Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, May 2021
A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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5/31/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #410 Dean Palmer, Tigers
More Dean Palmer Topps Cards: 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2002 2003
Here, we catch up with the veteran slugger Palmer after his second season with the Detroit Tigers. Despite moving from Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park, Palmer actually increased his RBI total from 1999, though (like most Tigers) his home runs did dip. Still, he finished just one dinger behind Bobby Higginson for the team lead.
THIS CARD: Without boring you with details, just know our COTD random selection process makes it possible to occasionally re-choose previously profiled cards. That's what happened here; the Randomizer originally wanted us to re-profile a Reggie Sanders card we did back in November 2018.
And so after re-selection, out of every Topps subject from 1987-2020, we end up choosing a guy featured in COTD just two weeks ago. Shoot, I should have just stuck with Sanders...
In that profile from two weeks ago, we told you about the flagrant front image redundancy of Palmer's final three Topps cards. This was the first of those three; his 2002 and 2003 Topps front images barely differ.
(flip) Damnit, Skillz, why did I start the profile before reading the blurb? It's almost word-for-word what I wrote above.
Palmer was acquired in free agency for the price of 5Y/$36M; reportedly Tampa Bay made a similar offer but Detroit prevailed by guaranteeing the fifth year.
About those 17 missed games in 2000: Palmer sat eight games to suspension, and also battled a troublesome shoulder during the year.
AFTER THIS CARD: As you were told two weeks ago, Palmer was limited to 87 games 2001-03 by several injuries, including shoulder/rotator cuff inflammation and cervical disk surgery.
Finally, 35-year-old Palmer retired in January 2004, un-retired the following Spring, then retired once more after failing to make the Tigers roster. He finished up with 275 home runs over 14 seasons.
Dean Palmer debuted in 1991 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1992-2003.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Detroit Tigers
More May 2021 Topps Cards Of The Day
5/1/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #369 Jason Isringhausen, Mets
More Jason Isringhausen Topps Cards: 1995 1997 2001 2002 2002T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011U 2012 2012U 2013
1990's collectors surely remember the Mets' highly-touted "Generation K" trio of pitching prospects Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson. Expected (desperately needed?) to lead the Mets' pitching staff into the new millenium, all three were derailed by injuries. Pulsipher never became much of anything. Wilson eventually produced a couple of half-decent years with the Rays and Reds.
Only Isringhausen was able to reach stardom in the majors, and even then it was after years of frustration and long after the Mets cast him aside.
Here, the big righty still has the world (or more accurately, one United State) at his feet. The 23-year-old rookie dazzled after joining the Mets' rotation in mid-July 1995—in fact, he won only one fewer game than team leader Bobby Jones (who made 30 starts to Isringhausen's 14).
THIS CARD: I'm not sure why Isringhausen didn't receive a "Now Appearing" graphic as was all the rage with 1996 Topps prospects. For heaven's sake, Pirates C Jason Kendall even got one despite not even playing in the majors yet.
I'm guessing Isringhausen is about to unleash his vaunted curve, which immediately became one of the majors' best upon his arrival. People legitimately compared Isringhausen's hook to Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven's. That's HIGH praise.
Redundancy checkers failed Topps through Isringhausen's career. His 1997 Topps front image practically matches this one, as do his 2003-04 Topps front images.
(flip) #44 has an interesting Mets history. In addition to Isringhausen, David Cone wore #44 during his glory years, Howard Johnson wore it briefly during his memorable 1991 campaign, the infamous Lastings Milledge had it for a time, and free agent megabust Jason Bay opened the 2010's with it. Today, RP Robert Gsellman wears #44 after switching from #65 for some reason.
Bob Apodaca eventually became the Mets' pitching coach 1996-99. He's probably best known for his subsequent gig as Colorado's longtime pitching coach, however.
You may recall Hideo Nomo won 1995 NL Rookie Of The Year, with Chipper Jones close behind. Isringhausen finished with four points.
AFTER THIS CARD: From 1997 to 1998, Isringhausen made exactly six MLB appearances as he recovered from reconstructive elbow surgery. The Mets made him a reliever in 1999, then made him an Oakland Athletic later that year. By 2000, 27-year-old Isringhausen was an All-Star closer in Oakland; he signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in December 2001.
From 2002-07, Isringhausen saved 205 games for St. Louis, helping them to the 2006 World Series title. But injuries and ineffectiveness took hold—he underwent separate UCL surgeries in both 2008 and 2009, and missed all of 2010 recovering.
In 2011, 38-year-old Isringhausen re-emerged—with the Mets, of all teams. He got in 53 games for his old/new club that year before ending his career with 50 appearances for the 2012 Angels. Isringhausen finished up with exactly 300 lifetime saves.
Jason Isringhausen appeared in 1995-97 Topps, took a three-set hiatus, then returned for the 2001-09 and 2012-13 Topps sets. He's also got a 2002 Traded card as a new Cardinal, and 2011-12 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, New York Mets
5/2/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #463 League Leaders, NL & AL RBI
More 2000 Topps League Leader Cards: #465
Just as they had during their magical 1998 seasons, Mark McGwire of the Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Cubs ranked high atop the NL leaderboards in 1999. Meanwhile, over in the AL, young Manny Ramirez somehow managed to outdo his own ridiculous 1998 numbers.
Here, McGwire has edged out Sosa and Arizona's Matt Williams for the league lead in RBI, while Ramirez has helped Cleveland become the first team in nearly 40 years to score 1,000 runs.
THIS CARD: Most of McGwire's 147 RBI in 1999 were a product of his 65 home runs—108 of them, in fact. Big Mac clobbered two grand slams that year, on 5/4 (off Greg Maddux) and 9/17 (off Jose Lima).
McGwire's 1999 RBI high game: six, on 7/16. He also had a pair of five-RBI affairs and fended off Sosa (141) and Williams (142) with 10 RBI in his final seven games.
In Cardinals history, only Rogers Hornsby (152 in 1922) and Joe Medwick (154 in 1937) have ever had more RBI than McGwire's 147 in 1999 (and 1998).
(flip) Ramirez finished with 17 more RBI than AL runner-up Rafael Palmeiro of the Rangers. He had 96 of them in just the first half!
Ramirez's 1999 RBI high game: eight, on 9/24. He also ripped two grand slams, on 5/18 (off James Baldwin) and 9/24 (off Mike Romano, who I may not have ever known existed).
Those 165 RBI broke Hal Trosky's team record of 162, set in 1936. The record still stands, and no Indian has come within 25 of it since.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wrecked by age and injuries, McGwire lasted just two more seasons and didn't sniff the RBI leaderboard in either. On the other hand, Ramirez would finish Top 10 in AL RBI four more times in the next six years; he'd also place 4th in MLB in 2008 (split between both leagues).
McGwire finished up with 1,414 RBI; Ramirez's lifetime 1,831 RBI rank 19th in MLB history.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, League Leaders
5/4/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #267 Luis Castillo, Marlins
More Luis A. Castillo Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007U 2008 2009 2010
Speed, speed and more speed was Luis Castillo's game. No connection to the current Reds pitcher, this Castillo debuted with the 1996 Marlins and got extended run on the 1997 title team, but didn't firmly establish himself as Florida's full-time 2B until 1999. That year, he started 122 games and ranked 4th in the NL in steals.
