Monday, June 29, 2015

#427 - Mario Ramirez

What a card: This is the middle card in a Topps trifecta of Mario Ramirez cards. He had just three, from 1984-86. Ramirez hit just .119 in 1984.

My observation on the front: Ramirez's cap is low, so you can focus on his terrific mustache.

More opinion from me: Most of the Padres cards look excellent in this set. Have I said this already?

Something you might know: Ramirez was a utility infielder who was in the lineup strictly for his defense. He never appeared in more than 55 games in his six-year major league career.

Something you might not know: Ramirez was the Padres' first Rule 5 draft pick in a decade in 1980. That same year they also made Alan Wiggins a Rule 5 pick.

My observation on the back: That's pretty cool that he could play baseball and softball in high school. You don't get to do that in the U.S. that much.

The blog wants to speak now: The Pop Culture tab is updated. Please be kind, rewind.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#426 - Vern Ruhle

What a card: Vern Ruhle struggled through his 1984 season with the Astros. After years as a starter, he was primarily a reliever for the second straight season. By the time this card arrived in packs, he had already signed as a free agent with the Indians.

My observation on the front: I wonder how many baseball card photo poses have been taken in that exact spot at Shea Stadium?

More opinion from me: Ruhle's best season came in 1980, which was the year Houston outlasted the Dodgers to make the NLCS. I remember being annoyed that this pitcher emerged out of nowhere to help eliminate the Dodgers.

Something you might know: Ruhle started Game 4 of the 1980 NLCS with the Astros needing one win to advance to the World Series for the first time. He held the Phillies scoreless for six innings and entered the seventh with a 2-0 lead. But the Phillies went ahead in the seventh off of Ruhle and relievers Dave Smith and Joe Sambito. After the Astros tied the game in the 9th, the Phillies won in the 10th and won Game 5, too, to reach the Series.

Something you might not know: Ruhle surrendered a run-scoring single to Hank Aaron in 1975 that allowed Aaron to surpass Babe Ruth for the career RBI record. It was Aaron's 2,210th run batted in.

My observation on the back: Ruhle was presented with his degree from Olivet between games of a Tigers doubleheader. Don Winger, a longtime sports editor for the Midland (Mich.) Daily News (Ruhle grew up in Midland) also graduated from Olivet and presented him the award.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#425 - Mike Hargrove

What a card: Mike Hargrove was entering his final major league season as a player when this card was issued. He recorded 352 at-bats in 1984, which was the fewest for Hargrove in a nonstrike season since he started his MLB career in 1974.

My observation on the front: I'm pretty certain this is a posed shot.

More opinion from me: I liked Hargrove a lot as a kid, but it's all due to his 1976 Topps card.

Something you might know: Hargrove was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1974, but is probably known more now for managing the Indians, Orioles and Mariners between 1991-2007.

Something you might not know: Hargrove is ranked 76th all-time in on-base percentage. To put that in a little perspective, only active players Joey Votto (22nd), Albert Pujols (53rd), Miguel Cabrera (63rd) and Joe Mauer (70th) rate higher.

My observation on the back: Hargrove started the 1979 season with the Padres, but was traded to the Indians in mid-season. I remember being annoyed that I would never see Hargrove in a Padres uniform on a baseball card.

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

#424 - Al Nipper

What a card: This is Al Nipper's Topps rookie card. He finished seventh in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after essentially registering what we would be the best season of his seven-year MLB career.

My observation on the front: This looks like a photo that a card company that didn't have a major league license would run. It would've fit right in with 2010 Upper Deck.

More opinion from me: I always got Al Nipper confused with another Red Sox-Cubs pitcher from about the same time, Allen Ripley. I know anyone who was born after 1985 can't appreciate this, but let the old man have his memories.

Something you might know: Nipper started Game 4 of the 1986 World Series for Boston against the Mets. He lost the game, pitching six innings and allowing seven hits, including a two-run home run to Gary Carter. He also allowed a titan blast to Darryl Strawberry in Game 7, made famous by Strawberry's noticeably slow trot around the bases. Nipper hit Strawberry in the hip with a pitch the next time he faced him, in spring training, causing the benches to empty.

