Jose Canseco was on top of the baseball world in 1988, on his way to the first ever 40-40 season. He led the American League in homers, RBI, slugging, and OPS+, along with a .307 batting average. He was practically unstoppable at the plate.
In the late 1980s, Canseco was simply the epitome of cool.
While 1988 was long before variant chase cards were common, wouldn’t this have been a cool card to pull in a pack?
The Oakland A’s were a powerhouse in the late 1980s, with Bash Brothers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire sending baseballs into the stands. Meanwhile, third baseman Carney Lansford put the ball into play on his way to a half-season .331 batting average. Unfortunately, he forgot how to hit in the second half and his average plummeted to .279.
Lansford was often an underrated player during his career, with only one All-Star appearance to his name, but that’s what happens when you play third base in the same league as Wade Boggs and George Brett. He led the AL with a .336 average in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and ended with a very respectable .290 average.
No one would have guessed that Terry Steinbach would be the offensive hero of the 1988 All-Star Game. The starting catcher, who probably should not have even been on the team, blasted a solo home run off Dwight Gooden in the third inning, then drove in a second run on a sacrifice fly off Bob Knepper in the fourth. Steinbach was named the MVP of the game.
Steinbach’s selection caused some grumbling about the process of fan voting. This was long before computer voting became the norm, and paper ballots were used by fans. According to the Columbus Dispatch, ballot box stuffing could be achieved by “driving a nail through a stack of voting cards.” Even Steinbach was uneasy with his selection, recalling “mixed emotions” because he “wasn’t hitting worth crap.” Deserving or not, he came through big for the American League.
As I was browsing through Dave Parker cards on COMC last night, I came across the above 1988 Donruss card of Parker, which I had never seen before. His regular issue Donruss card shows him with the Reds, but he was traded prior to the season to the Oakland A’s for Jose Rijo. In Donruss’ orange-bordered Baseball’s Best set, he is shown as a member of the A’s. But this was a regular, blue-bordered Donruss card showing the Cobra wearing the green and gold. Needless to say, I was floored.
After some eBay research, I discovered this sheet of cards comes from a book that Donruss issued for the A’s. I also found similar books for the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, and Cubs. Each appears to have a handful of cards depicting rookies or newly acquired veterans. In addition to Parker, the A’s book also includes 1988 AL Rookie of the Year Walt Weiss. Goose Gossage is shown with the Cubs, Lee Smith and Brady Anderson with the Red Sox, and Jose Cruz with the Yankees. I never could have told you that Cruz wound up his career in New York.
I plan to start a PC of Parker’s non-Reds cards soon (all Reds cards go in my Reds book), but I don’t know if I’ll ever drop the money needed to acquire this particular card. It’s not crazy expensive, but it is 1988 Donruss, and paying more than a few pennies for 1988 Donruss seems like a total rip-off. But the fact that it has existed for almost 30 years without my knowledge—and in 1988, I knew everything there was to know about baseball cards—just blows my mind.
Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s by Jason Turbow (2017)
Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic is the story of the Oakland A’s, a team stocked with some of the best players in baseball in the early 1970s. Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Dave Duncan, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers…they all played a key role in the team’s dominant run of three straight World Championships from 1972 through 1974. None was a bigger star—in his own mind, at least—than owner Charlie O. Finley. The businessman moved the A’s from Kansas City shortly after securing the team, and shrewdly managed his personnel until baseball’s labor laws broke down, causing an exodus of not only the A’s but many major league rosters in the late 1970s. Finley’s first major loss came when his star pitcher Hunter jumped ship, just a few years after the owner stood his ground against another young pitcher (and kept him, at the time).
But Hunter’s departure came later; from 1972-1974, nothing could stop the Oakland powerhouse. Their three-year reign saw them defeat the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Mets, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was not all smooth sailing. Contract disputes, poor attendance, arguments over playing time, and Finley’s manipulation of players play a major role in by Jason Turbow’s historical account. The author freely admits that Finley, if living, “wouldn’t likely appreciate his portrayal here.”
Besides the verbal clashes with the front office, there were a number of physical fights in the clubhouse as well. Turbow says, “I detail the major dustups in the book, but omitted many others that didn’t fit into the narrative. I had a recurring experience during my interviews: Player says that it was all overblown and the team didn’t fight as much as the media made out; I recount to a player a litany of the most prominent skirmishes; player goes quiet, shakes head and grudgingly agrees that maybe there’s something to it after all.”
Dynastic. Bombastic, Fantastic is a great way to get your blood pumping for another great season of baseball.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Also from the same 1992 Score pack.
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.
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.
Think this candy is still good from 1991?
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.
God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen
by Mitchell Nathanson
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016
One of the most polarizing players of the 1960s and 70s, Dick Allen never seemed to be happy. He had enormous talent, but he did not believe he received the respect he deserved. He faced racism, bad press, hecklers, and more during his career, and made plenty of enemies along the way. In this new biography by Mitchell Nathanson, those events are chronicled and put into historical context in the best possible way, using newspaper articles and archived interviews as the primary source for information, with newer interviews conducted to flesh things out when needed. Allen himself declined to participate in the interview process, but the quality of reporting throughout his career served to paint a portrait of the oft disgruntled star.
There is very little to criticize in this book as far as the writing goes; Nathanson deals with the material honestly and openly, not shying away from the negativity that always seemed to surround Allen. My primary criticism would be with the title, God Almighty Hisself. Not knowing the context, one might assume that Allen referred to himself in such a way. The quote from which the title is taken actually refers to the troublesome nature of dealing with the player, with a former manager quipping, “I believed God Almighty hisself would have trouble handling Richie Allen.” As such, the book should have been titled differently.
Overall, however, this biography of Dick Allen is an enjoyable read, shedding light on the surly superstar who often held out for more money, was frequently traded, and was dismissed all too soon by the voters for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
(April 25, 1959 – February 17, 2016)
The starting second baseman for the 1989 World Champion Oakland Athletics, Tony Phillips passed away Wednesday from a heart attack. He played for the A’s, Tigers, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays, and Mets during his 18-year career.
(July 21, 1958 – December 27, 2015)
Fourteen-year MLB veteran Dave Henderson, nicknamed “Hendu,” suffered a heart attack and passed away today. Henderson played for the Mariners, Red Sox, Giants, A’s, and Royals, and was an All-Star in 1991. He played in four World Series for the Red Sox (1986) and A’s (1988-1990) and hit a dramatic home run in the fifth game of the 1986 ALCS against the Angels (video of the home run is above, or watch the full game here).