Jason Thompson 1983 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 17, 20177

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Nope not the former NBA player nor the soap opera actor. This is the Jason Thompson who played for the Pirates.

Actually he got his big league career started with the Tigers when he got drafted out of Cal State Northridge in 1974. Thompson was a slick fielding first baseman with power who shot up through the Tigers farm system.

In 1976, he was on the All Rookie Team. By 1977 and 1978, he was chosen to the All Star Game.

Thompson hit for power, slugging 31 homers in 1977, drove in a ton of runs (105 one year) and would post an OPS in the mid .800’s, not that anyone knew that back then.

By age 25, he was putting together his best season increasing his average, on base and slugging while still clubbing 21 homers in a season split between the Tigers and California Angels.

He arrived in 1981 as the Angels designated hitter. But the team was moving Rod Carew to that position and recently had acquired Fred Lynn. They were running out of spots for Thompson to play. So before the season began, he was dealt to Pittsburgh.

Right away, the Pirates flipped him to the Yankees. Where he was going to play on the Yankees is anyone’s guess because they had more hitters than spots in the lineup.

The point was moot. The money exchanged in the deal caused commissioner to nix it. So he stayed in Pittsburgh where he had to fill the shoes of beloved Hall of Famer Willie Stargell.

He had a subpar 1981 but 1982 was possibly his best season overall. He clubbed 31 homers, drove in 101, posted a .902 OPS and was part of a potent lineup that featured veterans Dave Parker, Lee Lacey, Mike Easler and Bill Madlock along with young stars like Johnny Ray and Tony Pena. Thompson made the All Star team again and finished 17th in the MVP vote. It would be his peak.

The Pirates would fade over the next few year as would Thompson. After three more seasons and a cameo in Montreal for 1986, his career was over.

This is of course a 1983 Fleer Card, a series so bananas that I wrote about them back in 2008. The pics all were strange, none were action shots, and often were clearly done before a ballgame.

Here Thompson wears his Stargell stars, a remnant of the 1979 title. Is it an action shot or even posed? Of course not. He is being interviewed on CNN, which in 1982 and 1983 was a very obscure cable station.

Makes you wonder what pics they rejected.

He now runs a baseball camp in Michigan. Click HERE for info.

 

Tim Foli 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 9, 2017

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Tim Foli was the first pick overall in the 1968 draft, which was only the 4th ever draft in baseball history. People were still getting the hang of it. The Mets had the pick in 1968. Keep in mind they won the World Series the next year. The franchise could have plugged in a franchise player to a World Series winner.

In that year’s first round, Thurman Munson, drafted 4th overall by the Yankees, was the biggest name. Gary Matthews and Greg Luzinski also were picked up in the first round. Future All Star Cecil Cooper was available in the 6th round. Another All Star, Doyle Alexander, was drafted in the 9th round. The 11th round saw solid big leaguers like Al Bumbry and Ben Oglive taken by teams other than the Mets.

Bill Buckner, whose name would be associated with the Mets, was also there for the picking.

The Mets went with Tim Foli, who turned down the chance to play football at USC to join the Mets. He didn’t have much power nor speed. But he was hard to strike out, played hard and could field many positions. By 1970, he was in the majors. Bt 1971, he was starting games at second, third and shortstop.

By 1972, he was off to Montreal in a deal with Ken Singleton as Rusty Staub came to the Mets. With the Expos, he became the regular shortstop. His hard and aggressive play made him a fan favorite. He even completed a cycle during a suspended game. But the Expos stunk year in and year out and eventually Foli’s time up north ended.

He seemed destined to be a baseball vagabond. When he posed for this picture, he played his lone season in San Francisco. He didn’t hit much for the Giants in 1977 and the Giants didn’t win much.

By the time this card was printed, he was back to the Mets where he didn’t hit much and the team was horrible in 1978. He started 1979 in Shea but was paroled. A deal with Pittsburgh sent him to one of the most memorable squads in the last half of the 20th Century.

Foli played 133 games for the “We Are Family” Pirates and his an uncharacteristically high .291 along the way. Now given a chance to play in October, Foli drove in a run and singled to spark the game winning 11th inning rally in Game 1 of the NLCS. In Game 2, he got an RBI double in yet another Pirates extra inning win.

He contributed to many rallies in Pittsburgh’s World Series victory. The first overall pick of 1968 helped secure a title in 1979, except not for the Mets.

His career wound down in the 1980’s with stints in California and the Yankees before returning to Pittsburgh in 1985, his final year. Foli stayed in baseball as a coach, bouncing from organization to organization.

Tim Foli’s son Dan Foli made it to AA in the Nationals organization but not the big leagues. His old man might not have been the superstar the first overall pick would promise. But a decade and a half in the majors with a World Series ring picked up along the way is not a bad use of a pick.

Dave Parker 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 3, 2017

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On the podcast, which if you are reading this I am guessing you subscribe to the podcast, I often refer to “The Rule of Seven.” This refers to my theory that people don’t really start following a sports team in any significant way until they turn 7 years old.

Some do it sooner, other later but 7 is a pretty good average for it.

I turned 7 in 1979 and the first World Series I remembered watching was that year’s memorable and Disco themed “We Are Family” match up between the Baltimore Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Willie Stargell was the emotional leader of the team (and backed up the emotion with a strong bat.) But Dave Parker was the great all around hitter on the squad.

Parker was in many ways the heir to Roberto Clemente. His career did not start exactly after the great Clemente perished over the Gulf of Mexico after the 1972 season. But by 1974, Parker was in right field and the Pirates were a playoff team.

The MVP of 1978, Parker was a batting champ who hit for power and had a cannon for an arm in right field. And after 1979, he was a World Series champ who had a cooler than cool aura about him.

If Pops Stargell was the fatherly steady figure in the clubhouse, Parker was the bad ass trouble maker.

By the early 1980’s he looked like a potential Hall of Famer. When the Cincinnati native became a major figure in the Pittsburgh cocaine trials, his reputation took a dip. (Cocaine seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?)

He continued putting up All Star numbers after being dealt to the Reds. He picked up another World Series ring as a member of the 1989 Oakland A’s, often batting in between Canseco and McGwire (two players who substance abuse was not looked at as Parker’s cocaine reputation hung over him.)

After another All Star appearance with the 1990 Milwaukee Brewers, he finished his career bouncing between the Angels and the Blue Jays in 1991.

Parker’s 19 year career featured five Top 5 MVP finishes, including the 1978 title, multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and was named to the All Star Game in 3 different decades.

Had he picked up 288 more hits over those 19 years, he would have cleared 3,000 and would be a Hall of Famer. Instead he lingered on the ballot for 15 seasons, peaking at 24.5%. Clearly the 10-15% who voted for him over a decade and a half had a similarly positive impression as I had as a kid.

A curious thing about this Topps card. On the back, they featured a cartoon as many of them did.

Take a look at it and see if you can detect the problem.

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Topps Cards had their players be racial neutral. But that means the default is to portray everyone as a dorky white guy, which Dave Parker certainly was not.

So he did not make it to the Hall of Fame and perhaps the Sabermetrics crowd would not embrace him the way I did.

But let’s see anyone else in the Hall of Fame pull off this shirt that Parker wore.

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