Waiting ’til Next Year

30 06 2013

In mid-June I finished up a trade with Tom from the Waiting ’til Next Year blog.  Tom is, as you can guess from the name, a big Cubs fan.  I can sympathize a bit as my mom grew up in Chicago and I now live 2 blocks from Wrigley.  My sympathy ends there, however; I love that the Cubs have been the team that always seems to get my Reds back on track :)!

Regardless of all that, it looks like the Cubs will be waiting at least one more year.  But that doesn’t mean Tom and I can’t swap players.  There were two key cards at the center of this trade; I saw the following Eric Davis he’d pulled from an Archives pack:

Trade Waiting til Next Year Davis Archives auto

That was the impetus for the trade.  On my end, I had a Ron Santo jersey card from SP Legendary Cuts that I’ve had for a long time.  It’s a good card, but getting that Davis from the 1987 Topps design was well worth it to me!  I also sent Tom a random assortment of Cubbies, and he sent me a few Topps inserts and a Joey Votto Bowman card:

Trade Waiting til Next Year

Thanks for the trade Tom!

Completed insert set – 2012 Allen & Ginter World’s Tallest Buildings

28 06 2013

I finished off a regular size insert set from last year’s Ginter product.  I don’t focus too much on getting these, but I thought I had this finished, realized I still needed one card, and got that card from COMC.

Info about the set:

Set description: “10 cards celebrating the most impressive edifices in the world.”

I’m not sure where they were going with the today comment – the Sovereign of the Seas was from the 17th century, and the most recent ship in this set is from the early 1900’s.

Set composition: 10 cards, 1:10 odds (2012 Allen & Ginter’s)

Hall of Famers: None as it’s not a sports set.

How I put the set together:

  • 3 cards from my hobby box
  • 1 card from a case break
  • 5 cards from trades
  • 1 card from COMC

Thoughts on the set:  The set doesn’t feature the tallest buildings in the world today – but 10 buildings that have, at one point, been the tallest in the world (except for card #10).  I didn’t know that until I finished the set and looked into it a little bit.  This set fits into what Topps does with A&G.

Card that completed my set: WTB9 – Woolworth Building.

I got this card from a recent COMC purchase.  I thought I’d completed the set earlier but realized that I had 2 card number 7’s in my set!  D’oh!

Highest book value: They all book for the same

Best card (my opinion): #WTB1 – Burj Khalifa

Got to go with the tallest one, right?  Especially when it dwarfs the next tallest building in the world!

2012 Ginter Tall Buildings_0001

2012 Ginter Tall Buildings

Like most Ginter sets – this is another one of those different kinds of sets.  Here’s a list of the buildings. I can’t believe how much bigger the tallest one is!

  • WTB1 – Burj Khalifa, 2,722 feet.  2010.
  • WTB2 – Taipei 101. 1,670 feet.  2004.
  • WTB3 – Petronas Towers.  1,483 feet.  1998.
  • WTB4 – Willis Tower.  1,450 feet.  1973.
  • WTB5 – 1 World Trade Center.  1,360 feet.  2013.
  • WTB6 – Empire State Building.  1,250 feet.  1931.
  • WTB7 – Chrysler Building.  1,047 feet.  1930.
  • WTB8 – 40 Wall Street (Bank of Manhattan Building).  927 feet.  1930.
  • WTB9 – Woolworth Building.  792 feet.  1913.
  • WTB10 – Metlife Building.  808 feet.  1963.

Completed set – 2012 Topps Heritage

27 06 2013

I finished my 2012 Heritage set in the Check Out My Cards purchase earlier this month.  This is obviously a “big fish” as far as completed sets go – with 75 SPs and 425 regular cards, it took me about a year and 3 months to wrap this guy up.  Surprisingly, I actually completed this one up about a month quicker than the previous year; I finished 2011 Heritage up in early August 2012.

I haven’t completed the “master set” yet, though I am fairly close on that, too.  I’m 12 cards away from the sticker set and have 1 JFK and 1 New Age Performer left for those insert sets.

Whenever I do finish up the master set, I’ll repost this with the insert information at the bottom.  It’s worth noting that I’m including the Update portion of this set.  It’s sort of sequentially numbered, except Topps screwed up and numbered it from 576 to 675, which skips card #’s 501-575.

