Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#537 - Don Robinson

What a card: This is Don Robinson's card following his first year as a full-time reliever. After six seasons working primarily as a starter, Robinson appeared in 38 games in relief in 1984, saving 10 games, his first year of double-digit saves.

My observation on the front: Robinson really makes that old-time pillbox cap with the hair and the mustache. With the exception of the gold pullover, he looks like he stepped out of 1890.

More opinion from me: Sadly, when Robinson was traded to the Giants, he shaved the mustache. However, I was pleased to read this quote about Robinson's reaction when the Pirates dealt him: "When I was traded to the Giants, I cried."

Something you might know: Robinson was known as one of the better-hitting pitchers when he played. He hit 13 career home runs in 631 at-bats with a .231 batting average.

Something you might not know: Robinson surrendered Mike Schmidt's 500th home run, which was a three-run, ninth-inning shot that gave the Phillies the 8-6 victory. But Schmidt hit just a career .150 (9-for-60) against Robinson.

My observation on the back: This card was issued a year after "Terminator," so using "IBB" to mean "I'll Be Back" hadn't stuck yet.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

#536 - Kirby Puckett

What a card: We've reached another one of the big rookie cards in the 1985 Topps set (I think there's just two left, although I could be mistaken). This is Kirby Puckett's initial Topps card, although he appeared first in the 1984 Fleer Update set.

My observation on the front: Puckett does look like a little guy in this picture. And ... thinner.

More opinion from me: This is terrible of me to say, but I will always associate Puckett with my fantasy team woes. I could never nab the best players during my fantasy days, particularly when it came to hitters. But in 1996, I finally landed a big one in Puckett. Then he came down with glaucoma in spring training and never played again. That is my fantasy baseball luck right there.

Something you might know: Puckett was the star of two Twins World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

Something you might not know: Puckett was discovered during the players' strike in 1981. Most major league teams employees weren't needed during that time. So Twins' assistant farm director Jim Rantz decided to visit his son, who was playing for a collegiate league in Illinois. One day, his son's team, Peoria, played Quincy and Puckett played for Quincy. Puckett was so impressive in that game that Rantz notified the Twins. The following year, Minnesota drafted Puckett with its top pick.

My observation on the back: Puckett follows Pat Putnam in the set and they're both featured as Twins. Players with the same team rarely appeared back-to-back in a Topps set at this time. Only a last-minute trade or acquisition, such as in Putnam's case, would lead to teammates appearing back-to-back.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

#535 - Pat Putnam

What a card: Pat Putnam split his 1984 season between the Mariners and the Twins. He was dealt to Minnesota at the end of August as the Twins tried to catch the Royals in the AL West.

My observation on the front: It's been a long time since our last airbrushed card, more than 200 cards have passed! If you can get past the vast acreage of jersey without any lettering, take a look at the fakish shading on the cap.

More opinion from me: This is the last card of Putnam issued during his playing career, unfortunately. Fleer, however, managed to get Putnam in an actual Twins uniform.

Something you might know: Putnam started his career with promise, belting 18 home runs in his rookie season with Texas in 1979 and finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Something you might not know: Putnam's fondness for dog biscuits was kind of well-known, but I found it interesting that he once played an exhibition game with a dead frog in his pocket.

My observation on the back: This is probably the most mystifying player choice for a card number ending in "5" in the entire set. At the time, card numbers ending in "5" were reserved for minor stars. Putnam never previously received a "hero number" of "5" or "0" from Topps, and after batting a combined .176 in his final season, this was an odd time to award it.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames category is updated. We have a World Series champion.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

#534 - Brian Dayett

What a card: This is Brian Dayett's first Topps card. His first card by a major card company is in 1984 Donruss.

My observation on the front: Dayett was just 5-foot-10, but he looks taller to me for some reason here.

More opinion from me: Dayett and Steve Balboni were touted as the next up-and-coming sluggers for the Yankees in the early '80s. I'm not sure how justified those predictions were -- my guess is I heard most of this from the Yankees TV broadcasters at the time -- but neither player produced for the Yankees.

Something you might know: Dayett enjoyed a couple big years in the minors but was merely a role player in five years with the Yankees and Cubs. He was expected to be the Cubs' starting right fielder in 1987 until Chicago acquired Andre Dawson.

Something you might not know: Dayett recorded his first major league hit in 1983 and his first major league home run in 1984, both against Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan.

My observation on the back: Three straight years in Double A Nashville. I don't know why I believed anything those Yankees broadcasters said.

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

#533 - Tony Bernazard

What a card: This is Tony Bernazard's first Topps base card as a member of the Cleveland Indians. He appears with the Indians in the 1984 Traded set.

My observation on the front: This card also marks the first base card appearance of Bernazard without a mustache.

More opinion from me: I like mustache Bernazard better.

Something you might know: Bernazard was a scrappy infield type for the Expos, White Sox, Mariners, Indians and A's who featured some pop in his bat. He became better known for his infamous blowups while a vice president in the Mets' front office (once supposedly tearing off his shirt and challenging several players from the Mets' Double A Binghamton team to a fight). He was memorably dismissed in a messy press conference by Mets GM Omar Minaya in 2009.

