1975 Set Overview and Card #1 Hank Aaron ’74 highlights


(1975 Topps #561 – Al Dark Athletics Team Checklist)

1975 saw a price increase to their baseball card packs that year.  Topps increased price from 10 cents to 15 cents.  As far as design goes they lost the white border that has been around for a couple years and went with the prominent two color border before switching back to the white border with their 1976 cards.

The set itself numbers 660 cards that were issued in one series.  Subsets included are the milestone cards (1-7), MVP’s (189-212), League Leaders (306-313) and post season highlights (459-466).

The set also had a great rookie class of Robin Yount, George Brett, Jim Rice, Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez.

The set did suffer some issues with poor cuts and some print dots along with wear that comes with those bold color borders.

(1975 Topps #1 – Hank Aaron Sets Homer Mark)

Very first card fittingly for the 1975 Topps Baseball Set of course would be Hank Aaron who finished one home run short of the record in 1973.  After a long off season for him that included death threats as has been documented he ended up breaking the record on April 8, 1974 in Atlanta.  One thing that got overshadowed that day was he was walked in the second inning and then scored later on a Dodger error.  That run broke Willie Mays’ all time NL record for runs with 2,063 (since been passed by Barry Bonds).



(Hank Aaron Home Run Record Photograph by AP Images)

One other fact I learned was that according to Tom Stanton’s book “Hank Aaron and the Home Run that Changed America,” Claire Hodgson, Babe Ruth’s widow, denounced racism and said Babe would have enthusiastically cheered Aaron.


(Babe Ruth and Claire Hodgson Ruth circa 1930s)

1975 #20 Topps Card is of New York Yankees’ Thurman Munson



Thurman Munson started the 1974 season after coming off his best year to date.  Considered by most to be the “heart and soul” of the Yankees in 147 games, he had 156 hits, 29 doubles, 4 triples, 20 homeruns, 74 runs batted in and a OBP of 0.362 in 1973.

The Yankees found themselves with a new manager, Bill Virdon, for Spring Training in 1974. Virdon was looking to improve upon what he saw as a team that played poor defense. This taskmaster opened Spring Training with the announcement that other than pitchers, only three players were certain to open the regular season–Bobby Murcer, Graig Nettles, and Munson.


Some expected Munson would have an even better year than his 1973 season because the Yankees were playing in Shea Stadium in 1974 while the renovation of Yankee stadium continued. Yankee Stadium was considered a right-handed hitter’s nightmare with its 402′ straightway left and 457′ in left center. Only 21 home runs were hit into the left field bullpen in the old stadium’s history.  In comparison, Shea had a 371′ left center.  Because of this, people speculated Munson’s already impressive numbers were only going up. It was not to happen though.

A week before the regular season in an exhibition game against the Mets–of all teams– Munson’s right hand was hit by Dave Schneck’s backswing. Munson continued as he generally did with injuries, but this one did not improve with time, it grew worse. Munson was in and out of the lineup depending on the swelling of the his hand because his ability to throw and even hold a bat were affected. X-rays showed it was not broken, but treatment with cortisone shots only helped temporarily–it wasn’t getting fixed.


A third of the way into the season, Munson found himself hitting an average of .220 with 6 home runs and only 16 runs batted in. The Yankees fared as their captain fared, and the team found themselves with a record of 26 and 30. Munson then said, “To hell with the pain.” (1) He drove in a run with a single in a three run 8th inning rally that put the Yankees up 3-1 for a win against the Minnesota Twins on June 8th.

The very next day, June 9th, Munson hit another pair of singles that earned another Yankee’s win closing 4-3 against the Twins. After that, June 10th, he came up to bat against the Angels where he logged another 2 hits with 2 runs batted in. The Yankees were going again.

Soon, they were playing over .500 ball, and Munson’s batting stats were going up. This leadership and gritty play endeared him to both the fans and players. This is why he was considered the heart and soul of the Yankees, and it was also the reason that he would become was the first to be named captain since Lou Gehrig.


(photo from Sports Illustrated)

This inspired play couple with the leadership of manager, Bill Virdon, actually had the Yankees leading their division late into September. The hand injury to Munson persisted, though. He received daily treatments, and when asked about the injury and how it affected his play, he responded, “I can’t even shake hands without it hurting.” (2)

As of September 23 the Yankees found themselves with a one game lead over the favorite Orioles with only eight games to go. After a decade of failure, the surprising Yankees looked like they were back. The Yankees could not hold off the Orioles, though. Yankees ended up going 5-3 while the Orioles went 8-8 giving the Orioles the pennant with a two game lead.


(from thedeadballera.com)

The Yankees were indeed back to winning form. In 1975, they saw a bit of transition halfway through the season when George Steinbrenner hired Billy Martin to manage the team. 1975 also marked a key acquisition–Catfish Hunter. Then came 1977 where the Yankees added Reggie Jackson. This move set them up to win the 1977 and 1978 World Series.

Munson for his part went on to win the MVP in 1975, he was named captain in 1976, and he collected two World Series wins. Then, on August 2nd 1979, tragedy struck. Munson– who had taken up flying so he could fly home to his family in Canton, Ohio on his off days–was practicing takeoffs and landings at the Akron-Canton Airport. After successfully completing two landings with friends David Hall, previously his flight instructor, and Jerry Anderson, he attempted his third approach. Hall told investigators the he believed they were coming in too low for the elevated runway that was 50 feet higher than the ground they crashed into after the plane sheered off the top of three trees. Hall and Anderson were able to escape the plane, but due to the extreme heat, they  could not get Munson out before the plane became engulfed in flames.

