Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Everything's Coming Up Rosie!

Now's your inning, set the World (Series) on its ear! Set it spinning! That'll be just the beginning!

No disrespect to the 2021 Comeback Players of the Year, but it feels like Eddie Rosario would have won comeback player of the 2nd half, if there was such a thing. Dumped by the Twins (who by the way, could have used another decent outfielder for most of the year), then injured in Cleveland, a trade deadline deal sent him to the Braves for the right to release Pablo Sandoval, the expectations for the balance of the season were not high. Could Rosie rise to meet the moment?

Even before Topps NOW, Rosie was making "NOW-worthy" moments. Hitting a homer on the very first pitch he saw from an MLB pitcher, in front of his family who cam from Puerto Rico to see his debut? Yeah, he can meet the moment.

How about the 2017 World Baseball Classic? It was Rosie's walk off sac fly that propelled Puerto Rico to the Finals against the U.S.

The big moments would carry over into the 2017 regular season, blasting a walk off in 2017 that helped the Twins stay ahead in the Wild Card race so the Yankees could crush my spirit again. Just kidding, I am Vikings fan too, so I've been dead inside for decades.

His family was back in town in June of 2018 (the Twins should have bought them a house), and he responded by launching 3 homers, including the game winner.

2019 of course saw Rosie reach career highs in homers and 2020 was a lost season for a lot of players. 2021 was looking like another lost year for Rosario, but once the Braves added him to the lineup it was sunshine and Santa Claus - it was Roses and daffodils! Hitting for the cycle (only seeing 5 pitches to do it, by the way, vintage Rosario), then winning the NLCS MVP was a great comeback. 

He's a free agent again now, so everything's coming up Rosie!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

So it Gose



Anthony Gose has come unstuck in time.

Gose has gone to sleep a Phillies' 2nd round pick as a speedy outfielder, and woken up 31 years of age throwing 100 mph fastballs for team about to change its name.

He's walked through one door as a high school track star, and come out another traded for second time in a single day - from Philly to Houston to Toronto in the blink of an eye.
So it Gose.

But that's the life of a minor leaguer - no control over where he's going next (or when). 

What does a Blue Jay sound like?

Gose closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was hanging on to a reserve role in Detroit. 

And so on.
Others have come unstuck in time before Gose, to varying levels of success. 

Shohei Ohtani has made it look easy, occupying roles of Silver Slugger and Cy Young candidate simultaneously. He did spend a full season as a hitter only while recovering from elbow surgery.

Bobby Darwin toiled for 9 years in the minor leagues as a pitcher before converting to outfield, playing for the Twins in 1972 as a 29 year old "rookie" even though his MLB debut was as a pitcher for the Angels in 1962. 

Rick Ankiel burned brightly as a phenom pitcher, winning 11 games as a rookie starter in 2000. A blink of an eye later and he was pulled from two consecutive postseason starts for throwing 7 wild pitches across both outings. He would make a comeback of his own, like a reverse Gose, converting to the outfield extending his playing career for another 7 seasons in the big leagues.

That's the beauty of a long journey, not knowing where you'll be from one minute to the next, only taking the time to reflect on all the highs and lows after reaching the destination.

The story of Anthony Gose's journey only moved a fraction of a second- from 97 mph as a prep pitcher to 100 mph as a 31 year old - and yet it was years of hard work and determination required to make that happen.

hat tip to Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five for the inspiration for this post.

Monday, April 5, 2021

1998 Topps All-Star Rookie Second Baseman Miguel Cairo

There are players in Major League history with more eye-popping stats than infielder Miguel Cairo, but very few of them were unanimous selections for the Topps All-Star Rookie team. Cairo was playing his first full MLB season at the age of 24 in 1998. He was already playing for his 4th MLB franchise, but it was because lots of teams wanted him! The expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays needed talented players to fill out their roster - and Cairo fit the bill at second base.

