Joe Rudi 1982 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 24, 2017

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Ahhh 1982 Fleer!

I’ve brought up 1982 Fleer before but MAN, it is one strange series of cards. They were new at the game and I guess did not learn some of the basics of baseball card picture taking.

Did the editor look at the pictures of Joe Rudi and say “I need something that makes him look OLDER and more exhausted! Don’t you have some pic that shows him as a sweating senior citizen?”

There are three kind of pics that usually were stand bys for baseball cards.

1. THE POSE. That is the player pretending to swing, pitch or field their position, usually done on the sidelines before a game.

2. THE PORTRAIT. That is the full face shot, often times a distinguished look.

3. THE ACTION SHOT. Taken during the game, showing the player doing what he does best.

Take a good long look at this pic. How is it ANYTHING other than “Private Investigator hiding behind a tree snapping a picture of the person they are shadowing?”

It is taken from a distance, like all of 1982 Fleer slightly out of focus (because of the printing) and unclear what is happening.

It is not during a game, as Fenway Park is empty behind him. He looks like he finished a windsprint. He was a veteran clinging to the end of his career at the time, but he wasn’t a senior citizen. He was 34. But his hair is a mess (where is his cap?) Plus with the harsh light on the top of his head, it makes his entire head of hair look gray. He looks like he is in his 50’s.

Remember, they CHOSE this picture. There were others they rejected and they took one look at this picture, grabbed the grease pencil and circled it. “Ahhh! I think we got it!”

This card shows Joe Rudi’s lone injury filled season with Boston. He almost came to Boston earlier. Instead he was caught in the cross hairs of Charlie Finley’s war with Bowie Kuhn.

Picked by the Kansas City A’s from Downey California, Rudi made his debut in 1967 and moved with the club to Oakland in 1968.

Along with Bert Campaneris, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, he was part of a solid foundation of players emerging from the strange team in the East Bay.

As Charlie Finley experimented with team colors, orange baseballs, mules on the field and switching managers every season, Rudi went back and forth between the majors and the minors in 1968 and 1969 before establishing himself in 1970 with a .309 average, 11 homers in 375 plate appearances and solid defense.

By 1971, the A’s were in the playoffs as Reggie Jackson and Vida Blue became the flamboyant headline grabbing superstars. Rudi and Sal Bando became the steady leaders. Rudi led the American League with 181 hits and 9 triples in 1972. He also batted .305 with 19 homers and finished second to Dick Allen for the AL MVP.

The A’s won the pennant over Detroit in a wild ALCS. His role gained importance with the injury to slugger Reggie Jackson. Rudi needed to produce in order for the A’s to have a shot.

He did get a few key hits but his biggest highlight came in Game 2. Reds infielder Denis Menke hit a drive to left field in the 9th with the A’s up 2-0. It was going to be extra bases and put the tying run in scoring position. Rudi went back and timed his leap perfectly, back to the ball and into the sun. He nearly doubled off Tony Perez at first and the A’s held onto the lead.

They win win the World Series in 7 games in 1972 and again in 1973, where Rudi batted .333 in the series against the Mets.

In 1974, Rudi once again was the AL MVP runner up, finishing second to Jeff Burroughs of Texas. He added another All Star Game appearance and a Gold Glove to his trophy case. He led the AL with 39 doubled, clubbed 22 homers, drove in a career high 99 and posted an OPS of .818.

In the World Series against Los Angeles, he hit a key homer in the fifth game that put the A’s up for good. They won 3 in a row and Rudi was as big a reason for that run as anyone.

Of course not all was well in Oakland. Contract squabbles and discontent with Finley made the clubhouse toxic. First Dick Williams resigned. Then Catfish Hunter’s contract was voided and he joined the Yankees.

Next, with the specter of free agency looming, Finley tried to cut it off at the pass. He traded Reggie Jackson to the Orioles before the 1976 season. During the 1976 season, he sold Vida Blue’s contract to the Yankees and sold the contracts to Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to Boston.

Rudi and Fingers were issued uniforms and waited in the clubhouse to play for the defending AL Champion Red Sox. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the nemesis for Charlie Finley, voided the deals. He did not want teams dumping star players for cash.

Kuhn overstepped his boundaries but he had the power to do so. Rudi was sent back to Oakland and his time with the Red Sox would have to wait.

After the season, there was an exodus of stars leaving Oakland. Rudi landed with the California Angels. He still had good home run power but injuries took their toll. He did not play in the 1979 playoffs as he was sidelined.

After the 1980 season, he was traded to the Red Sox with Frank Tanana in the deal involving Fred Lynn. Any hope that Rudi could fill Lynn’s shoes were dashed as he only played 49 games in 1981 (and by the look of the picture, those 49 games exhausted him.)

He returned to Oakland in 1982 for one last season and homered in his final at bat.

