1991 Wichita Wranglers AA Texas League

I have watched many a baseball game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on the banks of the Arkansas River in Wichita, Kansas. I grew up watching the Wichita Aeros, the Chicago Cubs AAA affiliate from 1970 to 1984. After graduating college in the summer of 1980 I worked at the Wichita Children’s Home and I took a group of boys to see Mark Fidrych pitch for the Evansville Triplets vs. the Areos. I cannot remember who won the game, but I do remember Fidrych signing autographs for every one of those boys when it was over though not a one of them had a clue who he was. What I would have given to be able to show those boys a few YouTube videos of the Bird and his eccentric antics on the mound in Tiger Stadium.

In the early 90’s I began taking my own sons to see the Wichita Wranglers when they were the AA affiliate for the San Diego Padres and then the Kansas City Royals. We got to witness up-close the talents of the Alomar brothers, Johnny Damon, and many more. I imagine that my sons were more thrilled to participate in making the world’s largest ice cream sundae and getting to lie on the infield turf to watch fireworks after a game – such are the joys of minor league baseball – but they have very fond memories and a continuing relationship with both minor major league baseball.

Wichita lost the Wranglers in 2007 and I left Kansas the following year, but Lawrence-Dumont will always have a special place in my baseball memory palace.

Here are a few cards from the 1991 Wranglers Roster:

Pedro Martinez – Imagine my shock when I opened this pack of cards! Alas, same famous name from same country, but a couple of years older than THAT Pedro Martinez in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While their major league careers overlapped for 6 seasons, I doubt that they ever appeared in the same game.

 

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Kansas City Royals

My Blog Posts related to the Royals:

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Willie Wilson, Kansas City Royals

Willie Wilson was selected by the Kansas City Royals with the 18th pick of the first round in the 1974 amateur baseball draft. The most notable players selected ahead of him were Lonnie Smith (#3), Dale Murphy (#5), Garry Templeton (#13), and Lance Parrish (#16). Local high school star, Rick Sutcliffe from Independence, Missouri was selected by the Dodgers at #21.

Wilson debuted with the Royals two years later and spent 15 seasons playing center field. In 1979, Wilson led the majors with 83 stolen bases and went on to record 668 for his career, which ranks him #12 all time in major league history. His Royals team record of 612 stolen bases is in no danger of being broken. Another significant feat accomplished by Wilson in 1979 was five inside the park home runs.

1980 was a career year for Wilson. In route to winning a Golden Glove, Silver Slugger, and finishing 4th in MVP voting, he became the first player to have more than 700 at bats in a single season and still holds the American League record with 705. He and Omar Moreno of the Pirates led the majors with 745 plate appearances. He led the majors with 230 hits, 133 runs scored, and tied Alfredo Griffin with most triples in the majors with 15. Wilson’s 1980 numbers for plate appearances, at bats, hits, and runs still stand as Royals single season records.

Wilson led the major leagues and set the Royals single season record for triples in 1985 with 21. He led or tied the American League or the majors for triples five different seasons. Wilson won the American League batting title and led the majors in 1982 with a .332 average, which ties him for 6th best single season record in Royals history – somebody by the name of George Brett has three of the top five single season batting averages for the Royals.

Other pages in this blog that mention Willie Wilson:

Follow Willie Wilson on Twitter.

Let me know if you need any of these cards to complete your collection.

Send an email message to BigBubbo@yahoo.com about any cards you wish to purchase or talk trade. I personally collect Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente, Tom Seaver, St. Louis Cardinals – especially from the 60’s, 1969 and 1986 New York Mets, and 1985 Kansas City Royals.

Thanks for reading and please consider subscribing to my blog, liking my page on Facebook, and/or following me on Twitter: @Big_Bubbo.

George Brett, Kansas City Royals, Hall of Fame

George Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 after a 21 year career with the Kansas City Royals. According to Baseball Reference, he ended his career with a Wins Above Replacement rating of 88.4. Brett is the only MLB player to ever win 3 batting titles in 3 different decades: 1976, 1980, and 1990. In 1980 he was selected American League MVP after posting an amazing slashline of .390 BA/.454 OBP/.664 SLG/1.118 OPS. Over the course of his career, Brett was awarded 3 Silver Sluggers, 1 Gold Glove, and appeared in 13 All-Star Games.

Brett finished behind Mike Hargrove and Bucky Dent for 1974 American League Rookie of the Year honors, neither of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Brett hit 665 doubles in his career ranking him #5 all time among Hall of Famers.

Brett was a consummate hitter who rarely went down on strikes. Among Hall of Fame members from the modern era with at least 10,000 plate appearances, Brett ranks #5 with the lowest strike out rate of just 7.81%. Only Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, and Wade Boggs had lower strikeout rates. Click here to see the table.

Here is a list of the George Brett cards that I currently have in inventory. Send an email message to BigBubbo@yahoo.com about any cards you wish to purchase or talk trade. I personally collect Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente, Tom Seaver, St. Louis Cardinals – especially from the 60’s, 1969 and 1986 New York Mets, and 1985 Kansas City Royals.

Related pages:

George Brett 1983 All Star1983 Topps All Star

I love this facial expression. I can just hear Brett thinking “What is that Billy Martin up to now?!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1986 Topps All Star

1986 All Star (1985 Batting Average Leaders)

That classic George Brett smile! Certainly one of the most personable players in MLB history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1986 Topps1986 Topps

It is so strange to see a picture of George Brett wearing batting gloves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1987

1987 Topps

That trademark follow through pose after a base hit. Notice the lack of batting gloves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1989 Donruss MVP

 

1989 Donruss MVP

With the first-base mitt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1990 Fleer Players of the Decade

 

1990 Fleer Players of the Decade

This card commemorates the 10th anniversary of Brett winning the 1980 batting title with a .390 average – the highest average in 39 years dating back to 1941 when Ted Williams hit .406.

