Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scott Bankhead

Former 1st round pick of the Kansas City Royals, Scott Bankhead turns 48 today. He is perhaps best known as a member of the 1984 United States Olympic baseball team with the likes of Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire, Will Clark and Cory Snyder. The team's popularity was increased in 1985 when Topps released a subset of Team USA players in their Traded edition.

Bankhead was highly-touted and so the Royals started him off in AA after he completed his pitching career at the University of North Carolina. It didn't take long for Bankhead to break into the Majors, making his debut in just his 2nd pro season in 1986. He earned a win in his first game after pitching 4 innings (inning #14-17) in relief against the Chicago White Sox, allowing no runs and striking out 5.

His first season wasn't so overwhelming (4.61 8-9 whip of 1.31) but he was still considered to be a top prospect as was dealt to Seattle as part of a deal that brought Danny Tartabull to Kansas City. Bankhead struggled again in 1987 but in 1988-1989, he finally put it all together and posted two very good season, winning a combined 21 games in 54 starts, including 3 shutouts. He pitched 210 innings in 1989 with very good all-round numbers and it was thought that he had finally arrived.

This was, however, the last season that Bankhead would be a regular starter as injuries began to take their toll and in 1992, after signing with the Reds as a free agent, he re-invented himself an effective long reliever, winning 10 games with an ERA under 3. He parlayed this season into a minor windfall as he broke the $1 million in salary with the Red Sox in 1993 and 1994 after signing a two-year contract in December of 1992.

Bankhead was signed by the A's in August of 1995 but played only in the minor league system at AAA Edmonton. In 1996, he tried to latch on with the Houston Astros in spring training but on March 25, he was released.

Since his retirement, Bankhead has been running the North Carolina Baseball Academy in Greensboro.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tom Pagnozzi

Tom Pagnozzi is 49 years old today. When I think about Pagnozzi, I think about my early 20s, living alone, playing Pursue the Pennant and being terrified of sending any of my baserunners when he was catching. He consistenly had a -3 arm which was able to negate a lot of the speed demons. He won 3 gold gloves with the Cardinals in the early 1990s and he played in the 1992 all-star game. He played 12 Major League seasons, all with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pagnozzi was called up from AAA Louisville in 1987 when Tony Pena went on the disabled list and his first at bat was against the Pirates Don Robinson after coming in as a defensive replacement for Steve Lake.

He was not that much of an offensive threat, finishing with an OPS of 658, 44 homers and an OBP of .299. He hit 13 homers in 1996 but otherwise, never managed more than 7 and he never reached 500 at bats. It is apparent that his value to the Cardinals was not offensive as he spent the first four years of his career as a backup and it wasn't until 1991 that he became the starting catcher and he was the on and off starter until 1996. He battled injuries in 1997 and was released after the 1998 season. He reluctantly retired in 1999 with a bad arm.

His nephew, Matt Pagnozzi, has played bits of 3 seasons in the Majors between 2009 and 2011. Since his retirement, Tom Pagnozzi has been an assistant coach with his alma mater, the Arkansas Razorbacks and he is also heavily been involved with charities with Pagnozzi Charities.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dan Driessen

Former Big Red Machine first baseman Dan Driessen turns 60 years old today. He made his Major League debut on June 9,1973 batting between Tony Perez and Dave Concepcion after batting .409 at AAA Indianapolis. Though he started as a third-baseman when he joined the Reds in 1973, he would later move to 1b, where he would remain until he retired after the 1987 season at the age of 35 after having played all of his 15 seasons in the National Leauge. That first season in 1973, Driessen finished 3rd in rookie of the year voting in the NL.

"The Cobra" performed well in his first 3 seasons in Cincinnati allowing the Reds to make room for him by moving Tony Perez to Montreal. Ironically, though Driessen would be a fixture at first base for the Reds for 12 seasons, he would also be traded to Montreal in 1984. Driessen, a left-handed hitter, was a steady performer who could do everything well. He hit 18 homers in 1979, stole 31 bases in 1977 and he batted over .300 twice. He even led the NL in fielding 3 times at 1b. Throughout his career, Driessen walked more than he struck out and had a lot of stolen bases for a first baseman (154 total).

