Monthly Archives: October 2010

Washington Senators Friday: Bob Chance

1965 Topps

Bob may appear to be a Senators All-Star Rookie, but he team on the strength of a 1964 season in which he posted a .279/.346/.433 line as a 1B/OF for the Indians. For some reason, Topps added him to the team as a Senator. Odd choice, as the Indians didn’t trade him to the Senators until December 1st, 1964, shipping him out with Woodie Held (heh) for Chuck Hinton, another Senator who’ll show up in the near-future.

Bob knocked 14 home runs and had 75 RBI as a 23-year-old rookie in 64, with his best game coming on June 7th, the first game of a double-header against the Senators, no less. He went 4-for-5 with 2 solo homers and an intentional walk. An intentional walk when he had solo homers? How weak was that Indians lineup? Pretty weak, as it turns out; Chance placed second on the team overall with 75 RBI and was second in OPS behind the catcher, John Romano.

A portly fellow.

Romano was 0-for-6 in that game.

Unfortunately, Chance was a one-year wonder. His stats nosedived in 65, dropping to .256/.317/.362. He went from a .780 OPS (a serviceable, useful player – think a Shane Victorino) to a .678 OPS (bottom-of-the-lineup numbers, Nick Punto at 1B). He only played in 72 games, sharing time with Dick Nen, who was basically the same player. He also spent 18 games at AAA Hawaii, returning there in 66 as well. He played 31 games in the Majors in 66, dropping to a .481 OPS.

He’d spend most of 1967 at AAA Hawaii, hitting .273/.351/.422, a not too mean feat in the PCL, which favors hitters. He got another shot at the majors in 67, playing in 27 games and hitting .214/.340/.476. Despite bit better than the few previous years, his counting stats sucked, and so he spent the entirety of 1968 at AAA Buffalo, where he hit .293/.344/.519, a marked improvement. California picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft at the end of 68; he played 5 games with the Angels, and was done.

So what was Bob’s impact on the Senators? What grand conclusions can we draw from his journey? Not much, unfortunately. He was another player who seemed more solid than he really was, struggled with his weight, and declined rapidly after a good rookie season.

But he still has a place in Senators and Indians history, and I’d hope that might be enough for a guy like him. Oh, and his son, Tony Chance, would go on to be a top prospect for the Pirates in the late 80s.

He’s a whole other kettle of fish that we’ll get to one day.

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Morning Coffee and the Blog Roundup 10/29 – Halloween Edition

Friday is finally here, and it is glorious. I had to swerve with my costume, as my bald cap got ripped in the process of trying it on last night. Having thick hair REALLY sucks. I ended up going, instead, as a corporate/middle management zombie. It seems to be a hit so far, too!

Giants won again, too, so despite some frustration with life in general yesterday, it was a good night. I can’t believe how badly the Giants beat the Rangers’ brains in, actually (brains on the brain? BRAAAAINS). Ron Washington’s management looked embarrassing, and while I think managers are, in general, overrated when it comes to their influence on the game, this is definitely coming down to a battle between two managing philosophies on some levels, and I prefer Bochy’s style a LOT more. The Schierholtz move in particular was an example of that.

And this week’s music post:

Other than that, not a whole lot to talk about today. Let’s see what other folks had to say…

And that’s it for today. Have a great weekend!

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The 1989 Project Day 3 – Gregg Olson

Today we look at the promised 1989 AL Rookie of the Year, Gregg Olson. This is going to be a fun entry, as I have quite a connection to the Otter; even if I never met the guy, he meant a lot to me.

1989 Donruss Baseball's Best

You see, I was a die-hard Orioles fan in 1989, and Gregg was something of a second coming for young Orioles fans at the time (a role Ben McDonald would go on to fill in 1990). I was even privileged enough to see him pitch in person on July 31st, 1990, when he closed the game out against the Blue Jays. It was my first major league game, and Olson’s appearance must have been electrifying, as I don’t remember much about that game other than Olson’s performance and taunting Glenallen Hill about his then-recent spider dream incident. We got his attention, too! But the most vivid memory was that 9th inning, when the entire stadium was on its feet to the last strike. What a performance, and I can point to it at as a moment when I really started to love baseball.

