Score Baseball Card Of The Day, January 2022
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1/28/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #222 Mark Wohlers, Braves
Mark Wohlers was one of the game's top closers during the mid-1990's, but like so many closers, his run at the top proved to be brief. UNlike so many closers, the cause of his decline could be easily identified—anxiety coupled with an elbow that eventually required two UCL operations.
From 1991-94, Wohlers had been a hard-throwing middle/setup man for the Braves, allowing but four homers in 154 innings during that time but also demonstrating shaky command. Atlanta's closer situation during those years was never rock solid, yet they did not turn to Wohlers at the end of games until June 1995. He responded by throwing more strikes than ever before, contributing 29 saves in 34 chances (including postseason) for a Braves team that won it all!
Jim Leyritz's World Series homer aside, the 26-year-old enjoyed a strong 1996 as well, making the NL All-Star team and earning a 3Y/$13M extension in January 1997. Here, Wohlers is coming off a 1997 season that was mostly solid until the final month—he was 32 of 37 in save ops with a 2.67 ERA through 9/7, but was tagged for a 13.50 ERA and two blown saves in three chances over his final six appearances.
THIS CARD: Wohlers reaches back for either the heat, the slider or the splitter. He threw 100 before it was in vogue, and complemented it with a slider to put righties away, and a splitter to finish off lefties.
We see young Wohlers at the brand new (and now deceased) Turner Field, where his ERA was over twice as high as on the road (4.76 to 2.29) in 1997, despite similar peripherals. He was able to make the big pitch at every ballpark besides his own, evidently.
More from Wohlers' 1997 season: he received no save ops in the postseason, though it's unclear if manager Bobby Cox let three starters finish off close games because they were just that effective or because he'd lost confidence in his closer—Greg Maddux and friends often went the distance anyway. Wohlers saved John Smoltz's 125th career win 8/9, and Tom Glavine's 150th career win 8/20.
(flip) Since Wohlers, a couple of very notable Braves have recorded consecutive 30-save campaigns: Smoltz (2002-04) and Craig Kimbrel (2011-14).
Garber saved exactly 30 games in 1982, the team single-season record until Wohlers came along.
Upshaw saved 79 games for the Braves 1966-73; Wohlers may have passed him but he was unable to come close to Garber's 141 (1978-87). Today, Wohlers stands 4th all-time on the Braves saves list (112) behind Kimbrel (186) Smoltz (154) and Garber.
Though that 0-for-13 CS rate isn't pretty, at least Wohlers limited his errors to one in 1997. He was only an .885 career fielder and he twice fielded under .800 in a season of 10+ chances.
AFTER THIS CARD: A lot of trouble. Wohlers fell victim to "Steve Blass Disease" in 1998; a demotion to AAA fixed nothing and off-the-field problems certainly didn't help, either. After opening 1999 with six walks in 0.2 innings, the 29-year-old was traded to Cincinnati, but they quickly placed him on the DL—first for anxiety, then for UCL surgery.
Wohlers returned to the Reds in July 2000, seemingly recovered. He then enjoyed an encouraging 2001 season split between the Reds and Yankees; working mostly middle relief and throwing around 95 MPH, Wohlers walked just 25 in 67.2 innings over 61 games. (His lone postseason appearance stunk, however.)
2002 represented Wohlers' final big league campaign; he made 64 appearances for Cleveland with a modest 3.3 BB/9 and seven saves. Bone chips in his elbow sidelined him in early 2003, and as he rehabbed, he required a second UCL elbow surgery. This time, he never returned to the diamond.
This is all I've really heard about Wohlers since his MLB career ended.
Mark Wohlers appeared annually in Score 1992-98, except 1994.
More January 2022 Score Cards Of The Day
1/4/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Score #1 Will Clark, Rangers
In 1995, Will Clark still didn't quite look right in that Texas uniform, and the sting of his departure from San Francisco hadn't fully worn off. It's long been purported that the Giants chose to sign Robby Thompson over Clark when both hit free agency after the 1993 season.
While that's not entirely true, watching Clark continue to be the star he'd always been while one-year wonder Thompson fell apart after 1993...let's just say it was tough for us Giants fans.
Especially when the 1996 Rangers made the playoffs and the 1996 Giants lost 94 games.
Here, Clark has just completed Year Two of his 5Y/$25M deal with Texas. Though his slow start cost him a shot at his second straight All-Star berth, "The Thrill" turned it on in mid-June, slashing .320./401/.505 from 6/12 through season's end. Clark belted his 200th career homer 8/13 (off Toronto's Giovanni Carrara) and his 300th career double 9/27 versus Oakland.
