Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, November 2014
11/2/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #232 Darnell Coles, Mariners
More Darnell Coles Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
When I lamented COTD's recent lack of pre-aught Topps cards, the randomizer was evidently listening—this makes six 1995-and-older selections in a row. Coles' selection is also the 7th from 1990 Topps, more than any other set by far.
Coles was mostly a reserve/platoon player in his career, the bulk of which came with the Mariners and Tigers. A #6 overall pick out of high school in 1980, Coles soon flamed out with the Mariners. As the Tigers third sacker in '86, Coles broke out with 20 home runs and seemed on his way. But by mid-1987, he'd become such a severe defensive liability until his hitting was impacted.
Manager Sparky Anderson gave up on him and dealt the now-25-year-old to Pittsburgh. Traded back to Seattle in mid-1988, the Mariners made Coles a regular once again in 1989.
THIS CARD: Coles began 1989 as Seattle's right fielder, filled in at first base for a bit, got benched, unsuccessfully requested a trade, then started most of the final five weeks at third base. That's all. Despite the shuffling, Coles is only listed on this card as an outfielder.
(flip) Topps failed to mention that Coles' Pirates wound up losing that game, 10-8. Coles smoked solo and three-run shots off starter Jamie Moyer, then unloaded off Drew Hall with a man on in the 9th. Adding a single for good measure, Coles finished 4-for-4. (Possibly due to space constraints, Topps doesn't mention that Coles matched that career-high RBI total 8/5/89—hitting two homers, including a grand slam.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Coles received one final Topps card in 1991. He spent most of '92 with the Reds—no 1993 Topps card. He spent all of '93 with the champion Blue Jays—no 1994 Topps card, not even a Traded (but one from Score). He spent all of '94 with the Jays—no 1995 Topps card.
Apparently Coles played 11 games for my Giants in 1991. I remember Steve Decker turning heads with his five quick home runs that year. I remember Rod Beck's emergence. I remember Will Clark ripping the cover off the ball, the debut of Royce Clayton and Mike Remlinger throwing zeroes. I even remember Tommy frikkin' Herr passing thru! No memory of Coles. At. All.
The veteran moved on to Japan for 1996 before returning to the States in '97 for a final MLB dip with Colorado. He's served as a hitting coach for his old Tiger team, along with the Brewers and several other chains since retiring as a player.
Darnell Coles appeared in Topps 1985-1991. He's also got a 1986 Traded card.
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, Seattle Mariners
11/4/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #120 Brad Radke, Twins
More Brad Radke Topps Cards: 1995T 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006
Radke was perhaps the most equally underrated and overrated pitcher of his era. True, he was Minnesota's #1 starter for years (until Johan Santana emerged), but examining their roster, you'll see that was mostly by default—Radke was more of a #3 type, hence the overrated. However, the guy averaged 1.6 BB/9 for his career, including two seasons at 1.0. He threw 200+ innings for nine of 10 years and threw complete games in an era when they weren't popular. Hence, the underrated.
Here, Radke has just snapped a three-year personal streak of losing seasons, for a Twins team that surprisingly contended in 2001.
THIS CARD: Finally, a 2002 Topps COTD selection! Radke was coming off his best statistical season since winning 20 in 1997. He began 6-0 in seven starts, winning A.L. Pitcher Of The Month for April 2001. He ultimately finished 15-11, and walked an amazing 26 batters in 226 innings!
It took a lot of effort for me to identify the patch on Radke's sleeve. Perusing my album and noticing the same patch worn by other teams, I thought maybe it was 9/11 related. Actually, the patch marked 100 years of American League baseball.
(flip) Topps should have added the word "Twins" in reference to "catcher Tom Prince". Without that, it seems Prince hunted down a Topps rep and offered unsolicited commentary on Radke. (Small pet peeve: when Topps references an active player who is not included in their set.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Though no longer the ace, Radke remained a key part of the resurgent Twins thru 2006, when a torn labrum led him to retire rather than undergo surgery/rehab. Only Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat won more games with Minnesota.
Brad Radke debuted in 1995 Topps Traded, then appeared in Topps annually from 1996-2006, but did not receive a 2007 Topps sunset card.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Minnesota Twins
11/7/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #421 Brad Halsey, Athletics
More Brad Halsey Topps Cards: 2005
Sadly, TSR is foregoing the usual COTD selection process in memory of former MLB lefty Halsey, killed November 4, 2014 at the age of 33. Only two Topps base cards of him were produced; I selected 2006 because A) it depicts him as an Athletic, where he became a footnote to history and B) it's been a while since our last 2006 Topps selection.
