Dr. Seuss was a prolific children’s book writer. Is it possible he dabbled in baseball cards as well?
What happens when you combine “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” with “Fox in Socks”?
Ted Cox, Red Sox
Ted Cox (no known relation to Fred Cox) was a first round pick by the Carmine Hose in 1973. He hit .362 in his cup of coffee with the Sox in 1977, before being packaged up in the trade that brought Dennis Eckersley to Beantown from the Cleveland Indians. He also played for the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in the early years of those expansion franchises, although his name never quite had the same ring after leaving Bahston. Cox currently works with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in raising money for worthy causes and charities.
Former San Diego Padres shortstop Enzo Hernandez has died in an apparent suicide. Enzo’s last cardboard appearance was in 1977, the year I started collecting trading cards. He was one of my favorites, despite the fact that he made Mark Belanger look rather Herculean offensively. Hernandez owns one of the most fascinating, but obscure, stat lines in baseball. In his rookie year of 1971, Hernandez accumulated 549 at-bats, yet knocked in only 12 runs. His slash line of .222-0-12 earned him the dubious distinction of “Triple Crown loser” – finishing last among batting qualifiers in all three triple crown categories.
1972 Topps Enzo Hernandez
1972 Topps Enzo Hernandez
To prove just how impossible this feat was, the next year he accumulated 220 fewer at-bats, had a lower batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, and still knocked in 15 runs, a 25% increase over 1971.
Hernandez throughout his big league career did prove to be a better hitter (.224 career batting average) than Mario Mendoza (.215), of the fabled “Mendoza Line”.
My first year of card collecting was 1977, and though I was a Twins fan growing up in rural Minnesota, the Reds were well-liked by almost everyone. The Big Red Machine was in full gear, having won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, George Foster, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, Cesar Geronimo – even their names were cool (we’d shout “Geronimo!” as we’d jump off the jungle gym).
One name I didn’t remember was Balko Tuzmon. He’s simultaneously famous and completely unknown. Who is he? Try a Google Search for ‘Balko Tuzmon’. Nothing directly correlates, although this blog post may show at the top soon. Try ‘Balko 1977 topps cloth‘. Still nothing.
Balko Tuzmon – 1977 Topps Cloth Stickers wrapper
There he is. Let’s take a closer look.
Balko Tuzmon – Man of Mystery
A man who graced a product line widely collected by kids and men, yet is completely unknown to digital history.
I came across Balko when I won an Ebay auction for an 8-card lot of 1977 Topps Cloth Stickers – I’ve been picking up pieces of the set lately, especially spurred on by the inclusion of the 1977 Topps Cloth inspired insert set in 2012 Topps Archives. The package arrived today, and included with the 8 cards was a wrapper, plus a 1975 Topps Steve Garvey and a 1960 Topps Glen Hobbie – an excellent job by seller robpitz55, who shipped the lot with the extras in a lightning-quick manner from the waterlogged East Coast, and earned his first feedback point.
1977 Topps Cloth Sticker lot
Balko does bear an uncanny resemblance to Reds backstop Johnny Bench, who is featured in this set. On the wrapper, the sticker is peeled away to mask the position, and the pose doesn’t match that of Bench’s, but the facial features are similar.
Johnny Bench 1977 Topps Cloth Sticker
Perhaps he is to Bench as Bizarro is to Superman, an imperfect duplicate created by his nemesis. It’s time we reveal the secret of this Mystery Man of the Cloth.
Growing up in the 1970s in southwestern Minnesota, there was a clear hierarchy of sports: 1. Baseball 2. Football 3. Basketball 4. Hockey – and there was a large gap between 2 and 3. It was a real oddity (probably an ordering mistake) to find basketball or hockey cards anywhere (Woolworths, grocery stores, or Shopko stores). I do recall having a handful of 1979-80 hockey cards however, including a card of a grandfather, Gordie Howe, whose son Mark was also played on his team, the Hartford Whalers.
1979-80 Topps Gordie Howe
It was definitely unusual having a 51-year-old playing a sport, especially a contact sport such as hockey. Of course, Gordie Howe was a long-time National Hockey League legend who played for six years in the upstart World Hockey Association for the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers. When the Whalers merged into the NHL, Howe came along and played for another season, even setting a career high for games played with 80.
The Whalers began as a franchise November 1971 in Boston as the New England Whalers. They relocated to Hartford, Connecticut in 1975 due to scheduling conflicts with the Boston Bruins. Despite their tremendous popularity in Hartford, the franchise moved to North Carolina in 1997 and became the Carolina Hurricanes. Whaler nostalgia still runs deep, and “Brass Bonanza” is still the league’s most recognizable fight song. The old Hartford Whaler logo is creative, with the green “W” and blue whale tail forming a hidden “H”.
