Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pair of Pennants

I posted my first Pro Debut card about two weeks ago showing off a Tyler Kolek manu logo card of him with the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  Pro Debut has become one of my favorite yearly card products, not so much for opening boxes or packs, but just finding some cool single cards.  There are not a ton of mainstream minor league products out on the market and this is one of the few that actually shows the players in their minor league duds. 

There have been a variety of different inserts, autographs, and relics featured in Pro Debut, but the manufactured logo cards are what got me started on this set long ago....

I really liked some of the early card designs of these patches a little better than the current ones, but I still dig the more current releases and enjoy collecting them.  This year I have been trying to track down a few different teams including a Cardinals and a few North Carolina teams beyond the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  I bet you can guess one of the North Carolina teams, so let's take care of that one first....

The Durham Bulls seem to always have a manu logo/pennant in this set.  Really, why wouldn't they have one?  This year's card features top Rays pitching prospect Blake Snell.  Snell has been prompted up to the Rays since the last time I mentioned him in a blog post.  I don't expect him to come back anytime soon, so it was a good run and I am happy to have this card of him wearing the blue and Texas tan Bulls uni.  


I am trying to get into the Burlington Royals.  They are a little further from my house then the Durham Bulls and Carolina Mudcats, but I really enjoyed watching a game at their stadium last summer.  I have a return trip coming up in a few weeks.  It's a great place to watch a baseball game and is one of those little Minor League parks where you could almost reach out and touch the players.   Russell was a first round draft pick of the Royals who started out in Burlington last year.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Old Autograph Upgrade

I love all of the cards that I have picked up over the years, but I have been working on a little project for the last two or three years with a few of my autographed cards.  As a person who collected cards in the early 2000s, I pulled many autographs that were on sticker autographs.  It's not just the fact that they are sticker autographs, it's the ugly grey/silver autograph stickers.

There are a few thousand autographs in my collection and I am pretty sure that there are a few hundred autographs with the grey stickers like this Andruw Jones autograph.

Truth be told, the Andruw Jones card actually isn't that bad since the card has a bunch of foil on the face.  The really bad sticker autographs are the ones with the grey sticker on a white card.  So many to choose from as an example, but this is a good one....

I love Mike Montgomery and I really enjoyed watching him throw a no-hitter once, but this is not a cool autograph.  The stickers have gotten better in recent years with the advent of the clear sticker, but there are still a few silvers floating around.  Especially players like Johnny Podres and Gary Carter who signed a ton of stickers before dying and Topps is still using them in sets.

So, here is my project.  I am not trying to replace the autographs of all the players in my collection whose signature appears on a grey autograph sticker.  That would take a long time, would be expensive, and in some cases would not really be possible.  However, there are plenty of really good players who are worth my time, effort, and maybe a slight net loss in the old pocketbook.

My latest autographed card to be upgraded belongs to Astros Hall of Famers Craig Biggio.  I originally pulled a Biggio autograph out of a pack of 2001 Donruss Signature way back in the day.  I loved getting this card.  At the time, Biggio was not a huge signer and he was a fun player to watch.  I am saying that as a Cardinals fan whose team lost many games to Craig Biggio...

This isn't a terrible sticker autograph.  Donruss actually did a good job with the grey/green box around the sticker.  Makes it blend into the background of the card a little bit better.  However, my newest Biggio card is really nice and will make parting with this one a little easier in a week or two....

It's bascially the same autograph, Biggio's hasn't changed much over time, but it's actually on the card.  It's from this year's Finest set, which I believe, has all on-card autographs. Plus, can I throw in the fact that it's cool to see Biggio wearing an older Astros uniform?  It's not the 1980s rainbows, but I am not sure that Biggio was on the team at any point when they wore those outside of some throwback jersey day.

Does anyone else ever trade up for more desirable copies of cards?  I know that I do sticker autographs, but I have seen a lot of collectors do similar things with other types of cards over the years from finding better relic pieces on a memorabilia card, to tracking down a card with a cool serial number (Yes, the dreaded Ebay 1/1).

Venerable Old Card Part 19

I have posted a Bob's Camera Richmond Brave card before in the past and found my second card from the long running team issue a few weeks ago.  For those catching up, the Richmond Braves for the better part of a decade had a weekly giveaway of one baseball card that was sponsored by Bob's Camera.  Since there was only one card given away each week, there are very few complete sets of these cards.

