Saturday, December 31, 2016

580th Place - Keith Hughes

Card #781

Happy Hughes Year's Eve, everybody!

Thank you for all the times you stopped by in 2016, and we'll see you again in 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

581st Place - Reid Nichols

Card #748

'Twas the day after Christmas
and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse.
The stockings had stirrups,
a bat swung through the air,
all hoping Reid Nichols
would hit a ball way out there...

Enjoy the holidays everyone - peace on earth and goodwill towards baseball men...on cardboard...!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

582nd Place - Ed Romero

Card #37

If you can look past Ed Romero, you'll see a now extinct species:  the Montreal Expo.  1988 was pre-inter league games, so we can deduce this is a spring training match.

Most folks know the last Montreal Expo still playing in the major leagues is Bartolo Colon.  But wait...there might be another making a most improbable comeback!  Tomo Ohka just signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles!  He's 41 and has reinvented himself as a knuckle ball pitcher.  How awesome would it be if Ohka makes it back to the bigs!?

So what does this have to do with Ed Romero?  I'm trying desperately to tie all of this together - hang in there. Though I tend to think of Romero from his Milwaukee Brewers tenure, he did spend a few seasons on the Red Sox.  I've only seen one game at Boston's historic Fenway Park, and that was in 2001.  They played the Mariners, so I got to see Ichiro during his sensational debut season. But who was the starting pitcher for Boston that day?

Tomo Ohka.

Boom.  Minds blown.  Thank you Ed Romero and the faceless Expos behind you for this circular trip to nowhere.

Monday, December 12, 2016

583rd Place - Ray Searage

Card #788

Wow - this card was four slots from being the last in the set.  That's a close call!  Kinda reminds me of this.  (Sorry, I have Star Wars on the brain - I'm headed to Rogue One Thursday night!)

You gotta hand it to Ray Searage - he sure looks like a charismatic dude.  These kind of posed shots were never my favorite as a kid, but that's an infectious smile peaking out from behind that caterpillar lip.  The green trees, blue skies, white clouds...heck, I even detect a glimmer in his eyes!

It's almost enough to make me ignore the hideous hat he's wearing.  I know I've teed off on these hats before on the blog, but good lord, is there a worse hat in the history of MLB?  The cursive "c" that looks like an "e" is so repulsive!

Ray is still rocking a 'stache and smile these days - he's the pitching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

584th Place - John Marzano

Card #757

You are not looking at John Marzano's rookie card here, because despite this being his first piece of cardboard with Major League stats on the back, Marzano was included in the famed "USA Olympics" series in the 1985 Topps set.

John Marzano was the epitome of Philadelphia sports, as he was born and raised there and played college ball at Temple before representing the United States at the Olympics and getting drafted in the first round by Boston in 1984.

Marzano never reached a talent level beyond backup catcher status, but he was known to be a clubhouse legend and if WAR could account for "team chemistry" his would certainly be good.  He's probably best remembered by Seattle Mariner fans for his stint there in the mid 90's...which included the time he decked Paul O'Neil!

After his playing days he latched on with local Philadelphia sports shows and would eventually start working at when tragedy struck in 2008.  He fell down the stairs in his home and died as a result.  The coroner later determined he was intoxicated when the accident happened.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

585th Place - Mike Smithson

Card #554

Rocky Top, you'll always be, home sweet home to Mike Smithson.  Good ol' Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee!

As a former employee of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, it always tickles me to come across alums of their program.  Smithson was born in Centerville and took his 6'8" frame to Knoxville to pitch for the Volunteers. (Supposedly he was the tallest pitcher ever in the majors until Randy Johnson came around.)  He was there at the same time as Rick Honeycutt - that must have been an intimidating starting rotation for the rest of the SEC.

Smithson's Wikipedia page makes reference to the fact that he pitched in the infamous longest game ever played, a minor league match that featured Rochester (Orioles affiliate) versus Pawtucket (Red Sox).  Mike appeared in the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth innings.  That game eventually ended after 32 innings and featured future Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs.

