Wednesday, July 30, 2014


(More from 1971)


(July 9, 1971)

No game defines my first year of watching the Braves better than the Braves-Pirates game of July 9th. The great Pirate team from that year began in the bottom of the first on that night with Dave Cash hitting a ball to new Braves shortstop Leo Foster, which he booted. It was Foster's first chance in the majors...and it didn't go so well. Cash came around to score later in the inning giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. 

The Pirates were already ahead 3-0, when  Leo Foster came to bat for the first time in his career. He did get wood on it, but flew out harmlessly to Al Oliver.

The Braves were trailing 5-0 in the fifth when Leo came up again with Mike Lum and Sonny Jackson on base and one out. Leo proceeded to hit into a double play. Leo's major league debut was not going well at all, but was only going to get worse.

In the eight inning, the Pirates were leading 11-2, but the Braves were showing signs of life. Hal King and Sonny Jackson led off the inning with singles. Leo Foster had another chance to redeem himself! And Leo hit a grounder to third baseman  Richie Hebner, who grabbed it, stepped on third-threw it to Dave Cash at second who gunned it to Bob Robertson for a triple play! Oh, Leo! No!

Though this wasn't their night, The Braves did finish 82-80 for the year, one of only two winning seasons they had the entire decade.

Leo finished the season hitless in his ten at-bats.

(July 19, 1971)

What do I remember about the first game I ever went to? I remember my mother purchasing the tickets at the Sears ticket outlet several weeks before the game. I also remember going with my friend Tommy. We were pretty excited about being at Atlanta-Fulton County stadium. The field seemed so big, the players so far away. The game itself was a high scoring affair, with the San Francisco Giants outlasting the Braves 11-8. Braves starter Steve Barber didn't have it on this day for the Braves, but I did get to see my first major league home run, a sixth inning blast by the Braves' Mike "Hawaiian Punch" Lum. After falling behind 8-2, the Braves scored six runs in the seventh inning to tie the game at 8 and would have gone ahead but a pinch runner for the Braves was thrown out at the plate. That pinch runner, as you may have guessed by the start of today's blog, was Leo Foster. Oh, Leo! No!

I do feel fortunate in the first game I ever went to to have seen possibly the two greatest players of that era if not all-time, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. Aaron was less than a year away from passing Mays for second on the all-time home run list, but Mays got the better of Aaron on this night with three walks and a hit. I do remember Willie getting thrown out trying to steal second base.

Sidenote on 1971: Even at age 40, Willie Mays stole 23 bases in 26 attempts that year. He also led the National League in walks with 112. Hank Aaron, at age 37 in 1971, had the best home run year of his career with 47 and led the league in Slugging Percentage.

More from 1971: TOPPS Baseball cards

1970 TOPPS front

1970 TOPPS Back
1971 TOPPS back

1971 TOPPS front
I began collecting TOPPS baseball cards in 1971, the same year I began to follow the Braves. This is the main reason that this remains and will always remain my favorite TOPPS set. A criticism of the set has been that with the black borders, the cards are easily damaged and very hard to find in good condition. Another criticism at the time was that the stats on the back only had the current year and lifetime stats as opposed to career stats that most other TOPPS cards had had in years past. Oh, well. My favorite is still my favorite.

I like the literary flourishes they used on the back of some of these cards. Gary Neibauer didn't just pitch in the 1969 playoffs. He "hurled" in the 1969 playoffs. Considering how [poorly the Braves pitching went in that series, "hurled" might be a better verb to use at that.

I was also lucky to occasionally pick up some cards that year from the 1970 TOPPS set, as they still sold some at Cheek's pharmacy the same year the 1971 cards were out. I actually wish I had gotten more packs of the '70 cards while I had a chance, but I only got a few. The gray background was kind of nice and the backs did have complete statistics. The cartoon on the back had some trivial trivia about the player on the front of the card. Mike Lum's card above shows Mike (I guess it's supposed to be Mike) in a hula skirt and states that he was the fourth major league player from Hawaii.

TOPPS 1972 back
TOPPS 1972 front

The 1972 set was a bit more colorful than the '71 set, but that didn't mean it was better. It did go back to having complete stats on the players. A couple of interesting features on the '72 sets included "Boyhood Photos of the Stars," if you wanted to see what Brooks Robinson looked like when he was twelve and The In Action series, where the players were shown...actually playing. On the back of the In Action cards were newspaper headlines on important baseball events from the previous year. The Atlanta Journal headline above states that Hank Aaron didn't just "hit" his 600th home run off of Gaylord Perry, he "whacked" it. Interestingly, this card is not the back of the Hank Aaron In Action card, but the Reggie Jackson In Action card. Go figure.

TOPPS 1972 front
TOPPS 1972 back

The '73 set had a white border and I did like it better than the '72 set. It also had cartoon captions like Oscar Brown's that bragged that Oscar had two brothers that were also in sports. It doesn't specify the level of his brothers involvement in sports, maybe they worked in a sporting goods store, but I'll take the card at its word. This set was also the end of an era for TOPPS. After this year, TOPPS cards were no longer distributed in series, where the higher number cards were rarer than the other cards, but mass produced. I didn't care for this, but I am quite resistant to change. I did collect cards for a few more years after this and even sold cards at flea markets later on, but it was never quite the same after 1973.

One note about the Kellogg's 3-D cards that you got for free in your box of Frosted Flakes in the 70's: Below was the best card I ever got in a box of cereal. My Willie Mays card may not be in very good shape now, but it's still my favorite one.


  1. One of Oscar Brown's brothers was Giants/Padres outfielder Ollie Brown.

  2. Yes, you are right! I had forgotten. Ollie had a slightly more productive career than Oscar.