August 3, 2011
1989's Record Breakers
Earlier this week, Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford set a club record by saving his 26th straight game for the club. Former mustachioed closer Doug Jones held the previous record for the Brewers, with a 25-game streak in 1997. As you may imagine, Jones' name got mentioned on Brewers' broadcasts in the days leading to the save more times than in the last 10+ years combined. Aside from making me wonder when Jones ever pitched for the Brewers (he'll always be an Indian in my mind), I didn't think too much of it.
Talking with friends of mine, though, it quickly became clear that not everyone remembers Jones at all, Indian or Brewer or Athletic alike. So I did what anyone would do - I went to Google and found an old Jones baseball card that featured his legendary 'stache so prominently. The card I chose was the 1989 Topps Record Breaker shown below. It doesn't have as close-up of a view as I was hoping, but it got the job done.
More importantly, it made me curious about what record Doug Jones broke in 1988 that was big enough to warrant a "Record Breakers" card. Here's what the back of the card says:
He's The Tribe's Reliable Reliever
Aren't old reliever records so cute? Fifteen straight saves was a record worthy of memorializing with a baseball card? And the previous record was 13? The 1980s don't usually feel all that long ago, but then you see Steve Bedrosian and Mark Davis and Willie Hernandez winning ridiculous awards and it hits you.
The Jones card got me thinking about the rest of the "Record Breakers" set from 1989 Topps. Did the other records age as poorly as Jones', or are they still impressive? Topps featured only seven record breakers that year, so it shouldn't be too hard to check. Here's what I found:
Card #1: George Bell
George Bell Slams 3 HR On Opening Day
This isn't too bad. It's not like four home run days happen all that often, so three home runs on Opening Day are about all you can reasonably hope for. Nice work, Bell.
Card #2: Wade Boggs
Attributes Success to a Chicken Diet
Boggs extended this streak one more year in 1989 before falling 13 hits short in 1990. Boggs didn't end up tying Willie Keeler's record of eight-straight 200-hit campaigns, but even that has been passed by Ichiro (with 10+ seasons like it).
Card #3: Gary Carter
Carter Sets Records For Career Putouts
Card #4: Andre Dawson
The Combination of Power and Speed
Remember when people cared about 10 home runs? Yeah, me neither.
Card #5: Orel Hershiser
He Performs "Orel Surgery" on NL
Okay, this is a big one. The card isn't exactly "59 and Counting", but it's certainly worth its weight in cardboard.
Card #7: Kevin McReynolds
Big Mac is Perfect on the Basepaths
Looking back to 1951 (since Caught Stealing information is unreliable before then), McReynolds has only been bumped down one spot. Chase Utley finished the 2009 season with 23 stolen bases and 0 caught stealings. I'm guessing we'll remember Utley a lot longer than we do McReynolds, and for very different reasons.
There you have it: the complete set of 1989 Topps Record Breakers, no matter how silly their record is. At least they had Orel Hershiser and his 59-scoreless innings to bolster its stature. Otherwise, it looks a little paltry. Not that we can blame the makers of Topps. You can only do so much with the material available - though one has to wonder how Dawson's record can make the cut but Jose Canseco's 40/40 didn't.