Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2016
Click on images for larger views.
7/5/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #506 Kris Benson, Pirates
More Kris Benson Topps Cards: 1997 1998 2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2009
The recently-concluded NBA Finals wasn't very dramatic on the court—up until Game 7, no game was all that close—but it didn't need to be. Stephen Curry's spouse supplied sufficient drama with her (tweeted) thoughts on the series, exactly zero of which anybody really asked for. It wasn't surprising—as Steph has grown into the league's most popular superstar, Mrs. Steph has grown increasingly visible (and audible).
Kris Benson was an athlete who knew a thing or two about sharing headlines with his spouse. But unlike Curry, Benson became better known for his spouse than for anything he achieved athletically—and he did achieve athletically, especially as an amateur.
Benson was a superstar at Clemson, compiling 204 K in 156 IP en route to a 14-0, 1.49 record as a junior in 1996. He was chosen as College Player of the Year and picked #1 overall by the Pirates—while participating in the College World Series! (Clemson would lose to LSU on a walk-off homer by Warren Morris, who would later become Benson's 2B in that year's Olympics plus two years in Pittsburgh.)
Here, hard-throwing Benson has just completed his second major league season. Never again would he start 32 games, throw 217 innings or record a full-season ERA under 4. Add in his 184 K—which he'd never come within 50 of matching ever again—and you could argue 2000 was Benson's finest year in the bigs.
THIS CARD: 2001 Topps gave us quite a few pitchers batting. Rick White and Andy Benes (plus another whose name presently escapes me) are shown with the stick this year.
Benson was only 1-for-30 with one BB and no RBI on the road in 2000, so it's unlikely this swing—aesthetic as it may appear—produced or preluded anything positive for the Bucs. Looks like Benson is at Shea Stadium here.
We've explained the seal twice previously.
(flip) In that August 29 game, Benson walked five and struck out seven, earning an 8-0 victory over Livan Hernandez. In the June 15 shutout (his first of two career), Benson defeated Kevin Millwood 2-0—his RBI was important.
Superior is, fittingly, near the westernmost tip of Lake Superior. Marietta is 20 miles northwest of Atlanta. I think we'll repeat this geography lesson for all COTD going forward.
AFTER THIS CARD: Tommy John surgery wiped out Benson's 2001 season, and he did not approach his prior effectiveness upon healing—both his ERA and WHIP jumped significantly in 2002-03, especially in his new home ballpark (PNC Park replaced Three Rivers Stadium while Benson was disabled).
Furthermore, he missed the final two-plus months of 2003 with shoulder problems.
Healthy again in '04, Benson—a free-agent-to-be—sizzled as the deadline approached, and was traded to the 4th-place Mets. He re-upped with them that winter (3Y/$22M), and though he pitched well in '05 and was reasonably priced, New York dealt him to Baltimore in January '06 (for unproven John Maine and diminished Jorge Julio). Mets GM Omar Minaya denied the behavior ofBenson's spouse—who filed for divorce not long after the trade—factored in the decision, but nothing else made much sense.
Now 32, Benson underwent shoulder surgery in March 2007...and didn't return to MLB until 2009 with Texas. He won a spot with Arizona for 2010 and made three starts, the last of which he was driven from in the 3rd inning by shoulder pain. That would be it for Benson in the major leagues—tired of rehabbing, he retired nine months later.
Kris Benson appeared in 1997 Topps as a Draft Pick, 1998 as a prospect, then 2000-2007 as a major leaguer. He popped up one final time in 2009 Topps Updates & Highlights with Texas.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates
7/7/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #750 Dale Murphy, Braves
More Dale Murphy Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992 1993
By the time I became a baseball fan/card collector, Dale Murphy's run as a great player had ended. For six seasons (1982-87) he'd been among the very best in the game, as his consecutive MVP's in 1982-83 will attest to. He'd come up as a catcher, gotten hurt, and eventually landed in center field, winning five Gold Gloves there. He also had some stick, averaging .290, 36, 104 per year during that stretch and teaming with Bob Horner, Chris Chambliss, 43-year-old Phil Niekro and others to return long-mediocre Atlanta to the playoffs in 1982.
