Friday, January 9, 2015

NAMES OF THE GAME: WONDERFUL MONDS III






When Wonderful Terrific Monds III's grandfather was born, great grand pappy gazed at his first-born son after 11 daughters and proclaimed:

"Wonderful, just Terrific.''

Not known is if his next utterance was, "Hey, drop the 'just' and that's a helluva name!'' 

In any case, Wonderful Terrific Monds was born and fortunately the name wouldn't die with him. The Monds Squad was just beginning.

Later came Wonderful Terrific Monds Jr., a defensive back who played a season with the San Francisco 49ers after being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1976 draft out of Nebraska.

Eager to broadcast that awesome, dynamite name further into the world, WTMJ passed it on to two sons. The oldest would become the 50th pick of the Braves in the '93 MLB draft at age 20. The speedy outfielder never made it to the majors, as the talent-rich Braves were beginning their dynastic decade.

Rotten, Bad.

Possessing good speed but not much power, WTM III averaged 23 steals over his seven minor-league seasons and was successful 77 percent of the time.

Outstanding, Excellent.

His best season was in '94, playing for Single-A Macon and Durham, when he slashed .280/.330/.483 with 47 steals, 12 homers, 12 triples and 25 doubles.

Amazing, Superb.

He joined the Rockies' organization in '98 and played for Double-A New Haven, where he was the Eastern League All-Star Game MVP and led the league in steals with 41.

Marvelous, Magnificent.

Monds III, shown above on his '95 SP Top Prospects Autograph card from Upper Deck, ended his career in '99 with Double-A Chattanooga without getting a major-league at-bat. 

Rotten, Sucks.

As a Names of the Game honoree, Monds 3.0 always will be simply Wonderful, Terrific.

Monday, January 5, 2015

LET'S RIGHT SOME WRONGS



The new year brings about a new round of Hall of Fame debate and angst with the 2015 results being announced Tuesday.

At least the talking heads at MLB Network will have something new to pontificate after endlessly rehashing Winter Meetings trades the past month.

Because of the Steroid Era, the ballot has been crammed with a who's-who of the diamond's biggest stars from the late-1980s through the early 2000s, some of whom were either proven or suspected PED users. Until testing began in the '03 season, nobody technically was cheating as the owners and players' association looked the other way. Because there's no agreement among the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters or guidance from the Hall itself other than the "general character'' clause, great debate exists on how to judge these players.

It gives us all a lot to argue about at the expense of actually enshrining players. The Hall's recent rule change to reduce the eligibility of players on the writers' ballot from 15 to 10 years is designed to help unclog the ballot, but it might hurt some deserving players in need of further study.

With these eyes, 12 sure-fire Hall of Famers are on this ballot. Only 10 can be nominated. But I also see no more than three getting in, based on the BBWAA's stingy voting history. 

I can't vote for John Smoltz, for as good as he was, needs to wait a year in order to enshrine several overlooked candidates. Edgar Martinez, despite being one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time, also can't go in before my 10. Lastly, my opinion on PED users and suspected PED users has changed over the past couple of years, so I won't penalize for proven use before '03. 

Accompanying each player are three quick-hit reasons for induction and their '93 Upper Deck card because, well, I haven't featured enough of this artfully crafted set.






PEDRO MARTINEZ

  1. Led the majors five times in ERA during a period from '97-03 when run-scoring was at an all-time high.
  2. Highest ERA in that seven-year span was 2.89. 
  3. Won three Cy Young Awards and finished runner-up two other times.






  1. Struck out a left-handed record 4,875 batters, second all-time to Nolan Ryan
  2. Won 303 games and five Cy Young Awards, four in a row from '99-'02. 
  3. One of the most intimating pitchers from any era, with one mean mullet. 






CRAIG BIGGIO

  1. Had 3,060 hits, one of 28 players to reach 3,000.
  2. Ranks 15th all-time in runs scored with 1,844.
  3. Never won the MVP but was one of the NL's Most Versatile Players, excelling at catcher, second base and in the outfield.






TIM RAINES

  1. 85 percent success rate is best all-time for those with more than 300 attempts. 
  2. Stole 808 bases, fifth all-time.
  3. OK, he wasn't Rickey Henderson but was the second best in 12 of his 23 seasons, never stealing fewer than 33 bases.






  1. Hit 493 homers in a 19-year career.
  2. Slugged .509 and had a career OPS+ of 134.
  3. In 50 postseason games, slugged .532 with an OPS .917.






