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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

1977 Cleveland Indians

The novelty of having Frank Robinson as manager wore off as the team entered year #3.  Robby had the team at 26-31 and someone strangely thought that they were underachieving.  That same someone compiled one bad judgement on top of another by replacing Robby with Jeff Torborg who went 45-59.  The team finished a combined 71-90 and clinched itself another 5th place finish.  After finishing 81-78 in 1976 hopes were high for 1977.  What ownership and the fan base failed to realize was that the team completely overachieved.  This was a franchise stuck right in the middle of a 30+ year funk, so the fans were desperate for anything.  From 1961-1977 the Tribe would finish higher than 4th place only once (1968).  During the 1970's they would finish last or next to last 6 times.  The "Curse of Rocky Colavito" was firmly in place.  The hopes of the franchise sat firmly on the right shoulder of high priced free agent Wayne Garland, who won 20 the year before in Baltimore.  Quickly on Garland realized that Cleveland was no Baltimore.  Garland logged 282 innings and had a decent 3.60 ERA, but was rewarded with a 13-19 record in what would turn out to be the best year of his Cleveland experience.  22 year old Dennis Eckersley was 14-13 (3.53) and "Big" Jim Bibby was 12-13 even though he had a 3.57 ERA.  After the "big 3" the Indians were in trouble.  Pat Dobson (3-12) was on his way out the door and Al Fitzmorris (6-10, 5.41) was a half step behind him.  Jim Kern was the closer with 18 saves, but he was just as adept at blowing a save as putting one in the books.  He was supported by a pair of lefties, Rick Waits and Don Hood, who both did an admirable job.  Waits split his time between the pen and the rotation.

The offense was nothing to write home about.  They finished 9th in run scoring and 13 in homers in a 14 team league.  Andre Thornton (28) was the only regular with more than 20 homers.  The enigmatic Rico Carty had 15 homers as the DH, but brought along enough baggage to get charged a premium by any airline.  25 year old Buddy Bell brought his gold glove and a solid .292 average, along with 10 homers.  What truly haunted this team was it's dreadful outfield.  While the trio of Bochte, Norris and Dade hit a combined .285, they had zero pop.  11 homers between 3 starting outfielders is bound to doom any team.  Gold Glove centerfielder Rick Manning's average dropped 70 points in a year, which relegated him to 4th outfielder status.  Manning hit .285 and .292 in his first two full seasons as a 20/21 year old.  He peaked early and never reached the potential prognosticators put on him.  Larvell Blanks did a great job as a utility man hitting .286 with 6 homers in 322 AB's.  Ray Fosse and Fred Kendall split the catching chores until Fosse moved over to Milwaukee later in the year.  Johnny Grbb and Ron Pruitt were great additions to a crowded outfield brigade and the bench.

When all is said and done this team maybe could have won a few more games, but not many.  With attendance 13th in the league players played half of their games in an empty Municipal Stadium that was dank and cavernous.  The highlight of the season was on May 30th, when Dennis Eckersley tossed a no hitter vs the California Angels.  Pennant fever in Cleveland was once described by Mike Lupica as "lasting 48 hours".  In 1977 it might not have lasted that long.

I added 15 new cards to complete this set, plus I updated 4 existing cards that had bad airbrush jobs or even worse BHNH shots.

Garland was the big free agent signing that turned into a huge bust over the lifetime of the contract.  In fact he became the post child for everything that was wrong in Cleveland during the forgotten decade of the 1970's.  Garland pitched better than his record indicated in 1977, then became disinterested as well as injured.  His original 1977 Topps card was a horrible BHNH with Garland sporting that horrible 'fro.  This updated card makes full use of the Sporting News' cover that he was on previewing the season.  Nothing said "bad softball uniform" better than those red jersey/pant combos that the Tribe sported during this era.

Fitzmorris was traded by the Jays to the Cleveland Indians (after being selected in the expansion draft) in exchange for Alan Ashby and Doug Howard. The Indians released him in 1978.  He was an original KC Royal and had 8 solid years in KC (70-48, 3.46).  By '77 he was nearing the end of the line as evidenced by his 6-10, 5.41 record.  His original 1977 Topps card had him wearing a horribly airbrushed cap.  I cut an pasted a new cap on him to make it look a bit more realistic.

