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mike figga, 1996 fleer excel #88, norwich navigators

Player: Figga, Mike

Card: 1996 Fleer Excel #88

Position: C

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"A little bit of success and the opportunity to play," (Yankee's Manager Stump) Merrill told The Post that March. "He has good tools. He needed to improve his receiving and he has. He has come a long way."

Michael Anthony Figga (born July 31, 1970 in Tampa, FL) is a retired MLB catcher who played for the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. In a three-year career, Figga hit .213 with one home run.

Mike was drafted on June 5th in the 44th round of the 1989 amateur draft by the New York Yankees and signed almost a year later on May 21, 1990. He slowly worked his way through the minors, showing some pop (25 HR at Class A+ Independent San Bernadino Spirit) with batting averages consistently ranging from .264-.277. In late 1997, Mike made his Major League debut on September 16 at Yankee Stadium against the Boston Red Sox, a 4-3 Yankee win. Mike got the start in Game Two of a double header. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but did get the honor of catching Mariano Rivera as he closed out the 9th for his 43rd save of the year.

He would only see action once more in 1997, pinch hitting for Tim Raines in the top of the 9th (striking out) and catching the bottom of the 9th of a 7-2 win over the Tigers at Tiger Stadium.

Mike spent most of 1998 in the minors, putting together his best minor league season with 26 HR, 95 RBI and a .280 average. Once again, the Yankees called him up in September where he saw action in only one game. This time, Mike collected his first Major League hit, a single to left to lead off the third inning against southpaw Jason Jacome. Three pitches later, he would score his first Major League run as Chuck Knoblauch tripled Mike home. The single started a five run rally in the inning as the Yankees charged back from an early 4-0 deficit.

1999 started off looking good for Mike. Being a Tampa, FL native, he caught the eye of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner who like his power bat and wanted Mike to "come North" with the team at the end of Spring Training. George got his wish and the Yankees carried three catchers to start the 1999 season. It didn't hurt that Mike was also out of options, so he would have to clear waivers in order to remain Yankee property. Coming off his solid minor league campaign in 1998, it was unlikely he would make it through waivers.

Minor controversy surrounded Figga starting the 1999 season, one of which regarded a roster move. Scott Brosius was recovering from a sprained ankle and was slated to be activated. In order to clear room on the roster, a move had to be made. Interim manager Don Zimmer wanted to keep one of his personal favorites, Clay Bellinger on the team and demote Figga. Bellinger, a very versatile utility player could fill any infield position and play some outfield (usually left) as well. If Bellinger was demoted, the Yankees would be left with only one spare infielder on the bench which irked Zimmer. Steinbrenner wanted to keep Figga up and send down Bellinger which is exactly what happened.

Meanwhile Tony Tarasco was tearing up AAA, practically screaming to fill that role. Even Figga himself asked his agent to try to get him traded somewhere he could play. Despite Steinbrenner's backing, it was clear Jorge Posada was the Yankees' catcher of the future, not Figga. After Joe Torre's return (he was recovering from treatment for prostate cancer detected during the Spring), he reportedly convinced the Boss of the need for another left handed bat off the bench and in early June, Mike was put on waivers.

The Baltimore Orioles picked up Mike where he got into 41 games, backing up Charles Johnson, and spent the whole season in the majors. He hit .221 in 86 AB, driving in 5 runs. On August 25th, he slammed his first and only MLB home run, leading off the top of the 9th in Kansas City off Royal reliever Brad Rigby in a 8-6 Baltimore loss.

After the season, Mike was put on waivers and on November 18th, 1999, Mike was picked up by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Almost a month later on December 21st, he was granted free agency - he would never get back to the majors. In 2004, he retired at age 33.

(excerpted from YankeeNumbers.com, Baseball Almanac, BR Bullpen & Wikipedia)


1996 Topps Prospects #32
1999 Fleer Tradition #U-124


Mike is part of the New York Yankee Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop

See all Mike’s baseball cards at TCDB

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