Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, March 2019

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3/27/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #147 Ray McDavid, Star Track

More Ray McDavid Topps Cards: n/a

Back in 1995, I was still figuring out that a young prospect who is given attention by Topps does not necessarily make him a young prospect with a major league future.

Said the LA Times in 1992: "Pencil In Ray McDavid As The Padres Center Fielder Of The 1990's."

 

Said a scout familiar with McDavid: "He's just a pure athlete. I used to take him to ballgames at Jack Murphy Stadium just to get him to choose baseball (as a career). He has all the raw ability. You look for power and speed and he's got 'em both. He can run the ball down in the outfield. He's got things you can't teach, but we can refine."

Said none other than Tony Gwynn: "It's been awhile since we (the Padres) have had young guys with that kind of talent."

Short of being assassinated, or pulling a Rae Carruth, how does someone with such a clear path to the big leagues end up with 48 MLB plate appearances?

The short answer? Steve Finley's acquisition in late 1994.
The detailed answer? I just don't know. Unearthing information about the guy has proven next to impossible.

THIS CARD: In 1994, all of McDavid's run came on the road—Shea Stadium, Olympic Stadium and Veterans Stadium. And not one of the photos at my disposal show a dugout clearly enough for me to make a match.

Only when I pulled this card did I make the Star Trek connection. Only took 25 years!

(flip) McDavid was also a football player in high school; baseball was the last sport he took up. He attended Arizona Western on a hoops scholarship, in fact.

Yep, he's seen as such an impact CF by the Padres that they went out and traded for Finley mere months after McDavid's debut.

 

AFTER THIS CARD: Little. McDavid garnered 17 AB with the '95 Padres, K'd in six of them, and was claimed by the Expos off waivers that winter. He failed to make the '96 Expos, played part of that season in the minors, then disappeared from planet Earth, it seems.

Ray McDavid appeared in 1994-95 Topps.

CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Subsets

 

More March 2019 Topps Cards Of The Day

2008 Topps Johnny Estrada
2008 Topps Johnny Estrada
2002 Topps New York Mets
2002 Topps New York Mets
2001 Topps Chris Michalak
Topps Chris Michalak

3/3/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps Update #19 Johnny Estrada, Nationals

More Johnny Estrada Topps Cards: 2003T 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Quick show of hands: how many of you remember Johnny Estrada ever played?

If not for this vast card collection of mine, I wouldn't—although, according to my research, he beat up on my Giants harder than any other team except the Dodgers (yay). I SURELY wouldn't have remembered him ever suiting up for D.C.

Estrada did have a noteworthy, if brief, career. Acquired by Atlanta in a highly-criticized trade with the Phillies for P Kevin Millwood, he was Javy Lopez's successor as Braves catcher in 2004, making the All-Star team and winning the Silver Slugger that year as he roped .314. 

However, in '05, Estrada was demolished by Anaheim's Darin Erstad at home plate—the hit left him groggy and sent him to the hospital. That surely didn't help his numbers, which were significantly down from his breakout '04. 

From there, the stocky receiver kept his bags packed; he'd be traded to Arizona and Milwaukee in successive years before hooking up with Washington  (that doesn't include a brief winter stay on the Mets' roster; he never played for them).

THIS CARD: Don't you miss posed cards like this? Topps Base and Update are devoid of them these days; you have to go to Topps Heritage or other Topps brand to find them now. Action shots are great, but to paraphrase The Incredibles: if everyone's great, then no one's great.

That's #23 Estrada wears; no other Nat of note besides perhaps Brian Schneider has shared it. SP Erick Fedde is #23 in Washington today.

If Estrada played today, we'd be calling him JE3 and III would be on the back of his jersey. (Also, Johnny is his full first name.)

(flip) The Nationals signed Estrada for all of $1.25M after New York cut him. He was traded by the Brewers to the Mets for RP Guillermo Mota.

Estrada is a SF Bay Area kid! Hayward is about 20 minutes north of San Jose.

AFTER THIS CARD: Basically nil. Now a backup, Estrada hit the DL in May with ulnar neuritis (translation: jacked-up elbow), returned in July, wasn't effective, and got pink-slipped. He never made it back to MLB, despite reports of a pending 2010 comeback. Estrada also ran into some off-field trouble a few years later.

Johnny Estrada appeared annually in Topps 2004-08, bookended by a 2003 Traded card and this 2008 Update card.

