Monday, December 3, 2012

#462 - Luis Alvarado

This is the final card of Luis Alvarado. That’s sort of a shame because by ’73 he was toting around one of the fattest afros in the league and his later cards may have rivaled even Oscar Gamble’s coiff-wise. Luis looks like he’s posing pre-game at Yankee Stadium as perhaps Bill Melton takes some fielding practice behind him. Luis had a kicking action shot in ’73 where he looked like he was turning a double play in a parking lot. That year was his last of three consecutive ones with over 200 at bats – all for the ChiSox – as he backed up Jorge Orta at second and served as a bridge to the new guy at short, Bucky Dent. His .232 average in ’73 was the highest he’d put up in the majors but by then everybody knew offense wasn’t his game. Most likely by the time this card came out Luis was on the move: first to St. Louis and then to Cleveland. That itinerancy would characterize the rest of his career until he settled down back in his home base.

Luis Alvarado was born in Lajas, Puerto Rico, where he and his siblings all played ball. Signed by the Red Sox in ’67, he began his career in A ball in Waterloo, Iowa, which must have been a bit of a culture shock. There he exhibited some decent power with eight homers and 43 RBI’s while he led the league in double plays for a shortstop. In ’68 he moved up to Double A where he raised his average 35 points and led his league in hits. He also made his debut that fall in Boston. His big year was ’69 when he moved to Triple A and hit .292 with 30 doubles and 62 RBI’s while leading his league in fielding, winning both the IL’s rookie of the year and mvp awards. That season got everyone excited up in Boston, where they’d recently lost incumbent third baseman Joe Foy to expansion and the revolving door for position filler – George Scott put in the most time at third that year – didn’t go so well. So Luis was to be the answer at that position. At least until he wasn’t, which was pretty much dictated by his .224 average in ‘70 that moved him back to Triple A. There he hit only .201 and after the season the Sox jettisoned him to the other Sox with Mike Andrews for Luis Aparicio.

For the White Sox Alvarado immediately began his new task of middle infield work. He was above average defensively but never really got going with the bat as in the next three seasons he backed up Mike Andrews and then Jorge Orta at second, and then swapped time at shortstop with Rich Morales, Eddie Leon, Lee Richard, and Bucky Dent. His best game may have been one in ’71 when he turned four double plays and had ten chances at second without an error. In early ’74 he was sent to the Cards for pitcher Ken Tatum. There after a month of back-up work at shortstop he went to Cleveland with Ed Crosby for Jack Heidemann in a swap of middle infielders. With the Indians Luis got a bit more work and hit .219 the rest of the way with 12 RBI’s. In ’75 it was back to the minors where Luis played mostly second, had excellent defensive numbers, and did OK offensively as well, hitting .240 with 64 RBI’s in a season split between the Cleveland system and the St. Louis one, after a mid-season trade for – mostly – minor league first baseman Doug Howard. In ’76 he improved his average to .280 with eleven homers and 72 RBI’s, again in Triple A, and also spent time in St. Louis where he hit .286 while doing some time at second. But his relative success was short-lived as after the ’76 season he was sold to Detroit, flipped to the Mets, flipped back to Detroit, and released, all by June ’77. Luis only got three hitless at bats for all that traveling. Late in the season he hooked up with San Diego, where he made the best out of 26 token at bats in Triple A, hitting .486. That ended his baseball time in the States where he hit .256 in the minors and .214 up top.

Alvarado played a lot of winter ball in his native Puerto Rico during and after his career, regularly having about three non-baseball weeks a year. In ’79 he returned to summer ball, this time in Mexico, where over the next three seasons he played for Yucatan, Leon, and Mexico City. He then returned to Puerto Rico full-time where he ran a grocery store and coached youth leagues until he passed away from a heart attack in 2001 when he was 52.

Topps makes an error in the second star bullet as Luis’ IL mvp season was in ’69, not ’68. But those other numbers look pretty good. I used to like comic books back then also, The Black Panther and Captain Marvel – the Marvel Comics one – being my favorites. Very deep stuff.

The White Sox contributed their ’59 pennant-winning season to the 1976 baseball centennial celebration. That was the year of the Go-Go Sox who were led offensively by MVP Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio and his 56 steals. The team had amazing defense and their pitching leader was 39-year-old Early Wynn, who went 22-10 in one of his best seasons. The ChiSox staff led the AL with a team 3.29 ERA. Manager Al Lopez was the only non-Yankee AL skipper to win a pennant since ’49 (he also turned the trick with the Indians in ’54). The Sox didn’t clinch the title until September 22, when Wynn won his 21st before 54,000 in Chicago. It was a pretty typical win for Chicago: four double plays and a strike by left fielder Al Smith to the plate to nab Minnie Minoso and kill Cleveland’s initial run prospect. The Sox broke it open on two successive solo shots by Smith and Jim Rivera in the sixth. Little Looie also had an RBI off his two hits. And a pinch-hitter for Cleveland during the game was Chuck Tanner, the manager of the Sox at the time of this set.

These guys both played for the White Sox but we won’t go that route:

1. Alvardo and Reggie Smith ’68 to ’70 Red Sox and ’74 Cards;
2. Smith and Rick Monday ’77 to ’81 Dodgers;
3. Monday and John Odom ’65 to ’71 A’s.

This card represents the 70% mark of the set. I’ll do a recap within the next couple posts.

1 comment:

  1. Never heard of the guy...and I'm from Boston and moved to Chicago for college over 25 years ago. I gotta check out that parking lot card from the year prior :-)