Dec 28, 2011

The Quest for the 1961 Topps Phillies Team Set: High Numbered Glory

There must have been something wrong with kids growing up in the 1960s. Why did no one ever seem to buy the last series of cards in a given year? Is the need to complete a set a relatively new phenomenon? Did kids just get burnt out from buying cards all year and getting tired of seeing the same packs? Were all their favorite players and teams in the lower series so they already got them and now these later series?

Is it actually possible to lose interest from baseball during points in the year? This is something I just can't fathom. Baseball (and its various iterations) was the sport of youth. Wasn't there the MLB network and 24 hour ESPNews and the internet to keep interest in the hot stove during the offseason? Wait, you say there wasn't? You had to get The Sporting News weekly to know what was happening? Now, I see the problem.

Those poor packs of cards sat neglected during the early offseason months as kids and collectors were sidetracked by other pursuits such as football, snowball fighting, and raking leaves. I would still want them all though if I were alive back then. Grocery stores should always have cards and carry all those series.

Now, these high numbers are absolutely difficult and expensive to track down now because of this lack of sense of completeness and diversion from the real purpose in life: to indulge in baseball and baseball-related ideas all the year through. This can't be a solitary idea among the voices in my least they tell me it isn't.

Way back in 2010, I decided to pursue Phillies Topps team sets that corresponded with the Heritage set for that year. For 1961, all that's left is the high numbers of that 7th series. It has been frustrating to track down examples that cost less than $15. Here is the first example of Bobby Malkmus. He has no logo on his cap even though it's not his first card as a Phillie (1960 Topps).  Strange.

Here are the relevant stats:

Years on Phillies: 1960-1962
Best Year as a Phillie: 1961, .231/.276/.327 (61 OPS+), 7 HR, 31 RBI, finished 22nd in MVP voting (the only Phillie with a vote, considering the team was 47-107)
Card Number: 531 (HI number!)

Bring on the rest or build me a time machine to take me back to November 1961....all I would have to do is pack nickels with dates before that one.

Dec 19, 2011

Blog Bat Around: 2011 Retrospective

The blog bat around returns with the question bugging all of us.
The 2011 baseball card collecting season is finally over -- other than Bowman Sterling. What set or release stands out as your favorite from the year? What set or release brings your lunch back up in your throat?

My favorite set this year was 2011 Topps.  I might not have liked all the concepts, I definitely did not like the configuration, I did not like the investment potential (even if I don't do that)...wait, this is supposed to be the positive paragraph.  There were a few great things about 2011 Topps that made me coming back for more (so much so that I'm slowly approaching the non-parallels master set.)

1. The Diamond Giveaway:  I never thought I would trade virtual cards so much.  Even with all the hiccups....hic...of the itself.   The concept this year was spot on.   There was an actual prize to strive for in the factory set, and the exclusive diamond diecuts kept my trade offers full with ridiculous offers and let offer ridiculous things of my own.
2.  The Diamond Anniversary Parallels:  I don't think a parallel for a Topps set has ever been so aesthetically pleasing.  Really, it wasn't something where I went, oh, what a waste of a card.  I actually actively collected a good number of them...not that I would try to complete the set or anything...that's just crazy.  If I never need a reminder of the beauty lacking in the world, I can grab the pages with these parallels and partake in the glimmering paradise.
3. Kimball Champion Minis:  I wanted them all, I got them all.  They look awesome in pages, exactly 10 pages.  It doesn;t matter about the backs.  The only negative for me is the repeat subjects across some of the series.

My 2nd favorite set this year has been Gypsy Queen.  It was almost perfect.  Design was great, I have an unhealthy obsession with mini cards, the insert sets fit the theme, the framed border parallels were upstanding examples of how to do a great parallel set, and the mini framed relics are always welcome.  The auto checklist could have been better, but for someone who bought only retail, it didn;t matter to me.

There are some sets that I find not so appealing.  For me, Bowman Platinum is something that I don't need to see anymore.  With Topps Chrome, Finest, and the other Bowmans dealing with prospect and rookie autographs, it was redundant and superfluous.  If there were no Finest or Bowman Chrome, it might work as a concept.  Otherwise, it's just hanging out there like an unattached incandescent bulb with no collecting niche.  

The one disappointment I had was Allen & Ginter, and it's not for the reasons that are often commonly cited.  I like the non-sport elements, I like the whimsy, I like the disregard for number symbols on the back.  It is its own brand.  This year, it went a bit too far in the number of insert sets that are dedicated to the sublime and unnatural.  All I want is more base set minis than insert set minis in a box.  Is that too much to ask?

2011 was a heavy collecting year for me.  Seriously, it;s pounds and pounds of cards.  They're not easy to transport.

Dec 14, 2011

The Wonders of Coffee

At this point, late nights are a common occurrence in life. I don't actually drink coffee, but I heard it does wonders for the late night seeker or the not-yet-morning person. Caffeine is something that baseball players really must have drank a lot of in the 1950s. Performance enhancing drugs at that time was booze and cigarettes, so any energy boost at that time would have been welcomed. Right now, I'm running on one of those adrenaline highs you get after something exciting happens to you, you know? The problem is nothing actually happened, so my brain has convinced my mind (these are not the same) that I should be amped....

