Score Baseball Card Of The Day

"I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree with them." -- President George W. Bush

SCORE Archive 2020: November/December

SCORE Archive 2021: Current Month

 

 

I own every Score card ever made (1988-98) and still lament their parent company, Pinnacle, going bankrupt during my senior year of high school. 

Time has not diminished the detailed blurbs and awesome photography that was Score baseball, however. I've long done a Topps Card Of The Day feature on this site and have now decided to add Score to the mix on days a Topps card is not profiled. This company, defunct or not, deserves appreciation from collectors past and present—shoot, maybe a new generation of card enthusiasts will become enamored with Score as I did.

(We will not be presenting any Score Rookies & Traded cards; I never collected them because they were too different from the base sets.)

 

Click on images for larger views.

Score Darryl Strawberry
Score Darryl Strawberry

1/15/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #428 Darryl Strawberry, Dodgers

I will try to be objective here, which will not be easy because A) Darryl Strawberry was a high-profile Dodger for three years, and B) because he wasted so much of his talent. I know the back/knee injuries and the cancer was not his doing, but all the illegal crap was, and I haven't forgiven him for hitting 335 home runs instead of 500.

Strawberry, of course, was the Dodgers' free-agent splash of October 1990, signing with the team about an hour after the season ended (figuratively). He'd been mostly productive in 1991 (28 HR, 99 RBI) for Los Angeles, but back surgery wiped out most of his 1992 season.

Here, Strawberry has endured a nightmare of a 1993 season. In addition to several off-field problems, the big man swung an ice-cold bat. He went on the DL in June (back) and did not return.

THIS CARD: Strawberry in the cage, hopefully working to get out of his season-long funk. He appears to be saying/thinking, "Really? YOU want a turn in this cage? Do you know who I AM?"

Darryl, only catchers are supposed to wear flapless helmets.

Let's all collectively wish bad juju upon whoever ripped the sleeves off Straw's warm-up jacket. That wasn't very nice and Strawberry was having a tough go of it already.

(flip) That is no misprint: Strawberry batted .140 in 1993, and finished the season 6-for-61 (.098).

He did enjoy a stretch of three homers in four games in mid-April.

Strawberry was a free-swinger who still drew many walks, including 16 in his 32 games of 1993.

I can't identify the road ballpark from the photo, but I can tell you Strawberry slashed just .129/.289/.242 away from Dodger Stadium in 1993, Nothing went right for him that year...

AFTER THIS CARD: Strawberry never played for the Dodgers again; he was released in May 1994 and within weeks was batting fifth for my Giants—who let him go in February 1995. Strawberry would finish the 1995 and 1996 seasons with the Yankees, sandwiching a stint in the Independent League. In '96 Straw belted 11 homers in just 63 games, including a three-homer barrage on 8/6.

Limited by a bad knee to 29 AB for the '97 Yankees, Strawberry came back full-force in 1998, belting 24 HR in under 300 AB before being sidelined by colon cancer. That, and legal issues, kept him off the field until September 1999; Strawberry hit .327 that month and walloped the deciding homer for New York in the deciding game of that year's ALDS.  

However, during Spring Training 2000, Strawberry was removed from a workout by the Commissioner's Office—he was being investigated for a failed drug test, an investigation that eventually led to his suspension for the 2000 season (it was not his first failed drug test). That was it for Strawberry, just shy of 38.

In retirement, Straw's legal troubles did not end, though he seems to be holding things together at present and was elected to the Mets Hall of Fame in 2010. He has written multiple books, at least one of which (Finding My Way) is a good read.

Darryl Strawberry appeared in 1988-97 Score.

More January 2021 Score Cards Of The Day

Score Kenny Lofton
Score Kenny Lofton

1/3/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1996 Score #325 Kenny Lofton, Indians

For the first half of his career, Kenny Lofton was the ignitor for the juggernaut 1990's Cleveland Indians. He hit, he defended, and boy, did he run—for a while, Lofton seemed to be building a Hall-of-Fame resume. He hit .300+ every year, led the league in steals every year, was an annual All-Star, and made one of the great defensive plays of the decade.

But once the 2000's arrived, Lofton—now in his 30's—just didn't wreak the same havoc he once did, and he went from superstar to rental (playing for a whopping nine teams from 2002-07).

Here, Lofton has enjoyed his second straight All-Star campaign for the AL Champion Indians. The 28-year-old led the league in steals for the 4th straight year, won his third straight Gold Glove, and led the majors in triples—all despite missing 26 games (hamstring).

THIS CARD: Lofton, possibly in the act of his latest base theft. If he was stealing, the only reason he'd have to look back at the plate is if the catcher never got a throw off—that happened a lot in Lofton's day.

Also seen is an unidentifiable Toronto Blue Jay. In 1995, Lofton played seven home games against the Jays, going 15-for-32 with two steals.

