Wednesday, April 15, 2020

1970 Card Back Follies, Part 1

In my last post, I featured the 1976 Topps Record Breaker subset, I was surprised (not surprised) to find that Night Owl also had featured them in the past. His particular focus was on the great information on the back of the cards. That got me to thinking.  I have to admit that I don't pay enough attention to the card backs as I should.  At least partially due to the fact that they are often very hard to read, combining small print and colors that don't necessarily contrast well.

1970 Topps is different, though.  My old eyes can actually read it well with the high contrast colors.  So, a couple Saturdays ago, while waiting for the sun come out and the ambition to get outside and do yard work to strike me, I paged through my 1970 binder backwards. As I did so, I tossed around ideas for posts around the card backs.  My genius (not genius) idea was to identify cards backs with interesting or odd cartoons and see if I can find any information on the internet that supports the cartoon.

So, without further ado, here is the first 4:

Tito Fuentes (#42) - Tito's hobby is playing ping-pong

I've not had much luck finding anything about Fuentes table tennis hobby. It seems as if the only relevant link goes to a post about this card on the defunct "Stats on the Back" blog from May of 2009.

I'm not off to an auspicious start here, am I?

Paul Casanova (#84) - In 1961, Paul played for the Indianapolis Clowns

After a short, and unspectacular, 1960 in the Indians chain that saw Casanova appear in 10 games and rack up 9 plate appearances for Class C Minot, he was released. He did spend 1961 with the erstwhile Negro League Indianapolis Clowns, by then a barnstorming team.  While he did come to the attention of some MLB scouts, he left baseball behind at the end of the season to pursue a more remunerative  career in construction.  However, a couple  years later, a scout for the Washington Senators brought Casanova into training camp. In 1965, after two years in the minors, Casanova was called up and embarked on a 10 year career as a catcher for Washington and, later, the Atlanta Braves.

Juan Rios (#89) - Juan has amazing speed

There isn't any metric that I am aware of that objectively measures speed, though I am not, by any means, a sabermetric guru. So, I made my own up: stolen bases divided by total bases.  It's not  perfect, but I also didn't want to spend any more time on it.  I also didn't do exhaustive research on modern era performance, but did look at the career stolen base leaders, under the assumption that they, at some level, set a benchmark for speed. Among those, I found  Vince Coleman at 40.3% (752 SB and 1863 TB), Rickey Henderson at 30.6%, Maury Wills at 23.3%, Lou Brock at 22.1%, and Tim Raines at 21.4%.  So, let's set 20% as the benchmark.

So, how did Rios do? Difficult to say. By the time this card came out, he had played his last MLB game. In a major league career spanning 87 games and 208 plate appearances, he had a total of 1 stolen base and 54 total bases, for a miserly 1.8%.  In 8 minor league seasons, he swiped 49 bases and tallied 706 total bases, for a 6.9%. So, Rios may have had blazing speed, but it didn't translate on the base paths.

George Culver (#92) - George likes to wear "Mod" style clothes

I didn't manage to locate any pictures of Culver in his finest, but I did find some wonderful text from an article written by Bob Broeg in the St.Louis Post Dispatch about him:

“Culver is a good-looking, green-eyed guy who resembles his idol, golf’s dashing Doug Sanders, in physical appearance and sartorial splendor,” Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch observed."

On the day they met, Broeg reported, Culver was wearing “white shoes, cream-colored trousers and a brilliant orange sweater.”

Culver told Broeg he liked to wear purple or pink. “I know those colors aren’t very manly,” Culver said, “but they’re beautiful.”

According to the Bakersfield newspaper, Culver had a “purple Edwardian-style suit,” but he said, “I don’t wear that purple outfit anymore. I favor all-white suits now.”

Culver said he had 150 pairs of slacks and 50 Banlon shirts. “I’d rather spend 50 bucks on clothes than on a date,” he told Broeg.
Good stuff.

Anyways, that is it for now.  It was fun researching this, so hopefully I'll keep the series going on the regular.

What I am listening to: Here and Now by Letters to Cleo


  1. LOL, I have a blog post on card backs and hard-to-read numbers TODAY.

    I love when cartoons use time-specific lingo like "Mod". That research on Culver is great. Good for him, having the guts to wear flashy clothes. White guys can't get away with that stuff for whatever reason, but I guess he had an excuse: it was the '70s.

    1. In my opinion, "sartorial" really needs to find its way into sports writing more often.

  2. Great stuff. I especially love the research and number crunching you put into Juan Rios and his amazing speed.