Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#205 Gary Carter

About the Front: Gary Carter's final Topps card is excellent. He's back with the Expos, and he's down in the dirt and showing the umpire the ball. Was Fred McGriff safe or out? Out! It was the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday, July 5, 1992. Phil Stephenson hit a two-out single, and McGriff attempted to score from second but was cut down at the plate on a throw by left fielder John Vander Wal. It was a big play, as it kept the San Diego lead at one run. Montreal tied in the ninth and won it in the tenth.

About the Back: There you have Carter's complete career batting record. He hit 298 of those home runs as a catcher, still sixth-most all-time.

Triple Play:

1. He hit his first career home run off of Steve Carlton on September 28, 1974.

2. Gary drove in nine runs in the 1986 World Series against Boston, including back-to-back three-RBI efforts in the Mets' wins in Games Three and Four.

3. Carter was just 57 when he died in February 2012 after battling brain tumors for nearly a year.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: At that time, I didn't appreciate how cool it was to get a Gary Carter card in this set. Nor did I realize that I'd just missed out on witnessing the Kid's career.

Bill James Said: Carter was retired in 1993, and didn't appear in James' Player Ratings.

On This Date in 1993: April 30. Tennis star Monica Seles is ambushed and stabbed in the back during a match in Hamburg, Germany. The assailant is a crazed fan of Seles' rival, Steffi Graf.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#204 Dan Pasqua

About the Front: Oh, those square-framed, oversized glasses. Dan Pasqua was a vestige from decades gone by, in which a large number of major leaguers looked like wood shop teachers or somebody's middle-aged dad.

About the Back: Dan's a fairly handsome dude under all of that glass. If only he'd found a pair of contact lenses that suited him.

Triple Play:

1. Pasqua faced Mike Moore 60 times, more than any other pitcher. He punished Moore to the tune of .429/.450/.696 with six doubles, three home runs, and 13 RBI.

2. Dan spoiled Danny Darwin's no-hit bid at Fenway Park on August 18, 1993 with a one-out triple in the eighth inning. It was the only three-bagger he hit that season, and the last of his career.

3. He was a minor-league teammate of John Elway (1982 Oneonta Yankees) and Michael Jordan (1994 Birmingham Barons).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember nothing about Pasqua except for those glasses. Probably some residual self-loathing from my awkward bespectacled adolescent self.

Bill James Said: "Pasqua hit 11 to 20 homers a year from 1986 through 1991, but has had hamstring problems over the last two years, hasn't played as much and hasn't hit much of anything."

On This Date in 1993: April 29. The classic Simpsons' episode "Whacking Day" airs, featuring guest star Barry White.

Monday, April 28, 2014

#203 Bernard Gilkey

About the Front: Bernard Gilkey has his eyes on the ball. I appreciate it when the photo shows that sort of detail.

About the Back: Topps needs to check their facts. The game they describe actually took place on August 25, 1992. If you're curious, Craig Biggio and Andujar Cedeno were Gilkey's victims.

Triple Play:

1. Bernard's best asset as an outfielder was his throwing arm. He was credited with 102 assists in his career, and led the National League in baserunner kills in 1993 (19), 1996 (18), and 1997 (16).

2. Had a career year with the Mets in 1996, batting .317/.393/.562 (155 OPS+) with a team-record 44 doubles, as well as 30 homers and 117 RBI.

3. Gilkey played himself in a brief cameo in the 1997 film Men in Black. He was hit in the head with a fly ball after being distracted by a spaceship flying over Shea Stadium.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Chris Berman calling him Bernard "Innocent Until Proven" Gilkey. It's hard to believe that I ever enjoyed his tired schtick.

Bill James Said: "Gilkey has made two giant steps in the last two years, and is about a half-step away from emerging as a star."

On This Date in 1993: April 28. An executive order requires the United States Air Force to allow female pilots to fly war planes.

Friday, April 25, 2014

#202 Mike Scioscia

About the Front: This is a great action photo; Mike Scioscia's helmet, suspended in midair, completely makes the card. But I almost wish they'd gone with a wider angle to provide context. Is he in the middle of a lunge home, preparing to tag a runner? We'll never know.

About the Back: I have a friend from Upper Darby. It's a nice little suburb just to the west of Philadelphia.

