Random Card Musings #2 - Breaking Baseball Boxes - 1991 Score

by Drew Pelto, BBM Staff Writer

In a previous, I wrote on a couple of random cards in my collection.  This time, let's go a step further and open a box!

I picked up a few boxes from a Facebook group dedicated to the "junk era" of card collecting-- basically those 1980-1999 years before every product had autographs, serial numbers, or memorabilia cards, but after what we would call vintage. The years where 250,000 was a "limited edition" print run. Often you can find boxes on there for cheap, so I picked up a box each of 1991 Score Series 1 and Series 2, as well as 1989 Topps. Not a bad deal for $29 including shipping.

Now, I can't go as in-depth as I did on the cards of Pete O'Brien and Frank Viola since we're dealing with 36 packs of 16 cards. It's even a bit much to write about one player per pack. So, I'm going to pick one card from 18 packs of each Score series and limit myself to 250 characters on something about them.

Pack 1. Kevin Tapani
Kevin Tapani (photo credit: comc.com)
I am half Finnish, as my dad's grandparents all were born there. So far, I have found only four MLB players in my lifetime who, based on their last names, I believe are of Finnish descent: Jeff Lahti, Will Ohman, Luke Putkonen, and Mr. Kevin Tapani.

2. Brian Downing
I always thought of Brian Downing as the American League Dale Murphy-- a catcher-turned-outfielder who could hit for power and was criminally underrated. Then I looked at their stats and, well, no. Murphy was far better. He just had a shorter prime.

3. Paul O'Neill
I wore #21 in floorball (a street hockey offshoot) partially because of Paul O'Neill, whom my parents saw playing A-level baseball for the 1980s Cedar Rapids Reds. Some people think O'Neill is kind of a jerk. Lots of people think I am too. So it worked.

4. Kevin Wickander
Kevin Wickander went from wearing 53 in red, white, and navy to wearing 170677 in orange. Wickander was Steve Olin's best friend and his death in a 1993 boating accident weighed on Wick for a long time. Eventually a meth addiction put him in prison.

5. Doug Jones
Spoiler alert, you'll see Jones in the series two box as well. Most closers are hard throwers. Jones had speeds of slow, slower, slowest. But this and Charlie Hough's stint as a closer helped bring on the future Boston phrase "closer Tim Wakefield."

6. Todd Zeile
Top player on Baseball-Reference's batting similarity score to Brian Downing? Todd Zeile, yet another catcher-turned-other-position guy. I'm surprised at how many of them I'm remembering from the 80s: Murphy, Downing, Zeile, BJ Surhoff, Craig Biggio.

7. Felix Fermin
In my last column I lamented the Jay Bell for Fermin trade, but really, it goes on much longer. Overall, the Tribe gave Bert Blyleven and Tim Costo for three bad pitchers, a worse outfielder... and the best years of Omar Vizquel. I'd do it all again.

8. Mike Pagliarulo
Pags was the bridge between Graig Nettles and Wade Boggs at the Yankee hot corner. Not a bad gig for a guy who hit .229 in the pinstripes, but in that era that might rank fifth on the team. Can we go back to the Yankees being that horrendous again?

9. Mark Whiten
Who is the only player to have struck out the side in an inning AND had a double-digit RBI game in his career? Unless Scooter Gennett's second relief appearance results in success or Shohei Ohtani gets crazy, the answer is Hard Hittin' Mark Whiten.

10. Jim Poole
Jim was randomly given #62 in Spring Training for the Indians in 1995, a sign that he was likely headed to the minors. Aside from a rehab stint that season he was in the majors until 1998. He kept 62 to remind him how close he was to not being there.

11. Mike Jeffcoat
My favorite "oops" moment of idiotic emails is the one that led to Jeffcoat getting canned from Texas Wesleyan: "We have made a decision to not take a chance on Student-athletes from your state [Colorado]. You can thank your liberal politicians."

12. Omar Vizquel
My favorite 90s Indian came to them for the aforementioned Fermin, who came for Bell, who came for Blyleven, who came for Bob Owchinko, who came for Jerry Mumphrey, who came for Bobby Bonds, who came for Jim Kern, who lives 15 minutes from me.

13. Jeff Manto
On June 15, 1991 I saw Jeff Manto catch an inning of baseball and it led me to an obsession with emergency catchers. He never went behind the plate again after five games in 1991, but was still listed as a catcher-infielder in the 1994 transactions.

14. Lance Parrish
I planned to write about sitting by a bonfire at my grandpa's house, hearing the radio call of Lance hitting into a triple play vs. Detroit in a 1992 game. And then I discovered that no, Parrish wasn't batting or even playing that game. Memory fail.

15. Todd Benzinger
I grew up playing Little League ball in Painesville, OH, and I had a teammate who claimed Benzinger was his uncle. I never was able to prove or disprove it, and I can't remember anything about the kid now anyway. Scott was it? Eh, who knows?

16. Carlos Baerga
Carlos Baerga (photo credit: comc.com)
Why do Indians' middle infielders in my life all experience ridiculous dropoffs from all-star caliber seasons? Check out Baerga post-'95, Vizquel post-'99, Roberto Alomar post-'01, Druubz Cabrera post-'12, Jason Kipnis post-'15. No Lindor, please.

17. Efrain Valdez
With Rafael and Sergio, the pitching trio of the Flying Valdez Brothers, which is funny because they're actually cousins and they did not fly. I also use it to refer to the catching Flying Molina Brothers who also did not fly and aren't all brothers.

18. Lee Stevens
On June 27, 2002, the Indians traded Bartolo Colon (then a svelte 240 pounds) to Montreal for future All-Stars Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips... and a first baseman who hit .222 and was out of baseball less than a year later in Stevens.

Let's move on to Series Two...

Pack 1. Pat Tabler
From 1983 to 1985, Tabler had 22 hits in 35 AB with the bases loaded (.629), plus four walks. Due to this, the 1986 Donruss set labeled him "Mr. Clutch." That season he went 2 for 10. Thanks for that. Much appreciated in our fifth-place finish.

2. Kevin Elster
Earlier I wanted to mention Dave Magadan, just to use the Little Big League "Mags, I'm sure you're a decent human being, but die like a dog" line. But his card got cut from the list. Elster, his '91 Mets teammate, played SS Pat Corning in the movie.

3. Jose Uribe
This is not his 1990 Fleer card, unfortunately, which some enterprising soul has put on eBay priced in the six figures. On the positive side, that has driven some to be sold for a few dollars instead of the pennies that most comparable cards go for.

4. Dave Anderson
In a previous column, I mentioned Dave Anderson had a nothingburger as a player, manager, and coach. Perhaps I was a bit too hard on him because he had a pretty lengthy career. But I reached my limit so I'll have to save that for later. Sorry.

5. Rafael Valdez
Since I enjoy mentioning them any time I can, Rafael was the lone Flying Valdez Brother not to pitch in Cleveland. I admit I cheated here: Rafael was in Series I and Efrain was Series II. Sue me.

6. Cory Snyder
Cory Snyder is my all-time favorite baseball player for reasons I'm still not sure of nearly 30 years later. I have over 200 different cards of him thus proving that I am in severe need of a life. He's now manager of a team in Taiwan.

7. Jose Gonzalez
His 1991 Topps card originally depicted Bill Bean. In '91, Gonzalez hit .111: 0-for-28 as a Dodger, 2-for-20 as a Pirate, and 11-for-81 as an Indian. From 1990-92 Bean didn't play in The Show, and still had a better MLB season.

8. Eddie Williams
Speaking of fungal former Indians, Williams was a sub-.200 hitter in Cleveland who was stuck behind Brook Jacoby at third base. He eventually went on to hit .331 in 1994 with San Diego in a platoon role. One of his teammates? Bill Bean.

9. Mauro Gozzo
Keep rolling with the Fungal Former Friends of Wahoo theme, now with one in a Tribe uni. His nickname did not match Gossage-like hopes. With a 11.27 ERA in Cleveland, 27.00 as a Twin, and 5.30 in his career, you could say... his Goose got cooked.

10. Dan Boone
At the age of 37, Dan Boone finally got on a baseball card. After making his debut in 1981, and pitching into 1982, Boone left baseball for about five years, resurrecting his career as an Orioles knuckleballer in 1990. You too may still have hope!

11. Jerry Browne
The Governor came up in my Pete O'Brien column a while back. I was astonished at how little he was used in the utility role early on: he only played at second until his last year with the Tribe, then did everything but pitch and catch in Oakland.

12. Gerald Alexander
The Rangers fail to learn from rushing a player to the majors. Alexander had a 1.14 ERA combined between rookie, low-A, and high-A in 1989 and 1990, then only lasted 98 major league innings with an ERA of 5.70 from 1990-92. Out of baseball by 1994.

13. Jesse Orosco
In 1988, Peter Gammons said Jesse Orosco was "widely perceived to be over the hill." And then Orosco pitched in the majors for another 15 seasons. The moral of the story is that even the smartest among us can be wrong from time to time.

14. Rick Wrona
Post-Jody Davis young catchers for the Cubs were a black hole of mediocrity. Damon Berryhill, Joe Girardi, Lloyd McClendon, Hector Villanueva, Erik Pappas, Rick Wilkins, Mike Maksudian, Mike Hubbard, Rick Wrona... Oof.

15. Keith Comstock
Sometimes players won't sign a certain card. Comstock has three: the 1991 Topps Cubs error, 1988 Topps with the wrong color team name error, a 1990 minor league one where he's getting hit in the crotch. He did at least sign this Score one for me.

16. Chipper Jones
One of the two biggest rookies in this set now 25+ years down the line. Chipper and Mike Mussina may not have had the popularity of Todd Van Poppel, Rondell White, and Marc Newfield in 1991, but they lasted a lot longer.

17. Mike Lieberthal
And in between those two extremes, Mike Lieberthal was a guy who seemed to play forever in the good-but-not-quite-great category, a two-time All-Star with .300/30/100 potential, but only realized anything close to it once.

18. Doug Jones
Anyone who knows of Jones' arsenal of off-speed pitches knows the flames on the ball on this photo are ridiculous and incorrect. Really, I must defer to Jon Bois on this one. Scroll down mid-page for the entry on this card. (Hyperlink in article to https://www.sbnation.com/2011/4/22/2120676/score-dream-team)

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