Friday, September 12, 2008

#105 Chico Salmon

Chico Salmon by you.
Here's the second card from Max, outfielder Chico Salmon. Chico was born Ruthford Eduardo Salmon in Panama. Ruthford? I think I would have gone by "Chico" as well. To look at his Wikipedia and BR Bullpen pages, you would think that his life was shrouded in mystery; there's precious little there. Even his transactions list is very cloak-and-dagger. Originally signed by the Senators in 1959, he bounced from Washington to San Francisco to Detroit to Milwaukee between 1960 and 1963. All three moves are listed as "unknown transactions". In October 1963, the Braves sent him to Cleveland in a trade that was actually documented! Wouldn't you know it, he was acquired for a Player to Be Named Later (who eventually became Mike de la Hoz).

Apparently Chico was deeply afraid of ghosts, well into his adult years. During his childhood, he was traumatized by stories about spectres wafting in through open windows and keyholes. As a result, Salmon refused to sleep with the lights off until a stint in the army forced him to confront his fears!

Though Chico hit a solid .307 in his rookie season with the Indians, he was never more than a utility player during his nine-year career. But he could be counted on in a pinch to fill in all over the diamond, and saw significant time at every infield position and the corner spots in the outfield. That's how he earned the nickname "Super Sub". Oddly enough, he didn't have a great reputation as a defender. One Orioles teammate quipped, "If Chico's hand get any worse, we'll have to amputate". The Panamanian spent the second half of his career in Baltimore, arriving just in time for the team's three straight World Series trips (1969-1971). He contributed with the bat, swatting .297 in his first year in orange and black and bashing seven home runs in just 172 at-bats the following year. After his career ended in 1972, Salmon worked as a scout and spent much of his time coaching amateur teams in his home country. He passed away unexpectedly in 2000 after suffering a heart attack.

Fun fact: Chico has a perfect 1.000 batting average in World Series play. He appeared in two games of the 1969 series as a pinch runner, failing to score as the Mets shocked the O's. But in 1970, he pinch-hit for pitcher Tommy Phoebus in the fifth inning of Game Two with the Birds trailing 4-1. Chico singled and would later score the first of five Baltimore runs in the frame. Moe Drabowsky entered the game in the bottom of the inning, displacing Salmon. The Orioles won 6-5 and went on to dispose of the Reds in five games. That pinch single was Chico's final appearance in postseason play, but he made it count.
Chico Salmon (back) by you.

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