Monday, September 1, 2014

#325 - John Denny

What a card: John Denny was coming off a frustrating season when this card was issued. After winning the Cy Young Award in 1983, Denny pitched fairly well in '84 but missed two months of the season with elbow problems.

My observation on the front: Denny is wearing a 100th anniversary patch that the Phillies wore in 1983 to commemorate 100 years of Phillies baseball. So this photo is probably older than your average 1985 Topps photo.

More opinion from me: Clouds figure prominently in Denny's cards. There's this one and this one and this one and this one and especially this one.

Something you might know: Denny led the National League in earned run average in 1976 and in victories in 1983. Both were something of a surprise.

Something you might not know: You did not mess with Denny. A black belt in karate, he was accused of assaulting a Cincinnati Reds reporter in 1986 and taken to court (Denny was not found guilty but required to enter a probationary program that erased the complaint from his record). And he's a prominent part of a memorable brawl between the Reds and Mets in 1986. Anyone willing to leap on top of Kevin Mitchell is not someone afraid of a dark alley.

My observation on the back: Denny finished seventh in the National League in complete games with 11 in 1978. In the last 14 years, the only player to even equal that mark is James Shields for Tampa Bay in 2011.

The blog wants to speak now: The pop culture tab is updated.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#324 - Bruce Bochy

What a card: This is Bruce Bochy's card after his second season as backup catcher for the Padres. In 1984, Bochy appeared in the World Series for San Diego, albeit in just one game. He singled in his only at-bat, in the ninth inning of Game 5, the final game of that Series.

My observation on the front: There's so much yellow on that card that it's like the sun is rising in front of the sky.

More opinion from me: Little did I know in 1985 that a career backup catcher would go on to be my least favorite major league baseball manager.

Something you might know: Bochy has managed three teams to the World Series, losing in 1998 with the Padres and winning in 2010 and 2012 with the Giants.

Something you might not know: Bochy's right eye looks different than his left eye, especially on his cards, because the eyelashes on his right eye are white, the result of being exposed to a chemical as a teenager while working for a furniture refinisher.

My observation on the back: Joe Bochy played in the Twins organization. He also pitched during the 1972 season.

The blog wants to speak now: The Pop Culture category is updated.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#323 - Andy McGaffigan

What a card: Andy McGaffigan played just nine games for the Reds in 1984, as he was traded from Montreal in late July 1984, necessitating this particular look.

My observation on the front: That is a fake-looking airbrush job. However, it is not as gloriously awful as the one on the card of the man for whom McGaffigan was traded.

More opinion from me: I have more 1984 Topps Andy McGaffigan cards than any non-Dodger player in my collection. It is how I keep McGaffigan alive in my memory.

Something you might know: An often-traded relief pitcher, McGaffigan is probably best known as the set-up man for closer Tim Burke for the Montreal Expos teams of the late 1980s. He's also known for faking out Shawon Dunston in this clip.

Something you might not know: McGaffigan hit just .048 for his career, getting six hits in 126 at-bats, one of the lowest averages for a pitcher ever.

My observation on the back: I've been noticing the marriage dates that are listed on the backs of some of these cards and that a few of them are in January. My first instinct is to think "January -- how odd for a wedding." But, of course, a ballplayer couldn't get married in June. Little busy.

The blog wants to speak now: The TV category is updated.

Friday, August 22, 2014

#322 - Dave Stapleton

What a card: Dave Stapleton suffered a knee injury early in the 1984 season and played just 13 games that year. But Topps was good to him and gave him a card anyway.

My observation on the front: The old style Boston road uniforms, which the Red Sox wore in the '80s after not wearing them since the late 1960s, are as basic as you can get. Normally, I would find that boring. But I like these.

