Spike Owen 1989 Donruss – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 30, 2017


While I was taking a train to a game at Yankee Stadium in the early 2000’s, I saw film critic Jeffrey Lyons was on the subway with me. We both appeared in the HBO Documentary Curse of the Bambino. I truly doubt if he recognized me from that.

We are both Sox fans and I decided I would try to stump him with a trivia question. I brought up Spike Owen, the starting shortstop on the ill fated 1986 Boston Red Sox. I asked him “What was Spike Owen’s real first name?”

He didn’t know.

I told him “Spike. His mother’s maiden name was Spikes, so Spike is NOT a nickname for him. That is his actual name.”

I took that as a moment of pride for me that he didn’t get it.

I don’t ever remember buying a pack of Donruss cards in 1989, but my eyes do not deceive me. This card does indeed exist in the shoebox inside my closet. The picture and stats on the back show Owen in his third and final season as a member of the Red Sox, 1988. He was reduced to a bench player and often a pinch runner for Jim Rice during the Morgan Magic Division Championship year as Jody Reed became the every day shortstop. He appeared in a single at bat in that year’s ALCS.

But he was indeed a member of the 1986 pennant winner and would have been a beloved figure in Boston had that final out been recorded.

Owen was a college teammate at University of Texas with Rogers Clemens and Calvin Schraldi. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1982 and by 1983 was the Mariners starting shortstop and in 1986 was named team captain. He was the leadoff batter for Seattle on the night when Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters. Owen himself fanned twice.

That same year, he was packaged with Dave Henderson to the Red Sox for a bunch of bodies including Rey Quinones and Mike Trujillo. With that, Owen got to play in the post season with the Red Sox. Owen was excellent in the ALCS against the Angels, batting .429, slugging .524 with an OPS of 1.002. Naturally Red Sox manager John McNamara pinch hit for him twice in close games in the series.

He continued to hit well against the Mets in the World Series. When his Mariners and Red Sox teammate Dave Henderson homered to lead off the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series to give the Red Sox a potential World Series winning lead, Owen met Hendu at home plate. He stopped and said something to him. I have no idea what it was, but I felt it was a special moment between two players who were toiling in obscurity in Seattle now 3 outs from winning the World Series.

Annnnnnd it didn’t happen.

After his time in Boston ended with the 1988 ALCS, Owen was dealt to Montreal where he started for four seasons.

After a year with the Yankees, Owen landed with the Angels, the very team he helped beat in 1986. He played well in the strike shortened 1994 season but lost his starting job to Gary DiScarcina in 1995. He pinch hit in the one game playoff between the Angels and Mariners for the 1995 AL West crown. He was retired by Randy Johnson. It turned out to be his final big league at bat.

Owen has a new baseball home in the Rangers organization. He has been a minor league manager and a major league third base coach. He will start the 2017 season as the manager of the class A Hickory Crawdads.

All the while, he goes by that first name, the same one I used to stump Jeffrey Lyons.

Donnie Moore 1979 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 9, 2017


Baseball is not life and death. It is a game. It is entertainment. The worst thing that can happen is a team loses.

Fans sometime have a hard time remembering that and like to pretend that the fate of a bunch of grown men, usually NOT from the town that they play for, playing a game has a great significance for the psyche of a community and they live and die with their teams.

Donnie Moore is a player whose myth after his death is one of a player who took the pain of losing to the extreme. The reality of his death was worse.

Moore was a reliever who came up through the Cubs system. When this 1979 card was issued, he was establishing himself as an innings eating long man, albeit with a too high ERA.

After bouncing around between the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers and Braves, Moore landed in California where he put together an All Star season with the Angels. That earned him a multimillion dollar contract. He bought a mansion in Orange County and moved his wife and kids in.

Then 1986 happened. An injury plagued season cut down on his effectiveness. But the Angels got to within one strike of the World Series. With Moore on the mound, he was about to clinch the greatest moment in franchise history.

Instead he gave up the Dave Henderson homer. The Angels tied the game in the 9th and the two fought in extra innings. Inexplicably, Gene Mauch let Moore pitch into the 11th where he let up the go ahead run. The Angels lost the game and a few days later lost the series.

Three years later, Donnie Moore committed suicide, many people saying he never got over the pressure and criticism of coughing up the 1986 ALCS.

It was an easy mythology to sell. Fans WANT to believe that players care so much that they would put a gun to themselves.

The reality was much more grim. Moore had abused Tonya, his wife, since they were teenagers. Moore’s abuse made her a prisoner in her own house which was increased if she ever spoke to another man. His alcohol abuse made it worse.

As his career was crumbling after a failed comeback attempt with the Royals, Moore chased  his wife around his house with a gun and shot Tonya in the chest and neck.

He then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide in front of his 3 children. Tonya survived the wounds but the effects of the tragedy must still be felt by his kids.

The narrative of him being haunted by the Henderson homer was oddly more romantic than dealing with the harrowing reality of domestic abuse, something that hasn’t changed much now.


Sully Baseball Podcast Rewind – December 28, 2015


Matthew West – Boston Herald

On December 28, 2015, I paid tribute to the late Dave Henderson who died earlier that day.

Enjoy this Podcast Rewind

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – December 28, 2015