2020 Topps flagship officially dropped today. I already pre-ordered a Reds team set and am waiting on my usual card site to upload all the inserts available. I probably won’t pick up any of the SP or SSP photo variations because the prices are so inflated (especially right out of the gate), but I love looking at the pictures. Ryan at Beckett always does a great job of cataloging all the variations. You can see everything he has found so far here. My favorite non-Reds that have popped up are Max Scherzer with the Expos, Ozzie Smith, and Ronald Acuna Jr. wearing his glove like a hat. Some of them look ridiculous (especially those stupid all-white Players Weekend uniforms).
Here is one SSSP that Ryan missed, though…
And a brand new SSSSP…
Congratulations to Yankees legend Derek Jeter, who was named on 99.7% of the BBWAA ballots for the Hall of Fame.
I’m no Yankees fan, but I loved Billy Martin‘s fiery attitude as a manager. He was the skipper for the Yankees five different times: 1975-1978, 1979, 1983, 1985, and 1988. He took over for Lou Piniella after the 1987 season, but was fired after 68 games and Piniella was re-hired to finish out 1988. There is speculation Martin would be hired for another round of abuse from George Steinbrenner in 1990, but he died in an auto accident on Christmas day in 1989.
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
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.
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:
- Don Mattingly 83
- George Brett 76
- Kent Hrbek 17
- Mark McGwire 13
- Fred McGriff 9
- Pete O’Brien 2
- Carney Lansford 1
- Steve Balboni 1
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.
Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of by J. David Herman (2019)
Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and
the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of
by J. David Herman
University of Nebraska Press, 2019
Labor disputes should never happen in baseball, but they do. In 1981, the sport faced a work stoppage in the middle of the season, forcing Major League Baseball to cancel games and reconfigure the playoffs once the dispute was settled. However, the big league strike didn’t affect the Minor Leagues, and the Yankees’ talented AAA affiliate took advantage of the spotlight. Armed with a pitching staff that was, in the mind of pitching coach Sammy Ellis, “better…than half the teams in the Major Leagues,” the Columbus Clippers took the baseball world by storm by virtue of being the best team anyone could watch when the Major Leaguers walked out.
Author J. David Herman recounts the Clippers’ 1981 season and the magic that it brought local fans in Almost Yankees: The Summer of ’81 and the Greatest Baseball Team You’ve Never Heard Of. The team, managed by Frank Verdi, was full of guys who would go on to enjoy varying degrees of success at the MLB level like Dave Righetti, Steve Balboni, and Pat Tabler. There were also names that are not as well-known to modern fans, such as John Pacella, Tucker Ashford, and the author’s hero, Marshall Brant.
Herman runs down the list, entertaining readers with stories from the players’ careers but focusing mostly on their 1981 adventures. He also writes about journalists Jack Torry (Citizen-Journal) and Jim Massie (Columbus Dispatch), trainer Mark “Rookie” Letendre, and the Yankees’ broadcast team of Phil Rizzuto, Bill White, Frank Messer, and Fran Healy. Interspersed in all of this are brief memories from the author’s youth, memories of him listening to games on the radio and receiving advice from his dad: “Take life where you find it.”
The Columbus Clippers headed to the International League’s postseason Governor’s Cup, but after six playoff games were called for weather, the IL declared the Clippers champions and ended the season. Herman turned his attention to the bigs, where the Yankees were battling opponents in the American League Division Series, AL Championship Series, and finally the World Series. He fast forwards in his own life to 1999, the Mariners’ first game at Safeco Field in Seattle. To 2007 and the passing of his mother as the Giants play the World Series. To 2013 and a visit with his dad in a nursing home, where he “recalls the feeling of the ballpark and of spending time there with his son,” singing the Columbus Clippers fight song. To 2017 and a more important game to the author than any the Clippers played in 1981—a game featuring his eight-year old son.
Baseball is magic, and Herman masterfully brings that magic to the page. If you want to revisit the innocence of falling in love with the game, read behind-the-scenes stories, learn about the guys that may have been household names in other organizations, pick up a copy and read Almost Yankees.
The lineup for this week’s Topps TBT set has been announced, and as usual I only want one card. I checked eBay, and that one card is more expensive than I want to spend. Maybe there are others in the same boat, so I thought I might try to organize a set break. If you’re intersted, read on…
I’m claiming Nick Senzel, you can have any other player pictured above…$3.88 shipped PWE. Luke Voit, Tim Anderson, Fernando Tatis Jr., Willson Contreras, Carter Kieboom are available. The set is $19.99, divided by six and add 55 cents for a stamp, that’s $3.88 each. This way there is no need to order the full set if you only want one card. Claim in the comments, or on Twitter, or via e-mail. First claimed, first served.
UPDATE: All cards claimed!
Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Yogi, spring training is over.
BASEBALL STARTS TOMORROW.
When looking for a Hall of Famer to represent the Diamondbacks, it’s slim pickings. Roberto Alomar played all of 38 games there, which doesn’t necessarily disqualify him, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Then there is Alan Trammell, who was a coach from 2010 to 2014 and managed the final three games in 2014 after Kirk Gibson was fired.
The only guy left is Randy Johnson, and he ain’t no slouch. He is the only Hall of Famer so far sporting an Arizona cap on his plaque. Will Curt Schilling join him when (not if) he is finally inducted?
Rich “Goose” Gossage was a reliever for the majority of his career, but in 1976 the White Sox used him as a starter. Despite a 5-7 record as the All-Star break, he was still recognized as a great pitcher due to his 2.91 first-half ERA and was named an All-Star. He was traded to the Pirates after the season, returned to the bullpen and never started a game again.