Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1973 TOPPS DARRELL EVANS

AGED LIKE FINE WINE.



HOT-CORNER SLUGGER DELUXE.



THE FRONT PAGE

  • "Underrated'' is probably overused when it comes to describing deserving players not in the Hall of Fame. Darrell Evans is another, and according to sabermatrician/author Bill James, he's at the top. James ranks Evans 10th all-time among third basemen in his Historical Baseball Abstract and "the most underrated player in baseball history, absolutely No. 1 on the list.'' The big knock on Evans was his .248 lifetime average over 21 seasons. What's often lost was his ability to take a walk (97 times per season) and of course his power (414 homers). He also aged well for someone who didn't play in the steroid era and was the second player to hit 100-plus homers for three different teams and slashed .361/.431.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Excellent cartoon. Evans' mom, Eleanor, played for the Pasadena Ramblers.
  • Darrell Wayne Evans sounds like a bad-ass gunfighter from the old west.

PHOTO PLAY

  • The '70s Braves pullovers have aged well, especially the road version, that big sleeve feather the focal point here.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • James compares Evans to Hall of Famer Tony Perez, saying Evans was the better of the two but because he didn't play for a big-market team or a powerhouse was overlooked.
  • Reggie Jackson is the only other player to hit 100-plus homers for three teams.
  • When Evans came up with the Braves, Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews, who was then a coach, helped refine his defense by hitting him thousands of grounders.
  • Mathews became the manager in '72, Evans' first year as the regular third baseman when he hit 19 home runs.
  • Evans was the first player to hit 40-plus homers in both leagues (41 in '73 with the Braves and 40 in '85 with the Tigers).
  • That '73 Braves team was the first to feature three players to hit 40-plus homers. Joining Evans were Davey Johnson (43) and Hank Aaron (40).
  • Evans' '73 season was his best, reaching career-highs in homers, RBI (104) and batting average (.281). He also drew a major-league leading 124 walks.
  • The next season, on April 8 against the Dodgers, Evans reached on an error and scored on Aaron's historic 715th homer.
  • Led the majors in walks for a second consecutive year in '74 with 126.
  • Hitting below .200 in June 1976 and the Braves going nowhere, Evans was traded to the Giants, with Marty Perez, for Willie Montanez
  • Evans hit 131 homers for the Braves in nine seasons.
  • Hit 142 homers in eight seasons for the Giants.
  • A free agent after the '83 season, he chose the Tigers over the Yankees with the hope of making the postseason for the first time.
  • Wise choice. The '84 Tigers went wire-to-wire and won the World Series, but Evans was largely ineffective, hitting .232 with only 16 homers and 63 RBI.
  • He made up for it with a remarkable '85 season, becoming the oldest (38) to lead the AL in homers with those 40 bombs. It also was the only time he led the league in homers.
  • Evans would hit a then-record 60 homers after age 40. 
  • Selected to only two All-Star teams ('73 and '83).
  • In '87, as the oldest everyday player in the majors, Evans hit 34 homers and drove in 99 for the Tigers.
  • Hit 141 homers in five seasons for Detroit.
  • Evans says he witnessed a life-changing event in '82, when he and his wife saw a UFO and became a believer in the supernatural and extraterrestrials. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

NAMES OF THE GAME: HEINIE MANUSH





I'd pay the prime-time theater admission price just to hear Adam Sandler say in that whiny voice he frequently uses in all his movies:

Heinie Manush.

Henry Emmett ma-NOOSH is a Hall of Famer, and batted .378 (twice), . 362, .355, .350 and .349 but won only one batting title. He clearly is more than an amusing name.

Despite it sounding soft and doughy, maybe more fit for a German baker, Manush was pure hardscrabble. "Heinie'' was a popular German nickname for "Henry,'' and several early 20th century players had it. Manush is the most famous, because, well, he had a very interesting 17-year career.

A line-drive hitter from Alabama, Heinie came up with the Tigers in 1923 and found a kindred spirit in player-manager Ty Cobb, another follow Southerner known for kicking hiney. However, Cobb kissed up to this Heinie, seeing a potential batting champion if he only choked up to make consistent contact and used all fields. That guidance made all the difference. 

Earning the center field job in '26, he also won his AL batting title on the last day over Babe Ruth and Manush teammates Bob Fothergill and Harry Heilmann. Heinie trailed all three before going 6-for-9 in the season-ending doubleheader to finish at .378.

Abusing the baseball and diamond antagonists came natural to the pugnacious Manush. Never more so than in the '33 World Series, when Heinie's Senators faced the Carl Hubbell-Mel Ott Giants.

Having a poor Series, Manush was called out by umpire Charlie Moran trying to leg out an infield single in Game 3. An argument led to Heinie yanking Moran's elastic bowtie while being pulled away and snapping it back around Moran's neck. 

