Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#194 Jerald Clark

About the Front: Jerald Clark might think that he'll get more strike zone coverage by swinging two bats at once, but he's forgetting about bat speed.

About the Back: October 2, 1990 was also Jerald Clark's only two-homer big league game.

Triple Play: 

1. His younger brother, Phil Clark, was a utility player for the Tigers, Padres, and Red Sox in the 1990s.

2. Jerald stole home against the Dodgers on September 10, 1992. Rookie catcher Mike Piazza walked to the mound to confer with pitcher Orel Hershiser, but failed to call time out. Clark sprinted for the unprotected plate and made it safely with the eventual winning run.

3. Clark jumped to Japan in 1994, where he batted .293/.354/.497 in 99 games for the Yakult Swallows. He slugged 20 home runs.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When I played Little League and co-ed softball, I used to swing two aluminum bats whenever I was on deck. I figured it would make the bat seem lighter when I was hitting, but I still had no idea how to make contact, really.

Bill James Said: "I figured the 'Real Park Equivalent' for some of the Colorado players; Clark's stats are equivalent to .258 with 11 homers, 53 RBI in a real park." With the Mile High boost, Jerald batted .282 with 13 HR and 67 RBI.

On This Date in 1993: April 15. Andre Dawson becomes the 25th member of the 400 Home Run Club, aiding the Red Sox in a 4-3 win over Cleveland. It's the Hawk's first round-tripper with Boston.

Monday, April 14, 2014

#193 Steve Foster

About the Front: Steve Foster wore #54 for parts of three seasons in Cincinnati. The Reds' current #54 is closer Aroldis Chapman.

About the Back: Earlier in the 12th round of the 1988 draft, the Orioles chose Pete Rose, Jr. with their pick. The son of the Hit King played 21 pro seasons, but his entire MLB career consisted of an 11-game stint with the Reds in September 1997.

Triple Play:

1. Steve earned his first (and only) career win with four scoreless innings of relief against the Padres on April 24, 1992. The game lasted 16 innings, and Foster had a bunt single as part of the winning rally but was thrown out trying to advance to third base on Bill Doran's go-ahead sacrifice fly. Fortunately, lead runner Bip Roberts crossed the plate before Foster was gunned down.

2. During the 1993 season, Steve wound up on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder shortly after appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to throw baseballs at milk bottles.

3. Since his playing career ended, he has served as a scout for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and a coach in the Marlins and Royals organizations. Foster has been Kansas City's bullpen coach since 2010.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always preferred David Letterman to Jay Leno. Maybe it's because he didn't cause any injuries to promising major leaguers.

Bill James Said: "Righthander, not big, has excellent control, is described by the papers as a bulldog."

On This Date in 1993: April 14. In the ninth inning of a 12-2 rout at the hands of the Angels, Milwaukee reliever Graeme Lloyd and catcher Dave Nilsson make history by becoming the first all-Australian battery in the major leagues.

Friday, April 11, 2014

#192 Bob Milacki

About the Front: The Oriole Bird on Bob Milacki's undershirt collar is perfectly aligned with the bird on his cap. Coincidence? Probably.

About the Back: Here's another fun coincidence - Herman Pillette's son Duane pitched for the Orioles in 1954-1955 and was the first pitcher to win a game for the O's after their move from St. Louis.

Triple Play:

1. After tossing eight one-hit innings in his MLB debut, and pitching into the ninth in his next game, Bob shut out the Yankees on three hits with 10 strikeouts in his third big league appearance.

2. On July 13, 1991, he tossed the first six innings of a combined no-hitter against Oakland, with Mark Williamson, Mike Flanagan, and Gregg Olson keeping the A's hitless through the final three frames.

3. Milacki is currently a pitching coach in the Phillies' organization. In 2014, he is on the Single-A Clearwater Threshers staff.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was fortunate to grow up in Baltimore in the 1980s and 1990s, where Bob Milacki was a household name.

Bill James Said: "He's only 29 and it's hard to say specifically why he can't win, but a pitcher with less than five strikeouts/game will always have a short career."

On This Date in 1993: April 11. A 450-man prison riot breaks out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, and it will continue for 10 days. It is sparked by grievances over prison conditions and forced tuberculosis vaccinations given to Nation of Islam prisoners. The vaccinations run counter to the religious beliefs of NOI.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

#191 Sean Lowe

About the Front: I think Sean's saying, "You stuck me in a pullover jersey and elastic-waistband pants? Are you friggin' kidding me?".

