Friday, July 31, 2015

637th Place - Jim Traber

Card #544

Let's see here, Jim Traber...seems like an innocent enough card.  Let's just turn it over and look on the back...

...what the!?!?!

Traber didn't even play in the majors in 1987!  How did he get a card in the 1988 set?  He did smack 21 homers with a .481 slugging percentage in Rochester, but I'm kind of stunned they included him.

He had played for the Orioles for parts of 1984 and 1986, and did spend significant time with them again in 1988 and '89, but that would be it for his MLB experience.

These days you can find Traber talking sports on an Oklahoma radio station.  Traber was a two sport star at Oklahoma State, which is impressive.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

638th Place - Jose Uribe

Card #302

Ugh.  Wasn't really looking forward to writing this one up.  That's because Jose Uribe passed away in a tragic car accident in his native Dominican Republic in 2006.

Some infields really stick out in my mind, and the late 1980's Giants are one of them.  Uribe played shortstop of course, along with Will Clark at first, Robby Thompson at second, and Matt Williams at third.  That's a pretty solid group, and it's no wonder the Giants were so dominant during this time period.  This card was printed after Uribe's best offensive season.  Known mostly for his defense, his .767 OPS in 1987 was 150 points higher than his career average.  I'm assuming the juiced ball from that year probably helped.

It seems Uribe's former teammates were quite devastated to hear of his passing, especially his double play partner Thompson.  Uribe left behind 14 children, some of those from his first wife who passed away delivering their last child together.  Rest in peace.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

639th Place - Chuck Crim

Card #286

Here's something crazy - I'm posting this card on the same date as the player's birthday - happy 54th birthday Chuck Crim!

If I'm not mistaken this is Crim's rookie card.  He was coming off a solid debut for the Brewers, as he pitched in 53 games and tallied 12 saves along with a 3.67 ERA.  He got even better over the next two seasons, leading the American League in appearances both times and recording sub-3.00 ERA's.  In his fifth season in Milwaukee, though, he began to lose his effectiveness.  He hung on for a couple of more years with the Angels and pitched his last season for the Cubs in 1994.

Now you can find the Crim Reaper (not sure if that's his real nickname or one I just made up) serving as the bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Between retirement and his return to baseball, Crim spent time as a professional bass fisherman.  So for the record, Chuck Crim had a fine baseball career, did the fishing thing, and also went to college at the University of Hawaii.  I can't help but think Crim is living the ultimate life of leisure!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

640th Place - Jimy Williams

Card #314

Jimy!  Jimy?!  *waves hands frantically*  Man, I can't do anything to interrupt that stare...

It's been a few cards since our last manager entry.  If you're new to the blog, I have an unfair bias against manager cards because, let's face it, you're not usually excited to find one taking precious space in a pack you bought.

Williams managed over 12 different seasons in his career, and when this card was printed he was coming off his best campaign.  The 1987 Blue Jays finished 96-66 in a very competitive pennant race, but they ended up in second place behind the Tigers by just two games.

Jimy finished his managing career with over 900 wins and an impressive .535 win percentage.  But, like many before and after him, he was fired by all three of his employers in season.  With the Blue Jays, he was canned in 1989 after an atrocious 12-24 start.  Toronto would rebound under Cito Gastin and go on to win the AL East.  In Boston his ouster was rougher.  The 2001 Red Sox were twelve games above .500 but general manager Dan Duquette used a mini-slump to replace Williams with Joe Kerrigan.  Finally, in 2004, Williams got the boot while the Astros were languishing with a 44-44 record.

Williams held several assistant coaching positions afterwards, including being part of Charlie Manuel's staff in Philadelphia, but he's now retired.  Don't worry, though.  The next generation is taking over.  Both of his sons are now managing in the minor leagues, and Jimy seems quite proud of that.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

641st Place - Jeff Stone

Card #154

I've mentioned before that the 1985 Topps set was my first as a kid.  In those 792 cards was a rookie player named Jeff Stone.  When I turned his card to the back, my eyes bugged out!  Here was a guy who hit .362 with 27 stolen bases and six triples in just 51 games!  I was convinced he was the next big thing.  I wasn't the only one.

