Thursday, December 29, 2016

#612 - Mike Armstrong


What a card: This is the last Topps card of Mike Armstrong issued during his career. He'd spend fractions of each of the 1985, 1986 and 1987 seasons in the majors, but didn't receive a card after any of those seasons.

My observation on the front: Armstrong is known in the baseball card world for his classic glasses-and-mustache combo. There is not a major league card of him in which he is not featuring that combo.

More opinion from me: This card is not nearly as classic as this card.

Something you might know: A reliever with a three-quarters arm delivery, Armstrong worked the Royals bullpen with a more well-known sidearmer, Dan Quisenberry. Armstrong would often set up Quisenberry.

Something you might not know: Armstrong was the winning pitcher in the "pine tar game". He came on the seventh inning with the Royals trailing the Yankees 4-3. He held New York scoreless for the seventh and eighth and then George Brett hit his home run in the ninth to put the Royals ahead, making Armstrong the pitcher of record.


My observation on the back: This is why sometimes personal information on baseball cards can be tricky. Armstrong remarried. His wife's name -- as of 2006 anyway -- is Monica.

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

#611 - Ozzie Virgil


What a card: Ozzie Virgil was coming off his first season as a starter. After four seasons in the majors, Virgil played in 141 games in 1984 with 456 at-bats as the Phillies' main catcher.

My observation on the front: I really like the Phillies' bubble-letter logos from the '70s and '80s.

More opinion from me: Dirty uniform sighting. I wonder if he got that on the bases or diving for a foul ball.

Something you might know: Virgil is part of a baseball family with a third-base-playing father with the same name. Virgil hit 27 home runs for the Braves in 1987.

Something you might not know: Virgil and his father built radio-controlled model airplanes when Virgil was playing and his dad was a coach in the majors. They'd fly them during spring training, and Virgil Jr. once lost a plane in the Gulf of Mexico.


My observation on the back: You don't hear that much about the league leaders in singles, particularly now. The 2016 leaders in singles were Dustin Pedroia (149) for the AL and D.J. LeMahieu (141) for the NL.

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

#610 - Jack Morris


What a card: Jack Morris was on top of the world when this card was issued. He pitched two complete-game victories in the 1984 World Series as the Tigers won the title and started the year off with a no-hitter against the White Sox on the first weekend of the season.

My observation on the front: Another pleasing shot in old Tiger Stadium.

More opinion from me: As someone who has made a living as a reporter, Morris was never a favorite of mine. His rude quote to a female reporter who tried to interview him in 1990 sealed the deal.

Something you might know: Morris played on four World Series championship teams, the 1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins and 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays. His 10-inning victory in Game 7 of the '91 World Series is one of the most famous pitching performances in Series history.

Something you might not know: Morris nearly pitched for the Yankees when they were on the brink of winning four World Series in five years. They had an agreement in place in July of 1996, but the Yankees wanted Morris to start in the minors and Morris refused. Talks broke down after that.


My observation on the back: Those 20 complete games in 1983 look crazy in light of today's complete-game totals. But Morris didn't even lead the league in the category that year. Ron Guidry completed 21 games in '83.

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

#609 - Broderick Perkins


What a card: Broderick Perkins appeared in just 58 games in 1984, managing a career-low .197 average. The Indians released him after the season and he never appeared in another major league game. This is his final card.

My observation on the front: Perkins seems enormously happy about that tiny bat in his hands.

More opinion from me: Perkins spent most of his career playing for bad Padres teams. And then the Padres go and trade him to the Indians after the 1982 season and what do they do? They make the World Series two years later. Poor Broderick.

Something you might know: Perkins best season was in 1982, when he played in 125 games and served as the Padres' starting first baseman.

Something you might know: Perkins was a pall bearer at Tony Gwynn's funeral.


My observation on the back: The key word there is "enjoys." Look at Perkins' baseball cards. He seemed to do "enjoy" very well.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

#608 - Craig Lefferts


What a card: Craig Lefferts was coming off his first season with the Padres when this card was issued. After being acquired from the Cubs in a three-team deal with the Expos, Lefferts tied Rich Gossage for most appearances on the Padres (62) in 1984.

My observation on the front: Totally unrelated, but I haven't had a butterscotch sundae in a long time.

More opinion from me: Lefferts played most of his career with teams that I don't like (Padres, Giants). I don't have any bad memories of him though.

Something you might know: Lefferts was an effective and well-used reliever from 1983-91, who appeared in the playoffs and World Series for the Padres and Giants in 1984, 1987 and 1989. His postseason ERA is 1.15 in 14 games.

Something you might not know: We recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of Lefferts' walk-off home run against the Giants on April 25, 1986. The Padres won 9-8 on Lefferts' homer in the 12th inning. He used Tony Gwynn's bat. No pitcher has hit a walk-off home run since.


My observation on the back: Hey, a little French and it isn't even an O-Pee-Chee card!

