Monday, January 30, 2017

#623 - Greg Walker

What a card: Greg Walker was coming off what would be the best season of his career when this card was issued. He hit 24 home runs in 136 games, batted .294 and recorded an OPS of .878 in 1984. In 1985, he would play in every one of the White Sox's 163 games.

My observation the front: Red practice jerseys! I miss the days when the White Sox were in color.

More opinion from me: That background of blue sky and white puffy clouds really hurts on Jan. 30th.

Something you might know: Walker was a power-hitting first baseman who later became the hitting coach for the White Sox when they won the World Series in 2005.

Something you might not know: Walker suffered an epileptic seizure during fielding practice before a game against the Angels in July 1988. He almost died from it and suffered two more seizures in the hospital before eventually recovering and returning to play in 1989. The seizures were believed to be viral in nature.

My observation on the back: The Red Sox were known as the Americans during the first World Series in 1903.

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

#622 - Luis Leal

What a card: Luis Leal had reached double-figure victories for the third straight year when this card was issued. He won 13 games for the Blue Jays in 1984, but he was entering his final major league season in '85.

My observation on the front: The windbreaker under the uniform is not something you see all that often on '80s cards. It's more of a '60s and '70s look. It's a little strange here.

More opinion from me: Leal has been forgotten by time, but he was considered one of the up-and-coming pitchers on the Jays, just a few steps below Dave Stieb, for a period in the early 1980s.

Something you might know: Leal was the starting pitcher for the Blue Jays against the Indians when Len Barker pitched his perfect game in May, 1981. Leal pitched a complete game, allowing three runs and seven hits.

Something you might not know: During the Tigers' torrid early season run in 1984 in which it went 35-5 to begin the year, the Blue Jays were almost as hot and kept pace through June. On June 6, 1984, the Blue Jays beat the Tigers 6-3 to climb within 3 1/2 games of the 39-13 Tigers. Leal pitched the win and improved his record to 6-0. However, that was close as the Blue Jays would get the rest of the season.

My observation on the back: I wonder if a reference to a major league strike would appear on a baseball card these days. There's quite a bit of a censorship with the MLB/Topps exclusive license, and I bet they wouldn't want to see that messiness on cards these days.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#621 - Marvis Foley

What a card: Marvis Foley played his first season with the Rangers in 1984, appearing in 63 games. But he would be released by Texas before this card showed up in packs. This is his final Topps card.

My observation on the front: Foley spent most of his career with the White Sox, and he had a bushy beard, hair and a mustache then. Seeing this card of a clean-shaven Foley was bizarre, and a little bit sad.

More opinion from me: Topps, as it often did then, went with the more formal "Marvis" on Foley's cards, although he was more commonly called "Marv".

Something you might know: Foley jumped into managing immediately after his career and headed several successful minor league teams. He's the only manager to lead a team to a title in all three major Triple A leagues (there are just two now). He won the Pacific Coast title in 1989, the American Association title in 1993, and the International League title in 1997.

Something you might not know: Foley coached in the Rockies system for more than a decade. In 2013, he called Class A catcher Tom Murphy the best catching prospect he had seen in all his time watching players for the Rockies. Murphy is now catching for Colorado.

My observation on the back: Topps is determined to give us a stadium trivia question for every team, it seems. I'll have to go back at the end of this blog and see if it covered every team.

The blog wants to speak now: The Other Cards category is updated.

Friday, January 20, 2017

#620 - Dwight Gooden

What a card: Outside of Clemens and McGwire, this is the most desired card in the set. The only thing that diminished the craze slightly was the fact that Dwight Gooden appeared in the 1984 Topps Traded set.

My observation the front: Gooden's been through a lot, but he basically looks the same as he does here.

More opinion from me: I didn't have to go through any chase to get this card since I purchased the whole set at the start of the season. So part of me feels unqualified to explain the hype around Doc's first flagship card. But I don't feel as unqualified as if I was blogging the 1989 Upper Deck set (something I'd never do, by the way).

Something you might know: Gooden won the Cy Young Award the very season that this card came out, a mere year after winning Rookie of the Year honors. He led league in strikeouts both years.

Something you might not know: During Gooden's Cy Young year in 1985, he faced the Cubs five times. He beat them all five times, pitching a complete game each time.

My observation on the back: Well, thank goodness they added "before turning pro."

