Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#47 Bob Scanlan

About the Front: The way Bob Scanlan's legs are cut off, it almost looks like he's surfing on the name bar.

About the Back: The only other players from the 25th round of the 1984 draft to make it to the majors were reliever Laddie Renfroe (4.1 IP for the Cubs in 1991), and first baseman Rod Brewer, who did not sign in 1984 and was taken in the fifth round by the Cardinals in 1987.

Triple Play:

1. Bob's full name is Robert Guy Scanlan, Jr.

2. The Brewers ran Scanlan out to the mound as a starter 14 times in 1995, despite some ugly results. He finished the year with a 6.59 ERA, capped by a disastrous final appearance on September 26 in which he surrendered nine runs in an inning and two-thirds against the Red Sox. He was touched for home runs by Dwayne Hosey, Reggie Jefferson, and John Valentin.

3. Bob is currently a radio color analyst for the San Diego Padres, and has his own blog where he interacts with fans.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When I was still in middle school, I'll admit that I enjoyed Chris Berman's shtick. Unlike "Boomer" himself, I outgrew the goofy nicknames and the bellowing. But even back then, I thought that Bob "Watergate" Scanlan was a pretty lame effort by Berman.

Bill James Said: "I don't think he has 'closer' potential, but suspect he will have a better year in middle relief." After going 4-5 with a 4.54 ERA (87 ERA+...100 is league-average) in 1993, Bob was traded to the Brewers, where he had a 2-6 record with a 4.11 ERA (122 ERA+) in a swingman role in 1994.

On This Date in 1993: July 31. King Baudouin I of Belgium dies unexpectedly of heart failure at age 62. He had no children, so he would be succeeded by his brother King Albert II.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#46 Eric Fox

About the Front: Wasn't I just talking about how "blah" these position player throwing shots are? What else is there to say? Hm. I do love the classic white shoes, green stirrups, yellow sanitary socks look. That's been a distinctly A's sort of thing since the 1960s.

About the Back: You don't see a lot of 28-year-old rookies that go on to have notable careers. Eric Fox's .238/.299/.364 slash line in his 1992 debut qualified as his major league peak; in parts of three seasons afterwards with the Athletics and Rangers, he totaled 65 games and collected 17 hits in 115 at-bats for a .148/.203/.429 mark.

Triple Play:

1. Eric hit only five home runs in the majors. Of those, one was a game-winning three-run shot off of Rick Aguilera that propelled Oakland into a first-place tie with the Twins. Another was an Opening Day grand slam that broke open a one-run game in the eighth inning. His final MLB home run was a solo dinger off of none other than Randy Johnson.

2. Though Fox was finished as a big leaguer in 1995, he played in the minors through 1997, when he hit .285 in 87 games with the Phillies' AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.

3. Eric has been a minor league coach and manager for the past 15 years. He's currently a coach for the Nationals' AA Harrisburg Senators.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The shorter player names always looked a bit odd with the larger, stretched-out font size that Topps used in this set.

Bill James Said: "He's not going to be a regular, but he might something something"

On This Date in 1993: July 30. A couple of guilty-pleasure comedy favorites hit the theatres: Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Mike Myers' So I Married an Axe Murderer. "HEAD! PANTS! NOW!"

Monday, July 29, 2013

#45 Dave Fleming

About the Front: Rookie Cup! That's the second one we've seen, following Eric Karros. I sure hope that Dave Fleming is just taking his warmup throws, because his infielder is staring down at the ground. That's a good way to catch a line drive in the throat.

About the Back: Topps provides nearly a complete listing of all of Fleming's career shutouts; after finishing tied for second in the American League with four whitewashes in 1992 (Roger Clemens led with five), the young lefty threw one in 1993 and none for the rest of his abbreviated career.

Triple Play:

1. Per Dave's 1992 Pinnacle Rookie Idols card, he grew up rooting for the Yankees and his favorite player was Bobby Murcer.

2. Fleming missed the start of the 1993 season with tendonitis and wound up with a 12-5 record, a 4.36 ERA, and a 1.53 WHIP. It got worse from there: 7-11 with a 6.46 ERA in 1994, and 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA in 1995, his last season in the big leagues. A torn rotator cuff ended up doing him in.

3. Per this 2008 Jeff Pearlman article, Dave is a fifth-grade math teacher in Connecticut.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Fleming made some the weirdest faces when he was pitching, which is the kind of thing that sticks with you when you own a card with this unfortunate photo on it.

Bill James Said: "Righthanded hitters hit .298 against him, and he doesn't have the control or ground ball ratio to get by with that."

On This Date in 1993: July 29. The Israeli Supreme Court acquits accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, aged 73, of all charges and he is set free. Demjanjuk had a long and complicated legal history.

