Thursday, July 11, 2019

In Memoriam: Jim Bouton (1939-2019)

"I learned Math from Baseball & Jim Bouton taught me How to Read"

Not entirely true, but there is a lot of truth there.

Prior to college I think I only finished maybe...  three books, "1984", "Wired" the Biography of Jim Belushi, and "Ball Four". All those novels we were supposed to read in High School (Hester Prynne, Silas Marner, Macbeth, Huck Finn, etc Who Knows What Else)  - I read exactly none of them.

But "Ball Four" it spoke to me.

"Ball Four" - Jim Bouton (1970 2nd Edition)

I have read the book three times once as a teenager. Again in my 20s or 30s, and most recently in my late 40s in preparation to see Bouton at the NYC SABR convention.

The SABR panel was incredible. That weekend it was publicly announced that Jim Bouton had a brain disease related to dementia. Regardless with the help of his wife Paula Kurman he was up to the task of discussing his life and Ball Four in a panel dedicated to Bouton and the book. A fan of the book and the man could asked for nothing more. Bouton was funny, touching, and informative. He was "Ball Four" personified.

He was also good enough to pose for pictures while signing books and other memorabilia.

 Jim Bouton (2017 Jul 01)

The Photo on the left page is one that I took at the event. The book is a 2nd edition

Ball Four (2nd Edition)

Here is Ball Four sans jacket.

That's it for now. Over the coming weeks I would like to mine the Phungo Museum for some other Bouton related content. Today, I would just like to recognize that he will always be a favorite author and I am glad I was introduced to his unique point of view early in my life and have been able to enjoy it to this day.

Memorials & Tributes
SABR (Mark Armour)

Sources and Link
Jim Bouton Index
SABR Bio (Mark Armour)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

ANNIVERSARY - 1979 July 10: Del Unser 3 consecutive Pinch Hit HRs (1980 Topps #6)

Wednesday July 10 marks 40th anniversary of a Pinch Hitter getting into the MLB record book

1980 Topps #6 Highlights Del Unser

That pinch hitter was the Phillies Del Unser who tied a mark first established a year prior by the Dodgers Lee Lacy.

Unser's streak commenced on June 30th. In the 9th inning of game versus the Cardinals at Busch stadium the Phillies were down 4-2 with 2 out in the 9th inning. Phillies Center Fielder Garry Maddox was on base when Unser was sent to the plate to bat for Manny Trillo. Unser homered off of reliever George Frazier to tie the game which the Phillies won 6-4 in extras.

The 2nd Home Run came in a 3-2 loss to the Mets. Unser hit a solo home run in the 7th inning while batting for Larry Bowa in what was basically a convoluted double change. The victim was starting pitcher Craig Swan.

Del Unser finished his Home Run trifecta facing Padres future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. The Phillies went into the 9th inning down 5-1, four batters later the Phillies had pulled to 5-3 on a 2 Run single by Bob Boone.

A hit and an out later Del Unser found himself once again pinch hitting for Larry Bowa. This time out he hit a Walk Off Home Run to give the Phillies a 6-5 victory. 

The streak ended 2 days later when Unser was Intentionally Walked by Fingers. The first time Unser was retired following the streak was July 23, Also by Rollie (strikeout).

1980 Topps Hilights
Hilights opens the 1980 set occupying the first six cards. The subset includes three Hall of Famers across two cards: Lou Brock & Carl Yastrzemski share card #1, While Willie McCovey resides at #2. In addition to Del Unser the Phillies are also represented in the subber by Pete Rose at #4.

Dennis Rasmussen?
1987 Topps #555 Dennis Rasmussen

What the heck is Dennis Rasmussen doing in the middle of a Del Unser column??, well lets turn over this card and see.

1987 Topps #555 Dennis Rasmussen (b-side)

Ok we are going to bypass that this card discusses Hall of Famer Larry Bird and move down to the On This Date section. Check it out we have today's hero Del Unser! and it mentions his 1979 Pinch Hit Home Run heroics too!

Finally Topps honors their history by mentioning Unser's 1979T card, lets have a look.
1979 Topps #628 Del Unser

Unfortunately Unser is repping a different team, however it always feels good to post and Expos card. Lets flip this one over and see if we have anymore fun items.

1979 Topps #628 Del Unser (b-side)

Well Check it out, we have another This day in History. This time it goes back to May 8 1968. On that date Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter tossed a Perfect game for the Oakland A's as they defeated the Minnesota Twins 4-0

And just because I am chaining together cards today, I am going to add one final card.

1969 Topps #235 Jim "Catfish" Hunter

The first card issued of Catfish following his Perfect Game was in 1969 Topps. This is back when Topps was putting -Toons on the back of cards, surely the Catfish comic would be dedicated to his big Game...

