Thursday, April 16, 2015

#407 Barry Bonds and Joe Carter

About the Front: That face that Barry Bonds is making? I feel like he wore that face for about 78% of his big league career.
About the Back: That .434 OBP seems pretty impressive. It's worth mentioning that Bonds posted a .476 OBP in the second half of 1992, putting him at a league-leading .456 for the year. Incidentally, Barry topped that .456 mark seven times in his superlative career, and had an overall mark of .444.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that Barry Bonds' dangly cross earring looked a bit silly.

On This Date in 1993: April 16. An Earth Day concert at the Hollywood Bowl features Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Steve Miller, and Don Henley.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#406 Larry Walker and Kirby Puckett

About the Front: Since Larry Walker batted lefty and Kirby Puckett was a righty, Topps could use batting poses for both of them and create a "face-off" sort of effect.

About the Back: Puck added 90 hits in 75 second-half games, giving him a major league-leading 210 safeties. Walker was a first-time All-Star in 1992, but he would return to the Midsummer Classic in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Kirby winning the 1993 All-Star Game MVP at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He was the A.L.'s starting left fielder and delivered a solo homer and an RBI double in three trips to the plate.

On This Date in 1993: April 15. The Tigers top the Athletics 3-2 on a Chad Krueter double off of Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth inning. The win is the 2,000th of Detroit skipper Sparky Anderson's big league managing career.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#405 Andy Van Slyke and Ken Griffey, Jr.

About the Front: Couldn't Andy Van Slyke find a cap that would fit on his noggin?

About the Back: Van Slyke was en route to a league-leading 199 hits and 45 doubles in 1992. Ken Griffey, Jr. heated up in the second half, batting .330/.386/.556 to finish with a batting average above .300 for the third of five straight seasons.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Topps didn't distinguish the position that any of these All-Star outfielders played, but this card features the top center fielders. This is a slight annoyance; I always liked it when card companies specified that kind of thing. The same goes for starting pitchers vs. relievers.

On This Date in 1993: April 14. Brandon Finnegan is born. On September 6, 2014, he will become the first 2014 draftee to make his major league debut when he tosses two perfect innings of relief for the Royals.

Monday, April 13, 2015

#404 Barry Larkin and Travis Fryman

About the Front: Eye black for everybody!

About the Back: Barry Larkin actually had a much better second half than the first in 1992. After the break, he batted .321/.395/.487 with eight homers and 41 RBI in 72 games. Fryman, however, slumped to .235/.296/.359 with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 73 games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was surprised to see an American League shortstop other than Cal Ripken on this All-Star card. Of course, '92 was the worst season yet in the Orioles star's career (.251/.323/.366, 14 HR, 72 RBI).

On This Date in 1993: April 13. American historian, novelist, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner, who won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Angle of Repose, dies at age 84.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#403 Gary Sheffield and Edgar Martinez

About the Front: I just realized how annoying it is that they don't list positions on the fronts of these All-Star cards. It's of particular concern with this card, since neither Gary Sheffield nor Edgar Martinez stayed at third base for much longer. Sheffield was a corner outfielder from 1994 onward, and Martinez was a full-time DH by 1995.

About the Back: Edgar's .328 first-half batting average looks plenty impressive, but he batted .364 for the final 53 games of 1992 to capture the American League crown with an overall mark of .343. Sheffield won the N.L. batting title with an overall .330 average, though his splits by half were more even (.325 first half, .338 second).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When I pulled this card from the pack, Martinez was having his worst big league season, limited to a .237 average and .378 slugging percentage in a 42-game, inury-hampered campaign. But he would rebound in 1994 and remain a world-class hitter for another decade.

On This Date in 1993: April 9. Bo Jackson (who we just covered on Monday!) pinch-hits for Dan Pasqua in the bottom of the sixth inning at Chicago's Comiskey Park and hits a home run off of Yankee reliever Neal Heaton. It's his first game appearance since hip replacement surgery, and his first home run since September 21, 1991, but the White Sox are thumped 11-6.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#402 Ryne Sandberg and Carlos Baerga

About the Front: If Carlos Baerga had just hit the ball that Ryne Sandberg is tracking, I think Ryno would be heading the wrong way.

