Sunday, October 30, 2011

1977 Chicago Cubs

Those lovable Cubbies finished dead even with an 81-81 record and 20 games behind the Phils during the 1977 season, which guaranteed them sole possession of 4th place in the NL East.  In 1977, the franchise experienced one of its biggest collapses ever. The Cubs hit a high-water mark on June 28 at 47-22 with an 8½-game lead in the National League East.  As late as August 6th the Cubs were tied for the divisional lead, but they were now deeply in the midst of one of their classic late season swoons going 20-40 down the stretch, while the Phillies were heading in the opposite direction.  This Cubs team only had 1 guy with 20 or more homers.  Bobby Murcer, who was resurrected from the dead out in San Francisco rebounded with 27 round trippers and 89 RBI's.  Nobody else had more than a dozen, which normally wouldn't bode well for a team that played in a hitter's ballpark like the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field.  For the first time since Beckert and Kessinger they actually had a keystone combo that could really pick it.  Ivan DeJesus and Manny Trillo could really flash the leather.  Billy Bucks could pick it at first.  Steve Ontiveros hit well (.299), but he was no Bill Madlock, who was sent to the Giants for Murcer.  Big Daddy, Rick Reuschel, emerged as the team's ace by winning 20 games and losing only 10.  His 2.79 ERA at Wrigley was definitely impressive.  The rest of the rotation gave up runs at an alarming clip, but with Bruce Sutter being virtually un-hittable (69 hits in 107 IP) the pen was rock solid.  Get to the 7th and Sutter could pitch the final 3, which he did on more than 1 occasion.  Setting up for Sutter would be a young Willie (not Guillermo yet) Hernandez who threw 110 innings in relief.  Paul Reuschel, Rick's brother, chipped in 107 innings himself.  Basically the formula was ride Reuschel every 4th day and get 6 ok innings from the rest and hand the ball to Sutter and company.

It took 18 new cards to finish off the 1977 Topps set for the Cubbies.

Professional sports can be so cruel.  How else can you explain the fact that a man who collected 2,715 hits during a 22 year career winds up being remembered for one bad play in a World Series.  Well that's the way the legend of Bill Buckner is going to be written.  That slow roller down the first base line in game 6 of the 1986 World Series has become his defining moment in baseball.  I choose to remember Buckner as a guy who hustled his butt off and hit scorching line drive into right center 3 out of 10 times that he strolled to the plate.  Seven times during his illustrious career Buckner eclipsed the .300 plateau in a season.  1977 was his first year in Chicago.  It was also the first time he reached double digits in homers.  He hit .284 in 457 plate appearances and for the next 7 seasons would become a fixture at first base in the Northside of Chicago.  The picture from this card came from the obscure 1978 SSPC set, which I believe was the final set issued by that company.

 Hard to believe Darwin made his debut for the LA Angels as a 19 year old in 1962.  He got 1 AB that season then disappeared into the minors until he resurfaced 7 years later with the Dodgers.  Once again he bounced back to the minors and came back 2 years later and hit .250 in 11 games at the advanced age of 28.  Things looked very bleak until he was liberated in a change of scenery trade to the Twins.  As Minnesota's starting left fielder for the next 3 years he would hit 22, 18 & 25 homers respectively, but he also had a huge hole in his swing.  During those three season Darwin led the league in strikeouts.  Midway through he '75 season the Twins grew tired of his lack of contact and his .219 batting average, so he was shipped out to Milwaukee.  Then he was sent to Boston in '76, and on May 28, 1977 he wound up in Chicago as a broken down 34 year old veteran attempting to hand on to his major league career.  Darwin got into 11 games and in 12 AB's hit just .167.  The Cubs sent him to their Triple A affiliate in Wichita, where he hit .266 with 7 homers in 79 AB's.  That stink in Wichita would be his swan song. Little known fact to most is that Darwin spent most of the 1960's as a pitcher in the minors before being converted into an every day ball player.  This autographed photo was found while doing a Google search.

By 1977 Bobby Murcer was a superstar in search of his power.  Some said he lost it when he left Yankee Stadium, others just thought he was washed up.  Murcer proved them all wrong by leading the Cubs with 27 homers and 89 RBI's.  Sadly Murcer's revival in the "Second City" was short lived.  In 1978 his homer total dropped to 9 in 146 games.  Midway through the 1979 season he was sent back home to the Bronx where tragedy struck nearly 2 months later when his close friend Thurman Munson died in an airplane crash.  Bobby would be entrusted with delivering the eulogy, then delivering a come from behind game winning hit that very day.  Murcer, who was known mostly for his bat led the league in outfield assists many times and had the most in MLB during the decade of the 70's.  He was a 5 time All-Star and a gold glove winner in 1972.  This dugout shot was taken at Wrigley and used in the '78 SSPC set.

On August 5, 1977 the Cubs purchased the contract of the 37 year old reliever from the Oakland A's.  Giusti, known for his heavy sinking palm ball spent the first 7 years of his career languishing as a middle of the road starter.  Then in 1970 he arrived in Pittsburgh as a 30 year old on his last legs, until Danny Murtaugh converted him into a reliever.  Giusit didn't just become a reliever, for the next 6 years he was the premier reliever in the National League.  His 30 saves in 1971 led the league and also paced the Bucs to their first World Championship in 11 seasons.  By 1976 his key stats began to tell the tale of a star in decline.  The Bucs shipped him to Oakland, where he started the '77 season and did fairly well.  Since the A's were in a rebuilding mode he was expendable.  After finishing 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA in 20 games for the Cubs in '77 he retired from baseball.  I found this autographed photo via a Google search.

The "other" Dave Roberts had some good years with the Padres and Astros in the early/mid 70's.  By 1977 he was hanging on as a major leaguer.  After starting the season in Detroit and going 4-10 (5.25) Roberts' contract was sold to the Cubs where he went 1-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 17 games, six as a starter.  Roberts would bottom out the following season by going 6-8 with a 5.25 ERA in 35 games (20 starts) for the Cubs.  He bounced over to the Giants, Pirates, Mariner and finally the Mets in 1981 where he posted a 0-3, 9.39 record to end his career.  His lifetime 103-125 (3.78) record indicates that he didn't exactly get a lot of run support when he toed the rubber.  Even during his best season (1971), he was unable to best the .500 mark.  His 14-17 record with a 2.10 ERA helped place him 6th in the NL Cy Young Award voting.  This photo came from the '78 SSPC set.

