Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#493 Jeff Nelson

About the Front: Jeff Nelson switched from #40 to #43 in 1993, and wore the latter number for the duration of his 15-year career.

About the Back: 66 games pitched might seem like a lot for a rookie, but Nelson topped that total six times in subsequent seasons, with a high of 77 appearances in 1997.

Triple Play:

1. Jeff spent one-third of an inning in left field for the Mariners in Fenway Park on July 15, 1993. After coming on to pitch in the bottom of the eighth and retiring the first two batters, the righty gave up a single to Billy Hatcher. With Seattle clinging to a 3-2 lead and lefty batter Mike Greenwell due up, manager Lou Piniella summoned southpaw Dennis Powell to pitch. He didn't want to burn Nelson just yet, so he double-switched: Powell replaced left fielder Greg Litton, and Nelson "replaced" designated hitter Marc Newfield, who'd just made the last out in the top of the inning. Greenwell popped out to second, and Jeff returned to the mound in the ninth. He lost his shot at an unusual save on a two-out error by Tino Martinez, after which Mike Hampton took to the mound to retire Scott Cooper. Clear as mud?

2. He appeared in 16 World Series games in five Fall Classics with the Yankees, earning one win while striking out 18 batters in 16 innings with a 1.69 ERA.

3. Nelson underwent elbow surgery in 2002, and tried to sell bone chips that had been removed in the procedure on eBay; he planned to donate the proceeds to Bear Creek School (which his daughters attended) and to the Curtis Williams Foundation. Bidding reached $23,600 before eBay removed the listing. You can't sell body parts on eBay. A local radio station later conducted the auction, and matched the winning bid of $1,000, with all of the money going to the Curtis Williams Foundation. Williams was a former University of Washington football player who was paralyzed from the neck down in an on-field collision in 2000; he died two years later.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Hey, a Baltimore guy! He attended Catonsville High School and Catonsville Community College, both of which are a few miles away from where I work now (in 2015).

Bill James Said: "He's a ground ball pitcher, and Piniella uses him to try to get a double play, so he always comes in with men on base."

On This Date in 1993: October 14. The number one song in the U.S. is "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey. Ugh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#492 Tom Lampkin

About the Front: Using the scouting tools scale of 20-80, Tom Lampkin's curly mullet is a solid 95.
About the Back: The scout who signed Lampkin for the Indians was Dave Roberts, another Oregon product who was a third baseman, second baseman, and catcher for the Padres and three other teams (1972-1982).

Triple Play:

1. While splitting time with the three-headed catching monster of Rick Wilkins, Kirt Manwaring, and Steve Decker for the 1996 Giants, Tom threw out 17 of 33 would-be base stealers, a league-best 52% rate.

2. With two outs in the bottom of the 15th inning on June 19, 1996, he hit a walk-off three-run homer against Marlins reliever Terry Mathews.

3. Lampkin had a career-high 327 plate appearances in 2002...when he was 38 years old and playing his final season back in San Diego. It may not surprise you to learn that this Padres club lost 96 games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember owning Tom's 1990 Topps card way back when, but I didn't realize at the time that he had played only in AAA in 1989. It was an odd choice to include him in that set.

Bill James Said: "Like Joe Kmak, he runs well for a catcher, and thus fits in with Phil Garner's plan to see how many bases he can steal with a last-place team (the answer, as it turned out, was 138)." Shots fired at the Milwaukee Brewers, who acquired Lampkin from the Padres in the spring of 1993.

On This Date in 1993: October 13. The White Sox release George Bell, effectively ending the career of the three-time All-Star and 1987 American League MVP.

Friday, October 9, 2015

#491 Shawn Hare

About the Front: I don't trust that orange Gatorade cooler lurking in the background. He's up to something...
About the Back: Pitchers Kevin Tapani and Curt Young are probably the most notable CMU Chippewas in recent years. Current Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter also attended Central Michigan, as did former Yankee Tom Tresh, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1962.

Triple Play:

1. On May 31,1994, Hare had the first multi-hit game of his big league career, going 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, and a run scored in the Mets' 3-2 loss to the Rockies.

2. His career ended with a fruitless 29-game stint in South Korea with the Haitai Tigers in 1998, batting just .206 with no home runs and three RBI.

3. Shawn now works as a financial advisor for Wells Fargo out in Woodland Hills, CA.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Do you think Shawn Hare's favorite Hall of Famer is Rabbit Maranville? Huh? Eh?

Bill James Said: Bill didn't evaluate Shawn prior to the 1994 season, as the outfielder spent all of 1993 at AAA Toledo, batting .264/.313/.466 with 20 home runs and 76 RBI.

