Friday, January 31, 2014

#153 Greg Vaughn

About the Front: There's just something awesome about a close-up photo of a batter getting ready to take his shot. Greg Vaughn is the closest-zoomed hitter we've seen thus far. I also like being able to see the "23" on Vaughn's bat knob.

About the Back: As you may have guessed, Greg's 14th inning game-winner off of Rich Monteleone was the latest home run he hit by inning in his career.

Triple Play:

1. Vaughn was the 1998 NL Comeback Player of the Year, as he hit .272/.363/.597 with 50 home runs and 119 RBI for the pennant-winning Padres. The previous year, he'd had a line of .216/.322/.393 with 18 homers and 57 ribbies.

2. His 355 career home runs are the most all-time by a player whose last name begins with a "V". The closest active player is Joey Votto, who is nearly 200 dingers behind.

3. On February 2, 1999, Greg became the first (and to date, only) player to be traded immediately after a 50-homer season when the Padres dealt him to the Reds.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: 50 home runs seemed like an exotic number in 1993. The only player who'd reached that mark in my lifetime to date was Cecil Fielder. Greg Vaughn wouldn't have been one of the first players I would've predicted to get there in the near future.

Bill James Said: "His 1993 stats are extremely similar to those of Frank Robinson in 1973 (.266, 30 homers, 97 RBI, 82 walks)." Vaughn hit .267 with 30 HR, 97 RBI, and 89 walks in '93, though as James goes on to mention, he was 27 years old at the time. Robby was 37 in 1973.

On This Date in 1993: January 31. The Buffalo Bills are the first NFL team to ever lose three straight Super Bowls, as they are routed by the Dallas Cowboys 52-17 in SB XXVII.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

#152 Rich DeLucia

About the Front: Here's another shotput-style pitching motion. Also, which is thicker: Rich DeLucia's eyebrow hair or his mustache?

About the Back: Notable MLB pitchers from the University of Tennessee include pre-WWII Tigers star Tommy Bridges, longtime lefty reliever Rick Honeycutt, and 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

Triple Play:

1. DeLucia pitched into the ninth inning on September 18, 1990 for his first big league win in a 7-3 triumph over the Rangers. A leadoff homer by Pete Incaviglia in the ninth spoiled his chance for the complete game.

2. His best full-season performance came in 1995, while pitching in relief for St. Louis. He set a career high with 56 appearances, posting a 3.39 ERA.

3. How does an athlete know when he's through? Giving up three home runs in the span of five batters in your final career game puts a pretty fine point on it.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I can't believe this guy was only 27. That cheesy 'stache really ages him.

Bill James Said: "Mike Boddicker-type righthander, changes speeds off a fastball that would itself make a fine changeup." So I guess my eyes weren't playing tricks on me; Rich really wasn't a flamethrower.

On This Date in 1993: January 30. How about another Calvin and Hobbes strip? I used to accuse my sister of operating under that philosophy.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

#151 Archi Cianfrocco

About the Front: Hold your horses! It looks like the third base coach may have thrown up a hasty stop sign as Archi Cianfrocco rounded second base at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium. Archi appeared in three road games vs. the Padres in 1992, and my best guess is that this photo was taken on Sunday, July 5. In the ninth inning, the rookie faced Mike Maddux with nobody out, Delino DeShields on first, and Montreal down 3-2. He lined a single to right field and moved to second on an unsuccessful attempt to throw out DeShields at third base. Spike Owen followed with a game-tying sac fly and the Expos won it in the tenth.

About the Back: There's a rare back photo cameo, by an unidentified catcher.

Triple Play:

1. "Archi" is short for "Angelo"...somehow.

2. In six seasons with the Padres, Cianfrocco played every position except center field and pitcher. His lone inning at catcher came on June 9, 1996 after San Diego manager Bruce Bochy subbed out regular catchers Brian Johnson and Brad Ausmus. Pitcher Ron Villone tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, and Archi received no defensive chances.

3. When the Padres traveled to Cooperstown to participate in 1997's Hall of Fame exhibition game, Archi was an unlikely winner in the pregame Home Run Derby.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My favorite baseball book is Lords of the Realm by John Helyar. In a section detailing the Padres' infamous 1993 fire sale, he quotes a letter from a young fan to San Diego ownership: "I am very upset because you had the nerve to trade Gary Sheffield for a very bad player. You guys are stupid. I should know. I'm 11. And I'm smarter than you." Cianfrocco was acquired the day before Sheffield was dealt, ostensibly to take the star's place. That's one cold-blooded middle schooler.

Bill James Said: "(The Padres) wanted Cianfrocco to play third, but he doesn't look anything like a third baseman, and, as Dan Rather said, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it can't play third base."

On This Date in 1993: The Angels sign Jerome Walton, who won the 1989 Rookie of the Year award with the Cubs. He will appear in only five games for California, going 0-for-2 with a walk.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

#150 Frank Thomas

About the Front: The Big Hurt with eye black and three black bats, smiling brightly in front of an impossibly blue sky. This was a great card to have in your grubby hands in 1993. I'm glad my posting schedule got drawn out long enough that I could slap the "Hall of Famer" tag on Frank Thomas, who was a first-ballot selection by the BBWAA earlier this month.

About the Back: How powerful was Frank? There were a dozen seasons in which he surpassed the 24 homers he hit in 1992.

Triple Play:

1. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994, when he batted .332/.453/.658 (193 OPS+!) with 79 home runs and 229 RBI...and lost 50 or so games to the season-ending strike in the latter year.

2. Thomas had 33 multi-HR games, including a pair of three-homer games against Boston that came 11 years apart. Tim Wakefield started both games and allowed five of the six round-trippers, with Kyle Snyder surrendering the other.

3. Frank's short acting resume includes cameos in the Tom Selleck movie Mr. Baseball and on the sitcom Married with Children.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Ken Griffey, Jr. may have been the coolest player when I was younger, but Frank Thomas was the biggest badass. He was made to wear that black-and-white-and-gray White Sox uniform. I was thrilled when I got to wear his (and Mike Mussina's) number 35 in Little League. Not that I ever hit like Frank...

Bill James Said: "Frank was the first player since Ted Kluszewski in 1954 to hit 40 homers and also have twice as many walks as strikeouts." FYI, that's 41 HR, 112 BB, and 54 K for Thomas.

On This Day in 1993: January 28. Don't touch the Hot Stove unless you want to get burned! The Brewers sign free agent outfielder Tom Brunansky.

Monday, January 27, 2014

#149 Rheal Cormier

About the Front: Believe it or not, Rheal Cormier is the only "Rheal" in MLB history.

About the Back: "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay..." Between this and Steve Wilson's love of hockey, it seems like Topps was seeking out the most stereotypical tidbits it could find for Canadian-born players.

Triple Play:

1. Cormier had a career year as a lefty reliever with the Phillies in 2003, totaling 84.2 innings in 65 appearances with a scant 1.70 ERA and 0.93 WHIP and vulturing a few wins to finish 8-0.

2. After making his last big league appearance with the Reds on April 18, 2007, Rheal came back to pitch for the Canadian team in the 2008 Summer Olympics. He had also pitched for Canada in the 1988 Olympics, back when baseball was a demonstration sport. At 41, he was oldest Olympic baseball player in 2008.

3. He was selected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't remember exactly when I learned that "Rheal" was a two-syllable name (think Real Madrid rather than Real Housewives), but it was another example of baseball exposing me to foreign cultures.

Bill James Said: "He's had trouble staying 100% healthy and hasn't pitched well when he's not 100%, but I like him."

On This Date in 1993: January 27. American-born Akebono Taro becomes the first non-Japanese sumo wrestler to achieve the sport's top rank of yokozuna.

Friday, January 24, 2014

#148 Steve Finley

About the Front: Steve Finley is turned in such a way that you can follow the thick navy blue piping all the way from his armpit down to his ankle. It's a shame that it doesn't quite line up right with the stirrup sock.

