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.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Quest for '60: 1960 Topps #567 Sherm Lollar, All Star

This will hopefully be the first of many ""Quest for '60" posts that I'm able to share with you here at Ryan's Pitch.  

1960 Topps baseball cards were the first vintage baseball cards that I ever saw and, very carefully, held in my hands.   At some point during my childhood, my grandparents presented my father with two binders of sports cards - mostly baseball and a little bit of football.   They were actually his old collection, salvaged from the meticulously and safely kept shoebox that had been gathering dust in my grandparents' homes since his childhood.  He was thrilled but probably not as ecstatic as his eldest son......yours truly.

Those binders still blow my mind!

My old man was a Yankees fan so I get it honest.   And fortunately for his collection, this means that there are several Mantles which graced the very first page of binder #1.   An All-Star card, the 1960 base Mantle card.....three 1964 Mantles.....epic stuff.   But the majority of the two binders is definitely 1960 Topps baseball cards.   As a child, all I was concerned with were the Mantles and a couple of rookie cards (complete with a HUGE trophy on one of them!!!) for some dudes named McCovey and Yastrzemski.   I quickly donated some of my top loaders and breathed a sigh of relief as these relics were gently lowered into safety.....even though they had survived in really good condition, for decades, within a plain old box.   But I was a child collector of the Junk Wax era, so we were definitely at DEFCON 5 until they were properly 'stored'.   Whew!   My job was done and it is within those protective cases that those key cards still rest.   They are Dad's cards and maybe one day (hopefully a long time from now) they will be passed down.

But how many cards did he have?   Did he have a complete set?   Was he close?

I didn't ask those questions twenty years ago and even if I had - would it have inspired me to take action?   Based on my allowance at the time....most certainly not.   But that was then.   Fast forward to me as a grown up child.   This past Christmas, I took the time to truly flip through ALL of the pages and look, for the first time, with my mature collecting eyes as to what Dad really had in those two binders.   Gibson....Musial......Kaline.....many of the GREAT ones were there!   Berra, Ford, Aaron....the awesomeness continued!   I jotted down the numbers and collated as best I could.    Page after page, I was like a monk salvaging ancient messages scribbled on scrolls of papyrus.   Or something like that.   You can find my results under the "Sets Needs" tab to the right - Dad is actually VERY close to completing the 1960 Topps set!   Let me know if you can help, I am always up for a trade.

So, after all of that - I am now on my Quest for '60 and have set a goal to complete my Dad's partial 1960 Topps set.  

Crazy?   Probably.   Yes, there are some mighty expensive cards left to be tracked down but at the same time, there are dozens and dozens of very reasonable "common" base cards that can be checked off the list, too.   I fully recognize that this quest will take years and, potentially, decades.   I would like to finish the set in a reasonable time frame so that my old man and I can enjoy its completion together.   Here's hoping, for so many powerful reasons......

Enough background though - let's get to Mr. Lollar.

I found this Sherm Lollar All Star card for a great price AND it's in great condition AND I didn't know anything about Sherm Lollar.....but now I do and I am grateful for the learning experience.   Here's a look at the front of this card, #567 from the set:

What do you think of these 1960 All Star card designs?

Shake off the iPhone "fish eye" effect and you can see what I mean - this wonderful old piece of cardboard is in GREAT condition.   The corners are sharp and the colors are still vivid even 52 years later.   Great edges and not even a hint of creasing.   Good stuff - if only they could all be like this!   Being number 567 from the set makes it a "High Series" card and therefore, more rare.   So I'm really happy to cross it off the list.

But who is Shem Lollar?

