Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, November 2017
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11/4/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps Traded #84 Ross Powell, Astros
More Ross Powell Topps Cards: n/a
Unfortunately, over our three-plus years online, we've done around 20 Card Of The Day special selections for deceased players. Never have we had anything other than common, routine causes of death—heart attacks, car crashes, cancer, etc.—until now.
If you blinked, you missed Ross Powell's career. Despite being left-handed and a decent prospect at one point, he never caught on long in the majors, though he pitched 54 more big-league games than you or I did.
Here, the ex-Cincinnati Red has just hooked up with the Houston Astros, who acquired him for young catcher Eddie Taubensee.
Taubensee would be the Reds' primary/platoon catcher for the rest of the decade. Powell would go unscored upon in June 1994. So see? BOTH teams won!
THIS CARD: Powell makes his lone Topps appearance here. I dug extensively through my deep pile of information sources and could not find one bit of information regarding Powell's repertoire. Maybe my old 1994 Baseball Weekly's will shed some light. But that's for another time/year.
Even if this weren't Powell's only Topps card, I'd probably have used it anyway—my way of recognizing the Astros' recent World Championship at the Dodgers' expense.
Candlestick Park, Jack Murphy Stadium and Mile High Stadium were the only MLB grass fields Powell pitched at in 1994. Not even I can deciper a park by just its' mound and infield grass. (The reverse pic, if from the same roll, suggest Candlestick.)
You can't tell here, but Powell wore #52 with the Astros; bullpen coach Craig Bjornson presently has it.
(flip) This is an even bigger mystery than Powell's repertoire—his 1990 ERA for AA Chattanooga. Baseballreference.com as well as this card show it at 3.55, more plausible for an 8-14 record. Yet Powell's 1994 Score card, the 9/14/93 edition of Baseball Weekly, and yet again THIS CARD (at least in the blurb) have at at 1.31.
It is practically impossible to go 8-14 with a 1.31 ERA in professional baseball unless your entire defense is using oven mitts rather than baseball mitts. It is also practically impossible to post a 1.31 ERA over 27 starts without being promoted at least to the next level of the minors.
The truth is out there. David Duchovny...get on this.
AFTER THIS CARD: Powell, who'd just made his MLB debut the previous September, was acquired by the Astros in late April '94 but didn't reach the majors until June. Used as a 1-2-out guy, he threw very well over 12 games, not allowing a run until the last one!
The 27-year-old could not carry his success over into 1995 and was dropped by Houston around the trade deadline. He'd make 12 appearances (three starts) with the Pirates to close that season, and after a tough 1996 split between AAA Louisville (Cardinals) and old familiar AAA Indianapolis (Reds), Powell's pro career ended at 28.
Fast-forward to October 25, 2017—Powell, now in the lawn care business, and his father were found dead in their work vehicle in the town of Lucas, Texas. The two were victims of CO poisoning; their vehicle had mysteriously rolled to a stop on a cul-de-sac. No word yet on what exactly happened, just that it's damn bizarre.
As said, this is Ross Powell's lone Topps card. He also appeared in the 1994 Score and Pinnacle sets—and that's it, as far as the major companies.
11/9/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #209 Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
More Roy Halladay Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Take the shock I felt upon reading about the deaths of Oscar Taveras, Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura in recent years, combine it, double it, and BOOM—you've now accurately measured the shock I felt on the afternoon of November 7, having just read the ESPN.com headline: "MLB Great Halladay Dies In Plane Crash".
Unlike the aforementioned trio, "Doc" wasn't an active player and hadn't been for four years...yet the increased shock. I suppose I allowed myself to mistake his routine invincibility over a decade for general invincibility. With the exceptions of Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente, all the greats live long enough to at least reach Cooperstown eligibility.
Going further, while Halladay's career was complete from a physical standpoint, symbolically it was not, not until he took his rightful place in the Hall—at least in my eyes. Because of that, the news of Halladay's loss carried twice the impact of those other men because he was twice the player as those other men...and in that symbolic way, his career ended prematurely too.
My top Roy Halladay memories are not favorable ones—aside from the two homers he served up to Cody Ross of my Giants during the 2010 NLCS, for some reason I vividly recall when Kevin Mench blew his leg up with a liner in 2005.
However, I also remember exactly where I was when learning of his first no-hitter at Miami (and the ensuing weirdness) and being both impressed and afraid when he no-hit the Reds in the 2010 NLDS because my Giants were his next potential victims.
And I can also say I had mad respect for a guy who literally went from the worst pitcher in MLB history in 2000 to a legend in just over a decade. This special selection marks Halladay's second COTD appearance; we drew his 2011 Topps card back in May 2015.
