Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#194 Cesar Geronimo - Kansas City Royals

Cesar Geronimo displays perhaps the thickest mustache in MLB history. This is his 13th Topps card but just the second with facial hair. The Reds team policy kept him clean-shaven during the 70's but I bet he was happy to show up in spring training in '81 with this beauty.  Enough about his hairy upper lip....Geronimo is shown following through with his lefthanded swing. 
I wonder if the people in the background know they are on this card?  I wrote in the first edition of this post that this pic was likely shot in the same game as his '82 card.  There are a lot of similarities, but as reader Byron pointed out in the comments, he is wearing two different style helmets.   

Player:  Cesar Geronimo was originally signed out of El Seibo, Dominican Republic by the Yankees in 1967.  He was plucked by the Astros as a Rule 5 pick prior to the '69 season.  On the Houston roster for the entire season, he played in 28 games but batted just eight times with two hits. 

Geronimo spent half of the 1970 season refining his game at AA Columbus.  Blessed with great range and a cannon arm (the Yankees tried him at pitcher in the minors) the Astros used him as a defensive sub at all three outfield positions.  He got into 47 games in 1970 and 94 in '71 but had fewer at bats than games played and batted under .250 both years. 

After the '71 season the Astros included Geronimo in the eight player deal that sent Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham, Dennis Menke, and Ed Armbrister to the Reds for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart.  With the Reds Geronimo saw much more time than he had in Houston.  He started often against righties and batted .275/.344/.412 in 285 plate appearances in '72.  Geronimo's average dropped to .210 in 358 trips to the plate in '73, but it was good enough to push Bobby Tolan out of centerfield. 

Over the next four years Geronimo was the everyday centerfielder for the Big Red Machine.  When he sat against southpaws, he usually entered the game later as a defensive sub or pinch hitter.  He would win four straight Gold Gloves and post 5.6 Defensive Wins Above Replacement over the '74-'77 seasons.  A line drive hitter, he didn't hit much with pop as had around 35 extra base hits a season.  His average varied around the mid 250's but he batted a career best .307 with a 125 OPS+ in '76. 

In the postseason Geronimo struggled mightily with the bat.  Heading into the 1975 World Series he had just 6 hits in 64 career postseason at bats.  Against Boston, he turned things around and hit two HR to go with a .280 average in the Reds seven game triumph.  Similarly he hit .182  against the Phillies in the '76 NLCS but had 4 hits in 13 at bats as the Reds swept the Yankees.

Geronimo's playing time with the Reds decreased over the next three years to the point that he batted less than 200 times in 1980.  He was then traded to the Royals before the '81 season. 

Over the next three years with KC, Geronimo filled a bench role as a fifth outfielder.  He batted .246, .269, and .207 as he came to the plate about 100 times each season.  After the '84 season he was released which ended his 15 year playing career.   

Flipside:  Geronimo had quite an unusual year in 1982.  Over the first two months he recorded 18 hits in 46 at bats with a surprising .391/.423/.696 line.  He then fell into a deep funk and had just one hit over the next 26 at bats.  He then had 13 hits in 47 at bats to end the season.  He was particularly effective with runners in scoring position, hitting .393, leading to 23 RBI in his 119 at bats.

Oddball:  It is weird but pretty well circulated that Geronimo was the 3,000 strikeout victim of both Bob Gibson and Nolan Ryan.

Until recently I had never heard of the locker room fight between Pedro Borbon and Geronimo.  It happened before a game in late July, 1975.  Neither brawler was injured, but fellow Red Merv Rettenmund who tried to break up the fight, was sent to the hospital when his toe was gashed open by a cleat during the skirmish.  Few Reds knew what the friends and roommates were fighting over since the verbal portion was conducted in Spanish. 

History:  Geronimo made a name for himself with his defense and strong arm as he graced centerfield for the powerful Reds teams during the 70's.  He won two World Series and played in the postseason six different years.  His final stats show a .258/.325/.368 line with a 93 OPS+.  He had 11.7 career WAR with nearly half (5.8) coming from defense. 


  1. I don't think that this picture was taken at the same as the 82 Topps photo. The reason is that the batting helmet in the 82 Topps card looks like one that a catcher would wear, while the 83 shot looks more like a "regulation" batting helmet.

    At least that's my amateur detective skills.

  2. Byron-great catch, I'll edit the post. Thanks, Brandon