Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020 ROSIE RAINBOW - "Blue Plate Special"

 This year, I am chasing a ROSIE RAINBOso buckle up! 

Here's my progress to date: 

Series 2 came out late last week, and I've already won an auction for a Twins Team break - I should be all set on the base card, and I picked up the father's day parallel for a good price, but I will be hunting for more! In the meantime I made one more Opening Day addition . . . 

I wasn't really expecting to get my hands on a printing plate, but I was definitely going to make an effort to grab one if the opportunity arose. I wouldn't say this was a steal, but I justified it by thinking it will be the only printing plate I add for the rainbow.  

Every rainbow is unique, this one is one-of-a-kind! If you pull any Rosario parallels in your series 2, let me know, I will be happy to try to find something you'll like in exchange for it. Especially the /10 Acetate card. I'm still chasing that for my 2015 Kennys Vargas rainbow.... 

Monday, June 29, 2020

1997 Topps All-Star Rookie Outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr.

Second generation stars are nothing new in Major League Baseball. Being the child of a big league player gives a guy a leg up - not only by having access to major league ballparks, but also having the best of the best as examples after which to model their game. At the same time, the kid has to put in the work. Jose Cruz, Jr. did exactly that, and even made the Topps All-Star Rookie Squad playing for two different teams in 1997.

Cruz was very consistent playing for Seattle and Toronto in his rookie season. He had exactly the same number of hits for each team, and exactly the same number of RBI. Cruz ended up as the runner up for the AL Rookie of the Year voting, finishing with 26 homers and a respectable .814 OPS. 

The Mariners selected Cruz #3 Overall out of Rice University in the 1995 MLB draft. The team was sitting on an embarrassment of riches, with Ken Griffey, Jr just starting his peak, and a young Alex Rodriguez just starting his MLB career. Cruz was another super talented athlete, setting several offensive records as a 3-time All-American in college. He played for Team USA in 1994, and was a highly regarded prospect. In his first full professional season, he went from single-A all the way to AAA Tacoma, hitting .293 with 15 homers and 13 steals across all levels. His amazing season ended with being named the Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year in 1996. He moved quickly through the minors and made his MLB debut at the end of May 1997. 

His Mariners career was short but sweet - in just 49 games he slugged .541 with an OPS+ of 120. Cruz would spent the start of 1997 with 50 games in AAA Tacoma before his call-up, but proved he was ready for Major League pitching with his 25 extra base hits in his first 49 MLB games. He was traded to Toronto at the trade deadline for a pair of pitchers, in theory to shore up the Mariner bullpen for a playoff push. The team did win the AL West but were bounced from the ALDS by the Orioles in 4 games. To replace the bat of Cruz, the Mariners acquired veteran Roberto Kelly from the Twins in an August waiver deal. 

The best years of Jose's career came north of the border with the Blue Jays. The Jays used Cruz in Left and in Center field, and he excelled in the field and at the plate. The switch hitting outfielder had his most well-rounded season with Toronto in 2001, when he became just the 2nd Blue Jay to join the 30/30 club. It was his 2nd straight 30 homer season. His Power/Speed number was best in the AL. His dad's career high was 17 homers, showing that the kid was more than just a chip off the old block. He would become a free agent following the 2002 season.

He spent one year as a member of the San Francisco Giants, winning a Gold Glove in Right Field, and had a career high 102 walks (Maybe Barry taught him a thing or two about plate discipline?). He would get his only taste of post season play with the Giants, going hitless in the NLDS against the eventual 2003 World Series Champs, the Marlins. 

The tail end of Cruz's career involved several teams - three of which he played for in 2005. He went from the DBacks to the BoSox to the Dodgers in that same season. He provided some great at bats down the stretch for the Dodgers, hitting .301/.391/.532 in 47 games. Unfortunately, the team was already out of the race, finishing 20 games below .500. He would play a few more seasons, including a final 38 game stretch in 2008 for his dad's former team, the Houston Astros. 

