Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Braves Collection - 2011 Topps Chrome Julio Teheran Certified Autograph

I'm a Braves fan.   And a Yankees fan.   This confounds most people.   I grew up 5 hours from Atlanta - they were the home team.   I grew up idolizing Don Mattingly and learning about the legend of Mickey Mantle and the Yankees - they were the dream team, far away.

At the time (mid 80's to EARLY 90's), both teams were awful, as any Dale Murphy or Mattingly fan can attest.   Is it my fault that both teams have been relatively successful, one or the other or both, almost every year from that fateful year in 1991?   Nope.   Have I enjoyed every single inning of it?   Yep.

SO, the Braves.   They break my heart and then quickly build it back up every spring.   Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman are two of my Player Collections (BOY, do I need to update THOSE lists.  I mean.....start them).   Being in the Fox South Sports network area....I usually catch at least SOME Portion of most of their games.   My wife is from Atlanta.   Yes - we're Braves fans, and that carries over into my collecting habits beyond Freddie and The Kimbrel - I'm up for just about ANY Brave you can throw at me, including Julio Teheran.

I love this card.   In fact, in a lot of ways, the TOPPS-CHROME-RC LOGO-AUTO card is quickly becoming the standard card for me to pursue or seek out for any player that I am a fan of or want to collect in any way (not necessarily a PC).   Does this hold true for you guys, too?

But yes, this card is great.   Julio is a hard-throwing pitcher (nearly 9 K's / 9 IP last year) and this picture captures him in a great follow-through that fills the card.   The proverbial RC logo shield is there - so, despite the official rules, this is a Rookie Card for me, even though the RC shield doesn't always make it so.   The Braves logo is great in the lower right hand corner, with a wrap-around assurance of the signature's authenticity (not so sure I needed THAT on the front, but whatever).

Most of all, I like the space provided for the autograph and Mr. Teheran's perfectly proportioned and slanted John Hancock across said space.   It works and looks very, very sharp.   Here's the back of the card:

He was Baseball America's #1 Prospect - I did NOT know that!? Thank you, card back! 

I am hopeful for an improvement by Teheran on the VERY SOLID 14-8 record from last season.  He is still VERY young but has a full vote of confidence from the club's front office, as he was never on the table  during trade talks for Justin Upton, amongst others.   His young gun colleague Randall Delgado was not so lucky and, I dare say, has yet to achieve the same big league success as Julio.

Braves win.

I look forward to cheering for Julio and the Braves throughout the coming season - CHOP! CHOP!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hobby Flashback! Nolan Ryan 1993 Topps Baseball's Finest #107

Here's a fun one!

I came across this Nolan Ryan the other day and for a few bucks, I couldn't turn it down.   I hadn't seen one of these original (is it the first Finest set?) Topps Finest cards since my collecting childhood - and man, I gotta say that I think they are just as cool now as they were back then!   I don't think I could afford any of the Finest packs when they came out.   So...I guess some things don't change :)

Yes, it's a rainbow of color with two stars exploding towards you out of a Nick Jr-worthy hexagon.....

....but I think it's awesome!   It's shiny and reflective and was a trailblazer for things to come in the hobby.   So perhaps I am a bit biased as this card serves as a  tiny hobby time machine for me....but, I think it's pretty cool.   Not to mention that it IS Nolan Ryan.

The back of the card (eeeek):

Whoa.   Not sure I can add to much to this....

So, there you go.   Some '93 Finest, Ryan Express style.   Do you guys have any of these older Finest cards  in your collections?   Does anybody have a Mattingly up for trade?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Hobby Farewell, Ralph Kiner

A few years ago, I was very fortunate to get the wild idea of sending a bunch of baseballs to Hall of Fame legends in the hopes of achieving TTM success.

Systematically and for obvious reasons, I began with the oldest members first and worked my way forward in time.   As many of you can probably confirm, I enjoyed MUCH  more success with the oldest players and slowly saw my return success rate dwindle to NOTHING by the time I reached the players who retired in the late 70's and beyond.....

One of those earlier success stories was the late Ralph Kinder. Mr. Kiner passed away recently at the age of 91.   He played in the majors for an injury-abbreviated 10 years but completely OWNED the League with his slugging ability from '46 to '52 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Get this - Kiner arrived on the scene in '46 with a respectable 22 home runs but troubling 109 K's.   Hank Greenberg was set to retire but the Bucs convinced the slugger to stay on with the club, during which time he tried to impart some of his batting wisdom to the young Kiner.   It must have worked because Ralph blasted 51 home runs that very next season and struck out less than 100 times.  

Kiner's 51 round trippers led the League, a feat he would then continue for seven consecutive years. SEVEN!   He was known to deposit a fair amount of his homers into the short left porch at Forbes Field - an area that had been known as Greenberg's Gardens.   Rightfully, the landing pad was bequeathed to Ralph and acquired the name of Kiner's Korner, a name that Ralph would later use for  his own broadcasting show.

Mr.  Kiner was elected into the Hall in 1975.   He finished his ten years of playing with an average of over 36 home runs and 100+ RBI every year he played.   He was also a six-time All Star.   Ralph Kiner would go on to be a manager for several clubs before settling into the role of radio announcer for the New York Mets, a job he held and excelled at from the first game the Metropolitans ever played until the day Mr. Kiner passed away this month.

I am so glad I have Mr. Kiner as a part of my collection.   I am sad to say that I don't yet have any cards of Mr. Kiner but here is the baseball and signature cards that he signed for me:


Despite being in his late 80's, Mr. Kiner put a couple of great looking signatures on these items and I really appreciate his HOF inscription on the ball.   I'm going to make it a priority to add some cards of his to my collection.   I can't wait to begin my search.

By all accounts, Mr. Kiner was another one of those Greatest Generation, true gentlemen GOLDEN ambassadors for the game.    Everyone who knew him LOVED him and there doesn't seem to be a bad thing said about the man.   My grandfather helped to instill my love for the game and he himself was a product of PA - so he always had a soft spot in his heart for the Pirates.   I can recall that he was very excited to see Mr. Kiner's autograph in my collection.   At the time, I thought this was a little odd considering some of the other names on the other baseballs......but now, I kind of get it.

Yes....I will have to seek out some Ralph Kiner cards for my collection.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter, Mr. Kiner.   I am glad we were able to connect if but for a simple TTM so that I can now learn more about you and appreciate your contributions to the game.   Rest in peace, sir.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 17, 2014

My First "1 of 1" Kicks Off a New Player Collection!

It just makes sense!

The Lost Collector and I exchanged spirited tweets and emails during the last MLB draft when the Yanks snagged three great players towards the end of the 1st Round (including the compensatory round).   They kicked things off by taking Eric Jagielo as the 26th player overall.

As you probably know, LC and I share a passion for all things Yankees.   So, the rare opportunity for New York to fill up the farm on young talent three times in the first round was a rare treat.   The Yankees are in a serious period of transition right now, more so than ever before with the recent announcement of Jeter's retirement.   Simply put, the old guard is heading out to pasture and the question of who will replace them is up for consideration.

Short term, the front office has spent some money this off-season, doing their best Dodgers impersonation, by bringing in free-agents Elsbury, Beltran and McCann and then capping it off with a winning bid on Japanese sensation, Masahiro Tanaka.   However, with long-term question marks remaining at third base, shortstop and second base (and perhaps more?!) - it was comforting to see them reel in some young talent.

What you might not know is that I am also a Notre Dame graduate - and while I am always cheering on the likes of former Irish greats Jeff Samardzija and John Axford - they really hadn't captivated me from a collecting standpoint.   Perhaps it is because I hadn't truly re-entered the hobby until after they made it to he Show...who knows.

But all that changed with the talented third baseman, Mr. Jagielo. He was the 2013 Big East player of the year and has already entered the Top 10 list of third base prospects for all of major league baseball.   He is consistently regarded as one of the top prospects in the Yankee system and, with the hot corner uncertainty created by the whole A-Rod mess....the timing JUST SEEMS RIGHT.

A Yankee with Fighting Irish heritage - I'm in! BAM - My latest Player Collection!  

SO, my search began in earnest - and as soon as I found this card for sale, I knew I had to have it:


My first Eric Jagielo card and I can't imagine a better way to kick off my collection - an autographed card that is one of a kind AND includes a Notre Dame inscription!

