Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Nitty Gritty on Card #12 of Don Aase!

Time for card #12 of pitcher Don Aase, the man at the forefront of the alphabetical order. I LOVED this card as a kid; it made me want to see Aase pitch. I figured if he looked this good on the card, he must have been one heck of a pitcher. I didn’t like the Red Sox at all as a child, I still don’t, but I sat through plenty of Red Sox games hoping to see this guy pitch as a 5-year-old. I think I watched a week’s worth of games and ended up learning a lot about the Sox. That was the first time I had really watched their epic outfield of Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, but I became fascinated with their infield of Rick Burleson and Jerry Remy more. I gave up the Sox watching experience after a week went by with no Don Aase. I think I forgot about his awesome card, too. It all came back to me when I got a copy of his ’82 Topps card, though, and I realized he had been traded to the Angels before that card had ever come out. Turns out he was traded for Jerry Remy. Remy would be an All Star for the Sox, but Aase led the Angels to their first Western Division Title in 1979. This card came out after Aase’s rookie season where he posted a 6-2 record in 13 games, all starts, for the Red Sox. It was his 3rd Topps card and probably the coolest. Aase had been exclusively a starting pitched from ’77 till 1981 when he switched to the bullpen. He served as the Angels closer for 3 years and saved 23 games over that period and then left California to sign a free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles where he joined their pen in ’85. He enjoyed one of the best years of his career; he had a 10-6 record with 14 saves in 88 innings of work. The following year he would become the Orioles full-time closer and would go to the All Star game. He finished the season with 34 saves (2nd in AL) in 66 games. After the 1988 season he moved to the NL and made stops with the Mets and the Dodgers before retiring at age 35 after the 1990 season. Over his 13 year career Aase had a 66-60 record with a 3.80 ERA and 82 saves (161st All Time) in over 1,100 innings of work. Now it’s time for…
The Nitty Gritty
Name/Number: Don Aase, number 45.
Position: Starting pitcher
Age-Now and Then: Was 22, Is 55.
Team’s 1977 Record: 97-64, 2nd in AL East
Topps Rookie Card: 1976 Topps, Card #597
Number of Topps Base Cards:14
Playball! Double
1977 Stats Line: 6-2/3.13 ERA.
Awards in 1977: A really cool card in ’78.
Distinguishing Feature: The double A in his name.
Similar Modern Player: Mark Hendricksen.
What I said about this card then: Wow! This guy looks like he must be a great pitcher!
What I think about this card now: It’s perfect. Not much funny to say, this is just good photography…
Back of the card memorable moment: His Major League debut was against the Brewers on 7-26-77 and he fanned 11 batters to win the game 4-3
Back of the card “fun fact”: Don won his first 3 decisions for the Sox in 1977.
The condition: MINT
Grooviness factor: The moustache, high stirrups, and crazy looking delivery.
Wow! Factor: That the Sox would trade a promising young starter for an infielder.
What’s weird about this card: He has the number 13 written on his stirrups. Career Accolades: All Star in ’86, earned save in the game. 161st All Time career in Saves. Was Orioles single season saves leader till Greg Olson saved 36 in 1990. Best Season: 1978- Was 11-8 with 6 complete games.
Nitty Gritty Fun Facts: Traded for Jerry Remy after 1977 season. Is 4th among baseball players when listed All Time in alphabetical order.
Where are they now?: His son Kelby Aase plays college ball at Fullerton College. Where’s Don? I really don’t know…
I have to say that I blame Don Aase for making me waste time watching the Red Sox as a kid, but it’s probably not really his fault. It is the power of baseball cards. This card is awesome and I stared at it and it made me want to watch this guy play, that is the point, right? On deck is card #lucky 13, of Astros infielder Art Howe. Two things, real quick... I DO plan on posting 5 times a week from now on, but it would be nice to think people were reading, PLEASE consider adding this to your blog rolls! When it hits 25 followers, there will be a (simple) contest, along the lines of pick a number between 1 and 25 and there will be 1978 related prizes...Stay tuned. 31 years, LATER!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Card #11, Rick Manning...