About the Back: "Acq.: Trade." Eight little letters, but so insidious. That would be THE Glenn Davis trade, which I've moaned about numerous times on my own blog and will discuss again here when we touch upon the other persons involved (Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling, and Davis). Ugh.

Triple Play:

1. Do you like cherry-picked stats? Here's a fun one: Only two players in MLB history have totaled 300 home runs, 425 doubles, 100 triples, and 300 steals. They are Steve Finley and Willie Mays.

2. I've always loved guys that played forever. Old age trivia! Finley is the oldest player to lead his league in triples (an NL-high 10 in 2003 at age 38), and to play 100 games in center field (where he saw action in 130 games at age 41 with the 2006 Giants). On April 8, 2006, Steve was one-third of the oldest starting outfield in major league history along with left fielder Barry Bonds (age 41) and right fielder Moises Alou (age 39).

3. Steve and former teammate Brady Anderson are brothers in-law.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: As a relatively-new Orioles fan in 1993, I already had the sense that the blockbuster that sent Finley, Harnisch, and Schilling to Houston for Glenn Davis was a disaster. Little did I know that those three would combine for 36 more big league seasons from that point forward. Finley was productive through 2004, when he slugged .490 with 36 homers, and Schilling was a quality starter up through his injury-shortened final year of 2007.

Bill James Said: "A Brett Butler-type player, hits the ball harder than Butler, doesn't bunt as much or walk as much, but fast, durable, a good center fielder and a pretty good base stealer." By 1996, Steve was hitting the ball MUCH harder than Butler.

On This Date in 1993: January 24. In Turkey, thousands protest the murder of investigative journalist Ugur Mumcu. He was killed outside his home by a car bomb that had been rigged to detonate when he stared his car. The murder is still unsolved, but there are several theorized assassins, including the CIA, the Turkish deep state and armed forces, Counter-Guerilla, and Kurdish forces.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

#147 Bryan Hickerson

About the Front: "Now pitching, number 41..." Other notable 41s in Giants history: Matty Alou, Darrell Evans, and Jeremy Affeldt.

About the Back: Bryan obviously went back to UM to finish his degree after being drafted. Good for him.

Triple Play:

1. He earned his first MLB win in his first start, blanking the Cardinals for seven innings on three hits on August 31, 1991.

2. Bryan's career ran aground in Colorado in 1995, probably because he was a pitcher trying to work in Denver. In 18 appearances totaling 16.2 innings, he gave up 24 runs (22 earned), 33 hits, and 13 walks. That's a tidy 11.88 ERA and 2.76 WHIP.

3. He and his wife Jo have been active in UPI: Unlimited Potential Inc., a baseball-themed Christian ministry.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: So many of these guys aren't much more than a name to me. "Bryan Hickerson" sounded too nerdy to be a pro athlete...says somebody with an oddball name of his own.

Bill James Said: "He's a lefthander, and righthanded batters hit .307 against him." But he held lefties to a .551 OPS in 121 plate appearances, making him useful in his swingman role.

On This Date in 1993: January 23. Mike Kingery, who first signed with the Royals as an undrafted free agent in 1979 and spent the first seven years of his pro career in the Kansas City organization, returns to K.C. as a free agent. He will spend the entire 1993 season at AAA Omaha and then sign with the Rockies. In Colorado, he will finish third in the 1994 National League batting average race, hitting .349.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

#146 Scott Leius

About the Front: This seems like an unusual bodily contortion for catching a popup, but a similar photo appears on Scott Leius' 1993 Upper Deck card. Maybe legs-crossed was just his style. You'll also notice Scott Erickson photo-bombing here.

About the Back: Scott was not known for his power, World Series heroics notwithstanding. However, he did hit a surprising 14 longballs in just 97 games in 1994, accounting for half of his career total.

Triple Play:

1. His first career home run came off of Jim Abbott on September 10, 1990, and it accounted for Minnesota's only run despite the club's total of 11 hits. The Twins were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and lost 3-1.