1969 Topps #235 Jim "Catfish" Hunter (b-side)

or.....maybe not

The game mentioned in the cartoon was a 15 inning affair won by the National League 2-1. In Hunter's defense he pitched FIVE innings that day, the difference was a Home Run by Tony Perez.

Topps does mention the Perfecto in the text. It also mentions that Hunter's game earned him a $5000 raise, that is a $36,000 raise in 2018 dollars. 

Game Dated Cards
Ok that is enough card chaining, At some point I will be adding each of these cards to the Phungo Game Dated Cards Index

1980 Phillies
Next Year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Phillies first World Championship, I hope to feature that team throughout 2020. Since I am not writing as many columns these days I am getting an early start on the feature and will open my Anniversary series a full six months in advance.

Sources and Links
1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
1980 Topps Hilights
No-Hitter Index
Catfish Hunter index
Larry Bird Index
Baseball Card Database

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

1967 Topps #165 Cleon Jones

I often find the "Where are They Now" features on retired ballplayer fascinated. Particularly those that are accomplished off the field.

Recently I saw a a news item on 1960s-1970s era Mets outfielder Cleon Jones.

1967 Topps #165 Cleon Jones

Jones has returned to the community where he was raised, Africatown Alabama which is near Mobile. He is 76 now and is busy helping out townspeople and elderly folks fixing and painting their homes. Africatown is an historic town in the area which is attempting to build a museum to honor the communities past. To read about the towns history, I strongly recommend you read this Alabama Newscenter article to find out about Africatown and Cleon Jones' efforts.

1967 Topps
Seeing the story about Cleon Jones also gives us a chance to add a column to our All-Star Rookie Cup Series. Unless team Phungo returns to serious blogging the Series will remain unfinished, but I do think it is within the realm of possibility to get up a Rookie Cup from each year and all the Phillies.

For his 1966 Cleon Jones received a single Rookie of the Year vote, good enough to place him 4th in the voting which was won by Reds Infielder Tommy Helms. Jones played 13 years which is wear several of his 1966 Topps Rookie All-Stars mates fall. The leader for tenure appears to be Woodie Fryman (LHP 18 years), while George Scott (1B) led the crew in WAR (36.5, Jones = 18.5). 

1967 Topps #165 Cleon Jones (b-side)

No pressure here, just that the back of Cleon Jones' first solo card mentions Hank Aaron, Billy Williams and Willie McCovey (featured on the very first Topps All-Star Rookie Cup card)

One of the many reason blog output has been slow is I have diverted my hobby time to artwork - mainly sketching baseball cards. Cleon Jones off the field charity inspired me to create a 5x7 based off of his 1967T card coupled with his efforts in Africatown.

1967T Cleon Jones (Phungo Original 5x7 in 2019 06 24)

Chief among my customizations is changing the bat to a paint roller. I also added a different trophy, changed the Mets team designation to Africatown and gave Cleon a background of a refurbished home rather than Shea Stadium.

Sources and Links
1967 Topps Rookie Cup Index (1966 Winners)
Phungo Sketch Index
Alabama NewsCenter
Baseballl-ref BR-Bullpen

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Anniversary 60 Years ago: Rocky Colavito 4 Home Run Day

June 10th marks the 60th anniversary of an historic game between the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles. That Day Rocky Colavito became the 6th major league player to record a 4 Home Run game.

1964 Topps Jumbo #9 Rocky Colavito

The Indians won that game 11-8 with Colavito accounting for 6 RBI. Notice that the above card features Rocky as an Athletic not an Indian. Well that is because of the back of the card...

1959 Topps Jumbo #9 Rocky's Hot Bat (b-side)

As we can see the headline on this card is all about the 4 Homer game which is described in the cards first coupe sentences. The remainder of the text discusses Colavito's home run legacy all the way back to his minor league days.

Rocky Colavito's four home run game is also featured on the back of a 1964 Topps base card, #109. Colavito, however, does not appear on the front of that card, to find out more click here.

Sloppy Topps
The photo on the b-side of the card is also not with the Indians. Colavito wore three different numbers with Cleveland 6, 21 and 38 but never 7. The two squads for which he donned #7 were the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City A's. I am thinking that this photo is with the Tigers as Rocky Colavito didn't join the Athletics until 1964. The front appears to be an Airbrushed Tigers photo as well. 

1964 Topps Jumbo
I love this set and I have it on the back burner to build. They are referred to Jumbo or Giant cards because they are oversized at just over 3"x5". I go with Jumbo because when you search on "1964 Topps Giant" you get a bunch of Willy Mays cards, but not necessarily Jumbos. 

