Bo Jackson

The greatest athlete ever.

Why we like him: There has never been a better athlete to walk the earth than Bo Jackson. To me, there's not even an argument about it. He was one of the fastest, strongest, smartest, and charismatic people the world of sports has ever known. His baseball career spanned just eight seasons. Known primarily for his five seasons in Kansas City, Bo also spent two seasons in Chicago with the White Sox, and played 75 games in the 1994 seasons for the California Angels (Remember that?).

Bo finished his career with a .250 batting average, which is honestly a little low, even for the offensively starved 1980s, but his 107 home runs from 1987 to 1990 made him one of the most legitimate power hitting threats in the league. The 1989 season was probably his most impressive, batting .256 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI, and he finished tenth in the MVP race at the age of 26. And by the way, he never really reached his prime because of the hip injury he sustained in the 1991 NFL playoffs.

Like Dale Murphy, if you can't put Bo in the Hall of Fame, there's no point in having a hall. Even the tone people use when discussing Bo Jackson has a sense of reverence and respect you don't even hear when you talk about other athletes.

Here are a list of true facts about Bo Jackson, many of which can be seen on Youtube:

  • Scouts frequently said Bo hitting a baseball made a sound they'd never heard before. Older scouts said the only other time they heard it make that sound was from the bat of Josh Gibson.
  • Bo once caught a deep drive on the warning track, and instead of crashing into the wall, Bo ran on the wall...for three steps.
  • Bo had a propensity for striking out and sometimes broke his bat over his knee or even his helmet as if it was a twig.
  • Bo was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.12 seconds at the NFL combine.
  • With Harold Reynolds, a pretty fast baserunner, on first base, Bo ran down a deep drive to the rightfield corner by Scott Bradley. Bo picked up the ball on the warning track, stood flat-footed and threw a strike in the air to Royals catcher Bob Boone who tagged out Reynolds sliding at the plate.
  • Bo routinely hit balls deep into the second fountain at Kaufman Stadium which is listed at 447 feet from the plate.
  • When Bo suffered his hip injury in the 1991 NFL playoffs, the Raiders' trainer said, "Bo says he felt his hip come out of the socket, so he popped it back in, but that's just impossible. No one's that strong."
No one except Bo Jackson.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bo Jackson, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Ken Johnson

The profile of an extremely unlucky man.

Why we like him: Another day, another Colt .45. Yesterday, after the Angels' Ervin Santana pitched a no-hitter after actually trailing in the first inning, I couldn't help but think about the only man in the history of the game who actually went on to get the loss in a no-hitter.  Ken Johnson, to this day, remains the only pitcher ever to lose a complete game, nine-inning no-hitter. On April 23, 1964, while playing for the beloved Houston Colt .45s, Johnson pitched nine innings against the Cincinnati Reds without surrendering a hit and ended up losing the game 1-0.

The lone run in the contest was scored in the top of the ninth inning by none other than a spry, young 23-year old future legend, Pete Rose. With one out in the inning, Rose reached second base on a throwing error by Ken Johnson himself after a comeback grounder to the mound. After a Chico Ruiz ground out moved Rose over to third, Johnson induced a ground ball from Vada Pinson, but another costly error charged to Hall-of-Famer-to-be Nellie Fox allowed Rose to score. The next batter, Frank Robinson popped out to left to end the inning. The Colt .45s failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and Johnson's dubious date with destiny had arrived.

Johnson's final line for the day: 9IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 R, 0 ER, Loss. Ouch.

Three years later, the Orioles' Steve Barber and Stu Miller managed to combine for a no-no and still lose 2-1 to the Detroit Tigers. In 1990 Andy Hawkins of the Yankees lost an eight-inning no-hitter at Chicago's Comiskey Park 4-0 after 3 errors in the eighth. However, no one has ever managed to be as good as Ken Johnson was that day and lose. As good as his stuff may have been, his luck was that much worse.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ken Johnson, Ballplayer.

Dale Murphy

A 1988 Donruss Dale Murphy, the first baseball card that I remember owning.

Why we like him: If you are an American boy who was born south of Kentucky and east of Louisiana between 1978 and 1983, there's a 99% chance you thought Dale Murphy was the single greatest human being in the history of the universe during your childhood. I know I certainly did. Murphy was the lone elite player for some pretty dreadful Braves teams during the 1980s. He was the winner of back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983 and really the only player in major league history who could make the "'80s blue" Braves uniforms look decent.

If Dale Murphy isn't a player worthy of the Hall of Fame, then there's really no point in having a hall of fame at all. During the eight-year stretch of his prime in 1980-1987, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous hitter anywhere in the league. He was a consistent presence in the home run leaders list year after year, leading the league in homers in 1984 and 1985. He even swatted 44 dingers in 1987. He was also a steady RBI man, leading the league in 1982 and 1983, and consistently batted just under .300. Despite beginning his career as a catcher, Murphy finished his career with five Gold Gloves for his play in the outfield, and when you make a list of the best all-around outfielders of his era, there's no way you could leave him out.

Murphy finished his 18-year career with a .265 average and 398 home runs and retired at the age of 37 back when 398 home runs was still impressive. Had he hung around to hit two more, he may have gotten a little more consideration from the Hall of Fame voters, but in my opinion, he's more than worthy. He was one of the best players in baseball who happened to play for a bad team in Atlanta during an era of offensive impotence that featured scores you'd usually only see in soccer.

Here's a story just to give you an idea of what Dale Murphy meant to kids back then: On the day my little sister was born, I went to the grocery store with my dad. I was six years old and just starting to realize how much I loved baseball. While we were checking out at the cash register, my dad saw me eyeing a pack of '88 Donruss baseball cards (the single ugliest card design ever, I think), and being in a good mood, he told me I could get a pack. I was pumped. Dale Murphy was even on the box holding the packs. Before we even got out the door, I excitedly ripped the pack open, eager to see who I got. The very first card on the top in the pack was Dale Murphy. I think I stared at the card the entire way home without having a clue as to what the stats on the back even meant. I was so stoked I wrapped a rubber band around the cards with the Murphy on top and took the whole pack to school with me the next day. My teacher asked me if I had any exciting news to tell the class from the day before, clearly wanting me to tell the class that my little sister was born. Instead, I held up the cards and said, "I got a Dale Murphy." That pretty much says it all.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dale Murphy, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Turk Farrell

He might have punched this baseball card if he didn't like what he saw.

Why we like him: Obviously when you're talking about the Houston Colt .45s, you're going way back into the deepest corners of the history of the game. The Colt .45s were renamed the Astros in 1965, and it had nothing to do with the fact that idiotic interest groups thought the Colt .45 moniker would somehow beget violence on the streets of Houston. Turk Farrell was a hulking, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher for the Colt .45s/Astros during their early days in the early-to-mid 1960s.

Despite a fairly ordinary, ho-hum career, Farrell was as interesting as player could be back in those days. His teammates said that "when he lost, he lost his temper, but when he won, he was the life of the party." Turk also broke a mirror in the clubhouse in Milwaukee after a poor outing simply because he said he looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw, so he punched it. Okie dokie.

One of Farrell's most interesting stories involves a comeback line drive off the bat of none other than Hank Aaron. After throwing one of his trademark fastballs, the Hammer blasted it back up the middle on a line straight for Farrell's noggin. Turning to get out the way, Farrell took the drive solidly off the back of his head where the carom and the laws of physics directed the ball toward short right-center where a young and still short Joe Morgan drifted over from second base to set up camp to catch it in the air. The official scoring: the most painful assist on a fly ball in baseball history.

