Score Baseball Card Of The Day, Nov./Dec. 2020
"I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree with them." -- President George W. Bush
12/31/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1988 Score #555 Phil Niekro, Braves
You don't see many knuckleballers, period. And the ones you do see? They don't exactly excel fresh out of the draft. The great Phil Niekro was the all-time example; at age 28, he had six major league wins to his credit...all but one out of the bullpen.
Niekro and his knuckleball didn't take off until 1967 when he won the NL ERA title—and even then he was used out of the bullpen half the year! Sixteen years later, Niekro had racked up 594 starts for Atlanta, and won 268 of them.
In January 1984, the soon-to-be-45-year-old signed a 2Y/$1.4M deal with the Yankees, winning 32 more games (making it an even 300 lifetime). New York re-signed Niekro for '86, only to release him in Spring Training. Cleveland swooped in, but Niekro wasn't particularly effective in '86 (241 hits in 210 innings).
Here, Niekro has split 1987 with three clubs: the Indians, the Blue Jays (for three weeks) and back to the Braves (for one start).
THIS CARD: This was not the original Score card selected for this date, but when Niekro passed away just after Christmas 2020 at age 81, I decided to present his card instead (as has been the TSR custom with Topps cards). Besides, I already had my 1988 Score set down off the shelf.
As you can see, Niekro looked closer to 81 here than he did his actual age of 48. I had an ex once freak out over how old Bob Brenly looked late in his career; good thing she never saw this guy.
When confronted with players who swapped teams very late in the year, it wasn't uncommon for early Score sets to present said players with their initial team, with no acknowledgement of his new club other than in the stats.
But here, it seems Score was able to nab pics of Niekro from his one Braves appearance (against my Giants in Atlanta 9/27/87). Unless the company happened to have Niekro pics from the early 1980's on hand...we'll probably never know.
(flip) Niekro wore #35 and only #35 his entire 24-year career.
Tracking Niekro's 1987 movement: he made 22 starts for Cleveland, but his ERA neared six and he was traded to Toronto in August (after being D4A'd, I'm guessing). The Jays gave Niekro three starts before cutting him (0-2, 8.25); he rejoined Atlanta nearly a month later.
Not shown in the stats: Niekro's 716 career starts, good for 5th all-time (Young, Ryan, Sutton, Maddux) and 3rd when he retired.
AFTER THIS CARD: Nada. Niekro's start with the '87 Braves would be his last; he waited patiently and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 (what, did they suspect him of 'roiding? What took so long?!) More than one future knuckleballer went to Niekro for assistance with the pitch, including his nephew Lance Niekro, who'd been a 1B with my Giants in the mid-00's but had since taken up pitching.
He became the 7th Baseball Hall-of-Famer to pass away in 2020, on 12/26 from cancer. RIP, from TSR.
Phil Niekro appeared in 1988 Score.
More November/December 2020 Score Cards Of The Day
11/22/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Score #405 Tom Foley, Expos
In 1988, Tom Foley wrapped up his second full season (and third overall) with the Montreal Expos, once again splitting time between SS and 2B.
Foley, a #7 pick by the Reds in '77, wound up starting 97 times for the Expos in '88 and finished second on the team with 10 IBB (Tim Raines drew 14).
THIS CARD: A fine action shot of Foley firing from what I'd guess to be the shortstop position. If you liked Montreal's powder blues, 1989 Score was for you.
Remember to flip those glasses down on balls in the air, Tom. Nothing pisses off fans more than a dude missing a fly ball/popup because his shades are on, but not down.
More from Foley's 1988 season: his season highlight was possibly his three-hit, two-homer day on 7/2. Then again, maybe not, since Montreal still lost in 15 innings.
(flip) Those hits may have been technically "game-winners", but only one was all that dramatic—Foley's 10th-inning walk-off single to sink his old Philadelphia teammates 4/16.
That Braves clash took place 7/10. After entering in the 8th, 2B Foley relayed home to erase Atlanta runner Gerald Perry—attempting to score on a Dale Murphy hit—and preserve a 2-2 tie. Two innings later, Foley's RBI single off Bruce Sutter in the T13th put Montreal up 3-2; they'd win 4-2.
Foley, in fact, was a three-sport star at Miami Palmetto High School.
AFTER THIS CARD: Foley started 91 times for the 1989 Expos, but settled into a reserve role in the years to come. His versatility kept him in Montreal through multiple managerial changes, even as his average plummeted below .200.
