As someone who loves to see what’s selling in all sorts of trading card categories, it was a bit surprising to see Larry Wolfe among the Top 100 single sports cards selling on Amazon back in late July of 2015. Specifically, it was his 1980 Topps card. It was pretty cool to see someone from the 3rd place 1979 Red Sox (who won 91 games, by the way) be remembered by trading card collectors.
Wolfe was never a very exciting player. He only had one truly great minor league season: 1977 with the AAA Charleston Charlies. When the Twins came calling late in the ’77 season, he didn’t do much at all, albeit in only 8 games.
The Twins brought him back in ’78, and he wasn’t too exciting. He was about an average defender at third base and had a strong batting eye, but was barely above replacement level (0.6 WAR by FanGraphs, 0.4 WAR by Baseball-Reference). In February 1979, they traded Wolfe to the Red Sox for outfielder Dave Coleman. Since Coleman never played in the majors again, it was a minor win for the Sox.
Wolfe had his best offensive season for Boston, playing 2B, 3B, SS, 1B, and even an inning at catcher. He hit .244/.378/.410, good for an 108 OPS+ (8 percent above league average) in 47 games. Overall, he only put up 0.3 WAR because of mediocre defense mostly at second. Baseball-Reference has him at 0.6 WAR, if you prefer, as they see his defense as more average. Still, Wolfe was a useful bench player for a winning team.
1980 was a disaster. He hit well below .200 in 18 games, and his keen batting eye seemingly evaporated. He was sent down to Pawtucket, and performed miserably. Dave Stapleton went and had a career year at second base in 1980 for the Sox, so Wolfe never got another chance in Major League baseball. After the 1981 season, he went to Japan for one year before leaving organized baseball for good. He disappeared from baseball for a long time, before being hired as manager of a collegiate summer league team in 2015.
While Wolfe never did much at the Major League level, it’s clear that he had his best year in 1979. His 1980 card is a nice reminder of his usefulness, even if sadly that was the end of it. Thanks for the memories, Larry Wolfe. It’s good to see some people still remember you, even if it’s just to complete a 1980 Topps set.