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps Update, Washington Nationals

3/6/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #659 New York Mets Team Card

More New York Mets Topps Cards: 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2010 2011 2015 2016 2017 2018

The 2000 Mets reached the World Series (losing to the Yankees) but didn't feel the need for a drastic roster overhaul; other than SP Kevin Appier replacing Mike Hampton, essentially the same group populated Shea Stadium to begin 2001 (it should be noted the team did try to land Alex Rodriguez, however.)

High moments included SS Rey Ordonez returning from his 2000 arm injury, Lenny Harris becoming the all-time pinch-hit leader, and IF Desi Relaford pitching a 1-2-3 inning with a K. Of course, his team was being blasted by San Diego at the time—that happened too frequently in the early going.

 

Lows: 3B Robin Ventura couldn't crack .240 for the second straight year, as New York ranked last in the NL in runs (642) and slugging (.387), placing ahead of only Montreal in home runs (147). Basically, C Mike Piazza was the Mets offense in 2001.

THIS CARD: Front row:...eh, on second thought, too much squinting (though I'm pretty sure that's #2 Bobby Valentine in front middle.) I am curious about the background imagery—is that the Mets' doing or Topps?

We've pulled three random Team cards, two of which are from 2002 Topps (the Marlins card was selected in May 2017.) Nearly five years of COTD and we've only randomly selected five standard 2002 Topps commons.

(flip) No mention is make of Piazza's infamous home run to down Atlanta in Game 1 of the post-9/11 era, which as just as well—Topps commemorated the night with a special subset.

Ordinarily, you might ask questions about a 36-homer heart-of-the-order hitter with just 94 RBI. If Piazza's teammates weren't so inept offensively, he likely plates 125 or more.

That thrilling win on August 18: trailing 4-3 in the 7th, Edgardo Alfonzo ripped a two-out RBI single off Matt Herges, then in the 8th Benny Agbayani sac-flied the go-ahead run. In the 9th, Armando Benitez stranded the tying run at 2B for the save.

AFTER THIS CARD: Mostly disappointment for New York, who didn't return to the playoffs until 2006 (losing in the NLCS to eventual champ St. Louis). You may have heard of the move to Citi Field in 2009, as well as the (euphemizing) "financial issues" which clouded the team in the early '10's. But in time a new Generation K (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey) paced the Mets to the '15 World Series.

But the Kansas City Royals—whose 30-year title drought beat the Mets by one year—bested them in five games. Currently (2019), the team is not favored to place high in the NL East.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, New York Mets

3/9/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps Traded #60 Chris Michalak, Blue Jays

More Chris Michalak Topps Cards: 1994

In the early weeks of 2001, Chris Michalak was arguably MLB's biggest surprise story. When camp broke, he was 30 years old with all of five (unimpressive) MLB appearances on his ledger, and not much about him suggested he could help a big league team on the field.

Well, fellow lefty Mike Sirotka's arm gave out, triggering a Spring competition for his vacated rotation spot. Michalak won it and quickly took off.

THIS CARD: I had no clue this (jersey) logo existed before 2003, when it became Toronto's primary logo (for one season).

Since there's not much else to discuss about the pic, I'll use this space to tell you a bit about Michalak (pronounced Mike-uh-lak): he didn't throw hard, but used his curve and changeup extensively. Plus, he had a slick pickoff move that nabbed 10 runners in 2001 (I couldn't find Michalak's league ranking in that category, but safe to assume it's high).

(flip) Talk about thrown into the fire: Michalak's first start of '01 was at Yankee Stadium 4/7; he threw 5.1 shutout IP for the win. 11 days later, he allowed two runs over 5.1 for his third win in as many tries (he beat the Royals in between Yankee triumphs).

Many 2001 Traded subjects received identical front and back images. It's not exactly uncommon for Topps to use one image on both sides, but no other set I own did so with such frequency. (Not complaining; just happy to even HAVE a reverse image. Topps hasn't used them since 2011).

From 1993-96, Michalak was in the A's system, passing through four other organizations before finally reaching Toronto. As you see, most of his pre-2000 run came out of the bullpen.

AFTER THIS CARD: Michalak, unsurprisingly, could not maintain his winning ways after May 2001, lost four of five decisions at one point, then was claimed off waivers by Texas. After '01, Michalak got in 14 games with the '02 Rangers, returned to the minors for three years, and finally resurfaced for eight games with the '06 Reds. In one of them, Michalak won a start in which he only pitched 4.1 innings, thanks to rain shortening the affair.

