Friday, September 27, 2013

TWO GAMES AND AN AIRBRUSH JOB: 1978 JIM HUGHES AND THE TEAM HE NEVER PLAYED FOR

I came across this card the other day looking for things to write about, and what first caught my eye was the funny airbrushing of the "Sox" logo on the player's cap.
However, when I flipped the card around and checked out his stats I saw that he only appeared in two games the previous year, good for only 4.1 innings.
So how did Jim Hughes get a card in the 1978 Topps set (#395)?
This is yet another one of those "commons" you flipped by all the time as a kid, never really scanning the stats on the back and seeing the quirks of Topps.
Hughes was up in the Majors for only four years, ALL with the Minnesota Twins, including the aforementioned 2-game "cup of coffee" in 1977, which actually ended up being his last action in the "big show". On top of that, his first year in the Majors in 1974 also consisted of only two games, good for 10.1 innings and an 0-2 record.
In truth, his real experience as a big leaguer was in 1975 and 1976, where he had a combined 25-28 record mainly as a starter, appearing in 37 games each year.
1975 was a pretty good rookie year actually, as Hughes sported a record of 16-14 with two shutouts, 12 complete games and a 3.82 E.R.A. Not bad for a sub-.500 team.
But in 1976 he took a step back, finishing with a 9-14 record and a ballooning 4.98 E.R.A. before spending the bulk of 1977 in the Minors at Tacoma (Minnesota AAA).
By the end of that year he was granted free agency and signed on with the Chicago White Sox, and apparently Topps was pretty sure he would be suiting up for them every fourth or fifth day. So they went ahead and airbrushed him into a Chicago uniform and gave him a spot in one of my favorite all-time sets, 1978.
What I love most about the card is the jersey, or should I say blue "disco" shirt?! Certainly doesn't look like a baseball jersey, that's for sure.
Anyway, as fate would have it, injuries had Hughes appearing in only eight games in the Minors before moving on to the Dodgers in 1979, pitching on their Triple-A team Albuquerque team before calling it a career.
So here we have one of the many cards showing a player "suited up" for a team who he never actually played for, as well as a card of a player who never played in the Majors again.
Ah the quirks of speculation on the part of Topps.

Dig the blue silk shirt! (At least that's what it looks like to me)...

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