Thursday, June 25, 2015

#445 Dale Murphy

About the Front: This photo sums up Dale Murphy in the early 1990s. He's sitting on the bench, staring straight out at the field, wearing an unfamiliar uniform, and searching vainly for answers. Poetic, ain't it? There's also a background cameo by Philly manager Jim Fregosi.

About the Back: Hey, that's the old Phillies uniform! What gives?

Triple Play:

1. His son Shawn was an offensive tackle at Utah State University and a fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2008. He played briefly in the NFL with the Buccaneers and Broncos.

2. Murphy had an amazing peak with the Braves in the 1980s, winning five Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers as a center fielder, earning back-to-back NL MVP honors in 1982-1983, and being tabbed for seven All-Star Games.

3. Dale coached first base for Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also maintains a steady presence on Twitter (@DaleMurphy3).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: If I'd followed baseball more closely when I was younger, I'm sure the sight of Dale Murphy in the Rockies' purple and black (he signed with the team on April 3 after being released by the Phillies) would have been jarring.

Bill James Said: "Murphy called it quits in May after getting about one hit a week." Yes, unfortunately the former star batted .143/.224/.167 in 49 trips to the plate for the Rockies, managing a lone double among his six total hits. Even the friendly atmosphere of Mile High Stadium couldn't prop up his flagging career.

On This Date in 1993: June 25. Walkoff walk! The streaking Orioles win their fourth straight with a 7-6 victory over the Yankees in ten innings at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. New York jumps out to early leads of 5-0 and 6-1, chasing starter Fernando Valenzuela in the fourth inning, but the O's rally back with five runs over the last four innings of regular play against Jim Abbott and three Yankee relievers. In the bottom of the tenth, Steve Howe yields a leadoff double to Damon Buford and intentionally walks a pair of batters (bookending a Mark McLemore sac bunt) to load the bases with one out. Buck Showalter replaces Howe with ex-Oriole John Habyan, who strikes out Mike Devereaux before issuing a game-ending free pass to Chris Hoiles on four straight pitches. With Baltimore's win and losses by front-running Detroit and Toronto, the O's close to within four games of first place despite ranking fourth in the top-heavy American League East. Forgive my verbosity, but I was just noting the parallels to the 2015 season thus far; swap out the Tigers for the Rays, and you've got four East clubs within 2.5 games of one another. And just like '93, the Red Sox are in fifth, nine (well, eight and a half) games out!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#444 David Nied

About the Front: Topps harkens back to its past with a classic "hands-over-the-head" pitching pose for David Nied. Of course, nobody actually pitches like that any more.

About the Back: Nied won his September 1, 1992 debut with seven innings of one-run ball against the Mets, scattering four hits and four walks.

Triple Play:

1. He took the loss in the Rockies' first-ever game, allowing two runs on six hits and six walks (!) as the Mets prevailed, 3-0. He would collect a few less dubious franchise milestones as well, earning Colorado's first complete-game victory (5-3 over those same Mets on April 15) and first complete-game shutout (4-0 against the Astros on June 21, 1994).

2. Injuries curtailed Nied's career, and he was completely finished at age 27. In parts of five seasons, he had a record of 17-18 with a 5.06 ERA (95 ERA+, because Colorado) in 241.2 innings.

3. After hanging up his spikes, David returned to the Dallas area and worked for his father's company, Cylinder Heads International. He is married to the former Heather Cranford, a one-time contestant on The Bachelor, and has four sons.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Before I'd ever heard of the acronym "TINSTAAPP" (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect), Nied was a cautionary tale.

Bill James Said: "He was expected to be the ace of the Rockies staff after being the first player picked in the expansion draft, but his season was derailed by an elbow injury." Cue the ominous music.

On This Date in 1993: June 24. The Giants batter Rockies pitching for 20 hits in a 17-2 Candlestick Park, believe it or not. Robby Thompson, who had previously never hit two home runs in a single game, does it for the second straight day as part of a 5-for-5 outburst. Other San Francisco homers come from Barry Bonds, Will Clark, and Mark Carreon. Colorado reliever Mark Grant allows hits to all five batters he faces, including a pair of longballs. All five score, though two are driven home after Grant is pulled.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#443 Terry Leach

About the Front: Terry Leach was 38 when this photo was taken, but his pants appear to be hiked up enough for somebody twice his age.

