Sunday, October 4, 2009

1976 Topps #226 - Jim Sundberg

  • Jim Sundberg was a great defensive catcher for four teams from 1974-1989. He won six Gold Glove awards and made three AL All Star teams. He ranks 5th all-time in games caught and had a lifetime .993 fielding percentage.

  • Sundberg was the 2nd overall pick by the Texas Rangers in the 1973 draft (secondary phase). He batted .298 in 91 games for AA Pittsfield in 1973 and then made the jump to the Rangers in 1974. Jim made the AL All Star team in 1974 and was 4th in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He batted .247 in 132 games.

  • Jim was a durable catcher. He caught 130 or more games every year from 1974-1983 except 1981 (he caught 98 out of a possible 105 games that year). Sundberg's offense took some tiem to develop -- in 1975 he batted .199 and in 1976 he batted .228. Jim won his first of six consecutive Gold Gloves in 1976.

  • The 1977 season was probably Jim's best year. He batted .291 with 65 RBI and got some MVP consideration. He also made his second All Star team. Here is a December 1977 Baseball Digest article about Jim's improved hitting. Sundberg batted between .273 and .278 every year from 1978-1981. Does Jim Sundberg rate as baseball's #1 catcher? (November 1978 Baseball Digest article).

  • In 1982 Jim dropped to .251 and in 1983 he batted only .201. The Rangers probably thought Sundberg was wearing down, so they traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1983 season for Ned Yost and a minor leaguer. Jim bounced back in 1984 to make his final All Star team and he batted .261 in 110 games for the Brewers.

  • After the 1984 season Jim was involved in a big 4-team trade that sent him to the Kansas City Royals. He became the Royals' starting catcher and helped them to the 1985 World Championship. He batted .245 in 110 games. Here is a "Game I'll Never Forget" article about Jim's 1985 World Series. Jim played in 140 games (134 behind the plate) in 1986 but batted only .212. After the season he was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

  • Sundberg batted .201 in 61 games for the Cubs in 1987. He was released by the Cubs on July 15, 1988 after batting .241 in 24 games. The Rangers signed Jim the following week. He batted .286 to finish the 1988 season, then became a backup catcher in 1989 (.197 in 147 AB). Jim retired after the 1989 season. Here is a 1988 Baseball Digest article about Jim's later years.

  • After his career Jim was a broadcaster for the Rangers for six years. He is now a motivational speaker and is an Executive Director to the President of the Texas Rangers. Jim also has a business that makes youth sports training material.

  • Here is a link to Jim's page on Premiere Speaker's Bureau.

  • Here is a link to an interview with Jim on the blog Texas Rangers Trades.

  • Liked to face: Mike Torrez (.317 in 60 AB); Scott McGregor (.383 in 47 AB); Dennis Martinez (.341 in 44 AB); Luis Tiant (.341 in 41 AB)

  • Hated to face: Frank Tanana (.157 in 70 AB); Dave Goltz (.200 in 50 AB); Bert Blyleven (.196 in 46 AB)

  • I decided to do a little research regarding the cartoon on the back of Jim's 1976 card. It says that Ralph Darwin was the only player to live to be over 100 as of 1976. According to this site, 14 former players out of over 17,000 reached the age of 100. The oldest was Si Simmons, a Negro League pitcher who lived to be 111 years old (1895-2006). The major leaguer who lived the longest was Chester (Red) Hoff, who pitched from 1911-1913 and in 1915. He lived to the age of 107 (1891-1998).

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