Thursday, April 24, 2014

#201 Jose Uribe

About the Front: I think this photo was taken during a spring training game. I certainly don't remember Candlestick Park having a grassy berm in the outfield.

About the Back: Uribe was Jose's mother's maiden name. Because his name change coincided with his trade from the Cardinals to the Giants, it was often said that he was the ultimate example of a "player to be named later".

Triple Play:

1. Prior to the 1987 season, Uribe trained back home in the Dominican by having his brother Narciso pitch peanuts in the shell and corn kernels to him from a distance of 15-20 feet. That year, Jose hit a career-high .291/.343/.424 in 95 games.

2. His younger cousin is current Dodgers infielder Juan Uribe.

3. Jose was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on December 8, 2006. He was 47 years old at the time. It's pretty sobering to have back-to-back deceased players in this two decades-old set.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Uribe was the only major leaguer at that time whose last name began with a "U", which made him stand out to me.

Bill James Said: "He's Alfredo Griffin, but without Alfredo's baserunning stunts - a 34-year-old switch hitter who was once a good shortstop, and can take the field and fill in there for a few innings or a few days."

On This Date in 1993: April 24. The Tigers slug five home runs in a 17-1 mauling of the Twins. Minnesota starter Pat Mahomes is battered for 10 runs on 11 hits in 2.2 innings. The Detroit bombers are Rob Deer, Kirk Gibson, Lou Whitaker, Chad Kreuter, and Mickey Tettleton (grand slam).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#200 Kirby Puckett

About the Front: That bat seems much too cumbersome to be an effective hitting tool. Kirby Puckett really needs to look for something smaller. On a different note, I love the Twins' "m" logo on the stirrups.

About the Back: Kirby had the most base hits in the American League four times in his first nine seasons. That's impressive, especially since he and Wade Boggs were contemporaries.

Triple Play:

1. Puckett briefly worked on an assembly line for the Ford Motor Company after graduating high school, as no four-year college had offered him a baseball scholarship. After being laid off, he attended a tryout camp in Chicago and was invited to play for Bradley University by coach Dewey Kalmer.

2. Kirby's career lasted only 12 seasons, as glaucoma blinded his vision in his right eye shortly before the 1996 season. He was so popular and so successful in his abbreviated career (10-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glover, six-time Silver Slugger, 1991 ALCS MVP) that he was still elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, in his first year of eligibility.

3. On March 5, 2006, Puckett suffered a stroke; he died a day later. He was only 45 years old.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Kirby re-signed with the Twins in December 1992, but I remember reading that the Phillies made a strong push to sign him. It's still hard for me to picture him in Phillies red.

Bill James Said: "Kirby swung at the first pitch 49% of the time, the highest in the American League."

On This Date in 1993: April 23. American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez dies at age 66 of natural causes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#199 Junior Ortiz

About the Front: Now this is cool. This photo was taken moments before the photo that appeared on the front of Gary Gaetti's card. Yes, Gaetti was out.

About the Back: The current record holder for most consecutive games caught without an error is Mike Matheny, who went 252 games straight without a miscue.

Triple Play:

1. Junior's B-R Bullpen entry claims that he was known for wearing fur coats, even in the summer. I don't care if it's unsourced. That's just too good to ignore.

2. When asked if he was bothered by the prospect of Rickey Henderson breaking Lou Brock's career stolen bases record at Ortiz's expense, the backstop replied: "No, he's stolen lots of bases on good catchers too."

3. Junior hit a stunning total of five career home runs in 2,071 games. The last came off of Dennis Cook on July 30, 1989, meaning that the catcher ended his career on a 364-game homerless skein.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought "Junior" was a pretty silly nickname for a bearded guy in his thirties.

Bill James Said: "He's had on-base percentages and slugging percentages below .300 for three straight years, making him one of the worst hitters in baseball, plus he grounds into double plays all the time."

On This Date in 1993: April 22. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is dedicated in Washington, DC.

Monday, April 21, 2014

#198 Alejandro Pena

About the Front: The back of Alejandro Pena's jersey is partially obscured, but a quick Google search tells me that the Braves did put the tilde above the "n" in his last name.

About the Back: You could probably win a bar bet with the knowledge that Pena was the 1984 National League ERA champ.

