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Friday, February 12, 2010

Calvin Eldred, Returning in Relief - 866

Check out the redone Cal Eldred post added Feb. 2, 2011

Just a note before today's entry to mark the official retirement of one of the last members of the 1990 CMC set to play. Former Birmingham Baron Frank Thomas, announced his retirement today after 19 big league seasons.

Thomas' review will come in due course, but for now, on to today's entry, Calvin Eldred:


A veteran of 191 major league starts, by 2001, Cal Eldred ran into career threatening arm troubles. He only pitched in two major league games that year, none the next.

But by 2003, arm pain gone, Eldred had reinvented himself as a relief pitcher, a sometimes closer even.

"I've already been there," he told in 2003 after becoming the Cardinals' closer of the moment. "So there's nothing, nothing to fear. And every day is just an extra blessing."

Drafted by the Brewers 17th overall in 1989 out of the University of Iowa, Eldred started 1990 in high-A Stockton. By 1991, he was in AAA, then Milwaukee, debuting as a September call-up.

He quickly became a sensation. In his first 17 major league starts in 1991 and 1992, he went 13-2. In 1992's 14 starts, Eldred pitched a 1.79 ERA. The next year, 1993, Eldred was a workhorse, starting 32 games, winning 16. He pitched a league-high 258 innings pitched.

Growing up in Eastern Iowa myself, I remember the Eldred-mania that swept across the region. Everyone followed the Urbana, Iowa, native. I even picked up a few autographed cards, one of which is to the right. Though, I don't recall exactly where I got them. I'm thinking a car dealer promotion.

On that note, Eldred is, by my count, one of four confirmed players in the CMC set that I have previously gotten autographs from. The other three I got as a kid hanging out at single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels games in 1994-1995.

But, for Eldred, injuries would slow him down. He underwent Tommy John surgery, along with fractures and stress fractures.

But, battling back from that, Eldred spent three seasons with the Cardinals, even pitching in relief in the first two games of the 2004 World Series. He pitched a total of 1.2 innings, giving up two earned runs. Interestingly, for parts of innings 4 and 5 of Game 2, both the Cardinals and the Red Sox had the mound occupied by 1990 CMC set alums, the legend of Curt Schilling growing on the Red Sox side.

Eldred is still with the Cardinals today, working in their front office. He's also done work with the Big Ten Network. Below is a segment of "Ask Cal," watch for Eldred talking about his first bonus check purchase after being drafted: a reliable car.

The 2003 story on Eldred's comeback: Bauman: Eldred's return terrific

1990 CMC Tally
Cards Reviewed: 47/880 - 5.3%
Major Leaguers: 27 - 57%
Never Made the Majors: 20 - 43%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 11
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 16

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