Saturday, December 13, 2014

659th and 658th Place - Dave Schmidt and Eric Bell

Card #214 and #383

Does this look familiar to you?

It should.

It wasn't uncommon for Topps to use the same background for multiple cards (click on the Indians link, for example), but at least there are typically pine trees or a baseball field in the background.  My poor Orioles got this crappy wall. 

Not cool.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

660th Place - Glenn Hoffman

Card #202

This card presents a few interesting nuggets, the first of which is the fact it wasn't an airbrushed card.  Hoffman came to the Dodgers in the middle of the 1987 season, but it wasn't like he was a superstar player.  He had fallen out of favor in Boston many years ago, despite a brief resurgence in 1985.

On the knob of the bat you see a scratched out number replaced with "37."  That was his jersey number with Los Angeles - it makes me wonder if he brought his bats with him from the Red Sox.

You also see the "Mac" patch.  It was in honor of former coach Don McMahon.  McMahon was a former All-Star and two-time world champion who suffered a heart-attack while pitching batting practice for the Dodgers on July 22.  He would die hours later.

Hoffman spent the 1988 season, the year this card was printed, back in Triple-A for the Red Sox.  He had another cup of coffee with the Angels the following year but never again appeared in the a player.  He took over as interim manager for the Dodgers in 1998 when Los Angeles fired Bill Russell during the season.  Hoffman would serve as a coach the next year and is still a coach in the bigs, though he now serves for Bud Black over in San Diego.

And it's San Diego that brings us to Glenn's most interesting baseball factoid.  Hoffman is the big brother of Trevor Hoffman, the future Hall of Fame reliever who spent most of his career with the Padres. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

661st Place - Allan Anderson

Card #101

I did a double-take when I was looking at Anderson's Baseball Reference page, but sure enough, my eyes didn't deceive me.  In 1988, the year this card was printed, he led the league in ERA (2.45), ERA+ (166), and walks per nine innings pitched (1.6). 

Anderson has to be one of the most obscure ERA leaders in MLB history.  The season came out of left field, too.  In 1986 he pitched 21 games for Minnesota and recorded a 5.55 ERA.  His cup of coffee in 1987, just four games, produced a ghoulish 10.95 mark.  His season at AAA that year was terrible too.

Per this article, it appears his 1988 success came from an improved change-up.  The story further notes, though, that Anderson's minuscule strikeout rates were an indicator he couldn't sustain his performance.  Anderson never did replicate his 1988 season, though he did lead the league in walks per nine innings again in 1990.  1991 was his final season, but he didn't appear in the post season for the Twins.

These days you can find Allan in his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, where he would be happy to give you pitching instruction at the Field of Dreams Practice Facility.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

662nd Place - Wes Gardner

Card #189

Gardner came over to the Red Sox with Calvin Schiraldi in the Bob Ojeda trade.  Gardner only pitched one inning for Boston in 1986, but Ojeda and Schiraldi were key players for the opposing World Series teams.

When you check the back of Gardner's baseball card, he has Benton, Arkansas, listed as his place of birth and home.  It looks like he retired there to, according to this local story which reflects on his playing career.  The article mentions he even got a chance to coach Cliff Lee in American Legion ball.

One thing not mentioned?  The night he was arrested for hitting his wife.  He was Ray Rice before Ray Rice.  I heard someone say recently (I think it was Buck Showalter) that you don't want to be judged forever by your worst mistake. 

Sometimes it's hard not to judge.

Friday, September 26, 2014

663rd Place - Dave Engle

Card #196

When you check out Dave's Baseball Reference page, it lists Tom Brunansky as his brother-in-law.  Did Tom marry his sister, or did Dave marry Tom's sister?  That has to make for some awkward lockeroom dynamics...

I don't recall this from my youth, but apparently Dave suffered from the same mental block that impacted folks like Mackey Sasser and Steve Sax when throwing.  Like Sasser, Engle's main issue was getting the ball back to the pitcher.  It effectively ended his time as a starter.  Relegated to the never-glamorous backup catcher role, Engle bounced around through the 1989 season, ending his career on the Brewers. 

Engle did manage an All-Star game team in his career (1984), though he didn't get into the game.  The previous link mentioned he scouts for the Orioles now, but I couldn't find him listed...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

664th Place - Jeff Robinson

Card #449

The Thinker - by Auguste Rodin?  Maybe this is Topps showing off their more artistic side...

This is Jeff Robinson's rookie card.  No, not THAT Jeff Robinson.  This Jeff Robinson.  It's always confusing when you have two players in the league at the same time with the same name. 

Robinson debuted in 1987 during the Tigers' playoff push.  I'm not quite sure how Robinson made their roster and managed to start 21 games that year.  His minor league record wasn't memorable.  He pitched quite well in 1988 but never again, really, though he lasted through 1992.

I think this link is Jeff.  I suspect this is Jeff too.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

665th Place - Calvin Schiraldi

Card #599

My apologies to any Sox fans who just threw something at their computer screen.  Rightly or wrongly, Schiraldi is a dirty word for many in New England.  He was a key culprit in the 1986 World Series collapse.  Despite flashes of brilliance early in his career, Schiraldi would retire by the age of 29.

I'm not here to pick scabs with Boston fans, though.  This card is just plain weird looking.  It's hard to tell by the angle, but I think he's warming up on a bullpen mound during spring training.  His face and body language don't express any sort of enthusiasm for it.  I'm also puzzled by the white fabric on the underside of his throwing arm.  What is that? 

Calvin's son is now a starter at his alma mater, the University of Texas.  Calvin is actually a UT Hall of Famer.  If I'm not mistaken Calvin has been coaching at a high school in Austin since his playing days ended.