Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#109 - Gary Roenicke

What a card: Gary Roenicke was in the midst of a two-year slump, which would signal the eventual end of his time with the Orioles, when this card was issued. His 1984 season was noticeably lacking and 1985 would be even worse. He'd be traded to the Yankees at the end of 1985.

My observation on the front: Card is off-center two different ways.

More opinion from me: Roenicke was part of Earl Weaver's famed outfield platoon system that also included John Lowenstein. It worked famously well in 1979 as the Orioles went all the way to the World Series, but I remember getting extremely tired of TV announcers bringing it up all the time.

Something you might know: Roenicke spent much of the '79 season wearing a "half-facemask" attached to the left side of his helmet to protect his face after he was hit by a pitch from the White Sox's Lerrin LaGrow during the second game of the season. Roenicke even wore it for two additional seasons. The facemask is often cited along with similar guards worn by Ellis Valentine, Charlie Hayes and the dreaded Dave Parker goalie mask.

Something you might not know: The Orioles created the facemask by going into the then-Baltimore Colts' locker room, finding quarterback Bert Jones' helmet, unscrewing two of the bars, and screwing them into Roenicke's batting helmet.

My observation on the back: AL starting pitcher Lefty Gomez singled in Jimmy Dykes from second base for the first run of All-Star competition in the second inning of the 1933 game. Thank you baseball-reference.

The blog wants to speak now: The TV, Pop Culture and News categories have been updated. Not good times for "Night Court," Darryl Strawberry or the Go-Gos. And especially not good times for Philadelphia.

Monday, October 29, 2012

#108 - Darnell Coles

What a card: This is Darnell Coles' first Topps card. His first mass-produced card is in the 1984 Donruss set.

My observation on the front: Coles is looking rather regal in this photo. But that's not the proper way to hold a bat at the plate.

More opinion from me: The Mariners need to go back to this logo and those uniforms. NOW!

Something you might know: Coles was a semi-productive infielder for eight major league teams, but especially the Mariners and the Tigers during the late 1980s. He seemed to bounce back and forth between the two teams. He spent this past season as the manager of the Brewers' Double A team, the Huntsville Stars.

Something you might not know: Darnell Coles was best man in the wedding of former Mariners teammate and current MLB Network commentator Harold Reynolds. They were roommates coming up through the Seattle minor league organization.

My observation on the back: The word "who" is missing at the start of the trivia question. It's very irksome.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

#107 - Tom Foley

What a card: This is Tom Foley's second Topps card. He would be traded to the Phillies in a deal for catcher Bo Diaz in August of 1985.

My observation on the front: Foley almost appears to be winking at someone in the stands as he's swinging away.

More opinion from me: This card is massively miscut, something I've never noticed before because, as I've said, I bought this set complete and only looked at the cards enough to put them in a binder more than 25 years ago. I'm seeing many of these for the first time as I do this blog.

Something you might know: Foley is the third base coach for the Tampa Bay Rays. He's the longest-tenured coach in Rays history, having been there for 11 years.

Something you might not know: Foley was an ambidextrous athlete in high school. He threw right-handed as a shortstop and left-handed as a quarterback.

My observation on the back: "Most strikeouts in relief in a championship series game"? Well, that's an obscure record.

The blog wants to speak now: The Music category has been updated. Madonna (*ahem*) is back on top.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#106 - Pascual Perez

Who is the man: The enigmatic Pascual Perez had just finished his second season as a regular, reliable member of the Braves' starting rotation. It would be his last such season for Atlanta though, as he would endure a horrible 1-13, 6.14 ERA season in 1985.

My observation on the front: Kneeling down in the outfield while wearing a satin warm-up jacket just seems to fit Pascual.

More opinion from me: Perez always reminded me of Michael Jackson. Similar hairdo. Out-there personality. Seemingly quiet and soft-spoken but a strong performer.

Something you might know: Well, everyone knows the I-285 story, right? Perez arrived late to the ballpark for his start because he got lost on the I-285 in Atlanta. This was in 1982 during a memorable season for the Braves, so it went down in team lore. Perez circled the city three times, ran out of gas, convinced a gas station attendant to give him free gas because he forgot his wallet, and then finally found the exit.

Something you might not know: Two of Perez's brothers also played in the majors. That part you know. But Perez had two other brothers. He once introduced himself as "one of five twin brothers."

