Thursday, August 30, 2018

20th Century Man

The real life John Wayne was born out West - way out West - in San Diego, California on this day in 1918. Williams learned about hard work and stubborn determination from his mother May, who was a dedicated and tenacious advocate for the local chapter of the Salvation Army. Baseball was his way to get away from his home, but also to feed the obsession with perfection that would be a hallmark of his professional life.

His .482 career on base percentage is number 1 all-time. He trails some other all-time greats in counting stats, but in his defense he left his career in Boston during his prime to go fight for Democracy.  He missed three full seasons training to be a Navy pilot, then teaching others to become pilots as well. He would return again to the service in the early 50s, missing nearly 2 more full seasons.

His final minor league season came in Minneapolis, and he led that league in virtually every significant hitting category. His hitting coach was Rogers Hornsby, who instilled in him the mantra of "Get A Good Pitch To Hit" which seems so simple, and yet there's very few guys that could walk down the street and have someone say "There goes The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived." More than just swinging at strikes, the mantra was to only swing at pitches that will generate the most damage with contact. 

There are very few Hall of Fame players to attempt to become great managers, but such was the personality of Ted Williams. It wasn't enough to know he was good, he wanted to make sure you knew it, too. He came to the Washington Senators (the 2nd version), and immediately saw positive results for the hitters. He did not win at the level of the great managers, but some would argue that he never had the right pieces in place to succeed.

He was the AL Manager of the Year his first season- he may be the only .400 hitter to win that award.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Dropping Some Knowledge

Bert Blyleven has been a mainstay during Twins television broadcasts, but the last few seasons have been lighter on Bert with several other former players joining the play by play guy Dick Bremer in the booth. One of the best from that group has been Roy Smalley, not only for his baseball knowledge, but he will often drop in needlessly advanced vocabulary words into his analysis. It's fitting that one of the smartest and most well spoken commentators' card came from a teacher. Mark of The Chronicles of Fuji sent out a flurry of packages, and this one arrived earlier today on my doorstep!

Reach them while they're young to teach them good habits early! Prospects were well represented in this package. Baxendale will pop up again soon. The Twins had a bunch of guys in the Bowman Top 100 prospects, and now it's up to those guys to start living up to those lofty expectations. A new crop is starting to make waves, but the future is still very much in the hands of Buxton, Sano, and Berrios.

This Kolten Wong mini taught me something new! Wong was originally drafted by the Twins in 2008, but he did not sign and instead went to college at the U of Hawaii. A solid education resulted in higher draft position with Saint Louis!

With age comes wisdom and experience! Some sharp vintage cardboard History came my way from 1972 and 1962.

It's a bit of a history lesson to see the early Twins - the uniform hasn't seen many changes, and in fact they still break out this version often.

Pascual was among the best in the AL and was an early star for the Twins.

Naragon hit a "lusty" .344 in the PCL, talk about an education for the kids of the 60s!

Oeltjen was one of several players the Twins signed out of Australia, where they maintain a solid presence. Phenom pitcher Lewis Thorpe is one of the most recent imports from the Land Down Under.

Civics are a very important subject, covering local government and our institutions from the Revolutionary War and the Continental Congress to local elections. Civic pride and patriotism can instill a desire to make one's community and country a better place!

Thanks so much Mark, this was a fantastic multi-disciplinary extravaganza!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Time That Saturday Was Card Shop Day

I took a trip away from the craziness of the MN State Fair to visit the 2nd location of Three Stars Sportscards in Bloomington, MN. For showing up, a pack of Topps National Baseball Card Day 2018 was mine. For spending $10 on Topps products, I earned the Rhys Hoskins you see above.

I think I will keep Rhys, and I plan on sending Kiermaier to France as part of the next Triple Break / trade with The Card Papoy, but the rest are up for trade.

How did I earn the Rhys? I bought a jumbo hobby pack of Topps Chrome.

Bregman and Bradley are different versions of refractors, Didi and Max are the European representatives in the pack.

