Thursday, October 30, 2014

#311 Jay Howell

About the Front: Good Lord! Where did Jay Howell's right arm go?

About the Back: Looking at those palm trees reminds me that we're in for a long winter. I miss baseball already.

Triple Play: 

1. Howell was an All-Star in 1985, 1987, and 1989. How he made the team in 1987, when he had a 4.86 ERA at the break, is beyond me.

2. In Game Three of the 1988 NLCS against the Mets, he was ejected for having pine tar on his glove and suspended for three days.

3. Jay was an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge from 1998 through 2005, leading the team to two Big Sky Conference championships.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that his middle name (Canfield) was quite unusual. I assume it was a family name.

Bill James Said: "Removed from the closer role there was less pressure to get him in the game when he wasn't 100%, and he pitched more games and innings than he had since 1989." Howell allowed 48 hits in 58 innings for the Braves in 1993, with a 2.31 ERA.

On This Date in 1993: October 30. Let's go with that day's Calvin and Hobbes strip!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#310 Dave Righetti

About the Front: Just another sellout crowd at Candlestick Park. Where is everybody?

About the Back: Dave Righetti gave up one home run in 105.1 innings in the strike-shortened 1981 season, making him quite a deserving Rookie of the Year. His no-hitter on July 4, 1983 was the first by a Yankee since Don Larsen's World Series perfect game in 1956.

Triple Play:

1. While pitching for the AA Tulsa Drillers, he set a Texas League record by striking out 21 Midland Cubs in nine innings on July 16, 1978.

2. Dave was an All-Star in both 1986 and 1987. In the former season, he became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter and lead the league in saves during his major league career. (Dennis Eckersley and Derek Lowe later joined him on that short list.)

3. He is currently the longest-tenured pitching coach in baseball, having served the Giants under Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou, and Bruce Bochy since 2000.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It's a crime that his nickname was "Rags". His last name rhymes with spaghetti. Do I have to do all the legwork here?

Bill James Said: "I wonder if he's the only major league player who ever had triplets?" Melvin Mora and his quintuplets laugh.

On This Date in 1993: October 29.The Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop-motion animated film from Tim Burton, premieres. If you haven't seen it, you absolutely should.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#309 J. T. Bruett

About the Front: J. T. Bruett's bat toss must have been effective and quick, since no part of the bat is visible in this photo.

About the Back: Four homers total in his first five pro seasons, and he hits a grand slam in a minor league All-Star Game. Makes perfect sense.

Triple Play:

1. Bruett attended the University of Minnesota, where he set a school record (since broken) with 77 career stolen bases.

2. He singled off of Jack McDowell on June 13, 1992 for the first hit of his big league career.

3. J. T. played in 17 games for the Twins in 1993, his last taste of the majors. He spent two more seasons at AAA, and finished his career with a 50-game stint for the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League in 1996, batting .320/.391/.383.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This guy was named Bruett and came from Milwaukee. How did he not play for the Brewers?

Bill James Said: "Predicting what Tom Kelly will do is like predicting who Geraldo will have on tomorrow (God only knows), but if Shane Mack leaves as a free agent and Becker doesn't come through, Bruett may inherit a job, and might score 100 runs." Rich Becker didn't really come through, but the other two guesses were off the mark.

On This Date in 1993: October 28. Former Cubs, Mets, and Red Sox reliever Cal Koonce dies of lymphoma at age 52. He had posted a 2.42 ERA, six wins, and 11 saves for New York in 1968.

Monday, October 27, 2014

#308 Darryl Kile

About the Front: I appreciate the fact that the Astros' old road uniforms were a yellowish cream color, instead of the gray that everyone else was using at the time. This was the same sort of outside-the-box thinking that led to all of those fantastic baby-blue road uniforms in the 1970s.

About the Back: Darryl Kile was a high-round draft pick success, as Houston took nine other right-handed pitchers before choosing him with their 30th-round pick. Of the righties the team drafted ahead of Kile, only second-rounder Randy Hennis ever made it to the majors, and he only tossed 9.2 innings in 1990.

Triple Play:

1. Kile was an All-Star three times: 1993, 1997, and 2000. The 1997 was his best, as he went 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA and a career-best four shutouts.

