A baseball card mystery: who’s sliding into Dick Green?

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.

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Green also had a large degree of toughness. If you’ve ever seen tape of Hal McRae’s vicious slide into second base during the 1972 World Series, it is Green who is on the receiving end of his rolling block. Two innings later, Johnny Bench knocked down Green with a vicious takedown. Green hung in on each play, didn’t complain either time, and actually claimed to enjoy being in the middle of such heavy contact.

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.

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Comments

  1. Jim said...

    Bruce, sorry, but is this a 1973 or 1974 card?  If 1973, then we should be looking at 1972 teams, right?  Or am I way off base?

  2. Jim said...

    Appears that it was July 22, 1973 Cleveland @ Oakland and the runner is Chambliss.  Per Retrosheet:

    INDIANS 5TH: Williams singled to right; Chambliss singled to center [Williams to second]; Ellis grounded into a double play (shortstop to second to first) [Williams to third, Chambliss out
    at second];

    The rest of the players Bruce mentioned did not play in the right circumstances (day games) or were not involved in a play at second where Green would be throwing on to first.

  3. Bruce Markusen said...

    Jeff, it doesn’t really look like Chambliss to me. He was heavier, and his skin color was lighter than the player in question. Then again, I’m not completely sure.

  4. Jim said...

    Going with the late 1974 release of Dic Green’s card and the runner being Rice.  Rice made his Major League debut on August 23, 1974 and played against the A’s on August 24 & 25.  The 25th game was a day game and according to Retrosheet in the fourth:

    Rice singled; Petrocelli flied out to left; Burleson forced Rice (third to second);

    We have to presume Green threw on to first but too late.

    Problem with this idea is that Green’s card is number 392 and there were over 608 issued that year.  Would they not have been issued in numerical sequence?  At that rate the last ones would be real late in the season.  But maybe they did that so they would have sales almost year round. 

    If it is Rice in the picture, I must rule out Spring Training as they did not train in the same state (Florida vs. Arizona).

  5. Jim said...

    On further review, if you look at this website on uniforms, you will see that Green’s uniform is the road uniform.  Further looking at this site will tell you that the stirrups most closely resemble the Red Sox in design and color.  That leaves Oglivie at home vs Oakland.  Now the plot sickens as Oakland played only two games in Boston that year in which Oglivie played.  My tired old eyes says the card picture was taken in the day time.  Neither of those two games was in the day time.

    Also, on the site it shows most American teams have a patch on their left sleeve.  The runner in the picture doesn’t appear to have a patch, which if the site is accurate, eliminates Chambliss.  I tried 1972 as the year the picture was taken, but Green didn’t play that often and I eliminated all games.

    When I made my original post, I agreed with others that Chambliss was lighter and heavier.

    I would be very happy if someone came up with someone else and has a good explanation as I am not 100% convinced I’m right.  This may make a good New Year’s research project.

  6. Trapper B. said...

    The Rice theory is intriguing, but the A’s and Red Sox didn’t play a day game in 1974 until Aug. 10, so that doesn’t work.
    The Chambliss theory has another problem, aside from the svelteness of the baserunner. The Indians’ uniforms in 1973, as best I can tell, had those 1970s wide bands on the sleeves. This uniform doesn’t.
    The trouble with the Oglivie theory is that there’s no play in 1973 that fits the picture—he wasn’t forced at second in a game against the A’s in which Green was playing. I suppose it could have been a spring training game in 1973 or early ‘74, but didn’t the Red Sox train in Florida? The A’s have always trained in Arizona.

  7. Trapper B. said...

    Sorry, posted without looking at Jim’s preceding post.
    That would work, re. Rice, except several card-collector sites say 1974 was the first year Topps released cards all at once instead of in sets staggered through the season. Even if that’s not the case, it seems hard to believe they could get a card onto the market during the season if they didn’t take the photo till August, and pointless to release a card after the season is over.

  8. BlftBucco said...

    Let me throw out a couple of things I noticed from the card.  Maybe someone could expand on them:

    1.  It appears that the runner has “belt type” pants. (The Red Sox had the belt type in 1972 and elastic waistbands in 1973.)

    2.  There is no name on the runner’s uniform plus the sleeves don’t have stripes.  (This rules out Chambliss, as the Indians had names and stripes on their uniform sleeves.)

    3.  I can’t see a number on the right front of the Oakland player’s uniform.  (I searched and saw that in 1972 the A’s had uniforms with and without numbers on the front.  Were the numbers a mid/late season addition?)

    4.  I noticed that the “A” on the uniform is white.  The A’s also used a yellow top with a green “A”.

    5.  Can anyone tell if the A’s player has a mustouche?  Most pictures I see of Green in this era show him with a fairly dark moustache.

    Is it possible that the fielder is not Dick Green?  Could it be Larry Brown from 5-12-72?  It wouldn’t be the first time that Topps misidentified a player. (Would there have been a Friday day game?)

    I do believe that the runner is Oglivie, but things don’t add up with the boxscores with the fielder being Green.