The Cubs called up a 24 year old Dennis Lamp in hopes of stopping their free fall in the standings.  Lamp was not up to helping out the varsity as evidenced by his 0-2, 6.30 record in 30 innings of work.  The following 3 seasons he was a 200+ inning workhorse for the Cubs.  He moved over to the crosstown White Sox in 1981 and spent 3 seasons there as a swingman. After 3 years in the South side Lamp moved over to Toronto and had himself a season for the ages in 1985.  In 53 games (52 out of the pen) he posted an 11-0 record with a 3.32 ERA in 105 innings.  The expansion Blue Jays also made the post season for the first time in franchise history.  Lamp made the most season in '83 with the Chisox as well.  He would then move on to Oakland for 1 season and Boston for 4 season before finishing up in 1992 at the age of 39 in Pittsburgh.  His career mark would be an even 96-96 with a 3.93 ERA.  This photo came from the '78 SSPC set.

Never was there more a tragic figure than Donnie Moore.  A man who while at the apex of his career gives up a series changing hit and never recovers both professionally and personally.  With 1 out away from clinching the pennant for the Angels in 1986 Moore had a 2-2 count on Dave Henderson and gave up a 2 run gopher ball.  The Angels never recovered and lost the final 2 games of the series.  Moore's career began to spiral down due to injures and drugs.  Eventually it led to him being cut by the Royals 3 years later.  As a result of deep depression he shot his wife and then took his own life at the age of 35.  It's a tragic story about a man who had struggled for so long and finally made it as an elite closer only to see it all come crashing down.  In 1977 he was a 23 year old rookie for the Cubs.  In 27 games he went 4-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 48 innings of relief.  His 3 seasons in Chicago were nothing to write home about.  His next two seasons in Milwaukee and St. Louis weren't good either. At the age of 28 in 1982 in Atlanta he began to "right" the ship.  By the time he arrived in California for the '85 season he was a top notch reliever in the making.  I chose this '78 SSPC photo because Moore was a smiling 23 year old when it was taken.  No traces of the problems that would occur years later.  Just a young guy happy to be in the biggs.

Clines spent the better part of his 10 year major league career as a platoon player / 4th outfielder.  He never appeared in more than 116 games in any given season.  He had good speed and played great defense in all 3 outfield positions.  His lack of power (5 homers in 2,328 AB's) kept him from being an everyday player.  After arriving from Texas in an offseason trade Clines appeared in 101 games for the Cubs in 1977 and hit .293.  He even posted 3 of his 5 career homers that season.  He would slacken off 1978 with a .258 average and go belly up in 1979 by hitting .200 in just 10 at bats.  Clines retired during that season and immediately became a coach for the Cubs.  He spent the next 30 years coaching and instructing minor leaguers.  His best season was 1972, where he hit .334 for the Pirates.  This photo came from his '78 SSPC card.

After tooling around the Dodger chain for a few years DeJesus was liberated in a trade that sent him and Buckner to the Cubs for Mike Garman and Rick Monday.  Upon arrival he was immediately installed as the Cubs starting shortstop.  He hit .266 in 155 games that season, but his real value was with his leather.  He led all MLB shorstops in assists and finished in the top 5 in baseball history for a single season.  For the next 5 seasons he was a fixture at short for the Cubs.  In 1981 he bottomed out with a .194 average.  In 1982, the Cubs dealth him to the Phillies, who needed to find a replacement for Larry Bowa.  In return they got Ryne Sandberg, which turned out to be a pretty good deal for the North Siders.  This photo was a spring training shot taken for the '78 SSPC set.  He hit for the cycle in 1980.

Adams was that classic 6th outfielder on a team that only carried 5.  After hitting .212 in 55 games during the 1973 season for the Twins he was sent back down to the farm for the next 3 seasons.  The Cubs called him up in '76 and he hit .138 in 38 plate appearances.  He went 0 for 2 for the Cubs in '77 and wound up with Oakland in '78, where he hit an even .200 in 15 AB's.  The A's sent him down to Vancouver (Triple A affiliate) where he hit .293, but was cut at season's end.  Understandably there weren't many good photos to use for Adams' updated card.  I took his 1974 Topps card and removed the Twins cap, built up some more sky background, then pasted Jack Aker's cap from the 1974 Topps set on top of Adam's head.  I changed the Twins colors to Cubs colors and even pasted the  CHICAGO letters on his jersey.

Gordon saw limited action with the Cubs over two seasons (1977-78).  In 26 plate appearances during the '77 season he hit .043 for Chicago.  In '78 he went 1-5.  His numbers in the minors were not much better (.216 career avg), which leads me to believe that he was probably an excellent defensive catcher.  I was shocked to find that SSPC actually issued a card for him in their '78 set, considering his limited action with the Cubs during that season and his lack of status as a prospect.

The "Polish Prince" was just a mere 25 year old rookie for the Cubbies in 1977.  His 8-14 (4.44) record reflects the complete collapse the team had over the final half of the season.  Krukow started out 7-4, then went 1-10 the rest of the way.  This is not an indictment on Krukow's skills, but merely pointing out how the team just lost it during the second half of the season.  Krukow had 5 respectable seasons in Chicago before moving over to Philly for 1 season.  He spent the final 7 seasons of his 14 year career in San Fran.  His 20-9 (3.05) 1986 season was his  best year in the majors.  It earned him an All-Star selection and 3rd place in the Cy Young balloting.  A rotator cuff injury in 1989 ended his career.  He is now known as "Krook" to Giants fans, whom he has been broadcasting games to for over 20 years.  This spring training shot wound up being used as his '78 SSPC card.

