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.

Lowell Palmer: Created The Tom Cruise Sunglass Look

Lowell, dude, what is up with the shades in your 1970 Topps card? And, if you're going to be in the Bigs, what is up with a first name like, "Lowell?" Didn't someone in the minors give you a nickname like "Blue Jupiter" Palmer or "Salmon" Palmer. I checked your stats. Five years in the Majors, a 5-18 career record and a 5.67 career ERA. OK Lowell, now I understand why you wanted to wear dark sunglasses as to not be recognized (though showing up in a Phillies uni for your Topps card kinda gave you away.)

Craig Counsell: Will The Real Craig Counsell Please Stand Up

You're a lucky guy, Craig Counsell. The 2002 Topps set included not one but two Craig Counsells. OK, the Counsell on the left is actually a guy by the name of  Greg Colbrunn and the real Counsell is the guy on the right. I suppose it might be easy to mix them up because not only are the first two letters of their last names the same, both completed rather lengthy tenures in the Majors given their skill set. Counsell, the scrappy utility infielder who scored the winning run for the Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, batted a career .255 during a 16-year career that included stops with the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Brewers. Colbrunn, also a utility guy who played first base, played 13 years in the Bigs, batting a career .289. His best year was with the Marlins in 1995, when hit cracked 23 homers and drove in 89. Like Counsell, Colbrunn played for the Marlins, Rockies and Diamondbacks. He also sported the unis of the Expos, Twins, Braves and Mariners. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rich Allen: One Photo Was Good Enough For Two Cards

Hmm, something look fishy here? The 1970 Topps card of former slugger Rich Allen as a Cardinal has an uncanny similarity to the 1972 Topps card of Rich Allen as a White Sox player. I always enjoyed watching Rich Allen or Dick Allen or Richie Alen or whatever name he chose to use. He swung a stunningly-heavy bat and smacked 351 home runs during a 15-year career. As a 22-year-old with the Phillies in 1964, he led the National League in runs scored with 125. And he led the American League in home runs in 1972 and '74. He played for the Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, White Sox and A's -- but I just thought a slugger of Allen's caliber deserved a fresh photo for his 1972 Topps card.

Carlos Delgado: He Swings A Mighty Super Soaker

Carlos Delgado belted 473 home runs during a 17-year career, but I spent half a night trying to find this beauty of a baseball card. It was victory when I found this 1998 Pinnacle card of Delgado in a shoe box stuffed in my closet. He played most of his career with the Blue Jays, ending it with the Marlins and Mets. But I'll always remember Carlos for deploying this super-soaker during the 1997 season with the Blue Jays.

Mike Kekich/Fritz Peterson: Not Crazy Baseball Cards, Just A Crazy Wife Swap

OK, these 1970 Topps baseball cards don't look crazy. But the wife swap between these two wacky Yankees lefthanders in 1972 sure was. Peterson made out better in The Trade, because he eventually married Kekich's wife, while Kekich eventually broke up with Peterson's wife. Kekich also suffered worse on the field, too, playing nine years in the Bigs with a 39-51 record, while Peterson notched a 20-win season for the Yanks in 1970 and finished 133-131 over a 11-year career. I understand Red Sox fans Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are planning a movie, "The Trade," based on the Kekich-Peterson wife swap, so I guess the New York-Boston rivalry even extends to the world of cinema.

Rollie Fingers: Pre-'stache

A local free daily paper called the *tbt in the Tampa Bay area had an item on Rollie Fingers in today's sports section and it mentioned that Fingers grew his famous handlebar mustache to start the 1972 Oakland A's season because he was paid $300 by then-A's owner Charlie Finley to grow the upper-lip hair. "That's the only reason I grew it, 300 bucks out of Charlie." With that quote in mind, I just had to post a pre-'stache baseball card of Fingers. Here's Rollie in his Topps 1970 card. Besides sporting a helluva mustache, Fingers was also known as a pretty darn good reliever, earning a Hall of Fame induction in 1992 and piling up 341 saves during a 17-year career that ended after the 1985 season. After his Oakland days, Roland Glen Fingers pitched for the Padres and the Brewers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bill Buckner: Even His Baseball Card Gives Him The Business

How cruel can you get? The guys who make baseball cards usually come up with somethng nice to say on the back of cards -- even unearthing some trivial stat from a player's high school days to make the player look good.

But check out the back of this 1988 Score card of Bill Buckner, one helluva player who gets the business from Score on his baseball card.

