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Card of the Week: Mike Andrews 1973 Topps

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Telescopic: This is what passed for an action shot in 1973 Topps — an Instamatic from the upper deck.
Topps

This card is perplexing.

No, I don’t mean the extreme lo-fi nature of the shot, with its random action, apparently shot out of the upper deck.

I mean, how did this card happen?

The Chicago White Sox are on the road. The photo should have been taken in 1972. There is Astroturf in the outfield. And based on the baby-blue coloring of the opponent’s helmet, that appears to be Bob Oliver of the Kansas City Royals smothering second base rather painfully on a slide to break up a double play.

But Kansas City didn’t move into the Astroturfed Royals Stadium until 1973.

Before then, they played at Municipal Stadium, home of the old K.C. Athletics and even the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. But Municipal Stadium never had Astroturf!

So, the photo for this card was hastily shot during that opening weekend, right? Look at the long sleeves. Seems like April in Kansas City.

Here’s the problem with that scenario:

See that No, 42 above? The 1973 Topps set was the last to be issued in series, meaning that every few weeks, a new 132 cards were issued. Andrews being No. 42 means his card was in the very first series of the year.

Today, Topps breaks its cards into just two series. The first 350 or so cards are issued before spring training. Later in the summer a second series is released, which does manage to incorporate player moves (offseason trades are almost always depicted with photoshopping rather than authentic game shots from spring training or April games).

I can’t determine when the first series of 1973 Topps cards were issued, but there’s no way that this shot could have come from early 1973 action. If Andrews was in the final series of Topps cards from that year, it’s possible. But he’s not.

So, OK, I’m stumped on the lineage of this photo. Let’s talk a little bit about Andrews instead.

As you see from his card above, Andrews was not a star. When your cartoon blurb highlight is from six seasons earlier and notes you as a league leader in sacrifice hits, you’re not a star.

But this card betrays Andrews a bit. He started his career with the Boston Red Sox and actually produced some tidy numbers, with successive seasons of 3.7 and 3.8 WAR in 1968-69. After five years in Boston, Andrews changed socks and headed to Chicago with Luis Alvarado (who will pop up one day in the series, with an undeniably classic 1973 Topps card), in exchange for Luis Aparicio.

Andrews didn’t produce much for the White Sox: In 309 career games, he managed just 0.2 WAR, the definition of replacement level.

At first blush it seemed that a good comp for Andrews’ career, at least his productive time in Boston, was Scott Fletcher. But, in fact, one of Andrews’ closest career comps isn’t quite Fletcher, but another one in the Fletcher family.

Yep, Andrews’ third-closest comp per Baseball-Reference, with 94.6% similarity, is Gordon Beckham.

During the season this card was issued, 1973, Andrews was released by the White Sox after 52 games, slashing .201/.302/.258. Andrews’ old manager in Boston, Dick Williams, was helming the defending champion Oakland A’s, and persuaded A’s owner Charlie Finley to sign Andrews.

On July 31, Oakland signed Andrews and would put him on its postseason roster during its run to a second straight World Series crown.

Andrews had two at-bats in the ALCS, but took an infamous turn in the World Series.

In Game 2 of Oakland’s World Series against the New York Mets, Andrews committed two two-out errors in the 12th inning. First, John Milner’s grounder went through his legs, scoring two runs. One batter later, Andrews threw wide to first on a Jerry Grote grounder, allowing another run to score. The A’s would go on to lose, 10-7

Before the errors, Oakland was already down, 7-6. That didn’t prevent Finley from scapegoating Andrews, forcing him after the game to sign an affidavit that he was injured, which would allow Finley to replace Andrews on the roster. In a what-new development, Williams and all of Andrews’ A’s teammates supported the embattled second baseman, and it took commissioner Bowie Kuhn to intervene and reinstate Andrews to the roster.

He played in one more World Series game, Game 4, grounding out in a pinch-hitting appearance. Finley then ordered him benched, and Andrews would not play again in the Series, or the majors.