HARDBALL TIMES POST – The Major League Life of Cliff Dapper

My latest article for the Hardball Times chronicles the life of Cliff Dapper, the former Dodger catcher who was traded for Ernie Harwell.

I had written about him before, but thanks to a reader’s e mail, I see his life beyond baseball is worth a tribute.


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The 1978 Kellogg’s 3D Super Stars – A Sully Baseball Salute

Today the staff at Sully Baseball are honoring the 3D Super Star cards that used to be shoved into boxes of Frosted Flakes during my youth.

1978 was the beginning of me trying to understand and follow baseball. Fortunately for my sanity as a budding Red Sox fan, I didn’t understand what was happening with the pennant race and what climaxed with Bucky Dent.

I was just trying to learn the team names, who the players are and to see figure out who was good.

And the Frosted Flake cards were my first standard of baseball excellence.

If you were on one of these 3D cards, then you were obviously awesome.

They had Reggie Jackson and Jim Rice… and I KNEW they were good.

And I assumed that every player in my cereal box were not only that level of star, but that revered by the fan base.

Keep in mind I was also collecting the Topps cards in 1978… but with no guidance of who was who on each team, I had no clue which players were any good.

I never saw the Houston Astros play! How could I tell the difference between J. R. Richard and Mark Lemongello?

But if you were a 3-D Super Star from Kellogg’s? That’s a stamp of quality.

I remember talking with my cousin Dave in 1978 and getting excited when I realized he was a Mets fan.

“Oh, you must LOVE Lenny Randle!”

Why not? He was the only Met in the collection.

I just assumed that if I met a Mariners fan that they would be wearing Dan Meyer’s uniform number.

In fact I remember getting excited opening a pack of Topps cards when I got Dan Meyer. “Oh he is GOOD! He’s Tony the Tiger good!”

I’d see Steve Ontiveros and think “That’s an elite player!”

Little did I know that when all is said and done, he won’t even be the best player NAMED Steve Ontiveros. (The A’s would send a pitcher by that name to the All Star Game.)

Who knew there would be so many Steve Ontiveroses in baseball?

Of course sometimes the cards would be confusing. I felt like I finally learned someone on the Rangers, Bert Blyleven, only to turn the card over and see he was actually on the Pirates. I guess Kellogg’s decided against air brushing a new hat on the card.

This Blyleven card also confused me because I couldn’t understand why he was pitching while clearly standing near home plate.

Also the 3D effect never quite worked. They never looked three dimensional. They just looked like they were in front of a blurry background.

Then again, the 3D didn’t work for me in Avatar either.

But that’s just nit picking details.
For a 6 year old Sully, devouring Frosted Flakes and baseball, these cards were the first measuring stick of which players I should follow.

I never got to see National League Games and there was no Baseball Tonight nor Sports Center.

THIS was how I learned about National League stars and teams that rarely made it through Boston.

And I must say, to hell with VORP and OPS+ and all those other stats.

The best way to judge how good a player is? Find out if they were in my cereal!

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Vazquez won’t flop as a fish

I’ve written some nasty things over the last few years about Javier Vazquez… and got an anonymous reader to lash out at me every time I did.

I got on his case when he was with the White Sox and I made the easy prediction that he was going to be a flop when he returned to the Yankees.

So you might think I am going to kill the Marlins for spending some of their revenue sharing by forking over $7 million to a guy who pitched himself out of a Yankees rotation that desperately needed an innings eater and off a playoff roster that screamed for bullpen depth.

It’s tough to get excited about someone who posted a 5.32 ERA for the season. A guy who posted a 5.96 ERA in August and a 8.84 ERA in September.

Yes, that first number was an 8… and yes he pitched in more than one game.

But truthfully, it is an ideal move for both the Marlins and Vazquez.

Florida should always be an ideal spot for pitchers to revive their reputations. Remember how Todd Jones became an All Star caliber closer in Miami?

Even the perennially awful Armando Benitez found his grove in the stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie.

Every once in a while, Vazquez puts together a terrific season that makes everyone think he is an ace. He’s not. He’s a .500 pitcher who throws a lot of innings and lets up a run about every other inning he throws.

He’ll probably go 16-5 next year… his ERA will be in the mid 3’s… he’ll be among the league leaders in innings pitched.

And his one year contract will be up and a team like the Mets or the Angels will overpay him and they’ll be stunned when he doesn’t post those numbers again.

And the back of his baseball card will get more and more cluttered… and he’ll have made over $100 million over his career.

$7 million will be well spent by the Marlins.
Good luck (and thanks again for both of Johnny Damon’s ALCS homers in 2004.)

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