Friday, March 25, 2016

1966 Topps Athletics Rookie Stars: Paul Lindblad, Ron Stone

On this episode of Rating the Rookies we are looking at a 1966 Topps Rookie Stars card featuring Paul Lindblad and Ron Stone of the Kansas City Athletics. 


After 3 solid minor league seasons in A, AA, and AAA, Kansas City called up Paul Lindblad in September of 1965 and he never looked back. Initially a starter, Lindblad found a home in the bullpen. He pitched at the Major League level from 1965-1978. He was with the Kansas City A's which moved to Oakland. In 1971 he was dealt to the Washington Senators which moved to Texas. He was traded back to the A's then was signed again by the Rangers and eventually finished his career with the Yankees.

He was the Game 3 winner of the 1973 World Series.  He came in the 9th inning of a 2-2 game. When the A's went up 3-2 in the 11th, Rollie Fingers came in to close it out. He also was one of 4 pitcher to combine for a no-hitter in 1975. It was the final game of the 1975 season and the A's had long since clinched a playoff spot. Manager, Al Dark had his ace, Vida Blue on a short leash. Vida pitched 5 no-hit innings and got the hook. The Oakland bullpen followed up with a perfect 6th inning by Glenn Abbott, a perfect 7th by Lindblad and a perfect 8th and 9th by Fingers. The A's beat the last place Angels by a score of 5-0.

Paul Lindblad had Topps cards every year from 1966-1979 and represented every city he played in except Washington. His 1971 card showed him in Oakland and his 1972 card was an air-brushed Rangers card. So for his Card That Never Was, I created this 1971 card of him on the Senators. 

Ron Stone had a solid 1965 season hitting 16 homers and 67 RBIs playing for the Orioles minor league clubs. The A's took a chance on him and picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft. This required them to play him at the big league level or return him to Baltimore.  After 26 games and only 22 plate appearances, he was returned to the Orioles.
 He put together a few more solid seasons in the minors before being traded to the Phillies in 1969.  During this time Topps include him on 2 more Rookie Stars cards. One along with Frank Peters on the Orioles in 1968 and for the Phillies in 1969 with Bill Wilson. On both cards Topps used the same air-brushed image of him in an A's uniform.

He was picked up by the Phillies in 1969 for veteran catcher Clay Dalrymple. There he became a cautionary tale about reading too much into spring training performance.  He was labeled "Palm Tree Stone" by teammate, Larry Bowa. "He'd hit about .600 every spring then disappear on opening day. You didn't see him again until the next February."  

The Phillies used him mostly as a utility outfielder and pinch hitter. He played this role until 1972 when he spent July and August back in the minors. He was called up again in September but didn't get a single hit in 8 opportunities and began the 1973 back in the Phillies minor league system.  For his Card That Never Was, I created this 1973 Topps card to capture "Palm Tree" Stone's last spring training with the Phillies. 

This rookie card produced a solid relief pitcher who played in 2 World Series and pitched a perfect inning as part of a 4-man no-hitter. It also was the first (and only air-brush-free) of 3 rookie cards for "Palm Tree" Stone. While this is by no measure an essential card, I'm going to label it "Set Filler" and give it a 4.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

1973 Topps Rookie Outfielders: Gary Matthews, Tom Paciorek, Jorge Roque

The random number generator has graced us with another card featuring that season's Rookie of the Year. This time from 1973. That is the year when Topps returned to grouping the rookies by position instead of by team. They had done this on the earliest multiplayer rookie cards in 1962 and 1963. In 1979 Topps would once again return to grouping the players by team.


The first player on this card is the 1973 NL Rookie of the Year, Gary Matthews. Over on my other blog, I had a running theme of making Rookie of the Year cards using the 1975 Topps MVP format. So Matthews already had a few Cards That Never Were. I created an individual 1973 Topps rookie card for him as well as one for Al Bumbry in order to fit the format below.

I also created a Card That Never Was from later in his career. This one is from strike shortened 1981 season. That year the Phillies won the divisional title in the first half of the season and the Expos won the second. The Phillies lost to the Expos 3 games to 2 in the first ever divisional series. Although Matthews had a Topps Traded card showing him on the Phillies in 1981, Donruss and Fleer still showed him in a Braves uniform.


The second player on this card, Tom Paciorek, had appeared on a rookie card 2 years earlier. At the top of this post, I mentioned that 1973 is when Topps went back to grouping rookies by position . But here is a 1971 Topps rookie card grouped into a position. For most of the 1971 set Topps had grouped the rookies by team, but in the high number series there were a few that were either grouped by position or by league instead of by team. 

Paciorek, who would later play for the White Sox and eventually broadcast for the Southsiders, found himself on a rookie card with 2 players who would later manage the crosstown rivals. Both Dusty Baker and Don Baylor managed the Cubs. Baylor managed the Northsiders from 2000-2002, Baker was the Cubs skipper from 2003-2006.

Paciorek was a back up outfielder and firstbaseman most of his career. He bagan with the Dodgers in 1970, went to the Braves as part of a 6 player deal that included 1971 card-mate Dusty Baker. He was signed by Seattle in 1978 and in 1981 finally found a regular spot in the lineup for the Mariners.

In 1982 he was dealt to the White Sox and would be the regular first baseman, for a while anyway. He played a key part of the "Winning Ugly" team of 1983. He would later turn that into a broadcasting career with the Sox in 1988. Teamed up with Ken Harrelson in 1991, "Hawk and Wimpy" would be together until 1999. Afterward Paciorek announced games for the Tigers, Mariners, Braves and Nationals

In 1985 Paciorek was dealt to the Mets, In 1986 he was picked up by the Rangers where he finished his career in 1987. He has been well represented on cardboard throughout his career, even appearing on several traded/update cards. In fact in 1986 he had 2 Fleer cards and 2 Topps cards showing him on both the Mets and the Rangers. Donruss, however, left him out completely. So for his Card That Never Was, here is a 1986 Donruss card of him playing for the Mets.


The third player on this card, Jorge Roque, also had an earlier rookie card.  In 1972 he appeared on a Cardinals Rookie Stars card along with Jim Bibby and Santiago Guzman. On the 1973 card you can see him with Montreal Expos colors airbrushed onto his St. Louis Cardinals cap. He began his MLB career in September of 1970 and he played parts of 1971 and 1972 with St, Louis.

Unable to hit his weight at the Major League level he was dealt to Montreal. In 1972 the Expos were fat with catching prospects and dealt veteran catcher Tim McCarver for the speedy centerfield prospect. Unfortunately, Roque's poor hitting continued north of the border and by May of 1973 the Expos were done with him. He continued to play in the Mexican League until 1979.

For his Card That Never Was, I decided to make a 1973 Topps Traded card featuring him along with Tim McCarver. Although McCarver played 77 games with the Expos in 1972, his 1972 Topps card shows him on the Phillies and by 1973 his card showed him on the Cardinals again. So this would have been the only Topps card to show McCarver representing the Expos.


Given Matthews' Rookie of the Year performance and Paciorek's lengthy career both on the field and in the booth, I can forgive the airbrushed bust in the third slot and call this one "Binder Worthy".  I give it a slightly generous 7.