#314 Jerry Buchek
This is the second card made for Jerry Buchek, and it seems as if the “baseball experts” were thinking he was really ready for the big leagues in 1964 after a fairly dismal audition as a 19-year-old in 1961.
The trivia question asks who holds the career record for doubles. The answer is the same now as it was in 1964: Tris Speaker, with 792. Pete Rose would eventually move into second place on this list, finishing his career at 746. Rose had 25 career doubles heading into the ’64 season.
Buchek must have been a bit of a hot prospect, as he was already in AAA as an 18-year-old. A solid 1961 season with the Portland Beavers earned him a call-up to the Cardinals late in the season. But it didn’t go particularly well, as he batted .133 with no homers and no walks in 93 plate appearances. He hit under .200 the next season splitting his time between AA and AAA. A solid 1963 season with AAA Atlanta earned him a brief promotion, and signaled that 1964 would be his chance to make it as a major leaguer.
That didn’t really happen, as Buchek got just 33 plate appearances in 35 games with the Cards, though he did appear in four of seven World Series games and earned a ring.
He became a bit more of a regular player in 1965 and ’66 with the Cardinals, splitting his time between second base and shortstop. Buchek had a tough time getting playing time with Julian Javier at second and Dick Groat playing short. With Groat gone in 1966, Buchek had a chance to earn the shortstop job, but he eventually lost the gig to Dal Maxvill. Buchek appeared in 100 games in 1966, but hit just .236/.288/.342 with four homers in 313 PA. He does have the distinction of hitting the first home run at Busch Stadium II.
Just before opening day in 1967, the Cardinals traded Buchek to the Mets. This finally gave him a chance to be a regular starter, as he appeared in a career-high 124 games in ’67, including 95 starts at second base. He still didn’t hit too much (.236/.283/.375), but he did launch 14 home runs. Despite his general weakness as a hitter, he hit four homers that season in the eighth inning or later to tie the game or give the Mets the lead.
In 1968, though, he again ended up being a part-time player. He had a chance to start a long string of games at third base in May and June, but didn’t contribute much offensively. He ended up batting just .182 for the season in 207 PA.
That winter, the Mets traded him back to the Cards for a pitcher named Jim Cosman who never appeared in a game for New York. St. Louis then shipped him to Philadelphia for then washed-up Cardinal legend Bill White, who came back to play one more season.
The Phillies sent Buchek to AAA ball in Eugene, Oregon, and he finished his career there in 1969. For his MLB career, Buchek batted .220 with 22 homers in 1,275 PA. He struck out 312 times and walked just 75 times in his career. Buchek struck out more often than just about anyone in his era, but his career 24.5% K rate is still lower than what 18 major leaguers posted in the 2012 season.
Buchek is 70 years old.