Friday, December 28, 2012

How About a Good 'ol Baseball Card Post?

It's been a month and a half since I blogged about a baseball card......pontifications about the Hall of Fame and an LCS-visit recap have run their course, setting universal records for page-visits and comments (thanks, 30YOC!).   Heehee.

Time to find my center of gravity!

This was one of my favorite pulls from a pack in 2012.   I don't exactly go coo-coo for Bowman and its sterile design, but it was fun to bust a few packs with the high hopes of pulling something exciting.  

Of course, it's me we're talking about, so this is usually about as exciting as it gets for current release pack bounties:

2012 Bowman #34, Mike Trout

Mike Trout has since fulfilled his destiny of being the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year.   I know that I swam against the current and put my support behind Yoenis Cespedes......but don't hate.   I just really dug what I saw in Yoenis as he became an injury-overcoming integral part of the magical run by the Athletics.   How many "games played" in a particular year does it take to not be a rookie the following year?   I guess it's more than 40.   All that being said, I can fully support Mike and his amazing accomplishments on the field this past season:

Batting average    .306
Home runs    35
Runs batted in    99
Hits    209
Stolen bases    53
Runs scored    149

Yowza.   And that was with Hunter, Pujols, Morales & Trumbo behind him!   Throw Josh Hamilton back there and we very well could see some even MORE amazing production from this guy in 2013.   I'm no Angels fan but I'm excited to see what happens.   I'm fairly certain that Trout has even earned himself the #1 draft pick status in many a fantasy baseball leagues next season, too.

You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

As far as the card goes, it's okay.   Again, the very basic and clean design does not offend but it doesn't WOW you, either.   The picture is kind of cool, capturing Trout in a Kung-Fu-like mid-air kick-slide sort of pose.   If he was a girl he'd probably be worried about the multiple chin thing...but he's not.  He's Mike Trout, baby.

So how about the back?

It's always pretty cool when a player who wins "Player of the Year" at one level goes on to fulfill their potential and continue that success on the big stage.   Bravo to Mr. Trout.   A very accurate assessment of his abilities, too.   "...can dominate the game in all phases..."?   Turns out - TRUE!   The touching story of the kudos from Jeter is solid.   I wish they were teammates.....

This isn't really a Trout RC, I guess?   That's kind of disappointing.   But still, I was glad to see this card emerge from the endless supply of prospects I didn't know in that hanger pack.   It's always fun to pull a card of a guy that's playing pretty well at the time.  One of those basic [out-dated] joys of card collecting that I can't (thankfully) seem to completely shake.  

I hope I never do!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, everybody!

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Latest Thoughts on The Hall


I love sports.   I love passionate discussions about sports.   I love highly controversial debates about the best players in sports........and the annual discussion over who belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame is nothing short of a marquee example of just such a spirited conversation.   This post was inspired by an offering of just such a conversation from my good friend Brian over at his great blog, 30 Year Old Cardboard.  Thanks for the fuel, buddy!

This year's ballot of potential honorees is a big one.   Yes, the list is long.....but it's big in terms of how the baseball world (or at least a chosen few of us) will view a very controversial issue in comparison to the criteria by which they cast their votes.    This ballot includes several great baseball players who were, in one way or another, tied to the use of performance enhancing drugs - steroids, HGH, etc.   Not the first time an accused player has been up for election, but this is the first LARGE grouping.   And the grouping is as notable as they come!   These players were compiled very impressive stats over many years.   For the most part, these players were sluggers - known best for their prowess at the plate.   Their strength to display such prowess the very skill supposedly warped by poor decisions to break the rules of the game.   At the time though, we all cheered and marveled and followed....and then cringed in dismay as we were shown that gods could bleed.   The exact knowledge of when, where and to what extent will never be known for sure.   The exact contribution of the cheating towards results on the field can never be known for sure.   It is not an exact science.

This could only hurt...forever.

Fortunately, neither is the criteria for being selected for eternal enshrinement amongst the game's greatest players in the Hall of Fame.

At best, we have ourselves an annual challenge.   At its worst, we must be subjected to a very subjective nightmare.....and one that has some very objective outcomes; for the players, their fans and the sport as whole. 

What could possibly go wrong, right?

So, where do we start?   Well, let's look at two key facts: WHO is responsible for making these very subjective selections and HOW they are supposed to be making them.......

Wait a second...

The "who" are " and honorary members of the Baseball Writers Association of America".   Okay.   So, who is that?'s these guys and gals.   I'll let you dive into the history, purpose and current existence as much as you dare.   Basically, the BBWAA is a bunch of sportswriters (OR former sportswriters).   There are, according to the BBWAA site, over 700 current members.   They not only vote for Hall of Fame selection, though.   They determine the winners of other annual awards such as the League MVP's, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and the Cy Young Award Winner.  

Pretty cool right?   I guess so.   The system is just too ripe for......subjectivity.

Can you place faith in a journalist who had previously decided that a particular player was the Rookie of the Year or Cy Young Award winner to be as objective when considering that player's body of work for the Hall of Fame against another player for whom that writer did NOT consider worthy of that same award but is hypothetically just as worthy based on their the rest of their career accomplishments?   It can quickly become a self-fulfilling effect.   But is that wrong?   Perhaps.  

Let's say a BBWAA member was really taken with a particular pitcher one year.   Maybe that writer was a journalist for the pitcher's hometown newspaper?   Maybe that writer was fortunate enough to attend a home game where that pitcher tossed an extraordinary complete game.   The kind of game that united the fans and produced an electric feeling amongst the spectators....the likes of which that said writer had never felt before, even though he/she had followed that team their entire life.......that's an epic moment!   Maybe that kind of moment can be combined with a pretty solid season of stats for that same pitcher.   And maybe that single-season body of work elicits a confident opinion from the very astute sportswriter that the pitcher is, clearly, the Rookie of the Year for his league.

Not a Pitcher, but...

Those feelings, those impressions, that compiling and consideration of the facts and images and "eye tests" from the entire season would have been (and should be!) taken into account by the writer and their vote should be considered no less relevant or honorable than any other voter.   Right?

But what about the vote from a writer in another town, for another player, with a similar body of work for that season........they both count.  Heck, they ALL will count - all 700+ of them, if everybody always voted.   Statistically, there is the effect of cancelling out individual biases with larger sample sizes, right?   So, there's nothing to really, truly complain about.  Right?

What if I told you that a BBWAA member could continue voting even if they retire from the profession?   They would no longer be obligated through their employment to follow the sport.  How can we guarantee that they'll remain as objective and engaged in their analysis as they were?   What if they move to south Florida and become an objective fan of a different team?   What if they spend more time on the golf range in their new life than they do scouring the box scores every morning?   Doesn't matter.   The BBWAA utilizes an honor code, whereby they can bestow lifetime membership with the expectation that their members maintain an adequate following of the game.

...nothing wrong with that...

Heh.   Okay.   Well, in between their 6 iron and 7 iron......HOW will these writers be asked to make their selection?   This is my favorite part!  In the words of the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Incorporated:

"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

Isn't that something?   We always talk so very much about the statistics compiled by potential candidates, comparing and contrasting with tremendous vigor and spite.   But the statistics of any particular player can only really lay claim to two, maybe three, of the criteria specified above.   A player's record and playing ability can be easily substantiated from the empirical evidence of the player's career statistics.   Career average, home runs, fielding percentage and other benchmarks are black and white.   They are what they are - and can't be disputed.

Just Barry


You consider the impact of our earlier issue, performance enhancing drugs.   But this leaves the realm of black and white and quickly adopts a very solemn shade of grey.   From here, any debate reaches a fork in the road.   You can either go left or right.   You can either say that you don't consider the use (or non-use) of PED's to be an issue or you do.   There is no in between.   Well......we could jump really far down the rabbit hole and begin to dissect the possibility of PED use before there were testing programs.   We could say that testing programs are not absolute.   We could say that every offending player was not caught or, in some cases, ratted out by other players.   And our brains would quickly ooze out of our ears if we tried to ascertain any of this for any season prior to.....well, next season.   We'll simply never know for sure.   Which is a pretty strong argument for simply ignoring the PED issue in its entirety.   IS PED use 100% responsible for a player's performance?   Of course not.  I could start injecting myself right now but I won't be slugging homers into McCovey Cove on a regular basis!   But there are rules in life.   Baseball is a game of rules.   For the most part.  Sometimes fallible humans screw the rules up and cause a tremendous and biblical gnashing of teeth......but if we had seen it.......well, the rules would RULE.   You're out.  It's a fair ball.  Take your base.   You trapped it.   Get off the field.   Your banned for life.

Reasonable doubt, right Ray Kinsella?

Ouch.  It hurts.  But so does life every once in awhile.  And that's what baseball is sometimes - a beautiful parody of our lives.

So, you have the statistics.   We can stare at those all day and average them out.   We can extrapolate to simulate longer careers if a player's actual playing days were untimely cut short.   We can argue over the greatness of a stolen base or save in comparison to total runs batted in, error-free innings or - (gasp) one of those subjectively voted-for awards!   I won't even touch the issues with fan-based All-Star selections........I mean, many of us fans aren't even sportswriters!  How lame.


Back to the criteria.

My favorite elements of the voting criteria are.....ironically, the least objective of the lot: integrity, character, sportsmanship and contributions to the teams on which the player played.   How beautifully mysterious are these general qualifications?  It doesn't even say that players must have honorable integrity or fine character or positive contributions to their teams in order to be considered.  They must simply have them, right?   I know, I know.   I'll stop.   OKAY -  we'll assume that the spirit of the criteria for selection implies that players should meet these criteria in a positive light.   Sound character.   Exemplary sportsmanship.   Steadfast integrity.   If we do that, though - doesn't that make it a black and white kind of way......for any of us to take the "other fork" in the selection road that we mentioned earlier?   This criteria makes it impossible to vote for anybody who has been connected to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.   Yeah, they had the skills that may, MAY have been enhanced by some 'roids here or there....but they lost their integrity, right?  They tried to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.   Isn't that poor sportsmanship and character? 

Criteria Antonym

And what of the players who refused to partake?   That is a clear example of integrity and honorable character and sportsmanship, yes?   I tend to think so but I know that many others do not.

How about contributions to one team?   What does that mean to everybody?   I'll tell you what it doesn't mean to everyone - the SAME thing.   A player's contribution to a championship team throughout a miracle season will live on in legends and highlight reels.   A player's league-leading contributions to a losing team?   Man, do I find that respectable and deserving of great admiration?   It's easy to try your best to the roar of approving fanatics as they cheer their beloved winners......but to go out and dominate your competition as an individual while your team wallows in the cellar of their division and your fans heckle with scathing disappointment?   That's legendary, too.   In my opinion.   But would that player have been able to perform and produce and dominate under the microscope and pressure of the sport's post season?   We'll never know!

Love ya, Murph!

Does "contributions to a team" even make sense?   The player's contribution to a team should be, uh, fairly quantifiable and identical to their statistics, right?   If we go that route, then we really need to be careful when considering any importance being placed on a player's record when it comes to post season records, championships won, etc.   A player does not make the post season.   Teams win titles.   But players are elected to the Hall of Fame........

You had to see this coming...

See!  I love this stuff.   Life is baseball and baseball is life for many of us.   Life is also a philosophical cornucopia of thought-provoking conversations and debate.   A beautiful disaster.   A perfect game in a not-so perfect world.   Ergo.......we chat about it from time to time.

Thanks for chatting about it here with me!   I'd love to hear what you think and in the meantime....

Here we are!   It's December of 2012 and the ballots for another year of consideration have been sent out.   Who would you vote for?  

One quick thing I'd like to add - please note that I do not harbor an unhealthy hatred for BBWAA members or even sportswriters in general (especially those that vote for Donnie Baseball......).   Some of them have provided some of the very best things that I have ever had the pleasure of reading....they are responsible for Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest.   Baseball Weekly.   ESPN.   The countless sports books that are scattered throughout my basement.   The newspaper clippings that adorned my childhood bedroom.   Basically........almost everything that makes life possible for us sports fans!   So I am grateful for their talent and gifts - and understand that they haven't asked for the responsibility described above, established more than a century ago.   But it IS theirs to protect.

