Miami Vices and Rocky Mountain Highs

Although most of you have been greatly relieved by the respite from the “first card for new teams” series, I am back to shatter your peace of mind.  This time, I am examining the first cards for the 1993 expansion Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.

The birth of the two new National League franchises coincided with the era of explosive card production. (The editor doesn’t like the term “junk wax.) (Ed.: In this context, it would have been fine.)  I found 17 different sets-counting updates-containing first cards for the Marlins and Rockies.  It is entirely possible that I missed a set or two.  (Ed: Or ten.) So, if I failed to mention “Lower Deck’s Super-Extreme-Virtuoso-Uber-Isotope of Titanium” set produced by Goudey in an exclusive run of 500,000, I apologize.

 

Donruss and Fleer must have been the first card series issued, since their expansion teams’ cards have photos of the players with their previous clubs.  Sadly, no airbrushing of logos was employed to provide memorable images. Matt Harvey (FL) and Eric Young (CO) are the first cards for their respective new teams. Donruss’ “Diamond Kings” features painted portraits of David Nied (CO) and Nigel Wilson (FL) in their new liveries.

David Nied (CO) and Jack Armstrong (FL) are Fleer’s first offerings.  Nied is pictured on the Braves with a ribbon identifying him as having been “signed by Rockies.” This is considered a variation, since most of the cards have him exclusively on the Braves.  The first card with Rockies on the name plate is Andy Ashby. Jack Armstrong is the first Marlin.  Fleer “Final Edition” has Andy Ashby as the first card of a player in a Rockies’ uniform.  Likewise, Luis Acquino shows up first for Florida.

Probably as a result of a later production date, Bowman provides shots of players in their new uniforms in the base sets.  Rich Renteria (FL) and Mark Thompson (CO) are the first Bowman issues.

 

Topps’ base set and their premium issue, “Stadium Club,” produced inaugural cards of players in new uniforms as well.  Jamie McAndrew (FL) and Mark Thompson (CO) show up first in the base set while Benito Santiago (FL) and Butch Henry (CO) are first in the “snooty” set.

Nigel Wilson (FL) and David Nied (CO) are Upper Deck’s first cards for the infant clubs. Upper Deck also issued cards in the “SP” set.

In order to save your sanity, I will not delve into all the brands.  However, here is a non-exclusive list of other companies that issued Rockies and Marlins:  Pinnacle, Leaf, Score, O-Pee-Chee (base and Premier), Pacific (Spanish), Ultra and Triple Play.

If only first-round expansion picks David Nied and Nigel Wilson had become superstars, I would be rich beyond measure.  Alas, the 2000 cards I have of each now languish in storage.  Another sure bet investment gone wrong.

Erstwhile committee member, Nick Vossbrink, pointed out that both Upper Deck and Bowman produced rookie cards for minor league players Ryan Turner (CO) and Clemente Nunez (FL) in the ’92 sets.  Thus, my shoddy research is laid bare!

Charlie Chan(t) in Tucson

I collect team sets and vintage single cards from Pacific Coast League teams.  Of course, I have all the Mariners’ affiliate’s cards, but I also own numerous sets from a wide variety of teams out of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. My latest acquisition is a team issued ’75 Tucson Toros set- the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s.

The cards are not exactly attractive.  The grainy, black and white photos are filled with obscuring shadows.  The non-standard size and format were used by other PCL teams in the mid-70s.  I have similar sets for Tacoma, Spokane, Phoenix and Sacramento.

The photos are taken at venerable Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, which is the current home of Arizona State University’s baseball team.  Of course, the Indians held spring training there for decades.  In a personal aside, my wife and I “honeymooned” at spring training in ’91.  We saw the Mariners play at Hi Corbett, and Indians’ broadcaster, Herb Score, gave me an autograph.