The Illinois native pitched professionally into 2009, finally reaching the end at age 38. He appeared in 1994 Topps on a shared Prospects card, and 2001 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps Traded, Toronto Blue Jays

 
 
 
Topps Julio Franco
Topps Julio Franco

3/12/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #431 Julio Franco, Mets

More Julio Franco Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 2002 2003 2007

He played in the majors until he was 49, and in other pro leagues well into his 50's. He swung a 36-oz bat using the greatest stance of all-time. He was the 1991 AL batting champion, and he once destroyed Willie Blair's face with a liner. And he had THE biggest smile in the entire 1990 Topps set, rockin' the jheri curl with beaming pride.

Julio Franco's career will never be matched, at least not logistically.

Oh, it began fairly commonly—although he had a few disciplinary issues as a youngster, Franco was certainly among the better offensive shortstops in the American League during his early Indians days and probably makes an All-Star team or two if not for guys like Trammell and Ripken (or the guys he shared a clubhouse with...Cleveland wasn't that good back then.)

 

I could fill up another three pages on Franco's bio info, so let's jump ahead to 2006; after five seasons in a part-time role with the Braves, 47-year-old Franco—long sought by Mets GM Omar Minaya—became a Met on a 2Y/$2.2M deal. (CMON, even with Beltran I know the Mets had more money than that.) 

THIS CARD: EIther Franco has just made contact and already sent the bat flying, or he's just scored and is looking to guide a back runner. (Since his gloves are still on, I'd guess the former.)

He wears #23; Franco wore either 23 or 14 for most of his career.

(flip) Topps listed Franco's Brewers stint ahead of his Indians stint incorrectly, but the stats line up with the correct club.

If Franco's stance is so unusual...why not make a cartoon of it?

Instead of a redundant career stat like Franco's career average, how about an informative stat such as his lifetime .316 average and .470 slugging vs. lefties?

AFTER THIS CARD: Surprisingly, two more MLB seasons! In 2006, not only did 47-year-old Franco play his first MLB 3B in 24 years, but his 4/20 home run keyed a game-winning rally for the eventual division winners—did I mention the man's age? He passed Jack Quinn (1930) as MLB's oldest to ever go deep. 
Unfortunately, he closed the year disappointingly, pinch-hitting four times in the playoffs but striking out thrice.

Franco returned to the Mets for '07, but became displeased with his lack of run and was eventually cut. Atlanta re-signed him, and though they cut him as well, Franco accepted an A-ball assignment and was brought back in September '07. That would be the big league swan song for the 49-year-old, although his playing career continued elsewhere.

Julio Franco debuted in 1983 Topps Traded, appeared annually in the base set 1984-97 (except 1996) then returned for dips in the 2002-03 and 2006-07 sets. That's 24 years between Topps cards, people.

CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, New York Mets

 
Topps Will Clark
Topps Will Clark

3/15/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #330 Will Clark, Giants

More Will Clark Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001

Memories of my old Little League sponsor Gold Rush Pizza abound every time I scour 1992 Topps. On the last day of our 1992 season, my team was treated to stacks of pizzas at Gold Rush, whose restaurant was stocked with baseball card quarter machines. (Yes, those did exist and no, you'll never see them again.)

I can't CONFIRM that's how I acquired Clark's 1992 Topps card, but considering I hit up my mom for about 800 quarters that day (mild exaggeration), odds are high.

This card came on the heels of one of Clark's best seasons, a bounceback year after a somewhat down 1990. Clark led the NL in slugging, set a career-high in RBI, won his first Gold Glove and finished fourth in NL MVP voting.

THIS CARD: This is Clark's second COTD appearance; we pulled his 1990 Topps card back in November 2014. 

The diving Expo seems to be a black man with a single digit number. Fitting that description on the 1991 team: Delino DeShields and Marquis Grissom, both of whom you'd want to keep close to first base.

I like this image—it's got the Giants in their Candlestick whites; what's not to like? Offhand, only one of my other Topps cards depicts a pickoff play, and I can't even remember the subject (though the runner was Dave Justice).

(flip) On August 20, 1991, the Giants won at Houston 9-3, with Clark driving in five of the runs. Rob Mallicoat served up the slam.

In case you're not a S.F. Bay Area local, Candlestick no longer stands, having been torn down in 2014-15 once the 49ers moved out. The Giants moved out in 2000, of course.

We JUST missed featuring Clark on his 55th birthday, I see.

AFTER THIS CARD: As he battled numerous health issues, Clark would never produce quite so prolifically again, though he remained a .300+ hitter when he could take the field.

