Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#436 - Willie Aikens

What a card: This is the last card of Willie Aikens' major league career. He was released by the Blue Jays early in the 1985 season.

My observation on the front: I have no memory of Aikens being a Blue Jay.

More opinion from me: But I do remember well the hubbub over Aikens in 1980, the fact that he was named after Willie Mays, his electric postseason that year, and almost carrying Kansas City to a World Series title. He was almost exclusively referred to as "Willie Mays Aikens" then, but that kind of evaporated in the years that followed, and none of his cards list his name that way (although his signature on his 1980 Topps card says "Willie Mays Aikens").

Something you might know: Aikens burst on the major league scene with the Angels in 1979, hitting 21 home runs before being traded to Kansas City. But most remember him as one of the suspended drug-abusing players connected to the Pittsburgh drug trials, and Aikens' later incarceration after being convicted of distributing cocaine in 1994.

Something you might not know: Aikens, who was released from prison in 2008 after federal drug sentencing laws were changed, said he could have received a lighter sentence than the 20 years if he had helped the police catch a drug dealer that he knew. He said police wanted him to wear a wire tap and buy drugs from the dealer, but Aikens refused.

My observation on the back: The South Carolina doctor who added Mays to Willie's name did so two weeks after the New York Giants won the World Series and Willie Mays made his famous catch of the drive by Vic Wertz.

The blog wants to speak now: Really tired after a night at the ballpark and a lot of driving. I'm taking a research break.

Monday, July 27, 2015

#435 - Dan Petry

What a card: Dan Petry was attempting to build off a stellar 1984 season, in which he finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting, when this card was issued.

My observation on the front: Petry's gut looks twice the size of his legs in this photo. I've never liked those unflattering pitcher pictures.

More opinion from me: It's a little freakish how all of the Tigers' starters looked so similar in 1984 ... OK, Juan Berenguer didn't look the same.

Something you might know: Petry won 19 games for the Tigers in 1983 and 18 in 1984, but he took Detroit's only loss in the 1984 World Series.

Something you might not know: Petry grew up in California, but he was a fan of the Tigers as a boy. He was then drafted by Detroit in 1976.

My observation on the back: One of the sons of Dan and Christine is Jeff Petry, a six-year NHL veteran defenseman who played for Montreal last season.

The blog wants to speak now: The Pop Culture tab is updated.

Monday, July 20, 2015

#434 - Gene Richards

What a card: This is the last card of Gene Richards issued during his career. He was granted free agency at the end of the 1984 season and no one picked him up.

My observation on the front: That is an interesting elbow rest for Richards. I kind of don't want to know where the other end of the bat is.

More opinion from me: Don't tell anyone, but Richards was a favorite of mine as a kid. Loved the bearded black speedsters from the '70s, even guys like Richards who played for only detestable teams (Padres and Giants).

Something you might know: Richards set a rookie record in 1977 by stealing 56 bases during the season. The record was later surpassed by Juan Samuel and then Vince Coleman, whose 110 stolen bases in his rookie year looks pretty unbeatable right now.

Something you might not know: Richards played for South Carolina State where he was a teammate of future Angels and Royals player Willie Mays Aikens. South Carolina State dropped baseball the year after Richards was drafted by the Padres.

My observation on the back: I'll add a few more "false" responses. Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65), Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63),  Ryan Howard (58) and Luis Gonzalez (57).

The blog wants to speak now: The News category is updated.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

#433 - Jim Morrison

What a card: Jim Morrison had completed his third season as a utility infielder for the Pirates when this card hit packs. He was still a year away from being the Pirates' full-time third baseman, which lasted for only a little more than a season.

My observation on the front: Why there's those caps that nobody liked at the All-Star Game the other day. Although, these are designed a little more pleasantly, and had been established as a virtual Pirates' trademark at this point.

More opinion from me: Baseball-reference has Morrison playing 61 times at third in 1984 and just 26 times at second, so Topps listed the positions in proper order.

Something you might know: Morrison enjoyed a breakout season for the White Sox in 1980. He started all 162 games as Chicago's second baseman, compiled 171 hits and finished third in the AL in doubles with 40.

Something you might not know: Morrison played in the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989 and led the league in home runs with 17.

My observation on the back: Rusty Staub is still tied for the major league record along with Dave Philley (who did it for the Phillies, of course, in 1958).

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames category is updated.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

#432 - Thad Bosley

What a card: Thad Bosley was entering the most productive period of his career in 1985. After hitting .296 in 55 games for the Cubs in 1984, he would bat a career-high .328 in 108 games in 1985.

My observation on the front: The cropping on this card forces you to focus on Bosley and nothing else. I like it.

More opinion from me: My first thought of Bosley is his 1978 Topps rookie card as a member of the California Angels. Those rookie cards stick in your head.

Something you might know: Bosley was known as a top pinch-hitter and led the majors in pinch-hits in 1985.

Something you might not know: Bosley and former Mariners teammate Lenny Randle cut a record as a member of a funk group called "The Ballplayers" in 1983. (Their song "American Worker" sounds pretty good).  Bosley was an accomplished musician and his musical ability was featured in a few different articles about him during his career.

My observation on the back: Garvey's record was still fresh at the time this card was issued. His consecutive games streak ended in July 1983.

The blog wants to speak now: The News tab is updated.

Friday, July 10, 2015

#431 - U.L. Washington

What a card: This is U.L. Washington's final Topps card with the Royals. He was traded to the Expos in January 1985, probably before many collectors even pulled this card.

My observation on the front: Washington never looks right without his afro. ... hah, you thought I was going to say "toothpick," didn't you?

More opinion from me: The periods after the letters in Washington's first name aren't necessary. U and L don't stand for anything.

Something you might know: Washington replaced Freddie Patek as the Royals' starting shortstop and was known for holding a toothpick in his mouth when he hit and fielded.

Something you might not know: If the Royals didn't have artificial turf, Washington would never have used a toothpick. Before coming to the Royals, he would put a blade of grass in his mouth.

My observation on the back: Trivia questions for novices.

The blog wants to speak now: The News category is updated.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#430 - Ron Davis

What a card: Ron Davis had completed his third season as the closer for the Twins when this card was issued. He saved 29 games, but the choice of him for a card number ending in zero is a bit questionable. His ERA was 4.55 ERA in 1984 and he blew 14 saves.

My observation on the front: I know that's not a briefcase next to Davis' hand, but that's what it looks like.

More opinion from me: Davis is one of those players who would look entirely different if he pitched in any other decade other than the 1980s. ... Then again, maybe he'd look like Tyler Clippard.

Something you might know: Davis began his major league career with the Yankees, working in tandem with closer Rich Gossage. He struck out eight straight batters in 1981, which you might know from the trivia question on a post not long ago.

Something you might not know:  Davis took a job as a waiter in New York during the players' strike in 1981, then moved to another waiter's job at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City while the strike continued. Later that summer, two walkways at the hotel collapsed, killing 113 people. Davis was one of the first people there pulling people from the rubble.

My observation on the back: The year after this set was issued, the person who portrayed Chief Noc-A-Homa left the Braves in a dispute over pay and job performance and the mascot never returned.

The blog wants to speak now: The News category is updated.