Friday, July 26, 2013

#44 Kevin Seitzer

About the Front: Is there a duller "action shot" than "position player makes routine throw"? Kevin Seitzer is practically standing still here.

About the Back: It's easy to forget that Kevin was an offensive force as a rookie in 1987. He led the Royals in hits, runs, doubles, batting average, and on-base percentage (.399). All that, and he still had to play second fiddle in Rookie of the Year voting to Mark McGwire and his 49 homers and .618 slugging percentage. I guess that's just bad timing on Seitzer's part.

Triple Play:

1. Kevin's batting performance declined steadily during his time in Kansas City, leading to his release in the spring of 1992. But the infielder rebounded in his thirties, batting .318 with a .400 on-base percentage from 1994 through 1996 with the Brewers and Indians. He made the All-Star team in 1995, the only time he received that honor after his stellar rookie season.

2. He was hit in the face by a pitched ball in each the 1994 and 1995 seasons, which prompted him to wear a "c-flap" extension on his batting helmet for the rest of his career. The flap jutted out from his left earflap, and covered the side of his jaw that faced the pitcher.

3. During the past decade, Seitzer has had stints as the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks and Royals.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: There was always a silly little thrill in learning about big leaguers who shared my first name. At that time, there was Seitzer, McReynolds, Brown, Reimer...

Bill James Said: "He's 32 now, and going to be out of the game soon if he doesn't go back to hitting .300." Lucky for Kevin, that's exactly what he did.

On This Date in 1993: July 26. Kevin Seitzer (hey, how about that!) is released by the Athletics (oops) after batting .255/.324/.357 in 73 games. Three days later, he would re-sign with Milwaukee and bat .290/.359/.457 in 47 games for the rest of the season. That's more like it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

#43 Ruben Amaro

About the Front: Throwback alert! Ruben Amaro is wearing the Phillies' home uniform from 1946-1949. In recent years, the Phils have added an alternate uniform that is very similar in style and color to this one.

About the Back: Those seven home runs in 1992 would be a career high for Amaro. His big league career stretched through 1998, and in every subsequent year he hit either one homer or two.

Triple Play:

1. His father, Ruben Sr., was an infielder for the Phillies and three other teams from 1958 to 1969. He won a Gold Glove at shortstop in 1964. The Amaros are the only father-son duo to play for Philadelphia.

2. On September 26, 1992, he set personal bests with two triples and four RBI as part of a 3-for-5 performance in a 10-0 Phillies' rout of St. Louis.

3. Ruben graduated to the Phils' front office immediately after hanging up his spikes. He was an assistant general manager for the team for a decade before succeeding Pat Gillick as general manager, a post he's held since November 2008.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: For whatever reason, I always figured that Rube had made an easy out in this photo. I detected a grimace of frustration in his expression.

Bill James Said: "Good defensive outfielder and good base runner, but doesn't hit enough to be the kind of fourth outfielder/pinch hitter that managers like to have available."

On This Date in 1993: July 25. I think it's time for another Calvin and Hobbes strip.

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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#41 Alex Fernandez

About the Front: Alex Fernandez's footwear brand of choice is Reebok. Yep, that's all I've got today.

About the Back: You can see that Chicago wasted no time in getting Fernandez to the big leagues after drafting him fourth overall in 1990. Two starts in rookie ball, two more starts in high-A, then four in AA, and he was on the MLB roster just before turning 21.

Triple Play:

1. Alex was on the verge of a breakout season when this card hit stores. In 1993, he went 18-9 with a 3.13 ERA in 247.1 innings. He was a hard-luck loser in both Game 2 and Game 6 of the ALCS, allowing three earned runs total in 15 innings but receiving little support from his team on offense or defense - an additional three runs against Fernandez were unearned.

2. Fernandez was part of the Marlins' 1997 splurge, signing as a free agent and joining other proven veterans like Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Devon White, Kevin Brown, and Al Leiter to deliver the team's first postseason berth and eventual World Series win over the Indians. Alex went 17-12 during the regular season with a 3.59 ERA in what would prove to be his final full year in the majors (see below).

3. He was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2008.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Like most young folks my age, I thought the black-and-white uniform that the White Sox debuted in 1991 was the coolest thing ever. I had a cheapo adjustable "SOX" cap that I wore until it literally fell apart.

Bill James Said: "He's piled up quite a few innings on an immature arm, but if he stays healthy there's every reason to assume that he'll win 150-170 games in the next ten years." That proved to be a BIG "if". A torn rotator cuff sidelined him during the Marlins' World Series push in 1997, and though he returned in 1999, he pitched just 32 games over the next two seasons before he was through at age 30. He retired with 102 career wins spanning ten seasons.

On This Date in 1993: July 23. I was a day early on the James Jordan newsbit yesterday. Whoops. Also on this date, the Candelaria massacre took place, with Brazilian police officers killing eight street children.

Monday, July 22, 2013

#40 Ozzie Smith

About the Front: It's nice to see the Wizard of Oz taking some time from his pregame ritual to sign autographs for enemy fans in Pittsburgh. Can you imagine being the bespectacled youngster to the left and spotting yourself clear as day on Ozzie Smith's baseball card? That kid appears to be staring a hole right through the photographer. At the very least, he could've smiled for the camera.

About the Back: Ozzie made it 16 straight 20-steal seasons in 1993, but at 38 he was hearing footsteps. He was 21-for-30 as a base thief, a mediocre 70% success rate. Smith totaled only 224 games over the next three seasons before retiring at the end of 1996. He wound up with 580 stolen bases, good for 22nd all-time as of this writing.

Triple Play:

1. Smith has a reputation as the greatest defensive shortstop of all time, thanks to a preponderance of acrobatic and far-ranging plays over the years. He won 13 straight Gold Gloves from 1980 through 1992. If you're more sabermetrically-inclined, Oz also ranks first all-time in Baseball Reference's career defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) stat with 43.4. The runner-up is Mark Belanger, at 39.4.

2. Though Ozzie totaled only 28 home runs in a 19-year career, he hit a very memorable homer in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. With the series and the game each tied 2-2, the slap-hitting shortstop deposited a Tom Niedenfuer pitch over the right field fence for a walkoff shot in the bottom of the ninth inning. Legendary Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck instructed fans to "go crazy", and St. Louis finished off the Dodgers in Los Angeles two days later to earn a World Series berth.

3. His son Nikko appeared on American Idol in 2005, finishing ninth in the televised singing competition.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This may have been the first card I ever saw with a player signing autographs. I was never assertive enough to go hunting for autographs myself. Even now, I generally only get player signatures through the mail or at advertised appearances.

Bill James Said: "He isn't everything he once was, I suppose, but if you don't want him, give me a call."

On This Date in 1993: July 22. James R. Jordan, Sr., father of Michael Jordan, was shot and killed as part of a robbery at a rest stop in North Carolina. This was one of several factors in MJ's sudden retirement from the NBA shortly thereafter.

Friday, July 19, 2013

#39 Roger McDowell

About the Front: There's nothing behind Roger McDowell but the wild blue yonder of Dodger Stadium. It's a pretty lonely-looking backdrop, considering that it's the middle of a ballgame.

About the Back: It's odd to see Topps digging for Roger's minor league stats in the writeup, considering that he'd been a dependable major league reliever for eight seasons by the start of 1993.

Triple Play:

1. McDowell is credited with three games played in the outfield in his career. On July 22, 1986, Mets skipper Davey Johnson got creative by necessity after Ray Knight and Kevin Mitchell were ejected in extra innings in Cincinnati. He shuttled Roger and lefty Jesse Orosco between the mound and the outfield corners, keeping the pitchers away from each batter's dominant field. The pair combined for four shutout innings, with McDowell getting the win when Orosco walked in the top of the 14th and scored on a Howard Johnson three-run homer. On October 1, 1991, he kept left field warm for one at-bat as John Candelaria struck out Fred McGriff in the ninth inning of a tight game; Roger then returned to the bump and finished off the save. Finally, on October 6, 1991, Tommy Lasorda let McDowell play the final inning of the season in left field; alas, nobody hit the ball to him.

2. Roger was a notorious prankster and showman during his career; I mentioned some of his greatest hits on my Orioles blog a few years back. Don't forget the time he spit on Kramer on Seinfeld.

3. He has been the pitching coach of the Braves since 2006, ably replacing the legendary Leo Mazzone...with the exception of an ugly interaction with a handful of Giants fans in early 2011.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My first impression of McDowell came from his typically goofy 1993 Upper Deck card. (Source: Night Owl Cards)

Bill James Said: "His ERA for '93 looks good, but what this doesn't tell you is that he gave up 15 un-earned runs, so that altogether he was giving up 4.24 runs per nine innings." That's quite a difference from Roger's 2.25 ERA in 68 innings.

On This Date in 1993: July 19. U. S. President Bill Clinton announces his regrettable "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding homosexuality in the American military. DADT was finally repealed in 2011.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

#38 Chris James

About the Front: We've already had some instances of pitcherface in this set, but this is the goofiest expression I've seen on a baserunner. Chris James looks like he's making a kissy face as he barrels toward third base.

About the Back: Craig James spent five seasons (1984-1988) with the New England Patriots, and rushed for 1,227 yards and five touchdowns in his lone Pro Bowl season in 1985. You probably know him as one of the many ex-athlete blowhards of ESPN's college football coverage. He also made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate last year as a Republican from Texas.