Clark left San Francisco as a free agent following the '93 season, spent five years helping turn also-ran Texas into a playoff team, played the equivalent of a full (unspectacular) season with the Orioles, then finished up slugging .655 in 51 games for the 2000 Cardinals, subbing for former Bay Area 1B rival Mark McGwire.

Will Clark appeared annually in Topps 1987-2001, having debuted in 1986 Topps Traded.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, San Francisco Giants

 
Topps Tom Herr
Topps Tom Herr

3/20/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps Traded #49 Tom Herr, Phillies

More Tom Herr Topps Cards: 1987 1988 `988T 1989 1990 1991 

When it comes to Tom Herr, that which first comes to my mind is his 1987 World Series Game 6 bomb off Minnesota's Les Straker—at the time, it seemed to set the tone for a Cardinals road win, but ultimately they were blown out. (He then got picked off by Frank Viola in a close Game 7 that St. Louis also lost...sadface.)

Second is his famed 8 HR/110 RBI 1985 ledger; somebody driving in 100 runs on single-digit homers in the post-1920 era fascinated me.

Third—and keep in mind I was 11 and didn't fully understand anything except cartoons—I recall the somewhat scuffling Giants signing Herr during the 1991 season, leaving me thinking/hoping a good player like Herr could ignite the team. Not realizing, of course, that Herr was available for a reason (he was 35 and couldn't play anymore).

Here, the 10-year vet becomes a Phillie for 2Y/$1.8M following a partial season with the Twins (who traded for him during the '88 season.). Herr's addition would allow the Phils to move Juan Samuel to CF, or provide insurance if free agent 3B Mike Schmidt didn't return (which Schmidt did, for a couple of months).

THIS CARD: This is our second straight COTD with the Expos as an opponent.

Herr—who looks more like Lance Parrish than himself on this card—also has a base card in the '89 set as a Twin. 

(flip) Aaron Herr grew up and was himself drafted by the Braves #1 in 2000 (he even appeared on a 2001 Topps card!) But he never reached MLB, his pro career ending in 2011.

That splendid 1985 campaign earned Herr an All-Star nod as well as enough MVP votes to finish 5th.

"Penna"? The 10/24/88 trade sent Herr and two others to Philly for Shane Rawley; the Phillies non-tendered Herr but re-signed him two weeks later.

AFTER THIS CARD: Herr would up playing 2B exclusively for the 1989 Phillies, turning in a .287 average (second on the team) along with just seven errors in 144 starts. The Mets, after shifting Gregg Jefferies to 3B, traded for him at the second 1990 trade deadline...but benched him in favor of the offensively-superior-but-defensively-inferior Jefferies in mid-1991.

In August, the Mets cut Herr altogether; his career ended with 32 games as a Giants reserve/PH.

Tom Herr appeared in Topps annually 1980-91, with every card front displaying (semi-) action shots—uncommon for that era. He's also got 1988-89 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps Traded, Philadelphia Phillies

 
Topps Darren Daulton
Topps Darren Daulton

3/24/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #608 Measures Of Greatness Darren Daulton

More Measures Of Greatness Topps Cards: n/a

Measures Of Greatness was a one-time subset featured in 1994 Topps, perhaps due to the hoopla surrounding the pending retirements of Hall-of-Famers-in-waiting George Brett and Nolan Ryan (Carlton Fisk and Robin Yount also finished up in '93, but did not go on farewell tours.)

Whatever the inspiration, Topps pulled nine active position players and compared them to Hall-of-Famers at their respective positions. Seven of the nine did indeed reach Cooperstown, another (Barry Bonds) still might, and one—this card's subject, Darren Daulton—missed by about four million miles, but still had a good career.

Personally, MOG was okay, though I'd have preferred having cards of Scott Sanderson, Jim DeShaies, Les Lancaster, Goose Gossage, Rick Honeycutt, Jack Morris, Tim Leary, Tom Brunansky and Charlie Leibrandt in the set insead.

THIS CARD: The entire subset is atypical of Topps; Score often put out subsets like this celebrating the game's top stars. Daulton, at the time, was finally reaching stardom after years of injuries and backing up others. (Playing for the NL Champion Phillies didn't hurt.) It didn't last much longer, unfortunately.

You're looking at the numbers of Hall-of-Fame catchers Ernie Lombardi, Michey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Roy Campanella, Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench in the background; 

(flip) Daulton did not put together even one more season like 1993; he was injured and/or ordinary until 1997, his final season. He passed away in 2017.

Unless you're talking car crashes, today it's comical to discuss Daulton and Campy in the same breath; the former was only "great" for 24 months.

CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Subsets