Info about my set:

How I put the set (non-SP / then SP) together:

  • 200 (192/8) cards from my 1st hobby box
  • 200 (192/8) cards from my 2nd hobby box
  • 9 base cards from various retail packs
  • 46 (31/15) cards from trades
  • 5 (1/4) cards from Sportlots
  • 9 SP cards from eBay lots
  • 4 SP cards from a card show
  • 27 SP cards from Check Out My Cards
  • 100 card update set purchased directly from Topps

Card that completed my set: #480 – Carlos Gonzalez (1 of 10 SP cards I got from a Check Out My Cards purchase)

2012 Heritage 480 CarGo last card

General Set Info:

Base Set composition: 500 cards (423 individual player cards, 18 managers, 10 League Leaders, 11 Combination cards, 7 World Series Highlights, 12 Team Cards, 19 Rookie Parade)

Base Set & Update composition: 600 cards (515 individual player cards, 8 duplicate players in Update*, 18 managers, 10 League Leaders, 11 Combination cards, 7 World Series Highlights, 12 Team Cards, 19 Rookie Parade)

* – Cody Ross, Ichiro, Juan Pierre, Johnny Damon, Edwin Jackson, Chris Iannetta, Bobby Abreu, Marco Scutaro are all featured on their new team

Earliest active current player from this set: #605 – Jamie Moyer

2012 Heritage 605 oldest Jamie Moyer

When I’ve done this for other sets – I do “last active player”, but for Heritage I do the earliest player.  For last year’s set it was Pudge, but he retired in between 2011 and 2012.  And there’s an even earlier player in this set – much earlier than Pudge, actually.  Jamie Moyer is in the Update set with the Rockies; he made his debut on June 16, 1986.  It would be interesting to know how many players from the set were born after Moyer’s debut!

Jim Thome has the earliest debuts from cards in the regular set (card #296) – he made his debut September 4, 1991.

2012 Heritage 296 oldest Jim Thome

Player with the most cards in the set:  Adron Chambers – 6 cards.

For some unknown reason, Topps put some of the rookie crop on multiple Rookie Parade cards.  Chambers had the most, as he was featured on 5 Rookie Parade cards.  He also has a single player card.

Chambers – #54, 95, 208, 265, 321 (Rookie Parade), #458

2012 Heritage Adron Chambers most cards

Justin Verlander had the most cards if you don’t count Topps strange decision on the rookie thing.  He has 5 cards – 3 league leader cards to honor each statistic from the pitching triple crown he won, a combo card and his base card.

Verlander – #6, 8, 10 (League Leaders), #218 (Tigers Twirlers), #44

2012 Heritage Justin Verlander most cards

First Card and the Hundreds: #1 – NL Batting Leaders, #100 – Paul Konerko, #200 – Curtis Granderson, #300 – Carlos Beltran, #400 – Jay Bruce, #500 – Michael Cuddyer, #600 – Yu Darvish

2012 Heritage #1 and 100s_0001

Highest book value: #650 – Bryce Harper RC (see below)

Of course the Update set would get this since it had fairly limited production of 1,000 sets.  Harper’s card is currently valued at ~$60 by Beckett.  From the base set, David Wright, Eric Hosmer and Ichiro all have SP cards valued at $10.

Most notable card: #650 – Bryce Harper RC

2012 Heritage 650 Bryce Harper

Harper isn’t my favorite guy out there, but it’s hard to pick anything but his card as particularly “notable”.

Best card (my opinion): #279 – Matt Kemp

2012 Heritage Matt Kemp best card

Great picture of the guy who looked like he would have the title best player in baseball when this set came out.  Unfortunately, injuries have kept that from happening, but here’s hoping he turns that around.  This was one I didn’t even have to think about or go through cards – I’ve known this was my favorite card from the set.

Second best card (also my opinion): #44 – Justin Verlander (see above)

Verlander was just off my medal stand in 2011 Heritage, but I’m putting him as the runner-up for 2012.  This nudges out the card for Jose Bautista which I also really like.  I may like the Bautista photo just a little better.  But Verlander was coming off a historic season – winning the pitching triple crown and the AL MVP – when this card was released, so that makes it better for me.

Best subset card:  #331 – “World Series Foes” (Pujols / Hamilton)

2012 Heritage Pujols Hamilton best subset

Kudos to Topps with the foresight here!  These guys now play on the same team, moving places as the back to back “biggest free agent signings” in the past two off-seasons.  Too bad they won’t be “World Series Buddies” this year, though.  This card beats out a combo card of Mo Rivera and Joe Girardi.

Favorite action photo: #248 – Kosuke Fukudome

2012 Heritage Fukudome best action

There aren’t many action cards in the Heritage set, but this is a good one.

Favorite non-action photo: #279 – Kemp (see above)

I couldn’t decide if I would count the Kemp in this category.  It is clearly a pose, so I decided it counts – otherwise I’d have put Verlander here.

