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Fun Cards: 1988 American League All-Star First Basemen

McGwire

Following his record-setting rookie campaign in 1987, Mark McGwire was voted by fans to start at first base in the 1988 All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

McGwire

On the bench were Don Mattingly, who the players thought should have been the starter, and future Hall of Famer George Brett, who had just made the switch to first from third in 1987.

Mattingly

Mattingly

USA Today surveyed the players in each league on who they thought should start the game. Players were only allowed to vote for their own league, and could not choose teammates. Results for American League first base were as follows:

Brett

Brett

The 1988 All-Star Game is special to me because it was held in Cincinnati. I started making these cards two years ago and finally finished the complete rosters (front and back, including managers) earlier this year. I plan to post them here over the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy!

Please note that these are NOT real cards. There are no physical copies and they are not for sale. They exist only in digital form.

How magical are “magic numbers”? (part 2)

In June, I examinded 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts. I intended to jump right into 500 home runs and 3000 hits after that, within a week maybe, but wouldn’t you know…I never did. So let’s knock that out and put this question to rest.

Twenty-five guys have hit 500 or more career home runs…a lot more than I thought.

1. Barry Bonds (762)
2. Hank Aaron (755)
3. Babe Ruth (714)
4. Willie Mays (660)
5. Ken Griffey (630)
6. Alex Rodriguez (626)
7. Sammy Sosa (609)
8. Jim Thome (596)
9. Frank Robinson (586)
10. Mark McGwire (583)
11. Harmon Killebrew (573)
12. Rafael Palmeiro (569)
13. Reggie Jackson (563)
14. Manny Ramirez (555)
15. Mike Schmidt (548)
16. Mickey Mantle (536)
17. Jimmie Foxx (534)
18. Willie McCovey (521)
Frank Thomas (521)
Ted Williams (521)
21. Ernie Banks (512)
Eddie Mathews (512)
23. Mel Ott (511)
24. Gary Sheffield (509)
25. Eddie Murray (504)

Of those, eight are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. Eleven were first-year inductees. That leaves us with six names to look at: Killebrew, Foxx, Mathews, Ott, McGwire, and Palmeiro. The problem with McGwire and Palmeiro is steroids, no doubt. Both would be ushered into Cooperstown on the red carpet had they come by their numbers clean. The way they have been handled by the voters will make future elections very interesting, with Bonds, A-Rod, Sosa and Sheffield on the horizon.

But what about the four old-timers, who never stuck a needle in their buttocks?

Foxx and Ott were on the ballot under a different set of rules than what are currently in place. Voters were not required to wait for a player to be retired five years, or to even wait until they were finished playing. Both Foxx and Ott received good support running up to their eventual induction, and would have been first-ballot inductees had the five-year waiting period been in effect.

Then you have Killebrew and Mathews. Mathews waited five years for the call, receiving only 32.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot. He eventually climbed the list and was enshrined in 1978. Killebrew was on the ballot four years before getting his plaque. What makes this so crazy is that Killer led the league in home runs six times, and was at the time in the top 5 on the all-time list (he now sits at 11).

While it is somewhat insane that Mathews and Killebrew did not get first-ballot treatment, there are no pre-steroid players with 500 home runs outside the Hall of Fame.

Now on to 3000 hits…

1. Pete Rose (4256)
2. Ty Cobb (4189)
3. Hank Aaron (3771)
4. Stan Musial (3630)
5. Tris Speaker (3514)
6. Cap Anson (3435)
7. Honus Wagner (3420)
8. Carl Yastrzemski (3419)
9. Paul Molitor (3319)
10. Eddie Collins (3315)
11. Willie Mays (3283)
12. Eddie Murray (3255)
13. Nap Lajoie (3242)
14. Cal Ripken (3184)
15. George Brett (3154)
16. Paul Waner (3152)
17. Robin Yount (3142)
18. Tony Gwynn (3141)
19. Dave Winfield (3110)
20. Craig Biggio (3060)
21. Rickey Henderson (3055)
22. Rod Carew (3053)
23. Lou Brock (3023)
24. Derek Jeter (3020)
Rafael Palmeiro (3020)
26. Wade Boggs (3010)
27. Al Kaline (3007)
28. Roberto Clemente (3000)

Four of these guys (Speaker, Anson, Collins, Lajoie) were elected within the first few years of the Hall’s opening, and since there was such a backlog at the time, we’ll overlook the indiscretion of making them wait. The only two eligible on the outside are Charlie Hustle (who didn’t know when to fold ’em) and Raffy (Mr. Positive). Biggio should make it in next year, and Jeter in his first year of eligibility (whenever that may be).

