For most players from this time, more often than not, their 1989 Topps card is the one I most associate with a player. And Dennis Eckersley's card is no exception. At this point, he'd made a pretty decent run with is career.
He was a two-time All-Star, finished in the top 7 for the Cy Young award twice and was a 20-game winner with the Red Sox. According to his Baseball-Reference profile, Eck had led the league in other ratio categories but his 1988 Saves total of 45 was the first of the categories normally recognized by a Topps baseball card.
|Are these first ballot Hall of Fame stats?!?|
It was one shy of Dave Righetti's fairly recent MLB record of 46 and as recently as 1982, John Hiller had held the record for 10 years with 38. Granted, just a few years after Eck's 45, Bobby Thigpen would obliterate it with 57, but at the time it was huge, especially for a converted starter. The times, they were a'changing.
Looking into my crystal ball, I see that Eckersley would only lead the league once more in Saves, although he would be in the top 5 six other times. He certainly passes the Hall of Fame sniff test. But after looking closer at his stats, aside from playing on a couple of better teams earning him a few World Series appearances, I'm not sure how he got in before Lee Smith.