Saturday, November 28, 2015

621st Place - Billy Bean

Card #267

No, this isn't that Billy Beane.

And chances are, you aren't familiar with his brief career in the big leagues, which was spent mostly as a strong Triple A player who could never quite adjust to big league pitching.

No, you've most likely heard of Bean due to his public reveal in 1999 as being gay, which at the time made him the only living current or former professional baseball player to identify as such.  You can head to his website to find out more about that experience, which includes an autobiography you can purchase.

In 2014 Major League Baseball named Bean the first ever "Ambassador of Inclusion."

I think this is a good looking card.  The Tigers fared well in the 1988 design, and batting cage shots in old Tiger Stadium are always good for a few bonus points.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

622nd Place - Todd Benzinger

Card #96

Happy Thanksgiving, blog readers!

Todd Benzinger took a seven year trip through the minor leagues to make his rookie debut for the Red Sox in 1987. I remember thinking as a kid that he was going to be the next Will Clark/Mark Grace type player.  He never reached that level of fame, but he certainly had some memorable impact during his career.

Benzinger provided magical moments during Boston's playoff turnaround in the 1988 season.  And of course this year marked the 25th anniversary of the Cincinnati Reds World Series sweep of the Oakland Athletics in 1990.  Benzinger, playing first base, caught the last out of the game and received the bobblehead treatment during the 2015 season.  I'll let you decide if the resemblance is accurate or not.

During his post playing days Todd has coached girls high school basketball as well as managing in the minors.  It was during that stint he met his new wife, which you can read all about on the newlyweds' registration site.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

623rd Place - Frank DiPino

Card #211

I've come to the realization that the cards I'm posting now aren't terrible.  Somewhere in the last couple of dozen posts I've moved from "active dislike" to "this ain't bad, all things considered..."  This Frank DiPino card certainly qualifies under the latter opinion.  Frank has a nice smile, and there's something endearing about the cinder block wall he's standing in front of.  It helps the red, white, and blue design pop even more.

One thing I noticed on this card is the lowercase "i" in DiPino's last name.  It makes for a funky look when your chosen font is in all-caps.

DiPino had a good career in the bigs, with cups of coffee in 1981 and 1982 before sticking for good with the Astros in 1983 and even finishing sixth in rookie of the year voting.  He became a journeyman lefty out of the bullpen, usually with some success.  His last year in the majors was 1993.

You can find him these days in his native Syracuse, teaching at the Perfect Practice baseball facility.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

624th Place - Stan Jefferson

Card #223

If we are to believe Jefferson's Wikipedia page, his life is full of unexpected plot twists, taking him from prospect to villain, and then to hero.

Jefferson was a first round pick of the New York Mets, twentieth overall, in the 1983 draft.  The 1983 draft is one of the weaker draft classes in MLB history with the exception of one particular player:  Roger Clemens.  And when did Clemens get drafted by the Red Sox?  19th.  I wonder if the Mets had Jefferson rated above or below Clemens on their board...

Jefferson came to the Padres in the big trade of December, 1986, along with Kevin Mitchel and Kevin Brown, for Kevin McReynolds (that's a lot of Kevins).  This particular piece of cardboard, which is a fine looking card, came after Jefferson's best season.  1987 was the only year he played regularly, and he used his speed to his advantage with seven triples and 34 stolen bases.  He bounced around after that, finally ending his time in the big leagues in 1991.  That is, until he became a scab player for the New York Mets during the 1995 player's strike.

He redeemed himself from this sin when he joined the New York City Police Department in 1997.  As fate would have it, he was one of the responding officers during the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.  That experience has left him physically and emotionally scarred.

Stan Jefferson is certainly a hero, just not the baseball variation we might have expected in 1988...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

625th Place - Drew Hall

Card #262

Drew Hall was the third overall pick in the 1984 draft.  Do you know who the Cubs picked up in the second round? Greg Maddux.  Things always look clearer in the rear view mirror.  Do you know who the Cubs could have drafted instead, who also threw the ball left-handed? Tom Glavine.  Or Al Leiter.  Or even Terry Mulholland or Norm Charlton.  Seven picks after Hall the Oakland Athletics grabbed Mark McGwire.  Let's all close our eyes and imagine McGwire hitting home runs onto Wayland Ave a few hundred times...

I mean no disrespect to Drew Hall or the Cubs, of course. At 6'4" and 200 lbs, Hall was a big lefty out of Morehead State and played for Team USA on the famous 1984 Olympics squad.  I'm sure he looked promising.  And every draft is a crap shoot to some degree.  It's strange to me that baseball, after all of these decades, still has the most unpredictable success with drafts in all of professional sports.