In 1993, Foley joined the Pirates, starting 41 times across four positions. By 1995 he was 35 and back in Montreal, but their July release brought on the end of Foley's playing career. He then embarked on a long stint with the Rays, first in player development, then as a 3B coach (2001-14), then as a bench coach (2015-17) and finally in the front office as a special advisor.
Foley retired from baseball in 2019. He appeared in Score 1988-92.
11/25/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1998 Score #180 Jim Leyritz, Rangers
Two things we know, or at least should know, about the longtime Yankee catcher/UT Jim Leyritz: he had a knack for hitting home runs in the postseason, and he had a knack for getting under his teammates' skin. Leyritz was a guy who clearly enjoyed the perks of being a New York Yankee, and for a time he had celebrity status usually reserved for stars.
Leyritz debuted in 1990 and started 67 games at 3B for the Yankees, but when he repeatedly criticized the club for not playing him more, then struggled when it did, he was demoted to AAA for what ended up being a long time. Leyritz talked some more and eventually got himself suspended.
By 1993, however, he seemed to have finally figured it out (somewhat), and hit .309 with 14 home runs that year. Still playing part-time, Leyritz smacked 17 more out of the park in '94. In '95 he walked off the Mariners in the 15th inning of ALDS Game #2, then in '96 he famously stunned the Braves with a three-run blast off the tough Mark Wohlers in World Series Game #4.
Here, the veteran utilityman has landed with the Texas Rangers, his second team of 1997. He joined Texas via mid-season trade from the Angels, who had acquired him in the off-season from the Yankees.
THIS CARD: We see Leyritz the Ranger either pre-AB or between pitches. He was known for literally twirling the bat between pitches, as well as a strange, almost painful-looking batting stance (that was somehow never captured on a Score or Topps card).
Leyritz became a Ranger in a straight-up swap for P Ken Hill, a 16-game winner in 1996 who'd backpedaled in '97.
More from Leyritz's 1997 season: he got the bulk of run at C for the Angels early on, and was hitting .336 through 5/19. But from 6/1 until his 7/31 trade, Leyritz hit just .232 in 43 games, albeit with plenty of walks. He started 79 games in all for Anaheim.
(flip) Once upon a time, games and at-bats appeared on Score cards; in 1998 they were sacrificed to help make room for the splits. If you do math, you can still calculate total at-bats, at least.
That extra-inning blast was served up by Mariners P Tim Belcher, in his fourth inning of work. That game went 14-plus innings and still, the Mariners used just five pitchers—today, a playoff team could be on its fifth pitcher by the 4th inning regardless of the score.
That's a lot of passed balls, especially for a guy who didn't catch full-time. I never knew Leyritz played so much at other positions before today.
More on the contract status: Leyritz signed a 2Y/$3.3M deal with the Yankees in January 1996 with an option for 1998 that was picked up by the Angels.
AFTER THIS CARD: Leyritz was not through coming up big in the postseason. The Rangers dealt Leyritz to the Red Sox in November 1997; Boston sent him to the Padres in June '98 and in that year's NLDS vs. Houston, Leyritz hit a game-tying homer in the 9th off Billy Wagner (Game 2), and an eventual game-winning homer off the seemingly invincible Randy Johnson in the 7th (Game 3).
The Yankees moved to re-acquire Leyritz in mid-1999; he helped them to their third championship in four years. A brief stint with the 2000 Dodgers would end Leyritz's career just short of 37; he was not able to come back from 2001 rotator cuff surgery.
Leyritz dealt with serious off-field problems in 2007-10. He briefly worked as an Independent League pitching coach in 2011; at last check Leyritz was under a personal services contract with the Yankees and doing sports talk radio.
Jim Leyritz debuted in 1991 Score, and returned for the 1994-98 sets.
11/28/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Score #609 John Shelby, Tigers
One of my favorite baseball frivolities is when so-so players carry four-star nicknames. Shelby was but a decent player in his day, but when he's referred to by his nickname, he becomes somebody entirely different. Somebody you wouldn't want to pitch to.
Try it. "Yeah, I remember those '83 Orioles. They had Ripken and Murray, Al Bumbry, T-Bone Shelby..."
See what I mean?
(Of course, the nickname has to fit the player at least somewhat. Andres "T-Bone" Torres, for example, would evoke more laughter than anything else.)
