Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, May 2019
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5/30/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps #764 Bill Buckner, Red Sox
More Bill Buckner Topps Cards: 1988
We step back from the usual Topps Card Of The Day random selection process in memory of Buckner, who passed away 5/27/19 of dementia, aged 69. You're not a baseball fan if you're over 30 and unaware of Buckner's role in the 1986 World Series—it's as documented as anything in MLB history, so we'll do little more than gloss over it here.
Then-Dodger Buckner was seen by millions desperately climbing and hanging on the LF wall at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium, attempting in vain to haul in Hank Aaron's 715th career home run in 1974. By then, he'd established himself as the Dodger LF after looks in RF and at 1B; in those days Buckner's game included speed but not so much power—until '75, when he severely sprained his ankle (which later contracted a staph infection). LA dealt him to the Cubs after '76, and his days as a regular outfielder ended.
Buckner remained a Cub into 1984, winning a batting title and twice leading the league in doubles. But by then, slugging Leon Durham was on the scene—cue a trade to the Boston Red Sox. Buckner enjoyed two of his most productive offensive seasons in Boston, including here, when he smoked a career-high 18 homers and topped 100 RBI for the 2nd straight year. Buckner started 138 times at 1B and 15 more at DH in 1986.
THIS CARD: Hard to identify the ballpark since the Red Sox bullpen (?) is behind Buckner. The array of blue makes me think Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, however.
I can't look at Buckner's left ankle without thinking about all it put him through over the years.
We chose this card because I only own two Buckner Topps cards and 1988 Topps gave me even less to discuss than this one. The company did not produce any cards of him after 1988, though he could have been included in 1989 and 1990 Topps.
(flip) If you're familiar with COTD, you know we don't acknowledge that game-wining RBI stat on the reverse—the formula to tally it was severely flawed and it was discontinued by MLB in the late 1980's. I can tell you Buckner hit a game-winning, two-run homer off Mike Witt in the 6th inning of a 3-2 Sox win over California 7/12. Which would've made a nice blurb.
Wow. Even on that wrecked ankle, Buckner was still swiping bags in 1985.
A Vallejo native like me! (though Buckner went to high school in nearby Napa.) Vallejo is roughly 30 minutes northeast of San Francisco.
AFTER THIS CARD: Buckner actually did return to Boston for 1987, despite all the crap angry fans/media flung his way. But he was cut halfway through with a .322 SLG and finished the year with California—who, too, cut him in early 1988.
Buckner hooked up with Kansas City thru 1989 in a reserve role and even returned to the Red Sox for 1990, but after two years of hitting like the old man he'd become, Boston let Buckner go in June, ending his four-decade-spanning career at 40.
Check out Buckner memorably returning to Fenway Park after Boston's 2007 World Series win.
Bill Buckner appeared annually in Topps 1970-1988, along with 1984 Topps Traded. All the other major companies produced cards of Buckner the Royal if you're interested.
More May 2019 Topps Cards Of The Day
5/4/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2009 Topps #627 Billy Butler, Royals
More Billy Butler Topps Cards: 2005 2007 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
In the years following Mike Sweeney's departure, but preceding the Royals' 2015 World Series title, Billy Butler was Kansas City's primary run producer and leading bopper. A first baseman by trade, Butler found his niche as the Royals' designated hitter—emphasis on hitter. From 2009 to 2013, Butler averaged .302, 20, 91 and played a part in KC's 2014 rise from mediocrity.
The 14th overall pick in 2004, Butler was a .611 slugger in his first full pro season (2005) and in the majors as a 21-year-old by 2007. Here, despite being optioned to Omaha for a month, Butler is coming off a 2008 season of starting 115 times for the Royals—Butler slashed .284/.320/.444 upon returning to MLB, although grounding into a whopping 17 DP in that 71-game span.
THIS CARD: I'm about 90% sure that's a Tigers catcher behind Butler. In 2008, "Country Breakfast" played eight games at Comerica Park, with insane slashes of .433/.452/.700 and a two-homer, four-ribbie game 8/30. KC went 6-2 in those eight games.
