Sunday, January 24, 2021

RIP - Don Sutton

Long-time Dodgers' starting pitcher Don Sutton passed away on January 19, 2021 at age 75.
Sutton made his Dodgers' debut in 1966, replacing the departed Johnny Podres in the starting rotation.
He pitched for 23 years, the first 16 with the Dodgers before bouncing around to the Astros, Brewers, Athletics, and Angels for 6 seasons, then winding up his career back with the Dodgers in 1988. 
Sutton was a 4-time All-Star, and won 20 games once (21 in 1976). 
Although a member of the Hall of Fame, cynics (including this one) wonder how that happened, given that he won 20 games only once, had no Cy Young awards, never led his league in wins or strikeouts, and only led in ERA once. He was also 6-4 in 15 post-season games. (Ok, he has 300+ wins, but he played for 23 seasons, including with good Dodger teams for 16 years. That was bound to happen.)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

My Card Collecting History - Part 2

Look at me, channeling George Lucas as I start off with Part 2.  (Part 1 will come later.) 
I started collecting sports cards in 1967. Prior to that, I collected non-sports cards (which will be the topic of the "Part 1" post later). 
My brother (one year younger than me) and I started collecting baseball cards later than other kids. I can remember seeing kids having baseball cards with them on the school playground as early as 1962. I also started playing youth baseball in 1964, so I don't know why the baseball-card bug didn't bite us until 1967. Maybe because that was the first year we went to a major-league game. 
I had two distinct periods of collecting sports cards as a kid. These are shown in yellow in the chart below. (I don't remember why I took a break from Fall 1969 to Summer 1971.)
Although I wasn't buying or actively collecting during that middle period, I did have a handful of '70, '71, and '73 baseball and '69 and '73 football cards. My brother collected baseball cards from 1967-73, and football cards from 1969-73, so he must have given me his doubles. 
I don't recall having any problem with the 1972 high numbers, and by the end of that summer I had the entire '72 set except for Bill Russell. However, the 1967 and 1969 7th series cards, and the 1968 6th series cards were not sold in my neighborhood. 
Aside from those series, probably 99% of my cards were bought at the same Mom-and-Pop store in my neighborhood.  I mentioned this in a post on my 1967 blog back in 2010. (Actually, my 1967 football cards were bought at another store one block away, which I discovered during an unsuccessful attempt to find '67 baseball high numbers.) 
So where did I find my 1968 6th series cards? Back then, I would ride my bicycle all over the neighboring towns, just to "explore". I sketched out where I traveled in a pocket-sized spiral notebook, and after returning home I added my new-found territories to a map I was drawing on a 2'x3' poster board. (I still have it!). I don't remember how long that went on for - probably months, or maybe a year or two. 
Anyway, during one outing I found a variety store about 4 towns away from where I lived, and they had 3-panel rack-packs of 1968 baseball cards. I returned to that store many times, until I had completed that series (and the entire 1968 set). 
You may notice that I also collected basketball and hockey cards during the 1971-72 season.  That was the only year I bought cards for those sports, and I have a few dozen of each - nowhere near a complete set. 

After 1972, I stopped collecting for several years, until I was lured back by the free Phillies cards that came with every Philadelphia-area Burger King purchase during the summers of 1979 and 1980. As you may know, these were identical to the regular Topps cards, except for 3 things: 
1. There was a Burger King logo on the backs. 
2. The cards were numbered from 1 to 20 (or whatever) 
3. Some of the players differed between the Topps and Burger King sets. For example, Pete Rose was in the 1979 BK set as a Phillie, but as a Red in the Topps set. In 1980, players no longer on the Phillies (as I recall Tim McCarver, Rawly Eastwick, and Doug Bird) were in the Topps set, but replaced in the BK set by Keith Moreland, Kevin Saucier, and Lonnie Smith. 
So I didn't buy any cards in '79 or '80, but after the Burger King teaser sets, and because the Phillies won the 1980 World Series, I dove back in for 1981 - buying my first factory sets (Topps and Fleer). That was also the first year for Donruss sets, but I had to draw the line somewhere. lol
That year was one-and-done for me, as I stopped collecting until the early 1990s, when I started buying cards for my sons (and me), as I previously mentioned at the top of this post.
During this collecting period (1990 to 1993), besides completing the Fleer and Donruss sets 5 rack-packs at a time (hah!), I bought Topps factory and update sets from about 1987 to 1993. 

