Now up to 95 autographs for Project87. Here's the latest update:
A few months ago, I sent three cards to Ron Cey. He signed two of the three, one of which being the Cubs Leaders card that featured him and Steve Trout. I sent that card to Trout, and didn't hear back from him. Fearing that it might be gone for good, I sent Cey another one of the Cubs Leaders cards as well as the one he didn't sign last time. He signed both of them and returned them quickly, getting them back to me in just nine days!
Just ten days later (74 days after I'd originally sent them), I got these back from Steve Trout! Trout was a solid starter for the Cubs in the mid-80s, after having started his career with the White Sox. His best year was probably 1984 when he went 13-7, 3.41 for the NL East champs. The southpaw finished up his career with a few months with the Yankees and two seasons with the Mariners.
Mike Fischlin was a solid, versatile defender who managed to have a ten season career despite not having much pop in his bat. His best season was 1982 when he had a .351 OBP in 322 plate appearances for the Indians.
While I still consider myself very much an amateur, my friend, Alex Hyde is a serious autograph collector. Not long ago he contacted me and asked if I still needed Dick Schofield for Project87. Indeed I did. Schofield was going to be signing at a show the next day in St. Louis, and Alex offered to get me his card signed for me.
Schofield had a very respectable 14 year career that spanned much of the 80s and 90s. He played mostly for the Angels, with short stints also with the Blue Jays, the Mets, and the Dodgers. From 1986-88, he averaged a WAR of 3.3 per season, the two best seasons of his career coming in '86 & '88.
I got a lot of six cards from Tom Tessier. They included:
Bobby Meacham was a first round draft pick of the Cardinals who was traded to the Yankees along with fellow prospect Stan Javier as a "make-good" for Bob Sykes, who ended up injured when the Yankees acquired him in October of 1981 in exchange for a young outfield prospect named Willie McGee. Sykes never pitched for the Yankees in 1982, while McGee starred for the World Champion Cardinals. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner threatened legal action so the Cardinals agreed to deal him two of their top prospects. Meacham was a starter for most of the 1984 and 85 seasons, leading the AL in sac bunts each season. He would only last six years in the MLB, but would stay in baseball and ultimately became the 2017 manager of the Blue Jays' AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.
Tracy Jones came up with the Reds and played for five teams in his six year career.
Tom Lawless is famous for two things: First he was the only player to ever be traded for Peter Edward Rose, having been sent to the Expos by the Reds when they acquired Rose to become their player-manager. Secondly, Lawless is the possessor of the most ridiculously epic bat flip in MLB history. In 1987 he had only two hits (in 25 at bats) for the Cardinals, but still found himself in the starting lineup of World Series. His fourth inning home run not only broke a 1-1 tie, but represented the only three RBIs he would get all season long. Even though it BARELY cleared the wall, Lawless acted as if it were out of the stadium completely.
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Chris Codiroli spent six of his eight years in MLB with the Oakland A's. In 1985, he led the AL with 37 games started as he went 14-14 with a 4.46 ERA.
Denny Walling spent 18 seasons as a corner infielder/outfielder, 13 of which were spent with the Astros. His best season was 1986 when he hit .312 with a career-high 13 home runs for the NL West champs. At the trade deadline in 1988, he was shipped to the Cardinals in exchange for one of my personal favorites, Bob Forsch, who I've written about elsewhere. Walling would spend the next two seasons in St. Louis before finishing up with a season with the Rangers and a few final at bats for the Astros.
Dane Iorg was a pinch hitter extraordinaire for the Cardinals in my earliest memories (1977-1984), and hit .276 throughout his ten-year career.
When I was a kid, one of the best parts of collecting cards was trading cards with friends. In working on Project87, trades have been a fun way to reconnect with my youth. So I thought I'd post some autographed cards here that I have available for trade in hopes that a willing trade partner have some of the 1987 Topps cards I need. All autographs received TTM unless otherwise noted.
This 8x10 glossy photo of Ron Gant was one I've had for close to 20 years. I saw that Gant works in TV in Atlanta and was a great TTM signer, so I dug up the photo, sent it to him, and was pleased to get it back quickly. Gant played for eight teams over 16 years, spending the first seven of those years with the Atlanta Braves. For Cardinals fans like me though, he is perhaps best remembered for the two home runs he hit off of former teammate Tom Glavine in game three of the 1996 NLCS, the highlight of his three seasons wearing the Birds on the Bat.
I was thrilled to get this one back from one of the greatest third basemen of all time! Brooks Robinson was a 15-time All Star and a 16-time Gold Glove Award winner. Robinson's Hall of Fame career was of course filled with amazing performances, but the highlight would have to be his performance in the 1970 World Series. Brooks hit .429 with two home runs and six RBIs in leading the O's to a dominant 4-1 Series win over the Reds. That combined with spectacular defense throughout the Series (including his iconic play against Lee May in game one) earned him the Series MVP.
