Tag Archives: Topps

George Steinbrenner May Be Dead, But His Yankee “Hair Policy” Remains In Effect

George Steinbrenner’s “No Long Hair Or Beard Rule” Is Still Followed

Thurman Munson’s 1976 Topps baseball card shows something you won’t see on any Yankee today, a defiant beard.

At Yankee Stadium’s home opening game on April 11, 1973, the new owner and managing general partner, George M. Steinbrenner III was on hand to see his team. As he watched his players line up along the foul lines and remove their caps for the national anthem,  Steinbrenner pulled out an envelope from his suit pocket. He began writing down a series of numbers on the back of the envelope.

After the game the envelope was given to manager Ralph Houk.

“What is this?” Houk wanted to know.

Sparky Lyle 1974 Topps Baseball card showing his “long” hair

Players who need a haircut was the reply.

Still not knowing any of his players names, Steinbrenner had listed the players numbers who had hair that was not to his liking.

Among the stars on the list were Bobby Murcer,  Fritz Peterson, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle and Roy White.

Houk posted the list in the locker room and reluctantly informed his hippie players to go to a barber.

Steinbrenner had been perturbed about the long hair since first seeing the Yankees in spring training. Now it was time to do something about it.

This incident marked the beginning of George Steinbrenner’s 37 year odyssey of interference and unpredictability as owner of the Yankees.

To Steinbrenner, short hair and being clean shaven represented order and discipline. No one mentioned to Steinbrenner that baseball was not the military.

Mike Burke, part owner and president of the Yankees, had very long hair himself. Burke was not very concerned about Steinbrenner’s meddling and downplayed the hair cutting incident.

NEW YORK – JANUARY 3, 1973 Yankees President Michael Burke & George Steinbrenner at press conference at Yankee Stadium where the announcement is made that an ownership group led by Steinbrenner are the new owners of the Yankees. (Photo by: Olen Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Burke, who had been Yankee president since 1966, was instrumental in putting the deal together for Steinbrener and his 13 limited partners, to buy the Yankees from CBS. Burke was led to believe he would be considered a co-partner on an equal level with Steinbrenner.

When Steinbrenner spoke to the press on January 3, 1973 , he said he would be an absentee owner and Burke would run the team. “We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t. I’ll stick to building ships.”

Burke should have more concerned about Steinbrenner’s controlling behavior and desire to be solely in charge.  Soon after the haircut incident, Steinbrenner started firing off memos left and right asserting his control of the team. Less than 3 weeks after opening day, Burke resigned. The truth was Burke had been forced out as president of the Yankees and later gave up his ownership stake.

Yankee Third baseman Graig Nettles asked with a straight face, “Was his hair too long?” Continue reading

Players Who Could Wallop A Baseball & Rarely Struck Out

Sluggers With Discriminating Eyes

Players With 25 or More Home Runs In A Season & Fewer Strikeouts Than Home Runs

Johnny Mize hit the most home runs in a season, having more homers (51) than strikeouts (42)

As baseball commentators rave about all the power hitters with their prodigious home run numbers, few broadcasters and writers will allude to the obscene strikeout totals put up by these same power hitters.

Not that most players are capable of hitting a lot of home runs and avoiding striking out, but the great players of the past could.

This list from baseball-reference.com shows the top 37 players with more home runs than strikeouts in a season. Any number in bold means the player led the league in that category.