It seems that some of the cards have a higher demand and are harder to find.  I am not sure if they were short printed, or they just did not pass out the left over cards.  Such much unknown about some of these cards which is part of what makes them fun.

My latest Bob's Camera card is a big name, but not too difficult....

This is a 1988 Dave Justice Bob's Camera card.  He was in Richmond multiple years and has several of these cards, this was his first.  While some of the big name players in this set have a some pretty pricy cards, the star of the 1988 set is John Smoltz.   The David Justice card is one of the more inexpensive cards I have ever run into out of this set.  During the 1988 season Justice split the year between Double Greenville and Triple A Richmond and easily had the worst year of his professional career with a .203/.311/.357 line and just 8 home runs in almost 300 at bats.  Not sure that has anything to do with the card being cheap, but it might mean that there were more of his cards given away.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

and the 1985 Rookie of the Year Award goes to.....

Panini has put out a lot of booklet cards over the years.  It feels like the concept has lost a little bit of steam over time.  I remember a few years back I would frequently run into collectors who would trade their right arm, or half of the equity in their mortgage, for a chance at a booklet card.  Last week someone offered to sell me a Wil Myers booklet for $10 shipped.  Times have changed.

Just because demand has trickled off does not mean that there still aren't cool booklet cards to be found.  I have a few that I am always on the lookout for.  A few cool Cardinals ones, Durham Bulls, or just players I like to watch.  Two weeks ago I found a Cardinals booklet I have had my eye on for awhile....

From the Whiteyball era Cardinals.....

Stolen base artist extraordinaire Vince Coleman.  This card actually celebrates the 1985 Rookie of the Years in the American and National Leagues.  Coleman had a record setting 1985 becoming the first rookie in the history of the game to steal more than 100 bases as a rookie, ending the season with 110 thefts.

I have always liked Coleman's signature and have enjoyed collecting his cards over the years.  He's not a huge signer, but he's been in a fair number of products as a signer to keep 1980s Cardinals fans happy.  

The other side of the card is occupied by former White Sox player and manager Ozzie Guillen.  I am sure that most people remember his managing days over his playing days.  I am also sure that most people remember all the wrong things about his managerial career, which should definitely still be remembered, but ignores the fact that he ended the long World Series drought of the White Sox....

Back to Ozzie Guillen the player.  He was a defense first, offense second shortstop.  His offensive line from his Rookie of the Year season was .273/.291/.358 with 1 home run, 9 triples, and 21 doubles.  Not the strongest year, which brings me to a little something that I ran into while looking up a little information on both Coleman and Guillen.  

I am not entirely sure that either one of these players should have won the Rookie of the Year.  In Coleman's case I am sure that the stolen base record and a winning team went a long way in helping him win the award.  While the truly deserving player in the American League played on a terrible team, the rookie with the best season line in the National League played on a contender.  

The National and American League players who probably deserved to win were both pitchers.  The NL pitchers line: 20-9 record, 155 strikeouts, 1.20 WHIP, FIP 3,81, and an ERA+ of 106.  The AL pitchers line: 15-8 record, 127 strikeouts, 1.17 WHIP, FIP 3.77, and ERA+ of 107.  Any guesses?  

The National League pitcher.....

The American League pitcher.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Great Minor League Card

Ten years ago I first saw Mike Hessman in person at a Durham Bulls game.  At the time Hessman was playing for the Toledo Mud Hens who are the Tigers Triple A affiliate.  I had heard of Hessman prior to seeing him in person.  He had a few baseball cards in the early 2000s as a member of the Braves, but after a pair of stop overs with the big club in 2003 and 2004 Hessman was released and signed with the Tigers.

One of Hessman's earlier cards as a Brave....

Hessman had power and was a scary Minor League hitter, but never seemed to never get called up, or never stayed when he did get up to the Majors.  Year after year Hessman would pop up in the International League.  Most of the times I have seen Hessman he has been a member of the Mud Hens, but his long Minor League career also included a few other stops along the way: Buffalo with the Mets, Louisville with the Reds, and one year in the Pacific Coast League with Oklahoma City and a year in Japan.  

