Friday, August 25, 2017

Dissecting the 1966 Set

Continuing the series I started with the 1967, 1968, and 1969 sets, here is similar information about the 1966 set. 

The 1966 Topps set had 598 cards, and curiously does not include any World Series cards. There are 20 manager cards (none for the Cubs but 2 for the Astros), 19 team cards (no Astros), 46 rookie stars cards, 12 league leaders, 5 multi-player cards, and 7 checklists. There are also 489 cards of individual players.

Here is the position breakdown of the 489 player cards. Only a few cards have the position abbreviated (mostly 2nd basemen).  The only pitcher abbreviated to "P" is Aurelio Monteagudo (naturally!)

205 cards for Pitcher
52 cards for Catcher
21 cards for 1st Base
22 cards for 2nd Base
23 cards for Shortstop
20 cards for 3rd Base
18 cards for Infield
106 cards for Outfield

That's a total of 467 cards. The remaining 22 cards featured players at more than 1 position (the least amount for any year from 1966-69). Below is a sample of each position:

As we've seen with the other sets so far, no combination of positions is more prevalent than 1B-OF, this time with 4 players: Bob Johnson, Orlando Cepeda, Wes Parker, and Tito Francona. (I was going to use Cepeda's card, but we are already Giant-heavy.)

The opposite combo of OF-1B usually has the 2nd-most players, as it does here with three (Walt Bond, Bob Chance, and the Phillies' John Herrnstein).

Jim Ray Hart is the only player at 3B-OF, while Joe Nossek and the Indians' George Banks check in at OF-3B.

Felix Mantilla (whose card I don't have) is all alone at 2B-OF, and there are none at OF-2B.  Cookie Rojas and (of course) Jim Stewart are the two INF-OF representatives.

There are only two players in the set with positions of C-1B, and they are teammates Joe Torre and Gene Oliver. Since John Boccabella doesn't have his own card yet, there are no 1B-C cards (heh heh).

Harmon Killebrew is the only player at 3B-1B, with none at the opposite position.

Al Weis and the Senators' Ken Hamlin both have a position of 2B-SS, while Roberto Pena is the only SS-2B (and wouldn't you know it - I don't have his card.) The scarcity of players at these two positions continues to amaze me.

These are the only 2 players at these positions, and there are none with the reverse combo.

This position combo is even stranger than Mel Queen's "P-OF" found in the 1967 set. "1B-INF"? Shouldn't that be "INFIELD"?

There are so many quirks in this set that I don't know where to begin:

1. Dick Ellsworth's card has a photo of Ken Hubbs, his Cubs' teammate who died 2 years earlier in a plane crash.

2. There is no card for a Cubs' manager (Leo Durocher).

3. There are 2 manager cards for the Astros. Lum Harris was fired in December 1965, and replaced by Grady Hatton. (Who fires a manager in DECEMBER?)

4. No cards for veterans Maury Wills, Chris Short, Joe Adcock, Dick Hall, Bob Lillis, Frank Bolling, Don Blasingame, Jim Gilliam, Lou Clinton, Ed Roebuck, or Wes Stock. (Here are some custom 1966 cards to fill the gap.)

5. 14 pitchers for the Astros, while most teams had 9 to 11.

6. FOUR catchers and SEVEN outfielders for the Angels, and EIGHT outfielders for the Orioles. (The Angels also have 4 catchers in 1967, and 8 outfielders in 1967 AND 1968 !)

7. No cards for Dodgers' SS, Astros' SS, Braves' 2B, or Senators' 2B (see above comments about Wills, Lillis, Bolling, and Blasingame).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Steve Barber (#477)

Orioles' starting pitcher Steve Barber is shown about to enter his last full season with Baltimore. Barber played 8 of his 14 seasons with the Orioles, from his MLB debut in 1960 to his July 1967 trade to the Yankees. While with the O's, he was one of the few players to wear #13.

Barber and Milt Pappas held down the team's pitching staff for the first half of the 1960s, before the more well-known Dave McNally and Jim Palmer established themselves.

Steve played in the minors from 1957-1959, then made his Orioles' debut in April 1960. He was in the starting rotation for 7 1/2 seasons, winning 18 games in 1961 and 20 in 1963.