Munson was survived by his wife Diana and their three children. George Steinbrenner said about Munson after his death, “There is very little I can say to adequately express my feelings at this moment. I’ve lost a dear friend, a pal and one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever known. We spent many hours together talking baseball and business. He loved his family, he was our leader. The great sport, which made him so famous, seems so very small and unimportant now. And there lies a great lesson for all of us.” (3)

As a tribute, the Yankees put a plaque of Munson in Monument Park at the stadium along with all the other greats, and as a further nod to this leader, Munson’s locker was never used again by another player. When the new stadium was completed, his locker was moved to the new ballpark and still remains unused. The Baseball Hall of Fame created a replica of his locker for display.



(1) Sporting News, July 6, 1974 – Phil Pepe.

(2) Sporting News, October 5, 1974 – Phil Pepe.

(3) SABR Bio by Jimmy Keenan and Frank Russo

1975 #19 Topps Card is of New York Mets’ Jerry Koosman



In 1974, Jerry Koosman and the Mets came back after a surprising World Series appearance in the 1973 season against Oakland. Koosman’s performance resembled the 1973 Mets’ season with a series of ups-and-downs. Jerry, named the April NL Player of the month in 1973, went on to lose 14 of his next 18 games. Surprisingly, the Mets still made it through to the World Series with an 82-79 record. Their .509 winning percentage remains the lowest of any pennant winner in MLB history.


During the offseason, the Mets did not make any moves to help with an offense that most believed was needed to help the already great pitching staff. Once the 1974 baseball season started though, the pitching staff ran into consistency problems and injuries. This caused the Mets to drop to the bottom of the NL East by the end of April with the worst record in MLB.

On the other hand, Jerry started the 1974 season off well, and he was the most dependable pitcher on the staff. There were two prominent reasons for the strong start. One was his health–he managed to stay healthy in a clubhouse that was not. The other reason was his fastball.

Jerry’s arm went dead during the 1970 season, and he fought it every season after. In his first 58 innings of the 1974 season, Jerry struck out 50. “I’ve become the complete pitcher. I use the fastball only when I need to. I’m throwing the slider this year for the first time.  It’s a pitch that Rube Walker (Mets Pitching Coach) doesn’t like too much, but I’ve shown him I can use it on occasion just to be effective and he lets me throw it,” Jerry said. (1) He went on about his fastball saying, “Nothing beats the thrill of reaching back and throwing the fastball by the hitter. That’s what it’s all about. The challenge. You see a big guy standing up there and he’s swinging at the best you can throw him and he’s lucky if he can foul it off. That’s a thrill you can’t match.” (1)


Unfortunately for the Mets the season never took off at all. The team finished with a record of 71-91–coming in last in their division. 1974 was the first losing season they had since 1968, and the whole organization had no answers for a team that could not score runs. They would not make any moves to try and really add help to a once great pitching staff that was having a bad year.

Jerry was the one bright spot for the Mets. He finished the year with a 15-11 record then went on to have a 14-13 record in 1975 while the Mets continued to struggle. In 1976, he saw possibly his best season with a 21-10 record and 200 strikeouts. He also finished second that season to Randy Jones in the NL Cy Young balloting.

1977 was a low point really for both the Mets and Jerry. The Mets finished 34 games under 500, and Jerry had a record of 8-20.  Jerry endured only one more bad season with the Mets in 1978 before demanding a trade after the 1978 season.


He got his wish. The Mets traded him to the Twins. On his leaving, he said, “I hated to leave. The front office of the Mets did not want to win, and I just couldn’t stomach that.” He went on to have a good year, and he eventually closed out his career playing with the White Sox and Phillies also.

While Jerry is best remembered for being part of the 1969 Miracle Mets, he put together a 19 year long career and retired to Minnesota where he took part in a program called America’s Best–designed to showcase young talent in the country. He also spent 1991 and 1992 in the Met’s organization as a minor-league pitching instructor.



(1) Jack Lang, Sporting News, June 1, 1974

1975 #18 Topps Card is of Detroit Tigers Team



The Tigers entered the 1974 season with new manager, Ralph Houk. Houk was chosen to bring stability and calm after the previous manager, Billy Martin–known for being volatile and unpredictable. During the 1973 season, for example, Martin was arrested in Spring Training, quit for a day, managed the team from his bed in a hotel once, didn’t show up once until 30 minutes before the first pitch during another game, and received suspension after ordering two Tiger pitchers to throw spitballs. Needless to say, Tiger’s GM Jim Campbell was looking for some calm.

One issue the Tigers faced going into the 1974 season was their average age which was 31.8 during the 1973 season. Despite this, Houk convinced GM Jim Campbell that there was no need to make major trades. Houk would say, “A lot of American Leaguers are writing us off in the East (Division), behind Baltimore and Boston, claiming we’re too old. We’re not too old; we’ve got most of our men in their prime years, except for (Norm) Cash and (Al) Kaline, at 39.” (1)


One big story going into Tigers spring training was Al Kaline. This season marked Kaline’s 21st  and last spring training. The future Hall of Famer explained his upcoming season noting, “There’s a very selfish reason why I’m playing right now. I’m just playing to get 3,000 hits. If I get 3,000 hits this year, I’m going to retire. If I don’t, I’ll play again next year.” (2) Al entered the season shy of the 3,000 mark by just 139 hits putting him in the company of only 11 other players in MLB history who previously achieved 3,000 hits.

