Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#290 Dave Stewart

About the Front: Dave Stewart is "mean-mugging", in today's parlance. You can see why he had a reputation as an intimidating pitcher.

About the Back: Stewart's no-hitter was one of two thrown that day, with former Dodgers teammate Fernando Valenzuela blanking the Cardinals as well. It was the first time in MLB history that two no-nos occurred on the same day.

Triple Play:

1. He was a catcher in high school, but the Dodgers decided that his strong arm was better suited for pitching. Good call, guys.

2. Dave had many postseason successes. He was the 1989 World Series MVP (2-0, 1.69 ERA, 14 K/16 IP), and was also the ALCS MVP in 1990 (2-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.625 WHIP) and 1993 (2-0, 2.03 ERA). Overall, he allowed 45 runs (41 earned) in 133 postseason innings.

3. Stewart has stayed active in baseball since retiring as a player in 1995. He has worked as a pitching coach for the Padres, Blue Jays, and Brewers, and also worked as an assistant general manager in San Diego and Toronto. He started a sports agency, and his clients included Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers. Just last week, Dave was hired as the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Given how imposing "Smoke" was on the mound, I was always surprised by how soft and high-pitched his voice was.

Bill James Said: "He hasn't had a losing record since 1985, and I see no reason to think that he will in '94." Whoops. Stewart backslid to 7-8 with a 5.87 ERA for Toronto in 1994, and after an even worse 1995 season back in Oakland, he was finished.

On This Date in 1993: September 30. An earthquake strikes in Killari, Maharashtra, India. 52 villages are demolished in the 6.2-magnitude quake, which kills 10,000 people and injures 30,000 more.

Monday, September 29, 2014

#289 Jesse Orosco

About the Front: In this photo, Jesse Orosco is still a spry young man of 35. He still had a lot of baseball ahead of him. In the background, we can see a quite dumpy umpire. Maybe it's Ken Kaiser.

About the Back: Orosco entered that game on April 22, 1979 in the seventh inning with the Mets down 2-0 to the Phillies, and was the benificiary of a three-run New York rally against Steve Carlton.

Triple Play:

1. The Mets initially acquired him in a trade for pitcher Jerry Koosman. That's just one of many "Jesse Orosco is SO old" fun facts.

2. Jesse was a workhorse out of the Mets' bullpen in the 1986 postseason, earning the decision in three of the team's four wins in the NLCS (including the wild 16-inning clincher) and tossing 5.2 scoreless innings over four World Series appearances. He saved two Fall Classic games, including the decisive seventh game.

3. He pitched through the 2003 season, finally retiring at age 46 with a record 1,252 games pitched. In the back half of his career, Orosco epitomized the lefty specialist, totaling just 504 innings pitched in 701 appearances from 1991 through 2003.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It was great fun watching the grizzled veteran Orosco pitch for my Orioles from 1995 through 1999. He had a 15-11 record, 11 saves, and a 3.35 ERA in 336 games with the O's.

Bill James Said: "His 1993 strikeout rate was by far the best of his career." 67 K's in 57 innings is not too shabby.

On This Date in 1993: September 29. A Bronx Tale, a crime drama written by Chazz Palminteri and directed by Robert De Niro (and starring both men as well), premieres in theatres.

Friday, September 26, 2014

#288 Dave Cochrane

About the Front: Dave Cochrane is pictured hunkered down at third base, where he played 10 games in 1992. He also appeared in 21 games as a catcher, 16 in left field, nine in right field, three at first base, two as DH, and one game at second base. Have gloves, will travel.

About the Back: Two straight players living in Yorba Linda! What are the odds?

Triple Play:

1. In 1987, Cochrane pitched in eight games for the White Sox' AAA Hawaii club. He allowed 15 hits and nine runs in 11.1 innings, with 11 walks and six strikeouts, and that was the end of that experiment.

2. On June 15, 1991, he went 2-for-4 with a double, a bases-loaded walk, and a career-high five RBI as Seattle trounced the Tigers 15-2.

3. Dave played his final big league game on July 30, 1992, collecting a pinch single in the ninth inning before exiting for a pinch runner.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always wondered if he was related to Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane. As near as I can tell, the answer is no.

Bill James Said: He didn't say. Dave was out of baseball after the 1992 season.

