Jun 29, 2010

It's a Box Break! Finale, 2009 Tristar Obak Packs 16-20

Pack 16
61:Steve Bilko-1956 Minor League player of the year
82:Dummy Hoy-first known deaf player

93:Albert Spalding: sporting goods magnate
73:Bud Hillerich and Pete Browning: Louisville Slugger founders
84:Francis Scott Key-Star Spangled Banner author
Mini 16:Mike Stanton-current player, Marlins system

Pack 17
44:Steve Dalkowski-regarded as fastest pitcher ever
16 1910 back variation and black parallel:Tommy Hanson-current player, Braves system
59:Gary Redus-holds single season batting average record (.462)
12:Gordon Beckham-current player, White Sox system
24:Carlos Santana-current player, Indians system
Mini 13:Jesus Montero-current player, Yankees system

Pack 18
48: Spook Jacobs
60: Joe Wilhoit-hit safely in 69 straight games
58 1910 back variation: Ron Necciai
91: Fritz and Louis Rueckheim-Henry Eckstein-invented crackerjack
75:Henry Chadwick-"Father of Baseball", creator of box score***

Mini 11:Jason Heyward-current player, Braves system

Pack 19
22:Jarrod Parker-current player, Diamondbacks franchise
5: Brett Lawrie-current player, Brewers franchise
43: Walter Carlisle-only known outfielder to record unassisted triple play
69: Moose Skowron-1952 minor league POY

65: Ron Kittle-1982 minor league POY

Mini 12: Austin Jackson-current player, Tigers system

Pack 20

92:Frank Shaughnessy-created minor league playoff system
16: Tommy Hanson-current player, Braves system

28: Pat Venditte-current player, Yankees system, amidextrious

16 1910 back variation: Tommy Hanson
55: Vince Coleman-'80s speedster,
Mini 54: George H. Rawlings-Rawlings sporting goods founder

***Why is Henry Chadwick known as the "Father of Baseball". By all accounts, he did not play the game much (he was a shortstop for the Knickerbockers in 1847), lead a team, nor organize a league. He was essentially a journalist and baseball publicist. He convinced the New York Times to report results in the paper, and as baseball editor, he introduced the easily digestible box score to compare one player's accomplishments against another. He also was the first to publish guides and yearbooks and sat in on rules discussions, and served as umpire in exhibition games to test out the rules' effectiveness. He was essentially the public and respected face that championed baseball over cricket. He was also an opposition voice to the infamous Spalding commission that placed baseball's origins at the hands of Abner Doubleday. He called the announcement "a masterpiece of special pleading" that baseball was a unique game founded by some "ingenious American lad"

Summary to come.

Jun 24, 2010

It's a Box Break! Part 3, 2009 Tristar Obak Packs 11-15

The best part about opening this box are the strangely distorted images from the nineteenth century (ok, that's not really true.) Let's continue.

Pack 11
88: Patrick T. Powers-1st president of the minor leagues
81: Elias Howe-inventor of the sewing machine
63: Bobby Grich- 1977 minor league player of the year, all-star 2B
45: Oscar Eckhardt- highest professional career batting average
13: Tim Beckham-current player, Rays system
Mini 53: Jack Norworth-lyric writer of "Take me out to the ballgame"

Pack 12
57: Grover Lowdermilk-holds minor league single season K record
38: Ryne Sandberg-HOF
23:Buster Posey-current player, Giants system
83: Arthur Irwin-inventor of full-fingered fielding glove
80: Harrison Horwood-baseball manufacturer
Mini 27: Ted Williams 1910 Back Variation

Pack 13

62: Gene Conley-two sport basketball and baseball star, 2 time POY
77: Candy Cummings-credited with discovery of curveball

98:BO Jackson-needs no comment

96: Sammy Baugh-HOF QB from the Redskins

90: Branch Rickey-created framework of minor league system, among other things***

Mini 15 black variation (2/50): Buster Posey

Pack 14
11: Lars Anderson-current player, Red Sox system
40: Duke Snider HOF
78: Washington, James, and Benjamin Duke-cardboard advertisement inserts with baseball players?
A41 (92/200): Robert Forrest "Spook" Jacobs auto-1948 Tri-star league MVP

Mini 67: George Schmutz

Pack 15
6: Brian Matusz-current player, Orioles system
34: Satchel Paige-HOF
99:Wiliam Howard Taft-president and Supreme Court justice
1: Pedro Alvarez-current player, Pirates system
15: Naftali Feliz-current player, Rangers system

Mini 66: Ten Million

***A Story of Branch Rickey

Branch Rickey was a long time around the game of baseball. He was with the Cardinals in the '20s, the Dodgers in the '40s, and the Pirates in the '50s. He is most famous for his signing and support of Jackie Robinson. Maybe this story is not so well known.

When he was in college at Ohio Wesleyan in 1903, the best player on the team was an African-American first baseman named Charles "Tommy" Thomas. There was an incident when they played University of Kentucky, where they refused to take the field (at Ohio Wesleyan). Rickey basically called them out as cowards. Thomas did play. When traveling to Notre Dame, Thomas was not allowed to stay in the hotel in South Bend until Rickey persuaded the manager to let him stay in his room by threatening to take his team's business elsewhere. Rickey later remarked, "whatever mark the incident left on the black boy, it was no more indelible than the impression made on me."

