Thursday, February 4, 2016

612th Place - Bryn Smith

Card #161

It took every ounce of willpower in my body not to type an "a" between the "y" and "n" in Bryn's name.  It just ain't a natural moniker!

As a kid I was convinced Bryn was older than he really was.  That beard of his easily adds 20 years to his perceived age.  If I told you he was 52 in this picture, wouldn't you believe me?

On the back of the card it mentions that way back in 1977 Smith and Rudy May came to the Expos in exchange for Don Stanhouse, Joe Kerrigan, and "Gary Steven Roenicke."  Why on earth did they add Roenicke's middle name?  That's one of those trades that worked out well for both teams, as Smith became a rotation stalwart throughout the 1980's and Roenicke was a longtime platoon guy who helped the O's to the 1983 World Series victory.

This classic spring training shot sure makes me miss the Expos.  Their home uniforms were so sharp.  A stark contrast to the ugly purple and black he would wear in the Colorado Rockies inaugural season, which was Smith's last.  Before he left the majors, though, he recorded the first victory in the Rockies franchise history. By the time he pitched his last game his ERA had ballooned to over 8.  He was one of the very first sacrificial lambs offered up to Coors Field, though far from the last.

Monday, February 1, 2016

613th Place - Paul Noce

Card #542

Hey, here's a sharp looking card, with Paul Noce hanging out in the beautiful Wrigley Field, somewhere near the on-deck circle.  The grass, stands, and uniform are elegantly highlighted by the red, white, and blue Topps bestowed upon the Chicago cards in this set.

Every time I see this card I assume Noce is a backup catcher, but am always surprised to see he is a utility infielder.  Life isn't easy when Ryne Sandberg and Shawon Dunston are ahead of you on the depth chart.

I've got a mission for anyone brave enough to find the answers:  what's that brand of that batting glove?  It appears to be "125" with a degree symbol in a red circle. Is this our first non-Franklin glove?

Noce is an obscure ballplayer, as he was back in the minors when this card was printed.  In fact, he only ever appeared in one more major league game, when he replaced Ron Oester in the lineup and recorded a hit in his one and only at-bat.  Here's a nice write-up of his playing days, including his involvement in the infamous Andre Dawson bean ball to the face.  I didn't know it at the time, but Noce spent 20 years as the head baseball coach at Hillsdale College, which is only a 20 minute drive from my hometown.  Per his LinkedIn page, it looks like he's doing some scouting now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

614th Place - Rod Booker

Card #483

I've admittedly not payed a lot of attention to the backs of these cards, but perhaps I should, because this is what's written on the flip side of Booker's cardboard:
Rod is related to Hall-of Famer Jackie Robinson
 Say what!?!

According to this Phillies fan site, Booker's wife was a distant cousin of Robinson.  Does it still count if it's by marriage?  It does if you're Rod's son!

Rod Booker was drafted in 1980 in the 4th round by the Minnesota twins, but didn't make it to the big leagues until 1987.  He got into 44 games, but only had 47 at-bats, so it looks like he was mostly pinch-hitting and occasionally spelling Tom Herr and Ozzie Smith.  Booker got cups of coffee in St. Louis again in 1988 and 1989 but didn't stick for a whole season until 1990, when he was playing for Philadelphia.  He didn't survive the 1991 season, though, and never again reached the majors.

That being said...I actually really like this card!  For starters, you've got Booker waiting in line behind the batting cage with Vince Coleman in front of him.  But its Booker's expression that wins the day.  Maybe Coleman passed gas?  It's a candid moment captured by Topps forever.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

615th Place - Ed Nunez

Card #258

Happy, uh, New Year?  Is this really my first 2016 post? Slacker!

I'm going to slap on the "product placement" label for that perfectly placed Wilson brand and glove name, a Proselect model.  Topps shortened up Nunez's moniker from "Edwin" to "Ed" throughout his career, despite Score, Fleer, and Donruss doing the opposite.  Maybe they knew him better?

Nunez was a durable and longtime reliever in the bigs, lasting thirteen seasons.  According to Wikipedia, he was the youngest player in the American League in the 1982 and 1983 seasons.  Though he bounced around to a few teams, his longest tenure was with Seattle, who he would be traded away from in 1988 to join the New York Mets in their playoffs push.  I found this fun link, which is especially awesome if you lived in the Seattle area like I did in the mid-80's.

Monday, December 28, 2015

616th Place - Keith Miller

Card #382

If you looked up "scrappy utility infielder" in a baseball dictionary, this might be the picture you see.

Miller, a Michigan native, was a second round pick by the New York Yankees in 1984.  He eventually had that contract voided and signed with the Mets organization for the 1985 season.  That sentence serves as foreshadowing for two paragraphs from now...

Miller progressed through the New York minor league system until he reached Tidewater in 1987.  Despite not having particularly strong stats there, he was called up to the big club in June and hit, in part time action, like he was shot out of a cannon.  His batting average was .373 and his slugging percentage an eye-popping .491.  He also added eight stolen bases in just 25 games.

He regressed to the backup mean in his next couple of years riding the pine for New York.  His best seasons came in 1991 for the Mets and 1992 for the Royals, when he was getting more regular playing time and hitting in the .280's with a .350 OBP.  A series of injuries, though, would have him out of baseball a couple of seasons later.

What direction did Miller go in his post-playing days?  He became a sports agent.  As he explained in a Daily News article from a few years back, he realized not having an agent when he was drafted led to the Yankees taking advantage of him in the signing process.  He enjoys representing players in the sport he loves.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

617th Place - Bob Sebra

Card #93

This is a nice shot of Sebra delivering the ball to home plate.  The right hand extending in front of the "Expos" name is a nice touch too.  The home uniform and bright sun make it a dead giveaway that we're looking at a spring training game.  I'm dying to know who that is standing behind second base.  Vance Law?  Casey Candaele?

Sebra, who the Expos got from the Rangers in exchange for Pete Incaviglia, started 27 games for Montreal in 1987 and struck out 156 batters, but he wasn't particularly effective.  He was out of the big leagues by 1990, but in a humorous twist of fate, he is still an "outlaw."  Sebra's last pitch hit Tracy Jones and caused a benches-clearing brawl. Sebra was tagged with a five game suspension but never made it back to the big leagues to serve it.  If you're going down, you might as well go down swinging!

Sebra's son heard the siren call of baseball as well.  After a college career at Jacksonville State, he played this past season in the Angels' minor league system.  If you would like to follow him on Twitter, you can request it here...

Monday, December 21, 2015

618th Place - Darrel Akerfelds

Card #82

This is a sharp looking card, I like how the rainbow effect of the stadium seats plays over Akerfeld's shoulders.

Akerfelds was a Colorado kid, born in Denver and playing his high school ball with Columbine.  He even played some football at Arkansas.  He was originally drafted in the ninth round of the 1980 draft, but declined and eventually went seventh overall in the 1983 draft, picked by the Mariners.  He went to Oakland with Bill Caudill in a trade for Bob Kearney and David Beard and then came to Cleveland for Tony Bernazard.

If you look on the back of his card you can see he replicated the same ERA in two consecutive seasons.  Unfortunately, it was a 6.75.  Akerfelds bounced around the big leagues for five seasons, having his best success out of the bullpen for Philadelphia in 1990.  In fact, he didn't play in the majors the year this card was printed.

He was more successful after his playing days, serving as the long time bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres until his tragic death from pancreatic cancer in 2012.