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Goodbye, Lee May

(March 23, 1943 – July 29, 2017)

May

Known as “The Big Bopper,” Lee May was a fan favorite in Cincinnati. He played for the Reds from 1965 through 1971, when he was traded to the Astros. Of his 354 home runs, 147 came as a member of the Reds. He was a three-time All-Star and played in two World Series. In 1976, he led the American League with 109 RBI as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. His career closed in 1982 with Kansas City. He is a member of both the Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles Halls of Fame. May passed away Saturday at the age of 74.

Condolences abounded on Twitter from his former teams, teammates, fans, and more…

R.I.P. Joaquin Andujar

(December 21, 1952 – September 8, 2015)

Andujar

Four-time All-Star and 1982 World Series hero Joaquin Andujar has passed away from complications related to diabetes. Andujar pitched for the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, and Oakland A’s. He finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting twice.

2015 TWJ All-Stars

keuchel

Who’s on your All-Star team this year? The 2015 TWJ All-Star Game cards debut today at TWJ cards on tumblr. Many of the starters from last night’s game will be featured, but I have made a few substitutions in my lineup. A new card will be revealed each half hour, alternating between the American League and National League. Every card features a photo from Tuesday’s festivities (but none in those silly AL or NL jerseys). Be sure to check them all out—starting with Dallas Keuchel, which just went live moments ago—at TWJ cards on tumblr!

Here’s a sneak peek at the 2015 TWJ baseball card design!

Opening Day is almost upon us, and I have yet to show you the design for the 2015 TWJ baseball card set. TWJ cards are only available digitally, and you can only see them all by visiting TWJ cards on tumblr. We are wrapping up the “pre-season” set, and that design will be retired on April 5 with no new cards created. So if you want to see your all-time favorite baseball player on a card design like this…

Jose Cruz

…then you need to send me a message via e-mail, or on tumblr, or on Twitter, or leave a comment here.

The new 2015 TWJ set will consist only of current players, with a few very special exceptions.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the 2015 TWJ baseball card design, as modeled by speedy Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton

Read the rest of this entry

Baseball is full of tragic stories, of careers cut short by injury and illness

JR Richard Houston Astros

The second overall pick in the 1969 draft, J.R. Richard was a star on the rise. In his first major league game, he struck out 15 Giants—including Willie Mays thrice—in a 5-3 complete game victory. After cups of coffee with the Astros in 1971 and 1972, the young pitcher saw more playing time in 1973 and 1974, much in relief. In 1975 he was moved to the starting rotation and responded by winning 12 of his 31 starts to go along with a 4.39 ERA. Not overly impressive, but enough to keep him on the mound in the majors.

In 1976, the right-hander truly became a star, winning 20 games with a 2.75 ERA while striking out 214 batters. He followed that with three straight 18-win seasons, leading the National League in strikeouts in 1978 and 1979 and ERA in 1979. “I can recall what it was like when I was the most dominating pitcher, not one of. I was the man. That’s a feeling within itself when you’re a cut above.” According to similarity scores, durng his age 29 and 30 seasons, Richard was most similar to Bob Gibson, one of the most intimidating hurler of the 1960s.

In 1980, he was given the long overdue honor of being named a National League All-Star, starting in the midsummer classic. He flaunted his stuff, striking out future Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Carlton Fisk along with pitcher Steve Stone over the course of two stellar innings, allowing no runs and only one hit. That game was played on July 8, 1980. Richard would only pitch in one more big league game.

On July 14, 1980, Houston hosted the Atlanta Braves with J.R. Richard on the mound. The pitcher struck out four Braves batters and only allowed one hit, but was lifted in the fourth inning due to vision problems and numbness in his fingers. He was placed on the disabled list, and on July 30 Richard suffered a stroke and collapsed on the field during warm-ups.

Richard attempted to come back, appearing in Houston’s minor league system in 1982 and 1983, but was never able to regain his intimidating form.

[This is the first of a series of “pre-season” baseball cards published at TWJ cards on tumblr. At least one new virtual card is planned for each day from now until Opening Day. Follow TWJ cards on tumblr for more.]

Houston Astros: Deep In The Heart by Bill Brown and Mike Acosta (2013)

Houston Astros Deep In The Heart by Bill Brown and Mike Acosta book review

Houston Astros: Deep In The Heart
by Bill Brown and Mike Acosta
Bright Sky Press, 2013
176 pages

Houston Astros fans have not had much to root for in the past few years, but the franchise has enjoyed a rich fifty-year history full of legendary players and spectacular performances. Current and future Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio all spent time in Houston, as well as superstars Cesar Cedeno, Glenn Davis and Mike Scott. The team appeared in the postseason nine times including one World Series; the city hosted the All-Star Game three times. All of these players and events are highlighted in Houston Astros: Deep In The Heart by Bill Brown and Mike Acosta.

