Friday, May 22, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Inquiring Minds

For today's subject we're going back in time to an issue of Baseball Cards magazine from December, 1987.

While reading the Collector Q&A section of an old Baseball Cards magazine, I came across a question from a reader about the 1987 Kraft Home Plate Heroes Eric Davis card (card #10). Inquiring minds wanted to know what happened to the upper part of the bat.

As you can see, the lower part of the bat is resting on Davis' right shoulder but then seems to disappear. It's not shrinkage going on, nor is it the remains of a broken bat; rather, it has to be attributed to an airbrushing job gone awry. My guess (and the answer given to the reader's question) is that while airbrushing the helmet and touching up the blue skies, the artist inadvertently painted over the missing part of the lumber.

Have you ever noticed any similar airbrush accidents?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Goodbye, Fookie

"so don't you pity me, don't misplace my intentions. Don't mistake me, this is no illusion- this is an exit."  Exit/ The Black Crowes

Although he hasn't spent any signifcant time on the diamond since appearing in 121 games for St. Louis in 2012, I was still saddened by the announcement of Rafael Furcal's retirement yesterday.

"Fookie" was one of my favorite players during his six-year stint with Atlanta. His combination of speed, surprising pop and an absolute cannon of an arm made the 5'8" Furcal one of the game's most exciting players for his first six major league seasons (2000-2006).

During the 2008 offseason, it was reported that a deal had been agreed upon for Rafael to return to his first professional home. Rafae's agents reneged on the deal, drawing the ire of then-GM John Schuerholz. I remember the excitement of the prospects of him returning to the organization and the disappointment in him re-signing with the Dodgers. Still, I held no ill-feelings towards Furcal, choosing instead to blame his agency.

Thanks again, Fookie, for all you gave to the Braves organization, its fans, and the game of baseball.

Finally, another one of the finest to come out of Atlanta- The Black Crowes

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Most commercials get old- or annoying- after the first few viewings. The ESPN "This Is Sportscenter" series of commercials are one of the exceptions. The best of the best, in my opinion, is the one featuring John Clayton.

In case you haven't seen it, the commercial begins with Clayton wrapping up his segment. As the camera pulls away, John is shown getting up off his chair and ripping off a faux-suit and tie, revealing a Slayer t-shirt underneath. He also 'lets down his hair' which had been pulled back into a pony tail. The studio where he was taping, as it turns out, is actually his bedroom- in all its black/death metal glory. As the music blares, John jumps on his bed and yells out, "hey mom, I'm done with my assignment!" as he takes a bite of his Chinese takeout. The genius of the whole spot, of course, is that John Clayton is the last person you would expect to be listening to and decorating himself and his room with that genre of music. Pure genius, I'm telling you.

Lately I've been trying to finish my own assignment. No, I'm not taking any classes. These are actually self-imposed assignments. I'm coming into a time of year where my work schedule and yard duties will consume much of my time, leaving very little time for other, more fun activities like blogging and enjoying my cards. And so I've been trying to get some things in order around the card chop office before vacation and my summer of hell.

What's going on? Well, I had hoped to paint and re-carpet the man cave before now, which has ended in failure. I have managed to do some re-organizing of the collection after coming to the conclusion that I'm short on space, time and money to chase much of the team sets I had hoped to add to the collection.

I've also been looking at candidates for my own 'Assignment' commercial and I've narrowed the field down to four.

Sonny Jackson

Sonny boy had three cups of coffee before finishing runner-up as a 21 year-old in the 1966 Rookie of the Year balloting. He could have still lived at home during those first three years (as an 18, 19 and 20 year old). Strong candidate.

Cecil Upshaw

Of all the candidates, Upshaw most closely resembles John Clayton- which for my money plays huge. If the late Mr. Upshaw were to star in a Sports Center commercial, I'd like to see it focused him getting ready to close a game (he saved 27 games for the division-winning Braves in 1969) to the sounds of one of 1973's top hits: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia by actress/singer Vicki Lawrence. (oddly enough, Upshaw passed away in Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1995.)

