Thursday, December 29, 2011

#74 Julio Gonzalez

Card:  This is Gonzalez's fifth and final Topps card.

Pic:  Gonzalez either is pounding his fist preparing to get into the ready position, or he's doing the pee-pee dance.

Player:  Julio Gonzalez was originally signed by the Cubs in '72.  He toiled in the minors for five season before being traded to the Astros for Greg Gross.  Gonzalez was the Astros opening day starter at second base in '77 and played shortstop during the season as well, seeing action in 110 games.  Gonzalez batted a meager .245/.287/.316 and his defense wasn't much better with a .921 fielding percentage at short and sub-par range.  

The 25 year-old Gonzalez was a backup middle-infielder the next two years batting 424 times but failing to register a >.300 on-base or slugging percentage either year.  His role was further reduced in 1980 as he played in 40 games and spent six weeks back in the minors.  Gonzalez batted a woeful .115 in 52 at bats. 

Gonzalez was released by the Astros in spring training in 1981 but caught on with the Cardinals.  For a guy who batted .115 the year before, the Cardinals curiously used Gonzalez as a pinch hitter in about half of his 22 at bats.  He didn't play a whole lot and due to the strike shortened season he only played in 20 games.  Gonzalez batted .318 (7/22) and even added a home run.  He got into a little more action in '82, backing up Ken Oberkfell at third base and batting 87 times with a .241 average.  The Cardinals went on to win the World Series but Gonzalez did not see any postseason action.

Gonzalez was released  by St. Louis and picked up by the Detroit Tigers in spring training of 1983.  He started out the yeat at AAA Evansville and spent May and June backing up Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker up the middle.  Gonzalez didn't see much action, getting three hits in 21 at bats.  The 30 year-old went back to the minors never to return to the big leagues.

Flipside:  I can't believe Topps omitted this game. On 8/3/82 the last game of the season, Gonzalez entered the game as a defensive sub in the third inning.  The game went into extra innings and after 10 innings our subject already had a a double and two singles in three at bats.  After grounding out in the 12th, Gonzalez launched a home run in the top of the 14th to give the Cards the lead and an eventual win. 

Oddball:  Julio Gonzalez seems like a very common Hispanic name but there has been only one other with the same name.  This Julio Gonzalez pitched in 13 games for the Senators in 1949. 

History:  Gonzalez was a typical weak hitting career backup utility infielder.  His glove and range weren't really that great and with a limp bat he didn't really have much to offer.  He will most likely be remembered as a member of the championship Cardinals of 1982.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#73 Allen Ripley

Card: This is Ripley's fifth and final card.  In fact, by the time we got our hands on this card his MLB career was over.

Pic: No action shot here.  Just a standard "Hey look off to the side a minute so I can get your picture quick, ok, got it, thanks". At least Wrigley field is in the background.

Player:  Allen Ripley was signed by the Red Sox in 1973 as an undrafted free-agent and played five seasons in the minors.  He started '78 as Boston's number four starter and made eleven starts and four relief appearances in which he sported a 5.55 ERA.  He was sent back to Pawtucket in July for the rest of the year.  In '79 Ripley was used as a relief pitcher at Pawtucket and was recalled in July.  He pitched in 16 games with three spot starts pitching in 64 innings with a 5.15 ERA. 

The soft-tossing righty was sold to the Giants before the start of the 1980 campaign. After seven starts at AAA Phoenix, he was inserted into the Giants rotation and made 20 starts and pitched 113 innings.  Ripley finished 9-10 with a 4.14 ERA.  He started '81 as the Giants #5 starter and made a few cameos out of the pen.  Ripley had a 4-4 record and a career low 4.05 ERA.

In December of 1981 Ripley was sent to the Cubs in exchange for Doug Capilla.  Ripley started the year in the rotation and was in and out throughout the 1982 season. He made 19 starts and won five against seven losses with a 4.26 ERA. 

Stuff: Slow and slower.

Flipside: Ripley made 19 starts in '82 but did not pitch more than seven innings in any of them.

Oddball:  RIpley lacked velocity...badly.  Bob Brenly referred to Ripley as "Speed Limit" because "He never threw anything over 55 mph".  Now that might be a stretch but you get the idea.  Ripley's fastball was also known as an ecological fastball because of its lack of gas.

History:  Ripley had a brief five year career and never had an ERA+ over 88.  His lack of velocity left him little margin for error and he was unable to have a prolonged career.
He didn't leave much of a trail.  I couldn't find anything about him after  he retired in1982.  His father Walt pitched for the Red Sox briefly in 1935.
Ripley's biggest claim to fame may be that  he was Dennis Eckersley's drinking buddy in Boston

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#72 Tom Paciorek

Card:  Paciorek's 10th Topps card and first with the White Sox.

Pic:  Lots of red, white, and blue.  Paciorek never looked very athletic to me....still doesn't.

