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.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chuck Taylor (#119)

This post is about Chuck Taylor, not Chuck Taylors, But as long as I have your attention, behold the Holy Grail of sneakers from back in the day:

We always referred to these as "Converse All-Stars", not "Chuck Taylors" or "Chucks" as is done these days. I also recall that all the "cool kids" had these as early as elementary school, while the rest of us didn't catch up until jr. high (having been saddled with "sensible" sneakers like Keds or PF Flyers prior to that). The other thing I remember is that the only style that "mattered" was black hi-tops. Having white Converse sneex, or black low-tops just wasn't the same.


Oh yes, Chuck Taylor:

This is Chuck Taylor's rookie card, the first of his 6 consecutive cards.  He pitched for 8 seasons (1969-76), mostly for the Cardinals and Expos. Although he started half his games as a rookie, he was a reliever for the rest of his career.

Taylor was signed by the Cardinals in 1961, and pitched 8 seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut with the Cardinals in May 1969.

Prior to the 1964 season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s (with outfielder Jim Beauchamp) for outfielder Carl Warwick. Midway through the following season, Houston returned him to the Cardinals (with pitcher Hal Woodeshick) for pitchers Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor.


After a few games in AAA in 1969, Taylor was called up to St. Louis in late May. After spending 2 months in the bullpen, he joined the rotation and made 12 consecutive starts from late-July to the end of the season. Chuck appeared in 56 games in 1970 – all in relief except for 7 starts in June and July. He also led the team with 8 (!) saves that season.

During the 1971/72 off-season, he was part of a 4-for-4 trade with the Mets that included Beauchamp going to New York, and Jim Bibby and Art Shamsky going to St. Louis. Taylor split his time in 1972 between the Mets, their AAA club, and the Brewers.

The Brewers released him in spring training 1973, but he was quickly snapped up by the Expos. Chuck pitched for Montreal for 3 full seasons and part of 1976, also playing for the Expos’ AAA team for part of 1976.  He retired after the season.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sal Bando (#120)

Sal Bando is often obscured by Reggie Jackson’s shadow when we remember the A’s teams of this era. This is Bando’s first card appearing as an Oakland A. He was on an Athletics Rookie Stars card in 1967, followed by 2 capless photos in ’68 and ’69 as the Athletics relocated to Oakland.

Bando was drafted in the 6th round by the Athletics in 1965 (5 rounds after selecting his college teammate Rick Monday) and played 3 seasons in the minors. He also appeared briefly for Kansas City in September 1966 and in 1967 from mid-May to mid-June, and again in September.


When veteran Ed Charles was traded to the Mets in May 1967, Bando got his first shot at the 3rd base job. A month later he returned to the minors while the A’s filled in with Danny Cater and Dick Green, but Sal returned in September and locked down the 3rd base job starting on September 8th.

Bando was a fixture at the hot corner for the next 9 seasons, starting 159, 162, 150, 153, 151, 159, 141, 160, and 155 games there over the next 9 seasons. During that time he was the team’s captain, a 4-time all-star, and finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting in 1971. The Athletics appeared in the post-season every year from 1971 to 1975, winning 3 World Series titles. In 39 post-season games with the A’s, Bando hit 5 homers and collected 12 RBI.

Granted free agency after the 1976 season, Bando signed with the Brewers and played 5 additional seasons there – the first 3 as their regular 3rd baseman.

Bando retired after the Brewers lost the ALDS playoffs to the Yankees in 1981. Playing in 2,019 games over 16 years, he finished with 242 home runs and 1,039 RBI. Sal was the Brewers’ GM from 1991-99.

His brother Chris was a catcher for the Indians in the 1980s.