Tuesday, April 29, 2008


When you posed for this photo on a sunny day in the spring of '85, you couldn't possibly have foreseen the string of events that would turn your life upside down more than 20 years later. The naive 22 year old Roger Clemens we see here must've had no idea that his poor decisions in life would lead to the destruction of his public persona, his friendships, and possibly even his chances at being inducted into the hall.

What happened Roger? Why did you inject yourself with steroids and other illegal performance enhancing drugs to resurrect your career? Why did you knowingly let your wife be injected as well? Why did you deny this and try to publicly embarrass Brian McNamee with your ridiculous recorded phone call? Why did you lie to Congress, to baseball fans and to all Americans? Why did you have an affair with a 15 year old when you were a married 28 year old with children? Please don't come out and declare that the relationship was platonic, we're just not that naive. Were you helping her prepare for her driving test? Both fans of New Kids on the Block maybe?

We have to ask these questions Roger because you've given us no choice but to ask. You could've concocted some easy out story like Andy Pettitte or Brian Roberts. You know the drill, admit that you used on a few occasions to get back in the game, then give a sincere heartfelt apology into the camera for SportsCenter and the American public at large. Maybe it wouldn't have been the absolute truth, but at least you could've been man enough to admit you did use steroids. At least then we'd have some answers.

But you have been obnoxious and arrogant in dealing with this since day one. So, in the absence of answers we have to ask questions. Maybe it's that same arrogance that's the real reason you turned to steroids in the first place. Maybe you thought, "I'm Roger Clemens, they'll never catch me. I can beat them". Whatever the case, you've given me the most clear example since I read Game of Shadows that athletes are human, fallible, and often times stupid just like everyone else. I certainly understand that everyone makes mistakes, everyone misremembers from time to time, and nobody is perfect. But I think you'll find that until you start being honest with your fans and yourself this is not going to go away. Everyone knows what you've done Roger, so drop the act, come clean, and maybe, just maybe, you can save the last shred of respect that I have for you.

No matter what happens, when I hear the name Roger Clemens from now on, the picture that forms in my head will no longer be the young kid from the '85 Topps card grinning in the sunshine...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #13

#73 - Eddie Robinson - Chicago White Sox

Here we have the first 1953 Chicago White Sox card that I've purchased (even though Eddie would actually play for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953). Eddie Robinson sure looks like a happy fellow. He was a pretty solid player for a few years in the 1940s and early 50s, and he also stayed in the game of baseball for some time after his playing days were over. He held a wide array of positions with major league clubs, ranging from farm system director to scout, to coach and even GM.

Here we see Eddie on the cusp of a 1953 season during which he would bat only .247, but would club 22 home runs and 102 RBI, his third straight season of 20+ home runs and 100+ RBI. He would be selected to the A.L. All-Star team for the fourth and final time in 1953.

What struck me about Robinson was his connection to the home town teams of some other card bloggers. In 1948 Eddie was a member of the world champion Cleveland Indians. He then had a brief stint with the Senators before playing 3 seasons for the Chicago White Sox. After retiring he served in the player development department and as head coach for the Baltimore Orioles. Finally, he worked in the front office and then as General Manager for the Atlanta Braves.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #12

#220 - Satchell Paige - St. Louis Browns

Ok, so I haven't posted here in over a week. I just bought a house and am closing tomorrow so things have been a bit crazy. Anyway, I'm posting this gem for your enjoyment to make up for it (the card that I hacked up in MS Paint to create the banner for this site)...

It would be too great an undertaking to summarize the feats and accomplishments of Satchell's long and successful career here. Although it is not known exactly when he was born, it is clear that his time on the mound spanned an impressive 5 decades! It's pretty amazing to read about his career in the negro leagues. I have a difficult time keeping track of all the teams and leagues, I should really read up on my Negro League history. Anyway, Satchell was literally rented out to different teams for a game or two here and there. It always cracks me up when you read about old time baseball players who accepted something like "$400 and a late model Chrysler" for pay, as Satchell once did.

Paige was known for throwing a variety of strange pitches, and eventually one of them (the "hesitation pitch") was banned by American League President Will Harridge. This card represents Satchell's last real year in the majors. He didn't have the greatest year in 1953, going 3-9 despite a respectable 3.53 ERA. Nevertheless, Satchell was a true baseball great and a very interesting personality.

As an interesting piece of baseball trivia, Satchell did make a 3 inning appearance for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, facing the Boston Red Sox. He pitched 3 scoreless innings in that game, giving up only a double to Carl Yastrzemski.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Card of the Month - April 2008

2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic - Brooks Robinson #10/175

Official autograph cards had yet to make a mark on the hobby when I stopped collecting for the first time in the early 90s. Although the thought of pulling a signed card seems exciting, most of the very few autos I've pulled since I've started collecting again are pretty boring, cards I'd gladly part with for the most part. For example, if anyone's interested in this fine authentic specimen autographed by Stephen Englund just send me an email!

No takers? For those of you who haven't been scared off by this terrible autograph card, this pretty much summarizes most of my auto pulls since I've gotten back into the hobby. Here's what they've had in common:
1. I've never heard of the player
2. I can't find anything interesting about his life or career anywhere
3. As far as I can tell he's never played a game in the majors
4. The card is pretty much worthless to me, both as an investment and sentimentally
5. The penmanship is sloppy (in this case I can make out an S, an E, I guess an L, and what looks like a terrible capital A but is actually some atrocious combination of "and")
6. I don't see any "signs of greatness" here

Maybe that's why I love this Brooks Robinson card so much. First of all, I think the Sweet Spot autos are some of the best autograph cards I've ever seen. They look incredible and I had no idea just how thick they were until this thing showed up in the mail. Does anyone have any information on how exactly these are made? Is that the same material that is used on an authentic MLB baseball?