About the Back: Here's an interesting tidbit. Terry was indeed drafted by Boston in January 1976, but the pick was voided. I couldn't find an explanation beyond that, but the righty signed with the Baton Rouge Cougars of the independent Gulf States League later that year, since he'd already graduated from Auburn University. In 1977, he caught on with the Braves organization.

Triple Play:

1. Though he was primarily a reliever, Leach made a spot start for the Mets on October 1, 1982 and pitched a 10-inning one-hitter. He scattered six walks, struck out seven Phillies, and yielded only a fifth-inning triple by Luis Aguayo. A Hubie Brooks sac fly delivered a 1-0 win in the tenth for New York.

2. While splitting the 1987 season between the Mets' bullpen and rotation, Terry won his first ten decisions before incurring his only loss of the year on August 15.

3. He faced Andre Dawson more often than any other batter. In 32 at-bats, "Hawk" had just four hits, though two of them were home runs.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: "Terry saw action in the 1991 World Series" struck me as odd phrasing. I mean, I've seen plenty of action in various World Series without leaving my couch. That's the wonders of live televised sports. They could've punched it up a bit and said, "Terry got a crucial strikeout in Game 3 of the 1991 World Series."

Bill James Said: "A 40-year-old sidearm/submarine reliever, was pitching effectively last year, as he always has, but went on the disabled list in April with tendonitis in his elbow, and went out for the year in mid-June, same cause." Leach sat out the 1994 season, and retired after an unsuccessful tryout with the Tigers in 1995.

On This Date in 1993: June 23. It takes him 14 innings, but Jay Buhner becomes the first player in Mariners history to hit for the cycle. His first-inning grand slam and 14th-inning triple bookend an 8-7 Seattle win over Oakland; he scores the winning run on a Shawn Hillegas wild pitch.

Monday, June 22, 2015

#442 Kevin McReynolds

About the Front: I can neither confirm nor deny that Kevin McReynolds was considered for the role of Dauber on the long-running sitcom Coach.
About the Back: This might shock you, but Topps botched another basic fact. Kevin's first six-RBI game was August 1, 1989. He went 4-for-6, scored four times, and hit for the cycle in an 11-0 Mets rout of St. Louis. You'd think that would be worth remembering.

Triple Play:

1. In 1988, McReynolds set a big league record by stealing 21 bases in a single season without being caught.

2. On June 25, 1991, he hit a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, two strikes, and the Mets trailing Montreal 5-4.

3. After retiring, he built an eponymous sports complex near Sylvan Hills High School, his alma mater in Sherwood, AR.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Adolescent me didn't think about McReynolds much, but post-college me worked with a Mets fan who hated the outfielder with a fiery passion.

Bill James Said: "He's been washed up for three years, and has now become the Whipping Boy of the Kansas City fans, who don't really understand why McRae (Mgr.) put him back in the lineup in mid-summer, after he complained about his playing time."

On This Date in 1993: June 22. Carlton Fisk catches his 2,226th career game, surpassing Bob Boone as the all-time leader among backstops. He goes 0-for-2 with a sac bunt, is replaced by Mike LaValliere in the ninth inning, and doesn't play another game. The White Sox release him the following week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#441 Don Lemon and Todd Pridy

About the Front: Here's our first multi-player Marlins prospects card. The pinstripe jersey with solid white pants makes me think that Todd Pridy assumed the photographer was shooting from the waist up.

About the Back: A couple of really bright lights here. Don Lemon was already a four-year minor league veteran at this time, having started out as an undrafted free agent in the Braves organization in 1989. Pridy was a 23rd-round draft pick in 1992 out of Cal State Long Beach.

Triple Play:

1. Don pitched professionally for 16 years, including stints in Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, and Japan. He had his greatest pro success in Taiwan, compiling a 36-32 record, 2.53 ERA, and four saves in six seasons in the CPBL. While pitching for the Yakult Swallows in 2000, he became the first foreign-born player in Nippon Pro Baseball history to strike out four batters in one inning.

