This is the fourth in my “Find the Canadian Connection” feature. For this feature, I close my eyes and reach into a random box of baseball cards in my basement and pull out a single card. I then try to establish a Canadian connection for the player featured on the card.
The card I pulled this time is a 1979 Topps Roger Metzger (#167).
Selected in the first round (16th overall) of the 1969 MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs, this Fredericksburg, Texas native played parts of 11 big league seasons with the Cubs (1970), Houston Astros (1971-78) and San Francisco Giants (1978-80).
In 1,219 major league games, the 6-foot, 165-pound infielder batted .231 and recorded 972 hits, but only belted five home runs. The switch-hitting Texan wasn’t a particularly prolific base stealer (His career best was 23 in 1972), but he managed to lead the National League in triples twice: with 11 in 1971 and 14 in 1973.
Metzger was a sure-handed shortstop for most of his career, capturing the Gold Glove Award for his position in 1973. And at one point, as the back of his 1979 Topps card indicates, he held the record for most consecutive errorless games for a shortstop in a season (59 in 1976).
After almost eight seasons with the Astros, he was sold to the Giants on June 15, 1978. He played parts of two seasons with the Giants before he suffered a freak off-season injury. While he was building a wooden playhouse for his children as a Christmas present, he managed to saw off the finger tips of four fingers on his right hand (You can read all of the grizzly details in this New York Times article).
After he was treated at the hospital, doctors were uncertain how this would impact his ability to throw a ball or grip a bat. But a determined Metzger did return to the Giants in 1980 and play 28 games, batting just .074 before he was released that August and immediately rehired to be a coach with the club.
Following that campaign, Metzger walked away from pro baseball completely. He would own a restaurant in Brenham, Texas before he became a high school teacher for many years.
I found some interesting Canadian connections for Metzger:
– After being selected in the 1969 MLB draft, Metzger was assigned to the triple-A Tacoma Cubs where one of his teammates was Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Ron Piche (Verdun, Que.). Piche, who was in the twilight of his pitching career, went 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 65 innings in 39 appearances that season.
– Metzger would play just one game for the big league Cubs, which was also his major league debut. On June 16, 1970, Metzger started at shortstop and batted eighth for the Cubs in their 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. Metzger went 0-for-2 and shared a big league dugout and a clubhouse with Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.).
– While with the Astros, Metzger played parts of two seasons (1977-78) with Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Terry Puhl (Melville, Ont.) Metzger was the starting shortstop for the Astros in the same season (1978) that Puhl was selected to the National League All-Star for the only time in his career.
– Metzger hit his fourth big league home run (He only hit five altogether.) at Jarry Park in Montreal on May 11, 1975. It was a two-run shot off Expos right-hander Don DeMola with two outs in the ninth inning.
– Metzger had four, four-hit games in his major league career, the second of which came against the St. Louis Cardinals at the Astrodome on July 17, 1973 with Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) starting for the Cards. Two of Metzger’s four hits – all singles – came off Cleveland. The Astros won the game 7-3.
– Metzger wasn’t nearly as successful against Cleveland in other games. In total, he was 4-for-22 (.182 batting average) against the Canadian righty. He fared much better against Jenkins. He was 14-for-39, good for a .359 batting average against the Cooperstowner.