Wednesday, April 4, 2012

1980 TOPPS HARRY CHAPPAS

THOSE SOX HATS WERE REAL KEEPERS,
WEREN'T THEY?
THAT '78 APPLETON SEASON INCLUDED 60 STEALS.

THE FRONT PAGE

  • The first and only card of one of the shortest players (between 5-foot-5 and 5-6, depending on your source) in Major League Baseball history. Owner Bill Veeck, never to ignore a potential gimmick to draw fans and attention, insisted Harry Chappas' height to be listed at 5-3. 
  • "The first major league contract I signed was made of cardboard and was 5 feet tall,'' Chappas, a shortstop, was quoted in Sports Illustrated. "All these photographers took pictures of me next to it. I didn't know better, so I went along, playing the role of the little guy.'' 
  • I'm a sawed-off spit-wad, too, at 5-4, so when I received my SI in the mail in March 1979 with him on the cover and read the story, he became a player to watch. I didn't watch long because his major-league career only lasted only one more year.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Topps dutifully went along with "5-3'' height request.
  • Although not born in Florida, Chappas, a switch-hitter, played down here, which also added to my interest in him.
  • The mask on the base-stealer in the cartoon is cute.

PHOTO PLAY

  • He does look undersized, and the White Sox uniform of the time doesn't add inches -- or style.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • After breaking into the majors in '78, the turning point in Chappas' career occurred the next season. He beat out Don Kessinger at shortstop to start Opening Day but kept the job only two weeks. 
  • What happened? He missed a sign while on base, was benched and then sent to the minors. The manager? Kessinger, who was fired in August and replaced by unknown Tony La Russa. Chappas was recalled in September and made the Opening Day roster again in '80 but was demoted after hitting .160 in 50 at-bats.
  • Overall, Chappas hit .245 with one homer, 12 RBI but only two steals and only 15 walks. Not the stats of a table-setter that the club thought he might be, but he really didn't get much time to prove himself either.
  • He played briefly in Italy in '84 but broke his leg in a motorcycle accident and retired for good.
  • I think this quote from 5-5 Freddie Patek sums this post up: "I'd rather be the shortest player in the majors than the tallest player in the minors.''




1 comment:

  1. Love that SI cover. I'm familiar with most of the covers from that period, but I somehow missed that one.

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