Triple Play:

1. In 1990, Scioscia became the first Dodgers catcher to start the All-Star Game since Hall of Famer Roy Campanella in 1954.

2. Mike was not known for his speed. As Tommy Lasorda once put it: "If he raced his pregnant wife he'd finish third."

3. He is currently in his 15th season as Angels' manager. He's won Manager of the Year twice (2002, 2009), and led the team to their first World Series title in 2002.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I first knew Scioscia as the catcher on the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant's ringer softball team. "Mike Scioscia's tragic illness made us smile..."

Bill James Said: Zippo. Mike signed with the Padres after the 1992 season, suffered a torn rotator cuff in spring training '93, and never played in the big leagues again.

On This Date in 1993: April 25. Todd Stottlemyre outduels Alex Fernandez in a 1-0 Toronto win over the White Sox. Darrin Jackson's eighth-inning solo home run makes a hard-luck loser out of Fernandez.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

#201 Jose Uribe

About the Front: I think this photo was taken during a spring training game. I certainly don't remember Candlestick Park having a grassy berm in the outfield.

About the Back: Uribe was Jose's mother's maiden name. Because his name change coincided with his trade from the Cardinals to the Giants, it was often said that he was the ultimate example of a "player to be named later".

Triple Play:

1. Prior to the 1987 season, Uribe trained back home in the Dominican by having his brother Narciso pitch peanuts in the shell and corn kernels to him from a distance of 15-20 feet. That year, Jose hit a career-high .291/.343/.424 in 95 games.

2. His younger cousin is current Dodgers infielder Juan Uribe.

3. Jose was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on December 8, 2006. He was 47 years old at the time. It's pretty sobering to have back-to-back deceased players in this two decades-old set.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Uribe was the only major leaguer at that time whose last name began with a "U", which made him stand out to me.

Bill James Said: "He's Alfredo Griffin, but without Alfredo's baserunning stunts - a 34-year-old switch hitter who was once a good shortstop, and can take the field and fill in there for a few innings or a few days."

On This Date in 1993: April 24. The Tigers slug five home runs in a 17-1 mauling of the Twins. Minnesota starter Pat Mahomes is battered for 10 runs on 11 hits in 2.2 innings. The Detroit bombers are Rob Deer, Kirk Gibson, Lou Whitaker, Chad Kreuter, and Mickey Tettleton (grand slam).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#200 Kirby Puckett

About the Front: That bat seems much too cumbersome to be an effective hitting tool. Kirby Puckett really needs to look for something smaller. On a different note, I love the Twins' "m" logo on the stirrups.

About the Back: Kirby had the most base hits in the American League four times in his first nine seasons. That's impressive, especially since he and Wade Boggs were contemporaries.

Triple Play:

1. Puckett briefly worked on an assembly line for the Ford Motor Company after graduating high school, as no four-year college had offered him a baseball scholarship. After being laid off, he attended a tryout camp in Chicago and was invited to play for Bradley University by coach Dewey Kalmer.

2. Kirby's career lasted only 12 seasons, as glaucoma blinded his vision in his right eye shortly before the 1996 season. He was so popular and so successful in his abbreviated career (10-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glover, six-time Silver Slugger, 1991 ALCS MVP) that he was still elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, in his first year of eligibility.

3. On March 5, 2006, Puckett suffered a stroke; he died a day later. He was only 45 years old.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Kirby re-signed with the Twins in December 1992, but I remember reading that the Phillies made a strong push to sign him. It's still hard for me to picture him in Phillies red.

Bill James Said: "Kirby swung at the first pitch 49% of the time, the highest in the American League."

On This Date in 1993: April 23. American labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez dies at age 66 of natural causes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#199 Junior Ortiz

About the Front: Now this is cool. This photo was taken moments before the photo that appeared on the front of Gary Gaetti's card. Yes, Gaetti was out.

About the Back: The current record holder for most consecutive games caught without an error is Mike Matheny, who went 252 games straight without a miscue.

Triple Play:

1. Junior's B-R Bullpen entry claims that he was known for wearing fur coats, even in the summer. I don't care if it's unsourced. That's just too good to ignore.

