This is Day 2 of my 2019 Spring Training Challenge, which means I need to pick a card that shows a player in his new uniform.
You know … like he had and OLD uniform at some point and then got a NEW one. Preferably accompanied by a new team for this exercise.
Now, if there was one thing that was tough for Topps and Fleer and Donruss and every other company to pull off in the 1990s and before, it was delivering cards of players in their new togs in a timely fashion.
I mean, if you were traded early in the summer, you might make it into the Topps Traded or Fleer Update set that came out in November or so. If you were traded as the pennant races heated up, though, there might not have been enough time to get you into your new uniform before the following spring.
Before 1981 — and the first Topps Traded set — you were definitely waiting until the next season.
And if you were traded in the off-season? Well, you might get an airbrushed job the following spring if you were lucky (but that’s a topic for another piece in this series).
All of that is a long-winded way to say that I wanted a card for this entry that captured a dude in his new uniform at an early stage of his new-team-hood.
And I kind of wanted it to be a base card, as opposed to a Traded or Update.
And I wanted it to be a star(ish) player.
Yep, I’m being picky, but I’m old and feel like I’ve sort of earned that right.
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Fortunately for me, another old dude pretty much fit my bill to a “T” — a Texas Rangers “T”, that is.
All through the 80s, I knew Charlie Hough as the ancient knuckleballer who was able to keep trotting out to the mound in Arlington precisely because he did throw a knuckleball. Low velocity, easy on the body, hard to hit. You know the drill, right?
But there were a couple of things I didn’t much appreciate about Hough at the time.
First, he wasn’t all that old — younger than my dad, in fact, and Dad didn’t seem old then and doesn’t really seem old now. Probably never will to me.
And second, Hough pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers for ten years before he found his way to the Rangers. He was a decent minor leaguer for five years before — the story goes — he discovered the knuckleball while working with Tommy Lasorda and Goldie Holt before the 1970 season.
After making the change, Hough got to the Bigs almost right away, appearing in eight games for L.A. in 1970. It took another three years of part-time relief work, but Hough finally splashed down as an integral part of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 1973 at age 25.
Three years after that, he moved into the closer role and helped The Blue to some postseason glory.
By 1980, though, young hotshot Steve Howe was installed at the back of the ‘pen, and Hough became expendable.
On July 11 that summer, Dodgers GM Al Campanis outright sold Hough to the Rangers. Lots of folks probably thought Hough was done that point, especially since he was a ripe old 32 years of age and without a huge track record of success.
Topps was OK with it all, though, and they plopped Hough into their 1981 set at #371. The kicker is, the card showed Hough in his new Rangers uniform, complete with warmup jacket and white towel draped around his neck.
It was … a card of a player in his new uniform.
And, as it turned out, that white towel was not a white flag in any way, as the Rangers inserted Hough into their 1982 rotation. He stayed there through 1990, then wound down with two years each for the Chicago White Sox and the expansion Florida Marlins.
Hough finally retired at age 46 in 1994 with an even 216-216 record, supported by a 3.75 ERA.
And, of course, a place in our Spring Training Challenge.
Check out the entire series of 2019 Spring Training Challenge posts here.