Living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area I can assure you this has been a difficult year for the Texas Rangers. Though already dealing with a myriad of injures and other matters, the last month of the season was actually a very satisfying time. Although the Rangers did not do what I really wanted them to do (play a game with all rookies similar to what the 1963 Houston Colt 45’s did), they made one very nice gesture at the end of the season.
They called up Guilder Rodriguez, who had spent more than a decade, most with the AA Frisco Roughriders, without even coming close to the majors. His real role at Frisco was to mentor the up and coming prospects which have included Elvis Andrus, Roughned Odor, Luis Sardinas and Jurrickson Profar. Being from Venezuela, one of his key roles was to help acclimate his fellow Spanish-speaking players to nearly full season baseball. He did great at that and like some other good organizational Rangers minor leaguers, was brought up at the end of the season so he could be guaranteed a major league pension later. I suspect Rodriguez will have a long career as a coach in the Rangers organization.
And, if you were paying attention, you even got to see the highlights of Rodriguez driving in the game-winning run in the first major league game his dad attended. Even though his fame will be fleeting, wouldn’t it be nice if Topps found a place for him in their 2015 set or one of the end of the calendar year products? While we will always have the video highlights of his special day, all this hoopla about Rodriguez reminded me of some of my favorite short-term major leaguers who never had Topps cards.
Minnie Mendoza was a 36-year old Cuban born player who finally got a call-up after more than 15 years in the minor leagues. While his major league career only lasted two months, wouldn’t it have been nice if Topps in either 1970 or 1971 had given him a card? A nice example of a fantasy card of Mendoza can be found here.
And no. he is not related to Mario Mendoza who was the inspiration for the famed expression: “The Mendoza line” which indicated a player with a low batting average.
Our next player in this tour is the “other” Billy Williams. While there are plenty of cards of Billy Williams, the HOFer who played literally every day for the Chicago Cubs during the 1960’s, there was another Billy Williams. This Billy made his major league debut in August 1969 with the Seattle Pilots at age 36. He is even briefly mentioned in Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four diary about the Pilots. And even though he would later coach in the majors, there are no Topps cards for Seattle Billy. Let’s go make one of him.
And our final player on this brief tour of players from my youth who had a taste of the majors without receiving a card is Freddy Velazquez. Freddie was in early 30’s when he made the majors as a third string catcher for that inaugural Pilots team. He appared in a Renata Galasso set of Pilots cards long after the team had left for Milwaukee but wasn’t in any Topps sets. He is best known for Bouton’s description : “Gary Bell has come up with a good nickname for Freddie Velázquez. Freddie just sits there in the bullpen, warming up pitchers, and he never gets into a game and just looks sad. So Gary calls him Poor Devil.”
At least Freddie got a nickname. Sadly, there are no Topps cards of him either.
These are some of my favorite players from my youth who bounced around until they made the majors but were never honored with cards. Let me know your picks for players who deserved at least one bubble gum card but never got one.