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!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Freaky Friday

One basketball great playing baseball, and one baseball great playing basketball. Like the post from yesterday, each of the cards shown in this post were added to eBay orders after finding the card I was actually looking for. 

Moving on to a real 2-Sport star, Bo Jackson! His 1990 Score card is getting a lot of hobby buzz lately, which shows Bo wearing shoulder pads and holding a bat. This "AAMER Sports" oddball is even better if you ask me. It even comes with a bootleg Rookie Cup!

The card back features his career stats in both sports so far. you could see he was just getting started in both with a great deal of potential still to come if not for his hip injury.

A few bootleg Kirbys and a Pizza Rolls Vikings card - This image looks like a Renaissance painting!

Here's the back of the Puckett cards, in all their non-descript glory. 

Here's a Barry Larkin rookie card from the folks at The Press Box.

Do you like to collect oddball cards, or do you prefer to stick to major brands?

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Throwback Thursday

 Nothing fancy, just a post of some "recent" vintage (pre 1980) pickups!

I found a seller on eBay that had some very sharp vintage. More than I would pay for cards at a show, but still I thought a fair price for cards that aged very well. Jerry Kindall is from my hometown of Minneapolis, MN!

I bought Bob Elliott, Frank Linzy, and Angel Scull as upgrades to cards I already had. Davey Johnson is a '67 Venezuelan release- hence the odd/missing border. I found that card looking for more 1964 Topps VZ for that Quixotic set build. 

Showing a little love for the other pastimes, including my first vintage Parkhurst card! 

Here's a look at the back of the "Parkie." ooh la la!

A few more cards that are just barely off the beaten path- an OPC of Andre Dawson, 1977 Cloth Sticker of Mike Schmidt with the Liberty Bell Bicentennial arm patch, a 1960 Leaf Junior Jim Gilliam, and a non-sport tobacco card that struck my fancy:

This is a 1910 "T30" Hassan Tobacco card. This is from a set of 25 cards with Arctic scenes. Just thought it was pretty! " F.N.A.G.S. " was pretty odd, I tried to figure out what it stands for, and I got as far as "AGS" being "American Geographical Society". Albert Operti is the painter that the card's image is based on- he was born in Italy but  grew up in England, then came to the United States and joined Robert Peary on an exploration of Greenland and the Artic in 1896 and 1897. 

Before we get too much farther, here's the backs of those foreign language cards from VZ and Canada!

One more oddball for the road, a 1977 Sertoma Stars Tony Oliva

And the back . . . When Tony came to the U.S., he used his younger brother Pedro's passport. That way he was 18 instead of 21 in the eyes of scouts. 

These all came to me in the mail over the course of the pandemic, generally I'd fall down one rabbit hole or another to find these cards, I don't think a single one of the cards in the post was the card I was looking for when I started. 

Where do you turn for cardboard inspiration? Have you been exclusively buying online this past year, or have you been to a Card Show / Shop / retail location?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 22, 2021

1998 Topps All-Star Rookie Outfielder Magglio Ordóñez

The unlikely path that lay before Magglio Ordóñez was that of a 15 year MLB veteran. He was a late bloomer who became a smash hit in two AL Central cities. Magglio joined Mark Kotsay and Ben Grieve in the Topps All-Star Rookie outfield for the 1998 season after being left unprotected in the Rule V Draft the year before. Ordóñez had solid if not spectacular numbers in his rookie season, including 14 homers and 9 stolen bases. 

  Ordóñez was signed as an international free agent by the White Sox out of Caracas, Venezuela - the same hometown as former White Sox great Chico Carrasquel. He would spend 5 mostly uneventful seasons in the minor leagues before having a breakout campaign for AAA Nashville. He was the 1997 MVP of the American Association, thanks to a meaty .329 average and an OPS of .840. He did consistently rise in the minor league ranks each after after 1994, and showed glimpses of the power he'd later display at the big league level. 

Once he made it to the big leagues, Ordóñez was hitting his prime baseball years. With the White Sox, he made it to 4 All-Star games, and clubbed 30+ homers and 110+ RBI in four straight seasons starting in 1999. He earned the first of 3 career Silver Slugger awards in 2000, when he hit .315/.371/.546 with 32 homers, 126 RBI, 102 runs scored and led the AL in sacrifice hits. Things were going great for Ordóñez until a collision with an infielder on a pop up in short right field in 2004, which led to 2 surgeries on his knee. He'd play in just 52 games that season. Following that tough luck season, Ordóñez became a free agent and signed with the rival AL Central doormat, the Detroit Tigers.

