Thursday, April 12, 2018

Short Term Stops: The All-Forgotten Team

For all my complaints about Topps (and other card companies), I will say that they've done a pretty good job of documenting the rich history of baseball.

If Topps failed to depict a certain moment in time, more often than not another company would step in and pick up the slack. The fact that I was able to create a Short Term Stops roster for every big-league team (without having to stretch too often) should speak to that. The reason I can even collect Short Term Stops is because most of them have been depicted on a card at one time or another.

Still, a few gaps have naturally appeared over the years. If I were ever put in charge of Topps, the first thing (and I mean the first thing) I would do is create a special insert set or whatever that fills these holes.

But for now I'm just a mere blogger with a Short Term Stops series, and that's why we'll be looking at those select few under-the-radar stints in baseball history that were never (to my knowledge) depicted on cardboard.


Warren Spahn (1965 Giants, 16 games, half-year stint, sunset season -- image courtesy of Pinterest)

More often than not, Topps has done a fine job in the past of documenting the farewells of even the most mediocre players, so it remains a bit puzzling why someone as big as Warren Spahn was left by the wayside.

After spending the first 20 years of his Hall of Fame career with the Braves, Spahn split his final season between the Mets and Giants in 1965. He was little more than average in his sunset campaign, going a combined 7-16 with a 4.01 ERA with the two clubs.

Spahn's final Topps card shows him as a capless, balding New York Met, and it remains a pity that his even more unfamiliar stint with the Giants has never seen the light of day on cardboard.

Jim Bouton (1969-70 Astros, 45 games & 1978 Braves, 5 games, sunset season -- Astros image courtesy of Bob Lemke)

As you'll soon see, a few players do double duty on this roster by having no cards of multiple stops in their career -- but none of them are quite as egregious as the crickets Jim Bouton received during the later stages of his baseball life.

Though a card of Bouton during his unthinkable comeback as a 39-year-old with the '78 Braves would've been cool (doubly so considering he hadn't pitched in the bigs for eight years), I can understand why Topps chose to leave him out of their '79 checklist. Bouton was only a Brave for five games, after all.

But the fact that no Astros cards exist of Jim Bouton is a crime, plain and simple -- he pitched in 45 games over the course of two seasons in Houston, and the only reason I can think as to why Topps would ignore him is some leftover hostility from his publication of Ball Four.

Fernando Valenzuela (1991 Angels, 2 games)

Unlike Spahn and Bouton, however, it's easy to see why certain stints were lost to baseball card history.

I hold no grudge, for example, over the fact that Fernando Valenzuela has no cards as an Angel. His entire career with the club lasted all of two mid-season starts in 1991. Valenzuela was released by the Angels not long after and spent all of '92 in the Mexican League.

Though an Angels card of Fernando would've been neat in hindsight, it's hard to blame any of the major companies for bypassing this long-forgotten stint.


Tim McCarver (1972 Expos, 77 games, half-year stint)

Sometimes it takes a perfect storm of unfortunate events for a certain stint to be lost to history.

Tim McCarver was traded to the Expos in midseason in 1972, too late for him to receive a card with the club that year. The Expos, in turn, dealt him to the Cardinals just after the end of '72, which meant that Topps had enough time to airbrush him into a Cards jersey for the following year's set (or maybe they just used an old photo of McCarver as a Cardinal, it's hard to tell).

And thus the baseball card world was never blessed with the sight of Tim McCarver as a Montreal Expo.

First Base

Dick Allen (1977 A's, 54 games, sunset season)

The fact that Dick Allen never received a sunset card as an Oakland A pains me for a couple reasons.

One, Allen is among my all-time favorite players, and knowing that I don't own a true final tribute of his is like a knife through the chest. Two, Allen was granted permission to wear "Wampum" on the back of his jersey during his lone season in Oakland in honor of his home town of Wampum, PA. Now how cool would it have been to see that on a baseball card?

Sadly, we'll probably never know.

Second Base

Tony Lazzeri (1939 Giants, 13 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Tony Lazzeri could've been another double-duty player on this roster, as I don't own a card of his stints as either a Dodger (14 games) or a Giant (13 games) in 1939.

But there is a Dodger card of him out there -- from the massive Target Dodgers set, of course -- I just don't own it yet (one day!). I'm fairly certain, however, that nothing of Lazzeri as a Giant exists despite the fact that it's where his Hall of Fame career came to a close.

Understandable, given the brevity of his Giants career, but still a shame.


Bucky Dent (1984 Royals, 11 games, sunset season)

Also lost to history were Bucky Dent's 11 games with the '84 Royals.

Dent spent the majority of the '84 season in the minors with the Yankees before being cut loose and signed by the Royals late in the year. Kansas City brought him up for a brief 11-game trial in August which saw Bucky came to the plate exactly ten times (he went 3-for-9 with a walk and an RBI) before being released at season's end.

Ten at-bats didn't leave much of a chance for Topps, Donruss, or Fleer to snap a shot of Bucky in the Royal blue, which makes this another understandable gap in my Short Term Stops collection.

Third Base

Bill Madlock (1973 Rangers, 21 games)

I do have an unofficial card of Bill Madlock in my Rangers binder, and it's all thanks to Gavin who was nice enough to send me an extra copy of this spiffy custom a while back.

