Monday, August 9, 2010

#319 Chris Speier

Who is this player?
Chris Speier, shortstop, Montreal Expos
The 1980 season was one of ups and downs for Montreal Expos shortstop Chris Speier. He lost his starting position in late April when he wasn't hitting and wasn't sharp defensively. After nearly a month on the bench, he returned with a flourish, going 11 for 16 with a triple in and five RBI over a five game stretch. He slumped again over the summer due to a finger injury, and at one point his average dipped to .228. But Chris was consistent in the field and as September came, he helped the Expos surge towards the NL East flag. Speier batted .348 during the month as Montreal stayed in the race until the final weekend of the season.

A native of Alameda, California, the righthanded hitting Speier was drafted by the Washington Senators out of high school but turned it down for a chance to play in college. He starred at the University of California, Santa Barbara which caught the attention of the San Francisco Giants. They selected Chris on the first round of the 1970 draft. He played only one season in the minor leagues where he was a Texas League All Star. The next year, he was handed the starting shortstop position and he appeared in 157 games as the Giants won the NL West pennant. Speier batted .357 in the NLCS, including a home run, but the Giants were defeated by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the early days of his career, Speier was a star; three times being selected to the National League All Star team and even making the cover of Sports Illustrated. He had a reputation as a fiery competitor and was one of the best glove men of his era. Speier had a knack for consistent clutch hitting, batting .314 for his career with the bases loaded. After six full seasons in San Francisco, Speier was traded to the Montreal Expos shortly after the 1977 season began in exchange for Tim Foli.

Speier would go on to spend eight seasons in Montreal, all of them as their starting shortstop. He would hit for the cycle as an Expo uniform in 1978. In 1982, Chris' set a franchise record for RBI in a game with eight. He enhanced his reputation as a fine fielder by consistently placing among the league leaders in putouts and fielding percentage. Chris again appeared in the postseason in 1981 as he helped lead the Expos to an elusive NL East crown and NLCS appearance.

Towards the end of the 1980s, Chris became a journeyman infielder, traded to St. Louis, Minneosta. Chicago (NL) and back to San Francisco to round out his 19-year major league career. It was during this time that Speier again hit for the cycle (1988) and was a member of the 1987 and 1989 NL West championship teams. After his playing days, he became a coach and manager at both the major and minor league levels. He was the third base coach for the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks and currently is the bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Why I love this card
This one was easy. Speier and I shared the same first name. Any player, no matter their skill level immediately moved up a notch if they had the same first name. Speier, Chambliss, Knapp - it didn't matter to me. Their cards were special.

Something else....
Chris' son Justin has pretty together a pretty decent career. The 12-year veteran has played for seven clubs, mostly as a middle reliever. He is currently with the Los Angeles Angels. Additionally, in 1993 Speier served as principal of Ville de Marie Academy, a parochial school in Scottsdale, Arizona.

On this date in 1980:
The Top 40 in popular music was released today, the #1 song in the country was "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John. The complete list can be found here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

#318 Jerry Reuss

Who is this player?
Jerry Reuss, starting pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
1980 would prove to be a truly memorable year for Jerry Reuss of the Los Angeles Dodgers. While he did not begin the season as a starter, he pitched excellently in relief to earn a return to the rotation in mid-May. From there, he was the Dodgers' best pitcher and arguably the best in the National League. En route to a Comeback of the Year award, Reuss went 18-6, led his league in shutouts and posted the third best ERA in the NL (2.51). He appeared in the All Star Game in his home park, striking out three batters and earning the victory. However, his individual highlight of 1980 likely came on June 28th when he pitched a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants.

Jerry Reuss is a Missouri native that played at Sportsman's Park as a little league All Star and led his high school to a state championships in baseball. This would lead to his selection by the hometown Cardinals on the second round of the 1967 baseball draft. He ascended to the major leagues was a rapid one and he made his major league debut late in the 1969 season. He was inserted into the Cardinals starting rotation the following season, but the Redbirds were not patient with the young Reuss and traded him to Houston after only two seasons.

With the Astros, Reuss began to show the durability and consistency that would define his career. He started a league-best 40 games in 1973 and led Houston in innings pitched and complete games. The Astros' however, desperate for hitting, traded Reuss to the Pittsburgh Pirates following the season for catcher Milt May. In Pittsburgh, Reuss found himself on a contending team for the first time and he was an integral part of the Pirates success as they won the NL East in 1974 & 1975. Individually, Jerry was honored by being named the starting pitcher for the National League in the 1975 All Star Game. He averaged 14 wins and 229 innings for the first four seasons of his Pirate career.

Traded to the Dodgers early in the 1979 season, Reuss already had a reputation as an irrepressible jokester, but more importantly, a valued teammate. His affable demeanor helped to defuse many existing tensions in the Dodger clubhouse and it went a long way towards leading Los Angeles to a World Championship in 1981. While the title had been elusive for LA, the presence of Reuss, Jay Johnstone and other valuable role players is what pushed the Dodgers over the hump. Reuss would pitch in Los Angeles for nine seasons becoming a fan favorite and second only to Fernando Valenzuela in the Dodger rotation.

As his 22-year major league career wound down, he made stops with five teams, Cincinnati, Chicago, Anaheim, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. Four appearances with the Pirates in 1990 enabled Jerry to become one of only a handful of "four-decade" players in major league history. In retirement, Jerry has worked as a broadcaster for the Dodgers and ESPN. His passion for photography has led to some of his work being seen on Upper Deck baseball cards and today runs his own website. His photography can be seen at his flickr page, here. There are several excellent photos of major league parks here that you will find truly unique.

Why I love this card
What stood out for me about this card was how happy Jerry Reuss looked in this card. Some of the players in this set seemed so serious and stoic and as a kid, I never understood that. Reuss looked how I imagined I would look like on a big league field, with a grin from ear to ear. In looking at Jerry's cards throughout his career, though, I noticed that he is smiling in every card. Thanks Jerry for reminding us that while baseball is a business, it doesn't hurt for all of us to enjoy ourselves along the way.

Something else.....
Remember The Big Blue Wrecking Crew? Neither did I. Apparently, some of the Dodgers cut a record shortly after their 1981 Series triumph. This was five years before the "Super Bowl Shuffle" mind you.

