Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterback #52 (Tuesday Edition) Mark Malone 1988 Topps

In this ongoing series of posts I am going to feature cards from my fantasy football player collection, specifically the 117 quarterbacks I've had on my team's roster since 1980. I have one selected card for each player in my All-Time Flyers binder. Through the years I've tried to use as many different card varieties as possible while holding on to my preference which is: a card issued in a year I owned the player showing him in the proper team uni in a vertical format. Card availability and my whims have had a big impact on that standard. 

NFL Info: Coming out of Arizona State Mark Malone was the Steelers' first pick in the 1980 draft. He's one of very few (I'd guess) NFLers that were pursued by the USOC as a decathlete. He watched from the Steelers bench for a couple of years until grabbing the starters job away from Cliff Stoudt in 1984. He held the job, except for some injury time lost, for four seasons and accumulated mostly middling numbers. He did however get the Steelers to the 1984 AFC Title game where they lost to the Dolphins.

Malone was dealt to the Chargers for 1988 and started eight games during his one season there in San Diego. He retired after spending 1989 with the Jets as a reserve. He has been a broadcaster with many different roles since his playing days. He currently works for NBC, Westwood One and a few other outlets.

Fantasy Impact: Malone started a game for me in 1986. My regular starter, Ken O'Brien was coming off a four TD game and yet I, in my infinite fantasy wisdom, sat him for Malone in Week 4. I won that game, and the next four with O'Brien sitting on my bench, but I really can't imagine why I did what I did. I went 11-3 that year and had one of my best seasons but with bonehead moves like that, I have no idea how.

The Card: I happen to like the 1988 Topps design. They obviously had the NFL license after many years in the airbrushed logo desert  and as a result the Steelers' helmet is front and center. The colors mimic the uniform, the picture is decent and the back provides the necessary stats and player data. All in all Id give it a fairly solid thumbs up.

Monday, March 2, 2015

1959 Minnie Minoso

As you know by now Minnie Minoso died Sunday at the age of 90 (or thereabouts). He has this wonderful 1959 Topps card and I posted it in March of 2012 for my '59 Topps blog. He was a pretty amazing guy and if you were not familiar with his story you should be now with all the tributes that have cropped up since the word of his death came out.

Here is part of my blog post for that card.

Minnie Minoso was born 'Saturnino Orestes Armas MiƱoso Arrieta' in Havana, Cuba in 1925. That's one name for each decade he played in the majors. Yes, Minoso played big league ball in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. Or at least he made appearances in those decades. The 'playing' he did in 1976 and 1980 with the White Sox was really just PR, a couple of 'cup of coffee' whirls that got headlines when they happened. And add to this time spent in the independent Northern League in the following two decades makes Minoso the only guy to have played professionally in seven decades! (I played intramural softball in four decades at the University of Houston but that's a different discussion.) 
The five (or seven) decade hype kind of overshadows a pretty accomplished major league career put together by Minoso. Following a run as a Negro League player in the late forties Minoso debuted with the Indians in 1949. For the next dozen years, covering two separate tours with both the White Sox and Indians, Minoso led the AL at least once in triples, doubles, hits, stolen bases, total bases and hit-by-pitches. He made seven All Star squads and routinely garnered MVP votes. Three Gold Gloves line his mantel as well. 
His days as a regular player ended with stints with the Cardinals and Senators in the early 60's. But Minoso wasn't through as he played several seasons in Mexico after that. Then came the publicity tours with the Sox and  independent ball. Crazy.
He played in the first game MLB I ever saw in person. He had a single and scored a run to help Billy Pierce beat the Yankees.

I have a couple of other Minoso cards. The '61 is one of my favorites.

I also have this stadium cup from Comiskey Park that had Minoso on one side along with Billy Pierce and Sherm Lollar.

Minnie Minoso was up for election to the Hall of Fame again this past year by the Veterans Committee but his vote total fell short. If you are like me and believe that the Hall of Fame should be more than about numbers you can still have hope that the electors will see it that way as well someday and put him in the Hall.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

1966 Baseball Digest

A couple of years back my aunt sent me a box of baseball publications that had belonged to my late uncle. There were a bunch of Sporting News books including Guides and World Series Record books from the fifties and early sixties. There were also some Baseball Digests like this one from March of 1966. I scanned a few pages just for fun. Like many early spring issues of the Baseball Digest back then this one was devoted to the upcoming season's rookies. There were four players on the cover, and they went on to varying degrees of baseball success.

Tommy Helms was NL Rookie of the year in 1966, played 14 seasons in the majors making a couple of All Star squads and winning a pair of Gold Gloves.

Chris Zachary pitched for five different teams over a nine year career as a spot starter and reliever. He had five seasons in Houston where he gained six of his ten career wins.

Gil Downs had some nice numbers in the minors going 39-19 with a low ERA but he never pitched in the bigs.

Manly Johnston??? He was coming off a 1965 season at AAA where he had 91 at bats and hit .224 so the Baseball Digest editors must have seen something others didn't. He played sparingly at the AAA level again in 1966 and was out of baseball.

The inside of the front cover and it's facing page had a total of 12 players' shots including a few who later became big time players in the majors, Keen Holtzman, Bobby Murcer and Lee "The Big Bopper" May.

In addition to a rundown of each teams top prospect the Digest had articles of general baseball interest. Along with The Sporting News, Baseball Digest was a regular read for me. I usually bought The Sporting News at a newsstand but the Digest came via subscription.

These pages contain the Orioles youngsters and a part of the Red Sox' write-up as well. A close look shows that the details for most players included his ethnic heritage. It's a bit disconcerting to see 'Jewish' listed for Mike Epstein. Not that it was a secret or anything but ethnicity is just not something you'd see listed today. Oh, I don't think I needed Baseball Digest to know Ed Barnowski was Polish.

Hey, an ad for Strat-O-Matic. This exact ad appeared in every copy of The Sporting News, Street And Smith, Baseball Digest and any 'pulp' mag like Dell Baseball you cared to open. A year later I bought the game.

A trio of other kids graced the back cover.

Dick Joyce had already pitched in the only five games he'd appear in when this copy hit the stand. He was 0-1 in September of 1965 for the A's and then pitched two more minor league seasons.

Andy Kosco had a couple of seasons in the late 60s in which he was an every day player, one with the Yankees and one with the Dodgers. Those were sandwiched into the middle of a nomadic 9 year career that saw him play for seven clubs.

Jim McGlothlin, who always looked like he belonged on a high school team, made an All Star team with the Angels in 1967 and he won 14 for the NL champion Reds in 1970. He won a total of 67 big league games.

Thumbing through these old books and mags are a perfect way to spend a cold damp dreary Saturday afternoon.

EDIT... Added for Joe Shlabotnik, Meet the Mets! Plus a bonus, the scouting report on Don Sutton. And a title added. Sorry about that.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tony Horton and the best day ever!

I've always been fascinated by Tony Horton's story. I could never understand how a guy with his talent could be so troubled. But over time I've come to learn more about depression and mental illness and his career is easier to put into perspective.

He never had a Topps card, just some regional and food issues and such. Bob Lemke, who's blog is one of my absolute must reads, does custom cards and took on the task of filling in some missing Topps Horton cards. You can see them here on this post from a couple of weeks back. He did three and all are outstanding. I had a few other Lemke creations already eyeballed and the Horton addition caused me to pull the trigger. I chose the '1970' version because it shows him as I remember him, as an Indian in Yankee Stadium. My cards arrived this week and they are as nice as I expected.

The other Lemke cards are of Baltimore Colts and they make a nice 'supplement' to my Colts' Project. I'll blog them as part of my wrap-up to that deal. Meanwhile, check out the back of the Horton, quality stuff.

But back to Tony Horton himself. I may have written this story before but I don't see it in this blog's archive so it was probably a comment on someone else's. He plays a central role in what is my all-time favorite day at a ballpark.

Back in 1970 I'd just graduated from high school and was about to move to Houston and head off to college. I went with my best friend to what we thought was going to be a routine mid-week doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. The Indians were in town and since I'd inherited my father's love for two-for-one ballgames we headed to the Bronx.

Knocking around Manhattan, grabbing the #4 line uptown, visiting Manny's Baseball Land and then that games themselves, well that was a great time every time. But June 24, 1970 was going to be extra special.

We always sat somewhere down near third base in the lower stands since we'd made 'friends' with an usher who usually got us a nice view for the price of our grandstand ticket and a small tip. And that day it was especially nice to have the view from behind the Indians' dugout.

Several things came together to make that day more than just a long day at the ballpark. In the first game we got to watch Sam McDowell handle the Yankees pretty easily and that was neat because we were fans of the big Indian's ace.

It was fun watching McDowell work but what happened in the ninth is what made the game memorable. Yankee reliever Steve Hamilton had been playing around with a 'bloop' pitch he called the 'Folly Floater'. Facing Tony Horton to lead off the Indians' ninth he threw a floater that was fouled back. Horton asked for another one, hamilton obliged and it was fouled off to the left and Thurman Munson made a nice play to snag it. Horton dropped to his knees as he approached his dugout and crawled the rest of the way to the steps. I'd never seen anything like that before.

Here is the 1969 Topps Hamilton I picked up at the card show two weeks ago. It's uses the same photo as his '64 Topps card.

This video (sometimes I just love YouTube!) is of that very at bat with Phil Rizzuto calling the action. My buddy and I are likely visible in that grainy crowd behind the dugout. No way to tell.

The second game of the double header was nuttier than the first! Bobby Murcer, who had homered in the bottom of the ninth in the first game hit three more in the second one for a what I believe was a record-tying four homers in four consecutive official at bats. He managed to draw a walk in the middle of them.

And we witnessed the best baseball fight I've seen in person. In the top of the fifth with the Indians leading 2-1 and one man out Vada Pinson singles, goes to second on a ground out and then, when Stan Bahnsen uncorks a wild pitch, tries to score all the way from second. Bahnsen, covering home tags Pinson out with has glove to the face and Pinson came up swinging. Everyone piled out onto the field and lots of shoving and bear-hugging ensued. The haymaker from Pinson is one of the few really good punches I've ever see land in a baseball fight. I remember that we were surprised Bahnsen was back on the mound for the sixth. Pinson, btw, got tossed.

Not long after that some chump in the upper deck tossed a large firecracker, probably a 'cherry bomb', onto the field and it landed near home plate. I remember Ray Fosse jumping about as high as a catcher could jump when the thing exploded nearby. I've read since then that he was burned by the thing but I really don't remember that. I just remember the Yankee PA guy, Bob Sheppard warning the fans that the game would end if any more objects were thrown onto the field.

Two other notes on this game.....while digging for newspaper accounts of the game I discovered that the 1971 Vada Pinson card has a photo taken during Game One that day. It shows Pinson being tagged out at home by Munson when he tried to score on a fly out, ending the eighth inning. Oh, the irony.....

...And I recently came across a web page for long time major league reliever Lindy McDaniel. He was a member of the Yankees in 1970 when these games and another great game, one played in Baltimore between the Yanks and Orioles occurred.  He signs through the mail so I sent him a card and asked him if he had some memories of that summer. I'll post that when he returns it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Games People Play

I wish I had back all the hours I spent playing sports (mostly baseball) board games. What you see above are the games I still have on a shelf high up in a closet at home.My game of choice, as you can probably tell, was Strat-O-Matic. From my first purchase of the game in 1967 until I finally put it away in the mid-80s I wasted more time playing Strat than I care to remember. But it sure was fun.

The box in the lower right, the one with the stickers on it, is more or less my original Strat game. Through the years I purchased a couple of replacements but I kept (and kept repairing) the top cover of the original box.

Here is my view of baseball as I knew it for almost 20 years:

That playing field with all the glued-on pics is original as well. I had a cardboard 'platform on the right where the stacks of teams are now but other than that, it hasn't changed. I saved a piece of the original box bottom, that's the 'Hot Corner' taped to the right front of it.

The Strat box at the top of the picture is one of many 'replacement' games I bought and that box know holds spare charts, game cards, playing pieces and scoresheets. The white Strat box is my 2011 50th Anniversary edition. It's a replica of the original 1961 edition. I haven't played it.

I played 'season' after 'season' with a six teams playing 80 game schedule. My teams I used were almost always American League clubs. The Orioles were always included of course The other teams were usually the Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers, Senators and Twins. If you look at the charts in the pic you can see that over time I felt I knew more about the game than the folks in Glen Head, NY and I modified them somewhat. The one on the left was my 'Injury Chart' which covered thing like rain delays (I would go get a soda if that occurred), rain outs, ejections and injuries to defensive players. That wasn't something found in the actual game.

I always played the basic version, I couldn't be bothered with the advanced or super advanced versions. Mostly I played to accumulate stats. They were kept by hand and calculated with a slide rule. That's the object you see below. Only the more senior of you will remember them.

(Note: that photo and most of the others below are from the internet)

After a few years of that I wanted more accurate numbers and discovered the Sporting News Averages Book which contained page after page of charts which allowed you to find batting averages and ERAs. Eventually I got a pocket calculator and life was perfect.

Strat wasn't my first game though. When I was about ten I got a copy of Cadaco's All Star Baseball, the famous game with the spinner and player disks. It's the game that started me down the path of board gaming.

A bit later it was Challenge the Yankees. Game play was pretty basic and the players available were pretty limited. I only wish I still had the player cards. They can pull in big bucks nowadays. I played this one a lot with my Dad. He was always the Yankees, I as always the All Stars.

When I got my first desktop computer I thought I'd try computer baseball. APBA's version made by Miller and Associates for DOS (youngsters should look "DOS" up) was the most popular at the time. I found it boring and cumbersome. I hated not having those player cards and dice in my hands. Here is a screenshot from the net:

Then I gave Earl Weaver Baseball a shot. It was more of an arcade game. I bet I played it twice.

About five years ago I came across a copy of a book written about the Star-O-Matic game company (it's much better than it sounds LOL) and I got the game playing itch once again. 

But I knew I didn't have the time for setting up a dice based game so I did a bit of homework and read really good things about Diamond Mind Baseball. It was pretty costly but I really enjoyed it. I've been on a break from it for about a year but I played 15 'seasons' in the four years I have owned it. I have hundreds of teams and I even 'homebrewed' a few. I'll get back to it one of these days.

I've owned and played a few other sports-related board games over the years. My dorm buddies got caught up in Oscar Robertson Basketball one semester. We skipped a lot of classes for this one.

I had All-Pro Football which was a combination of checkers and football strategy. I remember it but I don't think I played it very often.

Up top in the original picture you see Strat-O-Matic Football. I think I played it with my Dad once. The box is beaten up by time (and repaired using pieces of Strat baseball boxes) but the game parts are pristine. I don't even remember buying the APBA Football game. I'm sure it's never been opened. And that Pursue The Pennant game box is untouched. The game parts are still wrapped as they were when I bought it. I was attracted by the hype but about the time I bought it my game playing interest was evaporating.

Finally here is my own Strat-O-Matic card. You sent them some cash and your 'stats' and info and you got back a card to put yourself into the game. I bought it for fun. I never used in in my 'league'. I'd pretty much quit playing by the time I bought it. I only 'enhanced' my running ability. In no way was I a 1-14. 1-9 would have been more like it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

More Cheap Cards (from the Hotel Show)

Continuing to post a few of the cards I picked up last Saturday at the hotel meeting room card show. Total cost=$12 plus gas, tolls (yes, tolls) and lunch. Total take=30 cards, give or take.

Fred Talbot and Joe Schultz played prominent roles in Jim Bouton's groundbreaking book, Ball Four. I got that book as a graduation present from my best friend's family. Hard to believe that'll be 45 years ago this summer. Seems like yesterday.

