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#452 Giants Rookie Stars (Gil Garrido/Jim Ray Hart)

08/07/2010

The combo rookie card was a staple of Topps sets for years. They were cool in that they allowed Topps to include a lot of top prospects in their sets. But they were also frustrating, in that some of the greatest players of all time share their rookie card with one or more dudes who had totally inconsequential careers (as an aside, I think a great project would be trying to figure out what combo rookie card had the most combined star power).

Whoever owned this card in 1964 was correct in labeling Gil Garrido as “minor,” as he spent nearly all of the 1964 season with AAA Tacoma. The writing, of course, immediately knocks this card down into the PR-FR range for being “defaced.”

We’ll start with this one by discussing Jim Ray Hart, shown here as “Jim Hart,” as he would be on every Topps card ever produced for him, except for 1974 (his final card).

Hart, quite simply, was a guy who had the first five years of a Hall of Fame career and then completely lost it. He dominated the minor leagues (1.007 OPS in the California League in 1961 at age 19, led the Eastern League in hitting in 1962 at .335, and hit .312 with 11 homers in half a season with Tacoma in 1963), and it extended to the majors in his first full season.

In 1964, Hart his .286/.342/.498 with 31 homers in 153 games, replacing Jim Davenport as the Giants’ primary third baseman. He only received one ROY vote, though, as Dick Allen had a huge year for the Phillies.

At the height of the dead ball era, Hart continued to put up big numbers. His .882 OPS in 1967 might not look huge, but for that year it was good for an OPS+ of 151. For his first five full seasons, Hart put up these averages:

622 PA, .285 BA, .347 OBP, .491 SLG, 134 OPS+, 83 R, 28 HR, 89 RBI

By age 26, Hart already had 139 home runs and 795 hits. He was destined for offensive greatness (though his defense left a bit to be desired). He played in the All-Star game in 1966, a year in which he hit 33 HR.

But then, some injuries set in (Bob Gibson had broken Hart’s shoulder blade with a pitch in 1963, an injury that lingered for years), and he struggled through 1969 and 1970. Eventually, Hart lost his job to Davenport and spent almost all of 1972 in AAA. Over his last four seasons with San Francisco, he played in only 226 games and hit 18 TOTAL home runs. His .760 OPS over that period was still above average, but not outstanding.

In what would seem an unthinkable action just a few years earlier, the Giants ended up essentially giving him away to the Yankees in 1973. As a DH with New York in 1973, he hit .254/.324/.419 with 13 homers. He started 1974 in the minors, but was called up for a two-week period in May during which he went 1-for-19 at the plate. After some more time in AAA, Hart hung it up. He was out of baseball at age 32.

Hart’s whereabouts after his retirement have largely been unknown. He hasn’t shown up to any celebrations for past Giants. A purported cousin posted to a WikiAnswers page in 2009 suggesting that his own family hadn’t seen him since 1975 and imploring the public for information on his location. A response on that page said he worked at a post office near Sacramento in the 1980s and ’90s, but struggled with a drinking problem.

This post, which surfaced in early 2009 on a Boston sports blog, suggested he was living on the streets in Newark, NJ. There might have been a mistake on location, though, as he was known at one time (again, according to the WikiAnswers page) to be living in Newark, California (in the East Bay). A final response on the WikiAnswers page, dated June 3, 2010, claimed that he now works at a Safeway in Tracy, California (between San Francisco and Stockton).

This page from a Giants blog has some further info about Hart’s drinking, and how it affected the later years of his career, as well as some info about how the wind at Candlestick Park might have played a role in keeping down his power numbers.

Prototypical all-glove, no-bat shortstop Gil Garrido only played 14 games with the Giants, all in 1964. He was traded to Atlanta for bad-hitting second baseman Marv Breeding in 1966. Garrido ended up getting some fairly substantial playing time with the Braves from 1969-71, but didn’t do much as a hitter. His best year was 1970, when he played in 101 games and collected 389 PA. He hit his only home run that season, and batted a career-best .264 (but only had a .290 OBP).

Garrido only struck out 54 times in 955 career PA, but also only walked 61 times. In other words, he put it in play a lot. But the career .237 batting average indicates that wasn’t a particularly good idea either. His .555 career OPS (52 OPS+) is dismal even for a shortstop of the era.

After keeping him in AAA the entire 1973 season (in which he posted a .475 OPS), the Braves traded him to Philadelphia for Bob Beall. But Garrido never played a game in the Phillies system and was out of baseball at 32.

Hart is currently 68 years old, while Garrido recently turned 69.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/07/2010 10:00 am

    “I think a great project would be trying to figure out what combo rookie card had the most combined star power”

    Just off the top of my head, I’d say the 1968 Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman card.

  2. Douglas H permalink
    08/10/2010 8:23 am

    Sad story about Hart. His story is not unlike Ron Byrant, Bobby Bonds, or Sam McDowell who by accounts fell victim to alcoholism. He was kind of mysterious player. The only card of him I had was a home run leaders, where shared spotlight with Mays and Cepeda. (In a tough park hr park no less).

    As far as the two person rookie card I’d say Ryan/Koosman is the best. Next may be clay carroll/phil niekro, but its hard after that. The best overall 3 on a card are 73 schmidt/cey/hilton or 72 red sox fisk/cooper/garman.

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