Monday, June 18, 2012

1974 oakland a's

this post covers the 1974 oakland a's and cards numbered 100 to 104 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this?:  the back-to-back-to-back world champion 1974 oakland a's

why this team?:  the 90-72 1974 oakland a's successfully defended their title as world champs for the second year in a row, becoming the first team to "three-peat" since the new york yankees of the late 1940's/early 1950's won 5 in a row.  in fact, the a's are the only franchise other than the yankees to have won as many as 3 titles consecutively.

which players are featured?:  bert campaneris, billy north, joe rudi, sal bando, and vida blue

why these players?:  we've seen all of these guys before - some in the 1972 subset, and some in 1973.

bert campaneris hit a career high .290 in 1974.  he stole 34 bases and scored 77 runs in 137 games as the a's shortstop.  he was the starter for the american league in the all-star game, and finished 15th in the league mvp voting.  he hit only .176 in the alcs against the orioles, but had 6 hits and two doubles against the dodgers in the world series for a .353 average.

billy north played in 149 games for the a's in 1974, and led the american league in steals with 54.  he also led the league in times caught stealing with 26.  on the year, north hit .260 and posted the lowest on-base percentage (.347) of any of his full seasons spent with the a's.  having missed the postseason in 1973, north made the first playoff appearance of his career in 1974.  unfortunately, he managed just 1 hit in each of the series for a alcs/world series combined average of just .061.

joe rudi played in a career-high 158 games in 1974, and led the american league in doubles (39) and total bases (287).  for the second time in three years, rudi finished second in the league mvp voting and was named to the all-star team. he also won his first career gold glove for his play in left field.  as the back of the memorable moments card indicates, rudi hit .333 against the dodgers in the world series, with a game 5 home run that was immortalized on this 1975 topps card.

although sal bando played in 'only' 146 games in 1974, he still hit 22 home runs and topped the 100-rbi mark for just the second time in his career.  he was an all-star for the final time (although he did not appear in the game), and finished third in the league mvp voting - his third top-4 finish in three years (with reggie jackson, the a's had three of the top four mvp vote getters, but jeff burroughs of the rangers took home the hardware).  he hit a couple of solo homers against the orioles in the alcs, but was held to just one hit (a single) in 16 at bats against the dodgers in the world series.

it was an even-numbered year, so vida blue didn't win 20 games for the a's (his 20-win seasons came in 1971, 1973, and 1975).  he probably should have, however, as he made 40 starts, posted a 3.25 era, pitched 12 complete games, and finished with a record of 17-15.   a quick review of his game logs shows that there were a few starts in which he took a loss despite pitching well enough to win, in my opinion.  in the postseason, blue out dueled the orioles' jim palmer to win game 3 of the alcs 1-0. blue allowed just two hits and struck out 7 in his shutout performance.  blue went on to make two starts in the world series, taking the loss in game 2 and having no decision in the game 5 clincher.

the stadium on the back is...?:  still the oakland alameda county stadium - the home to the a's since 1968.

did upper deck get it right?: the team is right, and we know by now that reggie jackson isn't going to show up in this set, but the player selection is still somewhat puzzling.  of the players upper deck previously featured in this set, ken holtzman, dick green, gene tenace, blue moon odom, and rollie fingers were all still a part of the a's in 1974 but were not chosen to represent the a's for that year.  the biggest headscratcher is the omission of rollie fingers, as he was the world series mvp in 1974 with 1 win and 2 saves in 4 games against the dodgers.  holtzman and odom each had a win in the series as well.

whatever, let's just look at the players upper deck did include.  all five of the players featured were starters on the team, and integral parts of the championship run, so i have no complaints.  the photos for the position players are certainly of the period, but i wouldn't be surprised if the campy photo is from 1973 (that looks like shea stadium in the background, and the a's played the mets in the 1973 world series).  as for vida blue's photo, while i like the action shot, the image comes from 1971 at the latest.

is this team timeless?:  a third consecutive title? well, then, yes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

1974 los angeles dodgers

this post covers the 1974 los angeles dodgers and cards numbered 93 to 99 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
it's good to see some familiar faces!

what team is this:  the 1974 national league champion los angeles dodgers

why this team?:  this was the fist dodger team to win the pennant in the post-koufax era, and the last of walter alston's career.  they won 102 games to finish four games ahead of the cincinnati reds in the national league west, and beat the pittsburgh pirates in four games to win the national league pennant.  unfortunately, they lost in the world series to the oakland a's, four games to 1.

which players are featured:  bill buckner, davey lopes, don sutton, al downing, ron cey, steve garvey, and tommy john

why these players?:  with these guys, we have a pretty good representation of the team, although there were some others that could have/should have been featured as well.  for instance, steve yeager and bill russell will be included in the set later on, but for some reason were left off of the dodgers' 1974 subset.