Triple Play:

1. On May 4, 1991, he set a team record with nine RBI in the Indians' 20-6 rout of Oakland. It was part of a 4-for-5 performance that included three-run homers off A's starter Kirk Dressendorfer in both the first and second innings.

2. Chris slugged .525 as a rookie with the 1987 Phillies. He started 90 games that year, including 77 in left field.

3. On December 6, 1989, the Padres traded James, Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Carlos Baerga to Cleveland for Joe Carter. I think the Indians came out a bit ahead in that deal.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: In 1993, I was too young and naive to know that you should never trust a man with two first names.

Bill James Said: "Spent most of the year with Houston; was traded to Texas in mid-September and had one of his famous hot streaks in late September, giving his season's stats an entirely different look." As he says, Chris batted .256/.333/.488 in 65 games with the Astros. In his eight-game run with the Rangers, he was 11-for-31 (.355) with a double, three homers, seven RBI, and five runs scored. That boosted his overall season numbers to .275/.348/.525.

On This Date in 1993: The Rangers trade young pitchers Robb Nen and Kurt Miller to the Marlins for reliever Cris Carpenter. Nen went on to record 108 saves in five years with Florida, and 314 total in his career.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

#37 Lenny Webster

About the Front: I love the Twins' "m" logo on Lenny Webster's stirrup! Okay, the logo itself isn't so hot, but having your logo on your socks is an idea that's woefully underutilized. The only other time I remember seeing this was when Jamie Moyer was with the Phillies.

About the Back: How many baseball players can you name who studied criminal justice?

Triple Play:

1. Lenny switched to #42 when he joined the Orioles in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson. The number was retired across Major League Baseball that same year, except for those players wearing it at the time. So he was the last player in O's history to regularly wear #42.

2. Webster was Baltimore's number two catcher in 1997-1998, at the tail end of Chris Hoiles' career. Because of Hoiles' various injuries, Lenny actually appeared in 206 games over those two seasons, batting .271 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI.

3. His only career walk-off home run came on July 23, 1998, when he hit a two-run tiebreaker off of Mike Fetters in the bottom of the ninth to give the Orioles a 9-7 win over Oakland.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm deferring to Teenage Kevin here. I really enjoyed watching Lenny Webster play for the O's. A lot of that probably had to do with his performance in the summer of 1997. From June through August, he played in 54 games and batted .287 with 23 RBI, helping the Birds stay on top of the American League East while Hoiles healed on the sidelines.

Bill James Said: "Like many of the Twins, he had a bad year." Webster hit .198/.274/.275 and Minnesota finished fifth in the American League West at 71-91.

On This Date in 1993: July 16. The British intelligence agency MI5 publishes a booklet, The Security Service. This is the first time MI5 has revealed public details about its activities and duties, as well as the identity of its Director General Stella Rimington.

Monday, July 15, 2013

#36 Scott Servais

About the Front: There's lots of free advertising going on here. All-Star chest protector, Easton wristband, and Franklin glove. The cleats may be Nike, but it's not like they need any more brand recognition.
About the Back: And that's how I learned to pronounce "Servais". Scott Service was a journeyman reliever who pitched for nine different MLB teams in 12 seasons with a 4.99 ERA. The Scotts faced each other eight times, and Servais batted 2-for-6 with a double, a walk, and a sac bunt.

Triple Play:

1. Scott was a member of Team USA as a collegiate player (he attended Creighton University in Nebraska). He competed internationally from 1986 through 1988.

2. His only career two-homer game was August 22, 1995, as a member of the Cubs. In all, he went 4-for-4 with a double and four RBI, but the Marlins scored six runs off of Jim Bullinger in the first two innings and held on for an 8-6 victory.

3. He is currently an assistant to Angels' GM Jerry Dipoto.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: 1993 Topps featured both Astros catchers (Servais and Eddie Taubensee) standing in full catcher gear, mask off, wearing eye black. It was needlessly confusing.

Bill James Said: "The righthanded part of a platoon arrangement with Eddie Taubensee." Scott had a career OPS of .770 vs. lefties (998 plate appearances), vs. .631 vs. righties (1780 PA).

On This Date in 1993: July 15. Cal Ripken, Jr. hit his 278th career home run as a shortstop, breaking Ernie Banks' record of 277. The Orioles beat the Twins 5-3.

Friday, July 12, 2013

#35 John Smoltz

About the Front: Yet another great action shot. I'm starting to realize that I've taken Topps' photography in this set for granted because I've owned most of these cards for 20 years and they're sort of old-hat to me. John Smoltz is utilizing the so-called "inverted-W" pitching delivery for which he became famous. It was later adopted by pitching phenoms from Mark Prior to Stephen Strasburg, and received (perhaps unfair) scrutiny from critics who claimed that it increased the risk of injury in pitchers.

