The National League was absolutely loaded with starting pitchers in 1988. At the end of the year, it was a three-man race for the Cy Young Award, but at mid-season the field was wide open. Dwight Gooden got the starting nod. You would not have convinced me in 1988 that he would never be on another All-Star team.
Next up was Houston’s Bob Knepper, the only Astro on the team. I shook his hand during the All-Star workout the night before. I didn’t have anything to get signed with me, and he was the only one that acknowledged my existence.
David Cone is another one of the borderline Hall of Fame cases. I wouldn’t vote for him, but there are a lot of Coneheads who believe he was snubbed by the voters.
I never would have guessed that Kevin Gross was an All-Star. He did have 10 wins at the break, though, and 2.47 is a pretty good ERA. He just doesn’t register as an All-Star in my brain.
Mark Davis got a hefty raise after his 1989 Cy Young season, but he never pitched like he did in 1988 and 1989 again.
As names go, “Walk” may be one of the worst for a pitcher. “Homer” beats it, but “Walk” is not far behind. Fortunately, Bob Walk never appeared in the top ten for walks.
Orel Hershiser spent 18 years in the majors, winning 204 games for the Dodgers, Indians, Mets, and Giants. 1988 was his greatest season, winning the Cy Young Award, the NLCS MVP, and the World Series MVP.
Just as Tom Kelly chose his closer for the American League roster, Whitey Herzog named his closer Todd Worrell to the National League team. Worrel actually got into the game and retired the side in the top of the 9th: George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., and Don Mattingly.
Greg Maddux made his first of eight All-Star teams in 1988, but didn’t pitch in the game. Am I the only one who thinks eight is way too low of a number for one of the greatest pitchers ever?
Danny Jackson was one of three Reds on the roster, but didn’t get to play in the game. There should be a rule that all players from the host city get to play. Jackson only made one more All-Star roster; while with the Phillies in 1994, he faced Scott Cooper, Kenny Lofton, and Will Clark without getting an out. He allowed two inherited runners and one of his own to score.
The National League took six outfielders from four teams to the midsummer classic in 1988: starters Darryl Strawberry, Vince Coleman, and Andre Dawson, and backups Willie McGee, Rafael Palmeiro, and Andy Van Slyke.
I love the nicknames of the 1980s. The Straw, Vincent Van Go, The Hawk…the nicknames of players today just don’t have the same panache.
Not everyone liked their nickname, though. Case in point, Willie McGee hated the name “E.T.” He hated it so much, it became a national news story. The New York Times reported in 1982, “Willie McGee won’t elaborate on his dislike for the nickname. Perhaps he thinks that it’s a racial slur since E.T. is dark-skinned. Perhaps he’s embarrassed because he has the hooded eyes and pinched nose similar to that of the little creature; he also wobbles when he walks, as E.T. does in the movie. Whatever the reason, Willie McGee is entitled to prefer his name to that nickname, even though he has virtually landed in the World Series from another planet.”
If Palmeiro had a nickname, what would it be? “Finger-pointer”?
Kirk Gibson is the only difference between the players’ top six and the actual roster. Gibby was the eventual National League MVP and had one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history, but his invite to the 1988 All-Star Game was evidently lost in the mail.
- Darryl Strawberry 118
- Andre Dawson 100
- Willie McGee 71
- Andy Van Slyke 57
- Kirk Gibson 37
- Rafael Palmeiro 32
- Vince Coleman 25
- Tim Raines 25
- Barry Bonds 20
- Tony Gwynn 10
- Dale Murphy 8
- Gerald Perry 7
- Eric Davis 5
- Will Clark 3
- Tom Brunansky 3
- John Shelby
- Candy Maldonado 2
- Brett Butler 1
- Dave Martinez 1
- Casey Candaele 1
- Jeffrey Leonard 1
- Danny Heep 1
- Kevin McReynolds 1
- Keith Moreland 1
- Mike Aldrete 1
- Gerald Young 1
- Albert Hall 1
Bobby Bonilla seemed to be the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt as the regular NL third baseman, and was given the starting job in 1988. He did log six All-Star Games between 1988 and 1995, but no one today would dare claim that his career measured up to Schmidt’s. To be fair, no one’s career measured up to Schmidt’s. Bonilla’s backups, Vance Law and rookie Chris Sabo, couldn’t claim it either.
Again, the voters and players agreed on the starter, and the managers and players were not far apart on the bench. Here are the players picks for third base in 1988:
- Bobby Bonllla 121
- Vance Law 14
- Mike Schmidt 11
- Chris Sabo 7
- Terry Pendleton
- Tim Wallach 5
- Pedro Guerrero 2
- Buddy Bell 1
- Kevin Mitchell 1
- Graig Nettles 1
Sometimes you just gotta know when to give up.
Garth Brooks joined the Pittsburgh Pirates this spring after previous failed attempts to make the majors with the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, and Kansas City Royals. While he actually got into a few games with those teams, and collected a hit with the Padres and Royals, he failed to even step up to the plate with the Pirates. Some players have a reputation of “all hit, no glove” or “no hit, all glove.” Brooks is best described as “no hit, no glove.” Not surprisingly, he only lasted a week before the Pirates sent him packing.
I really hope this guy has another talent to fall back on. At 57 years old, the window on a professional baseball career has been slammed shut. I hear McDonald’s is hiring. Or maybe he has a hidden talent like singing; he could audition for American Idol. Luke Bryan would be happy to give him some pointers.
