1975 Topps Military Service for Veteran’s Day

This is a 1975 Topps-style tribute to the service men and women who’ve served to protect all of us.

On this November 11th, I share five cards from the set that pay homage to ballplayers’ military service on the back of the cards.

Garry Maddox – Card No. 240

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Garry served two years in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 in Vietnam.

 

Al Bumbry – Card No. 358

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Al also served in the United States Army. He led a platoon in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star.

 

Dave Goltz – Card No. 419

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Dave served in the Army Reserve when called to duty in 1969 to be a helicopter mechanic.

 

Ed Figueroa – Card No. 476

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Ed joined the United States Marine Corps and did a tour in Vietnam in the 1969 season.

 

Jerry Terrell – Card No. 654

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Jerry served in Vietnam in 1969.

 

There are other players from the set who weren’t acknowledged on the ’75 cards primarily because they who served but before they started playing in the majors. These included Bill Campbell, who “saw combat duty in Viet Nam as a radio operator” according to the back of his 1980 Topps card; Jim Bibby, who was a truck driver in Vietnam; plus others like Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan who served in the Reserves.

Their contributions like the countless non-ballplayers are in our thoughts today.

Blog Inspirations: A Cracked Bat and 1991 Petro Canada

I didn’t expect to be away from writing for so long, but sometimes life throws you curveballs.

Luckily this isn’t a paid gig so any pressure to produce content is solely my own. I’ve gotten over feeling forced to post often. That keeps this a fun hobby and not a drag. I write because I like it and if someone reads and comments, that’s icing (and I like that too). Anyways…

Two things happened during this time and they’re both related to Julie from A Cracked Bat blog. Thing one is she was nice and posted a welcome comment on a blog I started on Blogger earlier this year (and also put on hold).

The reason I read baseball card blogs is it leads to inspiration and discovery. So thing two is Julie wrote a post about getting some cards in the mail. These included Petro Canada oddballs that really caught my eye – they’re 3D pop outs. How cool is that?

I checked COMC and they had a bunch (see 1991 Petro-Canada All Star FanFest Stand-Ups). They’re not super cheap but also not that expensive (except for players with a single card for sale, which are hit by limited supply price distortion).

So I tagged a George Brett on my watch list to mull it over. But eventually I had a flash of insight about how I could really fit one into my collection: a 1975 tribute card.

The back of Carlton Fisk’s card has this one-liner: “Hit dramatic game winning  HR in ’75 World Series against Cincinnati” – it’s an important one-liner. Plus it’s Carlton Fisk in 3-D! So I clicked buy and the rest is history.

I haven’t brought myself to convert it into 3-D mode so if you want to see one opened up, that’s a good reason to meander over to Julie’s post that started this.

I also wasn’t able to find much about these cards until I hit a dormant blog’s post. Apparently these were handed out at the 1991 All Star Game in Toronto (now the name of this series makes sense).

Thanks Julie for your blog, I really enjoy reading it!

1991 Petro-Canada 007 1991 Petro-Canada 007b

 

Book Review: 1975 Red Sox

When you’re a kid, you end up in places because that’s where your parents go. One of my favorites was the mall, where I’d plow through stuff at toy shops and play video games. Eventually, I’d end up at B. Dalton’s, a bookstore chain that existed before Amazon took over. There I’d chase down Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Grownup books weren’t on my agenda, but if I got bored I’d look at the handful of photos in their thick books. 1975 Red Sox: American League Champions flips the equation – this book has 218 photos within its 127 pages. If I saw this book as a kid, there’s no doubt I would’ve read the whole thing.

1975 Red Sox book

Overview

Ray Sinibaldi saw 1975’s World Series in person including games 6 and 7. Ray has a trove of photo negatives from 1975 and rather than hoard them, he’s generously shared them with the world. He’s a teacher, a writer, and a baseball fan who loves the Red Sox. This trifecta of a background is the secret ingredient that makes his book such an enjoyable read.

Hall of Famer Fred Lynn leads off with a reflective and heartfelt foreword about the experience and teamwork.

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Fred Lynn’s SSPC card (photo from the 1975 season)

“Freddy was my first choice, as in 1975 he was the MVP and the Rookie of the Year. It had never happened before and has happened only once since,” Ray recalled. “I contacted him and within an hour I received a response that he would do it… His foreword speaks for itself and he was perfect for the job.”

Chapter-by-Chapter

The book traces the Red Sox path to the 1975 World Series with photographs bursting forth from the first chapter, The Bridge Between Two Pennants (1967 and 1975). It’s the Ocean’s 11 equivalent of a baseball documentary where we meet the crew that aims to pull off the heist of the century.

