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Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, July 2022

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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 Brad Hawpe
Topps Brad Hawpe

7/31/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #87 Brad Hawpe, Rockies

More Brad Hawpe Topps Cards: 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011

Now don't get me wrong—Brad Hawpe was a very good Colorado Rockie for a few years. But the only time anybody was comparing him to, say, David Ortiz or any other top lefty masher of the 2000's, was when:

  • A) the somebody was me, and

  • B) Hawpe was opposing me and my Giants in MLB '11: The Show.

As I've previously explained in COTD, for budgetary reasons my copy of that video game had to suffice far longer than it was meant to. Meaning I battled the Padres—Hawpe's 2011 team—a LOT over the years, and for whatever reason facing Hawpe was like facing a 'roided-up Joe Mauer with trash cans and TV monitors in use.
I really had to strategize and dig in to get the guy out; he hit the ball hard frequently, was rarely if ever fooled, and seemingly never swung and missed against anybody except RP Javier Lopez.

Putting aside the many general updates, improvements and innovations that make MLB '16: The Show worth the PS3 investment I made last year, one of the game's best features is that it does NOT include Brad Hawpe—or any other player with similarly distorted skillz.

I'm telling you now, Sony—when MLB '23: The Show is released, an epic STRUGGLE should not be necessary to retire Eric Hosmer in Veteran mode.

THIS CARD: Hawpe appears to be ceasing his advancement to second base, most likely after a foul ball, I'd guess. He wasn't too fast or slow, but he rarely attempted to steal bases as a professional.

In the Rockies' 30-season history, they've only issued #11 to six players. The slugging Hawpe—pronounced "HOP", by the way—is easily the best of the bunch; second-best is current wearer Jose Iglesias, hitting well over .300 at last check. (Tom Runnells also wore #11 from 2009-16, partially explaining the dearth of players with those digits.)

More from Hawpe's 2008 season: in Spring Training, Colorado locked him up for 3Y/$17.4M, then watched him—eventually, see blurb—produce his usual numbers despite missing two weeks with a hamstring strain towards May's end. In late August, Hawpe reached base in 10 straight PA—two shy of the franchise record (NINE of those PA came against my Giants, the bastard). Thanks,

(flip) Hawpe hadn't been higher than .263 all season prior to the tear referred to in the blurb. For the  record, his Rockies—who were 74-88 overall—went 22-18 in those 40 games, emphasizing why Colorado gave him that deal.

Those 76 BB in '08 led Colorado, and those 25 homers in '08 tied for the lead (with Matt Holliday).

When Hawpe's career ended, his highest career OPS against (10 PA) was still Snell, though reduced to 2.092. Broxton and Hendrickson had been replaced by Mike Thompson—a Padre in 2006-07 who I forgot ever existed—and Felipe Paulino for second and third place.

AFTER THIS CARD: Hawpe hit .285, 23, 86 in 145 games for the 2009 Rockies, making his sole All-Star team and shaking off an early-season hospitalization after taking a pickoff throw to the neck. The 31-year-old slipped a bit in 2010 and (to my surprise) wound up released by Colorado in August. Tampa Bay signed him the next day, but he went just 7-for-39 in 15 games down the stretch.

As mentioned, Hawpe joined the Padres for 2011 at 1Y/$2M (with a $6M mutual option for 2012 and a $1M buyout) with designs on him taking over at 1B for the traded Adrian Gonzalez. However, Hawpe was not very productive for SD and underwent UCL surgery in August. He resurfaced with the Angels for 17 games in June 2013, but after managing but five singles in 27 at-bats, the Angels gave 34-year-old Hawpe his career-ending release that August.

Brad Hawpe appeared in 2006-11 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Colorado Rockies


More July 2022 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Kevin Jepsen
Topps Kevin Jepsen

7/1/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps Update #198 Kevin Jepsen, Angels

More Kevin Jepsen Topps Cards: 2015U

I used to get Kevin Jepsen and Angels bullpen mate Jordan Walden confused for a time—not even Walden's unique delivery distinguished him in my cluttered mind. Then Walden was traded to the Braves. Then Walden's career suddenly ended after rotator cuff surgery. Then I had no real problem telling Jepsen from Walden.

A burly, hard-throwing reliever, 2010 marked Jepsen's first season spent entirely in MLB; he spent nearly seven full seasons in MiLB before debuting with the Angels as a 2008 September call-up. Here, he's just kicked off the 2011 campaign; opposing batters were just 4-for-24 (.167) against Jepsen during Spring 2011.

THIS CARD: We mentioned Walden's delivery, but Jepsen's motion wasn't exactly basic, either—forgoing a windup, he'd just sort of half-squat and explode the ball to the plate. Jepsen offered a high-90's fastball, a curve, and a slider/cutter; in 2014 he restored his old changeup.

It still seems a little blasphemous for any Halos righty reliever not named Troy Percival to be wearing #40, but here you go. Other notable #40's in Angels history include 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, and flamethrowing lefty Frank Tanana in the 1970s. (Jepsen's original Angels number was #65, BTW.)

This pic was shot 5/15/2011 as the Angels clashed with the Rangers; that day Jepsen faced one batter, Elvis Andrus, and induced a flyout in the B8th.

More from Jepsen's early 2011 season: he made five appearances before being demoted to AAA Salt Lake for a month. He then made 11 more appearances before a second demotion; one horrific outing (five ER in one inning 5/17) skewed his numbers.

(flip) Those 54 games with the 2009 Angels: Jepsen struggled early, hurt his back, was demoted to Salt Lake after healing, but returned to the Angels for good in early June.

If you do the games/innings math, you can figure out that Jepsen was a regular starter early in his pro career. In fact, he started 27 games as a 20-year-old for A Cedar Rapids in 2004! But he switched to the bullpen for 2006 and never looked back. 

Couldn't Topps have figured out SOME way to use the sidebar for past Traded/Update cards, as the 2011 Topps base set did? As I've said before, I DUG the random past Topps cards in those sidebars.

AFTER THIS CARD: Before he could return to the majors from his second AAA demotion of 2011, Jepsen required season-ending right knee surgery. He got in 94 mostly-effective games for L.A. in 2012-13 while still finding time in AAA, then enjoyed a standout 2014 campaign (2.63, 1.046 WHIP in 74 games) for the 2014 Angels—to date, the last Angels team to reach the postseason.

Los Angeles dealt the now-veteran reliever to Tampa Bay for OF Matt Joyce in December 2014; the Rays then swapped Jepsen to Minnesota at the 2015 Trade Deadline. The 31-year-old took over Glen Perkins' role as Twins closer and finished the year with a combined 15 saves! He was again asked to fill in for the injured Perkins as closer in early 2016.

But that year, Jepsen was battered (5.98 ERA, 1.671 WHIP) in 58 combined games for the Twins and Rays, who re-acquired him after his July release by Minnesota. The 33-year-old spent 2017 on MiLB deals with Arizona (Spring Training) and Washington without any major-league call-ups, as he did not exactly dominate AAA batters.

After a delivery tweak at AAA Syracuse, however, Jepsen recaptured some lost velo and won a job with the 2018 Rangers out of Spring Training. But he walked 11 and allowed four homers in 16 regular-season innings, and he was granted his career-ending release about seven weeks into the season. Jepsen finished up with a 4.00 ERA and 27 saves in 469 career MLB games.

Kevin Jepsen appeared in 2011 and 2015 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps Update, Los Angeles Angels

Topps Ricky Nolasco
Topps Ricky Nolasco

7/2/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #436 Ricky Nolasco, Marlins

More Ricky Nolasco Topps Cards: 2004T 2006 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2013U 2014 2014U 2015 2016 2017 2018


The 2008 Giants were not a good team, especially on offense. I specifically remember the call-up of rookie Pablo Sandoval that year and how strange (and welcome) it felt to watch a Giants hitter beat good pitching.

The low point HAD to be 8/19, when young Marlin SP Ricky Nolasco—a capable fellow but no Tim Lincecum—shut the Giants out on two hits. One of those hits was a B1st infield hit by Randy Winn. The other was a pinch-hit, B9th double by Sandoval. Meaning at one point, 24 straight batters failed to get a hit off Nolasco (one did draw a walk, at least).

I never forgot that game.

Here, however, Nolasco is fresh off his rookie season of 2006. Initially a reliever for Florida, Nolasco joined the rotation in mid-May and while he did take some lumps in early July and late August especially, the kid showed plenty of promise as he posted the best BB/9 of ALL Marlins pitchers (2.6). He went 3-2, 2.62 in five June starts!

THIS CARD: Nolasco was one of those guys who managed to look bigger than he was AND smaller than he was all at once. Here, we see him trying to decide on throwing the four-seamer (low-to-mid-90's), the two-seamer, the slider, or the splitter that he used as a changeup. Nolasco added a cutter later on and also supposedly had a curve, though I don't remember it in his arsenal.

Ricky...that NOT a signature. That is a too-fancy sketch of the Oldsmobile logo. (It seems Nolasco "signed" his birth name, Carlos Enrique Nolasco.)

That's #47 partially concealed on Nolasco's jersey; he wore only that number in his 12 MLB seasons. The best of the dozen or so other Marlins to wear #47 is probably Junior Felix way back in 1993, though RP Jimmy Yacabonis has looked good wearing it so far in 2022.

(flip) Nolasco was acquired from the Chicago Cubs with fellow pitching prospects Sergio Mitre and Renyel Pinto in exchange for OF Juan Pierre, who played well for Chicago. But since he was only there one season, the Marlins win this deal because of Nolasco's achievements (see below).

That home run doubled as Nolasco's first MLB hit; SP Sean Marshall served it up. Nolasco finished his MLB career with 382 official at-bats, but never homered again.

Those 11 wins in 2006 made Nolasco one of four Marlins rookies (Anibal Sanchez, Scott Olsen and Josh Johnson) to win in double digits; they were the first such rookie quartet in MLB history! That group, along with veteran star Dontrelle Willis, became the first Marlins quintet with 10+ wins each.

AFTER THIS CARD: Nolasco lasted with the Fish well into the Miami era; after missing most of 2007 with elbow inflammation, he went a combined 42-25 from 2008-10 despite ERA and H/9 totals that sometimes ran on the high side. Florida rewarded the 28-year-old with a 3Y/$26.5M extension in December 2010.


In mid-2013, with the Marlins going nowhere, Nolasco was dealt to the Dodgers and won eight games for them down the stretch (boo). But he lost what ended up as his only MLB postseason start (non-boo).


Minnesota then signed the free agent to a 4Y/$49M deal in December 2013, but never really got their money's worth as Nolasco was waylaid by ineffectiveness (15-22, 5.44 in 57 games as a Twin) and injury (just nine games in 2015 due to elbow inflammation and ankle surgery) until being traded to the Angels in mid-2016.

Nolasco looked much better as a 2016 Angel (4-6, 3.21 in 11 starts), but after a WILDLY inconsistent 2017 campaign—for example, he followed a shutout with a start of eight runs in 1.2 innings—he ended up signing a MiLB deal with Kansas City for 2018. They released him before the opener; Nolasco wasn't seen on a mound again until 2019 in the D'Backs system, where he made his final 11 pro appearances.

Today, Ricky Nolasco remains the Marlins' all-time leader in starts (197) wins (81) strikeouts (1,001) and innings (1225.2). He debuted in 2004 Topps Traded before appearing in 2006-18 Topps as well as 2013-14 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Florida Marlins

Topps Joe Randa
Topps Joe Randa

7/3/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #216 Joe Randa, Royals

More Joe Randa Topps Cards: 1995 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2005U 2006 


Randa was not your prototypical major league third baseman; he didn't have the power most clubs seek at that position. But the man could hit, as evidenced by his four seasons over .300 and his career .284 average, so he got full-time run with the Royals, Pirates and others for a decade in MLB.

Here, Randa has closed the book on a promising 1996 season. Given 89 starts (80 at third base) by the Royals, the youngster tied with veteran Jose Offerman for the team lead in average (.303) while demolishing lefties at a .340 clip.

THIS CARD: Randa makes his second appearance in COTD; we profiled his 2004 Topps card in January 2021.

A Royal not named Bo Jackson or Billy Butler wearing #16?! Blasphemy! OF Andrew Benintendi currently wears #16 for the Royals—at least until the trade rumors become trade reality.

Nothing against Randa, but there wasn't a strong rookie crop of third basemen in 1996 and he sort of defaulted into that trophy. Personally, I'd like to think the All-Star Rookie third baseman would have been Russ Davis of the Mariners had he not gotten hurt in May, or Bill Mueller of my Giants had he been called up a month sooner.

(flip) This is the rare image of Randa without a happy expression on his face; his mouth was naturally shaped into a smile and announcers often commented on it.

Check out that .545 SLG for 1991 Eugene (low A); Randa couldn't have slugged .545 in MLB unless A) he hit 100 doubles in a season, or B) Kansas City moved its home games a couple states over to Colorado.

The California Angels picked Randa #30 in 1989 out of something called Indian River State College. A smattering of future major leaguers went there, the best known probably being former OF/1B  and 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce.

AFTER THIS CARD: In December 1996, KC traded Randa to the Pirates, for whom he posted nearly identical numbers in 1997 as in '96. He was then taken in the 1997 Expansion Draft by Arizona, then immediately flipped to Detroit.

Randa struggled for the 1998 Tigers and was traded that December—first to the Mets, then back to the Royals a week later. Randa went on to spent the next six seasons as Kansas City's third baseman, with his best all-round campaign being 2000 (.304, 15, 106).

The 36-year-old ended his career after stints with the 2005 Reds, 2005 Padres and 2006 Pirates.

Joe Randa appeared annually in Topps 1995-2006, except 1996. He's also got a 2005 Update card as a new Padre.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Kansas City Royals

Topps Geronimo Berroa
Topps Geronimo Berroa

7/4/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #187 Geronimo Berroa, Athletics

More Geronimo Berroa Topps Cards: 1989T 1990 1993T 1994T 1996 1997 1998

If you know the story of current Cubs star Patrick Wisdom, then you might have an idea of the path Geronimo Berroa took to stardom 30 years ago.

Berroa was originally a highly-touted Blue Jays prospect who flamed out soon after arriving in Atlanta via Rule V Draft. He had to pass through four other organizations with just a couple of MLB sniffs before finally getting a true opportunity with the rebuilding 1994 Oakland Athletics at age 29.

Given that playing time, mostly at DH, Berroa went out and led the '94 A's qualifiers in average and slugging, while finishing second in OBP and RBI. 

THIS CARD: It's fitting to have a front image of Berroa swinging the bat. It seemed he hit everything hard in 1994, and with 1B Mark McGwire out ⅔ of that season and OF Rickey Henderson merely ordinary, Berroa's offense was needed.

After shuffling through several other numbers, Berroa wore #29 almost exclusively from 1994 on. Other notable #29's in Oakland A's history include: 2B Phil Garner in the 1970's, SP Curt Young in the 1980's, and CL Keith Foulke in the 2000's. Currently, #29 is claimed by A's RP Austin Pruitt. 

Berroa is listed as an OF, but as we mentioned, the majority of his 1994 run came at DH, so perhaps a hyphen was warranted? Berroa was also used a handful of times at first base.

(flip) Berroa did NOT bat left. This error was never corrected on any of his Topps base cards or his first Traded card (1989), although 1993-94 Traded correctly lists him as a righty batter.

In David Wells' book Perfect, I'm Not, Berroa is quoted as shouting "What? I can't hear you over all those home run cheers!" when Wells protested his slow amble around the bases. In that Diamond Vision pic, Berroa looks like the type of guy who'd indeed respond that way.

The listed Braves, Reds and Marlins were only some of the organizations to employ Berroa 1990-93. He spent Spring 1991 with the Mariners before being sold to Cleveland, who stashed him at AAA Colorado Springs for the entire 1991 season despite his .322, 18, 91 showing there.

Instead of "decision at", Topps should have said "demolition of", IMHO. Those five RBI would go down as Berroa's career-high, tied in both 1996 and 1997.

AFTER THIS CARD: Eliminating any "fluke" labeling, Berroa batted .278, 22, 88 in 1995 before breaking out with a huge 1996 campaign (.290, 36, 106) that would have earned him All-Star consideration just about any other year.
Come June 1997, however, the first-place Orioles needed to replace the cancer-stricken OF Eric Davis in their lineup—cue a trade for Berroa, who cooled down a bit in Baltimore but homered twice in the ALDS!

From there, unfortunately, Berroa descended into career freefall, only getting in 118 MLB games from 1998-2000 (with the Tigers, Indians, Blue Jays and Dodgers) as one injury after another hit. He batted .222 with two bombs and 24 RBI in that period, and after a stint with AAA Ottawa (Expos) in 2001, Berroa's career ended at 36. (Well, in the States, anyway; he played a season apiece in Korea and Mexico before sitting down for good.)

Geronimo Berroa appeared in 1990 and 1995-98 Topps, as well as 1989, 1993 and 1994 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Oakland Athletics

Topps Curt Schilling
Topps Curt Schilling

7/6/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #385 Curt Schilling, Phillies

More Curt Schilling Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1992T 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2000T 2001 2002 2003 2004 2004T 2005 2006 2007 2008

I might feel that Curt Schilling belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but not enough of the people responsible for that decision feel the same. This past winter, Schilling wrapped up his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot, and despite strong numbers and being one of the game's dominant and clutch pitchers for over a decade, he remains on the outside of the Hall looking in.

True, his personality and remarks have something to do with that—he damaged his own chances by being, well, tough to like. But we're not talking about a criminal here, and if you're judging Schilling STRICTLY for what he did on the field 1989-2007, and not anything he said 2008-present, he should have a plaque in the Hall along with his old teammates Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. There's no denying what a great pitcher Schilling was.

Oh, well. Maybe one of those 12 Veterans Committees will agree with my reasoning someday...

THIS CARD: Schilling was one of those guys who seemed fat, even though he really wasn't. It's because of images like this.

You can see the #3 on Schilling's back and the #8 on his sleeve; I wonder if the Phillies would retire Schilling's #38 if he ever did reach Cooperstown. Unlikely, since his very best years were with Arizona and Boston. 

Schilling is the only Phillies pitcher with a common in 1999 Topps; they only had seven players total (Mike Lieberthal, Desi Relaford, Bobby Abreu, Rico Brogna, Scott Rolen and Doug Glanville were the others; no Mark Lewis (518 AB in 1998), no Mark Portugal (10-5 in 26 starts), no Mark Leiter (23 saves). Geez, Topps, it wasn't collector's fault that some guy named Mark vandalized your building.

(flip) My daughter came within five minutes of sharing a birthday with Schilling. Instead, she popped out at 11:55pm on November 13th...a Friday (cue spooky music).

15 complete games in 1998 by Schilling alone; there might not be 15 total complete games in MLB here in 2022! MAN, I love high IP and CG totals...

The four others before Schilling with consecutive 300-K years: Rube Waddell, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard; Johnson later became the sixth. Fun fact: Schilling reached an even 300 punchouts in 1998 with exactly 150 home and away!

AFTER THIS CARD: Not much, just a blockbuster trade to the D'Backs in July 2000, 132 more wins including a stretch of three 20-win seasons out of four, three more All-Star appearances (making it six in all), three Cy Young Award runner-up finishes, a blockbuster trade to the Red Sox in November 2003, a very famous sock and a key role in three World Series championships (2001 Arizona, 2004 and 2007 Boston) before career-ending shoulder surgery in 2008. 

Oops, almost forgot: Schilling also became the 14th pitcher with 3,000 K; he ranks 15th all-time today. Sorry, Nick Swisher, but somebody had to be the victim.

Schilling worked as an analyst for ESPN from 2010 until his 2016 firing for, let's just say, giving one non-baseball opinion too many. Ironic, since two years prior, he beat mouth cancer.

Curt Schilling appeared annually in Topps 1990-2008. He's also got 1992, 2000 and 2004 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies

Topps Checklists Tim Anderson
Topps Checklists Eloy Jimenez

7/7/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #569 Checklist/South Side Swag

More 2020 Topps Checklists: n/a

Topps reintroduced Checklist cards to its base sets back in 2010. From that Topps set through the 2015 Topps set, Checklist card fronts were dedicated to the past season's highlights, except 2013 Topps, whose fronts were dedicated to the Record Chase—milestone chase, really—of several dudes. The actual Checklist appeared on the reverses.

From 2016 Topps through today, Checklist card fronts have featured an assortment of images meant to promote the game's top stars and present them in a fun light. The card titles do occasionally fall into the "trite" and/or "cheesy" column, but the majority are at least a little inspired. Since these titles seem geared toward the younger collector/fan, we will refer to them as the "Teen Titles" here in COTD.

I personally would rather still have the Highlights, but as long as Checklists are back, they could have batboys, umpires or even vendors on the front and I wouldn't complain. (Unless the umpire is the reproachable Angel Hernandez.)

THIS CARD: Much to my surprise, this is the first Checklist card we've presented in COTD from the "Teen Titles" era. I thought I was going to have to do some editing, since before today I didn't pay much attention to the front of Checklist cards and would not have featured the Teen Title in the card description, but nope.

Tim Anderson (right, #7) has made much news for non-baseball reasons in 2022, but let it be known he is a FINE baseball player and one who was voted to start the 2022 All-Star Game. Eloy Jimenez (left, #74) is no slouch either when healthy, but he's missed a LOT of time since smoking 31 jacks as a 2019 rookie.


Per Getty Images, this pic was shot 9/11/2019, shortly after Jimenez ripped a B1st three-run homer off Kansas City's Glenn Sparkman. Still, the Royals won 8-6 that day.

(flip) ERROR—Anderson did not hit the home run.

The word "Swag" used to make me retch—what can I say, I'm a middle-aged man, get off my lawn—but after hearing it used on a number of honorable individuals such as Stephen Curry and Justin Timberlake, it's no longer vexing. "YOLO", on the other hand...

Hooray! Most Topps Checklists from 2010 on feature at least one rookie who I have no clue about, despite owning his card. But I at least have basic knowledge of everyone listed here. Even Yonathan Daza.

At the time of this set's release, Hiura, Lowe, Jansen and Calhoun seemed headed toward good things—perhaps even stardom. (One or more of them may have even had the Future Stars label on their 2020 Topps card.) But Hiura has dropped off substantially after a strong 2019 rookie campaign, Jansen is a lifetime .213 hitter in five seasons, Lowe—after hitting 39 homers in 2021—is stuck on the 60-day IL with a .212 average this season, and Calhoun has been buried in AAA for most of 2022.
Baseball is beautiful, but it can also be cruel...

CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, Checklists

Topps Jose Urena
Topps Jose Urena

7/8/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #20 Jose Urena, Marlins

More Jose Urena Topps Cards: 2015U 2018 2020 2021 2021U 2022

Though he's fighting for his career at present, hard-throwing Jose Urena was a fine big league pitcher for a few seasons, and at one point was the ace of the Miami Marlins—I know, I know, somebody had to be, but still, Urena was legit.

Unfortunately, a lot of non-Marlins fans will best remember him for intentionally drilling young Braves OF Ronald Acuna in 2018 for no other reason than Acuna enjoying and succeeding at the game of baseball in Urena's presence. The 4th-year pitcher was ejected and served a six-game suspension for his actions, and his career has steadily declined in the years since.

Here, Urena has completed that 2018 season, one which wasn't going so well up until that August suspension (3-12, 4.74, 10-day DL stint in June with shoulder impingement). But the veteran righty caught fire after returning, going 6-1, 1.80 in his final seven starts! Somehow, Colorado's German Marquez claimed NL Pitcher of the Month for September with a 3-1, 2.14 line that paled in comparison to Urena's 5-0, 1.20 performance (the former did have four 11-K games, but still.)

THIS CARD: According to GettyImages, this pic was shot on 3/29/2018—Urena received the Opening Day nod against the Cubs but was tagged for five runs, six hits, four walks and three HBP in four innings. (It took a while to find this pic since I could not tell if Urena was wearing a home or road jersey; that's the primary issue I had with the Miami uniforms of the mid-2010's.

We see Urena with what appears to be a slider grip; Urena features a high-90's four-seamer, a very hard sinker, the aforementioned slider and a power changeup that can reach 90! His reach-back-and-fire motion is anything but compact and anything but deceptive, but his arm has always been healthy—liners notwithstanding (see below).

More from Urena's 2018 season: he led Miami in wins and innings, was their only pitcher to make 30 starts (nobody else topped 26) and of the 13 Marlins pitchers to top 50 innings, Urena's 1.184 WHIP ranked second to Adam Conley's 1.086. On 8/19, Urena went the distance on 108 pitches at Washington, allowing two walks and hits apiece in beating the Nats 12-1. 

(flip) I'm still stunned that someone with Urena's velocity/stuff strikes out so relatively few—even though he doesn't really try to strike guys out, in THIS era, you'd think K's would happen organically. Those 130 whiffs in 2018 average out to 6.7 K/9; fittingly, Urena's 2018 game-high for K was seven.

It's not too often a team's original #5 starter winds up its leader in wins (by four) and places second in innings, but that was Urena in 2017. That 2-0 win at Baltimore went down 6/15; Urena might have pitched the B9th (rather than CL Kyle Barraclough) had he not already fired 112 pitches.

To me, anyway, Urena's slider is more fluttery than sharp. But I've never stood 60', 6" away from him.

This is the seventh COTD we've presented from 2019 Topps base—and the fifth to be numbered in single or double digits...just a random oddity I felt compelled to share.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2019, Urena again started for Miami on Opening Day, but he missed nearly three months with a back strain and pitched in relief upon his September return. Urena then missed the first month-plus of 2020 with COVID; he wound up 0-3, 5.40 in five starts that year and was non-tendered by the Marlins (who now had several other viable rotation options).

Detroit brought Urena onboard with a 1Y/$3.25M deal in December 2020—only to watch him go 2-8, 5.96 (in 18 starts), visit the IL twice (forearm/groin strains) and lose his rotation spot. He wasn't much better out of the 'pen and signed a minors deal with Milwaukee for 2022.
Urena won a relief job out of Spring Training but was cut by the Brewers after only four games; just two days ago he turned in a fine start for the Rockies (suck on THAT, Dodgers) that he can hopefully build upon going forward.

Jose Urena debuted in 2015 Topps Update and has since appeared in the 2018-22 Topps base sets. He also appears as a new Tiger in 2021 Topps Update.

CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, Miami Marlins

Topps Quilvio Veras
Topps Quilvio Veras

7/9/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #147 Quilvio Veras, Braves

More Quilvio Veras Topps Cards: 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001

I couldn't have been the only one who didn't expect much when young Quilvio Veras took over as the Marlins' second baseman in 1995. He was tiny and not a great hitter; I figured MLB pitching would overmatch him.

But by the end of 1995, he'd not only held his own against MLB pitching, but he was also the league's top basestealer and the second runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year! "Q" remained with Florida for one more season before being traded to the Padres (for P Dustin Hermanson) in November 1996.

With San Diego, Veras batted as high as .280, continued to steal bases (not at his 1995 pace, but better than most) and helped the Padres reach the 1998 World Series! But after the 1999 season Veras, a pending free agent, was part of a six-man blockbuster trade between the Padres and Braves (the one that sent Ryan Klesko to San Diego).

Here, Veras has just finished up Year Two with Atlanta...sort of. After missing half of 2000 with a torn ACL, Veras returned to the Braves in 2001 but was plagued by an ankle sprain and a rib cage injury; Atlanta cut him in July to make room for newly-acquired SS Rey Sanchez.

THIS CARD: Veras holding down second base at an unidentified stadium; all but 6.2 innings of Veras's defensive MLB career came at the keystone (he played two games in the outfield for the 1995 Marlins).

The #41 patch commemorates Hall-of-Fame Braves 3B Eddie Mathews, who passed away in February 2001 at 69.

It's very rare for Topps—today and back in the day—to include a player with a team who didn't employ him at season's end/beginning. But here we have Veras, who was cut by the Braves in August 2001 yet turned up in 2002 Topps as a Brave months later. Off the top of my head, I can think of Sean Bergman in 2001 Topps and Jeff Samardzija in 2021 Topps as players featured under similar circumstances.

(flip) Here, Veras slightly resembles late soap actor Kristoff St. John, which I'm sure he got ALL the time.

Veras was limited to 73 games in 1996 by a hamstring injury and a demotion to the minors when Luis Castillo was promoted.

That is one of the most random, least interesting blurbs in the history of modern Topps. IT'S JUST A FRIKKIN' COINCIDENCE, PEOPLE!!! RIP Odalis Perez. Even though I didn't like him.

AFTER THIS CARD: In--Nada. Veras signed MiLB deals with the Red Sox in August 2001 and the Dodgers in December 2002, but neither facilitated a return to MLB.

Quilvio Veras appeared in 1995-2002 Topps, except 1997.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Atlanta Braves

Topps Travis Fryman
Topps Travis Fryman

7/11/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #120 Travis Fryman, Tigers

More Travis Fryman Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

Fryman, the longtime Tigers SS/3B who at one point displaced future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Alan Trammell, had just wrapped up his seventh major league season when this card was released. It was a good year for Fryman, who led the 1996 Tigers in runs, hits and RBI. He singled for career hit #1,000 on 9/20 at Milwaukee.

THIS CARD: Fryman drives one to left at Tiger Stadium, where he batted .271, 10, 45 in 1996. The year before, Fryman had been decidedly better at home than away, but in '96 his home/road splits were pretty close to even—exactly what you'd expect from a player like him.

Through the years, Fryman received a good blend of front images from Topps. He's shown batting and fielding almost evenly, and at different points he's seen laying out for a grounder as well as making a diving tag...well done, Topps.

More from Fryman's 1996 season: he opened the year on fire, with four straight multi-hit games and eight total RBI in those games! He enjoyed an 11-game hit streak from late August into September, and on 4/4 he homered twice in a 15-inning win against Oakland.

(flip) For some reason, Fryman's three league-leading stats are bold and italicized but not colored red. This was corrected on his 1998 Topps card.

The other compensatory draft pick Detroit received for Parrish was used on Bill Henderson, a high school catcher who spent three seasons in the low minors. I'd like to believe one person too many asked if Henderson was related to Rickey or Dave and he snapped, ran out of the ballpark, and never returned.

Of those 22 home runs in 1996, one was a late grand slam off Seattle's Rafael Carmona that put a close game game out of reach 8/2.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 1997, the fourth year of Fryman's 5Y/$25M deal signed in November 1993, he posted numbers virtually identical to those from '96. But the Tigers slipped in the standings, and they dealt their star 3B to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks on the night of the draft (for 3B Joe Randa and two others) in a cost-cutting move.

Two weeks later, the defending AL Champion Indians acquired Fryman in a trade for superstar 3B Matt Williams; Cleveland wasted no time extending their newest star for 5Y/$28M.

Fryman enjoyed a fine first season (28 HR) with the Indians in 1998, but sat half of 1999 with back and knee injuries—his first DL trips ever. Healthy again in Y2K, Fryman drove in a career-high 106 runs, batted .321, made his fifth All-Star team and won his first Gold Glove!

But from there, physical problems resumed (torn elbow ligament, shoulder surgery in 2001) and by 2002, he could only muster a .217 average in 118 games.

33-year-old Fryman retired after that season. From 2008-10 and again in 2015, he managed in the Indians' low minors; at last check (2021), he was a roving hitting instructor for the franchise.

Travis Fryman debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1991-2002.

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps John Wetteland
Topps John Wetteland

7/12/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #22 John Wetteland, Expos

More John Wetteland Topps Cards: 1990 1993 1994 1995T 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001

All I can say is, I hope it isn't true.

There is nobody I hate more than child abusers, especially sexual abusers. I should not have to explain why.

A few years ago, former All-Star closer John Wetteland was arrested for that very crime. He is due to stand trial later this year.

I really don't even want to present this card, and the only reason I am is because I'm a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty. Until Wetteland is proven to have done what he's accused of, and I'm convinced of said proof, I have to treat him fairly.

But if he is proven to have done what he's accused of, you will never see any of his cards presented on TSR again. Can't give positive recognition to a sack of crap like that...can't do it.

THIS CARD: For the life of me, I cannot grasp why Topps did not continue using the photo angles/backgrounds/styles used in the amazing 1995 set. Sure, the clouds are generated, but it's still an awesome background. At least to moi. 

I think I had that exact same glove once upon a time.

Wetteland is gripping something here, but in these days he relied heavily on his high-90's fastball. He additionally threw a curve to keep batters honest, as well as the rare changeup.

More from Wetteland's 1994 season: he wasn't the force he'd been in 1993, going just 25-for-35 in save ops. But he still finished fourth in the NL in saves, posted a 1.12 ERA in July, and ended the shortened season with three straight saves at Pittsburgh August 8-10.

(flip) San Mateo is located about 20 minutes (by car) south of San Francisco; it houses the famed Serra High School, once attended by the likes of Barry Bonds and Tom Brady.

"Employed" as a movie critic? Well, in 1994 he was still a couple years away from making the big bucks...ends had to be met.

That Trade was not with the Dodgers, as the stat rows might have you believe. Rather, Montreal acquired young Wetteland from Cincinnati in a five-player deal. Cincinnati had acquired Wetteland from the Dodgers two weeks prior in the semi-blockbuster Eric Davis trade.

AFTER THIS CARD: As with most of the star 1994 Expos, Wetteland was moved prior to the 1995 season, landing with the New York Yankees. He registered 31 saves with a career-low 0.880 WHIP for the 1995 Yankees, but was not sharp at all in the ALDS vs. Seattle (14.54 ERA in three outings). The next year, Wetteland saved a league-high 43 games, made the All-Star team and eventually won World Series MVP—he saved all four Yankee wins against Atlanta.

But with Mariano Rivera waiting in the wings, Wetteland was not re-signed for 1997 and inked a 4Y/$23M deal with Texas in December 1996. Over the first three years, he saved 116 games with a 2.54 ERA, and made the 1998 and 1999 All-Star teams despite not being all that great in the first half of 1999.

In 2000, however, the 33-year-old was bothered by a bad back, and the velocity he lost after elbow bone spur surgery in October 1998 did not fully return. The result was a difficult campaign (4.20 ERA, nine blown saves) and retirement after the season. Wetteland was inducted into the Rangers' Hall of Fame in 2005.

In 2006, Wetteland briefly served as the Nationals' bullpen coach; it didn't end well. He later served in the same role for the Mariners 2009-10 and made news there as well.

John Wetteland debuted in 1990 Topps, then appeared annually in the 1993-2001 base sets. He's also got a 1995 Traded card as a new Yankee.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Montreal Expos

Topps Josh Fogg
Topps Josh Fogg

7/13/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #453 Josh Fogg, Reds

More Josh Fogg Topps Cards: 2001T 2002T 2003 2004 2005 2007 

The early-2000's Pirates weren't very good, to put it respectfully. But they did have a few pieces that drew interest from other teams. Of course, veteran C Jason Kendall was one and SP Kris Benson, who was pretty good before his arm operation, was another. 3B Aramis Ramirez and SS Jack Wilson could ball, and CL Mike Williams shined for a time.

Then there were under-the-radar guys who may or may not have been in the majors 10 years prior when there were only 26 clubs. SP Josh Fogg fell under that umbrella—he was just good enough  for a mediocre club to keep handing the ball to. And to his credit, from 2002-07, Fogg won in double-digits five years out of six on mostly bad teams.

Which kind of says more about the insignificance of wins as a driving statistic, considering Fogg ran up a 4.93 ERA and 1.469 WHIP during that period and got more K from his banana intake than from his pitching. But still.

Here, Fogg has just signed with the Reds for 2008, reportedly for 1Y/$1M. After a solid Spring Training, he opened the year as Cincinnati's #4 starter and beat Milwaukee—the eventual NL Wild Card winner—in his second outing.

THIS CARD: Fogg, as you can kind of see, was issued #33 by the Reds after wearing #27 with Pittsburgh and #37 with Colorado. Those were also the digits of Reds great Johnny Vander Meer in the 1940's as well as All-Star Jesse Winker 2017-21. I'm surprised at the volume of Reds scrubs and drop-ins to have worn such a common number.

This is obviously a shot of Fogg loosening up in Spring Training. Even in my advanced age I know there's no major league ballpark with that background, unless they just built one in the past week.

Fogg's autograph reminds me of Milhouse's infamous "Milpool" signature on Bart's cast from The Simpsons; Fogg seems to be thinking about something entirely different as his signature trails off.

(flip) Say what you will about Fogg's limited talent, but the man made between 26-33 starts for six straight seasons. He deserves major props for his availability—something sorely lacking in today's game.

It took me a minute to figure out the context of "but he used them". The blurb is trying to say that Fogg used his two Rockies seasons to achieve the double-digit wins feat. (By the way, the others up to that point were Kevin Ritz 1995-96, Pedro Astacio 1998-2000, and Jason Jennings 2002-04.)

That lone relief appearance in 2007 was a scoreless two-inning outing 4/16 against my Giants. I'm not sure of the exact circumstances; it doesn't appear to be a bullpen demotion since Fogg had thrown decently in his first two starts of the year. But I'm not interested enough to dig any deeper.

AFTER THIS CARD: Fogg's stint with Cincinnati was a disaster; he was demoted to the bullpen after three tough starts to open the 2008 season, then hit the DL for a month with back spasms. Fogg then made three solid starts but just before the fourth, he took a baseball to the face during batting practice and was not effective from that point on (8.27 ERA in eight games/seven starts). If that weren't enough, Fogg missed the final month with a groin strain.

Fogg inked an MiLB deal with the Rockies for 2009 and opened the year as a starter for AAA Colorado Springs before getting in 24 games with the Rockies—all but one as a reliever. A trio of very ugly outings for AA Reading (Phillies) in 2010 brought Fogg's pro career to a wrap.

Josh Fogg appeared in 2001-02 Traded to open his Topps career, then turned up in the 2003-05 and 2007-08 base sets.

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Cincinnati Reds

Topps Jose Hernandez
Topps Jose Hernandez

7/14/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #631 Jose Hernandez, Brewers

More Jose Hernandez Topps Cards: 1992 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2002 2003 2003T 2004 2005 2005U

Recently, with the help of Wikipedia, I was able to confirm my long-held belief that the character Officer Martin from the pilot of the hit series ER and the character Frank Martin who appeared later on were one and the same—something that had nagged at me for a while.

Yeah, I'm weird. You haven't figured that out yet?

Back in the 1990's, I didn't have Wikipedia or any other online source to confirm if the Jose Hernandez flashing power for the 1995 Cubs was the same Jose Hernandez who got a little run with the 1991 Rangers and even appeared in 1992 Topps. 

Normally, Topps would have filled in this blank for me, but since this was the company's Dark Era—smaller sets with loads of deserving players, even regulars, excluded—Hernandez did not appear in the 1996 Topps set. Or the 1997 Topps set, for that matter. It wasn't until 1998 Topps that I was finally able to confirm the Cubs' Hernandez was indeed the same fella formerly with Texas.

Bless you, World Wide Web...

THIS CARD: At first, I thought we were seeing Hernandez manning left field here; he had been used at that position in the past but only for seven innings in 2000. More likely, he's holding down shortstop for the Brewers as they visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Good job waving off his mates and calling for the ball—that's how catching a popup is done, Little Leaguers.

Other notable Brewers to wear #18 include Darryl Hamilton early in his Milwaukee run, and future (Athletics) slugger Khris Davis; currently, hot-and-cold youngster Keston Hiura claims the number. Hernandez seemed to like #18; he wore it at many of his major league stops.

More from Hernandez's 2000 season: after signing a 3Y/$10M deal with Milwaukee in December 1999, expectations were levied upon Hernandez for the first time in his MLB career. But Y2K was something of a disappointment for the veteran 3B/SS, who was in the low .200's well into June. Hernandez then hit .297 over a 40-game stretch before missing most of August with a back strain; he was homerless in 62 AB upon returning.

(flip) Until this very moment, I never really grasped how vague the Topps bio box is for undrafted players such as Hernandez—yes, he was originally signed in January 1987, but by WHO??? In this case, it was the Rangers, for whom the future slugger showed almost NO power as a prospect. 

Those 20 homers in the PRWL? According to the Puerto Rico Baseball History Twitter page, Hernandez is one of three players to ever hit 20+ homers in one winter (Reggie Jackson 1970-71 and Willard Brown 1947-48). So unless I'm missing something like a league designation, he didn't set a record.

Of those 11 homers Hernandez hit in 2000, five came in a seven-game stretch in late May. A B1st grand slam off Mark Gardner of my Giants 5/20 served as the Hernandez.

AFTER THIS CARD: Hernandez rebounded with a strong 2001 campaign for the Brewers (.249, 25, 78), which was followed by an even stronger 2002 (.288, 24, 73) that led to an All-Star berth! Controversially, Brewers manager Jerry Royster often sat Hernandez—the team's regular SS the past two seasons—down the stretch as he heavily threatened Bobby Bonds' then-K record.

From there, Hernandez kept his bags packed, suiting up for three clubs in 2003 (Rockies, Cubs and Pirates) alone and batting .225 with 13 homers in 150 games. He returned to part-time duty as a member of the 2004 Dodgers—for whom he slugged .540 in 95 games—2005 Indians, 2006 Pirates and 2006 Phillies.

But the 37-year-old failed to win a job with the 2007 Pirates and spent all of that year with AAA Indianapolis. Hernandez finished his playing career in the Mexican League in 2008, then embarked on a long coaching career in the Orioles system—including 2019-21 on the major league staff.

Jose Hernandez debuted in 1992 Topps, went AWOL, then appeared annually 1998-2005. He's also got 1999 and 2003 Traded cards as well as a 2005 Update card.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers

Topps Gary Pettis
Topps Gary Pettis

7/16/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #512 Gary Pettis, Tigers

More Gary Pettis Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1988T 1989 1990T 1991 1992

In the 1980's, things were a lot different in MLB than in today's game. For example, high strikeout totals simply weren't tolerated in most cases—dudes who struck out 120 times per year had to compensate for it with reliable power in order to keep their spot in the lineup.

