Thursday, January 20, 2011

#84 - Rick Wise

There is a lot to say about this card. First of all, it nicely ends the recent streak of slanted cards. But now things get tricky: didn't we just see a Boston card? And why does Rick look perplexed? And why is he at Candlestick an NL field? The answer to all these questions is related. Rick Wise is actually wearing a Cards uniform here and has been airbrushed - pretty nicely I think - into a Red Sox hat. Therefore Topps did not purposely put two Sox in a row; it just turned out that way after the airbrushing. So then why didn't Rick get a Traded card, especially since his trade was pretty meaningful? The deal with the Traded cards is this: as Topps went through their photos for the '74 cards, they realized that an inordinately large amount of players went to new teams. As a response - and to make more money - they decided to issue the Traded set as a late season add-on. But they didn't make that decision until December or so and the earlier traded players had already gone to print. So for most trades that occurred before December '73 - Rick's here took place in October - those players just have the regular airbrushed cards. For guys traded in December or later, they got the Traded cards. But there will be exceptions.

But back to Mr. Wise. He had some nice moments in '73, the best which was probably being named the starting - and winning - pitcher in the All-Star game. He went 8 1/3 innings of no-hit ball against Cincinnati in a June game (next post subject Joe Morgan broke up that non-no with a single). And while he would cool off a bit after his 11-3 start to the season, his full year was still a nice counter to the one posted by the guy for whom he was traded a couple years earlier. So despite his concerned look, it was a pretty good year for Mr. Wise.

Rick Wise was signed by the Phillies in '63 out of high school in Portland, Oregon. As a kid he had played in the Little league World Series. In '63 he pitched for Bakersfield, a Single A team in the California League and at only 17 went 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA. Here things get blurry. I have read that Rick was a Bonus Baby which is why he went up to the Phillies in '64 but unless the rules were changed, he would not have been allowed to play minor league ball in '63. At any rate he DID pitch in Philly that second season and did OK enough in a spot role to be around for the famous big fade. He then went down to Triple A for all of '65 where his numbers weren't so hot 8-16 with a 4.45 ERA - and started there in '66, posted much-improved stats, and then came back up top for good. He had a pretty good arsenal of pitches - two fastballs, a slider, and a curve - and moved into the rotation by the end of the '66 season. He would move back and forth the next few seasons between good years and not great ones - in the odd years from '67 to '70 he was a combined 26-24 with a 3.25 ERA; in the even years he was 22-29 with an ERA of 4.34 But then in  '71 he went 17-14 with a 2.88 ERA and took a spot in his first All-Star game. It was also the year he pitched the no-hitter (more on that on the back). When contract talks came up after that season, Rick wanted a bit more than what management was offering. There was another guy in St. Louis in the same situation (both pitchers were asking for $65,000). When neither would yield they were traded for each other. Thus one of Wise's more dubious honors is being traded one-up for Steve Carlton.

While Wise pitched well enough for the Cards, Cartlton of course became the HOF guy. '72 was what Rick would later recall as his best season. He went 16-16 with a 3.11 ERA, but he had 13 one-run losses and got zero saves from his bullpen in any of his starts that year (I find that stat amazing). In '73 Sparky Anderson named Rick to start the All-Star game (Sparky loved Wise and said he would win 20 for Boston; he was almost right). In October '73 Rick and Bernie Carbo went to Boston for Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum. Three of those four are airbrushed in this set. '74 ended up being a wash because Rick got hurt, but in '75 he won 19 for the pennant winners. He had a good AL playoff then got bombed in his first Series start. He did, however, get the win in relief in the Carlton Fisk home run game. Two more decent seasons in Boston followed during which he went 25-16 but that second year he missed some more time and his ERA got toppy. Following the '77 season he went to Cleveland in the big trade that brought Dennis Eckersley to the Sox (the second HOF guy for whom he was traded). Rick lost 19 for the Tribe in '78, leading the league, but came back to win 15 for them in '79 with a much better ERA. He then turned free agent and signed with the Padres. He pitched well enough for those guys the next couple years but only got a decision in about half his starts, while going a combined 12-16. He was released early in '82 and was done. He went 188-181 with a 3.69 ERA, 138 complete games, and 30 shutouts which would be really high today. In that '75 post-season he was 2-0 with a 4.97 ERA in his three games. He also hit well: a .195 average with 15 homers and 66 RBIs.

Following baseball, Wise took the summer of '82 off to spend time with his family since his San Diego contract paid him through '84. Things went quickly south after that as it became apparent that Rick's agent, a guy named LaRue Harcourt, made some terrible investments on his behalf and in a few years would lose all the money Rick had saved from baseball, roughly $3 million. Rick and his family would lose their home and a bunch of other possessions, owe a chunk of change to the IRS, and both he and his wife would need to return to work. For Rick that meant back to baseball and beginning in '85 he had a long run as a pitching coach for various MLB organizations - Oakland, Boston, and Milwaukee among others - as well as semi-pro and independent teams. After a four-year run with Lancaster, an independent franchise for which he was also a manager, Rick retired in 2008.

The star bullets focus on Rick's hitting as much as his pitching, but he continues to be the only pitcher to do the first and nobody has topped the second. He also pitched a game in which he retired 32 straight batters. Rick returned to school after playing to finish his degree and for a short time dabbled in restaurants.

I am going to use the same guy to link these two:

2. Wise and Lou Brock '72 to '73 Cards;
2. Brock and Orlando Cepeda '66 to '68 Cards.

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