Tuesday, January 31, 2017

WHA Trio!

As I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, one of the sets I decided to work on here in 2017 is the subset of WHA cards that were included in the high number series of the '72-73 O-Pee-Chee release.  The Larry Cahan card that I posted that day was the fourth I'd shown here on the blog, but I actually have three more that I picked up a year or two ago and never got around to posting.  Let's check them out!

First up is center Joe Szura of the Los Angeles Sharks.  Joe toiled in the AHL throughout the '60s before finally making his NHL debut with the Oakland Seals in his late 20s.  After just 90 games over two seasons with Oakland he was back in the AHL, this time with the Providence Reds in the little state that I call home, Rhode Island.

The WHA gave Joe a chance to briefly revive his career, as he latched on with the Los Angeles Sharks for the league's inaugural '72-73 season.  After that it was off to the Houston Aeros for '73-74, followed by one final season in the obscure North American Hockey League to wrap up his career.  On a side note, how great is that LA Sharks logo?

Here's the first card I ever picked up from this release.  As a Whalers collector this one was essential, as Jim Dorey is the only New England Whaler to appear in this set.  Jim was a rugged defenseman who had spent a few years plying his trade for the Maple Leafs before New England poached him.

Jim found immediate success at the WHA level, as he helped the Whalers win the league's championship that very first season, and would remain a star in the league throughout its 7-year existence.  As one of the few cardboard representations of the lone championship that the New England Whalers/Hartford Whalers franchise would ever win, I've always treasured this one.

Lastly, the star of today's trio, the one and only Gerry Cheevers!  Gerry was one of the biggest names to jump from the NHL at the WHA's inception.  He had just helped the Bruins win two Stanley Cup Championships in a three year span before making the leap to the rival league.  Bruins fans could not have been very happy at the time about that turn of events.

Not surprisingly, Gerry excelled over the three seasons plus that he spent with the Cleveland Crusaders.  He was hands down one of the better goalies in the WHA, and was named all All-Star in each of those seasons.  Eventually he'd depart from the Crusaders over a financial dispute with management and return to the Bruins, where he finished out his professional career.

This card represents one of only two HOFers present in the '72-73 OPC WHA subset.  Nice to have half of the HOFers covered at this early stage of my project.

Well, that's a wrap for today.  There are just over 50 of these cards in total, and today's post brings me to 7.  A long way to go still, but I look forward to it.  Thanks for reading as always!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Buyback Franken-set: Off the Wall Part V - Sweet '60s

Time for the penultimate post resulting from the large lot of buybacks I received a few months back from Shane Katz of Off the Wall.  I've got ten to get through today, and it just so happens that all of them are from the '60s.  Let's dive in...

1967 Topps #370 - Tommy Davis

Tommy Davis made a name for himself with the Dodgers earlier in the decade, winning the NL batting title for consecutive seasons in 1962 and 1963.  He was an All-Star during both seasons, and a big contributor when the Dodgers won it all in '63.  The Dodgers shipped him to the Mets shortly after the 1966 season ended though.  Despite a successful 1967 season in New York (.302 average/16 HR/32 doubles/73 RBI), he was traded to the White Sox at season's end.  The cardboard representation of Davis' lone season with the Mets makes the cut for the franken-set!

1967 Topps #52 - Dennis Higgins

Dennis Higgins made 241 appearances over the course of a 7-year career at the Major League level.  Two of those games were starts, the other 239 came in relief appearances.  1967 was a year he'd like to forget I'm sure, as he surrendered 8 earned runs in just 12.1 innings of work.  This one makes the cut, at least for now...

1967 Topps #145 - Larry Brown

Larry Brown lasted a dozen seasons in Major League Baseball, which is pretty impressive given that he rarely batted above .250 in any given year.  1967 was particularly rough, as he saw a career high in plate appearances with 562, yet swatted just .227.  He's also got a card standing in the way when it comes to the franken-set binder:

6-time All-Star and 2-time Gold Glove winner Don Kessinger's '72 release is already in slot 145.

Larry just doesn't have the numbers to compete with Don, so he's out.

1967 Topps #95 - Sonny Siebert

The last of the '67s comes in the form of Sonny Siebert.  Sonny was a two-sport star who was actually drafted by the Indians and the St. Louis Hawks (of the NBA) at the same time.  He was twice an All-Star, but his greatest claim to fame is probably the no-hitter he threw against the Senators in the summer of '66.  With no current competition for slot 95, Sonny is in!

1965 Topps #242 - George Brunet

George Brunet was a journeyman MLB pitcher from the mid-'50s through the early '70s.  It's no surprise that he's depicted sans hat here, as he was already playing for his 5th different franchise by 1965, and would play for four more teams before taking his talents south to Mexico.  He would pitch in Mexico well into his '50s, and was actually inducted into the Mexican Baseball HOF in 1999 (though he passed away due to a heart attack in 1991).

This '69 Frank Kostro was already in slot 242, hmm...

In the absence of any other overwhelming deciding factor, I'll nearly always go with a player wearing a cap over one without.

1965 Topps #307 - Barry Latman

No worries though, the very next card in the stack is teammate Barry Latman, who is sporting his hat, and who makes the franken-set without contest.  Barry was nearing the end of his career here, he'd play two more seasons (with Houston) after 1965 and that was it.

1965 Topps #156 - Bob Sadowski

Much like Barry Latman, Bob Sadowski here also makes the franken-set, and also was nearing the end of his career when this card was created.  He finished out the '65 season with the Braves, their last in Milwaukee, and the team dealt him to Boston before 1966.  After just 5 starts and some bullpen work with Boston, his career was over.  His last appearance came on the 4th of July, 1966.

1965 Topps #31 - Mike White

This card is particularly cool, because it represents the very first Houston Colt .45s card to make the franken-set!  Mike White's career lasted from 1963 through 1965, but he appeared in just 3 games in '63 and just 8 games in '65.  So, his 89 games in 1964 make up for the bulk of his MLB experience.  He may not have accomplished much of note during his brief time in pro baseball, but I'm excited to add a new and relatively obscure franchise to the franken-set.

1964 Topps #347 - Bobby Wine

Next up we've got shortstop Bobby Wine of the Phillies.  Bobby had just captured a Gold Glove at shortstop in 1963, but 1964 wasn't so great a year as the Phillies choked away the division, ultimately losing it on the final day of the season.  Slot 347 is already occupied in the binder:

Normally I'd choose a '64 buyback over a '73, but for some reason I really like this strange photo of the Royals amidst a sea of green.

The Royals are in, and Bobby is out.

1964 Topps #52 - Chuck Hinton

Last card for today is another nice '64 featuring outfielder Chuck Hinton.  Chuck was speedy on the base paths but possessed some power as well, hitting 10 or more home runs in six different seasons.  This one is cool too because 1964 was the only season in his career where Chuck was named an All-Star.

Amazingly enough, Dennis Higgins just went into slot 52 in the binder earlier in this post, so now I've got to choose between these two.

I'm going with the Hinton though.  First of all he was a better player, and secondly I have far fewer '64 Topps buybacks in the franken-set than I do '67s at this point.

I should have the final post featuring the buybacks Shane K sent up later this week, and it looks almost certain that it will push me over the 300 card mark!

Franken-set Progress:  296/792 (37%)
"Rejected" Buybacks:  82
Total Buybacks in Collection:  378

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Stat Kings - 1982-83 NHL Scoring Leaders

Stat Kings is a new series of posts debuting here on Shoebox Legends in 2017.  What I hope to do is to more closely tie my collection of cards to the real world of sports by matching a variety of different statistical leaders in sports up with relevant cardboard.  Where one is available I'd like to use a card of the player from the season in question, though that's not always possible.

To kick things off, I figured I'd look at the top 20 scorers in the NHL during the season that I was born, 1982-83.  As I hoped would be the case when I conceived the idea for these posts, I found that there were some expected names as well as some surprises to be found.

Alright, let's take a look at the 20 guys who racked up the most points during the '82-83 NHL season...

#20 - Stan Smyl - Right Wing - Vancouver Canucks - 88 Points
74 Games Played, 38 Goals, 50 Assists

Stan Smyl was a draft pick of the Canucks in the late '70s.  After a few seasons of continuous improvement he was named team captain heading into the '82-83 campaign.  He responded by putting up career highs in goals, assists and points despite missing six games over the course of the season.  The Canucks were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Calgary Flames, but Smyl's 88 regular season points were enough to get him onto the list here at #20.

#19 - Bryan Trottier - Center - New York Islanders - 89 Points
80 Games Played, 34 Goals, 55 Assists

Bryan Trottier is one of two New York Islanders to make this list, thanks in large part to his significant playing time on a line with the other one, who you'll read about further below.  Statistically speaking this wasn't one of Trottier's finest years, in fact this was the only season during a 7-year stretch between '77-78 and '83-84 where he failed to register 100 points.  The Islanders won their unprecedented fourth consecutive Stanley Cup in 1983 though, so I doubt this bothered Bryan much.