About the Back: I didn't realize that Smoltz was signed by the Tigers as an undrafted free agent out of high school. Detroit scouts Bill Schudlich and Ken Madeja deserve a hearty pat on the back.

Triple Play:

1. John won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award on the strength of a 24-8 record, a 2.94 ERA, and league-leading totals in wins, innings pitched (253.2), strikeouts (276) and K/9 IP (9.8). He also won three of his four postseason decisions that year, allowing a total of four earned runs in 38 innings (0.95 ERA). Despite Atlanta's checkered postseason history, the righthander had an excellent playoff and World Series record: 15-4, 2.67 ERA, 4 saves in 41 games (27 starts).

2. After missing the entire 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz found a new role as Atlanta's closer. From 2002-2004, he saved 144 games, including a league-best 55 in 2002. He had a miniscule 1.12 ERA in 2003, as he allowed eight earned runs in 64.1 innings. Incredibly, he returned to the Braves rotation in 2005 without skipping a beat, compiling a 44-24 record and a 3.22 ERA over the next three seasons.

3. A popular story that has been circulating since 1990 claims that John burned himself while trying to iron a shirt that he was wearing at the time. He has routinely denied the tale, but the original article by Joe Strauss included a supposed quote from Smoltz himself. The world may never know the truth.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says:Years before Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt were proclaimed as the Phillies' "Four Aces", there was similar hype for Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Steve Avery. Avery of course fizzled out, but the remaining trio stayed intact until Maddux returned to the Cubs in 2004. I never would've guessed that.

Bill James Said: "For the future, I think I would rather have Smoltz than Glavine, not that I would kick either one off the 40-man roster." Both pitchers lasted until age 42, so Smoltz bowed out in 2009 and Glavine in 2008. From 1994 onward, Smoltz was 141-90 with a 3.22 ERA (134 ERA+) and 154 saves. In that same span, Glavine was 210-137 with a 3.54 ERA (121 ERA+). Smoltz's tenure in the bullpen (2001-2004) skews the comparison, but both guys turned out to be a good bet.

On This Date in 1993: July 12. As I mentioned in the Juan Gonzalez entry yesterday, today is the twentieth anniversary of the Home Run Derby at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Gonzalez and Griffey finish tied 7-7, necessitating an extra round. They each hit four homers in that round, and Gonzalez prevails 1-0 in a second playoff. All these years later, it's Griffey's performance that people still talk about; one of his homers hit the B&O Warehouse beyond the right field fence on the fly (approx. 445 feet from home plate). To this day, no player has ever hit the warehouse in an official game.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

#34 Juan Gonzalez

About the Front: This card is proof that zooming in a bit on the action can improve a photo. Nothing is lost by cropping Juan Gonzalez at the knees. Instead, we get a closer look at his intense expression as he follows the path of the ball he just hit.

About the Back: The copywriter must have had a blast with all of the home run slang. In one blurb, we get "belted", "clout", "roundtrippers", and "walloped".

Triple Play:

1. Juan was voted American League MVP in both 1996 (.314/.368/.643, 47 HR, 144 RBI) and 1998 (.318/.366/.630, 45 HR, 157 RBI).

2. He was hampered by injuries throughout his career, as he topped 115 games once in his 30s and suffered a season-ending hamstring tear in his only at-bat in 2005, which ended up being his final major league appearance. In parts of 17 seasons, he batted .295/.343/.561 with 434 home runs and 1,404 RBI.

3. Just last month, Juan and longtime teammate Ivan Rodriguez were selected for the Rangers Hall of Fame, but Gonzalez curiously declined the honor. It is believed that he is still upset over being traded from Texas to the Tigers prior to the 2000 season.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't know if "chicks dig the long ball", as the classic Nike ad claimed, but kids sure do. One of my strongest memories from 1993 was seeing "Juan Gone" outlast Ken Griffey, Jr. in the Home Run Derby at Camden Yards. Griffey was the first (and still only) player to hit the B&O Warehouse on the fly, but Gonzalez was the first player to reach the upper deck facade in left field (est. 473 feet) and the green batter's eye wall beyond center field (est. 455 feet).

Bill James Said: "Absolutely the only issues which stand between Gonzalez and Cooperstown are health and conduct." You don't say.

On This Date in 1993: July 11. At age 53, Jack Nicklaus wins the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament for the second time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

#33 B. J. Wallace

About the Front: So we come to the first 1992 draft pick, a subset that is scattered through Series 1 and 2 in the 1993 Topps set. These cards have a pretty dull design, with the player superimposed on a green baseball field. Most are wearing their college or high school uniforms, so that you have to flip the card over to figure out who actually drafted the guy. In the case of B. J. Wallace, he pitched for Mississippi State University and was taken third overall by the Expos.

About the Back: Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark get name-checked in the writeup. Both of them left a much greater imprint on baseball than Mr. Wallace, sorry to say.

