If baseball cards have taught me anything about life, it’s to never underestimate the power that timing and personal experience can have on perception of the truth.
Take this 1978 Topps Dave Goltz card, for example.
Had I been a collector that Spring, I might have already known that Goltz was one of the top pitchers in the game, and, if I hadn’t, Topps’ photo choice might have clued me in.
Here was a guy who was so popular and good-looking, after all, that The Old Gum Company chose to devote card #249 to his special brand of fan relations. You can almost hear the excited whispers from youngsters in the stands just in front of Goltz as their hero signs their card, or maybe nearby teenage girls are shrieking with delight as the golden sun splashes across his movie-star head of hair.
Or, I could have just turned the card over to see that Goltz had won 20 games in 1977. Now that’s something to get excited about!
(To see what Goltz’s 1977 card was all about, see Matthew R’s rundown here.)
But my introduction to Dave Goltz came not in the heady Spring that followed his sixth-place finish in the American League Cy Young voting but in the hot summer of 1983. It was my first year of real collecting, and I was devouring every pack of Donruss, Fleer, and (especially) Topps wax that I could lay my chubby little fingers on.
Among my piles of Kent Tekulve Super Veteran cards and Pat Corrales manager cards, I encountered Dave Goltz for the first time. You can see how he appeared at age 33 over there to the right.
To my 11-year-old eyes, Goltz looked like a stodgy old man who was at a loss for what to do next. Especially in the inset photo, with his mouth hanging open, Goltz seemed to be confused — as if George had just stiffed him for a tip again, which frequently happened to him in his side gig as The Jefferson‘s doorman, Ralph Hart.
Most likely, I didn’t bother to turn Goltz’s card over to study his stats, because I had never heard of him. And because he looked like a(n old) sitcom character.
I slipped him back into the stack between Manny Trillo and Garth Iorg and thumbed on, looking for something more exciting, like a checklist card.
I didn’t even notice when he pitched his last Major League game in June of that year.
At some point, though, I did come across some Dave Goltz cards from earlier in his career, including this 1974 Topps stunner.
It’s likely that I did flip this one over — I eventually looked at every card back I came across — but dismissed his nine career wins to that point as not worthy of deeper study.
I do remember thinking that he would have made a stellar third Darrin in Bewitched, though.
And so, thanks to my limited world view, colored heavily by nighttime television — and from the disadvantaged vantage points of the beginning and end of his career — Dave Goltz became nothing more than baseball card filler. That he had an every-man TV face made him slightly more interesting but mostly, somehow, more odd.
Eventually, of course, I stumbled upon my 1978 Goltz card, with its unusual action shot of the heroic figure in profile. It was enough to make me flip over the card and discover that, yes, this guy was a pretty darn good pitcher. Somewhere in the more judgmental corners of my brain, though, a synapse fired, and I started chewing on the name.
“Dave Goltz … Dave Goltz … Dave Goltz.”
Ah, yes, I remember. He’s the guy who looks like Ned Wertimer.
Old perceptions, it turns out, are hard to overcome.