Jun 22, 2010

The Rolen Identity

Scott Rolen began his career as a hard-charging, no-nonsense, slick-fielding, run the bases while holding my gloves 3rd baseman on August 1, 1996 as a Philadelphia Phillie. He was the golden prospect. Finally, "there would be an heir apparent to Mike Schmidt!", sung the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1997 Phillies season preview. (This says nothing about the rest of the team at that time). And Rolen lived up to most, if not all of his promise, to start. He was no Schmidt or Brett, but he was an all-star 3rd baseman (who deserved it) with some almost gaudy stats.

He unanimously won the ROY in 1997 with 93 R, 21 HR, 92 RBI and .846 OPS (121 OPS+). In 1998, he became a legitimate star with 120 R, 31 HR, 110 RBI, and .923 OPS (139 OPS+). He also won his 1st Gold Glove. 1999 and 2000, though not as spectacular statistically, showed similar performances by Rolen with around a .900 OPS. This is also around the first time period when the ubiquitous back problems appeared.

It was around 2001 when Rolen decided he didn't want to be a Phillie anymore. The Phillies had traded away Schilling the previous season and seemed to be going nowhere (although 2001 was a ultimately a winning season). Rolen allegely was offered a lucrative contract extension (I remember 8 year, $90 million), but turned it down before the 2002 season. The Phillies were stuck and Rolen was playing like he was stuck (career low .830 OPS through 100 games).

He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith. There, placed in a lineup with Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, and Albert Pujols and also getting far away from the so-called Philadelphia boobirds, he was able to revive his career. This revival was punctuated by a career-best 2004 season in which he posted a 1.007 OPS (157 OPS+) with 34 HR and 124 RBI.

By 2007, injuries hit and he was traded to Toronto before the 2008 season. Canada did not heal him as he continued posting below average power numbers (though his range at third never diminished). Surprisingly, he was traded to the Reds at the trading deadline in 2009, and it was seen as a shortsighted move. He was expensive and clearly fading as a hitter.

All that changed in 2010 as he is now hitting .99/.360/.573 with 15 HR and 46 RBI in 65 games. This is the rate production he showed during his first few seasons. Is it sustainable? That is a question the future will hold. But there is no end for the Rolen identity as he still grits his teeth and uses that slightly awkward swing to be a successful baseball player.

P.S. He was my favorite player when he was a Phillie. It's nice to see him succeed again, though I would boo him if he played the Phillies. It's in my nature.

Jun 21, 2010

It's a Box Break! Part 2, 2009 Tristar Obak Packs 6-10

Let's continue the journey into baseball figures of the past, present, and future.

Pack 6
29: Angel Villalona-current player, Giants system
42: Buzz Arlett, 1910 Back Variation-Voted as "Best Minor League Player Ever" by SABR

46: Spencer Harris-holds minor league hitting records
56: Bob Crues- Holds single season RBI record
68: Herb Score-1954 Player of the Year, 1955 MLB ROY
Mini 56:Fritz & Louis Rueckheim-Henry Eckstein-inventors of Cracker Jack

Pack 7

10: Michael Ynoa-current player, Athletics system
42: Buzz Arlett
47: Joe Hauser-hit 60+ HR twice in a season
39: Tom Seaver-HOF
56: Bob Crues black variation 7/50

Mini 45: Emmett Ashford-first Africa-American umpire

Pack 8
33: Stan Musial-HOF
41: Ted William-HOF
54: George Brunet-career minor league K record
2: Robbie Grossman-current player, Pirates system

3: BJ Hermsen-current player, Twins system
51: Monty Stratton***

Mini 17: Josh Vitters-current player, Cubs system

Pack 9

9: Dayan Viciedo-current player, White Sox system
37: Nolan Ryan-HOF
53: Ike Boone-highest career minor league AVG
64: Gregg Jefferies-two-time minor league POY
43 Black (16/50): Walter Carlisle-only known outfielder to perform unassisted triple play

Mini 52: Jackie Mitchell

Pack 10
27: Chris Tillman-current player,Mariners system
36: Al Rosen-1953 AL MVP, Indians
8: Junixhi Tazawa-current player, Red Sox system
A17 (13/25): Chris Johnson-current player, Astros system, autograph, green variation

Mini 23: Nolan Ryan 1911 back variation

***The Story of Monty Stratton

This was already immortalized in a movie called the "The Stratton Story" produced in 1949. Even so, Monty Stratton's career path was fascinating. He was an all-star pitcher with the White Sox from 1934-1938. During that offseason, a hunting accident caused such a horrible injury that he had to have his right leg amputated. He was fittedwith a wooden leg and gradually relearned the art of pitching and fielding. He was able to rejoin the professional ranks briefly in the minor leagues in 1942 at the age of 30, and then for an extended stretch in 1946 at the age of 34, winning 18 games with a 4.14 ERA in the class C league. He pitched until 1953 and the age of 41, becoming a symbol of perseverance.

Jun 18, 2010

Phillie Project Update: mid-1970s Edition

Here's the general update on the Phillies project I instituted very,very long ago on this blog. I am now two cards short for Mike Schmidt career collection, six cards short for the Steve Carlton career collection, and 29 cards short of all the Phillies cards of the all the players who made an appearance for the 1980 Phillies team(click on the links on the sidebar under the wantlist heading for more detail).

In the meantime, I have been completing team sets. Here are some of the cards that appeared as I aimed to fill in this collection. This includes the touted and not so touted players of that bygone era.

Bill Robinson 1975 Topps: Had first of 4 career 20 Hr seasons as a Phillie with 25 HR in 1973.
Tony Taylor 1975 Topps: 4th all-time in games played as a Phillie (1669) and 11th all-time in hits as a Phillie (1511)
Jim Lonborg 1975 Topps: Placed 3rd in the NL with 16 complete games in 1974.
Mike Schmidt/Dave Kingman/Greg Luzinski HR Leaders 1976 Topps: Luzinski and Schmidt both had >135 OPS+ from 1975-1977.
Mike Schmidt/Graig Nettles HR Leaders 1977 Topps: Mike Schmidt led the NL in HRs 8 times in his career while Nettles had two 30 HR seasons including 1976.
Terry Harmon 1974 Topps: As a utility infielder for the Phillies in the 1970s, Harmon did not get much opportunity to play. Hit his only 2 Hr in 1972 including one on the last day of the season.
Mike Ryan 1974 Topps: Batted .193 for his career and had a 51 OPS+. Ranked 815th all time in OPS for the Phillies. I remember him as a bullpen coach in the '80s.
Willie Montanez 1974 Topps: Led the league in assists as a 1B three times in his career. Had a 100 RBI season in 1975 while hitting only 10 HR.

There's always familiar faces and faces which I have never seen before in Phillies lots from the 1970s. I hope to receive all the cards at some point to imprint even these names to memory. The project marches on.

Jun 17, 2010

It's a Box Break! 2009 Tristar Obak packs 1-5

Review to come at the conclusion of the images of the box. If there's a story to be had with one of the people on the cards, I hope I have tracked down relevant ones. I'll aim to put at least one in each part of the box break. The set is a short one (114 cards) with some back variations, color parallels, and a smaller mini partial parallel set (68 cards) that also has back variations and color parallels. The design is a stylized rendering of the 1909-1911 Obak design.

Box details: 6 cards per pack, 20 packs per box, 9 inserts per box including parallels and autographs, one mini per pack

Here are the results of packs 1-5.

Pack 1

21: Mike Moustakas-current player, Royals system
30: Josh Vitter-current player, Cubs system
67: Phil Rizzuto-HOF
79: Bud Fowler-First African-American Professional Baseball Player in 1878
95: William Wrigley Jr-historical team owner (guess the team)
Mini 27: Ted Williams-HOF

Pack 2
4: Eric Hosmer-current player, Royals system
14: Madison Bumgarner-current player, Giants system

17: Jason Heyward-current player, Braves system
20: Jesus Montero-current player, Yankees system
25:Justin Smoak-current player, Rangers system
Mini 21:Satchel Paige-HOF

Pack 3
31: Brett Wallace-current player, Blue Jays system

35:Brooks Robinson-HOF
52: Joe Bauman-hit 72 HR in one season

72: Lena Blackburne-known for the mud to rub down baseballs
85: Jackie Mitchell-first woman to sign a professional contract

Mini 22:Brooks Robinson-HOF

Pack 4
58: Ron Necciai***

74:Alexander Cartwright-possibly the creator of baseball
76: Mike Coolbaugh-player and coach who had a tragic on-field death

89: George H Rawlings-sporting goods magnate
94: Harry and George Wright-some of the progenitors of professional baseball
Mini 14: Mike Moustakas, Royals system

Pack 5
19: Andrew McCutchen-current player, Pirates system
26: Mike Stanton-current player, Marlins system
50: Jigger Statz-holds many PCL hitting records
66: Jim Rice-HOF
86: Jack Norworth-wrote the lyrics to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"
Mini 20: Stan Musial-HOF

***The Story of Ron Necciai
Ron "Necktie" Necciai started pitching in the minors at the age of 18 in the class D league in the Piratees system in 1950. He was known for having curveball with a lot of movement. He was still in the class D league two years later when he had quite possibly the greatest two game stretch in professional baseball history. On May 13, 1952, he pitched a perfect game, but not just any perfect game. All the outs were recorded as strikeouts. 27 consecutive strikeouts! He then followed that start with one in which he had 24 strikeouts. He had 51 strikeouts in two starts! Shudder at how many pitches he must have thrown for such a young arm. The Pirates called him to the majors later that year, and unfortunately, he was 1-6 with a 7.08 ERA and 31 BB vs. 32 K. The next year he had to serve two years in the army and when he returned, he developed a sore arm and left professional baseball by the age of 23.