Man, this card baffled me even more than the Mike Huff card. Who on earth thought Scott Leius was a more worthy candidate than a lot of other prospects in 1991? I could think of a handful of players even on the Twins that I would pick. I mean, the guy never slugged above .413 in the minors before he appeared on this card. I mean, seriously – why? Was it the 116 OPS+ in 1991? Because no one thought that was sustainable. Surprisingly, he did not have a productive career. This shot is not even that great. Bleh.
1991 Fleer Ultra
My oh my, Denny Neagle. What a checkered history this guy ended up having. In 1991, though, Neagle was just a top Twins pitching prospect, part of a bounty of pitchers that the Twins were supposed to be graduating at that time. He had won 20 games between two levels in 1990, putting up ridiculous numbers and good-looking peripherals. I had scooped every card of the guy I could, including the then-bizarre Fleer Ultra 91 card.
I’m not sure just what Fleer was trying to achieve with this set. Was it meant to compete with Upper Deck? Because while the stock might have been there, the design was nowhere close, nor was the photography. And, of course, it already looked hilariously outdated compared to sets like Stadium Club. I bought the cards because they had a lot of prospects that I thought might pan out, but I didn’t like the design at all. Of course, Ultra found its stride the next year, but 1991 was an absymal year for the set.
Neagle was actually similar. He took some time to finally hit his stride as a major league pitcher (and you have to wonder if steroids had something to do with that). He only pitched seven games for the Twins, traded to the Pirates with Midre Cummings for John Smiley. I guess the Twins felt they had pitching to spare after that World Series victory. It didn’t quite work out that way, after all.
1991 Topps 1990 Debut
I’m trying to remember when I first read about Rich Garces. I can’t remember exactly…but I know that my first actual glimpse of the player was in the 1990 Classic set. I had read somewhere that he was expected to anchor this amazing Twins rotation with Willie Banks and Alan Newman. The group looked like they were going to set the world on fire back then.
Of course the reality was nowhere close to that. Oh, Garces ended up with a decent enough Major League career, even if he was a bit of a laughingstock by the end of it, but yeah…none of those guys lived up to the perception. It just shows how far the scouting of pitchers has come in recent years. I don’t think Garces would ever have been hyped these days – his peripherals just wouldn’t justify it.
Scott Erickson was the coolest pitcher I’d ever seen. The guy dressed all in black on his pitching days, and went so far as to paint his spikes black. It seems really dorky now, but when you’re 14, it seems like the height of coolness for a major league pitcher. Rock star kind of stuff. It helped that he was a pretty good pitcher, too, even if I didn’t give a damn about the Twins past the 1991 World Series. I never noticed until now, either, but he bore a resemblance to Jim Palmer, who remains my favorite pitcher of all time (okay, maybe secondary to Satchel Paige). I’m sure there was some influence there.
Unfortunately, after a promising start, his career fell apart. Oh, he stuck around for a long time, but after 91 and 92 he was mediocre at best. Too bad. I don’t know if an injury was to blame or if the league just figured out that sinker.
Next in the series of Leaf Gold Rookies, I was really stoked to get this card back in the day. Banks was a highly-touted prospect from Jersey City, one of the first can’t-miss pitchers I can remember reading about. Of course he did miss, unfortunately – you can argue about his career, which lasted until 2002, but for a little while there in 90 and 91 he looked unstoppable, and that career is anything BUT unstoppable. Still, he was part of a stable of Twins pitchers that looked great – Alan Newman, Park Pittman, and George Tsamis amongst them.
This card ranks pretty high for me, even if his face is a bit blurry. I like the pose, and the colors are great. That’s what I love about the Gold Leaf Rookies from 91 and 92 – the photography is so great.
I’ve mentioned my prospecting mags of the early 90s before…but the first one I can ever remember was one that I bought for a trip to Baltimore to catch the Orioles and the Yankees. This hot new shortstop prospect Wil Cordero was on the cover, and there was comprehensive coverage of prospects for every team with these exotic minor league cards that I had no hope in hell of ever getting. I remember, nestled amongst the Twins, was this hot new battery that was rising through the ranks at the time – they called it Park to Parks. Park Pittman to Derek Parks. For some reason, Pittman has disappeared from the collective memory of most baseball sites – I had to find him on the baseball cube, but in 1989, as it turns out, he was hardly a stellar prospect, and hadn’t pitched well since rookie ball in 1986. I didn’t have this info on hand, but these days, I’d certainly suspect his prospect status had more to do with the name connection than anything else. The fact that he was gone by 90 cements that for me.
Parks, on the other hand, was a decent if not spectacular catcher. He did make the majors for a few years, but put up some lousy numbers, though I think he had a reputation as a great defensive catcher and gamecaller (for whatever that’s worth these days). I mean, sure, he managed 24 homers in A ball in 1987, but that was accompanied by a .247 BA. It never got better from there, either.
But still they have a place in my teenage prospecting pantheon. I’ve used them as create-a-characters in games ever since, just for fun.