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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Bert Blyleven

Blyleven

Three thousand seven hundred one. When Bert Blyleven retired, he ranked third on the all-time strikeouts list, behind Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. Despite his penchant for punchouts, it took fourteen voting cycles for the writers to select him for the Hall of Fame…and even then, he only received 79.7%. At least he’s in, where he belongs.

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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Kirby Puckett

Kirby

In his injury-shortened career, the late Kirby Puckett was a juggernaut. The centerfielder was selected to ten All-Star teams in just twelve seasons, and collected 2304 hits while hitting at a .318 clip. Add to that two World Series rings, and I’d say you’ve had a pretty good career. Plus, at the start of his career, Puckett got to wear those glorious powder blue road uniforms.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Rod Carew

Carew

Of the players inducted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, Rod Carew has the lowest career WAR and the lowest WAR7. However, he sailed into the Hall on the first ballot on the strength of his reputation as a fantastic hitter (.328 lifetime batting average) and career benchmarks (3053 hits). He was an immensely popular player in Minnesota, the Rookie of the Year in 1967, and finished in the top ten in MVP voting six times, winning the trophy in 1977. Carew was named to the American League All-Star team every year from 1967 through 1984.

Congratulations, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris!

The Veterans Committee voted today on the Hall of Fame “Modern Era” ballot. Several worthy candidates were included on the ballot, and ultimately two players were selected to join the elite in Cooperstown next summer.

Trammell

Alan Trammell manned the shortstop position for the World Champion 1984 Tigers, and was named MVP of the Series that year. Overshadowed throughout his career by Cal Ripken, Trammell was named to six All-Star teams and won four Gold Glove Awards. In 1987, Trammell racked up more offensive WAR than anyone else in the American League, and narrowly lost the MVP race to Toronto’s George Bell. In fifteen years on the BBWAA ballot, Trammell’s best showing came in 2016 with 40.9%. Fortunately, the Veterans Committee recognized his worth and decided he belonged among the legends.

Morris

Another star of the 1984 Tigers, Jack Morris had a reputation as a big game pitcher for Detroit and Minnesota. While his career totals are somewhat lacking, his postseason prowess put him over the top. He collected 254 regular season wins and struck out 2478 batters in eighteen seasons.

Trammell and Morris will join those who receive 75% support from the BBWAA ballot, to be announced next month.

Goodbye, Don Baylor

(June 28, 1949 – August 7, 2017)

Baylor

Slugging outfielder and 1979 American League MVP, Don Baylor passed away today from multiple myeloma, a form of cancer of plasma cells. Baylor his 338 home runs in his career, was an All-Star in 1979, and won the World Series with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. He presided over the Boston Red Sox’s kangaroo court, and fined Roger Clemens $5 for giving up a single to Spike Owen on an 0-2 count during his 20-strikeout game in 1986. He was also the Colorado Rockies’ first manager.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Gary Gaetti

Gaetti

Wade Boggs started eleven straight All-Star games for the American League, and was featured in the 1988 Topps All-Star subset. Gary Gaetti was an easy pick to back up the future Hall of Famer at third. He had just come off two 30-homer/100-RBI seasons, and appeared to be on his way to another. He fell a little short, but his stats at the break were promising enough for manager Tom Kelly to put him on the roster.

Gaetti

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Tim Laudner

1988 All-Star Tim Laudner Minnesota Twins

Tim Laudner would have been the starting catcher if players controlled the lineups, with Ron Hassey backing him up. It was Laudner’s finest season since he made his debut with the Twins in 1981, and he got a substantial raise in the off-season, but 1989 would be his last as a big leaguer.

Laudner

See all the TWJ ’88 All-Stars here.

Baseball cards from Orlando

packs

I have been sitting on this post for absolutely no reason other than laziness. I bought a handful of fifty-cent packs when I was in Orlando at the beginning of the month, and scanned a handful of them, even uploaded the scans, but just haven’t been motivated to post them. I have nothing else planned for today, so let’s see what I got…

Davis

First up is Eric Davis from the 1987 Fleer Star Stickers set. These cards are very similar to the 1986 set, but with a green border instead of maroon. Either way, the border clashes with the red jersey.

Mattingly

The 1988 Fleer Star Stickers went with a gray border sprinkled with colorful stars. This Don Mattingly is the best card I pulled from that pack.

