Monday, June 17, 2013


Getting the 1984 Donruss set tucked into pages and snapped into a binder recently motivated me to do the same with my equally neglected and sealed '85 factory set. The process of unwrapping the "bricks'' last week exposed hundreds of never-seen cards.

Like the No. 319 Wally Backman, the best drag bunt card of all-time.

Don't know if he kept this one fair or if it bounced off him during that spring training game, but his form and expression are captured brilliantly. The bat angle gives the card the always desirable diagonal line, and the exposure is spot-on to capture Backman's face.

Backman is not the first Met you remember from the mid-'80s, but he was among a core group who made up the club's guts and guile. A former first-round pick by New York in '77, Backman played as ferociously as he partied, which made him a natural fit for the Mets and a Shea Stadium favorite.

That hard-scrabbled personality and leadership ability put him on the fast track to become a major-league manager. The Diamondbacks promoted him in November '04, but reports surfaced about legal and financial problems that he never disclosed. The team fired him four days later. Then there's his legendary temper tantrums as a minor-league manager that have posed an important question: If he can't control himself, how can he control 25 players?

Billy Martin, anybody?

Like Nikki Sixx, Backman's major-league managerial hopes won't die easily. Starting over in the independent South Coast League, he's made his way up the ladder again and is leading the Mets' Triple-A team in Las Vegas. With the big-league club going nowhere under Terry Collins, will Backman get that long-awaited call from Flushing?

A card of him attempting to bunt for a hit is a fitting tribute to a scrappy player willing to do almost anything to help his team win. That's at least one good attribute to have as a manager.

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