Bob Forsch 1990 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 31, 2017


This card confuses me beyond all recognition. It is a monkey wrench thrown into everything I understand about reality.

Growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I learned there were two Forsch brothers pitching.

Bob pitched for the Cardinals.

Ken pitched for the Astros.

It was very easy to remember which was which by remembering those two teams. So I reach into my shoebox, pull out a card and it is a Forsch brother. It is the one who pitches for the Astros. So it is Ken, right? NO! It is Bob!

Do you understand how that upsets my equilibrium?

It is like Righty Tighty Lefty Loosey suddenly became Righty Loosey.

The Brothers Forsch were from Sacramento. Ken was 4 years older and was drafted by the Angels and Cubs before finally being drafted and signed out of Oregon State University by the Astros in 1968.

Bob also went to Corvallis and was drafted in 1968 by the Cardinals in the 26th round. Ken arrived in the majors first in 1970. Bob made his big league debut as a 24 year old with the 1974 St. Louis Cardinals.

Bob pitched well his first game, throwing into the 7th allowing only 2 runs against a star studded Cincinnati Reds team. In his second start, he threw a 4 hit complete game shutout against Atlanta. 2 of his next three starts were also complete game victories. Not a bad Rookie start.

By 1975, his second year, he was a 15 game winner with a 2.86 ERA over 230 innings pitched. He also batted .308 for the season as well. At that time, his brother Ken had made the transition to being a successful reliever in Houston.

Ken made the All Star team in 1976 as one of the National League’s best reliever. By 1977, Bob was a 20 game winner and won the Silver Slugger.

By 1978, just as I was starting to learn players names and team names and was confused by all the Forsches out there, Bob threw a no hitter against the defending NL East Champion Phillies. Bob had become a reliable arm in St. Louis, giving over 200 innings a year and winning in the double digits, back when people cared about that.

In 1979, Ken made the transition to the rotation and threw a no hitter of his own, making the Forsches the first set of brothers to throw MLB no hitters. Ken led the league with a WHIP of 1.069. Ken would be a starter in the 1980 NLCS for the Astros.

In 1979, Ken had the lowest walks per innings pitched in the National League. In 1980, Bob had the lowest walks per innings pitched in the National League. The Brothers Forsch had good control.

The Bob Cardinals and Ken Astros formula was kaput in 1981 when Ken went to the Angels. Bob stayed with the Cardinals and in 1982, got his first taste of the post season.

Bob threw game 1 of the NLCS against Atlanta and tossed a complete game 3 hit shutout to spark St. Louis to a 3 game sweep. He did not fare as well in the World Series, losing the Game 1 blow out to Milwaukee and Game 5 as well, which put the Brewers on the cusp of the title. The Cardinals would win Games 6 and 7 and Bob would have his ring.

Forsch became one of the familiar names of St. Louis, throwing a second no hitter in 1983 and pitching both the 1985 and 1987 post season. He started Game 5 of the 1985 World Series and won games in the 1987 NLCS and World Series out of the bullpen. He also won over Cardinal fans by plunking Giants slugger Jeffrey Leonard, who taunted the redbirds with his one arm down homerun trot.

Ken’s career ended with the ill fated 1986 Angels as Bob continued on in St. Louis.

Then it happened. The bizarre Brudlefly like combining of the Forsch brothers occurred less than a year after the 1987 World Series. On August 31, 1988, with the Astros making a run at the Dodgers, Bob Forsch was dealt to Houston for infielder Denny Walling.

Up was down. Black was white. Bob Forsch was an Astro.

He did not fare well, going 1-4 with a 6.51 ERA to finish the 1988 season and the Dodgers went on to win the Division and the World Series. Bob spent one more unproductive season in Houston before calling it a wonderful 16 year big league career.

Bob became a coach and remained one in the minor leagues until his death shortly after the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series.

He had thrown out the first pitch in the World Series at St. Louis in the weeks before his death, confirming his status as a beloved Cardinal. And that is what he will always be in my eyes, despite the insanity this Fleer card is showing.

