Monday, October 20, 2014

#303 Brook Jacoby

About the Front: Brook Jacoby is pictured in a pretty classic third baseman's pose - knees bent, glove at the ready, throwing hand in position to pound the mitt expectantly. Off the top of my head, I can't recall ever seeing the glove-pounding action in a candid shot.

About the Back: This a complete major league batting record for Jacoby, who had a forgettable 18-game stint in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons in 1993 before retiring.

Triple Play:

1. On July 3, 1987, he hit three solo homers in four trips to the plate, but Cleveland was still outslugged by the White Sox, 14-9.

2. Brook was an All-Star in 1986 and again in 1990.

3. He has been a hitting coach in the Rangers' organization, and also served as Cincinnati's big league hitting coach from 2006 through 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: One of the first Brook Jacoby cards I owned was a 1992 Fleer issue depicting him in the green and gold of the Athletics. I bet that was a strange sight for Indians fans.

Bill James Said: He did not say, as Jacoby was not playing in America in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: October 20. Records are set in an outrageous Game Four of the 1993 World Series. The Blue Jays eke out a 15-14 win over the Phillies, as the teams combine for the most runs in a Fall Classic game. It's also the longest nine-inning Series game at the time, taking four hours and 14 minutes to complete. There are six lead changes and seven half-innings featuring multiple runs. Toronto blows an early 3-0 lead, but rallies from deficits of 6-3, 12-7, and 14-9. Larry Andersen and Mitch Williams conspire to allow a decisive six-run Jays rally in the top of the eighth, with Devon White's two-run triple putting the visiting team ahead for good. The Phillies are put in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven championship.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#302 Randy Myers

About the Front: Randy Myers doesn't appear as stout as I remember him being. It's probably just a flattering photo.

About the Back: The Reds traded Myers to the Padres for Bip Roberts and a minor leaguer. Bipped!

Triple Play:

1. One-third of the Reds' "Nasty Boys" bullpen, Randy was named the 1990 NLCS MVP. He tossed 5.2 scoreless innings in four games, allowing two hits and three walks and striking out seven. He saved three games, including the Game Six clincher over the Pirates.

2. On September 28, 1995, Myers gave up a tiebreaking two-run homer to Houston's James Mouton while pitching for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. John Murray, a 27-year-old bond trader, charged onto the field and tried to attack the pitcher. Myers, having a background in martial arts, dropped the interloper with a forearm and pinned him to the ground. I cannot imagine why anyone would try to fight him, of all people. (See my reminiscence below.) Oh, and the Cubs came back to win in 11 innings anyway.

3. He led his league in saves three times: 1993 (53 saves for the Cubs), 1995 (38 saves for the Cubs), and 1997 (45 saves and a 1.51 ERA for the Orioles). Despite a career-ending rotator cuff tear at age 35, his total of 347 saves is still 11th-most in MLB history.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When Randy pitched for the O's, he kept knives and fake grenades in his locker. He seemed to walk a fine line between "character" and "psychopath".

Bill James Said: "Only 28 years old; it's hard to remember that he was once traded for John Franco, who is about 73." Myers was 31 when this was written, which is an odd mistake and sort of undercuts the Franco gag.

On This Date in 1993: October 16. An anti-Nazism riot breaks out in Welling in Kent, England. The fracas is touched off when police attempt to bar protestors who are approaching the headquarters of the far-right British National Party.

#301 Cesar Hernandez


About the Front: Cesar Hernandez has firmly marked his territory, labeling his batting gloves and bat knob with his #58.

About the Back: Why yes, that is the same Jesus Alou who played for the Giants, Astros, and two other teams for 15 seasons. Jesus, brother of Felipe and Matty, and uncle of Moises.

Triple Play:

1. On July 20, 1992, he hit a pinch single off of Chuck McElroy for his first career hit. He scored the winning run for the Reds on Barry Larkin's sac fly, stayed in the game as the center fielder, and rapped a two-run double for insurance, as Cincinnati beat the Cubs 5-2.

2. In 18 pinch-hit at-bats in 1992, Cesar collected six hits (.333), with a double, a stolen base, and three runs scored.

3. After beginning the 1993 season two-for-24 (.083), Hernandez was sent to the minors, never to return. He finished his career in Mexico.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I also had Cesar's 1992 Topps rookie card, which he shared with fellow outfield prospects Steve Hosey, Dan Peltier, and Jeff McNeely. There's one to put in your long-term assets portfolio.

Bill James Said: "I'll say the same thing this year that I said last year: he's never going to hit."

On This Date in 1993: October 15. The film adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies, starring Jim Varney (of Ernest... fame) as family patriarch Jed Clampett, has its nationwide release. It is poorly reviewed, but is a moderate box office success nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#300 Cal Ripken

About the Front: This is a great shot of Cal Ripken lunging to his right to snare a ball. A similar pose was used for Cal's statue at Camden Yards, which was dedicated two years ago.