#18 - Ron Francis - Center - Hartford Whalers - 90 Points
79 Games Played, 31 Goals, 59 Assists

After appearing in 59 games during his rookie season the year prior, Ron Francis finally got in a full season of NHL action in '82-83 and did not disappoint.  Whalers fans knew they had a special player here, as Ron racked up 90 points playing on a team that won only 19 games all year, and without any real superstars supporting him.  This was only the beginning for Ron, who would go on to become the greatest Whaler ever to lace up skates, and one of the more under-rated players in league history.

#17 - Steve Larmer - Right Wing - Chicago Blackhawks - 90 Points
80 Games Played, 43 Goals, 47 Assists

Steve Larmer put up the same 90 points that Ron Francis did in 1982-83, but where there was a tie I used goals scored as the deciding factor, and Francis was more of a set-up guy than Larmer.  After getting a cup of coffee with the Hawks in each of the two seasons prior, Steve finally burst onto the scene in '82-83.  He appeared in every single game for Chicago, something he would do each season for the next decade plus.  His 90 points were good enough to win him the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.

I should point out that this is the one card in this post that's not actually from the '82-83 season.  O-Pee-Chee was the only major release that year and Steve didn't make the set.  He did have a card in the '83-84 set the following year, but it mistakenly featured a photograph of teammate Steve Ludzik.  So, this '84-85 was the best I could do.

#16 - Dale Hawerchuk - Center - Winnipeg Jets - 91 Points
79 Games Played, 40 Goals, 51 Assists

Finishing just above Larmer with 91 points was the previous season's Calder winner, center Dale Hawerchuk.  This was the only time in Dale's first seven seasons in the league that he failed to record 100 points.  Hawerchuk and the Jets finished fourth in the Smythe division in '82-83 and just made the playoffs, but found themselves matched up against an Oilers team full of superstars and were swept out of the first round.

#15 - Anton Stastny - Left Wing - Quebec Nordiques - 92 Points
79 Games Played, 32 Goals, 60 Assists

1982-83 was the finest of Anton Stastny's 9 NHL seasons, as he set career highs in both assists and points.  Playing alongside brothers Peter and Marian, Anton and the rest of the Nordiques secured a playoff berth by finishing fourth in the Adams Division.

#14 - Paul Coffey - Defense - Edmonton Oilers - 96 Points
80 Games Played, 29 Goals, 67 Assists

While the league still belonged to the back-to-back-to-back-to-back champion Islanders in 1983, it was clear to fans that the Oilers were on the verge of greatness.  Edmonton was stocked with young, talented players, and blue-liner Paul Coffey was certainly included among that group.  While his numbers certainly benefited from the group of guys playing around him, Coffey was a speedy scorer in his own rite and a big part of the success that Edmonton would experience during the '80s.

Perhaps the most impressive thing I can say about Paul at the moment is that he is the only defenseman on this list!

#13 - Rick Middleton - Right Wing - Boston Bruins - 96 Points
80 Games Played, 49 Goals, 47 Assists

The Bruins basically robbed the New York Rangers in a trade for Rick Middleton during the latter half of the '70s, and he quickly became one of Boston's steadier scorers.  In '82-83 Rick was in the midst of a six-season run where he scored 85 or more points.  He was a big reason why the Bruins had the best regular season record in the NHL that year.  Boston advanced through the first two rounds of the playoffs as well before finally falling in the Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Islanders.

#12 - Lanny McDonald - Right Wing - Calgary Flames - 98 Points
80 Games Played, 66 Goals, 32 Assists

1982-83 was without question Lanny McDonald's finest season offensively.  He battled it out all year with Wayne Gretzky for most goals scored.  At the All-Star break he was actually two goals ahead of The Great One.  He came up just short in the end, but registered an amazing 66 goals nonetheless!  I know offensive numbers were inflated across the game in the '80s, but 66 goals is nothing to scoff at.  To date, there have only been 22 times in league history where a player scored 66 or more in a year.

#11 - Jari Kurri - Right Wing - Edmonton Oilers - 104 Points
80 Games Played, 45 Goals, 59 Assists

After two solid years with Edmonton beginning in 1980, Jari Kurri finally eclipsed the 100-point mark in his third season.  Known as the "Finnish Flash" long before Teemu Selanne assumed the nickname, Kurri was a major piece of the most dominant NHL team of the decade.  As if the 104 points weren't enough, Jari was known as one of the better defensive forwards of his day.

