Thursday, August 12, 2010

#8 - George Theodore

This is "The Stork's" first and only card. I like that Topps threw a Met card right after an A's card since they were the Series opponents the previous year. It is quite possible that nobody was more emblematic of the '73 Mets season than George here. At the top of the season the Mets had a set outfield plan with Willie Mays in center and Rusty Staub, John Milner, and Cleon Jones handling the corners. Don Hahn would be backup number one and George here, who made the cut in spring training, would be backup number two. But things went wrong fast and during the season every starter - including Rusty, who kept playing - got hurt and spent time on the DL so both George and Don got more playing time than expected. And George wasn't doing too badly, hitting at a .261 clip and providing some decent defense when on July 7th he and Don had a nasty collision while chasing a fly ball that put The Stork out of commission until mid-September. George dislocated his right hip in that bang-up, which could apparently be heard throughout the stadium, so the two of them were going awfully fast when they hit. Here, on a much calmer day at Shea, he sports what appears to be a wry smile with a member of what might be the Giants behind him. If I am correct about the NY opponent that day, it would most likely be either Bobby Bonds or Chris Speier.

George Theodore grew up in Salt Lake City where he was a pitcher and first baseman in high school and then attended the University of Utah. A deceptively speedy guy, George led his team in stolen bases in both '67 and '68 and his senior year of '69 hit .336 while leading the team with 24 RBI's. He also graduated on time with a degree in psychology and was accepted into the schools MSW (Master of Social Work) program. But George was also drafted by the Mets - in the 31st round! - and decided to see how far he could get in baseball. Initially, it wouldn't be too much past A ball, though he hit well enough to warrant moves up it seemed every year. In '69 he posted a .390 OBA while playing outfield and in '70 and then '71 at the same level he increased his numbers pretty substantially, that last season moving primarily to first base while posting a .411 OBA. In '72 he finally moved up, retaining his new position while posting some decent numbers in Triple A. He then got invited to camp to start the '73 season.

The Stork's injury hit him hard and while he seemed to recover physically, his hitting and running abilities declined pretty substantially thereafter. He returned to NY in '74 but spent his time as either a backup at first or as a pinch hitter, replacing the departed Jim Beauchamp in that latter role. Neither job worked terribly well for George, who hit only .158 in 76 at bats, and in '75 he was moved back to Tidewater. There he returned to the outfield but hit only .253 in under 300 at bats and was released after the season. George finished with an MLB average of .219 and in the minors hit .298 with a .378 OBA. In the post-season he was hitless in two at bats.

Following his release George returned to the University of Utah, reapplied for his MSW and received it by the end of '78. He then had a long career as a guidance counselor and therapist in a local elementary school while also coaching Little League teams.

The back of the card is pretty much all minor league stuff. I think the cartoon captures the Stork's personality pretty well. Marshmallow milkshakes seem pretty scary these days, but he was a thin guy so it was probably OK to be retro-actively non-pc about the diet. He was supposed to be a bit of an oddball and claimed that transcendental meditation helped him hit the curve but was still searching for something to help him with the slider. On his college team was also Bill Parsons, another tall gangly guy in this set. It must have been an interesting looking team.

A good story about George is that when he showed up for his first game with the Mets he was running late and grabbed the first thing he could find before he hit the dugout. He then entered the game only to have the umpire tell him he had to take off his warmup jacket. He complied, revealing what he had on underneath: nothing!

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