On May 2, 1970, the already moribund Philadelphia Phillies became a whole lot more suspect when both of their catchers — Mike Ryan and Tim McCarver — broke their hands in a game against the
That sent manager Frank Lucchesi scrambling for a backstop — utility man Jim Hutto handled the rest of that loss to the Giants.
But in the longer term, like the rest of the season, Lucchesi didn’t have a lot to work with.
He turned to bullpen coach — seriously — Doc Edwards, who dusted off his tools of ignorance and hunkered down for 35 games.
Lucchesi also turned to Del Bates, who made his way into 22 games.
And, of course, there was Hutto, who tallied 56 other appearances to go along with that relief stint on May 2.
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And, finally, there was Mike Compton, who just so happened to have been called up on April 17 and so was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a (couple of) bad break(s).
By that point, Compton was headed toward his 26th birthday and had been in the Phillies minor league system since they signed him as an amateur free agent out of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, TX, back in 1965.
In fact, he had only been in their minor league system until that April 1970 call-up.
But the lack of solid options meant Compton copped 47 appearances for those ’70 Phils, all but one of them at catcher.
In 121 plate appearances, the young (or green, at least) backstop batted .164 with one home run and seven RBI. Added in 22 strikeouts to sweeten the pot.
All in all, that line didn’t look so out of place for a bad Philadelphia team, but it was bad enough to get Compton sent back to Triple-A Eugene. In fact, his last Big League game came on August 30.
And that would be his last Big League game ever, not just for 1970. Because, after three more seasons at Eugene, Compton took his leave of the game in 1973.
Well, he took his leave as a player, anyway, because he would soon embark on a coaching career that would take him to Philly (again) and the Cincinnati Reds.
Compton is also credited by most sources as the inventor of The Ball Hawg ball retriever … so there’s that.
Before any of that second act could play out, though, Topps bought into Compton as a catcher, which makes some sense considering you never could tell who those early-1970s Phillies might need to trot out in order to, uh, Phil out their roster.
It’s usually pretty easy to make good-looking catcher card, but you have to give Compton and Topps credit for featuring that big old fat mitt of his and dropping a grandstand in the background to make a slightly awkward pose really work on card #77 in the 1971 Topps set.
It was a case of making the most of the breaks that fall your way, and we all won — except McCarver and Ryan and the Phillies, of course — with a snapshot of MLB life that only existed from April through August of 1970.