#10 - Kent Nilsson - Center - Calgary Flames - 104 Points
80 Games Played, 46 Goals, 58 Assists

Kent Nilsson might be the most interesting name on this list to me.  After beginning his professional career with a few seasons in Sweden, he came over to the WHA and lit it up with two 107-point seasons.  Next it was off to the NHL where he became a consistent scorer for years, wrapping up with a Stanley Cup win as a member of the Oilers, then back to Sweden.

In the end, he didn't play long enough at the NHL level (553 games) to put up HOF-type numbers.  For a few seasons he certainly was one of the best offensive players in the league though.  He racked up 686 points in those 553 games, and was still scoring at a point-per-game pace over his final couple of NHL seasons before he returned to Sweden.  Interesting to think what could have been had Kent played his entire career in the NHL.

#9 - Glenn Anderson - Right Wing - Edmonton Oilers - 104 Points
72 Games Played, 48 Goals, 56 Assists

Surprise, surprise, another Edmonton Oiler.  It's just amazing the sheer amount of young talent the Oilers added in such a short time span in the early '80s.  Anderson's 104 points in '82-83 got him over the 100-point plateau for the second consecutive season.  He'd go on to accumulate a fist-full of Stanley Cup rings before eventual enshrinement in the Hall-of-Fame.

#8 - Michel Goulet - Left Wing - Quebec Nordiques - 105 Points
80 Games Played, 57 Goals, 48 Assists

Michel Goulet was an interesting player as well.  As his 57 goals indicates, he was a sniper.  In fact, '82-83 was the first of four consecutive seasons where he'd record 50+ goals.  After that, 49 and 48.  Despite a concussion forcing him from the game at just 33 years of age, he still racked up 548 goals and 1,152 points.

#7 - Mark Messier - Center - Edmonton Oilers - 106 Points
77 Games Played, 48 Goals, 58 Assists

As a line-mate of the man in the #9 spot on this list, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier surpassed 100 points in a season for the first of six times in 1982-83.  His 48 goals were the second most he'd ever tally in his impressive 25-season professional career.  Mark eventually captained two separate franchises to Stanley Cup glory, and his 6 rings as a player make him arguably the second best athlete in this post.

#6 - Barry Pederson - Center - Boston Bruins - 107 Points
77 Games Played, 46 Goals, 61 Assists

Here's a name I was very surprised to see this high up the list.  Barry finished second in Calder Trophy voting to Dale Hawerchuk in 1981-82.  His 107 points in '82-83 were a 15-point improvement on that rookie campaign, and the following season he'd post even better numbers than this.  Pederson seemed destined for greatness before a benign tumor in his shoulder changed the course of his career.  These days I see plenty of him as an analyst for the Boston Bruins' local TV coverage here in New England.

This is the one card in this post that I really need to upgrade condition-wise...anyone have a spare?

#5 - Marcel Dionne - Center - Los Angeles Kings - 107 Points
80 Games Played, 56 Goals, 51 Assists

Marcel Dionne recorded the same number of points as Pederson in '82-83, but lit the lamp 10 times more, so he gets the edge and a place in the top 5.  This was the fifth consecutive season that saw Dionne record more than 100 points, and the sixth and final time he'd record 50 goals or more.  His 731 career goals are 5th most all-time, and I'm not sure any current player not named Ovechkin can threaten that.

#4 - Mike Bossy - Right Wing - New York Islanders - 118 Points
79 Games Played, 60 Goals, 58 Assists

There's not much I can say about Mike Bossy that I haven't already said in the past here on the blog.  When it comes to the best pure goal scorers in the history of the NHL he's certainly in the conversation.  Flying high with 60 goals and 118 points, he was certainly the "straw that stirred the drink" (to borrow a reference from another New York team) for an Islanders team about to capture its fourth straight Cup.

#3 - Denis Savard - Center - Chicago Blackhawks - 121 Points
78 Games Played, 35 Goals, 86 Assists

Denis Savard was taken 3rd overall by the Blackhawks in the 1980 entry draft, and paid immediate dividends.  By the end of '82-83, his third NHL season, he'd already accumulated 315 points.  With Savard on the score sheet nearly every night, the Hawks found themselves atop the Norris Division at season's end.  They advanced all the way to the Conference Finals in the post-season before Edmonton knocked them off.

