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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #510, John Candelaria (Article 101)

by Paul Semendinger

April 17, 2022

(Continuing a series...)

***


When I first think about John Candelaria, I think of the 1979 World Series. That World Series was the first in which I rooted for a team other than the Yankees. Eventually, probably in the 1990s, I stopped rooting for other teams in the World Series, but as a kid, in 1979, I was all-in on the Pirates. I loved that team. I loved so many of the players - Omar Moreno, Willie Stargell, John Milner, Bill Madlock, Manny Sanguillen, Kent Tekulve, John Candelaria, and, as I have written before, Dave Parker.


I loved that team. I loved the uniforms, the colors, and the stars they wore on their hats given as “rewards” for doing things to help the team win. It was just great.

***

Quick Aside…


In writing this, I began to reflect on the teams that I rooted for, really rooted for, and cared about, only as a young fans can, in the World Series when the Yankees weren’t there. These were:

  • 1979 - Pittsburgh Pirates

  • 1980 - Philadelphia Phillies (my favorite player on that team was Tug McGraw)

  • 1981 - New York Yankees (of course)

  • 1982 - Milwaukee Brewers

  • 1983 - Philadelphia Phillies

  • 1984 - San Diego Padres (Graig Nettles’ team)

  • 1985 - St. Louis Cardinals

  • 1986 - Boston Red Sox

  • 1987 - St. Louis Cardinals

  • 1988 - Los Angeles Dodgers

  • 1989 - San Francisco Giants

  • 1990 - I don’t caring much, but I assume in my heart I was rooting for Lou Piniella’s Reds

  • 1991 - Minnesota Twins (Mike Pagliarulo’s team)

And that might have been it…


It seems as though I didn’t have much success in picking the winners. It seems I often picked the losing team.


Oh well.


Those 1979 Pirates won and it was so fun to watch them.

***

It was many years later that John Candelaria became a Yankee. 1988.


1988 was a long time from 1979.


But the Candy Man did okay for New York.

***

In the 1980s, the Yankees acquired a ton of pitchers who had been stars but were past their prime, some well past their prime. That list is long, indeed:

  • Luis Tiant

  • Gaylord Perry

  • Jim Kaat

  • Lynn McGlothen

  • John Montefusco

  • Phil Niekro

  • Joe Niekro

  • Ed Whitson

  • Bill Gullickson

  • Rick Rhoden

  • John Candelaria

  • Al Holland

  • Neil Allen

  • Steve Trout

  • Charles Hudson

  • Richard Dotson

It’s also amazing how many of those pitchers were primarily National League pitchers.

***

In his career, John Candelaria won 177 games over 19 seasons. He pitched for the Pirates, Angels, Mets, Yankees, Expos, Twins, Blue Jays, Dodgers, and then the Pirates again.

Candelaria spent a little more than a season and a half with the Yankees.


He was signed as a free agent for the 1988 season.


In August 1989, he was traded to the Expos for Mike Blowers.


***

Quick aside - Seeing Mike Blowers’ name names me begin to think about all of the great third base prospects the Yankees have had over the years. “This guy is going to be a great Yankee…”


There seemed to be a ton of them, but I’ll resist the temptation to start writing them all.

(But there was Blowers, Hensley Meulens, Russ Davis, Drew Henson, Mike Lowell… and, I am sure, others.)

***

In 1988, John Candelaria did pretty well. He made 24 starts. He went 13-7, 3.38.


In 1989, for the Yankees, Candelaria was 3-3, 5.14 before bring traded.


I remember being sad that it didn’t work out for Candelaria for the Yankees.

***

Those 13 wins for John Candelaria, are, amazingly, one of his most productive seasons in his career, or, at least after he turned 30-years-old.


The start of his career was very good:

  • 1976: 16-7, 3.15

  • 1977: 20-5, 2.34

  • 1978: 12-11, 3.24

  • 1979: 14-9, 3.22

Not a bad start. Candelaria then had down years in 1980, 1981, and 1982, before putting up a 15-8, 3.23 season in 1983. He was 29-years-old that year.


After that, the most wins he ever accumulated in a season was the 13 he earned with the Yankees in 1988. The Yankees signed Candelaria hoping for one last bit of magic, and it seems they got at least some of that.

***

When I write these articles, I always wonder how it ended.


In John Candelaria’s last game, he came out of the bullpen to face one batter, Eric Anthony of the Houston Astros.


The date was July 7, 1993.


Candelaria struck out Anthony and then that was it.


The Pirates won the game 5-2. THe Candy Man earned a “Hold.” I don’t know if they even knew of that statistic back then, but, still - striking out the last guy you ever pace to close out a 19-year career? Not bad.


Not bad, at all.

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