Sunday, April 6, 2014
Card #11: Gary Alexander
Who Can It Be Now?
Gary Wayne Alexander was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He was drafted for the first time after his senior year in high school by the Montreal Expos in the 23rd round of the June amateur draft in 1971, but he chose not to sign. Instead, he attended the Los Angeles Harbor College -- a school also attended by fellow baseball players Enos Cabell and Dock Ellis, among others. He then was drafted for the second time by the San Francisco Giants in the January 1972 Special draft in the second round and signed.
The Giants promoted him fairly aggressively through their system, likely because Alexander showed great power potential. In his first full professional season, which was 1973 in the Midwest League, Alexander hit 17 homers, drove in 66, walked 89 times (for an OBP of .394) and struck out 126 times. Over his next two minor league seasons, he totaled 50 homers over A, AA, and AAA.
In 1977, Alexander appeared on his first baseball card. You probably have seen it and remember it, because he shared card 476 in the 1977 Topps set with Rick Cerone and Atlanta Braves legend Dale Murphy.
He turned up again in the late 1980s in the Men's Senior Baseball League/Men's Adult Baseball League in Southern California. He played again in a Senior League for the Bradenton Explorers in the Senior Professional Baseball League.
After that, the trail on him goes cold. If you go to the Trading Card Database, you'll see that they think he turned into a white infielder (who, as it turns out, had exactly the same first, middle, and last name but was definitely not the same player).
1982 was the final year that "Mork and Mindy," the show that unleashed the comedy of Robin Williams on America, was on the air. At the end of each episode, Williams would contact "Orson" on Ork. On Ork, the words mean goodbye were "Nanu Nanu." Here, we will use this category to identify those players whose last Topps card during his playing career appeared in the 1982 set.
As the category description above mentions, this was the last Topps card on which Gary Alexander appeared during his career. Despite the fact that Alexander was only 28 years old and had shown that he had good pop in his bat, the Pirates released him after the 1981 season. That probably was spurred on by the fact that they had two catchers on their roster under age 26 -- Steve Nicosia and Tony Pena -- and that both of those guys could hit some as well.
That doesn't explain why no other team took a flyer on him. But, as a result of his release, Alexander spent the next two seasons in the Mexican League.
A Few Minutes with Tony L.
I do not have any recollection of Gary Alexander from 1981-1982.
That said, it's not like he was invisible. He is a guy who might have been a bit before his time in terms of being a major league player, though. For instance, baseball over the past 15 to 20 years has been dominated by the "Three True Outcomes" players -- guys whose trips to the plate result either in a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. Think Adam Dunn. As the blog post from Baseball Reference indicated in the third chart, Alexander was a TTO guy -- over 40% of his plate appearances resulted in one of those outcomes. As many stories or posts about Alexander mention, he struck out 166 times in 1978 and led the American League in that category.
A few other random facts of interest:
1. On September 29, 1976, Gary Alexander caught and hit fifth (behind Bobby Mercer) as John "The Count" Montefusco no-hit the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. Montefusco walked only one and struck out just four batters in a game that finished in less than 2 hours.
2. Alexander was traded from the Giants to the Athletics along with 7 other players and $300,000 for Vida Blue in the middle of spring training in 1978. Alexander then was traded again in 1978 to the Cleveland Indians.
3. After the 1980 season, Alexander was traded again, this time likely during the winter meetings. Joining him in moving from Cleveland to Pittsburgh were Victor Cruz (not the Giants WR), Rafael Vasquez, and Bob Owchinko. In return, Cleveland got catcher Manny Sanguillen (whom the Indians promptly released in February of 1981) and future Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven.
4. You can still buy the contract from which the facsimile signature on the front of this card was taken directly from Topps.
If anyone wants to play Remington Steele (which hit the airwaves for the first time in 1982 as well) and find out where Gary Alexander is, I will be happy to issue an update here in another post and I'll even give out a prize of some sort.
Update: As Bo mentioned in the comments, it appears that Mr. Alexander is alive and well and working for the Los Angeles Fire Department. So, not only did he spend his youth entertaining us as a baseball player, he is now spending his adulthood after baseball protecting and serving the people of Los Angeles.