You know those great ball players that seem to exist in the shadow of a better-known or only slightly better player from the same position?   Sherm is one of those players.   As it turn out, he was one of the finest catcher in the American League during the 1950's!   Check these accolades out:
  • 7 time All-Star
  • 2 time World Series Champion (once as a player)
  • 3 time Gold Glove Award Winner
Impressive!   Of course, being a catcher in the AL in the '50's.....Sherm was often in the shadow of MR. Yogi Berra.   Heck, Sherm even played for the Yankees in '47 and '48 - just as Yogi was beginning to establish his era.   The two of them were competing for the starting role as the '47 season approached.   Both were considered to be great hitters and defensive liabilities....although they would both shake the defensive label.   The Bronx Bombers' catching sage at the time, Bill Dickey, advised team management that Berra's left-handed bat would be better suited for Yankee Stadium's short left porch and wouldn't you know - Berra got the slot and Lollar was eventually traded to the Browns. 

Sherm Lollar's career would take off, though and he would go on to play for the Browns and White Sox until 1963, spending the majority of that span in Chicago where he won all of his gold gloves and earned six of his All-Star selections.   He was always regarded as a powerful hitter, even within the gigantic dimensions of Comiskey Park and is often cited as one of those players who garners serious consideration for posthumous entry into the Hall of Fame.   I hope he gets his chance, one day.   Here is the back of Sherm's All Star card:

Love the cartoon!  "In a two hits in an inning twice"

When he retired in 1963, Lollar's career fielding percentage of .992 was the HIGHEST for a catcher in major league history.   At the time of his retirement, he was also 5th on the all-time list for catching base runners throughout his career - nailing 46% of them!   Way to go, Sherm!

I'm really glad to add another piece of the puzzle to my Quest for '60 and probably even more ecstatic that my quest has introduced me to Sherm Lollar - who I now know to be one of the greatest catchers during baseball's golden age.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


Monday, August 13, 2012

The 94th PGA Championship

Switching things up a little bit here with a golf post, but there WILL be some collecting involved!

I was very fortunate and had the opportunity to attend the PGA Championship's final round yesterday at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.   This was the second major I've ever been to and my first time visiting Kiawah Island.   The Ocean Course lays claim to the title as "Golf course with most holes on the Atlantic Ocean" and it is, perhaps, most famous until now for hosting the 1991 Ryder Cup - a mere two years after being completely destroyed by Hurricane Hugo.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy for his second major title after a masterful blowout victory, setting a new record by besting the rest of a very talented international field by 8 shots!   Up until yesterday, the 23-year old was probably best known for his two painful Sunday collapses at both the Masters and the U.S. Open.   Pundits everywhere have been questioning whether Rory was a flash in the pan......

The pundits have changed their tune, now!   Including fellow European, Sir Nick Faldo.  

(.....for the collectors...)

I wasn't able to spend much time with Nick (sarcasm), as he was busy taping various TV spots after the closing ceremonies had ended......but I stayed the course and patiently waited for a chance at his autograph.   I was also praying for the [impossible] remote chance that some of the players, maybe even McIlroy himself, might decide to come yuck it up with us common-folk.   I had a nice-looking tournament flag in hand from the gift shop and a trusty sharpie in the other hand.   I had carried it around with me during the entire second-half of our day.   Never miss an autograph opportunity, right?!

Right.   But wait - why a big 'ol flag, Ryan?

I've decided to snag a commemorative flag from every Major Championship, when I am lucky enough to be able to attend.   I have one from Augusta, which you will all see in a future post next spring......and I was sure to pick one up yesterday.   Since it was a tournament round, there would be LITTLE chance for interacting with the players.   Especially since the previous day's weather delay caused the field to finish their 3rd round early on Sunday.   They would be tired and exhausted....not a good recipe for fans and autograph seekers like us.   But I understand.   Sometimes it is just not meant to be.   That's fine - unsigned Major flags are always welcome on the Ryan's Pitch Man Cave wall!   Sports is sports, after all. back to me, loitering around like a TMZ reporter.....