Well, unless said dude was named Gary Pettis and he could cover center field better than anybody else in professional baseball.

Here, Pettis has just shut the door on Year Two with the Detroit Tigers after parts of six seasons with the California Angels. The speedster opened the year on the DL (thumb), then was sent on an insanely long 20-day rehab assignment to AAA Toledo; he didn't debut for Detroit until 5/15. Also, Pettis was nearly traded to the White Sox at the Deadline.

THIS CARD: As you can see, 10-year-old me was not particularly concerned with the condition of his Topps bad.

However Pettis was depicted in this image, the important thing is Topps got the right Pettis after accidentally featuring his little brother on his 1985 Topps card.

More from Pettis's 1989 season: despite all the missed time, he still finished fourth in the AL in steals and claimed his fourth Gold Glove at season's end. On 6/4, he went 4-for-5 with a steal in a losing effort versus Baltimore, and on 7/29 his fourth hit was a walk-off single vs. Minnesota's Gary Wayne!

(flip) Those 25 hits in July 1989 produced a .284 average, extremely high by Pettis's standards.

That Trade, with the Angels, sent SP Dan Petry to California. 

That lone home run of 1989 was a leadoff shot off Baltimore's Dave Schmidt 6/1; Detroit still fell 8-3, however. (Pettis also went deep once during his extended rehab stint with Toledo.)

AFTER THIS CARD: Pettis signed with Texas for 1990 (3Y/$2.66M) and won his fifth Gold Glove, but he endured a dreadful offensive season—even for him—in 1991, and was cut by the Rangers just before the 1992 season opener. Pettis wound up getting in 78 games that year with the Padres and Tigers, but hit just .201 combined; following 26 games for AAA Tacoma (Athletics) in 1993, Pettis's playing career ended at 35.

In the ensuing years, Pettis transitioned to coaching, and has worked as a base coach for the White Sox (2001-02) Mets (2003-04) Rangers (2007-14) and Astros (2015-present). His Astros stint was interrupted by cancer treatment in 2020.

NFL fans may be familiar with Pettis's nephew Austin, a decent wide receiver for four seasons with the Rams, or his son Dante, a less-than-decent wide receiver for four seasons with the 49ers and Giants who'll attempt to latch on with the Bears this summer.

Gary Pettis appeared in Topps 1985-92; he's also got 1984, 1988 and 1990 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Frank Thomas
Topps Frank Thomas

7/17/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #425 Frank Thomas, White Sox

More Frank Thomas Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

With Hall of Fame Weekend fast approaching, we walk down Memory Lane with first-ballot 2014 inductee Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox (and later, the A's and Blue Jays). Here, The Big Hurt is coming off a season that began with very high hopes, but came to a crashing end in late April due to a torn triceps. Given that the injury occurred only days after Thomas's father passed away, I can safely say 2001 is a year he'd rather forget.

THIS CARD: Thomas in the unmistakable follow-through of his unmistakable swing. In the second half of the 1990's, Topps varied his front images very well, even giving the defensively-challenged slugger a pretty cool fielding pic one year. But once Thomas settled in at DH in the 00's, he was almost exclusively shown swinging his mighty bat.

The patch on Thomas's sleeve pays tribute to 100 years of the American League. Every AL uniform sported this patch during the 2001 season.

More from Thomas's abbreviated 2001 season: new teammate David Wells publicly criticized him for not playing through the injury before its full nature was revealed, adding unwelcome drama to the defending AL Central champions. But before Thomas went down, he did do some damage, such as when he smoked two-run homers in consecutive games 4/15 and 4/16 at Minnesota. Also, on 4/6 against Detroit, Thomas's sac fly in the B8th capped a four-run, game-tying comeback and sent the game to extras!

(flip) For his career, Thomas ranks 22nd all-time with a .555 SLG and 21st all-time with a .419 OBP. It should be said that since Mickey Mantle's 1968 retirement, the only player with a higher OBP than Thomas was one Barry Bonds (3,000+ PA). Mike Trout (.416) is the only active player with a realistic chance of passing him.

See Thomas's birthdate? I'll never get over the fact that the two 1994 league MVP's and two of the best first basemen of their time shared birthdates. Today, Jeff Bagwell looks his age (54), but Thomas hasn't aged at all to me.

As you see, triples were rare for Thomas—even though his first MLB hit was a triple—and he hadn't hit one in three years when this card was released. But he did manage one more three-bagger, on 4/28/2008 for Oakland against the Angels; it was a deep drive that landed just fair inside the right field line. RF Vlad Guerrero Sr. was playing more toward the gap and took a while to get to the ball.

AFTER THIS CARD: After a good-but-not-great 2002 season, Thomas clubbed 42 homers in 2003, but was limited to 108 games in 2004-05 by stress fractures in his left ankle; he was only able to serve as a spectator in Chicago's march to their 2005 World Series title. In January 2006, he wound up signing with the Athletics for 1Y/$500K plus incentives; Thomas was soon on the receiving end of some very inflammatory comments by White Sox GM Ken Williams.

But on the field, Thomas was as good as ever in 2006, powering Oakland back into the playoffs with a .270, 39, 114 campaign that earned him fourth place in AL MVP voting. However, Oakland being Oakland, they wouldn't dole out huge dollars to keep Thomas, who signed with the Blue Jays for 2Y/$18M in November 2006—or $1M more annually than Oakland's total two-year offer INCLUDING incentives.

Though Thomas ripped career homer #500 with Toronto in 2007, in April 2008 they, too, split on bad terms; the veteran superstar soon rejoined the A's for his final 55 MLB games. He retired in early 2010 as a ceremonial member of the White Sox despite the previous acrimony (they also retired his #35 in August 2010).

Thomas, as mentioned, was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, and remains connected to the game through his broadcasting work for FOX and NBC Sports Chicago. You've also probably seen Thomas's commercials pitching Nugenix...I bought some in 2021.

Frank Thomas appeared annually in Topps 1990-2009.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Chicago White Sox

Topps Mark Clark
Topps Mark Clark

7/18/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #339 Mark Clark, Cardinals

More Mark Clark Topps Cards: 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2001

In most cases, not even the game's best teams rely solely on stars and hot youngsters to fill out their starting rotation. You usually end up requiring the services of a guy who's been around a bit, who's not going to dominate at all but when you look up at the scoreboard, he's given you six solid innings and may well give you more.
There's not much chance of him making an All-Star squad (except as a late replacement) or earning any Cy Young votes, but your team wouldn't be where it is without him.

Today, that role is filled by guys like Jordan Montgomery of the Yankees, Kyle Gibson of the Phillies, Jake Odorizzi of the Astros and Rich Hill of the Red Sox. In the 1990's, Mark Clark was a prime example.

Clark, a former #9 pick, didn't throw hard and didn't have exceptional stuff. What he did have was a good sinker and the ability to change speeds and hit spots; from 1994-97 he won 48 games and was a part of the infamous 1995 Indians juggernaut that reached the World Series. And even when Clark slipped a bit in 1998, he still threw a career-high 213.2 innings and pitched two big games for his Cubs down the stretch!

Here, Clark is a Cardinals rookie, one whose tough Spring Training kept him off the Cards' 1992 Opening Day roster. Recalled in June, he posted a 2.67 ERA in nine starts from mid-June through July, but was just 1-5, 6.25 after that and was unable to beat any 1992 divisional opponent in 13 tries. Clark did throw the lone individual St. Louis shutout of the year, however...more on that below. 

THIS CARD: We see Clark after firing off either that aforementioned 90-mph sinker, or his slider, or his forkball. Reliable sources also credit him with a changeup.

Clark was only the fourth Cardinal ever with #55 on his jersey; in the years since, notable RedBirds such as Garrett Stephenson, Skip Schumaker and Stephen Piscotty have also worn #55. After leaving St. Louis, Clark wore #54 most of his remaining time in MLB.

More from Clark's 1992 season: on 7/6, he fired a four-hit, 106-pitch shutout at San Diego in a game briefly delayed by a skunk on the field. (Insert your "who stunk worse, the skunk or the Padres?" joke here.) On 6/21, after opening his career 0-for-12, Clark notched an infield single against the Mets' David Cone.

(flip) I couldn't find much on Jim Belz other than A) he was a professional player in the early 1950's, B) military service and an injury derailed his playing career, and C) he became a Cardinals scout in 1957.

As you see in the bio info, Clark is an Illinois native, one who grew up rooting for the Cardinals team that would later draft him. 

Those three shutouts for 1992 Louisville (AAA) led the American Association, and matched his career big-league total.

I don't know what or where Hamilton is, but I can almost guarantee you it's no longer a part of MiLB.

AFTER THIS CARD: With Cleveland's staff depleted by the horrible Spring Training 1993 boat crash, they traded for Clark, who wound up in and out of their rotation and was briefly demoted to AAA Charlotte at one point. But in 1994, Clark went 11-3, 3.82 in 20 starts for Cleveland, and though he won nine more times for the pennant-winning 1995 squad, he was not as effective and the Indians moved him to the Mets in late March 1996.

For New York, Clark was 14-11, 3.43 in 1996, but when he slipped a bit in 1997, he was sent to the Cubs via six-player deal in August 1997. Clark posted a 6-1, 2.86 line in nine starts for Chicago that year, then—as mentioned above—delivered down the stretch in 1998 despite an overall 9-14, 4.84 line.

Clark then signed with Texas for 2Y/$9.5M in December 1998, but it was a disaster and by mid-2000, he was not even being used. After an understandably strong response to owner Tom Hicks' criticism, Clark and his 8.37 ERA as a Ranger were cut shortly before the '00 All-Star break; he soon retired at 32.

Mark Clark appeared annually in Topps 1993-2001, except 1996. He also shows up as a new Ranger in 1999 Topps Traded & Rookies.

CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

Topps Al Newman
Topps Al Newman

7/19/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #503 Al Newman, Twins

More Al Newman Topps Cards: 1987 1987T 1988 1990 1991 1992

Here, we catch up with Newman, one of the top utilitymen of his time, on the heels of his second season with the Twins. While Year Two in Minneapolis didn't close with a World Series championship as Year One did, Newman still enjoyed a quality 1988 campaign. He started 76 games across three positions for the Twins, went 12-for-15 in steal attempts, and committed just one error over the season's first four months.