And, in some small, minuscule way......don't we fans who have ever put pen to paper about the sports that we love......kinda sorta qualify as one?   I've never been into self-loathing.  


Friday, November 30, 2012

That's no's a LCS!

I recently had to take a day trip down to Charleston, SC and found myself with a few spare moments.

Cue the iPhone maps search (I don't have Siri capabilities yet): baseball cards

Results: Hooked on Cards (.2 miles away)


I tried to contain my excitement as I circled in on the alleged location.   I say 'alleged' because we've all been duped before by bad intel from internet-based searches.   Was the information up to date?   Was I headed towards a nail salon? Was it actually a Local Card Shop?


I hadn't been inside of an LCS since Columbia's last card shop,  Rudy's Upper Deck, closed its doors forever last year.   It's really one of my favorite kinds posts to read about on everyone's blogs - the card shop re-cap.   Napkin Doon's stories about "Cleve's" are some of my favorites.   Highly recommended to satiate your thirst if you find yourself in a hobby geographical doldrum - check 'em out here.   It conjures up images of a cardboard cornucopia.   Packs and singles and memorabilia and posters and magazines and supplies and.....and friends.   A local hobby shop is our "Cheers".   A place where people not only want to know your name but understand why you're excited to tell them about that super sweet Topps-Update-Series-All-Star-Game-Yankee-23/25-Tri-Relic that you pulled a couple of weeks ago.   My waitress at lunch that day didn't even know what I was talking about!

Gratuitous, yes.

If they're a really understanding bunch, they'll be patient when you fog the windows of their display case for half an hour and then walk out with nothing but supplies (Oh, I'm back to the LCS....not talking about fogging Jessica's case).   Not because you're a ruthless small business hater - no.   They know you're a collector because hey, they are, too!   And they know you have a method to your madness and......they know you'll be back.

Okay.  Maybe they knew I'd be back when I did a back flip in the parking lot and took a picture of their store?

Anyways - Hooked on Cards is a great hobby shop.   Most impressive to me was the flawless organization of their small space.   Divided by sport, you had bargain bins on the counter to leaf through with the more valuable singles and autographed pieces within the display case.   If you looked up, you would see shelves of row after row of unopened wax - conveniently labeled with name and price.


They were very helpful and a pleasure to talk to.   I enjoyed my experience.   I cautiously asked how business was going......and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they said everything was going great.   They seem to have a very loyal following and are trying to incorporate a winning marketing strategy that builds the hobby network through trading, customer appreciation and quality.   Great job, guys.

I can't wait to go back and if you ever find yourself in the Charleston area - I recommend you check them out.   Here's their information:

Hooked Indeed
 Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 16, 2012

One of My Favorite Cards: 1954 Topps #153 Albert "Rube" Walker

As promised, some Dodger "blue"!

I love this card.   It's a 1954 Topps card, so I would love it anyways - but this one definitely has my attention.   It's in pretty good shape, so I feel lucky to have it in my collection as a great representation of baseball in its golden age.   The coloring is terrific and the old-school look of Rube's collapsed hat should be in the dictionary to explain what exactly a "ball cap" is!

Classic. Period.

The details on the front side of this card provide you everything you need to know - team, team logo, position, autograph, close-up and "position action shot".   Rube was a catcher for the Dodgers, so this card provides the extra bonus of getting to see some of that classic catcher's gear.   Love it.

The back of this card is just as good.   It divulges the full spectacle of Albert Bluford Walker Junior's name.   Would never have guessed he was from North Carolina with a name like that, eh?   Rube batted left but fielded as a right hander.  Rube never played ball in college and was drafted by the Cubbies out of high school in 1948.   The write-up gives a great tidbit on a couple of records that Mr. Walker lay claim to as a young player with Brooklyn who was finally getting a shot in '52.   Campanella was obviously the main guy behind the plate for the Dodgers at this time, so I can only imagine the frustration that Rube felt as he battled to make the starting line-up.   Or, perhaps he was enjoying every minute of it!?   Topps squeezes even more information into the comprehensive review of Walker's minor league batting numbers.   That's good stuff and something we don't see too much of anymore.

Call me Al......unless it's the FRONT of this card...

Topps provides the previous year's statistics along with the cumulative career numbers, as was the standard.   It looked like Rube was a pretty good fielder with a .978 fielding percentage.   You combine that with a .250 average and I think you have the makings of a solid back-up catcher.  Plus, his name was Rube and that's just awesome in itself.

Ah, the cartoon strip, "Inside Baseball".   Love these things, and this particular 3-panel strip is a great example.   It relates a portion of Rube's contribution to the epic Dodger-Giants playoff series of 1951.   Most of us know about that (the "Shot Heard 'Round the World") Series and its incredible/terrifying finish but what I personally did not know was that MVP Campanella did not play in Games 2 or 3.   If I am reading the comic correctly, the "...a Dodger was hurt..." refers to Campy, right?   First of all, I am a bit shocked that Topps didn't provide the star player's name here......perhaps it was a simple factor of not being able to fit "Campanella" - but I don't think so!   There's a lot of space still available in Panel #1.   My second complaint is that I can only find mention of Campanella's injury in one remote space in the internet universe......somebody refers to Roy "injuring his thigh" at some point.   But I can't find a write-up of Game 2 that describes some type of in-game injury or event and the resulting substitution.   In fact, doesn't portray Campanella as being on the starting lineup.   Therefore, I'm assuming that the Dodger backstop suffered something during Game 1 and just couldn't make the start in Games 2 or 3. 

Can anybody confirm this?   For you Dodgers fans - do you think this had any impact on the Series' outcome.......well, more than that whole telescope, thing?

Anyways - Rube Walker got his chances in Games 2 and 3 and, as it says on the back of this card, made good use of his time.   He pounded 3 hits and 2 homers to assist the Dodgers on their way to a 10-0 victory that necessitated that epic Game 3.

Or did he?

The back of this 1954 Topps card credits two home runs to Walker but the box scores at do not agree - they report only 1 home run, in the 9th inning, for 'ol Rube.   Huh.   I wonder what happened there?   Does anybody know?   Perhaps some kind of in-the-park deal from earlier in the game?   You can read over the numbers from that Game 2 here.   That would be interesting - again, if anybody can provide some insight, I'd be grateful.   Otherwise, it may just be a baseball card curiosity! 

Rube much closer to achieving "full Medlen" than Tom.

Walker went on to do some managing for the Dodgers and Yankees farm systems before becoming a pitching coach for the Senators, Mets and Braves.   A testament to the role a good catcher can play in successful pitching, he was a pitching coach for the Mets from '68 through '81, including the Amazin' Mets of '69 and oversaw development of two pitchers that made their way through the Metropolitans organization: Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver.   'Nuff said, Rube!

Guess what just got added to my "Want" list?

Mr. Walker finished out his days in the Game as a scout for the Cardinals and passed away in '92.

So there you go - some great stories to go along with this Rube Walker card from 1954.   I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did researching (even though I feel a bit incomplete for the effort).   Mr. Walker sure is a great part of the Dodgers' franchise history and another classic component of our great Game, too.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fortune and Glory

My last post encouraged me to conduct some additional collection forensics.

You see, I have to admit - while I have most of my cards corralled into storage tubs, there is still a tremendous amount of organization, separation and minimization that needs to occur for me to reach a point where my OCD tendencies will be satisfied.

But that takes time and, as most of you would probably agree - time is precious and all too scarce.

But the fight wages on.

In the meantime, I like to ignore my own self-imposed mandate to organize by shuffling through the binders and boxes for the sole purpose of enjoyment.   Imagine that?!

During my latest excavation, I was focused on trying to ascertain whether or not I had any hidden (forgotten?   Lost?   See personal mandate....) or recently transitioned "gems" that I could roll out on some red carpet to share with my readers.   No, not necessarily  in value, but in actual player accomplishments or notoriety, too.

Did I find anything?

Yes I did.

"I call it luck..."

And, oddly enough, this second verse goes about the same as the first.   I acquired this card a bit differently than Mr. Sandoval's '11 GQ autograph card (pack-pull).   Believe it or not, this card was part of my haul from a card-break-draft over at the recently retired blog, Crinkly Wrappers.  In fact, if you follow the link, my friend Ted's final post - a very well written baseball card blog obituary - still remains.   He was a great and generous guy and I hope he's doing well.   You can probably even go back through his post archives and find the very post where I "drafted" this card somewhere during the 2nd half of the 2011 MLB regular season.

Talk about dumb luck.

I wasn't crazy about it but my particular order for that portion of the draft left me in a "best available" type of situation.   Freese was playing pretty well at that point and he held a large advantage over MOST of the other available players for that round - he was a regular player.   So, I staked my claim.

It wasn't a card of a player I was a big fan of or even a team that I cheered for.   In fact, this team ultimately displaced the Atlanta Braves (one of my personal faves) from the '11 playoffs thanks to the Bravos' now infamous September collapse.  Lots of drama.   Lots of great history there.   And a lot of that is now represented in this card, and for this player who, as that team's improbable and now historic post season run unfolded.......materialized as a true October baseball legend and hometown hero.

Amazing.   I even almost traded this card away to another Crinkly Wrapper reader after they expressed interest from the card-draft bleachers.   At the time, I wasn't stoked about this card.   But I had elected this particular player because I was impressed by the "upward trending" contribution he was making to the Cardinals as their season began to take shape.   I believe a Freddy Freeman GQ mini card was a part of the discussion.   I DID want the Freeman mini......and I ALWAYS want to try and make a proposed trade work out.......but sometimes you just can't make the pieces fit.   Negotiations proved tough and, as sometimes happens, our trade talks ended unsuccessfully.

Sometimes this can be a bit fortuitous, I guess.

I'm glad I hung onto this David Freese card.   He may never escape the pesky injuries that pop up for him from time to time and thus, he may never achieve the kind of career-long success that lands him in the Hall of Fame or rosters of "all-time" baseball greats.   But he will have the Fall of 2011 on his resume and I will have the personal stories of watching his AMAZING walk-off theatrics for his team, the destiny-infused 2011 World Champion Cardinals, to pass on to my kids or any other poor soul caught in a basebal conversation with me (evil laugh).

And as I always say - I love it when a card has/triggers a great story.   And when that card has a little bit of extra "oomph" to accompany that 2011 NLCS and World Series MVP story, it's even sweeter.   It looks like lightning has indeed struck twice in the Indiana Jones warehouse that IS my collection.   I wonder what else is in there?

"Top Men..."

What have been your favorite "discoveries" in your collection over the years?

Hang in there, Night Owl......some 'blue' coming soon......

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 9, 2012

You Never Know!

Greetings and salutations, my friends!   I've missed you all over the past.........well, it's been too long.   And before that, too few and far in between posts.

But no moping because there's no know how it goes.

It was a great baseball season and, even though none of my personal favorites contended in the Fall Classic - it was a powerful finish for the Black and Orange.   Hats OFF to them and congratulations to my fellow bloggers who are Giants fans through and through.   It must have been a great roller-coaster ride!

Of course, one of the best highlights from the series for most of us was the historical performance by Pablo Sandoval in Game 1.   It set the tone for the Giants' ultimate victory and places a guy we all call "Panda" in some pretty esteemed World-Series-Game-Home-Run-Hitting company.   How cool is that?   I watched it unfold on TV as Mrs. Ryan's Pitch sat nearby.   I caught her attention to clue her into what was going on.   She's not a baseball nut like me but she enjoys the game and understands my obsession.   We both marveled at the moment...

Continuously checking my twitter feed and adding in my own 140-character nuggets as "@RyansPitch", I suddenly looked off into the distance.

"Wait a second...."

I ran plodded down to the basement and began a reckless search for a piece of cardboard that I had suddenly been inspired to think that....maybe, just maybe.......I actually had in my collection.   I scattered boxes and binders and loose-card stacks all over while I looked for a certain box.    Along with the original epiphany of this particular card, a new theme began to cultivate in my synapses:

"Organize your damn collection, lazy!"

I promised myself that I would.   Later.


Found it.   YES!   I knew it to be true.....I had pulled this card out of a blaster during my "Ryan's Spring" in 2011 when I dove back into our hobby.   It was awesome, simply because it was an autograph and autographs on cards in packs was a complete revelation to me as a born-again collector (can I say that?).   But it was of a player I wasn't that crazy about.....he didn't wear pinstripes or do the Tomahawk it went in its top-loader and was placed into THIS stack instead of THAT stack and eventually forgotten.   Doomed to rest in peace until it was handed over to my son one day with a, " son."

