Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't call it a comeback

I was torn between this reference and an "I can't quit you" one. I think L.L. Cool J is more appropriate.

I'm not giving up on cards yet. I just had to find something that appealed to me and was within my financial means. For the most part I think I found that.

However, what I'm doing is a secret. Well, the reasons why are.

Seventy-nine players in professional baseball history have accomplished a certain feat. An eightieth should do it this year. My objective is to have an autographed card of all those players. I'm going to put up a photo gallery in the "Things I Have Stashed Online" section over on the left sidebar (probably won't be until next week when there will be more than one photo). For the most part, I'm going to try and acquire the autographs through the mail (TTM). Unfortunately, about a third of the players are deceased so those I will have to get in some other fashion. There are two Hall of Famers in the group, one deceased.

The first player is Lee Stevens. Mr. Stevens signed a couple cards for me through the mail a couple of years ago and answered some questions for me and by doing so exposed my ignorance. I had commented that the Angels were a bunch of buffoons for selling him and Bobby Rose (one of my all-time favorite players (and not a member of this group)) to Japan. Stevens commented that it was his choice to go to Japan for the opportunity to play.

Stevens was the first round pick of the Angels back in 1986. He was drafted out of Lawrence High School in Kansas, Lawrence also being where the previously mentioned baseball analyst Bill James lives. Stevens blew through the Angels farm system and reached the majors at age 22 but couldn't keep a regular job. The Angels traded him to the Montreal Expos during the winter of the 1993 season. The Expos released him right before opening day and the Blue Jays picked him up. Stevens spent the 1993 season in Syracuse.

Teams couldn't quit Lee. A free agent after the 1993 season, the Angels welcomed back into the fold...for three weeks. He was then sold to the Kintetsu Buffaloes where he played for two seasons. He had a pair of 20 home run seasons overseas but returned to the United States in 1996 to join the Texas Rangers. He had a cup of coffee with the big league club that year but then became a regular at first base and designated hitter. The Expos came calling again in 2000 with a swap of first basemen. The Expos sent Brad Fullmer to the Blue Jays, the Jays moved David Segui to the Rangers and Stevens went to Montreal.

In 2002, Stevens was part of a blockbuster trade. The Expos, in the midst of a pennant race, acquired the Cleveland Indians stud pitcher Bartolo Colon who came over to Montreal with young pitcher Tim Drew for Stevens, and prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore. Stevens, who had been struggling, did not improve upon switching leagues. He caught on with the Brewers and played at Indianapolis in 2003 before being released at age 35.

Interestingly, of Stevens's top ten comparable players, three of them are among the group of 79.

I'm not real happy with what I wrote. I'm trying to figure out a way to present info without tipping my hand as to what I'm doing.

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