1985 baseball season in review

30 12 2010

I was 5 years old in 1985, and this is the first year I can remember anything from the sports world. I was in pre-school at the time – and I remember the buzz surrounding Pete Rose breaking the hit record. I don’t remember watching the game on TV – I think that would be one of those things where you’d remember exactly where you were (from a similar time frame, I do remember exactly where I was when the Challenger disaster occurred). But I remember the hype around it and hearing about it all over Cincinnati that summer. As I’ve said before, I don’t remember the Reds before Pete’s return, and 1985 was his first full year back.

Highlights and Events:

Two Hall-of-Famers were traded to New York for prospects during the offseason. The A’s traded Rickey Henderson to the Bronx, while Montreal sent Gary Carter to the Mets. The trade for Carter was one of the last that solidified the team’s 1986 championship core. All-Star 1B Jack Clark was also traded – from the Giants to the Cardinals.

The most notable story of the year was Dwight Gooden’s historic season. After winning the Rookie of the Year award and finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting in 1984, Doc won the pitching triple crown (for the Majors, not just the National League) with a 24-4 record, 268 strikeouts and a 1.53 ERA. At one point he won 14 decisions in a row. His ERA is the lowest in a season since MLB lowered the pitching mound in 1969. Needless to say, “Doctor K” was a unanimous Cy Young Award winner, even though John Tudor of the Cardinals and Orel Hershiser for the Dodgers had seasons that would have won almost any other year.

16 games into April, Yogi Berra was fired by the Yankees after a slow start and replaced by his own replacement, Billy Martin. Berra had become the 2nd player to manage his son (Dale) during those 16 games. This led to a decade-long feud with owner George Steinbrenner where Berra stayed away from Yankee Stadium, including the day dedicated to his former teammate in August. Phil Rizzuto was honored on “Phil Rizzuto Day” on August 4. This game was notable – the visiting White Sox were starting veteran Tom Seaver, who was sitting on 299 wins.

In July, the National League won yet another All-Star game in the Metrodome, their 13th in the last 14 tries. The first Home Run Derby took place the day before the game. The Derby was played in a 2-inning format where each player had 5 outs per inning (which allowed for potential ties). The American League outslugged the senior circuit 17-16, but Dave Parker (go Reds!) won the individual title, smashing 6 homers to outdistance five others who hit 4 each.

On August 6th and 7th, the players’ union walked out, the 6th work stoppage in MLB history. The stoppage was diverted when the owners agreed to increase the minimum player salary from $40k to $60k and make contributions to the pension fund.

There was some additional negative news that didn’t involve on-field play. The cocaine scandal of the 1980’s reached a crescendo during the Pittsburgh drug trials during September. Numerous notable MLB players were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, including former MVPs Parker, Keith Hernandez, and Vida Blue, who all admitted to using cocaine. 7 players were given 1-year suspensions that were revoked as long as they submitted to harsher testing and donated a portion of their salary to drug-related causes.

The trials were a particularly dark era for the Pirates franchise, and the longtime ownership headed by the Galbreath family was looking to sell the team. To keep the franchise in Pittsburgh, Mayor Richard Caliguiri organized a group of local businesses that bought the team (“Pittsburgh Associates”) until a long-term buyer could be found.  This group owned the team for over a decade.

The Cincinnati Reds were also sold during the year – local auto dealership owner Marge Schott, who was a minority stakeholder at the time, purchased the controlling interest in the team for $11 million in December 1984, and was made CEO of the organization in 1985.

Milestones reached in 1985 included:

  • Reggie Jackson passed 5 sluggers on the all-time home run list. Starting the year with 503 homers, Reggie hit 27 to pass Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews (512), Willie McCovey and Ted Williams (521). He’d finish the season 8th all-time, with 2 more greats in his reach for next year.
  • On July 2nd, Joe Niekro won his 200th game, as the brothers Niekro joined their Perry counterparts as siblings with 200+ wins each.
  • A few days later on July 11th, Nolan Ryan struck out Danny Heep to become the first pitcher to pass 4,000 K’s. People probably thought he was close to retiring…
  • On August 4th, Rod Carew knocked a double off Frank Viola, earning his 3000th career hit against his former team, the Minnesota Twins. Carew was the 16th player to reach this milestone.
  • Also on August 4th, Tom Seaver, who had played with Ryan almost 20 years earlier when the two started out with the Amazin’ Mets, stopped the Yankees on Phil Rizzuto day to pick up his 300th career win. Seaver was the 17th pitcher to accomplish this feat.
  • Pete Rose finally realized his march toward Ty Cobb in September. On September 8th, as a late inning replacement at Wrigley Field, Rose knocked out 2 singles to tie Cobb’s career record of 4,191 hits. Subsequent research has shown that Cobb may have been actually credited with 2 extra hits, in which case, his first hit on this day would have been the record breaker. However, MLB still recognizes Cobb with 4,191 hits.
  • Three days later, on September, Rose broke the record at home in front of a sold out Riverfront Stadium crowed with a single against San Diego’s Eric Show.
  • The Yankees were involved in another 300th win. This time, Yankees pitcher Phil Niekro reached the milestone on October 6th, the final game of the year.
  • Henderson’s debut season in pinstripes was one of the best ever as a lead-off hitter. He became the first player to hit 20+ home runs and steal 80+ bases (24/80), and was the first AL player with 20 / 50 (7 NL players had reached this feat).
  • Darrell Evans of the Tigers led the majors in home runs with 40. He was the oldest HR champ in MLB history, and became the first player with a 40-homer season in both leagues (Mark McGwire has since accomplished this feat). Incidentally, his previous 40-homer season was in 1973 with the Braves, when he, Davey Johnson and Hank Aaron teamed as the only 40-HR trio in history.

Most of the division winners had solid 5+ game leads throughout all of September. The Blue Jays, led by another stellar season by ace Dave Stieb and sluggers Jesse Barfield and George Bell, outdistanced the Yankees in the AL East. The Dodgers had 4 starters with an ERA under 3, including Orel Hershiser who was 19-3 with a 2.03 ERA, and were never seriously threatened. The NL East was close throughout the year. The Mets lead the division as late as September 13th behind Doctor K. However, the Cardinals outdistanced the Mets in late September behind batting champ and MVP Willie McGee and the team’s league leading 314 base swipes, which was the most in the National League since the dead ball era. Rookie Vince Coleman accounted for 110 of those steals, setting a rookie record.

The closest race was in the AL West, where the Royals and Angels traded places throughout the year. The teams were tied going into October, but the Royals pulled out the division in the last week. Kansas City had a balanced team, again anchored by 3rd baseman George Brett, who finished 2nd in the MVP voting to Don Mattingly, and by youthful pitching staff headed by Cy Young winner Brett Saberhagen.

Rickey Henderson had passed Mike Schmidt as the best position players in baseball; Rickey was coming off 6 exceptional years in a row. He hit .315, walked 99 times, scored 146 runs, stole 80 bases and knocked out 24 homers en route to a slugging percentage over .500. Truly outstanding numbers for a leadoff hitter; he had an astounding 38 win shares in ’85, and probably deserved the MVP over his teammate Mattingly.  Tim Raines had also likely passed Schmidt up at this point, and would be the best player in baseball by the next season (Henderson had good, but not great, campaigns in ’86 and ’87). If you wanted to exclude the great base-stealers and argue pure best hitter, Raines and Rickey would likely still be in the discussion, as would Dale Murphy, Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs.

Even though he had only two seasons under his belt, there was little doubt that Dwight Gooden was the best pitcher in baseball.  His 1985 season was one of the best of the modern era.  It’s probably the best season since baseball went to a 5-man rotation, probably ahead of those of Maddux, Pedro, and Randy Johnson later on.  Add to that the fact that he was 2nd in the Cy Young voting the year before, and it’s hard to argue against him.  If you look at performance over the past 3 and 5 year stints, Dan Quisenberry and Dave Stieb are definitely the best two, but I’d have to give it to Doc based on his pure dominance in his first 2 seasons.

Read on for the playoff summary…

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




Red Hot Strasburg and a baseball card mystery

29 12 2010

Strasmus came a bit late this year. Actually, it may have been a bit early. I’m not sure. I was in Ohio last week visiting family, and I came back to a couple of things in Northern New Jersey:

1) Snow. 24 inches of snow. I’ve never had to shovel quite so much snow. We have gotten close to this much in Ohio in past years, but not quite 2 feet. And I was always home when this happened so I could do some shoveling while there. Unfortunately, we got back Monday night and it took 2 hours just to create a “corridor” where we could get my wife’s car, which we’d driven to Ohio, into the garage. My car is still snowed in, which means I “was forced” to work from home Tuesday 🙂