Cruz finished his career with 1,167 hits, 204 Homers, and over 700 runs scored. In his Gold Glove season, Cruz led the NL in Total Zone Runs, putouts,  Double Plays turned and Range Factor. He ranked 2nd in fielding pct and outfield Assists. The Cruz Family legacy included his uncles, his father, his brothers, and now his son Trei, whom the Tigers drafted in the 3rd round of the 2020 MLB draft.

Do you have any Jose Cruz, Jr. stories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. 
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

I Love The 80s - 1982 Seattle Mariners

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 1981, The Mariners finished in 6th place in the AL West, with a  44-65 record. The "highlights" of the season included Manager Maury Wills being ejected for enlarging the batters' box, having all their equipment stolen on a road trip to Texas, and Rick Honeycutt taped a thumbtack to his hand during one of his starts to get a little extra break. Well, I take that back, there was one highlight - Jacket Night!

In 1982, the Mariners improved a bit, finishing 4th in the AL West with a record just 10 games under .500. Rene Lachemann, who replaced Maury Wills early in the 1981 season, managed the team again. They had several young new pitching prospects, and one very very old one - 43 year old Gaylord Perry. Perry would pick up his 300th career victory that season. The team wasn't looking to win a pennant that year, just to build a foundation for the future.  

The Cards

Donruss #307 Lenny Randle - Randle's last two MLB seasons came with the Mariners in 1981 and 82. He played in 82 games for the 1981 squad, filling in at third, second and in the outfield. Randle  came up with the Washington Senators / Texas Rangers franchise, making his debut in 1971. He had several good seasons as a utility player and was known for his speed on the bases, and in 1981 for this blooper

Donruss #127 Richie Zisk - While the Mariners had a tough time in their early days scoring runs, adding Zisk  gave them a big boost. The 2-time All-Star spent three seasons with the Mariners, leading the team in Homers his first two years. Zisk had an OPS+ of 140 in 1981, which placed him near the top ten in the league and was his highest since his second full season. Zisk began his career in Pittsburgh, and had several good seasons in the mid 70s as their left fielder. 

Donruss #55 Joe Simpson -  Simpson was a fixture in the Mariner outfield from 1979 through 1982. He was an All-American in College with the University of Oklahoma, and is known now more for his broadcasting with Seattle and now Atlanta for the past 25+ seasons. Simpson's best years in 80 and 81 included extremely efficient base stealing (over 80% successful) . His final MLB season came in Kansas City, where he made two appearances on the pitching rubber in addition to his regular gig in the outfield. After several seasons in the Dodgers' minor leagues, the Mariners acquired him in 1979 to help the team as they went through their expansion growing pains. 

Topps #578 Tom Paciorek -  Tom was the Mariners' best hitter in 1981, hitting .326 in a team leading 104 games. His 13 stolen bases were a career high to go along with a tenth place finish in the AL MVP race. He was an All-Star in 1981, finding himself placed highly across the AL leaderboard in several categories. The Mariners picked him up as a free agent in 1978 and traded him prior to the 1983 season for a trio of young prospects. Paciorek would be a key member of the '83 White Sox team that made the post season under Tony LaRussa.

Fleer #516 Lenny Randle - Lenny was a showman and a unique character in baseball throughout the 70s and 80s. Though his final MLB season was 1982, he also played a big role in legitimizing the game overseas, playing in Italy for several seasons and also made an appearance as a player in the short-lived Senior league back in the states. He became a manager of his old Italian team in 2014, having previously managed and coached in the minor leagues in the U.S. notably for Waterloo where he re-created his famous defensive play for a baseball card.

