The Traded Series for Topps was a highlight of my year when I was at my baseball card collecting peak during high school. Cards would always show a player with the team they played for the previous season. So when a player signed elsewhere or was traded, I found myself not sure which pile I needed to put someone in.
Yeah, they are in a Cubs uniform on this card but they play for the Braves now… should I sort them with the Cubs or the Braves?
So Topps, realizing that lunatics like me would spend more money to sort their cards, would release a “Traded Series.” These cards were in the same style of that season’s set but now the players were with their updated teams. Also the traded series would include players brought up from the minors.
But sometimes the Traded Series would freeze players on teams that they played for ever so briefly.
This card for Ricky Horton on the Chicago White Sox is an example of that.
The lefty reliever was a mainstay in St. Louis. He had a solid rookie year as a 24 year old in 1984, winning 9 games, saving one and even throwing a complete game shutout as a spot starter.
Horton was a part of the 1985 and 1987 National League Champions, building a bridge to Ken Dayley and Todd Worrell.
After the Cardinals heart breaking loss to the Twins in the 1987 World Series (their second crushing World Series loss in a 3 year span), Horton looked expendable as did speedster outfielder Lance Johnson. They were packaged to the White Sox for starting pitcher Jose Deleon.
While Johnson became a solid player for the White Sox, Horton did not fare well on the South Side. He let up more hits than innings pitched. He walked more than he struck out. His ERA ballooned and the White Sox sunk far behind the Canseco/McGwire 1988 A’s.
After years of meaningful baseball in St. Louis, Horton was going through a lost year in Chicago.
Then at the end of August with the post season roster deadline looming, Horton was swapped to the Dodgers for pitcher Shawn Hillegas. Now he found himself back in a pennant race. While he didn’t pitch particularly well that September, he landed on the post season roster as several Dodgers including Fernando Valenzuela were injured.
The Dodgers were heavy underdogs to the Mets in the NLCS, but they won it in 7. Their bullpen depth was tested, especially after closer Jay Howell was suspended after Game 3 for hiding pinetar in his glove. Horton contributed with 4 1/3 shutout innings, including 2 shutout frames in the dramatic Game 4 extra inning win for LA.
He did not pitch in the World Series but picked up the ring he was denied in St. Louis.
Over the next few years he bounced between the Dodgers, the Cardinals and the Brewers organization before eventually returning to St. Louis as a broadcaster.
Here he is preserved forever as a White Sox pitcher, despite only being Chicago for a few months. He wore the cursive C hat that is as forgotten as Horton’s tenure in the South Side.
But he is preserved as a White Sox pitcher in a more significant and timeless way than this blog. In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s daughter is watching a White Sox game. Ricky Horton is the pitcher on the TV. The announcer refers to Horton as a “southpaw” which prompts the little girl to ask “What’s a southpaw?”
Later in the scene, she revealed that Shoeless Joe was on the field.
Did Ricky Horton prompt his fellow former White Sox players out of the corn? Maybe that is a little too Hollywood. Then again, his season ended with Los Angeles and an ending right out of the movies, so who knows?
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