Thursday, July 31, 2008

Addition By Subtraction

As a Red Sox fan, I appreciate the contributions Manny Ramirez made, especially in the playoffs when it counted most, towards the two World Series that the Red Sox have won over the last 4 seasons. That being said, I was happy to see that he was dealt away at the trade deadline today.

In my opinion the Red Sox were extremely patient with Ramirez over his tenure here, dealing with a lack of hussle on the field and occasional outburts in exchange for Manny's stellar offensive production and two World Series championships. This year was different though...

Ramirez pushed a 62-year-old Red Sox staff member to the ground. He made public his opinion that Red Sox ownership was trying to "run him out of town". He faked an injury going into one of the most important series of the season against Boston's longtime rival from the Bronx. He publicly decried that the Red Sox, one of the most historic and successful franchises in American sports, didn't deserve a player like him. He threw punches at a teammate in the dugout during a game. It was clear that Ramirez was done here, and he would've been gone at the end of the season anyway.

Maybe the Pirates will find a way to take Craig Hansen's raw talent and turn him into an amazing closer. Maybe Brandon Moss will blossom into a great outfielder down in Pittsburgh, but I for one am glad to see this trade take place. Bay's numbers this season are very comparable to Manny's (.282/22HR/64RBI for Bay, .299/20HR/68RBI for Ramirez), he's younger, and he's locked up through the end of next year when Manny would've been gone after '08 anyway.

Thanks for the memories and the championships Manny. Welcome to Boston Jason Bay.

Ridiculous Cards - Wayne Presley

1992 Topps Stadium Club #24 - Wayne Presley

I thought the Rob Zettler card was the strangest card from the 1992 Topps Stadium Club hockey set, but I was wrong. Apparently Rob was not the only player with a desire to show off his motorcycle. The odd thing is that on Wayne's card, the motorcycle itself is cropped right out of the picture (aside from some crappy red racing stripes and some fishnet near the back). The focus here doesn't seem to be on Wayne's ride so much as his riding "look".

This card is a prime example of how things went terribly wrong in the 80s and early 90s on the style front. Wayne has commited a classic fashion faux pas of denim on denim. The jacket and pants are such a similar shade that it almost gives the illusion of a denim jump suit. The gloves are just plain creepy. I have no idea why the knuckles have to be exposed. I wonder if there are any more motorcycle shots in this set?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ladies and Gentelmen, Your 1987 Hartford Whalers...

...or at least the ones that Topps thought were worthy of their own trading card...
Dave Babych - The moustache was definitely popular with hockey players in the 1980s, and Dave Babych sported one more often than not. Given the amount of fans wearing ties here I'm guessing this photo was taken at a weeknight game.
Ulf Samuelsson - Ulf was known as a dirty player around the league due to various knee on knee hits he threw throughout his career, including one that some people say eventually ended Cam Neely's career. He was also the recipient of one of the most obvious cheap shots ever when he caught a left-hand shot from Tie Domi:

Ulf was also responsible for knocking Wayne Gretzky's wife out when a check he threw dislodged a piece of plexi-glass. This video makes me laugh every time, for some reason she looks hilarious to me just laying there knocked out. I also love that Ulf had to skate over the bench and break the news to Wayne about what he had done:

John Anderson - Were you aware that John just became the new head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers? I sure as hell wasn't...
Stewart Gavin - It looks like the team bus broke down on the way to the game and Stewart was forced to tinker with the engine while wearing his hockey pants. I know it's only the Whalers but could you show a little pride buddy?
Sylvain Turgeon - Someone just explained the offsides rule to Sylvain, and it's left him very confused.
Dave Tippett - I'm noticing a pattern of road green jerseys here. I don't think Topps photographers made many trips to the Hartford Civic Center in 1987.
Doug Jarvis - I have absolutely nothing to say about Doug Jarvis...
Ray Ferraro - Ray was a great player and I remember being disappointed when he was traded to the Islanders for friggin' Doug Crossman.
Kevin Dineen - I remember Kevin Dineen always being a fan favorite in Hartford. Here we see him pictured fresh off of a 40 goal 1986-87 campaign. Random fact, did you know that there is a character in Free Willy 3: The Rescue named Dineen as a tribute to Kevin. I'm sure he's so proud...
Dana Murzyn - Dana was the first round draft pick of the Whalers in the 1985 draft (fifth overall). Boy I'm learning a lot today...
Mike Liut - I think this has already been mentioned on some other blogs but Mike has some awesome cards due to the fact that he sported the intimidating goalie mask for a number of years, and this is a prime example of one.
Dean Evason - This is not the first time Dean's appeared on the blog...
Last, and certainly not least, team captain Ron Francis. As a member of the Jr. Whalers club for a few years (thank you Mom and Dad!) I was fortunate enough to meet most of the players once a year for autographs. Ron always took a few minutes with each kid passing by his table and seemed like a class act. He's also probably one of the most under-rated figures in sports. Ron ended his career with more points than any other player in NHL history except for Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe. That's some pretty elite company...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #24