  9. Bruce Markusen said...

    Bucco, I think you’re on to something. I believe you’re right in saying that the baserunner is Ben Oglivie. And I’m beginning to think that the Oakland infielder is either Larry Brown or Ted Kubiak. We can’t see his number, and we can’t see his face clearly, so perhaps it’s not Green at all.

  10. Jim said...

    Maybe it is not a day game, because May 12, ‘72 was a night game and the play that would fit this picture of Oglivie was the bottom of the ninth.  I found this card on ebay and blew it up and there is definitely no moustache on the A’s player. 

    Food for thought.

  11. trapper9 said...

    I wondered about the Dick Green misidentification possibility, too. However, if you Google Dick Green’s image online, you find a copy of this baseball card with his autograph, which would indicate it’s probably him. Also, the A’s didn’t play Friday day games, and Baseball Reference.com says 5-12-72 was a night game.

    I’m not convinced this was taken at the Coliseum. The photo is pretty grainy, but if you look closely at the largest picture I can find online, there are what appear to be vertical and horizontal beams starting about 6 feet up the outfield wall. I was never at the Mesa ballpark where the A’s trained, but from photos, I remember that being a feature of the centerfield wall.

    It sure does look like a Red Sox player. Maybe the Sox came through Arizona sometime late in spring training. The Dodgers used to do that after they broke camp in Vero Beach.

  12. Hal said...

    Just to confirm it’s Fenway, notice the way the upper part of the Green Monster comes out farther than the lower part along the seam to the left of the scoreboard. That matches the image of the wall in the background on the card.
    http://alisterpaine.com/2012/04/11/fenway-park-at-100/

    I can’t decide if it’s Green, Brown or Kubiak. Very hard to tell from the card and other pics. Here’s Green w/o a moustache:  http://canthavetoomanycards.blogspot.com/2011/09/autographed-baseball-cards-z_05.html

    The runner looks like Oglivie to me. If Topps used an old pic it could be Kubiak from the 9th inning of this game from 1972: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS197207221.shtml

    Day game according to this: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0qFfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FDIMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5459,4629049&dq=red+sox&hl=en

    Here’s a nice zoomable ebay image of the card: http://www.ebay.com/itm/1974-Topps-Oakland-As-Dick-Green-card-392-World-Series-team-/290825562919?nma=true&si=eXZGKYQlNH/lCTZsZEu93v+6CE0=&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

  13. Lou D. said...

    Hey Bruce, Jim is absolutely on to something. It is definitely the Red Sox socks but it is not the A’s road uniform. Those are white home pants and the slider’s uniform is more on the gray side. If that picture was taken in 1973 it IS Ben Oglivie…BUT…(hold on to something) if it was taken in early 74 it could be Jim Rice as a rookie. Only way that is possible though would be if the 1974 cards were still put out in series. When Topps did that they had early season pictures in series 6 and 7. I can’t remember when Topps stopped the delayed series but I believe it was just before 1974. So Oglivie it is.

  14. Vince said...

    Guys, many of these photos were taken during Spring Training.  Therefore, the guy sliding into second base could be anyone who wore a blueish uniform in the Cactus league during 1973; Indians, Giants, Astros, Cubs or Brewers.  Found this:

    http://aolanswers.com/questions/sports_baseball_cactus_league_951882291458358/history_cactus_league_arizona_nbsp_495536137685112

    which states that the A’s played in Rendezvous Park.  Does/Did Rendezvous Park have a solid left field wall like the one apparently behind Dick Green?  Just spitballin’…

  15. Anthony said...

    IF it’s Chambliss, then this is July 22, 1973. Green only played in three home games against Cleveland that year:

    April 26, 1973
    Chambliss reached on a walk in the top of the 7th, but was caught stealing. So there’d be no turn.

    July 20, 1973

    Chambliss reached on a walk in the top of the 1st, but advanced to third on a single by Ellis, the next batter, so there’d be no putout at second.

    Chambliss reached on a single in the top of the 6th, but advanced safely to second on a single to LF by Ellis, so there’d be no putout at second.

    July 22, 1973

    Chambliss reached on a single in the top of the 1st, but advanced to second on a single by Ellis, so there’d be no putout at second.

    Top of the 5th, Chambliss reached on a single and was put out on a double play, Campaneris to Green to Tenace.

    It still doesn’t look like Chambliss, who was stockier (and lighter) even in 1973 at the tender age of 24: http://s.ecrater.com/stores/66095/4846d32247cc8_66095b.jpg

  16. lendif said...

    - It looks like Kubiak throwing. Cheekbones. And Green was a bit heavier.
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nYSKXlm_7Pg/S9s7VWN00DI/AAAAAAAAAG4/Mso44N8EUGw/s1600/73topps456.jpg

    - Looks like Green didn’t wear Adidas and I think the photo shows them. Kubiak did.
    http://thumbs2.ebaystatic.com/m/mxesCjj8X1btc02EZAAbQpQ/140.jpg

    - Does not look like the Oakland Colosseum’s concrete bleachers above the fence. I don’t know where they are, but could be Boston.