THIS CARD: Just your run-of-the-mill STUN card; Oakland acquired Halsey from Arizona in exchange for RP Juan Cruz late in Spring Training 2006. Oakland had no room for the veteran Cruz, Zona did, so the deal was made.
Halsey was coming off a 26-start season with the D'Backs; he'd been 8-7, 3.70 in early August before piling up five straight unpretty losses and losing his rotation spot. He made a single relief appearance after August 30.
(flip) Deceptive cartoon. Sure, Halsey was unbeaten in his first five starts of '05. However, he personally was only 2-0, and the Diamondbacks collectively were 3-2. That July stretch included wins against the Dodgers, Padres and Cubs—he allowed nine ER the entire month!
Halsey could have easily been 5-0—in one ND, he threw 7.2 shutout innings, but the reliever allowed a three-run game-tying bomb. In the other, he allowed two ER in 7.2 IP, but left trailing.
AFTER THIS CARD: In early 2006, Halsey gained fame for giving up Barry Bonds' 714th career homer, tying him with Babe Ruth for second all-time. Mostly a reliever for the '06 A's, Halsey also made six starts subbing for injured Rich Harden (winning only the first). He failed to win a spot for 2007, tore his labrum, and bounced around pro baseball for four more years without ever returning to the majors.
Halsey died following a 100-foot fall from a cliff near his Texas home. As of this writing, the investigation is still ongoing—it is unclear if Halsey's fall was accidental or intentional.
Brad Halsey appeared in 2005-06 Topps.
11/10/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #449 Jeff M. Robinson, Tigers
More Jeff M. Robinson Topps Cards: 1987T 1989 1990 1991
The baseball world is dealing with a trifecta of tragedy in recent weeks, starting with the fatal car accident of Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras (as soon as I've obtained 2014 Topps—I anticipate by month's end—he will receive a COTD), followed by the passings of Brad Halsey and Robinson.
The latter died of an undisclosed illness the same day San Francisco wrapped the World Series, so TSR again forgoes the standard card selection process to remember the former Tigers starter. For the fifth time this year...
There were two Jeff Robinson's whose careers almost identically paralleled one another. Jeff D. Robinson was a tall reliever for the Giants and Pirates, primarily. This Jeff Robinson was an even taller starting pitcher. Both were drafted in 1983. Both their careers ended after the 1992 season. Jeff D. finished with 46 lifetime wins. Jeff M. won 47. Jeff D. was born 12/13/1960 in Santa Ana, California. Jeff M. was born 12/14/1961 in Ventura, California—about two hours north by car. Trippy.
I tend to distinguish the two simply by the number of Topps cards produced for them—Jeff the reliever was featured with four teams spanning eight years. Jeff the starter only had four Topps cards, all as a Tiger.
THIS CARD: We'll go with Robinson's post-rookie season card, since the 1988 Topps COTD cherry needed popping. I'm gonna take a wild guess that this is a shot of Robinson between starts; since doing anything other than sitting in the dugout alone and intense with a jacket draped over one's pitching arm during a start is a violation of baseball's bylaws (while his team bats, of course.)
He doesn't look particularly entertained. I tried this pose...it was highly awkward and uncomfortable. I can't imagine any scenario where I'd be using my knee as support for my arm supporting my face.
(flip) I've been waiting to address the god-awful blurbs from this set. 90% (or more) of them reference the player's minor league days—in some cases, even 15-year veterans! I'll save the full rant for an appropriate card, however. Interestingly, in the case of Robinson—a guy fresh from the minors—a major league feat is used. That win came in Robinson's MLB debut, a 7-1 win at Chicago (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K).
AFTER THIS CARD: Robinson—who faced two batters in Game 5 of the '87 ALCS—spent four seasons with the Tigers, racking up a 35-25 record in 87 starts. But he had annual physical issues, and Detroit opted to sell high, dealing him to Baltimore for slugging-but-defensively-challenged 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 fell off the radar 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.)
11/12/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1990 Topps #100 Will Clark, Giants
More Will Clark Topps Cards: 1986T 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2000T 2001
When this card was issued, Clark was one of the name players in the game and at the height of his powers. There is no one superlative to describe him, or his impact on the late-1980's Giants. It was evident from the very beginning Clark was no ordinary player—if homering off the first MLB pitch ever thrown to him didn't prove that, his "there's a new sheriff in town" reaction surely did.
(By the way, Nolan Ryan threw that pitch. At the Astrodome. And it went out to center field. Has a major league introduction ever topped that? Can it be topped?)