He was an All-Star in '63 and '66 (despite only winning 10 games in 1966). A bout with tendonitis not only kept him out of the '66 All-Star game, but also the ’66 World Series (not that he was needed – the other 3 starters pitched the 4-game series, including 3 complete game shutouts).

After compiling a 4-9 record in 15 games at the start of 1967, he was traded to the Yankees for backup 1st baseman Ray Barker. This trade is surprising, given the starting pitching woes the team experienced in 1967 (Palmer out all season, Wally Bunker ineffective, McNally also struggling).

Barber dealt with arm injuries for the rest of his career, bouncing around to 6 different teams in his final 7 seasons. After 1 1/2 years as a Yankees starter (replacing the retired Whitey Ford), he spent the 1969 season in the Seattle Pilots' rotation.

He was released after the 1969 season, and spent his final 5 seasons as a relief pitcher for the Cubs, Braves, Angels, and Giants. All but one of those moves were a result of him being released and signed by another team.

Barber passed away in 2007 at age 68.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ray Oyler (#81)

Here is good-field/no-hit Ray Oyler's first solo card. (And when I say "no-hit", I mean NOOOOO-hit.) Before there was the "Mendoza Line", there was the "Oyler Line" (although no one was clever enough to come up with that at the time, to my knowledge).

Ray joined the Tigers in 1965 and hit .186, which turned out to be his 2nd-highest season average. Except for an aberration where he hit .207 in 1967, he never broke the .175 barrier again (much less .200).

That was all well and good in '65 and '66 when Ray was the team's backup middle infielder, but by 1967 veteran 2nd baseman Jerry Lumpe's career was running out of gas, and he was only used as a pinch-hitter for most of his final season. Incumbent shortstop Dick McAuliffe moved over to replace him, which thrust Oyler into the starting lineup for 125 games. On the plus side, Ray boosted his average 36 points over the .171 in 1966.

With Lumpe retired, Oyler started 44 of the first 50 games at short in 1968, but by early June, manager Mayo Smith had seen enough, and switched to a tandem of veteran utility man Dick Tracewski and rookie Tom Matchick. This continued until the season’s final week, when Smith decided to fix the shortstop position by moving center fielder Mickey Stanley in there (for the first time in his career). After a 6-game warmup at his new position, Stanley played there during the '68 World Series, which essentially replaced Oyler’s bat with Al Kaline’s bat!

Oyler did get into 4 World Series games (1 plate appearance), but was exposed to the expansion draft after the season.

Ray was selected by the Seattle Pilots, and started 93 games for them in 1969, mostly in the first 4 months until younger players started getting tryouts. While in Seattle, Oyler had an unusual fan club.

After the season, Oyler and pitcher Diego Segui were traded to the Athletics for infielder Ted Kubiak and pitcher George Lauzerique. Ray's final card is in the 1970 set as an Athletic, but he didn't get a chance to play for them. He was sold to the Angels in mid-April, and finished out his final season playing only 24 games for California, while batting a career-low .083.

Ray was a player-coach in the minors during the '71 and '72 seasons, then retired.

He died in 1981 from a heart attack at age 42.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Orioles Team (#348)

Here is the Orioles' team card for 1966. The 1966 cards were similar to the '67 cards except that they included the team's 1965 finish at the bottom. The Orioles went on to win the World Series in 1966.

(Orioles' pitchers in 1965 include aging veterans Harvey Haddix, Don Larsen, and Robin Roberts.) 

Brooks Robinson led in most offensive categories in 1965, but it seems strange to see Curt Blefary's name as the home run leader.

Prior to 1966, the O's acquired Frank Robinson, who won the Triple Crown in 1966. He also led the Orioles with 182 hits so it was a clean sweep. (We're going to ignore the fact that Luis Aparicio also had 182 hits for the O's, much like everyone ignores the fact that Harmon Killebrew tied Carl Yastrzemski with 44 home rums in 1967, while bestowing the 1967 Triple Crown on Yaz.)

Steve Barber and Milt Pappas were the pitching leaders in 1965, but look at Stu Miller's record - 14 wins as a reliever! In 1966, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer emerged as the top 2 pitchers, with Palmer leading the staff with 15 wins.

Only 4 Oriole hurlers would participate in the 1966 World Series.  Palmer, McNally, and Wally Bunker each pitched a complete game shutout.  McNally also started game #1, and was relieved by Moe Drabowsky, who no-hit the Dodgers for the final 6 2/3 innings while striking out 11.