On This Date in 1993: September 26. The first mission inside the research facility Biosphere 2 ends after two years.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

#287 Mike Gallego

About the Front: I wonder if Mike Gallego is getting annoyed with all of the attention being paid to Derek Jeter's farewell tour, and especially the retirement of his #2 jersey by the Yankees. Mike Gallego blazed that trail, Jeets.

About the Back: Yorba Linda, listed here as the city of residence for Gallego, is also the birthplace of Richard M. Nixon.

Triple Play:

1. Mike made the A's roster at the beginning of the 1985 season, but didn't have his first plate appearance until May 15. Prior to that, he appeared in 11 games as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. He didn't start a game until August 1, and singled off of Detroit's Bill Scherrer for his first career hit on August 22.

2. Despite totaling just 42 home runs in parts of 13 seasons, he had a pair of two-homer games with the Yankees: April 27, 1993 (both vs. Chuck Finley), and April 7, 1994 (vs. Kenny Rogers and Jay Howell).

3. He spent four years as third base and infield coach for the Rockies before returning to Oakland in that same capacity following the 2008 season. He's been with the Athletics ever since.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I think it's entirely possible that Mike Gallego and Randy Velarde are the same person.

Bill James Said: "His good on-base percentage and ability to play three positions make him an invaluable part of the Yankee roster." Gallego had a career year in 1993, batting .283/.364/.412 for New York.

On This Date in 1993: September 25. Yes, I'm talking about the Reds and Rockies for the second straight day. Jose Rijo goes the distance in a 6-0 Cincinnati win; the only hit he allows is a broken-bat single by Charlie Hayes in the second inning. Rijo strikes out eight and does not issue any walks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#286 Ron Karkovice

About the Front: This is probably the most flattering photo of Ron Karkovice I've ever seen. It's a candid photo, so he looks relaxed and he's smiling pleasantly. You can't see the pockmarks on his cheeks, his pot belly is hidden from view, and even his hair and his bright white mustache look good. If I were Karko, I might have this card blown up and framed.

About the Back: How do you give up a run in a no-hitter? In Cowley's case, seven walks did the trick. One of my mom's former coworkers was a big baseball fan, and I remember hearing that he once gave Joe Cowley a ride from the airport for a golf tournament. So I researched Cowley, and found that he was something of a whipping boy for Phillies fans during his short, career-ending stint with them. He is also the only MLB pitcher never to win another game after throwing a no-no.

Triple Play:

1. One of his high school teammates was Joe Oliver, who also went on to become a big league catcher.

2. Karkovice had five career grand slams. One of them, hit off of Minnesota's David West on August 30, 1990, was also the only inside-the-park home run of his career. How did that happen? Outfielders John Moses and Danny Gladden gave him a healthy assist.

3. In recent years, Ron coached in the independent Atlantic League. He managed the Camden Riversharks in 2013, though the team finished in eighth place with a 54-86 record.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: To me, Karkovice is the poster child for the surprising spate of power-hitting catchers in the 1993 season. There were seven backstops who slugged at least 20 homers that year, and he was the most unlikely name in the group.

Bill James Said: "He threw out 50% of opposing base stealers (48 of 96), the best percentage for a regular catcher."

On This Date in 1993: September 24. The Rockies cruise past the Reds, 9-2, to set a National League record with their 65th win in their first season as an expansion team. Charlie Hayes homers, doubles, and drives in three runs as Colorado surpasses the win total of the 1962 Houston Colt .45s. They'll finish the season with a grand total of 67 wins and 95 losses.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#285 Bob Tewksbury

About the Front: Bob Tewksbury is another one of those Greg Maddux types, in that he looks more like a math teacher than a pro athlete.

About the Back: The Yankees dealt away Tewk in a typically savvy 1980s trade, swapping him along with two other young pitchers to the Cubs in exchange for Steve Trout (0-4, 6.60 ERA in 14 games in NY).

Triple Play:

1. Bob appeared as himself in the 1994 comedy The Scout.

2. On June 28, 1998, while starting for Minnesota against the Cardinals, Tewksbury resorted to lobbing eephus pitches at soon-to-be home run king Mark McGwire. Big Mac could only laugh as he grounded out on one 44 mph offering, and popped up another.

