Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Favorite Players: John Candelaria

John Candelaria was always one of my favorite players; I've never met anyone else who could say the same thing, but maybe in the Pittsburgh area or in New York there are some other fans.  I've mainly lived at the other end of the Pennsylvania, when I've lived anywhere close.
1976 John Candelaria rookie card.
Candelaria, or The Candy Man, did very well with the late-1970s Pirates.  His 1979 Topps cards is actually one of my first memories of baseball; you can see below how beat-up it is.  I made sure to get his other early cards, including his rookie card from the 1976 Topps set.  I really like how the colors work in the card, with the yellow and green border matching the yellow of the uniform and the green of the ball field; you can see that "CANDY" is written on his glove.  I feel like you can see how tall he is in the shot, too -- his height was usually listed as 6'7''.

1977 Topps John Candelaria.
Candelaria had a great early career, throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 1976.  In 1977 he led the NL with a 2.34 ERA and was an All-Star.

1978 Topps John Candelaria.
Candelaria was also a key part of the 1979 Pirates World Series champions.  He had a respectable 14-9 record in the regular season, with a 3.22 ERA.  He had one no-decision in the NLCS, and went 1-1 in the World Series. 

1978 Topps ERA leaders card.
In the 1979 World Series, the Pirates were down 3 games to 1.  They then won the last three games not because they were the better team, but because they got the performances they needed from key players at the right moments.  One of these was Candelaria's start in Game 6, where he pitched 6 scoreless innings despite his back bothering him.  He was relieved by the Pirates' closer Kent Tekulve, and they combined for a shutout, sending the series to game 7.

1979 Topps John Candelaria, with many creases.
I was born in 1975, and the first cards I remember seeing in my house were a handful of 1979 Topps; a guy across the street was a couple of years older and had some 1978 cards as well, so 1978 and 1979 Topps are both early memories for me.  I think this Candelaria was among that handful that we had, and that explains why it is in such terrible shape (similarly to my 1982 Fleer Cal Ripken, Jr. card I wrote about before); these mainly were kept on the floor.

Candelaria represented on the Angels Wall of Fame.
Candelaria was moved to the bullpen by the Pirates at some point in the 80s, and then traded to the Angels.  The Angels made him a starter again, and he did well, earning the Comeback Player of the Year award.  He was with the Angels in the 1986 ALCS, going 1-1 with a 0.84 ERA in 2 games as the Angels lost to the Red Sox (in Game 7, he gave up 7 runs, but they were all unearned!).  He continued in the majors until 1993, playing for several teams, but ending his career with the Pirates again.  He ended with very solid career numbers, 177-122 with a 3.33 ERA and 1673 strikeouts.  Baseball Reference ranks him as being similar to Jimmy Key, Bret Saberhagen, and Ron Guidry, which I would say is good company to be in.

Some Candelaria cards 1981-1983.
Some 1983 Candelaria cards.
An '84 and an '85 Candelaria.
Collecting has changed in many ways since I was a kid.  Candelaria's 1976 Topps rookie card means a lot to me as a part of my collection, so I plan to send it to PSA to get it slabbed to protect it.  I've written before about how when I collected, there was no internet to speak of.  Now that my collection has rejoined the modern world, I've just ordered 19 more Candelaria cards (well, 18 cards and 1 sticker), including Kellogg's, Hostess, Mother's Cookies, and others, representing his time with the Pirates, Angels, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, and Expos.  I'll post them when they come in!  This is the kind of acquisition I meant when I said before that I would be developing some deeper player collections, like the George Foster collection I discussed before.

Candelaria on '86 and '87 Donruss, with the Angels.

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