores
1979 HRs #car #yr #gm Date @Bat Pitcher Score Inn Out RoB RBI BOP Pos WPA bWE Play Description
9 9 1 1 1979-04-05 SDP @ LAD Burt Hooton ahead 1-0 t 7 1 --- 1 8 4 0.133 81% Home Run
10 10 2 1 1979-04-19 SDP SFG Vida Blue behind 1-7 b 4 2 1-3 3 8 4 0.107 15% Home Run; Winfield Scores; Hargrove Scores
11 11 3 1 1979-04-30 SDP @ NYM Craig Swan behind 2-3 t 7 0 --- 1 8 4 0.208 50% Home Run
12 12 4 1 1979-05-21 SDP LAD Andy Messersmith tied 0-0 b 4 2 1-- 2 7 4 0.253 78% Home Run; Tenace Scores
13 13 5 1 1979-05-25 SDP HOU Rick Williams tied 0-0 b 2 1 --- 1 7 4 0.121 65% Home Run
14 14 6 1 1979-06-07 SDP @ CHC Ken Holtzman tied 0-0 t 2 1 --- 1 6 4 0.106 58% Home Run
15 15 7 1 1979-06-13 SDP PIT Bruce Kison tied 1-1 b 4 1 -2- 2 6 4 0.207 79% Home Run; Turner Scores
16 16 8 1 1979-06-26 SDP @ LAD Don Sutton tied 1-1 t 4 1 12- 3 7 4 0.269 82% Home Run; Tenace Scores; Johnstone Scores
17 17 9 1 1979-07-13 (2) SDP @ MON David Palmer behind 3-4 t 6 2 --- 1 7 4 0.176 44% Home Run (LF-CF)
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2011.

I noticed a few interesting things here:

  • Overall, it's a fairly impressive list of pitchers he homered off of.
  • He owned Dave Roberts. Overall Gonzalez had 5 hits (3 homers) with 7 RBI in 16 at-bats against Roberts.
  • He had one whopping pinch-hit homer off Hrabosky. Looking at the box score, it came in the bottom of the 7th, shortly after Ted Simmons had hit a homer off Goose Gossage in the top the 7th to put the Cardinals ahead.
  • The thing I found most interesting, though, were the names of the teammates who scored on his homers. They are visible in the far right column. There are 12 different teammates who scored on his various homers. They include a bunch of future managers (Fregosi, Macha, Hargrove, Tenace) and some other really good players (Winfield, Oliver, Gamble).

18 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the Week: 1981 Topps #130 Larry Gura

Posted by Andy on January 20, 2011

(OK, it's pretty brazen of me to still refer to this feature as "Card of the Week" given how long it's been since I posted one, plus at this point I have no intention of resuming weekly card posts just yet. They will come back as a regular feature at some point. As with the other most recent CotW posts, this one is written by Greg from Night Owl Cards. Enjoy his writing, which is way better than my own!)

The "last hurrah" is a familiar ritual in modern life. The last day of high school. The bachelor party. The retirement party.

It is familiar in card collecting circles, too. The last set of the Topps monopoly era (1980). The last licensed Upper Deck set (2009). Often, the "last hurrah" immediately concludes something called "the golden era."

For me, the "golden era" of All-Star cards was from 1975-81. And the "last hurrah" of All-Star cards was the 1981 Topps set.

In 1975, Topps came up with a brilliant plan to take the card of each player who was an all-star starter the previous year and present his card as if it was a badge of honor. In '75, each All-Star player featured a yellow-and-red border and an angular, white star in the bottom right corner. The presentation set those players apart from other players in the set. Young collectors often considered them the most valuable cards in the set, simply because of the design.

This pattern continued for Topps for the next six years. In 1976, the All-Stars featured a smaller, yellow star. In 1977, All-Stars wore a blue or red banner across the bottom. In 1978, the All-Star players actually featured an all-star badge. The pattern continued through the 1981 set.

