Monday, September 30, 2013

Number 163 here we come.

I had the 2013 Texas Rangers dead, buried, and mourned for in my mind. Then over the past week they played at a level not reached this season. That didn't phase me though, I already concluded they were too far gone to be saved.

Yesterday afternoon they proved me wrong. With a little help from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rangers are headed for game 163 of the 2013 season tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays.

When the final pitch was thrown yesterday you can bet I looked like Cecil Espy on card 502 of the 1990 Bowman set. Well, except for the necklace. And mustache. And hair color. And I wasn't in a ballpark. Ok, I was wearing a Rangers cap and shirt and smiling just as big as he is here.

I am incredibly thrilled to see Texas raised from the dead with a renewed shot at the post-season. I would have danced a jig with Spiff Jr had my back not been out.

Now it's the day after. Game 163 looms large as the final couple of hours before game time tick away. Spiff Jr's got ball practice tonight so I'm going to miss the first part of the game. Hopefully I miss the early Rangers scoring and Martin Perez shutting down the Rays.

Hopefully. Still can't completely shake the nervous thought that the team might not make it past game 163. Not sure I've seen a card that looks like I feel right now.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Picture imperfect.

If I was Jurickson Profar I would be pretty irritated. After all, your team's playing do-or-die every day and does their dead level best to lose last night's game to the Traveling Angels. Up comes Profar to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied. He hammers a walk-off home run on the third pitch he saw. That's great. What's irritating is that Blogger won't allow me to add a scan to this post. That means Profar misses out on his card being featured. That would be enough to irritate me if I were him.

Also getting the raw end of the Blogger deal is Night Owl. The card I was going to feature came out of a package of Rangers I received from him a couple of days ago. No picture means you can't admire Owl's generosity. Of course that's off set by the fact that he's helped out a lot of folks so chances are you've already seen the results of his awesome mailings.

So anyway, thanks Jurickson for the win. Thanks Night Owl for the cards. Hopefully I'll be able to thank Blogger in the near future for fixing the picture upload problem.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keeping pace.

After the blow-out win the night before last, Texas won a close one over Houston last night.

Starter Yu Darvish showed his recent inconsistency by giving the Astros a one run lead in the top of the first. Texas tied to game with a run in the fourth and took the lead with another in the fifth.

In a now familiar pattern, Darvish coughed up a home run to Houston third baseman Matt Dominguez in the top of the fifth to tie the game. That was it for Yu. In came Neal Cotts. Cotts and fellow relievers Tanner Scheppers, Jason Frasor, and Joe Nathan held the Astros scoreless. for the rest of the game.

In the bottom of the fifth Adrian Beltre, shown here on card DDC-41 of the 2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut set, hammered a solo home run to give Texas a one run lead. That's all they needed with the bullpen's stellar performance.

Nice to see the team winning. Really wish they could have done it while defending either first place or a Wild Card spot. Now they're on the outside looking in and hoping for a stumble from the leaders. Both Tampa Bay and Cleveland won last night. The Texas victory keeps them from losing ground but they're still a game behind the Tribe and two behind the Devil Rays.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dutch cooks, Rios cycles.

Well, Derek Holland took the mound last night with the Rangers 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot and hope ebbing fast. The Astros are in town but Texas does not play another contender for the rest of the way. They are going to have to keep winning and hope for either Cleveland or Tampa Bay to stumble.

Holland, shown here on card number 64 of the 2012 Topps Archives set, lived up to his potential. Yes, it was against Houston late in the season. It was also a complete game six-hit shutout in which Dutch struck out nine. Astros or not, that's still a very nice outing.

Unlike in recent days, the offense backed up a good performance by the pitching staff. Scoring two runs in the first, one in the second, four in the third, two in the fourth and three in the sixth; the bats put 12 total runs on the board.

Amazingly, Alex Rios was the only Ranger to hit a home run. He did so in the fourth inning while en route to a 4-for-4 cycle. Any time a Ranger hits for the cycle I can't help but think of Oddibe McDowell, the first player in franchise history to hit for the cycle.