If that weren't enough, Murphy missed 33 total games 1980-90.
Like his contemporary Don Mattingly, Murphy seemed ticketed for a plaque in Cooperstown one day. Like Mattingly, his last six seasons were far from great; some were plain bad.
But unlike Mattingly, Murphy seemed to decline for no real reason. Donnie Baseball was done in by a bad back; Dale Murphy had no obvious injury to blame for batting under .230 in his final three seasons with Atlanta (although he did have minor knee surgery in January 1989). Either moving to RF screwed him up, or his skillz simply began fading at just 32.
Here, Murphy is the cleanup hitter for a last-place Braves team in transition. It was a rough year for the onetime superstar—he once went six games without a hit, 169 AB without a home run, batted .201 on the road and .206 after the break. He still led Atlanta in RBI...but somebody had to.
THIS CARD: Murphy, at least here, is one of those one-glove guys. After a long hiatus, the Braves again use blue alternates today—but with transparent lettering.
Despite a two-year slump, Topps still thought highly enough of Murphy to give him a "0" card number, usually reserved for top stars in those days.
(flip) That's a TON of bold/italics. Here are Murphy's MLB rankings from 1982-87: homers (1st) runs (2nd) games (2nd) and RBI (3rd). Thanks, ESPN. He made seven All-Star teams 1980-87 as well and started in 1982-86.
Note Murphy's 44 homers in 1987, and his 44 combined the following two years...wow.
* Correction: We originally posted there was no 1981 All-Star Game. That was erroneous.
AFTER THIS CARD: Murphy still hadn't regained his old form by mid-1990, and with the Braves going nowhere, he was worth more to the team as a trade chip than as a player. In early August, the once-unthinkable happened—the 34-year-old franchise icon was dealt to Philadephia for middle reliever Jeff Parrett and two future washouts.
With the change of scenery, Murphy's bat did warm up somewhat, but his days as a great player were clearly not coming back. He remained Philly's regular RF in '91 but sat ⅔ of 1992 after knee surgery. Still, the team thought so highly of him, that it did not release him in Spring 1993 until he found another team—the expansion Colorado Rockies.
Sadly, despite playing in a hitter's haven, the now-37-year-old could not crack the final two homers he needed to reach 400—or very many other hits—and chose to retire in late May rather than be cut. He remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for all (then) 15 years, maxing out at 23.2% of the vote in 2000.
Dale Murphy appeared annually in Topps 1977-93.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Atlanta Braves
7/9/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Topps #168 Mark Grace, Cubs
More Mark Grace Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Current riders on the Cubs bandwagon: just know that before Kris Bryant, there was Mark Grace.
Some pro sports teams don't retire uniform numbers of their past stars, or their criteria for doing so is tough to meet. The Toronto Blue Jays, for example, have retired exactly one number in 40 years—Roberto Alomar, when he made the Hall of Fame—when strong cases could be made for Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, Carlos Delgado and others.
For stars who fall short of Cooperstown, some teams take the number out of circulation without officially retiring it, like the Detroit Tigers did with Lou Whitaker's #1, Alan Trammell's #3 and Jack Morris' #47 for years. (I was bothered when #1 and #3 returned to circulation...for another double-play combo, no less. Blasphemy!)
Then you have teams like the Cubs, who returned Mark Grace's #17 to general circulation less than two years after dumping him (on not the best of terms, but still). When you have the popularity and the resume of a Mark Grace, your number should only be returned to use for worthy players—not some 33-year-old Mendoza-line journeyman just passing through like Calvin Murray.
Obviously the Cubs feel differently—even this guy was denied the privilege (although he left on even worse terms than Grace). It took until 2015 for a player at or above Grace's level to be assigned his old digits—Bryant.
