Friday, December 16, 2011

Eating the Dirt

The eternal fourteen-year old inside my head really wants to make an inappropriate wisecrack about the picture on this card:

Card #236 -- Tito Fuentes, San Francisco Giants

The photo shows the aftermath of a play at second in Candlestick Park, where the Astro second baseman has just eaten dirt, the shortstop is running to back the play up and an outfielder stands at the ready. There appears to be a batter in the foreground, which means this was most likely a stolen base attempt. There really is no way to tell whether Tito Fuentes is safe or out, but looking at Fuentes's performance in 1972, he stole twice at home against the Astros, once on April 22nd and again on August 5th. It also showed that he wasn't caught stealing at all against the Astros that season, so he appears to have made it.

Tito Fuentes was an unabashed hot hog whose quotes were good for writers and whose headbands worn outside his cap made for great baseball card pictures. He was signed in 1962, one of the last players taken from Cuba before a trade embargo was put in place by the United States. He came up for the first time in 1965 and remained with the Giants through 1974. After a couple of years in San Diego and a one-year stint in Detroit, he came up for 13 games in 1978 in Oakland before retiring.

In 1973, Fuentes set a record for the best season in history for fielding percentage at second base. He only made six errors in 160 games on his way to a .993 average. Interestingly, he was among the National League leaders in errors committed during 1971 and '72. Late in his career, he hit over .300 for the only time in his career during his one season in Detroit. Despite having a career season, the team had Lou Whitaker ready to play and let him go.

In 1981, he stepped into the broadcast booth when the Giants began their Spanish-language radio programming. He remains with the broadcast team today as an analyst and is just as popular today as when he was covering second in Candlestick.


  1. Judging from the long sleeves being worn and Topps' tendency to have the pics taken early in the year, I think it is safe to assume this is from the April 22 game.

    Another example of the poor choices Topps made in its '73 set. I don't remember this card from my youth, but as a kid I would not be sure which one was Fuentes.

  2. For what it's worth...long sleeves don't necessarily point to the spring when you're talking about San Francisco.

    You're probably right, but I'll toss out Bob Veale's card as one with a photo taken really late in the 1972 season.

  3. My research indicates this picture was actually taken in the 2nd game of a double header on 8/6/72. In the bottom of the 2nd Fuentes had a single. But he was picked off 1st: Pitcher to 1st to SS. Although it looks like he was trying to steal 2nd, it's misleading. The giveaway is the other Astros cards in the Topps set: Ken Forsch and Tom Griffin. The only day game in SF that they each pitched in was on 8/6 in the second game of the double header.

    Back then Topps loved to shoot double headers and they typically got multiple images for cards out of a single game. In the 1973 set they got the images for Jim Wynn, Tito Fuentes, Ken Forsch and Tom Griffin from this game.

    The SS under Fuentes is Roger Metzer and the 2nd baseman is Tommy Helms.