Score Baseball Card Of The Day, December 2021

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I own every Score card ever made (1988-98) and still lament their parent company, Pinnacle, going bankrupt during my senior year of high school. 

Time has not diminished the detailed blurbs and awesome photography that was Score baseball, however. I've long done a Topps Card Of The Day feature on this site and have now decided to add Score to the mix on days a Topps card is not profiled. This company, defunct or not, deserves appreciation from collectors past and present—shoot, maybe a new generation of card enthusiasts will become enamored with Score as I did.

(We will not be presenting any Score Rookies & Traded cards; I never collected them because they were too different from the base sets.)

 

Click on images for larger views.

Score Marquis Grissom
Score Marquis Grissom

12/28/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #188 Marquis Grissom, Indians

The year was 2005. Marquis Grissom was a few games into his third season with my Giants. Late in a tie game against Colorado, Grissom drove one deep to LF that bounced off the literal top of the wall and over it for a walk-off home run. 

Yet the celebration wasn't quite what it could and should have been, because too many in attendance failed to realize that type of bounce counts as a home run. It's not like the NBA, where a ball off the top of the backboard means out-of-bounds. There WAS still plenty cheering from the sizable SF crowd, but it may as well have been punctuated with a question mark.

That play, and helping expose fellow Giants OF Ruben Rivera as the game's worst all-time baserunner in 2003, is what I personally remember Marquis Grissom for. Good teams followed him around; he was a pivotal member of the 1994 Expos, the World Champion 1995 Braves, the AL Champion 1997 Indians, and a 2003 Giants team that won 100 games.

Here, we look back on that lone year Grissom spent with Cleveland. His regular-season production was well beneath his 1996 levels, but he made up for it in the Postseason—even winning the ALCS MVP award!

THIS CARD: Grissom didn't have what anyone would describe as an artful swing, but it got him over 2,200 career hits, didn't it? Grissom hit .255, 5, 31 in 69 games at "The Jake" in 1997; he hit leadoff for most of the first four-plus months, but eventually was dropped to the eight and nine holes.

Cleveland got Grissom (and Dave Justice) from Atlanta when it decided to move incumbent CF Kenny Lofton, who was due to hit free agency after the '97 campaign. Lofton, of course, returned to Cleveland 1998-2001 and again in 2007—obviously, management's appreciation of Lofton grew after watching Grissom struggle to fill his shoes as a leadoff man.

More from Grissom's 1997 season: though his numbers were significantly down, he did have his moments in '97, such as an 11-game hit streak from late June into July. The streak kicked off with a 5-for-6, three-RBI effort at the Yankees, and after it ended, Grissom immediately went 7-for-10 with two doubles and two homers across a two-game series...also at Yankee Stadium!

(flip) Did I ever mention how much I LOVE the splits 1998 Score introduced? It would have been rather enjoyable for avid collectors like myself to watch further innovations from the company as the 2000's arrived...

Geez, I don't remember Grissom claiming FOUR Gold Gloves. I would have guessed two, especially since Darren Lewis and Steve Finley existed during those years.

Really? In 1997, Grissom was signed through 2002? Apparently, he agreed to a 5Y/$25M extension with Cleveland in May 1997. I have no memory of that, either. Have I MET Grissom and forgotten that, too? Sheesh.

Those 266 steals—13 more than Andre Dawson—will forever remain second in Expos history. If you choose to include Nats totals as well, only Trea Turner (192 steals) has even semi-sniffed Grissom's total.

AFTER THIS CARD: Seven months after giving Grissom $25M, the Indians gave him to the Brewers (a return of Ron Villone, Jeff Juden and damaged goods Ben McDonald for someone with Grissom's pedigree is a giveaway), who employed him through the 2000 season. His best Milwaukee campaign was probably 1999, when he homered 20 times and swiped 24 bags.

In 2001, the 34-year-old joined the Dodgers. By then he played part-time and seldom ran, but he did jack 38 balls out of the park in 2001-02. After five years out of the Postseason, Grissom signed a 2Y/$4.25M deal with the defending NL Champion Giants in December 2002.
In 2003-04, Grissom resumed regular play and was one of the hugest bargains in the game; his contract option for 2005 was exercised. But the veteran CF slipped so badly in '05 that he was released in early August—ending his career at 38.

Marquis Grissom appeared in 1990-98 Score.

More December 2021 Score Cards Of The Day

Score David West
Score David West

12/4/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #156 David West, Phillies

Cats may be the only mammals with nine lives, but tall left-handed pitchers who throw relatively hard are right behind them with about seven or so. Case in point: David West, the big lefty of the late-80's Twins who—despite trying very hard sometimes—just couldn't pitch himself out of Major League Baseball.