Fleer #507 Bryan Clark - The fortunes of many expansion teams would rest on the shoulders (and arms) of its young pitching. Bryan Clark was one of those arms for Seattle in the early days, acquired in 1978 from the Pirates. Clark would make his big league debut with the Mariners in 1981, and had 3 seasons with the club, splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation. He was excellent in 1982 for the Mariners, tossing over 114 innings with a 2.75 ERA. He started just 5 games that year, but one of them was a complete game shutout in September against the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Topps #283 Brian Allard - 1981 was Allard's final MLB season, and he pitched well for the Mariners in limited action. He had just 7 starts, but tossed a complete game in May against the Royals for his 2nd victory of the season. He would pitch for the Mariners' AAA team for several seasons before becoming a pitching coach for several organizations in the minors. If not for an elbow injury that June that ended his 1981 season, he may have had a bit more momentum in the coming seasons.

Topps #632 Bryan Clark - Clark was known for an intimidating fastball and some shaky control early in his professional career. The California-born Clark made his MLB debut against the the Angels - but did it in an unexpected way. He was used as a pinch runner in the game by manager Maury Wills. He was a strikeout artist, but also uncorked a lot of wild pitches. He pitched 8 MLB seasons and finished with a 20-23 record and 4.15 ERA in 516.1 innings. 

Topps #22 Jim Beattie - Beattie was with Seattle from 1980 through 1986 as a regular member of their starting rotation. In 1982, he was slated to be the team's #2 behind Floyd Bannister. Beattie had a couple seasons with the Yankees before being traded to the Mariners in 1979, and even pitched in the World Series in 1977 and 78. He had some great seasons with the Mariners, but he had poor W-L records as team struggled to score runs. Beattie tossed 7 career shutouts. After his playing career, he became a Farm Director for the Mariners for 5 years, then became a General Manager for the Expos and Orioles. Some of the notable draft picks during his Expos tenure included Milton Bradley, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Jason Bay. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Buying Online Every NOW and Then

Well, it sounds like the MLB season might happen after all, with a scheduled start date at the end of July (Assuming they don't have to delay further due to COVID-19). In the meantime, Topps has been determined to get a few dollars more out of us in the form of Topps NOW "Turn Back the Clock."

What can I say, I am simple man - I see a great card of Ichiro on Opening Day and my home(opener)sickness is too great to resist. I mean come on, there's balloons and everything!

Once you get a person started on Topps NOW, it can be nearly impossible to stop them completely. How could I be expected to pass up a Jackie Robinson bat rack card? Of course it also is a commemoration of Jackie's first MLB game, so it's a no-brainer why I would want it. At this point, I'm invested! Twins cards will pretty much seal the deal. Francisco Liriano tosses one of the least efficient no hitters in MLB history. It was also one of the more exciting ones! 

Rod Carew was still hitting .432 by the end of May in 1970 - Dave Winfield passed him on the All-Time hit list a few days (and 24 years) later. 

Of course the online exclusives don't end there - Topps Total is back again and there is no shortage of new Twins this year (in theory). Rich Hill was expected to miss the first 2-3 months of the season recovering from surgery, but now everyone has, so he might be close to ready to go when games begin. 

Josh Donaldson was the big free agent splash, and it's fun to see the new guy in the "right" uniform. Jose Berrios is of course not a new Twin, and he's hopefully going to get 10-12 starts this season out of the team's 60 regular season games. Here's hoping he ends the year with even a few more than that, if you catch my meaning. 

Have you been checking in on the Topps NOW Turn Back The Clock offerings? There have been some fun ones in there!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Page 9 - At The Bat Rack Frankenset

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 . . . 

73 - Greg Walker 1984 Fleer
74 - Ruben Rivera 1998 Pinnacle Inside
75 - Yangervis Solarte 2016 Topps Heritage
76 - Travis Hafner 2007 Upper Deck First Edition
77 - Babe Ruth 2016 Leaf Babe Ruth
78 - Denard Span 2017 Stadium Club
79 - Matt Olsen 2017 Stadium Club
80 - Gregg Jefferies 1995 Collector's Choice SE
81 - Hank Greenberg 1976 Shakey's Pizza Baseball's Greatest Players

Well, this page needs a little work - Greg Walker is in the dugout with a bat leaning on the bench, so it's a bit of a stretch to call it a bat rack card. Yangervis Solarte is blocking the bats with his body, and Denard Span is on the opposite side of the dugout from the bat rack (though you can at least see it in the distance). Would like to find an alternate for the Span card mostly because there are two cards from 2017 Stadium Club on the same page.