"Close your mouth, Billy. Something will fly in there!" - every mom in attendance.
Butler wore #21 as a Royals rookie before acquiring his familiar #16. It'd be interesting to poll Royals fans about the best #16, Butler or Bo Jackson.
This is the second straight month we've opened with a 2009 Topps Royals card (in April, it was #7U Brayan Pena).
(flip) That one home run in 53 games? A solo blast off Jarrod Washburn (Mariners). Butler might not have been hitting for power, but the homer closed a 14-game hit streak and fed a 21-of-22 hit streak.
Butler's career-high OPS month ended up being September/October (.837), with May as his low (.720).
Check out those five steals for Idaho Falls in 2004. Butler stole five bases in his entire MLB career (10 years).
AFTER THIS CARD: Butler remained a constant in Kansas City through 2014, but his production slipped in '14 and KC—after their one-year offer was rejected—opted to let Butler walk as a free agent...which he did, all the way to Oakland on a 3Y/$30M deal (which Oakland just didn't do). Though he didn't perform exactly POORLY with the A's, he never got his power stroke back and was ultimately released in late 2016 still owed $10M (which Oakland really just didn't do). This didn't help him keep his roster spot, either.
The Yankees brought 30-year-old Butler as a part-time DH to close 2016, and though he hit .345 and slugged .517 in 12 games, he went unsigned that winter and never played in MLB again.
Billy Butler debuted in Topps with a 2005 First-Year Player card, then appeared annually in the base set 2007-17.
CATEGORIES: 2009 Topps, Kansas City Royals
5/7/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #243 Kevin Appier, Athletics
More Kevin Appier Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999T 2001 2001T 2002 2002T 2003 2004 2005
My late grandmother used to make grand sports "predictions". She would, for example, predict the A's—who she hated—would finish in last place every single year during their LaRussa-era heyday. And every year she'd obviously be dead wrong.
Well, the A's did finally finish in last place, and she'd take full credit for "calling" it. Nevermind all the years she was wrong previously. Nevermind the law of averages—she said the A's would finish last and by crikey, they did.
You would hear similar "I told you sos" when it came to the longtime Royals ace Kevin Appier. From the time he settled in the bigs, anybody with a forum would warn of Appier's impending breakdown—his arm just couldn't withstand his straight-over-the-top delivery.
Wouldn't you know it, the "experts" were right; Appier did indeed hurt his arm...in a fall, eight years later, during six of which he threw 200 innings (and a 7th he was on pace to before the strike). Still, you can bet your last money "I told you sos" permeated the airwaves and sports print. Yeah, you told us so...and were wrong for years.
Here, Appier has left Kansas City after a decade, moving on to division-contender Oakland via trade. Ape's numbers didn't jump off the page, but he really did help the A's just by doing what he did best—taking the ball and absorbing innings.
THIS CARD: Appier's previous Topps base card came in 1998, and this pose almost matches it perfectly, save for the uniform change. His 1995 and 1996 cards are virtual duplicates as well...the Appier redundancy checker position was obviously never filled at Topps.
Appier wore #19 with the A's; the #17 he had worn in KC was not available. Of course, Appier wore #55 from his debut until switching to #17 in '96—I dug through everything I had and could not unearth a reason, though the man who originally signed him, Guy Hansen, became KC's bullpen coach and took over #55.
You get a good image here of Appier's unconventional motion; it was a little violent and ended with the tomahawk release. But it worked; aside from the aforementioned off-duty injury, Appier's arm held up until 2003.
(flip) "Huh? What do you mean, I'm holding the baseba--oh."
Lancaster is located about halfway between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, east of I-5.
The 7/31/99 trade sent the other Jeff D'Amico, Blake Stein and Brad Rigby (all pitchers) to the Royals—Stein lasted in KC for a bit, but overall Oakland won this trade in a blowout.
