Monday, November 28, 2011

1977 Oakland A's


After 8 straight years of finishing either 1st or 2nd in the AL West the Oakland A's crashed and burned in 1977.  Gone from the ranks of those "Swingin' A's" who won 3 World Championships and 5 straight division titles were the likes of Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Joe Rudi and Sal Bando.  A franchise just can't sustain such losses and continue to contend.  Cheapo owner Charlie Finley was regularly attempting to have a fire sale.  He wound up feuding with then commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who blocked almost every trade Finley tried to make by invoking the "Detrimental to Baseball" clause.  Finley, who was operating on a shoestring budget, needed to dump his stars in hopes of rebuilding, because he knew that he couldn't sign them back as free agents.  The A's went from a dynasty to a doormat in one calendar year.  Chuck Tanner, who replaced Alvin Dark, who replaced Dick Williams, knew it was time to go as well.  That left Jack McKeon and Bobby Winkles to pick up the pieces.

The starting lineup had many pieces, but none were able to complete the puzzle.  Young outfielders Mitchell Page and Tony Armas showed great promise.  The infield did not have a regular who hit over .240.  Youngster Wayne Gross, who replaced team captain Sal Bando at third, had 22 homers to lead the team.  The pitching staff was anchored by 27 year old Vida Blue (14-19, 3.83).  Blue, who was a mainstay on their championship teams was stuck in town only because Kuhn denied a trade that would have sent him to Cincinnati.  Sophomore Mike Norris struggled (2-7, 4.77) as did Rick Langford (8-19, 4.02), who just couldn't get any runs support.  The pen was this team's strength.  The bullpen by committee idea worked rather well.  Doug Bair (8 SV), Joe Coleman (2), Bob Lacey (7), Pablo Torrealba (2) and veteran Dave Giusti (6) each contributed night in and night out.  Both Coleman and Torrealba were flexible enough to start when needed.  The A's finished 6th in team ERA, 1st in stolen bases, but dead last in average and OBP.  Powerwise they were 12th in a season where the bats remained dormant from start to finish.  The A's finished 63-98, which was good enough for sole possession of last place a half game behind the expansion Mariners.

Adding in the 2 cards that I replaced either airbrushed or BHNH's, I created 27 new cards to round out the 1977 A's Updated Topps set.

McCatty was a 23 year old getting his first taste of the big leagues in 1977.  He had no record and pitched in 4 games (2 starts) and had a 5.04 ERA in 14 1/3 innings pitched.  By 1979 he became a regular in the A's rotation.  In the strike shortened 1981 season he led the AL in wins (14) and shutouts (4) and came in second to former A's closer Rollie Fingers in the Cy Young balloting.  Like so many young phenoms he had his arm abused by Billy Martin and by 1982 he missed 10 starts.  1983 saw him miss another 10 starts, while he worked from the pen.  He returned to the rotation full time in '84, but could not log more than 180 innings and his record fell bellow .500.  1985 was his final year as injuries due to arm abuse got the best of him.  In 9 seasons with Oakland he finished with an even record (63-63).  In 1980 he pitched a 14 inning game vs Seattle only to lose 2-1.  While searching ebay I found this autographed photo from his rookie season.

At the age of 35 Dick "Don't call me Richie" Allen was literally on his last legs.  During his prime he was a one man wrecking crew who hit tape measure shots reminiscent of the great Mickey Mantle.  By 1977 he was battling leg injuries and the press.  His pedigree:  1964 Rookie of the Year, 1972 AL MVP and a 7 time All-Star.  Allen came to Oakland for one last hurrah and to work off the baggage that he had been carrying since his controversial days in Philadelphia.  Allen even changed his number to 60 from his usual 15 and declined to have his last name on the back of his jersey.  Instead, his jersey said "Wampum", which was the name of his hometown.  Allen got into 54 games for the A's in 1977 and hit .240 (41-171) with just 5 homers.  It was the first time he ever hit below double digits.  He split his time between 1st and DH, then split for good when the season was over by announcing his retirement.  Every year he waits for the HOF to call announcing his induction, but due to his antagonistic relationship with the press it is highly unlikely that he will ever get the call.

