Friday, November 28, 2014

#330 Danny Tartabull

About the Front: You can see the seams on Danny Tartabull's pants where the pinstripes meet. It kind of messes up the visual, but what can you do?

About the Back: Tartabull used to torment the Orioles. For his career, he had a batting line of .301/.378/.548 in 96 games against Baltimore, with 22 home runs and 80 RBI. In 1991, he hit .523 (23 for 44) vs. the O's with five homers. When asked about his strategy for facing Danny in an upcoming series that year, Oriole manager Johnny Oates said:

“I’m going to find out what his room number is and call the hotel and say, ‘Cancel my wakeup call’. Then I’m going to call the cab companies and tell them not to have any taxis in front of the hotel; we’ll make him walk to the ball park. Then I’ll tell security not to let him in without an ID. Then I’ll tell Freddy (Tyler, the clubhouse man) to burn his uniform, and if he still makes it, I’ll walk him.”

Triple Play:

1. His father Jose was an outfielder for the Athletics and Red Sox from 1962 through 1970, batting .261/.303/.320 with just two home runs in 749 career games.

2. Danny was the 1985 Pacific Coast League MVP with the Calgary Cannons, Seattle's AAA affiliate. He batted .300/.385/.615 with 43 homers and 109 RBI in 125 games, becoming the first pro shortstop to hit 40 longballs in a season since Ernie Banks.

3. Recently, Tartabull has received unwanted attention by topping a list of deadbeat dads in Los Angeles. He owed over $276,000 in unpaid child support and failed to show up to serve a 180-day jail sentence in 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember how unusual it seemed to see Danny as an outfielder/second baseman with the Mariners on his 1987 Topps card.

Bill James Said: "Had almost the same stats as Gil Hodges in 1952 (32 homers, 102 RBI, .254, .500 slugging percentage." Tartabull's 1993 stats were 31 HR, 102 RBI, .250 AVG, .503 SLG.

On This Date in 1993: November 28. The British paper The Observer reports that the national government has an existing channel of communications with Northern Ireland's paramilitary organization, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, or IRA. The British government had previously denied this.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

#329 Mike Maddux

About the Front: The Padres were one of the early adopters in the MLB's 1990s pinstripe craze. Who actually thought that teams like the Angels and Astros needed pinstripes?

About the Back: Maddux was coming off of the best two-year stretch of his career, appearing in a total of 114 games for San Diego with a 2.42 ERA (153 ERA+).

Triple Play:

1. Mike is the only major leaguer to play college ball at the University of Texas at El Paso. The school dropped baseball in 1985, three years after he left.

2. He started 48 games in his career. His only shutout was a rain-shortened five-inning effort on April 29, 1989. The Reds reached him for only two hits, and the Phillies supported their starter with eight runs, highlighted by a Chris James grand slam.

3. Maddux got right into coaching after his pitching career ended in 2000, spending two-plus seasons with the AA Round Rock Express before a six-year stint as Brewers' pitching coach. Since 2009, he has been the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never thought that Mike much resembled his younger brother Greg. Must be the mustache.

Bill James Said: "Can you name the only other Cy Young Award winners whose brothers also pitched? There were two of them. Gaylord and Jim Perry each had a brother who won the award." Eh, the Niekros were robbed. Plus, if the award had existed in the 1930s, Dizzy and Daffy Dean would make the cut.

On This Date in 1993: November 26. Remember Bob Packwood, the Republican U.S. Senator from Oregon who was charged with sexual abuse and assault towards ten women?  Back on November 26, 1993, he was clinging to his job despite calls to resign. Ultimately, he stepped down in the fall of 1995.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#328 Scott Ruskin

About the Front: Scott Ruskin's eyes are cloaked in shadow from the bill of his cap. Very mysterious.

About the Back: Look at how closely most of Scott's stats align from 1991 to 1992: 4-4 followed by 4-3, 46 and 43 strikeouts, and in both seasons he allowed 31 total runs, 30 of which were earned. Of course, he pitched 10 fewer innings in 1992 than he had in the previous year. Whoops.

