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Bob Allietta

March 25, 2011

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

[California] Angels

The 1975 California Angels led the American League West in losses. They also led the entire circuit in striking out opposing batters and led all of baseball in shutouts pitched, two distinctions that, along with all the losing, seem to offer some insight into another league-topping mark: catcher injuries inflicted. The team featured one of the most fearsome flamethrowing duos in history, Nolan Ryan and 21-year-old Frank Tanana, that season’s strikeout king. The pair racked up nearly half of the team’s strikeouts and over half of the team’s shutouts. I’m not sure who or what was responsible for all the catcher injuries, but it’s not hard to imagine that the broken fingers suffered by Andy Etchebarren and the fellow picture here, Bob Allieta, came as the result of the terrifying lightning bolts from the arms of Ryan or Tanana.

Etchebarren, who already had several years of service as a solid cog in the Orioles’ dynastic machine, recovered to become the team’s regular backstop the following season, but the shattered digit suffered by Bob Allietta seems to have brought his one glimpse of the big time, itself partially the product of the epidemic of Angels’ catcher injuries, to a close. This 1976 Topps card would be Bob Allietta’s first, last, and only appearance as a cardboard god.

Despite some distinct structural limitations in the card—he’s not shown in the midst of game action or even within the confines of a big league stadium—Allietta managed to make this singular appearance a good one (in turn shining a modest positive light in the context of these predictions on the 2011 version of the Angels). He radiates warmth and friendliness. He seems like he’s probably a sunny chatterbox. On the back of the card, his sparse collection of stats is filled out with some text that notes, among other things, that he “was voted El Paso’s most popular player, 1973.”

I also like that he has his name written on his glove, especially as it seems like he started out writing his name in boisterous capitals and then, after three letters, realized he was going to run out of room and had to cram in the remaining letters in lower case. If you can make anything out of such a detail, you’d have to guess that Bob Allietta was that kind of guy, someone who would blunder loudly and affably forward rather than timidly planning everything out in advance or spending time regretting what had already occurred. At first glance, I misread the word along the lower edge of his glove as “ALL STAR,” something he likely hadn’t been since his senior year in high school, but I think it’s not an entirely inaccurate distortion of the situation. Bob Allietta had made it to the promised land, at least for a second.

***

How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part of 19 of 30: Read Rob Neyer, the guy who, when he walks down the street, people say, “There goes the best baseball blogger who ever lived” (don’t they?); in his most recent question of the day, Rob looks into the actual (rather than cardboard-flimsy and imaginary) prospects of the 2011 Angels, who share with the 1975 squad a dynamic duo of starting pitchers

***

2011 previews so far: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; Pittsburgh Pirates; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; New York Yankees; Cleveland Indians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; Minnesota Twins; Atlanta Braves; Cincinnati Reds; Oakland A’s; Seattle Mariners; Chicago Cubs; Baltimore Orioles

6 comments

  1. Another smashing entry, Josh. Special spot in my heart for those mid-70s Angels: I lived in LA then and used to drive some ridiculous distance through mind-numbing traffic to see them play (much easier and cheaper box seats than Chavez Ravine). Truth to tell, Signor Allietta had slipped what’s left of my mind, so thanks for the reminder.


  2. Wow, Bob looks like the cool older brother I’d always wished for as a kid: gregarious, athletic, excellent mustache – the kind that’d teach you to roll a joint and whose teasing never went too far…


  3. When I went to his Baseball-Reference page, I became unreasonably excited to learn that he was born in New Bedford, Mass., also known as my hometown.


  4. He looks like someone they pulled off the street and dressed up for the picture, and can’t help but smile about the whole thing.


  5. I’m always interested to find out what else happened to these guys like Bob Allietta. He was a first round draft pick, so he was obviously highly regarded. Played just a handful of games in the majors in 1975, but hung around the minors until 1980 when he had his best season of his career (.304/8/71) and set career highs in games played and hits. Then he retired at age 28. Did he get tired of the bus rides or the smell of the paper mills in Tacoma? I wonder why a 28 year old catcher who hit .304 in AAA couldn’t land a spot as a major league backup. These are the things I think about when I hear of guys like Bob Allietta.


  6. I’m not sure it would have helped his career any, but I think Bob Allietta’s first name should have been “Bruno.”

    “Bruno Allietta.”

    …just has a better ring to it, y’know?

    Then again, I may just be subconsciously thinking of former Quebec Nordiques back-up goaltender (nicknamed “The Ape,”) Mario Brunetta.



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