Score Baseball Card Of The Day, September 2021
SCORE Archive 2020: November/December
Click on images for larger views.
9/28/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #548 Scott Christman, Draft Pick
This will be brief.
For the fourth consecutive year/set, Score produced Draft Pick cards. And for the fourth consecutive year/set, collectors found just as many, if not more, complete washouts as future big league contributors. Unfortunately for him and his family, Christman—picked three spots ahead of Torii Hunter—was one of the washouts.
THIS CARD: Christman was the White Sox' very first pick in the '93 Draft. As the 17th overall pick, he received a $450K bonus, so at least his eventual washout didn't bankrupt Chicago.
The White Sox later selected Greg Norton, Mike Sirotka and Jeff Abbott in that draft, all of whom contributed to their 2000 AL West title. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. And other cliches.
Christman's high leg kick here is reminding me of current Seattle lefty Tyler Anderson. I do not know if Christman's leg spasmed mid-motion as Anderson's does.
(flip) With those stats, there was no reason NOT to select Christman. In no way am I knocking the Sox for doing so; some dudes get hurt or just flame out.
I'm not sure THREE matching White Sox logos were necessary here. A standard and an alternate would have worked.
Christman resembles longtime White Sox C Carlton Fisk ever so slightly here, which is complimentary. There's also a bit of journeyman P Jeff Juden, which (based solely on Juden's behavior, not his looks) could be construed as uncomplimentary.
AFTER THIS CARD: Christman lasted five pro seasons, all in the White Sox organization. His best year was likely 1994 for A+ Prince William (6-11, 3.80 in 20 starts, which tells you all you need to know).
After gong 6-9, 4.76 across two levels in 1995, Christman sat out most of 1996 (four starts; not sure why as data on low minor leaguers from 25 years ago is difficult to find) and was an absolute disaster at AA Birmingham in 1997 (9.05 ERA in 14 starts and one relief), bringing his pro career to a close just shy of 26.
Christman went down as one of just six players from the 1993 Draft's first round to never reach MLB (supplemental picks excluded).
Scott Christman appeared in 1994 Score.
More September 2021 Score Cards Of The Day
9/4/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Score #360 Lance Johnson, White Sox
For the first half of the 1990's, Lance Johnson was among the better two-way center fielders in baseball. He got absolutely no recognition for it, because he played in a league with Ken Griffey Jr., Kenny Lofton, Kirby Puckett (until he moved to RF) and Devon White, all of whom had more power and/or were flashier defensively.
But Johnson could ball. He led the AL in triples four straight years, stole loads of bases, and was always at or near the top of the league in putouts. Think a strictly left-handed Billy Hamilton—only not quite as fast and far tougher to strike out.
Johnson took over as the White Sox' CF in 1990, and for the rest of his time there (six seasons) he never went on the DL once; other than a troublesome groin in August/September 1993, nothing kept Johnson out of the lineup long. I can appreciate that.
Here, Johnson has completed his fifth season as Chicago's main man in CF. He missed just seven games while tying his career-high with three homers and setting a new career-high with 54 RBI. On 7/4/1994, Johnson stole his 180th base with the White Sox, passing Hall-of-Famer Luke Appling for 7th on their all-time list (and helping them to a victory!)
THIS CARD: This is what Johnson did best: run. He lit up the basepaths. He tore through the outfield. This is a guy who probably ran full-speed to take misdelivered mail to his neighbors. (Johnson is shown baserunning on four of his nine Score cards.)
In White Sox history, #1 hasn't lasted long with anybody except Johnson and 1960's CF Jim Landis. In 2021, young Nick Madrigal was leading the AL in hits wearing #1 and seemed on his way to a solid future with the Sox...but then he blew out his knee and was traded.
(Whether out of respect for Johnson or other reasons, after he departed in December 1995 nobody wore #1 for the Sox until Kenny Lofton passed through in early 2002.)
More from Johnson's 1994 season: he enjoyed an 11-game hit streak from 7/28 to 8/8, racked up a pair of four-hit games, and on 7/31 he launched his first and only career grand slam (off Jim Converse) to ice a win over Seattle.
(flip) In 1996, Johnson would lead MLB in triples yet again (21 for the Mets...spoiler alert).
Here, Johnson resembles former NBA star Gilbert Arenas. I do hope he handles confrontation a bit better than Arenas, however.
Not only did those 26 SB in 1994 lead the Sox; they were twice as much as the nearest teammate (Tim Raines). Not shown: Johnson's prolific BB-to-K ratios; he walked more than he whiffed for the third straight year in 1994 (26 to 23).
