Don’t Sit Him Next To John Tudor At The Old-Timers Banquet

Lyons had a brief and non-descript career as Gary Carter’s backup for the Mets, and then for other teams.

He didn’t hit much, and his defense wasn’t that good, but he kept his mouth shut and did his job.

He’d be pretty much forgotten, except for a brief moment in time when he lost his home (and his 1986 World Series Ring) in Hurricane Katrina, had not the events of April 19, 1987, happened.

(Well, at least he’s not forgotten by me).

The Mets were at St. Louis. It was a Sunday, and Lyons was making his first start of the year. John Tudor was relaxing in the dugout. He beat the Mets two days earlier 4-3 on his third start of the year. The Mets figured to repeat as the NL East champs, and the Cardinals were thought to be their only serious competition.

During the game a Cardinals player skied a pop foul near the dugout. Lyons, being a scrappy backup rookie catcher, tore after it. He didn’t make the play, and then tumbled onto the Cards bench.

Right on top of John Tudor.

Breaking his leg.


Lyons stayed in the game. Tudor was lost until August. But when Tudor returned, the Cards could not lose. They went 12-1 in the games after his return from the DL.

The Mets were in a funk for most of the season. In August and September they turned on the juice but couldn’t catch the Cards.

Were the Cardinals energized by the freak accident in the St. Louis dugout? Who knows, but it could be enough. The Cards were never lower than second, and held the lead in the division from May 19 to the end of the season, beating out the Mets and the surprising Expos.

Worst. Rotiss. Draftee. Ever.

Ah, memories. My college friend Steve invited me to take part in a Rotisserie League in his hometown in 1986. It was a 12-team AL only league with 14X9 player allotments, so basically almost everyone in the AL was drafted. Draft day was a challenge because you didn’t want to spend you allotment early and have to take the $1 specials at the end. (A few were OK, but not six or seven).

Anyway, saves were a hot commodity (of course) and in 1985 James was the closer of the White Sox. My partner in crime was a White Sox fan with some inside dope, which was always helpful.

It was the middle rounds. Pitching was going fast. I had a closer but needed a starter or two. Steve didn’t have a closer, and also needed a starter. Of course, you want to have two closers, perhaps, for trade bait or to dominate the category (or both).

So James came up for bid.

In perfect rotiss fashion, we bid on James to drive the price up. My partner, Brent, knew that James was having a rocky camp and this Thigpen kid may come up and take the saves away during the year. So he didn’t want James, but everyone knew he was a Sox fan (he wore a Sox hat to the draft, naturally) and they surmised that Brent really wanted James.

Heh. Though he suckered me for a minute until a punch in the thigh set me straight after I gave him a “WTF” glance.

James went to Steve for big $$. I mean, big $$. He was one of the most expensive players in the draft.

A couple players later, Ted Higuera came up for bid. We had the $$ for him. Steve wanted him, craved him. He was a main target for him. But he couldn’t bid for him. He didn’t have the cash because of Bob James.


We finished in the money that year, won it the next year, and came in the money the year after. Sure, picking up guys like Kevin Seitzer on the cheap helped, but not overpaying for saves (or catchers) also helped.

Of course, every draft from thereafter, Bob James was a running joke. Even after James retired, we’d jokingly say “$5 for Bob James” and laugh at Steve. Heck, when Steve came back to our college campus, Brent and I of course brought it up to him, 20 years after the fact.

Callbacks never get old, do they?

James had a rotten 1986 (14 saves, 5.25 ERA, 8 blown saves), and his 1987 wasn’t much, either (10 saves, 4.67 ERA). In fact, his career WAR was only 2.1, and in 1985 he had a 4.1 WAR. That says something, doesn’t it?

His track record before 1985 was lousy, too. He was a high draft pick in 1976 by Montreal, and after pitching well through 1978 in the minors (and getting a small cup of decaf in Montreal at age 19) he got rocked in AAA (8-13, 6.68 but it was Denver). He rebounded in 1980 but was lousy in 1981 again, and after making the big club in 1982 and under-performing Montreal sent him to Detroit in a ‘conditional deal’.

He didn’t pitch well in Detroit or Evansville, and then got hit hard in a brief stint in Detroit in 1983, so he was sent back to Montreal in a ‘conditional deal’.

