Thursday, June 25, 2015

#445 Dale Murphy

About the Front: This photo sums up Dale Murphy in the early 1990s. He's sitting on the bench, staring straight out at the field, wearing an unfamiliar uniform, and searching vainly for answers. Poetic, ain't it? There's also a background cameo by Philly manager Jim Fregosi.

About the Back: Hey, that's the old Phillies uniform! What gives?

Triple Play:

1. His son Shawn was an offensive tackle at Utah State University and a fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2008. He played briefly in the NFL with the Buccaneers and Broncos.

2. Murphy had an amazing peak with the Braves in the 1980s, winning five Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers as a center fielder, earning back-to-back NL MVP honors in 1982-1983, and being tabbed for seven All-Star Games.

3. Dale coached first base for Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also maintains a steady presence on Twitter (@DaleMurphy3).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: If I'd followed baseball more closely when I was younger, I'm sure the sight of Dale Murphy in the Rockies' purple and black (he signed with the team on April 3 after being released by the Phillies) would have been jarring.

Bill James Said: "Murphy called it quits in May after getting about one hit a week." Yes, unfortunately the former star batted .143/.224/.167 in 49 trips to the plate for the Rockies, managing a lone double among his six total hits. Even the friendly atmosphere of Mile High Stadium couldn't prop up his flagging career.

On This Date in 1993: June 25. Walkoff walk! The streaking Orioles win their fourth straight with a 7-6 victory over the Yankees in ten innings at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. New York jumps out to early leads of 5-0 and 6-1, chasing starter Fernando Valenzuela in the fourth inning, but the O's rally back with five runs over the last four innings of regular play against Jim Abbott and three Yankee relievers. In the bottom of the tenth, Steve Howe yields a leadoff double to Damon Buford and intentionally walks a pair of batters (bookending a Mark McLemore sac bunt) to load the bases with one out. Buck Showalter replaces Howe with ex-Oriole John Habyan, who strikes out Mike Devereaux before issuing a game-ending free pass to Chris Hoiles on four straight pitches. With Baltimore's win and losses by front-running Detroit and Toronto, the O's close to within four games of first place despite ranking fourth in the top-heavy American League East. Forgive my verbosity, but I was just noting the parallels to the 2015 season thus far; swap out the Tigers for the Rays, and you've got four East clubs within 2.5 games of one another. And just like '93, the Red Sox are in fifth, nine (well, eight and a half) games out!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#444 David Nied

About the Front: Topps harkens back to its past with a classic "hands-over-the-head" pitching pose for David Nied. Of course, nobody actually pitches like that any more.

About the Back: Nied won his September 1, 1992 debut with seven innings of one-run ball against the Mets, scattering four hits and four walks.

Triple Play:

1. He took the loss in the Rockies' first-ever game, allowing two runs on six hits and six walks (!) as the Mets prevailed, 3-0. He would collect a few less dubious franchise milestones as well, earning Colorado's first complete-game victory (5-3 over those same Mets on April 15) and first complete-game shutout (4-0 against the Astros on June 21, 1994).

2. Injuries curtailed Nied's career, and he was completely finished at age 27. In parts of five seasons, he had a record of 17-18 with a 5.06 ERA (95 ERA+, because Colorado) in 241.2 innings.

3. After hanging up his spikes, David returned to the Dallas area and worked for his father's company, Cylinder Heads International. He is married to the former Heather Cranford, a one-time contestant on The Bachelor, and has four sons.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Before I'd ever heard of the acronym "TINSTAAPP" (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect), Nied was a cautionary tale.

Bill James Said: "He was expected to be the ace of the Rockies staff after being the first player picked in the expansion draft, but his season was derailed by an elbow injury." Cue the ominous music.

