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Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, November 2019 A

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A = Alternate Card  F = Factory Team Set  G = Giveaway Set  T = Traded Set  U = Update Set


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Topps Mackey Sasser
Topps Mackey Sasser

11/16/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Topps #382 Mackey Sasser, Mets

More Mackey Sasser Topps Cards: 1988T 1989 1990 1992 1993 

Sasser was the somewhat rare dude who converted to catching after beginning his career at other positions. A #5 pick of the Giants in '84—I did not know that—Sasser split time between 1B, OF and 3B early on before moving predominantly behind the plate in '86. (That was one year after a .338, 14, 102 showing at A Fresno, by the way.)

Despite the move, Sasser still found himself traded to Pittsburgh in mid-87 (for The Caveman, pitcher Don Robinson), then again to the Mets for '88. Sasser wasn't about to unseat Gary Carter just yet, but he did show some offensive skillz with 10 doubles in just 123 AB.

Here, Carter has moved on to the Giants, leaving Sasser and several others to keep the catcher's seat warm for prospect Todd Hundley. 1990 would be Sasser's best season as he set or tied all his career highs despite playing through multiple injuries during the year.

THIS CARD: Whatever Sasser's abilities as a baseball player, the guy had hair envied by probably half the league.

This is probably the best possible action shot for catchers, who don't get to sprint all that often. Topps gave Sasser five straight action shots 1989-93, uncommon for the era. But they owed him after his 1988 Traded image in which the guy looked half-drugged.

This was Sasser's final go as a full-time C—his well-documented return-throw yips eventually made him too susceptible to baserunners (and mean fans). He led the league with 14 errors at C in 1990.

(flip) Sasser is proof that although I own these baseball cards, they are not burned into my memory—I could have never told you he started with the Giants or Pirates.

Phoenix and Vancouver were the Giants and Pirates' respective AAA teams at the time.

Those 25 June hits came in 71 AB for a robust .352 average. In fact, Sasser hit .377 from May-July!

AFTER THIS CARD: Sasser remained in New York as a part-time catcher/1B/outfielder through 1992, unable to catch fire at the plate as he had in 1990 (but certainly still serviceable). Seattle signed him for 1993, using him mostly as an outfielder/PH. That is, when he wasn't suspended for his role in Seattle's infamous brawl with Baltimore that year.

Released in early 1994, the 32-year-old did not resurface in MLB until the beginning of the '95 season with Pittsburgh. Stint #2 as a Pirate lasted but 14 games, however, and Sasser's pro career ended in '96 following some Mexican League run.

CATEGORIES: 1991 Topps, New York Mets


More November 2019 Topps Cards Of The Day
November 17-30 Topps Cards Of The Day

Topps Paul Wilson
Topps Paul Wilson

11/1/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #409 Paul Wilson, Reds

More Paul Wilson Topps Cards: 1993T 1994T 1995 1996 1997 2003 2005

Ranking high among baseball's all-time busts very nearly became the legacy of former #1 overall draft pick (of the Mets) Paul Wilson. Fortunately, years later Wilson overreacted to an inside fastball by Chicago Cubs RP Kyle Farnsworth and wound up speared and bloodied in the middle of the diamond by a guy most people knew not to rile up.

Paul Wilson, meet your new legacy.

Well, that may not entirely be fair; I'm sure in New York, Wilson is still remembered as the third (and supposedly most formidable) member of "Generation K" along with fellow SP Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen. The trio, who debuted in MLB 1995-96, was marked to lead the Mets into the 21st century and beyond on the strength of their talented arms. But good health eluded them, and none made any impact in New York.

Wilson, after three full years out of the majors, resurfaced with the 2000 Devil Rays, and he'd start 54 times for them 2001-02. Nevermind the mixed results—at least Wilson was healthy, and the Reds saw enough to sign him for what amounted to 2Y/$4M.
Here, Wilson has wrapped Year One of that deal. Aside from the brawl, and biceps tendinitis that ended his season a month early, Wilson enjoyed a fair 2003, leading a mediocre Reds staff in starts and K while tying his personal best with eight wins.

THIS CARD: That could be Wilson's vaunted curveball about to launch. By the time he reached CIncy, Wilson was surviving on high-80's heat along with the curve and a changeup. He also cut and sank the fastball.

