Thanks in large part to Mark Hoyle’s generosity, 1972 Topps catchers have now become a priority on my collection list. I spent a long time trying to find a list of all of the catchers included in that particular release, but never found one. Instead, I used COMC.com, and it was on that website that I had an epiphany.
One of my favorite player’s father has a card included in 1972 Topps. Jason Kendall’s father, Fred Kendall, played catcher in the majors for 12 years. Not only had I forgotten that fact, it certainly never occurred to me that he would have baseball cards. After all, how much sense does it make to have a baseball card if one played for 12 years?
Fred Kendall doesn’t have a lot of baseball cards, so it is within reason to say that I want them all. I want a card from every year that he had one made.
I already obtained one, and yes, it is from 1972 Topps. Thus begins the first edition of The Kendall Family Saga.
This series will include a card from Fred and Jason Kendall at similar parts in their careers. It is impossible to match them up exactly: Jason has several pre-rookie and rookie cards, though his actual rookie season was 1996, and by that time Topps had already issued his rookie card, in ’93. Fred, on the other hand, doesn’t have an official rookie card. He debuted in ’69, exceeded rookie status in ’71, and his first card was issued in ’72. So you can see the dilemma. The best option I could think of was age. Fred’s first year of significant playing time was in his 23rd year. Jason was 22 in his rookie year, so age was the closest comparison.
Part 1: 23 years old.
1972 #532, Fred Kendall
Fred played in 91 games in ’72. He started at catcher in 81 of those games. His numbers weren’t great: .216/.247/.322, with 6 HR and 18 RBI’s. Though these numbers would improve the next year, his defense was always his strength.
Fred was originally drafted to the Reds, but was stuck in Double-A as the Reds had a promising catcher named Johnny Bench who was in Triple-A. He was picked #7 in the Expansion Draft in 1969 by the Padres, which was their inaugural season.
1997 Topps #195, Jason Kendall
Jason was in his second full season in 1997. The previous year, Jason had been an all-star and was 3rd place in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting. In ’97, he played in 144 games, and was the starting catcher in 139 of those games. He had a productive year offensively, hitting .294/.391/.434 with 8 HR’s and 49 RBI’s.
Here they are side by side, 25 years apart:
I know that there has been a lot of father-son players in major league baseball, but for me this is a really compelling story. Both men played catcher and had significant and impactful careers at the most difficult position.