Friday, May 18, 2012

A look at Gil Hodges: 1954 Bowman #138


A major component of the mission statement for Ryan's Pitch was a promise to take a look at cards from my collection.   To share and enjoy.   To remember and appreciate - both the card and the player.   I've had a healthy run of trade reviews and new card reviews on here, mixed in with some good tidbits of TTM success and other random topics.....but here's a great example of what I consider to be the favorite part of my sports card collection:

Gil Hodge's 1954 Bowman card, Card #138


But...but....It's not even a Yankee, you may say......and you're right!   It surely isn't.   Don't worry, fellow Bombers fans.   I promise that there will be pinstripes aplenty as this blog marches on.   But the Ryan's Pitch Collection (that sounds so enjoyably corny to me as I write it) appreciates greatness from the game in all shapes, sizes and colors - and this is no exception.

The Card.

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you and I don't have a defective scanner.   This card is horribly trimmed.   In fact,  I can't imagine that this card could have been in a worse shape to have caused the guilty trimmer to reach the point at which he or she stopped and said, "OH YES - THAT looks so much better!"

But that's fine by me.   I can see color.   I can see Mr. Hodges.   I can see his signature.   We're good to go.   I love vintage in any shape, form or fashion (especially for 99 cents)!   The '54 Bowman set is certainly not going to cause you to jump in jubilation.   It's a simple design, much more so than the Topps set from that same year for sure.   But it IS color, which by '54 had finally become the prevailing medium (Deckle Edge and other special sets to come notwithstanding).   And these colors are sharp.   The yellow highlighting has nothing to do with that beautiful Dodger Blue but the clear skies and fluffy clouds behind Gil's huge smile brings it all back to order.   There are creases all over this great card but they don't take away anything from Gil Hodges, arguably the finest first baseman from the golden age of baseball and a true gentleman as well. 

“If you had a son, it would be a great thing to have him grow up to be just like Gil Hodges.” -- Pee Wee Reese

He was loyal to the Dodgers from '43 on through 1961 when he finished things up with the Mets.   He would also then manage for the Senators and Mets until 1971, highlighted by his role as leader for the "Miracle Mets" in 1969 when they overcame the machine that was the Baltimore Orioles and claimed the first World Series title for any expansion team.   As a player, though, Gil was an eight time All-Star and three time World Champion.   He garnered three Gold Glove Awards and ended his career with a total of 370 HRs.   I'm always a bit partial to those amazing players who broke away from the game to defend our country during WWII and Korea.   Mr. Hodges was one of these heroes, leaving after that initial '43 season at the age of 19 to join the Marines and, you know,  man some anti-aircraft guns at the Battles of Tinian and Okinawa in the Pacific Campaign.  

Reflect on that for just a moment.

He earned a Bronze Star for his meritorious service and returned to baseball in 1946.   Job well done, Mr. Hodges.   I have some other Gil Hodges cards in my collection that I can't wait to share here - so I'll save a few of my other favorite stories of Brooklyn's beloved ballplayer from Indiana.   It's all good stuff - this man was amazing.   In the meantime, let's wrap up this look at his '54 Bowman card!

Here's the back of this great card:

The classic design is at work here for Bowman.   Dominating the back of the card is a great write-up to devour that starts off with a very proper, dated comment:

"Big Gil is one of the nicest fellows in baseball and one of the most capable and dangerous of players."

I love it.   He's a great guy......but he's dangerous.   The ying AND the yang.    The write-up also describes Hodges' four HR game in 1950.   In light of Josh Hamilton's recent tying of that mark, this certainly seems appropriate.   This '54 card notes that Gil tied a major league mark with his four dingers.   So who had previously slammed four round trippers in one game?

Bobby Lowe (Boston Beaneaters) in 1894
Ed Delahanty (Philadelphia Phillies) in 1896
Lou Gehrig (New York Yankees) in 1932
Chuck Klein (Philadelphia Phillies) in 1938
Pat Seerey (Chicago White Sox) in 1948

Impressive, Phillies!   The Hambino was the 16th player to join this list in baseball statistics when he knocked four out against the Orioles on May 8th. 

The back of the card also delivers both offensive and fielding statistics for the previous year and Mr. Hodge's career averages.   Gil would slam 42 home runs in 1954, taking back the Brooklyn team record for dingers in a season from Roy Campanella (who bested the previous mark of 40, set by Hodges in 1951.   Duke Snider would overtake Hodges again in '56.

A great vintage baseball card of a great ball player from the game's golden age.   I am thrilled to have it in my collection and to be able to share it with you.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ARPSmith Contest Celebration!!!!

ARPSmith's SportsCard Obsession is having a great kick-off contest to celebrate the success of the new blog.   The posting frequency over there puts me to shame - great job, ARPSmith!   The contest winnings include some 70's cardboard goodness - doesn't get any better than THAT  now, does it?

You can find the contest post here - so go check it out so that you know when I win!

The latest Ryan's Pitch has GOT to be coming soon.......

