Sunday, June 28, 2015

645th Place - Ken Howell

Card #149

For some reason I have strong memories about Ken Howell.  He started pitching the same year I started collecting baseball cards.  I was just as obsessed with learning about random bullpen guys as I was collecting all-stars.  Perhaps he left an impression on me because his hair and mustache reminded me of my favorite player, Eddie Murray?

Speaking of Eddie...Howell went to the Orioles after the 1988 season in the trade that brought Murray to the Dodgers.  He was then flipped to the Phillies for Phil Bradley.  Unfortunately for Howell, he missed out on most of the miracle season for the Dodgers in '88, and wasn't on their post season roster.

Howell had a pretty good year as a starter in 1989 for the Phillies, but injuries in 1990 insured he would never play in the majors again.  You can find Howell back on the Dodgers these days, though, as an assistant pitching coach.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

646th Place - Dave Meads

Card #199

I'm 99% sure it's just an optical illusion, but it looks like Dave Meads' right eyebrow extends past his face in this photograph.  There are some folks already out there who are critical of this facial feature, so I don't want to seem like I'm piling on.

I don't think we've talked yet about the "3D" effect Topps was going for in the 1988 set.  This Meads card is a better demonstration of it than most of the previous entries.  The players are meant to exist between the name banner in the foreground and the team name in the background.  Meads' left hand obscures the "s" in "Astros" as a result.  27 years later this looks kind of cheesy, but back in 1988 this was some pretty advanced photo manipulation.

Dave Meads had a rough year in 1987, appearing in 45 games but posting an ugly 5.55 ERA.  He would see better success in 1988, but an arm injury in 1989 would essentially end his career.

Any guesses as to who the Astro is in the background?  Ken Caminiti?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

647th Place - Donnie Hill

Card #132

The other Donnie Baseball.

Talk about your quintessential mid-to-late eighties baseball look...Mr. Hill has it all.  Over-sized glasses, long hair, scruffy face, thin chain.  Donnie is ready to play!

Hill came to the White Sox from the A's, in a trade that sent Gene Nelson to Oakland.  Nelson would become a key member of the Oakland bullpen during their three straight World Series appearances.

According to Wikipedia, Donnie was a member of the Arizona State University team that won the college world series in 1981.  That same link claims Donnie is now a golf pro at Strawberry Farms Golf Course in Orange County. When you poke around the site you learn Doug DeCinces designed the course. Hill now goes by "Don," if you'd like to arrange a lesson with him.

Monday, June 15, 2015

648th Place - Mark Davidson

Card #19

Davidson's batting helmet reminds me of the good old days of Little League.  I don't know if this was your experience, but my coaches tended to carry our equipment in over-sized duffel bags, usually of the army green variety.  Each practice or game would start with the unceremonious dumping of the bag.  As the contents spilled, there were always five or six batting helmets that would hit the dusty ground and spin.  It's funny to think back at the variety of helmets it contained.  They always had two ear flaps, unlike Davidson's here.  One was guaranteed to be an "ear burner" - too tight to fit on your head and difficult to take off once it was on.  This was inevitably the hard hat you were wearing when a teammate thought it would be funny to try and steal it off your head.  On the opposite end of the spectrum was the "army helmet."  The padding to keep it secure on your head had long since disintegrated, giving it no chance of staying straight on your noggin or  protecting it if you got hit.  The only time you would get caught dead wearing it was if you were in the on-deck circle with the bases loaded and the batter was wearing the last good one.  My favorite player was Eddie Murray, and he tended to wear his ball cap underneath the helmet.  If it was good enough for Eddie, it was surely good enough for me.  I almost always had my hat on underneath.  I think my mom supported this approach too, because I'm fairly certain she lived in a constant fear of my brother and I catching lice from other kids.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

649th Place - Steve Jeltz

Card #126

Two things jump out on the back of Steve Jeltz's baseball card.  First, he was born in Paris, France.  He's one of only a handful of French-born players in MLB history.  Second, he claimed his home as Lawrence, Kansas.  It makes a lot more sense when you learn he played ball at the University of Kansas.  Rock, chalk, jheri curl!  According to Facebook, he still lives and works near there.

Jeltz has a bit of a tongue-in-cheek, cult following.  MLB even did a feature on him recently.  Jeltz was an all glove, no stick shortstop during his tenure in the bigs.  Heading into 1988 he was carrying a lifetime slugging percentage of .268, which you just don't see in this day and age like you did back in the eighties.  Perhaps the ultimate testament to his skills, or lack thereof, is his appearance in the Urban Dictionary.

The card itself is fairly boring, with his Hefty bag warm-up jersey creating a blob of maroon over half the card.  It almost causes you to overlook the matching batting gloves.  He does rock that flap-less batting helmet, though.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

650th Place - Joe Hesketh

Card #371

I've always found faux pitching motion or hitting shots a bit goofy in baseball card pictures.  Even Joe Hesketh is smirking a bit about them.

Hesketh had a solid big league career.  As a rookie pitcher in 1985 he finished eighth in Rookie of the Year balloting.  But a disastrous year in 1986 move him out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen for Montreal.  He had a couple of good seasons in that role but eventually was released and ended up in Boston.  The Red Sox used him as a starter again, where he had mixed success.  He did lead the league in win-loss percentage in 1991, though, if you're into that kind of thing.

You can find some random things out on the web about Hesketh, including his nickname of "fungo."  I also tracked down this YouTube video, where Hesketh offers some pitching instruction.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

651st Place - Junior Ortiz

Card #274

As a kid I always thought Junior Ortiz was the ultimate backup catcher.  Solid defense, could hit for average...basically, he wasn't going to embarrass you back there.  I also remember thinking how unfair it was that teams with Tony Pena and Brian Harper could also be blessed with a second string catcher as talented as Ortiz.

After coming up through the Pirates' system he moonlighted with the Mets for a couple of seasons. But Pittsburgh got him back during the minor league draft at the end of 1984.

Ortiz picked up a World Series ring as a member of the 1991 Minnesota Twins, even collecting a hit during the series.

This isn't a bad looking card, the batting cage in the background is a nice touch.  It looks like one of his teammates just put one over the fence if his far away gaze is to be trusted...