About that resume: Grace was the all-time 1990's hits leader (thanks, Nate!), tore up the NLCS as a 25-year-old sophomore (.647 BA; 1.118 SLG), batted .308 with 2,208 hits in 13 Cubs seasons, made three All-Star teams, won four Gold Gloves, and finished Top 6 in NL batting six times. Not bad for a former 24th-round draft pick.
Here, Grace has enjoyed his usual very good season, leading the 94-loss Cubs with a .319 average, .409 OBP and 32 doubles.
THIS CARD: This may be our second COTD of the past three shot at Shea Stadium. Of the several road unis used by the Cubs during my fandom, this is my preferred. The team later altered the lettering slightly, and it's just not the same. Sammy Sosa appears to be on deck.
(flip) Grace was drafted one spot ahead of Bill Bean—not the Moneyball subject, but rather MLB's future Ambassador for Inclusion. Bean chose not to sign at that time, however.
Grace's 2,000th hit did happen in 1999—and it did reach the outfield! On 8/3/99 at Wrigley Field, Grace lined Dustin Hermanson's 118th pitch for a single—KO'ing him one out away from a complete-game victory (Montreal won 5-1; Grace had two hits total.
Rear pic: odd pose for a first baseman to be in. He looks more like a pitcher exaggeratedly coming set. Grace, of course, was well-known for his humor and could just be goofing off.
AFTER THIS CARD: Ryne Sandberg's post-1997 retirement left Grace as the Cubs' face. That is, until Sosa and Kerry Wood emerged as superstars the following summer and led Chicago's charge back to the playoffs.
Grace continued to play well, even setting career highs in HR and runs in 1998 and 1999, respectively. But by 2000 the Cubs had regressed, and 1B prospects Julio Zuleta and Hee-Seop Choi waited in the wings. Chicago opted to let Grace walk, clearing space for two guys who combined to start a grand total of...103 games for them.
Forced to move on, Grace landed with Arizona and helped them to the 2001 World Series title—he batted .298, slugged .466, and started the WS Game 7 9th-inning rally with a leadoff double!
But the aging 1B's production and playing time dipped further and further over the 2002-03 seasons, after which he retired at 39. Grace broadcast D-Backs games 2004-12 until a second DUI that put him out of work and behind bars; he returned to the Snakes as an assistant hitting coach for 2016.
Mark Grace debuted in 1988 Topps Traded, then annually appeared in Topps 1989-2003.
CATEGORIES: 1998 Topps, Chicago Cubs
7/14/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #390 Troy Glaus, Cardinals
More Troy Glaus Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2009 2010
Some people are annoyed by children, some by the elderly, some by public displays of affection. What am I annoyed by? Wasted opportunities for a clever nickname. For example: how have we made it so long without anointing the NBA's Mario Chalmers "Super"?
It works on two levels: Super Mario (for the Nintendo legend) and as an abbreviation for superintendent—like the notable Simpsons character Superintendent Chalmers. HELLO??
Another example: ex-NBA star Jeff Hornacek, during his Utah days, never once being referred to as "Jazzy Jeff". Former Braves/Indians slugger Dave Justice was never "The Lawman" or even "His Honor" or anything pertaining to law. Et cetera, et cetera.
Troy Glaus falls perfectly in this category. Not once in his 13-year career—not even after he delivered the hit that sunk my Giants in the 2002 World Series—did I ever hear him referred to as "Santa". You know, as in Santa Glaus. He was even big and wore red most of his career! Yet, despite my best efforts, not even Chris Berman made the connection. ("Heart Of Glaus?" Really?)
Glaus, taken by the Angels third overall out of UCLA in '97, was best known for bashing long home runs and striking out a lot—in fact, he was the A.L. home run champ in his second full season (47 in 2000, still a team record). Glaus averaged 37/100 from 1999-2002, but right labrum/rotator cuff injuries shortened his 2003-04 seasons (rest/rehab in the former; surgery in the latter.)
Let go by Anaheim after '04, Glaus signed a 4Y/$45M deal with Arizona—and suited up for three clubs during the contract's life. Here, St. Louis has just become the third of those clubs, having acquired the 32-year-old in exchange for disgruntled Scott Rolen in the offseason.