bill buckner was the team's primary left fielder in 1974.  yes, that was billy buck climbing the outfield fence chasing hank aaron's historic 715th home run, but more on that later.  buckner had what may have been his finest season in los angeles in 1974.  he hit .314 in 145 games, scored 83 runs and had 30 doubles and 7 home runs.  in the postseason, he hit a solo home run in game 3 of the world series, but was otherwise pretty well contained by the pirates and the a's.

davey lopes was, obviously, the dodgers' second baseman in 1974.  in his second full season, lopes scored 95 runs, hit 10 homers, and stole 59 bases.  he scored 6 times in the postseason, and also stole a total of 4 bases, but hit only .182 in the dodgers' 9 postseason games combined.

don sutton was one of the aces of the staff in 1974, but finished second on the team in wins (19) to andy messersmith (20).  sutton was 19-9 for the second time in three years, and he finished 4th in the cy young voting which was an improvement over his 5th place finishes in the two previous seasons.  his 40 starts led the league, and he threw a one-hitter against the padres in may during which the only hit against him was an infield single off the bat of johnny grubb.  sutton was 3-0 in the postseason, with wins in game 1 (by shutout) and game 4 of the nlcs, and game 2 of the world series.  sutton also started game 5 of the fall classic but earned a no-decision in 5 innings of work.

al downing's claim to fame (or infamy?) may be why he was included in this set.  as the memorable moments card details, downing gave up home run number 715 to hank aaron in april of 1974.  on the season, downing was just 5-6 with a 3.66 era.  he did manage to pitch a 2-hit shutout against the giants in september, and he threw 4 innings of scoreless relief in his lone nlcs appearance.  downing was called upon to start game 3 of the world series, and took the loss even though just one of the three runs he allowed was earned.

ron cey manned the hot corner for the dodgers in 1974.  he was named to the all-star team (as a starter, no less) for the first time, and hit 18 homers with 97 rbi on the season.  and, the 88 runs he scored in 1974 turned out to be his career high.  cey hit .316 in the nlcs with 3 doubles and a solo home run, but in the world series, he managed an average of just .176 with no extra base hits.

steve garvey, the dodgers' first baseman, broke out in a huge way in 1974.  like cey, garvey established his career high in runs that year (he scored 95 times) and became an all-star for the first time.  garvey earned his berth in the starting lineup for the national league as a write-in at first base, and he went on to nab mvp honors in the game.  garvey also earned league mvp honors thanks to his 200-hit, 21/111/.312 performance at the plate for the dodgers.  he also won the first of four consecutive gold gloves.  and then there was the postseason.  garvey hit .389 with a double, two homers, and 5 rbi in the nlcs and then hit .381 in the world series, although he did not have an extra base hit against the a's.  there was no mvp of the nlcs until 1977, but if there were such an award in 1974, garvey might have earned an mvp trifecta.

tommy john was having a marvelous year in 1974 until he injured his elbow.  he was 13-3 with a 2.59 era after making 22 starts - the last of which resulted in a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.  john, of course, missed the postseason, but did have surgery to repair his elbow and the rest is history.  i find it fascinating that even with john's injury, the dodgers still only used a total of 13 pitchers over the course of the 1974 season.  and, four of those pitchers appeared in 4 games or less!  for the record, geoff zahn filled john's spot in the rotation for the remainder of the season.

the stadium on the back is...?: dodger stadium, where the boys in blue have played since 1962.  right venue, but the photo is from the 90's at the earliest.

did upper deck get it right?:  first and foremost, jim wynn is missing. and, andy messersmith and mike marshall would have been appropriate players to feature as well.  i believe messersmith no longer signs, and marshall only signs for a large amount of money, so it makes sense why they are left out when we remember that there is an autograph parallel for every base card in the set.  wynn, however, is a good signer (and is included in this year's topps archives release).  while garvey netted the league mvp, wynn was arguably the best player on the team in 1974.

let's address the photos of the players featured. i am frankly disappointed here.  the buckner is probably correct given his facial hair when compared to his 1975 cards, but the lopes, sutton, cey and garvey images are not from 1974.  the downing and john photos are inconclusive.  sutton's photo is from 1969 at the latest, given the 'los angeles' across his chest.  the dodgers stopped using that on their away grays after the 1969 season and only returned to it in the early 2000's.  lopes and cey are wearing uniforms from the late 1970's/early 1980's (i would say late 70's given the lack of a patch on lopes' left sleeve) and the double flap helmet identifies the garvey image as early 80's for sure.

is this team timeless?:  the team boasted the national league's cy young award winner (marshall) and mvp (garvey), yet i don't know if i would consider this a timeless team.  the dodger teams of the latter half of the 1970's and into the early 1980's seem more worthy of the title.  what do you think?