Appier is still the all-time KC K leader (1,458 after a second stint with the Royals). The closest active pitcher is Danny Duffy with 823.
AFTER THIS CARD: After the A's 1999 playoff push fell short, Appier helped the club over the hump in 2000, then signed with the Mets as a FA for 2001 for what ended up being 3Y/$29.5M. After one season, however, New York parted with Appier to land slugging DH/1B Mo Vaughn of the Angels; the former helped Anaheim beat my Giants in the 2002 World Series...bastard.
Subsequent highs would be few, and Appier was cut in mid-2003 with a then-record salary still owed him). Returning to Kansas City, he enjoyed a memorable performance against the Yankees in his first start back (six shutout innings in a 10-0 win), before September elbow surgery. The following April, Appier walked off the mound with elbow soreness, and never returned to MLB.
Kevin Appier appeared annually in Topps 1990-2005; 1999 was a Traded card with Oakland. He's also got 2001-02 Traded cards with the Mets and Angels, respectively.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Oakland Athletics
5/10/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #260 Zoilo Almonte, Yankees
More Zoilo Almonte Topps Cards: 2013U 2015
When Mark Teixeira returned tothe DL in June of '13, the second Zoilo in MLB history was summoned to replace him on the Yankee roster. Never a great prospect, the 24-year-old had nonetheless been a near .300 hitter in AAA that year, and soon settled in as the Yankees' primary LF for the next month-plus—until spraining his ankle.
THIS CARD: Can't see it here, but Almonte wore #45 as a rookie and #24 thereafter, once Robinson Cano left the club.
Not a whole lot to discuss image-wise, so I'll use this space to tell you Almonte's first MLB hit came against the Rays, and actually ricocheted off third base!
Just to clarify, it's pronounced Zoy-low.
(flip) That home run stood as Almonte's only major-league roundtripper of 2013; Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) gave it up as the Yankees won 6-2 over the Rays.
Just eight of those 34 Yankee games were played after Almonte's ankle injury; New York traded for Alfonso Soriano a week after Almonte went down; when he healed, he was largely used as a PR/DR.
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite a strong 2014 Spring, Almonte opened the year in AAA and only accumulated 36 AB with the Yankees that year. Cut that winter, Almonte signed a guaranteed MLB deal with Atlanta for 2015...but they also broke camp without him on their roster. He never returned to MLB and at last check, was taking his hacks in the Japan League.
Zoilo Almonte appeared in 2013 Topps Update, then in the 2014-15 base sets—a lot of love for a guy with 149 career PA.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, New York Yankees
5/13/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #387 Willie Randolph All-Star
More Willie Randolph All-Star Topps Cards: n/a
Not to sell Randolph short as a player, but you wonder if a player of his abilities would have made as many All-Star teams as he did had he played 12 years for, say, Seattle rather than the Yankees. Randolph was a damn good player for a long time, but a star he was not. Yet, he repped New York five times in the Midsummer Classic, and later made a sixth team as a Dodger.
Of course, his AL competition was sparse (Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker...who else?)
Here, 33-year-old Randolph has been named to the Classic for the 5th and final time as a Yankee. In the first half, he slashed .307/.375/.444 and solidified his nomination by slugging .500 in June for the 55-34 Yankees.
THIS CARD: All-Star cards took a step back cosmetically in 1988 Topps. Whereas 1987 Topps used normal-size photos and celebratory graphics, 1988 Topps reduces the image to neck-up, with plain, uninspiring text.
Randolph went 0-for-1 in his lone PA during the game...it took an exhaustive search, but I finally uncovered the reason for Randolph's early exit: a tight hamstring; Harold Reynolds replaced him. BTW, I should tell you the NL defeated the AL 2-0 at the Oakland Coliseum.
Willie with no mustache just seems...confusing.
(flip) When you bat .305 with 82 walks—vs. 25 K—you end up with the league's 4th-best OBP.
1987, you may recall, was Seitzer's rookie season. Trammell was MVP runner-up, and Molitor hit in 39 straight games that summer.