Something you might not know: Bernazard was consistently among the AL leaders in errors committed at second base. He led the league in 1984 and was second in 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

My observation on the back: Vic Power started a program of clinics and seminars in Puerto Rico after his career. He helped develop several future major leaguers besides Bernazard, such as Jose Oquendo and Juan Beniquez.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

#532 - Frank DiPino

What a card: Frank DiPino was entering his final full season with the Astros when this card was issued. He finished 1984 with 14 saves and was Houston's primary closer for the second straight year.

My observation on the front: Don't cry, Frank, you're in a baseball stadium.

More opinion from me: DiPino was born in Syracuse, N.Y., which is an hour away from me. Upstate New York doesn't produce a lot of major leaguers in comparison to other areas, so I appreciate even the ones who grew up 60 minutes away.

Something you might know: DiPino enjoyed a noteworthy rookie season in 1983, saving 20 games for Houston, compiling a 2.65 ERA and finishing sixth in rookie of the year voting.

Something you might not know: DiPino held Tony Gwynn to a .050 batting average (1 hit in 20 at-bats), the worst Gwynn fared against any pitcher he had faced at least 10 times.

My observation on the back: That bio write-up is rather vague: "early in 1983," "late in 1983."

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

#531 - Joe Lefebvre

What a card: Joe Lefebvre played in just 52 games in 1984, suffering a knee injury in June of that season that cost him all of the 1985 season.

My observation on the front: When you say "Phillies uniform," that's the one I think of first.

More opinion from me: I remember when Lefebvre came up with the Yankees in 1980. I was baffled to find out that his last name was pronounced "La-FAY," even though the former Dodgers infielder Jim Lefebvre spelled his last name the same way and it was pronounced "La-FEE-ver."

Something you might know: Lefebvre hit a home run in his first major league game, teeing off on the Blue Jays' Dave Stieb.

Something you might not know: Lefebvre played a part in Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda's famed tirade about Kurt Bevacqua. Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer had been fined after beaning Lefebvre, who was playing for the Padres at the time. An upset Bevacqua said Lasorda should have been the one fined, claiming Lasorda ordered Niedenfuer to throw at Lefebvre. That enraged Lasorda who famously said, "I certainly wouldn't make him throw at a f---ing one hundred and 30 hitter like Lefebvre, or f---ing Bevacqua, who couldn't hit water if he fell out of f----ing boat."

My observation on the back: Lefebvre retired in 1986 at age 30 because of his knee. He said then that post-baseball would include working in his florist business in Connecticut.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#530 - Dave Dravecky

What a card: After a season in which he was used exclusively as a starter, Dave Dravecky returned to his role as a periodic starter and sometimes closer for the Padres in 1984. He saved eight games and helped San Diego to the World Series.

My observation on the front: There's a look at what the AL and NL all-stars are going to have to wear for jerseys during the home run derby at the All-Star Game this year. I don't mind Padres wearing that weirdness but hate that other teams will wear it.

More opinion from me: Dravecky kind of freaked me out when he broke his arm pitching in Montreal in 1989. I was having issues with my arm at the time (even going so far to think it might be cancer) and that really alarmed me. Fortunately there were no lasting problems.

Something you might know: Dravecky made a triumphant return from a cancer diagnosis that forced operation on his pitching arm in 1988. Although told by doctors not to pitch for a couple of years, Dravecky returned on Aug. 10, 1989 with a standout performance against the Reds. But his arm broke while delivering a pitch in his next start in Montreal. Doctors found the cancer had returned and he eventually had to have his arm and shoulder amputated.

Something you might not know: Dravecky is known as a deeply religious man and was as a player, too. The person who inspired Dravecky down that path was his minor league roommate at Double A Amarillo in 1981, a pitcher named Byron Ballard, who played seven seasons in the minors in the Yankees, Padres and Mets organizations.

My observation on the back: Thanks to ESPN, that trivia question is no longer correct.

The blog wants to speak now: The Ballgames category is updated. Appropriately, it's about another sports figure who suffered a devastating on-field injury.

Monday, May 2, 2016

#529 - Rich Gedman

What a card: Rich Gedman was coming off a breakout season when this card was issued. He set career highs in almost every category in 1984, and it would be the best season of his 13-year career.

My observation on the front: The pointing-the-bat-at-the-pitcher thing -- whether it's a timing device or not -- is always cool.

More opinion from me: Gedman will forever be a favorite of mine because he was up front with me, unlike an Astros teammate, on where I could find Craig Biggio, who I was searching out for an interview in the Houston locker room.

Something you might know: Gedman caught Roger Clemens' 20-strikeout game against the Mariners in 1986, setting an AL record for catching putouts in a game.

Something you might not know: Gedman's wife, Sherry, is still second all-time in University of Connecticut softball history for career ERA at 0.57.

My observation on the back: Mike Piazza now holds the career home run mark by a catcher with 396. But before that, Carlton Fisk broke Yogi Berra's record.

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