As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, I ended 2013 by sharing 50 of my favorite pictures from my life in baseball, so I figured it would be appropriate to end the summer by sharing 100 of my favorite baseball cards. Part 2 features 50 of from the National League.
Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments section or tweet me at @danielfford!
1. Al Oliver
I have a strange love for the Montreal Expos, which only grew after reading Jonah Keri’s excellent Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos. Oliver only played two years in Montreal, but won the National League batting and RBI titles in 1982 by hitting .331 (which included 204 hits!) and driving in 109 runs. He finished his career with 2,743 hits and a .303 lifetime batting average. His mug in this baseball card clearly states, “I’m a hitter.”
2. Dennis Martinez
Martinez arguably has one of the greatest nicknames in baseball history: "El Presidente." The defining moment of his presidency was his perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 28, 1991.
3. Pedro Martinez
Sadly, this is not the last time you’ll see Pedro on this list. If it weren’t for his time on the Boston Red Sox, Pedro would have been one of my favorite players. It was hard not to admire what he did on the mound no matter what uniform he was wearing (I’ll never forget him mowing down the National League’s steroid-enhanced behemoths during the All-Star game in 1999 at Fenway Park). Personally, he looks the best in an Expos jersey.
4. Spike Owen
It is my sincere hope that Owen is pointing and laughing at something wholly inappropriate.
5. Andruw Jones
I’ll remember the 1996 World Series for several reasons. One is seeing my father jump off the couch when Charlies Hayes caught the final out, giving my favorite team its first World Series victory since 1978. The other is getting to stay up past my bedtime to watch Game 1. Jones’ two home runs (as a 19-year-old!) were my first real experiences with a gut-wrenching sports moments. But it was hard to hate him too much because of the mega-watt smile he flashed after each one.
I enjoyed following his subsequent career, even his fat, out-of-shape, paycheck-cashing final years with the Yankees.
6. Tom Glavine
If you were a baseball fan in the 1990s, it was hard not to respect the Atlanta Braves dominance of the decade. It started with the team’s pitching staff, Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz. Out of the three, Glavine probably had the best steely look in his eyes while on the mound (although Smoltz does give him a run for the money).
7. John Smoltz
Speaking of Smoltz, I’ll never forget him saying after the 1996 World Series that his Game 5 loss to Andy Pettitte was one of the best games he ever pitched. Because of my earlier bedtime, I was forced to listen to that game on the radio. I think I held my breath right up to the moment a gimpy Paul O’Neill tracked down the final out.
8. Otis Nixon
One of the ugliest men to ever play baseball.
9. Bobby Cox
Twenty-nine years as a manager with 2,504 wins kind of says it all doesn’t it?
10. Chipper Jones
Another one of my “Big Show” cards. I liked Chipper Jones for two reasons: 1. He tortured the New York Mets; and 2. He wore his socks high earlier in his career.
11. Mike LaValliere
It’s Hardball Heart policy to include any baseball card that features fat, smiling catchers.
12. Bobby Bonilla
I’m pretty sure that this baseball card is still collecting checks from some Major League team.
13. Denny Neagle
Not the best New York Yankee…
14. Steve Finley
I remember Finley more for his play on the Padres and Angels, but I love these Houston Astros throwback uniforms.
15. Craig Biggio
The Astros were big in the 1990s and early 2000s thanks in large part to The Killer B’s (Biggio, Derek Bell, and the upcoming Jeff Bagwell). I also have an affinity for Biggio because he played for St. John’s University Baseball coach Ed Blankmeyer at Seton Hall.
16. Jeff Bagwell
Put this man in the Hall of Fame. Ridiculous he’s had to wait this long. I could watch him hit a baseball all day.
17. Fred McGriff
I saw McGriff in person once during one of my trips with St. John’s Baseball (might have been an NCAA tournament game, but I honestly can’t remember). As you might expect, he is a large human being.
18. Gary Sheffield
No one swung with more ferocity than Sheffield.
19. Mike Maddux
May not have been as good as his brother Greg, but Mike Maddux had a Hall of Fame-caliber mustache.
20./21. Tony Gwynn
You can never have enough Tony Gwynn baseball cards in my opinion. Gone much, much too soon.
22. Raul Mondesi
23. Mike Piazza
My favorite New York Met. This may be the most important home run in New York baseball history.
24. Pedro Martinez
Pedro looks all wrong in Dodger blue. However, he did win 10 games for Los Angeles in 1993 (his second year in the big leagues).
25. Darryl Strawberry
Strawberry looks even more out of place in a Dodgers uniform. Despite his more than 300 career home runs, Strawberry is probably best known for his cameo on “The Simpsons.”
26. Orel Hershiser
He may have looked awkward and gangly, but this guy was a winner.
27. Jackie Robinson
The definition of strength, class, and courage.
28. Ozzie Canseco
Heh, Ozzie Canseco was a baseball player (but only for 65 at-bats).
29. Ozzie Smith
“Ozzie Smith is ready for the flip!”
30. Ray Lankford
I have three or four cards of Ray Lankford. I’m not sure why. But here he is.
31. Bud Black
Black is wearing a terrific throwback New York Giants uniform.
32. Dave Righetti
Pretty sure my mother would still leave my father for present day Righetti. And I think he would understand.
33. Matt Williams
This man may be the most serious guy in the game, but he could hit back in the day and we’re finding out he can manage. I look forward to see Williams’ scowl lead the Washington Nationals into the playoffs.
34. Barry Larkin
Larkin’s 1995 National League MVP stats are pretty damn good. He batted .319, with 158 hits, 51 steals, and only 49 strikeouts.
35. Bip Roberts
One of my all-time favorite baseball names.
36. Paul O’Neill
It’s shame I don’t have a card of favorite New York Yankee in pinstripes. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy O’Neill’s commentary in the television booth (which is usually at Michael Kay’s expense).
37. Lou Piniella
38. Curt Schilling
Can’t run a company, but he could sure throw a baseball (2004 still hurts).
39. Mike Schmidt
Dark maroon and baby blue shouldn’t work so well on a uniform. But it does and I love it.
40. Lenny Dykstra
I will refrain from jokes now that Dykstra is out of prison.
41. Jay Baller
I think it’s a law that anyone with the last name “Baller” has to wear a mullet.
42. Vinny Castillo
Getting a Colorado Rockies card as a kid was so cool. I was a big fan of all their big hitters.
43. Dante Bichette
What can I say, the early 1990s were a simpler time.
44. Edgar Renteria
I really liked the way Renteria played the game. I was an even bigger fan of the Florida Marlins’ past uniform.
45. Robb Nen
Nen looks like he is about to throw than baseball through a 18-wheeler.
46. Joe Girardi
I feel for Girardi after being handed these recent subpar New York Yankees teams. The players play hard for him though and he squeezes every ounce of talent out of them. His triple in the 1996 World Series caused my father to hit his head on the ceiling (not really, but he was pretty excited). And I think Joe might be in better shape now than he was in this picture.
47. Sammy Sosa
Bet you didn’t think you’d ever see a baseball card featuring Sammy Sosa laying down a bunt, huh?
48. George Bell
Can you imagine George Bell barreling into you at third base? Me either. Frightening.
49. Ryne Sandberg
Sandberg made this list because he was the National League MVP the year I was born (1984)! Some highlights: 200 hits, 114 runs, .314 batting average, and 19 triples.
50. Greg Maddux
Not your best smile Greg.
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