Saturday, August 23, 2008

1988 USA Olympic Baseball: Where Are They Now?

On the heels of the US Olympic baseball team's bronze medal winning performance in the 2008 games, I thought I'd take a look back at the 1988 team which won the gold (as a demonstration sport) and simultaneously look at the 1988 Topps Traded set. When I started collecting cards in 1986 at the ripe old age of 10, I would get a "traded" set as a gift (or in my stocking) each year. This was one of the rare times my dad would take an interest in something I was into, most likely because it was sports-related, and actually would make sure I got a present I liked for my birthday. Being a Halloween baby, my birthday would usually coincide with the season-end releases and I would always report to my dad as far as what set I wanted to go after. Topps was usually the standard, but I also ended up with the 1988 Fleer Update set (I must have gotten a set for Christmas and my birthday) and 1990 Score Rookie/Traded set (because of the silly Eric Lindros card, I guess?) The 1988 Topps Traded set seemed to have the best investment potential, and if I recall correctly it actually retailed at most shops for 19.99, quite a premium price at the time. The most exciting thing was the inclusion of USA Olympic Team cards for the first time since the subset that came with the 1985 Topps set (Shawn Abner, anyone?).

1T - Jim Abbott
Abbott is a story all by himself. Drafted by the Angels with the 8th pick of the 1988 draft, he was born without a right hand and still managed to excel at the major league level as a starter. He was 18-11 in 1991 with a 2.89 ERA and threw a no-hitter with the Yankees in 1993. Unfortunately, he also produced one of the worst full seasons as a starter in history in 1996, going 2-18 with a 7.48 ERA in 27 appearances. He was amazing to watch- very memorable in the way he'd flip his glove from resting on his right arm to his pitching hand so he could field the ball if needed. WHERE IS HE NOW (WIHN)? Abbott is now a motivational speaker, according to his Wikipedia entry.

9T - Bret Barberie
Barberie was a 7th round pick of the Expos in the '88 draft. He had a six year career as a middle infielder with 4 different major league teams including the inaugural Florida Marlins team. He might be best known as the former husband of FOX NFL Sunday idiot Jillian Barberie. WIHN: No idea.

14T - Andy Benes
Benes "signed a AA-Wichita contract with the Padres, June 20, 1988 as a 1st round Draft selection" according to the back of his card. I'm not sure how that differs from a regular contract, but who am I to question Topps? He was actually the #1 pick in the draft and went on to win 155 games in the majors, a pretty solid career. Benes spent 5 of his last 7 seasons with the Cardinals, only leaving for Arizona in 1998 for 2 years because the contract he signed with the Cardinals was signed after the midnight deadline for resigning with his current team that season. Needless to say, I was pretty upset at the time, but understood why he opted to leave instead of sit out for a month (plus spring.) WIHN: Benes is back in college and is a family guy now (but not a "Family Guy", bleh.)

19T - Jeff Branson
Branson was a 2nd round pick of the Reds in '88. He spent a 9 year major league career as a middle infielder for the Reds, Indians and Dodgers. He made one World Series appearance, literally, as he had one at-bat with Cleveland facing the champion Marlins team in 1997. According to, he was 2nd in the NL in intentional walks in 1995 with 14. WIHN: No idea. Apparently he shares a name with an All My Children actor that is more famous than him.

23T - Jim Campanis
Campanis was drafted by the Mariners in the 3rd round of the '88 Draft. He spent 3 years in the minors as a catcher, but never made it higher than AA. His father of the same name had an unremarkable 6-year career as a reserve catcher in the late 60s. WIHN: It's hard to find out information on either player.

30T - Pat Combs
Combs was the #11 pick by the Phillies. (Let's just note that all of the players in this group, other than the coach, were '88 draft picks. The other members of the team that were not drafted or did not sign were not included in the set, most likely due to professional rights issues.) Combs lasted just 4 major league seasons and was out of professional baseball by 1995, despite being a highly touted prospect. WIHN: Combs apparently resides in Richmond, TX and may or may not be a real estate agent.

38T - Mike Fiore
Fiore was sort of my inspiration for this post. "What happened to him?", I wondered. "Why doesn't he really have any Cardinals cards?" He was a 15th round pick for the Cards, and I am still not able to find any information about him other than the fact that he never made the majors. There is another Mike Fiore that briefly was a Card in 1972, however.

44T - Ty Griffin
Griffin was the 9th pick overall by the Cubs, but never made it past AA. You can read much more about him than I could find about most of these guys that never made it to the bigs here.

65T - Mike Marquess
Marquess was the head coach. According to the back of his card, he "guided Stanford to two consecutive College World Series championships." I can't find out anything else about him other than what's on the card. He apparently played "pro ball" from 1969-1973, but I'm guessing that doesn't mean major league pro ball.