Since Allen was such a special athlete I decided to create 2 cards for his final season in the biggs.  The first card (above) features him playing first base for the A's with his batting helmet on, which was his custom.  The second photo shows the back of his jersey, sporting his new #60 and his salute to his hometown of Wampum, PA.

Tabb was purchased from the Cubs by the Athletics the following February, and in 1977 Tabb got an extended chance in the major leagues. The A's were cleaning house, and Tabb was one of five players who received substantial playing time at first base for the team. Tabb batted .222 with 6 home runs and 19 RBI in 51 games. The next season, however, Oakland acquired Dave Revering from the Cincinnati Reds and installed him as their regular first baseman. Tabb managed just 9 at bats in 1978, his last season in the majors.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for his updated 1977 card.

 Jorgensen spent just one season in Oakland (1977).  He played in 66 games and hit .246 (50-203) with 8 homers.  He split time at first with 4 other players, so he was glad to be dealt to Texas at the end of the season.  In total "Jorgy" played for 17 seasons.  He was a smooth fielding 1st baseman (1973 Gold Glove), who played for 6 different franchises.  The only time he was a regular starter was during his 6 seasons in Montreal.  He arrived from Montreal in a trade for Stan Bahnsen in May.  I used his 1978 Topps card for this updated card.

The Expos released Williams during Spring training 1977, and he signed with the Oakland A's a few days later. He split his time with the A's fairly evenly between catching, first base and designated hitter. He batted .241 with thirteen home runs and 38 RBIs his only season in Oakland. He was placed on waivers by the A's at the end of Spring training 1978. Failing to find a taker, he was released on May 17.  Williams won the NL Rookie of the year in 1971 by hitting .260 with 33 homers.  He hit 28 the following year, then was traded to Baltimore, where he hit 22.  His power numbers and average slowly declined and by 28 he was out of baseball.  Interestingly he played more games as a catcher than any of the other positions that he played, even though he never even caught a game in the minors.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for this updated card.

Williams played in 3 games for the A's as an outfielder and went 0 for 2 with a walk and a RBI.  He spent 6 years in the minors and was hitting .277 with 9 homers before getting called up to the majors.  After the '77 season ended he was released by the A's.  No known photos of Williams with the A's exists.  I found a minor league card that was in black and white, which was taken while he was with Modesto.  I colorized the card photo and added the A's logo to both his cap and his jersey.  If I find something better I will gladly update the card, which looks to be even below Topps' standards for this era.

Tyrone got 3 separate shots at making the Cubs in the mid 70's and never stuck.  Chicago gave up on him and traded him to the A's during spring training in March of 1977.  In his only prolonged opportunity to play in the majors he batted just .245 (72-294) with just 5 homers and only 3 stolen bases.  After the season he would be released by the A's.  He went on to play 5 seasons in Japan before retiring in his mid 30's.  Interestingly he and his brother both played in the Cubs system, yet they never played on the same team at the same time.

Murray's big break came during the early part of the 1977 season. With Charlie Finley's dismantling of the team in full swing, the A's shipped Mike Torrez to the Yankees in exchange for Dock Ellis, Marty Perez, and Murray. While Ellis was fairly quickly shipped off himself to the Texas Rangers, Murray was given a chance to establish himself with Oakland. In 90 games, however, Murray batted just .179, with just 9 RBI in 179 at bats. He did steal 12 bases.  After spending most of 1978 back in the minor leagues, Murray got another chance in 1979, but fared little better, batting a paltry .186. Even his speed seemed to desert him, as he stole just 6 bases in 12 tries, and he was soon benched in favor of Tony Armas. That would be the end of Murray's major league career.  Murray played one more season of professional baseball with the Ogden A's in 1980, then retired.  The photo featured here was used on his 1980 Topps card.  I had to airbrush the A's logo out and add sky.

