Friday, April 29, 2016

1978 Topps Rookie Outfielders: Dell Alston, Rick Bosetti, Mike Easler, Keith Smith

For the 34th installment of Rating the Rookies, the random number generator has given us the first card from the 1978 set. That means now I have graded at least one rookie card each year from 1959-1980.  And this one brought several challenges for me in the Cards That Never Were department. As a result there are some kinda unique cards.


Dell Alston made his debut for the Yankees in May of 1977. He saw action in just 22 games that season but batted .325. In 1978 he was traded mid season to the A's and batted a meager .205.  Topps still included him in the 1979 set wearing the A's colors despite being dropped by the A's before the start of the 1979 season.
 He was signed weeks later by the Indians and spent the 1979 and 1980 seasons with Cleveland. He hit .290 and .222 respectively, splitting time in the minors. He was released by the Indians prior to the 1981 season. He played 1981 and 82 in the Mexican League. Topps made a card for Alston in 1980 showing him on the the Indians. In 1981 he was included in Donruss's debut set but was left out of the Topps and Fleer sets. For his Card That Never Was, I decided to make a 1981 Topps card.

This presented the first of my many challenges.  I could not find a good photo of him in an Indians uniform. So this is actually a heavily photo-shopped card of him in an A's uniform. Here is the original photo.


Despite being depicted as a Cardinal on the 1978 rookie card, Rick Bosetti was dealt to the Blue Jays before the start of the 1978 season. He played for Toronto until June of 1981 when he was purchased by the A's. He was cut by Oakland after the 1982 season at which point he returned to his hometown of Redding, California and served as Mayor for three years.

He was well represented on cardboard by all the major card companies. He had Topps cards from 1978-82 including a 1981 Topps Traded card showing him on the A's. He also had Donruss and Fleer cards in 1981 and 82.  Although his rookie card shows him with St. Louis, his MLB career actually started for the Phillies in 1976. That is why for his Card That Never Was, I made this 1977 Rookie Stars card.

A few posts back, I got a comment from a team-collector who expressed his dislike of the position specific, multi-team rookie cards that Topps put out from 1973-1978 (and 1962-1963). With few exceptions, all other years had team specific "Rookie Stars" cards. It made me wonder what cards might have looked like during that time if  Topps had continued that practice. So look for me to create similar "Rookie Stars" Cards That Never Were in the future.

On this card I teamed Bosetti up with Warren Brusstar. Brusstar made his debut in May of 1977 with the Phillies. He went on to have a solid 9 year career as a reliever for the Phillies, White Sox, and Cubs. He had an overall record of  28-16 with 14 saves and a 3.51 ERA. His first card was a solo 1978 Topps card so he fit nicely into this 1977 rookie card.


By the time Mike Easler made his cardboard debut as a Pirate in 1978, he had already played in parts of  5 MLB seasons. He played 26 games for the Astros spread over the 1973, 74 and 75 seasons. He played 21 games in an Angels uniform in 1976 and 10 in a Pirates uniform in 1977. In the year of this, his rookie card, he didn't play a single inning. He returned to the Pirates in 1979 and represented Pittsburgh in the 1981 All Star game.

In all, the "Hit Man" played parts of 14 MLB seasons from 1973-1987. In addition to missing his first 5 years Topps also passed on making a 1979 card for Easler. This is understandable as he spent all of 1978 playing minor league ball. So in creating a Card That Never Was, there were several options. Over at When Topps Had (Base) Balls, Gio created this nice 1977 pre-rookie Card That Never Was of him on the Angels.
Instead I opted for a post MLB card. After being release by the Yankees following the 1987 season, Easler played 2 years in Japan for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. He hit .302 with 19 homers for the Fighters in 1988. In 1989 his playing time was cut in half and he hit only 7 dingers but maintained a solid .296 average. 

After that season he headed back to the states to play in the senior circuit. Make that the Senior-Citizen Circuit. He played on the West Palm Beach Tropics in the ill-fated Senior Professional Baseball Association. The SPBA drew less than 1000 on average to their games which were all played in Florida during the winter. Here is his 1989 SPBA card from Topps.
Since there already were several Senior League cards of him, I went with this 1989 Fleer card depicting Easler on the Fighters. I chose 1989 because he had 1988 cards by Topps, Fleer and Score showing him with the Yankees. I chose Fleer because trying to duplicate the Topps Script design on the 1989 cards was too daunting. Upper deck was also an option because it had a nice layout which included a place to incorporate the team logo. But since they were known for their high quality photos and I was working with a picture less so, I went with Fleer.  I could still include the quirky little Fighters logo (I still don't know what the heck that thing is.)  **********************************************************

Keith Smith made his MLB debut for the Rangers on August 2nd 1977. He played a total of 23 games for Texas in 1977. Like his card-mate Easler, he spent the entire 1978 season in the minors. He was traded to the Cardinals before the start of the 1979 season. He played 30 games for St. Louis over 1979 and 80. He had a total of 7 hits for the Cards those years.

