Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cardboard appreciation: 1991 Topps Oscar Azocar

(In the top 10 of most appreciated concepts is the word "vacation." I've got one arriving in a matter of days. Let's all think about that for a moment. .... OK, that made me happy. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. It's the 69th in a series):

The news came Monday that former major league player Oscar Azocar died at the too young age of 45.

Azocar's major league career lasted only three years and 202 games. Historic-minded Yankees fans might remember him as a semi-hopeful prospect of the late 1980s, known mostly for never seeing a pitch that he didn't like.

As a historic-minded cardboard fan, I remember nothing of Azocar's playing time. What I remember is his 1991 Topps card, one of the most memorable ones in a memorable set.

As someone in the newspaper business, I am aware of what photographers must go through when asked to take a portrait photo of an athlete. There are only so many different poses that a photographer can devise. I would love to know who came up with this particular pose -- was it the photographer or Azocar? If it was simply a candid shot and not posed at all, that is all the better. Unfortunately, Azocar is no longer around to tell us what game he's playing in that photo.

I expected more folks to dwell on this card in light of Azocar's death. But only one blogger did, at least among the ones I read. So, I am showing the card again.

And here is the back:

I looked at the back of this card for the first time a couple of days ago. It is almost as fantastic as the front.

If you can't read it, click on the image. You will see that he spent the first three years in professional ball as a pitcher. There are five lines of stats that say "Did not bat -- pitched in xx games." How great is that?

I was always fascinated by the very few card backs that I came across that mentioned that a hitter had once pitched. It was a lot more unusual before Rick Ankiel came along. And here there are five glorious lines mentioning Azocar's pitching background. He pitched in 46 games before becoming a position player in 1987.

Would we have ever seen Azocar's bat-ball magic trick if he had remained a pitcher? We'll never know.


  1. I think this is Azocar's best card, but he also had a memorably goofy Stadium Club one as well.

    I think his baseball cards are more memorable than his MLB career.

  2. Nice post/tribute...I had heard he died but didn't know who he was since he played before I really got into baseball as a kid. He definitely had some interesting baseball cards though!

    And posted this tribute at the same time I posted a Tony Pena Jr. Batter->Pitcher update. Nice timing!

  3. Mark, my personal favorite is: Onondaga.

  4. Nice tribute. You have to wonder if his love for swinging at every pitch came from him getting shelled as a pitcher. Maybe he thought every pitch was hittable.