Monday, July 30, 2012

1975 oakland a's

this post covers the 1975 oakland a's and cards numbered 123 to 126 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this:  the defending world champions (for the third straight year) and the 1975 american league west division winning oakland a's

why this team?:  they won the american league west for the fourth straight year and were heading towards a chance to defend their three consecutive world series titles until they met the red sox in the playoffs.

which players are featured?:  just four for this team - billy williams, gene tenace, jim perry, and vida blue.

why these players?:  well, billy williams and jim perry have appeared in the set before, although it was with different teams. williams was part of the 1969 cubs team, and perry checked in with the 1965 minnesota twins.  both blue and tenace have appeared as part of the a's dynasty - blue in 1974 and tenace in 1973.  to me, this team seems to be a bit of a checklist filler.

let's break it down.

billy williams joined the a's after the 1974 season, having spent his entire career to that point with the cubs.  he hit only .244 for the a's in '75, but did play in 155 games (mostly as their designated hitter) and hit 23 homers with 81 rbi.  one of those homers happened to be the 400th of his career, to boot.  in his first taste of the postseason, williams started two of the three alcs games, and appeared as a pinch-hitter in the other.  in all, he was 0 for 7 with a walk.

gene tenace tied his career high in runs scored (83) in 1975, and set personal bests in home runs (29) and rbi (87).  he hit .255 and was an all-star for the only time in his career.  oddly enough, he started the midsummer classic for the american league at first base, even though he spent most of his time in 1975 behind the plate.  in the alcs against the red sox, tenace was 0 for 9 with 3 walks.

jim perry arrived in oakland in may of 1975 via the trade that sent blue moon odom to cleveland.  perry appeared in 15 games (11 starts) for the a's, and had a record of 3-4.  he threw two complete games, one of which was a one-hit shutout against the baltimore orioles.  perry was released by the a's in august of 1975, meaning he did not get a chance to pitch in the postseason.

vida blue was 22-11 in 1975.  he appeared in 39 games, 38 of which were starts.  in his lone relief appearance, he earned a save.  to go along with his 13 complete games and 2 shutouts, blue also struck out 189 batters - the most he had k'd since his rookie year when he fanned 301.  blue was named the starting pitcher in the all-star game and finished 6th in the league cy young voting.  blue got the start in game 2 of the alcs, but lasted only 3+ innings, allowing 3 runs without recording an out in the 4th inning.

the stadium on the back is...?:  once again, the oakland alameda county stadium.  home to the a's since 1968.

did upper deck get it right?: as i said earlier, this seems to be a bit of a checklist grab.  the team made the playoffs but was swept by the red sox, so it's not even a league champion team.  all four players featured have previously appeared in the set, and one (perry) wasn't even with the team for the entire season.  although i will say that it is nice to have a card showing perry as an athletic.  given that, i am actually surprised that phil garner (who will show up with the 1979 pittsburgh pirates) wasn't given a a card.  other players that would have made sense include joe rudi, rollie fingers, and ken holtzman - all of whom have appeared in the set already.  i am going to say that this team should not have been in the set.

as for the photos, we know that the billy williams photo is either from 1975 or 1976, since those are the only years he played in oakland.  the tenace photo is from the same time because, thanks to the guy in the dugout with his feet up, it looks like it is from the same game or maybe even inning as the williams image.  jim perry's photo is certainly from 1975 as he was only with the team from may until august of that year.  the vida blue photo, however, is from no later than 1971 due to the uniform he is wearing.  three out of four isn't too bad for this set.

is this team timeless?:  not to me.  the 1972-74 a's are certainly 'timeless teams', but the 1975 team, although comprised of essentially the same players, is not considered to be part of the oakland dynasty of the early 1970's.

