Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#281 Butch Henry

About the Front: Dark jersey and sparse ballpark backdrop - these are the telltale signs of a spring training photo.

About the Back: Butch Henry bears some physical resemblance to Luke Scott, who played outfield and DH'ed for the Astros, Orioles, and Rays in recent years.

Triple Play:

1. On May 8, 1992, Butch hit an inside-the-park, three-run homer off of Doug Drabek. It was his only career round-tripper, and the most recent inside-the-parker by a pitcher.

2. His best season was 1994, when he went 8-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 107.1 innings with Montreal. He also collected nine hits in 31 at-bats, with a triple-slash of .290/.353/.323 with two RBI.

3. Henry coached in the Reds' organization for a few years, and also managed the independent El Paso Diablos from 2007 through 2010.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It never occurred to me that "Butch" was not Henry's birth name. I guess I was a trusting soul. For the record, it's Floyd Bluford Henry. So...yeah, Butch is an improvement.

Bill James Said: "Henry, after pitching over his head in 1992, was dragooned by the Rockies." That's one way of putting it. He went 2-8 with a 6.59 ERA in 20 games (15 starts) for Colorado, allowing 117 hits in 84.2 innings.

On This Date in 1993: September 16. At age 41, Dave Winfield collects his 3,000th career hit, an RBI single off of Dennis Eckersley in the ninth inning in Minnesota. Winfield will come around to score the tying run on Scott Stahoviak's base hit, but Shane Mack is thrown out at home by left fielder Kurt Abbott. This wild A's-Twins game goes 13 innings, with Oakland blowing another two-run lead in the final frame to fall, 5-4. Chip Hale's single finally plates Kirby Puckett with the winning run.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#280 Tom Glavine

About the Front: It looks like the Topps logo is taking a ride on the ball that Tom Glavine just released.
About the Back: John Smoltz topped Glavine with 14 wins in a row in 1996.

Triple Play:

1. Tom was a standout hockey player in high school, and was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 1984 NHL draft.

2. His younger brother Mike played pro baseball for a decade, finishing with a .245/.340/.449 batting line in the minor leagues. He had a six-game cup of coffee with the Mets in 2003, collecting a single in seven trips to the plate.

3. Glavine had a 3.30 ERA in 218.1 career postseason innings, capped by a Most Valuable Player selection for the 1995 World Series. He won both of his starts against the Indians that year, including a one-hit, eight-strikeout, eight-inning gem in the Game Six clincher, a 1-0 Atlanta triumph.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Tom Glavine just looked boring. Something about those heavy-lidded eyes, the perpetually clean-shaven and unexpressive face...I could imagine him lulling opposing hitters into a stupor as he rolled through another winning start.

Bill James Said: "Through most of last year he didn't pitch all that well, but continued to roll up wins due to the superb team behind him, good luck, and his own survival skills." Through August 19, Glavine had a pedestrian rate of 79 strikeouts and 76 walks in 178 innings, but was still 14-5 with a 3.34 ERA. Go figure.

On This Date in 1993: September 15. Former outfielder Ethan Allen passes away at age 89. He batted .300/.336/.410 in a 13-year career (1926-1938) with the Reds, Giants, Cardinals, Phillies, Cubs, and Browns. His career-best season was 1930, when he batted .330/.370/.468 (112 OPS+) with 10 homers, 85 RBI, and a league-high 42 doubles for the Phillies.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#279 Todd Burns

About the Front: Sometimes I look at photos of baseball players from the 1950s and 1960s and I can't believe how old they look. Attribute it to changes in fashion, lifestyle, upbringing, or what have you. It might just be an unflattering photo, but Todd Burns has got to be one of the most weathered-looking 29-year-olds to appear in the 1993 Topps set.

About the Back: Todd appeared in a total of five World Series games out of the A's bullpen, with four scoreless appearances. However, he was hammered in two-thirds of an inning in the 1990 Series opener, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk.

