Just A Quick Note…

Hopefully soon I’ll be back to posting in a regular basis. But I’ve had things, good things, percolating. I am very optimistic about a job back in my field. I will need to relocate, but you know, at this point, that’s OK by me.

Joe Ferguson was really OK.  He always seemed to wear a batting helmet on in his cards. He looked like the dude that played in 4 softball leagues a week and treated them all to beer afterwards. But he could hit but his offensive skills weren’t valued in the 1970’s for some idiotic reason. He was the kind of player that could have an OPS+ of over 110 with only a .220 batting average.

And I’m really OK, too. I feel loved and blessed. And then, I read the posts from you knuckleheads, and I feel loved and blessed even more.

All I did was send you guys cards that I couldn’t move (and you grab baggers – more to follow). But dang, the testimonials are making me feel verklempt…

Talk amongst yourselves…

Here’s a topic: If Jeff Francouer played in the era of Bill James’ Baseball Abstract series of books, he would be more villified than Enos Cabell was.

Bill Bonham – 1978 Topps

January 18, 2011

“So All I Gotta Do Is Stand Here, And I Get $20?”

I am fully convinced that Topps, in a panic, found some random dude off the street and said it was “Bill Bonham”, letting the airbrushers do their work no matter where he wound up.

Bonham was featured in one of the first minor league games I saw. I had already been to a few major league games when my dad and I went to Indianapolis to see a doubleheader in 1981. Bonham was struggling with injuries, and was rehabbing down there. He didn’t impress. In fact, he was released at the end of 1981 without throwing a pitch in the majors.

I remember Bonham coming up as a Cub. The Baseball Reference Bullpen says that he could have been one of the top righties in Cubs history had he not been hurt. Of course, that reference is what gave me the faulty info on Japanese-American players. What was interesting is that Bonham was drafted three times, but after his senior year at UCLA he wasn’t drafted and the Cubs signed him. The rules were different then, and I think Bonham was eligible only for the short secondary phase in June 1970.

I don’t buy the arm-injury thing for the Cubs is that he seemingly didn’t miss a start until he went to the Reds in 1978. Whitey Lockman and Jim Marshall really rode him hard in 1974 and 1975 but he made over 30 starts in 1976 and 1977. His strikeout rate was down, yes, but he took the ball.

His 1974 campaign stands out. He went 11-22 for a bad team that gave up a lot of runs. Everyone and their first cousin from Rockford started a game, and Bonham made eight relief appearances along with 36 starts. He shouldn’t have been 11-22, his ERA+ was 99. But those Cubs were heinous on defense. I mean, heinous. -139 runs heinous. The hit parade:

Vic Harris – 16 runs in 56 games at 2B.

Rob Dunn -8 runs in 21 games at 2B.

Bill Madlock – 10 runs as the regular 3B.

Don Kessinger, looking old at 31 and a -15 runs at SS.

Dave Rosello, -12 runs in 61 games at 2B and SS.

Jerry Morales, -22 runs at all three outfield positions.

Rick Monday, -27 runs as the regular CF.

They made errors, yes, but they played grounders into singles and fly balls into doubles. Defense may not be as important as offense but you can’t give the other team extra outs and baserunners.

The Cubs improved in all facets in 1975, except their bullpen. Well, that, and Monday was still a -23 runs in CF. (Couldn’t the Cubs coaches and management see that? What were they doing – waiting to see whose hat would be featured on Arnie’s cam?) Bonham’ ERA was higher (4.71) than in 1974 but it was better than most of the bullpen.

After a couple more so-so seasons it was off to Cincy and while he pitched better and won,  he wound up missing a lot of time with injuries and didn’t play in the 1979 NLCS.

Maybe the homeless guy stole his rotator cuff?

 

Pat Scanlon – 1978 Topps

January 15, 2011

SCANLON!

I know Kerry did this, just yesterday, but I had it scanned. And well, I’m taking a different tack on it.

