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Category Archives: First Base

Bob Robertson – 1973 Topps #422

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ImageRobert Eugene Robertson (born October 2, 1946 in Mt. Savage, Maryland) is a former first baseman in Major League Baseball. Robertson, who batted and threw right-handed, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Robertson broke into the Pirates’ regular lineup in 1970 playing alongside future Hall-of-Famers Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. He batted .287 with 27 home runs and 82 runs batted in on a team that won the National League East Division, the Pirates’ first trip to the post-season since winning the 1960 World Series. In 1971 Robertson hit .271 with 26 home runs and 72 RBIs. That year, the Pirates defeated the San Francisco Giants, and the Baltimore Orioles 4 games to 3 to win the World Series. In the NLCS he hit four home runs (a record later tied by Steve Garvey in 1978 and Jeffrey Leonard in 1987), three of them in the Pirates’ Game Two victory. He also added a double, setting the record for most total bases in a post-season game, as well as tying the record of 4 long hits a post-season game. Robertson would hit two more home runs in the World Series; one of those came in Game Three of Baltimore starter Mike Cuellar with Clemente on second and Stargell on first. Third-base coach Frank Oceak had given Robertson the bunt sign in this at-bat, but Robertson, Imagewho had no sacrifice bunts on the season and only one the year before, missed it. Television replays would show that Clemente had appeared to call time-out just before that pitch; however, Cuellar was already in his windup at the time. Steve Blass, the winning pitcher in Game Three, was sitting next to manager Danny Murtaugh in the Pirate dugout. The pitcher offered to pay the fine if Murtaugh imposed one on Robertson for missing the bunt sign. Murtaugh didn’t.
In the years following the World Series title, however Robertson slumped, hitting only .193 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI in 1972, .239 with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs in 1973 and .229 with 16 home runs and 48 RBIs in 1974. After having surgery done on both knees in 1974 he was reduced to only a part-time player.

Nate Colbert – 1973 Topps #340

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Nathan Colbert Jr. (born April 9, 1946 in St. Louis, Missouri), is a former American Major League Baseball player who was a first baseman with the Houston Astros (1966, 1968), San Diego Padres (1969–74), Detroit Tigers (1975), Montreal Expos (1975–76) and Oakland Athletics (1976). Signed by his hometown St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1964, Colbert saw some action with the Houston Astros in 1966 and 1968 before being selected by the Padres in the December 1968 expansion draft. In 1969, the Padres’ inaugural season, and his first full season in the big leagues, Colbert hit 24 homers, which led the club in home runs, and drove in 66 runs while batting .255. He was a National League All-Star from 1971 to 1973. Colbert’s best day in the majors was August 1, 1972, when he slammed 5 home runs – one of two players to have done so – and drove in 13 runs in a doubleheader, breaking Stan Musial’s record of 11 runs batted in. Coincidentally, a young Nate had attended the game where Stan originally set the record. This helped the Padres sweep the Atlanta Braves, 9-0 and 11-7.
Colbert’s .508 slugging percentage, 87 runs, 286 total bases, 38 home runs, 111 RBIs, 70 walks, 67 extra-base hits, 14 intentional walks and 14.8 at bats per home run helped him finish eighth in voting for the NL MVP in 1972. He finished second only to the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Bench (40) in home runs that year. His 111 RBIs also set a record that still stands for driving in the highest percentage of his team’s runs. Throughout his career with the Padres from 1969 to 1974, he often was the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal San Diego lineup. After hitting .207 in 1974, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a three-way deal. Colbert also played for the Montreal Expos and Oakland Athletics before back problems forced his retirement at 30. Colbert played on nine consecutive last-place teams, from 1968–1976. Colbert is the San Diego Padres all-time home run leader with 163.

Gene Tenace – 1973 Topps #524

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   Fury Gene Tenace (born October 10, 1946) baseball player and current coach in Major League Baseball. He was a catcher and first baseman from 1969 through 1983. Tenace was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics from Valley High School in Lucasville, OH and played for the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He batted and threw right-handed. Tenace was one of the top catchers of his era and won the 1972 World Series Most Valuable Player Award. He was known for his power, especially versus right-handed pitching.
In a 15 year career, Tenace played in 1555 games, accumulating 1060 hits in 4390 at bats for a .241 career batting average along with 201 home runs, 674 runs batted in and an on base percentage of .388. He not only caught nearly 900 games, but also played first base over 600 times. Tenace ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage as a catcher and a .993 fielding percentage as a first baseman. He reached 20 home runs in five of his seven seasons as a regular, with a high of 29 in 1975. After becoming an everyday player in 1973, he did not have an on-base average below .370 until his final year; his OBP was above .400 five times and over .390 (about 60 points above the league average) an additional three times, ending his career with an impressive .388 on base percentage. Six times he drew more than 100 bases on balls, and he led his league twice. He set the American League record for having the lowest batting average while leading the league in walks in 1974 when he posted a .211 batting average with a league-leading 110 walks. In 1977, he had a .415 on base percentage while posting a .233 batting average, the second lowest batting average with a .400 on base percentage in major league history. Less than half of his career trips to first base came via base hits, reaching 1,075 times through walks (984) and being hit by pitches (91) as opposed to only 1,060 hits.
Chuck Rosciam, a Baseball historian and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, believes that Tenace deserves a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Using six offensive measures: Average, On-base percentage, Slugging, RBIs, Runs created and Win shares—all League-Era adjusted, Rosciam ranks Tenace sixth offensively behind Mickey Cochrane, Mike Piazza, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett and Joe Torre among catchers. Tenace is tied for third in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) with Johnny Bench and Torre. He’s only behind Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra.

