Friday, May 29, 2020

HOF Class of 1999: Ryan Brett Yount Cepeda

If ever a player was a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame candidate, Nolan Ryan was that player. There have been many others, obviously, but he was probably the most famous pitcher of my youth who yielded the torch, after several seasons of overlap, to Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens. 

Like Tom Seaver in 1992, Nolan Ryan received 98.8% of the vote in 1999, his first year of eligibility. They were to that date the only players to earn that many votes, percentage-wise. George Bell (1.2%) was responsible for Ryan not being unanimous. 

Ryan went in with two other players that retired in 1993: George Brett and Robin Yount. Orlando Cepeda also went in this year. Carlton Fisk retired in 1993, too, but would (spoiler alert) have to wait a year for induction. Fisk wasn't issued a 1994 Topps card, unlike most of the players featured in this blog post. 

So here is Nolan Ryan's final Topps card. The pitching-action shot frankly isn't that flattering. He looks old, bow-legged.

Now the card back. Holy smokes. The text behind his tipping the cap photograph is perfect. The card back showing his stats for his 27 year career is mind boggling.

Is Ryan the best power pitcher of all time?

George Brett earned 98.2% of the vote which by 1999 standards, like Nolan Ryan, was practically unanimous because there were a few jerks in the voting pool. When I was growing up Brett was The Man. Most famous for the pine tar incident, he had a solid reputation what with an MVP, a 13-time All-Star, a World Series in 1985, Silver Sluggers, Gold Glove, etc. But the thing I remember him for most are those batting titles. That .390 in 1980 was slightly before I was fully ensconced of baseball  but it was a number we knew by heart once fandom took hold. He was admirably with the Royals his whole career.

Robin Yount was another player who was a single-team player. For 20 years he was a Brewers and was beloved by his fan base and like many others involved in the game of baseball.  He was MVP of the AL twice, was an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner three times, and won a Gold Glove. It's a shame he only played in one World Series, and lost.

In 1999 Orlando Cepeda was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999. An MVP and Rookie of the Year winner, he was part of the 1967 World Series winning Cardinals and was an 11-time All-Star. Like many veterans he played for a number of teams in his final years (four teams in last three years). This is is final Topps card, from the very attractive 1974 set. It looks like he missed a lot of time in 1964 and 1965 which definitely drove down his otherwise decent stats. Cepeda played 33 games in 1974 for the Kansas City Royals but was not issued a 1975 Topps card.

Cepeda's first Hall of Fame ballot was in 1980 and he garnered only 12.5% of the vote. In his fifteen and final year of eligibility, 1994, he was up to 73.5%. So close.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

HOF Jackson, Seaver, Carlton, Niekro

Four Hall of Fame players had their final Topps cards in 1987 and it's a solid group of players.

Tom Seaver (inducted 1992), Reggie Jackson (inducted 1993), Steve Carlton (inducted 1994), and Phil Niekro (inducted 1997). Look at the backs of their cards. It was the end of a righteous era of players with one thing in common: longevity. Niekro started in 1964. Carlton started in 1965. And Jackson and Seaver started in 1967.

Seaver retired after the 1986 season after completing 20 years in the Majors but was given a 1987 Topps card. He was a first ballot winner and received 98.8% of the voted. Nearly unanimous.

Reggie Jackson played 21 years and retired after the 1987 season but was not given a 1988 card despite playing 115 games. Another first ballot guy who got 93.6% of the vote.

Steve Carlton hung it up after 24 seasons during the 1988 season. Like Jackson he wasn't given a 1988 Topps card. He did, however, get a 1987 Topps Traded card because he played for several teams. His last two years he racked up the frequent flyer miles playing for the Phillies, Giants, and White Sox in 1986 and the Indians and Twins in 1987. Another first ballot guy who got 95.6% of the vote. 

Phil Niekro got into the Hall of Fame on his fifth ballot, getting 80.3% of the vote, leading the pool that year. He played 24 years in the big leagues and in 1987, he, too, got around going from the Indians to the Blue Jays to the Braves. Unlike Carlton, Niekro did not get a Topps Traded card. Topps' inconsistency is the model of consistency. He did get a 1988 Record Breakers card but that's outside of the scope of my Hall of Fame project.

All totaled up, that 89 years of baseball between the four players. Wow! Will we ever see the likes of that again??

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Darryl Strawberry: 1994 Fleer

1994 Fleer is attractive. Nice white border, wonderful, big photograph. Stats are readable on the back. 1996 is a great card too. Let's not talk about what came in-between, k?

In this image on the back Strawberry has a patch on his left shoulder for 52, which was the number for Tim Crews, who died on March 28, 1993 in the famous boating accident that also saw Steve Olin died. Bobby Ojeda survived. At the time, they were in the Indians organization, but Crews had been a member of the Dodgers from 1987 when he broke into the MLB until the end of 1992. 

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Two Johns

Tell me if you've heard this one before... Two Johns walk into a bar....

That's as far as I got with the attempt at an original joke. If I knew anything much about John Olerud it might have perhaps blossomed into something potentially remotely funny.

In lieu of that, I present a card featured two Johns. John Kruk (recto) and John Olerud (verso). This is the 1993 Leaf - Update Gold All-Stars #3. A small, ten card set, packed with great 1990s names like David Justice, Marquis Grissom, and a young Ivan Rodriguez. I guess it's a ten card set, but it's also a twenty card set since all cards feature different players on the front and the back.

This card was a gift from AJ aka The Lost Collector (Blog | Twitter).

Thanks AJ!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Two Darryl Strawberry Baseball Cards

The afterlife of Darryl Strawberry's time with the Mets is long and storied. Perhaps even more storied than his years with those Mets. Which should tell you a little something about what to expect below, if you're even bothering to read this text. If you are, comment what 2+2 equals.

1994 Topps I find to be unmemorable. Kind of like Strawberry's last few years with the Dodgers. The back of the card is too scrunched but it looks like he's having fun.

But this card is different. This card is Gold. Topps Gold.

Speaking of gold...1997 Donruss Preferred comes next. It kind of reminds me of Topps Gallery, also issued in 1997.

But I don't think I really care for this design? I think perhaps it might look better in the original rather than in the scan. Topps Gallery has something I really like about it. Particularly the frame. It reminds me of the kind of frame you might see something in in a museum. I also really find that I dislike cards with just one line of stats. Show me more. What about you? How do you feel?

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Monday, May 18, 2020

HOF Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor achieved a lot during his playing days and had some success, even, as a manager. Though he was dismissed as Twins manager a year after rightly winning the Manager of the Year in 2017. That team far exceeded expectations, and what's more is that the 2019 iteration under the helm of Rocco Baldelli did even better, earning Rocco the same award.

But the focus here is on Paul Molitor's playing days. This is his 1998 Topps card showing most of the stats from his Hall of Fame career. He played 126 games in 1998 but was not issued with a Topps base card in 1999. I honestly don't feel the 1998 Topps set is memorable. I might class it as uninspired and boring.

A seven time All-Star, four time Silver Slugger, World Series winner and MVP (1993). His time in baseball started well, finished second in the Rookie of the Year category in 1978 (to Lou Whitaker who is rightly NOT in the Hall of Fame).

Molitor played for three teams: The Brewers, the Blue Jays, and the Twins. How do you most remember him? I'm going with as a Brewers. 

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Friday, May 15, 2020

John Kruk: Mascot & Idol

Today's John Kruk cards are "Fun".

First up is the 1994 "Fun Pack" card brought to you, to us by Upper Deck. The flowing hair is dynamic. I don't much care for the cartoon on the back, but I guess it's kind of what they were doing back then. And I've been accused many times of having a weird idea of fun.

And then we get this 2017 National Baseball Card Day card. Nice simple designs on the front and back. The five P logos on the face of the card are a nifty history lesson. The Toyota logo, meh.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Darryl Strawberry: 1997 Stadium Club base

In 1997, Darryl Strawberry was still a few years away from retiring but this should have been the photograph for his final Topps card. It's a beautiful photograph, as we have come to expect from Stadium Club.  

In 1996, Strawberry played just 63 games but he did well, hitting 11 home runs, 13 doubles, and got 36 RBI. His 63 games were almost double his 1995 games. But it was far and away more than in which he would appear in 1997 (11).

Strawberry started the 1997 season in left field but had a knee injury early in April and underwent arthroscopic surgery in the summer. He was out from April 6th to August 16th and then didn't appear in a game after the end of that month. He spent some time between April and August rehabbing in AA and AAA.

