05 January 2011

the 1978 topps dodgers in 1968

after adding a couple of guys in 1967, there were no new faces from the 1978 topps dodgers in the 1968 set.  let's see what the carryovers were up to.

vic davalillo
davalillo struggled with the indians in 1968 - his average continued to drop all the way to .239 - and was eventually traded to the angels at midseason (for jimmie hall!).  with the halos, davalillo rediscovered his stroke and hit .298 the rest of the way.  only one of his 3 home runs in 1968 came as an angel, but it was his first and only career lead off shot.  davalillo started 128 of the 144 games in which he appeared, splitting his time pretty evenly between center and right.  he had just 8 pinch hitting appearances, but managed 3 hits in those at bats.
jerry grote
after a disappointing 1967 season from grote, the mets acquired jc martin to platoon behind the plate.  martin started on opening day, but got hurt and grote went on a tear.  his batting average soared into the .350 range in mid-may and was still around .300 at the all-star break.  as a result, grote was the starting catcher for the national league in the 1968 all-star game.  in the mid-summer classic, grote went 0 for 2 against luis tiant and blue moon odom (although he got the runner over to third against odom) and caught don drysdale and juan marichal before being replaced by tom haller.  he also established his career high in hits (114) and hit .282 for the year, a dramatic improvement over his 1967 average of .195.
tommy john
john also appeared in the 1968 all-star game, finishing the game for the american league with two-thirds of an inning.  he gave up a single to ron santo but got tommy helms to ground into a inning ending double play.  in the regular season, john was used exclusively as a starter for the first time, and in his 25 starts he had a record of 10-5.  he had an era of 1.98 which, in the year of the pitcher, was only good enough for 5th on the american league leader board.   he threw a 5-hit shutout against detroit (his only shutout of the year after leading the american league in whitewashings two years in a row) and struck out 12 senators en route to one of his other 4 complete games.  john, who missed the month of september, also hit his 4th career home run in 1968, a shot off of catfish hunter. 

regarding his future teammates, john surrendered a single to davalillo in 3 at bats, gave up the same to reggie smith in 8 at bats, and held rick monday to 2 hits in 11 at bats (with 4 strikeouts).

rick monday
monday hit .274 for the a's as their everyday centerfielder in 1968.  he played in 148 games, hit 8 home runs (including his first career pinch hit homer) and finished second in the league with 143 strikeouts.  despite a bit of a 'sophomore slump' in the power department, monday was named to the american league all-star team.  in the game, he essentially replaced willie horton in the outfield (carl yastrzemski moved from center to left to make room for monday) in the bottom of the 5th inning.  he grounded out against steve carlton the following inning, and then in the 8th, with the tying run on second and two outs, he struck out against tom seaver to end the inning and the american league's best chance to score.  i find that confrontation interesting because monday would go on to hit more home runs (11) off of tom seaver than he would against any other pitcher in his career.  on a side note, monday was voted to topps' all-rookie team for 1967, however, they neglected to put the trophy on his card in 1968.  east coast bias, right?

manny mota
in his final year in pittsburgh, mota was once again spending time all over the outfield.  he made 77 starts, mostly in left and center but with a handful in right field.  he also made singular appearances at third and second in 1968.  he hit .281 overall but just .250 (5 for 20) as a pinch hitter.  he did hit a pinch hit home run (his only roundtripper of the season) against the cardinals' joe hoerner.

reggie smith
sporting the topps rookie cup on his 1968 card, smith led the league with 37 doubles in 1968.  he also hit 15 home runs, stole 22 bases, and won a gold glove patrolling centerfield for the bosox.  smith hit two homers in a game twice - once against the senators' joe coleman (smith would tag another one off of coleman a few days later), and once against john hiller and john wyatt of the tigers.  in that game, smith hit his first home run against the lefty hiller from the right side of the plate.  then, when facing the right-handed wyatt, smith hit his home run from the left side, making it the second time in his brief career he had managed that feat.  in fact, smith was just the 5th american league player to do so, although mickey mantle and tom tresh had each done it multiple times before. 
don sutton
sutton matched his record of 11-15 from 1967 in 1968.  he lowered his era from 3.95 to 2.60, and his number of complete games dropped from 11 to 7 and shutouts went from 3 to 2.  sutton pitched back-to-back complete games in early june, including a 10-inning affair against the mets in which he struck out 10 but lost 1-0.  tom seaver also went 10 innings for the mets and the shutout in that game.  after those two games, sutton had a couple of clunkers and was relegated to the bullpen until the end of july.  he made a total of 35 appearances, of which 27 were starts.  sutton also shut down his future teammates, allowing just a single to mota in 4 at bats and holding grote hitless in 8 with 3 strikeouts.

so, those were the 1978 topps dodgers in 1968.

here's the tally so far:

7/27 players featured by topps in 1968

total appearances:

davalillo 6 (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968)
grote 5 (1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968)
john 5 (1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968)
lasorda 1 (1954)
monday 2 (1967, 1968)
mota 6 (1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968)

smith 2 (1967, 1968)
sutton 3 (1966, 1967, 1968)

teams represented so far:

9 (dodgers, indians, colt .45's, pirates, white sox, astros, mets, a's, red sox)

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