Project ShaqBox launched on New Year’s Day in 2016, as part of a resolution to streamline my baseball card collection. The plan was to start with a shoebox (from a pair of Shaq’s signature brand, hence the name of the project) full of random cards, and go through them to see which ones I wanted to make part of a permanent collection and which ones I wanted to part with.
As part of the project, I also started a podcast, where I would mail 10 cards to someone, then spend some time talking about the players on the cards. It was a lot of fun, but when baseball season started — I was Sporting News’ baseball writer at the time — it became too much work for a side project, and while I planned to get it going again, I never did. I eventually stopped paying for the premium version of SoundCloud to store all the episodes, but they do still host the last show of the podcast, with the great Bill Hanstock.
I wasn’t the first person to mine old baseball cards for content, and I certainly wasn’t the last, as, yes, “Remembering Some Guys” became a Deadspin staple from December of 2017 until last year.
In October of 2017, I started sorting my collection by team, thinking of some other ideas of what to do with my cards and how to revive Project ShaqBox. The ShaqBox itself remained full of random, unsorted cards — mostly doubles, triples, and 50-plus 1985 Topps Pedro Guerreros for some reason — but I eventually, in fits and starts, did get the couple dozen other boxes of cards in my apartment sorted by team.
As I was preparing to compile this piece, the first Deadspin edition of Project ShaqBox, I dropped one of those boxes, spilling around 2,000 Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays in my closet. But we’ll get to that later.
For now, this is how the current iteration of Project ShaqBox is working:
What I’ve found is that I love opening packs of baseball cards, and I love going through my baseball cards, but I do not love having tens of thousands of baseball cards in my closet and having to transport them every time I move to a new apartment. It was a move in 2015 that sparked the project to life in the first place.
But I also love to know that I can brighten someone’s day, and lots of people can have their day brightened, by getting 10 random baseball cards in the mail. So, I set up a Google form to collect addresses, and anyone who wants to get some cards from the ShaqBox can do so by sending their address. Anyone who makes a donation to the charity of their choice can have 10 cards from their favorite team.
You get the joy of receiving 10 baseball cards in the mail. I get to have fun going through old cards and making a map (yes, I’m also a map nerd) of where they all wind up.
And the cards you’re about to see? While they didn’t come from the ShaqBox proper, they’re going in now, along with a few dozen other rubber-banded bundles of 10 cards waiting to go out in the mail.
With that lengthy introduction out of the way, let’s get to the inaugural Project ShaqBox Week In Review…
2004 Topps Total Carl Pavano, 2006 Ultra Miguel Cabrera
The hottest team in baseball is the Miami Marlins, who are in first place in August for the first time in team history. Of course, they’ve only played eight games, but at 7-1, they’ve also matched the best start in team history — and none of those previous Marlins teams had outbreaks of an infectious disease. At least, they didn’t have any outbreaks of an infectious disease that kept them off the field for a week. We’re talking about Miami here, so who knows what viral contagion might have been around for those previous Marlins squads?
The previous Marlins teams to start 7-1 were the 1997 team that went on to win the World Series as a wild card, plus the 2004 and 2009 Fish.
Here, we’ll focus on the 2004 Marlins, whose hot start did not include any of Carl Pavano’s career-high 18 wins. Pavano got a no-decision in the Marlins’ 4-3 win over the Phillies in the fourth game of the season, then extended that 7-1 Florida start to 8-1 by pitching seven innings of three-hit ball for a 3-0 win over the Expos in Puerto Rico.
Why was Pavano only the No. 4 starter on that team? These Marlins were the defending world champions, and they had Josh Beckett on opening day, then Brad Penny and Dontrelle Willis before Pavano. Darren Oliver got the fifth start of the season, but for most of the year, A.J. Burnett was in the rotation, and Ismael Valdez made 11 starts, too.
That’s a really good rotation, plus the Marlins had Armando Benitez as their closer, posting a 1.29 ERA, with 47 saves in 51 chances.