Monday, June 4, 2012

1973 oakland a's

this post covers the 1973 oakland a's and cards numbered 85 to 92 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
not a whole lot of carryover from the players featured with the 1972 a's.  only bando and odom are repeated, even though all of the other players featured last time (bert campaneris, joe rudi, and ken holtzman) were still with the a's in 1973.  and, you've got to love the fact that the copy on the back of north's card says pretty much the same thing as that on the back of tenace's card.

what team is this?:  the world champion 1973 oakland a's

why this team?:  the a's won their second straight world series title in 1973 by defeating the new york mets in 7 games.  they won 94 games in the regular season, and then beat the baltimore orioles in the american league championship series 3 games to 2.

which players are featured?:  billy north, blue moon odom, gene tenace, manny trillo, dick green, rollie fingers, sal bando, and vida blue.

why these players?:  well, there are a few starters (north, tenace, green and bando) along with one of their aces and their closer represented.

billy north was acquired from the cubs after the 1972 season and became the a's starting center fielder.  he played in 146 games and hit .285 while scoring 98 runs - both turned out to be career highs.  he also stole 53 bases (one behind league leader tommy harper), but was caught a league-leading 20 times.  unfortunately, north missed the 1973 postseason due to injury.

blue moon odom, as the back of his card suggests, did not have his best season in 1973.  he started out the season by going 0-5 in his first 6 starts, and at one point, his record stood at 1-9.  he finished up at 5-12 with a 4.49 era.  he was used solely in relief in the postseason, making one appearance in the alcs and two in the world series against the mets, and did not factor in any decisions.

gene tenace, the mvp of the 1972 world series, saw his postseason success carry over to 1973.  he was moved from catcher to first base, and wound up with a line of 24/84/.259 with 101 walks as the back of his card mentions.  tenace continued to get on base in the postseason - he had an obp of .467 in the world series despite having just three hits thanks to 11 bases on balls served up by mets' pitchers.

manny trillo made his big league debut with the a's in 1973.  he appeared in 17 games for oakland (fewer than vic davalillo - why wasn't he included in the set?) and hit just .250 with 3 hits, including 2 doubles.  he did not appear in the postseason in 1973.

a holdover from the kansas city days, dick green was the a's starting second baseman again in 1973 after having missed most of the 1972 campaign.  he hit .262 in the regular season, but struggled in the playoffs and world series, managing just a single hit in each series, despite starting every contest.

rollie fingers was 7-8 with 22 saves and a stellar 1.92 era in 1973.  he pitched in 62 games and averaged just over 2 innings per appearance.  that number is slightly skewed by the fact that fingers made the final two starts of his career in 1973, going 6 innings in the first and 1.2 innings in the second.  he was the losing pitcher in each of the games, although he allowed a total of one earned run in those 7.2 innings pitched.  fingers was named to the all-star team for the first time in 1973, and he pitched a scoreless inning against the national league.  he pitched well in the postseason, too, earning a save in the alcs (along with a loss) and two saves in the world series while pitching in 5 of the 7 games.  fingers took the loss in game 2 of the series thanks to a willie mays single with two outs in the top of the 12th inning, but he was back on the mound to finish out the a's championship in game 7.

sal bando had another solid season for the a's in 1973.  the third baseman played in all 162 games, and led the league in doubles and total bases.  he also hit 29/98/.287, made the all-star team, and finished 4th in the league mvp voting.  he hit just .167 in the alcs, but did homer twice.  in the world series, bando had a double and a triple, but no homers as he hit .231 with 5 runs scored.

in 1973, vida blue bounced back from his "poor" showing in 1972 (he was 6-10 despite a 2.80 era) to win 20 games for the second time in his career.  his record stood at 20-9 with a 3.28 era in 37 starts.  blue pitched 13 complete games with 4 shutouts.  he finished the season strong, winning 11 of his final 14 starts.  that strong finish did not translate into postseason success, however, as the a's lost all 4 of the games blue started after the end of the regular season.  he was 0-1 in each series, and his alcs era was over 10!

the stadium on the back is...?:  the oakland alameda county stadium as it was known back then.

did upper deck get it right?: the 1973 a's certainly belong in the set.  the players upper deck chose, on the other hand...

ken holtzman would have been a better repeat subject than blue moon odom, and both bert campaneris and joe rudi would have made sense to have carried over from 1972 as well.  manny trillo is clearly a checklist grab by virtue of his appearance as a phillie later in the set.  and, once again, reggie jackson's absence is puzzling, especially with him being the 1973 american league and world series mvp.

for those that were included, the photos for tenace, green, bando, and blue are from 1971 at the latest - the last year the a's wore the sleeveless jerseys.  the green photo is probably from the kansas city days given the fact that his hat lacks a logo - a trick that topps perfected in the late 1960's when the team made its move.

the other photos are quite possibly from 1973, and trillo's is definitely from 1973 or 1974 - his only years with the team.

the stadium is correct, although the photo is much more recent than 1973.

is this team timeless?:  yes.  this team won a second consecutive title, and any team that can repeat is worthy being known as a timeless team.