Friday, January 31, 2014

Vean Gregg and the Case of the PSA Mis-Grade

Late last year I sold off a whole bunch of cards I didn't want any longer on eBay, and used the funds I raised in that endeavor to purchase my very first vintage Cracker Jack card.  It was easily one of the top 3 coolest cards I landed all last year, and really made me want to pursue one or two more Red Sox cards from the set.

One card that I had my eye on for some time was this Vean Gregg, graded a VG-3 by PSA.  I don't care about the low grade, in fact I'd prefer it since I'm only buying authenticated to ensure I'm not ripped off on the 'Bay.  As far as condition goes, the worse the better (as long as it's halfway presentable) as it brings the cost right down and makes attainable a card that would otherwise be unreachable.  I thought a grade of 3 was fair for this card, since it's got well rounded corners and some staining, but very good overall visual appeal.

Unfortunately the seller wasn't willing to stray very far from his $195 asking price, which is unreasonably high in my opinion.  So, I added it to my watch list figuring maybe someday in the future he'd come to his senses.  I stayed on the lookout and as luck would have it I was able to land myself a copy for way less just a few weeks later.  As in just over half that price.  Take a look:

What a beauty!  Here's the thing though, this card got a lower grade than the one I'd been watching, despite seeming to be superior in every way.  A 2.5 Good+, really?!?!  I mean this card looks amazing, in way better shape than I could have ever hoped for in a nearly 100-year-old card.  Good, clean color, amazingly sharp corners, crease free and no paper loss.  If you had asked me blindly, I would have guessed this card would have scored a 6 (EX-MT) or 7 (NM) easily.  I don't profess to be a professional grader or anything, but just look at these two side by side:

My card is on the left, the one where the seller is asking nearly twice what I paid is on the right.  If you can make any sense out of this then you're smarter than I am!  I even contacted the seller to see if he had any idea why the card graded so low.  He said he was mystified by it, and that if I ever figured it out he'd love to know.  I'm sure I'll never have an answer, but I'm satisfied just adding this fantastic card to my collection at a relative bargain price.

Here's a better look at the front, featuring a great wind-up from the southpaw.  Vean was an interesting player, as he came out blazing to start his career with the Cleveland Naps.  He won 20+ games in each of his first three MLB seasons, the only player of the 20th century to accomplish that feat.  See, if you've read this far you've learned something new today! 

Not surprisingly Vean developed a sore arm the very next year (that's what 244, 271, and 285 innings pitched in your first three seasons will do to you!).  I guess you could call him the dead-ball era's Stephen Strasburg, and he never recovered to the same level again.  Gregg was a contributing member of both the 1915 and 1916 World Series Champion Red Sox teams though (albeit far from a significant contributor), so it's great to have his 1915 card in my Sox collection.

Vean staged an impressive late-career comeback where, after having been out of the Majors for years, he pitched a single season for the Washington Senators at age 40 in 1925!  If you'd like to learn more about him, SABR has a really good write-up here.  It's only a 5-10 minute read and they do a great job, much more fascinating than just reading his brief Wikipedia page...

At the end of the day, Vean was an interesting fellow from an era in baseball that I'm fascinated with, and I'm honored to have this extremely old card call my collection home.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

1953 Topps Project - Fred Hutchinson

Fred Hutchinson was "really happy inside, only his face didn't know it" - Joe Garagiola

I think the quote above fits perfectly with the expression on this 1953 Topps card.  Fred was a starting pitcher who got off to a blazing start in minor league ball in the late 1930s.  He was first promoted to the big league Detroit Tigers in 1939 at age 19, but was less than successful in his first two seasons (combined 6-13 with an ERA well above 5.00) and was sent back to the minors both years.  At that point, like so many players of his generation, he spent some time away from the game serving his country in World War II.  Hutchinson missed four seasons ('42 through '45) while serving in the Navy, and rose to the rank of lieutenant commander during that time.

Fred returned to the game at age 27 with renewed vigor, and went on to enjoy some successful years.  He won at least 10 games for 6 years straight between 1946 and 1951, and only once in that stretch did his ERA creep above 4.00.  Hutchinson even garnered some MVP votes in 1947, and was named an All-Star in 1951.

As Fred's playing career began to wind down the Tigers, realizing his great leadership potential, decided to transition him to manager.  In the middle of the 1952 season Detroit fired their manager and supplanted him with Hutchinson, though he was still an active player on the roster.  He returned as player/manager for the '53 season, which is why you see the 'manager' designation on this card.

Hutch, as he was affectionately called, would go on to manage a few years with Detroit, and also spend some time behind the bench at St. Louis.  He really found his managerial success though when he landed with the lowly Cincinnati Reds in 1959.  By '61 he had won the NL pennant and turned them into World Series contenders, but unfortunately they ran into the buzz saw that was the '61 Yankees in the Fall Classic that year.  Fred was in as manager of the Reds after that season though and would stay with the team for a couple more years.

Tragically, in the off-season before 1964 it was revealed in a medical examination that Hutch had some tumors in multiple places, including his lungs.  The prognosis was grim, but Fred made an awe-inspiring effort to manage the club despite his illness.  He made it all the way to the end of July before he had to be hospitalized.  He made another brief return in August but had to turn over the team after just a few days.  Sadly, Fred would pass away in November of that year from the disease.  He was just 45 years old.

There is some silver lining to Hutchinson's story though, as his brother founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle the year after his death.  They're generally regarded as one of the top cancer research facilities in the world, and have helped an untold number of people deal with this terrible illness in the decades since Fred's death.  In addition, MLB presents the Hutch Award anually in Fred's name.

Set Progress:  64 of 274 (23%)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vintage Mickey! (Mouse, not Mantle)

It seems I'm growing more and more fond of older and older cards lately.  I'm a sucker for vintage and an increasing number of the big "white whales" on the want list in my head are from the '40s and earlier.  While looking around at some eBay listings for this time period a while back, I became aware of a set of Mickey Mouse cards produced in 1935.  I thought they were interesting to see, but there was only one card on the checklist that I really wanted to own.  After some back and forth haggling I was able to land a copy at a price I was happy with:

I know this isn't technically a hockey card, but it certainly fits the loose definition I use in my own collection.  Yes, the dialogue is nothing but a cheesy play on words, but it's got Minnie and Mickey, and Mickey's firing a mean slapshot to boot.  The colors are really vibrant, even on this pretty rough copy after nearly 8 decades.  The Mickey Mouse character was created by Walt Disney just a few years earlier in 1928, and only started being featured in color the same year this card came out.

The back is nothing special (the glare is from my scanner on the PSA slab, not the card itself).  Anyway, this is one card that's all about the front:

The best part is that this unique addition to my hockey card collection set me back roughly the cost of a blaster, with free shipping.  Yes, while collectors are clamoring for 2014 Topps baseball, I spent the money that could have gone towards a blaster on an old, worn cartoon hockey card.  I stand by my decision though, I don't think anything from a retail blaster would be this memorable...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dinosaur Cards from a Nocturnal Owl

Late last week I received a PWE in the mail from everyone's favorite card blogger, Night Owl.  The impetus behind this envelope was a couple of Allen & Ginter Monsters of the Mesozoic mini inserts that I claimed a while back when he offered them up:

Like probably 90% of young boys, I was fascinated by dinosaurs as a child.  Compounding that was the fact that Jurassic Park came out when I was an impressionable 11 years of age.  Because of that, I thought these inserts were interesting, and while I don't have many of them yet I couldn't pass up a chance to bring a couple into the collection.  I think everyone's familiar with the Stegosaurus, but I was definitely less aware of the dinosaur on the card that accompanied this one, the Supersaurus:

These guys, first discovered by man in 1972, were as enormous as their name would suggest.  Apparently they grew to over 100' in length and could weigh as much as 40 tons.  It still blows my mind to picture a land animal that size roaming the Earth.

