Thursday, August 27, 2015

#477 Jimmy Jones

About the Front: Even if we assume that Jimmy Jones is taking his pre-inning warmup throws, that's a surprisingly lackadaisical stance by the second baseman behind him. Heads up!
About the Back: Now there's a mugshot. Was this picture taken in the shower room?

Triple Play:

1. Jimmy made a powerful first impression, debuting on September 21, 1986 with a one-hit shutout at Houston. A third-inning triple by opposing pitcher Bob Knepper gave the Astros their only baserunner. Jones himself had singled off of Knepper an inning earlier in his first big-league plate appearance.

2. He finished his career in Japan, appearing in 20 games for the Yomiuri Giants in 1994 and 1995 and posting a 9-4 record with a 3.75 ERA.

3. Jones has coached in the minors for the Padres since 2009.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Jimmy Jones is the most generic ballplayer name this side of Joe Smith.

Bill James Said: "Has managed to keep his career record over .500 so far (43-39), and if he wants to keep it that way I would say it is probably time for him to retire."

On This Date in 1993: August 27. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. premieres on Fox. The Western/sci-fi hybrid stars Bruce Campbell and will last for 27 episodes, finishing its one and only season on May 20, 1994.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#476 Mark Voisard and Will Scalzitti

About the Front: Mark Voisard sort of resembles Michael Keaton. I hope some enterprising teammate nicknamed him "Batman" or "Beetlejuice".

About the Back: I never would've guessed that Voisard was 6'5" from his photo. After all, they cut him off at the waist. As for Scalzitti, he was a sixth-round pick in the 1992 draft. The most successful player chosen in that round was longtime Expos' second baseman Jose Vidro.

Triple Play:

1. In 1994, Voisard was 6-4 with a 1.70 ERA and 17 saves in 48 games split between Class A Central Valley and AA New Haven. But he stalled out there, and his last pro season was 1996.

2. Scalzitti's 1992 pro debut was also the peak of his career. Overall, he hit just .236/.287/.347 in five minor league seasons, and he too was out of baseball after 1996.

3. Fun fact about Will Scalzitti: he hit a grand slam for the Bend Rockies to clinch a win in the Colorado organization's first official game in 1992.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never paid much attention to these expansion "future stars" cards. I couldn't have told you what position Scalzitti played, for instance.

Bill James Said: Nothing, since both guys were still in the low minors.

On This Date in 1993: August 26. Marlins reliever Richie Lewis earns a win the hard way, lacing a two-out walkoff single against Doug Jones in the bottom of the 13th inning in Miami. The Marlins beat the Astros 5-4 on the strength of eight and one-third shutout innings from their bullpen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#475 Jeff Reardon

About the Front: Right-handed pitchers are never described as "crafty", but Jeff Reardon is assuming a very crafty pose and expression.

About the Back: By the end of the 1992 season, Reardon was the all-time leader in saves, having passed Rollie Fingers' career mark of 341. But Lee Smith was just two saves behind Jeff, and would overtake him in 1993.

Triple Play:

1. He was the first pitcher in major league history to have 40-save seasons in both the National League and the American League.

2. Jeff pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in four appearances in the 1987 World Series and recorded the save in Minnesota's Game Seven victory with a perfect inning of work.

3. Sadly, Reardon's 20-year-old son died of a drug overdose in 2004. The ex-pitcher spiraled into depression and also had a pair of physical health scares in the months following. Late in 2005, he was arrested for committing armed robbery at a jewelry store in the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Eventually, Reardon was found not guilty by reason of drug-induced insanity. It sounds like he's doing much better in recent years.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The real shame of Reardon's 1993 stint with the Reds was that they compelled him to shave his trademark beard. Facial hair restrictions in baseball are stupid.

Bill James Said: "Pitched well the first half (2.08 ERA) but badly the second (6.67)."

On This Date in 1993: August 25. The Braves complete a three-game sweep of the Giants with a 9-1 blowout. Greg Maddux wins his 15th game by breezing through eight six-hit innings and Atlanta bashes six home runs, including two apiece by Fred McGriff and David Justice. San Francisco's once-comfortable lead over the second-place Braves in the NL West is cut to 4.5 games.

Monday, August 24, 2015

#474 Ozzie Guillen

About the Front: There's a rare site - Ozzie Guillen looking calm and placid.

About the Back: Ozzie collided with Tim Raines while playing the field on April 21, 1992, suffering a serious knee injury that ended his season quite prematurely.

Triple Play:

1. Guillen was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1985, earning 16 first-place votes compared to the nine for runner-up Teddy Higuera.

