Being a first-round draft pick carries a lot of weight. Sometimes, that heavy matter is in the form of dripping airbrush paint.

Just ask Bobby Fenwick.

The first-round pick (16th overall) of the San Francisco Giants out of Minnesota in 1967, Fenwick spent his minor league climb as a high-average-hitting middle infielder without much pop.

Of course, back in those days, you didn’t expect any bat from small second basemen or shortstops, generally speaking, so Fenwick’s occasional .300 BA was pretty BA.

The only problem was, it took him five long years to make his MLB debut, and even then it didn’t happen before the G-men gave up on him.

To wit, San Francisco left him exposed in the 1971 Rule 5 Draft, and the Houston Astros snapped him up, which assured him a summer in the Astrodome.

After posting a .180 average in 36 games for the ‘Stros in 1972, though, Fenwick was on the move again, traded along with Ray Busse to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Skip Jutze and Milt Ramirez in November of 1972.

(On a historical side note, Fenwick’s first game with the Astros made him the second American player of Japanese descent, after Mike Lum, to appear in the Major Leagues.)

And that’s where things get interesting, cardboardwise.

In 1972, Topps knew Fenwick would finally be a rookie in the big leagues because that Rule 5 pick meant Houston had to find a home in Houston for him. So the old gum company got spring pictures of Fenwick and fellow rook, catcher Bob Stinson, and managed to turn their nostalgia wheels fast enough to get them on an Astros Rookie stars card at #679.

Both guys were first-round picks, so it was worth the effort.

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As 1973 dawned, Topps must have a) been inspired by Fenwick’s toils with the Astros or b) thought they knew something the rest of baseball didn’t or c) still had that first-round glare in their eyes.

Because, not only did they create space for the “young” Cardinal, then 26, they also went ahead and masterpieced up a St. Louis uniform using ye old airbrush machine, cranking out a monstrosity on card #567 you’re not likely to see this side of the 1973 Topps Steve Dunning.

Now, Topps did capitulate a bit to time by pushing Fenwick way out to card #567, which put him in the sixth and final series. But … well, that also meant Topps had time to watch Fenwick’s season unfold — five April and early May games, one hit in six at-bats, two strikeouts, a .167 batting average.

And then a June 12 release.

The Astros picked him up the same day but released him in July, when the Chicago Cubs signed him.

Fenwick didn’t appear in another pro game in 1973, but a November trade to the San Diego Padres (with Glenn Beckert, for Jerry Morales) opened the door to one last minor league season, at Hawaii in 1974.

Topps didn’t issue a Bobby Fenwick card in 1974, or any other time, but they went the extra mile for his cardboard finale in 1973.

Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of promise.


Hobby Wow!

If you like Bobby Fenwick cards, you could go ahead and pop for that 1973 Topps single, or you could up the ante by springing for a complete set of the same issue …

There are several complete 1973 Topps sets up for grabs on eBay, but you might as well start your shopping with a listing that shows scads of the cards and the binder, too … don’t you think?

Check out the full eBay listing right here (affiliate link).

1973 Topps Baseball Cards Singles #1 to #100

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1973 Topps Baseball Cards #221-330 in good shape

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