Monday, May 19, 2014

FACE TIME: 1978 TOPPS TITO FUENTES



Accessorizing with headbands long before NBA players, Tito Fuentes was the face of self-promotion.

And you thought it was Jim "ROZELLE'' McMahon.

That made for some of the most interesting baseball cards of the 1970s. Fuentes was the game's original fully dressed hot dog, with a heaping side of pimp.

He came out of Cuba before the revolution and seamlessly stepped right into the counterculture of America. How his name hasn't worked itself into a Kid Rock or Beastie Boys rhyme is a crime.

Styling and profiling was the benchmark of Fuentes, but he wasn't all flash: He could pick it at second base and cover ground like a tsunami. When not turning two with flair, he was spinning heads off the diamond with dazzling threads. Sure-handed, he set the NL record for fielding percentage with only six errors in the '73 season that stood until Ryne Sandberg eclipsed it in '86. 




On the day after the Giants won the '71 NL West title, Fuentes' son was born. He was named Clinch to honor the achievement. But the Giants almost didn't. They nearly frittered away an 8 1/2-game lead and didn't secure the division until the final game.

Thankfully for the Fuentes family, "Choke" never had to be considered.

The proud papa who was more slap-and-dash than brawn came up big in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Pirates, slamming a two-run homer in the fifth that helped the Giants win their only game.  

Heady stuff for the headband man. Nobody would bat an eye today with his look or antics. Speaking of bats, he couldn't just settle into the box and tap the barrel on the plate; no pizzazz in that. Instead, he'd tap the knob off the plate and and flip it around.

In Major League, Willie "Mays'' Hayes pays tribute to Fuentes by trying to execute the bat flip off the plate (at 1:15 into the clip below). In fact, it seemed the entire Willie character was based on him. 

Even Hollywood recognized what an unforgettable personality Tito Fuentes was.








1 comment:

  1. The guy retired just as I started watching, which is a shame. Kinda cool to hear the Willie Mays Hayes connection. I always thought Alex Cole was the main inspiration, but Tito is far more interesting.

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