About the Back: Oh yeah, that consecutive-games thing. Thanks to the strike, Junior had to wait until September 6, 1995 to pass Lou Gehrig. He didn't take a day off until the end of the 1998 season, halting the streak at 2,632 games. I don't think anyone expected him to leave Gehrig 502 games behind.

Triple Play:

1. Let's take a deep breath and list some of Cal's accolades: 1982 AL Rookie of the Year, 1983 and 1991 AL MVP, 19-time All-Star (17-time starter), 1991 and 2001 All-Star Game MVP, two-time Gold Glover at shortstop, eight-time Silver Slugger. He was also a first-ballot Hall of Famer, garnering 98.5 percent of the vote.

2. His father, Cal Sr., was a catcher in the Baltimore farm system from 1957 through 1962. He then spent a dozen years as a minor league manager for the O's, and later coached on Earl Weaver's major league staff. He managed the Orioles after Weaver's second retirement in 1987, but was unceremoniously fired after the team lost its first six games in 1988. But the elder Ripken did have the chance to manage sons Cal and Billy in Baltimore. Billy was a second baseman who played for parts of 12 seasons, mostly with the Birds, batting .247/.294/.318 and playing sound defense. (Billy does not appear in this card set, having batted .189 in an injury-plagued 1992 season with the Orioles.)

3. Ripken heads a group that owns a few minor league baseball teams, most notably the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Orioles' New York-Penn League affiliate. The IronBirds play near Cal's childhood home, and their complex includes several little league fields that are modeled after MLB stadiums. The Cal Ripken World Series is held in Aberdeen every summer, bringing together youth teams from across the nation and the world.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Before I was even a baseball fan, I remember seeing milk commercials featuring Cal. There was one with an actor portraying a young Ripken in little league. As he comes up to bat, neighbors start warning one another to move their cars, because "that kid's up".

Bill James Said: "I know nobody asked me, but if anybody does, I am completely opposed to putting personal goals ahead of the good of the team." If James thought that the O's had a better chance of winning games with somebody other than Ripken at shortstop every day, he should have named the player. It's worth noting that Ripken moved from shortstop to third base in 1997, when the Orioles acquired Mike Bordick.

On This Date in 1993: October 14. Guy Malary, the justice minister of the Haitian transition government, is shot dead. Two security guards and a driver are also killed in the ambush.

Monday, October 13, 2014

#299 Bob Patterson

About the Front: Bob Patterson's plant leg is bent in an uncomfortable position. Pitching is dangerous.
About the Back: Do you know who else graduated from ECU? Vince McMahon.

Triple Play:

1. Patterson didn't spend a full season in the majors until 1990, when he was 31 years old, but averaged 58 games a season from that point through the end of his career in 1998.

2. He earned his first career win with a rare early-career start on September 8, 1986, limiting the Cardinals to a pair of runs on five hits in seven innings.

3. Here's an unsourced Wikipedia tidbit that I choose to believe: "During his career, Patterson was known as the Glove Doctor: many players, even from opposing teams, would ask Patterson to repair their broken gloves. Patterson would spend his time in the bullpen during games repairing and relacing gloves, sometimes incorporating coat hangers, tongue depressers, and extra leather."

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My only firm memory of Bob is that he pitched in Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game, giving up Rafael Palmeiro's second home run of the game and the Orioles' fourth overall.

Bill James Said: "Patterson mixes up an ordinary fastball and a pretty good curve, and also throws a screwball; he is regarded as an intelligent pitcher."

On This Date in 1993: October 13. Neither Greg Maddux (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 5 ER) nor Tommy Greene (7 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 3 ER) is especially sharp, but the Phillies clinch the NLCS in six games with a 6-3 win. Dave Hollins' two-run homer in the fifth inning and Mickey Morandini's two-run triple in the sixth put the game out of Atlanta's reach.

Friday, October 10, 2014

#298 Scott Livingstone

About the Front: The sleeves on Scott Livingstone's undershirt are an unusual length. They're much longer than his jersey sleeves, which looks kind of sloppy.

About the Back: Livingstone played 44 games (127 at-bats) for the Tigers in 1991, and in fact had a card in the 1992 Topps set. It seems like they were playing fast and loose with the "All-Star Rookie" designation.

Triple Play:

1. Scott made 246 pinch hit appearances in his big league career, with modest success: .277/.309/.375 with 16 doubles, two homers, and 36 RBI.

2. In 213 trips to the plate with the Padres in 1995, he hit .337/.380/.490 with a personal best of five home runs.

3. Livingstone opened the Stars Academy of Baseball in Southlake, TX in 2006.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Scott Livingstone, I presume?" I had heard the famous "Dr. Livingstone" quote somewhere or another, and linked it to this young ballplayer. Such are the connections our minds make.

Bill James Said: "The odd man out in the Detroit infield, where Gomez has taken over at shortstop, Fryman and Trammell both play third when they can't play short, and Tony Phillips is liable to play anywhere."

