Monday, September 17, 2018

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Using my phone for this post- never been too happy with the scanner on cards that are encased. Joe Mauer is the 2nd Twin to get the Living Set treatment, and it may have come just in time. 

Mauer has revealed to the media that this could be his final season- his wife is expecting a new baby soon and his twin girls are growing up. He had another scare early in 2018 with concussion like symptoms, so his health and his quality of life are concerns going forward. 

He has stated that he and his wife will discuss his plans in the off-season. The Twins,  meanwhile, are open to Mauer's return. It remains to be seen if the next contract offer will be palatable to Mauer, it will no doubt be much smaller than his last one.
My hope is that he returns for one or two more seasons. He isn't blocking any prospects, and he can still provide value in the lineup for the Twins both on defense at first base and at the plate. He continues to be an excellent hitter with runners in scoring position and he is among the best all-time getting on base. 
A couple more Average Joe seasons could cement a reservation for Cooperstown, I would be happy to make the trip to see his induction.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


This card took a long time to find its way to me. I had tried bidding in several auctions over the last two years, but someone always wanted it a little more than me - last week this one popped up as a buy it now, and despite the wrinkles and soft corners, it's a beautiful card. And if I'm being honest,  a few wrinkles seems appropriate for a card depicting Satchel Paige.

I wonder how many conversations this card sparked, kids asking their parents why Paige's career was "long deferred and much interrupted." 1953 was his final MLB season, (though he would return for one night in 1965) and this is his only Topps card from his playing days. Now that I've finally picked up this card, I can set my sights on his only Bowman card from 1949 and his MLB "rookie" card from 1948 Leaf. Just gotta win the lottery!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Heavy Hitters at the Card Show

It was a quick trip to the show on Saturday, I was home before noon. I normally spend another hour (sometimes two) at the show, but I decided to make a big purchase on my 1959 set, which pretty much killed my budget for the rest of the morning.

I had a little less than usual to spend overall, but I was happy to find a handful of fun inserts in a 2 for $1 box. I might have that Eddie Murray already, I feel like I see it at every show, and I can never remember if I already have it.

Barry was a throw in for the stack of cards from the same dealer. I am going to try to remember to remind him to bring his Barry Sanders binder to the next show, I have a feeling I will want to clean it out.

Had to grab a copy of this card - it's rare that I see a Twins prospect that I've never heard of, but Ryley slipped past me until this weekend.

OK - the main course. I picked up 5 cards for my 1959 set, 3 of the hard to find cheap High Numbers, a minor star, and a slightly bigger star.

The scanner cropped the edges on this one, but it is almost as sharp as it looks here! Really nice condition for the price.

The least well known guy, but these All-Star Cards are all tough to find at a good price. Triandos had 30 plus homers for the Orioles, setting an early franchise record for the team in Baltimore.

Now we're talking! The reigning Rookie of the Year, the Baby Bull, soon to be just The Bull. Always nice to add a Hall of Famer to the set.

I appreciate the simplicity of the backs on these- all of the players in this subset have base cards too, so there's no need to re-hash stats.

After the Bull, we have a Moose! Skowron has a serious crease running from the bottom of the card up, but at 10% of book value, I am happy.

Here was the big one! One Mantle down, two to go!

I'm not sure what these stains are exactly- wax from the pack? it doesn't appear to be tape residue, or gum... I'll take it, either way!

Monday, September 10, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Larry Milbourne

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" by a vote of fellow MLB players following the 1974 season and featured in the 1975 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2018 Series Two, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. 

Topps decided to skip the Trophies on the 1974 Topps Set, but they made a triumphant return in 1975. I wanted to show my appreciation for this expression of good judgement, so for the 1974 Lineup, I will do a separate post for each player. This was a pretty good crop of players, so let's dive in! 

Larry Milbourne is to Major League Baseball as Margo Martindale is to television and film. He's the quintessential supporting character on the diamond, playing for 6 different Major League teams over 11 seasons.

