Score Baseball Card Of The Day, May 2021

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Score Rob Deer
Score Rob Deer

5/30/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Score #56 Rob Deer, Tigers

Remember the mega-blooper of Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon executing a throw home directly into the ground in front of him a few years ago?

Well, Tigers RF Rob Deer did it first...and it's what I best remember him for. I only wish preteen me had the foresight to log the details, knowing TSR would exist one day.

Deer, of course, made his name as a power-hitting, laser-throwing, HIGH-strikeout Milwaukee Brewer in the late 1980's but here, he's just finished up Year One with Detroit. Lacking pitching, the early-1990's Tigers decided to simply bash their opponents into submission, making Deer a logical fit.

THIS CARD: Since the ball is not visible here, I'm just gonna assume Deer swung and missed. He was the "premier" strikeout guy of his time, but today he'd be just like everybody else.

Deer is in action at Tiger Stadium, where he hit .193 with 12 HR in 1991. He'd been 26-for-93 (.280) as a visitor there with Milwaukee 1986-90.

More from Deer's 1991 season: he homered twice in a 16-0 demolition of the White Sox 4/18. And on 4/30 he drove in five runs, four via his fifth and final career grand slam. In 539 PA, Deer was not hit by a pitch even once! 

(flip) Deer does not look 31 in this photo. But playing for the late-80's Brewers and early-90's Tigers would age anybody.

Note Deer's .179 average in 1991. For much of the year, the burning question was: would Deer strike out more than he hit? In the end, he finished with "just" 175 K, but that was largely because he played little the final two weeks.

Free agent Deer moved to the Tigers in '91 on a 3Y/$6M+ deal.

AFTER THIS CARD: In 1992, Deer improved his numbers greatly (.247, 32, 64 in 55 fewer AB) but was back down to .217 in 1993 when the Tigers dealt him to the Red Sox. Boston hoped for lightning in a bottle from the 33-year-old, and while he did stroke three hits—including a home run—in his Sox debut, a 2-for-39 slump followed.

After spending 1994 in the Japan League, Deer spent 1995 and early 1996 in AAA, until San Diego summoned him to replace injured Tony Gwynn in July 1996. Though Deer homered four times in 50 AB, he whiffed a ridiculous 30 times and did not receive any other major league opportunities.

Rob Deer appeared in 1988-94 Score 

More May 2021 Score Cards Of The Day

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5/3/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #366 John Smoltz, Braves

From 1993-99, Braves opponents had to contend with #1 starter (and future Hall of Famer) Greg Maddux. After that came #2 starter (and future Hall of Famer) Tom Glavine. And just for good measure, after those two carved you up and finessed you to death, then #3 starter (and future Hall of Famer) John Smoltz would simply embarrass you.

While the 1987 Tigers did get quality from ancient SP Doyle Alexander, the 1988-2008 Braves got stardom—and periods of superstardom—out of Smoltz, the prospect they acquired for Alexander. In 1989, Smoltz's first full year in MLB, he made his first of eight All-Star teams. One year later, the 23-year-old led the Braves in starts, wins, innings and K.

Atlanta executed an unprecedented worst-to-first turnaround in 1991; in Game 7 of that World Series, Smoltz dueled Twins star Jack Morris for nine scoreless innings before Minnesota prevailed in extras. Still, the youngster had made a name for himself.

Here, Smoltz has just completed his second straight 15-win season. He went 4-1 in August and on 6/6, he shut out the Dodgers on five hits...and 144 pitches!

THIS CARD: We see Smoltz attacking with either his high-90's gas, his curve, his vicious slider, or his equally vicious forkball. 30-plus years and I still suck at identifying pitch grips except the changeup.

Smoltz without the full beard isn't as intimidating, but I'd still watch myself. Even today as 54-year-old Smoltz operates from the broadcast booth, I'm careful not to look in his eyes for too long lest he take offense and fire one under my chin.

More from Smoltz's 1993 season: he opened the year with two CG losses in his first three starts as Atlanta was shut out both times. And on 9/16 he threw the first nine innings of a 12-inning Braves win over Cincinnati. So given an extra clutch hit here or there and Smoltz could have won at least 18 times in 1993. (This is why they got Fred McGriff, people.)

(flip) I'm guessing the pictured catcher to be Greg Olson; he caught 30 of 35 Smoltz starts in 1993.

Only the Reds' Jose Rijo (227) struck out more NL hitters in 1993 than Smoltz.

Smoltz was the 1992 NLCS MVP, and he also went 2-0 in the 1991 and 1996 NLCS. For his career, Smoltz was 13-4 as a postseason starter—nobody wanted to face him in October.

