Tuesday, February 28, 2012

#21 - Lee Tunnell

What a card: Lee Tunnell was a little over a year removed from finishing ninth in the N.L. Rookie of the Year voting when this card came out. He received one vote to finish far behind winner Darryl Strawberry in 1983.

My observation on the front: The Pirates' gold-and-black uniforms and pinstriped caps were past peak by this point, almost on their way out, but they sure do bring back memories no matter what year.

More opinion from me: I somehow ended up with a dozen dupes of this card -- so many that quite some time ago, I cut them up and made a post with them.

Something you might know: Tunnell's major league career ran from 1982-89, but he pitched in professional ball through 1995, throwing in Japan, the minor leagues and Mexico.

Something you might not know: Tunnell was arrested for offering to engage in an act of prostitution in 2009, according to this report, which is particularly jarring considering Tunnell helped form the Ambassadors, an evangelical baseball team made up of members who spread their faith while playing baseball and conducting baseball clinics.

 My observation on the back: Tunnell's 1984 season is the definition of the sophomore slump.

The blog wants to speak now: Updating of the various tabs has been on hiatus for a few days. Updates coming soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

#20 - Chet Lemon

What a card: This is the first card of the defending World Series champion Detroit Tigers. Chet Lemon was the starting center fielder for the 1984 Tigers.

My observation on the front: A nice action shot of Lemon batting in old Tiger Stadium. Takes me back.

More opinion from me: Lemon was one of those players that I thought I pulled every year as a kid. I was convinced that I had every card issued of Lemon and Garry Maddox. I actually didn't, but because I thought I did, they automatically became favorites. You know those guys who didn't play on your favorite team but you still liked? Lemon was one of those guys. Nowadays when I pull a player's card repeatedly (*cough* Carlos Lee), he doesn't become a favorite. Instead I start to resent the player. How did I get so cranky?

Something you might know: Lemon played the outfield his entire major league career, but was an infielder in the minor leagues. When he broke into the majors with the White Sox in 1975, he played third base.

Something you might not know: Lemon's career "success" rate in stolen bases is the third-lowest among players with at least 100 attempts in major league history. He succeeded just 41.8 percent of the time in over 130 attempts.

My observation on the back: Other major leaguers to come out of Fremont in L.A. are Willie Crawford, Eric Davis, Bobby Tolan, Bobby Doerr, and someone who became more famous as a manager, Gene Mauch.

The blog wants to speak now: The Music and Pop Culture tabs are updated.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#19 - George Frazier

What a card: George Frazier finished out the 1984 season with the Cubs after beginning it with the Indians. He was traded to the Cubs in mid-June in the deal that brought Joe Carter to the Indians. I'm impressed that Topps was able to get a picture of him in a Cubs uniform -- albeit, not a great picture.

My observation on the front: Frazier appears to be in mid-sentence in this photo, which is appropriate as he's a color commentator for the Colorado Rockies now.

More opinion from me: During the beginning of last season, when MLB runs its free Extra Innings preview, I caught a Rockies game or two and was horrified by their announcers. Frazier was one of the broadcasters. The whole crew sounded like unprofessional homers. I don't know if that's an accurate observation as I saw only 1 or 2 games, but I remember being immediately appalled.

Something you might know: Frazier is known as the only pitcher to lose three World Series games in a seven-game series. He did it in 1981 while pitching for the Yankees against my Dodgers. He's practically my hero. (P.S.: He also pitched for a World Series winner, the 1987 Twins).

Something you might not know: Frazier gave up 11 hits and 10 runs in 1 1/3 innings while pitching for the Yankees on Aug. 3, 1982. In the second game of a doubleheader against the White Sox, he allowed more runs in a shorter span of time than any other pitcher in 25 years. The White Sox won 14-2, but Frazier didn't even get the loss.

My observation on the back: I wonder if pitchers get annoyed when home runs are mentioned on the back of their cards?

The blog wants to speak now: Not a lot to say. Updated the Ballgames and Pop Culture categories with some minor stuff.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

#18 - Mickey Hatcher

What a card: Mickey Hatcher receives a rather nice card coming off his best statistical season in the major leagues. In 1984, Hatcher played in nearly 40 more games than he would in any other season. He compiled 174 hits, 35 doubles and a .302 batting average.

My observation on the front: I love the close-up view, Hatcher choking up on the bat, and the off-center positioning of the batter. Unfortunately, this card also displays a drawback of the '85 set -- off-center/miscut cards. I purchased the whole set at the start of the 1985 collecting season and there are several cards in the set that are off-center like this.

More opinion from me: Hatcher played exactly one game at third base in 1984. One. The rest of his time was in the outfield or at designated hitter.

Something you might know: Hatcher was known as a wacky prankster, the man with the giant glove, and a clutch guy off the bench who hit two home runs in the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers, despite having hit only one during the regular season. He is a longtime Angels coach.

Something you might not know: When Hatcher was a prospect in the Dodgers organization, he was considered the eventual third base replacement for my favorite player Ron Cey. But his fielding wasn't up to par, and -- with the exception of Adrian Beltre -- the Dodgers are still looking for Cey's suitable replacement.

My observation on the back: Misaligned stats -- as with Hatcher's 1983 and 1984 seasons -- drove me nuts when I was young.

The blog wants to speak now: The first Other Cards category entry should be up by the end of the day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

#17 - Mike Scott

What a card: Life was about to change for Mike Scott in 1985. That year, he met up with pitching coach Roger Craig, who taught the struggling pitcher the split-fingered fastball, a pitch that was all the rage at the time. Scott would use it to become a 20-game winner and 300-strikeout pitcher.

My observation the front: Scott has that hair that half the boys in my graduating class -- including me -- had in the '80s. It's a wonder we didn't all fly away.

More opinion from me: Scott might be most famous these days as one of the greatest pitching cheats in major league history. He was constantly accused of scuffing the ball, especially during the 1986 NLCS when the Mets could not hit him at all. Scott, years later, admitted to scuffing balls periodically. Personally, I thought it was wonderful. Scott was absolutely dominating, and there is nothing that howls louder than a New York fan. It was beautiful.

Something you might know: The Mets traded Scott to the Astros for Danny Heep on Dec. 10, 1982, a trade that did not go their way at all. That probably caused some howls from Mets fans, too.

Something you might not know: Scott is one of six pitchers who has thrown a no-hitter after he left the Mets. (The others are Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Hideo Nomo). No pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter for the Mets.

My observation on the back: Scott's pitching totals are pretty pathetic at this point. He would go on to become the third winningest pitcher in Astros history.

The blog wants to speak now: I've updated the Ballgames, Music and News categories. I should have the first Other Cards entry up on the weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

#16 - Bobby Meacham

What a card: This is the second-year card of Bobby Meacham. He had just finished his first season as the primary starting shortstop for the Yankees.

My observation on the front: I love seeing photos of Yankee players in spring training. Not because I have any affection for the Yankees -- you know me better than that -- but because there are so many card photos of Yankees (and players on other teams) in Yankee Stadium. It's refreshing to see a Yankee somewhere else.

More opinion from me: Those who grew up knowing only Derek Jeter as the Yankees' shortstop maybe don't know what a wasteland the shortstop position was for the Yankees during the '80s. After Meacham, who was basically booted from his starting role because he had problems hitting and fielding, came Wayne Tolleson, Rafael Santana, Alvaro Espinoza and Andy Stankiewicz.

Something you might know: Meacham is the Astros' first base coach.

Something you might not know: Meacham was involved in one of the more memorable '80s play-at-the-plate moments on Aug. 2, 1985. That was the game when White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk tagged out two Yankees at the plate, Meacham and Dale Berra. On a Rickey Henderson double, Meacham waited to see if the ball might be caught. Berra didn't. And Ozzie Guillen, taking a throw from Luis Salazar, threw to Fisk who tagged Meacham and then Berra.

My observation on the back: The bio blurb is a little strange. Meacham attended college for only three years because he signed with the Cardinals after being drafted as the eighth overall pick. But how are you supposed to take that sentence -- awesome, he went to college for three years?

The blog wants to speak now: Just one update in the News category today. Something about some league called the "USFL."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

#15 - Jerry Koosman

What a card: Jerry Koosman had just completed his first season back in the National League since the day he was traded from the Mets to the Twins on Dec. 8, 1978. It also marked his return to full-time starting as he was a reliever and spot starter with the White Sox from 1981-83.

My observation on the front: I've said several times that I really like the Phillies cards in this set. Something about the burgundy-and-gray color combination on the bottom. It doesn't go well with the photo in this case -- the powder blue uniform is throwing things off -- but we'll see some other Phillies cards that I think look great.

More opinion from me: Don't you love a baseball card blog that goes off-topic into color selection? Sorry. I gotta be me.

Something you might know: Koosman is a free man after serving six months in jail for tax evasion. He was released in the summer of 2010.

Something you might not know: The famous "Shoe Polish Incident" in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series may have been affected by Koosman, a fact that he brought to light 20 years after the incident. In the sixth inning of Game 5, Orioles pitcher Dave McNally bounced a pitch to the plate with Cleon Jones at-bat. The Orioles claimed the ball hit nothing but dirt, but the Mets claimed it hit Jones in the foot. Mets manager Gil Hodges won the argument by showing the umpire the ball, which had a spot of shoe polish on it. However, Koosman said in interviews years later that Hodges, before he spoke to the umpire, told Koosman to rub the ball on his shoe. Hodges then brought the ball to the ump and Jones was awarded first base.

My observation on the back: It's hard to see here, but Koosman's won-loss records in 1977 and 1978 were awful. 8-20 and 3-15. The once-proud Mets had fallen way out of contention. Tom Seaver had been traded and Koosman demanded a trade from Mets management. I was a Koosman fan as a kid and I was disturbed by those stats. When Koosman won 20 games in his first year with the Twins, that made me happy.

The blog wants to speak now: A "Games of 1985" feature has been started up in the Pop Culture tab. I've also updated the News tab.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

#14 - Chris Bando

What a card: Finally! We have a player who was still with the same team when his card came out in 1985. Chris Bando was a Cleveland Indian for almost his entire career. He played one game with the Tigers and one game with the A's at the end of his career in 1989.

My observation on the front: The duplicate Chief Wahoo logos are a little distracting.

More opinion from me: Bando appears to be wearing a warm-up jersey, the kind of thing you see in actual games now. I don't like it when teams break out the batting practice tops for games. I'm not sure who is to blame for this.

Something you might know: Bando is the younger brother of Sal Bando, the third baseman for the Swingin' A's, who won three straight World Series titles from 1972-74. Chris Bando also worked for the Brewers when Sal Bando was Milwaukee's GM in the late 1990s.

Something you might not know: Bando says he had vision in only one eye during his playing career.

My observation on the front: The "reading the Bible" reference is appropriate because Bando is now the head coach at San Diego Christian College. However, I do not know if he still performs aerobics.

The blog wants to speak now: I've updated the News category. I also updated the TV category with an episode of David Letterman. 1985 was the year I discovered Letterman's show and I loved it instantly. Remember when he used to give out collapsible drinking cups and sponges as prizes?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

#13 - Tim Lollar

What a card: Another out-of-date card. This is the third straight one. By the time this card appeared in packs on store shelves, Tim Lollar was a member of the Chicago White Sox. He was traded on Dec. 6, 1984 in the deal that sent LaMarr Hoyt to the Padres (a young Ozzie Guillen was also involved in the trade).

My observation on the front: The Padres' brown-and-gold jerseys and the Swinging Friar are just the way things should be in San Diego. Bring it all back.

More opinion from me: I'm just noticing this, but the position designation on these cards seems a little awkward. It almost looks like Topps accidentally left a "P" out of Lollar's last name and is trying to squeeze it in there.

Something you might know: Lollar was coming off the only World Series appearance of his career at the start of the '85 season. (Lollar pitched for the 1986 Red Sox, but didn't make it into a postseason game that year). He started Game 3 of the 1984 World Series against the Tigers and was rocked for four runs in the second inning. He lasted just 1 2/3 innings.