2. Scott probably wishes he could have faced Bill Wegman more often. He batted .526/.550/.842 in 20 trips to the plate against the Milwaukee righthander.

3. He has instructed children and teenagers at former teammate Dan Gladden's Big League Baseball Camp.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Leius" was a name that I rolled around in my head a lot as a kid. It was as if a terrible speller had corrupted the name "Lewis".

Bill James Said: "Started off the year as the Twins shortstop, but went down quickly with a torn rotator cuff." Scott played only 10 games in 1993, as it turned out.

On This Date in 1993: January 22. Japanese playwright, photographer, and inventor Kobo Abe passed away at age 68 due to acute heart failure.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

#145 Eric Young

About the Front: EY just got bipped, kids! Once again, I've used my mystical powers (of box-score reading) to determine that this photo was taken on August 13, 1992. Bip Roberts singled twice, but was  wiped out on the basepaths both times by Reggie Sanders grounders to short. The Dodgers won 4-3 on a Henry Rodriguez RBI double in the ninth.
About the Back: Also drafted in the 43rd round in 1989: Jorge Posada by the Yankees (did not sign, but New York got him in the 24th round in 1990) and Jason Giambi by the Brewers (did not sign, wound up being taken in the 2nd round by Oakland in 1992).

Triple Play:

1. Eric stole 465 bases in a 15-year career, 45th all-time. However, he was also caught 168 times, 17th-most in history.

2. On June 30, 1996, Young tied a big league record with six stolen bases in a wild 16-15 Colorado win over the Dodgers. In the bottom of the third inning, he swiped second, third, and home against the battery of Hideo Nomo and Mike Piazza.

3. His son Eric Jr. has played for the Rockies and Mets in an MLB career that began in 2009. He was the National League's leading base stealer in 2013 with 46 thefts.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I would've been surprised to learn that a guy who had a rookie card in the 1993 Topps set also had a son who was the same age as my kid sister.

Bill James Said: "Brett Butler-type hitter but righthanded, could draw 100 walks and steal 50 bases." He topped 50 steals three times, but maxed out at 63 walks...and did that three times as well. Odd.

On This Date in 1993: January 21. Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer, who batted .320/.404/.480 in a 19-year career with the Tigers, passes away at age 89 a month after suffering a stroke.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

#144 Kent Mercker

About the Front: That is one of the most terrifying cases of pitcherface that I have ever seen. Kent Mercker looks like he is in agony.
About the Back: Though Kent was starring for the Durham Bulls the same year that Bull Durham was released, he didn't have much in common with the film's wild-armed phenom Nuke LaLoosh. Mercker walked 47 batters in 127.2 innings while striking out 159.

Triple Play:

1. In his first start of the 1994 season, he no-hit the Dodgers, totaling four walks and ten strikeouts. Mike Piazza whiffed three times.

2. Mercker hit one career home run in 282 plate appearances, but it was a grand slam off of Florida's Jesus Sanchez on September 2, 1998, fueling a 14-4 Cardinals win.

3. Kent was one of several Cubs players who was rubbed the wrong way by broadcaster and ex-pitcher Steve Stone's criticisms during the 2004 season. The lefty even called the booth once in midgame to complain.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: A few years down the road, Mercker's name became mud for me. He joined the Orioles in 1996 for a putrid 14-game stint that included a 7.76 ERA and 1.86 WHIP. Mercifully, the O's unloaded him on the Indians in the deal that brought Eddie Murray back to Baltimore.

Bill James Said: "A lefthander with a smoking fastball and a good curve, Mercker shot through the minor leagues, but has had some trouble establishing himself in the majors, blowing several opportunities to become the Braves' closer."

On This Date in 1993: January 19. The Czech Republic and Slovakia join the United Nations.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#143 Jeff Huson

About the Front: I know in an instant that the Rangers are visiting the Orioles. When Camden Yards first opened, one of its many retro touches was a Maryland Lottery ad on the right-center field fence that urged players to "Hit It Here". The I in "IT" and the H in "HERE" are visible behind Jeff Huson.

