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How the Original Donruss Rated Rookies Turned Out

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In 1984, Donruss released what some collectors consider one of the greatest baseball card sets of all time. In addition to 26 Diamond Kings—a subset of cards depicting a star player from every team—the 660-card set included 20 Rated Rookies, a new subset that highlighted a crop of promising young players selected by New York Daily News writer Bill Madden. The Rated Rookie would become a staple of the Donruss brand for years to come.


A few of the original Rated Rookies lived up to the hype, while others look silly in hindsight. Many of the 20 Rated Rookies that constitute cards 27-46 of the 1984 Donruss checklist fell somewhere in between. Here are their stories.

#27 Joel Skinner
Skinner broke into the majors in 1983 with the Chicago White Sox and appeared in 43 games in 1984, batting .213 with 3 RBIs in 80 at-bats. The San Diego native and son of two-time All-Star Bob Skinner hit 17 home runs during his nine-year major league career. Skinner is currently the bench coach for the Oakland A’s.

#28 Tommy Dunbar
The Texas Rangers selected Dunbar out of Middle Georgia College in the first round of the 1980 draft. The Graniteville, South Carolina native made his big league debut on September 7, 1983, but didn’t stick in the majors. Dunbar batted .231 with 3 home runs and 18 RBIs in his brief major league career before bouncing around the minors until 1991. He passed away in March while recovering from prostate cancer.

#29 Mike Stenhouse
The Montreal Expos gave Stenhouse a $32,000 signing bonus after making him the fourth pick of the 1980 amateur draft. The son of former major league pitcher Dave Stenhouse, Mike starred at Harvard, where he was a two-time All-Ivy Leaguer. He never lived up to expectations in Montreal and was dealt to Minnesota after the 1984 season. Stenhouse played one year with the Twins and one more with the Red Sox. Today, he is the executive director of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute in his native Rhode Island.

#30 Ron Darling
Who would’ve guessed that two of the first four Rated Rookies were Ivy League-educated? Darling was drafted ninth overall in 1981 out of Yale, where he double majored in French and Southeast Asian history. Darling went 136-116 in his 13-year major league career, was named an All-Star in 1985, and won 15 games for the 1986 World Series champion Mets. Today, Darling is a color commentator for the Mets and on national broadcasts for TBS.

#31 Dion James
The Sacramento native was a solid player during his 11 seasons with the Brewers, Braves, Indians, and Yankees, but his biggest claim to fame might be killing a bird with a batted ball during a 1987 game. The incident provided great fodder for one UPI writer, who reported, “The Atlanta Braves, a team not known for its knowledge of ornithology, say the bird Dion James killed with a fly ball was a dove and not a pigeon.” James was credited with a double on the play. Last month, the Yankees drafted one of James’s three sons.

#32 Tony Fernandez
Here’s one that Madden got right. The slick-fielding shortstop won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1986-1989 and collected more than 2,000 hits while batting .288 in his 17-year career. Fernandez was named to five All-Star teams, won a World Series with Toronto in 1993, and hit .327 in 150 postseason at-bats.

#33 Angel Salazar
Salazar batted .155 with only 4 walks and 38 strikeouts in 80 games for the Expos in 1984, but his reputation as a strong defensive shortstop convinced the Kansas City Royals to trade for him. In 1986, Salazar set a Royals record for most consecutive errorless games by a shortstop. He was out of the league by 1989.

#34 Kevin McReynolds
McReynolds starred at the University of Arkansas before the San Diego Padres made him the sixth pick of the 1981 draft. McReynolds was traded to the Mets before the 1987 season and had 27 home runs, 99 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases for New York in 1988, finishing third in the NL MVP voting.

#35 Dick Schofield
The third pick of the 1981 draft, Schofield hit three home runs in 54 at-bats after earning a late call-up at the end of the 1983 season. The shortstop would hit only four home runs in 400 at-bats in 1984, the first of four seasons in which he finished with fewer than 100 hits and at least 400 at-bats. Schofield is the son of Ducky Schofield, a 19-year major league veteran, and the uncle of Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth. He is currently the hitting coach for the Rookie League Tempe Angels.