Greg managed to fit a few more cards within the confines of the PWE, including two 1990 Bowmans that believe it or not were actually on my Red Sox want list!  Probably the two biggest stars on the team too, The Rocket...

...and Mr. Boggs.  I like this photo, as Wade appears to be practicing his knuckler.  Also, that right there is not the torso of a player on PEDs.

This 1972 Topps Phil Gagliano is great, especially because of the few '72s I have.  I've worked a ton on my '70s sets over the past year or two but only really on 1974 and up.  This is actually my highest numbered '72 other than Nolan Ryan, and it's only card #472.

Finally, a cool (Target?) red parallel from 2012 Topps Heritage featuring the chain link fence that's prevalent on so many Sox cards from this set.

Thanks for the great PWE Night Owl!  I'll get your Oil Can Boyd auto and a couple other cards out in the mail this week...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Signature Sundays - LA Kings Triple Crown Line

I've been wanting to post this trio of autographs together for some time now. With the outdoor game involving the Kings taking place last night, and with Dave H having sent me a Dave Taylor autograph just recently, it seemed like the perfect time.  From 2012-13 Panini Classics Signatures, I give you the famed "Triple Crown Line"...

First, the card I've already shown here, Dave Taylor.  I just spouted on about him earlier this week in the post on Dave H's trade package, so I'll save you that here.  I will point out the awesome SEGA ad on the boards which reader offcentred commented on when I originally posted it.  Dave played right wing on the Triple Crown Line.

On the left side was Charlie Simmer.  Charlie actually began his career with two different now-defunct teams (the California Golden Seals and the Cleveland Barons, same franchise) before he landed in Los Angeles.  He was often injured, which limited him to just over 700 career games, but he could certainly put the puck in the net when healthy.  Need some evidence to support that?  How about back-to-back 56 goal seasons in '79-80 and '80-81 despite missing significant time both seasons.  In the early '80s, Mr. Simmer just missed membership in the elite 50 goals in 50 games club (took him 51).  He's got a nice signature to boot.

Anchoring those two at center was none other than Hall-of-Famer Marcel Dionne.  That is certainly an extravagant signature right there.  I have a feeling casual fans may not realize just how many points this guy tallied in his NHL career.  He is fourth all-time in goals scored, and fifth all time in points scored!!!  When he retired in the late '80s he was second in both these categories to only Gordie Howe.  There are only three players in the game who are within even 250 goals of Marcel's career total (Jagr, Selanne and Iginla) and it doesn't look like any of them will topple Dionne.  I think he's safe within the top 5 all-time for a while yet.

There you have it, the Triple Crown Line.  The Simmer and Dionne cards bring my total from this set to 84 autographs and counting...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

An Exchange with Fuji

Recently I completed my very first trade with Fuji, whom you all know from his great blog The Chronicles of Fuji.  I've been reading his blog for years, in fact he's even inspired some of my cardboard purchases, so I'm not sure what took us so long to get around to a trade, but I can definitely say it was worth the wait.

It all came together when I posted about the 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier hockey set a few weeks ago.  I mentioned that I had a spare set available and Fuji expressed some interest, so I shipped the cards off to him.  I was happy just to purge 150+ unwanted cards from my hobby room and didn't ask for anything in return, but being the gentleman that he is I received a great bubble mailer just a few days later.

Included was one of the coolest custom cards I've ever seen someone create.  This card is a really well printed homage to 2008 Topps and truly looks professionally done.  Even the card stock is very high quality.  There were 5 Red Sox hits in the package to accompany this Fuji card...

This 2002 Absolute Memorabilia Johnny Damon game-used bat kicks things off.  This is from an age in the hobby where relics were a much more significant pull, and is serial numbered to /250 on the reverse.  I love this card because Damon is very under-represented in my collection.  Of the close to 15,000 baseball cards I've scanned and cataloged so far, he appears on a total of 10, if you include this one, and this is my first hit.  I have a lot of fond memories of watching Damon make some big plays in person at Fenway Park.

