Friday, March 29, 2013

#160 - Lance Parrish

What a card: This card arrived in packs fresh off of the Tigers' World Series title with Lance Parrish as the starting catcher. During that 1984 season, Parrish's offensive performance fell off slightly from the previous two years but he still hit 33 home runs.

My observation the front: The card is off-center and miscut. That annoys me.

More opinion from me: The photo is tremendous. A beautiful ballpark setting. I've often wondered whether Topps took special care with the photos of the previous season's World Series-winning team in order that they would stand out from other teams. Some of the Tigers cards do stand out in this set.

Something you might know: Parrish is considered one of the better hitting catchers in American League history.. He did strike out a lot and didn't get on base a ton. But his defense was very good and he caught Jack Morris' no-hitter in April of 1984.

Something you might not know: Parrish was in contention for the Dodgers' catching job in spring training of 1993, but lost out to a rookie named Mike Piazza. The Dodgers sent Parrish down to the minors, where he backed up future Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. Parrish later asked for his release and made it back to the majors with the Indians.

My observation on the back: Walter Alston won six All-Star Games. Joe Torre almost caught him, winning five -- the 2002 game in which he managed ended up a tie because (*ahem*) someone ran out of pitchers.

The blog wants to speak now: A quick update to the Music tab today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#159 - Carlos Diaz

What a card: Carlos Diaz had just finished his first year with the Dodgers, appearing in 37 games in relief and putting up a whopping 5.49 ERA.

My observation on the front: Looks like a full house wherever Diaz is pitching. I just know it's not Dodger Stadium.

More opinion from me: I really wanted to like Diaz. There was a point in 1985 -- his 1985 was much better than his 1984 -- where I wanted him to take the closer's role from Tom Niedenfuer.

Something you might know: Diaz is a key figure in what a few Dodger followers consider one of the franchise's less stellar deals. The Dodgers acquired Diaz and Bob Bailor from the Mets for a prospect named Sid Fernandez.

Something you might not know: Diaz is one of 37 major leaguers to have been born in Hawaii. At least six of them played for the Dodgers (Diaz, Fernandez, Charlie Hough, Mike Huff, Onan Masaoka and Shane Victorino).

My observation on the back: Diaz is one of four Allan Hancock College alumni to play in the majors. The other three are Ted Davidson, Brian Asselstine and Bryn Smith.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames, TV, Movies and News categories are updated. Scandal at Wimbledon!

Friday, March 22, 2013

#158 - Pat Tabler

What a card: Pat Tabler began 1985 fresh off his busiest season thus far, appearing in 144 games for the Indians in 1984.

My observation on the front: Tabler seems entranced by something off camera. It's not really a flattering photo.

More opinion from me: When I think of the typical 1980s average baseball-playing white guy, Pat Tabler instantly comes to mind.

Something you might know: Tabler's most well-known feat was his ability to hit with the bases loaded. He went 43-for-88 for his career, which is a .489 average.

Something you might not know: Tabler and his announcing mate Buck Martinez were ranked among the least -biased team announcers in all of baseball in a Wall Street Journal article last year. Tabler and Martinez have been broadcasting Blue Jays games together for Rogers Sportsnet since 2010.

My observation on the back: Either 28 or 29 players have hit home runs on the first major league pitch they ever saw, depending on where you do your research. (Gaetti is not listed on this site, although other places claim he did hit a home run on the first pitch he faced). The most recent player to achieve this feat was Starling Marte of the Pirates on July 26, 2012.

The blog wants to speak now: The Pop Culture and News categories are updated. Last chance to get your kicks on Route 66.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#157 - Tug McGraw

What a card: This is the final Topps card of Tug McGraw issued during his career. It's a pretty good finale.

My observation on the front: McGraw was 40 years old when he stepped away from baseball. He looks pretty good for a 40-year-old in this photo. Unless (*ahem*) Topps used an old shot. Not that they would do that.

More opinion from me: Everything about this card and photo looks dated to someone who is 30 or younger. But it looks perfectly natural to me. Bring back the baby blues and the red belts.

Something you might know: The screwball lefty who exclaimed "Ya Gotta Believe" with the Mets in 1973 and leapt into the air after getting the final out for the Phillies in the 1980 World Series was one of the most quotable players of all-time, the father of country star Tim McGraw, and left us too soon at age 59.

Something you might not know: Maybe you knew it, but I didn't until just now: McGraw's nickname "Tug" came about because of his breast-feeding style as an infant. His mom called him "the little tugger."

My observation on the back: McGraw's two books featured a comic strip character (Scroogie) and a children's book cartoon baseball (Lumpy). "Scroogie" appeared in my hometown newspaper when I was a kid.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

#156 - Craig Reynolds

What a card: This card arrived after Craig Reynolds had enjoyed his busiest season since the late 1970s. He played in 146 games, which was his most since his first year with the Astros in 1979 when he also played in 146.

My observation on the front: A basepaths photo! This is just the fifth card in the set showing a player on the basepaths (Dave Lopes, Butch Davis, Ron Kittle and Alvin Davis are the others). And this is the first one that shows the player in full sprint.

More opinion from me: I don't know what's going on behind Reynolds' right shoulder. There appears to be some floating head action. The more I stare at it, the weirder it gets.

Something you might know: Reynolds was an original Seattle Mariner. He was the starting shortstop in the Mariners' first game, a 7-0 loss to the Angels on April 6, 1977.