So here I am, absolutely hyper for no reason. I've spent hours rifling through cards ("everybody shufflin'") and realizing that 2011 was the year of collection overload. It looked like my cabinet decided to swallow all the coffee I don't drink and dedicate itself to running around and filling itself with cards that I haven't seen before. Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike autonomous furniture? First, they surreptitiously undermine your authority and then they convince the other furniture to join their cause. As I write this, my dining room table has decided to fill itself up with cards without my knowledge as well....

Here's to some of the 1956 Topps cards I have, the first of which is definitely coffee stained (or it at least better be coffee).  This card is of my second favorite catcher from before I was born, Andy Seminick.

It was a calling to old glory for Andy, as he returned to the scene of his power hitting younger days after a 3+ year exile in Cincinnati.  On second thought, that could have been a Skyline chili stain....

Jim Owen was too young to appreciate the drinks of the older gentlemen of the club, having only just turned 21 during the 1955 season. But there must have been some sort of "giddyup juice" in his water bottle because the ball jumped out of his hand in any which direction. He issued over 130 BB between the minors and majors.

He finally settled down to a less than 6.0 BB/9 in 1959 when he could rent a car on his own. I wonder if drive-through coffee places were invented yet?

So to all nighttime coffee drinkers out there, I have two pleas (of semi-ignorance), stop allowing your furniture to take sips when you're not looking and only drink it when you're in need of vintage cards because they will appear in all their stained glory.

Nov 30, 2011

An offseason break or remember when new sets released were anticipated?

November is dull in baseball world. It has the dullest week of the dullest month baseball-wise of the year (November 6-13). Let's review the news of the past couple weeks. 

1. Topps Tier One hit the stores.  There's only one pack per box.  High-end Topps has led to dissatisfaction among the breaking community.

2. The Red Sox have a new manager....some players didn't want him....scandal!

3. The Royals made a doesn't matter for who.

4. Topps Triple Threads teaches us that Canadiens "Say 'Eh" and also about American legendary history like Pecos Bill and John Henry.  It gives more information than a history textbook for only double the price. 

But we're not about dwelling on unpleasantness or distasteful ideas or boredom here. We're about looking forward. And in order to look forward we have to look back and remember what lay in front of us at one point in the past. Because the excitement from the future of the past while we're looking back could only whet our little pack-ripping appetites for the future from the present. Because presently many have forgotten the past which can not bode well for the future. Of course, we don't that is true until the future when the present is behind us and is the past. So let's look forward to 2012 by reminding ourselves about the anticipation of 2011.

Remember Topps? No, not the company. The base set, the kick-off for the year, it's almost time for that again. The anticipation of a new design, the slick foil, surprising gimmicks (maybe), and an online giveaway for the new season. Here's some 2011 Topps cards from a series 1 box break to remind us all that it's not all bad. Even if you aren't particularly drawn to Triple Tier 1 Prospect Threads of Draft Picks....

Hey, it's a gold card!  We have seen these since 2001. 2012 will provide more gold than ever before throughout all the themed inserts.  Of course, this old style gold parallel #d to the year seems to not be found.
there will be......
a different type.....
of gold parallel....similar to 2011's diamond parallel.  These diamond parallels were a great addition to the parallel lineup and really fit into the theme of the 60th anniversary of Topps.   They were vibrant and cool to see and felt like a collectible extension of the set.   Maybe there'll  be a themed parallel every year like wood, cotton, leather, or cashmere in the future. 
Topps 60 showcases great players with non-specific moments...
This has been true of most insert sets throughout their 20+ year history.  All-stars! Legends! Rookies!  Just create an idea to mix them together in a whirlwind of wonderment.  MVPs may also apply.
I am not a fan of dual player insert cards except for all-stars for the same position of the same year or maybe something like 1996 Zenith Mosaics.  But this card is fantastic....Reggie Jackson as an Oriole!
Hit me!  I need to get closer to 21.     I lucked out and got an auto.  This is why we open the packs to fill the thrill of victory and the agony of pulling a jersey card of someone you don't necessarily want.  But the hit's guaranteed! Net positive all around.
But the best thing a new card set can hope for....
is have a card that becomes iconic or memorable...
or the rookie card of a hall of famer (assuming that a rookie card is a rookie card and not an unrookie card).  Some sets get left behind, but that's impossible....
as long as there are minis.  Farewell to the set that probably left the biggest impact among the most collectors in 2011.  You will return in a different form next year to lift us out of the November doldrums once again. 

please, please, political cards in an election year

Nov 26, 2011

Phillies 2011 Diamond Anniversary Checklist/Wantlist

Do you know how long it takes me to put together a typical wantlist? Months....years, even....For posterity's sake, here's what remains from the totally sparksome parallel of the diamond anniversary year of the Topps. It looks like there are many Roy Halladay cards to track down....