2. In their desperation to find reliable starting pitching, the high-altitude Rockies signed Kile to a three-year, $24 million contract prior to the 1998 season. The deal was a disaster; he went 21-30 with a 5.84 ERA (94 ERA+) in two seasons in Denver before moving on to St. Louis in a seven-player deal.

3. Sadly, Darryl died at age 33 of a sudden heart attack while sleeping in his hotel room in Chicago on June 22, 2002. He was in town with the Cardinals, who were playing a road series against the Cubs.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: His no-hitter against the Mets came just four days after Jim Abbott blanked the Indians. They were the first two no-hitters to occur during my time as a baseball fan.

Bill James Said: " 'His' improvement in '93 is chiefly attributable to the Astros hitters, who scored 6.4 runs per nine innings when he was pitching." Kile improved from 5-10, 3.95 ERA in 1992 to 15-8, 3.51 in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: October 27. Dodgers' catcher Mike Piazza is unanimously chosen as the National League Rookie of the Year. He batted .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBI.

Friday, October 24, 2014

#307 Dan Serafini

About the Front: That right there is one of the sweatiest draft picks I have ever seen. His arms and upper chest quite shiny.

About the Back: Water polo! Oh, and if Serra (San Mateo) High School sounds familiar, it's something of a training ground for pro athletes. Its most notable alumni are Tom Brady, Lynn Swann, and Barry Bonds.

Triple Play:

1. His first career win was also the only complete game he pitched in his career. He held the Athletics to two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks, September 8, 1997.

2. Dan was a consummate journeyman, playing for the following professional organizations: Twins, Cubs, Padres, Pirates, Giants, Mets, Brewers, Angels, Cardinals, Sultanes de Monterrey (Mexico), Reds, Chiba Lotte Marines (Japan), Orix Buffaloes (Japan), Rockies, Bridgeport Bluefish, Rieleros de Aguascalientes (Mexico), aaaaand Tigres de Quintana Roo (Mexico). His major league record: 15-16 with a 6.04 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, and one save in parts of seven seasons.

3. In 2006, a Chicago Cubs fan posed as Serafini for a radio interview with a Minnesota radio station. His amusing account can be read on his blog.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This one is a message to my younger self from present-day Kevin, actually. Just because a guy repeatedly fails to retire major league hitters, that doesn't mean that he can't play pro baseball for two decades. Have arm, will travel.

Bill James Said:

On This Date in 1993: October 24. The Crash Test Dummies release their second album, God Shuffled His Feet. Now you have "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" stuck in your head. Sorry/not sorry.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#306 Damon Berryhill

About the Front: Damon Berryhill can pat his head and rub his hip at the same time! Now that is true talent.

About the Back: So, which poor soul was so offensively inept that he was pinch-hit for by Berryhill? As you may have guessed, it was a pitcher. Damon batted for reliever Mark Davis and blasted a 2-2 offering from Larry Andersen down the right field line for his first career walk-off homer. The Braves had already used Mark Lemke, Jeff Blauser, and Lonnie Smith off of the bench before turning to their reserve catcher.

Triple Play:

1. Two weeks after the Cubs first played under lights at Wrigley Field, Damon hit the first homer for a Chicago player in a night game in the Friendly Confines. It's a two-run shot against Houston's Mike Scott on August 22, 1988. Later in the game, he adds a go-ahead three-run shot off of Joaquin Andujar. It is the only multi-homer game of his career.

2. As the Braves' primary catcher in the 1992 World Series, Berryhill had only two hits in 22 at-bats, but one of those was a three-run homer off of Jack Morris that provided the margin of victory in a 3-1 Atlanta victory in the Series opener.

3. He was the minor league catching coordinator for the Diamondbacks and then the Rangers before getting into minor-league managing. He has skippered Dodgers' farm teams since 2009, most recently piloting the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes in 2014.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always perceived something of a smirk in Damon's expression on this card. He could be looking at his first base coach after an iffy called strike, as if to say, "Can you believe that?".

Bill James Said: "The Braves and the Blue Jays are in similar positions, in that both have outstanding catching prospects who are ready or nearly ready to play, but also have incumbent catchers who, while they aren't much with the bat, have nonetheless become integral parts of teams which are winning." Atlanta let Berryhill go to Boston as a free agent in 1994, handed Javy Lopez the starting job, and never looked back. Carlos Delgado didn't stick behind the plate in Toronto, but did okay for himself as a first baseman.

