Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mailbox Mondays

Ahhh...mailbox Mondays. They're the only thing I enjoy about the beginning of another work week; unfortunately, I don't get enough of them.

My latest M.M. came yesterday. After a long day at the office and a quick stop at the grocery store, I actually got the pleasure of that exciting moment of opening the mailbox and finding it stuffed with goodies (my wife typically has the mail inside by the time I get home). This M.M. brought with it a curious package which took up most of the mailbox.

Once inside, I couldn't help to tear into the larger package. Although I was waiting upon a few purchases off of eBay, nothing would demand such an extravagantly large package. Could it be a fellow-blogger, sending me a care package of generous proportions?!

Not exactly.

Once I got through the large envelope, I discovered a USPS small flat rate box with...

One card in it.

 Yes, one card.

Seems to be over-doing it a little, I thought.

Okay, so maybe this needed something more than a PWE to get it into my greedy hands- but this just seemed overkill.

"Embedded in this card is a manufactured bat barrel reminiscent of the bat used by BRIAN McCANN of the ATLANTA BRAVES." (emphasis mine)

Speaking of reminiscing....

The second package took me back to the early to mid-80s.

 The person who sent it has the same name as one of the original MTV VJs (the one whose initials are MG). Mark was the cool one out of the original five. He had the Epstein (Welcome Back, Kotter) hair, wore the Levi's denim jacket and was the rocker of the group. Goodman was the only one I could stand watching. Years later after leaving the network, Mark returned to the game by joining on at VHI and SiriusXM satellite radio, hosting a number of different programs.

Another great comeback, years overdue- and causing just as much excitement as Mark Goodman's return- was the 2012 Topps Mini set. Released as an online exclusive, I didn't bother buying any of it (I was never that infatuated with the '75 mini's that so many love). However, over the last two years the set has grown on me, so I decided to purchase a Braves team set.

Mini BA's

MINI Minor!


 (Man, the scans on these minis turned out horrible- cards are fine, however. As much as I like my new Mac Mini, I do not like the scanning software that it uses)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: I'm Your Captain

"I'm your captain, I'm your captain..."~ Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home"

The 1990 Coca-Cola White Sox set commemorated the 80th anniversary of Comiskey Park, and was the sixth consecutive (and final) White Sox team set sponsored by the soft drink company. That would be the final year of the Park- which hosted not only the South Siders, but the NFL's Chicago Cardinals, a heavy-weight title match (1937, Joe Louis vs. James Braddock), two Beatles concerts and even the Chicago Cubs in the 1918 World Series.

I'm We're Your Captain(s)
Today's card features the co-captains of the 1990 squad, Ozzie Guillen and Carlton Fisk. Rare is the team which gives the honorary title to its leader, let alone two leaders, but that is exactly what manager Jeff Torborg did for a team that had won only 69 games the previous year. Under the duo's leadership, the 1990 ChiSox went on to finish second in the American League West with a 94-68 record.

Getting Closer to Their Home
1989 record at Comiskey: 35-45 (.438)
1990 record at Comiskey: 49-31 (.613)

Atlanta Alumnus:
Guillen spent two seasons with the Brave (1998, 1999), accumulating only 496 at-bats and hitting .260 while providing his usual good defense. His best moment as a Brave came in the sixth game of the 1999 NLCS, delivering a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to tie the Mets. Atlanta would go on to win in the bottom of the eleventh, capturing the NL pennant in the process.

Twenty years before the final season at Comiskey,  a blue-collar blues/rock band called Grand Funk Railroad released their album, Closer to Home, which featured the epic, classic rock staple, I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home. While popular with the fans, the band was not so popular with rock critics, which hasn't helped their chances of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

One interesting fact about the band: their 1971 concert at Shea Stadium sold out in less than 72 hours- breaking the previous venue record which had been held by the Beatles.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Topps Counterparts: '65 Topps/'14 Heritage #44

With a curve-ball that manager Bobby Bragan once called the, "best in the National League," and enough talent that Willie McCovey once named him among the most feared and respected pitchers he faced, Wade Blasingame entered the 1965 season carrying the expectations of replacing the great Warren Spahn.

Blasingame was a product of the pitching rich Fresno area and had a number of teams interested in his services following his ballyhood high school and Legion ball career. He eventually signed with Milwaukee in 1961 for a $125,000 bonus- making him the third Braves bonus-baby to sign for over $100,000 in less than two years. Two years later, and at age 19, Wade made his major league debut on September 17th at home against the San Francisco Giants. Registering four strikeouts, the youngster also showed his inexperience by yielding six hits and three earned runs over two innings. 