Rk Player HR SO Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Johnny Mize 51 42 1947 34 NYG 154 664 586 137 177 26 2 138 74 .302 .384 .614 .998 *3
2 Ted Kluszewski 49 35 1954 29 CIN 149 659 573 104 187 28 3 141 78 .326 .407 .642 1.049 *3
3 Lou Gehrig 49 46 1936 33 NYY 155 719 579 167 205 37 7 152 130 .354 .478 .696 1.174 *3
4 Lou Gehrig 49 31 1934 31 NYY 154 690 579 128 210 40 6 165 109 .363 .465 .706 1.172 *3/6
5 Ted Kluszewski 47 40 1955 30 CIN 153 686 612 116 192 25 0 113 66 .314 .382 .585 .967 *3
6 Joe DiMaggio 46 37 1937 22 NYY 151 692 621 151 215 35 15 167 64 .346 .412 .673 1.085 *8
7 Barry Bonds 45 41 2004 39 SFG 147 617 373 129 135 27 3 101 232 .362 .609 .812 1.422 *7/D
8 Mel Ott 42 38 1929 20 NYG 150 674 545 138 179 37 2 151 113 .328 .449 .635 1.084 *9/4
9 Ted Kluszewski 40 34 1953 28 CIN 149 629 570 97 180 25 0 108 55 .316 .380 .570 .950 *3
10 Johnny Mize 40 37 1948 35 NYG 152 658 560 110 162 26 4 125 94 .289 .395 .564 .959 *3
11 Joe DiMaggio 39 30 1948 33 NYY 153 669 594 110 190 26 11 155 67 .320 .396 .598 .994 *8
12 Stan Musial 39 34 1948 27 STL 155 694 611 135 230 46 18 131 79 .376 .450 .702 1.152 987/3
13 Ken Williams 39 31 1922 32 SLB 153 678 585 128 194 34 11 155 74 .332 .413 .627 1.040 *78
14 Ted Williams 37 27 1941 22 BOS 143 606 456 135 185 33 3 120 147 .406 .553 .735 1.287 *7/9
15 Andy Pafko 36 32 1950 29 CHC 146 595 514 95 156 24 8 92 69 .304 .397 .591 .989 *8/9
16 Willard Marshall 36 30 1947 26 NYG 155 656 587 102 171 19 6 107 67 .291 .366 .528 .894 *9
17 Al Simmons 36 34 1930 28 PHA 138 611 554 152 211 41 16 165 39 .381 .423 .708 1.130 *7/8
18 Ted Kluszewski 35 31 1956 31 CIN 138 574 517 91 156 14 1 102 49 .302 .362 .536 .898 *3
19 Joe DiMaggio 32 21 1938 23 NYY 145 660 599 129 194 32 13 140 59 .324 .386 .581 .967 *8
20 Lefty O’Doul 32 19 1929 32 PHI 154 731 638 152 254 35 6 122 76 .398 .465 .622 1.087 *79
21 Joe DiMaggio 31 30 1940 25 NYY 132 572 508 93 179 28 9 133 61 .352 .425 .626 1.051 *8
22 Yogi Berra 30 29 1956 31 NYY 140 597 521 93 155 29 2 105 65 .298 .378 .534 .911 *2/7
23 Yogi Berra 30 24 1952 27 NYY 142 605 534 97 146 17 1 98 66 .273 .358 .478 .835 *2
24 Joe DiMaggio 30 13 1941 26 NYY 139 621 541 122 193 43 11 125 76 .357 .440 .643 1.083 *8
25 Joe DiMaggio 30 20 1939 24 NYY 120 524 462 108 176 32 6 126 52 .381 .448 .671 1.119 *8
26 Bill Dickey 29 22 1937 30 NYY 140 608 530 87 176 35 2 133 73 .332 .417 .570 .987 *2
27 Ted Williams 28 24 1955 36 BOS 98 417 320 77 114 21 3 83 91 .356 .496 .703 1.200 *7
28 Yogi Berra 28 12 1950 25 NYY 151 656 597 116 192 30 6 124 55 .322 .383 .533 .915 *2
29 Ted Williams 28 21 1950 31 BOS 89 416 334 82 106 24 1 97 82 .317 .452 .647 1.099 *7
30 Tommy Holmes 28 9 1945 28 BSN 154 713 636 125 224 47 6 117 70 .352 .420 .577 .997 *97/8
31 Bill Terry 28 23 1932 33 NYG 154 677 643 124 225 42 11 117 32 .350 .382 .580 .962 *3
32 Yogi Berra 27 20 1955 30 NYY 147 615 541 84 147 20 3 108 60 .272 .349 .470 .819 *2
33 Yogi Berra 27 20 1951 26 NYY 141 594 547 92 161 19 4 88 44 .294 .350 .492 .842 *2
34 Bill Dickey 27 22 1938 31 NYY 132 532 454 84 142 27 4 115 75 .313 .412 .568 .981 *2
35 Johnny Mize 25 24 1950 37 NYY 90 305 274 43 76 12 0 72 29 .277 .351 .595 .946 *3
36 Joe DiMaggio 25 24 1946 31 NYY 132 567 503 81 146 20 8 95 59 .290 .367 .511 .878 *8/7
37 Ken Williams 25 14 1925 35 SLB 102 462 411 83 136 31 5 105 37 .331 .390 .613 1.003 *7

It’s a rarity today to find players with a great batting eye and good power like, Joey Votto. Continue reading

An Incredible Baseball Card Error – Aurelio Rodriguez & The Bat Boy

How The Bat Boy Ended Up On Aurelio Rodriguez’s 1969 Topps Baseball Card

Aurelio Rodriguez 1969 Topps Error cardAurelio Rodriguez was a slick fielding, rocket-armed, gold glove winning third baseman who enjoyed a 17 year major league career and batted .237 with 124 career home runs in just over 2,000 games with seven teams.