Talk about a fall from grace.  Manny was on top of the world in 2007, and his reputation has literally plummeted since.  Nowadays in Boston he's most remembered for his immature antics, failure to leg out ground balls, steroid use, and for pushing an elderly Red Sox employee to the ground.  After he left he got even worse.  This is a really nice looking card nonetheless, and the grey swatch really fits.

Here's a guy who's much easier to appreciate than Manny.  Dewey played his entire career in Boston except the final 101 games, time he spent with Baltimore in 1991.  3 All-Star appearances, 8 Gold Glove wins, 2 Silver Slugger awards, and twice in the '80s he led the AL in home runs.  Not too shabby!  This is actually my very first Dwight Evans relic as well.

Closing out the game-used cards is the only guy still with the team, David Ortiz.  This is from the 2009 Upper Deck Icons set, which I don't have so much as a single other card from.  I now have over 120 unique Ortiz cards without really even trying.  He's just in so many sets, subsets and insert sets.  Only three of those cards are hits though, with this being the third.

Finally, one of my favorite new baseball cards from last year, the Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd auto from Topps Archives.  Every Red Sox fan who collects should have a copy of this great card.  I know Fuji's already got one, as he completed this entire autograph set.  I've got one as well, having grabbed all four Red Sox autos over the course of last year.  As much as I'd like to keep this as a second (and get a third, fourth and fifth!), I think I am going to pay it forward and send this to another collector to enjoy rather than hoard it for myself.

Anyone interested?  Thanks for the awesome trade Fuji, your package was very much appreciated and definitely brightened up my week!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Amazing Package from Dave H

Recently I sent a holiday care package of sorts to my friend Dave H over at Wax Stain Rookie.  He really loved the package apparently, because the return bubble mailer he sent down here to the States absolutely blew me away!  I think Dave is one of my most loyal readers, at least based on the frequency of his comments, so he really has a good understanding of what I enjoy about the hobby.  Each and every card was thoughtful and hit on a collecting interest of mine.

For starters, inside my package was the entire 15-card Young Guns subset from 1996-97 Upper Deck Collector's Choice.  I didn't have any of them, in fact I'd never even seen these cards before (nor did I know that the Collector's Choice sets ever contained Young Guns cards).  The highlight of the set is clearly the RC of surefire future Hall-of-Famer and current Boston Bruin Jarome Iginla.

Here's a look at the back, you know you've got an older Iginla card when he's not sporting the captain's C.

Dave threw in some really great singles to accompany the Young Guns cards.  For starters, here's a '95-96 Collector's Choice Player's Club Platinum parallel of Jimmy Carson.  I have never owned one of these parallels, and this is a much appreciated contribution to my ever-growing Hartford Whalers collection.  I'm closing in on 1,200 unique Whalers cards, so to be able to send one that I don't have already is getting more and more difficult to pull off.  Dave nailed it with this one though!

Here's another new one for me, before this package I never owned a card from the 1991-92 Upper Deck Czech World Juniors set.  This Patrick Poulin was a thoughtful pick, as he kicked off his NHL career with the Whalers the same year that this set was released.  There are a few other cards I wouldn't mind picking up from this set in looking over the checklist, including Paul Kariya.

Dave knows I have a weakness for the colored parallels from the 2009-10 Champ's hockey set.  He sent me a couple of yellows previously, and this time it was an awesome Denis Savard  red parallel.  The red border really jives with the Blackhawks sweater to make a great looking card.

I wasn't collecting cards in 2006, so this '06-07 Be A Player Bergeron insert was definitely a card I did not have.  It's serial numbered to 499 copies on the back.  Patrice is one of the best two-way players in the game today, and is going to be with Boston for a long time thanks to a huge contract signed not too long ago.  He's one of those players that I will always gladly accept a new card of.

