A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.
I miss the days when base runners would try real hard to break up a double play, and the infielder manning second base had to somehow catch the ball, transition it from glove hand to free hand, throw it to first base, and leap over the sliding (or barrel rolling) miscreant all in one quick, fluid motion. Granted, base runners still carry out the "hard slide" in today's game, but not with anything near the frequency and ferocity that once existed.
Enter Mario Guerrero's 1980 Topps card. It's certainly not the earliest to show the action of a double play being turned (for some stunning examples you can go all the way back to 1956 Topps), but it captures the moment in battle perfectly.
Have a look at the Detroit Tiger on the ground. His slide may have been so forceful that it took him completely through the bag. As for Mario Guerrero, the concentration and body control on display is terrific. You can be sure he's going to land on that right foot with the nimbleness of a cat.
And at 5' 10", 155 pounds, why wouldn't Mr. Guerrero be nimble? And agile? And quick? All the qualities you'd want in a middle infielder.
Over the course of an eight-year MLB career, Guerrero played shortstop and second base for Boston, St. Louis, California, and Oakland.
His best numbers came in 1978, when he played close to a full season's worth of games for Oakland (143). He put up 139 hits, 18 doubles, 38 RBI, and a .275 average.
He had pretty good numbers in the field that year as well, racking up 258 putouts, 330 assists, and helping to turn 67 double plays—all career highs, all at shortstop. Those 258 putouts put him in 3rd place in the American League and 5th in the Majors. Not too shabby for a guy who'd never played more than 93 games in a season up to that point.
Thankfully, a couple of years later Topps gave him a great-looking card to back it up.
For that special defensive ability only a middle infielder can display—and for the rugged nature of old-school baseball—1980 Topps #49 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.