Top 10 Topps cards of the 1980’s: #5 – #2

31 01 2013

Here’s the next 4 cards in the countdown of the top cards in the decade.  As a reminder, this is my opinion on the best card from the 80’s.  Not just the best photo, the best card design, the best player or the most notable card.  Really, I consider all of those factors and make a personal list, made up of the cards I think are the best.

5) 1988 Topps #200 – Wade Boggs

1988 Topps Wade Boggs

There was a poll done on the 1988 Topps blog, which was finished up before I started this blog. At the end of the blog, when all cards had been scanned, there was a poll ,and Bo Jackson’s card won the title for the best card from the set, beating this card out for the victory.  The Bo card is tremendous – you can’t go wrong.  But I’d give it third place in that set, behind the Jose Canseco and this card.  There should be more cards with Boggs and his unique follow-through and the head duck.  This card has always been one of my favorite cards, even though Boggs is not a favorite player of mine.  Like many of the other cards on this list – the picture seems to go well with the design.  The bat splits “Red” and “Sox” down the middle.  The ribbon with the player name actually covers up the empty space on the card.  It’s cool, period.

4) 1982 Topps Traded #98T – Cal Ripken, Jr.

82 TT HOFers

We’re getting into cards that really could be argued as the best card of the decade.  This card certainly fits that bill.  It’s the most expensive card of the decade.  It’s Probably the most notable card, too.  Ripken has a rookie card in 1982 Topps, but that one shows him with 2 other Oriole prospects.  The single player card of Ripken, is a pretty iconic card.  It’s got his signature on there – neat that he signed it “Jr.” but the card just says “Cal Ripken”.  This card actually ranks 12th on the list of Topps “Top 60” cards that they had a poll on in early 2011.  It’s 5th from the decade just behind the McGwire Olympic card, which I gave an honorable mention yesterday, behind the Bo Jackson card from 1986 Topps Traded (see my commentary in the next card), and also behind top 2 cards from my countdown.  You’ll have to read on to see which those are…

3) 1987 Topps #170 – Bo Jackson

1987 Topps Bo Jackson

As mentioned, the 1986 Topps Traded card of Bionic Bo is up there on the Topps 60 list that the company did.  That card is #8.  I think they got it wrong including that card.  This is the cooler of the 2 Bo Jackson cards.  Unlike the ’86 Topps Traded card of Bo, this card:

  • Has an awesome picture of Bo in his Royal Blue, about to make a catch – and probably gun down some sucker at the plate (86 Topps is just a poorly done pose)
  • Featured on the awesome wood-based design of 1987 Topps (86 Topps – not an awesome design)
  • Has the awesome future stars writing at the bottom.  It looks better on 87 than any other set (86 Topps – no Future Stars writing)
  • It’s Bo Jackson.  Bo Jackson is awesome (OK, the 86 Bo Jackson card has awesome Bo Jackson – but that’s only 1 out of 4)

Honestly, the top 2 cards from my countdown are rookie cards of 2 of my favorite 3 players of all-time.  So I’m admittedly catering to my own bias there, but not with this card.  So there’s an argument this could be the top card.  Bo Jackson isn’t someone I have any particular affinity for – like just about everyone else, I was in awe of him and recognized he had the cool factor.

2) 1989 Topps Traded #41T – Ken Griffey, Jr.

89 TT Griffey Jr

My top 2 cards agree with the top 2 cards in the “Topps top 60”, though I’ve flipped the order.  This card was ranked #5 from that list, which is not only the top card of the 1980’s, it’s the top card of any decade other than the 50’s or 60’s.  It’s a cool photo, and again – it’s cropped well for the design.  Though 1989 isn’t my favorite design out there – it’s kind of middle of the road.  Griffey is my favorite player of all-time.  I named my dog after him.  So it’s with a little hesitation that I don’t make this the #1 card of the decade.  But there’s one card that has too much mojo going for it to get beat out by any other card…

And you’ll have to read tomorrow to see which one that is!