3. He has been a sports psychology coach for the Red Sox since 2004, when he earned his Masters degree in psychology from Boston University.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I didn't pay much attention to strikeout rates when I was younger. Now I wonder how I could've overlooked something like Bob's total of 50 strikeouts in 145.1 innings in 1990. You've got to have pinpoint control and a good defense behind you if you're allowing that much contact.

Bill James Said: "He has pretty clearly established the ability to win if the league hits .300 against him, and to win big if they hit .270."

On This Date in 1993: September 23. The International Olympic Committee chooses Sydney, Australia as the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Monday, September 22, 2014

#284 Henry Rodriguez

About the Front: Henry Rodriguez has his hands positioned oddly on the bat during this follow-through. It looks like he's only gripping the handle with two fingers of his bottom hand.

About the Back: He blew away the Texas League competition in 1990, hitting 28 home runs and driving in 109 to earn MVP honors. No one else topped 21 homers or 88 RBI.

Triple Play:

1. Henry got started with a bang, hitting his first two big league home runs off of Jose Rijo and Dwight Gooden in August of 1992.

2. He became a fan favorite in Montreal, where he had his lone All-Star season in 1996 while reaching career highs of 42 doubles, 36 home runs, and 103 RBI. Fans used to throw "Oh Henry!" candy bars onto the field after he went deep.

3. In 2005, three years after playing his last MLB game, Rodriguez led the Atlantic League with a .322 average for the Long Island Ducks. He also homered 27 times in 92 games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was surprised when he finally broke out in 1996. As a fan of an American League East team, I'd heard next to nothing about Rodriguez during his previously unimpressive years in Los Angeles.

Bill James Said: "He is only 26, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that he isn't going to get beyond the part-time outfielder status, at least unless somebody gets hurt."

On This Date in 1993: September 22. An Amtrak passenger train derailed on the Big Bayou Canot bridge in northeast Mobile, Alabama. 47 people were killed and another 103 injured, making it the deadliest crash in Amtrak history.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#283 Mike Jackson

About the Front: Unlike Michael Bolton, the character in Office Space, Michael Jackson chose to go by "Mike" to avoid irritating quips about the pop singer. Okay, maybe that's not the actual reason for his nickname, but it couldn't hurt.

About the Back: I wonder if Mike ever combined his hobbies. Synchronized swimming, anyone?

Triple Play:

1. Jackson and Paul Assenmacher tied for the most pitching appearances in the 1990s with 644. The former's total of 1,005 career games pitched currently ranks 14th in MLB history.

2. He spent two seasons as Cleveland's primary closer, saving 40 games in 1998 and 39 in 1999. In each season, he ranked fourth in the American League in saves.

3. Mike faced Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire a total of 49 times, and neither slugger ever collected an extra-base hit off of him. McGwire had three singles and seven walks in 29 tries, and Sosa went 2-for-17 with a pair of walks.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm sure I was blown away by the fact that Jackson pitched in 81 games in 1993. That's a full half of the Giants' schedule, after all! Imagine my surprise when I learned that Mike Marshall appeared in 106 games with the 1974 Dodgers.

Bill James Said: "Led the major leagues in game appearances, with 81, and holds, with 34."

On This Date in 1993: September 18. Frasier debuts on NBC. The Cheers spinoff, starring Kelsey Grammer, will air for 11 seasons and earn 37 Emmy awards.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#282 Shane Mack

About the Front: I always assumed that Shane Mack was sliding headfirst into third base in this photo, but after a closer look, I think he might be diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt. Either way, he's safe; the Red Sox fielder doesn't have his glove hand anywhere near the Twins outfielder.

About the Back: Shane couldn't quite keep up his torrid pace against Detroit, but his full career splits vs. the Tigers were still impressive. In 55 games, he batted .376/.449/.640 with 43 runs, 15 doubles, 11 home runs, 47 RBI, and a 7-for-8 stolen base mark.

Triple Play:

1. His younger brother Quinn was a minor league outfielder from 1987 through 1997, primarily in the Montreal and Seattle organizations. He had a five-game stint with the Mariners in 1994, batting 5-for-21 with three doubles and two RBI.

