Sunday, May 8, 2011

1954 St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis's Lone Baseball Team
1954 marked the first year that the city of St. Louis only had one major league baseball team, with the Browns moving to Baltimore and becoming the Orioles. The Cardinals had finished in 3rd place the previous three seasons, but with the town to themselves, they fell to 6th place in 1954. Before the season, they traded away a hall-of-famer to the Yankees, Enos Slaughter, but replaced him with the 1954 NL Rookie of the Year, Wally Moon. They also picked up shortstop Alex Grammas from the Reds. Stan Musial was the offensive leader on this team, leading the team in all of the triple crown categories. He led the team in home runs, nearly doubling the 2nd best home run hitter, Rip Repulski 35 to 19. Harvey Haddix leading the pitching staff, leading the team in wins and strikeouts.

Starter and Hall-of-Fame/All-Star Scores
Exclusive players to a set are in italics

Topps Regulars (11): Bill Sarni, Ray Jablonski, Alex Grammas, Rip Repulski, Wally Moon, Solly Hemus, Harvey Haddix, Tom Poholsky, Stu Miller, Joe Presko, Cot Deal

Bowman Regulars (8): Red Schoendienst, Rip Repulski, Solly Hemus, Vic Raschi (shown with Yankees), Al Brazle, Jerry Staley, Stu Miller, Joe Presko

Topps All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (2): Ray Jablonski, Harvey Haddix

Bowman All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Red Schoendienst

The Cardinals give an advantage to Topps. The only key player on a card in 1954 missing in the Topps set is hall-of-famer Red Schoendiest. There are actually several regulars who are missing in both sets: 1st baseman Joe Cunningham, 1st baseman Tom Alston, pitchers Brook Lawrence, Gordon Jones, Royce Lint, and Ralph Beard. Also missing in both of these sets of course is the biggest Cardinal omission of all...Stan Musial. But you could get a 1954 card of Stan Musial, you just had to look at the Red Heart set in 1954. More on that set below.

Red Heart

The Red Heart set consisted of 33 cards. They were distributed nationally with dog food. Yes dog food, although, this isn't the only time I have seen this happen. I am covering 1984 (well at least slowly), and there was a 33 card set distributed with dog food by Ralston Purina. I specifically remember getting those cards in bags of dog food. Anyway, to see the complete set of 1954 Red Heart cards, check out this website which has a scan of all 33 cards in the set.

This, of course is the only set to get a Stan Musial card in 1954. Supposedly, the big guns (Topps and Bowman) didn't pay him what he thought he was worth, but Red Heart had no problem. They also had a Mickey Mantle card in the set. How these cards were obtained was by sending in labels of dog food to get one set of 11 cards. This explains why the cards have three different background colors (blue, green, red). Rumour has it that these cards may have been available to order as late as the 1970s.

__ TO 194 C Bill Sarni STL

1B Joe Cunningham
__ BO 110 2B Red Schoendienst STL
__ TO 26 3B Ray Jablonski STL
__ TO 151 SS Alex Grammas STL
__ TO 115 LF Rip Repulski STL
__ TO 137 CF Wally Moon STL
__ RH 23 RF Stan Musial STL
__ TO 117 SS Solly Hemus STL

1B Tom Alston

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 9 SP Harvey Haddix STL

SP Brooks Lawrence
__ TO 142 SP Tom Poholsky STL

SP Gordon Jones
__ BO 33 SP Vic Raschi NYY

Relief Pitchers
__ BO 142 CL Al Brazle STL
__ BO 14 RP Jerry Staley STL

RP Royce Lint

SP Ralph Beard
__ TO 164 RP Stu Miller STL
__ TO 135 RP Joe Presko STL
__ TO 192 RP Cot Deal STL

