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.