Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Yogi, Whenever I'm At Bat, I'm in Scoring Position

We lost a great one today. Oscar Gamble was scouted by Buck O'Neil, who found him playing for a semi-pro team outside Montgomery, Alabama. O'Neil wrote in his book that Gamble was the best prospect he'd scouted since Ernie Banks.

The Cubs took Buck's advice and drafted Gamble in the 16th Round. He tore through the minor leagues, but it took several years for him to find a footing in the big leagues.

His first stint in New York was viewed by some as a disappointment, but he did prove that his swing was well suited to Yankee Stadium's dimensions. He would return later to help propel the Yankees to the 1981 World Series.

His best season came in 1977 for the Chicago White Sox, in which he crushed 31 homers for the South Siders. He finished his career in Chicago in 1985, with exactly 200 homers. It may not seem like much, but Oscar took full advantage of the opportunities he was given. For his career, he homered once every 22.5 at bats, a rate that ranks right up there with sluggers like Freddie Freeman, Eddie Murray, and just a little behind Frank Thomas (the original one).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Frank Tanana

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

I have completed the run of these up through 2017 Series One, 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! 
Left Handed Pitcher - Frank Tanana

Frank had two very different major league careers. He came up to the California Angels in 1973 as a pretty boy flamethrower, and re-invented himself in the mid to late 80s as a gritty left handed finesse pitcher.

Despite the stereotype that hard-throwing fastball pitchers are wild, Tanana was known for great control throughout his early career, which helped propel him to the big leagues. Pitchers that throw hard also allow hard contact - limiting walks meant that the home runs allowed hurt a little less. His rookie season he gave up 27 home runs, which was the 3rd highest for any pitcher in the American League. But Tanana also missed bats with regularity, ranking 7th in the league in strikeouts. His 19 losses in his rookie campaign did not make a dent in his confidence, as his sophomore season was a breakout success. His strikeout totals spiked, leading all of baseball with 269 Ks. His strikeout rate per nine innings also was tops in the AL, and he led the league for the next two seasons in his ratio of strikeouts to walks. He was still giving up over 20 homers a season, but his ERA and FIP was near the best in baseball.   

Tanana reeled off three straight All-Star seasons in 1976, 1977, and 1978. He led the AL in ERA in '77, and shutout the opposition a league leading 7 times. One shutout came on Opening Day, the debut of Seattle's Kingdome. The Mariners were held scoreless despite getting 9 hits and drawing 2 walks against the rising star. The innings were piling up for Tanana, which didn't seem to bother him. In May of 1977, he pitched a complete game in every single start - and then did it again in June. All told, he had a string of 14 consecutive complete games from April 29th until July 7th. He allowed 72 runs in 1977, but 24 of those runs came in the last full month of the season. Something was wrong. 

With his signature pitch,  a 100+ mph fastball, taken out of his arsenal, he struggled with "a sore arm" as he bounced from the Angels, to Boston for half a season, to Texas where he lost a league high 19 games in 1982.  By 1985, the Rangers were looking in other directions for rotation help, and were happy to find a taker for Tanana. The Detroit Tigers gave up minor league prospect Duane James. The Rangers probably didn't think Tanana would outlast the young righty by more than 8 seasons.

Tanana credits his faith and his arm injury for turning around his life. Losing teammate Lyman Bostock also gave him a new perspective. But it was the trade to Detroit that turned around his career. His hometown team provided a chance for Tanana to take the same repertoire of fastball, curveball, change-up as his early days and slow everything down. In California, his bread and butter was revving up the fastball to triple digits. With the Tigers, it was taking a fastball in the high eighties and pairing it with an agonizingly slow change up. His curve was not as sharp as it used to be, but the break was still sufficient to fool hitters and throw off their timing.