THIS CARD: Glaus is manning the hot corner, something he was about to do better than ever before. Glaus would go on to commit seven errors all of the 2008 season, breaking Ken Boyer's team record for FP by a 3B (.982). His error totals were usually among the league's highest, but remember—the guy battled a bad shoulder much of his career.
Red sleeves under a red alternate...dislike. No other Cardinal in either 2008 set is sporting this jersey. (That bright red jersey has caused me to accidentally type "Angels" instead of "Cardinals" twice on this page.)
Troy's signature is easily the finest one featured in COTD to date.
(flip) On September 3, 2008, Arizona's Doug Davis served up Glaus' 300th lifetime jack, a third-inning shot with a man on. (St. Louis eventually lost 4-3, however). As far as the previous 11 third basemen to reach 300...they were Eddie Mathews and 10 other dudes. You're welcome.
Tarzana is a division of Los Angeles.
Glaus played just 115 games in '07 due to being twice disabled with left foot problems—he underwent September surgery for plantar fascitis.
AFTER THIS CARD: Right after his early '08 trade to St. Louis, Glaus exercised a player option for '09—a wise decision, since his shoulder wasn't through acting up. A second operation cost him all but the tail end of '09 and ended his days as a regular third baseman.
For just $1.75M plus incentives, Atlanta signed Glaus for 2010 as a first baseman. He started 107 times there but, slowed by a sore knee, slugged just .400.
In what would be Glaus' final MLB game, he started Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants—at 3B! Glaus hadn't started there all year, but manager Bobby Cox was forced into major shuffling with regular 3B Chipper Jones (plus his backup Martin Prado) hurt and 2B Brooks Conrad an utter defensive mess. This time, Glaus was not able to wreck my Giants' playoff run.
Though multiple teams showed interest in the 34-year-old, Glaus sat out 2011 before officially retiring. He reportedly inquired about a 2013 comeback with the Yankees...didn't happen.
Troy Glaus debuted in Topps on a shared 1998 Draft Pick Card; he'd appear annually through 2009 and receive an Update card for 2010 as a Brave.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals
7/19/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #278 Jack McKeon, Marlins
More Jack McKeon Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 2001 2003 2005 2006
(This COTD has been worked on for parts of SIX days. Apologies...every time I started, I'd either get pulled away or have trouble researching something. Plus, energy was sapped by a rough heatwave here in the SFBA.)
I'm finding that while doing COTD research, one learns answers to questions he never knew he never knew. Of course I knew about "Trader" Jack McKeon—he helmed the Padres when I first started following baseball, went back to the front office after a while, then returned to the dugout almost a decade later to pilot Reds and Marlins teams (orchestrating one of MLB's all-time great in-season turnarounds in 2003, represented on this card.)
I had no clue McKeon was a 12-year minor league catcher, albeit not a very good one offensively (.216, 17 homers in over 1,700 MiLB at-bats). Never knew he managed the pre-juggernaut Royals in the mid-70's, or led the A's for a time. I'd completely forgotten that one of my favorite clubs ever, the 1999 Reds, employed McKeon as manager.
I was figuratively blown away by his career record of 1,051-990.
The stunning part is, I'd never once wondered about any of that. For a guy who carries a load of otherwise-useless sports knowledge...wow. Card Of The Day exists to educate me as well as you the visitor.
Here, McKeon has just wrapped arguably the most improbable World Series run ever. Having terminated incumbent manager Jeff Torborg (essentially for being too loyal) in May, the 16-22 Marlins turned to McKeon, who had a history of strong in-season turnarounds with the Padres and Reds—but nothing like this.
His young Florida squad soon got hot, stayed hot, trounced through my Giants in the NLDS and eventually beat the heavily-favored Yankees in six to become champions.
THIS CARD: Thumbs down to the image. McKeon looks Earl Weaver's size here—he's short, but not that short. I'd have waited a couple more seconds and snapped him taking the ball from whoever.
