Tuesday, March 7, 2023

#653 Aurelio Rodriguez - California Angels

Aurelio Rodriguez
California Angels

Third Base

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  5'10"  Weight:  180
Born:  December 28, 1947, Cananea, Mexico
Acquired:  Purchased by the California Angels from the Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican League, August 12, 1966
Major League Teams:  California Angels 1967-1970; Washington Senators 1970; Detroit Tigers 1971-1979; San Diego Padres 1980; New York Yankees 1980-1981; Chicago White Sox 1982; Baltimore Orioles 1983; Chicago White Sox 1983
World Series Appearances:  New York Yankees 1981
Died:  September 23, 2000, Detroit, MI (age 52)

Rodriguez in 1969
Aurelio Rodriguez played in 17 major league seasons, spending nine years with the Tigers throughout the 1970s as their slick fielding third baseman.  Rodriguez first took over regular third base duties for the Angels in 1968 and after a few seasons in California and Washington he was dealt to Detroit on October 9, 1970 in an eight-player deal that saw former Tigers' Cy Young pitcher Denny McLain (#150) head to the Senators.  Rodriguez settled in as the regular third baseman for the Tigers, appearing in at least 150 games between 1971 and 1975.  An ankle injury cut short his 1976 season, but he'd still take home his lone Gold Glove that year.  A light hitter throughout his career, Rodriguez batted a career-high .265 for the Tigers in 1978.  He'd appear in his only World Series in 1981 with the Yankees, batting .417 (5 for 12) while filling in for the injured Graig Nettles (#99).  The Dodgers would down the Yankees in six games in the series.

Rodriguez would spend two more seasons in the majors, with the White Sox and Orioles, and he'd play for several more seasons in the Mexican League throughout the 1980s.  In 2,017 career games, Rodriguez collected 1,570 hits, batting .237 overall.  He's best remembered for his steady defense and strong throwing arm, and his 4,150 career assists at third base are currently 10th all-time, with his .964 fielding percentage currently 48th all-time.  Rodriguez stayed in the game following his playing days, managing in Mexico and in the minor leagues.

Building the Set / 
Card #39
December 3, 2022 from The Philly Show (Huggins & Scott Auctions)
At the outset of The Philly Show, more formally known as the Philadelphia Sports Collectors Show, held within the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania, we needed just four cards to complete our 1965 Topps set.  I wrote a full summary of the show in this post over at The Phillies Room.

The show so far had been an all-timer.  Major purchases were made (1965 and 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle, 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson rookie card, Diamond Stars Rogers Hornsby), our 1965 Topps set was completed and I admittedly wasn't ready to leave just yet.  With a little more cash in hand, I decided to find a few more cards for our now newly-collecting 1969 Topps set.

I found a box of vintage semi-star cards at the table of Higgins & Scott Auctions from Silver Spring, Maryland, with a "50% Off" sign attached to it.  It was truly a hodge podge of minor stars, checklists, multi-player Rookie Stars cards and other assorted randomness.  After confirming the cards were indeed 50% off the sticker prices, I found eight interesting cards needed for our set and parted with my final $50 of the day.  This Rodriguez card was $7.50, and has become one of the most recognized cards from the set for reasons explained below.

The Card / Angels Team Set / Accuracy Index -20
I've seen this card for years on numerous "worst error cards of all-time" lists, and I probably first became aware of the error in an old Baseball Cards magazine article.  That's not Rodriguez on the card, it's actually Angels' batboy Leonard Garcia.  Keith Olbermann does a better job explaining the situation than I could in a post from his 2011 blog:
This is the 1969 card of the “original” A-Rod, the late brilliant defensive third baseman, Aurelio Rodriguez.  It’s a great photo, but it’s not Aurelio Rodriguez. It’s Leonard Garcia, a rather mature-looking Angels’ batboy from 1968. 

1977 Cramer Salt Lake City
Gulls #51
For years Topps has taken the rap for the mistake – there have even been understandable suggestions of an ethnic slur implied by the screw-up.  In fact, it wasn’t entirely the company’s fault.  In the winter of 1967-68, the newly-powerful Baseball Players Association was squeezing Topps into dealing with it, rather than on a player-by-player basis.  Topps, which theretofore had been able to sign guys for a down payment as low as a dollar, resisted.  The MLBPA promptly forbade its members for posing for Topps during Spring Training, and in fact throughout the entire regular season, of 1968. 

Thus, guys who changed teams in ’68 or the ’68-69 off-season are shown hatless in old photographs in the first few series of the 1969 set.  But 1968’s rookies for whom Topps had no photo?  It had to get them in the minor leagues (the Topps files were filled with photos of nearly every Triple-A player in 1968), or buy shots from outside suppliers.  At least a dozen images in the ’69 set, including Reggie Jackson and Earl Weaver – and “Aurelio Rodriguez” – were purchased from the files of the famous Chicago photographer George Brace.  Somebody at Topps should’ve known, but the original Rodriguez/Garcia goof appears to have been Brace’s.
Garcia would eventually get his own card, and a reporter from The Orange County Register caught up with him in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the infamous error card.

Accuracy Index:  The card shows the player (Garcia) wearing the correct Angels uniform (+5), but receives the highest possible penalty (-25) for not actually being the correct player.

1969 Season
Rodriguez was the opening day third baseman for the Angels, sharing the infield that day with first baseman Dick Stuart, second baseman Bobby Knoop (#445) and shortstop Jim Fregosi (#365).  Rodriguez would start at third in 156 of the Angels' 163 games, batting .232 with seven home runs and 49 RBIs.  He led all American League third baseman in errors (24) and double plays turned (42).

1970 Topps #228
1973 Topps #218
1975 Topps #221
1981 Topps #34
1984 Topps #269

Other Notable Baseball Cards

First Mainstream Card:  1969 Topps #653
Topps Flagship Set Appearances (16):  1969-1984
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  1990 ProCards AAA #396
Total Non-Parallel Baseball Cards:  76 in the Beckett online database as of 1/21/23.

Baseball Reference / Wikipedia
Beckett Database / The Trading Card Database

#652 Eddie Watt - Baltimore Orioles / #654 White Sox Rookie Stars

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