St. Louis Cardinals Team Picture 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for December 21, 2017

IMG_1406

I don’t mind Astroturf. I never did. I know that is blasphemous to say, but only if you are looking from the point of view that baseball was perfect and pristine in the post World War II years.

I don’t look at baseball like that. I was introduced to baseball in the 1970’s. Cookie Cutter parks, pull over double knit jerseys and Astroturf were all part of the game.

In fact, as a kid, I thought “Man, I wish the Red Sox played in one of those cool circular stadiums instead of Fenway Park.”

But one thing about this card DID strike me as odd when I saw it for the first time in 1978 and it makes me chuckle now.

I am fine with artificial turf. I draw the line with it being blue. I am not going to get into the whole “is this a blue or gold dress” that went on the internet a few years ago, but look at the turd from the Cardinals team picture.

Intellectually, I know the turf is green and either there was something in the printing or the exposure or the development that changed the image so it looks blue.

Maybe it is Aquamarine, or Teal, or Turquoise. But it sure isn’t the color of grass.

Now that I think of it, I wonder if anyone thought of changing the color of the Astroturf to something else like blue or red. It was the 1970’s. Everything was fair game.

The 1977 Cardinals, shown in this picture, got off to a fast start and were in first place for much of April. A few mediocre months derailed them and even when they won 11 out of 15 in a stretch between late July and early August, they posed no real threat to the Phillies who won the Division handily.

The Cardinals were a team in transition with manager Vern Rapp. They still had Lou Brock on the team, representing the glory days of the 1960’s. And Keith Hernandez, Ken Oberkfell and Bob Forsch, all members of the squad that would win it all in 1982, were on the team as well.

In 1978, the team bottomed out, losing 93 games and costing Rapp his job. But more pieces were being put into place for the eventual champs, including the pick up of George Hendrick.

The 1970’s were not a good time for Cardinal baseball. They never made the post season once after winning 3 pennants and a pair of titles in the 1960’s. Things seemed slightly off for the team.

Maybe it was the blue turf.

All-Time Record Holders: Stolen Bases, 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 20, 2017

IMG_0098

In the 1979 Topps collection, along with players, team pictures, prospects and record breakers, there were cards for the All Time Record Holders for several stats.

All time hits leaders, wins leaders, strikeout kings and home run champs were all included. The pictures were in black and white to give a uniform look whether they were honoring Ty Cobb or Henry Aaron.

I find the stolen base card to be interesting on many levels.

First of all both pictures are of Lou Brock. They didn’t just have one pic to cover both Season and Career records. One looking to his right and the other facing forward.

Another interesting thing about those two side by side is he has a helmet on one and a cap on in the other, as if to create a mental separation between the two.

Note the cap he is wearing. It is the flat top old fashioned hats that a handful of teams wore in 1976. Only the Pirates kept wearing them after that season, so the photo of Brock is instantly dated.

Also the pic on the left looks a little chubbier than the other. Maybe his profile is not his best side.

With Brock on the front twice, it gave card collectors of that year, including your pal Sully, a chance to revel in his fabulous career. That same year, 1979, was Brock’s final one and the year he hit his 3,000th hit.

There was not much that Brock failed to accomplish in his nearly 20 years in the big leagues.  I covered his career in detail in his Card of the Day post for June 12 which you can read by clicking HERE. But at the time, he rewrote the record book in every way shape and form.

There is are two interesting parts of the card once it is flipped over.

IMG_0099

Billy Hamilton was the career stolen base leader according to the back. But because of the changes of rules that made it harder to record stolen bags, the title was given to Brock. (The fact that there is another speedster named Billy Hamilton playing today just makes all of this more confusing.)

Also did you notice whose name isn’t seen there? Rickey Henderson. He made his first appearance in 1979 as a major leaguer. This card almost acts as a frozen moment in time of the stolen base landscape the moment that its greatest artist ever stepped onto the stage.

If the card was issued today, there would be a pair of Henderson pictures on the front.

Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases in 1982, passing Brock’s 118 total in 1974.

Bill North’s 75 stolen bases were the 11th single season mark listed on the card. Henderson passed 75 stolen bases 7 times.

A renaissance in base stealing would have not only Henderson but Vince Coleman, Ron LeFlore and Omar Moreno on the back of this card today.