AFTER THIS CARD: Well, there was Smoltz's tough 1994 season, followed by his beating in the 1995 World Series (still won by Atlanta). Then there was his spectacular 24-win 1996 season, his 17-3 1998 season, and his lost (to shoulder surgery) 2000 season.

Then you had Smoltz recovering and being reinvented as a closer, racking up 154 mostly-dominant saves 2002-04. That preceded a return to the Braves' rotation and a 44-24 record from 2005-07. Injury struck once more, limiting Smoltz to six games in 2008 and punching his ticket out of Atlanta. He finished up with unimpressive stints for the 2009 Red Sox and Cardinals.

In retirement, you MAY have caught Smoltz doing a little color commentary with Joe Buck for FOX.

John Smoltz appeared in Score 1989-98.

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5/6/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #177 David Wells, Yankees

Of the 20-plus years "Boomer" played in the majors, he's probably most famous for his original two-year stint with the Yankees. Not that Wells exactly flew under the radar previously—for example, who could forget when Wells the Blue Jay flung a ball down the RF line and ordered his manager (who was removing him from the game) to go get it?

By the end of 1996, Wells was basically a hired gun (he'd pitched for the Tigers, Reds and Orioles from 1995-96) and said as much in his book. So when George Steinbrenner and the Yankees offered the big man 3Y/$13.5M in December 1996, he was not about to refuse.

Here, we catch up with Wells following his first year (1997) in New York. It was eventful on and off the field, but in the end Wells notched 16 W's and 218 IP for the Yankees. From 7/30 to 8/14, Wells won four straight starts.

THIS CARD: Looking back, I really wish Wells had spent more than four seasons with the Yankees. Even if it meant regular shaving, he was born to wear that uniform. Roger Clemens (the man swapped for him after the 1998 season) never looked quite right in it.

This is not Wells' first Score card as a Yankee. Beginning in 1997 Score, some transitioned players received two cards in the set—one with their '96 squad and one with their '97 squad. Wells was one of them; he appears in 1997 Score Series 2 happily tying his shoe in Yankee garb.

More from Wells' 1997 season: in a three-start span 7/19-30, he threw a pair of shutouts (sandwiching an eight-run bombing). And on 6/7, Wells fired eight shutout innings at Milwaukee.

(flip) Wells' away ERA was partially inflated by an 11-run drubbing at Anaheim 8/19/97.

Good Christ, Wells is a couple weeks from turning 58?!

Wells was originally signed through 1999, but after re-acquiring him in February 1999, Toronto exercised his 2000 option and added a 1Y/$8.25M extension with an option for 2002. Got all that?

AFTER THIS CARD: On 5/17/98, Wells authored a 120-pitch perfect game against the Twins, one of his 18 wins that year for the 114-win, World Champion Yankees. As alluded to, New York parted with Wells to acquire Clemens as 1999 Spring Training kicked off.

Despite being less than enthusiastic about returning to Canada, Wells won 37 times over the 1999-2000 seasons. After a forgettable 2001 season with the White Sox, Wells was brought back to the Bronx for the 2002-03 seasons. Despite a 34-14 record, his book displeased Steinbrenner and ended his Yankee run for good.

From there, Wells remained on the move, bouncing between San Diego (twice), Boston and the Dodgers over his final four seasons (2004-07). He finished up with 239 regular-season wins, 10 more postseason wins, and five Hall-of-Fame votes.

David Wells appeared in 1990-98 Score.

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5/9/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Score #468 Mike Stanton, Braves

Especially now​, as the 2021 Giants deal with an unsettled closer situation for the 5th straight season, I appreciate the superb job Mike Stanton did for the 2006 team after being acquired near the trade deadline. You see, Armando Benitez—despite being paid a lot of money to close—was simply not reliable at all as a Giant; a September 2006 knee injury was his latest setback.

Stanton, who hadn't closed regularly in 13 years, received the ball in the 9th inning going forward. He was almost perfect until blowing his final save op in Game #159. We fans had forgotten what a reliable closer was like!

Here, however, Stanton is just a youngster fresh off his second major league (partial) season. He was battered in seven games with Atlanta, but in hindsight that could be blamed on an inflamed rotator cuff that (aside from a couple of rehab appearances) ended his 1990 season in late April.

THIS CARD: Stanton began his career a lot more svelte than he ended it. We see him attacking with either his low-90's heat or his change-of-pace curveball. Stanton had a slider and changeup as well, but I don't know if he had them in 1990.

