Score Baseball Card Of The Day, February 2023
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2/25/23 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Score #181 Dale Sveum, Brewers
Young Skillz, for a short time, was fascinated by then-Brewers SS Dale Sveum. All because A) once upon a time he hit 25 homers in a season, and B) he missed an entire season with a broken leg. I could only assume that the only reason Sveum was not considered one of the best shortstops in the game by the time I became an MLB fan was because of the broken leg (which was suffered in a collision with teammate OF Darryl Hamilton 9/3/1988).
I am now wiser and realize that—in spite of his 1987 effort—at no point was Sveum considered upper-echelon to anyone besides Young Skillz; in fact, after he returned from his leg injury, he was often an offensive liability (.225/.300/.360 from 1990-99) and admittedly lost two steps in the field. Yet, Sveum lasted in MLB—with some MiLB excursions—until 1999.
THIS CARD: Sveum slaps the tag on what I assume is a Minnesota Twin of some sort. Defensively, Sveum was described as someone who "gives runs back...but he used to be worse" by one 1991-92 publication. As his career wore on, Sveum played more and more of the corner IF positions and hardly any shortstop (15 MLB starts there 1993-99).
I should use this space to clarify "Sveum" is pronounced "Swaim". Do NOT come to me for further explanation. And no, I will not tell you all the erroneous ways I pronounced his name before being enlightened sometime in 1991.
More from Sveum's 1991 season: he split his time almost evenly across 3B and SS, starting a total of 75 games (34 at SS, 28 at 3B, three at DH and one at 2B). Not bad for a guy who, after a month, was a candidate to be DFA'd after opening the year 1-for-34 with two walks. But from 5/16 thru 6/4, Sveum slashed .361/.473/.639 over 18 games! On 5/28 vs. Detroit, the 27-year-old went 2-for-3 with a homer and five RBI to help the Brewers eke out a 15-2 win.
(flip) Once Sveum was hurt, any shot he had of continuing as Milwaukee's regular SS went out the door. You see, they had a hot SS prospect by the name of Gary Sheffield coming up. And even though Sheff's tenure as a Brewer was not one to remember positively, he was going to get every shot to succeed, Sveum or no Sveum, by 1990 at the latest.
"Both sides of the plate"??? I had LONG forgotten Sveum was a switch-hitter until this very moment perusing this card's blurb...WOW.
We told you about a couple of those '91 highlights above; as for the two-run triple, it happened 5/17 at KC against former AL Cy Young Award winner Mark Davis, and propelled the Brewers to a 7-5 win. It was Sveum's only triple of the 1991 season.
AFTER THIS CARD: The Brewers swapped Sveum to the Phillies in exchange for P Bruce Ruffin in December 1991. From there, Sveum's bags remained packed—he suited up for the Phillies, White Sox, A's and Mariners 1992-94, then spent all of 1995 and most of 1996 with AAA Calgary (Pirates).
Sveum did accrue over 300 AB for the upstart 1997 Pirates, batting .261 with 12 homers while holding down all four IF positions. But he would only take 129 combined MLB at-bats after that, batting an aggregate .186 for the 1998 Yankees (with whom he received his only legit World Series ring) and 1999 Pirates.
Sveum then managed in the Boston system for a time before working a number of MLB coaching jobs—as well as two MLB managerial jobs (full-time for the 2012-13 Cubs, who won a combined 127 games under Sveum, plus the final 12 games of Milwaukee's 2008 season after Ned Yost's shocking firing).
After Yost retired as Royals manager at the end of the 2019 season, Sveum—the club's hitting coach—did not resurface with the Royals or any other pro club that I'm aware of.
Dale Sveum appeared in Score 1988-89 and 1991-92.
More February 2023 Score Cards Of The Day
2/5/23 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Score #559 Rob Murphy, Reds
Murphy, maybe the most durable reliever in baseball in his heyday (first in MLB with 547 appearances from 1987-94, 33 more than runner-up Paul Assenmacher), turned in an exemplary 1987 season for the Reds. He won eight times and threw 100.2 innings...but didn't make a single start all season. Fittingly, Murphy appeared 87 times for Pete Rose, good for third in baseball and the second-most ever by a Red then and now (Wayne Granger, 90, 1969).