1989 Donruss The Rookies

The Otter spent his college days at Auburn, where he pitched in relief. In 1988, the year the Ori0les took him with their first pick, he struck out 113 in 72 innings, leading his team. Like most college relievers, he didn’t spend much time in the minors, toiling in only 16 games between Hagerstown and Charlotte before debuting at the Kingdome on September 2nd, 1988. He struck out two and walked one, but the Orioles weren’t quite ready put him in the closer role.

1989 Score Rookie and Traded

He started off hot early in 1989 (3 victories and 2 saves in his first 11 appearances), and became entrenched at the back of the bullpen. Of course, this was as Tony LaRussa was only just defining modern closer usage, so Gregg had plenty of outings that stretched past one inning; in fact, he had three games with at least three innings, and eleven two-inning affairs. That’s pretty amazing when you compare it to today’s usage patterns. He even had a couple of four strikeout outings with that sick curveball (you know, the one that would eventually shred his arm). Did you know he surrendered one home run the entire year? Stunning. The guy was unstoppable.

1989 Topps Traded

I first became aware of Gregg when I pulled his rookie card from a 1989 Topps pack on a frigid winter night in the alleyway circled right here:

The white building on the left of the photo is, in fact, the store where I bought that pack. Though it was yellow at the time, it’s still standing all these years later; I even visited it a few weeks ago. It has a different name and a new coat of paint, but it’s essentially the same (minus the packs).

1989 Upper Deck High Numbers

The Olson Topps was my first experience with a draft pick card, and as a budding prospector, I thought it possibly the greatest thing ever. Two thoughts sprang to mind: one, were there other draft picks in the set? (There were.) Two, how on Earth could I get this signed? The very idea was like visiting Mars to a kid in a small country town three hours from the closest team, but I wanted it. I tried to get him to sign it at the games I attended over the years, but I never had any luck. I did manage to score a signed version in 2003, appeasing that inner child.

One of the more interesting aspects of the 1989 Project Orioles cards are the uniform variations. If memory serves correctly, the team used the old Orioles uniforms in Spring Training, then changed to the black-capped versions once the season began. This means that it’s extremely easy to tell which pictures were taken in Spring Training. Some of the uniforms also have an EBW patch. The patch was worn in memory of Edwin Bennett Williams, who owned the team from 1930 to his death in August of 1988. We’ll look at that later, though. For now, enjoy The Otter!

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Morning Coffee and the Blog Roundup 10/28 – Aqueous Edition

That’s what’s on my mind this morning: the Donruss aqueous issues. Specifically, what the hell does that mean? My understanding was that it was Donruss’s “glossy” or “tiffany”, but I received a few cards from COMC that were supposed to be aqueous and they look the same as any other card. Does it then mean that they’re water-soluble? Can someone help me out on this one so I don’t feel quite so ripped off?

The other thing that I’ve been pondering is the direction of this blog. While I’m still collecting the Nationals and Expos, I find I’m not writing about them as much as I once did. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I enjoy writing about stuff like the 1989 project’s players, I just wonder if I should keep the title of the blog the same. I suppose I will, for now.

I’ve also decided that, rather than write several entries in one day, I’m going to focus on two…the morning coffee posts, which are obviously more off-the-cuff and stream-of-consciousness, and then an evening post. I’m doing this to improve the quality of the writing on the more formal post. During my ponderings about the blog, I realized that one of the goals of writing this blog is to give me a daily outlet to practice my writing while also writing about something I love. I mean, I’m a professional writer, so I’m writing pretty much every day, but I don’t get the chance to write about something I really care about. So why not apply the same process I use at work to my entries, and really polish up those posts? Last night’s Jim Abbott post was the first example of what I’m talking about, and I feel the writing really shined for the layer of polish that I gave it.

