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Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1973 Carlton Fisk May 20, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Fisk was an all-star catcher for many seasons with the Red Sox, and will forever be a Boston fan favorite for his game winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, back when such “we almost broke the curse!” moments still had meaning.

He’d push the then-Red Sox ownership for a higher salary, and GM Haywood Sullivan stupidly let him go as a free agent to the Chicago White Sox, where he’d spend the next dozen seasons or so remaining one of the best catchers in the league. Stats-wise, he’d have his best season in 1985 with the ChiSox when he hit 37 homers and knocked in 107. He’d also catch a Tom Seaver no-hitter.

Needless to say, Fisk had no problems getting into the Hall of Fame.

As much as he constantly feuded with my Yankees and was in the middle of home plate collisions that led to some legendary bench-clearing brawls in the late ’70s, I always liked Fish as a player. He had constant enthusiasm for the game and an intensity you could feel just watching.

Just watch him take a swing at Lou Piniella after Piniella barrels over him at the plate, leading to a free for all back in 1976. Jeez, those two teams absolutely HATED each other in the ’70s! And I vividly remember Sox fans NEVER forgiving the Yankees for this one since Bill Lee got hurt and wound up on the DL.

I also like this 1973 card of him since he looks like he’s staring down some schmuck who owes him money. Maybe it’s Heywood Sullivan. Or maybe it’s Lou Piniella. Who knows?

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1963 Vada Pinson May 19, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards, Uncategorized.
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Pinson played 18 years in the big leagues from 1958 to 1976, and for the first half of his career with the Reds, was one of the best hitters in the NL. The early 1960s pre-big-Red-machine version of the Reds was quite the team, with Pinson and Frank Robinson leading the bats. They’d only manage one pennant in 1961, and they’d lose to my Yankees in the Series in five games. I mean, come on, the 1961 Yankees? Who the hell could beat them?

Back in the NL, the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals were very tough competition. Even the Pirates and Phillies managed to get in on pennant races in the early 60s (though the Phillies would blow their chance spectacularly in 1964).

At a yardsale many years ago, I remember buying a box of assorted Topps cards from the late 1950s and early 1960s, all lovingly placed in plastic sleeves. Whoever sold them to me must have counted Vada Pinson, Willie Davis and Ted Kluszewski as their favorite players, since there were multiple cards from multiple years of all three of those guys. I don’t think I got some sort of incredible bargain on the cards, although I paid less than they’re worth.

I think what sold me was the welcome novelty of finding baseball cards at a yardsale that didn’t turn out to be early 1990s common junk from Donruss or Score. I STILL see shrinkwrapped boxes of those things turn up at thrift stores from time to time. Nobody wants them, they’re barely above worthless since they are so easy to find. Seeing them always reminds me of the heady days of baseball-cards-as-investment-commodity that pretty much ruined the hobby of collecting the damn things back in the late 80s-early 90s. Guilty Confession: I have a box of 300+ Brady Anderson rookie cards I think I paid five bucks for back then. Thirty years later and they’re worth less than that. I think they’re in the same box as my 1990 Classic Draft Picks set that card dealers pushed on the basis of Tod Van Poppel (THE NEXT NOLAN RYAN!!!!!!!) being in it. Despite the presence of Chipper Jones & Mike Mussina in that set, it’s STILL worth less than what I paid for it.

But I digress.

I like Pinson’s smile on his 1963 card. He looks like he’s having a real good time out there. Kinda like the good time I had collecting cards once upon a time when you got 10 in a pack for a dime and finding older cards of legendary stars only ran you a couple of bucks and did I mention that we also tied an onion to our belts, which was the fashion of the time?

Meh.

I hope Vada had a good time playing and later coaching in the 1970s and 1980s, because he died WAY too young at age 57 from stroke complications. RIP, slugger.

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1979 Jim Sundberg May 18, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Sundberg was probably the top defensive catcher in baseball during the late ’70s. He won six Gold Gloves and made the All-Star team a few times. The only other catcher of the era I can think came close to him throwing out runners was Johnny Bench.

What’s interesting is how many seasons he barely managed to hit .200 while doing so. In his second season in the majors as full-time catcher for the Rangers, he finished the season batting .199!

Normally you’d send a guy down to the minors for hitting that poor, but not Sundberg. He was just too damn good in the field and at managing the pitching staff. In the pre-sabremetric days, I’m sure they figured the amount of runs he prevented defensively made up for the weak bat, and with the DH a relatively new addition to the league, they figured the trade-off was worth it.

He managed a few seasons with a respectable average, hitting over .250, into the .270s, but never over the magic .300. And his glove never failed him.

He spent most of his career with the Rangers, but got dealt to Milwaukee for one season, and then to the Royals, where he earned his World Series ring in 1985. After a brief stint with the Cubs, he finished his career back where he started in Texas.

