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Mudville: July 19, 2024 4:45 am PDT

Doing the Griddy

Immaculate Grid: Doing the Griddy One Player at a Time

With a summer of Major League Baseball that introduced larger bases, pitch clocks, and infield shift limits, it has been anything but immaculate – unless, that is, you’re a fan of the Grid.

We’re talking about The Immaculate Grid, a daily game that tests your knowledge of baseball players and their pedigree or accomplishments. Found daily on Baseballreference.com, one can search the corners of their mind, filling out the nine squares with players who fit the intersecting characteristics.

The more unique the player is based on the percentage of those who guess, the lower the score, and the better you did.

So naturally, as an Immaculate Grid player, one will scour the Baseball Reference web site looking for the best answers – unless you’re Old School.  After all, before BaseballReference.com we learned about the history of a player’s career from the back of their cardboard.

With that in mind, here’s a look at a few cards that can help when you’re doing the “Griddy”:

The father of Cleveland (I still call them) Indians manager Terry Francona, Tito enjoyed a 15-year career bouncing around between nine different clubs, which makes him a helpful player for the Grid. A nice, left-handed bat who lacked power but logged a .272 career average and one All-Star Game selection, Tito handled duties in the corner outfield spots and first base. Looking at the back of his 1970 Topps card (which would be his last), the elder Francona suited up for the Orioles, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Cardinals, Phillies, Braves, and A’s, while finally logging 52 games with the Brewers in 1970 to finish his career. And somewhere there’s a story behind his middle name Patsy.

After meandering through nine different organizations in an 18-year career, Jose Cardenal looks tired. And who can blame him, as that is a lot of packing and unpacking. His pesky bat, speed, and versatile defense made him a big league starter for 14 seasons and a valuable bench player his last few years. This 1981 Topps card was Cardenal’s final slab of cardboard, noting his stops in San Francisco, California, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Kansas City, along with his awesome afro.

A fan favorite in Chicago for his hustle and playful side with the left field bleacher bums of Wrigley Field, Cardenal is a helpful name from the 1960s and ‘70s to use in the Immaculate Grid.

Besides filling the Grid squares for eight different organizations, Gaylord Perry also fits for the additional categories of being a Hall of Famer, a Cy Young Award winner, and a 300+ victories pitcher, courtesy of greasing his way through a 22-year career. As the back of his 1983 Topps card notes, Perry pitched for the Giants, Indians, Rangers, Padres, Yankees, Braves, and Mariners, while logging his final stop of Kansas City at the close of 1983. Slippery as he might have been, Perry is a good name to hold onto for the Grid.

Moving to the later 1980s and into ‘90s, Darnell Coles roamed the diamond for nine different organizations, but is highlighted because he played for later expansion clubs in Toronto, Seattle, and Colorado. Thus, his connection between the newer clubs and the old school stalwarts such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and St. Louis makes Coles a nice name to remember for the Grid.

With a career that touched four different decades, looking at the back of Mike Morgan’s 2002 Topps card can give you eye strain. Of course, when Topps had to type in a 22-year career and decided to also include a nice, close- up picture, there was going to be a lot of fine print. The right-hander can link the several  expansion clubs to many of the old guard teams as he twirled for the A’s, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Twins, Rangers, and the D-backs. For those keeping score, that’s 12 clubs!

From 1999 through 2013 Octavio Dotel was a bullpen hired gun as the right-hander amassed 109 saves and worked as a capable set-up man. His 15 years started in New York with the Mets; then as part of a deal that shuttled Derek Bell and Mike Hampton to the Mets, Dotel was sent to Houston. Dotel had a nice run with the Astros of four-plus seasons before the merry-go-round started. From Houston it was off to Oakland, New York with the Yankees, Kansas City, Atlanta, Chicago to be a Pale Hose, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and the Dodgers, Colorado, Toronto, St. Louis, and finally Detroit.

For years Dotel was the MLB leader for the most teams played at thirteen, until our Holy Grail topped him. But first, let’s take a look around the Baseball Hall of Fame for more help with the Immaculate Grid.

With 478 saves spread out over 18 seasons, Lee Smith can fill the grid for eight different clubs, the 300+ saves category, and the Hall of Fame square. This 1998 Upper Deck cardboard would be Smith’s last, where we see that he pitched for the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos. We also learn that Smith was the first major leaguer to pitch in 1,000 games. Shazam!

The Immaculate Grid will also look to challenge your knowledge by listing categories of Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and Most Valuable Player.  Since the backs of our cards do not highlight these levels of excellence, we need to keep Ivan Rodriguez in mind. The catcher with a rocket arm squatted for six clubs (Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros, and Nationals) while filling those categories, plus fitting the Hall of Fame category. While his Topps 2012 Heritage collection card does not list his clubs on the back, we just love the throwback to the 1962 Topps cards.

As for the others to help in the awards categories, look to the Hall of Famers for an easy fix. Eddie Murray was a Rookie of the Year with the Orioles and a member of the 500+ home run club while also playing for the Dodgers, Mets, Indians, and Angels. Andre Dawson can also fill the ROY and MVP squares along with having filled the Expos’, Cubs’, Marlins’, and Red Sox’ needs. Tim Raines was a well-traveled HOF’er, moving through six clubs – the Expos, White Sox, Yankees, Marlins, A’s, and yes, the Orioles, for just four games during his final season.  The speedster can fill the stolen base box with 808 swipes and Silver Slugger boxes. And don’t forget Mike Piazza of both the Dodgers and the Mets was a ROY, a Silver Slugger, and also a Florida Marlin for five games, plus playing single seasons with the Padres and A’s in closing out his career.

Our final Hall of Famer of note is Rickey Henderson, who in his 2003 Topps cardboard is seen contemplating life while waiting for an at-bat. The speedy fly-ball catcher covered both coasts well by suiting up for the A’s, Padres, Dodgers, Angels, and Mariners in the West, and landing on both New York City clubs, Boston, and Toronto in the East. The Man of Steal swiped 1,406 bases, and earned the 1990 Silver Slugger and MVP awards plus a Gold Glove in 1981 (which we do not remember, as he would take some unusual routes).

Lastly, we offer up the Holy Grail player for the Immaculate Grid – Edwin Jackson.

A favorite of BallNine Founder Chris Vitali, Jackson at times could dominate with his slider, and clubs were always intrigued by his potential. Unfortunately, the right-hander never did fully harness his potential as Jackson posted a 107-133 mark over 17 seasons. The stops included Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, both Chicago teams, Detroit (twice), Washington (twice), Arizona, Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, San Diego, Baltimore, Miami, and Toronto. By 2020, Topps decided to just call Jackson “Travelin’ Man” and gave up listing his stats and clubs on the back of the card.

And so, for what has become a daily ritual for many baseball fans this summer, we offer up a little help – as BallNine looks to conquer the Immaculate Grid one square at a time.

C.J. Carlson is a freelance baseball writer residing in the Midwest and raised on Chicago Cubs baseball, while collecting cards along the way.

  • Bill Horan

    Just tremendous! I have made it my mission to spread the word about Ball Nine!

    August 30, 2023
  • James Crowley IV

    Excellent contribution to baseball trivia buffs like me.

    September 2, 2023
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