When I think of eye-black these days, I can't help but think of Bryce Harper; and when I think of bushy 70s moustaches, I can't help but think of comedian Avery Schreiber. Put 'em together, though, and I can't help but think of Skip Jutze's amazing 1974 Topps card.
Did the Topps airbrush guy draw that eye-black on after the fact? It pops out even more vividly than the seams of the artificial turf that Skip (whose birthday it is today) is squatting upon. Perhaps the markings were slathered on in tribute to Skip's heroism as a quarterback with the Central Connecticut State University football team during the mid/late-1960s; or perhaps it's real, and he really needed the stuff to keep the damn sun out of his eyes.
Born Alfred Henry Jutze in Bayside, NY, "Skip" served primarily as a backup catcher with the Cardinals, Astros and Mariners from 1972 through 1977. He saw his biggest chunk of playing time in 1973, catching in 86 games for the Astros; Johnny Edwards, Houston's starting catcher for the four previous seasons, was approaching the end of his career, and Skip (who was 26 when he first reached the majors) finally got his chance to shine. Unfortunately, he batted only .223 with 6 doubles, no homers and 18 RBI in 306 plate appearances; even with a solid glove and a decent arm, it wasn't enough to solidify his spot behind the plate. In October '73, the Astros traded pitcher Jerry Reuss for a talented young backstop named Milt May, and Skip was sent back down to the minors. Though he hit .321 for the Denver Bears in '74, he would only appear in 101 games for the Astros from '74 through '76.
In the spring of 1977, Skip found himself with the expansion Seattle Mariners, but was beaten out by former Royals catcher Bob Stinson for the starting backstop position. (And yeah, I'm old and baseball-obsessed enough that, when I noticed that the Replacements had a lead guitarist named Bob Stinson, my first thought was, "Hey — just like the catcher from the Royals and Mariners!")
But it was with the Mariners that Skip would achieve lasting immortality. (Well, he'll also forever be included on lists of "Jewish major leaguers," though — like me — only his father was Jewish, which means he doesn't actually qualify in everyone's book.) While sporting a moustache that was so Schreiber-esque as to be legally actionable, Jutze hit his second home run of the season (and of his career) — a grand slam off of Orioles reliever Dyar Miller during the M's 10-2 victory on May 17, 1977 at the Kingdome. It was the first grand slam in Mariners history.
(As my friend Maxwell Kates informs me, Skip was also part of the first triple play in Mariners history, turned on April 22, 1977 against the Royals.)
Skip would only hit one more major league homer, though it was certainly a memorable one — it came off of future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, and it briefly gave the M's a lead during what turned out to be a 13-6 drubbing by the Red Sox at Fenway on August 13, 1977. At the time, Skip was hitting a respectable .276; but he only managed three hits in his next 35 at-bats, and finished the season with a .220 mark. He returned to spring training with the M's the following year; but now in his early 30s and beset by various injuries, he lost his backup gig to a young catcher named Kevin Pasley, who'd come over from the Dodgers and hit .385 for the M's in the final games of the '77 season.
Released by Seattle in late March, Skip would never play another game in the bigs. But his name — and his 'stache — will live on forever...