THIS CARD: We see Murphy rearing back to throw either his low-to-mid-90's gas, or his nasty slider, or perhaps the knuckleball he would use as a change-of-pace (Murphy was a knuckleballer as a prospect). Young Murphy certainly had quality stuff, as evidenced by his 334 K in 347 innings 1987-90.
Other notable Reds to claim #46 include two-time 20-game winner Jim Maloney in the 1960's, 18-game winner Pete Schourek in 1995, and...a host of cast-offs and space fillers. RP Buck Farmer wore #46 in 2022 and will likely do so again if he wins a Reds job in 2023.
More from Murphy's 1987 season: he threw two-plus innings 26 times, and three-plus innings thrice, with a high of 3.1 frames against the Padres 7/29 (he picked up the win that day as Cincy cruised 15-5). On 5/9 against the Phillies, Murphy faced six Phillies and struck out five of them. And on 8/9 at San Francisco, he threw two effective innings—in both games of a doubleheader!
(flip) This card escaped any of the (dozens of) errors plaguing Score's first ever baseball set, although at first glance it appears Murphy's 1986 Reds runs total could be a goof (it wasn't; he was just that dominant in '86).
Today, the NL record for appearances by a lefty is held by the late Met Pedro Feliciano, who was summoned by Jerry Manuel 92 times in 2010. That's tied for the fourth-most in MLB history (Mike Marshall, 106 (1974 Dodgers) and Kent Tekulve/Salomon Torres, 94 (1979/2006, both Pirates).
It's important to note Murphy wasn't just "drafted by the Reds in 1981". Cincinnati took him third overall in the January Special Phase Draft—not quite the prestige as going third overall in the June Draft, but still something to be proud of IMHO.
AFTER THIS CARD: Murphy had another strong season for the 1988 Reds (despite an 0-6 record), but then found himself in Boston via December '88 trade. After an excellent 1989 during which he saved nine games for the Sox, Murphy slipped to 6.32 in 68 games for the 1990 AL East champs and was traded to Seattle a week before the 1991 opener.
Murphy recorded a more-familiar 3.00 ERA across 57 appearances in '91, then joined the Astros for 1992 (4.04 in 59 games) and the Cardinals for 1993-94 (4.46 in 123 games). The Yankees acquired 34-year-old Murphy prior to the 1994 strike; he got in three games and was not effective.
After a 1995 campaign split between the Dodgers and Marlins (10.95 ERA in 14 combined games), Murphy signed a MiLB deal with the Padres for 1996, but didn't make the club.
He ended his career as MLB's record holder for consecutive winless appearances (145 from 1989-92), but has since been surpassed by Jesse Orosco (151 from 1998-2002) and John Smoltz (153 from 2002-05; thank you Baseball-Reference Blog).
Rob Murphy appeared in 1988-92 Score. For whatever reason, all the major companies except Fleer forgot about Murphy after 1992, even as he made 126 combined appearances for the Cardinals and Yankees 1993-94.
2/10/23 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Score #136 Chris Hoiles, Orioles
Hoiles, Baltimore's #1 catcher for most of the 1990's and a key cog in their successive postseason appearances 1996-97, got off to a poor start to 1995 as he possibly tried a bit too hard to justify his new 5Y/$17.25M contract signed that April. But Hoiles recovered in July to finish with more-than-respectable numbers—though they were well short of the level he reached in his .310, 29, 82 pinnacle 1993 season.
Hoiles started 101 games behind the plate (and three more at DH) for the '95 Orioles, sitting out half of July with a strained left hamstring. Despite the missed time and the prolonged first-half slump, Hoiles still co-led the AL with 18 home runs as a catcher (Mike Stanley, Yankees) in 1995.
THIS CARD: Hoiles appears in Score COTD for the second time; we profiled his 1998 Score card back in May 2021.
At first glance, that teammate of Hoiles appeared to be punching down on his straightened, extended thumb—a feeling I know all too well, having badly sprained my thumb in December 2017 while doing just that during a hoop game.