After 2 season in Baltimore, Hood spent 5 years in Cleveland logging innings out of the pen and adding not much at all to the mix.  On June 15, 1979 he was traded by the Tribe to the Yankees for surly slugger Cliff Johnson.  A quick stop in St. Louis in 1980 found him out of baseball in 1981 until he caught on with Omaha (Triple A for KC).  Due to his hard work he wound up getting called up to the Royals and played 2 more seasons in the "biggs" before being released at the end of the '83 season.  In '77 Hood went 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 41 games (105 IP) out of the pen.  His original Topps card had him w/out a cap and wearing those flashy red on red uni's.  I updated the card using a signed photo I found while doing a Google search.

Before season's end, Laxton had been traded to the Cleveland Indians, and after the 1977 season would never pitch in the majors again.  He started the 1978 season in the minor leagues with the Portland Beavers. The Indians traded him in midseason, sending him back to the Padres for Dave Freisleben. He finished the year with the Hawaii Islanders, then retired.  Laxton found new life in 1977 due to expansion as a reliever on the Seattle Mariners.  In 2 games in Cleveland he had no decisions and a 5.40 ERA in 1 2/3 innings of work.  I took his 1977 Topps photo that had him wearing an airbrushed Seattle Mariners hat and cut and pasted an Indians cap on top of it.

Camper played for the Cleveland Indians from September 11, 1977 to October 2, 1977.  He compiled a 1-0 (3.86) record in 3 games (1 start).  Camper had a horrible year at Toledo (AAA) going 11-10 (5.34).  His record in Portland (AAA) the following year was even worse (6-8, 7.40).  Still he got a final chance in the Philly chain and when he failed to impress he was released in 1979 at the age of 26.  I used his 1978 rookie panel card photo for this updated 1977 card.

In 11 games out of the pen Andersen was 0-1 (3.14) and no saves.  He gave up just 10 hits in 14 inning  He would go on to have a long (17 seasons) and distinguished career as a slider throwing reliever for 6 different franchises.His best seasons were in Houston and Philadelphia.  He pitched until he was 41.  I found this autographed photo during a Google search.

Monge arrived on May 11th as part of a trade with the Angels along with Bruce Bochte.  He went 1-2, 6.23 in 33 games and basically stunk up the joint.  He would rebound nicely and have 4 solid seasons in Cleveland before being sent to Philadelphia, where he gave up future HOF'er Tony Gwynn's first MLB hit.  Monge would spent 10 years on the big league level and save 56 games.  1979 was his best year.  He went 12-10 (2.40) for the Tribe and save 19 games in 131 innings. I found this autographed photo on ebay.

Alfredo began his career as a member of the Cleveland Indians, who signed him as an amateur free agent in 1973. On December 5, 1978, before having played a full season in the majors, he was traded, along with Phil Lansford (minors), to the Toronto Blue Jays for VĂ­ctor Cruz. Alfredo made an immediate impact, sharing the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1979 with John Castino.  As an 19 year old call up he got into 14 games at short and hit .146.  Griffin would go on to play 18 seasons in the biggs and would get the moniker "the Ozzie Smith of the AL" from Mike Scioscia, but he won just one Gold Glove (1985).

After a crappy half season in Montreal where he hit .191 in 183 AB's the Expos dumped Thornton, who was 27 at the time, on the unsuspecting Indians for banjo hitting second baseman Jackie Brown.  Little did the Indians know that they were about to make one of the best deals in the history of their franchise, or at least the past 30 years.  Thornton responded with 10 solid years as the team's regular DH.  He made 2 All-Star appearances, won 1 silver slugger and hit over 20 homers 6 times.  Thornton emerged from the shadows and became one of the top DH's in the AL.  In '77 he actually split time between 1st base and DH and hit .263 with 28 homers and 70 RBI in 433 AB's.  He was know to be one of the classiest men in all of baseball.  This card was updated with a great 8x10 autographed shot.

Since Thornton is the true star of this team I decided to put together a second card for him.  This one came from that late 70's "Sportscaster Cards" that were sold off of TV.  Some pretty good action shots came from this set.  I actually had this set, but my mom decided to get rid of it when we moved.

After appearing in just 50 games for the Indians in 1977 and hitting .241 with no homers, Bill Melton retired quietly from baseball.  At 31 Melton should have been in his prime, but a back injury that occurred in 1972 when he was just 26 caused herniated disk that robbed him of his power and flexibility.  Prior to that Melton was a young phenom.  What most folks don't know is the fact that Melton incurred this injury while saving the life of his young son, who was in the process of falling off a garage roof.  Prior to the injury He hit 23, 33, and 33 homers in 3 consecutive seasons.  He led the AL in homers in 1971, while playing half his games in Comiskey, a pitcher friendly park.  While never a great fielder, Melton's fielding abilty go worse with his lack of flexibility.  In his post baseball career he returned to the White Sox to become an community relations rep and then a post broadcast analyst.  I found this photo on ebay.  It clearly represents Melton during the '77 season, where he clearly knew it was over, but he was trying to make the best of it.

