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Gary Beare

August 5, 2009

Gary Beare 78

Sundown

One

This card seems like it might be a mistake, and I’m not merely referring to the off-center P inside the baseball icon in the upper right corner. When I discovered it a few days ago in my box of cards, and realized that I had no memory of anyone named Gary Beare, I had to start poking around on the internet for facts that might disprove my hunch that someone affiliated with either the Brewers or Topps had, as a gag, grabbed the pudgy middle-aged guy who had come to check the gas meter, got him to pull a Brewers jersey on over his utility company windbreaker, and thrown him in front of the camera of a baseball card photographer. Maybe just before the shot was taken a suberball was offered to the subject to place in his cheek to make it look like he was gnawing a chaw of tobacco, just like a real player.

But it turns out there was, briefly, a major league pitcher named Gary Beare. This is Gary Beare’s first major league baseball card. It’s also his last. Sunup and sundown all in one moment.

He was born in San Diego and is listed on the card as still being a resident of that city, and it seems that he continues to live in San Diego to this day. On a San Diego high school’s web page, he is listed as the assistant JV coach of the Westview Wolverines but is described as the varsity pitching coach. His bio on the web page suggests that he is a grounded individual, someone who knows who he is and where he comes from and what’s important in life. When asked to list his biggest moment in the majors, he keeps things close to home: “My dad, mom and wife seeing my first big league baseball game. My dad was the best person I have ever met!”

The San Diego native, whom one has to assume would have never left home had he not been blessed with the rare ability to make a ball elude a swinging bat, traveled far and wide in his few years as a professional baseball player, going all across this country and to South America, too, where he played winter ball (apparently there is a baseball card featuring him on his Venezuelan team). In his second summer in the Brewers’ system, in 1975, he was also based in a foreign land, pitching in front of the French-speaking fans of the Thetford Mines Miners of Quebec.

One of his teammates that year was an outfielder named Dan Thomas, who had been the Brewers’ first round draft pick in 1972. When I discovered this Gary Beare card in my shoebox and started searching the internet for affirmations of his existence, I found myself getting pulled toward the story of Dan Thomas, which from 1975 to 1977 coexisted alongside the story of Gary Beare. While Beare went 3 and 9 in 1975 for Thetford Mines, Thomas was suspended for over half the season for punching an umpire. In 1976, Both Beare and Thomas moved up a level to Berkshire (Massachusetts), and while Beare posted a 2.98 ERA, Dan Thomas won the Eastern League Triple Crown. When major league rosters expanded in September, both players were brought up to the majors.

(to be continued)

*     *     *

(Love versus Hate update: Gary Beare’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

9 comments

  1. That high school coaching staff sure has some interesting names. Is Gary’s last name pronounced like the animal, or does it rhyme with his first name? Is the name of the varsity head coach pronounced, as it would be in French, “Shampoo”? And lastly, the JV head coach: Chachi! I was disappointed that there was no mention of Joanie anywhere in his bio.


  2. This card was from ’78 so it’s probably a picture taken in ’77, my point being is I kind of forgot that the Brewers were still using the old uniform with the “M” as late as ’77.

    In my mind I thought this uniform was retired when Hank Aaron retired in 1976. I forgot that the ’77 team still had the old “M” hat.

    The ’78 team was the first team to wear the “glove” logo and what could be looked upon as the Paul Molitor era 1978-1992.

    The ’78-79 teams are completely forgotten because they didn’t get to the playoffs yet the won 93+ game both years. It would have been interesting if the “wild card” existed back then to see how far they would gotten in the playoffs.


  3. ALthough I am not a baseball fan at all, and usually am confused about what player is on what team, for some reason, during possibly the last year of high school, I started to memorize the players on the Milwaukee Brewers. I can name Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, and Robin Yount. Then they blur into the Minnesota Twins’ Cecil something and Kent Hrbeck.


  4. Alas, poor Gary. Traded for Dan Boitano. He was effective when he threw strikes, and he was crushed when he did not. But he spent some of his last year in AAA in Hawaii, so that ain’t hay.


  5. Oh, and I clicked on that Venezuelan baseball card site. How stoned is Dave Parker in that photo, and was he on weed, booze, hash, or coke?

    Oh, oh, Beare is one of those lovely examples of the ‘spring training jacket under the uniform’ phenomenon. Wouldn’t that get warm in Arizona?


  6. Danny Thomas…. still one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard in baseball. Looking forward to the rest of this piece.


  7. Behind Gary Beare there seems to exist a vast, anonymous sunburnt swath of America. It seems bleak, but our chaw-filled Gary is almost giddy in the noonday sun. I love this card.


  8. Great piece on Gary Beare. I recently viewed Gary’s stats and noticed he pitched his first game in the big leagues when he was about 24 years old. I am sure that you were already firmly established as a best selling author, world renowned sports announcer, and a widely read sports writer for a major publication by your twenty-fourth birthday.


  9. I have this card….it always looked odd to me, too. Collar coming out from under the uni, the hair flipped up, the chaw, his left shoulder higher than the right one, the pose with the two-toned background…and the “Brewers” script writing on the card while the uniform has everything in BLOCK letters.

    Actually the whole ’78 Topps set seemed to be a little “off”. They definitely didn’t spend a ton of time or $$$ on the “graphic design” in those days.

    The ’79’s look “cleaner”, but I started collecting in ’74 and through ’78, they seemed more homemade or something. Dog-eared and frayed faily easy, too.

    I love all these 70’s and 80’s players and have tens of thousands of BBall cards. I occasionally get them out with the kids and thumb through them. I had never heard of Gary Beare (I pronounced it like the animal) either before or since I got his card.

    Just discovered your blog, Josh and will keep reading and looking for my favorites (Ruppert Jones really takes me back). The Oscar Gamble was my favorite one from ’78. Classic ‘fro!



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