I probably don't have to tell you that this Mike Stanton is not connected to the 1980's Mariners reliever of the same name. Nor is he connected to current star Giancarlo Stanton, known as "Mike" early in his career.

More form Stanton's 1990 season: he was scored upon in all but one of his seven appearances for the Braves, and took losses in each of his final three outings. Stanton did earn a two-inning save against my Giants in his season debut.

(flip) This is the first time I've heard Stanton described as "brash", and I can't recall him ever talking to himself. Perhaps I just didn't pay close enough attention.

Those four appearances for 1990 Greenville were all starts, and only covered 5.2 innings. My guess? The organization expected little from the recovering Stanton and wanted him "out of the way" as soon as possible while games could still be won.

Stanton was born exactly 18 days after longtime teammate John Smoltz, albeit many states apart.

AFTER THIS CARD: After healing, Stanton would go on to appear in the second-most games in major league history (1,178), a huge chunk of that for the Braves. Stanton's most noteworthy season was 1993, a year he was elevated to closer and saved 27 games for the (barely) NL West Champions.

Stanton also toiled extensively for the Yankees (456 games from 1997-2002 and 2005) and Mets (133 games from 2003-04), among a handful of other squads. His final majors run was a 69-game stint with the 2007 Reds; a MiLB deal with the 2009 Cubs didn't pan out. Stanton nailed down 84 contests over his 19 MLB seasons.

Mike Stanton appeared in 1990-94 Score.

Score Ozzie Smith
Score Ozzie Smith

5/12/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #522 Ozzie Smith, All-Star

For most of his career, Ozzie Smith was synonymous with the All-Star Game. Between 1981-96, he was selected to 15 of the 16 All-Star teams (only passed over in 1993), and though he was only 4-for-27 combined, Smith was not there for his limited offensive skillz.

THIS CARD: I always dug the Score cartoon cards so prevalent in the early 1990's. With today's graphical advancements, there's no telling what the company could produce if still in the baseball card business.

This was part of a 20-card All-Star subset in 1993 Score. Even though that year's set dipped in size 233 cards from the 1991-92 sets, Score didn't dare scale back the subsets much.

(flip) I'm not sure what order this "lineup" is in. It obviously isn't the batting order from the game ("Batting 6th, The Pitcher, Greg Maddux!")

43 steals only ranked FIFTH in the NL in 1992? It's a different time here in 2021; this year we might see one dude in the entire major leagues nab 40! 

AFTER THIS CARD: Smith, as referenced, was left off the 1993 NL All-Star roster but returned for the 1994-96 Midsummer Classics—even though by 1996 he was no longer playing regularly.

Score did not produce any more All-Star subsets going forward, so this is Smith's final All-Star Score card.

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Score Wade Boggs
Score Wade Boggs

5/15/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Score #560 Wade Boggs, Hitters Inc.

"Hitters Inc." was a one-and-done 1995 Score subset that celebrated...hitters. Which you hopefully figured out.

Wade Boggs was among the top pure hitters of his time, especially in the 1980's when he strung together seven straight 200-hit seasons for Boston. But by the end of 1992, the Red Sox were ready to move on, and Boggs jumped to their oldest (and strongest) rival—the New York Yankees. He continued to rake after changing addresses.

THIS CARD: Yes, I could recognize Boggs by his eyes only, and yes, I do consume too much baseball. In Boggs's case more than others, those eyes were perhaps his greatest tool; in the midst of a rough 1992 season, he began wearing glasses in an (unsuccessful) effort to turn things around. Boggs eventually underwent Lasik surgery.

Uh...am I missing something? It looks like Boggs fouled this ball back, possibly into his own face. Not the ideal photo for a card celebrating hitters...

(flip) I tried. I really did. But no matter my effort, Boggs—like longtime Red Sox teammate Roger Clemens after him—just looks weird in Yankee garb. It's like dressing up Santa in blue and gold.

I think this is the same font used in the Martin opening credits.

Boggs was the AL batting champion every year 1983-88, except 1984. His career average through 1994 was .335—that's how you end up on a Hitters, Inc. card!

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Score Mel Rojas
Score Mel Rojas

5/18/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #162 Mel Rojas, Expos

When going down the (long) list of talented 1990's Expos who got away, one cannot exclude setup man-turned-closer Mel Rojas. Rojas lacked the pedigree of a Larry Walker or Pedro Martinez or Marquis Grissom, but for a few years he was pretty tough for NL hitters to deal with.

A cousin of the famed Alou family, Rojas signed with the Expos in '85 and became a pretty fair starting pitcher in the low minors until his 1989 promotion to AA Jacksonville. There, Rojas was converted to relief, and by the next year he was in the majors.

Rojas got some save ops after incumbent CL Tim Burke was traded in 1991. He was called upon to pitch over 100 innings in relief in 1992, saving 10 contests as a sub for new CL John Wetteland. Here, Rojas has completed a 1993 season that saw him open the year as the Montreal closer while Wetteland healed a broken toe (suffered while angrily kicking a batting cage).

THIS CARD: Rojas switched to #27 in 1993 after sporting #51 previously. He later switched back to #51, and some Vlad guy made #27 his own in Montreal.

Rojas—obviously at Wrigley Field—gears up to throw his mid-90's fastball, his slider, or his vaunted (when working) forkball/splitter.

More from Rojas's 1993 season: he hit a wall mid-season (runs allowed in six consecutive June appearances) but sported a 1.47 ERA from 7/23 on. Four separate times, Rojas pitched three innings in relief for manager (and uncle) Felipe Alou.

(flip) "Chunky" Rojas was not 185 lbs. when his career ended.

The rare card with one uniform number pictured on front and another on back.

That .526 save percentage is deceiving, because a number of Rojas's blown "save ops" came in the 6th or 7th inning.

AFTER THIS CARD: After Wetteland was traded in April 1995, Rojas was elevated to closer—he was a bit shaky in 1995 but converted 36 of 40 save ops in 1996 as he headed into free agency.

In December 1996, the Cubs signed Rojas for 3Y/$13.75M...only to watch him struggle for most of 1997; he'd join the Mets in an August 1997 six-player trade that sent CF Lance Johnson out of New York. For most of Rojas's Mets tenure, he set up CL John Franco. And for most of Rojas's Mets tenure, he was not very effective (5.76 ERA, 1.512 WHIP from 1997-98).

Rojas split 1999 between three teams (Dodgers, Tigers, Expos) and posted a double-digit ERA for all three of them. The 32-year-old's sun had set somewhat early, but at least he got one significant payday before it did.

Mel Rojas appeared in 1991-97 Score.

Score Rex Hudler
Score Rex Hudler

5/21/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Score #589 Rex Hudler, Cardinals

The current generation knows Rex Hudler as the unique color commentator of the Kansas City Royals, but my generation actually remembers Hudler the all-out, balls-to-the-wall player for several teams in the 80's and 90's. While there have been countless "hustle" guys in the big leagues these past 20 years, I'm not sure any of them were on Hudler's level.

A former #1 pick of the Yankees, Hudler made his major league mark as a jack-of-all-trades for the 1988-89 Expos. St. Louis acquired him early in the 1990 season, and he went on to start 51 games across six positions that year. St. Louis, 70-92 overall, was 29-22 when Hudler started!

THIS CARD: I love the position designation; not sure if anybody else in 1991 Score received similar treatment. Hudler played everywhere except the battery in 1990; that was the case in many, if not most, of his healthy seasons.

Hudler bats at an unidentifiable road ballpark. In 1990 he hit .305 and slugged .496 away from home, including his .538 mark at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium!

More from Hudler's 1990 season: on 5/2 he went 4-for-4 with a homer and a steal at San Diego. And from 8/7-9 (at Chicago), he was 7-for-13 with three doubles and two RBI.

(flip) I don't know if I'd describe Hudler as extremely fast, but the man could move. Despite his speed, he didn't have such a great lifetime stolen base percentage (71%), though 28 of his final 33 tries (85%) succeeded.

Of those seven homers in 1990, six were hit between 8/1 and 9/5. Five of the seven were hit in the 8th inning or later...yet not one of them was a go-ahead or game-tying shot.

Hudler was a compensation pick for the free agent loss of DH Ron Blomberg to the White Sox. He was the first of three Yankee first-round picks in 1978, though the other two didn't make it.

AFTER THIS CARD: Hudler remained with St. Louis through the 1992 season, then spent 1993 batting .300 over 120 games in Japan. He returned to the States in '94, reuniting with old Expos manager Buck Rodgers with the 1994-96 Angels. In 1996, 35-year-old Hudler exploded for 16 HR in 92 games and parlayed that into his first sizable big league payday (2Y/$2.6M from Philadelphia in December 1996).

Hamstring injuries impacted Hudler even before the ink on that contract dried, and he wound up batting .196 over just 75 games as a 1997-98 Phillie, the final 75 games of his MLB career. Hudler went on to enjoy a lengthy stint as an Angels commentator before joining the Royals.

Rex Hudler appeared in 1989-92, 1995 and 1997 Score.