2. Pridy also never made it to the majors, but extended his pro career with six seasons in the independent Western League. In 1998, he batted .408/.478/.665 in 90 games with the Sonoma County Crushers, clubbing 29 doubles and 21 home runs and driving in 94.

3. After retiring as a player, Todd became a social sciences teacher and head coach of the varsity baseball team at Napa High School in California.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I've always assumed that Todd's last name was pronounced "pretty". I'm fairly sure that my friends and I made fun of his name, because we were very mature like that.

Bill James Said: Nothing from Bill on these two.

On This Date in 1993: June 17. Al Leiter two-hits the Red Sox for his first career shutout as Toronto tops Boston, 7-0. The BoSox strand the bases loaded in the fourth inning after a Mike Greenwell single and a pair of walks; their only other baserunner in the game comes via a Billy Hatcher leadoff single in the sixth. Ivan Calderon bats next, grounds into a double play, and that's that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#440 Ruben Sierra

About the Front: It looks like somebody just told Ruben Sierra something very unsettling. Maybe it was along the lines of "the A's will still be playing in the Coliseum in 2015".

About the Back: Sierra has dropped to fourth on the Rangers' all-time home run list with 180 (owing to a pair of return stints in the 2000s). Ahead of him are Juan Gonzalez (372 HR), Rafael Palmeiro (321), and Ivan Rodriguez (217). Frank Howard hit 246 homers for the franchise, but all but nine of those came when the team was still the Washington Senators.

Triple Play:

1. In 2001, Ruben was the American League Comeback Player of the Year with the Rangers. He had played a total of 86 MLB games over the previous four years, but batted .291/.322/.561 with 23 home runs and 67 RBI in 94 games with Texas that season.

2. In all, he played parts of 20 seasons in the big leagues and totaled 306 homers and 1,322 RBI.

3. Sierra owns show horses, and recorded two albums of Latin music during the 1990s.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I remember Tony LaRussa referring to Ruben as "a village idiot" when the player made public comments questioning Oakland management's desire for him to be a more selective hitter.

Bill James Said: "Ruben Sierra is the first player in major league history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases, drive in 100 runs - and have a terrible season by his own standards." Sierra hit just .233/.288/.390 (86 OPS+) in 1993, making it the worst season of his career to that point.

On This Date in 1993: June 16. Jack McDowell turns in one of his best starts on the season, a three-hit shutout of the Athletics. Chicago wins 4-0, as McDowell (10-4) strikes out eight while walking two. He will twirl a two-hitter in Seattle on August 1.

Monday, June 15, 2015

#439 Bryan Harvey

About the Front: Why is Bryan Harvey just hanging out on the porch of his log cabin in full uniform? Who knows? Just go with it.

About the Back: Well, this is odd. Bryan's birthplace is listed here as Catawba, NC, but Baseball Reference says he was born in Soddy-Daisy, TN.

Triple Play:

1. His father Stan was named to the Amateur Softball Association of America's National Softball Hall of Fame in 1996. Two of Bryan's sons were top draft picks. Kris Harvey was a second-round pick of the Marlins in 2005 out of Clemson University; he played eight minor league seasons as an outfielder and later a pitcher and stalled out at AA. Hunter Harvey was the Orioles' first-round selection (22nd overall) out of high school in 2013, and entered the 2015 season as Baseball America's 20th-ranked prospect.

2. After an elbow injury shortened Harvey's 1992 season, the Angels had second thoughts about the multi-year contract they'd just given their closer. He was exposed to the expansion draft and chosen by the Marlins; he proceeded to set a record for an expansion team by saving 45 games in 1993and posted a 1.70 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 69 innings. His elbow troubles returned in 1994, though, and he totaled just 10.1 innings after that.

3. Bryan coached in the Rockies organization, working with the Class A Asheville Tourists (2007) and AA Tulsa Drillers (2009-2010).

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'd like to think that my younger self would've been impressed by my decision to emulate Harvey's mustache in my mid-twenties.