Monday, July 23, 2012

1975 cincinnati reds

this post covers the 1975 cincinnati reds and cards numbered 114 to 122 in the set. here are the fronts:

and backs:
what team is this?: the world champion 1975 cincinnati reds

why this team?:  the reds won 108 games during the 1975 regular season, and then swept the pirates in the nlcs.  they capped their season by winning their first world championship since 1940 as they beat the red sox in seven games.  they were the 'big red machine'!

which players are featured:  pedro borbon, dave concepcion, don gullett, george foster, joe morgan, johnny bench, rawly eastwick, sparky anderson, and tony perez

why these players?:  well, let's find out.

pedro borbon pitched in 67 games for the reds in 1975, all in relief.  he was 9-5 with 5 saves and a 2.95 era in those appearances which were just shy of will mcenaney's team leading 70 games.  borbon earned the save in the reds' pennant clinching game 3 win over the pirates in the nlcs, and pitched in three world series games, giving up two runs over 3 innings of work.

shortstop dave concepcion was an all-star for the second time in 1975 (first time starting), and he also won his second straight gold glove that year.  over 140 games in the regular season, he hit .274 and stole 33 bases.  in the postseason, concepcion hit .455 against the pirates, and although he hit only .179 against the red sox in the world series, he did have a home run, 4 rbi and 3 stolen bases.

don gullett won 15 games for the reds in the regular season, tying him with gary nolan and jack billingham for the team lead.  gullett lead the starting staff in era, however, with a 2.42 mark.  he finished 5th in the league cy young award voting, and was chosen to start both game 1 of the nlcs and game 1 of the world series for the reds.  against the pirates, gullett threw a complete game as the reds won 8-3.  against boston, however, gullett gave up 10 hits and 4 runs in 6+ innings, and the reds lost game 1 6-0.  he started game 5 a few days later, and earned the win with 8.2 innings pitched.  gullett was then tapped to start game 7, in which he pitched 4 innings and gave up three runs.

george foster had a bit of a breakout year in 1975.  the 26-year old played in 134 games and hit 23 home runs with 78 rbi and a .300 batting average.  foster was 2 for 4 in each of the first two nlcs games, and then had two hits in 3 of the 7 games against the red sox. one of those games was game 6, in which he hit a two-run double to give the reds a 7th inning lead.

joe morgan won the first of his two back-to-back nl mvp awards in 1975.  he hit .327 that year, with 67 stolen bases and a league leading .466 obp.  he was also the national league's starting second baseman in the all-star game, and he won his third consecutive gold glove as well.  morgan's regular season success didn't directly translate to the postseason, although all 3 of his hits in the nlcs were doubles, and he stole four bases.  in the world series, he hit .259 with 4 runs scored and 2 steals.  in game 7, however, morgan was 2 for 4 with a walk, and it was his 9th inning single that drove in the game (and series) winning run.  a memorable moment to be sure.

johnny bench won his 8th straight gold glove for his work behind the plate in 1975.  he also started his seventh consecutive all-star game and finished fourth in the league mvp voting for the second straight year.  at the plate, bench hit 28 homers and drove in 110 runs during the regular season.  in the nlcs, however, the pirates held him to just one hit in 13 at bats.  he did a bit better in the world series, hitting .207 with a home run and 4 rbi.

1975 was rawly eastwick's rookie year, and he didn't disappoint.  although he finished 3rd in the rookie-of-the-year balloting, eastwick led the national league with 22 saves.  he had a 5-3 record in 58 appearances with an era of 2.60.  eastwick was 3-0 in the postseason with a save, although the first of those wins came after he blew a save in game 3 of the nlcs.  he earned the wins in both games 2 and 3 of the world series, and then got the save in the reds' game 5 victory.  in game 6, it was eastwick who gave up bernie carbo's game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth to set the stage for carlton fisk's walk-off homer in the 12th.

a first for our set so far - a manager is featured on a card.  sparky anderson won his third pennant in 1975 with the reds.  the 108 games that cincinnati won that year was the most any team managed by anderson (including the detroit tigers) ever won.

