Monday, February 27, 2012

The Big Cat swats at a Bip

With news of the passing of Gary "The Kid" Carter earlier this month, I started to rifle through my card collection to see if I had any Kid cards. Sadly I didn't have any.  But when I started to think back to when I started getting into baseball, one of the first Expos players that came to mind was Andres "Big Cat" Galarraga. Or as he was known in his native Venezuela,  "El Gato".

Yerrrrrrr OUT!!...Wait a minute. 
This card is another great action sequence captured in landscape form (the only other landscape card in my stash is this Carlton Fisk/Cecil Fielder card ). I really wish baseball card companies had made more of these landscape cards.  They're quite unique looking and when it's of a "baseball play" taking place, it's pretty magical. Much more interesting and memorable than your prototypical pose of player X standing with bat on his shoulder looking off into the distance...zzzzzzz.

At first glance, the photo seems to capture a successful pick off move, with the umpire looking on in the background, to nab Bip Roberts of the San Diego Padres trying to scurry back to first base.  But if you look closely to where the top of Galarragas' glove and Roberts armpit meets, you can see the ball is clearly in the dirt. It's possible that Andres was able to snow cone the ball (he was regarded as  a superb defensive 1B during his time with the Expos winning 2 gold gloves awards in '88 & '90) but in my opinion, dropped ball.

This Upper Deck card with Galarraga in a Montreal uniform would be the last one as an Expos (until a brief return to Montreal in 2002). With Andres about to turn 31 years old, a bad knee and his outright shitty 1991 season (107GP/.219BA/.268OBP/9HR/33RBI/-1.7WAR) Montreal felt his best days were behind him and traded the the old cat during the 1991 off season to the St. Louis Cardinals straight up for pitcher Ken Hill.

1992 Upper Deck

Whenever I come across Andres Galarraga's name I immediately think of him as a Montreal Expos. And yes, he did play the majority of his 19 major league seasons with the Expos (8 seasons) but statistically speaking his best and most productive years were the 5 seasons he spent with the Colorado Rockies.

After another craptacular season in 1992 with St. Louis (mind you he was going through some knee injuries that required surgery), Galarraga signed a free agent contract to man 1B in the inaugural season of the Colorado Rockies.  During that first season of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, Galarrage played along side with now New York Yankees manager Joe Giradi and former Blue Jays Nelson Liarano and Willie Blair.

It was in Colorado, where the Big Cat rejuvenated his career and put up some impressive numbers during his 5 years there. In particular, 1996 when he led the league with 47HR and 150RBI. Even though he played nearly 300 games less with the Rockies than with the Expos, he was able to accumulate more Runs, Homeruns (172 to 115), RBI's and post nearly 50 points higher batting average while with the Rockies.

He last played in 2004 at the age of 43 when he played a grand total of 7 games for the Anaheim Angels. He ended his career just 1 home run shy of 400. But the most impressive stat I found was that Galarraga is only the 4th player in MLB history to rack up over 2,000 strikeouts (2,003).  He lead the league in strikeouts in 4 years (3 years straight while with the Expos from 1988-90) and finished in the top 10, six other years (so yah, you can say the Big Cat loved to take his hacks). The 3 players that saw a 3rd strike more often than Galarraga did was Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa.

But in the end, I'll always remember El Gato as an Expos.



  1. nice post - I'll always remember the Cat as an Expo too. That same set, 1992 Upper Deck had a Gary Carter Expos card in the high series. I actually dug it out the other day. Nice memories of The Kid.

  2. I wish I had that Gary Carter card. Love those Expos uni's before it was changed to those pinstripes the following year.\


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