Bill James Said: "He had a wonderful season, from which we should learn this: that the bullpen is not the key to success in baseball." The '93 Marlins went 64-98 with a good batch of relievers anchored by Bryan, finishing 33 games behind the NL East champion Phillies.

On This Date in 1993: June 15. John Connally, former governor of Texas, U. S. Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of the Navy, dies at age 76. He was seriously wounded in the shooting that took the life of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

#438 Ritchie Moody

About the Front: Moody by name, moody by reputation. Look at that pout.

About the Back: 47 earned runs allowed in 60 innings in 1991? Woof, talk about a sophomore slump.

Triple Play:

1. In 1992, he appeared in a total of 28 games at Class A Gastonia and AA Tulsa, allowing two earned runs in 32.2 innings for an ERA of 0.55. He also allowed seven unearned runs, because minor league baseball is a fascinating sort of game.

2. Moody spent six years in the Rangers organization, with his only experience above AA coming in a disastrous eight-game trial as a starter at AAA Oklahoma City in 1994 (0-5, 6.00 ERA, 32 K/31 BB in 42 IP). He was out of baseball after the 1997 season, finishing with a 6-16 record as a pro with a 3.91 ERA and 30 saves.

3. After retiring, he operated a baseball academy in Centerville, OH.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I'm not sure why Ritchie is wearing a Starter cap with the "TEXAS" wordmark instead of an actual Rangers cap. I had a cap in this style, and it was teal with "DOLPHINS" across the front in orange lettering. I was such a fashion plate in my adolescence.

Bill James Said: Bill pleads the fifth, on the grounds that Moody was not yet close to reaching the majors.

On This Date in 1993: June 12. The first presidential elections are held in Nigeria since a 1983 military coup. Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party defeats Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. However, military ruler Ibrahim Babangida later declares the election null, and it will be another five years before Nigeria has a civilian government.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#437 Chris Hammond

About the Front: That's not the yawning abyss behind Chris Hammond; it's probably just the batter's eye.

About the Back: Hammond hit that home run off of John Burkett; it was a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth that gave Cincinnati a 4-3 lead. He was no slouch with the bat, finishing his career with a line of .202/.285/.290, four homers, and 14 RBI in 286 plate appearances.

Triple Play:

1. His older brother Steve was an outfielder, and batted .230 with one home run and 11 RBI in 46 games with the Royals in 1982. The elder Hammond spent a large part of seven different seasons in AAA, and finished his career in Japan in 1987 with the Nankai Hawks.

2. Chris was the AAA American Association's Pitcher of the Year in 1990, when he led the league with 15 wins, a 2.17 ERA, and 149 strikeouts, becoming the first pitcher in the league's modern incarnation (1969-1997) to capture the Triple Crown.

3. Hammond had shoulder surgery in 1998 and retired to a 200+ acre horse ranch in Randolph County, AL with his family. He returned to baseball in 2001 and was back in the big leagues the following year as a full-time reliever, with a sparkling 0.96 ERA in 76 innings for the Braves. He spent one season apiece with Atlanta, the Yankees, the Athletics, the Padres, and the Reds before retiring for good after the 2006 season.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I always identify Chris Hammond as a Marlin, since that's where he was pitching when I picked up on baseball.

Bill James Said: "He was pounded senseless the second half, which has been his habit - in his career he is 22-14 before the break, but 3-17 after."

On This Date in 1993: June 11. The Blue Jays fill a need at shortstop, reacquiring Tony Fernandez from the Mets in exchange for outfielder Darrin Jackson. Fernandez, who had been a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover in his first stint with Toronto (1983-1990), is invigorated by the trade, batting .306/.361/.442 with the Jays. He'd managed an anemic .225/.323/.295 line in 48 games in New York.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

#436 Greg (W.) Harris

About the Front: Greg Harris is wearing a patch on his left sleeve to commemorate the 1992 All-Star Game, which was played in San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium.

About the Back: The 11-strikeout game for Harris on September 25, 1988 came in his second MLB apperarance and first start. It was also the only double-digit strikeout game of his career; his next-highest total in K's was eight.

Triple Play:

1. On August 10 and August 15, 1991, he pitched back-to-back shutouts, winning each by a score of 1-0. These were the only two shuouts of his career.

2. Greg's career truly ran aground after a mid-1993 trade to the Rockies. From that point forward, he went 4-25 with a 6.90 ERA for Colorado and Minnesota, and he was 31 years old when he pitched in his last MLB game for the Twins in 1995.

3. In 1999, Harris won a multimillion-dollar verdict against former surgeon Gary Losse, having successfully argued that the doctor botched his shoulder surgery and prematurely ended his career.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Lesson #2 in keeping the pitching Gregs Harris straight. Greg W. Harris is three inches taller, fifteen pounds heavier, eight years younger, and more clean-shaven than Greg A. Harris.

Bill James Said: "Harris led the league in runs allowed (127), home runs (33), and slugging percentage (.455), but Greg Maddux would have a hard time posting a good record for this team in this park."

On This Date in 1993: June 10. I haven't done a Calvin and Hobbes strip in a while. I bet Calvin's dad would have hated smart phones.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

#435 Willie McGee

About the Front: That's a pretty unusual stance for catching a fly ball. It almost looks like Willie McGee is slightly crouched, as if he were preparing to jump. He's clearly playing at Wrigley Field, so I guess a gust of wind could have carried the ball off-course.

About the Back: As you can see, Willie won an unconventional National League batting title in 1990. He was traded to Oakland at the end of August, but had already accumulated enough appearances in St. Louis to qualify for the N.L. crown. So despite the fact that his .274 average in the American League lowered his overall mark to .324, lower than Eddie Murray's .330 average with the Dodgers, McGee was still the top hitter in the senior circuit. Clear as mud?

Triple Play:

1. He won three Gold Gloves as the Cardinals' center fielder (1983, 1985, and 1986), captured a Silver Slugger award in 1985, and was also the 1985 N.L. MVP.

2. McGee finished his career back in St. Louis, spanning the 1996 through 1999 seasons. In a notable moment on April 8, 1997, he hit a walkoff pinch homer against Montreal's Ugueth Urbina in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Cards' home opener. Not only was it the first game-ending home run of his career, it gave St. Louis their first win after a season-opening six-game losing skid.

3. Willie has been a special assistant to Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak since 2013. Last year, he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It's kind of inspiring that somebody so strange-looking could be such a successful athlete. Still, it seems mean-spirited for folks to say that he looks like E.T.

Bill James Said: "Hit 3.5 times as many ground balls as fly balls, the highest ratio in the major leagues by far (253-73)."

On This Date in 1993: June 9. Lefty Terry Mulholland shuts out the Astros as the Phillies win 8-0. It's the third straight complete game for the veteran, who allows six hits and no walks and strikes out nine. Philly batters club four home runs, and Jim Eisenreich finishes a single shy of hitting for the cycle.

Monday, June 8, 2015

#434 Jack Armstrong

About the Front: You don't see many major leaguers wearing #77, but Jack Armstrong donned those digits with the Indians, Marlins, and Rangers in the later years of his career. His birthday was the seventh day of March, leading him to choose that number doubled with Cleveland when he couldn't find a lower available number that appealed to him.

About the Back: Armstrong is one of the more obscure All-Star starting pitchers. He had gone 11-3 with a 2.28 ERA in the first half of the 1990 season, but slumped to 1-6 with a 5.96 mark and was demoted to the bullpen after the break.

Triple Play:

1. His son, Jack Jr., pitched collegiately at Vanderbilt and was a third-round draft pick of the Astros in 2011. However, recurring arm injuries prevented him from ever playing a game in the minors, and the younger Armstrong retired in 2014.

2. Jack's lone postseason appearance came in the second game of the 1990 World Series. He entered in the fifth inning and held Oakland to one hit in three scoreless innings, striking out three. The Reds pulled out the victory in the tenth.

3. He suffered a torn rotator cuff early in the 1994 season, hastening the end of his career.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: It would've been pretty ironic if Jack Armstrong had been a knuckleball pitcher, right? Right?

Bill James Said: "He's 22-45 over the last three years, which qualifies him as the Losing Pitcher Mulcahy of the nineties." If you're not up on your WWII-era players, Hugh Mulcahy went 40-76 for the woeful Phillies from 1937 through 1940, twice leading the National League in losses.