The Hank Greenberg is my favorite on this page, just because it's fun to root for the oddball card sets.

Monday, June 22, 2020

1997 Topps All-Star Rookie Catcher Scott Hatteberg

In his rookie season, Scott Hatteberg lived up to the expectations of a first round selection, hitting .277 with 10 homers for the Red Sox as their primary catcher. To make the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, you have to have a mix of potential and production, and Hatteberg was able to deliver both in 1997.

He had a brief visit to the big leagues in 1995, getting a hit in his first MLB plate appearance. Another cup of coffee came in 1996, but it was 1997 where Hatteberg got his first opportunity to make an impact at the big league level. He started the season as the personal catcher of Aaron Sele, but hit his way up from once every five days into a platoon with Bill Haselman, and eventually was the main man behind the dish. Haselman, who broke training camp as the presumptive starting catcher, finished the season playing in just 67 games to Hatteberg's 114. 

Hatteberg was selected 43rd Overall by the Red Sox, a supplemental first round pick that the Red Sox were granted for losing Mike Boddicker to free agency. Hatteberg was one of the catchers for Team USA in 1990 for the Goodwill Games and the World Cup. He was a star for Washington State (where he first teamed up with Aaron Sele), and was the team captain. Once he was drafted by the Red Sox, the organization took their time to develop their young prospect. He would make quick work of the Rookie league and Single A level, but would repeat AA twice, then AAA two more times. But by 1997, Hatteberg was out of minor league options, and he was all but guaranteed a spot on the 25 man roster. 

The timing for Hatteberg could have been better in Boston - just as he was getting a chance to be the man in Boston, an even bigger prospect was making his way through the ranks and would make his presence felt in 1998. Jason Varitek became the everyday catcher for the Red Sox by 1999, with Hatteberg playing in just 30 games. This was due in part to a serious elbow injury Hatteberg suffered which gave him nerve damage in his throwing arm. After a four month recovery period, Hatteberg was "back," but not the same. The book on Hatteberg was that you could steal bases against him - and that was before he had to re-learn how to grip and throw a baseball. His catching days (and by extension his baseball career) was in jeopardy. Despite this injury, the Red Sox continued with Hatteberg behind the plate for two more seasons. They even tried him at third base briefly in 2000, but his arm troubles were not improved by the longer distance. Following the 2001 season, the Red Sox traded Hatteberg to the Rockies for Pokey Reese. Two days later, Hatteberg was a free agent. 

One of the reasons the Red Sox kept him around for so long with a bum elbow was that he could still provide value on offense. He would become the prototypical example of "Moneyball" strategy when Oakland signed him in the 2001 off-season. As detailed in the Michael Lewis book and played for comedic effect in the film of the same name, Hatteberg was going to be able to continue his MLB career by converting to 1st Base, and provide his greatest skill - getting on base. The Moneyball approach was to identify those players that were undervalued by everyone else, but provided something that few other players could. Hatteberg was ostensibly replacing the big bopper Jason Giambi, who signed with the New York Yankees. But GM Billy Beane was not asking Hatteberg to hit 38 homers and drive in 120 like Giambi did in 2001. Instead, he just wanted Hatteberg to get on base. His first season with the A's he did exactly that - his .374 OBP was a then-career high for a full season. He did provide some bonus power, as well - he had 15 homers in the 2002 season, including a walk-off winner that clinched the A's 20th consecutive victory early in September. 

