First of all, before I write 500-1000 words about Felix Jose and his career and give him the due he deserves, let me digress and say how much I HATE it when Topps cards tried to get cute.
I am sure that working for Topps and designing stuff would get tedious from time to time. Same thing, year after year, can get boring.
And maybe I am going to sound like an old fart but baseball cards are supposed to be vertical, NOT horizontal.
Look, baseball cards don’t exist in vacuums. They are supposed to be in piles, or arranged in groups. And if you are lining up cards they should be going the same way. SORRY THAT IS SO DULL FOR YOU, TOPPS DESIGNERS!!!
Ok, I am getting worked up.
Living in the Bay Area during the late 1980’s, I heard a lot of about Giants and A’s prospects who were going to make the best teams in baseball even better.
Felix Jose’s name kept coming up over and over again. Now remember the A’s had a Jose. He was a large guy, very large guy, named Canseco. The A’s also had, dare I say it, a solid outfield when they won the 1988 pennant with Luis Polonia, Stan Javier, Dave Parker, Tony Phillips, Dave Henderson and Jose Canseco all starting games in the post season.
But there was also a 23 year old kid who hit .317 in AAA Tacoma and hit for power and had good speed. Felix Jose was a Domincan of Haitian descent who made up for some poor seasons in Single A with a stroke that found itself in Double A.
He earned call ups in 1988 and 1989, thus earning a World Series ring the second year, but could not crack the crowded outfield. That task got even more daunting when the A’s shipped off Luis Polonia and two others to bring in Rickey Henderson. Now there was no room at the inn.
In 1990, a series of injuries, especially to Dave Henderson, plus the defection of Dave Parker leaving a hole at DH, gave Felix Jose playing time with the defending World Champs. The 25 year old batted .264 but had disappointing power numbers. The A’s were still in first and doing well with Jose staring 41 games in right, 21 in left and 18 in center.
But at the trade deadline, the A’s decided to go for broke. They traded for Harold Baines to be the DH and Willie McGee to be the starting center fielder. The second trade sent Felix Jose packing to the Cardinals, missing out on the 1990 World Series.
His first season with the Cardinals was a solid one. He batted .322 with an OPS of .837 for the first half of 1991, earning a spot on the NL All Star team. Cardinals fans felt they got a steal, especially with McGee leaving the A’s via free agency. His numbers dipped the second half but he was still a .305 hitter with 20 steals by the end of the year.
1992 saw him again put up a good average (.295), steal a lot (28 bags stolen) and hit a career high 14 homers. But after the season he was traded to Kansas City for Gregg Jefferies.
He stole a career high 31 bases in 1993 and was having one of the best years of his career in 1994 with the Royals when the strike hit.
His career became unstable after the strike. He only played 9 games for Kansas City in 1995. He played in the Cubs, Red Sox and Blue Jays system in 1996 but couldn’t crack the big league roster.
In 1997 and 1998 he played for three different teams in the Mexican league. In 1998, he was in independent ball in New Hampshire. In 1999, he was playing in Korea.
His next big league appearance came in 2000 when he played 20 games with the Yankees. That made him a three decade player and earned him his second World Series ring.
After another year in Korea, he played briefly for the 2002 and 2003 Arizona Diamondbacks, prompting me to stop in the middle of a game once and say “Wait, is that Felix Jose??? The same guy?”
Indeed it was. He kept playing until 2009, narrowly missing being a 4 decade pro as he went between Mexico, Korea and Independent ball. Of course he was linked to PEDs towards the end of his career. (Who could have guessed that? Coming up in a club house with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire!)
I love baseball survivors and Felix Jose is one of them. This baseball card honors him. Now please tilt it so it is vertical!