Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Joy Of A Completed Run

I nearly made this post a few months ago, when I purchased a "complete" 1983 Topps Traded set on eBay for only $12! Well, I still feel like I got a good deal on the set, even though it turned out that one card in particular was missing. I could have been upset about this, but the very low cost combined with the fact that the set was the only card related item on the seller's store made me think they weren't trying to cheat anyone. I let them know that the card was missing from the set, and that someone most likely pulled it out before the set made it to them.

I found this one on COMC, purchased with some store credit that I earned from a PayPal payment from a friend for Twins tickets. So now I've completed the whole run of 80s Topps Traded Sets!

I didn't know the 1981 Traded Set came in the same box design, so it was a surprise to find it on eBay. Most of these were picked up at shows or card shops for a couple bucks. The 1982 set of course was the big ticket item, I hemmed and hawed on that one for some time before buying it. But once I added it, I figured I should do the whole run of sets with the same box design.

I have two questions for you (thanks for reading this far!)

1. Which traded set is your favorite? (I'm partial to 1986 for the crazy rookie checklist)

2. Why are the traded sets exactly 132 cards? (I don't know the answer, I'm hoping someone out there does)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Clearly a Future Ace

Another quick phone post- I have been trying to see as many Twins games as possible before Joe Mauer calls it a career. José Berríos made his final appearance of 2018 this afternoon, striking out 10.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in April, but snow and rain along with high winds postponed the matchup until today. 

Berríos picked up the win, his 12th of the season, and became the first Twins pitcher to surpass 200 strikeouts since Francisco Liriano in 2010.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ok, So NOW What?

By the time Mitch Garver hit this walk off double, the Twins were all bu eliminated from playoff contention. The trade deadline more or less sealed the team's fate in 2018, as they traded away Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Lance Lynn, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, and Fernando Rodney. 

If they could have, I'm sure they would have traded away Ervin Santana and Logan Morrison too, but injuries made that impossible. Even though their season would not extend into October, there was still plenty of baseball left to play.

I didn't listen to my own rules about sticking to just Twins NOW cards, I couldn't pass up this awesome bat flip from the wunderkind 19 year old of the Nats. Soto homered in 3 straight games, the first teenager to do that since 1898. Eighteen Ninety Eight!

On the other end of the spectrum, I knew ahead of time that this would be a card I would add, as long as Bartolo could make it happen. He's made 24 starts for Texas this season, and has stated he wants to pitch again in 2019. I hope someone signs him- he's now just three wins away from 250 for his career, which is a nice milestone.

It's the first Logan Forsythe card as a Twin! He started out with the team hitting everything, including this 5 hit game, but he's cooled off considerably. His numbers now are closer to his career rates, and he looks to finish out 2018 right at the 0.0 WAR replacement level. I have my fingers crossed that the Twins make a run at bringing back Eduardo Escobar in the off season, Dozier I am less enthusiastic about. Forsythe is better suited for a team looking for a veteran backup, rather than the Twins who need a starting 2B.

Mauer watch continues as he hasn't ruled out coming back for another season, nor has he said he'll play beyond 2018. He passed Carew in August, and the next time he reaches base, he'll pass Harmon Killebrew on the Twins' All-Time on base list. Right now he's up to 2,112 career hits, he'd probably need to play full time for another 5 seasons or part time 7 or 8 to reach 3,000. I don't see that happening, though he could pass Kirby Puckett if he plays one more great year, or two average seasons. Maaaaaybe?

One of the best stories of this "lost" season has been reserve catcher Willians Astudillo. He was called up earlier for a series in Chicago and appeared in Left and Center Field, 3rd and 2nd base, and even pitched in a blowout. He blasted this walk-off home run on a Sunday afternoon and has quickly become a fan favorite. This is his first card in an MLB uniform.

You can't spell Astudillo without "A Stud." I don't know how many more NOW moments the Twins will have in 2018, but I'm hoping for one tonight as I make my way back to Target Field to catch a few more Joe Mauer at bats if these are indeed his last.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Claudell Washington

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! 

Washington did not play organized baseball in high school - instead he was a track and field star. Similar to the grooming of Herb Washington, Claudell was a speedster that was destined to be a pinch runner for Charlie Finley's A's. There was just one problem with that plan - the guy could hit pretty well, too!

Despite his limited experience, Washington breezed through several levels of minor league ball and wound up on the MLB roster in his 2nd full professional season. He stole 80 bases in the minors and was a major leaguer for good at age 19. He was used as the team's 4th outfielder and Lefty DH in the second half and was a key part of Oakland's third straight World Series title.

That would be his only trip to the World Series in his 17 year career. He did show impressive speed and power early on, however, and made his first All-Star appearance in 1975 at just 20 years old. While base stealing was considered his biggest asset, it was his tape measure home runs that really caused fans and rival GMs to take notice. His power potential made him an attractive trade piece 5 times in his career. He was swapped for other outfield bats like Bobby Bonds (in a trade from Texas to the White Sox) and Ken Griffey, Sr. (from Atlanta to the Yankees).

The Braves signed Washington to a five year, $3.5MM contract after the 1980 season, in which he stole 21 bases and hit 11 homers for the White Sox and the Mets. The contract had some scratching their heads, but the truth was that Washington had not been given a regular starting role at any point in his career and was motivated to show what he could do. In 6 seasons in Atlanta, Washington had 647 hits, and 115 stolen bases including his 2nd and final All-Star selection in 1984. It was also during this stint that he hit a memorable foul ball at Wrigley Field, the footage of which was used for the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Washington did have some off field issues in the 80s, and was one of several players implicated during the infamous Pittsburgh cocaine trial. For his part, Washington sought treatment and donated a portion of his Braves' contract to drug treatment and prevention programs. His character and reputation was damaged but not destroyed, and it was his years in pinstripes that saw a late career renaissance. His 1988 season in particular was a return to his early career form, batting over .300, while stealing 15 bases and hitting 11 homers. He had worked diligently over the years on his defense in the outfield, his one glaring weakness as a player had become a strength.

Another season of double digit homers and steals pushed his career totals to 163 round trippers to go along with 308 steals. Some highlights from his career include 3-Homer games in both the AL and the NL, hitting the 10,000th homer in Yankees' history, as well as a walk off blast in the 18th inning for a marathon victory for New York over Detroit in 1988. He would finish his career in 1990, with a brief stint with the Angels before being traded to the Yankees for his final 33 games. He finished with over 1,800 career hits, 334 doubles and 824 runs batted in. 

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!