The tourney came to a close yesterday.   Seagulls and pelicans were flying overhead in victory formation.....I smoked a victory cigar with my good friend and we watched as McIlroy made his way through the post-victory obstacle course of picture sessions, interviews and VIP well-wishers.   He never came towards us for a potential miracle signing, but that's okay.   The salty breeze was blowing during a fine, Low-Country sunset.   It was time to soak it all in and not get too stressed out over autograph possibilities.   However, I've learned that patience does pay off sometimes - you never know.   I waited and waited.   Finally, a production assistant began to herd Faldo back towards the TV booths that had been set up across from the Ocean Club clubhouse near the beach.   There was just a few of us fans who had waited around (hey, who wants to stand in line for a shuttle bus to the parking lots, anyways?!?!), so Nick let us know, "...follow me, guys - I'll sign a few while I walk."


I made sure that the small kids got in there first and then my chance came.   The previous auto-seeker had handed Faldo a green sharpie to use (the course's logo colors included green).   I had brought my trusty black sharpie......Sir Nick kept the other fan's pen and used it to sign my flag - and I think it turned out pretty nice.   Thanks, random green-sharpie fan dude!   I thanked Mr. Faldo and parted with my best "cheers", which got a little chuckle and nod of approval from the 6-time Major Champion.   Here she is:


...and here is the herd after I hit the "eject button" with my new "Faldo Flag" in hand.   He's in there, I promise - the light blue shirt in the middle, behind the gentleman in the yellow.   Sir Faldo:

Looks like a Southwest boarding gate....

He has been known to be somewhat of a tough autograph to snag and I can believe it.   He was constantly being bombarded, questioned, followed and told what to do - by TV colleagues, not fans and autograph seekers!   And while he usually works in a jab against my favorite, Bubba, during telecasts.......Sir Nick comes out of this one with a thumbs-up from me.   Thank you for your time, Mr. Faldo!

(...and now, for the golf fans....some of the actual golf that I was able to witness....)

I posted up at the tee box of #7 as the leading groups made their way through the front nine.   My usual preference is to find a place where I can get as close as possible and stay put while the players come through....and #7 ended up being a terrific spot.   I was "right on the rope" and was able to listen to the players as they discussed club/shot selection with their caddies, go through their pre-shot routine and, of course - blast a tee shot.    I try to absorb the rhythm and idiosyncrasies of these guys so that I can put it to use with my own game.   That never works :) 

These fans absorbed shade instead of rhythm.   And I was jealous.

John Daly and Miguel Angel Jimenez's group came through in all of their glory.   Long John Daly continues to be a crowd favorite, more than two decades after his improbable victory at Crooked Stick.   These days, he lets his wardrobe do MOST of the talking for him.   Jimenez  (the "Mechanic") has become one of my favorites.   The quirky Spaniard is a big fan of red wine loves to smoke Cohiba cigars while he plays.   YouTube videos of his pre-round stretching routine are a MUST-see.   Both of these guys launched perfect drives off of #7, with Daly's driver flailing WAY past parallel on his back swing - just as it always has.

Just a weeee past parallel there, Fruit Stripe :)

Big John and the Mechanic!

Bubba Watson, as I've mentioned before, is definitely my favorite player.   He put together a pretty solid performance for the week and racked up some more FEDEX points as the playoff season approaches.   His Ryder Cup selection is almost certainly a guarantee at this point as well - an event that should be TRULY exciting as golf's "olympics" ventures back onto American soil next month, at Medinah Country Club in Illinois.   I can't wait.   No longer a "I can't believe I'm here!" kind of tour player, Bubba seemed to have a Champion's confidence about him.   Later in the day, I had moved to 18 for the tournament's finish and was just in time to watch Bubba's approach shot and eventual birdie putt.   His drive had split the fairway and came to rest at least 40 yards ahead of the rest of his group.   Typical!   He then calmly lobbed (what must have been) a wedge into the air and stuck it close for his birdie.   Good stuff!   Here's Bubba swinging "out of his shoes" during a drive.   This extra "oooomph from the tippy-toes" is what gives him an extra power boost - not textbook at all, but..........that just doesn't matter anymore!   Go get 'em Bubba!

Post-impact. Note pink shaft, ball to right of tee marker and Jason Dufner looking on...

