Wednesday, October 9, 2013

#600 - '74 Rookie Infielders

So what’s special about this card? Well it’s a milestone number which is pretty odd in that it is being used for a Rookie card. Nothing against any of these guys and one of them would certainly have some years that came close to justifying his appearance of a card of this stature, but at the time of this set there were certainly many other viable and worthy candidates for card number 600. I find it hard to believe that Topps’ intention was to give this group that number and that it was an oversight. But who knows? Maybe everything was so crazy with Watergate – I gotta get back to that – and inflation that the boys making bubble gum just said the hell with it and let the chips fall. And here are the chips...

Ron Cash had an interesting run of things before he even got to the professional level. A star third baseman in high school in Atlanta, he was drafted in ’67 in a low round by the Dodgers but instead decided to go to Manatee Junior College in Florida. He played ball there the next two years even though he was drafted each semester by, successively, the Orioles, the Braves, the Padres, and the Twins. He hit .335 his freshman year and .346 his sophomore one and made all-state both years but his biggest moment was probably a horrible car crash in October ’68 in which he nearly lost his life and did lose his spleen. After rejecting the Twins in June of ’69 he continued school at Florida State and over the next two years hit .342 with 76 RBI’s and a .451 OBA. In ’70 he helped take the team to the CWS with teammates Mac Scarce and Johnny Grubb and in ’71 he was all-Southeast. That year he was finally nabbed by Detroit and he hit .333 the rest of the summer while playing primarily left field in A ball. He would continue to do outfield time the next couple seasons and also move back to third during that time as well. In ’72 he hit .286 in a season split between A and Double A ball. Then in ’73 he split time between Double A and Triple A, hitting .303 with 73 RBI’s before a September call-up to Detroit. He hit the game-winner his first start and .410 during his MLB time while playing third. During a good ’74 spring training it was decided to move Ron to first where he could give aging starter Norm Cash – no relation – a run since third was occupied by a much younger Aurelio Rodriguez. There he continued to hit, opening the ’74 season with a .353 average, before beginning April 15 he missed a month due to “mental exhaustion.” After he returned in mid-May his average dipped a bit and early in June he was sent back to Triple A where he hit .246 while splitting time at first and third. He returned to Detroit in September but by season-end his average was down to .226 and he then spent all of ’75 and ’76 in Triple A playing both infield corners, averaging .262 in diminishing seasons. He was released after the latter season, ending his playing time, and finished with a .297 average and eleven RBI’s in his 34 games up top and a .289 average with a .366 OBA in the minors. He then seems to have returned to the Southeast where he resided in his native Georgia and then Florida before passing away in 2009 at age 59. His nephew, Kevin Cash, followed Ron to Florida State and then had a few years in the majors as a back-up catcher. He is currently the Indians’ bullpen coach.

Jim Cox played hoops and baseball at the University of Iowa after excelling in the same sports in high school in Illinois. He also got his early degree in microbiology while there, and during that time turned down two draft choices: by the Senators in ’68 (to go to school); and by the Indians in the first round in ’71 (not enough money). Since his studies were done by January of his senior year he signed with Montreal when drafted in ’72 and then hit .255 with some power in Double A. While there he worked on his D a bunch – particularly his double play pivot – and had a great spring training in ’73 before hitting .267 in Triple A. He made his Montreal debut that July but his hitting was light in his few games and by early August he was back in the minors. In ’74 he had another great camp and was named the Opening Day starter, pushing incumbent Ron Hunt to third base. Jim did pretty well defensively and was the everyday guy through early June, though he was hitting only .224. He then suffered a broken hand after being hit and after a month on the DL returned to Triple A, where he hit .252, before returning up top to finish his season. He spent nearly all of ’75 at Triple A because fellow young guy Pete Mackanin – from a few posts back – arrived to take over second and Jim hit .267 with 67 RBI’s at that level, and .259 during spare usage up top. In ’76 it was pretty much the same deal as he played behind Mackanin and Wayne Garrett in Montreal but upped his average to .274 on the right side of the infield in Triple A. ’76 would be his final MLB season and he spent the next three years solely at Triple A Denver where his stats got successively better as he put more and more time in at third: .287/4/39 in ’77; .299/10/64 in ’78; and .305/12/77 in ’79 his final year as a player. He finished with an average of .215 up top and hit .277 with 66 homers and 403 RBI’s in the minors. Then, like a lot of guys, he becomes impossible to chase, though in the early 2000’s he resurfaced a bit news-wise as an inductee into the Hawkeyes hall of fame.

