Saturday, February 9, 2008

#124 Ray Knight

Why this card is awesome: Because of how weird Knight looks in an Orioles uniform. He had some good moments wearing a Reds uni and some great ones wearing a Mets uni, but the one year he spent with the Orioles was just a blip. It's also weird how Knight had a cup of coffee with Cincinnati in 1974, then went down to the minors for two full years before making it back.

Cool stat: Knight had 65 game-ending plate appearances, and just 4 of those were wins. But two of them came in 1986 for the Mets (and Knight didn't make the last out of any games that year.) As amazing as '86 was for the Metropolitans, it was even more amazing for Knight, who put together one great, last season in the bigs and had some huge hits for his team.

#123 Tom Candiotti

Why this card is awesome: Because I can't figure out exactly what's happening in the background. The player in the back looks like an Indian, so we'd assume he's the first baseman, but he's in kind of a strange position, looking like maybe he was holding on a runner (who is not visible in the shot.) Something I did not know is that Joe Carter played the most games at 1B in 1987 for the Indians, so that's probably who we're seeing. Carter is a righty, and the figure appears to be wearing a glove on the left hand, so that all makes sense.

Cool stat: Candiotti is not remembered by most as a particularly great pitcher, but he was pretty damn good for a stretch. From 1988 to 1993, he had the 14th-most innings pitched in baseball. And he had the 15th most starts. And for pitchers with at least 800 IP over that period, he had the 7th-best ERA+. Not too shabby.

#122 Tony Bernazard

Why this card is awesome: Because this card must have been the inspiration for the Pedro Cerrano character from the movie Major League. Bernazard appears to be looking at his bat thinking, "What have I done to you to deserve this? Why will you not hit for me?"

Cool stat: Bernazard's 1984 was a doozie. He slugged just .287 but batted .221. Usually, when a guy gets more than 400 at-bats and has such a low SLG, it's mainly because he has an extremely low batting average. But Bernazard just didn't get many extra-base hits that year. In fact, his season ranks among the worst all-time in SLG among players with at least 400 ABs, 70 Ks, and a .220 BA.

Friday, February 8, 2008

#121 Checklist 1-132

Why this card is awesome: It's awesome because of the baseball diamond in the background, although I question its design. Are the dirt areas between 1B and 2B, or between 2B and 3B really curved like that? And such a huge circular patch around 2B? Hmm.

This checklist also tells us that we are 1/6th of the way through the set! Well actually, not quite yet, since the checklist runs through card #132 but itself is only card #121. So we need 11 more cards before we reach the 1/6th point.

Cool stat: Well it's not a stat, but I love that the checklist is self-referential. It lists itself right there at card #121.

#120 Kirby Puckett

Why this card is awesome: Because this iconic card captures the essence of the late, great Kirby Puckett. He was stocky at a time when most baseball players were pretty slim, but he was absolutely a fantastic athlete.

Cool stat: Puck's most career homers came off Frank Tanana, Doyle Alexander, and Bobby Witt. Like most players, he had trouble against HOF pitchers, except Don Sutton and Tom Seaver, both of whom he faced towards the end of their careers.

Deceased players and managers: 4

Hard to believe Puckett's been gone for nearly two years.

Hall of Fame count: 14

#119 Robbie Wine

Why this card is awesome: Because of the cool shot of the playing field in the distance.

Cool stat: Since 1980, Wine has the 6th most career at-bats for a player who never registered an RBI or HR.

#118 Bob Welch

Why this card is awesome: Because I can't believe that Topps decided to write "DODGERS" in magenta. This card shows how terribly it clashes with Dodger blue.

Cool stat: Welch had a really cool career. Between 1978 and 1990, he had a lot of good years. As a rookie, he got rocked by Reggie Jackson in the World Series. He also registered an infinite ERA in the 1981 World Series. He's also got the most recent season with at least 25 wins.

#117 James Steels

Why this card is awesome: Because he's wearing a batting helmet while out for a walk in the lovely, lush country.

Cool stat: Steels had just 11 career RBI, but a lot of them broke ties or brought his team back from being behind.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

#116 Jerry Don Gleaton

Why this card is awesome: Because of the very odd fact on the back. He signed with the Royals in November, began the season at Omaha, and yet they didn't bother to list his minor-league stats there. Check here to see his minor league stats, including where he was in 1986. The Baseball Cube rocks!

