Monday, September 1, 2014

Bobby Cox (#237)

Bobby Cox had a 2-year playing career as the Yankees’ 3rd baseman from 1968-69, then went on to much greater success as the manager for the Braves and Blue Jays from 1978 to 2010. This is his rookie card, and his only card as a player.

Cox was signed by the Dodgers in 1959. After 6 seasons as a 2B/3B in the minors, he was drafted by the Cubs in November 1964. After only 1 season in the Cubs’ system, he was traded to the Braves for outfielder Billy Cowan.

Cox was in the Braves' system for 2 seasons, then was traded to the Yankees in December 1967 for backup catcher Bob Tillman. (One year earlier, the Yankees had traded their 3rd baseman (Clete Boyer) to the Braves.)


After Mike Ferraro started the first 13 games in 1968, Cox was installed at the hot corner in Yankee Stadium, which had been a revolving door since Boyer departed. He started 129 of the remaining 151 games at 3rd base. Although showing little offensive punch for a 3rd baseman (7 homers) and batting only .229, Cox somehow retained the starting job for the entire season, and was named to the Topps All-Rookie team for 1968.

Cox was essentially a one-year wonder, as in 1969 another Bobby (Murcer) returned to the Yankees after a 2-year stint in the US Army and was handed the 3rd base job. After starting all but 1 of the first 32 games at 3rd base, Murcer was moved to the outfield on May 13th. This left Cox and rookie Jerry Kenney to platoon at the hot corner for the rest of the season, with Cox getting 55 starts to Kenney’s 74.

That was it for Cox’ playing career. After batting only .215 in 85 games, he was ticketed to the minors for all of 1970.

Bobby’s managing career began right away, as he piloted various teams in the Yankees’ farm system from 1971 to 1976. In 1978 he became the manager of the Atlanta Braves for 4 seasons, then moved on to manage the Blue Jays from 1982 to 1985.

Cox returned to the Braves’ job midway through the 1990 season, and stayed on through 2010. Along the way, he won the NL pennant in ’91, ’92, ’95, ’96, and ’99, and won the World Series in 1995.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, along with fellow managers Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hector Torres (#526)

Hector Torres was named as the shortstop on Topps’ 1968 All-Rookie team. The Astros were so high on him, that they traded the 1966 Topps All-Rookie shortstop (Sonny Jackson) to the Braves after the 1967 season to make room for Torres.

Hector was signed by the Giants in 1962, and after 4 seasons playing for the Giants’ class D, A, and AA teams, he was traded to the Angels in April 1966 for outfield prospect Dave Marshall (who we will see on this blog in 3 weeks).

Torres played the next 2 seasons for the Angels’ AAA team in Seattle, then was traded to the Astros for Jim Weaver in November 1967.

With incumbent shortstop Jackson departed for Atlanta, Torres won the starting shortstop job as a rookie, and except for the first half of May and a week in June, Hector started almost every game through the end of August.


This gave the ‘Stros a new-look infield, with Rusty Staub moving in from his outfield post to play 1st base, Denis Menke (acquired from Atlanta for Jackson) playing 2nd base since Joe Morgan missed all but the first week with injuries, and rookie Dave Rader sharing the hot corner with long-time 3rd-sacker Bob Aspromonte.

Torres racked up 128 games, 466 at-bats, and 104 hits as a rookie. It was by far the high point of his career. He wouldn’t see regular action again until 1975 with the Padres. 

With the return of Morgan in 1969, long-time Braves’ shortstop Menke moved across the diamond to shortstop, relegating Torres to the bench and to triple-A for the next 2 seasons.

After the 1970 season, Hector was traded to the Cubs for shortstop prospect Roger Metzger. Although Torres managed to stay in the majors for the entire season, he was stuck behind Don Kessinger, and only started 11 games at shortstop.

In April 1972 he was traded to the Expos, then found himself back with the Astros exactly 1 year later. Torres spent the entire 1973 season backing up Metzger in Houston. Hector was traded to the White Sox after the 1973 season, but spent all of 1974 in the minors.

