Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Curious Case of Dave Wehrmeister

Scrapbook Saturday (Special Report): June 3, 1984

The World Today
The college class of 2014 will soon start their fall semesters, and I recently read an article with regards to how much technology and life in general has changed since these new freshmen entered the world. With the advent of iTunes, they have no idea what it’s like to sit patiently by the radio waiting for your favorite song so that you could simultaneously hit “play” and “record” on your tape recorder for repeated listening. If they have a question about a specific scene within the Star Wars movie (which they now know as Episode IV), they can skip to whatever chapter in the movie they want on their DVD player, whenever they want. I saw Star Wars in the theater once, had to go off my memory of the movie to recall plot points and scenes, and I didn’t see it again until we brought home our first VCR five or six years later. Life was tough.

And they don’t ever have to ask the question, “Who in the world is Whrmster?”

The World Then
Throughout the 1984 baseball season, I’d spend every morning scanning and studying the newspaper’s boxscores for the previous day’s games. Occasionally, a name would appear with which I was completely unfamiliar. It was usually a rookie or a fringe player who had the misfortune of not appearing in that year’s Topps, Donruss or Fleer baseball card releases. This very rarely happened with the Phillies’ boxscores, as I was very much familiar with their players and the top prospects in their farm system. (I knew about their top prospects because their 1984 Yearbook contained a section highlighting these up and comers.)  I'd clip each day's Phillies' boxscore from the paper and happily place it in my 1984 Phillies Scrapbook.

But then one day, on June 3, 1984, to be precise, the name “Whrmster” appeared in the Phillies’ boxscore. This stumped me. There was no Whrmster in the prospects section of the Phillies Yearbook. No Whrmster existed within that year’s baseball card sets. Could this be a mistake? Was the boxscore editor of the Atlantic City Press messing with my mind (again)?   I figured that Whrmster was probably the same guy (Wehrmeister) who hit Gary Matthews with a pitch, just with a few extra vowels.  The name appeared again in a Phillies’ boxscore a few days later, this time with all vowels in place. Wehrmeister. What did this guy look like? Where did he come from? What is an 11-year-old obsessive-compulsive fan of the Phillies to do?  Wehrmeister?

The Wehrmeister Enigma
In today’s day and age, whenever a baseball team makes a move or thinks about making a move, there are hundreds of internet resources available to check on that player’s statistics and vital signs from Little League to Winter League to Minor League. Back in the day, back before Star Wars was available on VHS, I had the transaction blurbs of the Atlantic City Press to tell me the comings and goings of players. Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, I had missed the Phillies’ acquisition of the mysterious Mr. Wehrmeister. His name appeared a few more times throughout the month of June, and then it stopped appearing. Wehrmeister was gone.  Whither Wehrmeister?
1982 Topps #694

A Clue
Months later, I was thumbing through my 1982 Topps cards (as we used to do back then) and upon reaching card #694, I stopped cold. Dave Wehrmeister, pitcher, Yankees. Behold! He does exist and he’s been on a baseball card before! Maybe he'll be in the 1984 Topps Traded set!  He wasn't.  Well surely he’ll be featured in one of the Big 3’s 1985 baseball card releases! Again - nothing.  I plodded through the '80s and the early '90s without a clue as to how or when Dave Wehrmeister came to pitch for the Phillies and without a Phillies baseball card of Wehrmeister in my collection.  It was only after Al Gore invented the internet I was able to track down some vital information.

1986 Fleer #220
The Truth is Out There
A few years ago I discovered Dave Wehrmeister had been signed by the Phils as a minor league free agent in early June 1984. (I don’t know where he came from, as Baseball Reference indicates his team prior to the Phillies signing him was . . . the Phillies. Will all of your mysteries ever be completely known to us, Monsieur Wehrmeister?) He spent most of 1984 pitching with the Phils’ AAA team in Portland before signing with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. He bounced around the White Sox’ system in 1985 and 1986 before hanging up his spikes.

Finally, a Phillies Card
1984 Topps #PR16
Other than his appearance in the ’82 Topps set, Wehrmeister’s only other appearance in a mainstream baseball card set is his appearance in the 1986 Fleer set as a member of the White Sox.  Once I set upon creating baseball cards for every player to have pulled on a Phillies’ uniform throughout the ‘80s, one of my first subjects was the elusive Dave Wehrmeister. This card was created using the picture from his 1984 Cramer Portland Beavers baseball card (the big picture) and the picture from his 1982 Topps rookie card, now featuring a poorly edited Phillies hat.  (As a side note, I picked up the 1984 Cramer Portland set a few years back on the cheap.  I was absent-mindedly going through the cards in the set until I reached Wehrmeister's card.  The sight of his card brought a smile to my face, since, as a 10-year-old, I would have loved to have had this baseball card in my collection.  "Finally you're mine, Wehrmeister," I probably said under my breath.)

1977 Topps #472
Wherever You Go, There You Are
In conclusion, my message for the Class of 2014 is simple. Reach for the sky and chase your dreams.  But most importantly, count your blessings that you live in a glorious age when a Phillies baseball card of Dave Wehrmeister exists.

So I wrote this post, scheduled its future posting time and walked away.  The Dave Wehrmeister Phillies baseball card saga was now complete.  Or was it?  In my travels over the past few days, I came across Wehrmeister's true rookie card.  It's not his 1982 Topps card, but rather a 1977 Topps multi-player rookie card from 5 years earlier featuring him with the Padres - the team that originally drafted him back in 1973. 

Join us next time as we explore the Fascinating Fable of Steve Fireovid.


Anonymous said...

Now THAT was fascinating! I've always liked his name, but never knew anything about him. I think you just helped me research one of my '82 Topps cards. Thanks

And I love your line - "It was only after Al Gore invented the internet I was able to track down some vital information" ...right out of nowhere.

Jim said...

Thanks! I've wanted to do a Dave Wehrmesiter post since I started this blog, and I'm glad I finally documented the saga.

Matthew Appleton said...

Actually, Dave does have a Phillies card. He appears in the 1984 Phillies Team Issue update (he was one of four August additions, along with John Russell, Jeff Stone and Don Carman). I don't have a scanner handy at this moment, but as soon as I get the opportunity I'll send a scan of the card to you.

Jim said...

Cool! I believe I have that "update" set on my wantlist, but I've never actually seen it for sale anywhere. It would have saved me a lot of angst back in '84 had I picked it up then.

Johngy said...

This is definitely a golden post! Pure gold.
By the way, Fireovid hated his 1987 Topps card.

Jim said...

Thanks Johngy!

Anonymous said...

Loved your piece on Dave Wehrmeister. I went to high school with Dave - he threw exceptionally hard then and I knew he'd have a major league career.

Jim said...