Topps Baseball Card Of The Day, October 2020
"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.'" -- Ben Franklin
A = Alternate Card F = Factory Team Set G = Giveaway Set T = Traded Set U = Update Set
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10/31/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #464 Bill Wegman, Brewers
More Bill Wegman Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1995
The great Tim Kurkjian of ESPN is fascinated by sacrifice flies—shoot, it's the title of one of his books.
What fascinates me? High innings-pitched totals by middling pitchers.
Shut up. This is a judgment-free zone.
When Bill Wegman was allowed to throw 261.2 innings for the 1992 Brewers, I paid close attention. It blew my mind that a guy like Wegman, not far removed from two serious arm injuries and not equipped with great stuff, was out there approaching eight innings per start with the likes of Roger Clemens and Dave Stewart and Jack McDowell.
Of course, at the time I was 12, and still unfamiliar with adult reading material. I had to get fascinated by something, I suppose.
Here, Wegman has struggled through a very challenging 1993 season. A hernia and ulcer put him on the DL in early July, and he was relegated to two mop-up relief appearances down the stretch.
THIS CARD: Wegman fires away at the late County Stadium, and it seems pretty clear he's coming with the breaking ball (most likely the slider; Wegman had a good one). Topps varied Wegman's front images well through the years...no Shawn Chacon treatment here.
Wegman wore #46 throughout his career; current Brewer Corey Knebel—a 2017 All-Star closer who's hit hard times since—has claimed the number since 2015.
More from Wegman's 1993 season: he opened the year by completing three of his first seven starts...and losing all three. Despite the hard luck, Wegman still owned a 3.17 ERA through 6/4, but collapsed (7.71 ERA) over his final six starts leading up to his DL stint.
(flip) Those 14 losses in 1993 led the AL at the time of Wegman's hiatus; he still finished 4th.
Wegman won that Hutch Award after a fine comeback (15 wins in '91) from labrum surgery in 1989 and major elbow surgery in 1990.
Wait a minute; Wegman reached those 261.2 innings in 1992 with only seven complete games? That kind of makes it more impressive in a way that I cannot properly articulate. Thank you for your patience with my fascination.
Ah, back when Topps was still allowed to mention Pete Rose on its cards. He was already banned from baseball at this point, so I wonder what specifically changed between 1994 and 2014 Topps (when his name was repeatedly omitted as the all-time hit king).
AFTER THIS CARD: Wegman began 1994 6-0, a streak that sandwiched a month-long DL stint (abdominal strain); he'd finish 8-4 in 19 starts for Milwaukee. In '95 he did a 180, opening the year 0-3 and being banished to long relief after the Tigers KO'd him in the first inning of his 5/11 start.
Wegman never started another game for the Brewers, or anybody else; his career ended at 32 following the '95 season.
Bill Wegman debuted in 1986 Topps Traded, then appeared annually in the base set 1987-95.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Milwaukee Brewers
More October 2020 Topps Cards Of The Day
10/1/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #340 League Leaders, AL RBI
More 2003 Topps League Leaders: n/a
In 2003, Alex Rodriguez was on his way to winning the AL MVP award after being runner-up in 2002. Magglio Ordonez was a three-time All-Star and possibly the most underrated hitter in the league. Miguel Tejada was the reigning AL MVP and the fulcrum of the Giambi-less Oakland Athletics offense.
These were 2002's three biggest American League run producers. All talented righty hitters who'd had yet to turn 30, all annually ranked high on AL RBI leaderboards. Basically, you had three of the game's top players period, and pitching to them proved hazardous to your ERA.
THIS CARD: The trio looks so...damn...young. Rodriguez slightly less so, since we saw him balling in MLB at age 19.
Tejada: "Can I hold a bat, too?" Topps: "No."
Rodriguez's 142 RBI in 2002 would be the second-highest of his career (156 in 2007). He was still well short of the Rangers record of 157 set by Juan Gonzalez in 1998.
Ordonez drove home over 110 runs for the fourth straight season in 2002. He had 12 RBI in his final seven games of the year, and enjoyed 18 games with 3+ RBI, six games with 4+ RBI, and four games with 5+ RBI!
Tejada opened 2002 batting 5th/6th before being moved up to 3rd in mid-May. From that point on he plated 108 runners in just 120 games (after driving home "just" 23 in his first 42 games).
(flip) Anderson annually finished Top 10 in AL RBI 2001-03; he tops the Angels' all-time RBI leaderboard.
Delgado enjoyed nine 100-RBI seasons, leading the AL in 2003. Look atop Toronto's all-time RBI list and you'll find Delgado's name.
Garciaparra finished Top-10 in AL RBI one other time, in 1998 (122, good for 7th).
For all the home runs he hit (320), Glaus was not really a prime RBI man. Though Glaus did register four 100-RBI campaigns, this was his only season in the AL (or NL) Top 10.
AFTER THIS CARD: Rodriguez went on to drive in 100+ runs annually through 2010. We mentioned his 2007 effort; that led the league and helped secure his league MVP award. Rodriguez's career ended in 2016.
Ordonez was slowed by injuries for a time but resurged with 100+ RBI seasons 2006-08, leading Detroit in 2006-07 (by 2008, Miguel Cabrera had arrived). His 139 ribbies in 2007 were second in the AL to Rodriguez, as were his 258 MVP points. Ordonez's career ended in 2011.
Tejada drove home 100+ RBI in six of seven years between 2000-06; his 150 as a new Oriole in 2004 led the league by 11 over David Ortiz. Tejada, who also finished 10th in the AL with 106 RBI in 2003, ended his career in 2013.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, League Leaders
10/3/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Topps Traded #98 Rey Sanchez, Cubs
More Rey Sanchez Topps Cards: 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1999 2001 2002T 2003T
During Sanchez's prime, he was considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the game (if not the best). He was not acrobatic and showy like an Omar Vizquel or an Ozzie Smith, but he was fundamentally sound, didn't usually miss routine grounders, and made plays on enough non-routine balls to earn such high praise.
What hurt Sanchez most was a virtual lack of any power at all (in 15 seasons he hit 15 total home runs, one of them inside-the-park). He could make contact and contribute "small-ball", but his offense would never be considered an asset. For that reason a load of teams wanted Sanchez...until they didn't; he'd end up wearing nine major league uniforms.
Here, however, Sanchez is just starting out as a young Chicago Cub. After gaining his first MLB experience as a 1991 September call-up, Sanchez has hopped on the shuttle between AAA Iowa and the Cubs in early 1992. Several times, in fact.
THIS CARD: Sanchez does NOT look like a rookie in this pic; I would guess him to be at least a five-year veteran. I might also guess him to be former Cub Luis Salazar...with the 'stache there's a slight resemblance IMHO.
What does the kid appear to be thinking? "Hmm...Mark Grace SAID he wouldn't take a nap on top of my car. But there he is, taking a nap on top of my car...oh, well, at least I'm in the majors."
More from Sanchez's early 1992 season: it took him a while to get the bat going (4-for-32 thru his first 12 games, spread out across three calendar months). But he closed June by hitting in eight of nine games, including 6/21 when he stroked three hits and drove home three runs at the Phillies.
(flip) Sanchez, according to the Chicago Tribune, was DL'd in 1990 with an elbow injury.
Of those six hits as a 1991 Cub, two came in two at-bats on 9/28 at St. Louis.
Check out those BB/K ratios as a minor leaguer; Sanchez never came close to those ratios in the majors. His career high in walks was 28 in 143 games (2000).
