A baseball card mystery: Felix the Cat and the Cobraby Bruce Markusen
February 28, 2013
Felix Millan will always be remembered for choking up higher on the bat than anybody of his era, or for the last 50 years for that matter. I was always amazed that Millan never poked himself in the stomach while trying to complete a swing. Yet, he never did. By choking up a good seven to eight inches and perfecting the art of situational hitting, he made himself one of the game’s better contact hitters; he never struck out more than 35 times in a season. For his career, he batted a solid .279.
In addition to being a nice complementary hitter, Millan was also a solid defensive second baseman. With soft hands and above-average range, “Felix the Cat” (a nickname that paid tribute to his quickness) did good work for the Braves and Mets during his 12-year career. He made three All-Star teams and won a pair of Gold Gloves.
Millan did not play again that season. When his contract ran out at season’s end, he decided to take his wares to the Japanese Leagues. He signed a contract with the Taiyo Whales, where he would win a batting title during the final three seasons of his career.
While Ed Ott’s takedown of Millan altered his career, it is Ott’s teammate, Dave Parker, whom we see on Millan’s 1978 Topps card. Millan is attempting to finish off a double play as Parker, who was not exactly a timid base runner, makes his slide into second base. Parker was one of the game’s most physically intimidating players; at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he made mince meat out of a few middle infielders in the mid-1970s.
Unlike Ott, Parker does not appear to be close enough to Millan to knock him to the ground, but he does appear to make contact with Millan’s right knee. So while this experience won’t be as unpleasant as the play with Ott, it’s not exactly a simple play for Millan.
Here’s what we know. The game took place at Shea Stadium, an afternoon affair, and must have taken place prior to mid-August. It is likely a 1977 game, though we know that Topps did occasionally dip into previous seasons.
So when exactly did this game take place? In what inning did the play occur? And was Millan able to complete the double play, or did he have to settle for just the one out?
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.