Even without McKeon's home whites on, I recongize the bright orange against teal of Joe Robbie Stadium any time...miss that place.
McKeon wore #15 in his first Marlins stint, but switched to #25 for his encore.
(flip) McKeon's reverse image is just a crop of his main image. Not sure if that applied to all manager cards in the set; player reverse images were not cropped.
Let's see if I can name the first six from memory: Rene Lachemann, John Boles, Jim Leyland, John Boles, Tony Perez, Torborg. (Assuming they're counting Boles twice as I did...bulls-eye!) McKeon now holds the #2 senior spot, running the Marlins again in 2011 at age 80.
Those 1999 Reds were the surprise of baseball. going 99-63 and losing a one-game playoff for the Wild Card. Remember how after years of tire-spinning, the Padres got a bunch of stars and went all-in for 2015? The 1999 Reds did it first. And way better.
AFTER THIS CARD: McKeon led the Marlins through 2005, following up his title run with consecutive 83-79 finishes—the only three consecutive winning seasons in Marlins history! In fact, in mid-September '05 the club was 78-67 and within reach of the Braves before slumping late.
Now approaching 75, the cigar-chomping Jersey native stepped down after that '05 season, shifting to an advisory role with Florida. That is, until a 2011 free-fall led to Edwin Gonzalez resigning as manager mid-season.
80-year-old McKeon became the final manager of the Florida Marlins, but there'd be no coaxing a championship out of this bunch (though he did mercifully stop batting Gaby Sanchez and Greg Dobbs 4-5 in the lineup.)
Jack McKeon appeared in 1973-75, 1977 and 1979 Topps, then returned in 1988-90 with the Padres ('88 was a Traded card). Next, he popped up in 2001 Topps (Reds), then closed out his Topps career with an '03 Traded card and 2004-06 base cards—all as a manager; McKeon never played in MLB. Manager cards were not produced during McKeon's last Marlins stint.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Florida Marlins
7/24/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps Update #40 Sam Dyson, Rangers
More Sam Dyson Topps Cards: 2016
Finally, 2015 Topps joins the party! My most recent set (purchased in February 2016) had regularly escaped selection for five months—I had previously promised an Oscar Taveras special selection after his October 2014 death, but so much time passed that those plans were scrapped.
For as long as his heart is pumping, Sam Dyson—no relation to Royals speedster Jarrod—will be remembered for his role in possibly the bizarrest inning in MLB history. Yes, I'm talking about 2015 ALDS Game 5 between Dyson's Rangers and the Blue Jays; it was he who served up Jose Bautista's infamous bat flip home run in that wild, 53-minute 7th inning.
It was also he who subsequently jawed with Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki (after patting Tulo's ass upon retiring him for some mysterious reason.) The inning was so fantastically nutty, I was giving my buddy Cav (at work; unable to watch) regular text updates as each crazy unfolded.
By the way, that wasn't the first time Dyson provoked someone.
Dyson, thick-bearded and hard-throwing, was drafted out of high school and as a college junior but didn't sign until taken by Toronto #4 after his senior year at South Carolina. He did briefly pitch for Toronto—Bautista and Encarnacion were both teammates—before being claimed by Miami on waivers just before Spring Training 2013.
Here, Dyson has opened '15 with Miami, winning a job with them after a strong showing in 2014.
THIS CARD: This card—our second Marlin in a row, albeit from radically different eras—is #40 of 400, a 70-card increase from the last nine Update series. The base set numbered 700 rather than 660/661—despite that, not everyone who should have been included was.
Dyson, especially when bearded, resembles the actor George Eads, best known as Nick Stokes on the original CSI. He could be firing off one of his 90 MPH changeups here; Dyson's heater can reach 96 and he's also got a capable slider.
Blue wall with orange trim; 330 feet down the line...Citi Field? (Yes.) For some reason some distance lettering there is orange; some is white. The exclamation point belongs to a StubHub ad.