To try to achieve the goal at this stage in Kaline’s career, Al and manager Ralph Houk agreed that he should play DH. Al was worried about his speed and fielding abilities as a player now. “I think I’ve really gone backward as far as my speed is concerned. I don’t get to balls I used to catch. And that is really embarrassing to me. It hurts. I keep telling myself I should have caught that ball, but I know I can’t anymore.” (2)

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers stumbled out of the gate going into the regular season losing eight of 13–their worst start since 1960. First innings were really a problem in these games. The Tigers gave up a combined 27 runs in these first 13 games in the first inning alone. Houk explained, “The thing that really has hurt us has been those early innings. I think we might have hit better if we had been able to face the opposition on equal basis in the early part of the game. But when you’re way behind, the way we’ve been, it’s really not fair to your hitters.” (3)

By June 7th the Tigers found themselves with a 25-27 record, and they were looking to shake things up. Ron Cash was sent back to the minors. First baseman, Norm Cash was benched. Catcher, Bill Freehan, became the full-time first baseman, Jerry Moses was given the chance to catch, and Marv Lane was called up to play outfield from Evansville. When asked if this was a short term move, Houk responded, “When I make a move, I make it.  I went with what I thought would be the best lineup this spring, and I think I gave it a real good shot. Now I feel it’s time for a change.”(4)


Another interesting moment for the team came on August 1st, 1974 when Ron LeFlore joined the Tigers against the Brewers. LeFlore was brought up to start rebuilding the aged outfield of the last place Tigers. What made LeFlore unique was that he never played organized ball until he was locked behind bars. LeFlore became the lead off hitter and played 59 of the remaining 60 games with the Tigers.

This well-known era of Tiger’s baseball–named Kaline, Cash, Northrup, Horton, and Freehan–was now over. Age and injury caused the Tiger’s to go into full rebuild mode. Cash would be let go. Northrup was traded to Montreal, and Kaline retired at the end of the season. Kaline though would give the fans something to cheer for at the end of the 1974 season when on September 24 he got his 3,000th hit.

The Tiger’s low point came the next season, 1975, when they lost 102 games.  By 1978, though, Houk returned the Tigers to a winning record.



(1) Sporting News, March 30th, “Bunts and Boots”

(2) Sporting News, March 9th, Jim Hawkins

(3) Sporting News, May 11th, Jim Hawkins

(4) Sporting News, June 29th, Jim Hawkins


1975 #17 Topps Card is of Cincinnati Reds’ Dave Concepcion


Dave came into the 1974 season on a good note. His 1973 season was a sort of breakout season for him offensively. He put up numbers like he never did in his short career until he unfortunately broke his ankle sliding into 3rd on July 22, 1973 against the Expos. Up until that point, Concepcion stole 22 bases, batted .287, logged 46 RBI and scored 8 home runs.


Without Dave in the lineup for the second half of the 1973 season, the Reds were at a disadvantage to left hand pitching.  This disadvantage played out once they reached the post season where they were trying for their 3rd pennant in four years against the Mets.  The Reds ended up losing that series in five games.

After the winter meetings, the Red’s sent scout Ray Shore down to Venezuela to check in on Dave, and the reports were good.  Shore on seeing Dave the first time explained, “When Concepcion came walking through the entrance, he didn’t display a trace of a limp. No one ever would have guessed that he had broken an ankle. I feel confident he’ll be 100 percent in shape by the opening of the season.” (1)

Dave not only performed great in the grapefruit league that year, but he got off to a great start in the 1974 regular season. “Yep,” said Red’s manager Sparky Anderson, “it is beginning to look as if that .287 Concepcion batted before he broke his ankle last July is for real.” (2) One change that Anderson made for Dave in 1974 was rooming him with Tony Perez to create an opportunity for Perez to mentor Concepcion.  Perez on Dave, “He cannot stand 0-4 day. It kills him. I tell him very simple things like ‘Don’t get your head down’…’if you don’t hit now, you will next time’….things like this to pick him up.” (3)

PerezTony_CR73-595_Bat_NBL McWilliams.preview

(Tony Perez from the Society for American Baseball Research)

All this added up to what is arguably Concepcion’s best season of his long career. In 1974, he won the first of five Gold Glove Awards. He played a total of 160 games that produced 70 Runs, 167 Hits, 25 Doubles, 14 Home Runs, 82 RBI’s, 41 SB, OBP. 335, SLG .397 and a WAR of 5.5. The Reds as a team though finished second to the Dodgers in the National League West. As the Reds’ record of 98-64 shows, their second place finish was not a bad reflection of them. It was more accurately a display of how good the Dodgers were that year with a record of 102-60. During the off season, the Dodgers added Jimmy Wynn and Mike Marshall to effectively put them over the top.



