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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Vida Blue – 1973 Topps #430

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   Vida Rochelle Blue, Jr.(born July 28, 1949) is a former Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher. During a 17-year career, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics (1969–77), San Francisco Giants (1978–81; 1985–86), and Kansas City Royals (1982–83) He won the American League Cy Young award and Most Valuable Player Award in 1971. He is a six-time all-star, and is one of only four pitchers in major league history to start the all-star game for both the American League (1971) and the National League (1978); Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay would later duplicate the feat. Blue was a power pitcher that worked fast and pounded the strike zone. He possessed a breaking curveball that he threw on occasion and an above average change-up, but his signature pitch was a blistering fastball that dialed up to nearly 100 miles per hour. In The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, all-time hits leader Pete Rose stated that Blue ‘threw as hard as anyone’ he had ever faced, and baseball historian Bill James cited Blue as the hardest-throwing lefty, and the second hardest thrower of his era, behind only Nolan Ryan. Blue battled drug addiction over the course of his career. After the 1983 season, he and former teammates Willie Wilson, Jerry Martin and Willie Aikens pleaded guilty to attempting to purchase cocaine. In 1985, he testified in the Pittsburgh drug trials. Blue also made a name and career after baseball for himself in the San Francisco Bay Area by donating his time to many charitable causes, mostly promoting baseball in the inner city. In 1971, Blue accompanied Bob Hope on his USO Christmas tour of Vietnam and other military installations. Vida currently lives in San Francisco, CA and is active in promoting the sport of baseball.


Ted Kubiak – 1973 Topps #652

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   Theodore Rodger Kubiak (born May 12, 1942 in New Brunswick, New Jersey) is a former switch-hitting infielder for  the Oakland Athletics, the Milwaukee Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Texas Rangers, and the San Diego Padres. He was a member of the Oakland Athletics teams that won three World Series in a row (1972–74). Kubiak still holds the Brewers’ record for most RBI in a single game, seven (later equalled by Jose Hernandez and Richie Sexson), which he set at Boston on July 18, 1970, the team’s first year in Milwaukee. The record is all the more remarkable given that Kubiak was not known for his batting.
Kubiak reentered baseball as a manager and took over as skipper of the Modesto A’s in mid-1989 from Lenn Sakata. He remained in Modesto for four more years before joining the Cleveland Indians organization in 1994. Kubiak managed the Canton-Akron Indians in 1994 and 1995, then moved down to the New York-Penn League for five years. He was with the Watertown Indians from 1996 to 1998, and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 1999 and 2000. He moved up to the Columbus RedStixx in 2001, the Kinston Indians in 2002, then returned to Mahoning Valley in 2003. From 2004 to 2008 he was the minor league defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Indians. In 2009 he returned to managing with the Arizona Extended League Indians, and in 2010 managed the Lake County Captains to the Midwest League Championship. Kubiak is a graduate of Highland Park, New Jersey High School, class of 1960.

Steve Renko – 1973 Topps#623

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   Steve Renko, Jr. (born December 10, 1944 in Kansas City, Kansas) is a former right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball for the Montreal Expos (1969–1976), Chicago Cubs (1976–1977), Chicago White Sox (1977), Oakland Athletics (1978), Boston Red Sox (1979–1980), California Angels (1981–1982) and Kansas City Royals (1983). He helped the Angels win the 1982 American League Western Division, with a win/loss of 11-6. Steve was a 15 game winner in 1971 and 1973, led the National League in earned runs allowed (115) in 1971, led the National League in wild pitches (19) in 1974, and he ranks 99th on the career home runs allowed List (248). In 15 seasons he had a 134-146 win-loss record, 451 games, 365 games started, 57 complete games, 9 shutouts, 36 games finished, 6 saves, 2,494 innings pitched, 2,438 hits allowed, 1,233 runs allowed, 1,107 earned runs allowed, 248 home runs allowed, 1,010 walks allowed, 1,455 strikeouts, 22 hit batsmen, 73 wild pitches, 10,704 batters faced, 86 intentional walks, 4 balks and a 3.99 earned run average. In 1979, he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Oakland A’s in Oakland, only to be broken up by a Rickey Henderson double with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Renko pitched 5 career one-hitters.