2. When asked if he was bothered by the prospect of Rickey Henderson breaking Lou Brock's career stolen bases record at Ortiz's expense, the backstop replied: "No, he's stolen lots of bases on good catchers too."

3. Junior hit a stunning total of five career home runs in 2,071 games. The last came off of Dennis Cook on July 30, 1989, meaning that the catcher ended his career on a 364-game homerless skein.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought "Junior" was a pretty silly nickname for a bearded guy in his thirties.

Bill James Said: "He's had on-base percentages and slugging percentages below .300 for three straight years, making him one of the worst hitters in baseball, plus he grounds into double plays all the time."

On This Date in 1993: April 22. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is dedicated in Washington, DC.

Monday, April 21, 2014

#198 Alejandro Pena

About the Front: The back of Alejandro Pena's jersey is partially obscured, but a quick Google search tells me that the Braves did put the tilde above the "n" in his last name.

About the Back: You could probably win a bar bet with the knowledge that Pena was the 1984 National League ERA champ.

Triple Play:

1. Alejandro's league-leading four shutouts in 1984 weren't cheapies. He had three five-hitters and a four-hitter.

2. The Braves acquired Pena for the stretch run in 1991 and he was a perfect 14 for 14 in saves with Atlanta through the NLCS. So naturally he blew his only save chance in the World Series in Game Three, then took the loss by allowing the only run in the decisive Game Seven.

3. He was the pitching coach for the Dodgers' Dominican Summer League team from 2010 through 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Pena was one of those guys that always looked like he was about 50 years old.

Bill James Said: "The elbow went out in spring training, and he missed the season following surgery."

On This Date in 1993: April 21. The Bolivian Supreme Court sentences former dictator Luis Garcia Meza to 30 years in prison without parole for murder, theft, fraud, and violations of the Constitution. You know what they say: go big or go home.

Friday, April 18, 2014

#197 Jeff Frye

About the Front: Jeff Frye's one-legged batting stance could be an homage to his Rangers teammate Julio Franco.

About the Back: At first glance I thought this picture could have been taken during the same at-bat as the shot on the front, but this time Frye is sans eye black.

Triple Play:

1. In 1997, Jeff played in a career-high 127 games for the Red Sox and batted .312/.352/.433 with 36 doubles.

2. On August 17, 2001, he became the second player in Blue Jays history to hit for the cycle.

3. Frye currently works as a player agent, representing second baseman Ian Kinsler among others.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought Frye was a fitting surname, since Jeff was something of a small fry at 5'9".

Bill James Said: "After playing well as the Rangers second baseman in the second half of '92 he missed all of '93 with a knee injury, casting his future into doubt."

On This Date in 1993: April 18. The Giants outlast the Braves 13-12 in a wild 11-inning contest in San Francisco. Each team uses seven pitchers, and the Giants rally from early 5-0 and 11-6 deficits. With Atlanta leading 12-8 in the ninth, Mike Stanton allows all four batters he faces to reach base, and all four eventually score. Matt Williams goes deep on Steve Bedrosian's first pitch in the bottom of inning 11 to win it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#196 Pat Kelly

About the Front: In an interesting trick of perspective, the barrel of the bat vanishes behind Pat Kelly's head.

About the Back: Both the triple and the three-run homer on May 17, 1992 came against Dave Stewart.

Triple Play:

1. When Pat was growing up in North Catashuqua, PA, his father owned a bar named Kelly's 19th Hole.

2. Pat had a pair of two-homer games in his career. Both came in 1999, when he played just 37 games for Toronto in his final active season.

3. He is very active with baseball in Australia, serving as an assistant coach for the national team. He has served the Dodgers and the Mariners as Pacific Rim Coordinator of scouting.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I seem to recall my parents mentioning that there was another Pat Kelly who played for the Orioles. That would be H. Pat Kelly, a right fielder who was in the majors from 1967 through 1981.

Bill James Said: "Has always been regarded as having the ability to be an outstanding glove, and in '93, he was at least above-average at the position."

On This Date in 1993: April 17. LAPD officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell are found guilty of civil rights violations in the second Rodney King trial.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#195 Pete Harnisch

About the Front: This is one of the neater portraits in this set. I assume that Pete Harnisch is sitting on the Astrodome dugout steps. That is some lovely green carpet underneath him; some of my neighbors still have that bright green turf on their rowhouse porches.