Farrell was killed in a car accident in 1977 at the age of 43, but we'll make sure his legend lives on. His final career stats: 14 seasons, 106-111, 3.45 ERA, 1177 strikeouts, 211 conventional assists, and 1 assist off his head on a fly ball. Thanks for the memories, Turk.

Ladies and gentlemen, Turk Farrell, Ballplayer.

Vince Coleman

Only high-speed photography could capture the elusive Coleman.

Why we like him: If Vince Coleman had been just a little better from the plate, he would have been Rickey Henderson. Built like an Olympic track athlete, Coleman was one of the fastest players ever to play the game. He played for 13 big-league seasons and amassed some pretty impressive stats for a guy who was never even remotely considered for the Hall of Fame.

"Vincent Van Go" owns several of Major League Baseball's most impressive baserunning records, and the way the game is played today, there is a good chance they could stand forever. Only Coleman and Henderson have three 100-steal seasons on record, but it was Coleman who stole more than 100 bases in three consecutive seasons. Not only that, but they just happened to be his first three seasons in the majors. Those three seasons are actually three of the six most productive base-thieving seasons in history.

Coleman never batted .300, which in my opinion, only emphasizes his effectiveness as a base-stealer. In arguably his best season in 1987, he batted .289 and stole 109 bases and finished 12th in MVP voting. The two-time All Star was the scariest baserunner on a team chock full of scary baserunners like Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee. It's just a shame his career didn't last a quarter of a century like Rickey Henderson's.

Vince Coleman stole 752 bases with 80% success in 13 seasons and playing more than 120 games in just six of them. Rickey Henderson stole 1406 with 81% success in 25 seasons. Coleman was a career .264 hitter. Henderson hit .279 and walked more than any other hitter in history except for Barry Bonds. If Vince Coleman had played for 25 full seasons, who knows what he could have accomplished.

Ladies and gentlemen, Vince Coleman, Ballplayer.

Mike Gallego

Getting ready to do what he does worst.

Why we like him: You have to love it when a player understands exactly what his job is and does it without complaint or a desire for attention. From 1988 to 1990, the Oakland Athletics were the poster boys for the increasingly popular (and highly dubious, in retrospect) playing style of gearing your entire offensive game around the home run. By employing mashers like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, and Dave Parker, the A's were piling up runs with an almost cocky pizazz, blasting homer after homer during their three year run of World Series appearances. What they forgot, however, were the little things.

Despite being a career .239 hitter with just 42 homers over the course of his 13-year career, Mike Gallego was a key piece to A's championship puzzle. On a team that was built solely around slugging percentage, the A's were obviously lacking defensively. While terrifying hitters to face at the plate, Canseco and McGwire were each essentially a klutz in the field. Someone had to pick up their slack and make plays. Gallego had a career fielding percentage of .977 and put up a sparkling .986 while patrolling second base.

The other aspect of Gallego's game that warrants some serious merit was his ability to handle the bat in situational opportunities. He could almost always lay down a good bunt, hit a grounder to right side of the infield, or just find a way to move a baserunner. He never led the league in anything except sacrifice hits in 1990 with 17. That's the tell-tale sign of a guy who wants his team to win. And they did, at least until they ran into the Reds in the World Series that year.

Mike Gallego's career was about as ultimately meaningless as they come. By they end of his career, he'd been shipped off to the Bronx and again to St. Louis after a short second stint with Oakland, and he was nothing more than a defensive substitute or platoon infielder. However, just because a guy doesn't put up numbers does not mean he isn't appreciated.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Gallego, Ballplayer.

Mark Whiten

Swing and a miss.

Why we like him: As you probably already know, I love nicknames for players, and especially players that are so mired in anonymity that their nickname is the only reason to think about them. Now, clearly "Hard Hittin'" Mark Whiten sounds more like a bantamweight fighter than a mediocre outfielder, but at least it made him memorable. If you're going brand yourself with that moniker, however, you should probably back it up.

After working his way through the Blue Jays system, Whiten found himself competing for a precious spot on a crowded outfield roster. The flash-in-the-pan emergence of Junior Felix in Toronto forced the Jays to make a change and midway through the 1991 season, they shipped Whiten to Cleveland in a package that sent Tom Candiotti the other way. Even with the change in scenery, Whiten finished in a tie for 6th in AL Rookie of the Year voting with Mike Timlin in 1991 after playing for both the Blue Jays and the Indians.

Whiten bounced around like ping pong ball for most of his 11-year career, landing in Philly, St. Louis, Atlanta, Boston, the Bronx, and Seattle in addition to Toronto and Cleveland. "Switch Hittin'" Whiten was traded frequently, usually in the middle of the season, simply because he wasn't good enough to build around, but he also wasn't bad enough to go unwanted. He was an average right fielder with a plus arm, but his bat just never really made him a prized possession of any of his clubs. For a guy called "Hard Hittin'," I'm pretty sure this was unacceptable. I mean, in his absolute best season, 1993 with the Cards, he hit 25 homers and drove in 99 runs. He never even hit 20 home runs in any season other than that one.

It's been said that a big reason for "Bloop Hittin'" Mark Whiten's numerous travels was simply his lack of focus. Whether during a single game or the course of an entire season, he could show you glimpses of some pretty impressive talent (and an absolute hose of an arm), and immediately thereafter slump badly enough to make his GM want to trade him away for a bottle of Pepto. He was just a rollercoaster ride year after year. But somebody was always ready to give him another shot.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Whiten, Ballplayer.

Gregg Jefferies

Not quite.

Why we like him: There was a time when Gregg Jefferies looked like a sure bet to be a perennial All Star. Sadly, that time in the future star limelight was spent as quickly as a tub of Rollie Fingers's mustache juice. Despite an ultimately lackluster career, Jefferies, who spells his first name with not two but three Gs, did finished in the top six in Rookie of the Year voting twice, coming in 6th in 1988 and  3rd 1989. I assume he probably could have won it in 1990 had he been allowed on the ballot.

Fans and scouts loved Gregg Jefferies. As a first-round pick in the legendary 1985 draft, the expectations were already high, but as the choice of the New York Mets, the spotlight was just a little brighter and a little hotter. After just six at-bats in 1987, the Mets were reluctant to give Jefferies a roster spot in 1988, opting to keep proven veterans like Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Kevin McReynolds in place of an untested hotshot rookie. However, after an impressive .321 showing in 29 games in the big leagues that season, the Mets realized they had to make room for him.

The following season was a huge disappointment for Jefferies and the Mets. An 87-75 finish saw the talented Mets left out of the postseason while Jefferies batted a less-than-acceptable .258. After his struggles were pointed out by teammates to the ever-loving New York media, Jefferies penned a letter to WFAN stating that when his teammates struggle, he tries to help them out in whatever way he can instead of running to the media to start a soap opera. The following season, Jefferies batted .283 and led the league in doubles before being traded to the Royals in a package for Bret Saberhagen.

Jefferies found a temporary home in St. Louis in 1993 and 1994, putting together some pretty impressive stats like his .342 average in '93. He even garnered semi-significant mentions in the MVP races in those years. Gregg Jeffereies was actually a very good player for 14 years, but he was never quite the superstar he seemed destined to become. Whether it was because of a petty lack of power or the fact that he simply never seemed to find a ballclub to settle with, Jefferies's career never really reached that next level. I guess he'll just have to live knowing that he was a team player and a two-time All Star with a career .289 average. That's probably fine with him.

Ladies and gentlemen, Gregg Jeffries, Ballplayer.

Bip Roberts

A puzzled Roberts ponders what to do next.

