Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Red Sox With No Cards: 1995

1995 is where things got really out of hand.  Card companies were no longer interested in producing large sets with lots of players represented.  Inserts became the primary focus and including as many cards as possible of the superstars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.  Topps cut the size of the Red Sox team set by a third from 1994 to 1995, and most other sets followed suit as well.  It did not help that the Red Sox made almost daily transactions.  A number of players were called up that only spent a few games with the Red Sox.  So there were a large number of players who never got a card produced of them with the Red Sox.  Some were long-time Major Leaguers making a brief stop in Boston, others were players who played very little.  The one thing they all had in common: no Major League card with the Boston Red Sox.

The Major League career of Brian Bark consisted of just three games pitched with the Red Sox in 1995.  Bark had come up through the Braves system, as shown by the minor league card shown, but he was released in early June of 1995 and picked up by the Red Sox.  The left-hander made his Major League debut in July and pitched in two games before being sent back down.  He was recalled in September but only pitched in one game.  All told, his career numbers were 2.1 innings, with just one walk and a 0.00 ERA.  He never made it back to the Majors after 1995.

There was a time when Juan Bell was expected to step in and move Cal Ripken Jr. off of the shortstop position in Baltimore.  That of course did not happen.  The younger brother of former Blue Jays slugger George Bell bounced from team to team for a few years until landing in Boston in 1995.  Just 27 years old, he only made it into 17 games in his final Major League season.  He did hit a home run, but managed just three other hits in 29 plate appearances.  He played every infield position except first base.  Bell did spend the 1996 season in Boston's system but did not make it back to the Majors with any other team after 1995.  Bell does have a couple of cards with the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Chris Donnels managed to play in 35+ games every year in the Majors from 1991 through 1995.  He just never quite found a way to stick.  Donnels played almost every infield position with the Mets and Astros until he was sent to Boston in 1995 after playing in 19 games with Houston.  Donnels could hit a little bit, contributing a .253/.317/.385 line with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 40 games for Boston.  He even hit a home run in the final game of the season, which would prove to be his last Major League home run until he returned to the Majors from Japan in 2000.

As a left-handed reliever, Eric Gunderson was brought in to Boston for one thing: to get lefties out.  Gunderson played only a handful of games each season until 1995.  But in 1995, he was given a chance to be a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.  He was successful with the Mets at the beginning of the season with a 3.70 ERA in 30 games before being placed on waivers.  He was picked up by Seattle, put on waivers again, and Boston snagged him.  He made it into 19 games down the stretch, but his ERA ballooned to 5.11 and he walked as many as he struck out.  Gunderson made it back to Boston in 1996, and will be featured in one of these posts again.  It was not until he joined Texas in 1997 that he re-emerged as a good lefty out of the pen.

Mike Hartley was a somewhat successful bullpen arm for a few years with the Dodgers, Phillies, and Twins who spent a year in Japan in 1994.  He came back to the U.S. with the Red Sox in 1995 but only pitched in five games with the Major League team and spending most of the year in Pawtucket before being released and picked up by Baltimore.  He pitched only seven innings, gave up seven runs, and only walked and struck out two.  Hartley does have a Minor League card in the Red Sox system.

Here is a former All Star who slipped by unnoticed by card companies with the Red Sox.  Dave Hollins was the starting third-baseman for the Phillies team that made it to the World Series in 1993.  He was an All Star that season and looked like a star for years to come.  Unfortunately injuries set in and Hollins was rarely healthy in 1994 and 1995.  In July, the underachieving Hollins was traded to Boston for the similarly struggling Mark Whiten in a challenge trade.  Philadelphia won.  Whiten rediscovered how to hit while Hollins played in just five games due to continuing injury problems.  He had just two hits in 17 at-bats and left after the season to join the Twins.  He resurrected his career in Minnesota and played for several more seasons and in 1996 he was traded from the Twins to the Mariners for some guy named David Arias, who later became known as David Ortiz.  Yes, that David Ortiz.

One of the more aggravating snubs is Joe Hudson because he actually appeared in three seasons with the Red Sox and was a reasonably successful reliever at times.  Hudson came up through the Red Sox minor league system and actually has multiple minor league cards over several seasons.  He also has a postcard with the Major League team in a team-issued set, but that does not qualify.  Hudson made his Major League debut with the Red Sox in 1995 and pitched in 39 games with a 4.11 ERA.  He was 0-1 with a save and struck out 29 while walking 23 in 46 innings.  He will be covered again.