 

 

 

 

George Brett Donruss 90

1990 Donruss

The classic George Brett batting stance: weight back, hands back, bat down, and ready to squish the bug with the left foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1990 Bowman Tiffany

1990 Bowman Tiffany card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1990 Topps

1990 Topps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1991 Topps

 

1991 Topps

The classic George Brett swing just as the left hand is about to release the bat.

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1991 Score Franchise A1991 Score The Franchise

Probably my favorite Brett card. The three bats in this photo are for the three batting titles that George Brett won over the course of three decades – the only player ever to do so. In 1990 at the age of 37, Brett became the third oldest player to win a batting title by hitting a blistering .388 after the All Star break.

 

 

 

 

George Brett Donruss 1991 Highlight

1991 Donruss Highlights

Here is the Donruss card commemorating the three titles in three decades accomplishment. Again, that classic batting stance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett 1992 Topps

 

1992 Topps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Brett Now and Then

1993 Pinnacle Now and Then

Pictures of Brett as a rookie in 1973 and the future Hall of Famer in 1992.

 

 

 

 

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Does Developing and Retaining Hall of Fame Caliber Players Result in World Series Wins?

This is the second posting in a series looking at the four major league expansion teams of 1969: the Kansas City Royals, the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, the San Diego Padres, and the Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers. In the first posting I argued that the Royals are the most successful of these teams because they have made it to the World Series more than the other three and are the only team of the four to have won the World Series. I then argued that the 1985 World Series team was better than the 2015 World Series team because the ’85 team included four players who rank in the top 5 all time in multiple batting categories. By contrast only one member of the 2015 team holds a single season record for the Royals. In retrospect, that logic is a bit of a leap for deciding which was the better of two teams separated by 30 years, but the weight of players’ career statistics with these four teams is fundamental not only in determining the successes and failures of the four teams, but also for discovering the underlying reasons for success or failure. The intended point of the first posting was that the career longevity with the Royals of George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae, and Amos Otis is a fundamental reason why the Royals have been the most successful of the four expansion teams.  In this posting, I argue that a lower turnover rate of the team roster is a second major factor in the success of the Kansas City Royals.

According to Baseball Reference, in their 49-year history, the Royals have had a total of 857 players on their roster, the fewest of the four expansion teams. By contrast, the Padres have had 977 players, 14% more than the Royals, and the most of the four expansion teams. The Expos/Nationals have had 905 players and the Pilots/Brewers 863. However, the higher roster turnover rate has not doomed the Padres to failure as they have made it to the World Series twice, only to lose each time. Likewise, the fact that the Pilots/Brewers roster turnover rate is less than 1% higher than that of the Royals did not result in a World Series victory in their 1982 appearance and they have made it to the post-season only 4 times, the fewest appearances of the 4 teams. The significance of roster turnover as a factor in team success or failure requires a more qualitative examination.

Baseball Reference provides a list for every Hall of Fame player to have ever been on a given teams roster. Excluding Hall of Famers listed as managers rather than players, the Royals have had only 4 players on its roster to be inducted into the Base Hall of Fame: George Brett, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, and Harmon Killebrew. Cepeda, Perry, and Killebrew each played just one year for the Royals, the last years of their respective careers, and can hardly be considered as vital in the long-term success or failure of the team. George Brett is the only player of the four to have started and ended his career with the Royals and his importance to the long-term success of the team was detailed in the previous posting.

The San Diego Padres historical roster includes 11 members of the Base Hall of Fame. Only four of those players started their careers with San Diego and only one of the four, Tony Gwynn, ended his career as a Padre. Roberto Alomar began his career with San Diego, but spent only the first 3 of his 17 years in the major leagues as a Padre. Likewise, Ozzie Smith spent only his first 4 years in the bigs with San Diego, and Dave Winfield only his first 8. When the Padres lost the World Series in 1984 and again in 1998, Tony Gwynn was the only player on the roster who would go on to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Would the outcome of the 1984 World Series have been different if Dave Winfield and Ozzie Smith had still been on the Padres roster?  Would the Padres have won the 1998 Series if Roberto Alomar had still been wearing a San Diego uniform? We will never know the answers, but the questions must haunt Padres fans.

The Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals developed and failed to retain 4 future Hall of Famers: Tim Raines, Randy Johnson, Andre Dawson, and Gary Carter. However, one could argue that all of these players save Johnson spent their prime years in an Expos uniform. Raines, Dawson, and Carter spent the first 13, 11, and 12 years of their careers respectively, with the Expos.  How the Expos managed to make the post-season playoffs only once in the eight-year span from 1979 to 1986 that they had Carter, Dawson, and Raines on the roster is one of the great mysteries of baseball and undermines the theory that developing and retaining quality players leads to World Series success.

Likewise, the history of the Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers also undermines the theory by imitating the low roster turnover rate of the Royals and having only 5 players on the career roster to make the Hall of Fame and yet making the post-season the fewest number of times, 4, of the four expansion teams. Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were on the roster together from 1978 to 1993 and yet the Brewers made only 2 post-season appearances during that time.

So the Kansas City Royals have developed and retained the fewest number of Hall of Fame caliber players, yet they have been the most successful of the four 1969 expansion teams. What is their secret? I will keep looking.

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