Plus, the 2004 Marlins had a 21-year-old future Hall of Famer in Cabrera, and during that 7-1 start to the season, he hit six home runs, including a pair off Montreal’s Claudio Vargas on April 13.
How did this Marlins team fail? They were tied for first place at the end of June, but the lineup sputtered in July, and Atlanta went 40-14 in July and August to run away with the division. A schedule interrupted by Hurricanes Frances and Ivan helped cost the Marlins a wild-card spot, and they haven’t returned to the playoffs since.
2018 Topps Khris Davis (League Leaders), 1991 Fleer Pro-Visions Mark McGwire, 1981 Fleer Tony Armas
Since moving to Oakland in 1968, the A’s have had nine walk-off grand slams, and this year is the first time they’ve had two in a season thanks to Stephen Piscotty taking Jesse Chavez of the Rangers deep to end Tuesday’s game. That followed Matt Olson (helped by this year’s free baserunner in extra innings) in the 10th inning against the Angels on July 24.
According to Stathead, that maintains the parity between the Rangers and Angels as the most frequent victims of walk-off grand slams in Oakland, at three times apiece. The other A’s to victimize Texas were Gene Tenace on Sept. 14, 1973, and Khris Davis on May 17, 2016.
The Davis grand slam was one of two times that Oakland has hit a walk-off grand slam while trailing, the other time coming on June 30, 1995, when Mark McGwire turned a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 win over the Angels by beating Hall of Fame closer Lee Smith. McGwire hit another walk-off salami in 1990, off Boston’s Rob Murphy.
The other Oakland walk-off grand slams? Tony Armas off Baltimore’s Sammy Stewart in 1980, Mark Ellis off Chris Bootcheck of the Angles in 2008, and Brandon Inge, who apparently played for the A’s, off Francisco Cordero, who apparently pitched for the Blue Jays, in 2012.
1985 Topps Terry Kennedy, 1988 Score Garry Templeton, 1988 Topps Tim Flannery
Project ShaqBox is going to rely a lot on Stathead, formerly known as the Baseball-Reference Play Index, because it can provide information like a list of every time the San Diego Padres have had the tying run on third base when they hit into a game-ending double play.
It’s happened 15 times after Wednesday’s dramatic ending, when Manny Machado lined out to left field and Chris Taylor threw an absolute strike to home plate to throw out Trent Grisham trying to send the game to extra innings.
Only two of the previous game-ending twin killings where the Padres looked set to tie a game featured an out at home: Bobby Tolan hit into a 1-2-3 double play against Darold Knowles of the Cubs in 1975, and Quilvio Veras grounded out against Billy Wagner in a 1997 game that ended when Archi Cianfrocco got caught up between third and home, finally tagged out by Tim Bogar.
None of those men is pictured above, so what gives? Well, Kennedy is the only player in Padres history to hit into two game-ending double plays when the tying run was on third base: in 1981 against Atlanta’s Rick Camp, and in 1984 against Lee Smith, then with the Cubs.
As for Garry Templeton and Tim Flannery, the game-ending double play they were involved in happened in the 11th inning on August 27, 1986. Doug Sisk, handed a 6-5 lead on Keith Hernandez’s sac fly in the top of the frame, gave up a leadoff double to Templeton, and after striking out Craig Lefferts, gave up a hard hit to Flannery into left-center field. In fact, Flannery hit it too hard, because Lenny Dykstra was able to throw home in time to get Tampleton, who couldn’t knock the ball loose when he barreled over John Gibbons. With Gibbons knocked over, Flannery tried to advance to third, but Gibbons was able to get up and throw to Howard Johnson for the final out of the game.
1989 Donruss Terry Kennedy, 1992 Upper Deck Mookie Wilson
Among the cards in the closet mishap were Kennedy with Baltimore, where he was an All-Star in 1988, and Mookie Wilson with the Blue Jays, with whom he went to the playoffs in 1989 and 1991, but did not get to be part of the championship teams in 1992 and 1993.
Now, into the ShaqBox they go!
Do you want to get 10 random baseball cards in the mail? All you need to do is share your address, and you can be part of Project ShaqBox.