Triple Play:

1. Burns earned his first career win with 4.2 innings of shutout relief against the Blue Jays on July 3, 1988, pitching around five walks and two hits and hanging in there from the 12th inning through the 16th.

2. He was nicknamed "The Mad Hatter", due to his habit of frequently tugging at his cap while pitching.

3. Todd now operates the Todd Burns School of Baseball in Huntsville, AL.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: If I were more into wordplay as an adolescent, I would've noticed that "Todd Burns" is not just a name, but a complete sentence as well.

Bill James Said: "Made five starts in May and June, and was hit so hard (7.62 ERA) that his ERA was shot for the season." Burns went 0-8 with a 5.08 ERA for the Rangers and Cardinals in 1993, and never pitched in the majors thereafter.

On This Date in 1993: September 11. Ben McDonald tosses a four-hitter in a 3-1 Orioles win over Bob Welch and the Athletics. Chris Hoiles hits his 24th home run in the winning cause. It's the second of four complete games that McDonald will toss in September, part of a career-high total of seven for the season.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#278 Chris Nabholz

About the Front: The fleur-de-lis above the "e" on Montreal's road jerseys was a fun little touch.
About the Front: Pottsville is the home of the Yuengling brewery, just by the by.

Triple Play:

1. Chris' first big league complete game was a one-hit shutout of the Mets on September 20, 1990. Tommy Herr's sixth-inning single was the only hit for New York.

2. He won all six of his starts in September of 1991, including a complete-game 6-1 decision over Houston on September 1. He limited the Astros to four hits and notched a career-best 11 strikeouts.

3. Nabholz still lives near Pottsville, where he works in mortgage and lending.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I didn't know that Chris played ball at Towson State University - now it's just Towson University. My father is another Towson alumnus, and I live near the campus these days.

Bill James Said: "Throws a good fastball, excellent sinker; isn't a quality pitcher and probably never will be, but wins as many as he loses." Nabholz did pitch himself out of the league by the end of 1995. He posted a 6.96 ERA in 76.1 innings with the Indians, Cubs, and Red Sox in 1994-1995, so Bill must've been on to something.

On This Date in 1993: September 10. Tony Womack debuts for the Pirates as a pinch runner in a 9-8 loss to the Rockies. He will go on to top the National League in stolen bases from 1997 through 1999, totaling 190 swipes and being caught only 28 times.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#277 Mark Whiten

About the Front: Mark Whiten is winding up for a toss in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium outfield, in front of a graphic on the outfield wall honoring shortstop Felix Fermin, who strangely had his number 16 retired while still active with the team.

Just kidding. It's Bob Feller's number 19.

About the Back: Hey, Whiten had his first two-homer game on my ninth birthday! Both home runs were solo shots off of Kevin Brown, coming in the second and third innings; the Indians romped to a 9-0 win.

Triple Play:

1. Mark had several career highs with the Cardinals in 1993, including games (152), runs (81), home runs (25), and RBI (99). On August 11, he became the first visiting player to reach the right-field upper deck overhang in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, blasting a 464-foot longball off of Blas Minor.

2. On July 31, 1998, in the midst of his last season as a semi-regular, Whiten took to the mound with his Indians trailing the Athletics 11-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning. He walked two batters, plunked another, gave up one hit, and allowed a run, but he did strike out the side, including future league MVP Miguel Tejada.

3. He played his last big league game in 2000, but extended his career into 2003 by playing in Mexico, the independent Atlantic League, and AAA. He also spent a few years coaching in the Indians and Rangers organizations.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember what a big deal it was when Whiten hit four home runs and drove in 12 in a game on September 7, 1993. He punished the Reds for a two-run homer, a pair of three-run shots, and a grand slam in the nightcap of a doubleheader, after earning an RBI on a bases-load walk in the first game. He was only the 12th player ever to homer four times in a major league game (four others have done it since), and joined Hall of Famer "Sunny Jim" Bottomley as the only players to ever notch a dozen ribbies in a single game. He also tied Nate Colbert's record of 13 RBI in a doubleheader.