With Oakland, Hatteberg had some of his best offensive seasons, hitting double digit homers each year, a career high 82 RBI in 2004 and a .269/.355/.396 slash line across 3 seasons. 

Like many players in their later seasons, Hatteberg had honed and perfected the skills that made him a big leaguer in the first place. He actually posted a higher triple slash in his final 3 seasons in Cincinnati than he had in his years playing for Oakland. His OBP improved even more as he would provide a valuable bat in the lineup. The Reds made room for Hatteberg at First Base, trading Wily Mo Pena and moving Adam Dunn to the outfield. In 116 games in 2007 he slashed a career high .310/.394/.474 with 10 homers. Hatteberg had 1,153 career hits and a .361 OBP. He walked more times than he struck out, and more times than he drove in runs. Despite a reputation as a less than stellar defender behind the plate, he retired with a .992 fielding pct as a Catcher and First Baseman combined. 

Do you have any Scott Hatteberg Stories? I'd love to read them in the comments below. 
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

I Love The 80s - 1982 Chicago Cubs

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 1981, the Cubs finished 6th in the NL East, posting a losing record in both halves of the season. The team dumped their General Manager in May, opting to go with no GM until the off season, when they would hire Dallas Green to take the helm. The delay had a lot to do with the team's ownership transition - the Wrigley family was out by the end of the 1981 season, with team ownership now handled by the Tribune Company. 

The new owners were in the right place and the right time for two franchise altering moves. In January of 82, the Cubs swung a trade with the Phillies to acquire 22 year old prospect Ryne Sandberg. The Tribune Company already controlled the broadcast rights, and the Chicago flagship news and entertainment channel WGN. WGN-TV would broadcast Cubs games all season, with a new announcer who moved across town from the White Sox booth, the legendary Harry Caray. Even though Sandberg had a promising rookie campaign and Caray was bringing his 7th Inning Stretch tradition to Wrigley Field, the team did not fare much better than they did the year before. They would now finish 5th in the NL East, allowing for the familiar refrain of waiting til next year for the "Lovable Losers."

The Cards: 
Donruss #151 Leon Durham - The "Bull" was the Cubs' everyday Right Fielder in '81 and '82. He was the team's premier power hitting threat, leading the team in homers both seasons. His 1982 season was very impressivc - his triple slash of .312/.388/.521 were all career highs, and he was an All-Star and Silver Slugger in the outfield. Durham also had a career high 28 stolen bases, presenting a strong balance of speed and power. Durham was a 10 year MLB veteran and was just shy of 1,000 career hits, scoring over 500 runs and driving in 530 more. 

Topps #484 Ivan DeJesus - DeJesus was the big name returned to the Phillies in exchange for Ryne Sandberg, and at the time there was a lot to like from the Phils perspective. They were obtaining an everyday short stop with speed and defense in exchange for a prospect that to that point had not made the case he could stick at short. DeJesus was a Dodgers' prospect in his own right, traded to the Cubs in 1977 because he was blocked by the steady and talented Bill Russell. He would lead the NL in Runs scored in 1978 for the Cubs, and twice stole 40+ bases in a season. Following the trade, he would put in a pair of good seasons for the Phillies, but at that point he was near the tail end of his playing days. Nicknamed "El Pulpo" (The Octopus), DeJesus led the NL in assists twice, and putouts by a Shortstop in 1981. He would go on to success as a manager in the minors. 

Fleer #601 Jerry Morales - 81/82 was Jerry's 2nd tour with the Cubs, having played with them previously from 1974 through 1977. '77 was his All-Star season, when he hit a career high .290 as the team's Center Fielder. He was the NL leader at the break with a .331 average. The All-Star game itself was maybe not the best memory, as Goose Gossage knee-capped him with a fastball in his lone plate appearance. Morales was a star in Puerto Rico's Winter Leagues and is widely considered to be one of the finest fielders in that league's history. Morales retired after 15 MLB seasons, having hit 95 career homers and drove in 570 runs. 