A solid third baseman with an average arm, Ontiveros was named Minor League player of the Year by The Sporting News in 1973. He reached the majors with the San Francisco Giants late in the season, spending four years with them before moving to the Chicago Cubs. His most productive season came in 1977 for the Cubs, when he posted career-highs in games played (156), batting average (.299), home runs (10), RBI (68), hits (162), and on-base percentage (.390).  After the 1980 season he would leave the Cubs and head to Japan to play for a few more years.  This shot is is his 1978 SSPC Card.

As a 22 year old rookie reliever in 1977 Hernandez fared quite well.  His 8-7 (3.03) record in 110 innings should have at least gotten him a top 10 finish in the Rookie of the Year voting, but nobody seemed to notice.  In fact nobody seemed to notice him at all during his 6 1/2 years in Chicago.  Midway through the 1983 season he was traded to the Phillies and became a key contributor for the "Wheeze Kids" as they won the NL Pennant.  Before the '84 season he was dealt to the Tigers and that's where he put together 3 back to back All-Star seasons, including his Cy Young/MVP year of 1984.  During that season he went 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves in 140 innings.  In total he would have a fine 13 year career (70-63, 3.38, 147 saves).  I found this autographed 8x10 glossy on ebay.  It looks like it was colorized.  If it was, its a great job !

Sember appeared in just 3 games and hit .250 (1-4) for the Cubs in 1977.  He played second base.  In '78 he appeared in 9 games and hit .333 (1-3).  He was a career .237 hitter in the minors and did not appear in another major league game after the 1978 season.  This card was created by pasting a Cubs cap on his Syracuse minor league card photo.

Gross spent 17 seasons in a major league uniform with 2 of them spent as a Cub.  In 1977 he would play all 3 outfield spots and be the first left handed bat off the bench.  His .322 average and .397 OBP were flat out awesome.  He also hit 5 of his 7 career homers that season.  He actually had more triples (46) than homers (7) during his long career.  He signed with the Phillies as a free agent after the '78 season and settled into the roll of 4th outfielder / pinch hitter.  In 1989 he returned to Houston, where his career started for one final season.  In 1974 he came in second in the Rookie of the Year balloting as a member of the Astros.  His lack of power prevented him from being an everyday player.  When interviewed, Gross explains his predicament:  "The cycle that baseball was in back then, with the AstroTurf and everything, centered on the stolen base or the home run, and I did neither of those."  Gross' 1978 SSPC card was used for this updated '77 card.

Jim Todd's second stint in Chcago lasted just 20 games.  In 1977 his 1-1 record hid his 9.10 ERA, which was spread out over 30 innings of work.  I used his 1975 Topps card photo for this updated '77 card.

Broberg had a live fastball, but not much else.  He broke into baseball in 1971 straight from the Dartmouth campus.  He acquitted himself quite well in 1971 pitching for the Washington Senators in their final season in our nation's capital.  He moved with the franchise to Texas, but over the next 3 seasons his numbers steadily got worse.  He rebounded with a decent season in Milwaukee in 1975, but then lost his control again and bottomed back out.  He would get into 22 games for the Cubs in '77 and go 1-2 (4.75)  He moved on to Oakland the following season and started 26 games.  The A's, who originally drafted him in 1968, realized he was never going to achieve his potential so they traded him to the Dodgers.  Broberg decided to go to law school instead.  For this picture I used his airbrushed 1978 Topps card.  Pretty pathetic that Topps had to resort to the airbrush when Broberg spent the '77 season in Chicago.  I did do a little touch up work on the airbrush to make it look a bit more realistic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1977 San Diego Padres

San Diego finished 69-93, which was good enough for 29 games behind the NL West Champion LA Dodgers.  As bad as their season was, the Padres averted last place by finishing 8 games ahead of the lowly Braves, who lost 101 games.  Owner Ray Kroc made a huge splash in the free agent market by signing former 3 time Oakland A's champions Gene Tenace and Rollie Fingers, in the hopes of turning around his franchises fortunes.  Judging by their record, it really didn't work.  The starting rotation was still subpar and in this game of baseball you can only go as far as your pitching takes you.  Superstar in the making,Dave Winfield, produced his first All -Star season (.275-25-92).  Part of that could be attributed to his maturing and the other part to having George Hendrick (another high priced import) next to him in the lineup.  Hendrick hit .311 with 23 homers and 81 RBI's.  Besides their lack of front end pitching the Padres lacked production from their infield.  Mike Champion (2B) hit .229 and Tucker Ashford (3B) hit .217.  Bill Almon and Mike Ivie both hit over .260, but neither provided any real pop whatsoever.

To complete the Padres 1977 Topps Set I had to add 16 new cards.

D'Acquisto arrived along with Pat Scanlon for 1976 Rookie of the Year Butch Metzger.  D'Acquisto finished the season up 1-2 with a 6.95 ERA in 17 games (12 starts).  He rebounded for a solid '78 season (4-3, 2.13) out of the pen, but faltered again in '79 (9-13, 4.92).  Late in the 80 season he was shipped off to the Expos for a "Player to be Named Later" (Randy Bass).  I used his 1979 Topps card for this updated 1977 card.

After 6 mediocre seasons as a 4th outfielder in St. Louis, Melendez was traded to the Padres for Bill Grief during the '76 season.  He would hit .244 in 72 games in a similar role for the Padres that year, but play in just 8 games in '77 and go hitless in 4 plate appearances.  It was hard to find any photos of him in a Padre uniform, so I tracked down a black and white team issue 5x7 glossy that I colorized for this updated card.

Champion was a late season call up during the '76 campaign and batted just .237 in 38 at bats.  His reward:  A starting position (2nd base) in the lineup.  Results:  150 games played, 507 at bats and a .229 average.  1978 saw the Padres come to the realization that Champion was an average second baseman with a below average bat.  In 32 games during the '78 season hit hit .226 and signed his ticket to oblivion.  He would spend the balance of the '78 season in Hawaii (AAA affiliate of the Padres) and hit .328, then hit .311 and .281 respectively at Tacoma (Indians AAA), but never see any further major league action.

