First of all, let me get this out of the way.
Pedro Borbon and Manny Mota were never teammates. The scene in Airplane! when Ted Striker hears the echo in his head and announced “Pinch Hitting for Pedro Borbon… Manny Mota… Mota… Mota.” is hilarious but not 100% accurate.
Borbon was a famous reliever, Mota was a famous pinch hitter, the joke worked.
For years, I was trying to figure out when they were teammates… because as we all know, Airplane! was best known for its historical accuracy.
I can’t lie to you. I was a little disappointed when I found out they were never teammates.
Borbon was a Domincan player before the huge wave of Domincans came over to the US. He bounced between the Cardinals and Angels organization and made his big league debut in 1969 with California. Then a trade with Cincinnati brought him to glory.
OK, maybe not right away. He bounced between the minors and the majors in 1970 and 1971. But Cincinnati was building something special and manager Sparky Anderson was aiming to use his bullpen creatively and effectively. In 1972, the right handed Borbon became part of the pen.
Borbon was a workhorse, throwing at least 121 innings every year from 1972 to 1977. In that time, he only made 3 starts. He didn’t walk many and gave Sparky Anderson plenty of flexibility in his relief corps.
And man he loved playing for the Reds. When he fought with the Mets during the 1973 NLCS, he put a Mets cap on by mistake after a brawl. Seeing his error, he tore the hat to shreds like a mad man.
In the 1975 NLCS, he threw a 1-2-3 tenth inning that clinched the pennant and sent the Reds to the World Series. The won the 1975 and 1976 title and when Tom Seaver arrived in 1977, the good times seemed to be promised forever. But the Reds missed the playoffs in 1977 and after 1978, Pete Rose and Sparky Anderson were both gone.
The Reds contended in 1979 but midway through the year, Borbon was struggling. He was traded to San Francisco, in time to be printed for this Topps card. A furious Borbon supposedly placed a hex on the Reds, saying they won’t win a World Series if anyone from the front office was working there.
As it turned out, the final front office mind was axed just before the Reds won the 1990 World Series.
He had a cameo with the Cardinals in 1980 but then played his final game. His son, Pedro Jr., made a name for himself in the majors, saving a game in the 1995 World Series.
Borbon passed away in 2012, a beloved Red to the end… albeit one who never played with Manny Mota.