Tuesday, April 3, 2018

#506 Sparky Anderson and Art Howe

About the Front: Funny, that doesn't look like Philip Seymour Hoffman on the right.
About the Back: Sparky Anderson is listed as a former second baseman, but what Topps doesn't tell you is that he played one (and only one) full season in the big leagues. In 1959, he earned a starting role for the cellar-dwelling Phillies, after six years in the talent-rich Dodgers organization. The 25-year-old batted a paltry .218/.282/.249 (43 OPS+) with no home runs and 34 RBI, and never got a second look.

Triple Play:

1. After just five years as a minor league manager and an additional season as a major league coach, Anderson was hired at age 35 to manage the Reds in 1970. In nine years in Cincinnati, Sparky's teams won five National League West titles, four NL pennants, and back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976. After the Reds fired him in 1978, he moved on to Detroit and helped build another winner. The Tigers were World Champions in 1984 and added an AL East crown in 1987. Anderson retired after the 1995 season, his 26th as an MLB manager, with 2,194 wins and 1,834 losses (.545 winning percentage). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, and passed away at age 76 in 2010.

2. Art Howe spent parts of 11 seasons (1974-1982, 1984-1985) as an active MLB player, and was primarily a corner infielder with the Astros. He batted .260/.329/.379 (102 OPS+) with 43 home runs and 293 RBI.

3. Howe managed for 14 seasons with the Astros (1989-1993), Athletics (1996-2002), and Mets (2003-2004). He had a record of 1,129-1,137 (.498), and as I alluded to earlier, he's now best known as the manager of the "Moneyball"-era A's. He led that low-payroll Oakland team to three straight postseasons, but lost in the Division Series each time.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that Sparky Anderson was ancient. He was actually 58 when this photo was taken!

On This Date in 1993: April 3. The NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four takes place. Michigan outlasts Kentucky in overtime, 81-78. Chris Webber leads all scorers with 27 points, and Jamal Mashburn is the top UK scorer with 26. In the other semifinal, North Carolina beats Kansas, 78-68, with Donald Williams scoring 25 for the Tar Heels and Adonis Jordan and Rex Walters each tallying 19 for the Jayhawks.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

#505 Mike Hargrove and Rene Lachemann

About the Front: I like Rene Lachemann's 1984 Topps Traded card better. Check out that hair!

About the Back: Ah yes, Joe Robbie Stadium, former home of the Marlins and still the home of the NFL's Dolphins. Later it would be known as Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin(s) Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, New Miami Stadium, and finally (for now) Hard Rock Stadium. Aren't corporate naming rights just the best?

Triple Play:

1. Mike Hargrove had a productive 12-year playing career with the Rangers, Padres, and Indians (1974-1985). He was the 1974 AL Rookie of the Year and made his only All-Star team the following season. Nicknamed "the Human Rain Delay" for his constant tics while batting, he had a stat line of .290/.396/.391 (121 OPS+) with 80 home runs and 686 RBI.

2. Hargrove had managerial stints with Cleveland (1991-1999), the Orioles (2000-2003), and the Mariners (2005-2007). He led the Indians to five straight postseason appearances and made the World Series in 1995 and 1997, but never could capture the big trophy. His overall record was 1,188-1,173 (.519).

3. Rene Lachemann played for the Athletics in 1965 and briefly in 1966 and 1968. In 118 major league games, he batted .210/.245/.345 with nine homers and 33 RBI. He was not quite 28 when the A's convinced him to start his managerial career in the minors in 1973, a path that led him to big league jobs with the Mariners (1981-1983), Brewers (1984), and Marlins (1993-1996). He had a record of 428-560 (.433). Lachemann spent 53 consecutive years as a player, coach, and manager in pro baseball, until he was dismissed by the Rockies when they fired manager Walt Weiss in 2016. His older brother Marcel was also a longtime player, coach, and manager, and pitched for the A's (1969-1971) and managed the Angels (1994-1996).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I've read oodles of baseball books in the quarter-century that I've been a fan, but one of the few I struggled to finish was Men at Work by conservative political columnist George F. Will. I started it in the mid-90s, put it down, and didn't finish it for more than a decade. One of the few things that I remember about it was the segment in which Will was following around then-Oakland manager Tony LaRussa and his coaches. Rene Lachemann had an impressively profane vocabulary, even by baseball standards.