I do remember Scanlon. Not because he was involved in a couple of trades (what, you don’t remember the epic Expos / Cards trade where Tony Scott, Scanlon and Steve “Stunning” Dunning went to St. Louis for Angel Torres, Sam Mejias, and Bill Grief? How about where Scanlon and John “Ball Four” D’Acquisto were sent to the Padres for Butch Metzger? No?) but for his name.

See, one of my favorite shows growing up was Barney Miller. And one of the minor, yet memorable characters, was the prick from Internal Affairs.

SCANLON!

While I couldn’t find anything about Scanlon on video, here’s the opening title!

And here’s the actor, George Murdock:

As for Pat, I most remember him for being in the game (that I was watching) when Dave Kingman and Mick Kelleher got into a fight. Kingman hit a home run in game one of a double-header, and in the second inning of game two Steve Renko drilled him. George Hendrick hit a grounder to short. Ivan DeJesus flipped the ball to Kelleher, and Kingman totally took him out. Mick didn’t take kindly, and IT WAS ON!

By all accounts, Kelleher beat the snot out of Kingman.

So where was Scanlon? In the third Alvin Dark  hit for Bob Shirley with Scanlon, and I’m sure I did my “SCANLON! INTERNAL AFFAIRS!” line much to my dad’s chagrin.

The things I remember, yet I can’t keep my two daughter’s names straight…

Jose Baez – 1978 Topps

January 13, 2011

Forget Jose, The Mountain’s The Star

Nominally, this would be about Jose Baez. What I know about him is this:

1. That’s airbrushed even though he spent all of 1977 in the big leagues with Seattle.

2. He was a Dodger farmhand, but there was no way he’d ever supplant Davey Lopes.

3. He’s a cousin of the Mota family.

4. He’s gone into coaching and managing.

5. He was traded in mid-1978 to the Cards, sent down, and that was the last he played in the majors or minors.

6. Defensive metrics show he was an excellent 2B.

Well, OK. But you’ve seen that mountain before. Right?

It’s very prominent in many Arizona spring training shots. It’s near Camelback Mountain and the spring training complexes around there in Phoenix.

And I think its name is Billy.

 

 


 

Danny Walton – 1978 Topps

January 11, 2011

The Whiff…

Strikeouts aren’t the devil. No matter what your Little League coach said, they’re just an out – one of 27 you get. So I’m not really upset by a player that whiffs a lot if he can do other things.

However, a high strikeout rate can also mean a hole in a players game that is quite exploitable. Mr. Walton is a prime example.

I had no idea about his past when I pulled this airbrushed beauty, and since he wasn’t playing in the US at the time I didn’t really dig into his story.

I did know that the Astros of that era were trying to develop and maintain some power hitters as it was a perceived shortage. But the 1977 Astros had a good set for the Astrodome – Bob Watson hit 22, Jose Cruz 17, Enos Cabell 16 and Cesar Cedeno 14. Cliff Johnson had 10 before he was traded. But they still needed some power off the bench, and Jim Fuller rather much washed out. Actually, Fuller whiffed out – striking out 45 times in 100 at bats. He had 197 one year in the IL, and that should have said something.

Walton was ‘Mickey Mantle II’ by reputation – someone who could launch home runs, hit for average and be the All-American Boy while switch hitting (though he stopped that when he was in the minors). Never mind that Walton wasn’t much of a defender or speedster and was from California and not Oklahoma. Ah, well…

But even though he hit .332 in Oklahoma City in 1969 with 25 home runs (and 100 K’s) at age 21, they sent him to the Pilots for Tommy Davis. The Astros were in a pennant race (though they fizzled in September as you read in Ball Four) and the Pilots’ veteran-heavy strategy was flailing.

At age 22, he was the regular left-fielder for the Brewers. He was having a great year for a rook, and then, like Mantle, he wrecked his knee. Out for the season in late August, he had an OPS+ of 117, and seemingly in the hunt for ROY.

There were some trouble signs, though, even before the knee injury. He did whiff 126 times in 397 at bats, and he scored just 15 runs in 117 games that weren’t the result of his 17 home runs.

On his return, he struggled and then the Brewers sent him to the Yanks. New York parked him in Syracuse for the next 1 1/2 seasons, where he did what he did – hit home runs and strike out.