West, originally a Mets prospect who joined the Twins in the 1989 Frank Viola trade, struggled with health and consistency throughout his three-and-a-half years in Minnesota. Still, the team gave him 27 starts in 1990 and was prepared to offer more if West could just A) stay in the strike zone, and B) stay off the disabled list. That didn't happen, and eventually West landed with the Phillies...for whom he absolutely excelled as a full-time reliever in 1993.

THIS CARD: They just don't use images like this anymore. No, really, they don't—bring back the shots of players just chillaxin' on the field, card companies!

Is it just me, or does this shot of West evoke a memory or two of the late Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig? Don't even answer...I know it's just me.

More from West's 1993 season: he battled through a rough June (7.43) and October (17.18) but was otherwise as rock-solid as any lefty reliever around. He earned his first save in a wild 11-inning, 11-10 win at the Cubs 4/18, then nailed down save #2 with 1.1 innings against Montreal 5/23.

(flip) I'd bet my entire card collection that the word "desultory" doesn't appear on any of them besides this one.

One publication described West's delivery as such: "(the ball) seems to come out of his uniform." In addition to the low-90's fastball and curve, West also attacked with a slider.

West is listed at 240 here, but I can promise you he did not weigh 240 come playoff time.

AFTER THIS CARD: West opened 1994 in relief—why mess with a good thing—until gaping holes in the Philadelphia rotation led them to convert West back to starter. He went 4-6, 3.16 in 14 starts to close the '94 season, but underwent major shoulder surgery after eight starts in 1995.

Expected to be out until 1997 (if not forever), West returned to the mound in late 1996 and gave the Phils four decent-or-better starts out of six total. He pitched for Daiei of the Japan League in 1997, endured a brief, rough go as a Red Sox reliever in 1998, then faded away from pro baseball at 34.

 

David West appeared annually in Score 1989-94, except 1993.

Score Jim Walewander
Score Jim Walewander

12/8/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Score #311 Jim Walewander, Tigers

Walewander, known as much for his, uh, unique personality as for anything he did on the diamond, has just completed his second season (1988) with the Detroit Tigers. He didn't hit much, but his speed off the bench and steady glove at 2B led Sparky Anderson to play him 88 times. Much of that came in September, when Walewander took over for injured (you won't believe HOW) Lou Whitaker as Detroit's regular 2B.

THIS CARD: Fitting to see Walewander on the move here; he was used as a pinch-runner 20 times in 1988, most of that early in the season before he was needed more frequently as a starter. (His opportunities also may have also dwindled due to being picked off three times in 1988.)

More from Walewander's 1988 season: he went 3-for-3 with a run scored in a 5-4 win over Cleveland 6/12. Overall, he batted 8-for-21 (.381) in June before a puzzling 2-for-27 (.074) showing in July.

(flip) Walewander is listed as an infielder, but he only played 54 innings at SS/3B as opposed to 460+ at 2B in 1988. Score could have gotten away with a "2B" designation.

How off-beat was Walewander? He got his own SI article once. 

Through the years, #32 in Detroit has hung in many lockers, but no one has really done much wearing the number (although Jose Lima would long after leaving Detroit). Michael Fulmer, once on the track to stardom as a SP but now reinvented as a RP, has worn it since 2016.

AFTER THIS CARD: Walewander, for all his eccentricities, simply was not a good major league baseball player; though he got loads of MiLB run after 1988, he only saw glimpses of MLB action (12 games with the '90 Yankees and nine more with the '93 Angels). Walewander's pro career ended after the '94 season.

Jim Walewander appeared in 1988-89 Score.

Score Armando Benitez
Score Armando Benitez

12/12/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #170 Armando Benitez, Orioles

When he wore the other Orange And Black from 2005-07, Armando Benitez received precious little love from the fan base—less than just about any other Giant during my 31 years following the team. In other words, Giants fans couldn't stand him and eventually booed him out of town. Even my then-girlfriend, a casual fan at best, would groan upon laying eyes on him.

That was not how it was supposed to go for 2004's top NL closer, who was so dominant that year he was signed to a 3Y/$21M deal by my Giants in   2004—in those days, a LOT of cash for the Giants to throw at a closer. Hey, it wasn't the first time a free agent closer bombed by the Bay (Dave Righetti) and it wouldn't be the last (Mark Melancon).

But here, Benitez is still just a pup, one armed with a triple-digit fastball and legit comparisons to future Hall-of-Famer Lee Smith. Groomed as Baltimore's closer-of-the-future pretty much from the day he signed, Benitez spent 1997 setting up—and setting up well—for All-Star closer Randy Myers.

THIS CARD: Benitez wore #49 his whole career save for 2003 with the Yankees (where it's retired for Ron Guidry) and 2008 with the Blue Jays (where, evidently, RP Jeremy Accardo couldn't be bought).

