Monday, January 7, 2013

Into the Sunset, Pt. 12: Ozzie Guillen

The time has come to celebrate another milestone around here.

Today is officially the thirteen-month anniversary of this blog.

Okay, maybe the word "anniversary" is pushing it. I don't know of too many couples who celebrate the thirteen-month barrier.

There is a specific reason I bring up the topic of thirteen-month anniversaries for the first time in...well, possibly the history of mankind.

As you probably know, the number "13" is considered "unlucky" around superstitious circles.

And those "superstitious circles" don't get much larger than the group of men who play baseball for a living.

So, in my quest to weave such a historically unlucky number into the wide world of baseball cards, I realized that the time had come to compose another "sunset" post.

That's when I decided to research the players who dared wear such a "cursed" number during their careers.

Although I can rattle off quite a few useless factoids about the game of baseball, I'm not all that good when it comes to the numbers on players' backs.

The only one that came to mind at first was Alex Rodriguez. But he doesn't have any "sunset" cards...yet.

As I dug deeper, I found that binder "inductees" Jeff Fassero and Neifi Perez also wore #13 during their careers. But I'd have a hard time filling up an entire post about either of those guys.

That's when I remembered another player who'd sported the number in his time.

None other than Ozzie Guillen.

I'm sure a lot of us could write quite a bit on our respective opinions about the man.

I'm no exception.

But, in the end, not much of it is anything that hasn't been said before.

So, for now, we'll just focus on his baseball cards and leave the other stuff for another day.

Although I wouldn't have considered him a surefire "stand-out" player at any point during his career, card companies were gracious enough to grant Mr. Guillen a few terrific issues in his day.

His '93 Upper Deck and '94 Topps cards are particular favorites of mine.

It's difficult to pick a "peak year" of cardboard for Guillen's career. I'm still not sure what mine is, to tell you the truth.

In keeping with the whole "13" theme, though, I chose to feature his '94 Leaf issue at the top of this post. Neither of the other "favorites" emphasize his uniform number nearly as much.

After spending the majority of his 16-year career on the South Side of Chicago, Guillen wound up toiling around the bigs for a bit during his last few seasons.

As a result, his "sunset" cards are major features in my "unfamiliar uniform" collection as well.

And, if you know anything about me or this blog, those are some of my favorite cards to analyze.

So here we go.

Ozzie Guillen spent his last three years in the majors with three different teams.

In terms of cardboard, my favorite of the trio has to be his ill-fated 12-game stint with Baltimore, something I've previously written about on this blog.

After being cut by the O's in May of '98, he managed to latch on with Atlanta.

He'd spend the rest of 1998 and all of '99 with the Braves.

That's where Guillen would receive his last recognition by Upper Deck.

Although I'm all for nice horizontal spring training shots, I've never been a huge fan of UD's obstructive '99 design.

In the words of another blogger, it is indeed the "salad tongs" set. I can't put it much better than that.

Even more than the design, though, this isn't even Guillen's true "sunset" card.

Which is precisely why it brings up the rear here.

Sorry, Upper Deck.

This is a sight that will never look right to me.

Ozzie Guillen in a Devil Rays uniform.


For better or worse, he'd finish up his career with Tampa in 2000, posting a .243 average in 63 games during his big league swan song.

As a result, his true "sunset" cards come from 2001.

To my knowledge, there are only two in existence. Given the gluttony of sets that were around at the time, though, it's very possible that a few have managed to sneak past me all these years.

The first of my (then) Devil Ray cards of Mr. Guillen comes from 2001 Topps.

Definitely one of the lower points in Topps' history.

I like the inclusion of the "Green Monster" in the backdrop of this one. It makes those hideous dark-green borders a little less boring.

In terms of execution, there's just not a whole lot to get excited about here.

Topps left a lot to be wanted in the "sunset" department with Ozzie Guillen.

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but...

Fleer Triple Crown actually managed to produce the best "sunset" card of a ballplayer.

I received this card as part of a trade a few years back. Before then, I'd had no clue that Guillen was ever affiliated with the Devil Rays organization. 

Perhaps this post is the first time a few of my readers are learning of his forgotten tenure in Tampa.

Triple Crown has to be one of the most glossed-over of all the unremarkable sets that emerged during the early 21st century.

Although the design is painfully intrusive, I'll never be able to turn down a good action "bunting" shot.

This doesn't look like an ordinary sacrifice bunt, either. From what I see, Guillen was trying to lay one down for a base hit here.

Even if he was 36 years old in 2000.

And playing for the Devil Rays.

Still, just what is the most redeeming quality of this card?

I'd say it's the rare inclusion of the uniform number on the front.


It's popping up everywhere these days.


Spiegel83 said...

I think Orlando Hudson wore #13 as a Dodger in '09. He ended up losing his starting job later in the year and in the playoffs to.....Ronnie Belliard. That is unlucky.

hiflew said...

I actually like 2001 Topps, sure the color is great but it is better than the silver in 2000 and the gold in 98 and 99. And it was much better than the burnt orange of 2002.

However, the best thing about that set was the return to a much larger base set though. There are a couple of Rockies that wouldn't have gotten a card otherwise (Kevin Jarvis, Jeff Frye) or several others that had only a couple like Butch Huskey and Ron Gant. I'm sure there are other teams with the same story.

AdamE said...

I'm never one to disagree with Night Owl but 99 Upper Deck doesn't remind me of Salad Tongs at all. To me the border looks like one of those crane machines where you try to pick up the stuffed animals.