On This Date in 1993: June 8. Japan's Chunichi Dragons purchase the contract of Matt Stairs from the Expos. The 25-year-old outfielder will play 60 games overseas, batting .250/.289/.432 with six home runs. Stairs will return to the majors with Boston in 1995 and hung around until 2011, retiring with 265 career homers.

Friday, June 5, 2015

#433 Roger Bailey and Tom Schmidt

About the Front: Topps wanted to cram just as many Rockies and Marlins into Series Two as they possibly could, so this is the first of several two-player cards featuring minor leaguers from the two brand new organizations. Dig the casual look from Roger Bailey, as the photographer seems to have captured him on a stroll through the local park.

About the Back: Since space was at a premium, Topps chose not to include draft and acquistion information on the card backs. Otherwise, you'd learn that Bailey was the team's third-round draft pick in 1992 out of Florida State University. Schmidt was a 24th-rounder that year out of Brevard Community College in Florida.

Triple Play:

1. Bailey pitched for the Rockies from 1995-1997. Considering that he was making his home starts at Coors Field, his 1997 season (9-10, 4.24 ERA, 5 CG, 121 ERA+) was pretty impressive.

2. Roger's career ended abruptly in the spring of 1998, when he suffered back injuries as a passenger in teammate Mike Munoz's car; they were rear-ended at a red light in Tucson. He later worked as an advance scout for Colorado for four years.

3. Schmidt played six seasons of minor league ball, stalling out at AA, and finished with a career batting line of .238/.308/.378, 61 home runs, and 277 RBI.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Hey, I know where Towson and Perry Hall are! In the future, I may even live smack in the middle of the two.

Bill James Said: Nothing, as both players were still in the low minors at the time.

On This Date in 1993: June 5. In Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England, portions of the Holbeck Hall Hotel fall into the sea after a landslide. The entire hotel had to be demolished after the incident.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

#432 Pete Young

About the Front: I think this is the only Expos card in the set that features an "Expos" wordmark across the front of the jersey. Montreal switched to these uniforms in 1992, ditching their classic tri-color hat, but all of their other cards in this set show players in their road grays. I guess Topps didn't want to pay their photographers to travel to Quebec.

About the Back: I bet you didn't expect Pistol Pete Maravich to pop up in this set.

Triple Play:

1. Pete pitched collegiately at Mississippi State University. Some of the most prominent MSU Bulldogs to play in the majors include Rafael Palmeiro, Will Clark, Buddy Myer, Del Unser, and Jonathan Papelbon.

2. He earned his only career win on July 10, 1993, tossing a perfect ninth inning with the Expos trailing the Padres 2-1. San Diego reliever Gene Harris blew the save, allowing a pair of singles and three stolen bases. After a pair of intentional walks, Moises Alou drew the (unintentional) walkoff walk to seal the comeback.

3. Young was purchased by the Red Sox in February of 1994 along with Matt Stairs, but spent that entire season in the minors - mostly at AA New Britain - and was finished in pro ball after that.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I should tally up all of the guys in this set who were one-and-done; i.e., their only Topps card was a part of the 1993 set. By my count, we're up to 24 such players as of this entry.

Bill James Said: "Grade C prospect, throws an OK fastball and a good slider."

On This Date in 1993: June 4. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is taken to jail after a domestic dispute with wife Courtney Love, but no charges are filed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

#431 Rich Amaral

About the Front: Is it just me, or does Rich Amaral look like a weathered Jimmy Smits?

About the Back: Three years seems like an awfully long time to spend in Pittsfield, MA. That was the Cubs' AA affiliate at the time. If not for the White Sox drafting Amaral in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, he may well have spent a fourth year there. Instead, Rich played for the Pale Hose AA club in Birmingham in 1989.

Triple Play:

1. Amaral still qualified as a rookie in 1993 at age 31, when he batted .290/.348/.367 with 19 stolen bases in 30 tries for Seattle. His 421 plate appearances that year would remain a career high.

2. In a big league career that spanned 10 seasons with the Mariners and Orioles, Rich played at least 40 games at every position except for pitcher and catcher.

