Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#570 - Darryl Strawberry

What a card: Darryl Strawberry had completed his sophomore season when this card was issued. He boosted most of his totals over his Rookie of the Year performance in 1983.

My observation on the front: Strawberry's Topps cards were already getting repetitive at this point -- this is his third straight card of him swinging at the plate. Topps changed it up in 1986.

More opinion from me: I first became aware of Strawberry from, I believe, a Baseball Quarterly cover story not long after he was drafted No. 1 by the Mets. The reason I say "I believe" is because I can't find evidence of the story or cover photo. The internet is notoriously dismissive of Baseball Quarterly/Baseball Magazine, which was founded by future longtime Yankees publicist Rick Cerrone, and was my go-to colorful sports magazine at the time because it was all about baseball and Sports Illustrated wasn't. I had a subscription and everything. It's possible the Strawberry article was actually in Sport magazine. Anyway, I thought it odd that there was a player named "Strawberry" and was pretty sure it was made up.

Something you might know: The 1983 National League Rookie of the Year, Strawberry was the main slugger on the mid-to-late 1980s Mets teams, helped New York win a World Series -- despite the "DAR-ryl" chants -- and saw his career spiral due to substance abuse shortly after arriving with his hometown Dodgers.

Something you might not know: Strawberry and former Mets teammate Dwight Gooden wear the same shoe size. Size 13.

My observation on the back: Michael Strawberry played for two years in the Dodgers' organization, reaching Class A Lodi in 1981. I can't find a mention of Ronnie playing professionally.

The blog wants to speak now: The TV category is updated. It's back-dated to Oct. 15. Sorry about that.

Friday, August 26, 2016

#569 - Ken Oberkfell

What a card: This is Ken Oberkfell's first appearance on a Topps card in an Atlanta Brave uniform. He appears as a Brave in an airbrushed helmet in the 1984 Traded set.

My observation on the front: "Put me in coach."

More opinion from me: I remember when I first became aware of Oberkfell in the late 1970s. What an odd name, I thought. It sounded like something I'd make up as an alias under duress.

Something you might know: Oberkfell was the Cardinals' starting third baseman on their 1982 World Series championship team and drove in the winning run against the Braves during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series with a ninth-inning single.

Something you might not know: Oberkfell grew up not far from St. Louis. His favorite team was the Cardinals and his favorite player was third baseman Ken Boyer. Oberkfell was drafted by St. Louis, played third base for the Cardinals, and his manager from 1978-1980 was Ken Boyer.

My observation on the back: Saves became an official stat in 1969 but didn't appear on the back of Topps cards until 1981.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#568 - Cliff Johnson

What a card: Cliff Johnson was enjoying the most regular playing time of his career when this card was issued. Thirteen years into his 15-year major league career, he batted above .300 for the first and only time.

My observation on the front: That is the definition of a healthy cut, good sir. Hope it went far.

More opinion from me: Johnson was such an ever-present player when I was growing up -- he played for the Yankees at the height of my Yankee-watching; he played for the Blue Jays during a time when the Blue Jays were available on my TV; I pulled his cards constantly when I was a kid -- that it's still hard to believe he isn't playing anymore and is in fact 69 years old!

Something you might know: While with the Yankees, Johnson got into a famous fight with teammate Goose Gossage in 1979 that put Gossage on the DL for two months with a thumb injury. Johnson was traded to the Indians shortly afterward.

Something you might not know: The fight was started by Reggie Jackson, who said, "Hey Cliff, how did you hit Goose when you were in the National League?" after Gossage's thrown socks inadvertently flicked Johnson in the shoulder.

My observation on the back: I will forgive Cliff for his youthful indiscretion. But only because the Dodgers lit up Bumgarner and his friends tonight.

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

#567 - Joel Youngblood

What a card: Joel Youngblood had finished up his last season of at least 100 games played when this card was issued. It would be part-time duty for the rest of the way until his final season in 1989.

My observation on the front: The position designation is dead-on. Youngblood played 117 games at third base in 1984 as the Giants were grooming prospect Chris Brown for the position. Youngblood led the league with 36 errors at third.

More opinion from me: You don't see the windbreaker on display often on cards. It was usually covered up by a player's uniform.

Something you might know: Youngblood gained lasting fame on Aug. 4, 1982 when he became the only player to get hits for two different teams in two different cities on the same day. Youngblood singled for the Mets in Chicago during the day, then was traded to the Expos, who were in Philadelphia that night. Youngblood made it to the park in Philly in time and singled in the seventh inning of that game for his new team.

