If you’re at all like me, I presume that in your youth you collected baseball cards. The total collection I accrued as a young lad was impressive. Not everything was kept in the greatest shape but I got a lot of use out of those cards, and like many youngsters, it was key to developing my desire to dive into the stats that would come define so many players. My constant reorganization would range from the simple, like by team and alphabetical, to the less standard, like the color of stripe the player’s name was printed on, or by batting average. I had a lot of time on my hands; it gets cold in the winters.
As time went on nearly every last card I had disappeared. Simply lost along the way or eventually thrown away (By mistake? On purpose? Mom, answer me!). A few years ago I decided on somewhat of a whim to look up the pricing on some of the Topps sets from the years that I collected heaviest. Most of them could be purchased in their entirety for under $20. In the years since, I’ve grabbed a set or two. It’s kind of fun to re-live a little of the joy I had messing around with them in childhood.
So how about having a little more fun with them? Random White Sox card #1:
Ron Hassey – 1987 Topps
Ron Hassey played across 14 seasons and was a member of some quality teams. The White Sox squads he played with in 1986 and 1987 were not among them; the Sox finished in 5th place both seasons. His path to be a part of those teams is interesting. He originally arrived in a pre-season trade with the Yankees in December of 1985, coming along with Joe Cowley in exchange for Britt Burns and a couple of minor leaguers, one of whom was Glen Braxton. Two months later, as Spring Training was set to begin, the Sox traded Hassey away before he ever even had a chance to suit up. They traded him right back to the Yankees along with 3 other players for Neil Allen, Scott Bradley and bringing back Glen Braxton (who would never actually make it to the big leagues). When the trade deadline rolled around the dance continued. Hassey was sent by the Yankees back over to the White Sox along with Carlos Martinez in exchange for fan favorite Ron Kittle, Joel Skinner and Wayne Tolleson. It was the final MLB trade of the 1986 season, the first year in which teams freely traded until July 31st, the previous deadline having been set at June 15.
Now that Hassey was in town during the summer while games were being played, the Sox had little choice but to use him, and they were rewarded for it. Hassey mostly DH’d that season, but did do a bit of catching, helping to back up Carlton Fisk, and producing a .353/.437/.500 line over 49 games in the process. In 1987, having survived the off-season without being dealt to the Yankees, Hassey would again appear in 49 games for the Pale Hose but was unable to duplicate his success at the plate. His .214/.303/.338 line in ’87 resulted in the White Sox choosing to grant him free agency and give their 1982 first round draft pick, Ron Karkovice, some extra opportunities the following year.
Hassey would do just fine. He’d sign with the Oakland Athletics and play in his first playoffs ever, as the A’s appeared in the World Series all 3 years that Ron played there. In 1991 Ron played in his final season, his home games taking place north of the border with the Montreal Expos. He had just 119 at-bats, the lowest season total of his career since he broke in with the Indians as a rookie in 1978. But 3 of those at-bats came on July 28, 1991 at Dodger Stadium as Dennis Martinez pitched a perfect game. Ron Hassey caught that game, making him the only catcher to ever be behind the plate for two perfect games, the first coming in 1981 as Len Barker accomplished the feat.
As indicated, Ron’s dad played a few years of pro ball. Baseball-Reference has record of him playing for the Sweetwater Swatters of the Longhorn League and the Pampa Oilers of the West Texas-New Mexico League from 1949-1950. He had a .301 lifetime average in his short minor league career, which ended when he was 22. Makes me wonder what caused him to quit.