I had my doubts about Topps Now “Turn Back the Clock” cards when they were first announced. But honestly, I loved them as soon as I saw the first one. Not enough to buy them (unless there is a really cool Reds card), but the basic concept and design are better than I expected. Hopefully, Topps will go deeper than your standard Hall of Famers (such as Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson) and super popular players (like Dwight Gooden and Bryce Harper). But if they don’t, there are always custom card makers.
I created SIX different Topps Now TBTC cards for today…all Reds, of course. It was difficult to find era-accurate photos for some, but I did change up the team logo on each card to represent the proper era.
Did you know that Wally Post hit the first-ever home run in the first-ever game at Dodger Stadium? It happened April 10, 1962, in the seventh inning; the Reds won the game 6-3.
Would this have been a Topps Now card, if Topps Now cards existed in 1967? Probably not, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a “fun card” of the underrated Vada Pinson.
Another one that probably would not have been on the Topps Now radar at the time, but in hindsight, it was an easy decision to include Don Gullett‘s debut in this virtual run-down of important events in Reds history.
Now we’re talking. When is the last time you saw a new Nick Esasky card in a Topps product? A grand slam and a triple in 1984 may have made the cut for a Topps Now card.
If I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d say this would be Topps’ choice for a TBTC card today. I don’t know for sure, especially since Ken Griffey Jr. already has a card in the series, but this seems like a safe bet.
I don’t know if I will create cards for each day of the year. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now, and this is just a hobby. But I had fun coming up with these six cards for April 10!
Stay safe out there, and don’t forget to wash your hands!
February 24, 1960
Nick Esasky is the topic of many Reds fans conversations when the topic turns to the teams of the 1980s. From 1985 to 1988, the Reds finished 2nd each year. But what if, instead of chasing Ty Cobb’s record, Pete Rose had played Esasky more at first base than himself? Could he have been the boost the team needed to win the West Division, especially in 1985 when he slugged 21 home runs in 125 games? Most of those games were at third base (split with Buddy Bell) and left field (split with Gary Redus and Cesar Cedeno). No doubt, Rose wanted the record, and Reds fans wanted the record, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have seen the team get over that hump and win the division?
Stuck behind the legendary Pete Rose, who was at the time chasing Ty Cobb‘s all-time hits record, Nick Esasky was underused by the Reds in the mid-to-late 1980s. There are many who think Esasky’s bat could have put them over the top during their 4-year run of 2nd place finishes. But when a legend needs the at-bats to catch another legend, the young talented guy takes a seat.
Esasky signed all three cards I sent to him in 22 days.
Nick Esasky is one of the saddest stories in baseball. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, playing out of position when he got a chance to play so a legend could reach a milestone. Some say that the Reds may have finished 1st instead of 2nd a few seasons had Rose sat himself down and let Esasky play. In 1989, Esasky hit 30 home runs and drove in 108 for Boston, and signed a big contract with the Atlanta Braves. Then vertigo hit, and he was limited to only nine games with the Braves. He never played baseball on the major league level after that.
You gotta feel bad for Nick Esasky. The guy had a ton of potential, but due to poor coaching and a debilitating health condition, he never blossomed into the player he could have been. The former first round draft pick should have been a first baseman, plain and simple. But Pete Rose was chasing Ty Cobb in 1985, and first base was really the only position he could play. So Esasky was moved to third base and left field. True, he spent the majority of 1984 at the hot corner, but he was no Gold Glover. He should have been playing first base all along. In 1985, Cincinnati finished 2nd in the NL West, 5.5 games behind the Dodgers. Is it possible that the Reds may have won more games with Esasky starting rather than Rose? Again in 1986, 2nd place (although by a considerably larger margin, 10 games behind Houston). Pete started himself 61 times in 1986, opposed to Esasky 49 times. That’s 12 games, and if the Reds had won those 12 games…they would have won the pennant in 1986.
I am not saying that Esasky would have been the savior of the mid-1980s Reds. Not by a long shot. But he might have helped if he had been given the chance. Pete Rose was a great player, but he left a lot to be desired as a manager.
Esasky was finally traded after the 1988 season to the Boston Red Sox along with Rob Murphy. In return, the Reds got Todd Benzinger (who caught the final out of the 1990 World Series), Jeff Sellers, and Luis Vasquez. Nick hit 30 home runs and drove in 108 in 1989, good for 18th in AL MVP voting. Based on those numbers, he signed a sweet 3-year deal with the Atlanta Braves for about $5.5 million. He only played 9 games in 1990 before his career was ended by vertigo.