Six days prior to the 1970 baseball season opener, the second-year Seattle Pilots were awarded by a bankruptcy judge to a Milwaukee ownership group headed by car dealer Allan “Bud” Selig. The Pilots were re-christened the Brewers and headed to “Suds City” to open the season. The broken heart of a seven-year-old boy in Selah, Washington was collateral damage. He never recovered, resulting in a life dominated by obsessions revolving around a “winged wheel.”
The late transfer of the franchise meant that Topps was stuck with cards depicting the now defunct Pilots. Even the 6h and 7th series feature the Pilots name. For Pilots collectors, this means that a one-year team has two sets of Topps cards.
Northwest collectors opened packs in early spring to find that card number two — in the numerical sequence — was Diego Segui. No matter that he had been traded to Oakland, young fans were undoubtedly thrilled to see a Pilot is his road uniform at Yankee Stadium. The crushing blow had yet to arrive.
In addition to using photos taken in ’69, Topps photographers were in Tempe, AZ for ’70 spring training. There are several cards of Pilots who had not been with the team in 1969, and were expecting to make their home debut in April 1970. SABR member Dave Baldwin, Ted Kubiak and Bob Bolin are examples.
The glorious reign of Joe Schultz ended with his firing after the ’69 season. The Pilots hired former Reds’ skipper Dave Bristol as the new “pilot” of the ‘70 Pilots. Dave was thus featured on a card wearing the gorgeous Pilots’ livery.
The Pilots team picture card is also included in the ’70 set. This is the second official team picture, taken in September. The Pilots used 53 different players, which meant that many of the players in the first team picture — taken before a game with the Red Sox in June –were no longer in Seattle.
The photo gives a good shot of the Sick’s Stadium grandstand and expanded press box –where the media had to deal with a toilet that wouldn’t flush (due to poor water pressure) — even if only a modest crowd showed up.
Young “cheese heads” had to wait until the spring of ’71 to collect the first Milwaukee Brewers’ Topps cards. Journeyman catcher, Phil Roof, fills the role of first Brewer. This is one of several cards with photos taken during the Brewers first 1970 trip to Yankee Stadium. Danny Walton’s card shows his helmet with missing paint, probably the result of removing the “S” and “scrambled eggs.”
The Brewers “star” was Tommy Harper. In addition to his card, Tommy was featured on a ’71 Topps coin insert. The “M” stickers for the batting helmets must have arrived later in ’70.
The Pilots legacy was not completely erased in ’71. The airbrushed photo on the back of Marty Pattin’s card clearly shows the “bar” on his Pilots’ cap.
As Jeff Katz told us in a resent post, there is a 1970 McDonald’s Brewers set. The cards were issued uncut, six players to a sheet. The caricatures are less than stellar depictions of the players.
In addition to this set, a fan named Bob Solon issued a set for “Flavor-est” Milk. These blue tinted cards are oddly sized at 2-3/8” x 4-1/4”. I am unsure of the distribution method. I own the reprint set.
The Pilots only live on in the troubled minds of the haunted few. You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping the legacy of the “proud Seattle team” and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.
Next, in this invaluable series, we will head to “Big D” (Arlington actually) to see which of “them, thar good ol’ boys” will be the first Texas Rangers.