Eric Wilkins – 1981 Topps
February 3, 2012
The Joy Of Discovery
Unlike some people (I loves ya, you curmudgeon), a lot of my joy in collecting is discovering players that I didn’t know existed or who have flown totally under the radar. That’s why I’m a big commons guy and an advocate for a bigger base set like in the good ol’ days.
Now that I’m back to opening up wonderful packs of cards, I’ve got a better knowledge of who is on each team, who is an upcoming guy and who will be on their way out. For a while when I wasn’t collecting or playing rotiss or obsessively looking at box scores I didn’t know the scrubs and wanna-be’s for some of the lesser teams by name. I read about them in Baseball Prospectus but didn’t commit them to memory.
But I thought I knew most everyone on the old sets I was compiling, then I ran into Mr. Wilkins.
Yeah, he was an Indian during the time when the Indians weren’t good enough or bad enough to raise an eyebrow. The Indians were just…there…
So I thought he was a guy like Eric Raich or Chuck Hartenstein – someone needed to fill out a set that was a bit performer.
And it’s true that he was in AAA in 1980 and not in the bigs. But he also got a card in the 1980 set and seemed to have a pretty bright future in Cleveland even with the one-year detour back to the minors. And if you read the back of the card you wonder why he was in the minors in 1980 and why he had a truncated 1979.
Before, you would either wonder, find your Street & Smith’s preview, or go dive into back issues of the Sporting News to find out. But now, you can hit the old Baseball Reference site for him.
There you discover that 1979 was his only big league year. And for a 22-year old rookie it wasn’t bad.
There you discover that he made the big league club out of the chute in 1979 and his last game was in late July. Had to be an injury.
On the back of the card you see that he pitched about a half season in AAA in 1980.
Then you see that he struggled in AAA and AA in 1981 and that was it. Done. Finished at age 24. Had to be an injury. Even the Indians, in 1981, wouldn’t let a guy go that was that young and had some big league success in the recent past.
I looked on Google and Wikipedia. Nothing about this Eric Wilkins. He just vaporized.
I would have had questions had I collected cards in 1981. I have more questions now.
But that’s the beauty of discovering these ‘who is that’ guys. You want to discover, to learn, to find out. The player you discard as ‘who is that’ may become one of the best stories you ever hear – or a mystery you’ll never solve. Either way, it’s a good thing.