I was doing my daily blog roll reading and I noticed that the Cardboard Junkie had posted a link to this here blog. I was immediately overcome with guilt because I haven’t posted here in six days and I figured I better get on it. Todays card of the day is Rick Manning, card #11. Manning, who as far as I know is of no relation to the football playing Mannings, was the Cleveland Indians star centerfielder. Manning came to pro ball in 1972 when he was drafted by the Indians in the 1st round, the 2nd pick overall, as a 17-year-old infielder. He signed immediately and began his career with the Class A Reno Silver Sox of the California League. He proved to be a horrible professional shortstop making 17 errors in his first 13 games. He made the switch to centerfield and the rest is history. He was in the big leagues by age 20 and had 12 assists from the outfield that year. He also batted .285 with 19 steals for the Indians as a rookie. He did not receive a single vote for ROY despite decent numbers, partly because of two other American League outfielders named Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. With Cleveland he was managed by a Hall of Fame outfielder named Frank Robinson. In a June of 1976 Baseball Digest article Robinson sang these praises of Manning: “He’s the most exciting ballplayer the Indians have had in many years, I think his potential is unlimited.” 1976 was probably his best year, the 21-year old centerfielder batted .292 with 6 homers, 43 RBI and 16 steals. He also won his first (and only) Gold Glove Award that year. From what I have heard from old time fans, had there been a Sportscenter in '76, Manning would have been the highlight reel... Back then it seemed like he would only get better, but he didn’t. He continued to play superb defense, but his bat never came around. He set a career high with 8 homers in ’82 and 52 RBI in 1980. He never batted higher than his .292 mark from ’76. in 1979 he did steal 30 bases. I think that Frank Robinson thought that he would become a player similar to Carl Crawford, but he ended up being more of a Coco Crisp. Even that comparison is a stretch-Crisp did hit .300, hit 15 homers and won a ring. Manning didn’t do any of these things. Exactly 11 years (to the day) after the Indians had drafted Manning, they sent him to Milwaukee on June 6, 1983, along with Rick Waits in exchange for Ernie Camacho, Jamie Easterly and Gorman Thomas. Manning would play for 5 seasons with the Brewers, never batting above .254 for them. I have read that somehow he was credited with developing the Cheese Head that Green Bay Packers fans still wear, so I guess it wasn’t a total bust. He retired after the 1987 season at 32 years old. Over his 13 year career he had 1349 hits and a .257 batting average. He is currently a broadcaster for the Cleveland Indians and has been for the past 18 years. Now, time for…
The Nitty Gritty
Name/Number: Rick Manning, Number 28
Position: Centerfield
Age-Now and Then: 22 then, 55 now
Team’s 1977 Record: 71-90, 5th Place American League East
Topps Rookie Card: 1976, card #275 Number of Topps Base Cards: 13
1977 Stats Line: .227/5/18
Awards in 1977: None
Distinguishing Feature: His eager stare and bushy mullet.
Similar Modern Player: Scott Podsednik
What I said about this card then: Nothing.
What I think about this card now: Still nothing. My indifference on this card is the reason I put off posting it for 6 days…
Back of the card memorable moment: Won his first Gold Glove in 1976, was one of the youngest to do so.
Back of the card “fun fact”: Has established himself as one of the top centerfielders in the game.
The condition: NR MT-Slight ding in upper left corner.
Grooviness factor: The side burns, mullet and the maroon pumas are pretty groovy…
Wow! Factor: The Indians kept this guy and traded Eck?
Whats weird about this card: The direction he is facing.
Career Accolades: 13 year playing career, had 168 steals.
Best Season: 1976, hit .292 and won Gold Glove.
Nitty Gritty Fun Facts: Banged Dennis Eckersley’s wife, allegedly.
Where are they now?: Broadcasting games for the Cleveland Indians, has been doing it for 18 years now.
