Monday, June 21, 2021

Rookie Parade

In the past few weeks, I posted all the 1967 and 1968 rookie stars cards. Today we have all the 1969 rookie stars cards. 

Comparison of the 3 sets: 
1967 set 
Total cards - 43 
Teams with 3 cards - 5 
Teams with 2 cards - 9 
Teams with 1 card - 6 
Mixed teams - 4 cards 
1968 set 
Total cards - 30 
Teams with 3 cards - Orioles 
Teams with 2 cards - 6 
Teams with 1 card - 12 
Teams with 0 cards - Giants 
Mixed teams - 3 cards 
1969 set 
Total cards - 52 
Teams with 4 cards - Padres, Royals 
Teams with 3 cards - 6 
Teams with 2 cards - 7 
Teams with 1 card - 8 
Teams with 0 cards - Senators 
Mixed teams - 4 cards 
As with the Giants in the 1968 set, there is no rookie stars card for the Senators here. The Senators had no major prospects, but Topps couldn't slap 2 schmoes on a Senators card, like they did here for the Angels and Athletics? 
Two teams had a whopping FOUR rookie stars cards. 
Of course they are expansion teams, whose rosters were filled with youngsters looking for a shot at the big leagues.
Bill Davis is back for the fifth of his FIVE rookie stars cards, this time not with the Indians. 
Six teams had three rookie stars cards:
Not much to talk about here. Carl Morton's breakout year was 1970. 
Probably the best rookie stars card in the 1969 set is the Richie Hebner/Al Oliver card. It's the only one where both players became stars. The Phillies' Larry Hisle and Don Money both became regulars. Sure, the Phillies were a bad team filled with holes, but Hisle and Money were both selected to the Topps All-Rookie team at the end of the season. 
Carlos May was the most successful of these 14 players. 
Seven teams had two cards: 

After trading Joe Torre, the Braves carried two rookie catchers in 1969. Bob Didier ended up as the starter. As a kid, I thought that 2nd Cubs card looked strange. One guy has no ears, while the other two have ears to spare. 

What, no George Korince? Topps finally stopped putting Korince on Tigers Rookies cards, ending the possibility of another Bill Davis-type run. Still, Korince appeared on TWO rookie cards in one year, something Davis didn't achieve. 
Graig Nettles is the best of this bunch. With a name like MITTerwald, you just knew he had to be a catcher. 
Eight teams had just one rookie stars card:
After several seasons having three rookie cards, the Orioles had just one in the 1969 set. I guess their top-notch roster had no room for any more rookies. This is Lou Piniella's 4th rookie stars card (each with a different team). He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1969, so this would be his last rookies card. 
No Senators rookie card? Topps was just lazy here. After some of the players found on these cards over the years, Topps can't use "lack of prospects" as an excuse. 
Finally, the "miscellaneous rookies from multiple teams" cards.
My contention has always been that Topps decided on the players for these high-numbered cards after the current season had already started. Hard to believe Rollie Fingers was an afterthought. 

And why John Miller? Isn't a player automatically not a "star" when his stated position is "INF-OF"?

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Final Card: Jose Vidal

I've got 7 more cards to post before I can wrap up the "Final Cards" for the 1969 set (something I did way back in 2012 for the 1966, 1967, and 1968 sets), so let's get to it.
Jose Vidal (#322) had a very short major-league career: a few dozen games for the Indians from 1966-68, and 18 games for the Seattle Pilots in 1969. 
Vidal was signed by the Giants in 1958 (I learned something new today) and after one minor-league season was dealt to the Pirates. He spent 5 seasons in Class B, C, and D ball before advancing to Class A in 1963. Primarily an outfielder, Jose also played some 3rd base in '59 and '63. 
The Indians purchased his contract in September 1963, and moved him up to double-A the following season. He saw his most extensive playing time in 1965 and 1966, playing over 100 games each season for the Tribe’s AAA team in Portland. 
Although he hit well in the minors (40/162/.340 in 1963), he led his league’s outfielders in errors 3 times. 
He made his major-league debut with 17 games in September 1966. Initially used as a pinch-hitter, he also started 10 of the final 12 games, mostly in right field. 
Jose split his time in '67 and '68 between the Indians and Portland. Although only playing 16 and 37 games for Cleveland in those seasons, he must have been with the team for much of the time because after 100+ games in AAA for the previous 2 seasons, he only played 69 and 44 games in the minors. 
In early-September 1968, the expansion Pilots purchased his contract from the Indians. (This was a month before the expansion draft.) Vidal played only 18 games for the Pilots in 1969 (all in the first 4 weeks of the season), mostly as a pinch-hitter. On May 19th he was traded to the Yankees for outfielder Dick Simpson, but spent the rest of the year with the Yankees' AAA team in Syracuse. 
Jose played all of 1970 with Syracuse, and part of 1971 with the Tigers' AAA team in Toledo. He finished out that season in Japan, then played over 100 games per season in Mexico from 1972-75. 
Vidal passed away in 2011 at age 70. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Final Card: Bruce Look

This is the first and last card for Bruce Look (#317). 
Look was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. After that season, the Dodgers selected him in the first-year minor-league draft. 
After the 1967 season the Twins selected him in the Rule 5 draft. As such, he was required to stay on the Twins’ roster for all of 1968.
Look got a 59-game look (see what I did?) by the Twins in ’68. Earl Battey had just retired, and Jerry Zimmerman (who started 81 games in 1967) was now 33 years old and limited to just 24 games (18 starts) in his final 1968 season. 
Who picked up the slack? John Roseboro was acquired from the Dodgers, starting 105 games in his first of 2 seasons with Minnesota. So that left Bruce as the #2 catcher for 1968. Of his 59 games, he only caught in 41 games, with most of his 29 starts coming in May and June.
He was one-and-done though, as Roseboro again started the majority of games in 1969 (making the All-Star team) while rookie George Mitterwald served as the backup. 
Bruce played 1969-71 back in triple-A – 2 seasons for the Twins, then splitting 1971 between the Yankees’ and the Brewers’ organizations. 
Look was traded to the Orioles after the '71 season, but chose to retire.
His brother Dean played briefly for the 1961 White Sox, then became an NFL official (calling the TD on Dwight Clark's "The Catch").

Saturday, April 24, 2021

AL Pitching Leaders (#7, #9, #11)

Completing my 4-post sweep of the league leaders cards are the AL Pitching leaders for 1968.
As usual, the Indians are well-represented, with 5 of the 10 slots. Luis Tiant appears on all 3 cards!
But the White Sox (who regularly appeared here for the last few years) are nowhere to be found - replaced by 2 appearances each for Dave McNally and Denny McLain. (McLain was fresh off his 31-win performance and World Series championship.)
Besides McLain, the other (mere) 20-game winners were McNally, Tiant, and Mel Stottlemyre, with Mel keeping these cards from being just a 4-person Indians/Tigers/Orioles production.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

AL Batting Leaders (#1, #3, #5)

These are the 1968 AL leaders in batting average, RBI, and home runs.
One year after his Triple Crown season, Yaz led the AL in batting again (although with only .301). 
Frank Howard (and surprisingly, Ken Harrelson) appear twice on these cards.
FOUR grand slams for the Tigers' Jim Northrup!
I got all these cards in 1969. I wonder why the RBI card has retained its bright white back while the others have yellowed.
Red Sox - 3 
Senators - 2 
Tigers - 2 
Twins - 1 
Athletics - 1 


Thursday, February 4, 2021

NL Pitching Leaders (#8, #10, #12)

Here are the National League ERA, Wins, and Strikeout leaders for 1968. 

1968 was the Year of Bob Gibson, and he appears on all 3 cards. His 1.12 ERA is astounding.

The Cubs' Fergie Jenkins is among the leaders in 2 categories.  Bob Veale, usually among the strikeout leaders, is 3rd in ERA.

In his second season since replacing the retired Sandy Koufax in the Dodgers' rotation, Bill Singer was 3rd in strikeouts.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

NL Batting Leaders (#2, #4, #6)

These are the 1968 NL leaders in batting average, RBI, and home runs. 
Matty Alou appears on the Batting Average leaders card for the 3rd consecutive year. He was 1st on the '67 card, 3rd on the '68 card, and 2nd here. (Felipe was also on the '67 card.)
Willie McCovey is the only one appearing twice.  (There always seem to be several players on multiple cards in the AL.)  
The Cubs are well-represented with Banks, Santo, and Williams.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Final Card: Gus Gil

Here’s infielder Gus Gil, sporting the new Pilots’ uniform on a late-series card. 

Gil was signed by the Reds in 1959, and played 8 seasons in their minor-league system, including the last 3 in triple-A.

After the 1966 season, the Indians purchased his contract and installed him as their Opening-Day 2nd baseman for 1967. After starting 19 consecutive games, he was benched in favor of Pedro Gonzalez. When Gonzalez and Chico Salmon failed to get the job done, Gus started the first 4 games in July, but by mid-month was sent to the minors until a September recall.

Gil spent all of 1968 in the minors, then was traded to the expansion Pilots in May 1969 for infielder Chuck Cottier. He started 27 games at the hot corner and another dozen at 2nd base, but by mid-season the Pilots settled on John Donaldson at 2nd and Tommy Harper at 3rd base. 
Gus hung on with the Brewers for parts of 1970 and 1971, then played for the Astros’ AAA team from 1972-74. 
After splitting the 1975 season between the AAA clubs of the Dodgers and Padres, he played in Mexico in 1976 before retiring. 
Gil passed away in 2015 at age 76.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Final Card: Jon Warden

Jon Warden (#632) only pitched 1 season in the major leagues – for the World Champion Tigers in 1968. 
Warden was signed by the Tigers in 1966, and pitched in their farm system for 2 seasons, mostly as a starter. 
Jon made the Tigers’ squad at the start of the 1968 season, and was converted to a reliever. Until veterans Don McMahon and John Wyatt were acquired in mid-season, the Tigers’ bullpen was mostly rookies and 2nd-year men. 
Warden appeared in 28 games for Detroit, posting a 4-1 record. He was with the Tigers for the entire season, save for National Guard assignments. 
He only pitched once after August, as the team was battling for the AL title.  With so many relievers (including the veterans), management tried to hide him from the Kansas City and Seattle scouts, fearing he would be lost in the upcoming draft. The Tigers won the World Series, but their stashing of Warden backfired, as he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft. 
An injury during spring training 1969 set him back, and he played all of 1969-70 for the Royals’ AAA team. 
Warden moved on to the Brewers' and Cardinals’ organizations in 1971, but never made it back to the majors. Retiring after the 1971 season, he attempted a comeback with the White Sox in 1974 but did not make the team. 
Since his playing career he has been a high school teacher and baseball coach, and a frequent attendee at the Tigers’ fantasy baseball camp.