11. NL Wins Leaders
146. Roy Halladay
219. Carlos Ruiz
267. Jose Contreras
325. Jayson Werth
420. Ryan Howard
469. Joe Blanton
511. Phillies Team Card
524. Michael Martinez
638. Ryan Madson
656. Raul Ibanez
US85. Roy Halladay
US91. Hunter Pence
US100. Cliff Lee
US117. Michael Stutes
US154. Cliff Lee
US189. Wilson Valdez

Nov 17, 2011

Cards from the Phungo

It's always fun to trade with the Phungo, though this was my first time.     Just check out the mix of vintage Phillies and PHUNGO CARDS that were sent there.   The arrival of a Phungo card set is a phun time for everyone.  Just wanted to say thanks, it was fun....

1959 Topps Don Cardwell: vintage and elegant in its presentation

1975 Topps Phillie Mini: My first 1975 Topps mini!

Phungo Card 1/Black Border:  The best mascot of them all.

Phungo Card 2/Harry Kalas Commemorative:  The voice of two generations of Phillies fans.

Phungo Card 3/Harry Kalas Memorial:  The outpouring of emotion at the centerpiece of the Philly baseball scene.

1959 Topps Bob Bowman: Vintage and determined to please

Phungo Card 4/Greg Luzinski:  The Bull is back and BBQin'

Phungo Card 5/Dickie Noles: A member of the 1980 bullpen and a Phillie twice in his career.

Phungo Card 6/Tommy Greene:  Caught lightning in 1993 with a great season, pitched a no-hitter in 1991.  Succumbed to the young pitcher Fregosi malady.

Nov 11, 2011

My Favorite $2 Card.....or How Does Always Remember What They Paid for Every Card in Their Collection?

I am naturally drawn to the 1962 Topps set; it's in my blood, it may even be one of those strange genetic traits that get passed down from generation to generation. And I know what you're, I did not go all Abraham Lincoln on this world, being born in a log cabin. I was born in a hospital with hospital-colored walls of which I saw every single one as I was run down the hallway for some inexplicable reason (I guess that would be one of those long stories).

This was the set of my father. He always talked nostalgically of the wood-bordered set from 1962. It was the first year that the Mets made appearance on the cardboard. It was the year that led off with two-time MVP Roger Maris. It was the year that, in a 8 year old's head, trading Yogi Berra straight up for Art Mahaffey was a great idea.

Of course, there have been other moments where the 1962 brand made its mark. It was the first pre-1970 card brand in my collection when I was 12 (Orlando Cepeda), it was a gift to the father who had moved on from the hobby after the baseball strike of '94 (Tom Tresh), it was the perusing the unmarked vintage stack at card shows until something was found that was awesome (see pictured).

Luis Aparicio is an interesting Hall of Famer. He was not ever a great hitter, but he was a great base stealer and great fielder for many years. The first time I remember reading about the Go-Go Sox of 1959 was on the back of a Nellie Fox TCMA card.

I rescued this card from the stack for a mere $2. It is a 1962 Topps card; there's a classic cap, and it is of Luis Aparicio, shortstop extraordinaire.  The capper to all this is that I met him at the 2007 Fanfest before this, and was happy to have a card display next to the signed baseball. $2?  Nothing, for a true card connection.

Nov 6, 2011

Phillies Project Update: Steve Carlton was a Cardinal First?? You don't say....

Steve "Lefty" Carlton, the Phillies pitcher in its history who has had the most success over the longest period of time.   One can look to Grover Cleveland Alexander as having the most dominant stretch ever for a pitcher in a Phillies uniform or one can look to Robin Roberts with a 5 year run as impressive as any.  However, Carlton was the only one to sustain varying degrees of excellence in a Phillies uniform for 15 years (1972-1985).  This is a long career even in the most judicious of circumstances, and yet it has always been jarring for me to see his early cards as a member of the (now immensely disliked through the end of 2011) Cards. 

Steve Carlton as a Card was nearly 6 years in the making as a potentially premiere pitcher of the spheroid.   Summary of the performance is presented below.  There was life before 1972, you know (though I didn't experience it. And if I did, I would be older than I am, in which case, I would be someone else).  Images of the Steve Carlton as a Card consistently proves this.

His career began as a precocious youth at the age of 19 in 1965, making his first two career starts while mostly being a reliever: 21 Ks in 25 IP showed the promise.   1966 came and went with him spending most of the year at AAA Tulsa, making only 9 major league starts and struggling a bit with a 1.42 WHIP and only 25 K in 52 innings.  1967 was a breakout year for Carlton with a 14-9 record, 2.98 ERA, and 11 complete games (CG) in 28 starts.  His strikeout rate of 7.8 K/9 was one of the highest of his career.

