It's taken a few weeks to get back to my purchases from the December card show, but here's another vintage card from that show.
1971 Topps #71 A.L. Strikeout Leaders
In researching the first of the three pitchers pictured on this card, I was in for quite a surprise. Unbeknownst to me, the character Sam Malone on the hit tv series Cheers was based upon Sam McDowell. McDowell was a hard throwin' left who played primarily for the Indians during his 15 year major league career, and was all of but 18 years old when he made his debut (he was actually a week from his 19th birthday). By 1964 he had become a workhorse on the Cleveland staff, logging in more than 200 innings in six of seven seasons between 1965 and 1971- including a league high 305 IP in 1970. That same year, Sam led the A.L. in strikeouts for the fifth and final time, falling 11 short of his career best for a single season. Not only was McDowell known as a workhorse who could rack up the K's, he was also quite wild. From 1965-1971, Sam led the league in walks in five of those six years, as well as in wild pitches in three of those same seasons. High strikeout totals and walks will result in high pitch counts, and by the end of the 1971 season, he had thrown over 200 pitches in a game 5 times during his career. The year this card was released was the last year that McDowell would spend in the Indian organization, as he was traded to San Francisco in '72 for HOF'er Gaylord Perry. The trade did not turn out well for the Giants- McDowell's last decent year was 1971, and his days in the majors were just about numbered. By the time he retired in 1975, McDowell actually had some pretty good numbers with a 3.17 ERA, and yet only had 7 more wins than loses; he also finished with 2453 strikeouts in 2492.1 innings while also walking 1312 batters. And, like the Malone character on Cheers, McDowell lost almost everything he had after his playing days were over. Later, upon his sobriety, Sam was able to find redemption-gaining a degree, a new career in baseball, and a new marriage.