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#619 - Jeff Leonard

What a card: Jeff Leonard put together his second straight powerful season for the Giants in 1984, delivering 21 home runs and a.302 average in 136 games.

My observation on the front: I am now wondering whether this is the first example of a player wearing his cap backward on a baseball card (catchers excluded, of course). I'm sure it's not, but at least we can say that Ken Griffey Jr. didn't invent it.

More opinion from me: Leonard is a tragic tale. Signed by the Dodgers and owner of some terrific minor league seasons in the L.A. chain, Leonard was traded for catching help (ack!) to the Astros, and then ended up with the Giants, of all teams, where he blossomed. Argh. Makes me ill.

Something you might know: Known for a nickname given to him by teammate Dave Bergman, "Penitentiary Face," Leonard was the MVP of the 1987 NLCS even though the Giants lost to the Cardinals in seven games. He's the last player from a losing team to win a postseason MVP award.

Something you might not know: Leonard's famed "one-flap down" home run trot, which so enraged the Cardinals during the '87 playoffs (shocker that the Cardinals would get upset by something like that, I know), was born out of a goofy exchange between Leonard and Giants first base coach Jose Morales after they whiffed on a congratulatory high-five after Leonard hit a home run in 1986. Leonard put his arm down next to his body in a show of cool and trotted the rest of the way around the bases that way.

My observation on the back: Leonard would appear as "Jeff" on his Topps cards until the 1987 set when it was changed to "Jeffrey." It was in response to Leonard's request before the 1986 season to be called "Jeffrey."

The blog wants to speak now: The Music category is updated. A few of you are not going to like the new No. 1 song.

Monday, January 16, 2017

#618 - Pete Falcone

What a card: This is the last card of Pete Falcone issued during his major league career. After posting a 4.13 ERA in 35 games with the Braves in 1984, he retired at age 30. He tried a comeback with the Dodgers in 1989, but didn't make it out of the minors.

My observation on the front: These Braves hats appeal to me more than the current ones with the red brims or the ones with the bubble A from the '70s.

More opinion from me: Falcone was never more cool than when he pitched for the Cardinals. A falcon(e) on the Cardinals.

Something you might know: Falcone is most remembered for pitching during the bad, old days of the Mets between 1979-82. He once halted a 15-game losing streak by the Mets by pitching a complete game win against the Astros in 1982.

Something you might not know: Falcone's son, Joey, played in the low minors for the Yankees after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a medic for the Marines.

My observation on the back: Pignatano was also a coach with the Mets when Falcone pitched for them.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#617 - Willie Wilson

What a card: Willie Wilson was coming off a suspension-shortened season when this card was issued. He was among the Royals suspended for the entire 1984 season by commissioner Bowie Kuhn for pleading guilty to attempting to purchase cocaine (and serving a jail sentence). The suspension was reduced, but Wilson didn't play until mid-May.

My observation on the front: Is that a red bat? I love red bats.

More opinion from me: Wilson was always a favorite. Even though he had already played parts of three seasons, including quite a bit of the 1978 season, I didn't discover him until he broke out in '79.

Something you might know: Wilson set the record for most at-bats in a single season when he recorded 705 in 1980. The record was broken by Jimmy Rollins' 716 at-bats in 2007.

Something you might not know: Among players with more than 400 career stolen bases, only Tim Raines (84.7%) owns a greater stolen base success rate than Wilson (83.3%).

My observation the back: Wilson deserved a card number with at least a "5" at the end. I wonder if Topps was punishing him for his suspension and jail time.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#616 - Scott Sanderson

What a card: This is Scott Sanderson's first Topps flagship card as a Chicago Cub. He was traded from the Expos to the Cubs in a three-way deal with the Padres in December, 1983. He first appeared as a Cub in the 1984 Topps Traded set.

My observation on the front: You can tell Sanderson is 6-5 just looking at this card.

More opinion from me: Sanderson's first appearances on Topps cards, in 1979, 1980 and 1981, shows him with a mustache. He shaved the mustache sometime before his 1982 cards were issued and the mustache never returned for the rest of his 19-year career. I remember being stunned by his transformation in '82. I got used to it, but it was shocking in '82.

Something you might know: Sanderson was an all-star pitcher for the Yankees in 1991, a year in which New York went 71-91. He won 33 games in 1990 and 1991 combined.