Dave played exclusively with the Reds for his 19 year career (1970-1988). He won two World Series rings in the Big Red Machine’s back to back 1975 and 1976 seasons, and he finished his career with 9 All-Star Games, 1982 All Star MVP, 5 Gold Gloves, and 2 Silver Slugger Awards. In 2000, Concepcion was voted into the Reds’ Hall of Fame, and his number 13 was retired.


Concepcion is also known for his use of Riverfront Stadium’s artificial turf in fielding.  Once he started experiencing pain in his throwing arm, he started bouncing the throw to first off the turf. “I didn’t invent that throw,” Concepcion said, “I saw another fellow do it. I saw Brooks Robinson do it to Lee May here in 1970. Then when my arm hurt, I decided, ‘Why not try it?’”(4)(3)

In retirement, Dave served as manager for the Tigres de Aragua team in Venezuela. He now resides with his wife in Urbanizacion El Castaño, a community in Maracay, Venezuela. They have three grown children, and Dave runs a farm and trucking business.

01(Dave serving as grand marshal of the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade from Cincinnati Enquirer)


(1) Earl Lawson, Sporting News, January 26th, 1974.

(2) Earl Lawson, Sporting News, May 4th, 1974

(3) Joseph Wancho, SABR Biography on Dave Concepion

(4) Feldman, “The 1976 Cincinnati Reds,”



1975 #16 Topps Card is of California Angels’ Frank Tanana

The California Angels’ first-round draft pick in 1971 completed his first full season in the majors in 1974.  Frank was brought up during the last couple of weeks for the 1973 season where he pitched four games and went 2-2 with the Angels. Frank also received the Texas League’s pitcher of the year in 1973 for his performance with the Triple A El Paso Sun Kings where he went 16-6 and achieved a league leading strike out total of 197. Tom Morgan, the Angels pitching coach said of Frank, “He reminds me of Whitey Ford more than any pitcher I’ve ever seen. He has the control, the coolness and confidence that Whitey had.”

Things were shaping up for 1974 to be his breakout year in the MLB.


Already being labeled “The Phenom”, 20-year-old Frank found himself pitching as the number three starter for the Angels behind Nolan Ryan and Bullet Bill Singer in 1974. He replaced the departed Clyde Wright.

The Angels were bad team that year, and they ended with a record of 68-94 to finish last in the AL West Division.  Frank, however, showed a great amount of promise for what he would become in the near future. People began referring to a series facing Nolan Ryan followed by Frank Tanana as “Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin.”  For Frank’s 1974 season, he finished 14-19, 3.12 ERA with 180 SO. Most at the time believed his fastball was second only to Nolan Ryan himself.


(picture from Sports Illustrated)

Frank Tanana experienced a couple of bumps in the road in 1974–a common thread among young pitchers.  With 164 innings, he had a 6-14 record with an ERA of 4.05 and 10 losses.  That compelled Whitey Herzog, interim manager due to the Bobby Winkles firing, to move Frank to the bullpen.  This continued under the new manager, Dick Williams.  Frank, as with a lot of starting pitchers that young, began to sulk leading Williams to say, “If some people don’t want to pitch in the bullpen up here, we’ve got plenty of room for them at Salt Lake” (the Angels minor league team).  (2)


(Manager Dick Williams)

The rebuke worked on Frank. He later spoke about it saying, “I came to realization I could be in the minors. It opened my eyes. I said to myself, Hey, if I don’t turn myself around, I’m going to Salt Lake City. I buckled down. I was taking things for granted.” (2)  Frank made it back to the starting rotation, and in his last 104 3/3 innings, he had a 1.63 ERA and won 10 of his last 16 games.

Frank continued to be a great pitcher through the 1978 season. From 1974-1978 he made 3 All-star appearances, won a strikeout title in 1975, and earned an ERA title in 1977. He also produced 84 wins.

All this lead to his arm being used heavily, and he started losing velocity. He was forced to reinvent himself as a pitcher, so he became a successful junk ball pitcher. With this new pitching style, he managed to stick in the majors all the way up until 1993. He spent time with the Red Sox, Tigers, Mets and Yankees during his career.


(1) Dick Miller, Sporting News, Dec. 15th, 1973

(2) Dick Miller, Sporting News, Nov. 16th, 1974

1975 #15 Topps Card is of Chicago Cubs’ Jose Cardenal

In 1974, Jose started his 3rd year with the Chicago Cubs.  Jose has in interesting history because he was one of the last Cuban baseball players leave Cuba before Fidel Castro tightened restrictions.  Not even 17 years old, Jose left Cuba on March 23, 1960, for the United States, and he received a $200 signing bonus with the San Francisco Giants.

Jose played a few seasons in the Giant’s farm system where he started to show the signs of the argumentative behavior he came to be known for.  In one example from 1963 while playing for the El Paso Sun Kings, he was suspended and placed on a one year probation after running to the Austin Senators dugout and making threatening gestures with a letter opener.  After his reinstatement, he was suspended again after an altercation with his teammate Lazaro Gomez. (1)

Jose was called up by the Giants on two different occasions before being traded to the California Angels.  He spent three years with the Angels, two years in Cleveland, one year in Saint Louis and one year with the Brewers before joining the Cubs in 1972. He was labelled as both moody and a pouter—descriptions that followed him to all the different clubs.  One thing every club saw, though, was great potential.

