Friday, August 19, 2016

597th Place - Sal Butera

Card #772

Ted Williams, who many would argue is the best pure hitter in the history of baseball, never won a World Series. Sal Butera, who scratched out part time play over nine seasons and retired with a -1.1 WAR, has a ring.

I love baseball.

At nearly 35 years of age Butera was traded by the Reds to the Twins during the 1987 season.  He stuck with the team as the backup catcher for the rest of the season and managed to appear in both the playoffs and World Series, even going two for three in his start against the Tigers!

I would love to know more about Butera's wristbands in this picture.  A quick Google search yielded zero clues. Any Twins fans out there who can help me out?

Sal is the proud father of Royals catcher Drew Butera. The two even faced off against each other in the 2015 playoffs, as Sal was a coach on the Toronto Blue Jays staff.  While I'm sure Sal was disappointed Toronto didn't win, I'll bet he wasn't sulking too much knowing his son was moving on...to win a World Series of his own!

So for those keeping score at home:  Sal and Drew Butera, two rings.  Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Sutton, Craig Biggio, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Carlton Fisk, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Mike Piazza, Juan Marichal, Robin Roberts, Robin Yount, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Gwynn, and Ty Cobb...zero.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

598th Place - Tim Hulett

Card #158

If you've ever wondered what "league average" looks like, that might be Tim Hulett.  In twelve big league seasons he totaled 6.7 WAR, meaning he was worth about half a win per season.

The irony of this card is that in 1988 he wasn't in the majors.  He wasn't even in Triple A, instead playing in Double A Indianapolis and not performing particularly well.  But in 1989 he was in Rochester for the Orioles, and made it back to the bigs, where he stuck with Baltimore through the first half of the 90's as their utility infielder.  I'm a big Orioles fan but only have the vaguest of memories of that.  Granted, I've tried to block most of those years from memory...

On a sad note, in 1992 one of his young sons was struck and killed in an automobile accident.  The Orioles had to put him on the 15 day disabled list and that experience was one of the reasons the current day bereavement list now exists.

Hulett currently serves as the manager of the Spokane Indians in the Texas Rangers organization.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

599th Place - Brad Arnsberg

Card #159

That shadow across Arnsberg's face gives off a real "Phantom of the Opera" vibe.  Look at your face in the mirror, Brad is there, inside...

Enough musical theater gags, let's get to Arnsberg.  He was a tall throwing righty out of the Pacific Northwest with a cup of coffee in New York in both 1986 and 1987.  But when you check out his Baseball Reference page for 1988, the year this card hit store shelves, there's only a void.  A little internet sleuthing led me to this old newspaper article. Arnsberg had a Tommy John-esque surgical procedure that had him out of baseball for over a year.  He would reemerge with the Rangers, having come over as the infamous "player to be named later" in the deal that landed Don Slaught in the Big Apple.

Brad appeared in a handful of games with Texas in 1989, but it would be the 1990 season where he saw his greatest success.  As a full time reliever he logged 53 games and a nifty 2.15 ERA.  His biggest professional highlight might be the fact he saved Nolan Ryan's 300th career victory...despite the final score being 11-3!  He was already in the game when the Rangers scored six runs in the top of the ninth to give Nolan his milestone.

I suspect those of you familiar with Brad's name know him more from his long career as a major league pitching coach, and if I'm not mistaken, he currently serves as the rehabilitation coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  His son Kyle has spent time as the Yankees bullpen catcher, though I don't think he's still in that role...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

600th Place - Luis Polonia

Card #238

Hello friends - I'm back to blogging.  The most annoying thing about doing an in-town move is that it requires all the same steps as moving across the country.  You have to slowly pack everything, load it onto trucks and vans, and then slowly unpack all of it and find a place for everything. But we're just about settled in and I'm thankful for that.

I did some housekeeping for the blog too!  First, you might notice a new font.  In the last couple of months I realized I was using the same one as Night Owl.  It was completely unintentional but I didn't want to look like a poser.  Second, I did something I should have before I made my first post!  I hadn't verified all 792 cards were in my factory set box.  In the past I've discovered a card or two missing.  Rest easy, loyal readers, all are accounted for.  I also spent some time reordering which cards will come next on the countdown.

So that brings us to the card I ranked #600 on the list, a milestone number to be sure.  And I'll be honest, I actually really like the look of it, and on top of that, it's Luis Polonia's rookie card.  But Polonia falls into the same category as Mel Hall - somebody whose personal issues should have made him appear closer to the bottom of these rankings.