tony perez was the first baseman for the big red machine in 1975, and he hit .282 with 20 home runs and 109 rbi during the regular season.  he was named to the all-star team, although he didn't start because steve garvey had begun his stranglehold on the position a year earlier.  perez hit .417 against the pirates in the nlcs, and despite batting just .179 against the red sox in the world series, he drove in 7 runs with 3 homers.

the stadium on the back is...?: an outside shot of old riverfront stadium.  that's where the reds played from 1970 through 2002.  i did not realize that the stadium opened during the 1970 season, and hosted the 1970 all-star game a mere two weeks after the reds began playing there.

did upper deck get it right?: i think that each of these players were a big part of the reds' success in the mid-1970's.  of course, pete rose, the 1975 world series mvp is missing from the set due to licensing issues stemming from his ban from baseball.  other reds that would have made sense to be included are ken griffey (their right fielder), cesar geronimo (their center fielder), and maybe gary nolan or will mcenaney.  still, the 9 that upper deck chose to represent this team, given their inability to include rose, make sense to me.

the photos, on the other hand, are not all kosher.  for everyone but gullett and sparky, the photos could be from anywhere between 1972 and 1992.  well, not until 1992, but you get the idea - the reds wore those pullover unis for a long time.  that also means that the photos could be from 1975.  i like eastwick's photo, by the way, with dodger stadium showing up in the background.  however, for gullett and sparky, we have photos from no later than 1971.

gullett and sparky both first appeared in the reds' uniforms in 1970, so we know the photos are from either 1970 or 1971.  in sparky's case, wayne granger offers no additional clues because he was on the team both years.

is this team timeless?:  yes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

1975 boston red sox

this post covers the 1975 boston red sox and cards numbered 105 to 113 in the set. here are the fronts:
and backs:
what team is this?:  the american league champion 1975 boston red sox

why this team?:  the red sox won 95 games during the regular season, and then swept the three-time defending world champion a's in the alcs before losing to the reds in one of the most memorable fall classics of all time.

which players are featured?:  carl yastrzemski, carlton fisk, cecil cooper, dwight evans, fred lynn, jim rice, luis tiant, rick burleson, and rico petrocelli.

why these players?: this is pretty much the starting lineup for the 1975 bosox - only doug griffin and maybe bernie carbo are missing.  let's break it down.

one of two players appearing in the set for the second time as red sox players, carl yastrzemski played in 149 games for the red sox during the 1975 regular season.  by the way, here's a list of all the players in history who played in more games than carl yastrzemski.  pete rose.  that's it.  anyway, yaz was back to first base almost exclusively after nearly splitting his time between the outfield and first in 1974.  he hit .269 with 14 home runs and 60 rbi, but still scored 91 runs.  he made the all-star team for the 12th time, although not as a starter.  yaz hit .455 in the alcs against the a's, and then hit .310 against the reds in the world series.  he scored 7 times and drove in 4, but all 9 of his hits were singles.

carlton fisk missed almost the entire first half of the 1975 season, but came back to catch in 71 games.  he hit .331 with 10 homers and 52 rbi, and then hit .417 in the alcs.  the memorable moment, as documented in his lone card in this set, came in game 6 of the world series when he waved his 12th inning home run fair to force game 7.  fisk had another home run in the series, but hit only .240 over the 7 games.

dwight evans was the sox' right fielder in 1975, as he was and would be until 1990.  he hit 13 homers with 56 rbi, and had a .274 average in 128 games.  as you might guess, the strong-armed right fielder also led the league with 15 outfield assists.  the a's held him to just one hit (a double) in the alcs, but he hit .292 in the fall classic against cincinnati, with a double, triple, and home run among his 7 hits. his home run tied the game at 5 in game 3 of the series, essentially forcing extra innings in which the reds would triumph thanks to some possible interference by ed armbrister and a joe morgan single.

