Does the following list contain (A) the names of real professional baseball players or (B) the names of fictional baseball players that appear in a vintage video game?
(Scroll down for the answer)
That's right. These are all names of actual baseball players. I suspect that a bunch of you were familiar with at least one or two after seeing them somewhere in your baseball card collections. But if you're one of the readers who finds the answer a bit hard to believe, you'll find this next piece of information even more so.
In 1976 these players were all on the same minor league team: The Phoenix Giants. And there's a set of cards to prove it, released by a company called Cramer Sports Promotions. Here's the card for each player listed above, along with some career stats and information.
Kyle Hypes did not go on to pitch in the majors, but had good success through his minor-league career, making it as high as AAA. He finished with a career 66-59 record, 4.53 ERA, 31 complete games, and 626 strikeouts. In 1971 single-A ball, he put up pretty good batting numbers, too: 20 hits in 67 at-bats (.299 avg), 2 doubles, and 10 RBI.
Tommy Toms did not have much of a big-league record, putting in a handful of middle relief work across three seasons (1975, '76, and '77). He had a winning record through his 6-year minor-league career (31-29, 3.08 ERA, 357 strikeouts).
Horace Speed played one season with the big-league Giants and two with the Cleveland Indians. Overall, he put up a .207 average with 28 hits, 6 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. Good minor-league totals across 11 years (958 hits, 165 2B, 55 3B, 127 HR, 568 RBI, 141 SB, .259 avg)
Rocky Bridges was a handy utility infielder in his playing days (11-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Reds, Senators, Tigers, Indians, Cardinals, and Angels). His career as a minor-league manager was twice as long. He coached for the minor-league affiliates of the Angels, Giants, Padres, and Pirates, and just about pulled off a .500 record (1300-1358).
Johnnie LeMaster had a serviceable and lengthy major-league career from 1975 through 1985, mostly with the Giants. His totals: 709 H, 109 2B, 19 3B, 22 HR, 229 RBI, 94 SB, .222 avg.
Although there are no MLB all-stars in that group, you do have some good-looking cardboard, don't you think? And the team did have some players who would make noise in the majors:
Jack Clark was an all-star and Silver Slugger on multiple occasions over his 18 seasons in the big leagues. He had a career year with the Cardinals in 1987, ripping 35 home runs and leading the National League in on-base percentage (.459) and slugging percentage (.597). He'd top that by leading all of Major League Baseball in OPS (1.055) and walks (136). And speaking of walks, he set a record that year by drawing a walk in 16 consecutive games.
Bob Knepper had a nifty 15-year career with the Giants and Astros (and perhaps a niftier Fu Manchu?). The two-time all-star finished with a record of 146-155, an ERA of 3.68, 78 complete games, 30 shutouts, and 1,473 strikeouts.
Larry Herndon played for the Giants and Tigers across his 14-year career. The 1984 World Series champ might have put up his best personal stats the year before, setting career highs in hits (182), doubles (28), and RBI (92), and finishing the season with a .302 batting average.
Back to the cards, though. I'd say the design is excellent for a minor league set. The photography is pretty cool, as well. I like those low-angle shots. They make some of the players look 8 feet tall.
Now here's an example of a card back.
"Hobby: Playing Pool"
That's fantastic. Other players listed hobbies such as music and cars, collecting coins, and playing bridge. It's just more evidence that this is a fun, well-executed little set of cards.
If you were on the 1976 Phoenix Giants team and were given a card in this set, what would you list as your hobby? (Aside from collecting cards, of course.)
List your answers in the comment section. And thanks for reading, as always.