Monday, May 4, 2020

1970 Card Back Follies, Part 2

Okay, I really need to get back to this.  I laid out the skeleton of this post about two weeks ago, but have been putting off doin the research and write-up.  So, without much further ado, here is part 2 of my examination of random, interesting card back cartoons from 1970 Topps.

David Nelson (#112) - Dave's hobby is saving clippings of his favorite athletes

I really didn't find much else about this other than Nelson was born at Fort Sill, Oklahoma (about an hour and a half drive from my home here) and his favorite athletes growing up were Oscar Robertson and Jackie Robinson.

Sparky Lyle (#116) - Sparky once struck out 31 men in a 17 inning game

This feat was accomplished in American Legion ball in his hometown of DuBois, PA and it was the thing that caught the attention of a major league scout, George Staller of the Baltimore Orioles, who signed him to a contract. It should be noted that Sparky only pitched in 14 of those 17 innings and manned frist base the other three,  There wasn't much primary source information I could find.  The local newspaper, The Courier Express, is indexed at, but there is a complete gap in the records between 1946 and 1969. By 1969, he was on his third major leagues season with the Red Sox.

Joe Coleman (#127) - Joe has particular success vs. the White Sox

This was a hard one. Not because of a lack of information, but because of too much information. I had a hard time deciding how to test this one. It is probably the sole reason that it has been over two weeks since my previous post on this topic. Finally, I just had to fish or cut bait.  I have a good idea why this was the cartoon caption.  Prior to 1970, Coleman had a 3-1 record in in 8 starts and one relief appearance against the White Sox, with all three wins being complete games.  However, that is where it breaks down.

So, I downloaded his entire career from Baseball Reference and did some analysis of his pre-1970 statistics.  Using the traditional pitching statistic of ERA, I calculated Coleman's results for each team and overall, then sorted.
So, you can see that Coleman's ERA is particularly poor against Chicago; worse even than his overall performance.  Now, I know that ERA can be affected by factors outside the players control, so I thought I would look at the modern Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).  However, FIP is adjusted by a yearly league factor and I quickly decided I didn't want to put *that* much effort into this, so I backed off to using WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched.)

As you can see, Coleman was better against the White Sox than his overall average against the league. However, it was only marginally better than average and certainly worse than his performance against a number of other teams.  So, my last effort to understand this was to look at Win Percentage Added (WPA.) I understand WPA conceptually, though I don't know how it is calculated.  In general it looks at an individual players contribution to a game.  A positive number means they contributed towards a win (even though the game result may not have been a win.)A negative number means they were a negative influence on the game outcome. In order to control for the fact that the amount of playing time versus each team. I looked at average WPA per appearance.

So, my impression is that, overall, Coleman was a neutral contributor to the Senators.  Interestingly, based on this metric, he wasn't particularly successful against the White Sox. In fact, it was probably more accurate to say (accounting for all three above metrics) that he has particular success against the Angels, Athletics, and Tigers.

Richie Scheinblum (#161) - Richie's 1st homer in pro ball was a grand slam in the 13th inning

Scheinblum first pro homerun was with the Burlington Indians of the A level Carolina League in 1964.  The homerun referenced was in a game on June 14 against the Greensboro Yankees. It was hit off of pitcher Joe Riccardo.  Riccardo never made it out of A ball, with the 1965 season being his last.

What I am Listening to:  Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn


  1. A. I remember my mom gave me a photo album and I'd save A's and Giants box scores to games I attended. Not sure what happened to it though.

    B. 31 strikeouts in 14 innings is impressive.

    C. Great song. I looked up Cohn on Wikipedia just to learn more about him and figured I'd share some interesting trivia. He was shot in the head back in 2005 barely missing his eye... and was released after only 8 hours in the hospital.

  2. The article says Schienblum's homer was to left-center, so clearly no one was wondering whether it would stay fair. Sad trombone for Topps' cartoonist.