Matt Nokes, 1993 Upper Deck #116
In 1992, Matt Nokes achieved his dream: to play for the New York Yankees Tee-Ball All-Stars. His debut was made all the more spectacular by the presence of an elderly Top Gun pilot to scream, “HIT IT INTO THE DANGER ZONE, NOKES!” and two photographers — one to take tee-ball action shots and the other to take pictures of the guy taking pictures.
His best season was his first. In 1987 he hit 32 home runs as he manned the plate for the Detroit Tigers . Despite being selected to the All-Star team, his outstanding rookie performance was overshadowed by Mark McGwire’s 49 home run inaugural season. When he realized that Kevin Seitzer beat him in AL Rookie of the Year voting, too, he decided to embody disappointment throughout the rest of his career. He produced at the plate with numbers rivaling a 5’7″, 145-pound second baseman until people stopped paying him to play Major League Baseball in 1995.
Nokes will be remembered for being the only winner of baseball’s coveted Double Crown, which consists of catching a one-handed pitcher’s no-hitter (Jim Abbott, September 4, 1993) and managing the Joliet JackHammers.
That, and a pre-9/11 plane landing scare, as a tiny plane piloted by Nokes had to land on Southern California’s Interstate 15 when it lost oil pressure in San Diego County.