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.