Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, April 2020
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4/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #632 Charlie Manuel, Phillies
More Charlie Manuel Topps Cards: 2001 2002 2006 2007 2009
I wasn't a big fan of Charlie Manuel during his early days running the Phillies; I didn't think he looked or sounded like a major league manager "should" look and sound. He came off to me as a yokel, and I openly wondered what, if anything, he contributed to his teams. Of course, at the time I was still an idiot in many ways and now have a greater respect for what Manuel achieved in MLB.
He also achieved quite a bit outside of MLB, as he was an absolute batting force in the late 70's playing in the Japan League—dude averaged .320 with 41 home runs 1977-80 despite a vicious beaning in '79 that destroyed his jaw.
Eventually Manuel returned stateside; those juggernaut mid-1990's Indians teams that'd score 1,000 runs a year? Manuel was their batting coach. Nice to have on your resume, huh? Manuel was promoted to manager in 2000, but fired in 2002 when the extension he wanted was not offered.
Here, the 63-year-old has just completed his third year at the helm of the Phillies. For the third straight year, the team started very slowly. For the third straight year, it recovered to win 85+ games; the 2007 Phils reached their first postseason in 14 years!
THIS CARD: Manuel poses proudly at what I'm sure is Philly's Spring Training complex; you can make out a Phillies logo on the background wall.
To my surprise, Manuel's four Topps front images as a Phillie are well-varied. He gets two "action" shots, one pose looking at the camera, one pose looking away. Good job Topps, especially with a manager (though fans would greatly enjoy a card of Manuel getting into it with an ump, as he often did.)
More from Manuel's 2007 season: he made news by feuding with a radio host in April, and he also had a brief dugout tiff with SP Brett Myers. During the year, with his bullpen depleted, he made the gutsy move of switching Myers to relief; it sort of worked out. Manuel—who in 2007 was ejected from a career-high seven games—benefited from a brutal collapse by the Mets down the stretch; New York led the NLE by seven with 17 to play and found nightly ways to blow it.
(Also helping Manuel: three Top 10 MVP candidates, including winner Jimmy Rollins.)
(flip) Manuel was runner-up in 2000 (Indians) and 2005-06 (Phillies).
Manuel finished 89-73 in 2007; that was following a .500 first half. The Phillies turned in a .608 second half and won the East on the season's final day.
You may remember the 1993 NL pennant-winning Phillies and their 97 wins.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2008, of course, Manuel—despite a 4-6 start—outlasted the Mets to win a tight NL East. His Phillies went on to beat Milwaukee in the NLDS and the Dodgers in the NLCS (YES!), then defeated Tampa Bay for their second World Series title (1980). They returned to the Fall Classic in 2009 but this time the Yankees came out on top.
Under Manuel, Philadelphia continued to contend through 2011, but did not return to the WS. Management held on to the core of aging stars a little too long, and by 2013 the Phillies were again mediocre—Manuel received the ax in August. He departed with the most managerial wins in the team's long history (780).
In 2019, at age 75, Manuel returned to the struggling, underachieving Phillies as hitting coach.
"Chuck" Manuel appeared in Topps as a Twins player 1970-71, returned as Indians manager 2001-2002, then closed his Topps run as Phillies manager in the 2006-09 sets.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
More April 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
4/1/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #224 League Leaders, NL RBI
More 2012 Topps League Leaders: n/a
In 2011, Matt Kemp enjoyed his very best year (though 2012 would have topped it had health permitted). He was runner-up in the NL MVP voting, missed a 40-40 season by a homer, and drove in 18 more runs than he did in any other season before or since. As a Giants fan, I got to watch a lot of it up close—Kemp slashed .359/.446/.672 against San Francisco in 2011, and it seemed all of it was critical.
#2 in the RBI race was Prince Fielder in his walk year with the Brewers. After a "down" year in 2010, Fielder was named to his third All-Star team in 2011. Three months into the season, he was ahead of Kemp 69-63 in RBI, but inexplicably went the entire month of July with just seven driven in—needing three in the final five days to even reach that total.
Like Kemp and Fielder, Ryan Howard is perennially high on the RBI leaderboard, having led the league thrice between 2006-09. Howard's 116 RBI in 2011 actually represented the second lowest figure of his six full seasons to that point.
THIS CARD: This is our first 2012 Topps League Leaders selection. And you knowing that does not benefit you or me in any way.
Kemp is shown driving one away from Dodger Stadium; he accumulated exactly 63 RBI home and away in 2011.
In 2010-11 Howard was in transition—no longer dominant as in the 2000's, not yet a liability as in the mid-2010's. You can tell which Ryan Howard you're getting by his body type; here, you've got the "good" Ryan Howard because he's a still little chunky. (The "dominant" Ryan Howard was a lot chunky.) The "B" patch on his jersey is for late co-owners Whip and Jim Buck.
(flip) There should be no red on a NL Leaders card.
This was Tulowitzki's first and only time over 100 RBI, and only appearance on an RBI leaderboard.
Pujols dipped below 100 RBI for the only time in his first 12 seasons. Today he's just 222 behind Hank Aaron for first all-time.
2011 was Morse's career year; he never had more than 62 RBI in any other season.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kemp drove home 25 runs in his first 23 games of 2012, then didn't appear high on any RBI leaderboards until 2015-16, when he ranked 4th and 3rd in the NL, respectively. The free agent is currently hoping to continue his career at 35.
Fielder, who'd racked up as many as 141 RBI with the Brewers, came back down to earth somewhat after signing with the Tigers (opportunities were fewer with Miguel Cabrera in that lineup). Still, he placed 5th in AL RBI in consecutive years (2012-13) and 9th in 2015. His career ended after neck surgery in 2016.
Howard, as you may know, shredded his Achilles in the 2011 playoffs. He was never the same player again, maxing out at 95 RBI in 2014 (a year he hit .223). His career ended during the 2017 season, as MiLB contracts with the Braves and Rockies led nowhere.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, League Leaders
4/2/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #569 Curt Schilling, Orioles
More Curt Schilling Topps Cards: 1990 1992 1992T 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2000T 2001 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2005 2006 2007 2008
Depending on your viewpoint, Curt Schilling is either one of the underrated pitchers of any era who should have been enshrined in Cooperstown years ago, or he's an idiot blowhard who's keeping himself out of Cooperstown by not shutting up.
What all Schilling supporters and detractors must agree on, however: in the year 1990, Schilling was not yet on the fast track to greatness. He was originally a Red Sox draft pick who joined Baltimore via 1988 trade; after two short trials with the Orioles, his ledger read 0-4, 8.29, 1.949 WHIP...ouch.
Here, Schilling—still just 24—got an extended look with the 1990 Orioles after being recalled 6/29. Working exclusively out of the bullpen, he went unscored upon in his first six games and earned his first three major league saves. Each one ranged from 2.1 to 4.0 innings!
THIS CARD: Schilling was one of those guys who seemed real chunky, but really wasn't, as you can see here.
That's #43 on Schilling's back; other notable O's with that number include Sidney Ponson and Jim Johnson for several years each.
The young righty fires off either his 90+ gas, splitter, effective slider or excellent changeup. He also had a curveball but I'm not sure if he had it in 1990.
(flip) For those K totals to be so relatively low (except 1987 Greensboro), Schilling must not have had his splitter yet. Or the organization might have limited his usage of it.
That trade sent Schilling and outfield prospect Steve Finley to Baltimore in exchange for SP Mike Boddicker.
I was surprised at the long list of Yavapai College alumni in MLB. Schilling's 1990 teammate Bob Milacki was one; active players from that school include outfielders Willie and Kole Calhoun plus closers Ken Giles and Kirby Yates.
AFTER THIS CARD: Blah blah blah trade to the Astros, lecture by Roger Clemens, trade to the Phillies, 300-K seasons, some injuries, trade to Arizona in 2000, more 300-K seasons, trade to Boston, three 20-win seasons in four years, bloody sock in 2004 World Series, 216 wins lifetime, 70% of 2019 Hall of Fame vote, ESPN Sunday Night Baseball gig, lots of political and controversial tweeting.
Curt Schilling appeared annually in Topps 1990-2008. He's also got 1992, 2000 and 2004 Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
4/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #24 Frank Thomas, Athletics
More Frank Thomas Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
"Frank Thomas is a big person." wrote one astute publication back in the 1990's. They weren't wrong. With exceptional power and a keen batting eye, Thomas was truly worthy of the "Big Hurt" nickname; he put the hurt on just about everybody through the years.
The former Auburn tight end (1986) was a #1 pick of the White Sox in '89, and in MLB the following season. He reached stardom in, oh, about a couple hours; before long he was winning consecutive AL MVP awards in 1993-94 and guiding the White Sox to first place.
As you'll see on the flip side of this card, Thomas continued putting up incredible numbers thru 1997 when he won the AL batting title. Then came a mysterious drop-off in '98 and a ho-hum 99. Thomas rebounded with a true-to-past-form 2000 campaign...but whether due to age, injuries or both, Thomas would be done as a .300 hitter going forward, though he continued to slug when healthy.
Near the end of his Chicago days he was not healthy often (torn triceps in 2001, ankle break in 2004, foot fracture in the Sox' championship year of 2005). A contentious divorce from Chicago ensued, and Thomas joined the A's on a 1Y/$500K deal (plus hefty incentives) for 2006. He was a force for the resurgent A's, and parlayed that into a 2Y/$18M deal from Toronto...with an option we'll discuss below.
Though Thomas ripped career homer #500 with Toronto, they, too, split on bad terms. Here, Thomas has returned to Oakland for what would be his final 55 major league games.
THIS CARD: Thomas's unmistakable follow-through in which he seemed about 10 feet wide tip-to-tip. Upon first joining the A's in '06, he looked way off in Oakland's green-and-gold—many do—but after homering what seemed like every couple of games, those colors matched him beautifully.
Remember: Rickey Henderson wore #35 in his first go with the A's. Bob Welch took it during the Tony LaRussa era, and when he returned to Oakland to find #34 retired, Dave Stewart briefly switched to #35. Many, many dudes have cycled through it since Thomas.
More from Thomas's 2008 season: it took close to a month for him to go yard with the A's, finally doing so twice against Tampa Bay 5/19. A quad injury sidelined him for June/July, and recurred in September. But Thomas finished hot, going 6-for-his-final-11 in late August.
(flip) The Big Hurt gets a sunset card, one year after Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa did not.
Thomas was a free agent in April 2008? It's true—shortly into the season Toronto decided to make Thomas a part-timer, allegedly due to performance. But an angry Thomas believed he was being prevented from reaching the plate appearances needed to vest his 2009 contract option, so BOOM! Within 24 hours, he was gone.
This Six Degrees Of Mantle can actually be done in three or four degrees, since Thomas played with both Durham and Righetti. And if Mantle were still alive today, we could play One Degree Of Mantle, since both men are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Every great while, Topps will forget to italicize a league leading stat, but not in this case; believe it or not Thomas never led his league in HR or RBI—not even with the 143 RBI in 2000! He did finish 2nd in homers four times, however, so there's that.
AFTER THIS CARD: Nothing. 2008 was the end of the line for Thomas, who sat out 2009 before retiring in early 2010 as a ceremonial member of the White Sox despite the previous acrimony (they also retired his #35 in August 2010). He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, and remains connected to the game through his broadcasting work for FOX and NBC Sports Chicago. You've also probably seen Thomas's commercials pitching Nugenix...the dude hasn't aged at all.
Frank Thomas appeared annually in Topps 1990-2009.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Oakland Athletics
4/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #467 Yamil Benitez, Diamondbacks
More Yamil Benitez Topps Cards: 1996
For one summer at least, Yamil Benitez looked to have a bright-ish future in MLB. Originally a prospect with the Expos in the mid-1990's, Benitez impressed offensively during his 14-game callup in 1995. Still, he was sent to AAA Ottawa for '96, receiving only 12 MLB at-bats that year.
With incumbent LF Moises Alou departing Montreal for Florida that off-season, it looked as if Benitez might have a shot at succeeding him...briefly; instead, Montreal traded him to Kansas City in January 1997 for RP Melvin Bunch.
In the second half of 1997, KC gave Benitez regular run at the corner OF spots, and he held his own. Here, he's just been selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1997 Expansion Draft.
THIS CARD: Benitez appears in Topps—and in COTD—for the second time. We presented his 1996 Topps shared Prospects card in February 2020.
On Benitez's first Topps card, he looked to be held at gunpoint. Here, with no gunman present, he's a lot more relaxed.
In 1998 Topps, most of the new Diamondbacks are given posed headshots. Benitez was one of about three or four to receive even semi-action front images.
That mitt seems massive.
(flip) The other fellas with 10 career home runs were ex-Athletic Tony Batista (who was indeed my first guess) and the veteran C Jorge Fabregas. Both were selected by Arizona.
Check out those numbers for 1995 Montreal...told you Benitez was impressive during that audition. He had hits in 11 of 13 games in which he batted, and four of those were multi-hitters! As you see, he slugged a whopping .641.
Benitez may not have been the best Diamondback, but I gotta say homie might've been the handsomest.
AFTER THIS CARD: Benitez's claim to Diamondback fame will forever be the two tie-breaking walk-off home runs he struck in 1998. The first, on 6/28, sunk the Mariners; for good measure he sent the Padres home unhappy on 9/25 as well. (That first bomb, off Bobby Ayala, was the first walk-off blast in franchise history.)
However, Benitez closed '98 batting .098 in his final 24 games and only hit .199 overall; he'd be waived during Spring Training '99. As it turned out, he never played in MLB again, and his pro career ended in 2000 at age 28. I know nothing of his post-baseball endeavors.
Yamil Benitez appeared in 1996 and 1998 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Arizona Diamondbacks
4/8/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #276 Shawn Green, Blue Jays Draft Pick
More Shawn Green Topps Cards: 1994 1995 1995T 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2005U 2006 2006U 2007 2008
Getting a sense of deja vu? If so, you're justified—we just profiled Shawn Green a couple of months ago, specifically his 2004 Topps card. But the Randomizer didn't feel we spent enough time on Green obviously.
Around century's turn, Green was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game; between 1998 and 2002 he reached 100+ RBI four times (just missing a fifth) and cracked 40+ homers thrice for the Blue Jays and Dodgers.
But entering the 1990's he was just a high school kid, albeit one with exceptional baseball talent. We catch up with Green on the heels of his first-round selection by the 1991 Toronto Blue Jays.
THIS CARD: 1992 Topps broke from tradition and did not feature its draft picks in major league uniforms. These kids were shown in standard street clothes; some cards even used what looked like family photos as front images. In Green's case, he could be naked for all we know. (I am curious what was airbrushed from that hat.)
Nowhere on the front is Green's new team indicated. Not feelin' that.
(flip) I choose to believe Green played at one of those high school fields nearly impossible to hit an outside-the-park home run at (as my high school field was). There's just no way he could have hit only five homers in 342 AB otherwise.
For a while, Green continued stealing bases in MLB, going 30-30 for the 1998 Blue Jays. He was the first Jay to join the club, and only Jose Cruz Jr. has done it for Toronto since (2001).
Green was the 16th overall pick, and aside from Manny Ramirez (the 13th overall pick), had the best career of any of 1991's first-rounders.
AFTER THIS CARD: Upon reaching MLB to stay in '95, Green mostly platooned under Toronto manager Cito Gaston, but earned an everyday job in '98 and really busted out, as we referenced above. After the '99 season Toronto, fearful of his pending free agency, dealt Green to the Dodgers—who promptly locked him up for 6Y/$84M.