Bruce Benedict is perhaps best remembered for his Chris Berman nickname, "Eggs."
Dan Plesac now works for MLB Network.
In a post a couple weeks ago, I mentioned Tony Pena. He played in 74 games for Pittsburgh between 1980 & 1981, coming into his own for the Pirates over the next five years. During that span, he was a four-time All Star and a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. After leaving Pittsburgh with a .286 career batting average, he would play for five different teams over the next eleven years, winning just one more Gold Glove and being named to only more All Star team, compiling a .239 batting average over that span.
Lance Parrish was another catcher who moved to a new team in 1987. I had a previous post with his regular card, but today we feature his All Star card and his card from the Traded set.
The eight-time All Star team, six-time Silver Slugger, and three-time Gold Glove Award winner played for seven teams over 19 years. Much like Pena though, his greatest success and longest stay was with his first team, which for Parrish was the Detroit Tigers.
I've written about Jeff Reardon on a previous occasion, when I chronicled my baseball trip 25 years after the fact. A couple months ago, I sent him 8x10 enlargements of a picture my friend Eric Hendrickson had taken when we were at Reardon's MLB record-setting performance for career saves. I included his 1987 Topps card as well, hoping to also get it signed. He either misplaced it or forgot to include it, because I got the the photo back signed, but no card! As it turns out, I later decided to try to get the 1987 Topps Traded Set cards signed too, so I had a pair I needed to send him. He promptly signed them and sent them back to complete my Reardon collection!
With the evolution of the way relievers are used, Reardon has long since been passed by nine others on the career saves list. That fact notwithstanding, Reardon had an excellent 16-year career, being recognized four-times as an All Star, twice finishing in the top 10 of the Cy Young Award voting, and three times finishing in the top 20 for MVP.
I'll never forget the day. It was April 1st, 1987, and I had just heard the most amazing news on KMOX. Eric and I were going to go shoot baskets on the outdoor courts at Holy Redeemer Catholic School, so I jumped on my bike, rode over to Eric's house and he met me at his back door. I shared this almost unbelievable news with him: The Cardinals had traded for Tony Pena. When I told Eric, he thought it was an April Fool's joke. Cardinals fans had long felt we needed an upgrade at catcher, and Pena was the constant object of trade proposals on the KMOX's Sports Open Line program.
In the deal, they were giving up a serviceable young catcher in Mike Lavalliere, but this definitely was going to be an upgrade! To make the exchange of receivers, the Birds had to include somewhat promising pitching prospect (and 1984 U.S. Olympian) Mike Dunne, but the key to the deal was right fielder Andy Van Slyke.There was no denying Van Slyke's potential, but the Cardinals were willing to part with him because it opened up a space for 1983 first round draft pick Jim Lindeman. Lindeman hit around .400 with 8 home runs in spring trainingthat year, and appeared ready to give the Cardinals a second power bat to go along with Jack Clark.
Unfortunately Lindeman collided with the Mets' Rafael Santana on the second-to-last day of spring training, spraining his back. A month later, spasms returned and landed him on the disabled list. When he returned, it was only a week until the spasms placed him back on the DL once more. In addition to that, he was twice sidelined by hamstring injuries. Battling injuries all year long, Lindeman played in just 75 games, batting only .208 and hitting 8 home runs (the same total he had hit in spring training). He did however hit .321 in 28 postseason at bats, hitting one of the teams' two home runs in the NLCS and starting games 1, 4 & 7 in the World Series. The next two years would again find him playing sparingly though, as he batted .209 (in 43 at bats) & .111 (in 45 at bats). He was traded to the Tigers, and after that bounced around for a few years with Philadelphia, Houston, and the Mets. As it turned out, he never would reach the "heights" he had in 1987, as his 8 home runs and 28 RBIs that season ended up his career highs.
In 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympics under the leadership of Peter Ueberroth. The Games proved highly successful, despite that fact that they were were boycotted by a bloc of nations led by the Soviet Union. The first ever privately-financed Olympics, the 1984 Games resulted in a surplus of $250 million. As a result, Time Magazine's Man of the Year was Ueberroth, who coincidentally was born the very same day that Pierre de Cubertin (founder of the modern Olympic Games) died.
After his success with the Olympics, Ueberroth took office in October of 1984 as the sixth commissioner of Major League Baseball. Though MLB experienced success under his leadership, the most notable facet of his tenure was probably the fact that under his leadership, owners colluded to suppress free agency, a move that ended up costing them $280 million in fines. He stepped down before the start of the 1989 season, being replaced by A. Bartlett Giamatti.