1968 had a similar performance (13-11, 2.99 ERA, and 162 K in 232 innings), but his ERA+ decreased from 110-97 because of the crazy low run-scoring environment of 1968.  1969 was the first time in his career he placed in the top 10 in the leage in K with 210 in  236 innings, his walk rate spiked a bit from the previous two years, but he still managed a 2.17 ERA, 2nd in the league.  1970 was a regression of sorts since his walk rate climbed even higherto 3.9 BB/9, finishing 3rd in the league with 109 BB, so he finished 10-19 with a 3.73 ERA.  1971 decreased both the walk and K rate from the previous year, but he reversed his fortunes and had his first 20 win season of his career finishing 20-9 with a 3.56 ERA even though the K rate was the lowest of his career until he was 42 years old.

It was at this point, that the challenge trade occurred for a talented Rick Wise coming off his career year in 1971.  Carlton had a much stronger profile, though they seemed similar on the surface.  The foundation to have a higher peak was already established. (though no one predicted a season quite like 1972).

So, here ends the quest for every mainstream affordable issue Phillies card from the 1980 Phillies World Series team (I am excepting the Carlton and Schmidt rookies for now).  This offseason, I intend to scan the binder.  I hope it happens; it's quite the trip down memory lane.

Nov 2, 2011

1950 Phillies Auto Collection: Curt Simmons

The nomenclature isn't exactly true.  My collection for this admittedly extremely difficult pursuit now numbers.....three.   This is the first in chronological order.  This card is of the famed 1999 Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game on card auto set of all retired players.  The 1950 team is one of the greatest Phillies team that had one of the most thrilling endings to a season ever seen.  Throwing a runner out at the plate to send the game to extra innings in the last game of the season?  Are you kidding me?

Curt Simmons was a large part of that team, playing as a veteran 21 year old, solidifying the #2 spot in the rotation.  He was 17-8 that season with 11 CG in 27 starts with a 3.40 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.  He also tied Robin Roberts for the team lead in K with 148. 

I love this card because of the photo used.  I first saw the blue hats for day games in 1994; they were soon  discarded from use after two disastrous games and forever cursed as anti-karmic.  They made their return with a twist a in 2008.  Instead of keeping with the general pinstripe theme of the current Phillies uniform, a solid cream colored uniform was used with the same cap from this card.  This cap was in use during the 1948-1949 seasons, so Simmons was merely a teenager when this photo was taken.  He already had a starting pitcher's intensity and was ready to sink his teeth into his major league career.

He lasted 20 seasons in the majors, playing for the Phillies, Cardinals, Cubs, and finishing with the Angels in 1967.  He was a 3 time all-star and finished in the top 10 in the NL in ERA 9 times.  A long-time successful Phillies pitcher with a great script, what else is needed of a former Whiz Kid?

Oct 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Do not look directly at its eyes! You will be tricked into not getting a treat! 

Oct 26, 2011

The 100 Most Significant 1993: #s 41-60

For the previous entries in this series, see Part 1 here and Part 2 here

It's been awhile since I've remembered to continue this series.  It's still an interesting exercise because the top cards of this year have almost no relation to top cards of the year past.  Today, autos, refractors, colored foil changes, and patch pieces make a card a desirable from the moment it leaves the pack.  What would allow a card from 2011 to maintain its significance over the next generation of card production.  Just as from 1993 to now, conceptions will change over what makes a memorable, value-sustaining, eminently collectible feature card.  But there's one idea that has not changed over the last 18+ years, rookie cards rule.   Rookies of up and comers, rookies of hall of famers, rookies of established stars, rookies of flashes through the baseball stratosphere.  There's something special about the first card, and for a long time, it was easy to define.  This is evident from the next portion of this list. 

There's also a couple quirky choices among the denizens of the list; the cult of the error card continued apace during this era, as did the genesis of the insert revolution, expanding beyond the basic parameters of the base set, something we almost take for granted now and expect as the natural adaptation of the collector moves beyond any boundaries.....on the list....

60. 1985 Donruss Corrected Tom Seaver: The regular issue Tom Seaver was pictured as a left-hander named Floyd Bannister.  This version was only available in factory sets.  Now, it's common to find cards you can only get in factory sets like red parallels of 2010 Topps, special team issued factory sets (2008-2010 Topps), draft pick cards (2005 Topps), and rookies (2001 Fleer Tradition).  Great unintentional innovation.

59. 1962 Topps Managers' Dream: Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays on the same card.  These guys led the vintage card value increase in the '80s.  It's also a rare photo of players from the opposite league in the '60s.  More also, it's a much better concept than Diamond Duos.

58. 1972 Topps Carlton Fisk/Cecil Cooper/Mike Garman: He was still playing when this issue came out, having joined the 4 decade players club.  Invest in the card now before he makes the Hall of Fame!  He already has?  Great, it won't rise in value anymore.

57. 1985 Topps Mark McGwire: This card was a heavy player for many years, selling at a peak of around $200 in the late '90s.  Little did the writers of this issue know that this card and its inhabitant would spur a realization and backlash against steroid use in baseball.  And with that, the card would fall off the list.

56. 1984 Fleer Update Dwight Gooden: A great card in the '80s, but it soon became surpassed in popularity for awhile by two other cards in the set, the Puckett and Clemens.