I actually pulled a refractor auto! It's a Marlin, though. I have now pulled three autos in packs in 2018, and they've ALL been Marlins. Let's hope that the third time is a charm and it won't happen again.

I always like to dig through the various boxes they put out at the store, scoring this die-cut Bartolo Colon from 1995 Classic.

There was a 3 / $5 auto/relic box, and I found several things to my liking, along with a fair number of cards to add for future trades. The Jesse Crain auto graph is numbered to 99, I think it is a variation because the stained glass is not colored in like the other cards I've seen from that set . . .

There was a stack of oddball box sets, and I picked up three Kraft Singles Sets- 1993, 1994, and 1995. I'm fairly certain I already have the 1994 Puckett, but the others are new to me, and again there's some more trade bait. The sets were all American League only.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

2018 Series 2 Kennyssssssssss

Well, it's mid-August now, and Kennys Vargas has yet to crack the 40-Man roster, let alone the 25-Man MLB roster. He's in his age 27 season, and has hit just .221/.308/.381 at AAA Rochester.

But there's always room to hope! Logan Morrison, the player that most closely mirrored the skill set Kennys provides, has been historically bad, and recently underwent season ending hip surgery. For now,  the Twins are rotating Catcher Mitch Garver and 1B/OF Tyler Austin in the DH spot. Kennys will have a tough time breaking up that duo.

I've yet to complete a Vargas rainbow, and I doubt I'll ever see the 2015 Topps Clear /10 that I've been looking for going on 3 years now... The 2018 rainbow seems almost possible. I have tried many of the strategies suggested by the blogging world's rainbow building/player collecting expert Kenny in this excellent post, and I am hopeful that it will happen.

I just need the following for 2018:

Topps Black /67
Mother's Day Pink /50
Father's Day Blue /50
Memorial Day Camo /25
Platinum /1
Printing plates (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow)

For 2015 Topps, I just need the Factory exclusive sparkly variation and that darn Clear/Acetate parallel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Past is NOW the Future

This card ranks right up there with the Diamondbacks' Bullpen Car, or the Astros' funeral for Carlos Beltran's Glove. It's silly, and I love it!

I remember thinking that Turn Ahead the Clock was a fun promotion, but in Seattle there's genuine nostalgia for it. It does seem strange to me to have a 20th Anniversary celebration for a jersey, but I can't deny the fact that it's a welcome breath of fresh air.

Speaking of the 1990s - I took the opportunity to raid the COMC site for its late 90s and early 2000s treasures.

1997 SP looks fantastic, even today. I don't think I had anything from that set before. Bonds before Bonds was BONDS, though he was still getting intentionally walked at a crazy rate. Gonzalez had a ridiculous June in 1996 - 15 homers, 36 RBI, and a .407 batting average.

In the 90s, Inserts look amazing and base cards look almost like inserts.

Collector's Choice had a photofile's dream insert called "Big Shots" - this one of Ripken was my favorite.

And then there's Colon, who is still cruising along in the big leagues today!

This subset tried to predict where Colon would be in 2001 in the new Millenium. The 28 year old (Ahem, TSC couldn't predict that Colon's real birth year was 1973...) didn't find himself as a closer, though he did finish one game that season- he just happened to also be the starter. He would have his first 20 win season in 2002, and it was arguably better than his Cy Young year in 2005. In 2000, Colon was close to the predicted K rate, he fanned 212 batters in 188 innings.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Greg Gross

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 2018 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! 
Outfield - Greg Gross

It was fitting that Greg Gross had his Major League Debut as a pinch hitter. A 4th Round Selection by the Astros in the 1970 MLB draft, Gross offered a very specific set of skills to the team. The lefty bat moved steadily through the Astros minor league system, making his first MLB appearance late in 1973.

Gross has a very solid rookie season, finishing 3rd in the NL in average. His 185 hits ranked 7th. He came in 2nd the NL Rookie of the Year Voting, just behind Bake McBride of the Cardinals. In addition to his ability to get base hits, he was also a very patient hitter. His .393 on base percentage was 5th best in the league and the best mark for a rookie since 1970. 

