Saturday, January 19, 2008

#40 Orel Hershiser

Why this card is awesome: There are a lot of reasons why this card is awesome. For one, Hershiser looks so innocent, not knowing at the time that he was about to have a season for the ages, setting an awesome record, winning the Cy Young award, and carrying his team to a World Series victory. What I like most about this card is that you can see his unusual uniform number-55. It reminds me of the 58-inning scoreless streak he broke with his own 59-inning job. (Why does it remind me, given that 55 does not equal 58 or 59? Not sure, but it does.)

Cool stat: Shutouts, shutouts, shutouts. If I asked you to name the pitcher who most recently had 8 or more shutouts in a season, could you name him? If you said Hershiser,'re wrong. He did it in 1988, but Tim Belcher did it in 1989.

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#39 Gerald Perry

Why this card is awesome: Because it mentions Bill Lucas on the back of the card. Lucas, for those who do not know, was the first black GM in baseball, holding that position (as well as VP of player personnel) with the Atlanta Braves from 1976 until his untimely and unexpected death in 1979 from a brain hemorrhage.

Cool stat: In 1988, Perry got the most career plate appearances for a batter who hit exactly .300 and slugged exactly .400.

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Hall of Fame Count

I've decided to add a Hall of Fame counter to monitor how many cards feature pictures of Hall of Famers. (I'm not counting cards that might only mention them by name on the back.)

Among the first 38 cards I've posted, here are the Hall of Famers I've missed:

#4 Eddie Murray (and yes, I'm counting him twice since there are two pictures of him on that card)
#5 Phil Niekro
#6 Nolan Ryan
#10 Ryne Sandberg
#14 Sparky Anderson
#21 Red Sox Leaders (for Wade Boggs)

Hall of Fame Count: 7

#2 has Rickey Henderson, very likely to be in the HOF soon.
#35 Harold Baines has an outside shot, although he hasn't done too well his first couple of times on the ballot. See White Sox Cards for arguments in favor of it.
#2 also features Don Mattingly, who I think has even less of a chance than Baines.

#38 Jeff Calhoun

Why this card is awesome: Because any card that mentions Ronnn Reynnnolds is awesome.

Cool stat: League leaders in ERA+ for 1984 to 1987, minimum 100 games pitched: 1. M Eichhorn, 2. R Murphy, 3. T Burke, 4. D Moore, 5. D Quisenberry, 6. T Worrell, 7. D Smith, 8. J Calhoun. Calhoun was a very effective pitcher in his entire career, with the exception of the aborted 1988. Does anybody know what happened to him? I assume he suffered some sort of serious injury.

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#37 Ed Romero

Why this card is awesome: Because we know for sure that this photo was taken in spring training, since those are clearly Montreal Expos in the background (and this was well before the days of interleague play.)

Cool stat: National League pitchers were happy to see Romero once he finally joined the senior circuit in 1989 (albeit briefly, in just 7 games with the Braves.) Among American League players from 1980 to 1988 with at least 1500 PAs, only 2 players had a lower SLG than Romero. (try to guess if you like, then click through for the answer.)

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Friday, January 18, 2008

RESULTS: 88 Topps Cards Giveaway #1

Well, we got 18 guesses for the first giveaway, which isn't bad at all.

The number that I chose was 1394, the total number of runs Galarraga created in his career. I chose this because I think Runs Created is a sorely under-utilized stat that needs a bit more attention. Galarraga's total is good for 98th all-time.

Nobody guessed that exactly, but a few came close. Third-closest was Luke, with 2003. Second-closest was thewritersjourney with 1979.

Closest and winner of cards 1-25 of the 1988 Topps set was Alex, with 839, Galarraga's sim score with Will Clark. Congrats!

Thanks very much to everybody for participating. Your next chance to win is very soon, early next week after I post card #50. This is going to be a different type of question--a trivia question where the first correct poster wins. (But it's going to be very tough, I promise you.)

Alex, can you post something here about how I can contact you--an email address or IM name or somesuch? 25 cards are on their way to you once I get your mailing address!