    - Back to the runner – looks like Boston’s Sox. I’d vote Oglivie.

  17. Kevin Macker said...

    A very close friend of mine met Dick Green and informed him it is not him—-it is Ted Kubiak.  Would be nice if someone could catch a a quick interview with Green and ask him this also to confirm.

  18. Jim said...

    Bruce, do we know where we are?  Is it Boston, or Oakland, or Spring Training.  Is it Oglivie, or Rice or another team’s player.  Is it Green, or Kubiak, or Brown.

    I have noticed something that might help.  I never played second base in real life or on television, but it appears the second baseman is throwing to first with a side arm motion for no apparent reason.  Does anyone remember whether Green, Brown or Kubiak predominately threw to first side arm?

  19. BlftBucco said...

    @ Jere,

    My first thought was that the player on the Knowles card was a Texas Ranger.  But after looking at the “Dressed to the Nines” site, the uniform doesn’t quite match in all cases.

    For:

    1.  The solid blue stirrups do match the Rangers.

    2.  The uniform top does appear to be “button down” instead of a pullover jersey.

    3.  The team name on the uniform looks most like the Rangers script.

    Against:

    1. It appears that the runner only has a single red stripe on the sleeve.

    It also appears that the runner has “belt type pants”.  Also I can’t really determine if the collar has any striping due to shadows. 

    I’m not really sure how accurate the “Dressed to the Nines” site is. But if it is a Texas Ranger, the picture most resembles the 1972 spring training jersey. Although the script of the team name looks less arched on the spring training jersey than what is shown in the picture according to the DTTN site.

    I guess the point I’m getting to is that the background wall looks similar to the Dick Green card which opens up the possibilty of a spring training game.

    http://exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/dressed_to_the_nines/uniforms.asp?league=AL&city=Texas&lowYear=1972&highYear=1973&sort=year&increment=9

  20. BlftBucco said...

    I thoroughly believe that the two players are Oglivie and Kubiak.

    What really throws me though is that it was so rare for Topps in that era to have cards with photos taken at Fenway Park.  I looked through both the ‘73 and ‘74 sets and I could not identify another card taken at Fenway.

    I thought that it was possible that the ‘74 Darold Knowles was taken at the same game, but he never had a runner on second base.  In fact, I’m not exactly sure what team the runner is from. (A future mystery card?)

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1974-TOPPS-57-DAROLD-KNOWLES-NRMT-5-/190772500912?_trksid=p5197.m1992&_trkparms=aid=111000&algo=REC.CURRENT&ao=1&asc=14&meid=4627626040212692713&pid=100015&prg=1006&rk=1&sd=190772500912&

  21. Bruce Markusen said...

    Jim, based on everything I’ve heard here and on Facebook—and there has been some excellent research done by the readers—I believe that we can say the following:

    *The baserunner is Ben Oglivie of the Red Sox.

    *The Oakland infielder is not Dick Green, but Ted Kubiak.

    *The site is Fenway Park.

    I believe we’ve also set a record for the number of posts responding to a Baseball Card Mystery.

  22. jere said...

    Bucco—Looks like it says Rangers to me. The ‘73 road jersey on DTTN looks to me like what he’s wearing, no question. Any other pics of Rangers in this era look like this.

    Since the runner has no lead, this has to be a warm-up pitch. Knowles didn’t face the Rangers at home in ‘72, and only twice in ‘73. Once was at night. In the day game (7/28/73), he entered in the 5th, and sure enough, boom, a runner was on second at the time—Jim Mason. That’s what clinched it for me.

    As for the wall, the other one is Fenway because of the other clues we have. This one is Oakland—we can’t see if it goes higher than “regular” wall height because of the crop, but to me this is just the Coliseum fence. Look at this Gene Tenace card and you’ll see similar little horizontal lines in the wall. http://www.ebay.com/itm/1974-TOPPS-BASEBALL-CARD-79-GENE-TENACE-OAKLAND-AS-/360485218857

  23. jere said...

    (Also if you really zoom in on the Knowles card you can see a slight blue stripe above the red one on the Ranger’s sleeve.)

  24. Jere said...

    The game is from 1972. (July 22 as others have said.) In my research I’ve seen plenty of times where Topps uses a pic from 2 years before the date of the card. You can tell it’s a Red Sock from the sock-style, and you can tell it’s pre-pajamas style because there’s no red collar. (And it’s a regular belt, not an elastic.) That makes it ‘72, not ‘73, either way it’s it Oglivie. (Can’t be before that if you look at who wore 14 for Boston before that.) Only one play fits, 7/22, day game, 9th inning, Oglivie out on game-ending DP. Meaning it has to be Kubiak, not Green.

    Definitely Fenway, the green showing is JUST to the right of the Monster scoreboard, that horizontal line matches old pics. The long shadow in the outfield is the first light tower in foul territory, to the left of the Green Monster. (Makes sense the shadow would be extending that far since it’s the last inning of a day game, around 4:45 pm when the shot was taken.)

    PS BlftBucco—the player in the background of that Knowles card is a Texas Ranger.

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