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Baseball Card Of The Day: 1972 Topps “Boyhood Photos of the Stars” Jim Fregosi August 23, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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You’d think they’d be more consistent in using kid photos of baseball players actually playing baseball, from their little league days or whatever.

Most of the cards in this section of the monster 1972 Topps set featured just that – the Tom Seaver or Willie Stargell show ’em both in their caps and uniforms back in their childhood days.

But Jim Fregosi, notable as a star on the Angels for a number of years who the Mets, being the Mets, traded Nolan Ryan for, only gets to play the accordion.

Maybe that’s why the Mets wanted him.

“Let’s unload a guy on the way to being one of the all time greatest pitchers ever, who’ll pitch a staggering 7 no hitters, pitch deep into his late 40s and set the all strikeout record….FOR AN ACCORDION!!!!!”

Actually, Fregosi broke his thumb with the Mets, lasted a year with them, went to other teams as a backup and eventually became a manager back with Angels, the team he’d had his best hitting years with, along with some Gold Glove fielding.  And in his mangerial stint with the Angels, he’d have Nolan Ryan on his pitching staff.

Not sure about the accordion.

Joe Torre’s boyhood photo is a nice one, too. It reminds me of when kid Henry Hill comes home to his mom wearing a new suit and mom scowls “You look like a gangster!”

The car is a nice touch. Just out of shot, Tom Hagen is telling Tessio “Can’t do it Sallie!” and Torre’s about to help him into the back seat.

You’d think it would have been Clemenza, but Tessio was always smarter.

But Joe won 4 World Series managing the Yankees.

Play THAT on your accordion.

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Baseball Card Of The Day, All Star Break Edition: 1993 Craig Lefferts July 18, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Time for a break from baseball.

So why not pour yourself a cold one?

Craig Lefferts pitched for six teams in twelve seasons, starting and relieving as an all purpose work horse. He appeared in 696 games and holds the distinction of being the last pitcher to hit a walk-off home run, all the way back in 1986.

Don’t know about you, but I hope that’s bourbon and not Gatorade in that cup. That’d make this a true “action” card.

L’chaim Craig!

Regular baseball resumes Friday. And how ‘BOUT them Yankees?

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1959 Chick King June 12, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Just look at him, ladies. You KNOW he lives up to his name…

Baseball Card Of The Day, Cranky Old Man Edition – 1968 Bob Gibson May 20, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Gibson had arguably the greatest single season performance of any pitcher in the modern era in 1968 – a record of 22-9, with 268 Ks in 304 innings…. along with a phenomenal 28 complete games and a seemingly impossible ERA of 1.12.

But look at these amazing stats that log every game of his in ’68 and zero in on June and July – he pitched FIVE complete game shutouts in a row during a stretch where he won ELEVEN straight complete games, EIGHT of them  shutouts.

His shortest start all year was his first – where he went 7 innings.

And now consider baseball in 2018 – the era of pitch counts, 7th inning left handed batter ground ball specialists, having five different guys come out of the bullpen to pitch the last three innings and other such SABERMETRIC BULLSHIT, and then hark back to the days when REAL MEN LIKE BOB GIBSON went out on a regular basis and dominated the living shit out of hitters who included Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Pete Rose and the rest.

Gibson’s iron manliness was the rule and not the exception, either. Those 28 complete games were NOT the league lead – Juan Marichal pitched 30 of ’em for the Giants. Gibson’s World Series opponent Denny McLain would also have 28 complete games for his amazing 31-6 record. Gibson would beat him twice in that series, but would get bested by Mickey Lolich in the end after a bad 7th inning.

Last year, Corey Kluber led the majors with 5 complete games, total.

Gibson did that in a row, in a month, all shutouts.

Kluber is no slouch, either, I’ve watched him beat my Yankees enough times. Cy Young winner, the whole bit. But Gibson intimidated the living crap out of batters. He was notorious for brushback pitches, yet did not hit many batters. He just made you think he did. His scowl and aura from the mound made it look like he didn’t just want to get you out, he wanted to KILL you and have your entire family watching in the stands die of heart attacks. You’d be thankful after all he did was strike you out.

We live in times of too much overthinking and finesse. And you kids better stay off my lawn.

And stay off Bob Gibson’s lawn too, he looks like he wants to kill you.