After '93, I drifted away from the hobby (probably because of the strike), until returning again in 2008. From about 2008 to 2012 I just bought Phillies team sets. 
Sometime after starting these blogs in 2009, I stopped buying current cards, and focused on vintage sets. I now have most of the 1966 and 1970 sets, about half of the 1965 set, and a few dozen cards from '63 and '64. As I look at the small Excel chart on the sidebars of my '65 to '70 blogs, I am reminded that I haven't added any baseball cards to my collection since August 2019. Wow, it doesn't seem like that long ago. 
What doesn't appear on those charts are the 2 dozen custom 1967 cards (fronts only) that I bought on eBay a few months ago. I was skeptical at first, but they are printed on sturdy white cardboard, although the players are obviously super-imposed on stadium backgrounds. I don't know if I will get any more of them.

Stay tuned for Part 1 of this series, where I will regale you with my Batman and Combat cards, among others. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2020 - Re-cap

Here are the players I featured in 2020:
Not very many, but I'm running out of gas (and cards)

1960s' players who left us in 2020:
(Seaver, Johnstone, and McDaniel from COVID-19)


And a very long list from outside the baseball world:

David Stern (NBA)
Neil Peart
Ed Byrnes
Buck Henry
Terry Jones (Monty Python)
Jim Lehrer
Kobe Bryant
Jack Burns (Burns & Schreiber)
Fred Silverman
Kirk Douglas
Robert Conrad
Orson Bean
Ja'Net DuBois
James Lipton
Max Von Sydow
Stuart Whitman
Lyle Waggoner
Kenny Rogers
Curley Neal
Bill Withers
*Adam Schlesinger
*Tom Dempsey
Honor Blackman
James Drury
*John Prine
Linda Tripp
Pete Retzlaff
Stirling Moss
Brian Dennehy
Mike Curtis
Sam Lloyd (Scrubs)
Don Shula
*Roy Horn (Siegfried & Roy)
Little Richard
Jerry Stiller
Astrid Kircherr
Phyllis George
Fred Willard
Ken Osmond
*Annie Glenn
Wes Unseld
Kurt Thomas (gymnast)
Bonnie Pointer
Jean Kennedy Smith
Carl Reiner
Benny Mardones
Hugh Downs
Charlie Daniels
Kelly Preston
Regis Philbin
Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac)
Olivia de Haviland
Wilford Brimley
Wayne Fontana
*Trini Lopez
Ben Cross
Kevin Dobson
Shere Hite
Diana Rigg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Gale Sayers
Mac Davis
Helen Reddy
Margaret Nolan
Johnny Nash
Eddie Van Halen
Tom Kennedy (game show host)
Rhonda Fleming
Spencer Davis
Marge Champion
Herb Adderley
Ed Hurst
Sean Connery
Geoffrey Palmer
Len Barry
Norm Crosby
Alex Trebek
Paul Hornung
Abby Dalton
Rafer Johnson
David Lander
Chuck Yeager
Ann Reinking
Charlie Pride
Chad Stuart (Chad & Jeremy)
*K.T. Oslin
K.C. Jones
Pierre Cardin
*Dawn Wells
Dick Thornburgh

* COVID-19

Also: Football deaths in 2020 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

