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Fun Cards: 1990 Topps All-Star Jack Armstrong

Armstrong

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.

Armstrong

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.

Happy Reds birthday, Jack Armstrong!

Armstrong

March 7, 1965

1990 looked to be a breakout year for this former first rounder; Jack Armstrong was 11-3 with a 2.28 ERA at the All-Star break, and was named the starter of the Midsummer Classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Reds were sitting pretty at the top of the NL West, and four teammates joined Armstrong at the All-Star Game: Chris Sabo (starter at third base), Barry Larkin, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers. Armstrong pitched two innings of one-hit ball, striking out Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. The second half of the season was not as smooth for Armstrong, as he won only one more decision the rest of the season and added six losses to his record. By September he found himself in the bullpen, appearing in only three more games after a five-inning start on August 24. Armstrong was traded to Cleveland after the 1991 season, then went to Florida in 1993 and Texas in 1994 before he was out of the big leagues for good.

Baseball in December!

They’re not on the field…they’re in the mail! GCRL sent over a nice stack o’ Redlegs, and will be receiving some Bluelegs (aka Dodgers) in return very soon. Here are some of the highlights (for me, at least)…

Jack Armstrong was selected to start the 1990 All-Star game at Wrigley Field on the strength of 11 first-half wins. He finished the season with 12 wins. Whoops! Oh well, the Reds still won the World Series in ’90 thanks to…

Jose Rijo. His dominance over the heavily favored Oakland A’s set the stage for the Reds’ sweep. Only 1 earned run allowed in 15 innings, a spectacular 0.59 ERA for the Series. He was deservingly named the MVP of the World Series.

Another starting pitcher in the rotation that years for the Reds was Tom Browning, but his best year by far was his 1985 rookie campaign, when he became the first pitcher since the 60s to win 20 games in a season. Had it not been for Vince Coleman‘s fleet feet, Browning would have easily walked away with the Rookie of the Year award. This card is actually a box bottom, which makes it extra-cool.

Barry Larkin had a good 1990 also, selected to his third straight All-Star game and winning his third Silver Slugger award behind a .301 batting average. In 1995, Larkin won the NL MVP, the last Red to accomplish that feat until…

Joey Votto took 31 of 32 first-place votes to win the NL MVP in 2010. Before Votto and Larkin there was…

George Foster. He had a monster 1977 season, but he didn’t run away with the award like Votto did. Greg Luzinski came in second that year. The first-place voting was Foster 15, Luzinski 9. 1977 was the sixth (and final) time a Cincinnati player won in the 1970s (Bench x2, Morgan x2, Rose and Foster). Who will be the next Cincinnati player to get that hardware? Could it be…

Jay Bruce? Not yet an All-Star, or even a Gold Glover, the young right fielder took his potential to the bank this off-season. The Reds signed him to a 6-year, $51 million contract (with a club option on a 7th year). Smart move? Only time will tell.

GCRL also included this pretty shiny refractory Bruce in the package. It’s cool to see these cards in person…the scan doesn’t do them justice at all.

Speaking of youngsters looking for hardware, it would be cool to see Johnny Cueto (or Edinson Volquez or Aroldis Chapman or Mike Leake) collect a Cy Young award one of these days.

Did you know that Reggie Sanders is one of only seven players to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases in his career? Can you name the other six?

But wait…that’s not all!

Oh my! O-Pee-Chee cards too!

The highlight of the box for me, though, was one of my “most wanted” cards…a 2005 Chris Sabo Topps Rookie Cup card. Cross that one of my list…

Those were not the only cards in the box…just a very small sampling of what GCRL sent my way. Thanks for the great box GCRL! Hope you like your cards when they arrive as well!

NOW…who’s next? What’s your favorite team? If you want to do a blind trade, just let me know!

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