Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, January 2021

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.'" -- Ben Franklin

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

 

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Topps Carlos Quintana
Topps Carlos Quintana

1/31/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #704 Carlos Quintana, Red Sox

More Carlos Quintana Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1994

I'll say this about Carlos Quintana: the guy had balls.

 

Quintana got the attention of young me in early 1993 when, after missing the entire 1992 season (more on that below), he took the Red Sox to arbitration for more than double his 1992 salary. Even at almost 13, I realized that was kind of jacked up—what had he done to earn a raise? Did he repaint Fenway Park while his injury healed?

If an idiot 13-year-old realizes a system that even allows a guy to demonstrate such audacity needs a major overhaul, the system probably needs a major overhaul. (Note: Quintana did not get his raise and was paid his 1992 salary of $340K in 1993.)

Here, Quintana is just a rookie, called up in September after a solid season for AAA Pawtucket. In fact, the 23-year-old led Pawtucket in homers and RBI by comfortable margins.

THIS CARD: In part due to the shadow, and the mini 'fro, Quintana seems chunkier in this pic than he actually was at the time. He did eventually balloon into the low-mid 200's.

"Hey, Carlos? Do us a favor. Go to the largest public open space you can find, walk to the middle of it and kneel. Also, look as if we just asked you what's 2,358 x 4,972."

More from Quintana's 1988 season: in his first Boston PA, he drew a pinch-hit, bases-loaded BB off Steve Shields of the Yankees. In his first Boston start, he went 2-for-3 with his other RBI.

(flip) Quintana is listed as an outfielder. For 1988 Pawtucket he played 43 games at 1B and 85 in the outfield; for the 1988 Red Sox, Quintana started three games in RF and pinch-hit twice.

Here, Quintana is one of the last cards (#704) in the set. In 1990 he'd be one of the first (#18).

I was unable to find out much about Willie Paffen other than he was based full-time in Venezuela and also signed ex-Boston IF Jackie Gutierrez. I couldn't even confirm if Paffen still walks this Earth.

AFTER THIS CARD: Quintana became Boston's starting 1B in 1990 and most of 1991, enjoying a six-RBI inning in the latter season. He was set to continue in that role in 1992 (ahead of a young Mo Vaughn) when he broke his arm and toe in a car crash in Venezuela. Quintana sat all of 1992, and we've discussed what happened prior to the 1993 season.

Quintana made the '93 Red Sox roster as a part-time 1B/OF, getting in 101 games but slugging just .271 (not a typo). Still, the Sox re-signed him for '94, only to cut him prior to that season to make roster room for newly-acquired prospect Glenn Murray. Quintana never resurfaced in MLB; the market for .271 sluggers at a corner position was unsurprisingly thin.

Carlos Quintana appeared in 1989-92 Topps, returning for one last dip in the 1994 set.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Boston Red Sox

 

More January 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Corey Knebel
Topps Corey Knebel

1/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps Card Of The Day #517 Corey Knebel, Brewers

More Corey Knebel Topps Cards: 2017 2018 2019

Doesn't it seem like every...single...year, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are short on pitching? Righty pitching, lefty pitching, starting pitching, relief pitching—you name it, those two franchises rank high among those short on it.

It doesn't help when both those franchises have in their grasp a young future All-Star and let him get away for minimal value, such as Corey Knebel. That's right: the Tigers originally drafted and developed Knebel, but sacrificed him in a 2014 trade with Texas for Joakim Soria barely a year after drafting him. (Soria himself was shipped out of Detroit in a year's time.)

What a steal for Texas, right? Uh, no, not quite. That winter, Texas had its eyes on Milwaukee SP Yovani Gallardo, and gave up young Knebel to get him. Perhaps Texas viewed Knebel, who missed the last several weeks of 2014 with a UCL strain, as damaged goods?

Here, Knebel has wrapped a 2015 season spent mostly in Milwaukee. He finished second on the team in K/9 (10.4), and on 8/3 vs. San Diego, he struck out the side on 11 pitches.

THIS CARD: Just so you're aware, it's pronounced Kuh-NAY-bul, though it looks like KNEE-bul.

I'm confounded: that is a #2 on Knebel's jersey, not the #46 he wore his entire Brewers career, according to Baseballreference.com. But looking up this pic on GettyImages, the original clearly shows the "4" in "46". Why on Earth Topps doctored the uniform number is anybody's guess...but they obviously did.

Via Getty, we were able to identify the date/time of this card's front image: 8/26/15 in Cleveland, Knebel fires to 1B in the 7th, but fails to retire batter Jerry Sands as teammate Elian Herrera looks on.

(flip) Knebel spent the first six weeks of 2015 at AAA Colorado Springs, was promoted to Milwaukee, pitched well...but was still demoted back to AAA in early July for (publicly) unknown reasons. He returned to the bigs days later when SP Matt Garza hit the DL, and stayed this time.

We mentioned Knebel's two pre-Milwaukee trades. Soria did mostly well for Detroit and Gallardo was solid for Texas, but both were essentially rentals.

Detroit gave up on a #1 pick rather quickly, wouldn't you say? Knebel was taken 39th overall in 2013, the final pick of the first round.

AFTER THIS CARD: Knebel sat the first two months of 2016 (oblique) and never really hit stride, but he rebounded in '17 with a 39-save campaign after taking over 9th-inning duties from Neftali Feliz in May. Knebel made the All-Star team and whiffed 126 batters in 76 innings! It seemed the Brewers would be set at closer for years to come.

But fate wouldn't allow it. In 2018, Knebel—now earning $3.5M—lost a month to a bad hamstring, struggled upon returning, and was even demoted back to AAA for a time. The 27-year-old got it together and gave Milwaukee 16 scoreless outings in September!

Sadly, Knebel was relegated to spectator in 2019 (UCL surgery). He returned to the majors in July 2020, posting a 6.08 ERA in 15 games; Milwaukee traded him to the Dodgers in December 2020.

Corey Knebel has appeared in 2016-19 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers

 
Topps Checklist
Topps Checklist

1/2/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #823 Checklist

More 1993 Topps Checklists: n/a

With the addition of two new franchises for 1993, Topps' usual 792-card checklist swelled to 825 in 1993 to accommodate the Rockies and Marlins (and an army of their prospects, the overwhelming majority of whom never did anything in MLB). As a lover of deep, inclusive sets, obviously I loved it. But not enough to actually collect the set at the time.

To this day, I'm not sure why I didn't actively collect 1993 Topps IN the year 1993. I know at the time 13-year-old me was saving up allowance for a copy of Street Fighter II, but even after obtaining that game, I recall having little interest in card collecting that year.

Obviously, I did eventually acquire the set, built through packs, donated commons, and finally, individually-purchased commons. Unlike 1990-92 Topps, I do not remember any of the building at all. I only know that it happened because there's a set of 1993 Topps sitting on my shelf.

1993 Topps: The Amnesia Set.

THIS CARD: That is a player silhouette you see in the background; I'm not sure I ever paid it attention before.

The duos from #401 to #411 are All-Star cards; the other duos are expansion team prospects.

#426 Nigel Wilson, the ultimate expansion team bust.

Who'd have guessed this would be Willie McGee's next-to-last Topps card despite playing through 1999...

(flip) As alluded to, I didn't collect this set when it was released, and I couldn't tell you when I finally started or finished. Yet, I obviously felt the need to fill the checklists out as I went! No memory of doing that, either...wow. 

