Cardboard Tigers: Nettles, Oglivie, Pierce

Eleventh in an occasional series. Collect ’em all! I’m working through a stack of Tigers baseball cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s, with occasional newer cards.

Jim Nettles
Jim Nettles – 1975 Topps #497

Jim Nettles is the younger brother of Graig Nettles, who had a 22-year major league career with the Twins, Indians, Yankees, Padres, and briefly with the Braves and Expos. Graig was a six-time All Star, won two Gold Gloves, and finished in the top six for the MVP award twice. Best known for his eleven seasons with the Yankees, Graig was a solid major leaguer who provided solid defense at third base, and while he didn’t hit for a big average he had some pop in his bat.

Jim’s career, unfortunately, wasn’t as successful. Debuting with the Twins in 1970, the year after his big brother had departed for Cleveland, Jim was a utility outfielder for Minnesota for three years. He spent 1973 in the minors before being traded to Detroit, where he appeared in 43 games in 1974, hitting .227 with 6 home runs and 17 RBI in 141 at-bats. Probably the highlight of his career came on September 14 of that season, when the Tigers played the Yankees. Graig hit a home run in the 1st inning and Jim followed up with one of his own in the 2nd, making them one of only seven sets of brothers to hit home runs in the same game. (The others are Rick and Wes Farrell; Joe and Dom DiMaggio; Al and Tony Cuccinello; Felipe and César Crespo; José and Héctor Cruz; and Bret and Aaron Boone, and all seven pairs hit their home runs playing for opposing teams.)

Jim played in Japan in 1975 (the year this card was printed) and then in the Mexican League in 1976. He spent 1977 in the Pirates minor league system before returning to the majors briefly with the Royals in 1979 (11 games, .087) and the A’s in 1981 (1 game, one plate appearance which was a sacrifice hit so no official at-bat).

Ben Oglivie
Ben Oglivie – 1975 Topps #344
Ben Oglivie
Ben Oglivie – 1976 Topps #659

Ben Oglivie was a Panamanian outfielder and first baseman for the Red Sox and Tigers from 1971 to 1977. Ben didn’t start showing his power stroke until his last two years in Detroit when he hit 15 and 21 home runs.

The Tigers traded him to Milwaukee in December 1977 for pitchers Rich Folkers and Jim Slaton, and he immediately his 29 home runs for the Brewers in 1978 and then led the American League with 41 homers in 1979, becoming the first non-U.S. born player to do so. Ben was a three time All Star in Milwaukee and played in the 1982 World Series against the Cardinals. Over 16 seasons, he compiled a total WAR of 26.4. He finished his baseball career in Japan, playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes for two seasons, hitting 46 home runs.

Ben coached for several organizations after his playing days, including the Brewers, Pirates, Padres, and Devil Rays.

Jack Pierce
Jack Pierce – Topps 1976 #162

Jack Pierce played in 70 big league games for the Braves and the Tigers. This 1976 came after his best – and last – major league season, when he appeared in 53 games for Detroit, hitting .235 in 170 at-bats with 8 home runs and 22 RBI. He played in Japan in 1977 before attempting an American comeback in the Mariners’ AAA team in San Jose in 1978 and 1979.

Jack was a legendary home run hitter in the minors, going deep 395 times, mostly in the Mexican League, where his 294 HRs are the most by a American-born player south of the border.

The back of this card also notes that Jack was “Named athlete of the year at San Jose City College, 1970.” You take your highlights where you can get ’em, folks.

After his playing days, Jack coached in the Mexican League and was elected to the Salón de la Fama (the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame) in 2001. He died of a pulmonary embolism in Monterrey, México, in 2012. He was 63 years old.