About the Back: I'm guessing that the Rangers' rookie class of 1990 was not a bumper crop if an infielder with a .600 OPS was their top freshman.

Triple Play:

1. Huson was Texas' shortstop for both Nolan Ryan's sixth and seventh no-hitters. In the former, he preserved the no-no with one out in the ninth inning by charging a slow roller by Rickey Henderson and gunning out the all-time steals leader by a step at first base.

2. Jeff was the Orioles' starting third baseman on September 6, 1995, when Cal Ripken started his record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game. That might help you win a trivia contest some day.

3. He is currently a commentator on Root Sports' TV broadcasts of Rockies games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm sure that my feelings of nostalgia over the "Hit It Here" sign are largely tied to the Hardball III PC game that I played to death. It had 16-bit renderings of the MLB ballparks, including the then-new Oriole Park at Camden Yards...complete with that sign.

Bill James Said: "Huson's 1993 season was destroyed by a broken toe, which he tried to come back from too quickly and re-injured."

On This Date in 1993: January 16. Windsor Castle is reopened only two months after a fire swept through the historical British landmark.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

#142 Charlie Hayes

About the Front: Charlie Hayes' fatal flaw as a third baseman was his tendency to do his impression of a velociraptor at inappropriate times.

About the Back: What kind of dancing? Ballroom, tap, jazz, breakdancing? You have simply got to be more thorough, Topps.

Triple Play:

1. Hayes was the second player chosen by the Rockies in the 1993 Expansion Draft. He rewarded the club with a career year: .305/.355/.522, 25 home runs, 98 RBI, and a league-leading 45 doubles.

2. Charlie played for seven different teams, and had return stints with three of them: the Giants, Yankees, and Phillies.

3. His son Tyree pitched in the minors for six years in the Rays and Reds organizations, never reaching AA.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm going to let my friend Mikey pinch-hit here. He grew up in New Jersey as a Yankee fan, and though we didn't meet until college, he referred to Hayes as "Chuck E. Cheese" whenever the name came up. I assume that's a relic from childhood.

Bill James Said: "Maybe they should trade him again; he seems to get 10 percent better every time he is traded."

On This Date in 1993: January 15. Mafia boss Salvatore "the Beast" Riina, is arrested in Sicily after 23 years as a fugitive.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

#141 Dennis Cook

About the Front: This is Dennis Cook's last Topps card until 2001, despite the fact that he pitched at least 25 games in every season from 1992 through 2002. No respect for middle relievers.

About the Back: The Indians acquired Cook and Mike Christopher from the Dodgers for young pitcher Rudy Seanez. It was one of six times in Dennis' career that he was traded.

Triple Play:

1. Dennis was unscored upon in 19 postseason appearances totaling 16.1 innings with the Rangers, Marlins, and Mets. He did, however, allow four of 12 inherited runners to score.

2. I remember quite a few cards depicting Cook with a bat in his hands. It's no wonder: in 122 career plate appearances, the lefty hit .264 (29-for-110) with a pair of home runs and nine RBI.

3. Dennis is of Swedish descent, and coached for the Swedes in the 2009 Baseball World Cup and managed their team in the 2010 European Championship.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Cook's 1993 Upper Deck card had one of the more disturbing images I've ever seen on cardboard.

Bill James Said: "Cook is a lefthander who rarely throws the ball below the belt, and who gives up a tremendous number of home runs."

On This Date in 1993: January 14. The Polish ferry MS Jan Heweliusz sinks off the coast of Rugen in the Baltic Sea, causing 54 fatalities.

Monday, January 13, 2014

#140 Gary Sheffield

About the Front: Is it fair or is it foul? Whichever the case may be, I'd bet that the opposing pitcher was a little cranky about Gary Sheffield stopping to watch the ball.

About the Back: By the time he retired in 2009, Sheff had 13 career grand slams among his total of 509 home runs.

Triple Play:

1. You may have heard that Gary is the nephew of veteran pitcher and onetime Mets phenom Dwight Gooden. Sheffield, who is just four years younger than Gooden, batted .286 (6-for-21) with a pair of walks and no extra-base hits against his uncle.