Triple Play:

1. Ruskin was drafted as a first baseman/outfielder and batted .297/.363/.483 in 144 games at Class A ball, but switched to pitching after hitting only .223/.278/.317 in 90 games at AA Harrisburg in 1988.

2. He doubled off of Dodgers reliever Ray Searage on July 22, 1990 for his first major league hit, then scored on a Jay Bell single.

3. Scott finally completed his bachelor's degree in computer and information science from the University of Florida in 2003.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Ruskin's name reminds me of Luskin's, a local electronics chain run by Jack and Joe Luskin that claimed to be "the cheapest guy in town"; they went out of business in 1996. Jack Luskin's daughter Jamie co-owned the Dodgers with ex-husband Frank McCourt, but that all ended pretty poorly, as I recall.

Bill James Said: "Ruskin pitched four times for Cincinnati in September, getting a total of three men out, and was released after the season." The Royals signed him in December of 1993, but he never pitched in pro ball again.

On This Date in 1993: November 25. The Miami Dolphins topped the Dallas Cowboys 16-14 in a rare snowy Thanksgiving Day game in Irving, TX. You might remember Leon Lett's gaffe.

Monday, November 24, 2014

#327 Tim Hulett

About the Front: Some day I will tell my children that I watched baseball before there were advertisements all over the dugouts.
About the Back: How many guys can say that they were managed in college by a Hall of Famer?

Triple Play:

1. Fun with small sample sizes! In 39 plate appearances with runners in scoring position during the 1992 season, Tim batted .417/.462/.639.

2. His son Tim Jr., also known as "Tug", played for the Mariners in 2008 and the Royals in 2009, totaling 45 games and batting .194/.270/.254.

3. Hulett has coached the Rangers' low-A level Spokane Indians club for the past eight seasons. He also coaches at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, LA, and has led the Evangel Eagles to five high school state titles.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: On July 22, 1992, Hulett's four sons were walking back to their Cockeysville, MD home from a playground when six-year-old Sam darted into the path of a car and was struck. He died from his injuries the next day. It was a sad and prominent news story in this area.

Bill James Said: "He got a chance to play at third base when Gomez was hurt (and not playing well), and hit .300 (with a secondary average of .173)." In other words, Tim hit singles and very little else.

On This Date in 1993: November 24. Mrs. Doubtfire, the gender-bending Robin Williams comedy, debuts in theatres.

Friday, November 21, 2014

#326 Gary Varsho

About the Front: You normally don't see a player down in a crouch in the on-deck circle, bat knob resting against his shoulder. I'll give Gary Varsho the benefit of the doubt and assume that there's a pitching change or some other break in the action. I also can't identify the blurry teammates behind him. Both Don Slaught and Mike LaValliere had great bushy mustaches, so the catcher could be either one of them.

About the Back: Varsho is an example of the rare bats-left, throws-right player.

Triple Play:

1. In 1985 and 1986, Gary became the first back-to-back stolen base champion in the AA Eastern League, as he swiped a total of 85 bags in 104 tries for the Pittsfield Cubs.

2. He made 352 pinch hit appearances in eight big league seasons, with a .243/.296/.355 line and four home runs in those situations.

3. Varsho is currently an advance scout for the Angels. He was previously a minor league manager in the Seattle and Philadelphia farm systems, and coached in the majors for the Phillies and Pirates.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never noticed before, but he appears incredibly close to the dugout in the front photo.

Bill James Said: "He's an excellent baserunner and a good outfielder, although he lacks a strong arm."

On This Date in 1993: November 21. Actor and director Bill Bixby, best known for his portrayal of Dr. David Banner on TV's The Incredible Hulk, passes away at age 59 after battling prostate cancer.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#325 Bill Gullickson

About the Front: Bill Gullickson's expression says, "Cecil Fielder just let a ground ball scoot through his legs, and I need to turn around and stare off into space before my eyes roll out of my head."

