These Kids Got Carded

I recently saw a sad notice of the passing of Rick Baldwin, who was a Mets pitcher in the 1970’s. Here’s Baldwin’s 1976 rookie card:

One of the the things which struck me was Baldwin’s age… I’m in my mid 50s and Baldwin was 67, and that is less of a difference than I’d remembered.

It got me thinking. A dozen years isn’t tremendously significant when you’re older, but that difference is huge when you’re a kid.

But it also made me ponder something else… When I was a kid, I viewed everybody appearing on baseball cards as MEN. There were no question about it. Some men were older, some men were younger, but all were men… Larger-than-life athletic men.

I don’t know that I really understood that Robin Yount, this guy I knew little about in 1975, was a teenager roughly a decade older than me. Yes, I do realize that his rookie card references his being 18-years-old in 1974… but that was talking about the previous year. He *was* a teenager and he *wasn’t* on a card. Now he’s on a card and now he’s a man.

I got curious about how many of these men from my childhood were really boys, at least as defined by the drinking age. So I started looking at the first sets I collected (1974 and 1975) and looked to see which players were under 21 and had their own cards (I disregarded “Rookie Pitchers” cards and others like it).

So here are the players who had solo cards from 1974 and 1975 but could not, on opening day, legally buy a beer in every state.

Claudell Washington: 20 years old on Opening Day, 1975

Claudell Washington was an All-Star in 1975 and didn’t turn 21 until 8/31/75. He played 73 games in 1974 and made his debut about 8 weeks shy of his 20th birthday.

He also passed away this past June, which doesn’t make me feel better in light of the Rick Baldwin news.

Dennis Blair: 20 years old on Opening Day, 1975

Blair made two starts as a teenager in 1974 and in his debut he pitched into the 9th and got the win.

Larry Christenson: 20 years old on Opening Day, 1974

Christenson was born in November 1953 so he was a teenager during his entire 1973 rookie season. He went 1-4 with a 6.55 ERA, but to be fair those 1973 Phillies did lose 91 games.

I always thought Larry Christenson had something of a baby face, but it didn’t really occur to me it was because he wasn’t that far removed from being an actual baby.

David Clyde: 19 years old on Opening Day, 1974

Clyde is unsurprisingly the baby of the bunch, making his debut fresh out of high school and just a couple of months past his 18th birthday.

David Clyde going from High School to the majors wasn’t something I remembered as more than trivia when I was a kid.  I’m not sure that I ever thought about it along the lines of “Georgie McAllister from around the block has an older brother that’s the same age as this guy who’s on a baseball card”.

Robin Yount: 19 years old on Opening Day, 1975

Robin Yount played one season in low-A before making the Brewers coming out of 1974 Spring Training.  I think you all know how things worked out for him long-term.

10 thoughts on “These Kids Got Carded

  1. One of the major turning points of my adult life was when big-league ballplayers started getting younger than me. I’m pretty sure the first one was Bryce Harper, unless someone snuck in before him that I’m unaware of — Harper’s eight months younger than I am. Now it seems like I’m a good deal older than all the guys I root for.

  2. Great post! As i get older and see young 20 year olds and a few teenagers, i feel even older…sometimes reminding myself (foolishly) that i could be their dad’s age. It’s good to not do that.

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