Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ivan Rodriguez: The Early Years

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez just retired as one of the most decorated catchers in MLB history. Pudge was just a 165-pounder, according to this 1991 Classic Best card showing IRod as a Tulsa Driller. It's a pleasant card, showing an earnest catcher lifting his mask to the heavens. He spent 21 years in the Bigs with the Rangers, Tigers, Yankees, Nationals, Marlins and Astros. Great defense. Great arm. 2,844 hits. 311 home runs. 1,332 runs and 1,354 runs scored. First ballot HoFer in five years.

Ozzie Guillen: Before the Mouth Roared

They're so cute when they're young, arent't they? And consider that Ozzie already had five years in the Bigs and a few years in the minors by the time he was photographed for this 1990 Fleer card. Most baseball fans know Ozzie as persona non-grata in Little Havana in Miami, but he actually played 16 years accumulating 1,764 hits, including 275 doubles, for the White Sox, Orioles, Braves and former Devil Rays. After he was publicly lashed for his Castro quips in Time Magazine, the Marlins manager will likely stay away from geo-political commentary. For a while, anyway.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Marvin Miller: This Man Deserved His Own Baseball Card

If there was a guy who deserved to have his own baseball card it was Marvin Miller. Let's see. What's the best way to describe Mr. Miller's role in baseball lore? Well, the back of Marv's 1991 Big League Cards card states, "One of Marvin's favorite activities was negotiating the baseball owners out of their stuffed shirts." And that, my friends, pretty much sums up Marvelous Marv's place in history. As the players union chief from 1966-1982, Miller negotiated labor deals that increased a player's annual average salary from $19,000 to $241,000. Oh, by the way, he also ushered in the era of free agency. Hard to believe, Marv's nickname is "Lefty," the back of his card said, noting his hobbies are "rational discussion" and "fighting injustice."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Josh Hamilton: When His Arms Were a Blank Canvas

ESPN's national game tonight is the Rangers-Rays tilt, and the strongest link between the two clubs is this fella -- Josh Hamilton. Curious about what Hamilton's arms looked like before they became ink murals? Check out this 2002 Upper Deck card of Hamilton, picked by Tampa Bay as the first overall pick in the 1999 Major League Baseball Draft. 2001 was a tough year for Hamilton, who suffered injuries and drug/alcohol addiction before the Rays ultimately let him loose. The Cubs, picking for the Reds, plucked Hamilton in the Rule 5 Draft and Hamilton appeared in the Bigs for the first time in 2007 with the Reds. The Reds traded Hamilton to the Rangers and the rest is history. He led the AL in RBI with 130 in 2008, led the AL in hitting with a .359 average in 2010 and was the league's MVP in 2010, too. But it all began with the Rays and those unadorned arms seen in this card when he played for the Orlando Rays in 2001.

Barry Bonds: The True Mr. Irrelevant

Check out this 1994 Pinnacle card and it's pretty obvious that Stevie Wonder would do a helluva job playing Barry Bonds in a Bonds bio movie. Forget about Bonds' steroid use and lies. The ultimate punishment is the fact that nobody talks about Barry Bonds' 762 home runs. Everyone knows Aaron's 755 and Ruth's 714, yet Bonds' 762 has been tainted not so much unjust but irrelevant. That lack of respect and relevance is the biggest punishment of all for Bonds. But at least he made the crazybaseballcards blog!

Alejandro Pena: Doing Tricks With Baseballs

It seemed like the card companies had a lot of fun photographing pitchers doing tricks with baseballs in the past 20 years. Remember the David Cone split-fingered baseball card on this blog? Here we have Alejandro Pena in a 1993 Topps Stadium Club card balancing a baseball on his middle finger, kind of the equivalent of hoops players spinning a basketball on their pointer finger. Pena had a very respectable 15-year career, finishing with a 56-52 record with a 3.11 ERA, including a National League-leading 2.48 in 1984. He played for the Dodgers, Mets, Braves, Pirates, Red Sox, Marlins and I suppose is doing baseball-balancing acts in retirement.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moises Alou: Nice Stats, Plus A Tango With Bartman

Baseball is an amazing sport because despite the marathon nature of a season and the thousands of at bats accumulated by a player, he can be remembered for a snapshot moment. Moises Alou compiled sterling numbers during his 17-year career: 332 home runs, 1,287 RBI, 2,134 hits, 421 doubles and a lifetime .303 batting average.

But the snapshot of Alou in my mind was his mini-tantrum following the infamous Bartman ball during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS between Alou's Cubbies and the Marlins. You recall Alou reached into the stands for a foul ball but came up empty because of ol' Bartman. After the game I thought to myself, what if Alou told the pitchfork-carrying masses not to blame Bartman, perhaps that guy with the earphones would have been able to lead a more normal life.

Nah, I don't think Alou rolls that way. He rolls with a towel on his head in this 1996 Donruss card.