Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tommy Helms (#505)

Continuing the Reds' string of 7 Topps all-star rookies in 6 seasons, Tommy Helms snared the 3rd base position in 1966.

Helms was signed by the Reds in 1959, and played in their farm system for 7 seasons: the first 2 in class D, followed by 1 season each in B and A ball, then the last 3 (1963-65) at triple-A San Diego. Helms was almost exclusively a shortstop in the minors.

Tommy made his major-league debut in September 1964, appearing in 2 games. He also played in 21 games in 1965, including 7 consecutive starts at shortstop in early September (the only games Chico Cardenas didn't start all season).

Helms began his rookie season of 1966 as the regular 2nd baseman, starting the first 15 games there, while Pete Rose started at 3rd base. By game #18 they switched positions, and Helms started 113 of the final 143 games at 3rd base (with Deron Johnson and Chico Ruiz playing the rest).

Tommy won the Rookie of the Year award, getting 12 of the 20 first place votes. (The Astros' Sonny Jackson finished a distant 2nd with 3 votes.) In 1967, Helms switched to 2nd base (when Rose moved to the outfield), where he would remain for the rest of his career. He also went to his first of 2 consecutive all-star games.

After the 1971 season, Helms was part of a blockbuster trade, going to the Astros along with 1st baseman Lee May and utility infielder Jimmy Stewart for 2nd baseman Joe Morgan, shortstop Denis Menke, pitcher Jack Billingham, and outfielders Cesar Geronimo and Ed Armbrister.

After 4 seasons with Houston, he was traded to the Pirates for infielder Art Howe. Following his 1st season with the Pirates, Tommy was sold to the Athletics. What happened next seems very bizarre. Before the next season, the Athletics traded him BACK to the Pirates (with Phil Garner) for SIX PLAYERS (Tony Armas, Doug Bair, Dave Giusti, Rick Langford, Doc Medich and Mitchell Page). WHAAAT? Garner couldn't possibly have been THAT good!

The Pirates released Helms in June 1977, and he spent the remainder of the season with the Red Sox, before retiring.

After his playing career, Helms was a coach for the Reds (on Pete Rose's staff) and managed the team for part of the 1988 and 1989 seasons, during Rose's legal troubles.

Tommy is the uncle of former Marlins' 3rd baseman Wes Helms.


Douglas said...

I think topps use a cropped version of this picture on their 1969 decal set. I think Helms was the first one I got.

Jim from Downingtown said...

You nailed it, Douglas.

Douglas said...

Since I got that decal I always thought it was taken at spring training site. Like the sheds seen in the background of Houston cards...upon the expanded shot it's scoreboard at shea stadium