Sunday, June 13, 2021

Rookie Parade

A few weeks ago, I posted all the 1967 rookie stars cards. Today we have all the 1968 rookie stars cards. 
Comparison of the 2 sets: 
1967 set 
Total cards - 43 
Teams with 3 cards - 5 
Teams with 2 cards - 9 
Teams with 1 card - 6 
Mixed teams - 4 cards 
1968 set 
Total cards - 30 
Teams with 3 cards - Orioles 
Teams with 2 cards - 6 
Teams with 1 card - 12 
Teams with 0 cards - Giants 
Mixed teams - 3 cards 
There were 13 fewer rookie cards in the 1968 set, and no Giants card. What? Was Topps unaware of the phenom named Bobby Bonds? They whiffed on the Senators' Del Unser too. 
Of the 60 players pictured on these cards, only 3 were immediate stars (Johnny Bench, Jerry Koosman, and Stan Bahnsen). Bench and Bahnsen were the 1968 Rookies of the Year. Of course, Nolan Ryan would eventually join Bench as one of the only 2 superstars among these 60. 
Lou Piniella was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1969, and eventually Bob Moose, Bob Robertson, Hal McRae, Ron Reed, Mike Torrez, Jack Billingham, and Larry Hisle made significant contributions over their careers. But that's 12 out of 60 - not a very good percentage. (It may be typical though, because I remember a lot of stiffs among the 1967 rookie cards.) 
The Orioles must have curried favor with Topps, because they have 3 rookie cards for the 2nd consecutive year. (They also had two multi-player cards in 1967, while 9 teams had none.)   Sure, they were an exciting and successful team in the late-1960s, but these 6 players were nothing to write home about. 
The coveted Johnny Bench rookie card - but this is not the top rookie card in the set (see below). Lou Piniella and Bill Davis appeared on 4 and 5 rookie stars cards respectively. Eventually, Piniella made it big. Davis did not. 
The Tigers' George Korince is back again, after appearing on TWO rookie cards in the 1967 set.  Topps, please!
There it is - the Jerry Koosman/Nolan Ryan rookie card.  This may be the mother of all rookie stars cards, ever.
Except for ROY Stan Bahnsen (who also appeared on a 1967 Yankees Rookies card) this block is a whole lot of mediocre. I know specifically that the 2 Phillies shown each pitched 1 career MLB game.

The mixed-bag cards in the 7th series. Why didn't Topps just pair Ivan Murrell and Jim Ray on a Houston Astros Rookies card?
Topps, here's what the Giants Rookies card should have looked like: 


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Bill Dillman (#466)

Bill Dillman had cards in each Topps set from 1967-70. His rookie card was the only 1967 Rookie Stars card with red borders. (All the other 42 Rookie Stars cards had yellow borders.) In addition to having Orioles' cards in the '68 and '69 sets, his final card in the 1970 set shows him with the Cardinals.
I was all ready to write about Dillman being part of the 1967-69 wave of Orioles' pitchers (along with Tom Phoebus, Jim Hardin, and Dave Leonhard) that followed the 1964-66 wave of Dave McNally, Wally Bunker, and Jim Palmer, but when I looked him up in today, I was surprised to see that he only pitched 32 games for the O's, all in 1967 (when their "main" pitchers were all out with sore arms). 
The oddball "red rookie card" in the 1967 set:
In 1968, McNally rebounded to win 22 games, while Hardin and Phoebus won 18 and 15 respectively. With rookie Dave Leonhard joining the team that year, and Bunker sharing the #5 starter job with Gene Brabender, there was no room on the roster for Dillman, so he spent the next 2 seasons pitching for their AAA Rochester club. (It's surprising then that he had a card in the 1969 set.)
After the 1969 season he was purchased by the Cardinals, so Topps gave him one more chance. However, early in the 1970 season (having not played for the Cardinals) he was traded to the Expos for Carroll Sembera, and pitched in 18 games for Montreal from May to July, then it was back to triple-A for the rest of that season and all of 1971. 
Dillman finished out his career in 1972 with the Mets’ AAA team. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Mike Hegan (#402)