Frank Howard – 1973 Topps #560

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Frank Oliver Howard (born August 8, 1936 in Columbus, Ohio), nicknamed “Chico”, “The Washington Monument”, and “The Capital Punisher”, is a former left and right fielder, coach and manager in Major League Baseball who played most of his career for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Senators/Texas Rangers. One of the most physically intimidating (6 ft 8 in) hitters in the sport, he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1960, and went on to lead the American League in home runs and total bases twice each and in slugging average, runs batted in and walks once each. His 382 career home runs were the eighth most by a right-handed hitter when he retired; his 237 home runs in a Washington uniform are a record for any of that city’s several franchises, as are his 1969 totals of 48 HRs and 340 total bases. His Washington/Texas franchise records of 1,172 games, 4,120 at bats, 246 HRs, 1,141 hits, 701 RBI, 544 runs, 155 doubles, 2,074 total bases and a .503 slugging average have variously been broken by Jim Sundberg, Toby Harrah and Juan González. Following his retirement as a player, Howard managed the San Diego Padres in 1981 but finished in last place in both halves of the strike-marred season. With the Mets, he took over as manager for the last 116 games in 1983 after George Bamberger resigned, but again finished in last place. He posted a 93–133 career managerial record. He also coached for the Milwaukee Brewers (1977–80, 1985–86), Mets (1982–83, 1994–96), Seattle Mariners (1987–88), Yankees (1989, 1991–92), and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998–99). Since 2000 he has worked for the Yankees as a player development instructor. He now helps raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Bill Buckner – 1973 Topps #368

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William Joseph “Bill” Buckner  (born December 14, 1949) Despite winning a batting crown in 1980, representing the Chicago Cubs at the All-Star Game the following season and accumulating over 2,700 hits in his twenty-year career, he is best remembered for a fielding error during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a play that has since been prominently entrenched into American sports lore. Boston was leading the heavily favored New York Mets three games to two in the 1986 World Series when Game Six of the series went into extra innings. For his part, Buckner was batting just .143 against Mets pitching, and was 0-for-5 in Game 6. When the Sox scored two runs in the top of the tenth, Boston manager John McNamara chose to have Buckner take the field in the bottom of the inning instead of bringing Stapleton in as a defensive replacement for the ailing Buckner as he had in games one, two and five. New York came back to tie the game with three straight two out singles off Calvin Schiraldi and a wild pitch by Bob Stanley. Mookie Wilson fouled off several pitches before hitting a slow roller to Buckner at first base. Aware of Wilson’s speed, Buckner tried to rush the play. As a result, the ball rolled past his glove, through his legs and into right field, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run. Buckner returned to the Red Sox in 1990 as a free agent, and received a standing ovation from the crowd during player introductions at the home opener on April 9. His return was short lived, as he retired on June 5 with a .186 batting average, one home run and three RBIs. However, that one home run was an inside-the-park roundtripper that Buckner hit on April 25, 1990, off California Angels pitcher Kirk McCaskill. It was the only inside-the-park home run of his career.
On April 8, 2008, Buckner threw out the first pitch to former teammate Dwight Evans at the Red Sox home opener as they unfurled their 2007 World Series championship banner. He received a four minute standing ovation from the sell-out crowd. After the game, when asked if he had any second thoughts about appearing at the game, he said, “I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I’ve done that and I’m over that.”

Mike Epstein – 1973 Topps #38


Michael Peter Epstein(born April 4, 1943 in the Bronx, New York), nicknamed SuperJew, is a former Major League Baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, and California Angels from 1966–1974. The first baseman was noted as a strong power hitter who did not hit for a high batting average, though he walked (and was hit by pitches) so often that he finished with a respectable career .359 on base percentage. Epstein played baseball at the University of California-Berkeley. As a junior in 1963 he hit .375 and was offered a contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his father insisted he finish college. A collegiate All-American in 1964, he was a member of the first U.S. Olympic team that year, and helped them win the gold medal. He was inducted as a member of the United States National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Lou Gehrig All Time All Stars – 1976 Topps #341

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Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know. So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.
- Henry Louis “Lou” Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939

