Sunday, July 15, 2012

#197 Jim Eisenreich - Minnesota Twins

This isn't your run-of-the-mill rookie card.  Jim Eisenreich would not appear in a Topps set again until 1988.  More on that later.  As far as I can tell, he never wore number 56 during a regular season game, so I am assuming this is a spring training picture.

Player:  Jim Eisenreich was a 16th round draft pick of the Twins in 1980. He excelled in the minors and won the centerfield job to start the '82 season.  Statistically he was doing well in his rookie campaign but Eisenreich's fight with a then undiagnosed nervous condition began to wear on him.  With his twitches and facial ticks increasing, he was sent to the DL in May after he pulled himself out of five consecutive games.  With doctors still unsure of his affliction, Eisenreich returned and soldiered on for a few more weeks before ending his season to seek treatment.  In 111 plate appearances he batted .303 with a 118 OPS+.

Comeback attempts at the beginning of '83 and '84 were short lived and Eisenreich retired at age 25.  As two years passed, Eisenreich was dominating the local semi-pro league. During this time he had been finally given a proper diagnosis, Tourette's Syndrome.  He received treatment and was encouraged by friends to try a comeback and he signed with the Royals.  After hitting .382 at Memphis he was called up and his journey back to the majors was a great story.  Eisenreich DH'd but failed to find his batting stroke as he hit just .238. He followed that up with a .218 mark in a part time role in '88.

Eisenreich started the '89 season as a reserve but by the end of April was in the lineup nearly everyday and playing all three outfield spots.  For the year, he hit 9 home runs, stole 27 bases, and posted a .293/.341/.448 line.  He had a decent year as a regular in 1990 while batting .280.  He platooned the next two years and hit .301 and .269. 

After the '92 season Eisenreich signed with Philadelphia where he would enjoy four successful years batting .300 or better each year.  In '93 he sported a .318/.363/.445 line in 394 at bats.  When he wasn't starting he was the Phillies main pinch hitter and he helped them to a first place finish.  Although the Phillies came up short in the '93 World Series, Eisenreich homered in the Game 2 win over the Blue Jays.

Eisenreich had his best season in 1996 (2.5 WAR) when he put up an eye-popping .361/.413/.476 line in 373 plate appearances.  Once again a free agent, he signed with the Florida Marlins.  He batted .280 during the '97 season with his new team.  Eisenreich didn't play much in the NLDS or NLCS but he was productive (4-8) in the World Series conquest including a homer in the Marlins wild Game 3 victory. 

The Marlins of course had a massive fire sale and Eisenreich ended up in a Dodger uniform.  1998 would be his last season in the majors as he hit just .197 as a pinch hitter and occasional starter for the Dodgers.  Eisenreich retired with a career line of .290/.341/.404 and a 103 OPS+. 

Flipside: That's quite a season he had at Wisconsin Rapids in '81.  If you can't quite make out the numbers they show that in 134 games he batted .303 with 23 HR, 99 RBI, 101 R and 84 BB.

Oddball:  When Eisenreich left the Twins in '84 he was replaced on the roster by future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.

History:  Eisenreich earned 11.4 WAR and won a World Series ring with the Marlins.  However his most meaningful work is done through the Jim Eisenreich Foundation which helps children with Tourrette's.  With help from doctors he was able to overcome the hurdle that had plagued him since childhood and have a successful career. 
An in depth bio can be found here.

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