But here, Castillo is just a rookie. Called up in August from AA Portland, Castillo took over 2B for oft-injured/demoted Quilvio Veras and started 41 of Florida's final 47 games.
THIS CARD: Not the prettiest swing/follow-through you'll see, but it worked well enough to keep Castillo employed in MLB for 15 seasons. The brick obviously gives away Wrigley Field, where Castillo went 5-for-13 across a three-game series August 19-21, 1996.
#34 on the Florida Marlins evokes A.J. Burnett's memory, not Castillo's, since he switched to #1 the following season. #34 was also worn by ace closer Bryan Harvey during Florida's infancy.
More from Castillo's 1996 season: he enjoyed a trio of three-hit games, and on 8/13, he stole three bases against the Rockies.
(flip) Mr. Boles, I understand you want to build up your players, especially the young ones. But when you say things like that you lose all further credibility. (No offense to Castillo, of course.)
Jesus God, seven triples in a MONTH? Mark McGwire had six triples his entire career!
That one Marlins home run was hit 8/30 off Cincinnati's Mike Remlinger. And yes, it did leave the park.
AFTER THIS CARD: As mentioned, Castillo became the Marlins' regular 2B in 1999; one year later he led the NL in steals (62) while batting .334! Though his basestealing dramatically decreased, Castillo made three All-Star teams from 2002-05, won three Gold Gloves, and helped the 2003 Marlins to their second World Series victory.
Come December 2005, however, it was time for another Marlins salary purge—off to Minnesota went Castillo via trade (for two failed prospects). Though he helped the '06 Twins to the postseason, in mid-2007 Castillo, a pending free agent, was dealt to the Mets; they re-signed him for 4Y/$25M that November.
As a 2009 Met, the normally-surehanded Castillo infamously dropped Alex Rodriguez's routine popup, giving the Yankees a walk-off win. In 2010, Castillo battled dual foot injuries, batted just .235 in 86 games, and lost playing time down the stretch; the Mets cut him in Spring Training 2011. After a week with the Phillies, 35-year-old Castillo simply faded from major league baseball.
Luis A. Castillo debuted in 1997 Topps, then appeared annually in Topps 2000-10 (2007 was an Update card).
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Florida Marlins
5/5/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #56 Taijuan Walker, Mariners
More Taijuan Walker Topps Cards: 2015U 2016 2017 2017U 2018 2019 2020U
Ten days before this profile, Taijuan Walker of the Mets threw seven shutout innings at Washington for his first win of 2021. The guy has always had ability, but has been held back in the past by injuries.
Walker—who gave us Giants fans the scare of the year when he beaned Buster Posey in 2017—was originally a supplemental #1 pick by the 2010 Seattle Mariners. By 2013, the year represented on this card, the 21-year-old reached the majors and made three starts (of exactly five innings each) from 8/30-9/9.
THIS CARD: My family, as well as my employer, would have been QUITE displeased to find that much ink on my 21-year-old arms. This is a new generation, however...
If I had to guess, I'd say Walker was bringing his mid-90's fastball in this image. He's also got a cutter (that acts like a slider), a curve, and a sinking changeup.
More from Walker's 2013 season: he won his MLB debut at Houston, allowing just an unearned run over five innings. Facing those same Astros in Seattle 10 days later, he fanned eight over five innings but received no decision.
(flip) In Baseball America's preseason rankings, Walker was actually Seattle's #1 ranked prospect and #5 overall.
Despite the unimpressive record, Walker was named the Mariners Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2013...thanks, MLB.com.
We couldn't uncover who was the previous youngest Mariner to win his debut, but it was not the teenage Felix Hernandez, who was beaten by the Tigers in his 2005 debut.
AFTER THIS CARD: Walker joined the M's rotation full-time in 2015 and won 11 times in 29 starts. After a challenging 2016, he was packaged in a trade to the Diamondbacks.
After going 9-9, 3.49 (28 starts) in 2017, Walker underwent UCL surgery in April 2018 and was out until pitching one inning for Arizona on 9/29/19. Seattle re-signed the 27-year-old for 2020, and he threw well enough to prompt Toronto to trade for him that August. Walker joined the 2021 Mets on a 2Y/$20M deal (with a 2023 option) and is off to a fine start for them as of this writing.
Taijuan Walker debuted in 2014 Topps and returned for the 2016-19 sets. He also appears in 2015, 2017 and 2020 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Seattle Mariners
5/7/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps Update #271 Mike Leake, Giants
More Mike Leake Topps Cards: 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2018 2019 2020
Though he'd spent most of 2010 in the Reds' starting rotation, I'm not sure I'd heard of Mike Leake until he was inexplicably busted for shoplifting from a Macy's in early 2011 (hey, I was REAL busy with a baby/toddler throughout 2010).
And while I don't believe Leake should have it held against him for eternity, it's weird to have not heard a single word spoken/written about it by anyone from any outlet since it happened. And I watch/read an excess of baseball.
Good Christ, Larry Walker—a Hall-of-Famer—forgot the number of outs once and never got to live it down, but Leake's act seems to have been totally forgotten/excused.
Here, free-agent-to-be Leake has just joined my Giants—who were neck-in-neck with the Dodgers in the NL West—in a mid-season trade with the Reds. By July 2015, San Francisco's initial rotation was impacted by ineffectiveness (Ryan Vogelsong) and injury (Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson), so GM Bobby Evans took action.
THIS CARD: This image should have been zoomed out a little. I'm not feeling the cutoff-at-the-elbow look.
Using Getty, can we discover when this image was taken? The answer is (goes to research)...yes, barely. This is Leake from his first Giants start, 8/2/15 in Texas; that day, he pitched into the 7th inning and allowed two runs, but still took the loss.
More from Leake's 2015 Giants stint: he was only 2-5 in nine starts and didn't win until his sixth start for SF, despite overall pitching decently. Leake two-hit shutout the Dodgers in his final start of '15, but by then the Giants trailed L.A. in the NLW by five games with four to play and were long eliminated from Wild Card contention.
(flip) The Giants may have won the Leake "sweepstakes", but he was not their first choice. Only after failing to land All-Star lefties Cole Hamels and David Price did SF turn to Leake.
Those two prospects sent to the Reds were two of the Giants' top-ranked at the time, P Keury Mella and OF Adam Duvall. Mella did nothing for the Reds, but Duvall turned out okay.
Leake's lone postseason appearance, then and now, was a start for Cincy against the Giants in the 2012 NLDS. It didn't go all that well.
AFTER THIS CARD: After the 2015 season, Leake signed with St. Louis for 5Y/$80M, only to be swapped to the Mariners in late 2017 (creating room for current Cards ace Jack Flaherty). Leake went 10-10, 4.36 for the 2018 Mariners, then was traded to Arizona in mid-2019. The 32-year-old sat out the 2020 season, and remains unsigned as of this date. If Leake is done, he finishes up 105-98, 4.05, with a 2019 Gold Glove award.
In addition to this 2015 Update card, Mike Leake appeared annually in 2010-20 Topps, except 2017, even though he made 30 starts for the '16 Cardinals and was with them in '17 as well.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps Update, San Francisco Giants
5/8/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1999 Topps #396 Mark McLemore, Rangers
More Mark McLemore Topps Cards: 1987T 1988 1989 1993 1994 1995 1995T 1996 1997 1998 2000 2000T 2001 2002 2003
Whenever I think of Mark McLemore, I recall the moment late in his career when he was shown, miked up, signing autographs for some kids in the stands. "Mark! Mark!" the remaining kids begged. McLemore: "What's my last name?"