On This Date in 1993: October 23.The Troubles, the ongoing violence between Unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland, claims nine more civilian victims as a Provisional IRA bomb goes off prematurely in the Shankill area of Belfast. The bomber is also killed in the blast. The intended targets were loyalist paramilitary leaders who were expected to be meeting above a fish shop in the area.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#305 Rafael Palmeiro

About the Front: Rafael Palmeiro is showing off what was widely regarded as one of the sweetest left-handed swings in the game.

About the Back: Palmeiro was born in Cuba, but his family immigrated to Miami when he was a child.

Triple Play:

1. At Mississippi State, he became the only player in Southeastern Conference history to win the Triple Crown. It's particularly impressive, considering that one of his teammates was Will Clark.

2. Despite never winning an American League home run crown or batting title, Palmeiro was one of the pre-eminent power and contact hitters of his generation. From 1993 through 2003, he averaged .288/.380/.555 (138 OPS+) with 42 home runs and 122 RBI per 162 games. He also holds the dubious record for most career games played without appearing in a World Series, with a total of 2,831.

3. In a 20-year career, Rafael totaled 585 doubles, 569 home runs, 1,835 RBI, and 3,020 hits. However, he retired under a cloud after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol during the 2005 season. He was subjected to intense scrutiny and derision, particularly since he had famously and emphatically denied using steroids during a televised congressional hearing the previous spring. For Palmeiro's part, he has always maintained that he never intentionally used steroids, suggesting that former Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada provided him with a shot of vitamin B-12 that may have been tainted. Regardless, he received little sympathy from Hall of Fame voters, debuting on the ballot with an 11% showing in 2011 and losing his eligibility in 2014 after dropping to 4.4% of the vote.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I had a baseball card of my own in 1994, which was the first (and penultimate) year of my brief Little League career. As part of the biography that was affixed to the card back, I was asked to list my favorite major league player. I went with "Raphael" Palmeiro, the exciting new free agent acquisition of my beloved Orioles. Much like Raffy himself, I maintain my innocence when it comes to the misspelling of his first name. It must have been an error in transcription from the photographer.

Bill James Said: "Led the American League in runs scored, was fourth in total bases, fifth in homers, third in doubles, second in stolen base percentage (88%)." And yet the Rangers let him walk in favor of Will Clark.

On This Date in 1993: October 22. Future major leaguers Robinson Cano and Darren O'Day each celebrate their 11th birthday. It's strange to think of these guys as my contemporaries, at least age-wise.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#304 Melido Perez

About the Front: You may remember that Melido, Pascual (67-68, 3.44 ERA from 1981-1991), and Carlos Perez (40-53, 4.44 ERA from 1995-2000) were all brothers who pitched in the majors during the 1980s and 1990s. Though none of them were particularly attractive, I'd go out on a limb and say that Melido got the good looks in the family.

About the Back: Melido's no-hitter was actually a rain-shortened complete game, but is not considered an "official" no-no because it was fewer than nine innings. Older brother Pascual no-hit the Phillies in a rain-abbreviated five-inning contest on September 24, 1988. These were both counted as no-hitters at the time, but retroactively discounted in a 1991 change to the rule book. That seems a bit cruel.

Triple Play:

1. Perez debuted for the Royals on September 4, 1987, allowing a single unearned run on six hits and three walks in seven innings to top the White Sox.

2. On September 3, 1993, he surrendered the first of Manny Ramirez's 555 career home runs.

3. How's this mix of conventional and unconventional post-playing pursuits? Melido spent some time coaching the White Sox' Dominican Summer League team, and later was elected mayor of San Gregorio de Nigua, San Cristobal, DR.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Melido" struck me as one of the more unique baseball names. In fact, I can now use the power of the Internet to report that Perez is the only player in MLB history named Melido.

Bill James Said: "I have always spoken well of Perez, but the fact is that he, far more than anyone else, kept the Yankees from beating Toronto." Yeah, he was pretty bad in '93: 6-14, 5.19 ERA (80 ERA+), 9.6 hits per nine innings. Of course, New York also gave 367 plate appearances to shortstop Spike Owen (.234/.294/.311, 66 OPS+), and that couldn't have helped their playoff chances.