At the time, however, Madlock's 21-game cup of coffee with the '73 Rangers was completely ignored by the major card companies. Madlock would then be dealt to the Cubs the following offseason in a blockbuster deal that sent Fergie Jenkins back to Texas.

While Fergie is still a beloved figure in Chicago, the Cubs got the better of that deal -- Madlock won two batting titles in three seasons here, making his brief career as a Ranger little more than a distant memory.


Dave Kingman (1978 Padres, 56 games & 1978 Angels, 10 games -- quarter-of-a-year stints)

Dave Kingman's 1978 season has become the stuff of legend -- he played for four different teams in that year alone.

It's odd considering that Kingman was still a big slugger at the time of his strange '78 campaign. He has many cards as a Met (where he started the season) and at least one as a Yankee (where he ended it). But his brief sandwich stints with the Padres and Angels have been all but lost to history (save for one of those '70s disc cards which I won't count since Kingman may as well be wearing a trucker's hat there).

Dave Kingman hit 442 homers in his long career, but for me, the fact that he played for four different teams in a single season is a much more impressive feat.

George Foster (1986 White Sox, 15 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Oh how I wish George Foster had a White Sox card.

I like to imagine Foster was one of the final cuts when Topps was plotting out their '87 checklist -- he had, after all, played in 87 games the year before, the final 15 of which were spent with the White Sox after being released by the Mets (the last of his 348 career homers came with the Sox).

It's not exactly egregious that Foster didn't get a place in the following year's sets, but I'm sure you could pick out quite a few far less deserving players who appear in '87 Topps/Donruss/Fleer.

Jose Bautista (2004 Devil Rays, 12 games & 2004 Royals, 13 games -- quarter-of-a-year stints)

Jose Bautista's career trajectory has been downright strange.

Dude pulled a Kingman by playing for four different teams in his rookie season alone (Pirates, Devil Rays, Royals, Orioles), and even after that, his peak seemed to be as a weak-hitting, Quad-A third baseman with the lowly Pirates.

But somehow he came out of all that and became a six-time All-Star with 331 career homers under his belt (including a 54-homer season in 2010) -- but don't let that distract you from the fact that he once played for four teams in a single season, please.

Designated Hitter

Willie McCovey (1976 A's, 11 games, half-year stint)

As I mentioned with Tim McCarver earlier, Willie McCovey's A's career was lost to history due to a perfect storm of bad timing.

The A's purchased McCovey from the Padres in August of 1976, well after he could've ever gotten a card with Oakland in Topps that season. After just 11 games with the A's, he then returned to San Francisco in January of the following year, giving Topps just enough time to sneak him into the '77 set wearing an airbrushed Giants cap.

Poor Willie -- it's a tragedy because he looks pretty darn good in the kelly green, I think.

As usual, thanks for reading -- and because I'm not quite ready to let this theme die, tune in next time for the All-Zero Year Short Term Stops club!


Mike said...

Cool post..with at least half these guys,i was unaware of these short term stops!

defgav said...

Love it and glad this series isn't dead yet! This post would make a good basis for a little custom set! (Though ideally, yeah, Topps would make a "cards than never were"/"unfamiliar uniforms" insert set for flagship or Archives.)

Mark Hoyle said...

Dry cool post. Enjoy these

Adam said...

Nick, this is my favorite series that you do, I'm glad to see you're keeping it going in inventive ways. Also, in reading this post I had absolutely zero clue that Foster was ever with the ChiSox, McCovey was with the A's, and most bizarre, McCarver with the Expos.

Jeremya1um said...

I made a Valenzuela Angels card for the ‘92 Topps set. Wish I would’ve known you were doing this post. I would’ve sent you a copy.

night owl said...


Anonymous said...

Once I realized what the theme of the post was, my first thought was "Oh, like Tim McCarver with the Expos"... and then, lo and behold...

I'll admit, I have a post I've been meaning to finish for something like a year that starts off with me finding out that Tim McCarver was with the Expos. Maybe I should finish that.

I was also about to say "What, no mention of Jose Bautista with the Mets?" but I forgot he was only a Met on paper: The Royals traded him to the Mets and the Mets flipped him to the Pirates.

Brett Alan said...

Team needs a center fielder--substitute the OTHER Met who wrapped up his career with a very brief stint at Comiskey, Cleon Jones.

Although really seeing Foster with the ChiSox is pretty cool. I remember the New York TV sports guy Bill Mazer reporting that Foster was claiming that he was let go for racial reasons, and Mazer pointing out that his replacement, Kevin Mitchell, was also black. That doesn't necessarily prove anything--but the fact that Foster only got into 15 more games kind of settles things.

Fuji said...

Miss this series. Always learned something new. Several new things today... but the one that shocked me the most was seeing Fernando as an Angel. Dick Allen's Wampum jersey was pretty cool too.

Matt Prigge said...

Always love reading these. And I must honorably mention Jim Edmunds, whose half of 2010 in Milwaukee has no cardboard representation.

shoeboxlegends said...

Another great post Nick, happy to hear we have at least one more to enjoy!

Community Gum said...

Amazed at the amount of research and time that must have gone into this amazing post. I learned a lot and was fascinated. Thanks!

Brett Alan said...

Will the Braves and/or the Mets give Bautista even more no-card short term stops?