Friday, February 1, 2013

#198 Kiko Garcia - Houston Astros

This is infielder Kiko Garcia's 7th Topps card.  The picture was likely taken at the Astros spring training facility where we see Kiko rocking the matching sweatbands.

Player:  Kiko Garcia, a 3rd round pick of the Orioles in '73, made his MLB debut late in the '76 season.  He batted 32 times with seven hits.  He spent the next two years backing up Mark Belanger at shortstop.  Garcia was known as a slick fielder but he hit just .221 in 131 at bats in '77.  In 1978 he hit .263/.287/.339 which gave the Birds hope they had found a well rounded shortstop to replace the offensively challenged Belanger

Although he wasn't tearing the cover off the ball, Garcia's bat was enough to give him the starting nod.  Garcia played in 126 games and batted .247 as the O's won the AL East in '79.  Despite three hits and two walks in the three game sweep of the Angels in the ALCS, manager Earl Weaver wrote in Belanger's name into the lineup for Games 1 and 2.  Garcia was back in the lineup for Game 3 and batted leadoff.  He responded with two singles, a double, atriple, a walk, and 4 RBI.  He also set a WS record by handling ten chances at shortstop as the Orioles won the game 8-4, before losing the series in seven games.

Garcia hit only .199 in 1980 and his playing time was decreased as a result.  Baltimore traded Garcia to the Astros the next April.  Playing in a utility role, Garcia hit .272 in 150 trips to the plate while filling in at SS, 3B, and 2B.  He played even less in '82 and finished with a .211 average in 76 at bats.  

Garcia was cut by Houston and he signed with Philadelphia in '83.  He started the season at AAA Portland where he batted .345, earning him a promotion in May.  He hit .288/.344/.415 in 131 plate appearances while playing three infield positions.  His OPS+ of 111 proved to be the only time he would crack 100 in his career. 

He played very little in '84 and hit .233 in 60 at bats.  After three hitless at bats in '85, he was released and his career was over.

Flipside:  Whoa! The June 8 highlight is from a game the Astros lost.  It is rare for Topps to mention achievements in a losing effort.

Oddball:  The night before Garcia's Game 3 World Series start was filled with drama.  One article states that Garcia's brother John was arrested for possession of hashish.  Kiko bailed him out and did not get home until 4 AM.  Another report states his brother Tony was arrested for scalping tickets with Kiko posting bail.  Somewhere in there lies to truth, but either case, it was no way to prepare for the biggest game of your life

History:  Garcia hit .239/.286/.323 in parts of 10 big league seasons. He gained national acclaim for his Game 3 performance in the '79 series, but his career was otherwise unremarkable.  He never came close to winning a starting job after he left Baltimore and the O's eventually did alright with Cal Ripken at SS.   

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