Friday, May 31, 2019

COMC Haul - The Minnesota Not Twins

Saint Paul has 3 Hall of Famers that called it home - Winfield, Molitor, and Jack Morris. It was also the birthplace of John Anderson, who made 24 major league pitching appearances. The zipper is a neat feature on that jersey, and of course that distinctive wind blown lock of hair stands out.

Bill Davis was a big time power prospect out of Richfield High School (just south of Minneapolis) and the University of Minnesota. In 1965 in the minors he hit 33 homers, and that made Topps very interested in the young man for the rest of the 1960s:

They only need 2 photos to get 4 more Bill Davis cards. He had 71 minor league homers overall, but just one at the major league level. There's a nice SABR biography of Davis by Daniel Leavitt, who at 6'6" was a two sport star at the U of MN.

Minneapolis was home to Yankee Johnny Blanchard, who attended the now defunct Central High. His 8 year major league career included 2 W.S. titles. He was primarily a reserve, but was used extensively in the post season- He had a pair of homers in the 1961 series, and hit .345 overall in 15 post season games over 5 seasons.
Lefty Tom Burgmeier  appeared in 745 games in the majors was also born in Saint Paul, but he attended high school (Up North!) in Saint Cloud. He was an All-Star in 1980, saving 24 games for the Boston Red Sox. For his career he had a 3.45 ERA and won 79 games while saving 102 others.
Alex Call is from Burnsville, MN attending High School in Thief River Falls, WI and Sam Carlson is from Savage, MN originally, but went to Burnsville High School! So that's neat.

Jim Brower and Jim Crowell pitched for short stints in the mid 2000s, while the Eisenreich bros saw playing time in various outfields in the 80s and 90s. Big brother Jim had the longer career. 

There were and are still plenty of Minnesotans in the minor leagues still waiting or never getting their shot in the Show, but there's still time for many of these guys.

The other Hall of Famer from MN? Charles Albert Bender, who was born in Crow Wing County. Not long into his youth he was taken to a boarding school in Ohio, where he would ultimately learn the finer points of athletics before become a literal Athletic for Connie Mack.

This postcard is a reprint from a pre-war issue of Bender in the prime of his A's career. All of these were acquired in the latest COMC binge, taking advantage of the Spring Sale.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

COMC Haul - Tip Off Event!

With the NBA Finals starting tonight, I thought I would share the small stack of basketball cards I added from my most recent COMC splurge. I took full advantage of the recent spring sale (I even sold 5 cards!), and added a ton of cards to my 1959 Topps set build. But I also went off on a few tangents, including a trip down memory lane to a couple of my favorite basketball players.

Allen Iverson is relentless. Tenacious! Gritty! The man's got heart. I understand some people don't like Iverson for whatever reason, but I have to disagree with them. I wouldn't call myself a Sixers fan, but I definitely was a big fan of AI.

One reason I couldn't call myself a Sixers fan was this man right here. In many ways, Iverson and Garnett were two sides of the same coin - intense competitors whose play on the court rose the quality of play of everyone around them. Garnett was like a 6'11" Allen Iverson! Even though he had to go to Boston to get it, I was so happy for KG when he won the NBA championship and shouted "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!" Just a great moment.

I'm making it official- I want to build a 1957 Topps Minneapolis Lakers Team Set (I already have the toughest card, HOF rookie Vern Mikklesen), so this card is an appetizer.

For the 50th anniversary of the set, Topps re-created it, right down to the fun card back showing the sample ballplayer in front of a giant ruler.

I don't watch nearly as much NBA basketball as I used to, but with the Wolves playing well again (making the playoffs last year, narrowly missing this year in a tough West), I made a point to catch a few games. I was blown away by reserve guard Josh Okogie - he's probably 8th or 9th on the depth chart, but he had several games last year in which he would take over for several minutes at a time. He would get a steal and go coast to coast, lock down the opponent's top scorer, get a key blocked shot, or knock down a clutch three point shot. He's a fan favorite for sure.

Since he's not Karl Anthony Towns (or even Andrew Wiggins for that matter), this jersey / autograph combo was under $5 bucks. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is starting soon - are you rooting for Toronto or Golden State?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

NOW That's What I Call Dominant

More Topps NOW cards - there is variety on the horizon, I promise. I couldn't pass up Thor's complete game from May 2nd. Not only did he go the distance and strikeout 10 batters, he was also the only guy to cross home plate, crushing a solo homer for the Mets. A real do-it-yourself masterpiece!

I wanted to know who the 1983 fella was that was the last pitcher to toss a CG and hit a homer, so now you reap those benefits as well. It was Dodgers hurler Bob Welch, who also beat up on Cincinnati. The Reds have guys on their team that could return the favor- Michael Lorenzen comes to mind, though I guess he's a bullpen guy now. He certainly has the home run power, hitting 6 homers in his career, including 4 last season alone. Luis Castillo is a good candidate to shut another team out, not sure if he can muscle up on a pitch to hit it out, but anything's possible!



ED-DIE, ED-DIE! Rosario broke out in a big way last season, and he's right back on top the HR leaderboard in 2019. He has 17 homers, tops among AL outfielders- and that's with him still trying to snap out of a bit of a slump in May. April was a record setting month for him, becoming the first Twin to hit 10 or more homers in the first month of the season (it's hard to do in the snow!). Of course, he's not the only one mashing taters for the Twins. The whole team has been killing the ball since the start of the season, and they don't seem to be slowing down. Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver went on the IL, just in time for Miguel Sano to return. Jason Castro was meant to be the primary catcher anyway, and he's picked up right where Garver left off. Castro has 7 homers in just 27 games, which is pretty impressive given his career high is 18.  They became just the 2nd team in MLB history with over 100 homers in their first 50 games.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Utz Great To Have A Friend in the Diamond Business

Just a quick one today, I received a couple great cards from twitter great and blog reader extraordinaire Mark Hoyle. He's been very generous with the cards from his potato chip bags for those of us not lucky enough to be on the East Coast to partake in Utz. The logo reminds me a bit of the comic strip character Nancy. She was a very long running syndicated comic strip, and recently has had a renaissance under Olivia Jaimes, who has given the character new life with modern sensibilities and retaining the original spirit of the old strip. See what I mean?

Also in the envelope was this autograph of lefty starter Scott Diamond. He had a brief run with the Twins but I do appreciate a good baseball name like Diamond, or last year's reserve outfielder Johnny Field, or Grant Balfour, Bob Walk, etc etc.

Panini knew it too, and was happy to write some copy on it. I appreciate Diamond stylizing his autograph to make the first "D" in Diamond look like, well, a diamond.

Diamond reminded me of the old Shane Co. commercials. I used to think that Shane Co. was just a local business, but apparently they have stores in 13 states across the country - kind of like Utz, they have a well known name if you live in a certain part of the states.

Thanks for the cards, Mark! It's great having a friend in the Diamond business!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

NOW That's What I Call A Milestone

I am pretty good at keeping up with the Twins' new cards from Topps NOW, but every once in a while I make an exception for other teams or players. To be honest, I've never been a fan of C.C., since he's been with Cleveland and after a brief stint in Milwaukee with the Yankees. Tough position for a Twins fan to be in - but I have to say I have great respect for Sabathia, as much as I have wanted him to have a bad night when he's pitching against my favorite team.

3,000 strikeouts is quite the feat. More exclusive than 3,000 hits, with Sabathia being just the 17th pitcher in MLB history to reach the milestone. Even more exclusive, he's just the 3rd lefty - Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton being the others.

Speaking of 3rd - Albert Pujols is now ranked 3rd* on the RBI list. He's not exactly the Machine he once was, but 2,000 RBI is nothing to sneeze at. I really like this photo, which captures Albert flipping his bat in ... relief? Having blasted a home run to pass 2,000.

The list of course is missing Babe Ruth - (and Cap Anson), who also drove in more than 2,000 runs in his career. Before 1920, the Runs Batted In statistic was not counted in a consistent way from game to game, so the RBI the Sultan of Swat accumulated prior to 1920 are not included on this list. Pujols is likely going to pass A-Rod for 2nd overall some time next season (if he doesn't retire first). Pujols is another guy, like Sabathia, that I've never been a big fan of the teams he's played for. But, 2,000 RBI is great, and not likely to be repeated.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

That's A Whole Lotte Miles From Home, Kennys

Just because he's no longer a Minnesota Twin doesn't mean I've stopped collecting Kennys Vargas cards. His first 2019 card comes from the 1st Version (series 1) of BBM, the official trading card of the NPB. Vargas is wearing Jackie Robinson's #42 for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

If you want to see more of this set - check out the post on Japanese Baseball Cards I will be keeping an eye out to see if there are any parallels to be had of this card- and if he's in the separate Chiba Lotte Marines team set...

I also picked a few new to me parallels from 2015 recently. This one is the Camo Refractor from Panini Prizm, numbered to 199.

Ooh, Die-Cut Shiny refractor-y nonsense from Donruss/Panini Elite, numbered to 81. There are more than enough versions of this card that I am certain to never complete the rainbow and accidentally buy the same version many times.

And finally, this card is from Bowman and numbered to just 5 copies! The never ending quest to find all of the various Vargas parallels will continue no matter where he's playing!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

1993 Topps All-Star Rookie Short Stop - Wil Cordero

Wil Cordero had a decent rookie season, providing a little unexpected power (10 homers) to the Expos' middle infield. Along with teammate Mike Lansing, the future looked bright (Again! Still!) in Montreal. His fielding was still a work in progress (33 errors), but the Expos were content to allow Cordero to develop at the major league level. Instead of the dreaded "Sophomore Slump" Cordero would return in 1994 with arguably the best year of his major league career.

Cordero is from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico- the same city that produced Roberto Perez, Jose Vidro, Ozzie Virgil Jr., and Omar Olivares on the diamond and NBA player J.J. Barea. Cordero was signed by the Expos in 1988 just shy of his 17th birthday, and he made steady progress through the minors. In 1992, he was invited to major league camp in Spring Training, but an ill-timed slump and a pile of strike outs saw him returning to AAA Indianapolis for a second year. He would make his MLB debut in July, going 2 for 3 against the Dodgers, scoring 2 runs in a 4-3 victory. 

He'd play in 45 games for the Expos down the stretch in 1992, hitting .302 with minimal power (just 7 of his 38 hits went for extra bases.) He wasn't especially fast and his defense left a little to be desired, but he had the raw tools that a team operating on the strength of their next prospect crop would covet. He did show flashes of power in the minors (11 homers in '91) as well as being strikeout prone (122 Ks in  '90).

He put it all together in 1994 - making the All-Star team, and winning a Silver Slugger award as a Short Stop. He hit 15 homers for the Expos in the strike-shortened campaign.

The big season would make him an attractive trade chip, and he would be sent over to Boston in a trade for 4 players, the biggest name being pitcher Rheal Cormier. He'd play in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Florida, and back with the Expos again just in time for their move to Washington in 2005. He had a rough start was was released by the Nationals mid season. He'd finish 2005 playing for the Mets' AAA affiliate. He'd try again to make a comeback with the Mets in 2007, but was released prior to the start of the season.

Cordero played in 14 major league seasons, including the lone All-Star appearance in 1994, and two trips to the post season with Cleveland in 1999 and 2001. He hit .556 for Cleveland in the '99 ALDS including a home run in the ninth inning of a crazy game that ended with a score more like a football game, with Boston winning 23 to 7. The series went the distance, with Boston edging out Cleveland 3 games to 2.

Any fond Wil Cordero memories?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Shopping for cards at a Vintage / Consignment shop

Just a few blocks from my house is a long string of antique and vintage stores, probably 6 or 7 in a row over 4 blocks. I'd been in them all over the last few years, rarely if ever found anything sports related. One of those shops just relocated even closer to my house, so on Saturday afternoon, I wandered over to investigate, and maybe find a little something extra for my mom for Mother's Day.

To my surprise, there was a wall of trading cards, including a box filled with vintage hockey. No Gretzky, but I did find the Oilers' goalie from that season, Dave Dryden. He was one of the league leaders in . . . autographs? Closing off the net is a good skill for a goalie to have, and his Goals Against Average was not too bad. Dave's brother Ken was Montreal's great goalie, winning his 5th Vezina (best goalie) and 6th Stanley Cup in his 8th and final NHL season in 1978-79. Dave was the WHA standout that year, leading the WHA in games, GAA, and shutouts. He was an All-Star, and winner of both the Top Goalie (Ben Hatskin award) and the league MVP award. The Oilers won their conference championship, but were runners up in the WHA finals to the Winnipeg Jets.

The vast majority of the cards were from the 73-74 Topps Set, including the 4 beauties.

You can still watch hockey on NBC, some things never change... Ed Giacomin is a Hall of Famer, mostly for the first 5 seasons of his career, when he was the Rangers' netminder and perennial All-Star and Vezina Trophy contender. I like the juxtaposition of him being the last goalie to not wear a mask, and wanting to be the first goalie to score a goal during an NHL game. That honor ended up going to Billy Smith of the Islanders, sadly because he was credited with an own goal. Ron Hextall of the Flyers (Bryan Hextall is Ron's dad!) scored the first Goalie goal against the other team.

Garry Unger was interesting to me for being hockey's Iron Man, playing in over 400 straight games at the time the card was made. He'd retire as the All-Time leader, playing in 914 straight games. He'd be passed by Doug Jarvis, who started his career with 964 straight games played.

Added one more for the sweet panoramic shot. Terry Harper was a long time Montreal Canadien, and was on 5 Stanley Cup champions.

The vintage store also inexplicably had a box of 1991-92 Fleer basketball packs. Checking the background for possible murderers or kids who grow up to be professional athletes... no luck so far, though the gentleman in the first row on the left appears to be winning the game of impressive mustaches.

I actually kind of like the backs of these cards, with the hardwood background, the Fleer Ultra style action shot / portrait, and the per 48 minutes stats are a nice Fleer touch, reminds me of the stat splits on the back of their baseball designs in the 80s.

I won't show the whole pack, but here are the biggest names I pulled. If you look closely, I'm pretty sure Joe Dumars is being guarded by Michael Jordan. All in all, it was a fun trip to the vintage store, I ended up finding a couple fun things for Mom too, but this is a card blog, dang it!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Year of Living Dangerously

Topps is back for a second year with The Living Set, but the truth is that it never really stopped. Felix Jorge is the just the 3rd Minnesota Twin featured in the set, and it turns out that shortly after this card was produced, Jorge was waived by the Twins and became a free agent.

Still just 25 years old, Felix made his debut for the Twins jumping several levels in the minors. His promotion had a good deal to do with the other available arms in the Twins' system - Jorge was able to be added to the 40-Man roster, then the 25-Man MLB roster without being overly concerned about service time. After being DFA'd, then outright released, he would still re-sign with the Twins, but became a free agent again at the end of the 2018 season. Jorge is currently playing for the Billngs Mustangs in the Cincinnati Reds minor league chain.

The first Twin of 2019 in the Living Set? Jake Odorizzi, who is currently in the middle of 20 inning scoreless streak, is having a very good second season with MN.

That cartoon choice is strange... Both cards mention Jose Berrios, who was the first Twins player featured in the Living Set. Odorizzi will be looking to extend that scoreless innings streak later this week!

Finally, the most recent Topps Living Set entry featured Mr. Boomstick himself, Nelson Cruz. He joined the Twins in the off-season, and will be the team's primary DH, the biggest veteran free agent bat the Twins have added since Jim Thome.

Cruz is one of the few MLB players older than me left, so I am happy to have him on the team to feel a little less old. It doesn't hurt that he's been hitting well in the middle of a very potent Twins lineup. The team currently leads all of baseball in slugging percentage.

Cruz brings the total number of Twins in the Living Set to five - Berrios and Joe Mauer were added in season in 2018, and these three guys since the end of last season. Is your team well represented in the Living set? Manny Machado already has two cards in the set on his own (and now that he's with a new team, will probably get a third one before too long).

I'm looking forward to cards for some retired Twins greats - like Killebrew, Carew, Blyleven... or current players like Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, or hey, Willians Astudillo??? Maybe wishful thinking there.