Jun 30, 2009

The World Series Phillies Project: Update 3

I was able to procure some Phillies cards from the world's biggest virtual bidzone, all in furtherance of that inconveivable goal explained here. With great help from the gentleman at the The Phillies Room, I have been able to focus and cull for these elusively common cards.

First, is two veteran Phillies from 1983 Topps: Larry Christenson,a league average pitcher for his career and Garry Maddox covering his customary 33% of the Earth.

Here's two legends presented in 1987 Topps form. I always thought the White Sox logo looked like matchsticks for some reason.

Then, here is my 9 favorite cards from the 1979 Topps team set (in no particular order)

Tug McGraw does believe and it's because he was awesome.

No one can part Tim McCarver from his chaw, not even Joe Buck.

The Bull swung a mean bat and makes a mean BBQ. Check out those baby blue uniform.

Bob Boone's record has now been surpassed twice. He's a 3rd place catcher now.

Mike Schmidt has to squint, three straight division titles would make you do that to see your opponents below you.

Here's a happy hatless team at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, FL.

Warren Brusstar is rockin' the middle reliever 'stache with aplomb. You wouldn't want to mess with him in the middle innings.

Lonnie Smith is sporting the bette noir rookie look, sandwiched between two players I am not familiar with. Smith would later come back to haunt the Phillies as an Atlanta Brave and St. Louis Cardinal.

Here's Lefty being Lefty with a slider incoming.

There's the update...may it continue to expand.

Jun 28, 2009

Abbreviated Slice of a Season: Part 8 of 18

No images for this entry/It was a dark time/And I swear it was all a dream

I have been out of the country, so I did not get to witness firsthand the carnage that the Phillies' record has undergone this past week. Home or away, the Phillies results suggested an undisciplined, broken down kind of baseball with very few bright spots. Let's review the wasteland known as slice 8.

Slice Record: 2-7
Cumulative Record: 38-34
Standing at Slice's End: Miraculously, still 1.5 games ahead of the Mets, can we say war of attrition?
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays
Opponents that helped the Phillies: None
Gut-wrenching sequence heard play-by-play over the phone while on the way to the airport: Ryan Madson with one out allows a HR to Greg Zaun, then with two outs allows a single to Oscar Salazar and a HR to Brian Roberts to blow a 5-3 lead in the 9th on June 20th
Most spirited loss ruined by an ex-Phillie back-up catcher:Rod Barajas wrecking hopes and dreams as he did when he was on the Phillies (Rod Barajas hitting a HR? Really??)
Bats would help when facing:Jeremy Guthrie...Jeremy Guthrie?? Really?????
Ex-Phillies haunting:Besides Barajas, Pat Burrell showed up just in time this year to beat the Phillies.
Overlooked positive pitching performance:Joe Blanton, 7 IP, 2 R, 10 K against Tampa
Nice bullpen breather:JA Happ with a dominant complete game shutout
On the shelf:Condrey, Bastardo, maybe Park?
I hope you're back for real:Brad Lidge
Isn't shortstop supposed to be a strong position?:Jimmy Rollins needs to hit or walk or something, replacing him with Eric Bruntlet for 3 days or so won't right anything.
The bullpen is not a retirement home:but it will make your arm fall off before your time.

I don't have much to add since I only saw parts of 3 games this time. The lineup needs shuffling (Rollins needs to be dropped to 7th or 8th in the order), but the struggling is a team-wide affliction from game to game. Poor starting pitching has worn out the effecive relievers and overexposed the ineffective ones. Reinforcements are needed for the dog days of summer. Ruben Amaro? Are you there? I know you've been searching for someone out there.

5-12 in Interleague (with one game remaining)...again, they were 4-11 last year. The end of June can't come soon enough.

Jun 23, 2009


I'm away until the weekend...searching in an undisclosed location for some Phillies motivation and a live arm....