Magglio's arrival in the motor city coincided with the team's renaissance from an afterthought to a juggernaut. During his first season in Detroit, he was still rehabbing and recovering from the knee injury that decimated his 2004 campaign. He'd play in 82 games in 2005, and crept back above .300 with a .302 average. This came with a bitter aftertaste - the White Sox would win the 2005 World Series without his bat in the lineup. But 2006 would be a different story. Ordóñez played his first full season since 2003, and helped the Tigers make a deep playoff run of their own, including some heroics in the 2006 ALCS. In game 4 of the series, Ordóñez hit a pair of homers - one to tie the game in the 6th inning and the next to walk off as a winner in the ninth. The Tigers would fall in the World Series to the Cardinals, with Ordóñez hitting just 2-19 with 4 Ks in the five game series. Then in 2007, he had one of the more remarkable offensive seasons in recent memory. He won the AL batting title, for starters, with a .363 average. He had 54 doubles, taking advantage of Comerica Park's spacious outfield alleys, also leading the league. Combined with his 28 homers, he managed to hit the most extra base hits in a season in MLB history without hitting a Triple. It would prove to be his 6th and final All-Star nod, and his 3rd and final Silver Slugger award. 

For his career, Ordóñez slashed .309/.369/.502 for an OPS of .871 and an OPS+ of 125. His 294 career homers trail only Miguel Cabrera and Andres Galarraga for the most by a Venezuelan born player in MLB history. 

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

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

I Love the 80s - 1982 San Francisco Giants

 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 1981 Giants were a veteran club that struggled to make up ground on the NL West frontrunners - they finished 5th in the first half, 3rd in the 2nd half, good for (you guessed it) the 4th best record overall in the division. They were led by Frank Robinson - who was MVP in both leagues as a player, and by virtue of his first managerial gig in the senior circuit, he became the 1st African American manager hired in both leagues as well. 

In 1982, Robinson would see his team improve across the board by completely overhauling the starting rotation, as well as getting quite a bit younger at several key positions. They finished 1982 with a record of 87-75. While this was only good for a 3rd place finish, they also were able to hang their hats on playing the role of spoiler. In the season's final weekend, the Giants were just one game out of first place. The rival Dodgers came to town and a Jerry Reuss shutout in the opener pushed the Giants out of the picture. The Giants would get their revenge the following day, knocking the Dodgers out of playoff contention. The weekend was capped by a home run from 38 year old Joe Morgan, who remarked after the game "I wanted this one for the Giants and the fans." Morgan would depart as a free agent following that final at bat and helped the 1983 Phillies go all the way to the World Series. The Giants would continue to get younger - and nearly landed a generational talent in the draft. Their 2nd round pick in 1982 was Barry Bonds. They ended up losing him the same way they lost the chance to sign Hank Aaron so many years ago, by not offering the best contract. Bonds asked for $75,000; the General Manager at the time wouldn't budge past $70,000. That led Barry to stick to his guns and opt to attend College rather than sign for less than he was worth. 

The Cards:

Fleer #384 Vida Blue - Blue was the headliner of a Giants' rotation in 1981 that was built on experience. Blue was still just 31 years old, but it would be his last season in San Francisco. He came to the Giants in 1978 in a Spring Training trade that sent 7 players and cash to the Oakland A's. He was coming off a season in which he lost an AL leading 19 games, however that can be attributed to the dismantling of the A's dynasty around him rather than any particular shortcomings on the mound. He was an All Star despite the tough luck losses, then followed it up with a stellar season again his first time pitching in the National League. He would make the 5th All-Star squad in his career, pitching to an 18-10 record with a 2.79 ERA. He'd finish 3rd in the NL Cy Young race. In 1981, he made just 18 starts in the strike shortened campaign, but again he pitched quite well. His ERA+ of 140 was his best in nearly a decade, buoyed by a 2.45 ERA. It would be his 6th and final All-Star nod. In 1982, he signed with Kansas City before returning to the Giants for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. While he won both Cy Young and MVP honors in 1971, he was largely overlooked by the Hall of Fame voters, falling off the ballot after 5 years of eligibility. His career matches up favorably with former teammate Catfish Hunter, as well as hall of famers Hal Newhouser and Don Drysdale. 