On This Date in 1993: October 9. The White Sox battle back to tie up the ALCS at two games apiece with a 7-4 win in Toronto. Lance Johnson tripled and homered, and Frank Thomas went deep as well. The Chicago bullpen held the Blue Jays to a single run in 6.2 innings after rookie starter Jason Bere got the early hook.

Monday, October 5, 2015

#490 Omar Olivares

About the Front: The red cleats are a sharp look.
About the Back: Topps diplomatically chooses not to mention Ed Olivares' career batting line of .143/.139/.143 in 36 plate appearances. He did bat .317/.420/.602 with 35 home runs and 125 RBI for class B Winston-Salem in 1960, earning Carolina League MVP honors.

Triple Play:

1. Olivares was no slouch with the bat, with a career average of .240, five home runs, and 29 RBI in 263 plate appearances.

2. Both of his complete-game shutouts came in 1997 with the Tigers: he scattered three hits and five walks against the Indians on May 10 and followed with a four-hit, two-walk effort vs. the Angels on May 26.

3. Splitting the 1999 season between the Angels and A's, Omar had career highs with 32 starts and a 15-11 record. His 4.16 ERA translated to a solid 114 ERA+.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: In 1993, Omar wore "00" on his jersey to represent his initials. I thought that was amazing.

Bill James Said: "He was bothered by a strained groin muscle, and also pissed off his manager by saying something to the media about his arm being tired after he had pitched several days in a row." I'm stunned by the suggestion that Joe Torre would overwork a reliever. In checking Olivares' game log, he pitched eight times in a ten-day span, July 19-28. In the last of those games, he coughed up three runs on four hits while getting a single out as the Cards were crushed by the Phillies, 14-6.

On This Date in 1993: October 5. The Blue Jays kick off the ALCS with a 7-3 win over the White Sox in Chicago. Pale Hose ace Jack McDowell is pounded for 13 hits in 6.2 innings, including a two-run homer by Paul Molitor, one of the veteran's four base knocks on the evening.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

#489 Scott Fredrickson

About the Front: Isn't that the guy who plays Cam on Modern Family?
About the Back: Kevin Towers should ring a bell. He climbed the ranks to serve as the Padres' GM (1995-2009) before holding the same job in Arizona (2010-2014).

Triple Play:

1. Scott made his big league debut on April 29, 1993 with two perfect innings of relief against the Cardinals.

2. Fredrickson's 1993 season didn't turn out as well it began. The Rockies shipped him out after he racked up a 6.21 ERA in 29 innings of relief; that turned out to be his only experience in the big leagues.

3. He posted an 11-3 record with a 3.45 ERA at AAA Colorado Springs in 1995, but it went downhill from there. After ERAs over 6.00 in the minors in 1996 and 1997, he called it a career.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I probably suspected at the time that a number of these Rockies and Marlins in the 1993 Topps set wouldn't ever be seen in a Topps base set again. I should put together a total count at the end of this all.

Bill James Said: "Another pitcher from the University of Texas, like Clemens, Swindell, etc. Well, not too much like them..."

On This Date in 1993: October 4. American League owners unanimously approve the sale of the Baltimore Orioles to attorney Peter Angelos and his minority partners. And so it begins...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#488 Manuel Lee

About the Front: Pop quiz - Is Manuel Lee a) Whistling to get a teammate's attention, b) Inhaling after taking a long drag on a Marlboro, or c) Realizing that a prankster replaced his ChapStick with Krazy Glue?

About the Back: That's quite an economical abbreviation of Manuel's hometown of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Triple Play:

1. Lee was only 19 when he made his big league debut as a pinch runner on April 10, 1985 after joining the Blue Jays as a Rule 5 draft pick.

2. He set a dubious record in 1991, striking out the most times (107) without hitting a single home run.

3. Manuel had a perfect 1.000 batting average in 1995, his final major league season. Starting at second base for the Cardinals on April 26, 1995, he singled off of Curt Schilling in the third inning and scored on a Scott Cooper hit. He left the game an inning later with an injury that required a disabled list stint. He was released by St. Louis once healthy, and retired shortly thereafter.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I wonder if Manuel had an identity crisis. All of his cards prior to 1992 dub him "Manny", but starting in '92, most refer to him by his birth name.

Bill James Said: "Signed as a free agent a year ago, he was expected to solve the Texas shortstop problem, but his season was ruined by hand and thumb injuries, leaving him with a .168 average going into September." Lee salvaged things somewhat with a .324/.418/.426 performance in September of 1993.

On This Date in 1993: September 30. The Mariners outlast the White Sox 2-1 in 11 innings, with Mike Blowers' one-out single to left field driving in the winning run. Veteran reliever Ted Power earns the win with three scoreless innings; it turns out to be the final game in his 13-year career.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#487 Jessie Hollins

About the Front: That's a lot of blue. Who knew that a Cubs uniform could serve as camouflage?
About the Back: Interestingly, Jessie Hollins wasn't the only 40th-round pick from the 1988 draft to reach the majors. Righthander Paul Fletcher was chosen two picks after Jessie (1,029th overall) and made a dozen relief appearances in 1993, 1995, and 1996 for the Phillies and A's.

