Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#196 - Pete O'Brien

What a card: This card arrived in packs right after Pete O'Brien's breakout season for the Rangers. He reached double figures in home runs (18) for the first time, drove in 80 runs and produced vastly better statistics than in 1983, all while playing in 12 fewer games.

My observation on the front: I can't tell whether O'Brien is enjoying a chaw or doing some weird tongue thing as he follows through on a swing.

More opinion from me: The red Rangers jersey tops aren't as great as the red Expos' jersey tops, but they are delightfully '80s.

Something you might know: O'Brien was the Rangers' regular first baseman of the mid-1980s. He set a team record with 92 RBIs in 1985.

Something you might not know: O'Brien and his wife Donna opened a flotation and massage spa in Texas after his retirement. If you want to hear O'Brien talk about "the theta state," then see this video on the spa's website. Personally, floating in a pool in a strange place, by yourself, creeps me out.

My observation on the back: The American League record is no longer held by the A's. The Brewers won 13 straight games to start the 1987 season.

The blog wants to speak now: The News category is updated with an NFL transaction that us Bills fans would never live down if it wasn't for Jim Kelly.

Monday, July 29, 2013

#195 - Glenn Hubbard

What a card: Glenn Hubbard was entering his eighth season with the Braves and his seventh season as the team's starting second baseman in 1985.

My observation on the front: I haven't talked about the high-stirrup look yet, so let's. When I started watching and playing baseball, almost all players wore their socks like this. It was just understood. That was the only way you wore them. I don't think I knew you could wear them differently.

More opinion from me: During the early '80s, probably during the Braves' sudden emergence as a contender in 1982, Hubbard was referred to as "the bearded wonder" by Vin Scully, who was working the NBC Game Of The Week at the time. He said it multiple times during telecasts, and it drove me and my brother crazy.

Something you might know: Hubbard is the subject of one of the most popular and talked-about cards of the 1980s, the 1984 Fleer card in which he's wearing a snake.

Something you might not know: Hubbard is ranked as the third-greatest fielding second baseman of all-time, just behind Joe Gordon and Bill Mazeroski in a book called "Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed." It's a statistically based book that mentions that the evaluation of Hubbard's 1985 fielding season was "controversial."

My observation on the back: Hubbard was a military child. His father was in the Air Force, which explains the German birth site and playing Little League in Taiwan.

The blog wants to speak now: A minor update to the News category. I'll try to get the Other Cards category updated soon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

#194 - Dave Stegman

What a card: This is one of only two cards of Dave Stegman issued during his career. He was granted free agency before the card even hit packs and never played in another major league game.

My observation on the front: A pretty cool photo for a guy with just two cards (his 1984 Topps card isn't too shabby either). Unique '80s-style White Sox uniform, great facial expression, bat in suspended animation. I like it.

More opinion from me: I still can't believe the White Sox wore their uniform numbers so close to their crotch.

Something you might know: Stegman was a force for the University of Arizona, leading them to the NCAA title in 1976 and setting school season records for hits, doubles, runs and walks. He once drove in 11 runs in a game.

Something you might not know: Stegman was a key figure in producing the longest game in major league history. On May 8, 1984, the White Sox beat the Brewers, 7-6 in 25 innings after Harold Baines' home run. But the game got to the 25th inning thanks to Jim Leyland, the third base coach for the White Sox then, and Stegman. In the 23rd inning, Stegman fell as he was rounding third base. Leyland helped him get up, which is a violation of baseball rule 7.09 (h). Leyland was called for interference and Stegman ruled out, extending the game.

My observation on the back: I can't stop mentioning this: I love the "no batting average" for his time with the Yankees in 1982.

The blog wants to speak now: An update to the ballgames category, although there's no ball involved in this one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#193 - Jimmy Key

What a card: This is the first card of Jimmy Key in a Topps flagship set. He has a 1984 card in traded sets for both Topps and Fleer. Key had just completed his first season with the Jays -- exclusively as a reliever.

My observation on the front: Key's '85 Topps card looks very similar to his '84 Traded card. I believe the photos are from the same game. Possibly even the same pitch.