I'm sure that kind of thing happens all the time, which is reason #642 I'm not a pro athlete—I'm not mature enough to let stuff like that go. (Not proud of that, but it's the truth.) Fortunately for those kids, Mark McLemore is far more mature than I.
Young McLemore had been the Angels' 2B in 1987, but was displaced by veteran Johnny Ray and only got in 81 major league games from 1989-91. In '92 he won a job with Baltimore and split 2B duties with veteran Billy Ripken that year before becoming their primary RF in '93.
Here, 34-year-old McLemore has just completed his third season (1998) as the Rangers' main 2B, though he did lose some playing time to fellow veteran Luis Alicea after batting .164 in August and battling sore knees (one of which was operated on in October 1998).
THIS CARD: For clarity purposes, it's pronounced MACK-luh-more, same as the rapper.
McLemore lays down the bunt; in 1998 he recorded three bunt hits and executed a team-high 12 sacrifices.
More from McLemore's 1998 season: in June he hit the 15-day DL with a hamstring pull, but overall batted a solid .287 in the first half. He enjoyed an 11-game hit streak in April and on 4/18, he homered twice with four RBI in a loss to Baltimore.
(flip) The reverse image would have made an excellent front image, which was not true of many 1999 Topps reverse images.
As you can see in the stats—and as we alluded to above—McLemore's big league career hung by a thread in 1990; he lost three months with a wrist injury, struggled in MLB and didn't exactly tear up AAA, either.
Those 89 BB in 1998 led the Rangers and ranked 5th in the AL.
AFTER THIS CARD: McLemore rebounded to have a solid 1999 season for Texas, then signed with the Mariners and spent the next four seasons as a poor man's Tony Phillips—starting most of Seattle's games without a regular position. Even at age 36-37, and with his history of gimpy knees, McLemore stole 69 bases over the 2000-01 seasons!
The veteran utilityman tailed off in '03 and inked a minors deal with Baltimore for '04. After yet another knee surgery that Spring, the Orioles cut him and McLemore spent what would be his final major league season batting .248 in 77 games for the 2004 Athletics.
Mark McLemore debuted in 1987 Topps Traded, appeared in 1988-89 Topps, took a three-set hiatus as his MLB career ebbed, then returned for the 1993-2003 Topps sets. (Only something called "The Plumbers Union" produced a card of McLemore as an Athletic.)
CATEGORIES: 1999 Topps, Texas Rangers
5/10/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #252 Ronny Cedeno, Pirates
More Ronny Cedeno Topps Cards: 2006U 2009U 2011
For a short time in the mid-2000's, Ronny Cedeno was the Cubs (latest) shortstop of the future. I suppose technically one-plus season counts as the future, no?
Cedeno started 130 games at SS for the 2006 team...only to spend nearly half of 2007 back in the minors. The youngster returned to Chicago for 2008 as a utility guy (99 games split across five positions), then was dealt to the Mariners in January 2009.
Here, Cedeno is fresh off a 2009 season split between the Mariners and Pirates. Extremely streaky at the plate despite spurts of regular run with Seattle, Cedeno became Pittsburgh's primary SS after his July acquisition and—after ending his M's tenure 0-for-26—he hit safely in 10 of his first 11 games as a Pirate. Cedeno's season ended 9/23 after straining his hamstring.
THIS CARD: There's a lot going on here; Cedeno appears to be completing a double play relay against the Cardinals. Upon closer inspection, I determine the runner to be...someone with a mustache. St. Louis played in Pittsburgh six times after Cedeno's acquisition, so narrowing the play down would take more time than I'm willing to spend.
Cedeno wears #13, more famous in Pirates annals as Jose Lind's digits during the Jim Leyland era. Young KeBryan Hayes has a chance to become the brightest #13 of all Pirates, however...at least until they trade him.
More from Cedeno's 2009 season: he went 3-for-4 with three RBI on 9/9 vs. his old Cubs teammates. And on 8/19, his two-run homer keyed a 3-1 win over Milwaukee.
(flip) That seven-player swap was centered around longtime Bucs SS Jack Wilson and former 14-game winner Ian Snell. In addition to Cedeno, Seattle also gave up C/1B Jeff Clement and three MiLB pitchers who combined for zero MLB appearances for Pittsburgh. Huntington swung a number of good deals leading into the 2010's...but not this time.
Using the eye test, Cedeno was a solid defender at both SS and 2B—he wouldn't have lasted parts of nine major league seasons if not for his glove/arm because his bat was just not reliable. Cedeno had been a little erratic defensively as a young Cub but as a 2009 Pirate, he fielded .980 at SS with an above-average range factor. (Although on one fielding play, he fractured a fingertip and missed a week of August.)
Good Christ, 62 walks in 1,245 at-bats?! Brandon Belt of my Giants is going to have 62 walks by the 2021 All-Star break! I'm familiar with the old phrase "you don't walk off the island", but Venezuela is not an island.
AFTER THIS CARD: Cedeno started 250 games at SS for the 2010-11 Pirates, but the team declined his $3M option for 2012 and he wound up with the Mets that (injury-marred) year. The 30-year-old split 2013 between the Astros and Padres, starting for the latter team at SS (after the PED suspension of incumbent Everth Cabrera) until being beaned by Arizona's Heath Bell in late September.
Cedeno's MLB career ended with seven games for the 2014 Phillies; he signed a MiLB deal with the Giants for 2015 but didn't make it.
Ronny Cedeno had a strange Topps run. He debuted in 2006 Update, but was omitted from 2007 Topps despite playing 151 games for the '06 Cubs (and remaining there into 2007; he did not even show up in the Factory Team set). In fact, Cedeno didn't appear again until 2009 Update as a new Pirate; he then made his first and only Topps base set appearances in 2010-11.
(2009 O-Pee-Chee produced the only card of Cedeno with Seattle; nobody produced cards of Cedeno the Met, Astro, Padre or Phillie.)
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates
5/11/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #278 Scott Moore, Cubs
More Scott Moore Topps Cards: 2002B 2008
There's been too many damn uninspiring backup/utility types named Moore in MLB this past decade or so. We've had Adam, Tyler, Dylan and of course, Scott. Ask me about most players from the past 30 years and I can instantly report on him. But with these Moore dudes, I have to stop and scan my internal database before establishing which one is which.
(I've got the same problem with Fernandos of the past decade-plus. Perez, Hernandez, Rodriguez, Martinez, Cabrera...if a Fernando Moore ever emerges I just might convulse for 40 minutes.)
Here, Scott Moore is coming off his debut stint in MLB. He got in 16 September games for the last place Cubs, and he homered and doubled off Pittsburgh's Shawn Chacon in his first start.
THIS CARD: My word, that old-school RC logo just seems more and more massive each time I see it. The current RC logo was a definite upgrade, and I'm usually the nostalgic type.
So his full name is Wayne Scott Moore? Interesting. Both Wikipedia and BaseballReference.com say something entirely different. Maybe I'll try to find Moore on social media for the truth.
