Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #42- Fred McGriff

2004 Durham Bulls

For a long time, I was sure that Fred McGriff was on the Durham Bulls all-time roster because he showed up for some rehab assignment once.  However, I later learned that was not the case at all.  McGriff had been signed by the Rays to a Minor League contract during the end of Spring Training in 2003.  They sent the 40 year old first baseman to the Durham Bulls to play his way up to the Majors.  McGriff's stint with the Bulls last seven games before the Rays called him up.  By July, the Rays ended up moving on from McGriff, releasing him after he hit just .181/.272/.306 in 27 games.  It was the end of McGriff's 19 year career.  

In all, McGriff hit 493 home runs, drove in 1,550 runs, had 2,490 hits, went to 5 All-Star Games, and won 3 Silver Slugger Awards.  He won the 1995 All-Star Game MVP and also helped the 1995 Braves win the World Series.  The "Crime Dog" is one of those players who I am sort of indifferent on as far as the Hall of Fame.  I get the arguments both ways, but I think he's a player who is eventually going to get put in by the Veteran's Committee.  

McGriff was one of the real popular players while the junk wax era was taking place.  He was in the American League with the Blue Jays for a long time, so I did not get to see him, but I remember his 1986 Donruss card was expensive and lots of people wanted one.  I kind of shrugged my shoulders at his cards, until he got traded to the Padres.  McGriff then spent a long time playing in the NL in San Diego and Atlanta.  I was much more aware of his cards, but they were sort of on the high end for I player I who was not a Cardinal.  

McGriff's earlier autographs are now selling for something a little north of $10.  I am positive that they were way more that in the mid to late 1990s.  Now that we are out of the 1990s, and McGriff has landed in Hall of Fame limbo, the cost of his cards has come down a bit.  He has signed for a bunch of Topps and Panini products in recent years, I even think I picked up one of his Archives autographs with the Blue Jays at one point.  However, I thought I would try a Braves card.  I have used several of these Leaf Signature cards for my Durham Bulls posts.  This one seemed like the best option for a McGriff autograph.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 52 - Lee Smith

This is a 100% nice post about Lee Smith.  I can be hard on the former Cardinals closer, but most of it revolves around people arguing about whether or not he should be in the Hall of Fame.  There were definitely some rough moments in St. Louis with Lee closing games, but the first few years he played for the Cardinals were some of the best in his career.

Two of his biggest highlights as a Cardinal included saving his 300th game, a large number at the time, and setting the National League single season save mark.

In roughly four seasons with the Cardinals he made three National League All-Star teams and saved 160 games.  When his time with the team ended in 1993, Smith was the Cardinals all-time saves leader.  Smith still ranks second in Cardinals history behind Jason Isringhausen.

Smith is the all-time saves leader for the Chicago Cubs.  Not really all that surprising.  He spent the first eight years of his career closing out games for the Cubs before he was traded to the Red Sox, who would eventually trade him to the Cardinals.  After his time with the Cardinals, he bounced around between the Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds, and Expos.

On to the cards.  From the beginning.

The Cardinals traded for Lee Smith in May of 1990.  Most of the major card releases that year were a single series, which meant that he appeared in the base set as a Red Sox, but Smith did manage to appear in several of the update and traded sets.  His Topps Traded card is a really simple card, probably just snapped a picture of him standing on the field before a game.  The simplicity works for me.  The card shows off Smith's imposing size and, if you ever went to a game in the former Busch Stadium, you would probably recognize that Smith is likely standing in the bullpen for this picture.

Plenty of cards of Smith pitching in a game, cards of one of the all-time saves leaders hanging out in the bullpen?

Next card.

An action shot of Lee Smith from the 1991 Topps set.  As a kid, Topps cards were always portrait style cards, no landscape.  The 1991 Topps set was the first year that I collected where the Topps set had landscape cards.  There were many different Cardinals cards in the 1991 set, but the Lee Smith card was the only landscape.  

Smith also had a landscape style card in the 1992 Topps set.  I went with the Topps Gold version for something a little different.  You can again see the imposing size of Lee Smith in this card.  I like the clouds in the background behind him.  The photography in this set was really good, this is a great example of it on a Cardinals card.  

I love the 1992 Studio set.  The Lee Smith card always felt a little out of place though.  Lee Smith is just sort of taking up the entire bottom of the card, it is the only card that looks like this in the entire set.  His eyes also follow you no matter how you look at the card.  

Two more.  

From the 1993 Topps set.  Smith and Eckersley were the gold standard in relief pitching at the time this card was made.  Completely opposite styles though.  Eckersley was a control pitcher, Smith was a power pitcher.  Eckersley would end up on the Cardinals a few years later.    