The A's acquired Page on March 15, 1977, along with Tony Armas, Doc Medich, Doug Bair, Dave Giusti and Rick Langford for Phil Garner, Chris Batton and Tommy Helms.  Upon arrival in Oakland Page was given the starting left field job and responded by hitting .307 with 21 homers and 75 RBI's.  He finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year balloting.  He also stole 42 bases and only got caught 5 times.  His sophomore season saw him hit a very respectable .285 with 17 homers, but his base stealing prowess dropped considerably.  After those first 2 really good seasons his numbers began to decline.  After hitting .247 in 1979 and .244 in 1980 he lost his starting job.  For the next 3 seasons he was a part time DH, then he signed as a free agent back in Pittsburgh and hit .333 in just 16 games before being sent down to the minors.  After hitting .258 in back to back seasons at Triple A Hawaii he was released by the Pirates.  As an actor he had a cameo role in the 1994 Disney movie Angels in the Outfield.  He played the part of Abascal.

I found two photos of Page from this era and decided to use them both.  The first (above) came from an autographed picture found on ebay.  Page is wearing glasses and seems to be standing quite awkwardly.  The second photo is from his 1979 Hostess card.

Mallory originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Kansas City Royals in 1972. He was traded to the New York Mets in December 1976, and was purchased from them by the Athletics the following April.  Mallory's one season in the majors was 1977.  In 65 games with the A's he hit .214 (27-126) with no homers and 12 stole bases, while playing all 3 outfield spots, 1st base and DH.  After being released by the A's he was picked up by the Blue Jays and assigned to Syracuse (AAA), where he hit .270.  The Jays released him following the '78 seasons and he wound up in Tacoma (AAA-CLE), where he hit .273 in his final season in professional baseball.  This updated photo required heavy airbrushing and adding a cap.  It originally appeared on a Venezuelan League sticker.

Perez played in just 1 game for the Yankees in 1977, then was part of a blockbuster trade that saw him become the A's starting second baseman.  In 115 games he hit just .231.  After going hitless in 12 at bats the following season the A's released him on May 17th.  The Mets signed him and sent him to Tidewater (AAA), then cut him after the season ended.  Perez spent part of 10 seasons in the majors.  From 1971-1975 he was the Braves starting shortstop.  He was flexible enough to play 2nd and 3rd base as well as short.  I found this autographed photo on ebay.

Known for his blazing speed, "Cool Breeze" Scott would have been a Hall of Famer if he was only able to find a way to steal 1st base.  Amazingly he stole 205 bases in basically 5 years of service, while only getting 504 hits.  In 1977 he played in 133 games for the A's and hit .261, while stealing 33 bases.  He would get shipped off ot the Cubs, then Expos, where he would continue to swipe bases despite his low OBP.  Scott was a switch hitter, who hit .282 vs lefties, but just .222 vs righties.  I used his 1978 Topps card for this updated '77 ca
The 24 year old Picciolo assumed the A's starting shortstop post and hit right on the Mendoza line.  He would spend the next 8 seasons being a part time utility man.  Interestingly he walked only 25 times in 1,720 plate appearances during his career.  I used his 1979 Topps card, which had an interesting "purple haze" background for his updated card.

McKinney was given one last shot in 1977 when the A's, with Charlie Finley having traded off most of their stars, turned him into a first baseman, although he also played 18 games at DH. He spent nearly the entire season in Oakland, with only a brief demotion to the San Jose Missions in late June. While McKinney finally began hitting with some power, with 6 home runs in just 189 at bats, his batting average sunk to .177, and his major league career was over.  He is know throughout the baseball card collector world as "the victim of the worst airbrush job ever", which references his 1973 Topps card.  On it he is basically turned into a cartoon character as Topps tried to convert him from a New York Yankee into an Oakland Athletic.  I used this autographed photo to give him a proper A's card.

25 year old rookie Wayne Gross was chosen to represent the A's at the All-Star game in 1977.  He hit 22 homers and batted .233 that season, while holding down the duties as the team's starting third baseman.  Gross would hold down that spot for the next 6 seasons before being dealt to the Baltimore Orioles.  He was a solid glove man with decent power, but a low average.  I found this photo while doing a google search.  Gross along with a few other major leaguers appeared in the remake of Angels in the Outfield in 1984 with a cameo roll.

Originally drafted by the Tigers back in 1966 Hosley bounced around the minors and played for 3 different organizations.  He got two cups of coffee with the A's during the '73 and '74 championship runs as a backup catcher.  He moved on to the Cubs and actually got to play as a platoon player in 1975.  He hit .255 in 171 plate appearances.  He returned back to the A's in '76 and hit .164 in 37 games.  In '77 he hit .192 in 39 games.  The following season, 1978, he hit .304 in 13 games and was sent back down to the minors where he stayed for the next 3 season before getting a final shot in Oakland in 1981.  Hosley was one of those catch and throw catchers who never gave up.  He even played 1 season in he Senior baseball league in 1989.  I used his 1978 Topps card.

