Tuesday, August 1, 2017

no. 686 - chico ruiz

Who is the man: Chico Ruiz was in the middle of his most tumultuous (and final) season when this card was issued. In 1970, he appeared in 68 games in his first season with the Angels.

Can ya dig it: As a utility infielder in the '70s, you damn well better believe he would be bunting.

Right on: Ruiz's actual first name is "Giraldo," but you can see it is spelled with an "H" in the signature. That is because when Ruiz left his native Cuba to go to the U.S. (he was one of the last players to leave Cuba before the U.S.-Cuban embargo), immigration officials were confused by the "H" sound of Ruiz's first name and wrote it with an "H" (different times then, man). And it stuck.

You see that cat Ruiz is a bad mother: Ruiz's most infamous moment came when he was accused of waving a gun at teammate and former friend Alex Johnson in the Angels' clubhouse during the season in 1971. Johnson, who had problems of his own, accused Ruiz of trying to kill him. The Angels and Ruiz tried to deny Ruiz even had a gun, but they later admitted that was false. Ruiz was later demoted then released after the season.

Shut your mouth: Phillies fans have attributed their team's famous 1964 collapse to Ruiz's steal of home during a game between Philadelphia and Cincinnati in late September. Ruiz's shocking steal -- he made the decision on his own, with Frank Robinson at bat, and likely would have been out had Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey not uncorked a wild throw -- won the game and touched off 10 straight losses by Philadelphia. The Phillies' collapse is often called "The Curse of Chico Ruiz".

No one understands him but his woman: Ruiz is on that unfortunate short list of major leaguers who died before the end of their careers. Ruiz was killed in a one-car highway accident in California on Feb. 9, 1972 after signing to play with the Royals that season.

(A word about the back): The Angels' first triple play came in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Royals with Kansas City leading 2-1. After the first two K.C. batters in the inning singled, Angels reliever Steve Kealey replaced starter Rudy May. Amos Otis came to the plate and hit a ground ball to Ruiz at third. Ruiz tagged third, threw to second baseman Sandy Alomar for out No. 2, and Alomar threw to first to Billy Cowan to retire Otis for the triple play.


  1. Very cool info. Much appreciated

  2. You mentioned some sad (his early death) and dammit (stealing home vs the Phillies) Chico Ruiz moments. Here's a funny Chico Ruiz moment:

    After an unusually-long stretch of starting assignments (necessitated by others' injuries), Ruiz is said to have told his manager in jest "Bench me or trade me!"

  3. In 1970, my friend and I were watching the pregame show for NBC's Game Of the Week and they had a piece on Chico and the seat cushions he used during a game. My friend and I got the idea of making a cushion for Chico, since the Angels would be coming into Boston within a few weeks to play the Red Sox.

    My friend's mom made the cushion for us; I remember it was light blue vinyl with a foam rubber filling.

    We signed it with a black magic marker (this was the pre-Sharpie era, of course).

    Came the morning of the game (it was a day game we were going to, we went to the hotel where the Angels stayed, getting autographe from the other Angels and waiting for Chico to come down to the lobby.

    When we saw Chico get out of the elevator, we approached him, got his autograph and surprised him with the cushion. He laughed and smiled and said he would definitely use it that day.

    My friend and I went to the game and true to form, Chico did not play at all.

    Afterwards, my friend and I waited by the gate where the visiting players came out. Chico came out, saw us and came over. He thanked us and said the cushion was perfect, nice and comfortable.

    I always wondered if his family kept the cushion as well as his other baseball stuff after his untimely passing.

    The game and the world in general needed people like Chico to maintain some sanity.