Thursday, April 30, 2020

Which 70s Set Should I Build? 1975 Topps edition

I've been trying to decide which 1970s set to start building for my next vintage set build, but I can't seem to make up my mind. So, I'm going to take a little closer look at what I already have in my collection and try to narrow it down.

The 1975 Topps Set has a couple iconic rookies - George Brett and Robin Yount. Hall of Famer Jim Rice and Gary Carter both feature on one of those 4-plex cards. You'll also find rookie cards for other notable major leaguers like Andre Thornton, Bruce Bochte, Mario Mendoza, Keith Hernandez, Fred Lynn, and Craig Kusick.

My 1975 Wantlist, but it's not to complete the whole set, it's just a list of cards I thought I'd like to add to my collection at some point.

1975: 1, 3, 22, 33, 39, 70, 80, 108, 111, 122, 130, 140, 152, 170, 179, 180, 185, 203, 207, 213, 225, 243, 244, 245, 248, 255, 259, 260, 272, 290, 291, 300, 306, 320, 330, 351, 356, 370, 376, 385, 392, 402, 414, 451, 456, 459, 460, 462, 463, 464, 465, 481, 485, 486, 492, 502, 515, 526, 532, 536, 539, 569, 570, 580, 585, 586, 620, 622, 623, 632, 660

The Rookie Cup is back for 1975 after going missing from several cards in 1973, and then going completely missing 1974. Other items unique to this set are the series of MVPs (with a retrospective of cards on cards), and the parallel set of miniature cards.

Here's a page of my favorites from my collection. I know this is one of the more popular sets of the 1970s, but my unpopular opinion is that it doesn't quite do it for me. I think there's a little too much border compared to the photo size, and the scale on a lot of the cards is off. Too close or too far away.

What do you think are the Pros and Cons of the 1975 Set? I'd love to hear your opinion!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Proud Heritage of Trading Cards

The 2020 Topps Heritage set build continues! Thanks to Mark from Oregon, who reached out to me on the blog and offered up a big stack of cards to me. I sent some Bay Area (SF and OAK) cards his way and I've been able to cross off several cards from my want list, which is currently up to date.

I'm really digging this year's set, I will be getting these into a binder sooner than later. I think I will sort them by team and do the whole page 1 is the starting nine, page 2 is the rotation and bullpen, page 3+ is the bench, rookies, trades, etc.

Mark also sent a big surprise! In addition to the 2020 Heritage, he also included a similarly sized stack of o.g. 1971 Topps!

You can Chuck the Manuel in as well. Thanks again Mark!

Tom from Waiting 'til Next Year sent me what I hope is a duplicate of the Vogelmonster as he is one of those elusive Short Prints! Love the cell tower in the background, which feels like a vintage cards with radio towers in the background.

Not a trade, this was an eBay victory of Eddie Rosario's Gold chrome parallel, numbered to just 5 copies. I lost an auction yesterday for a 1/1 Black Opening Day Parallel, but maybe I can get the rest?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Happy Birthday, Barry Larkin!

I know that these past few weeks, months (months?) that we've been hunkered down and socially distant have been rough. One small thing that I was doing at work that I've carried over to my work-at-home life is bringing a different card to my desk every day. Since I don't have to plan very far in advance now that I work in the same place as my collection, I have a new pre-work ritual. I check baseball reference each morning for "This Day In Baseball History" and grab a card from my collection that has some connection to the current day. It's helped to make each day a little different, and kept at bay the running together of the weeks. This 1987 Donruss Barry Larkin was my card today.

Oh, I've never done a Barry Larkin post before? That's crazy. Today is Barry Larkin's birthday. Larkin was born in Cincinnati and grew up in the 60s and 70s during one of the most successful era of Reds baseball. In high school, Larkin was a multi-sport athlete and was more highly recruited to play football than baseball. He was redshirted (FORESHADOWING!) his freshman year as a Defensive Back for the University of Michigan, so he asked if he could play baseball that spring. He exceeded all expectations for the Baseball team, becoming the Big Ten Tournament MVP and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He was an All-American the next two seasons as the Wolverines made regular trips to the college World Series. He teamed up with Hal Morris and Chris Sabo at the U of M and would see them again soon. The Reds would have all three by the time the team returned to the World Series in 1990.

Larkin of course was already on the Reds' radar, they tried to draft him out of high school as well! When he came to the organization, his minor league stay was destined to be short. He played in parts of just two minor league seasons reporting directly to AA after being drafted, then crushing AAA in his second pro season, earning a late season call up to the Majors in 1986. He was named AAA Player of the Year despite not playing the whole season in the minors. The 22 year old wasted little time making an impact at the big league level, driving in a run as a pinch hitter in his debut. He still had plenty of work to prove his mettle. The balance of the 1986 season would be a test to see which Reds' #1 pick would be their shortstop of the future, Larkin or #2 overall pick from 1983, Kurt Stillwell.

Just want to pause for a second to point out this 1992 Donruss card - since when do you see a cool card from 1992 Donruss?

Stillwell was a future All-Star and a solid defender at short, but the writing was on the wall early in 1987 that Larkin was player the Reds should build around. By the end of the year, Stillwell would be traded to Kansas City, and Larkin would be the Reds' shortstop for the next 18 seasons.

On a personal note, Barry Larkin was my favorite Reds player for a long time. The Reds were my National League team because my father was from Ohio and his side of the family still live there - Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati was one of the only other ballparks I had visited until I became an adult. Ever since my first trip to see the Reds, Larkin was there. I would take a trip to Ohio every summer to visit my grandparents, and we didn't get to go every year but Reds' games and Barry Larkin in particular was always a highlight for me.

The man has personality, is what I am saying. He has a great article written for the Player's Tribune about one of his fondest memories from playing baseball, and I hope you check it out. A great tribute to the end of a long season. Whether we get to watch baseball or not in 2020, it's games like the one that Larkin describes that will stick with you long after a season or career ends.

I'm glad to see that Larkin still gets into modern products - he doesn't have the same cachet as The Big Red Machine alums like Joe Morgan or Pete Rose or Johnny Bench, and he didn't play with the same flash as the Nasty Boys or the same style as Eric Davis (or on the opposite end of the spectrum, Chris Sabo). But looking at his career as a whole you have to wonder why he's not a bigger deal. The 2012 Hall of Fame Inductee was a 12 time All-Star, with an MVP award in 1995, 3 Gold Gloves and 9 Silver Sluggers. He was the first short stop to reach the 30/30 club, and during one season reached base in 13 consecutive plate appearances. His 9 Silver Sluggers are the most all time by a Shortstop.

He played for 19 seasons, though he did have injuries that hampered him in '89, '93, and '97 during his prime production years. Bill James, as recently as 2018, makes a case for Barry Larkin as one of the best shortstops of all time.

Monday, April 27, 2020

1996 Topps All-Star Rookie Right Handed Pitcher Alan Benes

Move over Dizzy and Daffy, the 1996 Cardinals have a new Sibling-fueled 1-2 punch against National League hitters. Big brother Andy was the Ace of the Cardinals' rotation in '96, but Alan matched him with 3 complete games and both authored shutouts during the season. Benes the younger was named the National League's Rookie Pitcher of the Year, which is a solid foundation to be named to the Topps All-Star Rookie squad as well.

Alan's 13-10 record and 32 starts ranked 3rd on the Saint Louis staff. He struck out 131 batters and his 6.2 K/9 rate was second only to his big bro for the Cards. Benes proved that he was ready for a bigger challenge, getting a start in the 1996 NLCS against Atlanta legend Greg Maddux. While he took the loss, he showed poise and polish allowing a pair of runs over 5 tough innings.

The Cardinals made Benes their 1st round pick in 1993 out of Creighton University. He was a standout for the Bluejays, the same school that Bob Gibson excelled at in the 1950s. Benes helped Creighton make an appearance at the 1991 College World Series, and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the year in 1992. You can see Benes in this clip rocking a rally cap (uniform #29, about 32 seconds in) during "the throw" in the '91 CWS.
Benes would rise through the ranks in the Cardinals system quickly. In his second pro season he jumped from Single A to AAA, Ranking #14 by Baseball America. The following year he was the #5 Prospect in all of baseball and by the end of 1995, his third pro season, he was making his MLB debut.
In his cup of coffee in 1995, Benes struck out 20 batters in 16 innings.

In 1997, his second full season, Benes was establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the game. By July he ranked 3rd in the league in Strikeouts, and his 2.89 ERA had him in 6th place in the NL. A shoulder injury ended his season, and nearly finished his career. His ERA+ for the shortened 1997 season was a robust 144, 44% better than the average NL pitcher. Benes would miss all of the 1998 season and made just 2 appearances in 1999.

Benes would adjust to a role in the bullpen with the Cardinals in 2000, but his strikeout stuff had left him following the shoulder issues. He would move on to the Cubs in 2002 and 2003, appearing in 10 games, then on to Texas to conclude his MLB career with an attempt to return to an MLB starting rotation. He made 4 starts for the Rangers, allowing 20 runs in 15 innings pitched. Benes would go on to be a scout and instructor in the Cardinals organization.

Benes is another one of those Topps All-Star Rookies who showed tremendous talent, only to have that potential undone by the misfortune of injury. Alan's best season was also his brother Andy's best year - the two combined for 31 victories in 1996 en route to a division championship, and took the NLCS to 7 games.

Benes was inducted into the Creighton University Hall of Fame in 2011.

Do you have any Alan Benes stories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

I Love the 80s - 1981 Cleveland

This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

In 1980, Cleveland finished in 6th Place in the AL East with a 79-81 record. The following season, the team finished above .500, but still finished in 6th place in the highly competitive AL East. 

The bright spot of the 1980 season was rookie Joe Charboneau, who inspired a hit song in the Cleveland area with his team leading 23 homers. Outside of his performance, not much went well for the Cleveland 9. 1981 featured a much improved pitching rotation, but unfortunately the team struggled to score runs. "Super Joe" was suffering through a sophomore slump, and the rest of the team offered very little power. The team hosted that year's All-Star Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, held in August due to the 1981 Strike.

The Cards:

Topps #39 Tom Veryzer - Former Topps All-Star Rookie Tom Veryzer was Cleveland's starting Short Stop in 1980 and 81. In 1980, he had a career high .271 batting average over 109 games. He was a reserve on the 1984 Cubs Division Championship team.

Topps #697 Rick Waits - 1980 was the third straight 200+ inning season for Rick, who recorded a career high in season strikeouts. Over his peak, Waits hurled 10 shutouts and won 74 games for Cleveland.

Fleer #402 Gary Gray - Gray was an outstanding player in AAA, hitting .305 with 17 bombs in 1979. In 1980, he had a brief stint with Cleveland before moving on to the Mariners. They played  Gray in AAA Tacoma, where he once again showed power and hit for average. He was finally getting an opportunity to play regularly in Seattle in 1981 when the strike interrupted his season. He had hit 13 homers before the strike, but by the time the league returned to action, other players were inserted into the lineup as everyday players. He would also go on to play in the Mexican League for three seasons.

Topps #738 Bert Blyleven - A new addition to the Cleveland staff in 1981, Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven was the team's ace. He was not given the best run support in Cleveland, and finished with an 11-7 record. He had 9 complete games and tossed a shutout. He led the team with a 2.88 ERA and had a league best 5.6 WAR. Injuries would limit him to just 20 innings pitched in 1982, but he would come back strong and would have one of the best seasons of his career in 1984, when he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting.

Donruss #82 Joe Charboneau - The 1980 AL Rookie of the Year Joe Charboneau had one of the best debuts of a player to have it all come crashing down. After his rookie season, Charboneau played in just 70 more MLB games over 2 seasons.

Fleer #404 Bo Diaz - Cleveland Catcher Bo Diaz led the team in homers in 1981, with 7. He split duties with Ron Hassey and Chris Bando, after being the backup in 1980. Diaz was named to the All-Star team in 1981, and had a great 1982 with Philadelphia. He came to Cleveland in a trade with Boston for Dennis Eckersley and Fred Kendall. He would become an All-Star again in 1987 with Cincinnati.

Kellogg's 3-D Super Stars #54 Joe Charboneau - In 1980, Charboneau hit .289 and cracked 23 homers with 87 RBI for Cleveland. He starred in the California League in 1978, then he hit again in 1979 in the Southern League, hitting .352 with 21 homers. He got his chance with Cleveland in 1980 because Andre Thornton was injured, but the injury bug would bite Charboneau back the following season. He was famously quoted saying that "Baseball has peaks and valleys - when you're hurt, it's even valleyer."

Topps #612 Duane Kuiper - Kuiper had 4 seasons as the everyday second baseman for Cleveland. In 1980, Kuiper played in just 42 games. He led the AL in fielding pct in in 1976 and 1979. He is probably best known today for his second baseball life as a long time announcer for the San Francisco Giants. His lone career MLB Home Run? He hit it off long time Cubs and White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone.

Fleer #401 Mike Paxton - A Memphis pitching legend, Paxton starred for Oakhaven High and then in College at Memphis State. He was named to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. He came to Cleveland in the same trade as Bo Diaz. In his first year with the club in 1978, Paxton struck out 4 batters in a single inning. The 5'11" hurler had a somewhat bowlegged gait and earned the nickname "Bulldog." He would pitch in just 4 games in 1980, and would retire after a pair of minor league seasons.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Total Recall

Topps Total is back for 2020 - the design is simple, I like the color gradients as they move around the card. This photo looks like it was taken before Cruz sprained his wrist so bad that he tore a tendon last year.

Here's the back, and just like last year, there's a player specific blurb followed by a promotional statement for the set the card is a part of.

Wave 1 of 9 features Nelson Cruz, Taylor Rogers, and Kenta Maeda. Usually 3 to 4 players per team per wave. Nice to get a Maeda Twins card early on!

The mail also had a couple more surprises for me. The 2020 Topps NOW Road to Opening Day set arrived, with Nelson Cruz once again front and Center.

Some fun shots from Spring feature the reigning AL Central Twins, all looking ahead to the 2020 season (whenever that might be).

Dangit, I made myself sad with these! Luis looks so happy here, now the season might not happen at all. Josh Donaldson, the big name free agent, might not get a chance to show Twins fans he was worth the big investment. As for Byron Buxton? Man, that's just not fair. He was healthy again and ready to prove that he is one of the best players in baseball. I hope he gets a chance soon.

There was no option for an autograph this year for the Twins set, I guess the demand was too low last year, and everything happening in March derailed the usual release of the autograph option for all teams. It was about half and half when I bought this, about a week before the deadline, and still just the base option. They did throw in this parallel, however, featuring Twins' Ace José Berríos.

The backs all have a "player spotlight" to go with the same sentence about the Twins, who not only led the League in homers, they set a new All-Time record... 

Speaking of all-time records, here's the last piece of mail today, a sweet Rickey Henderson from Topps Project 2020. I think the consensus is that some of these cards are awful, some are ok, and at least one of them is awesome. The other thing that everyone agrees on is that everyone's Awful/OK/Awesome cards are different. I think this particular one resonated with me because it felt like an 80s remix of an 80s card of an 80s icon. Matt Taylor did a nice job of honoring the original subject while making it his own.

Sorry for the shaky photos, I literally phoned it in. There are millions of better images of these online, but I just wanted to give a rough idea for the blog. This one might be the only one I add to my collection. Of course, before this card appeared, I was content to not add any of them, so who knows?

Have you found your "Awesome" card yet from this set?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Free Stuff Friday #12 Clowning Around

I had very little 2009 Topps to choose from, I suspect that will continue to be the case the next several weeks as I was mid collection drought from 1996 to 2014 or so. But I still had 9 cards to give away!

Claim one or claim every card in this post, if you like! It's free stuff Friday.

Inserts! (Piazza is technically a subset within the regular 2003 Victory set, but it looks like an insert).


Some 90s Hockey!

A mini collection of mascots hopefully there is something for everyone.

If we haven't traded before or in the last year or so, please send me your address when you make a claim. I will hold the cards either way, but I can't send them until I have an address!

thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Page Seven - At the Bat Rack Frankenset

Can anyone stop this train? No! Page Seven 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 . . .

55 - Larry Doby 2003 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic
56 - Ryan Adams 2011 Topps Update
57 - Marquis Grissom 1997 Bowman Chrome
58 - Tony Clark 1997 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion Edition
59 - Jon Shave 1993 Bowman (Blank back)
60 - Jerry Hairston 1984 Fleer
61 - Mike Schmidt 1985 Donruss
62 - Vladimir Guerrero 1998 Pinnacle
63 - Alan Ashby 1990 Elite Senior League

Oh yeah, it's getting weird now. 3 hall of famers, a Senior League card, and a blank back. by the way, I would very much prefer the regular 1993 Bowman issue of card #59, so if there are any Rangers or Bowman or Jon Shave superfans out there that want to swap, I will send you the "harder to find" blank back version for the regular one. 

I really like the Mike Schmidt card, it might be a stretch for this frankenset, but I am making up the rules as I go along, so sometimes the player brings their own "bat rack" by carrying around a pile of lumber. I'm nearly done with page eight as well, but it's also fairly lopsided with a particular team, so I might try to find some alternates before posting that one.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Quite Possibly The Worst Collecting Idea I've Ever Had

2020 Topps Heritage has been out for a while now - I've been buying up hanger boxes when I can. I noticed that I had accumulated quite a few of the base cards, and thought to myself "I should build this set." This is quite possibly the worst idea I've ever had.

Let's start with the bad news. There are 99 base card short prints (cards 401 to 500) and I have, let's see, 8 so far (not counting Eddie Rosario). So I would need to add 91 more short prints to call this a complete set.

SHORT PRINT (HAVE) - 416, 434, 464, 465, 482, 485, 486, 489

The good news? I am about 50% done with the set including those missing short prints. I also have a little bit to trade, about 65 base cards 1-400, and some inserts.

FOR TRADE: 2, 6, 14, 15, 19, 22, 35, 46,  57, 68, 75, 78, 81, 91, 92, 94, 110, 112, 122, 123, 132, 134, 138, 150, 154, 173, 174, 187, 191, 195, 198 (x2), 207, 213,  214, 218, 226 ,227, 242, 253 (x2), 257, 259, 271, 272, 273, 278, 279, 290, 305, 308, 326, 329, 338, 346, 360, 372, 374, 380, 385, 390, 400

Every card pictured in this post is tradeable for Heritage needs. I'll offer the inserts 1 to 1 for a Short Print, or I am willing to offer 1 insert plus something else for 1 SP. Willing to listen to offers.

These last 4 were the least common out of everything I opened, so I would ask for 2 SPs for a Bazooka insert, and I don't know what for Brantley, numbered to 100. If there is a good offer of a good quantity of wants, I would be happy to make that trade.

WANTLIST (Cards 1-400):
5, 7, 8, 13,  38, 44, 49, 52, 55, 56, 61, 64, 65, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 82, 89, 95, 102, 104, 105, 108, 113, 115, 117,  120, 137, 141, 145, 151, 152, 153,  159, 160, 167, 177, 178, 180, 183, 194, 199, 200, 205, 206, 209, 212, 216, 220, 223, 224, 229, 231, 233, 237, 241, 248, 256, 263, 264, 269, 274, 277, 281, 285, 287, 289, 291, 294, 297, 302, 309, 310, 313, 315, 317, 320, 322, 323, 325, 327, 330, 333, 334, 337, 342, 343, 344, 347, 348, 350, 352, 353, 355, 356, 359, 362, 365, 366, 370, 373, 375, 376, 377, 378, 379, 388, 389

So, if you can help me out I'd love to hear it. I have added these same lists to a separate page on the blog that will (hopefully) stay up to date as the trades (hopefully) start rolling in. I have also updated my meager Trading Card Database info to include the haves, trades, and wants specifically for 2020 heritage. I may never catch up on there with the rest of my collection, but at least I can say I did that much. My name on there is mpls_collector.

Monday, April 20, 2020

1996 Topps All Star Rookie Second Baseman Tony Batista

To make the Topps All-Star Rookie roster, you don't need to play in every game, you just need to shine at the right time. For Tony Batista, it was a torrid second half that made him the perfect choice for the 1996 Topps All-Star Rookie Second Baseman. He played in just 74 games for the A's in 1996, but they came late in the season. He became the team's regular starting second sacker in July, hitting .298 with 6 homers and 25 RBI.

Batista was signed by Oakland as a minor league free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1991, when he was just 17 years old. After playing in the Dominican Winter League, Batista made his way the United States and was ready to take on new challenges in Single A. His career was nearly ended early in his minor league days, when he suffered a fractured skull following a collision in the outfield. Upon his return to the lineup, Batista began to show the early signs of the power hitter he would become. in 1994, Batista was making big gains in High A Modesto. He would hit 17 homers and 26 doubles for the club. He would hit 18 more in AA the following season, and his power up the middle was enough to earn him a call to the big leagues. The A's had been relying upon Brent Gates and Rafael Bournigal at second, so a little offense would go a long way.

Unfortunately for Batista, the league figured out how to pitch to him. Batista would struggle early on in his sophomore season, hitting under .200 early on, which led to a demotion back to AAA. Still just 23 years old. Batista still had plenty of work to do and plenty to prove.

The Expansion Arizona Diamondbacks selected Batista with the 27th pick of the expansion draft, and he would expect to see regular playing time for Arizona in their inaugural season. It was over the offseason that year that Batista developed his unorthodox batting stance, which involved standing parallel to the pitcher's mound and facing the pitcher head on. He did fare well in his time in the desert, clubbing 5 homers in 44 games, but he would be traded to Toronto in exchange for pitching, the one thing that expansion teams can never get enough of.

Batista would have his best individual season of his career with Toronto in 2000. He had already hit 26 homers following his trade to the Jays in 1999, but he would tear the cover off the ball in 2000, hitting 41 homers (4th best in the AL) . He had career highs in Runs Scored, hits, doubles, homers, RBI and total bases. he was also named to his first All-Star game. By June of 2001, Batista had Team records for homers by a SS and homers by a 3B in a season. He was a fan favorite in Toronto, despite being a fairly one dimensional all or nothing hitter.

Inexplicably, the Blue Jays placed Batista on waivers. This may have been an attempt to send Batista to the minors to improve his batting average, but the plan backfired as he was promptly claimed by the Baltimore Orioles. Cal Ripken was playing in his final MLB season, and Batista provided a capable reserve. He would also see a fair amount of time as a DH and as the team's shortstop. The first game of 2002, with Ripken now retired, featured Batista as the team's primary 3rd baseman. He crushed a Grand Slam, the first time the O's had an Opening Day Grand Slam since another Baltimore legend, Eddie Murray, hit one in 1986. Here's a fun article on him from Baltimore, which includes his hitting drill of hitting popcorn kernels

He would sign with the Montreal Expos in their final season, and was one of the team's few bright spots. He was ostensibly replacing Vlad Guerrero's bat in the lineup, and he filled in admirably in terms of power numbers, but they couldn't expect him to fill Vladdy's shoes. He had 32 homers and 110 RBI over 157 games with the Expos.

While Batista was hitting for power, he never in his career hit for average, and was not one to take a walk. So it was not surprising that he was unable to find a taker following the 2004 season, and ended up playing for a season in Japan with the SoftBank Hawks.

The Minnesota Twins took a flier on him in 2006, but 50 games later, they were ready to move on. He would return to Expos franchise again in 2007, and served as a pinch hitter and bench player for the Nationals.

Disappointingly, none of the cards I have of Batista in the batter's box. Thankfully YouTube has my back - check out this clip of Batista at the plate while he was playing for the Blue Jays, diving away from a brushback, then responding with a homer on the next pitch.

Batista finished his career in the majors with over 1,100 hits, 221 homers and a .299 OBP.  What are some of your memories of Tony Batista?