Scanlon's final stop in a short lived career was San Diego.  In 47 games he hit .190, while playing 2nd, 3rd and left field.  His 3 previous seasons in Montreal were no better.  He would kick around the minors until 1980 when the White Sox cut him loose.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for this updated card.  Much credit needs to be given to the Topps folks for creating one of their best airbrushes ever.  You definitely have to do a double take to pick it out as an airbrush.

Siebert showed decent numbers in the 3 partial seasons that he spent in Houston before being acquired by the Padres during the off season.  He had a 2.45 ERA in 4 games (3 2/3 innings) of action during the '77 season before being dealt to the Mets in the Dave Kingman trade.  After 2 seasons with the Mets his major league career was over.  One final season at Triple A (Denver - Montreal) where he went 1-3 with a 5.25 ERA marked his exit from professional ball at the age of 26.  Due to the fact that he played so sparingly with the Padres it was impossible to find a photo of him in a SD uniform.  I found a Venezuelan Winter League card and airbrushed the cap and used the picture.  Since the "action shot" was taken at such a distance it was very easy to hand airbrush the cap.

Ashford went 3 for 5 during his late season call up at the end of the '76 season.  Given 249 at bats in the '77 campaign yielded a .217 average with just 3 homers.  Ashford filled the utility role by playing 2nd, short and 3rd.  He recreated that role in '78 and hit .245.  That won him a ticket back to the farm.  He resurfaced in Texas, the Bronx, Flushing and KC as one of those fill in type of guys to replace a injured star.  In all 4 of those stints he did nothing to impress.  He hit over .300 from 1981-83 in Triple A.  By 1984 at the age of 29, he sunk to .247 as a member of the Rochester Red Wings (Orioles affiliate) and then in 1985 was cut from Portland (Philly affiliate) after hitting .100 in 30 AB.  This card was created using an autographed 8x10 gloss that I found via a Google search.

1977 was Bernal's one shot at the majors.  He got into 15 games, pitched 20 1/3 innings and compiled a 1-1 record with a 5.31 ERA.  It was amazing in itself that he even got a shot at "the show" considering his lifetime minor league record of 23-26, 4.14).  He was 5-6 at Hawaii during the '77 season with a 3.72 ERA.  I found this colorized photo while doing a Google search.  It looks to have been taken at Wrigley.

Almon played collegiate baseball at Brown University. He was the first overall pick in the 1974 amateur draft, by the Padres.  Almon led all major league shortstops in putouts with 303 in 1977 and led the National League in sacrifice hits with 20 that same year. Almon's best season was in the strike shortened 1981 campaign when, as the starting shortstop for the Chicago White Sox, he hit .301 with 16 stolen bases.  Alman hit .261 in 155 games for the Padres during the '77 season.  He would go on to have a 15 year career where at times he was a starter and at other times he was a valuable utility man who could play every infield and every outfield spot.  He played for 7 major league franchises before hanging it up after the '88 season.  I used his '79 Topps card photo for this card.

Owchinko attended Eastern Michigan University, from where he was picked in the first round (5th overall) by Peter Bavasi for the San Diego Padres in 1976.  The 22 year old Owchinko started 28 games for the Padres in 1977 and finished 9-12 with a 4.45 ERA.  His numbers would improve in '78 then level off in '79.  He bounced to Cleveland, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cincy and Montreal before calling it a day after the '86 season.  His career record of 37-60, with a 4.28 ERA was exceptionally unimpressive for a first round pick.  I found a sharp black and white glossy and colorized it for this card shot.

Shirley skipped several levels of minor league baseball, being assigned directly to the Double-A Amarillo Gold Sox to start the 1976 season. After posting a Win-loss record of 9-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 16 starts, he was promoted to the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders, finishing the season there. It would be the last time Shirley played in the minors until 1987.  Shirley was named to the Padres' starting rotation to open the 1977 season. He posted what turned out to be one of his best seasons in his rookie year, setting what would be career highs in wins (12), games started (35), innings pitched (214) and strikeouts (146). It was also his only year as a full-time starter, as he never started more than 25 games in a season after 1977.  I used his 1979 Topps card for this photo.

Greer was drafted eighth overall in the 1977 draft. He appeared in five games with the San Diego Padres in 1977 and 1979.  He was the youngest player on the Padres in 1977.  18 year old Greer went hitless in his one at bat during the '77 season and did the same in 3 at bats in '79.  He compiled a career .210 average in 7 minor league season and would be termed more of a "suspect" than a prospect during his entire career.  Topps created a rookie panel card for the Padres in 1980 that included this grainy shot of him.  There were no other pictures available on the web, so I attempted to sharpen this one up a bit for his new card.

San Diego was stop #2 for "Kong" during his 1977 victory tour.  After being dealt by the Mets at the trade deadline to the Padres he appeared in 56 games and hit 11 homers in 168 AB's with a .238 average before moving along to stop #3 (California).  I found this batting pose shot on the Topps Vault site.  Apparently they were going to use it for his '78 card, but declined to use or airbrush it after he was dealt 2 more times during the '77 season.  He eventually signed as a free agent with the Cubs for the '78 season.

The full story behind the Dave Roberts saga can be found by clicking here.  Roberts was a good all purpose utility man who never lived up to his #1 draft pick hype.  He played in 82 games during the '77 season and hit .220.  This is a zoomed in version of his 1979 Topps card photo.

Wehrmeister was the San Diego Padres' first-round pick, and third overall, in the January regular phase of the 1973 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his major league debut with the Padres in 1976, and split the next three seasons between the Padres and their minor league system.  In June of 1979, Wehrmeister was traded to the New York Yankees for outfielder Jay Johnstone, but did not play for the Yankees until 1981, when he appeared in four games in relief.  His less than impressive 1-3, 6.07 record in '77 was compiled during 30 games (69 2/3) innings of work.  This photo was an airbrush that I did of his 1981 Columbus Clippers (Yankees AAA affiliate) minor league card.  I chose to cut and paste another player's cap onto the card and color the jersey trim to match Padre colors.  I decided to leave the pinstripes, but remove the Clippers logo.

