|Baines wearing #6 on his 1991 Donruss|
Following Harold Baines’ controversial election to the Hall of Fame, I delved into my collection to see which baseball cards of the slugger I owned. One card that I completely forgot I had was Baines' 1991 Donruss. The green bordered card features Baines in an Oakland Athletics home jersey with the photo taken sometime late in the 1990 season, following his August 29 trade from the Texas Rangers. After looking at the card a few times, something stood out to me--I noticed Baines was wearing number 6 rather than his customary number 3. This seemed odd as I had other cards of Baines in an A's uniform from the 1992 and 1993 sets and on each of those he is wearing number 3. With this in mind, I pulled up Baines' Baseball Reference page which shows the slugger has worn 10, 13, 29 and 33 at different points of his career. However, the highly-informative website has no record of Baines ever suiting up in 6 and does not list him as wearing any number other than 3 for the 1990 A's. I also checked the two other main websites that list complete rosters with uniform numbers--Baseball Almanac and Baseball Cube--but both show the exact same information. With all three of these meticulously-researched websites in agreement that Baines only wore number 3 for Oakland in 1990, despite his Donruss card indicating otherwise, I decided to investigate the matter.
|Screenshot of Baines' Baseball Reference page with uniform number history|
|Baines wearing his customary #3 for the Chicago White Sox|
Fresh off winning the 1989 World Series, the defending champion Oakland A's stunned the baseball world when they pulled off a pair of big transactions just two days before the August 31 Trade Deadline by acquiring former NL MVP Willie McGee from the St. Louis Cardinals and four-time All-Star Harold Baines in a deal with the Texas Rangers. Surprisingly, the A's only had to give up a couple of prospects to land Baines, who had two full years remaining on his existing contract. At the time of the trades, Oakland stood atop the AL West Division with a six and half game lead over the second place Chicago White Sox--the team that selected Baines with the number one overall pick in the 1977 Amateur Draft and was home to the slugger for the first nine and half years of his major league career. With a young, relatively inexperienced roster, Chicago was an unlikely contender in the AL West--especially after finishing at the bottom of the division the year before. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf had been hesitant to trade Baines, but with the club mired in last place after a series of losing seasons, the franchise went into rebuilding mode and dealt the veteran to Texas in July 1989. In fact, Reinsdorf thought so highly of his former player that the White Sox retired number 3 in Baines' honor when the slugger returned to Chicago for the first time as opposing player, less than a month after the trade.
|Quirk had three stints in Kansas City alongside longtime friend Brett|
While all three websites list Baines wearing number 3 for the 1990 A's, they show one of the club's bench players, Jamie Quirk, as also having used the jersey number during the season but do not specify when. A veteran in his sixteenth major league season, Quirk was a utility player for the A's, serving as the club's third string catcher, occasional pinch hitter, and emergency fill in for each of the corner infield positions. Quirk is most remembered for his time with the Kansas City Royals, whom he played parts of eleven seasons for in three separate stints. A few years into his career, Quirk was struggling to stay in the major leagues when Royals manager Whitey Herzog suggested he learn how to catch. Quirk took his manager’s advice and was soon played at catcher more than any other position. Being able to work behind the plate helped keep Quirk in the big leagues and undoubtedly extended his career, though he was rarely used in anything more than a back up role. Quirk is also remembered by Royals fans for his long-standing friendship with franchise icon George Brett, who the veteran backstop played alongside during each of his stints with the team. Although he spent the bulk of his career with the Royals, Quirk was a baseball nomad who played for eight different franchises. Quirk’s 1990 campaign actually represented his second go-around with Oakland, having briefly played with the club for a month during the middle of the 1989 season before being released. For the majority of his time in Kansas City, Quirk wore 9 but that number was taken on the A's, as it had been used by infielder Mike Gallego since 1985. Thus, Quirk opted to use 3 during his brief stint with the A's in 1989 and donned the number again when he was signed by the team as free agent for 1990.