That is possibly THE worst available angle for a Wrigley Field photo. It almost looks like a prison.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 1993, with SS Shawon Dunston on the shelf almost all year and 2B Ryne Sandberg missing the first several weeks, Sanchez received extended run at both positions for the Cubs and cemented a roster spot going forward. After Sandberg retired (temporarily) in mid-1994, Sanchez took over as the Cubs 2B through 1995. Then Sandberg returned, ending Sanchez's days of playing full-time in Chicago.
After finishing 1997 with the Yankees, Sanchez signed with the Giants as a FA (1Y/$500K), serving in a part-time role. Kansas City saw enough to make Sanchez their starting SS for 1999, then re-upped him for 2Y/$4.6M. Atlanta acquired Sanchez at the 2001 deadline to take over at SS for injured Rafael Furcal.
Then Sanchez's traveling really began—over the next four years, Sanchez suited up for the Red Sox (who started him at 2B for most of '02) Mets, Mariners, Devil Rays and Yankees again; his career ended with bulging discs in his neck in 2005, age 37.
Here's that ITPHR Sanchez roped as a 2004 Devil Ray (which was more a result of crappy Colorado defense than good hitting. But hey, it's Rey Sanchez. Let him have this one.)
Rey Sanchez appeared in Topps 1993-97, 1999 and 2001 (the guy was excluded from 2000 Topps despite having his best year in 1999). He's also got 1992, 2002 and 2003 Traded cards.
CATEGORIES: 1992 Topps Traded, Chicago Cubs
10/4/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2000 Topps #258 Desi Relaford, Phillies
More Desi Relaford Topps Cards: 1995 1996 1999 2001 2003 2004 2006
Drafted by Seattle in 1991, Desi Relaford spent the first half of the 1990's as a shortstop prospect for the Mariners. Which wouldn't have been a bad thing, except Seattle also drafted shortstop Alex Rodriguez in 1993 and auditioned him in the bigs one year later.
Relaford continued to toil in the Seattle system despite having no longer having a real future there. Finally, at the 1996 Trade Deadline, he was swapped to the Phillies for SP Terry Mulholland. Following brief looks in 1996-97, Philly installed Relaford as their SS for 1998. Despite brutal 2-for-51 and 0-for-36 stretches that year, Relaford kept his job into 1999. That is where we catch up with him.
THIS CARD: Overall, Relaford wasn't much with the bat during his career, but here, he seems to have put a solid swing on the ball. In 1999 he started hot, batting .325 on 5/9, and avoided the exaggerated slumps that plagued him in '98.
Relaford wears #8, which later gained "fame" in Philadelphia as Shane Victorino's number. Back in the day Bob Boone and Juan Samuel also sported #8.
More from Relaford's 1999 season: wrist surgery sidelined him from mid-June to mid-September. He only managed seven hits in 42 at-bats after returning.
(flip) Relaford did have speed and range, but the offensive potential was never fully tapped into for long (unless you count his .302 effort for the 2001 Mets).
Is it just me, or are those last three stolen base percentages not really bragworthy?
This is why I'm supposed to fully read the blurbs before doing a write-up; we've already covered the first couple lines above.
AFTER THIS CARD: Despite a solid .363 OBP for the 2000 Phillies, Relaford's .221 average and 24 errors in 81 games got him traded to the Padres that August. He enjoyed a (positively) surprising year for the 2001 Mets, as we referenced, but was still traded to the Giants that winter—and quickly flipped to the Mariners for IF David Bell. Relaford became an important reserve for the defending AL West champions, even playing the outfield for the first time.
Relaford signed with the upstart Royals for 2003 (2Y/$900K), and accrued 500 at-bats playing six different positions that year. He opened '04 as the KC second baseman, but pulled a hammy and returned to his utility role upon healing.
The 32-year-old hooked up with the Rockies for 2005, batting .224 in 73 games before being cut that August. Out of MLB in '06, an unimpressive 14-game stint with the 2007 Rangers ended Relaford's pro career at 34.
Here are Desi Relaford's Topps appearances: 1995-96, 1999-2001, 2003-04 and 2006 (I don't know how he ended up in the '06 set, especially as a Rockie.) He never appeared in any Traded or Update sets.
CATEGORIES: 2000 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies
10/6/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #346 Armando Benitez, Star Track
More Armando Benitez Topps Cards: 1997 1998 1999 1999T 2000 2001 2002 2003 2003T 2004 2005 2006 2007 2007U
There weren't many (if any) hotter relief pitching prospects in 1993-94 than Armando Benitez of the Baltimore Orioles system. Often compared to no less than Lee Smith, Benitez blew through two levels of the minors—more on that later—before joining Smith in Baltimore's bullpen as a 21-year-old in 1994.
THIS CARD: "Star Track" was another of those one-and-done subsets that permeated mid-1990's Topps. Here's how it went down: 1995 Topps featured 14 "Star Track" prospects and 14 "Future Star" prospects—one for each of the 28 teams. The former consisted of prospects with MLB experience; the latter consisted of prospects with no MLB experience. (All 28 did eventually reach the majors.)
As you can see, Benitez was more than a little intimidating, especially in his youth.
Benitez wears #49; no other Orioles of note claimed that number (unless you deem Todd Frohwirth notable). Today, it is worn in Baltimore by forgettable reliever Clay Carroll.
(flip) I've asked this aloud on previous COTD: why even include the 1990 row if Benitez wasn't pitching for an Orioles affiliate that year, Topps?
No, that's not a misprint: Benitez did whiff 112 batters in 67 innings in 1993, and was on a similar pace for AA Bowie in 1994 until being summoned to Camden Yards.
Belle and Murray were Cleveland Indians in 1994; Benitez entered in relief of Mike Mussina, who was touched up a bit that day. With runners on 1B and 2B and one out in the 7th, the rookie struck out Belle and got Murray to fly out. Benitez threw two more scoreless innings, but Baltimore still lost 7-2.
AFTER THIS CARD: Let's see: the Jeffrey Maier home run in 1996, elevation to closer in 1998, starting the ultimate brawl against the Yankees in 1998, 2000 NLDS Game 2-tying homer to J.T. Snow of my Giants, 2003 trade to the Yankees, monster 2004 season for Florida, $21M deal from the Giants, torn hamstring in 2005, "I did my job" in 2006, booed out of town in 2007, MLB career end in 2008, parts of three more seasons in the Independent League.
Armando Benitez appeared annually in Topps 1995-2007, except 1996. You can also find him in 1999 and 2003 Topps Traded as well as 2007 Topps Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
10/7/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2001 Topps #313 Eddie Guardado, Twins
More Eddie Guardado Topps Cards: 1994 1998 2003 2004 2004T 2005 2006 2006U 2008UA
"Everyday" Eddie Guardado averaged 68 games a year for the Twins 1995-2003, hence the nickname. Originally a starting pitcher, Guardado didn't blossom until being switched full-time to the bullpen in 1996 (a year he co-led the league in appearances).
By and large, Twins skipper Tom Kelly deployed Guardado as a lefty specialist from 1996-99, but in 2000—the year represented on this card—the team went all year without a permanent closer. The popular Guardado was in the 9th-inning mix and posted nine saves, equaling his career total to that point.
THIS CARD: Guardado didn't look like this when his career ended; mid-30's Guardado was considerably stouter and looked more like a plumber than an athlete. Which I say respectfully.
The veteran reaches back to fire either his low-90's fastball, curve (my guess), or slider. He later added a split-finger pitch (that he blames for blowing out his arm).
No other Twins of note have worn Guardado's #18 for any length of time. Kenta Maeda did almost throw a no-hitter wearing it in 2020, however.
(flip) Last week Guardado turned 50. I should have been aware of this and selected a special COTD for him.
We mentioned Guardado co-leading the AL in 1996 appearances; Mike Myers of the Tigers also pitched 83 times.
Today, Guardado ranks first among Twins in games pitched, with 648. No one else is within 150 of him.
I briefly lived in Stockton, CA. It is a hole, and I'd like to ask Guardado why he kept living there after becoming a major league success.
AFTER THIS CARD: During the 2001 season, Minnesota elevated Guardado to closer. How did he respond? With 86 saves over the 2002-03 seasons, including a league-best 45 in '02, and successive All-Star berths. Though Minnesota tried to retain the free agent after '03, Seattle offered more cash, so off Guardado went.
2004 was a bit shaky; Guardado was only 18-for-25 in save ops and missed time with shoulder soreness. But he rebounded in '05, saving 27 straight at one point, before an '06 slump, demotion and trade to the Reds (for whom he closed out 8-of-10 before undergoing UCL surgery).
Guardado returned to the Reds in August 2007, then moved between Texas, Minnesota and Texas again over the 2008-09 seasons before calling it a career just shy of 39. He was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2013, and returned to the franchise as bullpen coach 2014-18.
Eddie Guardado appeared in 1994, 1998, 2001, and 2003-06 Topps. He's also got a 2004 Traded card with Seattle and Update cards for 2006 (Reds) and 2008 (Rangers).
CATEGORIES: 2001 Topps, Minnesota Twins
10/9/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2014 Topps #337 Zach Walters, Nationals
More Zach Walters Topps Cards: n/a
Zach Walters was originally a Diamondbacks farmhand; they swapped him to Washington for SP Jason Marquis in mid-2011. Marquis was utterly hopeless as a Diamondback even before a liner broke his leg in August 2011, while the Nationals were at least able to squeeze a little value out of Walters.
The kid was not known for his slugging in the minors until 2013, a year he upped his slugging percentage 99 points from 2012. Washington made Walters a September call-up that year.
THIS CARD: You could have pinned me under a cold shower in the middle of December for three hours, ordering me to tell you who Zach Walters was, and you would have gotten nothing but tortured screams. It amazes me how I can collect these cards and wholly erase at least five dudes per set from my mind.
Walters chugs down the line, which is not enough for me to confirm the ballpark. But in 2013 Walters only played at Marlins Park, Citi Field and Chase Field. Mystery kind of solved.
Walters wears #4; the closest thing to a notable National wearing #4 is Howie Kendrick, who wore it in 2017 but became a Nats postseason hero while wearing #47.
Walters is listed as a 3B, but for the Nationals, he mostly pinch-hit/ran.
(flip) I'm curious: did Johnson say that line to Walters and then just walk away? If so, what a gift he has. I've got to get him in touch with Mauricio Dubon.
Walters' 9/29/13 triple was a game-tying RBI shot in the 6th inning, given up by Arizona's Wade Miley. Walters soon scored himself, but the Nats eventually lost 3-2.
Here's a bonus rookie fact: on 9/6/13 Walters broke up a Jose Fernandez no-hitter with one out in the 6th. Fernandez's slider exploded in on Walters mid-swing; the resulting jam shot rolled about 70 feet down the third-base side and died. It was Fernandez's only hit allowed in seven innings that day...(sigh) baseball.
AFTER THIS CARD: Walters spent much of April/May 2014 with Washington, helping fill in for injured 3B Ryan Zimmerman. At the deadline, Walters was dealt to Cleveland in exchange for INF Asdrubal Cabrera. Sent to AAA, Walters was back in MLB by early August, and his walk-off home run against Arizona 8/13/14 highlighted his career.
Playing through a torn intercostal (ribcage muscle) in late 2014, Walters still enjoyed a streak of six home runs—including that walk-off—in 12 games for the Indians, but still spent 2015 on the AAA/majors shuttle until labrum surgery that October. The Dodgers acquired him in April 2016 and released him in August 2016; Walters signed MiLB deals with Cincy and KC for 2017 but neither led him back to the bigs.
At last check (2018), the 29-year-old was an Independent Leaguer.
Zach Walters appeared in 2014 Topps. He's in 2014 Topps Heritage as an Indian, if you're interested at all.
CATEGORIES: 2014 Topps, Washington Nationals
10/10/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2015 Topps #183 Craig Gentry, Athletics
More Craig Gentry Topps Cards: 2011U 2012 2013 2014
Used to be, guys like Craig Gentry were everywhere, guys who could bunt, change a game with their speed/baserunning prowess, played defense and always hustled. But by the time Gentry came along he was a baseball unicorn. Which, of course, made him very fun to watch when he was on his game—you didn't see dudes doing the things Gentry did anymore.
The Arkansas alum debuted in MLB back in 2008 with the Rangers, but he didn't get an extended look until 2011—the Rangers' second straight year as AL champions. From 2012-13, Gentry started 135 times for Ron Washington in a platoon/part-time role, stealing 37 bases in 47 attempts before being traded to Oakland after the '13 season.
Here, Gentry is coming off an injury-marred first year in Oakland; it started with back problems in the spring, continued with a midseason broken hand, and ended with a concussion.
THIS CARD: Hopefully, this is not the play that resulted in Gentry's broken hand 7/28/14. Adding insult to injury: he was ruled to have offered at the pitch that hit him, and was charged with a strike. (Note: Gentry didn't realize the extent of his injury and thus finished the game with the broken hand.)
Personally, I wish Oakland had kept the gold alternates popular in 2012, but these aren't so bad, either. This look was unveiled in 2014.
More from Gentry's 2014 season: he started 58 times across all three outfield spots, throwing out eight runners and committing one error. Gentry stole one more base than Coco Crisp to lead the A's.
(flip) No, you don't have to embrace that crappy nickname, Craig. What if they put "Dog-Doo Head" on t-shirts?
Of Gentry's 246 career hits to this point, I'd bet 12-15 were bunts. He was always laying one down and racing at warp speed down the line.
Gentry is a Fort Smith, Arkansas legend. He attended the University of Arkansas Fort Smith as a freshman/sophomore and was elected to the school's Hall of Fame.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 2015, Gentry opened the year cold and wound up spending two-thirds of the season back in AAA (Nashville). The 32-year-old made the Angels' 2016 roster, but strained his back in May and was cut upon healing in July.
From 2017-18, Gentry served as a spare piece for the Orioles; he made the 2018 team out of Spring Training but was cut in September. MiLB deals with San Francisco and Colorado didn't lead anywhere, and Gentry retired from baseball in May 2019.
Craig Gentry debuted in 2011 Topps Update, then appeared annually in 2012-15 Topps. He's got a 2018 Heritage card as an Oriole, fyi.
CATEGORIES: 2015 Topps, Oakland Athletics
10/12/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2003 Topps #618 Peter Bergeron, Expos
More Peter Bergeron Topps Cards: 1999 2001 2002
No known relation to Tom.
Peter Bergeron started out in the Dodgers system, until being included in the 1998 Mark Grudzielanek trade with Montreal. That made for a much faster track to the major leagues; Bergeron debuted with the Expos in September 1999.
In Y2K, Bergeron emerged as Montreal's primary CF and sometimes LF, a role he carried into 2001 until being demoted in late April. Still just 23, the youngster returned in late June and batted .230 through season's end, which looks crappy until you realize he was at .121 pre-demotion.
