06 January 2014

an angel minor leaguer memorial

bruce heinbechner was a minor league pitcher working his way up the california angels' depth chart.  he had spent the 1973 season in aaa - his second full season at that level - and had won 10 games while throwing two shutouts.  sometime after the 1973 season ended, a trade was worked out between the angels and the cubs in which heinbechner and andy hassler would have gone to chicago in exchange for ron santo, but santo used his '10 and 5' authority to nix the deal.  so, heinbechner remained with the angels and reported to spring training the following year.

it was during spring training that heinbechner was killed in a car accident in palm springs.  he apparently crossed into oncoming traffic and hit another card head-on as he was returning to the team's hotel.

while he hadn't yet made the 40-man roster, his future had seemed bright.  in his memory, heinbechner's angel teammates wore a rectangle of black fabric on their left sleeve for the remainder of spring training.  there are lots of examples of this memorial in the 1975 topps and o-pee-chee sets.  here is an o-pee-chee winston llenas card
and here is a topps dick lange card
both are good examples of the memorial.  the black fabric is also visible on nolan ryan's card in the sets, but i didn't have an extra.  so, i was going to use former dodger bobby valentine's topps card as the representative example in my collection.
but i decided that i preferred mickey rivers' o-pee-chee card instead.
heinbechner was the second of three angel players to die in car accidents in the 1970's - chico ruiz and mike milery were the others - but he was the only one of the three to receive a memorial on the uniform.

1 comment:

The Angels In Order said...

Dude I never noticed that on those Angels unis. Thanks for the history.