Why we like him: When you talk about the best speedy hitters of the 1990s, you'll hear names like Kenny Lofton, Tony Womack, and Eric Young. You probably never mention Bip Roberts. Leon Joseph Roberts put together a 12-year career with stops in San Diego, Cincinnati, Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit, and Kansas City, and is the proud owner of a fairly impressive .294 career batting average and 264 stolen bases in 1,202 games. He made a single All Star appearance, playing for the NL in 1992 enroute to a .323 season and 8th place finish in the MVP race.

The switch-hitting Roberts was a pesky batter that always seemed to find a way to get to first base. Usually, he earned his way on base by utilizing his blazing speed coupled with supreme baserunning prowess. He was always one of those guys who was a threat to show bunt at any given time, and if he got a pitch to hit, he'd slap at it, put it on the ground and put pressure on the defense to make a play to get him out. Guys like that don't even exist anymore in today's game.

Though he only really played as an everyday second basemen for two seasons, Roberts made the most of any opportunity he was given whether as a spot starter or a platoon player. In addition to his excellent 1992 campaign, he regularly flirted with the .300 mark throughout his career. Despite very low power numbers, Roberts could also work pitch counts as well, as evidenced by his .358 career on-base percentage. When the Bipster did get on base, he was always looking to swipe the next bag, and he was excellent at it. Roberts was caught stealing just 95 times throughout his career, a success rate of 74 percent.

Roberts got the nickname "Bip" because of a tendency to mispronounce words as a child, and when he would ask his mother for more food at dinner time, he would always ask for just a little "bip" more. Obviously the name stuck. Honestly, I'm glad it did because it made him that much more memorable for a young kid like myself back in those days.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bip Roberts, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Harmon Killebrew

The Killer.

Why we like him: The game lost a true hero this week with the passing of Harmon Killebrew. Of course I'm way too young to have ever seen him play, so when I heard about his death, I felt compelled to look him up and really look at what kind of career he had. Obviously, I already knew Killer was a heck of a ballplayer, an 11-time All Star, and a Hall-of-Famer. What I never really knew or appreciated what the true depth of his greatness and his legendary impact on the game.

Most of Killebrew's contributions to the game are clearly documented with some pretty attractive stats over the course of his 22 seasons. His career total of 573 home runs is still impressive in any era and remains good enough for 11th on the all time list (with 4 questionable guys ahead of him in McGwire, Sosa, A-Rod, and Bonds). In all honesty, he was a player who was ahead of his time as a power hitter. Just imagine what how fun it would have been to see highlights of Killer's tape-measure shots every night on ESPN. In 1967, he smacked an officially measured 520-foot home run against the Angels that still boggles the mind. Killebrew was also one of the premier RBI men of his era, leading the league four times and finishing in the top six a total of ten times.

Early in his career, Killebrew could be described as a bit of a free swinger. With his big hacks, he led the league in strikeouts in 1962, but he also led the league in homers and RBI that season too. However, by the time he won his first and only MVP award in 1969 at the age of 33, he was regularly finishing in the top three in walks and striking out far fewer times that taking the base on balls. He continued to be a productive hitter through his mid-30s until his body naturally began to break down due in large part to the introduction and growing popularity of astroturf. One piece of oft forgotten trivia is that Killebrew actually played his final season for the Kansas City Royals in 1975, batting just .199 with 14 home runs in 106 games.

Killebrew was every bit as good as Maris at his best, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Yaz, and even Mantle. He was arguably one of the best five players of his era, but he was actually more than that. He practically defined the face of the Twins franchise for the majority of two decades. Even today when someone thinks about the Twins, it's hard not to think about Harmon Killebrew regardless of how old you are. He was that great. We'll miss him.

Ladies and gentlemen, Harmon Killebrew, Ballplayer.

Charlie Hough

Here it comes.

Why we like him: It has oft been said that if you're left handed and have a pulse, you can pitch forever. The same can also be said if you're right handed and have a good knuckleball. Charlie Hough was no exception. His 25-year career began in 1970 and ended in 1994. A career of that length is not uncommon for an ol' knuckleballer, however. The reduced arm strain of throwing a pitch that you just don't have to rare back and chuck to the plate 90% of the time can minimize wear and tear and prolong careers.

Look at the careers of the most memorable knuckleballers of the modern era. Hoyt Wilhelm, possibly the nastiest knuckler ever, pitched until he was 49. 49! Tim Wakefield, while not very good anymore, is 44. Tom Candiotti lasted until he was 41. Jesse "Pop" Haines went until he was 43 in 1937. Joe Niekro chickened out at 43 while Phil threw it until he was 48. Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte pitched his last game at 36 but only because he was suspended for admitting to being a part of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. So it only made sense that Hough, yet another knuckleball specialist, pitched to see his mid-to-late 40s.

Hough was drafted straight out of high school in 1966 by the Dodgers, and spent three unimpressive seasons in the minors. In spring training in 1970, Hough learned to throw his trademark knuckler, and his career began to take off. With his newfound weapon, he led the Pacific Coast League in saves in 1970 and posted a 1.95 ERA. In 1973, Hough was brought up to the Dodgers and became a prime piece of their bullpen for the rest of the decade. Reggie Jackson even hit one of Hough's knucklers out of the park in 1977 World Series. Hough was traded to the Rangers in 1980 where he became generally a starter, a role he savored for the remainder of his career. He even made the AL All Star team in 1986.

During the last few years of his career, Hough bounced from the White Sox to the then-brand-spankin'-new Marlins but never really lost his identity as an aficionado of the game's silliest pitch. Though he reached the impressive plateau of 200 career wins, he career record stands at 216-216. It takes a while to win/lose 432 ballgames. If he ever gets curious about whether or not he's better or worse than .500, I'm sure he could pitch one more ballgame. After all, if you throw the knuckler, you can pitch forever.

Ladies and gentlemen, Charlie Hough, Ballplayer.

Rated Random: Steve Lyons

Mullet? Check. Rated Rookie? Check. Fully clothed? Check. I hope.

Why we like him: It's a great thing to be remembered for something. Ripken and DiMaggio had their streaks. Pete Rose has his hits. Hank Aaron has (not "had," in my opinion) his hom runs. Hersheiser has his innings. Ryan has his strikouts. Steve Lyons, on the other hand, will forever be remembered as "the guy who dropped his pants." Lyons was probably the strangest and most eccentric player I can remember from my childhood. The oddballs of the 70s like Al Hrabosky and Mark Fidrych were just before my time, so someone had to step up and become the league's next great weirdo.

Steve Lyons earned the nickname "Psycho" for many obvious reasons. My personal favorite was that he would occasionally play tic-tac-toe with a baserunner, a teammate, or by himself in the infield dirt with his spikes while playing defense. However, his moment of glory came on July 16, 1990, at Tiger Stadium during a nationally televised game between his White Sox and the Tigers. After laying down a nice bunt, Lyons hustled down the line to beat the throw, sliding head-first into first base, which in all honesty, is stupid enough. After being called safe to complete the play, Lyons, as anyone would, called time to dust himself off.

As for what happened next, I have no idea what was going through Steve's mind. Did he, for some reason, think he was alone in the ballpark? Did he feel like he was getting into the shower? Was he secretly a nudist? No one will ever know. What we do know is that Lyons proceeded to unbuckle his belt, pull down his pants, and brush off the excess dirt that got inside his breeches. After a few seconds, Lyons realized he was showing his undergarments to a few thousand stunned fans, he quickly pulled up his pants and wallowed in his embarassment.

