Monday, March 21, 2011

#72 Tony Gonzalez

#72 Tony Gonzalez
There's a lot more crowd action in the background of Tony Gonzalez's photo than you usually see on 1960s cards. If you're reading this and you recognize yourself as one of those blurry faces, pipe up and leave a comment.

Fun facts about Tony Gonzalez:

-A native of Central Cunagua, Cuba, Tony signed with the Reds (then known as the Redlegs) in 1957.

-After hitting 55 home runs in 3 minor league seasons, he made the major leagues at the outset of the 1960 season. In his April 12 debut, the 23-year-old helped Cincinnati erase a 4-0 deficit and win 9-4. He singled off of Robin Roberts in his first at-bat and scored on a Jerry Lynch double, and later added a two-run home run off of Roberts.

-Despite his initial success, Gonzalez fell into a slump and was traded to the Phillies in mid-June with a .212 average. He got acclimated quickly, hitting .299 in 78 games with a .485 slugging percentage. Overall, he hit .274 as a rookie.

-His performance was one of the few bright spots for the 1961 Phils, who lost 107 games. He led the team's regulars with a .795 OPS and 15 steals, and only Don Demeter topped his 58 RBI.

-Tony slammed a career-high 20 home runs in 1962 and boosted his average to .302 while playing errorless ball in center field.

-He ranked in the top ten in hit-by-pitch in eight different seasons, and is credited as the first major leaguer to wear a helmet with a molded earflap.

-Gonzalez's best overall season was 1967, when he ranked second in the National League with a .339 average and fifth with a .396 on-base percentage.

-After being chosen in the expansion draft, he began the 1969 season with the Padres but was traded to the Braves in June. He hit .294 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI in 89 games to help Atlanta win the first N.L. West title, and then batted .357 (5-for-14) in a losing effort in the NLCS. In Game 1, he homered, doubled, and drove in two runs against Tom Seaver.

-Tony's final major league season was 1971 with the Angels. In parts of 12 seasons he batted .286 with 103 home runs and 615 RBI.

-He played in Japan for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 1972 and returned to the Philly organization in 1973, batting .345 in 45 games for AA Reading before finally hanging up his spikes.
#72 Tony Gonzalez (back)


  1. Phillies at Shea in the early 60s? Good chance I was there. But if I was I was in the upper deck, no chance of being anywhere near Tony G. :-)
    But seriously the Phils were my N.L. team back then. Johnny Callison, Wes Covington et al.

  2. He was a good player. I remember he gave the Braves a real lift in 1969.

    BTW, interesting note about the "Redlegs." They changed from the Reds during the height of the McCarthy hysteria because they didn't want to be associated with Communists.

  3. I always Gonzalez good player too. He was a good glove too, finishing first in fielding percentage for his position for 3 out of 4 years. (Didn't get the gold gloves because Mays and Flood dominated that award).

    I'm kind of mystified by the fact he had the second highest NL batting average 67 but was given up in the expansion draft a year later. Even in this draft, he wasn't taken until the 37th NL draft and was the 18th player taken by the Padres.

  4. After many years as the Phillies' regular centerfielder, Gonzalez began the 1967 seasonplatooning with Don Lock. Midway through the season, be went back to full-time status, and racked up a .339 average. Topps included him on the NL Batting Leaders card in 1968 (along with teammates Jim Bunning and Chris Short on various pitching leaders cards).

    The reason Gonzalez was left exposed to the draft was that the Phillies were expecting Larry Hisle to take over as their centerfielder in 1969 (which he did, earning a Topps all-rookie team slot). Each team could initially protect only 15 players in their entire system, and Gonzalez wasn't one of the 15.

    Apparently, the Padres and Expos didn't think too highly of him either, as he wasn't selected in the epansion draft until the 37th pick.

  5. Bob - You never wandered down during BP to snag autographs?

    Marc - Re: Redlegs, it seems like the kind of thing that would never happen today. Then you remember the dopes in Congress renaming French fries "freedom fries" a few years back.

    Anon - This is why I enjoy doing this blog. Gonzalez is one of those solid, unspectacular players I never knew before looking him up.

    Jim - Back-to-back comments referencing Don Lock? You're on a roll! ;)

  6. No Kevin, I don't remember ever being any closer than the mezzanine seats at Shea or the Polo Grounds. And on that subject the Mets were the first team I was aware of that had a sliding scale of ticket prices. The same seat for a game against the Phils would be several dollars less than it would be for a game against the Giants or Dodgers. I recall being amazed and outraged by all that. I think it's pretty routine now.