Thursday, June 21, 2012

Roberto Pena (#184)

Here's journeyman Roberto Pena, airbrushed out of his Pirates uniform. Pena was selected from the Phillies in the expansion draft following the 1968 season.  This is his first Topps card since 1966, and his first card I had. (A few years ago, I got his 1970 card.)

He had unexpectedly spent the '68 season as the Phillies' regular shortstop. The Phillies had high hopes for their shortstop prospect Don Money that season, but after a handful of games, it was clear that he wasn't ready for the big time, so weak-hitting veteran Bobby Wine took over, Money was sent down, and Pena was recalled from their triple-A team (in San Diego, no less). A few weeks later, Wine injured his back and was lost for the season, thrusting Pena (who had spent all of 1967 in the minors) into the starting role.

(No respect! After 138 games as the Phillies' starting shortstop, and now on a team starting from scratch, Topps still saddles him with a utility position)

Pena was signed by the Pirates in 1960. After 5 seasons as a minor-league shortstop, he was traded to the Cubs for infielder Andre Rodgers in December 1964. Roberto made his major-league debut in April 1965, and played 51 games with the Cubs as Don Kessinger's backup at shortstop. He also played 80+ games in the minors that season, as well as the bulk of the '66 season.

The Phillies drafted him in November 1966, and he spent the '67 season stashed at the Phillies' halfway house for ex-big leaguers (a/k/a the AAA San Diego Padres), where he was the PCL all-star shortstop.

As mentioned above, after a season as the Phillies' #1 shortstop,  he (along with the Phillies' other two shortstops Bobby Wine and Gary Sutherland) was lost in the expansion draft. Pena split the shortstop job with Tommy Dean in the Padres' inaugural season, then it was on to the Athletics in a March 1970 trade for 1st baseman Ramon Webster.

Two months later he was shipped out to the Brewers for 2nd baseman John Donaldson. Pena shared the shortstop job with Ted Kubiak (wow, lots of ex-Athletics orbiting around Roberto Pena!) in 1970, and moved over to 1st base in 1971 (with some playing time at SS and 3B). His last game was in September 1971.

Roberto played in Mexico from 1972-74 before hanging up his spikes. He died in July 1982 at age 45.

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