A baseball card mystery: Gary Gaetti’s 1993 Topps card

I vaguely remember Gary Gaetti playing for the California Angels.

He also played for the Royals, Cardinals, and Cubs as he lingered aimlessly on the major league scene throughout the 1990s, far past his prime seasons of 1986, ‘87 and ‘88 with the Twins.

But I have absolutely no recollection of Gaetti playing five games for the Red Sox in 2000, when he went hitless in 11 plate appearances before announcing his retirement.

One would have to be a true Red Sox diehard to remember Gaetti’s early-season cameo at Fenway Park.

More vividly than his tenures with the Red Sox and Angels, I remember Gary Gaetti as the consummate free swinger. For his career high, he averaged 54 walks per a season. Most years, his totals were in the twenties or thirties. A power hitter who loved to rip—he struck out two-and-a-half times for every walk he drew—Gaetti rarely met a pitch he didn’t like.


Nicknamed “The Rat” for his long nose and weak chin, Gaetti was also an aggressive baserunner.

It was an attribute that Topps captured on his 1993 baseball card.

On this play, we see Gaetti going toe-to-toe with Indians catcher Junior Ortiz, who was noted for his strong defensive play.

As the ball arrives in Ortiz’ mitt, Gaetti has already begun his slide into the plate.

(And if you’ve seen Ortiz’ card, you’ll know that it shows the same play, but only at a different juncture.)

So here’s the question: Was Gaetti safe, or was he out? Was this one of the 41 runs Gaetti scored during the 1992 season, when this photo was taken? Or was it one of the 402 putouts that Ortiz recorded as the Indians’ backup catcher to Sandy Alomar that summer?

Gaetti’s Angels and Ortiz’ Indians met 12 times in 1992. Six of those meetings took place at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, where Topps snapped this photograph. Perhaps a definitive answer lies in the box scores.

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  1. Kevin said...

    He’s out. Game was at Cleveland (a reasonable assumption given the sparse crowd) on May 2, 1992. In the top of the fourth he singled with two outs and nobody on, taking second on the throw. Mike Fitzgerald singled to center and Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga completed the relay to nail him.

  2. Jim G. said...

    Kevin is right on. A couple other notes: Gaetti would walk in his next at bat, only to be doubled off on a flyout to right by Fitzgerald. Not a stellar day of base running for The Rat. Especially since the Angels would lose 3-2.
    Ortiz, one of the few players to wear 0, was playing a lot at that time. Sandy Alomar Jr. only played 88 games that year thanks to torn cartiledge in his knee. In fact, he only had one at bat between April 28 and May 18. That was the day before this picture, May 1, where Alomar started but left after one at bat. Maybe returning too early and reinjuriing himself.

  3. Jim G . said...

    Actually, one correction for Kevin. Gaetti’s single scored Felix Fermin from second, no doubt giving Gaetti “speed of grandeur” on the next play. That throw home got him to 2nd.

  4. BlftBucco said...

    An additional mystery with this card.  What is Gary Gaetti holding in his left hand as he slides?  Sunglasses?

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