More from Hoiles' 1995 season: he was hitting .171, 8, 21 across 51 games through 7/2, but from there he hit .310, 11, 37 in 63 games, slugging .555 in that stretch! On 8/24 at California, Hoiles homered twice against Angels ace Chuck Finley, the third and fourth times he'd taken Finley deep in his career. And on 8/18 at Oakland, Hoiles drew four walks in five plate appearances!
(flip) As you see in the stats, Hoiles hit a triple in 1995 after going two-plus seasons without one. It happened 8/23 at Seattle; Hoiles went oppo against M's reliever Lee Guetterman, drove home two runs and wound up at third base—unfortunately, I couldn't confirm if the triple was clean or if someone misplayed it in the outfield.
WHY did Score feel Hoiles, after parts of SEVEN seasons in the majors, needed any of his MiLB stats printed? Score was known to do that with no rhyme/reason, one of my few grievances with the company.
The other three AL catchers to bat .300 with 25 homers prior to Hoiles: Bill Dickey, 1937 and 1938 Yankees, Yogi Berra, 1950 Yankees (.322, 28 HR) and Carlton Fisk, 1977 Red Sox (.315, 26 HR). Several others, including Ivan Rodriguez three times for the 1999-2001 Rangers, have since expanded the club.
AFTER THIS CARD: In 1996, Hoiles belted a walk-off grand slam against Seattle, and finished up at .258, 25, 73. Although he had trouble throwing out basestealers, Hoiles still helped the '96 Orioles return to the playoffs after a 13-year absence.
In 1997, Hoiles lost several weeks after a collision at the plate injured his knee; the next year, his cold bat bought him extended time on the bench in favor of Lenny Webster, but Hoiles did smoke two grand slams in one game against Cleveland!
A degenerative hip condition prevented Hoiles from catching in Spring Training 1999; Baltimore made the tough choice to cut their longtime star, ending his career at 34. He finished up with a .262 average and 151 homers in just under 900 games for the 1989-98 Orioles.
Chris Hoiles appeared annually in 1991-98 Score, except 1995 when they were the only name brand to exclude him for some reason.
2/15/23 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Score #254 Alfredo Griffin, Dodgers
Alfredo Griffin, the longtime Toronto and Oakland SS of the 1980's, completed his fourth season with the Dodgers in 1991 (and 16th in the majors overall). Griffin was never a particularly adept hitter, but his .210 average and .254 SLG in 1990 was low even by his standards. Still, the '91 Dodgers opened with Griffin at short until early May, when he hit the DL—if I told you how he was hurt, you wouldn't believe me—and hot prospect Jose Offerman took over for a time.
Griffin reclaimed his job upon healing and other than missing nearly all of August with a fractured cheekbone suffered in an 8/5 infield collision—more on that below—he held it for the rest of the 1991 season. In all, Griffin started 107 games in '91, upping his average by 33 points from that ghastly 1990 season.
THIS CARD: Griffin waits patiently for the Cardinals runner, who appears to be young OF Ray Lankford. Griffin would annually pile up high (sometimes obscenely high) error totals, and 1991 was no different—he was charged with 22 miscues in 109 games for a .961 percentage. But he was one of those dudes who was better defensively than his E tallies would suggest; he would have been an EX-shortstop long ago if not.
Lankford played at Los Angeles six times in 1991, and reached base at least once in every game. With Griffin at least active for all of those clashes, there's no expeditious or conclusive way to narrow down when this pic might have been shot. Just know that the Lankford kid is out by a couple of acres here.
More from Griffin's 1991 season: it opened with him facing potentially career-ending back surgery, but the veteran shortstop essentially gutted his way through the year. On 7/27 vs. Montreal, Griffin went 4-for-4 with two runs scored, and from 7/15 thru 7/29 he did not strike out even once across 43 at-bats! Griffin drove in his 500th career run at Atlanta 6/30.
(flip) "Slowing down" would have possibly prevented Griffin's awful cheekbone injury; on 8/5 at Cincinnati, he charged hard into second base without sliding, couldn't quite hold up, and...well, see it here if you dare. As bad as Griffin's injury was, he's lucky he didn't end up in a wheelchair.
