With all the festivities of October baseball about to heat up, I thought I’d try something a bit different with this space, celebrating some of those big moments from the past with a little cardboard glory.
Let me know what you think!
Hoot Mows ‘Em Down
The 1968 Detroit Tigers pulled off one of the most amazing World Series victories ever, riding Mickey Lolich’s three complete-game wins and plenty of heroics in a tense seven-game tilt with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Things didn’t start off so great for the Tigers, though, who got shredded by Cards ace Bob Gibson in Game 1, on October 2, to the tune of a record 17 strikeouts in nine innings. No Tigers starter escaped the wrath of Gibson’s nasty K streak, and some of their biggest names flailed all game long — Al Kaline and Norm Cash struck out three times each, with Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, and Bill Freehan going down twice apiece.
Not surprisingly, Topps commemorated the event in their 1969 base set with card #162 that was part of a black-and-white newspaper-style subset featuring the Fall Classic, put together in conjunction with The Sporting News.
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End of a Short Line
Exactly one year after Gibson’s heroics, on October 2, 1969, the Seattle Pilots played their last game ever … at least before moving to Milwaukee. In that swan song at Sick’s Stadium in front of fewer than 6000 fans, the Pilots dropped a 3-1 decision to the Oakland A’s.
The last Pilots run ever came when leftfielder Steve Whitaker homered off A’s starter Jim Roland with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
Whitaker appeared on card #71 in the 1969 Topps set, and you can find the Pilots team card on card #394 in the 1970 Topps set.
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Bird Mania Capper
Seven years after the Pilots road off into the sunset (aka, “toward the Midwest”), the Detroit Tigers were feeling pretty good about their future … and the Pilots/Brewers were about to see firsthand why that was.
Not only did Detroit have a young crop of prospects just about ready — Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Jack Morris — they also had the toast of baseball already mowing down hitters in the Majors.
From the time Mark “The Bird” Fidrych made his MLB debut on April 20, he had lit up the game and excited fans like few youngsters ever.
On October 2, 1976, Fidrych took the mound one last time, in Milwaukee no less, and set down the Brewers by a score of 5-1. He went the distance, striking out four, allowing just one walk and five hits.
And, though, Fidrych would never again be as good as he was in 1976, he changed the way the game looked at rookies, and the way collectors looked at rookie cards, with his 1977 Topps RC (#265) setting off a hobby frenzy of its own the next spring.
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Wow! Wax of the Day
If you ever had a hankering for recreating that rookie card chase, Bird style, you can still find opportunities here and there, courtesy of 1977 Topps wax packs that remain unopened, like this one offered up on eBay:
It’s a lot to pay for just a few cards, and you always have to be careful with old wax — had it been messed with at all — but the thrill of tearing into this one would be hard to beat. Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).