Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#431 - Gene Garber

As far as I can tell, this is Gene Garber’s rookie card. Up until ’73 Gene had a sort of hit (minors) and miss (majors) career until a couple 14-win seasons prompted a trade prior to the season to KC. For the Royals he played a bit of a swing role, getting eight starts and putting up eleven saves to finish behind Doug Bird as the team’s second most effective reliever. But it would be a short relationship with the Royals and the AL. Midway through the ’74 season he would return to the NL and then begin his MLB career in earnest. Here he looks like he's toting some chaw in Oakland. A great action shot would be of him in mid-windup when he would be facing second base before delivering one of his off-speed pitches.

Gene Garber came out of farm country in Elizabethtown, PA, where he lettered in hoops twice and baseball all four years in high school at shortstop and pitcher. His senior year he tossed five one-hitters and struck out 27 in an 11-inning game. He was drafted that spring of '65 by Pittsburgh in a late round and after a couple token innings in Rookie ball finished out the year in A ball. He remained at that level as a starter the next two seasons when he started late each year since he was going to school. He put up a super 1.89 ERA the second season. In ’68 he kept the ERA low in a season split between Double (as a starter) and Triple A (in the pen) and then did the same in ’69, although that year he was in the rotation at both spots. He also finished his degree and made his debut up top that June. He began ’70 in Pittsburgh but after getting roughed up a bit returned to Triple A where things didn’t get much better and he returned to the pen. He also started his military hitch that year. Then in ’71 and ’72 he enjoyed his two 14 victory seasons at Triple A - nearly halving his ERA that second season - and made another stab up top which again didn’t go too swimmingly. After the season he was traded to the Royals for Jim Rooker.

Garber had another rough patch to open the ’74 season in Kansas City and in June he was sold to the Phillies where he began his stint there in Triple A throwing nearly shutout ball in three starts. Then when he returned upsatairs his NL experience would be extremely different, beginning with a 4-0 season with four saves and a 2.06 ERA the rest of the way. Back then the Phillies had a successful bullpen-by-committee thing going and Gene would be an integral part of that most of the rest of the decade. In ’75 he led the NL in games and games finished and his numbers steadily improved – especially his ERA – the next few seasons. He left behind a 33-28 record with a 2.68 ERA and 51 saves in just under five seasons when he was traded in June ’78 to Atlanta for Dick Ruthven when the Phillies needed another starter. For the Braves, Gene became the closer and posted 22 saves the rest of the way his first year. After a mixed year in ’79 – he matched his 25 save total from the year before but his ERA ballooned by two runs and he lost 16 games – he lost the closer role to Rick Camp a couple seasons though his numbers improved in each one. Then in ’82 he was back in and though he had to pitch through a hamstring injury posted maybe his best year: 8-10 with a 2.34 ERA with a team-record 30 saves as the Braves made it to the playoffs. In ’83 he suffered nerve damage in his pitching arm which led to a doubling of his ERA and a drop in his save totals. ‘84 and ’85 continued to be significant discounts to his ’82 season as his arm issues lingered – in ’85 he only had one save despite finishing 31 games – but in ’86 he would recapture the bullpen ace designation as he went 5-5 with 24 saves and a 2.54 ERA. In ’87 he began the year 8-10 with eleven saves but the Braves had two other aging relievers in the wings in Terry Forster and Bruce Sutter so Gene was sent back to KC at the end of August for Terry Bell and did a nice job down the stretch getting eight saves in his 13 outings. After another season in ’88 with the Royals he was done at age 40. Gene went 96-113 with a 3.34 ERA and 218 saves in his career. His post-season stats were a bit of a discount: 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA in seven games.

After playing Garber returned to his home base of Elizabethtown where he expanded his family’s farm to a pretty decent size. For a bunch of years he has been partnering with his sons in raising emus and is very active as an advocate for the medicinal properties of the oils harvested from the birds. He is also active in preserving farmland in his county.

Gene gets a star bullet for his ’72 season, in which he was his league’s pitcher of the year. He may be the first guy in the set whose tour of duty was indicated by Topps as being with the National Guard.

It’s September 11, which means it’s a pretty somber day here in the NYC area. Since music can be soothing, it feels like a good day to catch up on the news in that area. On September 7, 1973 Elton John kicks off his tour supporting his new “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album at the Hollywood Bowl in which he is introduced by Linda Lovelace, the porn actress. On September 8, Marvin Gaye reacquaints himself with the top of the US charts when “Let’s Get It On” goes Number One.

To hook up a pitcher and an outfielder we need an infielder:

1. Garber and Ted Sizemore ’77 Phillies;
2. Sizemore and Matty Alou ’71 to ’73 Cardinals.


  1. Gene was alright in my book. He and fellow Braves pitcher Larry McWilliams stopped Pete Rose's hitting streak in 1978.

  2. Why don't your posts appear on people's sidebars until a week after your post date?

    1. I used to pre-write the posts and set the time up so they'd post one per day for when I went away, etc. Then when I get behind the process continues: one per day outside of weekends. I'll rejigger it so it just posts whenever the actual posts are done. Thanks for reading.

  3. I don't know exactly. But here how I typically review card blogs...I go to the 1973 topps photography site first (it comes up when I type "19" in the address bar) and then go to other links from their. Usually the link from the 1973 site to this site is usually several days behind.