The guys even took their act on the road, appearing on Solid Gold with Andy Gibb and Marilyn McCoo.

After seeing this, I really want to hear the rendition of "New York, New York."

On this date in 1980
Alice Cooper performs at the Kentucky State Fair with special guest Billy Squire. I know, sounded strange to me too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

#317 Mike Anderson

Who is this player?
Mike Anderson, reserve outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies
Shortly before the 1980 season was to begin, Mike Anderson of the Philadelphia Phillies was sent to the minor leagues. This was not a unique occurrence for Anderson, who had been shuttled between the majors and Triple-A for most of his career. This time, however, Anderson did not return to the parent club. Despite hitting .327 in 84 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City, the Phillies did not recall Anderson for the stretch drive late in the season. He would not see major league action again, concluding his nine-year major league career.

Mike Anderson was from an athletic family that was the pride of Timmonsville, South Carolina. His sister was an All-American basketball player and his older brother played baseball in the minor leagues. Mike was a high school football star and signed a letter of intent to play tight end for the University of South Carolina. When the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the first round of the 1969 draft, he chose a different athletic path.

The righthanded hitting Anderson was a slugging star in the minor leagues and tied a Pacific Coast League record in 1971 by homering in six consecutive games. He was a fearsome batter that combined average with power and his 1971 season numbers were eye popping (.334 36 100, .658 111 runs) and was seen as one of the best prospects in the Phillies organization. In this era, his minor league teammates included Mike Schmidt, Oscar Gamble, Bob Boone and Greg Luzinski and Anderson out shined them all. He was given his first major league look in 1971 and by 1973 was handed the reigns as the team's regular right fielder.

However, for three straight years, his average never rose above .260 and he never reached double-digit figures in home runs. Out of patience, the Phillies traded Anderson to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ron Reed. Anderson performed well in St. Louis, but was essentially a reserve player. After a poor showing in 1977 he was sold to the Baltimore Orioles and wasn't used often. The Phillies welcomed him back into the fold for the 1979 season and he appeared in 79 games batting .231. The Philies released him in October 1980 shortly after winning the World Series.

Mike was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates played one more season in the minor leagues (1981) before ending his baseball career. He returned to South Carolina and coached both high school baseball and basketball. His younger brother Kent, followed him to the big leagues, appearing in 135 games over two seasons with the 1989-90 California Angels. Any current information on what Mike is up to these days would be most appreciated.

Why I love this card
I remember debating the cartoon on the back. Was Anderson supposed to be the cartoon fielder in the foreground or the background. It would seem that he would be in the back since it would make the most sense considering the runner. Then again, most of Topps cartoons back in those days usually tried to show the featured player up front. I've said it before, but the things kids argue about sitting on the curb during the lazy days of August, 1980.

Something else....
Much is made of Anderson's 1969 season at Pulaski. His manager that season in Rookie Ball? None other than Dallas Green, the man who would be at the helm in 1980 and the same man that sent Anderson down in the Spring. I always felt sorry for guys like Anderson that play most of their career with a team and then the year they don't, the win the World Series. It was a shame that he couldn't have at least gotten an at bat or something.

On this day in 1980:
Remember the K-Car?

Regardless of your thoughts, these were a staple of the 1980s. On this day, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca drove the first one off the assembly line.

The legacy of these cars is that the helped Chrysler rebound from a disastrous era in the late 1970s to a prosperous time in 1980s. What's that line about those not learning from history?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

#316 Bob Lacey

Who is this player?
Bob Lacey, closer, Oakland Athletics
In 1980, Bob Lacey may have been the least used closer of the modern era. While Lacey appeared in a team-high 47 games, finishing 31 he only earned six saves. This was due to Oakland's record-setting starting pitching. In what will likely never be duplicated in today's game, the A's pitched an astonishing 94 complete games in '80, leaving little left for relievers like Lacey. This eventually led to friction with his manager Billy Martin over how he was used. Martin did give Lacey his first ever starting assignment near the end of the season, and he blanked the Milwaukee Brewers. Naturally, it was a complete game.

Colorful. Flake. Eccentric. All of these words and more were used to describe Bob Lacey during his major league days. Like most pitchers with that description, Lacey was a lefthander that once struck out 19 batters during an American Legion playoff game as a youth. He was a late round draft selection of the Oakland A's in 1972, and while he was 13-2 in his first minor league season, he floundered in the minor leagues. However, as the A's dynasty began to crumble as the decade wore on, Lacey found himself given an opportunity at the major league level during the 1977 season.

In just his fourth major league appearance, he struck out future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson twice in crucial situation, enraging Jackson and the Yankees in the process. Later, he would engage in a brawl with the Kansas City Royals' Darrell Porter, who called Lacey a "crazy, immature, punk." Despite this, he emerged as Oakland's most reliable relief pitcher and led the American League in appearances in 1978.

No other pitcher in league history inherited more baserunners than Bob Lacey did in 1978 (104). Despite that, he won eight games, crafted a 3.01 ERA and saved five games. He had a disappointing 1979 season suffering with bursitis in his heel, but then again, so did the A's as they lost 109 games. He fell out of favor with Martin and he refused to use Lacey at all during Spring Training. In fact, legend goes that Martin went so far to bar anyone from even playing catch with Lacey. Eventually he was traded to the San Diego Padres in late March. He was with the Padres for three days who in turn traded him to the Cleveland Indians.

Lacey split time between the Indians and Rangers in 1981 and pitched for Satillo in the Mexican League in 1982. He was a late-season call up for the California Angels in late-1983 and pitched in relief for the San Francisco Giants in 1984. He bounced around the minors for the 1985 season before pulling the plug on his seven-year career. He made a comeback of sorts in the late 1990s as manager of the Greensville Blusemen. Not content to just the dugout, Lacey appeared in eight games of relief over the 1998 & 1999 seasons, four games each year.

Why I love this card
What a great pose! I can't figure out exactly what Lacey is doing....pointing to a quarter on the ground? Throwing a paper airplane? Admonishing a small child? Whatever it was, it didn't fit the "traditional" pitcher pose, which I guess is typical regarding Lacey. Added bonus points to "FACE" printed across his mitt.