Phil Mickelson had a horrible final round and doesn't seem to be finishing up the 2012 season very well.    He's still a heck of a golfer, true champion and, usually - nice guy who interacts a bit more with the crowd when he's relaxed.   He certainly seemed to be relaxed yesterday.   He even smiled.   When he talked to his caddie, he spoke loud enough for all to hear, which in its own way, was very cool and unique.   Someone was a bit too loud on their phone as Lefty was preparing to tee off and a marshal quickly 'shushed' them.....Phil actually waved it off and smiled and said, "....that's okay......".   That's awfully big of him.   I've had less kind reactions myself to noise during my swing.....with a LOT less money on the line.   Here's Lefty, about to make impact.

Go get 'em, Phil!

The state of Tiger's return has been the topic of choice for golf critics all year.   He has shown moments of brilliance with a couple of tournament victories.....but has also befuddled his fans by suffering through completely UN-Tigeresque, final round disasters.   Though he was somewhat in the hunt, he couldn't get things going during yesterday's final round.   I actually saw him completely "airmail" (hit it OVER the green) an approach shot on the front nine, something that he NEVER used to do.   BUT, he's Tiger Woods and I was pumped as ever to watch him display his game.  

I must say that he was very calm, cool and collected.   He hit some bad shots but he never lost his temper as bad as Tiger tends to do sometimes.   In fact, I even witnessed a very kind act by Tiger - after teeing off on #7, he strode off down the fairway as he normally does.   The cameras and necessary circus went with him but a PGA Tour official quickly walked up to a young golf fan standing next to me with his father and handed him a very shiny, nice looking ball marker.   I couldn't hear exactly what he whispered but I learned after the fact that the ball marker had been Tiger's and that he had asked the official to give it to the kid after he (Tiger) left the tee box.   Very cool.   Bo Van Pelt later tossed his ball at the kid (which hit me gingerly in the foot before the kid scooped it up.......made me laugh.   BOY, did that kid make out!)  

Here is Mr. Woods, conferring with his caddie about the next shot......or maybe they spotted Tiger's yacht out in the water?

Tiger....will he find it again?

Finally....our Champion!   Rory was great to watch come through.   Everyone was wondering - would he fall again?   The answer was no, of course.   Being able to see the concentration in his eyes and confidence of his swing was pretty powerful.   Sure, going through the painful learning lessons of two "final day" major losses should help most people get the butterflies out of their system.   Or does it make it worse?   Regardless, Rory made it look easy as he grinded out an amazing, error-free, final round and pulled away from the field amidst the usual substantial coastal winds and tight course conditions.   He quipped to his caddie after teeing off on #7, "...I didn't catch all of that..." - but he certainly had.   #7 is a reachable Par 5 with a dog-leg right that occurs RIGHT where the drives land for most of the pro's.   especially with the wind coming in off the South Carolina coast.   I heard Jimenez's caddie report that it was a 325 carry to the "apex" of the turn, with a huge bunker/waste area along the right side in case anybody drifted too far right or couldn't cut the corner.   I hustled down the right side of the hole to find that Rory's ball did INDEED clear all of the trouble.   He lofted an iron onto the left side of the green, precariously close to the left-side trap......and promptly two-putted for birdie.

Watching the players consider their options on the tee box of 17 was also a tremendous experience.   #17 at Ocean Course is usually considered to be that track's signature hole.   The 230-yard par 3 skirts the beach so wind usually forces the tee shots to the left.   There is a sizable lake between the tees and green and the green is a fairly long one, approximately 40 yards from front to back with he putting surface reaching out into the water as you go back - making the Sunday pin position a true challenge.   Trevor Immelman (blast from the past!) made the finest shot while I was there - attacking the pin head on , water in front be damned!   He stuck it close and made his birdie.   Rory got to 17 and was looking at a 6 stroke lead......pretty comfy, but we all know what he must have been thinking.   As they said in The Sandlot - "Don't be Goofus!"