You get to know the 1975 team as they’re built over the years through trades and rookies joining. This is what they looked like on baseball cards at the time…

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Jim Rice came up through the Red Sox farm system, Luis Tiant and Rick Miller joined in 1971, and Carlton Fisk arrived in 1972 (then dealt with injuries). Reggie Smith was traded away for Rick Wise and Bernie Carbo in 1973, Dwight Evans and Bill Lee arrived in 1973, and Jim Rice started in August of 1974 followed within 18 days by Fred Lynn and another rookie, Rick Burleson.

You’ll find candid shots – ones you won’t find on most baseball cards – like the brawl between the Red Sox and Yankees (with Carlton Fisk in a choke hold by Gene Michael).

Chapter 2 digs into the 1975 season. Denny Doyle joins in June through a trade. Manager Darrell Johnson shows up in this chapter along with action shots of Doug Griffin, Juan Beniquez, Bob Heise, Rogelio Moret, Tim Blackwell and Cecil Cooper. I didn’t find Tim McCarver mentioned but he played in 1975 so he’s included.

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Why are there Angels doing in my Red Sox card stash? The Angels traded Heise for Tommy Harper in Dec. 1974, and Doyle in 1975  for Chuck Ross and some cash.

Chapter 3 covers the Pennant games and the 1975 World Series (which many view as one of the best ever).  To this day, game 7 is still the most watched of any World Series TV broadcast.

The photos in this chapter alone are worth the price of admission. I also liked the stories like Fred Lynn’s insights into a rookie’s sleepless night walking the streets of Boston before a big game.

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Here’s a final set of Red Sox that played in the 1975 World Series: Reggie Cleveland, Diego Segui, Dick Drago, Dick Pole, Bob Montgomery, Jim Burton, and Jim Willoughby

I also learned some random history lessons like how Hurricane Eloise dumped 5 inches of rain on Fenway Park, which required some clever groundskeeper techniques to dry it out. I found a link to a Harvard Crimson new story about the hurricane’s impact. It’s a weird experience reading an actual 1975 news story online.

Chapter 4 ends with a focus on Luis Tiant and some poignant shots with his father. It’s a great finish to a book that perfectly blends my obsession of 1975 baseball with my interest in historical photographs.

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PostScript

I had a chance to ask Ray some questions…

Q: I read that many photos in the book were from discarded 35mm negatives. Can you share more about that and did you take any of the photos in the book yourself when you attended games?

Ray: I have been collecting photos since I was a kid in 1967. The idea for the book came from my first Arcadia book in 2012, Images of Fenway Park and then I came across the discarded negatives of both the 1967 and 1975 season. This led to my 1967 and 1975 books. I did not take any photos during the games in 1975. However a friend took a couple outside Fenway with Luis. My best guess about the negatives becoming available: when newspapers sent photographers to cover games they would send a couple and each would take probably hundreds of photos. Maybe four or five would go out over the wire and the rest would be archived. As we move to digitization negatives become obsolete and are sold off and thus resold. I have about 125 negative strips with four or five photos in each. Then I became a history detective…Great fun.

Q: Are any photos in color?

Some of my collection is in color but the Arcadia series calls for black and white. However, I am under contract to deliver a book in 2018 called “Modern Images of Fenway Park”… 90% of those will be in color and I have taken many of them.

Q: I understand you got a season ticket in 1975. Was that tough to get?

Not at all. In 1972 my brother and I bought a package that were for Sundays, Holidays and opening day. It included access to playoffs and World Series games.

Q: The Tiant ending was pleasant surprise. What made you end the book that way?

I have been a proponent for Luis election to the Hall of Fame since Catfish Hunter was elected in 1987. They were contemporaries and I saw both of them pitch, often. Catfish is a worthy inductee. As a baseball historian, I went to work and found that Luis career can be laid upon the careers of Catfish, Don Drysdale and Jim Bunning. They are nearly identical. Add in Luis post season performances and it adds to his credentials. Since the inception of sabermetrics into the discussion of Hall of Fame consideration and it elevates his career. I met Luis back in 2004 when he was inducted into the pitchers portion of the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame in Hernando FL (now at Tropicana Field in Tampa). And a few years ago I reconnected with him at the Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice FL. (photo page 125). I learned on that day that he is as great a guy as he was a pitcher and I also came to realize what it would mean to him to take his rightful place in Cooperstown.