That leaves only Paul Waner, who was on the ballot for seven years before being inducted. However, similar to Ott and Foxx, Waner had just retired when he began receiving votes. He climbed from 42.1% in 1948 to 83.3% in 1951, only seven years after announcing his departure from the playing field.

So back to the original question, how magical are the milestones of 500 home runs and 3000 hits? The only eligible players not inducted are gamblers and ‘roiders, and 3000 hits seems to be a first-ballot ticket so long as there is no controversy.

Heartbreaking cards…literally

I recently sent Matt of Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius a couple of Kimball Champions cards that he needed. He returned the favor by shipping some cards that I needed back, and they just broke my precious heart…

First, we have 1988 Topps BIG Mark McGwire.

I bought a few wax boxes of 1988 Topps BIG a couple of years ago, and the only card I didn’t get was #179. I’ve scoured 5 and 10-cent boxes at card shows and shops ever since, never finding Big Mac. But now he is mine, and I have the complete set…somewhere. Since moving, I have misplaced at least one shoebox of cards. In that shoebox are tons of Diamond Kings and 263 Topps BIG cards from 1988.

McGwire is heartbreaking in another way to me, though. In 1998, I was a huge McGwire fan. I hadn’t followed baseball much since 1994, and hadn’t collected cards since around 1992. But because of McGwire (and Sammy Sosa), I started buying packs again. When the steroid thing came to light, I was literally heartbroken. I suppose that may be why I am so anti-steroids now, why I don’t want to see any of these guys enshrined in Cooperstown. They lied to me, and infamy is what they deserve instead of immortality.

Next in the package was from the 2007 UD Masterpieces set, 1 of 2 cards that I still needed, Akinori Iwamura.

Iwamura was highly touted as the next big thing, and had a couple of pretty good seasons in 2007 and 2008. I’m not sure what happened in 2009, but Tampa dumped him off on Pittsburgh, who released him near the end of 2010. He was picked up by Oakland and played 10 games for the A’s. He was released in October, and it doesn’t appear that he signed on with anyone else. Heartbreaking.

I am now down to just one more card needed for the 2007 UD Masterpieces set, #82 Tim Lincecum. Hopefully I can find it on the cheap somewhere soon, before he cements his place in Cooperstown.

The final two cards in the package from Matt were from the 2008 Topps Series I set, and the last regular card I needed from that set as well.

The Boston Red Sox team card, one of the gimmicks that Topps put out, was the last card I needed for the set. There are three versions of the card, and Matt sent along the above two. The third version shows Rudy Giuliani wearing a Boston cap. I can’t even track down a scan of that version on Google or eBay.

I still need one more card from 2008 Topps Series I: the infamous #FS1 Kazuo Uzuki. Again, I will be checking the bargain bins at cards shows and shops until I find it.

Thank you for your generosity, Matt! I will continue to keep an eye on your wantlists and help out whenever I can!

Here come the Elephants

Why do the Oakland A’s have an elephant as a part of their logo? I never understood that, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now. But if you know, by all means enlighten me.

The A’s were the latest team considered in the “All-Time NON-HOF by position team” project on Baseball Fever. This was the most difficult team for me so far, because for the first time there were admitted steroid abusers among the statistically elite. I’m taking the same position here that I take with all other Hall of Fame projects: in my opinion, if they used performance enhancing drugs, they should not be included. I know many disagree with me, but I feel it harms the integrity of the records and taints the relationship between the fan and the game. Will there be players that slip through the cracks, against who there is no evidence of foul play? Probably. But we have to use the information we have and make judgments using that information, trying to avoid unnecessary speculation.