On This Date in 1993: October 21. Civil war is afoot in Burundi as President Melchior Ndadaye is killed in a failed military uprising. A member of the Hutu ethnic group, Ndadaye had been elected as the African nation's first democractically chosen leader just three months prior, but soon ran afoul of the Tutsi-controlled army.

Monday, October 20, 2014

#303 Brook Jacoby

About the Front: Brook Jacoby is pictured in a pretty classic third baseman's pose - knees bent, glove at the ready, throwing hand in position to pound the mitt expectantly. Off the top of my head, I can't recall ever seeing the glove-pounding action in a candid shot.

About the Back: This a complete major league batting record for Jacoby, who had a forgettable 18-game stint in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons in 1993 before retiring.

Triple Play:

1. On July 3, 1987, he hit three solo homers in four trips to the plate, but Cleveland was still outslugged by the White Sox, 14-9.

2. Brook was an All-Star in 1986 and again in 1990.

3. He has been a hitting coach in the Rangers' organization, and also served as Cincinnati's big league hitting coach from 2006 through 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: One of the first Brook Jacoby cards I owned was a 1992 Fleer issue depicting him in the green and gold of the Athletics. I bet that was a strange sight for Indians fans.

Bill James Said: He did not say, as Jacoby was not playing in America in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: October 20. Records are set in an outrageous Game Four of the 1993 World Series. The Blue Jays eke out a 15-14 win over the Phillies, as the teams combine for the most runs in a Fall Classic game. It's also the longest nine-inning Series game at the time, taking four hours and 14 minutes to complete. There are six lead changes and seven half-innings featuring multiple runs. Toronto blows an early 3-0 lead, but rallies from deficits of 6-3, 12-7, and 14-9. Larry Andersen and Mitch Williams conspire to allow a decisive six-run Jays rally in the top of the eighth, with Devon White's two-run triple putting the visiting team ahead for good. The Phillies are put in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven championship.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#302 Randy Myers

About the Front: Randy Myers doesn't appear as stout as I remember him being. It's probably just a flattering photo.

About the Back: The Reds traded Myers to the Padres for Bip Roberts and a minor leaguer. Bipped!

Triple Play:

1. One-third of the Reds' "Nasty Boys" bullpen, Randy was named the 1990 NLCS MVP. He tossed 5.2 scoreless innings in four games, allowing two hits and three walks and striking out seven. He saved three games, including the Game Six clincher over the Pirates.

2. On September 28, 1995, Myers gave up a tiebreaking two-run homer to Houston's James Mouton while pitching for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. John Murray, a 27-year-old bond trader, charged onto the field and tried to attack the pitcher. Myers, having a background in martial arts, dropped the interloper with a forearm and pinned him to the ground. I cannot imagine why anyone would try to fight him, of all people. (See my reminiscence below.) Oh, and the Cubs came back to win in 11 innings anyway.

3. He led his league in saves three times: 1993 (53 saves for the Cubs), 1995 (38 saves for the Cubs), and 1997 (45 saves and a 1.51 ERA for the Orioles). Despite a career-ending rotator cuff tear at age 35, his total of 347 saves is still 11th-most in MLB history.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When Randy pitched for the O's, he kept knives and fake grenades in his locker. He seemed to walk a fine line between "character" and "psychopath".

Bill James Said: "Only 28 years old; it's hard to remember that he was once traded for John Franco, who is about 73." Myers was 31 when this was written, which is an odd mistake and sort of undercuts the Franco gag.

On This Date in 1993: October 16. An anti-Nazism riot breaks out in Welling in Kent, England. The fracas is touched off when police attempt to bar protestors who are approaching the headquarters of the far-right British National Party.

#301 Cesar Hernandez

About the Front: Cesar Hernandez has firmly marked his territory, labeling his batting gloves and bat knob with his #58.

About the Back: Why yes, that is the same Jesus Alou who played for the Giants, Astros, and two other teams for 15 seasons. Jesus, brother of Felipe and Matty, and uncle of Moises.

Triple Play:

1. On July 20, 1992, he hit a pinch single off of Chuck McElroy for his first career hit. He scored the winning run for the Reds on Barry Larkin's sac fly, stayed in the game as the center fielder, and rapped a two-run double for insurance, as Cincinnati beat the Cubs 5-2.

