I am always a sucker for listing of prospects. Whenever I see a prospect mentioned, gushed over or forecast to be a star, I totally believe it.
They are a prospect? They are going to be a STAR! MAKE ROOM!
And how many times am I totally wrong? Most of the time.
Topps would list their “Future Stars” or “Promising Prospects” in their packs with three faces of the new budding great players.
Every once in a while, they would get it right. Fernando Valenzuela was a future star for 1981. The next year included Cal Ripken.
Then there is this card for the new faces for the Giants.
First up is Greg Johnston, a 12th round pick from California. He hit for a good average in the minors and had solid stolen base abilities. At age 24, he made a cameo with the 1979 Giants for 42 games and looked ready to be a part of the team on this 1980 card.
But at the end of spring training 1980, his contract was purchased by the Minnesota Twins. He stayed in the minors until mid September when he went 5 for 27 over 14 games.
In 1981, he played 7 games with the Twins and that was it for his big league career. He played a season in Japan before calling it quits after the 1982 season, 2 years after his Future Stardom was predicted.
The next name on the card is the wonderfully named Dennis Littlejohn. Any big burly catcher who shares a name with the larger than life Robin Hood companion is OK by me.
Yet another Southern Californian, Littlejohn was picked in the second phase of the draft out of USC.
He had power and took a lot of walks. Nobody knew how important that was for a catcher in 1976, but he shot through the Giants system anyway. He played a pair of games in 1978 for San Francisco. In 1979, the year that prompted the Future Star Status, Littlejohn split his time evenly between Triple A Phoenix and the parent club at Candlestick.
He slashed .197/.272/.254 for an OPS of .526 in 222 plate appearances. He homered off of Grant Jackson and the eventual World Champion Pirates in a 6-1 Giants win on August 21, 1979.
In 1980, he continued to hit in the minors, batting .320 at Phoenix, but could not translate that to success in San Francisco.
Injuries in 1981 kept him from making the majors and in 1982, like his fellow cardmate Johnston, finished his career outside of MLB, playing 53 games in the Rangers system.
The third name on the card, Phil Nastu, had a terrific name for a pitcher. Nastu was Nasty! I know he didn’t make it in the majors because he was from Bridgeport, Connecticut.
What does that have to do with anything?
Well my parents are from Bridgeport, Connecticut. All of my aunts and uncles are from Bridgeport, Connecticut. If a pitcher from Bassick High School in Bridgeport and who attended the University of Bridgeport, I would have heard about it.
To be fair, the undrafted free agent did an amazing job even getting to the majors. His first full professional season saw his post a 16-4 record and a 2.10 ERA in 1977. The next year saw him shoot to Triple A and a trio of games in San Francisco.
He spent most of 1979 as a 24 year old starter for the Giants, starting 14 times and making 11 relief appearances. He threw a complete game victory against the Astros on May 15th. In the second half of the season, where he was used mainly as a reliever, had several effective outings. This led to his inclusion on this card.
Sadly that was his highlight. He was not on the big league roster save for a September call up in 1980. As with the other two players, he was done with professional baseball after 1982.
Look, I am not making fun of their careers. They all made the major leagues, which is more than I can ever say. I hope their pictures are hanging in their local bar. I hope they never have to buy another drink in their lives.
Future Star? Well, I guess all titles are relative.