A baseball card mystery: Templeton and Foley

This is Tom Foley’s 1985 Fleer card, but I find the baserunner, San Diego’s Garry Templeton, far more interesting as subject matter. Now the third base coach of the Rays, Foley was basically a utility player throughout his journeyman career, which included stops in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Montreal and Pittsburgh, while Templeton began his career as an immature star before becoming a respected clubhouse presence.

At one time, Templeton was one of the game’s finest players, a switch-hitting shortstop who could hit doubles, steal bases, and play well defensively at a challenging position. In 1979, he made history by becoming the first switch-hitter to collect 100-plus hits from each side of the plate.

It was the same year in which Templeton became embroiled in controversy. Despite a terrific first half, the fans failed to vote him a starter for the All-Star Game. Templeton was then selected as a backup, but that wasn’t good enough for the temperamental infielder, prompting his infamous outburst: “If I ain’t startin’, I ain’t departin’.” The statement was colorful and creative, but also hopelessly immature. Templeton indeed refused to depart for the All-Star Game, instead staying at home and drawing the wrath of millions of fans.

More controversy arrived in 1981, when Templeton decided not to run out a ground ball and drew boos from St. Louis fans. Templeton then compounded the situation by making an obscene gesture toward the hecklers. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog was not pleased and promptly pulled his shortstop from the game. At season’s end, the Cardinals sent him to the Padres for future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

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Although the trade worked out beautifully for the Cardinals, Templeton developed some much-needed maturity during his years in San Diego. Although he was not the same game-breaking hitter that he had been with St. Louis, he became a favorite in San Diego, where the fans particularly appreciated his role as a team leader in 1984. That’s when the Padres, under manager Dick Williams, won the National League West before claiming the pennant. Three years later, Larry Bowa, who had succeeded Williams and Steve Boros, named Templeton the Padres’ captain.

When Templeton retired in 1991, I expected him to leave the game completely. I was more than a little shocked when he decided to remain in baseball as a coach, and then as a minor league manager. He managed for four seasons in the Angels’ system before moving on to independent minor league ball. In January of this year, Templeton was named the manager of the Newark Bears of the Can-Am League. -

If odds had been given in the early 1980s, Templeton would have been regarded as one of the least likely to ever become a manager. But by the early 1990s, the transformation had been completed. Templeton, at one time the epitome of a spoiled star athlete, had shown himself to be an intelligent and reasoned baseball man.

Intelligence and reason often come into play in solving these baseball card mysteries, so let’s apply those qualities to this week’s question. We can see Templeton upending Tom Foley (not to be confused with Tim Foli), likely in a 1984 game. It’s an afternoon game, which must have taken place at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium (as evidenced by Templeton’s home white uniform). It appears that Foley has recorded the out at second, as he then attempts to complete the double play relay to first base.

Can we pin this down to a specific game, and a specific inning? Does Foley complete the double play? Or is the unknown runner safe at first? Who will come up with the first answer?

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Comments

  1. Carl said...

    Rick,
    Well done and quick research!  The small shadown underneath Templeton and on teh front of Foley’s uniform indicates that it was early in a day game.  In addition,  the Giants logo in left center field also indicates 1984, as each team’s logo would be placed on the outfield walls in their positional order.  In 1984, the Giants had a weak last-place team and would have been in left center.

  2. Jim G. said...

    Good job Rick.
    I always liked Templeton and was puzzled by the dropoff in production after he went to San Diego. The main excuse was he hit better on AstroTurf, and his lifetime stats bear that out. He hit 30 points higher on turf than grass. Also, he had a .243 average at Jack Murphy stadium over his career. That was the lowest of any stadium except for the Astrodome (which goes against the turf theory) – not counting 8 ABs at Jarry Park).
    Getting off the turf seemed to help him defensively, though. He made A LOT of errors with the Cards. He still made quite a few as a Padres, but cut them down significantly.
    I also remember he had a great arm. He’d go deep into the hole, and if he could plant and throw, you were gonna be out. It was the kind of arm that made Hernandez or Garvey flinch. The only comparable arm at short I can think of was Shawon Dunston.

  3. Rick G said...

    Assuming this was 1984, then it has to be the second inning of this game:

    http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1984/B07260SDN1984.htm

    The Padres got a leadoff triple from Carmelo Martinez that inning, and he came home on a Kevin McReynolds single.  Templeton singled McReynolds on to second, and the wheels came off…McReynolds out stealing third, then pitcher Mark Thurmond hit into the 1-6-3 double-play depicted on the card.

    That’s the only time the Padres and Reds played at Jack Murphy that year in which Templeton made an out at second.

  4. Dave Cornutt said...

    “The main excuse was he hit better on AstroTurf, and his lifetime stats bear that out. He hit 30 points higher on turf than grass.”

    That comes from having been taught by Charley Lau, as most of the St. Louis hitters were at the time.  Lau taught the speed guys to beat the ball into the ground and run out the high bounce that it would get off of the turf.

  5. John C said...

    Templeton in San Diego also developed bad knees that robbed him of his speed, which was central to his game. Templeton as a young player was basically what Jose Reyes is now, and anyone can see that Reyes would only be an ordinary player if he suddenly lost the wheels. Dick Williams, Templeton’s manager in San Diego, talks at length in his autobiography about how Templeton had to get worked on before going out to play every day, just four years removed from his last great year.

    Templeton did make a lot of errors, but then again, he also had great range, and often fielded more balls at short than anyone except that guy he was traded for. Even after he slowed down, he still made an above-average number of plays because he could play deep, ala Cal Ripken, and make throws most shortstops couldn’t.

  6. Jim G. said...

    @John C. – I vaguely remember him having knee problems.
    @Dave – I’d forgotten he was with the Cards. I mostly remember him from the Royals and White Sox. There’s a guy that passed too soon.

  7. Bruce Markusen said...

    Lau did not serve as a major league coach with the Cardinals. He did work for Herzog as a coach with the Royals, but that was in the 1970s. If he did work with any of the Cardinals hitters, that would have happened during the off season, or perhaps in spring training.

    Lau died in 1984, at the age of 50.

  8. Steve Price said...

    I’ve always thought that Smith’s and Templeton’s offensive production were almost entirely home park dependent.  If you take their batting lines at the time of the trade and swap them, the offensive lines are remarkably consistent.  That is, the St. Louis shortstop (whether Templeton or Smith) had similar offensive stats and the San Diego shortstop (whether Templeton or Smith) had remarkably similar stats.

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