Nelson

What makes the 1975 Tuscon set interesting—to me at least—are the familiar players.  Many are veterans trying to hang on and earn one last chance in the “bigs.” A good example is Roger Nelson, who was the Royals number one draft pick in the ’69 expansion draft.  He managed a couple of decent seasons with KC, but injuries short circuited his career.  He went on to be better known as “Weird” Al Yankovic (joke).

Grabarkewitz

Another “hanger on” was Billy “Eye Chart” Grabarkewitz.  The one-time, top Dodger prospect had an All-Star year in ’70 but never again had sustained success.  Tucson in ’75 is his swan song in pro ball.  Bill’s most important contribution to baseball history is little known.  It was his single in the 12th inning of the ’70 All-Star game that put Pete Rose in scoring position.  Jim Hickman’s single sent Rose home, ending in the famous collision with Ray Fosse.

Chant

If anything went missing in the clubhouse, the team turned to the resident catcher/detective: Charlie “Chant.”  His tendency to speak as if he were reading fortune cookie proclamations and dropping all his articles was a pain; however, Charlie always found the missing athletic supporter.

 

 

Rich McKinney is on the team as well.  His ‘73 Topps airbrushed photo is so bad that it is positively glorious.

 

 

Legendary Oakland A’s owner, Charlie Finley, was afflicted with “trader’s remorse.”  Often, Charlie would re-acquire a player he traded away.  Several of the Toros fall into this category.  Would-have-been ’70 Seattle Pilot, Lew Krausse, started with the KC A’s as a 18-year old phenom in ’61. Charlie was so enamored with Lew that he brought him back twice.  Actual Seattle Pilot, Skip Lockwood, started in the A’s organization as did Ramon Webster, before being traded to San Diego. Veteran reliever, Orlando Pena, spent several years with the KC A’s in the ‘60s.

Lemon

Chester “Chet” Lemon is the player in the set who would go on to have the best Major League career.  He would star for the White Sox and Tigers in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Aguirre

The Toros’ manager was veteran MLB pitcher Hank Aguirre.  Many of you may remember a recent post from fellow committee member Anthony Salazar, which featured Hank, who is his personal hero.

Pitts

Living up to his “gritty” name, Galen Pitts has a bandaged nose.  Perhaps he “duked it out” with a member of the Albuquerque Dukes.

Mazzone

We can pretty much assume that future Braves’ pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, nervously rocked on the bullpen bench before entering a game.

 

 

Wearing the familiar green and gold uniform colors of his namesake Ray, catcher Buzz Nitschke was frequently called upon to flatten half backs who broke through the Toros’ front line.

Freddie

To wrap it up, I present the mascot, “Freddy the Toro.”  He appears to be holding a wagon tongue ready to rid Hi Corbett Field of an obnoxious, drunken fan.

 

 

 

 

Six Degrees of Smoky Burgess

During a recent trip to Cooperstown, my son, Dylan, purchased a mystery grab-bag at a card shop. Amongst other cards, the bag contained 17 “well loved” ’65 Topps. Knowing I would enjoy the vintage cards, he gave me the lot.

I decided to see if I could take this random selection of players and discover any connections, no matter how dubious. Using information from the card backs, a little research and my vast knowledge of the “Grand Old Game” (joke), I set about to find the ties that bind.

Minnesota’s Sam Mele, Earl Battey and Dave Stigman have a special connection since all contributed to the club winning the American League pennant in ’65; the same year the cards were issued. By the way, the back of Mele’s card informs the reader that his real name is Sabbath.

Sam Mele connects directly with Smoky Burgess, since they were teammates on the ’55 Reds. Also, the “burley backstop” has catching for the White Sox in common with Earl Battey.

Donn Clendenon was Smoky’s teammate on the Pirates. Donn and Phil Regan were part of the inexplicable ’69 pennant race between the Cubs and Mets. On July 14, 1969, Phil struck out the pinch hitting Clendenon to end the game.