Boy, last night’s game went nothing like I expected, especially after that bone-headed first inning by the Giants, but they not only came back, they destroyed the Rangers. If you’d told me a Lee-Lincecum matchup, would end up like that…well, I guess I’d say that’s the postseason. Look at the Lincecum-Halladay matchup. In fact, The Freak hasn’t been pitching incredibly well of late. It’s a bit concerning. Anyway, on to game two!

Annnnd on to what other folks were saying around the card-o-sphere:

And that’s it for now! Have a good one!

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The 1989 Project Day 2 – Jim Abbott

Excuse me for skipping Gregg Olson and rearranging my schedule a tad; you see, my scans of Olson cards didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, so I have to rework them; the best-laid plans and all that. In the meantime, I’m moving on to Jim Abbott.

1989 Donruss Baseball's Best

I was aware of Abbott well before he became a traded/update star. He was already a media darling: a big hit with Team USA and a man with an inspirational story that I won’t rehash here. It all gave him something of a built-in mystique. An aura, if you will.

This made my 13-year-old self very amped for any Abbott cards, and I was hardly the only one. He was a hobby darling in 1989.

1989 Donruss The Rookies

Jim followed the Winfield career plan, jumping straight from college to the AL West, making his major league debut April 8th, 1989 against the blue-puffy-hatted Mariners. He suffered the indignity of a 7-0 loss, and even though he got knocked around, he didn’t surrender a home run. Not a very auspicious debut, but then again his 1989 wasn’t amazing, either. Almost exactly league average, in fact.

1989 Fleer Update

His rookie performance didn’t matter that much in 1989, and I don’t think it does now, either. He would go on to bigger years (1991 and 1992 come to mind, not to mention his no-hitter with the Yankees), but his impact on the game outside of stats cannot be underestimated. I’m definitely not a big “intangibles” guy; I think team chemistry is overrated and don’t believe people win because they want it bad enough, but Abbott hits the sweet spot of an emotional contribution outside of the numbers. He was and is an inspirational figure, and I think any of his rookie cards and/or autographed cards are worth the trouble to acquire. He’s been on my shortlist of wanted autos for quite some time, in fact.

1989 Score Rookie and Traded

1989 was not a complete disaster, however. Jim had a couple of nine-strikeout games, one on April 29th against the Jays and one on August 6th against his future employers, the Brewers. The August 6th game was a complete game shutout, with Greg Brock bearing the dubious distinction of whiffing three times. Jim struggled with his control, though; he had one five-walk game and a handful of four-walk games, though oddly he was 3-3 across these en route to a 12-12 record. He also had a 3.7 BB rate to a 5.7 K rate, a lot higher than I would have thought. He would have a few years better than that, but he seemed to hover right around that ratio for most of his career.

1989 Topps Traded

What an oddity this card was; I thought I was the only one who found it odd, but upon further reflection, it was a new concept. Abbott already had an 88 Topps Traded and a regular Topps card in the 1989 set, but draft pick cards were a relatively new concept at the time, and so I think they included him as this was the first shot of him in his Angels uniform. Something like the difference between a “first card” and a “rookie card” these days. Either way, I considered this an “inferior” card. Odd how we categorize things.

1989 Upper Deck

This card, on the other hand, was an impact card. It was a gimmick, and it wasn’t UD’s first triple exposure card (see Nolan Ryan’s 89 UD), but it sure made a splash. I saw this for the first time at the basement club that I’ve mentioned previously. Some lucky kids had found high numbers packs and were ready to distribute the wealth in exchange for Gregg Jefferies rookie cards. It was a magical night, and I soon had this in hand. I treasured it, and still have it to this day, even if it’s now bent (this is a different copy).