Richards made a big splash hitting .290 as the Padres starting right fielder in 1977.  He finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year balloting after the season's conclusion.  In '78 he improved even more by upping his average to .308.  Richards' game was build on sharp defense and great speed.  He stole 56 bases during his rookie campaign.  His high point was in 1980 when he stole 61 bags and batted .301.  A career .290 hitter in 7 seasons in San Diego, Richards was dealt to the Giants midway through the 1984 campaign, where he hit a career low of .252 and never played in the majors again.  I found this 8x10 shot on ebay and decided to use it for his 1977 "rookie" card.

Acquired before the '77 season in a deal with Cleveland for Johnny Grubb, Fred Kendall and Hector Torres.  Consider this deal a steal for the Friars who got a .311-23-81 season out of "Silent George".  Unfortunately Ray Kroc's big plan to sign free agents and acquire guys in the last year of their contracts didn't help the team improve in the standings.  As a result, Hendrick was dealt to the Cardinals for Eric Rasmussen early in the '78 season in a deal that helped the Cardinals build their '82 Championship team.  Hendrick retired after the 1988 season after an impressive 18 year career where he hit .278 and homered 267 times, with most of his career played in pitcher's ballparks.  He would be a 4 time  All-Star and two time Silver Slugger winner.  I found this autographed 8x10 studio shot on ebay and cropped it, so it could be used for his updated '77 card.  His original Topps '77 card pictured him on the Indians, which showed extreme laziness since he was traded over to San Diego in December.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mr., Mr. Roberts ???

Baseball fans:  When you hear the name Dave Roberts what comes to your mind ?  For most of us it's probably the "well traveled" outfielder with the lightning fast speed who stole game 4 of the 2004 ALCS for Boston during their incredible comeback against the Yankees.  For those of us who have an older/more obscure memory we think of the Dave Roberts of the San Diego Padres during the 1970's.  Now of course when we think like that the next question pops up:  The pitcher Dave Roberts or the player Dave Roberts ?

You see by the early 1970's the Padres had cornered the market in two things:  losing season and players named Dave Roberts.  The first Dave Roberts was a pitcher who played for the franchise during their first 3 seasons (1969-1971).  He actually had some good seasons, but the team couldn't score any runs (what expansion team can ?), so he consistently sported a losing record with a low ERA.  By 1972 he was dealt to Astros, which was just a bit before the "other" Dave Roberts was drafted #1 out of the University of Oregon on June 6, 1972.  Not wasting any time the Padres put their "new" Dave Roberts into uniform and pressed him into action with the big club the day after the draft.  Today we would call this "rushing a player", which is usually followed by the comment "ruining the kid".  Back in 1972 it was know as, "replacing the lack of talent on an expansion team".  Those '72 Padres were not exactly the love-able losers like the '62 Mets were.  They were boring, drab and wore the ugliest uniforms in the majors.  They had one true star, Nate Colbert, and a bunch of guys who couldn't hit and barely could field.

Roberts went 0-3 in his first big league action.  In fact he didn't hit all that much the rest of the way.  He finished his partial rookie campaign splitting time between 2nd base and 3rd base, while hitting .244 with 5 homers.  The following season he started off even worse.  By the end of April he was hitting .083, which earned him a ticket to the Padres Triple A affiliate in Hawaii.  Talk about punishment.  Being "demoted" to Hawaii.  I bet if the Padres thought this through they might have realized that a minor league team would do better to be placed in a less exotic place than the tropical paradise of Hawaii.  To say the 50th state suited Roberts well would be an understatement.  In a month of action he was batting a crisp .375 and was summoned back to the big club when 3rd baseman Dave Hilton shocked the world, ok he shocked no one, by bottoming out with an average slightly north of the Mendoza line.  Roberts was hot in Hawaii and remained hot in San Diego.  As the Padres regular 3rd baseman he finished the season with a .286 average, 22 homers and 64 RBI's.  The sky was the limit for the 1972 #1 pick, or so it seemed.  1973 would be the high point in Roberts' career.

He would spend the next few years shuttling back and forth between San Diego and Hawaii never duplicating the success he had of 1973.  To his credit he was not about to shrivel up and quit.  When the organization decided to convert him into a catcher, he embraced the challenge and learned how to ply his trade with the "tools of ignorance".  He started the 1977 season on the expansion Blue Jays roster.  After converting him into a catcher, the genius Padre management signed free agent catcher Gene Tenace, which made Roberts expendable.  The result:  A trip to Toronto.  The with a twist of luck and fate, Tenace couldn't really catch much, so he was shuffled over to 1st and the Padres bought Roberts' contract back from the Blue Jays.

Regular playing time didn't come and by the end of the '78 season Roberts earned his free agency and migrated to the Texas Rangers, which was not exactly a strategic move on his behalf.  The Rangers had both Jim Sundberg and John Ellis ahead of Roberts on the depth chart.  Sundberg was an All-Star catcher who played about 150 games, which didn't leave much playing time for anyone else willing to put on a mask and some shin guards.  Due to this untenable situation Roberts split time between Triple A Tucson and Texas.  When he was with the big club he hit .264 and began filling in at just about every position.  Roberts righted a bad situation by becoming the team's utility man extraordinaire.  In 1980 he played in 37 games at third base, 33 at shortstop, 22 at catcher, five in right field, and four each at first and second base for Texas.  Roberts basically played every position except Pitcher or Shortstop.  His batting average wasn't exceptionally high (.238), but he did cash in with 10 homers.

For those hoping for the "happy ending", the one where I write that Roberts found his niche and remained with the Rangers as a world class utility ball player for the better part of the next decade, that ending isn't going to be written.  1981 saw Roberts move over to the Astros and play even less than he did in 1979.  1982 saw him take his skills to South Philly with much the same result.  By 1983 he was injured.  The Phillies saw no reason to invest any time or effort into a broken down utility man and Roberts was cut loose, thus ending his 10 year up and down career in the big leagues.

