Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cardboard appreciation: 1989 Topps Tim ... er, Rock Raines

(Around here there is this tradition. During spring break week, about half the town leaves and resides in Myrtle Beach for a week. I never figured out the point of taking a vacation and seeing the same people you see all year, except in a warmer climate. So here's to taking a vacation when no one else does, and being able to tell people about it without anyone saying, "I know, I was there." Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 110th in a series):

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode when George wanted his nickname to be "T-bone"? While attempting to establish the "T-bone" nickname, his boss gave the nickname to a co-worker and everyone ended up calling George "Koko."

The storyline struck a chord because it's rare that you can give yourself your own nickname. Nickname responsibilities fall on family or friends, not the person in question. I once wanted to be called "Pedro" in high school because of Pedro Guerrero, but only a close friend or two did so, and I'm certain it was just to humor me.

Although I'm sure that teammates actually did call Tim Raines "Rock," when I pulled this 1989 Topps card out of a pack, I was shocked to see this person named "Rock Raines." I almost thought it was a different player. Who was Rock? And what had he done with Tim? For eight years, I had pulled Tim Raines cards. I still remember pulling his first solo card, in the 1981 Donruss set. But his name was "Tim," and "Tim" was what people called him when I watched games on TV for eight years. He had always been "Tim."

Then I turned over the card:

Yeah, there was the name "Rock Raines" in big letters. But the part that makes me stop was the write-up on the back. "He prefers to be known by his nickname "Rock."

Well, excuse me.

I remember discussing this with my brother and laughing about it. He couldn't be known as "Tim" for eight years and expect everyone to call him "Rock." It was a lot like how some schools suddenly want to be known by a different name after decades of going by another name. I think the University of Pittsburgh went through this once. They didn't want to be called "Pitt" anymore. They wanted to be "Pittsburgh," and everyone said, "Yeah, good luck with that." Back to "Pitt" they went.

So, I expected "Rock" Raines to be back to "Tim" in no time. After all, none of the other card companies were calling him "Rock."

In '89, Donruss, Fleer, Score and Upper Deck all put out Tim Raines cards. There wasn't a Rock, or even a pebble, to be seen.

Look, Donruss went a step farther. It made sure that if this Raines character was going to have a nickname, it would be "Tim," short for Timothy. "Rock" is short for "Rock n' Roll," but not Raines.

But then 1990 arrived and nothing had changed.

Topps was still calling him "Rock Raines," front and back. This really puzzled me, because in the past, Topps would never back down when it came to name differences. In fact, they would give players names that they were never called. Davey Lopes became "Dave" Lopes. Richie Hebner became "Rich" Hebner. Topps gave you a name and stuck with it forever, no matter what you were called.

That made me think that Raines and Topps had a deal. Or maybe Raines wasn't going to agree to pictures if his name wasn't "Rock."

But if that was the case, it didn't stop the other card companies. Raines was "Tim" for Fleer and all the other companies in 1990, too.

In 1991, Topps issues two cards of "Rock" Raines. Two Rock Raineses. His base card and his traded card.

On the back of both of them, it insisted that ROCK was selected as MVP of the 1987 All-Star Game, even though every listing I ever saw of All-Star Game MVPs gave the '87 honor to someone named "Tim."

1991 Score agreed with me. Your name is "Tim," buddy. And all the other card companies joined in chorus.

And so the confusion continued into 1992. Raines was "Rock" in the Topps sets (Stadium Club, too).

But he was "Tim" in every other set on the planet. Even in goofy kids sets that show photos with an umpire's arm almost obscuring the photo subject's head.

These were uncertain times. Flannel everywhere. People still walking around in Members Only jackets. Raines and Topps were just adding to the confusion.

Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped.

Raines was back to "Tim." in 1993.

What happened?

Was Topps getting complaints about the nickname? Did other card companies' laughter finally make it to Topps headquarters? I know Raines didn't get rid of the nickname because it's still known as his nickname to this day. But something definitely happened.

I turned the card over to make sure.

Yup. Tim all the way around. It was as if Rock Raines never existed.

For the rest of his career, he was listed as Tim Raines on his Topps cards and all his other cards. No more Rock.

Phew! Worked for me.

We couldn't have "Rock Raines" on his Hall of Fame plaque now could we?


  1. I believe Topps was also guilty of doing this to Dwight Gooden at the time as well since for a few years he was only referred to as Doc Gooden.

    While we're on this subject, Ichiro Suzuki is another player guilty of this as he prefers that we completely forget his last name and just call him "Ichiro". No Thanks.

  2. I always thought Topps did some weird nickname forcing.

    Nicknaming yourself always reminds me of Lance Berkman desperately making sure everyone calls him "Big Puma" or simply "Puma". Because pumas are sleek and powerful, or something. Whatever, Fat Elvis.

  3. And obviously there's the whole Russ Martin thing in recent times...

  4. I have successfully nicknamed myself!

  5. How 'bout "Rockin' Tim Raines", for his HOF plaque? Assuming the voters ever get as smart as the fans.

    That is kinda weird to slip his nickname like that onto his card out of nowhere.

  6. Given the friendship that Raines and Gooden share, and their history of drug use, "Rock" and "Doc" are pretty appropriate

  7. Wow. That is good stuff.

    At least Topps didn't go with "Michael Schmidt" my mom listed as my favorite player for my little league card back in the day. Michael? Really?

  8. In the '89 set, Topps also switched to show Dwight Gooden as "Doc."

    The only thing was...I had been hearing the announcers call Gooden "Doc" for 4-5 years on a regular basis. As you said, they hadn't been calling Raines "Rock" at all. One card made sense, but the other one didn't.

    Despite what it said on the card, I never stopped calling him "Tim."

    And you're right about assigning your own nickname. I tried that when I was 10. Even my friends didn't bother trying it. Instead, I was eventually tagged with the nickname "Stuff" because it's easier than my last name. From JV baseball to varsity football to the Army to college to my's something I'm still called on occasion at work.

  9. Raines has managed the Newark Bears for the last two seasons, and he still gets most people to call him "Rock."

    Usually, he signs autographs as "Tim Raines", but if you give him a "Rock Raines" card, you'll probably get a "Rock Raines" autograph on it.

    - Paul

  10. I don't care what Topps called him. In my database he's Tim Raines.

  11. I can remember a story somewhere where a photographer for Topps asked Tim what he wanted to be called on his card and he jokingly said "Rock". From what I recall, Tim was surprised to see the Rock name on his card and got a good chuckle out of it.

    I think it came from an interview that Tim did years later.