Something you might not know: Lollar is now a golf pro in Colorado. He started to get serious about golf during spring training with the Red Sox in 1986 -- his final major league season. When he wasn't working out with the team, he was on the golf course.

My observation on the back: As a member of the media, I know that dating the people that you cover is a no-no. But I guess love conquers all.

The blog wants to speak now: I've updated the movie, music and news categories. FYI: January 21, 1985 was a pretty damn cold day no matter where you were.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

#12 - Dave Lopes

What a card: Topps is trying to catch up for the second card in a row. First it featured a manager who was no longer a manager. Now it features a player no longer with the team shown in the photo and in the graphic. Dave Lopes was sent from the A's to the Cubs on Aug. 31, 1984 to complete an earlier deal. So Lopes actually played for the Cubs in 1984 and Topps either couldn't find a photo of Lopes as a Cub or wouldn't airbrush a photo of Lopes into a Cubs uniform.

My observation on the front: The "Now With Cubs" notation was very unusual for Topps at this time and might be the first time I ever saw such a thing on a baseball card (I do remember the '89 Topps Jody Davis "Now With Braves" listing very well). Of course, the "Now With ..." was very common in O-Pee-Chee sets during this time, which is probably where Topps borrowed the idea.

Also, this is the first time that Lopes is listed as an outfielder on the front of his card. Lopes did start out as an outfielder, but by the time he was included in baseball cards he was a second baseman.

More opinion from me: This was a dark period for a Dodger fan who grew up with the Dodgers teams of the '70s. Seeing any veteran Dodger -- Cey, Garvey, Lopes, Yeager, John, Sutton, Baker, Smith, Rau, etc. -- in anything other than a Dodger uniform was unsettling.

Something you might know: Lopes set a record for stealing 38 straight bases without getting caught in 1975, breaking a 53-year-old record. Vince Coleman broke Lopes' record in 1989.

Something you might not know: Lopes is listed as growing up in East Providence, R.I., but the recreation center that features his name, the "Davey Lopes Center," is in South Providence, R.I., and insists that Lopes grew up in South Providence.

My observation on the back: Here we get our first glimpse of some of the personal facts that '85 Topps put on the back of its cards. Ever wanted to know the exact name of Lopes' wife and when they were married? Now you know.

The blog wants to speak now: In honor of the Super Bowl, I have updated the Ballgames, TV, Pop Culture and News categories, all with Super Bowl references. Of course, this is Super Bowl XIX we're talking about here, not Super Bowl XLVI.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

#11 - Ralph Houk

What a card: Well, well, the first non-subset card in the set isn't even of a player. In fact, it's not even of a manager who was managing when this set hit store shelves. Ralph Houk retired from managing in October of 1984. His replacement was John McNamara.

My observation on the front: This was the third straight year that Topps used manager cards that doubled as team checklists on the back. Topps would continue this practice through the 1980s. I'm all for manager cards, and I loved their reappearance in 1983. But I didn't like the checklist on the back. I preferred the 1978 Topps manager cards in which there was bio information and even player stats from the manager's playing days.

More observation from me: I like managers because they are a connection to a past era of baseball. "The Major" was managing in the early '60s for crying out loud! It was terrific to pull a card of someone who had that connection.

Something you might know: Houk was nicknamed "The Major" because that was his rank in the Army during World War II. He was a veteran of The Battle of the Bulge and awarded a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Silver Star.

Something you might not know: Houk had a fiery temper, which only occasionally led to a scene outside of an umpire's ejection. Houk was reported to have punched out actor/singer Gordon McRae, known for his performance in the musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel, for having a little too much fun dancing with Houk's wife. McRae was out cold for two minutes. "What can I say?" Houk said in Bill Madden's book, Pride of October, "It's all true."

My observation on the back: Well, at least Topps got his retirement announcement on there.

The blog wants to speak now: The News tab has been updated with a baseball trade that eventually helped affect the outcome of the 1985 A.L. playoffs.