Topps #777 Tom Griffin - The eldest of the 3 30+ year old starting pitchers of the 1981 staff, Griffin moved into the rotation after several seasons as bullpen arm and spot starter. His 22 starts were the most since 1974, when he had one of his best years for Houston. He was an instant success in 1969 with the Astros, leading the NL in strikeouts per 9 innings. He cracked the 200K mark as a rookie that year. He had a reputation for owning the inner portion of the plate. He led the NL in 1980 (as a reliever) and 1981 in batters hit by pitch. Griffin also had a decent career swinging the bat, hitting 10 homers over his 14 MLB seasons, just five of those spent as a full-time starting pitcher.

Donruss #398 Darrell Evans - Evans was underrated as a 3rd baseman. He led the NL in errors in 1975, however he also led the NL in range factor six times in the 1970s, as well as finishing in the top five in Assists as a 3rd Baseman seven times in his career. He never won a Gold Glove for his efforts, not surprising given that Mike Schmidt was the annual Gold Glove Winner at the position from 1976 until 1984. My own memories of Evans center on his later seasons in Detroit, hitting 40 homers at the age of 38 to lead the AL in 1985 was quite a feat. Before he became an "aging slugger," Evans made a career out of working counts, drawing walks, and punishing mistakes. Evans led the NL in walks in 1973 and 1974, and that was in the same lineup as Hank Aaron - typically pitchers did not want guys on base for Hank to hammer home. Evans never really hit for average, which might explain the lack of All-Star appearances (just 2), as well as the lukewarm response to his Hall of Fame ballot appearance in 1995. If not for Mike Schmidt being a once in a generation talent, who knows what Evans' career would like compared to everyone else?

Fleer #387 Jack Clark - In 1981, Clark was the youngest regular in the Giants' lineup at 25 years old. He was already a two time All Star for the Giants, playing in the mid summer classic in 1978 and 1979. Clark was a masher and had some speed in his younger days. He had double digit steals three straight years from 77 to 79. In his later years, he developed similar skills to Evans, hitting 25+ homers and drawing 100+ walks every year from 1987 through 1990. His 1987 season in particular was stunning - he led the NL with 136 walks and was the league leader in OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. The Cardinals really missed his bat in the 1987 World Series, injuries kept him from playing and may have been a deciding factor in the tightly contested seven game series. Clark was a classic case of a  career with a very high but very short peak. His overall counting stats (340 Homers, 1800+ hits, 1100 runs and 1100 RBI) don't scream "Hall of fame" career, however his OBP, SLG, and OPS+ stats rank favorably among his peers. 

Donruss #186 Fred Breining - Breining had a short but efficient MLB career. He was a stopper in the bullpen, a spot starter, a full time member of the Giants' 1983 rotation, a reliever again, and then out of MLB baseball all in a five year stretch. As a bullpen arm in 1981, Breining made just 1 start, but appeared in 45 games for the Giants, finishing 15 of them. He wasn't the closer, however, getting just one save. The following year, he'd make 9 starts, 2 of them complete games, while also finishing 16 games out of the bullpen. He had the least amount of success as a full time starter, going 11-12 with a 3.82 ERA over 32 starts. 1983 as a starter was actually the lowest WHIP of his career, but also the only time his ERA+ fell below league average. He appeared in 4 games in relief for Montreal in 1984 before injuring his shoulder fielding a bunt. 

Donruss #377 Al Holland - Holland was the set up man for the Giants from 1980 through 1982, a role at which he excelled to the tune of a 19-11 record with a 2.56 ERA. He picked up 19 saves as well over those seasons, which prepared him for the closer role in Philadelphia. He saved 25+ games in 1983 and 84 for the Phillies, and was an All-Star in 84. He appeared in 2 games in the NLCS and 2 more in the 1983 World Series, giving up 0 runs in relief. He was the 1983 Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the year. He is also a College baseball Hall of Famer, thanks to his stellar career for North Carolina A&T, leading the NCAA in ERA in 1975 with a 0.26 mark. 