2. In 18 pinch-hit at-bats in 1992, Cesar collected six hits (.333), with a double, a stolen base, and three runs scored.

3. After beginning the 1993 season two-for-24 (.083), Hernandez was sent to the minors, never to return. He finished his career in Mexico.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I also had Cesar's 1992 Topps rookie card, which he shared with fellow outfield prospects Steve Hosey, Dan Peltier, and Jeff McNeely. There's one to put in your long-term assets portfolio.

Bill James Said: "I'll say the same thing this year that I said last year: he's never going to hit."

On This Date in 1993: October 15. The film adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies, starring Jim Varney (of Ernest... fame) as family patriarch Jed Clampett, has its nationwide release. It is poorly reviewed, but is a moderate box office success nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#300 Cal Ripken

About the Front: This is a great shot of Cal Ripken lunging to his right to snare a ball. A similar pose was used for Cal's statue at Camden Yards, which was dedicated two years ago.

About the Back: Oh yeah, that consecutive-games thing. Thanks to the strike, Junior had to wait until September 6, 1995 to pass Lou Gehrig. He didn't take a day off until the end of the 1998 season, halting the streak at 2,632 games. I don't think anyone expected him to leave Gehrig 502 games behind.

Triple Play:

1. Let's take a deep breath and list some of Cal's accolades: 1982 AL Rookie of the Year, 1983 and 1991 AL MVP, 19-time All-Star (17-time starter), 1991 and 2001 All-Star Game MVP, two-time Gold Glover at shortstop, eight-time Silver Slugger. He was also a first-ballot Hall of Famer, garnering 98.5 percent of the vote.

2. His father, Cal Sr., was a catcher in the Baltimore farm system from 1957 through 1962. He then spent a dozen years as a minor league manager for the O's, and later coached on Earl Weaver's major league staff. He managed the Orioles after Weaver's second retirement in 1987, but was unceremoniously fired after the team lost its first six games in 1988. But the elder Ripken did have the chance to manage sons Cal and Billy in Baltimore. Billy was a second baseman who played for parts of 12 seasons, mostly with the Birds, batting .247/.294/.318 and playing sound defense. (Billy does not appear in this card set, having batted .189 in an injury-plagued 1992 season with the Orioles.)

3. Ripken heads a group that owns a few minor league baseball teams, most notably the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Orioles' New York-Penn League affiliate. The IronBirds play near Cal's childhood home, and their complex includes several little league fields that are modeled after MLB stadiums. The Cal Ripken World Series is held in Aberdeen every summer, bringing together youth teams from across the nation and the world.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Before I was even a baseball fan, I remember seeing milk commercials featuring Cal. There was one with an actor portraying a young Ripken in little league. As he comes up to bat, neighbors start warning one another to move their cars, because "that kid's up".

Bill James Said: "I know nobody asked me, but if anybody does, I am completely opposed to putting personal goals ahead of the good of the team." If James thought that the O's had a better chance of winning games with somebody other than Ripken at shortstop every day, he should have named the player. It's worth noting that Ripken moved from shortstop to third base in 1997, when the Orioles acquired Mike Bordick.

On This Date in 1993: October 14. Guy Malary, the justice minister of the Haitian transition government, is shot dead. Two security guards and a driver are also killed in the ambush.

Monday, October 13, 2014

#299 Bob Patterson

About the Front: Bob Patterson's plant leg is bent in an uncomfortable position. Pitching is dangerous.
About the Back: Do you know who else graduated from ECU? Vince McMahon.

Triple Play:

1. Patterson didn't spend a full season in the majors until 1990, when he was 31 years old, but averaged 58 games a season from that point through the end of his career in 1998.

2. He earned his first career win with a rare early-career start on September 8, 1986, limiting the Cardinals to a pair of runs on five hits in seven innings.

3. Here's an unsourced Wikipedia tidbit that I choose to believe: "During his career, Patterson was known as the Glove Doctor: many players, even from opposing teams, would ask Patterson to repair their broken gloves. Patterson would spend his time in the bullpen during games repairing and relacing gloves, sometimes incorporating coat hangers, tongue depressers, and extra leather."

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My only firm memory of Bob is that he pitched in Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game, giving up Rafael Palmeiro's second home run of the game and the Orioles' fourth overall.