2. In 1989, he twice fell for the hidden ball trick, assuming both times that the first baseman had returned the baseball to the pitcher following a pickoff attempt, only to be tagged out the moment he removed his hand from the base.

3. Ozzie had a successful tenure as White Sox manager from 2004-2011, including overseeing the team's first World Series championship in 88 years in 2005. He went on to spend one controversial and disappointing season managing the Marlins, going 69-93 in 2012 before being shown the door.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Guillen was one of many declining veterans to join the Orioles in the late 1990s, but his stay was shorter than most. He collected one single and one walk in 18 trips to the plate at the beginning of the 1998 season before being released on May 1.

Bill James Said: "Doesn't it seem strange to you that nobody could ever convince Guillen, who is intelligent and approachable, to stop chasing bad pitches?"

On This Date in 1993: August 24. A rare good day for the '93 Padres, who jump all over Cardinals' rookie starter Allen Watson and reliever Todd Burns for 13 first-inning runs en route to a 17-4 win. Watson allows four hits and four walks and departs having retired just two batters. Burns tosses gasoline on the fire by yielding five straight hits upon taking the mound, capped by a Phil Plantier three-run homer. That's nine hits and four walks in total, with 16 men coming to the plate. San Diego wound up slugging five home runs; Tim Teufel also had a two-run shot in the first inning, and Phil Clark, Archi Cianfrocco, and Brad Ausmus all took Burns deep in a span of four batters in the sixth inning.

Friday, August 21, 2015

#473 Dave Henderson

About the Front: I think Topps was contractually required to depict Dave Henderson with his bright, gap-toothed grin on all of his cards. If they weren't, they should have been.

About the Back: Here's a fun fact - the 1992 Athletics had three players who were first-round picks in the 1977 draft. Harold Baines (first overall), Bob Welch (20th), and Henderson (26th). The Orioles' first-round pick in 1977 (19th overall) was Drungo Hazewood, who I mention just because.

Triple Play:

1. In Game Five of the 1986 ALCS, Dave rescued the Red Sox from the brink of elimination with a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer off of Angels closer Donnie Moore in the ninth inning to put Boston on top, 6-5. The Angels tied it in the bottom of the inning, and Hendu knocked in the winning run with a sac fly in the 11th.

2. On August 3, 1991, Henderson hit a solo home run in each of his first three at-bats against Twins pitcher David West, but Minnesota won 8-6.

3. He spent many years as a broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It tickled me that the A's had Rickey, Steve, and Dave Henderson at various points in the 1980s (Steve was in Oakland from 1985-1987, between Rickey's stints and before Dave's), and that none of them were related.

Bill James Said: "The A's are still playing him in center field, which is a joke, and still letting him bat cleanup." Hendu batted an anemic .220/.275/.427 with 20 homers and 53 RBI in 1993, his penultimate year in the majors.

On This Date in 1993: August 21. This week's number one song: "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum. That's more like it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#472 Chris Gwynn

About the Front: Chris Gwynn's head looks enormous. Zoom out, guys!

About the Back: Gwynn also drove in two runs in his August 14, 1987 debut, including a sixth-inning RBI single that turned out to be the game-winner.

Triple Play:

1. On September 23, 1995, Gwynn batted for pitcher Ismael Valdes in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied, one out and one on. His two-run homer was the only walkoff blast of his career.

2. He spent the 1996 season with older brother Tony and the Padres, and went out with a bang in the final regular season game of his career - September 29, 1996. Pinch hitting for pitcher Dario Veras in the top of the 11th, Chris rapped a two-run double to lead the Padres to a division-clinching 2-0 win over the Dodgers.

3. After his playing career concluded, Gwynn worked for the Padres as a scout and moved on to be the Mariners' Director of Player Development.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My favorite Chris Gwynn card was his 1994 Collector's Choice, which featured him trucking poor Tim Hulett on the basepaths.

Bill James Said: "He doesn't have power or speed, and hardly ever goes to bat against a lefthanded pitcher, but is a pretty good outfielder."

On This Date in 1993: August 20. Movie time! Hard Target, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, premieres in theatres. It is John Woo's American directorial debut, and it features Wilford Brimley as a Bayou-dwelling Cajun. What's not to like?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#471 Dave Gallagher

About the Front: Dave Gallagher's #8 is written on his bat knob, unless that's an infinity symbol. You never know.

About the Back: After his strong season at the AA level in 1983 (which included a .461 on-base percentage), you would have expected Gallagher to be on a fast track to the majors. But he spent the bulk of the next three seasons at AAA Maine, batting .247 and .242 before posting a .292 average in 1986 to finally earn his first callup.

Triple Play:

1. He was the center fielder on Topps' 1988 All-Star Rookie team, thanks to his .303 average and league-leading .994 fielding percentage.