On This Date in 1993: June 24. The Giants batter Rockies pitching for 20 hits in a 17-2 rout...at Candlestick Park, believe it or not. Robby Thompson, who had previously never hit two home runs in a single game, does it for the second straight day as part of a 5-for-5 outburst. Other San Francisco homers come from Barry Bonds, Will Clark, and Mark Carreon. Colorado reliever Mark Grant allows hits to all five batters he faces, including a pair of longballs. All five score, though two are driven home after Grant is pulled.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#443 Terry Leach

About the Front: Terry Leach was 38 when this photo was taken, but his pants appear to be hiked up enough for somebody twice his age.

About the Back: Here's an interesting tidbit. Terry was indeed drafted by Boston in January 1976, but the pick was voided. I couldn't find an explanation beyond that, but the righty signed with the Baton Rouge Cougars of the independent Gulf States League later that year, since he'd already graduated from Auburn University. In 1977, he caught on with the Braves organization.

Triple Play:

1. Though he was primarily a reliever, Leach made a spot start for the Mets on October 1, 1982 and pitched a 10-inning one-hitter. He scattered six walks, struck out seven Phillies, and yielded only a fifth-inning triple by Luis Aguayo. A Hubie Brooks sac fly delivered a 1-0 win in the tenth for New York.

2. While splitting the 1987 season between the Mets' bullpen and rotation, Terry won his first ten decisions before incurring his only loss of the year on August 15.

3. He faced Andre Dawson more often than any other batter. In 32 at-bats, "Hawk" had just four hits, though two of them were home runs.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Terry saw action in the 1991 World Series" struck me as odd phrasing. I mean, I've seen plenty of action in various World Series without leaving my couch. That's the wonders of live televised sports. They could've punched it up a bit and said, "Terry got a crucial strikeout in Game 3 of the 1991 World Series."

Bill James Said: "A 40-year-old sidearm/submarine reliever, was pitching effectively last year, as he always has, but went on the disabled list in April with tendonitis in his elbow, and went out for the year in mid-June, same cause." Leach sat out the 1994 season, and retired after an unsuccessful tryout with the Tigers in 1995.

On This Date in 1993: June 23. It takes him 14 innings, but Jay Buhner becomes the first player in Mariners history to hit for the cycle. His first-inning grand slam and 14th-inning triple bookend an 8-7 Seattle win over Oakland; he scores the winning run on a Shawn Hillegas wild pitch.

Monday, June 22, 2015

#442 Kevin McReynolds

About the Front: I can neither confirm nor deny that Kevin McReynolds was considered for the role of Dauber on the long-running sitcom Coach.
About the Back: This might shock you, but Topps botched another basic fact. Kevin's first six-RBI game was August 1, 1989. He went 4-for-6, scored four times, and hit for the cycle in an 11-0 Mets rout of St. Louis. You'd think that would be worth remembering.

Triple Play:

1. In 1988, McReynolds set a big league record by stealing 21 bases in a single season without being caught.

2. On June 25, 1991, he hit a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, two strikes, and the Mets trailing Montreal 5-4.

3. After retiring, he built an eponymous sports complex near Sylvan Hills High School, his alma mater in Sherwood, AR.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Adolescent me didn't think about McReynolds much, but post-college me worked with a Mets fan who hated the outfielder with a fiery passion.

Bill James Said: "He's been washed up for three years, and has now become the Whipping Boy of the Kansas City fans, who don't really understand why McRae (Mgr.) put him back in the lineup in mid-summer, after he complained about his playing time."

On This Date in 1993: June 22. Carlton Fisk catches his 2,226th career game, surpassing Bob Boone as the all-time leader among backstops. He goes 0-for-2 with a sac bunt, is replaced by Mike LaValliere in the ninth inning, and doesn't play another game. The White Sox release him the following week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#441 Don Lemon and Todd Pridy

About the Front: Here's our first multi-player Marlins prospects card. The pinstripe jersey with solid white pants makes me think that Todd Pridy assumed the photographer was shooting from the waist up.

About the Back: A couple of really bright lights here. Don Lemon was already a four-year minor league veteran at this time, having started out as an undrafted free agent in the Braves organization in 1989. Pridy was a 23rd-round draft pick in 1992 out of Cal State Long Beach.