Clark played with a simmering fire and drive—no one would ever confuse him with his reticent Bay Area contemporary Mark McGwire or the unofficial league leader in joy, Ken Griffey, Jr. For a time, if one were to build a team around one man, Clark would have ranked ahead of both Griffey and McGwire.
The Louisiana native impacted two future Hall-of-Famers with separate 1989 homers. In May, Clark drilled a grand slam against the Phillies that drove Mike Schmidt—whose error set up the blast—to immediately retire. And in that year's NLCS, he read the lips of Cubs P Greg Maddux during a mound conference. Knowing what was coming, he smacked the next pitch for yet another grand slam—part of a .650, MVP performance that helped SF end a 27-year World Series drought.
THIS CARD: Once again, the Randomizer lands on 1990 Topps. Once again, that set will have to take a hiatus.
Will Clark was a stud in the field as well as at-bat; he could well be about to erase a straying runner in this shot. I've mentioned on past COTD that 1990 Topps was the first set I ever collected; this card caught my eye because to this point, I was unaware first basemen used different gloves than everyone else. Is that a "Budweiser" ad along Candlestick's wall?
(flip) Topps is referring to a grueling pre-Olympic tour that was murder on the young Olympians-to-be; here's an article detailing what Clark, McGwire, Barry Larkin, B.J. Surhoff and loads of other future major leaguers had to endure. (The famous 1985 Topps McGwire Olympic card was taken during this tour.)
In 1984, baseball was a "demonstration" Olympic sport—it was played for entertainment/exposure, and no medals were awarded. The U.S. lost to Japan in what would have been the Gold Medal game.
AFTER THIS CARD: Clark played for the Giants thru 1993, but by then he was no longer a superstar. Still a productive player, he spent five more years with Texas before closing his career with Baltimore and St. Louis (where he replaced an injured McGwire). He retired at 36 and, many years later, re-joined the Giants organization.
In 2014, a 50-year-old Clark deposited a home run into McCovey Cove at AT&T Park.
Will Clark debuted in 1986 Topps Traded, then was featured in every Topps set from 1987-2001—he's one of the few post-millennium retirees to receive a Topps sunset card. (Clark also appears in 1994, 1999 and 2000 Topps Traded.)
CATEGORIES: 1990 Topps, San Francisco Giants
11/16/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #175 Dwight Gooden, Yankees
More Doc/Dwight Gooden Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1991 1992 1993 1994 1999 2000 2000T
TSR eschews the standard random card selection process to honor former MLB star Doc Gooden on his 50th birthday; I chose 1997 Topps since the randomizer hadn't yet.
Gooden enjoyed arguably the two most dominant entry seasons in major league history, winning Rookie Of The Year in 1984 (at age 19) and a Cy Young award in 1985 (24-4, 1.53). Substance abuse contributed to his fall from superstardom, but Gooden remained a quality pitcher for a decade—until failing a drug test and being suspended in 1994. A second violation knocked him out of baseball for the entire 1995 season.
It was anyone's guess if Doc would ever pitch again. But as he had with Gooden's longtime Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry—also derailed by substance abuse—Yankee owner George Steinbrenner offered Gooden an opportunity.
THIS CARD: Back after a two-set absence, this would be Gooden's only Topps base Yankee card—he was excluded from the 1998 set following his second Yankee season. Also, Topps returned to the "Dwight" moniker, which hadn't been used since the 1988 set. The "hollow" font in his first name impairs its visibility...apologies. Topps mailed in their design efforts during the post-strike sets (save 1998).
(flip; grab your magnifying glass): Topps at least glossed over Gooden's personal issues; pre-1994 Topps would've ignored them entirely. I'm guessing "Dwight Gooden Day" lasted exactly one day. And that movie never happened. Gooden retired a World Series champion in 2000—that's a type of happy ending, is it not?
AFTER THIS CARD: Gooden lasted four more seasons—one more with the Yanks, two with Cleveland (where he was memorably ejected early in a playoff game) and one split among three teams. He concluded a 16-season career as a mop-up man for the 2000 Champion Yankees. During those years, he was featured in 1999 and 2000 Topps, and even received one last Yankee card in 2000 Topps Traded.
In 2008, Gooden was part of the closing ceremonies at Shea Stadium and received a loud ovation from Mets fans. He was inducted to the Mets Hall Of Fame in 2010 and in 2013 he authored "Doc: A Memoir", detailing his baseball career as well as his personal problems and post-baseball life/goals. (TSR Note: It was a very good read.)