THIS CARD: I swear, every card I have of this guy, every image I have of him from television, he's lookin' damn happy. Newman was probably the only guy in baseball who'd laugh off a Nolan Ryan fastball to the ribs. Good for him—there's enough sullen folks in the world.

I would have bet cash this was Newman's second COTD appearance...and I would have lost that cash. It'll  drive me crazy figuring out where Newman IS featured on TSR for me to think that.

More from Newman's 1988 season: while he finished at .223, he was as high as .260 in early September after going 11-for-28 (.393) from 8/26 thru 9/3. And Newman did enjoy a pair of three-hit games, on 6/26 at Oakland and on 8/28 at Kansas City. The majority of his 1988 run came at third base, where he appeared 60 times (45 starts).

(flip) As mentioned, Newman played mostly third base in 1988, yet he's listed as a 2B/SS only...

As far as I'm concerned, Game-Winning RBI can only occur in the 8th inning or later and have to directly lead to victory. Newman didn't have any such RBI in '88, and in multiple games where he had any RBI at all, he got himself thrown out on the bases. Just a quirk, I guess. credits Newman with... ​


  • 13 hits in July '88 (not 15)

  • 18 hits in August '88 (not 20) and

  • 15 hits in September/October '88 (not 11).

Both tallies add up to 58 hits for the year, however.​

AFTER THIS CARD: Newman remained with the Twins for three more seasons, even racking up 521 PA in 1989 and hitting .253! (That's like .293 for most hitters). He was a member of the Twins' 1991 World Series championship squad, then signed with the Reds in early 1992.

Cincinnati cut Newman in early April, and two days later he hooked up with the Rangers, filling his familiar utility role across 116 games in '92. That brought his career to a close at age 32; Newman finished up at .226 with one homer in 854 games—plus those two World Series rings!

After coaching and managing in MiLB for a time, Newman served as Minnesota's third-base coach 2002-05—a stint that was interrupted by a near-fatal brain hemorrhage prior to a 2003 game.

Al Newman appeared in 1987-92 Topps, as well as 1987 Topps Traded. Newman the Ranger can be found in 1992 Stadium Club and a few other sets.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Minnesota Twins

Topps Jose Oquendo
Topps Jose Oquendo

7/21/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #133 Jose Oquendo, Cardinals

More Jose Oquendo Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995

On 7/19, we profiled the 1989 Topps card of Al Newman, a versatile infielder for the World Champion 1987 Twins. Here, we profile the 1987 Topps card of Jose Oquendo, a versatile infielder for the 1987 Cardinals who lost to the Twins in that World Series.

Oquendo was back in the majors in 1986 after spending 1985 with the Cards' AAA team, Louisvile. Prior to that, he'd been a VERY young New York Met in 1983-84, one who played a lot and was at one point the regular SS for the '84 Mets. But in 1986, the Cardinals used him as a reserve; his role was largely to fill in for 2B Tom Herr and SS Ozzie Smith when needed. Oquendo's .297 average for the '86 RedBirds was first on the team among players with 60+ games FAR.

THIS CARD: Oquendo the young player looks exactly like Oquendo the seasoned coach, especially with the warmup jacket on.

The conversation with the Topps photographer went something like this:

PHOTOGRAPHER: Mr. Oquendo, can we take your photo for your 1987 Topps card?

OQUENDO: Uh...sure, but...don't you see that chicken trying to steal Mike LaValliere's keys?

PHOTOGRAPHER: Yeah, he's been at it for a while. Anyway, you ready?

OQUENDO: I...I'm fascinated. I can't stop looking at the chicken!

PHOTOGRAPHER: (takes photo anyway)

More from Oquendo's 1986 season: I could not find out why he didn't debut until 4/19 or why he was unused for two weeks in August/September—my sources don't have him on the DL or in MiLB. What I CAN tell you is that in his first game as a Cardinal, Oquendo entered in the 11th and went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs to aid a 17-inning St. Louis victory at Montreal!

(flip) Ivan DeJesus Sr. was a longtime MLB shortstop mostly for the Cubs and Phillies in the 1980's. Ivan DeJesus Jr. got run with primarily the Dodgers and Reds in the 2010's.

That April 1985 Trade, with the Mets, sent former Expos IF Angel Salazar from the Cardinals to the Mets; each team also gained a prospect who didn't reach MLB. Salazar never played for the Cardinals OR the Mets, as he spent 1985 in MiLB—like Oquendo—before being dealt to the Royals in April 1986.

Those two steals for the 1986 Cardinals came in five chances. Not surprising, since lifetime Oquendo was successful on just 35 of 68 steal attempts (51%). And that INCLUDES his 10-for-11 performance for the 1984 Mets!

AFTER THIS CARD: By 1988, Oquendo was playing nearly full-time, moving between 2B and 3B for the Cardinals and holding his own offensively. In fact, he got in a league-best (tie) 163 games in 1989 as the St. Louis second baseman! But when Joe Torre became manager in August 1990, Oquendo began to sit in favor of youngster Geronimo Pena.

Still, Oquendo received extended run at 2B for the 1991 Cardinals. Ironically, as he received his first substantial raise as a major leaguer ($2.05M), Oquendo missed all but 14 games in 1992 with a right shoulder dislocation. Heel surgery shortened his 1993 campaign, but he recovered and played part-time in '94-'95.
Unfortunately, Oquendo couldn't win a job under Torre's full-time replacement Tony LaRussa in Spring '96, ending his playing career at 32.


Since 1997, Oquendo has worked for the Cardinals organization in some capacity—most notably the 20+ seasons he's coached on the big league staff (interrupted by a  2017 stint in the Cardinals' front office). I'm not sure Stan Musial himself bleeds as much Cardinal Red as Jose Oquendo.

Jose Oquendo appeared annually in Topps 1984-1995; 1986 was a Traded card.

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, St. Louis Cardinals

Topps Omar Vizquel
Topps Omar Vizquel

7/22/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #173 Omar Vizquel, Indians

More Omar Vizquel Topps Cards: 1989T 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2009U 2010 2010U 2011

Another Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony looms. It will mark the fourth ceremony since longtime MLB shortstop Omar Vizquel became eligible for enshrinement in 2018 (none in 2020, remember). It will also mark the fourth ceremony that Vizquel will not be a part of.

In the eyes of many, despite his two decades of defensive wizardry, Vizquel's chances of Hall election were marginal. And since this and this came to light, his already-tenuous support has dropped considerably—from 53% in 2020 to 24% in 2022. 

If you are an Omar supporter, I can relate—I loved him during his days with the Giants. 
But at this point, nevermind if he's in the Hall of Fame; let's just hope he's not who the allegations portray him as. Because that would be, well, awful. For all involved...

Here, Vizquel—fresh off signing a 6Y/$18.35M extension in December 1995 (option included) that would run from 1997-2002—has just completed an all-around excellent 1996 campaign for the division champion Indians.

THIS CARD: Vizquel appears to be taking a throw from his first baseman here, in an attempt to retire the speedy OF Damon Buford of the Rangers. Because of the runner advancing toward second base, the 1-6 (or 1-4, depending on who's covering) play is very tough, tougher than most big leaguers make it look. 

But here, Buford appears out by quite a bit.

This could also be Vizquel taking a throw from the third baseman in an attempt to double off Buford, or retire him in a pickle. All I know for sure is, Buford better hope for an error. (I could probably research this play on BaseballReference IF TSR updates weren't so far behind.)

More from Vizquel's 1996 season: he took home his fourth straight AL Gold Glove at SS, and set career-highs in virtually every offensive category. Vizquel batted mostly 9th into late June, then moved to mostly 2nd for a couple of months before bouncing between the 7-9 spots to end the year. He even batted leadoff twice in September! (Kenny Lofton must have been sore or something.)

(flip) Vizquel seems happier than usual to be on second base. That's the look of somebody who either A) escaped a rundown, B) beat a throw he probably shouldn't have, or C) executed a Kevin Millar-type slide into the base.

See all those career-highs in the stats? Vizquel was an overlooked contributor to Cleveland's offense, which produced an MLB-best .293 average and MLB-low (by FAR) 844 batting strikeouts. In fact, Vizquel would never top the 36 doubles he hit in '96 (though he matched that total in 1999).

Vizquel remained the only Indians/Guardians Gold Glover at shortstop until 2016, when Francisco Lindor won his first of two (2019) with the franchise.

AFTER THIS CARD: A new 2Y/$15M extension in February 2001 took Vizquel through 2004. During his later Cleveland years he made the 1998-99 and 2002 AL All-Star teams, batted .333 in 1999, won every AL Gold Glove at SS thru 2001, and really upset ex-teammate Jose Mesa.

Still, Cleveland—whose attempt to trade Vizquel back to Seattle in December 2003 was nixed by his failed physical—opted to go in another direction for 2005, and declined his option ($1M buyout).

Enter my Giants, who gave Vizquel 3Y/$12.25M in November 2004 and watched him win two more Gold Gloves in 2005-06 while continuing to contribute with the bat (.295 in '06). He was re-signed for 2008 ($5.5M) but hit just .222 in 92 games, marking his final run as a regular MLB shortstop.

After spending 2009 as a Rangers reserve, Vizquel won a job with the 2010 White Sox, wearing the un-retired #11 of Luis Aparicio and playing more than anyone expected—he was half of a platoon substitute for injured Mark Teahen (89 starts).
Vizquel continued as a bench player for the 2011 White Sox and the 2012 Blue Jays, where his career ended with a nice sendoff from the Toronto fans. The 45-year-old stepped away with a .272 average and 2,877 hits—plus the most games played at SS ever (2,709).


Following a year as Angels infield instructor, Vizquel served as Detroit's first-base coach from 2014-17, then managed in the White Sox farm system 2018-19. At last check, he'd been fired from his Mexican League managerial position in July 2021.


22-year-old Omar Vizquel debuted in 1989 Topps Traded, and appeared annually in Topps 1990-2011. He was excluded from the 2012 and 2013 base and Update sets, meaning no cards of him with Toronto exist that I'm aware of. (Vizquel can also be found in 1994 Traded, and 2009-10 Update.)

CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Cleveland Indians

Topps Francisco Cordero
Topps Francisco Cordero

7/23/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #563 Francisco Cordero, Reds

More Francisco Cordero Topps Cards: 2001 2004 2005 2006 2006U 2007 2008 2010 2011 2012 2012U

Here, we catch up with the three-time All-Star Cordero after completion of his first season with the Cincinnati Reds. The 2008 season marked Year One of a 4Y/$46M deal finalized in November 2007, and while Cordero wasn't the force he'd often been in the past, it was still a productive year for the standout closer. He finished 34 for 40 in save ops in spite of a very rough patch from early July into early August.

