Friday, September 30, 2011

1977 New York Yankees

Call them what you like:  The Bronx Bombers, The Evil doesn't matter, because when the day was done in 1977 you had to once again call them World Champions.  It had been a long time in coming since their last championship in 1962 (15 seasons), but the wait was worth it.  The previous season saw them return to post season action for the first time in 14 years, but after a walk off Chris Chambliss homer in the LC vs KC it all went downhill and the Reds swept them in the fall classic in 4 straight.  How do you solve this ?  If you're George Steinbrenner you open up your checkbook and purchase the best free agent out there, Reggie Jackson.  At first both Jackson and his manager (Billy Martin), known in these parts as the FLG (Firey Little Genius), had a bit of trouble getting along.  Reggie's ego was larger than the Empire State Building and Billy's dictatorial managerial style was just a tad less intrusive than Benito Mussolini's.  Both were like water and oil, so every day their saga played out in the back pages of the New York tabloids and appropriately became known as "The Bronx Zoo".  This was no ordinary zoo from ownership down to Gene Monahan (their trainer), this was a team built around veteran players who were ready to win now.  Thurman Munson was the captain of this team. Coming off an AL MVP season and a World Series where he hit over .500 "the captain" was ready to do battle.  Once he an his minions decided to let "Reggie be Reggie" (sorry Manny fans, but it was said here first), the team got on a roll and eventually over took the Red Sox and Orioles to win the AL East by 2 1/2.  Once again they did battle with the Royals and once again they came out on top.  In the World Series they once again renewed their interleague rivalry with the Dodgers.  A classic 6 game series took place with Reggie putting the final touches on a New York win with 3 consecutive homers, on 3 consecutive pitches vs 3 different pitchers.  Reggie was the Series MVP and all was well in the Bronx !  Coach Yogi Berra put it the best, "It don't get no better dan dis".

This updated set of players includes 14 new cards for New York.

Topps issued one of the worst ever BHNH cards for Catfish for the '77 set.  No way were we going to use that card here.  Catfish was one of the classiest competitors ever and a man who tragically died so young.  He was the first big time free agent signed thanks to Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley botching thing up and sending him his bonus payment 2 weeks late.  When he signed with the Yankees he signaled that the franchise was ready to awaken from a decade long decline.  Catfish didn't have one of his better seasons in '77.  His 9-9 record and 4.71 ERA doesn't tell the story of how his veteran leadership helped put this team over the top.  Fatigue could have been a huge factor considering that he threw over 600 innings in the past 2 seasons + age was catching up to him.  Some said he was an "old 31".  

In his final season in the "biggs", Loclear would get just 5 AB's for the Yanks, but he would make the most of it.  Going 3 for 5 means a .600 average and that means that we will probably see him come in as a late inning pinch hitter with the game on the line at least 6 or 7 times.  His best years were in San Diego where he was a .270 hitting platoon corner outfielder.

The "Z-man" was a utility infielder who in 65 AB's managed to hit a sweet .323.  Zeber backed up Nettles at 3rd, Dent at short and Willie Randolph at second.  He returned in '78 and played just 3 games and was never heard of again (in baseball terms).  The Zeber mystery has still never been answered ?  How does a guy go from .323 to oblivion in just 2 year ?  With so many other storylines going on in the Bronx, this one is truly the untold/unheard one.

Perez was acquired from the Giants in the off season for the immortal Terry Whitfield.  He got into one game and went 2 for 4.  His career in pinstripes ended in April when he was dealt along with others to the A's, who were having another fire sale, for Mike Torrez.

Not exactly the greatest name to have if you want to be known as a graceful utility infielder.  Klutts was a Billy Martin favorite due to his hustle and grit.  When Martin moved over to Oakland in the early 80's, Klutts followed him over to the Bay Area.  In 15 games during the '77 season he hit .267 and didn't make a single error in the field.  Not too bad for a Klutts ?

After going 0 for 17 in 1975 Bergman found himself back in AAA for the full '76 season.  He made a cameo in '77 playing in 5 games and getting 4 AB's with 1 hit.  He would go on to have a solid 17 year career mostly with Houston and Detroit.  Interestingly he was the player to be named later in a deal with Houston that sent Cliff Johnson to the Yankees.  Bergman was chosen as that player after the season ended, so he actually got to play with the guy he was traded for !