Dwight "Doc" Gooden appeared annually in Topps base. from 1985-94, then again in 1997, 1999 and 2000 Topps. He's also got 1984 and 2000 Topps Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, New York Yankees
11/18/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps Update #120 Brennan Boesch, Tigers
More Brennan Boesch Topps Cards: 2011 2012 2013
Boesch (pronounced BOSH) was a 2006 3rd-rounder out of Cal with a whole lotta pop. He slammed 28 homers with 93 RBI for AA Erie in 2009, yet wasn't able to win a spot with the Tigers in 2010—though he was summoned three weeks into the season. Boesch never went back down that year; he initially shared LF duties before taking over RF for the injured Magglio Ordonez.
THIS CARD: This is Boesch's first Topps card, as indicated by the RC logo. He placed fifth in 2010 AL Rookie Of The Year voting, largely in part to a torrid first half (.342, 12 HR). Something of an early sensation, Boesch fell off badly after the break (.163, 2 HR).
I have never noticed an orange "D" on Tiger helmets. True/false me for $1M and I guess false. According to SportsLogos.net, the Tigers have used the orange "D' since 1983. Wow. Yogi Berra was right about that whole "observe a lot by watching" business.
(flip) Most of it's already been referenced. Oops.
The June 20 homer was a two-run, 7th-inning go-ahead shot off Arizona's Ian Kennedy, who had been pitching a shutout. It was also the front end of a back-to-back with Carlos Guillen; Detroit won 3-1.
AFTER THIS CARD: Boesch received extensive run for the 2011-12 Tigers, but lacked consistency and was left off their 2012 postseason roster. The addition of Torii Hunter and an oblique injury led to his 2013 Spring release. The Yankees then employed him for three months before also cutting ties.
Boesch landed in the Angels' system for 2014 and put up monster numbers for AAA Salt Lake (.332, 25, 85 in only 95 games) in between three summons to Anaheim.
He did not receive a 2014 base or even Update card. It is not uncommon for Topps Update to include players off the previous season's radar and barely on the current season's radar (see: 2008 Update Yamid Haad and Matt Ginter; 2006 Update Kevin Jarvis) such as Boesch was in '13. But like his Spring Training competitions of 2013-14, he probably just lost a numbers game.
Brennan Boesch debuted in 2010 Topps Update, then appeared in 2011-13 Topps base.
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps Update, Detroit Tigers
11/21/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #72 Andres Galarraga, Braves
More Andres Galarraga Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2002 2003
From Brennan Boesch to the cousin of former Boesch teammate Armando Galarraga. This Galarraga—by far the most accomplished—had just wrapped Year Three as a Brave. The middle one (1999) was spent on the DL as Galarraga battled cancer; this card represented his first season back.
"The Big Cat" made a name for himself as a Montreal Expo, known for prodigious power and alarming strikeout totals. In 1991 his production slipped dramatically, but the Cardinals—in dire need of power—took a chance on the still-relatively-young (30) slugger, trading P Ken Hill to acquire him after the season.
After his 1991 slump carried over, coach Don Baylor worked extensively with Galarraga. His famous open-stance was born, and he began to hit again. When Baylor joined the expansion Colorado Rockies as manager, he successfully pushed for Galarraga's acquisition.
You probably know what happened next: Galarraga went on a five-year Rockies tear, seriously flirting with .400 in 1993 and averaging .316, 34, 116 plus a .577 slugging pct. from 1993-97. Still, with young Todd Helton waiting in the wings, Colorado let the 36-year-old walk after 1997.
To the surprise of some who didn't think he could mash outside of Denver, Galarraga continued to rake during 1998 with Atlanta before being sidelined by lymphoma.
THIS CARD: Galarraga was/is huge, but the front photo makes him appear short and fat (he's actually 6'3"). The rear photo makes him appear catlike—as in, a cat about to lap up some milk. Is that his tongue or a mouthpiece? Can't tell.
(flip) Atlanta provided both the feel-good story of 2000 (Galarraga) as well as the feel-bad story of 2000 (John Rocker).
Galarraga was especially hot in the first half of 2000, walloping 20 of his 28 homers before the break and carrying a slugging percentage over .600 into mid-June.
AFTER THIS CARD: From the 1998 set thru his final Topps card (2003), Galarraga's 1997 league-leading RBI total was neither bold, red nor italicized—even though his 1998 card actually referenced his feat in the blurb! Similar mistakes were made during that period with Roger Clemens' 1996 K total and Kenny Lofton's 1996 AB total...but both of those were eventually corrected.
I'm not proud of the time 17-year-old me spent trying to figure out the "actual" leaders in those categories—remember, the Internet barely existed in those days and I didn't care about girls yet.
