Sunday, November 27, 2016

585th Place - Mike Smithson

Card #554

Rocky Top, you'll always be, home sweet home to Mike Smithson.  Good ol' Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee!

As a former employee of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, it always tickles me to come across alums of their program.  Smithson was born in Centerville and took his 6'8" frame to Knoxville to pitch for the Volunteers. (Supposedly he was the tallest pitcher ever in the majors until Randy Johnson came around.)  He was there at the same time as Rick Honeycutt - that must have been an intimidating starting rotation for the rest of the SEC.

Smithson's Wikipedia page makes reference to the fact that he pitched in the infamous longest game ever played, a minor league match that featured Rochester (Orioles affiliate) versus Pawtucket (Red Sox).  Mike appeared in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth innings.  That game eventually ended after 32 innings and featured future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs.

Though the Twins won it all in 1987 Smithson never appeared in the playoffs and he was released after the season, making this card moot.  That might have been because of his 5.94 E.R.A. that season.  He would go on to pitch for two more seasons, both in Boston, before hanging up his spikes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

586th Place - Mike Moore

Card #432

I got my "Secret Santa" assignment today from Bob Walk the Plank and headed straight over to COMC to commence my shopping.  I gotta say, I had a lot of fun trying to maximize my gifts in relation to the price range and interests of my chosen blogger.  I think I did quite well!  I'll have to post more about it as we get closer to Christmas...

My apologies to Mike Moore, who by the looks of his face on the right, couldn't be less interested in my Santa purchases.  Moore had a very interesting career.  He was the first overall pick in the 1981 draft, ahead of notables like Joe Carter, Matt Williams, Ron Darling, Frank Viola, Tony Gwynn and even John Elway!  He would be in the majors for the Mariners by 1982, starting 27 games but posting in E.R.A. above five.  He played with Seattle through the 1988 season but never really found sustained success.

That all changed in 1989, his first season with Oakland.  He made his lone All-Star team and recorded a minute 2.61 E.R.A. while finishing third in Cy Young voting.  The A's won the World Series that year and Moore won both games he started in the Fall Classic.  He was never that effective again but did lead the league in starts for three straight years (1992-94), something he did back in 1986 too.  That might be Moore's most lasting attribute - the consummate innings-eater who took the ball whenever it was handed to him.  It was good enough to win 161 big league games over a fourteen year career.

As near as I can tell, Moore is back in his native Oklahoma these days, and sometimes volunteers with the local high school baseball team.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

587th Place - Turn Back the Clock, 1973

Card #663

As a kid I was only ever mildly excited about pulling a "Turn Back the Clock" card from my packs.  That was one less chance at a Kevin Seitzer rookie!  But as I've grown older I certainly appreciate them more.

Topps chose to honor the first DH in MLB history - Ron Blomberg.  That's a neat trivia question, but here are some of the other names they mention from the 1973 season on the back of the card:  Nolan Ryan, Willie Davis, Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans, Reggie Jackson...heck, even Jeff Burroughs would have been more exciting on the front than Ron Blomberg!

During this year's World Series I heard more grumbling about either getting rid of the DH or adding it to both leagues.  I don't know why folks get so worked up by this.  I think it's neat to differentiate between the two sides, especially now that interleague play has taken away the mystique of two teams facing each other for the world title without ever having played each other.  My favorite player was Eddie Murray, and I appreciated him having the DH to turn to in his last couple of years playing.  On the flip side, it's always cool when a pitcher goes deep or contributes with the stick.  Heck, it's been 43 years.  Keep things as they are!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

588th Place - Tom Trebelhorn

Card #224

Hey, a manager card!  It's been awhile since one of these have been featured.

Tom Trebelhorn had an unusual path to big league managing in that he started as a coach at such a young age.  His last year in the minors as a player was 1974, but he was the skipper for the Oakland A's lowest level minor league team in 1975 at the tender age of 27.  By 1985 he was the Triple-A coach for the Brewers, and got promoted to the big league squad in '86 at 38 years old.  He stayed with the Brew Crew through the 1991 season before getting canned.  He led the Cubs for less than a full season in 1994 and that was the end of his managing opportunities.  He spent a lot of years with the Orioles after that in various capacities, even as their bench coach, but I always wondered why he never got another chance to be the head guy again.

He certainly has the watch for it!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

589th Place - Chuck Jackson

Card #94

Checking out Chuck Jackson's Baseball-Reference page is fascinating.  After an upward rise in the minors he got time on the big club in 1987 and '88.  But he would only ever play one more game after that in the bigs...in 1994!  He toiled in Triple A ball for six straight years and only played once more.  In that game he came in as a pinch-runner for Jose Canseco (while he was on the Rangers) and logged two at-bats afterwards.  It was an extra-inning game that the Mariners eventually won, with Goose Gossage of all people getting the win after two innings of relief.

His son Justin followed in his tracks, also slogging through the minors in the Blue Jays' system. Justin switched to pitching in 2013 and took to social media just this past February... You can see him on Instagram here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

590th Place - Ken Dixon

Card #676

As I'm typing this, the Cleveland Indians are battling the Chicago Cubs in game four of the World Series.  I'm a die hard Orioles fan and feel I have suffered too long since our last World Series victory...but Cleveland and Chicago make me realize 1983 ain't that bad!

(On second thought, no.  1983 is still too long.  It's not Baltimore's fault those other two clubs are even bigger losers.)

Ken Dixon's career is one of baseball's many broken dreams.  I can remember as a kid seeing his 170 strikeouts after the 1986 season and dreaming big.  Alas, the card here to the right is quite cruel, as Dixon's shoulder would betray him after the 1987 season and he never pitched in the big leagues again.

In the next few days Cleveland or Chicago's nightmare drought will end.  For us Orioles fans, though, the unquenchable thirst remains...

UPDATE:
I'm running another blog - my quest to collect the 1982 Topps set in order - one card at a time!  I'd love to get a few more followers on that page.  Hopefully you'll like it!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

591st Place - Luis Quinones

Card #667

It looks like Quinones has a Topps tattoo on his forearm, doesn't it?

Luis Quinones is part of a long line of light-hitting middle infielders, the type of player who littered the bloated Topps sets with 792 cards.  Signed at just 18 years of age out of his native Puerto Rico in 1980, he made a brief appearance in the majors during the 1983 season, but became a more permanent fixture starting in 1986.

Though he played on a few different teams during his career, he is best remembered as a bench player for the World Series winning team from Cincinnati in 1990.  In fact, Lou Piniella made the unlikely move in game six of the NLCS to bring in Quinones and sit Paul O'Neil versus Pirates lefty Zane Smith.  Sure enough, Quinones lined a single to score Ron Oester.  That sent the Reds to the World Seires and the rest was history.

These days you can find Luis as the hitting coach for the Batvia Muckdogs.  If you have any idea which Major League team Batvia falls under you're a better baseball fan than me!