About the Back: Harnisch was a supplemental draft pick. The O's got a compensatory pick at the end of the first round after Rick Dempsey signed with the Indians as a free agent.

Triple Play:

1. Though Pete twice led the National League in fewest hits allowed per inning while with Houston, it was his age-31 season with the Reds in 1998 that may have been his finest: a 14-7 record, a 3.14 ERA (138 ERA+), and a 1.15 WHIP in 209 innings pitched.

2. After quitting smokeless tobacco while pitching for the Mets, Harnisch was diagnosed with and treated for clinical depression.

3. Pete now works with the Angels as a roving minor league pitching instructor.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I may have a couple dozen Pete Harnisch 1989 Donruss "Rated Rookie" cards. He looks much better without the mustache.

Bill James Said: "Always bet on a power pitcher. You'll win more than you lose."

On This Date in 1993: April 16. The final episode of the sitcom Major Dad airs on CBS, creating a Gerald McRaney-shaped void in all of our lives.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#194 Jerald Clark

About the Front: Jerald Clark might think that he'll get more strike zone coverage by swinging two bats at once, but he's forgetting about bat speed.

About the Back: October 2, 1990 was also Jerald Clark's only two-homer big league game.

Triple Play: 

1. His younger brother, Phil Clark, was a utility player for the Tigers, Padres, and Red Sox in the 1990s.

2. Jerald stole home against the Dodgers on September 10, 1992. Rookie catcher Mike Piazza walked to the mound to confer with pitcher Orel Hershiser, but failed to call time out. Clark sprinted for the unprotected plate and made it safely with the eventual winning run.

3. Clark jumped to Japan in 1994, where he batted .293/.354/.497 in 99 games for the Yakult Swallows. He slugged 20 home runs.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When I played Little League and co-ed softball, I used to swing two aluminum bats whenever I was on deck. I figured it would make the bat seem lighter when I was hitting, but I still had no idea how to make contact, really.

Bill James Said: "I figured the 'Real Park Equivalent' for some of the Colorado players; Clark's stats are equivalent to .258 with 11 homers, 53 RBI in a real park." With the Mile High boost, Jerald batted .282 with 13 HR and 67 RBI.

On This Date in 1993: April 15. Andre Dawson becomes the 25th member of the 400 Home Run Club, aiding the Red Sox in a 4-3 win over Cleveland. It's the Hawk's first round-tripper with Boston.

Monday, April 14, 2014

#193 Steve Foster

About the Front: Steve Foster wore #54 for parts of three seasons in Cincinnati. The Reds' current #54 is closer Aroldis Chapman.

About the Back: Earlier in the 12th round of the 1988 draft, the Orioles chose Pete Rose, Jr. with their pick. The son of the Hit King played 21 pro seasons, but his entire MLB career consisted of an 11-game stint with the Reds in September 1997.

Triple Play:

1. Steve earned his first (and only) career win with four scoreless innings of relief against the Padres on April 24, 1992. The game lasted 16 innings, and Foster had a bunt single as part of the winning rally but was thrown out trying to advance to third base on Bill Doran's go-ahead sacrifice fly. Fortunately, lead runner Bip Roberts crossed the plate before Foster was gunned down.

2. During the 1993 season, Steve wound up on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder shortly after appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to throw baseballs at milk bottles.

3. Since his playing career ended, he has served as a scout for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and a coach in the Marlins and Royals organizations. Foster has been Kansas City's bullpen coach since 2010.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always preferred David Letterman to Jay Leno. Maybe it's because he didn't cause any injuries to promising major leaguers.

Bill James Said: "Righthander, not big, has excellent control, is described by the papers as a bulldog."

On This Date in 1993: April 14. In the ninth inning of a 12-2 rout at the hands of the Angels, Milwaukee reliever Graeme Lloyd and catcher Dave Nilsson make history by becoming the first all-Australian battery in the major leagues.

Friday, April 11, 2014

#192 Bob Milacki

About the Front: The Oriole Bird on Bob Milacki's undershirt collar is perfectly aligned with the bird on his cap. Coincidence? Probably.

