Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mirror, Mirror On to the Hall

The latest edition of Baseball Digest contains an article by David Laurila titled, "Why Are There So Few Third Basemen in the Hall of Fame?" Take a look at the list of inductees and it's quite staggering: eleven former Major Leaguers. That's it. The opinion of some of those interviewed by Laurila is that poor defense caused many great hitters to move off the base and to a different position, creating a dearth of candidates from the hot corner. After all, it requires great hands, quick reflexes, quick feet and a strong arm. Plus, you're expected to put up monster offensive numbers. Who's able to do all of that? I Don't Know. Only a select few, I guess.

One thing I do know: one of the most recent additions to my collection features one certain future HOF'er, as well as a current player who is quietly building a HOF resume. Both are third basemen (along with two others who manned the corner).

1997 Bowman's Best Mirror Image #MI9

I was never a big fan of the Bowman's Best base cards (I viewed it as a poor man's version of Topps Finest); I was a fan of the insert sets found in them, however. One of the best being Mirror Image.

Beltre already ranks as one of the top defensive third basemen of all-time and, though his power numbers have slipped in recent years, has continued to be a productive player at the plate.

Williams and Branyan...Meh.

Seeded at 1:48 packs, this set wasn't an easy one to put together. Pricing has come way down, making them much more affordable today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Memory Failure- Except When it Comes to Cards

Memory is a funny thing. I don't know how often I've found myself straining the brain just to find that certain word...or that person's name...or that information someone at work is asking me about. It seems like the more that time goes by, the more memory failure I experience. Except, of course, when we're talking about cards.

That's why panic didn't settle in when I failed to reach one of my goals before the card show this past weekend. I had planned to update my Topps team checklist/wantlist on Evernote, but procrastinated and didn't get it done, leaving me vulnerable should a need to reference something present itself. But who needs a checklist when you have that powerful tool we call the brain.

I came across the following three cards from various dealers and while there is nothing about them that stands out, I searched the images that had been scanned and filed away in folders in my brain and decided they were ones that I needed for my team sets. Was I right? Let's see how that old noodle is working, shall we?

2009 Topps "Ring Of Honor" #RH48 Tom Glavine

Did I Need It?  YEP!!

2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary #HTA1 Hank Aaron

Did I Need It? Uh-Huh.

Two-for-Two... last one... can I go 3-for-3 ?

2008 Topps Year in Review #YR111 Willie Harris

They played me to go opposite field, but I pulled it right down the line...Triple! Chop Keeper goes 3-for-3!

It may not have been as impressive as Harris' 6-6, but hey, at this age and with the mind failing me from time to time, I'll take it!! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Next Best Thing

I'm envious of guys like Nick at Dime Boxes-- The Low-End Baseball Card Collector's Journey. I couldn't tell you the last time I came across a table offering such a delectable feast. Dime Boxes? I'd have better luck finding a dime bag.

That didn't stop me from at least trying to get by as cheap as possible at this past weekend's card show. About the best I could find were the 2 for $1 boxes. Does that sound better than 50 cent box? Nah, 2 for 1 makes it sound like you're getting a deal. Walking away from this table, I certainly felt better than spending a buck or two per card.

Just one of a legion of Fleer inserts from back in the day. Nothing stood out on this one, other than it being Chipper.

An interesting card- had never seen any of them before. The scan doesn't do it justice. Kind of like a Chrome Finest.

 Speaking of Chrome...couldn't pass up this RC of Christian. I hope he delivers on his promise this coming year.

 And here I thought I was getting one of the High Tek cards that were recently released...Nope. It's one of the originals.

 Never got these. I guess you can say they had a little bit of tradition dating back to '63. Still, never was a fan of this set.

 I love Topps Heritage, but, like the Fleer Tradition, I never really got this set. Glad they've put it to rest.

 That's a lot of blue!

 I liked this set- just didn't care for the First Edition crap. Wow- I'm Mr. Positive today, aren't I?

I always like the date and description found on this set. Is that better? Something positive rather than negative!

 Topps Fusion- I like them, but they were confusing!!

