Thursday, November 29, 2018

Go West, Young Man

It had to happen at some point - Kennys Vargas has toiled for years in minors stuck behind several players on the Twins' depth chart. He never reached 250 at bats in a season with the Twins, but he's going out West- so far West that we think of it as the Far East - to play in Japan for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He was a minor-league free agent following the 2018 season, so his future in Minnesota was shaky at best.

Before the 2019 BBM Japanese baseball set comes out, I'll still be hunting for Vargas cards I don't have yet from the states. This 2018 Topps Chrome card is numbered to just 10 copies.

My scanner doesn't like thick cases- but this card had been on my radar for a couple years, but with the other guy on there, the card was hard to find for a good deal. This one popped up on eBay and I didn't hesitate to grab it.

Big Papi and Little Papi together on the same card! It's my first David Ortiz autograph, and even though the front of the card doesn't give it away, in theory this card depicts Ortiz as a Twin. Neither player reached their full potential in Minnesota, and now Vargas will get a chance in his age 28 season to try to make an impression on a one year deal.

So, who's got some Chiba Lotte Marines swag?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


I just got ZAPPED!  Kenny from Torren Up Cards launched a power packed PWE in my direction this holiday weekend - it was a nice shock!

Kenny is the king of Prospects, and these guys here are some of the Twins' best prospects of recent years.

These guys were considered prospects at one time as well, some more highly touted than others. Sorrento was Hrbek's heir apparent, but he wasn't able to take the crown. Ben Revere rode into town seeking Denard Span's job in Center Field, but they'd both be heading off into the sunset in exchange for even more prospects.

Kenny is such a good prospector, he found gold! Mauer and Morneau were the Twins #1 and #2 prospects back in 2003, now they are both enjoying retirement in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota is known as the "State of Hockey" though it is mostly for its robust High School and College ranks, less so for the current and former NHL franchises. Nothing to sneeze at, though!

Kenny, thanks so much for this unexpected jolt!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cyber Monday Comc sale

Hi everyone, I still have a handful of cards in my Comc store, today every item is 55 percent off my originally listed price

Check it out!

There are lots more sales on the site, too, if I don't have what you're looking for, someone else just might have a deal for you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

1977 Topps All-Star Rookie Team

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1977 season and featured in the 1978 Topps set. 

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

Second Base - Bump Wills
Texas (A.L.) 1977 - '81, Chicago (N.L.) 1982

In his favor, Wills is the son of Dodger great Maury Wills. Counting against him? The nickname "Bump" was acquired because he was known to bump into things as a child. Wills shared his father's speed on the basepaths, stealing 30+ bases in 4 of his 6 MLB seasons. He swiped 28 as a rookie, to go along with some power as well, knocking out 9 homers and 28 doubles. He had a career high 155 hits and was 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting. Wills had consistent numbers throughout his career. In 1978, he set the Rangers record for stolen bases in a season, which still stands today. In the field, Wills had the most assists and the most putouts in the AL in 1978. Wills is also known for his 1979 Topps card, which has two versions. One with his team listed as the Rangers, and the other (more common) that listed him as a Toronto Blue Jay. Apparently Sy Berger was tipped off in the 1978 off-season that a big trade had been made, sending Wills to the Jays. Berger alerted his staff and they printed Wills cards as a Blue Jay before learning that the deal fell through (if it was legit at all in the first place). Wills played his final MLB season in Chicago with the Cubs, and later played in Japan for two seasons with the Hankyu Braves. He finished with 196 career steals, and was the Rangers' all-time leader until Ian Kinsler (and later Elvis Andrus) came along.

Bump's Rookie Card is 1977 Topps #494 shared with Jim Gantner, Mike Champion, and Juan Bernhardt.

Designated Hitter - Eddie Murray
Hall of Famer
Rookie Card
Baltimore (A.L.) 1978 -'88, '96; Los Angeles (N.L.) 1989 - '91, '97; New York (N.L.) 1992 - '93; Cleveland (A.L.) 1994 - '96; Anaheim (A.L.) 1997. 

Steady Eddie played 20 MLB seasons, and he was terrifying to opposing pitchers the entire time. Murray's career high was 33 homers, and the only season he led the league was in the strike shortened 1981 season, but you could set your watch to Murray hitting 20-30 bombs every year. Murray was the 1977 Rookie of the Year, even though he played 110 games as a DH. He was such a dynamic hitter that it didn't matter he didn't spend much time in the field. He would swap positions with Lee May the following season, with May becoming the primary DH while Murray became the mainstay at First Base. His glove was not a liability, he would even win 3 Gold Gloves over his career.  Murray was the heart of the order for the Orioles in the World Series runs of 1979 and 1983. For his career, he hit 9 post-season homers, averaging 1 per series. In his lone championship winning series of 1983, he hit a pair of homers while slugging .550 in the 5 games. His best season arguably came the following year, when he led the AL in Walks,  OBP, and OPS+, crushing 33 homers and driving in 110. He won his 3rd straight Gold Glove, made the All-Star team and won the Silver Slugger for First Basemen. He was never named MVP, but he finished in the top five in six seasons.

He never had the big peak, but he had strong numbers consistently for longer than almost any player in history. His later career included a pair of good to great seasons in Cleveland, helping the team reach its first World Series berth since 1954.

Murray finished with 3,255 hits, 560 doubles, 504 homers, 1,910 Runs batted in, and played more games at first base than any player in major league history. He is also the All-time leader in Sacrifice Flies, which is pretty neat!

Outfield - Mitchell Page
Rookie Card
Oakland (A.L.) 1977 - '83, Pittsburgh (N.L.) 1984

Page was the runner up to Murray for the ROY, but you could argue that Page should have taken home the hardware. Page hit 21 homers, and stole 42 bases for the A's while hitting .307/.405/.521 and scoring 85 runs while playing in left field all season. He did lead the AL with 14 errors in LF, but had a respectable arm with 11 outfield assists. Page was not able to repeat his fine rookie season, however, and following a contract dispute with the stingy Charlie Finley in 1979 and injuries that limited his mobility, Page struggled to stay with the big league club. He played until 1984, but never surpassed 57 games played in any season in the 80s. He was a bit player in the film "Angels in the Outfield " playing the Angels' First Baseman. Page passed away unexpectedly in 2011, after years coaching in the minor leagues for several different teams.

Outfield - Andre Dawson
Hall of Famer
Montreal (N.L.) 1976 - '86; Chicago (N.L.) 1987 - '92; Boston (A.L.) 1993 - '94; Florida (N.L.) 1995 - '96. 

The Hawk was tremendous, and yet his career still has a hint of "what if?" due to balky knees that derailed a historic pace. The National League's 1977 Rookie of the Year, Dawson made an immediate impact in Montreal. The city already had a young star in Catcher Gary Carter, but the addition of Dawson gave the team a formidable 1-2 punch. Dawson was very fast - stealing 20+ bases annually. He was strong, also hitting 20+ homers each season early on. In 1979, he had 24 doubles, 12 triples, 25 homers, and 35 stolen bases. Through 1983 and his age 28 season, Dawson's stats were quite similar to Billy Williams and Dave Winfield at the same point in their careers. 253 of his 314 career steals came in his first 11 seasons. Despite the knee and leg issues (12 surgeries during his career), Dawson still managed to log serious innings in the field and played 130+ games a season through the first decade of his career. His MVP season in 1987 was a statement to the world that his will was greater than the pain. Playing for a struggling Cubs team on an allegedly blank contract because no one else would sign him, he hit a career high (and league leading) 49 homers and 137 RBI. 

Dawson would finish his career with a couple forgettable seasons for the Florida Marlins in his hometown, but the incredible speed and power would be remembered vividly when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. He was just the 2nd player in MLB history to steal 300+ bases and hit 400+ homers. He was an 8-time All-Star and won 8 Gold Gloves.

Andre's Rookie Card is 1977 Topps #473, shared with Gene Richards, John Scott, and Denny Walling.

Right Handed Pitcher - Dave Rozema
Rookie Card
Detroit (A.L.) 1977 - '84, Texas (A.L.) 1985 - '86

Rozema had impeccable control - as a rookie in 1977 he led the AL with just 1.8 walks per 9 innings. His meat-and-potatoes stats of a 15-7 record, 3.09 ERA and 16 complete games landed him 4th in the ROY vote, and 9th in the Cy Young race. He would not reach those heights again, despite the scarcity of walks, he didn't strike many batters out either. He was moved to the bullpen in 1980, and the great control was definitely an asset. Control on the mound didn't translate to control off it- his famously landed on the disabled list in 1982 for failing to complete a "flying karate kick" aimed at Twins infielder John Castino during a benches-clearing brawl. Rozema tore ligaments in his knee, ending his 1982 season. He was an integral part of the 1984 Tigers' pitching staff, serving as a spot starter and bullpen stopper, but was not part of the playoff roster as the Tigers won the World Series. The following season, Rozema signed with Texas and pitched two more major league seasons. He would appear again in 1990 in the Senior Baseball League as well.