About the Back: Here's another fun coincidence - Herman Pillette's son Duane pitched for the Orioles in 1954-1955 and was the first pitcher to win a game for the O's after their move from St. Louis.

Triple Play:

1. After tossing eight one-hit innings in his MLB debut, and pitching into the ninth in his next game, Bob shut out the Yankees on three hits with 10 strikeouts in his third big league appearance.

2. On July 13, 1991, he tossed the first six innings of a combined no-hitter against Oakland, with Mark Williamson, Mike Flanagan, and Gregg Olson keeping the A's hitless through the final three frames.

3. Milacki is currently a pitching coach in the Phillies' organization. In 2014, he is on the Single-A Clearwater Threshers staff.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was fortunate to grow up in Baltimore in the 1980s and 1990s, where Bob Milacki was a household name.

Bill James Said: "He's only 29 and it's hard to say specifically why he can't win, but a pitcher with less than five strikeouts/game will always have a short career."

On This Date in 1993: April 11. A 450-man prison riot breaks out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, and it will continue for 10 days. It is sparked by grievances over prison conditions and forced tuberculosis vaccinations given to Nation of Islam prisoners. The vaccinations run counter to the religious beliefs of NOI.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

#191 Sean Lowe

About the Front: I think Sean's saying, "You stuck me in a pullover jersey and elastic-waistband pants? Are you friggin' kidding me?".

About the Back: "Mesquite" is an interesting town name. Makes me hungry.

Triple Play:

1. Sean earned his first major league win with three innings of one-run, one-hit relief against the Royals on April 17, 1999. It was a sloppy game, as the White Sox and Kansas City combined for five errors.

2. Lowe pitched parts of seven seasons in the majors, primarily with the White Sox. His best season was 2001, when he had a 9-4 record with a 3.61 ERA and three saves as a swingman for the Pale Hose.

3. Sean's claim to fame: On June 16, 2001, he was the opposing pitcher when Cardinals rookie Albert Pujols dropped down his first - and to date, only - sacrifice bunt. The pitcher fielded the bunt and threw to second baseman Ray Durham (covering first base) for the first out of the inning. The runners moved to second and third base. That Tony LaRussa always was crafty.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I found Sean Lowe's body language to be pretty funny back in 1993. Nothing has changed.

Bill James Said: Nothing. Sean was in A-ball in '93.

On This Date in 1993: April 10. Jimmy Key and John Habyan of the Yankees combined to shut out the White Sox, as New York won a laugher 12-0. Bernie Williams, Kevin Maas, and Spike Owen each had three hits for the Yanks, and Bernie also drove in a team-high three runs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#190 Doug Drabek

About the Front: Doug Drabek's right knee comes down so low on his delivery that it looks like he's genuflecting.

About the Back: Drabek was part of a six-pitcher trade between the Pirates and the Yankees. New York sent him to Pittsburgh along with Logan Easley and Brian Fisher in exchange for Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante, and Rick Rhoden.

Triple Play:

1. He was the 1990 National League Cy Young, thanks in large part to his league-best 22-6 record. In the NLCS, he split his two decisions against the eventual World Champion Reds, absorbing a complete-game 2-1 loss in Game 2 before pitching into the ninth inning in a 3-2 Pirates win in Game 5.

2. Drabek has been a pitching coach in the Diamondbacks organization since 2010, and is currently on the staff of the Single-A Hillsboro (OR) Hops.

3. Doug's son Kyle was the Phillies' first-round draft pick (18th overall) in 2006. A few years later he was shipped to Toronto in the Roy Halladay blockbuster, and has struggled with his control in parts of four big league seasons as a starting pitcher with the Jays.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember having the sense that Drabek was older than his early 30s because he went prematurely gray. Of course, now I'm edging toward the Silver Club in my 30s as well.

Bill James Said: "Pitched a lot of close games and didn't win them, thus leading the league in losses." Here's a sampling of tough losses from Drabek's 1993 game log: 3-1, 2-1, 3-2, 5-4 (blown save), 2-1, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1, 4-3 (blown save), 3-1. That's 10 of his 18 losses right there.