My observation on the back: Perez really should be left-handed.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames, Pop Culture and News categories have been updated, ever so briefly.

Friday, October 19, 2012

#105 - Ron Kittle

What a card: Ron Kittle was coming off his second full season with the White Sox as this card appeared in packs. Not quite as successful as in his Rookie of the Year season in 1983, Kittle still produced in the power department, while struggling mightily with his batting average.

My observation on the front: Kittle running the bases is an odd shot. I remember looking at it quizzically, as in "this is the guy who hits 30 home runs a year, right?"

More opinion from me: The completely black background throws me. It looks like Kittle is leading off first base in space. I have debated several times with myself on whether this is a night card. I don't think it is.

Something you might know: Kittle was enormously popular his rookie year in '83 when he hit 35 home runs and drove in 100. A free-swinging slugger, who struck out 150 times his rookie year, he remained popular even after his career ended.

Something you might not know: Kittle makes benches out of bats, baseballs and bases. You can see some of them on his website.

My observation on the back: 1. That 1982 season in Edmonton is absolutely crazy. 2. Kittle went into construction after being released by the Dodgers after two seasons in their minor league organization. He was signed by L.A. in 1977.

The blog wants to speak now: The Movie, Pop Culture and News categories are updated. They were still break-dancing in '85.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

#104 - Mike Fitzgerald

What a card: This is the first Topps flagship card of Mike Fitzgerald. He had cards in the 1984 Donruss and 1984 Fleer Update sets, as well as the 1984 Topps Traded set. In fact, I believe the photo on his '84 Traded card is from the same game -- possibly the same play -- as the photo on this card. Judging from the '84 card, it appears that Fitzgerald here is following an infield play after he initially thought he had a chance on the ball.

My observation on the front: I think I just mentioned that.

More opinion from me: I haven't discussed this about the '85 set, so now is as good a time as any. Prior to the 1985 set, Topps issued two straight sets that were action-photo heavy, 1983 and 1984 Topps. When Topps went to a full photo (with no inset photo) in 1985, it also returned posed/profile shots to the flagship set for basically the first time since 1982. (I know there were some posed shots in '83 and '84 Topps, but relatively few). It seemed like Topps was going back in time with the 1985 set.

Something you might know: Fitzgerald is the catcher the Montreal Expos received in exchange for Gary Carter in the deal with the Mets in 1984. In fact, by the time this card hit stores, Fitzgerald was already a Montreal Expo, along with Hubie Brooks, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans.

Something you might not know: Fitzgerald is one of only 11 catchers in major league history to hit a home run in his first big-league at-bat. Other notables are Terry Steinbach and Mike Napoli.

My observation on the back: Dan Gausepohl played between 1979-82, at one point playing on the same team as Tony Gwynn.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames, News and Pop Culture (va-va-va-voom) tabs have been updated.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

#103 - Randy Lerch

What a card: This is the final card of Randy Lerch issued during his career. Lerch signed with the Phillies as a free agent after the 1984 season and spent the '85 season in the minors. He'd pitch briefly for the Phillies in 1986 before getting released.

My observation on the front: A lot of people came out to see Lerch's photo-taking session.

More opinion from me: I equate Lerch totally with the Phillies. It is weird seeing him in any other uniform.

Something you might know: Lerch's reputation as a good-hitting pitcher was well-earned. The example most cited is his two-home run day on Sept. 30, 1978 to help the Phillies beat the Pirates in a crucial end-of-the-season game that gave the Phillies the N.L. East title.

Something you might not know: Lerch broke his right wrist in a scuffle with youths on the street in July 1979. While walking with his wife and another couple after a night out at a restaurant, seven youths approached the two couples and began harassing the wives. Lerch said three of the kids jumped him and he landed hard on his shoulder while trying to brace his fall to the ground.

My observation on the back: Except for four games in the 1986 season, that's Lerch's entire major league career right there.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames, News and TV categories are updated.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

#102 - Tommy Dunbar

What a card: This is Tommy Dunbar's first Topps card. He would have just one more, in the 1986 set, and that would be it. His first card is in the 1984 Donruss set, in which he's known as "Tom" Dunbar.

My observation on the front: Dunbar appears rather serious here, although from what I've read, he was pretty jovial.

More opinion from me: I wonder if the guy standing in the background with the tie on is anyone important. He's standing like he's someone important.

Something you might know: Dunbar played just three limited seasons for the Rangers, from 1983-85. He would put up some big minor league seasons afterward until 1991. He died last year recuperating from prostate cancer surgery.