Something you might not know:  In 1979, Youngblood played a part in the Mets' infamous fog-out game. On May 25, the Mets and Pirates were tied at Shea Stadium, when Youngblood started the 11th with a fly ball to left field for the Mets. Pirates outfielder Bill Robinson couldn't see the ball in the fog and it dropped 30 feet away, putting Youngblood on third with a triple. That caused the umpires to suspend play and after waiting awhile, they called the game and said it would be played over in its entirety another day.

My observation on the back: "Sangre Joven" seems like a mouthful for a dog's name. I can't see yelling that every time it barks at something it shouldn't.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#566 - Ed Vande Berg

What a card: Ed Vande Berg was coming off the only major league season in which he worked as a starting pitcher. Granted, 33 of his appearances in 1984 were in relief, but the 17 starts he made were the only ones of his seven-year career.

My observation on the front: Have you ever wondered how things would be different if more modern players followed Rollie Fingers' lead and wore a handlebar mustache? I never did until viewing this card just now.

More opinion from me: The weird placement of the position abbreviation in this set looks even more glaring here with the space in Vande Berg's last name. I just want to throw that P in there and make him "Vandepberg".

Something you might know: Vande Berg was a situational left-handed reliever who appeared in 78 games his rookie year in 1982 and finished fourth in the ROY voting.

Something you might not know: Vande Berg gave up the last hit of Reggie Jackson's career. It came on the final day of the 1987 season. Jackson, pinch-hitting for the A's against Vande Berg's Indians, singled up the middle in the eighth inning and was then removed for a pinch-runner.

My observation on the back: Vande Berg was on the 1978 World Cup roster for the United States. His teammates included Terry Francona, Atlee Hammaker, Tim Leary, Mark Thurmond and Tim Wallach.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#565 - Kirk Gibson

What a card: Kirk Gibson was coming off his breakout year in the majors when this card was issued. Always considered a future star, it took Gibson five years to crack 100 hits in a season. In 1984, he did that, hit 27 home runs, won the MVP of the ALCS, and helped the Tigers win the World Series.

My observation on the front: Nice card. But the image is nearly identical to his 1984 Topps card.

More opinion from me: If it wasn't for Gibson, I'd be in year 35 of waiting for my favorite team to win a World Series. It's bad enough that it's been 28 years.

Something you might know: Gibson clinched the World Series title for the Tigers, blasting a three-run home run off of the Padres' Goose Gossage in the eighth inning of  the decisive Game 5 of the '84 Series. It was his second home run of the game.

Something you might not know: Gibson and his good friend, Tigers pitcher Dave Rozema, married sisters -- JoAnn and Sandy Sklarski, respectively -- in a joint ceremony in 1985. They're all still married.

My observation on the back: Another Baseball 101 trivia question.

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

#564 - Alan Ashby

What a card: Alan Ashby was in the middle of a period of diminished playing time when this card was issued. He appeared in just 66 games in 1984 and 65 in 1985.

My observation on the front: Ashby's pants seem to be hitched too high.

More opinion from me: I remember being fascinated with Ashby when he was with the Blue Jays in the organization's first year. Ashby and Rick Cerone split time behind the plate for Toronto in 1977 and I thought both of them were great. The idea of catchers platooning was totally new to me.

Something you might know: Ashby was the starting catcher for the Astros' playoff teams in 1980 and 1986. He caught Nolan Ryan's record-breaking fifth no-hitter in 1981.

Something you might not know: Ashby became a switch-hitter as a youngster, imitating the infield of his favorite team, the Dodgers. All four starting infielders on that team were switch-hitters, and Ashby thought "that's what you had to do."

My observation on the back: Maddox was two years ahead of Ashby at San Pedro High School.

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#563 - Dick Ruthven

What a card: Dick Ruthven was entering the final full season of his major league career when this card was issued. He was already on his way down , managing just six wins and a 5.04 ERA in 1984.

My observation on the front: Not much to this photo. It's hardly a 1975 Ruthven.

More opinion from me: Ruthven was probably my favorite pitcher on the Phillies in the late 1970s, when they served as my "Plan B" second-favorite team.

Something you might know: Ruthven won 17 games for the Phillies in 1980. He pitched in the postseason for the Phillies in 1978, 1980 and 1981.