But I had to wake it up and enjoy found importance in the collection.   Cards have stories to tell.  Sometimes it's the picture on the front.   Other cards tell their best stories through stats on the back or a hand-written scribble by some kid from decades past.   Mostly, our cards will speak to us about the players they depict - the inherent purpose for their existence, after all.   And now, this card's story - like the man who signed it - will have an even sweeter story to tell.

We all love "pulls" and it's kind of neat when a "pull" enjoys an increase in "mojo" over time.

Enough words in quotation marks.   Here's The Panda:

Loopy On-Card Greatness

Man, I miss 2011 Gypsy Queen.   It was the release that brought me back into the collecting fold.  I thought it was pretty damn cool and as it turns still is.   I hope Topps can re-capture what they had because further review of the sophomore release only heightens my disappointment and "meh" attitude towards it.

Pandas and GQ aside - it's great to be back.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 5, 2012


I've always loved this George Jorge Bell card.   It was one of the first "old" cards (pre-'87......received in '87 or later!) I ever obtained and it fit nicely into my "star players" binder.

It's a little off-center, but I care about as much about that now as I did then.   No - it's the simple picture of Bell that I love so much on this card.   I like to think that this was taken towards the end of the game or practice that was towards the end of the day that was towards the end of the season/pre-season.

The end of something.

The look of exhaustion with a sly grin is exactly how I feel this week.   The baseball season has come to an exciting end.   It was a great ride for 162 games and tonight we get to start enjoying our first dose of play-in wild card games and then, soon thereafter the rest of the postseason.   I can't wait!   After 6 months of daily roster adjustments across two fantasy baseball leagues.....I'm ready for some baseball-watching that is singular in impact :)

A singularity event?   Fellow nerds UNITE!

My Yanks have snagged the AL East title again and it was with some particularly delicious salt in the wound that was the Bobby Valentine experiment in Boston.   I will definitely MISS that guy.   What a disaster.

Some underdogs have risen to the top and while my affinity for their success will stop at some point, it has been great to see the A's and the O's fight their way into the picture!   Perfect games, and a FREAKING TRIPLE CROWN!!!!!   Congratulations, Miggy!

The hobby year is winding down, too.   This may be the final year where I truly put forth so much effort and capital into new releases.  It's time-consuming, expensive and, it seems, ever expanding.   Tough to keep up with but always enjoyable.   Update hit the streets this week and I will definitely try some out as I wrap up the final "hand-collated" sets for my son's future collection.   But still - I feel like this is the end of something in a lot of ways.   Things change.

I need to leave this one short (and, rather incomplete as I gaze up at the three or so paragraphs....) but there will be more to come.   In the meantime, enjoy the changes in your own kingdom.   The regular season is complete.   Fall is here.   The champions trudge on towards immortality.   Let's grab a cold one, Jorge!


I'm ready to 'lace' this work week!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 7, 2012

One of My Favorite Cards: 1974 Topps #456 Dave Winfield Rookie Card

I had a quick internal battle as to whether or not I should file my Winfield rookie card in my Yankees collection or in my "Vintage/Other" the end, I decided to honor the time, years, performance and passion that Winfield displayed during his epic career as a member of all his teams by choosing the latter.

Turns out - this card rocks no matter which collection it rests within, as did the career it honors the start of!

Yep.  It's a bright one, Dave.

Winfield's rookie card is from the 1974 Topps set.   As a kid in the late 80's, I often confused the '74 design with the '80 design - both of which I still enjoy to this day (though I don't own very many of.....yet).   The dual banner, symmetrical look is very basic but its simplicity plays to my inner engineer.   The team, position and name labels frame out a cameo shot of Winfield looking very optimistic about his future.

This particular card is in great shape for my liking.   There's no creasing on the front and the coloring is fantastic so the overall presentation is really nice.   Browns and yellows are usually not ideal, but the retro goodness of the old-time Padres uniform is simply undeniable.   Throw in the 'ol Winfield moustache and early 70's stadium upper deck background for good measure and you have the makings of a most excellent rookie card.

The edges and corners are not perfect - but the price was right, so I was ecstatic to add another HOF rookie card to the collection.   Here's a look at the back:

Ah, there's a tiny crease up there in the upper right hand corner.  No worries, as my usual point of contention starts when I can no longer read a portion of the card - which is certainly not the case here.   You get a nice look at Mr. Winfield's signature up top with the usual biometrics and even a noteworthy cartoon along the right side - turns out that Winfield was born on the same day as "the shot heard 'round the world", a.k.a. Bobby Thompson's home run.   Very poetic that big Dave would be destined for his own post-season legend more than 40 years later!   But more on that later.   The four college career highlights at the University of Minnesota are given in bullet point format.   A lot of good information and interesting tidbits squeezed onto this cardboard.   I dig that.

This card portrays Winfield as a proud young phenom for the San Diego Padres.   The Padres drafted Mr. Winfield as a Pitcher and was the 4th overall pick of that draft.   Of course, Dave was also drafted by THREE other teams in TWO other sports (basketball and football).   Keep in mind, Dave Winfield didn't even PLAY college football at UM!

Hear it comes!

That should give you an idea as to how incredibly gifted this guy was as an athlete.   The Padres quickly dropped their young star into the deep end of the major league pool - where he immediately shined.   Needing his bat more than an additional hurler, they placed Winfield in the outfield where he still utilized his rifle arm to produce many memorable defensive plays.   He batted .277 in the 56 games he played in '73 and only seemed to improve as his career marched forward.