Triple Play:

1. His final big league appearance came on September 28, 1992; he tossed a scoreless ninth inning in a 10-3 loss to the Pirates.

2. A torn rotator cuff essentially ended Hollins' career; he made four minor league appearances in 1994 and four more in 1997, and that was it.

3. Jessie drowned while fishing with his brother Stacy and their sons on the bank of the Trinity River in Polk County, TX, on July 9, 2009. He was 39 years old.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never bothered to check this before, but Hollins' birth name is actually "Jessie". It's not short for anything.

Bill James Said: Nothing, because Jessie was sidelined for the entire 1993 season.

On This Date in 1993: September 29. In what must have been a thrilling contest, the Mets won their 55th game of the year against 103 losses, outlasting the Cardinals by a 1-0 margin in 17 innings. The game took just four hours and 21 minutes to complete, as the teams collected only six hits each. Ray Lankford, Mark Whiten, Ryan Thompson, and Kevin Baez each went 0-for-7 at the plate, and Cards third baseman Stan Royer (3-for-4 with a double) was the only player with a multi-hit effort. Naturally, Royer was pinch-run for in the tenth inning. Jeff Kent finally drove in Eddie Murray with a two-out double off of Les Lancaster in the bottom of the 17th, making a winner out of reliever Kenny Greer in his big league debut. Mets rookie starter Bobby Jones got a no-decision and a hearty pat on the butt for his ten innings of shutout ball.

Friday, September 25, 2015

#486 Eric Wedge

About the Front: There's a fine line between "posed baseball card photo" and "online dating profile photo", and Eric Wedge is straddling that line.
About the Back: Aaaand now Eric has vaulted over the line.

Triple Play:

1. As the starting catcher for the 1989 College World Series champion Wichita State Shockers, Wedge led the NCAA in walks and total bases, and was second in runs and RBI. The Red Sox drafted him that summer in the third round; a round later, they picked Jeff Bagwell.

2. He played just 11 big league games after 1992, but his five homers in 68 at-bats as a rookie were no small feat. The list of opposing pitchers he took deep includes Mark Langston, Jimmy Key, and Frank Tanana.

3. Eric began a five-year stint as a minor league manager in the Cleveland organization in 1998, leading three clubs to the postseason in that span. In 2003, he was promoted to skipper of the major league club, a job he held through 2009. He was the A.L. Manager of the Year in 2007, when the Indians won 96 games in the regular season before blowing a 3-1 ALCS lead to Boston. He also managed the Mariners from 2011 through 2013.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The name "Wedge" can be corrupted into "Wedgie" so easily.

Bill James Said: "Wedge, now 26, is a pretty good hitter for a catcher, but has had arm trouble and elbow surgery, so it's questionable whether he is going to be a major league receiver."

On This Date in 1993: September 25. Calvin and Hobbes. Read and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#485 Glenn Davis

About the Front: Is it just me, or does it seem like Glenn Davis' pants are hiked up way too high?

About the Back: Topps done goofed again! Davis won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1990, not 1991. The award is given annually by the Phi Delta Theta fraternity to the major league player who best exemplifies Larrupin' Lou's character and integrity, both on and off the field. So that's nice.

Triple Play:

1. He is the adopted brother of pitcher Storm Davis; the duo were teammates with the Orioles in 1992.

2. Glenn finished his career with a stint for Japan's Hanshin Tigers in 1995-1996, batting .252/.316/.460 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI in 153 games. In 1996, he became the first foreign player (and tenth overall) to hit a walkoff grand slam in a Nippon Pro Baseball game. Oddly enough, he holds the MLB record for most career home runs (190) without a grand slam.

3. Davis now lives in Columbus, GA, and serves on the city council.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Man, did I dislike Glenn Davis. The Orioles gave up Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling for Glenn's 185 mediocre games spread over three injury-riddled reasons. In 1993, when I was at my most impressionable as a fan, he suffered a broken jaw while breaking up a bar fight in Norfolk on May 27. In August, as he was preparing to return to the active roster, he was hit in the head by a Jeffrey Hammonds foul ball that found the Baltimore dugout, and missed several more weeks. Now that I'm older and wiser (arguably), I know that Davis wasn't at fault. He didn't make that awful trade.

Bill James Said: "If he doesn't convince somebody that his power has come back, his career is over." He did manage to swat 27 homers for the AAA Omaha Royals in 1994, but never did play in the majors after the O's released him in 1993.