Cool stat: I noticed that Gleaton had an interesting history against Mark McGwire. He struck him out in a blowout. Three years later, he gave up an RBI single to Big Mac. Then, in 1991, he gave up two homers, including a walk-off 3-run job in extra innings. Just two days later, Gleaton got McGwire to fly out to end another game. When he gave up those bombs to McGwire, we all remembered that "Jerry Don Gleaton" = "Adorn Energy Jolt" (that's an anagram, folks.)

#115 Johnny Ray

Why this card is awesome: OMG, this card is hilarious. Look at the terrible airbrushing between Ray's legs. I'm guessing they blacked out a player sitting in the dugout, but they made it look like Ray is shooting dense black gas out of his ass. Just terrible.

Cool stat: Ray has the most career seasons since 1901 with exactly 5 to 7 HR, minimum 100 games played per year.

Eating Raoul

Raoul, where are you? You won Giveaway #4 but if I don't hear from you soon, the cards will go to second-place finisher, Mike S.

#114 Jeff Russell

Why this card is awesome: Because of new beginnings. Russell joined the Rangers and put up a horrific statline in 1985 as a starter. The Rangers tried him in relief in 1986 and 1987 and he did pretty well. Then, after another experiment as a starter in 1988, he went on to have a very nice stretch as a closer from 1989 to 1993.

Cool stat: Mike Greenwell owned Russell, with 11 RBI in 13 AB, including a grand slam.

#113 Kelly Gruber

Why this card is awesome: Because of the fact on the back reminding us that Gruber was one of the very best Rule V draft pickups of all time.

Cool stat: Although I said just above that he was a great pickup, he was pretty overrated too, thanks in part to one excellent season (1990) and a bunch of mediocre seasons. In fact, over 1987-1992 (the years during which he was a full-time player) he has the 4th-lowest batting average among 3B with at least 700 games played, lower than the likes of Brook Jacoby.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

#112 Les Lancaster

Why this card is awesome: Because of Les' performance in 1985 at Wytheville. 10 game starts, 7 complete games. Niiice.

Cool stat: Lancaster was involved in one of the more interesting games by a relief pitcher, where he went to play the outfield for a batter so that he could come back in and pitch. Click here to read all about it.

#111 Expos Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Because of the retro hands-on-knees pose. By the late 1980's, most players were well on their way to becoming overpaid prima donnas, but you could count on Les Expos to stick with tradition. (I know it's Vance Law on the right, but not sure about on the it Herm Winningham? No, It's Hubie Brooks.)

Cool stat: The 1988 Expos pitching staff was pretty awesome. The Mets and Dodgers had better team ERAs, but the worst starter on the 1988 Expos (other than Neal Heaton, who was moved to the bullpen) was Floyd Youmans, with a 3-6 record and 3.21 ERA, or maybe Brian Holman, 4-8, 3.23, or maybe John Dopson, 3-11, 3.04.

#110 Teddy Higuera

Why this card is awesome: Because of the Mexican League stats on the back. Pretty cool, and you don't see them all that often.

Cool stat: I guess Higuera should become a pitching coach. Over 1993-1994, minimum 80 IP, only 1 pitcher had a worse ERA than Higuera: Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell.

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#109 Joel Skinner

Why this card is awesome: Because although the photo catches Skinner in sort of an awkward pose, he also gets to show off his guns, back when guns were still somewhat rare in baseball. Also, I like seeing the Expos in the background, telling us that this was a spring training shot.

Cool stat: This is a VERY cool stat. Skinner struck out a lot and also walked very little. In fact, since 1901, Skinner is just one of 10 players with 80 or fewer career walks and 387 or more career strikeouts. The only other non-pitcher on the list is Miguel Olivo, and as long as he plays another year or two, he'll drop off by virtue of going over 80 walks.

#108 Steve Lyons

Why this card is awesome: Because of the mullet!

It's been a long strange trip for Psycho. Read about his broadcasting career here and make up your own mind. The thing I remember most about him was how he often made a tic-tac-toe board in the dirt behind first base, trying to engage the opposing team's first baseman in a game. I remember Don Mattingly once deliberately erasing Lyons' game board in between innings of a game.