His rookie season included 138 hits (26 doubles and 5 Triples) and 19 stolen bases in 150 games. He was the 8th pick in the Expansion draft, plucked from the Cubs organization. 

Cairo signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a minor league free agent when he was just 16 years old out of Venezuela. He made a big impression after a great year in High A Bakersfield in 1994 - he stole a career best 44 bases while hitting .291 in 155 games. From then on he was an intriguing target for various teams looking to improve their org's speed and/or defense. Seattle picked him up in a trade with the Dodgers after the 1995 season, then flipped him to Toronto less than a month later. He had a strong season in AAA for the Jays, and made his MLB debut in April of that year. He then came to the Cubs in time for the 1997 season, and he spent another year mostly in AAA, now in Iowa. He had 159 hits for the AAA team, and once again showed decent speed with 40 steals. The Devil Rays felt he was ready to take the next step and handed him the starting 2B job for 1998.

His most prolific seasons came as Tampa's starting second baseman, where he hit .275/.319/.356. He wasn't a power hitter, is what I'm saying. But he did pile up the singles and was a talented defender. He'd end up back in the Cubs organization in 2001 after the Devil Rays wanted to give Brent Abernathy a shot as the everyday 2nd baseman. Cairo was released in November by the Devil Rays, then picked up by Oakland, and was traded late in Spring training to the Cubs. The Cubs provided Cairo with the opportunity to re-invent himself from a light hitting second baseman into a light hitting utility infielder. This would be a key development for Cairo, as his versatility would allow him to prove his usefulness to many more teams for many more years. 

After a season with Chicago (split between AAA and the big league club), Cairo caught the eye of the Cardinals' Tony LaRussa. The Cubs placed Cairo on Waivers and the Cardinals snapped him up in time for the 2001 post season run. Cairo would pick up a hit and a stolen base against the eventual World Series Champion Diamondbacks in the 2001 NLDS. The following year, Cairo would play all over the diamond, appearing at every position except pitcher, center field, and catcher. He filled the Super Utility role that was a vintage LaRussa strategy. He would give anyone and everyone a day off when called upon, and was a valuable double switch option in the National League. 

In the 2002 NLDS, Cairo reached base in all 5 plate appearances. He'd add 5 more hits in the NLCS, but the Cardinals fell just short, losing to the Giants


Cairo had a great season with the Yankees in 2004, again playing all over the infield. He appeared in a career high 122 games, and topped 100 hits for the first time since his days as an everyday player in Tampa. He would go on to play for the Mets, then back to the Yankees, then the Cardinals again, then Seattle and Philadelphia before finally settling for a 3 year stint in Cincinnati. His time with Philly included his only World Series experience, though he was on the roster he did not get a plate appearance. In all, Cairo played in 17 MLB seasons, and collected over 1,000 career hits and scored over 500 career runs. 

This year Cairo has re-united with Tony LaRussa to serve as the bench coach for the Chicago White Sox.

Do you have any Miguel Cairo memories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

I Love The 80s - 1982 Los Angeles Dodgers

This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

In 1981, the Dodgers climbed to the top of the NL West and then toppled Houston, Montreal, and finally the Yankees to win the World Series in six games. Southern California was enthralled in "Fernandomania" - the Rookie left hander threw a shutout on Opening Day and never looked back. The entire starting rotation had winning records, and each had at least 1 shutout on the season.

The following season was very good, just not as good as 1981. They would finish in 2nd place in the NL West, just 1 game behind the division winners. The rotation was a little top heavy in 82, but still excellent. The team also ranked 4th in the NL in Runs Scored. making for a balanced and formidable roster. Manager Tommy Lasorda was in just his 5th season as the team's skipper, but had already led the team to 3 NL pennants, and narrowly missed in 1980 (after a 1 game playoff) and was just one game short in 1982. 

The Cards

Topps #642 Mike Scioscia - 1982 saw growing pains for Scioscia, who was now the primary catcher after supplanting Steve Yeager. It was Scioscia's worst offensive season, slashing .219/.302/.296 for an OPS+ of just 80. But the season provided great experience for the young backstop as he learned the finer points of the game and the demanding position of catcher. He tore his rotator cuff and missed most of the 1983 season, but came back to spend the rest of his playing career as the Dodgers #1 catcher. The 2 time All-Star also had a long and productive managerial career with the Angels, including a 2002 World Series win.

Fleer #25 Rick Sutcliffe - The 1982 squad definitely missed the arm of Rick Sutcliffe, who was traded to Cleveland the prior December. Sutcliffe won the AL ERA title in 1982, and had a 14-8 record. Despite winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1979, Sutcliffe and manager Tommy Lasorda famously did not get along well. during the 1980 and 81 seasons, Sutcliffe's role on the team diminished and ultimately led to his trade. He was one of the better starting pitchers of the 1980s, including winning the NL Cy Young in 1984, and finishing his career with 171 victories. The 3 time All-Star had the reputation of being a very good hitting pitcher, thanks in no small part to his home run in Game 1 of the 1984 NLCS. 

Topps #410 Ron Cey - It would be his final season in Los Angeles in 1982, but Cey was not resting on his laurels. In '81, the season concluded with Cey and the Dodgers as World Champions. Cey was the Co-MVP for the World Series. Cey still showed he had excellent range at 3rd base, even at age 34 in 1982. He ranked in the top 5 in most defensive categories in the NL that season. Cey was a 6 time All-star, making the NL squad every year from 1974 through 1979. 

Topps #375 Dusty Baker - A baseball lifer, Baker has been part of more than a few of the game's biggest moments for the last 5 decades. Baker was on the receiving end of the world's first official "high five" from Glenn Burke. He was in the on deck circle when Hank Aaron hit home run #715.  He was MVP of the 1977 NLCS, and had a good case for repeating as NLCS MVP again in 1978, going 4-5 in the deciding victory. Later, as a Manager, he'd lead the Giants to a World Series appearance (facing his old teammate Mike Scioscia), then Managed the Cubs during the infamous "Steve Bartman" incident. Baker returned to coaching in 2020 and despite a regular season record below .500, led the Astros all the way to the ALCS. 

Fleer #27 Fernando Valenzuela -  His rookie season of 1981 was a tough act to follow, but Valenzuela had a terrific sophomore season with the Dodgers. Already the established ace of the rotation, Valenzuela won 19 games, and appeared in the 2nd of what would become 6 straight All-Star games. His 8 shutouts in 1981 were a rookie record, one that will be very tough to beat now. Valenzuela would miss the post season in 1988, but was a maintstay in the Dodgers rotation throughout the 80s. He performed very well in the post season, with a career ERA of 1.98 over 63 and 2/3 innings. Valenzuela could hit as well, with 10 career homers and a .200 average, quite good for the limited at bats for a pitcher. 

Donruss #84 Steve Garvey - The 1982 season was a "last hurrah" for several key members of the Dodgers of the 1970s. That included Steve Garvey, who would sign as a free agent with the Padres following that year. Garvey was the modern "Iron Horse," having played in the most consecutive games among active players. The streak was also marked with excellent offensive production - Garvey was a career .301 hitter with the Dodgers over his first 14 MLB seasons. The well rounded Garvey was the 1974 NL MVP, was a 4 time Gold Glove winner and a 10 time All-Star. He was named MVP of the All-Star Game twice. He is often the subject of discussion as one of the best players that are not inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Topps #545 Reggie Smith - Reggie formed a powerful nucleus of hitters along with Garvey, Cey, and Baker. In 1977, all 4 players hit at least 30 homers, the first time in MLB history that 4 teammates all reached that milestone in the same season. By 1982, Smith was a 17 year veteran in his final MLB season. Smith spent 1982 with Giants, and had a bounceback from a disappointing 1981 campaign in which he hit just .200 for the Dodgers in 41 games. Smith's career began in Boston, where he teamed with Yaz and the rest of the "Impossible Dreamers" for the 1967 team that captured the AL pennant in dramatic fashion. He was the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up, and hit a pair of homers in the '67 World Series against the Cardinals. The 4th World Series appearance for Reggie was the charm, making just a pair of plate appearances in the series, but sharing in the success of the 1981 Dodgers. Reggie is criminally underrated, finishing his career with a 137 OPS+, as well as displaying excellent defense throughout his 17 MLB seasons. His counting stat totals place him squarely in the Hall of "Very Good," over 2,000 hits, 314 homers, over 1,100 runs scored and over 1,000 career RBI.

