The main idea behind creating Summer of ’74 was to commemorate my quest to get as many of my 1974 Topps baseball cards signed as possible. I’ve been collecting TTM (through the mail) autos for several years now, but to focus specifically on a single set like this is new for me. Many of the players I will be soliciting for this project are guys that I am not all that familiar with, so I am hoping that in doing the blog I can get to know them and their careers and find out what they were up to when these were brand-new and sharp-cornered, way back in the Summer of ’74.
Dick Green was a prototypical middle-infielder for his time: an undersized hard-ass with a slick glove and below-average bat. He broke in with the Kansas City A’s in the midst of back-to-back 100+ loss seasons and was just one of three holdovers (Blue Moon Odom and Bert Campaneris were the others) from the bottom-out days in KC still with the team in ’74. Green’s best season came in 1969, as the A’s began to emerge as a contender in the newly-created American League West. He batted .275 with 12 homers that year and got a smattering of MVP votes. As Oakland’s most-regular second-sacker in 1974, he struggled at the plate, even by his own standards. Two different stints on the DL held him out of all but five games in April and May and he faded badly down the stretch, hitting just .106 in September as the A’s clinched their fourth straight division title.
But “The Little General” came up big with the glove in the ’74 World Series. Green helped to turn three double plays and executed a perfect relay throw in game 5 to nail Bill Buckner as he tried to advance to third base in the top of the eighth inning. Buckner led off the inning with his Dodgers down by a run and laced a gapper off Rollie Fingers that CF Bill North misplayed. He was making for third when Green fired a peg to Sal Bando to nail him. Instead of having the tying run 90 feet away with the heart of the Los Angeles order coming to bat, the Dodgers went quietly and – an inning later – the A’s celebrated their third straight world title.
Although Green went hitless in the series, and 2-22 overall in the playoffs, he was given that year’s Babe Ruth award as the postseason MVP. Both Charlie O’Finley and Reggie Jackson cited his glove as the biggest reason the A’s were able to complete the three-peat.
Green was only 33 years old after the 1974 season and his play in the Series had brought him praise from across the baseball world. But that offseason, the A’s lost ace Catfish Hunter to free agency and Green felt that the A’s glory days were now behind them. After threatening to retire (and sometimes announcing his retirement, as he had around the time this card was actually issued) for years, he informally informed the club he would not return for the 1975 season and was officially released at the start of that year’s spring training.
As a note specific to the card in question, there is some debate as to the identity of both of players featured on this card. You can read more about it here, but it seems very certain the Oakland player on the card is not actually Dick Green. Note that the player on the card is clean-shaven and that Green wore a mustache between the 1972 and ’73 seasons. There is no consensus on who the Oakland player really is – or who the sliding player is, or what team he plays for, or if the picture was taken in Oakland or not.
I tried to figure it out for myself. Per the Dressed to the Nines uniform database, that is a 1973 Oakland road uni. The only AL teams that did not have stripes on their home sleeves that year were Boston, Detroit, the White Sox, and Yankees. Our mystery #14 disqualifies every one of those teams. Boston had red numbers, the Tigers had player names, the White Sox had red numbers, and the Yankees had a sleeve patch. But could the patch be obscured? That black wall in the background could be a patch of Yankee Stadium I’s outfield fence, as seen here. No so fast. #14 for the Bombers that year was Ron Swoboda. And that ain’t Ron Swoboda.
I’m damn stumped. Any ideas?