Monday, December 28, 2015

#486 - Steve Balboni

What a card: Steve Balboni enjoyed a breakthrough season in 1984, playing in more than 100 games for the first time in his career and exceeding 20 home runs for the first of six straight seasons. His 1985 season would be even better.

My observation on the front: Balboni's got some arms on him, but that mustache.

More opinion from me: Balboni made a lot of noise in my neighborhood before he even arrived in the majors. As a Yankees prospect who won several MVP awards in the minors, the Yankee fans around me couldn't wait for him to reach the majors. As a Yankee hater, I relished his 1982/1983 seasons.

Something you might know: "Bye Bye" Balboni was known for his ability to hit home runs and strike out. In 1985, he finished third in homers (36) and first in strikeouts (166). The 36 homers remain the Royals' club record.

Something you might not know: Balboni's favorite player growing up was the Red Sox's Carl Yastrzemski.

My observation on the back: The trivia question is very '80s. There are just two artificial turf stadiums in the majors now -- Toronto and Tampa Bay.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#485 - Matt Young

What a card: Matt Young was coming off a 1984 season in which he struggled to repeat his solid rookie season. He posted a 5.72 ERA in 22 games and spent a little time in Triple A.

My observation on the front: That's a nice look at those old-fashioned Mariners uniforms. The Mariners aren't a team I get nostalgic over, but I admit looking at this uniform is making me feel a little mushy.

More opinion me: This has to be one of the worst choices for a card ending in the number 5 of all-time. Young's ERA was almost 6 for crying out loud!

Something you might know: While pitching for the Red Sox, Moore did not allow a hit during a 2-1 loss to the Indians on April 12, 1992. He walked seven batters and Boston shortstop Luis Rivera made an error that gave the Indians their first run. Many branded Young the pitcher who lost a no-hitter, but it was not an official no-hitter because Young never pitched the bottom of the ninth.

Something you might not know: Young is the brother-in-law of former longtime L.A. Times sportswriter Chris Dufresne.

My observation on the back: Shelia is the one who married the L.A. Times sportswriter. Also, what a great 1980s reference with the USFL's L.A. Express.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

#484 - Larry Bowa

What a card: This is the final Topps card issued of Larry Bowa during his playing career. He'd appear two short years later in the 1987 Traded set as the Padres' manager.

My observation on the front: This could be the only card of Bowa in which he's wearing glasses.

More opinion from me: Any card of Bowa as a Cub seems weird.

Something you might know: Bowa was the other player traded to the Cubs when the Phillies sent Ryne Sandberg to Chicago for Ivan DeJesus, although it wasn't phrased that way at the time.

Something you might not know: When Dallas Green was rumored to be taking the Yankees' manager job in the late 1980s, Bowa said the interaction between Green and owner George Steinbrenner would be so good that he wanted to be a New York sportswriter because "they'd have something to write every day." Green didn't even last a season for the Yankees.

 My observation on the back: Bowa graduated from a radio sports talk show to being a studio commentator on the MLB Network.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#483 - Mike Smithson

What a card: When this card hit packs, Mike Smithson was coming off a 1984 season in which he led the American League in starts with 36. He also led the league in home runs allowed with 35.

My observation on the front: There are certain cards where you can tell the player is tall just by looking at the photo. Smithson looks like an absolute giant.

More opinion from me: I don't think pit stains were part of the bargain in becoming a baseball card collector.

Something you might know: After coming over from the Rangers in the deal that sent outfielder Gary Ward to Texas, Smithson was the Twins' No. 2 starter behind Frank Viola in 1984 and 1985.

Something you might not know: Smithson is the athletic director at Hickman County High School in his native Centerville, Tenn.

My observation on the back: Yup, the photo on the front didn't lie. He's 6-8.

The blog wants to speak now: Really tired after a 12-hour day full of new work stuff. I'll sit this one out.

