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.

Terry Whitfield 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 16, 2017

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As I am typing this blog post, I am sitting in a room in the Silicon Valley. Right up the 101 from where I am sitting, there is a batting cage located in the town of Burlingame, California.

The facility is a state of the art batting cage where players of all ages and skill sets can take batting practice and learn from professionals.

The two men who run the facility were teammates in the New York Yankees minor league system during the 1970’s. Ed Ricks, a former pitcher, made it all the way to AAA ball with the Yankees, Angels and Blue Jays before injuries ended his career in 1979.

The other former pro was Terry Whitfield. He made to the Yankees for a call up in 1974, 28 games in 1975 and played a game with the 1976 AL Champion Yankees. But as the Yankees were preparing for 3 straight pennants, Whitfield’s break came when he was traded away.

The left handed hitting outfielder had good power and speed in the Yankee system but was not going to crack an outfield that featured Lou Piniella, Roy White, Mickey Rivers, Reggie Jackson and Paul Blair.

During 1977’s Spring Training, he was dealt to the Giants for infielder Marty Perez. (If you don’t remember Perez on the 1977 Yankees, don’t worry. He played one game for the Yankees before being traded to the A’s, but that is another story.)

The 1977 Giants might not have been contenders, but they were a hole for Whitfield. He started 74 games in San Francisco in 1977 and had some days where he truly starred.

In a game on May 26th against the two time defending World Champion Reds, Whitfield batted clean up and had one of his best games. Going into the 8th inning, he had collected 3 hits and the Giants were tied with Cincinnati 5-5. With 2 outs and 2 on, Whitfield got his fourth hit of the day, driving in Vic Harris and giving the Giants a 6-5 lead. It would be the game winning hit.

In 1978, with the Giants competing for much of the year, Whitfield played 149 games, starting 120 of them. He hit 10 homers and posted a respectable .289 for the year. He remained an every day player for San Francisco in 1979 and 1980.

In 1981, he left San Francisco for Japan and played 3 seasons with the Seibu Lions. In Japan he put up big home run totals, mashing 38 round trippers while driving in 109 runs 1983.

By 1984, he was back in America, this time as a reserve for the Dodgers. He made his lone post season appearance with the 1985 Dodgers. After a few years in the California league, he retired after 1988.

After his playing days, his innovations began. He and Ricks set up their batting cages and training in Burlingame, just a few minutes from old Candlestick Park.

The clinics are part of Future Pro, and Whitfield teaches hitting there. But remember this is the Silicon Valley and there needs to be innovation as well. They created LED pitcher screens to help time swings from the motion of a pitcher. Most importantly is the creation of the Terry Toss, a pitching machine that is more portable and less cumbersome than traditional models.

Among the many places where the Terry Toss is used is AT&T Park where fans can take a swing from a device created by a former San Francisco Giant.

Whitfield and Ricks have years of knowledge, experience and drive. Must be cool to learn from those who have actually been there and done that.

Mike Stanton 1991 Score – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 28, 2017

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I talked about Giancarlo Stanton yesterday and I realized that in my first attempt of my blog post, I was writing a lot about the OTHER player who was called Mike Stanton. So why not give him a post today.

THAT Stanton pitched for 19 seasons from 1989 to 2007… or as I like to call it “From my junior year of high school to my sons’ second birthday. That’s a long time to have a Mike Stanton in our baseball lives.

The post seasons of 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 all featured Mike Stanton. And he also participated in the 2005 AL East race that went down to the last weekend. He pitched for both the Yankees AND the Red Sox that year.

So when you have a player who has been part of my life for such a long stretch, you can understand why I was relieved when the Marlins slugger changed his name to Giancarlo.

The Texas native emerged with the Braves in the late 1980’s just as all the Glavines and Smoltzs and Averys of the world were beginning to blossom. He posted a 1.50 ERA over his 20 games in Atlanta with the 1989 squad.

After a 1990 lost season, he was on the big league roster for good in 1991, saving 7 games and having a 2.88 ERA for the eventual NL champs.

He was a regular in the bullpen for the Braves as they kept participating in October. He even was the closer for a period in 1993. But when the Braves finally won it all, he was in Boston, having being dealt to the Red Sox in 1995, the same year the Braves won the title. He played in the Division Series for Boston that year, but it must have stung to see all the players he came up with celebrating without him.

He had Division Series losses in 1996 with the Rangers and 1997 with the Yankees. But in 1998, he was part of the anchor of one of the great bullpens of all time and earned his ring with the Yankees.

He then pitched in the 1999 World Series and earned ring number 2 with the Yankees. then he pitched in the 2000 World Series, won a pair of games and earned ring number 3 for the Yankees.

What I am saying is don’t cry for him. He has his share of rings.

In 2001, he was named to the All Star Team, a rarity for middle relievers but he was super effective that year.

After the 2002 playoffs, Stanton bounced around between the Mets, the Nationals, the Giants and the Reds.

In 2005, he returned to the Yankees, hoping to recapture the old magic of the 1990’s bullpens. He fared poorly in New York and was dumped to Washington. He pitched better with the Nats but when they stopped contending, Stanton found himself back with the Red Sox.

Along with Alan Embree and Mark Bellhorn, Stanton played for both the Red Sox AND the Yankees in 2005.

Stanton’s career ended in 2007 with a subpar season with the Reds. Just as this Mike Stanton was wrapping up his career, the other Mike Stanton, AKA Giancarlo, was drafted by the Marlins.

His career might not have been as highlight worthy as Giancarlo’s, but I am sure a lot of people would take the million dollar checks and multiple World Series rings of MIKE Stanton.