Monday, March 31, 2014

MISSING IN ACTION- 1970 TONY HORTON

I just came across an interesting bit thanks to the guys at SABR (once again), that listed the Major Leaguers with the most career at-bats or innings pitched who never had a Topps card.
Sure most of the guys were journeymen without a substantial big league resume, but there were a couple of names that stood out to me, most notably former Indian slugger Tony Horton.
I was really surprised by this since I was convinced there was a card for him at some point, and that it was something I had in my collection.
But low-and-behold, except for a Kelloggs card in 1971, there wasn't a regular-issue card of the tragic figure who left the game at a young age amid inner-turmoil.
Well, since my blog deals with the 1970's, I went ahead and designed a card for him in the 1970 and 1971 set since he retired during the 1970 season.
Today I post up my 1970 design. Take a look:


Horton originally came up with the Boston Red Sox in 1964 as a 19-year old, appearing in 36 games, hitting .222 with a homer and eight runs batted in.
After a couple of more sporadic seasons bouncing between the Majors and Minors with Boston, Horton was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1967 for pitcher Gary Bell, and finally got some full-time work with the parent club.
After a couple of decent years he really came into his own in 1969, hitting .278 with 27 homers and 93 runs batted in on 174 hits in 625 at-bats.
1970 started out well for the young slugger, as he had a three-homer game against the Yankees as well as hitting for the cycle on July 2nd against the Orioles, but after a prolonged slump and constant booing from the fans, the emotional toll finally came to a head for Horton as he took himself out of a game on August 28th against the Angels.
It was the second game of a double-header, and he voluntarily left the game after the fifth inning.
Sadly, later that evening he attempted suicide, but luckily survived and eventually got treatment for his problems.
But as for his baseball career, he'd never appear in another Major League game again.
His former manager, Alvin Dark, stated that in his long baseball career, the Horton situation was the "most sorrowful incident I was ever involved in, in my baseball career."
Tony Horton was only 25 years old when he left the game, after only 636 games and seven years, and has always been a stark reminder of the pressures professional athletes have day to day that fans can easily overlook as they're entertained on an almost nightly basis for six-motnhs out of every year.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at my design for his "missing" 1971 Topps card.

3 comments:

  1. How does a guy who's a full time player for 4 years not get a Topps card? That's crazy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know right? Most probably a contractual thing. Maybe he didn't want to sign one with Topps (?).
      Totally a guess on my part though. If anyone out there knows we'd love to hear it!

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    2. Topps used to have to sign each player to a contract individually. Remember, for a long time the players were not unionized. And then it took awhile for the Players Association and Topps to reach a blanket agreement of sorts that lasted until pretty recently. The disputed period is from around '67-'69, which is why you see a lot of players photos reused on Topps cards year after year during that time. I don't know the details, but there seems to be an individual component again which is why you don't see Topps cards of Matt Wieters (he had an eTopps card his rookie year and none since).

      Anyway, there was a period when Topps and Bowman were duking it out when players would sign exclusively for one company or the other. Then, during Topps monopoly years, some players wouldn't agree to sign contracts with Topps (usually because they thought Topps was too cheap, considering the money they were making off player likenesses). Most of those who refused didn't amount to much anyway. The two biggies most people can remember were Tony Horton (because his story is so dramatic and has been told so often) and Maury Wills, who would eventually relent in 1967. Think of it. Early 60s Dodger great Maury Wills' Topps rookie card is a card of Maury with the Pirates from 1967. Even though those players wouldn't sign contracts to appear on cards, Topps paid separately to actually take the pictures (not a lot; maybe $100 or so each year), so Topps does have photos of Tony and Maury from throughout their careers. Because Maury eventually did sign, you get to see him today on Then & Now cards and such. But Tony never did. He's got the Kellogg's card and a Kahn's Weiners card (KAHN!) and that's it.

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