About the Back: Other than Baerga's significant edge in batting average, these two All-Star second basemen matched up pretty well in the first half of 1992.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: 1993 was Sandberg's last All-Star season. He abruptly retired before the '94 game, and didn't get the nod during his two-year comeback tour of 1996-1997. I wouldn't have seen that coming.

On This Date in 1993: April 8. Carlos Baerga (hey, how 'bout that?!) becomes the first player to ever hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same inning, performing the feat in the bottom of the seventh inning against Yankees lefty Steve Howe and righty Steve Farr. Cleveland romps, 15-5, as Baerga goes 4-for-5 with a double, the pair of homers, and three RBI.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#401 Fred McGriff and Frank Thomas

About the Front: See, you can tell it's an All-Star card because of the starry sky background. You can also tell it's a 1993 product because of the fantastic drop-shadow effect on the "1992 Topps All Stars" header.
About the Back: All of that yellow isn't too easy on the eyes. Also, I'm not sure how Topps calculated Fred McGriff's OBP, but it was actually .426 at the break in 1992. Still very good, but not as ridiculous as .502 would be.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Fred McGriff and Frank Thomas were two of my favorite players. A couple of soft-spoken first basemen who just hit the snot out of the ball.

On This Date in 1993: April 7. The Indians signed Jason Grimsley as a free agent, a week after he was released by the Astros. The reliever would gain notoriety in 1994 when he crawled through the ductwork in Cleveland's clubhouse to access the umpire's room and retrieve Albert Belle's corked bat. You can read more about the caper here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#400 Bo Jackson

About the Front: The underbill of Bo Jackson's cap reads "BO". Short, sweet, to the point.

About the Back: Bo missed the entire 1992 season after undergoing hip replacement surgery due to a football injury.

Triple Play:

1. The most enduring part of Jackson's legacy as an athlete may be his prowess as a video game character. In his days as a running back for the Raiders, his 8-bit avatar from Nintendo's "Tecmo Bowl" game was so dominant he was known simply as "Tecmo Bo".

2. Two words: The. Throw.

3. Making good on a promise to his mother, Bo completed his bachelor's degree in Family and Child Development at Auburn in 1995 after hanging up his spikes.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I regret that I never got to see Bo play at the height of his athletic ability. I get the sense that highlight videos don't fully capture what he was all about.

Bill James Said: "The Sox elected to decline his option, leaving him free to pursue another team (Bo Knows Rejection)." Jackson caught on with the Angels in 1994, batting .279/.344/.507 in 75 games with 13 home runs. He chose to retire after that.

On This Date in 1993: April 6. Ken Griffey, Jr. smashes a three-run homer off of Jack Morris in his first at-bat of the season, and Randy Johnson strikes out 14 batters in eight innings as the Mariners trounce the Blue Jays, 8-1.

Friday, April 3, 2015

#399 Daryl Boston

About the Front: Daryl Boston has some sweet dance moves.
About the Back:  Stevie Wonder, eh? Video or it didn't happen.

Triple Play:

1. Bruce Dal Canton was the scout who signed Daryl for the White Sox. He pitched for the Pirates, Royals, Braves, and White Sox from 1967-1977.

2. On September 24, 1991, Boston went 3-for-4 with a double, a grand slam, and a career-high five RBI in a 10-8 Mets loss to the Pirates.

3. He's been coaching in the White Sox organization since 1998; he's currently the first base coach on the major league staff.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It's a shame that Boston never played for the Red Sox.

Bill James Said: "Excellent platoon outfielder, not hopeless against lefthanders but has no power against them, good power against righthanders."

On This Date in 1993: April 3. Comedian and children's show host Pinky Lee dies at age 85.