Milbourne was named the 2nd baseman for the Topps Rookie All-Star team, despite only starting 29 times for the Astros at 2nd. He did appear in 112 games, but had just 148 plate appearances. This was a tough year for rookie 2nd baseman - I tried to find a more deserving candidate, but the closest I came was the Red Sox Short Stop/2nd Baseman Rick Burleson. Burleson had a very good rookie campaign, but only had 31 games at 2nd and 88 at SS. So, Milbourne's intangibles as a defensive replacement for veteran Tommy Helms (who was the 1966 NL R.O.Y. and a Topps Rookie All-Star in his own right) made the difference.

He worked almost exclusively as a utility infielder throughout his career. By the time he made the Astros' roster, he'd already been in 4 other organizations- showing flashes of speed (21 steals for the Giants' Single A squad), average (.301 for rookie league Orioles, .305 for the Giants), and solid defense throughout. He would be drafted in the annual minor league draft 3 straight seasons before Houston selected him in the Rule V draft, securing a major league roster spot for him.

Following the 1976 season, Milbourne was dealt to Seattle for Roy Thomas. He would record the first walk off hit in Mariners' franchise history, an RBI double in the team's 2nd game ever. In 1978, he would get a much larger role, playing in 123 games for the Mariners. He responded with a respectable .278 average and a career high in runs batted in.

Milbourne was a Topps Traded darling in the early 80s, and this sequence doesn't even include his brief 29 game career in Minnesota. If you want to see proof, check out this post from a blogger that sought autographs from every Twins player. A custom card was made of Milbourne in a Twins uni.

The highlight of Milbourne's MLB career came in 1981 with the Yankees - he hit .462 in the ALCS and .327 for the playoffs overall.

His career coda came in the Senior League, playing for the short lived and poorly named St. Lucie Legends. The team lost 20 of its first 23 games, and finished dead least in the league, then went out of business in the off-season.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Marc from Remember the Astrodome sent me a mailer last week in exchange for some Allen & Ginter that I sent his way. My earliest memory of Carew came after his days in Minnesota. I was given a stack of Topps cards by a cousin of mine and inside was Carew's 1985 Topps card, showing him with batting helmet in hand emerging from behind a chain link fence. I knew that he'd gotten his 3,000th hit that season, but before then I hadn't really connected the dots from Carew to Twins greatness. the back of his card revealed that he was an all-time great for my hometown team.

Some of my earliest Twins memories included Bert Blyleven, who returned to the team mid season in 1985 and provided some much needed veteran leadership. The back of this 1986 League Leaders card show that he led the AL in innings pitched, Shutouts, Complete Games, and Strikeouts that year.

Ervin's been injured and he also missed the first half of his first season in MN due to a PED suspension. I don't have fond memories of the struggles in his lone playoff start for MN, a Wild Card defeat against (who else?) the Yankees. But I do recall the great season he had for the Twins that allowed the team to reach the playoffs for just the second time since Target Field opened. He, like Blyleven, led the AL in shutouts last year.

Byron Buxton was not called back up to the majors following a long rehab stint and subsequent demotion to AAA. He had a lost season in 2018, but no one has forgotten his electrifying defense in Center Field and blistering speed on the bases. He had a tremendous 2nd half in 2017, and the Twins' future plans will continue to feature him prominently.

What most people remember about Max Kepler is that he was born in Berlin, Germany. He's working on becoming a more complete hitter, after a season in 2017 that resulted in terrible numbers against lefties, he worked diligently in the off-season and returned in 2018 to raise his average vs. lefties by 50 points. He's hoping his struggles against southpaws are a distant memory.

Who can forget Eduardo Escobar? He's clubhouse dynamite! Before his trade to Arizona at the deadline, he provided the Twins a steady presence in the infield through Jorge Polanco's suspension and Miguel Sano's demotion, and for the third straight year was the unexpected starter at Shortstop. He's continued his hot hitting in the desert, and he's up to 20 homers and 45 doubles this season.

Thanks for the great cards, Marc!