Segui’s Sequel or Ranew’s Renewal

The 2006 SABR convention in Seattle featured Jim Bouton as part of a lively Seattle Pilots panel.  Jim told a story about meeting his old Pilots teammate, Tommy Davis, years after the infamous ’69 season.  Jim revealed that Tommy looked at him, shook his head and said, “what a bunch of mutts.” 

This is an apt description of the expansion teams prior to the free agency era.  The new clubs were an assortment of veterans past their prime, players with marginal skills or unproven rookies. I have identified eight players who had the misfortune of playing on two different first-year expansion teams.  Here are their “cardboard” stories.6

The first man to experience this dubious “double play” was pitcher Hal Woodeshick.  The new Washington Senators acquired Hal from the old Senators (Minnesota Twins) in the expansion draft prior to the ’61 campaign. His tenure in DC was short lived, as the Senators sold him to the Tigers during the ’61 season. Subsequently, “Suitcase Hal” was sold to the new Colt .45’s in the winter of ’61. All this coming and going must have induced a sense of paranoia in Hal, as these two photos clearly document.6

Any Seattle baseball fan worth his or her salt knows that Diego Segui pitched for both the Pilots and Mariners.  Diego was the most effective hurler for the ill-fated ‘69 Pilots and the opening day starter for the Mariners.  The eight-year gap between Seattle appearances saw the erosion of Segui’s skills.  He posted an 0-7 record and was released at the conclusion of the season.

I have always been intrigued by Diego’s ’77 card.  Why is he wearing a Red Sox batting helmet-since the AL used the DH and Diego was a relief pitcher?6

Merritt Ranew is another Pilot with a resume that included two first-year expansion team stints.  The ’62 Houston Colt ‘45’s drafted the young receiver from the Braves.  His ’62 rookie card is an airbrushed gem. Despite Topps’ assertion on the back that Merritt “can’t miss,” most of his career was spent in the minors.  Topps didn’t produce a card for him in ’69, his last season in the majors.  The ‘83 Renata Galasso Pilots retrospective set does include Merritt.  The back of the card states that Ranew was the only Pilot who played on two first year expansion clubs.  This is incorrect.6

Ranew had a teammate that played on both the ’62 Colt ‘45s and the Pilots: George Brunet.  The “flaky” lefthander was drafted from the Braves by Houston.  Topps didn’t produce a ’62 card for George, but he does have a ’63.  Brunet joined the Pilots in July after his release from the Angels. No Pilots card was ever produced.  Very few images exist of George as a Pilot.  Here is a custom card-using a poorly colorized publicity still-of the happy-go-lucky, “underwear-averse” journeyman. 6

The beloved and inept ’62 Mets picked up catcher Chris Cannizzaro from St. Louis in the expansion draft.  He shuttled between AAA and the majors for most of the ‘60s before resurfacing with he infant San Diego Padres in ’69, after a trade with Pittsburgh. Cannizzaro became the starting catcher and was Padres’ lone All-Star representative.  Topps issued a card of Chris on the Pirates in 69, thus ’70 is his first on the San Diego.6

Chris’ ’62 Mets teammate, Galen Cisco, found himself on the roster of the ‘newbie” Royals in ‘69.  Galen’s ’62 card has him on the Red Sox, since he was purchased by the Mets late in the season.  However, he does get a New York card in ’63.

Perhaps the best player of this unique group is Ron Fairly.  The steady-if not spectacular-Fairly was dealt by the Dodgers to Montreal for Maury Wills in June of ’69.  Expos’ fans had to wait until ’70 to collect his card on Montreal.  Ron continued a successful career in the ‘70s, eventually ending up in ’76 with the A’s.  In the off season, Fairly was traded to the Blue Jays, but not before Topps issued a ’77 card depicting him on Oakland.  With the ’77 expansion Blue Jays, Ron had an excellent season as the DH.  He served as Toronto’s first all-star selection and got a Blue Jays’ card in ‘78.  9

The only duel expansionist I can identify for the last wave of expansion in the ‘90s is Scott Aldred.  The lefty pitched in five games for the ’93 Rockies and made 48 appearances for the ’98 Devil Rays.  Apparently, Scott didn’t receive a ’98 or ’99 card.  So, this team generated photo serves as proof that he did toil in the “Trop.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a player who almost joined this group of vagabonds. Jeff Katz’s (@SplitSeason1981) old insurance man, Marv Staehle, was in spring training with the Pilots.  He was sent to AAA Vancouver and later traded to the Expos. Marv played in six games for Montreal in ’69.

20 years have past since the last expansion.  It is safe to say that this exclusive club will remain as is, until MLB once again expands at least twice within a ten-year span.

If you unearth another player who saw action for two first-year expansion clubs, let me know.  It is entirely possible I missed some unfortunate soul.

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!

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!!

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.

 

 

Be Sure to Wear … Some Jet Black Caps Over Your Hair

Almost from the moment Charlie Finley purchased the Kansas City Athletics prior to the 1961 season, the Chicago-based insurance magnate sought greener pastures. Like so many other cities in the post-war era, Kansas City experienced “white flight” to the suburbs–meaning that many fans had to drive to the ballpark. Since Municipal Stadium was located in an impoverished part of the city with limited parking, attendance suffered accordingly. Of course, abysmal teams and the pre-Finley perception that the A’s were merely a “farm team” of the Yankees didn’t help. Despite Finley’s promotions and gimmicks, the fan base continued to dwindle.

Finley feuded constantly with government officials over ballpark improvements and ultimately the construction of a new stadium. He threatened a move to Dallas-Ft. Worth, but the scheme was quickly squelched by the American League. In early 1964 Charlie tried to relocate to Louisville, but the AL put the kibosh on this plan as well. With the construction of the Coliseum in Oakland and “Finley fatigue” in KC, Charlie finally found a landing place that was acceptable to the American League. The team moved prior to the ’68 season.

As far as cards are concerned, Topps followed its formula of eliminating the previous city’s insignia from the caps or using bare head shots. A’s cards in the first five series featured caps and helmets with completely “blacked out” crowns, leaving only green on the bill. In the 6th and 7th series, Topps took a different approach, as we shall see.

68 hershberger f

The first Oakland A’s card depicts a bareheaded Mike Hershberger (#18 in the numerical sequence). The design necessitates turning the card over to see that the player is indeed on Oakland.

The ‘68s include Sal Bando’s first solo card and two later Hall-of-Fame inductees: Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Tony LaRussa.

gosger

Jim Gosger — who will later be the opening day center fielder for the 1969 Seattle Pilots — has an intriguing card. The reflection of the obliterated “KC” on the front cap panel can be seen on the green bill.

Perhaps inspired by the psychedelic color explosion of the ‘60s, Topps designers decide to ditch the black and go with green airbrushing for the 6th and 7th series.   This results in a “hypnotic splattered mist” of two-toned green. The bill is left alone but the crown is doctored in a “lighter shade of pale” green. (Pilot-in-waiting) Diego Segui and Lou Krausse model the “mod” lids.

 

69 a's stars

Bay area fans had to wait until ’69 to get the first card of a player with the Oakland lettering on the vest jersey and the old English “A” on the cap. Paul Lindblad has the honor of first representing the new East Bay entry, with card #449 in the 5th series. With the Major League Baseball Players’ Association boycott of Topps no longer in effect, several other A’s had card photos taken at ’69 spring training, including this great shot of three A’s Stars. The boycott had also led Topps to purchase several photos from third parties, including this famous Reggie Jackson rookie card.

Though I may have to down a whole bottle of Zoloft to ward off severe depression, my next installment in this series will look at the first cards of the Brewers- which include some awesome ’70 Pilots spring training photos.

 

To learn more about Charlie Finley and the A’s, I highly recommend Jeff Katz’s book: The Kansas City A’s and the Wrong Half of the Yankees https://www.amazon.com/Kansas-City-Wrong-Half-Yankees/dp/0977743659

 

 

 

Real Ballplayers of Orange County

The early years of the Los Angeles Angels were overshadowed by the glamorous and winning Dodgers. After an inaugural season at Wrigley Field (the previous home of the Pacific Coast League’s Angels), the “Halos” cemented their second fiddle status by becoming tenants at Dodger Stadium in 1962. Fortunately for the Angels, this was a temporary arrangement until the owner, Gene Autry, could secure financing for his own ballpark.

The Angels needed to create a fan base separate from the Dodgers to succeed. After futile efforts in LA and Long Beach, the “Singing Cowboy” lassoed the public funds he needed from the city of Anaheim. The new stadium was ready for opening day in 1966.

In anticipation of the pending move to Orange County, Autry made a “quick draw” and re-christened the Angels “California” on September 2, 1965.  This rebranding necessitated, for the following April, new caps with an interlocking “CA” replacing the “LA.”

For their 1966 set, Topps (per their pattern) did not want to use the old Los Angeles uniforms/hats for the newly branded California Angels, which resulted in the usual assortment of bare head shots, airbrushed logos, upturned faces and “mug shot” profiles. Topps apparently didn’t send a photographer to Holtville or Palm Springs for 1966 spring training so there are no ’66 Angels’ cards with players wearing the “CA” cap, even in the last few series.

fregosi 5fregosi back 5

The first card for the new “Disneyland” entry is the 1966 Jim Fregosi, card #5 in Topps’ numerical sequence. Interestingly, Topps decided to use California for the ’65 statistical line, even though the club was Los Angeles for the first five months of the season.

Several of cards are interesting, despite their generic nature. I like the almost interchangeable profile shots of veterans Jimmy Piersall and “Little” Albie Pearson.

I could no more give up oxygen than to not mention that George Brunet and Merritt Ranew would become Seattle Pilots. Merritt strikes a classic, catchers pose in a Cubs uniform. Topps loved this flattering photo of George so much that they used it in ’65 and again in ’66. The head shot precludes any chance of determining whether he is wearing undershorts.

angels rookies

This photo of Jim McGlothlin — apparently taken at age 12 — on the Angels Rookie Stars card serves as a foreshadowing of the first true California card. But, the young collectors would have to wait until ’67 to purchase packs containing authentic California Angels.

67 mcglothlin 19

Jim McGlothlin’s solo card (#19) in 1967 is the first authentic California Angels card. The promising young hurler is shown with a “CA” on his cap and Angels on his road uniform in a photo taken in Cleveland. By the way, in 1969 Jim was the Angels’ opening day starter versus the Seattle Pilots in their inaugural game.

rudolph red

In a final note, Gene Autry missed out on a great promotion by not signing Don Rudolph and having him “don” a red nose appliqué while pitching.

Though you may hope I’m ambushed along the way, I will be “back in the saddle again,” riding north on El Camino Real to Oakland. Once there, we will “flash back” to ’68-when Topps’ airbrush guys took full advantage of the available “performance enhancers” over in Haight-Ashbury to produce some “far out,” psychedelic A’s’ caps.

 

 

 

 

On That Midnight Train to Georgia

After 13 seasons, the Milwaukee Braves “struck the Wigwam” and headed south to Atlanta for the ’66 season. Lou Perini — who brought the Braves from Boston in ’53 — sold the club to the Chicago based LaSalle Corporation, led by William Bartholomay, in ‘62. Despite phenomenal attendance in the ‘50s and respectable turnstile counts in the ‘60s, the new owners saw no room for economic growth in the “Brew City.”

The new ownership foresaw television as a major revenue stream that would make the franchise profitable. Unfortunately, Milwaukee was doomed to be a small media market in perpetuity. The franchise could not penetrate the Chicago market to the south and the Twins had captured the airways to the west. Thus, the untapped Southeastern market was too alluring to pass up.

cloninger 10cloninger back10

As with the Twins, and the four expansion teams in ’61 and ’62, Topps didn’t create a hypothetical cap emblem for the new Georgia entry. Cards in the first four series consist, mostly, of head shots without caps or blanked out logos. Also, some players are pictured in profile or with upturned heads designed to obscure the Milwaukee “M.” Since the template for the ’66 cards featured only the team nickname, collectors had to turn over card #10 — in the numerical sequence — to see that Tony Cloninger was the first Atlanta Brave.

I found a few of the headshot cards to be interesting. Clay Carroll ignores Satchel Paige’s advice and “looks backward” in this sweaty pose, with his oily pompadour mussed up by a phantom cap. Mack Jones’ profile would have made a nice silhouette for his mother’s broach. Also, Mike de la Hoz sports an Indians vest jersey complete with a “fat-burner” undershirt. By the way, Mike was a speaker on the Cuban Baseball Panel at SABR 46 in Miami. He was kind enough to sign my “Mike de la Hoz” endorsed glove.

If you are one of the hardy few who have read my other “first card” posts, you know that Topps was determined not to show the logo of the teams’ previous cities. I assume they didn’t want to confuse the young collectors. However, Topps sent mixed signals when it came to the League Leaders cards in ’66. Tony Cloninger and Hank Aaron maintain the Milwaukee “M” on their caps, but the team name is shown as Atlanta.

ken johnson 466

It was probably May or June before a “Hotlanta” youth “ripped wax” to find a true Atlanta major leaguer. Ken Johnson (#466) show ups in the fifth series wearing the script “A” on his cap. Other players with spring training photos depicting the “A” include: manager Bobby Bragan, Gene Oliver, Chi Chi Olivo and the Braves Rookie Stars (immortals Herb Hippauf and Arnie Umbach).

aaron

Fortunately, Topps waited until the sixth series to issue the Henry Aaron card (#500). “Hammerin’ Hank” was spared the indignity of being airbrushed or depicted sans cap.

rookie stars

Another Atlanta player shows up on Topps Rookie Stars card in the final series. The Braves’ Pat Garrett (who should have been paired with Angels’ rookie Billy “The Kid” Kelso#) is teamed with the Angels’ Jackie Warner.

This coupling provides a perfect segue to my next installment, which looks at the first cards for the ’66 California Angels. Coincidentally, Topps introduced the “team color” accents (same color for a team in each league) in ’66. Lavender was the color used for both the “new’ teams.

Sources:

Lou PeriniSaul Wisnia, SABR’s Bio Project.

Trading Card Database

 

# I made up “The Kid” as a nickname for Bill Kelso.