How The Bat Boy Ended Up On Aurelio Rodriguez’s 1969 Topps Baseball Card
Aurelio Rodriguez was a slick fielding, rocket-armed, gold glove winning third baseman who enjoyed a 17 year major league career and batted .237 with 124 career home runs in just over 2,000 games with seven teams.
Though he is wearing a uniform, and the baseball card states that this is Aurelio Rodriguez, the California Angels third baseman, it is not.
In actuality the card shows Angels bat boy, Leonard Garcia, on what was supposed to be Rodriguez’s card #653, for 1969. The error was not divulged until 1973.
So how does a bat boy get on a baseball card?
There are two popular rumors/theories of how this happened. The first, was that the Topps photographer could not find the 21-year-old Rodriguez when he was taking photos and asked the bat boy to pose in his place. The second rumor was that Rodriguez pulled the switcharoo because he thought it would be a funny prank to play.
No one knows exactly when the photo was taken, but had a Topps photographer engaged in deliberate deceit he probably would have lost his job. So, the “hey, come here bat boy” theory is implausible.
The second rumor does not make too much sense as Rodriguez self-admittedly barely spoke any English when he first arrived to the Angels team. If Rodriguez was told a photographer was looking for him to take his picture for his first baseball card, what would be funny about asking the bat boy to pose for him? It doesn’t seem likely that the young, unproven Rodriguez would want to sabotage his own chance to appear on a baseball card, which was a dream come true for almost every ballplayer who ever put on a uniform.
Any credence to these rumors cannot be corroborated by Rodriguez as he was tragically killed in Detroit at the age of 52 in 2000 when he was struck by a car that jumped the curb.
The truth has far less to do with chicanery and more to do with simple human error.
It seems that Topps had some interference in getting cooperation from the newly formed Major League Baseball Players Association. The MLBPA issued an edict that players were not to pose for cards during the 1968 season due to monetary compensation issues.
So when it came time to produce the 1969 baseball cards, Topps used what photos they had on file for many players since none were taken in 1968. Some photos are so old they show the Polo Grounds in the background, which was last used by the Mets in 1964.
For ballplayers that switched teams since 1968, they were shown hatless or airbrushed to their new team. With other players that Topps had no photograph of, they had to purchase them from outside suppliers.
This is what happened with Aurelio Rodriguez’s 1969 card.
Famed Chicago based photographer George Brace, who took tens of thousands of baseball photos from 1929 – 1994 had several of his photographs used in the 1969 Topps set.
In the Topps photo archive, the photograph for Rodriguez’s 1969 card has Brace’s stamp on the back of it. The notation Brace wrote was “Aurelio Rodriguez.” No one at Topps ever questioned or checked to see that it really was Rodriguez that was going on the card.
And there you have it, the only time a bat boy got his own baseball card.
From a great web site, Cards That Never Were, this is what Rodriguez’s card could have looked like had he been properly included.
If you want to see what I think is the greatest baseball card error ever, click here.