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Fun Cards: 1988 National League All-Star Outfielders

Straw

Straw

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.

Vincent Van Go

Coleman

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.

Dawson

Dawson

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.”

McGee

McGee

If Palmeiro had a nickname, what would it be? “Finger-pointer”?

Palmeiro

Palmeiro

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.

Van Slyke

Van Slyke

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How magical are “magic numbers”? (part 2)

In June, I examinded 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts. I intended to jump right into 500 home runs and 3000 hits after that, within a week maybe, but wouldn’t you know…I never did. So let’s knock that out and put this question to rest.

Twenty-five guys have hit 500 or more career home runs…a lot more than I thought.

1. Barry Bonds (762)
2. Hank Aaron (755)
3. Babe Ruth (714)
4. Willie Mays (660)
5. Ken Griffey (630)
6. Alex Rodriguez (626)
7. Sammy Sosa (609)
8. Jim Thome (596)
9. Frank Robinson (586)
10. Mark McGwire (583)
11. Harmon Killebrew (573)
12. Rafael Palmeiro (569)
13. Reggie Jackson (563)
14. Manny Ramirez (555)
15. Mike Schmidt (548)
16. Mickey Mantle (536)
17. Jimmie Foxx (534)
18. Willie McCovey (521)
Frank Thomas (521)
Ted Williams (521)
21. Ernie Banks (512)
Eddie Mathews (512)
23. Mel Ott (511)
24. Gary Sheffield (509)
25. Eddie Murray (504)

Of those, eight are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. Eleven were first-year inductees. That leaves us with six names to look at: Killebrew, Foxx, Mathews, Ott, McGwire, and Palmeiro. The problem with McGwire and Palmeiro is steroids, no doubt. Both would be ushered into Cooperstown on the red carpet had they come by their numbers clean. The way they have been handled by the voters will make future elections very interesting, with Bonds, A-Rod, Sosa and Sheffield on the horizon.

But what about the four old-timers, who never stuck a needle in their buttocks?

Foxx and Ott were on the ballot under a different set of rules than what are currently in place. Voters were not required to wait for a player to be retired five years, or to even wait until they were finished playing. Both Foxx and Ott received good support running up to their eventual induction, and would have been first-ballot inductees had the five-year waiting period been in effect.

Then you have Killebrew and Mathews. Mathews waited five years for the call, receiving only 32.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot. He eventually climbed the list and was enshrined in 1978. Killebrew was on the ballot four years before getting his plaque. What makes this so crazy is that Killer led the league in home runs six times, and was at the time in the top 5 on the all-time list (he now sits at 11).

While it is somewhat insane that Mathews and Killebrew did not get first-ballot treatment, there are no pre-steroid players with 500 home runs outside the Hall of Fame.

Now on to 3000 hits…

1. Pete Rose (4256)
2. Ty Cobb (4189)
3. Hank Aaron (3771)
4. Stan Musial (3630)
5. Tris Speaker (3514)
6. Cap Anson (3435)
7. Honus Wagner (3420)
8. Carl Yastrzemski (3419)
9. Paul Molitor (3319)
10. Eddie Collins (3315)
11. Willie Mays (3283)
12. Eddie Murray (3255)
13. Nap Lajoie (3242)
14. Cal Ripken (3184)
15. George Brett (3154)
16. Paul Waner (3152)
17. Robin Yount (3142)
18. Tony Gwynn (3141)
19. Dave Winfield (3110)
20. Craig Biggio (3060)
21. Rickey Henderson (3055)
22. Rod Carew (3053)
23. Lou Brock (3023)
24. Derek Jeter (3020)
Rafael Palmeiro (3020)
26. Wade Boggs (3010)
27. Al Kaline (3007)
28. Roberto Clemente (3000)

Four of these guys (Speaker, Anson, Collins, Lajoie) were elected within the first few years of the Hall’s opening, and since there was such a backlog at the time, we’ll overlook the indiscretion of making them wait. The only two eligible on the outside are Charlie Hustle (who didn’t know when to fold ’em) and Raffy (Mr. Positive). Biggio should make it in next year, and Jeter in his first year of eligibility (whenever that may be).

That leaves only Paul Waner, who was on the ballot for seven years before being inducted. However, similar to Ott and Foxx, Waner had just retired when he began receiving votes. He climbed from 42.1% in 1948 to 83.3% in 1951, only seven years after announcing his departure from the playing field.