55. 1957 Topps Brooks Robinson
54. 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski: I have to put these together because the view on these players is very similar.  Two franchise icons, two hall of famers, each had a defining MVP season (Yaz: 1967, Robinson: 1964), each sometimes overshadowed by other franchise icons (Williams for Yaz and Ripken for Robinson), yet still two amazin card to own.

53. 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle: A card from the set with arguably the best design of all in his return to Topps after a two year Bowman hiatus.  Plus, there's a smile.

52. 1957 Frank Robinson: It's not everyday that a 586 HR hitting, Triple Crown winning, two-time MVP winning, groundbreaking Hall of Famer has an undervalued card.  I would argue that his greatness has been consistently underrated.  He is one of the top 20 players ever.

51. 1983 Topps Traded Daryl Strawberry: They sure did love the Mets in '93.  Strawberry flashed across the hobby scene before his career dropped off quickly at the age of 29.

50. 1962 Topps Roger Maris: The card with the first 60+ HR season line on it that led off the set. Picturesque and perfect.

49. 1974 Topps Dave Winfield: The only notable rookie in this set.  This ranking was before his 3000th hit.  
48.  1955 Topps Harmon Killebrew: Kind of the cult hero of the 500 HR club.  Everyone was a fan of the Killer, even if you weren;t a Senators/Twins fan.  Unscrupulously powerful, and the card shows a great depiction of the original Washington Senators logo.

47. 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith:  The first card of the Wizard showing him pensive as a Padre.  Did you know he was at my graduation in St Louis?  He earned an honorary degree the same day I received my degree.

46. 1965 Topps Steve Carlton: This card is #1a on my personal wantlist.  His quantity of strikeouts, Cy Young awards, and terse press statements defined his career.

45. 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken: Still the most celebrated (or entertaining) error card.  There are at least 10 documented variations of the obscene and obscured bat knob.

44. 1954 Topps Ted Williams:  The year of the Williams bookends for the Topps set.  Do you prefer the first or last card in the set?

43. 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations Frank Thomas: Insertmania! $4 jumbo packs of 1992 Fleer!? The Big Hurt in blue foil!  This card booked for $45 in July 1993.  Any other normal, non-numbered, non-rookie inserts out there now that have inspired such craziness?

42. 1948-49 Leaf Satchel Paige:  It actually says Leroy Paige on the front of the card.  It's also a shortprint of one of the top 5 pitchers to play this game.  A true collection cornerstone.

41. 1959 Topps Bob Gibson: A rookie card of the pitcher with maybe the greatest modern post-deadball era season (1.12 ERA in 1968).  This card is also from the artistic 1959 Topps set and comes from the high series. 

Some stats for this list

# of cards in my collection: 0
# of rookies: 14
# of errors: 2
# of Mantles: 2
# of pitchers: 5
# of cards that I can afford to get this week: 8
# of cards that I will buy this week: 0, unless I find a 1992 Fleer jumbo box for cheap/

Oct 25, 2011

Welcome addition to the Collection: Cole Hamels Rookie, 2002 Bowman Draft

Sometimes the simplest acquisitions are the first ones of your favorite player.  After the negativity of the postseason (for me), sometimes it's best to reflect upon the joys of collecting and the rigorous and rewarding searches of the hobby.

Here is the only true (as in first year of production before the rookie card rules) Hamels rookie card.  Ah, you may say, what about the 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft card?  And I would respond with a comment about your astuteness and how you could surely read the list of available rookie cards for said player.  And then you would say, do you not read the same lists that I do? And I would say, I do indeed, however, I do not agree with the assertion that you have just posited.

After all, in yet another strange twist from 2002, Bowman decided to package the Draft product as two separate sets with chrome cards being inserted at a rate of two per pack.  Why build one 165 card set when you can build two at the same time and never get close to either?  I'm not sure if this has been apparent before, but I would like to express disdain for all parallels.  As a standalone set, Bowman Chrome is fine, but I will now be disdainful of the Bowman paralell mania that apparently began as an innocent gesture to have autographed base cards that were not parallels of any other card in the main set.....yes, making sense yet again.  This has only become worse through the years as the Bowman proliferation of the multi-set beast has expanded and devoured the prospecting collecting set into a neverending chase for the virtual parallel (chrome), the cast aside parallel (gold), the cool kid's parallel (refractor), and the ultimate going to stay up all night jumping because I finally got one parallel (superfractor).  Stamp it, number it, and call it a day.

Back to Mr. Hamels.  He was a risky first round pick because he had had a broken humerus in high school, I believe.  What a happy, clean shaven face expectant of the career ahead.  I do like this card, it was so nice to rip open the envelope where it was stored.  This is the beginning of phase III.

Oct 20, 2011

Can it Be? Is This a Trade Post from an Order of Angels? Survey Says....

10 out of 10 people agree that trade posts display cards in them.  However, only 5 out of 10 people believe that trade posts actually cause people to turn into traders.  Can the pernicious influence of the trade post be stopped?  Will it infiltrate our precious and fragile human psyche and cause us to want to barter anything and everything for pieces of foil and cardboard?  I will listen to any offer that includes my car at this time for a low numbered Bryce Harper auto refractor....