That’s it. I found it very tough to come up with anything about this card, hope I have better luck with card #12 of Don Aase. 31 years, LATER!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Card Number 10, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro!!!

In 1977 the Atlanta Braves were awful! They finished 6th place (last) in the National League West and owned the worst record in the NL. Phil Niekro was their Ace starter (16-20) and it is fitting that he would lead the league in losses in 1977. He would ultimately pace the NL in that ominous category for 4 straight years, losing 76 games over that span. Despite his penchant for losses, he was the Braves best and most reliable starter, generally accounting for more than a quarter of their wins for the season. Aside from winning percentage (Eddie Solomon was 6-6) he led the team’s starters in every pitching category, good and bad. 1977 was manager Dave Bristol’s final year at the helm for the Braves, in 1978 Bobby Cox would take over and eventually turn things around. Unfortunately he only stuck around until 1981 and didn’t turn things around on that first stint. He returned in 1990 (after Niekro was retired), and a ton of NL Pennants and a World Series win later, Cox is still the man with the plan in Atlanta. 1974 AL MVP Jeff Burroughs had a MVP type season with big Triple Crown numbers in his first year with the Braves in ’77 (.271/41/114) but there were few other bright spots for the last place squad. They were bad and they had been bad for a while. Aside from pacing the league in the bad categories-he was tops in losses, earned runs, hits, wild pitches and walks, he led the NL with a career high 262 strikeouts, 48 more than JR Richard in 2nd place. He finished 20 of his 43 starts to lead the league in both of those categories, and he was also first in innings pitched with 330. He did all of this at 38 years of age and he was just getting warmed up. In 1979, at 40, and under Bobby Cox the Braves still finished in last place, and Niekro accounted for nearly 1/3 of the teams 66 wins that year. Phil Niekro would lead the league in losses again, but also tie for the league in wins with his brother Joe who was 21-11 with a 3.00 ERA. The younger Niekro, Joe, would finish second in Cy Young voting that year behind reliever Bruce Sutter. This 1980 Topps card, #205, is one of my favorites because it shows the two brothers dominating their league in wins. I always found it astonishing that Phil Niekro was able to top the NL in both wins and losses in the same season, but when you pitch as much as Phil did, it’s possible. In 1979 he set personal career highs in starts (44), complete games (23) and innings with a whopping 342 and by the way, he was 40 years old! This kind of stuff was par for the course for this knuckleballer who would be dominant, steady, reliable and tireless over 3 separate decades. In 24 big league seasons he averaged 31 starts and 11 complete games each year and he pitched till he was 48 years old and more often than not was pitching for inferior teams. With everything he would accomplish over his long career, he never made it to the World Series and only saw the postseason twice, in ’69 and ’82. The fans did appreciate Niekro’s loyalty though; his number 35 is retired by the team. Sadly, Braves management wasn’t as loyal to him. After a total of 26 seasons with the Braves organization, beginning in the minors, through Milwaukee and onto Atlanta, he was released after the 1983 season. At 44 years of age Niekro would go 11-10 with a 3.08 ERA en route to a second place finish under Joe Torre. The prior season Niekro was 17-4 and the Braves won the west before losing to St. Louis in the ALCS.