Something you might not know: Sanderson became a player agent after his career and has been a longtime partner with Michael Moye. They've represented a number of baseball players like Todd Helton, Josh Hamilton, Lance Berkman and Josh Beckett, along with Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix. They split with Frank Thomas after Thomas boycotted spring training while protesting his contract in 2001.

My observation on the back: OK, now that's a cool trivia question (although the answer is obvious if you know the teams in each World Series). Way to step up your game, trivia quiz.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

#615 - Marvell Wynne

What a card: Marvell Wynne was coming off what would be the best season of his eight-year major league career when this card was issued. In 1984, he achieved his only season of more than 100 hits (174), and he set career highs in several categories.

My observation on the front: Nice-looking card. The gold jersey-black pants combo was the best of the Pirates' many '80s uniform combinations, plus I do love me a basepaths photo.

More opinion from me: I wish the yellow behind the word "Pirates" matched with the yellow in the logo and on the jersey.

Something you might know: Wynne was a fleet-footed center fielder, pegged to be the Pirates' lead-off hitter, but he struggled to hit consistently and encountered injuries. His son, Marvell II, has played in Major League Soccer for the last decade.

Something you might not know: Wynne kicked off back-to-back-to-back home runs by the Padres to lead off the bottom of the first inning in San Diego's home opener against the Giants on April 13, 1987. Tony Gwynn and John Kruk followed Wynne with homers, and all of them came off of Roger Mason. But the Giants won the game, 13-6.

My observation on the back: I'm not sure I consider "listening to music" a hobby. It comes close to describing "eating" as a hobby. I've come across a few people who don't listen to music, but they are a rarity.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

#614 - Al Williams

What a card: This is the final Topps card of Al Williams issued during his career. He was actually released by the Twins after the 1984 season, meaning his MLB career was already done when collectors were pulling this card.

My observation on the front: Classic glare. A little "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?" mixed with "what did you just say?"

More opinion from me: I really want Williams to be sitting in the stands. I don't think he is, but it looks like he is.

Something you might know: Williams won 35 games for the Twins between 1980-84, but he's most known for fighting with the Sandinista rebels against the Somoza regime during the Nicaragua Revolution from 1977-78.

Something you might not know: When Williams was a teenager, an earthquake destroyed half of his house while he was sleeping in it.

My observation on the back: Those very same facts (Al is third Nicaraguan to play MLB and the other two are Martinez and Chevez) are mentioned on the back of his rookie card in 1981 Topps, except in cartoon form. But Topps never told you he was a freedom fighter. I had to find that out from Donruss and Fleer.

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

Monday, January 2, 2017

#613 - Terry Puhl

What a card: Terry Puhl was coming off what would be his last full major league season when this card was issued. He played in 132 games in 1984, batting .301. But he'd endure two injury-plagued seasons in 1985 and 1986 and was a part-time player after that.

My observation on the front: Puhl's helmet looks a little too tight.

More opinion from me: This card features quite a few of those printing air bubbles that were commonplace on cards from the '70s and '80s.

Something you might know: The most successful Canadian hitter of the 1980s, Puhl hit a smoking .526 during the 1980 National League Championship Series against the Phillies.

Something you might not know: Puhl's first major league home run came in the Astros' first game of the 1978 season, off of Tom Seaver.

My observation on the back: Dave Stieb pitched the first three innings of the 1983 All-Star Game and was the pitcher of record when the AL recorded their seven-run third inning as Whitey Herzog left Atlee Hammaker in to get pasted. Let's review the inning shall we?

AL leading 2-1 when Hammaker enters the game to start the third.

Jim Rice: Home Run (AL leads 3-1)
George Brett: Triple (Hammaker still in the game)
Ted Simmons: Pop-up to second (one out)
Dave Winfield: Single (AL leads 4-1, Brett scores, Hammaker still in the game)
Manny Trillo: Single (Winfield to second, Hammaker still in the game)
Doug DeCinces: Fly Out (two outs)
Rod Carew: Single (AL leads 5-1, Winfield scores, Trillo to third, Carew advances to second on throw, Hammaker still in the game)
Robin Yount: Intentional Walk
Fred Lynn: Grand Slam (AL leads 9-1, Bill Dawley brought in from bullpen ... OH, let's replace Hammaker NOW).

Whitey Herzog was a piece of work.

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