Sunday, November 24, 2019

From the Favorites Box: John Candelaria, 1976 Topps #317

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

Have a look at Brooklyn-born pitcher John Candelaria on his rookie card:

I think I see a little bit of that New York swagger.

He's looking down toward the camera lens (all 6-foot-7 of him), pounding his fist into that mitt, head tilted, hair whipping in the breeze.

It's a look that's sometimes mistaken for cockiness, or a bad attitude. And let's be fairwith some New Yorkers that's exactly what it is. But I don't think that's the case here. What you're seeing instead is a combination of confidence and youthfulness.  

Try and hit this pitch. 

Let's say you're stepping into the batter's box right now. Regardless of what you say to young Candelaria theretrash talk, psych-outs, put-downs, whatever you could do to take him off his gameyou just get the feeling that he's going to throw the next pitch right past you anyway.

And the very next year, 1977, he sure did prove it.

The youngster would go 20-5 with 133 strikeouts, 6 complete games, and a league-leading 2.34 ERA. Such a dominant performance earned him a spot on the National League All-Star team. And just two years later he'd move beyond All-Star status, playing an important role in bringing the Championship to Pittsburgh.

"The Candy Man" would start Game 1 of the 1979 NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, pitching seven strong innings to help his Pirates to a win. His team would also take the next two games to sweep the Reds right out of the playoffs.

Then in Game 6 of the World Series, with the Pirates down to the Baltimore Orioles 3 games to 2, Candelaria took the mound. He threw six great innings of shutout ball, earning a big win to keep the Pirates in the Series. The next day his team would take Game 7 and the Championship.

Despite that early-career success, though, Candelaria would never get back to that high ground of a Championship. And after about 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, the second half of his career resembled that of a journeyman. Angels, Mets, Yankees, Expos, Twins, Blue Jays, Dodgers, and then back to the Pirates for one final season.

But all told, in 19 years of Major League ball Candelaria went 177-122 with a 3.33 ERA, 54 complete games, and 1,673 strikeouts. Not too shabby.

And he probably still has some of that late-'70s New York swagger. I mean, just look at his mitt again. Zoom in on the pinky finger. 

It has "CANDY" written across it in big, bold letters.

For providing us with a glimpse of what it's like to be a care-free, talented 21-year-old pitcher in the big leagues, 1976 Topps #317 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Here's to Linemates

The record shown on this card escaped my knowledge for all this time:

1981-82 O-Pee-Chee Record Breakers #391

Details on the back:

I've got to admit, it surprised me.

I figured the first linemates to each score 100 points in a season would have been Bossy-Trottier-Gillies on Long Island, or Kurri-Gretzky-Anderson in Edmonton.

But no, it's the Triple Crown Line in Los Angeles! Here are their final numbers for the 1980-81 season:

Marcel Dionne: 135 points in 80 GP
Dave Taylor: 112 points in 72 GP
Charlie Simmer: 105 points in 65 GP

Pretty impressive, no?

As for those Islanders, the Trio Grande almost did hit the mark in 1978-79.

Bryan Trottier: 134 points in 76 GP
Mike Bossy: 126 points in 80 GP
Clark Gillies: 91 points in 75 GP

But that's as close as they'd get. Gillies was more of the rugged power-forward type, protecting the two stars on his line with physicality and fisticuffs. However, the guy could definitely score, too. I figured he would have tallied a 100-point season at some point during the high-flying '80s, but no.

And what about Kurri-Gretzky-Anderson? Well, that one is more complicated.


First, Kurri (75 points in 75 games) and Anderson (53 points in 58 games) were just rookies during that record-breaking season, so putting up 100 points each would have been a tough askeven for a couple of kids boiling over with talent. Secondly, that trio of Kurri-Gretzky-Anderson wasn't exactly a trio as I thought. Gretzky and Kurri stuck together as a formidable center-wing pair, but it seems like they rotated through a few different wingers on the other side. Glenn Anderson was only one of them. So you can't really call those three a line.

With those great teammates out of the equation, how about some other notable lines that almost hit the mark?

In 1971-72, the GAG Line (goal-a-game) came ever so close for the Rangers.

Jean Ratelle: 109 points in 63 GP
Vic Hadfield: 106 points in 78 GP
Rod Gilbert: 97 points in 73 GP

In 1974-75, the French Connection Line in Buffalo came tantalizingly close as well.


