Do you remember that time Ron Diorio did something that’s usually reserved for Hall of Famers, Rookies of the Year, and record breakers?
Well, how about this …
Can you imagine how it feels to pull your own likeness from a pack of Topps baseball cards?
If you’re a card collector, it must be akin to the experience of being able to cast a ballot for yourself in a Presidential election. Surreal!
Of course, the odds of either of those happening are longer than the post-game bathroom line after a dual no-hitter finally ends with a bases-loaded walk deep into extra innings.
I mean, millions of kids dream about making it to the Major Leagues, and millions more dream about being President. To make the cut in either realm takes drive, dedication, talent, timing, and luck.
Among other intangibles.
But, while scoring even a single baseball card is monster sign of accomplishment on the diamond, a few select players have appeared on two cards in their debut set.
For instance … Willie McCovey in the 1960 Topps set.
And Dwight Gooden in the 1985 Topps set.
And Vince Coleman in the 1986 Topps set.
And … yes … Ron Diorio in the 1974 Topps set.
It’s true. Ron Diorio has two different cards in the 1974 Topps set — but on a technicality.
See, McCovey, Gooden, and Coleman were bona fide stars right off the bat. And their extra cardboard came in the form of All-Stars and record breakers.
Not so for Ron Diorio, though.
Diorio shares his rookie card, “1974 ROOKIE PITCHERS” (#599), with three other young hurlers.
There is Frank Riccelli of the San Francisco Giants.
There is Greg Shanahan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And then there is Dave Freisleben of the San Diego Padres.
Or … is that Dave Freisleben of the Washington Nat’l Lea.s?
Ah … there’s the rub. You probably know this story by now, but the quick rundown is …
- The Padres were poised to leave the sunny climes of San Diego during the 1973-74 off-season.
- Washington, D.C., was the likely destination for the franchise.
- Topps had to go to press before things were finalized, so they took a gamble.
- Topps didn’t know what the name of the uprooted team would be, so they designated Padres players as toiling for “Washington Nat’l Lea.”
- Ray Kroc bought the Padres and blew the whole thing up.
- Topps scrambled and released corrected versions of their Washington cards to show the still-intact San Diego association.
And so we’re left with some of the most famous and desirable variation pairs of the last 50 years.
And, can you guess which rookie card “benefited” from the snafu? Yep — the Diorio/Riccelli/Shanahan/Freisleben quad.
All four of these guys, then, fell into the funky realm of having two rookie cards (sort of, at least) in the same Topps set. But while Feisleben turned in a six-year career and won 34 games, and while Riccelli was young enough to be considered something of a prospect … well, the other two guys were a different story.
Shanahan was 26 when this card debuted, with seven Major League appearances under his belt. He’d get into four more games before he was done.
And Diorio was 27, just a few months shy of 28. He had pitched well in 19+ innings of relief for the Phillies in 1973, but he’d manage only two innings of 18.00 ERA ball before Philadelphia sent him down for good in April of 1974.
Yet … two rookie cards (again, sort of).
Just like Big Mac McCovey.
So, next time you’re marveling at that glorious 1960 Topps All-Star card of Stretch, take a second or two to remember Ron Diorio, Greg Shanahan, and their legions (nah) of 1974 RCs.
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