Growing up in west-central Illinois, in the rich watershed drained by the river that had helped make Edgar Lee Masters famous, it was expected that a baseball fan root for either the Cubs or the Cardinals. Given those options, I chose to follow the Orioles.
With few exceptions, my personal heroes can easily be classified as underdogs. Born eleven days after me, and a few hundred miles to the south, Steve Finley’s path was predetermined to cross with mine more than once as the years passed. While Steve’s future in baseball would be taking off with a bang, mine would be borfed with a wiffle.
After breaking into the majors with the Orioles at the age of 24, Steve went on to play for the Astros, Padres, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Angels, Giants and Rockies. Steve Finley played hard, solid baseball for each of the eight different teams he suited up for throughout his career.
It isn’t a simple task to explain WHY Steve Finley was a unanimous, first-ballot inductee into my personal Wall of Fame given that typical baseball stats do not account for qualities such as spirit, ethics, enthusiasm, effort, dedication and charm. It seems as unnecessary to attempt to justify my fondness for the man, as it would be to try to describe why I enjoy listening to DEVO. Perhaps it all boils down to the fact that his on field attitude was capable of inspiring any fan that had the desire to see a player lay everything on the line day in and day out without getting caught up in the madness that was taking place along the sidelines.
A lifetime .271 hitter over 10,460 at bats, Finley probably won as many games with his glove as he did with his bat. Given an opportunity to pitch during the Arizona Diamondbacks magical season of 2001, Finley maintained a perfect ERA while walking only one batter and plunking another. Sure it was only for a single inning, but clearly Steve had the opposing batters mystified.
In spite of the fact that I saw Steve Finley play in hundreds of baseball games in Phoenix, and even lived next door to his teammate Travis Lee during the entire 1999 season, I wouldn’t actually get to meet Steve until the spring of 2006. While seemingly everyone in Scottsdale was shoving and elbowing in order to be the first person ignored by Barry Bonds, I was hanging out in the calm. Ultimately, I was rewarded by the opportunity to meet Steve in person as he was walking into the stadium from the parking lot. He did not “big league” me when I asked him to sign a card for my collection, but instead thanked me for coming out to the park. Class!
Steve Finley’s signature has always been suspect at best!
I’ve recently been trading for Steve’s baseball cards with readers and other bloggers, without setting any unrealistic goals such as trying to accumulate one of each of his different cards. It has been quite entertaining to receive these cards in the mail, and easily more enjoyable than buying them online. That isn’t to say that I won’t pick up one here and there, but I think trading is the approach I will strive to employ for this particular aspect of my collection.
Here is a scan of Steve’s 1989 Bowman card (no. 15). Most noticeable is the complete lack of stats on the back. I received this card absolutely FREE under the condition that I give it a good home.
One of my long time favorite Steve Finley baseball cards is his 1990 Topps card (no. 349). Given my strong attraction to the 75 and 72 Topps sets, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a big fan of the 1990 Topps product.
I wasn’t collecting baseball cards in 1995. If I had been, I suspect that I may have been all over this Fleer issue. I believe that I like everything about it, except the foil. I am of the opinion that foil should be used only to wrap potatoes before baking, and possibly to cover rabbit-ear style antennae of portable television sets (although even that will prove to be an annoyance following the national conversion to digital only).
This is one of the cards I got for FREE this Krismas from one of the more generous trading card bloggers on the circuit. I’m not naming names because I don’t want Santa Claus to have any reason to put out a contract on the guy. With that out of the way, I really like this card. This 2000 Upper Deck Black Diamond Gold (no. 59) card is probably one I would have to put at the top of my pile in the event that I ever have the chance to get Steve to sign another autograph. The scan does not do the card justice.
The 2002 Upper Deck Vintage set was easily my favorite product of the past decade until I stumbled over my first pack of Topps Allen & Ginter cards. Finley’s card in this set is number 275. The blurb on the card back attests to the fact that like the best racehorses, Steve has always been a strong finisher.
Finally, another Steve Finley card from an absolutely fantastic team set issued by Mother’s and given away to fans entering Bank One Ballpark before a game in 2001.
I’m not sure exactly how much money Steve Finley earned during his 19 years of service in Major League Baseball, but I do know that the $70 million figure is a conservative estimate. At some point I will get around to providing a list of Steve Finley cards that I either have or need, depending on what makes the most sense at that time. In the meanwhile, feel free to contact me if you have duplicate or unique cards that you think I might be interested in. I probably will be!