Steve Lyons was more than just a semi-lousy ballplayer. He was a bonafied nutcase who will go down in baseball lore as "the guy who dropped his pants." Over the course of his 9-year career, Lyons played for the Red Sox and White Sox (both made by Hanes), Braves (which he had to be to get drop trou in front of 14,000 people and a television audience), and Expos(eds). His career batting average was a mediocre .252 and he only hit 19 home runs. He did, however, commit the most errors in the league in 1988. On the bright side, not one of those involved indecent exposure (at least that we're aware of).

Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Lyons, Ballplayer.

Pete Incaviglia

That, boys and girls, is how a mullet should look.

Why we like him: It's safe to say that Pete Incaviglia was pretty good at hitting a baseball hard whenever he did, in fact, hit it. At Oklahoma State, Incaviglia, or "Inky," as he became more affectionately known, became one of the greatest power hitters in college baseball history, amassing 100 home runs in 213 games spread over 3 seasons and posting a .915 slugging percentage. He still owns the NCAA records for home runs (48) and RBI (143) in a single season. His propensity for pulverizing power was admired by many clubs heading into the 1985 draft, and it was the Montreal Expos who acquired his services with the 8th overall pick in the first round.

However, on the same day he signed, the Expos traded Inky to the Rangers for two laughably enormous stink-bombs, infielder Jim Anderson and pitcher Bob Sebra, prompting the league to institute the "Pete Incaviglia Rule," stating that a team cannot trade a drafted player until he has been under contract for a full year. I'm pretty sure the 'Spos would have liked to have had that trade nullified on the spot in retrospect. However, almost immediately upon his arrival in Texas in the 1986 season and without ever playing a minor league game, Inky became a fan favorite for his monstrous hacks and the occasional tape-measure long ball. Despite leading the league in strikeouts in two of his first three seasons, he still managed to put together a few decent offensive seasons for a completely undisciplined power hitter.

Perhaps even better than his wild and wicked flails at floaters and fastballs, was his defensive capabilities, which could be described as really not fantastic. In four full years as a legitimate "everyday starting outfielder," he finished in the top three in errors by an outfielder in three of those seasons and led the league in 1986 and 1987. Inky was never the kind of player you could count on as your everyday outfielder, but if you just had to have a player in your dugout who had the same odds of letting a fly ball hit him in the orbital bone as he did of hitting a ball 600 feet during a pinch-hit at-bat, then he was your guy.

Pete Incaviglia is a classic example of a player who should have been better than he turned out to be. There is no doubting his talent as a hitter, as his college stats can attest, but becoming the 15th player in the history of the game to make the leap to the majors at 22 without a single minor league game of experience was probably the single worst thing that could have happened to Inky's career. He never had the opportunity to fine-tune his power to become a better all-around hitter, and it was rather disheartening. His final stats: 12 seasons, 6 teams, .246 with 206 home runs, and out of the game for good at 34. He never batted .300. He never hit more than 30 homers in a season. He never drove in 100 runs. He was never an All Star. If you had told me that in 1987, I never would have believed you. But we loved Inky anyway. And I bet you did too.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pete Incaviglia, Ballplayer.

Don Slaught

That is one giant mitt.

Why we like him: Catcher, or "Hindketcher" as it's known in redneck knothole leagues around America, is obviously the most underrated position on the diamond. In the old days, the catcher's job was to handle the pitcher well and patrol the running game, first and foremost, and to chip in with a little offensive production whenever the opportunity presented itself. Like I've said before, the levels of importance on those duties have been reversed in the past two decades. I guess Don Slaught was just ahead of his time.

Don Slaught was guy who wasn't necessarily exceptional as a defensive catcher. He was average at best, but he definitely made up for any shortcomings by swinging the stick. Slaught spent his entire 16-year career behind the plate and played for the Royals, Rangers, Yankees, Pirates, Angels, White Sox, and Padres. A catcher generally doesn't have a very long shelf life like a middle reliever or a platoon infielder, but Slaught was a career .283 hitter. Was he good enough to be a franchise's premier backstop? No. But put Slaught in a platoon or let him be your second catcher, and suddenly you had a valuable asset.

Even though Slaught never appeared in an All Star game, his contributions to his team were always unnoticed but never unappreciated. He's probably best known for his years in Pittsburgh during the Pirates' early-90s success when Slaught was in his early-to-mid 30s. Platooning together with Mike LaValliere, a weak hitter but a much better defensive catcher, formed a formidable backstop combination for a very successful team. In the memorable 1992 season, Slaught batted .345 over 87 games for the NL East champs.

Slaught remained an effective hitter for pretty much his entire career, and his longevity was clearly somewhat of an exception to the rule for catchers. The only truly horrible season he ever put together was his last, batting .000 (0 for 20) in 1997 at the age of 38, which in catcher years made him 109. After his playing career, he did have a brief stint as hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers in 2005, replacing Kirk Gibson, but has since faded back into baseball obscurity. That's probably about right for a backup catcher anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, Don Slaught, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Bill Skowron

Moose was good in color and in black-and-white.

Why we like him: Nicknames are awesome. They can make a guy who would be otherwise irrelevant seem like an integral part of the game like Oil Can or Lima Time. They can also take a player who is already a legend and take them to an even higher, more transcendent level of cultural enormity like the Bambino or the Commerce Comet. Still other nicknames are just too good not to be used.

Bill Skowron was a stalwart at first base for the New York Yankees during their era of dominance in the late 50s and early 60s. His nickname, “Moose,” was given to him after seven-year old Bill was given a haircut by his own grandfather that made him look like Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, and his grandfather’s pals jokingly called him “Mussolini.” Obviously, a four-syllable nickname is just entirely too long, so was shortened simply to “Moose.”

On the diamond, Moose was actually quite good. He was a six-time All Star and batted .282 with 211 home runs over the course of his 14-year career in the majors. In 1960, a .309-26-91 season earned him a ninth-place finish in MVP voting, and teammates Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle finished first and second respectively. While Skowron was never quite the caliber of player that you could build an entire team around, he was a solid 5- or 6-hole hitter that could have probably batted cleanup on many other teams.

Skowron was traded to the then-new Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 1962 season for Stan Williams, but he never really was able to recapture the magic of his years in the Bronx. In the twilight of his career, he bounced around between the Senators, White Sox, and Angels, and he ultimately retired in 1967. Moose is a player I really wish I could have seen play myself, and even to this day, I think he’s still my dad’s favorite player of all time. He might not have been good enough for Cooperstown, but Moose will definitely live forever in the heart of the game.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Skowron, Ballplayer.

Gary Disarcina

Pretty sure this hurt.

Why we like him: Let's face it. The only good things the Angels have ever had going for them was that they beat Barry Bonds in the 2002 World Series, and they had some of the coolest looking uniforms of the 80s and early 90s. Then they adopted the single dumbest name of any sports franchise in history, the Los Angeles Fighting Angels of the Anaheim District of the Western San Bernardino Valley Area. They have tried so hard to be cool in recent years, but they just can't pull it off. Not even with the help of that ridiculous Rally Monkey.

Two decades ago, however, the Angels had a certain quality about them that made them seem like a pretty happening franchise. Their record was never horrible but never great either. They hovered around .500 year after year like Wooderson hung around the bowling alley in Dazed and Confused. Still they featured a very good top of the rotation with lefties Chuck Finley, Mark Langston, and Jim Abbott, and they were a haven for obviously-past-their-prime stars like Dave Winfield, Lance Parrish, Tony Phillips, and Dave Parker. They were also quietly churning out quality prospects like Tim Salmon, Damion Easley, Chad Curtis, and, of course, Gary Disarcina on a fairly regular basis.