2. On May 19, 1991, Dave went 5-for-5 with three RBI and a pair of runs scored in a 10-2 Angels rout of the Orioles.

3. After his playing career, Gallagher founded the Dave Gallagher Baseball Academy in North Trenton, NJ.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: If I looked at Gallagher's career with a critical eye at the time, I would've noticed that he batted .216 with one double and two RBI in 23 games with my Orioles, who promptly traded him to California for a pair of minor league scrubs, only to see him hit .293 with a .355 on-base percentage the following year. The O's made a lot of false steps at the beginning of the 1990s.

Bill James Said: "A useful player in the Henry Cotto/Stan Javier/Doug Dascenzo mold; when you have one you think they're a dime a dozen, but when you don't have one you'll notice it in a hurry."

On This Date in 1993: August 19. Expos lefty Jeff Fassero improves to 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in a 10-2 win over the Cubs. He tosses a complete game, allowing six hits and three walks and striking out nine. Journeyman infielder Randy Ready and catcher Darrin Fletcher hit home runs for Montreal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#470 Rob Dibble

About the Front: Oh man, that is an absurdly high leg kick. Do you think Rob Dibble was easy to steal against? Well, the numbers say that opposing runners stole successfully 99 times in 118 tries, for an 83.9% rate...so he practically turned every would-be base thief into Tim Raines.

About the Back: If you want to quibble over Dibble, he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for any strikeouts-per-nine single-season records. The threshold is one inning per team game, or 162 IP in most cases. By that metric, Randy Johnson is the record holder with 13.4 K/9 in 2001.

Triple Play:

1. He was the co-MVP of the 1990 NLCS along with Randy Myers. In a six-game Reds triumph over the Pirates, Dibble allowed one walk and no hits in five innings across four games. He struck out ten batters and earned one save.

2. During his career, Rob frequently let his explosive temper get the best of him. Most famously, he brawled in the Reds' clubhouse with manager Lou Piniella after a game in 1992. However, he also hurled a ball 400 feet into the center field seats in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium in April 1991 following a game. The ball struck a woman in the elbow, and he was suspended for four games.

3. He lasted less than two years as a color analyst on MASN for telecasts of Nationals games, getting the boot in September of 2010 after suggesting on-air that pitcher Stephen Strasburg should "suck it up" after the former #1 draft pick missed a start with a sore elbow; shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Rob Dibble has been a running personal joke in my family for more than 20 years. My uncle got caught up in the great baseball card boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with his most foolhardy speculative purchase being 50 - yes, 50 - Rob Dibble 1989 Topps rookie cards. For this reason, I bought a Dibble Starting Lineup figure when I saw it on sale at a Kay-Bee Toys around this time. Years later, my uncle passed most of his now-devalued collection on to me, including that brick of precious Dibble commodities.

Bill James Said: "Had injuries and lost some off his fastball, got burned on changeups and bad sliders, finally lost command of the strike zone altogether." Yep. 6.48 ERA, 9.1 BB/9 IP in 1993, then he missed the 1994 season and had a 7.18 ERA and 46 walks in 26.1 innings in 1995, his swan song in MLB.

On This Date in 1993: August 18. The Kapellbrucke wooden covered truss bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland is mostly destroyed by fire. The bridge was originally built in the 14th Century. It would be restored in the years following the blaze.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#469 Dave Hansen


About the Front: I like to imagine that Dave Hansen just fell butt-first into a sinkhole in Wrigley Field and he's asking for a helping hand.

About the Back: Hansen fared much better than high school outfielder Michael White, the player the Dodgers chose ahead of him in 1986. White spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, reaching AAA for just a single game in 1992.

Triple Play:

1. Hansen's best overall season was 1993, when he batted .362/.465/.505 in 127 plate appearances in a bench role for the Dodgers.

2. In 2000, Dave set a major league record with seven pinch hit home runs, six of which either tied the game or put the Dodgers ahead.

3. In recent years, he has served as hitting coach for the Dodgers and Mariners. He is currently the Angels' assistant hitting coach.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm sure I was very impressed by Dave's high batting average in 1993, especially considering that he batted just .214 the previous year. Apparently a back injury in 1992 hampered his performance.

Bill James Said: "Had a great year as a pinch hitter, and may have earned another shot at the third base job, which has been up for grabs since Ron Cey was traded in 1983."

On This Date in 1993: August 17. The Orioles sign 16-year-old Aruban pitcher Sidney Ponson as an amateur free agent. He will pitch in the majors from 1998 through 2009, accumulating 91 wins, 113 losses with a 5.03 ERA (89 ERA+) and three arrests.