Fleer #29 Steve Yeager - Yeager had the Catching job in 1981, lost it to Mike Scioscia, then won it back in 1983 when Scioscia tore his rotator cuff. A career .228 hitter, Yeager provided power and defense behind the plate. His offensive improved in the post season, where he hit .254 and slugged .449, which was nearly 100 points higher than his career regular season slugging mark. In World Series play, he slashed .298/.323/.579 over 4 trips to the fall classic.  His 2 homers in the 1981 World Series helped him to a share of the MVP award with Ron Cey. He had an excellent arm as well, twice leading the NL in caught stealing pct. Fun fact - his cousin is the famous test pilot Chuck Yeager, who was the first person to have broken the sound barrier in flight. 

Topps #338 Dave Lopes - Davey left the Dodgers following the 1981 World Series win, traded just before the season began in 1982 to Oakland. His 1981 season was a rough one, playing in just 58 games and hitting a career low .206. A late addition to the 1984 Cubs roster, and a deadline acquisition of the Astros in 1986, Lopes played in the NLCS six times in his career, and five times in the World Series (4 of those coming with the Dodgers, of course). Lopes was known as a speed threat, leading the NL in stolen bases in 1975 and 76, as well as compiling 556 steals over his 16 year career. Along with Garvey, Cey, and Bill Russell, Lopes formed the longest lasting intact infield in MLB history. The group appeared together in same lineup and same infield for roughly 10 straight seasons.

What is your favorite card of a Dodgers Player from 1982? Doesn't have to be one of these...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Fixin a Hole (in my set build)

Oh don't mind me, just trying to finish last year's Heritage set. What's taking so long, you may rightly ask?

Elvis has entered the building, but he is part of a large group of MLB players that are found only in the artificially rare "SP" series that makes up cards 401-500 in the set.

I've been not so patiently waiting for the price to come down on these short printed cards. While I was waiting, Topps released an extension to the 500 card set, as it has done for several years, which they call the "High Numbers" set. I was ready for this! I pre-ordered a hobby box of the stuff way back in 2020, so I would receive the cards promptly in early 2021. Ernie Banks has an insert set in the High Numbers section of this mammoth set. Just found one in the box.

There's a 1971 World Series highlights subset, Award Winners, and Now & Then, which is a common Heritage insert set.

The "Hits" were a pair of plain white fabric swatches. I've pulled Hoskins before in something else, can't recall the product but I sent that away some time ago.

Freddie Galvis was in the box as well. I added the Adam Eaton (Springfield, OH represent!) and the Eddie Rosario as eBay singles. 

The box topper was pretty sweet, if difficult to store. Greatest Moments was a similarly oversized offering back in the day, and it's always a welcome sight to add a super prospect like Luis Robert.

The one oddity? Well, if you notice Freddy Galvis is both a SP from the regular set AND a High Number card. I believe there are a couple more examples of this, but another indication of the sloppy and/or indifferent quality control at Topps. One of those cards could have been a missing player. Then again, with 725 cards, there's plenty of roster spots!

Have you attempted to complete one of these Heritage sets? Are you working on 2021 right now? 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

In Rod We Trust

Rod Carew is an All-Star's All-Star. In 19 MLB seasons, Carew was an All-Star 18 times.