About the Back: Gullickson led the Giants in wins in 1988, with a sharp 3.10 ERA in 203.1 innings. He made only 15 starts in 1989, dropping to 7-5 with a 3.65 ERA. His manager with Yomiuri in 1988 was Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh.

Triple Play:

1. He was drafted second overall in 1977, right behind top pick Harold Baines. (We'll visit with Harold later.)

2. On September 10, 1980, Bill set a big league rookie record by striking out 18 Cubs in a four-hit, two-run complete game victory. He allowed only two walks, and his record stood until Kerry Wood whiffed 20 Astros in 1998.

3. Gullickson and his wife Sandy have six children, all of whom became involved in athletics. Most notably, daughter Carly is a former professional tennis player. She was active from 2003-2013, peaking with a #123 world ranking in singles and #52 in doubles. Carly and partner Travis Parrott were mixed doubles champions at the 2009 US Open.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Another card from my modest early childhood (pre-fandom) collection that still sticks with me years later is Bill's 1988 Topps card, featuring a tight closeup on his grimacing face, cloaked in shadow from the underbill of his Yankees cap.

Bill James Said: "Opened the season on the disabled list following off-season surgery to both his knee and his shoulder, and struggled most of the year." Gullickson had the worst season yet in his career, with a run support-inflated 13-9 record offset by his 5.37 ERA and 28 homers allowed in 159.1 innings. The 1994 season (4-5, 5.93 ERA, 24 HR in 115.1 IP) would be his last.

On This Date in 1993: November 20. LPGA golfer Heather Farr dies at age 28 after a four-year battle with breast cancer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#324 Willie Randolph

About the Front: This is the final Topps card of Willie Randolph's long career, as he hung up his spikes after spending his age-37 season with the Mets. He had grown up rooting for the Mets, and took #12 as a nod to Ken Boswell, the team's former second baseman.

About the Back: Topps didn't include on-base percentage on its card backs in 1993, so you can't see that Willie reached base at a .373 clip for his career.

Triple Play:

1. He was a six-time All-Star and was widely regarded as a strong defensive second baseman. However, Lou Whitaker and Frank White monopolized the American League's Gold Glove at the keystone during Randolph's prime.

2. Willie's younger brother Terry played defensive back for the Green Bay Packers in 1977.

3. He spent a decade coaching for the Yankees before returning to the Mets as manager. Though he led the team to a .554 winning percentage in three-plus seasons, including a trip to the NLCS in 2006, he was fired 69 games into the 2008 season. Randolph then coached for the Brewers and Orioles through 2011.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never would have guessed back then that I would some day complete the 1975 Topps set, which features Willie's rookie card.

Bill James Said: No he didn't, since as I mentioned, Randolph retired after the 1992 season.

On This Date in 1993: November 19. Joey Gallo is born. The Rangers will draft him with a first-round compensation pick in June 2012, and he will go on to hit 104 home runs in his first 296 minor league games while striking out 429 times. Pete Incaviglia, eat your heart out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#323 Mike Greenwell

About the Front: That's some unusual wristband placement for Mike Greenwell. Do you think his forearms were cold?

About the Back: The use of all-caps for "TOPPS" seems like a bit much. As you can see, injuries abbreviated Greenwell's 1992 season, making it by far the worst of his career.

Triple Play:

1. His first big league hit was a game-winning two-run homer off of Toronto's John Cerutti in the top of the 13th inning on September 25, 1985.

2. Mike set a record on September 2, 1996, driving in all nine of Boston's runs in a 9-8 win over Seattle. He went 4-for-5 with a double, a two-run homer, and a grand slam, wrapping things up with a tiebreaking single in the top of the tenth.

3. Greenwell has had a colorful life outside of baseball. He owns an amusement park in Cape Coral, FL, and a fruit and vegetable farm in Alva, FL. He also got into stock car racing, but gave it up in 2010.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I tended to lose track of players once they headed to Japan. In Mike's case, he signed a lucrative contract with the Hanshin Tigers in 1997, but played only seven games before breaking his foot on a foul tip and retiring.

