When it comes to great baseball names, “James Steels” ranks right up there with Greg Legg and Matt Batts as guys who just seemed destined to spend their lives on the diamond.

Now, those names may not roll off the tongue quite like “Shooty Babitt” or “Skeeter Barnes” or “Razor Shines” … but who wouldn’t want a Legg, Batts, or Steels in their lineup?

James Steels, that is.

That name is regal and descriptive all at once — James, the conquering king, who Steels … er, steals … bases at will with his ethereal speed.

It was destiny.

In the real world of baseball, destiny for Steels turned out to be signing with the Padres after they selected him in the eighth round of the 1979 MLB Draft.

It was a long climb up the minor league ladder for Steels who sort of stalled at Triple-A, spending parts of five seasons there (Hawaii and Las Vegas).

The problem seemed to be mostly finding a position for Steels, as he hit for average, showed occasional pop, and, of course, had enough speed to slap triples and steal bases.

Steels finally got the call to the Big Leagues in April 1987, just shy of his 26th birthday. Manager Larry Bowa employed Steels mainly as a pinch hitter, but the “youngster” found his way into 62 games. He hit just .181 with three steals, but he had arrived.

In fact, he arrived enough for Topps, Donruss, and Fleer to issue Steels cards in 1988 … problem was, Fleer issued a “Jim” Steels baseball card.

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And, I think, that’s where the problems started.

“James Steels” is a speed demon who just needs to step on the diamond for magical things to happen.

Jim Steels” — well, he’s an ironic name inside an aging slugger’s body who has to work super hard just to keep the pounds off and the baseballs flying. Sort of like “Matt Stairs.”

Fleer conflated the whole thing, bringing the James-Jim universe to a grinding halt.

Before 1987 was even over, while Fleer was planning out their “Jim,” the Pads released Steels. The Rangers signed him in October, but he saw action in just 36 games for Texas in 1988.

It was on to the Giants, again as a free agent, in 1989, when Steels managed just 13 appearances, nine of them as a pinch hitter.

And then, there was one more minor league season, with the Expos and Pirates in 1990, and that was all. Steels retired before his 30th birthday.

Now, to be fair to Fleer, both Baseball Reference and Wikipedia list James Steels as “Jim,” though the W does give him “James” in the body and table in their article — “Jim” is reserved for the title.

So … maybe that’s how the man sees himself, as Jim.

But, from a baseball standpoint, it was a mistake.

In fact, I’ll go one step further — dude should have used James and his middle name.

I mean, can you imagine the impact James Earl Steels could have had on this game??

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