Though he is wearing a uniform, and the baseball card states that this is Aurelio Rodriguez, the California Angels third baseman, it is not.

In actuality the card shows Angels bat boy, Leonard Garcia, on what was supposed to be Rodriguez’s card #653, for 1969. The error was not divulged until 1973.

So how does a bat boy get on a baseball card?

There are two popular rumors/theories of how this happened. The first, was that the Topps photographer Continue reading

A Rose By Any Other Name

The Aaron’s, Clemente’s and Mays’ Of A Lesser Ilk

Roberto, Willie and Hank

In major league baseball history there was only one Ruth, Gehrig, Koufax, Medwick, Seaver and Carew. You know who is being referred to when you hear the name Mantle.

Yet there have been several Robinson’s, Johnson’s, Ryan’s and Smith’s of varying playing ability. Some were great, some were good, and others were let’s just say, not so great. If you say, “Robinson was a fantastic player,” you usually have to clarify which- Jackie, Frank or Brooks.

What if you were a professional ballplayer and your last name happens to be Jeter, but your first name is not Derek?

Sharing a baseball great’s last name can sometimes be a drag because comparisons may be drawn to your famous counterpart. You can be sure that with the exception of your family and close friends, most references by the baseball loving public to your last name, go to the superstar.

So as a professional ballplayer if you share that famous last name but you never achieved super-stardom, at least you can always say you had your name on a baseball card.

So which baseball card would you rather have?

Hank Aaron or….

Tommie Aaron?

Derek Jeter or…

Johnny Jeter? Continue reading

Yes, He Really Plays Baseball

Dave Ricketts, St. Louis Cardinals, Topps Baseball Cards 1968 & 1969

It is an unfair characterization to say Dave Ricketts could have easily been mistaken for a high school biology teacher rather than a major league catcher. Players who wore eyeglasses in the 1960’s were still very much a rare breed. When I was a kid, every time I looked at these two baseball cards, I thought that Dave Ricketts never really got to play, but just posed for the card.

Ricketts did play sporadically, appearing in 130 total games for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1963-1969 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 and ended up with a .249 career batting average and one home run.

After his playing career ended, Ricketts became a fixture in the Cardinals organization mostly as the bullpen coach and minor league manager. Ricketts by all accounts was an excellent coach and had a large influence upon other players.  Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about Ricketts after he passed away:

“I’m here because of him,” Yadier Molina said. “He made me into a catcher. I wasn’t a catcher when I got here. I learned a lot from him. He was like my dad, there for me since I was 17. He meant so much to me.”

“I’ve never seen a coach who has worked harder for whatever team he’s involved with than Dave Ricketts. Ever,” former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steve Blass said. “Totally dedicated. … He had a zest for life that was part of his personal life, and, thank goodness, we are better because it spilled over into his professional life.”

“Sometimes the word ‘great’ gets overused, and it’s a shame,” manager Tony La Russa said. “There have been some truly great Cardinals who have come through the organization, but I don’t know anyone greater or more beloved than Dave Ricketts.”

Dave Ricketts died in St. Louis at the age of 73 on July 13, 2008 of renal cancer.

The Best Baseball Card Error – Ever!

Something Even Babe Ruth Couldn’t Do

I stopped collecting baseball cards in 1981 after it became speculative and was more about card values rather than flipping, trading and completing sets.

This was one of my favorite baseball cards simply because of the obviousness of the mistake and the fact that it was never corrected.

The Dave Bennett – Rick Wise rookie card from the 1964 Topps set is nothing extraordinary on the front. But on the back of Dave Bennett’s very short biography is this astounding piece of information:

“Dave is the younger brother of the Phils’ ace, Dennis Bennett. The 19-year-old righthanded curveballer is just 18 years old!”

Now that is some feat!