I'm envisioning that ump then barking, "Rrrowf! Rrrowf!'' and jabbing Heinie in the eyes with the classic Stooges horizontal peace sign. Unfortunately, such tomfoolery never happened, but Manush did become the first player ejected from a World Series game. 

His rough and rowdy past aside, Manush put together quite a career, hitting .330 in just over 2,000 career games, amassing 2,524 hits, including four 200-plus hit seasons. 

Rumor has it Sandler is negotiating to play him in Heinie's Story: The Man, The Myth, The Manush.





Sunday, April 20, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: PAGING Nos. 118-126

OLSON WOULD HAVE HIS HANDS FULL WITH THESE GUYS.


HALL OF FAMERS

  • #122 Eddie Murray was elected in 2003 on the first ballot with 85.3 percent of the vote; #125 Carlton Fisk entered Cooperstown in '00 on the second ballot with 79.6 percent.

FINEST OF THE NINE

  • With 504 home runs and 1,917 RBI, Murray was one of the best players in baseball history. Among switch-hitters, Murray is the all-time leader in RBI.

FINEST MOMENT

  • You could argue Fisk's Game 6 homer in the 12th inning of the '75 World Series was the finest moment in baseball history.

DESIGNED TO THE NINES

  • #118 Tim Wallach's card is highlighted by the flying bat and tilt of his body following the flight of the ball.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #126 ERIC DAVIS

HE'LL ALWAYS BE ERIC THE RED.


THE '90s WEREN'T KIND TO DAVIS.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Eric Davis epitomized what the best professional baseball players looked like in the 1980s: sinewy, flexible and fast. And make no mistake, Davis was one of the very best in the last half of the decade. A five-tool dynamo for the Reds, Davis averaged 30 homers, 41 steals and slashed .277/.371/.527 from '86-'90. His OPS+ during that stretch was 143. Injuries cut him down like a sickle swinging in a wheat field and a certain Hall of Fame career never materialized. Still, for those of us lucky enough to have watched him roam and rob home runs in center field and take over games offensively, it was hard to imagine anyone better.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Davis set the tone in the bottom of the first in Game 1 of the '90 World Series against the Athletics on Oct. 16. With two outs and one on, Davis drove Dave Stewart's first offering over the center-field fence. The Reds went on to win 7-0 and wound up sweeping the series in one of baseball's biggest upsets. 

DEFINING SEASON

  • Few players ever had a better first two months than Davis in '87. By the end of May, he had hit an NL record 19 homers and was Player of the Month for April and May. He also hit an NL record three grand slams in May. Despite playing in only 129 games because of injuries, he still hit 37 homers, drove in 100 runs and stole 50 bases. He became the first player to hit 30-plus homers and steal 50-plus bags.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Whetted the appetite of fans in '86 when he hit 27 homers and stole 80 bases.
  2. Won the first of three consecutive Gold Gloves in '87.
  3. His 84.1 stolen-base percentage is second all-time to #183 Tim Raines.
  4. The beginning of the end for Davis began in Game 4 of the '90 World Series when he lacerated his kidney making a diving catch. While his teammates celebrated the series-clinching win, Davis was in the hospital, where he'd stay for 11 days.
  5. After playing 89 games in '91, Davis was traded after the season to the Dodgers, along with Kip Gross, for Tim Belcher and #129 John Wetteland. Davis had a few 20-plus homer seasons left in his 17-year career but never approached the level attained with the Reds.

Friday, April 18, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #125 CARLTON FISK

FISK HAD A LOT OF GREAT CARDS.


BORN TO BE A CATCHER.



DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • No nonsense and deliberate, Carlton Fisk was as steady as your grandfather's gold pocket watch, even if he ran a little slow. Fisk was in control for 24 seasons behind the plate. He retired in 1993 as the all-time leader in games caught and most home runs (351). You messed with Fisk at your own peril, just ask #141 Deion Sanders. You also tempted fate by pitching to him with the game on the line, just ask the Reds. A 10-time All-Star, Fisk hit 376 homers -- 188 on the road and at home -- drove in 1,330 runs and slashed .269/.341/.457.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Oct. 21, 1975. Game 6 of the World Series. Twelve inning. Score 6-6. Red Sox trailing in the series 3-2. Pat Darcy on the mound. Fisk pulls a 1-0 pitch and hammers it off the foul pole in left for the winner while waving it fair for dramatics. That's a defining moment all right.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Fisk hit 26 homers, drove in 102 runs and slashed .315/.402/.521 in '77, playing 152 games.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Fisk was the first unanimous AL Rookie of the Year, batting .293 with 22 home runs in '72. Along with Joe Rudi, he also co-led the AL in triples with nine, the last catcher to do so.
  2. A knee injury suffered in a home plate collision in '74 put his career in jeopardy. He had reconstructive knee surgery and returned in the middle of the '75 season.
  3. In his 11 seasons as Red Sox catcher, Fisk averaged 14 homers, 52 RBI and was a seven-time All-Star. He was constantly trying to get more money from the tight-fisted front office.
  4. When the Red Sox mailed Fisk's new contract after the '80 season one day late, he was granted free agency and signed with the White Sox, where he would play his final 13 seasons. 
  5. On May 22, 1990, at Yankee Stadium, Fisk had to correct Sanders about how to play the game properly. Sanders popped out to the infield in the third inning and didn't bother to run it out. That's when Fisk popped off, telling him to run the ball out. Next time up in the fifth, Sanders told Fisk the days of slavery were over. "There's a right way and a wrong way to play this game, and you're playing it the wrong way,'' Fisk barked. "And the rest of us don't like it. Someday you're going to get this game shoved right down your throat!''