Top 10 Topps cards of the 1980’s: #10 – #6

30 01 2013

The last thing for me to do in the posts I’ve planned for finishing up the 1980’s is to count down the best cards of the entire decade.  This isn’t just the best photo.  It isn’t just the best card design.  It isn’t just the best players.  It isn’t just the most notable card.  This is the best card.  Period.  So to make my list here, I considered all of those factors.  It’s a personal list, made up of the cards I think are the best.  So how I weight those factors is quite dependent on the perspective I had.  And I must admit, that perspective is very skewed by how I first viewed many of these cards –  from a 7 or 8 year old’s eyes who had just found himself interested in baseball and baseball cards.

Honorable Mention – #401 – Mark McGwire OLY RC

85T RCs McGwire

This card is actually the hardest for me to classify as far as this list.  It is extremely significant.  There was a time where this was probably the most valuable card from the entire decade – Topps or any other.  In a time way before Bowman started getting rookie cards before they were even rookies, Topps Traded was the earliest a player would get a card – and that would be a 1985 rookie getting a 1985 card.  But McGwire got this card 2 years before his true rookie season, as a member of the 1984 Olympic team (when baseball was a demonstration sport – meaning it didn’t work toward the medal count).  He would go on to break the most treasured record in all of sports, and then have one of the larger falls from grace we’ve seen in baseball.  The significance and story behind the card make it pretty cool.  And it’s pretty cool that it shows him in a Team USA card.  But I have no special love for Big Mac (that’s true about the player and the burgers, actually), and it isn’t the greatest photo.  So this card is just outside of my top 10 list.

10) 1985 Topps #570 – Darryl Strawberry

85T young starts

Beating out McGwire for my best card from that set (when I did the 1985 post), and making my top 10, is Darryl Strawberry’s card from 1985.  What can I say, this card has a lot of the factors I mentioned above.  It isn’t particularly significant, but in 1985 or 1986 you sure wouldn’t have minded pulling this from a pack.  It’s a great shot – I put it in as an honorable mention just as an action shot alone.  I think the Mets’ pinstripes uniforms were great in the 80′s.  Darryl looks like he just connected, or maybe just fouled a pitch off.  In the days before the drugs hampered his career, this card really shows his height and captures how intimidating he could be for pitchers in the mid 1980’s.

9) 1986 Topps #206 – Pete Rose RB

86T Pete Rose cards

This was my favorite Reds card from the decade, and my second favorite subset from the decade.  I guess I’m being kind of inconsistent by putting this card in the overall top 10, and excluding the ’88 Murray record breaker (which was my #1 subset) from the list.  But I think for this list I’m factoring in the significance of the card – and this is the record breaker of all record breaker cards.

This was my second favorite card from the 1986 Topps set.  I’m also being inconsistent there – because I’m not putting the Schmidt card on this countdown either.  I did the 86 Topps post almost two years ago, and I’m allowed to rethink my position on these things, dammit!

8) 1983 Topps #550 – Carl Yastrzemski

83 Topps best card Yaz

Again, this card is a really good example of something that has a bunch of factors working for it.  It’s a star player – Carl Yastrzemski.  It’s 1983 Topps, one of the best designs of the decade.  It’s even got some significance; it’s the last Topps card for Yaz, who I think is forgotten as one of the best ever.  And it’s a very cool photo – him around the batting cage, hitting grounders or fly balls to somebody, almost as if he’s already moved on to become more of a coach than a superstar.

This card was my top card from the 1983 set.  That’s saying something.

7) 1980 Topps #400 – George Foster

1980 Big Red 3

I just did this card; it won my best “pose” of the decade.  I don’t feel like writing up something new about it – what I said yesterday fits the bill.

I love this photo.  It looks like he’s not really in the background, kind of like a 1970′s television show opening intro.  And it’s a Big Red Machine member.  And he’s got bad-ass sideburns.