More from Moore's 2006 season: he started nine games and four of them were multi-hitters. At that rate. if Moore were to start 162 games, he'd produce 72 multi-hitters. For context, 2019 NL MVP runner-up Christian Yelich had 47 multi-hitters that year.
(flip) Among the few taken ahead of Moore in the '02 draft: B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder. Only his senior year HS stats are available, and they don't jump off the page; Moore obviously wowed scouts nonetheless.
Farnsworth, a Cub of six years, was traded to Detroit in February 2005 in exchange for Moore, RP Roberto Novoa, and a failed prospect.
That was Pirates SP Paul Maholm who drilled pinch-hitting Moore on 9/4. What was up with mid-2000s Cubs getting drilled in their first plate appearances? It was just the year before that Adam Greenberg was beaned in his first AB.
Moore earned those MVP honors by going 3-for-4 with two homers and a broken-bat single.
AFTER THIS CARD: Moore got in exactly two more games for Chicago (subbing for suspended 1B Derrek Lee) before being dealt to Baltimore for Steve Trachsel in August 2007. Over the '07-'08 seasons, Moore racked up all of 59 PA for the Orioles; he'd spend '09 in AAA before getting in 41 contests for the 2010 Orioles.
Finally, the woeful 2012 Astros gave 28-year-old Moore extended run (72 games and 228 PA); he responded by slashing .259/.330/.448 with nine home runs. But that wasn't enough to earn him a spot with the 2013 Athletics...or any other major league squad going forward. So much for career momentum...
Scott Moore made his Topps debut in a 2002 Draft Picks Factory Bonus set. He then appeared in the 2007-08 sets. (Nobody produced a card of Moore the Astro.)
CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Chicago Cubs
5/13/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #545 Dean Palmer, Rangers
More Dean Palmer Topps Cards: 1991T 1992 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2001 2002 2003
Dean Palmer was one of my early collecting obsessions. You see, when I began collecting at age 10 in 1990, I tried to get my hands on pretty much every card out there. And in 1990 there were loads of cards out there, including 1990 Donruss.
That company produced a card of young Rangers prospect Dean Palmer...but Topps (supposedly the #1 card company) did not. For whatever reason, that led to Palmer becoming some sort of mythical Ruthian-type figure in my mind. I felt SO much more informed than my friends just by knowing Palmer existed. Steve Buechele (Texas's incumbent 3B) didn't have a chance.
Well, Palmer did inherit Buechele's position in 1991. And while Palmer did indeed become one of the top slugging 3B of the 1990's, comparisons to Babe Ruth may have been a tad premature. But hey, I've been wrong before. Sometimes even twice in one day!
THIS CARD: We have Palmer playing somebody to bunt at an unidentifiable American League ballpark. Palmer was a good, strong-armed defender, despite his 22 errors in 1992.
Topps, during Palmer's Rangers/Royals days, did an excellent job varying Palmer's front images. But all that went to hell once he signed with the Tigers—not only are his final three Topps front images (2001-03) virtually identical, but even those card numbers fell too close together.
More from Palmer's 1992 season: he homered in each of the first three games of the year (including one off Randy Johnson), homered in three straight again 6/2-4, and went yard four times in five games 7/5-9. Also, after committing seven errors in April, Palmer went errorless in May!
(flip) I never knew until today that of those 81 games with the 1991 Rangers, Palmer played 29 of them in left field. The Rangers wanted his bat in the lineup well before Buechele was moved.
That was a season-opening sweep referenced in the blurb; Texas scored a whopping 38 runs in the four games! As we mentioned, three of Palmer's seven hits left the park.
Check out those 22 homers in 60 games for 1991 OKC. So torrid was Palmer that despite being called up to MLB 6/26, he still led the American Association in homers at season's end!!
AFTER THIS CARD: When healthy—he missed a chunk of 1995 after tearing his bicep on a check-swing—Palmer would hold down 3B for Texas until 1997, one season after he cracked 38 homers for the division-winning Rangers. But with Fernando Tatis Sr. on the horizon and a need for speed, Palmer was dealt to the Royals for CF Tom Goodwin in July '97.
Palmer made his first (and only) All-Star team for the 1998 Royals, but they weren't about to fork over the $36M over five years that Detroit did that winter. Palmer performed fairly well for the 1999-2000 Tigers (in spite of a move from cozy Tiger Stadium to spacious Comerica Park in 2000), but was limited to 87 games 2001-03 by several injuries, including shoulder/rotator cuff inflammation and cervical disk surgery.
Finally, 35-year-old Palmer retired in January 2004, un-retired the following Spring, then retired once more after failing to make the Tigers roster. He finished up with 275 home runs over 14 seasons.
Dean Palmer debuted in 1991 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1992-2003.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Texas Rangers
5/14/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Topps #247 Edgar Martinez, Mariners
More Edgar Martinez Topps Cards: 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
My most vivid Edgar Martinez memory? It was 1996, not long after Seattle decided to protect Martinez's fragile bones and DH him full-time. Teenage me couldn't understand the big deal being made over Martinez dusting off his glove and playing the field for a series (don't recall why; there was no Interleague play yet). He couldn't possibly be that fragile at age 34, could he?
One collision with C John Marzano and several fractured ribs later, I had my answer: Edgar Martinez can hit with anybody, but he cannot baseball anymore.
Martinez was a bit of a late bloomer, not reaching MLB until age 24 (1987) and not becoming a regular until 27 (1990). But once he got that shot, Martinez did nothing but rake. By 1992, he was the AL batting champion!
Here, after a couple of years limited by injuries, Martinez has fully blossomed at age 32. He obliterated his previous HR/RBI season highs in 1995, won his second batting title, played every game and in the postseason, he hit the most famous double in Mariners history.
THIS CARD: Martinez also has a close-up front image on his 1993 Topps card, and it might as well be an entirely different person. Avoiding zealous fans in the off-season shouldn't have been too hard for the guy, as long as he didn't shave or trim for a couple of weeks.
The patch on Martinez's sleeve represents 75 years since the debut of the Negro Leagues. No other team wore this patch, which wouldn't go over too well in the year 2021.
More from Martinez's 1995 season: he started all 145 of Seattle's games (138 at DH, four at 3B, three at 1B), matched only by Frank Thomas of the White Sox. His team records with 121 runs and 52 doubles that year have since been broken, but his .479 OBP that year still stands.
(flip) #11 is so synonymous with Martinez in Seattle, it wouldn't surprise me if the Seahawks and/or a new edition of the SuperSonics retired the number, too. Remember: only Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. have had numbers retired by the Mariners (though in 2025 Ichiro Suzuki will join them upon his election to the Hall of Fame).
I'm a huge proponent of first initials on uniforms of teammates who share last names, something that slowly faded away during the mid-late 2000's. At the very least, Pittsburgh and Detroit continue the practice in 2021, however.
In 1995, only Boston's Mo Vaughn and Cleveland's Albert Belle received more MVP votes than did Martinez.
I've really got to start reading the blurbs before starting these profiles. (BTW, Martinez still holds the team BB record, but now it's the 123 he drew in 1996.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Let's see: tons more hitting, almost no defensive run, five more All-Star berths, three more postseason appearances, a record 116-win 2001 season, a 6th-place MVP finish in 2000, 145 RBI in 2000, a .324 average with 660 RBI from 1996-2001, retirement after the 2004 season at age 41.