Here, Shelby has wrapped a 1990 season that landed him back in the American League after a three-year absence. He opened 1990 with the Dodgers; they cut him in June, but the Tigers soon picked him up and put him in their starting lineup for the next few weeks.
THIS CARD: Not the most balanced swing Shelby has ever taken, but he was a fast guy who didn't have to necessarily hit the ball hard to get a hit.
Shelby returned to baseball card sets in 1991 after being omitted by everybody the year before in the wake of a tough 1989 season. (Well, he did appear in 1990 Topps Traded as a new Tiger but that's about it.)
More from Shelby's 1990 season: when the Dodgers did use him, which wasn't often, it was as a PH/DR—quite a drop-off from being the starting CF on their 1988 World Series team. As mentioned, Detroit put him in their starting lineup for a time before deciding to pick their LF and CF out of a hat each day.
(flip) A free swinger indeed: Shelby's career OBP was .281, and he did not walk often (32 in over 500 PA in 1987, for example).
Shelby went 6-for-19 in five games at Toledo.
That early home run was against Todd Burns of the A's, but according to Baseballreference.com, the only grannie Shelby ever hit was in 1983. (He did smoke a three-run shot against Boston on 8/5/90.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Shelby remained with the Tigers into the 1991 season, but was given his walking papers in August after hitting .154 in 53 games. He spent 1992 with AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox), but never resurfaced in the majors.
From there, he embarked on a long coaching/managing career in the majors and minors, most notably with the Dodgers 1998-2005. You may remember Shelby as one of several Dodgers personnel who entered the Wrigley Field crowd during a 2000 hat-stealing fracas with idiot fans.
John Shelby appeared in the 1988, 1989 and 1991 Score sets.
12/1/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #393 Cecil Fielder, Tigers
Cecil Fielder was the game's top slugger of the early 1990's; he opened the decade with 95 bombs in two seasons and led the AL in RBI annually 1990-92. One of the best draft picks ever by the Tigers, right?
Uh, not quite. The Tigers didn't draft Fielder; Kansas City did. Toronto acquired him, but they never gave him more than part-time run. In fact, the only team that would give Fielder full-time run in 1989 was...the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan League! Even 30 years later, it is still incredible that a player like 1990-92 Fielder was essentially unwanted by MLB in 1989.
Here, Fielder—who signed a 5Y/$36M deal in early 1993—is fresh off a '93 season that ranked below the lofty standard he'd set from 1990-92, partially because he didn't see as many strikes. Still, Fielder made his third All-Star team while leading Detroit in RBI.
THIS CARD: For those of you not around in Fielder's day, it is pronounced "SESSIL", not "SEESIL".
Any nickname for Fielder other than "Big Daddy" just would not have worked. At all. One of my all-time favorite MLB announcer moments involved Fielder's size; it was a VERY windy day somewhere and the runner on first base (where Fielder played) wasn't leading off very far. The announcers—good-naturedly—suggested the runner just grab on to Fielder if the wind worsened, reasoning "Cecil's not goin' anywhere."
Fielder bats at an unidentified road ballpark; the catcher has red equipment and that's all I've got to go on. Away from Tiger Stadium in 1993, Fielder only slugged .393 with 10 homers, compared to .537 with 20 homers at home. But don't misinterpret that stat; Fielder could hit the ball out of Yellowstone Park if served up just right.
(flip) Fielder did lead the league in RBI for a short time in June, but was eventually passed by
Juan Gonzalez, Joe Carter, Frank Thomas and leader Albert Belle.
Just know that Fielder did not weigh 245 in the year 1993. I'm not bashing or shaming him, just pointing out an inaccuracy.
Fielder did hit big home runs; he was the only Tiger (and one of four players total) to clear the LF grandstand at Tiger Stadium, in fact. Also, Fielder hit a ball completely out of County Stadium in Milwaukee once, estimated at 520 feet. (Both videos are available on YouTube at this writing.)
AFTER THIS CARD: Fielder continued to mash for Detroit into mid-1996, when the Tigers satisfied his request for a trade by sending him to the Yankees at the 11th hour of Deadline Day. Though the Yankees went on to win the World Series that year, Fielder still wasn't entirely happy in New York, requested another trade (which didn't happen) and moved on to the Angels for 1998.