Third Base - Wayne Gross
Oakland (A.L.) 1976 - '83, '86; Baltimore (A.L.) 1984 - '85.

Wayne Gross was an All-Star as a rookie in 1977, filling in for an injured Vida Blue as the A's lone participant. The Lefty slugger hit 22 homers his rookie year for the A's, and finished with 121 in his MLB career. He hit a homer in the 1981 ALDS against Kansas City, though the A's would ultimately lose the next series against New York. Gross played as the semi-regular third baseman for the next few years until the team acquired Carney Lansford. He even pitched a couple innings in 1983 for Oakland. He would hit 22 homers again in 1984 in his first season in Baltimore, but it would be his final full season. Gross also appeared in "Angels in the Outfield" like Mitchell Page, appearing as a White Sox relief pitcher.

Wayne's rookie card is 1977 Topps #479, shared with Brian Asseltine, Sam Mejias, and Al Woods.

Outfield - Ruppert Jones
Kansas City (A.L.) 1976, Seattle (A.L.) 1977 - '79, New York (A.L.) 1980, San Diego (N.L.) 1981 - '83, Detroit (A.L.) 1984, California (A.L.) 1985 - '87.

The Expansion Seattle Mariners were lucky to have Ruppert Jones, who was a big hit right off the bat. He had his own fan club in Center Field, "Roop's Troops," and was the team's first All-Star. He hit 24 homers that season and drove in 79 runs. He was not a patient hitter, striking out 120 times to just 55 walks, but he was never boring! Like many of the players on this All-Star Rookie roster, Jones had to deal with many injuries in his career. In the off-season following 1977, he had surgery to remove cartilage from his knee, and had a tough time meeting the same standard in 1978 that had marked his first year in Seattle. He came back the following year healthy and spry - he had a career high 33 stolen bases, along with career bests in several more offensive categories.

He would make his second All-Star squad in 1982 with San Diego, with a fine season playing as the team's main Center Fielder. Jones was a member of the 1984 champion Tigers team, though he was mostly a reserve player by that time in his career. Jones had over 1,100 career hits and of not for a series of injuries, could have had many more.

Ruppert's rookie card was 1977 Topps #488, shared with Jack Clark, Dan Thomas, and Lee Mazzilli

Short Stop - Bob Bailor
Baltimore (A.L.) 1975 - '76, Toronto (A.L.) 1977 - '80, New York (N.L.) 1981 - '83, Los Angeles (N.L.) 1984 - '85.

The Expansion Toronto Blue Jays had a rough first season, but Bob Bailor set an expansion league record with a .310 average for the season. Bailor was the first player selected by the Blue Jays in the 1976 expansion draft. It was the best batting average for a rookie in 1977 as well. Bailor was known to be tough to strike out, fanning in just 5% of his MLB at bats. Bailor was a multi-talented fielder; he was used primarily as a Short Stop in 1977, but in his career he played all over the infield and outfield. He was a favorite of managers throughout his playing career. Despite not having the most impressive stats, he played a smart brand of ball, rarely making any kind of mental mistakes. He was a mentor to younger players, which was parlayed into several seasons as the manager of the Blue Jays' minor league team in Syracuse. He was a bench coach with the big league club in Toronto, often as Cito Gaston's right hand man. He said when the Blue Jays won their first championship in 1992 - "I've gone from walking in the snow to walking in champagne," referring to the snow-covered field in Toronto for their first ever home game.

Bob's rookie card is 1976 SSPC #386; his first Topps Card is 1977 #474.

First Base - Doug Ault
Texas (A.L.) 1976, Toronto (A.L.) 1977 - '78; 1980.