Score Kevin Stocker
Score Kevin Stocker

5/24/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Score #405 Kevin Stocker, Phillies

Although Kevin Stocker had been one of 1993's surprise rookies, I'm not sure anyone expected a similar performance in 1994. I sure didn't.

And while the young SS indeed fell short of his '93 numbers, Stocker turned in a largely quality 1994 season even as the Phillies sunk around him. Though he lost several weeks to wrist surgery, Stocker batted .277 with a .383 OBP after returning in early June.

THIS CARD: Stocker going high to avoid a Pittsburgh Pirate. In my softball days, I was occasionally a 280-pound SS, and I'll always have respect for guys like Stocker hanging tough on the double play. It isn't fun (or safe) having large, angry humans sliding into your legs...ask Marco Scutaro or Ruben Tejada.

Overall, Stocker didn't have the best defensive 1994 season. He committed 16 errors in just 82 games, including nine in a very sloppy July, but was riding a 10-game errorless streak when the season ended 8/12.

More from Stocker's 1994 season: on 7/25 against Florida, his 8th-inning triple produced a season-high three RBI. Additionally, Stocker led the Phillies with seven HBP, including two the day after the aforementioned triple.

(flip) Those two 1994 home runs were hit on successive days against Pittsburgh (August 2-3)

Show me another baseball card with the word "adroitly" on it.

AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre has been a Yankees affiliate for so long, I'm slowly starting to forget its previous Phillies ties. Pretty sure Stocker was only there in '94 on a rehab assignment.

AFTER THIS CARD: A rough 1995 got Stocker sent back to AAA for a time, but he rebounded and served as Philadelphia's primary SS again in 1996-97. In fact, Stocker set career highs in games (149) at-bats (504) and hits (134) in '97 while batting a serviceable .266. With his value perhaps peaking, Philly traded Stocker to expansion Tampa Bay in November 1997. (It worked out well for the Phillies—future star OF Bobby Abreu headed north in the deal.)

Stocker—who signed a 3Y/$7.5M deal upon joining the Devil Rays—struggled thru a nightmare 1998 (.208, season-ending broken wrist), saw a bad knee end his 1999 in July, and was released in May 2000. The 30-year-old finished 2000 with the Angels.

 

Stocker pinch-ran once for AAA Las Vegas (Dodgers) in '01 before deciding to retire from baseball; he later admitted his heart was no longer in the game. Since then, he has worked as a broadcaster mostly for CBS Sports, and was considered for an opening with his familiar Phillies in 2015 (but lost out to Ben Davis).

Kevin Stocker appeared in 1994-96 Score.

Score Chris Hoiles
Score Chris Hoiles

5/27/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #90 Chris Hoiles, Orioles

Hoiles, among the game's top power-hitting catchers throughout most of the 1990's, slipped a bit in 1997 after his strong showing in 1996 helped Baltimore snap a 13-year postseason drought. Injury was partly to blame, as Hoiles tore a knee ligament in a June collision with Montreal's F.P. Santangelo (who, being barely bigger than a child, must have hit Hoiles just right). 

Slashing .284/.403/.455 before the injury, Hoiles struggled to .229/.341/.375 marks upon returning.

THIS CARD: Hoiles takes a rip at Oriole Park, where he hit .345 with nine of his 12 home runs in 1997. He batted a limp .189 on the road.

#23 was the last of three numbers Hoiles wore in Baltimore. In Orioles history, only RP Tippy Martinez challenges him for most notable #23. The number has been cycled around a LOT these past 15 years or so.

More from Hoiles' 1997 season: on 5/8, he accrued TEN total bases (two homers and a double) along with six RBI in a blowout win over Seattle. And 10 days later against those same Mariners, Hoiles smoked a game-tying, three-run homer off Randy Johnson!

(flip) I did not know Hoiles was a Detroit draft pick.

Hoiles was Signed Through 1999 on a 5Y/$17.5M extension he inked in April 1995.

That ALCS home run took place in Game 4. Unfortunately, Hoiles' solo shot off Kenny Rogers only mattered cosmetically in Baltimore's 8-4 loss.

Good for Hoiles going errorless in 1997. As you can see, basestealers weren't shy about challenging him, and were often successful, but at least he wasn't giving away extra bases.

AFTER THIS CARD: Not a whole lot. Though Hoiles did belt two grand slams in one game against Cleveland in 1998, he generally swung a cold bat that year and lost playing time to Lenny Webster. When a degenerative hip condition prevented him from catching the following Spring, the Orioles released him with a year left on his deal, and he never played again.

Chris Hoiles appeared in 1991-98 Score, except 1995 when they were the only name brand to exclude him for some reason.