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#146 Indians Rookie Stars (Tommy John/Bob Chance)



More than just a surgery, Tommy John is depicted here on his rookie card alongside 1B/OF Bob Chance, who played 20 fewer seasons and actually had fewer plate appearances as a hitter than John.

This is probably one of the worst cards I have, condition-wise. But it was dirt cheap so I picked it up a couple years ago.

Much is written about Tommy John (so I’ll focus here on 1964 instead of his full career), who pitched for 26 years and was rejuvenated after undergoing the elbow ligament-replacement procedure that came to bear his name. To put John’s longevity in perspective, he was an active player until 1989. No other player depicted in the 1964 set was still playing that recently (he outlasted Pete Rose by three seasons). John reportedly decided to hang it up at age 46 when he gave up a home run to Mark McGwire, whose dad was his dentist.

This card is the only one to portray John in Indians gear. He came up late in the 1963 season as a 20-year-old and pitched pretty well in 20 2/3 innings, and that earned him a spot in the Cleveland rotation in 1964.

The 1964 season started out great for John, who threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Orioles in his first start of the season. Things went south from there, and he only lasted 1/3 of an inning the next time out. He didn’t pitch all that poorly after that, allowing three or fewer earned runs in six consecutive starts from June 3 – July 1. Unfortunately, he lost all six starts (the Indians offense was a bit anemic). After an awful start against Kansas City on July 16 (which, ironically, earned him a no decision), the Indians sent John to the Portland Beavers in the PCL. He returned to work out of the bullpen for the last two weeks of the season, and never pitched for Cleveland again. He finished with a 2-9 record and 3.91 ERA (93 ERA+) in 1964. He wouldn’t post an ERA+ of under 100 in a season again until 1983, when he was 40.

In the offseason, the Indians shipped John and others to the White Sox in a three-team deal that brought Rocky Colavito back to Cleveland from Kansas City. Colavito had two more good seasons with the Indians before fading into oblivion, while John put up seven solid seasons in Chicago before being traded to the Dodgers.

John is currently 69 years old.

Like John, Bob Chance was a call-up late in the 1963 season. Chance was awesome in the AA Eastern League that season, winning the triple crown with a .343 average, 26 HR and 114 RBI. He looked like a future star, and had a promising rookie season with the Indians in 1964, delivering a .279/.346/.433 line as a 23-year-old in 439 PA with 14 homers and 75 RBI, while playing mostly first base. The big rookie year earned him a Topps All-Star Rookie trophy on his 1965 card.

Unusually — given his status as a standout rookie — his ’65 card showed him as a Washington Senator, as the Indians traded him (and Woodie Held) to D.C. in the offseason for Chuck Hinton (the Indians probably won this trade, though Held was OK in his one season with the Senators).

And as if we needed any more evidence that Washington was where your career went to die, Chance basically fell apart at that point. He was a part-time player in 1965, hitting .256 with four homers in 218 PA. His role was even further reduced in 1966 and ’67, as he collected just 110 total PA over those two years while spending most of his time in AAA.

That was basically it for Bob Chance as a major-leaguer. He had a big year in 1968 with AAA Buffalo (29 HR, .862 OPS), and was drafted by the California Angels in the Rule 5 draft. But he only got into five games with the Angels and was out of the big leagues at age 28. He did play a couple years in Japan before retiring.

The Statesboro, Ga., native is apparently still alive and kicking at age 72.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Simmons permalink
    10/09/2013 3:02 am

    Bob chance is a friend of mine and he just died 10/4/13

  2. Ted permalink
    03/07/2014 1:02 pm

    I worked with Bob Chance during the 1990s here in Charleston, WV. I’m sorry to say that he passed away in October 2013. He was a class act all the way.

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