#2 - Peter Stastny - Center - Quebec Nordiques - 124 Points
75 Games Played, 47 Goals, 77 Assists

Peter Stastny surpassed 100 points in his rookie season and never looked back, amassing 100 points or more in seven of his first eight years in the NHL.  Other than a certain player who wore #99, he was the most dominant scorer of the '80s overall.  124 points is pretty insane, but this was only his second best season over the course of his career.  I really wish the NHL would have given us the Quebec Nordiques back over the Las Vegas Knights.

#1 - Wayne Gretzky - Center - Edmonton Oilers - 196 Points
80 Games Played, 71 Goals, 125 Assists

I don't think the guy atop the list will come as a surprise to anyone.  In his very early 20s at this point, Wayne was already tearing up the league and establishing his place as "The Great One".  While other players would consider a 100-point season a career benchmark, Wayne was flirting with 200 year in and year out.  I mean, he scored 72 points more than the next closest player in '82-83.  The only thing missing at this stage was a Stanley Cup, and that those would come soon!

As a nice way to close things out, here's a card from the next season's O-Pee-Chee release commemorating Gretzky's '82-83 Art Ross Trophy season.

Well, that was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun.  I plan on doing a bunch of these over the course of the year, covering many different statistical categories and eras across both baseball and hockey.  Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Black Friday COMC Haul - Hoyt!

This week has been insanely busy, and today has been no different. So, just a quick one tonight featuring a card I grabbed on COMC over Black Friday weekend...

My 1959 Topps set is still in a relatively early stage, so it felt good to add a HOFer to the binder with this Hoyt Wilhelm.  Hoyt had a great year in '59, leading the league with a 2.19 ERA over 27 starts (by far the most of any season in his long career).  The card's off-center some top to bottom, but left to right it's just about perfect and there's still a thin strip of white border across the top at least.  Aside from that I'd say the overall visual appeal is great.

The off-centering is more visible on the back where you can see the card number, bio and stats jammed up against the left edge.  More than fine enough for my set, that's for sure.  My cost?  $2.18.  Had I known about Wilhelm's league leading 2.19 ERA in 1959 at the time of purchase I would have added an extra penny to my offer!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Red Sox Greats & an Old Navigator

Though he closed up shop a while back as far as his blog is concerned, my buddy Mark Kaz (formerly) of This Way to the Clubhouse has still kept up with our back-and-forth PWE venture that has been ongoing for years now. Just this past week I received another nice batch of 9 in fact...

Kicking this round off is this very aesthetically pleasing Jason Varitek from 2003 Fleer Double Header, which is actually smaller in proportion than a standard modern-day trading card.  Not quite as small as the tobacco-sized minis in Allen & Ginter though, but somewhere in between.  I realy like what Fleer did with these, and will be keeping an eye out for some others for sure.

Here's a nice, gaudy "Diamond Mine" Nomar insert from Fleer Ultra.  This is just about as much foil as you could possibly put on a card.  While I don't have it tallied up, I've been getting enough new Nomar cards in trade recently that I may have more Red Sox cards of Garciaparra than any other subject.

From one legendary Boston infielder to another, here's a Dustin Pedroia insert from 2009 Topps Heritage.  The cheapest available copy of this one on COMC at the moment is going for $2.75, which I find odd.

Here's a Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects card that came out during the years I was away from the hobby.  Jon Egan was a hot catching prospect coming out of high school, and many in the Boston organization felt he would be the eventual replacement for Jason Varitek.  Things kind of fell apart rapidly for him though, and he was done with his baseball career just a couple of seasons later.

A good portion of this PWE was made up of this 2002 Fleer Fall Classic set.  I don't recall ever having seen these before, but they are nice cards for sure.

I do wonder if perhaps Fleer had a better photo of Carlton Fisk on file though?  At the very least maybe one where his derriere was not so much the focal point.

Much better.

Not surprisingly, my favorite of the four Fleer Fall Classic cards I received was this fabulous Dom DiMaggio.  It's a rare opportunity when I get to add a new card of Joe's little bro to my collection.  I'm curious, does anyone know what that patch is on Don's sleeve?

I'll close the post out with my personal favorite from this PWE, a nice shiny refractor of Ramiro Mendoza from 2003 Topps Chrome Traded & Rookies. 

I'm sure some folks might find it strange that this would be my pick of the PWE, but I have somewhat of a personal tie to Mendoza.  A draft pick of the Yankees in the mid-'90s, he was a member of their AA affiliate at the time, the Norwich Navigators, who played their home games less than half an hour from where I lived.  For a couple of summers there I really enjoyed those minor league games, and to this day I'm still reminded of them when I get new cards of former Navigators like this.

Thanks as always for the cardboard Mark, I'll be returning fire by the weekend at latest!
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