Monday, January 21, 2019

552nd Place - Rene Gonzales

Card #98

I think Topps missed a golden opportunity to let Rene's card number (98) match his jersey (88).  So close!

2019 is off to a rough start related to free time.  Just as I made a resolution to blog more, a strange new phenomenon was introduced to my household.  This month our oldest child transitioned from home schooling to public school.  And with that came...homework!  My wife stays at home to teach and usually had responsibility for it.  But now I sit at the dinner table every night reviewing her practice sheets for the infuriating, mandatory state exam that takes place in a couple of months.  I have two college degrees and took multiple stat classes for a failed PhD. and even I have trouble with some of the math related word problems.

Maybe that says more about me than the math?

Anyway, for the hundredth time, sorry for not getting as many posts up as I'd like!  It's a shame, too, because the quality of the cards on the countdown are really increasing.  As an Orioles fan I love this card, and the posed shot by the batting cage is fabulous.  I only have it ranked this low due to the less popular career of the player.  Despite a career OPS of .634, Gonzales made appearances in 13 big league seasons.  He had staying power!

If you head over to Rene's Baseball-Reference page you'll see he carried that #88 jersey through most of his stops, which is awesome.  For O's fans it always felt jarring since Cal Ripken Jr. wore #8. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

553rd Place - Ed Correa

Card #227

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone!  I hope your 2018 was a good one...bring on 2019.  How much worse could it get???  (Don't answer that...)  My resolution this year is to post a little more regularly on this site.

I keep tinkering with my new scanner - the image of Ed Correa here was generated with it's most extreme settings.  It's definitely more crisp and clear but it also skews a bit grey to me.  I'll keep working on it!

By the time this card hit the store shelves Correa was done with his big league career, which was a real shame.  He was just 22 years old but suffered an arm injury that destroyed his career.  As a rookie in 1986  (and just 20 years old!) he started 32 games and struck out 189 batters in 202 innings.  Perhaps that early workload contributed to his arm issues?  What a disappointing end to a promising future.

Does anybody want to play "guess the Ranger in the background"???  The two most likely candidates, based on the roster and physical characteristics, are Curtis Wilkerson and Jerry Browne.  My gut tells me it's Browne.  Any other guesses?

Friday, December 21, 2018

554th Place - Wayne Tolleson

Card #411

I always think of Wayne Tolleson as the bespectacled middle-infielder of the mid-80's Texas Rangers teams.  The classic good glove, light-hitting type guy that most teams in that decade carried.  He actually played as many seasons on the Yankees (five) as he did with the Rangers, though not quite as frequently or successfully.

I remember being very excited when his son, Steve, joined the Orioles for a brief time in 2012.  I love multi-generational baseball families.  When the Orioles called him up I thought, "Is that Wayne's kid?"  Sure enough, it was!

This isn't a bad looking card, I like the catcher creeping into the frame.  The only drawback might be the security guard or ground crew member hiding between Tolleson's legs in the background. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

555th Place - Steve Lake

Card #208

I love to look at the back of baseball cards, but that's almost always to scan the stats.  I love stats on baseball cards.  I love players with long careers that force the print to become nearly impossible to read (don't get me started on the modern Topps set truncating that...).

But I often forget to read the other stuff.  I'm glad I did with Steve Lake's card, because in early 1988, according to his card back, he claimed his home as Glendale, Arizona...which is exactly where I was born!

More specifically, I was born on Luke Air Force Base, back in the mid-70's.  My dad was a pilot in the Air Force, though at that time, he was sitting in the back seat of F-4's.  In fact, he was in the same squadron as "Sully" Sullenberger, the famed air line pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson river...which is a body of water...much like the last name of Steve Lake!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

556th Place - Tom Nieto

Card #317

I once wrote a rap inspired by Tom Nieto.

This is a true story.

You may or may not be aware of another blog I operate that details a reenactment of the 1984 baseball season using the old tabletop game Statis Pro Baseball.  After I play a couple of games I post a quick recap of the exciting aspects of the matches.

Anyway, as it so happens, Tom Nieto was the "player of the game" one time, and his last name reminded me of a line from Young M.C.'s "Bust a Move."  Hence, I wrote the recap around that particular verse.  You can embarrass me by reading it here.

Nieto came to the Twins with Jeff Reardon in 1987, the same year the Twinkies won it all.  From my research, though, it doesn't look like Nieto was on the World Series roster.  I think Sal Butera was backing up Tim Laudner at that point.  Nieto bounced between the minors and the majors through the 1990 season, and has had managing stints throughout the minors since then, though I couldn't find anything after 2013.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

557th Place - Bob Melvin

Card #41

From my blog to yours...Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm thankful for 1988 Topps, an underrated set in my opinion. 

I'm less thankful for my inability to figure out my new scanner.  Bob Melvin here doesn't look nearly as crisp as the actual card does when I hold it in my hand.  The colors definitely aren't as "warm" as the real cardboard, where you can practically feel the sunshine glowing from the card.

When this card was printed Melvin had finished year three of a ten year career as a mostly platoon or backup catcher in the majors.  1988 would be his last year in San Fransisco before going to the Baltimore Orioles.  I'm a huge O's fan and have zero recollection of his time in Baltimore which I'm sure says more about me than Melvin.

Melvin, of course, has made a much bigger name for himself as a manager.  He just completed his eighth season at the helm of the Oakland Athletics.  In fact, he won manager of the year in 2018 for their impressive 97-65 season.  That marked the third manager of the year award for Melvin, and we might have to start thinking of him as a future Hall of Famer...

Did you know Baseball-Reference has manager pages in addition to player pages?  I didn't!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

558th Place - Astros Leaders

Card #291

New card type alert!!!

Yes, this is the first "team leaders" card featured on the countdown.  Generally speaking, I like these kind of cards.  Modern Topps sets use these kind of shots for checklist cards instead of season reviews like the 1988 set.  The cheesy smokey frame technique felt high tech in the 80's.

On the front you have outfielders Kevin Bass and Billy Hatcher.  There's some cool symmetry happening here with the mirrored ear flaps on the helmets and the bats resting on opposite shoulders.  Bass had one of the best mustache-smile combos of the decade while Hatcher is keeping it cool.

I just don't think they were the Astros "leaders", though I guess it depends on what you define as a leader.  The back of the card features the statistical leaders on both offense and the mound.  Hatcher is listed three times (runs, stolen bases, and average) while Bass is listed just once (triples).  But if you like stats, Bass and Hatcher were just sixth and seventh on the team in WAR according to Baseball-Reference.  The top two leaders were Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan.  Though Ryan only had an 8-16 record, he led the league in strikeouts and ERA.  Bill Doran was the top hitter on the team, Glenn Davis the top slugger, and all-time Houston great Jose Cruz was still on the team.

None of this is meant as a knock on Bass and Hatcher, who both had solid campaigns in 1987.  But wouldn't a pic of Ryan and Cruz look so much cooler?