Fleer #394 Jerry Martin - Not to be confused with Jerry Remy or Billy Martin, Jerry Martin was a journeyman outfield who played 72 games for the Giants in 1981, primarily as the team's Center Fielder. The year before he posted career highs in homers (23) and RBI (73) for the Cubs. He was not particularly speedy on the bases, never cracking double digit steals in a season. Martin was known to have a pretty good arm in the outfield, and came up through the Phillies' system as a top prospect. He was the MVP of the Western Carolinas league in 1972. Over the course of his 11 MLB seasons, he played for 5 different teams. He later spent 20 years as a coach in the minors, primarily with the Phillies and the Tigers.

Topps #171 Future Stars Bob Brenly / Chili Davis / Bob Tufts - 
Bob Brenly was an All-Star in 1984 and played 9 seasons with the Giants (and half a season with the Blue Jays) as a Catcher and corner infielder. Following his playing days he became a coach and Manager. He was the Manager of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, winning the World Series in his first year in the role. 

Bob Tufts appeared in 27 career MLB games as a relief pitcher, and was traded with Vida Blue to the Royals following the 1981 season. Tufts' claim to fame was being a graduate of Princeton University, the first MLB player from that school since Dave Sisler. Tufts would go back to school and earn an MBA from Columbia University and became a Wall Street broker.

Chili Davis had the best MLB career of the bunch, first as an outfielder in San Francisco and with the Angels, then as a DH for many teams. He played for 3 World Series winning teams - the 1991 Twins, and the 1998 and 1999 Yankees. Davis had 350 career homers and over 2,350 hits, both the most by any player born in Jamaica. He also has the lowest career MLB ERA, having pitched a pair of scoreless innings in 1993 for the Angels. Following his playing career, Davis has become a highly sought after hitting coach, currently serving in that role for the New York Mets. 

Donruss #524 Johnnie LeMaster - LeMaster was the Giants' Shortstop on again and off again from 1978 until he was traded early in the 1985 season. One fun bit of trivia - his first MLB at bat was an inside the park home run off Don Sutton. His final career homer in 1985 was also of the inside the park variety. LeMaster was a decent fielder with a cannon arm, but was not the best hitter in MLB history, he had a career OPS+ of 60 (100 is league average) with a career batting average of .222. He was not so kindly nicknamed "Johnnie Disaster" by the Candlestick Park faithful and once wore a jersey with the name "BOO" on the back as a sarcastic nod to the fans that gave him a hard time. 

What is your favorite card of a San Francisco Giant from 1982? Doesn't have to be one of these...

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Page 12 At the Bat Rack Frankenset

 Rules -

9 different players
9 different card sets
9 different teams
player is at the bat rack (or bat pile) in or near the dugout
Have fun (most important)

and the backs . . .

100 - Pete Rose 1985 Renata Galasso Pete Rose
101 - Kiki Hernandez 1993 Classic Best Gold
102 - Rhys Hoskins 2019 Topps Gypsy Queen
103 - Larry Walker 1999 Upper Deck
104 - Garry Moses 1970 Topps
105 - Kevin Kiermaier 2016 Topps Chrome
106 - Joe Niekro 1987 Fleer
107 - Ozzie Guillen 1995 Pinnacle
108 - Ron Gant 1997 Pinnacle Inside

The Kevin Kiermaier card is a pretty big stretch - once again the big bat racks at Comiskey come to the rescue. I'll keep my eyes peeled for #105 in the future to try to find a more legit back rack card. The set is now into triple digits! Happy also to have a 1970 Topps card on this page, as that set is the unofficial granddaddy of them all when it comes to bat rack cards. There are earlier examples to be sure, but the 1970 set has several to choose from, which makes it a personal favorite. Larry Walker makes his 2nd page in a row.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Wallet Card 2021


It's a New Year, which I love because it is a highly subjective and completely arbitrary unit of time. That means that it's time for another new wallet card!  2018 Topps Joe Mauer was my 2020 Wallet Card. Here's what all of my Wallet cards look like now:

Say Hello to Wallet Card 2021!

After the year we just had and everything that people have been through, I decided to go with a guy who looks like he's seen some things. My 3rd straight Topps card in a row, I think I will make an effort to change it up for 2022. 

Do you have a wallet card? Do you keep the same one or switch them out every now and then?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

2020 in Hindsight

 This post was probably better suited for late December or early January. If I were blogging regularly then it certainly would have appeared then. 

