Thursday, April 30, 2015

#416 Randy Tomlin

About the Front: Randy Tomlin's arms look disproportionately long, possibly even moreso than Mike Hartley's.
About the Back: Wow, somebody really mailed in the bio. Spun, spun, spun...get a thesaurus.

Triple Play:

1. Tomlin threw a "Vulcan changeup", so called because it was held between the middle and ring fingers, making a 'V' shape similar to the Vulcan salute.

2. He was the National League's Pitcher of the Month in June 1992, when he went 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA and walked only five batters in 44.2 innings.

3. After hanging up his spikes, Randy spent a decade at his alma mater (Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA) as pitching coach. Afterward, he coached in the Nationals organization for five seasons.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Tomlin is from Bainbridge, MD, but I have no idea where that is. Let me check...ah, Cecil County. I've heard the locals pronounce it as "Sissle" County.

Bill James Said: "Tomlin posted a 2.55 ERA as a rookie in 1990, but this has gone up each year since then, putting his career in jeopardy." His earned run average spiked to 4.85 in 1993, and settled at 3.92 in 10 appearances in 1994, which turned out to be his last year in the majors.

On This Date in 1993: April 30. The Phillies improve to an MLB-best 17-5 with a 7-6 win on the road vs. the Dodgers. Darren Daulton's eighth-inning two-run homer off of rookie Omar Daal provides the winning runs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#415 Todd Frohwirth

About the Front: Here's a first-person glimpse at the unenviable task of facing a submarine-style pitcher. You can't even see the ball in Todd Frohwirth's hand.

About the Back: Todd split most of the 1987 season between AA Reading and AAA Maine, posting a 2.09 ERA and saving 22 games. Oh, and Topps shows criminal negligence by not mentioning the circumstances of the pitcher's debut on August 10. He replaced Kevin Gross when the Phillies' starter was caught with sandpaper in his glove and ejected. Frohwirth tossed 1.2 innings of scoreless relief and was awarded the win.

Triple Play:

1. Todd was a workhorse for the Orioles, with 32 relief appearances of three or more innings from 1991 through 1993. On July 4, 1992, he entered in the 10th inning and held the Twins without a run through the 14th, but his five innings of work were for naught as Gregg Olson lost the game in the 15th.

2. Frohwirth faced Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett 22 times, more than any other batter. In their meetings, Puckett batted just .105/.227/.263, with two hits in 19 at-bats and three walks.

3. He served as pitching coach for Milwaukee's Beloit Snappers minor league club in 1999, and has also coached varsity basketball at Marquette High School in Milwaukee. He is currently a scout for the Orioles.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Todd is largely responsible for my longtime fascination with sidearm and submarine pitchers. Mark Eichhorn, Chad Bradford, and Darren O'Day have been among my favorite unheralded relievers as an O's fan.

Bill James Said: "His career has degenerated to a puzzling extent over the last two years; I suspect he is not getting the support he needs from his organization." Frohwirth's ERA climbed to 3.83 in 1993, which proved to be his last full season in the majors, but I'm not sure what James meant by the last remark. Was he blaming the O's coaches for Todd's decline?

On This Date in 1993: April 29. Dave Stieb wins the penultimate game of his career, as the White Sox top the Brewers 7-4. His next (and final) big league win would come five years later, during a brief comeback with the Blue Jays.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#414 Juan Guerrero

About the Front: Juan Guerrero appears to be totally alone on the field. If that ball takes a bad hop, nobody will be there to get him a bag of ice.
About the Back: Guerrero was a Rule 5 pick by the Astros prior to the 1992 season.

Triple Play:

1. His only big league home run was a walkoff shot off of Roger Mason in the bottom of the 12th inning on July 21, 1992.

2. The glamorous life of a Rule 5 pick in the National League: Juan played a game at second base, 10 at third, 19 at shortstop, two in left field, and 43 as a pinch hitter.

3. Guerrero never played in the majors again after 1992. However, he did bat .327/.365/.504 with 10 homers and 55 RBI in 76 games for the Catskill Cougars of the independent Northeast League. (I am a sucker for ex-big leaguers in the indies.)

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: This card provides a reminder that I haven't studied most of the set for 20 years. I could've sworn that Guerrero was listed as a shortstop. In my defense, he actually played the largest number of games at short in '92.

Bill James Said: N/A.