Something you might not know: Dunbar blasted the go-ahead home run for the Rangers in a game against the Yankees on July 17, 1984. In the fifth inning, with the Yankees ahead 3-2 and two Rangers on base, Dunbar hit a Phil Niekro pitch out of Yankee Stadium in an eventual 10-4 win for Texas.

My observation on the back: Other than noting the gum stain, I can update the trivia question. Davey Johnson still holds the record for the most pinch-hit grand slams in a season with two, but he's been equaled by four other players. In fact, one of those players -- Mike Ivie -- shared the record with Johnson at the time this trivia question was written, yet he's not included in the trivia question.

The other players are Darryl Strawberry (Yankees, 1998), Ben Broussard (Indians, 2004) and Brooks Conrad (Braves, 2010).

The blog wants to speak now: No it doesn't. It was one hellacious night at work.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

#101 - Jim Acker

What a card: This is Jim Acker's second-year card after he completed his sophomore major league season with the Blue Jays.

My observation on the front: A classic "don't look directly at the camera" pose.

More opinion from me: Seeing Acker with his index finger out of his glove reminds me of how puzzled I was as a kid when I realized that baseball players stuck one finger out of their glove. Here I had been sticking all my fingers in the accompanying finger slots and catching the ball just fine -- or so I thought. What a revelation it was when I stuck a finger on the outside of the glove (it seemed so weird at the time) and could suddenly catch a ball even better! I was a changed boy.

Something you might know: Acker had two tours with the Blue Jays. He would be traded to the Braves in 1986, then traded by the Braves back to the Blue Jays in 1989. The Blue Jays sent a catcher named Francisco Cabrera to the Braves in that deal.

Something you might not know: Acker is from Freer, Texas, also the hometown of former Chicago Bears defensive end Steve McMichael. They played on the same high school team together with Acker as the quarterback. In McMichael's book, "Tales From the Chicago Bears Sideline," McMichael recalls the intense nature of Texas small-school football rivalries. He says that in one game, the other team was going for Freer's players' knees. When the team went for Acker's knee, the bleachers cleared and fans brawled in the center of the field.

My observation on the back: Nose tackle Bill Acker also played for the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames, TV and News categories are updated.

Friday, October 5, 2012

#100 - George Brett

What a card: George Brett was on the way to his first and only World Series title when this card arrived in packs. He would bounce back nicely from an injury plagued 1984 season by finishing second in the 1985 A.L. MVP voting.

My observation on the front: Kind of an odd look on Brett's face. He doesn't appear to be too confident in his swing.

More opinion from me: Wonder what's in Brett's pocket? Copenhagen? Skoal? Happy Days mint?

Something you might know: I'll go to my happy place. 1980. Game 3. Seventh inning. Brett. Gossage. Third deck.

Something you might not know: Brett missed the first 33 games of the 1984 season with a knee injury. In his first game back, against the Texas Rangers on May 18, he went 3-for-3 with a double, two singles and an intentional walk. But the Rangers won 2-1.

My observation on the back: "George is one of four baseball-playing brothers." So? I'm one of three baseball-playing brothers. Brett only beat me by one.

The blog wants to speak now: The Pop Culture tab has been updated.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

#99 - Milt Wilcox

What a card: This card arrived after possibly Milt Wilcox's most triumphant season. After 14 years in the major leagues, Wilcox returned to the World Series in 1984, for the first time since his rookie year in 1970, and won Game 3 against the Padres.

My observation on the front: Must be a warm day there in Detroit.

More opinion from me: I've always had trouble connecting the early Milt Wilcox (Reds, Indians, clean shaven) with the later Milt Wilcox (Tigers, mustache). They almost seem like two different people.

Something you might know: Wilcox won 17 games for the World Series champion Detroit Tigers. But two years later, he was out of baseball.

Something you might not know: Wilcox now runs a dock-jumping dogs organization called "Ultimate Air Dogs," which you've probably heard before. But did you know the reason UAB came to be was because of a dog named after Wilcox's Tigers' manager, Sparky Anderson? The dog, Sparky Anderson-Wilcox, died on Nov. 11, 2011 at 11 years of age.

My observation on the front: I wonder if Milt's "greatest baseball thrill" was rendered obsolete by the fact that he WON THE WORLD SERIES IN 1984.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames and News categories are updated.