When Frank Thomas was first called up to the White Sox in 1990, I fired off an autograph request to him. A week or two later, I received my 1990 Score card back with his name scrawled across it. I had no idea how great he would become, but I was happy to add the Big Hurt to my autograph collection. He quite answering fan mail just a few weeks later, so I considered myself fortunate to have scored his signature. Thomas was an intimidating player, always a threat to go deep. He hit 521 home runs in his career for the White Sox, A’s, and Blue Jays, and won back-to-back MVP Awards in 1993 and 1994.
I have been sitting on this post for absolutely no reason other than laziness. I bought a handful of fifty-cent packs when I was in Orlando at the beginning of the month, and scanned a handful of them, even uploaded the scans, but just haven’t been motivated to post them. I have nothing else planned for today, so let’s see what I got…
First up is Eric Davis from the 1987 Fleer Star Stickers set. These cards are very similar to the 1986 set, but with a green border instead of maroon. Either way, the border clashes with the red jersey.
The 1988 Fleer Star Stickers went with a gray border sprinkled with colorful stars. This Don Mattingly is the best card I pulled from that pack.
Back to 1987, and a pair of Reds in a pack: the best centerfielder and the best relief pitcher of the second half of the decade. John Franco is criminally underrated.
I bought a couple of packs of 1990 Donruss. Don’t look at me like that. I did not have any Grand Slammers cards, and I wanted a couple. I pulled the Todd Benzinger from one pack, and Will Clark from another. If I had found another pack with Bo Jackson on top, I would have bought that one too.
I did not know the 1992 Fleer “The Performer” cards came in packs of their own. I assumed they were inserts. In a five-card pack, I pulled Nolan Ryan and Frank Thomas. And probably some ‘roiders, I can’t remember now.
Art cards will always be my weakness. I’m not sure why I picked up a pack of 1992 Score, but I was happy to pull these bad boys.
Also from the same 1992 Score pack.
There it is. I knew there had to be something cool showing on the top of a 1992 Score pack for me to buy it, even at only fifty cents. Jim Thome is the man.
Kirby Puckett from 1996 Pinnacle Denny’s. Not sure why I bought this one-card pack. Oh well, at least it’s a Hall of Famer.
Think this candy is still good from 1991?
Finally, a couple of 1990 Baseball Buttons. I already have several of these, so I probably shouldn’t have bought them, but it was only fifty cents.
*Hall of Fame Rookie Cards Through The Mail
Acquired in 1990, shortly after his call-up to the big league club. And by shortly, I mean I mailed it to him within hours of reading it in the paper that he was called up. The card came back a few weeks later, so I sent another card (probably a 1990 Score?); it never came home.
I had no idea what to expect when I plugged in the numbers for first basemen. I couldn’t even guess at a top five list, except to say that Lou Gehrig would likely be near the top. When all the statistics were plugged into the spreadsheet, Gehrig (294.01) was near the top, but not at the #1 position. That spot was claimed by Jimmie Foxx (294.89), who beat out the Iron Horse by .88 points. This was easily the closest contest at any position.
However, it is likely that the #1 position will be claimed by another player in the very near future. Albert Pujols (285.0), with only twelve years in the majors, is at #3 on the list, behind both Foxx and Gehrig by less than 10 points. Just one monster season with an MVP award could push Pujols to the top.
Pete Rose (253.18) falls in at the #4 spot. Now, before you start yammering on about how Rose spent most of his time in the outfield, let me point out that he split that time between the three outfield spots. Rose played more games at first base than he did in left field, right field, or center field. Thus, he is included here for the sake of putting him somewhere. That is the same reason Joe Torre was included among the catchers yesterday. Had Torre been thrown in among first baseman, his 206.33 score would put him at #15 all-time, just below Willie McCovey and ahead of Hall of Famers Roger Connor and Orlando Cepeda.
The number five guy threw me off. I knew Eddie Murray (248.5) was great, but the fifth best first baseman ever? Who else saw that coming? For a long time he was an American Leaguer overshadowed by his teammate at shortstop and then bounced around quite a bit during the second half of his career, so it’s not difficult to overlook him in that regard. But you would think that a member of the 500 home run club would be a little more celebrated by baseball fans. Thankfully, the writers were paying attention and allowed him first-ballot entry into Cooperstown in 2003.
Besides Rose and Pujols, there are three other non-Hall of Famers in the top ten: the should-be-inducted-next-year Frank Thomas (#6, 241.48), the unfairly-treated-because-of-unfounded-suspicions Jeff Bagwell (#8, 234.71), and the still-employed-though-mostly-just-a-designated-hitter Jim Thome (#9, 225.5). The other two spots in the top ten go to Cap Anson (#7, 238.74) and Harmon Killebrew (#10, 220.02).
Take away the awards, and again the order gets mixed up and #10 drops off the list. Without awards and All-Star seasons, the top ten reads Gehrig, Foxx, Anson, Pujols, Murray, Thome, Rose, Bagwell, Thomas, and Hall of Famer Roger Connor. On both lists, Tony Perez comes in at #11.
A Hall of Fame pitcher, a future Hall of Famer slugger, and a guy who has awesome hair.
Randy Jones, San Diego Padres
Jones led the National League in losses in 1974. The next season, he won 20 games, led the NL in ERA, and came in second in Cy Young voting. The next season, two years after leading the league in losses, he won the Cy Young Award, winning the most games in the league. He never again had a winning record, and finished his career losing more games than he won, but the Padres saw fit to retire #35 in his honor in 1997, seventeen years after he threw his last pitch for the team.
Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox
Phil Niekro, Atlanta Braves
Steve, along with the majority of the baseball card blogosphere, hates the randominity of Topps’ “What If” cards. Cy Young appearing on the 1987 Topps design just kills him. I, on the other hand, love them. Well, not love. But like. Very strong like. You see, I all but hate modern baseball. I like Griffey and I kind of follow the Reds (kind of being a very strong phrase), but other than that I would much rather watch reruns of the 1975 World Series…even game 6.
In a post about Eddie Gaedel, Steve made a card that never was (1951 Bowman) as well as a card that, in his opinion, should never be (1986 Topps). Frankly, I like the 1986 Topps Gaedel quite a bit. But that’s beside the point. In the comment section, I joked that I would make some random custom cards with Steve in mind, like Ozzie Guillen on a football card design, and a Frank Thomas on a Star Wars card design. So, without further ado…
The results were just announced a couple of days ago, and Andre Dawson was the only player chosen by the BBWAA to enter the Hall of Fame in 2010. It was Dawson’s ninth year on the ballot. Some are grousing about his lack of qualifications, while others are ecstatic that he is finally in. To me, Dawson is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the heroes of my childhood due to his exposure on WGN, and it’s hard to erase childhood memories even when statistics are hurled at you.
Another complaint I have seen on several blogs is the concept of “first ballot Hall of Famers.” The line of thought is, “How can someone be a Hall of Famer next year, but not this year? If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer plain-and-simple!” While there is merit to this, I can understand the line of thinking of those who refuse to vote for certain players on their first ballot. The idea is that a first ballot induction is somewhat of a higher honor, and it is. Sure, there were oversights (Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk), and there were some who got in on their first ballot that really didn’t deserve it (Paul Molitor? Seriously?), but in an imperfect system it’s a reasonable line of thought.
That’s why I don’t really have a problem with Alomar waiting a year, and Larkin a couple of years. I’m surprised that Alomar was not elected (especially after the Paul Molitor debacle), but not offended. He’ll get in next year, along with Blyleven, and while that may take a potential vote away from Larkin, I’m confident Barry will be inducted in 2012 or 2013.
Here are my predictions of Hall inductees for the next several years (* = first ballot, ** = final year of eligibility):
2011: Alomar, Blyleven
2013: Craig Biggio*, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez
2014: Greg Maddux*, Tom Glavine*, Frank Thomas*
2015: Randy Johnson*, Tim Raines
2016: Ken Griffey, Jr.* (assuming he retires after this season), Mike Mussina
2017: John Smoltz (assuming he retires after this season), Lee Smith**
Bagwell may squeeze through in 2012 on his first try, but to me he just doesn’t qualify as a first ballot Hall of Famer if you are going to limit it to the greatest of the great (Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn). And I’m still not sold on Edgar, but I do believe he will pick up enough steam over the next few years.
2014 will be interesting – all three are more than deserving of first ballot status, but when is the last time three guys went in on their first try in the same year? It’s only happened once (excluding 1936, the first year of voting). You have to go back to 1999 – Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount – just barely. Ryan and Brett both received more than 98% of the vote; Yount got just 77.5%.
Thomas’ latter years may hurt him, but he should still go in on the first ballot with at least 80%. Glavine should also receive at least 80%, although if the writers look back at history and see that Warren Spahn only received 83.2%, a few might hold back their votes. Maddux, on the other hand, should receive 100%. He won’t, but he should. Any writer who fails to vote for Maddux should have his voting rights stripped, taken out into the street and be publicly flogged.
2015 is the year I have Raines finally getting in. The writers have to wake up eventually, right?
The Big Unit will cruise in, as will Junior (I’m assuming he retires after this season). The Moose will have to wait a couple years, and Lee Smith will get in during his final year of eligibility.
You might notice that I didn’t use any statistics in this post, other than the voting percentages that Hall of Famers received. I’m not anti-stat; I think stats are great. But I just get overwhelmed with all the new stuff that has picked up steam in this internet age. WHIP, WAR, Win Shares, OPS+…I don’t understand half of them. I’m more of a counting stat guy. And yeah, I know Molitor had 3k hits. But he still shouldn’t have been in on the first ballot.
The Big Hurt got his feelings hurt in Toronto, and the Blue Jays responded by giving him the big boot out the door. Where will Frank Thomas land for the remainder of the 2008 season? Here’s the inside scoop…
Dusty Baker has always been a fan of Frank, and has often stated that he would like to manage the slugging first baseman…er, designated hitter.* But in the NL he would have to play the field. That would put rookie sensation Joey Votto on the bench, but wouldn’t you rather have a future Hall of Famer on the field than a flash-in-the-pan?
Toronto was not the first city to hurt the Big Hurt’s feelings. Chicago–specifically the evil White Sox–ran Thomas out of town a few years ago. Nothing would vindicate Frank more than to come back and play for the mighty Cubs, leading them to their first World Championship in a century. That would show those Comiskey bums. (No offense, Steve.) Plus, Lou Piniella has always said he wanted to manage Thomas.*
While this baseball fan would like to see either of the above scenarios, we ALL know what IS going to happen. Frank won’t play in Cincy, and he won’t go back to the Windy City. He’s not going west coast, or to the panhandle. Frank Thomas will, without a doubt, end up:
You heard it here first!
* I have absolutely no sources verifying that either Baker or Piniella have ever stated they are interested in managing Thomas. I just made it up. But it does make sense, right?