Tom Seaver 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 23, 2017

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Tom Seaver pitched for the Mets?

I actually asked that out loud once. For me as a kid, my first introduction to Tom Seaver was as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

Now stop and think about this for a second. As a kid being introduced to baseball, I thought of Tom Seaver as a Red but had trouble picturing Tony Perez with the Reds.

1978 was the first year I was collecting baseball cards and getting familiar with the players and where the stars aligned in baseball. The stats on those cards went to 1977. So the first time I saw Seaver, he was a Red.

I associated him with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and the greatest Red of all, George Foster. (Remember, I was being introduced to baseball with 1977 stats.)

My cousin Dave is a big Mets fan and I remember either in 1978 or 1979 spending part of the summer with him. He mentioned Tom Seaver as his favorite player and I think maybe that was the time I said “Tom Seaver pitched for the Mets?”

For some Met fans that would be the same as me saying “I mainly think of Michael Jordan with the Wizards.”

Now if you have read the first 200 words I have typed for this blog post, which you clearly already have, then you do not need me to write a long biography on Tom Seaver. You know who the hell Tom Seaver is. For a long time he was the closest thing we had to a unanimous Hall of Fame selection.

But one thing over the years, stepping back and seeing baseball as a continuous and evolving storyline that goes back to the past, lives in the present and moves on to the future, it is clear what Tom Seaver represented to New York.

He was more than a great pitcher. New Yorkers have seen many great pitchers but you can argue that Seaver was the greatest pitcher to ever wear a New York uniform. (Before you throw Christy Mathewson in my face, Matty deserves discussion but I am always slow to praise players from a preintegrated game.)

He was more than a charismatic star, one who arrived at the same time as Joe Namath but had many more brilliant seasons.

He was actually even more than a franchise player, even though he would almost certainly be a unanimous choice for the title “Greatest Met of All Time.”

Tom Seaver was the third act of redemption for a great baseball tragedy in New York. Baseball fans who grew up loving the Giants and the Dodgers had a glorious middle of the 1950’s. Each won a World Series and each had the greatest teams and most beloved players in their history.

And then a few years later, before the decade was up, the teams were taken away from them and sent to California. And it was a kid from California who turned the story around.

The formation of the Mets in 1962 gave National League fans in New York a fresh start and a team to root for. Once they moved to Shea, the team had a neutral site for the Giants and Dodgers fans. Dodger fans no longer had to call the Polo Grounds their home field.

With the Mets terrible and the Yankees fading, New York needed a baseball savior. Seaver was the Rookie of the Year in 1967 and solid in 1968, but the Mets remained terrible.

Then 1969 happened. Seaver dominated in every way. Seaver won the Cy Young. He pitched 10 innings in the Mets critical World Series Game 4 win. And was one of the first on the field when the Mets won it all.

Listing stats and individual games won’t do justice for what the title meant. 12 years after the Dodgers and Giants were taken from them, their fans, rivals joined together, had a World Series championship and a New York superstar to call their own.

It was a team of the present and the future to heal the wound of the past. A decade that began with no NL team in New York and the prospect of rooting for the Yankees or following a team in California ended with a fan base on top of the World.

It was Tom Seaver who delivered that. It was Tom Seaver who, in his own way, helped heal the wounds caused by the move of the Giants and Dodgers. And using the rule of 7, anyone born after the Giants and Dodgers move had a team and a title of their own.

Seaver went on of course to win 3 Cy Youngs, win 311 games and has the 6th most strikeouts of any pitcher in MLB history. He was dealt to the Reds in one of the stupidest moves in baseball history.

Oddly he last appeared in uniform as a member of the Red Sox watching the Mets win their first World Series since 1969. Later he became one of the best foils for Phil Rizzuto on Yankee games.

George Thomas Seaver was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He was also one of the biggest and most significant sports figures in New York history.

So naturally my first memory of him was as a Red.

Turns out he was a Met.