Something you might not know: Reynolds has been a Baptist pastor for more than 15 years.

My observation on the back: All that personal info still makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if Topps would do this today?

The blog wants to speak now: Just a brief update to the Pop Culture category.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#155 - Yogi Berra

What a card: This is Yogi Berra's third and final Topps card as manager of the New York Yankees. He appears as manager in the 1964 set and in the 1984 traded set. Berra would be fired from the Yankees 16 days into the 1985 season.

My observation on the front: This is probably Berra's best manager card. He looks quite managerial on a bright, Florida spring day.

More opinion from me: I don't have a good grasp on how great Berra was as a player. I never saw him play and his abilities aren't praised like other players from that time period. But I think he was probably much greater than I've imagined.

Something you might know: Berra, famously divorced himself from the Yankee organization after he was fired in 1985. He was so upset that owner George Steinbrenner sent GM Clyde King to do the firing, that he refused to have anything to do with the organization until Steinbrenner apologized in person almost 15 years later.

Something you might not know: It's difficult to find something that isn't known about one of the most discussed players in history. So I'll just go with something I didn't know. I was aware that Berra's son, Dale, played major league baseball. But I didn't know that his other son, Tim, played NFL football for the Baltimore Colts in 1974.

My observation on the back: That checklist is really wedged in there. The Yankees have 30 players in the set, which I think is the most of any team so far.

The blog wants to speak now: Nope, not tonight. Too tired.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

#154 - Argenis Salazar

What a card: This is the first Topps card of Argenis "Angel" Salazar. He appears as a Rated Rookie in the 1984 Donruss set. Salazar was already a part of the Cardinals organization by the time this card came out.

My observation on the front: Topps insisted on calling Salazar by his formal first name "Argenis" during his entire major league career, while Donruss, Fleer, Score and Upper Deck all listed him as "Angel."

More opinion from me: A fitting photo of Salazar since he was known for his arm strength. You certainly don't want to get a picture of him batting.

Something you might know: Salazar came to the Royals in 1986 and took over the starting shortstop position for Buddy Biancalana, despite Biancalana's heroics in the 1985 postseason.

Something you might not know: Salazar's 1984 season with the Expos is considered so horrific that it was included in Rob Neyer's Big Book Of Baseball Lineups as the all-time bust of a season for a shortstop in Montreal history.

My observation on the back: I'm slightly surprised that Salazar didn't wear the No. 13 since that was the number Concepcion wore and it was a common tribute by Venezuelan major leaguers. Derrel Thomas wore the No. 13 for the Expos in 1984, but no player on the team wore 13 in 1983.

The blog wants to speak now: The TV, Movies, Pop Culture and News tabs are all updated. Wizard of Oz followers abuzz over the new Oz movie that's out currently might know that 1985 featured a new Oz movie, too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#153 - Frank LaCorte

What a card: This is the final card of Frank LaCorte's career. I'm a bit surprised he appeared in the set as he pitched in only 13 games in 1984 with a 7.06 ERA and never played in the majors again, retiring after the season.

My observation on the front: The way LaCorte is wearing his jacket, it looks like he plays for "Anggel"

More opinion from me: This is LaCorte's only Topps base card in anything other than an Astros uniform (he appears as an Angel in the 1984 Traded set). Whenever a player spends a number of years with the same team and then shows up with a different team at the end of his career, that makes me sad. The player doesn't look right in the new uniform and has a "just hanging on" kind of look. Like Willie Mays as a Met.

Something you might know: Known early in his career as a terrible pitcher for some terrible Braves teams, LaCorte became a key part of the vaunted Houston Astros bullpen of the early 1980s, which included Joe Sambito and Dave Smith.

Something you might not know: After his career, LaCorte took over a towing business and apparently displayed all of his big-game hunting prizes in his office.

My observation on the back: It's aways fun when a former major league great is mentioned out of the blue on a card back. "Kids, today we're going to learn about Johnny Sain."

The blog wants to speak now: The Music and News categories are updated. There really was nothing cooler than Miami Vice in 1985.

Monday, March 4, 2013

#152 - Steve Braun

What a card: Steve Braun was entering his final season in the major leagues as this card arrived in packs. He would put the finishing touches on a 15-year major league career in 1985.

My observation on the front: Braun looks like a veteran, particularly in his grim, done-this-before smile.

More opinion from me: Braun's career took a detour about midway. A regular starting outfielder for the Twins through most of his first six seasons, he was selected by the Mariners in the expansion draft. A quick trade to the Royals and suddenly he became a role player and pinch-hitter. I often wondered how those middle-of-a-career shifts happen. (My guess in this case is Whitey Herzog wanted a reliable pinch-hitter).

Something you might know: Braun appeared in two World Series with the Cardinals, in 1982 and 1985. His last at-bat as a major leaguer was in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series in 1985 with his Cardinals trailing 11-0. Coming in as a pinch-hitter, he flew out to center field.

Something you might not know: If you go to the website of Braun's summer camp and clinic business, it features many of his baseball cards at the top. Click on a card and you get a larger size image of the card and can view the back, too. If you go to the biography tab, you can view even more of his cards. But this card is not one of the featured ones.

My observation on the back: Braun spent his first years in organized ball, 1968 and 1969, in military service. Several of his cards note that, but this one leaves it out.

The blog wants to speak now: The Music and News tabs are updated. The new No. 1 song was a big-time prom standby in the '80s.