THIS CARD: Will Clark under a popup? Take it to the bank. He had very tough conditions to deal with playing his first eight years at Candlestick Park, but he never was forced to perform what commentator Mike Krukow calls "The Popup Dance" anytime that I saw. And I saw a lot of Giants baseball 1990-93—certainly enough to witness Clark struggling with Candlestick's winds.
Score's first six Clark cards (1988-93) all carried essentially the same front image: Clark swinging the bat as seen from the third-base dugout area. The company finally mixed things up 1994-96, though it reverted back in 1997. We all know how pretty Clark's swing was, but still.
More from Clark's 1995 season: he homered in three straight games 8/12, 8/13 and after a layoff, 8/19. And on 5/20 he homered with four hits and four runs batted in against the Brewers! He was the Rangers Player Of The Month for August 1995.
(flip) Clark was known to make a lot of faces. And to be real loud. So I can't tell if this is a grimace or a boast of some sort.
Clark was born in Louisiana, but years later he became a legend at neighboring Mississippi State. In 2020 he was voted the best college 1B of all-time; click here for stats and full coverage from 247Sports.com.
Though an awesome clutch hitter overall as the blurb states, it was strange that seven of Clark's 16 homers in 1995 came in the first inning. He did smoke a game-tying, two-run, T8th homer 5/30, but the Rangers eventually lost to Kansas City anyway.
AFTER THIS CARD: Clark did complete his deal with the Rangers; he played well when healthy but was often forced to the sidelines in 1996-97. In 1998 he remained on the field and batted .305, 23, 102—by then, however, MLB was flooded with hard-hitting first basemen and Clark's performance was largely overlooked.
Now 34, Clark signed with Baltimore for 2Y/$11M in December 1998. Elbow surgery limited him to 77 games in 1999, and in mid-2000 the mediocre Orioles traded Clark to St. Louis, who needed a 1B in the wake of Mark McGwire's physical issues. Back in the NL, Clark exploded for a .345/.426/.655 slashline and 12 homers in 51 games for the Cardinals—punctuated by a .345 performance in the 2000 Postseason!
The 36-year-old chose to go out on top, retiring at 36 that off-season. He's since done advisory work for the D'Backs prior to being named a Giants special assistant; Clark is set to have his #22 retired by the team in, fittingly, 2022 (it was supposed to happen in 2020 before the pandemic hit).
Will Clark appeared in 1988-97 Score.
1/8/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Score #578 Jesse Orosco, Indians
It's kind of appropriate to pull a Jesse Orosco card this week. As MLB.com works to unearth anything resembling fresh material during the lockout, an article highlighting four-decade stars recently appeared on the site. Orosco, of course, pitched in MLB 1979-2003.
Also, on MLB Network (in the same boat as MLB.com), a special on the 1988 Dodgers has been running. It's now widely known that 1988 NL MVP Kirk Gibson—a new Dodger that year—was pushed too far by an Orosco prank in Spring Training. His response is often credited with improving the Dodgers' attitude, though Gibson himself downplayed that assessment.
My point is, because of the lockout, Jesse Orosco's name has been circulating around MLB media as of late. And the Randomizer has proven to be fully aware of such developments.
Here, Orosco has just completed his second year with the Indians after a long run with the Mets followed by the lone year with Los Angeles. Used in middle relief by John McNamara, Orosco's numbers dipped a bit from his standout 1989 campaign. Still, he recorded two of the four saves by Indians not named Doug Jones in 1990.
THIS CARD: The ol' "Mistake By The Lake", officially known as Cleveland Stadium. Orosco was 3-3, 3.00 there in 1990 compared to his 5.26 road ERA and 1.753 road WHIP. Of the approximately six billion games Orosco pitched in, only three came as a visitor to Cleveland Stadium—all scoreless as a member of the 1992-93 Brewers.
Orosco is bringing either his low-90's fastball or his tough slider. He also featured an off-speed pitch that I've seen described as a splitter, changeup, or even a screwball. Whatever it was, it helped keep him in MLB for 25 seasons.
More from Orosco's 1990 season: in a sequence that we'll probably NEVER see again barring emergency, Orosco pitched two innings in the first game of a doubleheader 5/6...then returned to get a five-pitch out in the nightcap! Then on 7/29, he did it again, this time totaling three innings pitched! And Orosco never sniffed the DL until 2000 at age 43.
(flip) Orosco was presumably 33 at the time of this pic. I'm convinced there was never any point in his career that he didn't look 40. Not a knock. I'M almost 42.