2. He was just the third player in MLB history to hit home runs both as a teenager (he was two months shy of his 20th birthday when he took Mark Langston deep on September 9, 1988) and as a 40-year-old. The first two men on that list were Ty Cobb and Rusty Staub.

3. Gary is now a player agent, most notably representing Pirates' reliever Jason Grilli.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember the uproar surrounding San Diego's fire sale in midseason 1993. They unloaded Greg Harris, Bruce Hurst, and Fred McGriff, but it was the deal that sent Sheffield to the Marlins that started it all. Of course, that's the trade that brought Trevor Hoffman to the Padres.

Bill James Said: "Made 34 errors at third base, giving him an .899 fielding percentage, the worst in the major leagues at any position in several years."

On This Date in 1993: January 13. How about a crop of middling free agent signings? The Giants add first baseman Todd Benzinger and outfielder Mark Carreon to the fold, and pitcher Craig Lefferts signs with the Rangers.

Friday, January 10, 2014

#139 Gary Gaetti

About the Front: Firstly, yes, this card features an uncorrected error. Gary Gaetti's name should be in red letters, not white. It's worth the same as any other card in this set, which is to say not much at all. But don't let Topps' goof-up distract you from a great action photo. In a sparsely-attended game at Cleveland Stadium (that really narrows it down...), Indians' catcher Junior Ortiz is attempting to tag a sliding Gaetti, whose facial features look even more rodentlike than usual here. Call it a cheap shot, but Baseball Reference lists the guy's nickname as "The Rat". Anyhow, I was able to pick out the boxscore by process of elimination: Saturday, May 2, 1992. In the top of the fourth inning, Gaetti hit a one-out single to left field against Dennis Cook to score Junior Felix, giving the Halos a 2-1 lead. Gary moved to second base on the throw home, but was cut down at the plate on Mike Fitzgerald's single. The Tribe kept California off of the scoreboard after that, pulling out a 3-2 win.

About the Back: That's a pretty goofy stat, but if you're curious it appears that Gaetti scored the 20,000th run in Angels history on his own three-run homer, a fifth-inning shot off of Mark Davis that provided the winning margin in a 3-1 victory over Kansas City.

Triple Play:

1. Gary homered in his first career at-bat, taking Charlie Hough deep on September 20, 1981. His 360 career home runs are the most among players who touched 'em all in their first at-bat.

2. His career hardware includes a 1987 ALCS trophy, four Gold Gloves at the hot corner, and a Silver Slugger Award that he captured at age 36 after leading the Royals with 35 home runs in 137 games in 1995.

3. He coached in the Astros' organization at both the minor and major league levels and also served as hitting coach of Tampa Bay's AAA club, the Durham Bulls. For the past two seasons he has managed the independent Atlantic League's Sugar Land Skeeters. In 2013, the Skeeters had a 95-45 record but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Somerset Patriots.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought it was funny that Gaetti and Greg Gagne teamed together in Minnesota and Kansas City. For years, those two teams had a pair of G.G.'s on the left side of the infield.

Bill James Said: "Had a .477 slugging percentage after joining Kansas City in mid-season, which from my standpoint as a Royals fan, will keep his miserable carcass in the lineup another year." Two more, actually, and they were his best performances since 1988. It was part of a late-career revival that saw Gary remain a regular through 1999, his age-40 season.

On This Date in 1993: January 10. In postseason NFL action, the Cowboys rout the Eagles 34-10 and the Dolphins shut out the Chargers 31-0. Next week, Dallas will face the 49ers and the Dolphins will square off with the Bills to determine the matchup for Super Bowl XXVII.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#138 Joe Oliver

About the Front: Check it out! Joe Oliver's throwing up the heavy metal horns!

About the Back: The referenced game-winner in Game Two of the 1990 World Series was a walkoff single against none other than Dennis Eckersley.