Jun 20, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 7 of 18

Home field advantage??
Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 7
Slice Record: 4-5
Cumulative Record: 36-27
Standing at Slice's End: 3 games ahead of the Mets
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Red Sox, Blue Jays
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Mets
Wins to Remember: Defeating the Dodgers and ex-Phillie Randy Wold 7-2 on June 7,Defeating the Mets 5-4 in 11 on June 10th and again in extra innings 6-3 on June 12th.
Losses to spill milk over: extra inning losses abound:5-2 against Boston on June 12th and 8-3 against Toronto on June 16th
Interesting stat: The Phillies have a .249 Avg at home and only 41 HR compared to .273 AVG away with 51 HRs.
Bats do help in general: When facing Scott Richmond and Jon Lester
Old Nemesis Sighting: Mike Lowell
Ex-Phillie Haunting Spotted: Was that the ghost of Scott Rolen, circa 2001? and Rod Barajas...really?
Johan Santana is not invincible, the Phillies showed the world: 4 HR in Citi Field says so
For want of a lefty the inning was lost, for lack of a consistent bullpen, the game was lost: To Scott Eyre and Brad Lidge...come back and pitch well.
Welcome to the team: Paul Bako and Tyler Walker
A low outside breaking ball is not the ideal pitch to swing at: Ryan Howard
The team needs an infusion of: The Bull's BBQ at home; they need some fire.
Suprising success story with a small sample size:: Chan Ho Park
Hitting Heroes: Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz, Chase Utley
Need Adjustments: Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Greg Dobbs and other benchmates
Fire Starters on the Mound: Jack Taschner,Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Jaime Moyer
Holding the Fort Down: Ryan Madson (mostly), Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels

I'm too frustrated right now to write a full summary (this is why I should write these on time, when it doesn't look as bad for the Phillies). They may be in first place, but there is something intangible missing beyond the statistics. It's not complacency or a lack of resilience...more a lack of focus that causes errors of omission rather than commission. The prime example was when Marco Scutaro of the Blue Jays ended up on second after a walk....no one paid attention to him running? Not even the dugout?

The hitting is robust, but not sustainable unless there is a change in execution. They have a less than .200 AVG with runners in scoring position over the last 10 days. Losing Raul Ibanez has left the outfield short both a great hitter (so far) and a decent glove. Even if Ibanez regressed to his career averages for the remainder of the season, he would be an improvement over John Mayberry (too inexperienced) or Matt Stairs (can't handle everyday in his age and condition). Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins need to re-think their approaches; that's the only nice way to say it.

In the long run, the lack of viable starters can be the downfall. Antonio Bastardo is nice as a stop gap, but probably can only throw 120-140 innings before wearing down. The summer heat may also affect J.A. Happ. Joe Blanton continues to improve upon his numbers. The bullpen is useless right now, can't hold leads or deficits even. Losing Scott Eyre was worse than losing Brad Lidge. It's clear Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin are starting to wear out. Jack Taschner has not been a net positive addition, and JC Romero is still working out the post-suspension kinks.... Oh, and in general, stop walking lead off hitters everyone.

Ok, deep breath, still in first, it's time to regroup...the rest of the Toronto series, followed by Baltimore and more interleague intrigue. Let's look forward now.

Jun 19, 2009

Topps All Time Fan Favorites vs. Original: Hank Aaron

Like many people I was not really an active collector during the 1999-2006 era of card autos, relics, and shininess. Therefore, I was unable to properly obtain and appreciate what I think was one of the more innovative card sets of that period, the 2003-2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites Series.

These aren't reprints like the Topps Archives sets nor were they players on new designs. These were new images with the retro designs with the twist being that the new image was supposed to be taken from the same period as that card design.

Another great aspect of the Topps All Time Fan Favorites set is that the card backs are also identical to the original card design with one exception. The stats for the player only encompass the years in which the players were on that team, including the team career totals. I like that a lot, it really gives the set focused.

I was fortunate to be able to purchase both the 2003 and 2005 sets off ebay each for the same price as a blaster. It is really fun to sort through these cards and remember what players bring back memories of days gone by. Some of them are as recent as Edgar Martinez in a 2003 Topps design.

Anyway, once I get my feet back on the ground and I am not pursuing too many other card goals. I would like to pair up as many as these cards as possible with the original just because it would be fun to look at.

This is the first one that I was able to locate. It's one of two Hank Aaron cards I have and luckily, it was represented in the All Time Fan Favorites set.

This is an iconic card, celebrating when Hank Aaron was anticipating to pass Babe Ruth at the onset of the 1974 season.

Which do you prefer: the 1974 Topps #1 or the modern re-working of the classic...or maybe a little of both?