66T - Tino Martinez
Martinez, the 14th overall pick by Seattle, is probably the most decorated member of this team. He played for 16 major league seasons, hitting 339 career HRs and 1271 RBI. He played in 5 World Series, winning 4. As a Cardinal, he was the bridge between Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols at 1st base, though he drew the ire of many Cardinals fans with his unspectacular (but I contest- still not super-horrible) two seasons of numbers. WIHN: Martinez was an ESPN Baseball Tonight guy in 2006, but is now Special Assistant General Manager to the General Manager of the Yankees.

67T - Billy Masse
Masse was a 7th round pick of the Yankees. He was a AAA mainstay for a bit, but never made it to the big leagues. (FYI, everyone who drafted someone before the 8th pick of the 7th round passed up on Jim Edmonds. That's just something to think about here.) WIHN: Masse currently managers the AA San Antonio Missions, a Padres affiliate.

71T - Mickey Morandini
Morandini was a 5th round pick of the Phillies who lasted for 11 seasons in the majors a second baseman. WIHN: He currently coaches for Valparaiso High School in Indiana.

74T - Charles Nagy
Nagy was the 17th pick overall by Cleveland and spent almost all of his solid 14 year career there. He was a 3-time All-Star, including 1999 where he went 17-11 but finished with a "steroid era" 4.95 ERA. Nagy was on the losing side of two World Series. WIHN: redirects to here.

88T - Jim Poole
I have no recollection of Poole, a 9th round Dodgers pick, but he apparently lasted in the majors through 2000 as a LOOGY with 6 different teams. WIHN: According to this blog, he works with propane and propane accessories.

95T - Doug Robbins
I don't even remember this card. Even though I got this set 20 years ago, and poured over it relenetlessly for what seemed like an eternity, Robbins just looks like some doofy frat guy that got inserted into my wonderful 88 Topps Traded set just to throw me off. Well, whether that is true or not, the internet says that he was a 10th round pick of the Orioles as a catcher. He made it as high as AAA in 1992 and 1993. WIHN: I'm not convinced that he really exists.

106T - Scott Servais
Servais, a 3rd round pick of the Astros, had a nice 11-year career as a catcher for two of my least favorite teams: those Astros and the Cubs. WIHN: He is currently the Director of Player Development for the Texas Rangers.

107T - Dave Silvestri
Silvestri managed to squeeze 8 MLB seasons out of 336 career at-bats. He was born in St. Louis but never was a Cardinal. He was drafted in the 2nd round, #52 overall, by the Astros. WIHN: Welcome to This domain may be for sale. Buy this Domain

109T - Joe Slusarki
Slusarski logged 7 years of MLB service over the course of the 90s. He was the #46 pick overall by Oakland and became a relief pitcher after starting for the first two years of his major league career. WIHN: Slusarski was last season as a pitching coach for AA Corpus Christi in the Astros organization where enjoyed his last few playing years.

113T - Ed Sprague
Sprague was the #25 pick in the 1st round by the Blue Jays. He was a 1999 All-Star and crushed 36 HRs in 1996. Who knew? I certainly didn't. I only remember him as a low-average catcher/3B for one of those wacky Canadian teams (now there's only one.) Sprague hit 152 HRs in his 11-year career, but only managed a .247 BA which I guess isn't shocking for a catcher. But he wasn't really a C. His stats remind me that he primarily played 3B, including those back-to-back Blue Jays champion teams in the early 90s. WIHN: Well, his wife is a gold medal-winning synchronized swimmer. Does it matter what he's up to these days?

124T - Robin Ventura
Ventura was the golden boy of the '88 Olympic team, or at least one of the top prospects to collect from this set. In 16 major league seasons, he fell just shy of 300 career HRs, made 2 All-Star appearances and hit for a .267 average. He's also infamously known for getting the crap beaten out of him by Nolan Ryan in 1993. I don't ever advocate violence, but for some reason it's hard not to be amused by Ryan taking down someone half his age at the time. WIHN: It's hard to tell what he's up to these days, but he was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

130T - Ted Wood
The 28th overall pick by the Giants, Wood logged 109 ABs over three seasons as a reserve outfielder. WIHN: Whereabouts unknown.


deal said...

good and timely post. I found it interesting that Rheal Cormier was pitching for Canada 20 years after pitching on the original Canadian Team. He may be the only athlete to pitch in olympics 20 years apart without pitching in any of the interim olympics.

madding said...

That's amazing about Cormier. I remember seeing that he was on the Canadian team this year, but I wasn't even thinking about him being on the '88 team. He's had a very long and productive career.