The Yanks swapped him for Rick Dempsey (yes, old man Dempsey was a Twin and a Yank before an Oriole) and he rode the pine for the Twins in 1973, hitting .177 with four home runs and 28 whiffs in 96 at bats.

Back to AAA in 1974, he hit 35 bombs and whiffed 109 times in Tacoma.  But it was the same as it ever was in 1975 for the Twins, a low batting average with K’s galore and not much power. When he was sent down in July 1975 he started mashing the ball again in Tacoma.

In fact, one could be said that without shortening his swing he was going to be one of the streakiest players in baseball. He could get away with the whiffs in AAA by feasting on pitchers that didn’t have command or control. Major league pitchers have command and control. During his good 1970 season he started out on fire, then hit .156 in June.

The Twins sent him to LA in 1976 in exchange for Bob Randall, who became the Twins starting 2B when Rod Carew moved to first. Walton, however, was used as a pinch hitter exclusively from late May to early August. He spent all of 1977 down in Albuquerque, wearing the orange and gold of the Dukes and mashing 42 home runs, which led the PCL by six over Gorman Thomas.

That led to a trade to the Astros in early September. The Astros gave the Dodgers Alex Taveras and another minor league player for the privilege of paying Walton to pinch hit and fill in at first base and whiff five times in 21 at bats.

He signed in Japan for 1978, and if you were like me when you pulled this card you went to the box scores in the newspapers and looked for his name. Then you went to the Sporting News, and like me, you didn’t see him in the major or minor league stats. So he was just a non-entity with a poorly airbrushed card.

Walton had struggles in Japan – hitting for a low average with high strikeouts. So it was back to the States, and a year in AAA with Seattle. The K’s were still there, but the power was gone – only 15 home runs. Moving to the Texas organization, he struggled in Charleston in 1980, had 13 plate appearances in the middle of the year, and hung ’em up at the end of it.

They didn’t have fancy ways to communicate in Walton’s era, but they had knowledge for sure, passed from one player to another and from team to team. After a couple of months in 1970, the majors caught up to him, and he kept chasing pitches trying to hit them into another zip code like he did in AAA.

 

Ray Fosse – 1978 Topps

January 9, 2011

So You Wanna Be A Catcher, Kid?

Fosse’s career makes you wonder why Piazza or Joe Mauer or Johnny Bench or any elite hitting catcher stays behind the dish so long.

At age 23 in 1970, Fosse broke into the bigs for keeps, platooning at first with Duke Sims and being selected an All-Star. He won the Gold Glove, and something happened during that All-Star game…hmmm…

Oh, yeah, the Pete Rose thing.

Many of the unwashed hacks who write easy baseball books as opiates for the sports masses say that the collision derailed Fosse’ career. Well, he did get hurt with a separated shoulder, and he may have lost some power but he still hit .297 after he came back from the break.

In 1971, he was named an All-Star again. But more injuries took their toll. The Billy Martin-managed Tigers got into a brawl with the Indians and Fosse was kicked in the right wrist, opening a nasty gash. Later he faced Denny McLain of the Senators and hurt a ligament in his left wrist early in the game during a 15-6 pounding by Washington. I don’t know which was more memorable – Fosse’s injury, Tim Cullen actually going 3-4, or Phil Hennigan, who led the Indians in saves that year, being subjected to giving up 10 runs in 3 2/3 after replacing Steve Hargan in the 3rd. Yes, it was a different game then.

Fosse’s offense declined a bit in 1972 but he still was a highly regarded catcher. You wonder if his 1970 season was more of a fluke than his actual baseline performance. He hit .301 in the PCL in 1968 but only had nine homers. At any rate, he may have been a bit disappointing to the Indians and he was shipped to Oakland for George Hendrick and Dave Duncan. Oh, darn, moving from a hapless bunch of players like Eddie Leon, Jack Brohamer and Steve “Stunning” Dunning to the World Champs.