Jun 18, 2009

Set Completion: 1987 Topps

A journey has been completed. My first large hand collated set in years has been completed. The internet really is a lifeblood for random common cards.

This is the last card I needed: 104, Billy Sample. I don't think I've ever seen this card before or recall watching him play. That is only fitting because he has been the gaping black hole preventing the end of the pursuit. Talk about a 9 year career in relative obscurity (any Rangers fans disagree?)

One journey ends, but others must continue, please see my wantlists here. I would love to trade. Just be patient with me. My inventory is really not that large.
Anyone else looking to complete this set of 1987 Topps; I have many extra. Bring me your wantlists and I'll see what I can do.

Jun 17, 2009

2007 Sweet Spot Group Break Results

I recently participated in a 2007 Sweet Spot 10 tin group break hosted by I Am Joe Collector. It was a random team drawing, I purchased two teams, and I ended up with the Mariners and Mets...both decent draws in my opinion.

Why would I participate in a group break like this? Well, I really liked the look of Sweet Spot autos in general, and I wanted one. (disappointment on that front,but I'll live) I also would never buy a box of this on my own, though individual box(tin) prices have now fallen below $50.00. The reason is simple, the checklist and autos you receive in a 6 card box just don't have a strong enough checklist to maintain the original price point. I'm not sure who, but someone pulled an amazing Alex Gordon/Billy Butler 1/1 rookie dual auto. Whenever (ifever), the redemption is fulfilled, it will be a card to admire.

Here's my not too modest nor overwhelming haul.

First, is a base card of Adrian Beltre. All base cards are individually numbered to 850...on the front of the card. Way to have an intrusive design element. There's nothing in the base cards that screams to me...rarer than most base cards and also expensive to purchase. I prefer the 2008 Upper Deck design.

Here are the remaining base cards I received: King Felix, Hamstrung Jose Reyes, and the hidden speedster, David Wright. I may be a Phillies fan, but I recognize that the Mets have talented individual players.

I also received a Sweet Swatch Memorabilia card (packed one or two per tin) of Carlos Beltran. Read this site sometime (arguably, the most fun baseball site to read on the net) and search the archives about Carlos Beltran. The man is a natural player and only a Carlos-come-lately Met. Anyone remember the 2004 playoffs?

Here's a shaven Jason Giambi that the kind host bestowed upon me as one of the unclaimed cards. It's a nice bonus, and here in Oakland, Giambi is still well-remembered.

This is the one auto I received. This card is thick....really thick...and that really is a plastic helmet in there. These are packed one per tin. Ryan Rowland-Smith is an Aussie battling back from an injury on rehab at AAA. I expect great things...but only because I have an autographed rookie of him.

2007 Sweet Spot is (or was) a high end product that failed to meet collector's expectations. Though I did enjoy receiving the cards and participating in the group break.

Group Break Haul: B- (no sweet spot auto, didn't beat the odds)
Host Grade: A (cool video, fast delivery)
Collectability of 2007 Sweet Spot: D (numbered base set, limited checklist of not enough stars and too many obscure rookies for the autos)
Reason to come back for more: I only want the Hamels Sweet Spot Auto, avoid boxes if you can and purchase singles.
Reason to avoid: small amount of cards, few worthy big hits to justify price point, this should merge with Sweet Spot Classic into a dual faced product of some kind.
Odds of purchasing a hobby box: 11%

Jun 15, 2009

Masterpiece Moments Mondays: Ty Cobb

Tyrus Raymond Cobb,the Georgia Peach, pictured here, is bearing down upon a catcher to steal home in 1907. This is before the widespread use of shinguards and other catcher's gear and after a time when Cobb most likely sharpened his spikes before embarking on another grizzled, high-flying journey around the basepaths.

He, of the 4189 career hits and .366 career AVG, was a menace on the base paths, to pitchers, to opposing players, and to fans. He was a hardened man, having gotten word that his mother had killed his father when he was only 18. He thought the whole world was against him, fighting off opponents and teammates alike with fists and harsh words.

Two quotes sum his playing style well. "When I begin playing baseball, baseball was about as gentlemanly as a kick in the crotch." He demonstrated that well everytime he was on the basepaths. "Baseball is something like a war...Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men." And he shed as much blood on the field (his own and others') had or since.