Triple Play:

1. Wallace is one of the five players who were famously picked ahead of Derek Jeter in the 1992 draft. Chad Mottola (fifth overall) is the only other one included in this set. For whatever reason, Topps didn't feature many of the first round picks, which is why you'll note that the cards just say "1992 Draft Pick".  Phil Nevin (first), Paul Shuey (second), and Jeffrey Hammonds (fourth) were the other top-five picks that year.

2. B. J. never made it to the big leagues, as injuries led to the end of his pro baseball career in 1997. In parts of three minor league seasons, he had a 15-15 record and a 4.21 ERA.

3. Sadly, Wallace has had serious legal problems over the past decade. In 2003, he was charged with driving under the influence after rear-ending another car at a traffic light; the other driver died as a result of his injuries. In 2011, B. J. and his wife Amber were arrested for manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It always bugged me that the draft picks weren't pictured in the uniforms of their major league clubs.

Bill James Said: N/A

On This Date in 1993: July 10. Kenyan runner Yobes Ondieki became the first man to run 10,000 meters in under 27 minutes.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#32 Don Mattingly

About the Front: This is a horizontal photo done right. Donnie Baseball was known for his smooth defense at first base (he won nine Gloves in a ten-year span), and here we see him stooping low for a pickoff throw as Herm Winningham of the Red Sox dives back to the bag. One of my silly little pleasures in card collecting is being able to identify players who are making "cameos" on another player's card. It's even better when I can harness the powers of Baseball Reference to pinpoint the game in which the pictured was taken. In this case, there was only one Boston-at-Yankees game in 1992 that met the criteria of (1) Mattingly playing the field and (2) Winningham reaching base. It was Thursday, August 6, and the Red Sox eked out a 3-1 victory. Frank Viola allowed four hits and four walks and came without an out of a complete game, and Jeff Reardon retired Roberto Kelly with a runner on first base to earn the save. Winningham singled with two outs in the top of the fifth, but was not successfully picked off; he was stranded when Phil Plantier flied out to center field. Piece of cake, huh?

About the Back: This is the first appearance by a Yankee in the 1993 Topps set. Could you ever see the Bronx Bombers getting shut out until card #32 these days? The horrors. As for "Mattingly's 23", Don closed its doors in 1996, citing escalating expenses and increased competition from chain restaurants.

Triple Play:

1. Don hit home runs in eight straight games, July 8-18, 1987, tying Dale Long's major league record. Ken Griffey, Jr. also tied this mark in 1993. Mattingly batted .459 (17-for-37) and slugged 1.324 with two doubles, 10 HR, and 21 RBI during his torrid streak, but the Yanks went 5-3 in that time.

2. I will gladly take any chance to mention the 1992 Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat". For the uninitiated, Mattingly and eight other star major leaguers (lending their voices in guest starring roles) are recruited by Springfield Power Plant owner Mr. Burns to play as ringers on the company softball team. On the show, Burns kicks the first baseman off of his team for refusing to shave his sideburns. He later said that he realized how many people actually watched that show when fans at the ballpark started heckling him about his sideburns.

3. Don served on Joe Torre's coaching staffs with the Yankees and Dodgers, and took over as L.A.'s manager in 2011 after Torre retired. As of this writing, the Dodgers have struggled to a 43-45 record in an injury-plagued season. Because of the team's high payroll and lack of results, Mattingly is perceived to be on the hot seat.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: A bit of a second-hand story here. My uncle's mother-in-law used to be an avid autograph collector. She claimed that Mattingly was one of the nicest players she ever met.

Bill James Said: "In his best year, 1986, he was 88% better than the average American League hitter. Last year he was 20% better." If you look at the eye-popping stats on the back of Don's baseball card, it's hard to believe that he never made an All-Star team after 1989. The guy's body just broke down on him.

On This Date in 1993: July 9. Moises Alou hits two home runs in a 6-1 Expos win over the Padres. Each of his last six hits (spanning four games) has been a homer; the last of these sets a new record for most consecutive hits that are home runs.

Monday, July 8, 2013

#31 Derek Lilliquist

About the Front: This is a decent action shot, with Derek Lilliquist having just finished his delivery and maybe even attempting to spring off of the mound to field a comebacker. The tarp roll looms in the background, large and unsightly. Speaking of unsightly, I'm glad that the Indians ditched their "racing stripes" jersey when they redesigned the uniform for 1994. This older one will always give me fuzzy memories of "Major League", but it's not a great look.

About the Back: Derek was a helluva waivers pickup by Cleveland. He'd been a mediocre-to-poor starter in Atlanta and San Diego, but the Indians shifted him to the bullpen full-time and he posted an 0.92 WHIP and 225 ERA+ in 1992. He was fourth in the American League in appearances that year, as only Kenny Rogers, Duane Ward, and teammate Steve Olin were called upon more often.