He pitched his final season in 1993, splitting his time between the Tigers, the Mets, and 3 starts for the New York Yankees. He finished with 34 career shutouts, 2773 Strikeouts, and 240 wins. He amassed over 30 WAR by the age of 24, which was similar to guys like Vida Blue, Hal Newhouser, Dennis Eckersley, Don Drysdale, Felix Hernandez and Fernando Valenzuela at the same age. He is 22nd All-Time in career Strikeouts. When he reached the Hall of Fame ballot, he did not receive a single vote. He shared that ballot in 1999 with inductees Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, and George Brett; not to mention Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, and Luis Tiant - pitchers with similarly uneven but strong cases. But none of those guys were Topps All-Star Rookies!

Monday, January 29, 2018

i see them in the mailbox

It's still cold, the Vikings laid an egg and then Mother Nature dumped a foot of snow on the Twin Cities, but that didn't stop Jim aka gcrl of cards as i see them from sending a wantlist filled mailer.

Vintage played a key role, hitting all the different moods of Craig Robinson. Darrell Evans is returning to his home planet, his people need him...

The card is a beaut - this was most likely in the spokes of some lucky kid's bike for a summer in the late 70s.

With a couple of new 80s stars being enshrined in the Hall of Fame this year, it brought back plenty of memories of guys already there like Steady Eddie.

Speaking of the new guys, here's a couple nice mid 80s cards of Jack Morris. I'm happy for him, even though I can honestly say there are lots of guys I would have voted for before him. O-Pee-Chee was still going strong in 1992, it was cool to see Mr. Yount there at the bat rack, just a season shy of 3,000 hits.

Thanks very much Jim!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Turning Over A New (To Me) Leaf

No, I haven't started a new P.C. - but any time you see a Bieber card on this blog, you know there was a Transatlantic Triple Break from France!

Kevin busted a box of 2002 Leaf, and I think the design is pretty tame for the early 2000's. It's a clean look, and the photos on the back are a nice touch.

I'm not sure what the "Lineage" series was supposed to accomplish, I guess there was a gap in Leaf sets and they decided to do some extra designs.

Had to show off the Twins from the break - The late 90s buyback was part of the extra cards that Kevin included.

The offer still stands, Royals fans - e-mail me your address and I'll send you a ton of cards, can't seem to find any takers for Royals.

Here was the hit! The great Tim Hudson, part of the early 2000s A's rotation with Zito and Mulder that gave lots of teams fits.

Kevin also sent along a stack of Twins

Including this nice serial numbered Mauer.

And this great Aaron hologram card- the scanner actually did a good job capturing the image!

Bartlett got away from the Twins in the Delmon Young trade with Tampa, and the Twins have been searching for stability at short stop ever since!

These A&G relics are nice to look at - Sano is going to some work to do the rest of this off-season to get back in fans' good graces. I won't get into the whole thing here, but I will say it won't be easy to earn back my fandom.

On to more pleasant matters, Kevin also sent over this beautiful Minnie Minoso 1954 Bowman. Well loved, but still has bright colors and is well centered despite the wear and tear of 60 plus years of various people's collections.

Thanks again for the break Kevin!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

1973 Topps All-Star Rookie Team

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1973 season and featured in the 1974 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2017 Series One, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. 

Well, This is embarrassing. Missing trophies this year are 1B Gary Thomasson, C Bob Boone, 2B Davey Lopes, 3B Dan Driessen, SS Jerry Terrell, OF Rich Coggins, OF Johnny Grubb, OF Gary Matthews, RHP Steve Rogers, and LHP Randy Jones.

That's the whole team! 

The great custom card maker on Twitter, Bottomms Cards, tried to correct this travesty:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

But Wait- There's More

My shopping spree at COMC continues - it's been hard to get out to the local card show, so I had to scratch the collecting itch somehow!

I added a nice stack of mid 80s cards to go along with the early 80s cards I posted yesterday. I think Al Holland is posing after striking out three batters in the last two innings of the 1983 NLCS to clinch a trip to the World Series. I couldn't find another reference to Al Holland and the number 3.

The 80s had a ton of sets that commemorated the 1950s and 1960s, I am a fan of these sets because they make a point of featuring photos never before seen on cardboard, as well as some unique combos like Billy Martin as a Cincinnati Red.