More opinion from me: For me, Key's emergence with the Blue Jays was the signal that the team had finally arrived as a franchise. More so than Dave Stieb, Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Jesse Barfield, anybody else. I don't know if I can explain that, but Toronto seemed legitimate with another homegrown pitcher on the mound.

Something you might know: Key enjoyed a breakout season in 1987, winning 17 games and finishing second in the AL Cy Young Award voting. He was first in the league in ERA and WHIP.

Something you might not know: Key is now a pretty good golfer who earlier this month was competing in the Palm Beach, Fla., amateur championship. You can hear him talk about how golf is too quiet in this TV clip.

My observation on the back: Key was so good as a "DH-pitcher" that he's the only player from Clemson to be named All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team at two positions in the same year (1982).

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

#192 - Howard Johnson

What a card: This is the first card of Howard Johnson issued by Topps. He appeared on both Donruss and Fleer cards in 1983. By the time this card hit store shelves, Johnson had been traded to the Mets.

My observation on the front: I love home run trot photos. There needs to be more of them on cards.

More opinion from me: Like many baseball fans of the early 1980s, I found Howard Johnson's arrival onto the MLB scene amusing because his name matched that of the restaurant chain. Growing up as a kid, Howard Johnson's restaurant was as prevalent as McDonald's, so to hear "HoJo" refer to something else was a total kick.

Nowadays, I couldn't tell you where to find a Howard Johnson's restaurant and there are probably a lot of people who are too young to have heard of Howard Johnson the player, too. And suddenly, I'm sad.

Something you might know: Johnson set a record for the most home runs by a National League switch-hitter when he slammed 36 in 1987. Todd Hundley later broke the record.

Something you might not know: When Johnson was a kid, his family would go to Howard Johnson's restaurant every Sunday after church. He would always get a free ice cream cone because of his name, which was actually a tribute to his grandfather.

My observation on the back: The Phillies still hold the MLB record for the most losses, except now it is 10,421 as of this writing.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames tab is updated. Baseball played its All-Star Game for the first time on my birthday.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#191 - Steve Nicosia

What a card: Steve Nicosia was already a member of the Montreal Expos when this card appeared in packs. He signed as a free agent with Montreal in February of 1985.

My observation on the front: This is the second straight card in which there is weird scuffing on the surface (that makes it look like it's snowing). I barely touched these cards after purchasing a factory set. So that ain't me doing the scuffing.

More opinion from me: Nicosia has some pretty nice cards for a career backup catcher. This is not one of them.

Something you might know: During his rookie season, Nicosia started all of the odd-numbered World Series games for the Pirates in 1979. (Ed Ott started the even-numbered games). Nicosia and Kent Tekulve kicked off the Series-clinching celebration with a hug in the infield at the end of Game 7.

Something you might not know: Nicosia has four daughters. All of them were college athletes. Twin sisters Traci and Nikki both played softball for Michigan State.

My observation on the back: The trivia question is in error. The Padres pitched just seven shutouts in 1984. Dave Dravecky and Tim Lollar had two, and Andy Hawkins, Eric Show and Mark Thurmond had one apiece.

The blog wants to speak now: The Pop Culture and News categories are updated. A strike date has been set.

Monday, July 1, 2013

#190 - Rusty Staub

What a card: Rusty Staub was entering his final major league season in 1985. This is his second-to-last Topps card issued during his career.

My observation on the front: This is a perfect illustration of Staub choking up on the bat, which he did a lot, especially when he had two strikes. Pretty unusual to see that from someone who hit 20 or more home runs four times -- although not that unusual for the time.

More opinion from me: It looks like Staub has been enjoying his own cooking a little bit. Staub was known as an excellent cook and once owned a couple of restaurants.

Something you might know: Staub was an original Montreal Expo and that franchise's first star player. He was actually part of two fledgling teams, the Colt .45s being the other, as he first played for them the year after they debuted. He also played for the expansion New York Mets, although a decade after they started.

Something you might not know: If Staub's mom had her way, he would be known as Danny Staub. But a nurse in the hospital where Staub was born nicknamed him Rusty for his red hair and the name stuck.

My observation on the back: I remember in the late '70s/early '80s, it seemed like Staub would change teams every year. It was a little difficult keeping track of where he was.

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