THIS CARD: If his 2011 card representing the year of his two no-hitters hadn't already been picked, we may have used it here. Instead, I went with 2004, as it represented his first Cy Young season and his career-high wins total. Plus, it proved his breakout 2002 campaign was not a fluke.
Halladay works at Fenway Park—yet such a small smattering of red in the seats? Well, the curse hadn't been lifted yet; maybe that's why. Halladay made three starts at Boston in 2003, with two unpretty outings sandwiching a complete-game win in July.
The big righty fires off either the gas (92-95 MPH), cutter, sinker, curve, occasional split or occasional changeup.
(flip) I think "has" was supposed to be "was".
Also, the text is misleading; Halladay's shutout was not at Denver—he blanked the Rox at Skydome on 7/7/02, allowing a single to Todd Helton and a double to Benny Agbayani. Eric Hinske supported Halladay with a homer off Mike Hampton, while Ken Huckaby went 4-for-4. Yes, the same Ken Huckaby who never hit anything hard except Derek Jeter's shoulder (Halladay was on the mound for that, by the way.)
32 walks in 266 innings? For comparison, just check out the 42 Halladay walked in 67.2 innings during the 2000 season—had Halladay and his old coach Mel Queen lived, they should have shared that Hall of Fame podium in 2019.
Those 22 wins in 2003 led the majors, but for some reason aren't highlighted or italicized. It was corrected the next year.
AFTER THIS CARD: A ton of innings, a ton of complete games, very few walks, very little Toronto success, the broken leg, six more Top-5 Cy Young finishes including a 2010 win, trade to the Phillies, Ross Is Boss, shoulder problems, retirement at 36 after the '13 season.
40-year-old Halladay was flying his own recently-purchased plane when it went down in the Gulf Of Mexico around noon ET on 11/7/17; he was the only casualty. His death was but the latest tragedy in the Phillies family; former Phils greats Jim Bunning, Dallas Green and Darren Daulton all passed away earlier this year.
As the news spread, countless tributes poured in from throughout the baseball world, past and present; nobody had anything bad to say about this man.
Well, almost nobody.
Roy Halladay appeared annually in Topps 1998-2014, except 2002.
11/11/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #364 United We Stand
More United We Stand Topps Cards: n/a
When the United States was attacked by terrorists in September 2001, killing 3,000 people in gruesome fashion, MLB would up postponing its schedule for seven days—kind of hard to ask people to take in a ballgame when so many were justifiably gripped by fear, anger, confusion, grief, or all of the above. Plus...full stadiums made enticing targets.
If for no other reason than to show strength, the show had to eventually go on, however, and on September 17, the schedule resumed with games in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and more (the Mets' scheduled home series with Pittsburgh was moved to Pittsburgh).
2002 Topps chronicled baseball's return with an eight-card subset at the end of Series One; this card highlights the Astros visiting Barry Bonds and the Giants on 9/18—notable, as much of the discussion pertaining to resuming games at all centered around Bonds' pursuit of the single-season home run record and whether terrorists should be allowed to ruin his shot at history in addition to everything else they'd destroyed. (Spoiler alert: Barry did break the record, even if not recognized by all.)
THIS CARD: I did not do any fancy-schmancy editing for the dark background effect—that is all Topps, though part of the original photo can be seen on Getty Images. Also, thanks to this card for alerting me to how dirty my scanner had become—the dark really highlights dust.
From left to right: Jeff Kent, Lance Berkman, Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell and Rich Aurilia, five of the game's biggest stars in the year 2001. The scan of this card doesn't fully illustrate Bonds' apparent struggle to contain his emotions—pull up the original photo we mentioned.
(flip) Topps, keeping the focus where it belonged, doesn't mention the Astros winning the game 3-2—Robb Nen blew the save in the 9th, with Moises Alou's sac fly winning it.
I'm not so sure supplying 40K people with lit candles is such a great idea. At least the firefighters were in close proximity.
"Pacific Bell Park"...never forget.
This marked the second-to-last card of Series One; #365 belonged to Bonds and his home run chase.
CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Subsets
11/14/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps Traded #203 Joel Pineiro, Mariners
More Joel Pineiro Topps Cards: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2009 2010 2011 2012
Former #12 pick Joel (pronounced Joe-El) Pineiro was never a huge prospect, and his early minor league numbers were not particularly impressive. He was the 1999 Eastern League's leading loser. He possessed good, but not great, stuff. He wasn't imposing in any way, and he was not left-handed. My point: Pineiro was not exactly on the fast track to MLB entering the 2000 season.
But the kid went 9-2 at two levels to earn a promotion to Seattle, where he beat the White Sox behind separate grand slams by Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner. Though he closed the year in Seattle's bullpen, Pineiro opened 2001 in AAA—not returning to the juggernaut M's until July.