Triple Play:

1. Lilliquist did most of the heavy lifting in a May 1, 1990 5-2 win over the Mets.
In addition to tossing seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball, he hit a pair of solo home runs off of Ron Darling - the only two homers of his career.

2. After putting up a 2.25 ERA and 10 saves for the Indians in 1993, Derek's career took a sharp downward turn. His ERA jumped to 4.91 the following year, then he allowed 16 earned runs in 23 innings with the Red Sox in 1995, prompting his release. He made five appearances with the Reds in 1996, yielding three runs in three and two-thirds innings, and that was the end of his time in the big leagues.

3. He's been a coach in the Cardinals organization for the past decade, and has been with the big league club since 2011. Last year, he replaced Dave Duncan as pitching coach for St. Louis.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Lilliquist was one of those guys that I underestimated because of his appearance - a little dumpy with scraggly hair and a wispy blond mustache. You can't always judge a book by its cover, folks.

Bill James Said: "The Indians tried to make him their closer, and that didn't work; he blew three of four save chances and his ERA ballooned." "Ballooned" is a bit harsh, as Derek's highest ERA by month in 1993 was 3.71 in 17 innings in August. But as noted above, his late-season scuffle was a possible indicator of trouble ahead.

On This Date in 1993: July 8. Egypt executes seven Islamic extremists for attacks on foreign tourists.

Friday, July 5, 2013

#30 Fred McGriff

About the Front: That is one right pretty lookin' swing. Have you ever met anyone who didn't like the Crime Dog?

About the Back: Yes indeed, the Yankees let Fred McGriff get away. On December 9, 1982, New York traded McGriff, outfielder and free agent bust Dave Collins, and young pitcher Mike Morgan to the Blue Jays for outfielder Tom Dodd (whose MLB career consisted of eight games with the 1986 Orioles) and reliever Dale Murray (who had a 4.73 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in three seasons in the Bronx). I miss horrendously overbearing 1980s Steinbrenner.

Triple Play:

1. Back when it still meant something, Fred hit at least 30 home runs in each of seven consecutive seasons (1988-1994). He wasn't just a hacker, either, as he retired with a .377 on-base percentage and 1,305 total walks to go along with his 493 homers.

2. The day McGriff was traded to the Braves, the press box at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium caught fire a few hours before game time. In 68 games post-trade, he hit .310/.392/.612 with 19 home runs and 55 RBI; Atlanta went 51-17 and overcame a nine-game deficit to squeak out the National League Western Divison crown over the Giants.

3. Tom Emanski. Enough said.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My introduction to the cruelty of trade rumors was early July of 1993, when there was buzz about McGriff being dealt to my Orioles for perennial pitching prospect Arthur Rhodes. Obviously he went to the Braves for Melvin Nieves and a couple of other minor leaguers, and the O's were stuck with David Segui down the stretch. Rats!

Bill James Said: In comparing McGriff to Willie McCovey at the same age, "McGriff's batting average is five points better; McCovey's slugging percentage was five points better." At the end of their careers, Fred had a .284 average and .509 slugging percentage, and Willie was at .270 and .515.

On This Date in 1993: July 5. Electrochemist Faiza Al-Kharafi becomes the first woman to head a major Middle Eastern university when she is appointed rector of Kuwait University.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

#29 Dwayne Henry

About the Front: This is our second straight card featuring a player adjusting his headwear. Of course, Dwayne Henry looks considerably more sweaty than Joe Orsulak did. It must be a steamy night in...judging from the blurry blue-and-gold outfield fence and artificial turf, I'm going to say it's a toss-up between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Anyone else feel like weighing in?

About the Back: I am all too familiar with Dwayne's birthplace of Elkton. It's part of the route east from my parents' house that I took to get to Washington College, my alma mater. In fact, I would turn onto Route 213 in Elkton, signaling the rough midway point of the journey. It always seemed like I would see signs for Elkton for a 20-mile stretch before I ever reached it. I'd eventually start wondering if I'd somehow missed the town, and thereby my turn, only to finally get there a few moments later. This has been a long and pointless anecdote from Kevin.

Triple Play:

1. Henry's lone career start came in his penultimate big league season. On May 17, 1993, the Mariners threw him to the wolves in a road game against the Rangers. He took the mound in the bottom of the fifth with an 8-2 lead, struck out Benji Gil, then allowed four straight hits, including three for extra bases. He was replaced by Jeff Nelson with a runner on third and three runs in. The inherited runner scored, making it 8-6. Texas got as close as 8-7, but Seattle scored in three of the final four innings to win going away, 16-9.