 

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Robin Yount (Fleer) March 21, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Not sure what the graphic designers of this beauty were thinking. “Let’s give Robin a longer neck, and put him into a CONCEPT LANDSCAPE! I can SEE IT NOW!!!! A UNIVERSE OF BASEBALLS!!!! With Robin Yount, all-star shortstop, first ballot hall of famer, SURVEYING THE PLANETARY UNIVERSE OF BASEBALLS LIKE A HAPPY GREEK GOD…”

Seriously, wtf is up with this card?

I like the idea of surrealist influenced baseball card art, though. They should have done more of it, or hired Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and so forth to design their cards. Yount’s ’92 Fleer bizarro card reminds me of Dali’s Galatea with all those floating spheres, maybe a little of a Magritte sky of fluffy clouds.

Or just replace that green apple in front of the guy’s face with a baseball, perhaps.

Baseball cards would be a lot more interesting if they were done in styles of great artists and well known paintings. A team photo staged as Velazquez’ “Las Meninas.” Michaelangelo’s God giving life to Adam as one of those “Casey Teaches” type cards with Reggie Jackson in heaven with the ’77 Yanks touching Aaron Judge’s finger in Eden. Perhaps Clayton Kershaw could pose as the “Dodger Blue Boy.”

I’d start buying bubblegum packs again, for what that’s worth.

 

Pie Day March 14, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards, General.
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1972-Kelloggs-All-Time-Baseball-Greats-8-Harold-Pie-Traynor

… although you had to eat a lot of Kellogg’s Danish-Go-Rounds in 1973 to get THIS bastard.

But I saved room for pie. Urp.

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1971 Reggie Jackson March 10, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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“Batting donut? I don’t need a fucking batting donut, I’ll just swing two bats to warm up a little before I take your sad junk ball throwing ass DOWNTOWN.  That’s right, you heard me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink, get it? And if I flub an easy one out in right field and a hungover Billy Martin tries to fuck with me on national TV, everyone’ll take my side when I destroy the Dodger pitchers in the series, dickwad. Hey, speaking of national TV, didja catch me on Szysznyk?  Damn right, there I am acting opposite Ned Beatty! Ned FUCKING Beatty! I moved him more emotionally than those two hillbillies did in Deliverance, too! And not with two bats neither, let’s not go there, ok? Anyway, I gotta go to the plate now. Gonna slam one, win the game, and then tend to my car collection.  I speed all the time, and the only reason cops pull me over is to meet me. That’s the sort of treatment you get when you’re an all star with a genius IQ, motherfucker. And don’t you forget it.”

I miss the soap opera that was the late 1970s Yankees.

And I miss Reggie. Always dramatic, always fun to watch, always dependable in the post season.

But I’m certainly looking forward to what looks like will be a wonderful late 2010s Yankee era, with Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Gregorius and now Stanton and Torres forming a new Murderer’s Row lineup, and Severino, Tanaka and…. well, I guess we’ll see how the rest of the mound rotation works out, won’t we? I’m glad they have Sabathia coming back, now the older and wiser finesse pitcher, and always the great clubhouse presence, offering the sort of leadership all those young guys need. THIS IS THE YEAR!

THIS IS THE YEAR February 23, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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I’m watching the opening spring training (even if it’s still winter) game for MY New York Yankees, against the Tigers.

I already know the outcome since it’s on tape delay from several hours ago, AND I DON’T CARE.

I’m just happy to have baseball back, even if everyone looks a bit rusty. I have high hopes for the Yankees this year, with the murderers’ row lineup they’ve put together by stealing Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for next to nothing.

I hope they sent Derek Jeter a gift basket after they screwed him. Get it?

They came within 1 game of getting into the World Series last year. This year? Well, they ought to be in the post-season mix. Let’s see how things go and how healthy they are come late September.  Hopefully I’ll be savoring all the games along the way. I’d like to think they’re growing a young team akin to the late ’90s Yanks powerhouse. But we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’ll tune into spring training games and see lots of A and AA players with uniform numbers in the 60s and 70s fight for spots. I love that Aaron Judge kept his spring training 99 number for his actual…. very Gretzky of him.

Judge is Number 1 in this year’s Topps baseball card set, a spot they reserve annually for major stars these days. (Although I’m old enough to ‘member when the #1 card in the set was last year’s ERA leaders or some highlight card). Haven’t bought sets of cards in many years, alas. I already have too much crap, and the charm just isn’t there, even if watching the game makes me feel like a wide-eyed 8 year old hero-worshipping Hank Aaron or Frank Robinson or Bob Gibson every now and then. Probably why I keep watching.