He would win 2 World Series with the Reds and he became the first National League DH in a World Series in 1976 with the Cincinnati Reds.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bob Milacki

Happy Birthday to Bob Milacki who turns 47 today. The pinnacle of Bob Milacki's career came at the age of 24 in Baltimore when he won 14 games and pitched 243 innings. Coming up through the Orioles system in the mid 1980s, Milacki struggled with control and didn't strike a lot of batters out but his stuff still managed to move him up the ranks until September of 1988 when he pitched in his first Major League game against the Detroit Tigers. He pitched 8 innings, allowed 1 hit and walked struck out 4 Tigers for his first of 39 Major League wins. He was the first player from Lake Havasu High School in Arizona to make it to the Big Leagues.

Milacki was part of a combined no-hitter on July 13,1991 having pitched the first 6 innings of the game. He left the game due to a hand injury sustained when he deflected a Willie Wilson line drive, saving a hit in the process.
He pieced together a decent career as a 4th or 5th starter for about 4 years before becoming essentially a AAAA player, splitting time between AAA and the Majors until 1996. I don't know what happened to him in 1997 but in 1998 and 1999, having improved his control, he became an excellent professional AAA pitcher, hoping for one last chance to prove himself. He gave it one last shot in 2000 in the Independent Leagues at St. Paul.

Since then, Milacki has made a second career as a pitching coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and more recently, with the Phillies. He is currently working for the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

1988 Topps Traded - 132 Cards

My favorite part about the 1988 Topps Traded set is in the inclusion of about 20 Team USA players including Charles Nagy, Jim Abbott, Andy Benes and Tino Martinez. In addition to these Major League stars, there's also a few players from the team USA set who never really made it to the bigs like Doug Robbins, Billy Masse and Ty Griffin. The cards are listed alphabetically as per the normal custom with Topps Traded sets.

This is the first set that I have listed in the Blog section and I'll be adding a set periodically as I gather scans for all the players. I have a peculiar method of adding scans to the database. Instead of focusing on a full set, I randomly add cards from the different eras so that more players will have a card next to their name on their player page.

The 1988 Topps Traded set is listed here because all scans exist and the checklist is complete.

Shea Hillenbrand

Shea Hillenbrand turns 36 years old today. Hillenbrand, a two-time all-star, hit 108 home runs over an 8-year period on 6 different teams. Drafted as a catcher, he eventually went on to play first and third base in the Major Leagues.

He is perhaps best known for his confrontation with manager Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons after some alleged comments Hillenbrand wrote on the clubhouse bulletin board. Gibbons apparently took exception to the comments and challenged Hillenbrand to a fight. Hillenbrand declined and was designated for assignment that same day.

We last heard from Hillenbrand as a Major Leaguer in 2007 but he tried an Independent League comeback in 2008 with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blog Coming Soon

As you can see, The Baseball Cube has a new look and feel. I've never been much of a web designer but I think this one should last a while. The purpose of the update was to improve user experience.

There's not a lot that is new on the site but there will be soon as my times shifts from design to data once again. I'll also start to blog a few times a week to help keep the front page of the site fresh and hopefully provide some information and entertainment that will entice visitors to come back every day.

The blog will start once I have stabilized the current version of the site. The format of the blog will be snippets of information with the occasional personal rant about baseball and my day to day life. I'm not the best writer around but I feel that when I get on the right subject and in the right format, my writing can be at least a little bit entertaining if not interesting.

You may also have noticed the gray bar at the top of the site. Its supposed to remind you each time you visit to check out the TBC Research section which provides some tools for looking through historical data. Subscribing to this will also remove most ads from the site (leaves only Ebay) and will give you access to different features that I will be adding to the TBC in the future.

Yes, there are still a lot of ads and the truth is that I AM trying to make money off this site. I know its pretty obvious by the way the site is laid out but I am trying to do this full time and I put in an enormous amount of time to get the data organized and presented on the web site and so I am trying to support my family with this. Boo hoo, waaa waa. Hmmph. Well, all I ask is that you endure the ads (no popups, no intrusive ad types) and shop through the Ebay and Amazon links on the site when you decide to make a purchase. Think of us and you can help us by following the click-through with your purchases. I'll be here to remind you of this almost every week in case you forget!

Its an exciting new start for TBC and I hope you'll help us on this journey to become the most informative baseball site on the Internet.