Bill James Said: "Like his boyhood hero, George Brett, he often starts slowly, and drives his batting average upward."

On This Date in 1993: November 18. Puerto Rico residents vote by a narrow margin to maintain Commonwealth status, rejecting statehood.

Monday, November 17, 2014

#322 Pat Borders

About the Front: I assume this photo was snapped in the dugout, but it looks like Pat Borders could just as easily be sitting at a train station or in the waiting room of a doctor's office. I don't know why he would do that in full uniform, but maybe he's hoping for preferential treatment.

About the Back: Borders slugged .497 and hit .286 in 1990? That's shocking to me. He had a 120 OPS+ that year; his career mark was 77.

Triple Play:

1. Pat seemed to save his best for the postseason, compiling a career batting line of .315/.339/.414 in 32 career playoff and World Series games. He was named the 1992 World Series MVP after reaching base in 11 of 22 trips to the plate, doubling three times, and hitting a solo homer off of Tom Glavine in Toronto's 2-1 Game Four victory.

2. Though he was not a regular starter after the 1994 season, Borders hung around for parts of 17 big league years. In his final MLB game on July 27, 2005, the 42-year-old combined with Seattle starting pitcher Jamie Moyer (also 42) to comprise the oldest starting battery in major league history.

3. He spent all of the 2000 season with Tampa Bay's AAA Durham team, which afforded him the opportunity to represent Team USA in the Summer Olympics in Sydney. The veteran catcher was on the gold-medal-winning baseball team, making him one of four players to earn both a World Series ring and a gold medal (the others being fellow American Doug Mientkiewicz and Cubans Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: There is plenty of photographic evidence that says that I wasn't a fashion-savvy kid, but even I thought that Borders' dirt-'stache and mullet was a bad look.

Bill James Said: "His .285 on-base percentage was the lowest of any regular in '93, and is reflected in his runs scored total." Pat scored a whopping 38 runs in 520 plate appearances.

On This Date in 1993: November 17. The Mets sign free agent outfielder John Cangelosi. He stole 50 bases as a rookie with the 1986 White Sox, but was out of the major leagues entirely in 1991 and 1993. He will bat .252/.371/.288 in 132 plate appearances for New York in 1994 before reviving his career with a two-year stint as a reserve in Houston (.287/.413/.367, 38-for-52 in steals).

Friday, November 14, 2014

#321 Rusty Meacham

About the Front: I've been staring at photos of pitching grips for 10 minutes, and I can't tell whether Rusty Meacham is throwing a two-seam fastball or a curveball. I feel like Jim Palmer's famous quote about Earl Weaver applies to me - the only thing I know about pitching is that I couldn't hit it.

About the Back: Rusty vultured 10 wins out of the Kansas City bullpen in 1992; starter Kevin Appier (15-8) was the only other double-digit winner on a 90-loss Royals team.

Triple Play:

1. He had a 27-inning streak from April 21 through June 8, 1992 in which he did not allow an earned run, spanning 19 appearances.

2. According to his Baseball-Reference Bullpen wiki page, which appears to have been written by one of Meacham's fans, he used to turn the bullpen hose on appreciative fans on hot summer days, a la Dan Quisenberry.

3. Rusty coached at Class A Vermont in the Nationals organization in 2007 and 2008. He contributed to the instructional book The Physics of Pitching, which was published in 2011.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The name "Rusty" will always make me think of the National Lampoon's Vacation movies.

Bill James Said: "After a wonderful 1992 season he developed a tender elbow, and was never able to pitch effectively."

On This Date in 1993: November 14. Sanzo Nosaka, one of the founders of the Japanese Communist Party, dies in his home at the tender age of 101.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#320 Tim Fortugno

About the Front: Tim Fortugno has something of an Alan Rickman look to him. That's my two cents anyway.

About the Back: I'm not sure how a 30-year-old rookie wound up with a card number ending in a zero. Maybe he was a last-minute replacement.