RIP - George Spriggs

George Spriggs, a part-time outfielder the Pirates and Royals in the late-1960s, passed away on December 22, 2020 at age 83. 
Spriggs was one of a handful of players who appeared on 3 or more Topps Rookie Stars cards in the 1960s. After showing up as a Pirate rookie in '67, a Red Sox rookie in '68, and a Royals rookie in '69, he finally received his own card in the 1971 set:
After playing in the Negro Leagues, Spriggs was signed by the Pirates in 1963 and had 9-game stints at the tail end of the '65 and '66 seasons. Most of his playing time with the Pirates was in the first half of 1967, until he was sent down for the second half and all of 1968. 
Resurfacing with the expansion Royals, he played 30 games in parts of 1969 (mostly as a pinch-hitter), then returned in 1970 to get his most playing time - 51 games in April, August, and September, including starting most of the September games in right field (in place of the injured Joe Keough). 
Spriggs played 2 seasons (1971-72) with the Mets' AAA team before retiring. 

RIP - Billy Harris

Billy Harris, a reserve infielder for the Indians in 1968, passed away on December 20, 2020 at age 77. 
Harris was signed by the Indians in 1966 and played for Cleveland in the 2nd half of 1968, starting 28 games at 2B or 3B. 
Selected by the Royals in the expansion draft, he mostly played for their AAA Omaha team from 1969-70, but appeared in 5 games for Kansas City as a pinch-hitter. 
He played for the Reds' AAA team in 1971 before retiring.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

RIP - Phil Niekro

Phil Niekro, a knuckleballer who pitched mostly for the Braves, passed away on December 26, 2020 at age 81.
Niekro pitched for the Braves from 1964-1983, but did not become a starter until midway through the 1967 season.  That year, he led the NL with a 1.87 ERA.
He had a career-best 23 wins in 1969, and led the NL in wins in 1974 (20) and 1979 (21). Niekro also had a league-high 262 strikeouts in 1977, and won 5 Gold Gloves between 1978 and 1983.
After 20 seasons with the Braves, he was (incredibly) released after the 1983 season.  The Yankees quickly signed him and he reeled off two 16-win seasons with them, including his 5th trip to the All-Star game.

Niekro played the final 2 seasons of his 24-year career with the Indians, Blue Jays, and Braves.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. He is the 7th member of the Hall to pass away in 2020. 


RIP - Bill Spanswick

Bill Spanswick passed away on December 2, 2020 at age 82.
Spanswick was a starting pitcher in the Red Sox' organization every season from 1958 to 1966, although only playing for the major-league club in 1964. He was primarily a reliever that year, while also making 7 starts.

He finished his career with the triple-A teams of the Angels, Senators, and Phillies in 1966 and 1967.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

RIP - Phil Linz

Phil Linz, an infielder for the Yankees, Phillies, and Mets, passed away on December 9, 2020 at age 81. 
Linz was a bench player throughout his career, but received quite a lot of playing time in 1963 and especially 1964. That year, he started 31 consecutive games at 3rd base in mid-season, and also made 50 starts at shortstop, including the final 14 games since Tony Kubek did not play after Sept 20th. 
Due to Kubek's absence, Linz played every inning of the 7-game 1964 World Series, and was in Kubek's usual leadoff spot (instead of batting 8th - more suited to Linz' offensive prowess). Still, he hit 2 homers in the series, 2nd only to Mickey Mantle's 3. 
He is best remembered for the "harmonica incident"  on the Yankees' team bus following a loss. 
Linz moved to the Phillies in 1966 in exchange for Ruben Amaro, and to the Mets in 1967 for Chuck Hiller. He retired after the 1968 season, missing the Miracle Mets team. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

RIP - Denis Menke

Denis Menke, an infielder for 3 NL teams, passed away on December 1, 2020 at age 80.
Menke played for the Braves (1962-67), Astros (1968-71, 74), and Reds (1972-73). He was a starter every season from 1964-73, except for missing much of the 1965 season. Primarily a shortstop, he played 3rd base during his two seasons with the Reds. 
Menke was part of the blockbuster trade between the Astros and Reds that saw Joe Morgan head to Cincinnati. 
After his playing career, Menke was a coach for the Blue Jays, Astros, Phillies, and Reds.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