The dude racked up 2,715 hits, drove in 1,208 runs, belted nearly 500 doubles and scored 1,077 runs during a 22-year career but Score actually referred to the infamous ground ball that went through Bill's legs in the 1986 World Series Game 6.

"Bill, who was haunted in Boston by the grounder that went through his legs to lose Game 6 of the '86 World Series,  . . . "

Score, that's cold. Downright cold.

Roberto Alomar: Wore a Devil Rays Jersey Only For This Card

The Rays are a hot commodity these days but before the Rays made the playoffs in three of the past four years, the team that played in St. Petersburg, Fla. was a doormat. Back in 2005, Roberto Alomar was photographed by Topps for this baseball card but Alomar knew better.

He quit while he was ahead and never played a regular-season game for the team known as the Devil Rays back in 2005.

Alomar made the Hall of Fame last year and is considered one of the best second basemen of all time. He started with the Padres, was all-world with the Blue Jays, Orioles and Indians before he became a .260 hitter with the Mets. He played out his career with the White Sox and the Diamondbacks.

But that Devil Rays uniform on Alomar? It only made the face of this 2005 Topps card.

Jeff Brantley: Baseball as Crystal Ball

I have a special place in my heart for players who do weird stuff with baseballs for their cards. Some pitchers show you the split-fingered fastball grip in their cards and Jeff Brantley, in this 1996 Donruss card, is using the baseball as a crystal ball. Brantley played 14 years in the Bigs, highlighted by leading the National League in saves with 44 for the Reds in 1996 and being named as an All-Star in 1990 when he was with the Giants and had a glittery 1.56 ERA that season. he also played for the Cardinals, Phillies and Rangers by the time he called it quits in 2001. "The Cowboy" was a member of that famed Mississippi State team that included the likes of Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen and was a Baseball Tonight broadcaster with ESPN from 2002-06 before joining the Reds radio booth in 2007.

Jeffrey Hammonds: A Card Within A Card

It always a treat when a player shows you his baseball card in his own baseball card. Jeffrey Hammonds did just that in this 2003 Fleer Ultra. Hammonds was one of those average, forgettable outfielders who banged out 110 home runs during a 15-year career that included a 21-homer year for the Orioles in 1997 and a 20-homer year for the Rockies in 2000. By the tiome his career ended with the Nats in 2005, he was 34 years old and had played for the Orioles, Reds, Rockies, Twins, Giants and Nationals. He was your number six hitter in a line-up and for me he'll always be remembered as the guy who held his own baseball card with a blue Sharpie in the other hand.

Dave Stewart: He Had a Helluva 4-Year Run

Dave Stewart had an amazing four-year run from 1987-1990 for the Oakland A's when he won 20, 21, 21 and 22 ganes for those powerful A's clubs that went to three straight World Serieses. No wonder he was in such a good mood back then, goofing around as a photographer for this 1991 Upper Deck card. He was at the pinnacle of his career, which would last only until 1995. Besides playing for the A's, Stewart had stints with the Dodgers, Rangers, Phillies and Blue Jays. But he will alwsys be remembered for those four straight 20-win years with those Bash Brothers A's clubs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ken Griffey: Superstar Who Hung Out With Bugs and Friends

Most fans thought Ken Griffey, Jr. would break Hank Aaron's home run record. Griffey did finish with 630 homers over the course of a superstar career. Griffey's middle name was "5 Tool" and he was the most naturally gifted player of his generation, which includes playing for the Mariners, Reds and White Sox. Besides his long-ball prowess and sprawling catches in center field, Griffey -- in my warped mind -- will also be remembered for these 1992 Upper Deck cards. He was a superstar at the height of his popularity and allowed himself to be pictured with the likes of Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. Well played, junior,


Walt "No Neck" Williams: A Natural-born Nickname

Walt "No Neck" Williams has a nickname that is truly accurate. No hyperbole here. But don't get caught up with the No Neck monitor to the extent that you overlook his baseball accomplishments.

No Neck compiled a lifetime .270 average during a career that include a very ultra-short stint with the Houston Colt .45s, and longer stays with the White Sox, Indians and Yankees. He batted lead-off for the White Sox and batted. .304 for them in 1969.

My pal Larry Lebowitz is looking at this post and saying, "Yup, that dude truly had no neck."

Some nicknames just roll off the tongue when you see the baseball card. No Neck is one of those.