Something else....
One final story regarding Lacey. Apparently he gained too much weight during the 1981 Player's Strike. When asked how he would get back into playing shape, Lacey replied that his plan would be to drive his car with the windows rolled up and heat turned on full blast. With the August heat, Lacey rationalized, he would have a sauna on wheels.

On this date in 1980
Montreal Expos manager Dick Williams wins his 1,000th career game, 11 - 5 over the Mets, at Olympic Stadium. He is 3rd in wins among active managers behind Gene Mauch and Earl Weaver. The Expos overcome the offense of Doug Flynn, who ties the modern major-league record with three triples.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

#315 Steve Kemp

Who is this player?
Steve Kemp, left fielder, Detroit Tigers
As the decade began, Steve Kemp of the Detroit Tigers was generally regarded as one of baseball's future superstars. Coming off of an All-Star season, Kemp engaged in a salary squabble with the Tigers' front office who begrudgingly made him the team's highest paid player through arbitration. Kemp responding with another strong year at the plate, batting .293 with 21 home runs 101 RBI; the first Tiger with consecutive 100+ RBI seasons in more than a decade. As the year came to a close, it appeared that Kemp would be the cornerstone on which the young Tigers would be built.

As part of a long lineage of major league stars off the campus of USC, Steve Kemp was considered one of the best. He hit a record .435 in 1974 en route to a College World Series championship and decided to forgo his senior year and made himself eligible for the baseball draft. He was selected with the first overall pick by the Detroit Tigers, and began a quick ascent to the major leagues. He batted .386 at Triple-A Evansville in 1976, with only an ankle injury preventing his major league debut that season. The following year, Kemp found himself in the Tigers' starting lineup.

The lefthanded hitting Kemp quickly became one of the most feared bats in the Tiger lineup as he averaged 20 HR and 93 RBI the first four seasons of his career. He earned a reputation as a hard nosed player who would play hurt and would do anything to win. However, his time in Detroit was shortened by run-ins with management. After winning arbitration before the 1980 season, he filed again and won again. Frugal Tigers GM Jim Campbell likely began looking to move Kemp before his contract came up, a move made easier by a disappointing performance in 1981. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in December 1981 for Chet Lemon.

In Chicago, Kemp put together an outstanding season. Playing in a a career-high 160 games, he batted .286 with 98 RBI and scored a career best 91 runs. Chicago was only a one year stop for Kemp, as he signed a huge free agent contract with the New York Yankees. Big things were again predicted for Kemp as a Yankee, but his season was beset by injuries. The first game in a outfield collision in the season's fourth game. He severely injured his shoulder and it effected his performance. A scarier injury came later in the year when he was hit in the face by a line drive in batting practice. While not known at the time, the cumulative effects of these injuries eventually hastened the end of Kemp's career.

After two disappointing seasons with the Yankees, Kemp was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985. He played in only 105 games in two seasons with the Bucs and was released. Kemp, however, refused to give up on his major league ambitions and worked in the minors for most of 1986 and all of 1987. He was given a brief 16-game trial by the Texas Rangers in 1988 before in 11-year career came to a close. Today, Kemp is a fixture on many Detroit Tigers' alumni events, including the fantasy camps the club holds every spring in Florida.

Why I love this card
Steve Kemp taught me the bird. May 1980. Probably my third game ever. I didn't know much about autographs then and stood around the third base line with a bunch of other kids trying to get Kemp's signature. Like many around me, I was unsuccessful. Someone yelled to Kemp that he was a bum and he shielded his mitt around his response, an extended middle finger. I returned to my seat and said "Dad, what does this mean?" fully extending my middle finger to probably all of section 138. My Dad, embarrassed, asked where I learned that, and I replied "Steve Kemp." My father just replied with "Steve Kemp is a very very bad man." To be quickly followed by "Don't tell your mother about that."

Something else....
Kemp had a 1980 Super card that was a prize collectible in my neighborhood, despite the middle finger. I fact, I recall a pretty good shoving match in the 7-11 between Ricky Carneghie and Johnny Reshid that ended with the clerk pulling it away from both of them, leaving neither with the prize and thrown out of the store.

On this date in 1980
A lazy entry today. Watch all about Billy Beer, John Lennon and Caddyshack on this date in 1980 here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

#314 Tim Stoddard

Who is this player?
Tim Stoddard, closer, Baltimore Orioles
Moved into the role of top fireman with the departure of Don Stanhouse, Tim Stoddard responded by pitching in a career-high 64 games and finishing fourth in the American League with 26 saves. The hard throwing righthander was an imposing figure on the mound at 6'7" and 250 pounds. Stoddard was particularly tough down the stretch as the Birds chased the Yankees for the AL East title. In September, Tim appeared in 16 games, saved seven and won two while posting a 2.04 ERA. Unfortunately, Baltimore was not as successful as they finished three games back.

Tim Stoddard is the only man in history to have earned both World Series and NCAA basketball championship rings. At his high school in Indiana, Stoddard excelled on the diamond and the hardwood and his team won a basketball state title. This led him to North Carolina State University where he was the power forward on the 1974 team led by Hall of Famer David Thompson. The Wolfpack went 30-1 that season and stunned the UCLA Bruins and Bill Walton on their way to the title. Meanwhile, Stoddard also lettered in baseball at NC State.

While Tim considered a future in the NBA, the Chicago White Sox drafted him in June, 1974 and his career path took a different road. He made his major league debut within a year, but spent two seasons in the bushes before the White Sox released him. The Orioles quickly scooped him up and he made the majors for good in 1979 as the Orioles went on to become American League champions. In Game 4, Stoddard was the winning pitcher and drove in a run with an eighth-inning single, becoming the first player to drive in a World Series run in his very first at-bat. However, the O's lost the Series in seven games.

After 1980, he shared the Orioles' closer role with Tippy Martinez, but his ERA swelled to 6.09 in 47 games in 1983, the year Baltimore won the World Series. Tim was a member of the team, but did not appear in the postseason. He was traded to the Oakland A's in December and was traded again to the Chicago Cubs in Spring Training 1984. He won 10 games for the Cubs, mainly serving as a setup man to closer Lee Smith Chicago, meanwhile, went on to win the NL East. Stoddard appeared in two games in the NLCS, Games 3 & 4.

