#CardCorner: 1989 Topps Ron Hassey
Catcher, lefty swinging. Can hit .300.
Since the end of World War II, seven of those catchers – who have played have played in at least 100 games in corresponding seasons – have had at least two years like this.
Ron Hassey is one of them.
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Hassey played in the big leagues for 14 years, establishing himself in 1980 with the Indians by hitting .318 in 130 games. From that point on, Hassey became a valuable commodity – so in demand that he was traded five times in a 25-month span from June 1984 to July 1986. In that time, the Yankees and White Sox executed three deals where Hassey was one of the principal players.
Born Feb. 27, 1953, in Tucson, Ariz., Hassey was a pitcher and shortstop in high school and led his team to a state championship. He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 23rd round of the 1972 MLB Draft but opted to enroll at the University of Arizona in his hometown – following in the footsteps of his father Bill Hassey, who was a star for the Wildcats and later played in the minors.
As a third baseman, Hassey blistered collegiate pitching. He helped the Wildcats go 58-6 as a sophomore third baseman in 1974, earning All-American honors while hitting .421 and setting a school record with 86 RBI. After hitting .330 as a junior, Hassey was selected by the Royals in the 22nd round of the 1975 MLB Draft but chose to return for his senior season after the Royals indicated they were planning to move him to catcher. Hassey decided to work on the switch at the college level during his senior season.
“When I was at third base, you couldn’t say much,” Hassey told the Tucson Citizen. “Now I have to keep things going, talk to the pitchers, call for the pitches, make sure everybody knows what’s going on.
“I think (big league scouts) know I can play third base. Now if I show that I can (play catcher) too, then that will just help me more. There aren’t too many catchers who can hit left-handed.”
Hassey and the Wildcats rolled through the 1976 regular season and into the College World Series. In a win over Oklahoma, Hassey tied a 27-year-old College World Series record with five consecutive hits in a 10-2 victory. Arizona, ranked No. 2 in the nation heading into play in Omaha, went on to win the national title.
Hassey split time with Steinbach for the third straight season in 1990 as Oakland again advanced to the World Series. After hitting .213 in 94 games in the regular season, Hassey hit .333 five combined games in the ALCS and the World Series – with the A’s defeating the Red Sox for the pennant before losing to the Reds in the Fall Classic.
Hassey’s contract expired after the World Series, and he signed on with the Expos on Feb. 15, 1991. He was behind the plate on July 28 when Montreal teammate Dennis Martínez pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers, making Hassey the first catcher ever to work two perfect games.
“You give the credit to Dennis,” Hassey told the Associated Press. “He’s the guy who had to throw the pitches. I’m just the guy who’s catching them and helping him.”
Hassey hit .227 in 52 games that season, then called it a career. After scouting for the Yankees in 1992, Hassey coached for the Rockies from 1993-95 and the Cardinals in 1996. After a stint scouting for the Diamondbacks, Hassey returned to coaching on Mike Hargrove’s Mariners staff from 2005-06 – reuniting with his former Indians teammate.
In 14 big league seasons, Hassey hit .266 with 172 doubles, 71 home runs and 438 RBI. And despite playing the game’s most grueling position, his skill with the bat never waned.
“I’ve never been worried about my hitting,” Hassey said during his first Spring Training with the Indians. “And I’m not worried now.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum