Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mike Fitzgerald: 2 Autographed Cards

Mike Fitzgerald started his career with a bit of pressure: drafted by the New York Mets, he hit a home run in his very first at-bat, then became the first rookie catcher ever to lead his position in field percentage, in 1984. Following that tremendous rookie campaign, he was traded to the Montréal Expos for future Hall Of Famer (and fan favourite) Gary Carter, which left the starting catcher's job wide open for Fitzgerald to fill.

And he filled in admirably. You could count on his fielding to be impeccable, he helped pitchers to wonderful seasons, he could be counted on for a decent .250 average (and had a career-high of .282 in 1986), was among the National League leaders in stolen bases against, (fewest) errors, double-plays and pretty much all areas of fielding.

He stayed with the Expos until he became a free agent, playing his final season with the California Angels in 1992. He must have signed a dozen cards for me from 1988 to 1991, mostly in ballpoint pen or black sharpie; for some reason, these are the two I'm left with, both signed in blue sharpie. I know why I held onto them, though: they show both of the team's classic uniforms.

First, a rare feat on a brand-name baseball card, sporting the Expos' white (home) uniform, from Leaf's 1987 Donruss set (card #345), showing him between pitches in full catcher regalia:
And from Topps' 1988 Topps set - perhaps my favourite baseball set of all time - here is card #674, showing him in the team's powdered-blue (away) uniform, probably warming up for his next at-bat:
I've seen Carter play before him - and he was amazing; I've seen Nelson Santovenia, Darren Fletcher and Michael Barrett after him; but Fitzgerald will always be my Expos catcher. He'd definitely make my All-Time 40-Man Roster:

C: Gary Carter, Mike Fitzgerald
1B: Andres Gallaraga, Al Oliver
2B: Jose Vidro, Delino DeShields, Ron Hunt
SS: Spike Owen, Wilfredo Cordero, Tom Foley
3B: Tim Wallach, Bob Bailey, Larry Parrish
LF: Tim Raines, Moises Alou, Warren Cromartie
CF: Andre Dawson, Marquis Grissom, Ellis Valentine, Rondell White
RF: Rusty Staub, Larry Walker, Vladimir Guerrero
Rotation: Pedro Martinez, Steve Rogers, Dennis Martinez, Bill Lee, Pascual Perez
Closers: John Wetteland, Tim Burke
Other Pitchers: Mel Rojas, Ugueth Urbina, Jeff Reardon, Jeff Fassero, Ken Hill, Carlos Perez, Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd, Claude Raymond, Mark Langston, Woodie Fryman

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