Player:  Drafted in the 5th round in '68, Tom Paciorek made his MLB debut in 1970.  He spent most of the '70-'72 seasons dominating AAA ball waiting for a spot to open on the talent rich Dodgers.  Paciorek made the parent team in '73 as a backup outfielder and batted .262 in 210 at bats.  He remained a backup and received just 310 at bats over the next two years and batted .240 and .193. 

Before the '76 season he was dealt to Atlanta in the Dusty Baker trade.  Playing left, right and first base Paciorek was able to show his abilities and batted .290 in 111 games.  He was a backup firstbaseman in '77 and batted only .239.  1978 was a strange but pivotal year for Paciorek.  Atlanta released him in spring training, resigned him a week later, sent him down to AAA Richmond where he sat on the bench for a game but returned when Gary Matthews was injured.  After playing in just five games, he was released again on May 23rd.  He hooked up with San Jose, the Mariners' top farm club.  He was called in late June and hit .299 in 251 at bats as the Mariners leftfielder. 

Paciorek was useful for Seattle in '79 playing corner outfield and first, he batted .287 in a semi-regular role.  He played even more in '80 and responded with a career best 15 home runs in 126 games.  The lanky right hander broke through in '81 with his best year batting .326/.379/.509 and slugged 14 long balls.  He made the AL All-Stars and finished 10th in MVP voting. 

The Mariners traded him while his stock was high sending him to Texas for Rod Allen, Todd Cruz and Jim Essian.  Paciorek remained productive for the Pale Hose batting .312 and .307 in a semi-regular role.  His production slipped in '84 as he batted only .256. 

Paciorek was traded in the middle of the '85 season to the Mets for Dave Cochrane.  He batted .285 for the Mets and finished the year batting a combined .265.  After the season Paciorek signed with the Rangers and batted .286 and .283 in his last two seasons. 

After his playing career Paciorek did broadcast work for the White Sox ('88-'99), Tigers ('00), Braves ('01-05) and Nationals ('06). 

Flipside:  For being 6'4" Paciorek didn't many home runs.  He averaged only one home run per 48 at bats.

Oddball:  Despite the previous comment Paciorek was nicknamed "Wimpy" by Tommy Lasorda who was his manager in the minor leagues.  Lasorda named him after the Popeye character.

History:  Paciorek took a while to produce in the big leagues but was productive in the early 80's. 
He drew some criticism as an announcer for being too much of a homer, but he he always seemed to have good insight into the game.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

#70 Steve Carlton - Happy Birthday!

I debated whether I wanted to post today, but when I heard it was Carlton's 67th birthday, I knew I had to do it. He's next in line anyway...

Happy Birthday Lefty!

Card:  This is Carlton's 18th Topps card.  His rookie card was in 1965.  Carlton didn't have a card in '66 but had cards every year after through the 1987 set.

Pic:  Carlton wasn't really the most approachable guy and Topps used similar action shots repeatedly in the 80's.  Here is a look at his '83 card next to his '84, '84 All-Star,and '84 Record Breaker:

Player:  Steve Carlton spent a year in the minors before making his MLB debut with the Cardinals in 1965.  He pitched in 15 games with a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings.  Lefty started '66 in the minors but made nine starts for the Cards winning three and posting a 3.12 ERA.  The 22 year-old worked at the back of the Cards rotation in '67, winning 14 with a 2.98 ERA.  Allowing just one unearned run in six innings he was the hard-luck loser in game 5 of the World Series against the Red Sox.  St. Louis won in seven games to give Carlton his first ring.  He went 13-11 for the pennant winning Cardinals in '68.  In the year of the pitcher, his ERA of 2.99 was a tad over league average and he did not make a postseason start.  Carlton gave up three runs in two relief appearances as the Cards fell to the Tigers.

Carlton broke through in '69 with a 2.17 ERA and a 17 win season.  He tied a record on 9/15 when he struck out 19 Mets in a losing effort.  Despite similar ERA's in '70-'71 (3.73/3.56) his record fluctuated from 10-19 to 20-9. Carlton and the Cards had contract disputes over the years and he was traded 2/25/72 to the Phillies for Rick Wise.

Carlton's '72 season is undoubtedly one of the best pitching seasons in the modern era.  In his first year in Philly, the intense Carlton won 27 games for the last place Phils.  The 27 wins represented 46% of the team's meager 59 wins, and interestingly they scored more than four runs in only 11 of his 41 starts.  He posted a 1.97 ERA in a whopping 346 innings, and accumulated 12.2 WAR.  He was the unanimous Cy Young winner but somehow finished only fifth in MVP voting.   

Carlton was merely average in '73 as his ERA jumped to 3.93 and he lost 20 games.  His next two seasons were good but not great, winning 16 in '74 and 15 in '75.  Carlton had a 20 win season in '76 and improved on that with a 23 win season and Cy Young in '77.  Carlton's ERA in '78 was similar (2.84/2.64) to his '77 mark but he won only 16.  Over the '76 through '78 seasons, Carlton led the Phillies to the playoffs but they were unable to claim a pennant.  Lefty struggled in four starts over this time, allowing 17 runs in four starts.