Brown has been a member of the Astros broadcasting team for almost three decades, while Acosta has performed various duties for the team behind the scenes since the 1990s. There are perhaps no better men to write the Astros’ history than these. Stories of Bob Watson scoring the one millionth run in major league history, Ken Forsch joining his brother Bob Forsch as the first brothers to throw no-hitters in the bigs, Terry Puhl’s record-breaking 1980 playoff performance and more will entertain and educate baseball fans young and old.

Another highlight of Houston Astros: Deep In The Heart is the abundance of photographs: the first pitch by Bobby Shantz in 1962, the All-Star squads lined up on the basepaths in 1968, candid and action shots of Astros players throughout the years. Even without reading the words, one can get a sense of the pride Houston has had in its baseball team through the first five decades.

Recent seasons may have been difficult for fans, but if history truly repeats itself, good things will come again to the franchise. While you wait for those good things, relive the past accomplishments of the team with Houston Astros: Deep In The Heart.

Learn more about Bright Sky Press.

Purchase Houston Astros: Deep in the Heart by Bill Brown and Mike Acosta.

Fun Cards Submission: First pitches (part 4)

JJ Watt Houston Texans Astros first pitch

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt threw the first pitch before the Astros’ first ever official game as an American League team. I’m still not happy about them being an American League team. At all.

Fun card submitted by Patrick.

TWJ 2012: Nolan Ryan

How amazing is it that Nolan Ryan pitched for twenty-seven years in the majors? Or that only twice he posted an ERA above 4.00…in his first year, when he only played two games, and in his final season, when he was forty-six years old? The guy was a beast and never seemed to slow down.

Yes, I am aware of the allegations that are out there, but I am also aware that Jose Canseco has never made any of those allegations. So until Canseco speaks on the matter, I refuse to listen.

I always liked Ryan best as a Houston pitcher with those beautiful rainbow jerseys. In 1987, he posted a dismal 8-16 won-loss record, but led the league with a 2.76 ERA, showing just how awful that Astros team was. Cy Young voters took note and threw a few votes his way, good enough for a fifth-place finish. Steve Bedrosian won the award that year.

Strikeout King

Large photo credit: unknown
Inset photo credit: unknown

*It is much more difficult to find the proper credit for pictures taken before the internet. If you know the source, please let me know!

Astros 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (2012)

Astros celebrate fifty years of baseball

Astros 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition:
The Essential Games of the Houston Astros
and Astros Memories

New Video, 2012
5 discs; 11 hrs. 46 mins. + extras

Every team has them. Games that define a franchise, that will be talked about for decades after the last pitch is thrown. In this special collection by New Video due to be released May 15, the Houston Astros take the starring role as four of the most important games in the history of the team are on display.

  • Nolan Ryan‘s 5th career no-hitter (September 26, 1981)
  • Mike Scott‘s no-hitter, clinching the NL West (September 25, 1986)
  • 18-inning NLDS clincher over the Braves (October 9, 2005)
  • Craig Biggio‘s 3,000th hit (June 28, 2007)

This set is great not only for Houston fans, but for baseball history lovers. To watch one of Ryan’s no-hitters, against a lineup full of consistent Dodger hitters like Steve Garvey and Pedro Guerrero, is a great experience. One can relive the emotion on the field after Biggio’s 3,000th hit, as his family came onto the field and his teammates hugged him, and then the impromptu reunion with former teammate Jeff Bagwell. Mike Scott’s no-hitter clinched the division for the Astros in 1986, facing the San Francisco Giants and a young Will Clark. And then there is the longest playoff game in history, an 18-inning marathon victory over the Braves in 2005.

A fifth disc called Astros Memories rounds out this fine collection, featuring the legends of Astros baseball: Cesar Cedeno, Jimmy Wynn, Jose Cruz and more. Highlight reels and interviews are woven together as the story of Houston baseball is told from the days of the Colt .45s, featuring no-hitters, All-Star games, and playoff appearances. Larry Dierker provides several anecdotes in the form of “Dierker’s Diary,” while Bob Watson shares his heartfelt thoughts on the Houston franchise.

Baseball fans who love the Astros, Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio, or just history in general will love the opportunity to watch these games again.

Learn more about New Video.

Pre-order Astros 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.

2012 FPC: Houston Astros

The 2012 Fan Pack Challenge rolls along with the Houston Astros. Celebrating their 50th season, they have a nice little commemorative logo on their schedule. Too bad they didn’t send a sticker of the commemorative logo as well (like the Fenway 100th sticker), but at least they did send a team sticker. Also included was a postcard-sized baseball card of pitcher Jordan Lyles. Lyles is also the featured subject on the pocket schedule…yikes. I just looked at his stats: 2-8, 5.36 ERA, 71 ERA+. Is he their biggest star?

pocket schedule

Here’s their score:
The inclusion of pocket schedule(s) = 1 point (featuring Lyles)
Stickers = 1 (team logo)
Trading cards = 1 (featuring Lyles)
High-quality promotional items = 0
Other stuff = 0
Timeliness = 9 points
TOTAL SCORE = 12 POINTS

logo sticker

pitcher postcard

Hopefully I will have some more Astros goodness to share in the near future, even though that won’t come from the team itself.

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