I was looking through some things and just realized that I forgot to enter a blog post for a big trade I made last month! One of the real fun parts of working on Project87 these past few months has been connecting with a community of people who are also collecting '87 Topps autographs. Through Twitter, I've "met" a bunch of people who are further along than I am and some who are just getting started. It would seem that none of them is pursuing this goal with quite the tenacity that Ryan Schear is. Ryan lives in Arizona and (like me) just started going after 87s this year. Unlike me though, he has already accumulated 450 of them!
As sort of a "project within a project," I'd especially like to get all of the Cardinals cards signed in the set. When Ryan heard this, he mentioned that he had duplicates of Jack Clark, and asked if I had any that I'd be willing to trade. I looked through my old cards I had gotten signed at games back in the 80s and found two that I had "doubles" of that he needed: Tom Hume and Luis Aguayo. He said he'd include another of his extras (Ken Schrom) and we had a deal! We sent each other the cards through the mail and in a couple days the trade was completed.
Clark was the one big bat in the Cardinals' pennant-winning lineups of 1985 & 1987. In '85, he only hit 22 home runs, but Andy Van Slyke was the only other player on that team with more than 10, and he only had 13! In 1987, Clark was the most dominant offensive player in the National League with a 1.055 OPS. Unfortunately, with 24 games remaining in the season he injured his ankle and was unable to start another game. Cardinal fans were left to wonder how things might have been different if only they'd had "The Ripper's" big bat for the World Series, which they would lose to Minnesota in seven games.
What Clark is best remembered for though is the two-out, ninth inning blast he hit off Tom Niedenfuer in Game 6 of the NLCS to send the Cardinals to the World Series. The image of (future Cardinal) Pedro Guerrero slamming his glove to the ground and Clark's tortoise-like trip around the bases will forever be cemented in the minds of fans of the 1980s Cardinals!
As for the second card in the deal, I honestly didn't even remember Schrom as a player. Turns out that he pitched exactly 900 innings in his seven year MLB career, going 51-51 with a 4.81 ERA. Mostly used as a starter, he pitched for Toronto, Minnesota and Cleveland, representing the Indians in the 1986 All Star Game. 1987 would turn out to be his final season in the majors.
What a great run I've had lately in terms of TTM returns!
Lance Parrish played the first ten years of his 19 year career with the Detroit Tigers, but this was his last card with them as the 1987 season would be his first in a different uniform, playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. The second half of his career was nowhere near as accomplished as the first, but all told, he put together quite a career. Parrish made the All Star team eight times, won the Silver Slugger six times, and was a three time Gold Glove winner.
I'm not exactly sure why I sent this card to Parrish without sending the All Star card that is also in the 1987 Topps set. Regardless, I did. Turns out there also is a Parrish card in that year's Traded set, so I guess we'll send those to him together.
My favorite team ever is the 1985 Cardinals. Perhaps more than any of the Whitey Herzog-led teams of the 1980s, they embodied what came to be know in St. Louis as "Whitey-Ball," relying on speed, pitching and defense. The team's only true power hitter was Jack Clark (and he only had 22 home runs). But as for speed, boy did they have speed! The team stole an amazing total of 314 bases, almost two per game. Three players (Ozzie Smith, Tom Herr & Andy Van Slyke) exceeded 30 stolen bases in addition to MVP Willie McGee, who had 56, and Rookie of the Year Vince Coleman, who stole 110! Defense-wise, Ozzie and Terry Pendleton gobbled up basically every ground ball hit on the left side of the infield, while Herr played a steady, if not spectacular second base. In the outfield, hardly anything dropped in as Coleman, McGee and Van Slyke comprised perhaps the fastest outfield ever. Pitching-wise, Danny Cox won 18 and Joaquin Andujar won 21 (topping 20 wins for the second straight year), but the star on the mound was first-year Cardinal left-hander, John Tudor. Tudor started out the season 1-7, but from June 1 on, he was virtually unhittable, going 20-1 with a 1.37 ERA. In his 26 starts over those four months, he averaged over eight innings pitched per start. Perhaps the most amazing stat that season was how successful he was pitching on three days rest. Going into the seventh game of the World Series, he had started on three days rest eight times. In those eight games he went 8-0 with a 0.66 ERA, while averaging 8.5 innings per start. Unfortunately, nothing went right in game seven, and the Cardinals fell to the Kansas City Royals. Tudor would never quite return to the level of success he had in 1985, but he was very good for the remainder of his career. In his five years pitching for the Cardinals, he went 62-26 with a 2.52 ERA, and he will forever be one of my favorites to don the Birds on the Bat.