On This Date in 1993: March 22. The Intel Corporation ships the first Pentium computer processing chips. They have a 60 MHz clock speed, 100+ MIPS, and a 64 bit data path.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

#504 Gene Lamont and Don Baylor

About the Front: Don Baylor looks like he could have still been some American League team's DH at age 44...and to be fair, he'd just finished his playing career five years earlier with the A's. Gene Lamont, on the other hand, is a few years older and looks like your high school biology teacher.
About the Back: It's cool to see the random trivia about the Rockies. As you probably know, they moved from Mile High Stadium (the longtime home of the NFL's Broncos) to Coors Field in 1995. Can you imagine a baseball team today playing in a 76,000-seat football stadium?

Triple Play:

1. Gene Lamont was a first-round draft pick of the Tigers in 1965 as a high school catcher. He played parts of five big league seasons with Detroit (1970-1972, 1974-1975), but totaled only 87 games with a .233/.278/.371 batting line. He managed the White Sox from 1992 through early 1995, then helmed the Pirates from 1997 through 2000. He had a record of 553-562 (.496). Gene also spent over 20 years as a big league coach, most of them under Jim Leyland. He's currently a special assistant to Royals' GM Dayton Moore.

2. Don Baylor had a long and accomplished playing career with the Orioles, Athletics, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, and Twins, spanning from 1970 through 1988. He was the American League MVP in 1979, when he batted .296/.371/.530 with 36 home runs and league-leading totals of 120 runs scored and 139 RBI for the West Division Champion Angels. Overall, he had a career stat line of .260/.342/.436 (118 OPS+), 338 homers, and 1,276 RBI. Of course, he also led the AL in times hit by pitch in eight different seasons, and held the post-1900 career record by being plunked 267 times, until Craig Biggio passed him in 2005.

3. Baylor lasted six seasons as the Rockies' first manager, leading them to the National League Wild Card in 1995. He was also the skipper of the Cubs from 2000 to midseason 2002. Overall, he had a managerial record of 627-689 (.476). He served as a hitting coach for several teams, most recently the Angels (2014-2015). Unfortunately, he passed away at age 68 last August after battling multiple myeloma.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I probably would've been surprised if you'd told me that the White Sox would fire Gene Lamont a month into the 1995 season. They were two wins away from the World Series in 1993, and were on track to become the first-ever AL Central Champions when the strike hit in 1994. What have you done for me lately, right?

On This Date in 1993: March 15. Michael Fulmer is born. In 2016, he will pitch his way to AL Rookie of the Year honors for the Tigers (11-7, 3.06 ERA, 139 ERA+).

Sunday, March 11, 2018

#503 Buck Rodgers and Tony Perez

About the Front: Buck Rodgers is tired of putting up with your crap.
About the Back: The Reds had just hired Tony Perez as a rookie manager to replace Lou Piniella, who departed to manage the Mariners in 1993. They gave him all of 44 games before he was fired and replaced with Davey Johnson. Nobody ever said that Marge Schott was a patient woman.

Triple Play:

1. Bob "Buck" Rodgers spent parts of nine seasons (1961-1969) as a catcher for the Angels. He batted .232/.288/.312 with 31 homers and 288 RBI. He managed for 13 seasons in the big leagues with the Brewers, Expos, and Angels, with a record of 784-774. He led the Brewers to a first-place finish in the AL East in the second half of the strike-abbreviated 1981 season, but Milwaukee lost a playoff series to the Yankees, three games to two. He was also named NL Manager of the Year in 1987, when his Expos improved from 78-84 to 91-71, finishing in third place in the East.

2. Tony Perez spent most of his 23-year playing career with the Reds, with stints in Montreal, Boston, and Philadelphia to boot. He batted .279/.341/.463 with 505 doubles, 379 home runs, and 1,652 RBI. A seven-time All-Star, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.

3. As mentioned already, Perez's Reds struggled to a 20-24 start in 1993 before he was sent walking. His only other managing experience came in 2001 as the interim skipper for the Marlins. John Boles was let go after a 22-26 start, and Florida finished 54-60 under Tony.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I loved that they had the new Angels logo on the back of this card.

On This Date in 1993: March 11. Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning won the men's World Championship in Prague.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

#502 Butch Hobson and Jim Lefebvre

About the Front: Jim Lefebvre looks like he's been practicing his manager's scowl in the mirror.
About the Back: The Cubs hired Lefebvre prior to the 1992 season. No manager had lasted for as many as four full seasons on the North Side of Chicago since Leo Durocher (1966-1972). Unfortunately for Jim, he could not break the cycle; he was let go at the end of 1993 after guiding the Cubs to an 84-78 record and their fourth straight fourth-place finish.
Triple Play:

1. Butch Hobson played parts of eight seasons in the majors (1975-1982), primarily with the Red Sox. In 1977 he batted .265/.300/.489 with 30 homers and 112 RBI. He also led the league with an astounding 162 strikeouts against just 27 walks. His three-year managerial stint in Boston resulted in a 207-232 record. He managed the Phillies' AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club for just 27 games in 1996 before an arrest for cocaine possession caused his termination. He did not get another managing job until 1999, but has been at the helm of various minor league teams ever since, including 15 years in the independent Atlantic League.

