The following baseball players will never be featured on any commemorative cards. Really, it’s a wonder they’re even on the cards that they’re on. Three of the five players here were featured after they played their final game in the majors.
Like hundreds of others among the more than 18,000 players in baseball history, the guys we speak of here lasted just one season in the majors. I’ve written before at my website of prominent examples of these players. Irv Waldron is a particularly interesting case. With the help of Baseball-Reference.com, I found five slightly more obscure examples.
I’ll add that one of my core beliefs as a writer is that everyone has a story. Even though their cards will never be worth a fortune, I think the following players exemplify this. Click their names to find them on eBay.
Dusty Allen, 2001 Fleer Triple Crown: Dusty Allen knocked around the San Diego Padres’ farm system for six seasons after being drafted out of Stanford in 1995.
Late in the 2000 season, the Padres traded Allen to the Detroit Tigers for Gabe Alvarez, and Allen finally got his chance in the majors. He made the most of his belated opportunity, posting a .438/.500/.938 slash for Detroit over the final two weeks of the 2000 season.
And that was it for Allen’s MLB career. For some reason, he never played again in the majors, even if the 2001 Tigers weren’t exactly stacked for talent, finishing 66-96, 13 games worse than the 2000 club. He’d made enough of an impression to land on a few Fleer cards: 2000 Tradition Glossy, 2001 Triple Crown and Ultra, but played just 29 more games in the minors in 2001 and was out of baseball by his 30th birthday.
Jose Tolentino, 1992 Topps: Approaching his 31st birthday in this card, Jose Tolentino looks more like a veteran than a second-year player. Tolentino logged nine seasons in the minors before debuting with the Houston Astros in 1991. Unfortunately for Tolentino, another first baseman, Jeff Bagwell, also broke in that year. While Bagwell captured National League Rookie of the Year honors, Tolentino lasted just 44 games and 59 plate appearances, hitting .259 without much power.
Tolentino’s stats deserve some context. The cavernous Astrodome famously hindered the numbers of many players from Jimmy Wynn to Cesar Cedeno to Bob Watson. Tolentino is one of the myriad silent victims of the park, hitting just .194 there. A .348 batting average away from the Astrodome hints at might have been had Tolentino played home games elsewhere.
By the time this card hit the market, Tolentino had already played his last MLB game. He went on to play in Japan, his native Mexico and the minors again before calling it quits in 1997.
George Bjorkman, 1984 Topps: Had sabermetrics been better established in the 1980s, George Bjorkman might have lasted longer than part of 1983 in the majors. One of a rotating crew of catchers the Houston Astros used that year, Bjorkman offered a 110 OPS+, meaning his total offensive production adjusted for his ballpark and league were about 10 percent better than the average player.
This concept was a ways off from gaining mainstream acceptance, though, in 1983. Bjorkman’s .227 batting average plus the fact that veteran Alan Ashby had a lock on the starting backstop position was probably enough to doom Bjorkman from playing in the majors again. Great name, though.
Reggie Sanders, 1974 Topps: Not to be confused with the Cincinnati Reds slugger who entered the majors about two decades later, this Reggie Sanders is probably most notable for sharing a rookie card with Bill Madlock.
A September call-up for the Detroit Tigers after hitting .292 with 14 homers and 88 RBIs in Triple-A, Sanders offered the kind of numbers that have generally kept rookies around: .273 batting average with three homers and 10 RBIs in 99 ABs. If there had been rookie card speculating in ’74, Sanders/Madlock would have been pretty popular.
Sanders was traded to the Atlanta Braves before the start of the 1975 season, though, and for whatever reason, Sanders never got another chance in the show. He played in the minors and eventually Mexico through the remainder of the 1970s.
Scott Northey, 1971 Topps: Well-regarded enough to figure on a three-player rookie card two seasons after he last played in the majors, Northey was a September call-up for the expansion Royals in 1969.
The center fielder flashed the kind of speed during his cup of coffee in the majors that helped him steal 62 bases in the minors between 1968 and 1969. Northey netted six steals in 68 plate appearances for the Royals, also offering a 109 OPS+ with a .262/.338/.410 slash. But Kansas City traded for Amos Otis before the start of the next season, and that was it for Northey in the majors.
1971 wasn’t a great year for Northey, really. The same year that Topps produced this card. Northey’s father Ron, a 12-year MLB veteran in the 1940s and ’50s, died at age 51.