René Robert: 100 points in 74 GP
Gilbert Perreault: 96 points in 68 GP
Rick Martin: 95 points in 68 GP

In 1975-76, the LCB Line in Philadelphia almost got there.

Bobby Clarke: 119 points in 76 GP
Bill Barber: 112 points in 80 GP
Reggie Leach: 91 points in 80 GP

The 1976-77 Dynasty Line in Montreal wasn't too far from it either, but Jacques Lemaire was more of a two-way center (who still managed a point per game, sheesh). 


Guy Lafleur: 136 points in 80 GP
Steve Shutt: 105 points in 80 GP
Jacques Lemaire: 75 points in 75 GP

And the Stastny Line came reasonably close in 1982-83 for the Nordiques. That would have been amazing.


Peter Stastny: 124 points in 75 GP
Anton Stastny: 92 points in 79 GP
Marian Stastny: 79 points in 60 GP

Then a decade later (1992-93) the Sky Line in Pittsburgh almost did it.


Mario Lemieux: 160 points in 60 GP
Kevin Stevens: 111 points in 72 GP
Jaromir Jagr: 94 points in 81 GP

Look at how many all-stars and hall-of-famers appear in those trios. It goes to show you just how tough the accomplishment is.

And it also provides a reminder: 

In today's game it would be very difficult for three forwards to set the mark as a unit—not only because of the line-juggling strategies that coaches seem to employ throughout the season, but also for the much more structured style of play across the league. Oh, and goalies all seem to be 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds with big, puffy pads and catching gloves as big as one of those novelty foam #1 finger-pointing things that sports fans wear at the stadium.

And here's something else we're reminded of: Because forward lines don't remain intact as long these days, the great line nicknames don't come around as much. Add these legendary nicknames to those mentioned above: The Kid Line in Toronto (Conacher-Jackson-Primeau), The Punch Line in Montreal (Lach-Blake-Richard), The Legion of Doom in Philadelphia (Lindros-Leclair-Renberg), The Russian Five in Detroit (Fedorov-Kozlov-Larionov-Konstantinov-Fetisov), the JAM line in Colorado (Sakic-Hejduk-Tanguay).

But who knows? It seems like offensive numbers have been up a little bit over the past couple of seasons, at least for some of the really big stars, and nothing remains constant in professional sports. Maybe we'll see this kind of milestone set again one day.

No matter how the game changes, though, the Triple Crown Line of Simmer-Dionne-Taylor did something remarkable that should not be overlooked. And when your team has a forward line that's just freewheeling it, game in and game out, you won't find much better entertainment.

Here's to linemates sticking together and having enough success to make a name for themselves.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


This is the first wrestling card I've ever owned:

1987 O-Pee-Chee WWF #26, Hulk Hogan

It came as part of a recent trade with a collector from Canada, hence the O-Pee-Chee version.

As a child of the '80s, I did get caught up in the wrestling thing for a year or two—right around the time this card was printed. How could you not, with characters like Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, for goodness sake.

It was a weird, wacky combination of drama, intrigue, flamboyance, aggression, brute strength, and body slams. But it worked.

And because this particular card is the O-Pee-Chee version, I've got to show the back.


That works, too.

I can't imagine my wrestling card collection getting much larger, but I'm happy to have the Hulkster on my side of the ring.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 6)

Welcome back to The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one wins that date with a special lady. How do we know they're bachelors? Why, it says so right on the back of their hockey cards, that's how!

Previous episodes are available here.

Dale Hawerchuck from the Winnipeg Jets was our big winner from episode 5. 

Now let's start the 6th round and introduce the bachelors chosen by our randomizer! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Left Wing from the Calgary Flames, Kevin LaVallee
Bachelor number 2: Left Wing from the Vancouver Canucks, Curt Fraser
Bachelor number 3: Left Wing from the Detroit Red Wings, Mark Osborne

Three left wings, all from the Campbell Conference!

Let's find out more about these gents from the back of their hockey cards.

Quite a list of hobbies, there. So who will it be this week, ladies?

Bachelor number 1: Fishing enthusiast and 30-goal scorer Kevin LaVallee?

Bachelor number 2: Vancouver man Curt Fraser (or is it "Tony"?), who enjoys both boating and playing the guitar?

Bachelor number 3: Basketball guy from Ontario, Mark Osborne?