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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell

He was a fourth-round pick for the Red Sox in 1989, shipped to the Astros in exchange for Larry Andersen in 1990. Do you think Boston regretted that deal? Jeff Bagwell went on to slug 449 home runs in just 15 years, driving in 1529 and hitting .297. JAWS ranks him as the sixth-best first baseman of all-time; the only non-Hall of Famer ahead of him is the still-active Albert Pujols. Unfounded PED suspicions kept him on the outside looking in until his seventh year on the ballot. Without a failed test or a Canseco-level allegation, I have not problem with Jeff Bagwell in the Hall of Fame.

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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Craig Biggio

Biggio

Craig Biggio missed induction in 2014 by two measly votes, but the real travesty is that he didn’t get inducted in 2013, his first year on the ballot. No living persons were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. In addition to Biggio, eventual BBWAA inductees Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell were also passed over in 2013. But the writers finally did the right thing in 2015 and elected Biggio on the strength of his 3060 hits as well as his versatility. The Astros legend started his career as a catcher, switched to second base, then to the outfield, then back to second. He started one final game at catcher in his second-to-last game in 2007, playing two innings behind the plate before moving to second base.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Nolan Ryan

Ryan

A lot of people call Pete Rose‘s hit total or Cal Ripken‘s game streak the most unbreakable baseball records, but I have a feeling Nolan Ryan‘s 5714 strikeouts will never be approached. The second guy on the list is Randy Johnson, who finished his career with 4875, nearly 1000 fewer K’s. The current active leader is CC Sabathia with 2846, and we all know he ain’t hanging on long enough to sniff 4000. He’ll be lucky to get to 3000.

There were seven Hall of Fame inductees in 1999: three from the BBWAA and four from the Veterans Committee. Nolan Ryan narrowly missed the highest voting percentage of all-time; Tom Seaver received .05% more support in 1992. He still ranks third today, as Ken Griffey surpassed both in 2016 with 99.32%.

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

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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.

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