During a Twitter discussion earlier tonight, the topic of year-end highlights baseball sets came up. I immediately thought of the Donruss Highlights sets which were issued from 1985-1987. I’m disappointed this set did not continue beyond 1987, and wondered what a 1988 edition might look like. I tried to go with a gold border with silver in place of the red gradient. It is similar to the “Baseball’s Best” set, but not quite as orange. Since I don’t have the font Donruss used in 1988, I simply copied-and-pasted the nameplate from an actual 1988 release.
Tom Kelly and Whitey Herzog led their teams to the World Series in 1987, but 1988 was not as kind to either manager. Kelly did get mentioned in the AL Manager of the Year voting, but the Cardinals’ 5th place finish in 1988 ensured that Herzog would be ignored at the end of the season. Kelly was at the beginning of his managerial career; he stayed with the Twins through the end of the 2001 season. Herzog was nearing the end in 1988; he was dismissed after 80 games in 1990 and never managed in the big leagues again.
I have enjoyed making these “fun cards” and researching the players that appeared in the 1988 All-Star Game, one of the first I remember and one of the most fun because of how close it was to me.
“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.
To say Terry Steinbach was a controversial pick to start at catcher would be an understatement, and even he knew it. “There were a lot of mixed emotions. In 1987, I had a decent year as a rookie, but in ’88, I had missed a month with an injury and wasn’t hitting worth crap.” His home run off NL starter Dwight Gooden and MVP win briefly quieted opponents. Looking back historically, however, it’s clear that he was a poor choice.
Tim Laudner of Minnesota was selected as the backup. The players would have made him the starter and Steinbach’s teammate Ron Hassey the backup, though B.J. Surhoff and Andy Allanson had their apologists as well.
Canseco went on to win the AL MVP Award on the strength of the first-ever 40 home run/40 stolen base season.
Coming in second for the MVP Award was Mike Greenwell, who believes he should be retroactively honored due to Canseco’s admitted steroid use.
Kirby Puckett rounds out (no pun intended) the AL outfield in 1988.
Was anyone snubbed? The players would have added Cleveland outfielder Joe Carter to the roster ahead of Henderson, but since the fans get to select the starters, Carter stayed home.
- Dave Wlnfleld 141
- Jose Canseco 129
- Kirby Puckett 126
- Mike Greenwell 50
- Joe Carter 47
- Rickey Henderson 32
- Ellis Burks 8
- George Bell 6
- Bo Jackson 5
- Dwight Evans 3
- Robin Yount 3
- Chili Davis 3
- Danny Tartabull 2
- Jack Clark 2
- Willie Wilson 2
- Dan Gladden 2
- Devon White 1
- Gary Ward 1
- Pat Sheridan 1
- Mickey Brantley 1
- Lloyd Moseby 1
- Cory Snyder 1
- Gary Pettis 1
Wade Boggs was the starting third baseman for the American League, with Carney Lansford and Gary Gaetti on the bench. I posted the Lansford and Gaetti cards a couple of years ago when they were initially made, but I had not yet decided to make new versions of the All-Stars who had cards in the actual Topps set. After I finished everything else earlier this year, I decided to go back and update the actual All-Stars as well.
How did the actual roster compare with the players’ opinions? See for yourself; here are the players’ picks:
- Wade Boggs 90
- Carney Lanstord 46
- Gary Gaetti 36
- Paul Molitor 5
- Jim Presley 2
- Jack Howell 2
- Luis Saiazar 2
- Mike Pagliarulo 1
- Kevin Seitzer 1
- Buddy Bell 1
I find the inclusion of Bell on the list amusing since he didn’t even play in the American League in 1988. He lost his starting job to Chris Sabo during spring training and was traded to Houston in June. In 1988, the Astros were still a National League team (as they should be still).
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.”
Rod Carew was on his way out of baseball just as I started following more closely. My parents gave me the 1986 Topps factory set for Christmas, and that was Carew’s last card, career-capper that included all of his statistics. It was simple to see how great he was just by flipping over the card. 3053 hits and a lifetime .328 batting average. His dedication to the craft of hitting was evident in the numbers.
Carew played nineteen seasons. He failed to make the All-Star team once. Once. He was on the All-Star roster every year from 1967 to 1984. But wait, there’s more. He started fifteen of those eighteen games, and was selected by fans to start the other three but could not due to injury. He was the top vote-getter in the majors in 1975, 1977, 1978, and 1979.
The dude was an absolute beast on the field. I wish I had seen him play in his prime.
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.
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.