He played 143 games that season and was a big part of their repeat championship, though his offense still suffered a bit. It hardly seemed that Pete Rose led to his ‘decline’ – you don’t catch as much as Fosse did in 1973 if you can’t play.

His injuries took place as part of the game before, but probably the one injury that caused his downfall happened in the locker room in 1974. HBO should have been around to do a 24/7 of the 1974 Oakland A’s – the footage in the room would have been classic. On June 5, Billy North and Reggie! Jackson got into a fight in the clubhouse (something that happened a lot with the Swingin’ A’s) and in trying to break it up Fosse crushed a disk in his neck. YEOWCH!

He wasn’t hitting much at the time of the injury, but he missed three months and anyone with neck or back problems knows how much those things hurt! That injury forced Gene Tenace back behind the plate and got Larry Haney a lot of PT as Tenace’s caddy. It forced the A’s to play Deron Johnson at first, and later they moved Joe Rudi, one of the best left fielders in the game, to first base. Still, the A’s won the series again.

Fosse was back in 1975, but his bat was seemingly in cryogenics. He was the backup behind Tenace and started out hitting .083 in April. That happens. But then he went 0-fer-May. And after June 9, his average was at .028. Yes, .028. How would you like to step to the plate and see THAT? At that time he was 1-36 on the season with one walk. He had scored three runs (thanks to reaching on error), but his OPS at that point was .082. Yes, his OPS was under .100.

The irony, his one hit of the year up to that point was against Frank Tanana, and it was the ONLY Oakland hit in the game.

Even though the Oakland clubhouse was a rough and tumble place, I’m sure the vets really were rooting for Ray when he got his next at bat. In the top of the 8th on June 17, against Tom Burgmeier, Fosse laced a single. Finally!

He ended the year at .140 with a .383 OPS. He wasn’t a .300 hitter and still had some effects from his injuries, but he wasn’t a .140 hitter either. As he proved next year…

Off he went to the Indians and their wonderful bloodclot uniforms. But again, injuries were his bane. Fosse was hurt in his first start when Jim Rice bowled him over at home plate in the second inning. Back to the DL, and when he returned he was off to another slow start – so Frank Robinson platooned him with Alan Ashby.

At the end of May he was hitting . 150. At the end of June he was up to .232 but had no extra base hits and he again missed time until mid-July due to injury.

He came back July 19. From that date until the end of the month Fosse hit. I mean HIT! He hit .408 with five extra base hits. That moved his average to over .300.

And he didn’t slump the rest of the year. He peaked at .321 on August 2, but never was below .298. It was at that mark after the first game of the season-ending doubleheader (that must have been a hit with the players). In game two, Ashby started but Robinson pinch hit Fosse for him in the top of the 9th. With Ron Pruitt on first Fosse stroked a single to center, and his average moved to .301!

The next season, he started out as the #1 catcher and caught Dennis Eckersley’s no hitter. But he again missed some time with injuries and then when Robinson was fired, new manager Jeff Torborg decided to split time between Fosse and Fred Kendall. FRED KENDALL?

Anyway, it may not have been easy for Fosse to take to be platooned with not a young catcher, like Ashby, but a 28-year old vet who had proven one thing with the Padres – that he couldn’t hit. That and his upcoming free agent contract gave the Indians a reason to trade him in September. But not to a contender – to the expansion Mariners for Bill Laxton.

Laxton pitched 1 2/3 innings for the Indians in 1977. Fosse hit .353 for Seattle in 11 games as they made a late charge and pulled ahead of Oakland and didn’t finish last! That was definitely worth giving up a journeyman reliever for an experienced catcher.

Fosse was still regarded as a good catcher and a decent hitter, and the Brewers were rebuilding by signing free agent veterans. So Fosse inked a contract with Milwaukee and Topps produced the card you see above, in all of its airbrushed glory.

To this point, Fosse had injuries in 1970, 1971, 1974 (lingering to 1975), 1976 and 1977 that limited his time and performance. But he no doubt was optimistic in 1978 with the mix of youngsters (Yount, Molitor) and veterans (Cooper, Hisle, Thomas, Lezcano, Money, Oglivie). His job would be to guide the young pitchers, like Bill Travers, Jerry Augustine, Lary Sorenson and Andy Replogle through the game.

