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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Tony LaRussa

Larussa

I admit I had issues with Tony LaRussa‘s selection for the Hall of Fame. His alleged ignorance of what Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were doing in the bathroom stalls never sat right with me. When you look at his success, however, it is difficult to deny his place among the immortals (if you even agree that managers should be in the Hall, which I honestly don’t). LaRussa led Oakland to one World Championship and the Cardinals to two more.

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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Rickey Henderson

Henderson

The 2009 Hall of Fame class included one player in his first year of eligibility, and one in his last. Rickey Henderson is considered the greatest leadoff hitter in history, and stole more bases than any other major leaguer. In 25 seasons, Henderson stole 1405 bases; no other player has stolen 1000. In 1998, he led the AL with 66 swipes at the age of 39. He racked up 110.8 WAR in his career and ranks third among left fielders according to JAWS, behind the cheater Barry Bonds and the legend Ted Williams.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Dennis Eckersley

eckersley

Dennis Eckersley‘s career began as a starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, and he was a fairly successful starter. From 1975 through 1986 for the Indians, Red Sox, and Cubs, Eck won 151 games, was selected to two All-Star teams, and received Cy Young Award consideration in 1978 and 1979. Before the 1987 season started, the Cubs traded Eck to the Oakland A’s, where he became one of the most dominant relief pitchers in history. He collected 320 of his 390 career saves while wearing the green and gold for nine years. He was selected to four more All-Star teams and in 1992, Eckersley won both the Cy Young Award and the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Reggie Jackson

Jackson

Reggie Jackson may have been my first favorite baseball player, or at the very least, my first favorite non-Reds player. I thought I remembered his 500th home run, but after looking it up, I don’t believe that is correct. His 500th came in 1984, slightly before I started paying attention to the sport. Perhaps I thought I remembered it because he was the last player to reach the milestone before Mike Schmidt in 1987, and I do remember Schmidt’s pursuit of the mark.

Reggie hit 563 home runs in all during the regular season, and 18 in the postseason. In 1973, he was named both the AL MVP an the World Series MVP for the Oakland A’s. He was also named the 1977 World Series MVP with the Yankees. His induction into the Hall of Fame was a no-brainer, which means the 27 voters who omitted his name from their ballots had no brains.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Joe Morgan

Morgan

Jay Jaffe developed a ranking system that utilizes both career WAR and a player’s seven-year peak WAR. His system, called JAWS, ranks Joe Morgan as the fourth-best second baseman of all-time, behind Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. A lot of people don’t realize that Morgan spent several season with the Houston Colt .45’s/Astros before coming to the Reds in 1972. He was twice an All-Star in Houston, but the The Little General found true success in Cincinnati. As a member of the Reds from 1972-1979, Morgan was named to the All-Star team every year and won back-to-back MVPs as Cincinnati won back-to-back World Championships in 1975 and 1976. Despite all of his awesomeness, there were 81 BBWAA voters who did not think he was deserving of a spot in Cooperstown his first year on the ballot. Fortunately, he still received 81.8% support, so he cleared the 75% threshold and was inducted alongside Jim Palmer.

Morgan

SSPC occasionally made questionable decisions in their photo selections. They showed Ralph Kiner with the Indians rather than the Pirates, and Frank Robinson with the Dodgers rather than the Reds or Orioles. I decided to have a little fun and use a picture of Morgan with Oakland as an alternative to the more logical Cincinnati card. Consider this a “fun card” SP.

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 Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco 1988 Topps All-Star

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.

Jose Canseco 1988 Topps All-Star

In the late 1980s, Canseco was simply the epitome of cool.

Jose Canseco 1988 Topps All-Star

While 1988 was long before variant chase cards were common, wouldn’t this have been a cool card to pull in a pack?

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Carney Lansford

Lansford

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

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.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Terry Steinbach

1988 All-Star MVP Terry Steinbach Oakland Athletics

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

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.

A 1988 Donruss card I had never seen before?

1988 Donruss Dave Parker

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.

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