Other Players
__ BO 30 C Del Rice STL

UT Joe Frazier
__ TO 158 OF Peanuts Lowrey STL
__ BO 78 C Sal Yvars STL

RF Tom Burgess

1B Steve Bilko
__ TO 191 SS Dick Schofield STL
__ BO 174 3B Pete Castiglione STL

RP Ben Wade

RP Mel Wright

RP Hal White
__ TO 118 RP Carl Scheib PHA

SP Bill Greason
__ BO 222 SP Memo Luna STL

__ TO 38 MG Eddie Stanky STL
__ TO 147 CO Johnny Riddle STL
__ TO 237 CO Mike Ryba STL

Sunday, May 1, 2011

1954 Cincinnati Redlegs

The Redlegs
Cold War politics makes an appearance in major league baseball in 1954. From 1954 through 1959, the Cincinnati Reds weren't known as the Reds, but the Redlegs. The name change was due to the Red scare, but I am not sure how going from the Reds to the Redlegs prevents any confusion. Maybe that is why they changed back to the reds after 1959. The previous four seasons, the Reds finished in 6th place in the National League, but with a name change they moved up to 5th place in 1954. The Reds/Redlegs would finish in the middle of the pack in the National League until they finally made a World Series appearance in 1961. Then of course, shortly after, the Big Red Machine started coming together.

Big Klu

The '54 Redlegs were in the upper half of the league in hitting, but didn't have a solid pitching staff. The offense was led by Ted Kluszewski, who had a monster year with 49 home runs, 141 RBIs (both categories he led the league) and a .326 batting average. This is one of the few players big time players that Topps had in their set, but wasn't in the Bowman set. Looking at Ted Kluszewski, he looks like he would have fit right in during the steroid era, as he would often wear his uniform with cut0off sleeves. He had several big season in the mid-1950s, but injured himself during a clubhouse fight in 1956. He was never the same, and was a part time player from 1957-1961, bouncing around from the Reds to the Pirates to the White Sox, and finally appearing with the Angels during their first season in 1961. It seems funny now, as scouting seems that no player is unfound, but in the mid-1940s, Klu was discovered when the Reds were in spring training in Indiana and he was on the grounds crew.

Starter and Hall-of-Fame/All-Star Scores
Exclusive players to a set are in italics

Topps Regulars (8): Ted Kluszewski, Bobby Adams, Roy McMillan, Jim Greengrass, Chuck Harmon, Bud Podbeilan, Frank Smith, Harry Perkowski

Bowman Regulars (11): Andy Seminik, Bobby Adams, Roy McMillan, Jim Greengrass, Gus Bell, Frank Baczewski, Frank Smith, Joe Nuxhall, Jackie Collum, Karl Drews (shown with Phillies, split time with Reds and Phillies, getting more playing time with the Reds), Harry Perkowski

Topps All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Ted Kluszewski

Bowman All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Gus Bell

This is the first team we come across in 1954 that produces no hall-of-famers. The two all-star game representatives for the Reds in 1954 are each in two of the different sets. Neither set has the top two starting pitchers, Art Fowler or Corky Valentine. Johnny Temple is also missing, but his rookie card wouldn't appear until the 1955 Bowman set. Topps scores by having the best pitcher on this team on a card, in Frank Smith, and by having the only card of longtime Reds catcher Ed Bailey, although he didn't play enough to be considered a regular in 1954. I would say this is a very evenly matched team as far as what set to collect, as Topps has more of the bench players.

__ BO 172 C Andy Seminick CIN
__ TO 7 1B Ted Kluszewski CIN

2B Johnny Temple
__ TO 123 3B Bobby Adams CIN
__ TO 120 SS Roy McMillan CIN
__ TO 22 LF Jim Greengrass CIN
__ BO 124 CF Gus Bell CIN

RF Wally Post
__ TO 182 3B Chuck Harmon CIN

Starting Pitchers

SP Art Fowler

SP Corky Valentine
__ TO 69 SP Bud Podbielan CIN
__ BO 60 SP Fred Baczewski CIN

Relief Pitchers
__ TO 71 CL Frank Smith CIN
__ BO 76 RP Joe Nuxhall CIN

RP Howie Judson
__ BO 204 RP Jackie Collum CIN
__ BO 191 RP Karl Drews PHI
__ TO 125 RP Harry Perkowski CIN

