The Topps Giveaway That Keeps On Giving

Looking at the cards I won as a result of participating in last season’s Topps Diamond Giveaway is good fun. In my last post I wrote about five of them. They were Clay Dalrymple (1962), Mike Schmidt (1988), Ryne Sandberg (1987), Tom Seaver (2011 Diamond Deeds) and Reggie Jackson (1987). These are all keepers. I’ve got eight more cards in the stack, and I’ve tentatively divided them into three groups. The first group contains three Red Sox cards, Roger Clemens (1989), Tom Burgmeier (1980) and Rick Burleson (1979). I’m going to give them to my friend Chip, a lifelong Red Sox fan who will enjoy them more than I would. The second group is comprised of cards I’m willing to trade, although I’m fairly certain there’s not a lot of collectors clamoring for Marty Pattin (1979), Jim Frey (1986), George Hendrick (1978) or Balor Moore (1979). Of course, if its you who’s looking for one of these cards, you’re in luck! That leaves the third group, which are keepers, and include the League Presidents (1958) and Dock Ellis (1976).

Let’s check out the League Presidents first. On the left side of the card we see William Harridge, who had a long run as President of the American League, serving from 1931 to 1959. He was a quiet, behind-the-scenes administrator, but don’t get the idea that he was a pushover. He fined and suspended players for inappropriate behavior, such as fighting with other ball players, whether they were superstars or every day players.  On the right side of the card we see Warren Giles, who guided the National League from 1951 to 1969.  It was on his watch that the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee. That was in 1953, and it marked the start of a franchise shuffle that changed the baseball map. His time was also marked by National League teams taking the lead in signing black and latin players, enabling them to dominate the annual All-Star Games. For their contributions to the game, both of these gentlemen were inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. It’s nice to see that Topps recognized them, doing so by issuing cards of them from 1956 to 1959. The position of League President was eliminated at the end of 1999 when their duties were absorbed by the Commissioner of Baseball’s office.

Now on to Dock Ellis. I like this Dock Ellis card. We see the uniform and the cool, mustard yellow cap, in their full glory. We see a stadium in the background, although once again I’m not certain which one. Best of all, our man is not smiling. The pitcher, who passed away a few years ago, was a man’s man. He was a highly principled individual who demanded respect; a black man who fought racial injustice on the field and off. When he spoke out his comments led many to term him controversial. Others thought he was just being honest. A few more considered him a visionary. Some of his actions on the field alienated the baseball establishment, and he didn’t care. If you got on his bad side, or he had a point to make, or you were in his way, you were in for a rough go. You can ask the 1974 Cincinnati Red and they’ll tell you all about it.

In 1974, the Pittsburgh Pirates started the season by playing flat, uninspiring baseball. They lugged a 6-12 record into the May 1st game against the Reds in Three Rivers Stadium. In Ellis’ opinion, the Pirates seemed intimidated by the Reds, who won the division the previous year. Intent on charging up his teammates, Ellis took matters into his own hands by hitting the first three Reds batters successively. In short order, leadoff batter Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen were all plunked. At least for variety’s sake, or perhaps for Ellis’ own amusement, each hitter was struck in a different spot. Cleanup hitter Tony Perez managed to get out of the way of several message pitches, and walked, forcing in a run. When Ellis tried to hit the next batter, Johnny Bench, Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh took Ellis out of the game. Dock got his message across, however, and the Bucs caught fire,  going 82- 62 the rest of the way to win the National League East’s Division Championship.

There are other stories to tell about this man, one of which is hard to believe, but I’ll save them for another day. You see, the Dock Ellis saga demands several posts, and they’ll be written. As for Topps, there’s a new giveaway this year, and I’ll get to that, too. Stay tuned.



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