Friday, February 8, 2013

Random Topps Card of the Day: 1976 Topps #396 Bill Lee

Thanks to the Topps Card Randomizer, introducing the Random Topps Card of the Day for Friday, February 08, 2013:

  • Official Card Set Name and Card Number: 1976 Topps #396.
  • Player Name, position, team: Bill Lee, pitcher, Boston Red Sox.
  • Major League Debut: June 25, 1969.
  • Last Line of Statistics: 1975 stats (Red Sox): 41 G, 260 IP, 17-9, 123 R, 114 ER, 78 SO, 69 BB, 3.95 ERA.
  • Any special information about player: Drafted by the Red Sox #22nd, June 1968. Bats: left. Throws: left.
  • Number of regular Topps Cards (includes regular and traded cards only): 13. This is his seventh Topps card.
  • Blurb on the back: n/a.
  • Commentary: It's the oldest complete set I have in my collection. As much as I would love to start acquiring sets or collecting cards from 1975 and older, because I was born in 1976, I feel, at this time, that this set will be the furthest that I will claim to own for a long time. Yes, it doesn't get as much praise as the set from the year before, but there is something to be said about the cards from 1976 that warms the hearts of those who like this set. Maybe it's the picture of the baseball player on the side of the card that is unique to the player's position. Maybe it's the fact that there are three other unique design elements (picture, bar with player name, bar with team name and position) included in the design. Maybe it's because this was the last "colorful" design we'd see from Topps for five years. But this is a set that still screams "70's" at first glance...and maybe that's the point. Bill Lee was a "flake." That's probably the best way to describe him. He drove many crazy with his antics, was a media darling because of the wild things that would come out of his mouth. But make no bones about it, when he was on, he was one of the best Boston fans had ever seen. After four seasons of wallowing in the bullpen, Lee finally cracked the starting rotation, and for three years straight, won 17 decisions each year(going 17-11, 17-15, and 17-9 from 1973-1975). He became an All-Star in 1973 and even though the Red Sox lost both games in the 1975 World Series that he started (Game 2 and the decisive Game 7), he kept the potent Reds lineup in check while he was on the mound, allowing only five runs in 14.1 innings of work. During a game in 1976, against the hated Yankees no less, Lee was involved in a scuffle after a play at the plate went the Red Sox' way. Graig Nettles blindsided Lee, who landed awkwardly on his shoulder. He was out of action for almost two months thanks to that hit. He did finish the year with a 5-7 record, a 5.63 ERA (a career worst), and 29 strikeouts in 96 innings of work. In 1978, his Red Sox career started tumbling downhill, both on the field and off it. He questioned the authority of management, specifically his manager, Don Zimmer. When one of his teammates (Bernie Carbo) was traded off, he caused such a ruckus, saying "Today just cost us the pennant," and that he was retiring. He returned the next day. But his actions earned him a fine and permanent space in Zim's doghouse. He was traded to the Expos after the season ended. His first season with the Expos went rather well, a 16-10 record will do that for a player. But his woes with management returned. After two subpar seasons, he was released by the Expos on May 9, 1982. It would be the last time he would see action in MLB. He would travel the world, playing baseball in places like Cuba, China, Canada, and even the former USSR. He has written a couple of books, including one considered an alternative view of Red Sox history. The back of Lee's 1976 card includes a cartoon sketch which mentions that Jim O'Rourke pitched for 34 years in professional baseball, from 1872 to 1907. In 2003, he was one of 21 subjects featured in Topps All-Time Fan Favorites product whose cards appeared exclusively as autographed cards and not part of the base set. Autographed cards of the Spaceman appeared again in 2012 Topps Archives. The SABR Biography Project includes one of the colorful Bill Lee here.
  • Lo-Hi Beckett value: $0.60-$1.50.
  • How many cards of this player do I own?: 8.
Tomorrow's card will be: 1988 Topps #145. Post will arrive at 1:00 PM CST. Flash back with the blog tomorrow.


JayBee Anama

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