Fleer #588 Bobby Bonds - The final 45 games of Bobby Bonds' career were as a Chicago Cub in 1981. Bonds was known in his prime as one of the best base stealers and power hitters in the big leagues. Bonds had over 330 Homers and more than 450 steals in career, while also driving in over 1,000 runs. By the 1981 season, Bonds had been relegated to a reserve role, and was caught stealing more times than he was successful. He was a 3 time all-star (the MVP of the 1973 midsummer classic), a 3 time gold glove winner, and led the NL in runs scored twice.

Fleer #587 Tim Blackwell - The mustache that launched 1,000 ships! Blackwell is known for that bushy soup strainer, but also had a lengthy career in baseball as a catcher, then as a manager throughout the minor leagues. 1980 was his best season, catching in 103 games for the Cubs, and setting career highs in nearly every offensive category. Credit is due to his hitting instructor Cubs great Billy Williams for re-tooling his swing, allowing him to be more successful. Blackwell was also known as great defender behind the dish, and led the NL in double plays in 1980, thanks to his strong arm. Blackwell's last games came in 1983 with the Angels' AAA team, which is also where he began his coaching career. 

Fleer #589 Bill Buckner - Buckner's ankle and foot issues were already long chronicled by the early 80s, but he surprised many by stealing 15 bases in 1982 to go with 15 homers. Buckner was a doubles hitter, leading the NL in that category in 1981 and 1983, and had 498 2-baggers in his career. His lone All-Star appearance came in 1981, when he hit .301 and was a doubles machine. 1982 was a year of firsts, Buckner had his first of 2 200+ hit seasons, and topped 100 RBI for the first time in his career. People will remember him for the error in the 1986 World Series, but the fact is Buckner was a good to great first baseman once he moved to that position from the outfield. He was at or near the top of the leaderboards for assists, putouts, and range factor. 

Donruss #504 Doug Bird - Bird was a league leader in 1982, though not in favorable categories - he led the NL in homers allowed, and also earned runs allowed. On the bright side, he committed 0 errors in the field and he led the league in lowest walk rate for the 2nd time in his career. Bird started his career in Kansas City as a reliever, garnering 20 saves as a rookie in 1973. Bird was the Cubs' Opening Day starter in 1982, going 7 solid innings and earning the win. Bird came to the Cubs from the Yankees in 1981 in a trade that netted the Yankees Rick Reuschel. 

TCMA Baseball's Greatest Hitters #7 Lou Brock - Is this a Cubs card? Is this a Cardinals card? No matter where you stand, Lou Brock probably could've made it there before you. Brock was the All-time stolen base leader for both a single season, and for a career when he retired. The Cubs 1982 trade for Ryne Sandberg may be the one that finally atoned for the Lou Brock trade that send the speedy outfielder to the Cardinals in 1964. The Hall of Fame outfielder is a member of the 3,000 hit club and was a 6 time All-Star. He was named the 1974 MLB Player of the Year by the Sporting News. 

Fleer #590 Bill Caudill - Caudill had a career year in 1982 - just not for the Cubs. He was traded to the Yankees before the year began, then was flipped to Seattle, where he appeared in 70 games. He had a 12-9 record and a 2.35 ERA. Caudill was a prankster, the most publicized prank was stealing the keys to the "tugboat" the Mariners brand new bullpen car on Opening Day. He earned the nickname "Inspector" for taking a magnifying glass to opponent's bats, looking for hits. His entry music from the bullpen was "The Pink Panther Theme." "You've got to have fun to win," said Caudill. Caudill was also famously one of the first clients of super-agent Scott Boras!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Free Stuff Friday #20 No scrubs

This week will be the last week for me doing free stuff Friday, so I'm going to go with some heavy hitters. First page are hall of famers on cards post playing days. 

Let's make that the first two pages.