3. He and his son Beau both starred collegiately for UCLA's baseball team. The younger Amaral was a seventh-round draft pick with the Reds in 2012, and is currently an outfielder at AA Pensacola.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Rich "Protect Your Car With" Amaral. I can only imagine the useful facts that might have been crowded out of my brain by Chris Berman nicknames.

Bill James Said: "Most backup infielders are good glove/no hit guys who can also run; Amaral is a better hitter than most middle infielders and can also steal bases, but his glovework kept him out of a job until last year."

On This Date in 1993: June 3. Draft time! The Mariners choose wisely with the first overall pick, taking a high school shortstop from Miami named Alex Rodriguez. Other notable first round selections include Trot Nixon (7th overall), Billy Wagner (12th), Derrek Lee (14th), Chris Carpenter (15th), Torii Hunter (20th), and Jason Varitek (21st). The Twins take Hunter and Varitek with back-to-back picks, but are unable to reach an agreement with the latter, a Scott Boras client.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

#430 Eddie Murray

About the Front: If anyone could have made the afro-wide sideburns-mustache combo work in the 1990s, it would've been Eddie Murray. But he'd trimmed everything down into a more contemporary look by then. Alas.

About the Back: Would you have believed that Eddie Murray's single-season high in home runs was 33? Lesser lights like Steve Balboni reached the 35-homer mark, but not Eddie.

Triple Play:

1. In the Orioles' Game Five World Series clincher in 1983, he went 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs and three RBI.

2. Eddie was the third player in MLB history to reach the dual career milestones of 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, joining Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. He was the 1977 AL Rookie of the Year, an eight-time All-Star, and a three-time Gold Glover at first base. However, despite finishing in the top five in MVP voting for five consecutive years (1981-1985), he never captured a Most Valuable Player award.

3. Murray was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2003, and the Orioles have retired his number 33 and dedicated a statue in his likeness at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. After his retirement as a player in 1997, he went on to coach for the O's, Dodgers, and Indians.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: As someone who missed out on Eddie's prime, it was a thrill to see him return to Baltimore for the 1996 stretch run. He hit his 500th home run in Camden Yards on the first anniversary of Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game played, which is just too cool for words.

Bill James Said: "Has aged exceptionally well, being about 88% as effective in his late thirties as he was in his twenties." They didn't call him Steady Eddie for nothing.

On This Date in 1993: June 2. Jason Bere earns his first career win as the White Sox trample the Tigers, 10-1. The 22-year-old allows four hits and four walks in five innings, and is supported by home runs from Joey Cora, Robin Ventura, and Ron Karkovice. Karko's first inning grand slam is the first of two dingers on the evening for the veteran catcher.

Monday, June 1, 2015

#429 Milt Cuyler

First of all, I'm sorry for the two-week hiatus. I was travelling...and then recovering from travel. Let's get back to Series Two.

About the Front: Milt Cuyler wears his uniform number (22) on his wristbands. That's a good way to keep teammates from wandering off with your equipment.

About the Back: Cuyler had only ten career home runs, but drove in 21 runs on those round-trippers. That's getting the most out of it.

Triple Play:

1. Milt finished fifth in the American League in stolen bases in 1991, and was third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chuck Knoblauch and Juan Guzman. However, he never exceeded 89 games played in any subsequent big league season, and his career was essentially over after a 50-game stint in Boston in 1996.

2. On May 11, 1993, he set the tone for a 12-7 Tigers win over Toronto with a career-high four hits in six at-bats from the leadoff spot, including a double and a triple. He scored three runs and stole a base.

3. Cuyler has spent several years coaching rookie-level hitters with the Twins' Gulf Coast League affiliate.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Milt may have shared a last name with Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler, but he finished his career with 1,970 less hits.

Bill James Said: "Appears to be suffering from Jerome Walton's Disease; played very well as a rookie but has failed to hold his ground."

On This Date in 1993: June 1. The Expos sign 18-year-old Orlando Cabrera as an amateur free agent from Colombia. He will go on to enjoy a 15-year career as a big league shortstop, winning a pair of Gold Gloves as well as a World Series ring with the 2004 Red Sox.