Just prior to the 1975 opener, he was sold to the Padres. Torres started about 1/3 of the games at shortstop for the Padres in ‘75, and had career highs in batting average (.259) and RBI (26). He backed up Enzo Hernandez again in 1976, receiving slightly less playing time than the previous season.

Hector was traded to the Indians in December 1976, who flipped him to the Blue Jays during spring training in 1977. Torres started 55 games at shortstop for the expansion Blue Jays, more than rookie Bob Bailor or the other 3 players used there.

That was Hector’s final season in the majors. He played for the Jays’ and Pirates’ AAA teams in 1978 before retiring.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

1969 Topps Set is in the Quarter-finals!

So, Robert over at the $30 a Week Habit blog has been running a 16-set tournament, where bloggers vote for which set he should complete next. The 1969 set is now in the quarterfinals, facing off against the 1974 set. I vote for the 1969 set (surprise!), because:


The first cards for the 4 new expansion teams. Players are airbrushed in the early series, but shown in their new uniforms in the later series (Oakland A’s too!)



Passing the Torch:



The first Topps cards of Ted Williams since 1958:



45 future Hall-of-Famers are in the set, including Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, and Bill Mazeroski, none of who are in the 1974 set.



Key players for the Miracle Mets in the 1969 World Series:



Also, the final card for 40 players are in the 1969 set, including Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Elroy Face, Ken Boyer, and Bill White.


Vote early (and often)!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ken Boswell (#402)

Ken Boswell was one of two 2nd basemen named to the Topps All-Rookie Team in 1968. He was the Mets’ regular 2nd baseman from 1969-1972, and played his final 3 seasons with the Astros.

Boswell was signed by the Mets in 1965, and played 3 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in September 1967.

He began the 1968 season as the team’s starting 2nd baseman, but shared the position with veteran utilityman Phil Linz, each making 67 starts. It appears that may Ken may have been on the DL from late June until late August, because he played in no major- or minor-league games during that time.


With Linz retiring after the 1968 season, Boswell took over as the primary 2nd baseman, starting about 90 games per season there from 1969-72. (3B/2B Wayne Garrett picked up most of the remaining games.) Ken hit .333 in the 1969 ALCS vs. the Braves and also in the World Series vs. the Orioles.

After the 1972 season, the Mets acquired 2nd baseman Felix Millan from the Braves, relegating Boswell to a bench role. Ken only started 14 games in '73 and 46 in '74.

He was traded to the Astros following the 1974 season for outfielder Bob Gallagher, and spent his final 3 seasons as a backup 3B-2B behind Doug Rader (’74), Enos Cabell (’76), and Art Howe (’77).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dave Nelson (#579)

With this post, every team has now been represented at least twice on this blog. Last October (see opening comments here), I discovered that there was a huge disparity in the representation of each team on each of my blogs (in addition to the many 1967 and 1970 Phillies’ cards). 

I set out nine months ago to balance each team on each blog. The goal of a minimum of 8 cards per team for the 1967 blog was met with the Jim Ray Hart post back in May. In the next 3 to 5 weeks, I will also meet these goals: 1966 (6 per team), 1968 (7 per team), and 1970 (1 per team).


Dave Nelson was one of two 2nd basemen named to the 1968 Topps All-Rookie team. After sharing the 2nd base job as a rookie, he spent most of 1969 on the bench, then was traded to the Senators in the off-season, where he spent 6 seasons, finally nailing down an everyday job when they moved to Texas in 1972.

Nelson was signed by the Indians in 1964. After 4 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut in April 1968.

The Tribe used 4 guys at 2nd base that season, with Nelson and Vern Fuller each starting about 50 games. Veteran utilityman Chico Salmon started most games for the first 2 months, then it was Fuller’s turn for awhile. Dave didn’t get extended playing time until mid-July, then started 50 of the final 72 games at 2nd base.


In 1969 the Indians acquired former MVP and all-star shortstop Zoilo Versalles, and the Z-man alternated at 2nd base with Fuller for most of the season, leaving Nelson with bench duty. Dave made 24 consecutive starts beginning on July 24th, but that was it.

After the season, Nelson and pitcher Horacio Pina were traded to the Senators for pitchers Barry Moore and Dennis Higgins. Dave spent parts of ’70 and ’71 in the minors, and was the Nats’ regular 3rd baseman for the 2nd half of 1971 and all of 1972.