THIS CARD: I can only hope this is an exhibition game, or at the very least a rain-interrupted game. Because that looks like a 2020 "crowd" behind Cordero.

That's #48 Cordero wears, carried over from his preceding Brewers stint after claiming #30 and #31 with the Rangers. Also donning #48 for the Reds: enigmatic SP Ross Grimsley in the early 1970's, electric RP Scott Williamson in the early 2000's, and...that's about it.

More from Cordero's 2008 season: as alluded to, the big fella endured some midseason struggles, getting roasted for a 9.26 ERA from 7/5 thru 8/8. But Cordero followed that up by going 12-for-12 in save ops with a 1.80 ERA in his final 20 games. On 6/4, Cordero batted for the second of three times in his career, grounding into a double play.

(flip) Jeez, misalignment alert in the saves column! Cordero locked up career save #200 8/14/2008, with a 1-2-3 inning at Pittsburgh.

Career Average Against By Inning is an odd stat to include for a closer, as Cordero was for the majority of his career. 5th inning?! By the time this card was released, Cordero probably hadn't pitched a 5th inning in almost a decade.

Cordero's Rangers saves record still stands, but his Brewers saves record was broken by John Axford in 2011 (46, which still stands).

AFTER THIS CARD: In 2009, Cordero went 39-for-43 in saves and made his third and final All-Star team. In spite of ongoing trade rumors, he'd go on to save 77 more games 2010-11, helping the 2010 Reds return to postseason play after a 15-year drought.

From there, 37-year-old Cordero signed with Toronto (1Y/$4.5M) in February 2012, but struggled in a setup role and was dealt to Houston in a 10-player swap centered around SP JA Happ that July. Unfortunately, Cordero's Houston run—which was limited to six games by a toe injury—was disastrous and he didn't last through September. 

After sitting out 2013, Cordero's audition for the 2014 Red Sox was unsuccessful, and his pro career ended at 39.

Francisco Cordero debuted in 2001 Topps, then returned in 2004-2012 Topps. He's also got 2006 and 2012 Update.

CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Cincinnati Reds

Topps Mike Jackson
Topps Mike Jackson

7/24/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #534 Mike Jackson, Mariners

More Tim Davis Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1992 1994 1995 1999 2000 2001 2001T 2002

I will do EVERYTHING in my power to keep from making puns, jokes or references to a certain iconic performer who happened to share the same name as the longtime MLB reliever being profiled here. Feel free to call me out if I fail here.

The durable Jackson, 15th on the all-time games pitched list, established himself as a big league reliever with the Seattle Mariners in the late 1980's after two up-and-down seasons with the Phillies. He led the 1988 Mariners in appearances (by far) and was second in 1989, a year he also successfully stepped in for CL Mike Schooler seven times.

Here, Jackson is coming off a tough-at-times 1990 campaign. He allowed runs in seven of 12 May appearances, excelled for the next month-plus, racked up a 16.20 ERA in the second half of July, then posted a 2.77 ERA for the rest of the season if you subtract one VERY ugly outing on 8/12.

THIS CARD: As you can see, Topps refers to Jackson as "Mike"—and always did—not "Michael" as he's referred to on his BaseballReference page. In fact, using "Mike Jackson" in their searchbox only pulls up the mediocre 1970's lefty pitcher...strange but true.

Jackson gears up to throw either his 96-MPH fastball or his slider, his almost-exclusive repertoire in his M's days. Later on, he added a splitter that served as a changeup.

From 1988 on, Jackson alternated between #38 and #42 for the rest of his career; in fact, since the institution of Jackie Robinson Day in 1997, he may be the only dude to switch from #42 to another number, then reclaim #42 later on (as was allowed for players wearing #42 at the time of its leaguewide retirement in 1997).

(flip) As you can see in the stats, command was not always there for Jackson in 1990. That's how you get saddled with a 4.54 ERA despite a BAA of .229—free passes.

I never knew, or long forgot, the Phillies tried Jackson out as a starter in '87. He went 1-4, 6.68 in those starts and worked relief exclusively from then on.

In 1988, 96 MPH was pretty special; maybe two guys per staff could reach that figure. Nowadays, it seems there's two guys per staff who CAN'T reach 96.

AFTER THIS CARD: A LONG run as one of baseball's best setup men, and for a few years around the millennium's turn, best closers. Jackson was part of the Giants' return when they traded Kevin Mitchell to Seattle in December 1991; he remained there for four effective years before rejoining Seattle for the 1996 season.

Jackson joined Cleveland for 1997 (3Y/$6M) and was elevated to closer in the first half of that season, helping them to the World Series! He became their full-time CL in 1998-99, especially shining in 1998 (1.55 ERA and a freaking MVP vote).

The 33-year-old parlayed that performance into a 1Y/$3M contract from the Phillies that was fortunately—for the team, anyway—reworked, since Jackson wound up missing the entire 2000 season after shoulder surgery.

The veteran righty spent his final three MLB seasons back in a setup/middleman role, with the 2001 Astros, 2002 Twins and 2004 White Sox (he sat out 2003 after Arizona cut him in Spring Training). Jackson was not what he'd once been, however, and when the Sox released him in early September 2004, his career ended just shy of 40.

Mike Jackson appeared in 1988-95 Topps, disappeared during the early portion of the Dark Era, then returned for 1999-2002 Topps. He's also got a 2001 Traded card as a new Astro.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Seattle Mariners

Topps Tim Davis
Topps Tim Davis

7/26/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #83 Tim Davis, Mariners

More Tim Davis Topps Cards: 1992T 1994


Tim Davis had a brief, decent run mostly as a reliever for the mid-1990's Mariners. The 1992 Olympian was used as both a starter and reliever during his brief MiLB career; he made the 1994 Mariners' roster out of Spring Training and quickly ran off a 13-game scoreless streak (covering 11 innings)!

THIS CARD: Here, Davis might look like he's bringing it, but he was not somebody who'd blow hitters away. He had a decent fastball, but he generally attacked lefties with his big, looping slider and righties with his slow, tailing changeup.

You cannot see the #47 on Davis's back; it was the only number he wore in the bigs. Believe it or not, in the Mariners' 45-year history, Davis is possibly the second-most accomplished Mariner with those digits, behind fellow lefty reliever James Pazos in the late '10's—although P Ron Villone wasn't too bad with #47 in his second Seattle stint. Today, swingman Matt Brash has the number.

More from Davis's 1994 season: a rough three-game patch at the end of May and an ugly outing 7/17 vs. the Yankees (four ER in 0.2 innings) bloated his still-decent final ERA, but he was mostly solid throughout the year. On 7/30 at the White Sox, Davis went 4.2 in relief of SP Shawn Boskie (who left after one inning with a back strain) and allowed just one run, though the M's still lost 4-2.  

(flip) That lone 1994 Mariners start came in his season finale, a week before the strike. Davis went five innings at Kansas City, allowing two runs on seven hits and picking up the win.

Sammy Ellis was Seattle's pitching coach from 1993-94, his fourth such MLB gig out of six. Ellis passed away in 2016.

That 1994 Calgary (AAA) stint occurred during the strike. Since Seattle demoted Davis prior to the walkout date, he avoided any "scab" backlash.

AFTER THIS CARD: Davis made five May starts for the 1995 Mariners, but only one could be described as "strong" and he was demoted to AAA Tacoma. There, he wound up with a season-ending injury—I'm still working on identifying what—but returned to Seattle's bullpen in 1996.

That year, Yankees OF Paul O'Neill became Davis's official nemesis, first when he broke Davis's leg with a liner in May, then when he charged Davis after a brushback pitch in August (setting off a brawl, of course).

After two April 1997 appearances, Davis went on the shelf with a left elbow ligament sprain and never returned to a major league mound, his pro career ending with 46 appearances spread between AA Orlando (Mariners) in 1998, A+ St. Petersburg and AAA Durham (Devil Rays) in 1999, and AA Huntsville (Brewers) in 2001.

Tim Davis debuted as an Olympian in 1992 Topps Traded, then returned for the 1994-95 Topps sets.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Seattle Mariners

Topps Joe Klink
Topps Joe Klink

7/27/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #678 Joe Klink, Athletics

More Joe Klink Topps Cards: 1990T 1991 1993T 1994

Since playing for the lowly 2022 Oakland Athletics might feel like a prison sentence, one might expect them to employ a guy named Joe Klink. But no, Klink got his run in Oakland 30 years prior, and fortunately for him, the A's were at least competitive during his run.

The former #36 pick (by the 1983 Mets) obviously beat long odds just to make it to MLB. He was traded by the Mets, along with future superstar executive Billy Beane, to the Twins for IF Tim Teufel in January 1986; Klink made his major league debut for them in April 1987. But it wasn't a smooth ride, and it would be over two years before Klink returned to a big league mound.

Here, the 29-year-old reliever has just completed his second year with the A's. Some bumps in the second half skewed his final ERA, but overall it was a productive year for Klink, who finished second on the team in appearances (to Dennis Eckersley's 67) and held lefty hitters to a .225 average.

THIS CARD: This CANNOT be Klink following through after a pitch, not with his limbs in those positions. My best guess: we're seeing him throwing to a base. Perhaps even a pickoff play.

Among Athletics, #58 has a limited but notable history. Only 12 A's players have ever worn the number during the regular season, but two of them—longtime Athletic Justin Duchscherer and current Athletic Paul Blackburn—have made All-Star squads with #58 on their back (and front). Klink started out wearing #46 in Minnesota.

More from Klink's 1991 season: On 5/26, Klink earned his second save of the season against the White Sox, who were threatening to erase a five-run, B9th deficit against fellow A's reliever Steve Chitren. With two on and two out, Klink ran the count full on IF Craig Grebeck before inducing a flyout to end it, protecting the win for Dave Stewart.

(flip) That 1991 ERA was below 4.00 until mid-August and was again below 4.00 until the final week, when a four-run outing in a blowout loss to KC caused some swelling.

That 1988 Trade sent minor leaguer Russ Kibler to Minnesota.

I never knew Klink had been a full-time closer in the minors—he slammed the door for 1989 Huntsville (AA), as you can see in the stats. I doubt Eckersley lost any sleep over his job security, but that's still impressive.

AFTER THIS CARD: Klink came down with a sore elbow in Spring Training 1992; he eventually underwent surgery, never pitched that season, and was let go by Oakland that winter. Klink then won a job with the expansion 1993 Marlins, going 0-2, 5.02 in 59 games as a lefty specialist. Cut by Florida in Spring Training 1994, Klink passed through the Dodgers and Indians systems but did not appear again in MLB until a three-game run with Seattle in May 1996—his final professional games.

