Friday, July 15, 2016

Nate Colbert (#11)

Nate Colbert was the first star for the fledgling San Diego Padres, leading the expansion squad in homers (24) and RBI (a paltry 66). (Regardless of how you feel about the borders, the 1970 cards have some nice photos, particularly for the 4 recent expansion teams who were poorly represented (photographically) in the 1969 set.)

Colbert was signed by the Cardinals in 1964, and played in the minors for 5 seasons before becoming the regular 1st baseman for the 1969 Padres.

Between those two years, he spent 1966-68 in the Astros’ farm system, banging 28 homers in 1967. Nate played 1st base in A-ball in 1966, but split his time between 1B and the outfield in double-A in 1967, since 1st baseman Bob Watson was also on his team. In 1968 Colbert exclusively played outfield in triple-A, because the Astros also had 1st base prospect John Mayberry on the same team.


Colbert played a few games with the Astros in ’66 and ’68, but was clearly expendable, with Watson and Mayberry ahead of him on the path to Houston. The Padres selected him in the expansion draft prior to the 1969 season.

Nate had 5 solid seasons with the Padres from 1969-73, twice hitting 38 home runs and making the All-Star team 3 times. In 1972 he hit FIVE home runs in a doubleheader on August 1st, as the Padres swept the Braves.

After slumping to .207 in only 119 games in 1974, Colbert was traded to the Tigers for shortstop Ed Brinkman. By mid-June 1975 he moved on to the Expos, where he lasted until the following June.

A week after his June 2nd release, the Athletics signed him, but he spent the rest of the ’76 season in the minors, save for 2 games at the end of the season. Colbert was with the expansion Blue Jays in spring training in 1977, but did not make the team.

In his 10-year career, he hit 173 homers and collected 520 RBI, but NEVER played for a team that didn’t finish in last place (not counting the 2 games he played for Oakland at the end of the 1976 season).

He was inducted into the Padres’ Hall of Fame in 1999, its inaugural class.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dave Baldwin (#673)

Here is relief pitcher Dave Baldwin, ostensibly with the Seattle Pilots. Baldwin never played with the Pilots, having spent the entire 1969 season with the Washington Senators. The Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers during spring training 1970 – too late for Topps to make any changes.

Like the recently-posted Dave Bristol card, we see Baldwin in what I refer to as their “dress uniform”, complete with scrambled eggs and extra gold braid on the cap (something we didn’t see on the late-1969 Pilot cards), and his pilot’s wings on his chest. These were worn during spring training, which is the only time we would have seen Baldwin or Bristol in a Seattle uniform.

Dave pitched for the University of Arizona for 3 seasons, and played in the 1959 College World Series (tossing a 2-hitter). He was signed by the Phillies in 1959, and played his first two seasons with class-A Williamsport, where some of his teammates were Art Mahaffey, Bobby Wine, and Ted Savage (on their way up) and Curt Simmons (on his way down).


After 3 more seasons in the Phillies’ chain, Dave was sold to the Mets in January 1964. Released by New York on May 30th, he was picked up by the Houston Colt .45s two days later, but they only kept him for one month before also releasing him. Two weeks later Baldwin signed with the Senators.

He labored in the minors for 2+ more seasons until making his major-league debut in September 1966. Although Baldwin was a starter and reliever in the minors, he only worked from the bullpen in the majors. Dave was a fixture in the Nats’ bullpen for the next 3 seasons. It appears that he was the right-handed short man, as he averaged just over 1 inning per game. He picked up 12 saves as a rookie in 1967 (2 less than lefty Darold Knowles) and led the staff with a 1.70 ERA in 68 innings over 58 games.

In 1968 Dave went 0-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 40 games, also spending some time in the minors. Back in the majors for all of 1969, he was the #5 reliever in terms of appearances and innings pitched. He also had a similarly poor ERA and won/lost record as in the previous season.

After the 1969 season, Dave was traded to the Pilots for well-traveled starting pitcher George Brunet. Baldwin split the 1970 season between the Brewers and their AAA team in Portland, Oregon.

The following spring, he was purchased outright by the Padres’ AAA team in Hawaii. After 2 full seasons in the minors, the White Sox purchased him in March 1973. He played 3 games for Chicago in late-July/early-August 1973, but otherwise spent most on ’73 and all of ’74 in the minors, before calling it a career.

After his playing career, he earned a Ph. D. and became something of a renaissance man in the fields of science, art, and literature.

Monday, April 18, 2016

John Bateman (#417)

Here is Expos’ catcher John Bateman under the Daytona Beach palm trees during spring training, possibly practicing gunning out runners (maybe the slow-footed Ron Brand?) [I was at the Expos' spring training in Daytona in 1974, but by then Bateman had retired.] 

Bateman and Brand were the top 2 catchers for the Astros for several seasons, then both were selected by the Expos in the expansion draft after the 1968 season. I think this is an interesting photo, not a typical vanilla pose, nor is he looking up in the sky for a popup like on some catchers’ cards.


Bateman was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962, and after just one season in the minors he became the Colts’ #1 catcher in 1963, starting 111 games behind the dish.

He opened the ’64 season as the starting catcher, but by mid-June rookie Jerry Grote was catching more games than John. By late-July, Bateman was sent back to triple-A and didn’t play another game for Houston until mid-September.

In 1965, Grote was in the minors for the entire season, while Bateman was back with the big club. However, Rule 5 pickup Ron Brand got 94 starts to Bateman’s 38 (with veteran Gus Triandos picking up the scraps).

Bateman was the clear #1 backstop in ’66 and ’68, while sharing the duties with Brand in ’67.

The Expos selected John with their 3rd pick in the expansion draft (and also selected Brand with their next-to-last pick). Bateman started 136 and 133 games behind the plate in his 2 full seasons with Montreal.

1972 was a different story. Veteran utilityman John Boccabella caught most of the games early-on, with Bateman only making 5 starts in mid-May.

On June 14th, he was traded (inexplicably straight-up) to the Phillies for catcher Tim McCarver. (!?!?!?) A few years ago, I asked long-time Philly sportswriter Stan Hochman if he recalled the circumstances around that trade. Why would the Phillies possibly trade a quality catcher in McCarver for Bateman, who on his best days was merely serviceable? Especially in the midst of Steve Carlton’s magical 27-10 season? Who messes with that chemistry? And for what? Hochman couldn’t recall the reasons for the trade.

Bateman finished up his career with the Phillies in the summer of ’72, and was released the following spring. He played with The King and His Court softball team from 1977-80.

Bateman passed away in 1996 at age 56.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dave Bristol (#556)

As I mentioned on my sidebar a while ago, this 1970 blog is going to focus on cards of the 4 expansion teams for the foreseeable future. 

Today we have Pilots’/Brewers’ manager Dave Bristol, complete with gold piping on his cap and a ship’s wheel on his uniform. Bristol never actually managed the Pilots. Joe Schultz was the manager for their lone 1969 season. Nor was Bristol a Pilots’ coach, having been the Reds’ manager in 1969. So, a rare “kudos” to Topps for getting this photo!

Bristol never played in the major leagues, but was a 2nd baseman in the Reds’ organization from 1951 to 1961. He was also a minor-league manager for them from 1957 to 1965. The overlap indicates that he was a player-manager for several years.


Midway through the 1966 season, Dave (then only age 33) took over the Reds’ managerial job from rookie manager Don Heffner. He continued at the helm through the 1969 season, finishing 4th, 4th, and 3rd in his 3 full seasons. (The Reds replaced him with Sparky Anderson for the 1970 season.) Dave’s time with the Reds were his only winning seasons.

Bristol took over the mess that was the Seattle Pilots in early 1970. The team went to spring training as the Pilots, and broke camp as the Milwaukee Brewers, thanks to a Milwaukee used-car salesman named Bud Selig. Dave managed the team for 1970, 1971, and 30 games into the 1972 season until he was shown the door.

He later managed the Braves (1976-77) and Giants (1979-80). During the 1977 season, Braves’ owner Ted Turner replaced Bristol with himself (?!?) until the commissioner ruled that a team manager could not also own a team, so Bristol returned to finish out the season.

Dave was also a 3rd base coach for the Reds (‘66, ’89, ’93), Expos (’73-’75), Giants (’78-’79), and Phillies (’82-’85, ’88).

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mike Wegener (#193)

After the 1968 season, the NL and AL each held an expansion draft to stock the 2 new teams in their league (Expos, Padres, Royals, Pilots). After the established teams protected 15 players in their system, each new team selected 3 players from each of the 10 teams in their league. 

The Phillies lost veterans Tony Gonzalez, Roberto Pena (to the Padres), Bobby Wine, and Gary Sutherland (Expos). They also lost pitching prospects Steve Arlin (Padres) and Mike Wegener (Expos). 


This is the 2nd of Mike Wegener’s 3 baseball cards (1969-71). He was signed by the Orioles in 1964, and after one season was selected by the Phillies in the minor-league draft.


After a 10-13 class-A season in 1965, Mike missed most of the 1966 season and spent the ’67 season in class-A. Promoted to AAA in 1968, he went 4-12 and was lost to the Expos in the expansion draft (the 15th overall selection).

Wegener spent all of 1969 and 1970 with the Expos, compiling a record of 8-20 in 57 games, mostly as a starting pitcher. Late in 1970, he gave up Willie Mays’ 3000th hit.

His final big-league game was on 9/26/1970, then he spent the remainder of his career pitching in triple-A for the Expos (1971-73), Mets (1973-75), and Giants (1976-77). After 1971, he was primarily a relief pitcher.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jose Martinez (#8)

This is Jose Martinez’ rookie card. Having not collected baseball cards in 1970, I first became aware of Martinez while he was a first-base coach. If I recall correctly, it was for the Kansas City Royals, in the 1980 World Series against the Phillies.

It’s not surprising that he slipped through the cracks back then, because he only had a 2-year career (1969-70). Martinez was signed by the Pirates in 1960, and worked his way up the ladder, playing in triple-A in ’65 and ’66. After missing the 1967 season, he found himself back in double-A in 1968.


Jose made his major-league debut in April 1969. That season, he played in 42 games as a utility infielder, and started 35 games at 2nd base (mostly during June and July).

Martinez began the 1970 season with the Bucs, but after only 19 appearances (mostly pinch-hitting or pinch-running), he was sent down in late-May, never to return to the show. He remained with the Pirates’ AAA team through the end of the 1971 season.

Jose was sold to the Royals in March 1972, and played 3 seasons with their AAA club in Omaha, Nebraska, then was released in April 1975. He also pitched 4 innings in 1974.

After his playing career, Martinez worked for the Royals as a minor-league manager and major-league coach from 1980-88, then coached with the Cubs from 1988-1994. In 1995 he began working in the Braves’ front office as a special assistant to the GM, where he remained until his death in 2014.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Frank Lucchesi (#662)

Early-1970s Phillies’ manager Frank Lucchesi never played in the majors, but was a minor-league outfielder from 1945 to 1956, playing mostly in the Yankees’ chain.

As the back of his card shows, he was also a minor-league manager for 19 seasons (and in the Phillies’ organization since 1956) before finally getting a major-league job in 1970.

The Phillies had fired long-time manager Gene Mauch in mid-1968, and after starting the 1969 season with Bob Skinner, he was also let go in mid-season. The Phillies then turned to their long-time organizational soldier Lucchesi to pilot the new-look Phillies. The 1970 Phillies were to have a new stadium (construction delays pushed it to 1971), new uniforms, and new players (Curt Flood, Larry Bowa, Tim McCarver, Joe Hoerner, Dick Selma, Denny Doyle).

Unfortunately, none of that translated into better results. The Phillies had won only 63 games in 1969. Their win totals for the next 3 seasons were 73, 67, and 59. (Yes, FIFTY-NINE! And 27 of those were won by the newly-acquired Steve Carlton. I can’t imagine the disaster that team would have been without Lefty.)

Anyhoo, good old Frank was shown the door 76 games into his 3rd season at the helm. On 6/3/1972, the Phillies fired long-time GM John Quinn, replacing him with farm director Paul Owens. A month later, Owens had seen enough, and after pulling the plug on Lucchesi, managed the team himself for the rest of the season, so he could “see who can play and who can’t”.

Frank later managed the Texas Rangers from mid-1975 to mid-1977, including the infamous incident where Rangers’ infielder Lenny Randle punched his lights out in a dispute over playing time.

Lucchesi also managed the Cubs for the final 25 games of the 1987 season.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Final Card: Bob Christian

Bob Christian (#51) had a brief career with the White Sox in 1969 and part of 1970.

Christian was signed by the Yankees in 1964 as a 3rd baseman, then after that season was selected by the Tigers in the minor-league draft. Bob played in the Tigers’ farm system for the next 4 seasons (playing mostly 3rd base, then moving to 2nd base due to a sore arm), culminating with a 3-game cup of coffee with the Tigers in September 1968.


After the ’68 season, he was purchased by the White Sox and split the 1969 season between the White Sox, their AAA team, and the National Guard. Bob played 39 games with the Sox that season, briefly in June, then was recalled in early August, and started almost every game in left field during September.

Instead of picking up where he left off, the 1970 season was a bust. Christian only played 12 games for Chicago, all in April and May, and almost all as a pinch-hitter. He played the final 4 months of that season in the minors, then was released.

Bob played in Japan for the 1971 and 1972 seasons.

He passed away in February 1974 from leukemia, at the age of 28.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jim Hickman (#612)

Here is Cubs’ 1B-OF Jim Hickman, about to enjoy his finest season in 1970. It was his 9th season, but his 1st and only all-star appearance. He also hit a career-high 32 homers.

Hickman was signed by the Cardinals in 1956, but languished in the minors until he was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft prior to the 1962 season. Jim was the Mets’ primary (though not everyday) center fielder for his first 4 seasons, sharing the post with Richie Ashburn in ’62, Jim Piersall in ’63, Larry Elliot in ’64, and Johnny Lewis in ’65. He also started over 40 games at third base in 1963.


In 1966 the Mets promoted rookie Cleon Jones and acquired veteran Al Luplow from the Indians, so the outfield was crowded from the start of the season. Hickman was the starting center fielder for the first week, until Jones took over. Jim missed all games from mid-May to mid-August, and when he returned, could only find spot starts in left and right fields. Hickman wound up as the 6th outfielder, behind Jones, Ron Swoboda, Luplow, Elliot, and Lewis.

Now expendable, Jim was included in the trade that sent 2nd baseman Ron Hunt to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith in October 1966. In an outfield already manned by Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Al Ferrara, and Lou Johnson, Hickman only managed to start 16 games in his lone season with the Dodgers, with most of his appearances as a pinch-hitter. He also pitched the last 2 innings on June 23rd vs. the Giants.

In late-April 1968 Jim and pitcher Phil Regan were traded to the Cubs for outfielder Ted Savage (seems like a steal for the Cubs). Although Hickman had a hard time breaking into the lineup in 1968 (and spent part of the season in the minors), he found new life with the Cubs, playing 6 seasons in Chicago.

In 1969 (his 1st season as a regular since 1965) he was the starting right fielder, and hit 21 homers, the most since hitting 17 as a sophomore.

1970 was his career year. With the off-season acquisition of Johnny Callison, Hickman began the season in center field. By late-May he began alternating at 1st base with the veteran Ernie Banks, while also continuing to play center when he wasn’t at 1st base. He reached a career-high 613 plate appearances, 32 homers, and 1156 RBI. His RBI total was double his previous mark. He also made the all-star team that year and was 8th in the MVP voting [Jim Hickman?]. 

With Banks’ career fading and Joe Pepitone getting the majority of playing time at 1st base, Hickman split his time between right field and 1st base in 1971. His numbers (19/60) were way down from the previous year.

Jim played 2 more season as the Cubs’ 1st baseman, then was traded to the Cardinals during spring training in 1974 for pitcher Scipio Spinks. The Cards had Joe Torre at 1st base and Lou Brock, Bake McBride, Reggie Smith, and Jose Cruz in the outfield, so there wasn’t much for Hickman to do. He was released in July, ending his 12-year career.