A Whole New Game

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1968 Topps Game

The 1968 Topps Game cards are probably the most popular insert set of the 1960’s. This 33-card set full of Hall of Famers measure just smaller than a standard size 1968 Topps bubble gum card. They were issued with the 1968 regular baseball cards and are very similar to the Topps Red Back and Blue Back sets issued in 1951. The cards were designed to be used as a baseball card game. I also believe that these 1968 Topps Game cards were also sold in complete box sets.

I had picked up about eight of these cards over the last year to go at the back of the 1968 Topps set I am working on. However, I saw an auction for a complete set that I couldn’t say no and also just a smidge over $40. The Mantle has some wear but alone runs anywhere from $20–$40 in this condition.

Looking at the Matty Alou (and Clemente) reminded me to ask Pirates fans or Uni-Watch fans, why did the Pirates have those sewn/glued on rectangle “P” patches on these hats in the 1960’s? No other team did this to my knowledge.

I do wonder, how a couple of players failed to make the cut. Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tony Oliva, Boog Powell just to name a few. Overall, this is a beautiful set and a real winner.

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The Joy of Completed Pages

Thanks to this weeks earlier trade with Gavin’s Baseball Card Breakdown blog, I was able to complete five more pages in my 1973 Topps set. Without further ado, lets dive in.

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1973 Topps #28–36

Card that completed the page: Jim Breazeale (#33). Jim was a first round pick (#8) in the 1968 amatuer draft. He played parts of 1969, 71, and 72 with the Braves. He then resurfaced SIX years later when the Chicago White Sox purchased him in the 1977 Rule V draft. He appeared in 25 games in 1978 clubbing three homers and batted a robust .208. This is his only Topps card.

Favorite card: If I had to choose, probably the Tug McGraw (#30). The colors just really pop.

Best photograph: Willie Davis (#35) getting out of the way of a high, hard one. Nice Tim McCarver (or John Bateman) cameo as well. A classic 1973 Topps horizontal card.

Best career: Probably a toss up between Hal McRae, Tug McGraw, or Buddy Bell.

Number of Red Sox: Zero.

Past/Future Red Sox: Zero.

Interesting fact: Although only a cameo, but Tim McCarver, in my research, played for the Montreal Expos in 1972, something I was unaware of.

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1973 Topps #145–153

Card that completed the page: Al Hrabosky (#153). The Mad Hungarian was drafted 19th overall in the 1969 draft. He finished in the top five for Cy Young Award 1974–75.

Favorite card: Bobby Bonds (#145) racing back to first as Willie Stargell prepares to take the throw at a then astroturfed Candlestick Park.

Best photograph: Bobby Bonds — c’mon it is has “Pops” in a cameo!

Best career: Bobby Bonds was a hell of a ballplayer in the 1970s with his speed, power, and glove. A prototypical five-tool player.

Number of Red Sox: Zero.

Past/Future Red Sox: One — Wilbur Wood (#150) … insert sigh here. Think the Sox could have used a guy like Wood during the late 60’s, early 70’s? I think most defintely. He probably would have sealed the American League East in 1972 and 1973 and possible the pennant.

Interesting fact: Wes Parker  (#151) owned first base from 1967–72, snagging six-straight Glove Golve Awards. Then some guy named Steve Garvey showed up.

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1973 Topps #343–351

Card that completed the page: Boyhood Photos: Bobby Murcer (#343). One of the 70’s best outfielders looking goofy as a child.

Favorite card: Tom Seaver (#350) A clean spring training image of one of the decades best. If I were a 10-year old boy opening a pack in the Summer of ’73, I’d be stoked to have pulled this card.

Best WORST photography: I hate those boyhood photo cards. Loathe!

Best career: Tom Seaver just OWNING this page. Gaylord Perry and Catfish Hunter did earn trips to Cooperstown, but Terrific Tom was just that.

Number of Red Sox: Zero.

Past/Future Red Sox: Two — Tom Seaver … insert sigh here—again. Acquired by the Red Sox from the White Sox in June 1986, he went 5–7 but got hurt in August and was left off the World Series roster. One wonders if he, not Al Nipper had pitched game four. Dick McAuliffe (#349) would join the Red Sox as a free angent in 1974.