#36 Brad Komminsk
Komminsk was the fourth overall pick in the 1979 draft by the Atlanta Braves and tore through the minor leagues so fast that Hank Aaron called him the best prospect he’d ever seen. That alone made Komminsk worthy of the Rated Rookie label, but his minor league success didn’t translate to the majors. Still, he likely always had a fan in Evelyn Rogala, the woman who won $100,000 as part of a radio promotion sponsored by Goody’s Headache Powder when Komminsk hit a grand slam in a predetermined inning of a 1984 game. “We won at bingo times, but nothing like this,” Rogala’s husband told the AP. In 1987, Komminsk was traded for fellow Rated Rookie, Dion James.

#37 Tim Teufel
Teufel finished fourth in the National American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1984 after hitting .262 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs. He won a World Series with the Mets in 1986, but was perhaps best known for his unique batting stance, the “Teufel Shuffle.” You can watch Batting Stance Guy’s Teufel impression at the end of this video. Today, Teufel manages the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.

#38 Doug Frobel
Frobel, an Ottawa native, hit 12 home runs for the Pirates in 1984, but batted only .203 and struck out in more than one-fourth of his plate appearances. His 20 career home runs rank him 20th among major league players born in Canada, 363 behind Larry Walker and 7 ahead of Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.

#39 Greg Gagne
Originally drafted by the Yankees in 1979, Gagne was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1982 and developed into one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. Gagne tied a major league record by hitting two inside the park home runs in the same game in 1986 and won two World Series titles in Minnesota before moving on to Kansas City and Los Angeles. He retired in 1997.

#40 Mike Fuentes
Fuentes won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top collegiate player at Florida State and was a second-round draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1981, but was one of the least accomplished major leaguers among the 1984 class of Rated Rookies. He appeared in nine games, but entered eight of those games as a pinch runner or pinch hitter.

#41 Joe Carter
Carter would justify his place in the Rated Rookie subset long before he hit a walk-off three-run homer off Mitch Williams to win the 1993 World Series. The former Wichita State star blossomed with the Cleveland Indians, leading the league in RBIs in 1986, and was later named to five All-Star Games with the Toronto Blue Jays. Carter finished his 16-year career with 396 home runs.

#42 Mike Brown
Brown was selected in the seventh round of the 1980 draft out of San Jose State and had a five-year career with the Angels and Pirates. He had a career-high 9 home runs and 53 RBIs in 1985.

#43 Mike Jeffcoat
Jeffcoat appeared in 255 games, most of them as a relief pitcher, during his 10-year career, but the former Louisiana Tech standout is in the record books for something he accomplished at the plate. In the ninth inning of a 15-1 win against the Milwaukee Brewers in 1991, Jeffcoat, then a member of the Rangers, became the first American League pitcher to get a hit since Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 and the first to record an RBI since the designated hitter rule was adopted in 1973. Today, Jeffcoat is the head baseball coach at Texas Wesleyan University. The Rams went 31-23 last season.

#44 Sid Fernandez
Fernandez, who wore No. 50 in honor of his native Hawaii’s distinction as the 50th state, was a fan favorite throughout his career. A two-time All-Star, “El Sid” finished with 114 wins in 15 seasons, most of them with the Mets.

#45 Brian Dayett
Dayett appeared in 218 games over five seasons after being drafted in the 16th round of the 1978 draft by the New York Yankees. He was out of the major leagues by 1987, but played three more seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. Dayett is currently in his seventh season as a hitting coach in the Rangers’ minor league system.

#46 Chris Smith
Smith was selected in the 11th round of the 1978 draft by the Rangers, broke into the majors with the Expos, and was traded to the Giants. Smith batted .328 with 1 home run and 11 RBI in 22 games with the Giants in 1983, but was released after the season and never played in the major leagues again.

Unrated Rookies

Madden’s selections weren’t perfect. There were a number of rookies in the 1984 set who weren’t rated but probably should have been, including Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry. Other rookie stars, including Dwight Gooden, Kirby Puckett, and Roger Clemens, were omitted from the 660-card set altogether.

