You remember Van Snider, right?
If you’re a Royals or Reds fan of a certain age, you just might. Otherwise, probably not.
But if you’re into following the path of baseball trades and how dudes got to where they were when they became who you know them as, well, Van Snider is important.
I know that sounded a little Popeye-ish or Oscar Gamble-ish, but the fact is, Van Snider was the guy you got traded for just before you became a star.
At least, that’s how the evidence shakes out for a couple of players you probably do remember.
(All stats culled from Baseball Reference.)
It all started for Snider when the Royals signed him to a free agent amateur deal in November of 1981 after he went undrafted out of high school.
Over the next six seasons, the lefty swinger developed into a consistent 20-homer slugger in the minors for K.C., and he rang up 27 stolen bases in 1983, to boot.
Alas, Kansas City was loaded with talent in those days, a good hunk of it in the outfield, and Snider’s home seemed to be either left field or designated hitter. Teams generally weren’t all that keen on slotting young guys at DH back then, though, so the Royals made a move …
In particular, they shipped Snider to the Reds in exchange for reliever Jeff Montgomery at the very beginning of Spring Training in 1988. To that point, Montgomery had all of 14 Big League appearances under his belt, and he his record stood at 2-2 with a 6.52 ERA.
Within a couple seasons, though, the new Royal had supplanted legend Dan Quisenberry as the K.C. closer and led the American League with 45 saves in 1993.
Meanwhile, Snider picked up where he left off, smacking 23 bombs for the Nashville Sound in 1988 and earning himself a call up to the Reds in September. An uninspiring line (.214, 1 home run, 6 RBI) and another jammed Major League outfield bought him more “seasoning” in 1989.
That cup of coffee also bought him something else, though — a batch of baseball cards.
Snider’s Fleer and Donruss cards just looked like Fleer and Donruss cards, but his 1989 Score card was all decked out with rookie bling …
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Heck, Score even did him one better by including him in their Rising Stars set that summer, at card #41.
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Riding high on that cardboard tide, Snider managed to make it back to the Riverfront for eight games in 1989, but the Reds traded him (and Tim Leary) to the Yankees in December.
And who did the Reds receive in return?
Rod Imes, for one.
And also, Hal Morris.
Heading into his age-25 season, Morris owned a .184 batting average and .205 on-base percentage across 39 Big League plate appearances. In Cincinnati, he would become a .300 hitter and hold down first base for most of the 1990s.
Snider never did make it to the Bronx, or to Fenway Park after he moved on to the Red Sox organization, or to Busch Stadium, or to the Metrodome.
In fact, as hard as it would have been to know at the time, when Snider replaced Ken Griffey (Sr.) in left field late in the Reds’ game on July 29, 1988, it would be his last Major League action ever.
But thanks to those two landmark(ish) trades, his impact lived on another 15 years.
And his baseball cards? Timeless, just like all the rest.
1989 Score randy johnson #63 rising stars rookie RC Baseball PSA 9 Mint
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1989 Score Hottest 100 Rising Stars MLB Baseball Trading Cards Pick From List
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1989 Score Hottest 100 Rising Stars MLB Baseball Cards U-Pick/Complete Your Set
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