Then he fell into a hole, and wrecked his knee.

Yes, he fell…into A HOLE!

Was it Instant Hole?

Whatever the aardvark did, it caused Fosse to have mega-major knee surgery, including a complete reconstruction of the LCL. He missed 1978 in its entirety.

He tried to come back in 1979. He started the year as the #2 catcher, but then had to DH in May, and was on and off the DL after that. In late September, with the Brewers in second but still way behind the Orioles, Fosse played in four games and ended his career on a good note, going 2-4 with a triple.

It wasn’t the shoulder. It was the shoulder and everything else that did Fosse in. And except for the clubhouse fight, they were all hazards of the game.

And you want to be a catcher??

 

The Worst? Really?

My memory is fuzzy, like a four-day beard, but I recall that in either Win Shares or another book Bill James (maybe it was Rob Neyer, but it sounds more like James) said that Mike Champion’s 1977 season at second for the Padres was the worst ever as a fielder in modern times. I think it was in Win Shares.

Ouch, babe!

Now I just subscribed to the Baseball Reference play index and that’s not exactly true. But James may not have had all of the metrics they have now. Tony Womack’s -26 Fielding Runs in 1997 is the worst. Champion was a mere -15.

But it allows me a digression on the 70’s San Diego Padres. They are interesting because of their many different levels of suckage.

In 1975 and 1976, the Padres were finally making baby steps to being .500. They weren’t a last place team any more and their win total crept into the 70 mark. The 1976 pitching staff was almost all 20-something and many (Randy Jones, Brent Strom, Dave Freisleben, Butch Metzger) were tabbed for better things. The offense was still a mess in 1976, bogged down by too much Enzo Hernandez and Tito Fuentes, but Winfield, Ivie, Turner and Grubb were good to go in the future.

Middle infield was a mess, for sure.

1977 was also the first free agency year, and the Padres plunged in. Knowing their offense was a wreck, that’s what they tried to fix by signing Gene Tenace.

They got rid of one of their better hitters in Johnny Grubb as part of a three-player package. However, they received George Hendrick back, so that was a net plus as well. They also shored up the pen by signing Rollie Fingers. Fingers made Metzger seem unwanted, but there’s nothing wrong with having two ace relievers in the pen with a younger staff.

The Padres were also building a farm system. Picking first or second in almost every draft will do that for you. And they thought the young players were ready to contribute. It was a good gamble – I mean I’d rather fail with youngsters than with a Hector Torres or Ted Kubiak.

So around Hendrick, Tenace, Ivie and Winfield (a pretty good core four) and vet Doug Rader at third, San Diego had Gene Richards (two seasons in the minors) and Jerry Turner (age 23) split OF time. Their biggest gamble was up the middle. Billy Almon, the #1 pick of the 1974 draft, was ready to play everyday shortstop. At second, the Padres installed Champion, age 22. He was a second-round pick in 1973 and played with Almon at Hawaii in 1976 as the DP combo. So instead of Fuentes and Hernandez, there was Champion and Almon. A decent risk.

So, when Richards played left, that was three rookies playing every day.

Building around Fingers, Jones, Strom, Friesleben and Metzger were vet Tom Griffin (who at 29 had been in the bigs since 1969), late season find Rick Sawyer, swingman Dan Spillner, and two more rookies in Bob Shirley and Bob Owchinko.

Owchinko, 22, was a first-round pick in 1976 and made 13 starts in the minors. He actually started in AAA Hawaii, but was due up in May.

Shirley, 23, was a January first round pick in 1976 and made 29 starts in AA and AAA before being thrown to the big leaguers.

Well, the mix of youngsters and vets could have worked.

It failed horribly.

Jones was spent after two straight seasons of being a workhorse. Strom was hurt as well. Freisleben regressed. Something went wrong with Metzger. Sawyer bombed.

As for the offense, it was much better than 1976, but Almon and Champion were the weak links. That was expected. What wasn’t expected was the defense.

