Monday, November 14, 2011

1977 Seattle Mariners - Volume 1 - The Originals

On April 6, Major League Baseball returned to Seattle when the Mariners played the California Angels before a Kingdome crowd of 57,762. The Mariners went onto lose the game, 7-0 and finished the inaugural season with a 64-98 record.  Diego Segui threw a called strike to Angels Jerry Remy for the first pitch ever thrown in Mariner history.  Even more significant was the fact that Segui played in Seattle 8 season's before as an original member of the Seattle Pilots of Ball 4 fame.  By 1977, 39 year old Segui's career was virtually over if not for the Mariners bringing him back to the Pacific Northwest as a sentimental move and a way to connect both franchises.  Juan Bernhardt hit the teams first homer.  Jose Baez had the team's first hit, but was quickly erased when Steve Braun hit into an inning ending DP.  Two nights later Bill Laxton notched the franchise's first win in a wild 7-6 walk of victory.  Larry Milbourne's double to right, scored Baez for the winning run.  Only 12,000 fans were in attendance in the antiseptic Kingdome.  Most expansion teams fail to win due to lack of pitching, and Seattle was no different.  Finishing dead last (14th) in the league in pitching sealed the M's fate.  Only Charlie Finley's "fire sale" A's finished worse in the AL West.  17 hurlers started at least 1 game for the M's.  Former Oakland A Glenn Abbott was the most reliable starter (12-14, 4.45).  Abbot was the only Mariner pitcher to log over 200 innings.  Enrique Romo (8-10, 2.83, 16 saves) was a star out of the pen.  One thing the M's could do is hit the long ball.  They finished 8th in the league in homers.  Dan Meyer (22), Leroy Stanton (27) and Ruppert Jones (24) all hit over 20 homers.  Both Stanton (.275) and Meyer (.273) hit in the .270's to pace the team in batting average.  Jones, a young speedy outfielder, became an immediate fan favorite.  Every time the fans sung "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" they would change the lyrics from "Root, Root Root for the Home Team" to "Rupe, Rupe, Rupe".  After searching I noticed that there were no books written about this vanilla expansion tea.  The Jones story seems to be the only interesting one next to the fact that the Brewers (formerly Pilots) were booed all night in July when they made their first visit back to Seattle since 1969.  Of course none of the original Pilots were on the team, but the fans wanted to show the franchise that they didn't forget being abandoned for 7 years.  When searching 1977 Mariners all I could find were a few book about Outboard Motors.  I'm guessing that expansion teams are quite forgettable, unless you assemble a cast like the '62 Mets and lose 120 games or have Jim Bouton on your roster.

Pretty much every card had to either be re-done, created or airbrushed.  Topps did a horrific job with their 1977 Mariner cards.  I blame this on sheer laziness of a bloated monopoly.  Back in 1969, 8 years earlier, they were able to get at least 7 or 8 Pilot players in their new uniforms.  For the '77 M's the best that Topps could do was airbursh in the trident logo with a bad felt tip marker.  Most caps had horrible airbrush colors.  The BHNH card for Grant Jackson, might be the best of the bunch.  Poor Rick Jones's card looked like a 3rd grader painted over a picture.  It looks more like a portrait than a photo after that 3rd graded got done with his or her handiwork.  Stan Thomas has some blackish purple jersey on and Dave Pagan had a crayoned powder blue cap.  Unlike the Blue Jays, who had some good cards to use in the O Pee Chee set, the M's cards in both sets stunk.  O Pee Chee being a Canadian company was smart enough to update the Blue Jays photos knowing their fan base would then buy lots of cards.  They weren't wasting that type of effort on the M's, even though they were located quite close to Vancouver.  For the cards that I updated I will show the "before/after" shots.  For the cards that I created from scratch I will do my normal write-up.