On This Date in 1993: September 23. John Burkett wins his 20th game, holding the Astros to three hits over eight innings in a 7-0 Giants victory. Barry Bonds has three doubles, two runs scored, and two driven in, which is hardly newsworthy for him.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#484 John Wehner

About the Front: John Wehner massages his trick knee while attempting to field a chopper.
About the Back: Hey, it's a hometown boy! It's always fun to see a local guy play for his team.

Triple Play: 

1. In parts of 11 MLB seasons, John played every position except pitcher. That includes three appearances each at shortstop and catcher.

2. On October 1, 2000, Wehner hit the last of his four career home runs. It was also the final homer ever hit in Three Rivers Stadium.

3. He coached for the Pirates' AA Altoona Curve team in 2003-2004, before taking an analyst gig with the big league club.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't care how it's pronounced, I'm still going to snicker at his name.

Bill James Said: "Wehner hit .340 in 37 games in 1991, which was a stone fluke." A .249 career average (68 OPS+) says that Bill wasn't lying.

On This Date in 1993: September 22. The Rockies conclude their inaugural home schedule with an MLB record attendance of 4,483,350 at Mile High Stadium.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#483 Brian Griffiths

About the Front: I always preferred this Marlins cap, with the teal crown and black contrast bill, to their all-teal and all-black looks.

About the Back: The Marlins acquired Griffiths and reliever Hector Carrasco from the Astros in exchange for another relief pitcher, Tom Edens. Feel the excitement!

Triple Play:

1. Brian was drafted in the ninth round in 1988; nine of the 26 players chosen in that round made it to the major leagues, though Brian was not among them. The most notable draftees were infielder Pat Kelly and righthanded pitcher Mark Clark.

2. At the end of spring training in 1993, Griffiths was swapped to the Giants
for infielder Andres Santana.

3. He went 5-11 with a 4.85 ERA at AA Shreveport in 1993, his final season in pro ball.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The name "Brian Griffiths" makes me think of the offbeat comic strip Zippy, created by Bill Griffith. I used to read that strip on a regular basis, and it never made a lick of sense to me.

Bill James Said: Griffiths wasn't featured in James' 1994 player ratings book.

On This Date in 1993: September 16. The final season of In Living Color premieres on Fox. Nobody from the Wayans family is involved in this, the fifth season.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#482 Darren Reed

About the Front: Here's an oddity. This is Darren Reed's only Topps card in a base set, but he appeared in their 1990 ML Debut set (released in 1991) in a Mets uniform, and appeared in the 1992 Traded set and Stadium Club set, both times as an Expo.

About the Back: Reed missed the entire 1991 season after he took an Alejandro Pena fastball to the hand.

Triple Play:

1. He hit his first career home run and his first (and only) career triple in consecutive at-bats against the Cubs' Steve Wilson on September 30, 1990.

2. Darren had just six home runs in 82 career games, but three of those came in a four-game span, July 25-28, 1992.

3. He missed all of 1993 with a serious hamstring injury, and never made it back to the majors. In his final pro season (1996), Reed batted .345/.406/.534 in 54 games for the Duluth-Superior Dukes of the independent Northern League.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: For some reason, I always thought he was a catcher. Maybe I was confusing him with Jeff Reed.

Bill James Said: N/A.

On This Date in 1993: September 15. Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, disbands Parliament. Oh, no he didn't! But he totally did.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

#481 Ryan Luzinski

About the Front: Nothing says "newbie" like a baseball player wearing a jersey number in the eighties. I like it, though; he's wearing my year of birth.
About the Back: Ryan's dad, Greg "the Bull" Luzinski, is something of a cult hero in Chicago and especially in Philadelphia, where he was a four-time All-Star and now owns "Bull's Barbecue", a food stand in Citizens Bank Park.

Triple Play:

1. Luzinski signed with the Dodgers for a $500,000 bonus after being drafted with the 32nd overall pick, which L.A. received as compensation for losing Eddie Murray as a free agent.

2. His best overall season in the minors was 1996, when he batted .311/.371/.443 in 71 total games at three different levels.

3. Ryan never made it to the major leagues, and only totaled 55 games at AAA in parts of three seasons.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I must not have paid close attention to the Orioles' minor league affiliates; I never knew that Luzinski spent the 1997 and 1998 seasons in the Baltimore organization. He spent most of that time at AA Bowie, with 46 games at AAA Rochester tossed in for good measure.

Bill James Said: Nothing. There weren't many teenage catchers on Bill's radar.

On This Date in 1993: September 13. The Rockies and Astros are snowed out in Denver, thanks to a late summer storm that drops over five inches of the white stuff; the previous day's high temperature had been 92 degrees.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#480 Pat Listach

About the Front: Great photo! Pat Listach got sawed off; hopefully the photographer wasn't hit by a shard of his bat.