More from Lofton's 1995 season: the hamstring injury first struck in late June, sidelining him for a few games. Though Lofton came back for a bit, he eventually had to visit the DL in mid-July. He was activated August 1 and went 3-for-5 in his return!

(flip) Check out Lofton's 1994 stats: dude hit .349 but only finished 4th in the AL in that category.

In 1995 ALCS Game One alone, Lofton was 3-for-3 with a triple and two walks (though in a losing effort).

Lofton was nothing if not exciting. He took some of the longest strides in baseball and could get to first base in what felt like three seconds. Plus, the former Arizona hoop star had hops, which he didn't get to demonstrate regularly in baseball except on plays like the one linked to above.

AFTER THIS CARD: We referenced the many, many times Lofton changed addresses later in his career. The majority of those teams—including my Giants in 2002—made the playoffs, though Lofton never did get a World Series ring. He played for the famed (and doomed) 2003 Cubs who blew a 3-1 NLCS lead to Florida, the 2004 Yankees who blew a 3-0 ALCS lead to Boston, and the 2007 Indians who blew a 3-1 ALCS lead to Boston.

When all was complete, Lofton authored 2,428 hits, 622 steals (15th all-time) and a .299 average to go with four Gold Gloves. He lasted to age 40 and never officially retired, but received no satisfactory offers after the 2007 season (despite posting terrific numbers) and never played again.

Kenny Lofton appeared in 1992-98 Score.

Score Sterling Hitchcock
Score Sterling Hitchcock

1/6/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1993 Score #311 Sterling Hitchcock, Yankees

In his early days, TV/radio announcers took great care to announce Sterling Hitchcock's name slowly and deliberately, as if trying to assure viewers/listeners that yes, you heard clearly. That aside, it wasn't long before Hitchcock's uncommon name was linked with quality major league pitching. 
However, in 1992—the year represented on this card—the rookie was just that, and he took his lumps from American League hitters.

THIS CARD: As you see, Hitchcock's name wasn't just different; so was his pitching motion. He would take the ball from his glove very early, kind of hide it behind his body, then fire. Deceptiveness was a big part of his game.

Score continued to give "Rookie Prospects" the same graphics as other commons through the 1994 set, then unwisely gave them their own look in the 1995-96 sets. Then, somebody smacked sense back into the decision-makers and things returned to normal in 1997-98.

More from Hitchcock's 1992 season: he enjoyed a promising MLB debut against the Royals (six innings, one run), but then was knocked around by the White Sox and Tigers (11 total runs in seven total innings). All three starts took place at Yankee Stadium.

(flip) Regardless of the level, it is criminal to post a 2.58 ERA and only win six of 24 starts unless you're pitching pre-1915. Hitchcock didn't get much help from his friends, it seems.

Hitchcock was not a regular starter before turning 22 in April, 1993—all six of his MLB starts that year occurred in August/September.

I'm going to guess the last Yankee hurler to jump from AA to the bigs before Hitchcock was Jose Rijo. (After researching, the answer is: Jose Rijo!! He made the '84 Yankees out of Spring Training with no AAA experience. Pat me on the back, y'all!)

AFTER THIS CARD: Hitchcock started regularly for the 1995 Yankees, then went to Seattle in the Jeff Nelson trade of December 1995. After a year in Seattle (13-9, 5.35), the North Carolina native was moved again, this time to the Padres for Scott Sanders in December 1996.

 

Hitchcock never became a big league star, though he certainly had his moments, such as winning the 1998 NLCS MVP award for San Diego (2-0, 0.90 against Atlanta). Hard to say what his best overall statistical year was, but we're going to say 1999 (12-14, 4.11, 205.2 IP for the Padres).

Hitchcock underwent UCL surgery in 2000 and moved around a bit afterward, going from SD back to the Yankees in '01, from the Yankees to the Cardinals (for whom he shined down the stretch) in '03, and back to SD to end his career in 2004 at age 33. Hitchcock finished up 74-76, 4.80 in 281 games (200 starts).

Sterling Hitchcock appeared in 1993-97 Score (twice in 1997 Score).

Russell_Jeff_94ScoreFront.jpg
Russell_Jeff_94ScoreBack.jpg

1/9/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1994 Score #428 Jeff Russell, Red Sox

My best Jeff Russell story/memory comes from a radio show I used to listen to. The topic was Hall-of-Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, but while one of the hosts, a die-hard Rangers fan, offered praise to Eck, he was quick to add "He's no Jeff Russell!" only partially kidding.

Russell was a darn good closer, one of the best of the early 1990's. Originally a Reds starter who led the NL with 18 losses in 1984, Russell joined the Rangers in the Buddy Bell trade of 1985. Texas alternated him between starting and (middle) relieving through the '88 season, after which he assumed the role of stopper.

Russell led the AL with 38 saves in '89, making his second straight All-Star team...more on that later. Injury wrecked his '90, but he bounced back with 30 saves in '91 and was enjoying a sparkling '92 campaign when he was bundled in a trade for superstar OF/DH Jose Canseco of Oakland. Of course, with Eckersley still in town, Russell shifted to a setup role for 1992's duration.

Here, the 31-year-old has joined Boston as a free agent (1Y/$500K with incentives worth up to $2M). Russell proved to be quite the bargain, placing 7th in the AL with 33 saves (in 37 chances).

THIS CARD: Russell looks like a guy who throws hard...and he was, describing himself as a "power pitcher" in one interview. He threw mid-90's, up to 98, with a biting curve. Russell also had a slider and change left over from his starting days.

For years, I forgot all about Russell's Boston days. In fact, I forgot about him entirely after he left Oakland and wouldn't have been able to tell you with $1M at stake. That shames me.

More from Russell's 1993 season: elbow concerns made him available to Boston on the cheap, but according to The Scouting Report: 1994, he wasn't happy all year about his incentive-laden deal and late in the year, accused Boston's GM of ordering him held out of action so said incentives wouldn't be reached. Oh, and one point he claimed to be sick of baseball and near retirement.

(flip) We've discussed Russell's bargain deal, but I was unable to unearth, after 28 years, exactly what those incentives were. I imagine a lot of saves was one of them, since Boston said from the very beginning he'd be their closer.

Russell was an All-Star starter in 1988 most likely because Texas had no other viable candidates, not even Ruben Sierra. Russell had began that year in the 'pen, then ran off victories in seven of eight starts—including three CG in a row, one of them 10 innings—just in time for ASG voting. He didn't do much after the break, however, in fact becoming the first Rangers P to allow three slams in a season.

As you see, Russell was born in Cincinnati; the Reds drafted him #5 in 1979 out of high school and he opened his major league career with his hometown team. The 21-year-old looked good in 1983, but by early 1985 was all the way back to AA. 

AFTER THIS CARD: In mid-1994, an unhappy and underperforming Russell was sounding off and eventually traded to Cleveland. He returned to Texas for his final two seasons (1995-96), working in middle/setup relief and being a member of the first-ever Rangers playoff team in '96.

After a long layoff, Russell began a coaching career in the Independent League in the 2010's. Jeff's son James Russell pitched in MLB 2010-16, mostly for the Cubs.

Jeff Russell appeared in 1988-94 Score.

Score Mike Heath
Score Mike Heath

1/12/21 Score Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Score #131 Mike Heath, Tigers

Young catcher Mike Heath let it be known very quickly that he was not going to be pushed—or knocked—around. In his second major league game, 6/10/78, two consecutive Angels tried to bowl him over at home plate. The young Yankee was having none of it, and a melee ensued.

(Then, five years later, Heath mixed it up with no less than the mammoth Dave Winfield.)

Though he started with the Yankees, Heath established himself as a semi-regular receiver/outfielder with the A's 1979-83, and a full-time receiver/outfielder 1984-85. Only a so-so hitter, Heath did belt 13 home runs in both 1984 and 1985.

Oakland parted with Heath in a deal for Cardinals SP Joaquin Andujar in December 1985; St. Louis moved Heath to the Tigers in August 1986. Here, the veteran has completed a 1988 season spent primarily as a righty alternative to slugging youngster Matt Nokes. Heath started 62 games behind the plate, and another three in the outfield, for Sparky Anderson.

THIS CARD: Heath in action at Tiger Stadium. He only hit .179 there in 1988, as opposed to .298 on the road. But four of his five homers that year were at home.

More from Heath's 1988 season: he batted 23-for-65 (.354) in limited June/July action.

(flip) Uniform #8 has been passed around quite a bit in Detroit since Heath's usage, with Deivi Cruz (1998-2001) probably the most notable wearer. Jonathan Schoop wore #8 for the Tigers in 2020.

Everything Heath-related item I've read comments on his arm strength. He regularly threw out upwards of 40% of enemy basestealers in his Oakland days, though in 1988 he only nabbed 29%. (Of course, by then he was playing against Rickey Henderson, rather than with him.)

Yes, Heath was drafted as a shortstop, and he didn't catch at all until 1976 at Class A, three years into his pro career. In his long career, Heath played every position except pitcher!

AFTER THIS CARD: Heath received the majority of AB's behind the plate for the 1989-90 Tigers and enjoyed two solid statistical years. Atlanta imported the almost-36-year-old on a 2Y/$2M deal in January 1991, but he only made it through half the '91 season before undergoing elbow surgery. The Braves released Heath the following Spring, ending his career.

Heath managed in the White Sox system 1996-97, but has otherwise moved on from baseball.

Mike Heath appeared in 1988-92 Score.