Topps made Carew an All-Star Rookie, but he was also an All-Star for the American League, and the AL Rookie of the Year. Carew's hitting really started to take off in 1969, when he hit .332 for the season to win the AL batting title. He'd win 6 more batting titles before his retirement in 1985, including 4 straight from 1972 thru 1975. 

Carew was traded before the 1979 season began. People point to the notoriously cheap Calvin Griffith for trading Carew before he had to pay him a free agent's salary, but the fact was that Carew already wanted to be traded. Articles at the time talk about Carew being comfortable in Minnesota, but contract negotiations going poorly between the two parties. What the vast majority of the articles do not bring up is Calvin Griffith's appearance at The Lions Club in Waseca, MN in 1978 when he said "I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 Blacks here. Black people don't go to baseball games, but they'll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it'll scare you to death. We came here because you've got good, hardworking White people here." A bit of context here - Calvin is the adopted son of Clark Griffith, who ran the Washington Senators for decades before turning over operations to Calvin. One of the main tenants of Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.? The Homestead Grays, a Negro National League franchise that often outdrew the MLB Senators/Nats in the 1940s. Clark Griffith was opposed to integration mostly because it directly impacted him financially. Integration would cost him a profitable tenant. As a lifelong fan of Twins baseball, I have come to terms with how they arrived in Minnesota, knowing that their existence is a product of some warped thinking. That same warped thinking cost the Franchise several seasons of one of their best players. Carew knew about the comments, as a reporter attending the dinner recounted those comments, along with Griffith specifically calling Carew "a damned fool" for playing in 1978 for just $170,000. After reading this in the paper, Carew's response was "The days of Kunta Kinte are over" as well as "I refuse to be a slave on his plantation and play for a bigot."

Carew would appear in six more All-Star games after that trade, collected his 3,000th career hit against the Twins, and helped the Angels reach the post season in 1979 and 1982. In the 1983 All-Star Game, Carew started and hit lead-off. He collected his final 2 All-Star hits, going 2-3 with a walk, 2 runs scored, and an RBI in a 13-3 American League romp. For his career, Carew ranks behind just Aaron, Mays, and Musial for most All-Star games played. He set a record with 2 triples (1978) in the same game, and ranks 4th in runs scored, 3rd in stolen bases, and 4th in walks all-time in All-Star game history. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Season's Greetings

An interesting little tidbit popped up this off season, when the Twins picked up Kyle Garlick off waivers from the Braves. Garlick is in his age 29 season, he was a 28th round pick of the Dodgers in 2015. He spent 5 full seasons in the minors, then managed a big cup of coffee with the Dodgers in 2019 (30 games). He was traded to the Phillies for reliever Tyler Gilbert before the 2020 season.

 The Phillies had even less for him to do, spending all but 13 games at the dreaded "alternate site" during the 2020 season.  Garlick has shown some decent minor league power over the years, hitting just over 20 homers a season over from 2016 to 2019. The Braves scooped him up, then the Twins took a flier on him in February.

He's been the team's biggest surprise of the spring, hitting 5 homers and driving in 13 runs. With Eddie Rosario off to Cleveland, and Alex Kirilloff getting the Kris Bryant treatment, that made room for more Garlick in the lineup. He made the team's opening day roster, and will likely platoon in Left field with Jake Cave. 

I suspect he's just keeping the spot warm for a prospect, but it's a fun story to see a guy win a job in Spring training. Looking forward to the 2021 Season to get going tomorrow!

Any Spring Training surprises for your team?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A (Zippy Zap) Blast From the Past!


One of the worst things about taking so much time away from posting is that I neglected to properly thank folks that have sent cards to me over the last several months. Kenny gave me a shock by sending cards by proxy - these actually were included in the last Transatlantic Triple Break package that Matthew sent my way from West Virginia. 

One of the best things about these packages from Kenny is that even when I know they are coming, I still have no idea what might be in them. Someone who knows more about gaming / tabletop card games can probably tell me more about that card in the center, for instance- but it was definitely a fun surprise to find in the pack! The two green 2003 Topps cards are from the Kanebo Gum set released in Japan. 