My Favorite Reds card: #304 – Brandon Phillips

2012 Heritage Phillips pack

Brandon always has great photos.  This is an easy winner.  I’m using a previous picture where I had shown him next to a pack – hence why that wrapper is shown here.

Other Notable Cards: Here’s that Bautista card as well as 2 other cards I thought were fairly notable – a Cespedes RC and Ichiro as a Yankee (both from the Update portion of the set).

2012 Bautista Cespedes_0001

Check Out My Cards! June 2013 – my first Heritage “Topps Giants”

25 06 2013

At the beginning of June, I went on one of those splurges I do 3-4x a year to supplement my collection.  I’d love to wait around to trade for every single card on my wantlist, but that isn’t feasible.  And, I find some pretty decent deals on these sites and really knock out some holes on those lists.  I’m (hopefully) not going to have one of these splurges any time soon – now that I live in Chicago I plan to save some money up for the National Convention that will be here in the first week of August.

This splurge was typical – it involved a combination of Check Out My Cards and Sportlots – and this post shows of the COMC portion of those purchases.  What started it was that I found a deal on two cards and put them in my “inventory”:

COMC June 13 - Jalen Grant Hill_0001

The recently retired Grant Hill.  But the reason I bought it was that this was a Jalen Rose card I needed.  I recently went over 1,000 different Jalen Rose cards, but this is one from late in his career.  There are two versions – this is the one numbered out of 50 that I didn’t have yet.

The other card was this Eddie Mathews Heritage box topper.  It may be a pipe dream, but I’d love to get all of these at some point.  Hopefully they come down to a more reasonable price!

2013 Heritage Giants Mathews

So from there, I bought a bunch more cards.  This Ginter insert finished a set I thought I’d already finished but hadn’t yet.  Look for the completed post later!

COMC June 13 - A&G Tallest

I also got a few more Lineage 1975 minis.  I’m right around 50 to go to finish the set – but that’s 75% of the way there!

COMC June 13 - Lineage 75 minis

And I bought 10 SPs from 2012 Heritage.  Ah, wasn’t it nice when they didn’t make every SP card a star player?  Cargo is the best player in this group.

COMC June 13 - 2012 Heritage

The rest of the cards I bought are various Topps insert cards.  I found quite a few good deals on the Topps reprints from the late 90’s – about 21 all told, but here’s 9 of them.  I’m collecting the regular and Finest variations (but not the refractors).  A bunch of the Mays cards were $1, and some good deals on the others, too.  The bottom Mantle is pretty interesting – it seems like they made a bigger deal about winning the home run crown (or other statistical title) than they do these days!

COMC June 13 - Topps reprints

Some inserts were from 95-96.

COMC June 13 - 95 96 inserts

And then some were from 1997.

COMC June 13 - 97 inserts

And even some from 1998 – I’ve opened these but haven’t posted about it yet.  That will be coming up soon.

COMC June 13 - 98 inserts

I also got some cards from a few sellers on Sportlots – those will be in a post in the near future!

Trade with Baseball Card Locker

24 06 2013

I finished another trade (I think this is the third? maybe fourth?) with Anthony of Baseball Card Locker.  Anthony and I are both going after Heritage, so we swapped some serious Heritage cards.  Here’s just a few of what he sent me:

Trade Anthony June 13 - Heritage 2013 Inserts

We stepped away from Heritage too for this trade.  I also sent Anthony some Topps “1972” minis from this year’s flagship product, and a couple of Manny Machado parallels I’d pulled.  Anthony sent me some 2013 Topps inserts.  I really like those die-cut cards!

Trade Anthony June 13 - Topps 2013 Inserts

And some 2012 Topps inserts:

Trade Anthony June 13 - Topps 2012 Inserts

Thanks for another great trade Anthony!

My 1997 All-Star selections and Silver Slugger comparison

23 06 2013

My opinion of the best player at each position in each league.  For pitchers, I pick 3 starters and 1 reliever.  I’m now including DH in the American League.  Here’s the 1997 version:

My NL All-Stars: C – Mike Piazza, LAD (.362/40/124)

1B – Jeff Bagwell, HOU (.286/43/135, 146 R)

2B – Craig Biggio, HOU (.309/22/81, 47 SB,  146 R)

3B – Edgardo Alfonso, NYM (.315/10/72)

SS – Jeff Blauser, ATL (.308/17/70)

OF – Larry Walker, COL (.366/49/130, .452 OBP.720 SLG, MVP)

