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
Jones Earns His 15th Straight Save
Cleveland, Ohio. July 2, 1988 – Indians’ Doug Jones tonight earned his 15th consecutive save in a 10-7 win vs. Mariners, a major league record. The former standard of 13 consecutive saves was established by Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1987 season.
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
Kansas City, Mo, April 4, 1988. Blue Jays’ George Bell today set major league record with 3 home runs on Opening Day in 5-3 win versus Royals. The former mark of 2 round-trippers in season’s first contest had been accomplished 48 times by 42 players.
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 Gets 200 Hits 6th Straight Season
Cleveland, Ohio. October 2, 1988. Red Sox’ Wade Boggs has set modern record with 200 or more hits for sixth consecutive season. The former mark of 5 campaigns was held by Chuck Klein (1929-1933), Al Simmons (1929-1933), and Charlie Gehringer (1833-1937).
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
St. Louis, MO. October 2, 1988: Mets’ Gary Carter has completed the season with 10,360 career putouts, most of any catcher in major league history. The former mark of 9,941 putouts by a backstop was set by Tigers’ Bill Freehan, from 1967 thru 1976.
Card #4: Andre Dawson
The Combination of Power and Speed
Dawson Logs Double Figures In HR And SB
Chicago, IL. October 2, 1988: Cubs’ Andre Dawson has attained 10-or-more Home Runs and Stolen Bases for the 12th consecutive season, a major league record. The former mark of 11 straight campaigns was set by Bobby Bonds from 1960 through 1979.
Remember when people cared about 10 home runs? Yeah, me neither.
Card #5: Orel Hershiser
He Performs "Orel Surgery" on NL
Hershiser Pitches 59 Scoreless Innings
San Diego, CA. September 28, 1988: Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser has completed the 1988 season with 59 consecutive scoreless innings, a major league record. Dodgers’ Don Drysdale pitched 58 straight innings during 1968 season without allowing a run.
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
Kevin Steals 21 Without Being Caught!
St. Louis, MO. October 2, 1988: Mets’ Kevin McReynolds has set a major league record of 21 stolen bases with no caught stealing in 1988. The former mark of 15 steals in as many tries was established by A’s Jimmy Sexton during 1982 campaign.
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.