Though the Twins won it all in 1987 Smithson never appeared in the playoffs and he was released after the season, making this card moot.  That might have been because of his 5.94 E.R.A. that season.  He would go on to pitch for two more seasons, both in Boston, before hanging up his spikes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

586th Place - Mike Moore

Card #432

I got my "Secret Santa" assignment today from Bob Walk the Plank and headed straight over to COMC to commence my shopping.  I gotta say, I had a lot of fun trying to maximize my gifts in relation to the price range and interests of my chosen blogger.  I think I did quite well!  I'll have to post more about it as we get closer to Christmas...

My apologies to Mike Moore, who by the looks of his face on the right, couldn't be less interested in my Santa purchases.  Moore had a very interesting career.  He was the first overall pick in the 1981 draft, ahead of notables like Joe Carter, Matt Williams, Ron Darling, Frank Viola, Tony Gwynn and even John Elway!  He would be in the majors for the Mariners by 1982, starting 27 games but posting in E.R.A. above five.  He played with Seattle through the 1988 season but never really found sustained success.

That all changed in 1989, his first season with Oakland.  He made his lone All-Star team and recorded a minute 2.61 E.R.A. while finishing third in Cy Young voting.  The A's won the World Series that year and Moore won both games he started in the Fall Classic.  He was never that effective again but did lead the league in starts for three straight years (1992-94), something he did back in 1986 too.  That might be Moore's most lasting attribute - the consummate innings-eater who took the ball whenever it was handed to him.  It was good enough to win 161 big league games over a fourteen year career.

As near as I can tell, Moore is back in his native Oklahoma these days, and sometimes volunteers with the local high school baseball team.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

587th Place - Turn Back the Clock, 1973

Card #663

As a kid I was only ever mildly excited about pulling a "Turn Back the Clock" card from my packs.  That was one less chance at a Kevin Seitzer rookie!  But as I've grown older I certainly appreciate them more.

Topps chose to honor the first DH in MLB history - Ron Blomberg.  That's a neat trivia question, but here are some of the other names they mention from the 1973 season on the back of the card:  Nolan Ryan, Willie Davis, Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans, Reggie Jackson...heck, even Jeff Burroughs would have been more exciting on the front than Ron Blomberg!

During this year's World Series I heard more grumbling about either getting rid of the DH or adding it to both leagues.  I don't know why folks get so worked up by this.  I think it's neat to differentiate between the two sides, especially now that interleague play has taken away the mystique of two teams facing each other for the world title without ever having played each other.  My favorite player was Eddie Murray, and I appreciated him having the DH to turn to in his last couple of years playing.  On the flip side, it's always cool when a pitcher goes deep or contributes with the stick.  Heck, it's been 43 years.  Keep things as they are!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

588th Place - Tom Trebelhorn

Card #224

Hey, a manager card!  It's been awhile since one of these have been featured.

Tom Trebelhorn had an unusual path to big league managing in that he started as a coach at such a young age.  His last year in the minors as a player was 1974, but he was the skipper for the Oakland A's lowest level minor league team in 1975 at the tender age of 27.  By 1985 he was the Triple-A coach for the Brewers, and got promoted to the big league squad in '86 at 38 years old.  He stayed with the Brew Crew through the 1991 season before getting canned.  He led the Cubs for less than a full season in 1994 and that was the end of his managing opportunities.  He spent a lot of years with the Orioles after that in various capacities, even as their bench coach, but I always wondered why he never got another chance to be the head guy again.

He certainly has the watch for it!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

589th Place - Chuck Jackson

Card #94

Checking out Chuck Jackson's Baseball-Reference page is fascinating.  After an upward rise in the minors he got time on the big club in 1987 and '88.  But he would only ever play one more game after that in the 1994!  He toiled in Triple A ball for six straight years and only played once more.  In that game he came in as a pinch-runner for Jose Canseco (while he was on the Rangers) and logged two at-bats afterwards.  It was an extra-inning game that the Mariners eventually won, with Goose Gossage of all people getting the win after two innings of relief.

