Friday, March 22, 2013

One Of My Favorite Cards: 1953 Topps #138 George Kell

The 2013 MLB season is almost here!

Let's take a quick break from the modern day excitement and enjoy some 60 year-old cardboard, shall we?

I can't recall exactly how I acquired this old '53 Topps card, but I'm sure glad I did.   Yes, it's technically a Red Sox card......but hey, it's a '53 Topps card of a Hall of Fame slugger George Kell!

The Player

Mr. Kell played professional ball from 1940 to 1957 with the A's, Tigers, Red Sox, White Sox and Orioles.   He was one of the most successful players to emerge during the player shortage of World War II.   Though not known for slugging home runs (78 for his career total), the third baseman was a tough out and captured the batting title in 1949 - displacing Ted Williams from the top slot during the final week of play by a margin of .0002!   His "2 for 3" performance on the season's final day prevented Williams from earning his third Triple Crown.

He finished his career as a 10-time All Star with a .306 average, 2,054 hits and 870 RBI.   he is probably best remembered for his time in Detroit, where he played for six years from 1946 to 1952.   Replaced by some up-and-comer named Brooks Robinson, George decided to hang up his spikes and became a broadcaster for the Orioles in 1957.   He began his broadcasting career in Baltimore but soon returned to Motown and joined up with the likes of Al Kaline to call Tigers games almost continuously from 1959 to 1996.   He was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1983.

Two of my favorite stories about Kell showcase both his grittiness and humility.

Keeping in mind the 'delicacy' of our modern day heroes, George missed some games during the 1948 season when he broke his wrist on a Vic Raschi pitch.   A few weeks later - YES, a few weeks later - misfortune found Kell again when a line drive off of the bat of Joe DiMaggio busted his jaw.   Kell recalled the DiMaggio smash play later on, "...I got up, made the play at third and then passed out."

And all of that was without deer antler spray, I suppose....Can you imagine that timeline these days?   By the way, George Kell won that batting title the next season, remember?   The other memorable moment of humility came during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in '83:

    "I have always said that George Kell has taken more from this great game of baseball than he can ever give back. And now I know, I am deeper in debt than ever before."

   Awesome, awesome stuff.

The Card

It's a 1953 Topps card.   Classic design - a baseball card.   The painted portrait here doesn't give us any action but you can get a good sense of the country man from Arkansas who probably made a few folks smile in Boston back then.   It was a sunny day for this portrait, with the traditional puffy clouds drifting by in the skies beyond as Kell gazes forward.....we also get a sneak peek at the corner of the stadium's roof down the first base line.   A crumpled up Sox cap.......good stuff.   My favorite part of this vintage card is probably the old school Red Sox logo featured in the lower left corner:


The card is pretty well centered with some touched edges and corners....okay, some rounding of the corners.   I don't really care too much.   The coloring is great too and the original gloss/surface of the card is fantastic.   No major creases that take away from the overall appearance either - I'm a happy camper.

Here's the back:


My labeling of this year's card backs as efficient is not a slam!   I love everything we get here.   The biographical information up top (Clyde!) and quick synopsis of his career easily gives us a sense that Kell had already established himself as one of the game's highly regarded players by this time in his career.   The ode to his fielding abilities is a nice touch.   I love having the facsimile autograph but it makes it a tiny bit frustrating to read the write-up.......yeah, I'm nit-picking.   I just don't want to be 100% fan boy, you know?

The streamlined 'past year & career' stat columns is easy to review and a cartoon/trivia opportunity is ALWAYS welcome in my collection!   This one is no slouch, either, as the card quizzes the collectors of 1953 on who "participated in the greatest number of consecutive games?"

Of course, the answer to this question became outdated on September 6, 1995 when Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game.   But this is George's post - so I'll keep it at that.   The back of the card is in great shape for me, too.   Some hairline crease action in the top right but no paper loss and some more great color on that wonderful, wonderful old card stock.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Baseball Card: 1992 Fleer Ultra #11 Cal Ripken Jr.

One of the original premises of Ryan's Pitch was going to be the exploration and appreciation of some of the gems in my collection.   It's very easy to adore the vintage and most recent additions.   But there's a whole bunch of cardboard goodness that was gathered by yours truly back in the....oh, you know it well - 1988 to 1993 time frame that deserves some attention as well.

Sure, these cards haven't panned out to be the most coveted in terms of value, design expertise or general collectability......but they're still my baseball cards!  

Here's a '92 Fleer Ultra Cal Ripken Jr.   It's #11 from the set and I clearly liked the card 'back in the day'.   It was separated from the other Cal's in my "Star Players" binders, having earned it's very own top loader along with the other apparently special cards.   I think these cards were originally quarantined due to expected value?

No matter. This Cal was special and I still kind of dig it today.   Here's the front:

I love the design.   It's got that early 90's flash of extravagance with the slanted gold-foil stripe towards the bottom and the shiny "92 Fleer Ultra" stamp in the upper right......but I think it works. It's a great shot of Ripken after a decent cut at the ball.   It almost seems unreasonably posed with the fully extended leading leg, precariously balancing on the heel. How about that grasshopper-like finished form with the right arm, perfectly level with the ground and all fingers extended together? He's all business with the "thousand-yard stare", peering over the traditional strips of eye black.......and best of all?   Why, it would have to be the Iron Man's ripped pants!   We all either saw for ourselves or have heard about the durability of Ripken and his reputation for playing - no matter what.   Yeah, he holds that record, right?   And ripped pants is a pretty good indication that somebody was playing some gritty baseball on this day.

Wait! The stirrups visible on the back leg are awesomely retro (awesomely retro?), too!  Okay, maybe the rip and stirrup should be considered a tie.

Can anybody tell me if this is a regular season or spring training shot?   It looks like 'away grey' jerseys....but there sure is a lot of Orioles Orange in the stadium seating background.   And I wonder who could be on deck....this might call for some cardboard detective work!

Here's the back.  because this is how we roll around here:

More homage to the Tron-like tendencies of the early 90's is evident in the graph paper grid background.   Not to be too accused of being one-dimensional with the graphics, some ROCK ORE imagery was used to bookend the infrared grid like a good truck commercial or something.   Yes!   I love the view of Ripken in the field, shades up, in the ready position.   Cool Adidas kicks, Cal!

Interestingly, 1992 would be one of ONLY two years that Ripken pulled down a gold glove.   I didn't know that?!   I also don't remember him as being a prolific home run hitter.....but apparently, he won the Home Run Derby for the AL in 1991 by mashing 12 dingers!   Second place, you might ask?   Cecil Fielder with 4!   Womp, womp........

I really kind of like this card so I wanted to share it with you guys.   I think the design is fairly sharp and bet the whole set would be kind of nice to flip through in binder presentation.   If I remember correctly, these Ultra's had a great smell out of their packs, too.....

Thanks for reading!

Real quick note - thank to all who have recently conducted trades with me lately (or just sent over cards!).   I've enjoyed getting back into the trading aspect of our hobby these past couple of months and it has helped to bridge the gap as I venture through my 2013 challenge of limited card buying.  So far? Two blasters (Series 1 flagship and Heritage).    Hanging in there so far.......