Bill James Said: "Patterson mixes up an ordinary fastball and a pretty good curve, and also throws a screwball; he is regarded as an intelligent pitcher."

On This Date in 1993: October 13. Neither Greg Maddux (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 5 ER) nor Tommy Greene (7 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 3 ER) is especially sharp, but the Phillies clinch the NLCS in six games with a 6-3 win. Dave Hollins' two-run homer in the fifth inning and Mickey Morandini's two-run triple in the sixth put the game out of Atlanta's reach.

Friday, October 10, 2014

#298 Scott Livingstone

About the Front: The sleeves on Scott Livingstone's undershirt are an unusual length. They're much longer than his jersey sleeves, which looks kind of sloppy.

About the Back: Livingstone played 44 games (127 at-bats) for the Tigers in 1991, and in fact had a card in the 1992 Topps set. It seems like they were playing fast and loose with the "All-Star Rookie" designation.

Triple Play:

1. Scott made 246 pinch hit appearances in his big league career, with modest success: .277/.309/.375 with 16 doubles, two homers, and 36 RBI.

2. In 213 trips to the plate with the Padres in 1995, he hit .337/.380/.490 with a personal best of five home runs.

3. Livingstone opened the Stars Academy of Baseball in Southlake, TX in 2006.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Scott Livingstone, I presume?" I had heard the famous "Dr. Livingstone" quote somewhere or another, and linked it to this young ballplayer. Such are the connections our minds make.

Bill James Said: "The odd man out in the Detroit infield, where Gomez has taken over at shortstop, Fryman and Trammell both play third when they can't play short, and Tony Phillips is liable to play anywhere."

On This Date in 1993: October 10. The Blue Jays push the White Sox to the brink of elimination with a 5-3 win in the fifth game of the ALCS. Juan Guzman ran his career postseason record to 5-0 as the winning pitcher, and Robin Ventura's two-run, two-out homer in the ninth inning was too little, too late. Toronto chased White Sox starter and 1993 Cy Young winner Jack McDowell in the third inning, touching him up for three runs on five hits and three walks.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#297 Jeff Innis

About the Front: Hey, it's sidearmer Jeff Innis! Thanks to the horizontal layout, we can see a blurry first base umpire, an Astros coach, and half of the Mets first baseman (most likely Eddie Murray). Whoever the other Met is, it looks like he's doing some sort of complicated dance, probably meant to confuse the first base coach, thereby causing him to give poor advice to any potential runners. If you ask me, they'd be better off trying the hidden ball trick. But what do I know?

About the Back: If Topps just wanted to cherry-pick a highlight from the previous season, they could have gone with Innis' effort on July 10, 1992. He shut out the Astros for three innings, and earned the win when Eddie Murray's three-run double erased a 6-4 deficit in the ninth.

Triple Play:

1. Jeff earned a degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, and reportedly kept things loose in the Mets clubhouse by doing uncanny impressions of teammates, team employees, and the like.

2. He honed his craft in the minors under the tutelage of a couple of ex-big league pitchers: Lynchburg coach Jim Bibby altered Innis' delivery from submarine to a low sidearm angle. Jackson coach Glenn Abbott taught him to throw a sinker.

3. Since retiring, Innis has sold commercial insurance to businesses. He and his ex-wife Kelly have two children, Keenan and Shannon.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Besides his unconvential pitching style, Innis stood out to me as one of the few major leaguers whose last name began with an "i". In the mid-90s, it was just him, Pete Incaviglia, Mike Ignasiak, Garey Ingram, and Jason Isringhausen.

Bill James Said: "Here's a question for you: did ground-ball pitchers, as a group, have a poor year in 1993?" Innis did, as he posted a career-worst 4.11 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in what turned out to be his final season in the majors.

On This Date in 1993: October 9. Scotty McCreery, winner of the tenth season of American Idol, is born. You darned kids better get off of my lawn.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#296 Luis Rivera

About the Front: Luis Rivera is preparing to slap a tag on Chuck Knoblauch as the Twins' second baseman slides headfirst into second base at the Metrodome. My half-baked research skills pinpoint July 16, 1992 as the likely date that this photo was snapped. In the bottom of the first inning, Knoblauch hit a leadoff single and proceeded to get picked off by pitcher Joe Hesketh, who threw to first baseman Mo Vaughn, who threw to the shortstop Rivera, who made the putout at second. Minnesota won 7-6.

