Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Orlando Cepeda (#200)

Card #200 in the 1968 set is Orlando Cepeda. Good choice! Cepeda was the 1967 NL MVP, led the league with 111 RBI, bashed 25 homers, and bat .325 during the season (although only .103 in the World Series).

Orlando was signed by the New York Giants in 1955. After 3 seasons in the minors, Cepeda began the 1958 season with San Francisco, and started 147 games at first base, en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award (only the 2nd player to win unanimously).

In late-July 1959, the Giants called up rookie Willie McCovey, moving Cepeda to left field for the rest of the season. Cepeda played most of 1960 in left field, but when McCovey spent the 2nd half of the season in the minors and on the Giants' bench, Orlando reclaimed the 1st base job.

He split the 1961 season between 1B and LF, and led the NL in home rums (46) and RBI (142). Cepeda returned to his old 1st base job for the 1962-64 seasons, but missed most of the 1965 season with a knee injury.

Orlando was traded to the Giants in May 1966 for pitcher Ray Sadecki. He spent 3 seasons in St. Louis (including his MVP season in '67 and World Series appearances in '67 and '68).

During spring training 1969, he was traded to the Braves for catcher Joe Torre. He had another big power season in 1970 (34, 111), then was traded to the Athletics in July 1972 for pitcher Denny McLain.

Cepeda only played 3 games with the A's when a knee injury ended his season. Released after the season, he hooked on with the Red Sox when the AL instituted the DH before the 1973 season. He DH'ed in 142 games, but never played the field or pinch-hit that season.

He was released after the 1973 season, and spent most of 1974 playing in Mexico, until the Royals signed him for the final two months of the season.

Cepeda was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999 by the Veterans Committee.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Frank Robinson (#500)

Continuing the mini-series on "cards ending with "00", here is #500 Frank Robinson.

I have to take issue with Topps' selection of Robinson. Wasn't #500 the ultimate "hero number" back in the day? ( In 1969, Mickey Mantle's final card was #500.)

Prior to the 1966 season, Robinson came over to the Orioles in a big trade with Cincinnati. In his first season with the O's, he won the Triple Crown, the AL MVP, and the World Series MVP.

Still, that was 2 years ago, and since then Carl Yastrzemski won the 1967 Triple Crown and played in the World Series, and several members of the world champion Cardinals (Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepeda) had monster years. Was Topps making amends for "only" giving Robby #100 in the 1967 set?

Robinson was signed by the Reds in 1953, and after 3 seasons in the minors, he spent 10 full seasons as a regular with Cincinnati.  He was the Rookie of the Year in 1956, and the NL MVP in 1961.

He played in 4 World Series during his six seasons with Baltimore. In 1972 he began bouncing around to several teams as his playing career wound down: Dodgers ('72), Angels ('73, '74), and Indians ('74-'76).

He also managed the Indians (1975-77), Giants (1981-84), Orioles (1988-91), and the Expos/Nationals (2002-06).  In 16 seasons as manager, his teams finished as high as 2nd place twice.