I bet the Pirates must have been kicking themselves for trading Armas to the A's in a huge multi-player trade that landed 3 big pieces for their '81 division title team.  Armas started slowly and looked like a bust.  He hit just .240 with 13 homers in 363 AB's in 1977.  When he dropped to 2 homers in '78 and just 11 in '79 I bet they were looking to dump him.  Then in 1980 with Billy Martin lighting a fire under his butt he hit 35 homers and had 109 RBI's.  Call that the "breakthrough year".   Armas played 6 seasons in all in Oakland.  He led the league in homers in '81 and finished 4th in the MVP voting.  He had some monster years in Boston and won himself a silver slugger award.  His power declined quickly in his early 30's and he was out of baseball after the '89 season at the age of 35.  I found this photo while searching Google.

Crawford just might have been the oldest 30 year old in the game.  1977 saw him belong to 3 different teams, with him playing on just 2 of them.  He was dealt to the Giants from the Cards in October of 1976.  He never played a regular season game for San Fran, because they dealt him to the Astros at the end of spring training.  Obviously the Giants had seen enough to know that Crawford was done.  Houston needed just 42 games to come to the same conclusion.  The A's figured it out in 59 games.  Crawford hit .184 with 1 homer and 16 RBI's.  Unfortunately it cost them a young up and comer named Denny Walling to learn that Crawford wasn't any bargain.  After the season was over the Dodgers signed him as a free agent hoping he would recapture his youth with the franchise that he spent a dozen years with prior to moving to St. Louis.  LA released him at the end of spring training and that was all she rode for 31 year old Willie Crawford.  I used Crawford's 1978 Topps card photo.  I always liked the look of the soft cap under the batting helmet.  Crawford apparently was borrowing someone else's hard hat since it didn't fit under the batting helmet.

23 year old Bob Lacey did well for himself in 64 games out of the pen for the last place A's.  He logged 121 innings, which would wind up being the most in his 7 year career, and had a 6-8 record with a 3.03 ERA and 7 saves.  Lacey improved in '78 and led all AL pitchers in appearances with 74.  After that his numbers began to dwindle thanks to an ongoing feud that he had with new manager Billy Martin.  With Martin forcing his starters to complete games (90 total) Lacey and the rest of the pen became baseball's version of the Maytag Repairman.  After leaving the A's in 1980 he split time between Cleveland, Texas, the Mexican league and back to California and then San Fran.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo.

Mitchell was the A's first-round draft pick in the secondary phase of the 1973 Major League Baseball Draft. He had previously been drafted twice, once by the New York Mets and once by the New York Yankees, but did not sign with either team. Mitchell made his major league debut in September of 1975, starting and losing a game against the Chicago White Sox. Mitchell pitched one more game in 1976 and three in 1977, finishing his career with just 12.2 innings pitched in the majors.  For this updated '77 card I used his 1978 rookie panel card.

Shortly before the beginning of the 1977 season, Giusti was traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of a ten-player trade - one that also sent outfielder Tony Armas to Oakland, and sent infielder Phil Garner to Pittsburgh. In August, the Athletics sold Giusti's contract to the Chicago Cubs with whom Giusti finished the season, and after being released by the Cubs in November, Giusti retired from baseball.  His trademark pitch was his palmball.  His best years came when he was arguably one of the top closers in baseball for the Pirates during their championship run of the early to mid 70's.  In 40 games with the A's the 37 year old veteran was 3-3 (2.98) with 6 saves in 60 innings pitched, spread out over 40 games.

The good doctor spent the lion's share of the '77 season with the A's.  He was 10-6 (4.69) and started 26 games before being sent to Seattle (3 games), then to the Mets (1 game).  It was well chronicled how Medich was a medical student, who became a physician after baseball, then lost his license to practice.  This photo of him was clearly taken at Yankee Stadium.  I actually found it while doing a google search.  It was on some FLICKR page.