"Kong" played for 4 different team during the '77 season.  He started with the Mets and was part of the "Midnight Massacre" which saw the Amazin's liquidate their team down to nothing.  Kingman and Seaver were the key players sent packing.  Facing free agency and not willing to sign with anyone until after the season, Kingman kept packing his bags.  He wound up in pinstripes for the September run and contributed 4 key homers down the stretch, but was not eligible for the post season since he wasn't on the roster before 9/1.  I could not find a color photo of Kingman in pinstripes since he basically spent just 2 weeks in the Bronx.  For the updated card I used a Black & White wire photo and colorized it.  I hate the BHNH photo, but since his is the only one I had to work with...beggars can't be choosy.

Alston had 40 AB's and hit .325 for the Bombers as a part time outfielder / DH.  With an outfield of Jackson/Rivers and Piniella Alston wasn't going to see much time tracking down fly balls in "Death Valley", so after the '78 season he was dealt to Oakland, where he lasted just 1 season before moving on to Cleveland.

Known more for his days in Baltimore as one half of a great catching platoon that won 4 pennants in 6 years and 2 World Championships, Hendricks was purely a backup guy in the Bronx.  In essence he was Fran Healy's backup and Healy was Munson's backup, which explains why he saw action in just 10 games.  Most of his time was spent out in the pen warming up pitchers and acting more like an assistant to the pitching coach.

Acquired in April as a backup plan for catcher and first, Johnson split time between those positions and DH.  He hit 12 homers in just 142 AB's.  He also hit .400 in the ALCS as the Yankee DH, but did not see much action in the World Series.

McCall pitched in 2 games and compiled a 7.50 ERA during the '77 season.  He wasn't much better in '78, so he was dealt to Texas in a deal that brought back future Yankee legend Dave Righetti.  This B&W photo was colorized and cropped carefully to fit on this card.  It's poor quality is quite reminiscent of the poor airbrush quality that Topps included in the original set.  It also didn't pay to work too hard in making a card for a guy who might see an inning or two of action :) !

Amazingly Stan won a game in '77 even with his inflated 7.11 ERA and just 3 opportunities on the hill.  I took his '77 Mariners card and replaced his airbrushed Mariner cap with Don Gullet's airbrushed Yankee cap.  I call this a fair trade, wouldn't you ?  At the end of the season he would be dealt to the Chisox as part of a deal that returned Jim Spencer.  Chicago cut him in Spring Training and he would never again pitch in the majors.

Was the 7th overall pick in the 1975 baseball draft.  Patterson came highly touted and sky rocketed through the Yankee chain right to the Bronx in just 2 years.  He made his debut at the age of 21 and impressed right from the start.  Yaz called him, "the best pitching prospect I've seen in the AL in years".  Not too shabby a comment from a man of Yaz' stature.  Unfortunately it all came crashing down just as quick as it started.  Arm injuries would derrail Patterson's career immediately.  After a failed rotator cuff surgery in '77 and failed rehab in '78 Gil resorted to trying to throw lefty in Spring training. It just didn't work out.  Today he is a well respected pitching coach.  His 1-2 record and 5.40 ERA in 10 games during the '77 season amounts to his MLB career resume.

Clay spent 3 seasons, starting in '77, in pinstripes as a long man out of the pen and a spot starter.  He wasn't overpowering or dominant, but he found a way to get the job done.  This updated card has a signed photo taken while the Bombers were on the road.  He was dealt after the '79 season to Texas for future HOF'er Gaylord Perry.

NOTE:  Thanks to the good folks at Topps and Burger King a mid season 23 card set was issued for the Yankees.  I collected that set during the season and saved the cards in a special album.  34 years later it would pay dividends, because I was able to scan the cards for:  Reggie, Dent, Blair, Torrez, Wynn and Gullett, so I did not have to create them from scratch like this mini set.  On a side note, the Burger King set was originally 22 cards, but Lou Piniella was ticked off (now that's a shock) that he wasn't included, so Steinbrenner had to call Sy Berger up at Topps and demand his inclusion.  This ensured that their would be a "limited" supply of Piniella cards in circulation, which was why it was hard to complete the full set back when we were collecting them !

