1998 Home Run Leaders #4 Greg Vaughn 50 Long Balls

29 different players have hit 50 or more home runs in a season. Several players have done it more than once. All said, the 50 home run mark has been broken 44 times. Of this total, 50 was broken 17 times between 1900-1990.

Three players have broken the 50 plateau four-times. Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The only season that Barry Bonds hit more than 50 was 2001 when he went hit 73. Hank Aaron never hit more than 47 in a year. Somehow Brady Anderson hit 50 in 1996. Hmmm. What was going on in Baltimore...

In 1998 four players broke the half century mark in homers. 1998 was an expansion year, as the Rays and Diamondbacks entered the league. The addition of these two teams could be the reason so many more home runs were hit this year. Pitching was diluted. Players had beefed up with the use of weights and "supplements." This all meant that bad pitches were being hit farther and farther.

Greg Vaughn was one of those four players to hit more than 50 in '98. That was his career high. His production garnered Vaughn the Comeback Player of the Year Award for the National league.

Vaughn also hold the prodigious title of Most Home Runs hit by a player whose name starts with V. Joey Votto stands an outside chance of over taking Vaughn. Votto has 257 home runs, 98 behind Vaughn. Votto is 34. If he plays till he is 40, I think "history" will be made. I'm sure it will be a mark hailed an event that changed the course of the 21st century.

I like the picture on the back of this card more than the photo on the front.Vaughn is sporting the Goatee, that if I remember correctly, he had for most of his playing time. Goatees have given way to the beard. I wonder if we will see a rise in the popularity mustaches soon.

 Every time I look at this , I think he is going to break out into a dance.

1998 Home Run Leaders #5 Albert Belle 59 Ding Dongs

Home run hitters are often adept at driving in copious amounts of runs batted in. The late 90s proved this in mass. 1998 featured three players topping 152 or more RBIs. Albert Belle knocked in 4 more runs than he did in any other season, yet he only finished 3rd in the Big Leagues in RBIs. 

His 49 home runs were added up to be just under 1/3 of his RBIs. That means home runs aside, he still knocked in 103 RBIs. Its interesting that the top 13 RBI seasons all-time occurred before 1939.  Even though the baseball season is longer, players are not hitting as many RBIs. I wonder if this is  because of the rise of strikeouts and homeruns. I do not have any numbers but if players are not on base, they can not be knocked in. 

There has not been a serious threat to Hack Wilson's 191 RBIs. He hit those runs in in 1930. I doubt we will see someone break his record anytime soon. I think it would take a home run hitter who hits behind several players who hit mainly singles and doubles. Giancarlo Stanton led the MLb last year in RBIs. He is more likely to break the single season home run record than break the RBI record, particularly if he hits behind Aaron Judge.

Albert Belle lasted two more seasons after 1998. He was out of baseball at age 33 due to injuries. Thats a bummer.

Topps gives us another runner on the base paths.  He does not look look swift.

1998 Home Run Leaders #6 Vinny Castilla 46 Yard Crashers

Vinny Castilla was born in Mexico and originally played for the  Saraperos de Saltillo. A saraperos is a marauder. Now you can say you have learned something today. No need to thank me, just keep reading.

The Mexican League is considered a non-affiliated triple-A league. The Saraperos were founded in 1970. They won league championships in 1980, 2009, and 2010. 

To the best of my knowledge, here is a list of countries with professional baseball leagues:
Dominican Republic
Puerto Rico
and a whole slew of European  clubs.

In 1998 Vinny castilla hit a career high 46 home Runs. From 1995-1999 he hit no fewer than 32 home runs a year. During that same stretch he banged out 145 doubles. 1998 was easily his best year in the majors, finishing with a WAR of 5.6. I only think of him as a Rockie but he played for six different teams, had two stints with the Braves and three with the Rockies.

My guess is that the hitting in Denver suited him well.

Sometime horizontal cards work well and sometimes they don't. I think this is an instance where the horizontal card works well.Pictured are the Rockies big hitters with Castilla properly showcased in the middle. I wouldn't mind seeing more cards that are zoomed out and capture more of the play than the extreme close-ups that are so common today.


1998 Home Run Leaders #6 Jose Canseco 46 Blasts

I read numerous card blogs. They have given me many ideas for future posts. I will spend three weeks at my in-laws this summer. It may be that I spend the whole time writing blogs. I bet my wife would enjoy that...

I am somewhat surprised by the number of ardent Jose Canseco fans out in the internetverse. I would agree that in the late '80s he was one of the top five players in the league. I thought the whole 40-40 phenomenon was contrived.  He never came close to doing it again. So what if he was the first in history to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases. I bet Hank Aaron could have accomplished the feat of he had set his mind to doing so.