Triple Play:

1. On July 25, 1992, Fortugno tossed a three-hit, 12-strikeout shutout against the Tigers. He fanned each of the Tigers' 3-4-5 hitters (Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder, and Mickey Tettleton) three times. This effort was more notable as it came in his second career big league appearance, earning him his first win.

2. He gave up a single to George Brett on September 30, 1992. It was the Royal great's 3,000th career hit. The southpaw subsequently picked Brett off of first base.

3. After hanging up his spikes, Tim became a scout for the Rangers. Among others, he signed Scott Feldman, C. J. Wilson, and John Mayberry Jr.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought this guy looked much older than 30.

Bill James Said: Fortugno spent all of 1993 with the Expos' AAA Ottawa team, so James didn't include him in his book. He did resurface in the majors with the Reds in 1994 and the White Sox in 1995, though.

On This Date in 1993: November 13. In a matchup of the two top-ranked college football teams in the U.S., #2 Notre Dame squeaks by #1 Florida State, 31-24. Both teams had been 9-0 entering the showdown in South Bend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#319 Paul Assenmacher

About the Front: Paul Assenmacher is 6'3", but he looks even taller here. It must be the horizontal photo and the pinstripes.

About the Back: I wonder if the children of ballplayers get a thrill out of being name-checked on the backs of cards?

Triple Play:

1. On August 22, 1989, Paul tied a major league record by striking out four batters in an inning. The quartet of opposing Cardinals was Terry Pendleton, Milt Thompson, Tony Pena (reached on a wild pitch), and pitcher Ted Power (swung through a two-strike bunt attempt).

2. Assenmacher tied with Mike Jackson for the most games pitched in the 1990s, totaling 644.

3. He has served as the pitching coach at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta for eight years.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It may be pronounced "OSS-en-mock-er", but that didn't stop my younger self from snickering.

Bill James Said: "People don't take him seriously because he's ugly, looks sloppy on the mound and doesn't throw 90, but he's never been easy to hit."

On This Date in 1993: November 12. H. R. Haldeman, Richard Nixon's former White House Chief of Staff and a key member of the Watergate cover-up, dies of abdominal cancer at age 67.

Monday, November 10, 2014

#318 Willie Wilson

About the Front: It's unusual to see Willie Wilson without a Royals uniform and a beard.

About the Back: I just spotted another error here. Wilson's 83 steals led the American League in 1979, and his total of 79 swipes was second behind Rickey Henderson's 100 in 1980.

Triple Play:

1. How fast was Willie? Of his 41 career home runs, 13 were inside-the-park jobs. In fact, all 13 came at the beginning of his career as part of his first 16 round-trippers.

2. After the 1983 season, Wilson and Royals teammates Willie Aikens, Vida Blue, and Jerry Martin all pled guilty to misdemeanor drug charges for attempting to purchase cocaine. All four served an 81-day jail sentence in Fort Worth, TX.

3. He retired after the Cubs released him in May 1994. His 668 career stolen bases are 12th all-time.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: His birth name is actually Willie. It's like his parents just didn't bother.

Bill James Said: "He is probably through in Chicago, where they have young outfielders who are better than he is, and I wouldn't bet on him to be on a roster at the end of spring training."

On This Date in 1993: November 10. Carlito's Way, a crime drama starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn, has its theatrical release.

Friday, November 7, 2014

#317 Kyle Abbott

About the Front: This is indeed the final Topps card of then-25-year-old Kyle Abbott's career. He spent all of 1993 at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, then a year in Japan, and back to the MLB in 1995 and 1996 for a total of 21 games (32.1 IP, 5.18 ERA) to close things out.

About the Back: That grisly 1-14 record for the 1992 Phillies includes an 0-11 start in his first 13 appearances. His offense didn't do him any favors, either, with an average run support of 3.23 runs per game. They tried to make up for it in his lone win, a 14-3 romp over the Dodgers on July 18. Naturally, it wasn't even a great outing for Abbott, who took a shutout into the sixth inning before tiring and allowing a pair of homers and three runs total to get the hook.