Thankfully, the gent from The Angels, In Order needed no such provocation to have a trade with me.  When there's a trade with me, it occurs....slowly.  So, first I thank him for his patience and then gamely slogging through the jungle wasteland of magnetic cardboard that plagues our planet's surface to discover hidden gems to deposit into the kingdom of the wantlist.  What did he discover?

 1998 Bowman Bobby Higginson: There was a time when I thought Bobby Higginson was a great player.  He was pretty good for awhile and he went to Temple, so that bumps him up a couple levels in my book.
 2010 Topps Update Rob Johnson: Remember when Jason Kendall played? Did anyone buy 2010 Topps update?  Who is Rob Johnson?
 1998 Bowman Ralph Milliard:  This was before Bowman proudly proclaimed first cards on every prospect card even if it isn't their first card and they had a prospect card in a a previous year's set, but it's not recognized as a rookie card because it doesn't have that strange logo, even though it's an MLB licensed card.  Does anyone understand the rookie card rule?
 1999 Bowman Kenny Lofton: 1999 Bowman is the cooler cousin of 1998 Bowman....there I said it.  It had marbleization and Then & Now backs for the veteran cards and it was right-signed instead of left-signed and had much better international parallels.
 2010 Topps Update Alex Gonzalez: "Take that Yunel Escobar!  You are no match for me!  You say we were traded for each other?  To be challenged? Fine, I challenge you to a leaping the pain!"
 2010 Topps Update Lance Zawarski: You know what I miss? The old Padres uniforms with the brown and yellow.  These are so generic and don't remind me of the beach at all.  Plus, the stadium may look over the water, but it's really hard to see past structure to the water....I call a rebuild.
2010 Topps Update Mike Gonzalez: He's in the World Series!  He escaped the Orioles!  He's left handed!  I hate that he's in the World Series and I'm not.  I want to be left handed.  Did you know I used to practice throwing with both hands when I threw tennis balls against the wall so that I could learn to throw with either hand?  All that got me was learning how to play pool poorly with my left hand and make me left footed....the world works in mysterious ways.

Thanks for the trade Tom! It's great to get these elusive cards.....

Oct 12, 2011

Junior High Countdown: 52. 1993 Studio

The Stats

A 220 card set in one series with 12 cards per pack and 36 packs per box.  The SRP at the time was probably $1.49 per pack.

The Design

Studio always had a focus on the face of the player, and this edition was no different.  This set had the player's portrait superimposed over a background of the team's uniform.  The player's signature was emblazoned in foil across the bottom third of the card.   The back was an expose on the player's interests, thoughts, and inspirations....there were definitely new facts to discover.

The Rookies
The most recognizable rookie name was JT Snow. 

The Inserts
There were four insert sets in 1993 Studio.
1. Studio Heritage (1 in 12 packs). This was probably the most visually striking of the sets.  It dressed players in throwback uniforms with a sepia flavor.
2. Frank Thomas: A 5 card set showing the lighter side of the "Big Hurt", showcasing the spokesman for 1993 Donruss/Leaf products.
3. Silhouettes (inserted only in jumbo packs): A weird concept with the action shot of the player being a shadow on top a ghosted portrait image.
4. Superstars on Canvas: Player portraits with an artistic flair, think of a precursor to Topps Gallery.

The Impact

Seriously minimal impact, the sepia tones and throwback jerseys of the Heritage insert influenced some other insert sets through the years (I'm thinking of 1994 Score Dream Team first).  The portrait style really created its own niche until the end of its 15 year run.


1993 Studio was an upgrade over the previous editions in 1991 and 1992, embellishing the photographic aspects while at the same time staying true to the brand's core of player portraits and player profiles (no stats were necessary).  The insert sets were appropriate and gave the overall release a little extra to round out the presentation.  It was an enjoyable set to buy individual packs of, but there was nothing inherently extravagant or innovative about it.   The backgrounds of the cards were great and really enabled it to surpass similar offerings during this time period.  This is why is sits in the middle of the countdown as an enjoyable, but not unforgettable set. 

Oct 7, 2011

What a Waste of an Effort and Season

102 wins? Means nothing. Great players with gutty performances? Means nothing. 2011 season? Means nothing. It will go down as the year the lineup choked and the rotation barely kept its head above water in the playoffs.

How many regulars hit .200 or below for the series? Four. Small sample size, one can claim. Well, small sample size is not the malady that leads to a playoff series loss. Poor approaches, poor situational hitting, swinging at any pitch outside the zone, going meekly with hardly any hustle.

Don't get me was hustle, but of desperation, trying to make something happen when it wasn't possible to be there. Running into outs on the basepaths in this game just doesn't cut it.

For one word of praise for the opposition....Carpenter's curveball was practically unhittable.

Game 2 was the real killer of the series. 4-0 lead, knocked out the ace, and then it was frittered away by Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay at the expense of Cliff Lee. A 2-1 lead in the series, and then David Freese gets inside Oswalt's head and has 2 large extra-base hits.

The bullpen pitched admirably, only 3 runs allowed total after the mop-up time in game 1. Ryan Madson will make a lot of money in the free agent market. The starting pitching was gutsy, but not spectacular. Halladay could not get off the first inning schneid and it cost him in this game. He sure pitched incredibly after that though. Hamels struggled and still ended up giving up nothing.

Everything up to this point was a waste...great only be remembered for the 102 wins....when someone else asks what happened to this team? The only answer is they lost in the first round of the playoffs....not the championship series or World Series, but the first round. There is no sense of accomplishment for the 2011 season,just a pile of happy memories shadowed by this overarching fact.

Sep 30, 2011

Jonesin' for the Whiz Kids

A vintage card collector, I am not. Instead I would characterize myself as a fortuitous accumulator of well-cared cards of a bygone era. As a self-proclaimed Phillies collector, you would think that I have wide array of cards from all eras, but that is not actually the case.

I only started my Phillies collection when I started this blog because that's all I thought I'd ever blog little the me of the past can understand the me of the present. Of course, if the me of the present decided to consult with the me of past to influence the me of the future, then the me of the future would feel like he was being teamed up on and try and change the future before he became the present and was moved into the past before his time.

That is to say, it's always refreshing to discover players who had played for the Phillies for a long time before my living memory. Enter the discovery of Willie Jones. He played for the Phillies from 1947-1959, right in the sweet spot of the rise of the Whiz Kids and the development of the golden age of baseball cards. A two-time all-star and probably the best fielding 3rd baseman of the 1950s in the NL who somehow picked up the charming moniker of Puddin' head.

I guess after acquiring the three cards below I will attempt to be a Willie Jones master collector.

1951 Bowman Willie Jones: His facsimile autograph reveals the nickname in all its glory as his portrait is stationed under a light tower of that era.   The uniform is a classic, pin-striped and blue-starred, and is the uniform on which the current Phillies one is based.   This was a commemoration of the Whiz Kid season of 1950 where the Phillies won their 2nd all-time pennant.  Jones chipped in with 100 runs, 25 HR, 88 RBI, and .267/.337/.456 line (108 OPS+) along with league-leading putouts and assists totals at third base.

This card is in the best condition by my eyes; the corners are almost sharp.  There is no paper loss anywhere on the card and it remains frozen in time.
1952 Bowman Willie Jones: The 1952 version of this card is not as memorable looking as the 1951 version.  There is no Puddin' Head mention, and the cap logo barely is visible.    The road uniform is on display here and the stars are red.   Jones did have a letdown from the 1950 season and had probably his best hitting season in 1951. He had 79 runs, 22 HR, 81 RBI and had a .285/.358/.470 line (122 OPS+).  He also led the league in sacrifice hits and it was the only season he didn't finish first in putouts from 1949-1956.
1954 Topps Willie Jones:  The 1954 Topps card showcases Phillies pedestrian team logo of the era.  The two images of Puddin Head are also shown.   It's interesting that the baby blue color that Topps chose would be a prominent part of the Phillies uniform 25 years later.   The 1953 season was his worst to date in his career, hitting .225/.342/.385 (90 OPS+) with 61 Runs, 19 HR, and 70 RBI.  His plate discipline was stellar though, with 82 BB vs 42 K.  As always, he was among the leaders in all the fielding categories for 3rd baseman.

Jones continued playing from the Phillies until 1959 when he took a Piazza like journey to Cincinnati thru Cleveland and then retired early in the 1961 season after his release from the Redlegs.

I guess it's time for me as a present Phillies fan to appreciate a past Phillies' career and start collecting his cards to know their place in team history.

Sep 27, 2011


2008 Topps Ryan Howard #100

For the first time in my lifetime, the Phillies have reached 100 wins.  This is a great cap to the 2011 regular season.   It's unfortunate that they had that mini-tailspin last week, it would have been really memorable to have seen a team with less than 60 losses in a season.Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and company lived up to the preseason expectations and then some.  Let's hope that everyone's ready and wired for the postseason.  I'm definitely wired and that's not necessarily the three glasses of Pepsi I had could be anything really.

Speaking of 100, here's some interesting stats about Topps card #100 through the years.

Players who have appeared more than once as #100 (9)
Albert Pujols (10,11)
Alex Rodriguez (04,00)
Barry Bonds (06, 95)
Mike Schmidt (89, 82)
George Brett (85, 78)
Willie Stargell (75, 74)
Hank Aaron (73, 69)
Bob Gibson (68, 62)
Frank Robinson (72, 67)
Pete Rose (83, 71)

Players who have appeared the year after their MVP season (8)
1977-Joe Morgan
1965-Ken Boyer
1964-Elston Howard
1960-Nellie Fox

Players who have had 300 wins in their career (3)
1958-Early Wynn
1979-Tom Seaver
1986-Nolan Ryan

Players who have had 3000 hits in their career (3)
1971/1983-Pete Rose

1978/1985-George Brett
1981-Rod Carew

Players who have had 500 home runs in their career (9)
1967/1972-Frank Robinson
1969/1973-Hank Aaron
1982/1989-Mike Schmidt
1984-Reggie Jackson
1993-Mark McGwire
1995/2006-Barry Bonds
1996-Frank Thomas
1999-Ken Griffey Jr.
2000/2004-Alex Rodriguez

Player who had lowest amount of wins-1953 Bill Miller-6 wins

The non-player card-1957-League Presidents (Giles and Harridge)

Players who were on teams that moved (3)
1955-Monte Irvin (New York Giants)
1959-Bob Cerv (Kansas City Athletics)
2002-Vladimir Guerrero (Montreal Expos)

Subset Cards (2)
1956-Orioles Team Checklist
1997-Dwight Gooden Season Highlight

What can I say? The number 100 has a certain synergy.  Any other interesting things you can find?

Sep 22, 2011

Trades From the Past: Off the Wall and O No Another Orioles Blog

I am finally posting trades that have accumulated from the dark winter months. By the way, happy autumnal equinox tomorrow. So this means that I'm only three seasons behind now. I think I should catch up shortly. You see the pictures from the previous post? All that is cleaned up and cataloged (more or less). It's nice not to sift through hundreds of cards to find the couple I knew I possibly had. Unfortunately, this means trade stacks weren't as separated as they should be. Welcome to a double dosing of probably two of the best packages I have ever received.   So thank you Ryan from O No!!! Another Orioles Blog and Shane from Off the Wall.  The awesomeness of these cards is now officially acknowledged in the cyberspace realm.

Jim Thome 2004 Leaf Jersey card: Remember when Jim Thome was a great home run hitter for the Phillies?  Remember when he hit his 600th home run?  Still, a great home run hitter.  Also, I really like the size of the jersey piece on this card.
Ryan Howard 2011 Topps Wrapper Redemption: Here is the heir apparent to Jim Thome, who is now 2nd all-time on the Phillies home run list (with 286) barely half of the total of the leader.
Mike Schmidt 1985 Opeechee: which is this guy with 548 HRs.  It's always a nice surprise to see a familiar card with the Canadian logo.
Roy Halladay 2011 Topps Wrapper Redemption: The intimidating visage of the ace of aces overshadowing the black diamond effects.
Roy Halladay 2010 Finest: Finest is a brand I can never find nor find it in my wallet to purchase a box of.  Is there a red refractor in 2010 Finest because it would look luminescent.
Chase Utley 2007 Turkey Red:  This card commerorates the 35 game hitting streak from 2006.  This has been the last streak of 35 or more games in baseball.
Roy Oswalt 2011 Topps Wrapper Redemption: These cards are excellent, too bad they can only be found in the mail.  Oswalt needs to be the pitcher of last year and overcome his back problems.
Steve Carlton 1984 Opeechee: "Lefty"'s transcendant 1972 season is being mentioned again in connection with Justin Verlander's top-notch season.   
Chase Utley 2005 Bowman Heritage:  This line didn't quite take off like Topps Heritage did.  I guess it didn't help that there were two non-color sets (1948, 1953) and a really ugly set (1949).  1992 is retro now, as evidenced by the inserts in 2010 Bowman, so maybe it would be best to skip the 1989-1991 designs as templates in the future.
Pat Burrell 2000 Fleer Tradition Fresh Ink: Pat the Bat....he signed it on the card!
Randy Wolf TTM Signature: Bring back the wolfpack! Except if the Phillies meet the Brewers in the playoffs.
Barry Bonds 1992 Bowman foil:  I have only opened one pack of 1992 Bowman in my life.  These foils fell one per pack.  This now makes me 684 cards from the complete set.
Bob Abreu 1995 Bowman: A Bobby Abreu rookie is very exciting.  I always thought I had this card, but it turned out it was actually a Bartolo Colon from the same set.  1996 me did not have a very good image:name remembrance ratio.
Lance Berkman 1997 Bowman, Magglio Ordonez 1998 Bowman, Aaron Rowand 2000 Bowman: Here are more rookies of memorable players from the Aughts....Berkman is posing with the Astrodome in the background, which is pretty cool.  Magglio was my favorite fantasy player to draft in 2002-2005, no matter how he did...and Rowand had one great catch (against the Mets in 2006) and one great Phillies season (2007).
Jim Eisenreich 1996 Leaf Signature Auto: He was always a favorite when he was on the Phillies.  It helped that he hit .300 in every season while there.  But seriously, he was an upstanding individual in the community.  Also, check out his slash line for his 1996 season (.361/.413/.476)...impresionante.
Ryan Howard 2008 Topps Jersey: And we end the gallery with a Ryan Howard card because he is the linchpin of the Phillies. Though he is not the most valuable statistically, they need him to provide the presence in the middle of the lineup to advance through the playoffs.

There were many more cards....but I can only scan so many.

Thanks for the trades gentlemen, it was a brilliant set of cards you sent me.