Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#493 Jeff Nelson

About the Front: Jeff Nelson switched from #40 to #43 in 1993, and wore the latter number for the duration of his 15-year career.

About the Back: 66 games pitched might seem like a lot for a rookie, but Nelson topped that total six times in subsequent seasons, with a high of 77 appearances in 1997.

Triple Play:

1. Jeff spent one-third of an inning in left field for the Mariners in Fenway Park on July 15, 1993. After coming on to pitch in the bottom of the eighth and retiring the first two batters, the righty gave up a single to Billy Hatcher. With Seattle clinging to a 3-2 lead and lefty batter Mike Greenwell due up, manager Lou Piniella summoned southpaw Dennis Powell to pitch. He didn't want to burn Nelson just yet, so he double-switched: Powell replaced left fielder Greg Litton, and Nelson "replaced" designated hitter Marc Newfield, who'd just made the last out in the top of the inning. Greenwell popped out to second, and Jeff returned to the mound in the ninth. He lost his shot at an unusual save on a two-out error by Tino Martinez, after which Mike Hampton took to the mound to retire Scott Cooper. Clear as mud?

2. He appeared in 16 World Series games in five Fall Classics with the Yankees, earning one win while striking out 18 batters in 16 innings with a 1.69 ERA.

3. Nelson underwent elbow surgery in 2002, and tried to sell bone chips that had been removed in the procedure on eBay; he planned to donate the proceeds to Bear Creek School (which his daughters attended) and to the Curtis Williams Foundation. Bidding reached $23,600 before eBay removed the listing. You can't sell body parts on eBay. A local radio station later conducted the auction, and matched the winning bid of $1,000, with all of the money going to the Curtis Williams Foundation. Williams was a former University of Washington football player who was paralyzed from the neck down in an on-field collision in 2000; he died two years later.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Hey, a Baltimore guy! He attended Catonsville High School and Catonsville Community College, both of which are a few miles away from where I work now (in 2015).

Bill James Said: "He's a ground ball pitcher, and Piniella uses him to try to get a double play, so he always comes in with men on base."

On This Date in 1993: October 14. The number one song in the U.S. is "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey. Ugh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#492 Tom Lampkin

About the Front: Using the scouting tools scale of 20-80, Tom Lampkin's curly mullet is a solid 95.
About the Back: The scout who signed Lampkin for the Indians was Dave Roberts, another Oregon product who was a third baseman, second baseman, and catcher for the Padres and three other teams (1972-1982).

Triple Play:

1. While splitting time with the three-headed catching monster of Rick Wilkins, Kirt Manwaring, and Steve Decker for the 1996 Giants, Tom threw out 17 of 33 would-be base stealers, a league-best 52% rate.

2. With two outs in the bottom of the 15th inning on June 19, 1996, he hit a walk-off three-run homer against Marlins reliever Terry Mathews.

3. Lampkin had a career-high 327 plate appearances in 2002...when he was 38 years old and playing his final season back in San Diego. It may not surprise you to learn that this Padres club lost 96 games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember owning Tom's 1990 Topps card way back when, but I didn't realize at the time that he had played only in AAA in 1989. It was an odd choice to include him in that set.

Bill James Said: "Like Joe Kmak, he runs well for a catcher, and thus fits in with Phil Garner's plan to see how many bases he can steal with a last-place team (the answer, as it turned out, was 138)." Shots fired at the Milwaukee Brewers, who acquired Lampkin from the Padres in the spring of 1993.

On This Date in 1993: October 13. The White Sox release George Bell, effectively ending the career of the three-time All-Star and 1987 American League MVP.

Friday, October 9, 2015

#491 Shawn Hare

About the Front: I don't trust that orange Gatorade cooler lurking in the background. He's up to something...
About the Back: Pitchers Kevin Tapani and Curt Young are probably the most notable CMU Chippewas in recent years. Current Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter also attended Central Michigan, as did former Yankee Tom Tresh, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1962.

Triple Play:

1. On May 31,1994, Hare had the first multi-hit game of his big league career, going 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, and a run scored in the Mets' 3-2 loss to the Rockies.

2. His career ended with a fruitless 29-game stint in South Korea with the Haitai Tigers in 1998, batting just .206 with no home runs and three RBI.

3. Shawn now works as a financial advisor for Wells Fargo out in Woodland Hills, CA.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Do you think Shawn Hare's favorite Hall of Famer is Rabbit Maranville? Huh? Eh?

Bill James Said: Bill didn't evaluate Shawn prior to the 1994 season, as the outfielder spent all of 1993 at AAA Toledo, batting .264/.313/.466 with 20 home runs and 76 RBI.

On This Date in 1993: October 9. The White Sox battle back to tie up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 7-4 win in Toronto. Lance Johnson tripled and homered, and Frank Thomas went deep as well. The Chicago bullpen held the Blue Jays to a single run in 6.2 innings after rookie starter Jason Bere got the early hook.