Yes, your math is right—Griffin made his MLB debut as a 19-year-old Cleveland Indian in 1976...which I did not know. He went to Toronto in a trade for RP Victor Cruz in December 1978.
Check out Griffin's atypical 1986 season for Oakland: .285, 33 steals, a career-high four homers. Initially I thought the hiring of manager Tony LaRussa that year might have somehow contributed to Griffin's rise, but LaRussa didn't take over until 7/7 when Griffin was already at .290. And considering Oakland cycled through three hitting coaches in '86, it probably wasn't that,, either.
AFTER THIS CARD: Griffin returned to the Blue Jays for the 1992-93 seasons, this time as a reserve. Though he didn't play particularly well or particularly often (.225 in a combined 109 games), his timing couldn't have been better as he picked up two more World Series rings (Griffin also got a ring with the 1988 Dodgers). His playing career ended at 36 after that '93 campaign.
Later on, Griffin kicked off his coaching career, first as a roving minor league instructor for the Toronto organization in 1995. He then joined the staff of his old Jays manager Cito Gaston in 1996-97, serving as first base coach. Gaston was fired near the end of the 1997 season, however, and Griffin didn't return for 1998.
From 2000-15 and 2017-18, Griffin coached first base for the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels. (He was named infield coach for 2016, with Gary DiSarcina handling first base coaching duties.) Since departing the Halos along with longtime manager Mike Scioscia after the 2018 season, I haven't heard squat about Griffin.
Alfredo Griffin appeared in 1988-92 Score.
2/20/23 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #315 George Williams, Athletics
Of all the failed Oakland Athletics—and San Francisco Giants—prospects of the late 1990's, switch-hitting C George Williams might have been the most intriguing.
Williams consistently slugged around .500 as an A's prospect 1993-95, and they brought him up to the bigs in late 1995. Williams slashed .291/.383/.494 in 29 games with Oakland that year, spent most of 1996 as a backup to longtime C and had as good as shot as anyone to succeed free-agent-to-be C Terry Steinbach after the 1996 season.
THIS CARD: Damnit Score, why didn't you do this in the first place? And by "this", I mean design your 1995-96 "Rookie" cards in the same style as your veteran commons rather than give them at times completely different designs, front and back?
Whenever I see a closeup of a C in full (or even partial) gear, it makes ME want to slap some gear on for old time's sake, and catch the fastballs of a 12-year-old. I got to do that once in Little League, but the mask kept slipping down and I only caught maybe half of my pitcher's offerings.
More from Williams' 1996 season: as Athletics legend Steinbach stayed healthy and put up monster numbers in his walk year, Williams had to settle for backing him up and occasional DH duty in '96. The infrequent run clearly affected him, as he only registered two multi-hit games all year and was never over .200 at any point after 4/17. On 6/8, Williams smoked a grannie off Twins RP Greg Hansell—helping the A's to the 13-7 win—but he batted just .108 with one HR in 65 at-bats after that.
(flip) That 14-game stint with 1996 Edmonton (AAA) occurred in the second half of August; Williams was demoted with a .148 average and one hit in his past 22 at-bats. As you can see, Williams did not have nearly the same level of difficulty at AAA as in MLB. Few do.
As you see in the bio, Williams beat long odds just to even reach MLB as a #24 pick. RP John Frascatore was the only other (signed) pick from that round to escape the minors.
Williams might have indeed been the A's catcher of the future, especially after an encouraging 1997 season and a strong 1998 Spring Training performance. But he underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery and wound up playing just a lone Rookie-League game in '98.
AFTER THIS CARD: With Steinbach off to Minnesota for 1997, Williams shared time behind the plate with veteran Brent Mayne; he hit .289 in 76 games with an OBP just a tick under .400—no doubt noticed and appreciated by A's GM Billy Beane. But then came the surgery; after the '98 season Williams was let go by Oakland.
The now-30-year-old split the 1999 season between AAA Salt Lake (Twins) and AAA New Orleans (Astros); he was not seen again in MLB until late in the 2000 campaign with the Padres—for whom he went 3-for-16. Williams went 6-for-46 for AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox) in 2001, and was not seen in pro baseball again.
George Williams appeared in 1996-97 Score.