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?
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.