A baseball card mystery: Ron Santo and who?


In presenting baseball card mysteries this winter, I’ve generally asked questions to which I do not know the answers. In this case, I’d like to do something different.

In honoring the rightful election of Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, I’ll pose a question to which I already know part of the correct answer, so it still might require some research.

Santo’s 1972 Topps “In Action” card shows him batting in a road game, presumably during the 1971 season. There are three parts to the question, the first two parts of which I know the answer. In what ballpark was this photograph taken? And who is the opposing catcher?

Here’s the part that’s a bit more mystifying. There’s a third person in the photo. He is either Cubs third base coach Peanuts Lowrey, or the Giants’ third baseman (possibly Al Gallagher). Which one is it?

Santo, by the way, was one of 72 players and managers who were given action cards in 1972. Curiously, a number of these players were of the fringe variety; they were journeymen or even lesser known players, like Bob Barton, Curt Blefary, Jerry Johnson, Clay Kirby, and the rhyming Paul Schaal.

The list of action card also features a number of Hall of Famers, including Hank Aaron, Luis Aparicio, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, and Carl Yastrzemski. By my count, Santo becomes the 14th Hall of Famer to have an action card in the 1972 set.

Suddenly, this 1972 action shot of Mr. Santo became a bit more valuable.

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  1. Strutzby said...

    You shouldn’t have mentioned that it’s against the Giants; that made the first two parts trivial.  It’s Candlestick Park, and the only player to wear number 2 for the Giants that year is catcher Dick Dietz (via Baseball-Almanac).

    Everyone on the card is looking up and to the right.  The third baseman has drifted all the way into the 3B coaches box (I suppose it’s the 3B and not the Cubs coach by the shade of the uniform and the arcing lettering across the front), so the ball has been in the air a long time. 

    My guess is this is a 7th inning homer for Santo in game 2 of a doubleheader, on April 18 1971.  He didn’t have any other extra base hits on the road against San Francisco that year, but it’s surely possible that he had a long fly out or two.

  2. Bruce Markusen said...

    I gave too much information! Although I do think it’s fairly obvious that it’s the Giants.

    It is indeed Dietz at catcher. The shading of the uniform makes me think it is the Giants’ third baseman, but I’m not 100 per cent sure.

    In regards to the game, here’s the question: if the ball has been in the air a long time, then why isn’t Santo running? It was not very common for players of that era to stand at home plate that long admiring a home run. So I’m wondering if it’s a foul ball.

  3. Michael Caragliano said...

    From your title, Bruce, I assumed you were talking about Santo’s 1974 Topps card, a great portrait in its own right. It was one of several horizontal cards in the set, the last time Topps issued horizontal regular cards in a set until 1991.

    Anyway, this photo looks like it was taken in the Cubs’ spring training stadium (were they in Arizona by this time?), with Leo Durocher in the background over Santo’s left shoulder. You can clearly tell it’s Leo the Lip because the #2 is visible on his back, and Leo has his hat off, revealing his thinning hairline. The mystery to me is who is the player further off in the distance, past Durocher. He is looking right at the camera, but I can’t clearly tell who it is. Anyway, it’s a nice portrait of a newly minted Hall of Famer.

  4. Bruce Markusen said...

    Michael, you’re right about the 1974 Santo card. Durocher is in the immediate background, and I believe the picture was taken at the Cubs’ spring training site in Mesa, Arizona.

    I posted that card to my Facebook page. One of my friends says he thinks it is Billy Williams in the far background off to the right. I did a close-up of the card, and that player does look to be African American, so it could be Williams. The player looks like he’s wearing an outfielder’s glove, so that would also support the theory that it is Williams.

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