OF – Barry Bonds, SFG (.286/40/101, 145 BB, .446 OBP, 37 SB)

OF – Tony Gwynn, SDP (.372/17/119, 220 H, 49 2B)

SP – Pedro Martinez, MON (17-8/1.90/305, 13 CG, 4 SHO, 241.1 IP, Cy Young)

SP – Greg Maddux, ATL (19-4/2.20/177)

SP – Kevin Brown, FLA (16-8/2.69/205)

RP – Jeff Shaw, CIN (4-2/2.38/74, 42 SV)

Third base was the toughest decision – Scott Rolen as a rookie was very close to Alfonso.  It really is a pick ’em if you go down the list on their stats – I ended up picking Alfonso because he struck out less than half as many times as Rolen.  Curt Schilling, who led the league with 319 strikeouts, was also very notable as the 4th best pitcher, but Brown was clearly better for that last spot.

My AL All-Stars: C – Ivan Rodriguez, TEX (.315/20/77)

1B – Frank Thomas, CHW (.347/35/125, .456 OBP)

2B – Chuck Knoblauch, MIN (.291/9/58, 62 SB)

3B – Matt Williams, CLE (.263/32/105)

SS – Nomar Garciaparra, BOS (.306/30/98, 122 R, 209 H, 11 3B, ROY)

OF – Ken Griffey Jr., SEA (.304/56/147.646 SLG125 R, MVP)

OF – Tim Salmon, CAL (.296/33/129)

OF – Bernie Williams, NYY (.328/21/100)

DH – Edgar Martinez, SEA (.330/28/108, .456 OBP)

SP – Roger Clemens, TOR (21-7/2.05/2929 CG, 3 SHO, 264 IP, Cy Young)

SP – Randy Johnson, SEA (20-4/2.28/291)

SP – Andy Pettitte, NYY (18-7/2.88/166)

RP – Mariano Rivera, NYY (6-4/1.88/68, 43 SV)

Roberto Alomar was again very close at second base, but Knoblauch was a little better.  Paul O’Neill was also right there in the argument for the last outfield spot – bumped out by his teammate Williams.  Dave Justice, in his first year in the American League, could have been in that argument as well.  Shortstop was incredibly deep this year – with A-Rod, Jeter, and Jay Bell all being better than any NL shortstop.  But Nomar was clearly the best.  Tino Martinez was also great at first base, just not quite as good as the Big Hurt.


NL Silver Slugger: C – Piazza, 1B – Bagwell, 2B – Biggio, 3B – Vinny Castilla (.304/40/113), SS – Blauser, OF – Walker, Bonds, Gwynn, P – Smoltz ATL (.228/0/4)

Castilla’s numbers are inflated from Coors Field, and he wasn’t very good defensively – he was the third best 3rd baseman in the NL in 1997.

AL Silver Sluggers: C – Rodriguez, 1B – Tino Martinez NYY (.296/44/141), 2B – Knoblauch, 3B – Williams, SS – Garciaparra, OF – Griffey, Dave Justice CLE (.329/33/101), Juan Gonzalez TEX (.296/42/131),  DH – Martinez

Juan Gonzalez always had great power numbers, but he just didn’t get on base to really be up there with guys like O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Justice.  I do think Justice has a good case over Williams or Salmon – it’s really close.  At first base, Tino was nearly as good as Frank Thomas – but he wasn’t as good.  That’s probably a New York bias factor getting in there.

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #33 – Hudepohl Classic Porter

22 06 2013

Continuing with my theme, here’s another Cincinnati beer under the Hudepohl brand.  This one was new in the Winter of 2012/2013.


Brewery:  Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company, Cincinnati, OH

(now a wholly owned subsidiary of Christian Moerlein Brewing Co., and the beer is actually brewed in Wilkes-Barre, PA)

Beer:  Hudepohl Classic Porter

Description:  This porter was a new product this past winter from the Hudepohl brand.  It pours dark brown and has a roasted malt taste with a bit of caramel.  It doesn’t have some of the stronger coffee-like flavor that some porters have – this is definitely a milder take on a porter, with just a slight amount of bitterness.

Medium:  I bought a 6-pack of 12 ounce cans, and you could find it tapped in some Cincinnati restaurants and bars last holiday season.

How it’s related to baseball:  It isn’t this beer – as this is a new entry to the Hudepohl name.  But Hudepohl itself is probably the most recognizable of the many Cincinnati breweries which have recently been consolidated under the Christian Moerlein name.  I think of Hudepohl most commonly as a Bengals beer, as they used to play off the “Who Dey” chant with the name “Hudy”.  But Hudepohl was also a sponsor of the Reds.