Stoddard spent the final five seasons of his 13-year career in San Diego, New York and Cleveland, primarily as a setup man for Rich Gossage, Dave Righetti and Doug Jones. He finished his career with 485 appearances, all in relief. In retirement, Stoddard briefly appeared in two movies; 1988's Big and 1993's Rookie of the Year. Both times he appeared as, predictably, a pitcher. Since 1995, he has been the pitching coach at Northwestern University. One of his more recent pupil's has been J.A. Happ of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Why I love this card
The absence of a background here always sticks out for me. With a guy of Stoddard's physical size, you think that Topps would have photographed him in a way that would emphasize that.

Something else....
If you can click the link above with NC State's 1974 tourney you will see Stoddard as the guy the ball is passed around. If you have never seen how high David Thompson could actually jump, check it out.

On this date in 1980:
USA's Shawn Weatherly crowned 29th Miss Universe in Seoul, South Korea. While this escaped my attention at the time, I would certainly become aware of Shawn Weatherly later on.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

#313 Johnny Grubb

Who is this player
Johnny Grubb, rightfielder, Texas Rangers
Not as heralded as some of his more famous mates in the Texas Rangers outfield, Johnny Grubb was a solid and reliable rightfielder in 1980. The no-nonsense Grubb played all three outfield positions for the Rangers and occasionally appeared as a DH. His top performance of the season most likely came in a 9-1 thrashing of the Blue Jays. Grubb drove in a career-high five runs with a home run and a double.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Johnny Grubb was a natural righthanded hitter who taught himself to switch hit emulating Mickey Mantle. High school coaches instructed him to continue as a lefthanded batter. He played two years of junior college baseball at Manatee Community College in Bradenton, Florida and was an outfielder on the Junior College World Series all-tournament team in 1968. After two years at Manatee, Grubb transferred to Florida State University, where he hit .303 his junior year and was named honorable mention All-American by The Sporting News in 1970. FSU finished second in the College World Series that year and Grubb was named to the all-tournament team.

Selected by the San Diego Padres in 1971, Johnny was given the opportunity to be the Padres' regular centerfielder in 1973. He responded with a .311 average in 113 games and received minor Rookie of the Year consideration. The following year, he was named to the National League All-Star team with his batting average well over .300. in 1975, he achieved career highs in several offensive categories, including doubles. He hit 36 two-baggers which was a club record at the time and was seventh best in the National League.

Several trips to the disabled list during his career followed Grubb as he was traded to the Cleveland Indians and then Texas Rangers. It has been said that the injuries were a testament to his hustle and desire to win. Known around the league as a great teammate, Johnny developed a reputation as a clutch performer and one of the most dangerous bats in the league in the late innings. With Texas in 1979, he put together the longest hitting streak in the league that year (21 games).

Traded to the Detroit Tigers before the 1983 season, Grubb would help lead the Tigers to a World Championship in 1984. Playing in the postseason for the first time, Grubb had a game-winning double off of Dan Quisenberry to win Game 2 of the 1984 ALCS. In 1986, he had one of his finest seasons. Pressed into daily service because of injuries, Grubb batted .333 with 13 homers and 51 RBI in only 81 games. The last hurrah of his 16-year career came in the 1987 ALCS when he batted .571. Today, Grubb is the head baseball coach at Meadowbrook High School in Virginia.

Why I love this card
I'm sure that the dugout behind Johnny in this picture is likely one of the older stadiums of the era, such as Fenway or Comiskey, but to me it always looked like he was emerging from a cave. During the summer of 1980, one of our roadside stops was to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, so that was possibly an explanation.

Something else....
One of the pitchers that Grubb coached in high school made it to the major leagues, Cla Meredith of the Baltimore Orioles. Additionally, Grubb holds the distinction of being the hitting coach for the Colorado Silver Bullets. The Bullets were an all-female professional baseball team that played across the United States from 1994-1997.

On this date in 1980:
In Cleveland, Ohio, students are just finishing the school year due to a teacher's strike. I can't imagine how ticked off I would be as a kid, having to be in school in July.

Monday, June 28, 2010

1980 All Star Ballot

One of the highlights of summer was getting the official All Star ballot. I only went to one game a season from 1979 until 1985 and every single one of them fell either before or after the All Star voting period.

Therefore, the only way I ever got a ballot during those years was through the Gillette display at my local grocery store. The store was called Great Scott!! (yes the exclamation points were part of the store's name). Interestingly, the display was usually located in the isle somewhere, but if you wanted a ballot, you had to ask for one at the welcome desk.

That was sometimes tricky. There was a really crabby lady who usually manned the desk and she wasn't to fond of kids coming in the store and getting something for free. Many times she would say something like "we're out" or pretended that she didn't know what we were talking about.

Thankfully, there was a bagger named Greg, about 19 years old that everybody knew and liked. He knew everybody by their name and greeted you as soon as you came into the store. He would talk to us when we drove our bikes in the parking lot and he would collect the carts. Often times, it was Greg who would get the ballots for us and he didn't mind when we came back a few days later to get another.

Without further ado, here is one of those 1980 ballots:

Sometimes we would punch them and bring them back, other times we would keep and argue about them. Where was Tony Perez? Why was Mike Hargrove in the outfield? People really voted for Jerry Royster? (no offense intended). And it was cool that Jose Cruz got to have his whole name on the ballot.

Who did you vote for? Who would you vote for now?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

#312 Mike Barlow

Who is this player?
Mike Barlow, relief pitcher, California Angels
Midway during Spring Training in 1980, Mike Barlow found himself traded from the defending AL West Champion California Angels to the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite coming off a 109-loss season, there was optimism in Toronto and Barlow was being called upon to provide veteran guidance on the young Blue Jays pitching staff. The imposing (6'6") righthander served primarily as a setup man and sometimes closer. He won three, saved five and posted a 4.09 ERA in 40 games in 1980. A highlight for Mike came on September 7th, when he saved both games of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.

An outstanding athlete as a youth, Mike Barlow pitched two no-hitters in American Legion baseball in New York, but he was also an outstanding basketball player. He was such a good hoops player, he received a scholarship to play at Syracuse University. Barlow played sparingly for three seasons with the Orangemen, though he would letter in 1968 and 1969. Illness kept him to only 3 games his senior year. He also stood out on the diamond and was drafted twice (by the Orioles and Dodgers) before signing a free agent contract with the Oakland A's in 1970.

