Tuesday, January 01, 2013
A baseball card mystery: who’s sliding into Dick Green?Posted by Bruce Markusen
Dick Green was the poor man’s Bill Mazeroski. He didn’t play as long as his Hall of Fame counterpart, nor did he have nearly the same durability. He wasn’t quite as quick at turning the double play, an area in which Maz shined above all others.
Green’s inconsistent hitting also limited his playing time, as the A’s sometimes sought an offensive boost from their middle infield. He also had an annoying habit of announcing his retirement most every winter, only to be convinced by the A’s that he should return for another season.
Despite these drawbacks, Green was still a very fine defensive second baseman and an underrated part of Oakland’s 1970s dynasty. He had golden hands, excellent range, and the ability to work well with another underrated player in shortstop Bert Campaneris. Green and Campy formed one of the better double play combinations of the era.
Appropriately enough, Green’s 1973 Topps card shows him attempting to finish off a double play against an unknown team. My first reaction in seeing the photograph is to consider this an action shot from the 1973 World Series, in which the A’s toppled the Mets in seven games. The baserunner looks vaguely like Felix Millan, the Mets’ second baseman.
That’s a nice try, but it cannot be right. A perusal of the Mets’ 1973 roster shows no one wearing the No. 14. Millan wore Nos. 16 and 17 in 1973, and not No. 14. So let’s forget the Mets’ theory.
That leaves us with 11 possibilities. They would be Oakland’s 11 opponents in the American League. Let’s narrow it down further. The bluish helmet of the opposing baserunner looks like something the Red Sox, the Indians, the Twins, or the Yankees would be wearing. But which team is it? And who is the mystery No. 14?
In examining the rosters of the aforementioned teams, here are the players who wore No. 14 in 1973. For the Red Sox, it was Ben Oglivie, while Chris Chambliss wore the number for the Indians. From the Twins, it was the late Dan Monzon, and for the Yankees, it was Ron Swoboda, whom we can safely eliminate based on skin color.
There are other questions in play here. Where was this game played? Was it the Oakland Coliseum, where so much Topps photography took place in the early 1970s? And when did this game take place during the 1973 season?
Let’s ring in the New Year with some good answers.
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.