With all apologies to Alvin Davis, Martinez is Mr. Mariner—outside what's now known as T-Mobile Park, you'll find Edgar Martinez Drive, and from mid-2015 through 2018 he was even brought in to be Seattle's hitting coach. Despite being described by many as the greatest DH ever, it took all 10 years on the ballot for Martinez to gain election to Cooperstown (in 2019). As someone who watched his whole career, trust me—he belonged.
Edgar Martinez appeared in 1990-2004 Topps (no sunset card).
CATEGORIES: 1996 Topps, Seattle Mariners
5/16/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #27 John Burkett, Rangers
I will always have a special place in my heart for John Burkett, the 22-game winner for one of my favorite teams ever: the 1993 Giants. Even as he was winning those 22 games and slicing up the National League, it was fairly evident Burkett would never rise so high again (at least not in major league baseball). And he didn't.
But Burkett was still a quality big league pitcher for the next decade. After being traded by San Francisco to Texas after the 1994 season—over potential salary cap concerns—Texas didn't sign Burkett, and he wound up winning 14 games for the 1995 Marlins.
Here, Burkett is coming off a solid 1996 season. He was still a Marlin until July, when the Rangers decided to trade for Burkett again; this time he stuck around and went 5-2 in helping the team to its first ever postseason.
THIS CARD: Man, that's quite a grimace for somebody who didn't exceed 90 MPH!
Through the years, Topps did a fair job varying Burkett's front images. Though his 1993-95 shots were nearly identical, he also has several non-windup shots, including one batting!
Since Burkett only made seven road starts as a 1996 Ranger, I could easily identify the road ballpark shown here (and on the reverse): Toronto's Skydome. Burkett pitched there twice in 1996, throwing a shutout 8/11 and a quality start 9/11.
(flip) Burkett tied Atlanta's Tom Glavine for the 1993 NL lead in wins.
In Burkett's shutout of Toronto, he scattered six hits, walked one and struck out eight as Texas cruised to the 6-0 win. To my mild surprise, that was not his final career shutout, as he registered one each in 2001 and 2002.
If I really wanted to, I could research subsequent Rangers to throw shutouts in their first start for the team. But I'm very behind on the other sections of TSR and kind of pressed for time.
AFTER THIS CARD: Burkett spent three more seasons with the Rangers, but became more and more hittable and was finally removed from their rotation during the 1999 season temporarily (the man had a 13.24 ERA after five starts). 35-year-old Burkett hooked up with the Devil Rays on a MiLB deal for 2000, but was cut prior to Opening Day; at that point he seemed cooked.
But the veteran righty quickly found work in Atlanta, and rewarded them by making the 2001 All-Star team! He finished that year 12-12, 3.04, with 187 K and a 1.17 WHIP.
Burkett then signed with Boston for 2Y/$11M. He turned in 25 wins over a combined 59 starts and pitched in the 2003 postseason. Next, 39-year-old Burkett stepped aside.
John Burkett appeared annually in Topps 1991-2003, except 2000. He's also got Traded cards for 1990 and 1995.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Texas Rangers
5/17/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #521 Joe Orsulak, Orioles
More Joe Orsulak Topps Cards: 1987 1988T 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995
Here, we catch up with Orsulak as his third season with the Orioles (1990) enters the books. The team's leading hitter in 1988-89, Orsulak fell off slightly in 1990 likely due to a back problems during the final month. He still walloped a career-high 11 home runs, including three-run shots on successive days in late May.
THIS CARD: This is Orsulak's second appearance in COTD; we profiled his 1993 Topps card back in October 2020.
In that profile, we listed other notable #6's in Orioles history, including Melvin Mora (2000-09) and Jonathan Schoop (2013-18). 1B/OF Ryan Mountcastle currently wears it.
More from Orsulak's 1990 season: a 4-for-5, four-RBI explosion 5/25 at Texas left him at .339 for the season. Orsulak, who didn't fall under .300 for good until 7/24, also enjoyed two other four-hit games that year and committed a career-low three errors.
(flip) Whenever I see blurbs like this, I wonder what Topps would have done with a player who bred at Antonio Cromartie's rate.
There is no 1987 stat row because separate foot injuries helped restrict Orsulak to AAA action that year.
Those four September hits, all singles, came in 21 AB (.190). He still managed a .370 OBP that month!
AFTER THIS CARD: Baltimore extended Orsulak for 2Y/$2.4M in January 1991; he had a pair of usual Orsulak seasons, then signed a 1Y/$650K deal with the Mets for '93. In New York, Orsulak did what he always did—hit for average and defend at all three outfield spots (with a little 1B now mixed in) and earned extensions for 1994-95.
Next came a 2Y/$1.275M deal to join the 1996 Marlins; Orsulak struggled in his usual role in Miami and was shipped to the Expos late in Spring Training 1997. Montreal used Orsulak as a straight-up reserve (106 games, 150 AB) and his offensive struggles continued.
The 35-year-old received a MiLB deal from the Mets for '98; he didn't make it and his MLB career drew to a close.
Joe Orsulak appeared annually in Topps 1986-95, except 1988. He's got 1985 and 1988 Traded cards as well.
CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
5/18/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1987 Topps Traded #52 Reggie Jackson, Athletics
More Reggie Jackson Topps Cards: 1987
May 18, 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of Reggie Jackson's birth, if you can believe that! I didn't get to see Jackson as an active player; he retired a couple years before I got into MLB. But I've read three of his books—the first one about 15 times—as well as a ton of other literature about him, and as a result I'm more knowledgeable about Jackson's career than any other dude who predated my fandom.
Jackson was a performer, not just a baseball player. Some of his strikeouts were as exciting as one of his 563 home runs. He was nearly a home run champion at 23, and though that pursuit fell short, he went on to lead (or co-lead) the AL four other times. Just about everywhere Jackson went, his teams won—he made the playoffs 11 times, won five World Series, and was named World Series MVP twice.
Jackson also clashed with managers, (namely Billy Martin with the Yankees) mixed it up with at least two teammates, and if he wasn't generating attention with his play, he was doing so with his often-boastful quotes and interviews.
In short: it was never dull where Reggie Jackson was concerned.
Here, after 20 MLB seasons, Jackson is taking one last tour of the American League with his original team, the Oakland Athletics. On Christmas Eve 1986 the 40-year-old re-signed with the A's, for whom he starred from 1967-75 before being traded to Baltimore as free agency loomed.
THIS CARD: Jackson's 75th birthday gives me the perfect excuse to present this card, one of my favorites. I don't own any other Jackson cards as an Oakland Athletic (which as a San Francisco Bay Area collector might be considered outrageous to some), so this one is special to me.
Why? It's got Jackson in modern A's garb wearing #44 instead of the #9 he wore during his first A's go-round. It's one of the all-time greats coming full-circle. And since Jackson didn't receive a sunset card in 1988 Topps, it's his final card with the company.
And since there's no sunset card to present, I'll use this space to tell you about Jackson's 1987 season: he began the season with 548 career homers (good for 6th all-time) and ended it with 563 career homers (good for 6th all-time). Jackson cracked a pinch-hit, three-run homer 6/8, and nine of his 15 homers in 1987 came in the 7th inning or later!
#11 was worn by three different A's during the 1987 season, so I can't identify the background teammate.
