(I can see why readership goes down in December. I barely have enough energy to post in December. But for the few of you still reading, I'm still writing. Now let me get this done because that "to do" list is tapping its foot. Here's Cardboard Appreciation. The 194th in a series):
It's a shame that I've posted this card just once before. Given my baseball card prejudices for everything Dodgers, 1970s and mustaches, this should appear once a week.
Today is Bill Buckner's 64th birthday, and although I won't sing a song for him like I did my favorite player from this particular era, I would like to acknowledge Buckner for his Dodgerness.
The perception of Buckner among the general baseball public is an unfortunate goat of the 1986 World Series, a sweet-swinging hitter for the Red Sox and the Cubs, a Chicago batting champion ... and, oh yeah, didn't he play with the Dodgers?
Damn right he played with the Dodgers. He played with them for as long as any other team. And he could hit AND run back then. He was at his best then.
But enough about that. I've whined about that before.
What I'd like to do is see if I can determine the general perception of the primary players on the 1974 National League champion Dodgers, of which Buckner was a primary contributor.
This is the team that spawned my allegiance to the Dodgers. I didn't see any of the '74 Series as I wasn't clued into pro baseball at the time. But it was the first World Series I ever knew, thanks to the Series subset in 1975 Topps.
And those '75 Topps Dodgers were the first Dodgers I ever collected. To me, they will ALWAYS be Dodgers. But what about for everyone else? Who will they be to them? If they ever think about them? Let's determint that. How do the masses remember them?
Bill Buckner: See above. Mostly a hobbled Red Sox first baseman, who won a batting title for the Cubs. Some old fogies remember him speeding around the bases with the Dodgers when he .314 in 1974.
Ron Cey: The Penguin. A Dodger third baseman who had a standout 1981 Series despite getting beaned by Goose Gossage. Some '80s fans know him as a Cub. But they couldn't be more wrong.
Willie Crawford: A Dodger, whose potential was never met despite a reputation as one of the most talented high school players to ever come out of L.A.
Al Downing: A Dodger pitcher who gave up Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run. He was a regular member of the Yankees' rotation in the '60s, but I don't think the majority of fans today know that. They certainly don't remember it.
Joe Ferguson: A Dodger catcher who also played right field and is featured in an often-played youtube clip of him throwing out Sal Bando at the plate in the 1974 World Series.
Steve Garvey: Clean-cut Dodgers first baseman and All-Star standout who was tarnished by marital infidelity, the butt of all jokes, but remains the subject of a fiercely loyal fan base. A few younger people know him as a Padre who destroyed the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS.
Charlie Hough: Knuckleball-throwing hurler who I believe most people know as a long-time starter for either the Marlins, Rangers or White Sox. Not as many now probably know he started as a reliever with L.A.
Tommy John: Man who initiated a wave of elbow ligament-replacement surgeries. Remembered probably equally as a Dodger, Yankee and Angel.
Davey Lopes: One of the most famous base-stealers of the '70s. Noted for his mustache and coaching/managing skills now more than anything else. But definitely a Dodger.
Mike Marshall: Ego-driven pitching motion pioneer who piled up the relief appearances with the 1974 Dodgers. If anyone knows anything about kinesiology, Marshall's name probably isn't far behind.
Andy Messersmith: Free agency pioneer, possibly known more for his failed days with the Yankees and Braves in the wake of his free agency victory than his All-Star career with the Dodgers. Some maybe know him as an Angel, although it took me years to figure out he played for them.
Doug Rau: Dodger pitcher who had foul-mouthed exchange with Tommy Lasorda on the mound during the 1977 World Series.
Bill Russell: Dodger shortstop and manager who was caught up in the late '90s mess of Lasorda's exit as manager
Don Sutton: A broadcaster for the Braves and Nationals, who was known to doctor a baseball or two and deservedly or undeservedly is in the Hall of Fame. Those who know him as a player probably associate him with the Brewers, Astros or Angels. People of my age bracket, however, still remember him as one of the greatest Dodger pitchers and a very well-spoken athlete who duked it out with Garvey in '78.
Jimmy Wynn: The "Toy Cannon" known for his blasts in the Astrodome as a member of the Astros, but also as the Comeback Player of the Year for the Dodgers in '74.
Steve Yeager: A Dodger, who helped invent the flap that protects the catcher's throat after he was almost impaled by a broken bat. Also posed for Playgirl magazine.
Those are the primary guys. Come up with your own summaries for Manny Mota, Lee Lacy, Rick Rhoden, Tom Paciorek, Geoff Zahn, etc., etc.
I tried to be as objective as I could there. I'm happy to say that most of those players are still remembered as Dodgers, with probably only Buckner and Hough as the guys who have had their Dodger-hood erased by subsequent events.
As for me, as I said before, they're all still Dodgers.
Buckner is still a Dodger.
He still has a mustache.
And he can still run.
Oh, and it's still the '70s.