Although the 1970s may not have been quite the golden era for baseball that, say, the 1950s were, the decade produced a good number of stars. An important thing to consider, too, is that many players Generation X grew up watching came up in the 1970s. That, along with lower production numbers, makes it an important decade in today’s market. Let’s take a year by year walk through the most valuable baseball cards of the 1970s.
In the 1980s, almost everyone I knew collected baseball cards, at least briefly. When we think of the 1980s today, baseball cards aren’t what comes to mind but they probably deserve to be up there with video games, Rubik’s cubes, G.I. Joe, and Star Wars. With so many of us buying and preserving cards during that decade’s baseball card bubble, there aren’t a lot of super-valuable cards from the 1980s. But that doesn’t mean all 1980s baseball cards are worthless. So let’s take a look at the most valuable baseball cards of the 1980s.
If you’re like me and thought you’d fund your retirement with baseball cards someday, this could be depressing. More depressing than 1970s baseball card values. Possibly more depressing than 1990s baseball card values, even. But there’s a flip side too. If you didn’t have all of these cards back then, you probably can afford all of them now. None of the most valuable baseball cards of the 1980s are worth what we thought they’d someday be worth.
ESPN has a moving article about Eric Show today. Eric Show was one of several tragic figures from the mid-1980s San Diego Padres who stood in the shadow of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest hitters ever.
Show’s family would prefer that people remember him as the millionaire pitcher who was fond of inviting the homeless people he passed on the street to dinner.
But generally speaking, people remember him for a hit he allowed in 1985. A hit to a much lesser man. And nine short years later, Eric Show was dead at age 37.
Show’s tragedy, sadly, wasn’t unique among his teammates. Left-handed pitcher Dave Dravecky lost his arm to cancer. Second baseman Alan Wiggins became the first baseball player to die of AIDS. Tony Gwynn, of course, died much too young as well.
Supposedly the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are cursed, but their 1980s teams have nothing on that.
But I’m way ahead of myself.
In some ways, Eric Show was a Greg Maddux-like pitcher. He didn’t have overpowering stuff, but he threw a lot of pitches well, and was much smarter than most of his opponents. Show never matched Maddux’s best numbers, but spent most of his career just short of the brink of Maddux-like superstardom. Scarred by a poor relationship with an abusive father, Show’s difficulties bouncing back when little things went wrong turned him into an all-or-nothing pitcher, and those occasional games where he had nothing were the difference between him and guys like Maddux.
Show put together a perfectly respectable career, even if he never lived up to his full potential. During his career, the Padres went from last place to the World Series, and he played a key role in that transformation. Even ignoring what he did off the field, people should remember him as a very good pitcher for a very good team.
Instead, he’s the guy who gave up a record-setting hit. He’s also the guy who hit Andre Dawson with a beanball in 1987. That is, when someone remembers him at all.
But there was a lot going on with him behind the scenes. Show was a gifted musician. Routinely he asked homeless people to join him for dinner. He handed out $50 bills like candy to people less fortunate than him. He was a committed Christian. Finally, he was a deep thinker and only two of his teammates understood him.
Show started falling apart in 1987, when the Padres traded those two friends–Mark Thurmond and fellow tragic figure Dave Dravecky. That was the same year he hit Andre Dawson. I’m familiar with the other side of that story. I was a Cubs fan in 1987, and I’m related to ex-Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe had lobbied hard for the Cubs to sign Dawson. When he saw his man go down, Sutcliffe went after Show. The commissioner fined and suspended him 8 games for his role in the brawl.
What I didn’t know was that Eric Show hand-wrote an apology and tried to give it to Dawson.
Abandoned and injured, Show did something completely out of character. The man who talked junkies on the street into going into rehab turned to drugs himself. First it was greenies, which propelled him to his last great season in 1988. But that soon led to crystal meth, cocaine, and heroin. After two barely mediocre seasons, the Padres let him go, and at age 35, he signed with Tony LaRussa’s Oakland Athletics. The ESPN article calls the move naive, but I disagree. Show was exactly the kind of reclamation product that LaRussa’s longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan, specialized in.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, it didn’t work out. Show didn’t turn into one of Duncan’s success stories.