Monday, October 5, 2015

#490 Omar Olivares

About the Front: The red cleats are a sharp look.
About the Back: Topps diplomatically chooses not to mention Ed Olivares' career batting line of .143/.139/.143 in 36 plate appearances. He did bat .317/.420/.602 with 35 home runs and 125 RBI for class B Winston-Salem in 1960, earning Carolina League MVP honors.

Triple Play:

1. Olivares was no slouch with the bat, with a career average of .240, five home runs, and 29 RBI in 263 plate appearances.

2. Both of his complete-game shutouts came in 1997 with the Tigers: he scattered three hits and five walks against the Indians on May 10 and followed with a four-hit, two-walk effort vs. the Angels on May 26.

3. Splitting the 1999 season between the Angels and A's, Omar had career highs with 32 starts and a 15-11 record. His 4.16 ERA translated to a solid 114 ERA+.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: In 1993, Omar wore "00" on his jersey to represent his initials. I thought that was amazing.

Bill James Said: "He was bothered by a strained groin muscle, and also pissed off his manager by saying something to the media about his arm being tired after he had pitched several days in a row." I'm stunned by the suggestion that Joe Torre would overwork a reliever. In checking Olivares' game log, he pitched eight times in a ten-day span, July 19-28. In the last of those games, he coughed up three runs on four hits while getting a single out as the Cards were crushed by the Phillies, 14-6.

On This Date in 1993: October 5. The Blue Jays kick off the ALCS with a 7-3 win over the White Sox in Chicago. Pale Hose ace Jack McDowell is pounded for 13 hits in 6.2 innings, including a two-run homer by Paul Molitor, one of the veteran's four base knocks on the evening.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

#489 Scott Fredrickson

About the Front: Isn't that the guy who plays Cam on Modern Family?
About the Back: Kevin Towers should ring a bell. He climbed the ranks to serve as the Padres' GM (1995-2009) before holding the same job in Arizona (2010-2014).

Triple Play:

1. Scott made his big league debut on April 29, 1993 with two perfect innings of relief against the Cardinals.

2. Fredrickson's 1993 season didn't turn out as well it began. The Rockies shipped him out after he racked up a 6.21 ERA in 29 innings of relief; that turned out to be his only experience in the big leagues.

3. He posted an 11-3 record with a 3.45 ERA at AAA Colorado Springs in 1995, but it went downhill from there. After ERAs over 6.00 in the minors in 1996 and 1997, he called it a career.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I probably suspected at the time that a number of these Rockies and Marlins in the 1993 Topps set wouldn't ever be seen in a Topps base set again. I should put together a total count at the end of this all.

Bill James Said: "Another pitcher from the University of Texas, like Clemens, Swindell, etc. Well, not too much like them..."

On This Date in 1993: October 4. American League owners unanimously approve the sale of the Baltimore Orioles to attorney Peter Angelos and his minority partners. And so it begins...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#488 Manuel Lee

About the Front: Pop quiz - Is Manuel Lee a) Whistling to get a teammate's attention, b) Inhaling after taking a long drag on a Marlboro, or c) Realizing that a prankster replaced his ChapStick with Krazy Glue?

About the Back: That's quite an economical abbreviation of Manuel's hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Triple Play:

1. Lee was only 19 when he made his big league debut as a pinch runner on April 10, 1985 after joining the Blue Jays as a Rule 5 draft pick.

2. He set a dubious record in 1991, striking out the most times (107) without hitting a single home run.

3. Manuel had a perfect 1.000 batting average in 1995, his final major league season. Starting at second base for the Cardinals on April 26, 1995, he singled off of Curt Schilling in the third inning and scored on a Scott Cooper hit. He left the game an inning later with an injury that required a disabled list stint. He was released by St. Louis once healthy, and retired shortly thereafter.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I wonder if Manuel had an identity crisis. All of his cards prior to 1992 dub him "Manny", but starting in '92, most refer to him by his birth name.

Bill James Said: "Signed as a free agent a year ago, he was expected to solve the Texas shortstop problem, but his season was ruined by hand and thumb injuries, leaving him with a .168 average going into September." Lee salvaged things somewhat with a .324/.418/.426 performance in September of 1993.

On This Date in 1993: September 30. The Mariners outlast the White Sox 2-1 in 11 innings, with Mike Blowers' one-out single to left field driving in the winning run. Veteran reliever Ted Power earns the win with three scoreless innings; it turns out to be the final game in his 13-year career.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#487 Jessie Hollins

About the Front: That's a lot of blue. Who knew that a Cubs uniform could serve as camouflage?
About the Back: Interestingly, Jessie Hollins wasn't the only 40th-round pick from the 1988 draft to reach the majors. Righthander Paul Fletcher was chosen two picks after Jessie (1,029th overall) and made a dozen relief appearances in 1993, 1995, and 1996 for the Phillies and A's.

