#CardCorner: 1974 Topps Bill Madlock
When he made his first appearance on a Topps card in 1974, Madlock had already established himself as a blue-chip prospect. Topps apparently thought Ron Cash, Jim Cox and Reggie Sanders were also destined for stardom, putting the trio along with Madlock on a “future stars” card of 1974 rookie infielders.
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Combined, Cash, Cox and Sanders appeared in 170 big league games from 1973-76.
Madlock became a four-time National League batting champion.
Born Jan. 12, 1951, in Memphis, Tenn., Madlock excelled in both football and baseball in high school. He turned down the St. Louis Cardinals when they selected him in the 11th round of the 1969 MLB Draft, enrolling at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg, Ill. The next year, the Washington Senators took Madlock in the fifth round of the draft – and Madlock’s pro career was under way.
Madlock’s first three minor league seasons produced moderate results, but in 1973 he hit .339 with 22 home runs and 90 RBI for Triple-A Spokane – where the Rangers, who had moved from Washington, D.C., in 1972, had their top minor league team.
Madlock debuted for Texas on Sept. 7, 1973, and hit .351 over the final 21 games of the season as the team’s everyday third baseman.
But after losing a combined 205 games in 1972 and 1973, Rangers’ general manager Dan O’Brien was willing to trade the future for the present. On Oct. 25, 1973, he packaged Madlock and utility man Vic Harris in a deal for Cubs ace and future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins.
Jenkins immediately paid dividends for the Rangers, winning 25 games and finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting while helping Texas improve by 27 games over its 1973 record. Madlock, meanwhile, hit .313 as the Cubs’ third baseman, finishing third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
By the end of the season, the 23-year-old Madlock was hitting third in the Cubs lineup and had established himself as one of the team leaders. He also earned a reputation – born in the minor leagues – of a player who would not back down from a battle.
He won his fourth batting title in .323, entering a club that at the time included only Ty Cobb (12 batting titles), Honus Wagner (8), Rod Carew (7), Stan Musial (7), Rogers Hornsby (7), Ted Williams (6), Roberto Clemente (4) and Harry Heilmann (4) among post-1900 players.
At age 33 entering the 1984 season, Madlock began to be slowed by injuries. He hit a career-low .253 in 103 games that year, then was traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 31, 1985, in a deal that brought Sid Bream, Cecil Espy and R.J. Reynolds to Pittsburgh. A rejuvenated Madlock hit .360 over the final month for Los Angeles as LA won the NL West. Madlock then hit .333 with three home runs and seven RBI in the Dodgers’ six-game loss to the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Madlock batted .280 in 111 games with Los Angeles in 1986, then spent the 1987 campaign with LA and Detroit, hitting. 279 in 87 games with the Tigers while helping Detroit win the AL East.
After a full season in Japan in 1988 with the Lotte Orions – and a stint in the Senior Professional Baseball League in 1989 – Madlock retired as a player. He finished with a career batting average of .305 to go with 2,008 hits, 920 runs scored and a .365 on-base percentage.
Fitting numbers for a player whose compact, powerful swing inspired awe throughout the game.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum