Thursday, July 20, 2017

Expos Sweetness

There is something I really miss about having the Expos around baseball.  The Nationals are not really the same thing.  For most of my childhood, the Expos were in the same division as my Cardinals, and while they had some really great players, they were never dreaded or hated the same way as the Mets and Cubs.

The Expos were the lovable team in the National League.  If you team didn't win, but the Expos won it was really hard to be upset.  As a Cardinals fan, they didn't beat the Redbirds in the standings often, but when they did there was really nothing to be upset about.  Add in the fact that the Expos had really awesome uniforms and some really great players and you've got some great cards to chase down as a collector.

I specifically look out for a few players who appeared for both the Expos and Cardinals, as well as a few former Montreal players who were just fun to watch.  One of my favorites was a fairly memorable Expo who had a forgettable year as a Cardinal.  I am talking about the Big Cat....

Andres Galarraga has a bunch of Cardinals base cards from his time on the Cardinals and nothing else since that time.  Cannot say that I blame the different card companies for skipping him with the birds on the bat.  His 1992 season, spent with the Cardinals, was easily one of his worst year's of his professional career.  Luckily, card companies have celebrated his time with the Expos.  

My latest Galarraga comes out of this year's Topps Tribute set.  This is a great looking baseball card....

As usual, the Big Cat has a great signature.  The card stock and finish on these cards is really nice this year too.  I like the Expos pictures too with both a still shot and action shot in the background make the card pop.  The other feature I kind of like on the card is the years of his career in the lower right hand corner.  Pretty cool feature to help out younger collectors who may not necessarily remember Galarraga as a player, or weren't around for his time as a player.  

Another sweet Expos card makes me a very happy collector.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #18 - Ryan Klesko

1990 Durham Bulls 

The Atlanta Braves picked Klesko in the fifth round of the 1989 MLB Draft out of high school in California.  It took him one year to reach the Bulls who were an A Ball team in the Carolina League at the time.  In 77 games for the 1990 Durham Bulls Klesko posted a .274/.343/.408 line with 7 home runs, 16 doubles, and 47 RBIs.  Klesko reached the Majors in 1992, sticking with the Braves for good in 1994 when he played more than 90 games.  He ended up playing a total of 16 seasons, mainly for the Braves and Padres, before retiring after spending the 2007 season with the Giants.  Klesko ended his career with 278 home runs, 343 doubles, and a slash line of .279/.370/.500.  Klesko was a member of the 1995 Braves World Series winning team.  

This is my second Topps Archives Snapshot in my Project Durham Bulls series.  I don't have any particular connection to this set, nor am I trying to put together the set or something.  They just happen to be pretty easy to find, plus the two cards I have featured were pretty easy cards to find.  This Klesko card has to be one of the easier cards to pull out of this product......

350 seems like a pretty large number for a recent set.  No?  Overall the Archives Snapshot cards are pretty simple and clean in terms of design.  They also have on-card signatures.  His more recent autographs are generally on card signatures, but he has a bunch of cards from his playing days that are stickers.  My only regret with this card is the fact that he is a Padre.  Still, Klesko is one of the better former Durham Bulls players from the 1990s, seemed like a player I'd like to include in these posts sooner than later.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Short Little Post of Appreciation For A Short Little Player

There are a few modern players whom I have missed out on over the years.  There are very few players that I will actively skip over.  Does Josh Lueke have an autograph?  No, we are good.  Most of those good players that have been skipped over, or do not appear regularly in this space, are absent for many reasons.  None of them involve a lack of effort, nor active avoidance.  Save for Josh Lueke.
One of the players I have missed out on over the years has been Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.  The infielder is noted for his ability to hit for a high average and his short stature.  Most recently there was this picture of him standing next to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.  Judge is quiet tall.  

One of my favorite Altuve height related things on the internet is the Twitter account for How Many Altuves.  It takes measurements of home runs, all sorts of other things too, and converts them into the measure known as Altuves.  Each Altuve is approximately 5 and a half feet tall.  

Which leads me to this: I have never ever put a Jose Altuve card on my site.  Like nothing, ever.  So, I was recently trading a few cards, looking through a photo gallery that a trading partner had posted, when I saw an Altuve card.  Normally I would have kept scanning the cards and passed it by, but the price listed on the card seemed a little too good.  It actually was perfectly in-line with what his cards sell for on Ebay.  

The point is, the Altuve card was cheaper than what I had honestly expected the card to fetch.  I took the dive and put the card into the trade.  Now, it is in my collection....

This is actually a lot nicer card than I thought it was going to be when I saw it online.  Tribute is always a nice product, but this year's cards have a nice smooth finish and seem to have a thicker card stock too.  Seeing this Altuve card, holding it my hand, may have led me to find a few other autographs from this set.  Maybe.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Black and Old Gold Scherzer

I don't have a collection of Max Scherzer cards and I am not going to start one anytime soon.  Still, I have been on the lookout for one of his cards for a few months now.  Different things have gotten in the way during that time.  Me not paying attention to the end of Ebay auctions, getting sniped at the end of Ebay auctions, and me not willing to spend $79.99 on a Buy It Now for a Max Scherzer card.  

The card I have been on the lookout for features Scherzer during his time at the University of Missouri.  I went to another public university in Missouri, but I grew up rooting for the Tigers.  I went to basketball and football games, had siblings attend the school, and many friends from high school.  

I was living in North Carolina the majority of the time that Scherzer was at Mizzou, but I did get to see him play with play with the USA Baseball College Team.  

I have always thought it would be cool to have seen Scherzer actually pitch a game for the Tigers.  There is no going back at this point, so I have dabbled in Scherzer cards at times when I have had a chance to add a copy of him wearing the black and old gold.  I think my first Scherzer card in a Mizzou uniform was out of the 2007 Donruss Elite set, I will post it on another day.  

So, here is my second....

I love the picture of Scherzer in the Mizzou uniform obviously.  The design of the card is really simple, but I like the fact that it draws your eye towards the signature and the picture.  Yes, the signature is a sticker autograph which is always something I try to avoid, but in this case I am making past it just fine.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 59

I love chasing down oddball cards.  Over the years I have been really fortunate to find some really tough cards that were not only difficult to find, but were a little bit pricey.  My best oddball find of the past year has to be my Topps ProShooters Marbles which was a test issue Topps put out in 1997.  The marbles were sold somewhere in Canada and are a pretty tough find.  The last marble I needed for my collection, to complete my Cardinals team set, was Ray Lankford.  One of the 1990s Cardinals players whom I collect extensively.  

There are still a few hard oddball cards out there that I would love to add to my collection and I was lucky enough to land one of them a few weeks back.  I ended up with a Cardinals card out of the set, but I wasn't really going to be too choosy about the player out of the set.  I have just always liked the look of this set and just wanted a card that fit my collection.  I have a Nate Colbert card I picked up awhile ago....

Here's a look at the card out of the 1971 Topps Greatest Moments card of Cardinals Hall of Famer Lou Brock....

I have been trying to find one of these cards for a few years now.  They are not too difficult to find.  If you went on Ebay right now you'd likely be able to find several copies of the different cards in the set.  Some of the better Hall of Famers can be really tough, but it's not like these cards pop up once in a blue moon.  The difficult part of the Greatest Moments set has much more to do with the fact that they are condition sensitive and clean copies of the cards can be expensive at times.

I was willing to buy any of the Cardinals cards from the set or players connected to the Durham Bulls like Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub.  After much looking I ended up with Lou Brock.  Couldn't be happier about the card that I landed.

The only thing that was a little bit weird about this card is the picture on the front.  It celebrates Brock's 6th straight season of 50 stolen bases, which is a great accomplishment, but the picture is clearly not from the 1970 season.  Red Sox and Cardinals?  1970?  I don't think that happened.

There was no interleague play at that point and I had my doubts that this game was a Spring Training game.  Although both the Cardinals and Red both train in Florida.  The two teams did meet in the World Series in 1967, while it would have been four years old at the time this card was made, I was not going to put it past a card company to use an older picture.  Especially when it is a test issue.  I would guess the threshold for accuracy and detail might diminish a little bit.  Maybe?

Here's the picture I found.....

Same picture right? Sure the picture is a few years old, but it's still a sweet looking card showing off the Cardinals Hall of Famer swiping a base.  Subject matter and card content matter match, I am a happy camper.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

This Is Really A Basketball Card Set?