Bob Forsch is a CARDINAL… his BROTHER is an Astro.

Jack Howell 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 30, 2017


Jack Howell was a top prospect for which expectations were sky high that he would become an elite player.

He did become an elite player, a superstar and an MVP. Just not in America.

A native of Tuscon, he went to college at the University of Arizona. He was undrafted in 1983 and signed with the California Angels. I hope Rick Ingalls, the scout that signed him, got a bonus. Undrafted players seldom become solid big leaguers.

The left handed hitting third baseman played 21 games for Salem after signing in 1983 and batted .395 with an OPS of 1.176. A small sample size to be sure but it earned him a prolonged look in 1984 with the California League. He improved his sloppy defense but did not hit for much power in his second minor league season.

In 1985, the Angels had him skip Double A and go right to Triple A Edmonton. He was ready. In 336 plate appearances, he batted .373, had an OPS of 1.079 and added 13 homers to his arsenal.

He also spent 43 games in Anaheim with the parent club, playing on a team loaded with stars like Reggie Jackson, Doug DeCinces, Bobby Grich and Rod Carew.

As the Angels went on to win the 1986 AL West, Howell again split his time between Triple A and with the Angels. DeCinces was still a key part of the team and the emergence of Wally Joyner prevented Howell from being a left handed hitting option at first base.

He continued to pummel Triple A pitching, batting .359 in 44 games and having an OPS of 1.054. Today he probably would have been trade bait to shore up the team and their playoff hopes. But the team saw him as the heir to DeCinces, who did not have many years left.

Howell was a non factor in the playoffs, getting a pair of pinch hit at bats in the Game 6 and 7 blowout losses to Boston.

The stage was set for 1987. Third base was Howell’s to lose. DeCinces was still with the team but Howell found playing time at second and in the outfield to make room for both. Eventually DeCinces was released and signed by the Cardinals.

Howell hit 23 homers and slugged .461. It wasn’t a superstar year but it was a solid full season for the 25 year old. He also hit a home run with a broken bat, becoming a poster child of people calling the ball juiced.

He played 154 games in 1988 but his production went down nearly across the board. The effects of a thumb injury hampered him.

In 1989, he hit 20 homers again but virtually nothing else went right. In 1990, he found himself briefly back in Triple A. Howell was not becoming the top producer that his minor league numbers promised.

When the Angels signed Gary Gaetti, the writing was on the wall. If third base was his to lose, he lost it. midway through the 1991 season, he was traded to the Padres for yet another prospect who had issues putting it all together, Shawn Abner.

To be fair, Abner was a Number 1 overall pick and Howell was an overachieving undrafted free agent, so their expectations should not have been the same.

He did not fare well in San Diego and in 1992, Howell found himself in Japan playing for the Yakult Swallows. Oddly it was Doug DeCinces, the man whose job he took in Anaheim, that suggested the move.

There he thrived. He was the 1992 Central League batting champion, led the league in slugging and hit 38 homers in 113 games. Howell became the first non Japanese player to win the MVP in the Japan League. Plus me made millions of dollars as well.

Howell returned to Japan for 1993 and hit 28 more homers and made the All Star team, hitting for the cycle in a game. Yakult would win the Japan Series in 7 games.

He spent 1994 with Yakult and 1995 with the Yomiuri Giants, missing all the work stoppage nonsense in America.

In 1996, he returned to America and played 66 games with the Angels (their final year as the California Angels before becoming the Anaheim Angels).

He became a part time player with the Astros and played on the 1998 and 1999 Division Winners. He would eventually return home to Arizona where he served as a hitting coach for the Diamondbacks.

So he did it all. Jack Howell became a millionaire, an MVP and a champion at baseball. So what if it wasn’t in America?

Roberto Kelly 1989 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 29, 2017


Roberto Kelly had horrible timing to win championships as a player for one organization. He made up for it with amazing timing to win World Series rings with a different one.

Kelly signed with the Yankees out of Panama when he was 17 years old. He played his first games in the Gulf Coast League in 1982 and did not hit much. The Yankee team was in a state of flux in the 1980’s. They had too many bloated veteran contracts and too few stars brewing in their farm system. And what players they DID develop, they sent packing for more bloated veterans.

Willie McGee, Fred McGriff, Jose Uribe, Doug Drabek and Jose Rijo were just some of the young players they Yankees sent packing.

By 1986, Kelly looked like he might become that rarest of players. He was a prospect in the Yankees system who they appeared to be keeping. He showed that he could hit and steal bases between Double A and Triple A. By 1987, he made his first appearances in the Bronx.

By 1989, he was starting every day, wound up batting .302 with 35 stolen bases and was solid defensively in center field. After the Yankees traded away Rickey Henderson, it was clear that they were handing the outfield over to their young home grown star.

In 1992, he was 27 years old and representing the Yankees in the All Star Game. There wasn’t much to cheer for in the Bronx between 1989 and 1992. But Kelly represented a certain amount of restraint for the Yankees. They didn’t send him packing for a has been. The Yankees didn’t come close to the playoffs in any of those years, but Kelly was not the problem.

The popular Kelly looked to be a big part of a Yankee resurgence, whenever that would be.

After the 1992 season, the Yankees finally traded Kelly. It was a shocking trade, especially since the player they got for him didn’t seem to be a good fit. Reds outfielder Paul O’Neill was not good enough to fill Kelly’s role with the team.

Kelly went to Cincinnati and played a season as “Bobby Kelly.” He had a terrific season with the Reds, being named to the All Star Game. But Paul O’Neill became a fixture in New York and a beloved Yankee. The Yankees soared and by 1995 became October regulars.

Injuries cut Kelly’s wonderful 1993 season short. In the strike shortened 1994 year, he found himself traded to the Braves for Deion Sanders.

1995 was a strange year for Kelly. Before the season began, he was traded from the Braves to the Expos for Marquis Grissom. He was only in Montreal for a month and a half before he was sent packing to the Dodgers.

He batted .278 but his OPS was only .685 with the two teams. The Dodgers managed to win the NL West title and Kelly saw his first action in postseason play. He posted a .354 average for the Dodgers against his former team, the Reds. But LA was swept and Kelly’s season was over.

The season ended with the Braves, the team he started the year with, winning the World Series. Marquis Grissom, the player he was dealt for, caught the final out.

The next year the Braves would lose to the Yankees in the World Series while Kelly toiled in Minnesota.

He played in the post season in 1997, 1998 and 1999 but his teams (the Mariners and Rangers) never made it out of the Division Series.

In 1998 and 1999, he saw his club eliminated by Paul O’Neill and the Yankees.

In 2000 he rejoined the Yankees but he only played in 10 games. The Yankees would win the World Series without him.

After his 14 season career ended, his coaching career began. Kelly worked his way through the San Francisco Giants system. He became the manager for the Augusta GreenJackets before joining Bruce Bochy’s coaching staff. He was a Giants coach for nine seasons, at first base and third base.

While in San Francisco, he was on a staff with former Yankees Dave Righetti and Hensley Meulens. Under Bochy’s watch, the Giants stunned the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS and went on to win the World Series. They would sweep the Tigers in 2012 and go from the road team in the Wild Card all the way to winning the World Series in 2014.

He remained on the San Francisco coaching staff through the 2016 post season, winning three World Series rings along the way.

Roberto Kelly missed out on the great Yankee rebuild. Maybe HE would have been a member of the hallowed “Core” for Joe Torre’s Yankees. Maybe if the Braves didn’t deal him, he would have been part of the 1995 title.

We may never know. But he made up for it with his great timing in the coaches world and San Francisco.

Roberto Kelly got his rings. It may not have been the expected route to take to all of those titles, but in the end it worked out.