Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Page Five - At the Bat Rack Frankenset

The Legend Continues! Page Five of the "At The Bat Rack" Frankenset is here. 


Rules -
9 different players
9 different card sets
9 different teams
player is at the bat rack (or bat pile) in or near the dugout
Have fun (most important)

and the backs:

37- Wes Covington  2002 Topps Super Teams
38- Richard Hidalgo 1994 Upper Deck Minor Leagues
39- Mickey Mantle 2001 Upper Deck Legends
40- Joe Morgan 1992 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes
41- Kevin Wickander 1994 Topps
42- Bip Roberts 1993 Fleer
43- Roger McDowell 1989 Fleer
44- Edgar Gonzalez 2008 Bowman
45- Miguel Cabrera 2018 Topps 1983 All-Star design subset

Wes Covington, of course had the same picture on his 1961 card, one of the early classics of bat rack cards. The Joe Morgan card might be my favorite on the page, just because it's rare to see good photos of Joe from his early Houston days. If possible, I will be looking for a different #41 to break up the Reds on the page...

Page Three (cards #19 through #27) had a Cubs problem - three Cubs in slots #20, #25, and #27. I went back through all of my boxes and looked for anything that could replace 2/3 of those cards, and I think I made some good finds :

#20 - Bob Elliot 1950 Bowman

#25 - Ozzie Smith 1990 Baseball Card Magazine

So here's what the page looks like now, with 9 different teams and 9 different designs.

Much better!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

1994 Topps Traded Set

Rickey Henderson was back with the Oakland A's again in 1994, fresh off a World Series championship with the Toronto Blue Jays. When the Topps Traded set was printed, the season was in full swing, but Topps did not know that it would end just a month later.  No World Series winner, no Wild Card playoff (it was the first year with the 6 division alignment), and several players had promising seasons cut short.

The 1994 Traded Set was not a big rookie class, but it did yield a few interesting draft picks, and an overseas sensation, Chan Ho Park from Korea.

Long before the major card manufacturers started using an "official" Rookie Card logo, there was this much more understated text underneath the Topps logo on the back of the card.

Included in the set was a Topps Finest preview set- with 3 MVP candidates from each league and a rookie of the year candidate. The backs had the 1994 stats for each player through July 10th (awkward!). Frank Thomas ran away with the award in the AL, he was hitting nearly .400 for the season at the All-Star Break (he finished at .353), and rattled off 101 RBI, scored 106 runs, drew 109 walks, and hit 38 homers in just 113 games. The NL MVP was missing, but Matt Williams would have been a solid bet. He was the NL leader in homers (43), won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.  Maddux wasn't really in the running for MVP, but he was the NL Cy Young Winner.

There were more Hall of Famers in the set, including a 2 card retrospective for the definitely permanently retired Ryne Sandberg.

2019 Inductee Lee Smith joined the Baltimore Orioles, and Pedro Martinez headed north to join the Expos. The team would finish with the best record in baseball, but were unable to prove their mettle in the post season due to the strike.

Twins! Walbeck and Stevens came over from the Cubs in the Willie Banks deal, and Stevens would ultimately become the team's closer. Alex Cole joined the team as a free agent as Kirby Puckett moved to Right Field. The one homegrown product? Utility infielder Jeff Reboulet!

Hall of famers were not the only ones making moves, some familiar faces also found new digs (or, in the case of Bip Roberts, returned to old ones). Ron Gant is modeling the awesome 1869 Red Stockings patch the Reds wore all season long. The rest of the MLB teams had "125th Anniversary" patches, and the Pirates wore patches for hosting the All-Star game.

A handful more transactions, including Will Clark leaving San Francisco, Bo Jackson heading out West, and Omar Vizquel serving as the final piece of the puzzle to jump start a mini Cleveland Dynasty in the mid to late 90s.

Monday, August 26, 2019

1994 Topps All-Star Rookie OF Raúl Mondesí

As we continue to look at Topps All-Star Rookies, Raúl Mondesí is one who looked for all the world to be an all-time great. Is his story a tragedy? You be the judge.