On This Date in 1993: April 28. Former NC State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano dies of metastatic cancer at age 47.

Monday, April 27, 2015

#413 Pete Smith

About the Front: You can see the "P" initial on Pete Smith's nameplate, distinguishing him from teammate Lonnie Smith.

About the Back: I'd forgotten that Pete Smith was drafted by the Phillies. He was traded to the Braves with catcher Ozzie Virgil in exchange for pitcher Steve Bedrosian and outfielder Milt Thompson. There's a handful of 1980s names for you.

Triple Play:

1. Pete fell just short of a complete-game effort in his big league debut on September 8, 1987, getting the hook with two outs in the ninth inning after giving up three San Diego hits to narrow the margin to 4-2. Jim Acker shut the door on the Padres, and young Pete had a win in his first start.

2. Smith could do no wrong once the Braves recalled him from AAA Richmond in August of 1992, winning seven of his 11 starts without a single loss. He reached the sixth inning in all but one of those appearances, averaging seven innings per start.

3. He provided a winning effort in a losing cause in the decisive sixth game of the 1992 World Series, replacing starter Steve Avery in the fifth inning and keeping Toronto scoreless for the next three frames. Atlanta finally tied the score in the bottom of the ninth before succumbing in the 11th.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Pete Smith's career ran aground for good with a trade to the Orioles in June of 1998. He allowed 57 hits, 16 walks, and 31 runs in 45 innings in Baltimore and never pitched in the majors again. He and Kent Mercker served as proof to me that if the Braves let a pitcher go, there was usually a good reason.

Bill James Said: "Smith, after pitching well in April, went 0-5 with a 6.25 ERA in May and June, which helped put the Braves in a deep hole."

On This Date in 1993: April 27. The entire Zambian national football team dies when their plane crashes in Gabon. They had been travelling to Senegal for a scheduled qualifying match for the 1994 World Cup.

Friday, April 24, 2015

#412 Jamie McAndrew

About the Front: Lookie here, it's our first Marlins card! Topps got on their horses after November 1992's expansion draft and snapped portrait photos of bunches of players in their spanking new Florida and Colorado duds. A lot of the settings for these photos are incredible, in a funny and cheesy sort of way. Here, Jamie McAndrew is playing peek-a-boo in the park!

About the Back: Jim McAndrew pitched in 161 games (110 starts), primarily for the Mets. He peaked in 1972 with an 11-8 record and a 2.80 ERA for New York.

Triple Play:

1. McAndrew played baseball and football for the University of Florida, spending two years as the Gators' starting punter.

2. Jamie signed with the Dodgers after being drafted 28th overall in 1989. He was scouted by Bill Pleis, who had pitched for the Twins from 1961-1966.

3. He debuted with Milwaukee in 1995, and earned his first career win on August 17, limiting the Indians to a pair of runs on seven hits. He walked one batter and struck out four.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I never even realized that McAndrew was with the Brewers by the time I got this card. On April 2, 1993, the Marlins traded him for a minor league lefty named Tom McGraw.

Bill James Said: No, he didn't. Jamie spent all of 1993 at AAA New Orleans.

On This Date in 1993: April 24. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonates a truck bomb on Bishopsgate in London's financial district. A news photographer is killed in the explosion and 44 people are injured.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#411 Lee Smith and Dennis Eckersley

About the Front: These two All-Star closers have more vastly diverging body types than any other duo in this subset. I do like the way their photos capture their pitching deliveries at nearly the same point.

About the Back: Want to know how much baseball has changed over the years? As late as 1964, the single-season saves record was 29, co-held by Dick Radatz and Luis Arroyo. In 1992, Dennis Eckersley topped that number by the All-Star break.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It would probably be intimidating enough to face either Lee or Eck in a game...imagine both of them rocking back and firing towards you at once!

On This Date in 1993: April 23. The Mariners rally for four runs against Jim Abbott and the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh inning to win, 6-3. Seattle's rookie lefthander Mike Hampton, appearing in his second major league game, tosses two and two-thirds scoreless innings to earn credit for the victory. He'll win 148 games in total before retiring in 2010.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

#410 Tom Glavine and Dave Fleming

About the Front: In hindsight, it looks like Topps was picking on poor Dave Fleming by putting him alongside Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux. But in 1992, the Seattle rookie really was the best lefty on a team that included a still-wild Randy Johnson.