The one thing I’d add – I love the 1980 design.  Maybe more than the 1983 set and as much as the 1987 design.  This was my second favorite card from the 1980 set.  Stick around, you might be interested to see where I put the best card from that set…

6) 1984 Topps #10 – Robin Yount

1984 Topps Yount

This was another card that made one of my previous countdowns.  The Yount card was third in my favorite action shots – based solely on the photo.  So it’s established as a great picture that works with the design.  But it’s also of a hall of fame shortstop (eventually turned center fielder) and has become one of my favorite cards while I did this project.  I had this card higher initially, though I guess the fact that Yount isn’t a personal favorite of mine and since this card isn’t of “notable significance” or whatever I called that factor above, I moved it down a tad bit.  That, and the fact that it’s the 1984 set, which isn’t one of the better designs from the decade (though it’s also not a bad design, I’ll grant).

That’s the first half of the top 10.  I’ll do cards numbered 5 through 2 in tomorrow’s post.

My favorite posed shots from Topps in the 1980’s

28 01 2013

Next on my posts for completing the decade is another top 5 list based on photos from the decade.  The last post was action shots, the next one is the best posed shot.  Like that list, this listing also goes completely based on the photo itself – not necessarily the player.  Of course these are just my favorites – so let me know if you’ve got some others you’d include!

Honorable Mention – 1981 Topps Al Hrabosky, 1983 Topps Steve Balboni, Billy Martin, Dale Murphy, 1984 Topps Kirk Gibson, 1987 Topps Eric Davis, 1989 Topps Julio Franco

It’s saying a lot that the Hrabosky card, with the awesome Fu Man Chu, doesn’t make the top 5.  Here’s the cards that edged out the Mad Hungarian.  That card is cool enough that I’ll show it here anyways.

1981 Topps Hrabosky

5) 1985 Topps #300 – Rod Carew

85T Carew

I’m a big fan of batting cage type photos.  Carew’s pose is cool here.  Some shots tend to work with the design of a set.  This shot wouldn’t work as well with something like 1982 or 1984 Topps where the non-picture part of the card is on the side, or 1986 Topps where the team name is on the top.  But it works very well in 1985 Topps.  The photo manages to show off so many things:

  • Carew’s bat handle,
  • Carew holding his helmet,
  • the full team name on the front of his jersey,
  • the cage,
  • the classic Carew afro,
  • and a thoughtful (or confused?) look on his face.

4) 1982 Topps #239 – Jon Matlack

1982 Topps best pose Matlack

As I said a little bit ago when I did the 1982 Topps post – we have found the true originator of the “Discount Double Check”!

3) 1988 Topps #74 – Tommy LaSorda MGR

1988 Topps Tommy LaSorda_0001

This is a pretty recognizable card.  It captures the essence of a guy who was good for baseball, and is an all-around good guy – Tommy LaSorda.  One of the few creative cards in the 1988 set, and one of the few cards I know of that has a golf card in the photo!

2) 1986 Topps #29 – Tony Phillips

86T best pics_2

Had this photo been in, say, 2006, do you think everything in this picture would have been destined to be cut up and fitted into various baseball cards to be packed out in?  You’ve got a game-used: hat, jersey, fielding glove, ball, batting glove, and a bat.

Add to all that, and the look on Phillips face is classic.  It almost seems like he was a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar or something!  Plus, the green A’s jersey is a cool factor as well.

1) 1980 Topps #400 – George Foster

1980 Big Red 3

I love this photo.  It looks like he’s not really in the background, kind of like a 1970′s television show opening intro.  And it’s a Big Red Machine member.  And he’s got bad-ass sideburns.  If you’ve ever met Foster in an autograph show – you can just tell he’s a good guy.  I don’t think he was viewed that way during his playing days, but out of the 9 Big Red Machine autographs I’ve got, only Sparky seemed even more fun-loving and genuine than George did.

My favorite action photos from Topps in the 1980’s

27 01 2013

Continuing on with my “completed decades” post.  This top listing goes completely on the photo itself – who the player is doesn’t really impact it.  These are the “action” variety best of the decade.  I’m going to just do a top 5 of these.  Of course these are just my favorites – so let me know if you’ve got some others you’d include!

