Card Corner–Carmen Fanzone
In today’s installment of "Card Corner," we continue our look back at Topps’ memorable 1975 card set, which featured those distinctively colored borders. As part of a long line of Chicago Cubs third basemen, let’s recall the career of a former major leaguer whose talents stretched well into the musical world.
It’s too bad that none of Carmen Fanzone’s baseball cards showed him holding a trumpet. While the third baseman often struggled with the bat—arguably the most important instrument for an everyday major league player—he repeatedly proved himself accomplished with a musical instrument.
A player of limited talents on the ballfield, Fanzone did his best to make up for his lack of skills by hustling at all times and demonstrating an inspired attitude. After making his major league debut for the infield-clogged Boston Red Sox, Fanzone moved on via a trade to the National League, where he hoped for more playing time with the aging Chicago Cubs. Fanzone showed immediate promise in his first National League at-bat, clubbing a home run against Pittsburgh Pirates ace Steve Blass. Given such flashes of fame, the Cubs thought they might have found a successor to their fading star at third base, Ron Santo. Unfortunately, milestone home runs and other moments of disntinction didn’t happen often enough for Fanzone. He struggled at the plate with the Cubs, bouncing up and down between Chicago and its minor league affiliates for several seasons. In 1975, the Cubs finally released Fanzone. He found work with the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders (not a bad place to be if buried in the minor leagues), but never again reached the major leagues.
Fanzone’s flailings at the plate didn’t prevent him from excelling in his other area of expertise—music. He had first started playing the trumpet at eight years of age, moved on to performing for a high school band in Detroit, and eventually majored in music at Central Michigan University. The music didn’t stop once Fanzone picked up a bat and glove. A part-time musician and trumpeter during his baseball career, Fanzone played for the Salvation Army during the off-season, taught music classes in the winter, and also played the trumpet at night spots in Chicago and area high schools. He specialized in jazz music, with a little classical thrown in for balance.
After his release from baseball, Fanzone became a fulltime performer. In one of his more notable gigs, he played trumpet for the Baja Marimba Band at the Fairmount Hotel in New Orleans. Even 30 years after the end of his baseball career, Fanzone remains active in music, making him one of the most successful athletes-turned-musicians in sports history. Yes, baseball may be life, as indicated by the slogan, but there is also life after baseball.