Category Archives: baseball
Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still without contracts*. Andre Dawson didn’t sign with the Cubs until March 9 in 1987. Of course, that was due in part to collusion, a self-imposed, under-the-table salary cap orchestrated by Bud Selig and his cohorts to keep contracts down. Is that happening this year? Honestly, I don’t care. I don’t care if Harper and Machado end up playing in Japan or Mexico or Timbuktu. If this leads to another strike, as Adam Wainwright thinks it will, that’s fine.
I love baseball, but I don’t need baseball. There are plenty of other things to keep me busy. A bunch of whining millionaires (I’m talking about both owners and players) doesn’t sit well with me.
* I wrote this last night, and might be asleep when it actually posts. I probably won’t come back and update it even if a deal with the Phillies or Padres or Yankees or Chunichi Dragons is announced.
A lot of athletes are hyped up while in college, but perhaps none as much as Dave Winfield in the early 1970s. Winfield was the best hitter and pitcher for the University of Minnesota Gophers’ baseball team, and was a star power forward for the basketball team. He was drafted fourth overall by the Padres and never spent a single day in the minor leagues.
The Atlanta Hawks tried to persuade him to try his hand at professional basketball, drafting him in the 5th round of the 1973 NBA draft. Add to that the ABA’s Utah Stars selection of Winfield in the 6th round of the 1973 ABA draft.
Winfield never played a single football game in college, but the Minnesota Vikings were impressed with his athleticism so much that they used their 17th round draft pick on him.
I’m glad Winfield chose baseball.
Rod Carew was on his way out of baseball just as I started following more closely. My parents gave me the 1986 Topps factory set for Christmas, and that was Carew’s last card, career-capper that included all of his statistics. It was simple to see how great he was just by flipping over the card. 3053 hits and a lifetime .328 batting average. His dedication to the craft of hitting was evident in the numbers.
Carew played nineteen seasons. He failed to make the All-Star team once. Once. He was on the All-Star roster every year from 1967 to 1984. But wait, there’s more. He started fifteen of those eighteen games, and was selected by fans to start the other three but could not due to injury. He was the top vote-getter in the majors in 1975, 1977, 1978, and 1979.
The dude was an absolute beast on the field. I wish I had seen him play in his prime.
Frank Robinson was one of the greatest players to ever wear the Cincinnati Reds uniform. And the Baltimore Orioles uniform. And the Dodgers, Angels, and Indians uniforms. Though he never played for them, Robinson was one of the greatest to pull the Giants, Expos, and Nationals jerseys over his head. Ok, so the Expos and Nationals were button-ups, not pullovers, but you get the point. The guy was a legend.
One of his nicknames was “Pencils” due to his unusually scrawny knees. He was the Rookie of the Year in 1956, NL MVP in 1961, and AL MVP in 1966. He also took home the World Series MVP in 1966 when his Orioles swept the Dodgers. He was selected to the All-Star team in twelve seasons. In 1975, the Indians named Robby the first black manager in big league history. He managed all or part of 16 seasons for four franchises (five teams, if you want to separate the Expos from the Nationals). He was named the AL Manager of the Year in 1989 on the strength of the Orioles’ second-place finish.
I love it when the hobby and pop culture collide. On last night’s episode of This Is Us, the mega-popular tear-jerker of a TV show, former Pirates pitching great John Smiley and his 1987 Topps Traded card made an appearance.
I know John Smiley is hardly considered a “great” today, but in 1992, coming off a 20-win season, an All-Star appearance, and a third-place finish in Cy Young Award voting, “great” is not a stretch. And it wasn’t actually Smiley on the show, but actor Troy Doherty portraying Smiley at a baseball card signing.
Young Kevin Pearson wanted to get Smiley’s rookie card signed so it would double in value. In the screengrab below, we see that the card in question is from the 1987 Topps Traded set with the iconic wooden border and white cardstock.
And flip it over…
Compare it to the real thing…
It seems that the actor’s face was Photoshopped over Smiley’s face, but the rest of the card is legit. Look at the logo placement on the jersey, the treeline in the background…there is no way they recreated the whole scene for a fake card but that is clearly not John Smiley’s face on the card in the show.
There is no doubt, though, that the writers were familiar with the original card. During the scene, the pitcher said Kevin wanted to tell him about the best pool places in Minneapolis. Smiley was the subject of many trade rumors prior to the ’92 season and was eventually traded to the Twins. It seems that young Kevin spent a lot of time reading the backs of baseball cards; his 1987 Topps Traded card talks about some of Smiley’s hobbies, including “shooting pool.” This led the thoughtful 11-year old to research the pitcher’s likely new home and offer some suggestions tailored to his interests.
I confess I’m a huge This Is Us fan so seeing a baseball card connection made my day.
Baseball greats get book deals, right? With the Hall of Fame class now set for 2019, I thought I would take a look at books that focus on those players’ careers. I was surprised to find that only on of the six has an autobiography already in print, and only one other has an announced release date for later this year.
- Mariano Rivera (out now): The Closer (a Spanish edition, El cerrador: Mi vida is also available, as well as a Young Readers Ediiton)
- Edgar Martinez (coming June 11): Edgar: An Autobiography
I’m not sure there would be much demand for a Lee Smith tell-all, or even a Harold Baines bio (although I would be interested in that one). Mike Mussina‘s humble disposition will probably prevent an autobiography from him. I heard an interesting story, and I don’t remember if it was on MLB Network’s coverage or elsewhere. Mussina tanked a grade in school so he wouldn’t be valedictorian. He didn’t want the spotlight.
There are a handful of Roy Halladay books geared toward younger readers:
- Roy Halladay: Superstar Pitcher (Playmakers)
- Roy Halladay (Amazing Athletes)
- Roy Halladay (Robbie Readers)
- Four Aces, One Expectation (focuses on Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels)
Time will tell if a fuller examination of Halladay’s life will be offered, or if biographies of Smith, Baines, or Mussina will pop up.
— TanManBaseballFan (@tanmanbbfan) January 11, 2019
The above Tweet from Tanner, noted Jose Canseco superfan, started a frenzy among a small group of baseball card collectors. What in the world are those cards? Customs? Nope. Real deal. But where are the name plates?
As it turns out, a few Topps Gold cards from 1992 got out the door without the gold foil…and they ended up on eBay a few weeks ago. I snagged a handful, as did a few other Twitter users that were following the thread. I have never seen these before, and never knew they existed until Tanner’s Tweet. I am, however, happy to add them to my collection.
I am now the proud owner of six 1992 Topps Gold “missing foil” Reds cards…
Turning the cards over plainly shows that they are from the Gold parallel series, albeit without the gold on front…
I also picked up a Shawon Dunston card, who was another favorite player growing up.
It’s amazing (in a great way) that we can still discover things from the junk wax era today, and that we have ways to easily add them to our collections. Thank you Tanner for the heads-up!
Everyone knew Mariano Rivera would get the call today. The question was whether he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously. No one had ever done it before—not Babe Ruth, not Mickey Mantle, not Ken Griffey. One writer stated earlier in the year that he would not vote for Rivera, then revealed he wouldn’t vote for anyone. However, he declined to submit his ballot, therefore Rivera still had a chance. As of late last night, according to the Ballot Tracker by Ryan Thibodaux, the all-time saves leader was still at 100%. Today, the question was finally answered. Mariano Rivera is the first unanimous selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mike Mussina was one of the most dependable pitchers of his era, though he was never flashy. In 18 seasons, he collected 270 wins and struck out 2813 batters. He had six top-five finishes in Cy Young Award voting, and two additional sixth-place finishes. Is that enough for a Hall of Fame plaque? For five years, more than 25% of the voters have said no, but tonight he can start adding “HOF 2019” to his autograph.