Despite being the team's RBI co-leader, Fielder was pushed out of playing time by rookie Troy Glaus, then let go in August. Cleveland then signed and quickly cut the almost-35-year-old, and a 1999 MiLB deal with Toronto ended in Spring Training with the acquisition of Dave Hollins. Just like that, Fielder was finished in MLB.
Later on, Fielder briefly managed in something called the South Coast League, an independent league that existed for one season. You may have heard of his son Prince, who matched his dad's career total of 319 major league home runs (for the Brewers, Tigers and Rangers).
Cecil Fielder appeared in Score 1988-98, except 1990.
12/4/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #423 Gary Disarcina, Angels
Seasons can be thrown off-course for any number reasons. An errant pitch, a bad collision, COVID-19—the possibilities are virtually endless.
As the 1995 Angels found out, a season can be thrown off-course, even ruined, by second base as well.
You see, the Halos were rolling along in first place at 56-33 when leader and defensive anchor Gary Disarcina wrecked his thumb sliding into the second base bag. While he healed, California went 16-28, backed into a tie for the division title with Seattle, and lost the one-game playoff. The Angels wouldn't seriously contend again for seven more years...stupid base.
Here, the veteran Disarcina has returned to health (thumbs up), but his performance did not at all approach that of his All-Star 1995 season (thumbs down). Still, the Angels locked him up for 4Y/$11.7M in June.
THIS CARD: Disarcina hangs in as an unidentified White Sock pulls a Jeremy Giambi and refuses to slide. By the looks of things, homeboy could be out.
We see Disarcina's new uniform #9; for the preceding years he had worn #33 in tribute to his childhood idol Larry Bird, but when future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Murray joined the 1997 Angels, Disarcina (either voluntarily or otherwise) relinquished the number. Murray had never worn anything but #33 in his 20-year MLB career, it should be said.
1997 Score Series 1 says "California Angels". Series 2 is updated with "Anaheim Angels". Both of them sound off today.
(flip) Some sources spell Disarcina with a capital "S", some don't. Baseballreference.com goes with the lowercase "s", and so will we.
Disarcina led the AL in assists in 1992 and 1994; research turned up nothing about his chances rankings.
In that 1995 All-Star Game, Disarcina pinch-ran for Cal Ripken Jr. in the 7th, then flied out vs. Randy Myers in the 9th.
AFTER THIS CARD: Disarcina followed an ordinary 1997 season with a strong offensive year in 1998 (.287, 39 doubles). But in Spring Training '99, he suffered one of the all-time freak injuries when he walked into the BP swing of coach George Hendrick—the resulting broken arm put Disarcina out for months.
Then in 2000, Disarcina underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff, and was out through all of 2001 as well. He landed with AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox) for 2002, but retired in July. That fall, Disarcina threw out the first pitch for the Angels prior to ALDS Game 4 to a moving standing ovation.
Disarcina has since enjoyed a long managing/coaching career; he's been on the major league staffs of the Angels, Red Sox and (currently) Mets in recent years.
Gary Disarcina appeared in Score 1991-98, except 1992.
12/7/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Score #105 Kevin McReynolds, Mets
Kevin McReynolds, for a time, was on the cusp of genuine stardom; he hit like one for much of the mid-late 1980's. In his first full season, 1984, the 24-year-old CF helped San Diego to its first World Series. Two years later, he batted .288 with a team-high 26 home runs, but the Padres jumped at a chance to fill holes with young prospects and traded McReynolds to the Mets after the '86 season.
Sliding over to LF in New York, McReynolds hit 56 home runs 1987-88, batting mostly 5th in the lineup and finishing third in 1988 NL MVP voting (behind Kirk Gibson and fellow Met Darryl Strawberry). He remained a productive player through 1990 but after slipping in 1991, the Mets packaged him in a trade to Kansas City for SP Bret Saberhagen.
From then on, the veteran's career trended down. Usually fairly durable, McReynolds missed extended time on the DL in both 1992 and 1993 with the Royals (he was also benched in early 1993 for perceived lack of hustle) and couldn't crack .250 when he did play. Kansas City saw enough and traded 34-year-old McReynolds back to the Mets for 1994.
THIS CARD: This is pretty much how McReynolds looked all the time—barely interested. I don't claim to know how the man felt, but I do know he didn't seem to enjoy himself all that much on the field. Go to YouTube, look up McReynolds' walk-off home run, and judge for yourself.
This was the first year with Score's new logo. I liked it just fine, but I liked the old one more...I think.