After a "down" 2000, Green resumed mashing for the 2001-02 Dodgers, but was limited by a bad shoulder that eventually required surgery in 2003. He'd never post huge numbers again but still managed 50 combined homers in 2004-05, the latter season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Going forward, Green was more-or-less ordinary, and his career ended at 35 following the 2007 season (spent with the Mets). He finished up with 328 HR and 1,070 RBI...not shabby at all.
Shawn Green debuted with this draft pick card in 1992 Topps, then appeared annually 1994-2008. He's also got a 1995 Traded card and 2005-06 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Draft Picks
4/10/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #436 Prospects
More 1996 Topps Prospects Cards: #439
Derrick Gibson again?!
Today, we revisit four of baseball's top outfield prospects of 1995-96, all four of whom reached MLB with varying levels of accomplishment.
Ben Grieve had the bloodlines and the bat for stardom, but peaked very early. Speedster Roger Cedeno vied to be LA's sixth or seventh straight Rookie Of The Year. Gibson seemed stronger and more imposing than the others put together. And though the odds and recent Yankee history worked against him, Shane Spencer did eventually crack the Yankee outfield and put on a pretty good show for a while.
THIS CARD: Cedeno is twice as happy as anybody else on this card. We're featuring a Gibson Topps card for the third time (he only had four). Grieve looks about 15-20 years older than he is. Spencer looks as though he'd been standing in one spot for several hours.
If you're feeling a sense of Deja Vu not related to Gibson, it is because we specially selected a 1996 Topps Prospects card less than two months ago, in memory of Angel Echevarria.
I just now noticed the baseball going from light to dark. And now that I do, the light side is extremely distracting.
(flip) What is it with Topps refusing to print minor league cities on rookie cards? I often give them crap for using asterisks in place of team names on today's rookie cards. But as you can see, at least for one set, they were forgoing them entirely back in the '90's!
So we'll fill in the gaps: Spencer spent 1995 with Class A+ Tampa. Grieve split 1995 between A West Michigan and A+ Modesto. Gibson played 1995 at A Asheville, and Cedeno split '95 between AAA Albuquerque and the (ick) Dodgers.
This is not Grieve nor Cedeno's rookie card, as both appeared in 1995 Topps—Grieve as a Draft Pick, Cedeno on a shared On Deck prospect card.
AFTER THIS CARD: Gibson, as we've discussed on past COTD, put up great MiLB numbers for years. However, he had been a football player in HS and, according to one publication of the day, "played like one", which was to say he was short on baseball fundamentals and instincts. Gibson only got in 17 MLB games with the 1998-99 Rockies, and his pro career ended in the Independent League in 2006 at 31.
Cedeno had moments with the Dodgers, but had to join the Mets in 1999 to fully blossom. He batted .313 with 66 SB that year—a club record until broken by Jose Reyes in 2007—but then bounced through four teams the next six years. He finished up at 30 in 2005.
Grieve was the 1998 AL Rookie Of The Year for Oakland, and ripped 55 homers 1999-2000. But after being traded to Tampa Bay leading up to 2001, he essentially regressed into just another dude, one who was not strong enough defensively to make up for limited production. Grieve's career also ended in 2005 at age 29, a stunning development for such a touted prospect.
Spencer was the talk of late 1998 with 10 September homers (including three slams) for the 114-win Yankees. He remained in New York through 2002, usually as a platoon corner outfielder, but never again got quite as hot as in '98. Spencer's final MLB action came in 2004 at 32, although he played two more subsequent seasons in Japan.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Prospects
4/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #724 Jim Edmonds, Sporting News All-Star
More 2005 Topps Sporting News All-Star Cards: n/a
Longtime Angels and Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds has been in the news lately for lamentable reasons (he caught the coronavirus), but he's a totally random choice for our Topps Card Of Easter Sunday, 2020.
Edmonds could beat you with his powerful bat, his legs, or his amazing outfield glove. He made four conventional All-Star teams during his career (1995, 2000, 2003, 2005) and based on his numbers, probably should have made at least two or three more. Edmonds hit .300 five times and was an eight-time Gold Glover—in short, he was one of the best two-way players of his era, someone who always put on a good show.
Here, Edmonds has been named a 2004 Sporting News All-Star, despite not being a traditional All-Star that year. His merits: a .301 average, 111 RBI (career-best) 42 HR (equaling a career-best) and more Gold Glove defense in center field.
THIS CARD: Though there's no archive of them on their actual website or anywhere else, The Sporting News actually names (postseason) All-Star teams and has done so since 1925. TSN All-Stars have shown up in Topps a number of times through the years dating back to at least the 1962 set. They re-emerged in the 2003-05 Topps sets, but since then have been replaced by a subset of actual All-Stars in the Update sets.
Edmonds was not the only "Outstanding Outfielder" in this subset; Vlad Guerrero also earned the moniker. How Topps and/or TSN ran out of adjectives to name four outfielders has never been explained.
Hopefully, that is a Dodger behind the plate, and hopefully Edmonds has just crunched a 442-foot home run.
(flip) Edmonds is listed at an even 210 lbs. on his 2005 Topps base card, so obviously that's two extra pounds of ego from being named a TSN All-Star.
Only Barry Bonds, Todd Helton and Albert Pujols had better 2004 NL OPS figures.
That eighth and final Gold Glove was won by Edmonds in 2005. There was no need for the copyright to be that damn prominent.
Topps probably had to recycle the front image of Edmonds since he appears three other times in the base set (his regular common, his Gold Glove card, and a shared Postseason Highlights card).
AFTER THIS CARD: As stated above, this is the most recent TSN All-Star subset to date in a regular Topps set, though they returned in 2019 Topps Heritage. Edmonds made one final conventional All-Star team in 2005, even though his season numbers were noticeably down from '04.
To the best of my research, he made no other TSN All-Star teams after 2004, as health issues and advancing age contributed to a leveling-off in production. He split his final two seasons (2008, 2010) with four different teams sandwiched around a 2009 year spent on the sidelines.
(At last check, Edmonds was reported to be symptom-free of COVID-19, thankfully.)
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, All-Stars
4/13/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #644 Lloyd McClendon, Reds
More Lloyd McClendon Topps Cards: n/a
In MLB, there are only a few guys who a manager could immediately slot at catcher and the outfield, but during his career Lloyd McClendon was one of them. A "handyman" who caught and played the corner infield and outfield spots, McClendon's versatility and solid righty bat kept him around for eight major league seasons.
He was originally a #8 pick of the Mets who went to Cincinnati when they dealt Tom Seaver back to the Mets after a very rough '82 season. McClendon toiled away in the Reds system, mostly as a C/IF, and put up solid (if not great) numbers. Finally, as a 26-year-old at AAA Denver in '86, McClendon busted out with 24 home runs (altitude?) and was in MLB the following season.
Here, the not-so-youngster has spent practically all of '88 with the Reds (there was a two-game exile back to Denver). Though he only hit .219 overall, McClendon had his moments, such as a 6-for-9 stretch around the beginning of June, and he was 6-for-24 as a PH.
THIS CARD: Today, at least to me, McClendon seems off in anything but a Pirates uniform—he was affiliated with them as a player, coach and manager throughout the 1990's and early 2000's. Just think about what Jim Leyland first looked like in that Marlins garb and you'll understand.
McClendon, especially for a bench guy, got very good Topps front image variety on his six Topps base cards; one of them could even be described as "exciting".
The obscured uniform number is #30, which was the old Reds number of Ken Griffey Sr. and the future (first) Reds number of Ken Griffey Jr. You may also remember "Bobby" Kelly sporting it for a year-and-a-half for Cincy in the mid-1990's.
(flip) At least as a prospect, McClendon was pretty good at drawing a walk; he even walked more than he K'd a couple of times.
Gary, Indiana and Boulder, Colorado. You will struggle to find two American cities with greater contrasting reputations.
Given McClendon's limited MLB run to this point, I am tempted to investigate just what Game Winning RBI he allegedly produced. But doing so will just drive me to further bash the stat, which I've already done plenty of here on COTD.
AFTER THIS CARD: Swapped to the Cubs following the '88 season, McClendon enjoyed a fine offensive 1989 for the NL East champions, but by the end of 1990 was a Pirate—the new NL East champions. He remained in Pittsburgh through 1994 in his customary utility role and even went 8-for-11 as a semi-regular RF in the 1992 NLCS!
McClendon hoped to continue his playing career entering 1995, but after being cut by Cleveland, he took over as Pittsburgh's batting coach. He was promoted to manager for the 2001 season—during which he famously did this—but the Bucs were smack in the middle of 20 losing seasons in a row and McClendon was fired in late 2005.
From 2006-13, he coached under his old manager Leyland with the Detroit Tigers, including the last seven seasons as batting coach. Seattle gave him a three-year deal to manage in November 2013...and though he led them to a 16-game improvement in '14, he was fired by new management after the 2015 season.
Lloyd McClendon appeared as a player in 1988-90 Topps, and again in 1992-94 Topps. He returned as a manager in 2002-05 Topps. (You can also find McClendon in 1989 Topps Traded as a new Cub.)
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Cincinnati Reds
4/14/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #412 Don Kelly, Tigers
More Don Kelly Topps Cards: 2004T 2007B 2010U 2012 2013U 2014
What I will always remember Don Kelly for:
As a (Houston) coach, failing to handle Alex Bregman's bat handoff in the 2019 World Series, and
As a (Detroit) player, kindly flailing at Sergio Romo's tailing changeup for out #2 in the 10th inning of 2012 World Series Game 4.
Much like our previous COTD subject Lloyd McClendon, Kelly's versatility helped him last in the major leagues. At one point, he was the only active big leaguer who had played all nine positions (though not in the same game).
Kelly didn't debut in MLB until age 27 with Pittsburgh, who used him mostly to pinch-hit. He didn't exactly flourish in the role, and it wasn't until 2009 that he resurfaced with Jim Leyland's Tigers. Despite being outrighted by the Tigers that year—and not for the last time—Kelly won a job with the 2010 team and started 55 times across four positions.
Here, Kelly has just completed a notable 2011 campaign. He added catcher to his resume by taking over for injured Victor Martinez in a blowout game, and even pitched to and retired a batter (the Mets' Scott Hairston) in June!
THIS CARD: If I really wanted to, I could identify the ballpark. It appears to read Oakland at Texas, and of course there were three such series in 2011. If I had to wager, I would say this photo was taken between 7/7 and 7/10/11, during which time the Tigers were in Kansas City. Post-renovation Kauffman Stadium does have a scoreboard in the LCF wall.
Kelly wears #32, a number no notable Tiger wore before Kelly—it's been passed around an awful lot. Current SP Michael Fulmer has it.
This is Kelly's first appearance (of two) in the base Topps set.
(flip) Kelly was the second batter of the game when he took Ivan Nova of the Yankees deep; Delmon Young went yard right behind him, and the Tigers won Game Five 3-2.
It wouldn't have been Leyland's first time in tears that year.
More about Kelly's catching: on July 2, Martinez bruised his throwing shoulder, and rather than burn regular C Alex Avila on his day off, Leyland turned to Kelly. As far as I can gather, there weren't any mishaps, but SF—up 10-0 at the time—won 15-3 in a game started by Detroit's Max Scherzer.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kelly remained on the Tiger roster to open '12 but was D4A'd in August with a .175 average. Back up in September, he made the postseason roster and cashed in a walk-off SF in Game 2 of the ALDS. According to MLB.com, Kelly is only the third man ever with a walk-off RBI after entering as a pinch-runner (Aaron Boone in '03 and Chris Burke in '05 are the others).
Kelly remained with Detroit thru 2014, playing 207 games over the 2013-14 seasons at about 68 different positions. His next and final stop as a player: Miami, where he got in 15 games over the 2015-16 seasons. But Kelly didn't crack .200 in the majors or minors in 2016, and his career ended at 37 the following Spring Training.
As we mentioned, Kelly was Houston's 1B coach in '19, and is set to become Derek Shelton's bench coach in Pittsburgh whenever the 2020 season resumes.
Don Kelly debuted in 2004 Traded & Rookies as a Tigers prospect, returned in 2007 Topps as a Factory Bonus card, then appeared in 2012 and 2014 Topps outright. He's also got 2010 and 2013 Update cards. All but 2007 depict him as a Tiger.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Detroit Tigers
4/16/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #318 Manny Ramirez, Indians
More Manny Ramirez Topps Cards: 1992 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Ramirez could dominate on offense and frustrate on defense. He could be a wacky, goofy guy, or he could be what ex-manager Terry Francona described as "the worst human being" he'd ever met. Ramirez was fully capable of high-fiving fans in the middle of active plays or disappearing behind walls as pitches are thrown.
But man, could the guy hit.
Even if, odds are, he was juicing.
Ramirez was fairly normal, for lack of a better word, in the beginning. The #13 overall pick in 1991 out of New York's George Washington High, Ramirez was in MLB two years later at age 21, and Cleveland's starting RF the following season (1994). That year, he was runner-up to Bob Hamelin in AL Rookie Of The Year voting.
There's be no sophomore slump. Ramirez turned in a fantastic 1995 season, slashing .308/.402/.558 and finishing second on the team in HR and RBI (to Albert Belle). He made the All-Star team that year, and in Game 2 of the ALCS, went 4-for-4 with two home runs! As if AL pitchers didn't have enough to contend with in Cleveland's lineup...
Here, after a lukewarm start to '96, Ramirez has slugged .608 from May 10 on. He finished with numbers very close to those put up in '95, and though he was not chosen as a 1996 All-Star, Ramirez batted .341 after the break and led Cleveland with 45 doubles.
THIS CARD: Yes, for those of you who only saw Ramirez from his Boston days on, once upon a time he did have a conventional haircut.
Ramirez in the outfield was always an adventure in Boston, but I don't remember any particular follies from his Indians days (which isn't to say they didn't happen). In fact, his RF arm was often lauded and he registered 19 assists, first among AL RF by far, in 1996. (Nevermind that his nine errors also tied for league high.)
This card seems to be a tad miscut on the bottom, but I don't treat it any differently.
(flip) I'd almost given up researching, but thanks to The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, I can tell you Al Rosen (4, 1951) Tris Speaker (3, 1923) and Andre Thornton (3, 1979) were the other Indians with three grand slams in a season as of 1996; Jim Thome hit three in 1999 and Travis Hafner ripped six in 2006. Ramirez—who also cracked three slams for the 2000 Tribe—wound up with 21 career grand slams, third all-time.
That two-homer day against the Yankees? 9/3/93; Ramirez powered a 7-3 win with his blasts off SP Melido Perez and RP Paul Gibson.
This may be the only baseball card in circulation featuring the word "salvos".
Even then, Ramirez seemed a little bigger than 6'0", 190 lbs.
AFTER THIS CARD: Four more years of blasting with the Indians, including 165 RBI for the 1999 team. Mega-deal from Boston. Braids. Streak of 11 All-Star appearances. Seemingly constant trade requests out of Boston. A lot of bashing. 2002 batting title. Leading the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series title and appearing on the cover of MVP Baseball 2005. Cutting off a throw from fellow outfielder Johnny Damon, leading to an inside-the-park homer.
500 home runs. Knocking down a traveling secretary. Finally traded out of Boston to the Dodgers. Domination in LA, where "Mannywood" is born. Fails first PED test and suspended 50 games. Dodgers eventually dump him on White Sox for nothing. Signs with Tampa Bay. Fails second PED test and suspended 100 games. Retires instead. Un-retires and signs with Oakland. Never called up after reduced suspension ends. 555 career homers. Well short of HOF induction.
Manny Ramirez appeared annually in Topps 1992-2012, except 1993 (1992 was a Draft Pick card). He also shows up in 2008 Topps Update as a brand-new Dodger.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Cleveland Indians
4/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #SP-15 Colin Rea, Padres
More Colin Rea Topps Cards: 2016 2017
In the mid-10's, Rea was a mid-level Padres pitching prospect good enough to play in the 2015 All-Star Futures Game. By the end of that season he was in the majors, going 2-2, 4.26 in six starts (his best start, seven shutout innings at Coors Field, resulted in a no-decision, however.)
In 2016 Rea ranked as the San Diego's #7 prospect (per Baseball America) and opened the year with the team. He didn't excel, nor did he stink—Rea pitched just well enough to remain in the rotation until being dealt to the Marlins in July.
But in his first start as a Marlin, Rea left in the 4th inning with an elbow strain; Miami cried "damaged goods" and traded him back to the Padres. He did not pitch again in 2016.
Here, Rea is fresh off a 2017 season spent on the sidelines following UCL surgery in November 2016.
THIS CARD: Rea (pronounced RAY) gears up to throw his low-90's heat (though an MLB.com scouting report clocked him up to 96 at one point), cutter, two-seamer or curve. He also had a changeup in the works.
This photo is from 2016, as proven by the All-Star Game patch on Rea's sleeve; it was held at San Diego's Petco Park that year.
I've explained before, but here you go again: for COTD, I include players featured in 2017-19 Topps Factory Team Sets who do not have cards in the 2017-19 base/Update sets. Rea is one of those players, excluded from 2018 Topps after spending all of 2017 sidelined.
(flip) Rea might have been slated to return from his surgery, but it hasn't happened yet, at least not in the regular season.
That Trade With Marlins sent Luis Castillo back to Miami; he'd gone to SD in the original trade that sent Rea to Miami. (Note: it IS the same Luis Castillo who now stars for the Reds. No connection to the Luis Castillo of the 2000's Marlins.)
For some context, those 2016 Padres who went 11-8 behind Rea were 57-86 vs. the rest of MLB.
That's strange. Rea had a Twitter handle on his 2017 Topps card...but not here.
AFTER THIS CARD: Since his surgery, as we mentioned above, Rea has not made it back to MLB. He had a rough comeback season at two MiLB levels in '18 and was let go by the Padres, but then went 14-4, 3.95 for AAA Iowa (Cubs) in 2019. Rea was in camp for the 2020 Cubs but didn't look likely to win a job.
Colin Rea has appeared in the 2016-17 Topps base sets, and the 2018 Topps Padres Factory Team Set.
CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, San Diego Padres
4/19/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #432 Damaso Garcia, Expos
More Damaso Garcia Topps Cards: 1987 1988
When the 1980's Toronto Blue Jays rose to prominence in the AL East, Damaso Garcia was their leadoff hitter and main man at 2B. Originally a Yankee, Garcia came to Toronto in the six-player deal that sent C Rick Cerone to New York (to replace the late Thurman Munson) in November 1979.
Garcia could ball a little bit. That was evidenced by his 4th-place finish in the 1980 AL Rookie Of The Year voting, his 1982 Silver Slugger Award, and his 1984-85 All-Star selections. He wasn't going to hit the ball 400 feet, but he was going to set the table for the guys who did. At the end of '86, Garcia was Toronto's all-time leader in hits and steals.
(And if you're familiar with the story of Garcia burning his uniform, know that it wasn't out of protest or anything; he was successfully trying to bust a slump.)
But at that time—at least on the record—Toronto's minor league depth made Garcia expendable and he was traded to Atlanta in February 1987; 15 months later he'd done nothing for the Braves and was released. Here, he's just completed what would be his lone season as a Montreal Expo, splitting time at 2B with lefty-hitting Tom Foley.
THIS CARD: This is a special, non-random selection in memory of Garcia, who passed away from unspecified causes 4/15/20 (at least, that's when it was reported). Why didn't we use his 1987 Topps card depicting him with the more-familiar Blue Jays? Simple—too many of our 1987 Topps selections are of deceased players, and besides, we hadn't chosen 1990 Topps in a while.
Garcia bats at an unidentifiable stadium. Probably his biggest highlight of 1989 was helping Montreal erase a four-run, 9th-inning deficit with a go-ahead two-run homer off Reds relief ace John Franco. The Expos went on to the 6-5 victory.
Notable Expos of my era to wear #4? After Garcia, Delino Deshields Sr. and Mark Grudzielanek took turns with it for four seasons each...not bad, I guess.
(flip) Garcia did not start either Classic. He went a combined 1-for-3 with a steal for the American League.
Garcia was on the disabled list in 1987 after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. It was only supposed to sideline him a few weeks, but he never made it back that year.
Check out those 54 steals in 1982; Garcia finished a close 2nd in the AL to Rickey Henderson (130).
AFTER THIS CARD: Nothing. The Yankees, ironically, brought Garcia and Cerone back at the same time in December 1989, but only Cerone made the team. Garcia never played professionally again.
In July 1991, Garcia underwent surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, and that was pretty much the last I heard about him until his recent passing. He was preceded in death by former Jays DP partner Tony Fernandez in February 2020.
Damaso Garcia appeared in Topps annually 1981-1990, except 1989.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Montreal Expos, Now Deceased
4/20/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #150 Doc Gooden, Mets
More Doc/Dwight Gooden Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1997 1999 2000 2000T
First of all, it is a 100% TOTAL coincidence that, on 4/20, we're presenting a COTD subject who's been battling drug abuse for a long time. (Even as I type this sentence I'm debating a re-selection.) In no way are we attempting to be edgy or ironic. Gooden was a fully random selection.