About the Back: Those 1992 stats represent an early peak for Listach, who played in just 354 MLB games for the rest of his career and never batted above .244, save for a 16-game stint in an injury-shortened 1994 season. In hindsight, Kenny Lofton probably was a better bet for '92 Rookie of the Year honors.

Triple Play:

1. Pat had the first four-hit game of his career on August 22, 1992, going 4-for-4 with a double, two steals, and two runs scored in a 5-1 win over Detroit.

2. In 1996, he became a phantom Yankee. New York sent outfielder Gerald Williams and pitcher Bob Wickman to Milwaukee in exchange for reliever Graeme Lloyd and Listach. But a bruised foot incurred shortly before the trade turned out to be a broken bone, and the Brewers subbed shortstop Gabby Martinez into the deal instead.

3. He got into coaching as soon as his playing career ended, spending nine seasons in the Cubs organization, including three-plus as a minor league manager. He's also coached at the big league level for the Nationals, Cubs, and Astros, and is currently in his first season as the manager for Seattle's AAA Tacoma Rainiers.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The luster was already off of Listach's rookie cup and ROTY plaque when I got my hands on this card. He batted .244 with 18 steals in 98 games in 1993.

Bill James Said: "He had a series of health problems in '93, beginning with a "root canal cyst" in spring training (I don't know what that is, but I don't think I want one) and progressing through the more usual hamstring pulls, etc."

On This Date in 1993: September 9. Atlanta's Kent Mercker holds the Padres hitless for six innings, but is pulled after throwing just 79 pitches. Doug Brocail also blanks the Braves for seven frames, and Deion Sanders pinch-hits for Mercker leading off the seventh. Luis Lopez breaks up the no-hitter with a ground ball single up the middle off of Mark Wohlers with two outs in the eighth. That turns out to be the only safety of the game for San Diego, and Ron Gant's solo homer off of rookie Trevor Hoffman gives the Braves a 1-0 win in ten innings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

#479 Todd Pratt

About the Front: The opposing catcher's left arm and mitt are peeking out at the bottom of the photo; I'm not sure I ever noticed that before.

About the Back: Ray Boone is of course the progenitor of the baseball-playing Boones, a two-time All-Star infielder who was active from 1948-1960. His son Bob made four All-Star teams while catching for the Phillies, Angels, and Royals (1972-1990), and grandsons Aaron and Bret had notable big league careers after this card was issued. Bret, in fact, will make his Topps debut at the tail end of this very set.

Triple Play:

1. After being cut by the Mariners in the spring of 1996, Todd was out of pro ball for the rest of the season. Instead, he worked as an instructor at Bucky Dent's baseball camp and supplemented his meager income by delivering pizzas for a Domino's in Boca Raton, FL. By the time he caught on with the Mets the following year, the slugging catcher had worked his way up to a manager's position at the pizza franchise.

2. His solo home run off of Arizona reliever Matt Mantei in the bottom of the tenth inning gave the Mets a walkoff win in the fourth game of the 1999 NLDS, clinching a trip to the NLCS.

3. He has been the only head baseball coach at West Georgia Technical College since the junior college began fielding a team in 2011.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I couldn't find Pratt's home base of Chula Vista on a map back then, but 16 years later, I bought my first packs of 2009 Topps at a Target in that southern California city while visiting friends in San Diego. How far I've come.

Bill James Said: "He doesn't get much work behind Daulton, but is perhaps the best-hitting backup catcher in baseball." That certainly was the case in '93, when he batted .287/.330/.529 with five home runs in 95 plate appearances.

On This Date in 1993: September 8. Roger Salkeld, the Mariners' first-round pick (third overall) in the 1989 draft, makes his big league debut as Seattle's starting pitcher in Baltimore. Jay Buhner's first-inning two-run homer off of Fernando Valenzuela gives Salkeld a lead, but he is yanked by manager Lou Piniella with two outs and two on in the fifth inning, with the M's clinging to a 3-2 advantage. The Birds pull out a 6-3 win against the Seattle bullpen, with a Chris Hoiles home run tying the game in the sixth inning and a two-run single by Hoiles putting the home team on top for good in the bottom of the eighth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#478 Greg Cadaret

About the Front: Is Greg Cadaret following through on a pitch, or delivering a punch to a very short and invisible man?

About the Back: As you can see, those two shutouts were the only ones Cadaret threw in his career. By the time he wrapped things up in 1998, he'd appeared in 451 games and made just 35 starts.

Triple Play:

1. Greg appeared in three games in the 1988 World Series, totaling two innings of shutout relief.

2. Cadaret allowed three inside-the-park home runs in his career, and Mike Greenwell hit two of them.

3. He has coached and managed for several independent minor league teams, and is now the head coach of the men's baseball team at Simpson University in California.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm sure I've said something similar before, but there are some guys from this era that I completely lost track of - I can't believe that Cadaret pitched through 1998, pinballing around with six different teams after leaving the Yankees.