2. Take another look at the back of the card above to see Dwayne's odd career path. He pitched in fewer than 20 big league games in each of his first six seasons, then performed poorly in 34 tries for a bad Braves team in 1990, only to get (and make good on) a shot with the Astros in 1991. He had 112 games pitched with a 3.27 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 1991-92, but a 1.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggested that he was doing it with some smoke and mirrors. He was awful in Seattle in 1993, missed the 1994 season, and was hammered in a short stint in Detroit in 1995 to close the lid on his MLB opportunities.

3. Henry pitched in the independent Atlantic League for the Somerset Patriots in 1998-99 and the Newark Bears in 2001 with diminishing returns: 3.20 ERA in 81.2 IP, 5.52 ERA in 45.2 IP, then 7.30 in 24.2 IP.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: At that young age, I had no idea where Elkton was. I just saw that Henry was born in Maryland and thought that was cool.

Bill James Said: "The three relief pitchers named 'Henry' had an aggregate ERA of 3.84 in 1992 (3.33 to 4.02) and 6.06 in '93 (5.56 to 6.44). Does anybody know for sure that there are three of these guys?" The other Henrys were Doug of the Brewers and Butch of the Rockies and Expos.

On This Date in 1993: July 3. Dodgers Hall of Famer pitcher Don Drysdale died suddenly of a heart attack at age 56. Drysdale was a radio broadcaster for the team at the time; he was found dead in his hotel room in Montreal. It's been a morbid week for this blog, hasn't it?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

#28 Joe Orsulak

About the Front: Joe O! This picture captures the essence of Joe Orsulak, an unglamorous blue-collar type of guy from Jersey. You could easily imagine his batting helmet as a hard hat that he's pulling off as he takes a breather on the construction site. This was Joe's last card as an Oriole; he signed with the Mets in December of 1992.

About the Back: Sadly, Joe's wife Adrianna would be diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 1994. She passed away in 2004 at age 39.

Triple Play: 

1. Orsulak was a three-sport athlete at Parsippany Hills High School in New Jersey. In addition to baseball, he played basketball and was an all-state soccer goalie.

2. Two notable plays in Joe's career involved outfield catches. He recorded the first putout in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards when he snagged a short fly ball off the bat of Kenny Lofton. A few years earlier, he had been on the short end of Bo Jackson's famous wall-scaling robbery at Memorial Stadium.

3. 'Slack still lives in the Baltimore area. He spent some time as an assistant coach for Loyola Blakefield High School's baseball team as a favor to head coach (and fellow ex-Oriole) Tim Nordbrook. Currently, Joe talks up the O's on 105.7 FM's Baltimore Baseball Tonight pregame radio show.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This was not a card that made a strong impression on me as a kid. Joe's facial contortions made it look like he was in pain, so I probably assumed that he had just struck out.

Bill James Said: "He has stolen five or six bases in each of the last five years, with batting averages staying in a 20-point circle (.269 to .289)." Even with figures in the .220s in his last two seasons (1996-1997), Orsulak batted .273 for his career.

On This Date in 1993: July 2. Fred Gwynne, a.k.a. Herman Munster, passed away at age 66 from pancreatic cancer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

#27 Carlos Garcia

About the Front: I miss stirrup socks in baseball. But white sanitary socks with a half-stripe, like those being worn by Carlos Garcia here, are the pits. They're not quite as bad as the solid-colored socks that players wear today, but seriously...don't be wishy-washy. Either wear the real thing, or don't.

About the Back: Carlos is one of seven major leaguers named "Garcia" who were born in Venezuela, though he does not appear to be related to any of the others. The most well-known is probably Freddy, who has pitched for a half-dozen big league teams over the past 15 years.

Triple Play:

1. Garcia was an odd All-Star selection in 1994; he was batting .267/.307/.332 with four home runs and 17 RBI at the break. I guess you can chalk it up to the "every team is represented" mandate, but I'd still say that Zane Smith (9-6, 3.19 ERA in the first half) was robbed.

2. He hit his first career home run at Dodger Stadium on April 16, 1993 off of Orel Hershiser. It was an inside-the-park drive to center field that eluded Brett Butler.

3. Since hanging up his spikes, Carlos has been a minor league coach in the Indians and Pirates organizations, and coached on the major league level for the Mariners and Pirates. Currently, he is managing Pittsburgh's AA affiliate, the Altoona Curve.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm fairly certain that I used to confuse him with Bucs teammate Orlando Merced.

Bill James Said: "His 1993 season was exactly what I would expect him to do again, but he might be able to improve it." Not exactly. After hitting .269/.316/.399 with 12 homers and 47 RBI in his first full season, Carlos topped out at six homers and 104 games played in subsequent years, and played his last major league game in 1999.

On This Date in 1993: July 1. A 55-year-old failed entrepreneur named Gian Ferri entered an office building at 101 California Street in San Francisco and opened fire, killing eight people and injuring six others before taking his own life.