When I first started collecting autographs through the mail a few months back, I noticed that NBA Hall of Famer and former US Senator, Bill Bradley sometimes signed through the mail. I didn't have any pictures or cards of his, but I decided to send a couple index cards his way in hopes that I might get them back. Over three months later, I was thrilled to open my mail and find the index cards signed and returned! Bradley is a native of Crystal City, Missouri, not far from St. Louis. The father of one of my high school friends/teammates actually played with him there. And my uncle Jay went to Princeton to play basketball with him as well
About ten years ago, I read the Roger Kahn classic, The Boys of Summer. Though my dad had grown up a New York Giants fan, I must admit that the book more than piqued my interest in the Dodgers of the 1950s. Of course there were the mong the Hall of Famers (Robinson, Campenella, Reese, Snider) as well as other greats (like Newcombe & Hodges), but for some reason, Carl Erskine grabbed my interest. A 20-game winner in 1953, Erskine started seven World Series games, including three in 1953, a season in which he went 20-6. I picked up this card at a card show in Fort Worth, and was thrilled to not only get it back signed from the 90-year old Erskine, but to receive it with a note thanking me for writing him!
In 1987, I had one of the great summers of my life. That baseball season I was perpetually at Busch Stadium, going to a total of 25 Cardinals games. The Redbirds rewarded me with an NL Pennant, and once more made it to game 7 of the World Series, before falling to the Twins. One of the key players on that Minnesota team was slugging outfielder, Tom Brunansky. The Cardinals would actually acquire Brunansky early the next season in exchange for Tom Herr. He would be a key component to a 1989 Cardinals team that would battle the Cubs all season long for the NL East title, but would be dealt to Boston early in 1990 for closer Lee Smith. In retrospect, it seems like Brunansky was with the Cardinals for more than just 24 months, and looking at the numbers, it's amazing that they were able to get Lee Smith for him!
Another member of the 1987 world champion Minnesota Twins was manager Tom Kelly. Along with his 1987 Topps card, I sent a Fleer team sticker to have him sign. I think it turned out nicely and was a kind of neat, unique item. Kelly twice won the World Series with the Twins (1987 & 1991).
For a ten year period from 1985-1994, Jimmy Key was one of the best lefties in baseball. For that decade, he averaged a 15-9 record with a 3.32 ERA. He played with the Blue Jays and went 2-0 in the 1992 World Series, starting game 4 and then picking up a win in relief in the 11-inning game 6 clincher. After the season, he signed a free agent deal with the Yankees, where he experienced continued success, and was ultimately a member of the 1996 world champs, before moving on to the Orioles for the final years of his career.
Jim Acker had a solid ten year career, spent mostly with the Atlanta and Toronto. He was drafted by the Braves with the 21st pick of the 1980 draft. Two years later, the Blue Jays acquired him in the Rule 5 draft. In 1986 they traded him back to the Braves, who three years later traded him back to the Blue Jays.
After bouncing back and forth between the two teams for more than a decade, Acker signed a free agent deal with the Seattle Mariners heading into the 1992 season. Ironically, that October the Blue Jays and Braves would meet in the World Series, thanks in part to the NLCS-clinching hit by Francisco Cabrera, who just happens to be one of the players for whom Acker was once traded.
Last time we checked in, I was on vacation in St. Louis, where my grandmother gave me her autograph book. Today I want to share the autographs that were waiting for me when I returned home:
As I've mentioned before, I already had Greg Brock's Dodgers card from the regular set thanks to my friend Alex Hyde, but Brock also had a Brewers card in the Traded set. I figured I might as well send off one of the Dodgers cards with it to have available for trade if nothing else. Brock spent his ten-year career split evenly between the Dodgers and Brewers, but had his best success in LA where he was a decent power hitting first baseman, hitting a home run every 21 at bats on average.
I remember back in the mid 80s when Rick Schu seemed to be the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt at the hot corner in Philadelphia. In 1985, Schmidt was even moved to first base to give Schu the job at third. Schu only hit .252 with 7 HR and 24 RBIs. Schmidt was moved back to third and Schu became a part-time player, which hewas for the remainder of his nine-year career. He currently serves as the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals, a position he has held since 2013.
Among the returns I got while on vacation were two from Hall of Famers. The first of these was from Tony LaRussa. After managing the White Sox to an AL West championship in 1983, he led the A's to three straight AL Pennants (1988-90) and won the 1989 World Series. It was during the second half of his career that I became a huge fan of LaRussa's though. In his 16 years with the Cardinals, he won seven division titles, three NL pennants (2004, 2006 & 2011) and two World Series (2006 & 2011). He finished his career as the third winningest manager in MLB history (and the winningest of anyone to begin their managerial career after 1900).And to top it all off, he and I share a birthday!
My other Hall of Fame return was from Wade Boggs. A five-time batting champ and twelve-time All Star, Boggs retired with a career average of .328. As good as that is, it pales in comparison to the first eight seasons of his career. As the 1980s came to a close, he had a career average of .352 and an OBP of .443. He would finish his career with eight Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, and 3,010 base hits, the 3,000th of which came on a home run, making him the first player to have such a designation.