AFTER THIS CARD: In the final year of a 3Y/$7.6M deal signed in Feburary 1993, Johnson enjoyed a fantastic 1995 season, leading the AL with 186 hits and swiping 40 bags. Still, Chicago chose not to exercise his contract option and instead tried to reduce his salary! Days later, the veteran inked a 2Y/$5.7M with the Mets. How did that go?
For half of it, exemplary. 1996 would be Johnson's finest season (MLB-best 227 hits, 50 SB, a .333 AVG and his first and last All-Star selection) and it earned him a 2Y/$10M extension. But Johnson's trademark durability eluded him in 1997; he was bothered by shin splints early and a ribcage injury late. In early August, the 34-year-old was included in a six-player trade that sent him to the Cubs.
Johnson only managed to get in 180 games for the Cubs over the next two seasons, done in by hand inflammation in early 1998 and an abdominal strain in mid-1999. For the most part, he played decently when healthy, but Chicago let him go in October '99 (and might have done so sooner if not for his $5M salary).
MiLB deals with the Indians and Yankees in 2000 led nowhere, and just like that, Johnson was finished in the major leagues. Today, he remains the only player to have led both the AL and NL in hits in a season...surprising, but I double-checked!
Lance Johnson appeared in 1990-98 Score.
9/8/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #330 Checklist
Early Score sets did not include Checklists, but suddenly in the 1994 set, there they were! Back then, cards were grouped by team, even though they were not numbered by team (as Upper Deck used to do). The 1995 set was a bit wonky; Series 1 Checklists featured players sorted by team as in '94, but Series 2 Checklists listed them by card number. ??? Never seen that in another set before or since.
In 1996-97 Score, Checklists returned, with all subjects listed by card number. Insert cards even got their own Checklist (which would do factory set owners no good at all), which is what we have here.
THIS CARD: That is Todd Hundley of the Mets looking more chiseled than on any other card of his I own. Hundley was one of 1996's big stories as he set a Mets record with 41 home runs. He wasn't far off Johnny Bench's then-catcher's record of 45 home runs, either.
"Chase". Before I flipped this card over, 17-year-old me did not know what the hell he was holding. It could have been a list of Chevy Chase films for all I knew; I'd never heard of insert collecting being described as a "chase".
(flip) Card #330 marked the end of Series 1. Series 2 consisted of just 220 cards, with a special card #221 later produced for the alleged "Nolan Ryan of Japan", Hideki Irabu.
Most of my 1997 Score set was built through packs, and as such I was able to nab five of those inserts. They never mattered much to me, however, and as you see I never marked them off on the Checklist.
I disagree with Roberto Alomar receiving a "The Franchise" card after one year in Baltimore, where Cal Ripken still roamed. Though Rafael Palmeiro might have been acceptable after three strong seasons with the Orioles.
I never got a Highlight Zone insert, but they sound interesting. Might splurge once I've safely acquired 2021 Topps Update.
9/12/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1995 Score #254 Barry Larkin, Reds
Here, we catch up with Reds superstar Barry Larkin after what was a solid 1994 season for him and an excellent one for his team. Injuries cut into each of Larkin's past three seasons, but he remained on the field in 1994, which was Year Three of a 5Y/$25.6M extension signed in 1992.
Despite a slow start, the 30-year-old bagged his sixth All-Star berth, his first Gold Glove, and team highs in runs, steals and plate appearances (501).
THIS CARD: One thing about Larkin: he hustled and was never afraid to get dirty, as this pic proves. However, his propensity for injuries often made Cincinnati fans nervous whenever he did go barreling somewhere.
As we've discussed, that #11 is now retired for the Hall-of Famer. Pre-Larkin, the most notable Reds #11 was Hal McRae in the early '70's, well before he was Hal McRae.
More from Larkin's 1994 season: he was at .214 through 5/10 before heating up. On 6/18 at Atlanta, he whacked four hits and scored four times, missing the cycle by a homer. And on 6/21 he played his 1,000th career game—all with the Reds—and marked the occasion with a game-winning solo homer in the B8th! (Against John Burkett of my Giants...grrrr.)
(flip) Larkin was not chosen for the 1992 All-Star Game.
That 19-game hit streak lasted from 6/4 thru 6/26 and even included a pinch-hit! Larkin slashed .434/.506/.605 in that span, and his Reds went 13-6.
