Monday, February 08, 2010

For every hello, there is a goodbye: Metdom painted over

Having solved the Rusty Staub airbrush mystery, we can now head over to the other side of the equation. For every new Met added to the roster, there has to be a farewell – some sadder than others.

Like the incoming Mets with poorly disguised paint jobs, there are outgoing players still showing evidence of Metdom on their Topps cards of the 1970s.

The Mets made a lot of moves after the 1971 season, sending Topps artists into overtime.

Lots of heartbreak here, the most famous being the Nolan Ryan card. No reason to rehash that disaster.

Almost as sad is the sight of Ron Swoboda on a Yankees card with his regal Mets blue cap and pinstripes. Rocky in my mind is forever diving in Shea’s right field, but he was actually traded to the Expos with Rich Hacker at the end of spring training in 1971 for Don Hahn.

He went to the Yankees in June of that season, so his Topps card is actually two teams old, and without a decent excuse since the vile ones play right there in the Homeland, where Topps is based.

The Ron Taylor and Art Shamsky card in that set doesn’t elicit as much sadness, since they were going to places not as tainted. But they are reminders of he dismantling of the 1969 team, which continued into the next season.

Taylor went on to be the team doctor for the Blue Jays, which is pretty cool.

Shamsky gets points for continuing to keep the memory of 1969 alive, and is behind several of the anniversary efforts.

Then there is the sad case of Bobby Pfeil, shown here with a hint of his Mets lettering with his air-brushed Red Sox cap. The light-hitting mostly infielder only played in the majors in parts of two seasons, 1969 with the Mets and 1971 with the Phillies.

But note his transactions, as documented by

April 7, 1965: Traded by the Cubs with Hal Gibson to the Cardinals for Bob Humphreys.
Before 1968 Season: Sent from the Cardinals to the Mets in an “unknown transaction.”

May 26, 1970: Sent by the Mets to the Phillies to complete an earlier deal made on April 10, 1970. The Mets sent a player to be named later to the Phils for Ron Allen.

February 8, 1972: Traded by the Phils to the Brewers for a player to be named later. The Brewers sent Chico Vaughns (minors) (March 25, 1972) to the Phils to complete the trade.

March 20, 1972: Purchased by the Boston Red Sox from the Brewers.

A couple things to note here. Pfeil played for two teams between the Mets and the Red Sox, so Topps was using a really old photo.

And second, what the heck is “an unknown transaction?” Did Bobby stow away with the Mets equipment bags? Did he just kind of show up in spring training like Willie Mays Hayes? Imagine the conversation in the Mets front office.

“Hey, nice move getting Pfeil. But who did we give up for him?”

“I didn’t make a deal. I thought you did.”

“Well, might as well let him stay, since he’s got a uniform and everything.”

The dismantling of the champs continued with the 1973 set. Newcomers Felix Millan and George Stone got what Will calls the nostril treatment, shot from below the chin to the cap logo can’t be seen. But the departing Mets had no such luck.

Gary Gentry has his new Braves cap painted on, but still his Mets pinstripes. And poor Dave Marshall.

The light-hitting outfielder went to the Padres, where his career died in mustard yellow. Topps painted his cap, and even gave him a yellow collar – put left the Mets blue pinstripes, as if to say, “We started to give a darn, but got distracted by lunch.”

Alas, they set the stage for the abomination that is the Tommie Agee card..
Picking up Agee was one of the Mets most inspired trades, snagging him, and fellow World Series hero Al Weis from the White Sox for Tommy Davis, Buddy Booker, Jack Fisher and Billy Wynne.

Alas, his departure yielded no great returns. Tommie became an Astro for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris, neither of whom would leave their mark on the franchise.

But apparently the deal could have been worse. In what can only be described as a mass air-brushing in the 1973 set, Topps also colored Astros uniforms on Rusty Staub and Ken Boswell or Buddy Harrelson, I’m not sure which one that is. This is, in fact, Staub’s only appearance in the 1973 set.

Rusty, of course, came up with the Astros, and Boswell would end up there after the 1974 season. At least he got to see how he'd look as an Astro.

The glorious 1974 set was without incident, but the trouble picks up again in 1975.
Ray Sadecki was traded for Joe Torre just after the 1974 season.

What I never realized was that he became a Met again, signing as a free agent at the tail end of spring training in 1977, pitching only three innings before being released in early May.

Sadecki’s faux Cards card is another schizophrenic Topps effort. The Mets pinstripes are gone, but the buttons remain – along with a Cardinals pull-over collar.

And, finally, we end up back at poor Rusty Staub. Traded by the Mets at the end of the 1975 season, we see Rusty in the traded set with a painted on Old English D. It’s actually a decent job by Topps standards. The pinstripes are gone, replaced by the Tigers road gray with the orange and navy blue collar.

The card, of course, is the reminder of one of the Mets worst trades. The tragedy of the Ryan deal is not that he was sent out, because he didn’t like New York and was never going to be as successful here. It’s that the team didn’t get more than the broken down Jim Fergosi in return.

The Staub deal was just a fiasco all around. The Mets thought Mike Vail’s hot tail end of the season – pre basketball injury – would easily replace Rusty, who went on to be an All-Star for the Tigers.

The Mets got an older player in Mickey Lolich who, like Ryan, wanted no part of the Big Apple. Which just shows that you can airbrush a logo, but not a smile.


Jon said...

The Staub trade was all about the Mets unloading him before he obtained "5-and-10" rights and could refuse a trade. Lolich seemed to me the last thing they needed.

By the way there's an argument to be made that acquiring Staub for the first time was a dumb trade too.

G-Fafif said...

I always used to wonder what so darn fascinating about the inside of the bills of their caps that players staring up at them when Topps came around to shoot.