#17, Par 3, Ocean Course

And he wasn't.

He played a perfectly placed safe shot to the back left portion of the green.   It was something to watch.   I admired the smooth, calm swing that he had.   He had a long putt but he had avoided the matter.   He sank the putt anyways!   He even birdied 18, just for good measure....and the record.

Rory hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy!

See you next time, Ocean Course.....I can't wait to make a tee time here!   Need to start saving...

The Ocean Course Clubhouse at Kiawah Island

Well, I hope you enjoyed that.   Something a little different - but still a sport that I am very passionate about and enjoy collecting memories and memorabilia for.  

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Indiana Jones and the Emerald Panda

Ha!   I couldn't resist.   That title totally works though, doesn't it?   And it would probably be WAY better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls or whatever that was......what a bomb.

Anyways, I tried my luck at some 'ol Bowman Platinum again, this year.   I told myself not to after last year's dabble - but you know me.   There's just that craving to rip some crinkly wrappers that is inescapable.   I also saw everyone posting beautiful relics and signatures on the blogs and Twitter so I figured I should go and remove some of the non-hit packs from getting in their way.

I succeeded, as always.

BUT, I still pulled some decent "non-hit" cards.   The cards are very reminiscent of last year's Platinum.   Yes, they're beautiful - but they just don't seem like baseball cards to me.   Oh well.   I'm an old fuddy-duddy, I guess.   They DO still come complete with that sweet maple-syrup scent, though.

Here are a few of the highlights.   I also pulled my FIRST Manny Banuelos card but couldn't find the top-loaded Manny for a picture......I'll snag him later.   (If you wanna see you some Manny, I'm sure The Lost Collector can satisfy your need!   Tell him Ryan sent you.....)   Manny has been out for most of this season with elbow trouble.   I'm hoping it resolves itself. are the other cards of note, in no particular order:

He's dirty, you can see the ball and he's blowing a bubble.....Pablo Sandoval, everybody.

Funny.   The further along in the season we get, the less and less excited everybody is to pull a Yu card.   I like the card, though.   It's a perfectly balanced photo of Mr. Darvish with a great look at the Texas flag on his sleeve and a tidy little "RC" logo in the corner, just so there's no confusion.   In today's world of infinite variations, it's nice to know when you have a rookie card of somebody.

JP has cooled off a wee bit lately, along with some of the other young, A's pitching sensations.   But their collective talent as a whole, along with Mr. Parker's, is unmistakable.   I kind of hope that Oakland keeps these guys together and that the A's can make a return to greatness.   While I am a Yankees fan through and through, the A's were my other favorite team as a kid.   The Bash Brothers, Rickey, Dave Stewart, Eck.....loved 'em.   So seeing this staff and their brethren in the field (Cespedes, Reddick, etc.) would be great.   This card is another winner, too.   Great balanced shot with the ball hurling towards you and the RC logo in the corner.   This one might be TTM worthy, yes?   How do signatures handle on the Platinum glossy finish?   Any advise or warnings?

I think this one is a special chrome version or something?   All I hear about every day is how many SB's Billy Hamilton has on the season.   Probably because he of today, 8/10/2012.......FREAKING 133 SWIPED BAGS THIS YEAR!   The record is 13 away, set by Vince Coleman in 1983.   Rickey Henderson set the major league record of 130, which could certainly be in danger one day after Billy is called up.   Wow.   Hamilton also had a great showing in the future star All Star Game.   I think he will do great things for the Reds and is a nice compliment to the power of Votto and [not lately] Bruce.   If Latos and Bailey and Chapman and all the others get the pitching together.....Cincy could be a Big Machine for many years.

SO, I'm glad to pull this (yet again) well-balanced, shiny, nice looking card of Mr. Hamilton.   I'll tuck it away and we'll see what happens.   I just wish I knew whether or not it was a rookie card?


