Skip to main content

Brush with greatness: Alan Benes

I recently picked up this card, which was very key because I believe I now have at least one card of every major league baseball player that I have interviewed. And I wasn't going to do one of these BWG posts if I didn't have the player's card.

A lot of people probably haven't heard of or don't remember Alan Benes. He's the younger brother of Andy Benes, the former Padres pitcher, who is featured in the large mug shot on the card. Both Alan and Andy pitched together with the Cardinals in the late 1990s, and that's when I talked to Alan, up in Montreal.

Alan was well-spoken, as a lot of pitchers are, and was happy to sit down at his locker and talk to me. But what I want to write about here, concerning Alan, is a brief comment on "prospecting."

I am not a prospector at all. I've said that before. I have no interest in "who might be a star." And I've already mentioned how much I despise "speculation." I believe it may be responsible for a wide variety of society's ills. It's killed ESPN. And it's at least responsible for giving birth to one huge black mark on this country, something otherwise known as talk radio.

But another reason that I am not a prospector, and why the vast majority of card bloggers aren't prospectors, is because it is so freaking hard to be successful at it. Predicting who is going to be the next great thing is brutal.

Have you looked at the players who have gone No. 1 in the major league draft each year? Sure, there are some no-brainers like Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez. But there are picks like Steve Chilcott, Al Chambers, Shawn Abner, Brien Taylor and Paul Wilson, too.

So if major league baseball teams, who have put untold sums of money, time and resources into scouting, can come up with a sure thing barely half the time, then what chance does a card collector with no connections have?

Take the Benes example. I talked to the late, great George Kissell about Benes. Kissell was the longtime, legendary Cardinals coach who I've written about before. He was considered one of the smartest, if not the smartest, man in baseball by loads of players and coaches over the years. Kissell knew talent, shaping careers of players like Joe Torre and Terry Pendleton.

So, when Benes came up in my talk with Kissell, he said this: "Alan Benes, he's going to be a star."

Benes had just finished the best season of his career, going 13-10 in his rookie season in 1996. He would go 9-9 with a 2.89 ERA the following year. Then he encountered arm trouble. He missed the entire 1998 season and all but two games of 1999. When he came back, he was made a reliever, but he gave up too many runs. He landed with the Cubs, but never pitched in more than nine games a season between 2000 and 2003. He went 0-3 with an 11.40 ERA with the Rangers and called it a career.

So, George Kissell was wrong. Alan Benes didn't become a star.

If the man who advised Stan Musial and taught fundamentals to just about every Cardinal player to come to the majors in the last 60 years can't get the prospecting thing right, then what chance do we have?

Yeah, I know, some select people are really good at prospecting. And it wouldn't be any fun if you didn't have to guess whether someone was going to be good or not. But for me, the whole prospecting thing is just riddled with failure. I have enough of that in my life. I'll stick with the part of the hobby that makes me happy.

And here's the part that makes me happy: Hey! I found an Alan Benes card! I talked to him once, you know.


Johngy said…
I liked the Benes Bros., all 3 of them, although Adam never made it to the bigs. Alan did spend time in Chicago though.
Oh and I have cards of every player I ever interviewed...all 5 of them! I have a long way to catch up with you.
gcrl said…
the ladies loved shawn abner, though. at least at the angels games i went to in '91.

Popular posts from this blog

This guy was everywhere

It's interesting how athletes from the past are remembered and whether they remain in the public conscious or not.

Hall of Fame players usually survive in baseball conversations long after they've played because they've been immortalized in Cooperstown. Then there are players who didn't reach the Hall but were still very good and somehow, some way, are still remembered.

Players like Dick Allen, Rusty Staub, Vida Blue and Mickey Rivers live on decades later as younger generations pick up on their legacies. Then there are all-stars like Bert Campaneris, who almost never get discussed anymore.

There is just one memory of Campaneris that younger fans most assuredly know. I don't even need to mention it. You know what's coming, even if Lerrin LaGrow didn't.

But there was much more to Campaneris than one momentary loss of reason.

A couple of months ago, when watching old baseball games on youtube hadn't gotten old yet, I was watching a World Series game from…

Some of you have wandered into a giveaway

Thanks to all who voted in the comments for their favorite 1970s Topps card of Bert Campaneris.

I didn't know how this little project would go, since I wasn't installing a poll and, let's face it, the whole theme of the post is how Campaneris these days doesn't get the respect he once did. (Also, I was stunned by the amount of folks who never heard about the bat-throwing moment. Where am I hanging out that I see that mentioned at least every other month?)

A surprising 31 people voted for their favorite Campy and the one with the most votes was the one I saw first, the '75 Topps Campy card above.

The voting totals:

'75 Campy - 11 votes
'70 Campy - 4
'72 Campy - 4
'73 Campy - 4
'76 Campy - 4
'74 Campy - 3
'78 Campy - 1

My thanks to the readers who indulged me with their votes, or even if they didn't vote, their comments on that post. To show my appreciation -- for reading, for commenting, for joining in my card talk even if it might …

Return of the king

(If you haven't voted for your favorite Bert Campaneris '70s card in the last post, I invite you to do so).

So you've been away for a few years and want everyone to know that you're back.

How do you do that?

Do what The Diamond King did when he returned to card blogging last month: Bombard readers with contests and giveaways! Well, you've certainly gotten MY attention, sir!

I'll start with the giveaways first. Since he returned, the Diamond King has issued multiple "Diamond King 9" giveaways, straight out of the chute and rapid fire in the last month-plus. As I've said before, I am very slow to get to these "first come, first serve" giveaways. I used to think "I spend too much time on the computer" and now I realize "I don't spend enough time on the computer at all!"

But I was able to nab two cards out of the many giveaways.

I won this key 1981 Fleer Star Sticker of The Hawk. I have since acquired several more &#…