Tony Perez - Okay, so this is my second post in a row that Tony makes an appearance. Even Cincinnati Red blogs probably do not feature Tony in back to back posts, but I swear, I am not a Tony Perez fan. I question his enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I respect Tony, and all the guys in the Big Red Machine era. They gave us some entertaining baseball, but in the big picture, he is not even in my top 5 favorite 70s Reds players. But he was for a good stretch one of the most professional and dominant hitters. I often opine that had he hung up his cleats 4 years earlier, his numbers would look much stronger. I think Tony had intangible that made him the leader of the Big Red Machine, and a member of multiple Halls of Fame. Maybe I am too critical.
Why buy it?: I have an affinity for the Big Red machine. It was one of the most dominating teams for a 6 year period and is right up there with the 20s Yankees. Cost: $1.05
Juan Beniquez - Beniquez had a lengthy career as a journeyman defensive specialist. He never offered much in the way of power or speed, and even in his formative years was not a very good batter. As he got older he became a better hitter. He learned bat control and could slap the ball around to become a Rey Sanchez type of hollow .300 hitter. Beniquez made his bones as a defensive replacement and spot starter in the outfield. He even won a Gold Glove. I remember a young Juan with the Red Sox, he was around for a couple seasons before being dealt to Texas for future Hall of Famer, Ferguson Jenkins. In 1974, with his bushy afro and “almostasche” he is looking like a young father positioned to catch a wobbly toddler during their first walk down a hallway.
Why buy it? Its a Red Sox card, and despite being a retired team collector, I will still grab players from the home team if I plan to set build. Cost: $0.49
George Foster - Now there is a mug that I would not want to meet up with in a dark alley!! Actually, I would, as George was one of my favorite Reds back in the day. I was always pumped when I opened a pack of cards and saw a Foster. Most of my friends never knew why. Foster was not even a super big guy. Tony Perez was a much larger guy. Foster was lean, and all muscle. Not the fleetest on the base paths, but he did have one double digit steal season. In 1974, George and I were just getting our footing with major league baseball. I was just getting an appreciation for it and George was getting more time as a platoon player after spending the previous year toiling in the minors In 1975, that is when I became aware of George! In the 1975 World Series, game 6, he made an outstanding catch on a Fred Lynn ball right along the foul line, then with a rocket of an arm, he fired the ball in to Johnny Bench to nail Denny Doyle who had tagged up and was trying to score. His big season were 1976 and 1977 where he won the MVP award. In an era before hypodermic needles, Foster clubbed 50 HRs and 149 RBIs, 124 runs, 388 total bases, along with a .320 batting average and 1.013 OPS.
As the Big Red Machine disbanded, Foster was still the thump in the Cincinnati line up until his contract was expiring, and the Reds dealt him to the New York Mets who quickly inked Foster to a 5 year 10 Mil deal. Foster had an up down career with the Mets. He did have this silly moment towards the end of his tenure. Mets manager Davey Johnson decided to replace Foster as the every day left fielder. It did not settle well with Foster and he started spouting off about it being a racially motivated decision. Uh, George, the guy that replaced you, Kevin Mitchell, he is African American as well! Foster ended up getting released in 1986 and was picked up by the Chicago White Sox. I don't even remember him suiting up for the Chisox. I may not be the only one, he lasted only 15 games on the SOuth Side before his career as a major leaguer came to an end.
Why buy it?: Aside from my aforementioned appreciation of the BRM, I was intimidated into buying it. Look at that card, its like George is glaring at me and thinking "What the hell, kid; you are going to buy Beniquez and not me?? Don't make me furrow my brow at you more than I already have!! " Yes Sir, Mr. Foster, Sir. Cost: $0.49
Mike Epstein - Look!!! Up at bat, it's a man, it's a beast, it's SUPERJEW!! (Honestly, that was his nickname!!!) I wonder if Al Campanis gave him that nickname. Still, what is there not to like about Epstein. He had swagger, he had charm, and he always had an excuse note signed by his "Mom!" - Oh, wait, wrong Epstein.
Mike Epstein made no excuses, he was what he was, a big man that hit the ball, very, very hard. He also struck out quite a bit, but he also knew how to take a walk, which lead to some nice on-base totals. Billy Bean would have loved this guy. Epstein did one thing really well, he got hit by the pitch. He was usually among the leaders in HBP every year. Hell, in 1969, he had as many HBPs as he did HRs! Epstein played for five ball clubs in his 9 year big league career. This was his swansong card as he was released very early in the 1974 season. Epstein has since gone on to open his own hitting school which has been very popular.
Why buy it?: Like I mentioned, the 1974 set had some great photography and this horizontal gem is one of them. The frozen moment of time gives the feel of two of the four Mike Epstein outcomes, and based on the reaction or the lack there of from the team and the crowd, I inagine the ball did not leave the yard. Cost: $0.49