Cecilio Guante was one of those guys who seemed to be in every pack of baseball cards I bought during the 1980s.
He was everywhere, and I probably still have stacks of Guante lurking in various corners of my closet.
Yep, Cecilio Guante was a Super Common, and he pretty much had the stats to back up that status …
Never as many as 10 wins in a season, never more than 12 saves, ERAs that looked really good some years (high 2s) and really bad others (above 5 twice).
But Guante was one common I never minded having around too much because the dude looked freaking awesome on his baseball cards.
Part of it was that he was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1980s, so he had the benefit of all that yellow and black goodness, and that pillbox hat greatness.
Part of it was that mean mustache and disgusted expression.
Part of it was his gangly body that hung there on the mound like some sort of Lurch monster waiting to pounce on his prey at the plate and then uncorked into a preternatural avian swoop of a delivery.
And then there was the “G” for “Guante” that he wore on his glove, like one his 1988 Topps card:
And the fact that “Guante” means “Glove” in English. So, if Guante had been born in, say, Kokomo rather than the Dominican Republic, his name might have been Cecil Glove.
(And that he was “Matt” on his 1983 Donruss card.)
You can’t be Cecil Glove in Kokomo or Cecilio Guante in Villa Mella and not be some sort of baseball god.
And, really, if you look at his peripheral stats, Guante was pretty darn good — career ERA+ of 111, 1.257 WHIP, 7.6 K/9. He was a long reliever, a mop-up guy, but he was solid.
As good a thing as Guante had going, though, it all crashed to mediocrity on November 26, 1986, when the Buccos traded him to the New York Yankees along with Pat Clements and Rick Rhoden in exchange for Doug Drabek, Logan Easley, and Brian Fisher.
Now, that deal worked out just fine for the Pirates, as Drabek won a Cy Young Award in 1989 and helped Pittsburgh win a bunch of National League East titles.
But it absolutely decimated Guante’s baseball card swagger:
(But, to be fair:)
After a year and a half with the Rangers, Guante signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Indians after the 1989 season.
Of course, most of the time he would not have scored any sort of Indians card until 1991, to reflect his 1990 season. Or the 1990 traded sets at the earliest.
So, as you’d expect, there were plenty of Guante cards evolving from wax packs that summer, and they all showed him with the Rangers.
Well … almost all of them showed him with the Rangers.
If you had any connection to the hobby in 1990, you might remember it as the summer other card companies decided to go toe-to-toe with Upper Deck in the premium card market. Or, more succinctly, the Summer of Leaf.
No, not the Donruss-Leaf parallels that were like O-Pee-Chee only Donrussier.
These Leaf cards were glossy and fancy yet subdued and foil-wrapped and expensive and “rare.”
Now, “rare” is a relative phenomenon and has very often been overused in the realm of baseball cards, but Leaf cards were hard to come by the summer. And every time a dealer tried to set out a box on his table, the cards were gone before cardboard met Formica. Pack prices went up, up, up, and so did key singles like rookie cards of Marquis Grissom, David Justice, and Frank Thomas.
And, believe it or not, The Big Hurt brings us back to Cecilio Guante.
See, 1990 Leaf was issued in two series, Series 1 and Series 2.
Series 2 was issued late enough in the season to pick up important rooks like Thomas … and important (ahem) team changes for veterans like Guante.
So there, on card number 365 in 1990 Leaf Series 2, we get to see old Cecilio in his brand new Cleveland Indians uniform.
And somewhere along the time that card was issued, on July 29 to be exact, Indians manager John McNamara sent Guante out to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Yankees.
It was the only start of Guante’s Big League career.
After allowing four earned runs in three innings to drop his season line to 2-3, 5.01 ERA, it became the final appearance of any sort of Guante’s Big League career.
The Indians released him on August 12.
The Boston Red Sox picked him up later in the month, and he made two appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox down the stretch … and then he was done.
Boston released him in April of 1991, and that was pretty much the last we’ve heard from him.
But for that one, brief, not shining moment, Cecilio Guante was a Major League starter, and it ended him. If not in a causal way, then at least as a milepost.
Take heart, though … we’ll always have those swashbuckling 1980s commons!
(Check out our other player card posts here.)
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