#4 - Ben Wade - Brooklyn Dodgers

This one is going to be short. Other than the fact that he reminds me of my grandfather, there's not much to be said for Ben Wade. Ben had by far and away his best year in 1952, pitching his way to an 11-9 record and a 3.60 ERA. Wade went 7-5 during 1953, a season in which his Brooklyn Dodgers would lose to the New York Yankees in the World Series. That was about the end for Ben Wade, who would hang around for another couple of years and pick up only two more wins in the majors.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ridiculous Cards - Rob Zettler

1992 Topps Stadium Club Hockey #225 - Rob Zettler

In 1992, Topps Stadium Club's hockey release contained player ratings (from 1-5) for various different skills (depending on position) on the back of each card. Rob Zettler earned a 4 out of 5 for crease-clearing ability. Yeah, you don't want to mess with Rob. In case that completely arbitrary and meaningless rating doesn't convince you, just check out this great shot of him on his hog.

If this were another player, we might see a great, high-quality action shot on the card, like the ones early Stadium Club cards are known for, but Rob wouldn't settle for that. In 1992 he walked into Topps headquarters with a single goal in mind, to force Topps to use on his Stadium Club card a photo of his two-wheeled beauty from a private photoshoot he'd arranged on an abandoned dock 2 weeks earlier. He strolled in there with the collar to his leather jacket in an upright position and a second collared shirt under his sweater, kicked some ass and took some names.

Sixteen years later I pulled this card out of a pack and laughed my ass off for a good 5 minutes. I bought a wax box of this stuff and I've still got a few packs left. I hope I pull 10 more of these...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Original Cards - Post #1

My Original Cards!

Ever since I started buying cards last year after more than a decade away from the hobby, I've wondered about the cards I originally collected as a kid. I was absolutely obsessed with them from around age 7 until I was 13 or so. Like many kids my age, I'd spend hours just flipping through binders or thumbing through my commons boxes, reading the names, memorizing the stats, resorting and reorganizing. When I reached high school I moved on to other things. My time and energy were instead devoted to things like music, girls, crappy part-time jobs and underage drinking. My card collection was carefully packaged and banned to the basement. A couple of years later, we moved. My parents have always been pack rats, so after the move my carefully packaged card collection ended up somewhere in the basement or the garage, both of which are literally packed floor to ceiling with junk.

Yesterday I was visiting my parents and looking through the garage with my brother when something caught my eye. Buried away in a back corner and covered in junk was a green Rubbermaid box that looked all too familiar. After about 10 minutes of excavation I was finally able to free the box and confirm my suspicion, it contained some of my old sports card collection! I immediately packed it in my car exactly as it was, cards, magazines, dirt and grime included.

Finding this box was like finding a time capsule from when I was 14 years old. It gave me such a great feeling that I was actually glad I took some time away from the hobby. Now I can enjoy these cards all over again, as if I were seeing them for the first time. So far I've resisted the temptation to look through the contents, I've decided it will be more fun for me if I take it a piece at a time and show some of the goods on my blog.

It will be interesting to see how this stuff faired after more than 10 years of storage in a musty basement and then a garage that had 2 broken windows, exposing the inside to the elements. There was no lid on the box, which could also be a contributing factor to the state of the items inside. As an example of just what kind of condition this box is in, it seems that some type of insect at one point made a home in one of the handles:

For this first post, I'm going to take a look at a binder facing upright near the front of the box. I didn't have official sports card binders during my first crack at collecting, but instead had spare 3-ring binders that my dad would scavenge from his office job. I also recall using some cheap 9 pocket sheets to fill them. My dad probably figured (and I agree) that it wasn't worth spending the money on Ultra-Pro sheets to protect cards that would probably end up pretty dinged up and were undoubtedly sorted more than once by someone with Cheeto residue on their hands. I recall being frustrated on more than one occassion by the pockets peeling back as I attempted to slide cards into them.