With that said…

My picks:
C: Wally Schang
1B: Stuffy McInnis
2B: Danny Murphy
SS: Bert Campaneris
3B: Sal Bando
LF: Bob Johnson
CF: Sam Chapman
RF: Ruben Sierra
sub1: Dave Kingman
sub2: Bing Miller
LHP: Vida Blue
SP: Bobby Shantz
SP: Bob Welch
#4 SP: Eddie Rommel
#5 SP: Dave Stewart

The top picks of the BBF think tank:
C: Wally Schang
1B: Mark McGwire
2B: Max Bishop
SS: Bert Campaneris
3B: Sal Bando
LF: Bob Johnson
CF: Dwayne Murphy
RF: Jose Canseco
P: Vida Blue (L)
P: Eddie Rommel
P: Jack Quinn
P: Bobby Shantz (L)/Dave Stewart
sub1: Danny Murphy
sub 2: Lave Cross/Gene Tenace/Tony Phillips

Two guys were unanimous selections on the 12 ballots cast: LF Bob Johnson and LHP Vida Blue. I believe Johnson should be in Cooperstown, and I would not necessarily oppose Blue’s induction.

I believe I was the only voter to leave McGwire off my ballot, for the reason stated in paragraph 2. For the same reason, Canseco was also passed over. I realize there is some suspicion regarding Sierra, but I am unable to find anything concrete, so for the time being he gets the benefit of doubt.

Now on to the Blue Jays…

My thoughts on the return of McGwire…

I hope the Cardinals hitters miss every pitch that is thrown to them.

I hope the Cardinals lose every game.

I hope Tony LaRussa is shamed out of baseball and is never considered for the Hall of Fame since he is such a stupid doody-head.

I hope McGwire’s Hall of Fame votes go down…downdown.

The Yankees and Braves are no longer my least favorite teams. Congratulations, Cardinals, for becoming worse in my eyes than even an expansion team. Who woulda thunk it was possible?

“I’m not here to talk about the past.”

Good, because I don’t want to hear a single word from you. Just go away. FOREVER!

Steroids and the Hall of Fame

The use of performance enhancing drugs has thus far kept Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame. The general consensus is that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will also lose major support and probably miss the train to Cooperstown.

Now we have Alex Rodriguez, perhaps the biggest star of them all, the golden boy of all baseball writers. And baseball writers are the one who vote on the Hall of Fame. Will the steroids scandal hurt A-Rod?

Personally, I always thought he used. He was a teammate of Jose Canseco – and that alone puts one under the eye of suspicion. However, without the proof, he had my support (but not vote, since I don’t vote) for the Hall of Fame. The numbers are too big to ignore.

Now? He’s off my faux ballot. As well as Keith Hernandez’s imaginary ballot.

How about you?

Not only does he not want to talk about the past…

…apparently he is trying to destroy all evidence that the past existed. I speak of none other than Mark McGwire, the once vaunted hero of the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals, who holds the record for most home runs in a season by a rookie and once held the cherished tarnished single-season home run record. And now he has gone into hiding, as have his baseball cards.

I just ripped open three boxes of 1988 Topps Big baseball cards, one box from each series. I have not double checked, but I believe I got at least one card of every player in the set…except McGwire. I got five Mario Soto cards, one of which will stay with the set, one will go in my new Soto collection, one will be sent for an autograph next spring, and the other two ended up in my sons’ Easter baskets this morning. But McGwire? Nowhere to be found.

Do I need more cards for the set? I’m not sure. I know I have all of series 1 (cards 1-88, including both Steinbach variations), but I will have to look again at series 2 and 3. If you have the McGwire for trade, and any others that I might need from the set, I have plenty of doubles. Just let me know which players/teams/cards you are looking for.

400

Only five players who are eligible for the Hall of Fame have hit 400 or more career home runs without being elected. Only two of those are still on the ballot. Of course, this number will go up in years to come, if others accused of using PEDs become eligible (Palmeiro, Sosa, Bonds, etc.) fail to garner enough support for election. Here’s a run-down of the current five:

1. Mark McGwire – With 583 home runs, good for eighth on the all-time list, the steroid allegations have hit McGwire the hardest so far. The only one on this list who was considered a shoo-in prior to the scandal, he is struggling to receive even a quarter of the votes needed. Only time will tell if the voters’ stance will soften and let McGwire in. If he makes it, expect Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens to follow him in. Should he fall off the ballot, then he will be counting on the Veterans Committee, most of whom are against the idea of the enshrinement of supposed cheaters (at least to this degree).