After several relief appearances, Pineiro entered the rotation and posted a 2.29 ERA over 10 starts while earning five of Seattle's league record 116 wins that year. (He was also suspended for throwing at Anaheim's Troy Glaus, a future teammate, in a game the Mariners won by nine.)
THIS CARD: If it weren't for Pineiro's sleeves, I'd wager this to be a Spring Training photo—just look at that hat logo. But the Mariners train in Arizona so...unlikely, unless he was tight with Hideki Irabu.
Young Pineiro is attacking with either his low-90's heat, two-seamer, curve, slider or change—he'd add a sinker upon reaching the Cardinals in 2007, at which time he junked the cutter he'd adopted. Pineiro was not by any means a strikeout pitcher, once racking up 105 K in 214 innings later in his career.
This is our first COTD from 2001 Topps Traded, a set I'd long coveted but could not find for ages...until the summer of 2017.
That's #38 on the kid's back. Only (arguably) Mike Jackson has had more success as a Mariner with those digits.
(flip) Pineiro was flat out dominant in 2001. The blurbed stint included three starts during which he allowed a combined two ER—the opponents were KC, Detroit and Toronto, but still. The first two starts were walkless, and in the third he K'd a team season-high 11!
Topps probably started production of this set at that point, or it would have included the performance that immediately followed this streak: 7 IP, 1 ER vs. the White Sox. Pineiro finished 2001 with a 0.942 WHIP and a 6-2, 2.03 ledger in 17 total appearances (11 starts). Then he struck out five in a two-inning ALCS relief appearance1
This is my first time hearing of A-Wisconsin. Apparently they're now affiliated with the Brewers (fittingly), they've existed off-and-on since 1909, and Earl Weaver managed them pre-Baltimore. This is partially why we do Card Of The Day, people—as much as I know, I know nothing.
Others from Pineiro's draft round to reach MLB: Randy Williams, a RP for several teams 2004-11 who I forgot existed, and jason Gilfillan, who made 13 appearances for the 2003 Royals and I never knew existed. I don't believe either ever got Topps cards.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Paul Abbott hurt, it didn't take long for Pineiro to claim a rotation spot for 2002; he won 30 games for Seattle 2002-03 and seemed on his way. Unfortunately, a flexor injury cut his '04 short; though Pineiro returned healthy for '05, ongoing struggles led to a 2006 bullpen demotion. Seattle let him go after that very rough season.
Now 28, Pineiro landed a relief job with the '07 Red Sox, but was swapped to St. Louis at the deadline. There, he returned to starting and won six games down the stretch, earning a 2Y/$13M extension. 2008 was forgettable, but in '09 Pineiro put up 15 wins for the 2009 Cardinals, securing a 2Y/$16M deal from the Angels that winter.
Working around a six-week absence (oblique), Pineiro experienced success in his return to the AL West, going 10-7, 3.84 for the 2010 Halos. He continued to pitch well after returning from an early shoulder injury in '11, but slumped badly and once again lost his rotation spot.
Despite signing five minor league deals with as many organizations through 2015, no other MLB opportunities arose for Pineiro—a badly torn labrum in 2012 and a PED suspension in 2014 may have played roles.
This is Joel Pineiro's debut Topps card; he then appeared in the base set 2003-06 and again 2009-12. Nope, his 2001 excellence could not buy him an '02 card.
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps Traded, Seattle Mariners
11/17/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #476 Dave Hollins, Phillies
More Dave Hollins Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1993 1995 1998 1999
I'm not aware of what prospects the San Diego Padres did choose to protect prior to the 1989 Rule V Draft, but considering the direction the franchise soon took and how few of their young players of the early 1990s amounted to anything...it's a safe bet they'd like to have a do-over for Dave Hollins, left unprotected in that draft and swiped by the Phillies.
Granted, during Hollins' heyday (1992-93), San Diego still had a half-decent 3B of their own, but that guy changed positions all the time—surely, the Padres would have found space for a youngster who'd put up 45 home runs and 186 RBI over those two years.
Despite not being the strongest defensive player, Hollins would man the hot corner for Philadelphia for over three years (when healthy). Here, he's coming off what would be his lone All-Star appearance; Hollins was second on the NL pennant-winning Phillies in both runs scored and runs batted in—all for the tidy sum of $625K!
THIS CARD: One of the best images in the set. You don't often get a close-up of that much TV equipment on a baseball card. (It had no business on the field of play, though.)
I cannot determine the ballpark, though the mustard-shirted guy makes me want to guess Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
With two selections in four, 1994 Topps will now take a 10-card hiatus.