His son Justin followed in his tracks, also slogging through the minors in the Blue Jays' system. Justin switched to pitching in 2013 and took to social media just this past February... You can see him on Instagram here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

590th Place - Ken Dixon

Card #676

As I'm typing this, the Cleveland Indians are battling the Chicago Cubs in game four of the World Series.  I'm a die hard Orioles fan and feel I have suffered too long since our last World Series victory...but Cleveland and Chicago make me realize 1983 ain't that bad!

(On second thought, no.  1983 is still too long.  It's not Baltimore's fault those other two clubs are even bigger losers.)

Ken Dixon's career is one of baseball's many broken dreams.  I can remember as a kid seeing his 170 strikeouts after the 1986 season and dreaming big.  Alas, the card here to the right is quite cruel, as Dixon's shoulder would betray him after the 1987 season and he never pitched in the big leagues again.

In the next few days Cleveland or Chicago's nightmare drought will end.  For us Orioles fans, though, the unquenchable thirst remains...

I'm running another blog - my quest to collect the 1982 Topps set in order - one card at a time!  I'd love to get a few more followers on that page.  Hopefully you'll like it!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

591st Place - Luis Quinones

Card #667

It looks like Quinones has a Topps tattoo on his forearm, doesn't it?

Luis Quinones is part of a long line of light-hitting middle infielders, the type of player who littered the bloated Topps sets with 792 cards.  Signed at just 18 years of age out of his native Puerto Rico in 1980, he made a brief appearance in the majors during the 1983 season, but became a more permanent fixture starting in 1986.

Though he played on a few different teams during his career, he is best remembered as a bench player for the World Series winning team from Cincinnati in 1990.  In fact, Lou Piniella made the unlikely move in game six of the NLCS to bring in Quinones and sit Paul O'Neil versus Pirates lefty Zane Smith.  Sure enough, Quinones lined a single to score Ron Oester.  That sent the Reds to the World Seires and the rest was history.

These days you can find Luis as the hitting coach for the Batvia Muckdogs.  If you have any idea which Major League team Batvia falls under you're a better baseball fan than me!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

592nd Place - John Davis

Card #672

John Davis must have looked quite intimidating on the mound.  He's listed as 6'7" and 215 pounds.  That's NBA size, not MLB!

If you squint just right Davis kind of looks like Roger Clemens, but that's where the comparisons end.  Though he had a pretty 2.27 ERA in 1987, he also walked 26 batters in 43 innings.  That was a trend that would catch up to him in his next three seasons and he would be done in the majors after 1990.

I'm somewhat mesmerized by the mini-Green Monster behind Davis.  I assume that's the center field batter's screen at their minor league park.

A local newspaper caught up with John Davis back in 2014 when the Royals made their first visit to the World Series since 1985.  Good luck navigating all the pop-ups.

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...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

600th Place - Luis Polonia

Card #238

Hello friends - I'm back to blogging.  The most annoying thing about doing an in-town move is that it requires all the same steps as moving across the country.  You have to slowly pack everything, load it onto trucks and vans, and then slowly unpack all of it and find a place for everything. But we're just about settled in and I'm thankful for that.

I did some housekeeping for the blog too!  First, you might notice a new font.  In the last couple of months I realized I was using the same one as Night Owl.  It was completely unintentional but I didn't want to look like a poser.  Second, I did something I should have before I made my first post!  I hadn't verified all 792 cards were in my factory set box.  In the past I've discovered a card or two missing.  Rest easy, loyal readers, all are accounted for.  I also spent some time reordering which cards will come next on the countdown.

So that brings us to the card I ranked #600 on the list, a milestone number to be sure.  And I'll be honest, I actually really like the look of it, and on top of that, it's Luis Polonia's rookie card.  But Polonia falls into the same category as Mel Hall - somebody whose personal issues should have made him appear closer to the bottom of these rankings.

