Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Long may he Raines


I'm taking a bit of risk by assuming about three hours before the announcement that Tim Raines has been selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today and compiling an entire post about him with absolutely no backup plan.

But the signs have been overwhelmingly positive for Raines' selection, so I don't feel too out on a limb. Besides, the other guys with the best chance of entering are '90s guys, and I have so little to say about most of those players. Certainly not enough for an entire post. I don't want all those mullets all over my blog.

Raines is different. He is a holdover from the '80s. When he first reached the majors, I was 14 years old. The rookies of that period were my people, the new stars that I could witness from the start, not some hand-me-downs from an earlier era.

Raines, if you don't remember or amazingly haven't heard, was an eye-popping star from the start. He stole 71 bases his rookie year in 1981, which sounds not that astonishing until the next part of that sentence, which is " ... in 88 games!" There was a strike that year, you know. And he sat out with a hand injury near the end of the season.

But don't let me say it. Here, take a look at the back of Raines' 1982 Donruss card:


Yup. Keep in mind Rickey Henderson showed up just 2 years earlier. And Fernando Valenzuela was a rookie in '81, too.

I've dedicated several blog posts to Raines, from the sudden decision to call him "Rock" on his baseball cards to his rookie card's remarkable resemblance to another teammate's card the very same year. So, it's about time he be recognized in the Hall.

And there is nowhere else you can go to see Raines' finest baseball cards (at least the finest in my collection), but here.

So let's take a look at 10 of my favorites, in honor of the 10 years it took Raines to be named to the Hall. I  definitely have more than 10 favorite Raines cards, so I fully expect this list to change while I am making it.

Also, I am starting with the my favorite Raines card -- which also happens to be the best Raines card -- and working my way down, as opposed to the reverse order I usually do. I simply can't bury this card:


1. 1993 Upper Deck

That might be one of the best cards to come out of the last 25 years. I cannot find a single thing wrong with it ... other than that he should be in an Expos uniform.



2. 1981 Donruss

I was there when Tim Raines' 1981 Donruss card was released, so let me tell you how it went down.

I pulled it out of a pack, obviously, probably at Monroe Market. Young baseball fans like me knew who Tim Raines was at the time. He was one of the new stars of baseball, but it was strange hearing all of that praise for Raines contrasted against the back of his baseball card that said his lifetime batting average was .050.


3. 1981 Topps Traded

This is a beautiful card. Colorful as an MTV video. As full of promise as ... well, spring training. And it took a long time to land, because the '81 Traded set was not available in stores. You had to have a subscription to Baseball Digest or some similar baseball publication and spot an advertisement so you could fill out an order form and wait for it to come in the mail in like 8 weeks.



4. 1986 Topps

Another hopeful card. I don't think I've ever seen Raines happier than on this card, regardless of what appears to be a gigantic bandage on his elbow. He's ready to go.



5. 1984 Fleer

Would you like to know the first time Tim Raines is shown in a red Expos batting practice jersey on a baseball card? You're looking at it. Oh, sure, he's wearing the red jersey in a couple of 1983 stickers, but those don't count. I need Raines in red in a batting cage in the vicinity of a random dude in slacks shown ON cardboard.



6. 1992 Stadium Club

If you can get baseball players and scenery together in one photo, you're living right. Raines' White Sox uniforms weren't the most colorful, so I get the feeling the photographers had to work a little more to make pictures interesting.



7. 1984 O-Pee-Chee All-Star

The best aspect about Expos players in the '80s is that they almost always had OPC cards, too. This one is particularly great because there is French on the front of the card (please note the color contrast between each card).

8. 1989 O-Pee-Chee

More OPC. This time it's the first time that Raines is referred to as "Rock" on a baseball card. This habit would continue with Topps (and also OPC for a bit) into the '90s. It was all very weird and I think everyone realized the insanity of it all around 1993, but, man, it was a strange four years.



9. 1995 Topps

Until now, you haven't seen Raines on the basepaths. Those cards do exist (1983 Topps, 1991 Upper Deck and a bunch of others). But they just didn't make the cut. This is a staged photo of Raines on the bases. By now he was long a veteran and something like this works for someone who had well over 600 stolen bases at the time.


10. 1982 Topps Highlight

Who doesn't like having their achievements preserved on paper? As someone lucky enough to win a couple of awards, I know I am a sucker for plaques and parchment. And if I was a baseball player, I'd be a sucker for a highlights card. There it is for everyone to see. 71 stolen bases as a rookie. No need to turn the card over. It's right there. Forever.

OK, that didn't feel nearly complete in terms of my favorite Raines cards, so here are some more:


That last one is great. Tim Raines is 5-8. But you get the feeling he is 5-4 in this photo (Eric Davis is 6-2).

Raines is a throwback in a few ways. He was short. And his calling card was the stolen base, something highly valued and praised in the '80s but not so much now. Plus, he played for a team that doesn't exist anymore.

I'm quite happy he'll be in the Hall of Fame. As an Expo. And, sure, I'm happy for those other guys, too. No mullets on the plaques please.