Honorable mention – 1980 Gary Carter, 1981 Kent Tekulve, 1985 Topps Darryl Strawberry

5) 1989 Topps #231 – Padres TL (R. Alomar)

1989 Topps best action Padres TL

There aren’t very many action cards in the 89 Topps set – in fact, the Team Leaders by far have the best action shots.  This one features Roberto Alomar sliding around Gary Carter at the plate.  It makes my top 5 over some of the cards that had honorable mention from above.

4) 1983 Topps #768 – Chris Speier

83 Topps best action Speier

I had assumed Gary Carter’s card would win this when I was doing my completed set post for 1983 Topps.  But when I flipped through the cards one last time I noticed Speier tagging out a diving/jumping/flying Derrel Thomas in a photo that you just didn’t see in cards from the early 80’s.  Or from cards of any time in the 80’s, really.  There are a number of really good photos in the 1983 set – but this one was the best!  About the only thing that keeps it from being closer to the top of my list is that it looks like a Spring Training game.

3) 1985 Topps #10 – Robin Yount

1984 Topps Yount

The photography in the 1984 set isn’t the greatest.  Across the board it just doesn’t compare to the 1983 set.  But I’ll take this action shot – an in-action photo of a hall of fame player – over anything else Topps put out in the 80’s.  Except for two other cards…

2) 1987 Topps #653 – Kevin Mitchell

1987 Topps Mitchell

Mitchell sliding into home with an incredible cool “while the dust settles” moment.  The best action shot in a regular card from the decade – but not the best in the whole decade…

1) 1982 Topps #111 – Cartlon Fisk IA

1982 Topps IA Fisk

Of course a card from the subset titled “In Action”.  It’s definitely the best action shot in the 1982 Topps set, and for my money, Fisk reaching out for a foul pop is the best action shot in the whole decade!

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #21 – Ommegang Witte

26 01 2013

I had been doing these posts every other weekend – but with two Hall of Famers passing away last weekend, I moved this to this Saturday.

Continuing with my posts on beers from the Ommegang Brewery.  The next beer is Ommegang Witte.

Brewery:  Ommegang Brewery, Cooperstown, NY

(Now owned by the Duvel Belgian Brewery, though still operated out of Cooperstown)

Beer:  Ommegang Witte

Description:  Per the bottle – “Ommegang Witte is a traditional Belgian-style white ale.  Its light body, frothy head, and quenching taste blend coriander, sweet orange peel and unmalted wheat into a flavor as bright and soft as summer clouds over a Flanders field.”

Sometimes it’s better not to overthink it.  This beer tastes like a wheat beer – refreshing.  If you like wheat beers, you’ll like this one.  If you don’t like wheat beers, this won’t be the exception.  It’s got a crisp and light taste, with some sweetness that makes it perfect for a summer day, particularly a summer day watching some baseball.  Man, I could use some of those days here soon!

Medium:  A large bottle (1 pint, 9.4 oz).  The bottle comes in a cork.  These are sold in the beer/liquor store close to me, and this was the first one I picked up.  I’d tried it a long time ago when I went to Cooperstown. You can also buy the standard 12 ounce bottles.

How it’s related to baseball:  The brewery’s location is really the only link.  The Ommegang Brewery is a Belgian-style brewery that has been around for 25 years.  But the brewery is in Cooperstown – home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I went to Cooperstown with my dad in early September.  We didn’t stop at the brewery, but I’d had a couple of these beers when I went for Rickey Henderson’s induction.  The brewing tradition in Cooperstown actually goes back much further than the baseball tradition does – so I’ll feature a few more of these (and one other brewery) over the coming weeks!

The best Topps subset cards from the 1980’s

24 01 2013

Best subset card is my next category of “best of” awards for the 1980’s decade.  I’d like to point out that I’m not treating the Olympic cards from 85 Topps or 88 Traded, or the Draft Pick cards from 89 Topps, or any Future Stars or All-Star Rookie cards as subsets.  These are those players’ only cards in that set, which isn’t what I think of when I think “subset”.  Otherwise, McGwire’s Olympic card would be tough to top on this list.  I’m also doing a top 10 here.  This was really fun to do – feel free to chime a comment in with any you would have included!

Honorable Mention – 1985 Topps Record Breaker #2 – Steve Garvey

1985 Topps Garvey RB

I really like this card and it’s so close to the next card for my favorite subset card in 1985 Topps, that I figured I’d throw out an honorable mention to it so I can scan it!  It looks like the sun in the background, but that’s a Padre retired jersey on the outfield wall.  This record breaker commemorates him setting the record for the most consecutive games without an error.  Not one of those big, important records, but the photo is very cool.

#10) – 1985 Topps Father-Son #133 – Bob and Ray Boone

85T Managers

The father-son subset is an underrated gem of the 1985 Topps set, and the Boone’s are the more recognizable of the 3-generation families.  Yogi Berra also has a card with his son Dale in the subset.

9) 1989 Topps Record Breaker #5 – Orel Hershiser

1989 Topps Hershiser RB

A very good photo, but what’s important is that this card represents a truly great accomplishment.  The way Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s record for consecutive scoreless innings is legendary.  The record came over the last month of the season, when the Dodgers really needed the wins to pass the Reds to get into the postseason.  In his last start of the season, he needed to get over 9 scoreless innings to tie Drysdale’s record.  He threw the scoreless 9 innings, and his Dodger hitters played their part – scoring no runs. Hershiser pitched one more frame, broke Drysdale’s record, and he led the Dodgers to the World Series title that year.  Play Kirk Gibson’s home run all you want, but in mid-August the Dodgers were in a battle for the NL West and Danny Jackson had the Cy Young on lockdown.  Until Hershiser went on the most dominant month of pitching since I’ve been alive.

8) 1981 Topps Postseason Highlights #404 – Tug McGraw

1981 Topps Tug McGraw HL

I’m no Phillies fan, but I can certainly appreciate this moment.  For all the talk of the droughts of the Red Sox, White Sox and of course the Cubs – at the beginning of the 1980 season, the Philadelphia Phillies had never won a World Championship in the franchise’s 97-year history.  Only 5 franchises are older than the Phillies (Cubs, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates) – so showing the reaction to the clinching play of the series is really capturing a big moment in baseball history.

7) 1987 Topps Turn Back the Clock #315 – Maury Wills

1987 Topps Wills TBC

The TBC subset has always been one of my favorites.  It has something to do with me being such a big retro set fan, I think.  And this card is my favorite out of all those cards – because it has something unique to it.  Yes, it covers the 1962 season when Wills took home the MVP and broke Ty Cobb’s record for stolen bases in a season – becoming the first over 100 in the process.  But, what’s notable here is that Wills didn’t have a 1962 Topps card – he didn’t sign a contract for a few years with the company.  So Topps had to do some improvising and essentially create a 1962 card of the speedster.

6) 1982 Topps In Action #111 – Carlton Fisk

1982 Topps IA Fisk

The best card in an awesome subset that comes behind the relevant player’s base card.  This card of Fisk sprawling out to make a play is one of the best cards in the set, period.

5) 1987 Topps Record Breaker #1 – Roger Clemens

1987 Topps Clemens RB

The Rocket got card #1 in this set, thanks to his 20-strikeout performance during his incredible 1986 season.  It’s since been matched by Kerry Wood and again by himself – but the first to do this in a 9-inning game makes for one of the cooler cards out there.

4) 1984 Topps Highlights #4 – Ryan/Carlton/Perry

84T rookies-history

This card is right behind the accomplishment of the #2 card from this countdown.  After Walter Johnson was the career strikeout king for nearly 60 years, Ryan, Carlton and Perry all passed the Big Train in the same season.  Then Ryan and Carlton went back and forth for over a year as the current strikeout king.  This was such a big deal, it gets this card up there on this list.