Thursday, September 29, 2011

1977 Boston Red Sox

This team won 97 games and still missed the post season by 2 1/2 games plus they finished tied for 2nd with the Orioles.  That AL East was pretty strong, eh ?  I remember that 3 way pennant race like it was yesterday.  As late as Aug 22nd the Bosox led the division, but the Yankees turned it on late and won out in the end.  This team.  The Sahx led the AL in hitting and homers, but that shouldn't surprise anyone since this lineup had HOF'ers Jim Rice and Yaz right in the middle of it.  Butch Hobson and Carlton Fisk both hit over 30 homers.  Rice hit 39.  The keystone combo of Denny Doyle and Rick Burleson were the only two regulars not in double digits in homers, but nobody cared, because they were there to turn double plays and set the table.  With a .281 team batting average and some pretty good gloves in the field something had to hold this team back from winning it all.  That something was pitching.  Firstly the Sahx did not have a dominant starter.  The closest thing they had to an ace was an aging Fergie Jenkins, who finished at an even 10-10 and was the only regular starter with a sub 4.00 ERA.  The pen was strong enough to cover for the weak starters.  The trio of Bob Stanley, Mike Paxton and Bill Campbell each logged over 100 innings out of the pen with Campbell posting an impressive 31 saves.

Only 13 players needed to be added to the '77 Topps set to complete the Red Sox team.

Few remember that Bo Diaz was the Red Sox catching prospect dealt to Cleveland in the Dennis Eckersley deal.  It was a great deal for the Red Sox.  At the time they figured that Fisk would catch forever, which he did (unfortunately for them most of it was for Chicago).  Diaz appeared in 2 games in 77 for the Red Sox and batted just once.  He would go on to have a rock solid career in Cleveland and Philly.  He died tragically at the age of 37 falling off a roof while attempting to install an antenna.  The photo used here came from his 1978 rookie panel card.

By the time Bailey arrived in Boston he was close to the end of a solid major league career, which was spent exclusively in the National League.  Bailey was aquired at the end of the season after playing part time for the Reds for the previous 2 seasons.  He would serve as a part time DH for Boston the following season and hit just .191 before retiring.  This photo is from his 1978 Topps card.  It's an obvious airbrush on his Reds helmet.  No reason to do a lot of custom work for a guy who batted twice for the Red Sox.

In 1977 Stanley was a 22 year old rookie getting his first shot at the bigs.  Logging 150 innings out of the pen he was definitely relied upon and he came through.  Stanley had a pretty darn good career up in Beantown.  He spent all of his 13 seasons in 1 uniform and is unfortunately best remembered for throwing the wild pitch in game 6 of the '86 world series vs the Mets that tied the game.  He followed that up by getting Mookie Wilson to hit a slow roller down the 1st base line...I think we all know the rest.  Since Stanley's 1st appearance in a major league uniform came in '77 Topps did not issue a rookie panel card for him the previous year.  The photo I used for the updated set came from Spring Training.  It was a crisp 8x10 glossy that I found on the net.

Known throughout his career for having a mustache that looked like a baby sheep Aase was a pretty good reliever for well over a decade.  Unfortunately for Boston those seasons would occur in an Angel and Oriole uniform.  In '77 Aase was a rookie starter, who got into 13 games and had a 6-2 record with a 3.12 ERA.  At the end of the season he was dealt to the Angels for hometown boy / folk hero Jerry "Rem-Dog" Remy.  This picture was taken while Aase was at Pawtucket (AAA Affiliate of Boston).  I did some airbrush work on the cap and cut and pasted the "B" on the cap.

Paxton was 10-5 with a 3.83 ERA splitting time between the pen and the rotation.  He would spend just 1 season in Boston before being sent with Diaz over to Cleveland for "The Eck".  This picture was taken a year of two later after Paxton bottomed out and got sent to Cleveland's  AAA affiliate in Charlestown.  I airbrushed out the logo and pasted the "B" on.  For some strange reason he looks a lot like a 30-something year old Michael J. Fox.  Am I the only one who see's this resemblance ?

Aviles played in just 1 game for the 77 Red Sox and didn't even record an official at bat thanks to his sacrifice bunt.  That 1 game would be the one and only time he would wear a Red Sox uniform.  Amazingly I was able to find this photo of him taken in what looks like Comiskey.  Aviles would spend all of '78 in the minors and would eventually be sold to the Phillies where he would win a ring in 1980 as a valuable utility man.

Hernandez was another one of those guys who hit Boston just before he was ready to cash in on his 401k.  After getting lit up in Chicago for most of the season the Red Sox aquired him hoping that they could catch one last flash of lighting in a bottle.  There wasn't even a spark left, let alone lightning.  In 12 games for the Red Sox Hernandez compiled an 0-1 record and a 5.68 ERA, which sadly was better than the 8.22 ERA he recorded in the Windy City.  The photo used here is from an original Black and White 8x10 glossy.  I used Paint Shop Pro to "colorize" it manually.  I think it took about 30-40 minutes to colorize by hand, which is easily longer than any of his outings for the Red Sox.