In 1973, Dave switched back to 2nd base, and made his only all-star squad that year. He was the starting 2nd baseman for 1973, 1974, and the first 2 weeks of 1975, until he was replaced by Lenny Randle.

After the ’75 season, Nelson was traded to the Royals for Nelson (Briles, that is). Dave spent the next 2 years backing up Frank White at 2nd base, and retired following the 1977 season.

Following his playing career, Nelson was a coach for the White Sox (1981-84), and an instructor for the Athletics, Expos, Indians, and Brewers (1986-2006). Currently, he is a broadcaster for the Brewers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gary Holman (#361)

Gary Holman was the 1st baseman on the 1968 Topps All-Rookie Team. Back in the day, I considered him interchangeable with another backup short-time 1st baseman featured on a "green team".

Holman was signed by the Dodgers in 1964. After one season with LA’s class-A teams in Salisbury, NC and Santa Barbara, CA, Holman was plucked by the Senators in the first-year minor-league draft. Gary spent 2 seasons in AA followed by 1 season in single-A ball, then jumped up to triple-A in 1968.


He made his major-league debut with the Senators in late-June 1968. I wondered today why Topps anointed him the All-Rookie 1st baseman, because he only got 98 at-bats spread over 75 games, and made only 12 starts in his rookie season – 3 at 1st base and 9 in the outfield. [A quick check of Baseball-Reference.com gave me my answer – there were no other rookie 1st basemen in 1968 that played more than 8 games.]

Holman was back with the Senators to start the 1969 season, but with Mike Epstein starting 2/3 of the games at 1st base (and Frank Howard moving in from left field to start the rest) there was no room for Holman. After appearing in 41 games (mostly as a pinch-hitter) he was sent back to the minors in mid-June, never to return. His major-league career consisted of 51 calendar-weeks on the Senators’ roster.

Gary finished out the ’69 season with triple-A Buffalo, then retired after the season.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Johnny Bench (#95)

Johnny Bench was the catcher on the Topps 1968 All-Rookie Team, and also the 1968 NL Rookie of the Year. This is Bench’s first solo card. He previously appeared on a Reds Rookie Stars card in the 1968 set.

Bench was selected by the Reds in the 2nd round of the 1965 draft (the inaugural “Rick Monday” draft) with the THIRTY-SIXTH overall pick. He was the EIGHTH catcher selected (behind Ray Fosse, Gene Lamont, Ken Rudolph, and 4 other backstops who never made it to the majors).

Johnny played 3 seasons (1965-67) in the minors, hitting 22 homers in ’66 and another 23 in ’67. He made his big-league debut on August 28, 1967 and started 26 of the Reds’ final 32 games. In the off-season, 6-year incumbent starting catcher Johnny Edwards was traded away to clear a path for Bench, and the rest is history.


Bench made his first of 13 consecutive all-star rosters in 1968, and edged out the Mets’ Jerry Koosman by one vote for NL Rookie of the Year. He also won his first of 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards.

In 1970 and 1972, Bench led the NL in home runs (45, 40) and RBI (148, 125), and won the MVP award both seasons. He also led the NL with 129 RBI in 1974.

Johnny played in the NLCS and World Series in ’70, ’72, ’75, and ’76, and in the NLCS in ’73 and ’79. He grabbed the 1976 World Series MVP award after a .533 batting average and 6 RBI in the ’76.

In 1981, Bench was limited to just 52 games, mostly sharing 1st base with Dan Driessen, and only catching in 7 games. The following season he was the team’s regular 3rd baseman, starting 103 games at the hot corner, while only spending one inning behind the plate.

In his final season (1983), Johnny was a bench player (ha ha!), only starting 41 games at 3rd base, 29 at 1st base, and 3 behind the plate. After a 2-year absence, he made the all-star team in his final season, but it was as a symbolic gesture, as his impending retirement was announced prior to the season.