Almon held his own, but Champion was just a mess. He had no range and couldn’t turn the DP. He left a lot of outs on the field, which hurt the pitching staff of course.

So the Padres panicked, as the Padres were wont to do. They fired John McNamara and hired Alvin Dark. They traded Metzger to the Cards for John (High and Away, Ball Four) D’Acquisto and Pat Scanlan. They sold Rader to the Blue Jays. (OK, that made no sense for either team – the Jays didn’t need a vet like that unless they were falling behind in clubhouse pranks – and the Padres should have received something for him other than cash).

That opened up third base for rookie Tucker Ashford, who wasn’t ready but played most of the rest of the season. So when Shirley or Owchinko pitched, there were up to five rookies in the lineup trying to beat the Big Red Machine, the Phillies, the gelling Dodgers or the Lumber Company.

The largest panic move was trading for Dave Kingman.

You have a second baseman that’s struggling in the basics, you got rid of your veteran third baseman, you have two big-time producers in the outfielders, two speedy youngsters in the outfield, a decent first baseman and a crumbling staff, and you trade for a slow, surly, defensive liability that can’t play any of the positions that you have issues at?

Besides Ashford, the Padres also tried Tenace and Ivie at third and Kingman even started two games there. Ick.

The result? 69-93.

Champion managed to play 150 games – with an OPS+ of 57 and those horrible fielding numbers. His WAR was -2.9 for that season. The anti-All Star.

The next year, Champion was a barely-used utility man as the Padres imported Fernando Gonzalez to play second. Ozzie Smith debuted at short and Almon moved to third. Suddenly, the pitching staff was much better (of course, having a healthy Jones and adding Gaylord Perry did wonders).

Champion went back to the minors and hit .328 in 1978 in Hawaii and then hit relatively well for two seasons at Tacoma. But even though he hit .281 in 1980, he was done at age 25. I mean, gone.

He’s a mere footnote, but an important one. You want to build with youth – but make sure you have a well thought out plan B, and not keep trotting out a big problem for 150 games and trying to fix the little ones.

 

 

Why So Glum, Chum?

Dude, you are playing MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL! Sure, you’re not like Robby Alomar (congrats) and sure, most pitchers to you are like Bert Blyleven (congrats), and sure, you’re playing for the Blue Jays but you are 26 and IN THE BIG LEAGUES!

Would it hurt to smile?

Last year at this time you were in the midst of spending your second consecutive year in Omaha – knowing that Frank White, Cookie Rojas and Dave Nelson all were getting time at second. So when Toronto drafted you, that was a good thing!

Oh, and sure you may have been sore that you were farmed out while they fooled around with Pedro Garcia, Hector Torres and Dave McKay at second, but you got your chance on July 1 and started 71 games in a row. Yes I know it was more of a revolving door at short with Bailor, McKay, Torres and Nordbrook, but for 71 games in a row you were the glue, man.

Ault, Staggs, Nordbrook and Howell. Young players all – the future of the Blue Jays born in their first year?

Ok, maybe not…but still. Steve, you are a regular in the MAJOR LEAGUES!

So crack a smile…

 

Worst…Card…Ever…

At least it is to me.

I don’t think the scan does it justice. When you look at it in person, his left eye looks like it’s swollen shut, and the Astros air-brushing is just pitiful.

Zamora was a Cuban emigre who was signed back in 1965 by Cleveland. I don’t think he was draft eligible – in fact he may have been one of the last players to make the majors that wasn’t subjected to the draft. I only conjecture this because he was 20 when he was signed and started in the minors.

For Cleveland, Zamora seemed to be a minor-league roster filler. Though he had great numbers he was bounced up and down between A and AAA. In 1969, Houston signed him and he had a phenomenal year at Cocoa in the FSL – 13-4, 1.15 as a reliever.

He followed that up with a great year in AA in 1970 and then 3 1/2 solid seasons for the Astros in AAA.