(flip) Offhand, I can't recall any other Topps set with the Series printed on it—the base set says "Series One" or "Two" where "Update Series" is printed here—nor can I recall when Topps added waiving teams to the bio box. Kind of ashamed to not already know these answers.
Through this writing, Dyson has faced 488 more regular-season batters and matched that HRA total...still not bad.
How did somebody with Dyson's stuff strike out so few as a minor leaguer? And why, if he was drafted in 2010, do his stats only go back to 2012? Can't answer the former; as for the latter, Dyson underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted and spent 2011 recovering.
Borderless backs: refreshing and awesome.
AFTER THIS CARD: Curiously, Dyson's 2015 Update card doesn't show him with his final team of 2015—the Rangers acquired him at the trade deadline, and yet he's still featured with the Marlins.
We've covered Dyson's 2015 postseason adventures; in 2016, he succeeded slumping Shawn Tolleson as Rangers closer and to date has done well in the role.
This is Sam Dyson's first Topps card; he also appears in 2016 base.
7/27/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #470 Yorvit Torrealba, Giants
More Yorvit Torrealba Topps Cards: 2006 2008 2010 2011
In wrestling, they call it "turning heel"—when a once-beloved perfomer (face) changes allegiances and through his behavior, draws contempt from fans who used to cheer him (heel).
Yorvit (Yor-Veet) Torrealba became that for my Giants—he came up with the team and was a solid backup for Benito Santiago, etc. for four years. But by September 2007 he was a Colorado Rockie—and targeted by Giants RP Steve Kline for a drilling after previously stealing 2nd in a blowout. Torrealba naturally took offense, and teammates had to charge from the dugout to separate the pair.
Just like that, Torrealba's heel turn was complete. (He did earn back some of my favor the next year by mixing it up with Matt Kemp, lead detestee of the detested Dodgers at the time.)
Once upon a time, the Venezuela native was a candidate to succeed Santiago as San Francisco's #1 catcher. Signed by the Giants in 1994 at 16, he debuted with the team in '01 (six days before the World Trade Center attacks) and started 92 games behind the plate 2002-03—gunning down 30 of 80 attempted base thieves (38%) in that span! But SF bypassed him for the full-time job twice in favor of proven stars.
Here, the 25-year-old has just completed his second full year in the bigs, both of which were playoff seasons for his Giants. Torrealba went unused by Dusty Baker in the '02 postseason, but Felipe Alou did call on him twice in the '03 NLDS—the young catcher opened Game 4's scoring with a deepsacrifice fly.
THIS CARD: This is Torrealba's first Topps card; he had appeared previously in Topps Total.
Two 2004 selections out of the past three—hiatus time! (Meanwhile, we're still stuck on a total of two 2005 selections...)
Initially, I was fairly certain this was Miller Park, but upon further review I'm now 100% certain this is actually PNC Park—and that I really need to brush up on my park identification skillz.
Torrealba's lone game there in '03 was April 24—indeed a day game. He was 0-for-4, but his pitcher Damian Moss threw seven strong innings to beat Pittsburgh 3-1. It was Moss' only scoreless start out of 29 that year.
Torrealba switched to that #8 for 2003, and except for 2010 with SD, wore it until he retired in '14.
(flip) That RBI triple was produced in the 9th inning of Torrealba's 9/5/01 MLB debut—with the Giants down 7-1, he'd given Santiago a late rest. Future teammate Byung-Hyun Kim was on the mound; John Vander Wal scored SF's 2nd and final run.
As for Torrealba's birthplace, he became one of several Venezuelan major leaguers forced to deal with kidnappers in their homeland—in his case, his son and two uncles were targeted in 2009; all survived unharmed. Venezuelan kidnappers have targeted the families of Ugueth Urbina, Victor Zambrano, Elvis Andrus and more—not to mention Wilson Ramos himself.
AFTER THIS CARD: After joining Seattle in a 2005 trade for Randy Winn, Torrealba headed to the Rockies for '06 and though he never became their clear-cut #1 catcher, he was Colorado's primary catcher when they charged to the 2007 World Series.