2) Steven Strasburg Red Hot Rookie Redemption. I wrote a while back how it was silly that this card would take until May to receive, well, at least Topps under-promised. 6 weeks is a bit much for a card not autographed or anything, but it really isn’t that bad. It is ironic, however, that Strasburg seems to be anything but “Red Hot” currently…

3) Mystery Box. I also had a mystery box waiting in the mail from a fellow collector. I have no idea what allowed me to receive such a thing! Now, I must admit that I had purchased quite a few lots on eBay over the past 2 weeks – more than my usual. I bought a few Jalen Rose cards (my player collection) and a bunch of the Topps All-Star glossy sets. And I have a trade in the works. So it’s possible I have missed some mail. But I got a package from a certain “Ted A” in Southington, CT containing a number of cards from my wantlist. And by a number, I mean a 330-card box filled pretty full (given that card stock is thicker than their card amounts; I’d estimate there are 200 or so cards).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited about this and have already updated my wantlist on the blog and on my spreadsheet (I haven’t found a great way to track this with one update). But I’m a bit worried. Did I miss out on a trade? Am I being a bad card-blogger and forgetting to send cards to someone else? I checked my emails – I have a pending trade out there but not from Ted in Connecticut. I looked up all previous trades, and this isn’t someone who I’d traded with previously who is sending me some generous holiday gifts as I get further along in my quest.

So, first, I’d like to give proper thanks from Ted A in Southington for (what I think is) his completely unsolicited generosity! Unless of course I somehow missed out on a trade, in which case, oops! Either way, I’m asking for help with this mystery. Is Ted out there? Does Ted have a blog? Is there a way I can repay such kindness with a few doubles of my own? Here’s a small sampling of what I got…






1985 Topps Glossy Sets

28 12 2010

Topps again issued 2 Glossy All-Star sets in conjunction with its base set in 1985, in the exact same format as the ’84 set. The 22-card set commemorating the 1984 All-Star game was inserted 1 per rack pack and contained the manager, the 9 starters, and an honorary captain card for each league (Hank Greenberg & Willie McCovey).

12 Hall of Famers:     R. Sandberg, M. Schmidt, O. Smith, T. Gwynn, G. Carter, McCovey, R. Carew, G. Brett, C. Ripken, D. Winfield, R. Jackson, Greenberg (same # of HOF-ers as the previous year’s set)

The 40-card send-in set could be had in 5-card portions after obtaining 25 “runs” from the “Winning Pitch Baseball Game” card that came 1 per wax pack. The players were again primarily from the previous season’s game (1984). For example, Bob Brenly and Mike Boddicker are in the set, and each player had his only All-Star appearance in ’84. But Pete Rose is in the set, and he was in the ’85 game, but not ’84 (when he would have been an Expo).

12 Hall of Famers:     J. Rice, D. Winfield, R. Jackson, R. Gossage, R. Sandberg, B. Sutter, M. Schmidt, C. Ripken, E. Murray, T. Gwynn, P. Niekro, G. Carter (down from 16 in ’84)

Pete Rose is the lone Big Red Machiner. There were no Big Red Machine members in the 22-card rack pack set.

I bought a bunch of these sets (this and future years) on eBay. A few I got for $1.99, though some were a bit more. The send-in sets tend to be in worse condition – the way the cards were cut tends to be pretty poor, leaving  on the sides.





1985 Topps Traded

26 12 2010

Topps again issued a 132-card “Traded” set in 1985 in the same fashion as previous years; cards were numbered in alphabetical order, separately from the base set with a “T” suffix as #1-132. The set contains XRC’s of players who didn’t have a card in the base set, players who signed with or were traded to new teams, and new managers. The design was the same as the base set, and the cards were again printed in Ireland on white cardstock.

For the first time, Topps issued the Traded set in wax packs, 15 cards / pack and 36  packs / box, with packs retailing at 35¢. These wax boxes were a limited issuance, and today fetch a pretty penny – a box runs over 300 bucks on the few websites I could find, while the set itself will run under $10.

Keeping with previous traditions, dealers who ordered cases of the Topps Traded set also received a miniature Bronze Card – this time the card was a replica of Pete Rose’s player card from the 1985 Topps set – no doubt capitalizing on his return to the Reds. For the 2nd year, Topps also issued a Tiffany set that had a glossy picture on the front.

There are no Big Red Machiners in this set, and there are 5 Hall of Famers in the set.

