Score Baseball Card Of The Day, August 2021
SCORE Archive 2020: November/December
Click on images for larger views.
8/30/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Score #277 Mark Lee, Brewers
24-year-old Mark Lee made four garbage-time relief appearances for the Royals in September 1988, but had to wait 23 months for another big league shot. Lee did well down the stretch for the 1990 Milwaukee Brewers, and here, he's completed what would be his first and only full major league campaign.
THIS CARD: Lee was the last Brewer to wear #34 before it was retired for HOF closer Rollie Fingers.
With that expression, one might think Lee brought it at 99 MPH. He actually featured a high-80's fastball, and according to his 1992 Topps Stadium Club card—my only available source—he added a slider, curve and change as well.
More from Lee's 1991 season: after enduring some problems with the home run ball early in the season, Lee allowed just two homers from July through season's end. On 7/31, he contributed a season-high 4.1 innings of shutout relief against the Royals after Brewers SP Chris Bosio was knocked out early.
(flip) Here at TSR, we do not flagrantly disrespect anyone's physical appearance. That said, if I were a Milwaukee law enforcement official, I'd be tempted to investigate Lee for every unsolved crime in the area from 1990-91 based on this photo.
As you can see, Lee did pitch extensively for AA Memphis in 1989, but underwent shoulder surgery after that season.
That 1991 save was earned 4/17 against Baltimore; Lee allowed one hit over the final 2.1 innings.
AFTER THIS CARD: Lee did not make the 1992 Brewers out of Spring Training, and though he was recalled from AAA Denver at least twice that season, he never appeared in a game for Milwaukee. In fact, he didn't appear in MLB again until 1995 with the Orioles.
That year, 31-year-old Lee pitched 39 times after being called up by Baltimore in June; he posted a 4.86 ERA and one save. Though employed by the Braves, Mets and Rockies organizations 1996-97, Lee never escaped the minors and his pro career ended.
Mark Lee appeared in 1991-92 Score.
More August 2021 Score Cards Of The Day
8/2/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #444 Gene Larkin, Twins
After a record-setting career at Columbia, 1B Gene Larkin became a Twin in the 1984 Draft and promptly continued to rake in the minors (including a .321, 15, 106 line for AA Orlando in '86). Problem was, the Twins already had Kent Hrbek, an All-Star first baseman who, barring assassination, wasn't going anywhere.
So when Larkin reached Minnesota in 1987, he found most of his at-bats as a DH. He managed one hit in the postseason that year but made it count—Larkin's pinch-hit RBI double against the Tigers gave the Twins needed insurance in Game 4 of the ALCS.
Larkin started 141 games for the 1988 Twins, split between DH and 1B, and by 1989 he was getting extended run in RF as well. Though Larkin never approached the offensive impact he enjoyed as a prospect, he became a valuable part-timer for the Kirby Puckett-era Twins—never more valuable than when he won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series with a long drive off Atlanta's Alejandro Pena.
Here, we catch up with the 30-year-old after a disappointing close to his 1992 season. Larkin managed to slash just .237/.271/.327 after the Break, with a single home run—and that's including his combined 5-for-7, five-RBI explosion vs. Seattle September 7-8.
THIS CARD: Larkin chugging down to first base. He was not exceptionally fast but he ran the bases well and had no problem getting physical with a fielder.
It's debatable who'd win a vote for best #9 in Twins history: OF Mickey Hatcher, Larkin, or All-Star IF Eduardo Nunez. But it was bench coach Steve Liddle who had it longest (2002-12).
More from Larkin's 1992 season: he was much more effective at home (.261/.326/.418, five of his six home runs) than on the road. Despite his overall unimpressive numbers, Larkin batted .351 in May and .367 vs. the division rival White Sox in '92.
(flip) It took some time to figure out who Larkin resembled, but I think I got it: the love child of Drew Brees and Ronald Reagan. Feel free to tell me I'm insane.
Hrbek was out early in the season with a separated shoulder.
It is ironic—and/or creepy—the Randomizer picked this card when it did. In our Videos section, we recently posted the famous 3-2-3 double play Minnesota turned to escape a late jam in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series—which, of course, preceded Larkin's 10th-inning heroics.
