Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#296 - Ricky Nelson

What a card: This is the final Topps card issued of Ricky Nelson during his career (he had only two Topps cards). It's a little surprising that he's featured in this set since he appeared in only nine major league games in 1984.

My observation on the front: Nelson wore No. 10 for the Mariners in 1983 and 1984. The number on the bat does not appear to be a 10. Must be displaying someone else's lumber.

More opinion from me: The "hero" shot is a classic baseball card pose. I should do a post on this someday (*writes himself a note*).

Something you might know: Nelson made minor noise for the Mariners with his rookie season in 1983, appearing in 98 games and batting .254. He was a noted base stealer in the minors, swiping 43 for Bakersfield in 1982.

Something you might not know: Nelson was drafted ahead of better-known Arizona State and Mariner teammate Alvin Davis in 1981. But Davis was drafted by the A's and he didn't sign. The next year, the Mariners drafted Davis and he signed.

My observation on the back: Sammy Sosa now holds the NL (and MLB) record for home runs in a month. He blasted 20 during the home run summer of 1998.

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

#295 - Joe Niekro

What a card: Joe Niekro was closing out the most productive portion of his career when this card came out. From 1979-84, he was at his peak.

My observation on the front: The picture looks hazy. Not the clearest.

More opinion from me: I didn't like it when the Astros transitioned to these blue softball racing stripe tops.

Something you might know: Google "Joe Niekro" and "emery board" isn't far behind. The guy won 221 games in 22 years in the majors and all anyone wants to talk about is how he was caught on the mound with an emery board that flew out of his pockets when he was told to empty them by umpire Tim Tschida.

Something you might not know: When Niekro, who was player rep for the Astros in 1980, learned that players and owners had reached a deal to eliminate the longstanding threat of a strike, he kissed the waitresses in the restaurant where he was eating. (The thrill didn't last as a strike would mar the very next season).

 My observation on the back: Joe and Phil Niekro had been playing together in the major leagues for about 17 years at this point. I'm sure that blurb at the bottom was old news.

The blog wants to speak now: It's been a rough week. No speaking today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

#294 - Tom Nieto

What a card: This is Tom Nieto's rookie card. He also appears in the 1985 Donruss and Fleer sets.

My observation on the front: Nieto has gotten himself dirty already in this game judging by his right pant leg. I'd guess that'd make sense being a catcher and all.

More opinion from me: I dare one team -- just one team -- to wear powder blue road uniforms for an entire season. I'm willing to bet it would attract more fans.

Something you might know: Nieto was involved in a controversial play in the 1985 World Series. In the second inning of Game 5, with the Cardinals and Royals tied 1-1, Jim Sundberg tried to score from second base on a hit by Buddy Biancalana. Nieto came up the line to get the throw from Cesar Cedeno and then thought he applied the tag in time as Sundberg slid around him and swept his hand on the plate. Umpire John Shulock called Sundberg safe, causing Nieto to slam down his mask and Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog to come out of the dugout to argue. Herzog claimed that Sundberg missed the plate. The Royals would win the game 6-1.

Something you might not know: In a Sports Illustrated article written by Peter Gammons in 1986, which was titled "10 Traded That Should Be Made," he proposed a bizarre deal in which Nieto was dealt from the Expos to the Indians for Chris Bando, then dealt from the Indians to the Padres for Bruce Bochy, then dealt from the Padres to the Red Sox for Marc Sullivan, then dealt from the Red Sox to the Reds for Sal Butera, then dealt from the Reds to the White Sox for Marc Hill, then dealt from the White Sox to the Braves for Bruce Benedict, then dealt from the Braves to the Expos for Dann Bilardello, upon which the Expos send down Nieto and call up Mike Fitzgerald.

I don't know what the purpose of this bit of nonsense was other than to show how many backup catchers Gammons could name.

My observation on the back: Since Ray Knight, 18 other National Leaguers have hit two home runs in one inning, including Jeff King twice. The most recent is the Giants' Pablo Sandoval in 2011. When this trivia question was printed, the feat hadn't happened in almost five years. But in 1985, it would happen twice, by the Phillies' Von Hayes and the Expos' Andre Dawson.

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

#293 - Curt Young

What a card: This is Curt Young's rookie card. He also has cards in the '85 Donruss and Fleer sets.

My observation on the front: That blurry background reminds me of 1984 Donruss.

More opinion from me: Still bugs me that the color used in the design is yellow and not gold.

Something you might know: Young is the A's pitching coach. It's his second time in the position with the A's. In between he was the pitching coach for the Red Sox.

Something you might not know: Young pitched two one-hitters in his career in 1986 and 1987. The first one was broken up by the Royals' Kevin Seitzer in the eighth, and the second was broken up by the White Sox's Ken Williams, also in the eighth.

My observation on the back: Frank Viola was also on the U.S. roster with Young in the 1980 world tournament.

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

#292 - Brad Komminsk

What a card: This is the first Topps card issued of Brad Komminsk, after he hit .203 in his rookie season.