Back in 1989 Polonia was convicted of sleeping with a minor.  I remember when my dad and I would see him on TV or walking up to the plate at a ballgame we would say things like, "Luis 'do you have any daughters?' Polonia," or, "Luis 'how old are you?' Polonia."  We would kind of laugh, but in retrospect...what a creep!  I'm a late bloomer when it comes to being a feminist, but having three daughters has helped me realize what a terrible place men often make the world for women.  We weren't as enlightened back then, but if that happened now it's hard to imagine a team willing to endure the PR nightmare that would come by still employing him.

Polonia has the distinction of being scouted and signed to the A's out of the Dominican Republic by Juan Marichal.  My dad is a die-hard Dodgers fan and thinks Marichal should still be in prison for what he did to John Roseboro.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

601st Place - Tom O'Malley

Card #77

I want to break from my normal format and draw attention to a situation many of you are probably aware of, but just in case you aren't, here you go...

A few years ago the very first baseball card blog I found on the interwebs was Kevin over on "Orioles Card 'O' the Day."  I'm an Orioles fan too, and somehow stumbled onto his site.  It is an AWESOME baseball card blog.  And Kevin was my "gateway drug" to other sites.  It's because of Kevin I know that night owls aren't just birds, that Bob walks the plank, that there's something special about plays at the plate, and he's the reason the 1988 Topps Tim Wallach All-Star card will be ranked so high on this countdown.  In other words, I know all of you and the tremendous world of baseball card blogs because of Kevin.

Again, most of you are aware, but Kevin and his wife are going through a heck of a situation right now.  They're expecting their first child together all while his wife is battling cancer.  As a husband and father of three I can't imagine my wife having cancer, let alone while she's with child.  Their insurance isn't the greatest when it comes to covering the expenses of all this, so I wanted to dedicate this Tom O'Malley entry as a link to their GoFundMe page.  (And Tom O'Malley is a former Oriole so it's kind of related...right?)  Maybe we can all skip a trip to the card aisle this week and help Kevin instead?

Anyway - thank you Kevin for doing what you do, and thank you everyone else for taking the time to visit this site.  My family is moving into a new house in the next couple of weeks so I have to pack my cards for now.  I'll get back to posting once we've finished relocating.  God bless you all!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

602nd Place - Ted Power

Card #236

"I've got the power!!!"

If that wasn't Ted Power's entrance music starting in 1990, what a wasted opportunity...

By the time this card came out Ted Power was no longer a Red.  He was traded to the Royals with Kurt Stillwell for Danny Jackson.  Jackson would become a prominent member of the 1990 World Series winning rotation for Cincinnati, so that worked out better for the Reds than it did Power.

Power rose through the loaded Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system as a starting pitcher but got converted to a reliever once he reached the majors.  It took a couple of years to adjust, but he got the hang of it.  In 1984 he led the NL in games and had a 2.82 ERA and then in 1985 he was used more as a closer, notching 27 saves.

But in 1987, the most recent year on the back of this card, he was suddenly a starting pitcher again.  He went 10-13 with a 4.50 ERA and split time as a starter and reliever in 1988 for the Royals and Tigers.

Power has the unusual distinction of starting a game in the post season while only appearing as a reliever during the regular season.  Power bounced around until his career ended after the 1993 season.  There's a great interview with him here highlighting his career and, specifically, his time with the Cleveland Indians.

I like Ted Power, but this card is kind of "meh" to me.

Monday, May 30, 2016

603rd Place - Rafael Santana

Card #233

By the time this card came out Santana was still playing in New York...just across town in the Bronx.  He played the 1988 season for the Yankees but missed all of 1989 due to an elbow injury.  He caught on with the Indians to start the 1990 season but was released just a few weeks into the year and called it a career.

But that's not what you remember Santana for.  No, you probably recall him as the starting shortstop for the 1986 World Series winning New York Mets.  He played in all seven games and batted .250, which is about all the Mets could have expected from him.  He was known for his glove, finishing in the top three in fielding percentage in the National League between 1985 and 1987.

