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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Jim Bunning


For the first time since 1971, the BBWAA failed to induct anyone in 1996. On the writers’ ballot were future BBWAA inductees Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Don Sutton, Jim Rice, and Bruce Sutter, and future Veterans Committee selections Ron Santo and Joe Torre (who was inducted as a manager, not a player). Thankfully, the Veterans Committee saw fit to honor a handful of previously overlooked individuals in 1996.

Jim Bunning pitched in the big leagues for 17 years, winning 224 games with a 3.27 ERA and 2855 strikeouts. JAWS ranks him as the 57th best starting pitcher in history. Bunning was on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years, and almost reached the 75% threshold in 1988, his twelfth year on the ballot, falling just four votes short. His support dipped dramatically the next three years, never reaching even 65% again. The Veterans Committee deemed him worthy of baseball immortality in 1996, five years after his final appearance on the writers’ ballot.

Bunning was also known for his political career, which started as a city councilman in my hometown, Fort Thomas, in 1977. From there, he moved up to the Kentucky State Senate in 1980, then to the US House of Representatives in 1987, and finally the United States Senate in 1999. He also had an unsuccessful run at the Kentucky Governor’s office in 1983, losing to Martha Layne Collins.


Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Richie Ashburn


Richie Ashburn spent several years on the BBWAA ballot, receiving between 2.1% and 41.7% from 1968 to 1982. Ashburn collected more than 2500 hits in 15 years and finished with a .308 average, but his underwhelming power likely hurt his candidacy with the writers. He led the NL in hits three times, triples twice, and on-base percentage four times, while making four All-Star teams for the Phillies and Mets.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Mike Schmidt


Mike Schmidt‘s place among the baseball immortals was a foregone conclusion by the time the voting results were released for the 1995 cycle, and his 96.5% support was the fourth-highest at the time, and is still 11th all-time. Widely considered the greatest player to man the hot corner, Schmidt’s WAR is 10 points higher than any other third baseman and 19th overall for non-pitchers. He is the third baseman by which all other third basemen are compared.

Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Steve Carlton


He was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time. Steve Carlton won four Cy Young Awards, all while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. His first came in 1972, when Carlton won 27 games…and the rest of the staff won 32. He started his big league career with the Cardinals and appeared in three All-Star games wearing the St. Louis uniform before spending 15 years in Philadelphia. At the end of his career, Carlton played for four teams in three years: Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins.

By sheer coincidence, today just happens to be Carlton’s birthday.

Goodbye, Roy Halladay

(May 14, 1977 – November 7, 2017)

Roy Halladay perished in a plane crash today in the Gulf of Mexico. He was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation, winning 203 games and striking out 2117 batters in his 16-year career with the Blue Jays and Phillies, 1998-2013. Halladay was an 8-time All-Star, 2-time Cy Young Award winner, and finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young five other times. In 2010, he threw the second no-hitter in postseason history as the Phillies topped the Reds in the NLDS.

Goodbye, Darren Daulton

(January 3, 1962 – August 6, 2017)


A three-time All-Star who played the majority of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, catcher Darren Daulton succumbed to brain cancer on Sunday. Daulton finished his playing career with the Florida Marlins, announcing his retirement after winning the 1997 World Series with the Fish.

Jim at The Phillies Room posted a nice memory of the time he and his son met “Dutch” and a retrospective of Daulton’s base Topps cards.

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps All-Star Lance Parrish

1988 National League All-Star Lance Parrish Philadelphia Phillies

Lance Parrish joined the Phillies in 1987 after several successful seasons in Detroit, where he had made six All-Star teams. He only spent two years with Philadelphia before returning to the American League, joining the California Angels and making his eighth All-Star team in 1990.


Parrish’s similarity scores on show a slew of well-known names, including Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, and Gabby Hartnett.

Goodbye, Jim Bunning

(October 23, 1931 – May 26, 2017)


Nine-time All-Star and former United States Senator, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning passed away yesterday. He was the second pitcher to collect 100 victories and 1000 strikeouts in both the American and National Leagues, threw a perfect game, and one of just seven pitchers to throw a no-hitter for two different teams. In fifteen years on the Hall of Fame ballot, Bunning never received the necessary 75% support from the BBWAA. He fell four votes short in 1988, his twelfth year on the ballot. He was finally inducted in 1996 via the Veterans Committee.

A few years ago, Gary Cieradowski did a great piece on Bunning at The Infinite Baseball Card Set.

Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family by Bret Book and Kevin Cook (2016)

Home Game

Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family
by Bret Book and Kevin Cook
Crown Archetype, 2016
272 pages

Being the son of a major leaguer must be daunting, with athletic expectations high. Being a third-generation ballplayer, especially when no one ever followed both their father and grandfather into the professional ranks before, the pressure had to be immense. But not for Bret Boone, who was not satisfied to have a famous last name. He wanted to prove that he belonged, and not just a feel-good story for the media.

In Home Game, Boone admits that he regrets the way he approached his big league debut. He should have given more credit to his grandfather, Ray Boone, and father, Bob Boone, both who had solid careers. Ray led the league in RBI and was an All-Star; Bob showed him up by becoming one of the greatest defensive catchers in the game and making multiple All-Star Games. Bret carried on the tradition of family excellence, leading the league in RBI like his grandfather and becoming a stalwart defensive second baseman and All-Star in his own right. And he was not alone; he was joined by his brother Aaron Boone at the top level of professional baseball.

Boone honors his heritage, showing respect to his late grandfather and his father, relating a handful of stories that were passed down to him. He tells about growing up in the Phillies clubhouse, getting batting tips from Mike Schmidt, and later, when his dad was with the Angels, playing catch with Reggie Jackson. He discusses his disappointment in being drafted so low out of high school, and in not being drafted until the fifth round after a few years at USC. He recalls his time in the minor leagues and his struggle to get to Seattle, where he butted heads with Lou Piniella at first. He also tells of the hazing he endured from Jay Buhner, and the friendship that developed as he handled it in stride.

Boone mentions the allegations made by Jose Canseco, denying that he ever took steroids and stating emphatically that their supposed conversation at second base never happened. In his denial, Boone does admit to using greenies, but says of those who claim ignorance when steroids are found in their system, “It’s your job to know what’s in your body. It’s your job to stay clean and test clean.”

There is some foul language throughout—not as much as some autobiographies contain, but it is present. Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family is a good behind-the-scenes look at the game, covering three generations of All-Star baseball. Aside from the Boones, there is mention of Ted Williams, Pete Rose, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Ken Griffey, and Barry Larkin, among others. It may be some time before we see another three-generational All-Star family, and this peek inside the family tradition of the Boones is well worth the read.

Learn more about Crown Archetype.

Purchase Home Game: Big-League Stories from My Life in Baseball’s First Family by Bret Book and Kevin Cook.

God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen by Mitchell Nathanson (2016)

God Almighty Hisself Dick Allen biography Mitchell Nathanson

God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen
by Mitchell Nathanson
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016
416 pages

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.

Learn more about University of Pennsylvania Press.

Purchase God Almighty Hisself: The Life and Legacy of Dick Allen by Mitchell Nathanson.

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