Bill James Said: "Do you realize that if his name was L. Cadaret and you spelled it backward, you would have the name of a dinosaur?" Get it? Teradacl = Pterodactyl? Hey, as a kid who loved dinosaurs, I always thought that line was funny.

On This Date in 1993: September 2. Russel B. Nye, an American English professor who pioneered Popular Culture Theory in the 1960s, dies at age 80.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

#477 Jimmy Jones

About the Front: Even if we assume that Jimmy Jones is taking his pre-inning warmup throws, that's a surprisingly lackadaisical stance by the second baseman behind him. Heads up!
About the Back: Now there's a mugshot. Was this picture taken in the shower room?

Triple Play:

1. Jimmy made a powerful first impression, debuting on September 21, 1986 with a one-hit shutout at Houston. A third-inning triple by opposing pitcher Bob Knepper gave the Astros their only baserunner. Jones himself had singled off of Knepper an inning earlier in his first big-league plate appearance.

2. He finished his career in Japan, appearing in 20 games for the Yomiuri Giants in 1994 and 1995 and posting a 9-4 record with a 3.75 ERA.

3. Jones has coached in the minors for the Padres since 2009.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Jimmy Jones is the most generic ballplayer name this side of Joe Smith.

Bill James Said: "Has managed to keep his career record over .500 so far (43-39), and if he wants to keep it that way I would say it is probably time for him to retire."

On This Date in 1993: August 27. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. premieres on Fox. The Western/sci-fi hybrid stars Bruce Campbell and will last for 27 episodes, finishing its one and only season on May 20, 1994.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#476 Mark Voisard and Will Scalzitti

About the Front: Mark Voisard sort of resembles Michael Keaton. I hope some enterprising teammate nicknamed him "Batman" or "Beetlejuice".

About the Back: I never would've guessed that Voisard was 6'5" from his photo. After all, they cut him off at the waist. As for Scalzitti, he was a sixth-round pick in the 1992 draft. The most successful player chosen in that round was longtime Expos' second baseman Jose Vidro.

Triple Play:

1. In 1994, Voisard was 6-4 with a 1.70 ERA and 17 saves in 48 games split between Class A Central Valley and AA New Haven. But he stalled out there, and his last pro season was 1996.

2. Scalzitti's 1992 pro debut was also the peak of his career. Overall, he hit just .236/.287/.347 in five minor league seasons, and he too was out of baseball after 1996.

3. Fun fact about Will Scalzitti: he hit a grand slam for the Bend Rockies to clinch a win in the Colorado organization's first official game in 1992.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never paid much attention to these expansion "future stars" cards. I couldn't have told you what position Scalzitti played, for instance.

Bill James Said: Nothing, since both guys were still in the low minors.

On This Date in 1993: August 26. Marlins reliever Richie Lewis earns a win the hard way, lacing a two-out walkoff single against Doug Jones in the bottom of the 13th inning in Miami. The Marlins beat the Astros 5-4 on the strength of eight and one-third shutout innings from their bullpen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#475 Jeff Reardon

About the Front: Right-handed pitchers are never described as "crafty", but Jeff Reardon is assuming a very crafty pose and expression.

About the Back: By the end of the 1992 season, Reardon was the all-time leader in saves, having passed Rollie Fingers' career mark of 341. But Lee Smith was just two saves behind Jeff, and would overtake him in 1993.

Triple Play:

1. He was the first pitcher in major league history to have 40-save seasons in both the National League and the American League.

2. Jeff pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in four appearances in the 1987 World Series and recorded the save in Minnesota's Game Seven victory with a perfect inning of work.

3. Sadly, Reardon's 20-year-old son died of a drug overdose in 2004. The ex-pitcher spiraled into depression and also had a pair of physical health scares in the months following. Late in 2005, he was arrested for committing armed robbery at a jewelry store in the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Eventually, Reardon was found not guilty by reason of drug-induced insanity. It sounds like he's doing much better in recent years.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: The real shame of Reardon's 1993 stint with the Reds was that they compelled him to shave his trademark beard. Facial hair restrictions in baseball are stupid.

Bill James Said: "Pitched well the first half (2.08 ERA) but badly the second (6.67)."

On This Date in 1993: August 25. The Braves complete a three-game sweep of the Giants with a 9-1 blowout. Greg Maddux wins his 15th game by breezing through eight six-hit innings and Atlanta bashes six home runs, including two apiece by Fred McGriff and David Justice. San Francisco's once-comfortable lead over the second-place Braves in the NL West is cut to 4.5 games.

Monday, August 24, 2015

#474 Ozzie Guillen

About the Front: There's a rare site - Ozzie Guillen looking calm and placid.

About the Back: Ozzie collided with Tim Raines while playing the field on April 21, 1992, suffering a serious knee injury that ended his season quite prematurely.