I've never been a fan of the sleeveless jerseys OR the Reds logo with the black inset, which were mercifully ditched after the 2006 season.

#40 has also been worn by notable Reds such as...Tim Pugh and...Nick Masset.

(flip) Why aren't 1997 or 1998 shown with the "Did Not Play" in the stats? Because Wilson did pitch parts of those those the minors (with a torn labrum in between). He spent all of '99 on the DL following that surgery mentioned in the blurb.

Wilson went from the Mets to the Rays in July 2000, as part of the trade sending Bubba Trammell and Rick White to the Mets.

Note the 93 K in 166.2 IP in 2003. Wilson the hard-throwing prospect once K'd 194 in 186.2 IP across two levels—pre-injury, Wilson's fastball reached the high-90's and his slider was equally tough.

AFTER THIS CARD: Unfortunately, not very much. Wilson put together his best season in '04 (11-6, 4.36 in 29 GS), and signed a 2Y/$8.2M extension that winter. But in June 2005, he once again underwent labrum surgery, and despite repeated attempts over the next 21 months, Wilson was unable to come back. Cincinnati released him in March 2007, and that was it.

Paul Wilson debuted as an Olympian in 1993 Topps Traded, returned in '94 Topps Traded, then appeared in the 1995-97 and 2003-05 base sets.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Cincinnati Reds

Topps Hideki Okajima
Topps Hideki Okajima

11/2/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2007 Topps #641 Hideki Okajima, Red Sox

More Hideki Okajima Topps Cards: 2008 2009 2010 2011

Okajima's 2007 arrival in the States from Japan wasn't met with microscopic scrutiny from reporters dying to be  told everything from the origins of his unusual pitching motion on down to his preferred brand of toilet paper. Unlike that other guy the Red Sox signed out of Japan at that time, Okajima was not a superstar back home.

Instead, for over a decade with Youmiri and a year with Nippon, Okajima largely served as a steady lefty setup reliever who, despite making three All-Star teams and earning three championship rings—if they do indeed issue championship rings in Japan, IDK for sure—was not about to command $50M just for negotiating rights.

The 32-year-old landed in Boston for the bargain basement price of 2Y/$2.5M with an option for 2009. Though his first pitch went sailing out of the park courtesy of KC catcher John Buck, Okajima's debut MLB season proved wildly successful—he wound up in the All-Star Game and the World Series!

THIS CARD: By the time of Okajima's final MLB stop in 2016, he sported considerably more hair than that.

Not many dudes who will walk through a forest in full uniform, with mitt. But apparently this is how Okajima rolls.

Remember the old Rookie Card logo found on 2006-09 Topps? Speaking of, this particular rookie card still goes for at least five times what it's actually worth on EBay

Okajima's got one of the neater signatures we've featured to date...I can't really poke fun at this one.

(flip) Hokkaido is the Nippon Ham Fighters, BTW.

Theo Epstein was right. He usually is, although I disagree with his allowing Joe Maddon to leave the Cubs this fall.

Lacking a great heater, Okajima's command and off-speed stuff had to stand out for him to average over a K per inning in the Japan League.

AFTER THIS CARD: For the next two seasons, Okajima continued to be a quality relief arm in Terry Francona's bullpen. For the 2010 season, he regressed into a liability who was non-tendered after the season (but re-signed for 2011 at bottom dollar). However, he only lasted a handful of games before a season-long AAA demotion (which protected him from any blame for the 2011 Sox' late season collapse, but still.)

Next, Okajima failed to win a job with the '12 Yankees and spent that season back in Japan. For '13, he returned stateside for his final five MLB games (with Oakland) before resuming his Japanese career once more. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the 2016 Orioles—don't laugh; they were still decent at the time—40-year-old Okajima retired from baseball.

Hideki Okajima appeared in 2007-11 Topps; I'd looked forward to an Update card of Okajima the Athletic but he just wasn't there long enough to warrant inclusion.

CATEGORIES: 2007 Topps, Boston Red Sox

Topps Steve Avery
Topps Steve Avery

11/3/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps #574 Steve Avery, Braves

More Steve Avery Topps Cards: 1989 1990T 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2003T

Upon entering MLB as its youngest player in 1990, Avery was about as highly touted a pitching prospect as there's been during my fandom. The kid was going to do great things, going to do them soon, and going to do them for at least 15 years.

