I’m a baseball card junkie, I’ll admit it. But I don’t like the shiny, nor do I go nuts over the latest certified autographs or “can’t miss” prospects. I’m all about the cheap stuff featuring players I like and guys from the Reds. If I can buy it for under a buck, I might be interested.
Last week in Myrtle Beach, I stopped at a card shop called Baseball 17. As soon as I walked in, I knew I would be spending a bit of time there. It was just like the baseball card shops I grew up with…boxes upon boxes of cheap cards, 25 cents each or five for a dollar. Other boxes boasted, “Stars 50 cents!” I immediately dove in to a box, and started pulling Reds.
I’m not talking about 2013 Topps or 2014 Heritage. I’m talking old-school…1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s. Five for a dollar! Barry Larkin, Ken Hunt, Don Blasingame, Leon Wagner. Here’s a sample of just a few of the Reds I picked out…
I also spied a 1989 Broders Rookies Ken Griffey card. I have a couple of the 1988 sets, but had never seen a 1989 series before…
You just can’t beat that, can you?
Actually, yes you can. This card, featuring three Hall of Famers, set me back twenty cents…
I also visited the “Stars for 50 cents!” box, and pulled a couple more Gibsons…1969 and 1975.
I remember the 1975 Gibson card from my grandmother’s house. She had a nice stack of 1975 cards, not sure who they belonged to but I was never allowed to ask if I could keep them. I recall looking at those cards, and I remember seeing the Gibson in that stack. I probably had no idea who he was at the time, but I always liked the card anyway.
The 1969 card has an amusing cartoon on the back, highlighting one of Gibby’s many extraordinary feats from the 1968 season…
I had a great time in Myrtle Beach, and Baseball 17 made it even better. I only dropped about $10 there in two visits, but it was great reliving the memories of the card shops of my youth. I can’t wait to go back next year and see what else I can find in the bargain bins.
Gibson’s Last Stand:
The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975
by Doug Feldmann
University of Missouri Press, 2011
Featuring future a roster full of superstars and a handful of Hall of Famers, the St. Louis Cardinals were poised to be a dominant force in the National League in the late 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, the only finished on top twice: 1967 and 1968. Orlando Cepeda was sent packing after that 1968 season and Roger Maris walked away from the game. Tim McCarver was dealt to Philadelphia along with Curt Flood, though Flood decided to fight the system instead of report to the city of brotherly love. By the time all was said and done, the Cardinals roster had been dismantled to the point of disrepair, and regardless of who was brought in to plug in the holes they just couldn’t over come the Pirates or Mets in the East.
There was one man who stood above all the rest on the Cardinals roster in the early 1970s: Bob Gibson. Author Doug Feldmann anchors his well researched book, Gibson’s Last Stand, on the intimidating pitcher as he looks at the final years of Gibby’s career. Other players certainly factored into the Cardinals’ success and failures of the era: Lou Brock, Ted Simmons, Steve Carlton. But Gibson was the superstar, the one who represented St. Louis on the mound, the one who ruled the games in which he pitched.
Feldmann’s book is an excellent treatise on a disappointing era for Cardinals fans. They finished in either second or fourth place every season between 1969 and 1974, twice coming within a game and a half of first. The author breaks down the shortcomings each season, much of which can be traced back to a disintegration of the trust that had existed between the players and management during the winning years of 1967 and 1968.
Fans of baseball history will enjoy Gibson’s Last Stand, published originally as a hardcover in 2011 and now available as a paperback.
Four of the top ten righties played in the early 1900s; five debuted in the 1950s or 1960s; one came into the big leagues in the 1980s. While the yearly top pitcher award is named after Cy Young (#2, 291.98), it’s Walter Johnson that comes out on top (#1, 303.08).
The third name on the list is no surprise either. Tom Seaver (#3, 267.73) was simply dominant during the entire decade of the 1970s, and was the undisputed best pitcher in the game in his era. The surprising thing is how good his peers were: Nolan Ryan (#5, 243.88), Gaylord Perry (#6, 239.15), Phil Niekro (#10, 219.57), Bert Blyleven (#11, 213.38), Don Sutton (#15, 207.39), and Fergie Jenkins (#16, 206.93).
Greg Maddux (#4, 264.96) was one of the most consistently good pitchers in the 1990s. He won the first of four consecutive Cy Young Awards in 1992 with the Cubs before signing with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent.
Pete Alexander (#7, 234.49), or Grover Cleveland Alexander (as I had always heard him called until recently), and Christy Mathewson (#9, 221.99) are the other two early twentieth century guys in the top ten. Bob Gibson (#8, 226.53) was an intimidating figure on the mound in the 1960s. In 1968 Gibson had a remarkable 1.12 ERA, a mind-boggling number for a guy who started 34 games and completed 28 of them.
Only Gibson has been elected to the Hall of Fame so far, though Glavine will no doubt be inducted also.
Ron Guidry, New York Yankees
But what about Guidry? Should he be in the Hall? In his first full season in the majors, he posted a 16-7 record with a 2.82 ERA. In 1978, he had one of the best seasons ever, going 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, 248 strikeouts, and 9 shutouts, winning the Cy Young Award unanimously. In 1985, he again posted a fantastic record, 22-6, though his ERA was up a bit and K’s were down. He finished second in Cy Young voting that year to Bret Saberhagen. Guidry dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2002 with less than 5% of the vote. In eight years on the ballot, he never reached even 9% support from the BBWAA. I do not believe Cooperstown would suffer from his inclusion; what do you think?
Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals
Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves
Larry Dierker, Houston Colt .45s/Astros
Jimmie Reese, California Angels