Thursday, August 28, 2014

#324 - Bruce Bochy

What a card: This is Bruce Bochy's card after his second season as backup catcher for the Padres. In 1984, Bochy appeared in the World Series for San Diego, albeit in just one game. He singled in his only at-bat, in the ninth inning of Game 5, the final game of that Series.

My observation on the front: There's so much yellow on that card that it's like the sun is rising in front of the sky.

More opinion from me: Little did I know in 1985 that a career backup catcher would go on to be my least favorite major league baseball manager.

Something you might know: Bochy has managed three teams to the World Series, losing in 1998 with the Padres and winning in 2010 and 2012 with the Giants.

Something you might not know: Bochy's right eye looks different than his left eye, especially on his cards, because the eyelashes on his right eye are white, the result of being exposed to a chemical as a teenager while working for a furniture refinisher.

My observation on the back: Joe Bochy played in the Twins organization. He also pitched during the 1972 season.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#323 - Andy McGaffigan

What a card: Andy McGaffigan played just nine games for the Reds in 1984, as he was traded from Montreal in late July 1984, necessitating this particular look.

My observation on the front: That is a fake-looking airbrush job. However, it is not as gloriously awful as the one on the card of the man for whom McGaffigan was traded.

More opinion from me: I have more 1984 Topps Andy McGaffigan cards than any non-Dodger player in my collection. It is how I keep McGaffigan alive in my memory.

Something you might know: An often-traded relief pitcher, McGaffigan is probably best known as the set-up man for closer Tim Burke for the Montreal Expos teams of the late 1980s. He's also known for faking out Shawon Dunston in this clip.

Something you might not know: McGaffigan hit just .048 for his career, getting six hits in 126 at-bats, one of the lowest averages for a pitcher ever.

My observation on the back: I've been noticing the marriage dates that are listed on the backs of some of these cards and that a few of them are in January. My first instinct is to think "January -- how odd for a wedding." But, of course, a ballplayer couldn't get married in June. Little busy.

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

#322 - Dave Stapleton

What a card: Dave Stapleton suffered a knee injury early in the 1984 season and played just 13 games that year. But Topps was good to him and gave him a card anyway.

My observation on the front: The old style Boston road uniforms, which the Red Sox wore in the '80s after not wearing them since the late 1960s, are as basic as you can get. Normally, I would find that boring. But I like these.

More opinion from me: Every time I think of Stapleton now, I think of the letter he wrote to Seth Swirsky that was featured in Swirsky's book "Baseball Letters" in 1996. When Swirsky asked Stapleton if he was surprised when Red Sox manager John McNamara did not use him to replace Bill Buckner at first base in the late stages of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (and we know how that ended), Stapleton responded thusly:

"Yes, I was surprised because I had already loosened up my legs and arm to go into the game in the 7th inning. I had usually gone in at this time in all other play-off games if we were ahead. The reason he left Buckner in was to be on the field when we won the game so he could celebrate with the others. As you well know, nobody got to celebrate because of this bad decision. Mr. McNamara never did have my respect as a manager or a person but that doesn't matter. It does no good to beat a dead dog. he has to live with his decision the rest of his life. And great Red Sox fans all over the country have to continue to suffer on as a result of it. And I feel sometimes that I got released after the "86" season because he didn't want me there to remind him of his mistake."

After all these years after reading that, I still say "wow".

Something you might know: Stapleton started his major league season with a bang, batting .321 in 106 games in 1980 and finishing second to Joe Charboneau in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Something you might not know: Stapleton's batting average declined every single year of his career. From 1980 to 1986 it went: .321, .285, .264, .247, .231, .227 and .128. I have no idea if that's a record. But he has to be in a very small group.

My observation on the back: Tom Seaver holds the record for opening day starts with 16. The record he tied, I believe was Steve Carlton's. There is a Sporcle quiz that you can take related to this. It's only through 2011, but you get the idea. And I already gave you two answers!

The blog wants to speak now: I'm trying to stave off a cold, so I'm going to sit this part out. Time for bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#321 - Ricky Horton

What a card: This is the first Topps base card of Ricky Horton. He appears in the 1984 Topps Traded (and '84 Fleer Update) set.

My observation on the front: I'm trying to figure out what pitch he's throwing from his grip. It kind of looks like a circle changeup.

More opinion from me: Awfully tight uniforms they wore back in the '80s.

Something you might know: Horton now goes by "Rick" and has been a broadcaster for the Cardinals for the last 10 years, mostly handling color commentary and postgame analysis.

Something you might not know: Horton is briefly featured in the movie "Field Of Dreams". The daughter of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is watching a White Sox game on TV. In the game, Horton calls catcher Carlton Fisk out to the mound. The announcer says something and the daughter says to Kinsella, "Daddy, what's a southpaw?"

My observation on the back: Horton's wife was involved in a health scare last season. Her doctors told her she was exposed to an undetectable chemical or toxic gas that led to memory loss and her being hospitalized. They said her friends' quick reactions saved her life.

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

#320 - Dale Murphy

What a card: This card arrived in packs after Dale Murphy hit 36 home runs and drove in at least 100 runs for the third straight year. Yet he did not win the National League MVP for the third straight year. He finished ninth. Slacker.

My observation on the front: That is a good look at the ever-present birthmark on Murphy's right cheek.

More opinion from me: Is that two different shades of blue between the jersey top and pants? Not cool.

Something you might know: Probably the most productive National League hitter of the 1980s, Murphy started out as a catcher, but struggled behind the plate. His career took off after he converted to the outfield.

Something you might not know: When Murphy ended his consecutive games played streak at 740 games in July of 1986, the honor for the longest active streak fell to eventual ironman champion Cal Ripken Jr., who had played in 686 straight games at the time.

My observation on the back: Every current major league manager is looking at this trivia quiz and saying, "So? Is this a big deal?"

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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#319 - Jeff Jones

What a card: This is the final card issued of Jeff Jones during his career. He pitched in just 13 games, going 0-3, in 1984.

My observation on the front: There's something about when Jones grew that mustache that turned him into a groovy holdover from the '70s. I mean look at it combined with that green-and-gold jersey!

More opinion from me: Once again, there's no ball in that glove.

Something you might know: Jones is now the pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers. I don't envy him with the way that bullpen performs in the postseason.

Something you might not know: Jones played in college for Bowling Green. Two of his teammates in on that team were Orel Hershiser and future umpire Jim Joyce.

My observation on the back: More startlingly easy trivia courtesy of '85 Topps.

The blog wants to speak now: The pop culture category is updated.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#318 - Ted Simmons

What a card: Ted Simmons struggled through his 1984 season with the Brewers, batting just .221 with a .269 on-base percentage in 132 games. The four home runs he hit were the fewest in a season since the three he hit during his 82-game rookie year in 1970.

My observation on the front: Simmons was one of those guys I paid attention to a lot in his baseball cards. I knew him well as a catcher, and when he moved out from behind the plate, it was disconcerting. This is the only Topps card of his in which "catcher" is not listed as a position. And that's because he didn't play catcher at all in '84.

More opinion from me: If you were paying attention, you know that this is the second straight Brewers card in the set. This is what I had eluded to in the last post. Featuring the same team in back-to-back cards was rare for Topps at this time. It usually meant a last-minute change. My guess is Jack Lazorko filled in at card #317 for whatever the original plan was.

Something you might know: Simmons was one of the best hitting catchers in the majors. Long known as a Cardinal, he was dealt to the Brewers after a feud with Whitey Herzog and ended up playing his old team in the World Series less than two years later.

Something you might not know: Simmons was a finalist to be the first manager in Tampa Bay Devil Rays history. But Tampa Bay went with Larry Rothschild instead.

My observation on the back: Simmons once held the National League record for career home runs for a switch-hitter with 182. Chipper Jones now holds that mark with a much more advanced 468.

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

#317 - Jack Lazorko

What a card: This is Jack Lazorko's rookie card. He appeared in 15 games for the Brewers in 1984 after spending seven years in the minors.

My observation on the front: It looks like the crowd is filing in. We might have a game on our hands.

More opinion from me: I'm fairly certain I collected cards in the late '80s of Lazorko without having any inkling that he existed.

Something you might know: Lazorko was a hockey goaltender in high school, which is the background for a famous "This Week in Baseball" clip that shows him stopping drives through the box with goalie-like saves.

Something you might not know: Lazorko claimed in 1993 that he was the only player to be released by both the Yankees and the Mets in the same year, all within four months.

My observation on the back: Looking at his stats, I'm wondering why Topps included a card of Lazorko in the set. My curiosity grows with card that follows this one in the set. But we'll wait for the next post for that.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

#316 - John Lowenstein

What a card: This is the final Topps card of John Lowenstein issued during his career. He was released by the Orioles in May, 1985.

My observation on the front: Lowenstein's shaded spectacles was a well-known look, but he didn't feature them on his baseball cards until 1981, more than a decade into his career.

More opinion from me: I've mentioned this before, but one of my all-time favorite quotes by a baseball player came from Lowenstein. He once said, "Nuclear war would render all baseball statistics meaningless."

Something you might know: A relative unknown and low-average hitter with the Indians, Lowenstein's career was resurrected as a platoon player by Earl Weaver's Orioles and he gained fame in that role during the O's World Series appearances in 1979 and 1983.

Something you might not know: In response to one of Lowenstein's quotes about him not understanding the benefit of fan clubs, a club called the "Lowenstein Apathy Club" was formed. The Indians received hundreds of letters that stated disinterest in Lowenstein's career, some signed in invisible ink. The club pledged to have a day in his honor -- when he was on the road.

My observation on the back: Ah, yes, my favorite, Little League stats.

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