Something you might not know: Ruthven's son, Tyler, has been a professional soccer player in the U.S. since 2010.

 My observation on the front: The story goes that Braves owner Ted Turner made a pass at Dick's wife Susan during spring training the first year that Ruthven was with the Braves. The situation was so uncomfortable that Ruthven demanded to be traded, but didn't get his wish until a couple of years later.

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

#562 - Houston Jimenez

What a card: This is the second of two appearances on Topps cards for Houston Jimenez. This is his final Topps card.

My observation on the front: Check out that sweet choking-up action.

More opinion from me: I typed "Hector Jimenez" about eight times while searching for info on Houston Jimenez. I'm relieved to see that Hector Jimenez is both a pro soccer player and an actor in the movie "Nacho Libre". Glad I got it from somewhere.

Something you might know: During his brief time in the majors, Jimenez was known as the shortest player in the major leagues at 5-foot-7.

Something you might not know: Jimenez once said in an interview that when he was a young teenager in Mexico, he held all the league's records for home runs and runs batted in. But when he turned 16, he stopped growing and his fly balls didn't travel as far as teammates' drives anymore.

 My observation on the back: I could find no references to an Arturo Jimenez or Javier Jimenez playing in American pro baseball. Perhaps it was in Mexico.

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

#561 - Darryl Motley

What a card: This is Darryl Motley's first solo Topps card, despite having solo cards in Donruss and Fleer sets way back in 1982 (Motley was relegated to a three-player "future stars" card with Atlee Hammaker and Mike Jones in '82 Topps).

My observation on the front: Ghostly Expo in the background! The Royals are facing Montreal in an exhibition game.

More opinion from me: Motley holds a special place in my baseball heart for kicking off the rout of the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Something you might know: Motley hit a two-run home run in the second-inning of Game 7 of the '85 World Series to give the Royals a 2-0 lead over starting pitcher John Tudor and the Cardinals. He also caught the final out of the game, clinching the Series for the Royals.

Something you might not know: Motley famously hit a long drive foul just before he hit his two-run homer. After the foul, Motley disgustedly slammed his bat on the turf, cracking the bat. Accounts say he used a different bat to hit the home run. And while that's true, Motley almost continued using the cracked bat. He liked the way the bat felt. But as he was settling back into the box, he heard teammate Hal McRae in his head saying, "never hit with a cracked bat." Motley called time and asked the bat boy to get a new bat.

My observation on the back: Motley's 1984 season was by far his best year. He was out of the majors by 1988 (but continued to play baseball until he was 42).

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

#560 - Bill Madlock

What a card: This is Bill Madlock's final card as a Pittsburgh Pirate issued during his career. He was traded to the Dodgers at the end of August 1985.

My observation on the front: I know this won't be popular with people nostalgic for the 1980s, but around this time, the Pirates' old-time pillbox caps were getting a little tired (the team was going through some tough times in the mid-1980s, so that didn't help either). They would last only a couple more years.

More opinion from me: Madlock was a favorite of mine. Before Tony Gwynn came along, he was the National League's answer to Rod Carew. Although a favorite, I didn't want the Dodgers to trade for Madlock because my favorite player, Ron Cey, played the same position. After Cey left, Madlock did appear with the Dodgers. But he didn't have a lot left.

Something you might know: Madlock started his career with a bang in Chicago, leading the National League in hitting in back-to-back years in 1975 and 1976. He'd win two more batting titles (1981, 1983) before his career was over.

Something you might not know: Madlock endured a terrible time in winter ball in the Dominican Republic between the 1973 and 1974 seasons. Playing in a small town and with his wife and kids there, too, he struggled on the field and then found out while he was there that he was traded to the Cubs. He was playing so poorly, the fans started accusing him of throwing games. During one game, he popped up with the bases loaded. The fans let loose, screaming at him and throwing oranges and bottles. As Madlock walked to the dugout, he made an offensive gesture toward the crowd. That infuriated the fans more. Madlock's wife tried to leave the stands, dragging her kids with her, but the fans knew who she was and started throwing objects at her, too. After the fans had left, players arrived to escort her away. Madlock sent his family home soon afterward and he left a few days later.

My observation on the back: The reference to Madlock's 30-plus antique clocks appears to be from a 1982 newspaper article. Not sure how many more he accumulated during his career. Wonder if he still has them?

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