So there's some Platinum for you.   Everybody have a great weekend.   I'll be heading to the coast with the family tonight for a few nights of guaranteed fun.   I have, with great fortune, managed to land a pass to Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah.   I will go watch golf while Mrs. Ryan's Pitch drives the wee ones back home.   Let me be clear: I love her and she is perfect.

As far as the PGA is concerned, I am hoping for Bubba to win his second major of the year - though at +3 after yeaterday's 1st round, it's not looking good.   My other wish is to smoke a fine cigar and eat M&Ms with John Daly in the parking lot while sipping Diet Coke out of the Wanamaker Trophy.

Take away Daly and the Trophy and it could happen.

Thanks for Reading!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Two Birds With One Stone

I'm a golfer.

I've played golf my whole life.   When my baseball playing dreams died on the final day of tryouts during my freshman year, it was golf that was there waiting for me as I figured out what kind of student athlete I would be.   In high school, that is.   I also played football to complete my bizarre, full year, 2-sport cycle - but my fall semester adventures on the gridiron are for another time.

I retired from football after that final game in '96 against Hillsborough HS in central Florida.   I remember it vividly.   Mostly proud, a little sad and yes - relieved, too.   Since we weren't State was a loss.   You learn and move on but I never played again.   I didn't, however, stop playing golf after my my final match the following spring, though.   My passion for the game, as a player, continues today.   I love the game and you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm already introducing it to my daughter.   Heck, my toddler son even has a plush putter and little 'mock' golf hole to get that part of his sports brain active early.   What can I say?   The dream is a family golf outing one day......I hope we'll get there.   But even if we don't and my clan goes the route of soccer or swimming or violins or clay will always be there for us all.

This year has been a great year of golf for me.   My old junior golf circuit nemesis, Bubba Watson, claimed a Green Jacket at Augusta.   This was THE pinnacle of my vicarious professional golf career.   What might have been, you know?!   I wasn't able to snag tickets this year, but possibilities for 2013 are looking great - and you can bet that I'll be looking for that spot in the trees and pine needles on #10.   The shot......awesome.

I've also had some once-in-a-lifetime chances to play at some extraordinary private courses.   Through various wonderful circumstances and good fortune, I had the opportunity play at Sage Valley (Graniteville, SC) and Palmetto Golf Club (Aiken, SC) earlier this spring.   Leading up to these two rounds (which I played on back-to-back days), I could barely contain myself.   I turned into a woman, needing new clothes and equipment for the huge occasion(s).   I needed new irons as I had been desperately clinging to the illusion that I was better than I truly am at this point in my life......I had been playing Hogan blades since about 2003.   Sure, they provide a beautiful sensation when you hit them flush.   But it was becoming more of a rarity for me.   Chalk it up to old(er) age or a lack of time to keep my game up (family).   A dose of reality but two very unavoidable and GOOD reasons.   SO, it was time to embrace modern technology and go shopping.   I had utilized the Bay of E for many cardboard needs over the past year - why not peruse for some new irons?


They were Taylor Made Burner 2.0 (steel, stiff flex) irons, for those of you keeping score at home.   Taylor Made hasn't produced a lucrative offer for sponsorship yet - but I haven't given up hope :)  I didn't play my best during my two epic rounds, but the fault didn't rest with my irons and I GREATLY enjoyed two fantastic rounds of golf on two beautiful courses.   Awe struck = me.

So what does this have to do with baseball or baseball cards or ANYTHING related to Ryan's Pitch?   I'm glad you asked and I'll move quickly to the point - that little incentive called "Ebay Bucks", of course!   My new set of irons was definitely the most expensive item that I had ever purchased through the site and, therefore, produced the LARGEST lump sum of Ebay Bucks that I could have ever dreamed $9.    Jackpot!   I couldn't find myself a new putter for $9 but I could certainly wrestle up some cardboard.

So what did $9 and some change bring me?   Less than half the price of a blaster..........this is what I ended up with:

Cecil Cooper! And Carlton Fisk, too.