Gene Islanders

(1966 Dexter Press California Angels 8×10 Photos #1 Jose Cardenal)

Entering the 1974 season, the Cubs had cleaned house from the previous season where the team fell apart in the second half to finish 5th in the NL East.  At one point, the team lost 33 of 42 games, including 11 in a row. The list of traded players during the offseason were: Ferguson Jenkins, Bob Locker, Glenn Beckert, Ron Santo and Ken Rudolph.  Jose, however, was coming off a good season where he won the “Chicago Player of the Year”. His leading batting average of .303 topped both the Cubs and White Sox players, so the Cubs organization kept him for 1974.


During the offseason, Jose remained in Chicago to practice for the upcoming 1974 season, and he skipped winterball for the very first time in his career.  He said he had found his real self in Chicago.  “When I first came up, I talk too much, and they call me a big-mouth rookie.  So I learn to shut up when I go to Cleveland, and all of a sudden I’m moody ballplayer,” Jose explained. (2)  In 1974, Jose found himself a fan favorite, and he was counted on to help the rebuilding Cubs win.

By the time the 74 Allstar break rolled around, Jose was feeling reflective on his 10 years in the majors. Along with the Chicago organization, he credits Dick Allen in helping him in his current happiness.  His time with Allen was brief during a prior year with the Cardinals in 1970.  Jose said of that year that Allen “taught me to live with myself.” (3)


(Dick Allen with the Cardinals)

Jose said Dick taught him to quit fighting himself and start fighting the opposition.  Also, Allen told him to quit trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark every time.  “When Richie (Dick Allen) opens his mouth, you listen and learn, too.  He was really the only one who ever helped me in this game.  Everything else I learned myself.” (3)


(Jose with the Cardinals, photo from Baseball Hall of Fame)

During the Allstar break, Jose showed off his improved happiness when asked about not being in the Allstar game even though his batting average was .300.  “No big thing.  Too many great outfielders in this game. All I want some day is a World Series.  I give my little finger for that.”

The Cubs, as should be expected in a year following a mass selloff, did not fare well in 1974.  They finished last in their division with a 66-96 record putting them 22 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Jose had another solid year though, and he was now looked upon as one of the team’s strengths. Add fan support, and he was no longer considered a journeyman.  He batted a .293 AVG over his 143 games, .359 OBP, 121 OPS, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 23 SB, 35 2B, 3 3B with a WAR of 2.6.  This performance and team leadership led the Cubs to sign a two-year contract with Jose in the offseason.


(Picture from Baseball Hall of Fame)

Jose stayed with the Cubs through the 1977 season, then he moved on to the Phillies for a couple of years followed by the Mets and finally, he closed out his career with the Royals in 1980.


After retirement, Jose stayed around the game in different ways.  In 1982, he was allowed to return to Cuba to run baseball clinics. He also appeared at Cubs fantasy camps with other retired Cubs players, and he ran baseball camps for little leaguers.  In 1985 with Minnie Minoso, he traveled around Central America as part of a goodwill tour put on by the US government.  He was also hired as a roving minor league instructor for the White Sox and later the Reds.

Jose bounced around as 1st base coach, outfield coach, interrupter, and consultant farm director with the Cardinals, Yankees, Tampa Bay, Reds and Nationals.  Asked if he ever aspired to manage, Jose said “I don’t want to go through all that hassle and aggravation that managers go through today. With the players making so much money, it’s hard. I like to go to bed at night.” (1)






(1) Jose Cardenal SABR Biography by Ray Birch

(2) Sporting News, February 2nd, 1974, Richard Dozer

(3) Sporting News, August 3rd, 1974, Richard Dozer


1975 #14 Topps Card is of Cleveland Indian’s pitcher Milt Wilcox

Milt started his career with the pitcher deep Cincinnati Reds organization and kept finding himself being sent back down to the Red’s Triple A team, the Indianapolis Indians.  While down there, he kept putting up impressive numbers, but he could not crack the Reds rotation.

In 1971 while he played for the Indianapolis Indians, Wichita Aero’s manager Ken Aspromonte was impressed with Milt’s performance as a pitcher. Later when Ken was brought up to manage the Cleveland Indians, Aspromonte insisted on acquiring Milt, and the Cleveland Indians sent outfielder Ted Uhlaender to Cincinnati for Wilcox on December 6. (1)


Fast forward to 1974, and Milt started his 3rd year with the Cleveland Indians.   the previous 1973 season was not a standout for Milt who finished with a 8-10 record, 5.83 ERA and a WAR of -0.1.  This, along with other pitching problems with the Tribe, led to the manager saying that some veteran pitchers–he named Milt Wilcox, Mike Kekich, Dick Bosman–could find their major league jobs in jeopardy. “It’s not that I’m turning my back on them, it’s just that they better come out like a fireball in the first week.  Once their arms are ready, the ones who don’t impress early are going to fall back.  If a vet doesn’t make my club we’ll try to trade him. And if we can’t, he’ll go off to Oklahoma City.” (2)


(Ken Aspromonte, 1974 postcard)

Milt made the team, but he sat in the bullpen as Dick Bosman won the 5th starters role. In his new role as a reliever, Milt felt he finally found the velocity he was missing saying, “I guess I’m better suited for relief because when I was starting, my arm would tighten up around the sixth or seventh inning.” (3)  Working with Cleveland’s catcher, Dave Duncan, he also found more movement with his fastball.  “I can make my fast ball sink by turning it over when I release the ball, and I can make it rise by holding it across the seams,” Milt was quoted as saying. (3)