On This Date in 1993: October 10. The Blue Jays push the White Sox to the brink of elimination with a 5-3 win in the fifth game of the ALCS. Juan Guzman ran his career postseason record to 5-0 as the winning pitcher, and Robin Ventura's two-run, two-out homer in the ninth inning was too little, too late. Toronto chased White Sox starter and 1993 Cy Young winner Jack McDowell in the third inning, touching him up for three runs on five hits and three walks.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#297 Jeff Innis

About the Front: Hey, it's sidearmer Jeff Innis! Thanks to the horizontal layout, we can see a blurry first base umpire, an Astros coach, and half of the Mets first baseman (most likely Eddie Murray). Whoever the other Met is, it looks like he's doing some sort of complicated dance, probably meant to confuse the first base coach, thereby causing him to give poor advice to any potential runners. If you ask me, they'd be better off trying the hidden ball trick. But what do I know?

About the Back: If Topps just wanted to cherry-pick a highlight from the previous season, they could have gone with Innis' effort on July 10, 1992. He shut out the Astros for three innings, and earned the win when Eddie Murray's three-run double erased a 6-4 deficit in the ninth.

Triple Play:

1. Jeff earned a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, and reportedly kept things loose in the Mets clubhouse by doing uncanny impressions of teammates, team employees, and the like.

2. He honed his craft in the minors under the tutelage of a couple of ex-big league pitchers: Lynchburg coach Jim Bibby altered Innis' delivery from submarine to a low sidearm angle. Jackson coach Glenn Abbott taught him to throw a sinker.

3. Since retiring, Innis has sold commercial insurance to businesses. He and his ex-wife Kelly have two children, Keenan and Shannon.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Besides his unconvential pitching style, Innis stood out to me as one of the few major leaguers whose last name began with an "i". In the mid-90s, it was just him, Pete Incaviglia, Mike Ignasiak, Garey Ingram, and Jason Isringhausen.

Bill James Said: "Here's a question for you: did ground-ball pitchers, as a group, have a poor year in 1993?" Innis did, as he posted a career-worst 4.11 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in what turned out to be his final season in the majors.

On This Date in 1993: October 9. Scotty McCreery, winner of the tenth season of American Idol, is born. You darned kids better get off of my lawn.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#296 Luis Rivera

About the Front: Luis Rivera is preparing to slap a tag on Chuck Knoblauch as the Twins' second baseman slides headfirst into second base at the Metrodome. My half-baked research skills pinpoint July 16, 1992 as the likely date that this photo was snapped. In the bottom of the first inning, Knoblauch hit a leadoff single and proceeded to get picked off by pitcher Joe Hesketh, who threw to first baseman Mo Vaughn, who threw to the shortstop Rivera, who made the putout at second. Minnesota won 7-6.

About the Back: Oof, they referenced his minor league stats. Double oof, A-ball stats. Triple oof, A-ball DEFENSIVE stats.

Triple Play:

1. Luis hit a grand total of 28 career home runs, and had two home runs each against a pair of pitchers: Jeff D. Robinson and Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.

2. According to the Baseball Reference Bullpen wiki, Rivera's nickname is "Papa". Whether that's meant in a fatherly way, or as the literal Spanish translation of "potato", they don't say.

3. He spent a decade with the Indians' organization as a minor league coach and manager and later a big league coach. Since 2010, he has been employed by the Blue Jays; currently he is their major league third base coach.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always identified Rivera more by his earlier cards, which showed him with big eyeglasses and a mustache.

Bill James Said: "He's lost his job but he's still here, waiting for the wind to blow him away."

On This Date in 1993: October 8. The Houston Astros sign 17-year-old Venezuelan Freddy Garcia as an amateur free agent. He would go on to win 156 games in 15 big league seasons, and would earn a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#295 Dave Stieb

About the Front: Dave Stieb might have been past his pitching prime by the time this photo was taken, but his mullet game was second to none.

About the Back: Stieb is still the Jays' all-time leader in wins (175) and strikeouts (1,658), with Roy Halladay only reaching 148 W's and 1,495 K's before being traded to the Phillies.

Triple Play:

1. Stieb's 1990 no-hitter came after a number of painful near-misses. On September 24 and 30, 1988, he had two consecutive no-hit bids broken up by two-out singles in the ninth inning. Cleveland's Julio Franco and Baltimore's Jim Traber were the spoilers. He had to settle for finishing the season on a 31.2 inning scoreless streak. Overall, the righthander had five career one-hitters, and a record three potential no-nos that were lost with two outs in the ninth. (The third was a perfect game bid on August 4, 1989; it was undone by a double from Yankee Roberto Kelly.)

2. He led the league in hit batters five times in his career, suggesting that he wasn't afraid to pitch inside.

3. After four years away from baseball, Dave made a surprising comeback with Toronto at age 40 in 1998. He threw 50.1 innings in 19 games (three starts), compiling a 4.93 ERA (96 ERA+...yes, offense ruled the day back then).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I distinctly remember Stieb's 1988 Topps Big card from my childhood collection. Where else would you learn that one of the league's best pitchers was a guitar collector?

Bill James Said: "Has been plagued since 1990 by a herniated disk and sore elbow."

On This Date in 1993: October 7. Toni Morrison is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her novels include "Song of Solomon", "Beloved", and "Jazz".