I was recently cruising Ebay looking for some cardboard of one of my favorite former NC State players T.J. Warren.  I am always looking for cards featuring him in a Wolfpack uni, but I have branched out at times for some of his Phoenix Suns cards.  Since I really don't know a lot about basketball cards I mainly just set a price limit for myself and then go hunting based on the appearance of the card.  It sounds superficial, but it's truly how I collect basketball cards.

It just so happens that the day I went hunting for T.J. Warren cards, I ran into an auction that was about to end.  The card looked sweet, so I quickly placed my bid.  I didn't really pay attention to most of the details outside of the fact that the card was dirt cheap, white with two memorabilia pieces, and it was autographed.

A few days later it showed up in the mail.  I took it out of its envelope and looked at the white and grey.  The cool looking piece of basketball relic.  Then I read the name on the top "Excaliber".  Seriously?  I thought for a minute about some sort of connection between a sword and basketball, or King Arthur and basketball?  I guess King Arthur had a court and basketball is played on a court.

I'm going with the court thing.  Royal Court.

Basketball Court. 

This is surely what some designer at Panini was thinking?  Right?  Although, when I saw the Excalibur heading on the card I couldn't help, but think that perhaps someone was really sneaking in some Monty Python at work.  Maybe this could fit too, but I am at a loss for a basketball connection....

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Friday Five: Five Coolest Baseball Games I Have Seen In Person

It's been a long time since I have made one of these Friday Five posts.  I should make this a regular thing again.  I know there were several regular readers who used to really like these, so to reward your patience I am going to double the normal five and go with ten for this week.  Really, I came up with five games, then had an honorable mention or two.  That quickly ballooned into another five games.  The Friday Ten just sounds terrible though.  Here's the list.

10.  July 22, 1986 San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

A lot of Cardinals fans will tell you that the Gold Standard for baseball brawls was the Cardinals and Reds from 2010 with Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina.  Maybe an older fan will tell you it's the time Will Clark tried to take out Jose Oquendo and it ended up in a huge fight between the two and Ozzie Smith.  They're all wrong.   I went to a baseball game once for my mother's birthday and this happened.....

The video quality is not great, but this whole thing was basically set off by Whitey Herzog and Roger Craig, the two managers of the teams.  You know it's good when the St. Louis Police get involved, Mike Heath has to restrain Vince Coleman by carrying him off the field, and fans throwing beer at Chris Brown.  It appears that Tito Landrum might have been some sort of peace maker throughout.

9. April 14, 2006 Toledo Mud Hens vs. Durham Bulls 

My first Opening Day in Durham had a pretty memorable finish.  The Bulls were losing for the entire game including a 4-1 deficit entering the ninth inning.  Good old Lee Gardner pitched the ninth inning for the Mud Hens, but walked Shawn Riggans, Brent Butler, and Darnell McDonald to load the bases for the Devil Rays top infield prospect B.J. Upton.  As I remember it, there was not much doubt that the ball was over the fence.  A great way to start off my first full season of Durham Bulls baseball.  Here is the box score.

I don't remember Ryan Ludwick being on the Mud Hens that season.  See, these posts are already doing me some good.  I saw a Cardinals player and I don't even remember it.  

7.  July 16, 2006 Columbus Clipper vs. Durham Bulls 

This was the first no-hitter that I ever attended, but I did not stay for the whole game.  This is what happens when you go out to a game with a bunch of people that you work with and they say, "let's walk across the street and eat garlic fries and drink beer".  The garlic fries at the restaurant across the street from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park are excellent, but I deeply regret my decision.  Hammel ended up pitching into the ninth inning, but was at 125 pitches when manager John Tamargo pulled him out the game.  I didn't see it.  

Requisite picture of Jason Hammel pitching in Triple A.  

In the end Juan Salas came in and got the last two outs of the game.  The Clippers actually ended up scoring a run at the end of the game because Wes Bankston and Delmon Young committed errors on the same play, a ball hit by Carlos Pena, which was followed up by a wild pitch by Salas.  Always had this terrible feeling that I would not see another no-hitter ever and that this was the dumbest time to ever leave a game worked out okay though. Read on.

6. October 5, 1985 Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

I moved to St. Louis at some point in the summer of 1984.  I know I went to a baseball game or two that summer and I know I went to a few during the 1985 season too.  The best game out of my first two years living in St. Louis was the second to last game of the year between the Cardinals and Cubs.    The Cardinals and Mets were in a heated pennant race, with no wild cards at that time, which meant you had to win your division.  This was the game where the Cardinals clinched the National League East by beating the Cubs 7-1.

