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Ed Halicki

April 28, 2011

This dinged-up Ed Halicki card from 1976 seems to be a relic of a relative nobody. The photo on the front is a stiff, uninteresting posed shot, the actual human somehow less lifelike than the similar but decidedly jauntier pitcher icon in the lower left corner. On the back of the card, a 10 and 21 lifetime won-loss record is listed, as are a scattering of minor league stops. The number of the card in the set is 423, confirming that Ed Halicki is not one of the chosen few to have his card number end in a zero or two zeros. Most of all, there is no mention made of the no-hitter Ed Halicki notched the previous year. There would have been plenty of space to allude to this most glorious of single-game feats, given the meager space demands of Ed Halicki’s relatively short tenure in pro ball to that point, but the 1976 card set’s style of space-filling was to include a cartoon featuring general baseball info that had no relation to the player on the card. This particular card relayed the yawn-inducing news that Dick Wakefield was “baseball’s first ‘bonus baby.’” (The cartoon is of a player with a bat over one shoulder and on the other shoulder a big sack with a dollar sign on it.) The 1976 use of random cartoons contributed to a general indistinct flatness in the cards that year, a year, now that I think about it, that has always seemed sort of flat and overcast to me, like the 1976 cards. That year the cards were still my primary way of following baseball, though my brother’s new subscription to Sports Illustrated had begun to bring more of the daily world of the game into my life. He’d started getting the magazine the year before, but I didn’t read every word of the magazine until later, and so I missed the report of Ed Halicki’s no-hitter, which was heralded not in an article all its own but instead confined to a weekly major league wrapup and within that wrapup to a clause at the end of a sentence about something else in the middle of a paragraph that began with this apparently more urgent news: “San Francisco leads the majors in snuff users (14), permanents (eight) and, now that Catchers Dave Rader and Mike Sadek have come clean, in Telly Savalas-type skullheads (three, Dave Heaverlo being the other).” So I missed that there was greatness in this Ed Halicki card. It was the card among all past and future Ed Halicki cards that should have been most aglow with the recent no-hitter, and yet I likely did not give it a second glance. I must have handled it some, however. The upper left corner seems to have fared the worst during this object’s almost completely unnoticed passage through time. The card is also a bit off-center, the right bordering thicker than the bordering along the left-hand side. There are faint scratch marks across the face of the card, as if it has scraped up against an abrasive surface. The most visible scratch bisects Ed Halicki’s cap on a slightly bent diagonal. Ed Halicki, despite this neglect, went on after the no-hitter to do pretty well for a little while, winning 14 games in 1977 posting a career-best 2.85 ERA in 1978 to help the Giants contend improbably for the NL West crown. He finished up his career two seasons later, with the Angels, his lifetime won-loss record halting at 55-66. Of the 29 no-hitters thrown in the 1970s era of permanents and Telly Savalas, Ed Halicki would be the no-hit author of the decade to finish his career with the fewest lifetime wins. In a way, considering the relative anonymity of the rest of his career, his no-hitter should have stood out more than any other that occurred during the 1970s, and now I wish I’d known about it at the time. I would have loved this card.

11 comments

  1. while i remember ed halicki and used to fear him when he pitched against the mets, i also want to congratulate you here on “danny,” a beautiful, evocative short story, since there was a problem with the comments for that post.


  2. Thanks for the good word on the short story. I really appreciate that.

    It was indeed the Mets that Halicki victimized with his shiningest moment. I looked up the game, and while the ’75 Mets weren’t exactly Murderers Row, they weren’t total slouches either. Some pretty good producers of basehits shut down by Halicki:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SFN/SFN197508242.shtml

    Another note on Halicki: The dude was 6’7″. (Most literal Giant in Giants history before the arrival of Randy Johnson?)


  3. “seemed sort of flat and overcast to me, like the 1976 cards”–
    Gosh, I loved the ’76 cards.

    Seeing how empty the stadium is, I am reminded of a random Bobby Murcer quote. He said about Candlestick about being empty, “They might find Patty Hearst up there.”


  4. Josh,

    You talk so often about the back of these cards, I think it would be great if you could scan the back as well as the front for each post.

    I enjoyed your short story as well, it really took me back to that time. Keep up the great work – your blog is the highlight of my lunch break each day!!


