Whenever I go back to my parents home, which was also my home during my high school days, I love going through the closets and seeing what artifact from my childhood I can unearth.
This past Christmas I stumbled across this gem: Bill Mazeroski’s Baseball Annual for 1987.
For those of you who don’t remember or are too young to even know, the release of the Bill Mazeroski Annual was one of the highlights off the off season. It had all of the stats, all of the predictions, all of the analysis of off season moves and breakdowns of prospects.
Now I am not sure how much of the book was actually the responsibility of the Hall of Fame second baseman. He was credited as “Associate Editor.” I imagine he endorsed it and gave it some baseball credibility the same way Alfred Hitchcock gave his name to the Three Investigator series. (God bless you if you understood THAT reference!)
The 1987 edition was personally very important for me. It was the preview that took place right after the 1986 World Series and helped heal those wounds. But that was also the year my family was getting ready to move from Massachusetts to California and I needed to read up on the National League and the West coast teams. This book got worn out!
Let’s take a closer look at this pre-internet artifact.
I know the covers were different from region to region. The Boston one had the brutal reminder of what had just happened the previous October.
And it wasn’t a picture of Bill Buckner or maybe Wade Boggs crying. It was Dwight Evans… the longest tenured Red Sox… looking pissed.
Brutal and cruel.
The Mazeroski Annual used a team evaluation system called Total Quotient (or T.Q.) system that looked damn impressive to a 14 year old Sully.
They broke down the team piece by piece with a rating system, combined those pieces and were able to see which teams were the strongest and which teams were hopeless.
It took the guessing out of picking a team and made it scientific.
Here’s the problem. They didn’t predict a single Division Winner correctly.
The NL East Champion Cardinals and NL West Champion Giants were picked third. The AL East Champion Tigers were picked second and the eventual World Champion Twins were picked second to last. So much for T.Q.s.
I can’t stress enough what a gold mine this was for a baseball starved fan making it through the winter.
In the days before the internet, THIS was our Baseball-Reference.com. Imagine everything you would ever look up on the internet squashed together into one gigantic search. That was the Bill Mazeroski Annual.
Often times I wouldn’t remember how a player did in the season or which farm system had the most future stars or what each teams holes are. Today you go to Google.
You went to Bill Mazeroski.
On this page, the outrageously talented Blue Jays team was dissected, injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected more intensely than Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant.
THE 1987 MINNESOTA TWINS PREVIEW
Nobody, and I mean nobody, picked the Twins to win the 1987 World Series.
The T.Q. system didn’t have the Twins ranked highly and their season’s preview is quite sarcastic.
They make a few “Prarie Dome Companion” jokes and wonder what happened to a team that had so much promise that the beginning of the decade.
At one point in the preview, the writer talks about how young manager Tom Kelly might be in over his head and “he’ll probably have to show quick progress to keep from being the fifth Twin manager fired this decade.“
I would venture to guess that winning the World Series qualifies as quick progress.
He would manage the Twins from 1986 to 2001, also managing the 1991 World Series winner and the 2001 team that signaled the rebound of the franchise.
Not bad for a manager that Twins owner Carl Pohlad “isn’t exactly wild about.”
Of the many sections of the Mazeroski guide, the Future Stars was one that got me giddy for the next season.
This was the John the Baptist “Prepare ye the way” moment of the Hot Stove months. After breaking down what teams need and what their holes are, the Future Stars give me a nice healthy guide of can’t miss players who will dominate the next season.
Guys like Mike Grant and Mickey Brantley.
And Cubs prospect Rafael Palmeiro is described as a good hitter without home run power. Interesting that he found a home run swing after joining Jose Canseco in Texas.
The Future Stars section may have been exciting, but the Farm Report would get worn out over the course of the year.
Whenever a player got recalled from the minor leagues, I would see if the Mazeroski guide included him in their amazingly in depth look at each farm system’s top players.
They also listed each team’s farm clubs. Milwaukee’s AAA team was in Denver. The Rockies debut wasn’t until 1993.
I trusted the guide without question. If they told me that the Milwaukee Brewers had a Grade A quality farm system, then I believed it.
And if they listed a prospect, I just assumed they would be a solid major leaguer.
The Brewers highly rated farm produced from this crop Gary Sheffield, Chris Bosio, B. J. Surhoff and Darryl Hamilton.
They also highly rated Edgar Diaz, Mike Birkbeck, Vincente Palacios, Dan Murphy and Mark Ambrose. So it wasn’t an exact science.
THE BRAVES FARM REPORT
Take a close look at the Braves farm system report.
It is super snarky, basically saying that the cupboard is bare after some ill advised free agent signings. The Farm System gets a C- report and it is safe to say after reading their analysis that their minor leagues needed an overhaul.
But look at some of the players listed in the report as long range prospects:
Jeff Blauser, who became a staple on many Braves teams including the 1995 World Champions.
Tom Glavine, the future Hall of Famer and multiple Cy Young winner who would go on to capture the 1995 World Series MVP.
David Justice (then called Dave) who became the offensive star of those teams and whose homer put the Braves up for good in the 1995 World Series.