Why a non-pitcher is presumably on deck with a warmup jacket escapes me. Not even players in this ski-mask era do that.
More from McReynolds' 1994 season: he spent a lot of time in that warmup jacket, as he was disabled three times with multiple injuries, including a right knee jammed while sliding into home in late July. There were also back, neck and hamstring problems
(flip) Check out McReynolds' 1988 stats; those 21 steals came in 21 attempts, a league record for season perfection. Chase Utley now holds that record with 23 in 2009.
McReynolds wore #22 during both New York stints. You may remember Ray Knight charging home with that number on his back after Bill Buckner's famous 1986 World Series error. You may also remember Al Leiter's 2000 World Series effort while wearing it. Today, Rick Porcello wears #22 for the Mets.
The blurb meant to say McReynolds was limited to only 47 starts; he played 51 total games.
AFTER THIS CARD: Nada. McReynolds retired after the 1994 season, and has not remained in the game as far as we can tell. He finished up with 104 outfield assists, including 21 double plays.
Kevin McReynolds appeared in Score 1988-95.
12/10/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #336 Hipolito Pichardo, Royals
Royals need somebody to start? Get Pichardo, he'll do it.
Royals need somebody to go three innings? Get Pichardo, he'll do it.
Royals need somebody to close? Get Pichardo, he'll do it.
Royals need somebody to hose down the seats after the game? OK, Pichardo won't do that, though it wouldn't shock me if they asked him to early on.
Pichardo lasted seven years with the Royals by plugging every hole on their pitching staff (and there always seemed to be a few). Here, he's coming off his rookie season, one spent mostly in the KC rotation. 22-year-old Pichardo held his own, even winning three of four starts at one point.
THIS CARD: That is not at all how I remember Hipolito Pichardo looking.
Pichardo's #58 has been shared in KC by far more others than I expected, but none of them really all that noteworthy. Pitching coach Dave Eiland wore it during the Royals' resurgence 2011-17; reliever Scott Barlow has had it since 2018.
Pichardo is about to fire off his fastball, sinker, slider or forkball. When on, said fastball would run in on hitters; Red Sox manager Butch Hobson described it as "moving all over the place".
(flip) Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees a little bit of Michael Jackson in Pichardo.
Pichardo's lone 1992 CG was a one-hit shutout over Boston in July. The hit, supplied by Luis Rivera, was made possible by a debatable non-strike three call on the previous pitch.
That is one Dominican city I had not heard of, and I know quite a few from 30 years collecting cards.
Royals starters weren't the only ones faltering in early 1992; remember, that team started 1-16.
AFTER THIS CARD: Pichardo started 25 times for the 1993 Royals, then was transferred to full-time relief 1994-97. In '97, the now-veteran racked up 11 saves filling in for CL Jeff Montgomery and was re-signed for 2Y/$4.7M that winter.
Pichardo opened and closed the 1998 season back in the rotation, relieving in between, then underwent elbow surgery that August. Out all of 1999, he then signed a MiLB deal with Boston and got in 68 games for them over the 2000-01 seasons before retiring in August 2001 with more elbow woes.
Then, on 5/7/02, Pichardo returned to baseball as a Houston Astro. He faced six Philadelphia Phillies, retired one of them, then retired altogether—for good this time.
Hipolito Pichardo in 1993, 1994 and 1997 Score.
12/13/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Score #413 Royce Clayton, Giants
When he first reached the major leagues in 1991, young Royce Clayton of the Giants quickly became a favorite of my grandmother, a devoted Giants fan—I don't think it mattered at all what he did on the field, either.
What was he doing on the field? Early on, struggling for consistency; Clayton opened 1992 with San Francisco but was sent back to AAA for a time. The Giants stuck with him and eventually, in 1993, 23-year-old Clayton stuck as the team's #1 shortstop. That year he batted .282 and helped the Giants win 103 games!
Here, Clayton has endured a tough 1994 season, watching his entire slashline drop by 36 to 46 points. Still, there were positives, as his fielding and base-stealing improved significantly over the previous campaign.
THIS CARD: Using Colorado's John Vander Wal as a reference point, I wonder if I can narrow down the date of this pic. (Leaves to research)
(Returns) In 1994, Clayton played six home games against the Rockies; Vander Wal reached first base in the final three. Based on game situations, this pic was most likely snapped 7/30/94, on a Vander Wal stolen base attempt (which was successful).