Chris James is another long-time Major Leaguer who spent a brief amount of time with the Boston Red Sox that was not documented by card companies.  James was once considered a rising star with the Phillies and had a very successful rookie season with the Phillies in 1987.  He was part of the trade that sent Sandy Alomar Jr. from the Padres to the Indians for Joe Carter.  In 1995, James started the season with the Royals.  In August he was traded to the Red Sox in exchange for Wes Chamberlain.  James played in 16 games down the stretch, but only hit .167/.200/.208.  It was his final Major League season.

After a fairly successful season with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1993 at the age of 26, Johnston looked like he could have been a good reliever for a long time.  He had come up through the Royals system and was the major piece in the deal that brought Jose Lind to the Royals.  Johnston was good in 1993, but only managed to pitch in four games in 1994 and had a 29.40 ERA.  Johnston showed up for four games with the Red Sox in 1995 and was marginally better, with an 11.25 ERA and one loss.  Johnston was released but never made it back to the Majors.  

Managers were one of the casualties of the decrease in size of card sets.  Topps first doubled them up in 1993, then cut them out entirely in 1994.  Kevin Kennedy was the only Red Sox manager whose entire stint as the team's manager came when Topps was not making manager cards.  This is a shame because Kennedy was actually a fairly successful manager.  In his first season, he lead the Red Sox to the AL East division title.  He helped the team overcome a dreadful start in the 1996 season to end with a winning record.  But that was it for Kennedy and he later became a commentator on ESPN baseball games.

Formerly a left-hander starter for the Braves, Derek Lilliquist had been moved to the bullpen with the Indians in 1992 and found success.  He pitched in 71 games with a 1.75 ERA that first season as a LOOGY.  Lilliquist continued to be successful the following season before faltering in 1994 a little bit.  Lilliquist was non-tendered after the 1994 season and was picked up by Boston ostensibly to replace Tony Fossas as the primary lefty out of the pen.  Unfortunately he was not very successful and he was released in July.  He pitched in 28 games for the Red Sox and was 2-1 with a 6.26 ERA.  Lefties did not hit him real hard, but with the emergence of Rheal Cormier as a good southpaw out of the pen, Lilliquist became redundant.  He pitched briefly in 1996 with the Reds and was done.

Another southpaw that spent a brief amount of time in Boston, Brian Looney pitched in four games over two seasons for the Montreal Expos before being sent to Boston in 1995.  Looney pitched in three games, starting one, though he only lasted 1.2 innings, giving up five runs in a loss to the Angels.  Looney ended the season at 0-1 with a 17.36 ERA in 4.2 innings.  He was later the player-to-be-named in the deal that brought Pat Mahomes, another player with no Red Sox cards, to Boston.

After the strike in 1994, and with the baseball season in 1995 in jeopardy, teams started turning to players languishing in the minors to try and start a baseball season without the regular players.  A number of these replacement players eventually made it back to the Major Leagues, though not without some controversy.  Ron Mahay was one of the first players I remember to make it to the Major Leagues despite being a replacement player.  One of the consequences of being a replacement player was that said players were not members of the Major League Baseball Players' Association, so most card companies could not produce cards of them.  Mahay was an interesting player.  He spent parts of three seasons with the Red Sox.  He is most known for being a decent southpaw reliever, but he started out in Boston as an outfielder.  Mahay played in five games for Boston in 1995 and managed to hit a home run and drive in three runs.  He would not make it back to Boston until 1997, but by that time he was a pitcher.  He does have some minor league cards with the Red Sox organization and the same postcard as Joe Hudson, but no real cards with Boston.

Once considered a top pitching prospect for the Braves, Matt Murray was sent to the Red Sox as player-to-be-named in the deal that also brought Mike Stanton to Boston.  Murray was in the midst of a strong 14-3 season in AAA.  He made it into four games for the Atlanta Braves prior to the trade and then two with the Boston Red Sox after the trade.  Murray ended up going 0-1 with an 18.90 ERA for the Red Sox.  That was it for his Major League career though. 