2. Mack's amateur honors included back-to-back All-American selections at UCLA (1983, 1984), and he also was a member of the silver medalist U. S. Olympic Baseball Team in 1984.

3. After his career-best 1994 season (.333/.402/.564) was cut short by the strike, Shane spent the next two seasons in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants, batting .284/.356/.463 with 42 home runs and 127 RBI in 247 games. He then returned to MLB, spending two seasons as a part-timer with the Red Sox, Athletics, and Royals.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I had a small collection of those Kenner Starting Lineup action figures, including Shane Mack. Man, were those things crappy.

Bill James Said: "Dislocated his shoulder in spring training and never fully recovered, aggravated the injury several times and didn't play the last two weeks."

On This Date in 1993: September 17. Nolan Ryan whiffs Greg Myers of the Angels for his 5,714th and final career strikeout. The 46-year-old Rangers pitcher allows four hits and an unearned run in seven innings, striking out five without walking a single batter, but departs with the score tied at one. In the eighth inning, Craig Lefferts replaces Ryan and allows the winning run on a Stan Javier RBI triple. Nolan will make one final start on September 22, but allows five runs on four walks and two hits without retiring a single batter. He tore a ligament in his throwing elbow and departed in mid at-bat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#281 Butch Henry

About the Front: Dark jersey and sparse ballpark backdrop - these are the telltale signs of a spring training photo.

About the Back: Butch Henry bears some physical resemblance to Luke Scott, who played outfield and DH'ed for the Astros, Orioles, and Rays in recent years.

Triple Play:

1. On May 8, 1992, Butch hit an inside-the-park, three-run homer off of Doug Drabek. It was his only career round-tripper, and the most recent inside-the-parker by a pitcher.

2. His best season was 1994, when he went 8-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 107.1 innings with Montreal. He also collected nine hits in 31 at-bats, with a triple-slash of .290/.353/.323 with two RBI.

3. Henry coached in the Reds' organization for a few years, and also managed the independent El Paso Diablos from 2007 through 2010.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It never occurred to me that "Butch" was not Henry's birth name. I guess I was a trusting soul. For the record, it's Floyd Bluford Henry. So...yeah, Butch is an improvement.

Bill James Said: "Henry, after pitching over his head in 1992, was dragooned by the Rockies." That's one way of putting it. He went 2-8 with a 6.59 ERA in 20 games (15 starts) for Colorado, allowing 117 hits in 84.2 innings.

On This Date in 1993: September 16. At age 41, Dave Winfield collects his 3,000th career hit, an RBI single off of Dennis Eckersley in the ninth inning in Minnesota. Winfield will come around to score the tying run on Scott Stahoviak's base hit, but Shane Mack is thrown out at home by left fielder Kurt Abbott. This wild A's-Twins game goes 13 innings, with Oakland blowing another two-run lead in the final frame to fall, 5-4. Chip Hale's single finally plates Kirby Puckett with the winning run.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#280 Tom Glavine

About the Front: It looks like the Topps logo is taking a ride on the ball that Tom Glavine just released.
About the Back: John Smoltz topped Glavine with 14 wins in a row in 1996.

Triple Play:

1. Tom was a standout hockey player in high school, and was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the 1984 NHL draft.

2. His younger brother Mike played pro baseball for a decade, finishing with a .245/.340/.449 batting line in the minor leagues. He had a six-game cup of coffee with the Mets in 2003, collecting a single in seven trips to the plate.

3. Glavine had a 3.30 ERA in 218.1 career postseason innings, capped by a Most Valuable Player selection for the 1995 World Series. He won both of his starts against the Indians that year, including a one-hit, eight-strikeout, eight-inning gem in the Game Six clincher, a 1-0 Atlanta triumph.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Tom Glavine just looked boring. Something about those heavy-lidded eyes, the perpetually clean-shaven and unexpressive face...I could imagine him lulling opposing hitters into a stupor as he rolled through another winning start.

Bill James Said: "Through most of last year he didn't pitch all that well, but continued to roll up wins due to the superb team behind him, good luck, and his own survival skills." Through August 19, Glavine had a pedestrian rate of 79 strikeouts and 76 walks in 178 innings, but was still 14-5 with a 3.34 ERA. Go figure.