(flip) Jackson was famously the #2 overall pick in 1966; for whatever reason—in his book Reggie, Jackson suspected racism—the Mets spent their #1 overall pick on a lesser talent who never reached MLB (C Steve Chilcott).
See those 47 homers in 1969? Jackson hit 45 of them before September before simply running out of steam. The whole nation had their eyes on him by then, a lot for a 23-year-old to contend with.
See the 2,500 K? Jackson finished up with 2,597. That ranks first all-time for now, but I'm willing to bet within 15-20 years MLB will crown a new K champion. Joey Gallo, perhaps?
AFTER THIS CARD: Jackson worked as Oakland's hitting coach for a time, but was fired in 1991 and remained estranged from the organization for several years. (They eventually reconciled and retired Jackson's #9.) Most notably, Jackson worked as a special advisor for the Yankees from 1993-2021. He was not shy about criticizing PED users, even those on the Yankees.
In an interview with San Francisco's 95.7 The Game, Jackson told the story of his 2018 knee injury in such a way that I laughed. And then felt like a giant ass for days.
Jackson (who also has his #44 retired by the Yankees) was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1993, and currently ranks 14th on the all-time home run list. Happy birthday to Mr. October from TSR, and many more to come.
Reggie Jackson appeared in Topps 1969-87, and also has 1982 and 1987 Traded cards. (If you like variants, Jackson has a number of them from 2009-20 Topps, some of which I might pursue.)
CATEGORIES: 1987 Topps, Oakland Athletics
5/19/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2020 Topps #32 Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
More Brandon Woodruff Topps Cards: 2018 2019
This season, lost in all the hoopla surrounding Brewers SP Corbin Burnes and his record-setting control has been rotation mate Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee's most reliable starter the past three years and a 2019 All-Star. Woodruff has shut down the opposition in 2021...more on that below.
Woodruff first touched down in Milwaukee in 2017, and though he held his own that year and was regarded as the Brewers' top prospect, the club dispatched Woodruff to and from AAA four times during the 2018 season. When he did pitch for the Brewers, it was mostly in relief.
Here, the 26-year-old has completed his first full season in MLB (2019). Though he missed nearly two months with a second-half oblique injury, Woodruff led Milwaukee in wins, K and BB/9 (2.2).
THIS CARD: The Randomizer has chosen a 2020 Topps card nearly every month that I've owned the set, but it still won't give 2019 Topps much attention at all...I wish I understood programming.
Topps has varied Woodruff's four Topps front images well; though they all show him mid-motion, the angles, card position and uniforms distinctly differ.
Can I use Getty to pin a date on this Woodruff image? (Leaves to research) Yes, I can—it's from 4/21/19 against the visiting Dodgers. On that day Woodruff allowed five runs in 5.2 IP, receiving no decision in a 6-5 loss. His four-start hitting streak was snapped as well.
(flip) At the time of his injury, Woodruff was tied for 2nd in the NL with his 11 wins. He finished tied for 18th.
How did someone with Woodruff's pitching (and hitting) skillz last to the 11th round of the 2014 draft?! There must have been health concerns or something of that nature. Only one other even semi-notable dude from that draft round has reached MLB (SP John Means, currently of Baltimore).
Everyone knows Topps' handles by now; Woodruff can be found on Twitter @B_Woody24, and on Instagram @b_woodruff24.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2020, Woodruff was limited to 100 pitches or less in all but one of his 13 starts, and thus only managed to win three of them despite a 3.05 ERA. So far in 2021, although Brewers management has lengthened Woodruff's leash, he's won just two of eight starts despite a 1.64 ERA and a 0.730 WHIP—Milwaukee simply doesn't score much when he's on the mound.
Brandon Woodruff has appeared annually in Topps since 2018.
CATEGORIES: 2020 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
5/20/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #295 Chris Hoiles, Orioles
More Chris Hoiles Topps Cards: 1991 1992 1993 1995 1996 1997 1998
Chris Hoiles didn't have a particularly long peak, but for a time he was one of the best power-hitting receivers in the American League. By no means was he comparable to Mike Piazza, but a seven-year run averaging 20 HR and slugging .485 from the catching position would gladly be taken by almost every team in the league...then and now.
Hoiles got tastes of major league action in 1989 and 1990, but didn't stick until 1991. That year, he split time at C with Bob Melvin (a better defensive player), but in 1992, Hoiles took over daily duties and played in almost every game he was healthy (he missed 51 games when an errant fastball by the Yankees' Tim Leary broke his wrist). The 27-year-old still hit 20 home runs and likely would have added the five necessary to lead the team if not for the injury.
Here, Hoiles has just closed out a largely-sensational 1993 season. His .300, 18, 46 first half would have landed him on the AL All-Star team in many seasons, and his 29 homers for the year not only led the Orioles, but they were—and are—the second-most ever in a season by an Orioles catcher (Gus Triandos hit 30 for the O's in 1958).
THIS CARD: Reminder: my 1990's Topps sets were built mostly via packs, meaning Topps Gold popped up from time to time 1992-94. I estimate about 80-100 cards of my 1994 Topps set are of the Gold variety.
Hoiles takes a hard rip at Oriole Park, where he slashed a robust .322/.433/.620 in 1993. His road splits weren't far behind, either.
Topps did a good job mixing up Hoiles' front images through the years. He appeared eight times in the base set and is shown batting thrice, fielding thrice, warming up once and running once. (A photo wasn't needed of Hoiles running; one could easily draw him during a scamper around the bases.)
(flip) IDK, maybe the reverse image was shot on St. Patrick's Day? Not even catchers want to get pinched.
Why Topps mentions but doesn't actually print Hoiles's 1993 on-base average, since it's not listed in the stats, is mystifying—especially with half a row of space available. So we'll tell you it was .416.
About Hoiles' RBI record: C Matt Wieters drove in 83 runs for Baltimore in 2012, but I'm not sure how many, if any, came as a DH/PH and I don't feel like researching.
AFTER THIS CARD: While Hoiles never came close to hitting .300 again, as mentioned he continued to supply power to Baltimore's lineup for several years. In 1996 he belted a walk-off grand slam against Seattle, and although he had trouble throwing out basestealers, Hoiles helped the Orioles return to the playoffs after a 13-year absence.
In 1997, Hoiles lost several weeks after a collision at the plate injured his knee; the next year, his cold bat bought him extended time on the bench in favor of Lenny Webster, but Hoiles did smoke two grand slams in one game against Cleveland!
A degenerative hip condition prevented Hoiles from catching in Spring Training 1999; Baltimore made the tough choice to cut their longtime star, ending his career at 34.
Chris Hoiles appeared annually in Topps 1991-98.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
5/22/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #246 Bud Norris, Astros
More Bud Norris Topps Cards: 2009U 2010 2011 2013 2013U 2014 2015 2016 2016U 2018
David Stefan "Bud" Norris will probably best be remembered as the co-ace of the 2011-13 Houston Lastros, though he had more productive years wearing other uniforms. The team's #6 pick in 2006, Norris reached MLB in July 2009 and won six of 10 starts down the stretch.
In 2010, the 25-year-old spent most of the year in the Houston rotation (he was out 5/28 to 6/28 with biceps tendinitis), with mixed results. Here, Norris has completed a fine 2011 season for a not-fine Astros team; he remained healthy, led the staff in K and decreased his ERA by 1.15 from 2010.