Here, Bergeron has again won Montreal's CF job after a strong Spring 2002. He opened the year with four hits in his first eight at-bats, with a pair of walks as a bonus.
THIS CARD: Bergeron bats at an unidentified road ballpark; even with his limited 2002 MLB run, there's just not enough for me to distinguish the locale. I can tell you the odds of Bergeron getting a hit here were slim, as he only batted .098 in 15 road games in 2002.
Given Bergeron was off the MLB radar by early May '02, good for Topps for not forgetting about him. Even in the "Junk Wax" era, guys like Bergeron could fall by the Topps wayside unless perhaps they were injured.
Uniform #11 has a respectable enough Montreal lineage; SS Spike Owen wore it in the early 1990's and 3B Shane Andrews had it in the late 1990's. (For those of you who count the Nationals as an Expos extension, #11 could well be retired someday for Ryan Zimmerman.)
(flip) Of those 16 assists in 2000, 15 came as a center fielder, one as a left fielder.
Bergeron routinely batted around—or in excess of—.300 in the minors, including a .320 clip at two levels in 1999. So his 2002 performance for Ottawa was no real shock.
Of those 22 walks Topps blurbs about, 17 came in Bergeron's first 14 games! In fact, only once in that period was Bergeron shut out in the walks column.
AFTER THIS CARD: It seemed that Bergeron has used up all his Montreal lives when they kept him at their new AAA affiliate Edmonton for all of 2003, but he resurfaced once again in 2004 as their CF out of Spring Training. But this latest stint lasted 11 games, nine of which Montreal lost. After a DL stint (rib strain), Bergeron was demoted yet again, then traded to the Brewers in June.
However, Milwaukee never called Bergeron up, and neither did the Cubs, Orioles, Phillies or Pirates, each of whom subsequently signed him to MiLB deals. After the 2007 season, Bergeron's phone quit ringing.
Today, Bergeron works in the Los Angeles Dodgers' scouting department.
Peter Bergeron debuted on a shared 1999 Topps Prospects card, then appeared annually in Topps 2001-03.
CATEGORIES: 2003 Topps, Montreal Expos
10/13/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Topps #238 Kim Batiste, Phillies
More Kim Batiste Topps Cards: 1992 1993 1995
If you're watching the in-progress 2020 American League Championship Series, you're aware of the serious throwing problems Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is presently enduring. Clearly, Altuve wants more than anything to atone for his costly errors, as any player would (although with his team down 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays, opportunity may be scarce at this point).
Onetime Phillies infielder Kim Batiste could relate to Altuve. In the opening game of the 1993 NLCS vs. Atlanta, Batiste's throwing error in the 9th allowed Atlanta to tie the score at 3. For an inning-plus, Batiste—who was in the game for his defense—had the miscue weighing heavily on him...
...until stroking the game-winning double in the 10th and being carried off the field by his teammates. Atonement successful!
Here, we catch up with Batiste after that memorable 1993 campaign.
THIS CARD: This is a specially selected Topps Card Of The Day in memory of Batiste, who died 10/7/2020 from kidney surgery complications at age 52.
No, this is not a shot of Batiste making his errant NLCS throw. In 1993 he frequently took over at 3B for Dave Hollins in the late innings, and made but three errors in 58 regular-season games at the hot corner.
Batiste is also listed as a SS; he got some run there early in the '93 season until Philly called up Kevin Stocker in early July. Only twice more did Batiste man shortstop that year.
(flip) Today, that uniform #5 looks strange on anyone except Pat Burrell. Catcher Andrew Knapp had it in 2020.
"Mid-last season"? That can't be right.
One of Batiste's five 1993 home runs—which was hit while playing third—was a decisive grand slam at home versus the Mets 8/13.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 1994, Batiste earned a career-high 50 starts between 3B and SS, but batted just .232 in 209 at-bats—including ONE base-on-balls all season and a .127 average vs. lefties. He did not make the 1995 Phillies roster and was released in May.
Batiste spent the duration of '95 with AAA Rochester and AA Bowie (Orioles) before winning a job with the 1996 Giants, splitting the year between AAA Phoenix and San Francisco (I've blocked out almost all memory of the dreadful '96 team, including Batiste, unfortunately.)
Out of baseball in 1997, the veteran IF resurfaced in the Independent League in 1998, suiting up for seven teams before his pro baseball career wrapped in 2003.
Kim Batiste appeared in 1992-95 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 1994 Topps, Philadelphia Phillies, Now Deceased
10/15/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Topps #460 Moises Alou, Expos
More Moises Alou Topps Cards: 1991 1992T 1993 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
The Randomizer sure does have an affinity for the Montreal Expos (who haven't existed for 16 years), doesn't it?
Moises Alou was easily among the most talented Expos of not just his time, but ever. Problem is, because of injuries and that devastating labor dispute of 1994-95, Alou the Expo never got to showcase his skillz for long without being interrupted. We've previously discussed his 1991 and 1995 shoulder surgeries and 1993 ankle injury—all before the age of 30—on COTD.
But here, it seems Alou's health was finally trending in the right direction. In 1996, he sat out "only" 19 games (from a July hamstring strain and an August suspension for firing his helmet at Astros manager Terry Collins during a brawl) and put together a fine season, especially in the second half.
THIS CARD: Does it not look as though Alou has ripped the cover off the ball here? I'd initially dismissed the odd shape as a card-scanning error; upon further review no mistakes were made. If I'm right and we're looking at a mangled baseball, great effort by Topps to get it on a card.
Alou was a multi-talented player, but better than anything else, he swung the bat. Topps depicts him swinging on all but two of his 17 common fronts over the years, including this one of course.
I can't identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you that in 1996, Alou hit .243 with seven jacks away from Montreal, as opposed to .320 with 14 bombs IN Montreal. I hope the Expos pointed that out when he hit free agency after the '96 season.
(flip) Note how comparatively young Alou looked in 1996; it seemed he aged 10 years as soon as he left Montreal that winter. At least to me.
Though Alou resided in the Dominican Republic, he was born in Atlanta; his dad Felipe was in Year One with the Braves in 1966.
"Anecdotal oddity" appears on exactly zero other baseball cards anywhere; I would bet my man parts on it.
In that final AFCS at-bat, Alou flied out to RF Dwight Smith Sr., closing the book on a 3-1 Montreal loss. (The Braves did play more games at the ballpark; remember they lost to the Yankees in the World Series that year. And there was no COVID so no neutral sites.)
AFTER THIS CARD: In December 1996, Alou signed a 5Y/$25M deal to join the Marlins; he led the 1997 team in HR and RBI as they edged the Indians in the World Series. Alou was allowed to celebrate with his teammates, but before any of the champagne on his uniform could dry, Florida moved him to Houston via trade.
Now a 32-year-old Astro, Alou's 38 HR, 124 RBI and 159 games in 1998 set career highs—but a freak spring treadmill accident blew out his left ACL and shelved him for all of 1999. Back healthy in 2000, Alou continued to rake for the 'Stros in '01 (highlighted by a 23-game hit streak) and he signed a 3Y/$27M free-agent deal with the Cubs for '02.
It was as a Cub that Alou joined the land of infamy—he was the left fielder on the Steve Bartman play during Game 6 of the '03 NLCS. (Alou has said at different times that he both would have and wouldn't have caught the notorious foul ball.) After '04, the veteran joined a team very closely tied to the Alou family: San Francisco.
Despite moving to RF, Alou—playing for his dad as he had for four seasons in Montreal—continued to rake when healthy during his two-year SF tenure. He closed his career with two seasons as a New York Met, registering a 30-game hit streak in the former (2007) but enduring serious calf and hamstring injuries in the latter, amassing just 54 PA. Alou retired at 42 after repping the D.R. in the '09 WBC.
Moises Alou appeared annually in Topps 1991-2008 (1992 was a Traded card). He's also got a 1991 Topps Major League Debut card as a Pirate.
CATEGORIES: 1997 Topps, Montreal Expos
10/16/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2016 Topps #245 Tommy Kahnle, Rockies
More Tommy Kahnle Topps Cards: 2015 2018U 2019U
In early 2020, before Tommy Kahnle succumbed to UCL surgery, Sports Illustrated attempted to "build" the perfect Yankees pitcher from their current roster. To paraphrase, this fella would have Gerrit Cole's fastball, Zack Britton's sinker, and Kahnle's changeup.
There is merit to that—if one man could throw 100 like Cole, sink the ball like Britton, then attack with a tailing, 90-MPH changeup like Kahnle, the only way anybody could hit him would be luck and prayer.
Here, Kahnle is still a youngster (and not a universally beloved one, either) with the Rockies. During the 2015 season he opened the year with AAA Albuquerque before making 36 appearances with Colorado; he was even named closer by manager Walt Weiss in early August. That didn't last long, and three weeks later Kahnle was back in AAA.
THIS CARD: Yes, Yankee fans, this is what Kahnle looked like before acquiescing to your team's clean-shaven requirements. From a purely aesthetic standpoint Kahnle is far less imposing without the hair, but as the 2017 Tigers found out, he should still be approached with caution.
Kahnle (pronounced Conley) prepares to fire off either the aforementioned changeup, or his high-90's gas. He also has a little semi-slider that comes out on rare occasion, but Kahnle himself has admitted to never really trusting his breaking pitches. He's usually a fastball/changeup guy.
That's #54 Kahnle wears; it had been passed around very frequently from Colorado's inception until 2014. RP Carlos Estevez has worn it since 2016 (though, given his recent performance, those days may be numbered).
Yes, as soon as the right bargain presents itself, I'll be replacing my 2016 Topps set with a stamp-free version.
(flip) As you can see, Kahnle struggled with his command with the 2015 Rockies, largely why he was returned to the minors in late August and not recalled in September (I'd long forgotten Albuquerque was ever a Rockies affiliate).
Check out 2011 Charleston: 12 unearned runs in just 40 games? Holy Christ, that's deflating.
Kahnle earned those 2015 saves on 8/7 and 8/9. Thereafter, opportunities were scarce; the kid blew one, got lit up in a non-save tune-up, and BOOM was out of the role.
I never knew Kahnle's 2017 acquisition by the Yankees marked his second stint in the organization! THIS is a big part of why COTD exists, people—it teaches me, too.
AFTER THIS CARD: Kahnle was D4A'd by the Rockies in November 2015, then traded to the White Sox. By 2017 he'd greatly improved his command (seven walks in 36 Chicago innings), which got the Yankees' attention. Along with RP David Robertson and 3B Todd Frazier, Kahnle returned to New York in exchange for RP Tyler Clippard and three prospects (none of whom have reached MLB to date.)
We mentioned Kahnle's trouble with the Tigers in August 2017; that aside, he was solid for his new club and even picked up a six-out ALDS save against Cleveland! (CL Aroldis Chapman was essentially unavailable.) 2018 was forgettable; he battled tendonitis and was even demoted to AAA for a time, but Kahnle bounced back with a strong 2019 (88 K vs. just 20 BB in 61 innings).
Kahnle lost all of 2020 to August UCL surgery.
Tommy Kahnle has appeared in 2015-16 and 2020 Topps, along with 2018-19 Topps Update.
CATEGORIES: 2016 Topps, Colorado Rockies
10/18/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2019 Topps #47 Yankees Team Card
More Topps Yankees Team Cards: n/a
Topps mixed things up a little in 2019...and I liked it.
In the '00's, team cards featured team photos on the front with a recap of the corresponding season on the back. In the '10's, team cards featured an action highlight from the past season on the front with the season recap on the back.
For 2019 Topps, team cards double as ballpark cards—there are park photos and "birth" years on the front, to go with capacities and team lineups/leaders on the reverse (no season recap). It was time for team cards to receive a little twist, even if it could only last for one set.
Here, we look at Yankee Stadium II and the primary lineups of the 2018 Yankees, who beat Oakland in the Wild Card Game but fell to Boston in a four-game ALDS.
THIS CARD: The question did flash in my mind multiple times: would we ever randomly select another 2019 Topps card again? Wasn't lookin' that way. The set has been in my possession for over a year now and only come up twice in the Randomizer (out of some 260 opportunities) before today.
Which sucked because I wanted to present (show off) my newest set on TSR.
High-up view of Yankee Stadium II, unmistakable whenever the frieze makes it into the shot. New York, of course, played in Yankee Stadium I from 1923 through 1973, left for two years while it was massively renovated, then returned from 1976-2008.
(flip) The stadium graphic is a nice touch, showing the park's full layout not clearly visible in the front photo. But Topps should have put the basic dimensions as well—I view these cards frequently and having the various distances on said cards would've helped me commit them to memory. Make the improvement in 2029 Topps, please!
That is a scary lineup, and as of this writing all but McCutchen, Gray, Gregorius and Sabathia are still with the Yanks (although Sanchez's days are probably numbered, Andujar has barely been on the radar and German was suspended essentially all of 2020). Years from now, will anyone remember McCutchen ever played for the Yankees?
I promise you, if this format is ever re-used for team cards, wins will not be a featured category. The conventional starting pitcher is going bye-bye, and league leaders in wins and innings will fall below 10 and 200 in the next five years. Much to my chagrin.
AFTER THIS CARD: With me rooting against them all the way (I do not like how they acquired Giancarlo Stanton, for starters), the Yankees won 103 games and the AL East in 2019, spanked the Twins in the ALDS, then were eliminated by the Astros in a six-game ALCS.
In 2020, despite an ugly slump during Aaron Judge's injury absence, New York returned to the playoffs, knocked off the Indians in the first round, but were defeated by Tampa Bay in a five-game ALDS.
Then, just a couple of days ago, this story came out.
CATEGORIES: 2019 Topps, New York Yankees
10/19/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2006 Topps #402 David Dellucci, Rangers
More Dave/David Dellucci Topps Cards: 1998 1999 2002 2006U 2007 2009
Dellucci is a COTD pick for the second time; we drew his 2009 Topps card almost two years ago to the day.
Here, he's just wrapped his second season with the Texas Rangers, which doubled as the first year of a 2Y/$1.8M deal signed after the 2004 season—got all that? 2005 marked the best power season of Dellucci's career by far; he ranked 9th in the AL in HR/AB ratio and was one of seven Rangers to crack the 20-homer barrier.
THIS CARD: Dellucci, a hustle player who could also beat you with his legs, is on the move. I could have done without the excess of green in the background.
Dellucci wears #22, same as Steve Buechele for the '80's Rangers and Will Clark for the '90's Rangers. We've seen it on bench coach Don Wakamatsu for the past three seasons.