Wade's first extended stay in the majors occured during the 1964 season, when he went 9-5 with 3 complete games, a 4.24 ERA and a 1.406 WHIP for the big league club. A strong performance towards the end of the season (he went 6-1 with a no decision during the month of September) convinced management that he was primed to take over for the future Hall of Famer Spahn, whom the team sold to the Mets following the '64 season.

The former 'bonus-baby' entered the '65 season on the big league roster (the first time he broke camp with the team) and entered May with a 6.97 ERA and an 0-2 record in three starts. Things began to change for Wade with the turn of the calendar and he went 5-2 with a save during May. He also had what would be the two best outings of his career: a 2-1, 14-inning (!!) complete game win against Houston on May 5 (striking out 12) and then a one-hit victory over the Mets on May 20, in which he lost a no-hitter with two outs in the seventh.

1965 Season:
3.77 ERA
38 Games (36 Starts)
224.2 IP
116 Walks
117 Strikeouts
1.407 WHIP

As a side note, you might have noticed on his minor league stats that Wade pitched for the Braves Class C team in Boise during the 1961 season. Since I was born and raised (and lived my entire life) in the area, I might try to start a new collection of players who played for the Boise Braves during the years of 1955-1963.

There's no Braves counterpart for this card; instead, Topps included:
2014 Heritage #44 Aaron Hill

The Brave Topps should have used as a counterpart for Blasingame:
Alex Wood- a young lefty with plenty of promise. Hopefully, injuries and control issues won't plague the former UGA pitcher.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I've Got the Fever

Sorry for the use of that title for this post; I'm sure it's been used countless other times when it come to the cards featured in Topps' in-store promotion. 

I just received my first two Spring Fever cards from an eBay seller. Since I don't frequent an LCS, I decided to pick up some Braves off of eBay. Besides, were I to get the five-card packs in a hobby shop, the odds of getting anything I want are pretty high. 

Fifty players make up the checklist for the 2014 Spring Fever set, which also features an autographed checklist that features 29 players. Cards come 5 to a pack, but were only available to those who buy 16 packs of 2014 Series 1 at participating hobby shops between March 31st and April 6th (according to cardboard connection's website). 

Spring Fever SF28 Justin Upton

Spring Fever SF40 Jason Heyward

Braves cards I still need:
SF16 Freddie Freeman
SF41 Craig Kimbrel
SFA-DS Deion Sanders auto

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Lost Years: 2006 Topps '52 Tom Glavine

One of the downsides of being out of the hobby for a while is coming across unknown products upon your return. One such unknown product for me is the 2006 Topps '52 set.

Because I missed the release and the press that the set would have accompanied it (and, unfortuantely, I'm at work and do not have my Standard Catalog) I have no clue as to why Topps did the back the way the did. I'm not referring to the design- I get that; I'm speaking about the stat line which reads, "Past Year." In it, Topps included Glavine's 1987 stats with the Braves. While the "Life Time" stats line is current, the former is from his debut season. Even the write up on the back speaks of his debut season. 

Like I said, I'm on my lunch hour at work as I write this and do not have my reference book (and it's the only card that I have from the set), so tell me: Did Topps do all of this set that way? 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #5: Hooray for Hollywood!

For years I have heard about, but had never ordered from, Burbank Sportscards- the 'Sportscards Superstore' that claims to have the 'World's Largest Selection' (40 Million cards in stock). Articles have been written about them and complaints are plenty on the forums (or, so I read while googling them- I don't participate in the online forums), so I decided to check out their site recently. After all, with that kind of an inventory, they're bound to have a significant number of cards that I need.

Located near Hollyweird, the city of Burbank, California is also the home to many media and entertainment companies (hence the city's nickname, "The Media Capital of the World"), as well as the Bob Hope Airport. With the city being synomynous with entertainment, what a perfect place to operate your Sportscard Superstore!

As a Braves fan during their not-so-glory years, our hope was in a Bob Horner homer. And thanks to the Veres', I now have a few more Bobs to add to the collection. Hoooooooooooray for Hollywood Burbank!

 The original '91 Fleer. Yowza!!!

Too much blue for one card. Where's the yellow?

Of course, once Dale broke out, he was the man. Once again, like the '82 Drakes card, there's just too much yellow. Who designed these things, anyway?

2005 Topps Finest #164

How this thing flew under my radar, I'll never know. I only discovered it as I was pursuing the Dale Murphy cards in the Burbank database. I'm not a huge fan of the retired players in recent products (save the Topps base variations), but this one was a welcomed addition.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Mark Lemke. Can. You. Dig. It?

Gangs in the streets. Lookin' for you, looking' for me. Gangs in the streets. Ready for you and they're ready for me. ~ Loverboy (I never thought I'd quote a song of theirs!)