More from Clayton's 1994 season: after committing 27 errors in 153 games in 1993, he cut that rate to 14 in 108 games in 1994. He was acrobatic and could make the tough play.
(flip) Clayton's final 1994 average was .236, but boy, did he begin that year hot (.364 through 10 games). He had a three-hit game at LA on 6/27, then batted .194 over the rest of the season.
If you weren't there like I was, you may not understand just how much Clayton, the 15th overall pick out of high school in 1988, was hyped over the 1991-92 seasons. Incumbent SS Jose Uribe spent his last couple years as a Giant filling space; everybody knew Clayton would take over at some point.
Clayton's 23 steals in 1994 came in just 26 attempts, a vast improvement over 1993, when he was successful on 11 of 21 attempts.
AFTER THIS CARD: Though Clayton had a good and long career, he may best be known for something he had no control over—the Cardinals acquired him from the Giants after the 1995 season, and manager Tony LaRussa gave him the SS job—putting legend Ozzie Smith on the bench and igniting a Smith/LaRussa feud that continues to this day.
Clayton somehow made the 1997 NL All-Star team—there was nothing outstanding about his play that year and the Cardinals already had a rep—and remained in St. Louis through mid-1998, when he was dealt to Texas. As a Ranger, he set a career high with 14 home runs in both 1999 and 2000.
From there, the now-veteran kept his bags packed. He played with eight clubs over the next seven seasons, more than I'm willing to list in this space. I will tell you Clayton's final MLB run came with the World Champion 2007 Red Sox—he walked away on top.
Also, Clayton is also partly why I've never seen Moneyball; I just cannot buy him as Miguel Tejada. Can. Not.
Royce Clayton appeared in 1992-98 Score.
12/16/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Score #802 Al Shirley, Mets Draft Pick
This will be brief.
Al Shirley was a multi-sport star who turned down a football scholarship from the University of Virginia to sign with the Mets, who took him 18th overall in the 1991 draft. (Before you ask, he is no relation to ex-major leaguer Bob Shirley.)
Like many before and after him, Shirley's first go in pro baseball went, well, rough.
THIS CARD: Dual-flap helmet? It doesn't indicate anywhere on the card, but Shirley was indeed a switch-hitter.
Surprisingly, five Mets have worn #64 during the regular season, most recently Chris Flexen from 2017-19.
(flip) I told you about the rejected scholarship before I knew it was in the blurb...my bad.
The Gulf Coast League is where Shirley first dipped in pro ball after being drafted. Though his bat was cold, he did steal 17 bases in 51 games.
AFTER THIS CARD: According to his 1993 Bowman card, Shirley's 1992 season was derailed by a broken wrist (29 games, seven home runs in just 99 at-bats). Though he showed power, he struggled mightily with strikeouts in 1993-94, including 208 in just 437 at-bats in '94, and did not advance out of A ball.
The Mets gave Shirley one more look in 1995, but the 22-year-old still couldn't crack .200 in Class A, and was traded to the Royals for veteran C Brent Mayne that December. For Class A Wilmington in 1996, Shirley batted .229 with 17 home runs, at last earning a promotion to AA for 1997.
But that was where Shirley would peak, fading out of the KC system in 1998. His pro career ended later that year with 17 games of Independent League ball. At last check, Shirley decided to accept that Virginia scholarship after all.
Al Shirley appeared in 1992 Score.
12/19/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #421 Eddie Murray, Angels
Eddie Murray was a great player, consistent and dependable.
He hit over 500 home runs.
He drove in over 1,900 runs.
He stroked over 3,000 hits.
He was a Rookie Of The Year, a Gold Glover and a World Champion.
And yet, what I remember him best for was a double play grounder.
In the infamous "Brian Johnson Game", also known as a critical division clash between the 1997 Dodgers and Giants, SF closer Rod Beck was in all sorts of trouble, loading the bases with no one out as the Candlestick Park crowd rained down boos.
Manager Dusty Baker delivered a pep talk and watched as Beck promptly escaped the jam via strikeout and 4-2-3 double play off the bat of Murray. Johnson homered in the 12th to win it, and the Giants went on to win the division.
(If I ever meet Murray, no, I will not bring up that double play.)
Here, Murray is near the end of the line as a player. After he joined the 500-homer club in 1996, the new-look Anaheim Angels brought in Murray for 1Y/$750K plus incentives.
