Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back of the Baseball Card

A common phrase repeated in baseball circles is how one needs only to look at a player's baseball card to see the type of ballplayer that particular individual was when performing on the diamond. This applies to Tim Lincecum. The Giants' brass knows this and may refer to the back of #55's baseball card when it comes time to negotiate a contract to keep the beloved hurler in the city by the bay.

I think baseball cards are fascinating because, as a boy trying to learn something about a game that arrested my interests from any outlet of recreational activities outside my home, this was the beginning to discovering facts about those who played the game well enough to make the big leagues.

I remember how the 1960s had shortstops who were there because of their ability to field the position as nobody ever hit double-digit home runs. And if there was such a player he would be recognized around the league as someone who was changing the game. Every kid would want to get a bat with his name on it because chances are he wasn't as proficient fielding as he was hitting if this shortstop was knocking 10-20 homers in the big leagues.

Shortstops like: Don Kessinger, Bud Harrelson, Bobby Wine, Maury Wills, Hal Lanier, Enzo Hernandez, Gene Alley, Dal Maxvill or Terry Harmon were all punch and judy hitters with respectable gloves. Then in 1969, another shortstop not known for his slugging prowess belts 22 home runs. That player was Campy Campaneris, the former Kansas City-Oakland Athletic. Remember him and that ridiculous nickname Monte Moore attached to him. "Beep, beep, the Roadrunner!" Moore would say again and again. What happened that year?

Then you look around the league and in Boston there was shortstop by the name of Rico Petrocelli who blasted 40 homers that season. He usually hit around 15 homers a year so 40 was a freakish display of power. Was something happening that would change the game forever? Probably not for another 20 years or so (wink, wink) would suspicions ring doubt into the minds of baseball fanatics.

But you could see a trend happening simply by looking on the back of someone's baseball card and noticing how a player would hit 1, 3, 4, 2, or 5 home runs and then all of a sudden 22. (Golly gee Wally, did they eat cans of spinach like Popeye?) Just the sort of thing that captured this boy's imagination into the world of baseball.

It's what got me hooked for life.

Kevin Marquez