Triple Play:

1. His final big league appearance came on September 28, 1992; he tossed a scoreless ninth inning in a 10-3 loss to the Pirates.

2. A torn rotator cuff essentially ended Hollins' career; he made four minor league appearances in 1994 and four more in 1997, and that was it.

3. Jessie drowned while fishing with his brother Stacy and their sons on the bank of the Trinity River in Polk County, TX, on July 9, 2009. He was 39 years old.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never bothered to check this before, but Hollins' birth name is actually "Jessie". It's not short for anything.

Bill James Said: Nothing, because Jessie was sidelined for the entire 1993 season.

On This Date in 1993: September 29. In what must have been a thrilling contest, the Mets won their 55th game of the year against 103 losses, outlasting the Cardinals by a 1-0 margin in 17 innings. The game took just four hours and 21 minutes to complete, as the teams collected only six hits each. Ray Lankford, Mark Whiten, Ryan Thompson, and Kevin Baez each went 0-for-7 at the plate, and Cards third baseman Stan Royer (3-for-4 with a double) was the only player with a multi-hit effort. Naturally, Royer was pinch-run for in the tenth inning. Jeff Kent finally drove in Eddie Murray with a two-out double off of Les Lancaster in the bottom of the 17th, making a winner out of reliever Kenny Greer in his big league debut. Mets rookie starter Bobby Jones got a no-decision and a hearty pat on the butt for his ten innings of shutout ball.

Friday, September 25, 2015

#486 Eric Wedge

About the Front: There's a fine line between "posed baseball card photo" and "online dating profile photo", and Eric Wedge is straddling that line.
About the Back: Aaaand now Eric has vaulted over the line.

Triple Play:

1. As the starting catcher for the 1989 College World Series champion Wichita State Shockers, Wedge led the NCAA in walks and total bases, and was second in runs and RBI. The Red Sox drafted him that summer in the third round; a round later, they picked Jeff Bagwell.

2. He played just 11 big league games after 1992, but his five homers in 68 at-bats as a rookie were no small feat. The list of opposing pitchers he took deep includes Mark Langston, Jimmy Key, and Frank Tanana.

3. Eric began a five-year stint as a minor league manager in the Cleveland organization in 1998, leading three clubs to the postseason in that span. In 2003, he was promoted to skipper of the major league club, a job he held through 2009. He was the A.L. Manager of the Year in 2007, when the Indians won 96 games in the regular season before blowing a 3-1 ALCS lead to Boston. He also managed the Mariners from 2011 through 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The name "Wedge" can be corrupted into "Wedgie" so easily.

Bill James Said: "Wedge, now 26, is a pretty good hitter for a catcher, but has had arm trouble and elbow surgery, so it's questionable whether he is going to be a major league receiver."

On This Date in 1993: September 25. Calvin and Hobbes. Read and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#485 Glenn Davis

About the Front: Is it just me, or does it seem like Glenn Davis' pants are hiked up way too high?

About the Back: Topps done goofed again! Davis won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1990, not 1991. The award is given annually by the Phi Delta Theta fraternity to the major league player who best exemplifies Larrupin' Lou's character and integrity, both on and off the field. So that's nice.

Triple Play:

1. He is the adopted brother of pitcher Storm Davis; the duo were teammates with the Orioles in 1992.

2. Glenn finished his career with a stint for Japan's Hanshin Tigers in 1995-1996, batting .252/.316/.460 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI in 153 games. In 1996, he became the first foreign player (and tenth overall) to hit a walkoff grand slam in a Nippon Pro Baseball game. Oddly enough, he holds the MLB record for most career home runs (190) without a grand slam.

3. Davis now lives in Columbus, GA, and serves on the city council.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Man, did I dislike Glenn Davis. The Orioles gave up Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling for Glenn's 185 mediocre games spread over three injury-riddled reasons. In 1993, when I was at my most impressionable as a fan, he suffered a broken jaw while breaking up a bar fight in Norfolk on May 27. In August, as he was preparing to return to the active roster, he was hit in the head by a Jeffrey Hammonds foul ball that found the Baltimore dugout, and missed several more weeks. Now that I'm older and wiser (arguably), I know that Davis wasn't at fault. He didn't make that awful trade.

Bill James Said: "If he doesn't convince somebody that his power has come back, his career is over." He did manage to swat 27 homers for the AAA Omaha Royals in 1994, but never did play in the majors after the O's released him in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: September 23. John Burkett wins his 20th game, holding the Astros to three hits over eight innings in a 7-0 Giants victory. Barry Bonds has three doubles, two runs scored, and two driven in, which is hardly newsworthy for him.