Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Gumby Mystery

Long-time Brewers second baseman Jim "Gumby" Gantner doesn't get a lot of cardboard love. He was a staple of junk-wax era base sets, but appeared on only a handful of the many oddball issues of the era and hasn't been featured on an original card since he retired after the 1992 season. It's hard to think of an "iconic" Gantner card. While teammates like Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas and Cecil Cooper are pretty highly-regarded by collectors, Ganter is mostly relegated to the common bin. 

But there is a Gantner card that has always been near and dear to me. 

1992 Stadium Club. It happens to be one of Gumby's best-looking cards. Gantner is dressed in the sharp Brewers pinstripes and his trademark flap-less helmet, about to dive back into first as Cecil Fielder - at the height of his stardom - awaits the chase-back throw. Behind them is a full grandstand basking in the afternoon sun and ... hm ...

 ... what appears to be a tavern league softballer playing shortstop for the Tigers. Without a glove. And in Brewers colors. 

So who in the hell is this little mystery man? Thankfully, there was only one game in 1991 in which this scenario was possible. It was May 27, a very weird game in its own right. By the middle of the sixth inning, the Brewers were down 6-1. They scored four in the bottom of the inning to climb back in, then gave up two runs in the eighth before rallying to tie it in the bottom of the frame. It remained tied until the 14th, when the Tigers sent ten men to the plate and scored seven runs. The Brewers added a run in the bottom of the 14th to make the final score 15-9. The box score say that Alan Trammell played the entire game for Detroit at SS. But that ain't Alan Trammell. 

So, let's take a look at the game recap from the old Milwaukee Journal. And there, we find our answer. "The umpires, who barely made it to the ballpark in time for the game after coming from Baltimore Monday morning, didn't have their gear with them. Thus, they wore gray baseball pants, blue Brewers warm-up shirts and white souvenir caps with the Major League Baseball logo."

But isn't that an odd place for an umpire? It surely is. In addition to missing their luggage, the crew was also without John Shulock, who came down with an illness just before the game. This forced a three-man crew and the odd infield alignment. 

And for those of you dying to know how if Gantner got back in time, he did in fact beat Bill Gullickson's pick off attempt. But was soon after rolled up in a Tony Phillips-to-Trammell-to-Fielder double play. 


  1. Excellent detective work and great eye for detail!

  2. That's some serious digging there....well done!

  3. You expect umpires to be 75 pounds overweight. The mystery guy looks like he could be Lou Whitaker. Great stuff!

  4. You expect umpires to be 75 pounds overweight. The mystery guy looks like he could be Lou Whitaker. Great stuff!