You see Larkin's birthdate of 4/28/64. On 4/28/94, he homered twice and drove in four as Cincy clobbered Pittsburgh 19-7. In 17 chances, Larkin hit exactly zero birthday homers before or after his milestone 30th.
AFTER THIS CARD: Larkin walked away as the 1995 NL MVP, powering the Reds all the way to the NLCS! In 1996, after earning a 3Y/$16.5M extension through 1999. Larkin belted a career-high 33 homers and won another Gold Glove; he'd make four more All-Star teams between 1996-2000.
But from 2000-2004, Larkin enjoyed just one even semi-healthy campaign (2002, 145 games) as Cincinnati—despite the 2000 addition of Ken Griffey Jr.—spun its wheels in mediocrity, partially due to Larkin's frequent unavailability. Despite some talk of him joining the newly-relocated 2005 Nationals, 40-year-old Larkin ultimately retired after completing 19 seasons with the Reds (1986-2004).
He finished up with 2,340 hits, 198 homers, 12 All-Star berths, three Gold Gloves, and unfortunately, 14 DL stints totaling 485 days. He was elected to the Hall-of-Fame in 2012, his third year on the ballot. Since retiring, Larkin's had too many baseball jobs to list in full here, though I'll mention his stint on ESPN's Baseball Tonight. Larkin currently works as a Reds broadcaster.
Barry Larkin was one of few to appear in every Score set, 1988-98. He can also be found upside-down on a 1991 Score postseason card.
9/16/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #586 Shane Reynolds, Astros
Shane Reynolds' star didn't shine bright for a particularly long time, but over the second half of the 1990's the man was one of the best RHP the NL had to offer and at minimum, the co-ace of three Astros division winners 1997-99.
But here, Reynolds is still getting his feet wet in MLB. After a shaky introduction to the bigs in 1992, Reynolds did well in a couple of (very brief) long relief stints with the 1993 Astros and earned the start in the season finale...more on that later.
THIS CARD: I loved when Score referred to youngsters as "Rookie Prospects". I can't explain how, but the label made it feel like the subject was truly one worth watching. Later on, when Score dropped "Prospect" from the label, it felt like the subject was just some dude. (Even in the 1995-96 sets when "Rookies" got their own graphics apart from standard commons.)
Reynolds rocks back to fire either his low-90's fastball, his sharp curve, or his strikeout pitch—the splitter. He was not unlike current Giants SP Kevin Gausman, though he didn't throw as hard and had better posture.
More from Reynolds' 1993 season: he earned call-ups from AAA Tucson in July (3 IP, two hits, no runs in two relief appearances) and September (five shutout innings across two relief appearances with the only baserunner reaching on an error). Then came the start on 10/3; Reynolds allowed four runs in three innings, but only one was earned thanks to a Chris Donnels error.
(flip) Of those 10 K in 11 Astros innings, I guarantee at least eight of them were on the splitter. Reynolds wasn't going to blow many guys away unless they were opposing pitchers.
As you see, the new Astros logo for 1994 made it into Series 2. It made the prior logo/script seen on Reynolds' jersey look plain uninspired.
A 3.62 ERA only ranked second in the entire Pacific Coast League? If that's accurate, holy Deca Durabolin.
AFTER THIS CARD: Reynolds made the 1994 Astros roster as a reliever, then moved into their rotation when Pete Harnisch got hurt. He didn't leave for nine more seasons (unless injured), starting on five straight Opening Days, racking up 102 wins and a 3.92 ERA along the way. Reynolds was also an adequate hitter who went yard five times during his Houston tenure!
Very durable early in his career, Reynolds was limited to 63 starts from 2000-02 (degenerative disk in his back, surgery to repair meniscus torn while jogging, back surgery) but appeared set to come back with the 2003 Astros when, unaware he was competing for a spot, he was shockingly cut at the end of Spring Training.
Atlanta quickly snapped Reynolds up, and despite diminished velocity he looked like a steal after allowing zero earned runs in his first two starts. But he finished with a 5.43 ERA in 29 starts and was not re-signed.
After signing a 1Y/$1M deal with Arizona, 36-year-old Reynolds missed the first half of 2004 with an inflamed rotator cuff, made a forgettable start for the D'Backs 6/28, underwent knee surgery two days later and never pitched in MLB again.
Shane Reynolds appeared in 1993-98 Score.
9/20/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1997 Score #285 Matt Mieske, Brewers
Here, Mieske is fresh off his fourth, and best, season with the Milwaukee Brewers. He started 98 games, all in the outfield, in 1996 and set career highs in every key offensive category. He committed just one error all season and batted a ridiculous .352 against left-handers!