More from Dellucci's 2005 season: his 29 home runs ranked third on the loaded Texas Rangers. Six were lead-off shots, one won a game in the T9th at Baltimore, and one tied a game in the B9th—also against Baltimore—which Texas won in extras. The Orioles originally drafted Dellucci before parting with him in the 1997 Expansion Draft; revenge much?
(flip) Instead of the redundant home run stat, Topps could have told you that Dellucci racked up a career-high 223 total bases in 2005. And if it were willing to cut into the green space a little, they could have also relayed Dellucci's 1.056 April OPS. But hey, whatever.
The toon references Dellucci's efforts 6/30 vs. Anaheim's Ervin Santana and 7/1 vs. Aaron Sele of Seattle. Properly sparked, Texas went on to comfortably win both games.
In a brilliant comeback 2005 season for the Yankees, Giambi ripped 32 HR with an AL-high 108 BB in just 417 official at-bats.
I just realized not only this COTD, but Dellucci's previous COTD damn near fell on his birthday.
AFTER THIS CARD: At the end of Spring Training 2006, pitching-starved Texas shipped Dellucci to the Phillies in exchange for P Robinson Tejeda and a prospect (who happened to be the brother of Rangers 3B Hank Blalock). He served as a part-time outfielder for the '06 Phills, then moved on to Cleveland—with the assurance of a regular job—on a 3Y/$11.5M deal after that season.
Things didn't go according to plan. Dellucci lost a huge chunk of 2007 to a torn-off-the-bone hamstring, then slumped for most of 2008. After sitting the first month of '09 (calf), Dellucci returned as the semi-regular DH and started hot (6-for-his-first-9). Then he slipped to .161 with one RBI over the next three weeks—the Tribe finally silenced the booing fans by cutting Dellucci in late May.
Toronto pounced, but the nearly-36-year-old went 1-for-25 and was finished as a pro.
Dave/David Dellucci debuted in 1998 Topps as one of the original Diamondbacks. He'd then be included in the 1999, 2002, 2006-07 and 2009 sets. (He really belonged in the '05 set as well.) Dellucci also shows up in 2006 Updates & Highlights.
CATEGORIES: 2006 Topps, Texas Rangers
10/21/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Topps #49 Dave Clark, Indians
More Dave Clark Topps Cards: 1989 1990 1991 1994T 1995
Forget Bryce Florie. Forget Giancarlo Stanton. Forget Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron. You can even forget Moises Alou. The most painful looking on-field incident I've ever seen was the 1995 outfield collision between RF Dave Clark and CF Jacob Brumfield of the Pirates.
The two Bucs were pursuing a fly ball from Braves SS Jeff Blauser and hit each other going at about 225 MPH. Clark went very awkwardly face-first into the outfield wall and didn't get up for almost 20 minutes. I don't do contortion well, especially with necks, and as much as I'd like to be able to present the video from that awful day on TSR, a percentage of me is grateful it is not currently available online.
Here, however, Clark is just an unproven young Cleveland Indian. He got in eight pre-summer games during the 1987 season, was sent back to the minors, then returned to MLB as a September call-up. Until taking an 0-for-4 in the season finale, Clark had been hot, going 8-for-22 with nine RBI in the preceding seven games.
THIS CARD: 1990 Topps owners: if you're overcome by deja vu at the moment, it is because Clark also is shown on his 1990 Topps card posing with two bats. His attire is identical; there's no way the two pics aren't from the same shoot.
What the knob number represents, I'm not sure—but at least it's clean, right?
Clark's #12 has since been made infamous in Cleveland by Frankie Lindor; too bad he's got one foot out of town otherwise they'd retire it for him someday. Robby Alomar also had #12 1999-2001.
(flip) Clark, a #11 overall pick out of Jackson State, was signed by Gaskill, who had a 35-year scouting career with the Expos, Mets and Indians. Gaskill passed away in 2010.
Check out those numbers for 1987 Buffalo; Clark was supposed to similarly impact the lowly Indians, but it never happened.
Of those 12 RBI for the '87 Indians, five came in one game (9/26 vs. California)
How did one team end up with two MiLB affiliates beginning with "Water"...
AFTER THIS CARD: Clark received 253 AB over 102 games for the 1989 Indians, but batted just .237; the Indians dealt him to the Cubs in November 1989. Clark was better as a part-time Cub, but was still given his walking papers after the 1990 season. He got in all of 34 MLB games 1991-92 before emerging with the 1993 Pirates.
Over the '93-'94 seasons, Clark batted .282, 21, 92 in 500 total at-bats, and was having a similar season in '95 before his horrific collision (in which his collarbone was broken). The Pirates traded Clark to the Dodgers in August 1996; he finished his career as a fine pinch-hitter for the 1997 Cubs, and a not-so-fine pinch-hitter for the 1998 Astros.
Since his playing days wrapped, Clark has remained in baseball, coaching in the minors for several years before becoming Houston's 3B coach—and soon, interim manager—in 2009. He's been a third/first base coach for the Tigers since the 2014 season.
Dave Clark appeared in Topps annually 1988-91, popping up one final time in the 1995 set. He's also got a 1994 Traded card with Pittsburgh.
CATEGORIES: 1988 Topps, Cleveland Indians
10/22/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2017 Topps #631 Zack Wheeler, Mets
More Zack Wheeler Topps Cards: 2013U 2014 2015 2016 2018 2019
I'm a Giants fan based out of San Jose, CA, as you may already know if you frequent this site.
Remember when the Giants won World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014? Me, too.
Despite the trio of trophies, you may be surprised to learn that a number of sports talk radio callers still make a point of criticizing Brian Sabean for "giving away" prospect Zack Wheeler to the Mets in 2011.
(Probably the same people who'd sue a first responder for injuries suffered during lifesaving measures, but still.)
Nevermind that Carlos Beltran, the return in the trade, played well. Nevermind that Wheeler had not yet even made his AA debut at the time of the trade. Nevermind that Wheeler took several years and one major surgery to become anything close to a star.
The criticism eased up a bit when Wheeler lost two seasons to said surgery, but once he inked a megadeal with the Phillies in December 2019 as San Francisco's own pitching regressed, there "Giants fans" were calling in with renewed condemnation.
At least I can thank them for steering me back toward music on the radio!
THIS CARD: Good action shot of Wheeler at Citi Field, though it might have been shot two seasons prior; who knows. This pic broke a string of three nearly identical Topps front images from the 2014-16 sets.
#45 on a Met instantly evokes memories of Pedro Martinez, even though he wasn't a Met for that long. Older fans remember John Franco wearing #45 from 1998-2004, and senior fans remember #45 Tug McGraw helping the '69 Mets to World Series glory. (You'd think it'd be retired in the honor of either McGraw or Franco, who combined to pitch about 57 years for the Mets.) P Michael Wacha donned #45 in 2020.
Notice in 2017 Topps how the position is placed to the left of the team logo on vertical card fronts, but is listed next to the team name on horizontal card fronts. Topps should have been consistent and kept the latter setup on ALL fronts, which is my only true "complaint" about the set.
(flip) Wheeler did not pitch for the Mets in 2015-16 after undergoing UCL surgery in March 2015. He returned to the mound for A St. Lucie in August 2016, but quickly exited with a flexor strain and was shut down for 2016.
I don't know if Wheeler was "often" brilliant in 2014, but he did have his moments, including a 1-0 shutout at Miami 6/19/14.
Smyrna, Georgia is located about 12 miles northwest of Atlanta; it's also apparently the birthplace of Julia Roberts.
