“Sweet Music” Frank Viola was 14-2 at the All-Star break in 1988, making him the easy choice to start the game for the American League. He pitched two innings and earned the victory.
“The Rocket” Roger Clemens was next up for the AL, and retired all three batters he faced.
Mark Gubicza was the first American League pitcher to enter the game that didn’t have a cool nickname. He was also the first (and only) to let the National League score; Vince Coleman came home on a wild pitch in the 4th.
Should Dave Stieb be in the Hall of Fame? I think not, but there are a lot of Stieb stumpers out there. He appeared in seven ASGs in his career, but only tallied 176 victories over 16 seasons.
Doug Jones had a breakout season in 1988; it was the first of five seasons in which he saved at least 30 games, and his first of five All-Star Games.
When I started collecting baseball cards, Dan Plesac seemed to be in every discount store box set. He had a solid 18-year career, but nothing that would have warranted his inclusion in so many “Young Superstar” and “Hottest Players”-type sets.
Dennis Eckersley was the only Hall of Fame pitcher on the American League roster. Of course, Clemens would have been enshrined long ago if he hadn’t derailed his chances by getting caught using performance enhancers.
Two pitchers were on the American League roster but didn’t get into the game. The first is the manager’s own closer, Jeff Reardon. I wonder if players get mad when they don’t get to play, or if the experience of being there is enough.
Doyle Alexander started his big league career in 1971 and was named an All-Star for the first time in 1988. He did not get an opportunity to take the mound.
Paul Molitor played second base for the Milwaukee Brewers on July 9, the Saturday before the All-Star Game, because he hadn’t played the position all year. He was on the ballot at 2B, but Jim Gantner was the primary second sacker for the Brew Crew.
Johnny Ray and Harold Reynolds were chosen as backups for Molitor. Both were the lone representatives from their teams at the All-Star Game. The players’ choices would have changed all three second basemen on the roster:
- Julio Franco 41
- Frank White 37
- Marty Barrett 32
- Lou Whitaker 29
- Harold Reynolds 14
- Paul Molitor 8
- Willie Randolph 1
- Jim Gantner 1
- Luis Salazar 1
- Curt Wilkerson 1
- Glenn Hubbard 1
- Tony Fernandez 1
- Johnny Ray 1
Don Sutton is often cited as a prime example of a “compiler,” a guy who is able to stick around for a long time and keep padding his statistical record while never truly dominating. And to that accusation (if you want to call it that), I say, “So what?” If he’s good enough to stick around, let him stick around.
Even though he was only named to four All-Star teams and only won 20 games once in 23 seasons, he had five straight top-five finishes for the Cy Young Award from 1972 through 1976. Outside of that brief brilliance, though, Sutton never received much recognition for his abilities. Even when it came time for Hall of Fame consideration, it took five ballot cycles for the BBWAA to decide to induct a 300-win, 3500-strikeout pitcher.
One other interesting note about Sutton: he attended four different colleges in three states. He started at the Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Florida, then went to Mississippi College in Clinton. From there, he went to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and finished up at Whittier College in Whittier, California.
Rollie Fingers played for the Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers. But he was also a member of two other organizations for a grand total of seven days, though he never played a game for either team. The A’s sold him tot he Red Sox in 1976, but three days after the deal the
dictator commissioner of baseball Bowie Kuhn voided it and ordered the reliever back to Oakland. He ended up leaving Charlie Finley for San Diego that off-season.
In December 1980, the Padres traded Fingers to the Cardinals, who then traded him four days later to the Brewers. He would finish his career in Milwaukee…but might not have, had Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott lifted the facial hair ban on her players. Fingers considered signing with the Reds, but opted to retire when he was told he would have to shave his famous handlebar mustache.
Paul Molitor took home the Hutch Award in 1987. While several superstars have won the award (including Mickey Mantle, Andre Dawson, Carl Yastrzemski, and Johnny Bench), it is not necessarily given to a big-name player. It has also gone to Ron Oester, Don Robinson, Dennis Leonard, and Mark Teahen.
According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center website, “MLB teams have the opportunity to nominate one player from their team that exemplifies the fighting spirit of the legendary leader Fred Hutchinson. Former winners then vote on the nominees to select the next Hutch Award winner.”
Paul Molitor really flew under the radar in Milwaukee, but in 1993 he took center stage, winning the World Series MVP for the Toronto Blue Jays. He picked up 3319 career hits and finished with a .306 batting average.
Is “The Ignitor” the worst nickname ever? And is the Brewers’ glove logo the best logo ever? I think the answer to both of those questions is yes.
Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount were all first-ballot inductees in 1999. Never before had the BBWAA elected as many first-timers, with the exception of 1936 when everyone on the ballot was a first-timer. The feat has been repeated twice (so far), in 2014 (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas) and 2015 (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz). While Jim Thome and Chipper Jones appear to be first-ballot locks this year, they are not likely to be joined by Scott Rolen.
If you hadn’t noticed, the three cards of the BBWAA’s selections borrow the color scheme from 1975 Topps. With Ryan and Brett, they were exact copies, but with Yount I had to flip the light and dark colors as the name and position would have been difficult to read on the dark brown. This is not the first time I have used the 1975 color palette, nor will it be the last, but as we are moving further away from that year there will be fewer players who appeared in the 1975 set.
It took two voting cycles for Rollie Fingers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but there was little doubt after his initial 65.7% showing that he would be inducted by the BBWAA. In his second year on the ballot, Fingers received 81.2% of the vote. The reliever was a seven-time All-Star and won the 1981 AL Cy Young and MVP Awards. Pretty impressive for a relief pitcher. At the end of his career, Fingers considered signing with the Cincinnati Reds, but refused to shave his famous handlebar mustache.
Bill Veeck was one of the most innovative marketing minds in baseball history. His most infamous publicity stunt came in 1979: “Disco Demolition Night.” The stunt led to a riot, forcing the White Sox to forfeit the game against the Detroit Tigers. Veeck was selected by the Veterans Committee to join the baseball legends in Cooperstown in 1991.
The D-Train signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in January, and was working out with the club in spring training. Last week, Dontrelle Willis announced that he was retiring, officially ending his latest comeback attempt. Originally drafted by the Cubs in 2000, Willis was traded in 2002 along with three other players to the Marlins for Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement. At the major league level, Willis played for the Marlins (2003-2007), Tigers (2008-2010), Diamondbacks (2010), and Reds (2011). He also signed on with Giants, Phillies, Orioles, Cubs (again), Angels, Giants (again), and Brewers, but never reached the top level with those organizations.