I have been going to Fenway Park since 1959, I have seen a lot in my day and I will unequivocally tell you that if I had to win ONE GAME and could choose a pitcher it would be Luis Tiant. If you want to watch what he is made of, youtube the fourth game of the 1975 World Series. The Sox were down two games to one and on the road. Watch this 169 pitch complete game effort and you will see the measure of the man, the competitor, the teammate. It is the best pitched game I’ve ever seen and after you watch it I would love to talk about it with you. The last chapter is my tribute to him and I hope it may wake up a few voters.

Q: Do you experience any connections between your day-job at the Youth Ranch and the writing you do?

Ray: I am fortunate enough to burn with a passion for both endeavors. American philosopher Joseph Campbell said “Pursue your bliss.” If you do, you will never work for a living. I am blessed as a result of being immersed in my bliss in both of these aspects of my life… I never work.

 

I’m grateful that Ray decided to write this fun and educational book. You can follow him at his blog fenwaypark100.

1975 Baseball’s Six Degrees of Separation Fuji Style

Fuji of The Chronicles of Fuji, threw down a challenge / contest with a post at the start of February. It’s a great idea – connect a player to another through cards by way of the six degrees of separation concept.

It’s been a tough month to find time to post but I was able to eke this out. So here’s my take on Fuji’s idea – a card journey that starts with 1975 Topps.

I start with Card #1 of 1975 Topps: Hank Aaron’s landmark setting record documented on a card. It’s the first place I’d start for many reasons. It had an meaning not only for baseball but also for social reasons. Plus the event and the trying time leading up to it speaks to Hank Aaron’s character.

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The first connection is to Al Downing, the pitcher that Aaron hit his 715th record setting home run.

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Tom House is the guy who caught the ball – here’s his recollection about it. House was born in Seattle Washington and coincidentally he also made his last MLB appearance with the Seattle Mariners. House gave the ball back to Aaron, his Atlanta Braves team mate (there were players positioned in the stands to catch it).

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After retiring House coached for the San Diego Padres, the team that Dave Winfield started playing on in the majors. And out of all the players in the 1975 Topps set – Winfield’s the one who played the longest, retiring in 1995. Nobody from the set lasted until 1995.

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George Brett also started his MLB career in 1973. Here’s a young and older Brett. He played for one team during his whole career. He retired on October 3, 1993.

1993 Pinnacle 294 George Brett

And tying it back to 1975 Topps, Robin Yount retired on the same exact date that George Brett retired. Like Brett, he also played on one team, his entire career, the Milwaukee Brewers. He was the final 1975 Topps player (that was also Hank Aaron’s teammate) to retire.

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Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Jim Colburn 226 & Charlie Williams 98 (#23)

Transformation.

When I think of baseball players from the 70’s, I see their photos from the 1975 Topps set.

And that’s the way it was… until I caught a glimpse of some SSPC cards that were unique in all sorts of ways. I got the whole set and my world view of 1975 baseball players changed.

Jim Colburn was clean shaven when his 1975 card was at my local mini-mart, but 1975 Jim really had a perm doo a twirly mustache.

Finding the SSPC set was like unearthing photographs of people you’ve known all your life and discovering their wild and crazy side.

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Charlie Williams had straight hair and so seeing him sporting a perm doo still takes some getting used to. It took until 1978 Topps Charlie Williams to ditch the perm.

And the dusk, sunset shots… there’s a feeling when I’m at a ballpark on a warm summer night when the sun starts to set. Charlie’s card reminds me of that feeling – it’s a card that transcends being just a card.

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I still usually think of the ’75 players Topps photos first, but now I sometimes think of their other side.

Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Darrell Porter 232 (#26)

Facial Hair.

One difference between the 70’s and today is the diversity of facial hair in the public. It wasn’t like all baseball players had moustaches, but it seems like there were a lot more than today.

Darrell Porter looked like a clean cut ball player on this 1975 Topps card. And then transitioned into a handlebar moustache tough looking guy. If Topps Porter ran into SSPC Porter in a bar, I don’t think he’d want to start any trouble with himself.

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Card Spotlight: 1976 SSPC Top 30 Countdown Jim Hunter 425 (#27)

Nickname appropriate.

Catfish Hunter’s SSPC card pictures him in a pose that matches his nickname.

If you bought a Topps card in 1975, his card showed him as an A but he was really a Yankee by then. If you also owned the SSPC card, you’d have all the teams represented that Hunter every played on. He didn’t play in the major leagues. Thought technically he started as a Kansas City Athletic.

Both of these cards capture the transition nicely.

1976 sspc 425  1975 230