Ellis had himself a rough go in his 7 games in Oakland during the '77 season.  Going 1-5 with a 9.69 ERA, which was the highest he would ever post in his 12 year career. What this meant was that he needed a change of scenery once again.  That change would come in a deal to Texas midway through the season.  For this updated card I used a B&W photo of Ellis, while on the Rangers and colorized it.  I then pasted an already colorized A's cap on to of the Rangers cap.

Bair's first full season in the majors was 1977 with the A's.  As it would turn out it would be his only season with Oakland.  He went 4-6 (3.46) with 8 saves out of the pen.  In the offseason he was traded to the Reds for Dave Revering and cash, where he became the Reds closer for the next 2 seasons.  After that Bair would become one of those "well traveled" relievers.  Along the way he stopped in 7 different towns and won two championship rings ('82 STL and '84 DET).  In total he spent 15 seasons in the biggs and retired in 1991 at the age of 41.  I used his 1978 Topps Card photo to update this card.

Prior to the 1977 season, Umbarger was traded to the Oakland Athletics, along with Rodney Scott, for outfielder Claudell Washington. After struggling for most of the season for Oakland, Umbarger was sold back to the Rangers in August, 1977. Umbarger finished the 1977 season with the Rangers and returned for the 1978 campaign, appearing in 32 games and posting a 4.88 ERA. The 1978 season would be Umbarger's last in the major leagues. While in the minor leagues in 1981, he pitched 10 scoreless innings in relief in the longest professional baseball game.  To create this card I took Umbarger's 1976 SSPC card, which had him in a Rangers uniform and airbrushed in the A's colors and pasted a new cap on top of his head rather than airbrush the original.

By 1977 Coleman's career as a frontline starter was winding down. He adapted quickly to being in the pen and finished the season with a 4-4 (2.96) record in 43 games.  The following season he was 3-0 (1.37) in 10 games with the A's before being dealt to the Blue Jays.  His career started back in 1965 as an 18 year old with the Washington Senators.  Since Washington lacked pitching he was rushed to the majors immediately.  Coleman consistently posted sub .500 records as a Senator, despite great ERA's and WHIP.  Washington flat out couldn't hit.  His trade to Detroit in 1971 was a blessing.  In his 5 1/2 years as a Tiger he won 20 games twice and 19 games once.  After logging 8 straight season of 200+ innings his arm began to show signs of wear.  By the age of 28 his pitching body was about 38.  He hung on until 1979, when he pitched in 10 games for the champion Pirates, then retired at 32 with a 142-135 (3.70) record.  I found this autographed photo on ebay.

List Keough as another one of Billy Martin's victims.  In the 3 years that he pitched for the "Firery Little Genius", Keough had 40 complete games.  He had just 13 prior to Martin's tenure and none after.  Shockingly he developed arm trouble and was out of baseball by 1986 at the age of 30, when he should have been in his prime.  In 1977 Keough was a 21 year old rookie who appeared in 7 games (6 starts) and had a 1-3 (4.85) record.  After his arm troubles he missed the entire 1984 season and pitched in 7 rehab games at the Yankees Nashville (AA) affiliate.  He had stints at Louisville (AAA-STL) and Tucson (AAA-HOU) before moving on to play in Japan for 3 seasons.  He attempted a comeback in 1990 with the Angels, but was cut at the end of spring training.  He returned again in 1991 to attempt a second comeback, but that was derailed when he was struck in the right temple with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout.  That tragic accident nearly killed him and ended his attempt to comeback.  Keough suffered with some bad A's teams in the late 70's.  At one stretch he lost 14 consecutive decisions and had a 2-17 record.  In 1979 he made the All-Star team with an 8-15 record, despite a 3.25 ERA.  In 1980 he won the AL Comeback Player of the Year award.  I used his 1979 Hostess card photo for this updated card.

At the end of spring training the A's purchased Torrealba's contract from the Atlanta Braves.  In 1977 he pitched in 41 games (10 starts) for the A's and compiled a 4-6 (2.62) record over 116 2/3 innings.  Despite his fantastic ERA, Torrealba' WHIP was exceptionally high (1.414).  He gave up 127 hits and walked 38.  At the conclusion of spring training in 1978 he was dealt to the Chisox for backup catcher Jim Essian and veteran hurler Steve Renko.  He pitched 2 seasons in Chicago as well as their Triple A affiliate in Iowa.  Torrealba is a native of Venezuela.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo to update this card.

