Tuesday, March 30, 2010

1981 Pittsburgh Pirates

Card Design
I really like the 1981 Topps card design. The hats are probably the most effective way to show the team on the card on any Topps design going back to maybe the '50s sets that had team logos on them. They've matched the colors that every team wore in 1981. We've seen teams like the Expos and Orioles with multiple colors and even those show up on the hat design. On the Pirates card, the hat is even shaped like the old painter hats that they wore during this era.

Losing Franchise
The Pirates in 2010 are currently on a 17 season below .500 streak, dating back to 1993. Seeing that this 1981 version finished in the bottom third of all of baseball, it makes you realize how bad Pirate baseball has been for well over a quarter of a century now. If the Barry Bonds/Bobby Bonilla led era of the Pirates from 1988-1992 hadn't existed, that streak could be even uglier. The Pirates had won the World Series in 1979, were a two games over .500 in 1980, had a pretty lousy season in 1981, then picked up to go 84-78 in both 1982 and 1983, then fell off a cliff in 1984, bottoming out in 1985 with a 104 loss team. The Barry Bonds era Pirates put it together in 1988 to have an 85 win team, then the Pirates went to three playoffs in a row from 1990-1992. And then we are where we are now with the Pirates. Hard to believe they haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds was on their roster...that puts the streak in perspective.

Willie Montanez
In 1981, Willie Montanez played 26 games with the Expos and 29 games with the Pirates. He is shown on his regular 1981 Topps card in one of those awful airbrushed cards of the era with the Expos. In the 1981 Fleer set he is shown as a Padre. There are no cards of him in the Topps Traded set. He played for the Padres and Expos in 1980, but his 1980 Topps card shows him with the Rangers, the team he played with the year before. He was traded from the Padres to the Expos on August 31, 1980 for Tony Phillips. So the Padres card in the Fleer set is the only card ever showing him as a member of the Padres (unless there is a regional set or some retro set I am not aware of).

Since I am keeping all players who are in different uniforms from the various sets, I will place that Padre card of Willie Montanez in this Pirates checklist and I placed the card of him in an Expo uniform on the Expos checklist.

Starting Players

C Tony Pena
__ TT 843 1B Jason Thompson PIT
__ TO 573 2B Phil Garner PIT
__ TO 715 3B Bill Madlock PIT
__ TO 501 SS Tim Foli PIT
__ TO 92 LF Mike Easler PIT
__ TO 535 CF Omar Moreno PIT
__ TO 640 RF Dave Parker PIT
__ TO 147 IF Dale Berra PIT
__ TO 332 OF Lee Lacy PIT
__ TO 212 C Steve Nicosia PIT

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 298 SP Eddie Solomon PIT
__ TO 430 SP Jim Bibby PIT
__ TO 312 SP Rick Rhoden PIT
__ TO 627 SP Luis Tiant NYY

SP Pascual Perez

Relief Pitchers
__ TO 28 CL Enrique Romo PIT
__ TO 695 RP Kent Tekulve PIT
__ TO 194 RP Rod Scurry PIT

SP Odell Jones
__ TT 751 RP Victor Cruz PIT
__ TO 518 RP Grant Jackson PIT
__ TO 265 SP John Candelaria PIT
__ TO 168 RP Don Robinson PIT

Other Players

2B Johnny Ray
__ TO 51 UT Bill Robinson PIT

MI Vance Law
__ TO 380 1B Willie Stargell PIT
__ TO 618 UT John Milner PIT
__ TT 729 UT Gary Alexander PIT
__ FL 506 1B Willie Montanez SDP
__ TO 118 IF Kurt Bevacqua PIT
__ TO 68 OF Matt Alexander PIT

PH Doe Boyland

RP Ernie Camacho

RP Mark Lee

SP Bob Long

__ FL 367 MG Chuck Tanner (or DO 257)

Monday, March 29, 2010

1981 California Angels

Transition Year
This was a transition year for the Angels. This is two years after they appeared in the ALCS losing to Baltimore, and one year before they would lose again in the ALCS to the Brewers.

They made many changes before the season and this is reflected in the Topps Traded set which has 10 Angel cards in the 132 card set.

New to the Angels in '81 were Geoff Zahn, Rick Burleson, Butch Hobson, John D'Acquisto, Juan Beniquez, Fred Lynn, Steve Renko, Jesse Jefferson, Bill Travers, Ed Ott, Doug Rau, and Ken Forsch. Gone from the 1980 squad are Mark Clark, Carney Lansford, Rick Miller, Joe Rudi, Frank Tanana, John Montague, Jim Barr, Dave LaRoche, and Dickie Thon. That is quite a turnover of players.

Strong Lineup
Looking at this starting lineup, how did this team have a losing season. You have an infield of Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Rick Burleson, and Butch Hobson. Fred Lynn, Dan Ford, and Brian Downing make up the infield. Don Baylor was the DH. This seems like a solid lineup on paper, but looking at the stats for 1981, all the players received from Boston during the off season fell off a cliff. Also the pitching wasn't very good. That is probably the difference between the 1979/1982 teams and the 1981 team.