In addition to listing Quirk as wearing 3 for the 1990 A's, all three websites show the veteran catcher as having suited up in number 6 during the season as well. However, the websites also list outfielder Felix Jose as taking the field wearing 6 for Oakland in 1990, the number he had used since making his major league debut for the club in 1988. Yet, Jose is also listed as using 14 for the 1990 A’s, which became available when Storm Davis left the team via free agency after wearing the number for Oakland in 1988 and 1989. Regardless, we know Jose’s wearing 6 does not interfere with any time Baines would have used the number since the outfielder was traded to the Cardinals as part of the August 29 deal that sent McGee to the A’s on the same day the club acquired Baines. It is likely Quirk handed over number 3 to Baines shortly after the slugger's trade to Oakland. In fact, Getty Images has a photo of Quirk wearing number 3, a little over a month before the trade that brought Baines to Oakland, during a July 26 game against the California Angels. When a high-profile or particularly superstitious player joins a new team and the number they regularly wear is already being used by another player, often times a deal involving a sum of money or gift is worked out between the two parties in exchange for the number in question. Some of these sums of money or gifts can be extravagant such as the $40,000 motorcycle Brian Jordan bought Atlanta Braves coach Fredi Gonzalez in 2005 for number 33 or the $25,000 Rickey Henderson paid his Toronto Blue Jays teammate Turner Ward to relinquish number 24. However, those are extreme examples and being two relatively low-key ball players, it is doubtful there was any excessive amount of money or outrageous gift exchanged between Baines and Quirk in return for the number.
|Baines briefly wore #13 after his trade to Texas|
A similar series of events took place after Baines was traded from Chicago to Texas during the middle of the 1989 season. When Baines joined the Rangers in late July, the slugger initially wore number 13 since his customary 3 was being used by the team's first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. However, before the end of the season, Baines was wearing 3 for Texas and Palmeiro was taking the field in number 25, which had become available when veteran Buddy Bell retired on June 24. Palmeiro had previously worn 25 when he played for the Chicago Cubs and, from that point forward, used the number for the remainder of his lengthy career. An interesting thing about Baines’ time in Texas is virtually all the baseball cards made of him in a Rangers uniform, where his jersey number is visible, show him wearing 13 even though he used the number less than half a season and was back to his customary 3 before the end of the year. Evidently, the card manufacturers must have used photographs of Baines that were taken soon after his trade to Texas and before the slugger starting using number 3 with the Rangers. Baines wore 3 for the remainder of his time with Texas but because he was swapped to Oakland before the end of the following season, the cards from the 1991 sets that would have had him wearing 3 for the Rangers instead feature the veteran in an A's jersey.
|Some of Baines' 1991 cards have the slugger wearing #6 while others have him in his customary #3|
Taking a look at all of Baines’ cards from 1991, I noticed the slugger is wearing number 6, not only on his Donruss but also on both his Score and Topps cards. However, Baines is sporting his customary 3 on his 1991 cards from the Upper Deck and Mother's Cookies sets. Quirk’s jersey number is visible on three cards from 1991. The veteran catcher is suited up in number 3 on his Donruss and Fleer cards and wearing 6 on his Mother’s Cookies card. On Baines' Score card, the dugout of the opposing team can be seen in the blurred background. From the shot on the Score card, it appears the visiting team is the Kansas City Royals due to their blue jerseys. The only time Baines faced the Royals at home following his trade to Oakland was an August 30 meeting between the two clubs which, coincidentally was the slugger’s first game in an A’s uniform. Oakland beat Kansas City 6-5 that day on a Mike Gallego walk-off single. Baines went 1 for 4 in his A's debut with a single and an intentional walk while Quirk did not play in the game.
|Like Baines, Quirk is featured in two different jersey numbers on his 1991 cards as well|
A photograph of Baines wearing number 6 can also be found on Getty Images. Unlike the Quirk photo, the website does not specify what date the photo was taken, but it is clearly from the August 30 A’s/Royals game, as Kansas City’s blue jerseys with white lettering are even easier to distinguish in the background of the photo than on Baines’ Score card. Moreover, there is a light trace of dirt on each of Baines’ knees that is visible on both his Score card and Getty Image photo. The trace of dirt on Baines' knees shows up again on a picture of the slugger clad in the number 6 A's home uniform that has appeared on memorabilia websites such as Pristine Auction. In addition, on Baines’ 1991 Topps, the veteran has what appears to be the same trace of dirt on his one knee that is visible. Thus far, this handful of baseball cards and photos are the only ones I have been able to find of Baines wearing number 6. Aside from Baines’ Donruss, each of these shots feature a trace of dirt on the slugger’s knees and/or the presence of Kansas City players in the background, which essentially confirms that they were taken during the August 30 A's/Royals game. What’s more, it is possible that even the picture used for Baines’ Donruss was from the August 30 game since it is a closer shot where his knees and the opposing team's dugout are not visible. Also, each of the three cards and both photos feature Baines in the A’s white home uniform. Following Baines' August 30 debut with Oakland, the club played a three game series at home--which coincidentally was against the Rangers--before they embarked on a nine game road trip. Due to not being able to find any pictures of Baines wearing number 6 in the A’s gray road uniform, I am assuming that Baines and Quirk exchanged jersey numbers either immediately after the August 30 A’s/Royals game or sometime before setting out on their nine game road trip.