Early in January 2020, I had a similar re-cap of 2019 offerings, which was part of a Blog Bat Around that Matt from Diamond Jesters proposed. Take a single 9-pocket page, fill it with cards that summarize the year that was. 

Here's my page for 2020:

Of course, I have to share the backs as well:

1 - 2020 Topps Update Jose Iglesias - Just like last year, it was tough to pick one card from the Topps flagship design. Other contenders for this spot included Bryce Harper pumping his fist with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle headband showing, or the uncharacteristic super close up shot of catcher Jason Castro, but I decided to go with this throwback pose of Jose Iglesias, with his bat offered up like a broadsword, ready to slay dragons (or sliders).  So much of 2020 felt to me like trying to hold on to nostalgic things, and fighting for normalcy where ever it could be found.

2 - 2020 Topps NOW Spring Training Alyssa Nakken - It was inevitable that at least one card on this page would feature someone wearing a mask. The pandemic nearly ended the season before it started in Spring Training, delaying further the first on-field female coach in Major League Baseball history. Her official title is "Special Assistant" but she's done a little bit of everything for the Giants since first joining the team as an intern in 2014. Nakken devised health and wellness programs for the team, and while interning also went to college to earn her master's degree in Sports Management. She was named to the Giants' staff as an assistant coach before the 2020 season, and served as the team's first base coach on July 20, 2020. 

3 - 2020 Donruss Diamond Kings Jake Rogers -  The obligatory Panini entry - Topps doesn't quite have a monopoly, but it can be easy to overlook the competition when the cards lack team logos and all seem to go above and beyond to wipe away the slightest hint of personality. Catchers tend to get the best breaks on these designs, so here's one of those.

4 - 2020 Stadium Club Xander Bogaerts - Last year I picked a Stadium Club card that featured Jose Berrios pitching in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in front of his fellow Puerto Ricans, so this year here's Xander Bogaerts in London playing in front of his fellow Europeans. Stadium Club consistently scratches the itch for more variety in subjects, and more experimentation in photographic choices. Letting the photo and it's subject carry the card, which has been the strength of this set every year.

5 - 2020 Topps NOW Turn Back the Clock Jackie Robinson -   Call it creative or call it a cash grab, when the season was put on hold, the daily "Topps NOW" brand had to find some way to keep calm and carry on. The decision to cover historical moments in baseball history was a savvy one. Getting a chance to commemorate Jackie Robinson again is always a good move, and hey- this one's also a bat rack card!

6 - 2020 Topps Big League Flipping Out Tim Anderson - Finding insert set topics must be tough. The sheer volume of subsets that have been trotted out since the 80s can make one's head spin. I'm surprised that bat flips haven't been featured before. Old-school adherents to the unwritten rules of baseball may turn up their noses at flipping your bat, but for me it just underscores the joy and excitement of playing baseball. Tim Anderson would probably be my favorite player if he played for the Twins instead of the rival White Sox. I don't have to root for the Sox to see what Anderson brings to the game. 

7 - 2020 Topps Utz Eddie Rosario -  Food issued cards were a common occurrence dating back to the 70s. It's probably a good thing that they are less common now, I shudder to think how many Twinkies I would be eating right now just to get the cards. Utz is a regional brand of potato chips, mostly in the Eastern part of the U.S., so I added cards online only, no empty calories with this cardboard. I liked the Utz design more than the flagship design. This reminds me of a re-mixed 1986 Topps design, with the big bold team name moving to the bottom of the card. 

8 - 2020 Topps Throwback Thursday (1954 World on Wheels)  Luis Robert - I had to make room for the big name rookie for 2020. Even though he did not win rookie of the year, Luis Robert certainly had the hype throughout the season for his ability to hit, run, and catch. This online exclusive set focused on the "wheels" figuratively and literally, as an homage to a car trading card set that Topps released in the mid 50s. 

9 - 2020 Topps Heritage Gary Sanchez - One of the pleasant surprises in recent years from Topps has been their willingness to dig deeper to find the aspects of their previous sets that resonated with collectors. The 1971 Topps set had several action shots, which the 2020 set emulated with varying degrees of success. Perhaps one of the more iconic cards from 1971 featured Yankees catcher Thurman Munson in his 2nd Year, making a tough and dazzling play at the plate. This image of Gary Sanchez calls that image to mind, if a bit removed from the gritty and dusty nature of its forefather.  