Avery, called up in mid-June because—well, what else did the Braves have going for them?—took an 8-ER pounding in his debut at Cincinnati and while he never found a lasting groove that year, Avery remained in Atlanta's rotation and even threw a shutout vs. the Cubs in August!

Here, things have turned around fast for the big lefty. With the big club from Opening Day in '91, all 21-year-old Avery did was finish 3rd in the NL in wins, finish 6th in NL Cy Young Award voting, and claim the NLCS MVP Award just for kicks as Atlanta charged to the World Series one season after finishing dead last.

THIS CARD: Our first horizontal card front in a while. This was only the second year of Topps utilizing them, so when 12-year-old me pulled one from a pack (or vending machine, if you can believe that) I was usually enamored. Here, Avery appears to sling at Wrigley Field.

If only this image had been snapped a second or two sooner; Avery had a high leg kick and a distinctive backward lean in his delivery that'll hopefully appear on one of his other 10 Topps cards.

Avery is about to come with his low-90's fastball, or his sharp curve, or his increasingly effective changeup. According to reputable sources Avery also featured the occasional slider.

(flip)  Though correct on his 1990 Topps Traded card, Avery is shown here, and in 1991 and 1993 Topps, with only two games pitched for 1989 Durham. Two games, 86.2 innings, come on Durham, he was only 19!!! (The correct answer is 13 games, by the way.)

More from Avery's shutout: he walked one and struck out five as Atlanta won 3-0. Ron Gant hit a two-run homer in the 6th.


It hosted a lot of good baseball at the end, but Atlanta Fulton County Stadium was not nearly as pretty as SunTrust Park. Or even Turner Field.

AFTER THIS CARD: As Atlanta rolled, so did Avery, who went on to win 18 more games in the 1993 season. Still just 23, he made his first of many All-Star teams to come, right?

Uh, not quite.

Avery would never be elite again, though he did remain in the Braves rotation through 1996 when healthy—which he wasn't for two months of '96 (rib cage muscle). Having watched him go 14-23 the past two seasons, the Braves let Avery walk as a free agent after '96. He ended up with Boston, where his contract situation caused a bit of controversy near 1997's end. The 29-year-old moved on to Cincinnati for 1999, but underwent rotator cuff surgery in early August.

That appeared to be the swan song of Avery the pitcher—he went on record as aborting his comeback attempt with Atlanta in 2001—but then he re-emerged with the 2003 Tigers as a 33-year-old LOOGY. I still remember being stunned when Tigers manager Alan Trammell summoned Avery to face Barry Bonds that year—"this can't be that Steve Avery, can it?" Those 19 games with Detroit would be Avery's last, for realsies this time. 

Steve Avery debuted in 1989 Topps as a draft pick, returned in 1990 Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1991-2000, except 1999. Avery popped up one final time in 2003 Traded, as a Tiger.

CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps, Atlanta Braves

Topps Miguel Cabrera
Topps Miguel Cabrera

11/5/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2011 Topps #150 Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

More Miguel Cabrera Topps Cards: 2000T 2003T 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

In the first half of Cabrera's Hall of Fame career, I didn't dig him much at all. There was the time—during his rookie season at age 20—in unfriendly terms, he advance-warned any Marlins veterans who dared get in his way, and he was twice caught DUI and refused to admit having any problem with booze. Plus, his Marlins knocked out my Giants in the 2003 NLDS.

But there's no denying the dude is special with the bat...or at least was. Those of you who've watched the declining Cabrera the past couple seasons, just know he was once—not that long ago—worth every penny of that $240M contract he signed.

As a Marlin, he averaged .318/.396/.551 with 32 HR and 115 RBI over four full seasons, but was going to be far too expensive to retain after his '08 walk year—cue blockbuster trade with Detroit and an immediate 8Y/$152M extension.

Though in a new league, Cabrera didn't let up in '08 (AL-best 37 HR) or '09 (4th-place MVP finish). Here, the eight-year vet is coming off a 2010 season in which he made his first AL All-Star team, led the league in OBP (.420) and produced 23 more homers and 56 more RBI than any other Tiger.

THIS CARD: It's gonna take extra-strength Tide to get that dirt out. (I've always been a left-leg slider; if I tried to emulate Cabrera I'd tear all ligaments in my right knee, and probably dislocate the cap as well.)

This doesn't look like too difficult a play to make; Cabrera, while never known as a great defender, always seems to hold his own despite limited range. I always respected him for shuttling between the outfield, first base and third base at various points in his career with no public complaint I'm aware of. These days, he's primarily a DH.

2010 was also the year Cabrera was direct witness to the blown call at first base ruining Armando Galarraga's perfect game—he made the toss, remember? (No, this isn't the play; fairly sure Jason Donald's grounder was lower.)

(flip) Laird played with Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro early in his career, probably his only other teammates who could rival Cabrera as a hitter.

Cabrera hit mostly third for the Tigers in 2019, though he did spend a couple weeks in back in the four-hole. Dude just doesn't have the power to hit 4th full-time anymore.

Ah, yes, a star gets the card number ending in "50", just as what happened in 1959 with Musial as well. Remember, for a long time Musial was not featured in Topps sets; 1959 was his first year included in the base set.

AFTER THIS CARD: I remember hearing something about Cabrera winning a Triple Crown to power Detroit to the 2012 World Series despite moving back to third base to accommodate Prince Fielder. I'm pretty sure Sergio Romo froze him with a two-seamer to end said World Series in my Giants' favor. Maybe that's when I started to dislike Miggy a little less.

Unfazed by that setback, Cabrera won his second straight MVP in 2013; in 2015 he'd make it four AL batting titles in six years and in 2016 he made his 7th straight All-Star team. But 2017 brought an end to his dominance (.249, 16 HR, herniated discs) and a ruptured bicep ruined his '18. The 36-year-old had to "surge" to finish with the mere 12 homers he managed in '19. But because of aforementioned $240M contract, he's likely in Motown through 2023.

Miguel Cabrera has appeared annually in Topps since 2004; he's also got 2000 and 2003 Traded cards.

CATEGORIES: 2011 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Scott Olsen
Topps Scott Olsen

11/6/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2008 Topps #306 Scott Olsen, Marlins

More Scott Olsen Topps Cards: 2004T 2006 2007 2009 2010U

We'd like to open this segment by reminding you the visitor that the overwhelming majority of COTD are totally selected at random (the only exceptions acknowledge deaths or milestone birthdays). Which is why I'm dumbfounded as to how we can randomly pick Miguel Cabrera's card one day, then randomly pick a scuffling partner of his the next day. All the eras, all the teams, all the dudes..."Randomizer".

Of course, if we waited around to pick a dude Olsen didn't feud with, we'd be approaching octogenarian status. Olsen was known less for his at-times solid pitching than he was for his temper and attitude—the guy mixed it up with teammates, opponents, who knows who else. Cabrera committed the sin of not hustling after an error (in Olsen's eyes) and in a blink, things got physical in the dugout.

Here, Olsen has wrapped up Year Two in the Marlins' rotation. Their strikeouts and (co) wins leader in '06, 23-year-old Olsen regressed badly in '07, but still managed to win his first two starts of the year while again co-leading the team in total victories.

THIS CARD: Olsen fires one away at some unidentifiable park. (Cincinnati perhaps?) In his early days, he threw about 91, with a slider and changeup. Unfortunately, by the time Olsen's career ended—and no doubt part of why his career ended—he was maxing out in the mid-80's.

The signature reads "Son Ase". Not making fun, just telling you what it says.

More from Olsen's 2007 season: in July his behavior got him slammed against a wall by a teammate, and also got him tased and arrested a few days later. In September, Olsen somehow managed to allow eight runs, NONE earned, in one start—Cabrera made two of Florida's six errors, but it seems Olsen left him alone this time.

(flip) That 2006 11-K game? A July 21, 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh that ran Olsen's record to 8-4.  I wasn't able to find the Marlin who K'd seven straight, it was probably Kevin Brown, though.

Olsen fanned the first five Pirates on 6/28/2007, and 10 overall, in a 9-7 Marlins win. The Pirates didn't beat many people in those days, true, but Olsen seemed to especially have them figured out.

That is the same Kalamazoo where Derek Jeter grew up. It's about 150 miles west of Detroit.

AFTER THIS CARD: Despite his 8-11 record, Olsen pitched much better in '08—just well enough for the Washington Nationals to come calling (they also got Josh Willingham in the deal, giving up Emilio Bonifacio and two stiffs.) Both of Olsen's Washington seasons were marred by injury, specifically a torn labrum in 2009, and after a host of subsequent auditions led nowhere—including one with Pittsburgh—Olsen's career ended in 2013.