Hall of fame parallels

Inserts - the two vintage inserts are in rough shape - but they are free!

And finally a page of hall of famers from their playing days.

I don't have a similar batch of hockey hall of famers, so instead, you can try your luck with an unopened pack. I have three of these, please limit your claim to one pack.

On to Football, here are duplicates from the Barry Sanders PC, here's your chance to start your own.

My Basketball collection is very small, but here are a handful of all-time greats to choose from.

Last but not least, here is a page of Griffeys for the mini collection section. 

Like I said at the beginning, I am going to stop the free stuff fridays for the moment, I want to be able to mail out all of the claims from this week and the last two weeks, and then reclaim some space to sort and organize what I have. 

Free stuff Friday will be back on this blog, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Which 70s Set Should I Build? None of the Above 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.

So maybe instead of a Topps set, maybe I should work on something off the beaten path? Kellogg's had some trippy sets in the 70s, I think this 1971 edition is my favorite design, though I don't think you can really go wrong with any of them.

If I am feeling really patriotic, maybe Hostess is the way to go? Classic red white and blue, and of course pounds of sugar and fat in every box! 

(Before you send those angry letters, I know that the top two cards are actually from 1980 and 1981, these are just illustrative!)

Maybe I can go for a minor league set? These seem to be pretty tough, they are often an all or nothing proposition, if it's not a whole team set, it could a tough task to track down the 6th outfielder...

TCMA and Renata Galasso released a bunch of sets in the 70s and 80s that take a look at some of the best and some of the forgotten players of decades past. These could be a lot of fun to build!

Can you say cognitive dissonance? The great thing about SSPC is that it can surprise you. You'll find classic players in not so classic uniforms, and just a clean design to showcase the players.

I mean these are like 70s Stadium Club! The only thing missing would be action shots, but frankly the action photography that generally made it to cards in the 70s left some things to be desired. 

The backs are pretty good too - a 70s Score-style design. No big wall of stats, but a lot of fun stuff to be found reading these backs. Surprised to see anyone go 3 for 2, especially a pitcher!  I kid, but I do think the occasional typo is endearing. 

Not bad for a checklist, right? Maybe SSPC is the set I should build?

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ponce, Puerto Rico is Bat Rack City!

Ponce, Puerto Rico was founded in 1692 and is named after the great-grandson of Spanish Conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon. The Leones, you would think, would be a nod to that lineage - but the team's name actually was coined after the team owner was photographed cracking a whip like a lion tamer. The Leones were formed in 1938, and were champions 11 times. The team folded following the 2016 season. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and the league had to combine some teams and contract others completely. Eduardo Perez (son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez) managed the team to its final championship season in the 2008/2009 season.

The team's Dirigente, (aka Manager) was future / former Cubs skipper Jim Essian in 1988/1989 when this set was produced. Essian had played in the league himself years earlier for Caguas, teaming up with Gary Carter, Willie Montanez, and Mike Schmidt to name a few. Essian was the Cubs' AA manager the same season he took the helm for the Leones.


Live and Respect Collecting! I love that. The backs of these cards feature various things to live and respect, such as "sports," "Country," "Religion," and "Culture." 

The league was known for providing a place for players to hone their skills in the "off season" - many future MLB players find their way onto the Leones roster - how many of them are memorable to you?

The main reason I picked up this set was for the awesome bat rack cards. As I try to keep the bat rack frankenset going, it's heartening to see all the guys to help me out in a few pages down the line. Ponce is Bat Rack City, baby! Plus, I love adding some less common cards of future former Twins players like Junior Ortiz and Pedro Munoz. 

Last but not least is the big name in the set, Juan Gonzalez. Pictured here he is still a few months away from his MLB debut, but he had already picked up his nickname IGOR, which was based on his favorite wrestler, the Mighty Igor. He called himself "Igor the Great," his friends were willing to compromise and just called him Igor. 

Live and Respect the Culture everyone!