THIS CARD: I'm pretty sure Mieske is in a road uniform, but the shadows and the alternate jersey prevent me from confirming. And I have no idea what park has/had red rails.
Mieske seems slimmer to me here than in years past...but he's actually listed seven pounds heavier than he was in 1995 Score. He must have been holding a dumbbell when they weighed him.
More from Mieske's 1996 season: he played in 70 of Milwaukee's first 79 games, but gradually sat more because A) problems with righties, B) the return to health of UT Dave Nilsson and need to fit him somewhere defensively, and C) the August acquisition of OF Jeromy Burnitz from Cleveland. On 5/25, Mieske ripped two homers among his three hits, driving in four runs in a loss to the White Sox.
(flip) We discussed Mieske's MVP awards on his previous Score COTD, presented back in July 2021.
With four major league seasons to his credit, Score shouldn't have still been printing Mieske's minor league stats.
I know we said Mieske started 98 games in 1996. So why does it say 84 starts in the bottom stats? Because he started 84 times in RF, with nine in CF and five in LF.
That Trade, you may recall, sent Mieske, SP Ricky Bones and INF Jose Valentin—all Padres prospects at the time—to Milwaukee in exchange for the very disgruntled SS Gary Sheffield.
AFTER THIS CARD: Mieske battled a bad hamstring in 1997, and the Brewers didn't re-sign him for 1998. He signed with the Cubs and despite a .299 showing that year, Chicago let him go that December.
Mieske only lasted two more big league seasons, most of that with the Astros (bookended by short stints with Seattle and Arizona) where his famous fight with teammate Mitch Meluskey took place. After hitting a combined .180 in 2000, Mieske's professional baseball career ended.
Matt Mieske appeared in 1995-97 Score. (To my surprise, nobody produced a card of Mieske the Astro.)
9/24/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1991 Score #571 Derek Lilliquist, Padres
Lilliquist, the #6 overall pick in the 1987 Draft by Atlanta, was starting full-time for the Braves two seasons later. Though very hittable, he usually kept the lowly Braves in the game.
Here, however, Lilliquist has struggled through his sophomore season of 1990, at least on the mound—Lilliquist belted two home runs of his own against the Mets' Ron Darling 5/1! Unfortunately, that year too many of his opponents' drives left the ballpark, too, and Atlanta swapped their former prized prospect to San Diego for RP Mark Grant.
THIS CARD: We see Lilliquist about to deliver one of his different fastballs (he was known to cut and sink the fastball). He also offered a slider and curveball, and one publication described him as a pitcher with "great heart".
Green and purple. Sure makes you think San Diego Padres, doesn't it? (Does ANY pro sports team use that scheme?)
More from Lilliquist's 1990 season: on 6/8 for the Braves, he took the loss in a 23-8 drubbing by the Giants at Candlestick Park—five days after I attended my first ever game at The 'Stick! But he enjoyed a strong May (3.66 ERA in six starts covering 39 innings) and on 8/12 for the Padres, he pitched perhaps the least expected shutout of the year at Houston!
(flip) Ernie Whitt caught Lilliquist on the 1990 Braves.
The last two-homer pitcher before Lilliquist? San Francisco's Jim Gott 5/12/1985. The last Braves pitcher to do it? Tony Cloninger 7/3/1966—both of them grand slams! Nine pitchers, including active hurlers Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard, have since accomplished the feat.
Winter Park, Florida is located just a bit north of Orlando.
AFTER THIS CARD: Lilliquist never found any footing across one-and-a-half seasons in the Padres organization and joined the Indians prior to the 1992 season. In Cleveland, Lilliquist became a bullpen force in 1992-93, registering a 2.01 ERA and 16 saves across 127 combined games. If you throw out June (13.50 ERA), he was pretty effective in 1994 as well.
Next, Lilliquist signed with the 1995 Red Sox just before the season started, but he was cut in July with a 6.28 ERA. His playing career ended with four May appearances and one September outing for the 1996 Reds.
Since then, Lilliquist has done a lot of coaching. He worked in the Cardinals system for nearly a decade before being promoted to their big league staff as bullpen coach for 2011. That year, longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan stepped away, and Lilliquist became interim pitching coach until assuming duties full-time for 2012.
Let go after the 2017 season, Lilliquist quickly landed with Washington in the same role, was fired 18 months later, and hasn't resurfaced anywhere to my knowledge.
Derek Lilliquist appeared in Score annually 1989-94, except 1992.