Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2015
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2/3/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #354 Dave Bergman, Tigers
More Dave Bergman Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
TSR eschews the standard random selection process in memory of Bergman, who passed away in early February 2015.
As a Yankee prospect in the 70's, Bergman showed much promise, hitting for moderate power, stealing bases and even winning two batting titles down on the farm. But the star-laden Yankees of the late 70's had no room for him, and he was sent to Houston. Thus began an 15-season career role-playing for the Astros, Giants and Tigers.
Bergman was used almost exclusively against RHP—he recorded just 255 lifetime at-bats against lefties—and for many years subbed way more than he started. But in Detroit, he was used in a platoon of sorts with various other first sackers and also as a pinch-hitter/defensive sub.
He never came close to matching his minors production, but he helped the Tigers to a championship in 1984. Additionally, his late-game defense helped secure Jack Morris' Opening Day no-hitter that year! But Bergman is best remembered for a memorable 13-pitch, walk-off, three-run homer against Toronto's Roy Lee Jackson in June of 1984.
By 1989, Bergman was the lowly Tigers' primary first baseman. Knowing this, 10-year-old me was puzzled as to why Cecil Fielder was brought in when Detroit already had a perfectly good first baseman. 51 homers later, the puzzle was solved...with conviction.
Bergman spent his final two years subbing for Fielder, pinch-hitting and spot starting as always.
THIS CARD: Is that how Bergman performed two hidden-ball tricks in his career—stashing one in his pant leg? He appears to be moving to catch an around-the-horn throw or possibly prepping to field a high chopper. Setting is Fenway Park.
I chose 1992 Topps initially because it's been so scarcely represented in COTD. Then I sifted thru my 1993 Topps set and found...no Bergman, even though he was a Tiger all of 1992 and didn't retire until January 1993. So this turns out to be his final Topps card.
(flip) Look at 1980—90 games, 78 AB. Poor guy. At least they went to the playoffs.
Let's spend some time on the vitals box: Bergman was acquired via trade not with the Giants, but with the Phillies, to whom the Giants traded him earlier in the winter; the later swap went down one day after my 4th birthday. Bergman moved to Michigan upon settling in Detroit. Also, why couldn't Topps just add the "a" in draft? It's just one more lousy letter!
AFTER THIS CARD: Bergman played one more season with the Tigers before retiring at 39. Later, after longtime friend and ex-Astro Joe Niekro died of a brain aneurysm, Bergman worked with the Joe Niekro Foundation which supports treatment, research, etc. of that condition. He himself died of bile duct cancer on 2/2/15, age 61.
Dave Bergman appeared in every Topps set 1981-1992.
2/6/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps Update #147 Eric Patterson
More Eric Patterson Topps Cards: 2008U 2010U
Patterson is embarking on what would be an unremarkable five-season MLB career, most of which took place with the Athletics for whom he started 79 games 2008-10. Despite some impressive minor-league numbers—in three separate seasons he slugged between .494 and .529 and also stole between 43-61 bags thrice—he never approached the same level of success in the majors.
Perhaps this is due to Patterson, exclusively a 2B in the minors, spending the vast majority of his MLB career in the outfield with limited minor league training. Or the fact he was shuttled to and from AAA countless times early in his career. Or his multiple hamstring injuries. In any event, he's posted a .217/294/303 line in 508 MLB at-bats to date.
THIS CARD: You don't know how much effort it took to find out who the "Lewis" to Patterson's right is. #24, according to BaseballReference.com, was worn by catcher Henry Blanco in both the 2006 and 2007 regular seasons. No one named Lewis played for the MLB Cubs either season.
Assuming this pic was shot in 2007 Spring Training, the Lewis in question has to be D.J. Lewis, an outfielder who never made it out of A-ball and was finished as a pro following this 2007 season. No clue about the background dude.
If you've seen Eric's big bro, veteran Cub/Oriole Corey Patterson, you'll note the strong resemblance. If you haven't, click the link.
(flip) Surprising that Topps mentioned Corey while making no mention of his also starting his career with the Cubs (in 2000). The wording of Eric's week with the Cubs makes him sound like a groupie rather than a player. And the word "career" should have been before "SB". In short, Topps half-assed this particular blurb.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2008, Patterson joined Oakland in the Rich Harden trade (a deal that also sent then-prospect and future star Josh Donaldson to the A's). He embarked on a journeyman career and has spent the past three seasons between the Tigers/Brewers organizations and York of the Independent League—with no recalls to the majors as of this posting.
Eric Patterson never appeared in a Topps base set, but was featured in the 2007, 2008 and 2010 Update sets.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps Update, Chicago Cubs
2/8/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #159 Darrin Fletcher, Phillies
More Darrin Fletcher Topps Cards: 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Our second 1992 Topps in three selections—hiatus time.
You have no idea how awkward it felt to write "Phillies" next to Fletcher's name. He enjoyed a long MLB career, the overwhelming majority spent north of the border for both Montreal and Toronto. Though never a bona fide star on either side of the ball, Fletcher did make the 1994 All-Star team, could have made at least two more, and was a big league regular for most of a decade.
Here, Fletcher is in the fledgling stages of his career, taking some of the at-bats vacated by the injured Darren Daulton.
THIS CARD: Is Bobby Bonilla out or safe? Thanks to BaseballReference.com as well as Fletcher's limited exposure in 1991, we might be able to determine exactly when this play took place.
According to my research, Fletcher played in four games at Pittsburgh in 1991. Bonilla played in and reached base in all four games, but only attempted to score in three. So much for process of elimination.
On May 26, Bonilla drew a 5th-inning walk and was eventually gunned at home.
On September 20, Bonilla scored from second on a base hit.
On September 21, Bonilla scored from first on a triple.
My educated guess: this is from May 26. The 9/20 play had Bobby Bo coming in from second on a grounder deep thru the hole—there were two outs and he'd have been going on contact. While it's true the ball would have gotten to LF Wes Chamberlain fairly quickly on the Three Rivers Stadium turf, I just don't see the play being that close given those circumstances.
In the 9/21 game, Barry Bonds had tripled down the RF line, scoring Bonilla from first. There were again two outs, so Bonilla's going on contact, 35-year-old Dale Murphy was in RF, and Fletcher's position suggests he isn't completing a swipe tag—which he'd have to do to be in this position after fielding a throw from RF.
That leaves May 26. Good detective work, Skillz.
(flip) 20-year-old lefty Tom Fletcher made a single 1962 relief appearance for the Tigers, going two scoreless innings against Boston—even retiring a young Carl Yastrzemski on a groundout! Despite posting a 2.98 ERA over five succeeding MiLB seasons, the elder Fletcher never cleared AAA again and was done as a pro at 26.
For those unfamiliar, The Big Ten references a venerable and famed NCAA division.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Daulton back healthy for '92 (and ultimately starting 137 games), Fletcher was reluctantly traded to Montreal for RP Barry Jones, apparently in an effort to replace indecisive free agent RP Mitch Williams.
Fletcher spent six seasons with the Expos—he averaged about 12 homers, 55 RBI over the last five. He signed a two-year deal with Toronto after the '97 season for about $4M, then earned what ended up as a three-year, $9M deal on the strength of a break-out 1999 (18 homers and 80 RBI in only 115 games!)
Unfortunately, following a 20-homer 2000 season, the veteran's production dipped severely. By mid-2002, he was no longer the regular catcher and abruptly retired in July at 35. Darrin Fletcher appeared in Topps annually from 1991-2002.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
2/12/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #114 John Koronka, Rangers
More John Koronka Topps Cards: 2006
Looks like 2007 Topps is going on hiatus as well.
In the scheme of major league baseball, John Koronka was a nobody. But he won eight more major league games and pitched 158 more major league innings than you or I ever did. #Perspective
Koronka, a 1998 12th-rounder by Cincinnati, had already bounced thru three other organizations before 26, his age on this card. Statistically, he was up and down on the farms (way up in 2002; see below text). But when Cubs ace Mark Prior had his arm broken by a comebacker, Koronka was summoned to take his place. He didn't last long.
Needing an arm to replace injured SP Adam Eaton (not the current White Sox speedster), Texas acquired Koronka in late spring '06.
THIS CARD: The high kick makes Koronka look five inches taller than he was/is.
Texas' newest hurler busted out strong in 2006 (4-1, 3.65), but an 11.25 second-half ERA landed him back in the minors by August. After two fill-in starts the next season, Koronka's Rangers career ended.
(flip) That's a lot of bus rides.
Check out that 2002 season with A Stockton. Low-level minors or not, 11-0 is impressive.
I was always led to believe pitchers should focus on the catcher's target as soon as his windup begins. This image could be an abberation, but if not, it could explain some of Koronka's struggles.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not much. Following a brief Japanese League stint, the Florida native made two less-than-stellar starts with the Marlins in 2009...and never got another major league call. An article I read stated Koronka developed the yips, but I've been unable to confirm that one way or the other. Following 2011's close, he took a scouting job with the Cubs.
This was John Koronka's second and final Topps card; he also appeared in 2006.
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Texas Rangers
2/18/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #4 Dave Lopes Record Breaker
More 1987 Topps Record Breaker Cards: #1 #2 #3 #5 #6 #7
First of all, who the hell is "Dave" Lopes? Is he Davey Lopes' dad?
More known to the current generation as a base coach for several teams and habitual managerial candidate, Lopes was a pretty decent player in the 70's-80's most notably for the Dodgers and Athletics. Here, as the sun begins to set on his MLB career, Topps recognizes Lopes for setting a new record for quadragenarians with 25 steals.
Off-topic: I've got to come up with a nickname for guys like Lopes who become "hot" candidates for just about every managerial opening over a five-year period, and either never get hired or flame out fairly quickly.
THIS CARD: First of all, unless BaseballReference.com is wrong, Lopes turned 40 on 5/3/85, not '86. This would mean his 47 steals that year actually lapped Wagner's old record! His 1987 base card—the front of which barely differs from this card—lists his birthday one year later than BR does. This will require further investigation.
While I'm virtually certain no other 40-year-olds topped 47 steals in the 30 years since Lopes (apparently) did, his (alleged) record of 25 has been broken by Rickey Henderson twice, and that's all I feel like researching at this time.
(flip) Shouldn't it say "The" Astros?
Honus Wagner stole 723 bases from 1897 to 1917, all but the first 84 coming with the Pirates. Wagner started out with the Louisville Colonels, who folded after 1899; half their roster was raided by Pittsburgh.
AFTER THIS CARD: Lopes spent one more quiet season in the majors exclusively as a pinch-hitter (he accumulated 38 innings of defense the entire season). He retired with 557 steals, among the top 20 all-time for players exclusively active after 1900.
As alluded to, Lopes' name was thrown around so much as a "hot" managerial candidate in the late 1990's until common fans such as myself grew sick of hearing it (think Manny Acta circa 2006 or so). He finally landed a gig with the 2000 Brewers, but found himself a lame duck entering '02 even as members of his staff held contracts through 2003.
Milwaukee dropped 12 of 16 to start the season, and Lopes paid with his job. Though he's held a variety of coaching jobs since, Lopes never managed again—not even on an interim basis.
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Subsets
2/22/15 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #602 Scott Garrelts, Giants
More Scott Garrelts Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992
1990 Topps—my first-ever completed set—appears in COTD yet again. It leads all other sets by a mile and unlike some of the others, every selection has been Randomized. I can't explain it—must be cosmic.
In that 1989-90 stretch, the Giants featured four pitchers who I, at that point in their careers, felt were interchangeable. Kelly Downs, Mike LaCoss, Don Robinson and Garrelts were all kind of the same guy to me (even though I now know they weren't.) With the exception of the younger Downs, they were all boring old righties who didn't strike out a ton of guys and weren't really starters or relievers—they just pitched whenever Roger Craig felt like using them.
Sorry. I was a baseball idiot at 10.
Garrelts was the only one to spend his whole MLB career with the Giants, who selected him #15 overall out of high school in 1979. As a prospect, Garrelts routinely posted BB/9 rates over five, with an astronomical 7.6 figure for A Clinton in 1980 (149 BB in 176 IP—not a misprint).
Still, the kid was tough to hit and was summoned to the majors in 1982 at 20; one year later he impressed in a September rotation audition, even shutting out the Astros in Houston!
By 1985, when he combatted his control problems by pitching exclusively from the stretch, Garrelts was an All-Star...reliever. He'd go on to save 48 games over the next four seasons—a respectable total for the times—but 1988 had been a struggle.
Craig felt Garrelts would be more efficient as a starter, so in '89 he returned to the rotation—and responded with a career year (14-5, NL-best 2.28 ERA, 6th-place Cy Young Award finish) for the NL Champs.
THIS CARD: At least the "Giants" on this card is only slightly obscured.
Whatever mound Garrelts is throwing from must be literally in front of an outfield wall. He seems to be about five feet from it. That's a home uniform, ruling out certain opposing bullpens. We'll just file this under Topps "arcane backdrops".
Garrelts wore #50 from 1984 on after changing numbers five times over the previous 18 months.
(flip) Garrelts K'd more hitters in September than July/August combined. Thank you, September call-ups.
He also whiffed more in May than April/June combined—credit two starts against Philly (16 total K; Garrelts pitched the opener of what would be Mike Schmidt's final series, holding him hitless) and a seven-inning, four-K relief appearance on top of his six May starts.
As you see, Garrelts had some healthy K rates as a reliever (he threw up to 95 mph). He won his first four starts of September '89 and could have easily won all six—he allowed three runs in eight IP in a near-shutout loss to Houston, then allowed a first-inning run to LA that held up.
AFTER THIS CARD: Garrelts suffered two 1989 World Series losses and began 1990 so poorly he nearly lost his rotation spot. He did turn things around, only for his major league career to end in 1991 following Tommy John surgery—comeback attempts in the San Diego and Kansas City organizations both failed.
Scott Garrelts debuted in 1985 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1986-92.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, San Francisco Giants