  • Bruce Sutter was signed by Atlanta as a free agent from the Cubs in the offseason.
  • Don Sutton, who was traded from the Brewers to the Oakland A’s in the offseason.
  • Rickey Henderson left Oakland for the first of four times, this time via a trade to the Yankees for a slew of players – Tim Birtsas, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk, and Jose Rijo. Funny, the A’s would get Rickey back via trade from the Yanks in 1989, and one of the players involved was Eric Plunk. That has to be a pretty rare occurrence in the annals of Major League Baseball – two players swapped and then later reversed back by the same two teams. I don’t even know how to look that up – but I did find that a player named Harry Chiti was traded for himself in 1962.
  • The Expos, probably assuming Gary Carter was over the hill for a catcher, was traded to the Mets in the ’84 offseason for 4 younger players, including Hubie Brooks, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans. The trade worked out well for both – Carter made 4 more All-Star teams and helped lead the Mets to a World Series title, but he was closer to the downside of this career than his peak.
  • Earl Weaver retired in 1982 after a long, successful tenure in Baltimore, and his replacement Joe Altobelli guided the O’s to a World Series title in his first year. However, the Orioles didn’t meet expectations over the next couple years, and Altobelli was fired midway through the ’85 season. Shortly thereafter, Weaver was talked out of retirement to again lead the team.

Also notable to me from this set was the two Yankees below. The Bombers traded for Dale Berra (manager Yogi’s son) in December of 1984). Less than 20 games into the 1985 season, Steinbrenner fired the elder Berra from his post in what was a very public breakup that left Yogi at odds with the organization for 10+ years (the next two of which meant those Yankees were his son’s employer). To boot, Yogi’s old teammate Billy Martin was hired as the replacement, his 4th of 5 stops at the helm of the club.

The set really has few XRC’s worth more than a brief mention. Vince Coleman is the only player other than Rickey to steal 100 bases 3 times. Tom Browning was a mainstay for the Reds for a number of years, and pitched a perfect game in 1988. And Ozzie Guillen was an All-Star shortstop for the White Sox and eventually, in 2005, managed the club to its first World Championship since the Black Sox Scandal.

 HoJo was another Mets pickup that contributed significantly to their ’86 WS win, and Clark and Fred Lynn are two excellent players portrayed in this set.





1985 Topps scans

23 12 2010

For my scans of this set, I’m not going to start out with the “most famous cards” from the set (they are the 3rd scan down). Though 85 Topps has 3 pretty iconic rookie cards. What I will start off with is a full scan of the Record Breakers subset. Why, you ask? Two reasons. First – I got all of them in the wax and vending boxes. Second – I think these are some pretty good records – not “throwing the most guys out in the AS game”, but 1984 actually produced some honest-to-goodness records!

  • You have a not-quite-so-young Carlton Fisk breaking the record for most innings caught in a game. Coincidentally, this game was also interesting because it spanned 2 days, Tom Seaver won the game in relief on the 2nd day, and then won the 2nd game that day to win 2 games on the same day (all as he chased 300 victories that year).
  • Steve Garvey set the record for the most consecutive games without an error at First Base. A decent record, particularly if you consider how often first baseman handle the ball.
  • Gooden – rookie strikeout record. Also a pretty big record.
  • Cliff Johnson – most pinch hit homers. Possibly the least important record here (in my humble opinion), but not that bad of a record in and of itself.
  • Joe Morgan – most homers as a 2nd baseman. Catching up with the work his teammate Johnny Bench did a few years earlier – setting the position homer mark. Passing Rogers Hornsby. Many people assume Hornsby is the greatest 2nd-sacker of all-time. They would be wrong.
  • Pete Rose breaks Ty Cobb’s record – a year early from the big kahuna, the hits record, but the all-time singles record? I’d say that’s a pretty big deal as well.
  • Nolan Ryan re-passes Steve Carlton for the K record. Yeah, that’s a big deal. Good thing Ryan waited another decade to hang up his spikes, and essentially put the K record out of reach.
  • Juan Samuel breaks Tim Raines 3-year old rookie record for SB’s. Probably the 2nd worst on this list, but again, a pretty interesting record.
  • After that, another guy who knows about setting a few records. Here are my obligatory Rickey scans – unlike earlier years, just one subset for the Man of Steal.

    As promised, here are the most recognizable / valuable cards of this set. Funny how all 3 of these guys faced a significant fall from grace after their playing career was over.