Hudepohl traces its beginnings to the late 1800’s when a number of German-style brews popped up in Cincinnati in response to the immigration wave that came from that part of Europe.  Hudepohl survived through prohibition and was the leading brewer in Cincinnati in the times after World War II.  Like many regional breweries, it had significant troubles in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and eventually merged with Cincinnati rival Schoenling Brewing in 1986.  The merged company   switched hands a few times, going from Sam Adams to Crooked River to Frederick Brewing before a local Cincinnati businessman purchased the brand and many other Cincinnati beer brands.  He consolidated them using Moerlein as the flagship brand and company name, and some Cincinnati tradition has returned ever since!

Hudepohl first started advertising with the Reds at Crosley Field around in either the late 1930’s or in 1940.  See the ad in the outfield below, next to Red Top beer, which was another Cincinnati brewer.

Crosley Field Red Top

They got a more prominent spot on the Crosley scoreboard in the 1950’s (I think 1957) as shown here:

Crosley Hudepohl ad 1957

Also, Hudepohl came out with some commemorative Reds cans to celebrate the 1975 World Series champions.  I have a set back at my parents’ house – somewhere up in the attic!

Hudepohl Reds 1975 can

Today you can find Hudepohl throughout Cincinnati, and in early 2012 Moerlein opened a lager house in the Banks project in downtown Cincinnati.  This is an area between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium.  They served this beer and quite a few other Cincinnati classics under the Moerlein umbrella.  So you can hit the lager house up before or after a Reds game.  I can’t tell you how cool this is as someone who grew up in Cincinnati.  Even 10 years ago there really wasn’t any option near GABP or near Riverfront Stadium before it.  Some good options came up when I was in college across the Ohio River – but now there are some good options right next door.

1997 Season – statistics

20 06 2013

All-Star Game: AL over NL, 3-1 at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, OH     (Sandy Alomar Jr., MVP)

Home Run Derby: Tino Martinez 16 – beat Larry Walker 3-1 in the final     (AL over NL, 32-29)

ALDS: Cleveland Indians over New York Yankees, 3-2

Baltimore Orioles over Seattle Mariners, 3-1

NLDS: Florida Marlins over San Francisco Giants, 3-0

Atlanta Braves over Houston Astros, 3-0

ALCS: Indians over Orioles, 4-2

NLCS: Marlins over Braves, 4-2

World Series: Marlins over Indians, 4-3


MVP: AL – Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Seattle Mariners (.304/56/147, .646 SLG, 125 R, GG)

NL – Larry Walker, OF, Colorado Rockies (.366/49/130, .452 OBP, .720 SLGGG)

Cy Young: AL – Roger Clemens, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (21-7/2.05/292, 9 CG, 3 SHO, 264 IP)

NL – Pedro Martinez, SP, Montreal Expos (17-8/1.90/305, 13 CG, 4 SHO, 241.1 IP)

RoY: AL – Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Boston Red Sox (.306/30/98, 122 R, 209 H, 11 3B)

NL – Scott Rolen, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (.283/21/92)


MLB Amateur Draft:

Matt Anderson, P, DET (1st overall pick)

JD Drew, OF, PHI (1st #2 – did not sign) – 2008 All-Star Game MVP

Troy Glaus, 3B, ANA (1st #3) – 320 career HR, 2002 WS MVP

Vernon Wells, OF, TOR (1st #5) – 3x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove

Lance Berkman, 1B, HOU (1st #16) – 6x All-Star, 2011 NL Comeback PoY, 350+ HR, 1,200 + RBI

Chase Utley, SS, LAD (2nd #76)– 5x All-Star

Michael Young, SS, TOR (5th #149) – 7x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove, 6x 200 Hits, 2005 AL Batting Champ, 2,100+ career H, 400+ career 2B

Antwaan Randle-El, OF, CHC (14th #424) – 2005 NFL All-Pro, first NCAA player with 40 rushing & passing TD, played varsity football, baseball & basketball at Indiana

David Eckstein, 2B, BOS (19th #581) – 2006 World Series MVP, 2x All-Star


Wells, Eagles

Hall of Fame: Phil Niekro, SP, Atlanta Braves (4th ballot)

Nellie Fox, 2B, Chicago White Sox (VC)

Tommy LaSorda, MGR, Los Angeles Dodgers (VC)

Willie Wells, SS, St. Louis Stars, Newark Eagles (VC)


Batting Leaders:

Avg. (AL) Frank Thomas CHW .347, (NL) Tony Gwynn SDP .372

HR (AL) Griffey Jr. SEA 56, (NL) Walker COL 49

(Note – Mark McGwire actually led the majors with 58 homers, though he was traded from Oakland to St. Louis mid-season)

RBI (AL) Griffey Jr. SEA 147, (NL) Galarraga COL 140

R (AL) Griffey Jr. SEA 125, (NL) Craig Biggio HOU 146

SB (AL) Brian L. Hunter DET 74, (NL) Tony Womack PIT 60

H (AL) Garciaparra BOS 209, (NL) Gwynn SDP 220

Pitching Leaders:

W (AL) Clemens TOR 21, (NL) Denny Neagle ATL 20

ERA (AL) Clemens TOR 2.05, (NL) Martinez MON 1.90

K (AL) Clemens TOR 292, (NL) Curt Schilling PHI 319

SV (AL) Randy Myers BAL 45, (NL) Jeff Shaw CIN 42


Trends and Stats:

6 players above .330 AVG, 3 above .350 AVG

30 players above 30 HR, 12 above 40 HR, 2 above 50 HR

35 players above 100 RBI, 11 above 120 RBI

7 player above 50 SB

4 players above 200 H

4 pitchers above 20 W

10 pitchers above 200 K, 4 above 250 K, 2 above 300 K

13 pitchers below 3.00 ERA, 4 below 2.50 ERA, 1 below 2.00 ERA

5 pitchers above 250 IP

3 pitchers above 40 SV


Tomorrow I’ll post my standard All-Star selections and compare to the silver slugger winners for the year.

1997 Cincinnati Reds season

19 06 2013

Make no bones about it, the 1997 Reds not only underachieved, they just weren’t all that good for most of the year.  Ray Knight started the season in his second year as manager.  About the only good thing about the start of the year – the Reds got opening day back temporarily by hosting the first game of the year.  They won that game and the next, but then lost 19 of the next 31.  They reached a low point of 14-31  on May 23rd.  From there, the team did play respectably, never falling below 17 games under .500, but the team was never in contention.  Ray Knight was fired after 100 games, and replaced with Jack McKeon.  Under McKeon, they did post a winning record, climbing to 76 wins for the season and 3rd place in the division.

Injuries were a big factor – former stars Barry Larkin (played in only 73 games), Reggie Sanders (86) and Hal Morris (96) all missed significant time.  The starting pitching was below average – Brett Tomko (11-7, 3.43) was the lone bright spot in the rotation.  Looking at the team’s statistics, it’s actually hard to see how they won 76 games.

A big reason for that was closer Jeff Shaw, who saved a league-leading 42 games.  The team’s Pythagorean W-L record was actually 69 wins, so Shaw’s performance clearly helped them take some close victories.  He won the Rolaids Relief Award for his efforts.  The team also had some speed, stealing 190 bases, which easily led the majors.  Deion Sanders came out of retirement to lead the way there – he stole 56 bases which was 2nd in the league to Tony Womack.  Willie Greene was also a bright spot – the 25-year old hit 26 home runs with 91 RBI.  Brett Boone had a down year offensively, but he did set the Major League record for the best fielding percentage by a second baseman (.997).

Unfortunately for the Reds, the biggest story of 1997 may have been the number of family ties to previous generations of Reds glory.  Pete Rose, Jr. saw the only Major League action of his career in 1997 – his 2 hits in 14 at bats were 4,254 less than that of his father.  Another Big Red Machine son was on the team – Tony Perez’s son Eduardo, who did hit 16 homers and knock in 53 runs when Morris was out of the lineup.  September 2nd was the first day both guys played in the same game.  Aaron Boone made his Major League debut for the Reds in 1997, mid-June, and on the 22nd he and Brett both played in the same Major League game.

Larkin was the team’s only All-Star – he made his 9th All-Star team in 10 years, but only played 16 games after the middle of June.  As with the year before, Cincinnati had the Rolaids Relief Winner named Jeff (Brantley & Shaw) – though, both years the closer didn’t merit an All-Star game nod.

Team MVP & Best Pitcher: Jeff Shaw (4-2/2.38/74, 42 SV, Rolaids Relief Award)

Award Winners:

Shaw, Rolaids Relief


Barry Larkin

1997 MLB playoffs

18 06 2013

Division Series:

The ’97 playoffs were the last time that MLB incorporated the ridiculous format where seeding for the division champions (and home field advantage) was predetermined.  In the National League, this meant the Astros got the 2 seed despite have the worst record of any team qualifying for the playoffs (and the 6th best record in the league).  The Giants got the first seed, and the Braves had the 3rd seed despite having the best record in baseball.  I’m not sure why MLB did this other than a minor help with planning.  The matchups actually would have been the same in the NL since the Marlins won the Wild Card out of the same division.