Here are the 17 Cards that were updated from Topps original Airbrushes.  Before (Topps' version) on the left.  After (my version) on the right side:

The before shot wasn't the worst airbrush ever by Topps and I could have lived with it.  The updated shot on the right was modified from a minor league card.

Topps took Stein's 1976 White Sox card and put their crack staff of 4th graders onto it.  They forgot to get rid of the red trim on his undershirt.  I used a 1978 Hostess Card shot for the update card on the right.

I was trying to figure out if Stinson was wearing a blue colored stewardess cap from the 1960's or maybe a chef's cap in the original.  The updated photo was a spring training shot from a Hostess Card.

Meyer looks to be in a Tiger uniform sporting his "hardly noticeable" airbrushed powder blue Mariners cap. The updated shot came from a "Greatest Mariners" card collection.  It's obvious that the term "Greatest" was very subjective in this instance.

This is definitely the best airbrush of the 1977 Topps Set.  Topps even got the grain of the hat right as well as the colorizing of his Angels jacket.  The updated one on the right is from the O Pee Chee Set.

Surely his parents could have just called him Richard ?  With a name like Dick Pole you better live up to the hype. You had also better be one tough dude.  Tough enough to take your Red Sox cap and have it airbrushed by the kids in the Gifted and Talented program at PS 50.  On the right hand side the updated card gets an autographed photo found on ebay.

Topps took the easy way out with the original.  They had Segui show a profile, so you can't see the Red Sox logo on his batting helmet.  They didn't even remove the Red/Navy piping on the jersey.  The updated photo was a "no-brainer".  I use the photo taken when he threw the first pitch ever for the Mariner organization on opening day 1977 vs the Angels.

Topps Airbrushed away all remnants of Abbott tenure in Oakland.  On a scale of 1-10, this job was an even 5.  I decided to use his 1979 Topps card photo for the updated card, because only Topps could take a spring training shot and forget to airbrush out a telephone poll.  Look closely at Abbott's cheek.  He either has an abscess or he's got a huge wad of chaw that would have even made Nellie Fox proud.

  The Hostess card photo on the right was slightly better than the pitiful airbrush on the left.  Hostess at least did a better job making their airbrush job look a bit more realistic.  Lis was a bit player even for expansion teams, so it was impossible to find an actual photo of him as a Mariner.

Consistently throughout the 1977 Topps set the "Trident" logo was colored in just yellow w/out the white base.  I'm guessing Topps didn't have care to make the effort or they misplaced their white Crayons.  Heck, chalk would have even been acceptable.  I found this 8x10 Black and White Glossy and decided to colorize it to update the card.  Originally I was going to use his '78 Card and cut an paste a Mariner Cap on it.  After colorizing this one on the right I decided to go with it.  Following in Topps' tradition I was lazy as well.  I didn't even bother to colorize the background :) !

Stanton's biggest claim to fame prior to hitting 27 homers for the M's in '77 was the fact that he was part of the Nolan Ryan trade back in 1972.  No, he wasn't traded "for" Ryan, he was traded with him by the Mets for a fast fading Jim Fregosi.  I can tell you first hand that Met fans were really cursing in '77 watching Ryan in California and Stanton in Seattle.  Fregosi was long gone as well.  Topps airbrush on this one made Stanton's cap look "purple-ish".  It was not an easy task airbrushing Angels blue and red caps into something resembling Seattle's headgear.  I used his '78 Topps card photo for the new card.  The photo was taken during Spring Training.

I know you thinking, "Broberg never played a regular season game for the M's, so why did you bother making him a card ?"  Great question.  I decided to create this card to show just how lazy Topps had gotten.  Broberg played for the Brewers in '76, which meant that his cap/uni were basically the same color scheme as the Mariners.  Yet, they did a classic "Crayola Job".  My only explanation would have been that they weren't 100% sure of what Seattle's color scheme was going to be.  On the right I took Broberg's Hostess card, which was taken during Spring Training.  The cap looks a bit airbrushed, and I'm assuming Hostess did this just to even out the imperfections.  I added a real life cap logo to it.  The jersey color trim is spot on good, so it didn't need any touch up.