Sam McDowell – 1973 Topps #511

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   Samuel Edward Thomas McDowell (born September 21, 1942 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), He played fifteen seasons in Major League Baseball, with the first 11 coming for the Cleveland Indians before a 1971 trade to the San Francisco Giants, followed by stints with the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. A six-time All-Star, McDowell was primarily a starting pitcher during his major league career. In 1970, McDowell put together some impressive totals. For the first and only time in his career, he reached the 20-win mark, posting a record of 20-12. He also led the American League in innings pitched, topping the 300 mark at 305. He reached the 300-strikeout mark as well for the first time since 1965 at 304, just barely missing out on a K/9 rate of 9.0, although he led the league in both those categories again. He also threw a career-high 19 complete games, second in the league to Mike Cuellar, giving him 37 complete games in the last two seasons. All this, combined with a fifth-best 2.92 ERA, led to his selection as “AL Pitcher of the Year” by The Sporting News. However, there were still some warning signs, as McDowell’s BB/9 jumped back up to 3.9, and he led the league in walks allowed with 131. He also led the league in wild pitches again with 17, the first time he had done so since 1967. He also gave up a career-high 25 home runs. McDowell finished with 2,453 career strikeouts and an average of 8.86 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, ranking him ninth all-time as of 2011. At the time of his retirement, his strikeout rate was bested by only two pitchers: Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. His ratio of 7.03 hits allowed per nine innings also places him ninth all-time as of 2011. He ranks eighth all time on the list of career ten or more strikeout games with 74, tied with Bob Gibson. His 2159 strikeouts as an Indian place him second all time on the team’s career list, behind Bob Feller. In four All-Star appearances, McDowell struck out twelve NL All-Stars over eight innings, and was the losing pitcher (in relief) in the 1965 game.
Following his “retirement”, the drinking increased, finally to the point where it cost him his marriage. His wife left him, taking their two children with her, leaving him desolate and broke. A failed business venture had left McDowell $190,000 in debt, and by early 1980 was living with his parents at his childhood home in Pittsburgh while selling insurance. Eventually, McDowell checked himself into Gateway Rehab, a rehabilitation facility located outside of Pittsburgh. After repaying his debts, he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned associates degrees in sports psychology and addiction. Eventually, McDowell returned to the major leagues as a sports addiction counselor with the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. McDowell earned a World Series ring while working with the 1993 Blue Jays. McDowell also works as a consultant with the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) and the Major League Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA). In 2001, McDowell remarried, and started a retirement community for former players. He became chairman and CEO at The City of Legends, a retirement resort in Clermont, Florida. McDowell married a second time after meeting Eva, a Slovak tourist, when asking for directions in Florida. The character of Sam Malone, the alcoholic ex-Red Sox pitcher portrayed by Emmy Award winning actor Ted Danson in the television program Cheers, was based on the baseball life of McDowell. In a 2011 interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, McDowell joked “I would say I’m better with women than [Sam Malone] was,”

Rico Carty – 1973 Topps #435

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   Ricardo Adolfo Jacobo CartyRicardo Adolfo Jacobo Carty (born September 1, 1939 San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic) Nicknamed Beeg Boy, he played mostly as an outfielder in Major League Baseball from 1963 to 1979. Carty played for the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs of the National League and the Oakland A’s, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers of the American League. Carty’s career was marked by battles with injuries, illnesses and with team mates. Carty signed a contract with the Milwaukee Braves as a free agent in 1959. While he was an excellent hitter, he had poor defensive skills. Originally a catcher, Carty was converted into an outfielder in order to lessen his defensive liabilities and to get his bat into the everday lineup. After four years in the minor leagues, Carty made an impressive major league debut in 1964, finishing second to Roberto Clemente in the National League Batting Championship with a .330 batting average and, finishing the season as runner-up to Dick Allen in the 1964 National League Rookie of the Year Award ballot. Carty had his best season in 1970 when he hit 25 home runs with 101 runs batted in and, won the National League Batting Championship with a .366 batting average, the highest average in the major leagues since Ted Williams recorded a .388 batting average in 1957. Despite not appearing on the All-Star ballot, he was voted to be a starting outfielder for the National League as a write-in candidate in the 1970 All-Star Game, playing alongside Hank Aaron and Willie Mays in the outfield. Carty also compiled a 31-game hitting streak in 1970 (the longest by a Brave in the franchise’s Atlanta history until it was surpassed by Dan Uggla’s 33-game streak in 2011) and, finished 10th in the 1970 National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Ralph Garr – 1973 Topps #15

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  Ralph Allen Garr (born December 12, 1945 in Monroe, Louisiana) played outfield for the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. He batted left-handed and threw right. Garr attended Grambling State University. Garr led the National League in hitting in 1974, compiling a .353 average and being named to the National League All-Star team. He had 149 hits heading into the All-Star break that year, a record that stands to this day. However, the year before he had the ninth-lowest average (.299) and  the lowest on-base percentage (.323) for a player with at least 200 hits. Garr batted .300 or better five times during his career. In a 13-year career, he batted .306 with 75 home runs and 408 RBIs in 1317 games. He had 1562 career hits in 5108 at bats. Garr had 717 career runs scored. Garr had a remarkable talent for hitting to all fields, a very valuable skill because fielders could never predict how to set up their defense when Garr came to the plate.

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.

Mike Corkins – 1973 Topps #461

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Michael Patrick Corkins (born May 25, 1946, in Riverside, California) a former Major League Baseball pitcher. The right-hander was signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent before the 1965 season, and later drafted by the San Diego Padres from the Giants as the 31st pick in the 1968 MLB expansion draft. He played for the Padres from 1969 to 1974. Corkins is best-known for giving up Willie Mays’s 600th home run. The majority of his 157 appearances was as a relief pitcher, but he did start 44 games. During his career, Corkins gave up 248 walks in just 459.1 innings pitched, for a BB/9IP of 4.86, much higher than the National League average at that time. However, with 335 strikeouts, his K/9IP was 6.56, which was higher than the National League average. Corkins wielded a strong bat (for a pitcher), hitting 5 home runs with a batting average of .202 in 119 lifetime at bats. He finished his career with a total of 19 wins, 28 losses, 9 saves, 48 games finished, and an ERA of 4.39. Corkins’ major league debut with San Diego was mentioned in pitcher Jim Bouton’s 1969 book, Ball Four. The book cites infielder Marty Martínez as yelling “Welcome to the National League, kid.” from the Houston Astros dugout during Corkins’ poor performance.

Manny Sanguillen – 1973 Topps #250

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   Manuel De Jesus Sanguillen (born March 21, 1944 in Colón, Panama), is a former catcher in the Major Leagues. He was named to the All-Star team three times, in 1971, 1972, and 1975. He played primarily for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but also for the Oakland Athletics in 1977. Sanguillen’s lifetime batting average of .296 is the fourth highest by a catcher since World War II, and tenth highest for catchers in Major League Baseball history. Although he was often overshadowed by his contemporary, Johnny Bench, Sanguillén was considered one of the best catchers in Major League baseball in the early 1970s. While he didn’t possess Bench’s power hitting ability, Sanguillen hit for a higher batting average. He was an integral member of the Pirates teams that won three consecutive National League Eastern Division pennants between 1970 and 1972, and a World Series victory in 1971. Sanguillen was also a fast baserunner for a catcher and was a good defensive player with a strong throwing arm.
Manuel De Jesus Sanguillen Magan In a 13 year career, Sanguillen played in 1448 games, accumulating 1500 hits in 5062 at bats for a .296 career batting average along with 65 home runs and 585 runs batted in.[1] He ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage. Sanguillen was the Pirates’ catcher on September 20, 1969 when Bob Moose pitched a no-hitter. Along with his three All-Star Game appearances, he was a member of two world championship winning teams in 1971 and 1979, and finished in eighth place in the 1971 Most Valuable Player Award balloting results. Sanguillen edged out Johnny Bench on The Sporting News National League All-Star Team in 1971, the only time between 1967 and 1975 that Bench was not selected. He was also a close friend of the late Roberto Clemente. Sanguillen was the only member of the Pirates not to attend Clemente’s funeral, choosing instead to dive the waters where Clemente’s plane had crashed in a futile effort to find his friend. Sanguillen currently operates “Manny’s BBQ”, a barbecue-style concession stand at the Pirates’ current home, PNC Park. He sits in a chair greeting fans in line to buy food, signing autographs and posing for photos.

Willis Reed – 1972 -’73 Topps #105

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   Willis Reed, Jr. (born June 25, 1942) is a retired American basketball player, coach and general manager. He spent his entire professional playing career (1964–1974) with the New York Knicks. In 1982, his outstanding record and achievements were recognized by his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1997, he was voted one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” After retiring as a player, Reed served as assistant and head coach with several teams for nearly a decade, then was promoted to General Manager & Vice President of Basketball Operations (1989 to 1996) for the New Jersey Nets. As Senior Vice President of Basketball, he led them to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. 1982, Reed was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. He is widely considered as one of the greatest Knicks players ever, with the likes of Walt Frazier and Patrick Ewing.
In 1964 Reed was drafted 10th overall by the Knicks, where he quickly made a name as a fierce, dominating and physical force on both ends of the floor. Reed made an immediate impact with the Knicks. In March 1965 he scored 46 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, the second highest single-game total ever by a Knicks rookie. For the season, he ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring (19.5 points per game) and fifth in rebounding (14.7 rebounds per game). He also began his string of All-Star appearances and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. In his first seasons with the Knicks, he played power forward and later gained fame as the starting center. Despite his relatively average stature for a basketball player, he made up for his lack of height by playing a physical game, often ending seasons with respectable averages in blocking and rebounding. (He stood 6-foot-10 when contemporaries such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood 7-1 and 7–2, respectively.)
Reed’s most famous performance took place on May 8, 1970, during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden. Due to a severe thigh injury, a torn muscle that had previously kept him out of Game 6, he was considered unlikely to play in Game 7. Yet Reed surprised the fans by walking onto the court during warmups, prompting widespread applause. Starting the game, he scored the Knicks’ first two field goals on his first two shot attempts, his only points of the game. Reed’s performance inspired the Knicks, as teammate Walt “Clyde” Frazier went on to score 36 points with 18 assists. The Knicks won the game 113–99, giving New York City its first NBA title. The moment Reed walked onto the court was voted the greatest moment in the history of Madison Square Garden.

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