Paul Runge

Paul seems to have an advanced pre-pub mustache going on here, along with the chest hairs poking out above his undershirt. Otherwise, he could very well pass for a 14 year-old. Nice try, Paulie.

Denis Menke

"Hey Mom, I've lost my hat!!!" Don't fear, Denis; with metal gods such as James Hetfield sporting short hair, you don't have to worry about not fitting the part. 

I have a winner in mind, but I just don't see any of them topping Mr. Clayton.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Trade with Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genuis

I contacted Matt over at Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius a few weeks ago to see if he was in need of an interesting Andy Pafko piece I had won in an eBay auction. The item was part of a lot of four  5"x 7.5" cards produced by the Ohio Casualty Group to commemorate the closing of Milwaukee's County Stadium. Matt seemed excited about the possibility of a new addition to his collection and said he'd look for some Braves stuff for me.

Well, Matt did indeed find some cards for me- a staggering number of cards, to be honest with you (please excuse the pun). And yes, the return was more than enough for the Pafko.

There were two team sets included in the larger bubble mailer:

Matt also sent some Chippers for the collection:

I like the concept of the A Piece of History cards- however, it sounds as if there should be a relic in this card. Another strange thing: the card shows the date and the Braves boxscore, but doesn't tell us who the team played that day. I'll have to look it up on Baseball Reference. A cool card, nonetheless.

Another great looking card of number 10- I believe this is the first Ultra relic card in my collection and hopefully won't be the last.

I haven't seen this one before, and I don't know what the set is called...I'm assuming "Game Jersey"?
Regardless, another relic to add to the binder.

And finally (although there were a few other cards, including a Topps Chipper RC)- a Finite First Class relic card from 2003...

I guess that's an appropriate card to end with, as Matt proved himself to be a First Class trader. Thanks again for all the great stuff, Matt!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Disoriented

We live in a world where we are often confused about many things: history, the difference between wants and needs, good and evil, while some even question their gender. Our hobby isn't immune from this problem, either.

The subjects of today's cards seems a little disoriented. As you can tell by the position listed below his name, Terry Forster was a pitcher- and yet here he is, thinking he's Bob Horner or something. He's got the bat; he's got the friz; and though the jacket is hiding it, he's also got the physique. Forster signed with the Braves just prior to the 1983 season, having left the Dodgers as a free-agent, and became a valuable arm coming out of the pen, collecting a 3.3 WAR (BaseballReference) during the 1983 season.

Terry's not alone in his confusion. Two of the other members of the team- Manager Joe Torre and Pitcher Steve Bedrosian- apparently didn't understand what it meant when the camera man said to 'look and the camera' and smile. But with one being a Hall of Fame manager (who should have made it as a player!!!) and the other a former CY Young Award winner, all is forgiven.

I, too, have found myself a little perplexed in trying to label these cards (and set). Should I consider it strictly an oddball? A regional set? As you can see, when you turn the cards over you see the Hostess name and logo (Coke, too). Does that qualify them as a food-issue? Since they were issued in or with a food product, I don't think so. However I suppose I could do what Bruce Jenner did and embrace a more relativist world view. Okay- these are a food-issue. At least for today.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Chipper Collection: Captured on Canvas

The Oxford Dictionary defines masterpiece as "an artist's or craftman's best piece of work." Historically, the term was used for a piece of work that qualified a craftsman for membership of a guild as an acknowledged master. If Upper Deck's 1989 baseball product serves as the company's apprenticeship, Masterpieces is the product where they finally gained their guild membership. 

I found this Captured on Canvas card on eBay recently and knew immediately that it had to be a part of my Chipper collection. Everything about the front of this card cries, "perfection"- from the black border with gold lettering, to the matte finish, to the picture used. Even the swatch looks attractive on there- much better than if a red, white, or blue swatch had been used. And at a smaller size, it doesn't detract from the main attraction: Chipper's likeness. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Base(ball) Oddity #35: Fashion Police

"Our so-called leaders speak, with words they try to jail you. They subjugate the meek, but it's the rhetoric of failure." Spirits in the Material World/ The Police

English rock/new-wave/post-punk/reggae-rock band The Police released a studio album every year, save one (1982), from the release of their debut album (Outlandos d'Amour) in 1978 until their 1983 swan song. That's not to say they rested on their laurels in '82- they spent the year touring after releasing Ghost in the Machine in October of 1981.

The day after the band played the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, completing the third leg of the North American portion of the Ghost in the Machine tour, the New York Yankees ended their relationship with back-up first baseman Bob Watson by trading him to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitcher Scott Patterson. The relationship wouldn't be completely severed, however, as Watson would one day return to the Bronx as GM, overseeing the Yankees 1996 World Championship- the team's first since 1978.

As far as his time in Atlanta, Watson finished out his playing career there- spending his final three seasons in the south before his retirement following the 1984 season. Bob's primary role with the Braves was as Chris Chambliss's back-up at first base, as well as a right-handed bat off the bench.

And though Watson had a solid career in the majors, he might be best known for his role as Major League Baseball's Vice President of Rules and On-Field Operations and the 'Francona Rule' he devised to ensure that former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona wear his uniform top under the pullover he was famous for wearing (Francona suffers from circulation issues). Francona had met with Czar Watson just hours before the August 29, 2007 Yankees/Red Sox game to show the Veep that he was in compliance with the rule. Francona was then summoned by a security agent into the dugout tunnel during the middle of that evening's game to again show compliance with the code. The manager was (understandably) upset and gave one of Bob's boys a piece of his mind. 

Troubled Evolution (of a Ball Player)

Drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 1975 amateur draft, Larry Whisenton possessed tools that scouts dream of: power, speed, and the ability to hit for a high average. Unfortunately those tools didn't translate to success as a starter at the major league level. Whisenton spent part of five seasons in Atlanta and only had more than 40 at-bats once- coming in 1982, his final major league season- when he came to the plate 168 times. In 116 major league games, Larry only started in 38, with most of his other appearances coming as a pinch hitter.

These two cards were the last ones needed to complete my 1982 Braves Police team set. I had been searching for them for some time- with no success, until I found them recently on eBay. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Murph Anthology: 2005 Upper Deck Classics

Any Mount Rushmore for rookie-themed subsets would have to include Donruss' Rated Rookies, Topps' Future Stars, Upper Deck Hockey's Young Guns and Upper Deck's Star Rookies. Of course, Topps' Rookie Cup cards are very popular as well, although I wouldn't classify it as a subset. Collectors love anything with 'Rookie' inscribed on it and the card companies often look for any excuse to exploit that interest. One such exploitation was the 'Retro Star Rookies' found in 2005 Upper Deck Classics.

2005 Upper Deck Classics #106

Featuring thirty retired stars at the end of the set (cards #101-130), the Retro Star Rookies idea wasn't necessarily a bad idea; it's just that a few of the photos- such as this Dale Murphy- are from a few years into the player's career, which seems ridiculous to me.

If that's the only complaint that can be charged against Upper Deck for this subset, then they did pretty good in creating these cards. One thing I might have done different had I been involved in the product: include the players minor league stats prior to their rookie season. This would give the card more of an authentic look to it. There's too much empty space along the bottom third of the card, so this could have easily been done. I do, however, like the use of a photo inside of the ribbon and the brief rookie season facts.

Overall, this was yet another overall solid effort by the Upper Deck company.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Player's Ink: Luis Avilan

I picked up today's featured card at the card show I attended this past weekend. I was a little hesitant about buying it, as I have decided to forego the idea of including autographed cards in team sets. The price tag ($5) and the fact that it's a tough card to get (#/214) out of an online exclusive led me to ultimately adding it to my collection.

