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#379 Tony Gonzalez

11/26/2011

This is, without a doubt, the worst card I have in the set, condition-wise. It’s literally being held together with a piece of tape, and the tape appears to be about as old as the card itself.

As I have learned as I continue this project, Topps had no problem with reusing photos for cards in the 1960s. Gonzalez’s photo on this card is just a zoomed-in version of the one that appeared on his 1963 card:

A Cuban native, Gonzalez played 12 seasons in the Majors from 1960-71, and actually had some really good years with the Phillies. He was signed by the Reds in 1957 when they had their AAA franchise in Havana (the Sugar Kings were in the International League from 1954 until 1960, when Fidel Castro nationalized all U.S. enterprises, forcing the team to move to New Jersey) and made his debut with Cincinnati in 1960. Midway through the season, he and Lee Walls were shipped to the Phillies in a deal that brought Wally Post and Harry Anderson to the Reds.

Gonzalez was a mainstay in the Phillies outfield for the next eight seasons, and he was an above-average hitter in each season, hitting OPS+ marks of 134 in 1962, 133 in 1963 and 147 in 1967. For his Phillies career, he hit .295/.359/433 with 77 home runs.

Power-wise, he peaked in 1962, hitting 20 homers and posting a .302/.371/.494 line in 490 PA. The following year, his homer ouptut dove to 4, but he set career highs with 36 doubles and 12 triples to go with a .306 average.

He garnered some attention in 1964, when he became one of the first (if not the first) player to wear a helmet with a protective ear flap, as shown in this photo.

Gonzalez had an outstanding season in 1967, finishing second in the batting race to Robert Clemente with a .339 average. His 5.6 WAR ranked him ninth among NL position players, but didn’t garner a spot on the All-Star team. He was remarkably consistent: after May 22, his average never dipped below .310 for the rest of the season and peaked at .343.

After his worst year with the Phillies in 1968, the team left him unprotected for baseball’s expansion draft and replaced him in 1969 with young Larry Hisle. The Padres took Gonzalez with the 37th pick in the NL draft, which stocked San Diego and Montreal.

Gonzalez started in center field in the first-ever Padres game, a 2-1 win over Houston. He hit well early in the season, but fell into a slump in May and never dug himself out. After a 3-for-36 stretch that pushed into June, the Padres traded him to Atlanta for three guys who never amounted to anything.

He regained some magic with the Braves, hitting .294/.354/.447 with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 89 games. He followed that season with his only postseason appearance, going 5-for-14 with a homer off Tom Seaver in the Mets’ three-game sweep of Atlanta in the first NLCS.

He spent another season in Atlanta before finishing his career with the Angels in 1971. Gonzalez played in Japan in 1972, and gave it one more chance in the states in 1973, getting 29 AB for the Phillies’ AA affiliate in Reading before hanging it up for good.

Gonzalez is currently 75 years old.

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