Carlton won 18 in '79 with a 3.62 ERA and was named to his 7th All-Star team.  He put together another memorable Cy Young winning year, winning 24 games with a 2.34 ERA in 1980.  His 304 innings were the last time a pitcher has worked over 300 in a season.  Carlton won three postseason games as the Phils knocked off the Astros and the Royals for Lefty's second ring.  Carlton pitched well in the '81 strike year, winning 13 with a 2.42 ERA.  The short season broke a streak of 13 seasons with at least 232 innings pitched. 

Although now in his late 30s, Carlton was still a workhorse logging over 578 innings over the '82 and '83 seasons.  Carlton won 23 in '82 on his way to what was then an unprecedented fourth Cy Young award.  Carlton won two games over the Dodgers in the '83 NLCS but lost his only start against the eventual champion Orioles.  Over the '83 season Carlton won his 300th game and he and Nolan Ryan both surpassed Walter Johnson's all-time strikeout mark. Carlton and Ryan traded the lead several times with Lefty holding the mark at the end of the year.  The 39 year-old Carlton won 13 with a 3.58 ERA in '84 and logged over 200 innings for the last time. 

Carlton was still effective but humbled by injury and lack of support as his teammates scored more than four runs just once in his sixteen starts.  Carlton was 1-8 with a 3.33 ERA, breaking a string of 18 straight double digit win seasons.  Carlton's struggles were the beginning of the end, and although he reached the 4,000 strikeout milestone he was terrible in 1986.  He was released by the Phillies, signed by the Giants, and dumped a month later. He retired for a few days and was signed by the White Sox where he pitched relatively well.  His combined totals for his three teams in '86: 9-14 with a 5.10 ERA.  Carlton started '87 in Chicago but was let go and signed by Minnesota.  Carlton was not impressive with either team and was not on the Twins playoff roster as they won a championship.  This gave Lefty a third World Series ring. 

He was hit hard to start the '88 season and released after four games.  Carlton kept hope alive and worked out unofficially in the Yankees camp in spring of '89, but when no one offered him a contract he retired for good.

Stuff:  Four-seam fastball low 90s, slider and curve.



Oddball: The Twins visited the White House after winning the '87 World Series and Carlton was misidentified in a St.Paul newspaper photo as a secret service agent.

Carlton holds the major league record with 90 balks, twice the number of the second place Bob Welch.  Carlton also has the most career pickoffs with 144, quite a bit more than runner up Jerry Koosman who had 82.  

History:  Carlton won 329 career games, struck out 4,136 batters, and is among the best pitchers of all time.   Carlton employed unique training methods and kept himself in tip-top shape long before off season conditioning became routine. 
He refused to talk to the media for a long time, breaking the silence when he signed with the Giants in '86. 
Carlton was a first ballot Hall of Famer, voted into the Hall in '94. 
I'll cover more of his lifetime achievements in the next post: Steve Carlton Super Veteran

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#69 Lee Lacy

Card: Leondaus "Lee" Lacy is shown here on his 11th Topps card.  Although it lists him as Outfield-2nd Base, Lacy hadn't played 2nd Base since 1979 and would only play 12 more inning there the rest of his career.

Pic:  Lacy is stretching those polyester pants to the limit.  He looks mildly uncomfortable in the inset shot.

Player:  Lee Lacy spent parts of four seasons in the minor leagues before making his debut with the Dodgers in June of '72.  The former 2nd round pick was given the shot to play everyday in July and August and put up a .259/.312/.313 line in 60 games.  Lacy opened the 1973 season as the Dodgers starting second sacker but was soon supplanted by Davey Lopes.  Lacy would play sparingly and batted .207 in '73 and .282 in '74.  In '75 Lacy began playing outfield more than second base and he hit .314 in 306 at bats.  In December he was traded with Tom Paciorek, Jerry Royster and Jim Wynn to Atlanta for Dusty Baker and Ed Goodson.

Lacy spent half a year with the Braves before the Dodgers reacquired him by trading Mike Marshall to Atlanta.  Lacy batted a combined .266 in '76, and played 103 games.  He got into only 75 games in '77 and again batted .266.  Lacy went three for seven in the World Series loss against the Yankees.
The 30 year-old veteran was productive in '78, hitting a career best 13 home runs with a .261/.338/.518 line in 245 at bats.  Lacy was hitless in two NLCS at bats, but started four games of the World Series rematch against the Yanks, getting only two hits in fourteen at bats. 

Lacy was a free agent and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates before the '79 season.  Used as a pinch hitter and platoon leftfielder Lacy batted only .247 and did not play in the NLCS.  He had one hit in four pinch hitting chances in the World Series as the Pirates defeated the Orioles.  Over the next four years Lacy continued in his reserve role and batted over .300 three of the years including a .335 mark in 1980.  He began stealing bases at a steady clip, swiping 188 bases between '80 and '83.  As the Pirates prepared for the '84 season they planned to platoon Lacy and young Doug Frobel in rightfield.  As Frobel floundered at the plate (.203/.271/.388) Lacy picked up the slack.  Playing a career high 138 games he batted .321 in 474 at bats. 