Turkey of a Game
In a game against Philadelphia last April, left-handed reliever Luis Avilan became the first pitcher in 80 years to get a Win after giving up at least 5 runs in an inning or less. It was just one of many ineffective outings for Avilan during a 2014 season where he would get demoted to AAA in mid-July. The struggles were particularly troubling because Luis had been such an important part of the bullpen during the previous two seasons. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he was overused during his first two seasons (31 games in 2.5 months in '12 & 75 games in '13) or, as some have suggested, his peripherals indicate he just finally ran out of luck. Whatever the case, with an inexperienced (and bad) bullpen in 2015, Atlanta needs Luis to return to his 2012/2013 form.

Signature Pitch
Lefties who throw hard are a special breed and Avilan is no different. His best pitch is a mid-90s two-seam sinking fastball that has a lot of movement, causing him to get a lot of ground balls. He also throws a curveball. On the downside, Luis does not miss a lot of bats, as indicated by his career 1.89 so/w ratio.

According to the Beckett database, this is the only set that features an Avilan autograph. Of course, it's kind of tough to have many signed cards when you're included in so few sets (Luis' only other cards are found in 2013 Topps Update and 2014 Topps Update, respectively).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cards Only Mother Could Love

I have always been a fan of the horror/suspense film genre, whether television or on the big screen, so I was thrilled to learn of 'Bates Motel'- A&E's Psycho prequel. The young man who plays the teen-aged Norman (British actor Freddie Highmore) is a phenomenal actor and really steals the show. Actress Vera Farmiga also does a great job portraying Norma, or known simply as 'Mother' to her beloved son. As Norman's psyche becomes more fragile throughout the series, Mother's maternal instincts work overtime and she often turns a blind eye to the truth about her son in order to protect him. Norman is clearly becoming a son that only a mother could love.

So in honor of Mother's Day- and the A&E series- I thought I'd take a look at some cards that only a mother could love. Norman's mothers, of course...

1959 Topps Norm Cash

Ugly design, but mother would approve. Norm looks lifeless, almost like he has been stuffed by a taxidermist down in a dark basement.

1995 Fleer Update Norm Charlton

I have to question if Mother would even be interested in this one. The worst idea for a set in the history of man. I hope the person responsible for this atrocity was held accountable. It makes me want to blackout.

1962 Topps Norm Larker

No hat, no team colors on his jersey. Yes, this card is just plain boring but Mother would look past that to see the good- whatever that might be...

1991 Pacific Senior League Dan Norman

So- you want to market a professional baseball league made up of players aged 35 and over? The rosters read like the checklists of 70s and early 80s baseball card sets and with the average game drawing 911 fans (BaseballReference.Com), I wonder if someone called 911 to have the founder institutionalized.

1973 O-Pee-Chee Fred Norman

You ever notice that there's rarely anyone at the Bates Motel? One customer, perhaps. Much like Padres games back in the 70s.

1981 Donruss Nelson Norman

Oh, the horrors of those eighties powder-blue uniforms. They look as though they were designed to be marketed towards women- perhaps someone like Mother? Well, the baby blues of the Braves were the one exception.

1993 Bowman Les Norman

With all due respect to Norman, I think Mother must have been behind the copy introducing this video and pressured the interviewer for his generous words. "Former Royals great"? George Brett is a former Royals great; Amos Otis- yes; Brett Saberhagen- absolutely; Willie Wilson- yep. But Les Norman?

1961 Topps Norm Siebern

It may not be as iconic as the Motel, but I think Mother was pleased to see her little boy had made it to Yankee Stadium.

1961 Topps Brother Battery Norm Sherry-

We know that brothers fight, but battery?! This is one card we know mother loves.

Neither my wife nor my mother read this blog, but I still want to wish each of them a very happy Mother's Day. Growing up, my mom was always very generous by buying me cards; my wife will pick up a pack for me from time to time and has always been supportive of my interests- even when it comes to plain old cardboard.