Thursday, September 29, 2016

593rd Place - Len Matuszek

Card #92

It's a head-scratcher that Matuszek even got a card in this set.  He only had 15 at-bats in 1987 and didn't make it to the summer months on the Dodger roster before he was out of baseball for good.

He came to L.A. via trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, who received near-Hall of Famer Al Oliver in return. Raise your hand if you remember the 35 games Al Oliver played on the Dodgers in 1985.  If you did, I don't believe you!  The time between Steve Garvey and Eddie Murray at first base on the Dodgers was full of stopgap guys like Matuszek.  I bet Garvey was secretly loving every depressing minute of it.

Matuszek played baseball and basketball for the University of Toledo during his undergrad days, and has spent some of his post-baseball time helping out adults with special needs.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

594th Place - Sammy Stewart

Card #701

This is actually Stewart's last card, as he didn't pitch in 1988.  Maybe it's just me, but there's something about the lighting and pose that makes this look like an old tobacco card.

Stewart is best known as the long reliever for the Baltimore Orioles, playing on their World Series teams in 1979 and 1983.  When you look at the back of his card it's amazing to see the innings he racked up.  Between 1979 and 1983 he pitched no fewer than 112.  You just don't see that in today's game.

You might also know Stewart for his infamous crack cocaine arrests and prison stint.  It appears he came out of jail a better person.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

595th Place - Tom Lawless

Card #183

Oh man, there's so much to love about this card, even though the man himself was, let's be honest, not exactly major league material.

Exhibit A:  one of the cheesiest smiles you'll ever see on a baseball card.

Exhibit B:  his name sounds like he should be a professional wrestler, not a ballplayer.

Exhibit C:  the mesh jersey.  The jersey of little leagues in the 1980's.  Classy.

Exhibit D:  mismatched batting gloves.

Exhibit E:  the chain link fence and creepy stranger in the background.

Exhibit F:  that mustache!

Exhibit G:  batting donut!!!

And to top it all did a guy who hit .080 in 25 at-bats during the 1987 season even get a card? Maybe because of his second ever home run in the majors?

I barely have him cracking the top 600 cards in the set, but maybe he deserves to be in the top 60...?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

596th Place - Jim Walewander

Card #106

Today you're gonna get to play
Trammell will throw it back to you
By now you should've somehow
Realized you weren't Sweet Lou
I don't think Sparky Anderson
Feels the way I do about you now

Bad beats, the word is on the street
That at the plate you're an easy out
I'm sure you'd like to get ball four
But "Strike three!" the ump will shout
I don't believe Ernie Harwell
Feels the way I do about you now

And all the roads in the minors are winding
And all the lights in Tiger Stadium blinding
There are many things Gibby and Morris
Would like to say to you
About their scowls

Because maybe
A utility infielder will save me
And after all
You're my Wanderwale...

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 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

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...