THIS CARD: Gotta be some type of off-speed grip; Norris, in his Houston days, threw a mid-90's fastball, a slider, and a changeup that "fell off the table". Later, he replaced the changeup with a cutter, which mystifies me because that changeup could be filthy.
Norris's partially-obscured number is #20, the same as longtime Astro C Tony Eusebio. Somebody named Chas McCormick has worn it in 2021.
More from Norris's 2011 season: he went 4.0 IP in his first start and 2.2 IP in his last start, but threw five or more innings in all 29 other starts. On 5/1, Norris mowed down a season-high 11 Brewers over 7.2 shutout innings (three short of his career-high set in 2010).
(flip) Once upon a time, kids, drawing comparisons to Clemens was a good thing. He's a bit tainted now. (FYI, Lance Berkman was a longtime Astro who played with Clemens and Norris.)
Those 176 K in 2011 tied for 8th in the NL.
This was one of many corrected error cards in the set with the BB and SV headers replaced by W and S. In fact, looking through the checklist, just about every 2012 Topps card had a header error. I won't bother to mention any others going forward.
Greenbrae, CA is a little community located about 15-20 minutes north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Houston firmly planted in last place for the third straight year, Norris was swapped to the Orioles—during an Astros/Orioles series in Baltimore—in July of 2013; that trade also sent a very young Josh Hader from Baltimore to Houston.
Norris put together a 15-8, 3.65 season for the 2014 Orioles, and also fired 6.1 shutout innings in his lone ALDS start! But then, injury and illness helped throw Norris's career completely off the rails; after being cut by the Orioles in August 2015, he bounced through three other organizations over the next 13 months. From 2015-16, Norris was 9-21, 5.79 in 73 games (30 starts) for four clubs.
In 2017, Norris latched on with the Angels as a late reliever, racking up 19 saves before being replaced as closer by Blake Parker in August. The 33-year-old followed that effort with a 28-save effort for the 2018 Cardinals, but a forearm injury ended his run with the 2019 Blue Jays literally before it started.
The Phillies signed and cut Norris prior to the 2020 opener, and he hasn't resurfaced. But remember: he's still "only" 36, and just today Scott Kazmir—Norris's old Dodgers teammate—returned to MLB after four-plus seasons away.
Bud Norris appeared annually in 2010-18 Topps, except 2017. He's also got 2009, 2013 and 2016 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, Houston Astros
5/23/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2013 Topps Update #46 Checklist
More 2013 Topps Update Checklists: n/a
2013 Topps Update consisted of the usual 330 cards, and though I cannot recall just how high anticipation was for its release, I'm sure it was sky-high. After all, Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig and star Rays rookie Wil Myers made their first Topps appearances in the set! (Nolan Arenado's rookie card can also be found in 2013 Update, but I don't remember much furor over it in 2013.)
Not found in 2013 Update: Blue Jays cards of the transplanted R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, who were both featured twice in the base set—once each with their old teams and once each with Toronto.
Commons and subset cards continued to be mixed together at random. Remember when Topps Traded was alphabetized? Remember when Topps Updates & Highlights was at least organized by commons and subsets? Sigh...
THIS CARD: Good GOD, Topps was hung up on Puig this year. He has three separate cards in 2013 Update—his common, his Rookie Debut, and this Checklist—and the common has four variations. Puig was a pretty big deal as a rookie, even bigger than Yermin Mercedes is in 2021.
I just HAD to pick a Dodger while the 2021 Dodgers are on the verge of sweeping my Giants in San Francisco...
Can you explain how a Rookie of the Month (June 2013) award is a Record Chase?
(flip) Ah, the good old days when Madison Bumgarner still appeared in Topps. But there's always somebody the company can't get/keep the rights to (Alex Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters, Ichiro).
I don't have the slightest idea who Preston Claiborne is. But I've got his rookie card somewhere in my 2013 Topps album!
Likely due to oversight, Matt Adams has two commons in 2013 Topps Update alone. The only other time I recall a player receiving two commons in an Update set was Steve Pearce in 2016.
CATEGORIES: 2013 Topps Update, Houston Astros
5/25/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #415 Mike Magnante, Royals
More Mike Magnante Topps Cards: 1992 1993
Michael Lewis's Moneyball was a great read. In addition to being informative and funny, it captured the human side of baseball—at the end of the day, players are people, not just commodities. Mike Magnante's section in particular stood out.
By 2002, Magnante—then a middle reliever for Oakland—was 37 years old and struggling on the mound. Moneyball took readers inside the difficult decision to cut Magnante, knowing it would end his career. I tell you, if you read that book and weren't openly pulling for Magnante to get his pension despite being days shy of the 10 years of service time required...you may be an android. (Spoiler alert: he got the pension.)
Here, the 29-year-old has just wrapped his 4th season on the Royals pitching staff. After alternating between the bullpen and rotation 1991-93, Magnante was left in the bullpen for 1994 (save for one spot start) and did a mostly solid job. Lefty hitters managed just one homer in 68 at-bats.
THIS CARD: That pretty much HAS to be Magnante's new slider on the way; according to Baseball Weekly he unveiled the pitch in 1994. Magnante also featured a "fastball", a decent changeup, and a sidearm curve he picked up from teammate Darryl Kile in 1997. Nothing spectacular, just enough to keep him on rosters.
Magnante's old #57 has since been worn in KC by...no one you've heard of. P Glenn Sparkman most recently had it, from 2018-20.
More from Magnante's 1994 season: he allowed only one earned run after 6/29, although part of that was spent on the disabled list (ankle injury suffered fielding his position on his first pitch upon entering 7/15).
(flip) That disastrous start took place 6/26 at Minnesota and bumped Magnante's ERA from 3.24 to 5.45; Kirby Puckett was especially harsh on him that day (3-for-3, home run, three RBI)
Magnante spent most of 1993 in AAA, hence the handful of major league appearances that year.
31 K in 89 innings in 1992? Anybody surviving with a K/9 rate like that today would be captured and probed.
AFTER THIS CARD: Magnante lingered off-and-on with Kansas City through the 1996 season before finally being let go. He then signed a MiLB deal with Houston, who called him up in May 1997 when fellow lefty RP Tom Martin was injured; so effective was Magnante that he remained with the Astros even after Martin returned! On 8/22 of that year, Magnante—of all pitchers—became the 29th pitcher to throw an immaculate inning (vs. the Reds).
After a far-less successful 1998 season, Magnante made 53 appearances for the 1999 Angels before joining the up-and-coming Athletics 2000-02. In 2001, he posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 65 games, but—as alluded to—lost his touch in 2002 and was cut, ending his MLB career.
Mike Magnante appeared in 1992, 1993 and 1995 Topps. 1998 Pacific features Magnante the Houston Astro and 2002 Topps Total depicts Magnante the Oakland Athletic, if you're interested.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Kansas City Royals
5/26/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps Traded #33 Mike Davis, Dodgers
More Mike Davis Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990
Mike Davis was a #3 pick by the Athletics in 1977; after trials with the team from 1980-82 covering 91 games and 190 at-bats, Davis finally stuck with the 1983 club, starting 111 games between CF/RF. By 1985 he was playing nearly every day in RF (with a little CF mixed in) and the producer of 24 home runs—second on the team to Dave Kingman's 30.