Back in 1989 Polonia was convicted of sleeping with a minor.  I remember when my dad and I would see him on TV or walking up to the plate at a ballgame we would say things like, "Luis 'do you have any daughters?' Polonia," or, "Luis 'how old are you?' Polonia."  We would kind of laugh, but in retrospect...what a creep!  I'm a late bloomer when it comes to being a feminist, but having three daughters has helped me realize what a terrible place men often make the world for women.  We weren't as enlightened back then, but if that happened now it's hard to imagine a team willing to endure the PR nightmare that would come by still employing him.

Polonia has the distinction of being scouted and signed to the A's out of the Dominican Republic by Juan Marichal.  My dad is a die-hard Dodgers fan and thinks Marichal should still be in prison for what he did to John Roseboro.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

601st Place - Tom O'Malley

Card #77

I want to break from my normal format and draw attention to a situation many of you are probably aware of, but just in case you aren't, here you go...

A few years ago the very first baseball card blog I found on the interwebs was Kevin over on "Orioles Card 'O' the Day."  I'm an Orioles fan too, and somehow stumbled onto his site.  It is an AWESOME baseball card blog.  And Kevin was my "gateway drug" to other sites.  It's because of Kevin I know that night owls aren't just birds, that Bob walks the plank, that there's something special about plays at the plate, and he's the reason the 1988 Topps Tim Wallach All-Star card will be ranked so high on this countdown.  In other words, I know all of you and the tremendous world of baseball card blogs because of Kevin.

Again, most of you are aware, but Kevin and his wife are going through a heck of a situation right now.  They're expecting their first child together all while his wife is battling cancer.  As a husband and father of three I can't imagine my wife having cancer, let alone while she's with child.  Their insurance isn't the greatest when it comes to covering the expenses of all this, so I wanted to dedicate this Tom O'Malley entry as a link to their GoFundMe page.  (And Tom O'Malley is a former Oriole so it's kind of related...right?)  Maybe we can all skip a trip to the card aisle this week and help Kevin instead?

Anyway - thank you Kevin for doing what you do, and thank you everyone else for taking the time to visit this site.  My family is moving into a new house in the next couple of weeks so I have to pack my cards for now.  I'll get back to posting once we've finished relocating.  God bless you all!




Saturday, June 4, 2016

602nd Place - Ted Power

Card #236

"I've got the power!!!"

If that wasn't Ted Power's entrance music starting in 1990, what a wasted opportunity...

By the time this card came out Ted Power was no longer a Red.  He was traded to the Royals with Kurt Stillwell for Danny Jackson.  Jackson would become a prominent member of the 1990 World Series winning rotation for Cincinnati, so that worked out better for the Reds than it did Power.

Power rose through the loaded Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system as a starting pitcher but got converted to a reliever once he reached the majors.  It took a couple of years to adjust, but he got the hang of it.  In 1984 he led the NL in games and had a 2.82 ERA and then in 1985 he was used more as a closer, notching 27 saves.

But in 1987, the most recent year on the back of this card, he was suddenly a starting pitcher again.  He went 10-13 with a 4.50 ERA and split time as a starter and reliever in 1988 for the Royals and Tigers.

Power has the unusual distinction of starting a game in the post season while only appearing as a reliever during the regular season.  Power bounced around until his career ended after the 1993 season.  There's a great interview with him here highlighting his career and, specifically, his time with the Cleveland Indians.

I like Ted Power, but this card is kind of "meh" to me.

Monday, May 30, 2016

603rd Place - Rafael Santana

Card #233

By the time this card came out Santana was still playing in New York...just across town in the Bronx.  He played the 1988 season for the Yankees but missed all of 1989 due to an elbow injury.  He caught on with the Indians to start the 1990 season but was released just a few weeks into the year and called it a career.

But that's not what you remember Santana for.  No, you probably recall him as the starting shortstop for the 1986 World Series winning New York Mets.  He played in all seven games and batted .250, which is about all the Mets could have expected from him.  He was known for his glove, finishing in the top three in fielding percentage in the National League between 1985 and 1987.

The New York Daily News caught up with him last year and Santana has done well for himself post-retirement.  He works for the Chicago White Sox as the head of player development in his native Dominican Republic.  His son, Alexander, plays in the minor leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This isn't a bad looking card, but my copy is blurry, which I'm not sure if it that's a printing press issue or how all of his cards looked in this set.