Friday, January 26, 2024

I've moved since you last saw me

I know the last thing I need is yet another cardboard obsession, but here I am about to post about a new one.

It began rather morbidly, following the far-too-soon passing of knuckleball legend Tim Wakefield. I knew Wake had started his professional career as a position player, and had a few cards issued as such, but I thought they were unattainable. That is, until I checked Ebay and found a rather fairly-priced regional issue from Wakefield's minor-league days that listed him as a third baseman(!). 

I couldn't hit BUY IT NOW fast enough, and before I knew it, an obsession was born.

That set off a chain of events that led to me wanting to discover other notable names who made odd and/or forgotten position switches early in their careers - and specifically ones that were documented on cardboard.

Like Wakefield, I knew dominant closer Troy Percival began his career as a position player, but I didn't know he had any cards issued as such until this obsession came about. Best I can tell, this is the one and only card of his lone season as a catcher in the Angels' system, and I was thrilled to snag a copy for a song recently.

As is the case with most of the dudes you'll see here, Percival probably had the right idea in switching positions since he hit a whopping .203 in Low-A ball in 1990.

Guillermo Mota is a trademark Dime Box Favorite - but he's unlike Wakefield and Percival given that I had absolutely no clue he started his career as an infielder in the Mets organization.

Switching positions isn't that uncommon of a tale - Kenley Jansen and Trevor Hoffman are a few others who come to mind that I don't yet own cards of as position players (though I have a bead on a minor-league Hoffman) - but seeing it on baseball cards kinda causes my brain to short out (in a good way!).

Sean Doolittle is another collection favorite who made the switch - an injury caused him to try his hand at pitching after a few middling years as a position player in the A's system.

I'd say it worked out well for him, given that Doolittle just retired following a fine 11-year career as a dominant closer.

But these shifts go farther than the position-player-to-pitcher phenomenon I've shown thus far.

Catchers are known to switch positions at various points in their career - the body can only take so much wear and tear - but I'm particularly fascinated by the guys like Dale Murphy who gave up catching earlier rather than later.

I've never seen a card that actually depicts Murphy as a catcher - he caught sparsely in his first few seasons with the Braves - but look closely and you'll find that weird "C-1B" designation on his early cards.

Recent memory may recall that Bryce Harper was drafted as a catcher, though I think it was always a given that he'd find stardom elsewhere on the diamond.

From what I understand, though, HOFer Jimmie Foxx was thought to be a legitimate catching prospect, so much so that his earlier cards show him in the tools of ignorance (this is obviously a reprint). A good amount of the earlier photos of Double-X on baseball cards show him as a backstop.

Foxx was never a regular catcher, but he did catch more often than I knew before I wrote this post - he was appearing in a game or two at catcher as late as 1944.

As I so often say, baseball cards are fun, but they can also be educational - I didn't know Stan Musial was signed as a pitcher until I unearthed this Pro Debut insert from a few years back.

Musial had a few successes on the mound - he actually won 18 games in Class-D ball 1940, his final season as a pitcher - but he obviously never would've become the "Stan the Man" we know and love had he stayed on the bump.

Of course, no discussion of this ilk is complete without mentioning The Great Bambino, a guy who gave up a career as a world-class pitcher to become an equally world-class slugger.

I love (and want) all Babe Ruth cards, but ones that show him during his earlier Red Sox pitching days are still ever-so extra special to me. They're a great reminder of how strange the trajectory of certain baseball careers can be. But Ruth is obviously the rarity in this field - most position switches, like the Wakefields and Percivals of the world, are born out of dubiousness or downright failure.

So I guess if you're wrestling with the Mendoza Line in the low minors, perhaps your destiny lies elsewhere on the diamond.


The Angels In Order said...

Okay, was unaware of that Percival card. Very cool to see him as a catcher.

Mike said...

Wow,Stan The Man was a pitcher!? News to me,too! This is a great mini-collection!

Metallattorney said...

Kenley Jansen also started as a catcher.

Jimmie Foxx was actually Boston's regular catcher from July 31 to September 12 in 1940.

night owl said...

Tim Wakefield missed playing the infield in my town by one year as the Welland Pirates were the Watertown Pirates in 1988. However, I think I might be able to uncover a photograph of Wakefield some long-ago photographer at our paper took. If I ever find it, I'll show it on the blog.

Jeremya1um said...

Does Isaiah Kiner-Falefa count? I think he came up as a catcher, played 3b and ss with Texas, and the Yankees had him as an outfielder. Biggio and Chipper Jones played 2b and 3b respectively, and spent time in the of later in their careers. Bat-hugging darling Oscar Azocar spent time as a pitcher, so there’s a couple guys you might add to the new collection. Had no idea about Percival.

Elliptical Man said...

Carlos Delgado was a catcher.

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Too add to the Owls comments about Chipper, he was originally a short stop. As for Murphy, I seen a few games with him behind the plate not many, mostly he was in the outfield, back then he was the only super star on the Braves season to season for a longtime. Briefly interrupted with Bob Horner and Gary Matthews. The 80's were rough on Atlanta fans. Nice mini collection you have started.

Derek said...

Ed Sprague was as well before him!

sg488 said...

1969 Bobby Darwin Dodgers pitcher,1973 he is a Twins outfielder.

Mark Zentkovich said...


Brett Alan said...

I remember I had a book about baseball as a kid, one of those Scholastic baseball stories books I think, which talked about Musial being a pitcher who occasionally played outfield until an injury forced him to give up pitching.

When the Mets briefly had Mychal Givens in the bullpen I bought at least one early card of him when he was an infielder. I also have one or two John Olerud rookie cards which list him as P-OF as he played both in college.

Fuji said...

Cool collection. Doolittle was the first guy to pop into my head. Rick Ankiel was the other.

DaddyMike said...

Kyle Schwarber as C
Sean Doolittle as 1B

GTT said...

Don't forget Mel Queen.

Bo said...

Great idea for a mini collection. I'll check my minor league cards, see what I might have for you. Maybe a few position changes in there.

Michael D said...

If things work out, you might get to add Charlie Culberson to your mini-collection. He's switching to try and make it as a pitcher.

Matt said...

Great post! Any post that leads off with Red Sox fan favorite Tim Wakefield and contains an actual UVa Cavalier card (Doolittle) is going to make me happy! This is a very cool mini-collection!

Jafronius said...

Fun post!

Anonymous said...

Seems like the best thing that could come out of this is for you to name the scammer, so that the rest of us can steer clear of him.

For some reason, you have chosen not to reveal his name, providing a cover of anonymity for him, so that he can continue to scam others.