The trade to Oakland reunited Baines with skipper Tony La Russa, his manager for the majority of his time with Chicago. Baines solidified the A’s roster and strengthened their line up by giving them a regular designated hitter to bat out of the clean up spot. Yet after arriving in Oakland, Baines hit an uncharacteristically low. 266 with only 3 home runs. While Baines' batting average and longball power were below his career norms, the dependable slugger put up a solid 128 OPS+ as he reached base at a .381 clip and still managed to produce 21 RBI over just 118 plate appearances in 32 games. Prior to his brief foray with the 1989 A's, Quirk had played for La Russa in Chicago--albeit for just 3 games during the 1984 season. Never particularly known for his bat, Quirk had one of his finest seasons at the plate, hitting .281 with 3 home runs and 26 RBI in 144 plate appearances along with a .353 OBP and 119 OPS+. Quirk's impressive hitting stats were similar to Baines', though they were accomplished over a full season as a bench player while Baines' came in just over a month with the club. As the A's third string backstop behind Terry Steinbach and Ron Hassey on the catching depth chart and occasional corner infielder, Quirk did not make his way into the starting line up very often. In fact, Quirk appeared in just 56 games--drawing starts in exactly half of them with 26 behind the plate along with one each at first and third base. Yet, in his limited time behind the plate, Quirk did an excellent job managing the run game, throwing out 11 of 21 would be base-stealers for an impressive 52% caught stealing rate which was well above the 34% league average. Oakland cruised to a 103-59 record to pick up their third consecutive AL West title, finishing nine games ahead of the second place White Sox.
|Quirk delivered a timely pinch-hit in Game 1 of the 1990 ALCS|
The A’s swept the AL East champion Boston Red Sox in the ALCS to win their third straight AL Pennant. Baines did his part, batting .357 with 3 RBI in the four game-series. Quirk only appeared once in the ALCS, but made the most it: With Oakland down 1-0 in the top of the 7th inning of Game 1, Quirk delivered a timely pinch-hit single which moved base runner Walt Weiss from 1st to 3rd and set up Rickey Henderson’s go-ahead sacrifice fly on the next play. The A's were heavily favored to beat the NL Pennant-winning Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. This marked Baines' first trip to the Fall Classic while Quirk had won a World Championship as a member of the 1985 Royals postseason roster, though the veteran backstop did not play in any of the World Series games. The Reds stunned the baseball world by taking the first two games in Cincinnati. In Game 1, the A’s were dominated by Reds starter Jose Rijo, who had pitched for Oakland from 1985 to 1987. Because designated hitters are not used in World Series games played in NL ballparks, Baines was not in the starting line up for either Game 1or 2. However, Baines was called upon to pinch hit in Game 2 with two out in the top of the 10th, a runner on 1st, and the score tied but was struck out by flame-throwing reliever Rob Dibble. Back in the starting line up for Game 3 in Oakland, Baines delivered in a big way--going deep off Cincinnati starter Tom Browning in the bottom of the 2nd inning for a two-run home run to put the his team up 2-1. Unfortunately, the A's pitching imploded in the next inning, giving up seven runs and the Reds easily won the game 8-3 to put themselves one win away from an unlikely sweep. The following day, Quirk made his first World Series appearance when La Russa started him at catcher for Game 4 to get another left-handed bat in the line up. It is also likely La Russa was aware that Quirk had hit well against Rijo, whom Cincinnati brought back to start Game 4. In fact, going into the game, Quirk owned a .333 batting average with 2 home runs in 13 plate appearances against the Reds starter--each of which came when Rijo was a young pitcher for Oakland. However, Quirk was overmatched by Rijo--going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts--as the hurler once again dominated Oakland to complete the sweep for Cincinnati. Getty Images has photos of both Baines and Quirk from the 1990 World Series. The website’s photos of Baines hitting and celebrating his Game 3 home run show him back in his customary 3 jersey while a shot of Quirk from Game 4 confirms the veteran catcher finished the season wearing number 6.
