Monday, August 4, 2014

Before There Was Photoshop II

I always wondered why Topps was so incredibly anal about making sure that last year’s uniform didn’t appear on this year’s card. I mean, so Joe Shlabotnik played with the Yankees last year, but now his card says he’s with the Astros. So what? I can figure it out. It’s not like he’s in the Federal Witness Protection Program now, is it (though I'm sure playing for the 'Stros must feel like it)?

And it’s not like getting all artsy is any improvement on letting the player go hatless, popping up the brim a little, or even taking a shot from the player’s feet. Here, let me show you what I mean …

“That is so convincing!”

Boy, did things start out well for Wayne Simpson. In his first year in the bigs, he won 13 out of his first 14 games, finishing with a 14-3 record (for a league-leading .824 winning percentage), a 3.04 ERA, and an All Star appearance. 

Unfortunately, he also tore his rotator cuff. Over the rest of his career, he had a 22-28 record and a 4.89 ERA. Poor guy – he still has arm and hand troubles to this day.

“You’re like a master, dude!”

Not the shoe guy. Our Chuck Taylor was not a bad pitcher, though mostly in the historically obscure middle relief role. He finished 28-20, with a 3.07 ERA and 31 saves. 

Chuck is also in the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders Hall of Fame. But then again, so are Woodrow Smitherman, Cromer Smotherman, and other assorted sports legends.

“You just get better every year.”

Yes, Richie Scheinblum is Jewish. No, he was not exactly Hank Greenberg. Over eight years, he (Richie, that is) finished with 1,200 at bats, a .263 average, 127 RBIs, 131 runs, and 13 homers (Greenberg did a little better than that).

Richie did have one incredible year though. In 1972, he was a starter for the Royals, finishing with 450 at bats, a .300 average (on the nose), and an All-Star berth. Interestingly, that one year accounted for a fourth of his at bats, half of his runs and RBIs, and three-quarters of his dingers.

By the way, Richie’s in the Long Island University Hall of Fame.

“How do you do it?”

Continuing our cavalcade of major-league mediocrity, Steve Dunning was up for seven years, with five different teams, finishing with a 23-41 record and a 4.56 ERA. Oddly, he was a first-round draft pick and only the second player ever to go straight to the majors after being drafted. Even more oddly, his nickname was “Stunning” Steve Dunning. 

“Like I say, totally unbelievable.”

You can probably guess Alan Foster’s stats by now.  Yup, ten years, five teams, 48-63 record, 3.74 ERA. How close did you come?

Interestingly, Alan was also a bit of a Steve Dunning as well. A top prospect, Foster was actually once on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately, like Wayne Simpson, Alan also blew out his arm. 


“Yeah, that’s nice.  So, um, can I use the airbrush now?”

Don O’Riley … You’ve all heard of this guy, right? You know … Two years, 18 games, 46 innings, 1-1 record, 6.17 ERA.

On a more serious note, Don was out of baseball completely after a motorcycle accident injured his arm. And would you believe he was subsequently killed at age 52 in a C-store robbery (he was the clerk)? Geez, poor guy …

“Man, that S, and the T, and the L?  That was really hard!”

Finally, we get someone who somebody other than their mom might remember. Wayne Granger was a decent reliever who actually led his league in saves once. He also set a then-record for appearances, with 90. He was the closer for the Reds during their early Big Red Machine days (though he performed terribly – 11.25 ERA – in the postseason for them).

Um, I don’t think the D is supposed to be quite that big.

Another somebody, Jim Perry is typically totally forgotten about, though - mainly because of his younger brother (and Hall of Famer), Gaylord. You know, what I always wondered about those two was how one brother could get the totally normal and boring name James, and the other the totally freaky and abnormal name Gaylord.

Anyway, Jim was up for 17 years, winning over 200 games, leading the league in wins twice, winning a Cy Young award, and making the All Star team three times. Like I say, not a bad player at all. 

Of course, Gaylord was up for 22 years, won over 300 games, led the league three times in wins, won two Cy Young awards, and was on the All Star team five times. I also understand their mom liked Gaylord better too.

Uh, I’m not sure the N is supposed to be that curly.

Bill Sudakis, on the other hand, is a pretty obscure guy – much too obscure to get two posts in this blog. In that other one, we looked up Suds’ nostrils, as well as learning a little about his lack of offensive and defensive ability. 

I’ll bet you didn’t know, though, that Bill was a card-carrying member of the “Bronx Zoo” Yankee teams. In fact, he got his stripes by engaging in a huge fight (including thrown furniture) with the Yanks’ other backup catcher, Bill Dempsey. Interestingly, the only person who got hurt was the person who broke up the fight, peace-loving Bobby Murcer, who broke a finger.

Bill actually played with six teams over his eight years in the bigs.

Damn those Cardinals!

Claude Osteen’s another pretty-darn-good player. He was a real workhorse, finishing an 18-year career with just under 3,500 innings. Some other career highlights include:
  • Winning 20 twice
  • Making three All Star teams
  • Appearing in two World Series, totaling 21 innings with an 0.86 ERA and 0.857 WHIP
  • Being traded straight up both for Frank Howard and for Jimmy Winn

Osteen’s nickname was “Gomer.” Between his name, his looks, and his birthplace (Caney Springs, TN), I think that one’s pretty right on target.

At a certain point, you just have to know when to stop.

Back to mediocrity. Though a first-round draft pick, all Rich McKinney ever did was bounce up and down between the majors and minors for seven years. And that resulted in career totals of not quite 900 at bats, a .225 average and a .959 fielding average. He did manage to crack 20 homers and 100 homers though. 

McKinney’s nickname was “Orbit” – for being rather spacey. Actually, he does look kinda spacey on this card. Either that or a little stoned.

Like I say …

Paul Lindblad was a guest on the Hollywood Squares TV show over 700 times! Wait a minute. Wrong guy. That guy was Paul Lyndeblad. Wait a minute …

Our Paul was a middle reliever who managed to stay around for 14 seasons. Over his 1200 innings, he finished 68-63, with 64 saves and a 3.29 ERA. Highlights include being on two world champions and being part of a four-man no-hitter.

Just … stop … 

Doyle Alexander’s been here before. In that post, I shared his stats and made fun of his ears.

Poor guy may, though, be most famous for being the booby prize in one of the “worst trades of all time.” Atlanta traded the 37-year-old veteran to Detroit for some minor leaguer by the name of John Schmoltz. Though Alexander did go 9-0 with the Tigers to finish out the year, he lasted only two more years in the bigs.  And in his last year, he went 6-18 with the Tigers, leading  the AL in losses. I hear the Smoltz kid did okay.

By the way, did you catch last week’s masterpieces?

* - author has this card


  1. I want every copy of that Chuck Taylor card. It's got a dozen different amazing things going for it.

  2. Did Chuck Taylor get his 6 year-old son to write his autograph? :-)

  3. According to the "A.L. flashes" column in The Sporting News, August 9, 1975, Bill Sudakis said that he wished he could see better; he was legally blind for driving purposes, and wore contact lenses on the field to correct 20/400 vision. How did he ever make it to the major leagues with vision like that?

    For a brief time in 1976, Jim and Gaylord Perry had identical career records of 215-174.