Category Archives: 1988 Fleer Superstar Specials

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #631 – Tony Gwynn & Tim Raines

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #631 – Tony Gwynn & Tim Raines

“National League Batting Champs”

Every year since 1984, the names Gwynn and Raines have appeared at or near the top in the National League batting leaders.  This consistency makes these two remarkable hitters among the favorites every season in the race for the National League batting title.

The 1987 National League batting title belonged to Tony Gwynn and his .371 batting average.  It was Tony’s second NL batting title in the last four years.  In 1984 he led the NL with a .351 average.  This left-handed spray hitter has also led the NL in hits in three of the last four seasons.

Tim Raines’ only batting title came in 1986 when he edged both Tony Gwynn and Steve Sax in a race that was not decided until the last game of the season.  The powerfully built, switch-hitting Raines copped MVP honors of the 1987 All-Star Game when his 2-run triple snapped a scoreless tie in the 13th inning.  Tim was no stranger to All-Star pressure, he had been on six previous NL All-Star squads.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #630 – Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, Todd Benzinger

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #630 – Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, Todd Benzinger

“Changing The Guard In Boston”

While Boston Red Sox fans lamented the poor performance of their defending AL Champions, they were encouraged by the solid and spirited play of some of their new players.  In a year that produced a bumper crop of American League rookie sensations, the Red Sox were proud to call three of them their own.

Mike Greenwell played in 125 games, alternating between left field, right field, and designated hitter.  He batted an impressive .328.  Even more impressive were his production numbers.  He had 31 doubles, 19 home runs, and 89 RBI’s, eight of them being game-winners.

Ellis Burks played in 133 games and added spark both at the plate and in the field.  He provided an excellent balance of power and speed.  He smacked 20 home runs, ripped 30 doubles, scored 94 runs and stole 27 bases.  He appears to be the Red Sox’ center fielder of the future.

Todd Benzinger, a switch-hitter, appeared in 73 games and he added punch to the Boston lineup.  He had eight home runs, 43 RBI’s, and 11 doubles.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #629 – Mark McGwire

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #629 – Mark McGwire

“Rookie Record Setter”

To say that the rookie home run record was broken in 1987 is an understatement.  Shattered would be the more appropriate word.  On August 14th in Anaheim Stadium, Mark McGwire deposited a pitch from 300-game winner Don Sutton into the left-field seats for his 39th home run of the season.  That dinger broke a record established 57 years earlier by Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves.  Berger belted 38 homers that season, a feat that had been equalled by only one other rookie(Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson in 1956) in major league history.  The American League record was held by current Giants’ GM Al Rosen, who crushed 37 round-trippers in 1950, his rookie year with the Cleveland Indians.

After the historic home run, Mark belted 10 more, raising the record to 49.  Had McGwire hit one more, he would have become the first American League player to hit 50 home runs since Roger Maris(61) and Mickey Mantle(60) turned the trick in 1961. 

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #628 – Ryne Sandberg & Ozzie Smith

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #628 – Ryne Sandberg & Ozzie Smith

“Masters Of The Double Play”

An old baseball cliché says that in order for a team to be a contender it needs strength up the middle.  Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs provide that, and more, for their respective teams.

Ozzie Smith’s penchant for acrobatic, spectacular plays has earned him the nickname “The Wizard Of Oz”.  In 1987, Ozzie’s .987 fielding average led all NL shortstops.  No surprise, Ozzie has led the league in fielding average for six out of the last seven seasons, including the last four in a row.  If there is any such hing as a sure out, a ground ball to Ozzie is it.

Ryne Sandberg has led the NL second basemen in fielding average in three of the last five years.  In 1986, Sandberg had perhaps his finest season in the field.  His .994 fielding average was the best ever for a NL player at his position, and the five errors he committed tied the major league record for the fewest errors in a season by a player who played at least 150 games at second base.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #627 – John Franco & Steve Bedrosian

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #627 – John Franco & Steve Bedrosian

“Game Closers”

In 1987 the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian and the Reds’ John Franco each enjoyed the best season of their careers.  Both were the ‘stoppers’ of their team’s pitching staffs, and both produced remarkable streaks which highlighted their season.

Bedorsian was the major league leader with 40 saves.  He also had five victories, which means that he had a hand in 45 of the Phillies’ 80 victories.  Between May 10 and July 18 Steve recorded 25 saves in 29 games.  Within that period he notched a save in 13-straight appearances, setting a major league record.  Steve struck out 74 batters for the season, while walking only 24.  He also finished the season with an impressive 2.83 ERA and the Cy Young Award.

Franco had 32 saves, eight victories, and a 2.52 ERA.  He did not allow an earned run in his first 13 appearances of the season.  During that stretch, he pitched 13.2 innings, allowing only three hits, fanning eight, and registering one victory along with eight saves.  John also ended the season in fine style – he earned a save in each of his last five appearances.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #626 – Bret Saberhagen, Mike Witt, & Jack Morris

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #626 – Bret Saberhagen, Mike Witt, & Jack Morris

“All Star Righties”

Bret Saberhagen, Mike Witt, and Jack Morris are three of the most dominant starting pitchers in the American League.  Each is the ace of his team’s pitching staff and all three were selected to the 1987 American League All-Star team.

