Wednesday, October 10, 2012

#224 Mickey Rivers - Texas Rangers

This card is Mickey Rivers' 12th Topps base card and one of my favorites in the set.  I like both the cameo and action photo of Rivers.  The main picture shows him breaking out of the box, but if you weren't conditioned to looking at baseball cards you might think he was making an awkward landing after jumping off a ladder. 
The inset picture captures Mickey with a slight smile, almost like he's looking around the corner to see if anyone is heading his way. 
Topps nails it with the red and blue borders.

Player: Mickey Rivers  was originally a Brave draft pick, but his major league career was spent with three other franchises.  He was traded to the Angels in '69 after the completion of his first year in pro ball.  Rivers had a brief 17 game look in 1970 batting .320.  The next three years Rivers had mixed results in the big leagues showing glimpses of brilliance but also going into long slumps.  He split time between AAA and the parent club from '71-'73 and batted .265, .214, and .349 as he figured things out late in '73.

Rivers won the starting job in center and led the AL in triples in 1974 despite missing the last 37 games.  For the year he posted a .285/.341/.393 line and stole 30 bases.  Healthy for a career best 155 games in '75 Rivers batted .284, repeated as the AL triples leader with 13, and swiped 70 bases.   After the season the Angels traded Rivers with Ed Figueroa to the Yankees for Bobby Bonds.

In New York, Rivers helped the Yankees reach the World Series the next three seasons, winning it all in '77 and '78.  Rivers hit .308 in 124 career postseason plate appearances  and became a popular star.  During the regular season, Rivers hit .312 in '76, .326 in '77, and .265 in '78.  Although still very fast, injuries kept Rivers from running as often as his steal totals went from 43, 22, to 25.  Not really a home run hitter, Rivers topped double digits twice in his career with 12 in '77 and 11 in '78. 

Halfway through the '79 season, the Yankees traded Rivers to the Rangers in a multi-player deal.  He hit .293 for the year but had clearly lost a couple of steps as he stole just 10 bases in 19 attempts.  In 1980, Rivers proved he could still hit as he batted .333 and had 210 hits, good for third in the AL. 

Rivers hit .286 in '81 and was coming off an injury ridden season which saw him play just 19 games when this card came out.  The Rangers platooned Rivers at DH in '83 and '84 and although he hit for a decent average (.285, .300 BA), his decreased speed and lack of patience (.309, .320 OBP) meant he was no longer a viable option at the top of the lineup.  After he was released during spring training in 1985 he retired with a lifetime .295 batting average. 

Flipside:  Rivers 70 stolen bases in 1975 were the most by an AL player since 1915.
Oddball: Did you know Rivers has his own fan based website?  Mickey was always good for an off the wall or head scratching quote and the best of them are found at this link.
History:  Rivers flourished hitting the ball the opposite way and using his speed to get on base helping him to 1,660 career hits. Rivers had a nice peak that coincided with the Yankees championships in '76 and '77 over which he had 11.2 WAR.  He finished 3rd in AL MVP in '76 voting and made his only All-Star game that same year.   

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