Joe Klink appeared in 1991-92 and 1994 Topps; he's also got 1990 and 1993 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Oakland Athletics

Topps Matt Williams
Topps Matt Williams

7/28/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps Traded #129 Matt Williams, Giants

More Matt Williams Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

If not for the injuries, Matt Williams—like numerous others—would have a plaque in Cooperstown. If he wasn't the game's best two-way third baseman for most of the 1990's, he was damn close. He played for several winning clubs, including the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks, and put up some excellent numbers—including a couple of eye-popping ones which will be discussed below.

Problem is, in his 17 major-league seasons, Williams reached 150 games just four times. and only twice after turning 26. Granted, in three of those years (1987-89) he was still on the MiLB shuttle, and in two other years (1994-95) 150 games was impossible due to the strike. But four healthy years out of 12 years is still problematic.

Here, however, Williams is just a 21-year-old rookie, one who did not open the year in San Francisco but was summoned from AAA Phoenix during the first week. The big guy made his first MLB start 4/11 at the Dodgers, singling off star righty (and future Indians teammate) Orel Hershiser in the T8th for his first big league hit.

THIS CARD: Here we have the rook Williams mid-swing at an unidentified ballpark. Giants fans know Williams' pre-swing routine all too well—touching his chin to his shoulder multiple times as he set up—but I couldn't tell you if he was doing that back in 1987.

What is that, a wooden back wall in the dugout? It's unclear what field this is—and even though there were only 13 other possibilities, I'm not going to research—but it's reminiscent of a saloon.

It's hard to believe it took eight years to present one of Matt Williams' 17 Topps cards here in COTD. Though I think we previously featured one of his All-Star or Postseason cards; I feel like I previously researched Williams for something on this site. 

(flip) In three years at UNLV, Williams belted 58 homers in 187 games, with a .327 average.

Picked ahead of Williams in that '86 Draft: IF Jeff King (#1, Pirates) and P Greg Swindell (#2, Indians). They both had good MLB careers, but not as good as Williams.

Baker was able to bat thrice in that one inning because his Braves scored 13 runs off Astros pitching! Baker led off the B2nd with a double, later smoked a three-run homer, and ended the frame with a groundout. I don't know if anyone else has the honor of three at-bats in one frame...but I plan to find out!

AFTER THIS CARD: 378 home runs, 1,218 RBI, a 1994 NL home run crown and runner-up finish in NL MVP voting (when Williams was on pace to break Roger Maris's then-homer record of 61 until the strike hit, freezing him at 43 with seven weeks unplayed), five seasons with 30+ homers, a 142-RBI 1999 season, a third-place finish in 1999 NL MVP voting, four Gold Gloves, five All-Star selections, many DL stints and a mid-season retirement in 2003 at 37.

Williams went down as the first player to homer in three World Series for three different clubs (1989 Giants, 1997 Indians and 2001 Diamondbacks). He received a staggeringly-low percentage of the Hall of Fame vote in 2009 (1.3%), leaving me with next-to-no confidence in the BBWAA.

Upon ending his playing career, the well-respected Williams then embarked on a long coaching career in 2010, working for the Diamondbacks, Athletics, and currently, the Padres as a third base coach and serving as Washington's manager in 2014-15. In 2013, Williams also reminded the baseball world that he's not afraid to get physical with anyone. 

Matt Williams debuted in 1987 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the 1988-2003 base sets. 

CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps Traded, San Francisco Giants

Topps League Leaders
Topps League Leaders

7/29/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #162 League Leaders, NL Wins

More 2017 Topps League Leaders: n/a

Jon Lester retired after the 2021 season with exactly 200 lifetime regular-season victories, a very impressive total given the wave of analytics that enveloped MLB during the second half of his career. These days, the majority of starting pitchers are not expected to go much more than five innings on any given night unless they're absolutely dominating.

But regardless of the era, you don't reach 200 wins unless you're somebody special, and Lester was a special pitcher for a long time, a bulldog who liked giving up the baseball about as much as he liked mayonnaise on his sundaes. Most of Lester's damage was done with the Red Sox (for whom he was a 2007 and 2013 World Champion) and Cubs (for whom he was a 2016 World Champion); he also picked up a combined 13 W's with the 2014 A's, 2021 Nationals and 2021 Cardinals.

Obviously, Lester finished among his league's leaders in victories several times, including that historical 2016 season. Read on:

THIS CARD: I keep having to remind myself that Lester was/is 6'4" and well over 220 pounds; he always seemed smaller and his Topps front images (such as this one) usually did him no favors in that regard. Per Getty Images, this pic was taken in the B2nd of the Cubs' 7/24/2016 clash at Milwaukee—Lester wasn't sharp that day and lasted just four innings, but his Cubs still won 6-5. 

The Chicago Cubs paid Lester $155M over six years to rank high on league leaderboards and he did just that, finishing in the NL Top 10 in wins thrice (2016, 2018, 2019). This is one of two League Leader cards featuring Lester in 2017 Topps; he also appears on card #144 which depicts 2016 NL ERA leaders.

The 2017 and 2018 Topps sets were overrun with League Leader cards for some reason; where sets of the recent past featured only about 10-14 total, this Lester card is one of a whopping 30 LL's in 2017 Topps.
The increase in LL cards wasn't due to additional categories, either—someone at the company felt it was a good idea to produce individual cards for the Top 3 leaders in each of the usual categories,  rather than having them share one card.

Even though the reverse information was completely redundant.

Thankfully, it's over now (and I'd like to think my bitching to Topps via email played a role).

(flip) Of those 10 pitchers, only Scherzer and maybe Hendricks or Maeda would place high in any (positive) league leading category today. Lester and Arrieta are retried, Fernandez is (sadly) deceased, Strasburg can't stay healthy for more than 15 minutes, and the others just haven't measured up lately. (Although Cueto has enjoyed a nice rebirth with the 2022 White Sox, I don't see it lasting.)

Hendricks is the only one of those pitchers still with the same club six seasons later.

Lester had a shot at a league-leading 20-win 2016 season. He earned his 19th win in his penultimate start of 2016, but was beaten soundly by Cincinnati in his final start. Scherzer won his 20th against Miami the next day despite being knocked around himself.

AFTER THIS CARD: Lester placed Top 10 in wins two more times, tying for the NL lead with 18 wins in 2018 (with Miles Mikolas of St. Louis and Scherzer of Washington) and tying for 10th with 13 wins in 2019. The aging veteran only won 10 of his final 40 starts, however.

Lifetime, Lester finished Top 10 in his league in wins nine times, but never finished first outright. Still, 200 is the new 300 as far as I'm concerned, and I'd vote him into Cooperstown if only the BBWAA gave a damn about who I was.

CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, League Leaders

Topps Dwight Smith
Topps Dwight Smith

7/30/22 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #536 Dwight Smith Sr., Cubs

More Dwight Smith Sr. Topps Cards: 1989T 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994T 1995

I don't refer to Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley as "Jr."

I don't refer to Braves OF Ronald Acuna as "Jr."

I don't refer to journeyman RP Carl Edwards as "Jr."

But I DO refer to journeyman OF Dwight Smith Jr. as "Jr.", as I just proved, because his dad was involved in pro sports and there IS the need for distinction, unlike the others.

It's the hill I'll irrationally die on, people. We all have one.

Dwight Smith, Sr. was a very good outfielder for several major league seasons—in fact, if not for his Cubs outfield mate Jerome Walton, Smith would have been the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year! That year he played extensively in LF (and sometimes RF) for Chicago—though seldom against LHP—and slashed .324/.382/.493 in 109 games, helping the Cubs to the NLCS. Though one publication described his defense as "unsteady", Smith was still young with gallons of upside.

While he never quite reached those individual heights again, Smith did play seven more seasons in MLB and was dependable in most of them.

Here, the 29-year-old is fresh off a 1993 season that saw him reach .300 for the first time in four years! Smith started 76 games across all three outfield spots in '93, and among the 14 Cubs to bat 100 times that year, only C Rick Wilkins outslugged Smith (.561 to .494).

THIS CARD: Unfortunately, this is not a random COTD selection. TSR presents this card in memory of Smith, who died 7/22/2022 of congestive heart and lung failure. He was just 58, which scares the crap out of 42-year-old me.

We went with Smith's 1994 Topps card for two reasons: the front image is by far his most exciting/interesting, and 1994 was the only Topps set featuring Smith that we hadn't presented from this month.

We see Smith plowing HARD into third base, most likely safely with one of his five 1993 triples. I'm assuming this since he's still wearing both batting gloves, which few if any players were doing on the bases back in '93. For whatever reason, I feel like that's a Padre 3B slapping on the tag. (Four of Smith's 1993 triples were hit at home, so we can't narrow down any exact date/situation.)

(flip) Today, the Cubs' all-time pinch-hit leader is...still Smith, as of 2020. For some contrast, pinch-hitter extraordinaire Tommy La Stella finished his Cubs career (2015-18) with "just" 44—even with the 24 he racked up in 2018 alone.

I couldn't find any record of Smith singing the Anthem in 1993, but multiple sources place him behind the mike on 1992 Opening Day. Smith also sang the Anthem at least two other times: before the Cubs' 7/21/1989 game, and before the Braves' 9/4/1995 game.

As the stats hint at, Smith never played full-time for an entire season while with the Cubs—he was either the lefty half of a platoon or coming off the bench altogether. In 1993, however, Smith's hot bat earned him more run than he'd seen in a while, though he still usually "rested" versus LHP.

Those 90 games in 1991 were not a result of an injury—remember, the team employed All-Star George Bell in LF that year. 

AFTER THIS CARD:  Cut loose by the Cubs after the 1993 campaign, Smith joined the Angels on a 1Y/$700K deal (plus incentives) in February 1994, then proceeded directly to Baltimore via June trade (becoming the fourth Smith on their club along with Lee, Lonnie and Mark). For the year, the veteran OF hit a combined .281 with eight jacks in 73 games. 

Smith hooked up with Atlanta for 1995-96, serving almost exclusively as a PH. In that role in May 1995, Smith hit a walk-off grannie against the Marlins; five months later, he was a World Champion for the first time. After spending 1997 in the Independent League, Smith failed to latch on with the expansion 1998 Devil Rays, ending his pro career at 34.

Dwight Smith, Jr. got in 169 games for the Blue Jays and Orioles 2017-20, and at last check was with AAA Charlotte (White Sox) in early 2022 before being cut.

Dwight Smith, Sr. appeared in 1990-95 Topps, as well as 1989 and 1994 Topps Traded. 

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Chicago Cubs, Now Deceased

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