Now? He’s a Vice President with the Rangers, working alongside Nolan Ryan. And he’s a motivational speaker. I’m sure going out there every day with that piss-poor batting average while still managing to be an all star is frequent among his topics.

I doubt with today’s stats-heavy number crunching and super-hot-take sports media that anyone similar would be given a chance out there. We shall not see his like again.

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1971 Bert Blyleven May 17, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Bert “be in”-Blyleven, as Chris Berman nicknamed him, finally made it into the Hall of Fame in 2011 after FOURTEEN years of being dissed in the voting.

He bounced around from team to team, spending most of his career with the Minnsota Twins, who’d retire his number 28. While he never got the hype that the other big-name pitchers of his era got, like Seaver or Guidry or Carlton or Palmer, his stats by the end are just as impressive, if not more so. He never reached the magic 300 win number, but he piled up 3701 strikeouts (Number 5 all time) and an impressive 60 shutouts (Number 9 all time).

Blyleven had the most amazing curve ball I’ve ever seen. The damn thing followed weird arcs that made you think there was some sort of invisible lucite loop between the mound and the plate that Blyleven merely pushed the ball into. It was some “nasty shit,” as we used to say on the field.

Blyleven’s other nasty shit was playing pranks on his teammates, most notably setting their shoelaces on fire.

Hmmm…. is there a hall of fame for that?

Bert has a website – check it out!

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1979 Mark Lee May 16, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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A reliever with the Padres and Pirates for a few years, he most recently was the GM of a minor league team in Amarillo.

But THOSE GLASSES!

I haven’t seen guys wear that style since high school. It’s why the card jumped out at me, I guess.

Sometimes the old cards wake up baseball memories, other times I’m fascinated by the look of the player, the artificiality of the pose, or some other random factor.

 

 

He could stunt-double for Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys.

 

Here’s a more recent pic. The ‘stache is more impressive, and it’s nice to see he never got lasik. Keep that trademark, Mark!

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1967 Phil Regan May 15, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Regan was a solid reliever in the mid 1960s who had his best season with the 1966 Dodgers.  After some mediocre years with Detroit, he got dealt to Los Angeles in December 1965. In 1966, coming out of the bullpen to support the amazing rotation of Koufax, Drysdale, Osteen and Sutton, Regan went 14-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 21 saves to help the Dodgers grab the pennant.  And this was when 21 saves was a lot.

They’d lose to a rising Baltimore Orioles team in the series, and with Koufax’ retirement at the end of the season, enter a rebuild that would eventually result in the 1970s Dodgers, with the pitching rotation led by Sutton, winning 3 pennants. The immediate next few NL years would belong to Bob Gibson’s Cardinals, the Miracle Mets, Roberto Clemente’s Pirates and the nascent Big Red Machine.

He got traded later on to the Cubs and White Sox and had a brief managerial stint at Baltimore in 1995. He’d do a lot of minor league managing and minor league pitch coaching until he retired in 2015 at the age of 78.

78?? Talk about a baseball man!

 

Random Baseball Card of the Day: 1964 Tops In NL May 14, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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53 years later, and I think there’s an excellent argument that this is STILL the case.

I rode an airplane with Mays once, some years back. First, from my seat, I see a guy who looks way too much like Willie Mays get on board. I’m thinking I’m seeing things until he walks by and I spot the bag he’s carrying has a big 24 on it, as well as a silhouette illustration of Mays at the plate. And then he put his hand on my seat to steady himself as he walked by, and I couldn’t miss the World Series ring.

He regularly wears it? I thought….

He took up an entire row in the back of the plane and smoked like a chimney for most of the flight.

When I walked back there to use the bathroom, I thought about saying something, but by taking up that entire row and burying himself in a magazine, I got the vibe that he wanted privacy. So, I just smiled at him. He went back to his magazine.

I still feel bad I didn’t at least tell him how great he is. And I’m sure he didn’t care, since that’s probably all people ever tell him anyway, except maybe “Sir, you can’t smoke in here.”

If I ever see Hank Aaron, I’ll be sure to say something. Fuck whatever magazine he’s reading. He’s gonna damn well know how great I think HE is!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1972 Steve Hamilton May 13, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Steve Hamilton had a decent run as a relief pitcher for mostly the Yankees in the mid 1960s. He bounced from team to team afterwards, finishing his career with the Cubs around the time this card was issued.

He got some post season play but no rings, pitching for the Yankees in their series losses of ’63 and ’64 before their pre-Steinbrenner era drought, and for the Giants in their ’71 NLCS loss to Pittsburgh.

But what makes Hamilton stand out are two offbeat items – for starters, Hamilton also played in the NBA, for the Minneapolis Lakers from 1958 to 1960. This makes him one of only two people to play in both an NBA championship and a World Series. But unlike the other guy who did it, Gene Conley (amazingly on the very Boston Celtics team defeating Hamilton’s Laker team in the 1959 finals), Hamilton lost in both.