Niekro wouldn’t be out of a job for long, he signed on with the New York Yankees and assumed the role as their staff ace at the ripe age of 45, he was the Yankees opening day starter. The Yanks would finish 3rd in the AL East and Niekro would lead the staff in starts, innings, complete games, shutouts and strikeouts. He made his 5th and final All Star appearance that year and finished the season with a 16-8 record and a 3.09 ERA. At 46 the Yankees finished just two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays, but Ron Guidry had replaced Niekro as ace. He still managed a 16-12 record and he wasn’t done pitching either. He continued to hang on and made stops playing in Cleveland and Toronto before finishing his career where it began, on a last place Braves team. Niekro made one final start for the Braves in 1987 at 48 years old. He lasted just 3 innings and gave up 5 runs and finally decided to call it quits in the game of baseball. When I first got this card Niekro looked like an old man to me, he was much older than my Dad and he just didn’t look like a baseball player and I initially thought he was a coach. At this point he had pitched for 14 years and owned 178 career wins, but I had no idea that he had only just begun. He accomplished more after 40 than most pitchers do in their entire careers. He would become a running joke with my friends and me, about how long he would pitch and if the Braves would put a rocking chair in the dugout for him. Satchel Paige pitched far longer, but he did have the bullpen rocker and Niekro was the closest to Satchel that my generation would see. He did play for 10 years after this card was printed and he would win 140 more games. When he notched career win number 300 on October 6, 1985 (and I can remember watching on TV) he did so in a Yankees uniform against the Blue Jays and he hit that milestone in style. At 46 years old he went the distance and shut out the Jays to become not only the oldest player to throw a shutout, but the first member of the 300-win-club to join in that fashion. It would be the 45th shutout (29th All Time) of his career and barring his no-hitter in 1973, it was probably his most memorable. In his 24 seasons in the majors he never did make it to the World Series or win ROY or Cy Young or an MVP, but he did manage to lead the league in every single pitching category (good and bad) at one point or another in his storied career. He was a 5-time All Star and also won 5 Gold Gloves, but it almost stands out more that he had 19 seasons where he wasn’t an All Star. He was a nightmare to hit and Bobby Murcer spoke the greatest quote to describe his stuff when he said “Trying to hit him is like trying to eat Jell-O with chopsticks.” That said, it was his reliability and longevity that made him an Immortal. His success was as great as his futility, but for 24 seasons, he was always there to start a ballgame (30-plus times) each year. Now, onto….
The Nitty Gritty
Name/Number: Phil Niekro #35
Position: Starting pitcher, Braves Ace
Age-Now and Then: Was 38, he is now 70 and finally stopped pitching…
Team’s 1977 Record: 61-101, 6th place in NL West
Topps Rookie Card: 1965 Topps, card #541 with Phil Roof Number of Topps Base Cards: 25
Playball! SINGLE
1977 Stats Line: 16-20 with a 4.03 ERA.
Awards in 1977: Led league in losses, but also in strikeouts, innings, starts and complete games.
Distinguishing Feature: His trench coat.
Similar Modern Player: Who else but Tim Wakefield…
What I said about this card then: Is this guy a coach?
What I think about this card now: Sweet! Hall of Famer!
Back of the card memorable moment: No room for one, too many stats! Back of the card “fun fact”: I’ll have to make one up; his nickname is “Knucksie” for reasons unknown, at 38 years young he isn’t thinking about retiring…
The condition: Ex-Mt, centered 60/40
Grooviness factor: The bushy hair, the long jacket, the “where am I” look all scream the 70s.
Wow! Factor: Would win 140 more games.
What’s weird about this card: The Marlboro man in the background?
Career Accolades: Hall of Fame in 1997. 318 wins (16th All Time) and 3,342 Ks-11th All Time.
Best Season: So many… Had a league leading 1.87 ERA in 1967. Was 20-13 with a 2.38 ERA in 1974.
Nitty Gritty Fun Facts: Won his 300th game with a shutout at 46 years of age.
Where are they now? He was the manager for the Colorado Silver Bullets (now defunct) female baseball team.
Phil Niekro was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1997; he and his brother Joe are the winningest brother combo in baseball history. This card is the first of 33 different Hall of Famer cards in this set… Card #11, Rick Manning, your on deck! 31 years, LATER!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Doug DeCinces, The Nitty Gritty on Card Number 9...

