#CardCorner: 1975 Topps Bake McBride
Such was often the case with the talented Arnold “Bake” McBride.
Born Feb. 3, 1949, in Fulton, Mo., McBride was a standout high school athlete in virtually every sport except baseball – because his high school did not field a team. His first love was track and field, but his speed was jeopardized when he broke a bone in his left ankle grabbing a rebound during a high school basketball game in 1967.
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Given a prognosis that included the possibility that he would never again be able to run competitively, McBride worked his way back continued to play a variety of sports at Westminster College in Fulton, but dropped out following his second year. His athleticism, however, kept him active, and McBride – a cousin of 11-year NFL running back Tony Galbreath – continued to be on the radar of pro teams, including the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, which offered him a tryout.
But after impressing the St. Louis Cardinals at an open tryout camp, he was selected by the team in the 37th round of the 1970 Major League Baseball Draft. The left-handed hitting McBride then tore through the minor leagues, hitting .353 at two levels in 1970, .303 with 40 stolen bases for Class A Modesto in 1971 and .322 at Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tulsa in 1972.
After some more seasoning at Tulsa in 1973, McBride debuted with the Cardinals on July 26, 1973 – earning the chance to wear No. 21, the number of Cardinals legendary center fielder Curt Flood.
McBride grounded out in his first at-bat after entering the game against the Mets in place of Lou Brock, but later singled home Ken Reitz for his first hit and RBI.
“I was a little nervous the first time up,” McBride told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But I was comfortable the second time.”
In 1974, McBride won the job as the Cardinals’ center fielder with a sensational spring and hit .309 with 30 steals, 81 runs scored and 56 RBI over 150 games. And late in the season, he wrote his name into the record books in a game that started on Sept. 11, 1974, at New York’s Shea Stadium.
McBride hit .309 in 137 games, driving in a career-best 87 runs despite hitting just nine home runs. The 87 RBI would mark more than 20 percent of his career total of 430 RBI over 11 big league seasons.
Then in the World Series, McBride – bucking his season trend – homered in Game 1 against the Royals, a three-run shot in the third inning that helped turn a 4-0 Kansas City lead into a 5-4 Philadelphia advantage.
The Phillies eventually won the game 7-6, with McBride adding two singles following his home run.
“Bake’s home run crushed it for me,” Phillies manager Dallas Green told the Associated Press. “He’s been that kind all year…a clutch RBI guy.”
McBride hit .304 in the Phillies’ six-game victory, forever etching himself into Phillies’ lore. It would be the highlight of a career that would feature just 155 more games in his final three seasons as he again suffered through long stints on the disabled list.
McBride batted .271 in 58 games in the strike-shortened season of 1981, helping the Phillies advance to the postseason before losing to Montreal in the NLDS. Then on Feb. 16, 1982, the Phillies traded McBride to the Indians in a deal that brought reliever Sid Monge to Philadelphia.
At the time of the trade, only six active National League outfielders topped McBride’s career .298 batting average.
But McBride played only 27 games in 1982 while battling an eye infection, hitting .365 but not appearing in a game after May 21. A contact lens user since the early 1970s, McBride’s vision problems did not clear up until after the season.
“Since May 27, I’ve gone to the doctor every day except Sundays,” McBride told the Akron Beacon Journal in June. “Besides that, the only thing I do is go crazy.”
McBride’s career average stood at .29975, or .300 when rounded up, following the 1982 season. He hit a respectable .291 in 70 games in 1983 for Cleveland, but shoulder and thumb injuries limited his playing time.
A free agent following the season, McBride found limited opportunities and played 32 games with the Rangers’ Triple-A team in Oklahoma City in 1984 before ending his career with a .299 batting average, 1,153 hits, 548 runs scored and 183 stolen bases.
But in only 11 big league seasons, McBride captured the baseball spotlight on a regular basis.
“When I was drafted so low, I knew I would have a chance to prove myself,” McBride told United Press International. “I think I did.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum