Thursday, October 13, 2011

#262 - Ed Kirkpatrick

Ed Kirkpatrick was a fun-loving guy, despite the sneers he employs in his two cards in this set. On his regular card he strikes a pose in Oakland and his position designation is outfield, which was his major role in '73, after Fran Healy returned to take over the starting catcher gig. Ed was also the team's first DH that year (he went 0 for 3 against Nolan Ryan) and did catch a few games. As a Royal he played everywhere but pitcher and shortstop which was ironic given an earlier incident in his career.

Kirkpatrick's Traded card shows a different position, catcher, which is where Topps presumed he would spend the bulk of his time for the Pirates. He actually played more at first base than anywhere else, only catching six games during his stay with Pittsburgh. As for the rest of the card, it's a middling Traded one. The airbrush job isn't terrible although the artist again opts for the yellow hat. Like most of these cards it is tough to place the photo. But he sure looks pissed.

Ed Kirkpatrick came out of Glendora California where he was signed by the Angels in '62. A sought-after kid, he signed to a bonus of $20,000 and hit the ground running. That summer be hit .375 with 12 homers and 69 RBIs in only 216 at bats in D and C ball. He moved up big the following season and hit .326 with 14 homers and 61 RBIs in 307 at bats between Double and Triple A. Exclusively a catcher his first season he began playing the outfield his second year and continued in that position when he began the '64 season up top. Although his numbers there were pretty good - especially for a 19-year old - he was sent down during the season and only hit .216 the rest of the way in Triple A. He had a big rebound year at that level in '65 - .291 with 20 homers and 82 RBIs - where he continued to excel in getting on base (his OBA through then was over .400). One of his few games in the majors that season was against Oakland when Bert Campaneris played all nine positions, a gimmick that teed off some of the Angels. When Campy was catching Ed was chugging home attempting to score when Dick Green threw Bert the ball. Expecting a slide, Campy was surprised and injured when instead Ed barreled into him, dislocating Bert's shoulder, and initiating a brawl (he was also out). Ed then spent all of '66 up top but his light average had him back in Triple A in '67. After another season with the Angels outfield in '68 he was traded to the expansion Royals with Dennis Paepke for Hoyt Wilhelm. The guy that sponsor's Ed's baseball-reference page has an excellent article about his time with the Angels to which I have linked here.

Kirkpatrick had a much better go of it in KC. Although he continued to move around - mostly between first, all outfield spots, and catcher - and technically wasn't a regular, he got lots of starting time and put up some nice offensive numbers for a reserve guy. In '69 he led the team in homers and in '70 led AL catchers in RBIs. '71 was an off year but he rallied in '72 when he was the first string catcher and in '73 when he was used most often in right field. His .386 average early in the season was one of the big reasons they made a mid-season run at the division and he was still north of .300 at the end of June. After the trade Ed did his thing for the Pirates getting a decent amount of at bats in '74 while posting similar numbers to his '73 ones - six homers and 38 RBI's in 271 at bats - and while he lost a few points from his average, put up his best MLB OBA of .369. The next two seasons he saw less action as a reserve to Willie Stargell at first as his offense contracted a bit. He did get some post-season work his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. In '77 he moved around team-wise, going to the Rangers in June for Jim Fregosi, a former teammate with the Angels, and in August to the Brewers for Gorman Thomas (that's weird). At all three stops he was mostly a pinch hitter or DH. He was released in spring training of '78, signed with the Angels, and hit .325 as a catcher and first baseman for their Triple A club. He then retired. Ed hit .238 for his career up top with 85 homers and 424 RBIs. He went hitless in eleven at bats with a couple walks in the post-season.

After playing, Kirkpatrick got a gig as a sales rep for Rawlings which he did until he retired. In '81 he was involved in a car accident from which he suffered a blood clot in his brain. The clot caused him to enter a five month coma and when he awoke he was paralyzed from the waist down. He passed away at age 66 in November 2010 after a lengthy battle with throat cancer. He had returned to Glendora where the town has named an award after him given annually to a person for youth-based community service.

That was some couple of days in '69. Four of those hits were homers, the first being an inside-the-parker. He also had nine RBIs in those two days in which he combined for a cycle. That must have been fun. This post misses Ed's birthday by only a couple days.

The back of the Traded card gives Ed's nickname and the cast of characters involved in the trade, all of whom had Traded cards that year. Mike Ryan would actually get the most back-up catcher work for the Pirates in '74.

Again, these guys missed being teammates by a few years:

1. Kirkpatrick and Ellie Rodriguez '69 to '70 Royals;
2. Rodriguez and Jerry Bell '71 to '73 Brewers.

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