Triple Play:

1. Not more than two years after drafting him ninth overall, the Angels traded Kyle and Ruben Amaro Jr. to the Phillies for former All-Star outfielder Von Hayes, who played 94 games in 1992 with a .225/.305/.326 batting line (78 OPS+) before retiring.

2. His father Larry pitched in the minors from 1964 through 1970, spending all seven years in the Athletics' chain. He topped out at AA Birmingham and retired with a 40-40 record and a 3.09 ERA.

3. There have been 24 players in MLB history to go by "Kyle", and Abbott was the first. The caveat, of course, is that his birth name was Lawrence Kyle. Still, he blazed a trail for the 16 Kyles who are active major leaguers today.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't think I ever picked up on the fact that the Angels used consecutive first-round draft picks on lefthanded college pitchers named Abbott - Jim in 1988 and Kyle in 1989.

Bill James Said: "He pitched all right for Scranton in '93, and might have earned a major league callup had the Phillies not been busy winning their division." Kyle was 12-10 with a 3.95 ERA for the Red Barons.

On This Date in 1993: November 7. A joint congressional resolution, introduced back on October 21, designates the week beginning on November 7, 1993 as National Women Veterans Recognition Week. It will be signed into law by President Clinton on November 17.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

#316 Dave Nilsson

About the Front: I like it when you can see the hitter tracking the ball with his eyes. Whether it's a pop-up or a home run, only Dave Nilsson knows.

About the Back: Baseball has really flourished in the Land Down Under over the past few decades. The Aussie roll call in the major leagues is up to 28 total; in 1993, reliever Graeme Lloyd debuted with the Brewers and he and Nilsson comprised the first-ever Australian battery in MLB.

Triple Play:

1. He hit the first home run at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 11, 1994 - a fifth-inning solo shot against Kenny Rogers.

2. Nilsson became the first Australian-born All-Star in 1999, when he hit .309/.400/.554 (141 OPS+) in 115 games with a career-high 21 home runs. He then retired from MLB at age 29, so that he might represent his native country in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He batted .565 and slugged .957 for the Aussies, who won only two out of seven games. In the 2004 Olympics, he posted an .885 OPS in eight games and threw out five of eight would-be base stealers, helping his country to a silver medal.

3. Throughout the 1990s Nilsson played winter ball in the Australian Baseball League, then bought the financially troubled league and replaced it with the International Baseball League of Australia. That league folded in 2002, but a new ABL launched in 2009 with sponsorship from MLB. Dave was the Brisbane Bandits' manager for their inaugural season. He had the highest career batting average in the original ABL, a .356 mark.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Nilsson being something of a novelty because of his nationality. Not much has changed in that regard - current Rays reliever Grant Balfour is often identified first by his birth country.

Bill James Said: "He threw out only 23% of opposing base stealers, poorest in the American League, and there were other problems." Bill doesn't elaborate, but I'll assume that Dave's nine errors and seven passed balls in 91 games caught, along with the 23 wild pitches that whizzed by on his watch, were cause for concern as well.

On This Date in 1993: November 6. Ed Sadowski, a light-hitting backup catcher for the Red Sox, Angels, and Braves in the 1960s, passes away due to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) at age 62.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#315 Edgar Martinez

About the Front: Thank the heavens that Edgar Martinez's bat is not literally on fire, as is the case in the photo atop this article about the former Seattle great.

About the Back: As you can see, the moribund Mariners didn't slot Edgar into the starting lineup until after his 27th birthday, and he won his first career batting title two years later. Imagine what he could've done if he hadn't been taking repeated tours of AAA in his mid-20s.

Triple Play:

1. Martinez was a two-time AL batting champ, with his other top season coming in 1995. That year, he led the loop with 121 runs scored, 52 doubles, a .356 average, a .479 on-base percentage, and a 185 OPS+. He played all 145 games for Seattle in the strike-shortened season, also setting career highs with 29 doubles, 113 RBI, and a .628 slugging percentage. All that, and he still finished third in MVP voting behind dubious winner Mo Vaughn (.300/.388/.575, 39 HR, 126 RBI) and runner-up Albert Belle (.317/.401/.690, 52 2B, 50 HR, 126 RBI).

