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.