In 1985 Lacy signed with the Orioles in the off-season and was their starting leftfielder over the next two years performing consistently, batting .293 and .287.  The 39 year-old was slowed by injuries and declining abilities and batted .244 as a reserve.  Lacy retired from MLB and played in the Senior Professional Baseball Association for two years. His daughter Jennifer Lacy plays in the WNBA.


Flipside:  As listed Lacy was a 2nd round pick in '69 by the Dodgers.  They had selected Lopes the year prior.  Lopes had started his career in the minors as an outfielder but was converted to second base which in turn forced Lacy into a the sub role he maintained for so long.

Oddball:  I believe Lacy is the only Major Leaguer with the given name of Leondaus.

History:  Lacy for most of his career wore several hats: pinch hitter, platoon outfielder, and back-up second basemen.  Like many reserves his playing fluctuated bases on his teammates success and health.  Lacy never showed much patience at the plate having walked no more than 39 times in a season.  Lacy had productive stretch from '80-'86 batting .303 over that time.  Lacy finished his career with a .286 average, 1,303 hits, and 185 steals.   

Saturday, December 17, 2011

#68 Eric Show

Card:  This is Show's Rookie card.  He appeared on a total of ten Topps cards.

Pic:  Show is shown in his follow through.  Interestingly, Topps used a picture of Show's delivery in eight of his ten cards.

Player: Eric Show, an 18th round pick of the Padres in 1978, worked his way up to majors in '81, pitching fifteen games in relief.  Show earned three saves, struck out 22 in 23 innings and posted a 3.13 ERA.  The 6'1" right-hander came up through the minors as a starter, but started the '82 season in San Diego's pen as a long reliever.  By the end of July, he had worked his way into the rotation and made fourteen starts on the year.  Show finished the year with a 10-6 record in 150 innings and a nifty 2.64 ERA, which help garner a few votes for Rookie of the Year.  Show was the Padres number three starter in '83 and made 33 starts and logged 200 innings.  A rough stretch at the end of the year drove his ERA to 4.17, and he won 15 and lost 12.

Show was the Padres' opening day starter in '84 and along with fellow hurlers, Tim Lollar, Ed Whitson, and Mark Thurmond helped San Diego capture the NL West.  Show went 15-9 with a 3.40 ERA during the regular season.  The Padres defeated the Cubs despite Show taking the loss in game one and struggling again in game five.  His ineffectiveness carried over to game four of the World Series as he gave up four runs before getting yanked in the third inning and taking the loss.  San Diego would lose the series in five games and Show's postseason failure would haunt the emotional 28 year-old.

Show had a successful season in '85 logging 233 inning in 35 starts with a 3.09 ERA.  On September 11th, Show gave up hit number 4,192 to Pete Rose.  There was a lengthy delay as the Reds honored the new all-time hit king, and meanwhile the free-spirited Show sat on the mound arms folded and waited.  Show was roasted by some for what was perceived as disrespect for the occasion, but those who knew him, understood that he just didn't know how to handle the situation.  Show was having a solid campaign in '86 (2.97 ERA) before his season was cut short due to an injury after 22 starts.  He bounced back in '87 with a decent year.  Although having a league average ERA of 3.84 he won only eight games to go with sixteen losses.  The season was marred by a pitch to  the face of slugger Andre Dawson's face that triggered an ugly brawl.  Show denied hitting him on purpose but the incident was another dark moment in Show's career.

Show won 16 games in '88 with a career high 234 innings and 13 complete games.  Show was slowed by a lower-back injury in '89 and made only 16 starts.  By now Show was fighting his addiction to drugs and along with his injuries, it was effecting his performance.  In 1990 Show was in and out of the rotation.  His 5.76 ERA and 1.618 WHIP indicate how far he had regressed and Show was allowed to leave via free-agency.  Show signed with the A's in '91, but he was no different in Oakland, putting up a 5.92 ERA in 51 innings.  Show was released the next spring and his MLB career was over.

Sadly, Show never overcame his drug addiction and he died while at a rehab center on 3/16/94.

Flipside:  Show also pitched a five-hit shutout on 9/3/82.

Oddball:  Show was a talented guitarist and put out this single "The Padres Win Again". 

History:  While Show's 100 career wins are the most all-time in Padres history he is usually remembered for the negatives that seemed to dog him during his career.  Show was independent thinker and a man of many interests.  A physics major in college, he was voracious reader, a jazz musician, and a member of the extreme-right John Birch Society.  Misunderstood by many during his playing days, no one really knew how to help Show.  Check out these two excellent articles that expand more on his life and the demons he fought

#67 Sal Butera

Card:  This is Butera's third Topps card. Butera would have to wait until 1987 to grace another Topps card.

Pic:  Looks like Butera is getting some batting practice at Tiger Stadium.  Which is appropriate since Butera's only MLB action in '83 would be for Detroit after a spring training trade.