3) 1983 Topps Record Breaker #2 – Rickey Henderson

83 Topps best subset Rickey

Another big accomplishment, this card honors Rickey shattering the single season SB record.  And it’s a cool photo with him looking for another steal. He’s got some dirt on his uniform, and that looks like a certain young shortstop for the Orioles, so I can assume he’s looking to take third for his 2nd swipe of the day!

2) 1986 Topps Record Breaker #206 – Pete Rose

86T Pete Rose cards

My favorite Reds card from the decade is my second favorite subset card of any player.  Mostly this is because of the historical significance.  Of all the accomplishments in baseball during my lifetime, Pete Rose passing Ty Cobb is definitely in the top 5.  It’s in the argument with McGwire passing Maris and Ripken passing Gehrig as the biggest events in baseball since 1980.  Bonds passing Aaron, the trio above passing the Big Train, Ryan’s 7 no-hitters and the Yankees winning 3 straight World Series is in that next tier.  But that still doesn’t get Pete top billing here – that goes to my favorite subset card from the 1980’s:

1) 1988 Topps Record Breaker #4 – Eddie Murray

1988 Topps Eddie Murray RB

I’ve always had a ton of love for this card.  1988 Topps was the set I spent hours poring over when I was a kid, and when you’re 8 years old putting Murray next to himself but on opposite sides of the plate – well that just blows your mind!  The card honors him hitting homers from both sides in 2 consecutive games.  That’s like a lower level of what Johnny Vander Meer did in the 1930’s – but it’s the photo and the design that makes this one awesome card!

The best Reds cards from Topps in the 1980’s

23 01 2013

Next up I’m going to do some of the top cards from the 1980’s decade in Topps.  And first I’ll do the best Reds cards of the decade.  When I consider this, I’m going to consider this from a pure Reds fan standpoint – not necessarily what is the best Topps card that happens to be a Red – but the cards that are the coolest to me as a Reds fan.  I didn’t have a set number in mind when I did this, but I figure there are at least 10 great Reds cards in this decade, so I’m going with that.

10) 1986 Topps #1 – Pete Rose

1986 Topps Pete Rose card 1

I’m not a big fan of Rose any more (I find betting on baseball the most appalling of sins a player could commit, and even more than that – I find it very hard to be a fan of someone who went out of his way to lie to the world for 15 years), but this card represents something that brings a lot of pride to native Cincinnatians.  Long before Big Mac and Sosa were roiding their way to the record book, Rose was breaking one of the most hallowed records in the books.  This card kind of represents that – Rose got card #1 for his feat, and Topps also did a 6-card subset to honor his career.

9) 1983 Topps #60 – Johnny Bench

83 Topps last card Bench

The last Topps card of the best catcher of all-time (or, at least his last regular Topps card).

8) 1988 Topps Traded #98T – Chris Sabo XRC

88 TT Sabo

Spuds MacKenzie took the town, the All-Star game and the Rookie of the Year award by storm in 1988, and this was his first Topps card that year.

7) 1988 Topps #150 – Eric Davis

1988 Topps Eric Davis

One of my favorite sets and one of my favorite players, in a great pose showing off his swing.

6) 1986 Topps #85 – Tony Perez

86T best pics_3

This was my favorite Reds card from this set – old school and new school meet in one of the cooler cards you can find out there.

5) 1985 Topps #627 – Eric Davis RC

1985 Topps eric davis RC

A cool-looking Rookie Card, and it’s of one of my favorite players of all-time.

4) 1980 Topps #400 – George Foster

1980 Big Red 3

I wrote about this card in my completed set for 1980 Topps – where this was my 2nd favorite card of the set.  I’ll recap that here.  It looks like he’s not really in the background, kind of like a 1970′s television show opening intro.  And it’s a Big Red Machine member.  Honorable mention goes to Nolan Ryan and Andre Dawson.

3) 1985 Topps #600 – Pete Rose

85T BRM Rose

Narrowly beats out the Davis RC, but Rose coming back to Cincinnati was too big of a deal to ignore his first card back in a Reds uniform.