A little Leo "The Lip" during his days as Giants skipper, and a fun shot of Everyday Eddie Guardado in a Washington Senators throwback uni at the Metrodome.

Good news everyone! I am never going to mention how irritated I was with Topps over their rookie cups in 2017 again. I have a page that mixes Series 1 and Chrome, and if I want to include Tommy Joseph I'll have to switch over to Topps Heritage.

I finished the 1956 Set in 2017, so this year I thought I would start on a different set. I haven't updated my want list for this set, it still is the stripped down version that just lists a handful of cards I'd like to have. I have a decent head start on the 1959 set because I was already working on a 1959 Reds team set.

Hall of Fame guys tend to be the last guys to be added to a set build, but I decided to add two guys based on the best two deals I could find.

Baby Bull!

I picked up everything in the post for roughly the cost of a blaster! I'm looking forward to getting back to a card show so I can take a big bite out of this new set quest!

Monday, January 15, 2018

COMC - Checking Off My Checklists

Channel 10 wants to know which 80s cards Willie thinks I still need from my wantlist.

Willie is partial to the 1980 playoff run of his own Royals - I certainly did need to add these three.

Willie said I'd have to look closely to improve my vision - or just get two pairs of glasses.

Action shots are great, but sometimes there are great moments just outside the lines as well. Larry doesn't want to share his helmet with anyone.

Add in a few Hall of Famers and a Hall of Fame moustache, and that should be a nice group of cards for one shipment.

Willie also thought it was worth looking a little further into the future every once in a while - as great as 80s cardboard can be, the 90s can surprise you sometimes as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Letting the Chips Fall Where They May

Every once in a while, I like to head over to eBay and browse the auctions with no bids. I'm not a big fan of sniping, but it is what it is. I placed bids on about 10 vintage cards and then waited for the big hit to my wallet. Well. Steve was the only winner! The card was in very nice shape, especially in comparison to the beat up cards I usually bring home from the bargain bins. A little bit off center and the two bottom corners have some dings, but this might be the sharpest card in my collection from the 1969 Topps set.

I placed a bid of $10, and no one outbid me, so I was able to have this one shipped to me for single digits. Not too shabby for a hall of famer!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wallet Card 2018

It's a new year, which I love because it is a highly subjective and completely arbitrary division of time, and that means time for a new wallet card. If you recall from 2017 (how could you forget?), I rocked a 1988 Donruss Keith Atherton in my wallet. He had a very important PSA for everyone, but other than that he didn't really get out much. 

Here's what he looked like when he was added to the wallet...

And Here's Keith today... I'm actually a bit disappointed by how little damage the card suffered!

Say Hello to the 2018 Wallet Card!

I went with a 1981 card - 81, 18, I liked the symmetry. And of course, I love the Padres' uniforms from that era. I thought it was time to class the place up a bit too- Ozzie is the first Hall of Famer added to the wallet card crew.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Alternatives to Staring Out the Window Until Spring

Rogers Hornsby famously stated "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." That's one option. I prefer some just barely more active. I was given a nice gift card to Amazon, so I blew it all on baseball books!

One of my favorite books on baseball is the travel diary of Joe Posnanski with Buck O'Neil "The Soul Of Baseball - A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America" I figured I should go to the source.  I just started reading this one yesterday, but I've barely put it down.

I've heard great things about this book, and Veeck is one of the more interesting personalities in baseball history.

I added this one to the list because of all the conversation about the Hall this time of year. Someone on twitter mentioned this one as a must read.

Chief Bender was born in Minnesota, and with the exception of a chapter in "Glory of Our Times" I haven't seen much written about him.

I've heard the name Moe Berg many times and have heard several anecdotes about his life, but I haven't read anything in depth - I'm looking forward to this one!

This one has been recommended to me many times, I finally got around to adding it to my collection.

I've read biographies on Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Buck O'Neil, I picked up this book to learn about a few more people from the Negro Leagues.

What are some of your favorite books on baseball?