Sadly, eight people on this list have passed on (Tony Fernandez, Dave Henderson, Johnny Oates, Sparky Anderson, Don Baylor, Jim Fregosi, Scott Sanderson, Frank Castillo)

There's little chance you've heard of Ryan Luzinski or Jimmy Baron. Both were failed 1992 draft picks, the former being the son of ex-MLB slugger Greg Luzinski

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CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, League Leaders

 
Martin_Al_99ToppsFront.jpg
Martin_Al_99ToppsBack.jpg

1/4/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #287 Al Martin, Pirates

More Al Martin Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003T

As far as filling big shoes goes, few, if any, faced a bigger challenge in the 1990's than Pirates OF Al Martin. After incumbent LF Barry Bonds, to the surprise of no one, left thrifty Pittsburgh behind for San Francisco (and their megabucks) after the 1992 season, Martin took over as the new Pirates LF.

Was he Bonds? In short, no. But Martin proved to be a solid big league outfielder, one who actually led the 1993 Bucs in home runs by far (which was more of a reflection of their unimpressive lineup, but still) and was co-leading the 1994 squad in homers before succumbing to wrist surgery. Martin bounced back with a decent, if unspectacular, 1995 season, then found a new gear in 1996.

That year, Martin missed just seven games, batted .300 with 18 home runs, and stole 38 bases (5th in the NL); Pittsburgh extended him for two years while dumping salary elsewhere. Martin was on pace to bypass those fine numbers in '97, but a hand injury helped limit him to 113 games. Here, the 30-year-old has endured a rough 1998 season—manager Gene Lamont platooned Martin in LF, prompting an unfulfilled trade request and an unpretty stat line.

THIS CARD: I used to enjoy Martin's swing. It was quick, and if there's such a thing as an imposing follow-through, he had one.

Martin does his thing at Chicago's Wrigley Field. In 1998, Martin played three games at Wrigley (7/3-5), and despite going 6-for-13 personally, his team lost all three.

More from Martin's 1998 season: I'm not sure why exactly Lamont chose to platoon Martin. It'd make sense if the other half of said platoon was, say, Jeff King. But it was Manny flippin' Martinez taking away Martin's at-bats! Plus, Martin had hit over .300 against lefties in '97...playing for Lamont.

(flip) As you see, Martin played only 125 games in 1998, and none after 8/30. Despite extensive research, I wasn't able to find out why he did not play in September of that year; I've ordered additional research material in hopes of solving this 22-year-old mystery, and will update when it arrives. (Update: a pulled ribcage muscle sidelined Martin. Thank you, The Scouting Notebook 1999.)

Other notable Pirates to wear #28: Steve Blass and Bill Robinson (going way back), plus Paul Maholm 2006-11. Today it belongs to 3B coach Joey Cora.

Yes, Martin was originally a Braves product. He was in their system for seven seasons, climbing the ladder rather slowly before finally being let go after the 1991 season—Martin was not about to crack that Atlanta outfield.

AFTER THIS CARD: An early 1999 trade to Arizona fell through (much to his dismay), so Martin remained in Pittsburgh. Perhaps due to improved vision, he had an excellent year (.277, 24, 63) and finally had his trade request granted after that '99 season (Padres).

Off to a fine first half with San Diego despite major off-field issues, Martin was acquired by Seattle in July 2000. He'd be a member of their 2001 116-win squad, but not a productive one—Martin spent 2002 out of baseball after failing to make the Cardinals roster. He resurfaced with the 2003 Rays, but slugged .357 in 100 games and faded from MLB for good.

Al Martin appeared in Topps 1993-2002, with a final appearance in 2003 Traded.

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CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, League Leaders

 
Topps Aaron Rowand
Topps Aaron Rowand

1/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #485 Aaron Rowand, Giants

More Aaron Rowand Topps Cards: 2000T 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011

Aaron Rowand joined the Giants during a down period for the franchise. He, of course, came up with the Chicago White Sox and helped them to the 2005 World Series title. So appreciative were the Sox that they dealt him to the Phillies for Jim Thome that winter.

Rowand spent two years with the Phillies, making one of the memorable catches of the decade vs. the Mets' Xavier Nady in '06 and enjoying an All-Star year in '07. The Giants, looking to move in a new direction after 15 years of Barry Bonds, signed Rowand to a 5Y/$60M deal in December 2007.

Here, Rowand has completed that first year in San Francisco. He entered June hitting .340, but after a four-hit game vs. the Dodgers 8/10—good job—Rowand could only manage a .226 average for the rest of the season.

THIS CARD: Rowand seems to be trotting in, possibly about to tap gloves with a teammate. When I think of Rowand the Giants outfielder, first that comes to mind is the incredible 9th-inning catch he made in 2009 to preserve Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter. Say what you will about his offense, but Rowand made some incredible plays in the outfield during his SF stint.

TSR features Rowand for the second time in COTD; we selected his 2003 Topps card back in November 2019.

Yes, Rowand did wear #33 with the Giants as the arm bands indicate. Among Giants, John Burkett and Benny Santiago are really the only notable #33's of my time, though Chili Davis, Brian Wilson and Rich Aurilia—best remembered as #28, #38 and #35 respectively—all briefly had the number.

(flip) Fearless is the word. Referencing the 2006 catch, Rowand hit that wall in Philadelphia not at all concerned with the seven hours of surgery he'd soon undergo for his injuries.

Also, when Rowand left Philadelphia, they replaced him with Shane Victorino and won the 2008 World Series. Rowand's Giants won the 2010 World Series. Everybody emerged victorious!

At retirement, Rowand's best career OPS against was still Wakefield, though it dropped from 2.096 to 1.809. Mike Maroth moved into second place, with Benoit falling to third.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2009, Rowand made the aforementioned history-saving catch, but was ordinary offensively, nothing like the 2007 All-Star he'd been. By mid-2010, Giants manager Bruce Bochy saw enough, moving him to the bench (salary and all) in favor of Andres Torres.

 

Other than during Torres' surgery recovery, Rowand never did play regularly for SF again. He struggled through five months of the 2011 season before being let go with a month to play—it was a shocker here in the SF Bay Area. Rowand unsuccessfully auditioned for the 2012 Marlins, and his career ended at 34.

Aaron Rowand debuted as a prospect in 2000 Topps Traded, then appeared in Topps annually from 2002-11.

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CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Gio Gonzalez
Topps Gio Gonzalez

1/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #519 Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

More Gio Gonzalez Topps Cards: 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2020

Highly-touted Gio Gonzalez was one of those guys who was so talented and carried so much potential that not once, not twice, but three times he was sent packing before he threw a major league pitch! Now THAT'S a special player—he's so good that his teams obviously don't feel worthy of having him!

Sarcasm aside, Gonzalez, a #1 pick by the 2004 White Sox, was indeed sent to the Phillies as a PTBNL in the Jim Thome trade of December 2005. One year later, Gonzalez became a White Sock again by way of the Freddy Garcia trade. Then, in January 2008, Chicago dealt the kid away again, this time to the A's for Nick Swisher.

Gonzalez finally unpacked his bags in Oakland, and after a couple years shuffling between there and AAA, he went 15-9, 3.23 for them as a 24-year-old in 2010 and backed it up with an All-Star 2011 campaign. Here, Gonzalez is a new Washington National for 2012; the Nats acquired him from the A's, who weren't about to give young Gio the hefty arbitration raise he was due.