2) 1987 Topps #648 – Barry Larkin RC

1987 Topps Larkin

It’s probably not the best photo, but it’s not a bad one.  And it’s

  • a) the rookie card
  • b) of a Hall of Famer
  • c) who played his whole career for the Reds
  • d) who was born in raised in Cincinnati (the first non-NY guy to make the HOF playing his entire career for his hometown team), AND
  • e) it’s from the 1987 Topps set which is one of my favorites.

1) 1986 Topps #206 – Pete Rose

86T Pete Rose cards

See the card at the top of this countdown for my reasoning.  Except this is the card that represents the record, and shows Rose breaking Cobb’s record.

The Reds and Great American to host the 2015 MLB All-Star Game!!!!

21 01 2013

I didn’t realize this announcement was forthcoming, but the news was leaked that the Reds are getting the 2015 All-Star Game!

Tall Stacks GABP 63004

Scoreboard Bleachers GABP 63004

15 years ago I saw Larkin and Sabo battling the American League in Riverfront Stadium.  In 2 years I hope to see Votto and Phillips doing the same at Great American Ballpark!

RIP Stan Musial, 1920-2013

20 01 2013

Wow, you’d never expect to have two baseball greats die on the same day.

Sparky Anderson died in late 2010, which was shortly after I’d really gotten started on this blog.  Since then, I’ve done a post each time a Hall of Famer passed away.  Unfortunately, this is my 8th such post – Sparky, Santo, Feller, Snider, Killebrew, Carter, Weaver and now Stan Musial.

Those are some great players, but Musial is up there in the pantheon of true greats.  Musial was the longest-tenured Hall of Famer still alive – inducted in 1969.  He was arguably the greatest living player, certainly one of the greatest 4 living players before he died yesterday (Mays, Bonds, Aaron would be the others).  Musial was special in another kind of way – he played for the same franchise in the same city.  Of the players generally considered as one of the 10 greatest in the history of the game, only Musial and Williams can claim that.  Like Aaron, he is universally revered by baseball fans.  Yesterday, Mays was asked about his death, and he pointed out that Musial always saw past race and he appreciated that.  By all accounts, Musial was an even better human being than a baseball player – he truly was “the Man”.

Some interesting tidbits about Musial:

  • He was born on November 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania.  Exactly 49 years to the day, another of baseball’s all-time greats was born on November 21, 1969 – Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • At the beginning of his career, Musial batted against New York Giant HOF pitcher Carl Hubbell, who once struck out Lou Gehrig (in the 1934 All-Star game).  At the end of his career, he faced off against San Francisco Giant HOF pitcher Gaylord Perry – who would later go on to strike out Cal Ripken Jr. (in 1982).
  • The last hit of his career was a single by a Reds’ rookie, first baseman Pete Rose – who would break Musial’s National League hits record nearly 2 decades later.
  • I’m pretty sure he’s the only player to play against both Jimmie Foxx and Pete Rose.
  • His 3 MVPs are eclipsed only by Bonds, and he actually finished 2nd in the MVP voting another 4 times – those 7 top 2 finishes is also only eclipsed by Bonds.  And his career MVP voting share is also behind just Bonds.
  • He finished with 3,630 hits – 1,815 on the road, 1,815 at home.
  • He was almost as symmetrical with scoring runs (1,949) and knocking them in (1,951).
  • He led the league in every hitting category but one – home runs.  His 39 homers in 1948 were one behind Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize, which put him as close as you can get to a triple crown without winning it.
  • He is tied with Mays for the second-most All-Star appearances all-time, with 24 (one behind Aaron).
  • His 7 NL batting titles are one behind Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner for the most in league history.
  • Musial, Williams and Johnny Callison are the only 3 players to hit a walk-off home run in the All-Star game.
  • He had 7 Hall of Fame teammates: Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Ducky Medwick, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bob Gibson, and manager Billy Southworth.
  • He missed by 5 years or less being Cardinal teammates with 8 other Hall of Famers – Lou Brock (1964), Steve Carlton (1965), and Orlando Cepeda (1966), Dizzy Dean (1937), Leo Durocher (1937), Frankie Frisch (1938), Walter Alston (1936), Jesse Haines (1937),

Below is Stan’s last Topps card – from 1963.  I think he may have been in the 1964 set in a subtle way – on the Cardinals team checklist card (though I don’t have a copy, so I can’t verify).