Kenny brings all the major sports to play, and I have been the beneficiary more than once of his extra stickers! Josh Okogie is probably my favorite current Timberwolf, so that was a great card to find as well. He's one of those high motor / spark off the bench guys that probably won't show up at an All-Star game, but still finds a way to become a fan favorite.

Luis Arráez is a pretty interesting guy - if you've ever seen him in the batter's box you know what I mean. He's got a stance that looks a bit like Carew, a swing a bit like Oliva, and he takes pitches like no one else in the league. He'll shake his head aggressively and you can sometimes hear him say "no no no no" when he takes a close pitch outside of the zone. I don't think I've seen him get one wrong yet. Plus he hits for a pretty healthy average. Even after a slump and knee injury that he struggled with in the first half of 2020, he still finished with a .321 average for the season.

As usual, Kenny included a little bit of everything! I apologize for taking so long to acknowledge it, but thanks very much Kenny!

Monday, March 29, 2021

1998 Topps All-Star Rookie Third Baseman Bobby Smith

Bobby Smith, you say? Oh, he just made the Topps All-Star Rookie squad because he got the "Expansion Team Boost" you say. Oh, he was the only 3B who qualified, you say. Well guess what? Not only did he outplay Aramis Ramírez and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltré, but he was top 5 among all rookies in homers and RBI. No need to make excuses for success! Bobby Smith was the best choice for Topps All-Star Rookie 3B in 1998, and I'm here to tell you all about it.

The Devil Rays picked Smith in the expansion draft from the Braves, which worked out great for Smith. He certainly would be waiting a long time for a chance to play behind Chipper Jones and the deep farm system that Atlanta boasted. In Tampa, he'd have a fair chance to be seen along with a host of other promising youngsters. His rookie season included the Devil Rays first walk off homer, which was a stunning end to a 14 inning marathon. Smith's homer was his 4th hit of the game, his first big league home run, and you can watch it right here:

Not too shabby.


Smith was an 11th round pick by Atlanta, following a great prep career in Oakland. He was the Oakland school district's Player of the Year in 1992, and had a scholarship offer from Cal-Berkeley. He opted to play professionally with the Braves, making his way up the organizational ladder. He displayed a little power, a little speed, and lot of versatility. In the minors, he was already moving around the diamond - he played in the outfield as well as shortstop, but his primary position was the hot corner. 

The Devil Rays had picked up Wade Boggs as a free agent before their first MLB game, and Bobby Smith was looked at as his heir apparent. Smith's rookie year was his most productive. Over the next few years, a pattern would emerge - Smith would hit well in AAA, then struggle in the big leagues. Whether it can be chalked up to a poor hitting environment in Tropicana Field, limited at bats to develop a groove, or just hitting his talent ceiling, Smith was unable to put it all together at the big league level. 

Smith still found jobs throughout organized pro ball, though his final MLB game came in 2002. He played another 5 seasons in the high minors for the Brewers, Yankees, White Sox and his hometown Oakland A's. After he retired from playing, Smith went on to a career in coaching, serving as a hitting couch in Arizona's minor league system under Delino DeShields, Sr.

Do you have any Bobby Smith memories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

I Love The 80s - 1982 Chicago White Sox

  This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

The White Sox finished the strike shortened 1981 season in 3rd place in the AL west, thanks to a fast start. They finished the first half of the season 9 games above .500, then had a tough stretch to close the season. While the ownership change that year meant the end of the Bill Veeck era, the White Sox would forge ahead with a bigger wallet even if it meant losing a few style points. Veeck had signed Ron LeFlore and Ed Farmer to seven figure deals on his way out the door, and new owners Jerry  Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn wasted little time adding Catching great Carlton Fisk.