Willie McCovey – 1976 Topps #520


Willie Lee McCovey (born January 10, 1938 in Mobile, Alabama), nicknamed “Mac”, “Big Mac”, and “Stretch”, is a former Major League Baseball first baseman. He played nineteen seasons for the San Francisco Giants, and three more for the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, between 1959 and 1980. He batted and threw left-handed and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. One of the most intimidating power hitters of his era, McCovey was called “the scariest hitter in baseball” by pitcher Bob Gibson, an assessment with which Reggie Jackson concurred. McCovey’s powerful swing generated 521 home runs, 231 of which he hit in Candlestick Park, the most hit there by any player, and included a home run of Sept. 16, 1966 described as the longest ever hit in that stadium. McCovey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. It was his first year of eligibility and he appeared on 346 of 425 ballots cast (81.4 percent). In 1999, he ranked 56th on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Since 1980, the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to honor his spirit and leadership. The inlet of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field fence of AT&T Park, historically known as China Basin, has been redubbed McCovey Cove in his honor. Across McCovey Cove from the park a statue of McCovey was erected and the land on which it stands named McCovey Point. The Giants retired his uniform number 44, which he wore in honor of Hank Aaron, a fellow Mobile, Alabama native. McCovey was inducted to the Afro Sports Hall of Fame [www.afrosportshall.com ], February 7, 2009 in Oakland, California. The mission of the Afro Sports Hall of Fame is to broaden the public’s understanding of African American/Ethnic history and the role of diversity and   tolerance in the growth of professional sports.

Willie McCovey – 1974 Topps #250


Willie Lee McCovey (born January 10, 1938 in Mobile, Alabama), nicknamed “Mac”, “Big Mac”, and “Stretch”, is a former Major League Baseball first baseman. He played nineteen seasons for the San Francisco Giants, and three more for the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, between 1959 and 1980. He batted and threw left-handed and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. One of the most intimidating power hitters of his era, McCovey was called “the scariest hitter in baseball” by pitcher Bob Gibson, an assessment with which Reggie Jackson concurred. McCovey’s powerful swing generated 521 home runs, 231 of which he hit in Candlestick Park, the most hit there by any player, and included a home run of Sept. 16, 1966 described as the longest ever hit in that stadium. McCovey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. It was his first year of eligibility and he appeared on 346 of 425 ballots cast (81.4 percent). In 1999, he ranked 56th on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Since 1980, the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to honor his spirit and leadership. The inlet of San Francisco Bay beyond the right field fence of AT&T Park, historically known as China Basin, has been redubbed McCovey Cove in his honor. Across McCovey Cove from the park a statue of McCovey was erected and the land on which it stands named McCovey Point. The Giants retired his uniform number 44, which he wore in honor of Hank Aaron, a fellow Mobile, Alabama native. McCovey was inducted to the Afro Sports Hall of Fame [www.afrosportshall.com], February 7, 2009 in Oakland, California. The mission of the Afro Sports Hall of Fame is to broaden the public’s understanding of African American/Ethnic history and the role of diversity and  tolerance in the growth of professional sports.

Harmon Killebrew – 1974 Topps #400


Harmon Clayton Killebrew (June 29, 1936 – May 17, 2011), nicknamed “Killer” and “Hammerin’ Harmon”, was an American professional baseball first baseman, third baseman, and left fielder. During his 22-year career in Major League Baseball (MLB), he played for the Washington Senators, a team which later became the Minnesota Twins, and the Kansas City Royals. When he retired, he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League (AL) home runs and was the AL career leader in home runs by a right-handed batter (since broken by Alex Rodriguez). He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. Killebrew was a stocky 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m), 210-pound (95.3 kg) hitter with a compact swing that generated tremendous power. He became one of the AL’s most feared power hitters of the 1960s, hitting 40 home runs in a season eight times. In 1965, he played in the World Series with the Minnesota Twins, who lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. His finest season was 1969, when he hit 49 home runs, recorded 140 runs batted in (RBI), and won the AL Most Valuable Player Award. Killebrew led the league six times in home runs and three times in RBIs, and was named to eleven All-Star teams. With quick hands and exceptional upper-body strength, Killebrew was known not just for the frequency of his home runs but also for their distance. He hit the longest measured home runs at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, 520 ft (160 m), and Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, 471 ft (144 m), and was the first of just four batters to hit a baseball over the left field roof at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. Despite his nicknames and his powerful style of play, Killebrew was considered by his colleagues to be a quiet, kind man. Asked once what hobbies he had, Killebrew replied, “Just washing the dishes, I guess.” After retiring from baseball, Killebrew became a television broadcaster for several baseball teams from 1976 to 1988, and also served as a hitting instructor for the Oakland Athletics. He also divorced and remarried during this time, moving to Arizona in 1990 and chairing the Harmon Killebrew Foundation. Killebrew was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in December 2010, and died five months later.

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