Bats: Right. I could not imagine Orosco ever batting, but it turns out he got quite a bit of swings in during the early 1980's and wasn't half-bad! In fact, at one point he was 10-for 37 (.270) before going 0-for-his-final-14. Orosco did draw a walk and score a run for the 2002 Dodgers, however.
Who could forget Orosco sending his glove airborne and slapping the ground after striking out Boston's Marty Barrett to end Game 7 of the 1986 World Series? It was only replayed about 252 times during the Mets' progression through the 2000 and 2015 World Series.
AFTER THIS CARD: A lot. Orosco remained with Cleveland through 1991, then set up in Milwaukee 1992-94 (even closing for a time in 1993). From there, Orosco spent five seasons with Baltimore, leading the AL with 65 appearances in '95 and helping Baltimore snap a long Postseason drought!
In 1999, the 42-year-old became MLB's all-time games pitched leader, passing Dennis Eckersley with his 1,072nd appearance. In 2000, Orosco—now a Cardinal by way of the Mets (long story)—pitched just six times due to a torn flexor muscle, but he returned as a solid lefty specialist for the 2001-02 Dodgers.
After splitting 2003 between the Padres, Yankees and Twins (7.68 in 65 games), Orosco signed with Arizona, but opted to retire at 46 before Spring Training 2004. He ended his career with a record 1,252 games pitched across 25 seasons; no one has come within 74 games of his record since he stepped away. (37-year-old Joe Smith is the active leader with 832 games pitched, BTW.)
Jesse Orosco appeared in 1988-92 and 1994 Score.
1/12/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Score #420 Joey Cora, Padres
Legalize this card!!! (If you don't get that "joke", it's okay. You won't be alone.)
Alex, due to his connection to the 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox, may be the best-known (and best-paid) Cora brother. But Joey no doubt had the better playing career despite barely being large enough to board the rides at Disneyland.
Here, Joey Cora is just getting his 11-season major league career off the ground. He made the 1987 Padres roster out of Spring Training and was their regular 2B into June.
THIS CARD: This would not be a fun guy to prank. You pull the chair out from under him...and nothing happens.
Of Cora's nine Score cards, seven of their front images display him on defense. One respected publication described him as "making silly physical errors and even more costly mental mistakes" during his younger days, but during my fandom he had cleaned that up. (Even if he hadn't, he still wins the 1993 White Sox' 2B job over yips-riddled Steve Sax.)
More from Cora's 1987 season: he went 2-for-5 with a steal at San Francisco in his 4/6 MLB debut. On 4/14, he notched three hits and TWO steals against my Giants. (I'm not calling him a bastard because SF still won both of those games). And as April turned to May, Cora strung together four straight multi-hit games!
Unfortunately, the kid was in a 6-for-38 slump when demoted to Las Vegas.
(flip) Cora wore #4 during his first two Padre seasons before switching to #5 in 1990; he's probably most identifiable with the #28 he wore with the White Sox and Mariners in the mid-1990's.
I can almost guarantee Spokane and Beaumont no longer host minor league teams. And I'm willing to bet that was the case even before the 2021 MiLB reorganization/contraction.
No WAY that stabbing incident makes it onto a Topps baseball card. Or if it does, the word "stabbing" surely doesn't. Also, I wonder if Jack Krol is any relation to 2010's pitcher Ian Krol...but not enough to research.
AFTER THIS CARD: It took six years of battling, but Cora did finally get another regular 2B gig—he took over for as the White Sox' 2B in 1993, and held the job through 1994. Seattle signed the 30-year-old for 1995—you surely remember a sobbing Cora consoled by a young Alex Rodriguez in the dugout after the 1995 Mariners were knocked out of the ALCS. The now-veteran annually reached or flirted with .300 for the next four seasons while making the 1997 All-Star team!
Cleveland traded for Cora in late 1998, but he only hit .229 down the stretch followed by a 1-for-17 postseason showing. He went to Spring Training with the 1999 Blue Jays, but retired in March two months shy of 34.
Cora has since gone on to a long coaching career, most notably on former teammate Ozzie Guillen's White Sox and Marlins staffs. Cora also coached for Pittsburgh 2017-21—his face shield worn during the 2020 season earned a headline or two—and will join the Mets staff in '22.
Joey Cora debuted in 1988 Score, then returned for the 1991-98 sets.
1/16/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #405 David Cone, Royals
According to David Wells' book Perfect I'm Not, David Cone, his longtime teammate with the Blue Jays and Yankees, is a scumbag.
