Phantom Cardboard: The Strange Case of the 1970 Seattle Pilots

1970 Seattle Pilotsby Kevin Kimmes

If you have been reading the site lately, you are well aware that I have started a daily column, The Numbers Game, which looks at past and current players in the Brewers organization based on their jersey numbers, including the 1969 Seattle Pilots, the team that would become the Brewers. That column will return tomorrow. Today I wanted to share something interesting that I discovered while doing my research over the past week: There are no Milwaukee Brewers cards that appear in the 1970 Topps baseball card set, however there are Seattle Pilots cards, cardboard representations of a team that never was.

So how did this happen? It’s a simple timing issue really. Every year Topps releases Series 1 of their baseball product prior to the start of the regular season. It’s an appetizer, if you will, to the upcoming baseball season. Due to the lead time required to get all images approved and printed, any last minute transactions, or in this case changes in name and venue, would not be able to be accounted for, thus cards for a team that never played a single inning. According to Chris Olds, editor of Beckett Baseball, this is one of two incidents like this, the other being in 1974 when some San Diego Padres cards were printed with “Washington Nat’l Lea.” on them.

To give you an idea of how small of a window the change in ownership created, the Pilots were officially declared bankrupt on April 1, 1970. The Brewers would play their first official home game at Milwaukee’s County Stadium on April 7th, 1970, a mere six days later.

Below is a checklist/breakdown of every player that appears in the set in a Pilots uniform and where they actually played in 1970:

#  2 Diego Sequi – Played for Oakland

# 31 Marty Pattin – Played for Milwaukee

# 53 John Kennedy – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being sold to Boston on June 26th, 1970.

# 88 Pilots Rookies (Miguel Fuentes & Dick Baney) – Probably the most tragic card of the set, Fuentes not only threw the final pitch for the Pilots in 1969, but was murdered during the off-season in his native Puerto Rico by a bar patron who thought Fuentes was relieving himself on his car. Baney, who also appears on the card, did not play in the majors in 1970.

#111 Mike Hegan – Played for Milwaukee

#134 Danny Walton RC – Played for Milwaukee

#158 Jerry McNertney – Played for Milwaukee

#185 Don Mincher – Played for Oakland

#224 Steve Barber – Played for both Chicago (NL) and Atlanta

#249 Bob Locker – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being sold to Oakland on June 15th, 1970.

#271 Greg Goossen – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being sold to Washington on July 14th, 1970.

#289 Gene Brabender – Played for Milwaukee

#323 Wayne Comer – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being traded to Washington on May 11th, 1970 for Hank Allen and Ron Theobald.

#359 Phil Roof – Played for Milwaukee

#370 Tommy Harper – Played for Milwaukee. Harper is the only player to be named to the 1970 American League All-Star squad from Milwaukee.

#393 John Gelnar – Played for Milwaukee

#418 John Donaldson – Played for Oakland

#441 John O’Donoghue – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being traded to Montreal on June 15th, 1970 for Jose Hererra.

#473 Don Bryant – Played for Houston

#499 Skip Lockwood – Played for Milwaukee

#514 Steve Hovley RC – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being traded to Oakland for Al Downing and Tito Francona on June 11th, 1970.

#533 Buzz Stephen RC – Did not play in the majors in 1970. MLB experience consists of 2 games with the Twins in 1968 in which he went 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA.

#556 Dave Bristol (MGR) – Managed for Milwaukee

#574 Bobby Bolin – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being traded to Boston for Al Yates on September 10th, 1970.

#596 Mike Hershberger – Played for Milwaukee

#613 Dave Baldwin – Played for Milwaukee

#652 Rich Rollins – Played for Milwaukee to begin the year before being released on May 13th, 1970 and signed by Cleveland the same day.

#667 Bob Meyer – Played for Milwaukee

#688 Ted Kubiak – Played for Milwaukee

#713 Pilots Team Card

If you would like to see what the cards look like, high quality scans of both the fronts and backs are available here. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 7 of The Numbers Game.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an applicant for the 2013 MLB Fan Cave. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

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