Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #448, Ellie Rodriguez (Article 83)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
I loved my baseball cards as a kid. I looked at them, I sorted them, I re-sorted them. I studied them. I played games with the cards.
As a kid, I invented a game I called “Baseball Card War.”
No, it wasn’t a violent game. It was the typical old card game War, but with baseball cards. Instead of drawing the higher value of two cards (A 10 defeats a 9, a Jack defeats a 10, and so forth…) I would use a player’s batting average to determine who won the war.
Sometimes I’d draft the players into two piles. Sometimes I’d play by team. Sometimes I’d play by league.
I played a lot of Baseball Card War growing up. These were the days before I was introduced to Strat-o-Matic. This was, in a way, the most realistic baseball card game I knew. I got a quick sense of who the best players were in the late 1970s by playing this game (at least if one judged players by batting average). And, you know what, my knowledge wasn’t too far off, especially if I used a set like the Kellogg’s 3-D All-Stars which consisted only of long time big leaguers. There were no real small sample size errors in the Kellogg’s set.
When one spends so much time reading the backs of baseball cards and reading statistics, he tends to learn a lot.
He tends to quickly learn all of the players in the 1977 set who ever played for the Yankees.
That kind of knowledge sticks with him forever.
He learns (and never forgets) that Ellie Rodriguez was once a Yankee.
Ellie Rodriguez played in the Major Leagues for nine seasons. He played most of them outside the bright lights of New York. A catcher, Rodriguez played in more than 90 games in a season six times.
He was a pretty good player for the bulk of his career. Rodriguez was a solid receiver who could hit a little.
In 1969 and again in 1972, Ellie Rodriguez was an All-Star.
No one knew about WAR back then, but if we look back today, through Baseball-Reference (not an old baseball card) we can see that for four consecutive seasons, Ellie Rodriguez was a 2.0 WAR player, or better:
1971 – 2.1 WAR
1972 – 3.8 WAR
1973 – 2.1 WAR
1974 – 3.9 WAR
Holy Cow! Hey, Ellie Rodriguez was pretty good!
Ellie Rodriguez spent the bulk of his career outside of New York, but his solid career began with the Yankees.
In 1968, Ellie Rodriguez played in nine games for the Yankees. (He hit .208 with no homers.) In that 1968 season, Rodriguez was one of three players to catch for the Yankees. The other two were Jake Gibbs and Frank Fernandez.
In 1969, another catcher, a certain Thurman Munson, made his first appearance as big leaguer…
After the 1968 season, the Kansas City Royals drafted Ellie Rodriguez from the Yankees in the expansion draft. (Other “Yankees” selected in that draft were Jim Rooker, Steve Whitaker, Steve Barber, Gary Timberlake, and Mike Ferraro.)
Rodriguez played for the Kansas City Royals in 1969 and 1970.
He was then traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and played there through the 1973 season.
In 1974 and 1975, Ellie Rodriguez played for the California Angels.
And in 1976, he played, sparingly, with the Los Angeles Dodgers (appearing in just 36 games).
Although he is pictured on a 1977 baseball card, Ellie Rodriguez never appeared in the Major Leagues that year. His last game came in 1976, with the Dodgers.
In Ellie Rodriguez’s last big league at bat, he was hit by a pitch.
And that was that.