On This Date in 1993: April 9. The Rockies batter the Expos 11-4 in the franchise's first-ever home game. An MLB-record 80,227 fans pack into Denver's Mile High Stadium to witness the first win in team history. Bryn Smith is the winning pitcher, tossing seven scoreless innings. Charlie Hayes and Eric Young set the tone with first-inning home runs off of Montreal's Kent Bottenfield.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#189 Tony Phillips

About the Front: Tony Phillips looks like he's running against a stiff wind. Cue the Bob Seger...

About the Back: That's a helluva one-two punch for the '61 Tigers. They won 101 games, but that was a firm second place behind the 109-win Maris-Mantle Yankees. How frustrating for Detroit.

Triple Play:

1. Tony switched to #73 with the White Sox in 1997 when Albert Belle joined the club and requested the #8 jersey that had previously belonged to Phillips. The utility player said that he picked a number that nobody else would ever want.

2. On August 10, 1997, Phillips was arrested in an Anaheim hotel room while in possession of $30 of free-base cocaine and a pipe. The charges were dismissed after he attended counseling and remained drug-free for a year.

3. As recently as 2012, a 53-year-old Phillips could be found playing in the independent North American League, where he maintained a .355 on-base percentage in 16 games with the Edinburg (TX) Roadrunners. The previous season, Tony made headlines as a member of the NABL's Yuma Scorpions after he brawled with ex-Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall, who was managing the rival Chico Outlaws.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Tony Phillips being a pesky guy that you hated to see your team face. A check of his career splits shows that he batted .257/.352/.378 in 150 career games against my Orioles, which is actually a bit below his .266/.374/.389 overall stat line. Go figure.

Bill James Said: "He doesn't just play five positions; he plays five positions well, even spectacularly well."

On This Date in 1993: April 8. The Republic of Macedonia is admitted to the United Nations. Two years earlier, the tiny central Balkan state had declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia.

Monday, April 7, 2014

#188 Sid Fernandez

About the Front: I guess the slimming effect of pinstripes is minimized when you have thighs the size of Luxembourg.

About the Back: I don't know if it was deliberate, but I like the parallels between Sid Fernandez' three-hit games at bat and on the mound.

Triple Play:

1. As a native Hawaiian, Fernandez honored his home state by wearing #50 throughout his career. He was also a fan of the TV show "Hawaii Five-O".

2. Sid appeared in three games in the 1986 World Series as a reliever. In the Game 7 clincher, he provided a crucial bridge between starter Ron Darling and the back end of the New York 'pen with 2.1 hitless innings, striking out four Boston batters.

3. Among all pitchers with at least a thousand career innings pitched, Fernandez ranks fourth for fewest hits allowed per nine innings, with 6.85. The three men ahead of him are Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Clayton Kershaw (who could slip from that spot before his career is through, of course).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Sid Fernandez was the first free-agent bust of my Orioles fandom. There's nothing like an overweight, injury-prone veteran who gives up home runs by the bucketful to get your blood boiling.

Bill James Said: "If he is not in Shea Stadium in '93 (sic) his strikeouts will decrease and his ERA will increase, but his won-lost record may improve." See above. Pitching for a solid O's team, El Sid bumped his record from 5-6 to a grand 6-6 while his ERA ballooned from 2.93 to 5.15.

On This Date in 1993: April 7. The Braves outlast the Cubs 5-4 in 10 innings thanks to a two-run homer from Ron Gant. It's the first of a career-high 36 dingers in 1993 for the Atlanta left fielder.

Friday, April 4, 2014

#187 John Dopson

About the Front: The "JRY" patch on John Dopson's left sleeve is a memorial for Red Sox owner Jean R. Yawkey, who died at age 83 in February of 1992.

About the Back: Here we go again, digging out AAA and rookie-year highlights for a guy eight years later. It makes it seem like the rest of Dopson's MLB career was an indiscriminate slog.

Triple Play:

1. John held Steve Sax to two singles and three walks in their 26 meetings.

2. His lone career shutout was a three-hitter against the White Sox on April 19, 1993.

3. From 1996 through 1999, Dopson pitched in Independent ball with the Tennessee Tomahawks and the Tri-City (WA) Posse, going 30-9 with a cumulative ERA of 2.84. His teammates included Sam Horn, Mike Felder, Ernie Riles, and Mike Campbell.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I thought it was neat that Dopson was born in Baltimore, just like me. But once his big league career ended in 1994, he was out of sight and out of mind.