MIKE MUSSINA

  1. Won 270 games, 33rd all-time.
  2. Compiled a 3.68 ERA pitching all 18 of his seasons in the high-scoring AL East from '91-'08.
  3. His 83.0 career WAR is 23rd and is ahead of 40 of the 59 Hall of Fame starting pitchers.





BARRY BONDS

  1. All-time home run leader with 762.
  2. Single-season home run leader with 73.
  3. Won seven MVP Awards.






ROGER CLEMENS

  1. Won 354 games, ninth all-time.
  2. Struck out 4,672, third all-time.
  3. Won seven Cy Young Awards.








MIKE PIAZZA

  1. Can lay claim to being the best hitting catcher of all-time, slashing .308/.377/.545.
  2. Sixth all-time in WAR among catchers with 59.2.
  3. Elected to 12 NL All-Star teams.






JEFF BAGWELL

  1. Ranks sixth in career WAR (79.6) among first basemen.
  2. Slashed .297/.408/.540, just missing being called a "3-4-5'' career player.
  3. Hit 449 homers with 1,529 RBI.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1985 TOPPS DICKIE THON

WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM ...


WAS A DAMNED SHAME.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • The third of the holy trinity of "What if?'' players. Dickie Thon, like Tony Conigliaro and J.R. Richard before him, was a superstar in the making felled by tragedy. Thon, like Conigliaro in 1967, was beaned in '84. Thon, unlike Richard who suffered a stroke in '80 during his prime and never pitched in the majors again, came back the next year from a fractured left orbital bone to play nine more seasons and 15 overall. But he was never the same, going from starter to role player. Bill James in his Historical Baseball Abstract estimated Thon, 25 in '84, had a 51 percent chance of making the Hall of Fame before the beaning, based on his rapidly improving skills and the determination shown to play again. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • Fred Thon was in the Dodgers' organization and played winter ball with Satchel Paige and Monte Irvin. Thon would later manage in Puerto Rico, where the family was from.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Always thought the arms spread wide set position for infielders was a bit peculiar. Seems like you see most infielders with their hands close together, weight on the balls of the feet. Whatever works, I guess, even though Brooksie would disagree.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Thon was signed by the Angels as a non-drafted free-agent in '75 and skipped Double-A to play in Triple-A by '77.
  • Spent parts of the '79 and '80 seasons with the Angels before being traded to the Astros in April '81 for pitcher Ken Forsch.
  • In '82, his first full season, Thon led the NL in triples with 10, slashing .276/.327/.397 with a 110 OPS+.  He also stole 37 bags. Combined with above average defense at short, the leadoff hitter was worth 6.1 wins above replacement.
  • Thon was even better in '83, making the All-Star team, hitting a career-high 20 homers with 34 steals, slashing .286/.341/.457. He had an OPS+ of 127 and a 7.4 WAR. Clearly, the sky was the limit.
  • Then came April 8, 1984, in a game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Striking out in the first inning on an outside pitch from Mike Torrez, Thon came up in the third and said he crowded the plate, expecting Torrez to continue to work outside. Torrez came in, with the ball accidentally riding up. Season over and many who witnessed it thought career over.
  • Thon's vision was 20/150 in his left eye and eventually improved to 20/40, but most disconcerting was the permanent damage to his depth perception.
  • Despite his handicap, Thon made it back the next season, but his days as a starting shortstop for the Astros were over.
  • For the next three years, he battled eye fatique and experimented with different stances to compensate for his eyesight.
  • Had a nice comeback season in '89 with the Phillies, belting 15 homers, driving in 60 and playing in 136 games, the most since his All-Star season in '83.
  • In '91, he was awarded the Tony Conigliaro Award, which honors a player who best overcomes adversity. 
  • Tony C and Dickie T. ... Man, what if?

Friday, December 26, 2014

WHAT I DIDN'T GET FOR CHRISTMAS

  • A 1965 Topps Mickey Mantle card to inch closer to completing the set.
  • A corporate card to pretend the factory cares.
  • An official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle.
  • A 100-count box of nine-pocket UltraPro Platinum Series hologram pages.
  • A night off on Christmas.  
  • A day on the bike in the mountains of Western North Carolina on Christmas.
  • The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book.



