Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#251 Mike Bielecki

About the Front: Mike Bielecki's got a pretty dirty uniform for a pitcher. I'd guess that he was running the bases beforehand.

About the Back: This is Bielecki's last Topps card, despite the fact that he pitched in the majors through 1997. In fact, he pitched a career-high 50 games out of the Atlanta bullpen in his final season. That just goes to show you how Topps threw aside relievers, bench players, and other unsung players when they pared down the size of their base sets in the mid-1990s.

Triple Play:

1. On the heels of his career-best numbers in 1989 (18-7, 3.14 ERA), Mike started Game 5 of the NLCS with the Cubs facing elimination. He took a shutout into the seventh inning before tiring. A Will Clark triple and a Kevin Mitchell sac fly tied the score, and an inning later Bielecki walked the bases loaded with two outs and was pulled for Mitch Williams. Williams, of course, permitted a two-run single to Clark that saddled his starter with a tough loss.

2. After three uneven seasons, Bielecki rebounded with the Braves in 1996, appearing in 40 games (35 in relief) with a 2.63 ERA. He also had six scoreless, hitless appearances in the postseason that year.

3. The first home run Mike allowed as a major leaguer was hit by...Rick Sutcliffe, who would later be his teammate with the Cubs. I wonder if the Red Baron ever needled him about that.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My uncle often mentioned that he had gone to high school with Bielecki's younger brother. Six degrees of separation and all that.

Bill James Said: "Bielecki at times would pitch very, very well, but like a lot of guys he tended to get hurt whenever he stayed in the rotation longer than a couple of weeks."

On This Date in 1993: July 15. Mike Morgan of the Cubs needs only 99 pitches to dispose of the Rockies, tossing a five-hit shutout in a 1-0 Chicago win. Steve Buechele's RBI double scores Sammy Sosa with the game's lone run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Colorado has a runner thrown out trying to steal second base to end both the seventh and eighth innings, so Cubs catcher Rick Wilkins certainly earns his share of the credit.

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