Starting pitcher Dennis Eckersley served up Randolph's blurbed home run. Eck started twice for Oakland before shifting to relief.
AFTER THIS CARD: Randolph the Dodger made the 1990 All-Star team as a sub, but back then Topps only produced All-Star starter cards (and sometimes not even them). In total, Randolph batted 4-for-14 in his All-Star career. Interestingly, in his best offensive season (1991, with Milwaukee) Randolph didn't come close to being selected.
Willie Randolph received All-Star Topps cards in 1978, 1982 and 1988.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, All-Stars
5/16/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps #521 Evan Scribner, Athletics
More Evan Scribner Topps Cards: n/a
On the one hand, Evan Scribner threw strikes, lots of them (29 walks in 169 career innings). Fielders love strike-throwers; it keeps them from falling asleep on the job.
On the other hand, Evan Scribner threw so many strikes, hitters often had their pick of pitches to drive, and after being stingy with the home run ball early in his career, Scribner began to serve them up with regularity as time wore on.
Still, Scribner had enough periods of effectiveness to last parts of seven MLB seasons to date. Here, he's getting his first extended MLB run with the A's after a brief look by the Padres in 2011.
THIS CARD: That's gotta be a broken circle-change grip. Scribner was/is primarily fastball/curve, and he added a cutter for the 2015 season.
You can't tell here, but Scribner is wearing #58, which never looked right on any Athletic except Justin Duchscherer.
This is where the whole "Rookie Card" designation confuses me: it's Scribner's first Topps base card, but he had MLB experience the previous year and just didn't get any cards. If Scribner had lost his official rookie status in 2011 but appeared on no cards, would this one still classify as Scribner's "Rookie" card?
Because under that guideline, there'd be a lot of dudes with no rookie card.
(flip) Good numbers for AAA Sacramento; Scribner's final 2012 A's numbers weren't shabby, either (2.55 in 30 games, just two HR allowed in 35 IP).
As you see, Scribner was a #28 pick who made good. Only three others from Scribner's draft round reached MLB; one was SP Nick Tepesch, who started 36 games for the 2013-14 Rangers. The others aren't worth mention.
In that 10/3/12 seaason finale—the infamous Josh Hamilton-drop game—Scribner relieved SP A.J. Griffin in the 3rd inning and pitched into the sixth, striking out two and allowing but two hits as Oakland fended off Texas for both the game and division wins.
AFTER THIS CARD: Scribner shuttled between AAA and the majors 2013-14, but stuck with Oakland for all of the '15 season. Which isn't to say it was a smooth go—Scribner allowed 14 HR in 60 IP, then missed September with a lat tear. Oakland let him go that winter and Seattle snapped him up, but Scribner missed most of '16 with a lat strain.
Though Scribner dominated to close '16, he was equally poor in '17 and was cut in September. A minors deal with Tampa for '18 went nowhere, leaving Scribner presently out of baseball.
This is Evan Scribner's lone Topps card, though you'll find his brother Troy in 2018 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps, Oakland Athletics
5/19/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #267 Jeff M. Robinson, Tigers
More Jeff M. Robinson Topps Cards: 1987T 1988 1990 1991
We catch up with Robinson for the second time—his 1987 Topps card was specially selected in November 2014, shortly after Robinson's death.
Robinson was a four-year starting pitcher with the Tigers 1987-1990, one who just couldn't get on a winning roll...except in 1988, the year represented by this card. With the exception of games started, the second-year man set all his career bests in 1988, leading the AL with 6.3 H/9.
THIS CARD: #44 has been pretty popular in Detroit over the years, although no one has accomplished a whole lot wearing the number. Another frustrating young starter, Daniel Norris, currently claims #44.
Robinson appears to be at a Spring Training yard. He's prepping to throw his low-90's fastball, hard slider, or excellent forkball (none other than Sparky Anderson lauded said forkball).
(flip) Robinson's wife was named Meredith; he also had twin sons later on.