Colavito's Four Home Run Game
Baseball-Ref Box
1964 Topps #109 (Rusty Staub)

Sources and Links
Game Dated Cards Index
1964 Topps Jumbo Index
Cardboard Connection

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

1944 June 6: D-Day and Baseball

This week marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. To commemorate the event in a baseball related way I wanted to pass on a bit of the sports history from the era.

The pending Allied Invasion had been rumored for some time prior to D-Day and major league baseball made plans to postpone any games on the date if possible.  This possibility was discussed in the June 1 1944 issue of the Sporting News - issued just days prior to D-Day.


1944 JUN 01 The Sporting News pg 1

There were two MLB games scheduled for June 6 1944 and indeed neither were played. I am assuming the time difference between Europe and the States allowed for proper scheduling changes. Those rescheduling of those games was mentioned in the June 7 1944 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Horse Racing was the sport of kings in the era so you need to go a few paragraphs down to see a mention of the two games.

1944 JUN 07 Philadelphia Inquirer Pg 24

If you want to see a modern representation of the postponed games you can look to the terrific archive of baseball statistic history, Baseball-Reference.

Baseball-Ref Scores from Tuesday June 6 1944

Notice that when you do a search for games played on D-Day Baseball-Reference notes

"No Games Were or Have Yet Been Played on This Date"


Sources and Links 


Philadelphia Inquirer (1944 06 07)

The Sporting News (1944 06 01)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wall of Fame: Bobby Abreu (2019)

The Phillies recently announced that this years Wall of Fame inductee is Bobby Abreu. An interesting selection, on paper he is one of the organizations great players, however on the field he represents the long lean period between the 1993 Wheeze Kids and the Late 2000s championship squads.

2002 Fleer Authentix #56 Bobby Abreu

Abreu is often derided for his mediocre defense and to be honest I cannot remember him crashing a wall. Perhaps one of the effects if his tentative approach in the field is that he rarely missed a game. During his eight full seasons with the Phillies Abreu played at least 150 games every year.  An All-Star player never missing game can accumulate some impressive numbers, and Abreu did just that. As a Phillie Abreu tallied 195 Home Runs and 254 steals (7th in team history). His .928 OPS ranks 2nd in club history behind only Hall of Famer Chuck Klein. The component numbers (.416 OBP, .513 SLG) are top 10 as well. Advanced stats really don’t back up the no-defense critique, Abreu’s dWAR in Philadelphia was -1.5, below average but not really noteworthy especially when spread across 8+ season. Related note: during his gold glove 2005 campaign had a dWAR of -1.5.

2002 Fleer Authentix #56 Bobby Abreu (b-side)

Kind of a neat idea here. The player photos are on a facsimile tickets of their teams Home Opener. In the game represented here the Phillies defeated the Marlins 6-2. The tickets are purely representative – there is no mentioning of the game on either side of the card, nor the games results or how the player performed. 

Fortunately for that we have Baseball-Reference. 

And it was a good day for Bobby Abreu who went 4 for 4 with a couple of a doubles and a Home Run producing 3 RBI and scoring a pair of runs. Likely one of the best days of his career. 

Team Phungo has been to a lot of Phillies Home Openers and this happens is one of those games. Happy to be adding this one to cards that rep Phungo Games. 

2002 Fleer Authentix
Two years ago we profiled Scott Rolen's card for this set, that column can be found here

Bobby Abreu Index
1998 Topps #351: First Phillies Card, Bob vs Bobby Abreu 2011 #60YoT match
1999 Topps Stadium Club #39: Group Break, Cameo Mickey Morandini as a Cub. Named "Bob"
2000 Topps #38: Asian Zodiac Year og the Tiger (2010). Named as "Bob"
2000 Topps #38: Phillies All-Decade Team 
2002 Topps Opening Day #13: Snapshot of Topps Opening Day cards
2003 Bowman Heritage (Nachos Grande Swag)
2005 Topps Update #UH218 (2005 07 11 Home Run Derby Detroit)
2008 Topps Heritage Bat Relic: Hobby Box Break (w/ Yankees)
2009 Phungo BFI: Portrait (w/ Yankees)
2010 Topps #15: First Pack (w/ Angels)

Sources and Links

Sunday, May 26, 2019

1964 Topps Jumbo Index

This is an Index for our posting covering the 1964 Topps Jumbo Set

1964 Topps Jumbo #14 Tony Gonzalez

#7 Whitey Ford (Wins 10th World Series Game)
#9 Rocky Colavito (4 Home Run Game 1959 06 10)

a thousand words

a thousand words
2008 World Champions