It took the Texas Rangers awhile to get their man, but when they finally hooked catcher Jim Sundberg, they didn’t mess around.

See, the Oakland A’s originally took Sundberg out of high school in the sixth round of the 1969 draft, but he decided to go to the University of Iowa instead.

Three years later, the Rangers came calling, picking the young catcher in the eighth round.

Uh … Sundberg decided to stay at the University of Iowa.

Finally, when the Rangers made Sundberg the second overall pick in the January draft in 1973, he bit. And, after just 91 games of minor league seasoning that summer, Sundberg was in the Big Leagues for good to start 1974.

And start he did, gobbling up most of the time behind the plate for a Rangers team that finished 84-76, their best showing since leaving their Washington Senators past behind them in 1972.

Find 1983 Donruss Jim Sundberg on eBay (affiliate link)

Find 1983 Donruss Jim Sundberg on Amazon (affiliate link)

Truth be told, the Rangers fielded pretty competitive teams most years for the rest of the decade, too — it’s just that no one really notices now, looking back, because the A’s and Kansas City Royals were busy dominating the old American League West.

Right there the whole time, sort of holding the whole thing together and definitely holding down backstop duties, was Jim Sundberg.

Aside from his rookie season (132 games), Sundberg was good for 140+ outings every year through the remainder of the 70s, reaching 150 or more on three occasions.

Sundberg wasn’t just an innings eater, either, as he eventually developed double-digit pop and could be counted on to hit about .270 in his prime.

For his efforts, though, Sundberg garnered just two All-Star nods with Texas — as a rookie (1974) and again in 1978. A string of six straight Gold Gloves, from 1976 to 1981, had to count as some sort of consolation, though, don’t you think?

Probably … but the average kid likely doesn’t (or didn’t) even know who the Gold Glove guys were from year to year. I sure didn’t.

Which is why I might not have known Jim Sundberg was a star at all when I started collecting cards in earnest were it not for his nifty 1983 Donruss Action All-Stars card.

I mean, Donruss only included 60 cards in this set, and one of those was a checklist. At less than ten percent of the size of their base set, Donruss had to be telling us these guys were special.

And so, I added to my growing knowledge of baseball the fact that Tim Lollar could be lumped with Steve Carlton, Larry Herndon with Rickey Henderson … and Jim Sundberg with Johnny Bench.

While I now realize Sundberg was no Bench, he also was no Dann Bilardello.

Once Sundberg finally left Texas, he picked up another All-Star berth, with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984. That seemed just right, too, because he had already been on that sweet, oversize Donruss card.

And, by the time Sundberg jammed himself into the thick of the dramatics in Game 6 of that fantastic 1985 World Series, he was a cardboard legend (to me, anyway).

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