I'm not great at identifying grips, but even my mom could tell you Benitez is firing his vaunted splitter here. He also featured a slider to go with the gas.

More from Benitez's 1997 season: though for the second straight year he served up a pivotal postseason home run (technicalities aside), Benitez was often dominant. On 4/4, all five outs he recorded were via K in a save over Texas. He saved three games in a week while Myers was either unavailable or burned prior to extra innings, and he allowed just two regular-season home runs from 6/14 on.

(flip) Benitez's 13 K/9 set an Orioles record (40 IP) that still stands, though Tanner Scott came very close to breaking it in 2018.

I personally wish BAA appeared on every baseball card. This was Score's first and last year using it, unfortunately.

Benitez did become Baltimore's closer in 1998, but all anybody remembers him doing that year is this.

AFTER THIS CARD: We've pretty much told you everything already, save for Benitez's Mets tenure where he saved 160 games 1999-2003, including 84 from 2000-01 alone—though Benitez was nice enough to allow a B9th, three-run, game-tying, earth-shaking homer to J.T. Snow of my Giants in the 2000 NLDS. It was after an unsettled 2003 season split between the Mets, Yankees and Mariners that the veteran closer exploded for a league-high 47 saves for the '04 Marlins.

Following Benitez's Giants stint, he returned to the Marlins to close 2007, then ended his MLB career with eight mostly uninspiring appearances for the 2008 Blue Jays. Benitez was an enigma, even a jerk at times, but he pitched 15 more big league seasons than the average person. Which I GUESS counts for something.

 

Armando Benitez appeared in 1995-98 Score.

Score Mike Fetters
Score Mike Fetters

12/16/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #420 Mike Fetters, Brewers

For a period in the mid-1990's, Mike Fetters was one of the better closers in the American League...and certainly one of the more fun guys to watch. Originally a California Angel, Fetters got long looks in their bullpen but didn't impress, and was traded to Milwaukee in December 1991.

Here, Fetters has just shut the door on Year One in the Brewers' bullpen. The team didn't really know what to expect from Fetters after his shaky 1991 showing with the Angels, but he turned in a 1.87 ERA over 50 outings and cut his WHIP by literally almost 50% from 1991!

THIS CARD: That's #36 partially concealed by Fetters' left arm. After he left Milwaukee in 1997, the number was only worn by players twice (2002 Wayne Franklin, 2010 Lorenzo Cain) in the next 22 years. This is because coaches such as Mike Maddux and Jerry Narron were hogging it.

Fetters is one of those guys who seemed fat, but really wasn't. In fact, he's legitimately lean in this pic, which Score had no reason to doctor.

More from Fetters' 1992 season: through 7/5, he'd allowed one ER all season, and if you disregard a five-run drubbing in his two-inning season finale, Fetters' season ERA was 1.19! On 5/22, he threw four perfect innings in a 14-inning win at Yankee Stadium—one Milwaukee trailed 9-3 at one point.

(flip) Henry served as Milwaukee's primary closer in 1992, with the others providing setup relief. Fetters eventually took Henry's job in 1994.

It appears we just missed posting this on Fetters' 57th birthday. Shout out, Mike.

I was going to look up where Fetters' 1992 ERA ranked among his peers, but Score beat me to it. Anything to save me a little research is HIGHLY appreciated right now.

AFTER THIS CARD: Fetters took over as Brewers closer in late May 1994, and held the role through 1996. He was traded twice in one day 12/8/1997, setting forth his ride as a full-fledged, card-carrying MLB journeyman. Oakland, the Angels again, Baltimore, the Dodgers, Pittsburgh (where he briefly closed again), Arizona twice and Minnesota all requested the services of Fetters, who underwent UCL surgery in 2003 and ended his career in Spring Training 2005 at 40.

Fetters joined Arizona's staff as a quality control coach in 2013 before being elevated to bullpen coach in 2017.

Mike Fetters appeared in 1991-94 Score; no clue why they stopped featuring him AFTER he became a top closer.

Score Mark Davidson
Score Mark Davidson

12/20/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Score #570 Mark Davidson, Twins

While on the farms, Mark Davidson—not to be confused with modern-day big leaguer Matt Davidson—resembled a star in the making, but under the bright lights of the big cities, Davidson just couldn't get on track for very long. I'm not sure he even classifies as a "4A" player, because even his minor league success was fleeting.

Here, the young Minnesota Twin has stuck around all of 1987, mostly as a PR/DR. While Kirby Puckett was not exactly looking over his shoulder, Davidson did enjoy a decent (if powerless) campaign—and even got an at-bat in the 1987 World Series!

THIS CARD: On the road in 1987, Davidson hit .279 with his lone homer of the year. He was a .256 hitter at the Metrodome.