THIS CARD: Modern-day Gonzalez has sported a goatee for so long, he's hard to recognize without one, at least to these eyes.

Gonzalez in his familiar #47, the only number he's worn in his 13 MLB seasons. To my surprise, after seven years in Washington, Gonzalez's old digits were quickly issued to Howie Kendrick, who went on to 2019 NLCS MVP honors while helping the Nats to a championship. The debate between the top #47 in team history would be a spirited one, I'd imagine.

More from Gonzalez's 2011 season: though he was average at best for me in MLB '11: The Show when I played half-a-season as Oakland, Gonzalez was simply filthy for the live-action Athletics. He led Oakland in wins, ERA and K, made the AL All-Star team and emerged victorious in seven of his final eight starts!

(flip) The washed-out stinker occurred on 5/12/11 at Texas; Gonzalez surrendered seven runs in the third, including the first grand slam of young Mitch Moreland's career...but none of it counted. Gonzalez jokingly told the San Jose Mercury News he owed Moreland an apology and a check.

That next outing was a 14-0 destruction of the Angels; Gonzalez allowed exactly one hit over those seven innings.

 

Yes, Gonzalez led the AL in walks in 2011, but his 197 K ranked 9th (4th among lefties).

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Within weeks of acquiring him, the Nationals quickly signed Gonzalez to a 5Y/$42M deal (with team options for 2017-18 that were both picked up). He responded by finishing 3rd in 2012 Cy Young voting (21 wins) and 6th in 2017 voting. In all, he'd go 86-65, 3.62 across nearly seven seasons in Washington, though he received no-decisions in all six of his postseason starts for the club.

In August 2018, the Nationals dealt Gonzalez to Milwaukee—while they were playing Milwaukee—and he went 3-0, 2.13 in five starts for the Crew, helping them back to the postseason (where he was used basically as an opener). Gonzalez lost two months of 2019 to a dead arm, but did throw well when healthy (3.50 ERA in 19 games).

 

The 35-year-old returned to the White Sox as a swingman for the abbreviated 2020 season; he's currently a free agent.

Gio Gonzalez appeared annually in Topps 2009-20, except 2019.

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CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Washington Nationals

 
Topps Johan Santana
Topps Johan Santana

1/8/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #80 Johan Santana, Twins

More Johan Santana Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2008 2008U 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 

Johan Santana, acquired by Minnesota (via Florida) in the Rule V Draft, was used primarily as a reliever during his first two seasons (2000-01), receiving a handful of starts each year. Then from June-August 2002 Santana excelled as a regular starter...only to be bumped back to the bullpen in September (when Eric Milton returned from the DL).

Santana finally joined the Minnesota rotation to stay in July 2003; one year later he was a 20-game winner and recipient of the AL Cy Young award. The 26-year-old followed that effort up with a third-place Cy finish in '05, leading the league in K for the second straight year.

Here, Santana is the reigning AL pitching Triple Crown winner. He picked up his second Cy Young award in 2006 as well, but lost his lone postseason start despite a very strong performance.

THIS CARD: I can't say for certain, but I'm fairly sure the road ballpark is Rogers Centre, where Santana made his first start of 2006.

The #34 on Santana's sleeve is in memory of Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett. The Twins legend died in March 2006.

We commented on Johan's exquisite signature on his previous COTD (2008 Topps Update, June 2015). Topps used different signatures each year, surprisingly.

(flip) Santana's 19 wins in '06 tied him with New York's Chien-Ming Wang for the AL lead. He tied with four others for the league lead in starts.

"Johan is game's preeminent pitcher" sounds borrowed from a 1980's Topps blurb. By the way, 1966 was Koufax's final season.

How did Santana lead the majors in innings with just one complete game in the year 2006? That's certainly doable these days, but rare back then.

For all Santana's greatness, he never got the "00 or "50" Topps card number that was often, if not typically, reserved for superstars. #80 here is probably the closest he came. Somehow Santana received card #115 in two different sets, and #116 in another set.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: After the 2007 season, Minnesota, not about to dish out zillions to keep pending free agent Santana, traded their ace to the Mets in exchange for four youngsters (including Carlos Gomez and Philip Humber). New York quickly extended their newest star for 6Y/$137.5M.
Though wins often eluded him, Santana mowed through the NL as he had the AL, finishing third in 2008 NL Cy Young voting and making the 2009 All-Star team (his fourth selection).

In September 2010, however, Santana tore the anterior capsule in his left shoulder, undergoing surgery that kept him out until 2012. The 33-year-old made 21 starts that year (including the only no-hitter in Mets history), but needed the surgery re-done in April 2013. Santana attempted a comeback with the 2014 Orioles, but tore his Achilles in Spring Training. A MiLB deal with Toronto for '15 led nowhere, and Santana's career closed at 36.

Though he did not come close to making the Baseball Hall of Fame, Santana was enshrined in the Twins Hall of Fame in 2018.

Johan Santana appeared annually in Topps 2003-13, with a 2008 Update card as well.

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CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Minnesota Twins

 
Checklist275_97ToppsFront.jpg
Checklist275_97ToppsBack.jpg

1/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #275 Checklist

More 1997 Topps Checklists: n/a

As baseball and baseball-related industries continued to recover from the disastrous 1994-95 strike. Topps gradually increased the sizes of their checklists beginning with 1997 Topps, a 55-card increase from the 1996 set.

These particular checklists shouldn't really count as checklists, because there's no box to actually check this year. It's a list without the check! As you can see, I didn't bother writing my own checks on it or anything, instead creating my own checklist on old fashioned paper.

THIS CARD: This is the first of four checklists in '97 Topps. Series 1 came in at 275 cards, giving me hope of at least a 550-card set, but Series 2 measured at only 220 cards, for 495 in total.

The blank spot you see for card #7? This was the first year of Card #7's retirement in honor of the late Mickey Mantle. As we've discussed previously in COTD, this retirement lasted through the 2005 set. Card #7 was reserved for special Mantle cards in 2006-12 Topps, then retired again 2013-16. Since 2017, star Yankees of the present have been issued Card #7.

If you remember who Terrell Wade, Felipe Lira and Scott Stahoviak were, you are a true fan. Danny Tartabull makes his final Topps appearance. Kevin Elster returns after a five-set absence.

(flip) We also picked 1998 Topps #275 recently (December 2020), which was also a Checklist. And this is our second Checklist of January! I don't know why, I don't know how, but personally I've seen enough of them for a while.

If you remember who Ricky Otero, Chris Snopek and Mark Johnson were, you are a true fan. Randy Myers makes his final Topps appearance; he was criminally absent from 1998 Topps. Dwight Gooden returns after a two-set absence (with his real name rather than "Doc").

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Checklists

 
Topps Tom Lasorda
Topps Tom Lasorda

1/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #261 Tom Lasorda, Dodgers

More Tom Lasorda Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1993

One publication described him as "the world's greatest baseball salesman...a true baseball character." No less than Dusty Baker pays him serious credit: "He saved my career, actually, because (in 1977) he stuck his neck out for me...I went ahead and made the All-Dodger team all because (he) stuck his neck out for me.” Current Dodgers star Walker Buehler said he was "One of the most passionate and entertaining people I’ve been around in my life."