This card tripped me up a bit in the identification process, but I believe I've tracked it down to being a 2001-02 Parkhurst reprint of Milt Schmidt's '52-53 Parkhurst card.  This is a new Milt Schmidt for me, and represents the 18th unique Milt card in my modest collection!

Here's the back.  Thankfully Parkhurst inset the original back within a frame with a new card number, as the #117 was what allowed me to ultimately identify this one.  This reprint is especially awesome for me, because I picked up its original counterpart in what was one of my better hockey purchases of last year:

Here's another card that, while Dave couldn't have known it, I have coveted for quite some time!  Woody Dumart was one of Milt Schmidt's linemates on the famed "Kraut Line", and this cool little card comes from the 1994-95 Parkhurst Missing Link set.  These pop-up inserts, based loosely on the 1936-37 OPC design (sorry, I don't own an original to show you) are actually difficult to find and still demand decent change on the secondary market (try finding this card for under $5).

The parade of sweet Bruins cards continues with this Mirror Blue Materials Milan Lucic relic from 2011-12 Panini Certified.  This is just my second Lucic relic and as luck would have it both came my way via trade packages.

This one here is numbered to 99 copies...

As if all that weren't enough, Dave also threw in this sweet Dave Taylor autograph from 2006-07 Trilogy.  This card looks great paired with my other Taylor auto.  Just like with my first, Dave does not disappoint on the penmanship front.  Players of today, please take note that this is how you should sign an autograph (no, I'm not delusional enough to think that an NHL player will ever read this post, but I can rant, can't I?).

Now, if I stopped here this trade package would more than hold its own.  In fact I wasn't expecting anything in return, I was happy just to purge a few cards and I knew Dave would appreciate them and take good care of them.  Being the great guy that he is though, he included one more card in this package.  A card that really brought this bubble mailer to another level.  A card that made my jaw drop.  Check it out!

This well-loved beauty is my very first card from the inaugural 1951-52 Parkhurst set!  Pentti Lund here immediately becomes one of my oldest and most cherished hockey cards.  I've never held one of these Parkies in hand before, what a fantastic vintage card, and best of all it's a Bruins player.

Pentti is a very interesting guy, having moved to Canada from Finland at age 6.  He actually began his career with the Bruins, strangely appearing in just 3 total games (all in the playoffs) over his first two seasons before he was dealt to the Rangers.  In his first season in New York, he captured the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year in the NHL!  He was dealt back to the Bruins shortly thereafter, but unfortunately suffered a nasty eye injury in the '52-53 season which quite literally derailed and ended his NHL career.

Making this card even more special to me is the fact that Dave H was actually born in the same town that Pentti lived in.  In fact, Dave delivered papers for the Fort William Times-Journal while Lund was a sports reporter/photographer there!  Pentti even lived in the same building as Dave's grandmother during his retirement.  This added personal connection that Dave has with Pentti Lund is just the icing on the cake when it comes to this amazing card and this amazing trade package.

Dave...thank you, thank you, thank you!  I truly appreciate your generosity in sharing such a cool card with so much personal meaning, as well as the awesome trade package overall!  Just another example that our hobby is shared by some of the most generous people you'll ever meet...

Monday, January 20, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different - Mars Attacks!

For the most part, I confine my collection to baseball and hockey.  They're my two favorite sports, the two sports I have the most history with, and they keep me more than busy enough in the little free time I find each week for my collection.  With that being said, I'm a believer in the "variety is the spice of life" line of thinking, and every so often I like to branch out and sample something outside of my self-imposed collecting boundaries.  Recently I did just that, acquiring my first authentic, vintage Mars Attacks card:

I posted about the Mars Attacks Heritage set back in 2012.  The original set was released back in 1962 and is one of my all-time favorite non-sports sets.  I'm sort of an amateur fan of history, as well as science fiction and space travel (told you, variety is the spice of life), and I love how this set kind of blends all of these interests together.