The partially-obscured uniform number is #27. Other Twins to wear #27 over the years include David Ortiz and (until 2006) Justin Morneau. Young C Ryan Jeffers wore #27 in 2021.

(flip) You'll notice Davidson is listed as an OF/DH and even mentioned as one in the blurb. This is despite the minor fact Davidson did not DH even once during the 1987 season. In fact, no offense to Mr. Davidson, but the DH rule was created to prevent guys like him from batting. 

Holy Rick Wilkins! That 25-homer season for AA Orlando in 1985 helped and hurt Davidson all at once. He went from that to 36 total XBH in six major league seasons.

Davidson's reputation must have preceded him, because even with a fair amount of run he only threw out eight runners in his MLB career. 

AFTER THIS CARD: Davidson spent most of 1988 with the Twins in a similar role as '87, but his average dropped to .217 and he was traded to Houston in May 1989 (for a failed prospect). He only got in 33 games as an '89 Astro.

 

Davidson then split 1990 between Houston and AAA Tucson, batting .292 for the Astros. He spent all of 1991 with the Astros in a reserve role despite batting .190, but his career ended upon failing to escape Cleveland's AAA teams in 1992-93. (Former Astros teammate Kenny Lofton couldn't have put in a good word???)

Mark Davidson appeared in 1988, 1989 and 1992 Score.

Score Kimera Bartee
Score Kimera Bartee

12/24/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #166 Kimera Bartee, Tigers

The Rule V (Five) Draft, in principle, exists to give dudes who are buried in the minor leagues a shot at MLB—a shot that they were unlikely to get otherwise. The majority of dudes selected turn out to be average-to-below-average major leaguers at best, though once in a while a Johan Santana is plucked from the Astros system.

In the case of some, like ex-Tiger Kimera Bartee, the Rule V Draft can change their entire future. Bartee, a 1995 Rule V Draft pick by Baltimore who later joined the Tigers via waivers, was only a fringe major league player as it turned out. But he turned out to be an excellent major league coach for many years, an opportunity not nearly as likely to present itself had Bartee never elevated past AAA.

Here, Bartee has just spent all of '96 with Detroit, as per Rule V Draft Pick rules (they carry over to any new team the player joins). Used mostly as speed/defense off the bench, Bartee largely held his own in MLB. On 4/20 he recorded his first MLB hit (an oppo single off California's Jason Grimsley) and he went 5-for-9 in a three-game August series against the White Sox.

THIS CARD: This card is not a random selection. We're presenting it in memory of Bartee, who passed away 12/20/2021 from a brain tumor, age 49. Bartee was set to enter his second season as Tigers first base coach in 2022.

This has been one of my all-time favorite cards ever since I acquired it in 1997. The only problem I have with it is not being able to identify Bartee's pal, even with help from the World Wide Web. It certainly isn't a fellow Tigers player, but what opponent would be so chummy with a Rule V rookie?

More from Bartee's 1996 season: he started 65 games, almost all of them in CF, and played just about every day in September. He was batting .310 through 8/2, but finished in a .215 slump over his final 46 games. On 8/24, he led off with a homer off KC's Jose Rosado, his only homer of the season (the Royals still won 9-2).

(flip) White Sox prospect Essex Burton led the Carolina League with 66 steals in 1994. Bartee was actually tied with some Johnny Damon guy for second place.

Curtis wasn't traded necessarily to make room for Bartee; he was a high-salaried veteran who wasn't exactly beloved by everyone in his orbit. The Dodgers needed him more than Detroit did.

Yes! The Orioles thought SO MUCH of Kimera that they waived him shortly after re-acquiring him. You ever heard of a guy getting cut because he was too GOOD at baseball?

AFTER THIS CARD: Bartee only played 12 games with the 1997 Tigers, who'd acquired the more established Brian L. Hunter to play CF over the winter. Bartee was able to get in 98 more games with the 1998-99 Tigers, much of it off the bench; he'd broken through with a .286/.344/.442 slashline and 12 homers for AAA Toledo in 1999, but couldn't get hot in his limited opportunities with Detroit.

 

Released prior to the 2000 season, Bartee played 11 games with the 2000 Reds and 12 more with the 2001 Rockies, but went a combined 0-for-15 with seven K. That was it for Bartee as a big league player, though he spent 2002 with AAA Iowa (Cubs) and 2003-04 in the Independent League. 

 

Bartee went on to coach in the Pittsburgh organization, spending three years as the Pirates 1B coach 2017-19. He'd coached in the Phillies system in 2020 before joining the Tigers as 1B coach for 2021.

A lot of folks had good to say about Bartee in the wake of his passing.

Kimera Bartee appeared in 1997 Score.