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 15, 2021

1998 Topps All-Star Rookie Catcher A.J. Hinch

A.J. Hinch had all the trappings of a future star - he was a high school superstar, an Olympian, and a college standout. combine that with a quick run through the minors and you get a player ripe for Topps All-Star Rookie status. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was the only rookie catcher to play over 100 games in 1998.

The Oakland A's in 1998 were still looking for their next franchise catcher. Long-time catcher Terry Steinbach, a holdover from the great A's teams of the late 80s, left the team to play for his hometown Twins in 1997. Without him, the A's split their catching duties between 29 year old Brent Mayne, 28 year old switch hitter George Williams, and Izzy Molina (no relation). Williams actually had a pretty good season, with an OPS+ of 111 and an OBP of .397. Of course, Moneyball was still a few seasons away, so the A's were looking for power from the catching position. A.J. Hinch was poised to be the man for the job after a hot season in the minors, in which he hit 24 homers across two levels. 

For the big league club in 1998, Hinch struggled to adjust to major league stuff. He did have 9 homers and added 10 doubles, but slugged just .341 for the season. The big issue, which had not been hinted at in his amateur or minor league career, were the strikeouts. Hinch whiffed 89 times in that first year, good for a K rate of 22.8%. He displayed some decent skills behind the plate, throwing out 35 base stealers and committing just 9 errors in 120 games. 


Hinch came of age in Oklahoma, winning the 1992 Gatorade High School Player of the Year. He had starred on the Junior Team USA squad in 1991 and 1992, and he would join the big boys for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics, where he shared in a Bronze medal finish. He was drafted out of high school by the White Sox, but opted instead to retain amateur status with Team USA and his college of choice, Stanford. He stayed in school all 4 years, despite being drafted again following his Junior year, when was named the PAC-10 player of the Year. He would repeat the feat as a Senior, before being drafted a third time, now by the Oakland A's in the 3rd round of the June MLB draft. 

His rookie season would be his best in terms of games played and several offensive categories. In 2000, Hinch was sent back to Triple-A to try to right the ship after a rough 1999. He was part of the 3 team deal in the 2001 off-season that sent Johnny Damon to Oakland and Ben Grieve to Tampa Bay. Hinch landed in Kansas City, where he would serve as Brent Mayne's backup - the same Brent Mayne he succeeded in Oakland back in 1998. Hinch would bounce around the league for a couple years as a backup in Detroit and Philadelphia, playing a majority of his games in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He retired following the 2005 season, but had already started making plans for his next steps as early as 2003 when he attended the Winter Meetings and met with several General Managers. 

After his retirement, he served with the Diamondbacks as a minor league director of operations, then as the team's director of player development. In 2009, he was given the opportunity to be the team's manager. This learning experience would lead to a scouting gig and assistant general Manager role with the Padres, before the now controversial tenure as manager of the Houston Astros. Taking over for Bo Porter in 2014, Hinch inherited a team that was expected to lose, but more importantly, expected to learn how to win. The team exceeded expectations and made it to the post season for the first time in a decade with a Wild Card berth. The Astros remained competitive in the next few years while gaining experience. The good news is that they did learn to win, the bad news is how they won. The Astros won the 2017 World Series, but later were discovered to have done so with the benefit of an elaborate system for intercepting and relaying the opponent's pitches. For his part, Hinch did express regret and was the first to publicly apologize for the scandal. He listed as his biggest regret that he did not do more to curb the sign stealing when he first became aware of it. 

Hinch has been given another chance to show his integrity - following the retirement of Ron Gardenhire, Hinch was hired to be the manager of the Detroit Tigers for the 2021 season. 

Do you have any A.J. Hinch memories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. Uh... please be civil!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

I Love the 80s - 1982 Detroit Tigers

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!

When Reds legend Sparky Anderson came to the Tigers as Manager in 1979, he made a prediction that the team would win a World Series in 5 years. He nearly exceeded the goal of that prognostication in 1981, as the team remained in postseason contention until the final weekend. They needed to take 2 of 3 from the Milwaukee Brewers, but fell short despite a great pitching performance in the 2nd game from staff ace Jack Morris. They would ultimately finish in 3rd place in the AL East for the season. Their overall record of 60-49 saw the team just barely outscore their opponents, and rely on a young nucleus of talent on offense and on the mound.