As far as Topps was concerned, Smith was one and done. Oddly both of the new card companies chose to include him in their 1981 sets. So just to sum this up. Keith Smith played in parts of 3 seasons, 1977, 1979 and 1980. He had 3 cards, all of which were issued in seasons he never played an inning in the majors. One in 1978 and two in 1981.

For his Card That Never Was, I went North of the border.  Once again, I was unable to find a suitable picture of him in the uniform I wanted. In this case a Cardinals uniform.  Instead, I opted for the typical 1979 O Pee Chee card in which the player appears in the former team's uniform but on his current team's card. OPC also had a habit of noting the trade info right onto the picture. I always thought these made for interesting cards. I never decided if it was interesting in a good way or not. I feel the same way about the typical Topps airbrush habit. Interesting.

Two of the four players on this card didn't even play in 1978. Another was playing for a different team than what was depicted on the card. Easler and Bosetti achieved some success in the Majors but Smith and Alston were career minor leaguers. Overall the best grade I could give this one is a 2. That is enough to save it from the spokes but not good enough to save it from being flipped.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

1968 Topps Orioles Rookie Stars: Dave Leonhard, Dave May


In 1967 Dave Leonhard led the International league with 15 wins. In 1969 the Orioles gave him the start in 18 of his 28 games and were rewarded with 5 complete games including 2 shutouts. But with a rotation that included Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, and Dave McNally, Leonhard was converted to a relief pitcher then eventually back to the minors. From 1973-1976 he played on minor lkeague affiliates with the Orioles, Angels, Cubs and Expos.

For his card that never was I incorporated a spring training shot of him with the California Angels onto a 1974 Topps card.


Dave May was a solid hitting outfielder in the Orioles system but was unable to find a home at the major league level until he was traded to the Brewers in 1970. He made his sole All Star Game appearance as a Brewer in 1973. In 1975 he was traded to the Braves fo the reigning Home Run King, Hank Aaron. His production remained inconsistent and he was subsequently dealt to the Rangers in 1977. He played with the Brewers again and briefly for the Pirates in 1978.

He is the father of Derrick May who played for the Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, Expos and Orioled in the Nineties.

For his Card That Never Was, I tried to make up for the 2 airbrushed Topps cards of Aaron and May with this version of a 1975 Topps Traded card.


May and Leonhard were legitimately strong minor league players ready for the Majors in 1968. However, the Orioles were a very good team at the time and it was tough to find room on the roster. This card might deserve a better grade than the "3" I am giving it. But realistically, I'll just put it in a box.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

1970 Topps Royals Rookie Stars: Al Fitzmorris, Scott Northey


While researching Al Fitzmorris, I have found a few interesting facts. First he was originally signed by the White Sox in 1965 as an outfielder. Batting only .227 as a minor leaguer, he decided to covert to pitcher.

Second, although he led the Carolina League with 214 strikeouts in 1968, he was not a strikeout pitcher in the majors. He averaged just 3.2 strikeouts per 9 innings over his career. In 1974 he pitched a complete game shutout without a single strikeout or walk. He gave up just 3 hits, all singles, one each in the 1st, the 5th and the 8th.

Third he was selected twice in an expansion draft. In 1968 he was left unprotected by the White Sox and picked by the Royals. In 1976 he was drafted again. This time by the Toronto Blue Jays only to be traded to the Indians for catcher, Alan Ashby and first baseman, Doug Howard.

For his Card That Never Was, I chose a 1975 Hostess design. In 1975 Fitzmorris had a number of career highs including 16 wins and 11 complete games.


For Scott Northey this was his first of 2 rookie cards. The second was this 1971 American League Rookie Stars card with A's outfielder Bobby Brooks and Brewers Outfielder Pete Koegel.

Northey was the son of MLB journeyman Ron Northey. Ron played on the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds and White Sox from 1942-1957 and later a coach for the Pirates from 1960-1963.

Like his 1970 Topps card-mate Fitzmorris, Scott Northey was originally signed by the White Sox as an outfielder in 1965 and also picked by the Royals in the 1968 expansion draft. Also like Fitzmorris, he was called up from the Royals' AAA Omaha team in September.  That is where the similarity ends. After Northey's "cup of coffee" in September of 1969, he never made the show again. He played minor league ball until 1972 despite being depicted on rookie stars cards in bot 1970 and 1971.

For his Card That Never Was, I chose to give him his own 1969 Topps card to commemorate this original Royals only MLB season.


This card contains two September Call-ups from the Royals inaugural season. Fitzmorris was a solid pitcher for parts of 10 seasons. Northey on the other hand just struck out too much. He had 19 strikeouts in just 20 games including one 4 strikeout game. I may have graded a bit on the generous side but I gave this card a 4 because it contains 2 original Royals so for someone somewhere, this would qualify as a "set filler".