Check out those 1988 numbers: from June 5 to August 7, Robinson was 8-3, 1.56 in 12 starts, with a BAA of .170! He was limited to 23 starts by circulatory issues in his fingers that cropped up in late August.
The two shutouts: Robinson whitewashed California 6-0 on 4/26, then blanked Baltimore 1-0 on 6/15.
AFTER THIS CARD: Come 1989, more physical problems (rib cage, elbow tendinitis) cost Robinson half the year, and he wasn't consistently effective when he did pitch. Following an even worse 1990, Detroit cut their losses and dealt him to Baltimore for slugging C/DH Mickey Tettleton.
Robinson ultimately started 19 games for the O's, but couldn't complete five innings in a whopping eight of them (twice only lasting ⅓ inning) and was demoted to AAA in July. 15 months later he was out of baseball.
Jeff M. Robinson was featured in 1987-91 Topps—one for each of his Tiger seasons. ('87 was a Traded card.)
5/22/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps Traded #38 Tony McKnight, Draft Pick
More Tony McKnight Topps Cards: 1996
Briefly, Tony McKnight was among the wave of young, talented Astro pitchers of the early 2000's—his 4-1, 3.86 audition of 2000 seemed a signal of good things to come. Ultimately, however, fellow prospects Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller and Tim Redding blew past him on the Astros depth chart, and McKnight never regained his footing.
Here, he's just a brand-new pro, having been drafted by the Astros #22 overall in 1995 out of Texarkana High School. Which is either in Texas or Arkansas; I'm not interested enough to research.
THIS CARD: McKnight not only has a 1995 Topps Traded Draft Pick card, he's also got a 1996 Topps Draft Pick card. (He's not alone in that.)
Could be a curveball grip? McKnight's calling cards were his curve and changeup; his fastball "only" clocked in the low 90's, which is partly why he didn't make it in Houston.
(flip) Those are some damn good high school numbers.
I'm confused. If Texarkana is in Texas, how was McKnight named Arkansas' High School Player Of The Year? Whatever; like I said, I'm not all that interested in researching.
AFTER THIS CARD: McKnight came down with elbow and forearm problems in 1995-96, but battled his way back, going 9-9, 2.75 in 24 GS for AA Jackson in 1999. At the end of 2000 he was impressing in Houston, but wound up traded to Pittsburgh for closer Mike Williams in mid-2001. McKnight started 12 times for the Bucs and didn't fare particularly well.
After the Pirates converted McKnight to relief in Spring 2002, they demoted him to AAA where he returned to starting. However, his pro career wrapped in 2003, and I've been unable to uncover a reason for the sudden end (McKnight was only 26 at the time and had been throwing decently).
Tony McKnight appeared in 1995 Topps Traded and 1996 Topps, both as Draft Picks.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps Traded, Draft Picks
5/24/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #4 Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles
More Jeremy Guthrie Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015
Hello again, Mr. Guthrie! TSR catches up with the former Orioles ace for the second time, having profiled his 2011 Topps card back in February 2017.
Refresher: Guthrie, the onetime Stanford standout, began his pro career in the Indians system, but didn't distinguish himself right away and only got brief looks with the Tribe, who waived him in 2007.
Lowly Baltimore pounced, and Guthrie soon evolved into a quality starter—Baltimore's de facto ace, even. Here, despite turning in his third straight 200-inning season and setting career highs in K and CG, Guthrie has found himself the AL's leading loser for the second time in three years.
THIS CARD: Jeremy Guthrie's 2009-12 Topps card front images border on identical. About the only difference between 2012 and 2011 is a bit more zoom action on the former.
Guthrie could be firing off a sinker here; he also had your basic fastball around 90, slider, curve and changeup. Guthrie had a quick motion and usually ended up in decent fielding position.
This is the lowest card number we've ever randomly selected. (We once specially selected 1998 Topps #1 Tony Gwynn, however.)