I'm talking about the great Tom, or Tommy, Lasorda, longtime manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers who spent 70 years overall with the franchise in multiple capacities. You'd think, considering I've held the Dodgers in contempt for most of my life, that I'd detest Lasorda, somebody who was as devoted and committed to Dodger blue as anybody who's ever lived.

Just the opposite: I had tremendous respect for Lasorda because he made the game better. Nobody has been a bigger ambassador for baseball. Nobody has so openly displayed their love for baseball. Nobody has been a bigger star from the dugout. 

THIS CARD: We specially selected this card in memory of Lasorda, who died 1/7/21 from heart failure at age 93.

I've had this card for approaching three decades, and evidently didn't care much about it until re-discovering it last year. Ever since, it's been one of my faves—how many managers, in Lasorda's era or beyond, lead their team in workouts? Not many, and those that do certainly aren't in their 60's. Lasorda had several uncustomary card images during his Topps run.

Topps Gold was a parallel set released from 1992-94. Random Gold cards would be inserted in packs, which is how I built much of my 1992 Topps set.

You are seeing who I believe is Kevin Gross (back left) Orel Hershiser (#55) and Gary Carter (#12) alongside Lasorda; I can't identify the back middle or far right Dodgers.

(flip) There's two finishes in 1981 because of a seven-week baseball strike that split the season.

How was Lasorda 2-2 in 1976? Incumbent manager Walter Alston retired with four games left that season, leaving Lasorda (the 3B coach) in charge.

As you can see, Lasorda racked up six National League West (NLW) first-place finishes. His Dodgers won four pennants (1977, 1978, 1981 and 1988), beating the Yankees in the 1981 World Series and the Athletics in the 1988 World Series.

More from Lasorda's 1991 season: it was a tough one for him personally, as he lost his son Tom Jr. to AIDS in June.
On the field, even with new superstar Darryl Strawberry in town, LA got off to a sluggish start before picking it up in May. The first-place Dodgers led the NLW by six games on 7/28 but were eventually caught and passed by the Atlanta Braves (YES, they were in the NLW back then).

Lasorda's 1991 Dodgers played a whopping 20 extra-inning games, including seven in August alone! 

Dodger Stadium housed Lasorda's office, of course. Check it out here.

AFTER THIS CARD: Lasorda remained Dodgers manager until midway through the '96 season, when he was sent into retirement by a heart attack. The next year he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 2000, he guided Team USA to a gold medal in the Sydney Olympics. We'll leave you with a few words of reaction to Lasorda's death, courtesy of USA Today, MLB.com and ESPN.com...

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully: "There are two things about Tommy I will always remember. The first is his boundless enthusiasm. Tommy would get up in the morning full of beans and maintain that as long as he was with anybody else. The other was his determination." 

Former Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia: "You have to know who to pat on the back, when to pat him on the back, when you have to kick them in the butt and when you have to stroke them a little bit. And Tommy had that gift, to know what players needed what."

Former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser: “(Lasorda) willed himself to live this long and to watch that (2020) world championship,”

Current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: “(Lasorda) just let anyone know the importance of putting on this uniform and what it means to be part of this organization. And I think that this is something that has been real for decades and it's our job now going forward to make sure that his legacy continues to live on. It encompasses a lot to be a Dodger and no one exemplified that more than Tommy."

Thanks for giving the game personality, Mr. Lasorda.
RIP from TSR.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers

 
Topps Neal Heaton
Topps Neal Heaton

1/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #197 Neal Heaton, Expos

More Neal Heaton Topps Cards: 1987T 1988 1990 1991 1992

Heaton was talented enough to be taken #1 overall by the Mets in the 1978 draft, but he opted to attend Miami instead; Heaton was an All-American there and taken in the second round by the 1981 Indians. By the next season, he was in the majors at 22.

Heaton had plenty of fine performances as an Indian 1983-85, but he didn't string enough of them together, losing 32 games 1984-85 and posting some unsettling BB/K ratios. Finally, in mid-1986, Cleveland cut bait, dealing Heaton to Minnesota. They, in turn, swapped Heaton to Montreal for CL Jeff Reardon in February 1987.

Here, Heaton is fresh off a disappointing 1988 campaign. After enjoying his finest overall season in 1987, the 27-year-old got off to an ugly start to '88 and was banished to the Expos bullpen.

THIS CARD: Heaton's high leg kick in action. Doesn't your hamstring hurt just looking at that?

For some reason, though Heaton had been around for seven seasons by this time, this was only his second appearance in a Topps base set. He was never featured in Topps during his Cleveland or Minnesota tenures, and you must turn to Donruss or Fleer for cards of Heaton the Indian.

In 1988, Heaton was primarily a fastball/slider guy; it's unlikely he's about to fire anything else in this image. In 1990, however, he added perhaps the strangest off-speed pitch I've ever run across...but it worked!

More from Heaton's 1988 season: battling a sprained ankle early, the veteran lefty was 2-5, 6.12 on 6/13, leading Montreal to shift him to long relief. In that role, Heaton allowed just one ER over his next eight games, making one final spot start on 8/21. He was effective, giving up two runs in five innings, but still took the (shutout) loss at Los Angeles.

(flip) As you can see, Heaton, despite having good velocity early in his career, didn't strike out many batters at all, largely because he had no off-speed pitch to upset anybody's timing. His K went up in '87 because of the NL pitchers who were now batting against him.

The ankle limited Heaton to the one game in April 1988. As mentioned, Heaton's September 1988 absence remains a mystery, though the LA Times reported he battled tendinitis in 1988 without saying exactly when. 

That trade also sent two prospects and C Jeff Reed to the Expos, with the Twins receiving Reardon and C Tom Nieto (both of whom helped them to a championship that year).

AFTER THIS CARD: Heaton was acquired by Pittsburgh near the end of Spring Training 1989; he started and ended that year in the Pirates rotation and registered a 3.05 ERA in 42 overall games. In '90, the 30-year-old got off to a 10-2, 2.89 start and made his first and only All-Star team! But Heaton's second half was unpretty, and he was shifted back to relief—remaining there for the entire 1991 season as well.

That winter, Pittsburgh swapped Heaton to the Royals in exchange for Kirk Gibson. He got in 31 games for KC and one for Milwaukee that year before making the 1993 Yankees as a non-roster invitee. 18 games later, Heaton was done in New York, and in MLB, finishing up 80-96, 4.37 over 12 major league seasons.

Neal Heaton debuted in 1987 Topps Traded as a new Expo, then appeared annually in the base set 1988-1992, with all his front images from the same angle and the final two virtually identical.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Montreal Expos

 
Topps Steve Olin
Topps Steve Olin

1/14/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #167 Steve Olin, Indians

More Steve Olin Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992

Here in COTD, we are going to focus on Olin's career and cards, not his premature passing. Here is a link to a 2013 piece covering the anniversary of said passing.

Unlike many submariners, Olin had been slingin' from down low ever since high school. It got him drafted by Cleveland in 1987, and to MLB two years later. He was tough on righties, but lefties chewed him up (.333) in 1989. 

The Indians kept Olin around for most of 1990-91, though he was returned to the minors each season in an effort to hone a pitch (or pitches) that could retire those pesky lefties—they hit .300 off him in 1990 and .330 in 1991. Still, in the second half of '91, Cleveland gave Olin the ball in the 9th inning—at one point he saved 11 straight opportunities!

Here, Olin has completed his first, and only, full season as the Indians closer. He won or saved nearly 50% of their victories (37 of 76) and finished 8th in the AL with 29 saves (in 36 chances).

THIS CARD: Olin's first Topps card depicts him just hanging around, but his final three capture all stages of his submarine motion. Here is the beginning; if I had to foster a guess, I'd say a changeup is being gripped.

Olin wore #31 from 1990-92; he'd worn #50 as a 1989 rookie. Other notable Indians to wear #31 include Chuck Finley, Cliff Lee for the second half of his Indians run, and Danny Salazar; Josh Naylor had the number in 2020.

Unlike the Cardinals with Darryl Kile's #57, Olin's #31 was never taken out of circulation after his passing; in fact Dave Winfield took it over in 1995. 

Olin delivers at the old Mistake By The Lake (Jacobs/Progressive Field was still two seasons away). At home in 1992, Olin was not nearly as effective as on the road (4.37 ERA, 1.52 WHIP at home compared to 0.21 and 0.88 away). In fact, his 4.44 career ERA at Cleveland Stadium was his second-worst by far at any ballpark (Metrodome, 4.73).

(flip) The Appalachian League is low-A, where newly-signed June draft picks usually report.

Olin, despite his callup, still led the Pacific Coast League with 24 saves in 1989.

In Olin's MLB debut, he threw 2.2 scoreless innings against Boston in relief of Bud Black, allowing one hit and striking out Rick Cerone. Olin also retired future HOFers Jim Rice and Wade Boggs!

AFTER THIS CARD: Olin died 3/22/93, the day before I entered teenhood.

Steve Olin appeared in 1990-93 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Cleveland Indians, Now Deceased

 
Topps Marcus Semien
Topps Marcus Semien

1/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #97 Marcus Semien, Athletics

More Marcus Semien Topps Cards: 2014 2015 2016 2018 2019 2020

During Billy Beane's tenure as an A's executive, not many of his key players make it to their first free agency without being traded away. Marcus Semien was one of the few, ultimately spending six seasons with the club.

Top prospect Semien came up with the Chicago White Sox, joining Oakland in a trade that sent SP Jeff Samardzija to Chicago in December 2014. The A's immediately made him their #1 shortstop in 2015, and he showed flashes of ability through some serious fielding difficulties.

Here, Semien has completed his second season in the green and gold. He played all but three games, dramatically sliced his error total, and finished second on the team (to Khris Davis) in home runs.

THIS CARD: By most accounts, including mine, Semien was a bad defender in 2015 but really improved in 2016. His errors dropped from 35 to 21 and he was generally more reliable.

Semien sports the gold A's alternate jersey originally introduced in 2011 but not used nearly as much these days as it was back then.

Using GettyImages, I was eventually able to pinpoint the date of this pic: 8/10/16 vs. Baltimore. Semien is forcing out Nolan Reimold (cropped out of photo) at second base in the 5th.

(flip) Twitter and Instagram accounts exist under Semien's name, but neither looks all that authentic.

The blurb should have included the word "ever" after the word shortstop.

The full Trade With White Sox sent Semien (six seasons with Oakland), C Josh Phegley (five seasons with Oakland) and SP Chris Bassitt (still with Oakland) to the A's. Samardzija lasted one disappointing year with the White Sox before joining my Giants as a free agent.

AFTER THIS CARD: Semien lost nearly three months of 2017 with a bad wrist injury that required surgery. He returned to play 159 games in a decent 2018 season, then erupted into an AL MVP candidate in 2019 (33 HR, 92 RBI, .522 SLG in 162 games), ultimately placing third.

With free agency looming after the season, Semien—now earning $13M—struggled badly in 2020 (.223) and remains unsigned as of this writing.

Marcus Semien has appeared in Topps 2014-20.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, Oakland Athletics

 
Topps Joe Randa
Topps Joe Randa

1/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #546 Joe Randa, Royals

More Joe Randa Topps Cards: 1995 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2005U 2006 

Joe Randa was a very good player, but I best remember him for his distinctive face—he had a built-in grin that could make an unfamiliar pitcher struggling with control believe that Randa was smirking at him. And as we know, baseball players can be a little sensitive sometimes. As far as I know, however, Randa's face never triggered any brawls at the big league level.

The bulk of Randa's 12-year career was spent with the Kansas City Royals. He batted .303 as a 1996 rookie, and KC rewarded him by trading him to the lowly Pirates. As their primary 3B, he helped them improve their 1997 record by six wins over 1996.

Randa spent '98 with Detroit before returning to the Royals via trade; more on that later. Over the next four seasons, Randa averaged over 150 games at 3B and showed pop that simply hadn't developed during his first Royals stint.

Here, the 34-year-old is fresh off a solid 2003 season for the resurgent Royals. He tied his then-career high with 16 HR and finished second on the Royals in 2B despite missing 31 games, most due to an oblique injury.

THIS CARD: Randa, down almost to the ground making what looks like a very difficult throw. Though not Gold-Glove caliber, he was a good defender at 3B, and only made 11 miscues in 2003.

Randa wore #16 during both his stints in Kansas City, though he began with #18. Other notable Royals to don #16: Bo Jackson and Billy Butler, that's all. Rookie IF Kelvin Gutierrez wore it for four games in 2020.

More from Randa's 2003 season: he homered five times in April, a month he went hitless just three times in 21 games. Randa also enjoyed a stretch of three three-hit games out of five in June, as well as a 16-game hit streak in August/September. Plus, in mid-September, he drove in nine runs over two games!

(flip) See that pic of Randa? That's how he looked all the time. In fact, he was nicknamed "Joker".

Remember Juan LeBron, the Royals prospect Topps confused with Carlos Beltran on their Draft Pick cards in 1995? LeBron is who KC gave up to acquire Randa from the Mets, who had acquired Randa one week prior from the Tigers (in a trade for P Willie Blair).

A .980 fielding percentage at third base? TOLD you Randa was a good third baseman, one who was exceptional in 2003. For his career, he fielded .962 as a 3B. (Note: I lacked the desire to scout KC's annual fielding stats to determine if Randa still holds that record, but I can tell you Mike Moustakas, who played more 3B than any other Royal post-Randa, didn't break it.)

Randa, of course, is listed as a 3B but earlier in his career, he got a fair amount of run at second base and even some at first base. In 2003 he played third base exclusively, save for a couple starts at DH.

AFTER THIS CARD: Randa re-upped with KC for 2004, but the entire team collapsed around him and his 2005 option was not picked up. He'd split 2005 with the Reds and Padres, setting a new career high with 17 homers and reaching his first postseason.

 

Pittsburgh brought Randa back for '06, but he only produced four homers and 28 RBI in 89 games, missing over a month with a stress fracture in his foot and losing his starting job to Freddy Sanchez. In November 2006, Randa retired one month shy of his 37th birthday.

Joe Randa debuted on a 1995 Topps shared On Deck card, then appeared annually 1997-2006, except 1999. He's also got a 2005 Updates & Highlights card.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Kansas City Royals

 
Topps Mike Fetters
Topps Mike Fetters

1/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #14 Mike Fetters, Angels

More Mike Fetters Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997

Here, young Fetters has reached the majors in his 4th professional season. The 24-year-old had been an exclusive starter in the minors, and a pretty good one, but Angels manager Doug Rader broke Fetters in as a long reliever.

THIS CARD: Fetters barely resembles the guy we later came to know as Milwaukee's closer. Let's just say he's leaner and not quite as hairy here.