Basically, I think the trade was, “Please, please take him, and if you want, you can send him back in a year, no questions asked.” Talk about satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.

James then pitched mediocre ball for Wichita in 1983, but put it together when the Expos called him up later that year. In 1984, he recorded 10 saves for the Expos. However, he blew 9 saves and had a negative WAR with a 3.66 ERA. Still, he had 10 saves so the White Sox sent the Expos Vance Law for him.

Then 1985 happened. And then 1986 and 1987 happened, and in late December 1987 the White Sox released him. He was done. He didn’t hook up with anyone else. And still, Donruss gave him a card. Why?

Oh, yeah, there were way too many cards per set in the junk wax era.



Endeavor To Persevere

Eddie Williams had many chances to call it quits.

He was the 4th pick of the 1983 draft, but was traded to the Reds in mid-1984 (during a .184 season in the Sally League) with Jay Tibbs for Bruce Berenyi. In 1985 he hit 20 dingers for Cedar Rapids, but was left unproteced in the Rule V draft and was picked up by the Indians.

I don’t get why he was eligible for the Rule V draft unless they have a codicil (or did) that players who are traded during their exemption period are no longer exempt. But he was with the Indians for a little bit before they sent him down to Waterbury (with the good graces of the Reds, for sure).

The 1987 season was good for Williams. He hit .291 with 22 homers in AAA Buffalo at age 22, and got a cup of coffee and a danish with the Indians. There were some issues – Williams was a third baseman and struggled on defense. OK, not struggled. He was pretty much of an iron glove in the minors. Plus, the Indians had Brook Jacoby at third.

Yet Jacoby wasn’t all that and a bucket of chicken, yet he was the incumbent and supposedly young. At any rate, after another season in AAA with another brief encounter with the Indians, Williams was sent to the White Sox for failed prospects Joel Davis and Ed Wojna.

So it’s 1989, and Williams is already on his fourth organization and is just 24. He got some legit playing time in Chicago, hitting .274 with an OPS+ of 101. The issue was his glove, again. Or the perception of it. He made quite a few errors and had a .909 fielding percentage, but was basically neutral in his DWAR. So he wasn’t THAT bad.

The White Sox, though, didn’t think he was that good, so they dropped him off the roster and the Padres signed him. He had a good season in Las Vegas and hit well in a brief stop in San Diego. And it wasn’t like the Padres were running out of their ears with third basemen. But he didn”t stick around there, either, and signed with Fukuoka for 1991.

After a year in Japan, it was back to the states. The Braves signed him but released him after a month in AAA. He was out of baseball for most of 1992, then the Brewers picked him up for 1993. He played eight games in New Orleans and was cut again.

So, let’s recap. At age 28, he played for the Mets, Reds, Indians, White Sox, Padres, Braves, and Brewers, and also in Japan. He did OK in his one extended major league trial, but had issues with the glove. The last two years he played in April and then sat idle the rest of the year.

Endeavor to persevere!

Actually, it was a move to first base full-time that helped Williams.

It was back to the Padres in 1994. He was blasting the ball all around the PCL in Vegas (20 home runs in 59 games and a .352 average) and the Padres said, sure, why not. They were horrid. Tim Hyers and Dave Staton weren’t cutting it, so Williams came up and only had a .986 OPS (156 OPS+) in 49 games. Darn.

Obviously that hot streak couldn’t last. In 1995 he came down to earth with a thud but actually spent the entire year in the big leagues. That was the first time he did that, at age 30 no less.

Detroit signed him for 1996, and he was as bad as the Tigers (Williams OPS+ 45, Tigers 53-109). The Tigers let him go after the season, and then he drifted.

He hit .366 for Albuquerque, came up for a skosh for the Dodgers, and was sent to the Pirates to end 1997. He signed with the Padres (AGAIN!)  and had another monster year in Las Vegas (Eddie loved him some PCL pitching!), played a bit in San Diego, and that was it for his major league career.

Williams was 34. He had played in 10 organizations and one year in Japan.

Heck, what’s one more! The Twins signed him for 1999 and he went to…THE PCL! He hit .316 but wasn’t called up. But he still wasn’t done. He played in the independent leagues and in the Mexican League before, finally, he called it quits during the 2002 season in Fargo-Moorhead.

