Monday, September 29, 2014

#334 - Dick Howser

What a card: Dick Howser was in the middle of the most successful period of his managerial career. He just finished turning a sub-.500 team into the 1984 AL West champion Royals and was about to lead Kansas City to its only World Series title.

My observation on the front: Those are some '80s glasses.

More opinion from me: This is how I picture Howser. Sure, he smiled sometimes. But mostly I remember that sort of grim, studious look on his face. He reminds me of a math teacher I knew.

Something you might know: Howser started out his MLB managerial career with the Yankees and was unceremoniously dumped by George Steinbrenner after leading the Yankees to 100-plus wins and the 1980 AL East title. After losing to the Royals in that year's ALCS and getting fired, he was picked up by K.C. and gained his revenge against New York by earning the reputation as a consistent winner. He was forced to give up managing after being diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1987.

Something you might not know: The first game that Howser managed in the majors was as an interim manager for the Yankees after Billy Martin resigned on July 24, 1978. Howser led New York that night to a 5-2 loss ... to the Royals.

My observation on the back: I never realized that Howser was a little guy.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames category is updated with one of the most anticipated sports moments of 1985.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#333 - Willie Hernandez

What a card: This was Willie Hernandez's first Topps card after winning the Cy Young Award in 1984. He was the third relief pitcher (after Jim Konstanty and Rollie Fingers) to win the award as a relief pitcher.

My observation on the front: One of my favorite cards in the whole set. Hernandez seems to be in his element on the mound there at Tiger Stadium.

More opinion from me: When Hernandez demanded that he be referred to as Guillermo, instead of the Anglicized "Willie," in 1988, he seemed to split himself into two different pitchers in my head. It's weird how a simple change in the way a name is said will alter your whole perception.

Something you might know: Hernandez rocketed into the public consciousness in 1984 when he was acquired from the Phillies, along with Dave Bergman, for Glenn Wilson and Johnny Wockenfuss. He saved a then-record 32 straight games for the Tigers and compiled a 1.92 ERA. He retired Tony Gywnn on a fly ball to clinch the World Series for Detroit.

Something you might not know: Before Deion Sanders doused Tim McCarver, Hernandez gave writer Mitch Albom an ice bucket shower in 1988. Hernandez had blamed Albom for turning Tigers fans against him in the years following his Cy Young season.

 My observation on the back: Well, OK, I guess back in the mid-1980s, San Diego did have a major league team.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

#332 - Brian Harper

What a card: Brian Harper was already a member of the St. Louis Cardinals when this card hit packs. He was involved in the December 1984 deal that sent pitcher John Tudor to St. Louis in exchange for outfielder George Hendrick.

My observation on the front: Harper is listed as an outfielder although he would later be known as a catcher. Harper was actually a catcher coming up, but the Pirates put him in the outfield because they had Tony Pena behind the plate.

More opinion from me: The Pirates helmets from this time period remind me of my little brother's plastic Pirates helmet. We used to wear those things thinking they would protect us from a pitch to the head. Then my friend took one to his plastic Yankee helmet and it practically exploded (he was fine). That was the end of that.

Something you might know: Harper was a key figure in the Twins' World Series championship 1991. He caught all 10 innings of Jack Morris' Game 7 masterpiece that clinched the title.

Something you might not know: This may or may not be the greatest play by a catcher. I'll reserve judgment other than to say I've never seen that before.

My observation on the back: Every National League pitching staff this season has already surpassed 1,000 total strikeouts. This doesn't necessarily have to do with expansion in the 1990s as the first time every N.L. pitching staff eclipsed 1,000 strikeouts was in 2010.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#331 - Bill Laskey

What a card: This is Bill Laskey's last card as a San Francisco Giant. He was dealt to the Expos in August of 1985.

My observation on the front: It's probably an optical illusion, but Laskey appears to be much too close to the fence to be on the mound. I'm guessing he's on the sidelines warming up.

More opinion from me: I know I vowed never again to guess the stadium featured in a card, but even I can recognize the fence at Candlestick Park.

Something you might know: Laskey began his big league career with a bang, throwing a complete-game three-hitter in his first start in 1982 and leading the team in victories that year with 13. After one year, he appeared on the Giants' team leader card in the 1983 set for having the club's best ERA.

Something you might not know: Laskey was a teammate (with the Cleveland Indians) and a winter league roommate of recently departed Rangers manager Ron Washington, who was just featured two cards ago.

My observation on the back: I've often wondered whether teams are more likely to trade for pitchers (or hitters) who performed well against them. Maybe Laskey's major league debut stuck in the Expos' heads. Although, if it did, I'll bet they're sorry. Laskey went 0-5 with a 9.44 ERA in 11 games for Montreal in 1985.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#330 - Leon Durham

What a card: Leon Durham enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 1984, especially in the power categories. He played the majority of the season at first base for the first time in his career.

My observation on the front: I'm going to assume that this was unfortunate coincidence that Durham is shown waiting for a grounder on the card that was issued immediately after his famous error on a grounder by the Padres' Tim Flannery, which allowed the tying run to score in the decisive Game 5 of the 1984 NLCS.

More opinion from me: Topps isn't THAT cruel, is it?

Something you might know: Well, besides that error that every Cubs fan knows, Durham enjoyed four steady, productive seasons in the middle of the Chicago lineup during the mid-1980s before substance abuse become a problem.