(flip) Since Topps doesn't list games started on their cards anymore, I'll specify that of the 161 games Guthrie pitched for Baltimore 2007-11, 153 were starts. The year he did not start on Opening Day? 2010, when Kevin Millwood received the honor (and ultimately, a ND).
Roseburg, Oregon is located on the southwest portion of the state, along I-5 about 160 miles south of Portland.
AFTER THIS CARD: Baltimore traded Guthrie to the Rockies after the 2011 season (the deal was less about the L's and more about Guthrie's pending free agency.) But he didn't pitch well, and the Rox swapped him for the Royals' Jonathan Sanchez in July.
Guthrie rediscovered himself in KC and earned a 3Y/$25M deal after the season. He then won 28 more times from 2013-14, as his team grew into a title contender. They won that title in 2015, but Guthrie struggled most of the year and was not on the postseason roster. He failed to make the 2016 Rangers but did receive one final, disastrous start with the 2017 Nats—on his 38th birthday, Guthrie was tagged for 10 runs in the first inning by Philadelphia—after which he retired.
Jeremy Guthrie debuted as a draft pick in 2003 Topps, appeared as an Indians prospect in 2004 Topps, returned in 2007 Topps Update with Baltimore, then was featured annually in 2008-15 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
5/27/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #273 Jeff Keppinger, White Sox
More Jeff Keppinger Topps Cards: 2008 2010U 2011 2011U 2012 2012U 2013 2014
Jeff Keppinger could hit. More than that, Jeff Keppinger could make contact. His power was limited. His speed was limited. He wasn't known as a great fielder. But if you needed somebody to single up the middle, advance a runner, or simply put the ball in play, Jeff Keppinger was your guy.
After trials with the Mets and Royals, Keppinger established himself as a Red, serving as their primary SS for much of 2007-08 (when not recovering from a broken kneecap...ouch.)
At the end of Spring Training '09, Keppinger was swapped to Houston, who initially used him as a a platoon 3B. But by 2010, he was starting at 2B for the 'Stros...until an August foot injury that eventually required early 2011 surgery. That summer, the 31-year-old was traded to the Giants in an effort to fill injured 2B Freddy Sanchez's void. (He fell a bit short.)
For 2012, Keppinger—playing for $1.5M, a 33% cut from 2011—started over 100 times at four positions for the Rays, batting .325 with a career-high nine bombs. This earned him his first (and only) long-term deal, a 3Y/$12M deal from the White Sox to begin in 2013. That is where we catch up with the veteran infielder.
THIS CARD: Keppinger charges around the bases wearing Albert Belle's old number.
What park has a teal side wall like this? Well, let's narrow it down to parks Kep played in during early 2013, when Topps Update had to have acquired the pic...
...uh, still not enough to go on. Though there does appear to be a kid in an A's hat behind Keppinger, the Coliseum seating wouldn't be that close. This is one we can't identify, it seems.
(flip) Who PREFERS to give themselves up for the team? Is Kep trying to say he'd have rather been doing that than hitting .325? (FYI, in 2012 Keppinger most often hit sixth, with good shares of run at fourth, fifth and seventh. IDK where Topps got the idea Kep was a regular in the three-hole; he only hit there thrice in 2012.
Again, not even allowed to mention Pete Rose's name. Damn lawyers...(by the way, Keppinger fell just short of Rose's record, finishing up with 814 hits. SO close!)
That .325 average would have ranked 2nd in the AL if Keppinger had the qualifying number of PA.
AFTER THIS CARD: Not a whole lot. Keppinger had his troublesome shoulder operated on during the 2013-14 off-season, but it healed slowly and by May he was only starting a minor-league rehab. By then, Chicago had younger, cheaper options at Keppinger's positions and opted to swallow the last $8.5M of his deal. Despite being just 34, supposedly healthy, and with most of his pay covered by Chicago, no other team signed the infielder.
Jeff Keppinger debuted in 2008 Topps, then appeared annually in the base set 2011-14. He's also got Update cards 2010-13.