1982 was a step backwards. An injury to Kirk Gibson derailed what would have been his first full season after his 1980 call up and the strike shortened 81 campaign. The young Tigers had another year to develop under Sparky's tutelage, finishing in 4th place with an 83-79 record. With the bulk of the lineup now entering the prime years of their careers, the future would be bright. A warm up to a rivalry began in 1982 as well between the Tigers and the Twins -- a pair of brawls during a May game would provide fuel for both teams. Rookie Kent Hrbek of the Twins would see his 22 game hitting streak end, but it was rookie catcher Tim Laudner who would be tasked with trying to keep up with Tigers speedster Chet Lemon as Lemon charged the mound following a brushback pitch from Twins' hurler Pete Redfern. Lemon would beat Laudner to the mound handily, though Laudner was able to stem the tide a bit by gathering Lemon up with a bear hug. Tigers catcher Lance Parrish muscled up and pulled Laudner away in a rare moment of positional fraternity before the brawl could engulf him. Kirk Gibson and Twins infielder Jesus Vega had a notable exchange at the fringes of the pile, with Gibson later getting his revenge at the plate with a go ahead 2 run homer that proved to be the decisive blow. The most notable casualty of the 2nd pile-up was the winning pitcher on the day, the Tigers' Dave Rozema. He was well clear of any punches thrown, but slipped on the grass and injured ligaments in his knee attempting to join the fracas. The Tigers were building a brand of toughness and aggressive baseball that would serve them well throughout the 1980s.

The Cards:

Fleer #262 Champ Summers - The 35 year old Summers was the regular DH for the Tigers in 1981. He debuted as a 28 year old rookie for the Oakland A's in 1974 but didn't get his first taste of the post season until a decade later with the Padres in the 1984 NLCS and the World Series against these same Tigers. He was a late bloomer, having signed his first pro contract at the age of 25 for $500. He served in Vietnam before attending college to play basketball. He was "discovered" playing softball by baseball scouts after being kicked off the basketball team for fighting a teammate. Summers came to Detroit in 1979 in a mid season deal for a player to be named later. He followed Sparky Anderson from Cincinnati, having filled a utility role for the Reds in 1977 and 78. Summers final big league game was his lone appearance in the 1984 World Series. His time with the Tigers was the most productive of his career- 40 of his 54 career homers came for Detroit. 

Donruss #107 Jack Morris - "The winningest pitcher of the 1980s" was already well established as the Tigers' #1 starter by 1981, his age 26 season. Morris led the AL in victories in 1981, with 14. He was the American League starter in the All-Star Game, and was certainly the Tigers most valuable arm. Morris would win at least 15 games every season from 1982 until 1989, and was 3-0 for the Tigers in the 1984 post season, including 2 complete game wins in the World Series. Morris would become known for big game heroics, include a 10 inning complete game shutout in the 7th game of the 1991 World Series. The legend of that game, along with three 20 win seasons, five all-star games, and 254 career wins punched his ticket to Cooperstown, with an election by the veteran's committee in 2018. 

Fleer #284 Lou Whitaker - The 1978 AL Rookie of the Year, Whitaker was a star player and key contributor to the Tigers success throughout the 1980s. Whitaker was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove winner for the 1983, 84, and 85 seasons. He was named to five all-star teams and had four Silver Sluggers overall to go with his three Gold Gloves. Whitaker was a mainstay at the top of the lineup for the Tigers for 19 seasons, during which he accumulated over 75 wins above replacement. Whitaker is still waiting for his call to the Hall of Fame to join his teammates Morris and Alan Trammell.

Fleer #275 Kevin Saucier - The Tigers' closer in 1981, Saucier was another young phenom in the mold of Morris and Dan Petry for the Tigers. He posted a sparkling 1.65 ERA with 13 saves over 38 appearances in '81. The following season saw his fortunes change, as is often the case for bullpen arms. He would relinquish the closer role to a committee of relievers, but saved five games of his own. Saucier's career as an MLB pitcher ended due o a shoulder injury following the 1982 season, missing out on the magical 1984 Tigers run. Fortunately, "Hot Sauce" had already tasted victory as a member of the 1980 Phillies team. His nickname was due to his antics on the mound. The nickname could cause some confusion, however, as his name is pronounced "So-Shay" instead of "saucy-er."