THE GAME 6 FISK HR BALL, SCUFFED BY THE FOUL POLE SCREEN,
BEFORE LANDING IN FOSTER'S GLOVE; UNFORTUNATELY, NOT MINE.


BUT THIS ONE IS.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #124 JAY BUHNER

KEN PHELPS FOR JAY BUHNER, ANYONE?


NOTHING SAYS THE '90s LIKE OAKLEY EYE WEAR.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Jay Buhner was yet another discarded Yankee farmhand who found success in another organization. Joining Willie McGee and #106 Fred McGriff on the railway out of the Bronx, Buhner was traded to the Mariners in 1988 and played Robin to Ken Griffey Jr.'s Batman in the middle of the order. Buhner appeared in 32 games for the Yankees and the other 1,440 with the Mariners, hitting 310 homers and driving in 965 with a slash line of .254/.359/.494 in 15 years. He was as beloved as Griffey, and maybe even more as many identified with his blue-collar approach to the game.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • With the score 2-2 in the 11th inning of Game 3 of the ALCS on Oct. 13, 1995, Buhner silenced the Jacobs Field crowd with a three-run blast off Eric Plunk, giving the Mariners a 5-2 victory over the Indians. However, the Indians would win the next three games to end underdog Seattle's magical postseason ride.

DEFINING SEASON

  • Buhner established career-highs in homers (44) and RBI (138) in '96, slashing .271/.369/.557. He was named an All-Star for the only time in his career and won his only Gold Glove as a right fielder.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. The Yankees acquired Buhner, Steve Kemp and Tim Foli and cash from the Pirates in exchange for Dale Berra and Alfonso Pulido in December '84.  
  2. George Steinbrenner couldn't leave well enough alone, sending Buhner to the Mariners in July '88 for Ken Phelps, whom the Boss saw as filling a power need with the AL East title there for the taking. Phelps hit 10 homers in 107 at-bats, but the Bombers finished 85-76, fifth in the East.
  3. Although a free-swinger who averaged 155 strikeouts a season, Buhner took his share of walks, twice drawing 100-plus.
  4. On June 23, 1993, he hit for the cycle against the Athletics, with his 14th-inning triple leading to the winning run.
  5. Hit four homers in the '95 postseason -- three in the ALCS -- and drove in eight runs. Overall, in 85 at-bats covering 26 playoff games, he hit .306 with eight homers and 12 RBI.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #123 WIL CORDERO

FELL SHORT OF BECOMING CAL JR. II.


LOADS OF POTENTIAL IN '93.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Wil Cordero was a top-rated prospect in the deep Expos farm system that was spitting out starters in the early 1990s who would comprise their unofficial '94 NL East championship club. While Cordero became serviceable shortstop in the majors, he didn't develop into the second coming of Cal Ripken Jr. many envisioned. He played 14 years, hit 122 home runs and had a .273/.330/.428 slash line.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Facing the first-place Braves on June 28, 1994, at Olympic Stadium, the Expos trailed 7-6 in the ninth. After Larry Walker singled in the  tying run off Steve Bedrosian and sending Moises Alou to third with no outs, Cordero singled to left on a 3-2 pitch to give Montreal an 8-7 victory, cutting Atlanta's lead in the division to a half game. The Expos would seize the lead for good on July 22 and go to win the division, pennant and World Series. The players' strike halted the season on Aug. 11, with Montreal cruising at 74-40 and leading Atlanta by six games, so we'll never know how good the Expos were.

DEFINING SEASON

  • In '94, Cordero hit 15 home runs, drove in 63 runs, stole 16 bases and slashed .294/.363/.489. He was awarded the Silver Slugger and made the NL All-Star team for the only time in his career.

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Signed as an amateur free agent at age 16 by the Expos out of Mayaguez, P.R.
  2. Made his major-league debut at age 20 in '92, playing in 45 games and hitting .302.
  3. Cordero played four years for the Expos before being traded to the Red Sox in January '96.
  4. Hit a career-high 18 home runs for the Sox in '97, but they released him after accusations that he beat his wife.
  5. He would go on to play for four other organizations and returned to Montreal for '02-'03 and play a final season in '05 with Washington, which was the new home of the Expos.