David Wayne Roberts, not to be confused with David Arthur Roberts never achieved the success predicted for him back when he was a #1 pick in the 1972 draft.  Did the Padres rush him along too soon or was he just another 1st round bust ?  We may never know the answer to that question, and except for a handful of fans in Southern California, nobody else is probably even asking it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1977 St. Louis Cardinals

Call the 1970's the "Forgotten Decade" for the great Cardinal Franchise.  Sandwiched in between their dominant run in the late 1960's and their great run in the early to mid 80's the 1970's was a time of transition for the Cardinals.  Lou Brock was the lone remaining member representing the "old guard" of the great teams of the '60's.  By 1977 Bob Gibson had retired and Red Schoendienst was no longer the steady skipper behind the bench.  The Cardinals were looking to rebound from a rare 90 loss season in 1976 and Vern Rapp was able to lead them to a winning record.  St. Louis would finish a distant 3rd place in the NL East (18 games back), but fans were happy to see winning baseball return to the shores of the Mississippi.

Bob Forsch, who finished a disappointing 8-10 the previous season became the ace of the staff by winning 20 games (20-7, 3.48) and logging over 200 innings.  The rest of the rotation was average at best.  Eric Rasmussen (11-17, 3.48) experienced a lot of hard luck.  With an identical ERA to that of Forsch's Rasmussen won 9 less games and lost 10 more.  The pen was solid, except for the "Mad Hungarian", Al Hrabosky who faltered as a closer.  Hrabosky's 6-5 record featured a 4.38 ERA and 10 saves.  Rookie Joh Urrea was the workhorse of the pen logging almost 140 innings.  Former Cincy closer Rawly Eastwick signed a big contract and came up small (3-7, 4.70).

The Cardinals finished 4th in the league in batting.  21 year old shortstop Garry Templeton hit a robust .322 and stole 28 bases.  Catcher Ted Simmons hit .318 with 21 homers and 95 RBI's and was easily the team's most feared hitter.  38 year old Lou Brock managed to hit .272 and swipe an amazing 35 bases to help pace the offense.  Keith Hernandez' gold glove at first anchored a rock solid infield.  The true story of the team was it's bench.  With pinch hitter Roger Freed hitting close to .400 and getting clutch pinch hit after another the Cardinals could rally from behind and pull out games late.  Tony Scott hit .291 as a part time centerfielder and bench player.  Aging veteran Don Kessinger could still be counted on for his glove as a late inning defensive replacement and spot starter.

If the Cardinals can get their pitching to overachieve they just might have a chance to contend.

I added 21 new cards to round out the 1977 Cardinals full Topps set.

After 2 full seasons in the majors, Eastwick looked like a HOF caliber relief pitcher.  In his first full season (1975) he saved 22 games, won 2 in the World Series and saved another.  Not a bad way to start off your career.  The following season he was even better.  His ERA dropped 50 points, he added 4 more saves adn bumped up to 107 innings coming out of the pen for the repeat champion Reds.  1977 started out very similar to his first 2 seasons.  In 23 games with the reds he had 7 saves and a 2.91 ERA, but contract squabbles began to frighten the Reds.  Cincy shipped him over to St. Louis and the downward spiral began.  Who knows why it happened.  Was he just a product of a winning atmosphere ?  Did Sparky Anderson know how to best use him ?  It's inexplicable.  After 2 1/2 HOF caliber season Eastwick now looked like a triple A pitcher trying to hold on to the dream.  He would finish 3-7 with just 4 saves in 53 innings of work for the Cardinals and be granted free agency at year's end.  He would bounce from team to team over the next 4 seasons before his career was over after the 1981 strike season.

Bosetti arrived in the Gateway City as part of trading deadline deal along with Dane Iorg and Tom Underwood.  The Cards sent Bake McBride to Philadelphia in a deal that pretty much helped both clubs.  Bosetti would play in 41 games and hit .232 with no homers and just 3 RBI's.  At the end of the season he was sent packing to the Blue Jays, where he started in center field for the next two seasons.  The highligh of his career would be hitting .260 in 1979 while playing in all 162 games.  The following season Lloyd Moseby took over as the every day centerfielder and Bosetti's career began to spiral downward.  Unlike most outliers, Bosetti's numbers were actually better in the season where he played the most.  After that his playing time became limited and his numbers plummeted.  When researching some interesting facts about his career.  According to his bio page on I found out that he achieved his goal of urinating in the outfield of every major league park.  No doubt this is an impressive feat.  Even more impressive thatn him leading all AL outfielders in 1978 with putouts and repeating that the following year.  I just wonder when he found the time to pull this off ?  Did he actually urinate on the field itself or did he he perform the act during games without dropping his draws ?  I'm now intrigued beyond belief.  I was surprised to find an autographed photo of Bosetti on ebay considering the fact that he only spent a half season in St. Louis.  Knowing what he was up to in the outfield I'm thinking I wouldn't want to touch any photo that he hand signed.

You can read the mini-article that I did on Freed by clicking here.  Suffice it to say he had a magical season as a pinch hitter deluxe and almost eclipsed the .400 mark.  He will be the 1st guy off the bench in a key clutch situation late in the game.  I couldn't find any decent photos of him to use for the updated card, so I went with a cleaned up version of his '78 Topps card photo, which was taken @the Stick during the '77 season.

Duncan was a Rule 5 selection from the Orioles system.  He appeared in just 8 games in the month of September and went 4 for 12 (.333) and played a mean third base.  The A's selected him from the Cardials during the off season and he performed admirably hitting .257 in 319 at bats during the 1978 season, then mysteriously he was farmed out and never heard from again.  It was rumored that a severe ankle injury that he sustained while playing in the minors hampered his mobility and prevented him from being a solid major leaguer.  This was a interesting photo to work with.  Originally it pictured him wearing an A's uniform.  I copied the uniform and pasted it into into a new photo and turned it into gray scale.  Then I colorized it and changed the Oakland green to the Cardinals light blue.  I added the red sleeve color trim and "bleached" the yellow undershirt to white.  For good measure I cut and pasted a Cardinal Cap onto his head.