RIP - Dick Allen

December has been a bad month for Phillies' alumni. Only 10 days in and we've already lost Dick Allen, Phil Linz, and coaches Billy DeMars and Denis Menke. Let's start with Allen... 
Dick Allen passed away on December 7, 2020 at age 78. 
Allen was one of the most feared sluggers of the mid-1960s to early-1970s. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1964, while leading the NL in runs and triples, and also batting .318! He was among the league leaders in home runs, RBI, and batting average from 1964-66. 
After well-documented issues with team management and the fans, Allen was traded after the 1969 season.
Following brief stops in St. Louis and LA, he wound up with the White Sox in 1972, where he regained his dominant style of play, winning the AL MVP that season while leading the AL in homers, RBI, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. 
Allen returned to the Phillies in 1975 and 1976.  Although his skills had diminished somewhat by then, players like Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, and Greg Luzinski have cited Allen's value as a mentor to them.  The team finally made the playoffs in 1976.
It's been said that Allen is one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame. After falling one vote short in the last veterans' committee election, the committee's dithering had postponed this year's election until next year. (Too late, dopes!) 
As a consolation, this summer the Phillies had finally retired his number and inducted him into their Wall of Fame (albeit without any fans attending the games this year). 


Saturday, November 21, 2020

RIP - Dan Pfister

Dan Pfister, who pitched for the Kansas City Athletics from 1961-64, passed away on November 9, 2020 at age 83.
Pfister was signed by the Athletics in 1957, and made his major-league debut in September 1961. 
Most of his playing time came in 1962, when he appeared in 41 games. He also played 3 games in 1963 and 19 games in 1964. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

RIP - Lindy McDaniel

Lindy McDaniel, a relief pitcher for the Cardinals, Yankees, and others for 21 seasons, passed away on November 14, 2020 at age 84.
McDaniel began his career in 1955 with the Cardinals, and except for 1957 and 1958, was mostly a reliever throughout his career. 
In 1960 he made both All-Star squads, and finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. 
McDaniel also played for the Cubs from 1963-65, and the Giants from 1966-68 before settling in with the Yankees from July 1968 through the 1973 season. He finished up with the Royals from 1974-75.
McDaniel pitched 987 games over 21 seasons, but his teams never made the post-season. 


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

RIP - Les Rohr

Les Rohr, who pitched briefly for the Mets in the late-1960s, passed away on November 6, 2020 at age 74.
Rohr was born in England in 1946 while his father was in the USAF. 
He was the Mets' first pick (2nd overall, behind Rick Monday) in the first-ever (1965) draft, and pitched in the Mets' farm system every season from 1965-70. 
Les made his debut with the Mets in September 1967, making 3 starts and posting a 2-1 record. After injuring his arm in April 1968 he spent the remainder of that season on the disabled list. He only pitched one more game for the Mets (in September 1969).  


Thursday, November 5, 2020

RIP - Jim Hicks

Jim Hicks, an outfielder for the White Sox, Cardinals, and Angels in the 1960s, passed away on October 29, 2020 at age 81.
Hicks played minor-league baseball every season from 1959 to 1972, except in 1969 when he managed to stay in the majors all season with the Cardinals and Angels (following his trade for Vic Davalillo). 
He played a total of 33 games for the White Sox from 1964-66, and 56 games in 1969, split between St. Louis and California His final big-leage action was 4 games for the Angels in April 1970, all as a pinch-hitter. 
Hicks also played in Japan from 1973-74. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

RIP - Ron Perranoski

1960s' Dodgers' fireman Ron Perranoski passed away on October 2, 2020 at age 84. (The same day as Bob Gibson.)

Perranoski played 7 seasons (1961-67) with the Dodgers, and was the team's top reliever in all but his rookie year. 
He then played 4 seasons for the Twins, leading the AL in saves twice. 
Ron moved on to the Tigers in late-1971, and a year later was back with the Dodgers for the final 2 months of 1972.  He wrapped up his playing career in 1973 with the Angels. 
Perranoski worked for the Dodgers as a minor-league pitching coach (1973-80), and major-league pitching coach (1981-94). He had worked for the Giants since 1995.