#CardCorner: 1973 Topps Gerry Moses
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During Moses’ career, many print references in daily newspapers listed him as Jerry, as does his current entry at the excellent Baseball-Reference.com. Yet, most of Moses’ Topps cards listed him as “Gerry.” In addition to the 1973 card, we can find “Gerry” on his 1969, 1970, ’71, ’72, and ’74 cards. But then, rather mysteriously and without explanation, Topps switched to “Jerry” on his 1975 card, the final one that the company issued for him.
Perhaps Topps made the switch to match Moses’ facsimile autograph on his 1975 card. On that card, Moses signs as “Jerry.” In contrast, Moses’ 1971 card features a facsimile autograph signed as “Gerald,” which was his real first name. (Topps did not have faux autographs on their 1972, ’73, or 74 issues, so they’re of no help here.)
I’m guessing that this is how Topps came up with Gerry: When they saw that his real name was spelled “Gerald,” they probably assumed that his nickname, “Gerry,” also featured a “G.” Not seeing how he actually spelled “Jerry” until he submitted his signature for the 1975 set, Topps realized its mistake and made the change. And just to confirm, it’s not only facsimile autographs of Moses that show his preference for “Jerry.” In all of the actual Moses autographs I’ve spotted on the Internet, Moses always signed as “Jerry” Moses.
As for the Orioles’ baserunner on the card, we really have only two clues on which to rely. The runner appears to be white, and it looks like he has a “7” on the back of his jersey. Assuming that this photograph was taken at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium during the 1972 or 1971 seasons, we can narrow the choices down to a couple of possibilities. If the No. 7 is a standalone number, then it is Orioles shortstop Mark Belanger, who wore that number both seasons. If the 7 is the second number, then it could be pitcher Pat Dobson (No. 37), the only other Oriole to have a 7 in his number in 1972. The other possibility is pitcher Orlando Pena (No. 27), who had a 7 in his number in 1971, but also happened to be black. Given that Dobson was a pitcher and probably didn’t run the bases all that frequently, my guess is that it’s Belanger. Let’s also remember that most pitchers of that era wore windbreakers on the bases. There is no windbreaker evident here, so that lends even more credence to the Belanger theory.
With those two matters resolved, that leaves the question regarding the uniform that Moses is wearing. At first glance, it looks like the Yankees’ road uniform of that era, making it a match for the team designation on the card. But Moses did not play for the Yankees in 1972, the likely time frame for when the photograph was taken; he was still a member of the Cleveland Indians. Upon initial review, this doesn’t look like the Indians’ road uniform, which featured red caps and red trim on the sleeves.
The carousel of changing teams continued for Moses that winter. The Indians sent him and Graig Nettles to the Yankees for a package headed up by catcher/first baseman Johnny Ellis. Moses faced an even more daunting challenge when it came to playing time. He would now have to back up Thurman Munson, one of the American League’s top catchers. Munson rarely took days off, resulting in Moses appearing in only 21 games.
With the Yankees, Moses became close friends with veteran pitcher Sam McDowell, who praised him for his work with the team’s pitchers. Although Moses fit in well in the Yankees clubhouse, he was part of an overload of catching, which the Yankees decided to alleviate through a trade in Spring Training of 1974. As part of a complicated three-way trade that also involved the Indians, the Yankees sent him to the Detroit Tigers. Upon hearing the news, Moses expressed his pleasure. “I’m the happiest person in the world. You knew the same guy was going to catch 140 games every year,” Moses told the Sporting News, in referring to Munson. “He’s unbelievably good.”
The trade also provided a quick reunion with Ralph Houk, who had been his manager in New York. At first, Houk planned to use Moses as a backup to veteran Bill Freehan, before eventually moving the incumbent to first base and clearing the way for Moses to receive more playing time. Moses appeared in 74 games, the most of any Tigers catcher, while hitting .237 with four home runs.
The 1975 season would turn out to be the most tumultuous – and the last – of his career. In January, the Tigers sold Moses on a conditional basis to the New York Mets. Moses would never appear in a game for the Mets; at the end of April, the Mets offered him back to the Tigers before selling his contract to the San Diego Padres, where he backed up Fred Kendall. Appearing in only 16 games with San Diego, Moses found himself moving on again in July, when the Padres sold him to the Chicago White Sox. Moses appeared in only two games for the Sox before drawing his release in September.
Moses was still only 28 and in good shape physically, but the constant shuttling from team to team, coupled with his relatively low salary, convinced him to give up the game. Wanting to better support his family, he opted for a more stable job in the travel industry. After that, he went to work in the food industry, where he enjoyed considerable success.
Settling in eastern Massachusetts, Moses remained a popular figure in retirement. He became active in charities, particularly the Red Sox’ celebrated cause known as the Jimmy Fund. Another former Red Sox player, Mike Andrews, headed up the Jimmy Fund for years, and often relied on Moses for help in fundraising. Moses made frequent public appearances on behalf of the charity, especially at golf outings, where he reunited with former teammates and made new friends among fans. He and Andrews also collaborated on a long-running youth baseball camp.
In the 1980s, Moses added the newly formed Major League Baseball Alumni Association to his list of efforts. With his friendly, outgoing personality, Moses helped the association gain a foothold in its early years.
Moses continued to make public appearances for the alumni and the Red Sox even after falling into ill health. In March of 2018, Moses succumbed to a combination of dementia and aphasia, the latter a disease that affects speech and the ability to process language. He was 71.
Throughout New England, Moses’ passing became a major story, owing largely to his common man touch and charismatic personality. Many of his former teammates offered their praise, including Mike Andrews. “I don’t think I ever met a better man in my life,” Andrews told Oliver Macklin of MLB.com. “Everyone loved Jerry. He’s just a lovable guy, and he loved everybody back… When I look at people that made the most of their life after baseball, Jerry is at the top. He took care of his family. Very family-oriented.”
The news of Moses’ death also brought back some fond memories of one of the more intriguing cards from 1973 Topps. It’s a card that Moses often received in the mail, his many fans requesting him to sign it. Knowing Moses, it’s a good bet that he signed every one.
Bruce Markusen is the manager of digital and outreach learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
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