Phil Garner – 1978 Topps

I’m a “complete set” kinda guy.  Not to the extent that I’d ever spend the time or money to complete a present-day “master set” though.  I’m perfectly happy with stopping at just the base set in most cases.

I say ” in most cases” because since Topps first released Gypsy Queen, I’ve always put the effort into completing the set through the SP’s.  I justify it by telling myself, “it’s just 50 more cards,” I guess.02181101

My latest project is the 1978 Topps set.  It has taken me a little bit longer than usual not for any other reason than Little Cam requires all hands on deck in most cases.  I’d say that I’ve got 3/4’s of the set complete but I still need to get what I have in pages so I can quickly fill in the blanks.  My wife thinks it ridiculous that I spend the time to put the cards in protective pages…only to complete the set, which is then neatly put in a box and stored away.

I’ve ended up with quite a few doubles and before I pass them along to a buddy of mine, I usually pull a few to send off with autograph requests.  In this case, Pittsburg Pirates 3rd baseman and former Houston Astros manager Phil Garner ended up on the mailing list and was happy to oblige my request.

As one of the more unique photos in the ’78 set, this photo was taken during the 1977 season and shows Garner admiring a fly ball.  Garner did hit a career high 17 dingers that year so I suppose he could be watching the ball leave the yard.  Standing in the background is manager Chuck Tanner and 2nd baseman Rennie Stennett.  If it were a home run, I’d hope Stennett’s reaction would be a bit more enthusiastic than what you see in the the photo.

The ’77 Pirates not only sported some of the sweetest uniforms of their time, but also finished 2nd in the National League East with a 96-66 record and five games back of the Philadelphia Phillies.   I love the home uniforms of the Pirates of the ’70’s.  Revolutionizing baseball uniforms forever, the Pirates were the first team to sport buttonless pullover jerseys.  They also decided to replace their belts with colorful elastic bands on their pants.  You can clearly see that in the photo above.  The Pirates were also the first to wear a cotton-nylon knit fabric uniform that was not only cooler and lighter than the woven flannel uniforms of the time, but also provided a more “stretchy” fit.  The “stretchy” duds were not particularly well received by the players or the media; generating comments such as “the new uniforms do not flatter fat men” and “these pants are like taking off a girdle.” Regardless, this look would be adopted by nearly every team for the next 20 years.

 

Lou & George

01221201I’m a Mets fan through and through but I’ll tell you what, there’s just something about the Yankees that I love.  I guess I have always appreciated the deep rooted history dating back to 1901 when they actually played as the Baltimore Orioles (not the same Baltimore Orioles as today), the simplicity of the classic pinstripe uniforms and the long list of baseball legends that has worn them.  The 27 world championships doesn’t hurt either!

If you haven’t read Damned Yankees by Bill Madden and Moss Klein, I highly recommend it.  A self-described no-holds-barred account of life with “Boss” Steinbrenner, the book tells what it’s like — for better or for worse, to be under the Yankees circus-tent working for “the Boss.”  Featuring a collection of Yankee tales spanning between 1973 – 1989, the book is absolutely hilarious and features the usual cast of Yankee characters from that time frame – Munson, Gossage, Jackson, Guidry, Berra, Mattingly, Nettles, and of course Billy Martin.

To tie into my 1978 Topps Lou Piniella TTM signature above, let’s talk about Sweet Lou. First off, I thought I had a signature on something featuring him in his Yankees pinstripes. It would seem that all I have is the Royals card.  Maybe I’ll write to him and inquire on getting some Yankees items signed.

Okay, so back to the book.  Stories about Lou Piniella are scattered throughout.   There was the time The Boss fined Lou for showing up to the ’82 spring training overweight; also known as the “Great Piniella Weight War.”  The grand total taken from Piniella’s wallet was $8,000.  $7,000 for being 7 pounds over the 200 and another $1,000 for tossing a baseball to some kids in the bleachers after a game.  What made this story so funny was the fact that Steinbrenner let Lou know about the fine through the media.  This obviously did not sit well with Lou who had more than a few choice words for the writers to quickly get into their stories.

Then there was the 1988 season which saw Lou as the general manager of the Yankees.  While on the phone with the general manager of the Houston Astros (discussing a possible Winfield trade),  Lou was interrupted by Steinbrenner who had just burst into his office.  Steinbrenner, completely ignoring the fact that Lou was on the phone (working), frantically gestured for Lou to hang up and to come with him.  Lou, thinking that Steinbrenner had news of a better trade offer, quickly got off the phone with the Astro’s general manager. “Come with me,” he ordered Piniella.  They left the office, hurried through the front gates and began walking around the outside of the stadium.  As the Yankees were gearing up to play an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, the ballpark was bustling with fans.

“Don’t let anyone recognize us,” Steinbrenner told Piniella as he shoved him behind a large bush.  How could people NOT recognize the general manager and the owner of the Yankees slinking around the ballpark with hundreds of baseball fans milling around the ballpark!

“Stay down! Don’t let anyone see you!” Steinbrenner loudly whispered.

“What the hell are we doing here George?” Piniella asked.

“I’m sick and tired of these free passes being given out!” Steinbrenner responded. “There are too many people getting free passes and I’m sick of it.  You’re going to put a stop to it right now.” he barked.

“I want you to hide here and count how many people come and get free passes and then find out who they are.” the Boss told him.

Piniella couldn’t believe it.  Here he was the general manager of the New York Yankees. A business executive who was supposed to be working out winning trades and at the very least watching his own team on the field.  Rather, instead the Boss wanted him to hide in some bushes like a child.

Needless to say, the complimentary pass-crisis took priority over the Winfield trade (that the Boss had been demanding for months by the way) and it’s no wonder that the Winfield trade never happened.

Not included in the book is a story about Piniella’s first introduction to Steinbrenner after he was brought over from the Kansas City Royals.  It’s worth reading and sportscaster Tim Lewis over at All Around Tim does a fine job sharing it. I’ll let you head over to his blog to enjoy it.