Good things seemed to happen to teams that Underwood played on, just not the Cardinals.  After arriving at the trade deadline as part of the McBride trade.  In 19 games (17 starts), he went 6-9 with a 4.95 ERA.  His tenure in St. Louis would end right after game 162, when he was shipped off to Toronto to complete a previous deal.  In his 11 year career he made the post season 4 times (Philly, Yanks & Oak).  Sadly he passed away last year (2010) due to Pancreatic cancer.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for this one.  It is an airbrushed photo taken during spring training 1977.  If you look in the background you can see that there are two Phillies players.  They airbrushed a Cardinal home white jersey for him.

Scott arrived in St. Louis as part of a huge multiplayer trade with Montreal.  Neither team acquired or traded much.  Call it a "change of scenery" type of deal.  Scott, who hit .182 in 92 games with Montreal in 1975 was coming to the Cardinals straight from a one year banishment to the minors.  In 1977 he would split time in center with Jerry Mumphrey and hit .291 in close to 300 at bats.  He would not equal that success over the next 3 1/2 seasons in St. Louis.  In 1981 he was dealt to the Astros for Joaquin Andujar.  He duplicated his 1977 #'s in his first half season in Houston, but then fell back into the same rut that got him shipped out of St. Louis.  His 11 year career would come to an end after the 1984 season. I found this photo while doing a google search.  It had him sitting next to Templeton in the dugout with both guys looking like they would rather be someplace else or doing something else.  Scott's body language has that "Get me out of here" look.  I thought it would fit perfectly on a card since Topps made a regular habit of using dugout shots for their cards during this era.

Originally drafted by the Mets back in 1971, Ayala made a big splash in his major league debut in 1974 by hitting a homer in his first at bat.  Unfortunately for him the rest of the season was pretty much downhill from there.  He would resurface 2 seasons later (1976) for another cup of coffee with the Mets.  After hitting just .115 he knew his days were numbered.  The Mets shipped him off to the Cardinals, where he appeared in just 1 game in 1977 and went 1 for 3.  That would be the only action he would see as a Cardinal, which is why I was shocked to find an autographed photo of him in a Cardinal uniform, which I used for the updated card.  His best years would come starting in 1979 when he signed with the Orioles, who used him as a platoon player.  In his 6 seasons in Baltimore he would hit .257 with 33 homers as a part time DH and corner outfielder.  He would play on 2 pennant winners and 1 world champion.

After two horrible seasons playing for the Cubs Schultz arrived in St. Louis in a deal for a low level minor leaguer.  He responded with a career year by going 6-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 84 innings worth of work out of the pen.  He would stick around for 2 more season, but his numbers would get progressively worse.  After being send down to the minors for the 1980 season things completely unraveled for him.  A string of injuries an ineffectiveness led to him dropping from triple A to double A and then out of baseball.  His career highlight dates back to college where he set the NCAA record for most strikeouts in a game (26), while playing at the University of Miami.  This autographed photo was taken at Wrigley Field.  It looked to be outside the park, which was quite strange in itself.  I found it while doing a google search.

Metzger struggled with control issues for most of his career.  Somehow he was able to harness his wildness during the 1976 season where he went 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA and 16 saves.  He was rewarded by the BBWAA with the NL Rookie of the year award.  Only 17 games into the '77 season the Sophomore jinx took full control over Metzger.  With a 5.56 ERA and no saves the Padres had seen enough and he was dealt to the Cardinals on May 17th.  He finished out the season going 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 7 saves in 92 2/3 innings.  It looked like he was able to right the ship.  The Cardinals weren't convinced that that was the case and they sent him to the Mets where he couldn't find the strike zone if he had a GPS.  Going 1-3 with a 6.51 ERA in 25 games in Flushing earned him a trip to Tidewater (AAA).  While in the minors his issues got worse and he would never return to major league baseball.  This photo came from his 1978 Topps card, that was taken @ the Stick on what is most likely the same day that Roger Freed's photo was snapped.

Carroll was a big game post season reliever.  He allowed just five earned runs in 32.3 innings of post season work for the Reds from 1970-1976.  He led the NL in saves with 37 during the '75 season, which at the time was a MLB record.  The "Hawk" was a NL All-Star in 1971 and 1972.  He arrived in St. Louis at the end of Spring training in exchange for Lerrin LaGrow.  He would go 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 4 saves for the Cards in 52 games, before strangely being dealt back to the Chisox in August.  St. Louis was hovering near the .500 mark, while the Chisox who were in desperate need for pitching, were in the thick of a pennant race in the AL West.  Carroll was horrible in his 8 games on the South Side and wound up being released.  He caught on with the Pirates the following season for 2 games then retired with a 96-73 record and a 2.94 ERA over a 15 years career.  His best season were obviously in Cincinnati (71-43, 2.73).  This autographed 8x10 glossy photo was taken at Wrigley.

After arriving at the trade deadline as part of the McBride deal Iorg got into 30 games and hit a .313.  Over the next 6 1/2 seasons he would serve as the finest utility man in the NL.  Iorg played all 4 corner positions quite well, but just never hit for much in the way of power.  Still he had a fine bat for hitting line drives and making contact.  His .294 career average while a member of the Redbirds is nothing to sneaze at.  He would serve as St. Louis' DH in the 1982 World Series, vs Milwaukee, and hit .529 as the Cardinals captured their first world championship in 15 years.  Midway through the 1984 season he was dealt to cross state rival, the Kansas City Royals.  The following season he got a chance to face his old mates in an "all Missouri" series.  His walkoff RBI single in game 6 helped force a deciding game 7, which the Royals won easily to capture their first (and so far) only world title.  Surprisingly there weren't many good photos of Iorg to choose from, so I went with his 1981 Topps card head shot that was taken at Shea.

Capilla was hit hard in just two games worth of action during the '77 season, then was traded to the Reds for Rawly Eastwick.  He pitched in a grand total of 9 games during the two years that he saw limited duty for St. Louis.  The pitching starved Reds would press him into immediate service as a starter, where he went 7-8 with a 4.23 ERA.  While searching ebay I found this black and white shot.  I ran it through my new colorization process before using it for his updated '77 Card.