Marlins at Giants

The Fish actually had the 2nd best NL record behind the Braves, and they made quick work out of the NL West Champion Giants.  Kirk Rueter was every good as Marlins’ ace Kevin Brown, but Edgar Renteria singled home a run in the bottom of the 9th to give Florida its first playoff victory in walkoff fashion.  Al Leiter and Shawn Estes were equally bad in game 2, as new Marlin pickups Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla both homered to keep the scoring close at 6-6 through 8+ innings.  But Moises Alou singled home Sheffield in the bottom of the 9th for another walkoff victory. Back at Candlestick Park, Jeff Kent hit 2 home runs for the Giants, but that was all they mustered.  A Devon White grand slam was all the Marlins needed to win 6-2 and sweep San Francisco.

Braves at Astros

The Braves made similar work over the Astros, who had made their first playoffs in over a decade.  But the Braves were playing their first playoffs in Turner Field, which had been built for the Olympics.  Ace Greg Maddux was dominant in a 2-1 complete game victory to open the series, and the Braves spotted Tom Glavine 13 runs in game 2.  Smoltz was just as good in game 3, also completing the game in a 4-1 win to seal the sweep.

Mariners at Orioles

In the American League, the Orioles had the best record and by chance had the AL East getting the #1 seed, while the Mariners got slotted in the #3 seed despite a better record than AL Central champ Cleveland.  Baltimore won the first two games, both 9-3.  Back in Baltimore, the Mariners staved off elimination one more day with a 4-2 victory.  But Mike Mussina shut the door in game 4, beating Mariner 20-game winner Randy Johnson for the 2nd time in the series.

Yankees at Indians

The other ALDS pitted the past two American League Champions and was the best series of the bunch.  The Yankees were the defending World Champions, featuring a balanced offense with solid pitching that won the Wild Card by 12 games.  The Indians featured the 3rd best offense in baseball (behind the Mariners and the Yankees), but average pitching.  The Tribe jumped on David Cone in game 1 – to the tune of 5 runs in the first inning.  But Indian pitching couldn’t hold the lead – Derek Jeter, Tim Raines and Paul O’Neill hit the only back-to-back-to-back home runs in postseason history to cap an 8-6 comeback Yankee win.  Cleveland returned the favor when the Yankees scored 3 runs in the first inning of game 2 off of rookie Jaret Wright.  But Andy Pettitte couldn’t hold the lead.  A 2-out, 5-run rally in the top of the 4th followed by a 2-run 5th inning homer by Matt Williams led to a 7-5 Indians win after Wright settled down the rest of the way.

In Cleveland for game 3, O’Neill hit a grand slam and David Wells gave up just one run to put the Yankees on the verge of clinching.  Game 4 felt like a return to the 1980’s, as former NL Cy Young winners Dwight Gooden and Orel Hershiser battled to a 2-1 Yankee lead in the 8th inning.  But a Sandy Alomar, Jr. homer off closer Mariano Rivera tied it in the 8th, and the Indians played small ball off of Ramiro Mendoza to garner a walk-off win in the bottom of the 9th.

Game 5 featured a rematch between Wright & Pettitte, and again the rookie outdid the Yankee star.  A couple of 2-out hits in the third and a sac fly in the 4th led to a 4-0 lead for the Indians.  The Yankees got it back to 4-3, but Jose Mesa induced a deep fly ball from O’Neill (with the tying run on 2nd) to clinch the series.

Championship Series:

Marlins at Braves

The teams with the two best records in the NL faced off in the NLCS – division rivals Atlanta and Florida.  At Turner Field for game 1, Maddux couldn’t work around poor defense behind him, giving up 5 unearned runs in the top of the 1st and 3rd innings.  Kevin Brown was solid and the Braves couldn’t come back, losing 5-3.  Glavine was excellent, though, in the next game, giving up just 1 run and tying the series at 1 all.

In Miami, Cuban defector Livan Hernandez came on in relief in the top of the 6th, getting the Marlins out of a jam and within 1 run.  The Marlins knocked Smoltz out of the game in the bottom of the inning behind a 3-run double by Charles Johnson.  They scored 4 runs and took the series lead.  Atlanta evened it back up, however, when 20-game winner Denny Neagle threw a shutout in game 4.  But Hernandez came back in game 5 – this time as a starter – to outduel the great Maddux.  Hernandez pitched a 3-hit, 15-strikeout gem to win, 2-1, though the game is unfortunately remembered for the wide strike zone of umpire Eric Gregg.  If you ever see video of the called 3rd strike of Fred McGriff to end the game, you’ll know what I mean.

