Posted by Andy on February 13, 2010
Even though this is a baseball blog, I'm willing to bet that most of the readers have never heard of either of the two players featured on this card--Mickey Abarbanel and Cisco Carlos. (Neither had I, before writing this post.)
This card, from what many people consider a classic set, features two young players on a single card. Generally this was done to enable a set to feature more players without having to add more cards to the set and also to hedge bets on which players would be successful. In other words, by picking two young players there was a decent chance that at least one would stick in the majors for some time and the card would carry some interest. This 1968 set featured numerous rookie cards with better players, such as #177 Mets Rookies with Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. Other dual rookie cards in this set feature Johnny Bench, Lou Piniella, and Hal McRae.
Before discussing the players I wanted t speak briefly about the card itself. Old logos are great and the interlocking S-O-X seen here is no exception. One thing I never understood about Topps baseball cards, though, was the large fraction of posed shots with shadows over the players' faces. Both of these guys are in the shadows. The back of the card (see below) shows a rarity for baseball card copy--an exclamation point!
Now on to the players themselves. Let's start with Abarbanel. From his minor league stats we can see that he was a great strikeout pitcher, averaging about 1 K per inning. His B-R bullpen article corroborates the numbers but also suggests that he was limited by injuries. In any event, he never made it to the majors.
At least from the point of view of major league stats, Cisco Carlos is the more interesting case here. His rookie year of 1967 stands out due to an ERA of 0.86 over 8 games (7 starts) and 41.2 IP. Furthermore, in those 41.2 innings he allowed only 23 hits and 9 walks while striking out 27.
Indeed, Carlos' performance was record-setting. It turns out that in those 7 starts he didn't allow a single extra-base hit, and that is the post-1954 record for most consecutive such starts at the beginning of a career:
Ned Garver comes up on the search but he doesn't actually belong on the list because his career started before 1954 (but the search is only 1954 and onwards.) Karl Spooner started in 1954 so his entry here is valid.
There is a host of other pitchers tied at a streak of 3 such games, including Vin Mazzaro last year for Oakland.
In fact, Carlos has the longest streak of consecutive starts without allowing an extra base hit at the beginning of any post-1954 season, regardless of whether it was the first of a player's career:
Pretty good stuff there.
Carlos was never able to reproduce the success of his first season and after a few more season in the majors he went down to the minors and never made it back to the show.