Other Players
__ TO 184 C Ed Bailey CIN
__ TO 138 RF Bob Borkowski CIN

OF Lloyd Merriman
__ BO 220 C Hobie Landrith CIN

UT Nino Escalera
__ BO 156 MI Rocky Bridges CIN

CF Jim Bolger

PH Dick Murphy

PH Grady Hatton
__ TO 19 PH Johnny Lipon BAL
__ TO 136 PH Connie Ryan CIN

RP Herm Wehmeier

RP Moe Savransky

SP Jim Pearce
__ TO 97 RP Jerry Lane WSH
__ TO 46 RP Ken Raffensberger CIN

RP Mario Picone

RP George Zuverink

RP Cliff Ross


MG Birdie Tebbetts

Thursday, April 28, 2011

1984 San Diego Padres

A hard luck franchise
The San Diego Padres came to be starting in the 1969 season. Padres baseball is perhaps best known for Tony Gwynn and having arguably the worst uniforms in the history of the major leagues. One thing that is often overlooked is that when they were at their best, they came up against some of the best teams in the history of the game in the post season. Their best season as a franchise came in 1998 when they won 98 games in the regular season and made it to the World Series. Unfortunately, they came up against the best team of the 1990s record wise, the 1998 New York Yankees, winners of a then AL record 114 games, and got swept in the World Series.

1984 was their second best season, having won 92 games and made it to their first World Series as a franchise. It was just the second above .500 team in their history. They would, of course, lose to the team tied with the second best record of the 1980s, 4 games to 1 in the World Series. This was a solid young team that with some veteran leadership sprinkled in, that did little else in the 1980s.

Tony Gwynn
This was Tony Gwynn's third season in the big leagues. He is the most well known Padre and the 2nd to go into the hall-of-fame with a Padres logo on his hat. (Can you name the other?) He was the only player to play on both Padres teams that went to the World Series.

1984 was his breakout year. He was easily the best player on this team, leading the team in batting average and hits. He was also 2nd on the team in stolen bases and 3rd in RBIs. What put him on the national radar in 1984, was that he won the first of his eight batting titles and also led the league in hits. He ended up 3rd in the MVP voting.

Veteran Leadership
In 1982 and 1983, the Padres completed back to back .500 seasons. They were both very youthful teams and they came together in 1984. What may have helped was some of the veteran leadership brought in that had connections to the 1977-1978 World Series, both won by the Yankees over the Dodgers. Steve Garvey, formerly of the '77/'78 Dodgers, was brought in prior to the 1983 season. Garvey would lead the 1984 team in RBIs to go with a good .284 batting average. Prior to the 1984 season, a couple of former Yankees from those late '70s teams were brought in, Graig Nettles and Rich Gossage. They all had plenty of gas left in the tank. Gossage was probably the best pitcher on this team and solidified the bullpen. Nettles took over at third base from Luis Salazar who manned the position the previous season. This allowed Salazar to do what he did best throughout his career, be what I call a supersub, play many positions and be a 9th regular.

The Cards
We are only 4 players short of being able to complete this roster's checklist. 21 Players on this roster could be found in the regular Topps set in a Padres uniform. Ron Roenicke is listed here as he only played for the Padres in 1984, but his Topps card shows him as a Mariner. He did not have a card in the traded set. The Topps Traded set gives us 5 more players, including cards of Nettles and Gossage and two players in their rookie card year picked up from the Cubs, Carmelo Martinez and Craig Lefferts. Finally we get 1 more player from the Donruss (or Fleer set), the rookie card of outfielder Kevin McReynolds. McReynolds was also one of the key players to this Padres team, as he was 2nd on the team in RBI. He never gets a card in a Topps set until he shows up in the 1987 Traded set after he was traded to the Mets.

__ TO 455 C Terry Kennedy SDP
__ TO 380 1B Steve Garvey SDP
__ TO 693 2B Alan Wiggins SDP
__ TO 615 SS Garry Templeton SDP
__ TT 83 3B Graig Nettles SDP
__ TT 75 LF Carmelo Martinez SDP
__ DO 34 CF Kevin McReynolds (or FL 307)
__ TO 251 RF Tony Gwynn SDP

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 532 SP Eric Show SDP
__ TO 481 SP Mark Thurmond SDP
__ TO 277 SP Ed Whitson SDP
__ TO 644 SP Tim Lollar SDP
__ TO 778 SP Andy Hawkins SDP