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#607 - Bill Almon


What a card: This is Bill Almon's second card in the set. He's also in the draft picks subset. He is one of six players in that subset that has another card in the set. The others are Harold Baines, Jeff Burroughs, Tim Foli, Bob Horner and Darryl Strawberry.

My observation on the front: Love the dangling sunglasses.

More opinion from me: That's an optimistic-looking baseball card. Almon seems very happy to be a ballplayer on this day.

Something you might know: Almon's best statistical season by a decent margin was the 1981 season when he played for the White Sox. He batted .301 and finished 19th in the AL MVP voting. But since the strike wiped out a third of the season, there was an element of "what could have been."

Something you might not know: Almon is the only Ivy League player to be drafted first in any one of the four major professional sports. He played baseball at Brown University.


My observation on the back: Almon's bio on the Brown athletic site says that the family business is furniture products.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

#606 - Rich Gale


What a card: This is the final Topps card issued during Rich Gale's career. 1984 was his last big-league season and he was pitching in Japan by the time most collectors pulled this card out of packs.

My observation on the front: Gale is 6-foot-7. He doesn't look it on all of his cards, but he definitely does here.

More opinion from me: Gale without a mustache makes me sad. I associated Gale with the late 1970s Royals and he had a red, wispy mustache, dammit.

Something you might know: Gale enjoyed a terrific rookie season for the 1978 AL West champion Royals, winning 14 games in 30 starts and finishing fourth in the rookie of the year voting.

Something you might not know: Gale was arrested on a charge of indecent conduct for allegedly exposing himself to an undercover state trooper at a rest stop in Maine in September 2000. The charge was dropped in a plea deal on a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.


My observation on the back: It is a well-told story that Gale was a bartender at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel when two walkways collapsed into the lobby, killing 114 people on July 17, 1981. Gale said he was less than 60 feet away from the collapse.

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

#605 - Ozzie Smith


What a card: Ozzie Smith was entering his "Go Crazy" year when this card was issued. His game-winning home run in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS was the capper to what was then a career-best season, and he would maintain that level for most of the rest of his career.

My observation on the front: It almost appears as if there's a picnic going on in the background with the people standing around.

More opinion from me: Since the tail end of his career, Smith has been upset with manager Tony La Russa for the way La Russa tried to replace Smith with Royce Clayton as the starting shortstop. While I think it's time to let it go, I fully understand if it's not easy to forgive La Russa for some of the stuff he does.

Something you might know: A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2002, Smith won the Gold Glove 13 straight years and had his No. 1 retired by the Cardinals.

Something you might not know: During a 1980 contract holdout in spring training, Smith's agent Ed Gottlieb told the Padres that Smith was going to enter that summer's Tour de France instead of playing for San Diego. Smith says he had no idea what the Tour de France was at the time.


My observation on the back: It seems odd that you'd have to tell someone that Smith is known as "The Wizard of Oz," but I suppose it had to start somewhere.

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#604 - Daryl Sconiers


What a card: Daryl Sconiers was admitting he had a "substance problem" during spring training when this card was appearing in packs. It was part of the explanation for his sophomore slump in 1984 after a promising 1983.

My observation on the front: This photo was likely taken during spring training of '84 when Sconiers had a lot to look forward to after his first 100-game season.

More opinion from me: I like Sconiers' 1983 Topps Traded card a lot.

Something you might know: Sconiers put up several Pacific Coast League seasons with high .300 averages and was regarded as one of the top young hitting prospects in the game until injuries and drug and alcohol abuse got in the way. The Angels released him after the 1985 season and he never reached the majors again.

Something you might not know: Sconiers' son, Daryl Jr., was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year after being convicted along with another man in the first-degree killing of a man in Sherman Oaks, Calif., in 2009.


My observation on the back: There are so many baseball abbreviations that mean something else depending on your interests or line of work that it's nice that baseball has "GIDP" all to itself.

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

#603 - Rick Manning


What a card: Rick Manning had completed what would be his final season of playing at least 100 games when this card was issued. From 1985 to the end of his career in 1987, it was part-time duty.

My observation on the front: Love the color-coded glove.

More opinion from me: Rick Manning could have been the first (former) major league player ever interviewed by me. I was on the field with only a couple of other people between me and him during the opening ceremonies for the new minor league baseball team in Niagara Falls, N.Y., the Niagara Falls Rapids. But Manning was so well-known in the area and gabbing with so many people that little ol' me, covering his first pro game, felt intimidated. It turns out the first MLB player I'd interview would be U.L. Washington, who I talked to after the Rapids' first game.

Something you might know: Manning was a sure-handed, speedy outfielder for the Indians and Brewers. The baseball gossip fans like pointing out that Dennis Eckersley's first wife, Denise, left Eckersley for Manning while the two ballplayers were on the same team and good friends.

Something you might not know: Manning grew up playing shortstop and played it all through the minors. His first game in the outfield was in the major leagues, and he won a Gold Glove in his second year in 1976.


My observation on the back: The Duffy Cup was given out by Biship Duffy High School's Men's Club. The school merged with another Catholic school in the city in 1975 and is now Niagara Catholic Junior and Senior High.

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