Triple Play:

1. Don pitched professionally for 16 years, including stints in Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, and Japan. He had his greatest pro success in Taiwan, compiling a 36-32 record, 2.53 ERA, and four saves in six seasons in the CPBL. While pitching for the Yakult Swallows in 2000, he became the first foreign-born player in Nippon Pro Baseball history to strike out four batters in one inning.

2. Pridy also never made it to the majors, but extended his pro career with six seasons in the independent Western League. In 1998, he batted .408/.478/.665 in 90 games with the Sonoma County Crushers, clubbing 29 doubles and 21 home runs and driving in 94.

3. After retiring as a player, Todd became a social sciences teacher and head coach of the varsity baseball team at Napa High School in California.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I've always assumed that Todd's last name was pronounced "pretty". I'm fairly sure that my friends and I made fun of his name, because we were very mature like that.

Bill James Said: Nothing from Bill on these two.

On This Date in 1993: June 17. Al Leiter two-hits the Red Sox for his first career shutout as Toronto tops Boston, 7-0. The BoSox strand the bases loaded in the fourth inning after a Mike Greenwell single and a pair of walks; their only other baserunner in the game comes via a Billy Hatcher leadoff single in the sixth. Ivan Calderon bats next, grounds into a double play, and that's that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#440 Ruben Sierra

About the Front: It looks like somebody just told Ruben Sierra something very unsettling. Maybe it was along the lines of "the A's will still be playing in the Coliseum in 2015".

About the Back: Sierra has dropped to fourth on the Rangers' all-time home run list with 180 (owing to a pair of return stints in the 2000s). Ahead of him are Juan Gonzalez (372 HR), Rafael Palmeiro (321), and Ivan Rodriguez (217). Frank Howard hit 246 homers for the franchise, but all but nine of those came when the team was still the Washington Senators.

Triple Play:

1. In 2001, Ruben was the American League Comeback Player of the Year with the Rangers. He had played a total of 86 MLB games over the previous four years, but batted .291/.322/.561 with 23 home runs and 67 RBI in 94 games with Texas that season.

2. In all, he played parts of 20 seasons in the big leagues and totaled 306 homers and 1,322 RBI.

3. Sierra owns show horses, and recorded two albums of Latin music during the 1990s.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Tony LaRussa referring to Ruben as "a village idiot" when the player made public comments questioning Oakland management's desire for him to be a more selective hitter.

Bill James Said: "Ruben Sierra is the first player in major league history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases, drive in 100 runs - and have a terrible season by his own standards." Sierra hit just .233/.288/.390 (86 OPS+) in 1993, making it the worst season of his career to that point.

On This Date in 1993: June 16. Jack McDowell turns in one of his best starts on the season, a three-hit shutout of the Athletics. Chicago wins 4-0, as McDowell (10-4) strikes out eight while walking two. He will twirl a two-hitter in Seattle on August 1.

Monday, June 15, 2015

#439 Bryan Harvey

About the Front: Why is Bryan Harvey just hanging out on the porch of his log cabin in full uniform? Who knows? Just go with it.

About the Back: Well, this is odd. Bryan's birthplace is listed here as Catawba, NC, but Baseball Reference says he was born in Soddy-Daisy, TN.

Triple Play:

1. His father Stan was named to the Amateur Softball Association of America's National Softball Hall of Fame in 1996. Two of Bryan's sons were top draft picks. Kris Harvey was a second-round pick of the Marlins in 2005 out of Clemson University; he played eight minor league seasons as an outfielder and later a pitcher and stalled out at AA. Hunter Harvey was the Orioles' first-round selection (22nd overall) out of high school in 2013, and entered the 2015 season as Baseball America's 20th-ranked prospect.

2. After an elbow injury shortened Harvey's 1992 season, the Angels had second thoughts about the multi-year contract they'd just given their closer. He was exposed to the expansion draft and chosen by the Marlins; he proceeded to set a record for an expansion team by saving 45 games in 1993and posted a 1.70 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 69 innings. His elbow troubles returned in 1994, though, and he totaled just 10.1 innings after that.