That Uniform = Awesome

He would go on to hit the national scene during the '77 All Star Game in New York and became the Padres Captain in '78 before posting .308 AVG / 34 HRs / 118 RBI in '79.   Winfield landed in New York as a free agent in 1981 where he would be a constant offensive leader until he left in 1990.   Often at odds with Steinbrenner (which probably began when the Boss signed Winfield for $7M more than he thought he did - making him the HIGHEST paid MLB player), Winfield never allowed the off-field Bronx drama affect his performance between the lines.   He would be an All-Star for eight years in a row ('81 - '88) and win five gold gloves in New York to go along with his five silver slugger awards.   He lost a VERY narrow batting title race to teammate Don Mattingly in 1984 by .003, finishing at .340.   Interestingly, Yankees fans were divided in their loyalty to both sluggers, with a noticeable tilt in favor of Donnie Baseball.   Winfield handled this fact like a professional, citing an eerily similar situation endured by Mantle and Maris during the home run race of '61.   The Yanks, despite having two sluggers in the line-up at .340 or better, still finished 17.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers that season.   Yikes?!

The Masters

During Steinbrenner's two year stretch of being banned from managing the club's operations, Winfield was finally traded to the Angels in 1990 where he stayed only briefly before having his second career renaissance as a soon-to-be world champion for the Toronto Blue Jays.   Even as an aging star, Winfield served as a very powerful designated hitter.   What am I saying?!   Big Dave slugged with a .290 average and slammed 26 home runs along with 108 RBI.  He wasn't done yet, no sir!   Winfield helped to lead the team into October where he provided the clutch 2-run scoring double for the Jays in the 11th inning of Game 6 that helped to clinch the '92 Series for Toronto.   Unfortunately, this victory was over my Atlanta Braves, but it was truly something to behold as Winfield officially shrugged off those tired old and fictitious "Mr. May" labels from Steinbrenner during his pinstripe days and became the oldest player (41) to slug an extra base hit in the World Series.   No matter how you slice it - that's good stuff and Winfield now had the hardware to go along with his championship-worthy career!

Destiny - Worth the Wait!

Winfield would go on to collect his 3,000th hit off of Dennis Eckersley as a Twin in 1993, thereby cementing his enshrinement in Cooperstown.   Playing his final game as a professional in 1995 as a Cleveland Indian, Dave Winfield completed an amazing career that spanned thirteen years and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2001.   He remains a very active part of the game today in a return to his roots as the executive Vice President and Senior Advisor for the San Diego Padres, who also retired his #31 in 2001.  He is also very active and performs much great work through his foundation, The Winfield Foundation - and can also often be seen as a guest analyst on ESPN's Baseball Tonight.

Power for Good.

Atta boy, Big Dave!   Thanks for the memories and your contributions to the game of baseball (even the ones that might have occurred outside of your time as one of my beloved Yanks).   You're definitely one of my favorites and while I haven't been lucky enough to meet you or get your autograph yet, I'm honored to have your rookie card in my collection!

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Yankee Collection - 1948 Bowman #14 Allie Reynolds Rookie Card

Here is a look at one of my favorite cards from my Yankee collection - Allie Reynolds' "Rookie" card from the 1948 Bowman set:

Vintage-y Goodness, served up Bronx Style!

The 1948 Bowman set was very limited, at only 48 cards.   This Reynolds card is #14 from the set.   This card is noted as Reynolds' rookie card because the '48 Bowman release was the first major release after the end of World War II.   Therefore, the majority of cards in the set are noted as players' first cards, even though many had played for years - like Reynolds, who came up with the Indians in 1942.   The card's dimensions are 21/16" by 21/2" and the entire set is in black & white.   I managed to find this card in great condition at an unbelievable price!   At 64 years old, this Reynolds is completely crease-free and has some great edges with sharp corners.   As was common for many cards back then,it suffered from a slightly uneven cut but the card really doesn't suffer in its appearance.   Would I care anyways? :)   Here's the back!

What the Michael Pineda Trade Will [Probably] Never Be...
Here you have the very basic back of those early Bowman releases.   But I still dig them!   The usual biographical numbers are followed by a great summary of Allie's early career and a mention of the great trade that brought Mr. Reynolds to New York - more on that below.   And don't forget to ask for Blony Bubble Gum, The Gum with THREE different flavors :)   Ha!   How sweet is that little ad?   Can you imagine the uproar if card companies loaded up the backs of our modern-day releases with ads?   Here's a quick glance at what this card looks like in a top-loader, just for some size perspective:

I love, love, love this card!   It's a vintage Yankee rookie card of a great player.   I can't swap it for a house....or a car....or even Madden '13, but it's a great piece of history to me and it's in great shape.   I hope I have the chance to find some other good deals on some other cards from this set.   Any time you can take home a card from one of those "First Page" sets (sets on the first page of the price guide)......I think you have something special.

Here's some more about Mr. Reynolds:

Allie Pierce Reynolds was one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League during his playing days.   He began his career with the Cleveland Indians, who were tipped off to his hurling prowess by the baseball coach at Oklahoma A&M - where Allie attended college and lettered in numerous sports until graduating.

Reynolds in Cleveland -note "War Bonds" Ad behind him!

He fought his way through the minor leagues during difficult financial times for the country and was on the verge of retiring from the game out of frustration until he was called up to Cleveland and established himself as an ace for the Indians while their usual #1, Bob Feller, was serving overseas in World War II.   It should be noted that Reynolds took the enlistment physical but was determined to be ineligible for service due to family medical history and some injuries he had suffered while playing sports in college.   Allie Reynolds led the AL in strikeouts in '43 and made a total of 100 starts for the Indians.   Of those times he took the mound as a starting pitcher, Reynolds tossed 41 complete games and had nine shutouts!  

By 1946, Feller had returned to the squad and the club's player/manager Lou Boudreau needed to fill a defensive hole at 2B for the Indians.   He had set his eyes on the Yankees' 2B, Joe Gordon and informed the Yankees' front office man, Lee MacPhail that New York could have any pitcher he wanted - with the exception of Mr. Feller, of course.   Lee sought some counsel from 'ol DiMaggio who advised Lee:

"Take Reynolds.   I'm a fastball hitter, but he can buzz his hard one by me any time he has a mind to." EVERYTHING!

The rest is history and Allie Reynolds became an ace for the Yankees on a staff that included Ed Lopat and Vic Raschi.   By 1949, Allie was the star of a team that won five consecutive league championships - the first squad to ever do so.   For his first 6 seasons as a Yankee, Mr. Reynolds averaged over 232 innings, 17.5 wins and 14 complete games!   He also became the second pitcher in major league history to hurl two no-hitters in one season, joining Johnny Vander Meer who had accomplished the feat in '38.   Notching two no-no's in one season is still the record though the two have been joined more recently by one of my all-time favorites - Virgil Trucks ('52) as well as Nolan Ryan ('73) and Roy Halladay ('10).   Not too shabby, huh?