Mondesí was born in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic- where baseball was big. José Rijo would precede him to the majors, and he would be followed by a flood of players including Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, José Guillén, Michael Pineda, Pedro Strop, Miguel Andújar, among others. By the time Mondesí arrived in the majors, he was drawing comparisons to the great Roberto Clemente for his prodigious outfield arm and the solid skills he displayed in all facets of the game. 

After signing as a free agent in 1988 with the Dodgers, Mondesí spent 2 seasons in his home country developing his skills. He made his professional debut in 1990 with the Great Falls Dodgers in the Pioneer League. At the age of 19, he hit over .300, slugged .543, and stole 30 bases in just 44 games. The following season, he was promoted from A to AA to AAA, slashing .277 / .315 / .454 combined across all levels, with an OPS+ of 149. He had a setback in 1992, playing in just 53 games due to a rash of injuries. He would return to AAA in 1993 and posted career highs in nearly every offensive category. Most importantly, Mondesí played in 110 games, proving that he could remain healthy for a full season. 

Eric Karros was the 1992 Rookie of the Year, Mike Piazza won the award in 1993, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Mondesí would follow suit in 1994. The strike shortened campaign tempered his final tallies a bit, but he posted solid numbers across all categories. 16 homers, 11 stolen bases, a .303 batting average, and a league leading 16 outfield assists. He would follow up that rookie campaign with a monster year. In 1995, Mondesí made his only All-Star appearance, won his first Gold Glove, and posted 26 homers and 27 stolen bases.

As he reached his peak years in his mid to late 20s, Mondesí would find an even higher level of production. He became the first Dodger to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season (1997), and continued to rack up outfield assists and a 2nd Gold Glove. All told, Mondesí hit 163 homers and stole 140 bases for L.A. in 7 seasons. He had a similar start to future Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Andre Dawson.

He was traded from L.A. to Toronto as the main piece of the Shawn Green trade, and he enjoyed a mostly productive stint over 2 and a half seasons. Injuries would start to creep in, sidetracking his 2000 season after 96 games. His average with Jays dropped from his .288 career mark to the .250s, but he continued to mix power and speed with 66 homers and 61 steals.

Following his Blue Jays career, Mondesí would bounce around to 5 different teams- New York, Arizona, Pittsburgh, the Angels, and finally Atlanta in 2005. He would conclude his career with 271 career homers, over 1500 hits, 229 stolen bases and 909 runs scored.

He returned to the Dominican Republic and ran for political office, ultimately becoming the mayor of his hometown San Cristóbal in 2010. The city was also the birthplace of the Domincan Republic´s long-time dictator, Rafael Trujillo, known for his cruelty and corruption. Mondesí did not fall into the former, but unfortunately became embroiled in a scandal involving the latter. During his playing career, he reportedly earned over $66 Million dollars on his contracts- but as mayor he was accused of misappropriating funds and embezzlement during his 6-year term. He is currently serving an 8 year prison sentence, and is barred from political office in the D.R. for 10 years. During his time as mayor, his son Adalberto Mondesí became a World Series champ with the Kansas City Royals. The younger Mondesí is still on the Royals, currently on the 10 day IL with a shoulder injury.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

LIVING to the Max

The Topps Living Set continues to grow, but the number of deserving subjects remaining, it can be a long wait between representatives from your favorite team. The Minnesota Twins now have seven cards in the set, two coming in the last two months.

Rod Carew is the first retired Twin to be featured. 1967 A.L. Rookie of the Year, a seven-time batting champ, 1977 A.L. MVP, eighteen-time All-Star, Hall of Fame Inductee, and the only member of the 3,000 hit club from Panama. Carew was in the Twin Cities earlier this season to attend the retirement of Joe Mauer's jersey number, and he continues to be an ambassador for the game. He also hosts an annual golf tournament in California to benefit Pediatric Cancer Research, which was held last weekend at the Pelican Hill Golf Club. He also partners with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart health.

This season Max Kepler has taken a big step forward. His 35 home runs are a career high, and he's slugging 100 points higher than his previous career best mark. He signed a 5 year contract extension with the Twins during Spring Training.

This dugout quiz artwork is a red herring - the flag says "Highest Batting Average" but the question is about Runs Batted In! Also, you'll notice that there's an asterisk on both cards for the lifetime totals. On Carew's card it is explained that his career totals are complete "as of 6/24/2019," but Kepler's card does not have a similar caveat. I think Rod's totals are probably not going to change much the rest of the season, but Max is likely to add on even more (he led off Saturday's game with a home run, the 91st of his career)!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

NOW with Bonus Cards On Demand

I purchased a Topps Now "Road to Opening Day" set, and because of the Twins' successes on the field, it has yielded several bonus cards, including this one that just arrived in honor of Max Kepler's most recent 3 HR outburst.

There was more to celebrate in the month of July, including another bonus card for the team's 1st place 1st half.

Kepler earned a couple cards on his own, one for owning Trevor Bauer, one for a walk-off winner against Oakland. The Twins turned a pair of Triple plays in July, still waiting on the 2nd card to arrive.

The team was also featured on other On Demand Sets, including a new wave of Topps Total. Last wave was a trio of sluggers, and this time we have three pitchers. Mike Pineda might be team's most consistent starter in the second half, and Taylor Rogers has been the team's ONLY consistent reliever. Kyle Gibson is known as the unofficial "Team Dad," helping the team to stay in line on the road, staying on time for appearances in the community, and generally mentoring the team's younger players with anything they might need to navigate the big league life.

Jorge Polanco gets his 2nd #TBT card of 2019, in honor of his 1st All-Star appearance. His last card was a 1972 design, and this one of course uses the 1979 design.

The other On Demand set, celebrating 150 years of professional baseball, finally included a Twin, and they picked a good one. Artist Graig Kreindler has been providing several portraits of all-time greats for this set, with a sun-soaked Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, MN serving as the Killer backdrop.

The backs of these look a bit like 1971 Topps, but are more or less generic. They have a little blurb about the player, so slightly more effort than the #TBT issues.

Is your team getting a fair number of these on demand sets? What do you think of the designs?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Wes is More

That's right! Wes is up to his old tricks again, passing out the goods to any and all collectors out there. I was the lucky recipient of a stack of serial numbered Twins!

A Gold Guzman!

A Snowy Santana /99 !

The Proof is in the Sano, 19/25!

A mini Mauer!

Just 3/25 From Allen & Ginter & Wes!

Cuddyer signed this card before getting a lecture from Harmon Killebrew about the importance of a legible autograph. If you see some of his later cards, you'll notice the difference!

Thanks very much Wes! I have a return package in the mail to you.

Monday, August 19, 2019

1994 Topps All-Star Rookie 1B Bob Hamelin

A continuing series on the Topps All-Star Rookie Teams, today we're looking at the 1994 A.L. Rookie of the Year and the First Baseman for the squad, Bob Hamelin.

Nicknamed "The Hammer," 26 year old rookie Bob Hamelin battled leg injuries (and an ignominious arm wrestling defeat) to become a fan favorite in Kansas City. He broke Bo Jackson's team record for Homers by a Rookie, and was the team leader in HR, Slugging, and On-base Percentage. The 1994 season was unfortunately shortened by the player's strike, with Hamelin well on his way to a 100+ RBI campaign.
1994 was the first year in over two decades without George Brett in the middle of the lineup, and it was Bob Hamelin's bat that kept the team in the pennant race. When the strike ended the season, the team was just 4 games back of the Chicago White Sox for the Division lead. His 3 run walk-off bomb against ChiSox closer Roberto Hernandez in August was his 2nd Walk off of the year.

Hamelin was born in New Jersey, but moved out West with his family at the age of 12. He would attend Irvine High School and was a 2-sport star as a linebacker and first baseman. He was named the school's top athlete his senior year and was recruited by Lou Holtz to play LB for Notre Dame.

Hamelin preferred baseball, however, and was willing to work his way up the ladder to get to the major leagues. He played one season of Junior College ball for Santa Ana College - setting single season records for Homers (31), RBI (107), batting average (.520), Slugging (1.187) and runs scored (88). "He was a man among boys," according to the Santa Ana head coach. For his own part, Hamelin credits his season at Santa Ana for the team concept that changed his attitudes towards baseball and helped him make it to the major leagues.

Following his JuCo season at Santa Ana, he attracted the attention of UCLA and the major leagues. The K.C. Royals drafted Hamelin in the 2nd round in 1988, and it was a slow and painful road for Hamelin to the bigs. He had considerable power, drawing comparisons to the Royals' then HR King, Steve Balboni. The injuries to his legs and back (including a stress fracture in 1990) limited him to 1B and more often than not, Designated Hitter.

His 1994 season is the only time a primary DH has won the Rookie of the Year award. Injuries would continue to plague Hamelin's playing time and production, and he was let go by the Royals following a pair of disappointing seasons, neither of which cracked 100 games played.

Hamelin would bounce back in 1997, now with A.L. Central rival Detroit. He would replace the bat of Cecil Fielder in the Tigers lineup. After 109 losses in 1996, there was nowhere for Detroit to go but up, and Hamelin provided 18 homers and set a new career high with 110 games played. The team also improved its fortunes, but was still well behind Cleveland in the standings. 

Hamelin then played a season for Milwaukee, but his limited mobility meant being used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter. He played in 109 games for the Brewers, but only had 164 plate appearances. He famously walked away from baseball the next year after grounding out in a game for the Tigers AAA Affiliate in Toledo. After running out the grounder and touching first, he took a right turn and headed for the clubhouse, telling his coach that he was done. He left the game, then the stadium, and did not returned to professional baseball until joining the Washington Nationals as a scout in the mid 2000s.

For a good write-up on his playing days, check out the "Greatest 21 Days" blog entry, "Bob Hamelin - Mentally Prepared".

Friday, August 16, 2019

Page Four - At the Bat Rack Frankenset

The Legend Continues! Page Four of the "At The Bat Rack" Frankenset is here. 

Rules -
9 different players
9 different card sets
9 different teams
player is at the bat rack (or bat pile) in or near the dugout
Have fun (most important)

Page Four!

The Backs:

28- Placido Polanco 2012 Topps
29- Sherman Obando 1993 Bowman
30 - Hank Greenberg 1980 Cramer Sports Legends
31- Fred McGriff 1990 Topps K-Mart A.L. Superstars
32- Stan Musial 1953 Bowman Color (1983 reprint)
33- Andruw Jones 2003 Fleer Platinum
34- Al Oliver 1977 Topps Cloth Sticker
35- Jimmie Foxx 2001 Upper Deck Cooperstown Collection
36- Mario Soto 1985 Fleer Limited Edition Baseball Superstars

I was able to follow the team rule this time, but I may have fudged a bit on the bat rack rule with the Fred McGriff card. I have no doubt that he is standing "bat rack adjacent," and I thought that there was a bat in the background leaning against the wall... looking closer I think that's a broom or mop handle.
No matter! I hope to get the Stan Musial card in its original form at some point, but the reprint actually fits in the 9 pocket page, so I almost prefer to have it instead of the genuine article. 

Tell me about your mini-collections - would you start your own Franken-set?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Before landing on the IL, Willians Astudillo became a fan favorite and one of Topps' preferred rookies for new sets in 2019. I picked up a blaster of Topps Chrome, and adding this card was one of the highlights of the whole package!

I haven't opened any packs of Topps Finest or Bowman Chrome, but that's ok, I only would have wanted the Astudillo cards anyway. It's probably safe to say that Astudillo is no longer a rookie of the year favorite, and has been passed by his similarly strikeout averse teammate, Luis Arraez. However, Astudillo still is on the minds of Twins fans and he's going to see live game action soon, as he's headed to the team's single A affiliate in Fort Myers (also home to their massive Spring Training facilities).

No packs of Bowman Platinum were opened in the making of this post, either, I found this one online.

Online is the only place one could find this card - part of set #10 of this year's On Demand Series. The set is called Rookie Progression, and has a an early 90s Skybox basketball vibe to me. Astudillo should be back soon, and in the meantime I will keep hunting for more of his cards in the next offerings from Topps and Panini.