Triple Play:

1. His first full season as the Reds' starting catcher was the championship year of 1990. He made a good first impression by throwing out 12 of the first 20 runners who tried to steal on him.

2. After spending eight of his first nine major league seasons in Cincinnati, Joe bounced amongst five teams in the final four years of his career: Tigers, Mariners, Pirates, Mariners again, Yankees, and Red Sox.

3. Oliver lives in Orlando, FL, where he sells real estate and coaches the varsity baseball team at Bishop Moore Catholic High School.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: One of the many ways I kept myself busy during my lonely Little League innings in right field was to count the outs using hand gestures like the one Joe is expressing above. It helped me feel like that much more of a true ballplayer.

Bill James Said: "He's not much of a player, for a regular - a sub-.250 hitter who is slow even for a catcher, has a poor strikeout/walk ratio and just an average arm."

On This Date in 1993: January 9. The soundtrack for the Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film The Bodyguard becomes the first album to sell a million copies in one week in the U.S. since the Nielsen SoundScan produced the computerized technology to track sales.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

#137 Alan Mills

About the Front: So many great little details. The tried-and-true Alan Mills "horseshoe" mustache, the cap brim pulled low over his eyes (though I've seen him go even lower), the oddball #75 jersey, and the tin of what I assume is chewing tobacco protruding from the back pants pocket.

About the Back: The Yankees give an award for the best rookie Spring Training? Does any other team do that?

Triple Play:

1. His first love was football, but he turned to baseball after doctors discovered that he had been born with only one kidney.

2. During a bench-clearing brawl between the Orioles and the Yankees on May 19, 1998, Mills famously bloodied Darryl Strawberry with a mean right cross in the New York dugout.

3. Alan is currently a pitching coach in the Baltimore farm system.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I had an Orioles game program from 1993 that included an article on Mills and his baseball card collecting hobby. There were pictures of him rooting through stacks of 1991 Topps in his home. It's always fun to find common ground with pro athletes.

Bill James Said: "Limited hitters to a .187 batting average when there were men on base, best in the American League."

On This Date in 1993: January 8. The comedic horror B-movie Leprechaun premieres, starring Warwick Davis and a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#136 Jeff King

About the Front: Do you think Jeff King ever tried to pick up women by telling them he was Don Mattingly?

About the Back: King was the first overall pick in the 1986 draft, chosen ahead of future stars such as Greg Swindell, Matt Williams, Kevin Brown, and Gary Sheffield.

Triple Play:

1. Jeff had a career year in 1996, bashing 36 doubles and 30 home runs and driving in 111. He slugged .497, had an OPS+ of 117, and even stole 15 bases in 16 tries.

2. In what might be the only trade of its kind, he was sent to the Royals in December 1996 with Jay Bell for Joe Randa and three other players named Jeff - pitchers Granger, Martin, and Wallace.

3. King was only 21 games into his third season in Kansas City when he abruptly retired on May 23, 1999. He had suffered from chronic back problems throughout his career, but sportswriter Joe Posnanski has long maintained that the infielder disliked baseball enough to walk away just one day after accruing enough service time to be eligible for a guaranteed MLB pension.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I read an article about first-overall picks and was surprised to see a player as seemingly ordinary as Jeff King among their number. But by the end of his career, I think he'd justified the selection.

Bill James Said: "His control of the strike zone improved dramatically in '93, as he struck out 24% less often, and walked 72% more often."

On This Date in 1993: January 7. The Detroit Tigers re-up with first baseman Cecil Fielder, giving him a five-year, $36 million contract to make him the highest-paid player in MLB for the time being.

Monday, January 6, 2014

#135 Mickey Tettleton

About the Front: As much as I love cards that heavily feature catchers' gear, any photo of Mickey Tettleton that doesn't feature him swatting home runs and working on a pinch of chaw is an opportunity wasted.

About the Back: I swear that I wrote the sentence above before flipping the card over. Well played, Topps. The smeared eye black is a nice flourish.