By the age of 20, he was already a team and league leader, leading the Tigers to the pennant whilst leading the league in AVG,OPS, RBI, SB, H, and TB. The amazing part, it would be his 2nd lowest AVG over the next 13 years, and it began an era where he led the league in OPS 9 out of 11 years. He was one of the dominant (and polarizing) forces and personalities in baseball during the rough and tumble early 20th century.

He even assaulted a fan in 1912,prompting a suspension, and a players' strike of his team. They weren't loyal to him; it was strictly business. The manager rounded up any able-bodied man he could find, and the Tigers lost one travesty of a game, 24-2. Ban Johnson, the AL President had no choice but to reinstate the team and Cobb with only some token fines as punishment.

He was a cuss and the burning fury of his life consumed him. It seemed he had no love for himself and others. This helped him on the field because between the lines you can treat the other team as more than just worthy adversaries, to Cobb, they were mortal enemies.

This catcher will need a medic after this; the steel spikes have been sharpened to a point, and home will be stolen. Another run scored and enemy earned for Ty Cobb.

Jun 12, 2009

2009 Topps Series 2 Pack Break

I don't buy or open many new packs, so I'd figure I'd share probably my only pack of 2009 Topps Series 2 that I will purchase this year (Though I have to see if I should I get a hobby box).

Here it comes.



CLOSER! DUCK! Here's Huston Street sending his greetings from the Rocky Mountains with a ball in your grill.

And here he is in a more sanguine setting, at a reliever's convention. One, K-Rod, pictured in his new uniform. The other, Jason Isringhausen, unable to let go of his old one. I can sympathize; I also had major withdrawal from the city of St. Louis (surely I jest). Does this mean he'll get an Updates & Highlights card with his new Tampa threads?

I also got a double dose of Mr. Jeter. We all know his story. Is he underly underrated or overly overrated or has he completely jumped through the ratings system altogether? Either way, he has had some great years (i.e. 1999, 2006) and is a bonafide star.

Also, what is a Toppstown? Can I drive a Toppsmobile and eat a Toppsberry muffin at the Toppsbucks coffee shop?

Here is an elegant Turkey Red insert of Lance Berkman; his bat is larger than the world. This is up for trade for a Phillies Turkey Red insert.

Here's the rest of the pack: Lyle Overbay doing some first base yoga, Dan Haren exhibiting style, Jordan Schafer (with an official rookie card logo) demonstrating his golf swing, Mike Scoscia surveying the field with shades, Wandy Rodriguez concentrating on pitching without breathing, and Rajai Davis sliding in for a hug.

Pack Grade: B (Turkey Red insert and one star card)
Reasons to buy more: Palatable design, some enjoyable insert sets (Career Best, Legends of the Game, Turkey Red)
Reasons to Stay Away: To boycott shortprint variations of flagship set (though I want them), relics and autos have a weak checklist for significant box buying.
Collectability of Topps Series 2: B- (base set checklist not as strong as series 1)
Chances of buying a hobby box: 44% (I need to find some series 1 first)

Jun 11, 2009

Slice of a Season: Part 6 of 18

Since the baseball season is long (a marathon, not a sprint they always say). Let's keep track of the Phillies 2009 season in digestible bites. A weekly wrap-up doesn't give justice to the ups and downs that a team goes through because it's so uneven.Therefore, I've decided to summarize the season in 9 game swaths, the equivalent of 3 series, barring rainouts and schedule unevenness. Plus, 9*18=162...I like even numbers.

Slice of a Season: 2009, Slice 6
Slice Record: 7-2
Cumulative Record: 32-22
Standing at Slice's End: 3 games ahead of the Mets
Opponents that hurt the Phillies: Dodgers
Opponents that helped the Phillies: Nationals and Padres
Wins to Remember: Defeating the Nationals 4-2 on May 31st, Moyer lives! Winning 10-5 agains the Padres on June 2nd, Bastardo debuts with a 96 mph fastball!
Loss to spill milk over: Brad Lidge blowing the 9th inning against the Dodgers on June 5th, losing 5-4.
Interesting stat: Jamie Moyer has a higher OBP than Rollins, Howard,or Victorino
Bats do help in general: When facing Hiroki Kuroda
Nemesis Alert: Andre Ethier
9 innings in the same game? Do pitchers still do that?:Cole Hamels throwing a complete game shutout against the Dodgers
A right knee can get injured: To Brad Lidge