Opportunities for a Fetters action shot were scarce—he only got in one MLB game in 1989. Of course, 1990 Topps was high on posed shots so it might not have mattered.

More from Fetters' 1989 season: his lone appearance for California came on the day rosters expanded (9/1). He was summoned in the second inning to face a Yankee lineup that had already touched SP Terry Clark and RP Rich Monteleone for seven runs. Fetters took some punishment as well, but still chewed up 3.1 innings on 77 pitches.

(flip) As of 2018 Fetters, who was elected to Pepperdine's Hall of Fame in 2011, still dotted the school's record books. He's 4th all-time in starts (49) 2nd in innings (361.2) 2nd in K (292) and 3rd in wins (33). Plus, he set several season records in 1986, more than I want to list here. Visit this page and scroll for more.

I never knew Fetters was such a quality starter as a prospect...those 1989 numbers are dandy.

Not sure why Fetters only got in the one game for the 1989 Angels. My guess? Given how little he was used later in his Angel tenure, I'm guessing he was just ignored.

Yes, Fetters was an Angels draft pick out of college, but the Dodgers (whom Fetters rooted for as a youth) originally drafted him out of high school.

AFTER THIS CARD: The Angels kept Fetters around for parts of the 1990-91 seasons before dealing him to Milwaukee, where he found regular work and eventually elevated to Brewers closer. He saved 71 games 1994-96 and adopted a quick, Al Hrabosky-esque head snap towards the plate that became his staple. But in '97, Fetters lost the closer's job to Doug Jones. 

Traded to Oakland (by way of Cleveland) after that season, Fetters became a journeyman going forward, changing teams seven more times through the 2004 season (including a return to the Angels in '98). He got to close again for the 2001 Pirates down the stretch, but otherwise Fetters worked in middle/setup relief at all his stops.

 

As a 2003 Twin, a bad hamstring and UCL surgery limited the 38-year-old to five games. Fetters returned with the 2004 Diamondbacks, but was not effective, and retired the following Spring with ongoing elbow pain. He joined Arizona's staff as a quality control coach in 2013 before being elevated to bullpen coach in 2017.

According to MLB.com, Fetters holds the MLB record for most seasons played (16) without an at-bat.

Mike Fetters appeared annually in Topps 1990-98, then made one last dip in 2003 Traded & Rookies as a new Twin.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, California Angels

 
Topps Rick Heiserman
Topps Rick Heiserman

1/20/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #398 Rick Heiserman, Draft Pick

More Rick Heiserman Topps Cards: n/a

Happy Inauguration Day! Rick Heiserman was a decent prospect for the mid-1990's Indians who only got a brief whiff of the major leagues. A #3 pick by the Indians in 1994, Heiserman was a hard-throwing reliever who closed—and closed well—as a freshman at Creighton.

THIS CARD: Perhaps it's the Indians garb, and/or the fact that we profiled a Steve Olin card last week, but Heiserman slightly resembles the ex-Cleveland closer Olin here. (Or maybe not.)

Heiserman's card #398 is sandwiched between #397 Ken Griffey, Jr. and #399 Don Mattingly on the 1995 Topps checklist. Sadly, their greatness did not rub off on him.

How did Heiserman rate as a prospect? As I said, decent (early on, anyway). But The Scouting Notebook, whose annual issues included coverage of many top prospects from each organization, never once found room for Heiserman. Which says something.

(flip) Atlantic, Iowa is located about 74 miles west of Des Moines, not terribly far from the Nebraska border.

Heiserman's 12 saves in 1992 were a Creighton record at the time (since tied and broken by several others).

I searched...and searched...and could not find out why Heiserman only pitched 7.2 innings as a 1993 sophomore. Enough to get the scouts' attention, according to the blurb.

AFTER THIS CARD: Heiserman was converted to starter in 1995, a year he was part of the Cardinals' return in their July trade of SP Ken Hill. He remained a starter upon joining the St. Louis organization, going 10-8, 3.24 at Class A St. Petersburg in 1996. In mid-1997, Heiserman resumed closing games.

Finally, Heiserman reached MLB in May 1999, recording an out at Los Angeles on 5/23, then getting pounded by my Giants two days later in a 17-1 drubbing in San Francisco. He was optioned, returned to the bigs for one August game, then never seen again in the major leagues.

Heiserman's pro career ended in the Independent League in 2002.

Rick Heiserman appeared in 1995 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Draft Picks

 
Topps Kevin Romine
Topps Kevin Romine

1/22/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #652 Kevin Romine, Red Sox

More Kevin Romine Topps Cards: 1987 1990T

Romine was strictly a defensive sub/injury replacement for parts of seven seasons with the Red Sox; basically, if all Boston's outfielders were healthy, Romine was on the bench (until the late innings) or in the minors.

A former HS running back who turned down a college football scholarship, Romine exhibited plenty of speed and a fair share of pop as a prospect, but Boston had the likes of Tony Armas, Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans handling their outfield duties during Romine's "era". Romine, for whatever talents he had, was not cracking that lineup.

Here, after five seasons spent on the shuttle to/from AAA Pawtucket, Romine has finally spent an entire season in the majors. He even started 39 times, most of them in place of the injured Evans.

THIS CARD: Romine seems to be warming up before a game, likely during Spring Training based on the jersey. The majority of his major league run came as a RF, though he was used plenty in CF and LF as well. As we mentioned, he got a load of run as a defensive sub late in games.

Here, Romine is making his first Topps base appearance in four years. He should have been in 1990 Topps but was held over to the Traded set.

More from Romine's 1990 season: on 7/3, he led off the B9th with a solo home run off Texas RP Kenny Rogers to sink the Rangers 3-2. Of Romine's four career home runs to that point, two were walk-offs.

(flip) Romine's five-hit game almost went for naught, as the Red Sox needed 11 innings to down the Blue Jays 4-1. Romine, who started in RF that day, doubled twice and scored twice. 

Romine made that lone 1988 home run count: he took Kansas City's Steve Farr deep for a 9th-inning walk-off win 7/16. Not bad for your first major league home run, huh?

Yes, Romine managed a lone hit during August 1990. He only batted 11 times over 10 games during the month, at one point sitting for 10 straight days. I wasn't able to uncover an injury or any other reason for the inactivity.

AFTER THIS CARD: Not very much. Romine returned to his familiar role with the 1991 Red Sox, but despite an impressive grand slam off Chicago's Alex Fernandez in May, he only hit .164 overall and was released in August. He did not return to MLB, citing recurring shoulder and knee problems as factors in his retirement.

Romine eventually became an LAPD detective for over 20 years; his sons Austin and Andrew have enjoyed decade-long MLB careers.

Kevin Romine appeared in 1987 Topps, 1990 Topps Traded, and 1991 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Boston Red Sox

 
Topps Morgan Ensberg
Topps Morgan Ensberg

1/23/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #540 Morgan Ensberg, Astros

More Morgan Ensberg Topps Cards: 2002T 2003 2004 2006 2007 2008U

After slashing .300/.416/.545 with 28 HR and 90 RBI for AA Round Rock in 2000, 3B Morgan Ensberg made the jump all the way to the Astros...for seven at-bats. He did not stick with the club until 2003, when he opened the year in Houston and enjoyed a fantastic year, especially June (.716 SLG, stretch of four homers in five games).

Here, Ensberg has endured a rough 2004. Bothered by a sore elbow in the first half and a back spasms in the second half, Ensberg was essentially platooned for much of the year and only occasionally resembled his 2003 self.

THIS CARD: Ensberg in action at Minute Maid Park, where he hit .286 with nine of his 10 home runs in 2004.

It was a challenging 2004 regular season for Ensberg at the plate, but in the Division Series he bounced back with a 7-for-19, 5-RBI effort. (Let's not discuss his NLCS.)

More from Ensberg's 2004 season: stunningly, he did not hit his first home run until 7/2—and then he went yard 7/3 and 7/4 as well (all against Texas)! Later in July, Ensberg homered in successive games against the Dodgers...good for him.

(flip) Sounds like Ensberg could have used some more "radical changes" during the '04 season.

Today, the Astros' 3B season home run record is held by...Morgan Ensberg; see below section. (MLB.com lists Alex Bregman's 41 in 2019 as the 3B season record, but Bregman hit 21 of those as a SS or DH.)

Instead of the redundant 2004 batting average, Topps could have used the "stat box" to tell you Ensberg, despite his injuries and power drought, still registered a decent .330 OBP in 2004.

AFTER THIS CARD: Boy, did Ensberg return to form in 2005—he walloped 36 home runs (a team 3B record that stands to this day), drove in 101 runs, made the All-Star team and helped Houston's charge to its first ever World Series (where he went 2-for-18, but still). The following year, the 31-year-old began scalding hot, including homers in six straight games and seven of eight.

But in June 2006, Ensberg injured his shoulder on a dive, and wasn't quite right again for months. In July '07, Houston acquired Ty Wigginton to play 3B, and cut Ensberg (who was hitting .234 with eight homers) loose.

Short stints with the 2007 Padres and 2008 Yankees followed, but Ensberg barely hit at either stop; his playing career ended after a .189 stint for AAA Buffalo (Indians) in 2008. He's since gone on to manage in the Astros and Rays minor league systems.

Morgan Ensberg debuted in 2002 Topps Traded, appeared annually in the base set 2003-07, then popped up one final time in 2008 Topps Update as an Indian (for whom he never played a regular-season game for).

CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Houston Astros

 
Topps Hank Aaron
Topps Hank Aaron

1/25/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #44 Hank Aaron, Braves

More Hank Aaron Topps Cards: n/a

I could go on and on and on and on about Hank Aaron, both as a Hall-of-Fame player and as a figure for equality on and off the field. But our space is limited, so I'll work to be somewhat succinct and on-topic.

Aaron, as we all know, was baseball's home run king from April 1974 to August 2007. He was the last major leaguer to migrate from the Negro Leagues, and though Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier well before Aaron's MLB arrival, there were still certainly plenty of folks around making it clear what they thought of "Negroes" in the big leagues.

In other words, they didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for Aaron when he reached the majors.

But there was no denying his talent. Aaron was consistently excellent, and though he never set single-season roundtripper records like the king before him (Babe Ruth) or after him (Barry Bonds), playing the third-most games in history while churning out one great—but not groundbreaking—year after another enabled him do the unthinkable: knock The Babe down one spot on the homer list.

THIS CARD: Topps issued this special Aaron card presumably to recognize 25 years since he broke Ruth's record. Which makes me wonder why they didn't issue it in 1999 Topps Series 2; that set was released around the time of the anniversary. But whatever, that's splitting hairs.

This is a specially selected card in memory of Aaron, who passed away 1/22/21 two weeks shy of 87. Other than reprints, this is the only Aaron card I own at all—Topps or otherwise. (Update: turns out I have a couple of other Aaron cards I'd totally forgotten about, from 1994 and 2000 Topps...whoops. No regrets picking this one, however.)

 

This is a fully original card; neither pic was ever used on any other Aaron Topps cards from back in the day. Of course, the most famous Aaron card is his 1957 reversed negative; he was depicted batting lefty and the error was never corrected.

(flip) Topps didn't bold/italicize Nolan Ryan's BB/K totals on his 1999 Topps special-issue card. I point that out because they should have. Still, at least they got it right here for Aaron's HR/RBI totals. He's still on top all-time in RBI, though Albert Pujols has an outside shot at driving in 198 more runs and passing Aaron before he's through.

Note Aaron's 3,298 games played. Only Pete Rose (3,562) and Carl Yastrzemski (3.308) played in more. Aaron averaged 153 games annually 1955-70, and note they didn't expand to 162 games per year in the NL until 1962!

Also note Aaron's 3,771 hits. Did you know only Rose (4,256) and Cobb (4,191) have more? Aaron was so much more than just a power hitter.

For those of you unaware: the card number #44 references Aaron's famed uniform number.

AFTER THIS CARD: As is known, Aaron spent many years working in the Braves' front office; I wasn't able to nail down an exact timeline but I'm fairly sure he never fully left Atlanta's employ. He was a 1982 Hall of Fame inductee, and his #44 is retired by both the Braves and Brewers (remember, the Braves were based in Milwaukee during much of Aaron's career).

The Hank Aaron Award debuted in 1999, recognizing the best offensive player in each league. Its namesake was awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom in 2002, and—even though he obviously wasn't thrilled about it—Aaron made a short congratulatory video for the controversial Bonds once he broke Aaron's record in 2007. There's so much more, but as I said...space.

We'll leave you with a few words remembering the Braves legend:

Braves Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones: "I can’t imagine what Hank Aaron went through in his lifetime. He had every right to be angry or militant.....but never was! He spread his grace on everything and every one he came in contact with. Epitome of class and integrity." 

Brewers Hall-of-Famer Robin Yount: “Of all those that I played with, Hank was the biggest influence on my career, The way that Hank, the greatest player of all-time, played the game, carried himself on and off the field, and remained humble, made the greatest impact on me as a 19-year-old. None of that ever changed in the 45 years since Hank retired. He was a great man and his friendship will be sorely missed.”

Here is what might be Aaron's last TV appearance, with current Braves star Freddie Freeman (the 2020 Hank Aaron Award winner) in December 2020.

RIP to The Hammer, one of the all-time Icons of the game. His commons appeared in Topps 1954-1976, meaning he never received a sunset card until 2000 Topps. Aaron also has short-print variation cards in 2017-20 Topps that are sure to skyrocket in value.

CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Atlanta Braves

 
Topps Jimmy Paredes
Topps Jimmy Paredes

1/26/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #585 Jimmy Paredes, Astros

More Jimmy Paredes Topps Cards: 2015U 2016

Jimmy Paredes was a member of the rebuilding Astros of the early 2010's. Part of the return in the trade of Lance Berkman to the Yankees, Paredes was called up in August 2011 and started at 3B for Houston through season's end. He'd been solid in the minors that year, finishing 5th in the Texas League with 29 steals.

THIS CARD: Until now, I never knew Paredes was ever a full-timer at one position in MLB. Even retroactively, it is hard to shed a utility label once you have it.

The increasingly popular bubble-blowing in the middle of a play. I watched a guy do it quite a bit for my Giants, Pablo Sandoval. Personally, I had enough trouble doing one of those things (bubble-blowing and baseball fielding) at a time.

Paredes only played 3B for the 2011 Astros, but as a 2011 minor leaguer, he had split his time almost evenly starting at 3B and 2B. The kid had made great strides after committing 45 errors across three positions in 2010.

(flip) Yes, Paredes made the direct jump from AA to the majors. That triple, vs. Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo, drove home two runs and helped Houston to a 4-3 win.