Something you might not know: Six years after Durham's major league career ended, the Angels signed him to a minor league deal in 1995. There was speculation that Durham would be used as a replacement player as the players' strike was ongoing, but the Angels said Durham refused to cross the picket line.

My observation on the back: I always thought "Golightly" was an invented name in this this movie. But apparently not.

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

#329 - Ron Washington

What a card: Ron Washington enjoyed the highest yearly batting average of his career (save for a a 10-game stint with the Dodgers in 1977) with his .294 in 88 games with the 1984 Twins.

My observation on the front: That's a pretty severe lean at the plate. I wonder if Rickey Henderson was an influence.

More opinion from me: I wanted the Dodgers to drop Bill Russell for Ron Washington so bad in the late 1970s.

Something you might know: Washington recently left the Rangers to tend to some personal issues after managing them to World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.

Something you might not know: Washington started out his career as a catcher. He was the starting catcher for the Royals' baseball academy in the early '70s.

My observation on the back: The last team to have as many as 40 complete games in a season was the 1988 Texas Rangers. Bobby Witt pitched 13 complete games and Charlie Hough 10.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#328 - Bob Shirley

What a card: Bob Shirley had completed his second season with the Yankees in 1984, pitching mostly out of the bullpen as a long reliever. His numbers improved over his first year with the Yankees.

My observation on the front: More print snow on this card. With the dark background on the top half of the card, it really does look like it's snowing in Yankee Stadium when you click on the scan.

More opinion from me: Shirley was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers in 1972, but he decided to go to college at Oklahoma. Could've played for a World Series winner if he signed.

Something you might know: Shirley enjoyed a strong rookie season with the Padres in 1977. Even though he lost 18 games, he led the team with 12 wins and was the de facto ace, starting a team-high 35 games.

Something you might not know: Shirley's catcher in high school was Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent.

My observation on the back: The trivia question was featured on a record breaker card in the 1983 Topps set.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

#327 - Brook Jacoby

What a card: This is the first base Topps card for Brook Jacoby. He appears in the 1984 Topps Traded set. He also appears in the '84 Donruss set as an Atlanta Brave. It's the only major issue set where you can find Jacoby as a Brave.

My observation on the front: Chain-link fences scream spring training. ... Well, actually, for me, they scream "ball park I played in when I was a kid".

More opinion from me: There is some "print snow" on Jacoby's left arm sleeve. I never knew this set had so many "snow" cards until starting this blog.

Something you might know: Jacoby was a cornerstone of the Indians' offense in the mid-1980s. He was obtained in a trade along with Brett Butler for soon-to-be washed up pitcher Len Barker.

Something you might not know: Jacoby recently ended a six-year stay as the Reds' hitting coach. Former manager Dusty Baker claims that when he found out last year that the Reds were going to fire Jacoby, he told GM Walt Jocketty to fire him instead. Baker was fired the next day. Jacoby and the Reds parted ways, too. He now works for the Rangers.

My observation on the back: Jacoby put up some big numbers in the Braves' system.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#326 - Kevin Bass

What a card: This is Kevin Bass' first card after his first regular season in the majors. He appeared in 121 games in 1984.

My observation on the front: Bunting. It was a way of life for the Astros in the mid-1980s. Even for a guy who would hit 20 home runs in two years.

More opinion from me: Bass was one of those players who appeared on a multi-player rookie card and then seemed to disappear before suddenly emerging again years later. He appears as one of the Brewers' prospects in the 1979 Topps set, then doesn't show up on a Topps card again until 1984.

Something you might know: Bass made the last out in the epic 1986 NLCS against the Mets. He struck out with men on first and second in the 16th inning of a game that didn't seem like it would ever end.

Something you might not know: Bass was traded from the Giants to the Mets on Aug. 8, 1992. In his first appearance with the Mets at Shea Stadium, on Aug. 10, he went 0-for-7 and left eight runners on base in a 16-inning loss to the Pirates. He considers it the most embarrassing performance of his career.

My observation on the back: It is scary how much you can find out about a person on the internet with just the little bit of baseball-card back knowledge that I have here. Property valuation amounts and everything.

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

#325 - John Denny

What a card: John Denny was coming off a frustrating season when this card was issued. After winning the Cy Young Award in 1983, Denny pitched fairly well in '84 but missed two months of the season with elbow problems.

My observation on the front: Denny is wearing a 100th anniversary patch that the Phillies wore in 1983 to commemorate 100 years of Phillies baseball. So this photo is probably older than your average 1985 Topps photo.

More opinion from me: Clouds figure prominently in Denny's cards. There's this one and this one and this one and this one and especially this one.

Something you might know: Denny led the National League in earned run average in 1976 and in victories in 1983. Both were something of a surprise.

Something you might not know: You did not mess with Denny. A black belt in karate, he was accused of assaulting a Cincinnati Reds reporter in 1986 and taken to court (Denny was not found guilty but entered a probationary program that erased the complaint from his record). And he's a prominent part of a memorable brawl between the Reds and Mets in 1986. Anyone willing to leap on top of Kevin Mitchell is not someone afraid of a dark alley.

My observation on the back: Denny finished seventh in the National League in complete games with 11 in 1978. In the last 14 years, the only player to even equal that mark is James Shields for Tampa Bay in 2011.

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