Topps Traded #62T Chet Lemon - Lemon would prove to be one of best acquisitions of the 1982 season, coming over to Detroit after seven seasons on the south side of Chicago. In a swap of 26 year old outfielders, the Tigers gave up slugger Steve Kemp for the on base machine Lemon. Little did they know that Lemon was just getting started and Kemp was near the end of his productive time as a big leaguer. Lemon combined a patient approach with the approach of a patient- he led the AL in hit by pitch 4 times. He finished in the top-ten in OBP three times, and began slugging in earnest for the Tigers in the 80s, averaging over 30 doubles and nearly 20 homers a year. He contributed five hits and stole a pair of bases in the 1984 World Series as well. His career OPS+ of 121  ranks favorably among his peers. 

Topps #475 Alan Trammell - The other half of the Tigers' double play combo with Lou Whitaker, Trammell displayed unexpected power from the Short Stop position while remaining a defensive asset. While not a home run hitter, Trammell was a doubles machine, and hit for average with five top-ten seasons in his career. He was the MVP of the 1984 World Series, hitting a pair of homers and posting a .450 average. He will forever be connected to Lou Whitaker, who debuted with Trammell on the same day in 1978. They got their first major league hits off the same pitcher, and Lou was on base for both of his World Series homers. The pair set a record for games played as teammates, and Trammell ranks 1st in Defensive WAR just ahead of Whitaker in franchise history. When Trammell retired, he ranked ahead of all short stops then in the Hall of Fame in fielding pct and home runs. By the time he was eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot, Robin Yount had been elected and Ozzie Smith was a sure fire first ballot entry as well. While on the ballot, Trammell was joined by greats like Barry Larkin and Cal Ripken Jr. Trammell was not elected to the Hall of Fame by the writers - as the short stop position had been re-invented by sluggers like Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada among others. Trammell's turn came in 2018 with Jack Morris as part of the the veteran's committee.

Fleer #276 George Cappuzzello - Appearing in just 35 MLB games, Cappuzzello left an impression on at least one reammate, who he inspired to commit a little light arson. In his second and final big league season, Cappuzello inherited a bases loaded jam in the 10th inning of a tie game from Frank LaCorte. Cappuzzello was not able to escape without allowing all three runners to score, and LaCorte, who was winless on the season, decided to trash the locker room, pull off his jersey, and light it on fire. Cappuzzello was a serviceable reliever for both the Tigers in 81 and the Astros in 82, going 1-2 with a 3.23 ERA over 53 innings pitched. He was originally drafted by the Tigers in 1972, making a long journey to the big leagues. 

Topps #629 Johnny Wockenfuss - For a couple great posts on Johnny Wockenfuss, I point you to Night Owl's blog and his great conversation with Johnny about his cards and life. The second post was a follow up "Brush with Greatness." Wockenfuss was a swiss army knife for the Tigers, playing primarily as a catcher in his early career, then moving all along the foul lines to play both corner infield and corner outfield positions as well as DH. He was traded just before the 1984 season, missing out on the Tigers World Series win, but was a cornerstone of the team's development into a champion.

Topps #105 Kirk Gibson - The first Tiger to hit 20+ homers and steal 20+ bases in a season, Gibson was a phenomenal prospect when he came to the team as a 22 year old in 1979. Gibson would go on to glory with Tigers in 1984 and the Dodgers in 1988 as a World Series hero. The 1988 NL MVP is probably best remembered for his hobbled jaunt around the bases in game 1 of the 88 World Series, but he was a deceptively fast runner and talented base stealer throughout his career. He fell just 1 homer short of the 30/30 club in 1985 with the Tigers, and over the course of his career stole 284 bases and hit 255 homers. He was the ALCS MVP in 1984, hitting .417 in three games. He is also one of just 5 MVPs to later be named manager of the year, winning in 2011 as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sparky Anderson called Gibson the "next Mickey Mantle" - unfortunately the early talent and promise was just one of the ways their careers were similar. Like Mantle, Gibson's career was sidelined by a rash of injuries that sapped his speed and productivity. In Gibson's case the injuries were even more frequent. keeping him off the field in his prime years of production. When he was on the field, he was brilliant.

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

Thanks for reading!