Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1961 TOPPS AL LOPEZ

NO RELATION TO JOE MADDON.
YBOR CITY'S FINEST WON 58 PERCENT OF HIS GAMES.

THE FRONT PAGE

  • Before Tony LaRussa and Lou Piniella were delaying games with walks to the mound and temper tantrums, fellow Tampa native and Hall of Famer Al Lopez was busy winning them.
  • The '61 manager cards look like something the University of Miami athletic department created.

THE BACK PAGE

  • While the fronts of the manager cards look nothing like the player cards, the backs follow the '61 set design. 
  • My, that's a lot of bridesmaid finishes for Mr. Lopez. Still, over his 15 seasons as manager, he never had a losing record.
  • "Al's plans for 1961 are to capture the pennant flag for Chicago.'' Things didn't go as planned; the Sox finished fourth. Then fifth in '62 followed by, you guessed it, three consecutive second-place finishes. Nothing ever goes as planned.
  • Reminds me of a scene in The Dark Knight with The Joker: "You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go 'according to plan.' Even if the plan is horrifying! If tomorrow I tell the press that, like a gang-banger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics because it's all 'part of the plan.' But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! ..."

PHOTO PLAY

  • An in-action photo of the former catcher practicing his pitching-change motion. 
  • Think LaRussa held this card back then and figured, "If signalling for relievers looks this exciting, I think I'll try my hand at managing some day.'' 

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Lopez held the record for most games caught (1,918) until Bob Boone broke it in 1987.
  • I was born and grew up in Tampa, so I know how revered Al Lopez is there. 
  • There's a community park named after him, including a statue, close to Raymond James Stadium. 
  • He died at age 97 four days after the White Sox won the '05 Series. It was their first crown in 88 years and the first pennant season since he led them in '59. 
  • Thirty years later, while trying to get Joe DiMaggio's autograph at a golf tournament in Tampa, Lopez came strolling out of the clubhouse to the putting green. Nobody seemed to notice him, or if they did, weren't interested. I debated whether to approach. I did, he signed and couldn't have been any nicer. 



"PUTT YOUR AUTOGRAPH HERE, PLEASE.''

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