Used mostly as a middle reliever for the majority of his career, Barlow pitched with four different teams; the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Angels and Blue Jays. For nearly every year of his career, Barlow split time between the majors and minors, the only exception being 1979, the season the Angels won their first ever division title. Though he posted a high ERA (5.13), he appeared in 35 games for the AL West champs, including Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

Barlow last appeared in a major league game in 1981, bringing to end a major league career that spanned parts of seven seasons. He stayed in the Blue Jays organization in 1982, earning 8 saves in relief for the Syracuse Chiefs. When the minor league season ended, Barlow was not recalled to the major leagues, and Mike left organized baseball.

From 1987 to 1993, he teamed with Syracuse's Doug Logan as the official broadcast team for Syracuse University basketball games. He became the Athletic Director of Bishop Grimes High School (Syracuse) in 2001 as position that he still holds today.

Why I love this card
I loved the backs of cards of players like Barlow. Seeing all the minor league stops all the way made me appreciate how long the road sometimes is to the major leagues. However, later on I became curious as to why they included some player's minor league records and not others. I know that there are space limitations, but I wonder what the decision making process was. Barlow's entire history is here, but for a similar player, say Dave Rosello, only his major league record is listed. Funny what I still waste time thinking about.

Something else....
I am fairly certain that this photograph was taken at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The visitor's dugout in relation to the seats is consistent and the shadows suggest a 1:35 afternoon start. What I cant figure is what Barlow is leaning on. He is above the top of the dugout, so its not that. It appears to be a chair turned the opposite way that he is sitting on, which would be highly unusal for Tiger Stadium at that time. Again, funny what I still waste time thinking about.

On this date in 1980:
One of the worst heat waves in history begins to claim its first victims. In Dallas, record temperatures reach 113 degrees and the drought continues in Montana, Minnesota, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Comparisions to Dust Bowl days of the 1930s are evoked. By the time the summer comes to an end, more than 200 deaths are blamed on the heat in 13 states.

1980 Topps Super Unopened Pack

About a month ago, I picked up an unopened pack of three 1980 Topps Superstar Photo Cards via ebay. With the recent posting of Dave Parker, I thought that this feature would be timely, especially since the Cobra is the one on the top:

Chet Lemon is the card on the back, seen here.

Interestingly, these cards have white backs, instead of the grey ones with the Topps logo that I have been showing. The cards were very popular at first and were distributed in these three card packs. Apparently, hobby dealers tried to snap up cases of these in a bit of mindless speculation. Perhaps due to the unexpected demand, Topps printed all sixty cards again, but this time on thinner gray card stock. These cards were distributed a number of ways, including five card cello packs. I have learned that the white-backed cards are more valuable, although not by a lot.

When I was a kid, I always got these either at 7-11 or Kmart. Does anyone recognize the price tag logo in the top right corner? It is obscuring Tommy John's hat. Someone already blacked out "89" cents for the retail price. We didn't get a Walgreens in Michigan until the late 1990s, I am wondering if that is it?

On the back is a checklist of all 60 cards in the set, some of which have been featured here already. There is also a "Full Series Offer" where with this wrapper and nine bucks you can get the whole set directly through Topps. A quick search of ebay shows that 30 years later, you can still get the set for around the same or less.

I wonder what would happen if I sent this to Topps today and apologized for it being late?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

#311 Roger Metzger

Who is this player?
Roger Metzger, utility infielder, San Francisco Giants
In November 1979, Roger Metzger of the San Francisco Giants was badly hurt when he severed parts of four fingers on his right hand in a sawing accident at his home in Texas. Determined, Metzger reported for Spring Training to reclaim his position on the Giants. He not only won a roster spot by batting .300 during the exhibition season, but the respect and admiration of peers and teammates. Used primarily as a defensive substitute and pinch-runner, Metzger struggled at the plate, batting only .074 (2 for 27). He retired in August, ending his 11-year career, and spent the remainder of the season as a coach on the Giants' staff.

Texas-born Roger Metzger was a collegiate star at St. Edward's University in Austin. The switch-hitting shortstop was an All-Conference player and was selected as an alternate to the 1968 Olympic baseball team. In 1969, he batted .414 was was named to the All-American baseball team. This made him the #1 selection of the Chicago Cubs in June, 1969. He was in the major leagues the following season, but only appeared in one game. That winter, he was traded to his hometown Houston Astros, for whom he would play the majority of his career.

As a shortstop, his reputation with the Astros quickly rose; he led the National League in triples in 1971 & 1973, setting a team record in the process. He also developed a reputation as one of the premier defensive shortstops in the league, leading NL shortstops in putouts in 1971 and double plays in 1972. He was rewarded for his fielding excellence in 1973, when he earned the National League Gold Glove Award. He was also named Astros team MVP that season, when he batted .250 and achieve career highs in most offensive categories.

In eight seasons in Houston, Metzger was a popular player, setting a NL record with 59 consecutive errorless games in 1976 (since broken). However, Roger batted a collective .229 during this period. As the Astros built towards contention in the late-1970s, Metzger's playing time diminished and he was traded to the San Francisco Giants midway during the 1978 season. Metzger was a valuable man off the bench for the Giants, often splitting time with Johnnie LeMaster in the starting shortstop role.

After leaving baseball following the 1980 season, he and his wife ran a local restaurant for more than 10 years. He graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1972 and taught math for several years at Brenham High School (TX). Today, Roger works as the job procurement officer at the Brenham State School. The school is home to 400 people with mental disabilities from ages 12–82. His wife also works there as a fundraising coordinator.

Why I love this card
I knew nothing about Roger Metzger's accident when I got this card during the summer of 1980. I don't know why I didn't, but I didn't learn about it until much later. Today though, I am much more in awe of what he has done with his life since 1980 than what he did before. There aren't many guys in this set that I can honestly say that about, but Roger Metzger is one.

Something else....
In 2005, Metzger's jersey #14 at St. Edward's was retired, this first in the history of its athletics program. He had already been inducted into the St. Edward's Hall of Fame in 1987, the first year the hall accepted inductees.

