Ben McDonald

1990 Upper Deck #54b Ben McDonald Front
In the clouds.

Why we like him: Big Ben was a classic case of a promising young arm being destroyed by a shoulder injury. At 6'7" and 200 pounds, McDonald was an imposing figure on the mound. While with the Orioles, he  managed to put together a few nice seasons before he even turned 27. He demonstrated some good control for a young pitcher and posted a pretty good win total and ERA every year. He left Baltimore for Milwaukee in 1996, but began experiencing shoulder problems. In 1998, McDonald had rotator cuff surgery from which he never recovered. He was traded to Cleveland as part of a deal for Marquis Grissom, but never pitched for the Indians. His career record finished at 78-70 with a 3.91 ERA.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ben McDonald, ballplayer.

Scott Radinsky

1992 Topps #701 Scott Radinsky Front
That's the face of a random reliever.

Why we like him: What's not to like about a journeyman reliever who pitched for 4 teams during a fairly impressive 11-year career? Radinsky was a middle reliever who came into the league in that role and left in that role. He pitched in 557 games, never started one, and saved just 52. His career record was actually a pretty spiffy 42-25, and his ERA finished up at 3.44. Not too shabby for a middle reliever during the steroid era. He also served as pitching coach for the Indians in 2011 and 2012.

Ladies and gentlemen, Scott Radinsky, ballplayer.

Random Rivalries: Brian Harper & Lonnie Smith

1992 Donruss #517 Lonnie Smith Front VS 1992 Stadium Club #296 Brian Harper Front

Why we like them: When you think about the most violent home plate collisions ever, this is the one should immediately come to mind. You could feel it through the television. In Game 4 of the 1991 World Series, Terry Pendleton hit a drive over the head of Twins centerfielder Kirby Puckett, which gave Smith reason to think he could score from second after watching it drop. The relay was whipped to the plate, and the ball and Harper were waiting. Smith barreled into the catcher, and Harper somehow held on for the out. It rattled the teeth just to watch it. Minnesota held on to win the game 3-2. (The collision also made for one of the coolest baseball cards of the 1990s, as you see below)

1992 Stadium Club #282 Lonnie Smith Front

Harper enjoyed a 16-year career as a .295 hitter. Smith played for 17 years and batted .288. Smith and Harper were even teammates on the 1985 Cardinals before Smith was traded to the eventual champion Kansas City Royals that season. Who did the Royals beat in the Series? You guessed it. Harper's Cardinals.

Ladies and gentlemen, Lonnie Smith and Brian Harper, ballplayers.

Random Rivalries: Kent Hrbek & Ron Gant

1991 Donruss #507 Ron Gant Front VS 1991 Leaf #313 Kent Hrbek Front

Why we like them: The World Series has had its share of dubious calls, but I'll always remember these two for their incident at first base. As Gant rounded first base on a single in Game 2 of the 1991 Series, Hrbek caught a throw and applied a tag to Gant, who was back in safely...until Hrbek used his 240-pounds of lard and a combination of a leg-grab and kicking motion to pull Gant's leg off the bag and tag him out. Umpire Drew Coble swears Gant's momentum would've carried him off the bag anyway. Right. Atlanta lost the game 3-2 and the series in seven games. Hrbek even received death threats because of hit "T-Rex Tag" maneuver.

Hrbek played 14 seasons with the Twins and finished as a .282 hitter with 293 homers. He'll also go down as one of the more beloved Twins in franchise history. Not bad. Gant played 16 seasons for 8 different teams. He was one of the league's elite players from 1990 to 1993 and even posted back-to-back 30/30 seasons in '90 and '91. He missed the 1994 season (didn't we all) because of a motorcycle accident and was never the same player after that. I'll always remember his insane ability to pull any pitch at a right angle to the pitcher fondly.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ron Gant and Kent Hrbek, ballplayers.

Random Rivalries: Mike Redmond & Tom Glavine

2001 Upper Deck #215 Mike Redmond Front VS 1997 Topps #50 Tom Glavine Front

Why we like them: That popping sound you just heard was just Mike Redmond lacing another double off Tom Glavine. Of all the inexplicable cases of random hitters dominating a legendary pitcher, this is one that I'll always remember. Redmond owned Glavine. Redmond batted .438 against Glavine over the course of his career. Sure, Glavine won more than half the time, but barely. Redmond also perplexedly posted an OPS of 1.075 versus the 300-game winner.

Redmond, who is in his first year as manager of the Marlins, did bat .330 against left-handed starters over the course of his career, which made him an extremely valuable commodity as a backup backstop, and his career average overall evened out to a nice .287. Glavine, of course, won a pair of Cy Youngs and 305 games. But he always had trouble with Mike Redmond.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mike Redmond and Tom Glavine, ballplayers.

Random Rivalries: Chad Kreuter & Marvin Benard

2001 Topps #699 Chad Kreuter Front VS 1999 Upper Deck #482 Marvin Benard Front

Why we like them: Now this is a rivalry. Dodgers and Giants. You can actually feel the tension by simply reading those words together in the same sentence. Back in 2001, this rivalry reached a point where it needed something besides a steroids-infused mutant slugger to shed some light into these two clubs' hatred for one another.

Marvin Benard, a surprisingly good and amazingly annoying platoon outfielder, decided it would be a good idea to run over LA catcher Chad Kreuter to score despite the fact that he probably had to go out of his way to do so. What a jerk.

Benard played for 9 seasons in the majors, all of which with the Giants. He was a career .271 hitter and even posted a .322 average in 121 games in 1998. Kreuter played for 16 seasons with 7 different teams and made a name for himself as a light-hitting but competent backup catcher that might have been a useful asset on every third day if your team already had Paul Lo Duca. Both retired in 2003.

Happy Opening Day 2013, everyone.

Ladies and gentlemen, Chad Kreuter and Marvin Benard, ballplayers.

Throwback Thursday: Jim Kaat


Why we like him: Jim Kaat pitched for 25 seasons and until he was 44. Obviously, the guy managed to stack up some impressive numbers over the course of his career. He was a 3-time All Star and a reliable workhorse for the Minnesota Twins in the '60s and '70s. He won 20+ ballgames three times during his career and finished with a 283-237 career record.

Many might even know Kaat better for his work on the microphone instead of on the mound. He's been in broadcasting since his retirement in 1983. He's called games for YES and NESN, and he's currently working for MLB Network calling games at the ripe old age of 74.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jim Kaat, ballplayer.

Best Specs of the '80s

Chris Sabo: When you're talking about players from the '80s who played with a windshield, the conversation probably starts with the guy would probably should have been the MVP of the 1990 World Series. He batted .563 and posted an OPS of 1.611 for the Series, no doubt reaping the benefits of the flawless eyesight. We all love Spuds.

Tom Henke: I've expressed my admiration for this underrated juggernaut relief pitcher before, but I'll say it again. Henke was one of the best relievers in the game during an era when relief pitching was still evolving. He was also one of the nerdiest-looking guys ever to grace the mound.

John Franco: He didn't always wear the specs, but he did in this photo, which was apparently snapped during Franco's 26th year of Little League, judging by the chain-link fencing and the park in the background. Nothing scarier than a closer that you believe can't see things very well.

Darrell Porter: Yes, that face windshield is real. And yes, that nose is too. This Oklahoman was a four-time All Star who enjoyed a decent 17-year career with stops in Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Texas, making him somewhat of a Midwestern lifer. He never led the league an anything except for--you guessed it--walks. He used his microscopic analysis of the strike zone to rack up 121 free passes in 1979.

Mike Davis: If you're down one run in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the World Series and your MVP slugger is going to hit a legendary walk-off home run, somebody has got to get on base in front of him to make it happen. Davis used his excellently augmented eyesight to earn a walk against Dennis Eckersley that night in 1988, and Kirk Gibson did the rest.

Throwback Thursday: Eppa Rixey

He was actually real and not just drawn.

Why we like him: If you say his name really fast, he sounds more like a crippling disease rather than a Hall of Fame ballplayer. But, nevertheless, ol' Epp's enshrined in Cooperstown for some reason. Rixey finished his 21-year career in 1933 at age 42 with a record of 266-251. He led the league in wins once (with 25 in 1922) and losses twice (with 21 in 1917 and 22 in 1920). I have no idea why this guy has a bust in the Hall. Well, he did get to 517 career decisions, so I guess longevity is the only thing the voters were looking at here.

Ladies and gentlemen, Eppa Rixey, ballplayer.

Pete Vuckovich

This guy won the 1982 AL Cy Young Award.

Why we like him: With that pristine mullet/mustache combo, what's not to like? And yes, seriously, this man won the '82 AL Cy Young with the Brewers after going 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA (His teammate, Robin Yount won the AL MVP that season as well). He was a pretty good pitcher at the height of his powers too, but after trying to pitch through pain for a while in 1983, it was determined that Vuckovich had a torn rotator cuff. He tried to comeback in 1985 and 1986, but it was clear he was no longer near the pitcher he was before his injury. Either way, nice 'stache.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pete Vuckovich, ballplayer.

Milt Cuyler

That's not gonna work, Milt.

Why we like him: Milt Cuyler played 8 years in the majors and finished his career with a .237 average, which is exactly why he apparently tried to use two bats in this photo above. He only had every-day duties one season, in 1991, and he batted .257 with 12 sacrifices. If nothing else, the guy could lay down a bunt. His 1998 season proved to be his last. He also finished that year by batting .500 in 7 games. He was just getting started when he quit at 29.

Ladies and gentlemen, Milt Cuyler, ballplayer.

Kirk Gibson

Legendary, but never an All Star.

Why we like him: Kirk Gibson was the 1988 National League MVP. He also hit one of the most legendary home runs in World Series history that season which propelled his Dodgers to victory over the Oakland A's. He played the game with such tenacious competitiveness and intensity that he was often described as a football player on the diamond. Yet this man was never an All Star. He was one of my absolute favorite players to watch play the game.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kirk Gibson, ballplayer.

Tim Leary

Derp, it's a splitter, derp.

Why we like him: Tim Leary was a pretty bad major league pitcher and definitely not an avid support of LSD and other psychedelic drugs (that was the other Tim Leary). His career record over his 13-year career was 78-105. He also posted a 4.36 career ERA. He posted a winning record only twice, first going 17-11 with the World Series Champion Dodgers in 1988 (with a tidy 2.91 ERA) and then going 11-9 for the Mariners in 1993 despite a 5.05 ERA. Back in 1990 when the Yankees were garbage, and it seems forever ago, he lost 19 games for the Bronx Bumblers en route to their worst season since Babe Ruth was with the Red Sox.

One of the most randomly interesting things I remember about Leary was that during a Yankees-Orioles game back in 1992 that was televised on ESPN, the camera caught Leary covering his face with his glove and putting something in his mouth between batters. The O's accused him of scuffing the baseball with sandpaper. The O's manager Johnny Oates (Remember him?) even claimed to have gathered six balls that Leary scuffed up. Leary was traded to the Mariners two months later and never posted an ERA better than 5.52 again in his career after that season. Who knows what he was doing to baseballs in 1988?

Ladies and gentlemen, Tim Leary, ballplayer.

Tim Teufel

1993 Leaf #10 Tim Teufel Front
Says it all.

Why we like him: Tim Teufel is the true essence of a random ballplayer. Do you remember him? I don't remember a single thing about him other than he wound up in packs of baseball cards occasionally. For all I know, he could be Manti Te'o's girlfriend's uncle, a figment of my baseball-filled imagination.

He did have a career though. He batted .254 over 11 years with 3 different teams. He even hit .308 in 1987 in limited action. In 1984, he finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. Then again, Kirby Puckett finished third that year, and Alvin Davis won, so that whole election process that season is probably best left unmentioned ever again.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tim Teufel, ballplayer.

Throwback Thursday: Sadaharu Oh

Possibly the best power hitter ever.

Why we like him: When you think of the greatest power hitters of all time, certain names invariably come up. Ruth. Aaron. Griffey. Not Rafael Belliard. And most of the time, no one even thinks to mention the name Sadaharu Oh. Oh was the high kickin', big hittin' first baseman for Japan's Yomiuri Giants, who are occasionally mistakenly called the "Tokyo Giants" quite often by arrogant uneducated American sports fans even though that name has not been used for years.

The truth is, Oh could rake. Oh played 22 seasons for the Giants, and finished with a career that any major leaguer who has ever played would gladly take. The key highlight of Oh's career are, of course, his 868 home runs. He hit those home runs in 2,831 games too. Hank Aaron blasted his 755 homers in 3,298 games. Say what you will about the level of competition (and it's a valid argument), but hitting bombs as a clip like that is impressive even in Little League.

Laides and gentlemen, Sadaharu Oh, ballplayer.

Granny Hamner

Remember him? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

Why we like him: Is there a better name in baseball history than Granny Hamner? Probably. But there aren't many. Granville Wilbur Hamner enjoyed a 17-year career that ended for good in 1962. He ended up with a .262 average and 104 home runs. For his career, he led the league in four categories in four different years: at bats in 1949, games played in 1950, sacrifices in 1952, and double plays in 1957.

In any event, he was a three-time All Star (1952-1954), so he was a player that many may remember. They'd better remember him with a name like Granny Hamner.

Ladies and gentlemen, Granny Hamner, ballplayer.

Jerome Walton

1989 Bowman #295 Jerome Walton Front
A fine investment.

Why we like him: Walton was the 1989 National League Rookie of the Year. Seriously. It even prompted my dad to schedule a visit to a baseball card store to pretty much force me to purchase his rookie card. He won the award, in all honesty, just because there were really no other deserving candidates. Walton had a pretty good rookie year, sure (.293-5-46 with 24 steals), but the rest of the crop of NL rookies was pretty devoid of impressive stats. He beat out teammate Dwight Smith for the award who posted a better average (.324), more home runs (9), and more RBI (52), but he played in 7 fewer games and had over 130 fewer at-bats.

Walton lasted 10 major league seasons and was never terrible. Believe me, there were far worse options for a platoon player or pinch hitter out there. He even batted .340 for Atlanta in 1996 over 47 at-bats. He could definitely hit for average, but he never really hit for exceptional power, which was a problem for an outfielder looking for everyday work in the 'roided up '90s. He called it a career at 32.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jerome Walton, ballplayer.