Triple Play:

1. Guillen was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1985, earning 16 first-place votes compared to the nine for runner-up Teddy Higuera.

2. In 1989, he twice fell for the hidden ball trick, assuming both times that the first baseman had returned the baseball to the pitcher following a pickoff attempt, only to be tagged out the moment he removed his hand from the base.

3. Ozzie had a successful tenure as White Sox manager from 2004-2011, including overseeing the team's first World Series championship in 88 years in 2005. He went on to spend one controversial and disappointing season managing the Marlins, going 69-93 in 2012 before being shown the door.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Guillen was one of many declining veterans to join the Orioles in the late 1990s, but his stay was shorter than most. He collected one single and one walk in 18 trips to the plate at the beginning of the 1998 season before being released on May 1.

Bill James Said: "Doesn't it seem strange to you that nobody could ever convince Guillen, who is intelligent and approachable, to stop chasing bad pitches?"

On This Date in 1993: August 24. A rare good day for the '93 Padres, who jump all over Cardinals' rookie starter Allen Watson and reliever Todd Burns for 13 first-inning runs en route to a 17-4 win. Watson allows four hits and four walks and departs having retired just two batters. Burns tosses gasoline on the fire by yielding five straight hits upon taking the mound, capped by a Phil Plantier three-run homer. That's nine hits and four walks in total, with 16 men coming to the plate. San Diego wound up slugging five home runs; Tim Teufel also had a two-run shot in the first inning, and Phil Clark, Archi Cianfrocco, and Brad Ausmus all took Burns deep in a span of four batters in the sixth inning.

Friday, August 21, 2015

#473 Dave Henderson

About the Front: I think Topps was contractually required to depict Dave Henderson with his bright, gap-toothed grin on all of his cards. If they weren't, they should have been.

About the Back: Here's a fun fact - the 1992 Athletics had three players who were first-round picks in the 1977 draft. Harold Baines (first overall), Bob Welch (20th), and Henderson (26th). The Orioles' first-round pick in 1977 (19th overall) was Drungo Hazewood, who I mention just because.

Triple Play:

1. In Game Five of the 1986 ALCS, Dave rescued the Red Sox from the brink of elimination with a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer off of Angels closer Donnie Moore in the ninth inning to put Boston on top, 6-5. The Angels tied it in the bottom of the inning, and Hendu knocked in the winning run with a sac fly in the 11th.

2. On August 3, 1991, Henderson hit a solo home run in each of his first three at-bats against Twins pitcher David West, but Minnesota won 8-6.

3. He spent many years as a broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It tickled me that the A's had Rickey, Steve, and Dave Henderson at various points in the 1980s (Steve was in Oakland from 1985-1987, between Rickey's stints and before Dave's), and that none of them were related.

Bill James Said: "The A's are still playing him in center field, which is a joke, and still letting him bat cleanup." Hendu batted an anemic .220/.275/.427 with 20 homers and 53 RBI in 1993, his penultimate year in the majors.

On This Date in 1993: August 21. This week's number one song: "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum. That's more like it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#472 Chris Gwynn

About the Front: Chris Gwynn's head looks enormous. Zoom out, guys!

About the Back: Gwynn also drove in two runs in his August 14, 1987 debut, including a sixth-inning RBI single that turned out to be the game-winner.

Triple Play:

1. On September 23, 1995, Gwynn batted for pitcher Ismael Valdes in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied, one out and one on. His two-run homer was the only walkoff blast of his career.

2. He spent the 1996 season with older brother Tony and the Padres, and went out with a bang in the final regular season game of his career - September 29, 1996. Pinch hitting for pitcher Dario Veras in the top of the 11th, Chris rapped a two-run double to lead the Padres to a division-clinching 2-0 win over the Dodgers.

3. After his playing career concluded, Gwynn worked for the Padres as a scout and moved on to be the Mariners' Director of Player Development.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: My favorite Chris Gwynn card was his 1994 Collector's Choice, which featured him trucking poor Tim Hulett on the basepaths.

Bill James Said: "He doesn't have power or speed, and hardly ever goes to bat against a lefthanded pitcher, but is a pretty good outfielder."

On This Date in 1993: August 20. Movie time! Hard Target, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, premieres in theatres. It is John Woo's American directorial debut, and it features Wilford Brimley as a Bayou-dwelling Cajun. What's not to like?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#471 Dave Gallagher

About the Front: Dave Gallagher's #8 is written on his bat knob, unless that's an infinity symbol. You never know.

About the Back: After his strong season at the AA level in 1983 (which included a .461 on-base percentage), you would have expected Gallagher to be on a fast track to the majors. But he spent the bulk of the next three seasons at AAA Maine, batting .247 and .242 before posting a .292 average in 1986 to finally earn his first callup.