On this date in 1980:
Two future professional athletes are born on this day - Michael Vick (insert your own remark here) and Chris Shelton. Shelton will be best remembered for his prodigious home run output early in the 2006 season. Playing with the Detroit Tigers, "Red Pop" hit nine home runs in the first 13 games of the season; this made him the fastest player in American League history to reach that mark at that point in a season. He dropped off quickly though and was not a factor in the Tigers' World Series run that fall. He currently is in the Houston Astros organization trying to return to the majors.

Friday, June 25, 2010

#310 Dave Parker

Who is this player?
Dave Parker, rightfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates
Although he was considered one of the best players in the game, Dave Parker was a target for criticism, due to his boastful demeanor and million-dollar-a-year contract. Nevertheless, the "Cobra" was elected to start the All-Star Game by the fans and led the Pirates in RBI. But 1980 was not a good year for Dave Parker. Fans threw batteries at him, he played much of the year with a myriad of injuries, went through a divorce and got sued. Although he batted a very respectable .295, it was considered a "down" year for him and it was widely thought that he would bounce back to his previous form.

Born in Mississippi, but growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, as a youth Parker was given a glove by future Hall of Famer and Red star Frank Robinson. At age 15 he was big enough and good enough to play with a local semipro team and he was a football star in high school. His senior season he tore his knee yet still earned attention from 62 schools that wanted him to play football. Dave decided he had better chances in baseball, but his injury made several teams wary. He was drafted on the 14th round of the 1970 amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Parker made an immediate impact in the minors; MVP of the Florida League in 1970 and the Carolina League in 1972. He was in Pittsburgh a year later and it took little time for him to be compared to Pirate greats Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente. During a five year period (1975-1979) he won two batting championships, batting a collective .321, won three Gold Gloves, led the league in hits and doubles, was the 1979 All Star Game MVP and the 1978 National League MVP. As the 1980s began, it appeared that Parker was on the road to Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. After the distractions of 1980, Parker slumped at the plate, gained weight and simply did not perform at his previous levels. When his contract elapsed in 1983, the Pirates allowed him to leave as a free agent and Parker signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds. One of the reasons for his sudden drop in performance was revealed in 1985 when Parker testified at the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. There, he described his heavy cocaine use and how it effected his play. He claimed that he was now drug-free, and he returned to All-Star status in 1985. He led the NL in RBI and was second in the league's MVP vote while batting .312 and clubbing 34 home runs.

After four years in Cincinnati, the productive, but aging Parker was traded to the Oakland A's where he served as designated hitter. His veteran presence helped lead Oakland to the World Series the two years he was there, including a championship in 1989. He was an All-Star again with Milwaukee in 1990 and played for both the Angels and Blue Jays the following year. He was unable to catch on with another team in 1992 and his 19-year major league career came to an end. He served as a first-base coach for the Anaheim Angels, then as a batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998. Today, he owns several Popeye's chicken franchises in the Cincinnati area.

Why I love this card:
This was a premium card to get during the summer of 1980. Yet, I found it very difficult to warm up to Parker. I knew he was a great player, but I didn't view him in the same light as a Brett, Schmidt or Rice. What I remember most about this was my Dad's shock when Parker wore an earring in his ear. To him, it was disrespectful and distasteful. Remember, it was 1980 and it wasn't as common as today. I too, couldn't figure out why a guy would want to wear an earring.

Something else....
Largely due to his peak years, Parker still receives minor Hall of Fame consideration. I suspect that with the recent inductions of Rice and Andre Dawson, Parker's body of work will get further review. I wonder how much the Drug Trials effected his overall bottom line.

Nevertheless, Parker was a star in 1980 and was given a Topps Super Card and Burger King card. I actually like the Burger King version a little better since I think they did a much better job of centering the photo. Both are shown below:

On this date in 1980:
The #1 song in the country on this date is "Coming Up" by Paul McCartney. A largely forgettable song today, it is notable since it is McCartney's first #1 hit after the breakup of his second band, Wings. The video is pretty good and is here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#309 Larry McWilliams

Who is this player?
Larry McWilliams, starting pitcher, Atlanta Braves
In his first full season in the Braves starting rotation, Larry McWilliams made 30 starts and won nine games. The lefthander began the year as Atlanta's #3 starter but he struggled early, losing four of his first six and posting an ERA over 5.00. He rebounded in late June with a stretch of solid pitching, including a nifty three-hit shutout against San Diego on the 4th of July. Two more complete game victories later in the month earned him NL Player of the Week honors. Though he struggled down the stretch, losing his last five decisions, it seemed that McWilliams was part of the Braves' long term plans.

Larry McWilliams starred and Bell High School in Hurst, Texas where he was named his district's Most Valuable Player. He attended Paris Junior College and earned All Conference honors and was selected on the sixth pick in the first round by the Braves in 1974. After an unspectacular minor league career, the pitching-poor Braves gave him an opportunity when they called him up in 1978. Pitching guru Johnny Sain adjusted McWilliams delivery from a slow motion to an accelerated, whip-like delivery. Larry responded masterfully, winning nine games, including his first seven in a row. The highlight of that rookie year game on August 1, 1978 when he and Gene Garber combined to end Pete Rose's 44-game hitting streak.

McWilliams was not as successful in 1979, getting shelled in his first seven starts and he missed significant time with an injury. When Larry pitched poorly in Spring Training 1981, he was optioned to the minor leagues and did not return until after the Player's Strike. He pitched well in limited action in '81 and earned him a return ticket to the Braves rotation in 1982. Pitching out of the bullpen, McWilliams again had difficulty and was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in June, 1982

It would be the biggest break of his career as McWilliams did his best pitching in a Pirate uniform. McWilliams peaked in 1983 as he won a career-best 15 games and was named a Sporting News All-Star pitcher. He was fifth in the Cy Young voting and had more strikeouts (199) than any Pittsburgh pitcher since 1969. Larry finished second in the league in winning percentage and shutouts as the Pirates made a serious challenge for the NL East flag.

He suffered arm trouble again in 1985 and was relegated to relief and spot-start duty. He was released by the Pirates in 1987 and picked up again by the Braves. McWilliams moved to four teams in five seasons (Atlanta, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Kansas City). In all cases, these teams were looking for lefthanded pitching and McWilliams was used in several starting and relieving roles. His career came to an end after the 1990 season and 13 years in the major leagues.

