Sunday, February 5, 2017

#344 Roger LaFrancois - Boston Red Sox

Not only is this Roger LaFrancois' rookie card it is his only Topps card.  I don't remember LaFrancois or this card at all

No doubt it takes a lot of talent, ability, and hard work to reach the majors but LaFrancois has the look of guy they pulled out of the stands and threw a uniform on him.  He is bigger (6'2") than he looks in the pic.
Player: LaFrancois' was a local guy from Connecticut.  After an unremarkable minor league tenure he made the BoSox in '82 as a third catcher, behind Gary Allenson and Rich Gedman.  
Remarkably LaFrancois was on the major league roster the entire season but did not get a start until game 162.   When I first saw his stats for 1982, I though all his games were as a September call up but they were spread out with one in May, two in June, one in August and the rest when rosters expanded in September.  

Coming into the final game LaFrancois was batting .400 (2/5).  As the game went into extra innings LaFrancois was one for four taking his season average to .333 (3/9).  With a a chance to bat .400 precariously hanging into the balance, LaFrancois steadied his nerves in hostile Yankee Stadium as he came to bat in the top of the 11th.  Facing long odds with veteran lefty Rudy May on the hill, the 26 year old, lefty swinging backstop beat out an infield hit to second base.  Not only did he reach the magic .400 mark but he scored the go-ahead and eventual winning run. I may have overplayed that a bit but it makes for good theater.

LaFrancois returned the minors never to return.  After two poor seasons in AAA he started his coaching career which is still going.

Flipside:  It seems absolutely crazy to me to sit on the bench for 154 of 162 games but I can find no record of LaFrancois being injured and he did not play in the minors in '82.

Oddball:  There wasn't a whole lot of roster transactions for the Red Sox in '82 as they only had thirteen position players with more than 24 at bats and only eleven pitchers with more than nine innings.

History:  I may have had a little fun with LaFrancois' career stats but being able to say you batted .400 is pretty cool.  LaFrancois caught 25 of the 33 innings in the longest minor league game ever.  That and some other bits about LaFrancois can be read here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

#343 Bob Bailor New York Mets

Looks like Bob Bailor is running downhill on his 6th Topps card with Shea Stadium in the background.  It's a n excellent action shot that would be better if he wasn't wearing the Topps logo on his head.  Couldn't they have reduced the size another five percent?

Strange to see the 3B-SHORTSTOP-2B designation.  Seems like the 3B-SS-2B would suffice.  In fact that's what Topps did on his next two cards.  I wonder how they chose the order since he played more 2B and SS than 3B in these three seasons.

Player: Bob Bailor came up through the Orioles system and found it tough to crack the big league roster in the mid-70s. This depth along with a rotator cuff injury limited him to 13 big league at bats over the '75-'76 seasons.  Bailor got his break when the AL expanded and Toronto made him an original Blue Jay. 

Bailor played all over the diamond in '77 and was a regular in the Jays lineup posting what would prove to be career numbers with a .310 BA and five of his nine career homers.  He remained an everyday player the next two years but saw his productivity drop each year.  By 1980 he was more of a utility man and played everywhere but first base and catcher.  He even made three appearances on the mound.

After the '80 season he was sent packing to the Mets in exchange for Roy Lee Jackson.  He had just 81 at bats in '81 but he batted .284.   Bailor earned more playing time the next two-years as a "play anywhere" guy and if nothing else provided stellar base running with 38 steals in 44 attempts.

Bailor was traded after the '83 campaign to the Dodgers in the Sid Fernandez deal.  He was pretty much a bench player with less than 150 plate appearances each year.  The Dodgers cut Bailor in the spring of '86.  He sat out the '86 season and then coached in the Jays organization through the '95 season before retiring from pro baseball.

Flipside:  Another significant discrepancy in height as Topps lists Bailor at 5'9" and lists him at 5'11"

Oddball:  Bailor didn't play baseball in high school because his school didn't field a team.  He made his mark in American Legion ball.  Although un-drafted he caught the eye of scout Jocko Collins who signed him for the O's. 

Playing winter ball in Venezuela he was at the beach with some teammates on New Years Day 1974 when pitching prospect Mark Weems drowned in the undertow. Bailor and his fellow farmhands searched for three days but could not locate Weems' body.

History: Bailor was a good glove defender whose versatility helped him get to the big leagues and carve out a decent career.  He was pretty aggressive hitter not taking too many pitches so he neither walked nor struck out much.  He hit well enough (.264 career average) that he often was able to earn starter playing time.
The scrappy Bailor was an original Blue Jay which is probably his biggest claim to fame.  He returned to coach first base with Toronto and won championship rings in '92 and '93.