Baines and Quirk remained with the A’s following the club’s shocking World Series loss to Cincinnati. With two years left on his existing contract, Baines continued in his role as the team’s designated hitter, batting out of the clean up spot. Oakland released Quirk shortly after the World Series but decided to re-sign the veteran receiver just a few weeks later. The A’s chose not to re-sign Ron Hassey and promoted Quirk to back up catcher behind Terry Steinbach. Quirk switched numbers once again, this time back to 9--the number he had worn for the majority of his time with the Royals--which had become available when Mike Gallego left the A's and signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees.
|Baines and Quirk remained with Oakland through the 1992 season|
After their 103-win 1990 season, Oakland slumped to 4th place with an 84-78 record the following year but rebounded to go 96-66 and recapture the AL West crown in 1992. Unfortunately, the A’s lost the ALCS in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays despite Baines banging out 11 hits and batting a sizzling .440. Quirk flew out in his only ALCS plate appearance. The 1992 season turned out to be the last one in Oakland for both Baines and Quirk. Baines accepted arbitration with the A’s when his contract expired at season’s end but was then traded to the Baltimore Orioles before the 1993 campaign began. Quirk was released by Oakland after the ALCS. The veteran catcher then signed as a free agent with the Reds but was let go during Spring Training, bringing an end to his lengthy playing career. Thus began Quirk's coaching career, which has paralleled his time on the field as he has served at both the minor and major league levels for several different organizations, including multiple stints with the Royals franchise.
The trade to Baltimore represented a homecoming of sorts for Baines who was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Baines spent the remainder of his career essentially going back and forth between the Orioles and White Sox--two franchises whose respective owners, Peter Angelos and Jerry Reinsdorf, admired the veteran slugger and valued his services. Baines wrapped up his playing career in 2001 as a member of the White Sox and stayed with the organization, working in a variety of roles including coaching. While winning a World Series ring as a player eluded Baines, the former slugger was Chicago’s bench coach when the club defeated the Houston Astros to win the 2005 Fall Classic. Last December, Baines’ fine career was capped with his election to the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Unfortunately, Baines’ election was shrouded in controversy as two of his biggest supporters during his career, La Russa and Reinsdorf, sat on the 16-member voting panel. Baines' election resulted in charges of cronyism being leveled against the voting body. While his detractors are not out of line to point out that Baines may be one of the more debatable Hall of Fame selections of recent memory, nevertheless it is a shame for there to be so much acrimony in the wake of his election. Each time Baines rejoined the White Sox, whether it was as a coach or player, the club un-retired his number 3 jersey for him to use. Baines wore 3 for almost his entire career, though he briefly took the field in other numbers as well. Although it may have been for only one game and seemingly slipped through the cracks, we can confidently add 6 to the list of numbers worn by the Hall of Fame slugger.
----by John Tuberty
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Sources: Baseball Reference, Baseball Reference Play Index, Baseball Almanac, Baseball Cube, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, Getty Images, New York Times, Time, Pristine Auction
Photo credit: Screenshot of Harold Baines' Baseball Reference page; Harold Baines 1991 Donruss, 1984 Topps, 1990 Score, 1991 Score, 1991 Topps, 1991 Upper Deck, 1991 Mother's Cookies, 1992 Topps; Jamie Quirk 1989 Topps, 1991 Donruss, 1991 Fleer, 1991 Mother's Cookies, 1991 Topps, 1992 Topps; George Brett 1989 Topps
Other Articles by Tubbs Baseball Blog:
The Obstacles Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich, and Dwight Evans Face to be Selected by the Hall of Fame's Historical Overview Committee to Appear on Future Modern Baseball Era Ballots
My Father's Memories of Working with Carl Yastrzemski at Kahn's-Hillshire Farm in the Early Eighties