More opinion from me: Every time I think of Stapleton now, I think of the letter he wrote to Seth Swirsky that was featured in Swirsky's book "Baseball Letters" in 1996. When Swirsky asked Stapleton if he was surprised when Red Sox manager John McNamara did not use him to replace Bill Buckner at first base in the late stages of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (and we know how that ended), Stapleton responded thusly:

"Yes, I was surprised because I had already loosened up my legs and arm to go into the game in the 7th inning. I had usually gone in at this time in all other play-off games if we were ahead. The reason he left Buckner in was to be on the field when we won the game so he could celebrate with the others. As you well know, nobody got to celebrate because of this bad decision. Mr. McNamara never did have my respect as a manager or a person but that doesn't matter. It does no good to beat a dead dog. he has to live with his decision the rest of his life. And great Red Sox fans all over the country have to continue to suffer on as a result of it. And I feel sometimes that I got released after the "86" season because he didn't want me there to remind him of his mistake."

After all these years after reading that, I still say "wow".

Something you might know: Stapleton started his major league season with a bang, batting .321 in 106 games in 1980 and finishing second to Joe Charboneau in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Something you might not know: Stapleton's batting average declined every single year of his career. From 1980 to 1986 it went: .321, .285, .264, .247, .231, .227 and .128. I have no idea if that's a record. But he has to be in a very small group.

My observation on the back: Tom Seaver holds the record for opening day starts with 16. The record he tied, I believe was Steve Carlton's. There is a Sporcle quiz that you can take related to this. It's only through 2011, but you get the idea. And I already gave you two answers!

The blog wants to speak now: I'm trying to stave off a cold, so I'm going to sit this part out. Time for bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#321 - Ricky Horton

What a card: This is the first Topps base card of Ricky Horton. He appears in the 1984 Topps Traded (and '84 Fleer Update) set.

My observation on the front: I'm trying to figure out what pitch he's throwing from his grip. It kind of looks like a circle changeup.

More opinion from me: Awfully tight uniforms they wore back in the '80s.

Something you might know: Horton now goes by "Rick" and has been a broadcaster for the Cardinals for the last 10 years, mostly handling color commentary and postgame analysis.

Something you might not know: Horton is briefly featured in the movie "Field Of Dreams". The daughter of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is watching a White Sox game on TV. In the game, Horton calls catcher Carlton Fisk out to the mound. The announcer says something and the daughter says to Kinsella, "Daddy, what's a southpaw?"

My observation on the back: Horton's wife was involved in a health scare last season. Her doctors told her she was exposed to an undetectable chemical or toxic gas that led to memory loss and her being hospitalized. They said her friends' quick reactions saved her life.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames category is updated.

Monday, August 18, 2014

#320 - Dale Murphy

What a card: This card arrived in packs after Dale Murphy hit 36 home runs and drove in at least 100 runs for the third straight year. Yet he did not win the National League MVP for the third straight year. He finished ninth. Slacker.

My observation on the front: That is a good look at the ever-present birthmark on Murphy's right cheek.

More opinion from me: Is that two different shades of blue between the jersey top and pants? Not cool.

Something you might know: Probably the most productive National League hitter of the 1980s, Murphy started out as a catcher, but struggled behind the plate. His career took off after he converted to the outfield.

Something you might not know: When Murphy ended his consecutive games played streak at 740 games in July of 1986, the honor for the longest active streak fell to eventual ironman champion Cal Ripken Jr., who had played in 686 straight games at the time.

My observation on the back: Every current major league manager is looking at this trivia quiz and saying, "So? Is this a big deal?"

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames tab is updated.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#319 - Jeff Jones

What a card: This is the final card issued of Jeff Jones during his career. He pitched in just 13 games, going 0-3, in 1984.

My observation on the front: There's something about when Jones grew that mustache that turned him into a groovy holdover from the '70s. I mean look at it combined with that green-and-gold jersey!

More opinion from me: Once again, there's no ball in that glove.

Something you might know: Jones is now the pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers. I don't envy him with the way that bullpen performs in the postseason.

Something you might not know: Jones played in college for Bowling Green. Two of his teammates in on that team were Orel Hershiser and future umpire Jim Joyce.

My observation on the back: More startlingly easy trivia courtesy of '85 Topps.

The blog wants to speak now: The pop culture category is updated.