Triple Play:

1. Alejandro's league-leading four shutouts in 1984 weren't cheapies. He had three five-hitters and a four-hitter.

2. The Braves acquired Pena for the stretch run in 1991 and he was a perfect 14 for 14 in saves with Atlanta through the NLCS. So naturally he blew his only save chance in the World Series in Game Three, then took the loss by allowing the only run in the decisive Game Seven.

3. He was the pitching coach for the Dodgers' Dominican Summer League team from 2010 through 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Pena was one of those guys that always looked like he was about 50 years old.

Bill James Said: "The elbow went out in spring training, and he missed the season following surgery."

On This Date in 1993: April 21. The Bolivian Supreme Court sentences former dictator Luis Garcia Meza to 30 years in prison without parole for murder, theft, fraud, and violations of the Constitution. You know what they say: go big or go home.

Friday, April 18, 2014

#197 Jeff Frye

About the Front: Jeff Frye's one-legged batting stance could be an homage to his Rangers teammate Julio Franco.

About the Back: At first glance I thought this picture could have been taken during the same at-bat as the shot on the front, but this time Frye is sans eye black.

Triple Play:

1. In 1997, Jeff played in a career-high 127 games for the Red Sox and batted .312/.352/.433 with 36 doubles.

2. On August 17, 2001, he became the second player in Blue Jays history to hit for the cycle.

3. Frye currently works as a player agent, representing second baseman Ian Kinsler among others.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought Frye was a fitting surname, since Jeff was something of a small fry at 5'9".

Bill James Said: "After playing well as the Rangers second baseman in the second half of '92 he missed all of '93 with a knee injury, casting his future into doubt."

On This Date in 1993: April 18. The Giants outlast the Braves 13-12 in a wild 11-inning contest in San Francisco. Each team uses seven pitchers, and the Giants rally from early 5-0 and 11-6 deficits. With Atlanta leading 12-8 in the ninth, Mike Stanton allows all four batters he faces to reach base, and all four eventually score. Matt Williams goes deep on Steve Bedrosian's first pitch in the bottom of inning 11 to win it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#196 Pat Kelly

About the Front: In an interesting trick of perspective, the barrel of the bat vanishes behind Pat Kelly's head.

About the Back: Both the triple and the three-run homer on May 17, 1992 came against Dave Stewart.

Triple Play:

1. When Pat was growing up in North Catashuqua, PA, his father owned a bar named Kelly's 19th Hole.

2. Pat had a pair of two-homer games in his career. Both came in 1999, when he played just 37 games for Toronto in his final active season.

3. He is very active with baseball in Australia, serving as an assistant coach for the national team. He has served the Dodgers and the Mariners as Pacific Rim Coordinator of scouting.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I seem to recall my parents mentioning that there was another Pat Kelly who played for the Orioles. That would be H. Pat Kelly, a right fielder who was in the majors from 1967 through 1981.

Bill James Said: "Has always been regarded as having the ability to be an outstanding glove, and in '93, he was at least above-average at the position."

On This Date in 1993: April 17. LAPD officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell are found guilty of civil rights violations in the second Rodney King trial.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#195 Pete Harnisch

About the Front: This is one of the neater portraits in this set. I assume that Pete Harnisch is sitting on the Astrodome dugout steps. That is some lovely green carpet underneath him; some of my neighbors still have that bright green turf on their rowhouse porches.

About the Back: Harnisch was a supplemental draft pick. The O's got a compensatory pick at the end of the first round after Rick Dempsey signed with the Indians as a free agent.

Triple Play:

1. Though Pete twice led the National League in fewest hits allowed per inning while with Houston, it was his age-31 season with the Reds in 1998 that may have been his finest: a 14-7 record, a 3.14 ERA (138 ERA+), and a 1.15 WHIP in 209 innings pitched.

2. After quitting smokeless tobacco while pitching for the Mets, Harnisch was diagnosed with and treated for clinical depression.

3. Pete now works with the Angels as a roving minor league pitching instructor.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I may have a couple dozen Pete Harnisch 1989 Donruss "Rated Rookie" cards. He looks much better without the mustache.

Bill James Said: "Always bet on a power pitcher. You'll win more than you lose."

On This Date in 1993: April 16. The final episode of the sitcom Major Dad airs on CBS, creating a Gerald McRaney-shaped void in all of our lives.

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.