Another card that was new to me...I like it!

 Hey batter, batter!

 It wouldn't be a good show without picking up at least one Smoltzie!

 I might actually have this one, but took it anyway.

Rounding out the action...this Super Star Attractions card of old Hoss.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top Five Things I Heard at This Weekend's Card Show

Having missed the previous area card show, I eagerly awaited the latest one. Anticipating the Winter show somewhat surprised me because, as I have previously posted, they have become quite stale. Nevertheless, I took somewhat of a different approach to this one and I think it paid off.

So for the next few days I'm going to post some of the highlights from the latest of our quarterly shows- beginning with the top five things I heard at the card show. While they are not in any particular order in regards to favorites, they will be in chronological order.

1- "I just bought that table for $3000"

The dealer at my first stop of the day told me that if I needed anything to flag him down- that he would be over across the room. He said that he had bought the table, and I thought he had simply reserved a second table. I went about my business, rummaging through his 50 cent box (buying the four above). At one point he told another dealer (my usual 'vintage guy'-who wasn't set up today) that he had paid a guy 3G's for some 'really good stuff.' Glad to hear that the hobby is thriving (or at least it is for this guy?).

2- "There were so many great little oddball boxes sets back then."

I eventually moseyed past a few other tables before stopping at the one manned by a veteran dealer who's a regular to this show. He's usually got vintage binders that are worth looking at, but today something else caught my eye: a nice stack of 1990 Score McDonald's. If you're aware of these beauties, then you'll know that they were available only in a handful of McDonald's in Idaho and Oregon and are among the scarcest of food-issues and oddballs from the era. Anyway, as we were discussing these cards one of the guys involved in our conversation mentioned how the hobby had so many great boxed sets back then: Woolworth, Kaybee Toys, K-Mart. This brought joy to my heart & I wasn't afraid to let my feelings known: I find far more enjoyment out of those things than most of the current offerings in today's hobby.

Back in a previous collecting life, I had a number of the Micky D's- but let them go when I got out of the hobby around 2001. Most are out of my price range today, but I did get this one of Julio Franco for $5. I'd still like to find his T206 Rookie card, however. HaHa.

3- "I've lost interest in football [cards]. Baseball's much more exciting, hold's its value better and is a better seller for me." 

This, to be honest, shocked me. While there has typically been a few dealers who offer a nice selection of vintage stuff, football seems to rule the Boise market (at least at the card shows). I've seen dealers who have stopped bringing baseball to the shows and narrow their selection to football only. Part of this probably has to do with the success of the Boise State football program, but I think it's just a reflection of sports in general. People are just passionate about the sport and for some reason, in our market that spills over into the hobby. 

After hearing that, I just HAD to buy something from this dealer, and I did- three of which are pictured above.

4- "The die-cuts are 50 cents each."

Shortly after leaving Mr. Baseball's table, I saw a young woman sitting behind a table, wearing a #2 Browns jersey. I figured she wouldn't have any baseball, but decided to look anyway- and I'm glad I did. 

Two binders housed some baseball cards and I thumbed through the first one until I found the Braves pages. I quickly snagged the Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons cards and then opened up the next binder. Low and behold- Fire, one of the most beautiful die-cut designs I've seen. There were also some of the Dueling Die-Cuts, another set that's not bad looking. Something told me that this girl wasn't going to be asking for the moon on these cards, so I asked her how much. "50 cents on the die-cuts, 25 cents for everything else." Um, okay. I figured I'd pick up one for myself and others that I can use as trade bait.

5- "I used to collect Braves"

I know, a bit strange, right? 'Used to'- that ought to bring sorrow to my heart, but, at least for yesterday, it didn't. His loss was my gain.

My final stop brought me to a table which had pretty much nothing but football. The guy noticed my Braves hoodie and hat and said, "Let me guess. You're looking for Braves cards? I used to collect the Braves. Let me dig a few out." So he did- not a large stack, but perhaps ten cards. I probably over paid on these things, but hey, he didn't appear to be selling much and I've got to help out a fan or whatever it is he calls himself.