(flip) Bowa himself was known to be pretty damn fiery. Today Pete Rose's name wouldn't be allowed mention on a Topps card. They'd alter the quote to read "Dave Hollins is the most intense player I've seen since the Reds third baseman of the 1970's."
Hollins' lifetime WAR was more than twice that of anybody else from his draft round. Only the careers of Frank Castillo, Greg Colbrunn and Darrin Fletcher could be described as decent.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wrecked by hand injuries in 1994 and diabetic complications in 1995—not to mention a position switch to 1B—Hollins carried a .226 average over his past 114 games into July 1995, at which time he was benched and soon traded at his request. From that point on Hollins became a journeyman, although he did return to a regular 3B role from 1996-98 with the Twins, Mariners and Angels. (Note: the M's acquired him for then-unknown David Ortiz, FYI.)
Still, he had to battle young slugger Troy Glaus for the Anaheim 3B job for 1999. He didn't win—the Angels traded him to Toronto as Spring Training '99 wrapped. Hollins suffered another significant hand injury early on, never found his stroke and was cut in June. He'd amass only 25 more MLB plate appearances in his career, a 2002 Phillies reunion blighted by this.
Hollins' son Bubba was drafted #35 by the 2014 Tigers, but chose to remain in school.
Dave Hollins debuted in 1990 Topps Traded, received base cards through 1995, then popped up two more times in 1998-99 (he should have been in 1997 as well, having racked up over 600 plate appearances in 1996).
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
11/29/17 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #177 Lenny Harris, Dodgers
More Lenny Harris Topps Cards: 1990 1991 1992 1995 2003T
Harris is known as one of the game's most prolific pinch-hitters ever, which to some might equate to ranking among the most captivating soap stars ever—you're only in that role by default; you weren't good enough to do better.
Only the ignorant carry those views, however. Soap work is far more difficult than primetime work, just as coming off the bench late in a game facing a dude throwing 95—often with the game on the line—is no cakewalk. Harris was able to master the "art" of pinch-hitting, and lasted almost 20 years in MLB because of it.
As a prospect, the former #5 pick (1983 Reds) never really put up great stats, and for a third baseman he had well below-average power. By 1988 he was playing SS full-time in AAA, and hit very well as a late-season call-up to Cincy. The next summer, with Chris Sabo and Barry Larkin holding down the left side of the Reds infield, Harris was traded to the Dodgers.
By 1991, lefty-hitting Harris was platooning at 3B with righty Jeff Hamilton while continuing to get extensive run at 2B (and breaking up Mark Gardner's extra-inning no-hitter). Here, Harris has wrapped a '92 season that saw him start a total of 65 games at 2B—Mike Sharperson had emerged at third, while projected 2B Juan Samuel didn't work out—while also finding time at 3B, SS and even the corner outfield spots!
THIS CARD: Harris had a knack for making contact; in nine of his seasons his BB/K ratio was near, or better than, 1/1. His body did not look like this when his career ended; he retired closer to the shape of his 1992 manager, Tom Lasorda. Though never really slim, Harris was always a decent stolen base threat and even once led a minor league in swipes!
Harris wears #29. That number may one day be retired when Adrian Beltre goes into the Hall of Fame. But then, maybe not—only the first seven of Beltre's 20+ seasons were with the Dodgers.
No clue what stadium this is, and no way to tell.
(flip) Is it a coincidence Harris won in the only season of his pro career he reached double-digit homers? It doesn't just happen in the bigs, apparently.
Vermont was Cincinnati's AA affiliate 1984-87, winning Eastern League titles 1984-86. They're now the Akron RubberDucks, AA affiliate of the Indians.
That July trade sent Harris and OF Kal Daniels to the Dodgers, while 2B Mariano Duncan and P Tim Leary became Reds.
Of Harris' draft round, only Todd Stottlemyre (arguably) had a better career. Five other members reached MLB, accomplishing little.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 1993, Harris played 107 games—but only started 26 of them, launching his new career as PH extraordinaire. After a lengthy return stint in Cincinnati 1994-98, Harris' bags stayed packed; he changed teams six times in five years before closing his career with two-plus years with his hometown Marlins.
When all was said and done, Harris had racked up a major-league record 212 hits off the bench, breaking Manny Mota's record of 150 in late 2001. He also holds records for most PH AB in a season (83) PA (95) and career PH AB (804).
Since his Spring 2006 cut by Florida ended his playing career at 41, Harris has coached extensively in the majors and minors—his most recent MLB work was coaching 3B for the Marlins 2015-16. He also was IF coordinator and, later, hitting coach for the late 00's Nationals.
Lenny Harris appeared in Topps annually 1990-93, but got practically no love from the company once his PH career began—just a 1995 base card and a 2003 Traded card. Unbelievable.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers