I’ve been a bit busy lately with some projects that are non-blog related. But I’m still reading and Tweeting and collecting Random Awesomeness to share…
- ’56 of the month: Andy Seminick [Night Owl Cards]
- Angels No-Hit Tribute to Tyler Skaggs [Cards That Never Were]
- 2020 Topps is here [Cards That Never Were]
- 1988 All Star Game Honorary Captains: Bobby Doerr & Willie Stargell [Cards That Never Were]
- The 1967-68 Player Boycott of Topps [SABR’s Baseball Cards Research Committee]
- The Baseball Card Olympics [The Lost Collector]
- Joy of a purchased complete set: 1985 Topps Goonies [Baseball Card Breakdown]
- The Family’s All Here #GB20 [Jason Reitman’s Twitter]
I love the All-Star Game. To see the game’s brightest stars and the surprising stars and the soon-to-be has-beens all together on the field, it is one of the greatest spectacles in all of baseball.
My beloved Cincinnati Reds (who are absolutely killing me this year and I refuse to even wear my Reds hat until they get back to at least .500) have two All-Stars on the roster this year, pitchers Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. I am of the opinion that Castillo should be starting the game, but that honor is going to Dodgers hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu tomorrow night. I hope that Castillo and Gray see some time on the mound, especially since the game is again simply an exhibition and not the decider of home-field advantage for the World Series.
The Reds have had a number of pitchers on All-Star rosters through the years, but it has been 29 years since a Reds pitcher started the game. Not Jose Rijo or Tom Browning or Danny Jackson, but Jack Armstrong was the starting pitcher for the 1990 National League All-Stars at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Armstrong had an insane first half with 11 victories and a 2.28 ERA.
He finished the year with 12 wins.
You read that right. In the second half of 1990, the All-Star starter won only one more game.
1990 was Armstrong’s only winning season, and his only full season with an ERA lower than 4.00. He finished his career with only 40 wins and a 4.58 ERA. But in the first half of 1990, he was one of the baseball’s top pitchers.
For more 1990 Topps All-Star goodness (or nonsense, if that is your opinion of the design), check out the latest post on The List of Fisk.
Tom Kelly and Whitey Herzog led their teams to the World Series in 1987, but 1988 was not as kind to either manager. Kelly did get mentioned in the AL Manager of the Year voting, but the Cardinals’ 5th place finish in 1988 ensured that Herzog would be ignored at the end of the season. Kelly was at the beginning of his managerial career; he stayed with the Twins through the end of the 2001 season. Herzog was nearing the end in 1988; he was dismissed after 80 games in 1990 and never managed in the big leagues again.
I have enjoyed making these “fun cards” and researching the players that appeared in the 1988 All-Star Game, one of the first I remember and one of the most fun because of how close it was to me.
The National League was absolutely loaded with starting pitchers in 1988. At the end of the year, it was a three-man race for the Cy Young Award, but at mid-season the field was wide open. Dwight Gooden got the starting nod. You would not have convinced me in 1988 that he would never be on another All-Star team.
Next up was Houston’s Bob Knepper, the only Astro on the team. I shook his hand during the All-Star workout the night before. I didn’t have anything to get signed with me, and he was the only one that acknowledged my existence.
David Cone is another one of the borderline Hall of Fame cases. I wouldn’t vote for him, but there are a lot of Coneheads who believe he was snubbed by the voters.
I never would have guessed that Kevin Gross was an All-Star. He did have 10 wins at the break, though, and 2.47 is a pretty good ERA. He just doesn’t register as an All-Star in my brain.
Mark Davis got a hefty raise after his 1989 Cy Young season, but he never pitched like he did in 1988 and 1989 again.
As names go, “Walk” may be one of the worst for a pitcher. “Homer” beats it, but “Walk” is not far behind. Fortunately, Bob Walk never appeared in the top ten for walks.
Orel Hershiser spent 18 years in the majors, winning 204 games for the Dodgers, Indians, Mets, and Giants. 1988 was his greatest season, winning the Cy Young Award, the NLCS MVP, and the World Series MVP.
Just as Tom Kelly chose his closer for the American League roster, Whitey Herzog named his closer Todd Worrell to the National League team. Worrel actually got into the game and retired the side in the top of the 9th: George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., and Don Mattingly.
Greg Maddux made his first of eight All-Star teams in 1988, but didn’t pitch in the game. Am I the only one who thinks eight is way too low of a number for one of the greatest pitchers ever?
Danny Jackson was one of three Reds on the roster, but didn’t get to play in the game. There should be a rule that all players from the host city get to play. Jackson only made one more All-Star roster; while with the Phillies in 1994, he faced Scott Cooper, Kenny Lofton, and Will Clark without getting an out. He allowed two inherited runners and one of his own to score.
“Sweet Music” Frank Viola was 14-2 at the All-Star break in 1988, making him the easy choice to start the game for the American League. He pitched two innings and earned the victory.
“The Rocket” Roger Clemens was next up for the AL, and retired all three batters he faced.
Mark Gubicza was the first American League pitcher to enter the game that didn’t have a cool nickname. He was also the first (and only) to let the National League score; Vince Coleman came home on a wild pitch in the 4th.
Should Dave Stieb be in the Hall of Fame? I think not, but there are a lot of Stieb stumpers out there. He appeared in seven ASGs in his career, but only tallied 176 victories over 16 seasons.
Doug Jones had a breakout season in 1988; it was the first of five seasons in which he saved at least 30 games, and his first of five All-Star Games.