2. Edgar played through 2004, retiring as a career-long Mariner at age 41. He batted .312/.418/.515 (147 OPS+) for his career, with 514 doubles, 309 home runs, and 1,261 RBI. His on-base percentage is 20th-highest all-time; four of the players in front of him played the bulk of their games in the 19th Century, and a fifth (Ferris Fain) played barely half as many games as Martinez. He was a seven-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger, and his feats as a designated hitter were so prodigious that MLB created a namesake award after his retirement to honor the best DH in the American League each year. However, the pinheads in the BBWAA have let him languish on the Hall of Fame ballot for five years and counting, penalizing him for the dual crimes of not playing a defensive position and daring to play during the past few decades, when big, bad, scary steroids ruined the sanctity of baseball. Ugh.

3. He is a noted humanitarian and an entrepreneur, with his own namesake endowment for muscular dystrophy research at the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. In June 2007, he was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, ID, which I have just learned exists. In 2005, he was a cofounder of Plaza Bank, the state of Washington's first hispanic financial institution. In 2013, he collaborated with the Mariners and local chefs and bartenders on Edgar's Cantina, a bar and grill inside of Safeco Field.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was thrilled when Martinez roped "The Double", a two-run walkoff hit off of New York's Jack McDowell in the 11th inning of the decisive Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS. It has become possibly the most memorable scene in Seattle's team history, securing a series win in the club's first-ever trip to the postseason. At the time, I was just a big Ken Griffey, Jr. fan who hadn't yet grown to strongly dislike the Yankees. But in hindsight, I enjoy that moment all the more.

Bill James Said: "Martinez, one of the best hitters in baseball, severely pulled his hamstring in April, tried to come back too quickly, and then a) didn't hit, and b) re-injured the hamstring." If you look back at Edgar's career stats, the 42 games played and .237 average in 1993 stick out like a sore, um, hamstring. Yet he still drew enough walks (28 in 165 PA) to give him a .366 OBP and a perfectly average 100 OPS+. I feel like most fans still don't grasp just how good a hitter he was.

On This Date in 1993: November 5. The back-to-back World Champion Blue Jays release Jack Morris. After going 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA in 240.2 innings in his Toronto debut in 1992, the longtime Tigers ace plunged to 7-12 with a 6.19 ERA in a rocky 1993 campaign. He will sign with the Indians for 1994, but find himself out of work again that August after putting up a 5.60 ERA in 23 starts in Cleveland.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

#314 Mark Gardner

About the Front: Astroturf. So abnormally bright green. There's one late-20th-century blight that is on the wane in today's game.

About the Back: Mark's amateur summer baseball team was the Anchorage Glacier Pilots. Other Anchorage alumni include Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeff Francis, current Toronto skipper John Gibbons, Mark McGwire, and Bobby Thigpen.

Triple Play:

1. On July 26, 1991, he became the first pitcher to ever hold the Dodgers hitless through nine innings in Dodger Stadium. Unfortunately, his Montreal teammates could not solve Orel Hershiser, Kevin Gross, and Jay Howell. Gardner lost the no-no, the shutout, and the game in the bottom of the tenth when he allowed consecutive ground-ball singles to Lenny Harris and Eddie Murray; he was pulled in favor of Jeff Fassero, who yielded a walk-off single to Darryl Strawberry. Two days later, fellow Expos starter Dennis Martinez tossed a perfect game at Los Angeles. Showoff.

2. Mark was a mainstay on the Giants' pitching staff for the last six years of his career (1996-2001), despite a cumulative ERA of 4.71 and an ERA+ of 88 during that span. In 2000, the 38-year-old had by far his best effort in San Francisco, going 11-7 with a 4.05 ERA (106 ERA+) in 20 starts and 10 relief appearances.

