Chasing After Trivia And Then Down The Rabbit Hole

I ran across a fun bit of trivia that I would think Mariners fans would know, but it’s still a fun challenge for everybody else.

Do you know what these five Seattle Mariners have in common?

Frank MacCormack (He doesn’t appear on a card with the Mariners, which is why I had to go with a borrowed image of a minor league issue)

1978 Mr. Chef's Fish & Chix San Jose Missions Frank MacCormack from COMC

1978 Mr. Chef’s Fish & Chix San Jose Missions #4 – Frank MacCormack – Courtesy of COMC.com

Rob Dressler
1981 Donruss Rob Dressler

Dave Elder
1981 Fleer Dave Edler

Gene Nelson
1983 Topps Gene Nelson

…And Harold Reynolds
1988 Topps Harold Reynolds

According to Baseball-reference.com, these are the five Mariners to have worn #24 before this guy…
1989 Donruss Ken Griffey
…And now that the Mariners have announced they will be retiring #24 for Ken Griffey Jr., there will be nobody else joining exclusive club.

FYI, Harold Reynolds also wore numbers other than 24 while with Seattle.

…And to be fair, Baseball Reference doesn’t count coaches and managers, so there may be others to have worn the number.

This is where I went down the rabbit hole I started wondering what other exclusive uni # clubs there are, not counting oddball numbers like 0 or 97. I could think of a few… The Yankees #4 (only Lou Gehrig), the Rays #12 (only Wade Boggs), The Expos #8 (Gary Carter and two other guys – BTW the Nats display but don’t “observe” retired Expos numbers), the Mets #41 (Seaver and five other guys), the Rockies #17 (Todd Helton and David Nied), the Royals #5 (George Brett and four guys), The Brewers #19 (Robin Yount and four guys) and #44 (Hank Aaron and three guys).

According to Baseball Reference, there was only one player who wore #19 before Tony Gwynn… Gene Richards:
1981 Fleer Gene Richards

But Gene Richards didn’t play in the majors until the late 1970’s. There must’ve been someone who wore the number in the years between 1969 and Gene Richards.

After a little poking around, I found Whitey Wietelmann.
1976 SSPC Whitey Wietelmann_0001
He was a coach from 1969 to 1979, but didn’t wear #19 the whole time… I’m guessing Richards asked for it and Wietelmann gave it up.

Here’s the back of Wietelmann’s SSPC card showing that #19 did indeed belong to him at the time:
1976 SSPC Whitey Wietelmann_0002

ANNNNNNYWAY… These are the ones I found before common sense stopped me from spending the entire afternoon researching these things. Does anybody know of any exclusive club numbers which I haven’t mentioned here?

1989 Topps At A Crossroads

This year, Topps got me thinking about 1989.

Seeing how this year’s die-cut minis and Archives set took some annoying liberties with the original design, it got me to look at the originals with fresh eyes.
1989 Topps Wade Boggs

…And those fresh eyes said “This set is really nothing special.”

No offense to those of you who grew up with 1989 Topps, and for whom this set holds a special place in their hearts.  Believe me, I know how that goes.  1974 will always be MY set, just like Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor will always be MY Doctor.

But I was in my mid-20’s in 1989, so my heart had long since been given away to another Topps set.  I collected the Topps set because it was Topps… but out of the five main sets that came out that year, I’d have to rank Topps in 3rd place.

…And the 1989 set you’re probably thinking of is not in the top 2.

What the heck, I may as well run down the rankings from 5 to 1. (And part of me wants to shout out “It’s Funny Five Time!”, except this top 5 was not voted on by Dementions and Dementites from coast to coast, border to border…)

Number Five…

In 5th place is the set that makes me want to listen to live Johny Cash albums or rattle a tin cup against steel bars… 1989 Fleer!
1989 Fleer Carl Nichols

For most of the 1980’s, I was a Fleer guy.  I appreciated that Fleer seemed to understand that baseball cards are supposed to be fun.  88F wasn’t a favorite, but I still got a factory set.  1989 Fleer was the first Fleer set where I said “Ehhhhrrrrrrrr… No thanks.”

Number Four…

#4 is the set I’m sure many of you were thinking I’d rank #1:  Upper Deck.
1989 UD Gregg Jefferies
This set was not aimed at me in the slightest.  Sure, the cards were head and shoulders above the competition in terms of printing quality and other factors, but they were far more expensive than anything else on the market.  The “Return On Investment” just wasn’t there for me.  It  may have been a nice set, but it was way too serious of a set.

Number Three…

The #3 set is, as I mentioned, 1989 Topps.

1989 Topps Kirk McCaskill

Number Two…
#2 is 1989 Score.
1989 Score Ron Darling
It wasn’t as nice of a design as their debut set, but I still liked it plenty.  For a novel change of pace, they actually got the team name on the front.

Number One…

I think that 1989 is the only year in the history of baseball cards where I could say that Donruss was my favorite set.
1989 Donruss Jamie Moyer
I’m not entirely sure why, to be honest.  It’s got the usual thin Donruss cardboard and the photos are printed kind of dark and a bit blurry, but something about it just strikes a chord with me.  Simple, yet colorful.

…ANYWAY…

I’ve strayed off of my original topic, which is 1989 Topps being at a crossroads.  For years I intended to collect as many Topps sets as I could, but that goal is several years gone.  For now, I do have a long-term goal of completing at least one set from each year starting with 1973, but as I’ve mentioned, there are two sets in line ahead of 89T.

To be honest, there’s one little detail that keeps me from just going ahead and purging the set and being done with it… and that’s the fact that I have 774 cards from this set.  Yes, that’s right, I’m 18 cards away from completing it.

To be honest, though, completing this set wouldn’t really feel like an achievement for me.  I think that completing it would be a mild relief with regards to one fewer set to keep track of.  I can also accomplish that same relief by getting the one or two cards I would really want from the remaining 18, declaring the set a “TKO” and then going back and dumping all the Dale Mahorcic and Don Heinkel cards that do nothing beyond take up space in a monster box.

It’s a tough choice, but to get my collection to the size I’d like it to be, I’m going to have to make these tough choices…

…Someday.

I’ll be frank about this, I’ve been waffling on this for a couple of weeks now.

I also haven’t sat down with the set and gone through it… Maybe I’m forgetting something or missing something about the set that would make it worthwhile to keep.

…Or maybe it’s the prototypical junk wax era set that I could replace for $5 if I ever changed my mind.

Does anybody want to make an impassioned plea for or against 1989 Topps?

Mike Trout Custom – 1989 Donruss Rated Rookie

I wish I could remember who it was that posted this, but someone had asked if anyone collected a player because they had had him on their fantasy baseball team.  My response at the time was that I became a fan of Doug Fister after his performance for my team last year, but this year, I’m really getting to like Mike Trout.

This guy is having an impressive rookie season so far, only he’s had the misfortune (if you can call it that) of sharing his rookie season with that Bryce guy (not to mention Yu Darvish).

The Troutmeister was named the AL Rookie Of The Month for both May & June, and is leading the AL in batting average (.343) and stolen bases (26)… Not leading AL rookies, leading the league.  Just to add to the impressive numbers, he’s also got 12 homers and 40 RBI.

The Angels were 6-14 before he got called up and 42-24 afterwards.  There’s too  much talent on that team to think they would continue at a .300 winning percentage all season, but Trout undoubtedly acted as a catalyst.

From what I’ve seen, he’s a lot of fun to watch – I was watching the Angels play the Orioles on TV and saw him steal a homer from J.J. Hardy with a beautiful over-the-wall catch – and he’s doing wonders for both of my fantasy teams.

And on top of all of that, he’s from New Jersey.  It used to be that I had a thing for players who were from Long Island like I am, but given that most American ballplayers come from California or Florida, I’ve come to appreciate anyone who comes from north of the Mason-Dixon line.