Monday, June 12, 2017
The phantom catch
The first card I ever pulled of Rowland Office was his 1977 edition. It was one of my first doubles, along with Cliff Johnson and Chuck Scrivener from that same year (1977 was a watershed year for doubles).
In retrospect, it's a fine card, displaying the blue-trimmed uniform and cap of that Braves era, a typically tilted '70s background, and Office's gloriously practiced signature.
But I missed out on the best years of Office.
These were the peak years for Rowland Office cards, his first two cards. His 1975 rookie card photo revels in its asymmetry. The 1976 card is simply striking. Office's "what'choo talkin' 'bout Willis" stare is enhanced by his tall, narrow face. Add the cap and that's a major league record from crown to chin, right?
Office's appearance on baseball cards is comical. I think that's well-established. He cracked kids right up. Combine that with Rowland's name, and you have a baseball card rarity: a cartoonish-looking player with a cartoonish-sounding name.
It could be enough to make Rowland Office a Legend of Cardboard.
But it doesn't.
One of the criteria for election as Legend of Cardboard is that the player is usually forgotten by history. But that didn't happen for Office, mostly because a Braves-centric blog adopted his name.
Also, Office owns a few on-field resumé-builders that are difficult to forget. He was the youngest player in major league baseball in 1972. He was known for spelling Hank Aaron in the outfield in 1974. He broke a club record with five straight pinch-hits in 1975. He mounted a 29-game hitting streak in 1976.
And also, in 1975, he made a home run-robbing catch and Topps could not shut up about it.
The play happened against the Padres. First baseman Mike Ivie launched a drive to center field and Office leaped at the wall, caught the ball as it was going over the wall (some say he was horizontal when he did it) and then fell over the wall, allegedly with the ball still in his glove (some say it was a no-catch).
It's been called one of the best catches made at Atlanta's old Fulton-County Stadium.
But I'll let Topps take over from here:
I'm not used to Topps gushing so much in its bios from this time so that had to be some major catch.
At least one reference says the catch was in 1977, but that can't be right because the write-up above came off Office's 1977 card, which was issued before the '77 season.
But Topps wasn't done telling you about that catch.
Here is Office's 1980 Topps card, issued five years after that catch. Office was an established member of the Braves by now and had been playing regularly for several years. He was strictly a .250 hitter but he made several highlight plays in the outfield.
And Topps wasn't going to let you forget about The Catch.
Still credited with the greatest catch. And we're still capitalizing Homer.
By now I really wanted to see this catch.
Still Topps wasn't done.
Office had moved on to a new team before the 1980 season, He was a Montreal Expo now. But that hardly impressed Topps. The best thing it had ever seen from Office was that home run robbing catch.
The back of Office's 1981 Topps card:
So impressive that BOTH panels on the back were dedicated to his catch, an unusual feat in 1981 Topps.
OK, that's it, now I HAVE to see that catch.
I wandered around online for too long in search of video evidence of the catch. There doesn't appear to be any. I set my sights lower and looked for photographic evidence of the catch. The best I could find is Rowland Office watching two teammates go over the fence. But Rowland is just standing there.
So all I have as proof is a few words online and the effusive praise of Topps.
You know what? That's good enough for me. I don't need ToppsNow. I have my card backs.
Nice catch, Rowland.