Tom Pagnozzi – 1994 Pinnacle

March 30, 2011

Nice Try, Tom. Better Luck Next Time.

First, some housekeeping. I am finally, FINALLY, bindered up all my close sets. I have about 20-some cards that I thought I had (or may have had) that have gone missing. I attribute this to fat fingers on my spreadsheets, and a chaotic time in my life where my collection was in bits and pieces. So I may have to add them BACK on my want list at some point. No biggie, it’s not like they were 1951 Mantles or even a 1973 Johnny Bench card.

Second, I have a lot of doubles, parallels, relics, etc. that I want and need to get rid of before I decide what comes next. I am thinking of a good way to do this – I have a couple of ideas percolating. Yes, you may get some more 1988 Donruss out of it, but with that you also may get an auto or a numbered card you didn’t know existed. Stay tuned.

Now, on to this card. I like the first three Pinnacle designs (until they went overboard with the gold diamonds or trapezoids or rhombii or whatever). They were definitely a worthy contender that kept Topps and Upper Deck (and the rest) on their toes for a while.

Pagnozzi was the reason, I guess, that Todd Zeile moved to third. Pagnozzi was a heck of a defensive catcher in his prime, with a 1.0 and 1.8 WAR defensively in back-to-back seasons. But the man could not hit.

Take a look at his 1991, where on the surface it looks good with a .264 average. He only had 36 walks in 510 plate appearances, and had just two home runs. His OPS+ was only 89. Added to that 10 GIDPs and a 9 for 22 rate in stolen bases (Joe Torre, HOF manager, let Pagnozzi steal 22 times. He must have been huffing that season.) and you have player that scored only 38 runs and had just 1 WAR offensively.

(Sidenotes to the 9 for 22 stealing stat – Pagnozzi in his career stole 18 bases and was caught 21 times – so the rest of his career he was 9 for 15. Torre didn’t have Jose Oquendo or Pedro Guerrero steal that much either. And even when the A’s stole a gazillion bases in 1976 not everyone joined in on the fun, as Larry Haney didn’t steal a bag, Gene Tenace was just five for nine, Ken McMullen was one of two and Billy Williams was four for six. So Pagnozzi attempting 22 steals that season is just, well, insane.)

1993 was the year that the end was beginning for Tom. Erik Pappas hit better than him and the vaunted defense backslid a bit. He started just 90 games, as opposed to 133 and 131 the two seasons before. He did miss a month or so, though, due to injuries, which happens to almost every catcher. Since this card clearly shows a play at the plate in Wrigley, and since Pagnozzi had a more limited schedule than usual, it should be easy to pinpoint this play.

Shall we? We shall.

Pagnozzi played when the Cards were in Chicago June 17-20 (the first games back after injury, he played in three games missing the 19th) and on September 20 and 22. I am thinking that this is from the first series (but you never know) so I’ll attack those games first. The runner at the plate looks to be African-American or a dark-skinned Latino, but of course I could be fooled there too. And the player looks to be safe, so I’ll see about the Cubs scoring a run on a single where a play at the plate could have occurred.

June 17 – A wild one. Pagnozzi goes 3 for 5 with 3 runs and an RBI in an 11-10 win. Ozzie Smith has six RBI (!!!) in the game.  Plenty of chances to have the photo snapped:

First inning – Jose Vizcaino scores from second on a line single to center by Ryne Sandberg. Definitely a possibility.

Eighth inning – Rey Sanchez scores from first on a double by Vizcaino. However, that doesn’t seem as likely.

June 18 – Cubs win 8-3 against Rene (“They paid me HOW much?”) Arocha. (Side note, the middle relievers for the 1993 Cards included Rob Murphy, Paul Kilgus and Les Lancaster. Yeesh.)  There are some likely candidates here.

Second inning – Sammy Sosa scores from first on a fly ball double to left by Rey Sanchez. Even though there were two out, a fly ball double to left doesn’t necessarily score the runner from first.

Sixth inning – Bob Scanlan (OK, I can yeesh the Cubs relievers too) hits a line out sac fly to left scoring Sosa. Possibly.

June 20 – Cards win 7-4 behind Pagnozzi’s 2-run homer and Geronimo “I Should Have Been Better Than I Was” Pena’s three RBI. Frankie Castillo was not impressing his hot wife that day. There is one possibility.

Second inning – Sosa scores from second on a Sanchez line drive single to center. There are two out though, so that’s not as likely as some of the others.

The first September game doesn’t help. Pagnozzi plays the 7th and the 8th as the Cards lose, plus it was a night game.

September 22 was a day game, and another wild one, an 11-9 Cubs win as they blister Tom Urbani and Arocha.

Second inning – Eric Yelding scores from second on a line drive single to center by Vizcaino. Maybe, but even though the background is blurred it looks sunny out there and the weather that September game was 71 yet overcast.

Sixth inning – Vizcaino scores from second on a single to right by Tuffy Rhodes. There was an E9 on the play. Could the E9 have occurred as the ball eluded Pagnozzi and hit Vizcaino? Could it? Nope, the newspaper account clearly states that Whiten bobbled the ball at second, allowing Rhodes to go to second, hence the error.

But the Tribune game stories may yield the answer. So I’ll go back to the June games and check.

The June 17 writeup was all about Turk Wendell’s debut start in all of it’s licorice chewing and tooth brushing glory.

The June 18 game story is all about Eric Yelding and some defensive plays.

The June 20 game story is all about how lousy the Cubs were playing at home. Geez, some things never change.

So those game summaries don’t give us a clear outcome.

My best guess? It’s Vizcaino scoring. His 1994 Pinnacle card (which I  found online) shows that he wears those wristbands and used tape. Not as much as his throwing hand, but he may have taped up his glove hand.

So I bet that’s the play at the plate in the very first game Pagnozzi was back at the dish for the Cards, where Sandberg slapped a single to center and Vizcaino beat the throw.

Sure, why not?

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