Bill James Said: "Whiten and Zeile established that if your 1-2-3 hitters (Gilkey, Smith and Jefferies) are outstanding, the four and five hitters can drive in 100 runs even if they're not that good."

On This Date in 1993: September 9. The Palestine Liberation Organization officially recognizes Israel as a legitimate state. And they lived happily ever after...

Monday, September 8, 2014

#276 Paul O'Neill

About the Front: I have no idea who the blurry dude in the on-deck circle is. Paul O'Neill was driven in most often in 1992 by Joe Oliver, so that's a possibility.

About the Back: Looking at these numbers, would anyone predict that O'Neill would bat .303/.377/.492 with 185 homers in a nine-year stint with the Yankees? There's a reason the musical wasn't called "Damn Dodgers", folks.

Triple Play:

1. The 1994 strike cut short Paul's best season. He was the American League batting champ (.359), reached base at a .460 clip, slugged .603, and swatted 21 home runs with 83 RBI in 103 games.

2. Perhaps you recall his 1995 cameo on Seinfeld, when Kramer promised a sick child that the Yankee outfielder would hit two home runs in a single game. O'Neill hit one, but tripled and scored on an error in his last shot at the feat. Just as good, right?

3. He currently appears on YES Yankee game broadcasts as one of the team's roving band of ex-player analysts. The team gave him his own plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park this past August.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Man, I couldn't STAND Paul O'Neill. It seemed like he threw a tantrum in the dugout every time he didn't get a hit. Have some dignity, guy.

Bill James Said: "Like Eddie Murray, he seemed to change his game plan last year, becoming much more aggressive early in the count." Though Paul's walks dropped from 77 in 1992 to 44 in 1993, his overall slash line jumped from .246/.346/.373 to .311/.367/.504.

On This Date in 1993: September 8. Darryl Kile no-hit the Mets on just 83 pitches in a 7-1 Houston win. The lone New York run was scored by Jeff McKnight, who drew the only walk issued by Kile and raced home on a throwing error by Jeff Bagwell. Kile also struck out nine; he fanned third baseman Butch Huskey (making his MLB debut) three times.

Friday, September 5, 2014

#275 Andy Van Slyke

About the Front: Right about now, Andy Van Slyke is regretting his pregame meal of prune salad.

About the Back: What does an unassisted double play by a center fielder look like? Something like this.

Triple Play:

1. His son Scott is an outfielder with the Dodgers. He's having quite a good season so far in 2014 - .268/.377/.508 with 10 homers in 179 at-bats.

2. Andy became famous for his quick wit. During his first two seasons in St. Louis, he played 62 games at third base, and later claimed that he played like Brooks...Mel Brooks.

3. Van Slyke spent four years as the Tigers' first base coach. Currently, he's coaching first base in Seattle on former teammate Lloyd McClendon's staff.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I feel like this is a recurring theme with these posts, but man, Andy Van Slyke stunk it up in Baltimore. In 1995, he played a grand total of 17 games in orange and black and batted .159/.221/.317. I have such a sour impression of his brief time here that I'm surprised to see that he played so few games. Of course, he was also injured for a chunk of the season before he was shipped to the Phillies in mid-June.

Bill James Said: "Broke his collarbone crashing into a wall in mid-June, which put him out for eleven weeks." When he was able to play in 1993, Andy batted .310/.357/.449 with eight homers and 50 RBI in 83 games.

On This Date in 1993: September 5. The Mariners purchase 18-year-old pitcher Mac Suzuki from the independent San Bernardino Spirit for $750,000. When he debuted with Seattle in 1996, he became the third Japanese-born player in MLB history.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#274 Rick Sutcliffe

About the Front: The Red Baron! Last month, the Orioles and Cubs wore 1994 throwbacks (there's a phrase that makes chills run down my spine) in a Sunday afternoon contest at Wrigley Field. Those black-lettered road unis have really grown on me, although I'm still glad the O's put "Baltimore" back on their grays a few years ago. Also, don't miss Rick Sutcliffe's shadow cast across the mound.

About the Back: And those would be the last two shutouts of Sut's long and fruitful career.

Triple Play:

1. Rick was the 1979 National League Rookie of the Year, easily outpacing Jeffrey Leonard. He won the 1984 National League Cy Young Award despite not arriving in Chicago until mid-June; he allowed seven fewer runs with the Cubs than he did with the Indians, despite pitching 56 more innings after the trade than he had in Cleveland. That's a good way to help yourself to a 16-1 record! At least the Tribe got Mel Hall and Joe Carter out of the deal.

2. Barry Bonds was homerless in his 51 plate appearances against Sutcliffe, with a batting line of .239/.280/.326 and just two RBI. That's the most times Bonds faced any pitcher without taking him deep.

3. He has spent his post-retirement days as a TV analyst for ESPN and the Padres. In 2006, he famously dropped into the Padres' TV booth after an evening of conviviality with Bill Murray and had a brief but entertaining dialogue with Matt Vasgersian and Mark Grant about golf, San Diego, and George Clooney.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Sutcliffe may have been a steadying veteran presence for the Orioles in 1992, when he won Comeback Player of the Year honors, but I tuned in to the O's a year later, when he was a lead weight in the rotation.

Bill James Said: "His batting average allowed, .314, was also the highest in the majors, and his slugging percentage also, .496, and his on-base average allowed (.385)." That's an .881 OPS, which equals Cubs rookie slugger Javier Baez's career minor league mark.

On This Day in 1993: September 4. Herve Villechaize, the 3'11" French actor best known as "Tattoo" from Fantasy Island, fatally shoots himself at his North Hollywood home. In a suicide note, he cites depression stemming from years of poor health.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#273 Dan Walters

About the Front: There's a lot of equipment in this photo of Dan Walters - two wristbands, two batting gloves, bat, batting donut, shin guard - but no batting helmet. Go figure.

About the Back: Man, Ed Vosberg was around forever. I didn't remember him as a major league presence before the mid-90s, and sure enough...drafted by the Padres out of college in 1983, cup of coffee in 1986, two months with the Giants in 1990, didn't resurface until 1994 with Oakland. Then from the ages of 32-40, he pitched in 243 games for seven different clubs. Yes, he was a lefty reliever.

Triple Play:

1. On June 9, 1992, Walters batted 2-for-4 with a triple, a home run, and three RBI as the Padres edged the Astros 5-4. His run-scoring fielder's choice in the bottom of the eighth inning put San Diego ahead for good.

2. Spinal injuries in 1994 and 1996 brought a premature end to his career, with the latter incident requiring a six-hour surgery and 18 months of rehabilitation.

3. Dan became a San Diego police officer after retiring from baseball. On November 12, 2003, he was shot in the neck by a suspect in a domestic violence incident, was subsequently hit by a passing motorist, and was paralyzed from the neck down. To this day, he battles chronic pain along with the paralysis and has only limited use of his left arm.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This is a card that stood out to me, because Walters looked like he was deep in thought. He might've just been squinting, but first impressions are everything.

Bill James Said: "A huge, slow righthanded hitting catcher, won a shot at the catching job in '92, but has moved behind Ausmus and Kevin Higgins."

On This Date in 1993: September 3. Across the major leagues, there are three games that last at least 12 innings each, and the visiting team wins all three. Milwaukee uses a pair of singles and four walks to manufacture a three-run rally, topping the host Mariners 7-4 in 12 frames. An RBI single by Brett Butler gives the Dodgers a 5-4, 13-inning victory over the Marlins; John Johnstone is the losing pitcher in his MLB debut. Out in Oakland, the Orioles' offense is dormant for eight innings before David Segui takes Dennis Eckersley deep in the top of the 13th, delivering a 5-4 O's win against the A's.