Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hey Kiddies, Eat Your Baseball Cards

The first eight cards in the 1977 Topps baseball set were ones which featured League Leaders, and so for the first card in this year's set to feature a single player, Topps chose Doug Rader of the Padres.

Wild. Eccentric. Flake. Intelligent. Those are just some of the words used to describe Rader. The Red Rooster, as he was nick named, was a third baseman known for his great defense and his mercurial temper. Peter Gammons wrote a great piece for SI back in '89 that paints a much better picture of the guy than I ever could. You can read it here.

Perhaps my favorite Rader story: when asked by former pitcher Jim Bouton if he had any advice for Little Leaguers, the unpredictable Rader said, "Sure, they should chew the gum that comes with baseball cards, and then they should eat the cards. Bubble-gum cards are very good in a Little Leaguer's diet."

``Just any bubble-gum cards?`` Bouton wondered.

``No,`` Rader replied. ``They should only eat the cards of the good ballplayers. Say you got a kid who`s 5-foot-1. Let him eat a Willie McCovey card. Willie`s 6-4. The kid may grow. You never can tell.``

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