...an occasional series wherein I raid my kids' baseball card collections or my own and profile a one-time Chicago Cub.
Today we look in on a relic from the 1968 Topps series, card #219, the first Chicago Cub baseball card I ever owned.
Who: Rob Gardner, left-handed pitcher, 1967
How The Cubs Got Him: In a trade with the Mets on June 12, 1967, along with a player to be named later—who turned out to be catcher John Stephenson—for lefthander Bob Hendley. Hendley's claim to fame was throwing a one-hitter against the Dodgers in 1965, the same game in which Sandy Koufax tossed a perfecto at the Cubs.
What He Did While They Had Him: Not very much to make the Cubs want to keep him. In all, Gardner appeared in 18 games for the ’67 team, with an 0-2 record and a 3.98 ERA (89 ERA+), 16 K, and 6 BB in 31 2/3 innings. His five starts included a 1 1/3 inning stint against the Mets in June and a 1/3 inning outing at St. Louis in late July. Gardner finished three games, all of them lost causes, coming out of the bullpen.
How The Cubs Got Rid Of Him: In a Spring Training deal with the Indians on March 30, 1968. To Gardner's chagrin, he was traded from the up-and-coming Cubs to the down-and-out Clevelanders for reliever Bob Tiefenauer. Gardner was only 23 years old at the time of the trade, while Tiefenauer was 35 and in the twilight of a modest career. Tiefenauer, however, threw a knuckle ball, which was all Cub manager Leo Durocher needed to know. “I haven’t had a knuckle ball pitcher since I had Hoyt Wilhelm with the Giants…” Durocher told The Sporting News at the time of the deal. “I have wanted one ever since.” Interestingly, Cubs catcher Randy Hundley had no experience catching knuckleballers when the trade was made, so Indians catcher Joe Azcue sent Hundley one of his oversized knuckleball mitts. It didn't much matter. Tiefenauer appeared in just 9 games out of the Chicago bullpen in ’68 with a 6.08 ERA (52 ERA+). In other words, Azcue wound up contributing more to the Cubs than Tiefenauer.
Gardner, meanwhile, lasted in the majors until 1973, toiling for Cleveland, the Yankees, A’s, and Brewers after leaving Chicago. His final Major League numbers: 14-18, 2 saves, 4.35 (78 ERA+), 193 K, 133 BB in 331 IP.
Something Positive Someone Once Said About Him: "Rob has good poise, uses changes of speed, pitches effectively and can be used as a starter or reliever.” (From the back of 1968 Topps baseball card #219. And yes, in Topps-speak, pitcher with "good poise" = blind date with "good personality.")
Box Score To Remember: GARDNER 6 5 1 1 1 4 (Phillies @ Cubs, 8/10/67)