The New York Daily News caught up with him last year and Santana has done well for himself post-retirement.  He works for the Chicago White Sox as the head of player development in his native Dominican Republic.  His son, Alexander, plays in the minor leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This isn't a bad looking card, but my copy is blurry, which I'm not sure if it that's a printing press issue or how all of his cards looked in this set.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

604th Place - Ken Dayley

Card #234

In 1984 the Atlanta Braves lost their slugging third baseman, Bob Horner, for the season due to an injury and needed to figure something out on the fly.  They had a young lefty starter by the name of Ken Dayley who was struggling to find success at the major league level.  The Cardinals had a hot shot rookie by the name of Terry Pendleton who was ready to take over the hot corner from Ken "Obi-Wan" Oberkfell.  St. Louis pulled the trigger and netted Dayley (and Mike Jorgensen) for Oberkfell, and it ended up being an excellent deal for St. Louis.  Ken Dayley became St. Louis' best left-handed reliever for the next seven years, including post-season runs in 1985 and 1987.

Dayley is one of about thirty or so players to reach the majors having been born in the great state of Idaho.  Can you name the most famous ball player from Idaho?*

Dayley has an unusual claim to fame in relation to Tommy John surgery.  Having gone down in the 1986 season with the surgery, he was miraculously back pitching in St. Louis just seven months later.  It appears he wasn't exactly following doctor's orders...

Dayley and his family have become fixtures in St. Louis.  His daughter did television news and Dayley himself now plies his trade in real estate.

*Harmon Killebrew

Saturday, April 23, 2016

605th Place - Curt Wilkerson

Card #53

Alright, time for an epic debate.

Do you think of Mr. Wilkerson as "Curt" or "Curtis"?  In my mind it's always Curtis, but Topps is throwing me for a loop here.

What do you think?

Curt/Curtis was a scrappy middle-infielder type, and a short one at that.  The back of his card lists him at 5'9".  That's one of the reasons I love baseball - all the different player shapes and sizes.  I associate him with the Rangers but he did get some playoff time with the Cubs in 1989 and the Pirates in 1991.

You have to appreciate the action shot captured here, as the bat has a certain bend to it compliments of the shutter speed.  I'm not sure, though, how Curt/Curtis feels about having a popup immortalized on cardboard like this...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

606th Place - Jeff Reed

Card #176

Here's a great profile shot of the Expos' batting helmets. The tri-colored look is pretty unique in the annals of baseball history.  It looks good, especially with the blue and red piping on the white uniform.

You can also see Jeff Reed's batting glove in his back left pocket, which he's clearly not using while swinging the bat. I guess he used it for his catcher's mitt?

Jeff Reed had an incredibly long career, almost exclusively as a backup catcher.  Debuting in 1984, he played his last game with the Cubs in 2000.  That's a heck of a career.   Over 17 years in the pros he hit a respectable .250 with an OPS of .695.

By the time this card was printed, Reed was a Cincinnati Red, where he had his two biggest career accomplishments.  In 1990 he was part of the World Series winning team.  But before that, in 1988, was the catcher for Tom Browning's perfect game!  Browning credits him as a major factor in his performance that day.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Writing About Eddie Murray on Another Blog!

Hello friends of 1988 Topps!  Over on Camden Chat, the best Baltimore Orioles blog on the interwebs and an affiliate of SB Nation, I was lucky enough to contribute an article for their 24 hour marathon countdown to the Orioles first game of the season.  My topic?  "The 10 Best Eddie Murray Baseball Cards Ever."  I've actually got two cards from the 1988 Topps set included on the list, so click on over to take a look!  If you miss it while it's listed on the front page you'll be able to find it here.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

607th Place - Brian Dayett

Card #136

This card showcases something so awesome, I want you to take a minute and see if you can spot what I'm talking about.  Go ahead, take a look.

Do you see it?

That's right...stirrup socks.  Dayett is rocking his so high and tight that you can see the space between the taught strap and his ankle.  That's glorious.

