2013 Topps Heritage – Jim Leyland
2013 Topps Heritage – Bruce Bochy
Tonight, Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers led his American League All-Stars to a 3-0 win over Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants and his National League All-Stars in New York. This leads us to a quick look back at 1987, the first time they appeared in a baseball card set together:
1987 Topps – Jim Leyland
1987 Topps – Bruce Bochy
Jim Leyland was only 74 years old in 1987, still had a dark mustache, and was just entering his second year of an 11-year tenure as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This, of course, was before he moved to Florida (as all old men do), Colorado (remember that? No?) and Detroit (because he thought it was still booming like it was 1955. It is not.).
Bruce Bochy was entering his final season as a player in 1987. Over 358 games with three teams, Bochy retired with a .239 batting average, a hit in his only World Series at-bat, and an excellent mustache, which later became a very boring old man goatee… which you can do when you’ve just won two World Series in three years.
Obvious edge here: Leyland
In 1993, there was a not particularly young pitcher (27 at the time) named Tim Wakefield.
1994 Topps - Tim Wakefield
Wakefield had burst onto the National League scene in 1992, but struggled mightily with the Pirates after that, to the point where he spent 1994 in Triple-A Buffalo. He wasn’t very good there, either.
In April of 1995, the Pirates released the by then 28-year-old Wakefield, and he signed a deal with Boston. He went on to pitch 17 pretty successful seasons with the Red Sox before finally retiring just a couple of days ago at the age of 45.
2011 Topps - Tim Wakefield
You can now find Wakefield somewhere in Florida with his grandkids, teaching them the ancient art of the knuckleball, something that he demonstrates for the young folk, above, on 2011 Topps.
1992 Donruss - Sid Bream
Sid Bream seemed like a pretty decent, normal dude when he played in the Majors. He didn’t look like any kind of super athlete. He had a mustache. He was slow… you know, like, Molina slow. He was from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, population 17,970.
However, “ask any Braves fan — they can tell you where they were when Sid slid.” By scoring that sliding, winning run in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, he may also be responsible for a curse upon his former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he played six seasons. That I’m not sure about, but, sometimes everyday normal guys get stuck with these curses too (see Bartman, Steve), when all they want to be is “SAFE! SAFE AT THE PLATE!” for their team. (NOTE: scroll down to the “safe” sound clip on that last link, I’m too dumb to link to it properly).
1992 Triple Play - Doug Drabek
1992 Triple Play - Doug Drabek (back)
“Pirate pitcher Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game (no hits, walks or errors) for 12 innings in 1959 but lost the game in the 13th.”
Wow, that is impressive. That’s a long way to go to be perfect and lose. That would not feel good… I’ll bet it would feel kind of like being 9 games up in the AL Wild Card race on September 2, but then putting up a 7-20 record the rest of the way to miss the playoffs on the last day of the season by losing to Baltimore. Baltimore! Nope, actually, that would be way worse. Imagine being a fan of a team like that! But wait… could that possibly happen? Seems impossible…
Yes, I have taken this almost completely unrelated moment to shamelessly rip on the Red Sox. I have enjoyed this. Thank you and good night.
1983 Topps - Don Robinson
1983 Topps - Ross Baumgarten
So… these cards came back to back in a pack of 1983 Topps I opened recently. Tell me this wouldn’t freak you out. It’s a complete mirror image of early 80’s Pittsburgh polyester glory. I do wish they’d bring back those hats…
I’ll be honest with you though. All that black and yellow made me want to dance.
1982 Fleer - Steve Nicosia
Flashback to Spring Training 1981… Fleer’s Photographer is instructing Steve Nicosia in preparation for taking the picture on this card:
“Hey, Steve… here’s what you need to do. Put on the brightest, loudest uniform that you can find… what? Don’t overthink it man, you play for the fucking Pirates, you’ve got something that’ll work… Yeah, yellow, that looks good, and that striped cap, beautiful. Now, get down on one knee and put your right hand on your hip. There, now you look like a ballplayer! No, don’t wear a glove, come on … I’m in charge here. Hey, don’t hold that bat either. You’re being ridiculous. Focus, Steve. Now, stare wistfully into the distance. No, not that way, you idiot. As if you’re trying to look behind you. Therrrrre you go! Wait, we can’t do this yet. Something’s missing. You know what, you’re chewing gum. Blow a bubble. Bigger… bigger… keep going… there it is! Now hold that pose! <Snaps two quick photos so as not to waste “film”> You’re done buddy, thanks! … No, it didn’t look ridiculous … No, I will not do that … Yes, I’m actually a photographer. Fuck this, I’m leaving. Hope the 80’s don’t suck for Pittsburgh.”
And there you have it, the making of Steve Nicosia’s 1982 Fleer card.
Today, here is a look at two pitchers with names that you wouldn’t want to have as pitchers, compliments of 1988 Donruss.
1988 Donruss - Eric Plunk
First, Eric Plunk – as in, got plunked, see here – who put together a pretty decent career, primarily as a reliever, including some playoff appearances with the strong Cleveland teams (strong… Cleveland… teams… try saying that without smirking) of the mid-1990’s. Plunk didn’t end up being a great playoff performer, but at least he got there.
1988 Donruss - Bob Walk
Next up, Bob Walk. For a guy with a name like that, he too had a solid career. He won the World Series with the Phillies as a rookie in 1980, won the NL East with the Braves in 1982, and also with the Pirates in 1990, 1991 and 1992. He posted a career record of 105-81 and now works as a broadcaster in Pittsburgh. The Pirates even did a bobblehead night for him at PNC Park. Not bad, I say.
So, Plunk and Walk, I salute your efforts to become pitchers in the first place, and for getting to be pretty good at it. Well played.
1987 Topps Traded - Terry Harper
The Topps Traded sets of the 1980’s are fantastic resources for uncovering airbrushed treasures.
This particular card is amazing for the following reasons:
1. It’s from 1987 Topps. If you’re a card collector and you don’t like 1987 Topps, there is something wrong with you. Seek professional help.
2. What is going on with that hat? So many issues.
3. The retouched undershirt, which they kept blue, for some reason. Interestingly, Harper was traded from Atlanta to Detroit prior to 1987, and then to Pittsburgh during the 1987 season, so perhaps this is a double-airbrushed card. Is there any way that maybe there exists somewhere in the Topps archives this exact card, but instead of a badly airbrushed Pirates uniform, there is a badly airbrushed Tigers uniform? I can only dream.
4. That neckline and jersey look more like he is wearing a choir robe than a baseball jersey.
5. Seriously, that’s the photo you chose to airbrush?
1987 Topps Traded - Reggie Jackson
SIDE NOTE: How great is this 1987 Topps Traded Reggie Jackson card showing him playing for the A’s? It’s like going back in time to Reggie’s early career with the A’s from 1967-1975, except he’s old, fat and way past his prime. I wonder what that clubhouse was like in 1987, Reggie playing with a rookie McGwire and a second year Canseco, just a year before they started causing some serious shit in the AL West.