As a young Dodgers pitcher in 1984, Alejandro Pena led the league in ERA (2.48) and shutouts (4).  Injuries disrupted his career though and he was soon moved into the bullpen, where he flourished.  Pena put together several good seasons out of the bullpens for the Dodgers, Mets, Braves, and Pirates before joining the Red Sox in 1995.  Pena was one of three pitchers involved in no-hitter for the Braves against the Padres.  Pena finished off the game in relief of Kent Mercker and Mark Wohlers.  Pena joined the Red Sox shortly before the 1995 season but only pitched in 17 games with a 7.40 ERA before being released and joining the Marlins.  On the plus side he did pick up more than a strikeout per inning for the Red Sox.  

Like Brian Bark above, Jeff Pierce's only Major League action came in a short stint with the Red Sox in 1995.  Pierce originally came up through the White Sox system but made his Major League debut with Boston, pitching in 12 games, going 0-3 with a 6.60 ERA.  He struck out 12 in 15 innings, but walked 14.  Pierce stayed in the Red Sox system for one more season and does have a minor league card with the Red Sox organization.

Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes is mostly known for hitting three home runs on opening day for the Cubs in 1994.  Prior to that, Rhodes had been one of a trio of good prospects for the Houston Astros in the early 1990's.  Rhodes had trouble sticking in the Majors though, but finally looked like he was ready to break out in 1994.  He ended that season with just eight home runs in 95 games and started the next season with the Cubs.  It was clear he was still not ready to be a regular and was placed on waivers.  Boston picked him up and he played in just 10 games for the Red Sox, spending most of the season in Pawtucket.  Rhodes hit just .080/.179/.210 with Boston.  It was his last Major League action, though he went on to a very successful career in Japan.

Once one of the Rockies' expansion draft picks, Keith Shepherd was never really able to crack into the Majors for very long.  He was traded to the Red Sox in a minor league trade for Brian Conroy in 1994.  He did not pitch in the Majors again until 1995 when he appeared in two games for Boston.  He pitched one inning with an ERA of 36.00.  He did not strike out anyone and walked two.  Boston released him and he appeared in 13 games for the Orioles in 1996.

The Royals are the closest team to me geographically, so I have always paid a little bit of attention to them.  I remember Terry Shumpert being a pretty terrible-hitting second baseman for the Royals in 1991 when he hit .217/.283/.322.  He was not really THAT good in the field either.  Shumpert was never a regular with Kansas City again and was largely absent from the Major Leagues in 1992 and 1993.  He wound up in Boston in 1995 and hit just .234/.294/.298 in 21 games.  He did steal three bases and played second, third, and short in his brief stint with Boston.  He later became a halfway decent player for the Rockies.  Shumpert's nephew has been far more successful with the Red Sox though.  His name: Mookie Betts.

I have covered Matt Stairs in the past in a similar post.  Stairs had been a well-regarded hitting prospect for the Expos in the early 1990's but only played in 19 games over two seasons.  He was picked up by the Red Sox in 1994 and spent the entire season in the minor leagues, but made it to Boston in 1995.  Stairs played in 39 games for the Red Sox, hitting .261/.298/.398 with one home run and 17 RBIs.  Stairs actually made an appearance in the Division Series against the Indians, but struck out in his only at-bat.  The next season, he hooked on with Oakland and hit 10 home runs in a short stint there, but turned into a fan favorite the next season when he hit 27.  Stairs went on to a long career, playing with the Athletics, Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Blue Jays, Phillies, Padres, and Nationals.  The Red Sox and Padres are the only teams Stairs does not appear with on a Major League card.  He does have a minor league card with the Red Sox organization.

1995 was definitely a big year for missing Red Sox players.  Most of the players above played briefly with Boston, but there were a few that played a decent-sized chunk of the season.  Players like Joe Hudson, Derek Lilliquist, Chris Donnels, and Matt Stairs likely would have been included on cards had companies been releasing sets the size of those that came out in the early 1990's.  As a kid, I was most disappointed that Dave Hollins had no Red Sox cards.  Joe Hudson and Ron Mahay are pretty egregious snubs as well due to their three seasons each with the Red Sox.  And of course not having a manager card of Kevin Kennedy is a pretty big deal.  I look back on it now though and Matt Stairs is probably the player I most want a card of with the Red Sox.


  1. These posts are always pretty cool when you do them. I have the Hudson postcard

  2. Well you are in luck because I am trying to do one every couple of weeks or so. I have all of the lists of players ready. I just need to sit down and type them out.