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Monday, May 11, 2020

"HOF" Larry Walker

More beer! I had to stock up on beer. These are desperate times. I only drink on the weekend and limit myself to one per day (unless I am really thirsty from doing exceedingly manly work outside in the yard) in which case I might have two. This batch includes, in baseball card parlance, a dupe. But a Double IPA is my favorite style, so I liken it to having two of your favorite baseball cards.

Yards: Cape of Good Hope (Double IPA, 9.3%)
Terrapin Beer Co: Señor Krunkles (Tropical Agave IPA, 6.5%)
Terrapin Beer Co: Up-Hi IPA (IPA, 5.9%)
Heavy Seas: AmeriCannon (APA, 5.75%)
Sierra Nevada: Pale Ale (Pale Ale, 5.6%)

I try to buy beers I haven't tried before but the Up-Hi, I realize, I enjoyed last June.

Don't @ me. I only bought this final Topps base card of Cardinals Legend Larry Walker because he was elected, largely due to peer pressure and a mistaken coveting of fantasy (i.e. advanced) stats, into the Hall of Fame. 

Even the cartoon in the top left of the card back is a trial to look at. Ugh.

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Friday, May 8, 2020

John Kruk: Stickers!

Some "through the years" John Kruk's to highlight today.

1989 Panini sticker, shown here trotting the bases after an undoubted home run.

And then we get the 1994 edition. I totally love the pennant shape on the front but there is far too much waster white space. The green border is a nice touch and make the photograph pop.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Darryl Strawberry: Sacré Dodgers Bleu

Post Canada hired some airbrush artists to produce this Super Star II set which featured just 18 cards (airbrushing more would have been unreasonably taxing). 

They hired some translators, too. "L.A. Dodgers de Los Angeles".  Wow, that show thoughtfulness. Did that forecast Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles?

But they didn't translate Darryl Strawberry to Darryl Fraise Or Le Fraise Darryl.  

The Roger Clemens has Sox de Boston. Not even Rouge Sox. Just Sox. Oh mon Dieu! Ce n'est pas une façon d'aller sur les cartes de baseball!

The back the card (in this instance Strawberry batting) is a sticker which can be put into a sticker book. It's got a tabby-thing that you can pull out. 

This is about the worst card I think I own. Did you ever buy a card from a site, with no picture, that you got and you were like "Ugh"? I probably would've ordered it even if I Google imaged it. Then again, I probably would have.

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Monday, May 4, 2020

HOF Kirby Puckett

Doofus Law says Kirby Puckett is the worst player in the Hall of Fame but I suspect that's recency bias as well as other kinds of bias. This is Puckett's final Topps base card from the 1996 set. He was elected on the first ballot he could have been in 2001. 

1996 had a lot of players last cards who would eventually be voted into the Hall of Fame including Andre Dawson, Lee Smith, Lee's brother Ozzie Smith, and Puckett.

I remember Puckett as being a great player but the excellent BBBA Podcast comparing Puckett and Mattingly had me second guessing. Which is I guess something that one can do when one is 20+ years removed from a players' career with information to hand that even the player and his coaches didn't know existed. But, hell, if Baines got in then Puckett definitely should be in. Unless he shouldn't. But he had a fairly solid looking 12 year career.  R.I.P.

Really not a fan of 1996 Topps. The face on the front in the name plate is rather frightening. It might be one of the worst design decisions Topps ever made.

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Friday, May 1, 2020

John Kruk: Aces Finest Crown

What the hell? Seriously? John Kruk should have been--because he clearly is--the King of Hearts. But in 1993 and 1994 he was, respectively, the 10 and 2 of Diamonds in these US Playing Card Company cards. He's a perfect diamond.

Topps "Finest" deserves the kind of criticism and derision that one may normally reserve for 1995 Fleer and anything that crap artist Dick Perez made for Donruss Diamond Kings. This atrocity is the 1994 iteration of this set. The card back here is its saving grave though it's not ideal.

What is there to love about this card below? The photographs. Full body shots. Everything is present. Probably taken at the same game, at Wrigley, wouldn't you say? Probably early in the season since there isn't any ivy. According to Baseball Almanac, which is a site I like a lot (do you?) the Phillies played in Chicago from 16-18 April 1993. So definitely before ivy season. Kruk played in each game, followed by Dave Hollins, who must be the bloke in the background?  In the last game of the series Kruk hit two home runs as was intentionally walked for which I am sure he was grateful.

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