#36 Jamie Moyer

Why this card is awesome: Because it features some guy who looks just like current Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, only about 20 years younger. And because this June, Moyer will have been a pro ballplayer for 24 years. And because 20 years ago, he led the NL in earned runs allowed, but is still pitching today.

Cool stat: The only guy to win 20 games in a season at age 38 or older more times than Moyer was Warren Spahn. Check it out here. Spahn did it 4 times. Moyer and some guy named Cy Young did it twice. And lots of other guys have done it once.

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#35 Harold Baines

Why this card is awesome: Because of the very cool number on the uniform pants, although if it were me I'd probably prefer it a bit lower on the leg. And I also like the beard.

Cool stat: Led by only Don Mattingly, Baines is my second-favorite player from the 80s. It's well-known that Baines was very consistent, and he hit just about equally well against all opposing teams. If you check out his career splits at, you can see that his splits were virtually identical at home vs. road, or in the first half or the second half. Home he was .290/.361/.468, away he was .289/.351/.461, first half he was .290/.359/.462, and second half he was .289/.352/.468. No gaps as big as even 10 points!

Reminder: Giveaway #1

Just a reminder that 88 Topps Cards Giveaway #1 ends at 5PM eastern today, and you need to submit your guess by commenting on this post.

#34 Ricky Horton

Why this card is awesome: Because, years before he became famous, Topps knew that Matt Damon would eventually portray Ricky Horton in the biographical film about the pitcher's life.

Cool stat: Who was Horton? Well in 1986, he put together a great season for a middle reliever. Here's a list of pitchers who had at least 100 IP, 10 saves or fewer, and a WHIP under 1.03. There are some great names on this short list, including a few (Foulke, Rivera, McGraw) in their days before becoming great closers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

#33 Rob Deer

Why this card is awesome: In what we believe were the days before steroids and other PEDs, Deer has an awesomely classic power hitter stroke on display in this picture.

Cool stat: There have been 28 seasons in history where a batter hit at least 20 HR while slugging under .400. Deer did it twice. Read all about it here.

#32 Mike Morgan

Why this card is awesome: It's a fantastic action shot of Morgan warming up during the 7th inning of a tie game in Seattle. Seriously, back then, that's how many Mariners fans were in the seats of the Kingdome. (OK, joke's over..Morgan was a starter back then anyway.)

Cool stat: This one surprised me. Morgan's got the lowest winning percentage all-time for a player with at least 400 career starts. And not only that, but he's way out in the lead. For #2 Bob Friend to have equaled him, Friend would need to have had 30 more losses on his record! #3 Steve Trachsel would need 32 more losses (without another win) to catch Morgan. Geez!

#31 Bruce Bochy

Why this card is awesome:Because of two cool places mentioned on the card--Bochy's birthplace of Landes de Boussac in France, and Cocoa (Florida State League), one of his minor league stops. And, doesn't Bochy already look like a manager in this photo?

Cool stat: Bochy is one of just 23 players since 1901 to finish his career with fewer than 900 PAs, but at least 90 RBIs and 170 strikeouts.

Don't forget to enter your guess for our 88 Topps Giveaway #1.

#30 Sid Fernandez

Why this card is awesome: Because of the umpire in the background wearing the full jacket. It seems longer ago to me that umpires gave up wearing jackets, and to me it looks very old-fashioned and dignified.

Cool stat: Well, I wrote a whole piece about Sid Fernandez recently over at the Stat of the Day blog at So I am going to take the easy way out here and refer you the post right here. Basically, it talks about how Fernandez was much more effective early in games than late in games.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

#29 Argenis Salazar

Why this card is awesome: Because Salazar is displaying the proper technique for avoiding the automatic out in Tee-ball. For those of you who played it as a kid, you'll remember that throwing the bat was an automatic out. Holding and then gingerly dropping the bat is the way to go.

Cool stat: Salazar was involved in an unusual game-ending play. He had the final plate appearance in 6 games, but one of them came when his team was already winning, which makes very little sense if you think about it. How can a batter bat, and make the last out of the game, if his team is already winning? If it were the top of the 9th, then it wouldn't count as the last out of the game since the other team would bat in the bottom of the 9th.

Check out the boxscore for the answer. The Royals were ahead in the bottom of the 5th, then Salazar made the last out of that inning. Then, the game ended due to rain. So Salazar ended the game on an out, but his team won. Quite unusual!

#28 Jose Nunez

Why this card is awesome: Because of the snippet on the back about Nunez regarding being a member of the Dominican team in the Pan Am Games as his greatest baseball thrill. These days, it seems to be all about the money, and it's nice to remember a time when all players placed a high value on national pride.

Cool stat: Nunez didn't have a very long career, but one amusing stat I found was the two batters he gave up multiple homers to: Joe Carter and Sam Horn.

REMINDER: We have a giveaway going on currently for cards 1 to 25 of the 1988 Topps set. Please read this post to enter the contest.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

#27 R.J. Reynolds

Why this card is awesome: Because it's such an obvious error card--R. J. is missing the cigarette in his mouth. Seriously, does anybody understand why he was named after a famous & wealthy tobacco farmer?

Cool stat: Reynolds had a short but fairly productive career. He is one of just 14 players with at least 100 SB and 250 RBI who appeared in no more than 800 games. And three of the current guys--Coco Crisp, Chone Figgins, and Felipe Lopez--are almost certain to exit that club by eventually passing 800 career games. (In fact, the could all pass 800 games in 2008.)

#26 Mitch Williams

Hey, it's the start of better-quality scans!

Why this card is awesome: Because of the homer he gave up to Joe Carter in the 1993 World Series, we forget that Mitch Williams was a pretty successful closer for several years from 1989 to 1993. What makes this card awesome is Williams' universally terrible stats at every stop in the minors, from Walla Walla, Washington to Tulsa. Just think, he made the Rangers in 1986 after allowing more walks than strikeouts in Tulsa in 1985. Obviously the Rangers knew something, or maybe it was the Cubs who knew something when they got him included in the trade for Rafael Palmeiro.

Cool stat: Williams pitched 262 career game-ending plate appearances. 200 of them came with runners on (perhaps that he put on, or perhaps that he inherited.) In those game-ending PAs, 35 runs scored, and he gave up 20 hits (including 1 double and 6 homers), no walks, 91 strikeouts, 3 sacrifice flies, and 12 double plays. Interestingly, despite his propensity for walking batters, he never lost game by walking in the winning run, which many closers have done. Aside from the post-season, he allowed 6 walk-off homers, including grand slams to George Bell and Kevin Bass. I don't mean to sound like I am picking on Williams. All closers blow saves and give up homers. For example, Trevor Hoffman has given up 9 game-ending bombs, including two to Mike Piazza, and also has walked in the winning run twice.

88 Topps Cards Giveaway #1

OK, as I mentioned before, I am giving away ALL cards posted on this blog, for free!

Giveaway contest #1 is the first 25 cards of the 1988 Topps set, from #1 Vince Coleman RB to #25 Andres Galarraga. To see all the other cards you'll be getting, just click through the previous posts here.

Here's how the contest works:

I have selected a number from the page for Andres Galarraga. All numbers on that page are fair game.

To take your shot at winning the cards, post your numerical guess in a comment on this post. The closest person wins. I'll mail you the 25 cards at no cost.


1. One entry per person. If you make more than one guess, I will count only your first one.

2. This is basically a random drawing. You have no way of knowing what number I've selected, and so this contest can't really be tested for fairness. It's my blog, so just deal with it.

3. My decisions on this contest are final.

4. The contest closes Friday 1/18 at 5 PM eastern time. Comments must be timestamped by the blog before then.

If you are enjoying this blog, there are two things you can do for me:
  • Tell others about the blog, perhaps using this contest to get them interested. Anybody can post a guess. I don't mind if they are new readers.
  • To support this site and the giveaways, please take a look at the ads on the right and bottom of the page. If anything looks interesting to you, please click through and check out those vendors. That helps cover the costs of the giveaways.
So far, this blog has been a lot of fun. Please keep checking back. In addition to 767 more cards from the regular 1988 Topps set, we have a bunch of special sets coming up, including some nice collector's items. And they are ALL being given away!

#25 Andres Galarraga

This is the last card with the poor scan quality. Starting with #26 Mitch Williams, the scans are a lot better.

Why this card is awesome: Because it features the Big Cat wearing beautiful red, white, and blue. A great showing of all-American colors for a guy playing for, ummm, a Canadian team. More seriously, with the orange banner behind his name and all that orange dirt, the bottom third of the card is quite orange.

Cool stat: Galarraga finished, sadly, with 399 homers, one short of a nice round 400. A lot of fans will know that he's not alone in this feat, joined by Al Kaline. And you know what? Tim Salmon finished with 299, and Cesar Cedeno and Jackie Jensen finished with 199, and three guys (Craig Paquette, Johnny Grubb, and Monte Irvin) finished with 99. And, Craig Wilson is stuck on 99 and may not get a chance for another one.

#24 Jim Deshaies

Why this card is awesome: Because I'm absolutely sure that Deshaies' right knee is blocking us from seeing that guy in the background picking his nose. Most likely, that's second baseman Bill Doran.

Cool stat: Deshaies was a decent pitcher, but he was an absolutely awful hitter. In fact, since 1901, guess who has the most career at-bats without an extra base hit? Yup, Jim Deshaies, a career -33 OPS+ hitter. (Yes, that's -33, not even +33.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

#23 Ken Landreaux

Why this card is awesome: Because while it's a nice action shot of Landreaux, his eyes reveal that he hit a pop-up. I know this blog is all about how awesome Topps was in 1988, but come on guys...couldn't you find a less embarrassing photo, especially given that this was Landreaux's last card?

Cool stat: Landreaux hit a lot of triples, netting 45 three-baggers in just 4101 career at-bats. On those 45 triples, he got 23 RBI, put his team ahead 8 times and tied another game. Bonus stat: Landreaux had 3 game-winning hits, all singles.

#22 Greg Swindell

They are coming fast and furious now!

Why this card is awesome: Because of the mystery extra baseball. See it? It's a little bit below and to the right of the ball in Swindell's hand. I would have guessed that this photo was taken during batting practice, and that ball was one getting tossed in from the outfield. But then why is there an umpire on the field? I'm a bit puzzled.

Cool stat: Who hit the most homers off Greg Swindell? With a number of guesses, you might get it: Jose Canseco, with 7. But who hit the second most? You could probably guess all day and not come up with it. The answer is Randy Milligan (tied with Cal Ripken at 6.) Incidentally, Milligan didn't more than 2 homers off anybody else.

#21 Red Sox Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because it almost looks like the photographer shouted out "LOOK OVER HERE" and caught Wade Boggs and Spike Owen off guard. Also awesome due to the bonus shot of a HOFer.

Cool stat: I get on the current Red Sox team for sticking with Doug Mirabelli, but the '87 Sox really got nothing out of their catchers. See here for the miserable stats.

#20 Kevin Gross

Why this card is awesome: Because, although most of us hadn't yet heard of it in 1988, Kevin Gross was actually trying to Riverdance in this photo.

Cool stat: From 1984 to 1993, Gross had at least 10 losses each year. In fact, he had the second most losses in baseball over that period, going 99-116. Charlie Hough had more losses (118) but he also had a dozen more wins (111.) Plus, Hough had en ERA+ of 109 while Gross was at 92. And finally, Hough pitched about 230 innings more than Gross.

#19 Mark Davidson

Why this card is awesome: Like the Al Leiter card, this one looks like it was taken very late in the day, which I like. But what makes this card awesome is found on the back. The scout who signed Davidson was named...Red Robbins!

Cool stat: Davidson had just 57 career RBIs but managed 5 off of Zane Smith. He also had 2 out of 27 career doubles and 1 out of 6 career homers against Smith.