By trade ted was a 3rd baseman and left fielder, which I find to be an interesting combination.  On the late 70's Red Sox that meant you got to sit behind Jim Rice, Yaz and Butch Hobson.  This would explain why the young Cox was used exclusively as a DH.  In 13 games he hit .362.  Cleveland must have thought he was a star in the making and so he was included in the famed Eckersley deal.  This head shot came from his 1978 rookie panel card.

In his "hey day" during the late 60's and early 70's Helms was a gold glove second baseman with the Reds and Astros.  His biggest claim to fame might be the fact that he was dealt straight up to the Astros for future HOF'er Joe Morgan.  Helms had some solid years in Houston, but Morgan went on to become a two time MVP and champion in Cincy.  By the time Helms moved over from Pittsburgh to Boston mid season he was running on empty.  After going 0-14 in Pittsburgh he was ready for a scenery change.  As a defensive replacement and late inning pinch hitter Helms hit .271 for Boston in what would be his final season in the biggs at the ripe old age of 36.

Poor Dave Coleman.  His only stint in the majors would be his small cup of coffee with the Red Sox in '77.  Coleman had 12 at bats in 13 games and never got a major league hit.  He finished his career with a .000 average.  This photo was taken of him in the minors.  A little bit of airbrush on the cap and some copy and paste and it was good to go.  He's 60 years old now and lives in Dayton, OH.  I bet he would get a kick out of having his one and only Topps card.  Maybe I should e-mail or mail it to him ?

Bownen got 3 cups of coffee with the Sox ('77, '78 & '80) and never hit over .150.  He had only 2 AB's in '77 and struck out both times.  This is his Pawtucket minor league card photo that I airbrushed the logo off and pasted on the "B".

The Boomer was back in Beantown for his second tour of duty after spending the previous 5 seasons in Milwaukee.  Known for calling home runs "Taters" and being the first professional athlete to sport a gold capped tooth, the Boomer had style and power.  By the time he returned to Boston at the age of 33 he was already legend having been a key contributor to their 1967 "Impossible Dream" Pennant wining team.  Boomer hit 33 "Taters" in '77 and played a gold glove caliber 1st base, although he did not win the award, which he won 8 times previously.

Jack Baker was a baseball legend at Auburn University.  As a Red Sox he was a career minor leaguer, who hit .115 in less than 30 AB's over the course of 2 partial seasons.  1977 would see him get 3 AB's and no hits.  When I first glanced at his name I thought, "Isn't he the drummer from Cream?"  Then reality hit me and I realized that I morphed Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker's names together and as a result I didn't have a top notch bass player or drummer, I had a journeyman minor leaguer who might get 1 plate appearance if he is lucky in ARAIG.  I found this photo while searching Google.  It was part of a homemade card that Baker commissioned, so he could print and sign them at autograph shows.  No offense to Mr. Baker, who is probably a real nice guy, but who would want his autograph ?  Anyway, I actually used PSP to copy just the outline of him and paste it into a neutral background for this card, which IMHO looks much better than the card he had professionally made.  Jack, if you see this one, feel free to use it at any show you attend !

NOTE:  3 teams completed (23 to go).  Up next will be either the Yankees or the Rangers, since they are the final two teams with the blue/white template for the position flag on the right side of the card.

1977 Atlanta Braves

The 1977 Atlanta Braves finished 61-101.  Recently acquired Jeff Burroughs (From Texas) provided almost all of the offensive punch (.271-41-114).  Slick fielding Willie Montanez hit 20 homers, and a young Gary Matthews chipped in with 17 of his own.  After that it was slim pickens for a team that finish in the bottom 1/3 in offense in the NL.  While the offense was below average at best the pitching was downright awful with a league worst 4.85 ERA.  Even future HOF'er Phil Niekro bottomed out.  Knucksie was 16-20 with a 4.04 ERA, which was by far one of the worst season's in his career.  Things got so bizarre, owner Ted Turner managed 1 game (he lost).  A young Dale Murphy would get a cup of coffee and hit .316, while catching.

In total I had to create 25 cards for new and traded players who played for the Braves this season.  Only player missing from the set is pitcher Don Collins.  So far no known photo of Collins has been found.  He pitched in 40 games and disappeared that season's end.

