Monday, July 15, 2013

Are You Sure You’re a Ballplayer? (’70s Version)

Who are these guys?  And why are they wearing major league baseball uniforms?  It certainly can’t be because they’re major league baseball players now, can it?  I mean, can it?

Gene looks like the exchange student from Sweden who was good at math.  Hey, we’re teaching Gene how to play baseball!

If Gene’s looking a little tentative here, there’s a good reason.  Though Gene Hiser was the Cubs’ first round draft pick in 1970, his major league career was more like that of a Swedish exchange student than the college star he was at the University of Maryland.  Over five seasons with the Cubbies, he got 263 at bats, finishing with a .202 average and exactly one homer.

Gene did quite well for himself after hanging up his cleats though.  Instead of tending bar or selling used cars, he started his own financial firm, Barrett and Hiser.  So, don’t make fun of those Swedish exchange students, okay?

Hey, it’s the guy from the pizza place!

Joe Ferguson was up for 14 years and over 3000 at-bats, mostly with the Dodgers.  He played catcher primarily, but also outfield.

Joe was known especially for his arm.  In fact, his throw in the ‘74 World Series may be one of the best outfield throws ever.  You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Hmm, I might have to get my 15-year-old outfielder to start eating more pie.

 Just your basic, dorky-looking guy from the 1970s.

Sounds like Frank Duffy’s main claim to fame is being involved in lopsided trades.  He was traded pretty straight up for George Foster, and he was a throw-in when the Giants traded the ageless Gaylord Perry for Sam McDowell right before his arm fell off.

Another first round draft pick, Frank actually went sixth overall.  Once again, unfortunately, it was a little hard translating that into major league success.  Though he was good with the glove (he led the AL in fielding two years), he finished with a .232 batting average and just 26 homers in 2665 at bats.

If he looks a little nerdy, it’s because he was.  Frank is a fine Stanford University grad. 

Even more so!

This suave and debonair-looking dude has a Wikipedia entry of only 33 words.  In it, we learn his name, his birth date, his birth place, the fact that he was a baseball player, and the major league teams he played for.

Oh, a little further research tells me he was a backup catcher.  Honestly, what more is there to say?

And then some!

Eric Soderholm hit a lot better than he looked.  He was up for nine years, starting in about seven of them.  Missing all of 1976 to injury, he roared back in 1977, winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. 

Eric was also very much a man of his times.  He was a poet and was into all sorts of New Age stuff.  Today, he owns a company called Soder World, “a healing and wellness center treating both the mind as well as the body.”  Physician, heal thy look!


Just your basic, dorky-looking guy from the 1950s.  Wait a minute.  Don!  Did you realize it’s 1970?

Don Young was up for only two years in the bigs.  One of those years was 1969, where Don got involved in an incident that became a part of the Cubbies’ epic meltdown.

Turns out poor Don dropped a fly ball in the ninth to allow the Mets to win a close one.  Ron Santo then went nutzo on him.  Some people like to think that was the tipping point, when it all went inexorably downhill for the Cubs.  It also may have seriously scarred Young, who Wikipedia calls “a quiet, introspective man.” 

Chris was president of the Future Accountants of America Club at the local community college (though click here for a somewhat different look).

Another first rounder who didn’t live up to his lofty drafting spot, Chris Knapp finished with a record of 36-32 and an ERA of 4.99.  He actually had two good years (12-7, 14-8) and one really bad one (2-11, 6.11 ERA). 

I’m not thinking those lapels are helping poor Chris any here, by the way.

Are you sure you didn’t just wander over from the soup kitchen?

Dave Duncan was a pretty decent catcher and an excellent pitching coach.  As a catcher, he was known more for his glove, and especially for his ability to call a game. 

That skill suited him well in his future career as pitching coach.  He teamed up with Tony LaRussa with the Chisox in the early ’80s and stuck with him through the A’s, Cardinals, and LaRussa’s retirement.  He’s still on the Cards staff today.

The photographer asked Rich to look tough.  Rich, unfortunately, heard “constipated.”

Rich Folkers bounced around the majors for seven years, ending up with a 19-23 record.  Somehow or other, though, his bio on Wikipedia managed to go to 1,100 words.  I think his mom must have written it.

Poor Rich is probably best remembered for a line by the broadcaster Jerry Coleman, the Mrs. Malaprop of baseball announcers.  Late in a Padres game, Jerry announced that "Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen."

Mr. McLain was the music director at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church, in Biddleville, IA, for over 25 years.

Though you'd never know it from this pic, Denny McLain was actually a very good pitcher and a very interesting fellow to boot.  I touched on both of these in a previous post focusing on Denny’s choice of eyewear

Some additional McLainiana:

  • His wife is the daughter of Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau
  • He threw a no-hitter with his first professional team, the Harlan (KY) Smokies
  • He hit a home run in his first major-league start (at age 19)
  • He was out of baseball by age 29
  • He spent six years in the pokey

Or did you mean Michelle?  I think she was my date for the junior prom.

Michael Everett Arch (“Bird”) Parrot was up for five years with some woeful Seattle teams.  He finished with a 19-39 record and a 4.87 ERA. 

All that pales in comparison, however, to the 1980 season, where he went an incredible 1-16.  That’s an .059 winning percentage, folks.  I think my junior prom date could have done better than that.

I don't know. It looks like Jerry's allergies might really be acting up here.

Jerry Augustine is a lifetime Cheesehead. He was born in Kewaunee, played for the Brewers for 10 years, is a color commentator for them now, and also once coached the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Panthers. Oh, yaah, yoo betcha!

* - author has this card

Need another dose of unlikely athletes? Here are some from the '50s and '60s.


  1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I had quite a few of these cards growing up. Real sad about Denny McLain. Although I grew up in MA, my father's family is from the DC area and I really hoped Denny would get it together when he moved to the old Senators. What a wasted career...

  2. Huh! How 'bout that? I actually grew up in the DC area. We were all pretty sure McLain was the second coming. It woulda been better if we had just kept Joe Coleman.