Player:  Sal Butera paid his dues in the minors from 1972-79 before making the Twins roster in 1980.  Butera, who made the majors despite going undrafted, served as the Twins backup catcher behind Butch Wynegar.  Butera didn't play much his rookie year and although he batted .270 in 85 at bats, he walked only three times with only one extra base hit.  The Twins valued him for his defense and when Wynegar was injured in '81 Butera stepped in for a while and threw out 54% of stolen base attempts.  He batted .240 in a what would prove to be a career high 167 at bats.  In 1982 Butera hit .254 in 126 at bats as rookie Tim Laudner received most of the playing time. 

Butera was dealt to the Tigers before the '83 season but spent all but four games at AAA.  He signed with the Expos in '84 and got into only three big league games.  Butera started '85 in the minors but was called up and ended playing in a career high 67 games.  He hit only .200 but did manage to hit the first three home runs of his career.  In December he was traded with  Bill Gullickson to the Reds for Dann Bilardello, Andy McGaffigan, John Stuper and Jay Tibbs. 

Butera was the Reds backup catcher in '86 batting .239 in 113 at bats.  He was released in May of '87 and promptly picked up by Minnesota.  He batted only .171 but he was around as the Twins won the AL West.  Butera had two hits in game three of the ALCS, the only game the Twins would lose to the Tigers.  The Twins wound up winning it all and the 35 year-old veteran now had a World Series ring.  The Twins released him the next spring and he played sparingly for the Blue Jays in '88 batting .233.   After a year at AAA Syracuse in '89 he retired and like many catchers, moved into coaching. 

Butera managed for a few years in the Astros and Twins organizations and was the Blue Jays bullpen coach in '98. He is currently a Special Assistant to Toronto GM Alex Anthropoulos.

Flipside:  Not sure how it worked, but Butera was signed by the Twins in '72 but his first two years were played with White Sox and Yankee affiliates.  Maybe he was on loan?

Oddball:  Butera played in only 359 games in his career but pitched twice.  On both occasions he pitched a scoreless inning to finish the game, first for the Expos in '85 and again for the Reds in '86

History:  Butera likely will be remembered as a bench player for the championship '87 Twins.  His best asset was his strong throwing arm and a career batting line of .227/.302/.295 explains why he never was able to land a starting job.

Sal's son Drew Butera has a similar skill set, and like his dad is a backup receiver for the Twins. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

#66 Bob Lillis

Card:  This is Bob Lillis' seventh card but his first as a manager.  His rookie card was back in the 1959 set.

Pic:  So this is the standard manager gaze Topps favored for Lillis... Check out his '83, '84, and '85 cards side by side:

Player:  Bob Lillis was a light hitting shortstop who came up through the Dodgers organization,  He was blocked at that position by Pee Wee Reese and later Maury Wills.  He hit .391 in 69 at bats as a 28 year-old rookie in 1958 but he never could crack the Dodgers lineup .  He was traded to the Cardinals in '61 and later selected by the Colt 45's in the expansion draft.  Lillis was a regular for the new franchise but his aversion to getting on base made him a liability at the plate.  Defensively he was average at best.  Lillis played in 817 games and retired in 1967 with a woeful career line of .236/.270/.277.

Lillis worked as a scout and in player development for Houston from '68 to '72.  He then served on the Astros coaching staff from '73 until getting the manager gig in August of '82.

Manager:  On August 10, 1982 Lillis replaced Bill Virdon as the Astros skipper.  In his first start as manager Nolan Ryan threw a one-hit shutout against the Padres.  The Astros, 13 games under .500 when Lillis took over,  would finish the year winning 28 of their last 51 games and he was given a two year deal.   
The Astros lost their first nine games in '83 but played well afterwards.  They finished the year in third place with a 85-77 record.  The Astros again started slowly in '84 winning only one of their first seven games and seven of twenty-one.  Again Lillis' Astros played better in the second half but finished in second place with a 80-82 record.  Houston started out okay in '85 but that is about all they were, just okay. 
The third place Astros won 83 games and although he had a career record of 276-261, Lillis did not return as manager in '86.

Lillis joined former Dodger teammate Roger Craig's coaching staff in San Francisco and stayed there through the '96 season.

Flipside: Lillis hit 32 home runs in his pro career, 18 of them at AAA St.Paul in '56.  I guess he was making up for lost time from serving in the military the previous two years.

Oddball:  Lillis often sported a creepy, shadowy-wispy mustache.  He appears with this unflattering look in many of his pics, and unless you are a male under the age of 18 there really is no excuse.  Maybe he has sensitive skin I don't know...I get the impression that he when he did shave, he got to his upper lip and said "Aw, what the hell, I'll just leave it".

History:  Lillis was a decent manager but could never get the Astros over the hump from a good team to a great team.  The Astros under Lillis' replacement Hal Lanier won the division in '86.    

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#65 Jack Morris

Card:  Jack Morris is shown here on his sixth Topps card.

Pic:  The action shot captures Morris in his follow through. His hat is not on straight in the inset.

