Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#457 - Chuck Goggin

Two rookie cards in a row! I do believe this is the first occurrence of that in this set and this event is a bit deflated by the fact that it is also Chuck Goggin’s final card. In terms of MLB service that makes him a pretty definitive counterpoint to the Dave Winfield card. Chuck looks like he’s got the sun in his eyes at Shea but the sun shining on Chuck was pretty rare during his baseball career. Between injuries and military time the odds were pretty stacked against him getting a card at all. ’73 would be his only significant season up top as an early-season sale took him from Pittsburgh to Atlanta where he led the bench players – called “F-Troop” in the press – as Davey Johnson’s back-up at second. Chuck did pretty well in his limited time, too, as he put up a .289 average. But everything about him seems pretty prosaic until one does some digging. Then he gets pretty interesting.

Chuck Goggin came out of Pompano Beach, Florida, where he was a schoolboy baseball star and then attended Broward Community College to play ball. But he was signed by the Dodgers before he had a chance to play and that summer of '64 hit about .215 while playing for two A League teams in a season marred by some serious damage to his knee while sliding. The next year at the same level he hit much better with a relatively healthy knee. But the injury would return to haunt him: later that season when he and a few teammates – one of whom was Don Sutton – went to enlist – voluntary enlistment back then got lots of ballplayers stateside duty instead of overseas – Chuck failed his physical because of his knee. But then someone changed his status to 1-A and so he was drafted into the Marines, following his dad and uncle who were both pilots, and sent to Viet Nam after a few months of training in ’66. Over there he was an artillery guy and later in ’67 he stepped on a land mine. While he escaped crippling injuries he did get some shrapnel embedded that required operations and lots of recuperating time. Still, Chuck was a gamer and when he returned he got moved up to Double A where he split time between all infield positions but first and had his best year on the basepaths with 14 steals. Then in the late fall Instructional League he met Tommy Lasorda who turned him into a switch-hitter. The results were pretty dramatic the next year when at Triple A Chuck kicked off the season hitting .318 with some decent power. But then everything collapsed when he got a nasty ankle injury. While he was recuperating from that the Dodgers sent him to Pittsburgh for future HOF pitcher Jim Bunning.

With the Pirates Goggin had a crappy IL performance in the autumn of ’69, mostly due to the effects of the injury. In ’70 in Triple A between still coming back and his now institutionalized designation as utility player he didn’t get a whole lot of at bats. But he did put in a few games at catcher and in spring training of ’71 he offered to go back down a level if he could be the starting catcher – the Pirates had no real prospects at the Double A level at that position – and while his work defensively was serviceable he shined offensively, hitting so well at .311 hat he got moved back to Triple A mid-season and continued his torrid hitting there. In ’72 he remained at Charleston where he had another nice offensive year and returned to second base. At the end of the season he went up for his debut and got his first two hits in the same game that Roberto Clemente got his final one, his 3,000th (one of Chuck’s prized possessions is a photo of Roberto and him holding the balls from their respective hits). In ’73 after a decent spring he began the season on the Pittsburgh roster but rarely played and was returned to Triple A before he was sold to Atlanta. In ’74 with Davey Johnson moving mostly to first base, Chuck was looking forward to lots more playing time but – of course – got a nasty back injury in spring training. He was sent to Boston for catcher Vic Correll and after a few games as a Sox was sent down to Triple A where he hit .221 as the regular second baseman. By then he was 28, had reduced mobility because of his back, and was acting as a player-coach by the end of the season so he decided to retire as a player. He finished up top with a .293 average in 99 at bats and in the minors hit .262.

Here's Chuck's photo with Roberto:

Goggin coached another season in the minors in ’75 and then in ’76 became a co-manager in the Atlanta system. In ’77 he moved to the Cincinnati one for two seasons and finished in the States with a record of 161-171. He then moved to Mexico where in ’79 he won the Pacific League championship with the Navojoa Mayos, a team whose star outfielder was Ricky Henderson. He then returned to the Nashville area where he had a long career as a US marshal. His name briefly gained some national prominence when his pilot brother James was busted in Florida for transporting bundles of cocaine worth about $16 million. Chuck was still in Nashville when his brother was killed in an airplane accident in 2004. He seems to have fallen off the media radar since then.

Chuck sure has a lot of stat lines for his 98 at bats and his one star bullet regards perhaps his favorite day as a pro. He is one of only two MLB players to have been injured in Viet Nam.

Atlanta’s contribution to the ’76 baseball centennial was very timely for this set and is strongly hinted at in the first few cards of the set. It was Hank Aaron’s 715th home run which broke Babe Ruth’s record. Hank finished ’73 having hit 713 and tied Babe with a homer against Cincinnati. There was lots of drama leading up to the big bash, the nastiest part of it being the hate mail and death threats Hank received. April 8, 1974 was the Atlanta home opener against the Dodgers, who started Al Downing. Al was actually pitching a pretty good game though LA had already made three errors behind him when Hank came up for his second plate appearance – he walked in the second inning – in the fourth. With Darrell Evans on because of one of those errors, Hank tapped a pitch to deep left field that landed in the Atlanta bullpen, which made retrieving the ball a lot easier. The Braves went on to win 7-4.

Given ’73 was Chuck’s only extended stay in the majors, this one may take an extra step:

1. Goggin and Pat Dobson ’73 Braves;
2. Dobson and Clarence Gaston ’70 Padres;
3. Gaston and Dave Winfield ’73 to ’74 Padres.

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