Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #24 - Rich Thompson

2012-2013 Durham Bulls 

Rich Thompson appeared in a Triple A baseball game during twelve different seasons starting in 2001 and stretching out until 2013.  However, if you talk to people who follow Minor League Baseball, the most important stop on Rich Thompson's journey was actually with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, which is the Phillies Triple A team.  He first appeared for that team in 2008 and managed to stay there until he was picked up by the Rays in a trade during the 2012 season.  It's hard to really associate a Minor League player with a Minor League team, but if I could name one player who fits that mold it's got to be Thompson and Lehigh Valley.  Or if you are a Rays fan who stops by to read this blog: Thompson is to Phillies Minor League fans what Justin Ruggiano is to Rays Minor League fans.  Although I would argue that Thompson is more popular with that fan base than Ruggiano is with the Rays.  Thompson played two partial season in Durham.  His 2012 season was pretty good.  His 2013 season was not so good.  

The most important part about Thompson's time in Durham was that it provided him with his longest chance to play in the Majors during his long professional baseball career.  He played a few games with the Royals in 2004, but the Rays gave Thompson a full 23 games.  Those games included 23 at-bats and just two hits.  His career ended when he broke his foot fielding a ball in the outfield.  

Thompson was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2000 out of James Madison University.  He did not have any baseball cards his first two years as a professional baseball player, but started appearing in 2002 sets after a strong 2001 season with the Blue Jays High A and Triple A teams.  Quite a jump in a season.  A batting average over .300 and almost 50 steals lead way for Thompson to appear in all of the Bowman products in 2002, along with the Topps Traded set and the Topps 206 set.  They're all nice cards, but we are going autographs first on these posts and this 2002 Bowman's Best card is all that is out there.  Not the best year for Bowman, but the cards all feature on-card signatures and the design is decent.  Although decidedly early 2000s.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 13 - Kerry Robinson

Kerry Robinson had two different stints with the Cardinals.  The first came with the Cardinals during the mid to late 1990s.  Robinson played high school baseball in St. Louis County at Hazelwood East High School and in college at Southeast Missouri State.  The Cardinals used their 34th Round Draft Pick to select the speedy outfielder in June of 1995.

In 1995 Robinson posted a .296/.336/.420 slash line with 21 extra base hits and 14 stolen bases in just 60 games.  The following summer Robinson spent the entire season with the Peoria Chiefs in A Ball.  He managed a .359/.422/.475 line with 50 steals, and 33 extra base hits.  By the end of 1997 the Cardinals had promoted Robinson all the way up to Triple A Louisville for a few games.

This is where Kerry Robinson leaves the Cardinals.

At the end of the 1997 Major League Baseball held an expansion draft to stock the rosters of the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.  Each team lost a few players.  The Cardinals ended up losing Kerry Robinson to Tampa.  The next summer, after spending time with the Devil Rays Double A and Triple A teams, Robinson made his Major League debut in Tampa.  He played in two games, one against the Red Sox and one against the Yankees, both in the last week of the season.  He did not get a hit in either game.

After bouncing around from the Devil Rays to the Mariners to the Reds to Yankees, Robinson ended back with the Cardinals in 2001 where he made the roster as a fourth outfielder.  He had some good moments with the Cardinals during his second stint with the club, most notable was his 2003 walk off home run against the Cubs.

Robinson ended up staying with the Cardinals for three years, until the end of 2003, before he was traded to the Padres.  He also made a stop over with the Royals in 2006, which was his last appearance in the Majors.  

Baseball card wise, Robinson had a lot of cards during his second run with the Cardinals, not so many his first time around.  While there are few in quantity, good choices still exist.  I am going to show off three choices.  

First up are two Bowman products.  

If you had to pick out a rookie card of a player from the 1990s it's hard to pass up something from one of the Bowman sets.  While the 1997 set is not the best, it still has a solid group of rookie cards, plus that great looking black frame.  Since Robinson was in the Bowman base set, that means he was also in the Bowman Chrome set.....