About the Back: "Mesquite" is an interesting town name. Makes me hungry.

Triple Play:

1. Sean earned his first major league win with three innings of one-run, one-hit relief against the Royals on April 17, 1999. It was a sloppy game, as the White Sox and Kansas City combined for five errors.

2. Lowe pitched parts of seven seasons in the majors, primarily with the White Sox. His best season was 2001, when he had a 9-4 record with a 3.61 ERA and three saves as a swingman for the Pale Hose.

3. Sean's claim to fame: On June 16, 2001, he was the opposing pitcher when Cardinals rookie Albert Pujols dropped down his first - and to date, only - sacrifice bunt. The pitcher fielded the bunt and threw to second baseman Ray Durham (covering first base) for the first out of the inning. The runners moved to second and third base. That Tony LaRussa always was crafty.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I found Sean Lowe's body language to be pretty funny back in 1993. Nothing has changed.

Bill James Said: Nothing. Sean was in A-ball in '93.

On This Date in 1993: April 10. Jimmy Key and John Habyan of the Yankees combined to shut out the White Sox, as New York won a laugher 12-0. Bernie Williams, Kevin Maas, and Spike Owen each had three hits for the Yanks, and Bernie also drove in a team-high three runs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#190 Doug Drabek

About the Front: Doug Drabek's right knee comes down so low on his delivery that it looks like he's genuflecting.

About the Back: Drabek was part of a six-pitcher trade between the Pirates and the Yankees. New York sent him to Pittsburgh along with Logan Easley and Brian Fisher in exchange for Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante, and Rick Rhoden.

Triple Play:

1. He was the 1990 National League Cy Young, thanks in large part to his league-best 22-6 record. In the NLCS, he split his two decisions against the eventual World Champion Reds, absorbing a complete-game 2-1 loss in Game 2 before pitching into the ninth inning in a 3-2 Pirates win in Game 5.

2. Drabek has been a pitching coach in the Diamondbacks organization since 2010, and is currently on the staff of the Single-A Hillsboro (OR) Hops.

3. Doug's son Kyle was the Phillies' first-round draft pick (18th overall) in 2006. A few years later he was shipped to Toronto in the Roy Halladay blockbuster, and has struggled with his control in parts of four big league seasons as a starting pitcher with the Jays.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember having the sense that Drabek was older than his early 30s because he went prematurely gray. Of course, now I'm edging toward the Silver Club in my 30s as well.

Bill James Said: "Pitched a lot of close games and didn't win them, thus leading the league in losses." Here's a sampling of tough losses from Drabek's 1993 game log: 3-1, 2-1, 3-2, 5-4 (blown save), 2-1, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1, 4-3 (blown save), 3-1. That's 10 of his 18 losses right there.

On This Date in 1993: April 9. The Rockies batter the Expos 11-4 in the franchise's first-ever home game. An MLB-record 80,227 fans pack into Denver's Mile High Stadium to witness the first win in team history. Bryn Smith is the winning pitcher, tossing seven scoreless innings. Charlie Hayes and Eric Young set the tone with first-inning home runs off of Montreal's Kent Bottenfield.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#189 Tony Phillips

About the Front: Tony Phillips looks like he's running against a stiff wind. Cue the Bob Seger...

About the Back: That's a helluva one-two punch for the '61 Tigers. They won 101 games, but that was a firm second place behind the 109-win Maris-Mantle Yankees. How frustrating for Detroit.

Triple Play:

1. Tony switched to #73 with the White Sox in 1997 when Albert Belle joined the club and requested the #8 jersey that had previously belonged to Phillips. The utility player said that he picked a number that nobody else would ever want.

2. On August 10, 1997, Phillips was arrested in an Anaheim hotel room while in possession of $30 of free-base cocaine and a pipe. The charges were dismissed after he attended counseling and remained drug-free for a year.

3. As recently as 2012, a 53-year-old Phillips could be found playing in the independent North American League, where he maintained a .355 on-base percentage in 16 games with the Edinburg (TX) Roadrunners. The previous season, Tony made headlines as a member of the NABL's Yuma Scorpions after he brawled with ex-Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall, who was managing the rival Chico Outlaws.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Tony Phillips being a pesky guy that you hated to see your team face. A check of his career splits shows that he batted .257/.352/.378 in 150 career games against my Orioles, which is actually a bit below his .266/.374/.389 overall stat line. Go figure.