My observation on the front: Don't you dare flip that bat, Brad!!!

More opinion from me: I really miss the days when every move the Braves made was the wrong one. Have I said that before? I believe I have.

Something you might know: Komminsk was considered a huge can't miss prospect after tearing up the Braves' minor league system between 1980-83, but he struggled mightily in the majors and was never better than a backup for several teams after he flopped with the Braves.

Something you might not know: After his .203 rookie season, Komminsk was asked if he thought there was a sophomore jinx. "I hope not," Komminsk said.

My observation on the back: Geez, DiMaggio holds that consecutive games streak, too?

The blog wants to speak now: The Other Cards tab is updated.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#291 - Bob Welch

What a card: Bob Welch was coming off a somewhat mediocre season when this card arrived in packs in 1985. After a 1983 season in which he finished 8th in the Cy Young Award voting, Welch dropped off a bit in '84.

My observation on the front: Welch was huge favorite of mine when he pitched for L.A., and I especially liked it when he was featured in action shots. Topps did me a favor by using nothing but action shots for Welch between 1982-86.

More opinion from me: Welch's book about his battle with alcoholism, "5 O'Clock Comes Early," is part of the trifecta of baseball tell-all books that I read as a teenager in the early '80s. In a short span of time, I read Welch's book, "The Bronx Zoo" and "Ball Four". My view of ballplayers was forever changed.

Something you might know: Welch rocketed to fame when he struck out Reggie Jackson to end Game 2 of the 1978 World Series. Welch was just 21 when he retired Jackson with two men on and two outs in the ninth inning.

Something you might not know: Welch was the beneficiary of what calls the Most Egregious Cy Young Award Snub Of All-Time. The writer believes Roger Clemens should have beaten out Welch for the award in 1990.

My observation on the back: Every time I hear a mention of Welch playing for Eastern Michigan University, I think of the great Roger Angell's account of Welch and Bob Owchinko pitching respective ends of an Eastern Michigan doubleheader while Angell talked with scout Ray Scarborough. Fantastic article.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

#290 - Cecil Cooper

What a card: Cecil Cooper had a down year -- for him -- in 1984, batting below .300 for the first time since 1976. He would bounce back for the Brewers in 1985.

My observation on the front: Cooper looks rather unorthodox on his follow through. But that's because Cooper featured an odd, open batting stance, which was modeled after Rod Carew's.

More opinion from me: Cooper was a childhood favorite of mine going back to his Red Sox days in the mid-1970s. I associate him with that youthful time and it's kind of hard for me to see Cooper as older and wearing glasses.

Something you might know: Cooper received his big chance when he was traded from the Red Sox to the Brewers in the deal for George Scott. A regular at last, Cooper produced consistently at a high level and is most remembered for his 1980 season when he hit .352 to finish second in the American League to George Brett's .390.

Something you might not know: Cooper was a St. Louis Cardinal, but for only a brief time. The Cardinals claimed him in the Rule 5 draft and he appeared in spring training for St. Louis in 1971. But the Red Sox claimed him back the day the season began.

My observation on the back: Cooper and his wife would go on to have two more daughters, Brittany and Tori.

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

#289 - Tom Underwood

What a card: This is the final Topps card issued of Tom Underwood during his career. The Orioles released him after the 1984 season. Underwood would play in the minors for the Yankees in 1985 and that was it.

My observation on the front: I'm suddenly interested in who is wearing that red jacket in the background.

More opinion from me: As a kid, I loved Underwood's 1976 Topps card, featuring him with the Phillies and the rookie cup logo. I was disappointed when the Phillies traded him to the Cardinals in 1977.

Something you might know: Underwood's brother Pat pitched for the Tigers and the two pitched against each other in Pat's major league debut in 1979.

Something you might not know: Underwood once struck out 15 batters while throwing a 2-hitter for the Reading Phillies in 1974. He was pitching against Thetford Mines, which included on their roster Omar Moreno, Tony Armas and Willie Randolph.

My observation on the back: Tom Underwood pitched a complete game in the 1-0 loss to his brother to fall to 0-7 on the year. He gave up the lone run on a home run in the eighth inning to Jerry Morales.

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

#288 - Jeff Kunkel

What a card: This is Jeff Kunkel's second card in the '85 Topps set. He appeared earlier in the Father-Son subset. Not bad for a rookie.

My observation on the front: I'll bet this photo is from the same session as the one that appeared on the Father-Son card.

More opinion from me: I said on that Father-Son post that Kunkel looked like he was 12. I was wrong. He looks 11.

Something you might know: Kunkel was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1983 major league draft.

Something you might not know: Kunkel pitched twice for the Rangers in mop-up roles, once in 1988 and once in 1989. He fared better in the first outing, allowing no runs and no hits and striking out a batter. In the 1989 appearance, he gave up four runs, including a home run, in 1 2/3 innings.

My observation on the back: As mentioned on the Father-Son post, Kunkel's father died during the 1985 season. The umpire trivia question is a nice touch, although I'm guessing it's a coincidence.

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