Bob's ERA was 7.25 in 15 games worth of work.  No known photo of him in a Braves uni could be found, so I used his 1974 "TRADED" card that featured Topps BHNH format.  Johnson looks quite similar to former boxer Randall "Tex" Cobb or maybe even former Raider linebacker Ted Hendricks.

Jeff was Atlanta's MVP that season, that's if a team that loses over 100 games qualifies to even have an MVP.  His original Topps card was a BHNH card with his old team the Rangers.  Topps must have gotten wind that he was being traded, but couldn't wait for the results before printing up the '77 set.  The photo for this updated card came from a '77 Hostess set, which I believe was taken in Candlestick.

A .210 hitting outfielder with little to know power, Brian's original '77 card was one of those infamous panel rookie cards with a BHNH look.  This photo came from some fan site that claimed it was scanned in off of a 3x5 photo.  I guess even .210 hitting OF'ers can have fans.

Originally this was a airbrushed expansion Toronto Blue Jays card.  I kept the airbrush look and added the "A" logo + the Braves card graphics.  Hargan pitched in 16 games with a 6.87 ERA.

The 28 year old Robinson hit .207 and was at the end of the line. 1977 would be his final season in Atlanta as well as the major leagues.  He appeared in 27 total games that season.

Murph's rookie panel card listed him amongst the young catchers.  In a few short years Murph would turn himself into a two time MVP centerfielder.  In '77 he would be a seldom used, but promising young backstop.

I got lazy here and just used his 1976 card.  I was also oblivious to the fact that the position graphic that Topps used in 76 was still on the card.  Easterly would go on to Milwaukee and have some decent years out of the pen.  In '77 he would be just another high ERA spot starter that the Braves were hoping good things for.

An 11.86 ERA in 37 innings.  No wonder Turner thought he could do a better job managing the team than the embattled Dave Bristol.  LaCorte would escape the Fulton County "Launching Pad"  for greener pastures in Houston where he would have a handful of solid seasons out of the pen.

Don Collins was a mystery man.  The mystery is:  why can't I find at least 1 decent photo of him to make a card ?  I guess 3-9, 5.09 type of pitchers don't get much recognition when it comes to being a major leaguer.  There is hope for getting a better photo for this card.  The 1977 Braves yearbook has a 3x5 photo of Collins.  I'm hoping to get one on ebay for under $15, then scan the photo and create the card.  Stay tuned...

Campbell's 65 games and 3.05 ERA made him a workhorse out of the pen for Bristol.  While Campbell's ERA was flat out awesome for this team , his 0-6 record was a reason for concern.  This photo comes from his '78 card.

Eddie's original card came with him in a Pirates uniform.  I used his 1979 Topps card as a replacement.

This came from a Minor league set

Found while surfing the net this was an autographed 8x10 glossy taken at Wrigley Field.

Being a bit lazy I used his 1980 Topps photo.  I had to airbrush out the banners and logos that Topps used that year.  The sky and polls on he left hand side are all done via cut/paste.

Junior played 1 season @3B for the Braves then was dealt over to the Southside of Chicago.  Funny thing here is that the original picture is from a 1978 card where Topps airbrushed in the White Sox jersey and cap.  The original negative has Junior in a Brave uniform.  Unfortunately I couldn't find the original, so I had to airbrush over the airbrush.  The cap is actually a different one that I cropped off another player's card and resized before pasting it.

Like Frank LaCorte this photo came from a minor league card set.  Since the Braves farm teams in Savannah and Richmond were called the Braves, all I needed to do was touch up the cap logo.

This is an enlarged version of the original rookie panel card.

Updated photo came from an 8x10 glossy on sale on ebay.  Bonnell hit .300 in over 360 AB's.  His 1 homer tells you why he was considered a utility type player.

Found this one while surfing the web.  I'm 99% sure it was taken @ Wrigley during the '76 season.

This was a minor league Portland Beavers card.  I cut and pasted a new cap on and cropped the photo just so the lettering on the jersey shows, but you can't make out what it is.  Portland's redish jersey color matched BP jerseys the Braves wore in the 80's, so I decided to stick with it and not try to crop a new jersey in.

This is actually a zoomed in version of the photo used for his '78 card.

Taken in Wrigley and used in the '82 Donruss set

A tighter zoom for his 1979 Topps card  recycled for this set.

I pasted on a Brave cap over his 1975 Topps card, which featured a Cleveland Indian cap.  To do this cut/paste operation I had to build up a blue sky all around his head, so when I pasted the new cap the old one would not "peak" out over it.