Thursday, October 30, 2014

#311 Jay Howell

About the Front: Good Lord! Where did Jay Howell's right arm go?

About the Back: Looking at those palm trees reminds me that we're in for a long winter. I miss baseball already.

Triple Play: 

1. Howell was an All-Star in 1985, 1987, and 1989. How he made the team in 1987, when he had a 4.86 ERA at the break, is beyond me.

2. In Game Three of the 1988 NLCS against the Mets, he was ejected for having pine tar on his glove and suspended for three days.

3. Jay was an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge from 1998 through 2005, leading the team to two Big Sky Conference championships.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that his middle name (Canfield) was quite unusual. I assume it was a family name.

Bill James Said: "Removed from the closer role there was less pressure to get him in the game when he wasn't 100%, and he pitched more games and innings than he had since 1989." Howell allowed 48 hits in 58 innings for the Braves in 1993, with a 2.31 ERA.

On This Date in 1993: October 30. Let's go with that day's Calvin and Hobbes strip!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#310 Dave Righetti

About the Front: Just another sellout crowd at Candlestick Park. Where is everybody?

About the Back: Dave Righetti gave up one home run in 105.1 innings in the strike-shortened 1981 season, making him quite a deserving Rookie of the Year. His no-hitter on July 4, 1983 was the first by a Yankee since Don Larsen's World Series perfect game in 1956.

Triple Play:

1. While pitching for the AA Tulsa Drillers, he set a Texas League record by striking out 21 Midland Cubs in nine innings on July 16, 1978.

2. Dave was an All-Star in both 1986 and 1987. In the former season, he became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter and lead the league in saves during his major league career. (Dennis Eckersley and Derek Lowe later joined him on that short list.)

3. He is currently the longest-tenured pitching coach in baseball, having served the Giants under Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou, and Bruce Bochy since 2000.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It's a crime that his nickname was "Rags". His last name rhymes with spaghetti. Do I have to do all the legwork here?

Bill James Said: "I wonder if he's the only major league player who ever had triplets?" Melvin Mora and his quintuplets laugh.

On This Date in 1993: October 29.The Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop-motion animated film from Tim Burton, premieres. If you haven't seen it, you absolutely should.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#309 J. T. Bruett

About the Front: J. T. Bruett's bat toss must have been effective and quick, since no part of the bat is visible in this photo.

About the Back: Four homers total in his first five pro seasons, and he hits a grand slam in a minor league All-Star Game. Makes perfect sense.

Triple Play:

1. Bruett attended the University of Minnesota, where he set a school record (since broken) with 77 career stolen bases.

2. He singled off of Jack McDowell on June 13, 1992 for the first hit of his big league career.

3. J. T. played in 17 games for the Twins in 1993, his last taste of the majors. He spent two more seasons at AAA, and finished his career with a 50-game stint for the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League in 1996, batting .320/.391/.383.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This guy was named Bruett and came from Milwaukee. How did he not play for the Brewers?

Bill James Said: "Predicting what Tom Kelly will do is like predicting who Geraldo will have on tomorrow (God only knows), but if Shane Mack leaves as a free agent and Becker doesn't come through, Bruett may inherit a job, and might score 100 runs." Rich Becker didn't really come through, but the other two guesses were off the mark.

On This Date in 1993: October 28. Former Cubs, Mets, and Red Sox reliever Cal Koonce dies of lymphoma at age 52. He had posted a 2.42 ERA, six wins, and 11 saves for New York in 1968.

Monday, October 27, 2014

#308 Darryl Kile

About the Front: I appreciate the fact that the Astros' old road uniforms were a yellowish cream color, instead of the gray that everyone else was using at the time. This was the same sort of outside-the-box thinking that led to all of those fantastic baby-blue road uniforms in the 1970s.

About the Back: Darryl Kile was a high-round draft pick success, as Houston took nine other right-handed pitchers before choosing him with their 30th-round pick. Of the righties the team drafted ahead of Kile, only second-rounder Randy Hennis ever made it to the majors, and he only tossed 9.2 innings in 1990.

Triple Play:

1. Kile was an All-Star three times: 1993, 1997, and 2000. The 1997 was his best, as he went 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA and a career-best four shutouts.

2. In their desperation to find reliable starting pitching, the high-altitude Rockies signed Kile to a three-year, $24 million contract prior to the 1998 season. The deal was a disaster; he went 21-30 with a 5.84 ERA (94 ERA+) in two seasons in Denver before moving on to St. Louis in a seven-player deal.