Galarraga spent '01 with the Rangers/Giants, then joined the Expos (again) Giants (again) and Angels from 2002-04 in part-time roles—even beating cancer again along the way! Sitting on 399 homers entering 2005, Galarraga went to camp with the Mets but retired at age 43 before the season started.
Andres Galarraga debuted in '86 Topps Traded, then appeared in every Topps set from 1987-2003. He was omitted from the 2004 set despite playing over 100 games and amassing nearly 300 PA's (with 12 homers). Galarraga also has 1992-93 and 2001-03 Traded cards.
11/25/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps Update #192 Mike Moustakas, Royals
More Mike Moustakas Topps Cards: 2012 2013 2014
Moustakas (pronounced MOOS-Taw-Kus) increased his name recognition about, oh, 5000% nationwide with a flurry of highlights during the 2014 postseason.
The second overall pick in the 2007 draft (behind only Tampa's David Price) out of high school by the Royals, Moustakas receives his first Topps card following a combined 36-homer, 124-RBI 2010 season for Arkansas and Omaha (AA and AAA respectively).
THIS CARD: Called up in June 2011, "Moose" took over third base from journeyman Wilson Betemit—who was traded five weeks later.
Not much for me to comment on in regards to the front photo. I will point out that Moustakas has worn his #8 longer than any Royal in almost 35 years—surprising for such a common single digit. Most Royal #8's since 1980 have been journeymen passing through Kansas City.
(flip) Those 36 homers tied for the MiLB lead with Mark Trumbo of AAA Salt Lake (Angels). In all four of the referenced games, Moustakas registered exactly one hit and one walk, except the fourth (two hits). He homered off future teammate Ervin Santana at Anaheim in his second game. I'm not listing all of Moose's fellow rookies.
AFTER THIS CARD: Through slumps and the occasional "rest", the slugger held on to KC's third-base job until late May 2014, when he was demoted to AAA hitting .152. Crunched by injuries, however, the Royals recalled him sooner than expected and Moustakas batted .235 over the rest of the season—obviously not eye-popping, but a significant improvement.
During the Royals' improbable march to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Moustakas smacked several key home runs and made one of the best catches in MLB postseason history—if not baseball history.
Mike Moustakas has appeared annually in Topps from 2012 on.
CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps Update, Kansas City Royals
11/29/14 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #335 Jeff Fassero, Expos
More Jeff Fassero Topps Cards: 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2001T 2002
Fassero's was a career of bouncing. Drafted in 1984, he did not reach AAA until 1989 or the majors until 1991 at age 28—that's a LOT of bumpy bus rides. He was used as a starter initially, then a reliever, then a starter again, then a reliever again. Three organizations let him go before he found a home with the Expos. The bouncing wouldn't end for Fassero upon reaching the majors—but at least he never returned to the minors.
Following a two-year run in Montreal's bullpen, Fassero entered the Expo rotation and stayed there thru 1996 (represented on this card), winning 43 games in that role. In 1996, he and Pedro Martinez were arguably the NL's best 1-2 punch—Fassero pitched into the 8th inning in 13 of his final 27 starts.
THIS CARD: 1997 Topps is chosen by the Randomizer for the first time, two weeks after Dwight Gooden's special selection. Fassero didn't have a big windup, as you can see on his front photo. He just kind of wound up and spit the ball at you; at times his motion looked somewhat awkward.
(flip) This was the final year Topps exclusively represented the previous season (excluding expansion). The final line of Fassero's blurb was a sign of the transition to come—I can't offhand recall any off-season transactions ever mentioned prior to 1997 Topps.
That finance-driven trade took place three days after the World Series and sent C Chris Widger along with pitchers Matt Wagner and Trey Moore to Montreal. Only Widger made good.
In that 1-0 shutout—which came at Philadelphia against the great Curt Schilling—Mike Lansing doubled home Shane Andrews in the 8th. Fassero helped himself by bunting Andrews to second base.
That wrapped a 5-0, 1.88 month of June for the Expo lefty; Topps surprisingly didn't mention Fassero's resulting Pitcher of the Month award for June—or July.
AFTER THIS CARD: Fassero gave Seattle two good seasons before losing his touch in 1999. He would—you guessed it—bounce between starting and relieving for several teams (except the Cubs; he exclusively relieved for them in 2001-02) for the remainder of his career.
He finished up with the Giants, for whom his modest 2005 stats belied his value and contribution in long relief/spot starting. However, when young SP Noah Lowry was activated from the DL in May 2006, he took 43-year-old Fassero's roster spot, ending his career.
Jeff Fassero appeared in Topps base or Traded every year 1991-2002, except 2000.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Montreal Expos