AFTER THIS CARD: Achilles trouble led to three DL stints for Larkin in 1993, and he underwent September surgery. Still, Minnesota re-signed him to a MiLB deal for 1994, but he didn't make the team and his MLB career ended at 31.
Gene Larkin appeared in 1988-94 Score.
8/6/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Score #802 John Russell, Rangers
It took pulling John Russell's baseball card for 10-year-old me to realize there can be two unrelated dudes with the same last name on a team. No, young Skillz, Dave and Rickey Henderson were not cousins or brothers. Nor were Lee or Ozzie Smith. Nor were John and Jeff Russell. Yeah, the Griffeys were a thing and so were the Ripkens...but that was not common in pro sports.
It also took pulling John Russell's baseball card for 10-year-old me to realize that just because Topps excluded a dude from a set didn't mean he was some schmoe. Back in the junk wax era, veterans like Russell often appeared in sets even when off the radar the year before, but in 1990 he did not, so I just dismissed him as "some guy" when he had actually once been a pretty decent starting big league catcher.
Here, Russell has just completed his first season (1990) with the Texas Rangers. The former Phillies receiver fared decently with the bat in his first AL go-round, recording his highest average in six seasons. But base thieves abused him (26 of 28).
THIS CARD: Russell may not have been a gifted hitter, but here, his swing looks damn near flawless. His home/road splits were pretty even in 1990, save for homers (both of them were hit on the road).
Russell makes his Score debut here; it seems only Donruss bothered to produce a 1990 card of Russell the Atlanta Brave, even though he got a good amount of run for them in '89.
Though listed as a catcher, let it be known Russell also started at least once in LF and at 1B in 1990, and for a time he also platooned with future Hall-of-Famer Harold Baines at DH—not sure why manager Bobby Valentine would do that, but hey.
More from Russell's 1990 season: he was called up in May to serve as the third catcher, but he started 11 games in one June span of 18 days. On 7/28, in addition to catching all 13 innings at Toronto, Russell's RBI double broke a scoreless tie in the T8th!
(flip) Could you imagine the 2021 Giants cutting Curt Casali, and then finding him painting somebody's house the following week to make ends meet? Things have DRAMATICALLY changed in baseball, for the better in cases like Russell's.
As you see in the stats, Russell was once the Phillies' primary catcher. He'd opened that 1986 season in a platoon with Darren Daulton, but then Daulton was obliterated at home plate and the regular job went to Russell. (And no, I'm confident he didn't arrange the "hit".)
Score doesn't mention that Russell went deep (in the T2nd off Oakland's Scott Sanderson) to support Ryan's effort...weird.
AFTER THIS CARD: Russell spent parts of the next three seasons with the Rangers, signing a series of one-year deals and accruing 47 games total (Texas cut and re-signed Russell twice during the 1993 season alone). A brief go with AAA Louisville (Cardinals) in 1994 brought Russell's pro playing career to an end at 33.
Russell then kicked off a MiLB managerial career that ended with his kind-of promotion to 3B coach of the Pirates 2003-05. Though fired from that role, Russell was eventually hired as manager by those same Pirates—only to be fired again after going 186-299 from 2008-10. He resurfaced as 3B/bench coach of the Orioles 2011-18.
John Russell appeared in 1991-92 Score.
8/10/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Score #507 Aaron Ledesma, Mets
Here's what a popular publication had to say about Ledesma a few years into his career:
"Ledesma doesn't have much power, he doesn't have much speed, or any other extraordinary skills. But he hits the ball hard."
Despite his other shortcomings, Ledesma did do a decent job hitting major league baseballs for a couple of years in the late 1990's. But here, he's just a Mets prospect fresh off a six-week major league audition. The 24-year-old was called up from AAA Norfolk in late June when Bill Spiers went on the disabled list, and sent back down in mid-August.
THIS CARD: This photo almost looks like it was shot in the 1960's, doesn't it? Or even a bit like a portrait? Ledesma has a look that translates to just about any Mets period.
Ledesma is listed as a SS on the front, and a 3B on the back. However, for both Norfolk and New York, Ledesma got the overwhelming majority of his run at 3B...SS didn't need to be listed at all.