As I said at the beginning of this post, my approach this time out was different: rather than looking to complete team sets, I was going for anything cheap that fits into my player collections or my food-issue/oddball  collections. It seemed to be a pretty productive day and I was pretty happy with all I was able to pick up.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Tom Thumb

Every culture has its own folklore. We Americans have Daniel Boone, Paul Bunyan, Bigfoot, Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold and Babe the Blue Ox. Our friends north of the border have Jean Cadieux, the voyageurs and the story of Dungarvon Whooper. The English, of course, are rich with folklore: Dragons, dwarfs, elves, the black dog, Robin Hood, and the cutest of them all, little Tom Thumb.

As the oldest fairy tale printed in English, The History of Tom Thumb was first printed in 1621 and tells the adventures of a boy no bigger than his father's thumb. He was actually a part of the British folklore long before that, being a part of their oral tradition. His tale has been told a number of times by many different writers. One, dramatist Henry Fielding, cast Tom as a "mighty, although tiny, warrior and conqueror of giants, as well as the object of desire for many ladies of the courts" in his play, The History of Tom Thumb the Great. "Eventually, Tom dies when swallowed by a cow, but his ghost returns." (Wikipedia).

Which gets me to today's card.

1992 Cracker Jack Donruss Micro #2 (Series 2) Tom Glavine

After having Topps produce micro cards as the toy surprises found in boxes of their snacks, Cracker Jacks used Donruss for their snacks in 1992.

Produced in two series, each set contained thirty-six cards and many of the games top stars. Series 1 backs feature a blue border, the Cracker Jack sailor, and a smatter of info/stats. Series 2 backs are similar, but have a red border and feature different players. Each series' cards are numbered from 1-36.

I've never been one to hide my affection for Tommy Glavine. Two Cy Young Awards; 300 Wins; Five 20-Win seasons; the plunking of Murphy (it took balls, yo!!); Game Six shutout of Cleveland in the 1995 World Series; Series MVP. Oh yeah, let's not forget...chicks dug him dig the long ball!

There's also that bit about his demise after being swallowed by a cow signing with New York, only to see his ghost return to Atlanta.

All part of Braves folklore.

And all without being blessed with a 95-mph heater or without being physically imposing. Tom Thumb, indeed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #21: Be Prepared!

The Braves move to Cobb County in 2017 will take them into Scout territory. As in, the Boy Scouts of America.

Located across the street from the headquarters of the Atlanta Area Council of the 104 year-old organization, Sun Trust Park will surely include the numeral sculpture of Glavine's number 47 brought over from Turner Field- and I, for one, would like to see an accompanying statue of the lefty in front of the future home of the Braves. 

It's probably also a good bet that Scout Day will continue to be a part of the new park, as it has for years- dating back to the Fulton-County Stadium days.

For thirteen consecutive years (1992-2004), the Atlanta area Boy Scouts of America issued one Collector's Edition card at each of their annual Scout Days. The Glavine card, shown today, was issued in 2001 and is one of my more recent eBay buys. I jumped at the opportunity to buy one at the BIN price of $9.95 shipped. Having had it saved in my watch list, I was, like the scouts, prepared. 

Three down and now only ten more to go!

Monday, December 8, 2014


Major League Baseball has entered a new era. What had been an offense-driven league has turned into one dominated by pitchers. And it's not necessarily the starting pitchers who are thriving.

Sure, you have your Kershaw's and King Felix's, but most starters are not allowed to go deep into the games. The result? Hitters are now routinely facing relief pitchers who are throwing in the mid-to-high nineties. Most teams employ multiple cheese-throwing specialists, further suppressing offenses. And yet, the position is still often under-appreciated by fans and card manufacturers and the closer role often bastardized by writers and 'stat-heads.'

1971 O-Pee-Chee #248 Hoyt Wilhelm

The save wasn't an official MLB stat until 1969, but was developed ten years earlier when sportswriter Jerome Holtzman introduced it as a way to better recognize the effectiveness of relievers such as Hoyt Wilhelm- men who would come into the game to relieve tiring starters, often going multiple innings on the backend of the game.