Scott Olsen debuted in 2004 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the 2006-09 base sets before one last cameo in 2010 Update.

CATEGORIES: 2008 Topps, Florida Marlins

Topps Brian Specht
Topps Brian Specht

11/7/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps Traded #197 Brian Specht, Angels Prospect

More Brian Specht Topps Cards: n/a

This should be brief. Which is good, as I have other sections of TSR to work on.

Specht was a SS, and later 2B, prospect for the early-2000's Angels who never reached MLB. Which isn't to say he sucked—the kid was once Anaheim's #3 prospect as declared by no less than Baseball America.

Here, he's coming off an ordinary season spent at A Lake Elsinore. Well, I say ordinary, but one must consider Specht was just 19 and the youngest player on the roster at any point of the season.

THIS CARD: "Why are you featuring a guy who nobody's ever heard of and didn't even reach the majors, Skillz?"

Simple. As I've said before, if a card is in a Topps set from 1987-2019, it's eligible for inclusion in Topps Card Of The Day regardless of who's on the card, or whether or not I think the card is stupid/redundant (of which there are plenty). This feature treats all cards equally, at least when it comes to random selection and inclusion on TSR.

Specht does his best Popeye as he lets one fly. He could have likely kept his #35 with the Angels, as it was only briefly worn during his time in their system.

(flip) Topps, it says in your own blurb Specht was drafted in 2000, not 1996 when he was 15. The Angels had to fork over $600K to sway him from Baylor.

Those 25 steals only ranked 4th on the Storm, who had precious little power and thus ran a lot in 2000.

Specht didn't totally fulfill that power potential, maxing out at 14 in 2003 for AA Arkansas. But shoot, dudes his size aren't supposed to slug.

AFTER THIS CARD: Specht annually committed 30+ errors at SS and was finally moved to 2B in 2004, his first year in AAA. Though seemingly on the verge of a call-up after slashing .308/.372/.506 in 2005, the major league combo of SS David Eckstein and 2B Adam Kennedy was still solid in Anaheim, and Specht's big-league shot never came. His 28 games in 2006 were his last as a professional, though word is he became a doctor eventually.

(So Specht the doctor prevents others from joining the angels because he himself couldn't join the you know how long it took me to word that?!)

Brian Specht appeared in 2001 Topps Traded & Rookies.

CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps Traded, Prospects

Topps John Halama
Topps John Halama

11/8/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2004 Topps #99 John Halama, Athletics

More John Halama Topps Cards: 2000 2001 2002 2003 2003T 2005

John Halama was best known as the third prospect Seattle acquired when it traded Randy Johnson to the Astros in 1998. Halama had been a 13-game winner in '97 for AAA New Orleans, and was in the majors with Houston when camp broke in '98. Ultimately, Halama proved not ready, and went back to breezing through the minors until the trade took place.

By 2000, Halama was a full-time starter for Seattle and won 14 times despite an ERA over five. He needed some MiLB tune-up work the following season, but still posted 10 wins for the historic 2001 Mariners. Though Halama posted a career-low ERA in '02, he was let go after the season and landed with Oakland for 1Y/$1M.

THIS CARD: Halama works at the Oakland Coliseum, his new home park. In 2003, the now-veteran went 3-1, 3.18 in 18 games (six starts) in Oakland, compared to a 5.63 road ERA.

Halama might look like a big, angry flamethrower, but he maxed out in the high 80's. surviving on a tough curveball and changeup. He also featured a slider.

In seven of his nine MLB seasons, Halama wore #54, which today I can't imagine on any Oakland Athletic besides Sonny Gray.

(flip) Since Halama's perfecto, there have been two other 9-inning gems in the PCL, thrown by John Wasdin in 2003 and Manny Parra in 2007.

The other AL lefties with more wins 1999-2001: Andy Pettitte (48) Jamie Moyer (47) David Wells (42) and Chuck Finley (36). And I freely admit it'd have taken me days to guess Finley.

Halama shut out the Rangers in Texas 7/4/1999, and the Twins 5/17/2000. Not perfect games, but still impressive.

AFTER THIS CARD: Halama would spend just the one season with the A's, moving on to Tampa Bay for '04 in his now-familiar swingman role. Defending champion Boston signed him to be a reliever for '05, but he did not last the year before being cut.