AFTER THIS CARD: Wheeler did open 2017 with the Mets and from 5/9 to 6/7, was as good as anybody in the league. But then he was blasted in successive starts and went to the DL three times for three separate arm injuries. At that point, no one could guess what Wheeler could contribute over a full season.
But the 28-year-old bounced back in '18 with 12 wins and a 3.31 ERA followed by 11 wins and a 3.96 ERA in '19. Most importantly, he made a combined 60 starts, which convinced Philadelphia to dangle $118M in front of him. Wheeler responded with a very fine 2020; his 2.92 ERA ranked 8th in the NL.
Zack Wheeler debuted in 2013 Topps Update, and has appeared annually in the base set since 2014.
CATEGORIES: 2017 Topps, New York Mets
10/24/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Topps #28 Joe Orsulak, Orioles
More Joe Orsulak Topps Cards: 1987 1988T 1989 1990 1991 1992 1994 1995
In between the Dave Parker and Barry Bonds eras in Pittsburgh (1984-85), the Pirates were not very good. In fact, in 1985 they were outright miserable (104 losses). One of the few bright spots of that 1985 team, however, was the play of rookie OF Joe Orsulak.
A fearless, hustle player, Orsulak's fine debut season wasn't enough to secure long-term residency in Pittsburgh. Separate foot injuries in '87 helped keep him out of MLB, and he was traded to the Orioles that November.
On the rebuilding 1988 Orioles, there were plenty of at-bats to be had, and Orsulak re-established himself as a big leaguer. He'd patrol Baltimore's outfield for the next four seasons as well, batting between 269-.289 each year and averaging just over 400 PA. In 1991 Orsulak made a career-high 118 starts and gunned an AL-best 22 runners!
Here, Orsulak has just wrapped his final season in Baltimore. Batting over .300 well into August, a jammed thumb slowed, then sidelined the 30-year-old. But he still finished up with a team-best .289 average.
THIS CARD: When I first got into baseball, Orsulak was one of my favorite names. Maybe because it sounded like Hordak from the Masters Of The Universe franchise...I was only 10.
Orsulak confusedly looks for the sign at brand-new Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In 1992, he hit .278 with two home runs at OPCY...one of them being an 8th-inning game-decider!
A couple of noteworthy Orioles have since made #6 their own: Melvin Mora from 2000-09, and Jonathan Schoop 2013-18. In 2020 it belonged to rookie Ryan Mountcastle.
(flip) The Carolina League is Class A; Orsulak also hit a professional-best 14 home runs that year.
Orsulak tied with Tucson's Scott Loucks with those 13 triples in '83. Loucks would be a teammate of Orsulak on the 1985 Pirates.
Said wife, Adriana, passed away of brain cancer in 2004, but not before the Orsulaks had another son, Michael, who had serious health issues as well.
AFTER THIS CARD: Orsulak spent the next three seasons with the Mets, who signed him to a 1Y/$650K deal for '93 and extended him for '94-'95. 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) even as his wife battled her illness.
Next came a 2Y/$1.275M deal from the 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—given his rising age and home issues, his cold bat wasn't exactly stunning news.
The veteran received a MiLB deal from the Mets for '98, but it didn't pan out, and that was that for Orsulak in MLB.
Joe Orsulak appeared annually in Topps 1986-95, except 1988. He's got 1985 and 1988 Traded cards as well.
CATEGORIES: 1993 Topps, Baltimore Orioles
10/25/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Topps #519 Kirk Gibson, Tigers
More Kirk Gibson Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1994
Kirk Gibson was a...unique guy, to put it one way. He played the game hard, much like the former college football player he was, but in his early years was repeatedly beset by injuries, namely to his wrist. A regular (when healthy) in the Tigers outfield since 1980, by 1983 manager Sparky Anderson decided to platoon Gibson, more or less. Gibson's performance worsened as the year progressed, and he was booed at home regularly.
The veteran re-established himself in '84, finishing 6th in MVP voting and walloping a dramatic three-run home run that iced Game 5 of the 1984 World Series (won by Detroit). After the 1987 season, Gibson was declared a free agent—long story—and signed with the Dodgers. Soon after, Tigers ownership spoke out...ouch.
You probably know about Gibson's 1988 MVP award, won more for his effect on the Dodgers clubhouse than any extraordinary stats. And you surely know about the hobbled Gibson stroking one of the most famous—and least likely—home runs in history, walking off Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He remained a Dodger through 1990 before returning to the AL as a 1991 Royal.
Next came a brief and tough stint with the 1992 Pirates; Gibson briefly retired from the game that year before resurfacing with the '93 Tigers (now under new ownership). Here, the 37-year-old has turned back the clock for Detroit; his 23 HR and 72 RBI were his highest since 1988, and his .548 SLG not only led the Tigers, but surpassed Gibson's previous career high by a lot.
THIS CARD: #23 has since been retired in Detroit for Willie Horton.
As you might guess from the photo, Gibson's swing would not be described as pretty, but it worked. He was off-balance and awkward on his famous 1988 WS homer, and his '84 WS blast wasn't exactly picturesque, either.
More from Gibson's 1994 season: he got a lot of run in RF early on, played some CF at one point, but was the regular Tiger DH in the final weeks. He homered in four straight games 7/16-19...but Detroit lost three of them.
(flip) Not only did Gibson homer twice on his 37th birthday, but one year later he went deep twice on his 38th birthday!! He did not hit any other birthday home runs in his career.
As you see, Gibson was a Michigan native, one who rooted for the Tigers as a kid.
Gibson went 12th overall in 1978, and only fell that far because of concerns he'd end up playing football rather than baseball.
Seven of those 72 RBI in 1994 came in one June game, vs. the Angels.
AFTER THIS CARD: Gibson re-upped with Detroit for 1995 ($1.3M), but retired in August with 255 home runs and 284 steals over 17 seasons. When his longtime teammate and friend Alan Trammell became Detroit's manager for 2003, Gibson became his bench coach. (Both departed after the 2005 season.)
In 2007, Gibson became Bob Melvin's bench coach with the Diamondbacks, remaining in the same role under A.J. Hinch until the latter's mid-2010 firing. Gibson was elevated to manager, and led 2011 Arizona to 94 wins and first place in the NL West; they'd be eliminated by Milwaukee in the Division Series.
Under Gibson, Arizona finished at .500 in 2012-13, but the bottom fell out in 2014 and Gibson got the ax. In recent years, Gibson has battled Parkinson's Disease, but still re-enacted his 1988 WS home run as part of a 30-year anniversary celebration at Dodger Stadium in 2018.
Kirk Gibson appeared annually in Topps 1981-95, except 1993. He also appears in 1988, 1991 and 1993 Traded.
CATEGORIES: 1995 Topps, Detroit Tigers
10/27/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2012 Topps #339 Clayton Richard, Padres
More Clayton Richard Topps Cards: 2009U 2010 2011 2013 2014 2015U 2017U 2018 2019 2019U
Clayton Richard was a big guy, but blowing hitters away wasn't his game. Originally a #8 pick of the 2005 White Sox, Richard reached MLB in 2008 and got a decent amount of run with the Sox until they swapped him to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal of July 2009. San Diego put him in their rotation right away, and he held his own, going 5-2 in 12 starts.
The next year, 2010, the Padres improved by 15 victories, losing out on a division title in Game #162. Richard was right in the middle of it, winning 14 games and throwing a staff-high 201.2 innings; Richard did not surrender a lefty home run until 9/26! (Joey Votto, Reds)
Here, however, it's been a lesson in frustration for the 28-year-old. For much of 2011, his offense simply didn't support him, and in early July he hit the DL with a shoulder strain. Richard did not return to the mound that year, undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery in late July.