Coming out of UMass in 1988, Gary Disarcina was never the caliber of prospect that teammates Tim Salmon or even Chad Curtis were, but he was a dependable shortstop with a decent bat for the majority of his 12 seasons in the majors. After his first five seasons of struggles and inconsistent play, Disarcina began to find his groove at the plate, posting a .260 average in 1994.  For the 1995 season, he batted .307 and earned his only All Star appearance and even finished 19th in MVP voting despite playing in just 99 games of the slightly shortened season. Despite some pretty ugly numbers early on, he finished his career with a respectable .258 average. He also led the American League in both assists and errors by a shortstop in 1992.

After retiring at the end 2000 season after batting .395 in just 12 games, Disarcina went back home to New England where he became a broadcast analyst for the Red Sox. He also served as third base coach for the 2006 Italian World Baseball Classic team because of, I assume, his last name. So what was Gary Disarcina's appeal? I really don't know, apart from having a name that was just fun to say. I do have to give him a heaping helping of praise, however, for his loyalty to the Angels. He played every year of his 12-year career for the club. Then again, who wouldn't like to spend 12 years in California?

Ladies and gentlemen, Gary Disarcina, Ballplayer.

Jeff King

'Stache? Check. 7 o'clock shadow? Check. Tight pants? Check. Mediocre career? Check.

Why we like him: In all seriousness, if you're under the age of 20, and you hear about a player who spent an 11-year career with just the Pirates and the Royals, you'd feel awful for the guy. Jeff King, however, was a pretty good player during a time when being just that still meant something. Over the course of his career, King batted .256 with 154 home runs and 709 RBI in 1,201 games. Despite two very good seasons (in my worthless opinon, that is, in 1993 and 1996), he was never an All Star selection, sadly.

King was the first overall pick in the 1986 draft. After putting together an impressive college career at the University of Arkansas, most scouts believed King was a can't-miss prospect, and the Pirates pounced on the opportunity to draft him. As it turned out, the '86 draft just wasn't very deep, yielding just five first-rounders who went on to become All Stars (Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Matt Williams, Greg Swindell, and Roberto Hernandez). It took five seasons for King to find his groove in the majors, and he eventually became a fairly productive hitter in 1993. He played 8 seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded after his career-best 1996 season along with Jay Bell to Kansas City for Joe Randa and three other guys that probably nobody in either city can remember. He put in three seasons with the Royals before hanging up his spikes after the 1999 season.

During the time that the Pittsburgh Pirates were emerging as World Series contenders in the early 1990s, Jeff King was being to make his mark on the league. Then-manager Jim Leyland was routinely batting King sixth behind Bonds, Van Slyke, and Bonilla where King could be effective mopping up RBIs and just putting the bat on the ball. Another benefit King provided was his ability to play at first, second, or third base. Just tell him a postition to run toward, and he'd play it as hard as he could. He might have even hit a little too.

To be honest, I hated the Pirates when I was a kid, but Jeff King was one of my favorite players in the game. I can't relly describe why I liked him so much, other than by saying he was a very, very poor man's Don Mattingly. He was everything a ballplayer should be. He always looked filthy, liked his eye black, had an ugly mustache, looked mean as a snake, and he even wore the uniform the right way. I guarantee you that the game misses Jeff King more than Jeff King probably misses the game.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff King, Ballplayer.

Tuffy Rhodes

Legendary baseball samurai, Tuffy Rhodes.

Why we like him: Some guys succeed in Major League Baseball and put together a career they can look back on and enjoy, no matter how long or short their career was. Other guys never quite put it all together and fade away into obscurity. Then there are some guys who can't cut it and go to Japan to become somewhat of a legend in the Japanese league.

Tuffy Rhodes came up with the Astros organization in the late 80s/early 90s but really failed to impress after three seasons, and he was released in April of 1993.  After just four days as a free agent, the Royals, sensing an opportunity to pounce on yet another lousy outfielder with very little discernible talent, signed him to a contract. The Royals then traded Rhodes to the Cubs in a mess of a three-way deal in which the highest profile player was Paul Assenmacher. He played nearly two years for Chicago before heading to Boston in a waiver deal. At the end of the '95 season, however, Rhodes was granted free agency, and it was becoming clear that his window of opportunity in the majors may have begun closing. It was then that he career began to take off...somewhere else.

In 1995 Rhodes signed with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). By the end of the decade, he had become one of the premier sluggers in NPB. In 2001, Rhodes swatted 55 home runs, tying the legendary Sadaharu Oh for the most prolific home run season in Japanese history. After failing to secure a multi-year deal with Kintestsu in 2004, he was signed by the Yomiuri Giants, the team for which Oh played his entire career. However, due to injury, Rhodes left Japan and tried and failed in an attempt to return to MLB with his hometown Reds. He returned to Japan for three more seasons before calling it a career after the 2009 season at the age of 41.

Regardless of where you play, if you produce, then you produce. Tuffy Rhodes didn't necessarily find a way to get it done in the majors for his 6 seasons, but he is without a doubt a Japanese legend. His final stats in the US: 6 years, .224 average, with 13 homers, and 44 RBI. His Japanese stats, you ask: 13 seasons, .286, 474 home runs (10th all time), and 1292 RBI. Pretty tough. I mean "Tuffy."

Ladies and gentlemen, Tuffy Rhodes, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Eddie Kasko

Two pictures of inspiration for Chris Sabo.

Why we like him: Long before the days of Chris Sabo, Kent Tukulve, and all of our other bespectacled heroes, there was Eddie Kasko. Kasko was a do-it-all utility infielder whose career spanned 10 seasons with stops in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Houston (that's the immortal Colt .45s, not the Astros), and Boston. He was the typical middle infielder of the era, posting a career batting average of .264 with just 22 home runs. He was also an All Star selection in 1961.

Looking at the stats sheet really makes me wish I had gotten to see Kasko play. He never hit .300, though he did come pretty close in 1960, but he always seemed to find a way to put the ball in play.  For his career, he struck out 353 times in over 3,500 at-bats and walked just 265 times. He was a pretty good contact hitter for a guy who wore cola-bottle glasses.

Kasko played in one World Series in 1961, a losing five-game effort against the Yankees, and he batted .318 and led the Reds with 7 hits. After the 1963 season, Kasko was traded to the Colt 45s who then traded him to the Red Sox for the '66 season.  After his only season in Boston, Kasko retired at age 34 and began his career in management, taking over the Red Sox AAA teams and eventually becoming manager of the Red Sox in 1970. During his four-year tenure as manager in Boston, he discovered that Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans were more than capable everyday players, converted Bill "Spaceman" Lee from bullpen also-ran to a starter, and helped make Luis Tiant one of the most memorable and dominant pitchers of the 1970s.

While he did produce a fairly impressive career in the majors, Eddie Kasko's legacy is probably that of a man with a keen eye for spotting an emerging talent. He served as a scout for the Red Sox after his managerial days were over, and he eventually became Boston's scouting director and VP of baseball development where he served until 1994 when he retired. He was enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2010 for his scouting and development contributions. Not too shabby.

Ladies and gentlemen, Eddie Kasko, Ballplayer.

Rated Random: Anthony Young


Why we like him: If you ever see a pitcher at any level that has lost a ton of ball games consecutively or otherwise, you know two things. First, he was probably a not a very good pitcher. Second, he was at least good enough to make his manager keep giving him the ball enough times to have the opportunity to lose all those ball games. Such is the legend of Anthony Young.

