Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Yankees Collection - 2011 Gypsy Queen "The Great Ones" Thurman Munson (mini)

Many moons ago, I was able to stop by what has become the closest hobby shop to me in Columbia, SC. I wrote about my discovery of this LCS back in 2012. While this current LCS scarcity is probably best for my wallet, what I wouldn't give for a hometown shop!

During this rare visit, I was able to snag some supplies and a card that I needed for my 1960 Topps set-build. I also performed an obligatory flip through the "Yankees Stars" box on the shop's counter. Most of these were over-priced, but I couldn't pass on this one!

As any Yankee collector will tell you, we have a special place in our heart for Mr. Munson. And even though I wasn't able to watch him play, he lives on as one of the best "lunch-pail" type ballplayers to ever put on pinstripes. SO many accomplishments in such a short time with the sad early ending that we all know by heart, I view every one of Thurman's cards as a unique opportunity to learn more about him and, in some small/weird way, pay tribute to his legacy. Capturing his iconic 1971 All-Star Rookie card was a big day in my collecting timeline, but even the smaller (literally), modern era cards provide a rich, enjoyable experience. This card lived up to the task.

As a bonus, it's a 2011 Gypsy Queen, one of my all-time favorite sets! A double-bonus, you say?! It's a mini. While I'm not a 'mini' collector, I find them curiously interesting. This card of Munson gives us a fantastic action image of Thurman, in full color, as he casts his [vintage] catcher's mask aside. Munson is gnawing on some chaw with a beautiful scowl beneath his memorable mustache.


I think it's a great looking card. The overall impression is a bit dark, but I think this approach suits the historic nature of its hobby throw-back design. It seems to boil with baseball and cardboard history overtones, doesn't it? A tobacco card-era throwback of a tobacco-chewing baseball player. The dark borders, in combination with its small size might also have made it difficult to preserve the condition of the edges, but this one seems to have survived fairly intact.

Here's the back:

A simple, informative card back. Thurman, the Yanks' captain, led the league in singles for 1975....Topps makes an interesting statement about rarity of players who can produce runs without power. Is this, for the most part, accepted baseball wisdom? I feel like I should do some digging around on baseball-reference!

For now, though, let's just enjoy this card. Welcome home, Thurman! You truly were a Great One!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bobble Relevance

Who doesn't love a bobblehead? Last season, a neighbor of mine shouted me down as I was playing with my kids in our cul-de-sac.

"Hey man, you like baseball, don't you?"

"Heck YES, I like baseball! How come?"

"I went to a Padres game while I was out in San Diego and I have this you want it?"

"Definitely! Thanks!"

Didn't care who it was or what it looked like.....I was ALL about a free bobblehead for my baseball memorabilia collection. Turns out, it was Mr. Chase Headley......hey, cool. I knew about Headley and figured this was a pretty solid pick-up. Of course, NOW we know that Chase has become the starting 3rd baseman for the Yankees! Woo-hoo! "#AddedValue", as @StaleGum would say.

The Padres were sure proud of Chase's accomplishments back in 2012 - and you can't blame them! He came out of nowhere and really tore it up, both at the plate and defensively that season. He ended up earning himself a nice paycheck, too.

Unfortunately, Headley's output took a dive last year and his woes have continued through the first half of '14.....which made him an ideal bargain for the drifting Yankees. Hoping that Chase can continue his post-ASG hot streak and regain his 2012 form, Cashman & Co. swapped farmhand Rafael DePaula and 1st-half hero, Yangervis Solarte for Mr. Headley.   Like the Nuno/McCarthy trade, I think this is a good gamble for the Bombers, who are trying to piece together ANY sort of path into the post season for The Captain.

We'll see how it goes, but for now, this guy will be haunting me from the corner of the Card Cave:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Yankees Collection - 1998 Topps Gold Label Roger Maris

I cam across this card of Roger Maris and had to have it for my collection. 

Roger has become one of my favorite players since I returned to collecting and baseball itself a few years ago. His "unsung hero" story strikes a chord with me and as I continue to read books about his career and life, he always comes across as just an all-around good guy.

This Gold Label issue from Topps is not one that I am familiar with, but I like the design. Colorful shots of Roger in his prime as a Yankee are always welcome, and the subdued colors of this card's foil construction enhance the view for me.   Here's the front of the card:

Connecting the dots between the "98 Home Run Race" and Maris' ownership of the single-season record until that summer (or despite it), the card mentions Roger's 61st long ball in 1961. As most of us know, he made history on the final day of the season - a campaign that became almost unbearable for Maris to endure as many baseball fans refused to believe that the legendary Babe Ruth could be dethroned. Even a certain portion of Yankee fans gave Roger a hard time, both for threatening the Babe and for never (in their minds) living up to their favorites like Mantle, Gehrig and DiMaggio. It was a heartbreaking situation in so many ways, and one that I truly believe can be seen in the eyes of Maris.

Here's the back of the card: 

I'm not sure what Topps meant with the "HR1 Black Label" stamp on the right-hand side? Perhaps there were 61 different versions of this card that could be collected? I love the fact that the card back gives us the name of Tracy Stallard, off of whom Maris knocked #61. This gives us a little bit extra in the way of detailing the epic achievement, a feat not often achieved.

Trace Stallard was hurling for the Red Sox in 1961, and has stated that he was having the best game he ever pitched that fateful day, until Maris took him deep in the 4th inning. When all was said and done, Tracy took the 1-0 loss with Maris' solo shot providing the only run of the day. Stallard recorded 5 K's, 5 hits and allowed the single run over seven innings of work.   It would be the only hit that Maris would record against Stallard in seven AB's. As luck would have it, his involvement in record has endured as his best-known association with the sport he played for a couple of decades, but Tracy has kept a positive outlook on things:

        "I'm glad he did it off me. Otherwise, I would never have been thought of again. 
That was about all I did, and I've had a good time with it." 

You have to admire that perspective! Interestingly, Tracy was traded to the upstart Mets in 1963 along with Pumpsie Green and Al Moran. He did enjoy some success but was involved in another amazing baseball feat in 1964, Jim Bunning's perfect game, an event that I wrote about in May of last year. Once again, Tracy was on the losing end of somebody else's 'best day'. Despite another downer for his personal story, perhaps Tracy can always come back with a wink and reminder that, through the tough days, he managed to date Julie Newmar while playing ball and living it up in New York for a few years.

Nicely done, Tracy.

And nicely done, Topps - I'm thrilled to add this Maris card to my Yankees Collection!

Thanks for reading!