On This Date in 1993: September 15. Former outfielder Ethan Allen passes away at age 89. He batted .300/.336/.410 in a 13-year career (1926-1938) with the Reds, Giants, Cardinals, Phillies, Cubs, and Browns. His career-best season was 1930, when he batted .330/.370/.468 (112 OPS+) with 10 homers, 85 RBI, and a league-high 42 doubles for the Phillies.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#279 Todd Burns

About the Front: Sometimes I look at photos of baseball players from the 1950s and 1960s and I can't believe how old they look. Attribute it to changes in fashion, lifestyle, upbringing, or what have you. It might just be an unflattering photo, but Todd Burns has got to be one of the most weathered-looking 29-year-olds to appear in the 1993 Topps set.

About the Back: Todd appeared in a total of five World Series games out of the A's bullpen, with four scoreless appearances. However, he was hammered in two-thirds of an inning in the 1990 Series opener, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk.

Triple Play:

1. Burns earned his first career win with 4.2 innings of shutout relief against the Blue Jays on July 3, 1988, pitching around five walks and two hits and hanging in there from the 12th inning through the 16th.

2. He was nicknamed "The Mad Hatter", due to his habit of frequently tugging at his cap while pitching.

3. Todd now operates the Todd Burns School of Baseball in Huntsville, AL.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: If I were more into wordplay as an adolescent, I would've noticed that "Todd Burns" is not just a name, but a complete sentence as well.

Bill James Said: "Made five starts in May and June, and was hit so hard (7.62 ERA) that his ERA was shot for the season." Burns went 0-8 with a 5.08 ERA for the Rangers and Cardinals in 1993, and never pitched in the majors thereafter.

On This Date in 1993: September 11. Ben McDonald tosses a four-hitter in a 3-1 Orioles win over Bob Welch and the Athletics. Chris Hoiles hits his 24th home run in the winning cause. It's the second of four complete games that McDonald will toss in September, part of a career-high total of seven for the season.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#278 Chris Nabholz

About the Front: The fleur-de-lis above the "e" on Montreal's road jerseys was a fun little touch.
About the Front: Pottsville is the home of the Yuengling brewery, just by the by.

Triple Play:

1. Chris' first big league complete game was a one-hit shutout of the Mets on September 20, 1990. Tommy Herr's sixth-inning single was the only hit for New York.

2. He won all six of his starts in September of 1991, including a complete-game 6-1 decision over Houston on September 1. He limited the Astros to four hits and notched a career-best 11 strikeouts.

3. Nabholz still lives near Pottsville, where he works in mortgage and lending.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I didn't know that Chris played ball at Towson State University - now it's just Towson University. My father is another Towson alumnus, and I live near the campus these days.

Bill James Said: "Throws a good fastball, excellent sinker; isn't a quality pitcher and probably never will be, but wins as many as he loses." Nabholz did pitch himself out of the league by the end of 1995. He posted a 6.96 ERA in 76.1 innings with the Indians, Cubs, and Red Sox in 1994-1995, so Bill must've been on to something.

On This Date in 1993: September 10. Tony Womack debuts for the Pirates as a pinch runner in a 9-8 loss to the Rockies. He will go on to top the National League in stolen bases from 1997 through 1999, totaling 190 swipes and being caught only 28 times.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

#277 Mark Whiten

About the Front: Mark Whiten is winding up for a toss in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium outfield, in front of a graphic on the outfield wall honoring shortstop Felix Fermin, who strangely had his number 16 retired while still active with the team.

Just kidding. It's Bob Feller's number 19.

About the Back: Hey, Whiten had his first two-homer game on my ninth birthday! Both home runs were solo shots off of Kevin Brown, coming in the second and third innings; the Indians romped to a 9-0 win.

Triple Play:

1. Mark had several career highs with the Cardinals in 1993, including games (152), runs (81), home runs (25), and RBI (99). On August 11, he became the first visiting player to reach the right-field upper deck overhang in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, blasting a 464-foot longball off of Blas Minor.

2. On July 31, 1998, in the midst of his last season as a semi-regular, Whiten took to the mound with his Indians trailing the Athletics 11-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning. He walked two batters, plunked another, gave up one hit, and allowed a run, but he did strike out the side, including future league MVP Miguel Tejada.