As fate would have it, Clendenon shares the distinction of being selected in the ’68 expansion draft with Bill McCool, who is bound with John Tsitouris and Jake Wood by dint of being together on the ’67 Reds.

Returning to Phil Regan, the “Vulture” has a tenuous connection to Phil Gagliano-in that both have very dated cartoons depicting stereotypical Indians on the card backs.

Moving onward, we find that Gagliano was a teammate with Gene Oliver on the ’63 Cardinals. After being dealt to the Braves, Gene became a teammate with Eddie Mathews. This ties Oliver to Fred Gladding, who was traded to the Astros for Eddie Mathews.

In addition, Gladding and Clendenon have a commonality in that both excelled in the Sally League. Fred tossed a no-hitter in ’58 and Donn led the circuit in home runs in ’60.

The “Impossible Dream” aficionados will instantly draw a connection between Phil Gagliano, Jose Santiago and Ray Washburn. All three played in the ’67 World Series.

Ray Washburn and Wes Stock are bound together by virtue of growing up and living in Washington State. I would be completely remiss if I failed to remind you that Wes Stock would have been the pitching coach for the ’70 Seattle Pilots. He was the pitching coach for the original Mariners in ’77. Ray Washburn is the uncle of the PE teacher at the school where I work.

We can use Wes Stock as a segue to Ken Retzer. The cartoons on the back of their cards tell us that both players were league leaders in the Northern League. Wes paced the loop in strikeouts, while Ken topped the fielding percentage chart.

Both guys can claim a tie to Chuck Hinton. Chuck and Stock played for the Vancouver Mounties-though not on the same team and with different organizations. Retzer and Hinton were both traded from the Senators after the ’64 season. Both men are pictured wearing Senators’ togs.

I will end the serpentine nonsense with the fact that Smoky Burgess and Donn Clendenon had great affinity for “law.” Smoky was a teammate and roommate on the Pirates with Vernon Law, while Donn became a lawyer.

Seals on the Homefront

All Cards

I recently purchased a 2017 San Francisco Seals set commemorating the players from the WWII era. The 73-card set was produced by the artist, Carl Aldana, who often used historical images of the PCL in his paintings.

Carl__Aldana_Seals_Stadium_3_1037_64

Aldana worked in Hollywood as a storyboard illustrator and in other art related capacities. He contributed to movies ranging from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to “Halloween 3.” In a sad note, Mr. Aldana passed away on February 8, 2019.

Lefty O

The most appealing part of the Seals set is that Aldana used the early ‘50s PCL “Mother’s Cookies” template. The cards have rounded corners and feature solid pastel background. Mr. Aldana colorized the black and white photos. The backs feature a check list with the cards arrange by background color.

Big Names

Many of the players do not fall into the “household names” category, but several players with major league pedigree are in the set. Of course, the legendary manager of the Seals, Lefty O’Doul has a card. Tony Lazzeri, who played for the Seals during the war is featured as well. Ferris Fain would go on to win two batting titles with the Philadelphia A’s. Larry Janson joined the NY Giants in ‘47 and won 23 games in ’51, helping the Giants win the pennant…the Giants win the pennant!

Uniforms  Shield Logos

The Aldana retro-cards provide a good look at the various uniforms worn by the Seals during the ‘30s and ‘40s. During the war years, the club wore a patriotic shield for a cap emblem and arm patch.

Groups

There are several group cards in the set, including a “wacky” pose by the “Pitching Prospects.”

Posed Action

The intensity is palpable in these posed action shots.

Minor League Uni

Mr. Aldana never attempted to “airbrush” logos if he couldn’t find a photo of the player in a Seals uniform. This results in some cards featuring players in MLB uniforms or on other minor league teams.

This “seals the deal” for now, but in a follow up post I will look at Aldana’s other PCL cards done in the Mother’s Cookies style. There are several ’57 Seals cards that will interest the Red Sox fans amongst us, since San Francisco was a Bosox affiliate.