Bochte arrived from the Angels on May 11, 1977 along with Sid Monge in exchange for Dave LaRoche and Dave Schuler.  In 112 games as the team's regular leftfielder he hit .304 (119-392) with 5 homers.  The Tribe did not re-sign him as a free agent at the end of the season and he moved on to Seattle as a free agent.  Bochte would go on to be an All-Star with the Mariners in 1979 and knock in 100 runs.  He abruptly quit baseball in protest of escalating salaries, which he thought were ruining the game he loved.  After missing the 1983 season, due to his protest, he returned in 1984 to play 3 more years, with the Oakland A's.  Bochte's post-baseball life is much more interesting than his 12 year career where he was a line drive hitting machine (career .282 avg).  He became an avowed environmentalist and agnostic, who has worked long an hard to save the planet from destruction.  I used his 1978 Topps photo for this card.

Oliver originally signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1973 after being selected in the third round of the June draft, and his only trial in the major leagues consisted of seven games with the 1977 Indians. He batted 22 times, collecting seven hits, including a triple, three runs batted in, and four bases on balls. His batting average was .318. He returned to the Cleveland farm system and played through 1980, then became manager of the Indians' Batavia farm club.  After 1980 Oliver has spent his career coaching and managing on bot the major and minor leagues.  I used his 1978 Topps rookie panel photo for this card.
Known primarily for his 10 years as a San Diego Padre catcher, Kendall arrived in Cleveland thanks to a December 8, 1976 trade along with Johnny Grubb and Hector Torres, that send George Hendrick to the Padres.  In his one season along Lake Erie, Kendall hit .249 with 3 homers in 103 games behind the plate.  He was dealt in a multi-player trade to the Red Sox the following season, the returned to San Diego for the final 2 years of his 12 year career.  I used his 1978 Topps photo for this card.

After spending 6 seasons buried in the Cleveland minor league system Norris finally got his chance with the parent club.  Playing all 3 outfield positions allowed Norris to get into 133 games.  He hit .270 with just 2 homers and 37 RBI's in 440 AB.  In 1978 he would reprise his role and hit .283.  In '79 his average fell to .249.  The Tribe couldn't carry a starting outfielder with so little power and declining average, so they traded him to the Rangers in a deal involving marginal players and minor leaguers.  He hit .247 in his one season in Texas (1980) and was given his release.  I used his 1979 Topps card photo for this update card.

Grubb didn't last long in Cleveland.  After 5 decent seasons in San Diego he was was part of the George Hendrick trade, which sent him to Cleveland.  In just 24 games he hit .275 (28-93) with very little power.  Grubb would move on to Texas as part of a waiver trade the following season.  He spent 4 seasons in Arlington then moved to Detroit for 5 season, including the 1984 World Championship season.  All in all Grubb hit .278 in 16 seasons as a platoon outfielder and part time DH.  I found this autographed photo while doing a Google search.

As an offseason free agent signing Dade pay dividends hitting .291 in 134 games.  He had above average speed (16 SB), but little if no power (3 HR).  The following season he hit just .254 and saw his playing time reduced considerably.  The tribe dealt him to the Padres midway thought the '79 season for a man who would eventually lead their franchise to 2 AL pennants (Mike Hargrove).  For this updated card I used his '78 Kellogg's 3D card photo, which is why it's a bit blurry.

Known as a charismatic/gifted hitter, Carty's career was marked with frequent battles with injuries, illnesses and teammates.  Carty's run-in's with management and his peers were legendary, including his fights with former Brave teammates Hank Aaron and Ron Reed and Cubs teammate Ron Santo.  Twice during his career he missed two full seasons (1968 & 1971). In his 4 years as Cleveland's regular DH he hit .303.  In 1977 he hit .280 with 15 homers and 80 RBI in 461 AB's.  He hit a career high 31 homers the following season, which was split between Toronto and Oakland.  For most of his career Carty walked more times than he struck out.  In seasons where his BA dipped, his OBP stayed relatively the same.  I used this autographed photo that I found on ebay for his new '77 card.