3. He has been the Giants' bullpen coach since 2003.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Gardner's 1990 Topps "Future Stars" card was an early part of my collection. I always thought that he had quite a prominent mustache for a young player.

Bill James Said: "He couldn't put two good outings together, and the bad ones got worse until a strained shoulder put him on the DL in early July."

On This Date in 1993: November 4. Indians pitcher Cliff Young is killed in an auto accident in Willis, TX. The 29-year-old is the third Cleveland pitcher to die in a mishap in 1993, after Steve Olin and Tim Crews had a fatal boating accident back in spring training.

Monday, November 3, 2014

#313 Greg Hibbard

About the Front: Sometimes, a man just has to take notice of his surroundings, let out a deep breath, and exclaim, "Ahh! The dugout. Home sweet home."

About the Back: Greg Hibbard's four-hitter against the Royals was also his only career shutout, as it so happened.

Triple Play:

1. Given the depth of the White Sox' pitching staff, featuring Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, and Wilson Alvarez, the team left Hibbard unprotected in the November 1992 expansion draft. The Marlins took him with their 12th pick and flipped him to the Cubs for infielders Alex Arias and Gary Scott. Now pitching uptown, the lefty went 15-11 with a 3.96 ERA for the Cubs in 1993. No southpaw since Ken Holtzman in 1970 had notched a 15-win season for the Cubbies.

2. Greg signed a three-year, $6.75 million contract with the Mariners but was only able to provide 80.2 ugly innings in 1994 (1-5, 6.69 ERA, 1.81 WHIP) as a return on the team's investment. Shoulder troubles cost him part of 1994, all of 1995 and 1996, and ultimately his career. He retired in the spring of 1997, never having regained his former strength.

3. He has been a minor league coach ever since, spending the past dozen years in the Cleveland Indians organization.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This photo might look cheesy now, but I always liked a card that depicted a player enjoying himself, staged or not. There weren't a lot of dugout shots in 1993 Topps, anyhow, and variety is the spice of life.

Bill James Said: "Tommy John-type pitchers have four defining characteristics: they're lefthanded, have excellent control, get 70% ground balls, and cut off the running game." So if only Hibbard had blown out his elbow instead of his shoulder, he may have hung around for another decade or two.

On This Date in 1993: November 3. Alan Trammell re-ups with the Tigers for another year. The six-time All-Star shortstop will be 36 on Opening Day, 1994, and will hit .267/.307/.414 in just 76 games in the coming season.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#312 Geronimo Pena

About the Front: I'm thinking Shea Stadium. Can anyone verify?

About the Back: Geronimo Pena finished his career with 14 three-hit games, as well as one four-hit game - June 20, 1992, when he went 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a pair of runs in a 6-1 St. Louis victory over the Mets.

Triple Play:

1. On August 12, 1991, Pena made baseball history after entering a Cardinals-Pirates contest as a pinch runner for Jose Oquendo in the top of the eighth inning. He stole second base and scored the tying run on Gerald Perry's single, then stayed in the game at second base and delivered a go-ahead solo home run in the 11th. Unfortunately for St. Louis, Barry Bonds spoiled Pena's unique heroics with a walkoff two-run homer in the bottom of that inning.

2. Geronimo reached base in each of his first eight plate appearances in 1993, collecting three walks, four singles, and a home run.

3. Injuries helped shorten his career, as he topped 100 games only once and was out of baseball after the 1996 season.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm not sure how long it took me to learn that Pena's first name wasn't pronounced like the Apache leader, but instead with an 'h' sound at the beginning.

Bill James Said: (Of the Cardinals' second-base battle between Luis Alicea and Geronimo...) "The real problem isn't that they can't play; the problem is that Torre can't decide." Just another reminder that Joe Torre wasn't highly regarded as a manager until he started winning World Series in the Bronx.

On This Date in 1993: November 2. Duets, an album featuring a 77-year-old Frank Sinatra collaborating with other prominent musicians, is released. Sinatra did not actually perform alongside his partners, instead recording his parts in advance and having the guests tailor their pieces to his recorded vocals.