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Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2023

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A = Alternate Card  •  B = Bonus Factory Set Card  •  F = Factory Team Set  •  G = Giveaway Set  •  I = Insert Card  •  T = Traded Set  •  U = Update Set


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Topps Stan Javier
Topps Stan Javier

2/28/23 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #446 Stan Javier, Angels

More Stan Javier Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994T 1995 1996 1997 1998 2001 2002

No known relation to Christian. (Although he IS the son of Julian.)

Here, Javier, the seasoned outfielder who helped Oakland reach the 1988-89 World Series before moving on to the Dodgers, is coming off his lone season with the Angels (then prefixed "California"). Teams weren't exactly bidding for free agent Javier's services in the winter of 1992-93, not after he slugged .314 in 130 games in '92 (and slugged—not batted, SLUGGED—.284 in 121 games the year before that).

The 29-year-old ended up signing a MiLB deal with the Angels in January 1993, but made the team and pocketed $600K that year—good dollars for someone in Javier's position.

THIS CARD: Tell me: did YOU know Javier played for the Angels, not just in 1993 but ever? I admit I did not know Javier had been with California until obtaining this very card sometime in 1994.

1992-94 Topps packs, if I remember correctly, featured one or two Topps Gold variations depending on the size of the pack; as I built most of my 1990's Topps collection through packs, I have my share of Topps Gold variations from the aforementioned sets...including Mr. Javier.

We see Javier batting from the left side at an unidentified road ballpark; the natural righty hitter was taught to switch-hit by his papa and went on to hit 40 of his 57 career homers left-handed!

(flip) See Javier here? That's exactly how he looked as a 1985 rookie, and how he looked in his final season of 2001. Other than a mustache, Javier's appearance never really changed at any point in his playing career.

THAT is the kind of s--- I want to read in blurbs! That's interesting and creepy, like when my old teammate of Middle Eastern decent hit his first TWO career home runs on 9/11/2004 at a field with frequently passing planes (from the nearby airport).

Few of those statistics are impressive in any way, and some of those slugging percentages are plain painful. but Javier was one of those players whose value didn't show up statistically. He had a knack for doing small things that made differences in ballgames—taking an extra base, making a heady throw, taking a tough pitch in the dirt that others might chase. 

The common fan might not notice/appreciate a player like Javier, but baseball people do—he didn't last 17 MLB seasons based on nepotism.

AFTER THIS CARD: Javier signed a 2Y/$1.2M deal with the now-rebuilding A's in December 1993; he took over as their CF and batted .272 with a whopping (for him) 10 home runs! After a similar performance in 1995, Javier signed consecutive two-year deals—in December 1995 and November 1997—with my Giants ultimately worth $5.6M total.

Though he lost half of 1996 to a right hamstring strain, Javier played frequently at all three OF spots in 1997-98, batting an aggregate .288, 12, 99 for the resurgent Giants.

Javier was traded to Houston at the August 1999 Deadline and started two of their four NLDS games against Atlanta. That December, the 35-year-old signed with Seattle for 1Y/$1.5M (with a $1.5M club option for 2001 that was exercised).

As a fourth outfielder, he batted .292 in 89 games for the 116-win 2001 Mariners, then accounted for all of Seattle's offense in ALCS Game 2 with a two-run homer off Yankee great Mike Mussina. For good measure, he also robbed 2B Alfonso Soriano of a home run in Game 4! Following Seattle's eventual ALCS loss, Javier retired at 37.

Stan Javier appeared in 1987, 1989-98, and 2001-02 Topps; he also turns up in 1990 and 1994 Traded. Want him as a Yankee or Astro? Tough. (Javier was also omitted from 1999-2000 Topps despite appearing in 130+ games in both represented seasons...damn Dark Era.)

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, California Angels


More February 2023 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps John Smoltz
Topps John Smoltz

2/1/23 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #535 John Smoltz, Braves

More John Smoltz Topps Cards: 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

Here, the talented, hard-throwing Smoltz has just completed his first full season in the major leagues. It was a giant leap forward for the 22-year-old, as he inished with the ninth-most K in the NL and was Atlanta's only pitcher to reach 200 innings. 

THIS CARD: As you see here, young Smoltz with minimal facial hair wasn't all that intimidating. That would soon change.

We see Smoltz about to deliver either his mid-to-upper-90's fastball, his big curve, his hard slider, or his effective changeup. I'm fairly sure Smoltz didn't have his vaunted splitter when he entered MLB, but I wasn't able to find evidence either way.

More from Smoltz's 1989 season: anytime you finish 12-11 for a team that lost 97 games, you've had a good year. But  for a time, Smoltz was headed toward a great year—the youngster was 11-6, 2.10 thru 7/7 but slumped horribly to open August, dropping to 11-11 on 8/14 before winning his next start. Smoltz was shut down after his 9/5 outing (elbow pain).

(flip) While Smoltz is surely proud of his three amateur championships, it doesn't make for a good Topps blurb. I would have accepted "John was a 1989 NL All-Star". Which he was.

As you can see, one of Smoltz's 1988 Braves stats are NOT correct; I'm pretty sure he did not allow 340 runs in 64 innings pitched. The actual total was 40; I thought Topps might have made a factory set correction since this card was from a wax pack—but they evidently did not. (The error is fixed in 1991 Topps, however.)

Another incorrect item: Smoltz is listed as "Signed" rather than drafted. The Tigers took him #22 in 1985, but this was not shown on Smoltz's Topps cards until 1996.

AFTER THIS CARD: Over the next four seasons (1990-93), Smoltz made two NL All-Star teams and won 58 games for the Braves, but he's probably best remembered for a game he didn't win. After the abbreviated 1994 season, Smoltz underwent elbow surgery, but by 1996 he was a 24-game winner and recepient of the NL Cy Young Award. That was one season after his Braves defeated Cleveland in the World Series!

Smoltz re-upped with Atlanta (4Y/$31M) in November 1996, then turned in good-to-great 1997-99 seasons even with ongoing elbow pain that eventually required UCL surgery. Smoltz—despite missing all of 2000—was re-signed by Atlanta for 3Y/$30M in March 2001; he returned briefly as a starter that May before more elbow woes led to a bullpen transition. By late August, he was closing games.

From 2002-04, Smoltz racked up 144 saves in mostly dominant fashion, and re-signed with Atlanta for 3Y/$28M (including signing bonus and exercised 2007 option) in December 2004. His long-standing itch to start again was finally scratched in 2005; the now-legendary Brave averaged almost 15 wins annually 2005-07, made two more NL All-Star teams and was extended thru 2008 for $14M.


But three DL stints (including labrum surgery) wrecked Smoltz's '08 season and his pricey 2009 team option was declined. The 42-year-old spent his final MLB season looking strange in Red Sox and Cardinals uniforms, finishing 2009 at 3-8, 6.35 in 15 combined starts.


Smoltz finished up with 213 wins and 154 saves across 22 seasons—plus eight NL All-Star selections, his 1992 NLCS MVP Award, his 1996 NL Cy Young Award, and for good measure, his 1997 Sliver Slugger! Cherry on top: Smoltz's 15-4, 2.67 postseason record; his #29 was retired by Atlanta in 2012 and he entered the Hall of Fame first-ballot in 2015.

After a stint with TBS, Smoltz has worked alongside Joe Buck on FOX MLB broadcasts since 2016, but his MLB Network run came to a sudden end in 2021. Click here for some quirky Smoltz trivia.​

John Smoltz appeared annually in Topps 1989-2010 (yes, he's got a Cardinals Topps card which doubles as his sunset card). He's also got some excellent variants I wouldn't mind owning one day.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Atlanta Braves

Topps Benji Gil
Topps Benji Gil

2/2/23 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #536 Benji Gil, Angels

More Benji Gil Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1993T 1994 1995 1996 2001 2002

Benji Gil was, at one time, the Rangers "shortstop of the future". And he did eventually claim that job. But poor offense coupled with back surgery prevented him from holding the job for very long, and he spent two seasons of his prime back in the minor leagues.

Gil resurfaced with the 2000 Angels, and even served as their regular SS for much of the first half—despite scuffling on both sides of the ball—while incumbent Gary DiSarcina recovered from rotator cuff surgery. Gil returned to Anaheim in 2001 and hit a surprising .296 in a utility role; here, he's fresh off a 2002 campaign that began with a long injury interruption but ended with a very strong postseason performance for the World Series champion Angels (partially at my Giants expense....grrr.)

THIS CARD: I tend to forget that Gil was/is not a small man. It must be his name that causes me to forget he was a solid 6'2", 210 lbs. during his career.


In Angels history, #10 has been worn by many notable players A) who were just passing through, or B) on a temporary basis. Among them: Tony Armas Sr., Dave Hollins and Vernon Wells. Pricey OF Justin Upton had #10 for his final two Angel seasons after switching from #8. Gil had worn #22 and #23 during his Texas days.

More from Gil's 2002 season: with Shawn Wooten injured and Scott Spiezio suspended, Gil opened '02 as the Angels 1B. That setup lasted one inning into the season's fourth game, when Gil collided with runner Rusty Greer while racing him to the bag. The resulting sprained ankle kept Gil out most of the first two months, but he bounced back with a .345 average in his first 22 games off the DL! On 9/18 at Oakland, Gil started at 2B and went 3-for-3 with two doubles.

(flip) Not shown in the stats: the 1998 and 1999 seasons, which Gil spent with AAA Calgary for two different organizations. How?

Calgary went from a White Sox affiliate in '98 to a Marlins affiliate in '99, and those same Marlins acquired Gil in the minor league phase of the now-defunct Rule V Draft. Such draftees were not required to spend the next year in the bigs, as with the major league phase of the draft. So Florida stashed Gil at Calgary as Chicago had.

That historic fifth inning included 13 Angels batters and three Yankees pitchers (SP David Wells—who was allowed to cough up seven hits by manager Joe Torre—plus relievers Ramiro Mendoza and Orlando Hernandez). Gil, who finished up 8-for-12 during the '02 postseason, scored the second of those eight Anaheim runs.

All three of those 2002 home runs were hit against left-handers; Gil went 27-for-87 (.310) overall against southpaws that year.

AFTER THIS CARD: Released by Anaheim in August 2003, 30-year-old Gil signed MiLB deals with—or was purchased by—Cleveland, Colorado, the Cubs, Detroit, Seattle and the Mets over the next two years; that was followed by six more years playing in Mexico. But Gil never made it back to MLB in any capacity until re-joining the Angels as a coach in 2022. He is set to manage Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Benji Gil appeared in 1992-1996 and 2001-03 Topps. He's also got a 1993 Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Anaheim Angels

Topps Andres Galarraga
Topps Andres Galarraga

2/3/23 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #295 Andres Galarraga, Braves

More Andres Galarraga Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Galarraga, who from 1993-98 was among the most dangerous hitters around, was right in the middle of his most productive MLB stretch when this card was released. Proving his ridiculous 1996 line of .304, 47, 150 was no fluke, "The Big Cat" nearly matched those numbers in 1997—and might have if given equal at-bats—the final year of a 4Y/$16M deal (including incentives) he signed in December 1993.  

In November 1997, Galarraga signed with Atlanta for 3Y/$24.8M, replacing the traded Fred McGriff as the Braves' first baseman. The deal dwarfed Colorado's 2Y/$12M offer.

THIS CARD: Galarraga STUNS us all; remember that Topps Traded & Rookies was on a three-year hiatus 1996-98 so 1998 Topps featured many players with their new teams for the upcoming '98 season.

We present Galarraga in COTD for the second time; way back in November 2014 we profiled his 2001 Topps card. It didn't feel like that long ago; in fact, I can still remember researching his 2000 performance in preparation.

More from Galarraga's 1997 season: he started 150 games for Colorado, all at 1B, where he made a career-high-tying 15 errors but compensated with his prodigous bat. On 5/31, Galarraga did this. And on 7/14, he smoked a two-run homer off Dodgers reliever Mark Guthrie for career RBI #1000. He earned his third NL All-Star selection (1988, 1993), all as a reserve.

(flip) Even though the blurb acknowledges Galarraga's 1997 NL RBI title, the stats do not—he finished his Topps career without those 140 RBI ever being bold/italicized.

Since 1997, there has been exactly one back-to-back NL RBI champ: Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, 2015-16. And yes, I checked and re-checked.

Just by smiling, Galarraga looks several years younger in his reverse image compared to his front image. He's like a reverse Troy McClure

AFTER THIS CARD: Galarraga enjoyed a .305, 44, 121 season for the 1998 Braves, but was just 5-for-33 in the postseason—albeit with an NLCS grand slam—before sitting out 1999 for cancer treatment. He returned in 2000 and was especially strong in the first half, securing the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.


The now-40-year-old spent 2001 with the Rangers and Giants, then joined the Expos (again) Giants (again) and Angels from 2002-04 in part-time roles—even beating cancer a second time in 2004! Sitting on 399 homers entering 2005, Galarraga went to camp with the Mets but retired at age 43 before the season started.


Andres Galarraga debuted in 1986 Topps Traded, then appeared in every Topps set from 1987-2003. He was omitted from the 2004 set despite playing over 100 games and amassing nearly 300 PA's (with 12 homers) for San Francisco. Galarraga also has 1992-93 and 2001-03 Traded cards; as far as I can tell he has no cards as an Angel.

CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Atlanta Braves, Goofs

Topps Jose Berrios
Topps Jose Berrios

2/4/23 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #506 Jose Berrios, Twins

More Jose Berrios Topps Cards: 2016U 2017 2019 2020 2021 2022

Berrios, who exudes confidence and control on the mound, came up to the Twins in late April 2016 and did not have a smooth experience in either of his two stints with the team that season. But here, the 23-year-old has completed a 14-win campaign for the 85-win 2017 Twins, showing ace potential along the way. Berrios pitched at least five innings in each of his first 11 starts for Minnesota but battled inconsistency and fatigue in the second half.

THIS CARD: According to Getty Images, we're seeing Berrios in his 8/12/2017 start at Detroit. That day, the youngster went 3.1 innings, allowing six runs (all earned) on six hits while striking out exactly none. Opposing SP Jordan Zimmermann, however, was just as bad for the Tigers, and Berrios still left with a 7-6 lead! His Twins eventually fell 12-11 on a walk-off, two-run homer by OF Justin Upton.

Berrios is about to deliver either his mid-to-high-90's four-seamer, his slightly slower two-seamer, his sinking changeup, or a curveball that might well be the best I've ever seen—I can still remember watching Berrios for the first time and being wholly mystified by the snap on his hook.

More from Berrios's 2017 season: he allowed just one earned run across his first two starts (15.1 IP) and was 7-1, 2.67 thru eight starts. He then went 3-4, 6.20 over his next nine starts, and alternated strong outings with not-so-strong outings.for the rest of the season. Berrios last started 9/24; Minnesota wanted him available in relief for the AL Wild Card Game and only used him once after that (a 1.1-inning relief appearance 9/29 vs. Detroit).

(flip) Berrios's Twitter account—unconventional handle and all—remains active, although there's been no public posts since May 2022.

Berrios did not make his 2017 Twins debut until 5/13; he was recalled from AAA Rochester after opening the year 3-0, 1.13 in six starts.

Of those 139 K for the '17 Twins, 11 came in a win versus Colorado in his second start 5/18. Berrios matched that total 8/30 against the visiting White Sox.

AFTER THIS CARD: Berrios earned back-to-back All-Star nods in 2018-19, winning a combined 26 games for the Twins and emerging as their unquestioned ace. After a so-so 2020, Berrios—who ended that year with a well-pitched ND against Houston in the ALWCS—got off to a bright start for the 2021 Twins (7-5, 3.48 in 20 starts), catching Toronto's attention; the Jays sent two top prospects to Minnesota to acquire Berrios at the Deadline.

Berrios finished '21 at 12-9, 3.52 in 32 starts, and was signed to a 7Y/$131M extension by Toronto that November. However, 2022 proved difficult for the now-28-year-old, who was blasted on Opening Day (by Texas) and finished 12-7, 5.23 with AL worsts in hits (199) and earned runs (100) allowed.

Jose Berrios debuted in 2016 Topps Update, and has appeared in the Topps base set annually since 2017.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, Minnesota Twins

Topps Carlos Lee