Bill James Said: "Two straight 7-11 seasons may get him an endorsement contract with a convenience store company, but otherwise could not be considered lucky."

On This Date in 1993: April 4. Alfred Mosher Butts, the American architect who invented the popular board game Scrabble, died just shy of his 94th birthday.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#186 Mike Magnante

About the Front: Mike Magnante has a bit of Dizzy Gillespie face going on here.

About the Back: "Was graduated"? That's taking passive voice to a gruesome extreme.

Triple Play:

1. He pitched in the majors for 12 seasons, and his career year came with the Astros in 1997. That year, he posted a 2.27 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 40 appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was a personal-best 3.9-to-1.

2. Mike pops up in Moneyball; after A's GM Billy Beane acquires lefty reliever Ricardo Rincon from Cleveland, he has the unpleasant task of giving Magnante his release ten days before the latter's full pension benefits are set to vest.

3. Magnante is currently a math teacher at Agoura High School, a public school in southern California.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: For me, one of the fun things about collecting has always been letting the unusual names roll around in my mind. Mike's last name is an anagram for "A magenta 'N'", which applies to a few characters on the front of the card.

Bill James Said: "Grade D prospect; when you see him pitch it is hard to understand why he is even in the majors, but I have occasionally seen pitchers like him who could keep batters constantly off stride."

On This Date in 1993: April 3. A couple of interesting transactions. The Detroit Tigers sign pitcher David Wells, who had been released by Toronto a few days earlier. The Phillies release two-time NL MVP Dale Murphy, who promptly signs with the Colorado Rockies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

#185 Jack Morris

About the Front: This is Weekend Casual Jack Morris, complete with no cap, white undershirt sleeves peeking out from the jersey, and a relaxed "nice day for a game" recumbent stance. I think he's sitting on the lip of the field facing the dugout.

About the Back: I guess this card was released prior to the BBWAA's decree that every mention of Jack Morris must be accompanied by a reverent citation of his heroics in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Triple Play:

1. Jack no-hit the White Sox on April 7, 1984, striking out eight and walking six.

2. Morris somehow became a celebrated cause for more traditional-thinking, analysis-adverse Hall of Fame voters. His 3.90 ERA (105 ERA+) was enough to take some of the luster off of his 254 career wins, however, and he spent 15 years on the ballot without being chosen for Cooperstown. He peaked with 67.7% of the vote in 2013, his penultimate year of eligibility.

3. Despite back-to-back gruesome seasons to finish his MLB career (6.19 ERA in 1993; 5.60 ERA in 1994), Jack claims that the Yankees were interested in signing him away from the independent St. Paul Saints in 1996. The then-41-year-old was 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 10 starts with the Northern League club, but did not want to pitch in New York.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This was the LAST. FREAKING. CARD. For 15 years, my 1993 Topps set remained incomplete until I finally got around to obtaining Jack Morris. I feel like he was mocking me with his open-mouthed grin.

Bill James Said:"Until he tore an elbow ligament, I wasn't totally convinced he was washed up."

On This Date in 1993: April 2. Cop and a Half, starring Burt Reynolds and a cloyingly precocious child sidekick, hits theatres nationwide. I just learned that Henry Winkler directed this stinker. Not cool, Fonz.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#184 Damion Easley

About the Front: You'd better not lose that ball in the sun, Damion. You'd only have yourself to blame.

About the Back: Easley's got a little dirt on his upper lip.

Triple Play:

1. He made his lone All-Star team in 1998, when he reached career highs of 27 homers and 100 RBI for the Tigers.

2. Damion also set a Detroit record with 99 errorless games at second base.

3. Easley now coaches in the San Diego farm system and is an instructor for Warrior's Baseball Academy in Arizona.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Based on appearances, I wouldn't have pegged Easley as a future Home Run Derby participant. But he was invited in 1998, finishing with just two dingers. At least he doubled Chipper Jones' total that year!

Bill James Said: "Probably will hit enough and field well enough to be a regular second baseman."

On This Date in 1993: April 1. As MLB teams try to pare their rosters down to 25, the Braves release infielder Wally Backman. The 33-year-old will catch on with the Mariners, but Seattle will end his big league career by cutting him loose in mid-May.