Bland photo. Except for the fact that the catcher looks like he was cut out and pasted on, there's nothing much to say.
Ruppert Jones is our second guy in the last few cards who played in Japan. (Mel Hall did, too.) Jones was a decent player and even made two all-star teams. He had some power (24 homers in '77), some speed (33 SB in '79) and was a full-time center fielder for a few years. He was pretty inconsistent from year to year, at least in terms of batting average, which is probably why he couldn't stick with a team for long (6 teams in 12 seasons).
Quick, hold your tongue and say, "Keith Atherton." Sounds like "Keiss Asserton" doesn't it? Keith must have known that joke. With a 'stache like that, you gotta have a good sense of humor, right? Plus, what is going on with that cap? He's wearing that thing like a stovepipe hat. Maybe that's John Wilkes Booth in the background about to jump up and yell, "Thic themper tyrannis!"
Atherton was quite a middling middle reliever throughout his 7-season career. He had a great rookie season (as many relievers do) but then hitters figured him out and he settled into years of mediocrity, finishing with a 101 ERA+. He did contribute to the '87 World Series season for the Twins, but was pretty much a nonfactor in the postseason. He pitched the 9th in a 10-1 blowout victory in game one and then gave up 1 run in only a third of an inning in a 4-2 loss in game, getting called for a balk in the process.
Not much to say about this card. Boring, and slightly peculiar shot, nothing interesting going on in the background. Even Mel's name is boring. That said, Hall is one of those *somewhat* obscure players I'll never forget, mostly because he is inextricably tied to a period of Yankee futility. (He played for the Bombers from '89-'92, a time when they never finished better than 4th in the AL East.) He's a perfect example of what was wrong with those Yankee teams. He was paid like a star but the only place he produced like one was in his own head.
Plus, he was a colossal idiot. I've heard/read a bunch of stories similar to those chronicling his torture of Bernie Williams, who, by most accounts is a pretty decent guy. And let's not even mention the allegations of sexual assault.
I'm not trying to associate his assholedness solely with the Yankees, he did play for the Cubs and Indians (and the Giants for bit after he came back from Japan), but I remember him mostly as a Yankee.
There's not much visually separating Dave Smith from a BP pitcher chosen to throw in the Home Run Derby here. Grey hair, protruding gut, toneless arms...
However, Dave Smith was actually a damn fine reliever. He started out is career with a bang, coming out of the pen to throw 102 innings and finish with an ERA of 1.93. Somehow that earned him only a 5th place finish in the NL ROY voting, losing out to Steve Howe (druggie), Bill Gullickson (so-so career), Lonnie Smith (druggie) and Ron Oester (I have nothing to say about Ron Oester). Smith averaged around 60-75 innings per year and finished his career with a 2.67 ERA (129 ERA+). All in all, he was a very valuable reliever for some competitive Astros teams.
Geez, I thought Willie McGee was the only guy who constantly looked like he was undergoing a rectal exam. Harper looks pained here. And check out the guy in the dugout, bottom right. He's either wearing a very large hat or has some crazy hair. Or both.
I don't have much recollection of Harper, for good reason. He played all but 31 games of his 8-season career with not-so-good Braves teams, and he was a regular only once, getting nearly 500 ABs in '85. That year he was right around the league average, hitting .264 with 17 homers and 74 RBI for a 100 OPS+. Problem was, he didn't walk enough, struck out too much and didn't have the power you want in a corner outfielder. Which is why he didn't play much.
OK, at some point over the last few years I lost Wally Backman. I don't know how, I know I had him, but for now at least, he's missing. So I had to find a photo of the card and post it here. I'm pretty pissed that I lost it, which is one reason I held off so long in posting this (the other reason being that I spent a lot of time looking for the card), but here we go.
Aside from the fact that Wally looks like he's about to me smashed on the shoulder by someone who looks whiter than Tony Pena (anyone?), this is a great action shot. I love all the dirt kicked up by Backman's slide, the look on his face and the eyeblack. Very nice.
Wally Backman fit the profile of your classic 1980's utility infielder. Solid D, no bat. His best season came for the '86 Mets when he hit .320 in 387 ABs, playing a big part in their World Series season. Over the course of his career, he absolutely destroyed Rick Mahler. In 49 ABs, he hit .510 off him!
Welcome to the '87 Topps blog, a card-by-card look at my first and favorite baseball card set. I'll be scanning in each card and commenting on, well, whatever I feel like. The photo, the stats, any weird memories of the player I have, etc. Enjoy!
Oh, and if you haven't seen it, check out the definitive card-by-card blog here. -BloggerDK