In 1992, Show was out of baseball and in rehab when he went to see his former teammate, Dave Dravecky, give a lecture. Dravecky wrote two books about his battle with cancer and embarked on a long career as a speaker and author. Dravecky recognized him and asked him to call, but Show lost his number.
ESPN has the rest of the story.
But I agree with his family that Eric Show’s legacy ought to be as a man who took homeless people out to dinner and who forgave and repeatedly tried to reconcile with his abusive father.
I’ve been following baseball for as long as I could read. I’m sure Eric Show isn’t the only baseball player who ever took a homeless person to dinner. But I never heard of any other.
Rod Beck was once one of the most intimidating relief pitchers in baseball. Part of it was because he could throw a baseball hard, but part of it was because he looked like the meanest guy in the entire south.
I never was much of a fan, until I read the story of his 2003 comeback. He was pitching in the minor leagues hoping someone would need him, living in an RV parked outside the stadium, hanging out with the fans afterward.
That’s class.Search for a picture of Rod Beck and you’ll probably think the word “class” would be the last thing you’d associate with him, but the shoe fits. He didn’t necessarily look the part, but in his down-to-earth way, he modeled it well.
And he did make it back to the majors that year, signing with the San Diego Padres in early June and he had one last great summer, saving 20 games and compiling a sparkling 1.78 ERA while filling in for the Padres’ injured closer, Trevor Hoffman. But then it was over. The next year, he briefly left the Padres to spend two months in a rehab center getting treatment for drug addiction, and after he returned, he struggled through 24 games acting as one of Hoffman’s setup men. The Padres released him in August, and he retired at age 36.
In this day and age of athletes wearing as much bling as possible, driving fancy cars, and otherwise glorifying themselves, it’s nice to remember a player who would walk out to the parking lot at the end of the game, turn on the light, open up the fridge, and talk baseball with whoever wanted to drop in. He knew he had to make a living just like everyone else standing there, and that pretty much everyone there would love to make a living throwing baseballs if they could, and he just happened to have what it takes to do that.
Beck’s cause of death is unknown, but the story of his career ought to be made into a movie. The story of a guy on top of his game, getting hurt, working his way back, spending time in the minors living in the parking lot and hanging out with the fans outside his RV, and then making it back for one last glorious summer, relying on an 86-mile-an-hour fastball and (mostly) heart and guts.
Sounds like a fantastic story to me, except nobody would believe it.
I hope it isn’t forgotten in two months.
Jumbo HD woes. My 15-gig Quantum drive mysteriously started working right from the regular UMDA-33 controller on my Abit BP6 yesterday. Totally out of the blue. That’s what makes this problem so maddening; it’s intermittent. I’m going to stick with keeping the drive connected to the UDMA-66 controller though, since this is a UDMA-66 drive.
And my March article for Shopper is almost complete. I need to come up with a good lead and a good closer, figure out whether I can fit one more trick into the 200 or so words I have left, and then fire it off to London. I could have done another book rehash but I decided to write this one from scratch, and I think it’s pretty good.
A useful modems link. Modems are mostly a thing of the past for me, but I know a lot of my readers (especially those in the UK) aren’t so fortunate. There’s a large and authoritative guide to modems at http://modems.rosenet.net/ .
Snow. There’s a family from Michigan who recently joined our church. I remember one of them saying recently, “I keep telling the kids it doesn’t snow in Missouri.”
Well, not quite like it does in Michigan. But the seven inches or so of the white stuff sitting on the ground outside right now testifies that it can snow in Missouri. This isn’t Florida. So I’m guessing this was a bit of a rude surprise to them–not that they can’t handle driving in it.
Rick Sutcliffe may return to the Cubs. As a television analyst , not as a pitcher.
The Chicago Cubs are looking for a replacement for longtime analyst Steve Stone, who retired this year. Rick, who’s worked for the last two seasons as a part-time analyst for ESPN and for the San Diego Padres, is one of the candidates to replace him.
Rick and I are cousins, which explains the strong feelings I have about the Cubs, the team where he had the most longevity.