Thursday, January 17, 2019

Signature Required - And Another Contest!

I made a big order from COMC just after the New Year, and for the first time ever a signature was required to get my mitts on it. I was a little sheepish about signing for it, as the post office marked it as "signature required - adult material" and I can't decide if it's more or less embarrassing that the package didn't contain any booze or sex toys.

The only Puckett card out of the 100+ cards in the order emphatically states that it is the opposite of adult material- it's Sports Illustrated for Kids! I have more cards of Kirby Puckett than any other individual player, and yet, I don't even have 20% of the cards made with him on it.


I currently have somewhere between 400 and 500 unique Kirby Puckett cards. Guess the exact number (or the closest wrong guess) of unique Kirbys in my collection and win a custom made mix of 100 Cards + One Pack repack. So basically, pick a number between 401 and 500 to enter!


Winner will be announced in Saturday's post. Entries still accepted in yesterday's post, too. Someone may or may not have already guessed correctly!

The COMC order will help me with some return packages on trades, and for several upcoming blog posts, so the rest of the haul will have to wait.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

repack regrets + a contest for you!

You know, I made such a big stink about these 100 Cards + one Pack repacks from Walgreens a while back, one would think I could take my own advice. Here are the oldest cards in the bunch - A pair from 1981 and a pair from 1983. I mean, it was just $5, but there were probably better ways for me to spend it.

Just one Minnesota Twin in the group of 100. 1984 Fleer has some great cards in it, and I'm a fan of the design.

4 cards featuring one-time Twins - Viola right after the trade to New York, then again with his 3rd team. Charlie Manuel played sparingly for the Twins in the late 60s/ early 70s - Don Baylor was on the 1987 championship team, joining after the trade deadline on waivers.

A no doubt Hall of Famer, a brand new Hall of Famer, A Hall of Famer in the record books, and a Hall of Famer in our hearts (or maybe just in our knuckles).

Horizontal Heroes! A Joe Mauer cameo, too.

Nick! Do you need this Jim Walewander? Is that guy in the background delivering mail, or is he about to go on safari? I guess there are at least 25 Tigers nearby...

These were some of my favorites from the bunch. The pack was 1988 Donruss. I could see through the wrapper that the card on the wax sealed side is Cal Ripken, Jr.


Anyone want the pack of 1988 Donruss? Just claim it first in the comments and it's yours.


Guess how many cards out of the 100 I considered "keepers" - closest guess wins a reverse engineered 100 Card + 1 pack Repack of their very own. I'll put together a mailer and send it over.

Basically, just pick a number between 0 - 100.

CONTEST! Will announce a winner with Saturday's post.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Junior Varsity - The 1982 Topps Traded Set

There's little question about the most iconic card in the 1982 Topps Traded Set - Cal Ripken, Jr was quite the phenomenon.

The Topps company moved quickly onto the Cal Jr train, naming him to the 1981 Topps All-Star Rookie Team - then boldly naming him to the team again in 1982! Granted, he only played in 23 games in 1981, so that selection that season may have been premature.  Not to mention the fact that there are no Rookie Cup trophies on his 1982 card or his 1983 card, so it is one of those bits of trivia that don't come up often.

Some other notable rookies in this set include a pair of Twins, Tom Brunansky and Bloomington, MN born Kent Hrbek. Chili Davis and Steve Sax get their first full cards from Topps as well in the set. All four of these guys joined Ripken on the 1982 Topps All-Star Rookie squad.

In addition to Ripken, there were four other Hall of Fame players in the set. Reggie Jackson triumphantly returned to SoCal after some legendary seasons in New York. Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry appeared here at the tail end of impressive careers. Perry would win his 300th game as a Mariner. Last but not least is Ozzie Smith in his first appearance as a Cardinal - the trade with San Diego would profoundly impact both franchises, and for Smith it was a catalyst to refine his skills as a hitter. The dedication and hard work would ultimately pay off for the defensive wizard, who would go from being a glove only, to a glove first short stop.

1982 Topps Traded was a good year for Twins representatives. Along with Bruno and Hrbie, the set included rookie cards of Bobby Castillo, Randy Johnson (not that one), and Ron Washington (yes, that one). Ron Davis became the Twins' closer and had a few successful seasons, but ultimately was more remembered in MN for the games that got away.

Some of the gems hidden in the 82 Topps Traded set. Tim Blackwell's iconic moustache makes its debut, along with Rookie Ron Gardenhire's mullet. Steve Kemp is rocking a great White Sox uniform (their unis are rarely boring, I'll give them that over the Twins). Frank Tanana was coming off a rough season in Boston, and still a few years from finding his second wind in Detroit.

I'll leave you with the the Bluest Blue Vida Blue. He looks happy, though!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hall of Fame Past, Present, and Future

It was on this day in 1987 that the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the induction of two new legends - Jim "Catfish" Hunter, and Billy Williams.

Hunter was the ace of the Oakland A's dynasty in the 1970s, and made his way to New York just in time to win 2 more championships with the Yankees. He won the Cy Young in 1974, leading the AL in Wins and ERA. He won 20 or more games in 5 straight seasons from 1971 through 1975.

Billy Williams was the 1961 Rookie of the Year, and was known for year after year of consistent excellence. Williams was an iron man - playing in 1,117 straight games for the Cubs, which set a NL record that would stand until Steve Garvey surpassed him in the 1980s. Williams finished his career in Oakland, hoping for one last chance to play in the World Series, but the A's lost in the 1976 ALCS to the Red Sox.

Looking at the online BBHOF tracker, There are currently 4 players on track to be inducted via the BBWAA vote. The final totals are still being counted, and the new inductees will be announced next Tuesday, January 22nd.

Mariano Rivera, of course, appears to be an absolute lock, the question will be how close to 100% will he get (there have already been a couple voters that decided not to vote for Rivera, they've missed their chance to be part of something special.).

The late Roy Halladay had a storied career and looks well on track to be inducted on his first ballot.

Edgar Martinez is on his final ballot, and so far he's trending in the right direction. The bar for the writers to elect a DH may well be set with Martinez, who had very impressive offensive numbers, but very little defense or baserunning stats to bolster his case.

A pleasant surprise is the underrated Mike Mussina getting some love on the ballot. With about 42% of the ballots accounted for, he's right on the edge of having the votes to make it in as well.

On the outside looking in are four candidates that have Hall of Fame stats, but various extraordinary circumstances that are counting against them.

More than enough digital ink has been spilled for Bonds and Clemens, so I won't bother presenting their cases for or against in this post.

Curt Schilling's stats are maybe on the fringes, with his post-season resume putting him over the top for many voters. He's trending right along with Clemens and Bonds for the ballot count, just shy of induction. He has some years of eligibility remaining, and the distance from his playing days may or may not work in his favor.

Larry Walker is being penalized for being ... too good? The air in Colorado is easier on hitters, but the flip side of that coin is the injury risk and recovery time needed for players spending half of their season without the same supply of oxygen. Walker's career stats in the games immediately following a home stand show how the Coors effect works against Rockies players on the road. He had outstanding skills as a hitter, defender, and baserunner for a long time. He will hopefully get in soon.

The bottom of the ballot still has several intriguing players- some with PED baggage, and others with less solid resumes. Placido Polanco is not a Hall of Famer, but he does have the highest fielding percentage All-Time among Second Basemen . . . AND among Third Baseman! It won't make him a member of Cooperstown's Hall, but it's a nice bit of Sports Bar Trivia. Andruw Jones had a short but stratospheric peak, ultimately voters will be looking for more longevity. Jeff Kent... I don't know what's not to like- probably the lack of Championships? Andy Pettitte probably doesn't make it before Clemens or Schilling or Mussina, and even then there's some question about his success relative to the team he played for. He reminds me in a way of Scottie Pippen, he has great stats, he's got championship rings, but for some reason people were looking to find reasons why he wasn't the reason for his own success. Granted, he did have a PED incident, but the consensus seems to be that he wasn't using for the bulk of his career.