Interesting fact: Rennie Stennett (#348) is one of three players to go 7-for-7 in a game, but did you know that Stennett’s first hit in that game came off starter Rick Reuschel and his seventh was off Rick’s brother Paul Reuschel? I didn’t until now. You’re welcome.

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1973 Topps #361–369

Card that completed the page: Brock Davis (#366)

Favorite card: Nothing screams at me, the Sox fan in me picks Rico Petrocelli (#365).

Best photograph: Bill Buckner (#368) … Dodger home whites and palm trees, yes please.

Best career: Bill Buckner was one of the steadiest players once he escaped LA. A hell of a hitter, he was once hated and scorned by Red Sox fans, but 2004 changed all that and now gets a standing ovation whenever he appears ay Fenway Park.

Number of Red Sox: One — Rico Petrocelli is one of the most popular players ever to put on a Red Sox jersey. A two-time All-Star shortstop and veteran of two World Series with the Red Sox, Petrocelli agreed to move to third base in 1971 to make room for future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. Rico readily endorsed the deal as being beneficial to the team and agreed to make the change. He reported early to spring training and worked for hours with former Red Sox All-Star third baseman Frank Malzone. The results were amazing. Petrocelli set a major-league record for third basemen with 77 straight games without an error.

Past/Future Red Sox: Two. Rick Wise (#364) and Bill Buckner.

Interesting fact: Both Rick Wise (1971) and Burt Hooton (1972) threw no-hitters that ended in 4-0 scores.

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1973 Topps #379–387

Card that completed the page: Jim Barr (#387) had solid 12-year career. Sure not an all star but did finish with a career 3.56 earn run average.

Favorite card: Johnny Bench (#380) screams 1973 Topps Baseball.

Best photograph: Bench racing towards an open dugout to make a basket catch in foul territory.

Best career: The Baseball Bunch’s Johnny Bench — if not the absolutely best catcher of all time, he’s at least on the Mount Rushmore of Catchers.

Number of Red Sox: Zero.

Past/Future Red Sox: Three. Vicente Romo (#381), Diego Segui (#383), and Don Baylor (#384). Baylor’s leadership held the Red Sox together enroute to the 1986 pennant.

Interesting fact: Don Money (#386) made his money by inventing the glow-in-the-dark baseball hat.

OTD Smoke Rose

 

1913 National Game

Born on this date 1889, Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Smokey Joe Wood. This was another card I picked up over the last year. Out of all my Pre-War graded cards, this one is my highest graded specimen. It’s a beautiful card of what could have been an all-time great pitcher.

Smokey was by no means large or overpowering, standing just under six feet tall and weighing in at 180 pounds. Concealed in that lanky frame was one of the most overpowering fastballs of the Deadball Era. He anchored the 1912 World Series Champion Red Sox, by going 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA, 35 complete games, and 10 shutouts! Oh, he also threw 344 innings too.

Wood’s reign as one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball history lasted a mere two seasons. And while brief, he left an indelible impression on those who saw his greatness first-hand.

“Without a doubt, Joe Wood was one of the best pitchers I ever faced throughout my entire career.”
– Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer

 

One of those dominating appearances occurred on July 29, 1911 when Smokey no-hit the St. Louis Browns 5-0. It would be the fifth such feat thrown by a Boston hurler in the early years of the fledgling American League.

His heavy usage would lead to arm troubles. Fast forward to 1915 when he led the American League with a career best 1.49 ERA, in just 157.1 innings of work. Those fears arose in early October when Joe was seen clinging to his shoulder in pain in his final start of the summer, a 3-1 loss to Walter Johnson. He did not factor into Boston’s 4 games to 1 World Series victory over Philadelphia two weeks later.

The Deadball Era is replete with story upon story of pitchers whose careers were cut short by shoulders torn to shreds. Smokey Joe Wood would be elected to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in it’s 1995 inaugural class.

“I was the king of the hill, top of the heap, right along with the very best.”
– Smokey Joe Wood, Boston Red Sox