About the Back: It would be cruel of me to point out that Glavine's five first-half shutouts equaled Fleming's career total. Instead I'll point out that Cliff Lee (with six shutouts in 2011) is the only pitcher in the 2000s to top that number over a full season.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Even to a new fan, the name Dave Fleming seemed out of place. He didn't have the notoriety of a Clemens.

On This Date in 1993: April 22. Version 1.0 of the Mosaic web browser is released, an important milestone in the Internet boom of the 1990s.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#409 Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens

About the Front: Here are a couple of right-handed starters who combined for 709 wins and 8,043 strikeouts. No big deal.

About the Back: Greg Maddux was about to enter another plane of existence when it came to control of his pitches. In 12 of his final 15 full seasons (1994-2008), Mad Dog issued less than the 38 free passes that he totaled in the first half of 1992.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Both of these guys would still be pitching (and pitching well) when I reached my mid-twenties. That would've probably surprised me 20+ years ago.

On This Date in 1993: April 21. Walker, Texas Ranger premieres on CBS. It would air for eight seasons and 203 episodes, helping to cement Chuck Norris' legacy as a cult hero.

Monday, April 20, 2015

#408 Darren Daulton and Brian Harper

About the Front: Darren Daulton is perplexed by the giant baseball hurtling down from Outer Space, but Brian Harper is preoccupied with the regulation-sized baseball directly in front of him.
About the Back: Brian Harper never actually made an All-Star team. Sandy Alomar Jr. was the American League starter at catcher in the 1992 Midsummer Classic, but batted an underwhelming .241/.284/.316 with two home runs and 23 RBI in the first half.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I don't think I realized as a kid that Topps chose the All-Stars in their sets at their own discretion, and not necessarily based on the previous year's starters.

On This Date in 1993: April 20. Here's a glimpse at the day's games. Four extra-innings contests, and wins from some notable pitchers, including David Wells, Kevin Appier, Goose Gossage, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and Dave Righetti.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

#407 Barry Bonds and Joe Carter

About the Front: That face that Barry Bonds is making? I feel like he wore that face for about 78% of his big league career.
About the Back: That .434 OBP seems pretty impressive. It's worth mentioning that Bonds posted a .476 OBP in the second half of 1992, putting him at a league-leading .456 for the year. Incidentally, Barry topped that .456 mark seven times in his superlative career, and had an overall mark of .444.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always thought that Barry Bonds' dangly cross earring looked a bit silly.

On This Date in 1993: April 16. An Earth Day concert at the Hollywood Bowl features Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Steve Miller, and Don Henley.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#406 Larry Walker and Kirby Puckett

About the Front: Since Larry Walker batted lefty and Kirby Puckett was a righty, Topps could use batting poses for both of them and create a "face-off" sort of effect.

About the Back: Puck added 90 hits in 75 second-half games, giving him a major league-leading 210 safeties. Walker was a first-time All-Star in 1992, but he would return to the Midsummer Classic in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Kirby winning the 1993 All-Star Game MVP at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He was the A.L.'s starting left fielder and delivered a solo homer and an RBI double in three trips to the plate.

On This Date in 1993: April 15. The Tigers top the Athletics 3-2 on a Chad Krueter double off of Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the ninth inning. The win is the 2,000th of Detroit skipper Sparky Anderson's big league managing career.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#405 Andy Van Slyke and Ken Griffey, Jr.

About the Front: Couldn't Andy Van Slyke find a cap that would fit on his noggin?

About the Back: Van Slyke was en route to a league-leading 199 hits and 45 doubles in 1992. Ken Griffey, Jr. heated up in the second half, batting .330/.386/.556 to finish with a batting average above .300 for the third of five straight seasons.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Topps didn't distinguish the position that any of these All-Star outfielders played, but this card features the top center fielders. This is a slight annoyance; I always liked it when card companies specified that kind of thing. The same goes for starting pitchers vs. relievers.

On This Date in 1993: April 14. Brandon Finnegan is born. On September 6, 2014, he will become the first 2014 draftee to make his major league debut when he tosses two perfect innings of relief for the Royals.

Monday, April 13, 2015

#404 Barry Larkin and Travis Fryman

About the Front: Eye black for everybody!