    The also-ran Rookie Cards from this set. I must say, this is actually a pretty impressive list. Here’s some career highlights from these guys – not quite the accolades of the (2/3rd) steroid induced guys from above, but impressive to say the least.

    • Gooden won a RoY, a Cy Young as part of one of the most dominant seasons of my lifetime, and pitched a no-hitter.
    • Saberhagen won 2 Cy Youngs’
    • Orel Hershiser won a Cy Young and broke a cherished record in the same year – most consecutive scoreless innings. He did it in very dramatic fashion at the end of the season, too, but I’ll get to that in my 1988 posts. He also won the World Series MVP that year.
    • Jose Rijo – while he never won a Cy – he was one of the best pitchers in baseball for about 5 years, and he did win the 1990 WS MVP for my Cincinnati Reds.
    • Joe Carter (I think this is technically not a RC, but is his first Topps card). Hit one of 2 walk-off, series clinching home runs in history. Was one of the better players in baseball for over a decade – from 1986 to 1996 he averaged 30 Homers, no small feat for that time frame.
    • Neither Gubicza nor Cory Snider had great careers, but they did have some pretty good seasons.

    Eric Davis gets his own write-up. Davis was about 15 homers shy of being in 300-300 club along with Mays, Bonds, Dawson, and Bonds. He is also, along with Rickey, one of 2 players with 25+ homers and 80 steals in the same year. He was a truly great talent who never quite lived up to everything hoped for him, but somehow managed to still be a fan favorite in the cities he played in. I think his game 4 injury in the ’90 WS may have hindered him, but he was and still is one of my all-time favorite players. Growing up in Cincinnati – this card was like the holy grail it seemed. Maybe it was just because of my age – but this seemed like the hardest card to get your hands on! It was probably overpriced in the Cincy markets, and since I didn’t start collecting until 1987, this set seemed a little bit vintage, and thus an untouchable card in any of my friends’ sets. Aside from the 1980 Rickey card, this is definitely my favorite card to date from the sets I’ve opened so far.

    Here’s some younger guys from the 85 set. Love the Strawberry based card, by the way – that’s a great shot of him early in his career. When, like his friend Davis, the Hall of Fame seemed like his destiny. I could not have told you that HoJo played for the 84 WS champs. 2 WS rings in 3 years, both for different teams – not bad!

    Some pretty good players from the 85 Topps set. The Hernandez card is on the front of the 85 Topps wax box.

    Here’s some of the manager cards from the set. LaRussa, Torre and Cox will all be in the Hall someday soon. I also wanted to include some father-son cards – the younger Boone and Bell would both be managers someday as well.

    Here’s some good (i.e. funny) shots. Not sure what Carew is doing there, and not sure what those glasses Gwynn is wearing are! Boddicker’s smile gives away how ham-handed this pose is, and the last 2 guys are taking the phrase “choke-up” to another level.

    And finally, along the lines of funny, they sure don’t make glasses like they used to…





    1985 Topps Cards – Big Red Machine

    21 12 2010

    Johnny Bench and Cesar Geronimo went by the wayside the year before, and this is Joe Morgan’s LTC. So I’m coming down to the end of this run. Happily, though, we have 2 Big Red returnees, for a total of 3 guys sporting a Reds uniform. This is great – because last year’s set had 3 BRM-ers sporting Phillies uniforms, and that just isn’t right! (NL pennant notwithstanding)

    We’re down to 2 “subset cards” after it seemed like all the Big Red Machine guys had subset cards in previous years. Interesting – Rose is pictured here with the Reds, but he broke the record for most singles while a member of the Expos.





    1985 Topps vending box

    20 12 2010

    I had average collation from the wax box, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much the vending box helped in gearing toward completing the 1985 set. I got an astounding 275 more base cards that I hadn’t pulled in my wax box break. All told, I pulled 672 of the 792 singles, or 85%, toward finishing the set. This is 110 more cards toward set completion than I got from the 1984 boxes, so I did very well for this year!

    I did get the Mattingly 2nd year card that I didn’t get in the wax box, and 1 more Puckett RC. No more McGwire or Clemens RCs, though, so I’d say the vending box didn’t “make me back my money” (which I don’t really care much about anyways). The only card of note that I didn’t pull between these 2 boxes was the Nolan Ryan base.

    As usual, I’ll post some pictures in a later post.