To be honest, I get annoyed when I hear sportscasters describe the feats of athletes as history making. That is a very parochial view of history. Is it historic if a player hits more home runs in a certain month than has been hit in the past? Historic is Martin Luther and the reformation, Genghis Khan conquering most of Euasia, or  Shaka Zulu defending his tribal lands against the British. Aaron Judge breaking the rookie home run record is record breaking but not historic.

Now back to my documentation of the history of home runs hit in 1998.

In 1998 Canseco played in 151 games. That is by far the most games he had played in since 1991. His stats reflect the additional playing time. He hit 46 hrs, 26, doubles, 17 RBIs and a little over one strikeout per game, 159 Ks. He was not hitting the ball for a high average, nor was he sporting a high on-base percentage.

Who thinks of Caneco as a Blue Jay. It doesn't seem right. He is supposed to be an Athletic.

In the past five minutes that I have been looking at this card I have determined that I like it. Kudos for being an action shot. It is different from what we might typically get from a power hitter. Topps could have been channeling that 40-40 season.

1998 Home Run Leaders #7 Manny Ramirez 45 Long Balls

It is Saturday morning! For me that means baseball. The whole country of China is on one time zone, and that one time zone just happens to be 12 hours ahead or Eastern Standard Time. For the past 17 years my internet connection has been less than desirable. Sometimes I could watch games without buffering, often I would end up listening to Bob Uecker on the radio broadcast. I'm now on a cloud, I'm not certain what that means except it has a built in VPN and the games stream much faster.

So between my oldest son sliding on the floor, pretending to steal bases, hit home runs or pitch strikeouts and my youngest son who needs an elephant tranquilizer to calm him down, I get to watch the Brewers.

I also bought some cards online from Burbank Sportscards. I have ordered once before from them. My wife gives me a monthly budget of about $20 for cards. That has been stretched to about $30 the past few months. I have been trying to complete sets and finish the the yearly home run leaders. JustCommons,, which is now the Cardbarrel has helped fill more than a few holes. All these cards get sent to my parents home in Wisconsin. During the summers I get to play with my cards.

I'm hoping to go to a few card shows this summer. My wife is a southerner from Indiana. She claims that does not make her a southerner, but I say anything  south of Lake Michigan is the south. I have my sights set on at least one show in the Indianapolis. I'm tempted to take my oldest son. That my cut into my enjoyment, but he has taken a liking to baseball cards.

 In 1998 Manny finished 6th in the AL MVP voting. He did this without leading the league in any categories. He hit 45 home runs, batted .294, hit 35 doubles and scored 108 runs.

The Indians finished 1st in the AL Central with an 89-73 record. They ended up losing to the Yankees in the ALCS. During this stretch in the late 90s. I knew the headlines but was too busy to pay attention to the details. Manny was one of those details that caused quite a few discussions. He had that aloof  personality.  I never really understood that. All I wanted was for him to help the Indians win. I guess I have a soft spot for the Tribe.

555 Home Runs all-time. Good for 15th  place.

That surprised me. I knew he hit many home runs, but not that many.

Is he practicing to be a statue? Maybe a hood ornament? Maybe a trophy.

1998 Home Run Leaders #7 Juan Gonzalez 45 Dingers

1998, the greatest home run year on record. The race between McGwire and Sosa gripped the baseball world. McGwire broke Maris' single season home run record. I remember watching the at-bat in which McGwire broke the record. If I was writing the script, the record breaking home run would have been a gargantuan shot that clanged off the Gateway Arch, instead we have a lazer beam hit. Still it was a cool moment.

In 1998 Juan Gonzalez hit 50 doubles, 45 home runs and 157 RBIs. He won the AL MVP. It was a great season. Juan happened to be overshadowed by McGwire and Sosa. Gonzalez hit 100 RBIs before the all-star break. It would have been something if he would have kept up that pace.

I like 1999 Topps if they were kept in isolation.  The problem I have with them is that '98, '99, and '00 Topps all seem like the same card to me. It seems like Topps had too much gold ink left over from '98, so they kept it for '99. In addition the card designs just do not stand out. Did Topps cut all but one graphic designer? This period of card design is not the most exciting design.

I like the card backs. The white background makes the print easy to read. Where the player led the league is in an easy to read red print. The Bio information is also easy to read. I like the picture on the left side of the card. It is a solid card back.

1995 Home Run Leaders Re Cap

I haven't posted as regularly as I have wanted. I have been fighting a cold for the last two weeks. It has moved into my chest. I'm considering charging the cold rent. With my luck, the cold would take me to court claiming some sort of renter's rights violation.