  5. Despite his rather uninspiring lifetime stats, Ed Halicki loomed legendarily large to me, a Met fan of that particular vintage where my youthful interest in baseball dovetailed with the no-hitter he pitched in August of ’75.

    I can still more or less remember it. I was at Shelley’s All-Stars day camp, and the days were a blur of trading baseball cards (and Wacky Packages.) The Mets were hardly awe-inspiring, but not yet bad. Seaver was on his way to a 20-win season, and Kingman was contending (unbelievably for a Met) for the Home Run crown.

    A no-hitter was an incredibly big deal. As soon as Halicki hurled his no-no against the Mets, he became an immortal. Period.

    In my young mind he was as famous as Seaver, Palmer, Sutton, Ryan, and the other larger-than-life hurlers of the day. (Including Steve Busby.)

    Flash forward to my elementary school’s annual May Fair, held on the first Saturday of May each year. I cannot recall if it was the spring of 1976, or ’77, but there alongside the games-of-chance and fried zeppole and spin-art tables was a booth where they would make you a pin-on button out of any photograph.

    I had quite the impressive button collection at the time (spearheaded by my inherited McGovern for President cache.) If I remember correctly, my friend and I went and splurged on a pack each of the new season’s baseball cards, with the intention of having buttons created of whatever superstar player, or favorite Met, happened to turn up in our respective bundles.

    We ripped open the packs with relish – – would Seaver be inside? Matlack?
    Johnny Bench? Rod Carew? Joe Morgan?

    It gets a bit hazy here, my friend possibly coming away with some second-tier, B-or-C-list Met along the lines of Ron Hodges, or perhaps Mike Phillips, subsequently and enthusiastically transformed into a button pinned on his chest and worn straight through the afternoon. (…possibly accompanied by KISS make-up – from the face-painting booth, though I recall opting out of that tribulation.)

    Anyway, as I remember it, the cards in my pack were a depressingly mediocre assortment of utility infielders and AL West-ish long relief types, and I was seriously beginning to regret the whole proposition, until there, right at the borttom, appearing before me, was an Ed Halicki!!!

    I didn’t so much ‘like’ him, of course, and had Pepe Mangual turned up in the pack things might have shaken out differently, but here he was – Halicki – an immortal – and it may have been a case of my youthful sub-conscious reasoning: “okay, you beat us, and made history, and therefore are deserving of A Great Honor.” Because a no-hitter seemed impossible to me back then. As a matter of fact, as a Mets fan, it still does.

    And so it came to pass that I became, undoubtedly, the only kid in New York, (if not on the entire planet), to proudly don upon my chest a genuine, one-of-a-kind Ed Halicki button, displayed proudly, and crafted meticulously from a Topps baseball card…. And I wore it all day long.


  6. Beautiful. I was hoping you’d tell that story, Pete. Do you still have the button somewhere?


  7. Ed Halicki had an absolutely killer 1978 strat-o-matic card. Maybe nothing to hang your career hat on–but it’s something. Certainly on of the best starting pitchers in the set.

    As a Giants fan, I remember we used to call him “Ed over-the-Halicki” during his later years. A perfect teammate to “Johnny Disaster”, “Max Vulnerable”, and “Terry Can’t Field”.


  8. Thanks for checking out the short story, tscastle.

    I’ve shown card-backs occasionally on here, but I guess I prefer the simple single-image and some text aesthetic for the most part. These days with so many baseball card sites out there you can usually find the image (via a Google search) of a particular card-back pretty easily if you’re so inclined. Here’s a good post showing Halicki’s ’76 card front and back:

    http://baseball1976.blogspot.com/2010/04/1976-topps-423-ed-halicki.html


  9. I simply dug the way his name looked and sounded. And Dave Heaverlo! Wow, I’d forgotten all about that name. Has any pitcher ever had a more appropriate name?


  10. “Has any pitcher ever had a more appropriate name?”

    Bob Walk, maybe? I wonder if he regrets not having changed his name to Bob Strikeout or something. Horace Speed was a cool name, but not a pitcher. Of course didn’t Josh already do something on Dick Pole and/or Pete LaCock?


  11. as far as name appropriateness goes, my favorite has always been hockey player larry playfair, who skated with the sabres and kings from 1978 to 1990 and amassed 1925 penalty minutes to 126 points in 731 regular season and playoff games.



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