 I know.   Red Sox.   Bleh!   But Pudge was one of the finest competitors the game ever saw and I have a soft-spot for vintage cards, nay - ROOKIE cards of Hall of Famers.   At $6, I couldn't turn this one down and am stoked to add it to my collection.   The 1972 design is so bizarre and colorful!   I am building all Topps sets from my birth through the end of my first collecting period ~ 1994.   I'm about 60% right now (you can check it out under my Sets Needs tab to the right).   Once I finish these, I'll work my way backwards for newer older (see what I did there?) set-building challenges.   And I seriously hope that I make it back to '72.   Just to do some more exploring of this set!

This Fisk is completely crease-free and while the centering is contentious, I am pretty pleased that I can still see at least some of the white border around the entire card.   I saw many for sale where this wasn't the case - and were more expensive.   YES!   The corners are the roughest aspect of this Fisk Rookie Card, but that's okay.   It cost the same thing as lunch at Subway (less, actually).   I love it.

Here's the second card I picked up:

Way to finish strong, Harvey!

I'm not a Cardinals fan or a Harvey Haddix super-collector.....but I love vintage cards and I especially LOVE the 1956 Topps set.   This set is routinely a favorite amongst collectors and I can easily say that this design is in my personal Top 5.   The full color action & mug-shot combo is terrific alongside the neat and symmetrical boxes of name/position/team.   Topps even threw in Harvey's signature for good measure - BONUS!   1956 is also one of the issues that came with those GREAT, colorful comic strips on the back.   Haryvey's card has a baseball-playing cat.   It doesn't get any sweeter.

Since I wasn't a Harvey Haddix expert, I did my usual research.   Not too shabby!   Mr. Haddix was a 3-time All Star and 3-time Gold Glove winner.   He won a World Series ring with the Pirates in 1960.   Hmmm, I wonder if he had anything to do with that whole "Mazeroski" incident?   Why yes.   Yes he did.   After winning Game 5, he came in for relief in Game 7 and got the W upon Mazeroski's ball clearing the fence in the 9th inning.   Dammit.   But that's awesome.

One more great fact about Harvey - he is often remembered for his near perfect game against the Milwaukee Braves on May 26, 1959.  I say "near" because Harvey finally relinquished a hit in the 13th inning.

UH......yeah.   The 13th inning.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 innings of perfection until Joe Adcock made a hit (that was eventually ruled a double) that scored one of the two base runners on base at the time.   So close.   Harvey's fraternity at Texas A&M was nice enough to send a congratulatory letter that read:

"Dear Harvey, Tough Shit."

You can laugh.   I did - and I am pretty sure that Harvey eventually did, too.   Haddix also appeared as a major league player, for the last time, on my birthday.   FACT.   So there you go - a random piece of '56 Topps goodness for 99 cents.   Love it - and the card is in really good condition, too.   The centering is a little high, but just like the Pudge - I can still see the white border all the way around.   There are no creases and, most importantly to me, there is no paper loss.   If I snag a piece of history like this, I want to be able to read it!   Great pick up that came with a great story!

One more card to go!   It's another Red Sox (Boo!) but it's another great ballplayer.   And it's his Rookie Card.  And it's from another 'groovy' design year from Topps.   take it away, Mr. Lynn:

This is the worst conditioned card from the trio.   Creases and rounded corners galore.   This one was 59 cents.   Mr. Lynn was a 9-time All Star and 4-time Gold Glove Award winner.  He was even the AL MVP AND Rookie of the Year in '75.   Freddy!?!   That's amazing.   Imagine if Mr. Trout were to pull that off this year?   Think it's possible?

So yes - it's a Red Sox rookie card, but Fred Lynn is no slouch.   The card is in pretty bad condition, but I couldn't even buy a coke out of the machine for the price-tag on this great '75 card.   Very excited to add it to my collection.

So - there you go.   These three cards for about $9.   Three completely random cards - but I am really digging them.   How do you think I did?

Thanks for reading - and don't forget to watch Bubba go for another Major this weekend at Kiawah!