Player:  Jack Morris was a fifth round pick by the Tigers in '76 out of BYU and he made his MLB debut the next July.  In his first taste of big league action Morris made six starts and relieved in another with a 3.71 ERA.  Morris spent the '78 season pitching mainly in long relief with an occasional start.  He was 3-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 106 innings.  He started '79 in AAA but was inserted into the Tigers rotation on May 13.  Morris won 17 of his 27 starts and was 13-2 from July through the end of the season.  He posted a 3.28 ERA and after dealing with the injury problems of previous young phenoms such as Mark Fidrych and Dave Rozema, Tigers brass was hopeful they had found a durable starter to front their rotation.

Morris won 16 more games in 1980, pitching 250 innings over 36 starts.  His 4.18 ERA was just over league average.  He had a 3.08 ERA in 27 starts in '81 and tied for the league lead in wins with 14.  Morris made 37 starts in both '82 and '83 winning 17 and 20 games respectively.  His ERA was 4.06 in '82 and dropped to 3.34 in '83.  Morris logged an impressive 293.2 innings in '83 and completed 20 games. 
The right-handed hurler no-hit the White Sox on April 7, 1984 as Morris and the Tigers ran away with the AL East.  Morris (19), Dan Petry (18) and Milt Wilcox (17) combined to win 54 games as the Tigers won 104 in the regular season.  He won all three of his starts in the postseason with a 1.80 ERA as the Tigers knocked off the Royals and then the Padres on the way to a World Series title.

Over the next three years Morris was very consistent, winning a total of 55 games with ERA's between 3.27 - 3.37.  The Tigers passed the Blue Jays during the last week of the season to win the East in '87, but Morris was shelled for six runs in his only postseason start as the Twins dismissed the Tigers.
Morris was durable but average in '88 and in '89 missed a scheduled start for the first time of his career.  1989 was a disaster for both the 34 year-old pitcher and his team.   Morris was 6-14 as the Tigers won only 59 games and his 4.86 ERA was easily a career worst.  He was healthy in 1990  leading the AL in both starts (36) and complete games (11).  Otherwise it was rather a mediocre season with a 15-18 record and 4.51 ERA.

Morris left the Tigers via free-agency in '91 to sign a one year deal with his hometown Minnesota Twins.  Now 36, he had his doubters, but Morris returned his ERA to a more familiar 3.43 and won 18 games.  The Twins won the AL West and Morris won both of his starts against the Blue Jays.  Morris started games one, four, and seven in the World Series against the Braves.  He won all three and pitched the legendary 10-inning shutout in game seven.  For his efforts Morris took home World Series MVP honors. 
Morris signed with the Blue Jays in '92 and behind a powerful offense won 21 games despite a league average 4.04 ERA.  Morris made four postseason starts and the Jays were able to capture a championship despite his 0-3 record.  Morris had a wretched season in '93 posting a 6.19 ERA in 27 starts.  The Blue Jays didn't use him in the playoffs as they won their second consecutive title.

Morris signed with the pitching hungry Cleveland Indians in '94 and had a 10-6 record with a 5.60 ERA when he retired in August.  Morris flirted with a comeback with the Reds in '95 but retired again before the season started.  The 41 year-old came back in '96 with his hometown St.Paul Saints in the independent Northern League.  He was 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA when retired for the final time halfway through the season.

Stuff:  Fastball (94 mph in his prime), Slider, Split-Finger, Change. 
Flipside:  Morris, if nothing else, was incredibly durable and in the midst of a 13 year run from '80 to '92 where he averaged 245 innings per year.

Oddball:  Morris, an excellent athlete with good speed early in his career, was used as a pinch runner 18 times in his days with the Tigers.  He never attempted a steal but scored four runs.  He also batted once with a fly-out in a complete game win where manager Sparky Anderson lost his DH.

History:  I won't use this forum to address Morris' Hall of Fame worthiness, but I will say that as a little leaguer growing up a Tiger fan, I emulated his pitching style.  By the way, his results were much better.
Morris was the undisputed ace of the Tigers for many years and was the winningest pitcher of the 1980's with 162 wins.  He won four World Series titles and the WS MVP in '91.  Morris was a five time all-star and was top-ten in Cy Young voting seven times.  He won 254 games in his career but hung around a bit too long.  But it was that same attitude and stubbornness that helped make him a successful pitcher. 
Morris currently does commentary on Twins radio.     

Saturday, December 10, 2011

#64 Bill Stein

Card:  This is Steins's eighth card.  He played in the majors in parts of four seasons before showing up on a Topps card in 1976.  Stein is listed as 1st Base-3rd Base, but he only played five innings at first base all year. 2nd Base-3rd Base would have been accurate.

Pic: Stein doesn't look very comfortable.  Bill Stein's cards always bothered me.  I don't know why, but he always reminded me of a creepy janitor disguised in a baseball uniform.

Player: Bill Stein was a fourth round pick of the Cardinals in 1969 and never played below double-A level in the minors. The versatile infielder debuted with the Cards in September of '72 and hit two homers and batted .314 in 35 at bats. The 26 year-old Stein made the Cards in '73 as a pinch hitter, started only nine games, and batted only .218 before getting sent down in August. 

