Featured Card: Jim Bivin, 1994 Conlon TSN Burgundy parallel, #1299
When a ballplayer achieves a milestone or breaks one of the sport’s hallowed records, the pitcher or batter that was on the other end of the event inevitably becomes linked to the superstar who bested him. Most knowledgeable Phillies fans can tell you that Mike Schmidt hit his 500th home run off of Don Robinson and nearly anyone who knows his baseball history can tell you that Hank Aaron his his 715th home run off of Al Dowling. However, we don’t want to remember the end of our heroes careers, when their skills have declined and (more often than not) they’re hurting their teams more than helping. Often, the last hitting/pitching matchup is forgotten in time. Sometimes, the players may not even realize that they are witnessing the last act of a great career until after the moment is passed.
Such a moment occurred on May 30, 1935 when Babe Ruth came to the plate in the first inning of the first game in a Braves-Phillies doubleheader at the Baker Bowl. Facing Jim Bivin, Ruth struck out, lowering his average to .181 (interestingly, his OPS+ was at 118 — still productive, but no one even knew what OPS+ was at the time). According to Wikipedia, later in the inning he hurt his knee playing defense, came out and never faced another pitch again.* No one at the time, including Bivin, could have possibly known that they had just seen Ruth’s forgettable last at bat. Even more improbably is the fact that Bivin was the last pitcher to face him. Bivin lasted only one season in the majors and was pitching in just his 10th career game when he faced Ruth. If he hadn’t pitched on that day, there would be no reason to remember who Bivin is. His ugly career line: 2-9, 5.79 ERA (the less that’s said about his peripherals, the better).
Because of the era he played in and the team he played for, Bivin didn’t appear on a baseball card until 1994, 12 years after his death, when Megacards decided to include him its multi-year Conlon TSN offering. Amusingly, unlike nearly everyone else in his era, his first baseball card was available in a parallel version — the burgundy-bordered version shown above. It remains the only card of his career.
* One of my many complaints about Ruth’s 1992 biopic, The Babe, is that it plays loose with history, making it look like Ruth ended his career on his terms, and depicting him as walking away from the game after hitting his third home run of the game against the Pirates on May 25. He would play in five more games, going 2 for 9, with four walks and five strikeouts. But, that’s not a happy Hollywood-ending now — is it?