I recently bought a nice lot of 1972 Topps baseball cards (nearly 300 count lot). They arrived right before Labor Day Weekend. Last Saturday morning, I opened the package and took a trip down Memory Lane. I was born in 1971, and didn’t start collecting cards until 1977, so these cards weren’t right in my wheelhouse, but many of the names and faces were the same that graced cards 5 years later. I accumulated, and still own, many cards from different eras, but for some reason, I never had very many 1972s. I sort of targeted 1972 Topps Twins in the Million Card Giveaway that Topps promoted with its 2010 product, but still had just a small handful of cards from this year. This was a tragic slight which I corrected – I don’t believe any card design says 1970s more than the stylized and star-spangled marquee on the top of these cards.
1972 Topps design – Groovy!
This lot didn’t contain any superstars like Clemente, but there were several star players, and superstars on League Leader cards, such as this:
1972 Topps #93 N.L. Pitching Leaders
All of the other League Leaders cards from this set featured 3 players per card, this one featured 4 because Steve Carlton, Al Downing, and Tom Seaver all tied with 20 wins, behind Fergie Jenkins’ 24. Looking at the 4 pitchers pictured, I found myself singing “Which of these things doesn’t belong here” from the old Sesame Street program.
While it can be argued that Fergie Jenkins is the odd one doing his own thing, winning 4 more games than the others who won 20 each, another answer was more obvious. There were two lefties (Carlton and Downing) and two righties (Jenkins and Seaver), so that wasn’t it. Downing and Jenkins are African-American, while Seaver and Carlton are Caucasian, so that’s not it either.
While Jenkins didn’t make it to 300 wins like Seaver and Carlton, he did rack up 286 – enough to earn him enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with the aforementioned Seaver and Carlton. 1971 would serve as the pinnacle of Downing’s career – he racked up a total of just 126 victories. Downing made his own history, however, as the pitcher who delivered what would wind up as Home Run #715 for Hank Aaron, breaking Babe Ruth’s unbreakable record for career home runs. Here’s the call by Milo Hamilton:
Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Joe DeLamielleure, part of the famed Electric Company – the Buffalo Bills offensive line who “turned the Juice (O.J. Simpson) loose” 20 years before O.J.’s attorneys did – recently spoke out about his declining health, which he attributes to a large number of concussions suffered during his playing days.
1975 Topps Joe DeLamielleure
DeLamielleure, upon hearing the definition of a doctor that a concussion is when you see stars, estimates that he had over 1,000 concussions. Much is still unknown about the nature of a concussion, but undoubtedly Joe had his fair share. He chronicles his health problems, and will donate his brain to science upon his death. When asked if he would do it all again (play football) given what he has experienced, Joe said he would not. He also calls on the league and the players union to step up and take care of retired football players, or as he calls them: guinea pigs.
Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 Oliver Stone flick starring Tom Cruise. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t tell you much about it, other than a summary from IMDB: The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.
Born on the Fourth of July
There are 47 players in Major League history to be born on July 4: the most famous being Hall-of-Famer Mickey Welch.
Reds outfielder Ed Armbrister was influential in the 1975 World Series – he laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning of Game 3 and collided with Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, but umpire Larry Barnett failed to call interference in a game the Reds went on to win 6-5. Armbrister was born on July 4, 1948; and shares a 1975 Topps card with 1975 MVP and Rookie of the Year Fred Lynn.
In case you missed it, Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game last night (June 13, 2012) – only the 22nd* time the feat has been accomplished. It is indeed a rare feat, and the Perfect Club is one that all pitchers are dying to get into.
But, it seems like perfect games are happening more often. Cain’s gem is the 2nd this year, joining Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox. There were also 2* back in 2010 – Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay. Armando Galarraga had a 3rd that year, except umpire Jim Joyce “kicked the shit” out of a call at first base on the final out, calling the batter safe even though he was out by a half step (baseball commissioner Bud Selig feels there is no need for expanded replay, even though umpires kick the shit out of calls frequently, and plays like this can be reviewed and overturned quickly). Mark Buehrle had another back in 2009, so officially we’re at 5 in the past 3 years, unofficially 6 (I’m counting Galarraga’s as I sit here on my soapbox).
They didn’t always happen this frequently. The great Cy Young pitched the first official perfect game in 1904, Hall-of-Famer Addie Joss hurled another 4 years later. After the 3rd perfect game was thrown by Charlie Robertson in 1922, it was a full 34 years until Don Larsen pitched his famous perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series – the only post-season perfecto. 3 more Hall-of-Famers pitched ultimate gems in the 1960s – Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, and Catfish Hunter. There were none in the 1970′s, then 3 in the 80′s, 4 in the 90′s, and a pair in the oughts, including Randy Johnson’s in 2004.
While there were no perfect games in the 1970′s, one pitcher came within a whisker of one. On September 2, 1972, Miltiades Stergios Papastergios, more commonly known as Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas, walked San Diego Padres pinch hitter Larry Stahl on a borderline 3–2 pitch. Pappas finished with a no-hitter. Pappas believed he had struck out Stahl, and years later continued to bear ill will toward umpire Bruce Froemming, who pretty much admitted the next day that he made a mistake.
Miltiades Stergios Papastergios – Greek for “Austin Danger Powers”