Now this is a great example of why I love this set! The odd pose, the abundant lip fuzz and the odd shadows all come together on a card of the great young stars of this time. This is card #9 of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Doug DeCinces. The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” sums up DeCinces’ early years with Baltimore pretty well. Coming up through the minors he was a middle infielder, primarily a shortstop, but he wasn’t going to displace Gold Glover Mark Belanger any time soon, so the transformation was made. He had a great arm-as a 19-year old, in his first season in the O’s organization, he made 1 start for Bluefield in 1970 and during spring training in 1974 Bill Hunter and Jim Frey approached him and said they thought he was the one to replace Brooks after his retirement. DeCinces didn’t play third base until his 4th season in the minors, but he took to the position quick and discovered some power that he hadn’t exhibited before. 1974 would be his final season in the minors, he would spend most of 1975 on the bench, but in late May of 1976, he took over as the Orioles starting third baseman, the heir to the throne. Come opening day in 1977 the Orioles infield would consist of Lee May at first, Billy Smith at second, Belanger at short and DeCinces manning the hot corner. As the full time starter he set new career highs in every offensive stat and batted .259, his career average. He also chipped in 19 homers and played an above average third base and the Orioles would remain in contention all year, finally finishing 2.5 games out of first place in the AL EAST. DD would remain the Orioles constant at the corner for the next 4 seasons and in 1978 he would lead the team in homers with 28 homers. In 1979 he hit one of the most memorable homers in team history. It was June 22, 1979 and the Orioles were down 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth. The Orioles had been riding a 6 game winning streak, but Detroit Tigers pitcher Dave Tobik had two outs in the ninth inning and one batter left to face. That batter was Doug DeCinces and he creamed a two-run homer to make the Orioles walk-off winners. From that special homerun, the term “Orioles Magic” was born, a term still used today, stemming from a game that O’s fans still reminisce about. The Orioles went on to win the AL Flag that year, but fell to the Pirates in a hard fought 7 game Series. In a bit of irony, the man who replaced Brooks Robinson would be replaced himself by a legend in the making. After a 13 homer year in 1981, the 31 year old DeCinces was sent to the Angels for Dan Ford to make room in the infield for Cal Ripken Jr. DeCinces went on to have a career year in California winning his lone Silver Slugger Award and making the playoffs, but he missed out on the World Series in 1983 with the Orioles. Now onto…

The Nitty Gritty

Name/Number: Doug DeCinces #11
Position: 3rd Baseman
Team’s 1977 Record: 97-64 / .602 / 2.5 Games back.
Topps Rookie Card: 1975 Topps, Card #617 Number of Topps Base Cards: 15
Playball! Base on balls
1977 Stats Line: .259 / 19 homers / 69 RBI
Awards in 1977: The starting 3rd base job.
Distinguishing Feature: Giant ‘Stache in Orioles orange.
Similar Modern Player: Hank Blalock
What I said about this card then: What is he doing?
What I think about this card now: What an amazing ‘stache!
Back of the card memorable moment: Doug belted a 3-run homer against the Red Sox on September 18, 1977.
Back of the card “fun fact”: He became the Orioles starting 3rd baseman on May 17, 1976.
Best Season: 1982, Won Silver Slugger and AL West. Hit .301/30/97
The condition: Definitely near mint!
Grooviness factor: The giant stache matches his uniform and he seems to be scooping up his team’s name.
Wow! Factor: This guy replaced the most beloved Orioles player ever, then was replaced himself by another beloved Oriole, Cal Ripken Jr…
What’s weird about this card: The shadow monster….
Career Accolades: Is a member of the California Angels and Baltimore Orioles All-Time Teams. Inducted into Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame in 2006.
Where are they now?: Mr. DeCinces owns DeCinces Properties, a real estate development firm in Irvine, CA. Manages Strawberry Farms Golf Club, runs 8 restaurants and still builds and develops homes in Southern California.
Career Stats: .259 batting average, 237 Home Runs and 879 RBI.
Nitty Gritty Fun Facts: Was on the cover of Sports Illustrated on October 20, 1986. Had two 3-homer games within a week during August 1982. He hit double digit homers for 13 straight years. His teams made the playoffs in ’79, ’82 and 1986.
On deck is the first Hall of Famer to appear in the set, card #10… 31 years, LATER!