Davis mini

Franco mini

Back to 1987, and a pair of Reds in a pack: the best centerfielder and the best relief pitcher of the second half of the decade. John Franco is criminally underrated.

Benzinger

Benzinger

Clark

Clark

I bought a couple of packs of 1990 Donruss. Don’t look at me like that. I did not have any Grand Slammers cards, and I wanted a couple. I pulled the Todd Benzinger from one pack, and Will Clark from another. If I had found another pack with Bo Jackson on top, I would have bought that one too.

Big Hurt

I did not know the 1992 Fleer “The Performer” cards came in packs of their own. I assumed they were inserts. In a five-card pack, I pulled Nolan Ryan and Frank Thomas. And probably some ‘roiders, I can’t remember now.

Griffey All-Star

Henke

Art cards will always be my weakness. I’m not sure why I picked up a pack of 1992 Score, but I was happy to pull these bad boys.

Ryan

Henderson

Also from the same 1992 Score pack.

Thome

There it is. I knew there had to be something cool showing on the top of a 1992 Score pack for me to buy it, even at only fifty cents. Jim Thome is the man.

Dennys

Kirby Puckett from 1996 Pinnacle Denny’s. Not sure why I bought this one-card pack. Oh well, at least it’s a Hall of Famer.

Double Headers

Double Header

I have always wanted some Double Headers, but have never seen them in person. Vince Coleman is from 1990, while Wade Boggs and Andre Dawson are from 1989.

Brett

candy

Think this candy is still good from 1991?

buttons

Finally, a couple of 1990 Baseball Buttons. I already have several of these, so I probably shouldn’t have bought them, but it was only fifty cents.

Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend by Thom Henninger (2015)

Oliva

Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend
by Thom Henninger
University of Minnesota Press, 2015
280 pages

Nearly every team has a player like Tony Oliva: immensely popular among both fans and players, yet forgotten by the world at large outside of their “home” city. Oliva’s career in Minnesota as a player and coach saw him spend time with Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett. Author Thom Henninger’s new biography, Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend, covers all the bases, starting with his initial failed tryout with the Twins and the young player’s inability to return to Cuba afterward because of the Bay of Pigs operation. Henninger’s follows Oliva’s career, the ups and downs and personal, non-baseball highlights, interjecting memories of his teammates in with the statistical record.

That statistical record plays a major role in the author’s epilogue, “The Hall of Fame Question.” Despite Oliva’s popularity and success in Minnesota, he has not yet been rewarded with the ultimate honor bestowed upon baseball players. Henninger breaks down Oliva’s career, comparing his peak years of 1964-1971 to other men who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, both contemporary and those who came later, making the case that Oliva does belong among baseball’s immortals. It is a compelling case, but still short of a slam-dunk for the Cuban-born player.

Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend is an enjoyable book, one that Twins fans and baseball history fans will relish. Whether or not you believe Oliva belongs in the Hall of Fame, his story is worth reading.

Learn more about University of Minnesota Press.

Purchase Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend by Thom Henninger.

Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie by Stew Thornley

Minnesota Twins Baseball book review

Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie
by Stew Thornley
The History Press, 2014
128 pages

There are certain names that immediately come to mind when one thinks of the Minnesota Twins: Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, Joe Mauer. The franchise’s history reaches much deeper than its Hall of Famers, though. Before the Twins came to town, Minnesotans were entertained by Ollie Bejma of the St. Paul Saints and Willie Mays of the Minneapolis Millers, and the franchise that eventually became the Twins had its own roster of greats, most notably Walter Johnson. After fifty years in Minnesota, however, the Twins no longer have to rely on those stories to thrill baseball fans. They have their own.

Author Stew Thornley has done an excellent job of tracing the Twins’ roots in Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie. Recalling anecdotes of Killebrew and Vic Power, Jim Kaat and Jim Perry, and more recently Mauer and Justin Morneau, the author presents an informative look into this underappreciated franchise. While the chapters are packed with details, the most entertaining part of this book are the asides about the All-Star Games, in-season exhibition matches, and the pine tar incident that occurred years before George Brett’s infamous blow-up.

Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie is a nice primer at only 128 pages to help one start to learn about the Twins baseball club.

Learn more about The History Press.

Purchase Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie by Stew Thornley.

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