Mike Davis 1989 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 21, 2017

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One of the most memorable and significant moments in the history of baseball was set up by a walk. One of the truly universally known World Series finishes would have been a shrug if a slumping player did not look at 4 pitches thrown by a former teammate.

And that same player helped put one of the most unlikely World Series results in history on ice when he swung his bat.

By all reasonable metrics, Mike Davis was a terrible signing by the Los Angeles Dodgers. And yet, he delivered twice in ways that put him in Dodger lore for all time and part of the great baseball narrative.

Davis was drafted by the Oakland A’s out of Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego during the 1977 draft. The A’s were a newly ruined franchise and players like Davis picked into the system were the nuggets of hope for the bleak Oakland future.

Right away, he played well at Medicine Hat in his first year in the minor leagues. He put up huge numbers at Single A Modesto in 1979, earning a promotion to Double A. He split both 1980 and 1981 between Triple A and Oakland, finding it hard to fit into the starting lineup for Billy Martin with an outfield of Dwayne Murphy, Tony Armas and Rickey Henderson. He did get an at bat in the 1981 playoffs for Oakland. By 1983, Davis was in the majors for good.

Right away he showed his stolen base prowess, swiping 32 bags in 1983 along side Rickey Henderson. By 1985, he added power to his bag of tricks. With Henderson traded, Davis played 154 games in 1985 for the A’s, hitting 24 homers, batting .287 and posting an OPS of .832. He added 24 stolen bases for good measure.

When Tony LaRussa had taken over the team in 1986, Davis was a consistent producer, worth 20 homers and 20 steals a year as a left handed hitter.

By 1987, the face of the A’s was forming. Canseco and McGwire were slugging, Carney Lansford was a solid hitter along with Terry Steinbach with Dave Stewart as the ace and Dennis Eckersley was getting a shot to close.

Davis was part of that club but with his contract up, his time with Oakland looked like it was wrapping up as well. His agent, Louis Burrell (yes, related to MC Hammer) got him a multiyear, multimillion dollar contract to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that going into 1988 looked like a odd mix of veterans and youth after a few losing seasons.

The A’s and Dodgers made a big deal that sent Bob Welch to Oakland and Alfredo Griffin and Jay Howell to LA. Davis probably almost felt at home.

Kirk Gibson also joined the team and the demeanor of the club changed with the transaction.

The Dodgers had a surprising 1988, but it was in spite of Davis. He batted .197 for the first half with a single homer and 11 RBI for the first half, slugging an unheard of .250.

The second half wasn’t much better, batting .194 with 1 homer and an OPS of .564. The totals, an .196 average and a disastrous .530 OPS with 2 homers and 17 RBI, pointed towards the title of Bust.

In the NLCS, he made 4 pinch hit appearances but did not look like he was going to be a factor, even when the Dodgers won the pennant.

With Kirk Gibson injured for the World Series, it did not open a spot for Davis in the starting lineup. Manager Tommy Lasorda opted to go with Mickey Hatcher, a right handed batter, over Davis’ non productive left handed bat.

In Game 1, Lasorda pushed the right button with Hatcher, who hit a 2 run homer in the first off of Dave Stewart. When Jose Canseco hit a grand slam off of the centerfield camera, the A’s took a 4-2 lead. The score was 4-3 going into the 9th when Dennis Eckersley, the impervious A’s closer took the mound.

Mike Scioscia and Jeff Hamilton made quick outs. Two outs. Nobody on. Down by 1 run. Everyone remembers that Kirk Gibson was taking swings in the clubhouse. But Lasorda did not call for Gibson.

Alfredo Griffin was up next. Instead Lasorda called for Davis. Why? I am not 100% sure. Griffin couldn’t hit but neither could Davis. And if Davis made an out, as his .530 OPS suggested was not an uncommon event, then the whole “Gibson was available to pinch hit but Lasorda chose Davis” would have become an urban myth quickly dismissed. “If Gibson was available, then why would he have batted Davis with 2 outs.”

Dave Anderson was on deck as Eckersley nibbled around Davis, who pulled off the walk.

The walk put the winning run at the plate. The walk made what happened afterwards possible. Gibson came up and eventually Davis stole second, making only a single necessary to tie the game.

Well, we all know what happened. Yes, Gibson’s homer would have only been a game tying shot without Davis. But then again there is no Gibson shot if Davis hadn’t been on base. The A’s would win that game and in all probability the World Series.

With the DH in effect in Oakland and facing only right handed starters, Davis was rewarded for his walk by starting Games 3, 4 and 5. In the potential clinching Game 5, Davis rewarded Lasorda and management.

Orel Hershiser was pitching for LA in hoping to clinch. He allowed a run in the third inning to make the score 2-1. With 2 outs in the 4th and a runner on first, Mike Davis came up against Storm Davis. On a 3-1 pitch, he launched a home run into the Oakland stands, like he had done so many times as an Athletic.

Now with a 4-1 lead, Hershiser made the clinching all but a formality, completing the 5-2 final and the title, with a little help from Mike Davis.

Mike Davis played one more season with the Dodgers but his big league career was over. But his place as being one of the sparks for one of baseball’s greatest moments remains secure.

Cris Carpenter 1993 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 20, 2017

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I wonder what Cris Carpenter thought when he watched Chris Carpenter pitch for the Cardinals.

I mean he HAD to watch Carpenter pitch all those years with St. Louis and shake his head. There is no way he didn’t.

Hell, there is a sports writer named Paul Sullivan who works in Chicago that I check in on from time to time and wonder what life would be like if I were THAT Paul Sullivan and not your pal Sully.