Last card.  

Over the last twenty years Lee Smith has been a generous signer in different baseball card products.  While many of his autographs are rightfully in a Cubs uniform, there are a few where he appears as a Cardinal.  My favorite is his appearance in the 2002 Topps Archives Reserve set.  The card is just a Chrome version of his 1991 Topps card, but the autographed version is easily his best certified Cardinals signature in my opinion.  It's a little pricier than some of the more recent cards he has signed, but many of those are in Panini products.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

You Dashed My Hopes

Back in February I was really excited about the Cardinals trading for Marcell Ozuna.  He was coming off a career year with the Marlins and he seemed like a good consolation prize for the Birds losing out on Giancarlo Stanton.  I immediately went out and found a few cool Marcell Ozuna cards.  This Heritage autograph was probably my favorite....

I also assembled a list of other Marcell Ozuna cards that might be fun to track down during the season.  Life seemed good until the season actually started.  There were moments early in the year where Ozuna looked really good....

but the majority of the season was completely disappointing. 

My list of Ozuna cards went by the wayside and none of them appeared in my collection.  I am still not sure if I will ever really take the time to go track them down, unless things drastically change in terms of his on the field production.  Ozuna is also a free agent after this season, which could be a good thing if he does not hit. 

Topps has gotten around to making Ozuna cards in a Cardinals uniform.  They even got around to making an autographed card of him for the Topps Tek set.  Kind of a spontaneous get, but it is a nice looking card....

I always enjoy this set, although I have given up on even figuring out all of the different patterns on the modern edition of these cards.  The metal looking thing behind the players on this year's issue look like something out of the Metal Universe cards, a little out of place.  It does not ruin the card or anything though.  

I picked up one other Topps Tek card of a Cardinals player.....  

of catching prospect Carson Kelly.  I have actually been avoiding his cards a bit the past two years.  I know many see him as the catcher of the future with the Cardinals, but it also appears that Yadier Molina is not slowing down at all.  Wouldn't be shocked if the Cardinals do not use him in a trade.  In the meantime, he ended up with a card in the Topps Tek set.  It was not quite free, but y'all know you have to take advantage of combined shipping.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Food Isn't Good, But The Baseball Cards.....

There are several chain restaurants that I will not eat at for various reasons.  Usually there is just something really unappealing about their food.  Places like Jack In The Box, Hardees, and Denny's all make my list of places I will absolutely not touch.  Although my wife likes to point out that I will eat at White Castle.

Point taken.  

There is one thing that distinguishes one of those three restaurants on my list above: baseball cards.  

At Jack In Box there is the possibility of E. Coli, or perhaps getting really mediocre food off of a really overcrowded menu.  They are like the Cheesecake Factory of fast food, not really good at anything, but you can order all kinds of food.  No baseball cards though.  

Hardees.  Gross.  No baseball cards either.  

Which brings me to Denny's.  

I can't tell you the last time I ate at a Denny's.  I am going to say that it is a minimum of 20 years.  There was one where I went to college, but it was rather shady.  One of those places in town that you do not go near.  There were a bunch in St. Louis, I don't even remember a specific location of one though.  I am sure at some point I have been to one.  At least I think have been to one.  What's really important is that they have baseball cards.  

I posted one Denny's card a week ago that came in a random package.  

I was pretty excited to see this Jackie Robinson card.  I did not have it in my collection, but I knew I had a bunch of these Denny's cards from 1997.  Obviously I did not get these by eating at a Denny's, but after going through my collection, it appears that I am missing one card from the set.  Several of the cards are in my collection a few times. 

How did all of these cards end up in my house?  Great question.  A look at one 1997 Denny's card close up.....

There are some other quality Denny's sets out there from the 1990s, but this one is my favorite.  I like to think of it as a combination of two different classic baseball card products.  The fronts of the cards are very similar to the SportsFlix cards.  Right down to the texture.  

The backs of the card.....

have a hologram picture.  While the picture does not take up the whole card, this part of the card reminds me a bit of the mid to late 1990s SPx cards from Upper Deck.

There are a grand total of 29 cards in the set, but I am technically missing one of the cards from the set even though I have all 29 of the cards from the checklist.

A look at the cards in the set.

These are the first two numerical cards in the set that I was able to assemble by digging through my card boxes.  The Tim Salmon card on the right is actually card number 1.  However, Denny's made a Larry Doby card that was also card number 1, but it was only available at restaurants in the Cleveland area.  I will go find one at some point.

More of the set.

Two pretty good first baseman here.  Always forget how good Mo Vaughn was before he left the Red Sox for the Angels.  Never quite the same after that point.  Still good numbers though.  