1982 would see another 3rd place finish, but improved their overall winning percentage by nearly 30 points. They struggled in June and July (just a 23-31 record for those two months), and were absolutely owned by the Kansas City Royals in the season series, losing 10 of 13 games. If not for that, the team was in good position to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 1959. They would make that next step in 1983, winning 99 games and finishing 1st in the AL West.

The Cards:

Topps #237 Rusty Kuntz - Now known mostly for his role as a first base coach with the Royals, Kuntz was a valuable reserve outfielder for parts of 7 big league seasons. He had a grand total of just 104 major league hits, and his most memorable plate appearance was an out. That out was a sacrifice pop up not far beyond the infield dirt in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. Kirk Gibson was stationed at third base when Kuntz hit the bat into short right field, into the glove of Padres' second baseman Alan Wiggins. Noticing that his back was fully turned away from the infield, Gibson alertly sprinted home, giving the Tigers the run that would prove to be the game winner. For more on Kuntz, I recommend checking out his SABR biography, written by Mike McClary.

Fleer #343 Carlton Fisk - The undisputed field general of the White Sox was Carlton Fisk, now in his second full season on the South Side. Fisk was 34 years old in 1982, but still managed 17 stolen bases, while throwing out 44 would-be base stealers from behind the plate. 1982 was Fisk's 9th All-Star season, in his 11th full season in the big leagues. Fisk was named the best baseball player ever to come from Vermont (he was born there), and the best baseball player ever to come from New Hampshire (he grew up there and played high school ball there) in 1999 by two different publications. 

Donruss #291 Chet Lemon -  Lemon was traded to the Tigers before the 1982 season began, but the White Sox already had Ron LeFlore and Rudy May (correction: Law) playing in center field, so Lemon was deemed expendable. It turned out that Lemon was just developing into a star at the time of the trade, adding power to the speed and defense that he had displayed in his 7 seasons in Chicago. Lemon was a 2 time All-Star and had led the AL in doubles in 1979 leading up to the trade. Though he missed out on the White Sox 1983 run to the ALCS, he more than made up for it the following year in Detroit, helping the Tigers win the World Series following another All-Star season.

Fleer #335 Bill Almon - Perhaps better remembered for his early days in San Diego as the SS that Ozzie Smith replaced, Almon had a solid 2 year stint with the White Sox in 1981 and 82. He hit a career high .301 in 1981, and added another season with 10 doubles and 10 steals in 1982. Almon's best season came the following year in 1983 with Oakland. The erstwhile shortstop was converted to a utility role, which allowed him to play in a career high 143 games. He had 29 doubles and 26 stolen bases for the A's that year, also career bests. 

Topps Traded #54T Steve Kemp - Kemp was traded to the White Sox from the Tigers for Chet Lemon. Both teams were looking to change the shape of their outfield, with the Sox looking to add some power in the corners, and the Tigers hoping to have their Center Fielder for years to come. Kemp responded in 1982 with a great slash line .286/.381/.428 which was good for an OPS+ of 122. Kemp hit 19 homers, scored a career high 91 runs, and drove in 89 of his own. It turned out that Lemon would have a longer career, spending 9 seasons in Detroit. Kemp was a free agent following the 1982 season and signed with the Yankees, where he would spend a couple seasons before being traded to Pirates with Tim Foli for Jay Buhner(!), Dale Berra, and Al Pulido. 

Donruss #369 Jim Essian - With Carlton Fisk behind the plate, it was either a very easy or very tough job to be his back up. Essian made the most of it, hitting .308 in just 27 games. He'd bounce around in the next three seasons, playing for Seattle, Cleveland, and Oakland. His best year came in 1977 as the primary catcher with the White Sox, with career highs in nearly every offensive category, including 10 homers, 50 runs scored, and 44 RBI. Essian briefly served as Manager of the crosstown Chicago Cubs in 1991, and was also the manager of the Greek National team in the 2010 European Championship.

