Saturday, May 29, 2010

Back on Topps Radar: Frank Quilici

Frank Quilici (#557) first appeared on a card in the 1966 set. After being left out of the 1967 set, he returns here, for the first of several consecutive seasons.

Quilici was signed by the Twins in 1961. After 4 1/2 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut in July 1965, and was the Twins' starting 2nd baseman for long stretches of games in July and September. He also played every inning at 2nd base for the Twins in the 1965 World Series. It's puzzling why he then spent the entire 1966 season back in triple-A. (Maybe an old-school Twins' fan can clear this up?)

In 1967, Frank played 11 games at triple-A and only 23 games with the Twins. Why the colossal lack of playing time? Two words: Rod Carew. That was Carew's rookie season, so any chance of Quilici recapturing his 1965 role went up in smoke.

In 1968, Quilici's playing time increased, as he started 40+ games each at 2B and 3B. The following year was even better for him, as he was a quasi-starter at 3rd base. Regular 3rd baseman Harmon Killebrew also played a significant number of games at 1st base, opening up 3rd for Quilici. (The same arrangement was used several years earlier with Killebrew, Don Mincher, and Rich Rollins.)

1970 was Frank's last season in the majors, and he went out in a flurry of activity. He played in 111 games, starting 41 of them at 2nd base (as Carew was limited to 45 games at 2nd base that season).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Multi-player Cards

Continuing with the theme from yesterday's post on my 1966 blog, here are the only 3 multi-player cards in the 1968 set.

#530 Bird Belters - These 2 players appeared (along with manager Hank Bauer) on card #1 in the 1967 set, as members of the 1966 world champion Orioles. It seems odd that Topps printed another Orioles' multi-player card in 1968, after issuing two in 1967. (A card for the 1967 champion Cardinals would have made more sense.)

#480 Manager's Dream - Here's a departure from the normal multi-player cards: players from different teams posing together. This would be Cardenas' last season in Cincinnati before shipping out to the Twins.

#490 Super Stars - One of the last cards featuring Mickey Mantle (no doubt taken at the 1967 All-Star Game).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Back on Topps' Radar: Ron Brand

Astros' catcher Ron Brand (#317) is back on Topps' card roster after being left off in 1967.

Brand was signed by the Pirates in 1958, and played in the minors for 7 seasons, first as a middle infielder, before switching to catcher in 1961. Ron appeared in 46 games for the Pirates in 1963, mostly as a 3rd-string catcher.

His big break came after the 1964 season, when the Houston Colt .45s selected him in the Rule 5 draft. He became the Astros' #1 catcher in 1965, starting 94 games (to John Bateman's 38 starts). In 1966, Bateman took over the #1 job, starting 120 games behind the plate. Brand was 3rd on the games played list at catcher, behind Bill Heath (which explains Heath's presence on a 1967 card, instead of Brand).

In 1967, Brand and Bateman divided the starting job fairly evenly, but Bateman was the clear starter in 1968. To make matters worse, Brand had dropped to #3 catcher behind Dave Adlesh.

After the 1968 season, Ron was selected by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft. One would think this led to a starting job for Brand, but the Expos also selected the Astros' other catcher (John Bateman) as well. So, Bateman and Brand picked up where they left off in Houston. In 1969 they split the starting job. In 1970, Bateman was the undisputed starter, and Brand actually got more playing time at 3B and SS than he did as a catcher. 1971 was a carbon copy of 1970 as far as Ron's playing time was concerned.

1971 was Brand's final season in the big leagues. He spent the 1972 season playing for Montreal's triple-A team. After not playing in 1973 and 1974, he played for the Dodgers' class-A team in Bakersfield, California at several positions, including 3 games as a pitcher.

Also check out Brand's 1969 card.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Walt Williams (#172)

From the previous post, we move across Chicago to the White Sox and Walt "No Neck" Williams. This is the 2nd year in a row that a White Sox' outfielder was named to the Topps All-Rookie team. (Tommie Agee was named the previous year. I wonder if it was Williams' fine play that enabled the Sox to move Agee to the Mets after the 1967 season?)

In 1966, 1968, and 1969, Topps used the same color-coding for each team's cards. Each color was used for one AL and one NL team. Coincidently, both the White Sox and Cubs were orange.

Williams was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1963. After one season in their farm system, he was picked up by the Cardinals and played 3 seasons with their minor-league teams, until he was traded to the White Sox in December 1966 (along with pitcher Don Dennis) for catcher Johnny Romano.

Walt spent the next 6 years in the White Sox' outfield (although he was in the minors for a good part of the 1968 season). He was a backup in the corner outfield spots as a rookie, but after returning to full-time status in 1969, he became the regular right fielder.

In 1970, Walt shared the right field job with Bill Melton. (Melton had been the regular 3rd baseman before and after 1970, but divided his time between 3rd and left in 1970.)

The following year, it was Pat Kelly who kept Williams from playing full-time in right field, as they shared the position evenly. In 1972, Kelly's playing time in right field increased to about two-thirds, while Walt's decreased further.

After one season as the Indians' backup left fielder, Walt was traded to the Yankees prior to the 1974 season. Williams spent his final 2 seasons with the Yankees, but rarely played the outfield.