  • One flippin' high-numbered 2014 Heritage card to cross off that set list.
  • A car drive without hearing a horn honk.
  • Chatter about real solutions to end the three-hour ballgame.
  • A quirky questionnaire I mailed Spaceman Bill Lee more than a year ago.


  • A sensible answer to police brutality. 
  • A promise from Topps not to re-use another player photo nor the 1980 design for Archives.
  • A promise of no more promises ever from Roger Goodell. 
  • A suggestion on how to really organize my collection better.
  • Unanimous agreement on my suggestion that Die Hard is really a Christmas movie.


  • Gum and wax returned to packs.
  • Respect and manners taken for granted. 
  • A declaration of war on mediocrity
  • A declaration of peace on Earth.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

INSIDE THE ALBUM: 1991 TOPPS STADIUM CLUB

THE FIRST PAGE: WOW!


THE BACK OF THE FIRST PAGE: DOUBLE WOW!



In 1991, Topps responded to the premium efforts of '89 Upper Deck and '90 Leaf with a game-changing brand that left an impact in the hobby as vast as right-center field in old old Yankee Stadium. Six-hundred full-bleed, high-gloss cards released in two series. Each with a pinstriped sky-blue name plate accented with gold foil and adorned with the Stadium Club logo button. All printed on white stock using ''Kodak Imaging Technology.'' The set was littered with horizontal-oriented cards, White Sox players in their 1917 Turn Back The Clockers and a few unconventional photos and glamor shots sprinkled about. Who didn't do a double-take after seeing No. 1 Dave Stewart, No. 138 Eric Show and No. 200 Nolan Ryan? If that wasn't enough innovation, there were the high-gloss backs that featured the basic previous year's and career stat lines, and for the first time the advanced-metrics Fastball BARS System chart for hitters and Types of Pitch by Percentages chart for pitchers. Topping it off was a picture of the player's first Topps card. Speaking of debuts, there was only one big rookie card: No. 388 Jeff Bagwell. Regardless and despite the lack of subsets, parallels and inserts, the set grows in statue, especially in light of the brand's successful comeback this year. Rest assured, Topps will have something planned for the 25th anniversary in two years. It won't look as good as this.



STEW WORKS ON A NEW DELIVERY.


WHILE SHOW CHILLS OUT.


TRY RENTING THAT FOOTWEAR
AND HEADWEAR FROM THE LOCAL TUX SHOP.


THUMBING THROUGH THE SET



NICE HAIR, TEDDY.


STADIUM FACT

  • Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J., home to the New York Knickerbockers, was the first regular ballfield and hosted the New York Nine in its first game June 19, 1846. The Nine spoiled the party by winning 23-1.

STADIUM FACT

  • Ebbets Field's right-field scoreboard was topped with an electronic Schaefer beer sign. The ''h'' would light when the official scorer ruled hit and the "e'' for error. 


A DETERMINED LARKIN AND PENSIVE WALKER.


STADIUM FACT

  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in '92, and the Birds won 10 of their first 11 games, a record for a team playing in a new park.

STADIUM FACT RUMOR

  • Griffith Park, home to the Senators from '11-'61, was said to have a downward sloping first base line to help the team's slow-footed players.


ALWAYS LOVED THAT BOGGS BP SHOT.


STADIUM FACT

  • Olympic Stadium in Montreal hosted the first All-Star Game outside of the United States on July 13, 1982, and hometown Expos ace Steve Rogers earned the victory in front of more than 59,000 fans.


BONDS LOOKS ALMOST HUMAN; BO IN AN '87 REDUX?


STADIUM FACT

  • Frank Robinson was the only player to hit a ball out of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, clearing the left-field bleachers with a 450-foot shot on May 8, 1966. 

STADIUM FACT

  • In the second postseason game played at SkyDome in Toronto on Oct. 7, 1989, Jose Canseco connected on a blast to the nether regions of the left-field upper deck in Game 4 of the ALCS. It was estimated to have traveled 540 feet.


AN ABSOLUTE CLASSIC JUNIOR CARD RIGHT THERE.


STADIUM FACT

  • The first night game in Major League Baseball was played at Crosley Field in Cincinnati on May 24, 1935, with the Reds defeating the Phillies 2-1 in front of 20,422 fans. 

STADIUM FACT

  • Shibe Park in Philadelphia hosted the first night game in AL history on May 16, 1939. The Indians defeated the A's 8-3 in front of 15,000 fans.