But '81 was the last time Topps honored All-Stars in such a manner. After that year, Topps began issuing separate cards of All-Stars, creating a subset for the All-Star team. That meant that there was more than one card of an All-Star in each set. That was Topps' intent. After seeing new competitors Fleer and Donruss issue multiple cards of stars in one set, Topps wanted in on the action.

But for me, this practice diluted the impact of the card of the All-Star player. I viewed the new extra All-Star card as exactly that, an "extra card." Meanwhile, the regular card of that player was just that, a "regular" card. Nothing special.

The best part of the way Topps presented All-Stars between 1975-81 was that you looked forward to certain players being "All-Starred" in the following year's set. It was as if they had made the club. I'm not talking about perennial All-Stars, like Pete Rose or Rod Carew. Instead, I looked forward to first-time All-Stars getting that badge of honor.

In the 1977 set, it was Toby Harrah. In 1978, it was Rick Burleson. In '79, Richie Zisk. In '80, Davey Lopes.

And for the last hurrah, in 1981, it was Larry Gura.

Except, wait ...

Larry Gura did not start for the American League in the 1980 All-Star Game. The starter was Steve Stone. Gura didn't even play in the game!

Receiving a card of Gura with an All-Star designation when I collected the '81 set was a complete surprise. And that's because Topps had done something it had never done before in the previous six years. True, it still determined All-Stars based on who the fans had voted in as the starters the preceding year. But it also added All-Stars of its own choosing regarding the pitching staff.

Topps selected three pitchers for each side. For the A.L., it selected Gura, Stone, and relief pitcher Rich Gossage. For the N.L., it selected Steve Carlton, Jim Bibby and relief pitcher Bruce Sutter. But J.R. Richard, who had started the 1980 All-Star Game for the N.L., received NO All-Star designation. None. My mind was blown.

So, Topps had already begun to fiddle with how it treated All-Stars in the 1981 set, a year before completely changing the rules and issuing special separate cards of All-Stars.

It took the appearance of the Larry Gura All-Star card for me to know something was up.

17 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the Week: 1982 Topps and Fleer Rod Carew

Posted by Andy on October 29, 2010

(If you can't see the images, click here and they should come up.)

This week, let's do something a little different.

Above are the backs of two cards from 1982.

The first one is a regular-issue Topps card, #501. It was part of the "In Action" subset from that year's set.  On the back, you read about Carew's achievements in the All-Star game, LCS, and World Series. Carew had 3 other cards in the 1982 set: his main card (#500), the Angels Team Leaders card that also featured Ken Forsch (#276), and his All-Star card (#547). Back in those days, for a guy to appear on four different cards was pretty special.

The second card back shown above is from his regular-issue 1982 Fleer card, #455. This is a pretty standard card back. I don't believe Carew was featured on any other cards from the 1982 Fleer set.

So why am I showing these two cards? Check out their fronts:

Quite unusually, they feature the exact same photo. Carew's unusual facial expression gives away that the photos are from the same instant in time and the angle is identical.

The only logical conclusion is that a freelancer sold the same photo to both Fleer and Topps. This is surprising to me--I would think that both companies would require exclusivity on any purchase. I seem to recall that in its early days, Fleer bought some photos from Topps, though, so perhaps that's how this one got shared.

There's another weird thing about this photo. Based on what we can see, I think Carew must be playing 3rd base. He's come in on the grass and we can see the 2nd base umpire blurred out in the background. I suppose it's  possible that Carew is playing 1st base and he's fielding a slow-roller, but if so he's coming at a very strange angle, given the cut of infield grass visible behind him.

This is weird because Carew never played 3rd base with the Angels. This is almost certainly a spring training photo, so it's conceivable he played 3rd in a pre-season game.

Anyway--does anybody out there have any more info (or even speculation) on the story behind these two cards?

Thanks to reader Seth M. for emailing in this idea.

33 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

Card of the Week: 1969 Topps #466 John Boccabella

Posted by Andy on October 13, 2010

This week we present a Card of the Week written by Night Owl of Night Owl Cards and 1975 Topps (it's far out, man).

21 Comments | Posted in Card of the Week

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