Saturday, April 11, 2015

1977 Topps Rookie Outfielders: Brian Asselstine, Wayne Gross, Sam Mejias, Alvis Woods

Seems like the random number generator has me going back and forth between 4-player rookie cards and single player rookie cards. This time it is this 1977 rookie outfielder card so it will be another nice long post.

First up is Brian Asselstine.  A first round draft pick by the Braves in 1973, Brian spent his entire 6 year MLB career with the team. Although he never rose above the level of utility outfielder/pinch hitter, he was included in every Topps set from 1977-1982, with the exception of the 1980 series. He was also included in the 1981 and 1982 sets by both Fleer and Donruss. A career .254 hitter, he averaged less than 50 games a season and a little over 100 plate appearances a season.

For his Card That Never Was, here is the missing 1980 Topps card of Brian Asselstine:


Although listed as an outfielder on the 1977 Rookie card, Wayne Gross was the A's everyday 3rd baseman in 1977. Gross belted 22 homers his rookie season. This earned him good a good seat to the 1977 All Star Game. He was chosen as a replacement for the injured Vida Blue. But he was behind George Brett and Graig Nettles at 3rd base and never saw action. Topps named him to their All Star Rookie Team, which card geeks everywhere know means he gets that cool little trophy on his sophomore card.
In 1983 Gross was brought in to pitch mop-up-duty. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th inning and the Twins ahead 16-3, the A's manager, Steve Boros, called the third baseman to the mound. In all, he pitched the final 2.1 innings giving up 2 singles, 1 walk and 1 hit-batter. But he didn't give up a single run. 

After the 1983 season he was traded to Baltimore. He was eventually released by the Orioles early in 1986. The A's picked him up and he played his final 3 games in an A's uniform. For his Card That Never Was I went with a 1986 Topps Traded. I considered a 1987 card but with only 3 games and zero hits in the 1986 season, a 1987 card would be a stretch, even for me.


Like Gross, Sam Mejias was called in for mop-up duty as a pitcher. In a meaningless September game, the 4th place Expos were losing to the 6th place Mets 9-4 in the 9th inning. The Expos Hall of Fame manager, Dick Williams called upon Mejias. He got the first batter to ground out, then he hit catcher, John Stearns. Two wild pitches later, Stearns was standing on 3rd base with 1 out. Stearns was thrown out trying to score on a grounder to short then Mejias got the final batter to fly out to left. Although far from perfect, Mejias gave up no runs, and no hits in his only appearance as a pitcher.

Oddly, Topps mentions that he pitched an inning in Minor Leagues in 1974 on the backs of both his 1979 and 1981 cards but makes no mention of his MLB pitching.

And like Asselstine, Mejias never rose above back-up outfielder during his entire 6 year MLB career. He also appeared on Topps cards from 1977-1982 with the same exception of the 1980 set. So again here is a 1980 Topps Card That Never Was:


 Alvis Woods was chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays in the expansion draft. He had a pinch hit homer in his 1st MBL at-bat in the 5th inning of the Blue Jays first game ever. However he was not the first Blue Jay to homer. His teammate Doug Ault had homered twice already in that game. Woods remained in that game playing left field. In both his remaining 2 at-bats, he struck out looking.

For most of the expansion Blue Jays in 1977, O Pee Chee made cards with different photos than the ones used in the Topps set. These were usually pictures of the players in their actual Blue Jays uniforms rather than the airbrushed Topps photos. They also included individual cards for many of the rookies. So Al Woods had an individual 1977 card as well as sharing this card.

Woods' MLB career was well documented on cardboard. He played at the major league level for Toronto from 1977-1982. He was traded to the A's after the 1982 season but was cut before the 1983 season. He had cards in all of those years including a 1983 O Pee Chee card paranthetically announcing that he was "Now with Athletics".

From '83-'85 he played minor league ball  with the Blue Jays and Twins organizations. In 1986 he made a brief comeback for the Twins. So for his Card That Never Was, here is one missing from the 1986 Topps set.

Now the grade. Despite the pitching prowess of Mejias and Gross, and the fact that Gross was named to the Topps Rookie All Star Team, overall I'm unimpressed. I have to give it a 2 - "Good for Flipping".

1 comment:

  1. Great post, great cards, as usual. There really was a ballplayer named Asselstine.....amazin'