Relief Pitchers
__ TT 43 CL Rich Gossage SDP
__ TO 290 RP Dave Dravecky SDP
__ TT 72 RP Craig Lefferts SDP

RP Greg Booker

Other Players
__ TO 68 3B Luis Salazar SDP
__ TO 261 OF Bobby Brown SDP
__ TO 674 IF Tim Flannery SDP
__ TO 571 C Bruce Bochy SDP
__ TO 346 UT Kurt Bevacqua SDP
__ TO 94 SS Mario Ramirez SDP
__ TT 113 1B Champ Summers SDP
__ TO 647 OF Ron Roenicke SEA

OF Eddie Miller
__ TO 753 C Doug Gwosdz SDP
__ TO 38 RP Luis DeLeon SDP

RP Greg Harris

RP Floyd Chiffer
__ TO 224 RP Sid Monge SDP

__ TO 742 MG Dick Williams SDP

Thursday, April 14, 2011

1984 Detroit Tigers

Memories of a 10 Year Old
Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite blog writers, has a theory on his blog that most fans want baseball to remain the same as it was when they were 10 years old. It is the age when you really discover and start to understand the game. I think the key to this is that at about 10 years old, you start to look at the world a little differently. I have a 10 year old daughter and she is now aware of events that go on around the world and has an interest in what is going on outside of her immediate surroundings. She is concerned about what is happening in Japan and Libya right now. As a sports fan, she is more aware of the strategies that go into a game. Meanwhile, whenever I take my 7 year old to a game, he is more concerned about when the cotton candy vendor is going to come around. He has barely any idea what is going on in the game, but he can spot the cotton candy vendor all the way across the field and then proceeds to pester me for the next three innings wondering if he is going to run out of cotton candy before he gets to our section.

Anyway I ramble a bit, but I grew up in suburban Detroit and was born in late 1973. In 1984, I was 10 years old and 1984 represents baseball as the perfect way it is to be played. What a time to come of age as a fan of the Detroit Tigers. My dad took me to games at the old Tiger Stadium before this season, and much like my son now, I think I was more concerned with the concession stand. I had baseball cards from before this year, but I think I bought alot of them thinking I was getting real baseball gum. But in 1984, I started following every game on the radio (yeah every game wasn't on TV then) and learned more about the players and where they came from and their stats. Anyway, who knew that your hometown team doesn't win the World Series every year. In fact I am still waiting for them to come around again. I wonder if I had turned 10 in 1994 during the beginning of the Randy Smith era if I would've even cared about the Tigers. But the events in 1984 set me up as a Tiger fan for life.

How Good Was This Team?
This team was tied for the 2nd best record of the 1980s. Only the 1986 Mets were better with 108 wins and the 1988 Oakland A's also had 104 wins. Looking at all three rosters, it seems like both the Mets and A's had an all-star (or near all-star) at every position and a solid pitching staff from 1-5. Beyond the first 3 starters, the '84 Tigers really didn't have much. This may be surprising, but no player on this roster is in the Hall-of-Fame. Only the manager is in the Hall-of-Fame. There were issues all season trying to find a third baseman. But everything went right in 1984. They were an up and coming team for awhile. The core players mostly all came up together in the late 1970s and by 1984 were in the prime 26-32 age range, with Alan Trammell being the 2nd youngest of the starters, but probably the real team MVP. It seems that alot of these players may have had their best seasons career wise in 1983, but they were real close in 1984. Chet Lemon may have had his best season ever in 1984 and Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell probably had their 2nd best seasons. The bullpen with a one-two punch of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez was lights out. The bench led by Barbaro Garbey, Ruppert Jones, and Marty Castillo was excellent.

Willie Hernandez - Cy Young & MVP
The final piece of this puzzle came in the last week of spring training. The Tigers traded long time player Johnny Wockenfuss and probably the only player of value to come through their farm system in the 1980s, Glenn Wilson, for Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman. This trade made the bullpen lights out as Willie Hernandez was probably the best pitcher on this team. He would win MVP and Cy Young. I think what won him both of these awards is that the Tigers were close in 1983, and it did appear that he was the final piece in the puzzle. Plus it was noted that he only had one blown save for the year. His statistic line looked like this 32 saves, 1.92 ERA, 112 strikeouts in 80 games. He led the league in games pitched and games finished. I think the 32 saves is deceiving as the Tigers weren't in that many close games for the season. But was he really good enough to win both awards? I ask this question because the stats don't seem that eye-popping and he had a very average career besides 1984 and maybe 1985.