Allie Reynolds hailed from Oklahoma (like another Yankee legend, don't you know?) and was a member of the Creek Indian Nation.   As was the standard in those days, any ball player of Native American heritage usually garnered the nickname "Chief" from his teammates at some point.   This was no different for Mr. Reynolds, who earned a version of that as "Superchief".   It is pretty widely known that Allie wasn't comfortable with his nickname, usually citing the honor and reverence that was reserved for the title of "Chief" within his Creek Indian culture.   The stories behind this label aren't crystal clear but teammate and eventual AL President, Bobby Brown once noted:

"But for some of you too young to remember, the Santa Fe Railroad at that time had a crack train (call the Superchief) that ran from California to Chicago, and it was known for its elegance, its power and its speed. We always felt the name applied to Allie for the same reasons."

That's quite a compliment.   In fact, I think the only other compliment that I might be MORE impressed by would be some kind words from 'ol Casey Stengel......wait, WHAT?   Stengel had words of praise for this guy?   Why yes, yes he did:

"Reynolds was two ways great, which is starting and relieving, which no one can do like him...He has guts and his courage is simply tremendous."

That's good stuff!   And so were Superchief's career accomplishments, although they never managed to earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame:

  • Six Time All-Star (1945, 1949, 1952, 1953 and 1954)
  • Six Time World Series Champion (1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953)
  • Lifetime Stats: 182-107, 3.30 ERA and 1,423 K's

Maybe most impressive was Reynolds' performance under pressure in the post season.   He was 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA over 77 innings and was the "clinching" pitcher in the '50, '52 and '53 Series.   He made six relief appearances in the World Series and earned either a Win or a Save in every single one of them.   And just to drive the point home - he batted .308 in 26 World Series at-bats.   Yo!   Allie went on to become a very successful business man in the oil industry after retiring due to injuries suffered in a crash of the Yankees team bus during the '54 season.   He passed away in Oklahoma in 1994 at the age of 77.  

Allie "Super Chief" Reynolds was indeed a legendary pitcher for my favorite team back in the very first days of baseball's golden age.   His accomplishments are impressive as is the way in which he apparently lived his life.   I'm really, honored to have his rookie card as a part of my New York Yankee baseball card collection.

Thank for reading!

There's Actually Trade Bait On the Trade Bait Page?

No, seriously!

Landmark day, my friends.   Not too much, but check 'em out and see if anything catches your eye.   I am hoping to be able to keep it fresh (read: updated!) and add more cards as we go along.   There's no sense in hoarding the cardboard I don't need or want if it belongs in your collection, you know?

Make an offer and let's try to work something out.   We might not always get a deal done but it will be a great chance to take note of who or what you like when I gather those "just 'cause" packages together to send out.

It's been known to happen.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Starling Marte - Part of the Future in Pittsburgh?

Another card that I managed to pull from my packs of 2012 Bowman Platinum was this Top Prospect card of Starling Marte:

It's a great looking card - I think the color scheme goes well with the Bucco's colors and I couldn't agree more with Topps' decision to bestow the title of top prospect on Marte.   I'm no Pirates fan but I can't say that I haven't enjoyed seeing them have a second consecutive successful season.   Sure, it was my Braves that ended the last dynasty in Steel City.   I can still see a very young (and skinny!) Barry Bonds sitting in the outfield grass of Fulton County Stadium moments after that fateful slide by Sid Bream.   I was ecstatic that the Braves had pulled it off and didn't think much about what would happen to the Pirates after they parted ways.

Here we are two decades later and as any Pirates fan can tell you - it has been a tough road up until last year.   But now there is some promise in Pittsburgh.   They've pulled together a very talented club, centered around their amazing center fielder, Andrew McCutchen.   He was as hot as they come earlier in the season, cranking out HR's like nobody's business.   Garrett Jones has been pretty impressive to me, too.   He seems to be a bit of a defensive liability, but hey - what are you going to do?   If Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Tabata could ever all start hitting at the same time.....they could be unstoppable.

For pitching, the Bucs had a great first half of the season from James McDonald.   Not sure where his 'stuff' has gone here in the second half, but he'll be one to watch next season.   A.J. Burnett, bless his heart, has actually come through as expected for Pittsburgh - providing staff and clubhouse leadership as the team's undeniable ace.   He is finalizing some single-season pitching numbers that they haven't seen in some time.   As a Yankees fan, I'm sorry it didn't work out for A.J. in the Bronx, but I'm happy for him.

For Mr. Marte, though - he started off with a HR in his first MLB at-bat.   You can't beat that!   He cooled off a bit and everyone wondered if it was some sort of beginner's luck or if the pressure was too much for this kid.   I'd say he settled in rather nicely.   He needs to work on his patience at the plate a little bit but overall I think he contributed and met some expectations.   He could be another piece of the puzzle.   He has now in the middle of a DL stint, so I hope that he makes a quick recovery and can rejoin the team for what may be a VERY exciting finish to the season.   A pennant chase and wild card race that has the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates within 3 and a half games of each other?   Yes, please!   Four of baseball's classic organizations has a sweet taste to it.   I can't wait to see who the Yankees will face.....

What?   :)

Here's the back of his Top Prospect card:

Overall, these packs of Bowman Platinum were very enjoyable to rip.   The card design really grew on me.   Perhaps it was just the luck of pulling some cards of players I like and am excited about (does that help or what?), but it's the feeling I've come away with.   That being said, I won't be chasing this set.   I'll try to post up a list of the cards (base, insert, etc.) that I don't want for my collection so that you all can see what you need or want.   Gladly up for trade talks!

I've stared down some Topps Chrome a few times over the past week.   I just can't make myself pull the trigger for only 4 cards per pack - which equates to about 75 cents per card.   I know, it's all about risk and reward with the more premium releases but I just can't do it.   I think I'll save the funds for a box of Update in October.   I didn't build last year's Update set and I think I'd like to do so this year as I wrap up my final season of hand-collating sets for my son.   For now, the goal will be to stick to a factory set per year starting in '13  for him and shift focus back to my own vintage collection and 'lifetime topps' mission of completing '79 through '93.

