Monday, August 26, 2013

WHEN EXPANSION GETS TOPPS SCRAMBLING: 1977 DAVE HILTON

While I do realize that baseball expansion in 1977 must have given Topps fits trying to produce Blue Jay and Mariner cards for the new set, it is entertaining to see what the final result was.
For example, earlier on this blog I profiled the 1977 Chuck Hartensein card (#416), who hadn't been included in a set since 1970, before Topps issued one for him as a Blue Jay seven years later. A case of a Major League cast-off getting second life because of expansion.
There's also that Rick Jones (#118) card as a Mariner, where Topps had to take a black and white image of him and airbrush the ENTIRE photo, giving us one of the stranger looking issues in the set. There just weren't any color photographs available for a player that was getting a job because of a new team roster to fill.
Then there's the case of Dave Hilton, profiled here (card #163).
Hilton was actually a #1 pick by the San Diego Padres in the January 1971 amateur draft after starring at Rice University in Texas.
He made the quick jump up to the big leagues in 1972 at the age of 21, and saw some sporadic playing time over the next couple of years, hitting a robust .214 in a 157 games.
In 1975 he only appeared in four games for the Padres, going 0-8. And that, ladies and gentlemen (I suspect ALL gentlemen here actually), was it for Mr. Hilton, as he never made it up to the big show again.
Of course no one would know it at the time, and the Blue Jays purchased Hilton, along with former #1 pick in the 1972 draft Dave Roberts and John Scott, from San Diego in October of 1976.
In 1977 Hilton would actually suit up for Toledo in Triple-A (Cleveland) before moving on to a few seasons in the Japanese League. He'd return to the States and play some more Minor League ball up until 1982, but never made it back up to the Majors.
So here we are left with a card of a player who hadn't appeared in the Majors for two years, and never would suit up for the team he was depicted on.
The nightmare of expansion rears it's ugly head again in the baseball card world.

"Swing and a miss" for Topps. Hilton never suited up for Toronto.

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