Sunday, December 4, 2011

#125 Dave Lopes

Card thoughts: Interesting candid shot of Lopes polishing his sunglasses. A shocking pink tongue is semi-protruding from Lopes' mouth. And that 2B is "historic"; Lopes only played one game there in this season. He played almost all of his games in the outfield. The name, by the way, should be "Davey" not "Dave".

The player: Lopes is one of the greatest base stealers of all time. Although many players stole more bases career-wise than he did, only four others have a better base stealing percentage. Lopes once stole 36 bases in a row, which was a major league record until Vince Coleman broke it. In 1973, Lopes became the Dodgers regular second baseman and joined Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, and Ron Cey to become the infield that played the longest together. As the Dodgers leadoff hitter, he led the league in steals in 1975 (77) and 1976 (63), but didn't make the all-star team until 1978, when he began to develop some power: He hit 28 home runs from the leadoff spot in 1979. He was voted in as a starter for the all-star team from 1979-81. However, Lopes did not deserve the honor in 1981, when he hit only .206.

The long running infield was broken up after that season when Lopes was traded to the A's for a minor leaguer. Lopes started at second for the A's in 1982 and 1983 and he still wielded a good bat and had good wheels. Never more than average second baseman (although he did win a gold glove in 1978), his defense regressed to the point that he eventually couldn't play second effectively enough to be a starter and he was shifted to a utility role in 1984 before he was traded to the Cubs for the stretch run. He hit only .235 for the Cubs for that month, but the next season, at age 40, Lopes stole an incredible 47 bases in only 99 games. True to form, he was only caught 4 times. Those 47 steals were his most since 1977. He was traded to the Astros the next year (for #26 Frank DiPino), again for the stretch run, and retired in 1988.

Lopes embarked on a second career as a coach after his playing days were over. He's used his base stealing expertise to become a highly sought after first base coach, plying his trade with the Rangers, Orioles, Padres, Nationals, Phillies, and Dodgers. He also managed the Brewers, where he courted controversy by saying that Rickey Henderson should be beaned for stealing second with the Padres holding a big lead. He actually yelled that to Rickey while making a mound visit. You can read an account of the "unwritten rule" Henderson violated here. His bench coach, #118 Jerry Royster, replaced him.

Rear guard: Wow, 7 RBIs. I love how Topps says "first" as if he was going to ever have another day like that. His 7 RBIs came against the Blue Jays and drove in Carney Lansford, #48 Bill Almon (three times), Jeff Burroughs, and Wayne Gross. The RBIs came on a grand slam, a double, and a triple. He just missed hitting for the cycle.

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