Quick question. Who did Cal Ripken replace in the lineup before he embarked on his record setting consecutive games played streak? Give up? How about this question? Who did the Orioles trade to Saint Louis for the immortal (at least to O’s fans) Tito Landrum in 1983? The answer to both those questions is the same person. He’s also the focus of my new player collection.
If you are an O’s fan over the age of 30 you’ll remember Floyd Rayford. You probably don’t remember him for his on the field accomplishments (although he did hit 18 home runs in 1985), or his athletic build (he was generously listed at 5’10 and 190 lbs during his playing days), most likely you do remember his nickname – “Sugar Bear!”
have a resemblence to this?
Or was the nickname “Honey Bear”? There seems to be some discrepancy that is only partially cleared up by the man himself. In an interview with The Evening Sun’s Travis Lau, Rayford cops to the Sugar Bear nickname, but does acknowledge that for one year, 1979, he was known as Honey Bear. A reason for the change isn’t given, but has provided confusion amongst fans for years.
As a young fan in the Baltimore area I remember him as Sugar Bear, and as a good natured role player who’s less than athletic body proved you didn’t have to be in shape to be a professional athlete. Rayford’s career was closing as the dawn of the steroid era approached. While he didn’t possess the sculpted body fans expect of today’s athlete he did play hard and could field several positions.
During his 7 year major league career he played four different infield positions, logging most of his time, 237 games, at third base. He enjoyed catching more, saying that he was “too busy back there to be nervous…There’s no time to get butterflies when you’re catching”.
His willingness to play anywhere and his hard work endeared him to the blue collar fans of Baltimore. The mid-to-late ‘80’s were a time of decline for the O’s. He missed their last pennant winning season of 1983, the aforementioned trade for playoff hero Landrum sent Rayford to Saint Louis for a season, and would play for a franchise that hovered around .500 for the next few years.
His last game in the majors was on September 16th, 1987 (my 11th birthday!). In that game he would collect his 255th and final hit as he went 1-3 in a 7-0 loss to Jimmy Key and the Toronto Blue Jays. Rayford would play a few more seasons with Scranton Wilkes Barre before retiring in 1991.
Now 52 he is the hitting coach for the Rochester Red Wings, a team that he played for in parts of 7 different seasons while he was with the O’s.
Why did I decide to collect Sugar Bear? Well he was one of the first professional players that I got an autograph from. As a rather shy kid I didn’t collect many autographs during my childhood as I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask these idols of mine for their signature. I remember having a signed program from ’85 or ’86 that I wanted to scan for this post, but after searching in vain this afternoon I fear I’ve lost it.
Another reason I want to collect him, is well, it shouldn’t be overly difficult. As a role player in the late ‘80’s there weren’t too many different cards of him produced. According to the Card Collector program there was only about 36 different Rayford cards produced.
The most difficult ones to obtain will be the Tiffany versions of his Topps base cards, but since he is listed as a common, they shouldn’t be obscenely expensive. Currently, I only have one card in hand (1988 Topps base), and I’ve completed a Topps Million card trade for another. I swapped a 1993 Mark Gardner for a 1985 Rayford. I have three more trades pending for his other Topps base cards that I hope pay off within a week.
I’ve included his complete card roster in my “Wanted” section, so if you have some mid-80’s commons laying around give a quick look for Sugar Bear and I’ll send ya something nice in return.
Image is property of the Baltimore Sun
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