Just because they weren't very good it didn't mean that Topps was going to pass up promoting the two expansion franchises. Toronto's Doug Ault hit the first home run in Blue Jays' history, then hit another in the third inning of that first game. He had three hits in all in the Opener, making him an instant hero in Toronto. With Eddie Murray playing most of the season as a DH, it opened a spot on the Topps All-Star Rookie squad for Ault, the First First Baseman in Toronto history. Ault hit .245 with 11 homers in 1977, and would play just two more partial seasons, ending his U.S. playing career in 1980. He would spend a season playing in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers, and another season in Mexico before becoming a coach in the Toronto minor league system.

Doug's rookie card was 1977 Topps #477

Left Handed Pitcher - Jerry Garvin 
Rookie Card
Toronto (A.L.) 1977 - '82

The third Blue Jay on the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, Garvin was the first rookie to win 4 games in the month of April. He also allowed 33 home runs, the most in the AL in 1977.

Like several of the players on this team, Garvin's rookie season was his best. He was the Blue Jays' most used pitcher in the 1970s, and he was on the hill for a franchise record 61 games in 1980. Following some time on the DL and a strike shortened 1981, Garvin was removed from the 40 Man roster in 1982 to make room for another pitcher, and he would not return to MLB play again.

Catcher - Gary Alexander
San Francisco (N.L.) 1975 - '77, Oakland (A.L.) 1978, Cleveland (A.L.) 1978 - 1980, Pittsburgh (N.L.) 1981.

Alexander was not the Giants' primary catcher in 1977, appearing in just 55 games. His rookie season was sandwiched between catching John Montefusco's no-hitter in 1976, and a career high water mark in 1978, hitting 27 homers and 84 RBI. He did have a career high .303 average in 1977, and the other rookie catchers had similarly uninspiring stat lines. Alexander was the Texas League player of the year in 1975, so there was good reason to think he would have a strong career ahead of him. He would have another good season in 1979 with Cleveland, hitting 15 homers.

Gary's rookie card is 1977 Topps #476 shared with Dale Murphy, Rick Cerone and Kevin Palsey

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Canadian Trading Post

I received a surprise e-mail from a reader of the blog / member of Trading Card Database - Karsal

I really have to get caught up on my Trading Card Database entries, I probably have a couple thousand Twins that need to be cataloged, and then I really need to get some more of my collection listed so I can get organized for once!

It was a very familiar opening, I have some cards from your want list, do you want to trade? Yes, indeed! We agreed to a blind trade, and Here are some of the cards that arrived this week.

The Vizquel card is great because he's wearing Jackie Robinson's number. Terry Steinbach (A MN product!) doing an updated version of the great 1973 Johnny Bench card. Mike Brown fits the sunglasses mini collection, Dan Graham is part of the bat rack collection, and Luis Polonia was just a fun photo.

There were also some recent Twins thrown in for good measure.

This is a 2001 reprint of Puckett's Topps rookie card, I hope Topps will be able to release new Puckett cards again some day, there are plenty of opportunities in Archives to see Puckett in other designs.

Last but not least, Brad Radke was a life-long Twin and a prototypical frontline starter for more than a decade.

Thanks so much for the trade, and I've sent a return package this afternoon!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Rookie of the Year / Year of the Rookie

The BBWAA will name the Rookie of the Year winner in the NL and AL today. The finalists in the NL are Juan Soto; Ronald Acuna, Jr.; and Walker Buehler.

In the AL, it's a pair of Yankees - Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar - as well as Shohei Ohtani, the Angels two-way sensation. I don't know who's going to win - it seems like you can make a compelling case for all 6 of the finalists. But what is amazing to me is the sheer volume of talented rookies this year. 

They may not have had quite the years that the ROY nominees did, but one has to wonder who will end having the most prolific career. In Soto's shadow, Victor Robles may have been overlooked, but he will likely be a steady presence in the Nationals' outfield and should get an opportunity in 2019 if Bryce Harper signs elsewhere. Harrison Bader was the Cardinals' primary Centerfielder as a rookie, hitting 12 homers and stole 15 bases. Brandon Woodruff made only 19 regular season appearances, but was a key part of the Brewers' postseason strategy, and came up big on the mound and at the plate, hitting a homer and earned the victory in Game 1 of the NLCS. Brian Anderson was used in RF and at 3B in Miami, collecting 161 hits including 34 doubles in 2018. 