(Milt Wilcox, 1974 postcard)

The most memorable event of Milt’s career occurred in 1974 on June 4th. It’s remembered as “Ten Cent Beer Night”.  The stadium’s promotion offered 12 US fluid ounces for 10 cents. The 25,134 fans that showed up at Municipal Stadium (around twice the size that normally went to a game) thought it was a great idea.  It was observed that many of the fans showed up already inebriated for the game with the Rangers–then they got their first 10 cent beer.  The game quickly turned into an all-out party/circus. During the 2nd inning a woman jumped into the Indians’ on deck circle and flashed everyone, then in the 4th inning, a naked man slid into second base. A father-and-son pair were caught mooning people while standing on the outfield fence, and those are just a few examples.


Amid all this chaos, the two teams were already feeling some tension against one another due to the fact that six days earlier there was a bench clearing brawl after the Rangers’ Lenny Randle slid hard into the Indians’ Jack Brohamer. Allegedly, Milt then threw at Randle in the 9th, but Randle got out of the way of the pitch, drag bunted the next pitch and finally collided with Milt on the way to first. That prompted Ranger fans to throw beer at the Indians’ players who had to be restrained from going into the stands after them. Local media had a week to help fuel the fire kicked off in this game before “Ten Cent Beer Night”.

The “Ten Cent Beer Night” game itself had the Rangers going into the 9th with a 5-3 lead.  The Indians came back scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth with Leron Lee at the plate for a chance to drive in the winning run. He never got that chance. Cleveland fans started throwing golf balls, rocks and batteries onto the field. One fan even took Rangers’ outfielder Jeff Burroughs’ glove.  Burroughs chased after the glove thief, but right at that moment, fans started swarming both the field and Burroughs. Texas Manager Billy Martin grabbed a bat and led his team out on the field to rescue Burroughs only to be met with fans some fans armed with knives, chains and parts of stadium seating.

Realizing the Rangers’ players were in trouble, Indians’ manager Aspromonte ordered his players to grab bats and attack their own fans. The two teams retreated off the field through the dugout while working together to stave off the mob. The umpire, Nestor Chylak was hit by not only a chair but a rock then said of the crowd, “They were just uncontrollable beasts.” He called the game and ruled it a forfeit.


(from SB Nation)
01(Wielding bats, Rangers coaches and players surround Jeff Burroughs (center) and lead him off the field. From MLB.com)

Milt finished his 1974 year with a 4.67 ERA which was not good enough for the Indians to keep him. The Indians traded him to the Cubs for his 1975 season in return for pitcher Dave LaRoche and outfielder Brock Davis. Milt continued to struggle, and after he posted an ERA of 5.63 with the Cubs, he was demoted to the minors.

Detroit saw something in Milt though, and they purchased his contract. He was sent to their farm system team in Evansville where he finally found his stride with the new system. He earned his way back up to the majors–as a starter no less. His career continued, and in 1984, he found himself reunited with his old Reds’ manager, Sparky Anderson.

The Detroit Tigers came out to a great start that year, and Milt was determined to pitch the whole season despite shoulder pain.  His teammate Darrel Evans said of him, “There was often a question whether Milt was able to pitch on a given night, but he always went out there. We weren’t aware of what he was going through at the time. The guy’s a warrior and you have to have enough of these guys and that’s why it’s so hard to win.” (1)

He continued to pitch, and the team continued to do well. So well that by the time the World Series came around, Milt found himself pitching game three of the World Series. He led the team to a 5-2 victory. The pain in his shoulder was so bad by that point he could barely brush his teeth after the game. (1) Two games later, the Detroit Tigers celebrated as World Series Champions, and Milt put up numbers like he never had in his career.


(Detroit Tigers win the World Series in 1984, Lance Parrish, and Willie Hernandez)


It is felt he sacrificed what remained of his arm for that championship series and season. He would have another year with the Tigers and one more in Seattle before he retired.

04 Pitching from Sprotsday.dallasnews

(1) SABR Biography by Maxwell Kates

(2) Sporting News, February 9, 1974 Russell Schneider

(3) Sporting News, May 25th, 1974 Russell Scheider

1975 #13 Topps Card is of San Diego Padres’ Gene Locklear

Gene found himself with the San Diego Padres in the 1974 season after being brought up in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system when Reds signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1969.   He played in that farm system until he made the Reds’ opening day roster in 1973.  His performance with the Indianapolis Indians during 1972 had a lot to do with this.  He ended up winning a Louisville Slugger Batting Championship Award with the Indians that season with a BA of .392, 15 HR, 31 2B and 8 3B.

Gene Reds

Gene made his major league debut with the Reds on April 5th, 1973 as the pinch hitter for Darrel Chaney.  He would end up striking out as the Reds lost that day to the San Francisco Giants, 4-1.   He only played 29 games with the Reds before being traded to San Diego in June of 1973 for Fred Norman. Gene would never be considered a good fielder, and the Reds, already loaded with outfielders, also gave the cash strapped Padres $75,000 in that deal.  George Scherger remembered when Gene reported to the Reds instructional camp in 1969, “A fly ball was just as likely to land on top of Locklear’s head as in his glove.” (1)

Gene Islanders

In 1974, Gene was sent to Hawaii to join the Padres’ minor league team in the Pacific Coast League right before the team broke camp in Yuma. He admitted he was unhappy with the situation of being sent down and said, “I have to go out each night and tell myself to play good so I’ll be happy tomorrow.” (2)

For the most part, he did that.  Up until May 12th, he was hitting with an average of .309 and leading the team in homeruns with seven.  On May 12th though, Gene found himself suspended without pay indefinitely by Hawaii manager Roy Hartsfield after he failed to run out a pop fly for the second time in four nights.

