Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Trading Post #80: Baseball Every Night

Even though he's a newcomer to the Cardsphere, Peter at Baseball Every Night already has close to a hundred posts under his belt. He's had a running theme since last month called "A Shoebox of Baseball Cards", which he's broken up into posts by individual teams. Adam at Cardboard Clubhouse recommended me as a potential trading partner for the Rockies, and thus a new trading partnership was born.

Shoeboxes were a terrific way to store cards when I was younger. Between my parents, my sister, and myself, shoeboxes seemed to be in abundant supply. Binders and 9-pocket pages were pricey things for a kid on an allowance, and hobby supplies were lower on the list than the cards themselves. So into the shoeboxes they went, biding their time until a box of 250 pages appeared under the tree.

Anyway, I'm clearly not the only one that stored cards in shoeboxes circa 1995, and while these will end up in pages soon, a few of them deserve a spot on the blog first.

1995 Donruss #476 Bruce Ruffin
About a year ago, I wrote that Steve Reed still holds a top-ten spot in career wins for the Rockies. A season later, and that's still true. But to further illustrate the kind of turnover the pitching staff in Denver has experienced, the guy pictured above is #4 all-time in saves for the Rockies, with 60. And most of those came in strike-shortened years. Ruffin retired as a Rockie, but even then, closers didn't have quite the importance as they do now, so his name isn't nearly as recognizable as one of the Blake Street Bombers.

1995 Donruss obviously went too far with the foil, as this card is barely legible unless it's under just the right light, Even the Donruss logo itself is pretty tough to read. But I do like how he's specified as a left-handed pitcher. Most card companies just stick a "P" on there and call it a day. They could go with LHRP if they wanted to be really accurate, but that would turn into alphabet soup pretty quickly.

1994 Upper Deck #105 Roberto Mejia
Upper Deck began their long fascination with copper in 1994, and gave us a much more readable design than 1995 Donruss. Roberto Mejia filled in at second base on occasion from 1993 to 1995, and might not have made it to the big leagues at all without expansion. Two new teams means fifty new roster spots, or even eighty once you factor in the September roster expansions.

What I'll most remember him for is colliding with Andres Galarraga while chasing down a foul pop in July 1993. Galarraga ended up missing about a month after suffering a knee injury on that collision, putting his run at the batting title and a possible .400 average in jeopardy. Galarraga ended up winning with a season average of .370, beating none other than Tony Gwynn, the second place finisher.

I don't know whether this photo was taken before or after that incident, but he's clearly calling off another fielder here. Statistically speaking, it's probably afterwards, as the collision happened just a couple weeks after Mejia's debut. It's also possible to see that he wears his batting glove under his glove, which is exactly what I did in little league, just to be like the big boys.

1994 Score #229 Freddie Benavides
So did Freddie Benavides, who played shortstop for the Rockies in 1993 before Walt Weiss left the Marlins to become the first player to suit up for both expansion teams. Benavides is putting the tag down on an unknown base-stealing Cub, and that looks like a caught stealing to me! We have a stadium, an infrequent starter, an action play, and a season. Time to do some sleuthing.

Vinny Castilla was the regular shortstop in 1993, and Benavides appeared in relatively few games that year. He only played in Chicago three times, and only one of those games featured a runner caught stealing. That happened in the bottom of the 5th on July 17th, 1993. With Armando Reynoso on the mound, Cubs left fielder Derrick May tried stealing second on the first pitch of Rick Wilkins' at-bat. He was caught by Danny Sheaffer, which is just as well, since Wilkins smashed a home run later that at bat.

The Rockies still lost that game, but this play was definitely a success and prevented them from going deeper in the hole. And backing up Benavides (as is the 2B's job on this type of play), is none other than Roberto Mejia, appearing in only his third Major League game.

It was a Saturday game right in the middle of summer break. There's a fairly strong chance I saw this play unfold on TV. I should have kept a few of my scorecards from back then.