Well, not exactly. The two bestowed that nickname upon one another upon becoming buddies, with Wells warning readers that the Cone we think we saw on the field—the grizzled, battle-tested warrior—could also be a goof on par with Wells, which wasn't easy to do. (I wish I still had the book so I could quote it verbatim, but alas...space issues.)
In any case, Cone—like Wells—was among MLB's top pitchers for over a decade. Originally a Royal, the Mets acquired 24-year-old Cone essentially for reserve C Ed Hearn in Spring Training 1987. Hearn was out of pro baseball by the end of 1990; Cone remained in the Mets rotation through late 1992, winning 80 games and three MLB K crowns along the way. This was about the only true blemish on Cone's Mets tenure.
After being traded to the Blue Jays in August 1992 and helping them to their first ever championship, Cone hit free agency and re-joined the Royals for 3Y/$18M. Here, he's completed a 1993 season that while not terrible, didn't live up to the expectations heaped on him.
THIS CARD: This is one of multiple arm angles Cone was capable of attacking from; he'd even drop down from the side at times with a "Laredo" slider. In 1993 Cone made a conscious effort to be more economical with his pitches; it resulted in a drastically lower K/9 rate but also a career high in innings.
I can't identify the road ballpark, but I can tell you that in 1993, Cone was far more effective away from Kauffman Stadium (2.62 road ERA compared to 4.05 at home; 1.084 road WHIP compared to 1.429 at home).
More from Cone's 1993 season: run support was in short supply for the star righty for most of the year. He began 1993 0-5 despite some very impressive outings (including a CG with two runs allowed vs. Texas), worked his way back to 11-11, but then dropped his final three starts despite allowing a total of eight runs. On 7/30 vs. Cleveland, Cone fired his first AL SHO and 16th overall.
(flip) In addition to the moving fastball, the slider, the curve and the forkball, I swear sometimes Cone would invent something mid-motion. Or he'd take off so much speed that batters would almost fall down trying to make contact.
Cone batted left? I never knew that, as I have no memory of Cone ever batting, but apparently he did 412 times officially, with 64 hits (.155).
It's impressive Cone still ranked 4th in 1993 AL K despite, as we mentioned, actively going for fewer K that year. It brings me equal parts joy and woe to know his six CG in 1993 was only 9th in the AL—joy because CG were once that common, woe because CG are now so uncommon.
AFTER THIS CARD: Cone turned in a brilliant 12-6, 2.94, Cy Young Award 1994 season, but with Kansas City going nowhere, they traded him back to the Blue Jays prior to the 1995 season. Toronto also fell out of contention and sent Cone to the Yankees in mid-1995; he'd combine for 18 wins that year in just 30 starts!
Off to an excellent start for New York in '96, an aneurysm in his arm threatened more than his baseball career. Cone made a full recovery, however, and went on to win 44 games 1997-99—including 20 in 1998 alone! During that '98 campaign, Cone fired a perfect game against Montreal, the 16th in MLB history.
Now 37, Cone was wholly ineffective in 2000 (4-14, 6.91) though he remained in the rotation virtually all season and the Yankees won their fourth championship in five seasons that fall. Cone joined Boston for 2001 ( 1Y/$4M) and improved to 9-7, 4.31 in 25 starts before sitting out 2002. He pitched his final five games with the 2003 Mets before retiring in late May at 40.
Cone finished up 194-126, receiving 3.9% of the Hall of Fame vote in 2009 and dropping off the ballot. He deserved better IMHO; from 1988-98 he was a true stud.
David Cone appeared in 1988-98 Score.
1/20/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Score #300 Jay Bell, Pirates
My favorite memory of Jay Bell the Pirate is the time he managed to hit a grounder directly off off the fallen helmet of baserunner Kirk Gibson, turning what would have been a successful, picturesque hit-and-run into a rundown and an out. Bell, and every other major league hitter not named Tony Gwynn Sr., could have tried that 40,000 times and not deliberately done it.
Bell was an unsung member of those early 1990's Pirates that made three straight NLCS visits. If Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla were the Killer B's, Bell was more like an Accessory B in that he didn't usually deliver the fatal blows, but he was often involved in the attack and did some of the dirty work necessary on any winning team.
Here, Bell has just closed his seventh year in Pittsburgh. One of the few veteran holdovers remaining on the 1995 Pirates from those NLCS teams, Bell once again played almost every day, reached double-digit homers for the second time, and co-led the Bucs in triples and walks (55).
THIS CARD: Now THIS is a front image you seldom see: a fielder calling off his teammates in pursuit of a popup. Score, especially from 1994 on, was notorious for the unconventional front image, largely why I added Score Cards Of The Day to TSR's rotation.