Ty Cobb and Omar Moreno would be tied at the bottom of the list today at 96 stolen bases. Hall of Famer Tim Raines would not even crack the top 10 single season mark.

It is no coincidence that I chose to post this card the day after I honored Rickey Henderson. In a way, it illustrates his glory in the spot of stolen bases as well as any way I can imagine.

Brock was the king of his day. Henderson is the king now and may be for a long time. And this card shows the kingdom he conquered.

Lou Brock 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the the Day for June 12, 2017

IMG_0447I’ve written several times and talked on my podcast a bunch about how I truly began following baseball in 1979 when I was 7 years old.

In retrospect, there were a lot of things that made that an idea time to start following this amazing game. One strange detail about 1979 was a Sports Illustrated feature that came out that summer.

This was the cover.
1979-0827-baseball27s-golden-oldies-006273286

It featured caricatures of several veteran players who seemed to be having a blast of renewed glory in 1979. They wore glasses and a long beard and were swinging canes at asprins while sitting on a giant Rocking Chair.

The fact that Carl Yastrzemski was on the cover caught my eye. I knew he was a star for the Red Sox and chasing 3,000 hits and 400 homers that year. I learned those were bench marks for great careers. Gaylord Perry, the Cy Young winner from 1978, Willie Stargell, the co MVP of 1979 and superstar Pete Rose were on the cover. So was 20 game winner Phil Niekro and pinch hitting specialist Manny Mota.

I didn’t watch many National League games then, so I was educated on some of the senior circuit stars.

And there was Lou Brock. I had not heard of Lou Brock when I read the article. And the 7 year old version of your pal Sully was eager to learn all he could about baseball and its history. So I read the article.

1979 was the final year of Brock’s career, one that saw him hold virtually every stolen base record imaginable. He also collected HIS 3,000th hit that year, so I basically got confirmation of his greatness.

Brock grew up in Louisiana and did not participate in organized ball until his junior year of high school. He was discovered by the great Buck O’Neill, at the time scouting for the Cubs as he would introduce a galaxy of African American stars to the the team. 1961 was his lone minor league season and he was in Chicago by the end of the year.

Then after a few years, they traded him to the Cardinals.

OK, let’s try to defend the Lou Brock trade from the Cubs point of view.

First of all Ernie Broglio was a good pitcher. He finished third in the Cy Young vote in 1960 and was 18-8 with a 2.99 ERA in 1963, the year before the trade.

Secondly, it wasn’t a straight one for one trade.

The Cardinals included pitcher Bobby Shantz, a former MVP who had developed into a solid reliever, and Doug Clemens, a young outfielder.

Thirdly the Cubs were also throwing in Jack Spring and Paul Toth, both pitchers who had no real worth.

So the Cubbies thought they’d deal one good outfielder and two dead weight pitchers for a good starter, a good reliever and another young outfielder.

Granted, the pitchers they got from the Cardinals faded fast and Brock became not only a Hall of Famer with 3,000 hits and for a time the Stolen Base King, but also a career .391 hitter with a 1.079 OPS in 21 World Series games.

If the Cubs knew that, they probably wouldn’t have made the trade.

A few months after the trade, Brock was helping the Cardinals win the 1964 World Series, batting an even .300 in the series.

In 1967, he hit .414 in the World Series, stole 7 bases and posted an OPS of 1.107. He would have been the MVP had it not been for his teammate Bob Gibson.

1968, he hit .464 in the World Series loss to the Tigers, with an OPS of 1.373, 2 homers and 7 stolen bases.

The hits and the stolen bases kept on coming. His Hall of Fame candidacy was based on his stolen base records and 3,000 hits. He got on with the first ballot. Supporters of Tim Raines’ candidacy pointed out that Raines was the better all around player, getting on base more often than Brock.

Perhaps that is true. I believe the Hall of Fame is big enough for both Brock and Raines.

His greatness sure made an impression on me.

Brock made a few attempts at being an announcer, had success as a florist and became an ordained minister, along with his wife.

Recent years have seen a decline in his health. His leg was amputated in a cruel irony for a player who used his speed to get into the Hall of Fame. Earlier this year he announced he had multiple myeloma.

But we still have Mr. Brock and he should be honored. If he was good enough to grace that Sports Illustrated cover, you know he was good.