Oh, and I apologize about the title for this post. That was a risk that didn't really pay off.

18 comments:

  1. You assumed correct! He did make and I am glad. I would of been okay without Bags or Irod, but they too are PC guys of mine. Raines now serves as two collections HOFers and Birthday Binders.

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  2. "If you can get baseball players and scenery together in one photo, you're living right." Hahaha

    Great post, loved all the cards you featured. Don't know who Tim Raines is (Don't stone me!) but after reading this post I feel like I've walked away with a little knowledge.

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  3. Slightly stunned the 1985 Topps didn't make top ten - love that card!

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  4. Also...could upper deck please start making real cards again?

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  5. The '93 UD Raines is definitely one of the best cards from that stellar checklist, and almost definitely my favorite Raines card of all-time as well. I'd probably put the '95 Topps card behind that one on my list, with the '81 Donruss RC somewhere in the mix as well because of that beautiful Wrigley Field backdrop. Disappointed that Vlad won't be a first-ballot HOFer, but still a solid Cooperstown class overall this year.

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  6. Glad he made it in. Well deserved..
    Saw a couple people asking why he made it in and quoted his average, homers, and rbis..

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  7. I am a huge fan of the 1984 Topps All Star card, as it is front and center on my Expos Raines page in rarer Nestle form. I feel it was robbed at #7 and demand its elevation to the top 5. These things are important!

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  8. Nice collection of Raines cards. 1993 Upper Deck is such an awesome set. Great design combined with amazing photography. The Raines is definitely nice... but you said it yourself... Raines should be in an Expos uniform.

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  9. When I was 11, my grandfather took my brother and me to a doubleheader in the Class A Florida State League. At that level, the home team (in this case, the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees) played two different teams in the two games of the doubleheader. The West Palm Beach Expos, who were to play in the second game, came into the stands in full uniform to watch the first game, so my brother and I took our programs over to get them autographed. Years later, I pulled out the program, and there in pencil on the front was the name "Tim Raines". About time that he became a Hall of Famer.

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  10. I love the 95 Topps card. So few people were collecting at that time that the whole 95 set seems like a rare insert set.

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  11. 1985 Topps is my favorite Raines card, congrats on a much deserved honor for Tim!

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  12. Nice post. Some thoughts on the post and this year's HOF voting in general:

    What was the deal with the whole Rock thing anyway?

    With Raines finally in, who takes the crown for best eligible MLB player NOT in the Hall? (Aside from the PED Puppies.) Harold Baines maybe?

    It would have been good to see Vlad get in. But he's got time.

    PED Puppies are gaining. I truly don't know how I feel about that. I don't have an opinion one way or another about that. I only bring that up because I feel I SHOULD have an opinion. But I don't. (By contrast, I definitely feel Rose belongs in the Hall. He might have a bit of a prickly personality, but if we kept all prickly personalities out there'd be a lot fewer members of the HOF. They can't all be Lou Gehrig.)

    Speaking of the PED controversy ... there's always talk about Bonds and Clemens, but how come we never talk about Rafael Palmeiro? Being in the 3000 hit club AND the 500 HR club is a very rare combination.

    Random question after reading this post: how many Expos are in the Hall? What teams have the most representation? What teams have the least?

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    1. I believe Carter, Dawson and Raines are the only Expos in the hall, outside of someone who may have played for them for a year or something. But I'm not that into Hall research.

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    2. If you mean players who were Expos but are in the Hall with a different cap on, I know Pedro Martinez is one.
      As far as Raines being in and who is the next best to not be in, I don't really get why everyone wanted Raines in the Hall in the first place. I may be wrong, but he played for 23 seasons. Sure, he missed some time in a few of them, but he ended up with 2605 hits. That's only 113 per year. His calling card was steals and walks. You could make a case for Vince Coleman if it's all about steals, walks, and averaging 113 hits per season. Dave Parker played 19 years, averaged 142 hits per year, had a batting average only .004 lower than Raines, and his calling card was Homers and RBIs (339 career home runs). Homers and RBIs win you more games than steals, and since his average was so close to Raines and he was more productive every year, why isn't he in? Baines is also a good candidate to be the best guy not in. I would put him in, along with Trammell, and maybe Jack Morris. I would've liked to see Hoffman, Vlad, Edgar, McGriff, Larry Walker, and Schilling get in this year, Mussina get in but maybe a few years down the road. Lee Smith could've went either way for me, and of known PED guys, if they are getting put in, I would put in Manny, Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire first ballot, and Sheffield towards the end of his eligibility. Just my views on it, not worth much since I don't get a vote lol.

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  13. I believe the whole "Rock" thing stemmed from the fact that he was very muscular, thus built like a rock. He was a hitting coach in the Eastern League a few years back and still looked rather chiseled. I had him sign a Topps card with Rock on it and asked him he minded that they did it. He replied that he asked them to. Real nice guy.

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  14. Wow... 1990 Donruss and "Favorite" together on this blog? Never thought I'd see the day.

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