Long before Mets shortstop Jose Reyes was even born in 1983, the Mets had a switch-hitting shortstop with speed who played gold glove caliber defense and held down the position for 13 years. The shortstop in question is none other than Bud Harrelson, pictured above on his 1971 Topps card, applying a tag to an Astros base runner.
The card, number 355 in the set, depicts four players on the card as well as the umpire, who appears to be in a good position to make the call.
Looking at the card, several questions spring to mind. Who are each of the players shown? Who was the umpire? Was the base runner trying to steal second, safe or out? Did the Mets win the game?
Let’s see if we can put our Sherlock Holmes hat on and determine where this action shot was taken, and once that is established, what happened on the play and the game pictured on the card:
1. Let’s start with the pitcher. His uniform number 30 is clearly visible, and a quick check of 1970 Mets uniform numbers on Baseball Reference tells us that from 1968-1971, Nolan Ryan wore number 30 for the Mets. Ryan was a 23-year old swingman in 1970, starting 19 games and relieving in eight more, combining for a 7-11 record despite an ERA of 3.42, 18% better than league average that season.
2. The Mets’ wearing their home uniforms, playing on a grass field let us know that the scene is Shea Stadium in Flushing, and from the lighting, we can tell that it was a day game.
3. Referencing the Mets schedule from 1970, also from our friends at Baseball Reference, on the only day game in which Ryan faced the Astros at Shea Stadium in 1970 was on May 30.
4. A check of the box score and play-by-play from May 30, shows us that in the eighth inning, with one out and Ryan on the mound, Jim Wynn (The Toy Cannon) walked and stole second. Further, no Astro was thrown out trying to steal during the game. Therefore the play is in the top of the eighth and Wynn was safe on the play in question.
5. The same box score and play-by-play show that the Mets second baseman in the top of the eighth inning was Ken Boswell. He wore number 12 and the “2” in the 12 is visible to us baseball sleuths on the front left of his uniform. The fact that it is the eighth inning is important as Al Weiss pinch-ran in the bottom of the inning and played second in the top of the ninth.
6. Who is the umpire making the safe call? As shown in the box score, that is Ken Burkhart, who had pitched in the majors in the 1940s.
7. Who won the game? With 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets won 4 – 3.
Case closed. Hang up the Sherlock Holmes hat until our next sleuthing case together.