In an 18 year career as a 4th outfielder / DH, Dwyer made the rounds.  Having played for 7 different teams (3 twice) Dwyer found a way to be a key contributor off the bench while hitting .260 over the course of his career.  His best years were in Baltimore, where Earl Weaver used his unique skills to perfection.  As a member of the Cardinals, Dwyer served two tours of duty.  As a rookie in 1973 he appeared in 28 games as a Cardinal and posted a .193 average.  The following year he hit .279 in 86 at bats.  Midway through the '75 season he was dealt to Montreal.  A year later he wound up in Flushing.  In 1977 he returned to St. Louis and hit .226 in 13 games.  Taken at Wrigley, this 8x10 autographed photo was found on ebay.

Yougblood, who was a versatile player, started the '77 season with the Cardinals and played in 25 games.  He hit just .185 in 27 at bats before being sent to the Mets for Mike Phillips at the trade deadline.  To make room for him on the Mets roster, player/manager Joe Torre was forced to officially retire from active competition.  Youngblood would have a rock solid career playing 6 seasons for some very forgettable Mets teams.  On August 4, 1982 the Mets dealt Youngblood to the Montreal Expos.  Earlier in the day he played in a day game vs the Cubs at Wrigley and got a hit.  Excited to join his new ball club, Youngblood amazingly got a flight out of O'Hare and arrived in Philly just in time to play for the Expos, where he recorded another hit, thus becoming the 1st player in major league history to get a hit for 2 different teams on the same day.  Even more interesting is the fact that he recorded those hits off of two future HOF pitchers (Fergie Jenkins & Steve Carlton).

24 year old John Sutton made the most of his limited action with the Cardinals during the '77 season.  In 14 games he pitched 24 innings, compiled a 2-1 record with a 2.59 ERA.  For his troubles he was left unprotected and the Twins drafted him as a rule 5 eligible.  In '78 he got into 17 games for the Twins and pitched 44 innings, but had no record.  He would get set back down to the minors and never appear in another major league game.  While in the minors his numbers got worse and worse year in and year out until he was released by the Mariners chain in 1983.  This photo came from a minor league card, while he was at Oklahoma City.  I replaced the "truckers" cap that the Oklahoma City team wore with a nice new Cardinal cap.  Since the jersey logo was obscured I decided to not airbrush it out.

Tamargo's 5 year major league career was split evenly amongst 3 teams:  STL, SFG & MON.  During the '76 season he got into 10 games and hit and even .300 (3 for 10).  The following year, 1977, he appeared in just 4 game and went hitless in 4 at bats.  During the '78 season he was dealt to the Giants for a player to be named later (Rob Dressler).  This autographed player photo was taken during his brief stay in St. Louis during the 1976 season.  I love the bicentennial caps that the Cardinals wore that season on special occasions.  I believe the Mets, Phillies and of course the Pirates also donned these great keepsakes.

Urrea served the Cardinals well as a "swingman" pitching 29 games out of the pen and starting 12 others.  He posted a 7-6 record to go along with his 3.16 ERA in 139 innings worth of work.  Guys like him are valuable to teams, because of their flexibility.  The following season was not so good.  St. Louis used him in the same role, but with his ERA ballooning up to 5.38 the results were much different.  1979 was a year for him to work out the kinks back on the farm and 1980 looked to be a renaissance year (4-1, 3.48) for him.  After the '80 season he was dealt to the Padres, where he pitched 1 final season.  I used his 1979 Topps card photo for his updated card.  I cropped it a bit closer, so it has a tighter zoom.

"Obi-Wan's" first taste of the biggs was his 9 game cup of Joe with the Cardinals in 1977.  The then 21 year old second baseman hit .111 in 9 trips to the plate.  In '78 he would get an even bigger sip of Sanka, but still hit just .120.  The Cardinals must have liked what the saw, because he was given the regular second base job in 1979 and hit .301 in 135 games worth of action.  Never a big power guy, "Obi" managed to his .292 in 8 seasons at Busch before moving over to Atlanta.  He was a rock solid third basemen and hit .292 in the '82 World Series when the Cards defeated the Brewers in 7 games.  This photo is a signed action shot that I found on ebay.  Interestingly his signature looks like K.Oberfell, not Oberkfell.

Known as "Zamboni" because of the way he used to scoop up grounders off of the Busch Memorial Stadium carpet, Reitz served 2 tours of duty in St. Louis.  From 1972-1975, the year he won the gold glove at third base, Reitz was a star on the rise in St. Louis.  After the '75 season he was dealt to his hometown team, the San Francisco Giants for Pete Falcone.  A year later he was dealt back to the Cardinals in exchange for Lynn McGlothen.  1977 marked the start of his second go round in St. Louis.  In 157 games he would hit a career high 17 homers and bat .261, which would turn out to be one point higher than his career average.  For the next 4 seasons he would play gold glove caliber third base, but not get the award thanks to Mike Schmidt winning 9 consecutive gold gloves.  In total he would spend 8 season in a Cardinal uniform.  In 1974 he would hit a 2 out homer off of Jerry Koosman, at Shea to tie the game at 3-3.  The game would head to extra innings before Bake McBride would win it with a homer in the 25th inning.

After arriving at the trade deadline in exchange for Joel Youngblood Phillips served the role of utility infielder and wound up in 48 games.  His .241 average doesn't justify his worth as a utility guy who could play every infield position.  For the next 3 seasons he would serve that role to perfection for St. Louis, before being dealt to the Padres in a blockbuster 8 player deal.  I used his 1979 Topps card photo for this updated '77 card.

Porter spent just 14 games in the major, spread out across both the 1976 and 1977 seasons.  He would not record a major league hit in 24 career plate appearances.  In 5 games during the '77 season he would bat just 7 times.  He was a late season call up who played the corner outfield spots.  When guys spend as little time with the big club as Porter did, it's very tough to find a photo to use.  I found a grainy black and white photo while doing a google search and then went through a comprehensive colorization process.  Unlike the "head" shots, this full action pose required me to colorize the sky, the grass and his uniform.  Each piece had to be copied and pasted and colorized, then pasted back into the original photo.  When I finished the job I noticed that his cap looked exceptionally grainy, so I copied a cap from another Cardinal player's card and sized it accordingly, before placing it on top of his head.