Cool stat: Lyons played 3 different stints for the Red Sox, and he was traded just once in his career. Do you know whom for? (hint: it was a Hall of Famer.) Lyons hit 19 career homers and hit multiple homers against one guy: Jose Guzman. And he had one 2-homer game.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

#107 Scott Bailes

Why this card is awesome: Because I can't look at this card without thinking of a Rotisserie league book I read around 1989 or 1990. It had fairly short reviews (usually about 4 sentences) for each player, plus an estimate of how much they thought you should be willing to spend on him in your Rotisserie league's draft. However, their review of Bailes was exceptionally short at 4 words instead of 4 sentences: "Bailes rhymes with fails."

Cool stat: Wow, in 1986 Bailes completed a weird trifecta, getting exactly 10 wins, 10 losses, and 10 game starts. How odd. Nobody else has done that. I did find that Steve Hargan had triples 8s in 1976, three guys have had triple 7s, six guys have had triple 6s, and 6 more have had triple 5s. I couldn't find anybody higher than 10, because it requires an awfully large number of decisions in relief.

Bits and pieces

A few notes:
  1. I just wanted to say "thanks" to all the readers out there. I'm amazed how quickly this blog has taken off, getting as many as 1,000 page views on some days, which I consider excellent for such a new blog.
  2. In terms of costs, it's been about break-even so far. I've spent a fair amount of cash acquiring all the stuff to post and give away (including a lot that hasn't been posted yet, such as a Topps Tiffany Traded set from 1988,) as well as postage for the giveaways. Please keep on clicking on ads, as it will help me keep going.
  3. A few folks asked me to post the links to the mosaic sites I made. The primary one is based on this very same 1988 Topps set: Mattingly Mosaic. Also see the 1987 Topps mosaic of Don Mattingly. And finally, the 1953 Topps mosaic of Mickey Mantle.
Thanks, and more cards are on their way!

#106 Jim Walewander

Why this card is awesome: Because Walewander couldn't look more like a rookie here. Fresh face, oversized hat, unbuttoned jersey. Geez. Also, it''s kind of sad that the card mentions him belting his first ML homer, before Topps knew that would be his only ML homer.

Cool stat: His most career RBIs came against none other than Mark Langston.

#105 Jesse Orosco

Why this card is awesome:
Because of the interesting trade mentioned on the back. The year after the trade, Koosman won 20 games for the Twins but was traded in a couple of years to the White Sox in a fairly meaningless deal. Orosco spent the next 8 years with the Mets and was a major contributor to the championship team in 1986. He also really helped the Mets in the 1988 playoffs, thought he was pitching for the Dodgers at the time. (Didn't hurt the Dodgers in the end, that year.)

Cool stat: Orosco is the career games pitched leader, although Mike Stanton (age 40) is just 74 games behind him. If Stanton can pitch well enough to stay in the lineup, he'll probably pass Orosco in early 2009. Anyway, Orosco finished his career with a stellar ERA+ of 125 (particularly stellar for a reliever.) Among pitchers with at least 800 appearances since 1901, Orosco is 14th in ERA+. And of the guys ahead of him, only Walter Johnson and Steve Reed (?!?!) didn't spend significant time as a closer.

Giveaway #5: 1988 O-Pee-Chee singles

OK, here's another giveaway, this time for the entire 1988 O-Pee-Chee set, broken up into singles.

To get some cards, you don't need to make any guesses or click any ads (though that would be nice if you felt like it.) All you need to do is make some kind of link out there on the internet back to the 88 Topps cards blog, and I will send you any 5 single cards from the 1988 O-Pee-Chee set, as long as they are still available (and meet a certain limitation.) Specifically, here's what you do:
  1. Post a link on any other site. (More details on what I mean, plus important rules and limitations on this, below.)
  2. Send me an email at 88topps at gmail dot com.
  3. Include in the email to me all of the following: a link to the site (and/or specific blog post or comment) that you posted your link onto, the 5 cards you would like (plus some backup choices would probably be a good idea), and the name and address you'd like the cards sent to.
At that point, I'll verify the link. If I can't clearly tell that you are the true author of the link, I probably won't send you the cards. There are lots of ways I can potentially verify it, but if all else fails, you might post a coded version of your own email address in your link post, so when you email me, I can see that it's the same person. After verification, I need to check the cards you've asked for against the remaining inventory (I'm starting off with 1 full set) and then I can send you the cards.

With the cards you pick, there is one limitation, which is that only 1 can be from this list:

4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 25, 30, 35, 39, 40, 45, 60, 61, 64, 68, 70, 72, 74, 75, 80, 86, 88, 89, 90, 100, 102, 120, 134, 150, 157, 165, 168, 170, 173, 178, 179, 186, 189, 192, 194, 195, 200, 210, 211, 231, 240, 243, 247, 250, 253, 267, 274, 275, 287, 295, 300, 311, 312, 314, 320, 321, 336, 340, 360, 361, 370, 373, 374, 385, 394, 395

Click here for the 1988 O-Pee-Chee set listing, linked from

These are stars, semi-stars, HOFers, checklists, draft choices, managers, etc from the O-Pee-Chee set. You can pick 1 card from this list, and 4 other cards from the rest of the set. If you pick more than 1 card from this list, I am going to ignore your entry. (But to be clear, you CAN specify a backup choice if you like. Or, if your first choice isn't available, I'll email you and tell you that you need to pick a different card. This goes for the stars etc as well as the common cards. But if you send me just a list of 5 cards and 2 or more are on the above list, I'm ignoring your entry.)

As I gradually send out cards, I will post an updated list of cards already given away at the very bottom of this post, so you should probably check that first before making your submission. Also, keep in mind that O-Pee-Chee cards are not as high-quality as Topps cards, and generally feature rougher edges, lighter card stock, etc. I'm not making any promises about the cards being perfect examples.

Now, here are the rules and limitations as far as creating links:
  1. A "link" can be lots of things. If you are a blog owner, it can simply be a link in the sidebar of your blog. Or, it can be a post that mentions 88 Topps Cards and includes a link somewhere in the post. If you are a commenter, it can be a comment on any blog, newsgroup, etc, as long as it's something that readable without requiring a log-in. I would prefer your link to expressly mention the name of the blog, but that's not a hard-and-fast rule. (As of now, I am ruling out myspace pages or myspace blogs.)
  2. The link can be a general link to the main 88 Topps Blog page, or can be a link to a specific card's page. It can even be a link to this giveaway page if you want.
  3. Please, please, PLEASE: do NOT spam anybody's blog or website with a link to this blog. You need to make links or posts that make sense in the context where you are posting them. It's fine if your comment trashes my blog, as long as it's on an appropriate website. So the place where you are posting better have something to do with baseball, baseball cards, collecting, statistics, individual teams or players, etc. There are many, many relevant blogs out there, including (for example) team-specific blogs having nothing to do with baseball cards. Many readers of those blogs would enjoy a link to a card from that specific team, considering the posts here have photos and stats.
  4. As I verify links, I am going to post them at the bottom of this page. Please check there first before you make any link, to ensure that no one particular blog or site gets bombed with comments. Please keep in mind that many baseball card blogs out there already include some kind of link to this site.
  5. Also, I absolutely WILL give credit for already-existing links. If you've previously made a link that's already out there in cyberspace, you get credit for that. As mentioned above, a lot of baseball card blog authors have already very kindly linked to the site, and you guys are already in. You just have to email me, following the general rules above.
  6. Generally, I am going to rank the entries based on which emails come in first among those that I can verify. However, I am going to give special consideration to other authors of baseball card blogs. Some of these folks have helped this blog get off the ground very quickly, plus they are obviously collectors who have a genuine and strong interest in these cards.
  7. I'm not setting a time limit on this giveaway. If this post is months old and still appears to be open, give it a shot!
Verified links so far (try NOT to bombard these sites with links): Stat of the Day



Cardboard Junkie

Cards ALREADY given away:

3, 7, 8, 15, 21, 23, 29, 33, 35, 37, 239, 44, 45, 47, 49, 60, 67, 68, 70, 78, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92, 99, 101, 105, 109, 110, 120, 127, 132, 133, 135, 145, 155, 160, 163, 168, 171, 172, 177, 179, 184, 185, 195, 201, 206, 207, 209, 210, 211, 218, 220, 222, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 240, 247, 259, 266, 267, 269, 275, 277, 286, 295, 289, 290, 296, 299, 300, 301, 305, 309, 310, 311, 312, 314, 315, 316, 320, 324, 326, 329, 332, 335, 341, 343, 344, 348, 350, 352, 357, 361, 366, 367, 375, 378, 379, 384, 385, 388, 389

Monday, February 4, 2008

RESULTS: 88 Topps Cards Giveaway #4: JACKPOT!

Well, the title of this giveaway, JACKPOT, was supposed to be a clue. I remember when the Yankees signed Jack Clark, one of the New York papers ran that headline in huge boldface type. So, if anybody remembered that, your clue was to focus on 1988, Clark's only year with the Yankees.

That being said, I still could have picked anything, and what I chose was his 215 total bases, to represent (by one measure at least) his productivity that year.

The winner of cards 51 through 100 of the 1988 Topps set is Raoul, who made the very last entry. He guessed 232, the number of ABs Clark had in 1986. Raoul, please post a comment here telling me a way that I can reach you (an email address or a IM name or something) and I'll get your address to send the cards.

Mike S was next closest with 176, just ahead of Shaun at 137, Mmayes at 131, and the winner of cards 26 through 50, cannonball at 127.

Thanks to everybody for participating, and check back tomorrow for yet ANOTHER contest, this time giving everybody a chance to walk away with some 1988 O-Pee-Chee cards.

#104 Dick Williams

Why this card is awesome: Because it reminds us how far the Mariners franchise has come. Check out the card numbers for the roster. The only guy ending in a zero is Mark Langston (#80) who was clearly the best player on the team. The only guys ending in 5 are Phil Bradley (#55), Alvin Davis (#785), Jim Presley (#285), and Harold Reynolds (#485.) Not a terribly impressive bunch, with Reynolds as clearly the best player in terms of overall career. Back in these days, though, Seattle was never a very good team, and in fact wouldn't post it first winning record as a franchise until 1991.

Also, compare this card to that of Rene Gonzales. Looks like they might possibly have been taken at the same game. We should keep our eyes out for other Mariners and Orioles cards to see if there's any further evidence of this.

Cool stat: Dick Williams was a decent hitter and put together some nice seasons, particularly in 1956, 1959, and 1960. Here's his performance against HOF pitchers (only from 1957 on, as detailed data is not available before that). Twelve hits in 33 at-bats against Hoyt Wilhelm. Not bad.

Hall of Fame count: 13 (For Williams, elected just a few weeks ago!)

1988 O-Pee-Chee #311 Derek Bell

Why this card is awesome: Because of that very cool, retro-looking v-neck Blue Jays shirt he's wearing. Who knows more about that uni?

Bell completes our tetrad of the top 4 draftees for the two Canadian teams, and all 4 made the big leagues! Very nice. This also completes all the OPC cards I'll be showing on this blog, although stay tuned for the giveaway of the entire OPC set.

Cool stat: In 1996, Bell had the 5th-lowest slugging percentage of all-time for a season with at least 110 RBIs. Also, for players with at least 950 career strikeouts, Bell has the 14th fewest walks. Also, in 1993, he nearly had more homers (21) than walks (23.)

Reminder: Giveaway #4 ends today

Just zip over to this post to make your entry for giveaway #4, ending today at 5 PM.

1988 O-Pee-Chee #194 Alex Sanchez

Why this card is awesome: Because Sanchez was able to hold still and smile despite two huge fuzzy black caterpillars walking across his forehead. Reminds me of Julio Cruz. By the way, this is not the Alex Sanchez who was the first player suspended under MLB's steroid policy.

Cool stat: Sanchez made just 4 major league starts, and like Nate Minchey, his first was his best. Despite giving up 5 hits and 5 walks in 6 innings, he allowed just 1 run and left the game tied. David Wells came in, pitched the last 3 innings, and got the win.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

#103 Curt Young

Why this card is awesome: Because of second chances. Look at that terrible, terrible 1985 Young had. In 46 IP, he compiled a 7.24 ERA, more BBs than Ks, and an 0-4 record. But Oakland stuck with him, and Young became a valuable member of the pitching staff, helping them to the World Series in 1988 to 1990 (although he didn't pitch much in any of the post-seasons, actually.)

Cool stat: Young had two complete-game 1 hitters in his career. But they were quite different. This one was your standard 1-hit shutout, with just Kevin Seitzer single in the 7th inning. However, this one, while also a complete-game win, featured 3 runs scoring, with the only hit being a 2-run homer by Ken Williams (current White Sox GM.) The other run scored on a walk, error, and fielder's choice.