Something you might not know:  Nipper was the Red Sox's co-rookie pitcher of the year in 1984. He shared the award with Roger Clemens.

My observation on the back: Wow, two straight posts that mention Dale Murphy. The five walks in one game still remains the regulation-game record and is held by many players, although the 5-walk game is even less common than throwing a no-hitter.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#423 - Barry Bonnell

What a card: Barry Bonnell was coming off his first season with the Mariners as this card hit packs. After a strong 1983 in which he led the Blue Jays in batting average, he fell to a pedestrian .264.

My observation on the front: I see a lit scoreboard in the distance.

More opinion from me: I must have pulled Bonnell's rookie card a few dozen times in 1978. I know that card was double-printed, but damn, so many duplicates.

Something you might know: Bonnell hit .300 in 100 games for the Braves during his rookie season in 1977.

Something you might not know: Bonnell turned Dale Murphy on to Mormonism. A devout Mormon, Bonnell was a minor league teammate of Murphy's, and often would read scripture passages during bus trips in the middle of the night. Murphy was curious about what Bonnell was reading and it led to many religious discussions between the two before Murphy was eventually baptized in the faith.

My observation on the back: Connie Mack, your record is safe forever.

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

#422 - Carney Lansford

What a card: Carney Lansford was coming off a nice bounce-back season when this card arrived in packs. After playing in just 80 games in his first season with the A's, he totaled 179 hits in 151 games in 1984, hitting .300 for the fourth straight year.

My observation the front: It took scanning this card for me to realize there is a red line running from Lansford's glasses down to the bottom of the card.

More opinion from me: I'm guessing most people associate Lansford with the A's since he spent 10 of his 15 major league seasons with them and appeared in three World Series for Oakland. But I associate him with his first two teams, the Angels and the Red Sox. Lansford was a touted prospect with the Angels right at the point when I started becoming aware of prospects. And the trade between the Angels and Red Sox that involved Lansford, Butch Hobson and Rick Burleson was earth-shattering to my baseball world at the time.

Something you might know: Lansford led the American League in batting average (.336) while with the Red Sox during the strike-shortened 1981 season.

Something you might not know: When Lansford was the hitting coach for the Giants in 2009, his son, Jared, pitching for the A's in spring training, faced the Giants. Lansford had such a difficult time thinking of his son facing his batters that he left the game and wandered out in the parking lot until the inning was over.

My observation the back: Four other players have hit a grand slam in their first game since Bobby Bonds -- all of them since 2005. They are Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006),  Daniel Nava (2010) and Brandon Crawford (2011).

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

#421 - Dave Rucker

What a card: Dave Rucker was coming off his best season of his seven-year major league career when this card was issued. He appeared in 50 games as a reliever in 1984 and posted a 2.10 ERA.

My observation on the front: Rucker was already a Phillie by the time a lot of collectors pulled this card. He was dealt to Philadelphia for reliever Bill Campbell and shortstop Ivan DeJesus on April 6, 1985.

More opinion from me: Someone is going to have to do a study on why batting cages in the background make a photo so much better.

Something you might know: Rucker was a middle reliever for the Tigers, Cardinals, Phillies and Pirates. Not a lot else to say.

Something you might not know: Between 1960-86, Rucker made the second-most appearances among left-handed relievers (34 in 1983) without recording a save. Ed Vande Berg was far away the leader with 60 in 1986.

My observation on the back: Topps could be accused of rubbing it in with the trivia question here. The Padres lost to the Tigers in the 1984 World Series. The Tigers were Rucker's former team. He was traded from the Tigers the year before they won the World Series.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

#420 - Andre Dawson

What a card: Andre Dawson was coming off a disappointing season when this card was issued. After leading the league with 189 hits in 1983, he batted just .248 in 1984. This was the point when fans started to hear how much the turf at Olympic Stadium in Montreal was affecting Dawson's knees.

My observation on the front: What a wonderful card. The Expos red jerseys are a delight.

More opinion from me: Dawson does not noticeably smile on a card from 1978 until his 1983 Fleer card. Dammit, Fleer, we had a good thing going.