 

Teddy Takes His Ballgame to Texas

1969 was the one and only “glory” year for the expansion Washington Senators. The owner, Bob Short, lured Ted Williams to the nation’s capital to manage the perennial cellar dwellers. An above .500 record in 1969 netted fourth place in the tough American League East Division. Unfortunately, ’70 and ’71 saw the “Nats” revert to their losing ways.

Despite playing in a modern park (RFK Stadium, renamed from DC Stadium that year) and having a large metropolitan fan base that responded with increased attendance during the ’69 campaign, the American League allowed Short to move the Senators to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for 1972 — after only 11 seasons in DC.

The new Texas Rangers settled in Arlington, which is approximately half-way between Dallas and Fort Worth. Turnpike Stadium was hastily expanded to provide a new home for the transplanted team and renamed Arlington Stadium. The change of scenery didn’t help, as the Rangers lost 101 games during their inaugural season.

The birth of the Rangers in ‘72 coincided with arguably the most “colorful” Topps set. The photos are framed in bright colors and feature groovy lettering and stars. However, Topps didn’t produce any cards of players wearing Rangers’ caps and uniforms. The now familiar array of “cap-less” headshots, airbrushing and upward tilted heads greeted the “wax pack rats” in the Metroplex.

72 Kubiak

In a previous post, I mentioned that Ted Kubiak’s card was in the first pack of cards I ever opened in ’68. Ted racked up another “first” by dint of being the first Ranger on cardboard. The “would-have-been” ’70 Seattle Pilot spent a couple of seasons in Milwaukee and St Louis before heading to the Lone Star State. This headshot was taken in spring training at the Brewers camp in Tempe, AZ.

Many of the Rangers cards feature “nostril” shots. The photographer kneels and shoots the photo of the player from below. This coupled with the upturned head results in a photo with the cap logo not visible. This technique was used for years, but the ’72 set was full of this style. It’s a good thing that Frank Howard and Toby Harrah cleaned out their nostrils prior to the photo session.

Airbrushed caps were mostly done in red to match the Senators color. However, a few of the cards have a brownish, burgundy hue, as former Seattle Pilot Don Mincher and Paul Lindblad demonstrate.

King

A truly classic airbrush job graces the card of Hal King, who came over from the Braves prior to the ’72 season. No attempt was made to differentiate between crown and bill, just one glorious glob of red paint.

Williams

One distinction this set hold is the last Topps solo card for Ted Williams as an active on field participant. He will be replaced as Rangers’ manager by Whitey Herzog in ’73.

McLain

Also, 22-game loser (in ‘71) Denny McLain has a Rangers card-though he never played for them. A washed up McLain was dealt to Oakland prior to spring training.

73 Team

In ’73, Topps makes an awesome choice for the first “real” Rangers’ card: the team picture. This photo is taken at Arlington Stadium with “Teddy Ballgame” clearly situated in the middle of the bottom (seated) row. The squad is decked out in their double knit, sans-belt uniforms.

Gogolewski

The first solo player depicted in a Rangers’ uniform is Bill Gogolewski. This ’72 spring training picture has him wearing a button-up jersey with belted pants. This is probably a repurposed Senators’ uniform. The Rangers will never wear this uniform type in a regular season game.

73 Nelson

There are several cool action-shot cards of the Rangers taking on the A’s in Oakland. This Dave Nelson card could have easily been one for Dave Hamilton or-ironically-Ted Kubiak (#11), who was traded by the Rangers to the A’s on July 20, 1972. By the way, there are several A’s action photo cards taken during a series in late July of ‘72.

Well, “y’all” survived another installment of a series that rivals the emptiness of the West Texas plains. Since the Mariners and Blue Jays have already been featured, the ‘90s expansion teams are comin’ out of the chute next. Yee Haw!!