3. He played his last big league game in 2000, but extended his career into 2003 by playing in Mexico, the independent Atlantic League, and AAA. He also spent a few years coaching in the Indians and Rangers organizations.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember what a big deal it was when Whiten hit four home runs and drove in 12 in a game on September 7, 1993. He punished the Reds for a two-run homer, a pair of three-run shots, and a grand slam in the nightcap of a doubleheader, after earning an RBI on a bases-load walk in the first game. He was only the 12th player ever to homer four times in a major league game (four others have done it since), and joined Hall of Famer "Sunny Jim" Bottomley as the only players to ever notch a dozen ribbies in a single game. He also tied Nate Colbert's record of 13 RBI in a doubleheader.

Bill James Said: "Whiten and Zeile established that if your 1-2-3 hitters (Gilkey, Smith and Jefferies) are outstanding, the four and five hitters can drive in 100 runs even if they're not that good."

On This Date in 1993: September 9. The Palestine Liberation Organization officially recognizes Israel as a legitimate state. And they lived happily ever after...

Monday, September 8, 2014

#276 Paul O'Neill

About the Front: I have no idea who the blurry dude in the on-deck circle is. Paul O'Neill was driven in most often in 1992 by Joe Oliver, so that's a possibility.

About the Back: Looking at these numbers, would anyone predict that O'Neill would bat .303/.377/.492 with 185 homers in a nine-year stint with the Yankees? There's a reason the musical wasn't called "Damn Dodgers", folks.

Triple Play:

1. The 1994 strike cut short Paul's best season. He was the American League batting champ (.359), reached base at a .460 clip, slugged .603, and swatted 21 home runs with 83 RBI in 103 games.

2. Perhaps you recall his 1995 cameo on Seinfeld, when Kramer promised a sick child that the Yankee outfielder would hit two home runs in a single game. O'Neill hit one, but tripled and scored on an error in his last shot at the feat. Just as good, right?

3. He currently appears on YES Yankee game broadcasts as one of the team's roving band of ex-player analysts. The team gave him his own plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park this past August.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Man, I couldn't STAND Paul O'Neill. It seemed like he threw a tantrum in the dugout every time he didn't get a hit. Have some dignity, guy.

Bill James Said: "Like Eddie Murray, he seemed to change his game plan last year, becoming much more aggressive early in the count." Though Paul's walks dropped from 77 in 1992 to 44 in 1993, his overall slash line jumped from .246/.346/.373 to .311/.367/.504.

On This Date in 1993: September 8. Darryl Kile no-hit the Mets on just 83 pitches in a 7-1 Houston win. The lone New York run was scored by Jeff McKnight, who drew the only walk issued by Kile and raced home on a throwing error by Jeff Bagwell. Kile also struck out nine; he fanned third baseman Butch Huskey (making his MLB debut) three times.

Friday, September 5, 2014

#275 Andy Van Slyke

About the Front: Right about now, Andy Van Slyke is regretting his pregame meal of prune salad.

About the Back: What does an unassisted double play by a center fielder look like? Something like this.

Triple Play:

1. His son Scott is an outfielder with the Dodgers. He's having quite a good season so far in 2014 - .268/.377/.508 with 10 homers in 179 at-bats.

2. Andy became famous for his quick wit. During his first two seasons in St. Louis, he played 62 games at third base, and later claimed that he played like Brooks...Mel Brooks.

3. Van Slyke spent four years as the Tigers' first base coach. Currently, he's coaching first base in Seattle on former teammate Lloyd McClendon's staff.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I feel like this is a recurring theme with these posts, but man, Andy Van Slyke stunk it up in Baltimore. In 1995, he played a grand total of 17 games in orange and black and batted .159/.221/.317. I have such a sour impression of his brief time here that I'm surprised to see that he played so few games. Of course, he was also injured for a chunk of the season before he was shipped to the Phillies in mid-June.

Bill James Said: "Broke his collarbone crashing into a wall in mid-June, which put him out for eleven weeks." When he was able to play in 1993, Andy batted .310/.357/.449 with eight homers and 50 RBI in 83 games.