Let’s take a little trip back to those wonderful days of 1970s era baseball, and my beloved Yankees…

Hey, so who wants to swap house keys with this guy?

Wait, aren’t you in the pitching rotation too?

That’ll turn out awkward….

 

Random Baseball Card of the Day: 1970 AL Homerun Leaders July 15, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Well, maybe not so random. I remembered this card in my collection the other day when Aaron Judge won the All Star Break Homerun Derby. Judge made it look easy, and with his enormous 6 foot 7/280 pound frame looked like a man among boys. A guy that huge can generate a lot of power, and when you combine that with the physical and mental skills you need to hit major league pitching that Judge seems to have acquired between last year and now, well… you get the kind of monster stats he’s piling up.

But I thought back to Frank Howard, the big slugger for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early ’60s before pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium lessened Howard’s sweet spots. They dealt him to the lowly Washington Senators in 1965 in a multiplayer deal that would net them Claude Osteen. Howard would continue to hit the hell out of the ball in Washington for years, always winding up in the running for home run titles. He’d get it in 1970 with an impressive 44 homers and 126 rbis, with a .962 OPS.

Yaz might be number 3 in homers on the card, but his offensive numbers that year were amazing. 40 homers, 102 rbis, lost the batting title by fractions to Alex Johnson, and led the league in on base, slugging and OPS with 1.044. How the hell did he lose MVP to Boog Powell that year? Did they need to pick someone from the Pennant Winner and eventual World Champion Orioles? SMH.

Harmon Killibrew smashed homeruns for the Twins his entire career. Back when this card came out, only Aaron and Mays had more lifetime as active players. He’d pass 500 homers lifetime the following year.

But both Killibrew and Yaz were baseball player sized. Both are 5 foot 11/180 or so pounds.  Guys like Howard were freakish, at 6 foot 7 and 230 pounds. You find guys that big much more in football and basketball than in baseball, the sport that welcomes guys like Freddie Patek (5 foor 5, 148 pounds) if they can play well.

Add 50 pounds of muscle to Howard and you get Aaron Judge. Ye Gods! I’m glad he’s on my team. It’s basically watching a behemoth the size of Rob Gronkowski with the baseball skills of Willie Mays.

Howard was the best slugger to ever play for a Washington team, even if that team is now in Texas. The current Washington team put a statue of him outside their stadium anyway, since he’s part of the city’s baseball history. And everyone still loves the guy since he’s so good natured.

The bigger they are, the nicer they are, as Bugs Bunny once said.

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1977 Big League Brothers, Rick & Paul Reuschel June 27, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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I’ve always liked the multi-player “special theme” cards Topps would do every so often. What I like the most about this one is how neither of these guys look like major league ball players. Without the names and the tell-tale 1977 design font and so forth, doesn’t this look like a polaroid from some company softball game?

“Here’s Rick and Paul, right before the BBQ and sack race…”

Paul Reuschel’s career with the Cubs only lasted a few years, but younger brother Rick had a pretty solid, if uneven, 19 year career in the majors. Rick had his best season the year this card came out, winning 20 games and finishing 3rd for the Cy Young.

The Cubs would trade Rick Reuschel to the Yankees in 1981, where he managed to play in the World Series, although without stellar numbers. He wound up back on the Cubs during their heartbreaking 1984 season, where they FINALLY reached the playoffs. For some reason, Reuschel was left off the playoff roster, and the Curse of the Goat went into action. The Cubs won the first 2 games of a best of five against the Padres, and then dropped 3 straight. They’d have to wait another 32 years for a World Series at Wrigley.

Reuschel got dealt to the Pirates and Giants after that, won a comeback player of the year award, wound up in another World Series in 1989 with the Giants, but they lost to the As and Reuschel finished his career sans World Series ring.

In today’s game, with the scientifically developed conditioning regimens, the constant spectre of PEDs floating around, and the overall athleticism of the majority of the players out there (regardless of height), seeing a pair of guys who look like these make the majors and in Rick’s case, have a long solid career as a reliable stopper fooling batters with speed changes and finesse…. well, it’s just something I’ll always love about baseball.

Football? You better be a big guy, made of iron to take all those hits.

Basketball? You gotta be tall, and also made of iron to take all those hits.

Hockey? You gotta be all those things, PLUS not care about getting all your teeth knocked out, PLUS be ready at any moment to get in a brawl.

But baseball? You can be an average schlub and play the sport….depending on your skills and how you use them.