Monday, January 19, 2009

#8 -- Ron Swoboda

Ron Swoboda

If you get a photo looking up from waist level, you don’t have to airbrush the hat he’s wearing. That surprises me. The Yankees acquired him in June 1971 from the Expos and Topps took a lot of their photos in Yankee Stadium. You'd think they had a lot of opportunities to photograph Ron, but they couldn’t even get a posed shot of him with a Yankee lid? I originally thought this was an Expos hat. As we look up, we see number 4 on the inside of the bill. According to Baseball Almanac, Ron wore number 14 with the Expos and the Yankees in 1971, but wore number 4 with the Mets in years before that. To me, that makes Topps look even worse. They went all the way back to at least 1970 to get this photo of Ron and it's in a Mets hat! Come on, Topps!

Ron’s career was about over at this point. He hit .248 in spot duty in 1972, but when he was stuck at .116 after 43 at bats in 1973, he was done in the big leagues. For several years he's been the radio voice of the New Orleans Zephyrs, AAA affiliate of the Mets (in the past) and now the Washington Nationals.

I couldn't find video of it to put in here, but Ron is best known for a sprawling catch off Brooks Robinson in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Mets were leading 2 games to 1, but everyone was waiting on the Orioles to kick it in. In the top of the 9th, the Mets were up 1-0, but the Orioles were threatening against Seaver. Runners are on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and Brooks Robinson hits a liner to right-center. Good sense would have told Swoboda to play it on a hop and try to keep Powell at 2nd, but Swoboda sprawled out and caught the thing. Frank Robinson scored on the sac fly to tie the score, but Seaver got Ellie Hendricks to end the inning and the Mets won the game in the 10th on a controversial bunt play with J.C. Martin at the plate.

1972 Feature
Today is the day we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Obviously, that didn't exist in 1972. Dr. King had been gone 4 years at this point and was still a lightning rod figure in American culture. He was a man that fought for civil rights not just as a cultural matter, but because of his fervently held religious belief that any man or woman created by and in the image of Almighty God had the right to be treated equally under the law.

By 1972 the Civil Rights movement had accomplished much, but still had a ways to go. The big accomplishment in 1972 was the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. This provided a context and jurisdiction for the EEOC to review complaints, file class-action lawsuits and have jurisdiction over state and local governmental bodies. We know the EEOC continues in existence today.

In 1971 the United States Supreme Court upheld forced busing out of the local district under the supervision of the federal courts as a constitutional means of desegregating schools. I don't know if it was in 1972, but I do remember a lot of controversy on the evening news about this issue. I know what SCOTUS was trying to accomplish, but I'm not sure the kids riding buses over an hour each way to school while people were shouting and yelling at them understood any better than I did watching it on the news. I'm a patriotic American, but I'm not convinced picketing and yelling at kids riding a bus to school was the best way for the opponents of forced busing to get their point across.

I'm glad America has come a long way since 1972 and we're closer to the kind of world where a person can stand or fall on their own merits and is thought of a simply a child of God rather than what color of skin they have.


  1. Wonder what dialogue took place just before this shot?

    "OK, I'm gonna kneel down around your ..."

  2. In 1971 he robbed Reggie Smith of the Red Sox of a homer in Yankee Stadium, when they had the low walls. My brother was pissed because Reggie was his favorite player.