Robby Goes to the Birds

Although it may be a fool’s errand to follow a masterful post by Jeff Katz with a similar topic, I humbly present my own Frank Robinson post. In a personal note, I was a huge fan of the Orioles in early ’70. With the Pilots gone and the Mariners still to be born, I selected Baltimore as my team. I’m still not over the shock of his trade to the Dodgers after the ’71 season.

Of course, the most famous deal involving Frank occurred after the ’65 season when he was sent to Baltimore by the Reds. This controversial trade brought a great deal of attention to Frank during ‘66 spring training in Miami. Magazine and newspaper reporters and photographers flocked to South Florida to cover the story. Topps sent photographers as well.

Dressed to 9s 66

Frank’s trade to Baltimore coincided with a 1966 uniform change. The Orioles adopted the familiar “cartoon bird” logo for the cap (replacing the “chirping body bird “) and added an orange bill. Additionally, the home uniforms had a new lettering font and orange became the dominant color over the previous black. Finally, the plain black stirrups were replaced with black, orange and white ones.

al_1965_baltimore_01

However, the new “togs” were not worn until the ’66 regular season. The Orioles continued to use the ’65 uniform model in spring training. Thus, Frank is depicted on cards, magazine covers and publicity photos in a uniform that he never actually wore in an official game. Furthermore, Topps continued to use ’66 spring training photos through ’69.

66 Topps  66 Back

Topps’ ’66 Robinson card has the classic “in case of trade” photo. Frank has a head shot-sans cap- while still wearing his Reds’ vest uniform. The back has the frequently used cartoon graphic of a uniformed player carrying a suitcase with an arrow sign pointing to his new city. By the way, that same season Topps pictured Frank in a Reds cap on the NL RBI Leaders card.

67 FR  67 LL-Check

The ’67 card uses a ’66 spring training photo of Robby in the “chirping bird” cap and ’65 uniform. Also, he wears the cap on all three league leader cards and the checklist for the 1st series.

68 LL-Check

For Robinson’s ’68 card, Topps managed to get a photo of Frank in the cartoon bird cap. However, the photo-used twice on league leader cards’ in 67-shows up on the AL Batting Leaders card and the 6th series check list.

69 Super

Although I’m not 100% sure of this, I believe the ’69 Topps Super card is a ’66 spring training photo as well. The piping on the uniform is a match for the ’65 uniform.

 

Sport Service 66  Bethlehem Steel 67

Other types of collectibles that fall in the card or collectible category have Frank in the uniform he never wore during a “championship season.” Sports Services (left) – who I believe produced photos for concessionaires — issued a “chirping body bird” card/photo in ’66 and Bethlehem Steel (right) issued one in ’67. (Oriole fans may know if this was a giveaway.)

The great “Sport” magazine photographer, Ozzie Sweet, did a photo shoot in ’66 spring training. This results in an iconic magazine cover. “Pulp” magazines such as “Super Sports” were still using their ’66 Miami images as late as ’69.

67 H&B Annual

For decades, “Hillerich and Bradsby” issued an annual titled, “Famous Slugger Yearbook.” They took a different tack than other publications in ’67 by airbrushing the “cartoon” bird on the cap but not altering the ’65 model uniform. This photo is from one featuring both Frank and Brooks Robinson.

ASA FR 2

The ’66 spring training photos reappear in several retrospective cards. A company known as ASA did a Frank Robinson set in ’83 that contains at least two cards with ’66 spring training shots. Additionally, Upper Deck issued one in the ‘94 “American Epic” set.

90 Topps

The Orioles returned to a “body bird” in the ’90s. Thus, Manager Frank Robinson wore a sold black cap with a similar bird in a regular season game at last.

Highjacked to the Suds City

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.

70 Segui

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.

70 bristol

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.

70 Team

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.

71-579Bk

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.

1970-McDonalds-1st-Year-The-Original-Milwaukee-Brewers

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.

70 Hovley Flavor est

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.