Okay, I gotta admit......the fact that I don't get to enjoy the very attractive and colorful Leaf design DOES cross my mind.   I have seen several versions of the printed copy of this card and they work really well - for Jagielo and everyone else.   In fact, I haven't dabbled much in the minor league/prospect/draft pick non-licensed portion of our hobby.   I did like what I saw during my initial searches......

But back to Jagielo!

Sure, his handwriting leaves a little bit to be desired, but I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that the days of perfect Harmon Killebrew script will be few and far between from here on out.   Regardless, the fact that this inscription marks Eric's time with the Irish baseball team is fantastic!

The card, or printing plate, is thicker and heavier than usual know, like a plate.   It feels very foreign in my collecting is a quick look at the back, with the usual certification lingo:


- Authentic
- print-used (laugh)
- 1/1 (but just for the cyan version, I guess?)
- there's an inscription
- autographed by THE Eric Jagielo

Some of it makes me laugh, but since this was a real treat for me and it is my first - I'll just set it aside and enjoy.   NO - thank YOU, Leaf.

So, off we go on a new Player Collection adventure!   This officially means, of course, for those of you that have read this far, that I am eager to acquire every single Jagielo card I can.   Let's wheel and deal if you have no need for Eric in your stacks.

Some prospect reports detail Jagielo's long-term value residing as a defensive player with little to no "above average" value at the plate.   I suppose we'll see where it goes and I'll be rooting for him the whole way.   It would be great to see Eric stick with the club and work his way into pinstripes in the Bronx one day.   It's a rare occurrence for Yankee farmhands not to be sold off before they get a shot or shortly thereafter (hey, Jesus)....and with the likes of Yankee old guard system products like Rivera and Jeter leaving, I believe Jagielo's arrival has the chance to be quite poetic.

Here's hoping!   Welcome to the Yankees, Eric Jagielo and welcome to the Favorite Player Hall of the Ryan's Pitch Collection!

Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Cardboard Experience - Jim Fregosi

Truth be told, I'd be lying if I said I was always a huge fan of Mr. Fregosi, or the Angels...or the Phillies....

Truth is, Jim Fregosi was always just a baseball name to me. He had been everywhere, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I can remember him managing the Phillies against the Jays in the '93 Series ( where they fell short) and I had heard his name a few times in recent months as I perused the scouting reports in the Atlanta organization. But that's about it, I'm sorry to say.

Except for one thing.

Something kept bugging me about Fregosi's name, as if I had seen it if I had touched in, cardboard.

So I searched.

And sure enough, I was right. A 1972 Jim Fregosi had wriggled its way into my collection over the past year. I believe it was an extra throw-in from another blogger, some kind soul who recognized the value in base cards from days of yore. It is just for THIS reason, of course.

A well-loved '72 Halo

Holding a card in my hand has always been a bonding experience for me.   There are varying degrees of emotion that accompany the experience...but I believe it to be at the very least a unique experience.   I had undoubtedly shuffled through the 'vintage' throw-ins with a smile on my face but had probably done so rather quickly.   I'm sure I paused at this Fregosi, amused by the unusual '72 design and noting that I didn't (And still don't, unfortunately!) have very many 72's in my collection.   I probably also mumbled something along the lines of...."oh, Jim Fregosi! I know him" before continuing.

It was an experience. A baseball card experience - and my thumbing through my collection to satisfy my intuition (along with this post) certainly seems like a hobby "payoff pitch". Here's the back of my only Fregosi card:

The sad news of Jim's passing was enough on its own to cause a stir.   The tragic tale taking place in what was supposed to be a very celebratory environment aboard a MLB reunion cruise ship added to the uniqueness....but my very personal cardboard interaction with Fregosi's '72 Topps baseball card was a quick reminder of better times and a shining example of the softer-side of our hobby that I love so much.  

I hope I get the chance to bond with more 1972 Topps cards. It seems like a great set. I hope I get to appreciate more of Jim Fregosi's cards, too - I'm sure his time in the game has a lot of stories to enjoy. I also hope I never stop having these cardboard experiences. They make it all worthwhile.

Rest in peace, Jim. And thank you.

Thanks for reading.