That Trade With Yankees also sent RP Mark Melancon, then a prospect, to the Astros.

If you do the math, you'll see Paredes swiped a combined 50 bags for his two 2010 Class A teams. Those came in just 61 attempts and ranked 3rd in the Sally League (really? Jeremy Hazelbaker once stole 63 bases in a season?!)

AFTER THIS CARD: Paredes spent 2012 Spring Training in a competition for Houston's 3B job, but he struggled while Chris Johnson thrived, so off to the minors went Paredes. He didn't return to MLB until late August, batting .189 with no home runs while adding the outfield to his resume.

2013 saw Paredes shuttle between the majors and minors three times, and waived by the Astros after the season. By July 2014, he'd been acquired by the Miami, Baltimore, Kansas City and Baltimore (again) organizations, mostly off waivers.

In 2015 Paredes emerged somewhat as Baltimore's part-time DH, batting .275 with 10 homers (all in the first half) in 363 at-bats, though down the stretch he struggled and lost playing time.

 

Immediately after recovering from a wrist injury, Paredes was waived yet again in May 2016, splitting the rest of that season with the Blue Jays and Phillies in reserve roles. To date, that is his final MLB action; Paredes has since found time in the Japan, Korea and Independent Leagues.

Jimmy Paredes appeared in 2012 and 2016 Topps, as well as 2015 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Houston Astros

 
Topps Kevin Gausman
Topps Kevin Gausman

1/28/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #619 Kevin Gausman, Orioles

More Kevin Gausman Topps Cards: 2013U 2014 2016 2017 2018 2018U 2019 2020

Kevin Gausman was part of the early 2010's Orioles teams that returned to postseason contention after many, many years of mediocrity. The #4 overall pick of the 2012 draft, Gausman was in the bigs the following season, working as a starter in his first go with Baltimore before being moved to relief in two subsequent stints.

Here, Gausman has completed a whopping SIX trips to and from the minor leagues to Baltimore during the 2014 season. In all, the 23-year-old started 20 games, winning three of them consecutively in June.

THIS CARD: Gausman may be firing off his "regular" high-80's changeup here; he's got that along with a split-change, as he describes it, that comes in the low-80's. From what I can tell, the changeups and his mid-90's fastball are pretty much the only pitches he's consistently thrown; Gausman has also utilized a curve, slider and/or sinker at various stages of his career.

Gausman wears #39 for the Orioles, evoking memories of the great Randy Milligan (and maybe Ken Dixon, if you want to go there). Renato Nunez has worn it for the O's since 2018 (by which time Gausman had switched to #34).

More from Gausman's 2014 season: he was credited with one CG, a rain-shortened five-inning triumph over the visiting Yankees 7/13. His longest outing of the year was 7.1 innings on 9/1...but he allowed five runs to the Twins and took the loss.

(flip) Accurate prediction; Gausman was arguably the 2020 Giants' ace over the final weeks. Spoiler alert.

I have no confirmed or unconfirmed reports of Gausman annoying anyone at any time. Although, since he's now a Giant, he is welcome to annoy whomever it takes to keep him pitching well.

Centennial, CO is located about 12.5 miles southeast of Denver.

AFTER THIS CARD: Gausman, in 2016, finally got 30 starts with the Orioles and posted a 3.61 ERA despite a 9-12 record. One year later, he made 34 starts but was only 11-12, 4.68. Near the 2018 trade deadline, the Orioles traded Gausman (5-8, 4.43 at the time) to Atlanta, where he went 5-3, 2.87 down the stretch. 

The NL figured Gausman out in 2019, however, and he finished the year working out of the Reds bullpen. San Francisco picked him up for 2020 and he re-emerged as a dependable starter (3-3, 3.62 in 10 starts), leading to an accepted 1Y/$18.9M qualifying offer for 2021.

Kevin Gausman has appeared in Topps 2014-20, as well as 2013 and 2018 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Baltimore Orioles

 
Topps Mark Lowe
Topps Mark Lowe

1/29/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps Update #273 Mark Lowe, Mariners

More Mark Lowe Topps Cards: 2012U 2013 2015U 2016

For several years during the Obama administration, Lowe, when healthy, was one of the better middle relievers in the American League. The very hard-throwing righty dominated as a 2006 rookie, but underwent elbow surgery late that year and didn't find solid big league footing again until 2008, the year represented on this card.

Here, Lowe has begun his 4th season as a Mariner. He'd put up a fine 2008 campaign for first John McLaren, then Jim Riggleman, and had no problem winning a job on Don Wakamatsu's 2009 staff.

THIS CARD: Topps seemed to have a soft spot for Lowe, who made a point of including him in five separate base/Update sets despite his nondescript status as a middle reliever for mostly mediocre teams. The only year Lowe should have definitely made it and didn't was probably 2010 after appearing 75 times in 2009, but he did have this card to rep 2009.

Lowe reaches back, presumably to fire his 97-MPH cheese. He also attacked with a changeup and a slider that needed rediscovery after his 2006 surgery.

With Rays star Brandon Lowe (pronounced "LOUD" without the D) now on the big league scene, I feel it's pertinent to inform you Mark Lowe's name is pronounced "LOW", same as Derek Lowe.

More from Lowe's 2009 season: despite a diabetes diagnosis, he led Seattle pitchers with 75 appearances, chopped over two runs off his 2008 ERA (5.37 to 3.26) and earned three of his six career saves.

(flip) As you can see, Lowe made just 15 total appearances in 2007 as he rehabbed from his elbow surgery. He pitched his four Seattle games between 7/28 and 8/5 but was not sharp yet.

Those 57 appearances for the 2008 Mariners ranked second to Sean Green's 72.

Lowe the rookie did not allow a run until his 14th game, when he allowed two to the Angels without recording an out. Fittingly enough, Lowe allowed the Angels two more runs in his next outing two days later.

Lowe and Reed: teammates on 2006-08 Seattle

Reed and Martinez: teammates on 2004 Seattle

Martinez and Matthews: teammates on 1987 Seattle

Matthews and Cumberland: teammates on 1972 San Francisco

Cumberland and Mantle: teammates on 1968 Yankees for one game.

Note: This was my first time ever hearing of Cumberland, though he spent three seasons with my Giants in the early 70's. 

AFTER THIS CARD: Lowe remained a Mariner until July 2010, when he was traded to Texas. For the Rangers, Lowe would work in both the 2010 and 2011 World Series, but gained infamy when he allowed David Freese's walk-off HR in Game 6 of the '11 WS against St. Louis (after being within a strike of clinching the Rangers' first championship). 

After one more year with Texas came several MiLB deals; Lowe only got in 18 total MLB games (for the Angels and Indians) over the 2013-14 seasons. He returned to Seattle for 2015 and excelled (1.00 ERA in 34 games), prompting a July trade to Toronto and more postseason work.

 

Next, the 33-year-old got in 54 games for the 2016 Tigers, who signed him to a 2Y/$11M deal prior to that season. But Lowe registered a 7.11 ERA, was released the following Spring and, despite several MiLB contracts signed 2017-18, never returned to MLB.

Mark Lowe appeared in 2009 Topps Update, 2012 Topps Update, 2013 Topps, 2015 Topps Update and 2016 Topps. He reps the Mariners, Rangers, Rangers, Blue Jays and Tigers on those cards, respectively.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps Update, Seattle Mariners