Davis continued in a similar role for the next two seasons; in 1987 he seemed headed for a monster year until injuring himself in Boston. Here, Davis has scooted down to Dodger Stadium, where he'd soon become a footnote to history...read on.
THIS CARD: Bleed that Dodger...pink? What was being snorted in that Topps design office?
Davis wore #37 here, but switched to #20 during the 1989 season. Dodgers P Darren Dreifort did fairly well wearing #37 1994-2005; today, outfield prospect Luke Raley has the number.
Davis opened the 1988 season playing in 46 of the Dodgers' first 47 games, but by the time this card was released, he was slumping and seeing the field less and less.
(flip) The Yankees also had their sights on free agent Davis, but were outbid by the Dodgers (2Y/$1.95M).
I don't think I've noticed anybody's "This Way To The Clubhouse" specifically mentioning their addition to the roster...until now. Of COURSE Davis was added to the roster, Topps! He was given a uniform, too!
I see Davis turns 62 in a couple of weeks. Which is staggering. While baseball cards do seem to freeze their subjects in time, in reality time does march on.
AFTER THIS CARD: "All I did was walk."
That may be true, Mike, but that walk (from ex-A's teammate Dennis Eckersley) in the 9th inning of 1988 World Series Game 1 brought pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson to the plate. And as you may be aware, Gibson then swatted a walk-off homer, one that's among the most famous ever hit in MLB.
In the deciding Game 5, Davis lined a two-run shot of his own off (the unrelated) Oakland SP Storm Davis.
Overall, however, 1988 had been rough for Davis (.196 in 108 games) and 1989 would be no better, as he lost two months to arthroscopic surgery on both knees. The Dodgers didn't re-sign him for 1990, and after MiLB deals with the 1990 Giants and 1991 Expos led nowhere, Davis's pro career drew to a close.
In addition to 1988 Topps Traded, Mike Davis appeared annually in Topps 1981-1990 (except 1983, when he was held over to the Traded set.)
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps Traded, Los Angeles Dodgers
5/28/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps Update #92 Eric Hinske, Rays
More Eric Hinske Topps Cards: 2002T 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007U 2009 2009U 2011 2012 2013U
As a Giants fan, of course I remember then-Brave Eric Hinske for one pivotal swing of the bat in Game 3 of the 2010 NL Division Series—also known as "The Brooks Conrad Game". In the B8th, Hinske lined a go-ahead, two-run homer off Sergio Romo and literally smiled all the way around the bases. It was hard not to vicariously feel Hinske's joy.
Unfortunately for Braves fans, Atlanta still lost that game (in part because of Conrad).
Hinske, of course, is best known for his days with Toronto, who acquired the then-prospect from Oakland in December 2001 and watched him become the AL Rookie Of The Year in 2002. The young 3B couldn't quite match that form going forward until an encouraging start to his 2006 season; the Jays sold him to Boston that August in part to alleviate a positional logjam, in part to save cash.
Here, after helping the 2007 Red Sox to a World Series victory as a part-time 1B/OF, Hinske has won a job with the newly-rechristened 2008 Rays.
THIS CARD: Arms up like that, Hinske's slide looks extra fun! WHEEEEE!!
Not the best signature. The "S" stands for Scott.
More from Hinske's early 2008 season: in his first three games with Tampa, he went 4-for-10 with two doubles, a homer and three runs. (Hinske also got doubled off 1B late in a close loss to the Yankees, however.)
(flip) Hinske made the Rays roster after batting .316 with 11 RBI in Spring Training.
Never heard of Menasha, Wyoming. Come to think of it, I've now forgotten the capital of Wyoming.
As you see, Hinske is listed as an OF; after being an exclusive 3B his first three MLB seasons, by 2007-08 he hardly played there at all, finding most of his time in the OF with some at 1B.
AFTER THIS CARD: Hinske finished the 2008 regular season with 20 HR and 60 RBI, but struck out against Philadelphia's Brad Lidge to end Tampa Bay's magical World Series run. Despite the fine bounce-back season, Hinske ended up with just a 1Y/$1.5M deal from the Pirates for 2009; by season's end, however, he was in his third straight World Series—this time as a member of the victorious Yankees.
From there, Hinske spent three seasons with the Braves, where his playing time and production gradually decreased. The 2013 Diamondbacks cut him in July after a 9-for-52 showing, and that marked the end of the line for Hinske as a player. He's remained in baseball, coaching for the 2014-17 Cubs the 2018 Angels and the 2019-present Diamondbacks.
Eric Hinske appeared annually in Topps, Topps Traded or Topps Update 2002-13, except 2010.
CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps Update, Tampa Bay Rays
5/29/21 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2005 Topps #628 Joe Nathan, Twins
By the end of the 2003 season, young Joe Nathan had already experienced a topsy-turvy career. He'd been an unsuccessful minor league infielder, left the game for a time when asked to convert to pitching, returned as a pitcher, spent some time as a hot prospect for my Giants, fell off the radar after shoulder surgery, and re-emerged with the Giants as a bullpen force.
But San Francisco needed a catcher to replace the departed Benito Santiago, so it packaged Nathan and two prospects to the Twins for C A.J. Pierzynski. Before the 2004 season (represented on this card) was even complete, it was obvious Minnesota totally fleeced the Orange and Black.
THIS CARD: Nathan in action at a ballpark I probably could identify with a little effort...if I weren't days behind on TSR updates. Early in Spring Training 2004, Nathan was favored to take over for the departed Eddie Guardado as Twins' closer. He did indeed win the job, although it took nine regular-season games for him to get a save opportunity.
The up-and-coming star makes his third appearance in COTD, but his first as a Twin.
More from Nathan's 2004 season: he allowed three home runs all year, but only one of them was costly (a game-tying solo shot to Gary Sheffield of the Yankees in August). And from 9/10-12, Nathan saved all three games of a series against Detroit!
(flip) In 2004 Minnesota's season save record was 45, set by Guardado in 2002. Today, Nathan holds the record (47 in 2009).
"Edie" Guardado? Is that Eddie's mama?
Nathan saved 27 straight from 5/8 thru 8/15, finishing with 44 in 47 chances and earning some Cy Young consideration. Meanwhile, for my Giants, Pierzynski was batting .240-something and getting on his teammates' nerves.
AFTER THIS CARD: Nathan's breakout 2004 season kicked off a six-year run of excellence during which he racked up 246 saves and made four All-Star teams. Only UCL surgery could throw him off course; Nathan was out all of 2010 and not as effective in 2011.
Still, Texas signed the 37-year-old for 2Y/$14M that November, and watched him return to form in a big way (80 combined saves and consecutive All-Star berths 2012-13). Next, Nathan jumped to Detroit for 2Y/$20M, but this union wasn't as prosperous and he underwent a second UCL operation in 2015.
Thought to be finished at 41, Nathan surprised the masses by getting in 10 mostly-effective games with the 2016 Cubs and Giants. When his 2017 MiLB deal with Washington didn't lead to a callup, Nathan announced his retirement. He is presently 8th all-time with 377 saves, though Craig Kimbrel of the Cubs has a shot at passing him later in 2021.
Joe Nathan appeared annually in Topps 2000-15, except 2003.
CATEGORIES: 2005 Topps, Minnesota Twins