Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #408, Cesar Tovar (Article 75)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Let’s look at some numbers:
1,488 and 13.
Let’s also look at some names:
Rocky Colavito (1,841 and 39)
Johnny Callison (1,886 and 137)
John Mayberry (1,620 and 69)
Jose Cruz (2,353 and 38)
Travis Hafner (1,183 and 82)
Jay Bruce (1,650 and 10)
There are others, of course, but Cesar Tovar was among the group of players, very good players, sometimes All-Stars, whose solid career came to an end in New York.
(One day I’d like to make a list of all the All-Star players whose careers ended quietly with the Yankees.)
Cesar Tovar played in 1,488 big league games. His last 13 of them were with the Yankees.
Tovar, amazingly, was never an All-Star, but he was a top player in baseball for a number of years. Between 1967 and 1971 (five consecutive years), he received votes for American League Most Valuable Player.
He was a pretty good player, no doubt.
In his career, Cesar Tovar led the American League in the following categories:
Games (1967) – 164
Hits (1971) – 204
Doubles (1970) – 36
Triples (1970) – 13
He hit .300 or better twice (1970 and 1971).
He stole 20 or more bases in a season five times.
Yeah, Cesar Tovar was pretty good.
Cesar Tovar’s first full season was 1966.
That year he played all over the field: second base (76 games), shortstop (31 games), left field (4 games), and centerfield (20 games).
He took this up a notch in 1967: third base (70 games), centerfield (64 games), second base (36), left field (10 games), shortstop (9 games), right field (6 games).
My goodness, by the end of that season, the only positions he hadn’t played in the big leagues were first base, catcher, and pitcher…
That would all change the next season.
September 22, 1968 was a big day for Mr. Tovar. On that day, in a game against the Oakland A’s, Cesar Tovar played all nine positions in the field.
In that game, Tovar was the starting pitcher. He then proceeded around the diamond from there.
In the first inning, he retired leadoff batter Bert Campaneris on a pop out to third. He then struck out Reggie Jackson. A walk to Danny Cater followed, and then a balk, before Sal Bando also popped out (this time to first).
Each inning as the game went on, Tovar played a new position.
In the second inning, he caught.
In the third inning, he played first base. The Twins’ first baseman that day, Graig Nettles, went to play centerfield.
In the fourth inning, Tovar went to second base. The Twins’ second baseman that day, Rod Carew, went to shortstop.
In the fifth, Tovar and Carew just flip-flopped positions.
In the sixth inning, he played third base.
In the seventh inning, he caused a number of moves. Tovar went to left field. Bob Allison went to centerfield. Graig Nettles then went to third base. (I was hoping for a scoop here. I was hoping that this was Nettles’ first big league game at third base, but I came up just short. It was the fifth time Nettles patrolled the hot corner – almost the start, but not quite.)
Tovar played centerfield in the eighth, and then right field in the ninth inning to complete his tour.
In the game, Tovar went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run. The Twins won the game 2-1.
Not a bad day.
Of course, the first player to ever play all nine positions in a game was Bert Campaneris who batted leadoff for the A’s. Campaneris played all nine positions in a game in 1965.
Both Campaneris and Tovar would end their careers as Yankees.
For Campaneris the numbers were 2,328 games, just 60 as a Yankee.
After starring for the Twins from 1965 to 1972, Tovar went on a different kind of tour – not around the positions on the baseball diamond, but all across the league.
In 1973, he played for the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1974, he played for the Texas Rangers.
In 1975, he played for the Rangers and the Oakland A’s.
In 1976, he played for the A’s and the Yankees.
Have glove, will travel.
Tovar played in just 13 games as a Yankee. His best game was his third.
On that day, playing second base, Tovar went 2-for-3 with 2 runs batted in, in a game the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 6-5.
After that, he didn’t do much.
Overall, Tovar batted just .154 as a Yankee. He had two RBI’s. They both came in that game.
Cesar Tovar’s last hit came on September 22, 1976 in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. In the bottom of the fourth inning, he singled to left field off Rudy May.