Ozzie made this great play, Cesar Cedeno hit a home run, and John Tudor pitched great.  Definitely one of my better memories watching baseball as a kid in St. Louis.  

5. (tie)  September 5, 1998 Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

I went to this game for a friend's birthday.  Drove home from college and watched the game.  It was McGwire and it was 1998.   I was actually sitting in left field for this game, but I was over about three sections towards center field and up about twenty rows from where the ball landed.  

The whole home run chase thing has lost some of its luster over time due to the steroid stuff, Bonds breaking the record again a few years later, etc.  It was something that was really important to baseball in St. Louis at the time it happened though.  If you could ask the 21 year old version of me about this game when it happened, or maybe a month after, it would have been higher than 5.  Same with the next one.  

5. (tie) September 7, 1998 Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

Same kind of stuff as the previous moment.  I thought this one was a little bit better, still going with a tie though, since it came against the Cubs.  Sosa was there and the Cubs were high fiving McGwire running around the bases.  Something always great about a Cubs and Cardinals game.  This one was the best I have seen of that rivalry.  

4. July 1, 2015 USA Baseball National College Team vs. Cuban National Baseball Team 

This was the second no-hitter I watched in the span of a year and the third one overall.  If you keep reading I promise you there is another one.  The summer time version of the USA Baseball National Team is made up of college players.  In this case the no-hitter was thrown by three pitchers from the SEC: Tanner Houck from Missouri, A.J. Puk from Florida, and Ryan Hendrix from Texas A&M.  All three are now in the Minors.  The final out....

This was a cool game to watch because it was a bunch of college kids taking on Cuban players who are in a professional league back home.  If you have never been to a USA Baseball game in Cary, NC the crowd tends to have more scouts than fans.  It's why there isn't a ton of noise at the end of the game when Hendrix gets the final out.  The one ding against this game is the fact that two of the Cuban players, both started the game, defected after the game.  Don't get me wrong, the three pitchers are great, but I have often wondered how much the Cubans were into the game.  

3.  April 26, 2014 Scranton Railriders vs. Durham Bulls 

The second no-hitter I saw, but the first one that I watched in its entirety.  I went to this game because my brother was in town for something work related.  We sat behind the Scranton dugout and watched Luis Sojo coach third base for the Yankees Triple A team.  I think I first noticed that Montgomery had a no-hitter going sometime in the fifth.  

Montgomery pitched into the ninth inning, but was pulled out of the game by the Rays.  Brad Boxberger finished the no-hitter off with a ground out and a strikeout.  Montgomery actually just missed a perfect game, walking just one batter, which happened to be former Bulls player Russ Canzler.  

2. September 27, 1998 Montreal Expos vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

A younger version of me would have put this at number one all day long.  I still love Mark McGwire as a player, still love what the home run race in 1998 did for baseball, and still remember the excitement this generated.  As previously stated though, it's luster has been somewhat diminished.  

Still a pretty awesome moment to witness.  I consider myself a pretty fortunate to have seen as many baseball games as I have in my life, not many people have seen something like this before.  

1.  September 15, 1991 New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals 

I went to tons of Cardinals games while I was in high school with my father on Sunday afternoons.  The Cardinals were not good for most of my teen years, but they had a few good players and a few bright spots along the way.  Probably the best player on those teams was center fielder Ray Lankford. He's really an under appreciated player in the history of the team who is in the all-time top 10 in dozens of offensive categories.  Yet, he's not in the team's Hall of Fame likely because he's the only player on those top 10 lists who spent the majority of his career playing on bad teams.  Ted Simmons might fit that too. 

The best moment I had watching Lankford came early in his career against the Mets when he hit for the cycle.  It was a great moment at the time, but I think it has become a little bit better with time just for the fact that I am pretty doubtful I will see another player hit for a cycle again.  It could happen, but the odds are heavily against it.  

Here is the box score from Baseball-Reference.  

While I am really into collecting Ray Lankford cards, I also have several non-baseball card items of his too.  Probably my favorite item is my scorecard from that game.  I wrote in pencil, so I try not to take it out to often.  

While this is my best baseball moment, I am always open to further suggestions if someone wanted to hit four home runs in a game I attend, or pitch a perfect game.  I will have to revisit this post in a few years and see if it has changed at all.