Okay. Okay. Wrong company. It's just that those four words along with the rest of the Alka-Seltzer commercial from my childhood is embedded into my brain and automatically makes me think of the word "relief".
And that's the focus of today's post. Relief. And when I say relief... I'm talking about relief pitchers from the late 70's to the early 90's.
I loved playing baseball when I was younger and I've pretty much collected baseball cards off and on since the early 80's. However, statistics have always been the driving force behind my love for baseball.
While other kids were reading Green Eggs and Ham, Where the Wild Things Are, and Charlotte's Web... I was flipping through National League Green Books and American League Red Books. It gave me an idea of who was good... and who was really good in certain categories.
Like many baseball enthusiasts, I loved comparing batting averages, home runs, wins, ERA's, and strikeouts among the game's finest. But I spent just as much time on things like stolen bases, hit by pitch, triples, shutouts, wild pitches, and of course saves.
The fact that relief pitchers with the best statistics were awarded a giant gold plated firefighter's helmet only fueled my interest in closers. Over the past few months, I've started to rethink what I'm going to collect in an effort to narrow down my collection. One of the things I'm going to target are autographs of athletes I enjoyed watching when I was a kid.
Here are the relief pitchers that come to mind...
I didn't like the Kansas City Royals in the 80's, but that didn't keep me from admiring Dan Quisenberry and his awesome submarine delivery. Mariano Rivera and him are the only pitchers to win five Rolaids Relief Man Awards, however Quiz is the only one to win it four seasons in a row. I only discovered a few years ago that he passed away in 1998 after battling brain cancer. He was only forty-five years old.
Kent Tekulve never led the league in saves and he never won the award, but his iconic pitching delivery and dark shades give him a free pass and automatic admission to this post. I just discovered that he's the only guy in MLB history to pitch in 90 games, while in his forties.
If you mention the name, Bruce Sutter... I'll immediately think "bushy beard". The guy always reminded me of a very young Santa Claus... especially when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. There are only a handful of closers enshrined in Cooperstown and Sutter is one of them. He wrapped up his career in the late 80's with four Rolaids Relief Man Awards and exactly 300 career saves, which was the National League record at the time.
302 days. That's how long Jeff Reardon was the all-time saves leader. I don't really recall watching him play, but I do remember chasing down a rookie card of the bearded closer in the early 90's. According to an ESPN article I read, he received his nickname "The Terminator", because of his intimidating fastball. That fastball earned him 367 saves, which by the way is more than the number of walks (358) he issued during his career.
When Tug McGraw threw his final pitch for the New York Mets, I was only two years old... which explains why I'll always associate him for his accomplishments with the Philadelphia Phillies. I honestly don't remember McGraw for his numbers or individual performances. It's the cool nickname that stood out.
Dave Righetti is a left handed pitcher from San Jose who pitched a no-hitter, won the 1980 AL ROY award, and won the Rolaids Relief Man twice. The guy should have been one of my favorite players growing up. Too bad he was a New York Yankee. Oh well. Time heals all wounds. I might not have liked him back in the 80's, but he's definitely someone I remember from my youth.
Last... but certainly not least... are three former Oakland Athletics and two former San Diego Padres who I've written about in the past. Eckersley helped the Athletics win the World Series back in 1989 and was part of those great World Series teams. Fingers is my all-time favorite relief pitcher. He is my childhood buddy's uncle and played for both of my favorite teams, although I wasn't a Padres fan until a few years later.
Another pitcher who played on both of my favorite teams is Gossage. But I remember him more for his 'state and his years with the Yankees... than I do for his time in Oakland.
Well... that wraps up my late 70's to early 90s relief pitcher collection. Stay tuned... I'll be holding a contest this week for some free cards. Details will be published in Wednesday's post.
Happy Monday and sayonara!