1963 Topps Stan Musial

I also think his Gypsy Queen card from last year’s set is one of the best in the whole set:

2012 Gypsy Queen 2nd best card Musial

RIP Earl Weaver, 1930-2013

19 01 2013

Earl Weaver passed away today at the age of 82.  I can’t add too much about Weaver that hasn’t already been said – there are a number of good reads online and I enjoyed hearing Tim Kurkjian’s interview & piece on the former Orioles skipper.  He was famous for the phrase “pitching, defense and the three-run homer”.  He also was a pioneer as a manager who use statistics and look for matchup advantages.  And as do most people my age who are too young to have seen some of Weaver’s best teams from the early 70’s and end of the 60’s, I think of him as a fiery manager who argued with umpires in colorful and interesting ways.

Weaver took over for Hank Bauer halfway through the 1968 season, less than 2 years after the Orioles had won their first World Series title.  He took them back to the Series in 1969, falling to the Amazing Mets that year.  The next year, he won his only championship, defeating the first version of the Big Red Machine.  In 1971, his team made a third straight World Series, falling to the Pirates and Series MVP Roberto Clemente in 7 games.  That Orioles team is one of two teams in MLB history to have 4 pitchers win 20 games (the other, interestingly being the 1920 White Sox just before 2 of their 20-game winners would get banned for life).

Weaver made it back to the Series one more time, again losing in 7 games to the Pirates in 1979.  (Side note – Tim Stoddard, who was a starting forward for the 1974 NCAA basketball champion NC State Wolfpack, pitched in that series. He was the first of two players who has played in a World Series and a Final Four – the other being Kenny Lofton).  Weaver retired in 1982, and the Orioles actually won their 3rd championship the next year under Joe Altobelli.  He briefly came out of retirement in 1985 and 1986 to replace the fired Altobelli.

I went to a few Orioles games in the old Memorial Stadium when I was much younger.  My grandparents lived out in the Chesapeake Bay area and we went to a few Oriole games with my grandfather and uncle.  I’m not sure if we would have gone to any games when he was the manager – it may have been just after his second stint with the team.

I found one thing while reading up on Weaver that was really interesting – Weaver used to try a tactic with the designated hitter that showed his cunning in trying to understand and exploit every rule in baseball.  In the 1980 season, Weaver would put one of starting pitchers who was not slated to pitch into the lineup as the DH.  Then, when the slot was up, he would pinch hit for the pitcher with the DH he really wanted to play.  This allowed him to wait in case the starting pitcher was pulled early, he would insert a guy who matched up better (righty/lefty) with the new pitcher.  Cy Young winner, Steve Stone, appeared in 12 games as a DH in 1980 – on top of the 37 starts he made that year!  And in a game against Detroit on September 17, 1980, the Tigers used the same strategy with Milt Wilcox as the “fake DH” (Stone was for the Orioles) – the only time I believe both teams did this.  Rules were changed in the 1980 offseason to keep this from happening – Weaver said he believed MLB didn’t like that it skewed pinch-hitting statistics.

It probably wasn’t something that gained a real advantage very often.  But it showed the drive Weaver tried to employ to get every advantage possible.  It’s sad to hear of his passing, but he was definitely a great ambassador for the game of baseball.  Below is the only scan I think I’ve featured of him on this blog – he was in the 1985 Topps Traded set and I showed him along with other Hall of Famers in that set.  Sadly, 2 of these 5 guys are no longer with us.  RIP Earl Weaver – 1930-2013.

85TT HOFers