VIEW From the Mound

As far as I know, there is no baseball card picturing Lee Plemel, Wayne Edwards, and Jack McDowell. This is unfortunate, as the trio of pitchers formed a band in 1989, released a couple of albums, and eventually went on tour with The Smithereens. Someday I hope a card manufacturer reaches out to these guys and transforms this into a piece of cardboard:

McDowell was the best pitcher of the group, racking up three All-Star appearances and winning the 1993 Cy Young Award. He was the lone band member still pitching in a Major League uniform by the time V.I.E.W. disbanded in 1992.

McDowell was an old-school pitcher who would last long into a game, averaging nearly 7 full innings per appearance across his career while leading the league in complete games three times. He pitched 38 complete games from 1991-1993, an impressive total considering Sandy Alcantara led the MLB this year with 6. Solid performances from 1990-1994 defined McDowell’s reputation. His pitching stepped down from very good to good in 1995, something that would have been overlooked had he not been on the losing end of an elimination game in the 1995 division series. Having committed the unforgivable sin of losing a postseason game for the Yankees, he became a free agent and signed with Cleveland. Injuries soon hit McDowell, who may have leaned a bit heavy into his “tough guys pitch even when they don’t feel like it” reputation. After just 11 years in the majors his arm was no longer the same and he was done.

McDowell had never given up his music career. After V.I.E.W. released their final album in 1992 he became a founding member of stickfigure, another alternative rock group pulled together from contacts made during the Smithereens tour. The band spent several years coalescing and ended up releasing four albums, possibly making McDowell the most musically published major leaguer in history.

First Serial Numbered Card

Jack McDowell cards weren’t ones I actively sought out in my first foray into collecting. I recognized him as a good pitcher but generally followed other players at the time. However, cards featuring the Cy Young winner have played a role in shaping my collecting interests today.

In 1994 I would ride my bike to a movie rental shop each day on the way home from school. One corner of the store had been converted by the owner into a baseball card showroom and my friends and I would spend a few minutes browsing for new arrivals. We all liked the gold stamping and gradient backgrounds found in Fleer Ultra and Leaf cards and would talk about what we hoped to find in a pack. I had read that some packs contained entire 15-card insert sets, but nobody we knew had ever been so fortunate as to locate one.

I had $20 in my pocket one afternoon when my parents met us with the idea of renting a movie. While they were looking for something, I came across one of the Gold Stars inserts from that year’s Leaf set. It featured Jack McDowell and was the first serial numbered card I had seen in person. I quickly made the purchase, draining my funds in a single transaction and putting McDowell near the top of my collection. Insert cards became increasingly important in card collecting as the ’90s progressed and I became more selective in making purchases. This card ended up being the standard that I used to determine if an insert was worth adding to the collection. Those that weren’t as interesting as this one were passed by.

I stopped collecting a few years later and returned to the hobby after several decades had passed. Before I could begin blindly acquiring a random assortment of cards I made a list of cardboard that I wished I could have in an ideal collection. The ’94 McDowell card once again appeared as a criteria to judge other cards. The result was a focused list of less than 1,000 cards I hope to one day assemble, including the entire Gold Stars set. The McDowell card shown below was once again the first of the ’94s I picked up.

The Refractor Set Begins

McDowell had appeared in the 1993 Finest set a year before Leaf made his card a 1:100 pack rarity. Once the final draft of my collecting plan was complete, I set about finding suitable refractors from 1993 Finest. Which one was the very first purchase I made? This one: