Tuesday, May 21, 2013

#6 Jeff Tackett

About the Front: So it is that Topps gives us the first "common" player in the set after a run of five legends. At least they made up for it with a great photo. Jeff Tackett kneels in a cloud of dust at home plate, preparing to palm a ball that momentarily hangs in the air. Based on his expression and body language, and the blurry figure in the visitor's dugout who seems to be applauding, I'll make an educated guess that Jeff was just bested on a play at the plate.

About the Back: Yeowch. As you can see, Tackett was a defense-first catcher. Only one pro season with an average above .240, and he didn't hit a single home run until his sixth year in organized ball. Terry Tackett played in just 198 minor-league games from 1961 through 1965, and batted .199 with a .309 slugging percentage, so Jeff at least outplayed his dad.

I get a kick out of the note about his interests. Motorcycles and surfing...sounds like a California guy through and through.

Triple Play:

1. Jeff's true claim to fame was small cameo roles in the films "Bob Roberts" and "Dave". In each of those movies, he was the Orioles' catcher tasked with snagging a ceremonial first pitch tossed by the fictional President of the United States. Chris Hoiles may have been a better hitter, but he was never in the pictures.

2. He pitched one inning of mop-up relief on August 11, 1993, as the O's were getting battered 15-5 in Detroit. He got Gary Thurman to bounce out to shortstop, walked Scott Livingstone on five pitches, induced a Rich Rowland lineout to right field, surrendered a bloop single to Chris Gomez, and then stranded both runners on a Tony Phillips fly ball to center field. He was the only Baltimore pitcher to go unscored upon that day.

3. Tackett's final big league game was August 2, 1994, the week before the players' strike that lasted until the following spring. He had the rare distinction of hitting a home run in his final MLB at-bat, connecting for a solo shot off of Mike Trombley of the Twins in the seventh inning.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I interpreted this photo differently as a kid. Tackett's open-mouthed pose and the ball flip projected an image of nonchalance.

Bill James Said: "He is a defensive catcher, and threw out 44% of opposing baserunners, which is excellent, although the ERA when he was catching was not good (4.75)." Catcher ERA has been discredited as an effective tool for evaluating backstops in recent years. If you're curious, Baseball Reference actually lists Tackett's C-ERA as 4.71, with starter Chris Hoiles at 4.08 and fellow backup Mark Parent at a ghastly 5.29.

On This Date in 1993: May 21. Dayanara Torres, an 18-year-old from Puerto Rico, was crowned Miss Universe.

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