Bill James Said: "He doesn't just play five positions; he plays five positions well, even spectacularly well."

On This Date in 1993: April 8. The Republic of Macedonia is admitted to the United Nations. Two years earlier, the tiny central Balkan state had declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia.

Monday, April 7, 2014

#188 Sid Fernandez

About the Front: I guess the slimming effect of pinstripes is minimized when you have thighs the size of Luxembourg.

About the Back: I don't know if it was deliberate, but I like the parallels between Sid Fernandez' three-hit games at bat and on the mound.

Triple Play:

1. As a native Hawaiian, Fernandez honored his home state by wearing #50 throughout his career. He was also a fan of the TV show "Hawaii Five-O".

2. Sid appeared in three games in the 1986 World Series as a reliever. In the Game 7 clincher, he provided a crucial bridge between starter Ron Darling and the back end of the New York 'pen with 2.1 hitless innings, striking out four Boston batters.

3. Among all pitchers with at least a thousand career innings pitched, Fernandez ranks fourth for fewest hits allowed per nine innings, with 6.85. The three men ahead of him are Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Clayton Kershaw (who could slip from that spot before his career is through, of course).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Sid Fernandez was the first free-agent bust of my Orioles fandom. There's nothing like an overweight, injury-prone veteran who gives up home runs by the bucketful to get your blood boiling.

Bill James Said: "If he is not in Shea Stadium in '93 (sic) his strikeouts will decrease and his ERA will increase, but his won-lost record may improve." See above. Pitching for a solid O's team, El Sid bumped his record from 5-6 to a grand 6-6 while his ERA ballooned from 2.93 to 5.15.

On This Date in 1993: April 7. The Braves outlast the Cubs 5-4 in 10 innings thanks to a two-run homer from Ron Gant. It's the first of a career-high 36 dingers in 1993 for the Atlanta left fielder.

Friday, April 4, 2014

#187 John Dopson

About the Front: The "JRY" patch on John Dopson's left sleeve is a memorial for Red Sox owner Jean R. Yawkey, who died at age 83 in February of 1992.

About the Back: Here we go again, digging out AAA and rookie-year highlights for a guy eight years later. It makes it seem like the rest of Dopson's MLB career was an indiscriminate slog.

Triple Play:

1. John held Steve Sax to two singles and three walks in their 26 meetings.

2. His lone career shutout was a three-hitter against the White Sox on April 19, 1993.

3. From 1996 through 1999, Dopson pitched in Independent ball with the Tennessee Tomahawks and the Tri-City (WA) Posse, going 30-9 with a cumulative ERA of 2.84. His teammates included Sam Horn, Mike Felder, Ernie Riles, and Mike Campbell.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought it was neat that Dopson was born in Baltimore, just like me. But once his big league career ended in 1994, he was out of sight and out of mind.

Bill James Said: "Two straight 7-11 seasons may get him an endorsement contract with a convenience store company, but otherwise could not be considered lucky."

On This Date in 1993: April 4. Alfred Mosher Butts, the American architect who invented the popular board game Scrabble, died just shy of his 94th birthday.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#186 Mike Magnante

About the Front: Mike Magnante has a bit of Dizzy Gillespie face going on here.

About the Back: "Was graduated"? That's taking passive voice to a gruesome extreme.

Triple Play:

1. He pitched in the majors for 12 seasons, and his career year came with the Astros in 1997. That year, he posted a 2.27 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 40 appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was a personal-best 3.9-to-1.

2. Mike pops up in Moneyball; after A's GM Billy Beane acquires lefty reliever Ricardo Rincon from Cleveland, he has the unpleasant task of giving Magnante his release ten days before the latter's full pension benefits are set to vest.

3. Magnante is currently a math teacher at Agoura High School, a public school in southern California.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: For me, one of the fun things about collecting has always been letting the unusual names roll around in my mind. Mike's last name is an anagram for "A magenta 'N'", which applies to a few characters on the front of the card.

Bill James Said: "Grade D prospect; when you see him pitch it is hard to understand why he is even in the majors, but I have occasionally seen pitchers like him who could keep batters constantly off stride."

On This Date in 1993: April 3. A couple of interesting transactions. The Detroit Tigers sign pitcher David Wells, who had been released by Toronto a few days earlier. The Phillies release two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, who promptly signs with the Colorado Rockies.