2. Hobson's birth name is Clell Lavern Hobson, so...Butch works.

3. Jim Lefebvre spent his entire eight-year playing career with the Dodgers, and was the 1965 National League Rookie of the Year on the strength of a .250/.337/.369 batting line with 12 home runs and 69 RBI. He also made the All-Star team in 1966 with career highs of 24 homers, 74 RBI, and a .793 OPS (126 OPS+). Jim finished his playing career with a four-year stint in Japan with the Lotte Orions. He went on to manage the Mariners (1989-1991), Cubs (1992-1993), and the Brewers (1999), finishing with an overall record of 417-442. He's also managed the Chinese national team in several international competitions, including the 2006 World Baseball Classic and 2008 Summer Olympics.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Butch Hobson was a native of Alabama. Sometime around 1993, I had to do a social studies class report on Alabama (we all chose numbers at random and were assigned a U.S. state). One of the only things that truly caught my interest in compiling the report was that both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were from Alabama.

On This Date in 1993: March 6. President Bill Clinton was on the cover of the week's issue of TIME Magazine.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

#501 Johnny Oates and Bobby Cox

About the Front: Topps did something new in 1993, placing one American League manager and one National League manager on a shared card and including them as a 14-card subset in Series Two. As you can see, they're superimposed over a pixelated black and white photo of a dugout, which is kind of an ugly graphic choice.
About the Back: The pre-and-post All-Star Break records are a cool touch. My Orioles were only four games back of the Blue Jays at midseason, but fell off the pace a bit and finished in third place, seven games behind Toronto and three behind Milwaukee.

Triple Play:

1. Johnny Oates was a reserve catcher for the Orioles, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers, and Yankees from 1970 through 1981. He batted .250/.309/.313 overall. Despite posting winning records for three straight years as Orioles' manager, he was fired during the 1994-95 players' strike. The Rangers hired Johnny right away, and he led the team to three AL West titles in six full seasons, earning Manager of the Year honors in 1996. Unfortunately, he died of brain cancer at age 58 in 2004. The Rangers retired his number 26 posthumously.

2. Bobby Cox played third base for the Yankees in 1968 and 1969, batting .225/.310/.309 in 220 games. Knee troubles forced his retirement at age 30, but he found his calling as a manager. Cox helmed the Braves from 1978 through 1981 and the Blue Jays from 1982 through 1985, winning the East Division title and AL Manager of the Year in his last season in Toronto. He spent the next five years as Atlanta's GM before moving back to the dugout in 1990. He would stay through 2010, winning an astonishing 15 division titles and five National League pennants. He guided the Braves to a World Series win in 1995, and earned three more selections as Manager of the Year. In all, his managerial record was 2,504-2,001, a lofty .556 winning percentage. His win total is fourth all-time, behind Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Tony LaRussa. Bobby was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2014.

3. Cox was ejected from a game 159 times in his managerial career, an MLB record.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't think that I properly appreciated Johnny Oates when he was managing the O's. It only took one year of Phil Regan (71-73 in 1995) for me to realize what I was missing.

Bill James Said: He didn't assess the managers directly in his Player Ratings Book. I'll put this category on ice until we're done with the Managers subset.

On This Date in 1993: March 1. Actor Terry Frost dies of a heart attack at age 86. He appeared in numerous western films and television series during the 1940s and 1950s.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

#500 Jose Canseco

About the Front: It must have been really strange to see Jose Canseco in a Rangers uniform when this card was released. He'd been traded the previous August after an eight-year stay in Oakland that included a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and three straight trips to the World Series.
About the Back: The aforementioned MVP season was 1988, when Canseco became the first member of the 40 HR/40 SB club. His OPS+ that year was 170, meaning that he was 70% better than the league average hitter.

Triple Play:

1. Arriving in Texas kicked off the itinerant phase of Jose's career. From 1992 through 2001, he played for the A's, Rangers, Red Sox, A's again, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Yankees, and White Sox. He also had Spring Training stints with the Angels and Expos.

2. He finished his big league career with a batting line of .266/.353/.515, 462 home runs, and 1,407 RBI. Even with the overall home run spike of the last few decades, he's still 35th all-time in round-trippers.