A small checklist of 30 cards should allow for a really strong checklist of players who were active during the 1996 and 1997 seasons, but for some reason there is a Travis Fryman card in here.  He was on several All-Star teams and was considered the best player on some bad Tigers teams.  Tony Clark was a lot better though.  

Love seeing John Jaha in here.  Not a long career, but he had some great years in the mid 1990s for the Brewers.  Had a nice year or two with the A's too.  Johnny Damon on the Royals too.  Meh.

Shall we pick up the pace?

McGwire with a mullet.  The base runner in the picture is distracting and blurry.  I think it's Rey Sanchez, so Spring Training game?

ARod was in middle school when this picture was taken.  

I am pretty sure that someone at Pinnacle added that baseball to the Roger Clemens card.  

For no reason, here's Jose Hernandez.  It looks like they airbrushed him on the card next to Sammy Sosa.

The Rockies player in the set was not Larry Walker or Andres Galarraga.  I could have also lived with Ellis Burks, maybe Vinny Castilla.  Bichette.  Terrible.  

Always a positive when you can post an Expos card.  

Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame because the numbers on the back of this card are that good.  Plus, he was not on steroids yet.  

Jackie Robinson a second time and Scott Rolen with the Phillies bat boy.

Overall, a great set.  They do not make these sets anymore, which is probably a good thing in terms of the quality of food consumed by baseball card collectors.  However, these were really good card sets.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 51- 1992 Pacific Cardinals 100th Anniversary Set Part 2

I posted cards from the first half of this set last week.  The set is generally sequential, so the majority of players in last week's post were from the Cardinals 1920s through the 1950s.  For this week's post, I am moving forward to the modern portion of the set starting with the 1960s players.  Similar to the first half of the set, there are plenty of Hall of Fame players in here along with a few others who were solid long term contributors.

Also a few odd choices.  One I sort of get, the other is puzzling.   Let's go weird first.

The Cardinals won nothing during the 1970s.  One of their biggest problems was trading away young talented players.  Steve Carlton for Rick Wise.  Pretty terrible trade, but the Cardinals turned around and traded Rick Wise to the Red Sox for their young All-Star power hitting outfielder Reggie Smith. He played two and a half years in St. Louis, made the National League All-Star team twice, but he got off to a slow start in 1976 and was traded to the Dodgers for a few Dodger Dogs.

Short term player, no playoffs, and no World Series rings.  I would have gone Jack Clark here.  He helped the Cardinals win the National League twice and had one of the franchise's all-time great Postseason home runs against the Dodgers in the 1985 NLCS.  I guess we weren't far enough removed from the Jack Clark exit when this set was made.....

Dick Allen would have been another good short term player for the modern part of the set.  He was involved in the Curt Flood trade, that ultimately lead to players getting free agency rights, as the big piece coming in return for the Cardinals outfielder and McCarver.

The other short term Cardinal in the second half of the set was Lee Smith.  He makes a little more sense than Reggie Smith.

Lee Smith was traded to the Cardinals in early May of 1990.  By the time this set rolled around he had only been on the team for a year and half.  Not very long for an all-time greats type of product.   Smith had set the National League single season save record the previous season.  While I harp on the end of Lee Smith's time with the Cardinals, he was still one of the game's most dominating relief pitchers when he first joined the team.

Smith was also nearing the all-time saves record at this point in his career.  Given how he had pitched during the first year plus of his time in St. Louis, there was little reason to think he was not going to reach the mark in a Cardinals uniform.  A little more understandable than Reggie Smith, but claiming him as an all-time great Cardinal is a stretch.

A few Hall of Famers, a few players who should be in the Hall of Fame.

Gibby.  Hall of Famer.  I love the picture on this card.  You could just look at the pose and tell its Bob Gibson.  That fall of towards first base, I would recognize it anywhere.  

There are a lot of staged photographs in the set, but very few portrait style cards.  In the modern section of the set this Brock card, along with Bake McBride, are the only two cards done in this style.  Very nice looking card.  A young Lou Brock picture too.  The majority of the cards have pictures that seem like they were taken during the prime of the players career.  

Quality action shot on the Ozzie Smith card.  He looks like he is barely jumping on this card.

I do love that the Expos player is a pitcher wearing a jacket to run the bases, you don't see many pitchers do this anymore.  Felt like it was commonplace while I was growing up watching baseball.  Ozzie is also an important card in this due to the fact that he was still playing at this point.  An actual Cardinal though, not just a good player who happened to be on the team like Lee Smith.  He lost a little bit of his shine defensively, his last Gold Glove was in 1992, but he actually was a pretty good hitter later in his career.

Two almost Hall of Famers.

