Oddibe McDowell 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for September 9, 2017

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When Chris Berman started assigning nicknames to players while doing SportsCenter highlights in the 1980’s, some really stood out. Riders of the Storm Davis, Bert Be Home Blyleven and Chuck my bags please Porter were three of my favorites.

In my opinion, the greatest was Oddibe Young Again McDowell.

He had the perfect baseball name. And I think it is safe to say he was the greatest player ever named Oddibe.

I always wished he was a bigger star. He was a fine player who looked like he was going to burst into stardom at any moment. Instead he was a player who had some nice years and was a fan favorite and symbol of mid 1980’s baseball.

McDowell was born in Florida and went to college at the baseball powerhouse of Arizona State University. He also played on the 1984 Olympic Baseball team in Los Angeles and won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in America.

The Rangers used the 12th pick in the 1984 draft to snag McDowell. That was a strange draft that saw some players who had good if not spectacular careers, like Billy Swift, Jay Bell, Shane Mack and Terry Mulholland, and some major disappointments like Shawn Abner, Pat Pacillo and Drew Hall. Mark McGwire was the lone superstar from that first round. (FYI, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were picked in the second round.)

McDowell only played 31 games in the minors before he found his way onto the Rangers roster in 1985. The 22 year old had power (18 homers in 111 games) speed (25 stolen bases) and a flair for the dramatic. That July he became the first Rangers player ever to hit for the cycle.

In 1986, he kept hitting for power and stealing bases and saw his average and OPS go up. That team looked like a terrific squad was forming in Texas, and one with no shortage of fun players to root for. The 87 win team fell short of the Angels but had lots of hope for the future.

McDowell was the spark plug of a lineup that featured 20 year old Ruben Sierra, 22 year old slugger Pete Incaviglia, 24 year old Steve Buechele at third, poor man’s Mattingly Pete O’Brien at first, veteran slugger Larry Parrish at DH, young arms in Bobby Witt, Jose Guzman and Ed Correa in the rotation, reliable Greg Harris leading Mitch Williams and Jeff Russell in the pen and veteran Charlie Hough eating the innings.

With the Angels and the Royals having age catch up with them, the Rangers looked like the kind of squad that would be poised to take the 1987 AL West.

The Twins won the 1987 West with fewer wins than the Rangers had in 1986. And of course Minnesota went on to take advantage of the strange home field rules to win the World Series.

The Rangers disappointed with an 87 loss season. McDowell’s production was down in virtually every offensive category. Things did not look better in 1988 as injuries limited him to 120 games and he was in single digit homers for the first time in his career and his OPS fell to the unfortunate number of .666.

That off season, he was dealt to Cleveland in the trade that sent Julio Franco to Texas. He lasted only 69 games with the Indians before being traded to Atlanta.

As a Brave, he had a revival. He batted .304 in 76 games and posted a solid .836 OPS for the rest of 1989 and the 27 year old looked like he found a home in Atlanta. But another disappointing season in 1990 ended his time in Atlanta. By the time the Braves were winning the 1991 pennant, McDowell was in the Orioles system.

Injuries and slumps kept him out of the majors as he tried comebacks with the Angels and the Rangers between 1992 and 1994. Finally, after a solid stint in AAA, McDowell was back in Arlington as a member of the Rangers.

On May 13, 1994, he reached base 4 times, scoring twice in the Rangers 11-7 win over the White Sox. He wound up having 10 multihit games for the Rangers that year and seemed to relish being back with the team that first signed him.

He was on the club through August when the strike wiped out the season with the Rangers in first place of a weak AL West.

After another comeback attempt failed with the Yankees, he retired.

A member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, McDowell turned to high school coaching where his players can look up to him as a man who achieved success on the University level, in the Olympics and in the majors.

And thanks to Chris Berman, some of us will never forget that name.

Ron Pruitt 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 17, 2017

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This card is a thing of beauty and should be looked upon as a sign of two uniquely 1970’s nostalgia.

First thing to love is the all burgundy uniform. As color TV led to more interesting uniform decisions, few were more wonderful than this short lived combo in Cleveland. When stocky Boog Powell wore them, he called himself the biggest Bloody Mary in the world.

The shame is there were no post season games involving this uni. The flashy green A’s uniforms saw 3 straight World Series. The bright orange of Baltimore faced off with the yellow of Pittsburgh in 1979. The Astros tequila sunrise tops and orange hats were in the 1980 playoffs. But there were no defining moment with these Cleveland tops and bottoms. (The matching bottoms make it for me.)

Also the hat is wonderful. I hate Chief Wahoo. It is time to retire Chief Wahoo. Christsake, we are approaching the year 2020. I think we do without an image like Chief Wahoo. And what is wrong with the Tomahawk C hat Pruitt is wearing? If the Indians name is to be kept (another debate for another time) then the Tomahawk C is a nice compromise.

The other thing to love is the pose. Topps cards, especially the 1978 series, loved to pose the players in a pseudo action shot as opposed to an actual action shot. This led to strange “pitchers in mid motion on the sidelines” or “batters in mid swing while smiling for the camera” looks.

This one of Pruitt is beautiful as a fake post in so many ways. First of all, he is in the crouch to catch the ball. But he does not have his catchers gear on. There is no chest protector, shin guards, no mask.

He is also in a crouch looking forward as if he is anticipating the pitch. BUT THE BALL IS ALREADY IN HIS GLOVE!

The 1978 series, as I have mentioned before, was the first baseball card series I ever collected. So I always thought poses like this were normal.

Hell, I thought uniforms like that were normal.

As for Pruitt himself, the Flint native was a star at Michigan State University and a member of the 1972 College All America Team along with Fred Lynn and future NL ERA leader Craig Swan.

He made his debut in 1975 with Texas before being traded to the Indians. Mainly an outfielder, he would sub as a catcher from time to time. A part time player, Pruitt had a few seasons where he hit well and had a few big games, including reaching base 3 times and launching a 3 run homer in a wild August 28, 1977 game where the Indians beat the expansion Mariners 10-6.

Pruitt was traded for fellow 1972 All America Team member Alan Bannister to the White Sox in 1980 but found his way back to Cleveland for 5 games in 1981. He played a handful of games for San Francisco in 1982 and 1983, reuniting with his former Cleveland manager Frank Robinson before calling it a career.

A valuable role player who batted .302 as a part time outfielder and catcher in 1980, Pruitt played games over 9 seasons. But in no season did he look as glorious as he did in this time capsule of a Topps card.

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.”