Anthony Young broke into the majors in 1991 with the Mets at the age of 25. Little did he know that it was actually the best Mets team he would pitch for. The Mets were suddenly becoming somewhat of a shambles of a ball club after their 1986 World Series title and a few subsequent years of success due in large part to the fact that most of the squad was too busy snorting massive amounts of cocaine to play the game very well. It's not like they weren't talented. They had Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone, and Sid Fernandez in the rotation and Howard Johnson, Dave Magadan, Eddie Murray, and Bobby Bonilla in the lineup, but they were simply terrible as a unit.

Anthony Young was one of the young guys with a clean conscience and clean drug test that arrived in Queens looking to solidify a spot in the rotation or a role in the bullpen. He wasn't a flashy, overpowering pitcher, but instead more of a "bulldog" kind of guy that just found ways to get batters out. He even saved 15 games for the Mets in '92. However, after losing to the Reds 5-3 on May 6, 1992, Young had no idea what he was about to experience. Young would go on to lose 27 consecutive games in which he had a decision over the next two seasons. He finished with a 2-14 record in 1992 and followed that up with a 1-16 mark in 1993. The streak came to an end on July 28, 1993 against the Marlins where Young won the game by pitching the top of the 9th inning, and the Mets scored two runs in the bottom half to win it.

Let's get this straight. Anthony Young was not a bad pitcher. The highest ERA he ever posted for a season was 4.59, and his ERAs in '92 and '93 were 4.17 and 3.77, respectively. He was just the undeserving recipient of a two-year run of excruciatingly bad luck, as evidenced by the fact that he never posted a winning record. His final numbers: 6 seasons, 3 teams, 3.89 ERA, and a record of 15-48. Poor guy. Now he's enjoying the baseball afterlife as a Little League coach in Texas. I would really like to see how he would have done on a better team with a little help. Maybe he could at least live in anonymity instead of being "the guy who lost 27 straight decisions."

Ladies and gentlemen, Anthony Young, Ballplayer.

Kevin Seitzer

Get to the chopper!

Why we like him: Next time you want to impress your baseball-diehard friends, bring up the topic of criminally underrated infielders of the late '80s and drop the name Kevin Seitzer. Seitzer was always one of those guys that you never really thought about when discussing the best hitters of the era, and he wasn't necessarily elite, but all he did was produce consistently. After George Brett's move from third to first base and DH to accommodate his aging body after the '86 season, the Royals needed a young guy to step up and fill the void Brett left at third base, and the 25-year old Seitzer proved to be just what the doctor ordered. He let the league with 207 hits in 1987 on his way to posting a .323 average.  He also led the league in plate appearances that year with 725 and finished second behind Mark McGwire's neck in Rookie of the Year voting.

After winning the 1985 World Series, Kansas City was in the process of trying to build another contender. Seitzer's youth and his bat were part of that surge in the late 1980s that peaked with a second place finish in the AL West in 1989.  Seitzer was the spark for a very good Royals team that featured the aforementioned Brett, Bo Jackson, and Danny Tartabull in the lineup and pitchers like Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Jeff Montgomery, and a young and still somewhat mentally stable Tom Gordon.

Seitzer also possesses one of the strangest transaction stories I've ever seen. After a mediocre 1991 season, the Royals let Seitzer walk, and then-division rivals Milwaukee snatched him up off the market, but released him again after the 1992 season. In 1993, he was signed by the Athletics, and this time was released in July, only to be signed yet again by the Brewers.  Try to keep up with this: he was released by the Brewers again in after '93, signed as a free agent by the Brewers before '94, released after '94, signed by the Brewes before '95, and traded by the Brewers for Jeromy Burnitz in '96. Clearly his contract with Milkwaukee just said, "I can't quit you."

After the 1997 season and a trip to the World Series with the Indians, Seitzer retired. Since then, he's served as hitting coach for the Diamondbacks and Royals, where he still coaches this season. For his playing career, Seitzer left a fairly impressive stat sheet behind. His totals: 12 seasons, a sneaky-good .295 average, two All Star appearances in 1987 and 1995, and four signed free agent contracts with the same team.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Seitzer, Ballplayer.

Rafael Belliard

Professional ballerina, Rafael Belliard.

Why we like him: How weak was Rafael Belliard? Rafael Belliard was so weak that:
  • a steroid shot would have changed his gender. Completely.
  • the triceps he showed off in the weight room turned out to be ringworms.
  • his middle name, Leonidas, was just given for the sake of irony.
  • sausage race contestants would hit him with a bat.
  • he once charged the mound and the mound destroyed him.
  • he couldn't lift the cover of the Mitchell Report.
  • both bat boys and Bobby Dews had higher slugging percentages.
  • he didn't even wear a cup. He wore a shot glass.
  • Leo Mazzone rocked with more force than Raffy could generate swinging a bat.
  • Barry Bonds had a higher on-base percentage in two seasons than Raffy's career OPS.
  • he played for 17 seasons and finished with a .221 batting average and a .259 slugging percentage.
Ladies and gentlemen, Rafael Belliard, Ballplayer.

Glenallen Hill

Running from a spider.

Why we like him: Glenallen Hill was essentially a homeless major leaguer. He was clearly talented, as he played for 13 seasons and posted a .271 average and slugged .482, but he simply could not find a place to settle in and play. He played seasons for the Cubs (two different stints), Giants, Indians, Blue Jays, Angels, Yankees, and Mariners, and didn't stay at any of those clubs for more than three consecutive years.

During his playing days, Hill was somewhat of an imposingly hulking figure, standing 6'3" and listed at 210. He also had an intimidating aura about him too, as he always seemed to look angry no matter the situation, which was probably a result of the 'roids. I mean, he was in the good ol' Mitchell Report. The intimidation factor definitely didn't help him out in the postseason. He is the not-so-proud owner of a .074 (occasional 1-for-10) postseason batting average.  He did, however, earn himself a World Series ring on the 2000 Yankees, despite an 0-for-3 series.

The real reason we all love Glenallen Hill is because he's kind of a weirdo. Hill once found himself on the 15-day disabled list due to having a nightmare about himself being covered in spiders causing him to pop out of bed, smash a glass table and cut himself, and the fall violently down the stairs. And he didn't even come up with a fake story to tell his manager. His teammates also enjoyed the incident, giving Hill the loving nickname of "Spiderman."

Welcome to the home of the random ballplayer, Mr. Hill. Despite a semi-tainted career due to steroids and a mediocre career, you have no chance of even sniffing the Hall of Fame, but we'll gladly give you our respect. We hate spiders too. So enjoy your home here. We'll leave the closet light on for you.

Ladies and gentlemen, Glenallen Hill, Ballplayer.

Roberto Kelly

Catching a UFO without even looking at it. Or dumbfoundedly playing catch with a rosin bag. I really don't know.

Why we like him: For the better part of my adult life, and everyone else's I know, the Yankees have always been a perennial powerhouse of a ballclub, contending for a World Series championship year after year.  Despite popular belief, they continuously have a good mix of home-grown talent (Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Bernie, etc.) coupled with marquee free agent signings that only they could afford (A-Rod, Mussina, Teixeira, etc.). However, when I was a kid, the Yankees were anything but a contender.

During the better part of the late 80s and early 90s, the Yankees were a struggling mess. After the Bronx Zoo era of the late 70s and early 80s, the Yankees were hampered mainly by just bad luck. Their marquee hitters, Dave Winfield and the home-grown Don Mattingly, possibly my favorite player ever, were both extremely injury prone and not-so-proud owners of bad backs. The prospect line still seemed, on the surface, to be somewhate productive, churning out semi-promising youngsters Kevin Maas (who will definitely be on this blog at some point), Deion Sanders, Hensley Meulens, and Pat Kelly. And of course there was also Roberto Kelly.