fred lynn's 1975 season is the rookie season that all others are, or should be, measured by.  en route to winning both the american league rookie of the year award and the most valuable player award, lynn led the league in runs (103), doubles (47), slugging percentage (.566) and ops (.967).  he was second in batting average (.331 to rod carew's .359), 4th in total bases, and 3rd in rbi.  he also won a gold glove and was named to the all-star team.  lynn's success continued into the postseason, where he hit .364 against the a's in the alcs.  he then hit .280 against the reds in the world series along with a homer and 5 rbi, tying dewey evans for the team lead in runs driven in over the 7 game series.

jim rice was also a rookie in 1975, and, had fred lynn not run away with the award, he would have easily been voted as the al rookie of the year.  as it is, rice finished 2nd in the voting thanks to a line of 22/102/.309 with 92 runs scored.  he also finished 3rd in the mvp voting (john mayberry of the royals finished 2nd in between the two red sox outfielders).  rice may have made the difference in the world series in 1975, as he was unable to play due to a late-season injury sustained when he was hit by a pitch.

luis tiant was an 18-game winner for the bosox in 1975.  he made 35 starts, completing 18, and earning a decision in a whopping 90% (32 of 35) of them.  his era was high at 4.02, but he did manage a couple of shutouts in september.  he was peaking at the right time apparently, as he threw a 3-hit complete game in his lone alcs start (he gave up a single unearned run), and then won 2 of his 3 world series starts as well.  the first start (and victory) came in game 1, via a 5-hit shutout of the reds, and his second start, in game 4, also was a complete game victory.  tiant's third start of the series came in game 6 where he pitched into the 8th inning but had no decision in the outcome.  that would be the final postseason appearance of el tiante's career.

man, the red sox had a good young team in 1975.  rick burleson was their shortstop, and in his second year in the big leagues, he hit .252 with 66 runs scored and 62 driven in over 158 games. he finished 13th in the league mvp voting and then hit .444 against the a's in the alcs.  he followed that up by hitting .292 in the world series, with an obp of .393.  the next time rooster would appear in the postseason, however, would be with the angels against the red sox in 1986.

rico petrocelli is the other holdover from the 1967 sox team to be featured.  1975 was his next-to-last season, but he still played in 115 games, mostly at third base.  he hit just .239 but did drive in 59 runs.  petrocelli was one of the few red sox batters to not have a strong alcs at the plate, hitting just .167, although he did have a home run to his credit.  he did better in the world series, hitting .308 with 4 rbi, but had just one extra base hit (a double) to go with 7 singles.
the stadium on the back is...?:  fenway park, of course.  that's where the red sox have played since 1912.  although the photo is much more recent, as i believe the monster seats are visible in the picture.  they weren't installed until the early 2000's.

did upper deck get it right?: the team certainly belongs in the set, and the players chosen were regulars on the team.  bernie carbo would have made sense, as it was carbo's 3-run 8th inning home run that tied the score in game 6, setting up fisk's blast.  the real tragedy, however, is in the photos.

yastrzemski's photo was taken in the original yankee stadium (note the greenish facade), so it can't be from any later than 1972.  we know that from the uniform, too, as boston went to the pullovers in 1973.  we don't know for sure when fisk's photo is taken, but the uniform looks right for 1975 (and most of the 70's, too) thanks to the waistband and the red cap the other guy is wearing.  the same goes for lynn and burleson, so no complaints about those images.  jim rice on the other hand, well, that photo has to be from no earlier than 1979, the year the bosox went back to button down jerseys. same goes for tiant, although i would point out the fact that it looks like he is holding a 1977 topps (or maybe o-pee-chee?) card in his hand, so we know just by that fact that the photo is not from 1975.

the worst of the worst, howver, is rico petrocelli.  not only is the photo, like yaz's, from before 1972, it is the same exact photo that upper deck used for petrocelli in the 1967 team subset.  that may be the worst offense in this set.

is this team timeless?: of course.  it was the last postseason appearance for yastrzemski, and the fisk home run is an all-time classic. they took the reds to seven games and got all of boston's hopes up.