Stein was traded twice before the start of the next season, first to the Angels and then to the White Sox.  Stein spent 1974 in AAA before receiving a call up at the end of the year, batting .279 in 43 at bats.  He made the big league team in '75 and after sitting the bench, he received some regular playing time at third and second base in June and July.  In 226 at bats he batted .270 with three homers.  Stein found his way into 117 games in '76 and batted .268 in 392 at bats.

Stein was selected by the expansion Seattle Mariners and was their everyday third baseman in '77.  He hit 13 home runs and batted .257.  Stein wasn't one to work the count and only walked 29 times in 600 plate appearances which contributed to a poor .299 OBP.  He was given another chance as a starter in '78 and hit .261 but missed a few weeks with an injury in August.  He was a reserve the next two years in Seattle and batted .248 and .268.

Stein signed as a free-agent with the Texas Rangers in '81 and had a very good year setting an American League record with seven consecutive pinch hits.  Stein batted .330 in 115 at bats while playing a utility role.  He continued in this role for over the next two years with a poor season in '82 (.239 BA) and a good one in '83 (.310).  Stein spent the last two years of his career as a rarely used pinch hitter with only 122 at bats over the '84 and '85 seasons and batted .279 and .253. 
Stein retired with a career .267 average and played in parts of fourteen seasons.

Flipside:  That decisive run Stein scored on 7-31??? It was in the first inning when the Rangers went up 3-0 on the Yankees.  Stein reached on a fielder's choice and came home along with Mickey Rivers on a Jim Sundberg the first inning.  Yeah, great clucth running by Stein.

Oddball:  Stein once pitched in a minor league game after the starting pitcher was ejected for throwing a ball at an umpire.  Now that in itself is not unusual, but Stein pitched six innings! He gave up three runs on a Jeff Burroughs home run but also struck out six and didn't walk anyone. 

History:  Stein was an average defender whose biggest asset was his versatility.  Except for a couple .300+ seasons his production as a hitter was sub-par and he didn't have good speed or power either.    
Stein's biggest claim to fame is as an original Mariner and his pinch hitting record.
Since the end of his playing days, Stein managed in the Mets chain for a few years and in independent baseball as well.  Stein retired as a manager after the 1994 season.

Friday, December 9, 2011

#63 Rick Monday

Card:  This is Rick Monday's 17th Topps card.  Monday's rookie card was a two player card with Tony Pierce in the 1967 set.

Pic:  Monday has a classic follow through. In fact he reminds me of a Starting Lineup figure.  Monday is oblivious to the radioactive green blob attacking his forehead in the inset.

Player:  Rick Monday was the first overall selection in the first ever amateur draft in 1965 by the Kansas City A's.  After a year and a half in the minors, the Arizona State product made his MLB debut with the A's in 1966, but managed only 4 hits in 41 at bats.  Monday made the A's squad in '67 as an extra outfielder, and by the end of April he was starting everyday in centerfield.  He hit .251 with 14 homeruns in the A's last year in KC. 

Monday was a semi-regular for Oakland over the '68 - '70 seasons. Although his raw stats don't seem all that impressive on the surface (8 to 12 HR, .271- .290 BA), during this pitching strong era he posted OPS+ of 141, 133, and 136.  Monday hit 18 home runs in '71 but saw his average drop to .245 in 355 at bats. 

Before the '72 season, the A's dealt Monday to the Cubs for  Ken Holtzman.  Monday was platooned for part of the year and hit only .249 with 11 dingers.  The next four years would represent the peak of Monday's offensive production.  From '73-'76 he averaged 24 HR with a career best 32 in '76.  Over this time he posted a .275/.367/.473 line.  By now his range was slipping in centerfield as he ranked near the bottom in chances per game among MLB centerfielders.  Monday's best play in center was on April 25, 1976 when he grabbed the American flag away from a father-son duo who tried to set Ol' Glory on fire in the outfield at Dodger Stadium.
Monday, the Ex-Marine Reserve saves the flag.
Monday was sent to the Dodgers in the trade that sent  Bill Buckner and Ivan de Jesus to the Cubs on Jan 11, 1977.  Monday played somewhat regularly in LA, and batted .230 and .254 in the '77 and '78 seasons and hit 34 homers in this span.  Monday struggled in the playoffs in both '77 and '78 batting only a combined .190 as the Dodgers lost in the World Series both years.  He injured his achilles tendon in '79 and played only 12 games. 

Following his injury, Monday was a bench player and in 1980 he hit 10 homers while batting .268 in 194 at bats.  In the '81 season Monday was extremely efficient, belting 11 long balls in only 130 at bats with a .315 average and 1.031 OPS.  In game five of the NLCS, Monday launched the series deciding home run with two outs in the ninth in a 1-1 tie game off of Steve Rogers.  Monday's key hit propelled LA to the World Series where they knocked off the Yankees.  Monday hit another 11 home runs and batted.257 with a .372 OBP in 1982.  Monday's declining skills and career long battles with back injuries began to catch up with him in '83, as he batted just .247.  The 38 year-old veteran struggled further in '84 and was released in June with a .191 average. 
Monday hit 241 home runs in his career and was an All-Star in '68 and '78.

