Friday, February 15, 2013

Paper hero

Today is The Penguin's birthday. I sang him a song last year. But now he's 65 -- traditional retirement age -- and probably telling his grandkids about his heroics on the baseball diamond.

Since Ron Cey is my favorite ballplayer of all-time, I usually like to feature his baseball cards when his birthday comes up. But I've featured almost all of them on this blog at one time or another and I don't have any new ones right now (but as soon as I find some spare cash -- in a month or so -- I'll be emptying that shopping cart).

So, I thought, what could I show Cey-related that had as much meaning to me as cards?

And then it hit me: yearbooks! Of course!

The only thing as fascinating to me as cards during the time that Cey played for the Dodgers was yearbooks. I ordered a Dodger yearbook every year between 1978-85, and I also went back and ordered a few from the years before I started following the team.

I thought it would be fun to show Cey's yearbook page for each year he played for the Dodgers.

I don't have the Dodgers' 1973 yearbook, so if Cey's in it, that's one I'll have to get. My guess is that if he's featured, it's just some half-page or something because Cey wasn't a regular player heading into the '73 season.

So here, on Cey's 65th birthday, is a look at how he appeared annually in the Dodger yearbooks:

1974 Yearbook: Jimmy Wynn on the cover.

This is the year that the Dodgers returned to greatness after several seasons of struggling and rebuilding following the departure of Koufax and Drysdale in the late 1960s. Wynn was the Dodgers' big new acquisition for 1974. The Dodgers made it to the World Series that year before losing in 5 games to the Oakland A's.

Cey's page: A lot of white space on these individual player pages. Color-tinting photos was the thing to do at the time. The players' signatures were tinted blue or red. Some of the pages featured a photo of the player and his wife, like Cey here.

I've known that Cey's wife is named Fran for as long as I was a kid. She looks like my type, too.

Gee, did all that sound stalkerish?

I'm really perfectly normal.

Let's move on.

1975 Yearbook: Steve Garvey on the cover (with Dave Winfield making a cameo).

The yearbook celebrates the Dodgers' N.L. Championship, but 1975 would be a disappointing season. The Big Red Machine would win the N.L. West by 20 games and no one in the National League really had a chance. Garvey, though, became the Dodgers' biggest star in '74 and that just continued throughout the 1970s.

Cey's page: More photo- and signature-tinting in this photo. Full-color pages were only for the cover and the back. Still a lot of white space, too. I like the caption on the bottom photo, "three big men." None of those guys were physically big.

1976 Yearbook: Davey Lopes on the cover.

This was the year of the U.S. bicentennial, of course, and I think it was a law that anything written "1976" or "'76" had to look patriotic in some way. But this '76 looks somewhat similar the Union '76 gas station logo. Lopes was on the cover because he set a record for most consecutive stolen bases during the 1975 season. But 1976 would be another year of finishing behind the Reds.

Cey's page: More color-tinting, and not attractive either. But the yearbook added action pictures to the pages, which had to be exciting. You can see Tommy Lasorda (wearing No. 54, not No. 2) waving Cey home.

1977 Yearbook: Alston, Koufax, Moon, Sutton, Wills, Drysdale, Garvey, T. Davis, Osteen, W. Davis on the cover.

The Dodgers returned to the World Series in '77, but started the year celebrating 20 years in Los Angeles. It's hard to believe they had been in L.A. for only 20 years in 1977. (I am so old). Anyway, after more of the same in '76, L.A. would return to glory, only to be thwarted by the cheating Yankees in the Series.

Cey's page: Still with the tint and black and white. More action photos, though. And I always note the font that the yearbook used for the player's name and position. I don't know what that font is called, but it was everywhere in the late 1970s. I call it the "Disco Font."

1978 Yearbook: The Dodgers' starting eight, plus manager Tom Lasorda, on the cover.

This was the team -- minus the pitchers -- that got the Dodgers to the first World Series that I ever saw them play. I thought this illustration was spot-on for everyone, except for Lasorda. I know he was a lot younger then, but even when I purchased this yearbook in 1978 (it was the first yearbook I ever bought), Lasorda didn't look right to me.

Cey's page: FULL COLOR!!!! Yay! Since this was the first yearbook I saw, I expected everything to be full color. I was surprised when I ordered previous yearbooks and they weren't. But even in '78, the yearbook reserved only the top players for color. Even dudes like Rick Rhoden and Terry Forster got black and white.

1979 Yearbook: Tom Lasorda on the cover.

Lasorda, had just led the Dodgers to back-to-back World Series appearances three years into getting the managerial job. Note that the price of the yearbook jumped from a dollar to $1.50. Must have been all of the added color photos inside. Or the cover illustrator's fee.

Cey's page: Here we see the classic Penguin batting stance. And the "walks like a duck, hits like a truck," line is also classic. I remember being disappointed by the presentation of the players in the '79 yearbook, compared with 1978. But it's really not that bad. Almost all of the players feature a color photo.

1980 Yearbook: Cey, Mota, Sutton, Russell, Baker, Ferguson, Lopes, Garvey, Sutcliffe on the cover.

The 1979 season was a horrible disappointment for the Dodgers, so credit the publicity department for producing what to me is the highlight of my yearbook-purchasing years. Baseball cards AND a Dodger periodical? Fantastic.

The whole issue is an ode to Topps cards. Each player features his past Topps cards. And players who don't have past Topps cards feature mock ones made in the style of the 1978 design.

Cey's page: Isn't that fantastic? Who is Mike Schmidt? He's nobody in a Dodger publication.

1981 Yearbook: Steve Garvey and Dusty Baker on the cover.

Up to 2 bucks now. Possibly one of the most famous Dodger yearbook covers. It celebrates the Dodgers' supposed invention of the high-five (although it wasn't Garvey and Baker, it was Glenn Burke and Baker, or so the legend goes). For someone who was used to seeing the yearbook's theme revolving around the past season or upcoming season, this was an interesting departure. But L.A. had plenty to high-five about at the end of the season.

Cey's page: Each player received a very lengthy write-up (compared with past yearbook write-ups) from a Dodger beat writer from different Southern California newspapers. Long before I ever thought of writing for a paper, these intrigued me. I probably read every word.

1982 Yearbook: World Championship Trophy on the cover.

World Champs!!!!! In your FACE! (I think we still said that then).

Cey's page: By now, the yearbook was three dollars. It was the thickest yearbook issued up to that point. Every player on the 25-man roster received a color page. Cey's fantastic signature is prominently displayed.

I purchased Dodger yearbooks for three more years, 1983, 1984 and 1985. Cey played for the Dodgers in 1982 and was dealt (ugh!) to the Cubs (double ugh!) after the season. He doesn't appear in the 1983 yearbook or, obviously, the others.

Here is a photo of him during happier times. It's from the 1976 season. It was featured in the 1977 World Series program.

Thanks to Cey's performances and attitude during the time when I was growing up -- and his continued good work for the Dodgers organization -- I will always show allegiance to The Penguin.

Happy 65th, sir!

Enjoy your retirement!



  1. Thanks for the great story angle. I enjoyed checking out the specific yearbook changes through The Penguin's career.

  2. Actually, Lasorda is wearing 52 as 54 was Monte Basgall. Lasorda moved to 2 when he became manager in honor of Leo Durocher. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I love seeing that 1977 Karl Huebenthal drawn cover. Even if he didn't get the back numbers the right color.

  3. I don't have the 1980 yearbook. I'll have to pick one up, though, if there are 78 Topps style images in there.

  4. Darn it! If the A's yearbooks are half as cool as these, I need to start collecting them. Just another thing to clutter my office with. Thanks a lot Night Owl!