Bill Madlock was born in Memphis and after being dumped by his parents was raised by a grandmother in Decatur, Illinois, a bit outside Chicago. He played the big three sports at Eisenhower High School there and as a football halfback – he once rushed for 300 yards and scored five touchdowns in a game – and shortstop he was all-county. He was drafted by the Cards when he graduated in June ’69 but he passed because he didn’t want to get stuck behind Dal Maxvill and so went to Southwestern Iowa Community College from where he was drafted in January ’70 by the Senators. He didn’t hit too well right away, putting up a .269 average in A ball that summer and a .234 the next year in Double A, the season he moved to third. But he did steal some bases and had some good camps and after a bad start in ’72 in Triple A he went back down a level and did two things that would be emblematic of his career: he hit .328 but did so in only 131 at bats because he was suspended a bunch of the season after getting into trouble on the field. He would split that year and the next between second and third and in ’73 he broke out to post a .338/22/90 season in Triple A before being called up to Texas in September, finishing with a .351 MLB average. After the season he and Vic Harris went to the Cubs for Fergie Jenkins. Bill became the regular third baseman for Chicago, hit .313 his rookie year to make the Topps team, mad an All-Star team, and won batting titles the next two seasons. After he asked for more pay he was traded following the ’76 season with Rob Sperring to San Francisco for Bobby Murcer and recent post subject Steve Ontiveros. Bill played third his first Giants season and then primarily second the next year-plus, hitting over .300 each of his first two years. In ’79, after his average dipped to .261, he was sent to Pittsburgh in a June trade and promptly hit .328 the rest of the way to help his new team reach the playoffs and then win the Series. He would remain in Pittsburgh through ’85 and during that time won two batting titles, got into two All-Star games, had a big ’82 as a power guy after Willie Stargell went down – 19 homers and 95 RBI’s – and was famously ejected, fined, and suspended for pushing his mitt in the face of an umpire. In ’84 he missed two months for an operation to remove bone chips from his elbow. He again started slowly the following year and after another mid-season trade – this time to LA – again rallied down the stretch, this time hitting .360 to help another team get post-season action. He remained with the Dodgers through part of the ’87 season when shoulder surgery and then a release got him to Detroit and his last playoff push. He would finish as a player after that season and had a .305 average with 163 homers, 860 RBI’s, 174 stolen bases, and a .365 OBA. Defensively he is in the top 75 third basemen all-time in assists and double plays and in the post-season he hit .308 with twelve RBI’s and a .375 OBA in 17 games. In ’88 he went to play in Japan where he put up a .263/19/61 season and then retired. After he finished playing Bill did the Senior League thing, ran some investments he’d made while playing, and did some coaching and rep work for some Far East teams. That got him through the Nineties and from 2000 to 2001 he was Detroit’s hitting coach. In ’02 he worked in the commissioner’s office and from ’03 to ’04 he managed the Newark Bears, an independent team. He then coached a bit in Latin America and has since the mid-2000’s run his own hitting school in Las Vegas.

This Reggie Sanders has been tough to pinpoint because of the other Reggie Sanders who played in the Nineties and 2000’s and is no relation. This Reggie was born in Birmingham, Alabama and during high school relocated to LA where he was a big baseball and football star and the A’s were so high on him when they drafted him during his senior year that there were some improprieties and the pick was voided. So Oakland snapped him up the following January of '68 and that summer Reggie, an infielder/outfielder, hit .264 with 22 homers in A ball. The next year at that level he bumped his homers to 25 with 75 RBI’s but only hit .235 with 154 K’s. In ’70 he moved up to Double A, cut his strikeouts in half, and had an otherwise comparable season. By then he was concentrating on first base and ’71 was a nearly identical season at the same place. In ’72 he bumped his average up a ton – he would hit .338 in Double A that year – but Oakland sent him mid-season to Detroit for pitcher Mike Kilkenny. He spent the final month of the year in Triple A where he would also spend all of ’73, hitting .246. In ’74 Reggie had his biggest year, hitting .292 with 14 homers and 88 RBI’s before being called up to Detroit early that September and starting at first the rest of the way, batting .273. He homered in his first at bat and generally had a decent short run but after the season was sent to Atlanta for other first baseman Jack Pierce. For the Braves Reggie resided for two seasons in Triple A where he averaged .269 with 15 homers and 73 RBI’s per season. In ’77 he went to Mexico to play, which he would also do in ’79 around a season in Double A for the Orioles in ’78. When the Seventies ended so did Reggie’s career and he finished with minor league numbers of .265 with 156 homers and 677 RBI’s. His ’74 work with Detroit was his only time up top. After that Reggie goes missing media-wise until 2002 when he passed away in Los Angeles. He was 52.

We get two guys from Decatur but in different states. Both Cox and Sanders would also have Rookie cards in ’75. Madlock would befriend teammate Steve Greenburg, Hank’s son, in his first year in pro ball and Steve would go on to be Bill’s agent after he finished playing. He then worked for the commissioner – it was he who actually enforced George Steinbrenner’s brief ban from baseball – and then moved into investment banking where, among other things, he helped engineer the Astros sale a couple years ago. We both worked at the same shop. MLB service-wise we get 15 seasons, three All-Star games, four batting titles, and a Topps Rookie Team member, nearly all from Mr. Madlock. All pretty good, but not enough to warrant the waste of a “100” card.

Now for hook-ups. A pretty good catcher helps big with the first one:

1. Ron Cash and Willie Horton ’73 to ’74 Tigers;
2. Horton and Tom Haller ’72 Tigers;
3. Haller and Steve Garvey ’70 to ’71 Dodgers;
4. Garvey and Greg Shanahan ’73 to ’74 Dodgers.

Here we go around the card. Couldn’t they put Cash and Sanders together?:

1. Ron Cash and Willie Horton ’73 to ’74 Tigers;
2. Horton and Tom Walker ’75 Tigers;
3. Walker and Jim Cox ’73 to ’74 Expos;
4. Cox and Steve Renko ’73 to ’76 Expos;
5. Renko and Bill Madlock ’76 Cubs;
6. Madlock and Willie Stargell ’79 to ’82 Pirates;
7. Stargell and Luke Walker ’65 to ’66 and ’68 to ’73 Pirates;
8. Walker and Reggie Sanders ’74 Tigers.

That’s our longest one yet.

1 comment:

  1. You also had an '8' a couple of posts back. Good effort! Keep up the great work!!