The Warriors are making a comeback. No, I'm not talking about the Bay-area basketball team; nor is there a remake of the 1979 cult classic on its way. The boys are coming out to plaaay in the upcoming 2014 Topps Archives set, which will feature an insert set celebrating the 35th anniversary of the movie Entertainment Weekly once billed as one of the 25 most controversial movies ever made.

I'm not going to go into the plot, but I will say that one of the many gangs in the movie is referred to as the Baseball Furies (or, just 'Furies'- as their uniform backs declare)- a gang of dudes who look like KISS dressed in New York Yankee garb. Silent and creepy, these pantomime punks hit more like the 1990 New York Yankees than the one from the late '70s. 

Mark Lemke was a teenager in upstate New York in 1979. Now, I've never been to the Empire State, but I can only imagine that (culturally) Utica is worlds apart from NYC. Still, I wonder what the Lemmer was like during this impressionable time period of his life. Did he have any interest in gang life? Did he rock out while spinning vinyl discs of the hottest band in the world (and fellow New Yorkers), KISS?!!! I suppose I will never know the answers to these questions- but one thing I do know:

Mark Lemke looks like a badass in this 1990 Dubuque Braves card. 

I mean, throw some paint on his face, replace the idyllic background of the card with the streets of Riverside Park, and what you have is a match made in heaven- or Hell's Kitchen, at the very least.

Mark Lemke. CAN YOU DIG IT?!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #4: 1982 K-Mart #43 Hank Aaron

In a set which celebrated their twentieth anniversary ('62-'82), K-Mart issued a card commemorating Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run. The boxed set contained forty-four cards (they should have had Hank as #44, but I guess they're smarter than me), each featuring an NL MVP, AL MVP, or a special card, such as the Aaron, which celebrated certain accomplishments of each select player.

Well, today marks the 40th anniversary of the Hammer's famous home run, so number 43 will be the card featured in tonight's post.

Take a look at the '82 K-Mart set and you will notice that almost all of the cards feature a replica of the Topps card from the year that each respective player won the MVP. The exceptions being the cards for 1962 NL MVP, Maury Wills, and the 1975 AL MVP, Fred Lynn- neither of whom had cards in their MVP years.

The three record breakers featured in the set (Aaron, Rose, and Drysdale), to me, stand out for the unique designs used by Topps and would be the only ones I would chase after for my collection. Unless, of course, they created one for Aaron's 1957 NL MVP- I'd be all over that one. Dang K-Mart; why couldn't they have been celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 1982?!

Here's a gem: Vin Scully's call of Henry's 715th Home Run

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Books!

My wife, daughter and I made a quick stop at a thrift store this afternoon so I could look at the books. Such visits usually don't net me anything for my modest baseball-related book collection, but today wasn't the typical disappointing visit. In fact, I was able to add not one, but two new titles to my bookshelf! 

My first find was the 2004 release, Ichiro on Ichiro- Conversations with Narumi Komatsu. I have always enjoyed books that are in this genre (conversations) and this should offer an interesting look at the game through the eyes of one of the best hitters of our lifetime.

Like I mentioned earlier, I don't have a whole lot of luck finding books at the thriftstores, so I was excited to find the Ichiro book. You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was in running across this next one... 

Ask Dale Murphy by Dale Murphy with Curtis Patton

My childhood hero- Dale Murphy.

It would have been much more special if it had been an autobiography (or biography)- which doesn't exist, to my knowledge- but this will certainly do. The format of this title is a series of questions from children, with Dale's response to each one. Chapters include Q's about breaking into baseball, hitting, defense, playing with the right attitude, life in the majors, and family and future plans. It evens includes an introduction by legendary sportswriter Furman Bisher.

Six bucks, well spent.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #3: 1984 Baseball Cards Magazine Dale Murphy

One of my favorite designs of all-time is the 1953 Topps baseball set. Whether it's the large, beautiful portraits on the front or the easily identifiable card numbers on the back, everything about its design cries, "perfection."

Because my affections for this set run deep, I went cookoo for today's card upon learning about its existence. Problem was, I could never find one to purchase. In fact, I've spent years looking for one on eBay- but had never found one. Until recently.

The Murphy Baseball Cards Magazine card that showed up on eBay was part of the full sheet from the August, 1984 issue that also featured Ted Williams. According to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, this issue was the 'pioneer' of all the replica cards that magazines used as a means to sell more issues. Unlike all the cards that would be included in later magazines, the cards from the '84 issue are on a cardboard stock much like the original cards.

My only 'complaint' with the Murphy card is that I would like the jersey to be white, rather than the baby blue. I liked the uniforms, but on this card, with the blue sky, blue on the cap and the blue fence- it's just too much. Still, I'll take it.