Something you might know: Dawson is a Hall of Famer who won the 1987 NL MVP in his first year with the Cubs after hitting 49 home runs for the last-place team.

Something you might not know: Dawson hit a miserable .186 in 59 postseason at-bats, fairing particularly poorly against the Dodgers in the '81 NLCS (.150) and the Giants in the '89 NLCS (.105).

My observation on the back: Ron Davis still holds the record for consecutive strikeouts by a relief pitcher. Since Davis' feat in May 1981, he was matched by the Royals' Blake Stein, who struck out eight straight in 2001, and exceeded by the Tigers' Doug Fister, who fanned nine straight in 2012. But both Stein and Fister started those games.

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

#419 - Mike Caldwell

What a card: This is the final card issued of Mike Caldwell during his career. In fact, he was released by the Brewers before most collectors even pulled his card. Milwaukee let him go on January 11, 1985.

My observation on the front: A weirdly cropped photo. Neither hand is fully in the frame.

More opinion from me: The card is miscut, too.

Something you might know: Caldwell won 22 games in 1978, finishing second in the A.L. Cy Young Award voting to Ron Guidry. He also won two games for the Brewers in the 1982 World Series.

Something you might not know: Caldwell once struck out 31 batters in a high school game that went 18 innings. But he didn't win the game. It finished tied.

My observation on the back: Complete season stats!

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

#418 - Ken Landreaux

What a card: Ken Landreaux was coming off a disappointing 1984 season in which all of his numbers dipped from the previous season. It was actually the beginning of the end for Landreaux, who was a part-time player with the Dodgers by 1986.

My observation on the front: It appears that Landreaux is wearing the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics patch that the Dodgers wore in '84 to recognize the Olympic baseball games being played in Dodger Stadium.

More opinion from me: I desperately wanted Landreaux to play for the Dodgers when he was with the Twins, and was elated when the Dodgers traded for him. But right about 1985, I finally realized that he wasn't all I hoped he would be for L.A.

Something you might know: Landreaux set a Twins record for hitting in 31 straight games in 1980.

Something you might not know: Landreaux threw out two runners from center field and was part of a relay that gunned down another runner at home plate during his first game in the major leagues. In the sixth inning, Landreaux threw out the White Sox's Richie Zisk, who was trying to tag up from second to go to third. In the ninth inning, he threw out pinch-runner John Flannery at third base who was also trying to advance from second on a fly ball. In the eighth, his throw to shortstop Don Kessinger, who relayed to catcher Jim Essian, caught runner Bob Coluccio at home. Coluccio was trying to score from first on a Chet Lemon double.

My observation on the back: The second-place pitcher in career wins -- Walter Johnson -- is almost 100 wins behind Cy Young. They're going to have to change the way they define "wins" for this record to ever be broken.

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

#417 - John Franco

What a card: This is John Franco's rookie card in a Topps set. His first major-issue card appears in the 1984 Fleer Update set.

My observation on the front: Franco doesn't look right to me without his mustache. I've observed in his post-career appearances that he doesn't have a mustache anymore, so it's not as bizarre to me as when he was pitching for the Mets and I picked up a Reds card of his and there was no mustache.

More opinion from me: This is an '85 Topps rookie card that doesn't get much notice. It's all Clemens, McGwire, Puckett, Davis, Hershiser.

Something you might know: Franco pitched 21 years and finished with 454 saves, the second most at the time of his retirement and still the most for a left-hander.

Something you might not know: Franco's familiarity with mobsters may have helped lead to the downfall of a prominent Canadian politician. New York City newspapers in 2004 reported that Franco had supplied tickets to mobsters for Mets games in Montreal. The members of the Bonanno crime family reportedly received a tour of the Mets locker room then and were often invited to hang out with members of the team after games. What followed was an article in the New York Daily News revealing that Liberal Party politician Alfonso Gagliano was a member of the mafia and associated with the Bonanno family. A political scandal in Canada erupted and Gagliano was dismissed. He later filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government.

My observation on the back: During the mid-1980s, the Dodgers were known for consistently drawing the largest crowds per season. But they've since been exceeded by other teams that have been able to draw more than 4 million fans per year. The Dodgers have never done that.

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