When I started collecting baseball cards, Dan Plesac seemed to be in every discount store box set. He had a solid 18-year career, but nothing that would have warranted his inclusion in so many “Young Superstar” and “Hottest Players”-type sets.
Dennis Eckersley was the only Hall of Fame pitcher on the American League roster. Of course, Clemens would have been enshrined long ago if he hadn’t derailed his chances by getting caught using performance enhancers.
Two pitchers were on the American League roster but didn’t get into the game. The first is the manager’s own closer, Jeff Reardon. I wonder if players get mad when they don’t get to play, or if the experience of being there is enough.
Doyle Alexander started his big league career in 1971 and was named an All-Star for the first time in 1988. He did not get an opportunity to take the mound.
Being associated with the 1986 World Champion New York Mets was like a golden ticket for many players. The National League fans’ 1988 All-Star selection of Gary Carter was not as egregious as Terry Steinbach, but he still was not the best choice. Lance Parrish of the Phillies would have been a better fit to start according to the players.
The results of the USA Today players poll for NL catchers follows:
To say Terry Steinbach was a controversial pick to start at catcher would be an understatement, and even he knew it. “There were a lot of mixed emotions. In 1987, I had a decent year as a rookie, but in ’88, I had missed a month with an injury and wasn’t hitting worth crap.” His home run off NL starter Dwight Gooden and MVP win briefly quieted opponents. Looking back historically, however, it’s clear that he was a poor choice.
Tim Laudner of Minnesota was selected as the backup. The players would have made him the starter and Steinbach’s teammate Ron Hassey the backup, though B.J. Surhoff and Andy Allanson had their apologists as well.
The National League took six outfielders from four teams to the midsummer classic in 1988: starters Darryl Strawberry, Vince Coleman, and Andre Dawson, and backups Willie McGee, Rafael Palmeiro, and Andy Van Slyke.
I love the nicknames of the 1980s. The Straw, Vincent Van Go, The Hawk…the nicknames of players today just don’t have the same panache.
Not everyone liked their nickname, though. Case in point, Willie McGee hated the name “E.T.” He hated it so much, it became a national news story. The New York Times reported in 1982, “Willie McGee won’t elaborate on his dislike for the nickname. Perhaps he thinks that it’s a racial slur since E.T. is dark-skinned. Perhaps he’s embarrassed because he has the hooded eyes and pinched nose similar to that of the little creature; he also wobbles when he walks, as E.T. does in the movie. Whatever the reason, Willie McGee is entitled to prefer his name to that nickname, even though he has virtually landed in the World Series from another planet.”
If Palmeiro had a nickname, what would it be? “Finger-pointer”?
Kirk Gibson is the only difference between the players’ top six and the actual roster. Gibby was the eventual National League MVP and had one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history, but his invite to the 1988 All-Star Game was evidently lost in the mail.
- Darryl Strawberry 118
- Andre Dawson 100
- Willie McGee 71
- Andy Van Slyke 57
- Kirk Gibson 37
- Rafael Palmeiro 32
- Vince Coleman 25
- Tim Raines 25
- Barry Bonds 20
- Tony Gwynn 10
- Dale Murphy 8
- Gerald Perry 7
- Eric Davis 5
- Will Clark 3
- Tom Brunansky 3
- John Shelby
- Candy Maldonado 2
- Brett Butler 1
- Dave Martinez 1
- Casey Candaele 1
- Jeffrey Leonard 1
- Danny Heep 1
- Kevin McReynolds 1
- Keith Moreland 1
- Mike Aldrete 1
- Gerald Young 1
- Albert Hall 1
Canseco went on to win the AL MVP Award on the strength of the first-ever 40 home run/40 stolen base season.
Coming in second for the MVP Award was Mike Greenwell, who believes he should be retroactively honored due to Canseco’s admitted steroid use.
Kirby Puckett rounds out (no pun intended) the AL outfield in 1988.
Was anyone snubbed? The players would have added Cleveland outfielder Joe Carter to the roster ahead of Henderson, but since the fans get to select the starters, Carter stayed home.
- Dave Wlnfleld 141
- Jose Canseco 129
- Kirby Puckett 126
- Mike Greenwell 50
- Joe Carter 47
- Rickey Henderson 32
- Ellis Burks 8
- George Bell 6
- Bo Jackson 5
- Dwight Evans 3
- Robin Yount 3
- Chili Davis 3
- Danny Tartabull 2
- Jack Clark 2
- Willie Wilson 2
- Dan Gladden 2
- Devon White 1
- Gary Ward 1
- Pat Sheridan 1
- Mickey Brantley 1
- Lloyd Moseby 1
- Cory Snyder 1
- Gary Pettis 1
Say what you will about the ’90s shortstop revolution, I’ll take the ’80s defensive wizards any day. Ozzie Smith was the no-brainer fan pick, starting his sixth straight All-Star Game; he would start the next four straight before passing the mantle to Barry Larkin. Lark would end up starting five ASGs in his career, and being on the roster for seven more. The other backup in 1988, Shawon Dunston, was only named to two All-Star teams in his career, but man he had a rocket for an arm.
The players poll showed that those who shared the field with the Wizard agreed wholeheartedly with the fans’ choice.
- Ozzie Smith 143
- Shawon Dunston 17
- Barry Larkin 11
- Jose Uribe 8
- Garry Templeton 2
- Dave Anderson 1
- Alfredo Griffin 1
- Rafael Ramirez 1