27 games split between the Nats and Orioles in '06 would be 34-year-old Halama's last in the major leagues, though he lingered on a host of MiLB and Independent League deals through 2012.

Recently, he's worked as a pitching coach for the Arizona Fall League Padres.

John Halama appeared annually in Topps 2000-05, and in 2003 Topps Traded & Rookies.

CATEGORIES: 2004 Topps, Oakland Athletics

Topps Didi Gregorius
Topps Didi Gregorius

11/10/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2018 Topps #576 Didi Gregorius, Yankees

More Didi Gregorius Topps Cards: 2013 2013U 2014 2015 2015U 2016 2017 2019

Frustrated disbelief? It's been several weeks and I'm still not sure how to define Didi Gregorius' reaction to his grand slam in Game 2 of the 2019 ALDS; that's the best I can come up with and I'm usually good at that sort of thing. 

Gregorius, of course, had been injured and slumping leading up to that blast, not what he and Yankee fans had grown accustomed to in his five seasons as Derek Jeter's successor at SS. I had seen a bit of Didi's game during his Diamondback days and wasn't all that impressed, so when New York traded for him to fill their gaping SS hole after the 2014 season, I didn't give it much of a shot of succeeding. Not in a city that'd just watched Jeter for 20 years.

Haha! Wrong again, Skillz! But I'm man enough to admit it.

Here, Gregorius is coming off his third season in the Bronx. Despite missing the first month with a WBC shoulder injury, the 27-year-old set a Yankee SS record with 25 home runs—one of which was his first career grand slam—and finished second on the team in batting average to Starlin Castro (minimum 400 PA).

THIS CARD: To satisfy any curiosity you may have, Didi's given name is Mariekson Julius Gregorius. He's been known as Didi since childhood.

Gregorius takes a big swing at Yankee Stadium, where he batted just .251 as opposed to .321 elsewhere. Odd, considering his power splits were nearly identical.

There exists two short print variations of this card—Gregorius is kneeling with the bat on one, and reacting after a (presumed) base hit on the other. The latter is selling on EBay for $25. I will not be owning the latter anytime soon.

(flip) Jeter walloped 24 home runs in 1999 to set the position record. Gregorius smoked #25 on September 20, 2017.

Gregorius is semi-active on Twitter, most recently congratulating Joe Girardi for landing Philly's managerial job back on 11/4. His IG consists of a clown and a bunch of unusual baseball artwork.

Not shown: Gregorius played eight games with the 2012 Reds.

AFTER THIS CARD: Gregorius opened 2018 hot, fell ice cold, but eventually got things going again until injuries struck in the second half, namely a UCL tear suffered in the playoffs. The ensuing surgery kept him out until June 2019; he returned strong but as we mentioned, slumped at year's end (.163 in his final 25 games).

At this writing, Gregorius is a free agent not guaranteed to return to the Yankees.

Sir Didi Gregorius has appeared annually in Topps since 2013, and he's also got 2013 and 2015 Update cards.

CATEGORIES: 2018 Topps, New York Yankees

Topps Phil Coke
Topps Phil Coke

11/12/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #523 Phil Coke, Tigers

More Phil Coke Topps Cards: 2009 2011 2012U 2013

Given his struggles with righty hitters during his career, Coke is probably grateful to have pitched when he did, rather than today when a three-batter minimum rule is about to take effect.

Actually, when you consider his #26 draft selection (by the Yankees), Coke is probably grateful to have reached MLB at all, let alone lasted for several years. His pro career didn't exactly take off—four years in, he was still in A ball—but he enjoyed a fine 2008 run as a SP in AA, one which culminated in a trip to the big leagues (following a short stay in AAA).

Coke earned a spot with the 2009 Yankees out of camp, and appeared 72 times in the regular season—most on the club—and six more times in October for the eventual champions. But when New York had a chance to acquire star OF Curtis Granderson from Detroit, off to Detroit went Coke via three-team trade (it was also in this deal that the Tigers acquired young SP Max Scherzer from Arizona...oops.)

We catch up with Coke on the heels of that transaction. Though knocked around a bit in Spring Training 2010, Coke opened his second full season in the big leagues with the Tigers.

THIS CARD: Coke fires away at Comerica Park. He threw around 93-94, with a two-seamer, curve and changeup. (A source also identifies him with the occasional slider.)

