Saturday, February 16, 2008

#155 Bruce Sutter

Why this card is awesome: Because Sutter doesn't look very happy in this photo, perhaps because he just missed the entire 1987 season due to injury.

Cool stat: Sutter has 2 of only 9 seasons in history where a reliever pitched at least 100 innings, had an ERA+ of at least 180, and struck out a least a batter per inning. Dick Radatz also has 2 of those 9 seasons.

Hall of Fame count: 16

Friday, February 15, 2008

#154 Jeff Stone

Why this card is awesome: Because this classic pose gives us the best look at the Phillies' uniform from this era. Against the green background, Stone really sticks out. Just why, oh why, did Topps make the banner purple for the Phils' cards?

Cool stat: Since 1957, Stone has the most 4-hit games in the first 50 games of a career. He's also among the leaders for most games with a SB in the first 50 games of a career (also since 1957.) If you follow that second link, one of the comments has a link to a great story written about Jeff Stone and his playing career. Very much worth the read.

#153 John Habyan

Why this card is awesome: Because of the mention of street hockey on the back. In a year when Topps listed all kinds of cool info about which scout signed the player, or a significant minor league accomplishment, they come up with that useless fact about Habyan.

Cool stat: Habyan had a very nice career despite some serious injuries along the way. Check out his OPS-against (minimum 10 PA) list. Lots of great names on there who performed poorly against Habyan, including HOFers Molitor, Yount, and Ripken, plus Ruben Sierra, Lou Whitaker, Terry Steinbach, Kirk Gibson, Carney Lansford, Mark McGwire, and Mike Greenwell.

#152 Jody Reed

Why this card is awesome: Boy, I never realized it at the time, but Reed, especially on this card, sure looks a lot like Jerry Remy. Despite playing a lot of SS when he first came up with Boston, Reed went on the play most of his games at 2B, just like the Rem-Dog.

Cool stat: Reed is one of just 5 players since 1901 to have a season with 40 or more doubles but at most 40 RBI. Ouch.

#151 Bob Knepper

Why this card is awesome: Because of the oddity you can see on the back, that Knepper led the league in runs allowed in 1985, despite posting a 3.55 ERA (which was just a smidgen above the league ERA of 3.45.) You see that he allowed 24 unearned runs, quite a high total, and in fact Houston had the 3rd most errors on defense in the NL in 1985.

Cool stat: Knepper was a fairly average pitcher. He got 9 wins three years in a row, but the third time (in 1981) was pretty interesting. He had very low hits allowed and home runs allowed rates, and achieved an ERA+ of 150, by far the best mark of his career.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

88 Topps Cards Giveaway #6

OK, this giveaway is for the following:
To enter, you need to email me at 88topps at gmail dot com, and including the following information:
  • Send me a link to an online retailer (not eBay) where you can buy a 1957 Topps 2nd Series wax pack. I'll give you a clue that one of the advertisers commonly found on this site carries this pack, so you might find it easiest to look at the ads. But clicking on ads is not a requirement if you can find it by some other means. I'm talking about an actual offer for sale of this pack, where you can click to put it into your shopping cart.
  • The first bullet above is no longer necessary.
  • Pick a number from Eric Davis' page.
Closest number to the number I picked from Davis' page wins, assuming you also gave me the link to the 1957 pack.

  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 Tuesday 2/19 at 5 PM eastern time. Comments must be timestamped by the blog before then.

#150 Eric Davis

Why this card is awesome: Because this card is just AWESOME. It's a fantastic action shot captured by Topps of the long and lean Davis. Judging by the concentration on his face, I can only assume he was thinking, "Oh yeah....chicks dig the long ball." Remember that back in 1988, Davis was coming off a 30/30 season where he easiy got both 30 homers (37 actually) and 30 stolen bases (a whopping 50 actually!) He was a huge rising star who seemed destined to become an all-time superstar. It wasn't in the cards, though, due mainly to weird injuries he suffered (like a kidney laceration.) In fact, 1987 was his best season until 1998, when he had a wonderful comeback season with the Orioles.

Anyway, this is one of my all-time favorite cards, and ranks as the 3rd-best card of the 1988 Topps set, behind #70 Roger Clemens and another card yet to come. (Any guesses?)

Cool stat: Davis is another guy who hit a lot of homers off Jim Deshaies. He had 2 career games with 3 homers and a stolen base and is the only guy to do that twice.

#149 Ken Howell

Why this card is awesome: Because while I have no idea whether Howell is religious, it's nice that Topps put a shot of what looks like a church in the background.