Do you think I'll be able to stay away?   I know.....Vegas doesn't like those odds either.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Mattingly Collection - 2012 Archives '56 Style Relic Card

Don Mattingly is my favorite baseball player of all time.


I sought him out as a collector in my youth and I continue to do so today (often enjoying very discounted prices) with a lot of enjoyment.   He'll always be a Yankee to me but I have no problem rooting for his club to take the NL West.   I might waver if they face my Braves for the NL Championship and it will most certainly be interesting, for so many reasons, to see a Dodgers - Yankees World Series match up.  

But like Scarlett says, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

For now I'll focus on the task at hand, showing off my Don Mattingly collection.   This will be the first entry in the series!   Which Mattingly to choose?   Would be very reasonable to start off with any of his classic '84 rookie cards.   There have definitely been some fantastic legacy releases since his playing days came to an end.   Hmmmm....

So where to start?!

How about with this one:


Combining one of my favorite all-time card designs with my favorite all-time player?   That's a recipe for cardboard success.   I'll let it go that the swatch is purely gray and that Donnie Baseball looks like somebody just told him the Boss wants him to cut his hair........I'll let it go.   I've got Mattingly in pinstripes with a piece of his jersey, his signature and a well-balanced retro '56 card.   The back is nothing special:

#s I knew before my own SSN - 6'0", 175, 4/20/61

But you still get a quick reminder of the greatness.   A career that was cut short, yet the facts remain:

- statistically, more than half of his hits drove in a run
- nearly a quarter of his hits were doubles
- the career average, plagued with a bad back , will always stand at .307

One day, the Veterans Committee will confirm what many of his fans already know!

But for now, I hope you can appreciate this card with me - my most recent Mattingly addition.

Thanks for reading!

Do you Honor By Sharing?

The following is an article that I really enjoyed from the UpperDeckBlog that describes the story behind a part of their Museum Collection cards from the 2011 Goodwin Champions release....and the resulting controversy.

A big hat tip to fellow Yankees fan and journalist, Susan Lulgjuraj ( )for the heads up & link on le Twitter......

Enjoy and THANKS for reading!

Controversy in the Cards? The Story Behind the Civil War Union Battle Flag Used 2012 Goodwin Champions

My name is Rob Ford and I have been working with Upper Deck for over ten years. My current role with the company is that of a sports coordinator and part of my job besides creating checklists is acquiring key components for certain brands. In 2011 Goodwin Champions the “Museum Collection” cards featured a variety of artifacts like a chair from Napolean and wood from the White House. For 2012, our hope was to focus in on one historic period for this insert series and with it being the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, that seemed to be the perfect period for Upper Deck to target.

I am a huge aficionado of history so it was really exciting for me as I began to work with vendors to acquire authentic artifacts from the Civil War we could preserve and celebrate with the “Museum Collection” series. It was my goal from the start to respectfully show each piece and to minimize any damage to the pieces that may come during the production process. Therefore when first approached with the idea of doing flag cards from a vendor, I shared that we wanted to pass.

However, once I saw pictures of what was left of the Union battle flag that was being sold in pieces, I agreed to take a look at the flag in person. Perhaps if Upper Deck were to use it in the set, we could give it a second life by presenting it in an attractive fashion and sharing it with history lovers.
Once the flag arrived it was in a sad state both ripped and cut. The pieces missing had already been cut by the vendor and sold. The stripes were already cut away and all that was left was a narrow strip of red, white and blue. The process of cutting the flag to share with other collectors had already begun and I realized it would continue even if Upper Deck wasn’t involved in acquiring the piece. The flag was in fact so fragile that some of the rips became larger with every handling. Does it belong in a museum? Based on the current condition of the flag, I couldn’t imagine it would be something that anyone would want to see. Looking at it in this condition made me sad that it had not been better preserved. Still I had my reservations about altering it further.

Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Union Battle Flag
This is a portion of the actual Union battle flag Upper Deck procured for use in the 2012 Goodwin Champions “Museum Collection” series. The vendor was in the process of cutting it and selling it off. The overall condition of the flag was very poor.

After much thought and weeks of discussion which included talking to a history professor from the Universityof San Diegoand number of veterans. From these discussions I learned that it was common for soldiers themselves to cut up their own flag for souvenirs. We all know there are proper ways to dispose of a flag, but this was not a flag that was accidentally left out in storm on a long Fourth of July weekend, this is an artifact that people should see.

I began to think not only could we do this, but this might be something that we should do. My position here at Upper Deck sometimes gives me a chance to do things that people will enjoy and appreciate. Sometimes it is rewarding a deserving player by including them on a checklist or acquiring unique new memorabilia to be used in a memorabilia card, but I had never had an opportunity like this to help preserve an item by actually altering it and presenting it in a new way.

2012 Goodwin Champions Museum Collection Battle Flag
This is the actual card we created that I believe gives this flag a new lease on life with the attractive presentation of the artifact. This piece came from the stitching, not shown in the image above.

Finally, it came down to not the bottom line. It wasn’t about creating buzz and it certainly was not profits on the product, but just one simple thing; I had the opportunity to save this piece from slowly disintegrating and to make something to honor our veterans, not disgrace them. As an organization we hoped we could create something that would be collected and cherished by patriotic Americans like myself. And because of that we moved ahead with the project.

Our intention was never to upset any veterans or patriotic Americans. Upper Deck has a strong heritage as one of the only trading card manufacturers who actively partners with military charities like Operation Gratitude. We know there are a lot of men and women in the military who are collectors. In fact, we even created a different insert series in the product paying tribute to the “Military Machines” used by our armed forces. As an American company we look to celebrate the men and women who have served our country, not disgrace them.

For those who were upset about the decision to use this flag in the product, I apologize, but I do believe it was the right thing to do. So many collectors will get to experience and appreciate this artifact, in fact the professor we brought in shared he hoped to use one of the cards in his class with his students. For that reason alone I was encouraged to proceed with the use of this flag. I understand and appreciate people’s strong feelings on this issue and again I am sorry to anyone who may be upset by the use of this flag in this set. Our intention was to honor this flag, never to desecrate it.