So back to the original question, how magical are the milestones of 500 home runs and 3000 hits? The only eligible players not inducted are gamblers and ‘roiders, and 3000 hits seems to be a first-ballot ticket so long as there is no controversy.

Predicting the future (part 1)

In 1987, Topps brought back one of the greatest subsets called “Future Stars.” Fleer had some success with their “Prospects” cards and “Rated Rookies” were a staple of the Donruss set. Add to that the beginning of the rookie card craze (Topps also brought back the All-Star Rookie trophy on the cards in 1987) and the “Future Stars” concept was a no-brainer. But how much psychic fortitude did Topps display? Let’s take a look back at 1987 and see how they did…

#170 Bo Jackson. Bo knows baseball. Well, he knew baseball back in the 1980s. He also knew football, and that was to the detriment of his baseball mightiness. An injury sustained in a 1990 Raiders-Bengals game ended his gridiron career, and hindered his baseball success. But during his first five seasons in Kansas City, Bo hit 109 dingers for the Royals. In 1989, he blasted a lead-off home run against Rick Reuschel in the All-Star game. In an amazing comeback with the White Sox and Angels after his football injury, Bo racked up another 32 round-trippers in three seasons. Future star? You bet, although that star dimmed far too soon. Current Beckett value: $3.00.

#216 B.J. Surhoff. Surhoff was a consistent and durable player for the Brewers, Orioles, and Braves, but not sure how much of a “star” he was. He did make the All-Star team in 1999 while in Baltimore, en route to 28 homers and 107 RBIs. He finished his career with a respectable .282 average while playing every field position except center field and pitcher. I would call him a “minor star” at best. Current Beckett value: $.40.

#429 Tim Pyznarski. A first-round draft pick for the Oakland A’s in 1981, Pyznarski was traded to the Padres in 1985 for Jody Lansford. Yeah, I’ve never heard of him either. Pyznarski had a good year in the minors in 1986, hitting 23 home runs with 119 RBI on his way to winning the Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year and the MVP of the Pacific Coast League. He played 15 games for San Diego in late 1986, with 10 hits (9 of them singles) in 42 at-bats for a .238 batting average. In October of 1986, the Padres shipped him off to Milwaukee to complete an earlier trade for Randy Ready. Tim never played for the big league club, and was traded again in 1988 to the Baltimore Orioles for a couple of minor leaguers. Poor Pyznarski never got back to the bigs after his brief cup of coffee in 1986, but Topps called him a “Future Star” in 1987. Current Beckett value: $.05.

#449 Pat Dodson. Not sure who was a bigger bust, Pyznarski or Dodson. Pat was drafted in the 6th round in 1980 by the Red Sox and won the 1986 MVP of the International League with Pawtucket, but his time in the majors was short and not very sweet. Dodson only played 52 games over three seasons in Boston, hitting .202 with 4 homers and 10 RBI. What I can’t figure out is why his card is worth more than Pyznarski’s. Current Beckett value: $.10.

#512 Dave Magadan. Lou Piniella’s cousin had a decent major league career. 1990 was his big year, finishing third in the NL with a .328 batting average, second with a .417 on-base percentage, and a career-high 72 RBI. His performance was enough to pull down a few low votes for the MVP award that year, finishing 22nd in balloting with 4 points. After leaving the Mets, Magadan was more of a role player than anything, playing with the Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, A’s, and Padres. He was a “minor star” for one year. Current Beckett value: $.25.

#634 Rafael Palmeiro. The final “Future Star” for the 1987 Topps set was one of the best hitters in baseball during the 1990s. He made his first All-Star appearance in 1988 with the Cubs, but surprisingly only made the team 3 other times in his career (1991, 1998, and 1999). That’s a pretty low number for a guy with 569 career round-trippers, good for tenth on the all-time list (just behind Harmon Killebrew, right ahead of Reggie Jackson). He had 10 seasons with over 30 homers, four of those over 40. Unfortunately there was that whole steroid scandal that put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and puts his chances for Cooperstown in question. Star? Sure, albeit a juiced one. Current Beckett value: $1.50.

Two major stars, two minor stars, and two no-names. Not a terrible year for Topps, but they missed a couple of big names that could have been dubbed “Future Stars”: Greg Maddux (a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer) and Mark McGwire (who did have a 1987 Topps card, but without the colorful banner). There were a couple minor stars that were also overlooked: the 1987 NL Rookie of the Year Benito Santiago and Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach.

But you can’t complain about a set that has Bo Jackson in it, regardless of who else may or may not be there. Current Beckett value: $5.80.

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