THIS CARD: Murray marks TSR's second 1997 Score Anaheim Angel in two weeks; we presented Gary Disarcina back on 12/4/20.
There also exists a 1997 Score Series 1 card of Murray still with Baltimore.
Murray had once been a fine first baseman, but by 1994 one publication celebrated his return to the American League because "fans won't have to watch Eddie Murray yawn as ground balls go by."
That's #33 on Murray's sleeve, the only number he ever wore in the majors. In fact, Disarcina gave it up for Murray upon the latter's acquisition.
(flip) This was the first Score set with "Acquired" and "Signed Through" data. Baltimore had made Murray a more lucrative offer than Anaheim, but couldn't promise him playing time in 1997 (?) So off to the West Coast Murray went.
It's always funny to have players listed exclusively as a DH, but pictured fielding. WHICH ONE IS IT???
Murray got in 152 games in 1996, a figure that's much lower had he stayed with Cleveland all year. The Indians planned to reduce Murray's playing time in favor of youngsters, but ultimately moved him to Baltimore instead.
AFTER THIS CARD: Murray's union with the Halos was marred by wrist tendinitis and a cold bat; he was released in August 1997 to make room for newcomer Rickey Henderson. As referenced, Murray closed the season with the Dodgers, then retired after 21 years in the big leagues. He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, first ballot.
Eddie Murray appeared in 1988-97 Score.
12/22/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #121 Greg Myers, Angels
The emergence of young, lefty-hitting Myers made longtime Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt expendable; Whitt was traded to the Braves after the '89 season and Myers slid into his old role.
Myers started 91 games for the 1991 Blue Jays, but Toronto decided to make Pat Borders their #1 catcher for '92 and traded Myers to California near the deadline. A broken hand ended the new Angel's season in August, however.
Here, Myers is coming off an encouraging 1993 season. He stayed healthy and wound up receiving over 300 PA, about triple the amount of any other Halos catcher. Myers set a career high with 40 RBI and stole the first—and only—three bases of his career (all on blown hit-and-runs, but still)! He also became Nolan Ryan's final strikeout.
THIS CARD: No, that is not Big Papi David Ortiz bearing down on Myers; his facial expression would decidedly differ if it was. #34 in Boston belonged to Scott Cooper in 1993.
Perhaps we can figure out what game this is from, using Cooper charging home as a reference. In 1993, California played six times at Boston (losing all six). Cooper reached third base with Myers catching in four of them.
In one game, however (5/2), Cooper tried to score from third on a grounder to third, but was thrown out at the plate. I'm going to go with that play as this card's front image.
(flip) Of the eight games Myers played for the '92 Angels, they lost seven, so at least losing him didn't sink their season.
Myers batted .375 (9-for-24) vs. lefties in 1993, which earned him more opportunities against them. He finished his career batting a decent .257 in 374 AB versus southpaws.
As you see, Myers did not receive any MLB run in 1988; he was out much of the year with an injured rotator cuff.
AFTER THIS CARD: A lot of moving around and a number of injuries. Myers remained with the Angels through 1995, then over the next seven seasons he changed addresses six times. Two of those stops culminated in World Series run for Myers (the '98 Padres and '99 Braves) but none of them led to undisputed #1 catcher status.
37-year-old Myers returned to Toronto for 2003 and set career highs in games (121), plate appearances, home runs, runs batted in and batting average. But in early 2004 at the Metrodome, Myers raced around third to score on a double by young Orlando Hudson. But he severely sprained and bruised his ankle in the process, collapsing to the turf and being tagged out (the lost run didn't cost Toronto, who still won comfortably).
Carted off the field, Myers didn't play again in '04, was forced to win a spot with the '05 Jays—and was cut about two weeks after doing so. No other team signed Myers, closing his career at 39.
Greg Myers appeared in 1991-95 Score.
12/25/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #318 Rick Trlicek, Blue Jays
Trlicek never stayed in one spot for long, swapping organizations 10 times over 11 professional seasons—everyone wanted him until they had him.
Trlicek was originally a Phillies draft pick in '87, signed by Atlanta in '89, then swapped to the Blue Jays in exchange for longtime Toronto C Ernie Whitt (which is how I first heard of him) prior to the '90 season. Trlicek was originally a starter in the Jays system, but was converted to closer in 1991.
Here, the youngster has made his first two major league appearances. Let's just say the sky did not seem the limit.