There is no black border on the 1997 Bowman Chrome set, which has always disappointed me in a lot of ways, but it's still a nice set.  The alternating stripes are a little different, but are still a solid border.  

Last card.  

Robinson appeared in a few Minor League sets along the way.  Probably his best looking card is his 1997 Best Autograph which featured him in an Arkansas Travelers uniform.  It's a nice looking card without the signature, and while it looks a little busy, Robinson has a really nice autograph.  Just a little hard to tell on this card.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Minor League Goodness

How long has it been since I have done a write up on a new, current year, set that I have written up in blog post form?  I am actually not entirely sure, but I know its probably been five to six months.  I love putting together sets, but I have been a little bit lost/uninterested in a lot of the base sets this year.  The topic deserves its own post, maybe over Thanksgiving break next week I will find the time.

I have a hard time passing up Minor League baseball cards.  About a month ago Topps put out one of their two products which feature players from their Minor League uniforms.  Obviously there are Durham Bulls cards, but I can also find cards of the other players I see at Minor League games, as well as a few younger players who previously appeared at USA Baseball.

Heritage Minors has the same borrowed 1968 Topps design as the Major League version of the Heritage set.  I like the commonly held opinion that this set design looks like a burlap sack.  I still have a few favorite base cards.  Really, it's just a pair of Durham Bulls cards and a player with a connection to the Cardinals.

First up the two Durham Bulls.

Adames is widely considered the Rays best prospect.  The middle infield is crowded in Tampa, but young cheap talent always wins out there, so Adames is going to get a chance in the Majors sooner than later.  He was originally signed by the Tigers, but the Rays picked him up in the David Price trade.  Topps has only started putting him in their Minor League products the last two years, even though he was been a highly regarded prospect for a several years now.

Honeywell is the other Durham Bulls card I am going to give a little love.  First, I like the alternate jersey on the card.  The Bulls have now been a Rays affiliate for 20 years.  This season they wore a Rays inspired Bulls jersey several times.  Kind of a cool mash-up of the two uniforms.

I am intrigued by Honeywell.  He's another top Rays prospect, probably their best Minor League pitcher for the moment.  He throws a screwball.  I am kind of skeptical about how that will work out in the long term.  Is it just me, or has there been a serious lack of screwball pitchers since Fernando Valenzuela?  

My last base card is Padres infield prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.  If you weren't sure about his relationship to the Cardinals, long time baseball writer Jon Heyman had a gem of a tweet about this in the middle of the summer.

Just in case you had any lingering doubts.  He's only 18 and in A Ball, but the numbers have been impressive for such a young player.  Last year he hit 21 home runs, 26 doubles, stole 29 bases, and had an on base percentage near .400.  

Fort Wayne Tincaps.  Hilarious.

I also pulled out a base card variation.  You know Topps always has to make these things and make them nearly impossible to find.  This one is actually pretty clear.....

that the first name is missing from the front of the card.  Zack Collins is a pretty well thought of catching prospect for the White Sox, plus one time he dropped a ball on a tag play that let NC State get into the ACC Baseball Championship Game.

A few other things that come in boxes of baseball cards.  Two jersey cards.  

Alex Verdugo is kind of a meh card.  I really like Christin Stewart though.  He hits for powers and draws a lot of walks.  Like the brown jersey swatch from the Futures Game last year.  

Moving along.  

I like these disc inserts which are based on a 1968 Topps test issue.  The set is half mascots and half players.  Just something different.  My favorite mascot, Wool E. Bull, did not make the cut for this insert set, but does make an appearance elsewhere.  

Last two cards for today. 

P.J. Conlon is a Mets prospect.  Not a huge fan.  Bobby Dalbec was drafted by the Red Sox out of the University of Arizona.  I saw him play with USA Baseball a few years back.  The power is impressive, I think he can be an everyday Major League player.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Farewell Beltran

Carlos Beltran was a great player for many teams.  While he was not on the Cardinals, most of his career, he was a player who made me nervous as a fan.  While he was on the Cardinals, I knew that he was clutch and would come up with some sort of big play.  