Gross was the Astros' primary Right Fielder as a Rookie and moved around the next few seasons from Right to Left. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 1977 season for Julio Gonzalez. In Chicago he was used as a bench player and reserve outfielder. In Chicago, Gross found his power stroke - he hit 6 of his 7 career homers as a Cub. He hit home runs in back to back games in a road trip to Atlanta in August of 1977, the second being his only career leadoff home run. 

Gross found a home in Philadelphia, coming to the City of Brotherly Love in 1979 in the same trade that sent fellow 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Barry Foote in the opposite direction. In Philly he became the club's premier Lefty bench bat, and along with another 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star, Bake McBride, helped the Phillies win the 1980 World Series. Gross went 3-4 in his 4 NLCS appearances, scoring 2 runs and driving in another. 

Gross would remain a steady presence in Philadelphia off the bench as a pinch hitter and filling in as a corner outfielder and first baseman. He became the Phillies' all-time leader in pinch hits. 

Score provides the deep cut factoids, mentioning his first of two career pitching appearances. He probably should have quit while he was ahead, a scoreless 2/3rds of an inning including strikeouts of Casey Candaele and Herm Winningham. In his final season, he would return to the mound again, in the ninth inning of another blow out. This time, he was roughed up by the Pirates, surrendering 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk. He was quoted in the Sporting News following his adventure on the mound, "The worst part is how close you are to the batter after you throw the ball [. . .] I throw batting practice, but you've got the screen. I was looking for a way to sneak the screen out there."

His final 60 games came as a member of the Houston Astros, hitting just .200 for the season. He was not able to secure a tryout in 1990 and sat out the season. He accepted a Spring Training invite with the Padres in 1991 and was the final cut prior to Opening Day. There were rumors that he would be picked up by the Red Sox, but he officially retired. 

Gross may not have been fleet of foot, or hit for power, but his ability to make contact and reach base via any means necessary made him an integral part of the 1980s Phillies. He struck out just 250 times in his 4,355 career plate appearances, and his career .371 OBP ranks just ahead of Kenny Lofton and Roberto Alomar on the all-time list.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

NOW That Will Leave A Mark

Didja ever order a Topps NOW card and the guy gets traded before the thing arrives? NOW that really stings, Topps!

It's a nice curtain call for Dozier, though I think it's a bittersweet final image.

In more promising prospects, Topps issued a set of cards for the AL and NL All-Star rosters, which included Jose Berrios. He pitched 1 inning, allowed no hits and one walk. Since the AL won the game, Berrios was credited with a Hold.

Last but not least, local kid Joe Mauer made headlines by passing Kirby Puckett on the career Doubles list. He has more than any other Minnesota Twin, and is 3rd all-time for the Washington Senators / Twins franchise, behind Joe Judge (421) and Sam Rice (479). His next milestone? He currently has 992 career runs scored. Barring injury he should be able to reach 1,000 by the end of the season.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

You Say Sat-ur-day, I Say Card-Show-Day

OK, I know I said I wasn't a fan of 1953 Topps, but every rule has its exceptions. They look fantastic in hand, and if they have been kept in good condition, they look great. This is just my 3rd '53 card, along with Player Collection guys Minnie Minoso and Elmer Valo.

I'm not going to run out and build the set, but this was a fun addition.

I'm still a big fan of the Horizontal '52 Topps cards - Sievers was available for a steal!

Things are moving ahead on the 1959 Topps set build.

My first two All-Stars from the back end of the set, I have a feeling some of these will have me muttering to myself before this set is completed.

I really like the backs on the All-Star subset.

The cartoon on Whitey Ford's card cracked me up - it was the batter's expression that did it for me.

Found a quarter box! I knew I'd find a Ranger Vlad in there eventually.

Some '80s goodness!

I don't know what I'm doing with these.

Or these...

But hey, Here's Tony Gwynn wearing Scott Sanders' jersey in a spring training game!

This was a special Eddie Murray Rookie card.

It's O-Pee-Chee! I had a great day at the card show - it's been a few months since I made it out, so I was happy to finally make the trip.