As far as airbrush jobs go, Topps went for it all here.  Instead of just doing the cap and the jersey they even airbrushed Jones' face.  Looks like a great Grandma Moses type painting.  See what you can do with your life after 65 ?  For the updated photo I found a Venezuelan Winter League card shot of Jones.  I'm guessing that back in the 70's players didn't have to worry about being held for ransom when they played down there since I have seen a lot of cards for players from the 70's in that league.  I pasted a Mariner cap on his head.  I'm honestly not happy with the results, because the cap looks blurry.  The weird angle of his head pose made it virtually impossible to find a similar pose with the trident logo cap.  I'm still looking for a better shot and when I do rest assured I will update the photo.  The more I look at it, the more I think it's on a par if not a bit better than a Topps airbrush for the era, which makes me want to fix it even more now.

Topps did a nice job fading Braun's Minnesota Twins batting helmet, so it was close enough to be in the color range for a Mariner helmet.  The Trident logo is not terrible.  It actually looks like they rounded it correctly to fit the contour of a plastic batting helmet.  However they messed up with the sizing.  They made it way too small.  Check out the logo size on Bob Stinson's helmet a few cards back and you'll see just how oversized the log really was.  I found a rare autographed photo of Braun in a Mariner uniform while doing a google search and decided immediately to use it.  I find it amazing just how few real life photos were taken of the "original" Mariner team, when compared to the "original" Mets team 15 years earlier.

Stan's card must have been a last minute throw in for the '77 set.  Topps didn't even make an effort to change his jersey color from Black to road blue/gray.  I decided that I would make this one a fun project and try to out airbrush the airbrush kings.  Basically we'll call this, "Am I more artistic than a 4th grader".  Granted I have the aid of modern technology and infinitely more patience than the gang from Whitehall street, but I figured it would be fun to do.  I kept the cap that Topps airbrushed, but tightened up the colors. I added a real life trident logo to replace the one done with the yellow highlighter pen.  I added yellow trim to the color colors.  My freehand drawing of the color definitely left a lot to be desired, but I wanted to try and keep it on a par with what Topps did.  I faded the jersey color and then changed it to blue/gray.

Smith's cap was airbrushed quite nicely by Topps.  The only thing I did was replace the airbrush logo with a real cap logo that I "copied/pasted".  For some reason the real log came out a bit blurry.  In this instance the Topps version actually looks more realistic.  Go figure !

I decide to save the worst for last.  Ok, one of the worst.  Not only did Topps do a whale of a job messing up this airbrush, they also used a cap that was too big for Pagan's head.  I came to this conclusion by looking at how big the cap was and noticing a gap on the left side between his head and his hair.  If you notice the "halo" around the cap and the sky, you can see how those rabid 4th graders did their arts and crafts cutting.  Topps must have invented the manual "cut & paste".  To update the card I airbrushed in more of the stadium and the sky, since the newer cap would have to be smaller.  I found the cap on one of Rick Honeycutt's cards and did a cut and paste.  The cap looks more like one of those railroad engine caps than a baseball cap, but there weren't many real caps with the correct angle to choose from during the trident era.  I also elected to paste the cap lower down on his head, which meant I had to add more brim shadow.  For good measure I turned the jersey collar color into a shad closer to match the cap color.

...Next post will be the 22 Brand New Mariners Cards that I am creating.  I expect those to be completed by the end of the week, maybe the weekend.


  1. The Topps Dave Collins card is not even Dave. It's someone else (I can't remember who), but the OPC version is in fact Collins.

  2. Hey, you apparently don't know the Rick Jones story. He didn't want to be photographed for religious reasons, and Topps was stuck basically "painting" him, though some sources have said they had a black and white photograph available, and airbrushed that. See also Mike Paxton's 1978 Topps card, same thing, same reason.