Beltran at his scariest?  Non-Cardinal version has to be the 2004 playoffs.  

The Astros lost to the Cardinals in 7 games, but Beltran hit .417 with 4 home runs, 5 RBIs, and scored 12 runs.  After the 2006 National League Championship Series, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa described the pressure the Cardinals faced in trying to record the final out of that playoff series with Beltran up to bat with the bases loaded:

"Carlos Beltran has hit twenty home runs against us in his last ten at bats" 

It's an exaggeration, but as a Cardinals fan it always felt like he murdered our pitching staff on a regular basis.  I always felt fortunate that the Cardinals got past Beltran in both 2004 and 2006.  

Beltran at his scariest as a Cardinal has to be the 2013 playoffs.  In the first game of the National League Championship Series he threw a runner out at home in the tenth inning to keep the game tied....


and then walked off the Dodgers with a single in the thirteenth.  

On to baseball cards.  

I always felt like I missed out on a chunk of Beltran's baseball cards because he came up with the Royals.  He was in the 1995 Topps Traded set at a time when everyone loved them.  I am not sure how much his rookie card, or is that Juan LeBron.....  

actually cost at its height of 1990s popularity.  I didn't really care about this card until he ended up on the Cardinals in 2012.  It didn't cost me very much at that point.  Well, I got the Juan LeBron card, actually with Carlos Beltran, too....

The best card of Beltran that I actually pulled out of a pack was an autograph out of the 2005 Topps set.  There used to be a baseball card shop in Durham near my work when I first moved to North Carolina.  It was not a great card store in terms of sports cards.  Much more of a Magic and Pokemon place.  You ever seen Duke students playing card games?  Not pretty.  The shop folded and I bought the box on clearance.  

I sort of hate 2005 Topps, really busy design, but I love this card.   

I am probably lucky that I did not do online trading at that point in my life because I probably would have cashed this in for something really nice.  I am actually a little surprised that this didn't end up on Ebay.  Perhaps it was hiding somewhere, or I forgot about it.  The important thing is that it is still here in my house.  

Once Beltran ended up on the Cardinals, I tried my best to find some really nice Beltran cards.  The downside to Beltran's time with in St. Louis was that he never had an autographed card in a Cardinals uniform.  Nice cards meant settling for relics.  Not my favorite, but when your options are limited......

First up.  

I got this Topps Tribute card.  The jersey swatch is tall and slightly bigger than the average relic card.  I actually like the picture on the card, the high gloss finish, all limited to just 99 copies.  I actually would have been find if Topps had not placed a non-specific piece of jersey on this piece of cardboard.  

I also got this card.  

It's a jumbo piece of bat.  Jumbo.  The card is limited to 25 copies.  I am not sure the Beltran love is coming through on this card.  It's nice.  Just a little sad about not having a Beltran Cardinals autograph.  

I have moved on.   

After leaving the Cardinals I kept up with Beltran cards.  I have Yankees cards.  I have Rangers cards.  I have Astros cards.  A lot of my effort recently has been spent working on looping back to Beltran's Royals years to find some of his early gems.  There are some really good ones out there floating around.  This is my favorite post-Cardinals Beltran card that I have ended up with.....

Beltran seems like the player who might stick around and stay relevant in the baseball card world, especially if he gains traction towards being in the Hall of Fame.  He belongs.  I will miss seeing Beltran play baseball, but I still am going to find some more of his cards along the way.  Maybe there will be a Cardinals autograph at some point.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 12 - Gary Gaetti

Gary Gaetti had a good run during the first half of his career with the Minnesota Twins.  The highlight of his time with the Twins was his performance in the 1987 Postseason against the Tigers and Cardinals.  In the American League Championship Series, Gaetti secured the ALCS MVP award with a .300 batting average and a pair of home runs in the first game.  

