Wednesday, August 14, 2013

#577 - Mike Sadek

It is nice to finally get a rookie card that doesn’t also represent a player’s only card, which is what we have here with the card of Mike Sadek. Mike only had 60 at bats in ’73 but he was on the Giants roster the whole year as the third-string catcher behind Dave Rader and Chris Arnold. He generally wasn’t much of a hitter – when he hit his first homer, Willie McCovey feigned passing out in the dugout – but he was a very good defensive guy of which there have been quite a few in this set. He would go on to  a decently-long career as mostly a back-up guy all with San Francisco and his relationship with the team would encompass decades.

Mike Sadek was born in Minnesota where his dad worked for Hormels, the food processing company. When he was a kid his dad was relocated for a time to Chicago where Mike would become a Little League legend before returning to Minnesota when he was entering high school. His brother Bob was a big deal athlete who would go on to become a college coach. Mike became a football and baseball star at Richfield High and then went on to the University of Minnesota from where he was drafted by the Giants following his sophomore season of ’66. He declined, played another season, and then was drafted and signed by the Twins the following spring. He had sort of a prototypical offensive experience in A ball that summer and then missed a bit of time each of the next two seasons to the military, improving his average a bit in A ball in ’68 and then suffering a decline in Double A in ’69, when he did some infield time along with catching. His OBA that second season was not too bad, though, at .327 as he frequently walked a pretty impressive amount. After that season he was taken by the Giants – I guess they really liked the guy – in the Rule 5 Draft. Mike then spent the better part of the next three seasons at Triple A Phoenix where he would split time behind the plate with other young hopefuls, among them Dave Rader and Jake Brown. He came up in ’73 to do the back-up work and then spent just about all of ’74 back at Phoenix, where he had a .251/1/38 season with a .355 OBA in his busiest year. After hitting a notch better in half a ’75 there, he was moved up for good.

Sadek finished the ’75 season splitting back-up time again, this time with rookie Marc Hill, who would leapfrog Mike to replace Rader as the number one guy after Dave was traded to the Cards following the ’76 season. He hit about .220 those two seasons in just under a combined 200 at bats. In ’77 he cranked his first homer, causing the McCovey histrionics, and led the NL in pickoffs, nailing 44% of the guys who tried to run on him while hitting .230. He upped his average each of the next few years until he topped out in ’80 pretty much across the board with a .252/1/16 season with a .363 OBA in 151 at bats. In ’78 he missed some time after having his jaw broken in a collision at home plate with Chicago’s Ivan DeJesus. He also lost some time to injury in ’80. After a final year of back-up work in ’81 he was done, finishing with a .226 average and more walks than K’s for his career.

After retiring Mike remained in the San Francisco area where for a few years he delivered newspapers. In ’83 he hooked up again with the San Francisco organization where for years he was a community relations guy and then also a roving and special projects catching and bullpen coach. As of 2010 he was still affiliated with the Giants but I am unsure of his relationship with the team since then. In ’99 he was named the catcher on the all-Seventies team.

I've always found it odd when one side of the card would be perfectly centered - like the front of this one - and the other be a bit of a mess. Mike gets some first card treatment with a star bullet each about his high school and college career. I am not terribly sure what he did to win that particular award, but he sure was small for a catcher, wasn’t he? 165 pounds. He must have been a tough bird so maybe that was inspiring to his teammates. My son catches in Little League and he tops out at about 65 pounds so it sure is inspiring to me.

The Cards and Giants made quite a few trades in the Seventies so at least one of them has to help:

1. Sadek and Ken Reitz ’75 Giants;
2. Reitz and Scipio Spinks ’72 to ’73 Cardinals.

It's too bad Mike and Scipio were never in the same battery. Mike's nickname was "Sheik" so Spinks pitching to Sheik would definitely have had a sort of Arabic flair.

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