Future Rated Rookies

Donruss introduced a flashier Rated Rookie logo, the one most collectors associate with the brand, in 1985, and used it through 1993. Rated Rookies were included in Donruss’s baseball sets until the company lost its MLB license in 2005. Today, the Rated Rookie label lives on in Panini Donruss’s sets of NFL and NBA cards.

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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers
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Animals
Inside Crumbs & Whiskers, the Bicoastal Cat Cafe That's Saving Kitties' Lives
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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

It took a backpacking trip to Thailand and a bit of serendipity for Kanchan Singh to realize her life goal of saving cats while serving lattes. “I met these two guys on the road [in 2014], and we became friends,” Singh tells Mental Floss about Crumbs & Whiskers, the bicoastal cat cafe she founded in Washington, D.C. in 2015 which, in addition to selling coffee and snacks, fosters adoptable felines from shelters. “They soon noticed that I was feeding every stray dog and cat in sight," and quickly picked up on the fact that their traveling companion was crazy about all things furry and fluffy.

On Singh’s final day in Thailand, which happened to be her birthday, her friends surprised her with a celebratory trip to a cat cafe in the city of Chiang Mai. “I remember walking in there being like, ‘This is the coolest, most amazing, weirdest thing I’ve ever done,'” Singh recalls. “I just connected with it so much on a spiritual level.”

Singh informed her friends that she planned to return to the U.S., quit her corporate consulting job, and open up her own cat cafe in the nation’s capital. They thought she was joking. But three years and two storefronts later, the joke is on everyone except for Singh—and the kitties she and her team have helped to rescue.

A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Crumbs & Whiskers—which, in addition to its flagship D.C. location, also has a Los Angeles outpost—keeps a running count of the cats they've saved from risk of euthanasia and those who have been adopted. At press time, those numbers were 776 and 388, respectively, between the brand’s two locations.

Prices and services vary between establishments, but customers can typically expect to shell out anywhere from $6.50 to $35 to enjoy coffee time with cats (food and drinks are prepared off-site for health and safety reasons), activities like cat yoga sessions, or, in D.C., an entire day of coworking with—you guessed it—cats. Patrons can also participate in the occasional promotion or campaign, ranging from Black Friday fundraisers for shelter kitties to writing an ex-flame's name inside a litter box around Valentine's Day (where the cats will then do their business).

Cat cafes have existed in Asia for nearly 20 years, with the world’s first known one, Cat Flower Garden, opening in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. The trend gained traction in Japan during the mid 2000s, and quickly spread across Asia. But when Singh visited Chiang Mai, the cat cafe craze—while alive and thriving in Thailand—had not yet hit the U.S. "Why does Thailand get this, but not the U.S.?" Singh remembers thinking.

Once she arrived back home in D.C., Singh set her sights on founding the nation’s first official cat cafe, launching a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped her secure a two-story space in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood. Ultimately, though, she was beat to the punch by the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, which opened to the public in 2014, followed shortly after by establishments like New York City’s Meow Parlour.

LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Still, Crumbs & Whiskers—which officially launched in D.C. in the summer of 2015—was among the nation’s first wave of businesses (and the District's first) to offer customers the chance to enjoy feline companionship with a side of java, along with the opportunity to maybe even save a tiny life. Ultimately, the altruistic concept proved to be so successful that Singh, sensing a market for a similar storefront in Los Angeles, opened up a second location there in the fall of 2016. "I always felt like what L.A. is, culturally, just fits with the type of person that would go to a cat café," she says.

Someday, Singh hopes to bring Crumbs & Whiskers to Chicago and New York, and “for cat cafes as a concept, as an industry, to grow,” she says. “I think that it would be great for this to be the future of adoptions and animal rescues.” Until then, you can learn more about Crumbs & Whiskers (and the animals they rescue) by stopping by if you're in D.C. and LA, or by visiting their website.

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entertainment
15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride
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MGM

It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man Cary Elwes was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film, which was released 30 years ago today.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes' stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it," he said.

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for, at least tap him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

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