Nolan Ryan Record Breaker Cards 1978, 1988 and 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Cards of the Day for November 17, 2017

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There is an amazing alternate reality in history where Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan are teammates for life as members of the New York Mets.

Seaver was still an effective pitcher into the mid 1980’s. Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts in 1990 at age 43. They could have rewritten the record book side by side from the 1969 World Series, throughout the 1970’s and into the 1980’s.

Instead both were traded away in deals that were nothing short of disastrous for the Mets.

The Mets drafted Lynn Nolan Ryan out of Alvin Texas High School in 1965. He made a pair of appearances in 1966 before getting to the big leagues for good in 1968.

He was a spot starter and reliever for the 1969 World Champions. He got the save that clinched the NLCS and won the pennant for the Mets. Later, he won Game 3 of the World Series in relief.

Ryan, along with Seaver and company, was a World Champion. He got that checked off his resume at age 22.

Then after the 1971 season, the Mets decided they had enough pitching and needed to shore up their infield. Jim Fregosi came over to the Mets from the Angels. Ryan was one of multiple players sent to Anaheim.

There his career exploded.

I wrote about his career in a blog post back in 2013. I compared him to George Harrison. Trust me, it made sense to me.

But I can think of no better way of demonstrating how wide spread the trade backfired on the Mets than these three record breaking cards. One was issued in the 1970’s, one in the 1980’s and one in the 1990’s as he remained dominant for all those years after he was shipped off.

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In 1977, he broke Sandy Koufax’s record of most games with 10 or more strikeouts. Koufax’s mark was 97. Ryan finished with 104 at the end of 1977. Keep in mind he would pitch for 15 more seasons. He would finish with 148 games of 10 or more strikeouts… in the American League.

The grand total he would reach is 215 when his years with the Mets and Astros are included.

Inexplicably, I tried to draw beard on his face on this 1978 Topps card. Don’t ask me why.

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In 1988, Topps issued THIS Record Breaker card to commemorate Ryan passing 200 or more strikeouts for the 11th time in his career. That would set the all time mark.

To add insult to injury, the pitcher he passed was Tom Seaver. He would eventually pass 200 strikeouts 15 times in his career.

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The final record breaker card honors his 5000th strikeout. He would fan Rickey Henderson no less to reach that mark. To be fair, this highlight would also be in the 1980’s but he would win the 1990 strikeout crown and throw another no hitter in that decade.

Nobody else in history has fanned 5,000 for their career. Randy Johnson’s 4,875 has come closest. And that is a far cry from Ryan’s final tally of 5,714.

Ryan won 324 games, 295 of them for teams other than the Mets. All of these records could have been set in Flushing. He would have been a New York legend.

Instead he had to settle for one of the most famous and beloved stars in the history of baseball and a first ballot Hall of Famer.

A little more value than say Jim Fregosi.

1978 Record Breaker Mike Edwards, 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 16, 2017

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You never know what you are going to see when you go to the ballpark. An unlikely pitcher could throw a no hitter. A hitter could go on a four homer rampage. A wild comeback could turn the game around in the 9th. The game could fly by in less than 2 hours. The game could go into the 20th inning.

In an August game in 1978 at Oakland between the A’s and the Angels, a handful of fans witnessed a record being broken.

It is safe to say the few who were there had no clue what they witnessed. And Mike Edwards that day put his thumbprint on baseball history and had the greatest game of his short career.

In the years between the A’s championship run in the mid 1970’s and the arrival of Billy Martin, the Oakland team was in flux. They consistently put a poor product on the field and could not draw anything near a million fans for an entire season.

On August 10, 1978, however, the A’s were surprise contenders. They were 60-56 and only 4 1/2 games behind the Royals. They were closer to first place than the eventual World Champion Yankees were.

That day in Oakland, the A’s were playing another surprise team, the California Angels who were only 1 1/2 games ┬ábehind Kansas City.

There were only 3,832 fans attending the day game that Thursday afternoon. The A’s fans did not witness a pretty game for their team. In the first inning, Matt Keough was getting roughed up. Don Baylor, a former Oakland player, doubled home Ken Landreaux and Carney Lansford to give the Angels 2 runs before the A’s even came to bat.

Joe Rudi, once a beloved Oakland star, came up for the Angels with a runner on second and one out. He hit a liner to A’s second baseman Mike Edwards. He caught it and stepped on second to double up Don Baylor to finish the inning.

