Geoff Zahn

January 11, 2008

No angels, no devils. Maybe some celestial functionaries, two of them, sitting together a little ways away, slightly elevated. But these figures, if they even exist at all, can only peruse the goings-on below, powerless to influence them in any way, the world of the beyond a bureaucratic morass, reports compiled and filed away unread. So there is only this, this life in the foreground, this wall close at our backs. This wall! Some find it quaint. But it’s so close it tenses your shoulders, tightens your features, subtly riddles your cheer. It even sours the prayer hidden in your hands. You are on the brink of bursting out laughing. No joke has been told.


  1. 1.  When I was a kid I wrote letters requesting autographs and photos of various players from every team. When I wrote the Twins I requested Geoff Zahn. Obviously. That name struck me as so exotic.

    I never knew he was a Cub. In that photo Zahn looks like fellow 70s hurlers Jackson Todd and Randy Jones. Not to mention final-season Greg Brady.

  2. 2.  1 : “I never knew he was a Cub.”

    It was a total surprise to me, too.

    “In that photo Zahn looks like fellow 70s hurlers Jackson Todd and Randy Jones. Not to mention final-season Greg Brady.”

    There’s also a little Harpo Marx in there, or at least some Jimmy Feldman (the Bad News Bears third-sacker, played by Brett Marx, Gummo’s son).

  3. 3.  I forget what year those cards are (’75 or ’76?), but remember them relatively well. Exccept for one detail–the little figure at the bottom left. I notice the pitcher is a lefty, which I found a little strange until I noticed that Zahn is a lefty too.

    Were the little figures always “arm appropriate?”

    And I’m trying to figure out if that’s a hedge with a walkway at some ST complex, or a wall with what looks like a not-much-of-a-warning track.

  4. 4.  I only remember Zahn as a Minnesota Twin …


  5. 5.  3 : “Were the little figures always ‘arm appropriate?'”

    Yeah, for pitchers anyway. I think the position player icons used in these 1976 cards are all righties. The best of these icons was for the second baseman. (Click on Jack Brohamer under the Cleveland Indians sidebar to see an example.)

    “And I’m trying to figure out if that’s a hedge with a walkway at some ST complex, or a wall with what looks like a not-much-of-a-warning track.”

    You know, I’m not sure. I was sort of proceeding with the idea that it was the ivied wall at Wrigley, but it’s really pretty ambiguous.

  6. 6.  4 : Me, too, but he had his most memorable (except to all of us Twin-rememberers) seasons in Southern California, winning 18 games for the division-winning ’82 Angels and, before that, contributing to the Dodgers ’74 pennant with some strong (2.04 ERA) spot start and long relief work.

  7. 7.  The wall at Wrigley field is higher – though I’ll admit, this pre-Photoshopped mockup makes the scale a little tough to determine. But behind the wall at Wrigley there are bleacher seats, or a recognizable batter’s eye in dead center. There’s also a real warning track.

  8. 8.  The figures being arm-appropriate seems like a much higher level of detail than I would expect out of Topps, given all the other card faux pas-es that have been duitifully described here. But good for Topps, at least duing that one year.

  9. 9.  I kinda prefer the more subtle silouettes of the 1973 Topps cards which also had arm-appropriate pitching figures. The guy who operates the Ultimate Mets Database has made great re-use of them as seen here.


  10. 10.  Like alot of others here, I first thought of Zahn’s hair when I saw that pic. I rmember him as a Twin with shorter hair. I have no clues where the pic was taken. It doesn’t look like Arizona or Chicago to me.

  11. 11.  7 : Yeah, all true. Is it an ivied wall? I still can’t tell for sure. Does anyone know if the Cubs have (or used to have) an ivied wall in spring training? You know, to get guys like Zahn used to watching their offerings sail over the ivy.

    9 : Those are pretty sweet silhouettes. (And was there anything Super Joe McEwing couldn’t do?)

    Updating the Best Player of the 1970s vote from Monday’s post:

    Joe Morgan: 10.5 votes
    Reggie: 8.5 votes
    Carew: 2 votes
    Bench: 2 votes
    Singleton: 2 votes
    Rose: 2 votes
    Stargell: 1 vote

    Carew wins the bronze for gaining special positive mention on a few non-Carew ballots. In that sense he’s the anti-Rose, who got special negative mention on some other ballots.

  12. 12.  This page has the image that I best remember Zahn for:


  13. 13.  We Dodger fans remember the 1974 Geoff Zahn well. Those starts (all but one) were made after the rotation needed some patching after Tommy John (13-3, 2.59, 132 ERA+ 1.14 WHIP) went down with a season-ending elbow injury that led to John having a groundbreaking surgery that you may have heard of. Zahn filled in quite capably (3-5, 2.03, 168, 1.18), then in ’75 was traded to the Cubs for Burt Hooton, who was an important part of the Dodger rotation for the next seven seasons. Thank you, Chicago.

  14. 14.  12 : I also have a distinct image in my mind of Zahn, from a slightly earlier Twins card in which he is in a game in the middle of his pitching motion, his bent right leg kicking high. It’s a pretty dashing, dynamic card, at least in my memory, and so the discovery of this static, floppy-haired Cubs card was something of a shock.

    13 : “Thank you, Chicago.”

    And Chicago ended up just releasing Zahn, getting nothing for him, and he went on to have several decent years for the Twins and Angels.

  15. 15.  Is that the Wrigley scoreboard rising in the background on the right? It looks like the Wrigley outfield fence, but with some offseason repair work going on. Replacement bleachers?

  16. 16.  It’s definitely Wrigley. This is the left field “well” – you can see where the wall juts into the playing field in the far right of the picture. Prior to the bleacher expansion before the 2006 season, this was the “Family” (i.e. alcohol-free) section and had three rows of backed seats (not bleachers). The similar section above the right field “well” was reserved for large groups. These seats were added sometime in the mid-80s, prior to that they were just walkways that allowed you to pass from the bleachers into the main stadium.

    The dark blobs in the background on the upper right are either trees or a building on Waveland or Kenmore, the scoreboard is out of the picture – farther to the right and closer and higher.

    I believe the wall looks too low because Zahn is superimposed on top of the picture and the scale is wrong – if you look at the figures standing on the top of the wall in the upper right you can tell that the wall is much higher than it appears when looking at Zahn.

  17. 17.  16 : Much thanks for the input and historical perspective, Scott. Wrigley it is, I guess. I feel this brings things full circle somewhat, since in the beginning even though things looked a little weird I had plowed ahead anyway with the premise that he was indeed standing in front of the actual wall that his pitches would soon be sailing over.

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