Topps #461 Richard Dotson - Dotson was one of several young arms for the early 80s White Sox, and was among the most successful. In 1981, he led the AL with 4 shutouts, and had another outstanding campaign in 1982 with a 3.86 ERA. He put it all together in 1983, when he finished 4th in the AL Cy Young race. Dotson won 22 games in 1983, anchoring the rotation that won the AL West for Tony LaRussa's White Sox. His father was 4 time All-Star pitcher Turk Farrell, though Dotson did not learn this until long after Farrell's passing in 1977. 

Donruss #568 Harold Baines - The 23 year old Baines was enjoying a breakout Sophomore season in 1982 following a stellar rookie campaign. He led the White Sox position players with 3.4 WAR, and topped 100 RBI for the first time. His career would be marked by consistent production, either as a corner outfielder, or as a DH. He led the AL in slugging in 1984, thanks to 28 doubles, 10 Triples, and 29 homers. His lone Silver Slugger award came in 1989 when he split time between the White Sox and the Texas Rangers. The White Sox tried to lessen the sting of trading him away by retiring his number- little did they know he'd still be playing more than a decade later, retiring in 2001 after two seasons back in Chicago, his third stint playing for the team. 

Topps #328 Ed Farmer - "Farmio" was the voice of the White Sox on radio for years, but made his reputation on the mound. It was a long road with many twists and turns that led Farmer to the 1980 All-Star game. He saved 30 games for the White Sox that season, which was then a franchise record. The kidney disease that would be the cause of his death in 2020 was an inherited trait that necessitated a donation from his brother in 1991. The same issue caused the death of his mother when she was just 37 years old, and Farmer was a long time organ donor advocate. He served on the Board of Directors of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Foundation.

What is your favorite card of a Chicago White Sox Player from 1982? Doesn't have to be one of these...

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Saturday Night Fever

I had started to write several different introductions to this post - tying the new Topps online exclusive "Project 70" to the 1970s, but it all seemed ridiculous if not tone-deaf. I'll keep the lame post title though. The "70" refers not to the decade, of course, but to the 70th anniversary of Topps selling gum with cardboard pictures stuck to it. The new set is a variation on a theme. In 2019, Topps introduced "The Living Set" with new players added each week, all with the same card design, hand painted like the 1953 Topps baseball set. The Living Set continues to this day, with new releases available now. The following year came "Project 2020" that expanded on the art card idea even further- this time there would be 20 artists and 20 subjects. Each subject was a different Topps rookie card. Project 2020 ended after card #400, but the appeal was obvious.

Project 70 has 51 artists (1951 being the first year of Topps baseball cards, get it?), each getting to choose 20 subjects of their own. The cards are available for 70 hours on, then on eBay forever! So far, the result has been a very unbalanced deck. New York Yankees, New York Mets, Brooklyn/LA Dodgers, and Oakland A's make up the vast majority of the subjects so far. Similar to Project 2020, the cards really are subjective in the eye of the beholder. That's a good thing, I'd say - subjectivity is kinda my jam.

I've purchased a few so far, two of which have been delivered. First up is this Blake Jamieson card of Andrew McCutchen, in the 1959 Topps design. The design is among my favorites, and the image is great, an homage to the fun that Cutch was having in the Phillies dugout appearing as his alter-ego "Uncle Larry." 

Next up is DJ Skee's take on Satchel Paige from his last MLB appearance with the Kansas City Athletics. The design being used (loosely) is the 1965 Topps design, again one of my all-time favorite from all 70 years. Also, with Paige being a player I greatly admire, it made for an easy choice to add this card. Paige had a long tenure in Kansas City prior to his 3 innings with the A's- he famously resurrected his career pitching for the Kansas City Monarchs after a "dead arm" period in his early 30s that threatened to prematurely end his career. DJ Skee also includes a playlist of music to go with this card. 

Have you taken the plunge into Project 70? Do you prefer the steady nature of The Living Set? Do you prefer Saturday Night Fever, or Dog Day Afternoon for a 1970s film?

Thanks for reading!