Bell the defender was always solid, especially once he learned to curb his mini-slumps that led to multiple errors close together. In 1995 he enjoyed a 44-game errorless streak and had just 10 through 9/22, only to endure a stretch of four miscues in three games.
More from Bell's 1995 season: he was at just .198 through 6/23, but hit .292 after the All-Star break. Bell homered on Opening Day and on 7/25, he singled vs. Atlanta for his 1,000th career hit!
(flip) I don't think I've ever seen Jay Bell with this much facial hair...it's eye-opening.
Bell never won any other Gold Gloves, but he was in a league with Ozzie Smith (whose streak of about 334 straight Gold Gloves was snapped by Bell) and/or Barry Larkin for most of his career. Plus, he later moved to 2B.
As we mentioned, Bell CO-led the Pirates in walks with longtime teammate Jeff King. Those four triples in 1995 tied another longtime teammate, Orlando Merced, for #1 on the Bucs.
AFTER THIS CARD: Traded to the Royals for 1997, Bell broke out with a .291, 21, 92 line for KC and parlayed that into a 5Y/$43M deal with Arizona that November. He shifted to 2B in late 1998 and exploded for 38 homers and 112 RBI in 1999, making his second All-Star team (1993).
To the surprise of few, Bell couldn't keep up that pace in 2000 and by mid-2001, had lost his 2B job to young Junior Spivey. Bell was still able to score the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees.
Still under contract, Bell returned to Arizona as a reserve for 2002; he hit the DL for the first time ever in April (torn calf). After returning in late July, Bell batted just .163 in 32 games and looked done, but he was able to squeeze in 142 more PA with the 2003 Mets before the sun fully set on his playing career.
Bell has since gone on to manage in the Yankees' (2017-19) and Angels' systems (2021-).
Jay Bell appeared in 1989-98 Score.
1/24/22 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #343 Pat Borders, Blue Jays
It may surprise you to know that Pat Borders played in MLB for over a decade after he left Toronto—he just got little love from the card companies, yet another reason to lament Score Baseball's premature demise. Had the company continued production, it would have given him the same love it gave Lance Parrish long after the latter left California.
Borders, the 1992 World Series MVP for the Blue Jays, obviously entered 1993 on a high note. Here, he's wrapped that '93 campaign, one that saw him start a remarkable 134 games behind the plate (plus all 12 postseason games). Borders smoked a career-high 30 doubles and oversaw a pitching staff that ranked a close 5th in the AL in ERA (4.21) and 2nd in K (1,023).
THIS CARD: Uh-oh. We're in for a bit of catcher-on-catcher violence. Pudge Rodriguez played at Toronto with Borders in the lineup five times in 1993; I WAS going to try to narrow the play down but I'm too far behind on TSR updates.
Borders the catcher had an up-and-down 1993 season; when he wasn't busy sealing off home plate, he was throwing out a respectable 33% of enemy basestealers. Unfortunately, Borders was charged with a career-high (by far) and AL-high 13 errors—a consequence of playing so often.
More from Borders' 1993 season: on 7/24, he hit what proved to be the game-deciding homer in the T8th off Texas's Charlie Leibrandt. He hit five of his nine homers in May alone. And in Game 6 of the 1993 ALCS, Borders' three RBI helped eliminate the White Sox.
(flip) What is up with this photo? It's horizontal and vertical all at once. I don't think a single other 1994 Score card is set up this way, and it makes you wonder if it was deliberate or not.
We already told you about one of those decisive 8th-inning hits; Borders also beat the Yankees with a two-run double 6/22 as well as the A's with an RBI double 5/30.
1993 was actually Borders' second season as Toronto's #1 receiver; he started 132 games in 1992 plus all 12 postseason games.
AFTER THIS CARD: Whether due to being rested more often or to natural attrition, Borders slipped a bit in 1994 and was not re-signed after the season. This began an 11-season voyage throughout the majors—and the minors—for Borders, with too many stops to detail here.
We will tell you that from 1995-96 alone, Borders played for the Royals, Astros, Cardinals, Angels and White Sox. He then spent two-plus seasons backing up for the Indians before a very brief return to the Blue Jays in 1999.
We're not done yet, though. Borders spent all of 2000 with AAA Durham (Devil Rays) and was headed for a similar fate in 2001 before Seattle rescued him that August. He would up spending parts of the next five seasons (79 games total) as a Mariner, with a short stint with Minnesota in 2004 mixed in. Borders went to camp with the Dodgers in 2006, but didn't make the team and retired at 43 that May.
Pat Borders appeared in 1989-95 Score.