Finally, in June of 1974, he got his break when the Cubs purchased his contract. At age 29, he pitched the rest of the season in Chicago and did pretty well, but he was overused big time. From June 18 to the end of the season he appeared in 56 games for the Cubs, throwing 83 2/3 innings. He had a bad stretch in August, so his 3-9 record looks unsightly, but he had 10 saves and seven holds with just three blown saves.

But that was all in 3 1/2 months. Add that to the 11 starts (13 total appearances ) in the minors, and he pitched in more games and innings than he ever did, AND to top it off pitched deeper into the year since the minors ended in early September as they do now.

In 1975, he lost something. His promising start turned to dust. In 71 innings of relief he gave up 84 hits and 17 home runs while striking out just 28 batters. He also allowed 42% of his inherited runners to score. And it fell apart quickly for Oscar.

On June 1, he was 3-0 with 6 saves and a 2.25 ERA. He had a rough outing on the 4th, got hit a bit on the 8th but on the 9th pitched well.

Then came June 13 against the Reds at Wrigley. He entered the game with a 2.84 ERA and exited with a 3.63.

Two weeks later, he came in the 7th against Montreal at Parc Jarry and his ERA raised another point to 4.47. Funny how 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning will do that.

He pitched OK in July, but was shut down on August 1 for 21 days. It didn’t help, because he gave up hits and dingers the rest of the season. What started out great ended with a 5.07 ERA.

1976 was even worse. He’d pitch OK and then get absolutely snockered for crooked numbers. He spent some time in AAA and it didn’t help. He was shut down after getting creamed in a very rare start and ended with a 5.24 ERA, giving up 70 hits in 55 innings.

He was sent down in 1977 and was the closer in Wichita. But what was telling is that while the Cubs season swirled down the drain after Bruce Sutter was hurt, the Cubs never called for their erstwhile closer. Instead, they kept running out Paul Reuschel, Willie Hernandez, Donnie Moore, Pete Broberg, and Dave Giusti to try to fill in the gaps.

So that leads us to this card. The Astros signed him as a minor league free agent and even though he missed a season, Topps gave him a card. In two stints for Houston in 1978, he didn’t pitch well at all and was quietly released from their AAA club. The next year, the infamous Inter-American League started and Zamora pitched for the Miami franchise. Then, he pitched a bit for the independent Miami Marlins in 1982. In a bit of trivia that I just found out, that Miami team featured a brief appearance by a recent Oakland draftee on loan before he shipped up to Idaho Falls, a 17-year old third baseman named…

Jose Canseco.

I feel bad for Oscar, because he fought like hell to get to the bigs, and then after starting so well it all went down in flames. Cubs fans were pretty merciless, and he was subjected to this card as well.

But it probably beat the hell out of living in Cuba in the 60’s and 70’s. I think I’d take abuse from the drunken denizens of Wrigley over living under the Castro regime at that time. Even with the free health care…

Frank Duffy – 1978 Topps

September 5, 2010

Frank Duffy, managing partner of Duffy, Kuiper, Blanks & Associates. For all of your tax accounting needs.

I was torn between middle school science teacher or tax accountant. Frank definitely doesn’t look like someone who was traded for George Foster.

If there ever was an avatar for mid-1970’s shortstop, Duffy would be among the contenders (along with Roger Metzger, Enzo Hernandez, or Ed Brinkman).

Everyone knows Duffy couldn’t hit. Frank Robinson and friends gave Frank over 1000 plate appearances in 1976 and 1977 and he couldn’t lift his SLG and OBP over .300! He wasn’t fast, really. So his only value was with the leather.

From 1972-1975, that was worth it. But in 1976 and 1977? Only 2 fielding runs above average. Below average range. Now “Sugar Bear” Blanks was no fielding star, but he at least added value as a batter in 1976 and 1977.

So, for the last part of his career in Cleveland, he couldn’t hit, didn’t get on base, was average at best as a shortstop in the field, had no power and didn’t run all that well (his 10 steals in 10 tries notwithstanding in 1976 – that was a fluke because Robby called a gazillion hit and runs that year – Duane Kuiper was 10 for 27 as a base stealer!)

So maybe Frank should have brushed up for the CPA exam…