Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#374 Julio Valera

About the Front: That's Lee Stevens blurrily holding down first base for the Angels and wearing #23.

About the Back: There's a nice view of a vacant Tiger Stadium behind Julio Valera.

Triple Play:

1. Valera pitched a gem against Oakland on June 20, 1992. After giving up a two-out double to Harold Baines in the first inning, he retired 23 straight A's batters. Three of the first four hitters in the ninth inning singled, but Baines bounced into a game-ending double play to preserve the four-hit shutout.

2. Though Julio last pitched in the majors with Kansas City in 1996, he was active in pro ball through 2001, including stints in Mexico and the independent Atlantic League.

3. He coached the Puerto Rican team in the 2008 Americas Baseball Cup, the 2009 Baseball World Cup, and the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This is a familiar theme through the first couple years of blogging about this set; Valera's solid rookie season in 1992 (106 ERA+, four complete games) escaped my knowledge until now. I guess I wasn't the kind of kid who pored over the stats on the back with a fine-toothed comb.

Bill James Said: "He couldn't pitch effectively and the elbow finally blew out in June, leading to reconstructive surgery which cost him the rest of the season and probably 1994 as well."

On This Date in 1993: February 10. Kirk Gibson returns to Detroit as a free agent. He'd spent the first decade of his major league career with the Tigers before jumping to Los Angeles and winning the NL MVP and hitting a memorable pinch homer in Game One of the 1988 World Series. Injuries marred the intervening seasons, but he would put together three solid years as a DH in Motown before retiring in 1995.

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