Stirrups always remind me of little league baseball.  Few things were so vexing yet exciting for a kid.  I had no idea what the practical purpose of a stirrup was.  My feet were small and skinny as a kid, so it wasn't uncommon for them to ride up over my heal and out of my cleat.  But pulling those bad boys up came with a palpable thrill.  Stirrups meant this wasn't one of the endless practices after school.  Stirrups meant this wasn't your dad taking you to a weed infested field on Saturday morning to hit grounders to you.  Stirrups meant it was GAME DAY!  Stirrups meant you got to wear your jersey too!  Stirrups had to find a pair of all-white tube socks or you were going to look stupid with a pattern or color.

If I were the MLB Commissioner for a day my first decree would be pants can't be longer than mid-calf, and everyone has to wear stirrups.  Who's with me?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

608th Place - Jeff Robinson

Card #244

This is the other Jeff Robinson.

This Jeff Robinson played in the majors for nine years, mostly as a relief pitcher.  Robinson is lucky to be captured in a Pirates uniform for this pic, because he had just been traded during the season for Rick Reuschel, who got the airbrush treatment.  Robinson got into 81 games in 1987, and was good in most of them, finishing the season with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Robinson was a tall right-handed pitcher who played his high school and college ball in Fullerton, CA.  It's hard to find much on him on the interwebs, mostly because the other Jeff Robinson passed away and that story seems to clog the search engines.

Here is a youtube video, though, of Robinson talking about his college days:

Monday, March 7, 2016

609th Place - Bob Brower

Card #252

Bob Brower was a speedster who climbed his way through the Rangers minor league system and broke out in a decent way in 1987, hitting 14 home runs in 303 at-bats. He slugged .452 and added 15 stolen bases.  He was already 27 years old, though, and would never sniff that kind of success again.  He got less playing time in 1988 for Texas and reemerged with the Yankees in 1989, his last season in the bigs.

Brower was quite the athlete in high school and college, though.  He lettered in four different sports his senior year, which included his first year in football.  He parleyed those talents to a spot on Duke University's football and baseball teams.

What did Brower do after baseball?  Well, he got an invite to come work for his former agent:  Scott Boras.  According to Brower, he was just Boras' third hired employee.  If his Wikipedia is still accurate, he's now Vice President of the Scott Boras Corporation.  A Duke grad working for Scott careful, he might be trolling us all!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

610th Place - Tim Stoddard

Card #359

I always knew Tim Stoddard and Kenny Lofton were the only two players in Major League history to play in both a World Series game and the NCAA Final Four in basketball, but I had no idea they were from the same high school.  How crazy is that!?!  Stoddard, though, is the only person to have won a World Series and the tournament.

While Lofton was a point guard, Stoddard's towering 6'7" frame made him a big man in the paint.  Indeed, his size is what most folks remember about him.  His typical walrus mustache only assisted in his oversized appearance, that's for sure.

I'm a Baltimore fan, so of course I think of him more in the orange and black instead of the pinstripes on this card.  He pitched through the 1989 season before calling it a career, and it was a respectable one at that.  He's done a few things since retiring, including a number of years as the pitching coach for Northwestern before being replaced last year.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

611th Place - Mike Bielecki

Card #436

Yes, that's a smudge on the left side there.  My grubby 13 year old hands must have left a goober on it, pressed into the cardboard for the rest of eternity.

I've gone back and forth in my mind about whether I like the red nameplate Topps used for the Pirates in 1988.  It should work, since you can find it on the Jolly Roger being blocked out on Bielecki's shirt, but sometimes it just looks weird to me.  What do you think?

Bielecki pitched fourteen years in the majors, which is nothing to sneeze at.  His best season would come in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs.  He would go 18-7 with a 3.14 ERA and a career best 147 strikeouts and was a big contributor on their playoff team.  His last two years in the bigs were in the Atlanta bullpen, where he pitched in his only World Series in 1996.

Bielecki was with the Cleveland Indians during the horrible spring training boating accident that claimed the lives of Steve Olin and Tim Crews.  He credits his ex-wife with preventing him from being on the boat too.  The tragedy forced him to come back earlier than expected from an arm injury.

He's on Twitter, though it's been a few years since he's re-tweeted any of his conservative heroes...

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.