Fourth in an occasional series. Collect ’em all!
I’m working through a stack of Tigers baseball cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I also have most of the 1968 World Champion team’s cards, but I’m going to feature them separately. So this series is mostly lesser-known players from that period.
Bob Didier was a backup catcher for the Tigers in 1973. He made it to the major leagues in 1969 with Atlanta, where he hit .256 in 352 at bats with 16 doubles and 32 RBI. He finished fourth in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting and started every game in the Braves’ NLCS appearance against the Mets.
Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Arm and back problems limited him to only 133 more games over the next five seasons, four in Atlanta, one in Detroit, and a brief stop in Boston in 1975.
Bob was a good defensive catcher, leading the International League with a .997 fielding percentage in 1972 according to the back of this card, which also notes that he was a quarterback in high school. When they feel the need to mention stuff like that, it’s generally not a good sign.
Bob went on to manage and coach in the major and minor leagues for the Tigers, White Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Athletics, and Mariners, and also worked for the Diamondbacks as their catching coordinator.
What I remember most about Bob is that his last name was pronounced more or less with the French pronunciation, “Dee-dee-ay,” and he was a switch-hitter, which was unusual for a catcher, both of which made him seem far more sophisticated than he likely was.
Bob also taught catching techniques for Big League Experience camps. Here’s a video from 2011:
Roy Face was one of the first closers in baseball history. In an era when starters were often expected to pitch late into a game or even throw a complete game, the bullpen roles were usually spread among the relievers. There weren’t the specialty roles we see today: left-handed specialist, long reliever, setup man, closer. Roy became the template for the modern closer, though his appearances were often two or even three innings of work. He was the first reliever to save 20 or more games in a season twice, held the record for career saves (193) until 1982, and still holds the record for most wins as a relief pitcher (96).
He pitched for the Pirates from 1953 to 1968, pitching in 802 games over 15 seasons with an ERA of 3.33. He was a National League All-Star six times (he played in the two All-Star Games played each year from 1959 to 1961), and finished seventh in the N.L. Most Valuable Player voting in 1959, which was unheard of for a relief pitcher.
Roy was very briefly a member of the Tigers’ 1968 squad; he was sold by Pirates to Detroit on August 31, but only made two appearances for the eventual World Series champions for a total of one inning. He wasn’t on the roster for the World Series. This is his 1969 card, printed before he’d signed with the Expos, and for which Topps didn’t even bother to try to airbrush out his Pirates uniform. He doesn’t look all that happy about the whole thing, really.
In 1969, he signed as a free agent with the expansion Montreal Expos where he finished his career at the age of 41, appearing in 44 games and saving five of them with an ERA of 4.53.
Roy started only 27 of the 848 games he pitched, and 23 of those were in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. In the offseason, he worked as a carpenter and after his retirement from baseball he did that full-time, working as the carpentry foreman at Mayview State Hospital outside of Pittsburgh. Roy’s still around at the age of 92, last living in his adopted home of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
Ed Farmer was a Chicago legend. He was a hot high school pitching prospect while at St. Rita of Cascia High School on the south side in the mid-sixties. Drafted by the Indians in 1967, he worked his way through the Cleveland farm system, making 105 mostly relief (and mostly unimpressive) appearances for the big club from 1971 to 1973. Traded to Detroit in June of 1973 for Tom Timmerman and minor leaguer Kevin Collins, he pitched in 24 games for the Tigers, all in relief, going 3-0 with a 5.00 ERA.
After suffering an arm injury, Farmer re-invented his delivery and found much more success. His best years were with his hometown White Sox from 1979-81, where he served as closer and put up 54 of his lifetime total of 75 saves. He was an American League All-Star in 1980. Ed also played for the Phillies (twice), Orioles, Brewers, Rangers, and A’s.
When his pitching career ended, Ed worked as a scout for the Orioles, and then in the front office for the White Sox. In 1991 he began his radio career for the White Sox, eventually becoming the play-by-play announcer in 2006. He was beginning his 30th season behind the microphone for the Sox when kidney disease sidelined him during spring training in Feburary 2020. He died on April 1, 2020, at the age of 70.
The White Sox wore sleeve patches with his nickname, “Farmio,” throughout the shortened 2020 season.