In all honesty, Kelly was probably the most promising outfield prospect the Yanks had in their system during that era until Bernie Williams showed up. He played four full, pretty productive seasons in the Bronx until being traded at the end of the 1992 season to the Reds for Paul O'Neill, another one of my favorite players ever. After he left the Big Apple, he bounced around all over the league with stops in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Montreal, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Seattle, and Texas before winding up right back where he started with the Yankees in 2000. After failing to win a solid roster spot during the season, he was granted free agency after the 2000 season. He was then picked up by Colorado, but he retired before ever playing another game.

Kelly's final statline: 14 seasons, 8 teams, a semi-surprising .290 average, 124 homers, 585 RBI, 235 steals, and 2 All Star appearances ('92 and '93). Supposedly a guy who was destined to be a part of the Yankees' championship puzzle, he never really blossomed into the player scouts or fans thought he was going to be, and he never earned the opportunity to contribute for the World Series-winning Yankees teams of the late 1990s we all remember so well. Unless you count him being traded for Paul O'Neill, then he totally helped.

Ladies and gentlemen, Roberto Kelly, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Roy Face

Elroy's face.

Why we like him: When you think about the game's greatest closers, you probably think about Rivera, Eckersley, Lee Smith, Wagner, Hoffman, Gossage, Fingers, and Sutter. The guys you don't think about are the ones who actually revolutionized the game, essentially invented role, and basically defined the job of the closer for future generations. Long before Eric Gagne was saving a shady 84 consecutive games and John Rocker was sprinting onto the field to Twisted Sister, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Elroy Leon Face was making a name for himself by finishing ballgames.

Face laid the groundwork for the closer role in the league in the late 50s.  After finding little success as a starter, he made the move to the bullpen and found other ways he could help his team. Through the development of a forkball, which he picked up from Yankee bullpen specialist Joe Page, Face would come on late in games and secure wins for the Pirates by shutting down opposing lineups for one to two innings. From 1958 to 1962, Face was easily the best in baseball at what he did, which was save ballgames. He made three straight All Star appearances from '59 to '61, and was even a legitimate factor in the MVP race in '59.

Roy Face played 16 seasons in the majors, 15 of which were spent in Pittsburgh. He saved 193 games during an era when the save was really an insignificant statistic. Despite a pretty ugly postseason ERA, he even became the first pitcher to save three games in a single World Series during the legendary Fall Classic of 1960 against the Yankees. 

When you think about it and look at the numbers, Roy Face is probably not worthy of a place in the Hall in Cooperstown, but when you consider the impact the man made on the game and closer's role, in particular, it might be worth it to give the guy his own wing. Let's put it this way. If you've ever gotten pumped up because your club is headed into the ninth inning with a lead, and you're excited about your closer coming in to shut it down and wrap up a save, thank Roy Face.

Ladies and gentlemen, Roy Face, Ballplayer.

Delino DeShields

Greatest. Cap. Ever.

Why we like him: Sometimes I remember players because of the way they played the game, statistics they compiled over their career, or even just because of the way they looked.  Then there are players you remember because of all of that as well as the fact that they were a piece of one of the most ludicrously stupid trades in baseball history. Meet Delino Lamont DeShields.

DeShields was a pretty good player by any standard, a pesky lefty slap hitter that always seemed to find his way on base and steal second, third, and shortstop's wallet.  In his first year in the league, 1990, DeShields batted .289 with 42 steals for a young Expos team that had a certain buzz about them. They were competitive within the division always seemed like a threat to sneak up on anyone in the National League.  DeShields was part of the Montreal's youthful foundation that centered around himself, Larry Walker, Rondell White, and Marquis Grissom, all of which had enough veteran leadership around them in guys like Tim Wallach, Tim Raines, and Andres Galarraga to make them legitimate contenders in the future.

At the end of the 1993 season, DeShields' stock had never been higher.  He was coming off a .295 season with 42 steals and looked like the prototypical, consistent leadoff hitter of the future.  He even finished 16th in MVP voting in 1992.  The Expos were loaded with young talent and looking to make a run for the division in 1994 (and I like to think they would have won the Series too, you know, if there was one).  They just needed a little more firepower in the pitching department to send them over the top.  The Montreal brass dangled DeShields on the trade market looking for any takers.  The Los Angeles Dodgers were willing to part ways with a young pitching prospect of their own named Pedro Martinez in return for the pesky DeShields. No, really. Straight up. Needless to say, the rest is history.

Pedro Martinez went on to win his first Cy Young Award in Montreal in 1997 on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen.  DeShields played three seasons for the Dodgers and batted .241 before walking away to St. Louis as a free agent in 1997.  DeShields' final career stats include 13 big-league seasons, a .268 average, and 463 steals.  And an involvement in one of the single dumbest, head-scratching-est trades in baseball history.

Ladies and gentlemen, Delino DeShields, Ballplayer.

Milt Thompson

Nice stance.

Why we like him: Milt Thompson was passed around more times than a needle in the '88 Oakland clubhouse. Over the course of his 13-year career, Thompson played for 6 different teams, all of which were in the National League.  What's so perplexing, though, is that he always seemed like the type of productive player that was coveted around the league, yet he never stayed with the same club for more than four consecutive seasons.

Thompson was indeed a productive player who could play wherever his manager needed him to play in the outfield, and usually performed best when pinch hitting or part of a platoon, such as splitting time playing the corner outfield spots with Felix Jose and Bernard Gilkey in St. Louis in the early 90s.  He batted .274 for his career with just 47 home runs.  He even played in the World Series in 1993 with the Phillies, batting .294 with a home run and 6 RBI (5 of those RBI came in Game 4 alone).  Perhaps Thompson was best known during his career for his defensive play, showing off his range and snatching balls from over the fence pretty regularly during the pre-Web Gem era.

In 1997, Thompson was hired as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' outfield and baserunning coordinator, which I'm not sure is somethign he's necessarily proud of.  After two years of hanging around the Devil Dogs, he moved to Philadelphia for assorted base coaching and position jobs with the Phillies.  He even finally won a World Series ring with the Phillies in 2008 as their hitting coach.  He's now the outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Houston Astros' farm system.

Milt Thompson might not have been the best at anything, but he was always fun to watch in the outfield and a guy pitchers never wanted to see at the plate in big spots. You'd think that some team somewhere would have kept Milt for the long haul, using him as an integral piece of the puzzle instead of trading him or letting him walk as a free agent.  But then again, that's sort of what made him who he was.  He could definitely play for my team any day.

Ladies and gentlemen, Milt Thompson, Ballplayer.

Pat Listach

The bat broke when it hit that golden chalice.

Why we like him: Iin 1992, Pat Listach (pronounced: liss-STASH) looked like a promising big-league talent.  He was just 24 years old and won the starting job at shortstop on a strong Brewers squad that finished second in the AL East in 1992 behind an excellent Blue Jays team.  That season Milwaukee's lineup featured the aging legends, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, productive young guys beginning to find their niche in the league like Greg Vaughn and Dante Bichette, and steady veteran guys like Kevin Seitzer and B.J. Surhoff.  They even featured a sneaky-good pitching staff full of guys who all had career years at the same time.  If Toronto hadn't been so good that year, the Brewers probably would have been the World Series favorites.

