Spike Owen 1989 Donruss – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 30, 2017

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While I was taking a train to a game at Yankee Stadium in the early 2000’s, I saw film critic Jeffrey Lyons was on the subway with me. We both appeared in the HBO Documentary Curse of the Bambino. I truly doubt if he recognized me from that.

We are both Sox fans and I decided I would try to stump him with a trivia question. I brought up Spike Owen, the starting shortstop on the ill fated 1986 Boston Red Sox. I asked him “What was Spike Owen’s real first name?”

He didn’t know.

I told him “Spike. His mother’s maiden name was Spikes, so Spike is NOT a nickname for him. That is his actual name.”

I took that as a moment of pride for me that he didn’t get it.

I don’t ever remember buying a pack of Donruss cards in 1989, but my eyes do not deceive me. This card does indeed exist in the shoebox inside my closet. The picture and stats on the back show Owen in his third and final season as a member of the Red Sox, 1988. He was reduced to a bench player and often a pinch runner for Jim Rice during the Morgan Magic Division Championship year as Jody Reed became the every day shortstop. He appeared in a single at bat in that year’s ALCS.

But he was indeed a member of the 1986 pennant winner and would have been a beloved figure in Boston had that final out been recorded.

Owen was a college teammate at University of Texas with Rogers Clemens and Calvin Schraldi. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1982 and by 1983 was the Mariners starting shortstop and in 1986 was named team captain. He was the leadoff batter for Seattle on the night when Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters. Owen himself fanned twice.

That same year, he was packaged with Dave Henderson to the Red Sox for a bunch of bodies including Rey Quinones and Mike Trujillo. With that, Owen got to play in the post season with the Red Sox. Owen was excellent in the ALCS against the Angels, batting .429, slugging .524 with an OPS of 1.002. Naturally Red Sox manager John McNamara pinch hit for him twice in close games in the series.

He continued to hit well against the Mets in the World Series. When his Mariners and Red Sox teammate Dave Henderson homered to lead off the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series to give the Red Sox a potential World Series winning lead, Owen met Hendu at home plate. He stopped and said something to him. I have no idea what it was, but I felt it was a special moment between two players who were toiling in obscurity in Seattle now 3 outs from winning the World Series.

Annnnnnd it didn’t happen.

After his time in Boston ended with the 1988 ALCS, Owen was dealt to Montreal where he started for four seasons.

After a year with the Yankees, Owen landed with the Angels, the very team he helped beat in 1986. He played well in the strike shortened 1994 season but lost his starting job to Gary DiScarcina in 1995. He pinch hit in the one game playoff between the Angels and Mariners for the 1995 AL West crown. He was retired by Randy Johnson. It turned out to be his final big league at bat.

Owen has a new baseball home in the Rangers organization. He has been a minor league manager and a major league third base coach. He will start the 2017 season as the manager of the class A Hickory Crawdads.

All the while, he goes by that first name, the same one I used to stump Jeffrey Lyons.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – January 29, 2017

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Leon Halip/Getty Images North America

It is Sunday and time for The Sunday Request.

Cabrera and Pujols are both going to the Hall of Fame. Right now as the best offensive player of their generation, they could be neck and neck.

And a Trout is swimming up to them!

Looking back at right now on this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

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Mike Caldwell 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 29, 2017

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When a team loses a close playoff series, there are always forgotten heroes from the losing side. Few people remember the great play of people when they are not on the winning side and the chance to be an immortal for a fan base can slip away.

Mike Caldwell, seen here wearing the old “M” Brewers hat, is a classic example of a forgotten hero.

Throughout the 1970’s, Caldwell was a decent if not spectacular pitcher for the Padres and Giants. The North Carolina State grad was involved in the deal that sent future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey from San Francisco to San Diego and did his best to make the deal look good for the Giants with a solid 14-5 season in 1974, posting a 2.95 ERA.

After a bad 1976, he was dealt from San Francisco to St. Louis. He never played a game for the Cardinals as he was sent packing to the two time defending World Champion Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 1977 season. The Reds were doing a makeover, one that included the departure of Tony Perez, the break up of their bullpen and the arrival of Tom Seaver.

Before Seaver’s arrival, Caldwell was sent packing once again, this time to Milwaukee for a pair of minor leaguers who never played in the majors.

The deal was a great one for the Brewers. Caldwell finished as the runner up to Ron Guidry in the 1978 Cy Young race, leading the league with 23 complete games, winning 22 and posting a 2.36 ERA for a rising Brewers team.

As Milwaukee evolved into a contender, Caldwell was a reliable arm. He no longer was a Cy Young contender but he posted 200+ year in and year out and winning more than he lost.

When the Brewers finally won the pennant in 1982, beating a star studded Angels team in the ALCS they faced St. Louis in the World Series. (Remember, the Brewers played in the American League then.)

An exhausted Brewers staff limped into St. Louis, unable to start their ace Pete Vuckovich and they had Rollie Fingers on the disabled list.

Caldwell got the call for Game 1, facing Cardinal star Bob Forsch. Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and friends pounded Forsch and Caldwell made sure the Cardinals could not counter rally.

Caldwell finished with a complete game 3 hit shutout, giving the worn down and short handed bullpen the night off in the 10-0 final.

The Brewers and Cardinals exchanged wins and Caldwell got the ball again for Game 5 with the series knotted at two games a piece. Robin Yount got 4 hits including a homer to spark Milwaukee’s attack.

Caldwell did not dominate like he did in Game 1, but worked his way out of jams. In the 9th inning, with manager Harvey Kuenn gunshy about going to his bullpen, Caldwell took the mound with a 6-2 lead.

He got friend of the Sully Baseball Daily Podcast Lonnie Smith out but then ran out of gas. David Green and Keith Hernandez hit back to back doubles and George Hendrick singled to make bring the Cardinals to within 2. Bob McClure came in to relieve Caldwell and he worked around another single to get the save.

Caldwell would go 2-0 in the World Series, needing the bullpen for only a pair of outs and put the Brewers in position to win the 1982 title. They would go back to St. Louis with future Hall of Famer Don Sutton throwing Game 6 and eventual Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich available for Game 7 if necessary.

The Brewers would lose both games as Sutton got pounded and the bullpen blew Game 7. Caldwell came out of the bullpen to finish the 8th inning of Game 7. Had the Brewers rallied to win, he would have won 3 games in the Series.

Instead his 2-0 performance over 17 2/3 innings and a 2.04 ERA has gone largely forgotten. Molitor and Yount’s torrid World Series hitting helped their Hall of Fame candidacy, but Caldwell has faded into obscurity.

Perhaps Yount’s .414 average and 1.072 OPS would have clinched the World Series MVP had Milwaukee took the title. But Caldwell would have received a lot of consideration and there is no doubt he would have cemented a legacy of being a beloved hero in Milwaukee.

Alas the cruel fate for those who excel on the losing side.