Thursday, January 19, 2012

#315 - Ron Cey

Now this is a great card. The Penguin here demonstrates a swing that is all leg power. Practically holding the bat by the knob, Ron's stroke is like a big pendulum. I don't know where this ball landed but if he got all of it, it sure wasn't in the park. It is also a great card to commemorate the start of his career. Before Ron took over third base for LA in '73 the Dodgers hadn't had a regular third baseman put up two full consecutive seasons since Jim Gilliam in '59 and '60. Third was always a mess while the Dodgers were in LA: until Cey 44 guys had been used at that position and in '72 the guys who rotated there combined for 53 errors. So just on defense alone Ron was a huge improvement. Plus he could hit and in '73 his numbers would get him sixth place in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He made the Baseball Digest's and TSN's rookie teams but not Topps' which is pretty surprising. But it was a successful debut and Ron would be an LA fixture for over a decade.

Ron Cey came out of Tacoma where in high school he was a running back, basketball guard, and infielder who was the first guy at his school to earn nine varsity letters (Ahmad Rashad would do it too a few years later). In '66 both the Giants and the Mets took a look at him his senior year: the Giants sent three scouts who didn't like him and the Mets picked him in the 24th round. Instead Ron went to Washington State on a baseball scholarship where the coach there - not Tommy Lasorda - gave him the Penguin handle. After taking his school to the regionals in '68 he was drafted by the Dodgers in the third round and had a great start to his career in A ball. He had another excellent season at that level in '69 and then took time for his military hitch, returning in late '70 to have a comparable season in Double A. In '71 and '72 Ron hit the crap out of the ball at Triple A - the Dodgers moved franchises around in between - and posted a .455 OBA the latter year. After a few games in LA each season he made the roster for good in '73.

Cey hit the ground running in his rookie year and improved from there. In '74 he was named to his first of six consecutive All-Star games as he upped his homer and RBI totals to 18 and 97, respectively. He also got his first post-season work, having a great playoff against the Pirates. In '75 he topped 100 RBIs for the first time. In '76 he missed a few games to injury and his power stats came in and then in '77 he put up huge numbers to open the season: in April he hit .425 with 29 RBI's. Though he cooled off considerably, he hit his lifetime high with 110 RBI's and 30 homers, joining Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith, and Dusty Baker as the first set of four teammates to each hit over 30. He also returned to the playoffs the next two seasons. The next three years he averaged over 26 homers and 81 RBI's. He then hit for his best average -.288 - in the strike year of '81. That season he and baseball got a real scare when in the Series in Game 5 Ron was hit in the head by a Goose Gossage fastball timed at 94 mph. Then just to show his resiliency he won Game 6. After one more season in LA in '82 the Dodgers dismantled the corners of the storied infield, letting Garvey go as a free agent to the Padres and trading Ron to the Cubs for a couple no-names.

In Chicago Cey got off to a horrible start and had to crank the remainder of the season, finishing with a .275 average and 90 RBI's. In '84 his start was just as bad and in late June he was still hitting under .200. But he went on a tear during the stretch drive, hitting .287 with 12 homers and 45 RBI's in the Cubbies final 55 games to help get them their first title since '45. He had the resurgence despite two hand injuries. Those were topped by an elbow injury during the playoffs that killed his hitting and helped contribute to the big upset to the Padres. In '85 the Cubs were a big disappointment and Ron's power numbers took a serious dip. At that point the hand issues were chronic and they severely mitigated his ability to swing the bat. In '86 his average revived but his power didn't and he split starting time with a couple other veterans, Manny Trillo and - coincidentally - Davey Lopes. After that season he was traded to Oakland for whom he mostly DH'd. He was released mid-season after hitting .221 and was done. Ron hit .261 for his career with 316 homers, 1,139 RBI's, and a .354 OBA. In the post-season he also hit .261 with seven homers, 27 RBI's, and a .362 OBA in 45 games. He is still the all-time Dodger leader in homers with 228. He is also tenth all-time with assists at third base.

After playing Cey took off a bunch of years to be a self-proclaimed "Mr. Mom." In '97 he returned to LA and has been with the Dodgers since, doing some coaching but working primarily in media and community relations.

Ron has tons of star bullet potential from his time in the minors and Topps opts for two good ones, one for defense and one for offense. I'm not too sure - sorry - why sure in the cartoon has to be in parentheses but Ron always was a superior defender who didn't get too much credit for it. His assists numbers indicated above should put the damper on that.

In music, 1974 saw two new number ones on this date. In the States, Al Green's latest chart-topper was "Show and Tell." In the UK it was "You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me" by the New Seekers. The Seekers were an Australian/British group that had hit it big by accident a couple years earlier when a song they recorded for a Coca-Cola commercial - "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" - became very popular. The group then dropped all the Coke references and re-released the song as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and the song went gold.

The best way to do this hook-up is through an infield reserve:

1. Cey and Rick Auerbach '74 to '76 Dodgers;
2. Auerbach and Johnny Briggs '71 to '73 Brewers;
3. Briggs was on the '73 Brewers (so was Auerbach but he only had ten at bats).


  1. The picture on the card looks like it was taken at Wrigley Field. I wonder if it was this game? Cey hit a solo homer in the third to account for the Dodgers only run of the game. I wonder if that was the swing?

  2. That card would've looked great with a rookie cup!