THIS CARD: For this date, the Randomizer originally tried to re-select 2012 Topps Update #17 Joe Smith (which we picked back in May 2020). Why I'm sharing this, who knows. My bad.
Richard fires away at an unidentified road ballpark; he brought low-to-mid-90's heat, a slider, good curveball and a fair changeup. He also sank the fastball. (Back in my MLB: The Show 2011 game, the most recent one I owned, Richard was a Cy Young contender, statistically the best pitcher in the NL, and not easy to hit at all.)
At least in his second Padres stint (2016-18), Richard's delivery featured a little "hitch", or whatever you want to call it. I don't remember if he had it back in 2011 or not, but I'm not seeing it in any of the few 2011 Richard highlights available for view.
More from Richard's 2011 season: he twice lost four consecutive starts, despite pitching decently in half of them. But he opened the year with a win and closed the year with consecutive wins, so there's that.
(flip) That has to be the largest line spacing on any card I own. And yet the bio info is cluttered.
It's hard for a major league team to provide 23 runs of support over 16 games. Then you remember the 2011 Padres' team leader in home runs was Ryan Ludwick with ELEVEN. And that no Padre besides Ludwick (64) topped 44 RBI. (The team mercifully moved Petco Park's fences in after the 2012 season.)
Not shown in the stats: Richard's 19 career pickoffs, including five in 2011.
AFTER THIS CARD: Richard bounced back in 2012 with 218 innings and a 14-14 record, but more health problems arose and he wound up out of the majors in 2014. Re-invented as a reliever for the 2015-16 Cubs, San Diego saw enough to re-acquire Richard and return him to starting.
The 33-year-old finished 2016 strong, but went 15-26, 5.03 in 59 starts over the 2017-18 seasons and was dealt to the Blue Jays in December 2018. The change of scenery didn't help Richard's performance, as he posted two quality starts out of 10 before being cut (on his birthday).
The White Sox brought Richard back on a MiLB deal for 2020, but he did not play in MLB that year and is quite possibly finished.
Clayton Richard debuted in 2009 Topps Updates & Highlights, then appeared in the base set 2010-14 and 2018-19. He's also got 2015, 2017 and 2019 Update cards.
CATEGORIES: 2012 Topps, San Diego Padres
10/28/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 2010 Topps #536 Matt Palmer, Angels
More Matt Palmer Topps Cards: 2009U
For much of the first half of 2009, folks were talking about Matt Palmer, the 30-year-old Angels rookie who couldn't lose. Originally a #31 pick of the 2002 Giants, Palmer spent seven seasons vacillating between starting and relieving in the minors before getting the call in August 2008 to sub for injured Giants SP Jonathan Sanchez.
Unfortunately, Palmer impressed no one and was cut loose after the season. The Angels picked him up, promoted him to their ravaged rotation in late April 2009, and watched him go 6-0 in his first eight starts!
THIS CARD: Beefy Palmer in action; you don't get many baseball cards with the ball just out of the pitcher's hand. He's coming with either the 86-89-MPH fastball, curve, slider, changeup, or two-seamer.
If I buy State Farm after seeing their ad on this card...does Topps get a cut? That could be the infamous brick wall at AT&T Park, where Palmer recorded a quality start no-decision on 6/17.
More from Palmer's 2009 season: after his promotion, he remained in the rotation until Kelvim Escobar was activated from the DL in June. But a week or so later that decision was reversed; Escobar lacked rotation stamina. Palmer made a few more starts, giving up six runs and finally losing on 6/22; he then gave up six more runs in his next start and was bullpen-bound.
(flip) No blurb, so I'll tell you that Palmer became the third Angels pitcher to win his first five decisions with the team (Bo Belinsky, 1962 and Jered Weaver, 2006). And that he fell just short of tying Weaver's club record of seven.
I searched...and searched...but could not find out why Palmer pitched so little for AA Norwich in 2005.
Yeah, it's A Hagerstown, but 21 hits in 52 innings in 2003?! Wow. Palmer's 25 saves that year led the South Atlantic League by quite a bit.
AFTER THIS CARD: Palmer opened 2010 with the Angels, working mostly out of the bullpen before being demoted to AAA in May. He suffered a strained shoulder while there and lost two-and-a-half months, but did return to the Angels in September and even picked up a three-inning relief win in his first game back!
In early 2011, Palmer subbed for Scott Kazmir in the Halo rotation; he had one good start and two not-good starts, and was banished to the minors for the rest of the season. From there, Palmer signed MiLB deals with the Padres, Dodgers and Mariners, but would only pitch three more major league games (with the 2012 Padres) before his pro career ended in 2014.
Matt Palmer appeared in 2009 Topps Update and 2010 Topps.
CATEGORIES: 2010 Topps, Los Angeles Angels
10/30/20 Topps Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Topps #723 Rafael Belliard, Pirates
More Rafael Belliard Topps Cards: 1987 1988 1990 1991 1991T 1992 1993 1994 1995
Here, Belliard—his era's preeminent all-glove, no-hit infielder—is coming off his third season of extended run with the Pirates. After spending several weeks of 1987 in the minors, Belliard remained on the big league roster for all of 1988; he started 92 games at SS, led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage (.977) and belted a career-best four triples.
THIS CARD: This doesn't even look like a Spring Training site. Obviously, Topps called up Belliard and asked him to meet them for a photo shoot behind the nearest barn in the area.
Pittsburgh wasted no time giving away All-Star catcher Tony Pena's number to Belliard, did it? Time marches on, I suppose. A host of others have worn #6 since Belliard, most notably Orlando Merced in the 1990's and Starling Marte for most of the 2010's.
Belliard's one of those dudes who always looked a solid 36 during his playing career, even in 1988 when he was 27.
More from Belliard's 1988 season: he enjoyed a six-game hit streak in May and an eight-gamer in July; during the latter streak, Belliard batted .419 with four multi-hit games. And most importantly, the Pirates won seven of those clashes!
(flip) Wow. We just missed selecting Belliard's card on his 59th birthday.
We may have discussed this on Belliard's previous COTD selection, but that lone 1987 home run was against San Diego's Eric Show. It was Belliard's only career jack until 1997. when he took Brian Bohanon of the Mets deep.
Of those 18 July hits, two went for extra bases (triples). Despite the aforementioned streak, Belliard batted .214 overall for the month. Which is what one would expect from him.
AFTER THIS CARD: Pittsburgh went with newcomer Jay Bell at SS for the second half of 1989; by 1990 Belliard was the 25th man on the roster and only occasionally dusted off for use. After the '90 season, Belliard moved on to Atlanta on a 2Y/$900K deal...big dollars at the time for a guy with his limited skill set.
Though he was not the clear-cut #1 shortstop, Belliard got a lot of run in his first two Atlanta years, including starting at SS throughout the 1991 postseason. But eventually, young Jeff Blauser emerged, and Belliard mostly collected splinters from 1993 on. He lasted with the Braves into the 1998 season, when a torn quad ended his career.
All in all, Belliard played in 17 MLB seasons, and has since gone on to coach for the Tigers (2006-13, under old Pirates manager Jim Leyland) and Royals (2020-).
Rafael Belliard appeared annually in Topps 1987-1995. He was included in 1996 Fleer and Collector's Choice before disappearing from major releases.
CATEGORIES: 1989 Topps, Pittsburgh Pirates