Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#42 Spike Owen

About the Front: Here's a rare all-dirt photo, and there are plenty of details that make it a somewhat uncommon card. It appears to be a spring training game - teams didn't usually wear dark jerseys in-season in the early 1990s. Spike Owen is sliding safely into third base as Unknown Mets Infielder stands hopelessly nearby. Montreal's third base coach, who is future White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel if my crack research is accurate, is crouched in the foreground, ostensibly having encouraged Owen to slide. A job well done by Topps on this one.

About the Back: There's a riveting write-up. "He played on some teams that made it to the postseason, and then he played in postseason games." You'd think they'd mention that he batted .429/.478/.524 in that 1986 ALCS, reaching base 11 times in 24 trips to the plate. He also reached 11 times (five walks, six singles) in 27 plate appearances in the World Series that year. The guy only had a surprise hot streak while starting all 14 games for one of the more memorable and star-crossed postseason teams of his era. The "saw action" qualifier is probably the right terminology for his contribution to the 1988 ALCS, however. He pinch-hit for Jim Rice in the top of the ninth in the fourth and final game of that series, drawing a walk against Dennis Eckersley. That was it. He was stranded on base, and Oakland swept the Sox.

Triple Play:

1. His older brother, Dave Owen, totaled 92 major league games as an infielder for the Cubs (1983-1985) and Royals (1988). He batted just .194/.260/.273 in 155 career plate appearances.

2. At the onset of the 1986 season, the Mariners took the unprecedented step of naming Spike as team captain. In true 1980's Mariners fashion, they traded him along with Dave Henderson to Boston four months later. In return, Seattle received cash and a four-player package "headlined" by Rey Quinones.

3. Spike has been a coach with the minor league Round Rock Express for two stints: 2002-2006, when the team was the AA and later the AAA affiliate of the Astros, and 2011-present. The Express are now the AAA affiliate of the Rangers.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I would have assumed that "Spike" was just a nickname. Nope: he was born Spike Dee Owen, making him the only true Spike in MLB history. Brother Dave doesn't even have a middle name, nor is he a David; he was born Dave Owen. I guess the Owens march to their own drummer in that way.

Bill James Said: "Signed a three-year contract last year for a reported $7.1 million, and was the Yankees' starting shortstop the first half of the season, but lost the job to Mike Gallego shortly after the All-Star break." The Yankees ate some of that contract in December 1993 and traded Owen to the Angels for minor-league pitcher Jose Musset, and Spike promptly boosted his average and on-base percentage to .310 and .418, respectively (.234 and .294 the year prior). But he was back to .229 and .288 in 82 games in 1995, which marked the end of his big leaguer career.

On This Date in 1993: July 24. A day of infamy for the New York Mets. On the field, Anthony Young loses his record 27th straight decision (dating back to 1992) when he walks in the winning run in the tenth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. For the season, Young now has an 0-13 mark and a 4.24 ERA. After the game, outfielder Vince Coleman inexplicably tosses a firecracker at a crowd of autograph seekers from his car in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, injuring a woman and two children. He would be suspended with pay, and forced to perform 200 hours of community service after being charged with felony endangerment.


  1. I remember that Anthony Young streak. Man, that was ugly. I have a bunch of Spike Owen cards that I keep thinking I'll try to get autographed TTM. Round Rock is the nearest minor league team to me, so I've seen 'em a handful of times.

    Spike is also the name of the Express mascot, for what it's worth.

  2. Yeah, it must be rough to have your entire professional career defined by a negative record. On the other hand, who would remember Anthony Young at all if not for that?

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  4. As a kid I always assumed that Spike and Jayhawk were brothers owing to their uncommon first names.