That winter, a failed physical prevented him from cashing in on the Mets' three-year, $14M contract offer—Torrealba returned to Denver for about half those dollars and stayed through 2009.
The veteran catcher suited up for five teams over the next five years, including Texas—who in 2011 became the third different Torrealba team to win a pennant! (He started 108 times for them during the season, though only once in the WS). But his career fizzled out in 2014—both the Angels and Cubs signed the now-36-year-old and let him go soon after.
Despite his 13-year career, Yorvit Torrealba only appeared in six Topps releases: 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 base, and 2010-11 Update. This is his only Topps card as a Giant.
CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, San Francisco Giants
7/29/16 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #738 Scott Bankhead, Mariners
More Scott Bankhead Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
What did we see in 1980's MLB that we're far less likely to see today? Let's see: almost as many turf stadiums as grass, flagrant blown series-altering World Series calls, as many black players as whites on a team, three or fewer Latin players on a team, managers out-earning players, and 5'10" pitchers who generally operate below 90 MPH going #16 overall in the draft like Scott Bankhead did.
Bankhead had been a two-time All-American at North Carolina, won 20 straight NCAA games at one point 1983-84 and went 5-0, 0,86 for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team—all achieved without a blazing heater or imposing size.
The Royals selected him 16th overall in '84, only to package him in a trade to Seattle for slugger Danny Tartabull two years later after a 24-game sample size.
Here, Bankhead has just completed his first of five Mariner seasons—the excellent start to his season gave way to an ugly middle (6.70 ERA in 17 games May-August). Mid-season shoulder problems didn't help.
THIS CARD: After Bankhead left Seattle, five different guys wore his #15 in the next two years. Coach Matt Sinatro wore it from 1995-02; star 3B Kyle Seager now has it.
As you can see, Bankhead wasn't big. And though some smaller guys can still bring the heat—he wasn't one of them. Bankhead succeeded with fastball movement, a tough slider, good changeup and, as described on his Score cards, "competitiveness and willingness to pitch inside."
Early ballpark guesses: Arlington Stadium in Texas, Exhibition Stadium in Toronto (which I don't remember that well) or County Stadium in Milwaukee. Drumroll, please...
Exhibition had logos on the wall as this park seems to, but those colors don't match...I'm torn between there and Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Bankhead pitched at both in 1987.
(flip) It's a total coincidence this COTD appears on Bankhead's 53rd birthday. (COTD dates are dates of selection, not posting.)
For those of you questioning the need for "This Way To The Clubhouse", remember this is 1988 Topps—there was no Internet to readily look up transactions. If you needed this information fast...oh, well. I remember the specifics of a 1993 trade between the NBA's Nuggets and Pistons taking me over a month to confirm; teenage me obsessed over it to the detriment of my grades.
Memphis as a Royals AA affiliate? I can't imagine them connected to anybody but the Cardinals.
Luecken appeared as "Rick" on every card of him I've owned/seen, rather than the "Rich" that appeared in press releases covering the trade.
AFTER THIS CARD: Finally healthy, a now-26-year-old Bankhead busted out in 1989—after starting an uninspiring 2-4, 4.67, the M's righty finished 12-2 from then on, including winning seven straight starts and nine straight decisions at one point! He seemed to be on his way...until his troublesome shoulder intervened in early 1990. Bankhead tried—and miserably failed—to pitch through the bone spur/inflammation, but ultimately ceded to the surgeon's knife.
Bankhead returned for 1991, but wasn't close to his 1989 form and lost nearly three more months on the DL. The team finally shifted him to relief in September that year, then let him go.
Now 28 and a full-time reliever, Bankhead finished up in the bullpens of the '92 Reds, the 1993-94 Red Sox, and the first-half-of-1995 Yankees—who got him under interesting circumstances but cut him after a largely bad 20 games. A month with AAA Edmondton (Athletics) went nowhere, and that was it for Bankhead.
Scott Bankhead premiered as an Olympian in 1985 Topps, returned for 1987 Traded, then appeared annually in 1988-94 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Seattle Mariners