Hamilton’s other stand out talent is far more entertaining. He was one of the few guys out there to throw the notoriously stupid-yet-entertaining “eephus pitch,” a high arcing slow lob also known as the “folly floater.” You’d see it turn up in games that really didn’t matter when people felt like screwing around. But sometimes, you’d get an embarrassing out with it, and someone would post a clip of it 40+ years later on some new-fangled technology called youtube.

A Yankees/Indians double header in 1970 is a painful thing to think about… at least Hamilton & Horton made this moment entertaining. I love Horton’s all-fours crawl to the dugout.

Hamilton died of colon cancer at only age 63 in 1997. Get those colonoscopies, people. RIP.

Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1964 Dick Williams May 12, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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I’ve been looking through my old cards, and since I’m enjoying watching the Yankees and their young talent this year, I thought I’d bring back this category to the Berkin blog.

Williams may have been an undistinguished journeyman player in the 1950s and early ’60s, bouncing from Brooklyn to Baltimore to Cleveland to Kansas City to Boston, but as a manager, his record got him into the hall of fame.

He also won $50,000 on the old Hollywood Squares game show, and in his 70s, pled no contest to an indecent exposure charge in Florida for masturbating on a balcony.

Now THAT’S hall of fame material!

Back when he most likely confined his masturbation to the dugout, he took the Red Sox to the ’67 series in his first year as a major league manager, and won two world series with the hairy Oakland A’s of the early ’70s. A strict manager, he often fought with ownership, yet wound up playing for some of the more difficult ones like Yawkey and Finley.

He almost worked for Steinbrenner in 1975, but contractual problems with Finley prevented it.

He’d land at the late ’70s Montreal Expos after some disappointing mid 70s seasons with the California Angels and take them to some of their best years – 90+ wins and runs at the pennant that, alas, would never materialize for that franchise.

His last chance at a world series would be the pennant he won with the 1984 Padres, who finished off the then-still-cursed Cubs by winning the last 3 of a best-of-five before predictably losing to what was essentially an unstoppable Detroit Tiger team that year. He finish his managing career with a weak Seattle Mariner team in the late 1980s.

Williams died in 2011, at age 82. Despite his sour departure from the Red Sox & Yawkey in 1969, once the team changed ownership, they put him in the Red Sox hall of fame in 2006. Whether or not he masturbated on top of the Green Monster remains a mystery.

I’d like to think he did, and managed to hit the Citgo sign. But his low career slugging percentage leaves me in doubt.

 

(Truly) Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Fleer Rick Sutcliffe October 13, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1980s, Baseball, Baseball Cards, Books.
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The true randomness comes from where this card turned up – face up, next to my car as I got out in a Trader Joe’s parking lot.

For a moment, I wondered how it got there. Did someone drop it out of their car after visiting some yardsales? Did the wind, or magical cardboard messenger birds or some other mysterious force of nature carry it to that spot after lifting it out of someone’s collection put to the trash curb by mom?

It’s funny how I find interesting things in grocery store parking lots. Some years back, I headed back to my car and discovered a brand new pair of Ray-Bans sitting next to it.

On another occasion, I found a near-mint copy of the paperback photonovel of “The City On The Edge of Forever” from Star Trek after nearly running it over when I pulled into the space.

And yet another time, I found a brand new Ferrari that someone left behind. I hung around for a little while to see if they’d return to get it, but then I gave up, hotwired it, and drove it home. Finders keepers!

Today, the magical forces of fate brought me to Rick Sutcliffe. I guess if I really did believe in synchronicities like my alter-ego in Cut To Wagstaff, I’d have found some sort of significant thing about Sutcliffe in 1989 that would have determined my actions for the rest of the day & I would have found myself on some sort of off-the-wall mysterious adventure. But my life really doesn’t work that way. I put the cheap wine & TJ’s knock-off cereals into my car, drove home, played with the cat, and watched the Yankees tragedy unfold.

Sutcliffe certainly had an up and down career. There’s really no other way to describe a guy who wins the comeback player of the year award TWICE, once in each league, after winning Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young. Sutcliffe has been a mainstay at ESPN for the past several years, as well as MLB network.

I’m still not sure why a 23 year old card, beat up pretty badly, should be waiting for me while I ran some weekend errands. I had even made a small detour to a yardsale earlier – and it was being run by a couple of toy collectors cleaning out their stash. They had some old board games and tons of Barbies and Hot Wheels, all e-bay priced which made it nearly a total waste of time – I was saved by finding this compendium cookbook of chicken recipes for only a dollar.

But no baseball cards. I guess you have to troll Trader Joe’s parking lot for that, although the other day I coughed up serious thrift store bucks (meaning more than singles) to get the 40th Anniversary Topps Baseball Card picture book.  Granted, having the actual cards is always better, but the book has been fun to browse through, and I can even see all the ones that got away.