In the World Series, "The Rat" contributed 5 extra base hits in 7 games, but the MVP Award was taken home by pitcher Frank Viola.  The following season, Gaetti enjoyed his best regular season, hitting .301/.353/,551 with 28 home runs, 29 doubles, and 88 RBIs.  Gaetti also took home a Gold Glove that season and made an appearance with the American League All-Star team.  

His last two years in Minnesota, 1989 and 1990, were not good.  He was allowed to leave for the Angels as a free agent following the 1990 season.  He played for the Angels from 1991 through the middle of 1993 when they released him.  Gaetti signed with the Royals.  He played for the Royals in 1993, 1994, and 1995.  Surprisingly, after years of not hitting, Gaetti managed to post 35 home runs in 1995 while playing in the pitcher friendly Kaufmann Stadium.  

The Cardinals signed him to play third for the 1996 team.  Gaetti seemed like a good fit to help out with the younger players and he was returning close to home.  He is from Centralia, Illinois, which is about an hours drive east of St. Louis.  He contributed 23 home runs, 27 doubles, and an OPS of .799.  Not bad for a 37 year old.  

Probably his two biggest highlights in St. Louis during this time were his grand slam against Greg Maddux in the 2nd Game of the NLCS......

and after the Cardinals released him in mid August of 1998, he ended up being on the field with the Cubs when Mark McGwire passed Roger Maris.  All of the Cubs infielders got a high five, except Gaetti who got a hug.  

That was a nice moment for a guy who had just been released by the Cardinals a few weeks earlier.  

On to baseball cards.  

Gaetti played for the Cardinals in the mid to late 1990s during the time when there were way too many card products being put out every year.  He wasn't really a star with the Cardinals or anything, but he still had some shiny high-gloss baseball cards.  For whatever reason, a few different card companies treated the 1996 Gaetti like he was the 1987 Gaetti.  He managed to pop up in some nice sets. 

First, he was in the 1997 Topps Gallery set.  Only 180 baseball cards in the set and Gaetti made the cut?  McGwire was on the Cardinals by July of 1997 and in baseball card sets later in the year with the Birds on the Bat.  A lack of star power on the team opened the door for a lot of random players to appear.  Lankford and Gant were usually always in there, but beyond that it could be Eckersley, Brian Jordan, Delino DeShields, or Gaetti.  

Gallery was a good 1990s set.  Loved the designs Topps used.  

On to a not so great looking Gaetti card from his Cardinals days.  

What in the world was Topps doing with the whole "protective coating" thing on the fronts of the cards?  I get that the high gloss cards can get scratches on the surfaces, but having the words "TOPPS FINEST PROTECTOR PEEL AND REMOVE COATING" is ridiculous.  Without the sticker and words this is a mediocre Finest set, but with it is among the worst.  


One more Gaetti card.  If you are a Twins collector, he has a few Twins certified autographs floating around, which is a good thing.  I'm sure that for most who remember Gaetti as a player, it's the team he is probably best remembered having played for.  He has a Cardinals autograph, no Topps should not make another one, which is just a matter of timing.  Here is the card.....

I have posted this card before.  The 1996 Leaf Signature set is one of the best mid 1990s sets and the first of the mega autographed sets.  There were some good names in the Cardinals set including Gaetti.  His time in St. Louis was far from his prime, but it was still cool to see him included in an autograph team set.  Especially considering that Ron Gant, Ray Lankford, and Andy Benes, probably the three best players on the 1996 Cardinals, did not appear in the set.  

Last week was Eckersley, this week Gaetti.  Next week I will go back to some of the real 1990s Cardinals.  

A 1997 song from the IPod.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Story About Two Docs

Just a quick simple post to share a few thoughts about Roy Halladay.  A pair of cards too.  I am not a Blue Jays fan, nor a Phillies fan, but I have a decent collection of his cards.  Most of my cards of Halladay were bought, or traded for a few years back, but I still enjoyed looking at them whenever I run across one of them.  One of my all-time favorite baseball games is Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series, which was a pitcher's duel between Chris Carpenter and Halladay.