The same year that the stat was introduced (1960), The Sporting News (for whom Holtzman was a columnist) began recognizing relievers with their own award. The Fireman of the Year, given to the top reliever in each league, lasted until the year 2000, when it was renamed the Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award. This newly renamed award would continue until 2010, ending a fifty year run only one year after naming a closer (Mariano Rivera) as its "Pro Athlete of the Year."

From the years 1976 to 2012, Major League baseball issued a similar annual award to the top relievers in the game. Unlike the Cy Young or MVP awards, which are determined by votes, the Rolaids Relief Award was based on a points system: each save was worth three points, wins netted two points, and each loss worth negative two points. "Tough Saves" (defined as a save earned by a pitcher who entered the game with the tying run on base) eventually earned the reliever 1 point while a blown saves subtracted two points from his total.

While the two previously mentioned awards are no longer given, a third body of writers has now recognized the important role of the relief pitcher: beginning in 2010, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) began voting on the the top relievers in each league. The IBWAA established the Hoyt Wilhelm Relief Pitcher of the Year for the National League and the Rollie Fingers Relief Pitcher of the Year for the American League. This year's winners were Kansas City's Greg Holland and Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel, who won for the second and fourth consecutive years, respectively.

My first thought when looking at this card is of some crime syndicate. I in no way want to insinuate that Wilhelm was involved in criminal activity. In fact, from what I've read, he was an upstanding individual. It's just the photo used by Topps reminds me of one you would see of some mobster. In other words, Topps could have picked a more flattering photo to use of the future Hall of Famer.

Hoyt's professional career began with the Braves organization, although he would never pitch for them at any level until they were in Atlanta. Hoyt was drafted by the New York Giants in the minor league draft less than a month after he had been purchased by the Braves from Mooresville of the North Carolina State League.

The knuckleballer would return to the organization when the Braves traded for him during the stretch run in September of 1969. Atlanta was in need of bullpen help, and Hoyt provided it, helping the team win the NL West by three games. In eight games that September, Wilhelm picked up two wins, four saves and an 0.73 ERA. Unfortunately, he wasn't eligible for the playoffs because we wasn't on the roster at the end of August.

Wilhelm pitched for the Braves for most of the 1970 season, going 6-4 with a 3.10 ERA and 13 saves in 50 games. Having dropped out of the race, and with only days left in the regular season,  the Braves sold Wilhelm to the Cubs, who were still in the race and in need of an arm out of the 'pen. Hoyt only appeared in three games for the Cubs, pitching a total of 3.2 innings while going 0-1 and allowing four runs and 3 walks- good for a 9.82 ERA and a 1.909 WHIP.

Following the 1970 season, the Cubs sent Wilhelm back to Atlanta for 1B/PH Hal Breeden. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn found the late season rental and subsequent trade suspicious, and ordered an investigation of the dealings. Nothing ever came of it, and Wilhelm was allowed to return to the Braves. His final go-around with the Braves would be almost as short as the time he spent on the North Side: 2.1 innings pitched over three games, while allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits and 1 walk. The righty was released on June 29th and found employment two weeks later with the Dodgers.


Looking at the back of Hoyt's 1970 baseball card, you would have never guessed that he would eventually wind up in Cooperstown.

After being passed over eight times following his retirement, Wilhelm was finally voted in in 1985, becoming the first reliever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Los Hombres Malos

I've been sitting at my computer for the past 40 minutes, staring at the picture of this card and trying to think of something (ANYTHING!) to write. I'm at a loss for words.

While this card is as sweet as it is elusive, it cannot beat the Cesar Cedeno card from of the same set. 

If you've never seen the Cedeno, then let me introduce you to what could be the most colorful card in the history of cardboard. 

There you have it. 

Have you ever seen such dynamic color? 

It's as bad as Cedeno was. It's so bad, that it's got me wanting to start a Cesar Cedeno PC.

Kellogg's inserted these cards into many of their cereal brands during the 1991 season. Cards can be difficult to find, as they were a regional release. Just where they were available- I have yet to discover. Ten different players plus a header card make up the set.