This particular binder isn't too thick, and quite a bit of crap has settled on the exposed edges of the pages. Will it contain one of my prized Topps hockey sets, my Cal Ripken Jr. collection, or maybe some Hartford Whalers team sets? Man, this is better than Christmas! Time for the moment of truth...

Sweet Jesus, my 1992-93 Topps Stadium Club basketball set! I think I was into basketball cards for about 10 minutes growing up, and this is the only set I ever purchased. Countless hours of yard work were logged in order to come up with the funds for this one. I never really got into following basketball or collecting the cards, but if I remember correctly Shaq was just emerging on the NBA scene and his cards were the hot item at the time. Before I check out the binder I do have to say that is some impressive custom artwork on the front. Just check out the detail on that basketball! Not too shabby considering this was created before Windows '95 even existed. Let's take a look inside...

It just keeps getting better and better! Looks like I had just enough room in here to cram in my 12 card 1991 Fleer Pro-Visions insert set! I hate to admit it, but I ripped a lot of God-awful, bright yellow 1991 Fleer back in the day, and these Pro-Vision cards are from an era when pulling an insert actually meant something (or at least felt like it). I have to say, as bad as the '91 Fleer set was, these insert cards still look great to me, better than half of the insert cards you'd pull from a modern day set. Way to go Fleer.

I can't believe I would've stored these in here without some Fleer Pro-Vision artwork to go along with the basketball on the front of the binder, I guess I wasn't as anal as I thought. There are a page and a third of Pro-Vision cards, and I do mean page and a third, as I literally cut one third of a nine pocket sheet out to hold the last 3 Pro-Vision cards that wouldn't fit on the first sheet. Some things clearly had to be sacrificed in the name of organization. After that we have the entire 1992-93 Stadium Club basketball set in all its glory. If I was only going to purchase a single basketball set, I certainly picked a good one. This 400 card set has the simplistic design and wonderful full-bleed photos that Stadium club was known for, at least in its early years. Just click on the picture above for the full-size shot and check out the picture of Jordan dunking right over someone (Patrick Ewing?) on his card for proof. Also note the mysterious brown substance on the edge of the binder, ugh!

There's a great blend of cards here, from the all time greats like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird to the next generation of up and coming stars like Shaquille O'Neal and Larry "Grand-Ma-Ma" Johnson. While there is some definite wear to the binder and a few of the sheets, the cards themselves appear to be exactly as I left them so long ago. What a great start to a box full of surprises. I'll scan and post a few of my favorite cards from this binder when I get some time...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #23

#64 - Dave Philley - Philadelphia Athletics

Alright, after a few complete duds we finally have a card of someone who actually achieved some level of success playing baseball. Dave Philley's career spans 21 years in the majors (he did miss 3 seasons due to military service), although the latter part of his career consisted largely of pinch-hit appearances.

Dave was regarded as a great outfielder as well, but unfortunately this was primarily in the pre-Gold Glove era. Had they awarded them at the time, it's likely he would've received at least one, as he led A.L. outfielders in assists in 1948, 1950 and 1953.

Philley was definitely a servicable hitter during his early career, but it was his pinch-hitting prowess that allowed him to continue his career into the early 60s. He was successful in each of his last 8 pinch-hit appearances in 1958, as well as his first of 1959, setting a record for most consecutive successful pinch-hit appearances that stands to this day. At 41 years of age, Dave had 24 hits in 72 pinch-hit at bats during his 1961 campaign with the Orioles, both A.L. records.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #22

#23 - Toby Atwell - Chicago Cubs

The trend of forgetful players continues here for the 1953 Topps Project. There isn't a whole lot to be said about Toby Atwell. He burst into the league in 1952 with the Cubs, posting an impressive .290 batting average with 31 RBI and 105 hits and earning himself a spot on the National League All-Star team.

Unfortunately for Toby, it was all downhill from there. In the end, he would play only 378 total games over a 5 year span. He would never again achieve the decent production he had in his rookie year. Before the 1953 season had come to a close, he was involved in a multi-player trade that sent him to the Pirates and brought Ralph Kiner to the Chicago Cubs. Just another player with a promising start who didn't pan out...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pack Rip - 2005 Upper Deck Past Time Pennants

If you read this blog at all, you're probably already aware that I'm a sucker for vintage baseball cards. This is the main focus of my collection, and the most prized cards in my collection are my 1950s-1970s baseball cards, but it's not exactly easy (or within my budget) to find packs to rip from this era. S0, when I get a craving to rip a pack, sometimes I settle for the next best thing, modern day sets featuring players from the past.

This pack is from one such set, Upper Deck's 2005 Past Time Pennants. The selling point behind this set is that every box contained a felt pennant signifying either a historic team or event in baseball history made by throwback jersey manufacturers Mitchell & Ness. As with a lot of products, the value of these cards has depreciated significantly over time. Hobby boxes were selling for between $80 and $90 when the product hit the shelves, but you can pick one up now for around $40. I bought a bunch of loose packs though for $2 a piece rather than a hobby box, so no pennant for me. Let's see what I got in my final pack...

#19. Don Larsen - New York Yankees

#30. Frank Robinson - Cincinnati Reds

#13. Cal Ripken Jr. - Baltimore Orioles

#32. Gary Carter - New York Mets

#40. Jim Bunning - Philadelphia Phillies

Well, most of the time you'd be thrilled to get players of this caliber in a pack, but in a set that features greats such as Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Babe Ruth, this is a pretty weak pack, probably the worst of the 10 or so packs I opened.
The cards themselves look great though. As usual, Upper Deck hits a home run with a sleek, elegant card design that looks great with both the black and white photos (which don't scan quite so well) and the color photos. Combine this with a small checklist chock full of hall-of-famers and this is a set I might be interested in trying to complete...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

1953 Topps Project - Post #21

#168 - Willard Schmidt - St. Louis Cardinals

Willard Schmidt had a short, seven season career pitching in Major League Baseball from 1952 until 1959 (he did not play in 1954). He played the duration of his career for the St. Louis Cardinals, with the exception of his final two years, during which he was a member of the Cincinnati Redlegs.

Willard ran the pitching gamut from starter to middle relief to closer throughout his career. Like the majority of players whom I've posted about for the 1953 Topps Project recently, Schmidt wasn't exactly spectacular as a big league ballplayer. He ended his playing days with a win/loss record just above .500 (31-29), 323 strikeouts and a respectable 3.93 career ERA.

When his baseball days were over, Willard settled down with his wife and raised a family of 6 children, all of whom attended and graduated the University of Oklahoma. Sounds like Willard Schmidt's achievements in the majors are overshadowed by his achievements in fatherhood. By the way, is it just me or does Willard remind you of someone?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Card of the Month - July 2008

1952 Bowman - #43 - Bob Feller

I chose this card as the card of the month for July for several reasons. 1952 Bowman has always been special to me, as the first (and only) two really old cards I had as a kid were a 1950 Bowman Maurice McDermott and a 1952 Bowman Fred Hatfield that my Dad bought for me when we were out at a local antique store.

Also, aside from 1953 Topps, I think this is one of the best sets produced in the decade. I love the simple design of the card, with the thin white border, full color painting and facsimile signature. In fact, I liked the set so much that I foolishly purchased 2 wax boxes of 2007 Bowman Heritage last year (which mimics the '52 set) in an attempt to complete the set before realizing that I was still many cards short and that I would have to spend probably more than what I did on this Bob Feller to complete it on my own by ripping packs. Also, it's already been discussed on other blogs but the collation on the Bowman Heritage Prospect cards was absolutely terrible. Every one I pulled was odd numbered, and as a result I have a huge pile of odd-numbered doubles and am missing half of the cards I need for the set. But enough about that, this post is supposed to be about the '52 Bowman Feller.

The main reason this card was chosen is that on this day in 1951 Bob pitched a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers, becoming just the third pitcher in history to pitch 3 no-hitters. The Indians won the game 2-1, as the Tigers did manage to plate a run as a result of an error, a stolen base, a bad pick-off throw and then ultimately a sacrifice fly. I think Nolan Ryan's 7 career no-hitters is one of those records that will simply never be broken, but 3 by Feller is impressive enough. This is one of a handful of '52 Bowman cards that I own, you'll probably see a couple more posted here at some point...

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