3. Canseco has achieved infamy as a fame-chasing bonehead, from the release of two "tell-all" books that accused several of his peers of steroid abuse, to his forays into reality TV, to moonlighting in mixed-martial arts and boxing, to...I'll just link to this summary of his various legal troubles.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The major story with Jose Canseco in 1993 was his disastrous relief appearance for Texas in a 15-1 loss in Boston on May 29. In one inning, he threw 33 pitches (12 for strikes), gave up three runs on two hits and three walks, and blew out his right elbow, necessitating Tommy John surgery. I didn't realize until looking it up just now, but this happened three days after Cleveland's Carlos Martinez hit a fly ball that bounced off of Jose's head and over the Cleveland Stadium wall for a home run! Talk about a long week.

Bill James Said: "His chance to be a star now is to be Cecil Fielder, to hit 50 home runs and drive in 130, but he has to stay healthy to do that, and he needs to grow up to stay healthy." I think we all know how that turned out. Canseco topped 113 games played one more time in his career, when he clouted a career-high 46 homers in 151 games for the Blue Jays in 1998. By the way, James lists his position as "Right Field/Relief Pitcher". Har har!

On This Date in 1993: February 27. The Rangers sign pitcher Allan Anderson as a free agent. Anderson led the American League with a 2.45 ERA for the Twins in 1988, but lost effectiveness over the next few seasons. He would split the 1993 season between the Texas and Cleveland AAA affiliates, posting a 5.79 ERA in 26 games, and then retire.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

#499 Chuck Crim

About the Front: Chuck Crim is one of 31 Angels players to wear #32 to date. Most notable among them is Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield, who directly preceded Crim.
About the Back: To this point in his career, Chuck had averaged 65 games and 103 innings pitched per season in six years in the majors. His right arm might have been hanging by a thread.

Triple Play:

1. He earned the win in his big league debut on April 8, 1987. He tossed two perfect innings of relief, which included a strikeout of the first batter he faced - Hall of Famer Jim Rice.

2. Crim excelled as the setup man for Milwaukee closer Dan Plesac in 1988 and 1989, posting an ERA+ of 137 in each season while leading the American League in games pitched.

3. Chuck recently worked for the Dodgers for ten years in various roles, starting as a scout before spending four seasons as a minor league coach. He was also L.A.'s bullpen coach from 2013 through 2015.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Chuck Crim looked like he was holding his breath in this photo.

Bill James Said: "When Plesac lost his effectiveness Crim got a shot at the closer, but was burned out by then, and never could solidify the job."

On This Date in 1993: February 25. The Chicago Bulls edged out the Orlando Magic, 108-106, in Orlando. Leading scores were Michael Jordan, with 36 points for the Bulls, and rookie Shaquille O'Neal, with 30 for the Magic.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

#498 Bud Black

About the Front: That's one unflattering photo of Bud Black. In general, I think he's better-looking now than he was in his playing days. Some guys just age gracefully.
About the Back: Daughter Jamie went on to attend Oregon State University and is now an interior designer. Daughter Jessie was a collegiate gymnast at the University of Maryland, and graduated in 2014 with a degree in math and kinesiology.

Triple Play:

1. Bud had a knack for historical moments. He surrendered Reggie Jackson's 500th career home run, and Mike Piazza's first.

2. His father Harry was a minor league hockey player.

3. He spent several seasons as the Angels' pitching coach before the Padres hired him to be their manager in 2007. His San Diego clubs peaked with a 90-72 season and a second-place finish in the NL West in 2010, earning him Manager of the Year honors. He was fired in mid-2015, but in 2017 guided the Rockies to a surprise Wild Card appearance in his first season as their skipper.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I loved the book Lords of the Realm by John Helyar, which detailed the long and contentious labor history between baseball players and ownership. Still love it, actually. Anyway, there was an anecdote about the supposedly exorbitant four-year, $10 million contract given by the Giants and GM Al Rosen to mediocre veteran Bud Black prior to the 1991 season. He was considered the poster boy for runaway player salaries, and that offseason was referred to sarcastically as the "Bud Black Market". If you're curious, that translates to $16.75 million in today's economy. Still seems comparatively tame to me.

Bill James Said: "Helped put the Giants in front with an 8-1 record through the All-Star break, but went out with tendonitis (which sportswriters for some reason spell "tendinitis") in his elbow." Yeah, why DO they spell it like that?

On This Date in 1993: February 22. The United Nations Security Council votes on Resolution 808, deciding to establish a tribunal to prosecute international law violations in Yugoslavia.