Thursday, January 29, 2015

#374 - Brian Downing

What a card: Brian Downing enjoyed one of his most power-packed seasons in 1984, hitting 23 home runs and driving in what was then a career-high 91 runs. It marked the first of five straight seasons in which he'd hit at least 20 home runs.

My observation on the front: Downing's on-deck shot is a little unusual, but seems to go with his muscle-man image. As I mentioned on another blog, he was the first player I ever heard of using weights to train.

More opinion from me: To me, Downing will always be the guy cut down at the plate by Dave Parker's throw from right field in the 1979 All-Star Game.

Something you might know: Downing's career took a dramatic change when he was traded from the White Sox to the Angels in late 1977. He hit .326 in 1979 and is considered among the most underrated hitters in baseball.

Something you might not know: Downing appeared in an episode of The Jeffersons in 1985. Both Downing and Reggie Jackson appear shirtless in the Angels' locker room and have extensive speaking parts with "Weezy," who smuggles herself into the locker room in a load of laundry.

My observation on the back: High school references bore me.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#373 - Mike Moore

What a card: Mike Moore had completed his third season with the Mariners when this card was issued and he had already lost 39 games for them. Seattle was still a long way from being a quality team.

My observation on the front: Moore looks anxiously toward the umpire for a call.

More opinion from me: I am forever mixing up Mike Moore with Matt Young. I did it when they played and I still do it. I don't know if that's fair to either one.

Something you might know: Moore was the No. 1 pick in the 1981 amateur draft. (He was already featured on this blog). He was the Mariners' second pick from the top spot in the last three years. Moore faired a little better than the Mariners' first choice in 1979, Al Chambers.

Something you might not know: As of last October, Moore was serving as a volunteer coach for a high school baseball team in his native Oklahoma.

My observation on the back: Ruth still holds the runs scored mark. This is one of those records that no one has come near in the last 80-plus years. Jeff Bagwell had the most in recent history with 152 in 2000.

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

#372 - Roy Howell

What a card: For the second straight post, this is the last Topps card of this player issued during his career. Roy Howell played his last major league game in 1984.

My observation on the front: There are a couple of air bubbles on this card that I never noticed until scanning it. It's ruining my fun.

More opinion from me: How Howell didn't end up with the nickname "Red", I'll never know.

Something you might know: Howell was the Blue Jays' regular third baseman during their first season, in 1977. Dave McKay actually started the first 30 games at third for Toronto, but once Howell was acquired in a trade on May 9th, he was inserted at the hot corner.

Something you might not know: Howell still holds the Blue Jays record for most RBIs in one game. He drove in nine batters during a 19-3 victory over the Yankees on Sept. 10, 1977.

My observation on the back: I can tell Roy's a California boy from his hobbies.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#371 - Mickey Rivers

What a card: This is the final Topps card of Mickey Rivers issued during his career. He was released by the Rangers on April 4, 1985.

My observation on the front: A very static shot for Mick the Quick.

More opinion from me: As I've said on another blog, Rivers provided constant entertainment in our family as we watched his antics during games in the late 1970s. Rivers was comic relief on a Yankee team that was much hated in our household.

Something you might know: One of the top base-stealers of the 1970s, Rivers became known as the fastest player to wear a Yankee uniform.

Something you might not know: Rivers often called his teammates "Gozzlehead," which was a name he picked up as a youngster. "Gozzlehead" was a good-natured insult. Rivers said it meant that you had a "bullfrog face."

My observation on the back: Really? Rivers won letters in high school? I thought he was in the chess club. These high school references are the worst.

The blog wants to speak now: The Music category is updated with a new No. 1 song. It's referenced in the blog description in the header.

Monday, January 19, 2015

#370 - Bruce Sutter

What a card: This is Bruce Sutter's final Topps card as a St. Louis Cardinal. He signed with Atlanta as a free agent after the 1984 season.

My observation on the front: The birds on the bat appear to be admiring Sutter's extraordinarily thick beard.

More opinion from me: It's interesting how Sutter's beard was at its fullest when he was at his best with the Cardinals. There was something very Samson-like about it.

Something you might know: Sutter popularized the split-finger pitch -- a.k.a. "The Pitch of the '80s" -- and won the Cy Young Award for the National League in 1979.

Something you might not know: Sutter learned the split-finger pitch in 1973, but before that he struggled in the Cubs' minor league system. Sutter's manager in Quincy, Ill., Walt Dixon, once told the Cubs' minor league department, "When Bruce Sutter is ready for the big leagues, that will be the day the Communists take over."

My observation on the back: I have a feeling a number of collectors weren't down with OBP in 1985. I don't know if the stat has ever appeared on the back of Topps' cards.

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

#369 - R.J. Reynolds

What a card: This is R.J. Reynolds' first Topps card. He first appeared in a major baseball card set as part of the 1984 Fleer Update set (a card that I just ordered the other day, by the way).

My observation on the front: Reynolds is wearing the number also worn by Dodgers Jimmy Wynn, Kirk Gibson, Eric Karros, Don Zimmer, Claude Osteen and Adrian Gonzalez. Pretty good company.

More opinion from me: For the longest time I couldn't believe that Reynolds was named after a tobacco company, until I realized his full name is Robert James Reynolds.

Something you might know: Reynolds was part of the deadline deal between the Dodgers and the Pirates that brought Bill Madlock to the Dodgers in August 1985. Madlock hit well to help L.A. win the division, but I was disgusted that L.A. traded away Reynolds and Sid Bream.

Something you might not know: Reynolds was part of a dramatic Dodgers win against the Braves on Sept. 11, 1983. His bunt down the first base line drove in Pedro Guerrero for a 7-6 victory for L.A., which was in a pennant race with Atlanta at the time (the Dodgers would win the West, avenging the lost pennant to the Braves in 1982). But here's the part you might not know: It was Nuns' Day at Dodger Stadium that day.

My observation on the back: Templeton and Wilson remain the only two players to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season.

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#368 - Dave Bergman

What a card: Dave Bergman was coming off his first season with the Tigers when this card arrived in packs. He appeared in what was then a career-high 120 games for Detroit. He would spend the next nine years with the Tigers, finishing out his career with them.

My observation on the front: A batting cage AND old Tiger Stadium? That's almost too much of a good thing.

More opinion from me: I'm sure I'm exaggerating a little but Alan Trammell had to be the only player on the 1984 World Series champion Tigers without a mustache.

Something you might know: A player who embraced his role as a utility man, Bergman was one of the more renowned platoon players of the mid-1980s.

Something you might not know: When the Yankees acquired Cliff Johnson from the Astros in a trade in June 1977, one of the players sent to Houston was Bergman. But the Yankees thought Johnson was damaged goods and tried to get the trade nullified. Bergman  was in limbo and it had to be determined if he played the rest of '77 in the minors in Charleston, W.Va. for Houston or in Syracuse, N.Y., for New York. Bergman ended up finishing the season in Syracuse. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in the offseason denied the Yankees' contention, approved the trade, and Bergman was an Astro for 1978 as the player to be named later.

My observation on the back: Bergman was the second Illinois State Redbird to make the major leagues. The first was Braves pitcher Buzz Capra.

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

#367 - Keefe Cato

What a card: This is the only Topps card of Keefe Cato. Considering Kato pitched in just eight games in 1984 (and 12 games overall), it's surprising he had even one.

My observation on the front: Cato looks happy to be on a baseball card. Can't say I blame him.

More opinion from me: When Kato Kaelin's name first came to the surface during all of the O.J. Simpson craziness in 1994, I thought it was Keefe Cato. That's how ingrained baseball cards are in my mind.

Something you might know: Cato is the first athlete from Fairfield University to play in a major professional sport. He was elected to the university's hall of fame in 1988.

Something you might not know: Cato's daughter, Britney, played softball for Winston-Salem State.

My observation on the back: Four straight years in Waterbury. Waterbury isn't far from Fairfield, Conn. I wonder if Cato was kept there because he was a "hometown player" (and the Reds apparently weren't high enough on him to move him quickly).

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#366 - Todd Cruz

What a card: This is Todd Cruz's final card. His last major league season was 1984. He spent all of 1985 in the minor leagues.

My observation on the front: Cruz had 10 cards issued during his career. In half of them he is pictured without a cap. I guess he had the hair for it. This is also the only card of his in which he doesn't have a mustache.

More opinion from me: I will always remember Cruz for his 1984 Topps card, which escaped from my complete set. I didn't discover the missing card for years and had to track it down to finish what I had thought was an already finished set.

Something you might know: Cruz found his niche with the Orioles, becoming part of "The Three Stooges," the nickname that the bottom three players in the batting order -- Cruz, Rick Dempsey and Rich Dauer -- gave themselves during the Orioles' World Series season in 1983.

Something you might not know: Ernie Banks' son, Joey, helped Todd Cruz become an actor after his major league career. Cruz was an Angels third baseman in the movie "The Naked Gun" and also had bit parts in the movie "Tequila Sunrise" as well as the TV show "L.A. Law".

My observation on the front: Gene Tenace has been joined by Andruw Jones, who hit home runs in his first two World Series at-bats for the Braves in 1996.

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

#365 - Danny Ozark

What a card: Topps worked fast to get Danny Ozark as the Giants manager in the 1985 set. He was named to replace the fired Frank Robinson on Aug. 5, 1984. (Ozark was the Giants third base coach before being named manager so it's possible he is just a coach in this photo).

My observation on the front: Ozark is wearing the 1984 All-Star patch. The All-Star Game was held at Candlestick Park that year.

More opinion from me: I was thinking as I started this post that I don't remember Ozark as manager of the Giants at all. And that's because he managed them only to the end of the season, which was 56 games. The Giants named Jim Davenport as the manager after the season.

Something you might know: Ozark led the Phillies to three straight NL East championships from 1976-78, but his team lost in the playoffs each year.

Something you might not know: Ozark fought in the Battle Of The Bulge during World War II.

My observation on the back: I knew Ozark was from Buffalo, but I didn't know he was from the same Buffalo suburb as my wife. It figures. Cheektowaga is filled with Polish and Ozark's actual last name was Orzechowski.

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