But Cris without an H must look at Chris with an H and long for his career.

Look, I am not going to besmirch Cris without an H. He made it to the majors leagues, played a few seasons and had a couple of good years as a reliever. I can’t say that.

But he was supposed to be a star for the Cardinals. And another person with his exact same name save for the H WAS a star for the Cardinals and was great on the biggest stage.

It is kind of strange.

Cris without an H was born in Florida but went to high school and college in Georgia. In 1987, the Cardinals made him the 14th pick in the draft.

Future All Stars Jack Armstrong, Mike Remlinger, Travis Fryman and Pete Harnisch were all still available. So was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.

Then again, Chris Myers, Dan Opperman and Kevin Garner were drafted ahead of Carpenter and none of them made the majors leagues. So there is that.

A star reliever in college, the Cardinals tried to convert him into a starter. He split 1988 between AAA Louisville and St. Louis. The goal seemed clear. This was not a long term rebuilding process. They expected him to be part of a staff that won 2 of the previous 3 pennants. Injuries to Danny Cox and Joe Magrane opened up a spot in the rotation that Carpenter needed to fill.

In 1989, the starter experiment seemed over as he began closing games in Louisville with mixed results but still managed to spend in the majors.

On September 17, he made a spot start against the Phillies. There were no shortage of professional hitters on the Phillies that day. Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Ricky Jordan, Von Hayers and Darren Daulton were all in the lineup.

But Carpenter had one of his best games, pitching into the 8th and finishing with 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball to earn the win. It was a flash of what could have been.

He split 1990 between AAA and St. Louis but pitched all of 1991 and 1992 with the parent club with some success. He won 10 games out of the bullpen in 1991, not that that tells us anything. In 1992, he threw 73 relief appearances and had an ERA of 2.97 as a set up man.

After the 1993 season, as this card suggests, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and wound up on the original Marlins squad. He threw a shutout inning in the very first game in Marlins history, helping set up Charlie Hough’s win and Bryan Harvey’s save.

He did not finish the season in Florida as he was dealt for Robb Nen, who would wind up being a part of the Marlins first title 5 years later.

Between the second half of 1993 and 1996, Carpenter bounced between Texas, Milwaukee and the minors before finally retiring.

Right around his retirement, Chris with an H emerged as a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. After 6 years of up and down production in Toronto, Carpenter wound up in St. Louis.

There HE became the Chris Carpenter who pitched the Cardinals into the playoffs, winning a Cy Young and being the ace for 6 World Series champions.

Chris without an H teaches social studies in his home town in Georgia. He said in an interview that he felt like he was rushed to the majors and wasn’t ready for the spotlight.

Chris with an H was a late bloomer and got the glory.

Claudell Washington 1989 Fleer Update – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 19, 2017

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Every year at the end of the World Series, there in inevitably a group of veterans who put in many many years and finally won their first ring. Those are always touching moments.

And every year there is a kid who just got called up from the minor leagues who picked up a ring and never have to wonder if they will ever win one during their career. Players like Derek Jeter, Buster Posey, Dustin Pedroia and Cal Ripken for that matter won a ring early and got weight off of their shoulders right off the bat.

Then you have someone like Claudell Washington who before he he could legally drink, checked off major accomplishments on the big league level and then played long enough to become a distinguished veteran. Born in LA, he was signed as an unsigned free agent out of Berkeley High School by the A’s in 1972.

The local kid tore up single AL ball in 1973. He was 19 years old in 1974 when he was assigned to Birmingham of AA. He batted .361 there with 11 homers and 33 stolen bases while posting an eye popping .976 OPS.

The A’s at the major league level were the two time defending World Champs, but they found room for 19 year old Washington on the big league roster. And unlike his unrelated namesake Herb Washington, whose role it was to be a pinch runner and never take the field or bat, CLAUDELL Washington could play. He appeared in 73 games and did not embarrass himself, batting .285 with a .702 OPS. He didn’t homer but he tripled 5 times.

That October, the 19 year old was in the post season. He started Game 2 of the ALCS and singled and scored against Baltimore’s Dave McNally.

He appeared in all 5 World Series games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In game 4, he reached base 3 times and scored, helping the A’s win 5-2. He also got a hit in the Game 5 clincher.

By 19 years old, he was a World Series champion.

In 1975, the 20 year old batted .308, stole 40 bases, hit 10 homers and was named to the All Star team.

His new teammate that year was future Hall of Famer Billy Williams. He was 37 years old and had played 16 years without one single post season game to his name. I always wondered what he thought of Washington checking World Series winner off his to do list before his 20th birthday.

The A’s won the Division again that year but were swept by Boston.

Washington would play 15 more seasons (17 in all) and bounce from team to team. He had some incredible highs, such as being a major part of the 1982 Braves playoff run and being named to his second All Star team. He had some lows, like being named in the Pittsburgh drug trials (which almost seem quaint now.)

By the time he was a New York Yankee in 1988, he was a 33 year old distinguished veteran, being a reliable performer in centerfield between Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield.

With the Yankees clinging to a thin hope for the AL East on September 9, 1988, Washington hit a walk off homer in the 9th against the Tigers to win the game. Two days later, he hit a walk off shot in the 18th inning. He became a Yankee fan favorite with those heroics.

Between 1989 and 1990 he went back and forth between the Yankees and the Angels before calling it quits.

Washington played with many Hall of Famers and did so over three decades and accomplished a lot in his 17 year career. But the hard stuff? He got that out of the way early.