1993 Topps #774 Curtis Leskanic (RC)
Curtis Leskanic, one of the bigger characters to ever grace the Rockies pitcher's mound, broke into the majors in 1993 as part of the rotation. He was shifted to a bullpen role in later years, even closing for the Brewers for a couple seasons. But non-Rockies fans will probably remember him for his 1995 Collector's Choice card.

1993 Topps did a good job with horizontal cards, and he was one of many Rockies and Marlins to appear in posed shots in their new uniforms. Not that anyone really cares, but this is Leskanic's Rookie Card, and we only get his minor league stats and school history on the back. It turns out that he went to LSU, a school that many of us got a good look at on Thanksgiving night, as they squared off against Texas A&M concurrently with the Steelers and Colts.

Always good to have another game to flip to during commercials. My brother-in-law did an admirable job with the remote.

1993 Stadium Club #652 Armando Reynoso
Armando Reynoso has already been mentioned in this post, and here's his card from 1993 Stadium Club. I've seen this set more times than I can remember, and even opened a few boxes, but I don't recognize this card. It was a poorly-collated set, so while I may have a copy of this already, if I run across John Johnstone's or Domingo Martinez' cards again, I might scream.

1995 Fleer #324 Luis Aquino
The Rockies and Florida Marlins will always be inextricably linked. There are some obvious differences, like Florida's two World Series championships, but they came into the league at the same time, have unusual team colors, and their genesis coincided with the later days of the overproduction bubble. Peter thought the same, and combined the Rockies and Marlins in his post. I offered to take the extra Marlins off his hands when we set up the trade, primarily to get one card.

I can't help but wonder if Fleer's crazy 1995 set was somehow influenced by the purples and turquoises that suddenly burst onto the scene in Major League Baseball. This thermal camera design for the NL East they came up with naturally seems to have colors similar to Luis Aquino's hat. Plus they threw some of his personal stats on the front for good measure. Much more than that and it would be tough to tell the front from the back.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #233 Darrell Whitmore
This was the card I was after when I offered to take the Marlins. After Topps Gold, UD Electric Diamond parallels were high on my favorites list in 1994. A Giants catcher, probably Kirt Manwaring, makes a cameo, along with an umpire in a light blue shirt. Those shirts always make them look like mail carriers. That sparkly foil may have been an industry first, or perhaps right around the same time as red foil hit Diamond Kings cards.

On the back, the card offers an excellent view of the Marlins' inaugural 1993 logo. I've seen it countless times, but only now noticed a small "Carl" at the bottom of the logo.

1994 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #233 Darrell Whitmore (Reverse)
I did some research on this, and it was worn in honor of the late Carl Barger, President of the Marlins who died in 1992, just days after the expansion draft. The Marlins retired number 5 for Barger's favorite player, Joe DiMaggio, only to "unretire" it a few years ago when they became the Miami Marlins. Sure enough, that's on all the Marlins inaugural patches that year, including the John Johnstone card that I thought I knew so well.

1993 Stadium Club #734 John Johnstone (RC)
I know the Rockies' history pretty well, and quite a bit about storied franchises like the Yankees, but there are lots of surprises to be found in these expansion clubs. The Seattle Pilots' brief existence, for example, or this fairly obvious lettering on a patch that had eluded my attention up until twenty minutes ago.

Is there still no one in the Cardsphere interested in Marlins cards?


  1. It's not every day that I'm going to see Darrell Whitmore in a blog post. I remember trying to get every one of his cards in the mid-90s and still have them.

  2. Electric Diamond cards were such a cool find back in the day; they were second only to Pinnacle Museum parallels in my card collecting circles.

    Curt Leskanic was on the 2004 Red Sox and I remember someone had a rhyme about him - not sure if it was a coach or player but one of the Sox would say "No need to panic, we've got Leskanic." Dont ask me how I remember that, lol.

  3. Thank you for writing such an interesting post about the cards that I sent you. You've done way more with them than I ever could have imagined doing myself. They tell a good story and am very glad to have been able to supply some cards that you wanted/needed.