About the Back: Oof, they referenced his minor league stats. Double oof, A-ball stats. Triple oof, A-ball DEFENSIVE stats.

Triple Play:

1. Luis hit a grand total of 28 career home runs, and had two home runs each against a pair of pitchers: Jeff D. Robinson and Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.

2. According to the Baseball Reference Bullpen wiki, Rivera's nickname is "Papa". Whether that's meant in a fatherly way, or as the literal Spanish translation of "potato", they don't say.

3. He spent a decade with the Indians' organization as a minor league coach and manager and later a big league coach. Since 2010, he has been employed by the Blue Jays; currently he is their major league third base coach.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always identified Rivera more by his earlier cards, which showed him with big eyeglasses and a mustache.

Bill James Said: "He's lost his job but he's still here, waiting for the wind to blow him away."

On This Date in 1993: October 8. The Houston Astros sign 17-year-old Venezuelan Freddy Garcia as an amateur free agent. He would go on to win 156 games in 15 big league seasons, and would earn a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

#295 Dave Stieb

About the Front: Dave Stieb might have been past his pitching prime by the time this photo was taken, but his mullet game was second to none.

About the Back: Stieb is still the Jays' all-time leader in wins (175) and strikeouts (1,658), with Roy Halladay only reaching 148 W's and 1,495 K's before being traded to the Phillies.

Triple Play:

1. Stieb's 1990 no-hitter came after a number of painful near-misses. On September 24 and 30, 1988, he had two consecutive no-hit bids broken up by two-out singles in the ninth inning. Cleveland's Julio Franco and Baltimore's Jim Traber were the spoilers. He had to settle for finishing the season on a 31.2 inning scoreless streak. Overall, the righthander had five career one-hitters, and a record three potential no-nos that were lost with two outs in the ninth. (The third was a perfect game bid on August 4, 1989; it was undone by a double from Yankee Roberto Kelly.)

2. He led the league in hit batters five times in his career, suggesting that he wasn't afraid to pitch inside.

3. After four years away from baseball, Dave made a surprising comeback with Toronto at age 40 in 1998. He threw 50.1 innings in 19 games (three starts), compiling a 4.93 ERA (96 ERA+...yes, offense ruled the day back then).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I distinctly remember Stieb's 1988 Topps Big card from my childhood collection. Where else would you learn that one of the league's best pitchers was a guitar collector?

Bill James Said: "Has been plagued since 1990 by a herniated disk and sore elbow."

On This Date in 1993: October 7. Toni Morrison is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her novels include "Song of Solomon", "Beloved", and "Jazz".

Monday, October 6, 2014

#294 Brent Mayne

About the Front: It's always endearing when a player has his name hand-written on his glove. It gives the business of pro baseball a decidedly unprofessional touch.

About the Back: Brent Mayne was the 13th overall pick in the 1989 draft, and the third catcher chosen. The Braves took Tyler Houston with the second pick, and the Expos went with Charles Johnson in the ten-spot.

Triple Play:

1. His career-best season came in 1999 with the Giants, when Mayne hit .301/.389/.419 in 117 games.

2. On August 22, 2000, he was the winning pitcher in a 12-inning, 7-6 Rockies victory over Atlanta. He did not start at catcher that day because of a sore shoulder, but agreed to pitch the 12th inning when manager Buddy Bell ran out of able arms. Brent topped out at 83 mph but worked around a single, a wild pitch, and a walk to post a scoreless frame. The only other catcher to earn a win since 1900 was John Baker, who did so for the Cubs this past season.

3. Mayne self-published a book entitled The Art of Catching in 2008. He has also scouted for the Padres.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that Mayne bore a strong resemblance to his former teammate, pitcher Mike Boddicker.

Bill James Said: "He guards the basepaths like a Doberman; he'll decide he can't make a play at the plate, rush out and get the throw, then throw behind the runner."

