(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Have you ever found yourself in the uncomfortable position of being stuck in front of a movement that you know you can’t keep pace with?

Maybe a funny new kid moved into your high school and rendered your class-clown status a joke.

Maybe you’ve been schooling your son on the basketball court for 15 years but have noticed recently how big and muscular he’s becoming (hypothetically.

Or, maybe the pace of new baseball card issues left you in the dust in the 1990s when you still thought of yourself as an expert in the field (hypothetically).

Whatever the scenario, chances are pretty good that you’ve landed in front of a charging herd of holy crap at least a few times in your life.

The bad news is that most of the time you’re powerless to do anything about it. You can’t stop your kid from growing up (not by legal means, anyway) and you can’t unrelease all those junk wax baseball cards.

The good news is that you’re not alone. All of us have been there.

Heck, some of us even have that moment when we realize we’re about to get trampled immortalized in print.

Take Chuck Baker, for example.

1982 Fleer Chuck Baker

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In case you don’t remember …

Baker was a light-hitting middle infielder who the Minnesota Twins drafted out of high school in the 36th round in 1971. He said no thanks and enrolled at Santa Ana College, where his stock rose enough for the Kansas City Royals to pick him in the 26th round in 1973.

Baker passed again and went to Loyola Marymount University for a year.

The Houston Astros took him in the 2nd round of the secondary phase in 1974 and, you guessed it — Baker went back to school.

Finally, the San Diego Padres took him in the 2nd round of the secondary phase in 1975, and this time Baker signed on the dotted line.

He spent three years climbing through the Padres’ system before landing in the Major Leagues on April 7, 1978. At age 25, he got into 44 games for San Diego that summer and “hit” .207.

The bad news is that performance got him sent back down for the 1979 season.

The good news is that Baker would make it back to the Big Leagues in 1980 and 1981.

The really bad news is that he never again broke the Mendoza line.

After Baker hit .136 in 9 nine games for the ’80 Pads, they traded him that December to the Twins in exchange for Dave Edwards.

So, nine long years after they drafted him, the Twins finally had their man. Like it or not.

Mostly not.

In 40 games during the strike-shortened 1981 campaign, Baker recorded 12 hits in 66 at-bats (.182) with 6 RBI, a single walk, no homers, no doubles, no stolen bases (or attempts), but — somehow — three triples.

His OPS was .467. His OPS+ was 30.

He was, however, ever so slightly above average in the hole.

All in all, it wasn’t a very pretty “homecoming.”

And that’s where we find Chuck Baker on the front of his 1982 Fleer baseball card.

He has a bat cocked, ready to flail at whatever pitch might come his way. His red and black Twins batting helmet is scarred and dull, a baseball warrior’s shield. His mustache is full and gnarly, befitting one of the grinders from a century earlier.

His skin is tanned and weathered, creased well beyond his 28 years.

And that stare.

At first, it seems merely intense. He’s bearing down, focusing on the job.

But take a closer look at that back eye, the right one. It’s opened a bit wider than the left, taking in all it can. And the left one … it’s wary, skeptical of your probing perusal of his situation. Both eyes seem alive, ready to dart one way or the other at any instant.

1982 Fleer Chuck Baker feature

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They’re vigilant.

And they should be.

They’ve already seen signs of the future in Minnesota. It’s a future that includes Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek and Frank Viola and, eventually, Kirby Puckett and two World Series championships.

Chuck Baker’s eyes are telling him it’s almost time to get out of the way.

And so he did.

Even by the time his 1982 Fleer card started appearing in wax packs across the land that Spring, Baker was out of the game.

Whether he chose to step away or if that choice was made for him, the end result was the same — the steamroller got him.

And his card is all the more appealing for it, because it reminds us that, in due course, the bull chareges all of us.

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

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End Date: Tuesday 05/14/2024 00:37:18 EDT
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