Why I love this card
This is the third card in a row to discuss a player's degree or college in the cartoon. Don't think that this fact was lost on me at the time. Bonus points to my Dad as it wasn't lost on him either as he made sure that he drove the point home when my inevitable questions came. Thanks again Dad, for a lot of things, but also making sure that my education wasn't too far away from center.

Something else....
McWilliams is on one of my favorite cards of all-time. Granted it is not a 1980 card, but a 1984 Fleer, but here it is nonetheless:

#308 Mike Hargrove

Who is this player?
Mike Hargrove, first baseman, Cleveland Indians
The Human Rain Delay. Mike Hargrove's deliberate routine at the plate before each at-bat belied the fact that the Indian first baseman was an excellent hitter. Playing in 160 games, Hargrove batted .304 and drew a career-high 111 walks. The Tribe's third place hitter also reached career highs in base hits, plate appearances and RBI. A tough player, he was hit on the forearm on a pitch from Ron Guidry, but was in the lineup the next day. His 23 game hitting streak early in the season was one of the longest of the season and he was clearly one of the best players on the Indians.

Best known today by younger fans as the manager of the Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners, Mike Hargrove put together a very respectable career as a major leaguer. Without ever playing baseball in high school, he attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he lettered in baseball, basketball, and football. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 25th round of the 1972 amateur draft. After just two seasons in the minors, he reached the majors with the Rangers in 1974, and after hitting .323, won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

In five seasons in Arlington, Hargrove was traded to the San Diego Padres even though he was a consistent hitter and solid fielder. Unfortunately, the Rangers were beset with big financial losses and embarked on a housecleaning. Hargrove looked forward to the move, but expressed remorse that he was leaving the Rangers. He struggled in San Diego, batting .192 in 52 games and was traded to the Cleveland Indians in mid-June, 1979.

Hargrove spent seven seasons in Cleveland, and was noted as a patient hitter with a careful eye and took a lot of pitches. He exceeded 100 bases on balls in 4 seasons and typically had one of the highest on base percentages in the league. He was slowly phased out in Cleveland in favor of Pat Tabler. He was granted free agency following the 1985 season that saw him bat .285 but he did not receive an offer from another team. Collusion by the owners was likely the cause and Hargrove's 12-year major league career came to an end.

He became the Indians manager in 1991 and became the franchise's second winningest manager of all-time. Mike led the Tribe to two World Series appearances (1995 & 1997) and five consecutive division titles, the most successful stretch in team history. He came under fire after losing the 1997 World Series, yet his dismissal as Indians manager by GM John Hart in 1999 was controversial with many fans. He moved on to Baltimore for four years and then to Seattle where he abruptly resigned in the midst of an eight-game winning streak saying his passion for the game was gone. He has since returned to baseball, managing the Liberal BeeJays, a semi-professional baseball team in Kansas for which he also played while in college.

Why I love this card
I remember being perplexed by this card. Where was Hargrove when this photo was taken? Was this the inside of a dugout? A garage? His house? The apparent wood paneling in the background, very fashionable at the time, made it tough to determine. I think I love this card even more know as it is a reminder of how much time we wasted as kids passionately debating the most ridiculous things.

Something else....
Between high school, college and his major league debut, all five of the teams for which he played (Perryton High, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Class A, Class AA, and Texas) all shared the same nickname, the Rangers.

On this date in 1980:
David Letterman begins his morning television program on NBC. One of his guests was Andy Kaufman. You can watch it here. Letterman did not connect with AM audiences, but his show would be repackaged and moved to late night. Kaufman would be a staple of the early days of that show as well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

#307 Rick Honeycutt

Who is this player?
Rick Honeycutt, starting pitcher, Seattle Mariners
1980 was a tale of two seasons for Rick Honeycutt. The lefthander began the season quickly, winning his first six decisions. When the month of June began, his record stood at 7-1 and his 2.59 ERA was among the league leaders. Rick was rewarded for his performance with a spot on the American League's pitching staff at the All-Star Game. However, Honeycutt struggled from then on, as he would go on to lose 14 of his next 15 decisions. His frustration boiled over in late-September when he was caught scuffing the ball by hiding a thumbtack within a bandage on his finger. He was subsequently suspended for 10 days and in December was part of a multi-player trade with the Texas Rangers.

Tennessee-born Rick Honeycutt led his high school baseball team to State Championship titles in both his junior and senior years. He was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles after his senior year, but instead decided to attend the University of Tennessee on a baseball scholarship. There, he was an All-American first baseman-pitcher and won the Southeastern Conference batting title with a .404 mark. Honeycutt was drafted as both a pitcher and a first baseman by the Pittsburgh Pirates in June of 1976. In his first game as a professional, he was the starting pitcher, he batted clean-up and he hit a home run in his first at-bat.

Traded to the Seattle Mariners in July, 1977, Rick made his major league debut that season and spent the next 21 seasons in the major leagues. For his first ten seasons, Rick was a starting pitcher, with the Mariners, Rangers and Dodgers and was twice an All-Star. He had his best year as a starter in 1983, winning 16 games and winning the American League ERA title with 2.42, despite being traded to the Dodgers in August. He proved to be a serviceable, if not spectacular starter with the Dodgers and when he began the 1987 season poorly, he was traded to the Oakland A's.

It was in Oakland that he began the second phase of his career and evolved into
one of the toughest left-handed specialists in the game. Under the guidance of Tony LaRussa, Rick often set up closer Dennis Eckersley. Honeycutt helped the A's to the postseason four times, including three consecutive trips to the World Series and a championship in 1989. He continued that role in the mid-1990s with the Rangers and Yankees before reuniting with Tony LaRussa in 1996 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Although he was the oldest player in baseball at this point, he was still effective; he had 65 appearances and a 2.85 in 1996 as the Cardinals advanced to the NLCS.

His 797 appearances is 8th all-time for lefthanded pitchers and his playing career ended in 1997 after elbow surgery. After his playing career ended, he was inducted into the State of Tennessee Hall of Fame and was the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor league pitching coordinator from 2002 to 2005. He was named pitching coach of the Dodgers in 2006, a position he still holds today.

Why I love this card
I remember that I got this card right around the time that Honeycutt was busted for the thumbtack. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how or why he would need a thumbtack on the mound. I know my Dad tried to explain it to me, but it was more confusing than ever. I do remember getting a pack of 1980 Football cards at the same time as the transition from summer to fall began.