3. Bryan coached in the Rockies organization, working with the Class A Asheville Tourists (2007) and AA Tulsa Drillers (2009-2010).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'd like to think that my younger self would've been impressed by my decision to emulate Harvey's mustache in my mid-twenties.

Bill James Said: "He had a wonderful season, from which we should learn this: that the bullpen is not the key to success in baseball." The '93 Marlins went 64-98 with a good batch of relievers anchored by Bryan, finishing 33 games behind the NL East champion Phillies.

On This Date in 1993: June 15. John Connally, former governor of Texas, U. S. Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of the Navy, dies at age 76. He was seriously wounded in the shooting that took the life of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

#438 Ritchie Moody

About the Front: Moody by name, moody by reputation. Look at that pout.

About the Back: 47 earned runs allowed in 60 innings in 1991? Woof, talk about a sophomore slump.

Triple Play:

1. In 1992, he appeared in a total of 28 games at Class A Gastonia and AA Tulsa, allowing two earned runs in 32.2 innings for an ERA of 0.55. He also allowed seven unearned runs, because minor league baseball is a fascinating sort of game.

2. Moody spent six years in the Rangers organization, with his only experience above AA coming in a disastrous eight-game trial as a starter at AAA Oklahoma City in 1994 (0-5, 6.00 ERA, 32 K/31 BB in 42 IP). He was out of baseball after the 1997 season, finishing with a 6-16 record as a pro with a 3.91 ERA and 30 saves.

3. After retiring, he operated a baseball academy in Centerville, OH.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm not sure why Ritchie is wearing a Starter cap with the "TEXAS" wordmark instead of an actual Rangers cap. I had a cap in this style, and it was teal with "DOLPHINS" across the front in orange lettering. I was such a fashion plate in my adolescence.

Bill James Said: Bill pleads the fifth, on the grounds that Moody was not yet close to reaching the majors.

On This Date in 1993: June 12. The first presidential elections are held in Nigeria since a 1983 military coup. Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party defeats Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. However, military ruler Ibrahim Babangida later declares the election null, and it will be another five years before Nigeria has a civilian government.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#437 Chris Hammond

About the Front: That's not the yawning abyss behind Chris Hammond; it's probably just the batter's eye.

About the Back: Hammond hit that home run off of John Burkett; it was a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth that gave Cincinnati a 4-3 lead. He was no slouch with the bat, finishing his career with a line of .202/.285/.290, four homers, and 14 RBI in 286 plate appearances.

Triple Play:

1. His older brother Steve was an outfielder, and batted .230 with one home run and 11 RBI in 46 games with the Royals in 1982. The elder Hammond spent a large part of seven different seasons in AAA, and finished his career in Japan in 1987 with the Nankai Hawks.

2. Chris was the AAA American Association's Pitcher of the Year in 1990, when he led the league with 15 wins, a 2.17 ERA, and 149 strikeouts, becoming the first pitcher in the league's modern incarnation (1969-1997) to capture the Triple Crown.

3. Hammond had shoulder surgery in 1998 and retired to a 200+ acre horse ranch in Randolph County, AL with his family. He returned to baseball in 2001 and was back in the big leagues the following year as a full-time reliever, with a sparkling 0.96 ERA in 76 innings for the Braves. He spent one season apiece with Atlanta, the Yankees, the Athletics, the Padres, and the Reds before retiring for good after the 2006 season.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always identify Chris Hammond as a Marlin, since that's where he was pitching when I picked up on baseball.

Bill James Said: "He was pounded senseless the second half, which has been his habit - in his career he is 22-14 before the break, but 3-17 after."

On This Date in 1993: June 11. The Blue Jays fill a need at shortstop, reacquiring Tony Fernandez from the Mets in exchange for outfielder Darrin Jackson. Fernandez, who had been a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover in his first stint with Toronto (1983-1990), is invigorated by the trade, batting .306/.361/.442 with the Jays. He'd managed an anemic .225/.323/.295 line in 48 games in New York.