Cool stat: Howell was actually a better pitcher than most people remember. Check out his 1989. In fact, in the last 20 years, here are the lowest seasonal hit totals by a pitcher who pitched at least 200 innings. Howell's in there right alongside Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, etc.

#148 Carmelo Martinez

Why this card is awesome: Because the trade described on the back is wrong. If you check out here and scroll down, you can see that this was actually a three-team trade involving Martinez, Lefferts, Sanderson, Connally, plus Gary Lucas and Al Newman. Plus, this card has a bonus shot of Joey Cora in the background!

Cool stat: Martinez had 5 two-homer games. They all came with the Padres, and his team won them all.

#147 Bill Buckner

Why this card is awesome: Because of Buckner's TOTALLY AWESOME hair. I've been trying to think what it looks like--sort of like a heart or a pear of something. Also, I love how Buckner's shirt under his uni matches the background. For all the guff I give Topps over this set, there are some very nice touches like this one.

Cool stat: Recently, I dubbed Buckner the most-average batter of all time. Since 1980, Bucker has the most seasons (3) with fewer than 20 HR but at least 100 RBI. If you went back to the 1970s, Thurman Munson also did it 3 times.

#146 Donell Nixon

Why this card is awesome: Because of the fact about Otis Nixon on the back. Nixon (Otis, that is) had a terrible 1987, getting into just 19 games in the majors, hitting .059, and appearing to be out of baseball. Who knew then that he would play 12 more seasons in MLB, appearing on two World Series teams?

Cool stat: Nixon (Donell, that is) hit just 4 career homers, and one came off Bruce Hurst, his only hit against him in 10 ABs. Nixon's 3-run job gave the Mariners the lead in this game, before Wade Boggs gave the Red Sox the lead in the 5th and Don Baylor hit the eventual game-winning HR in the 6th.

#145 Bill Madlock

Why this card is awesome: Because it's one last glory shot for a retiring warrior, as this was Madlock's last card. Special bonus awesomeness for Topps catching another weird person in the background, and this time having that person actually overlap Madlock's photo. Is that guy carrying a bowling ball bag? Or a medical kit?

Cool stat: The 1985 Dodgers lost the NLCS to the Cardinals, but it wasn't Madlock fault, as he got 8 hits in 24 at-bats, including a double, 3 homers, and 7 RBI in 6 games.

#144 Don Gordon

Why this card is awesome: Because Gordon looks like he just arrived after his trade from Toronto.

Cool stat: Gordon had a short career so it's tough to find much to say about him, but Dwight Evans sure hit him well, to the tune of 5 hits in 6 at-bats with a walk and a sac fly.

1988 Topps action on Ugly Baseball Card Blog

This site is great, and today it has a 1988 Topps John Smiley!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

#143 Mickey Tettleton

Why this card is awesome: Because who is Tettleton looking at? Doesn't he know that the third-base coach (not the first-base coach, whom he appears to be looking at) is the one who gives the signals?

Cool stat: Lots of huge sluggers have had a bunch of 100 BB, 100 K seasons since 1990. Jim Thome, Jeff Bagwell, Adam Dunn, Mark McGwire, and...Mickey Tettleton? Yup, you'd better believe it.

#142 Andy Van Slyke

Why this card is awesome: Because the trade that brought Van Slyke to the Pirates (mentioned on the back) was one of the most interesting of the 1980s. Tony Pena was highly regarded (and perhaps overrated) and the Pirates picked up Van Slyke, LaValliere (who ended up being an important contributor to the division-winning Pirates teams of the early 1990s) and Mike Dunne, who was a "can't-miss" prospect who, umm, missed.

Cool stat: Boy oh boy, Van Slyke hit a lot of triples. From 1987 to 2007, just 12 players had at least 3 seasons with double-digit triples. Every other name is pretty easy to believe (Lance Johnson, Steve Finley, Jimmy Rollins, Christian Guzman, Vince Coleman, etc.) Van Slyke is a big surprise on there. In fact, among all players since 1901 with 5000 to 6000 career at-bats, Slick is 18th in triples.

#141 Royals Leaders

Why this card is awesome: Again, it should be obvious. A bonus HOFer in Brett, and another great player in Saberhagen.

Cool stat: Damn, what a 1988 Brett had at age 35. He led the Royals in many, many offensive categories, and that was a team with Kevin Seitzer, Danny Tartabull, Bo Jackson, and, umm, Willie Wilson. Still, though, maybe the Royals were just terrible since Brett's Age 35 season doesn't even rank in the top 25 all-time for OPS+ (by a 35-year-old.)

Hall of Fame count: 15

#140 Jesse Barfield

Why this card is awesome: Because of yet another weird-looking person in the background. Who is that wearing a white top with capri pants?

Cool stat: Let's see how much you really know about 1980's baseball in the American League. Who were the top 5 hitters in the AL from 1983 to 1986, ranked by slugging percentage? #1 Don Mattingly is a gimme. I'm not even impressed if you got #2 George Brett or #4 Eddie Murray. No well in hell you get #3 Jesse Barfield, except that this is his card, and NO WAY in hell you're getting #5 unless you're Bill James (or a Bill James disciple.)

2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #81 Orel Hershiser

Why this card is awesome: Because of the totally wacky pose. It's like the photographer told him to start his windup, even though he's clearly not on the mound and (hopefully) not going to fire the ball.

I also love the very casual spring training shot with players warming up. And, there's something very unusual for a baseball card, which is a wheelchair behind Hershiser on the right. I can't tell if the person in the yellow shirt is in the wheelchair or behind it, but nevertheless it's quite unusual to see.

By the way, this card (as you can see from the title) is from the 2004 fan favorite set, not the 2003 set as with the Puckett and Lyons cards we've already seen. If you compare it to Hershiser's regular card, you'll see that the wording for both the team name and Hershiser's name is a bit narrower on the 2004 card.

#139 Jerry Browne

Why this card is awesome: Because of the insanely cool action shot Browne's got going on. I presume he's just laid down a bunt and his face is positively ripe with competitive fire. There happens to be an even cooler card coming up at #150, but this one certainly does nicely for #139.

Cool stat: The Governor, although he had no power at all, was not a bad little player. Seeing as he's bunting above, it seems appropriate to mention that he cracks the top ten in sacrifice hits from 1987 to 1995 (coming in at #7.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#138 Mitch Webster

Why this card is awesome: Because it's another Expos card with wood paneling in the background! Search back for Dennis Martinez to see the first one.

Cool stat: Webster had 10 different games with 2 stolen bases, and his teams went 7-3 in those games.

#137 Chris Bosio

Why this card is awesome: Because it's a very bush-league facility. The mound's not smooth, the grass looks unevenly mowed, and there's a rinky-dink fence in the distance.

Cool stat: Bosio pitched back-to-back complete games 7 different times in his career. Amazingly, his team lost both games two different times and went 6-8 overall in those games. Since they were all complete games, Bosio obviously went 6-8 in those games as well.

#136 Brian Dayett

Why this card is awesome: Because it's old-school. Dayett's obviously got a mouth-full of chew, something I don't think card companies put on their product these days. Serves him right, though, as Topps also got a shot of him looking fooled by a breaking ball.

Cool stat: Dayett had a short career but was pretty productive. Among all players since 1901 with at most 426 career at-bats, Dayett has the 8th-most career RBIs. That list includes Josh Fields, who will probably fall off in 2008 when he has too many ABs. Like Dayett, a number of the other players are catchers, including Hershberg, Meluskey, Graham, and Schulte.

2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites #31 Steve Lyons

Why this card is awesome: Because it's a nice classically-posed card, with a bonus jumping jack in the background!

Compare this to Lyons' regular 1988 Topps card, which is right here. The above photo was clearly not taken at the same time as the original card, given that Lyons is wearing a totally different uniform. He also looks much younger here, although that may just be due to the lighting.

Also, notice how the card back shows just his games with the White Sox.

#135 Dennis Rasmussen

Why this card is awesome: Because it's absolutely impossible to take Rasmussen seriously with what appears to be 3 hairs on his upper lip that he's grown out and combed over to look like a wispy mustache.

Cool stat: I'm going to take the cheap way out here and refer you to a short post I made at with some stats about Rasmussen.

#134 Chuck Tanner

Why this card is awesome:
Because I can't figure out who Tanner is talking to. His chatty partner appears to be wearing a blue shirt that doesn't match the Braves uniform being worn by Tanner or the guy behind him. Please don't tell me that Tanner is fraternizing with the opposing team!

Cool stat: The 1988 Braves featured a couple of crappy pitchers who never went anywhere. One was this piece of junk named Tom Glavine, who went 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA. Another one was this lame pickup they got by trading away the awesome Doyle Alexander. His name, not that you'd remember it, was John Smoltz. In 1988 Smoltz went 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA. Neither guy, Glavine nor Smoltz, ever amounted to anything in Major League Baseball.

#133 Greg Mathews

Why this card is awesome: Because of the panicked look on Mathews' face. He also appears to be looking at something other than his catcher. So maybe these two things are related--maybe he saw something scary in the outfield. By the way, according to Baseball-Alamanc, #35 there is Mike Laga.

Cool stat: Mathews was a great pitcher in the month of June. 15 games and starts, 7-3 record, 3.32 ERA over 103 innings.