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Fun Cards: 1988 National League All-Star Pitchers

Gooden

Gooden

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.

Knepper

Knepper

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.

Cone

Cone

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.

Gross

Gross

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.

Davis

Davis

Mark Davis got a hefty raise after his 1989 Cy Young season, but he never pitched like he did in 1988 and 1989 again.

Walk

Walk

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.

Hershiser

Hershiser

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.

Worrell

Worrell

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.

Maddux

Maddux

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?

Jackson

Jackson

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.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Greg Maddux

Maddux

Am I the only person in the world that believes the Cy Young Award should be renamed the Greg Maddux Award? The Mad Dog was an artful pitcher, relying more on finesse than fastballs. It broke my heart when he left Chicago for Atlanta, but I was happy to see him return to the Cubs after his success with the Braves. Sixteen voters declined to put a check mark next to Maddux’s name in 2014.

The newest Hall of Famers

HOF

Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas were formally inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame today. Three of the best players during the 1990s all entered Cooperstown on their time on the ballot.

For a larger version of the above “fun cards,” visit TWJ cards on tumblr.

Too big for a binder: autographed index cards

In addition to eight standard baseball cards of Greg Maddux that I had autographed through the mail around 1990 are these two index cards featuring Mad Dog’s stickers from some late 80s sticker sets.

Maddux autograph

Maddux sticker autograph

Same goes for Will Clark, though his sticker is bigger since he was a bigger star at the time.

Will the Thrill autograph

I am pretty sure this is Chipper Jones, but there is no picture to go along with the signature. I Googled his autograph and this looks pretty close. I assume I sent this to the minor league club Jones was with at the time; however, I actually have no recollection of obtaining this autograph.

Chipper autograph

This one is the biggie, and one that I forgot I had until I was sorting my “too big for a binder” items a few nights ago: Bob Feller autographed index card, with a Fleer (?) sticker of the Indians mascot.

Feller autograph

Seeing this card again really makes me want to visit the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa. It’s way out of the way of anything else, but I believe it might be worth the trip anyway.

I’m not sure how to store all of these things. At the moment, they are snug in a 500-count box, and I suppose that is where they will stay until I think of a better solution.

HOF RC TTM*

*Hall of Fame Rookie Cards Through The Mail

Maddux 1987 Donruss autographed

Acquired in either 1989 or 1990, while Greg Maddux was still a member of the Chicago Cubs. Back in the day, he was a great TTMer; I have at least seven other Mad Dog TTM autographs in my collection.

Big Hurt 1990 Topps autographed

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.

Who is the greatest right-handed pitcher of all-time?

Johnson Conlon

Four of the top ten righties played in the early 1900s; five debuted in the 1950s or 1960s; one came into the big leagues in the 1980s. While the yearly top pitcher award is named after Cy Young (#2, 291.98), it’s Walter Johnson that comes out on top (#1, 303.08).

Tom Terrific

The third name on the list is no surprise either. Tom Seaver (#3, 267.73) was simply dominant during the entire decade of the 1970s, and was the undisputed best pitcher in the game in his era. The surprising thing is how good his peers were: Nolan Ryan (#5, 243.88), Gaylord Perry (#6, 239.15), Phil Niekro (#10, 219.57), Bert Blyleven (#11, 213.38), Don Sutton (#15, 207.39), and Fergie Jenkins (#16, 206.93).

Maddux autograph

Greg Maddux (#4, 264.96) was one of the most consistently good pitchers in the 1990s. He won the first of four consecutive Cy Young Awards in 1992 with the Cubs before signing with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent.

Gibson

Pete Alexander (#7, 234.49), or Grover Cleveland Alexander (as I had always heard him called until recently), and Christy Mathewson (#9, 221.99) are the other two early twentieth century guys in the top ten. Bob Gibson (#8, 226.53) was an intimidating figure on the mound in the 1960s. In 1968 Gibson had a remarkable 1.12 ERA, a mind-boggling number for a guy who started 34 games and completed 28 of them.

Retired Numbers: #31

This is an interesting one. Three guys are honored…one of them (Maddux) twice. Three teams are represented…one of them (the Cubs) twice (for Maddux and Jenkins). Interesting to me, at least.


Greg Maddux, Chicago Cubs


Greg Maddux, Atlanta Braves

If the Cy Young Award is ever renamed for another pitcher, Maddux has to be in the discussion. The 4-time winner of the trophy finished in the top 5 four other times and is 8th on the career wins list with 355 victories. Maddux will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014, along with former teammate Tom Glavine.


Dave Winfield, San Diego Padres


Fergie Jenkins, Chicago Cubs

TTM Success…from 20-some odd years ago: Greg Maddux

I have at least eight Greg Maddux autographed cards in my collection. I say at least eight, because I found seven a couple of nights ago while sorting and I know where one other is (a 1987 Donruss “Rated Rookies” that I didn’t bother to dig out because it’s in another box), but I might have a couple more in boxes or binders.

All of these were obtained between the years of 1988 and 1990, all “TTM” (through the mail). I have no idea how long he took to respond, but it couldn’t have been a terrible wait since I have so many. And I’m not sure what happened first: if he stopped signing, or if I stopped sending.

Of these seven cards, I think the 1990 Topps is my favorite. That’s not to say it’s my favorite set, but just this particular card. If they had color coordinated all of their cards like this, maybe 1990 Topps wouldn’t be so reviled by collectors today.

The significance of the first-ballot Hall of Famer

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

2012: Larkin

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 Cubs

My favorite baseball teams are the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds. I was born and raised in northern Kentucky, not even fifteen minutes away from Riverfront Stadium, so the Reds is a no-brainer. The Cubs is a bit more fun to explain, for me at least.

When I was in high school, my dad would take me to ballparks instead of beaches during summer vacation. I’ve been to Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, the old Three Rivers, old Comiskey, new Comiskey, and Tiger Stadium among others. But the best was Wrigley Field. The year was 1989, the Cubs were in the middle of a pennant race, and Jerome Walton was on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. We sat in the right field bleachers with a bunch of drunks and loudmouths, but that just made the experience better. Rick Sutcliffe was pitching that day, and all the stars were in the lineup: Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Walton, and Dwight Smith. I can’t remember the specifics of the game, even the opposing team (I think it was the Expos, but can’t be certain), but I do remember for sure that the Cubs won! Cubs won! Holy cow!

From that day forward, the Cubs were my favorite team. As a baseball card collector, I was already a fan of the stars. I would have rooted for Grace as the NL ROY in 1988 if it weren’t for Chris Sabo being in the league that year. Dawson was a monster slugger, and Ryno was a great second bagger. But it was that day at Wrigley that forever cemented my love for the Cubs.

My favorite Cubs of all-time come from that era, most already mentioned above (minus Dwight Smith, never really went crazy for him). Others include Greg Maddux, Doug Dascenzo, and Shawon Dunston. In fact, Dunston was my favorite overall player for a few years in the 1990s.

Now, I haven’t followed baseball much since the late 1990s. I’ll try to catch a game here and there, and will sort of follow the playoffs, but I don’t know much about who the big stars are today besides the obvious: Jeter, A-Rod, Bonds. I couldn’t tell you who is playing for the Cubs now other than a couple of pitchers (Wood and Zambrano…Prior left, right?). I’ve tried to get back into it, but I’m older and have other distractions that I didn’t have in grade school when I was first learning the game. I will try again this season, but I’m still not sure. Maybe if I start picking up some cheap packs of ballcards that will help me. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll continue to remember that magical year of 1989, when I fell in love with the Cubbies.

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