This is Mike Hegan’s first solo card. He previously appeared on a late-1967 Yankees Rookies card. 
Hegan was the son of long-time Indians' catcher and Yankees' coach Jim Hegan. Mike was signed by the Yankees in 1961 and made his major-league debut in September 1964.
He was back in the minors for all of 1965 and most of 1966, but made the Yankees' squad in 1967. That was the year Mickey Mantle moved from center field to 1st base, so Hegan got into 68 games, mostly as a late-inning replacement for Mantle. 
Hegan spent all of 1968 back in triple-A (his job as Mantle’s caddie taken by the newly-acquired Andy Kosco). In mid-June he was sold to the Seattle Pilots' organization, but as they did not have any teams in place yet, he remained with the Yankees’ Syracuse team through the end of the season. 
He played for the Pilots in 1969, and was their primary right fielder. He also made the All-Star team that year (so the often-repeated statement that Don Mincher was the Pilots’ only All-Star is not correct). 
Hegan played for the Brewers until mid-June 1971, and 3 years to the day he was acquired, the team traded him to the Athletics. Mike was sold back to the Yankees in late-1974, and (appearing to re-trace his career steps) he was acquired by the Brewers in early-1975, where he remained as a bench player until he was released in July 1977. 
After his playing career, he was a commentator for the Brewers for 12 seasons, and then for the Indians for another 23 seasons. 
Hegan passed away in 2013 at age 71.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

My Favorite 1968 Cards

1968 was the second year I collected baseball cards.

It seemed like the first series had a lot of players who were in the not-to-be-found 1967 high-numbered series. (Tom Seaver, Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Vada Pinson, Rocky Colavito, Al Ferrara, Cookie Rojas, and Juan Pizarro to name a few.) So I quickly had cards for those missing players. 

These were my favorite cards from that set.

Bobby Wine - I always liked this photo, but I'm not sure why.  Although I was a Phillies fan, I was not particularly a Bobby Wine fan, nor was he one of the team's top dozen or so players.

Gary Sutherland - I do know why I liked this card.  His rookie card in 1967 was in the high-numbered series, so I didn't get that until years later.  Plus, here's a kid only a few years older than my pre-teen self at the time, and he was IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES! Surely he would be the Phillies' "shortstop of the future", with only the aging Dick Groat and weak-hitting Bobby Wine to contend with.

NL ERA Leaders - Two Phillies among the league's top three!

Super Stars / Manager's Dream - These 2 cards were in the 6th or 7th series, and were 2 of the 3 multi-player cards in the 1968 set.  The players were from a mix of teams, which was a departure from Topps' usual multi-player cards.

NL Batting Leaders - In 1967, Tony Gonzalez had worked his way up from platoon left-fielder to every-day center-fielder, and finished with a .339 batting average. (In the late-60s, Phillies' fans had to find positives anywhere we could!)

Tom Seaver - I still don't have Tom Seaver's 1967 rookie card, so this was my first Seaver card. ROY, shiny trophy, what's not to like?

Denny McLain - I admit, I jumped on the Tigers' bandwagon sometime during the 1968 season, and followed McLain's trek to 30 wins and the World Championship.

Mickey Mantle - A favorite card of mine and 99.99% of all the other kids.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Don Shaw (#521)

Don Shaw pitched briefly for the Mets, Expos, and Cardinals from 1967-72. 
He was signed by the Mets in 1965, and made his major-league debut in April 1967. Don appeared in 40 games (all in relief) in his rookie season, and was the only lefthander in the bullpen.
Shaw spent most of 1968 in triple-A, with 5 of his 7 MLB games coming in September. 
He was selected by the Expos in the expansion draft, and pitched 34 games in relief, 1 start, and 7 games in triple-A. 
Don was in the minors for all of 1970, moving to the Cardinals’ organization in May. He returned to the majors in 1971, pitching 45 games out of the Cardinals’ bullpen. 
Shaw made 8 appearances for St Louis in 1972, then was traded to the Athletics in mid-May. After 3 games with the A’s, he was sent down for the remainder of the season. 
The following spring he was traded to the Tigers, but played all of 1973 in the minors before retiring. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Ken Suarez (#218)

Ken Suarez was a backup catcher for the Athletics, Indians, and Rangers from 1966-73.

Suarez was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1965 and made his major-league debut in April 1966. He started 26 games as a rookie, behind regular backstop Phil Roof.

He made 22 starts in 1967 (still playing behind Roof) but had to compete with Dave Duncan (3 years younger than Suarez) for the #2 spot.

After the ’67 season he was selected by the Indians in the Rule 5 draft, and spend the next 2 seasons as the Tribe’s 3rd-string catcher.

In 1968 he was with the team for the whole season, but only played 17 games (1 start), with Joe Azcue and Duke Sims doing most of the catching. In ’69, he was behind Sims and rookie Ray Fosse, and spent part of the season in the minors.

After languishing in the minors in 1970, he returned to Cleveland in 1971 and saw his most action to date (50 games, 39 starts, 123 at-bats). Still, he was stuck behind All-Star and Gold Glove winner Fosse.