In all seriousness, Brooks’ various appearances have been in conjunction with his “Teammates for Kids Foundation,” which has raised over $100 million for children’s charities. Whether you like his music or not, that’s kinda awesome.
One of the greatest Pirates of all-time was almost a Dodger. But even before signing with the Dodgers in February 1954, Roberto Clemente also had an offer from the Giants. Think about an outfield with Mays and Clemente! The Dodgers won that battle, but lost Clemente anyway. Pittsburgh poached Clemente in the November 1954 rule 5 draft since he was left unprotected on the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate Montreal Royals.
I love it when the hobby and pop culture collide. On last night’s episode of This Is Us, the mega-popular tear-jerker of a TV show, former Pirates pitching great John Smiley and his 1987 Topps Traded card made an appearance.
I know John Smiley is hardly considered a “great” today, but in 1992, coming off a 20-win season, an All-Star appearance, and a third-place finish in Cy Young Award voting, “great” is not a stretch. And it wasn’t actually Smiley on the show, but actor Troy Doherty portraying Smiley at a baseball card signing.
Young Kevin Pearson wanted to get Smiley’s rookie card signed so it would double in value. In the screengrab below, we see that the card in question is from the 1987 Topps Traded set with the iconic wooden border and white cardstock.
And flip it over…
Compare it to the real thing…
It seems that the actor’s face was Photoshopped over Smiley’s face, but the rest of the card is legit. Look at the logo placement on the jersey, the treeline in the background…there is no way they recreated the whole scene for a fake card but that is clearly not John Smiley’s face on the card in the show.
There is no doubt, though, that the writers were familiar with the original card. During the scene, the pitcher said Kevin wanted to tell him about the best pool places in Minneapolis. Smiley was the subject of many trade rumors prior to the ’92 season and was eventually traded to the Twins. It seems that young Kevin spent a lot of time reading the backs of baseball cards; his 1987 Topps Traded card talks about some of Smiley’s hobbies, including “shooting pool.” This led the thoughtful 11-year old to research the pitcher’s likely new home and offer some suggestions tailored to his interests.
I confess I’m a huge This Is Us fan so seeing a baseball card connection made my day.
One of my dad’s favorite ballplayers was Ted Kluszewski, and because of the stories he has told me since my youth, one of my favorite ballplayers was Ted Kluszewski. Big Klu passed away in early 1988, but his legacy in Cincinnati has never faded. The man got in trouble for cutting his sleeves because his arms would too big to fit through the armholes. How can you not love that?
The idea for this blogpost started on Twitter, based on a comment by @ShaneKatz73:
For ‘57, I have always liked the Ted Kluszewski card… would like to add a team card or two. Have some older Topps but started with the standard size first.
— Shane Katz (@ShaneKatz73) May 19, 2018
I decided to take a look at Kluszewski’s baseball cards, and rank the top five. This is my opinion only, so feel free to disagree if you want to be wrong. All images came from COMC.com, except for one, because there are no current listings for it. I have a few of these in my collection, but I’m at work writing this and I don’t feel like staying up when I get home in the morning to find them and scan them. Sorry for being so lazy.
5. 1982 TCMA Baseball’s Greatest Sluggers #11 This is the first Kluszewski card I ever possessed, and the image is imprinted on my brain as an all-time great card. Even though this is a “modern” card (relative to Klu’s career, as he had retired 20 years earlier), I’m honestly surprised I didn’t rank it higher. But this man has some superb cardboard.
4. 1959 Topps #35 I love the 1959 set. Sure, I wish this showed Kluszewski as a member of the Reds, but this picture is too awesome too ignore…the posed follow-through after a powerful swing, watching the ball go deep into the stands.
3. 1956 Topps #25 Here we have Big Klu crossing the plate after one of those towering dingers, congratulated by either Jim Greengrass or Stan Palys. The mugshot is reused from Topps’ 1955 issue, but the 1956 design is overall an improvement.
2. 1951 Topps #39 I don’t understand all the fuss about 1952 Topps. The little cards issued in 1951 were awesome. Sure, there were only
52 cards 104 cards issued, but those 52 cards 104 cards were the genesis of Topps. Stop giving so much credit to 1952.
1. 1957 Topps #165 This is the Ted Kluszewski card to own, if you’re only going to own one. But who would want to only own one? This card shows Big Klu’s big arms, sleeveless jersey, and the sneer that sent fear into the hearts of pitchers. What an iconic card.
I love reading about baseball history, and one of my favorite baseball biographies is William A. Cook’s Big Klu, released in 2012. I will never own every Ted Kluszewski baseball card, simply because I’m a cheapskate and there’s no way I’m ponying up for his earliest issues, but I love looking at them online and learning more about one of my dad’s favorite players.
“Hey, look! I got a Barney Dreyfuss card!” *rolls eyes, throwing pack down in disgust*
I remember where I was when I heard Bill Mazeroski was elected to the Hall of Fame. I was not a Maz fan, nor a Pirates fan, and I may have not even been aware of his World Series heroics at the time. But sitting in my car in the CVS parking lot in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I remember hearing on ESPN radio that Mazeroski was going to the Hall of Fame. I have no idea why that memory stays with me.
Mazeroski was a very good defensive second baseman, and perhaps that contributed more than anything to his candidacy. He appeared in ten All-Star Games, received eight Gold Glove Awards, and was named the 1960 Major League Player of the Year by the Sporting News.