Whether Topps knew it or not at the time, they captured the moment with their 1987 Traded card of Dennis Eckersley.
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Whether or not it was the actual moment.
See, after the 1986 season, on the heels of a 6-11, 4.57 ERA season with the Chicago Cubs, Eckersley found himself at a crossroads.
That poor season (by his standards) reversed a trend of two solid campaigns in 1984 (partial) and 1985 with the Cubs after struggling toward the end of his tenure with the Boston Red Sox, and had to leave him wondering what was next.
As it turned out, what was next was a December incident in which his 10-year-old daughter saw Eck drunk for the first time … and a videotape of the incident … and, finally, rehab.
With his personal life getting back on track, Eckersley headed to Spring Training in 1987 as always and prepared for another season on the North Side.
Before that could happen, though, he was gone — the Cubs traded the one-time ace to the Oakland A’s on April 3, four days before Opening Day.
In Oakland, Tony La Russa was busy at work trying to craft the A’s into his vision of a winner after taking the reins in the second half of 1986 (which itself only came about after the White Sox fired him).
Unbeknownst to most, at least part of that vision involved trying Eckersley in the bullpen.
That was a radical departure from the trajectory of Eckersley’s career up until then, which featured a 20-win season (1978) and front-of-rotation talent that garnered him some Cy Young votes and a couple of All-Star selections.
But, while collectors were pulling Eck’s last Cubs cards from wax packs, he was embracing his new role and racked up 52 relief appearances with Oakland (to go along with two starts), going 6-8 with a 3.03 ERA and 16 saves.
Of course, that was just an encore to the dizzying run of success that would follow, a run that included four division titles with the A’s and culminating in a 1992 season for the ages that saw Eckersley named American League Cy Young and MVP.
Even after those peak years, Eck remained a shutdown closer for another few years, making a stop in St. Louis and a return trip to Boston before hanging up his spikes in 1998.
Eckersley sailed into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
But before all the glory of his second act, there was that 1987 Topps Traded card, a beaming, rejuvenated, still-young man on the verge of something big — again.
Yeah, it was a moment.