3. Sadly, Darryl died at age 33 of a sudden heart attack while sleeping in his hotel room in Chicago on June 22, 2002. He was in town with the Cardinals, who were playing a road series against the Cubs.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: His no-hitter against the Mets came just four days after Jim Abbott blanked the Indians. They were the first two no-hitters to occur during my time as a baseball fan.

Bill James Said: " 'His' improvement in '93 is chiefly attributable to the Astros hitters, who scored 6.4 runs per nine innings when he was pitching." Kile improved from 5-10, 3.95 ERA in 1992 to 15-8, 3.51 in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: October 27. Dodgers' catcher Mike Piazza is unanimously chosen as the National League Rookie of the Year. He batted .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBI.

Friday, October 24, 2014

#307 Dan Serafini

About the Front: That right there is one of the sweatiest draft picks I have ever seen. His arms and upper chest quite shiny.

About the Back: Water polo! Oh, and if Serra (San Mateo) High School sounds familiar, it's something of a training ground for pro athletes. Its most notable alumni are Tom Brady, Lynn Swann, and Barry Bonds.

Triple Play:

1. His first career win was also the only complete game he pitched in his career. He held the Athletics to two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks, September 8, 1997.

2. Dan was a consummate journeyman, playing for the following professional organizations: Twins, Cubs, Padres, Pirates, Giants, Mets, Brewers, Angels, Cardinals, Sultanes de Monterrey (Mexico), Reds, Chiba Lotte Marines (Japan), Orix Buffaloes (Japan), Rockies, Bridgeport Bluefish, Rieleros de Aguascalientes (Mexico), aaaaand Tigres de Quintana Roo (Mexico). His major league record: 15-16 with a 6.04 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, and one save in parts of seven seasons.

3. In 2006, a Chicago Cubs fan posed as Serafini for a radio interview with a Minnesota radio station. His amusing account can be read on his blog.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This one is a message to my younger self from present-day Kevin, actually. Just because a guy repeatedly fails to retire major league hitters, that doesn't mean that he can't play pro baseball for two decades. Have arm, will travel.

Bill James Said:

On This Date in 1993: October 24. The Crash Test Dummies release their second album, God Shuffled His Feet. Now you have "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" stuck in your head. Sorry/not sorry.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#306 Damon Berryhill

About the Front: Damon Berryhill can pat his head and rub his hip at the same time! Now that is true talent.

About the Back: So, which poor soul was so offensively inept that he was pinch-hit for by Berryhill? As you may have guessed, it was a pitcher. Damon batted for reliever Mark Davis and blasted a 2-2 offering from Larry Andersen down the right field line for his first career walk-off homer. The Braves had already used Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser, and Lonnie Smith off of the bench before turning to their reserve catcher.

Triple Play:

1. Two weeks after the Cubs first played under lights at Wrigley Field, Damon hit the first homer for a Chicago player in a night game in the Friendly Confines. It's a two-run shot against Houston's Mike Scott on August 22, 1988. Later in the game, he adds a go-ahead three-run shot off of Joaquin Andujar. It is the only multi-homer game of his career.

2. As the Braves' primary catcher in the 1992 World Series, Berryhill had only two hits in 22 at-bats, but one of those was a three-run homer off of Jack Morris that provided the margin of victory in a 3-1 Atlanta victory in the Series opener.

3. He was the minor league catching coordinator for the Diamondbacks and then the Rangers before getting into minor-league managing. He has skippered Dodgers' farm teams since 2009, most recently piloting the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes in 2014.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always perceived something of a smirk in Damon's expression on this card. He could be looking at his first base coach after an iffy called strike, as if to say, "Can you believe that?".

Bill James Said: "The Braves and the Blue Jays are in similar positions, in that both have outstanding catching prospects who are ready or nearly ready to play, but also have incumbent catchers who, while they aren't much with the bat, have nonetheless become integral parts of teams which are winning." Atlanta let Berryhill go to Boston as a free agent in 1994, handed Javy Lopez the starting job, and never looked back. Carlos Delgado didn't stick behind the plate in Toronto, but did okay for himself as a first baseman.

