(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Don Rose deserves a sympathy card to make up for his one and only baseball card.

Here’s why …

Remember that old line about not saying anything at all if you can’t say something nice?

It’s a commendable ideal, but most folks have a hard time living up to it, at least all the time.

Moms are a great example. They’ll pound this nugget into your brain until it’s all mushed up with “wear clean underwear” and “finish your peas” but then unleash a corker …

“Maybe you should just cut it all off” — referring to your dad’s hair when it starts to thin.

“Black pants might help your thighs look thinner, dear” — to your wife or girlfriend.

Mom gave it a shot, but her “helpfulness” couldn’t pad the jabs she was unleashing. And if moms struggle with this, what chance do the rest of us have?

Not much.

Take good ol’ Topps, for instance.

For decades, their baseball card backs have delighted collectors with not just statistics but also biographical tidbits about the player in question. Sometimes, we even get cartoons, usually with a career highlight or at least an interesting bit of player trivia.

Here is the 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle card back:

1958 Topps Mickey Mantle (back)

It’s a masterful mashup of baseball and comics that makes you want to see and admire The Mick more than ever.

Sometimes, though, the cartoons were forced.

Like Topps’ mom was standing to the side of the stage while the Old Gum Company delivered a speech about their kid brother on his sixth-grade graduation.

“You better say something nice about your brother, or I’ll let you have it,” mom warned before Topps took the podium. “And then I’ll tell your father.”

So instead of telling about that time that little Don (russ) made a set out of recycled tissue papers, Topps says something like, “Don likes puzzles.”

And lest you think this is hypothetical or hyperbole, well, take a look at the back of the 1973 Topps Don Rose card:

1973 Topps Don Rose (back)

“Don enjoys stereo music”? Is that really all Topps could come up with? Really?

I’ll answer for them — no, it’s not.

I mean, sure, Rose was the 11th-round draft choice of the then-lowly New York Mets in 1968.

And, yes, that’s even though he was older than some other members of the draft, having first attended Stanford.

I’ll concede, too, that it took Rose three years to make it to the Majors , debuting for the Mets in a two-inning relief stint on September 15, 1971. That would be his only MLB appearance on the year.

But the Mets traded Rose to the California Angels on December 10, 1971, in exchange for Jim Fregosi, and that move changed the course of his career. (Not to mention the future of baseball when you consider the other guys the NYM gave up for Fregosi — Frank Estrada, Leroy Stanton, and *gasp* Nolan Ryan.)

Rose got a tad more seasoning with the Salt Lake City Angels, but he made his California Angels debut on May 19. Over the next week or so, he’d make four appearances, including a start on May 24.

And it was in that game against the Oakland A’s that Rose made his bid for what should have been baseball card immortality.

In the top of the third inning at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Rose stepped into the batter’s box against Athletics reliever Diego Segui with one out and nobody on base. It was his first-ever Major League plate appearance.

On the first pitch from Segui, Rose uncorked the swing he’d been waiting a lifetime to spring open, and he slammed a home run. It put the Angels ahead 1-0, and they eventually won the game by that same one-run margin.

In hitting his only career home run, Rose also helped himself to his only career victory in the Big Leagues.

Not only that, but he became one of the last American League pitchers to hit a home run before the Designated Hitter era began with Ron Blomberg‘s unwitting ascension to the DH role for the New York Yankees in the Spring of 1973.

Rose had lost his first three games in May of 1972, and he would go on to lose one more.

1973 Topps Don Rose

That was enough action for Topps to pull him in to their 1973 set, but as we’ve seen, it wasn’t enough for them to highlight his accomplishments.

He spent the first half of the 1973 season in the minor leagues before the Angels shipped him to the San Francisco Giants with Bruce Christensen in exchange for Ed Figueroa. That move didn’t get him back to the Majors immediately, but San Fran did call him up in April of 1974.

There, in two appearances, Rose gave up an earned run in one inning pitched on the back of three hits, a walk, and no strikeouts.

That performance earned him a return trip to the Triple-A Phoenix Giants of the Pacific Coast League, where he finished out his pro career in 1975.

So what possessed Topps to 1) give Rose a card on the back of a very meager Big League record and 2) condemn him with a less-than-mundane highlight cartoon?

The first part is understandable. After all, Rose made 16 appearances for a blah 1972 Angels team, so he probably seemed as good a bet as most others to make it back to Anaheim Stadium at some point. Topps had team rosters to fill, just like Angels’ general manager Harry Dalton did.

As far as the backhanded “highlights” … well, who knows, really?

But maybe, just maybe, someone at Topps squinted their eyes tight and imagined a future world full of cardboard competition.

If you look at the name just right and say it with a certain cadence, doesn’t Don Rose sound familiar to you?

Don Rose … DonRose … DonRos … DonRus … DonRuss … Donruss.

And if you were Topps, which of these would sound better to your ears?

Donruss enjoys stereo music.

Donruss is a dragson slayer who can fell any enemy with one powerful flex.

Uh-huh.

Sorry, Mr. Rose!

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

 

 

 

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