In 1986, Bench's number 5 was retired by the Reds, and he was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 with 96% of the vote in his first year of eligibility.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stan Bahnsen (#380)

Stan Bahnsen was not only the righthander on the Topps 1968 All-Rookie team, he was also named AL Rookie of the Year. Stan appeared on Yankees Rookies cards in the 1967 and 1968 sets. This is his first solo card, and he had a card in every set through 1982.

Bahnsen was signed by the Yankees in 1965, and pitched 3 seasons in their farm system. He had a brief cup of coffee in September 1966, but didn’t return to the majors until April 1968.

He won 17 games as a rookie, as the Yankees #2 starter behind veteran Mel Stottlemyre. He also notched career-bests in strikeouts (162) and ERA (2.05) in his rookie year.


After an off-year in 1969, Bahnsen bounced back to win 14 games each in 1970 and 1971. After the 1971 season, he was traded to the White Sox for 3rd baseman Rich McKinney, and won 21 games in his first season in Chicago. Stan won 18 games the following season, but also led the AL with 21 losses.

Bahnsen pitched another year and a half for the Sox, then in June 1975 was traded to the Athletics for outfield prospect Chet Lemon. He started for the remainder of that season, but Oakland used him in relief during the ’76 and ’77 seasons.

In May 1977, Bahnsen was traded again, this time to the Expos for 1st baseman Mike Jorgensen. Stan joined the rotation that season, but was mostly a relief pitcher for his 4 full seasons in Montreal (1978-81).

The Expos released him 4 days before the season opener in 1982, and he was quickly picked up by the Angels. Stan pitched a combined 9 innings in 7 relief appearances, then was released by the Angels in mid-May. The Phillies signed him on May 31st, and he split his time between the Phillies and their AAA team in 1982. He was released after the season, and played for the Phillies’ AAA team in 1983 before retiring.

In 1992, he played for a team in The Netherlands.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jerry Koosman (#90)

Jerry Koosman was selected as the lefthanded pitcher on Topps' 1968 All-Rookie team. (My card is slightly out of register, making his name a little fuzzy.)

He played for 19 seasons, and is most-remembered for his first 12 seasons with the Mets. He came up around the same time as his Amazin’ Mets teammates Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, and although very successful early-on, fell short of Hall of Fame status.

Koosman was discovered while pitching in the Army, signed by the Mets in 1964, and pitched in the minors for 3 seasons (1965-67). In 1966, he recorded a 12-7 record while in class-A ball. In 1967, major-league teams began the season with 27 players, and didn’t need to cut down to 25 until early May. Jerry began the season with the Mets, but was sent down to triple-A in May, where he compiled an 11-10 record and 183 strikeouts in 25 games.


He made the Mets team permanently at the start of the 1968 season, and on the heels of Seaver’s Rookie of the Year performance in 1967, Koosman led the staff with 19 wins (for the 9th-place Mets, mind you) and missed out on the 1968 Rookie of the Year award by one vote (to Johnny Bench). Jerry also had a 2.08 ERA and made his first all-star team that season.

Kooz continued his excellence in 1969, going 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA and his 2nd (and final) all-star appearance. Although ineffective in the ’69 NLCS (11.75 ERA), he was 2-0 in the World Series against the Orioles.

Jerry continued with the Mets through the 1978 season (a year and a half past Seaver’s trade), winning in double figures 6 more times (including 21 wins in 1976).

In December ’78 he was traded to the Twins for pitcher Jesse Orosco. In 1979, and at age 36, Koosman was the Twins’ top pitcher, leading the team with 20 wins. The following season he was their top starter again, at 16-13.

In 1981, Koosman slumped to 3-8 during the (pre-strike) first half of the season. When the season resumed in mid-August, he was 0-1 in 7 games, and was traded to the White Sox on August 30th for 2 minor-leaguers and a guy named Randy Johnson (I thought it would be the Big Unit too, but it wasn't).

After a few appearances for Chicago in 1981, Koosman logged identical 11-7 seasons in ’82 and ’83, and in both seasons was a swingman for the only time in his long career.

The Sox traded him to the Phillies for pitcher Ron Reed in February 1984. In April he gave up Pete Rose’s 4000th hit, but posted a 14-15 record in his first season with Philly. Koosman’s final season not so good: only 6-4 in 19 games, with his last game on August 21st. He was released after the season.