On This Date in 1993: September 5. The Mariners purchase 18-year-old pitcher Mac Suzuki from the independent San Bernardino Spirit for $750,000. When he debuted with Seattle in 1996, he became the third Japanese-born player in MLB history.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#274 Rick Sutcliffe

About the Front: The Red Baron! Last month, the Orioles and Cubs wore 1994 throwbacks (there's a phrase that makes chills run down my spine) in a Sunday afternoon contest at Wrigley Field. Those black-lettered road unis have really grown on me, although I'm still glad the O's put "Baltimore" back on their grays a few years ago. Also, don't miss Rick Sutcliffe's shadow cast across the mound.

About the Back: And those would be the last two shutouts of Sut's long and fruitful career.

Triple Play:

1. Rick was the 1979 National League Rookie of the Year, easily outpacing Jeffrey Leonard. He won the 1984 National League Cy Young Award despite not arriving in Chicago until mid-June; he allowed seven fewer runs with the Cubs than he did with the Indians, despite pitching 56 more innings after the trade than he had in Cleveland. That's a good way to help yourself to a 16-1 record! At least the Tribe got Mel Hall and Joe Carter out of the deal.

2. Barry Bonds was homerless in his 51 plate appearances against Sutcliffe, with a batting line of .239/.280/.326 and just two RBI. That's the most times Bonds faced any pitcher without taking him deep.

3. He has spent his post-retirement days as a TV analyst for ESPN and the Padres. In 2006, he famously dropped into the Padres' TV booth after an evening of conviviality with Bill Murray and had a brief but entertaining dialogue with Matt Vasgersian and Mark Grant about golf, San Diego, and George Clooney.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Sutcliffe may have been a steadying veteran presence for the Orioles in 1992, when he won Comeback Player of the Year honors, but I tuned in to the O's a year later, when he was a lead weight in the rotation.

Bill James Said: "His batting average allowed, .314, was also the highest in the majors, and his slugging percentage also, .496, and his on-base average allowed (.385)." That's an .881 OPS, which equals Cubs rookie slugger Javier Baez's career minor league mark.

On This Day in 1993: September 4. Herve Villechaize, the 3'11" French actor best known as "Tattoo" from Fantasy Island, fatally shoots himself at his North Hollywood home. In a suicide note, he cites depression stemming from years of poor health.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#273 Dan Walters

About the Front: There's a lot of equipment in this photo of Dan Walters - two wristbands, two batting gloves, bat, batting donut, shin guard - but no batting helmet. Go figure.

About the Back: Man, Ed Vosberg was around forever. I didn't remember him as a major league presence before the mid-90s, and sure enough...drafted by the Padres out of college in 1983, cup of coffee in 1986, two months with the Giants in 1990, didn't resurface until 1994 with Oakland. Then from the ages of 32-40, he pitched in 243 games for seven different clubs. Yes, he was a lefty reliever.

Triple Play:

1. On June 9, 1992, Walters batted 2-for-4 with a triple, a home run, and three RBI as the Padres edged the Astros 5-4. His run-scoring fielder's choice in the bottom of the eighth inning put San Diego ahead for good.

2. Spinal injuries in 1994 and 1996 brought a premature end to his career, with the latter incident requiring a six-hour surgery and 18 months of rehabilitation.

3. Dan became a San Diego police officer after retiring from baseball. On November 12, 2003, he was shot in the neck by a suspect in a domestic violence incident, was subsequently hit by a passing motorist, and was paralyzed from the neck down. To this day, he battles chronic pain along with the paralysis and has only limited use of his left arm.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This is a card that stood out to me, because Walters looked like he was deep in thought. He might've just been squinting, but first impressions are everything.

Bill James Said: "A huge, slow righthanded hitting catcher, won a shot at the catching job in '92, but has moved behind Ausmus and Kevin Higgins."

On This Date in 1993: September 3. Across the major leagues, there are three games that last at least 12 innings each, and the visiting team wins all three. Milwaukee uses a pair of singles and four walks to manufacture a three-run rally, topping the host Mariners 7-4 in 12 frames. An RBI single by Brett Butler gives the Dodgers a 5-4, 13-inning victory over the Marlins; John Johnstone is the losing pitcher in his MLB debut. Out in Oakland, the Orioles' offense is dormant for eight innings before David Segui takes Dennis Eckersley deep in the top of the 13th, delivering a 5-4 O's win against the A's.