Triple Play:

1. He was the center fielder on Topps' 1988 All-Star Rookie team, thanks to his .303 average and league-leading .994 fielding percentage.

2. On May 19, 1991, Dave went 5-for-5 with three RBI and a pair of runs scored in a 10-2 Angels rout of the Orioles.

3. After his playing career, Gallagher founded the Dave Gallagher Baseball Academy in North Trenton, NJ.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: If I looked at Gallagher's career with a critical eye at the time, I would've noticed that he batted .216 with one double and two RBI in 23 games with my Orioles, who promptly traded him to California for a pair of minor league scrubs, only to see him hit .293 with a .355 on-base percentage the following year. The O's made a lot of false steps at the beginning of the 1990s.

Bill James Said: "A useful player in the Henry Cotto/Stan Javier/Doug Dascenzo mold; when you have one you think they're a dime a dozen, but when you don't have one you'll notice it in a hurry."

On This Date in 1993: August 19. Expos lefty Jeff Fassero improves to 8-3 with a 1.89 ERA in a 10-2 win over the Cubs. He tosses a complete game, allowing six hits and three walks and striking out nine. Journeyman infielder Randy Ready and catcher Darrin Fletcher hit home runs for Montreal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#470 Rob Dibble

About the Front: Oh man, that is an absurdly high leg kick. Do you think Rob Dibble was easy to steal against? Well, the numbers say that opposing runners stole successfully 99 times in 118 tries, for an 83.9% he practically turned every would-be base thief into Tim Raines.

About the Back: If you want to quibble over Dibble, he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for any strikeouts-per-nine single-season records. The threshold is one inning per team game, or 162 IP in most cases. By that metric, Randy Johnson is the record holder with 13.4 K/9 in 2001.

Triple Play:

1. He was the co-MVP of the 1990 NLCS along with Randy Myers. In a six-game Reds triumph over the Pirates, Dibble allowed one walk and no hits in five innings across four games. He struck out ten batters and earned one save.

2. During his career, Rob frequently let his explosive temper get the best of him. Most famously, he brawled in the Reds' clubhouse with manager Lou Piniella after a game in 1992. However, he also hurled a ball 400 feet into the center field seats in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium in April 1991 following a game. The ball struck a woman in the elbow, and he was suspended for four games.

3. He lasted less than two years as a color analyst on MASN for telecasts of Nationals games, getting the boot in September of 2010 after suggesting on-air that pitcher Stephen Strasburg should "suck it up" after the former #1 draft pick missed a start with a sore elbow; shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Rob Dibble has been a running personal joke in my family for more than 20 years. My uncle got caught up in the great baseball card boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with his most foolhardy speculative purchase being 50 - yes, 50 - Rob Dibble 1989 Topps rookie cards. For this reason, I bought a Dibble Starting Lineup figure when I saw it on sale at a Kay-Bee Toys around this time. Years later, my uncle passed most of his now-devalued collection on to me, including that brick of precious Dibble commodities.

Bill James Said: "Had injuries and lost some off his fastball, got burned on changeups and bad sliders, finally lost command of the strike zone altogether." Yep. 6.48 ERA, 9.1 BB/9 IP in 1993, then he missed the 1994 season and had a 7.18 ERA and 46 walks in 26.1 innings in 1995, his swan song in MLB.

On This Date in 1993: August 18. The Kapellbrucke wooden covered truss bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland is mostly destroyed by fire. The bridge was originally built in the 14th Century. It would be restored in the years following the blaze.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#469 Dave Hansen

About the Front: I like to imagine that Dave Hansen just fell butt-first into a sinkhole in Wrigley Field and he's asking for a helping hand.

About the Back: Hansen fared much better than high school outfielder Michael White, the player the Dodgers chose ahead of him in 1986. White spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, reaching AAA for just a single game in 1992.

Triple Play:

1. Hansen's best overall season was 1993, when he batted .362/.465/.505 in 127 plate appearances in a bench role for the Dodgers.

2. In 2000, Dave set a major league record with seven pinch hit home runs, six of which either tied the game or put the Dodgers ahead.

3. In recent years, he has served as hitting coach for the Dodgers and Mariners. He is currently the Angels' assistant hitting coach.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm sure I was very impressed by Dave's high batting average in 1993, especially considering that he batted just .214 the previous year. Apparently a back injury in 1992 hampered his performance.

Bill James Said: "Had a great year as a pinch hitter, and may have earned another shot at the third base job, which has been up for grabs since Ron Cey was traded in 1983."

On This Date in 1993: August 17. The Orioles sign 16-year-old Aruban pitcher Sidney Ponson as an amateur free agent. He will pitch in the majors from 1998 through 2009, accumulating 91 wins, 113 losses with a 5.03 ERA (89 ERA+) and three arrests.