Neil Allen 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 27, 2017


I love everything about this card. Seriously, there is nothing about this card that doesn’t give me total, unapologetic joy.

There is the beautiful wood paneling of the 1987 Topps series. You have those AWFUL yet amazing White Sox uniforms with the gaudy S-O-X across the front. You have those stupid hats they used to wear that looked like trucker hats.

And there is Neil Allen. He is happy. He is loving life. And that big ole grin makes it look like he leads the league in chins.

It is amazing to look like you have two huge distinct Jay Leno chins and NOT look fat. Just he has a pair of chins.

It is an amazing card.

Neil Allen was from Kansas City, played 11 years in the majors and is best remembered for being what the Cardinals got in exchange for Keith Hernandez. It was a rare time when the Mets fleeced a team in a trade.

I remember watching a game with Neil Allen that resulted in a very strange statistical entry in his Baseball Reference page.

In 1988, his second stint with the Yankees, he went 5-3, his ERA was a fine 3,84 over 117 1/3 innings. He made 2 starts and had a shutout. But he had zero complete games.

Stop and think about that.

How can you be credited for a shutout but NOT a complete game? Isn’t one required for the other?

It was May 31, 1988. I was sitting in my living room in Palo Alto watching the A’s play the Yankees.

Young Al Leiter was pitching for the Yankees. He threw a single pitch. Carney Lansford hit it towards Leiter who was injured on the play. Lansford reached.

Yankee manager Billy Martin brought in Neil Allen for the emergency relief job. He retired Javier, Canseco and McGwire.

In the top of the second, Mike Pagliarulo homered to give the Yankees the lead.

Allen, facing a right handed hitting lineup to counter the lefty Leiter, breezed through Dave Henderson, Don Baylor, Mike Gallego, Orlando Mercado, Walt Weiss and Carney Lansford for 3 shutout innings.

Through the 5th, Allen had retired every batter he faced. The fact that the grounder that injured Leiter was ruled a hit kept it from being a no hitter watch did not deter from his amazing relief work. Pagliarulo and Dave Winfield made it a 3-0 lead going into the 6th.

The A’s went 1-2-3 in the 6th. Finally in the 7th, he allowed a hit, a single to Jose Canseco, but McGwire and Dave Henderson struck out.

Later he let up singles to Ron Hassey and another to Canseco but got Mark McGwire out to end the game. The final was 5-0.

Neil Allen’s line was 9 innings, 3 hits, no walks, no runs and 5 strikeouts for the 5-0 Yankees win in Oakland. It wasn’t a complete game of course. He wasn’t the starting pitcher. Al Leiter was.

Neil Allen threw 111 of the 112 pitches thrown by Yankee pitchers, but it wasn’t the first pitch so it wasn’t a start. But it was a 9 inning game where he threw 9 innings of shutout ball.

What to do? MLB gave him credit for a shutout even though it was not a complete game.

I watched that game. I remember thinking “I’ve never seen that before.”

I have never seen it since.

He gave the greatest relief performance I have ever seen. Even though it happened after this picture was taken, I like to think he is so happy because he knows he has a relief shutout in him, waiting to come out.