Monday, my youngest son and cut the back of his head. It required a trip to the hospital and stitches. He is a tough kid. 

The recap post is to done to show all of the home run leader cards at once. I also will rank the cards in a completely subjective manner based on my own preferences, prejudices, ect..

1. Mark McGwire- He always looks powerful
2. Frank Thomas- He was the Big Hurt
3. Sammy Sosa-The card captures the idea of speed.
4. Larry Walker -Gearing up to take a mile high swing.
5. Rafael Palmeiro- Don't see many close ups of pop ups to first.
6. Jay Buhner-He is running, and it looks like work. The opposite of Sosa's card.
7. Mo Vaughn- Its not a bad card, just doesn't hold my interest.
8. Albert Belle- the picture is not centered, 3/4 of the card is wasted.
9. Dante Bichette - Lets take a close-up with some one looking down.

I apologize for the horrible scan. Consider it a tribute to the close-up picture on the bottom of the card. It should never be replicated.

1995 Home Run Leaders #1 Albert Belle 50 Bombs

Today was Jackie Robinson Day around the Big Leagues. Much is made out about him but what about the guys who followed after him?

Technically, the man who broke the color barrier in the major leagues was William White. He played in one game back in 1879.In 1883, Moses Fleetwood Walker played a whole season for Toldeo. A year later, his brother played for the same Toledo team. Those were the last African Americans to play in the big leagues until Jackie Robinson.

 Following Jackie Robinson were:
1947 Larry Doby
         Hank Thompson
         Willard Brown
          Dan Bankhead
 1948 Roy Campanella
           Satchel Paige
1949 Minnie Minoso
         Don Newcombe
         Monte Irvin

 Albert Belle dominated the American League in 1995. He hit 50 HRs, 52 doubles, batted in 126 runners, scored 121 runs, and still finished second to Mo Vaughn. Belle got ripped off!

1995 Home Run leaders #2 (Tied) Frank Thomas 40 Fence Busters

The steroid era has not been kind to the sluggers of the late 80's and 90s. many great hitters have been kept out of the hall of Fame because of admitted guilt or suspected use. The tide may be turning as time breezes by and that era is becomes a distant spec in the rear view mirror. It's possible that McGwire, Palmeiro, Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens may one day get elected. I would support there cases. Aside from Sosa, I think they were playing at a level above other players well before any advantages gained from duping were conceived. McGwire recently said he could have hit 70 home runs with out drugs. I want to believe him, but we will never know.

Frank Thomas was a great hitter. he was big and hit many home runs. I don't remember him ever coming under suspicion of taking drugs. He won a football scholarship to play for Auburn. I think football players tend to get a free pass when it comes to steroids. Those guys are huge. I am willing to bet that plenty of NFL players and college players are taking something.

I digress. My disdain for all things Chicago does not include the White Sox. I suppose that does not make sense, but even while the Brewers were in the American League, I did not mind the Sox. Frank Thomas was one of those players that made you cheer. I wanted him to do well and he was well deserving of his MVP awards.

Thomas won the MVP awards in '93 and '94. He finished 8th in 1995. He led the league in walks that paired with his 152 hits gave him an OBP of .454.

His 521 home runs ties him with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey at 21st place.

1995 Home Run Leaders #2 (Tied) Jay Buhner

Throughout all of recorded history the Yankees have pillaged smaller markets, plundering them for pitchers, sluggers, and all-stars. The lure of the Big Apple and the big bucks is too difficult for many players to pass up. Since the mid-nineties, the Yanks always seem to be in contention. Why wouldn't a player want to play ball there with the opportunity to play in the postseason?

Jay Buhner is one of the few players the Yankees lost. Buhner was traded from the Yankees along with two other players for Ken Phelps. Why would some one trade for Ken Phelps? It seems like a no-brainer. He had a few good seasons in Seattle but lost his way in New York. It feels good to see the Yankees lose once in a while.

1995 was a good year for Buhner. He hit 40 HRs, had 121 RBIs. He was never one to hit for a high average and had .359 OBP for his career. He struck out quite a bit, but along the way became beloved in Seattle.

Perhaps Buhner's most notorious stat is the number of times he was caught stealing. he was gunned down 24 times. he did manage to swipe 6 bases in his career. I guess you can't blame a guy for trying, but you can blame him for killing a potential rally. I imagine most outfielders are fleet of foot. Looks like Buhner wasn't able to translate that on the base paths.

310 Career Home Runs: #131 all-time


1998 Home Run Leaders #4 Greg Vaughn 50 Long Balls

29 different players have hit 50 or more home runs in a season. Several players have done it more than once. All said, the 50 home run mark ...