Here are the players in order who received Cy Young votes:
Dan Quisenberry - led the league with 44 saves, and a had a sub 3.00 ERA
Bert Blyleven - pitching for a last place team went 19-7 with a sub 3.00 ERA
Mike Boddicker - led league in wins with 20 and ERA with a 2.79
Dan Petry - went 18-8, best starter on best team, best season of his career
Dave Stieb - actually finished 7th in the voting, led the league in WAR, but only had 16 wins...this was significant in 1984

I would say Hernandez probably was the best pitcher, he did what he had to do and had a sub 2.00 ERA. Actually I probably would've voted for Boddicker, but not a bad choice.

Now for MVP
Kent Hrbek - not sure why he would've finished 2nd, even going with traditional stats, he was 7th in batting average, 7th in RBI
Eddie Murray - awesome season, .306-29-110 and led league in OBP
Don Mattingly - led league in hits, batting average, doubles, and OPS+, although nobody knew what that was then, also had 110 RBIs
Kirk Gibson - the Tigers leader in runs scored, 2nd in HR and RBI
Tony Armas - led league in homers and RBI with 43-123, best season of his career
Alan Trammell - finished 9th, led Tigers in OBP
Cal Ripken - if you buy into Bill James win shares, he was the league leader beating out Hernandez by 13 win shares...finished 27th in MVP voting...I could rant about win shares but maybe I will save that for another post

What may have given Hernandez this award is that no one stood out. Armas led the heague in HR and RBI, but has an awful batting average and the perception that Fenway helped. I think Eddie Murray may have been the best overall player, but the Orioles fell from World Champions to 5th place in the division, so they were ignored in award voting.

The Cards
18 players on this roster could be found in the Topps set in a Tigers uniform. Dave Gumpert was in the minor league system in 1984 but did appear on a Topps card. Another 7 could be found in the Topps Traded set, including the before mentioned MVP/Cy Young winner, Willie Hernandez. The only player on this roster with a card in a non-Topps set was Mike Laga. Laga had the least number of plate appearances for a position player on this team. He had been a member of the Tigers since 1982 and would go on to play for the Cardinals and Giants ending his career in 1990. This is his rookie card. He would only have one more card, in the 1987 Topps set showing him as a badly airbrushed member of the Cardinals.

__ TO 640 C Lance Parrish DET
__ TT 11 1B Dave Bergman DET
__ TO 695 2B Lou Whitaker DET
__ TO 510 SS Alan Trammell DET

3B Howard Johnson
__ TO 333 LF Larry Herndon DET
__ TO 611 CF Chet Lemon DET
__ TO 65 RF Kirk Gibson DET
__ TT 36 DH Darrell Evans DET
__ TT 41 UT Barbaro Garbey DET
__ TO 14 IF Tom Brookens DET

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 147 SP Dan Petry DET
__ TO 195 SP Jack Morris DET
__ TO 588 SP Milt Wilcox DET
__ TO 174 SP Juan Berenguer DET
__ TO 457 SP Dave Rozema DET

Relief Pitchers
__ TT 51 CL Willie Hernandez DET
__ TO 95 RP Aurelio Lopez DET
__ TO 536 RP Doug Bair DET

Other Players
__ TT 59 OF Ruppert Jones DET
__ TO 42 UT Johnny Grubb DET
__ TT 66 RF Rusty Kuntz DET
__ TO 303 UT Marty Castillo DET

SS Doug Baker

C Dwight Lowry

2B Scott Earl

UT Nelson Simmons

DH Rod Allen
__ DO 491 UT Mike Laga DET
__ TO 356 SP Glenn Abbott DET
__ TT 80 RP Sid Monge DET

RP Roger Mason

RP Bill Scherrer

SP Randy O'Neal

RP Carl Willis

Minor Leaguers
__ TO 371 MN Dave Gumpert DET

__ TO 259 MG Sparky Anderson DET