Mario Guerrero has suddenly begun to look a little old. He is no longer a guy who could be mistaken as a promising youngster. The dissolving of the faint aura of potential around Mario Guerrero strikes me as the flip side of the solidity he gained by carving out a niche for himself as a decent utility infielder. He chose a path and made his way down the path as best he could. The years have gone by and now here he is, a veteran bench guy, no more, no less.
I am several years older than Mario Guerrero was at the time of this picture, but I still find myself trying with all my meager might to hold onto some sense that my life is yet to come, that I still have some yet unrealized potential. If I had a baseball card, it wouldn’t have much on the back. A remote birth date, height and weight suggesting the expanding midsection of middle age, a birthplace unrelated to the listed residence, a space-filling cartoon with a caption reading “Josh wants to be a writer some day.” The years reserved for my official record would be blank. I’ve mostly avoided an actual life, always hoping for some impossible call-up to the big leagues and instant all-star status. The picture on the front of the card would show a 38-year-old guy who has never really gotten his hands dirty with life, never really thrown himself fully into anything, never really chosen a path, a look on his face like a few seconds and rigid steps earlier he’d set off the hidden security system alarm at the front of a mall store. Even though he’s guilty of swiping something small and juvenile–a chocolate bar, a pack of baseball cards–it appears he might not be apprehended, he might get away free this time, once again, but he’s not quite sure. He’s still bracing for the clap of a hand on his shoulder.
Anyway, I don’t know why Mario Guerrero is shown as an Angel in this 1978 card. In December of 1977 he left the Angels to sign as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants. If Mario Guerrero felt good to be in control, for once, of yet another changing of teams, the feeling must not have lasted very long. Before he reported to spring training for his new team, the Giants sent Gary Alexander, Gary Thomasson, Dave Heaverlo, Alan Wirth, John Henry Johnson, Phil Huffman, and $300,000 (which at the time was a fairly prodigious sum of money to be thrown into a deal already including several players) to the Oakland A’s for ace pitcher Vida Blue. As you will notice, Mario Guerrero’s name is not listed in the battalion dispatched to fetch Vida Blue, but the Giants did agree to include in the deal a promise to also send the A’s a player to be named later. Certainly Mario Guerrero must have been particularly attuned to the possibility of intimate change suggested by the addition of this clause. Having been a player to be named later and also traded twice in part or in whole for a player to be named later, Mario Guerrero surely sensed that his life might once again be about to change. I guess everybody’s bracing for the clap of a hand on their shoulder, one way or another. On April 7, 1978, the Giants completed the Vida Blue deal by adding Mario Guerrero to the pile of bodies they’d already shipped across the bay to Oakland.
I don’t know what Mario Guerrero’s expression was when informed of this deal. I doubt he was smiling, as he is here, but if the numbers he put up after the deal are any indication, the tough, weathered resolve beneath this smile remained: in 1978, Mario Guerrero posted career highs in games, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, and RBI.