If you were a baseball fan in the 1970s and 1980s, you surely remember the late Don Baylor and Johnny Oates well.
After all, Baylor was a feared slugger for two decades, and a guy who could take a pitch to the rumpus with the best of them. He was also the American League MVP with the California Angels back in 1979.
Add in some post-season heroics in the 1980s and pretty big career numbers, and you have a guy who’s hard to forget.
And Oates spent parts of 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, almost entirely as a catcher and, though he was never any sort of star, he was right there in the thick of playoff battles with the Phillies and Dodgers from 1976 through 1978.
Then, of course, Oates turned his attention to managing, where he logged 11 more big league seasons with the Orioles and Rangers. He never reached a World Series, but he did win three division titles with Texas, in 1996, 1998, and 1999.
Two solid baseball guys, to be sure … but why mention them together here?
Glad you asked!
Find this card on eBay (affiliate link)
Find this card on Amazon (affiliate link)
This is a baseball card show after all, and these two dudes shared some very important cardboard — namely, their rookie card, 1972 Topps Rookie Stars Orioles (#474). Young Baylor appeared on the left, while a mustacheless Oates appeared on the right.
(Note: Technically, this was Baylor’s second card, as he had appeared on one of these in 1971.)
Ah, but weren’t those 1972 rookie cards three-man affairs? Indeed, they were, and the guy who took the seat of honor right there in the middle of the Baylor-Oates rookie was none other than … Roric Harrison.
Now, in case you’re not familiar with Harrison, here is the quick rundown:
- Signed by the Houston Colt Astros as an amateur free agent in 1965
- Spent most of the next five seasons buried in the Astros farm system
- Traded to the expansion Seattle Pilots (with Dooley Womack) in August 1969 in exchange for Jim Bouton
- Stayed in the minors
- Traded by the Pilots, after they became the Milwaukee Brewers, in April of 1971 (with Marion Jackson) to the Baltimore Orioles for Marcelino Lopez
- Stayed in the minors, but went 15-5 with a 2.81 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 170 innings at Triple-A Rochester in 1971 … yowza!
- Caught the attention of the O’s and Topps
- Made his Major League debut on April 18, 1972
- Made his cardboard debut on 1972 Topps, #474
- Hit a home run on October 3, 1972, becoming the last AL pitcher for a quarter century to go deep, thanks to the DH rule.
From there, things sort of reverted to normal for Harrison, as he pitched more like a journeyman than the breakout star he seemed like he might be in 1971.
And he moved around a bunch more times, too — traded to the Braves, traded to the Indians, traded to the Cardinals, signed by the Tigers, signed by the Pirates, signed by the Twins.
By the time he retired in 1978 at the age of 31, Harrison had appeared for four MLB teams and racked up a 30-35 record with 10 saves and a 4.24 ERA.
He had continued his long-ball ways, though, connecting six times among his 15 hits.
Harrison had been featured on a handful of baseball cards, too, but none quite as audacious as that flashy, groovy, I’m-on-center-stage rookie card he shared with two budding lifers in 1972.
Sometimes, you put your best foot forward, and first.
Wow! Wax of the Day
Back when you could pull a Roric Harrison rookie card straight from a factory-fresh pack, you could also find Topps cards in thick packs that included a nifty little cardboard box wrapped in cellophane, complete with a small window to give you a view into what you were buying. This eBay listing (affiliate link) gives you a chance at two of those boxes.
Yep, they’re empty, the cards long gone, along with the cello wrapping. Still a pretty cool glimpse into the world of 1972 Topps, though.
Check out the full listing here (affiliate link).