More from Ledesma's 1995 season: he was seldom used by New York during his six weeks there. His final 10 at-bats, all hitless, were spread out over three weeks! The Mets did him a favor by returning him to Norfolk.
(flip) Union City? Ledesma is a Bay Area kid! That city is just about 15-20 minutes south of the Oakland Coliseum.
The blurb sort of explains why Ledesma was listed at two different positions. But would a 2016 Joe Mauer card list him as a C on the front and a 1B on the back?
That first major league hit was against Reds SP John Smiley on 7/2/1995. Ledesma was pinch-hitting for RP Eric Gunderson in the B8th inning.
Ledesma does NOT look like the same guy in both photos. He almost resembles Tom Glavine on the reverse.
AFTER THIS CARD: Ledesma was traded to the Angels in January 1996, and didn't return to MLB until 1997. That year, he went 31-for-88 (.352) for the Baltimore Orioles and hit the only two homers of his MLB career! Toward the end of the 1997 Expansion Draft, Ledesma was selected by the Devil Rays.
Used all over the diamond by Tampa Bay in 1998, Ledesma hit .324—sixth-highest in the AL among those with 300+ PA—in 95 games. But he fell to .265 with no homers in almost exactly the same amount of playing time in 1999, and the D-Rays gave him up in the Vinny Castilla trade of December 1999.
With Colorado, Ledesma got in 32 games (25 as a PH) before being DFA'd in mid-June 2000. He finished that season with AAA Colorado Springs, underwent 2001 back surgery, then toiled in the Independent League 2002-03 before ending his playing career at 32. Ledesma did resurface five years later managing and coaching in MiLB, but as far as I can tell he's long removed from pro baseball as of today.
Aaron Ledesma appeared in 1996 Score. He didn't get much love from any of the major card companies but Fleer and Pacific cards exist featuring Ledesma the Devil Ray.
8/14/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #429 Tim Naehring, Red Sox
He is largely forgotten today, but Tim Naehring was a solid shortstop and later, third baseman, for the Red Sox in the mid-1990's. In fact, if you check back through Boston's 1995 division-winning roster, you'll see Naehring was (a close) second on the team in walks and (an even closer) second on the team in batting average!
Naehring was a #8 pick by Boston in 1988, and he wasted little time reaching the majors, receiving brief looks at SS in 1990 and 1991. Naehring spent almost all of 1992 in Boston, finding time at SS, 2B, 3B and even a couple of innings in LF! Though hitting just .191 when a sprained wrist shelved him for August; Naehring batted .340 after returning!
Here, Naehring is coming off a bittersweet 1993 season. On the one hand, his Spring battle for Boston's 2B job was lost when shoulder surgery KO'd him until August. But on the other hand, he likely played his way into a 1994 job with an absolutely unconscious September burst.
THIS CARD: Naehring played at Cleveland 9/10-12/1993, and I'm guessing that's either Wayne Kirby or Reggie Jefferson being tagged. Whoever it is looks out to me.
In all four games of that Cleveland set (9/10 was a doubleheader), Naehring started at a different position—3B, SS, 2B and DH, respectively. So this image is from 9/10 Game 2 or 9/11.
More from Naehring's 1993 season: he started slow with the bat after coming off the DL, but then went 30-for-63 (.476) from 9/10 thru 9/26. In one stretch he recorded eight multi-hit games out of 10!
(flip) That 13-game hit streak went down as Naehring's second-longest ever (tie). He enjoyed an 18-gamer in 1996.
Much of the blurb was covered above, so I'll just expand on Naehring's versatility: in 1993 he started 30 games, split almost evenly among 2B, 3B and DH with a couple of starts at SS mixed in. Not sure why he's listed only as a 2B when he was never just a 2B in the majors. (FYI Naehring was almost exclusively a SS in the minors.)
It shouldn't be possible for an AAA city 3,000 miles away printed on a baseball card to evoke nostalgia in a guy who's never once been within 200 miles of it (or even seen a televised game there). But for three decades Pawtucket had been such a consistent presence in my baseball world...sometimes I still can't believe it's been replaced by "Wooster" (Worcester).
