Wednesday, April 04, 2012
A baseball card mystery: Rich Dauer and Carlton FiskPosted by Bruce Markusen
Rich Dauer was the American League’s version of Glenn Hubbard. He didn’t hit all that well, had little power, and couldn’t run. But he could play the fundamentals out of second base. Dauer had vacuum-suction hands, a strong arm, and that rock-solid ability to turn a double play without being dropped to the ground. In 1978, he set an American League record for second basemen by playing 86 consecutive games without an error.
At one time, the Orioles considered Dauer the next Bobby Grich. When Grich left the Orioles and signed a monster free-agent contract with the Angels, Dauer succeeded him at second base, though he did end up platooning some with the switch-hitting Billy Smith.
Dauer never had Grich’s offensive ability, nor did he have as much range in the field, but he gave the Orioles solid defensive play up the middle for nearly a decade. He was also Cal Ripken Jr.'s first full-time double play partner, teaming with the Hall of Famer to form a foundation for the Orioles’ 1983 world championship team.
Just last week, the Orioles deemed Dauer worthy of entrance into their Hall of Fame. Along with Mike Mussina, he will be officially inducted on August 25.
Now a coach with the Rockies, Dauer made a memorable appearance in Fleer’s 1982 card set. The 1982 Fleer set is often criticized for its mediocre, out-of-focus photography, but I like the set’s charming simplicity. There is a minimum of design, with just a small banner featuring the player’s name, team and position at the bottom of the card, which allows for a larger allotment of space for the actual photograph. Sometimes the less complicated the card, the better.
But I’ve always had one basic question about the card: Who is playing for the home team? Dauer’s orange jersey doesn’t give us the answer, because the Orioles wore the orange as an alternate uniform both at home and on the road.
Fisk appears to be wearing the Red Sox’ home whites, but this is clearly not Fenway Park given the absence of the “Green Monster” in the background.
The background looks like it could be Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, but there would have been no reason for the Red Sox to wear white during a regular-season road game. So maybe it’s a spring training shot from the Red Sox’s Grapefruit League site in Winter Haven, Florida.
If it is a spring training game, pinning down the game and the inning becomes problematic, if not impossible. If it’s a regular-season game from Memorial Stadium, the task at hand becomes easier. Due to the strike, the Red Sox played in Baltimore only two times in 1981, the year before the card was produced.
But wait a minute. Fisk did not play for the Red Sox in 1981; he had already departed Boston as a free agent and played the entire ‘81 season for the White Sox.
So this photo must have been taken earlier than 1981. Perhaps it was taken in 1980, when the Red Sox played seven times in Baltimore. So when exactly did this Dauer/Fisk play take place?
Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books on baseball, including the award-winning A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, the recipient of the Seymour Medal from the Society for American Baseball Research. He has also written The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, Tales From The Mets Dugout, and The Orlando Cepeda Story.