Triple Play:

1. Mickey became a cult hero in Baltimore in 1989, slugging 20 home runs by midseason to earn his first All-Star selection and sparking the team's rise from dead last in 1988 to postseason contention. His famous superstition that fueled the power surge? Froot Loops, everyone's favorite toucan-endorsed cereal.

2. Despite four 30-homer seasons in a five-year span (1991-1995) and career marks of .369 on-base, .818 OPS, and 122 OPS+, Tettleton was underrated during his career. This is due in large part to his low batting average (.241 career) and high strikeout totals (1,307 career).

3. His son Tyler just concluded his collegiate career as quarterback of the Ohio University Bobcats, setting 27 school records.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I can't tell you how many times I've watched and rewatched the Orioles' 1989 "Why Not?" season recap VHS. It's got a delightfully goofy music video about the team's catcher featuring the song "I Love Mickey", co-written and performed in 1956 by pop singer Teresa Brewer for Tettleton's namesake, fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle.

Bill James Said: "He's no longer a catcher; he played 56 games last year behind the plate (mostly early in the season), 59 games at first base, 39 in right field, also played left and DH."

On This Date in 1993: January 6. Famed trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie dies at age 75.

Friday, January 3, 2014

#134 Lee Guetterman

About the Front: It looks like the Mets are hosting the Astros, judging from the ghost runner on first base. Also, Lee Guetterman is a tall dude. He looks every inch of his listed height of 6'8".

About the Back: This is one of my favorite two-sentence bios so far. We learn that Lee has a fallback career option of teaching, that Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University, it was founded by Bible-thumping blowhard Jerry Falwell) somehow produced a pair of contemporary big leaguers, and that Guetterman is a European travel enthusiast. Much better than just listing off a handful of big home runs or complete games.

Triple Play:

1. In 1987, Lee won his first five decisions and eight of his first nine. Including his 5-1 start to the season at AAA Calgary, he posted 16 wins against five losses that year.

2. Pitching out of the Yankee bullpen in 1989, Guetterman was unscored upon in his first 19 appearances of the season. His record-setting streak reached 30.2 shutout innings before the Angels hung a five-spot on him in the ninth inning on May 24. Chili Davis' leadoff homer was the bagel-buster.

3. He now lives in Lenoir City, TN with his wife Drew.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: To my unrefined eyes and ears, his name was pronounced "Gooter-men". As I got older, I read it as "Gwetter-men". According to this site, it should actually be "Getter-men". Let's call the whole thing off!

Bill James Said: "I had Lee Guetterman, who was out of work, valued at $3. He pitched 40 times, and pitched well." Always nice to see a guy put up a 2.93 ERA (135 ERA+) as a middle reliever a year after being dumped by both New York teams.

On This Date in 1993: January 3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premieres as a syndicated TV series in the United States. It is the third distinct series in the Star Trek franchise; at current writing, there are five total.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

#133 Steve Wilson

About the Front: That's some windup Steve Wilson has. It looks like he's shielding his right knee with the glove while simultaneously preparing to drop the ball on top of the mound.

About the Back: Canadian-born AND a fan of ice hockey? Well, wonders never cease.

Triple Play:

1. Steve was one of nine players involved in the December 1988 trade that sent Rafael Palmeiro from the Cubs to the Rangers.

2. Andy Van Slyke made mincemeat of poor Steve, collecting eight hits in 19 at-bats and putting up a .421/.522/.895 batting line with a pair of home runs and five RBI. But Wilson got the last laugh, retiring Van Slyke on a pop-up on April 18, 1993 to earn his final big league save.

3. Wilson concluded his pitching career in Taiwan, where he runs an English elementary school. He has also scouted for the Cubs in the Pacific Rim and southern California.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I went to high school with a Steve Wilson. This was in 1998, and his last name was spelled with two 'L's, so it was probably a different guy.

Bill James Said: "Wilson has a great arm, and pitches well for a few weeks at a time."

On This Date in 1993: January 2. The Sri Lanka Navy kills 35 to 100 civilians on the Jaffna Lagoon in the latest skirmish of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which has been ongoing for the past decade.