The good news coming from last night is that Texas picked up half a game on an idle Cleveland club. Now only a game out, it is not beyond the realm of possibility they could climb back into the Wild Card chase. Not likely but but not completely out of the question. Can't decide if I should get my hopes up again or not.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Minor League Monday - Bryan Gore, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Bryan Gore, shown here on card number 8 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set, was selected by Texas in the 22nd round of the 1989 draft. 22 years old at the time he was drafted, Gore might be considered a little old to be starting a pro baseball career but he was a left-hander and so entitled to an extra look.

Gore performed acceptably at Single A Gastonia in 1989 and earned a promotion to A+ Charlotte for the 1990 season.

Bryan appeared in 23 games for Charlotte in 1990. 15 of those appearances were starts. He ended the season with a 9-4 record. In 111 innings he compiled a 2.19 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP. He struck out 60 opposing batters while walking 29.

Left handed or not, those were some pretty good numbers for a 22nd round pick. Bryan Gore was certainly making the best of his chance. 1991 would see him promoted to Double A Tulsa.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Senators Saturday - Mickey Vernon, 1963.

1963 was Mickey Vernon's third season of managing the Washington Senators. Vernon, shown here on card 402 of the 1963 Topps set, had been a popular player with the old Senators. It was hoped his popularity would help the new franchise at the gate. It didn't seem to.

Mickey had a more serious problem though. In spite of a dizzying array of trades and other roster moves, the team had not finished over .400 for the first two seasons of their existence. That was probably due mostly to the players on the roster but everyone knows it's easier to fire a manger than the players. Vernon needed to guide the team to some significant improvement in 1963 in order to keep his job.

That didn't happen. 40 games into the season, the Senators' record stood at 14-26. Clearly they were on course for another dismal season. That was it. Vernon was fired on May 22, 1963 and replaced by coach Eddie Yost.

Yost managed the team to one loss in his only game at the helm. On May 23, 1963 Washington traded Jim Piersall to the New York Mets for Gil Hodges. Hodges immediately took over as manager. That's got to be one of the most unusual ways of finding a replacement manager that I can recall.

For Mickey Vernon, his Major League managing career was over. In two plus seasons with Washington he compiled a 135-227 record. He would coach again in the Majors but not manage. Perhaps that was a relief for him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rallying against the Rays.

It feels really good to be able to write about a Rangers win for the second time in three days. Maybe the team has remembered how to come out on top.

Yu Darvish took the mound last night for Texas in St. Petersburg as they took on the Rays. Lately Yu's appearances have meant low scoring losses for the Rangers. Last night was different though as it was Yu who was struggling, not the offense. Darvish clawed his way through five innings before Ron Washington turned the game over to the bullpen. In spite of not having his best stuff, Darvish managed to give up just two runs to Tampa Bay. That's all they would get.

Meanwhile, Texas opened the scoring with a run in the first. In the third Mitch Moreland led off with a solo home run to tie the game. Rays starter Matt Moore got Ian Kinsler and that brought up Elvis Andrus, shown here on 2010 Topps Chrome Orange Refractor #87. Elvis followed Moreland's example and hammered a shot into the bleachers. Just his fourth long ball of the season and the second of the series. Good time for the power-lacking shortstop to find his home run swing. Alex Rios followed Andrus to the plate and also went deep.

Moore coughed up two more runs in the fourth but made it through the inning. Both of those runs scored on an infield single by Andrus. That was enough for Rays manager Joe Maddon. He didn't let Moore go back out for the fifth. The Rays bullpen took over with the score 6-2 in Texas' favor.

While the Rangers pen was perfect, the Rays did manage to slow down the Texas offensive onslaught. One run in the seventh and a Geovany Soto solo homer in the ninth rounded out the Rangers scoring. Final: 8-2 Texas.

This victory could prove to be crucial. It puts the Rangers back in a tie for the first Wildcard spot. In the event of a Wildcard tie with the Rays it will give them home field advantage because they won the season series between the teams. Hopefully it's also the sign of life the team needs going into the final sprint to the finish.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Odd Moments: #36-#40.

Ok, so I was looking at T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Strange and Bizarre Moments in Rangers History and realized I have been working my way through this list for a little over two years. Way too long. Going to step up the pace and do group posts unless something really strange pops up.

#36 The Kennedy Explosion - T.R. does not give an exact date for this incident but Kevin Kennedy managed for Texas in 1993 and 1994. After the team blew a 5-1 lead and lost to the Twins 7-5 Kennedy launched a profanity laced tirade in the visiting clubhouse that echoed through the Metrodome. The highlight of the outburst was when he smashed a mirror with a hot baked potato.

#37 Ryan Tossed - August 6, 1992. Nolan Ryan was pitching a great game against the A's when he hit Willie Wilson in the top of the eighth. The two exchanged words earlier in the game. Home plate Umpire Richie Garcia ejected Ryan and the crowd went nuts. The game was delayed by 30 minutes due to debris being thrown on the field.

#38 Tarp Slide - If you've been following the Rangers for the past few years you probably remember the rain delay at Shea Stadium in 2008. Several Rangers including Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler ran out of the clubhouse and used the infield rain tarp as a slip and slide.

#39 One Man Boycott - Juan Gonzalez, reigning American League MVP, boycotted the 1999 All-Star Game after failing to be elected to a starting spot in the outfield.

#40 Oscar Acosta - I don't remember this guy at all. He was fired as pitching coach after only a couple of months in 2002. He told a newspaper he had nobody on the Rangers coaching staff to talk baseball with. That was the final straw.

Some unusual stuff there for sure. About the only thing it has to do with the 2001 Upper Deck Game Jersey card at the top of the post is that Ivan Rodriguez witnessed several of the incidents. Just didn't have a more appropriate game-used or autographed card to go along with the post.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Rangers win! Finally! After seven losses and the likely permanent loss of first in the American League West, the team breaks the losing streak.

Ian Kinsler gave the Rangers their first lead in seven games when he hammered the first pitch of the ball game into the bleachers at Tropicana Field. Texas never looked back.

Alexi Ogando held the one-run lead until the offense added four more runs in the third. Another in the fifth and one more in the ninth accounted for the 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. That brings both teams back into a tie for the American League Wild Card.

Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, shown here on card 153 of the 2012 Bowman set, accounted for six of the seven Rangers RBI with Leonys Martin grabbing the seventh one on his solo shot homer in the ninth inning.

Elvis gets the card of the day though in recognition of his two-run blast in the third - just his third home run of the year. Kind ironic for a hitter known for his speed rather than power to launch one in the notoriously hitter-hostile dome.

Very glad to finally see a win again. Of course Oakland also won and Texas is still 6.5 games out of first. Getting the West title is not going to happen barring a miracle. From that perspective the win is too little too late. What they are playing for now is home-field advantage in the one-game Wild Card playoff. Maybe last night's game will light a spark that carries them through that game and into the Division Series.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1977 Topps - Jeff Burroughs.

Perhaps it is fitting that Jeff Burroughs appears hatless and without his jersey clearly visible on card 55 of the 1977 Topps set. After all, by the time this card was emerging from packs, Burroughs was no longer a Texas Ranger.

Continued power decline in 1976 led Texas to conclude that Jeff Burroughs was not the Rangers right-fielder of the future. Management was looking to make a move and Jeff's apparently deteriorating skills with the bat made him expendable.

On December 9, 1976 Texas traded Burroughs to the Atlanta Braves for Ken Henderson, Roger Moret, Adrian Devine, Dave May, Carl Morton, and $250,000.

The change of scenery proved beneficial for Burrroughs as he hammered 41 home runs in 1977 for the Braves. That probably turned a few faces red in the Rangers front office.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Senators Saturday - Ed Hobaugh, 1963.

Spiff Jr has a ballgame today and that's going to take up most of my time before work. That means you'll have to settle for a pre-scheduled post, even if the Rangers managed to win last night for the first time in a long stretch.

Ed Hobaugh appears here on card 423 of the 1963 Topps set. Ed sure seems like he's happy about something. Whatever it is, it isn't his on-field performance.

After a somewhat mediocre year in 1962 Hobaugh was trying to stick in the Washington bullpen in 1963. That turned out to be an elusive goal.

Ed got into just nine games for the Senators in 1963, only one was a start. He got no wins and no losses for his 16 innings pitched. What he did get was an atrocious 6.19 ERA and 1.625 WHIP.

Those were bad numbers, even for the Senators. Hobaugh spent most of the season at Triple A. Interestingly, he played in the St. Louis, Baltimore, and Milwaukee systems without ever leaving the Senators organization. Not sure if the Washington minor league system was still in flux or what.

Between all three teams in the minors Ed made 10 starts and 32 appearances total. Over 105 innings pitched he posted a 6-7 record to go along with his 4.11 ERA and 1.229 WHIP.

1963 had been a huge disappointment for Ed Hobaugh and undoubtedly for the Senators. It was apparent Ed was not going to develop any time soon into a serviceable Major League pitcher. In June of 1964 Washington sent Hobaugh to the White Sox after he spent the first part of the season in the minors. I haven't been able to find the transaction details so I'm not certain what the Senators received in return. What is certain is that Ed Hobaugh never pitched in another Major League game after 1963.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Finding a card shop.

Being just recently moved, I have been on the lookout for a good local card shop. Checking the mighty Internet yielded nothing closer than about half an hour's drive away. With the price of gas I am hesitant to drive such a distance for the sole purpose of checking out an unknown card shop.

To the rescue came Tom over at The Angels, In Order. Tom mentioned in a post how well he was treated at the card shop he frequents. A quick request for details pointed me to Duane's Sportscards.

Duane's had actually shown up on my previous searches but was out of my range for a blind try. Armed with Tom's endorsement I felt I could justify the gas and time to make the trek. That decided, I headed out Monday morning.

All I can say is that it was great and well worth the drive. Apparently there are four dealers in Duane's with only one being there most of the time. The dealers do sell each others cards though so that isn't a problem. The thing to remember is to check each dealer's area since they may have similar boxes (i.e. Rangers quarter box). All four are very well organized and everything is tagged.

After filling some holes in my Senators collection I spent some time looking around. Thumbing through a Rangers quarter box I found several cards I could use including this 1993 Studio Rafael Palmeiro. Card number 185 in the set, it was also the last card I needed to complete my team set. I probably spent too much but I haven't been to a shop in some time and am not buying packs because I don't have any more space for non-Ranger cards.

All in all I'm going to give Duane's two thumbs up. Well organized. Prices marked. Large selection of vintage. All excellent things to find in a card shop. Couple that with the dealer who was there knowing who Jon Matlack was and I'll definitely be returning. Thanks for the recommendation Tom!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best Seasons: Jeff Russell - 1989.

Time for number 28 on T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Seasons in Rangers history. Today we take a look at Jeff Russell's 1989 effort.

Russell, shown here on a signed 1988 Fleer card, had been named to the All-Star game in 1988 while in the Rangers starting rotation. In 1989 he was moved to the back end of the bullpen and became the team's closer.

In 72.2 innings over 71 appearances Jeff compiled a 1.98 ERA and a 0.950 WHIP. Both were best on the team that year. He led the league in games finished with 66 and in saves with 38.

After bouncing back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen it looked like Jeff Russell had found a role that suited him. He was named to the All-Star team as a closer just a year after making the team as a starter. He also received some consideration for the Cy Young award.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

1977 Topps - Nelson Briles.

Nelson Briles, shown here on card 174 of the 1977 Topps set, was coming off a good 1976 season entering the 1977 campaign. If he could keep the recaptured fire would be the big question.

Unfortunately, the answer to that big question was a "no". Slipping from number two in the Texas rotation, Briles filled the number five starter/swingman role in 1977. He appeared in 28 games for Texas, starting just 15 of them.

Over the 108.1 innings Nellie pitched he logged a 4.24 ERA and a 1.329 WHIP. In spite of those numbers he ended up with a 6-4 record.

By now it was painfully clear that Nelson Briles wasn't able to maintain his success from 1976. That made him expendable. On September 19, 1977 Texas sold his contract to the Orioles. The man who once filled in for Bob Gibson in the heat of a pennant race was no longer a Ranger.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Quick auto.

Going through some schedule changes at work so things have gotten pretty hectic over the past few days. Should slow down a bit in the next couple of days.

Since I am running short on time I will leave you with this signed 1987 Donruss Charlie Hough card. This was a TTM success back in the early 1990's during my first bout of through the mail attempts. Can't begin to say how much it meant for Mr. Hough to sign and return this.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

1977 Topps - Tommy Boggs.

Son of an IBM executive, Tommy Boggs was the Rangers first round draft pick in 1974 and the second player taken nationwide. He had a trial by fire in his first Major League action in 1976 but showed some promise. 1977 was the season the franchise was hoping Boggs would deliver on his potential.

1977 was a rough year for Tommy Boggs, shown here on card 328 of the 1977 Topps set. He got just a brief cup of coffee with the Rangers. In six games, all starts, he went 0-3. In 27.1 innings he posted a 5.93 ERA and a 1.902 WHIP.

As bad as those numbers were, they were an improvement over the rest of Bogg's season. He spent most of the 1977 campaign with the Rangers Triple A affiliate, the Tucson Toros. He appeared in 22 games for the Toros, all but two as the starting pitcher. Over 97 torturous innings his ERA tallied to 8.54 and his WHIP to 2.206. His 5-10 record seems to be more of a credit to his teammates rather than an indication of a lack of run support.

Ugly. That is probably the best word to describe 1977 for Tommy Boggs. While the Rangers were enjoying a breakthrough season he was suffering a severe setback in his career. The silver lining was his draft ranking. Being a number one pick he was unlikely to be banished to Triple A permanently. He would get a few more chances. Tommy needed to figure out what went wrong in 1977 and be ready for the next roster opening in Arlington.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Minor League Monday - Jeff Frye, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Been a long time since a minor league post. Looks like it's up to Jeff Frye on card 7 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers set to end the slump.

Jeff looks small in the photo on this card and he is, for a pro ball player. The back of this card lists him at 5-6 and 165 pounds. For some reason that seems fitting for a middle infielder named Frye At least steroids weren't a concern.

The Rangers took Jeff in the 30th round of the 1988 draft. By the start of the 1990 season he had two seasons of minor league ball under his belt. A+ Charlotte would be his third level up of play.

Frye turned out to be the iron man of the Charlotte Rangers, appearing in 131 of the 138 games the team played. That was the most of any player on the roster. Jeff also led the team in plate appearances with 596. In those appearances he tallied a .272 batting average and a .372 on-base percentage. Significantly for a minor league player without much experience, he drew 80 walks. As you might suspect, Frye was not a power hitter. He hit no home runs, 16 doubles, and 7 triples. The triples, and perhaps some of the doubles, were likely more a result of Jeff's speed than power. He stole 29 bases while getting caught just six times.

Minor league fielding stats are not as complete as the Majors. Looks like Frye played in 129 games at second for Charlotte, that's the only position he played. In 615 chances he committed 13 errors for a 979 fielding percentage.

Apparently Jeff Frye wasn't going to let his late draft slot determine his future. He was making progress every season he played. He still needed to work on his defense but his bat and plate discipline were holding steady. 1990 would see him heading to AA with the Tulsa Drillers.