Thursday, May 3, 2012

You've Got Mail, Some Patriotic Lumber & a Lawyer From Puerto Rico Named Laura

Spent a few moments with the USPS kiosk this morning.   Trade packages of cardboard goodness are headed out to the following zip codes:

  • 34270
  • 13601
  • 60706
  • 07446
  • 33065

Thanks for your patience, guys!   How about a quick cardboard stream-of-consciousness?

This card is interesting to me.   It's a relic card for Yankee great, Jorge Posada - so yeah, I know, of course I love it.   But it's a bit different from your every day relic card.   Upper Deck mixed things up a bit in 2001 with this SP Milestone bat card by paying tribute to Jorge's Puerto Rican heritage by branding that Commonwealth's flag into the wood.   I think it turned out pretty cool:

My iPhone picture probably doesn't do it justice, but considering the size of the bat chip and remembering my woodworking disasters as a Boy Scout - I think Upper Deck did a great job.   Not only is this something different (variety is the spice of life) for the collection but it encouraged me to do a little extra Internet reading about one of my favorite Yankees.   A few quick factoids:

- Jorge's father fled to Puerto Rico from Cuba in order to escape Castro's communist rule

- Posada Sr. worked in the Rockies' organization as a scout while his Uncle Leo (Yes!  Seinfeld reference!) played for the Kansas City Athletics back in the day.   Leo was traded to the Braves in August of 1962 but never played int he majors again.

Posada finished his career with four World Series rings, five All-Star selections and five silver slugger awards.   He is always a fan favorite for how hard he played on the diamond but some of his best work might be his charitable efforts to fund cure research and care for families affected by the disease, craniosynostosis.   His own son Jorge Luis was diagnosed with the disease shortly after birth and has followed his daddy's lead in fighting hard against this foe ever since.   His fight continues.

As a Dad myself, that's pretty good stuff.

Jorge is also well known to be a close, personal friend with the Captain, Derek Jeter.   So much so that Derek was best man to Jorge in 2000 when he married lawyer, actress and supermodel, Laura Mendez.   Gratuitous blog post picture, please:   

By all accounts, a smart and beautiful woman.   I guess we share a similar taste in women with one glaring difference:  my wife is NOT from Puerto Rico.

So there you go!   Who knew my first little Jorge Posada bat card could lead us here?   I kind of went all over the place with that one.   I love this hobby.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ever Wondered What Gem Mint Tasted Like?

Me too.

I will probably never know what it is like to own a "gem mint" rookie card of a baseball legend.   That's okay!   Condition is not the "end all, be all" for me when it comes to baseball cards anyways.   Yes, I would prefer them in the best condition that I can afford.   But as long as I can read the words, admire the statistics and enjoy the picture(s) - I'm usually good to go!   Still, seeing something historic in perfect condition is pretty special.   And while I will probably not have the chance to hold such a baseball card in my own two hands, I can at least gaze upon them in delightful high definition and watch as folks with a larger petty cash pile than myself bid away on these cardboard beauties.   You can, too!   What am I talking about?

Allow me to explain.

Dmitri Young is known to many of us as the former major league baseball player with quite the dramatic 13-year career.   He was a two-time All-Star amongst a plethora of chaotic personal issues but ultimately triumphed over his demons in 2007 with the Washington Nationals when he stepped in for the injured Nick Johnson and earned the "NL Comeback Player of the Year" honor.   I dig that because I prefer happy endings.  

Even better,   Dmitri shares our passion for the great hobby of baseball cards.   How sweet is THAT?!   Amassing shoe boxes of cards during his childhood years, his love for the hobby never truly left him and was rekindled over the past 13 years as he brought together one of the most impressive collections of Hall of Fame rookie cards that the world has ever known.

Why is it so impressive?

Mr. Young, along with his partner and fellow collector Dave Bailey, only pursued cards that garnered a "gem mint" grading by PSA.   While a lot of us do not consider condition to be imperative for ownership or cardboard appreciation (mostly due to cost), I am sure that we can all appreciate an amazing card that has survived in amazing condition.   Dmitri's collection contains more than 500 of these perfect specimens and has been featured on the MLB documentary, "Cardboard Treasures".   Here's his flawless copy of Roberto Clemente's 1955 Topps card, card #164:

If you enjoy a good drool session every once in awhile like I do, or are simply curious to see what these slabs of cardboard and plastic will fetch - I highly encourage you to check out the action here: SCP Auctions.   Dmitri's cards have about two more weeks to go.   There are already some impressive numbers being posted which is great when you consider how the funds will be used.

Dmitri Young's career and personal mission are moving on to the next level as he begins his own non-profit organization, the Dmitri D. Young Foundation.   His charity will host baseball and softball camps and clinics, support the Boys and Girls Clubs, and sponsor programs and scholarships for student athletes from Dmitri's hometown area of Ventura, CA.   I hope that he can still find time in his schedule to do some work with Card-Corner Club Radio for whom he has been a co-host for many years.   While I'v never caught a live broadcast, I've enjoyed the articles that Dmitri has written about his career, his collection and his passion for life.

Congratulations on your collecting achievements, Dmitri, and best of luck as you continue to work for the betterment of others.      

Long Live The Hobby!