Tom Glavine wasn’t up to the task back in Atlanta, giving up 7 runs as the Fish closed out the first World Series berth for any of the expansion teams of the 1990’s.

Indians at Orioles

The ALCS was also a 6 game upset of league’s best team.  The Orioles came out strong in game 1, shutting out the Tribe, 3-0, behind Scott Erickson and closer Randy Myers.  Baltimore looked to take a stranglehold in game 2, up 4-2 in the 8th.  But speedster Marquis Grissom hit a shocking 3-run homer that held up, 5-4.

Back in Jacobs Field, Orel Hershiser looked to add his incredible postseason resumé, but he had to do so against O’s Ace Mussina.  Mussina struck out 15 batters, but Hershiser didn’t allow a run and Cleveland had a 1-0 lead in the 9th.  Grissom looked to be the goat this time, though – he lost a ball in the lights that allowed Baltimore to tie the game and force extra innings.  He ended up winning a 2nd consecutive game, though.  In the 12th inning, Grissom was on 3rd base when a Myers pitch got by catcher Lenny Webster.  Grissom alertly stole home, as Myers and Webster thought the pitch had been fouled by batter Omar Vizquel.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d be shocked if this isn’t the only walk-off steal of home in playoff history.  The next game was not nearly the pitcher’s duel, though it also ended in walk-off fashion.  After a combined 5 home runs, the game was tied 7-7 in the bottom of the 9th.  Alomar, Jr. continued his hot postseason, singling in Manny Ramirez with 2 out to give Cleveland a third straight 1-run victory.

Facing elimination on the road, Baltimore did come back to win game 5.  Eric Davis, months after treatment for colon cancer, led the way with a home run in the 4-2 win.  But Cleveland notched yet another 1-run victory in game 6.  Neither team notched a run through 10 innings, but Tony Fernandez homered off of Armando Benitez with 2 outs in the 11th, and  Jose Mesa struck out the Oriole Alomar brother (Roberto) to seal the team’s 2nd World Series trip in 3 years.  Cleveland won all 4 games by a 1-run margin – in fact, the Orioles actually outscored them without going the full 7 games.

World Series:

Indians at Marlins

The ’97 World Series was another 7-game classic.  Alou and Johnson hit back-to-back homers to help the Marlins to a 7-4 victory in the first World Series game in Florida.  NLCS MVP Hernandez pitched good enough to outlast the aging postseason legend Hershiser.  The Tribe returned the favor the next night, getting to ace Kevin Brown for 3 runs on 4 singles in the 5th.

Game 3 was another high scoring affair – Cleveland was up 7-3, but the Marlins evened it back up so it was tied at 7 after 8 innings.  But the 9th is where the runs really poured out.  Eric Plunk faced Bobby Bonilla to start the inning; 4 singles, 3 errors, 3 walks and a wild pitch later, and the Marlins former 7-3 deficit was a 14-7 lead.  7 runs without an extra base hit – in the 9th inning of a World Series game, no less!  The Indians actually made it interesting, scoring 4 runs off of Rob Nen to get to 14-11.  Cleveland scored double digits the next game to win 10-3 and even the back-and-forth series.  But Hershiser was not very good for the 2nd time that series, and Hernandez was again just good enough.  3 runs in the 9th weren’t enough for Cleveland to catch up – they lost 8-7.

Back in Florida, the offensive series suddenly became more normal.  Chad Ogea again outpitched Brown, and the Tribe won 4-1 to force a decisive game 7.  This was one of the best game 7’s in World Series history.  Rookie Jaret Wright went on short rest and shut the Marlins down to take a 2-run lead into the 7th.  Bonilla homered off Wright, but the Indians bullpen got through the next inning-plus to take a 2-1 lead into the 9th.  Jose Mesa gave up 2 singles, and Craig Counsell scored Moises Alou on sac fly to right – to force extra innings in the deciding game of the season!

In the bottom of the 11th, manager Mike Hargrove brought in starter Charles Nagy.  Bobby Bonilla singled to lead off the inning, and an out later Counsell hit what should have been an inning-ending double play.  But Fernandez misplayed it, and all runners were safe.  After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Nagy did get Bonilla out on a fielder’s choice, but Edgar Renteria singled Counsell home to win the series.

The Marlins were the first Wild Card team to win the title, and they were the first championship team to be completely dismantled the next year…