YOU HALF EXPECT THE CRIME DOG TO BLURT, "LET'S PLAY TWO!''


STADIUM FACT

  • The Baker Bowl, home to the Philadelphia Phillies, was the scene of tragedy in 1903 when a section of the left-field stands collapsed and 12 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. In 1927, 10 rows of the right-field stands fell, sending dozens to the hospital.


THE PRIZED BAGWELL ROOKIE; ALEX COLE IS REALLY OTIS NIXON.


STADIUM FACT

  • Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was the site of Babe Ruth's 714th and final home run on May 25, 1935. That clout was the first ball to clear the right-field roof, estimated at 600 feet, and the last of three he hit that day.

STADIUM FACT

  • In 1997, Progressive Field, known as Jacobs Field then, became the first ballpark in 20 years to host an All-Star Game and World Series game in the same season. That occurred only nine times previously.


BIG MAC COULD HIT 'EM OUT; HOWE WAS TOLD TO GET OUT.


STADIUM FACT

  • Only four players cleared the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium: Harmon Killebrew in 1962, Frank Howard in '68, Cecil Fielder in '90 and Mark McGwire in '97.

STADIUM FACT

  • Harry Stevens gets credit for selling the first ''frankfurter'' at a ballpark (Polo Grounds) just before the beginning of the 20th century.


CHECK OUT RAMON'S RELEASE AND CAMMY'S SALES PITCH.


STADIUM FACT

  • Milwaukee's County Stadium was the site of several records and milestones during its 47-year history: Warren Spahn ('61) and Nolan Ryan ('90) won their 300th career games; Rickey Henderson broke Lou Brock's single-season stolen base mark in '82; Jose Canseco stole his 40th base, becoming the first to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 in a season in '88; and Robin Yount joined the 3,000-hit club in '92.

STADIUM FACT

  • Sound meters set up at the Metrodome in Minneapolis recorded decibel levels of 125 during the 1991 World Series between the Twins and the Braves, greater than the sound of a jet during takeoff.


REED'S IN THE DOGHOUSE FOR FAILING TO HIT LIKE LANKFORD.


STADIUM FACT

  • Because of a notch in the right-field brick wall, Wrigley Field in Chicago is the only park where the outfield wall in fair territory is actually closer to home plate than the foul pole. 


HATE TO QUIBBLE, BUT THE '17 SOX UNIS DIDN'T HAVE NUMBERS.


STADIUM FACT

  • Chicago's Comiskey Park was the oldest continuously used ballpark when it closed on Sept. 30, 1990. 

STADIUM FACT

  • Mark McGwire hit 38 homers at Busch Stadium in 1998, which was a record for the most hit in one park in one season.


DOESN'T OREL LOOK SIMPLY DREAMY?


STADIUM FACT

  • Muehlebach Field in Kansas City was the home to the longest-running franchise of the Negro Leagues, the Kansas City Monarchs, who produced future major-leaguers Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks and Elston Howard. 


IF BIGGIO GETS THE CALL, HERE'S 4 HALL OF FAMERS.


STADIUM FACT

  • McCormick Field in Asheville, N.C., hosted a preseason game between the Yankees and Dodgers in 1925, but the big story occurred before the game when Babe Ruth became ill, and reports spread that he had died. It turned out he just had a bad stomach, prompting the headline, "The Bellyache Heard 'Round the World.''


I REALLY MISS TONY GWYNN.

Friday, December 19, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: PAGING Nos. 163-171

HENKE, SMOLTZ AND HOUGH MADE LIFE TOUGH ON HITTERS.


HALL OF FAMERS

  • None, but No. 166 John Smoltz is on the ballot for the first time in January and figures to come close and get in eventually.

FINEST OF THE NINE

  • Smoltz, like Hall of Famer and No. 100 Dennis Eckersley, was a dynamic force as a starter and closer. He's the only pitcher to have 200-plus victories and 150-plus saves.

FINEST MOMENT

  • Nothing better than getting a little payback, and No. 165 Mo Vaughn got his against the Indians in Game 1 of the '98 ALDS. After being held hitless by the Indians in the '95 division series, Vaughn slammed a three-run homer in his first at-bat in the first inning and ended up driving in seven runs. The Red Sox cruised 11-3.

DESIGNED TO THE NINES

  • Have a hard time putting my finger on it, but the No. 164 Tom Henke card manages to stand out. Maybe it's his whole "Terminator'' persona coming out in a subtle way.