On This Date in 1993: October 23.The Troubles, the ongoing violence between Unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland, claims nine more civilian victims as a Provisional IRA bomb goes off prematurely in the Shankill area of Belfast. The bomber is also killed in the blast. The intended targets were loyalist paramilitary leaders who were expected to be meeting above a fish shop in the area.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#305 Rafael Palmeiro

About the Front: Rafael Palmeiro is showing off what was widely regarded as one of the sweetest left-handed swings in the game.

About the Back: Palmeiro was born in Cuba, but his family immigrated to Miami when he was a child.

Triple Play:

1. At Mississippi State, he became the only player in Southeastern Conference history to win the Triple Crown. It's particularly impressive, considering that one of his teammates was Will Clark.

2. Despite never winning an American League home run crown or batting title, Palmeiro was one of the pre-eminent power and contact hitters of his generation. From 1993 through 2003, he averaged .288/.380/.555 (138 OPS+) with 42 home runs and 122 RBI per 162 games. He also holds the dubious record for most career games played without appearing in a World Series, with a total of 2,831.

3. In a 20-year career, Rafael totaled 585 doubles, 569 home runs, 1,835 RBI, and 3,020 hits. However, he retired under a cloud after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol during the 2005 season. He was subjected to intense scrutiny and derision, particularly since he had famously and emphatically denied using steroids during a televised congressional hearing the previous spring. For Palmeiro's part, he has always maintained that he never intentionally used steroids, suggesting that former Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada provided him with a shot of vitamin B-12 that may have been tainted. Regardless, he received little sympathy from Hall of Fame voters, debuting on the ballot with an 11% showing in 2011 and losing his eligibility in 2014 after dropping to 4.4% of the vote.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I had a baseball card of my own in 1994, which was the first (and penultimate) year of my brief Little League career. As part of the biography that was affixed to the card back, I was asked to list my favorite major league player. I went with "Raphael" Palmeiro, the exciting new free agent acquisition of my beloved Orioles. Much like Raffy himself, I maintain my innocence when it comes to the misspelling of his first name. It must have been an error in transcription from the photographer.

Bill James Said: "Led the American League in runs scored, was fourth in total bases, fifth in homers, third in doubles, second in stolen base percentage (88%)." And yet the Rangers let him walk in favor of Will Clark.

On This Date in 1993: October 22. Future major leaguers Robinson Cano and Darren O'Day each celebrate their 11th birthday. It's strange to think of these guys as my contemporaries, at least age-wise.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#304 Melido Perez

About the Front: You may remember that Melido, Pascual (67-68, 3.44 ERA from 1981-1991), and Carlos Perez (40-53, 4.44 ERA from 1995-2000) were all brothers who pitched in the majors during the 1980s and 1990s. Though none of them were particularly attractive, I'd go out on a limb and say that Melido got the good looks in the family.

About the Back: Melido's no-hitter was actually a rain-shortened complete game, but is not considered an "official" no-no because it was fewer than nine innings. Older brother Pascual no-hit the Phillies in a rain-abbreviated five-inning contest on September 24, 1988. These were both counted as no-hitters at the time, but retroactively discounted in a 1991 change to the rule book. That seems a bit cruel.

Triple Play:

1. Perez debuted for the Royals on September 4, 1987, allowing a single unearned run on six hits and three walks in seven innings to top the White Sox.

2. On September 3, 1993, he surrendered the first of Manny Ramirez's 555 career home runs.

3. How's this mix of conventional and unconventional post-playing pursuits? Melido spent some time coaching the White Sox' Dominican Summer League team, and later was elected mayor of San Gregorio de Nigua, San Cristobal, DR.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Melido" struck me as one of the more unique baseball names. In fact, I can now use the power of the Internet to report that Perez is the only player in MLB history named Melido.

Bill James Said: "I have always spoken well of Perez, but the fact is that he, far more than anyone else, kept the Yankees from beating Toronto." Yeah, he was pretty bad in '93: 6-14, 5.19 ERA (80 ERA+), 9.6 hits per nine innings. Of course, New York also gave 367 plate appearances to shortstop Spike Owen (.234/.294/.311, 66 OPS+), and that couldn't have helped their playoff chances.

On This Date in 1993: October 21. Civil war is afoot in Burundi as President Melchior Ndadaye is killed in a failed military uprising. A member of the Hutu ethnic group, Ndadaye had been elected as the African nation's first democractically chosen leader just three months prior, but soon ran afoul of the Tutsi-controlled army.

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.