The “Keep Your Eye On” section included Kent Mercker, another contributor to the 1995 World Championship and who threw a no hitter in 1994. Ron Gant became a key slugger for the 1991 and 1992 National League Champions and Pete Smith played on the 1992 NL pennant winners.
Not a bad haul for a C- farm system.
As I said before, I got this particular issue when my family moved from New England to California. And I found myself in Palo Alto just as the Stanford Cardinal was a College World Series winner, exposing me to quality college baseball for the first time in my life.
So naturally as a frequent spectator at Sunken Diamond, I felt like checking up on the big college stars was the next cool thing to do.
They pictured Jack McDowell, whom I saw pitch at Stanford and was indeed a bad ass. They also listed Georgia’s Cris Carpenter who eventually went to the Cardinals.
That isn’t a typo. He didn’t spell it with an “h”.
The Chris Carpenter who spelled it correctly won a Cy Young Award with the Cardinals.
A GOOD CASE FOR A FRANCHISE IN PHOENIX
The college section included this little blurb that argued for Phoenix being a logical place to put a big league franchise. The crux of their argument was the number of terrific college players that came through Arizona.
That’s true, but by that logic, should there have been a team in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. Back then putting teams in Arizona and Florida seemed so logical. Yet in reality they play to too many empty seats!
A GUIDE TO SCOUTING
How long ago was 1987? Back then scouts were actually respected!
A whole section was devoted to “Time-Honored Tenets” and evaluating talent by watching players and coming up with a personal opinion.
Reading this section almost felt like looking at a map of the world before Columbus set sail.
You can hear the Sabermetrics people rolling their eyes when you glance at it.
Watch this ad for Intellivision. That used to be the super high tech videogame system. At the time it blew our minds.
It looks kind of lame, right? That mind bogglingly cool baseball game from the late 1970s would be a crappy app on your phone.
That is what this article about hi tech baseball read like now.
Wow! Managers are using computers to keep track of scouting reports? They include information like batting averages and match ups? That’s AMAZING!
I bet those computers held up to 10 pages worth of information!
If you punched in WAR or VORP or OPS+ into that computer, it would crash.
10 – Go to batting Average.
20 – Go to gut instinct.
30 – RUN.
As awesome as it was going through the old articles, it was almost more interesting to check out the classic ads.
THE 1987 EDITION OF STRAT O MATIC
For those of you too young to remember, before everyone was doing Fantasy Baseball, Strat o Matic was the best way to simulate a baseball game.
You had stats!
You had strategy!
It was like playing Fantasy Baseball… except it took hours and hours and hours.
We had more time back then.
I am tempted to call the toll free number and mail in the form from the bottom of this ad.
I assume they are still accepting orders.
This one also has an order form. I might have to start dropping these in the mail to see what happens.
This ad was for the souvenir store that was one time located next to Yankee Stadium. In fact it says right there in the ad “Formerly opposite Yankee Stadium.”
Remember in the 1980s the Bronx sucked.
I mean REALLY sucked.
I am saying that compared to the 1980s, the current Bronx is Monte Carlo.
So maybe that is why Manny’s left for New Jersey.
For those of you who can’t understand how we could have bought things like caps, jersey’s and jackets through the mail without even seeing what the product looked like, rest assured, I don’t remember how we did it either.
THE PACIFIC TRADING CARD, INC AD
There was a time before ebay and Amazon that THIS was how you bought things like baseball cards.
This particular page is a slice of 1980s Sully nerd heaven.
Not only is it covered with offers for entire sets of baseball cards, but on the lower right hand corner: Star Wars cards!
Throw in some Batman comics and we’ll be complete!
Those ads we fun and kind of wholesome (although the trading card world certainly had their share of unsavory people.)
But there were some other ads that made me scratch my head to “who exactly were they selling this magazine to?”
Yup. Cigarette ads.
I guess this magazine wasn’t designed with kids in mind, but man smoking looked appealing for THIS 14 year old reading the magazine.
I’ll look like that guy and get the blonde to hang out with me?
Light them up!
It was different back then. I remember in a little league tournament I played in 1981 there was a giant Marlboro banner along the first base line.
I was nine then. No harm in making a nine year old think smoking is cool.
Speaking of looking cool… 14 year old Sully stopped at this ad. A lot!
I got the message loud and clear:
Drink Seagram’s Gin and a woman that outrageously sexy will want you.
It is 2011 and this ad is still pretty hot.
Needless to say there were a lot of strange messages being sent to a kid going through puberty reading this magazine.
Then again, the mantra “just think about baseball” wasn’t that hard to carry out.
THE ESCORT RADAR WARNING RECEIVER
A Fuzz Buster!
A device that let’s detect where police cars are so you can BREAK THE LAW BY SPEEDING!
Are these even legal anymore?
Who exactly was this magazine being marketed towards?
A bunch of gin drinking, chain smoking memorbilia collectors driving too fast trying to avoid the cops?
Them, and your friend Sully.
I wonder whatever time capsules exist in my old closet….