This is the only Sweet Spot auto that I own. I'd love to pick up some more but the players I'd really be interested in getting (like Nolan Ryan) are a bit more money than I'd care to spend on a single modern card. I've fought with the idea of buying a 2007 Sweet Spot Classic tin but I know with my luck I'd pay $104 for the pack and pull a Dwight Evans or something (I'm a Red Sox fan but I'd still be pissed).

Anyway, I was ecstatic when I bid on and won one featuring one of the best third basemen of all time, possibly the best defensive 3rd baseman ever (how can you argue with 16 Gold Glove awards?). Plus, the card is numbered to 175 and Brooks has one of the neatest and unique looking signatures I've seen (the scan really doesn't do the card justice). It's hard to drop $100 on a pack of this stuff when I picked up this card for about $15. Maybe I'll cave some day, if I do I'll be sure to rip the pack here...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #11

#2 - Luke Easter - Cleveland Indians

Simply put, Luke Easter was a monster! At a height of 6'4" and weighing in at around 240 lbs. he truly must've been imposing as he stepped up to the plate. He enjoyed a lot of success in the Negro Leagues in his early career before transitioning to Major League Baseball. In 1948 he had a highlight year, batting .363 and leading the Negro Leagues in both home runs and RBI while leading his team to the Negro League World Series championship. The Cleveland Indians took notice and signed him to a contract.

Luke was 34 years old by the time he started seeing playing time with the Cleveland Indians, so his career in Major League baseball was a short one. He did have some measure of success though even at his age. In roughly 3 1/2 seasons in the majors he hit 93 home runs and 340 RBI. 1953 was the beginning of the end for Luke though. Coming off of a '52 campaign where he hit 31 dingers and had 97 RBI (narrowly missing his third straight 100+ RBI season), Luke appeared in only 68 games in 1953. He did bat .303, however his career would come to an end the very next season after just a 6 game stint with the Indians in 1954.

Easter was known for using his size to his advantage and clobbering lengthy home runs, and is the only player besides Mickey Mantle to hit one over the right field scoreboard in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. Sadly, after retiring from baseball Luke was killed by two armed robbers while transporting $40,000 in cash from a bank. I'll leave you with some high praise for Luke from baseball writer Bill James, "if you could clone him and bring him back, you'd have the greatest power hitter in baseball today, if not ever". Pretty impressive...

If you'd care to learn anymore about Luke, there's a great article here.

Rant from a Set Builder

I know I'm not the first person to make this complaint but there's something I really want to vent about. I'm sure you've already read the reviews of the upcoming 2008 Goudey release from Upper Deck. Well, the 2007 Goudey set was the one that got me back into collecting last year after being away from the hobby since childhood.

As someone who enjoys vintage cards, I thought last year's Goudey release was the perfect blend of a modern day set with a vintage feel. For those of you who don't know, there were 240 cards based off of the 1933 Goudey design (200 base and 40 short prints) plus another 48 short prints with the look of the 1938 Goudey heads up cards. I thought Upper Deck did a great job with the set, there's a pretty good basic description of the set that can be found here.

As much as I like ripping packs or getting "the big hit", at the end of the day I would consider myself a set collector. Rather than buying a few random packs of every new product that hits the shelves, I identify a couple of sets that I really like the look of and try to concentrate on those. There's something I like about sorting the cards, coming up with lists of needs and doubles, and then scouring eBay and local cards shops as well as arranging trades for the cards I need to finish the set. Sure, I cave in to temptation and stray once in a while, but I try to show some self-restraint and narrow the scope of my collection (I still haven't purchased a single pack of 2008 Heritage). I've been working on the 2007 Goudey set for over 8 months and I'm still about 40 short prints and a handful of base commons away from completing it, but it's been a fun process. I'm really looking forward to the day when I slide the last short print into my binder!

With that being said, I understand that variations and short prints have become somewhat of a necessity in order to drive sales and the hobby in general. Although by nature they make completing a set much more difficult and much more expensive, I'm willing to deal with them to a certain degree. It annoyed me that Upper Deck created a green back and red back version of all 200 base cards in the 2007 Goudey release. You're left with the choice of ignoring the back color and ending up with a set that looked crappy in a binder, or collecting 400 base cards instead of 200. I chose the latter and was willing to deal with it because I loved the set. However, I don't like the direction the hobby is headed in general with respect to short prints and variations.

I've already been scared away from 2008 Heritage because of this. In my opinion, something is wrong when you can bust 3 or 4 wax boxes of a product, end up with triples and quadruples of certain cards, yet still be nowhere near completing the set. What's so satisfying about pulling a short print anyway? There's nothing different about the cards usually, and most of the time you don't even know the card is a short print unless you consult a pricing guide or checklist. They exist simply so that you have to buy more and more product to complete a set.

I'm very disappointed that Upper Deck has decided to include more short prints in the 2008 Goudey set and also make them harder to find. I was initially psyched to hear that Upper Deck was coming out with another Goudey release, but now I'm just flat out disappointed. I guess I'm old fashioned and out of touch with the modern card collector's wants. Like Cardboard Junkie said in his review, who wants a product that you'll literally need to buy 3 cases of just to complete a set? I don't care about short prints, one of ones, autographs or any of that. Sure it's fun when you pull a card like that, but why can't a major card company release a vintage-themed set with a standard checklist at a reasonable price? I would even be willing to pay a premium price if the chances of pulling each card were the same. Maybe I'll just go back to working on 1980s sets. Sorry Upper Deck, but one thing I won't be spending any money on in the near future is 2008 Goudey...
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