I did not expect Topps in the year 2010 to include Coke once he left the champion Yankees for the so-so Tigers, but Topps is always full of surprises. (They gave Wilmer Font and Jon Edwards cards in the 2019 set, remember.)

Without the goatee he eventually grew, Coke perpetually looked 21 years old.

(flip) That 2009 Tiger WHIP was 1.412, which is indeed a tad high.

I was surprised to find two others from Coke's draft round reached MLB, including Craig Breslow, who had a good long career as a LOOGY for the A's and others.

Sonora is located halfway between Stockton, CA and Yosemite National Park as the crow flies. I can't imagine too many other major leaguers calling it home.

AFTER THIS CARD: Despite—or perhaps because of—Coke's strong 2010 season in the Tiger bullpen, the team put him in the rotation for 2011, but terminated the experiment following his 1-8 output in 14 starts. Save for a brief demotion in 2013, Coke remained in the Tiger bullpen through 2014 and even closed for part of their 2012 postseason run before moving on to the Cubs via MiLB deal for '15.

Coke's Cubs stint didn't go too well, and he'd pitch only eight more MLB games split among the Blue Jays, Yankees again, and Pirates. Following a 2017 season in Japan, Coke attempted to return to MLB as a knuckleballer, but no one tossed him a line.

Phil Coke appeared annually in Topps or Topps Update 2009-2013. He should have appeared in 2015 as well, one of the few deserving veterans who didn't turn up in that set.

CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Detroit Tigers

Topps Terry Mullholland
Topps Terry Mulholland

11/14/19 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2002 Topps #437 Terry Mulholland, Dodgers

More Terry Mulholland Topps Cards: 1987 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1994T 1995 1995T 1999T 2001 2003 

Mulholland, for a time, was one of the better lefty starters in the NL. A 1993 All-Star, he pitched a 1990 no-hitter, then won 41 games for the 1991-93 Phillies before joining the Yankees for '94. Mulholland struggled there, and though he'd never reach his Philadelphia heights again, he did kick off a long career as a swingman for about half the teams in MLB.

1996, split between Philly and Seattle, would be Mulholland's last year as a full-time SP. He was starting full-time for the '97 Cubs before being acquired by the Giants for a third time, then the Cubs brought him back to work almost exclusively relief in '98. Do you still follow? Good.


Mulholland was traded to the Braves in mid-'99 and pitched very well for them down the stretch, throwing six or more IP in all but one of his eight starts while also contributing tough relief work. Though not as effective in 2000, Mulholland inked a 2Y/$6M deal with Pittsburgh for 2001. At that point, we must assume his Pittsburgh area roots were 90% of the reason why.

Here, the 38-year-old has been dealt to the Dodgers in exchange for RP Mike Fetters and a prospect despite being on the DL with a broken finger at the time. Mulholland was bombed by the Reds in his first game and his numbers never really recovered, though they picked up as the year closed.

THIS CARD: Mulholland makes his second COTD appearance; we profiled his 1987 Topps card back in October 2017.

This is the second straight Topps set featuring Mulholland after five straight without him (though he did make a Traded appearance during that hiatus).

Dude does not look particularly happy with the pitch he just threw (or perhaps the umpire's call). Very few, if any, return throw images in Topps over the years aside from this one.

(flip) Mulholland wore #45 whenever he could throughout his career, often switching to it from other numbers.

It wasn't standard practice for 2002 Topps to recycle front images on the reverse, but evidently pics of Mulholland the Dodger were in short supply.

Uniontown is located 46 miles SE of Pittsburgh.

AFTER THIS CARD: The Dodgers dealt Mulholland to the Indians in mid-2002; he remained there through 2003 before signing with Minnesota. The 41-year-old spent the second half of '04 in Minnesota's rotation but returned to relief in '05. Five tough outings with the '06 Diamondbacks ended Mulholland's career at 43.

Terry Mulholland debuted in 1987 Topps, then appeared in Topps 1989-95 before disappearing...until 1999 Traded (Braves). He'd close his Topps run with appearances in the 2001-03 base sets. (He's also in 1994-95 Traded.) 1997 Fleer and Collector's Choice feature Mulholland with the Cubs, while 2006 Upper Deck depicts the veteran as a Diamondback.

CATEGORIES: 2002 Topps, Los Angeles Dodgers

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