Friday, December 11, 2015

#482 - Harry Spilman

What a card: Harry Spilman enjoyed a bounce-back season in 1984. Entrenched in his pinch-hitting role with the Astros, he had 19 hits in 72 at-bats (.264), which was far better than his 13-for-78 performance (.167) in 1983. But he was back to batting .136 in 1985.

My observation on the front: Wow, if that uniform doesn't say 1980s, I'm not sure what does.

More opinion from me: I so love that Astros logo.

Something you might know: Spilman carved out a 12-year career based on his reputation as a pinch-hitter, but he began in the majors in a battle with Ray Knight to see who would replace Pete Rose at third base for the Reds. Obviously, Knight won.

Something you might not know: Spilman's cousin is former White Sox first baseman Greg Walker.

My observation on the back: The Mets finished in second place in 1984. Take away those extra-inning games and New York was 79-71.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

#481 - Dale Murray

What a card: This is the final card of Dale Murray issued during his career. He appeared in 19 games for the Yankees in 1984 and would appear in eight games combined with the Yankees and Rangers in '85 to close out his career.

My observation on the front: Thank goodness the Yankees don't have eight different versions of their uniform.

More opinion from me: This card is nice bookend with his 1975 Topps card. They are the last and first of Murray's career. And since my baseball card collecting career began the same year of Murray's first card (and I pulled his card out of one of my first packs), Murray kind of represents the start and finish of my first collecting period. My quest each year to get my hands on every Topps card I could ended in 1985 (it would re-emerge with a vengeance in 1989).

Something you might know: Murray spent all 12 of his big-league seasons in the bullpen, leading the National League in appearances in 1976 with 81.

Something you might not know: Murray is often cited as being part of the deal in which the Yankees surrendered Fred McGriff to the Blue Jays. New York sent McGriff, Dave Collins, Mike Morgan and cash to Toronto for Murray and a prospect named Tom Dodd. But the deal could have been even worse for the Yankees. New York had included third baseman Graig Nettles in the deal, but Nettles refused to go unless the Blue Jays gave him a big bonus, and they declined.

My observation on the back: It's actually "Blinn" Junior College. Blinn JC and Victoria (a community college) are about 60 miles apart. I'm assuming something didn't work out for Murray at one of them.

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

#480 - Lou Whitaker

What a card: This is Lou Whitaker's card on the heels of being the featured second baseman for the 1984 World Series champion Tigers.

My observation on the front: There aren't too many photos in the '85 set in which the subject is photographed from this far away. I believe Whitaker is retiring a Red Sox player.

More opinion from me: Lou Whitaker's 1984 season was not as striking as his 1983 season, but he did win a World Series title in '84, so it probably didn't bother him that much.

Something you might know: The 1978 American League Rookie of the Year was part of the longest-running double play combination in history, along with shortstop Alan Trammell.

Something you might not know: Whitaker missed the rest of the 1985 after tearing cartilage in his right knee while dancing with his wife at an anniversary party early in September.

My observation on the back: The trivia question answer still applies.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

#479 - Mike Madden

What a card: After an impressive rookie year in 1983, Mike Madden struggled through his sophomore season, posting a 5.53 ERA in '84 and serving some time back in the minors.

My observation on the front: Madden seems to be trying to read the license plate of a car out in the parking lot. He's very squinty.

More opinion from me: It's cards like this that remind me how wonderful 1983 Topps is. This photo would have been the inset shot and something much more interesting would have been the main photo.

Something you might know: Madden was one of three players the Astros received in the deal that sent Don Sutton to the Brewers in a deadline deal in 1982. The other two players were Kevin Bass and Frank DiPino.

Something you might not know: Madden didn't allow a run in his major league debut. On May 25, 1983, he pitched six innings against the Cubs, striking out five and walking five. The Astros won 4-0.

My observation on the back: In 1985, no single reliever had posted more than 45 saves in a season (Dan Quisenberry and Bruce Sutter). But since the time of this trivia question, seven different pitchers have exceeded more than 51 saves in a season.

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