Listach's '92 season wasn't necessarily the most productive rookie season ever (See: Pujols, Albert), but it definitely felt like this guy was going to be here for the long haul. He started the season on fire from the nine hole, and had worked his way into the Brewers' leadoff spot by May. He batted .290 in his first major-league season, and showed good speed with 54 steals in 149 games.  He had become such an asset to a very good team that people around the game were overlooking some pretty glaring weaknesses, like a propensity for striking out, even as a leadoff hitter (124 Ks in '92).  Nonetheless, Listach took home the 1992 Rookie of the Year trophy, narrowly beating out Kenny Lofton, and even finished 18th in MVP voting.

The following year, the league started to figure out how to pitch to Listach, as his batting average fell to a pedestrian .244, and he continued to strikeout at an alarming clip.  He did pick it up a little in 1994, batting .296 in just 16 games, but in 1995 Listach only managed a lame .219 average.  He was traded to the Yankees in a waiver trade in 1996, but never played a single game for the Bombers.  After being granted free agency at the end of '96, Listach signed on with the Astros where he batted .182 through 54 games in 1997 before being released on July 1.  He then bounced around and downward like a Plinko disk through a couple of minor league organizations, but never played another major-league game.

Pat Listach was a flash in the pan in its purest form, but he was just lucky enough to take home an award for it.  His final line: 6 seasons, .251 average, 5 homers, 338 Ks, and one trophy.  Since his retirement from playing ball, he's served as a pretty successful manager in the Cubs minor league system before working his way back to the majors as the Nationals' third base coach in 2009. If you're just dying to see Pat Listach right now, take a look in the Cubs' dugout.  He became their bench coach in 2010 and still coaches benches to this day.  If Donny Baseball looks like he could still hit .280 right now at 50, Listach looks like he could hit .130 and destroy a buffet at 43.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pat Listach, Ballplayer.

Razor Shines

Yes, really.

Why we like him: Get ready, because it's about to get ridiculous.  I know what you're thinking, and yes, that is his real name, and no, he was not a Harlem Globetrotter.  The legend of Anthony Razor Shines is pretty preposterous.  His listed nickname is actually Ray, but in all honesty, if you have an opportunity to call a man Razor Shines, you're going to.  He might seem like just another Expo of yesteryear wandering through baseball obscurity wishing he was anywhere but Montreal, but with a name like that, you're destined for great things.  You'd think.

Anyway, his career spanned only 4 seasons in the majors, all of which were with the Expos, and yielded some of the most pitiful stats ever to grace a Baseball Reference page.  With only 81 at-bats in 68 games spread over 4 seasons, he was a career .185 hitter with no home runs, 5 RBI, and one sweet extra-base hit (a double).  That's not even the best part.  He also pitched one "who-cares" inning in a blowout loss to the Phillies in '85, giving up just one hit and surrendering no runs.  That's right.  Razor Shines, proud owner of a .185 career average and 0.00 ERA.

Shines is actually somewhat a cult hero in minor league lore.  He definitely served his time, playing 16 minor league seasons in places like Indianapolis, Memphis, Buffalo, and he even played a little bit in Mexico.  Of course, no one can spend that much time in the minors and not figure out ways to help groom younger players and manage games. After his playing career came to an end in 1987, Shines began coaching and eventually managing minor league teams in Birmingham, Alabama, and Clearwater, Florida, and he is the proud owner of over 500 minor league wins as a manager.  He also served as a base coach for the White Sox in 2007 and also for the Mets in 2009 and 2010.

So just how awesome is Razor Shines?  Awesome enough to have an honorary Razor Shines Night while he was managing at a minor league stadium...of the opposing team.  He was just a classic ballplayer, a man grinding out season after season in the minors for a shot at living the major league dream, and he did live it, if only for a little while.  I'm glad the game got to experience Razor Shines, and it's stories like his that make this the greatest game in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, Razor Shines, Ballplayer.

Felix Fermin

Hittin' and grinnin'.

Why we like him: Felix Fermin was just one of those guys. A pesky middle infielder who always managed to find a way to make it difficult for a defense to get him out.  His career spanned 10 seasons with stops in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle, and Chicago (NL), where he batted a lame but respectable .259 with 4 home runs. In addtion to being a usable hitter, Fermin also played pretty good defense at shortstop as well as second base, which made him a valuable late inning substitute.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about his career, statistically anyway, was the fact that he struck out 147 times and walked 166 in 2,767 at-bats. First of all, any time a guy can strike out fewer times than he walks, I'm impressed.  Look at a decent player from today, the Mets' Angel Pagan.  He's already struck out 260 times in his career in 1400 at-bats.  Fermin made you work.  However, what I like about stats like his is that when Felix "El Gato" Fermin strolled to the plate to hit, he was going to hit.  It's like he knew that you only get so many ABs in life, so you might as well hack away and put it in play.

I probably remember Fermin best for his 1994 strike-shortened season with the Mariners.  He was the everyday shortstop for an up-and-coming Mariners team that was starting to get it together.  He batted career-best .317 that season with the best slugging percentage of his career (.380).  Fermin provided a spark near the bottom of the Seattle lineup all season long, and just as everyone thought he was turning the corner and becoming a valuable asset to the M's, the strike happened.

The following year was the beginning of the end for Felix.  He batted .195 with just six extra-base hits.  He was released in April of 1996, but was picked up a month later by the Chicago Cubs who hoped he could regain his 1994 form.  But 1996 was even worse, as he batted .125 through 11 games and was released by the organization in August, never to play again.  Fermin has since become somewhat of a legend as a manager in the Dominican Winter League, winning five championships for the not-so-easily-pronounced Águilas Cibaeñas in eight seasons.

Ladies and gentlemen, Felix Fermin, Ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Hector Lopez

In foul territory and in anonymity.

Why we like him: According to my dad, Hector Lopez is the Yankee that nobody remembers, and it's actually kind of a shame.  Statistically, this guy had, for lack of a better word, an interesting career.  He started out in the late 1950s in what was essentially the New York Yankees' feeder system at that time, the Kansas City Athletics. He actually put together four pretty decent seasons there, and even led the league in grounded into double plays and sacrifice flies in the same season (1958), which is truly amazing when you think about it.  He was apparently always willing to sacrifice himself as well as another baserunner for the good of the team.  Bizarre.

In 1959, Lopez was a throw-in piece in the deal that brought Ralph Terry to the Bronx from Kansas City in return for three has-beens/losers, a practice that was used and abused to perfection by the Yankees during that era.  At the end of the '59 season, the Yanks even snatched up Roger Maris, the eventual back-to-back MVP winner in '60 and '61, away from KC for Don Larsen ("But he threw a perfect game in the Series! Forget about the rest of his crappy career!") and the corpse of Hank Bauer.

The early part of his career was a nightmare for Lopez defensively.  In 1955 and 1956, he led the league in errors committed by a third baseman, and led the league in errors committed by a second baseman in 1958 in just 96 games.  Just looking at the stats sheet, it looks like Hector was a player being played woefully out of position in the infield when he clearly lacked confidence in himself to perform at those positions.  After arriving in the Bronx, Casey Stengel obviously recognized that Lopez possessed clearly usable skills at the plate, but needed a change of scenery at his position to alleviate the pressures of being an everyday infielder in place like New York.  Lopez sort of made the vast Yankee Stadium left field his own over the next few seasons, even splitting a little time with an aging Yogi Berra after his switch of positions.

Though not as well-known as some other Panamanian Yankees, Hector Lopez deserves just a little more love and recognition.  After all, he was the left fielder for some of the best and most memorable Yankee squads of the 1960s.  His final stat line: 12 seasons of near anonymity, .269 with 136 homers and 591 RBI, .286 postseason average, a heap of errors, and the label of "the Yankee that nobody remembers."  Well nobody except for my dad, and now me too, I guess.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hector Lopez, Ballplayer.