Frank Duffy 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 22, 2017

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OK, by now you know how these Card of the Day entries go.

I find a card in the shoe box. I pull it out. If I have any personal memories of the player or of the card itself, I share it. I provide some biographical info about the player, some of their best games, I salute, I move on and pull out another card.

Lather rinse repeat for 365 days.

This Frank Duffy card brings back two emotional memories. One was an introduction to reality. One is stupid and the only reason it is not embarrassing is the fact that I was 6 years old when this impulse took place.

OK, let’s get all the baseball stuff out of the way, shall we?

Duffy was from the Bay Area and went to Stanford where the Reds drafted him in the late 1960’s, a good time to be drafted by the Reds. He made a handful of appearances with the 1970 NL Champion Reds but was not on the playoff roster.

Midway through the 1971 season, he was dealt to San Francisco. He only played 21 games for the Giants that year and did not hit much. He DID get an at bat in the 1971 NLCS against Pittsburgh.

That trade, to be kind, did not work out well for the Giants. Duffy was a Giant for those 21 regular season games and the strikeout in the NLCS.

The Reds got George Foster in the deal, who was a key part to the 1975 and 1976 World Championships and won the 1977 NL MVP and multiple home run titles.

It is never a good thing for someone’s reputation to be mentioned in the wrong end of a horrible trade. Fortunately for Duffy, he was dealt after 1971 to Cleveland and was part of another horrible deal, this time the other way.

The Giants traded Gaylord Perry, who they thought was fading, to the Indians along with Duffy for Sam McDowell. McDowell faded while Perry won a Cy Young in Cleveland and later another one in San Diego and pitched into the mid 1980’s.

For 6 seasons Duffy was a starting infielder in Cleveland, never putting up great numbers but fielding his position well enough to get the call.

One of his best games came on June 23, 1975 against the eventual AL Champion Boston Red Sox. He doubled off of Jim Burton in the first, driving in a run and knocking out the starter. He would later crush a 2 run homer off of Diego Segui and finish the game 4 for 5 with 5 RBI.

He played with the Indians in 1977, thus this 1978 card was produced with the classic “Tomahawk C” cap. Late in spring training of 1978, he was dealt to Boston for pitcher Rick Krueger, one of seemingly 4,000 deals between the Red Sox and Cleveland that year.

Duffy was brought in for infield depth and wound up starting 30 games that season. When Butch Hobson’s injuries kept him from fielding his position down the stretch, Duffy saw more playing time but not as much as Jack Brohamer.

Duffy did appear in the 1978 Bucky Dent playoff game as a defensive replacement but never got an at bat. He did not seem to have the best time in Boston as he is credited with describing the unfriendly Red Sox clubhouse as “24 guys getting into 24 cabs.”

He was released after a handful of games in 1979.

OK, got all that out of the way.

Now for the two memories. I remember opening the pack back in 1978 and thinking this guy didn’t look like a baseball player but like someone’s dad. When I was looking at the card, MY dad saw him and knew how excited I was to get Red Sox players in my packs.

“He’s with the Red Sox!” my dad told me.

Confused, I replied “No he isn’t. He is with the Indians.”

“He was last year but NOW he is with the Red Sox” he replied.

I began to understand that these baseball cards could not be updated instantly and players tend to move around. It was an interesting lesson.

Then I looked back at this picture. He had a name that sounded familiar (I had no idea it was because it was an Irish name and there were lots of Irish names in Massachusetts.) There was something comforting and familiar about his face. And the 6 year old version of me had a strange impulse.

I put my finger on the nose of Frank Duffy on the card and went “BOOOP.”

To this day, I have no clue why I did that. It felt like the right thing to do for some reason. I wouldn’t go “BOOOP” to Thurman Munson, or Rick Burleson, or Dave Parker, or Johnny Bench or Dock Ellis.

But somehow it felt right with Frank Duffy.

And here we are nearly 40 years later. I see this card and in the back of my head I think “BOOOOP.”

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.