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.