THIS CARD: FYI, it's pronounced TRIL-ih-chek.
I'm not sure why Score decided to burn a card in a 660-card set on Trlicek, a so-so prospect who appeared in two uneventful big league games in very early '92 and never returned. Stadium Club was the only other major company to include Trlicek in 1993, but back then Stadium Club included just about everybody except the hot dog vendors.
We see Trlicek about to fire off...something. He only had a fastball and slider, with the very rare changeup according to a credible source. I'm kind of ashamed that after 30 years of baseball fandom I still have trouble with some pitch grips.
(flip) Man, that is one unhappy expression for a guy new to the majors. Maybe they snapped the pic in Spring Training.
Trlicek's 15-21 record was somewhat deceiving. Check out his ERA's in 1990-91; he pitched better than his aggregate 11-13 record would indicate.
Those two 1992 appearances for Toronto: a tough 4/8 debut at Detroit (two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning) and a scoreless inning vs. the Yankees six days later.
AFTER THIS CARD: Trlicek would have one extended, successful go in the majors: a 41-game run out of the 1993 Dodgers bullpen (during that run, he made Gary Sheffield mad). He went to Boston on waivers in 1994 and was, well, awful in 12 games.
Out of the majors in 1995, Trlicek bounced between the Mets, Red Sox and back to the Mets in 1996-97 (32 total games), using up the last of his major league lives. I have not heard squat about him since.
Rick Trlicek appeared in 1993-94 Score.
12/28/20 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Score #403 Tom Pagnozzi, Cardinals
In the late 80's, Pagnozzi served as star C Tony Pena's backup, but for a time it looked as if top prospect Todd Zeile would succeed Pena at the position. To summarize, Zeile was shifted to third base in 1990, and Pagnozzi became the Cardinals' #1 catcher for most of the 1990's; he got and held the job on the strength of superior defense behind the plate.
At the plate, Pagnozzi was generally ordinary, but he always hit enough to keep his job at the very least. In 1991-92, he was the NL Gold Glove winner at catcher and also made the 1992 All-Star team! After Pagnozzi missed 70 games in 1993 (most due to knee surgery), he rebounded to win another Gold Glove in 1994 despite just 70 games played (another knee surgery).
Here, the veteran has endured another injury-wracked year. A home-plate collision against Montreal in July 1995 fractured his knee and cost him a month. He returned, got in five games, then saw his season end on yet another play at home plate (wrist).
THIS CARD: No, this isn't the play that ended Pagnozzi's 1995 season; that was against the Rockies and the opponent here is an unidentified Pirate. You make the call: out or safe?
Due to his injuries and the shortened season, Pagnozzi only played two home games against Pittsburgh in 1995: 5/1 and 5/2. I could possibly narrow down the front image's date further, even without knowing who the Pirate is, but I spent too much time uncovering Pagnozzi's knee fracture and am behind schedule.
Pagnozzi wore #19 his entire 12 years in St. Louis. Since then, the likes of Woody Williams and Jon Jay have shared it; today Tommy Edman has it.
(flip) Whatever top Pags is wearing here, it was not a regular-season look in the year 1995. They possibly snapped this pic back in Spring Training, when Pagnozzi wasn't hurt and had reason to smile.
In 1995, Pagnozzi threw out 37% (28 of 76) enemy basestealers, matching his career percentage.
About the only thing I didn't dig about the look of 1996 Score: the "torn" photo revealing the player's position. That could and should have easily been listed next to the player's names.
AFTER THIS CARD: Pagnozzi finally got through (most of) a whole season (relatively) unscathed in 1996, and the result was 13 home runs, almost double what he hit in any other season. St. Louis re-upped their longtime receiver for 2Y/$4M that December.
Pags would play just 76 games over the life of that contract, however (torn hip flexor, torn rotator cuff), and was let go by the Cards in August 1998.
Out all of 1999 after cuff surgery, Pagnozzi attempted a comeback with the 2000 Yankees (run by his old St. Louis skipper Joe Torre), but didn't make the team. At one point he was an assistant coach at Arkansas, but I couldn't confirm his current, or even recent, baseball endeavors.
Nephew Matt Pagnozzi, also a catcher, played in MLB 2009-14, including 21 games with the Cardinals wearing Tom's old #19.
Tom Pagnozzi appeared annually in Score 1988-97, except 1990.