I’ve always thought of baseball cards as simply a piece of cardboard with a photo, stats, and a brief player bio until now. While I was flipping through my 1990’s A’s binder this 1991 Upper Deck Mike Gallego card caught my eye. Of course I noticed the clean border design, and the crisp action photo on the front. The photo features Gallego in the midst of getting his knees taken out trying to turn a double play. Fortunately, Gallego avoids the Angels runner and is captured mid-air after releasing the ball. When I turned the card over I found something interesting. There were stats, and another crisp photo that is easily one of the best baseball photos I’ve ever seen. The photo featured Gallego as a runner (in a nice looking California Gold colored uniform) successfully taking out the Brewer’s infielder’s knees causing him to land on his head. What is the big deal you ask? The photo on the back is the exact opposite of the photo on the front! Without words this card tells a fantastic story through photos. Who needs a player bio with this kind of storytelling?
Despite being produced in the junk wax era it is apparent that a lot of thought went into the production of this card. In today’s world of relics, autographs, numbered cards, and exclusivities (MLB – Topps, NHL – Upper Deck, Panini – NFL in 2016) cards feel cheap in comparison.
The A’s signed Dan Straily in 2009, and he instantly became one of my favorite players in their organization. I remember reading he was from a small town in Oregon, and never had any training on proper pitching mechanics until after his first year in college, which I always found impressive. Straily was a promising young prospect, and came through the A’s farm system rather quickly. Before his call up on August 2, 2012 he was leading both the minor and major leagues in strikeouts (175). Straily made his MLB debut on August 3, 2012 against the Toronto Blue Jays and didn’t disappoint. He earned a no decision giving up an earned run on five hits, and striking out five. It’s no wonder that when I got back into card collecting in 2012 these were the first two autographed cards I acquired. A 2012 Panini Signature Series auto relic, and a 2012 Panini National Treasures auto.
Straily pitched well for the A’s for the rest of the 2012 regular season and into the playoffs. He was huge asset to the club in 2013, compiling a 10-8 record with a 3.96 ERA , 124 strikeouts. However in 2014, Straily struggled from the start of the season. Eventually he was optioned to AAA where he was dealt to the Cubs in the Samardzija/Hammel deal. The trade was bittersweet for me. The A’s were gaining a couple of great pitchers (okay, maybe one great pitcher), and they were giving up one of my favorite players in the organization. On the bright side, I’m excited for Straily to get a fresh start with a different organization. In the next couple of years I believe the Cubs will be contenders, and I hope Straily is able to part of that. So far, it’s not looking so good. He’s currently sporting an 0-3 record with a 5.85 era, but he does have 15 strikeouts in his last two games. No matter what happens he will always be one of my favorite players to play in the organization. I wish him the very best with the Cubs.