Maybe it's better if I don't pitch to contact: Joe Blanton

Welcome to the big leagues: Antonio Bastardo
Hitting Heroes: Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley
Need Adjustments: Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins, Greg Dobbs and other benchmates
Fire Starters on the Mound: Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Brad Lidge...again
Holding the Fort Down: Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, Antonio Bastardo, Joe Blanton

This was definitely a feel-good part of the season. With a season-high 7 wins in a row, dispatching of the Nationals and Padres with a flick of the bats and flashing of the leather, the Phillies are starting to come into their own. All pistons aren't working together yet to drive this engine, but at least the season is moving forward and not backward.

The hitters we know about. There is only so many superlatives to be given to a lineup with a greater than .800 OPS after 1/3 of the season has passed. Raul Ibanez (again!) has continued to be incredible, he's probably been the 2nd most valuable player in the NL thus far. Carlos Ruiz has a .410 OBP and everyone has an OPS above 100 except Jimmy Rollins. He must not hit lead off until he learns not to pop up the first pitch,

The pitching has a new face and it is a 23 year old lefty by the name of Antonio Bastardo, the newest addition to the "Lefty Court"
Cole Hamels: The King
Jaime Moyer: The Wise Counselor
JA Happ: The Jousting Knight
Antonio Bastardo: The Heir
Scott Eyre: The Master of Coin
Jack Tashner: The Forgotten Lord
JC Romero: The Prodigal Prince

Brad Lidge still has a 7.27 ERA and went to the DL after his last appearance, but Joe Blanton is now averaging 8.1 K/9,the same as Hamels. That's some swinging and missing. The team ERA has finally edged below 5.

Let's continue on the positive side by getting the split with the Dodgers (which has already happened as of this writing), facing down the Mets, and then heading to the dark side (the American League) for most of the rest of the month.

Jun 8, 2009

Masterpiece Moments Mondays: Sandy Koufax

I loved the 2007 UD Masterpieces set. The images and artwork create an aesthetically pleasing appearance. For me, the best part was the inclusion of old-time players depicting key moments in their careers (besides the generic portrait or action shot). Understanding baseball history and how it has woven itself throughout the game today is one of the characteristics that makes baseball both great and memorable. Let's details the moments depicted on Masterpieces first...and then expand to other sets. If you have any images of cards or cards that depict a historical moment, please submit them in the comments for future consideration.

Presented here is Sandy Koufax, showing off 4 baseballs with zeroes on them, having just pitched his then record 4th no-hitter. Appropriately enough, it was a perfect game hurled on 9/9/65 against the Cubs' Bob Hendley, who threw a one-hitter of his own. But he wasn't perfect; for a five year stretch at the end of his career, Sandy Koufax almost was.

Sandy Koufax once defined pitching as "the art of instilling fear by making a man flinch." This quote somehow seems more appropriate to his Dodgers counterpart Don Drysdale, but Koufax made you afraid because you couldn't even hit the pitch (for the most part) when you knew what was coming. Fastball was elbows out at the windup and the curveball was elbows in...well, batter screw your cleats in tight to the batter's box, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

He wasn't always so feared. He was fast and wild and didn't know where the pitches were going. In 1958 he led the league in wild pitches with 17 and had 131 strikeouts and 105 BB in 158 innings. Even the batters could barely tell where the pitches were going.

He started becoming the legend in 1961, when his K/BB first edged above 2.5. By 1962, he led the league in WHIP (1.03), H/9 (6.5), and K/9 (10.5). In 1963, he won the Cy Young, MVP, World Series MVP because he was that good. He was 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA, 0.875 WHIP, 11 shutouts and 306 strikeouts vs. only 58 BB.

1965, the year of the perfect game, showcased 382 strikeouts and another World Series MVP, pitching the 7th game on only 3 days rest. He also had a 187 ERA+ (87% better than league average) and allowed an absurdly low 5.8 H/9.

Koufax also had character, playing with pain to a point where he could not life his arm nor pitch without significant treatment. The treatment of his elbow is probably the first time when cortisone shot entered the general baseball fan lexicon. He had conviction in the personal sense; he refused to pitch the World Series on the major Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and he had conviction in the professional sense, he held out in tandem with Drysdale prior to the 1966 season (granted for more pay) to challenge the baseball orthodoxy for players to pay what the owners presented to them.

But it is artistry on the mound and his too soon exit from the game he is most remembered for. The sense of his curve snapping down from on high to send another hopeful batter back into the dugout dust; their last image Koufax nonchalantly receiving another ball from the catcher.

And here is his own lasting picture, perfect for a day, memorable in baseball history.

Jun 6, 2009

The World Series Phillies Project: Update 2

This time I don't have any cards to share, but I just would like to show some of the results of laboring in front of old checklists and price guides. I have completed the majority of the checklist for all the 1980 Phillies (excepting Schmidt and Carlton, they each will have their own checklist).

I've posted the link on the sidebar under "Wantlists", calling it the "1980 Phillies Card Database". Please check it out.

If you notice, there are some questions marks in the spreadsheet. These are cards either for which I couldn't locate with my eyes scanning set checklists or may not exist.

If you have any information at all about any of the players or cards listed in the "database", especially the question marks, please leave it in the comments. Any information help is greatly appreciated.

Oh yes, let the quest begin! (though I'm not sure where to begin)

Jun 4, 2009

2009 Finest Group Break Results

This was the first group break I ever participated in; it was hosted by Jeff at I Am Joe Collector. I was mildly pleased with the results. I received a good mix of base cards, one numbered refractor, and one autographed manufactured patch. I would never buy a box of 2009 Finest on my own, so this was a good way to get a decent feel for the product without shelling out the $95.00 or so for a hobby box. I did not do as well as some, but I did better than others in the break. The results are pictured below.

Johnny Damon blue refractor: colored refractors look great and have shimmery appeal. This card is for trade for a similar Phillies refractor.

Will Venable manufactured patch #d/175: This is the first one of these I have ever received. Venable at least made the majors last night, going 0 for 4 against the Phillies. The autograph is a little hard to read though. It's an interesting concept, but autographed rookie refractors would probably be more visually appealing.

Here are the base cards. I received some stars and semi-stars. The image of the player really pops out of the background, which doesn't distract from the player image as much as I thought it would. The backs of the cards (as represented by A-Rod) have a trivia question for some reason. I love trivia, but this is not a low-end product. Maybe Topps was tired of always using Finest Moments with the Finest brand.

Group Break Assessment: B
Collectability of 2009 Finest: B- (only shortprints are the manufactured patch rookies)
Reason to come back: Multi-colored refractors, attractive base card design, mystery of the rookie card redemption program.
Reason to stay away: Rookie checklist is weak outside of David Price and maybe Travis Snider and these are the autos you normally get in a box, veteran (Finest Moments) autos are only case hits.
Likelihood of buying hobby box: 11%

Sudden Need of Late '80s Commons (Two in Particular)

If anyone responds and sends me the two following cards:

1987 Topps Billy Sample #104 and 1988 Fleer Tim Flannery #582 (the one with the surfboard), I will send you a team lot of your choice.

Also, if you want to make this part of a larger trade, I'm ok with that,too.

I'm pretty sure that there are millions of these cards floating around somewhere, just none of them are near me.

Please contact me by e-mail.

Thank you.

Jun 3, 2009

Tales of a Former Bowman Collector: Part 3

By 1992, Bowman had established its identity of the unknown, not yet played in the majors (or maybe even in the minors) players. In this year, it was decided to up the ante; the set size was increased to 704 cards in one series, the finish of the cards went from cardboard stock to gloss, and there was the new addition of one foil card per pack. It is in this instance that they sought to create the iconic rookie card of a player by both being ahead of the competition and increasing the quality of the set.

This is reflected in the player selection of 1992 Bowman. From 1st round draft picks like Manny Ramirez to late round draft picks as favors of a godfather like Mike Piazza, the player selection focused on one trait only. Are you a potential up and comer to the major league scene? Some notable players like Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Carlos Delgado didn't have cards until the following year or sometimes years, and the Bowman brand really milked this fact. Of course, the downside to this is that there are a lot of photos of players in Hawaiian shirts or posed in front of their high schools. Oh well, at least it wasn't factory airbrushing that will always looks fake.

These cards plus others of draft picks from 1990 and 1991 were soon sought after. There were articles in Beckett about how the "best" card was the more desirable and more valuable card than a rookie card. The best examples were Pedro Martinez, Jim Thome, and Chipper Jones 1992 Bowman cards. The rookies of Martinez and Thome were only in 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition, a set that has never been a light in collectors' eyes. So their 1992 Bowman card, with the gloss, and "rookie card aura" of the set soon outstripped their rookie card in popularity and "book value".

The other piece that made this Bowman set step to the next level was the addition of the foil card in every pack. Why? Because it had a shiny border,simple as that. Foil was the new wave of innovation (as evidenced by the popularity of ToppsGold). These weren't parallel cards and were no more rare than other base cards in the set, but they added an extra reason to pursue the set through packs. Of course, the packs were too expensive for my 10 year old budget.

1993 Bowman and 1994 Bowman followed the same format with practically the same base set size and interspersal of Bowman cards. There was one significant difference though. For the first time, starting with the 1993 set, there was pre-set hype. This led to gross inflation of pack prices until people realized that the rookie class just wasn't as strong as the previous year's and the cards were about 1000x easier to find. I bought my fair share of 1994 Bowman packs for $2.00; I think i was looking for the Rickey Bottalico (if that's even real).

In 1995, the hype of Vladimir Guerrero and Andruw Jones (especially) drove the pack prices up. There also was a perceived scarcity compared to the '93 and '94 sets. And in a move of pure gutsiness, the "Guaranteed Value" Program was instituted for the 1996 set. Collect the whole set and send it into Topps by a certain date for $100 cold, hard cash. I think everyone (see: Bowman collectors) wanted the set, but they weren;t going to send it in. Of course, it was going to increase in value just like 1995's version did. The next year, the place of the base Bowman brand among prospectors shifted dramatically.

Jun 1, 2009

Masterpiece Moments Mondays-Lou Gehrig

I loved the 2007 UD Masterpieces set. The images and artwork create an aesthetically pleasing appearance. For me, the best part was the inclusion of old-time players depicting key moments in their careers (besides the generic portrait or action shot). Understanding baseball history and how it has woven itself throughout the game today is one of the characteristics that makes baseball both great and memorable. Let's details the moments depicted on Masterpieces first...and then expand to other sets. If you have any images of cards or cards that depict a historical moment, please submit them in the comments for future consideration.

Presented here is Lou Gehrig, "The Iron Horse", giving his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on Lou Gehrig Day, July 4, 1939. This was a mere 2 months after the day when he removed himself from the lineup after 2130 consecutive games played. It was a poignant moment in many ways.

Gehrig was the consummate quiet leader, playing in the shadows first behind the spectacular and flamboyant Babe Ruth and then behind other events and people. He had arguably his best season in 1927 with a 1.240 OPS (221 OPS+; that's 121% better than league average), 47 HR, and led the league with 447 TB and 175 RBI. And yet that was the year that Ruth hit 60 HR. On June 4, 1932, he hit 4 HRs in a game. And yet that was the day that the great John McGraw stole the headlines and retired from managing.

He finished his career with 493 HR, 179 OPS+, a record 23 grand slams, .340 BA, and 1508 BB vs. only 790 K. He also is 5th on the career list with 1995 RBI and 10th on the career list with 1888 R after only playing 14 full seasons. His stats, though, don;t lend any insight to the man.

He was perceived as aloof because he was the antecedent of Ruth. But he was really just quiet, withdrawn, and dedicated to his craft. He was intelligent and family-oriented, graduating from Columbia and having his mother travel with him on road trips. A masterful hitter with powerful, quick reflexes and a smooth, fluid fielder (he had a range factor of 9.64 vs. the league average 1B of 6.64 for his career); his everyday presence provided a calm and his overwhelming talent provided wins for the entirety of his career.

At the beginning of 1939, he had lost a step, unable to even hit batting practice well or field a ground ball without a struggle, he removed himself from the lineup on May 2. He was diagnosed with ALS in June, and Lou Gehrig Day was scheduled for July 4. And here he stands, captured in a moment just before he gives a heartfelt farewell to the organization and the fans.

Later that year, the Hall of Fame elected him to its hallowed halls, and his ubiquitous number 4 was retired by the Yankees, the first such player to be accorded this honor. He died June 2, 1941 from his illness, thereafter known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. All players after him would do well to emulate him in character and approach to the game

For the text of his speech on this day. Click here.