I am so glad that Moose Stubing has an official Topps baseball card. He earned it.
Oh on the surface, it doesn’t look like he did anything positive on the big league level, neither as a player or as a manager.
All he did was live a baseball life for decades only to have just a pair of fleeting tastes of the highest level of competition.
That was worth a Topps card. Even one where he is wearing a strange mesh cap and not a game used Angels hat.
First of all, he was named Moose. OK, that isn’t the name on his birth certificate. That reads Lawrence George Stubing. Somewhere between entering the world in 1938 and the printing of this Topps Card, he was called Moose.
Moose is an underrated nickname. A Moose is big, but not fat. Intimidating but not deadly. Linked to nature but not necessarily cute and cuddly. They take their time getting where they need to go, but don’t mess with them because their antlers don’t tickle.
Not sure which of those qualities Moose Stubing had. But they were enough for a kid from the Bronx and White Plains, New York to play professional ball.
In 1956, the 18 year old Stubing played at Brunswick for the Pirates organization. The next year he was playing for the New York Giants farm club in Selma, Alabama. he batted .296 with 12 homers and 18 stolen bases. But any hope for him playing in New York for the Giants were dashed as the team moved to San Francisco after 1957.
Between 1958 and 1964, the left handed hitting first baseman bounced all around the Giants organization, playing in Selma, St. Cloud, Springfield, Rio Grande Valley, Tacoma and El Paso. It seems like the only place he DIDN’T play for the Giants was San Francisco.
The Giants had Orlando Cepeda and then Willie McCovey at first. There was no room for Stubing, even in 1964 when he hit .316 with 35 homers, 120 RBI and an OPS of 1.062.
He moved to the Cardinals organization in 1965 but once again was stuck in the minors.
As he slogged through the 1967 season, now in the Angels organization, he had played 12 seasons for 9 different minor league teams without one single Major League game on his record.
Then on August 14, 1967, he got the call. He was going to be a California Angel.
The Twins, in the thick of the pennant race, were trying to close out a 2-1 game. But a pair of hits and a passed ball put the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Twins reliever Al Worthington came in to face Angels second baseman Bobby Knoop.
Angels manager Bill Rigney rolled the dice and sent up Stubing to make his big league debut. A base hit would be a game winner and a culmination of all the hard work put in at the minor league level.
He struck out. The game was over.
Stubing made 4 more pinch hit appearances that month. He stuck out 4 times in his 5 at bats. The one time he made contact, he grounded out to the pitcher in a game against the eventual AL Champion Red Sox.
He did not appear in a game in September. Stubing played 2 more seasons in the Angels organization but never got another call up. His big league career consisted of 5 pinch hit appearances, no hits, 4 strikeouts. He never played an inning in the field.
If he were to truly make it in the majors, it would be as a manager. Stubing’s playing career ended in 1969. Soon afterwards, he was back in the Angels organization as a scout.
Before long, he was managing minor league teams for the Angels. In 1973, he was the skipper in El Paso. As with his playing days, he bounced around, going from Salinas to the Quad Cities to Salt Lake City. He won minor league titles in El Paso and Edmonton, becoming a fixture in the Angels minor leagues as a manager as much as he was in the Giants minor leagues as a player.
After the 1984 season and a succesfull run with Edmonton, he made it back to the majors. He was going to be on Gene Mauch’s coaching staff with the California Angels. Stubing was there for the 1986 AL West champs who came oh so close to the World Series.
When Mauch’s run ended after the 1987 season, Stubing stayed on with Cookie Rojas as manager. But the Angels faltered in a disappointing 1988 campaign. It was clear a change needed to be made for 1989.
The Angels management fired Rojas with 8 games left. The role of managing the team for the last week or so of the season landed on Stubing.
Stubing worked all of his playing life for shot at the big leagues and got those 5 at bats. Now he worked he way up to major league manager.
The team was mired in a miserable 5-12 stretch and Stubing hoped to end the season on a high note.
His first game, on Friday September 23, Stubing saw his Angels get clobbered by the Twins 7-1.
The second game, he saw the Angels tie the game in the 8th. But he left starter Mike Witt in too long and the Twins won the game in the 9th. They would lose 3 more one run games under his watch.
In all, he managed the final 8 games of the year. The Angels lost all 8 games. The team lost their final 12 games and finished the season 4-19.
Doug Rader was named manager after the season and Stubing stayed on as a coach in 1989 and 1990 before continuing on as a scout in both the Angels and later the Nationals organizations.
He never got a hit as a big leager player. He never played the field. He never won a game as a Major League manager.
Yet he lived a baseball life and one that he can say he reached the highest level of both playing and managing, if only for a moment.
That is not only worth a Topps card but also worth a post on my blog.