By the 4th inning, the A’s were behind 5-1 and already dipping into the bullpen. The first 8 batters in the 4th reached. Three pitchers could not record a single out. The A’s were down 10-1 with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Reliever Craig Minetto faced Dave Chalk. He lined a shot to second base and Edwards snared it. He stepped on second to double off Danny Goodwin. The inning would end with Oakland still trailing 10-1. They cut it to 10-5 in the 6th but the Angels rallied again and won 16-5. The A’s would lose 37 of their next 46 games and fall out of contention.

As the dejected fans left the stadium, I wonder how many of them realized they saw a record being set. For the first time ever in an American League game, a second baseman made two unassisted double plays in the same game.

Two National Leaguers in the 19th century, Davy Force and Claude Ritchey, had pulled the feat off and the Angels Luis Alicea would match them in 1997.

Edwards, who was acquired from the Pirates before the 1978 season. He was the regular second baseman for the 1978 and 1979 before playing his final year under Billy Martin in 1980.

Edwards played 2 years in Mexico and a year in Japan before finally retiring. He may not have had a long big league career, but he has set a record that has never been broken, which is not a bad legacy to leave.

’88 Record Breaker Doug Jones 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 15, 2017

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Baseball is filled with stories of people who display strength and perseverance. Former Cleveland Indians closer Doug Jones is one such story.

A draft pick by Milwaukee in 1978, he toiled through the minor leagues for years save for one quick cameo with the 1982 Milwaukee club.

In the mid 1980’s he found himself in the Cleveland Indians organization but not impressing manager Pat Corrales. The team was filled with young hitting stars like Julio Franco, Joe Carter, Brett Butler, Pat Tabler, Mel Hall and Tony Bernazard. But they lacked pitching depth and certainly anything resembling an anchor in the bullpen.

Jones was a 29 year old career minor leaguer who threw in the 80’s. Corrales wanted none of that. He wanted flame throwers on the team and Jones appeared in only 11 games.

In 1987, the expectations for the Indians were through the roof. Sports Illustrated famously picked them to win the American League pennant.

Their pitching staff was a catastrophe and closers Ernie Camacho and Scott Bailes just could not do their jobs. Manager Pat Corrales was fired and new manager Doc Edwards came in.

Edwards was not necessarily thrilled that they had a soft tossing reliever in their pen, but he was a better option than everyone else and he wound up getting 8 saves to lead the team.

For spring training 1988, Edwards told Jones that the front office would rather have a young flame thrower than a 30 year old soft tosser. Jones was told that he would have to win his spot by outpitching everyone else otherwise he would be out of a job.

Jones, now sporting a choice 1980’s mustache, had to fight preconceptions about age, velocity and experience and he had no good will in the bank to cash in. That spring training, he did indeed win the spot in the bullpen.

Edwards began to use him as the closer. Instead of a fireballer coming out in the 9th, Jones’ slow stuff kept everyone off balance. He converted 4 of 5 save chances in April.

On May 11, he pitched 4 shutout innings to get the 4-3 win in 13 innings over the Angels. 2 days later, he threw 1 1/3 innings for a save. Nobody knew it, but he was beginning a record breaking streak.

By May 24th, he had 9 saves, one more than his team lead was for the entire 1987 season.

In June, he made 7 appearances and got saves in every single one. Three of those saves were ones where he entered in the 7th inning. The last one, on June 24th, was the 14th straight appearance with a save, one more than the record set by Steve Bedrosian the year before.

On July 2, he recorded his 19th save and the 15th straight appearance. On the 4th of July, he came into the game in a tie situation, breaking the streak. But a few weeks later, he was named to his first All Star Game.

He finished the season with 7 straight appearances with a save and 37 for the year. His ERA was a solid 2.27 and he struck out 72 while only giving out 13 unintentional walks.

Doug Jones, who was offered a coaching job instead of a spring training invite in 1987, would be named to the 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993 All Star Teams.

He pitched for the Astros and Phillies before rejoining Cleveland in time to pitch in the 1998 post season. His final game was in the 2000 Division Series as a member of the Oakland A’s.

Besides playing in 3 different decades, he became a millionaire many times over as well.

If he had listened to what everyone was saying about him, he would have quit in the mid 1980’s instead of playing to 2000 at age 43.

We can all learn a little something from his strength.