He definitely did endeavor to persevere. But here’s the question.

If he knew as a rookie for the Indians what his career would be like, would he be smiling?

(Probably…he played baseball for a living for almost 20 years!)

Ice Station Sebra

I hear the groans from here. But he did play in Montreal. AND it was easy pickings.

Sebra spanned the baseball globe in his career. Five major league teams in six years and then three other teams until he hung ’em up in 1993. Then, in 1998, he showed up in the Atlantic League at Somerset. His first claim to fame was that he was the ‘ransom’ paid to free Pete Incaviglia from the Expos and onto a major league roster.

I saw him pitch in Indianapolis in 1988, and I thought he had the goods. Yes, he was 6-15, 4.42 in 1987 for the Expos but his peripherals were good. Problem was that the Expos had a lot of pitching prospects and he was squeezed out. He was sent to the Phillies at the end of 1988 and didn’t pitch well. He didn’t pitch well for the Phillies and Reds in 1989, and then was traded to the Brewers with Ron Robinson for Glenn “Manster” Braggs and Billy Bates.

It was with the Brewers that his other claim to fame occurred. I wasn’t sure about it but I checked with my friend at the Greatest 21 Days.  (Well, I googled it…)

During the last major league game, he drilled Tracy Jones with a pitch and IT! WAS! ON! The brawl lasted for 28 minutes and nine players or managers were suspended and others fined. And of course, there’s no video of it. Frankly, though, a mid-season 1990 game between Seattle and Milwaukee may not have been televised at all. A shame, too, since the brawl wound up by the bullpen and Milwaukee Manager Tom Trebelhorn was body slammed by a Mariners scrubnee. (I wonder if the Brewers or the M’s have the radio broadcast archived.)

Sebra was suspended five games for his part in the ‘fun’. Well, he started it in a sense by beaning Jones and then meeting him halfway between the mound and home plate. But the kicker is that Sebra was sent down before the sentence was passed down. In fact, it mentioned that Sebra would have to serve the suspension if and when he returned to the AL.

He never did.

So technically, he’s still suspended. But I wonder, if Sebra becomes a coach, or a broadcaster, or an assistant GM (assistant TO the GM), would he have to serve the five games?

Harry Spilman – 1988 Topps

February 26, 2011

He’s Always Ready With The Eye Black

The top photo is rare because Spilman played first base in just nine games and only three starts in 1987. Only two of those appearances were at home – so I think it was May 25th against the Mets, where he played first for a third of an inning then moved to third base when Mike Aldrete came into the game.

The thing is that I think it’s Candlestick but I can’t tell for sure.

The bottom game is from one of his rare starts, at Wrigley Field.

But notice the eye black. It’s quite consistent. So he was always ready to go either as a starter or a bench player. That’s a true professional.

Dave Martinez – 1988 Topps

February 24, 2011

Pretty Boy?

No wonder the bleachers squealed when Martinez played. He was definitely looking like a boy toy in Cubbie blue.

Um, why am I noticing this?

Anyway, Martinez rebounded from a wretched rookie season (4 OPS+…yes…4) to become a pretty solid, steady major league player. Usually, he was best as a fourth outfielder when all was said and done but he wasn’t totally over-matched as a regular, especially in center.

One thing that I am wondering about is how and why Martinez got MVP votes in 1991. He had a nice season for the Expos (111 OPS+, 1.2 WAR) but nothing super-spectacular. But he finished 20th in the MVP voting. He got a 10th place vote for some reason.

It’s a mystery as to why. His counting stats weren’t so hot. Calderon and Walker were much more valuable. The Expos were 71-90. Who voted Martinez for 10th place MVP when he was the third or fourth best position player on a bad team?

Maybe someone’s 13-year old daughter liked the cut of his jib…


LL Cool..G?

Anytime I see jheri curls, I think of the 80’s. And yes, I know LL Cool J was not jheri-curled, it’s what I thought of first thing.

Much like when I see open collared shirts and tight jeans I think of this…

Everybody karaoke!

Was it just me, but did the players from the Dominican adapt the jheri curls later than the US culture? Because to me, the jheri curl was mid-80’s. Of course, I could be wrong – there wasn’t a lot of urbanity in central Indiana.

Berroa was almost a candidate for “Too Many Cards In The Junk Wax Era”, since he never played for the Jays. This shot could have been taken at a late-spring game in a major league park or during an emergency call-up where he never saw action.

Geronimo could hit. But it took forever to get a chance. He hit 36 bombs as a 22-year old in AA, but struggled a bit in AAA the next year. Atlanta took a chance on him in the Rule 5 draft and he hit .265 in limited duty in 1989. But it was back to the bushes in 1989, and then he hopped over to Seattle, who sold him to Cleveland during spring training. A year in Colorado Springs re-established him, but teams weren’t sold on the guy. So he went to the Cincinnati organization and hit .328 with 22 homers at Nashville.

Expansion in 1993 brought another chance, but after playing well in Edmonton he barely saw time in Florida. Oakland took a gamble, and he made the club.

I don’t know if it was the weather, the relative peace and quiet in Oakland, or the lingering effects of Al Davis in the Coliseum, but something worked for Berroa. Tony LaRussa (and later Art Howe) penciled him the lineup and he hit. From 1994-1997 he had an OPS+ 0f 120 as the regular DH (including a trade to Baltimore in late 1997).

He signed a contract with Cleveland in 1998 but lost his stroke suddenly. He was out of the game by 2000.

Maybe he ran out of activator.

That’s A…Rocky?

Funny, I thought someone named Rocky Childress would be a bit…tougher looking…

Maybe it’s the stripes.

Rocky Childress sounds like either a NASCAR driver (maybe IndyCar, but never F-1), a Boss Radio AM DJ (Rocky Childress here with the Top 5 at 5!), or a backup QB for Alabama.

But he’s a California dude named Rodney Osborne Childress (ROC – Rocky! – I get it…I guess) who threw 107 innings of low-impact relief for the Phillies and Astros.

Rocky was an afterthought for the Astros in this era. Even after compiling a 2.98 ERA in 1987 (and snagging this card) he didn’t make the club out of Spring Training in 1988.

Of course, a dive into his 1987 stats said that despite that good ERA, he blew four saves with no holds or saves, and allowed 14 of his 23 inherited runners to score.

Rocky was called up in 1988 and was doing OK before he got skulled in two straight outings in late june ( 9 ER in 6 1/3 innings total) and was sent back down. He came back up in September, was hit hard again, and entered game 161 for the Astros with a 7+ ERA.

On Oct. 1, the Astros played host to the Padres in an attempt to salvage SOMETHING from 1988 and finish third. The Padres were ‘surging’ over .500. A lot was on the line, as can be told by a crowd of 10,452 patrons who no doubt thought the Oilers were playing instead of the Astros.

Bob Forsch starts for Houston and gets rocked early. He leaves in the second with two on and three runs in already, and Hal Lanier calls out for the Rockster.

Childress whiffs Carmelo Martinez to stanch the bleeding. He pitches through the sixth, whiffing eight in 4 1/3 innings while allowing just two baserunners.

He’s rewarded for this performance by being quietly taken off the 40-man roster during the winter, and sent to Tuscon where he toiled for all of 1989.

Baseball is a cruel mistress. Even if you have a jet-liner ERA, you can whiff 8 in 4 1/3. And then, you can whiff 8 in 4 1/3 and get sent to the minors, never to return.


Ennui, I Haz It

Sartre would be proude of Mr. Wasinger’s expression.

He is resigned to his fate.

Even though he was hitting . 275, he was sent down at the end of July. He did come back in September, though.

Even though he played well for the 1987 Giants, he was released on July 15, 1988. Cleveland signed him two days later.

He’s a baseball lifer, as he spent plenty of time in the minors and is now a scout. But in this photo, it seems like he knew his time was short as a major league baseball player. The Giants grabbed Kevin Mitchell, had Matt Williams as a kid, and Robby Thompson and Jose Uribe were ensconced in the middle infield. Wasinger was a spare part, and he knew it.

He got a card, and a career. God speed, utility man, God speed.

Um, Charlie…

You know, the hotel is going to charge us for that towel you lifted. Why can’t you just bring one from home and pack it in your bag?