“Moment” is a sort of amorphous concept … or, at least that’s what I learned from stepping through the list of cards in the 1971 Topps Greatest Moments set.
I mean, there are gems like …
Harmon Killebrew Tops 40 Homers for 8th Time …
Willie Mays Gets 3000th Hit of Career …
Ernie Banks Sets Major League Record with 5 Grand-Slammers
And, yes, I’ll buy that those all happened in a moment. Or, at least culminated with a single swing of the bat.
But then you had more, uh, achievement sorts of things.
Things like …
Johnny Bench Named Major League Player of the Year for 1970 …
Tony Oliva Leads AL in Batting His 1st 2 Full Years in Majors …
Jim Kaat Named to Gold Glove Team 9 Straight Years.
So … those players did a bunch of good stuff, and then they got an award, or added a second batting title, or whatever.
Not really moments, other than in the sense that, I guess, there was a moment when Bench found out he was the POY, for instance.
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One of my favorites in this line of achievement-y moments among the 1971 Topps Greatest Moments is card #38 …
Lou Piniella Wins AL Rookie of the Year Award for 1969.
There are other ROY winners in this set — Thurman Munson, for example.
But anything surrounding Piniella’s rookie award is sort of fun because of the backstory.
See, Piniella was always supposed to do something big, and Topps thought so all the way back in 1964, when they anointed him a Senators Rookie Star:
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He wasn’t, though, and spent most of 1964 in the minors before Washington traded him to the Orioles as a player to be named later. This after the Indians had let the Senators take him in the 1962 expansion draft.
But, hey, at least Piniella made it into four games for the O’s late that summer of ’64.
It was back to the minors in 1965, though, and then back to Cleveland for 1966, traded for Cam Carreon.
Piniella wouldn’t see the majors again until a six-game cup of coffee for the Tribe in 1968 … and then they let him walk to an expansion team again, this time to the Seattle Pilots.
Seattle decided they’d rather have John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker, though, and traded Piniella to the Kansas City Royals on April 1, 1969, to get them.
But hold on …
Along the way, Topps still had faith in the youngster (who was a not-so-young 25 by the time the 1969 season began).
See, they thought he would be an Indians Rookie Star in 1968:
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And they were sure he’d be a Pilots Rookie Star in 1969 (even though they decided not to spend a new picture on him):
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Hey, they were half right!
And, you better believe that when Topps finally had the chance to trumpet their prognosticating abilities, they were darn-tooting going to do it in big style.
So, yes …
Lou Piniella Wins AL Rookie of the Year Award for 1969 was, indeed, one of Baseball’s Greatest Moments.
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