By the time this card was printed, Stone's career was essentially over.  The root cause for his rapid decline appears to be his manager from 1985, John Felske.  When Stone got into a bit of slump, Felske couldn't help but start tinkering with his swing and filling his head with suggestions on how to improve.  According to former manager Paul Owens, Stone was not the type of player who could handle "thinking" about how to play the game - his talents were of the raw, reactionary type.  Stone became befuddled and confused and never really recovered.

His post-playing career was no easier.  For a time he served as a police officer, but quit after being fired at too many times.  He also suffered serious injuries when somebody ran a light and crashed into his car.  But his worst experience had to be when his wife stabbed him multiple times.  Sometimes life doesn't turn out like you think it would...

Monday, July 6, 2015

642nd Place - Bob Walk

Card #349

With all due respect to one of the best baseball card blogs on the interwebs, I've got Bob Walk coming in at 642nd place!

Bob Walk certainly has a distinctive place in Pirates history, but his MLB career started in 1980 with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Despite giving up six runs in seven innings, he earned a win in the World Series that year.

He was off to Atlanta the next season and after 1982 had trouble sticking in the majors until appearing in 44 games for Pittsburgh in 1986.  The year this card was printed, 1988, was probably his best.  He made his lone All-Star team while pitching a career-high 212 innings.  He also led the league in fewest home runs per innings pitched.

Walk cemented his place in Pittsburgh lore with his unexpected, complete game win in the infamous 1992 NLCS.  Sadly, he was warming up in the bullpen when Sid Bream scored the controversial final run of the series.

Walk has spent the past two decades as a beloved member of the Pirates broadcasting team.  Here's a fun link explaining how he walked away from the game and stepped immediately into the announcing booth.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

643rd Place - Dennis Powell

Card #453

In the long history of the Seattle Mariners uniform designs, I think this color scheme has always been best.  Maybe not the "S" on the hat and the "M" on the jersey, but the blue and gold have a nice, distinct style.  In fact, the 2015 alternate jerseys are very much a throwback to this look.  Hey, if the alternates look better than the regular uniform, make the switch already!

Powell had an unremarkable career in the big leagues, starting off with the Dodgers and then moving to the Mariners in a trade, according to the back of the card, that sent Matt Young to L.A.  As a kid who grew up in the Seattle/Tacoma area in the 1980's, I can't imagine anybody willingly trading for Matt Young.  Powell spent half a season in Milwaukee before finishing out his career back in Seattle.  He was done pitching in the big leagues before he turned 30.

Powell has some brutal personal history, though.  He lost all three of his older brothers in the span of a year in auto accidents near his hometown in Georgia.  These days it looks like you can find him in southern California, joining the Dodgers in community service outings or being the featured speaker at little league parks.  According to his bio on that last link, he is one of a small handful in MLB history to end his career with all of his hits being doubles.

Here's a clip of him sharing his testimony.  It looks like he's dedicated his post-playing career to helping others!

Friday, July 3, 2015

644th Place - Bob Stanley

Card #573

Normally a player of Bob Stanley's tenure and renown would rank higher in a countdown like this, but I find this side profile shot a bit weird.  Thoughts on where this picture was taken?  Cleveland's old Municipal Stadium?

This is somewhat random, but Bob Stanley is regarded as the best player ever born in Maine.  According to his SABR bio, though, he didn't really grow up there.

Bob's nickname, "The Steamer," was partially related to the vacuum company but also a jab because many of the Boston faithful thought he "sucked."  Despite holding a prominent place in Red Sox history, many fans have less than fond memories of Stanley.   Much of that is related to his role in the infamous 1986 World Series collapse.  It was his wild pitch that allowed the Mets to tie the score in game six before Mookie squeaked one under the legs of Bill Buckner.

Stanley doesn't get enough credit for the versatility he provided the Red Sox in all his years of service.  He would bounce from starter to long relief to closer during a season as well as throughout his career with Boston.  He notched a couple of All-Star games and places in the top ten in numerous team records.  Per the SABR article, Stanley seems to be appreciative of the Boston fan base and stayed in the area after retiring.  Does time heal all wounds, Boston fans?  I hope so.