After a disappointing 1986 season, Saberhagen reverted to his outstanding rookie form.  He won 18 games and hurled four shutouts.  He enjoyed a particularly impressive first half of the season, winning 15 games by mid-season.  He was the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star game.

Mike Witt won 16 games in 1987.  He has now was at least 15 games in the last four seasons.  On September 30, 1984, Mike became the 13th pitcher in baseball history to pitch a perfect game.

In 1987 Morris anchored the American League East Champion Detroit Tiger pitching staff.  He won 18 games and registered 208 strikeouts.  He has won more games in this decade than any pitcher in major league history.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #625 – Dave Righetti & Dan Plesac

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #625 – Dave Righetti & Dan Plesac

“Classic Relief”

There is no more valuable member of a team that the relief pitcher who can enter a close game in the late innings and shut down the opposition.  Such relievers are called ‘stoppers’, and in 1987 the Yankees’ Dave Righetti and the Brewers’ Dan Plesac performed these roles for their respective teams.

Righetti followed up his record-setting 1986 season with another impressive campaign.  His 31 saves ranked second best in the league.  These saves, combined with his eight victories, show that Righetti had a hand in 30 of the Yankees’ 89 wins.  Since leaving the Yankees’ starting rotation after the 1983 season, ‘Rags’ has averaged more than 34 saves per season.

Plesac was a major factor in Milwaukee’s surprising success in 1987.  He appeared in 57 games, saving 23 and winning 5.  His ERA was an impressive 2.61.  The Brewers started the season with an incredible 13-straight victories.  Dan pitched in seven of those games, notching five saves.

Both of these relievers were members of the 1987 American League All-Star team.  It was Righetti’s second All-Star selection and Plesac’s first.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #624 – Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #624 – Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco

“Oakland’s Power Team”

There will be no power shortage in the city of Oakland as long as Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco are employed there.  In 1987, these powerful youngsters combined for 80 home runs and 231 runs batted in and helped keep the Oakland A’s in the American League West pennant race until the final week of the season.

After a brief appearance in 1986, McGwire burst onto the baseball scene in his rookie season.  Mark slammed a rookie record 49 home runs, shattering the mark of 38 set by Wally Berger in 1930 and later tied by Frank Robinson in 1956.  Mark also knocked in 118 runs, third highest in the American League last season.

Jose Canseco’s sophomore season was just as impressive as his Rookie of the Year season of 1986 when he batted .240 with 33 home runs and 117 runs batted in.  He almost duplicated those splendid numbers with a .257 batting average, 31 home runs, and 113 runs batted in in 1987.  With back-to-back seasons like that, Canseco proved that he was a legitimate superstar of the future.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #623 – George Bell & Pedro Guerrero

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #623 – George Bell & Pedro Guerrero

“Dominican Dynamite”

The Blue Jays’ George Bell and the Dodgers’ Pedro Guerrero obviously have many things in common on the baseball field.  They are two of baseball’s most feared batters.  But the most powerful bond is over their heritage – they were both born in San Pedro De Macaris in the Dominican Republic.

Bell had another outstanding season in 1987.  He batted .308, set career highs with 47 home runs, 111 runs scored, and a league leading 134 RBIs.  He also ranked second in the American League in slugging percentage, sixth in hits, second in runs scored, and fourth in game-winning RBIs.

Guerrero put his injury plagued 1986 season behind him last year, batting .338, 2nd best in the National League.  Pedro was by far the Dodgers most productive hitter.  He led the team with 27 home runs, 89 RBIs, 89 runs scored, 11 game-winning RBIs, and 156 games played.

While Bell and Guerrero have achieved glory in the United States, they remain loyal to their roots.  Both reside in the Dominican Republic during the off-season.

23 years later – I have fond memories of watching both of these sluggers crush baseballs out multiple stadiums.  Bell was as powerful of a hitter as there was in the mid-to-late 1980’s and he was the lone reason that people paid attention to the Blue Jays.  Pedro Guerrero was a monster at the plate.  And with the power numbers that he achieved, it was astonishing to see  that he was also one of the most capable hitters for average in the NL.

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #622 – Wally Joyner & Cory Snyder

1988 Fleer Superstar Specials – Card #622 – Wally Joyner & Cory Snyder

“Slugging Sophomores”

The term ‘Sophomore Jinx’ has been applied to many players in all sports.  It refers to a player that fails to duplicate an outstanding rookie season.  But, in 1987, both the Indians’ Cory Snyder and the Angels’ Wally Joyner produced solid campaigns, continuing impressive starts to what will certainly be long and distinguished careers.

Snyder smacked a club leading 33 home runs and drove in 82 runs.  He also proved to be the most durable Indian by playing in team-high 157 games.  Snyder’s two best games were a 3-run effort on May 21 against the Twins and a 2-run home run, 6 RBI explosion against the Royals on July 6.

Joyner following up his strong rookie season with an even stronger sophomore year.  His 34 home runs, 117 RBI’s, 100 runs scored, and 33 doubles all easily outdistanced his rookie numbers  in these categories.  His home run total was third best in the American League and his RBI production ranked fourth.  Wally enjoyed his best game of the season on October 3 against Cleveland when he went 3-for-3 with three home runs.

23 years later – Neither Joyner or Snyder were able to maintain their impressive starts.  While both built and still hold strong fan bases, neither of them went on to become MVP-caliber players.