So yes, Jim Abbott: important to my formative years in the hobby. In fact, many of the players of the 1989 Project are, and it will be a great trip down memory lane.

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Morning Coffee and the Blog Roundup 10/27 – I’m Back Edition

Wow what a day yesterday. I’ve learned recently that I’m gluten intolerant, but I didn’t appreciate the scale of just *how* gluten intolerant I really am. Let’s just say I ate something I shouldn’t have eaten and paid the price.

Things have been a little quiet for me on the card front lately. I have a few things arriving in the mail soon, but I’m changing gears for holiday shopping, and so I’ll be spending less on cards in the next month or two. I think this is probably the time to dive into my huge backlog of Expos and Nationals cards, as I’m about to start a FIFTH album (and these aren’t small albums). I’d estimate I’ve cleared about 2,000 Nats/Expos/Senators cards at this point. Sweet!

One of my favorite games, Rock Band, also released #3 yesterday, and…wow. The launch was rocky, but it’s a fun game. I’m slowly learning to play “real” keyboard, and it’s pretty cool to be able to say a video game taught me to play the scales on a piano, even if it was torturous.

I’m hearing there’s talk about expanding the playoffs. Not sure how I feel about that…I don’t like the idea of following sports like the NBA down the road of a never-ending playoff system, but a quick little best of three series played over one weekend following the end of the season could be pretty sweet.

BABIES.

All right, since I’m drawing a blank on what else to say, let’s see what others had to say the last two days…

And that’s that for today. Have a safe one out there.

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The 1989 Project Day 1 – Jerome Walton

Well, here we go again, folks. I think I’m more prepared for this, though, as I learned a lot from the 88 project.

Today we’re starting with 1989 NL Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton.

 

1989 Donruss Baseball's Best

 

There was no bigger-deal rookie in 1989 than Jerome Walton, bar none. It’s a testament to how weak that class was, however, that a guy who hit .293/.335/.385 was the ROY. But it was 89, and WGN was still king for us guys…so the Cubs were still as hot as when Mark Grace made his debut the previous year. Which meant Walton cardboard was scorching hot as far as we were concerned. Never mind that I thought Dwight Smith was the better player, I needed Walton cards.

 

1989 Donruss The Rookies

 

Walton made his major league debut on April 4th after a torrid Spring Training, especially on defense, where he earned rave reviews. He also hit .284 that spring and stole seven bases, living up to the Cubs’ hopes for him.

 

1989 Fleer Update

 

I think what really won “Juice” the ROY, though, was his hitting streak. From July 21st to July 31st of that year, he hit in 30 straight games (a Cubs record), and it was a big deal. Capital letters Big Deal. It was written about quite a bit, and of course there were always questions of whether he could match DiMaggio (as if). The streak ended as these cards started hitting the market, and he was red-hot. We all had to have his cards.

 

1989 Score Rookie and Traded

 

July 13th was arguably the high point of Jerome’s 1989 season. He went 4 for 4 with a double, 2 RBI. Of course, he also stole four bases on June 18th, and drove in three runs on July 7th, so he had some high-water marks that year. Marks he would never again live up to, but we were eating it up.

 

1989 Topps Traded

 

The rest of Walton’s career is depressing. He started falling off in 1990, and only hit .219/.275/.330 in 1991. The Cubs let him go after a .127/.273/.164 1992, and he bounced around the league, managing a decent year with the Reds in 1995, when he hit .290/.368/.525, but fell off another cliff after that. He landed with Tampa Bay in 1998 for his final season, and it was just as odd a sight as you might think:

His last team was actually the Yankees, though, as he tried out for the team in 1999 Spring Training, but got cut:

 

1989 Upper Deck High Numbers

 

This was the crown jewel of the Jerome Walton experience in 1989. Believe it or not, there was a time when this was a $20 card. I had it entombed in plastic like my Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card, and figured it was a solid long-term investment. These days it’s a quarter. Sad coda to the whole affair. But there were better long-term rookies in 1989.

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