Gooden, of course, was among the game's top pitching stars in the 1980's, especially in his first three seasons when he posted a combined 58-19 record with a 2.28 ERA and helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series (even if he didn't celebrate with the team).
While still a winning pitcher and the Mets #1 starter, Gooden's superstardom ended around this time, as he missed a third of 1987 in a drug treatment center. After his 18 wins aided New York's 1988 postseason return, Gooden lost half of '89 with a shoulder injury. When available to pitch, however, "Doc" continued to rack up W's, including 19 in 1990 with the 2nd-most K in the NL.
Here, however, Gooden is coming off his second straight losing season despite decent secondary numbers. Even after famed manager Dallas Green took over the club, the 1993 Mets were a catastrophe; at one point Gooden became a casualty without even trying.
THIS CARD: For the sixth and last time in a Topps set, Gooden is referred to as "Doc". Following his hiatus from baseball, he finished out his Topps run as "Dwight", beginning with the 1997 set.
I bet you don't own two other cards, Topps or otherwise, with a pitcher on the basepaths. Gooden was a complete player, however; in his career he batted .196 with eight HR and even stole a base in 1991! Which makes it all the more worse he threw so much talent away.
Gooden's unique 1994 Topps front image somewhat makes up for the similarity between his 1993 and 1991 Topps front images.
(flip) Topps still gave Gooden the star treatment in card #150 despite his ordinary numbers.
Gooden won that first shutout vs. Colorado 3-0 at Shea Stadium, scattering four hits. In his other shutout about a month later, he victimized Florida—the other expansion team. Way to pick on the new kids, Doc...
We might never see 27 decisions in 29 (1993) starts again.
Only 28 in 1993, Gooden looks a solid 40 in this photo. No shock, given the activities he'd taken up.
AFTER THIS CARD: Gooden spent most of 1994 and all of 1995 suspended from MLB due to his continued drug abuse. He resurfaced in 1996 with the New York Yankees, for whom he threw a no-hitter and helped reach the 1996 postseason (the Yankees eventually won the World Series, but Gooden was inactive in October). After one more year in New York, Gooden joined the Indians for 1998-99; you may remember his ejection from Game 2 of the 1998 ALDS only 22 pitches in.
The 36-year-old split the 2000 between the Astros, Devil Rays and the Yankees again. It would wrap his big league career, as he failed to win a job with the 2001 Yankees and retired. Sadly, he has continued to have off-field problems in retirement, though he was notably enshrined in the Mets Hall Of Fame in 2010 and authored a pretty good memoir in 2013.
Doc/Dwight Gooden appeared annually in Topps 1985-1994, and again in 1997, 1999 and 2000. He's also got 1984 and 2000 Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, New York Mets
4/22/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #649 Jordan Danks, White Sox
More Jordan Danks Topps Cards: 2012U 2013
After watching Philip Humber's 2012 perfect game replayed on MLB Network today, I just KNEW our next random selection would be someone connected to it. While Jordan Danks did not play in that game—he was still in the minors—he did get the call by the White Sox a couple of months later and thus was a teammate of everyone who did play in it. There's your (broad) connection.
Danks was a #19 pick by the Sox in 2005, went to school, and ended up a #7 pick by the Sox in 2008. After three Spring Training invites, his contract was finally purchased by Chicago in June 2012, and so began a three-season ping-pong between the majors and minors.
Here, Danks has again split the season between AAA Charlotte and Chicago. Recalled by the Sox three separate times during 2013, Danks finished with 40 games started in the outfield—31 of them in August/September after RF Alex Rios was dispatched to Texas.
THIS CARD: According to Getty Images, that is Mike Aviles forcing out Danks at second base, though with $1M on the line I'd have (nervously) bet it was Asdrubal Cabrera. Those glasses seriously distort Aviles' identity.
Also per Getty: the pic was shot 6/30/13. Cleveland beat Chicago 4-0 that day; Danks started in CF and singled in the 6th but was wiped out on a Tyler Flowers GIDP.
From SportsLogos.net: the White Sox wore these unis to mark 30 years since their '83 AL West division title. So popular was the look that it became a permanent alternate in 2014 (not hurting their case: 2013 Chicago's 9-6 record with the old-school look).
(flip) Billy Shantz homered to make a winner out of Bobby Shantz on 6/3/1955; it was his second of two career home runs.
On 8/25/2013, Jordan Danks came off the bench to homer and bloop single vs. Texas in support of John Danks. (Starting RF Avisail Garcia ran into the wall and departed early.)
More about that game-ender: Danks sent the Athletics home unhappy with the two-out solo shot off an inside fastball by Pat Neshek.
AFTER THIS CARD: Remarkably, Danks did not make Chicago's roster out of Spring Training 2014, and was again shuttled back and forth to AAA three times that year. In the end, he appeared in 51 games, but only hit .222 with a meager .291 SLG. When the Sox signed Emilio Bonifacio the following January, Danks was designated for assignment.
The 28-year-old joined the Phillies via waivers, but of his 412 PA in 2015, 408 were with AAA Lehigh Valley. Danks didn't exactly tear up the International League, and his pro career ended after a short run with Texas in March 2016. Here's<