Monday, August 13, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Greg Gross

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1974 season and featured in the 1975 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2018 Series One, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. 

Topps decided to skip the Trophies on the 1974 Topps Set, but they made a triumphant return in 1975. I wanted to show my appreciation for this expression of good judgement, so for the 1974 Lineup, I will do a separate post for each player. This was a pretty good crop of players, so let's dive in! 
Outfield - Greg Gross

It was fitting that Greg Gross had his Major League Debut as a pinch hitter. A 4th Round Selection by the Astros in the 1970 MLB draft, Gross offered a very specific set of skills to the team. The lefty bat moved steadily through the Astros minor league system, making his first MLB appearance late in 1973.

Gross has a very solid rookie season, finishing 3rd in the NL in average. His 185 hits ranked 7th. He came in 2nd the NL Rookie of the Year Voting, just behind Bake McBride of the Cardinals. In addition to his ability to get base hits, he was also a very patient hitter. His .393 on base percentage was 5th best in the league and the best mark for a rookie since 1970. 

Gross was the Astros' primary Right Fielder as a Rookie and moved around the next few seasons from Right to Left. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 1977 season for Julio Gonzalez. In Chicago he was used as a bench player and reserve outfielder. In Chicago, Gross found his power stroke - he hit 6 of his 7 career homers as a Cub. He hit home runs in back to back games in a road trip to Atlanta in August of 1977, the second being his only career leadoff home run. 

Gross found a home in Philadelphia, coming to the City of Brotherly Love in 1979 in the same trade that sent fellow 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Barry Foote in the opposite direction. In Philly he became the club's premier Lefty bench bat, and along with another 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star, Bake McBride, helped the Phillies win the 1980 World Series. Gross went 3-4 in his 4 NLCS appearances, scoring 2 runs and driving in another. 

Gross would remain a steady presence in Philadelphia off the bench as a pinch hitter and filling in as a corner outfielder and first baseman. He became the Phillies' all-time leader in pinch hits. 

Score provides the deep cut factoids, mentioning his first of two career pitching appearances. He probably should have quit while he was ahead, a scoreless 2/3rds of an inning including strikeouts of Casey Candaele and Herm Winningham. In his final season, he would return to the mound again, in the ninth inning of another blow out. This time, he was roughed up by the Pirates, surrendering 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk. He was quoted in the Sporting News following his adventure on the mound, "The worst part is how close you are to the batter after you throw the ball [. . .] I throw batting practice, but you've got the screen. I was looking for a way to sneak the screen out there."

His final 60 games came as a member of the Houston Astros, hitting just .200 for the season. He was not able to secure a tryout in 1990 and sat out the season. He accepted a Spring Training invite with the Padres in 1991 and was the final cut prior to Opening Day. There were rumors that he would be picked up by the Red Sox, but he officially retired. 

Gross may not have been fleet of foot, or hit for power, but his ability to make contact and reach base via any means necessary made him an integral part of the 1980s Phillies. He struck out just 250 times in his 4,355 career plate appearances, and his career .371 OBP ranks just ahead of Kenny Lofton and Roberto Alomar on the all-time list.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

NOW That Will Leave A Mark

Didja ever order a Topps NOW card and the guy gets traded before the thing arrives? NOW that really stings, Topps!

It's a nice curtain call for Dozier, though I think it's a bittersweet final image.

In more promising prospects, Topps issued a set of cards for the AL and NL All-Star rosters, which included Jose Berrios. He pitched 1 inning, allowed no hits and one walk. Since the AL won the game, Berrios was credited with a Hold.

Last but not least, local kid Joe Mauer made headlines by passing Kirby Puckett on the career Doubles list. He has more than any other Minnesota Twin, and is 3rd all-time for the Washington Senators / Twins franchise, behind Joe Judge (421) and Sam Rice (479). His next milestone? He currently has 992 career runs scored. Barring injury he should be able to reach 1,000 by the end of the season.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

You Say Sat-ur-day, I Say Card-Show-Day

OK, I know I said I wasn't a fan of 1953 Topps, but every rule has its exceptions. They look fantastic in hand, and if they have been kept in good condition, they look great. This is just my 3rd '53 card, along with Player Collection guys Minnie Minoso and Elmer Valo.

I'm not going to run out and build the set, but this was a fun addition.

I'm still a big fan of the Horizontal '52 Topps cards - Sievers was available for a steal!

Things are moving ahead on the 1959 Topps set build.

My first two All-Stars from the back end of the set, I have a feeling some of these will have me muttering to myself before this set is completed.

I really like the backs on the All-Star subset.

The cartoon on Whitey Ford's card cracked me up - it was the batter's expression that did it for me.

Found a quarter box! I knew I'd find a Ranger Vlad in there eventually.

Some '80s goodness!

I don't know what I'm doing with these.

Or these...

But hey, Here's Tony Gwynn wearing Scott Sanders' jersey in a spring training game!

This was a special Eddie Murray Rookie card.

It's O-Pee-Chee! I had a great day at the card show - it's been a few months since I made it out, so I was happy to finally make the trip.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Sweet Treats

Nick from the fantastic Dime Boxes Blog sent over a package of Twins including this sweet Saint Paul, MN native Tom Johnson. Johnson didn't reach the heights of other Saint Paulites like Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, or even Joe Mauer - - but he was a decent relief pitcher. In 1977 he won 16 games and didn't start a single one! He also notched 15 saves, so he ranked in the top 10 in the AL in both categories.

Nothing wrong with some high quality reprints!

The genuine article is pretty great as well! Tony O is looking good here, making yet another All-Star squad.

Jim Perry, less famous than his HOF brother, still managed to win 20+ games in two straight seasons for the Twins, winning the AL Cy Young in 1970 for his efforts.

A healthy dose of Big League came through too!

The 90s are alive and well in Minneapolis!

Nick also provided a hit! "Pronk" and Morneau were the AL Central's heavy hitters for several years in the 2000s.

Thanks so much, Nick!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Serve & Volley

Jim aka grcl from cards as i see them claimed a couple cards from my Allen & Ginter post last week, and he's already forwarded a return package! Larry Walker at the bat rack fills two mini collections at once!

Mitch Garver has been a busy guy recently - making headlines at the plate, behind the plate, and on the mound for the Twins. He pitched a clean 8th inning for the Twins in a blowout loss to Cleveland, then blasted a 3 run homer in the very next game. He's starting to get more regular playing time as the season has progressed.

Zack Granite, on the other hand, is now buried on the depth chart in AAA after some bad injury luck and some subpar play on the field. Very surprising to get this Jose Berrios auto, thanks so much for including that!

Speaking of Jose, this is my first look at the National Baseball Card Day issue - at first I thought "Is Jim some kind of Wizard? NBCD isn't until this coming Saturday." Jim explained that this was given away at a Twins game earlier in the month, which makes much more sense than my theory.

This is one of those stats that is impressive, but made less impressive if you think too hard about what it's actually saying. Berrios had a really hot start in 2017, won 7 games before the end of June.

Jim, thanks much for the great cards!