An angry Roy Hartsfield said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in 32 years of baseball.” (3)  What made it so bad was that after Gene popped up near the 3rd base foul line, the wind caught the ball and blew it back in play.  Spokane Indians 3rd baseman—Roy Howell—then dropped the ball, but since Gene was not running it out, Howell still had time to pick it up and throw to first for the out.  Gene returned to the lineup for the Islanders on May 16th although he suffered a badly twisted ankle and had to be carted off.  Gene picked up where he left off though and continued his good hitting.  He even made the Pacific Coast League’s All Star Team in 1974.


(Honolulu Stadium)

Back in San Diego, a costly injury to Bobby Tolan and Mike Corkins caused the Padres to call up Gene along with Dave Hilton, Mike Johnson and Rusty Gerhardt.  For his time down with the Islanders, Gene ended up hitting 99 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 52 RBI, .341 BA in 77 games.


The Padres, for their part, were having another horrible season where they finished the season last in their division with a 60-102 record, 42 games behind the Dodgers.   Gene got to play 39 games with the team batting 20 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .270 BA in 74 AB.   The team’s owner, Ray Kroc, would sum up the team’s performance and his experience by saying, “I bought the team to have some fun. But it is proving to be about as enjoyable as a wake – your own.” (4)

Ray Kroc from the San Diego Union Tribune

(Ray Kroc from the San Diego Union Tribune)

Gene played 100 games for the Padres in 1975 before being traded to the Yankees in 1976 where he only played in 13 games. Then, he only played one game for the Yankees in 1977, and it was his last in the Big Leagues. He finished that year with the Syracuse Chiefs then signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League where he ended his career in 1978.

More than baseball, Gene was known as an artist.  He already earned his commercial art degree, so after retirement, he went into painting full time where he is very accomplished.  Among his commissioned art clients are:
The White House

The Pentagon

Bureau of Indian Affairs


PGA Phil Mickleson

PGA Tiger Woods

Turner Broadcasting (32 commissioned pieces)

NBA Atlanta Hawks

LPGA Inamori Classic

Ted Williams Baseball Collectable Cards

MLB San Diego Padres

MLB National League Alumni

NASCAR Rusty Wallace

Duke University, Raleigh, NC

Heros of The Game Collectable Cards

Cartwrights Journal of Baseball Collectables (5)

Gene likes to be remembered in baseball as becoming the first member of the Lumbee tribe to play professional sports and one of only about two dozen Native Americans to play in the majors. (5)

Gene Locklear photo from KPBS San Diego

(Gene Locklear photo from KPBS San Diego)
  1. Sporting News, March 31, 1973
  2. Sporting News, May 25, 1974
  3. Sporting News, June 1, 1974
  4. Sporting News, May 11th, 1974
  5. Genelocklear.com

1975 #12 Topps Card is of Texas Ranger’s David Clyde

1974 would find David entering into his second year of an MLB career that in retrospect has been pointed to as one of the worst cases of mishandling a young player in baseball history.  Saying that, I think a little back story is needed.

01 18 Year Old David Clyde Being Informed He Is Now a Texas Ranger from Dallas Observer

(18 Year Old David Clyde Being Informed He Is Now a Texas Ranger from Dallas Observer)

The Washington Senators relocated to Texas, changed their name and in 1972 had their first season as the Rangers.  This relocated franchise was still struggling with money, and prior to the 1973 draft, they had the second lowest attendance in the American League.  Looking to boost attendance and having the number one pic in the 1973 draft, Ranger’s owner Bob Short saw a potential solution in drafting David Clyde. Clyde would be drafted out of high school, and he was being labeled as the next Sandy Koufax.  The Rangers planned on having David pitch his first two professional games with the club before sending him down to the minors for development.

Twenty days after pitching his last high school game on June 27, 1973, David found himself not only pitching his first MLB game but winning it in front of the Ranger’s first sellout in their stadium history.  Ranger’s owner, Bob Short, saw his answer to the club’s financial problems, and he decided not to send Clyde down to the minor leagues as planned. This move was against then manager Whitey Herzog’s advice, and David Clyde found himself being the youngest player in MLB for the 1973 season at the age of only 18.  Herzog would recall later “I’d have to say that David Clyde was one of the best young left-handed pitchers I’ve ever seen. He was really mishandled. He was wild and the other hitters started sitting on his fastball. He never had the advantage of going to the minors and pitching against kids his own age. And he was really a good kid himself. It was a tragedy.” (3)



(David and Whitey Herog from Sportsday.dallasnews)

In 1974, David Clyde came into Spring Training wound very tight.  Billy Martin, his manager, said of him, “the first couple days, he was wound so tight he couldn’t hit the cage, he was trying too hard.” (1)  Pitching coach Art Fowler said, “We had to stay after him because he was forcing everything. I told him no less than two dozen times to just relax, to let everything come naturally.” (1)  According to Martin though, David Clyde making the team was not a sure thing this time around.  “His chances of making the team are very good,” said the manager, “But if he does make it, it’ll be because he earned it and not because his name is Clyde.” (1)