Jack Flaherty had a stellar rookie year, striking out more than a batter per inning, and may have even had a case instead of Buehler to be the runner up finalist to Acuna / Soto. Buehler ultimately is the best choice, though Flaherty had a great season - which guy will have a better sophomore campaign is anyone's guess!
Ozzie Albies played 57 games in 2017, so he wasn't even eligible for the 2018 Rookie of the Year, but at just 21 years old, he hit 24 homers, 40 doubles, and scored 105 runs for the Braves in his 2nd year. Will Albies or Acuna have the better career?

Then there are the guys that were technically rookies, even though they were already household names  like Rhys Hoskins and Rafael Devers, that had big impacts late in 2017 and carried over into 2018. Austin Meadows was traded to Tampa Bay in the Chris Archer deal, and he'll team up in 2019 with Willy Adames. Adames will be 23 years old, and Meadows will be 24 - and both appear poised to break out for big sophomore seasons.

I didn't even mention Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies' Catcher, or Ryan Yarbrough of the Rays, or A.J. Minter of the Braves, or the A's super reliever Lou Trevino. In 2017, most of the attention was (rightfully) on Judge and Bellinger and that seemed to be it for rookies - this year is seems like there are many more standout performers.

Which players do you think are in it for the long haul? Who am I snubbing?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Ring in the New Year - with Secret Santa

I participated in the Secret Santa trade extravaganza for the last two years, and I'm really looking forward to joining in again in 2018! 

"Hey, did you hear? The Secret Santa gift exchange moved to A Penny Sleeve for your Thoughts!"

"Course I did, meat! I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"What if I'm not really into baseball cards- maybe I'm a football fan?"

"Not a problem, champ! Each Santa will spend $10 on something fun to fit YOUR collection! Like, maybe you just started a mini-collection of players talking on the phone . . . "

"Sounds like a great deal! I'll have pepperoni and green olives on the first one and- hang on, got another call coming through- Secret Santa? HECK YES, Sign me up!"

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Saturday? Why, That's Card Show Day, Of Course!

I saw several tributes to Willie McCovey on the blogs this week, and I thought about putting one together myself. He is the very first Topps All-Star Rookie, after all! When I pulled my 60s and 70s binders off the shelf, I noticed that my McCovey collection was sorely lacking. I was hoping to score his 1961 or 1963 cards, but didn't find either one at today's card show. I did find a nice 1970 All-Star card, which my scanner decided to crop very close.

I made a ton of progress on my 1959 set, too. I saw a Bob Gibson rookie last month that was actually in the price range I was willing to spend and I set aside funds specifically to buy it, but the vendor wasn't at the show. So that meant re-investing that dough in Rocky Bridges, a trio of Bobs, and Gene Baker that seems to be showing the ball around its new home.

I added both suits, and even though Giles was in much better shape, he was also cheaper than Card #1 Ford Frick. The most I spent on a '59 was $15 on this hi-number Jim Perry rookie card.

Whee, team cards! Detroit and the Dodgers were upgrades.

This was the card I was really hoping to find after missing out on Bob Gibson- now that I have Johnny Temple, I've completed the '59 Cincinnati Team set!

It was a vintage only day at the show, I finally caved and spent the $3 on the ugly ugly Killebrew card. I also added another 70s McCovey, this time from 1971.

The big ticket item this show? Ted Kluszewski! This was one of my 2018 collecting goals, I passed on several versions of this card before finding one I really liked. I normally don't care much about condition, but I really wanted this one to be sharp and clean with vibrant color.

"Leading muscle man" indeed. Suns out, guns out Ted!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Players Gonna Play

This year was the 2nd Annual Player's Weekend Celebration, where players can wear any socks they want.

Topps released a set again this year, picking a handful of players from each team - I was of course looking for the Twins' set.

La Makina is my favorite of this bunch. Apparently there were also special short printed cards (please don't die of shock) if a person purchased 5X or 10X sets. Well, that's kind of dumb. Enough re-sellers bit on that, so there are 14 Logan Forsythe short prints and 10 Tyler Austin short prints that I will never see in person.

I did, however, buy my set directly from Topps, which gave me the possibility of getting a bonus card later on... and boy it was a doozy:

It got dusty in this room all of a sudden... Joe dons the tools of ignorance one ... last ... time! Mauer's last game of 2018 just may be the last game of his career, and it was a memorable day, from his Twin daughters greeting him at first base before the game, to a opposite field double in his final at bat, and finally his brief stint behind the plate and long standing ovation from Minnesota fans.

This was nice surprise to add to the 5 card set - I'm hoping that next year will have a a Twins set that features a first place finish!