AFTER THIS CARD: Naehring was healthy enough to start 78 games across five positions in 1994, and obliterated all of his numeric career highs. One season later he became Boston's regular 3B, and established even newer career highs while batting .307 in 126 games!
In 1996, Naehring lost time with hamstring and knee injuries but still batted .288 with 17 homers, earning a 2Y/$5.5M extension in December. Sadly, he was unable to recover his arm strength following elbow surgery in 1997, and his MLB career ended at 30.
Naehring remained in baseball, working for his hometown Reds before moving on to the Yankees, for whom he scouted before a promotion to VP of Baseball Operations in 2015.
Tim Naehring appeared in 1991-98 Score.
8/18/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #160 Greg Vaughn, Brewers
You can't do a complete retrospective on 1990's baseball without mentioning the moonshots off the bat of Greg Vaughn. He was a big, strong fella, and he might have broken Statcast if he came along 15 years later than he did.
Vaughn had bigger statistical years with the Padres and Reds later on, but he made his name as an eight-year Milwaukee Brewer. He left Milwaukee 5th on their all-time home run list (now 8th) and had he maintained his pre-trade pace, his .571 SLG in 1996 would rank as their 5th-best by a RHH ever.
Here, Vaughn has just closed his third season as the Brewers' primary LF. He started 130 games and homered nearly twice as much as any other Brewer, keeping him in the lineup despite a .228 average.
THIS CARD: Vaughn looks VERY relaxed and nonchalant for a guy about to attack a major-league pitch. As with most high-strikeout sluggers, he took a very healthy cut and never shortened up with two strikes that I saw.
No doubt about it: Vaughn is the best #23 in Brewers history, though for a time it appeared Rickie Weeks would stake that claim in the early 2010's. Pre-Vaughn, Hall-of-Fame C Ted Simmons repped Milwaukee in two All-Star Games with #23 on his back.
More from Vaughn's 1992 season: he homered and drove home five runs against Toronto 8/19, and on 5/22 his solo HR off Yankees RP Rich Monteleone broke a 9-9 tie in the 10th and led to a Milwaukee victory!
(flip) "Lone source of power" is absolute truth; the only other 1992 Brewer with double-digit home runs was Paul Molitor (12). The Phil Garner-led squad used speed like the 1980's Cardinals reborn, swiping 256 bases—75 more than any other Brewers team ever—en route to 92 wins.
Note Vaughn's 15 SB for the 1992 Brewers—not bad, until you realize he was also caught 15 times. Vaughn cleaned that up going forward (93 for 130, 72% for the rest of his career).
Vaughn was drafted, but not signed, four times before going #4 overall to the Brewers in 1986 and becoming that minor league sensation. Not shown on this card: his .305, 33, 105 line for A Beloit in 1987.
AFTER THIS CARD: Vaughn made his first All-Star team in 1993 (.267, 30, 97) but was brought back to more ordinary numbers 1994-95 as he battled shoulder, ribcage and hamstring injuries. However, he was on his way to contending for AL MVP in 1996 when the Brewers swapped him to playoff-bound San Diego; Vaughn finished that season a combined .260, 41, 117 and made his second All-Star squad.
Despite that performance and a 3Y/$15M extension signed in February 1997, he was platooned and nearly traded that year until a rotator cuff tear was discovered. Vaughn remained a Padre and blasted 50 homers in 1998, leading SD to its only World Series to date! Cincinnati capped its busy 1998-99 off-season by acquiring the now-superstar from the thrifty Padres; Vaughn blasted 45 more HRs en route to a second straight 4th-place NL MVP finish.
Next: a 4Y/$34M deal from the Devil Rays. Vaughn's numbers during his first two Rays seasons were closer to those from his early Brewers days—in other words, good but not spectacular as in 1998-99, though he was still a 2001 AL All-Star. Another shoulder injury shortened an absolutely miserable 2002 campaign, and his career ended after 37 at-bats with the 2003 Rockies (who signed him after his Spring Training 2003 release by Tampa).
Greg Vaughn appeared in 1990-97 Score.