Flipside:  As a kid I always loved seeing the small print on the back.  It meant I had a star, or at least a long tenured veteran's card in my possession. 
Another '82 highlight was a four hit game on 8/18 in a 7-4 win against the Cubs.

Oddball:  Monday and Jay Johnstone were both born on November 20,1945.  Monday and Johnstone were teammates on the '81 Dodgers, and both served in the Marine Corps Reserves in the 60's.  They both played for the A's, Cubs, and Dodgers in their careers.  (isn't Wikipedia great?)
Monday never grounded into more than eight double plays in a season. 

History:  Monday was highly touted coming out of college having just won the College World Series with ASU and earning player of the year honors.  Monday just missed out on the A's dynasty and had his best individual success in Chicago.  Monday was a useful part of the late 70's and early 80's Dodgers teams and won a championship in 1981. 
He never quite lived up to his number #1 draft position but he had a productive career. His career OPS+ is 125 and in the 16 seasons in which he batted more than 100 times his OPS+ was less than 100 only once.  Monday's managers seemed to overestimate his speed and range.  Monday was not a good base stealer as his 98 SB / 91 CS shows.  His range dropped severely after age 30 and he would have been better off playing in left or right. 
Since his playing days, Monday has been a popular announcer, first with Padres and since '93 with the Dodgers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#62 Bob McClure

Card: Bob McClure is shown here on his seventh Topps card.

Pic:  McClure looks like his hat is four sizes too big in the inset pic. 

Player:  The Kansas City Royals selected Bob McClure in the 3rd round of the 1973 draft.  The 5'11" lefty was a starting pitcher in the minors but was used in relief by the Royals throwing 15.1 scoreless innings in a brief look in 1975.  McClure was less successful in two stints with KC in '76, allowing four runs in four innings.  McClure was traded to the Brewers in March '77 and pitched in relief over the next four seasons.  He was part of a bullpen by committee and earned 30 saves from 1977-80.  McClure's ERA over this time frame: 2.52, 3.74, 3.88, and 3.08. 

In '81 McClure suffered an injury to his rotator cuff and did not pitch until September.  In the ALDS loss against the Yankees he did not allow a run in three games.  McClure started and ended '82 in the pen but was the Brewers number five starter for most of the year.  As a starter he saw his ERA rise to 4.22 and with Rollie Fingers injured, McClure assumed closer duties in the '82 playoffs.  He was effective in the ALCS against the Angels, pitching 1.2 innings of scoreless relief and earning a win.  McClure had a big impact in the '82 World Series.  Appearing in five games, he saved games 4 and 5, but lost game 2 and the deciding game 7 against the Cardinals. 

McClure spent '83 and '84 in and out of the rotation, logging 142 and 139 innings with mediocre ERAs.  He was in the pen for the '85 season and pitched 85 innings with a league average ERA, picking up three saves along the way. 

McClure was traded to the Expos during the '86 campaign and did well north of the border and finished the year with a 3.19 ERA in 79 innings with six saves. McClure pitched in 52 games in '87 with a 3.44 ERA but began the '88 season poorly and was released.  Picked up by the Mets, McClure pitched in 33 games with a combined ERA of 5.40. 

McLure signed in the offseason with the Angels and had a career best 1.55 ERA in '89, saving three and allowing only 39 hits in 52 innings.  McClure missed most of '90 with injuries and was released after a rocky start to the '91 season.  Picked up by the Cardinals he was used as a lefty specialist.  He was effective in this role appearing in a total of 103 games in a season and a half in St. Louis, with 3.13 and 3.17 ERAs in 23 and 54 innings.
The 41 year-old vet signed with the expansion Marlins in '93 and was cut after allowing five runs in 6.1 innings.  After 19 seasons McClure called it a career.

Stuff:  Mid 80's fastball, curve (his best pitch), sinker, change.  Occasional knuckleball from '85 forward.

Flipside:  Other '82 Highlights...McClure was a hard luck loser in an August 18th game against the A's.  He pitched 10.1 innings, losing in the 11th when the A's scratched across a run when Rickey Henderson reached on an error, was bunted to second, and scored on a Joe Rudi single.  It was McClure's fifth time through the lineup! 
McLure had quite an August, with complete game wins on 8/12 and 8/29 allowing just one run each time.

Oddball:  McClure played little league baseball with Keith Hernandez.  They were reunited on the '88 Mets squad.  How cool is that?

History:  McClure was thrust into a difficult spot in the '82 World Series as the Brewers interim closer and that's how many remember him.  He pitched in 698 games over 19 seasons, often as an effective left-handed set-up guy, and later as a left handed specialist. 
After retiring as a player McClure was a pitching coach in the Rockies organization from '99-'05 until taking the same position with the big league Royals.  McClure was fired by the Royals in November 2011, and has since taken a scouting job with the Red Sox.