How many of those top 4 will make it this year? Who's getting snubbed unfairly? 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Branch Rickey's Pittsburgh Pirates

One of the fun things about a completed set is deciding how you want to organize it. I have the 1956 Topps set in a binder, sorted by team, in the same order that the teams finished in the 1955 Standings. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished 8th in the National League in 1955 with a record of 60-94. 

The 1956 season ended slightly better with a 7th place finish, but the future was bright with a pair of future Hall of Famers getting their feet wet in the majors that would soon make the team perennial contenders. 

The 1956 Topps Set had fantastic team cards. The team photo on the front, and the back includes some relevant stats and a cool aerial view of the team's home ballpark.

The best player on the 1955 team was First Baseman Dale Long. Long had 16 homers to go along with 19 doubles and a league leading 13 triples.

Long was a career minor leaguer before coming to Pittsburgh in 1951 - as the cartoon above shows, he was a converted catcher. He followed up the 1955 season with an All-Star appearance and career highs in Homers and Runs Batted In. He set a then-record for consecutive games with a home run at 8 straight games.

Bob Friend was the team's best pitcher in 1955. He started 20 games and appeared in 24 more as a reliever. He finished the season with a team high 9 complete games and 2 shutouts. His 2.38 ERA was best in the National League.

Friend's age 24 season was stellar, and he would become the team's most reliable starter in the coming seasons. In 1956, he led the National League in games started and innings pitched, appearing in his first All-Star game. While he went 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in the 1960 World Series, he helped the team get there.

The Pirates' only Hall of Famer in the 1956 Topps Set was Roberto Clemente. Clemente was the Pirates' choice in the 1954 Rule V draft, despite the Dodgers' efforts to disguise his talent in Montreal. The Pirates had a bit of inside information into the Dodgers' system, as the Pirates' General Manager was none other than Branch Rickey. Clemente was scouted by Clyde Sukeforth in the International League, the same scout that helped sign Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers.

Clemente, of course, could be covered in a series of posts all by himself. 1955 was his first full major league season, and the Pirates were required to have him on the Active roster for the entire season per the terms of the Rule V draft, or they would have to return him to the Dodgers. At 20 years old, Clemente still had 11 triples, and 23 doubles as a rookie. It would be several seasons before he would become the superstar that would lead the Pirates to the 1960 World Series. In 1956, however, he did something that had never been done before or since - a Walk-off Inside-the-park Grand Slam! This fantastic article by Martin Espada chronicles "The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time"

In the binder, I have the first page of each team set with the position players that had the biggest impact in 1955 and 1956 in order - Catcher, First Base, Second, Short, Third, Left Field, Center, Right.

What's up with all the Pirates' hats? If you notice on the head shots, the Pirates have oddly rounded hats - but they are actually helmets. Branch Rickey had stock in a company that developed the head gear, and the Pirates became the team to experiment with the protective gear. Rickey required every player to have one. At first they wore the helmets in the field as well as at the plate, but they proved to be cumbersome to fielders so they only used them at the plate.The Pirates had a young rotation in 1955, only Max Sukront was over the age of 25. The growing pains of the mid 50s led to greater success throughout the 1960s.

Curt Roberts was the first African-American player to play for the Pirates, also signed by Branch Rickey. The Pirates had a poor record during Branch Rickey's tenure. In 1953, he traded away one of their greatest players, Ralph Kiner, who was asking for a raise. Rickey was reported as saying that if the Pirates could finish in last place with Kiner, they could finish in last place without him. While the team lost many games in his tenure- it was his moves that provided the foundation for their future success.