Langford arrived in Oakland as part of that blockbuster deal with the Pirates.  1977 was his first full season in the majors.  Langford pitched well, but suffered in the wins column thanks to the A's lack of offense and lack of defense, which doomed him to lead the league in losses (19).  He posted an 8-19 (4.02) record that season in 208 innings of work.  He rebounded quite nicely to become one of the aces of the A's staff.  Unfortunately for him he fell under the control of Billy Martin, and like other young guns on the A's staff he had his arm ruined due to obscene overuse.  From 1979-1982 he compiled 75 complete games.  By 1983 his arm virtually fell off and he was never able to log more than 60 innings in a season.  In 1980 alone he logged 290 innings and 28 complete games, which by far led the league.  I found this photo while doing a Google search.

On May 11, 1971, Dunning had the distinction of hitting a grand slam home run off of Oakland Athletics pitcher Diego Segui.  That record stood for 37 years.  As a hurler, Dunning was a journeyman at best.  Dunning had the misfortune of being drafted by the talent starved Cleveland Indians in 1970 and was rushed to the majors without spending any time in the minors.  Dunning responded with 3 1/2 years of average work before moving on to Texas in 1973.  While in Texas things got worse and he eventually was sent down to the minors.  Over the next 5 seasons he would be on that shuttle that went back and forth between the majors and Triple A.  After spending the 1st 4 months of the '77 season with the Cardinals and their Triple A affiliate (New Orleans) Dunning was traded to Oakland.  From August 12th until the end of the season he got into 6 games for the A's and had a 1-0 (3.93) record in 18 innings of work.  Oakland chose not to re-sign him after the season, so he accepted a minor league offer from the Padres, who assigned him to AAA Hawaii, where he went 6-4 (4.13) in 17 games.  The Padres never called him up to the majors and gave him his outright release at the end of the season.  A once promising career was over at the ripe old age of 29.  I used his '78 Topps photo for this updated card.  I find that it was one of the best airbrush jobs done by the gang from Whitehall Street.  Topps thought he was going to return to the A's, so they issued him a card in '78.  Since he was acquired in August they did not have an up to date photo of him in an A's uniform.

7 comments:

  1. "Since Allen was such a special athlete I decided to create 2 cards for his final season in the biggs."

    Wow, that first card design looks great! I wish I had thought of it....

    Come to think of it, I DID create that card 18 months before this post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some subtle differences: (1) Your card background is pure white, while mine is more a cream color, which is from an actual scan of a '77 A's card. (2) The "A's" team name on mine also comes from a '77 Card that I scanned, yours looks custom created. (3) We both have different fonts for his name. The photo is the same, but anyone can do a google search and get that photo or any number of photos. Your sarcasm is much appreciated. If it wasn't intended as such, then accept my apologies for interpreting it that way.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fair enough, I see the "differences". I assume based on your comments, you did not see the DA 1977 card I posted before you put it up. Not that it matters. No harm -- No foul.

    You have to admit, it is pretty ironic how similar these two "creations" look.
    I really like the project you are working on here. Very cool.

    For the record, I also own the original negative of that DA image.

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  4. In defference to your ownership of the original negative I will remove the card that I created or credit you appropriately. I live the choice up to you.

    It was a really fun project to work on. We use these cards as player photos place holders in an online baseball game that we play. This, 1977, league started on February 1st. I was tasked with creating cards for the players that Topps either missed, airbrushed or were traded. It started out as just a card project, but once I got started writing it took on new meeting and was taken to a new level.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Please don't remove it. I am happy to share with another card enthusiast out there.

    I would like you to link: http://dickallenhof.blogspot.com for any other Dick Allen fans out there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mark Williams A's Photo at http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/board/ootp-mods-rosters-photos-quick-starts/184046-gambo-t_wil1-photopack-1119.html#post3759908

    ReplyDelete
  7. Did you know you can shorten your links with Shortest and earn dollars from every visitor to your shortened urls.

    ReplyDelete