Friday, August 3, 2012

The Many, Many Rookie Cards of Lou Piniella

Sweet Lou made his cardboard debut as a Senator after batting .310 with 16 homers for their single A ball club. He made his Big League debut in September of 1964 but by that time he was dealt to the Orioles as the "player to be named later" to complete an earlier trade. Although he played in 4 games he would have only one plate appearance. He pinch hit for Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. He grounded out to second base.
He next appeared on a card in 1968. This time as an Indian. 1968 would also be the next year he would play in the Majors. Again he was a September call-up. He did manage to score a run as a pinch runner, and get an RBI on a sac-fly but his first big league hit still eluded him.
In 1969 Topps would recycle his 1968 photo and put him on a Rookie Stars card for the 3rd time. This time as a Pilot. Of course Lou would be traded before the start of the season to the Royals and eventually be named A.L. Rookie of the Year.

If Topps saw fit to include him on a Rookie Stars card in 1964, 1968 and 1969, why not 1965 or 1966 or 1967?  Since the name of this blog is Cards That Never Were, it is my duty to fill in the missing years.

In 1965 Piniella was in the Orioles Farm system. After his single at bat in 1964, Baltimore placed him in AA where he hit a mediocre .249. Topps had plenty of other Oriole prospects to choose from in 1965 other than Piniella. There was the eventual 1965 R.O.Y. Curt Blefary as well as future All-Stars, Paul Blair, Davey Johnson and Darold Knowles. Apparently there wasn't room for Lou. So I made a 1965 Rookie Stars card for him along with another guy who made his MLB debut as an Oriole in 1965.

In March of 1966 Piniella was dealt to the Indians. Topps opted to put first baseman Bill Davis and pitcher Tom Kelley on the Indians Rookie Stars card. I teamed Lou up with a seldom used utility infielder Vern Fuller for this version of the 1966 Rookie Stars card. In 1966 Piniella was promoted to AAA ball and his batting average improved to .289

In 1967 Topps would again put first baseman Bill Davis on its Rookie Stars card. This time along with utility infielder Gus Gil. I chose the Indians 4th string catcher from 1966, Buddy Booker to keep Piniella company on this version of the 1967 Rookie Stars card. Although Piniella remained at the AAA level in 1967, his hitting improved again. This time topping the .300 mark at .308. He would spend most of the next season in triple A as well. Finally getting called up in September of 1968.

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