Jim Leyland 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 31, 2017


First of all, I love this card. Leyland looks like an old school “I take no shit” manager in this pic and he is wearing my all time favorite Pirates uniform in the process. Seeing him in the classic flat top “We Are Family” Pirates hat in their last year is a sight to behold.

He just looks better in that kind of uniform.

Compare that to when he wore the “Flash Forward” uniforms the Colorado Rockies wore for a game.


I would like to think the day he put that uniform on was the day he chose to resign from the Rockies.


I am a Leyland fan. The Bonds/Bonilla/Drabek/Leyland Pirate teams of the early 1990’s were one of my favorite Non Red Sox teams of all time.

In my humble opinion, Jim Leyland belongs in the Hall of Fame. He has the resume to back it up and won as many World Series titles as Leo Durocher, Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver did in their long careers.

He went to the World Series 3 times as a manager in 3 different decades, winning in 1997 with Florida. He also won division titles in 1990, 1991, 1992, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

There were a few at bats that if they went just slightly differently, then his Hall of Fame candidacy would not even be in question.

GAME 6, 1990 NLCS. Carmello Martinez hit a line drive that looked like a game tying, potential elimination avoiding home run. Glenn Braggs leaped above the line to bring it back in. Had that ball cleared the fence, the Pirates would have tied Game 6 and had a chance to force a Game 7.

GAME 6, 1991 NLCS. With the tying run on third in the bottom of the 9th of a 1-0 game against Atlanta, Andy Van Slyke hit a deep drive to right field. It hooked foul. He then struck out to end the game. If the ball didn’t go foul, it would have been a 2 run homer and the Pirates would have won the pennant.

GAME 7, 1992 NLCS. Francisco Cabrera, third string catcher, came up against Stan Belinda with 2 outs. If he did ANYTHING else, like pop up or ground out, the Pirates would have won the pennant. Instead… well… you know.

GAME 2, 2013 ALCS. The Tigers had won Game 1 against Boston and held a 5-1 lead in the 8th inning of Game 2 and had Verlander ready to go in Game 3. Then Big Papi tied the game with the grand slam and Saltalamacchia (sic) won the game with a walk off single. Had they taken the 2-0 lead back to Detroit, the 2013 pennant would have been in the bag.

GAME 6, 2013 ALCS. Another late lead, another sloppy inning. This time it was Shane Victorino who hit the grand slam that put the Red Sox up for good. Winning that game would have forced a Game 7.

A Pirate pennant and a Tiger World Series title would have made his resume undeniable.

There is another aspect of his career that is interesting. Consider about once a decade, a complete fluke World Series winner takes home the trophy. By that I mean a team that is slapped together with parts of other clubs and within a few years the team is disassembled. The 1987 Twins are an example of that. So would be the 2001 Diamondbacks.

Once Leyland was benefited from one of those teams and another time he was the victim of one.

The 1997 Marlins were cobbled together for a quick win. Even Leyland being brought in from Pittsburgh was part of the quick fix. They gobbled up Kevin Brown, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Darren Daulton, Al Leiter and a bunch of other veterans for one run at it. It worked. They beat San Francisco, upset Atlanta and won the wild 7 game series over Cleveland and won it all.

When Craig Counsel scored on Edgar Renteria’s hit, Leyland poured out of the dugout, gave a long emphatic point at his wife, jumped in Bobby Bonilla’s arms (his star from 1990 and 1991) and marched around the field waving the Marlins flag.

By the next year, virtually the entire team was playing elsewhere and by the end of 1998, Leyland himself was gone.

In 2013, he was on the bad end of it. The Tigers, consistently one of the super powers in the AL but without a World Series title, had their best shot. But a Red Sox team cobbled together with short term contracts and vagabonds, shocked them with a pair of grand slams and domination from Koji Uehara.

The one year wonders giveth and they taketh away. But all that being said, Leyland is an all time great and should eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Let’s see his greatest moment.

Rick Mahler 1983 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 5, 2017


Behold the genius of the 1983 Fleer Series!

I have written about this series before. The series was simply bananas. Fleer was new in the baseball card business and clearly could not get access to game shots, so they had to go around during batting practice and in the clubhouse to sneak shots.

The result was a bizarre collection of poses and unlikely cards, like this one of Rick Mahler in the clubhouse signing baseball.

Everything about this card screams 1983 Fleer. The setting is strange, the action is not exactly dramatic and is a little bit of an illusion breaker. Isn’t the concept of getting an autograph appealing because it creates the image that the player signed something specifically for one person, not a mass production like Lucy and Ethel at the Chocolate Conveyorbelt.

And his expression clinches it as well. It looks like he is saying “Really? Here? OK, take the picture, buddy.”

Mahler had a good solid career, mainly with the Braves. An undrafted free agent, Mahler signed with the Atlanta organization in 1975. In 1977, he made it to AA and made an impression on the organization as a starter and reliever for Savanah. In 1979, he got his first call up to Atlanta but he did not stick.

In 1980, the 26 year old had a terrific season in AAA and there was no reason to keep him in the minors.

He began 1981 as a reliever for the Braves, going multiple innings in his games including a 3 shutout inning save in a May 15th game against San Francisco. With his ERA at 1.59 at the end of May, he was moved to the rotation. His success was mixed as a starter but did throw a complete game victory against the playoff bound Astros on September 23.

Mahler was the opening day starter for 1982 and rewarded manager Joe Torre with a 2 hit shutout of San Diego. His second start was also a complete game shutout, this time of Houston. He helped the Braves get off to their amazing start and capture the South’s imagination.

His superstar start was met with a mixed bag between May, June and July. Sometimes he would look like an ace, but as his 4.40 ERA would suggest, other times, he would get bombed.

In August and September, as the Braves raced with the Dodgers and Giants for the NL West title (remind me why Atlanta was in the West), he would switch between the bullpen and rotation. He did pitch into the 10th in a game against the Expos on August 18th while other days providing long relief.

He pitched an inning and two thirds of shutout ball in the NLCS against the Cardinals but the Braves were swept.

1983 was a tough year for Mahler as he spent most of the season back in AAA , making only 10 relief appearances. But by 1984, he was back in the big leagues for good. As the Braves stunk on national cable television, Mahler was one of their most reliable innings eaters.

Regularly he would give Atlanta well over 200 innings, often seeing his win total in the teens for truly dreadful clubs.

After the 1988 season, he signed with the Reds and was there in time for the Pete Rose suspension and the chaos of 1989.

In 1990, however, he was a spot starter and managed to get 4 saves in the deep Reds bullpen that went wire to wire. He returned to the post season, throwing 1 2/3 shutout innings again, this time against the Pirates in the NLCS. The Reds would win the pennant and ultimately the World Series, earning Mahler his ring.

He spent 1991 with the Expos before returning to Atlanta in time to see them win the NL Pennant. He wasn’t on the playoff roster but was there for the good times and the bad.

Rick Mahler passed away on March 2, 2005. No word of where any of those autographed baseballs ended up

GLENN BRAGGS – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 12



OCTOBER 11, 1990 – National League Championship Series Game 6

In post season play, the Pirates and the Reds have forged an underrated rivalry. In 1970, 1972, 1975, 1979 and 1990, they locked horns in the NLCS. In 2013, they played the Wild Card Game against each other.

There were many dramatic games and extra inning collisions and match up of MVPs, from Rose and Clemente to Morgan and Stargell to Larkin and Bonds to Votto and McCutchen.

Perhaps the potentially most dramatic and iconic moment in this rivalry ALMOST happened in 1990. But it was foiled by a Cincinnati outfielder named Glenn Braggs, a player who did not begin the season with the Reds and started that game on the bench.

After both the Reds and Pirates missed the post season entirely during the 1980’s, they met up again in 1990. Both squads were star studded with All Stars (Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo) and former Yankee prospects turned aces (Doug Drabek and Jose Rijo.)

They each had old school tough as nails managers (Jim Leyland for Pittsburgh and Lou Piniella for Cincinnati.) But the Reds had the edge in the bullpen. The “Nasty Boys” of Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton were all but unhittable. They forced teams to score early because of the dominant relievers.

In Game 6, the Reds had a 3 game to 2 lead in their home park of Riverfront Stadium. Pirates manager Jim Leyland tried to take advantage of Lou Piniella’s platoon system by starting a right handed reliever, Ted Power, and then switching to left handed starter Zane Smith early in the game.

Power, Smith and two relievers held the Reds to 2 runs. But Reds starter Danny Jackson allowed only 1 hit over 6 innings. Pirates outfielder Carmello Martinez got the Pirates first hit in the fifth, an RBI double scoring Barry Bonds.

Charlton shut down the Pirates in the 7th and Myers in the 8th and time was running out for Pittsburgh.

By the ninth, Myers was ready to lock down the pennant. Along the way, Pinella made a double switch and sent Glenn Braggs to play right field in place of Paul O’Neill.

The 27 year old Braggs had been a power hitting prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers but never had his breakout season. In early June, 1990, the Reds sent pitchers Ron Robinson and Bob Sebra packing to the Brewers for Braggs and infielder Billy Bates (who will later have his own entry in this series.)

Braggs was strictly a platoon player, starting against left handed pitchers. Had Leyland started Zane Smith instead of Power, Braggs would have been in the lineup. Instead he was a defensive replacement.

In the top of the 9th, Myers kept his scoreless streak alive by retiring Bobby Bonilla. But Barry Bonds walked and up stepped Martinez.

The only player with a hit on the Pirates was in a favorable situation. He was facing the left handed Myers who had already thrown an inning and a third. Right handed reliver Rob Dibble was getting warm, but Piniella decided to manage against the book.

Martinez responded with a deep drive to right. It certainly was going to be a double with the (at the time) speedy Bonds on base. But it was carrying and looked like it had home run distance.

Carmelo Martinez was on the verge of one of the most dramatic hits in playoff history. With the series on the line, he was going to put the Pirates ahead with a line drive homer. A “Do You Remember Where You Were And Who You Were With?” baseball moment.

Except it didn’t happen. Braggs ran back and timed his leap perfectly. He caught the ball with his glove above the home run line and made a play that Paul O’Neill probably would not have been able to make.

Instead of taking the lead and making generations of Reds fans second guess Piniella for not using Dibble, the Pirates were now down to their last out. Myers struck out another right handed batter, Don Slaught and clinched the pennant.

It was a Nasty Boys NLCS with Norm Charlton getting credit for the Game 6 win and Dibble and Myers sharing the MVP honors for the series. The Reds would go on to win the World Series.

But their road to the World Series and the unblemished 1990 record of their amazing bullpen would have looked a lot different had Carmelo Martinez’s homer cleared the fence.

They can thank Glenn Braggs for keeping it in the park. For that reason, he is the Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero for the Day.