I pulled the Talbot because I like those old A's uni's so much. I like the road grays as much as, or maybe more than, the gold ones. Good stuff.

But a couple of cards later I saw the Schultz. I'm not sure why I made the instant Ball Four connection but I did. BTW... Ball Four is almost required reading for baseball fans. I know some call it the best baseball book ever. I wouldn't agree with that but it's certainly right up there among them. Bouton seems to update the book every time he has five minutes and a cup of coffee, I believe it's up to Version 10 or so now.

1975 Topps Mike Newlin. This one made me stop as I was shuffling through the stack. My goodness. I remember him but I don't remember him looking that much like a caveman. Newlin was with the Rockets when they came to Houston in 1971 and I saw a ton of games since they were playing on the UH campus. He was a loose cannon on the court. And off the court as well. I was playing in a softball league one summer and Newlin along with Houston Oilers center Carl Mauck and a few other local pros he was friends with were on a team in that league. One night they were playing the game before ours and Newlin barrel-rolled into second base (who the hell slides in slo-pitch softball?!?!) and broke the other team's infielder's leg.

I don't collect Robin Yount but I know a few guys that do. I snagged this because I have never seen a Gardner's card and it's a Hall of Famer on vintage oddball for a quarter. If you want it, say so.

I only bought one or two football cards. For one thing I'm knee deep in Baltimore Colts cards at the moment and for another I'm trying to be more baseball-centric with my Spring Training trip coming up.

But Joe Morrison was one of my father's favorites. Seeing this card brought back memories of listening to Giants' games with my old man. Marty Glickman was a fabulous broadcaster.

I'd forgotten about these Kelloggs' Rold Gold* old timers. Most of the set was in one of the boxes at the show. Looks like Walter Johnson is warming up in Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. So it's a time-traveling Hall of Famer card. Cool.

*=Credit to Mark Hoyle for pointing out the Johnson was possibly a Rold Gold card from 1970. Kelloggs' reissued the set in 1972 under their own banner.

This is a Brooks Robinson Rawlings card of some sort, probably a glove promo card that came attached to a Brooksie model. Finest in the Field. And he was.

The back makes it known in no uncertain terms that this is a 'Promotional Replica' and it contains 'No Gold Content'. I'm glad they did that because for a few seconds I thought I'd struck gold. Meh.

Lastly, another oddball food issue. A Cap'n Crunch Cal Ripken. I've never tried Cap'n Crunch. I'm not sure why. Not sure why I bought this card either. It's the least interesting of them all, at least to me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterback #51 Joe Ferguson 1984 Topps

In this ongoing series of posts I am going to feature cards from my fantasy football player collection, specifically the 117 quarterbacks I've had on my team's roster since 1980. I have one selected card for each player in my All-Time Flyers binder. Through the years I've tried to use as many different card varieties as possible while holding on to my preference which is: a card issued in a year I owned the player showing him in the proper team uni in a vertical format. Card availability and my whims have had a big impact on that standard. 

NFL Info: Joe Ferguson was a third round pick by the Bills in 1973 out of Arkansas. He has handed the Bills starting job from Day One and held it for twelve years. He took them to the playoffs three times but only once made it past the first round. It would remain for Jim Kelly to get the Bills to the Super Bowl. Ferguson left Buffalo in 1985 and spent five more seasons as a back-up in three other towns. He currently works in real estate in Arkansas.

Fantasy Impact: I had Joe Ferguson in 1983 and I stuck him into my lineup midway though the year after a couple of other guys sputtered. He did very well but outside of Eric Dickerson the rest of my team was awful and I went 6-7-1.

The Card: I'll give Topps credit, they were moving away from the conservative designs of the previous decade by 1984. I can't think of a previous football set that had the 'tilted' orientation given the '84 Topps football cards. Not the world's best color combo but it's sure stands out. The back is standard stuff, full of stats vital details and a cartoon. That green number is tough to read though. I'd hate to have to sort a case of these.