8/22/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Score #549 Mike Boddicker, Red Sox
Boddicker was a 16-game winner for the World Champion 1983 Orioles, and followed that up with 20 more victories in '84. But by 1988, Boddicker had slipped a bit and Baltimore was absolutely wretched, so he was moved to Boston at the Deadline.
The durable righty was everything the Red Sox could have hoped for; he went 7-3, 2.63 down the stretch and fired a shutout at Cleveland 9/29 to clinch at least a tie for the AL East title (which Boston soon won).
THIS CARD: Boddicker lets one loose at Fenway Park, where he went 5-1 after joining the Red Sox.
We are seeing Boddicker fire either his high-80's fastball, his fine curve, or his "foshball", a type of changeup that broke away from lefties. Boddicker also used multiple arm angles, at least two of which are depicted on his Score cards. All-Star OF/DH Don Baylor once compared Boddicker's style to that of Luis Tiant.
(flip) It is a total coincidence we're presenting this card on the eve of Boddicker's 64th birthday.
Boddicker's 6-12 record as a 1988 Oriole was accompanied by a respectable 3.86 ERA. As I said, that team was wretched. (So are this year's Orioles.)
That postseason shutout against the White Sox evened the ALCS at 1-1. Boddicker threw 140 pitches!
AFTER THIS CARD: Boddicker's contract was extended through 1990 and he added 32 more wins for the Red Sox before signing a 3Y/$9M deal with the Royals in November 1990.
Boddicker posted a both decent and disappointing 12-12, 4.08 line for the 1991 Royals, then was demoted to swingman during a challenging 1992 season. In April 1993, the Royals sold Boddicker to the Brewers, for whom he made 10 starts (3-5, 5.67) before retiring in June just shy of 36.
With a 134-116, 3.80 career ledger and election to the Orioles Hall of Fame, it's fair to say Boddicker had a pretty good career.
Mike Boddicker appeared in 1988-92 Score.
8/26/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #271 Derek Bell, Astros
The talented Bell not only torpedoed his future career, but also diminished his (fine) past career with his infamous "Operation Shutdown" in Spring Training 2002, but we here at TSR will try to shine light on Bell the player rather than Bell the interview subject. Because in the second half of the 1990's, Bell—when healthy—was among the league's better run producers for some good Astros teams.
Here, Bell has just closed his second season with the Astros. After (sort of) contending for a batting title in 1995, Bell followed up by finishing second (or tied for second) on the Astros in RBI, HR, 2B and SB in 1996.
THIS CARD: Most of Bell's Score cards featured exciting front images; this is an exception. Whenever this image was taken, chances are Bell was Houston's cleanup hitter—he batted almost exclusively 4th for Houston until some mid-September shuffling.
The patch on Bell's sleeve? One commemorating 35 years of Colt .45's/Astros baseball.
More from Bell's 1996 season: he drove in eight runs in a three-game series against the Reds April 19-21. And on 4/21, his three-run HR in the B8th off Jeff Brantley sank Cincinnati (though his error in the T9th helped them get a run back).
(flip) Though Bell's 1996 average fell 71 points from 1995, it should be noted he began the year hot (.324 through 5/9) before leveling off.
Of those 155 games started, 154 were in RF (with one in CF). Bell had played mostly CF with the Padres and split time in CF and RF during his first Astros season.
That "Trade from Padres" was the infamous 12-man deal that also included 3B Ken Caminiti and OF's Steve Finley and Phil Plantier. I used to be able to name all 12 "participants" from memory, but after discovering alcohol, having a child and turning 41, that is no longer possible.
AFTER THIS CARD: Bell, after an ordinary 1997, broke through with a .314, 22, 108 line for the division-winning Astros. But he slumped so badly in 1999 that he wasn't playing by season's end; that, coupled with his rising salary, led to his inclusion in the Mike Hampton trade (to the Mets) in December 1999.
Bell had a decent year for the NL Champion 2000 Mets and was rewarded with a 2Y/$8M deal from the Pirates that December. But he hit .173 in 46 games in 2001 and was not promised a job for 2002, leading to his "Shutdown" and divorce from Pittsburgh. He never played MLB again.
Derek Bell appeared in 1992-97 Score.