2. Jose Canseco – The other “bash brother” from Oakland played longer than he should have, trying to reach the formerly magical number of 500. He ended up with 462. He is also known as the first 40 homer/40 stolen base man, and was a major part of Oakland’s 1988-1990 successes. Jose is still trying to get to 500, apparently playing in independent leagues and trying to catch the eyes of major league teams to give him another look. Hey, I hear Tampa Bay is looking at Barry Bonds…how about giving Jose a shot? (No, not that kind of shot.) Canseco was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2007, but only received 6 votes.

3. Dave Kingman – “King Kong” was a monster at the plate…when he made contact. He led the league in homers twice, finishing second 4 other times. He was voted in to start the All-Star game twice, and was selected a third time by the All-Star manager. Despite his power, Kingman struck out a lot and finished with a .236 career batting average. In his sole appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot (1992), Kingman received only 3 votes (0.7%).

4. Andre Dawson – “The Hawk” toiled for eleven years in Montreal before hitting the national spotlight in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs, when he hit 49 round-trippers. That was good for a National League MVP award, despite the Cubs’ last place finish and a very solid season by Cardinals’ slugger Jack Clark. Dawson’s 438 career dingers have garnered him serious consideration on the Hall of Fame ballot, receiving at least 50% each year except his first. In 2008, he was third on the list with 65.8%, behind Goose Gossage and Jim Rice.

5. Darrell Evans – The last man on the list was the most surprising to me. I never thought of Evans as a power hitter, though he lead the American League in 1985 with 40 homers. Evans was only twice selected for the All-Star game (1973 and 1983), and never finished in the top 10 for MVP voting. He finished his career in 1989 with 414 longballs, but his .248 career batting average undoubtedly ruined his call to Cooperstown. Like Kingman and Canseco, Evans was only on the ballot once, pulling in eight votes in 1995.

Perhaps in a few years we will need a post dedicated to players with 500 career home runs who are not in the Hall. However, they will be locked out for a much different reason than some of these guys.

Steroids vs. cocaine

Baseball is going through a crisis right now. Some of the brightest stars in the game over the past two decades have been implicated in the steroid scandal. The names of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens are irrevocably associated with performance enhancing substances, some illegal under the law of the land.

It brings to mind the cocaine scandal of the 1980s. Several players were called before a Pittsburgh grand jury to provide testimony regarding their relationship with the drug. Some of the brightest stars of that time–Vida Blue, Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, and Tim Raines–went on the stand and testified under oath to what extent they were involved with the drug.

Some say Parker’s chances for the Hall of Fame were harmed by his drug abuse. The former Pirates slugger received 24.5% of the vote in 1998, his second year on the ballot, but that is the highest level of support he has ever received. This year he came in at 15.1%, twenty votes more than he received last year, but still far short of the 75% needed for election.

The subject of the cocaine scandal has come up lately as Tim Raines appeared on the ballot for the first time. The former Expos star, who is fifth on the all-time stolen base list, received 24.3% of the vote in his first year, which is not a terrible showing. However, not many have risen from that level to induction by the BBWAA vote.

There are two main differences between the steroid scandal today and the cocaine scandal of 1985:

1) Steroids “help performance rather than hamper it, corrupting the legitimacy of results and records” (“Remembering the pain of the Pittsburgh Drug Trials”).

2) The players involved are immensely bigger stars and more likely Hall of Fame candidates. Who would you rather have on your team, Vida Blue or Roger Clemens? Keith Hernandez or Mark McGwire? Dave Parker or Barry Bonds? If you look at numbers alone, disregard what illicit activities they may have been involved in, the steroid users will get the nod nine times out of ten.

To read more on the Pittsburgh drug trials, check out the link above and the Wikipedia entry.

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