Rudi remains a fan favorite in Oakland, bringing back memories of the first team to bring a major professional sports title to the San Francisco Bay Area.

He might have left a mark in Boston had Bowie Kuhn let the 1976 deal go through.

Either way, Red Sox fans will have to make due with an injury plagued season 5 years later and this out of focus card showing a senior citizen.

Sully Baseball Podcast – The Cubs Team That Should Have Won – September 23, 2017

 

I believe some people want to know which Cubs team is the team that should have won.

Well, I have given it some thought and I think the ideal Cubs title year might not be the one you are thinking of.

Killing Billy Goats on this Bonus Episode of Sully Baseball.

While we are at it, enjoy the In Memoriam video.

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Lyman Bostock 1978 Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 23, 2017

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Few figures in the history of baseball were as tragic as Lyman Bostock. He had a wonderful budding career that was cut short. And the reasons for his untimely death had nothing to do with bad choices, excess or even bad health. It was horrible timing.

I remember getting this 3-D Kellogg’s card of Lyman Bostock in 1978. The uniform he had on was a member of the Twins. But the team he was listed as playing with on the back was the California Angels.

In the infancy of free agency, Bostock signed the Angels. After the 1978 season, I never saw another Lyman Bostock card. I didn’t know what had happened. Perhaps it is best I didn’t learn until later.

Bostock was the son of a former Negro League star but he was estranged to his dad. He felt like his father abandoned his family and he was going to be a better man.

By all accounts he was. The Twins drafted him out of Cal State Northridge in 1972. He was a left handed hitting fleet foot centerfielder who could hit. He shot up through the Twins farm system, batting .313 in Double A and .333 in Triple A. After hitting .391 in 22 games at Triple A in 1975, he got the call to Minnesota.

He scored 3 runs in his first game and got 3 hits and a walk in his third game.

On July 28, 1975 in a game against the Kansas City Royals, Bostock got 4 hits, including a pair of doubles, scored 3, and drove in the winning run with a walk off single in the bottom of the ninth.

He was a big leaguer. In 1976, he was an elite hitter. He batted .332 with an OPS of .812 in the first half of the season. Down the stretch, he found himself in a four way battle for the batting title with teammate Rod Carew and a Kansas City duo of Hal McRae and George Brett. He batted .326 in September but came up short. Carew, McRae and Brett all finished within 2 points of each other with Brett barely winning.

Carew said later that Bostock wanted to win the batting title more than he did. The next year, Carew won the AL MVP but his teammate Bostock helped protect him in the lineup.

He played 153 games for the Twins and batted .336 with an OPS of .897. His 12 triples and 14 homers helped his slugging percentage climb to .508 and he added 16 stolen bases to the arsenal. His average was second only to Carew and he found himself in the top ten of on base, runs scored, total bases, doubles, triples, runs created, times on base and, although nobody knew it then, WAR.

Because free agency was different then, Bostock was able to test the waters despite only having 2 1/2 years of service time. Gene Autry, whose aggressiveness in early free agency was underrated, signed him to a multi year deal to join the California Angels.

Bostock became a rich man and right away donated money to build a Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama. That was evidently the kind of man he was.

Another sign of what kind of man he was was evident when he started playing in California. He got off to a horrible slump. What did he do? He tried to give his salary back for the month, claiming he didn’t earn it.

When Mr. Autry refused, Bostock donated his month’s salary to charity. Think about what kind of man does that. A great hitter and a solid man off the field? Evidently so.

He rebounded. After hitting .147 in April and .261 in May, he hit a whopping .404 in June with an OPS of .890 despite hitting no homers.

The second half of the year he batted .309 with an OPS of .789 to pull of a respectable 1978.

On September 23, 1978, the Angels played the White Sox. After the game, he had dinner at a relative’s home in near by Gary Indiana. After dinner, he got into a car with his uncle and two acquaintances. Bostock was in the rear passenger seat.

Unbeknownst to him, one of the women in the car whom Bostock barely knew, had an estranged husband who was obsessed with her infidelity. When the car stopped at an intersection, the former husband pulled up along side the car and blasted a shotgun at it.

The blast hit Bostock in the head and he was pronounced dead two hours later.

Leonard Smith, the man who shot at the car, was found not guilty for reasons of insanity and served less than two years in a psychiatric hospital.

Amazingly, the Angels played the day after the shooting. They won behind Nolan Ryan’s pitching. The season was over a week later.

Bostock’s former teammate and friendly batting title rival Rod Carew arrived in 1979.

What could his career have been? How many batting titles would he have won in California, a team that turned the corner the very next year? How much would the fabric of baseball have been improved if a potential batting champion who had a big heart and his priorities straight was able to fulfill his potential rather than be a tragic career cut short?

We will never know of course, which makes his tragedy even greater.