The cards were produced in 1962.  At that time, many scientists theorized that there was liquid water on Mars, and wondered whether the Red Planet could foster life.  It wasn't until our first fly-by three years later in 1965 that we began to confirm that Mars hosted neither life as we hoped/feared, nor liquid water (although some has been found in ice form since, especially at the poles).  Anyway, not to get bogged down in a history lesson, but you can see how public opinion/curiosity in 1962 could have led Topps to create and distribute a set like this.

Here's a closer look at my card, #5 on the checklist, "Washington in Flames".  The cards have a very basic design but feature awesome artwork by artists Wallace Wood and Norman Saunders.  Wallace sort of fleshed out the initial sketches/ideas, and Saunders actually completed the paintings.  These guys are interesting enough to deserve a post each in their own rite, with Wallace being one of the founding cartoonists of Mad magazine, as well as putting in extensive work on Marvel's Daredevil series.  Norman Saunders was involved in a ton of stuff as well, and actually got started with the Topps company a few years prior to this set's release painting over uniforms on baseball cards to change the player's team.  Basically, Saunders was Topps' Photoshop before Adobe (or personal computers for that matter) existed.

This card features a nice battle scene where the martian saucers are completely decimating our nation's capital.  Our tanks don't seem to be able to do much, and right in the center we have a member of the US Army running away on fire.  This is actually a pretty tame painting compared to some of the cards on the checklist!

The back of the cards carry the card number and title over from the front, and continue the ongoing narrative that plays out over the 55-card set.  Towards the bottom you get a small preview of the next card on the checklist, which is unique.

My card is pretty badly off-centered, although somehow it avoided an OC designation when graded by PSA?  I don't care though, my only real qualification in searching one of these out was that the painting be intact with good visual appeal, which is definitely the case here.  Thanks to the centering issue and the low grade, I was able to land this one for the paltry sum of $7.16 plus a couple bucks shipping.  I won't formally go after this set, as it can get fairly pricey for just 55 cards, but I couldn't turn down a beauty like this for just $10 and I'm happy that an original now sits beside my Heritage set in my collection.

Coming later this week are two awesome trade packages that arrived towards the end of last week...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Signature Sundays - The Sutter Brothers

The Sutter brothers represent one of the most well-known families in the annals of hockey history.  A remarkable six brothers all played in the NHL (and the seventh apparently had the skill to, but simply chose a different career path).  At least one Sutter brother was playing in the league from 1976-77 through 2000-01!  The best part is that for a few seasons in the mid-80s all six were playing in the NHL at the same time.

My favorite hockey card set from last year, Panini Classics Signatures, payed homage to the siblings but for some reason included only 5 of the 6 on the checklist.  Brian, the oldest of the bunch (only brother Gary, who did not play, was older) was for some reason omitted despite a very successful career.  Anyway, I finally acquired the rest of the remaining five autographs from this great set.

I've already shown three of the brothers in previous Signature Sundays posts, Darryl...


...and Duane.  Duane won two Stanley Cups with the Islanders dynasty in the early '80s, and on those same two Cup teams was younger brother Brent:

I'd imagine winning a Stanley Cup with your brother must be pretty nice!  Brent (who appears to have the worst penmanship of the bunch) was probably the most successful at the NHL level.  In addition to his two championships, he played the most career games, and had the most career goals, assists and points (same for the post-season) of any of the brothers.

Last but not least is Ron, who was the highest draft pick out of the group, taken at #4 overall by the Flyers.  Ron and brother Rich played together for a three-season stretch twice in their careers, once with Philadelphia and then later again with the Blues.  Ron also played for the Sharks while Daryl was the coach!  He was the last of this generation to play at the NHL level.

I wish Panini would have included Brian on the checklist just to really make it perfect, but nonetheless it's kind of cool to get five hand-signed autographs from five brothers all in the same set.  The two new cards bring me up to 82 cards and counting now in my quest to complete this set (well, all the standard-printed autographs that is)...
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