(David from Sportsday.dallasnews)

The start of the regular season was not too bad.  The Rangers actually were doing better than expected in those first 2 months.  For David, he turned 19 on April 22 and beat the Yankees 5 days later in his first complete game. That might have been the highlight of his season.  Not long after, he was caught in a power struggle between manager, Billy Martin, and the team President, Dr. Bobby Brown.  Martin didn’t appreciate the fact that Clyde would lose nine straight decisions after starting the season at 3-and-0. Having lost confidence in his would-be ace, Martin didn’t pitch Clyde for 17 consecutive days that September. (2) Years later David said ”Billy never said anything to me and I wasn’t the type of person that questioned things then.  Looking back, I got caught in a power struggle between Billy and the front office. If I were going through that now, I’d kick the door in and demand an explanation. It made me a very outspoken person.” (3)  David would finish that year with a 3-9 record and a 4.38 ERA.

04 Pitching from Sprotsday.dallasnews

(From Sprotsday.dallasnews)

David was finally sent down to the minors in 1975, and in 1976, his arm troubles began.  Traded to the Indians in 1978, he went 8-11. Then, he went 3-4 in 1979 before he damaged his rotator cuff.  He was signed by the Astros in 1981, but during the fall instructional league, he decided he had enough.  ”I thought: ‘What am I doing here? This is not what I wanted to do,’ ” he recalled. ”I made a decision to get on with my real life.” (3)  David would retire at age 26.

Rangers David Clyde MLB 1973

(From Sprotsday.dallasnews)

David, in his struggles during the 1974 and 1975 season, became dependent on alcohol and had two failed marriages.  He then met and married his third wife Robin. They had three kids with, and he recently retired from his father-in-law’s lumber business in 2003.  He now coaches at the “Miracle Baseball Academy” in Houston.


(From Sprotsday.dallasnews)



  1. Sporting News, March 30th, 1974
  2. Baseball hall of fame, card corner
  3. New York Times, June 22, 2003 Dave Anderson


1975 #11 Topps Card is of Chicago White Sox Bill Melton


This former third baseman who started his career with the White Sox in 1968 was nicknamed “Beltin’ Bill” or “Beltin’ Melton” for his power. Known for being a home run hitter, even in the large Comiskey Park, he was also the 1971 AL HR leader (First Ever White Sox player to do that) and a 1971 All Star.


Bill hitting

In 1972, he only played 57 games due to two herniated discs after trying to break his son’s fall from their garage roof. 1974 saw him still trying to get his swing and power back from the 1972 injury.  An off-season trade in 1974 that brought the former Cub’s Ron Santo to the White Sox caused concern as well with people speculating how Bill, the current third baseman, and Santo, also a third baseman, would interact on the same team.

Ron Santo

(Ron Santo from Sporting News)

1974 was his best year back from that 1972 injury. It resulted in 21 HR, but he never did really become the player he was before the injury.  There was even talk at the beginning of the 1974 season of the White Sox having a batting lineup like Murderer’s Row anchored by Melton, Dick Allen and Santo. That hope never took shape.  Santo for his part, ended up finishing the season with only 5 home runs and a batting average of .221 and retired after this season.

Bill Melton would struggle like the rest of the team especially at the start. He was benched for the first time in his career and even through June 18th his RBI and error totals were tied at 17.  Speaking to his slump he said, “Usually, when I made some errors, I was hitting well, or if I wasn’t hitting, at least I was doing the job in the field.” (1) While Bill would always rank high in the league in errors, in 1974 he led the league with 24 errors at 3rd base.

As of June 17th the White Sox ranked next to last in the American League with a combined total of seven home runs and 57 runs batted in. (1)  Bill and the White Sox would fare better in the second half of the season but never live up to the “Murderer’s Row” potential that some were saying at the beginning of the season


(from mlb.com)

Melton was a popular player when hitting all the home runs, but by 1974 some fans and the Media, including White Sox Broadcaster Harry Carey, turned on him. His always present bad fielding was overlooked when he was hitting all the home runs, but as the home runs lagged so did the support. The situation got really ugly when in 1975 the fans at Comisky Park booed Bill’s children during a father-son day. (3) Bill finally had a press conference where he criticized Carey for his continued on-air tirades against him.  At the end of the ’75 season Bill asked to be traded and credited Carey with his reasons for leaving Chicago at the end of the 1975 season.  He said about the subject, “I had to get out of Chicago, people turned against me because of that person upstairs.  If I had to go back, I’d probably have quit baseball. It was either him or me.” (2)


Bill would end up retiring after the 1977 season with the Cleveland Indians.  One of his best accomplishments was holding onto the all-time HR leader of the White Sox until 1987 when he was passed by Harold Baines.  After retiring, Bill worked with his father-in-law as a real estate agent. In 1992, he started a job with the White Sox as a community relations representative.  He broke into television in 1998 with WGN and is now a Comcast SportsNet commentator for the White Sox


(CSN Chicago)


  1. Sporting News July 6, 1974
  2. Sporting News, January 3, 1976
  3. com Card Corner