About the Back: Barry Larkin actually had a much better second half than the first in 1992. After the break, he batted .321/.395/.487 with eight homers and 41 RBI in 72 games. Fryman, however, slumped to .235/.296/.359 with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 73 games.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I was surprised to see an American League shortstop other than Cal Ripken on this All-Star card. Of course, '92 was the worst season yet in the Orioles star's career (.251/.323/.366, 14 HR, 72 RBI).

On This Date in 1993: April 13. American historian, novelist, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner, who won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Angle of Repose, dies at age 84.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#403 Gary Sheffield and Edgar Martinez

About the Front: I just realized how annoying it is that they don't list positions on the fronts of these All-Star cards. It's of particular concern with this card, since neither Gary Sheffield nor Edgar Martinez stayed at third base for much longer. Sheffield was a corner outfielder from 1994 onward, and Martinez was a full-time DH by 1995.

About the Back: Edgar's .328 first-half batting average looks plenty impressive, but he batted .364 for the final 53 games of 1992 to capture the American League crown with an overall mark of .343. Sheffield won the N.L. batting title with an overall .330 average, though his splits by half were more even (.325 first half, .338 second).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: When I pulled this card from the pack, Martinez was having his worst big league season, limited to a .237 average and .378 slugging percentage in a 42-game, inury-hampered campaign. But he would rebound in 1994 and remain a world-class hitter for another decade.

On This Date in 1993: April 9. Bo Jackson (who we just covered on Monday!) pinch-hits for Dan Pasqua in the bottom of the sixth inning at Chicago's Comiskey Park and hits a home run off of Yankee reliever Neal Heaton. It's his first game appearance since hip replacement surgery, and his first home run since September 21, 1991, but the White Sox are thumped 11-6.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#402 Ryne Sandberg and Carlos Baerga

About the Front: If Carlos Baerga had just hit the ball that Ryne Sandberg is tracking, I think Ryno would be heading the wrong way.

About the Back: Other than Baerga's significant edge in batting average, these two All-Star second basemen matched up pretty well in the first half of 1992.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: 1993 was Sandberg's last All-Star season. He abruptly retired before the '94 game, and didn't get the nod during his two-year comeback tour of 1996-1997. I wouldn't have seen that coming.

On This Date in 1993: April 8. Carlos Baerga (hey, how 'bout that?!) becomes the first player to ever hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same inning, performing the feat in the bottom of the seventh inning against Yankees lefty Steve Howe and righty Steve Farr. Cleveland romps, 15-5, as Baerga goes 4-for-5 with a double, the pair of homers, and three RBI.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#401 Fred McGriff and Frank Thomas

About the Front: See, you can tell it's an All-Star card because of the starry sky background. You can also tell it's a 1993 product because of the fantastic drop-shadow effect on the "1992 Topps All Stars" header.
About the Back: All of that yellow isn't too easy on the eyes. Also, I'm not sure how Topps calculated Fred McGriff's OBP, but it was actually .426 at the break in 1992. Still very good, but not as ridiculous as .502 would be.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Fred McGriff and Frank Thomas were two of my favorite players. A couple of soft-spoken first basemen who just hit the snot out of the ball.

On This Date in 1993: April 7. The Indians signed Jason Grimsley as a free agent, a week after he was released by the Astros. The reliever would gain notoriety in 1994 when he crawled through the ductwork in Cleveland's clubhouse to access the umpire's room and retrieve Albert Belle's corked bat. You can read more about the caper here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#400 Bo Jackson

About the Front: The underbill of Bo Jackson's cap reads "BO". Short, sweet, to the point.

About the Back: Bo missed the entire 1992 season after undergoing hip replacement surgery due to a football injury.

Triple Play:

1. The most enduring part of Jackson's legacy as an athlete may be his prowess as a video game character. In his days as a running back for the Raiders, his 8-bit avatar from Nintendo's "Tecmo Bowl" game was so dominant he was known simply as "Tecmo Bo".

2. Two words: The. Throw.

3. Making good on a promise to his mother, Bo completed his bachelor's degree in Family and Child Development at Auburn in 1995 after hanging up his spikes.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I regret that I never got to see Bo play at the height of his athletic ability. I get the sense that highlight videos don't fully capture what he was all about.

Bill James Said: "The Sox elected to decline his option, leaving him free to pursue another team (Bo Knows Rejection)." Jackson caught on with the Angels in 1994, batting .279/.344/.507 in 75 games with 13 home runs. He chose to retire after that.

