Do you remember that one time Mike Hargrove held all the answers — for three teams?

It all began in the fall of 1978 …

That summer, the Texas Rangers had finished 87-75, good for a second-place tie (with the California Angels) in the old American League West, five games back of the Kansas City Royals.

That was a seven-win drop from 1977, but still got the Rangers three games closer to the playoffs.

Sort of heady territory for a franchise that had reeled off four straight 90-loss seasons to begin the decade, including two 100-clunker campaigns in 1972 and 1973, their first years after leaving Washington.

Even so, Texas seemed stuck — they first reached second place in 1974 but just couldn’t break through to a title.

They needed a jolt.

And what better way to jumpstart a team than by trading your former Rookie of the Year first baseman, also a former All-Star, fresh off leading the league in walks?

Well, you could also include a former bubble-blowing champion in the deal!

So, on October 26, 1978, nine days after the Yankees finished off the Dodgers in the World Series, the Rangers made their move.

Off went Mike Hargrove, Kurt Bevacqua, and Bill Fahey to the San Diego Padres, and in came Oscar Gamble and Dave Roberts in return.

For the Padres, well, this move also let them shake things up.

After posting a surprising 84 wins of their own in1978, a 15-game improvement over 1977, the Pads had big ideas for 1979.

One of those ideas was getting better at catcher after “youngster” Rick Sweet (who was 25) failed to impress in ‘78.

So …

First baseman Gene Tenace revived his crouch, with Bevacqua providing some backup seasoning.

That would have left first base wide open, but Hargrove was just the man to fill the gap.

And, so San Diego began a new season full of hope with their new defensive alignment in place, which also looked like it might provide an offensive boost.

Off to the races they went, winning on Opening Day, before sputtering under .500 by Game 3.

They’d even their record at 8-8 on April 21 but would never come up for air again.

By the end of a four-game set with the Pirates on June 14, the Pads stood at 30-35, seven-and-a-half games out of first place and with four teams in front of them.

Hargrove didn’t play in that series, though, because San Diego evidently had other plans for him — in particular, they shipped him to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Paul Dade.

Of course, that would begin a long relationship between Grover and the Tribe that extended nearly into the new millennium when you factor in his managerial stint in Cleveland that lasted most of the 1990s.

And along the way, collectors became accustomed to seeing Hargrove in an Indians uniform on his baseball cards, and us oldsters remember his Rangers pasteboards, too.

But what of his marriage with the Padres?

That one was too short to have ever been memorialized in pulp, right?

Well, mostly right.

Topps showed Hargrove with the Rangers in 1979 and with the Indians in 1980, and there were not other major manufacturers or traded sets in those days.

Bu there were Hostess cards with in-season release dates, and card artists with their airbrushes.

And, so, there was also …

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It’s a mess of a card, with Hargrove’s San Diego uniform lathered on like extra mustard on a Big Mac and some sort of post-apocalyptic power grid in the background … but it is a Mike Hargrove Padres card.

And if you just *have* to have the full Grover story in cardboard glory, then it’s an indispensable part of your collection (or want list).

1979 Hostess #68 George Brett (Full Border)

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1979 Hostess All-Star Team - #65 Tom Seaver

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1979 Hostess #89 Ron Guidry New York Yankees

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1979 Hostess All-Star Team - #66 George Hendrick

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1979 Hostess #121 Dale Murphy PSA 4

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1979 Hostess All-Star Team - #104 Willie Stargell

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