Something else....
Honeycutt's daughter, Holli, earned a doctorate in physical therapy. The Honeycutt's purchased a 100-acre, 42-stall ranch in northern Georgia that his wife, Debbie, has turned into a retreat for special-needs children, Heartland Ranch.

On this date in 1980:
The Soviet Union announces partial withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Monday, June 21, 2010

#306 Denny Walling

Who is this player?
Denny Walling, utility, Houston Astros
A valuable role player, Denny Walling was a key player off the bench as the Houston Astros won their first ever National League West title in 1980. Playing mostly first base and outfield, the left-handed Walling batted .299 in 100 games playing primarily against the right-handed pitchers. His 11th-inning sacrifice fly in Game 3 of the NLCS gave the Astros a 1-0 win and a brief 2-1 series lead. Walling scored a game-tying run in Game 5 and later gave the Astros the lead with a 7th inning single, but the Astros fell to Philadelphia in 10 innings 8-7.

Denny Walling was a collegiate star at Clemson University, where he was a two-time All American. The Oakland A's selected him with the first overall selection in the 1975 June secondary amateur draft. Before the season ended, Walling had made his major league debut, batting .125 in limited action with Oakland. He spent most of 1976 in the minor leagues and was traded to the Houston Astros in June 1977 in a deal for Willie Crawford that most did not notice at the time.

It turned out to be the turning point in Walling's career. Denny would spend 13 years in Houston and was a member of both the 1980 and 1986 NL West Champions. Primarily an outfielder on his arrival, Walling would soon find plenty of playing time at first and third base over the years, and although he often platooned, he still managed to appear in over 1000 games with the Astros. A tenacious hitter with an excellent eye for the strike zone, his best season came in 1986 when he batted .312 and reached career highs in several offensive categories. He had the game-winning hit in Mike Scott's division clinching no-hitter in September, but batted .158 in the NLCS as Houston lost a memorable series to the New York Mets in six games.

Traded in 1988 to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Bob Forsch, Walling was used primarily as a pinch-hitter. In 1989, his .344 average in a pinch-hitting role was among the league leaders. He played one more season in St. Louis before moving on to Texas and then back to the Astros for a brief stint in 1992 to finish his 18-year career.

After his playing career ended, Walling remained in baseball as a coach. In the major leagues, he has served as the hitting coach for the Oakland A's (1996-1998) and for the New York Mets (2002-2004). Both times, he served under manager Art Howe, who was his teammate with the Astros. In 2007, he was hired by the Baltimore Orioles as their roving minor league instructor, a position which he currently holds.

Why I love this card
I rooted hard for the Astros in the 1980 playoffs. When Walling had two hits with two runs and an RBI in Game 5, he became a favorite. It probably didn't hurt that Walling's photo here looked a lot like my little league picture, complete with a shot of the parking lot in the background. I know it is a Spring Training shot, but he looks like they stopped him on his way to his car.

Something else....
Walling is listed as being from Neptune. Granted, it is Neptune, New Jersey, but to a eight-year old getting this card and reading that....I guarantee that it was discussed for hours.

On this date in 1980:
Walling goes 2 for 4 as the Astros defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 at the Astrodome. The victory gives Houston a three game lead in the NL West as summer begins. Other division leaders are Montreal, New York and Kansas City.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

#305 Randy Jones

Who is this player?
Randy Jones, starting pitcher, San Diego Padres
On the morning of May 16, 1980 things were looking up for Randy Jones of the San Diego Padres. He had just pitched his third consecutive shutout, defeating the Chicago Cubs. His record stood at 4-2 with a 1.82 ERA. It appeared that he had regained the Cy Young form that had been elusive since 1976. He went on to lose three straight all by one run before being shelled and landing on the disabled list with a rib separation. He pitched poorly upon his return and was shelved again, this time for the season in August. Randy finished 1980 5-13 and the longtime Padre was traded to the New York Mets in December.

As a youngster, the lefthanded throwing Jones received pitching tutelage from Claude Osteen when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Osteen taught him a curve ball and a sinker which would propell Jones into the major leagues. First, Randy earned a Bachelor's Degree in business from Chapman College in California and made the College All-America team as a senior. This attracted attention from the San Diego Padres who drafted him in 1972. He spent a little less than a year in the minors before he was brought to the parent club for good.

Jones became the first Padre-developed superstar and helped bring respectability to the floundering franchise. He won seven of 13 decisions in 1973 with a 3.16 ERA and was named to the Topps Rookie All Star team. He was the team's most effective pitcher in the second half and from then on, was clearly established as the team ace. He suffered a hard luck season in 1974, losing 22 games but was poised to establish himself as one of the games best pitchers.

Indeed, Jones did so in 1975, winning 20 games and being named an All Star and Comeback Player of the Year. He defeated every team in the National League and finished second in the Cy Young voting. Incredibly, Jones improved on his performance in 1976. En route to winning the Cy Young, Randy won 16 games by the All-Star break and was named the NL's starting pitcher. His 22 wins represented nearly one-third of his team's total output for 1976. Known for his quick work on the mound, Jones tied Christy Mathewson's league record of 68 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. He didn't strike out many (93), rather he was a master at inducing an easy ground ball.

Unfortunately, he never achieved the same level of success, primarily due to nerve damage in his pitching arm and poor run support from the weak-hitting Padres. He spent the final two seasons of his 10-year career with the New York Mets and retired after failing to catch on with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1983. Jones has kept busy in retirement; he operates a BBQ business at Petco Park, runs a baseball academy and is the host of Outdoor Channel's "Randy Jones' Strike Zone" television program.

Why I love this card
Unlike the other Padres players featured so far, the Randy Jones card features the player's name in blue ink rather than the customary black. I remember thinking that perhaps this was an error card, but that wasn't the case. At the time, it was more memorable to me than Jones' blond afro.

Something else....
Just as Jones was tutored by Claude Osteen as a youth, Jones himself taught the finer art of pitching to several kids over the years. One of them was a very young Barry Zito, who like his mentor, also won a Cy Young Award, with the A's in 2002.

On this date in 1980:
After 14 seasons, the original Hollywood Squares goes off the air with its final broadcast on NBC. Here is what replaced it. You know, that Letterman guy?