Most of the Cardinals players who have their numbers retired by the team are in the baseball Hall of Fame.  Boyer is the one exception.  Although, he is probably a lot closer to that honor than most people realize.  The best years of Boyer look really similar to that of players like Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre.  He often hit somewhere between 25 and 30 home runs, drove in 90 to 100 runs, and hit in the .290s/low .300s.  Boyer was the 1964 National League MVP and hit a grand slam in the sixth game of the World Series to help the Cardinals defeat the Yankees.  

The problem with Boyer's career is the end.  He had a rather meteoric decline and bounced around between the Mets, White Sox, and Dodgers.  

Great looking card too.  Love the posed shot of him fielding a ground ball.  

Last card.  

While I can say that Boyer has an argument to be in the Hall, I also understand there is an argument against him.  Simmons has an even better argument and there is not much to refute the fact that he should be in the Hall of Fame.  Arguments like, "He was not on a good team until the end of his career" are weak sauce.  Think of the best offensive catchers, look at Simmons counting numbers, and he's right there with the group of Piaza, Bench, Fisk, and Berra.  By the way, Piazza has less World Series at bats as Simmons with the same number of rings.  

I like this card with the powder blue road uniform and Simmons hitting.  Definitely an offensive player, he had some great numbers at the dish for some 1970s Cardinals teams that were very forgettable.  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Full Serving Of Kelloggs

Since my initial post about putting together a 1983 Kellogg's set I have made two additional posts with updates about the cards that I had added towards completion.  My last post with 1983 Kellogg's was last Sunday, but I did not post an updated checklist.  I still had about thirty cards left to chase down.  After few little trades that were not worth an individual post, a COMC order, and a few from a seller I met Sports Lots order, I have crossed off the rest of the cards on the checklist.  

Here is the checklist:

2 Rollie Fingers 
4 George Brett 
6 Pete Rose 
7 Fernando Valenzuela 
8 Rickey Henderson 
9 Carl Yastrzemski 
10 Rich Gossage 
11 Eddie Murray 
13 Jim Rice 
14 Robin Yount 
15 Dave Winfield  
17 Garry Templeton 
19 Pete Vuckovich 
27 Leon Durham 
31 Nolan Ryan 
35 Jack Morris 
39 Jim Palmer 
40 Lance Parrish 
41 Floyd Bannister 
42 Larry Gura 
44 Toby Harrah 
45 Steve Carlton 
52 Dale Murphy 
53 Kent Hrbek 
54 Bob Horner 
55 Gary Carter 
56 Carlton Fisk 
57 Dave Concepcion 
58 Mike Schmidt 
59 Bill Buckner 

Here are the last thirty cards.  Very happy with the completion of this set and the fact that I basically made it to within the two month window which was my goal when this project started.

Some great looking pictures of some of the best players from the early 1980s.  I am actually going to try and put together the 1982 set as well.  I am a lot further along with that set than where I started with this one.  Besides, as a person who enjoys building sets, I am finding more fun with these types of oddball releases from my childhood than the current offerings from Topps and Panini.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #41 - Mike Mordecai

1990-1991 Durham Bulls 

Mordecai was a collegiate standout at South Alabama and was drafted in the 6th Round of the MLB Draft by the Braves in 1989.  His first season in the Minors was split between the Braves low A team and Double A team, but ended up being sent to Durham for his first full season in 1990.  I am not quite sure why he repeated Durham again in 1991.  He had a .280/.379/.406 slash line with the Bulls in 1990, but he did only appear in 72 games.  Perhaps an injury.  His 1991 season with the Bulls was not nearly as good as his first, but the Braves promoted Mordecai to Double A the following season.  Mordecai played a few games for the Braves in 1994 and became a full time utility player for the team starting in 1995.  He was released by the Braves during the 1997 off season and ended up signing with the Expos.  Eventually, Mordecai was traded from the Expos to the Marlins with Carl Pavano for Cliff Floyd.  Mordecai appeared in Major League games through the 2005 season.  He dabbled with coaching in the Minors and at the high school level for a few years before taking a coaching job with the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Mid 1990s player.  What sets are you going to find their autograph in?  Leaf Signature is one of the best bets.  The Bulls had quite a few players from their early 1990s and late 1980s teams appear in this set, along with the Donruss Signature set.  There are a decent amount of former Braves players from this era who went through Durham, but a fair number of those players do not have an autograph available.  I am actually sort of surprised that someone had made an autographed card of Mike Mordeacai.  It's not like there are a lot of Mike Mordecai autographs in general.  With all of that said, this is a great set of cards.  The design is fairly simple, lots of clear space at the bottom of the card with an autograph, and we were in an era of cards with sticker autographs.