So why did Mike Hessman stick around in the Minors so long?  Well, there is the whole professional baseball thing.  That's better than a lot of other jobs.  Hessman also hit a lot of home runs.  Twenty something one year, thirty something the next two, on and on.  Last summer Hessman, after 19 years on the farm, cranked out his 433 home run against Lehigh Valley to set the home run record in the Minors.  

Card wise there have never been that many Hessman cards.  Again, a few from his first years as a Braves prospect.  There are a lot of Minor League team issued cards of him and a few League All-Star sets featuring him, but not many cards from the major card manufacturers.  There was a Topps Pro Debut card a few years back, but most Minor League collectors are really out for the prospects, not the old guys.  That means you most of Hessman's cards are like this International League All-Star card from 2014.....

I like prospects, but I do not mind cards of the old guys either.  Old minor league guys are like the backup catcher cards in the base Topps set.  There are not many cards of them, but they are still enjoyable cards.  Which brings me to tonight's card...

After more than a decade in the Minors, and a Minor League home run record later, Topps finally included Hessman as a signer in this year's Topps Pro Debut set.  When the set came out and I saw this card I made this my number one priority to track down.  It's been a fun to watch Hessman all of the years and nice to get a card of him as a member of the Mud Hens.  

For what it's worth, Hessman retired from baseball as a player at the end of last year.  He is now working as a hitting coach in the Tigers organization with the Connecticut Tigers.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Durham Diamond Kings

Panini has released a bunch of products this year and I cannot tell much about any of them.  I usually wait until the fall to see what sort of college and USA Baseball products they will drop.  All of the other stuff that they put out I will dabble in, but I am done with putting their sets together after they the whole Donruss set thing back in 2014.  Long story, ask around...

That leaves me with just putting together a few autographs here and there, which is usually the extent of Panini cards in my collection.  So far this year I have done a pretty good job of completely ignoring them almost altogether until a trading partner pointed out that there is both a Blake Snell and a Richie Schaffer autograph in Diamond Kings.

Welp, I went ahead and got both cards. While they are pictured as Rays, both were Durham Bulls at the time this product was released.

 Here's a look at the Snell.

Sticker autograph, uniform logos airbrushed out.  Love those Donruss cards.  It's still a Snell autograph and he is a pretty good Durham Bulls player, so it's a good addition for my collection.  If you are not familiar with Snell, he is the top pitching prospect in the Rays organization.  Really impressive pitcher, just ask Brian McCann.

I am not sure where Shaffer ranks on the prospect lists nowadays.  He had a good season with the Durham Bulls last year, got called up to the Rays, and hit this home run with a memorable celebration. 

After hitting 26 home runs last season in the Minors, Shaffer is having a bit of a down year with the Bulls.  So far he has hit just 5 home runs.  Still, one of my favorite Durham Bulls and an enjoyable player to collect.  Here is his Diamond Kings autograph.....

Similar to the Snell card.  Sticker autograph with some art work and two average pieces of jersey swatch.  While it's clear that Snell is working his way out of Triple A, and will soon be a mainstay in the Rays rotation, it's nice to see him get a few cards before he gets to the Majors.  Same with Shaffer, but I suspect he will be in Durham a little bit longer.  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Phil Dixon's Negro League Set Part 2

I am going back to the Dixon's Negro League set for tonight's post.  I had picked up the set back at the end of April and made a post back at the beginning of May.  I still intend to make a few posts to show off all of the cards in the set.  With school winding down for the summer I took a little bit of time to finish scanning this set for posts.  Here are the next four cards in the set:

There are some really good players in this group of four including Josh Gibson up in the top right in the Grays uniform.  Gibson was the most noted power hitter in the Negro Leagues and is well know by many baseball fans.  For me, the best part of finding this set is learning about new players who had some great accomplishments.  Here are the backs of the cards which include a short write up by Phil Dixon who created the set and is a noted speaker on the Negro Leagues.

Out of the four cards in this group my favorite card has to be Joe Green on the bottom left.  First, the picture on the front of the card is really cool.  Clearly a posed photograph, but just something a little different that you don't normally see.  I also like the old catchers mitt.  Hard to beat.  In reading the back of the card it turns out that Green was noted for once hitting four home runs in a game which reminds me of one of my best 1990s Cardinals memories.....