Update 1: added O-Pee-Chee cards to checklist on 5/31/2010

Starting Players
__ TT 810 C Ed Ott CAL
__ TO 100 1B Rod Carew CAL
__ TO 182 2B Bobby Grich CAL
__ TT 771 3B Butch Hobson CAL
__ TT 743 SS Rick Burleson CAL
__ TO 263 LF Brian Downing CAL
__ TT 797 CF Fred Lynn CAL
__ TO 422 RF Dan Ford CAL
__ TO 580 DH Don Baylor CAL
__ TT 733 CF Juan Beniquez CAL

Starting Pitchers
__ TT 764 SP Ken Forsch CAL

SP Mike Witt
__ TT 821 SP Steve Renko CAL
__ TT 856 SP Geoff Zahn CAL

Relief Pitchers
__ TO 601 CL Don Aase CAL
__ TO 454 RP Andy Hassler CAL
__ FL 419 RP Jesse Jefferson TOR
__ TO 340 RP Bruce Kison CAL

RP Luis Sanchez
__ TO 286 SP Dave Frost CAL

Other Players
__ TO 121 OF Larry Harlow CAL
__ TO 288 OF Bobby Clark CAL
__ TO 410 3B Bert Campaneris CAL

UT John Harris

UT Daryl Sconiers
__ TO 311 IF Freddie Patek CAL
__ TO 711 UT Joe Ferguson LAD

LF Tom Brunansky

3B Steve Lubratich

UT Brian Harper
__ TO 221 C Bob Davis TOR
__ OP 221 C Bob Davis CAL

SP Angel Moreno
__ TO 427 RP John D'Acquisto MON
__ OP 204 RP John D'Acquisto CAL
__ TT 818 SP Doug Rau CAL
__ TT 845 SP Bill Travers CAL

RP Mickey Mahler
__ TO 227 RP Alfredo Martinez CAL

__ FL 274 MG Jim Fregosi (or DO 414)

MG Gene Mauch

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Extra

One of the first posts on this blog was a list of all the players who made it into the 1981 sets that didn't play another game at the major league level after the 1980 season. On that list was Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. He had a card in all three of the base sets out in 1981. I am sure enough has been said about his short career and it is probably better summed up by looking at his wikipedia page then what I could write here.

Why I am posting this is I found this clip online yesterday showing actual highlights from a game he pitched in 1976 against the Yankees. I think this is a cool clip as it shows why the fans were enthusiastic about him, and it shows the 1970s in full display looking at the crowd in old Tiger Stadium - from the fashions and hairstyles to the transistor radios.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

1981 Atlanta Braves

Two 300-game winners
The Atlanta Braves of the 1990s were led mostly by their dominant pitching. But what about the staff they had in 1981? It was led by not one, but two pitchers who would end their career with 300+ wins. Unfortunately, both Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry were 42 during the 1981 season. This was an odd pitching staff, Tommy Boggs was the only other pitcher I would consider a true starting pitcher.

Bobby Cox
29 years later and we see a card for a person still in the same position in 2010 as he was in 1981. Of course he left to manage the Blue Jays for a short period before returning to Atlanta to apparently become the Connie Mack of our time.

Best Player On This Team
Since I started this blog, I have attempted to put up the card in the first spot of who I thought the team MVP was for the year. I have to say, I am going to give that honor to Rick Camp. He was 4th in the league in saves and had a 1.78 ERA. N0 other batters or pitchers on this team seemed to stand out that much. I knew nothing about this player, so looking at his career on baseball-reference.com, it looked like he played for the Braves from 1976-1985. He had a pretty solid 1980 and 1981, posting two sub 2.00 ERA seasons back to back as the teams closer. It looks like he attempted to move into the starting rotation in 1982 and was roughly a .500 pitcher and fell into relative obscurity. This is why sometimes, maybe if it isn't broke don't fix it. Then again I don't know much else about why he was moved into the starting rotation other than looking at his stats.

New Uniforms
The Gaylord Perry card posted above is from the traded set. All the other cards are from the regular 1981 sets that feature photographs taken during the 1980 season. In 1981, the Braves must've moved from the uniforms with the lower case "a" on the hat I associate with Braves wearing when Hank Aaron took over the career home run record, to the scripted "A" that is similar to what they wear now. Although I don't remember them changing hues of blue, it looks like the blue is a slightly different shade than what they wear now.

__ TO 108 C Bruce Benedict ATL
__ TO 155 1B Chris Chambliss ATL
__ TO 247 2B Glenn Hubbard ATL
__ TO 355 3B Bob Horner ATL
__ FL 266 SS Rafael Ramirez ATL

LF Rufino Linares
__ TO 504 CF Dale Murphy ATL
__ TT 854 RF Claudell Washington ATL

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 387 SP Phil Niekro ATL
__ TT 812 SP Gaylord Perry ATL
__ TO 132 SP Tommy Boggs ATL

Relief Pitchers
__ TO 87 CL Rick Camp ATL

RP Rick Mahler
__ TO 307 RP Gene Garber ATL
__ TO 636 RP Al Hrabosky ATL
__ TT 804 RP John Montefusco ATL
__ TO 44 SP Larry McWilliams ATL
__ TT 853 SP Bob Walk ATL
__ TO 594 RP Preston Hanna ATL

Other Players

LF Eddie Miller

LF Brett Butler
__ TO 326 3B Biff Pocoroba ATL
__ TO 268 IF Jerry Royster ATL
__ TO 64 OF Brian Asselstine ATL

OF Terry Harper
__ TO 477 IF Luis Gomez ATL

C Matt Sinatro

SS Paul Runge

C Larry Owen

PH Bob Porter
__ TO 296 UT Bill Nahorodny ATL
__ TO 457 LF Mike Lum ATL

3B Brook Jacoby

OF Larry Whisenton

OF Albert Hall

1B Ken Smith
__ TO 542 RP Larry Bradford ATL

RP Steve Bedrosian
__ TO 611 RP Rick Matula ATL

RP Jose Alvarez

__ FL 247 MG Bobby Cox (or DO 426)