Photo Quiz

Something to do as we contemplate the irony of Aroldis Chapman escaping from Cuba to sign with a team that in the 1950’s had to change its name to the “Cincinnati Redlegs” to avoid somebody mistaking them for communist sympathizers. 

Some of you will get this instantly. Others will say, “can’t be!” The rest, should just get a kick out of it… 
Who is this, captured in the endless sweep of photographing anybody in a big league uniform by Topps Chewing Gum in the 1956-1996 era?
Your hints:
1) I’ve been looking for this one for a long time. Never did locate it within the since-dismantled archives at Topps here in New York.
2) Yes, he’s in the uniform of the one-season franchise, the 1969 Seattle Pilots (although there are 1970 Pilots photos too – the franchise moved to Milwaukee just before opening day, as part of a bankruptcy collapse).
3) No, he never played for the Pilots, but yes, he did play in the majors briefly, but even most of his many admirers probably don’t know that.
4) Lefthanded hitting outfielder-first baseman who quickly gave it up after his brief big league stint six years later, and then moved into coaching and managing.
5) Got a big league managing job, in fact, when the man his team had hired in full anticipation that he would make the leap from wonderful pitching coach to wonderful manager, turned out to be not quite that much of a skipper.
6) Managed in two World Series but never won a single World Series game on the road.
7) Yet won both Series… okay, you’ve got it now.
Fresh from a .317 season in the New York/Penn League in 1968, he was actually in the Pilots’ first big league camp as a non-roster invitee – and was just 18 years old when that photo was taken in Arizona in March, 1969. Yes… it’s legendary Twins’ manager Tom Kelly.



    I love the historical tidbits you give us from time to time. It really adds to the enjoyment of the sport, doesn’t it? I know it does for me. Thank you! I remember hearing about the Seattle Pilots, but didn’t know they were around for such a short time. I was young enough then that I didn’t see any of their games, but I did see quite a few Mariners games in later years. Lately, the only baseball I see is on television. It’s not nearly as good as being there, is it? Happy Birthday, Keith… I thought about posting a diary at DKos to celebrate your day, but considering how many under-bridge dwellers live there these days I decided that perhaps I shouldn’t subject you to that. So… I hope you have a wonderful day, and a better year… and someday if I ever find the courage, I’ll show you the project I’ve been working on. It’s a portrait of your mother, but it’s not finished yet. It’s taking me a long time, mostly because I’m afraid I won’t be able to do her justice. Sorry for taking up so much space… thank you for everything, and again – happy birthday. 🙂 Hugs!

  2. hartbreak

    Lord, the Pilots – hadn’t thought about them in awhile. Awesome find, though. Your history and trivia is always a treat. Have a good one!


    Best wishes for a happy birthday. Hope you are able to get to spring training this year. Go Pirates! Jan/Los Angeles, CA


    Didn’t recognize the guy, but Tempe Diablo Stadium and the butte in the background (to the north), are local landmarks.


    Interesting stuff, and there’s one more hint:
    8) Click on the picture, then view the image properties. The image is named “kelly1969.jpg”!   😀

    “Cincinnati Redlegs”? OMG, the insanity of the 1950’s Communist paranoia. What’s scary is that things are at roughly the same level of crazytude now, half a century later.

    Finally, I couldn’t conclude this post without mentioning your birthday. E-cards are lame, so I searched YouTube to find something appropriate for the occasion.

    Happy Birthday to you, Keith!!

    There are a couple of slightly tasteless jokes in the lyrics, but most of the warped humor in this song sums up the state of the world rather neatly. 🙂


    Hi Keith! Your baseball blog brings joy to my sometimes not fun life as a PhD student! Thanks for the cool stuff like this one. Also happy birthday!

    And in between your show and being baseball blogger supreme, can you fix the Mets? They need someone in charge with some sense. 🙂


  7. historymike

    The Seattle Pilots might be completely forgotten if not for somebody else who spent only part of the season with them: Jim Bouton, who was writing Ball Four that season. Another reason I would like for us to remember the Pilots: Jimmy Dudley, a wonderful, underrated baseball broadcaster whom the Indians had fired after 20 years and spent 1969 as the voice of the Pilots.

    I am a great admirer of Tom Kelly, partly for how stoic he was as a manager and for not running on the field to be part of the World Series celebration. The Twins organization is probably the best in baseball when you consider how well that team has done with so little.


    Additionally, the Reds logo on the “1869 Cooperstown Collection” hats contains a (for lack of a more scientific phrase) “genie bottle”. Middle Eastern and Communist ties? whoa.

  9. rochdalian


    That’s great news about Maz and the statue (and what a perfect pose). Unfortunately, the team that I’ve been rooting for since 1962 (New York’s National League team) hasn’t seen fit to do the same thing.

    I would love to see them start with a statue of Mr. Frank Edwin McGraw walking off of the pitcher’s mound, banging his glove off of his hip. Tug McGraw brought a lot of joy to baseball fans in New York and Philadelphia.


    Wow, Tom Kelly! Eighth round draft pick… Certainly not the winningest players for the Pilots/Brewers organization, but definitely one of the top managers in the league! Also, was that him in those commercials for affordable health insurance ?


    Wow, Tom Kelly! Eighth round draft pick… Certainly not the winningest players for the Pilots/Brewers organization, but definitely one of the top managers in the league! Also, was that him in those commercials for affordable health insurance ?

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