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.

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.