On This Date in 1993: Toronto takes a 2-0 lead in the American League Championship Series, as Dave Stewart, Al Leiter, and Duane Ward combine to keep the White Sox off the scoreboard after a run-scoring wild pitch by Stewart in the first inning. The Jays win 3-1, scoring a pair of unearned runs on errors by Dan Pasqua and Joey Cora.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

#293 Rob Ducey

About the Front: Rob Ducey stares lovingly at his bat. I'm not here to judge people.
About the Back: As we all know, there's no better judge of a player's talent than his spring training batting performance. Just ask Jake Fox.

Triple Play:

1. Rob had an odd career trajectory, as he never reached 100 plate appearances in a season until 1997, when he joined the Mariners after totaling 51 homers in a two-year stint with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese League.

2. On July 26, 2000, the Phillies traded him to the Blue Jays. Two weeks later, Toronto sent him back to Philadelphia in exchange for second baseman Mickey Morandini.

3. Ducey coached for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and the Olympics in 2008. Late in the 2000s, he worked for the Jays as a scout for Asia and Europe. He has also coached in the Diamondbacks and Phillies organizations.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Another Chris Berman nickname - Rob "A/C" Ducey. Like most Bermanisms, it gets exponentially less funny the more times you hear it.

Bill James Said: "Toronto wanted to keep him, for some reason, but they didn't want to let him play."

On This Date in 1993: October 4. Russian military and security forces cleared the parliament building to bring an emphatic end to an uprising against President Boris Yeltsin.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

#292 Rey Sanchez

About the Front: "I got it!" I hope you do, Rey Sanchez. Also, that pencil mustache would make John Waters proud.

About the Back: No batting gloves! I wonder if he conditioned his hands using the Moises Alou method.

Triple Play:

1. Throughout his career, Sanchez hit for average but did little else with the bat (.272/.308/.334 in parts of 15 seasons, 69 OPS+). But it was his defense that kept him in the game; from 1999-2001, while starting at shortstop for the Royals, he was a three-time league leader in defensive WAR.

2. Rey played for a dysfunctional Mets team in 2003. In one infamous incident, the infielder left his spot on the bench midgame and allegedly received a haircut in the clubhouse.

3. On June 11, 2004, Sanchez led the Devil Rays to an 8-7 win over the Rockies with a walkoff inside-the-park home run. It was the last such hit until Angel Pagan performed the feat for the Giants in 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I had never encountered the name "Rey" before seeing this card. It can be short for Reynaldo or Reymond, but in Sanchez's case it's just plain Rey.

Bill James Said: "His range factor at short was the best of any major league player, his fielding percentage average." Translation: a number of his errors came on balls that his peers wouldn't have even reached.

On This Date in 1993: October 2. The top US single this week is "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

#291 Tommy Greene

About the Front: Tommy Greene is at least the third pitcher in this set who's been photographed with a tin of chewing tobacco stashed in his pants pocket.

About the Back: At 6'5", 225 lbs., Tommy was even bigger than rotation-mate Curt Schilling, who is listed on his 1993 Topps card at 6'4", 215.

Triple Play:

1. On May 23, 1991, Greene no-hit the Expos, 2-0. He struck out 10 batters but also walked seven, so I guess you could say that he was "effectively wild". It was part of a career-best 29.1 inning scoreless streak that stretched from May 7 to June 2.

2. He was a key to the Phillies' success in 1993, going 16-4 with a 3.42 ERA in an even 200 innings for the National League champs.

3. Tommy went on to serve as the first general manager for the Monroe Channelcats of the Southern Collegiate League, a summer league for college players. He also works in real estate.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: In 1993 and 1995, both Tommy Greene and Tyler Green (also a 6'5" righty and former #1 draft pick) pitched for the Phillies. It's like they were deliberately trying to confuse people!

Bill James Said: "It is too early to start talking about the Hall of Fame, but if this guy stays healthy he is going to win 200+ games." Ouch, there's a bold prediction couched with a huge "if". Tommy's shoulder, which sidelined him for much of 1992, also limited him to 19 major league games from 1994 through 1997, when he threw his last pitch.

On This Date in 1993: October 1. Frank Tanana starts the final game of his 21-year MLB career, but does not factor in the decision as the Yankees outslug the Tigers, 9-6. He tosses 6.1 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits and striking out five batters. Tanana departs with a 5-4 lead, but rookie reliever Bobby Munoz allows a pair of runs in the eighth inning. New York rallies for four runs in the bottom of the eighth, capped by a two-run double from Don Mattingly.