On This Date in 1993: April 6. Ken Griffey, Jr. smashes a three-run homer off of Jack Morris in his first at-bat of the season, and Randy Johnson strikes out 14 batters in eight innings as the Mariners trounce the Blue Jays, 8-1.

Friday, April 3, 2015

#399 Daryl Boston

About the Front: Daryl Boston has some sweet dance moves.
About the Back:  Stevie Wonder, eh? Video or it didn't happen.

Triple Play:

1. Bruce Dal Canton was the scout who signed Daryl for the White Sox. He pitched for the Pirates, Royals, Braves, and White Sox from 1967-1977.

2. On September 24, 1991, Boston went 3-for-4 with a double, a grand slam, and a career-high five RBI in a 10-8 Mets loss to the Pirates.

3. He's been coaching in the White Sox organization since 1998; he's currently the first base coach on the major league staff.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It's a shame that Boston never played for the Red Sox.

Bill James Said: "Excellent platoon outfielder, not hopeless against lefthanders but has no power against them, good power against righthanders."

On This Date in 1993: April 3. Comedian and children's show host Pinky Lee dies at age 85.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

#398 Bobby Witt

About the Front: The protruding vein running down the entire length of Bobby Witt's forearm is a little terrifying.

About the Back: Witt debuted with the Rangers mere months after being drafted. His BB/9 IP figures of 8.2 and 8.8 in his first two big league seasons suggest that he was rushed.

Triple Play:

1. On June 23, 1994, Witt tossed a complete game one-hitter against the Royals. The lone hit was a sixth-inning bunt single by Greg Gagne, who was called safe at first on a bang-bang play. Witt struck out 14 batters, and more impressively for him, did not issue a walk.

2. In a June 30, 1997 interleague game at Dodger Stadium, Bobby became the first American League pitcher in 25 years to hit a home run, taking Ismael Valdes deep in the sixth inning of a 3-2 Rangers victory.

3. He still lives in Coleyville, TX, with his wife and four children. He works as a player agent, and has represented Ben Zobrist and Yovani Gallardo, among others.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: No, Bobby Witt was not related to his contemporary with the Angels, pitcher Mike Witt. They didn't even look alike.

Bill James Said: "Duncan is trying to work with him to get him to stop trying to make impossible pitches, and he is getting there." After going 14-13 with a 4.21 ERA in his first year under coach Dave Duncan's tutelage, Bobby took a step backward in 1994 (8-10, 5.04 ERA). He moved on to the Marlins in 1995.

On This Date in 1993: April 2. The Crush, a thriller featuring Alicia Silverstone making her big-screen debut as a lethally obsessive schoolgirl, premieres.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#397 George Brett

About the Front: This is a pretty good way to kick off Series Two. A Hall of Famer in a dynamic action photo. The iconic "BRETT 5" is fully visible on his back as he completes his swing, the crowd is visible behind him in the first-base-side stands of...Cleveland Stadium?, and the glove arm and left knee of the catcher (probably Junior Ortiz) are poking out from the right side of the card. As you can see from George Brett's batting helmet, he maintained his fondness for pine tar into the waning days of his career.

About the Back: As you can see, George is the only player in MLB history to win batting titles in three different decades, taking the crown in 1976, 1980, and 1990.

Triple Play:

1. His older brother Ken pitched for ten major league teams (1967, 1969-1981), including a stint as George's teammate in 1980-1981. Ken was an All-Star with the Pirates in 1974 (13-9, 3.30 ERA), and batted .262 with 10 homers in 373 career trips to the plate. The brothers faced one another 20 times, with little brother collecting six hits and doubling twice for a batting line of .300/.300/.400.

2. Brett is the only player to homer three times off the same pitcher in a postseason game, performing the feat against Yankee starter Catfish Hunter in Game Three of the 1978 ALCS. Alas, all three were solo shots, and the Royals lost 6-5.

3. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1999. He's remained active with the Royals as a vice president and special instructor, and served as an interim hitting coach for two months in 2013. He and his brother Bobby are partial owners of several minor league teams.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I wonder how my adolescent self would have reacted to this story about George Brett's momentary incontinence. With laughter, I bet.

Bill James Said: "It was time for him to go, which is not to say that I won't miss him." Brett batted .266/.312/.434 with 19 homers and 75 RBI in his farewell season in '93.

On This Date in 1993: April 1. The Vatican orders a group of Carmelite nuns who had established a convent in 1984 near the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp to move.