Wednesday, April 25, 2012
A baseball card mystery: Who is Jeff Pendleton?Posted by Bruce Markusen
As a rookie third baseman for the Cardinals in 1984, Terry Pendleton made a distinct impression on National League pitching. He batted .324 for St. Louis and finished seventh in the league’s Rookie of the Year balloting.
Somehow, Pendleton didn’t completely register with the folks at Donruss. One variation of his 1985 Donruss card identifies him as “Jeff Pendleton.” So, I must ask, who in the wide, wide world of sports is Jeff Pendleton?
There have been three players with the last name of Pendleton in the major leagues. The late Jim Pendleton was a versatile 1950s-era utility man who could play the infield and outfield. He played for the Braves, Pirates, Reds and Colt .45s, but not the Cardinals. Lance Pendleton is a still-active pitcher who debuted out of the Yankee bullpen in 2011. And, of course, there is Terry Pendleton himself, a standout third baseman for the Cardinals and Braves throughout much of the '80s and early 1990s. None of those players had “Jeff” as either a first or a middle name.
That avenue exhausted, I looked at other players on the 1984 Cardinals roster. Perhaps one of the production people at Donruss transposed another Cardinal player’s name with Pendleton’s. Only one player on the ‘84 Cardinals was named Jeff, and that was a relief pitcher named Jeff Lahti. He looked nothing like Terry Pendleton, so again, I’m not sure why Donruss would have confused his name in such a way.
I performed a Google search for Jeff Pendleton. I turned up some wonderful people on Facebook and MySpace, and even a guitarist in California, but no one from the sports world or the world of general celebrity.
Well, all I can say is that Terry Pendleton deserves better. He was an excellent defensive third baseman who emerged as an offensive force after being traded to the Braves in the early 1990s. In 1991, he led the National League in batting on the way to winning the league’s MVP Award. The following year, he paced the NL with 199 hits and collected a career-high 105 RBIs. He remained an effective offense player through the 1993 season, before injuries and age took their toll.
So as baseball fans, we should know all about Terry Pendleton. But who exactly was this Jeff Pendleton fellow? And from where did Donruss conjure him in 1985?
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.