Ken was part of an 8-player trade with the Rangers after the 1971 season. He backed up Dick Billings in 1972 but started 88 games in 1973 (to Billings’ 67 starts). Unfortunately that was his last hurrah.

In 1974 the Rangers were going to go with rookie Jim Sundberg behind the plate, and after Suarez filed for arbitration he was traded back to the Indians for Chico Cardenas. He ended up sitting out the season due to contract issues, but in mid-September the Indians traded him to the Angels for Frank Robinson. (So in a year where he did not play, he was traded twice for ex-Reds’ All-Stars!) 


Monday, October 12, 2020

Bob Barton (#351)

Bob Barton was a journeyman catcher for the Giants and Padres. His only season as an everyday player came in 1971 with the Padres. 

Barton was signed by the Giants in 1959 and started out with the Class D Hastings (Nebraska) Giants. By 1963 he made it to the triple-A level, where he remained for another 5 seasons. He did get a cup of coffee with the Giants in September 1965. 

He began the 1966 season with the Giants, backing up starter Tom Haller. By mid-season he was demoted to triple-A Phoenix, with veteran 3B/C Ozzie Virgil called up to replace him. Barton alternated with prospect Dick Dietz and veteran Dick Bertell while at triple-A. 

In 1967 the Giants decided to keep Dietz as Haller’s backup, and with another catching prospect (Don Bryant) slated to play for Phoenix, Barton was loaned out to the Cubs’ AAA team for most of the year.


Haller was traded to the Dodgers after the 1967 season, so Barton made the Giants on a full-time basis as the 3rd-string catcher (behind Dietz and Jack Hiatt). Bob played in 45 to 50 games each season, and started about half that many. He was almost never used as a pinch-hitter (whereas Hiatt not only pinch-hit, but played first base too). 

After the 1969 season, Barton was traded to the Padres along with pitcher Ron Herbel and 3rd baseman Bobby Etheridge for pitcher Frank Reberger. This was an immediate promotion to 2nd-string status. He started a third of the games behind the dish in 1970, with Chris Cannizzaro starting most of the other games. 

In 1971 Bob finally made it to the top, starting 111 games, while rookie Fred Kendall and Cannizzaro gave him some days off. He had career highs in at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, and walks. Topps even selected him for an “In-action” card in their 1972 set, although I’m not sure how this qualifies as “action":
Barton: “Hey, what’cha doin?” 
Guard: “Not much. What’choo doin?” 
Barton: “Not much.” 
It turned out, Bob was just keeping the spot warm for Kendall, who took over the starter’s job in 1972. In mid-June he was traded to the Reds for Pat Corrales, but did not play for the Reds (or in the minors) in the second half. 

After only catching 5 innings for the Reds in the first month of 1973 (hey, they had Johnny Bench!) he was released in mid-June. As in the previous year, he was idle for the remainder of the season. 

The Padres signed him in April 1974, and he played in 30 games as their 2nd-string catcher, then was released at the end of the season, ending his 10-year career. 

Barton passed away in 2018 at age 76. 


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Frank Bertaina (#131)

Frank Bertaina had a rocky road with Topps up to this point:
1965 – Has his own card (#396)
1966 – Part of a 3-player Orioles Rookie Stars card (#579)

1967 – Not in the set
He returned to the Topps set for 1968-71.

Bertaina was signed by the Orioles in 1961 and began playing in 1962. He pitched in the Orioles' system for most of the next 6 years, getting a few games with the big club in '64 and '65, before really making the team in 1966. That year he pitched 16 games early and late in the season, while spending July and August in the minors.

(He looks like his name should be "Moe")

In late-May 1967 Frank was included in the trade that sent 1st baseman Mike Epstein to the Senators in exchange for pitcher Pete Richert. He started 17 of his 18 games for the Sens that season – part of the team's young staff that included Darold Knowles and Casey Cox (both 25), Barry Moore (24), Bertaina and Dick Bosman (23), and Joe Coleman (20).

In 1968 he made 23 starts as the #4 starter (and top southpaw) in the rotation, although his record slipped to 7-13.

In 1969 he found himself in the bullpen with only the occasional starting assignment. After pitching in 16 games, he was traded back to the Orioles in mid-June for a minor-league pitcher. Frank spent the remainder of the season in triple-A, only appearing in 3 games for the O's during a September call-up.

Bertaina was also relegated to triple-A in 1970, until a mid-August deal with the Cardinals. Frank pitched in his final 8 major-league games in the season’s last 2 months.

He retired after playing for the Cardinals' AAA team in 1971.

Bertaina passed away in 2010 at age 65.