Halladay came up short by a run, the Cardinals went on to win the World Series, but for me it was one of the best games that Postseason.  Game 6 of the World Series, also known as the David Freese game, was probably the only one that was better....

Most of my initial interest in collecting Roy Halladay cards came from collecting former Cardinals All-Star pitcher Chris Carpenter.  I generally don't look at a new Cardinals player's cards and think about collecting their former teammates, but Carpenter's first Cardinals card coincided with a marked up in Halladay's on field performance.

Carpenter signed with the Cardinals in 2002 and first appeared in the Topps Total mega-set that summer.  Roy Halladay won 19 games that year for the Blue Jays and was a contender for the American League Cy Young Award.

After picking up a few Carpenter cards, I dabbled in a few Halladay cards.  Especially given the fact that they seemed inexpensive when you considered his pitching talent.  This 1997 Bowman Autograph was the first really nice card I ever bought of Roy Halladay.....

I remember where it came from and why I bought it.  It came from 1,000,000 Baseball Cards in St. Louis County, Ballwin/Manchester area, and it was in a new card display that shop owner had set up on a wall in between the cash register and the front door of the store.  It's probably about a 10 to 15 foot section of wall.

When I first started shopping at 1,000,000 Baseball Cards I believe the area originally housed Beckett Price Guides.  The day that I bought this Halladay autograph the space had been converted to hold autographed and relic cards.  The owner explained to me that the cards in the space were players he considered to be excellent, yet under appreciated in the hobby.  I picked up this Halladay and a copy of a Brian Giles autograph.  I don't remember exactly how much I spent on the two cards, but it was not much.

I have picked up a few other nice Halladay cards over the years including another autograph or two.  The only other Halladay in card collection that really has a story behind it is a 2011 Topps Marquee card that I picked up in a case break.

I don't usually do case breaks, but I bought into one to help out a friend who was trying to get into that business.  I bought the Cardinals, but I also got a random team which ended up being the Padres.  I ended up with a Colby Rasmus autograph, a jumbo Adam Wainwright jersey swatch, and a Heath Bell autograph.

After all the dust settled, the collector with the Phillies was a little bit disappointed by this card.  Blue Jays picture, Phillies swatch.  I have a few cards with mismatched patches and pictures in my collection.  Never minded this sort of things, so I made a trade for this card.

At the time it was just sort of an interesting card.  I guess it's something a little more now.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #23 - Mickey Lolich

1959-1961 Durham Bulls 

Lolich is one of the most successful Major League pitchers to have come through Durham on their through the Minors.  One could easily make the argument that he's the most successful former Durham Bulls pitcher.  Lolich first arrived in Durham during the 1959 season as an 18 year old fresh out of Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon.  Between 1959 and 1961 Lolich essentially split the seasons between the Bulls, in the Carolina League, and the Knoxville Smokies, in the South Atlantic League.  During those three season Lolich made more than 40 starts for the Bulls, but only won 11 games.  He did strikeout more than a batter per inning and had an ERA under 3.  Lolich made the Tigers roster in 1963 after a detour with the Kansas City Athletics as a Minor League Free Agent.  Lolich ended up playing a total of 16 seasons in the Majors, 13 with the Tigers, 1 with the Mets, and 2 with the Padres.

The highlight of Lolich's career was the 1968 World Series.  He led the Tigers to the World Series win over the heavily favored Cardinals and bested Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in the Game 7 clincher.  Lolich took home the World Series MVP trophy for his efforts.  

Lolich ended his career as the Tigers all-time leader in strikeouts and the modern leader in wins.  There are two pre-World War I Tigers pitchers with more wins than Lolich.  His 2,679 strikeouts were the second most by a left-handed pitcher in the history of the American League until he passed by C.C. Sabathia at the end of this season.  Between 1965 and 1975 Lolich led all Major League pitchers in strikeouts and was second in wins.  Lolich is not in the Hall of Fame, and while there are those who argue he should be in, he's clearly a Hall of Very Good Player.  His comparable players on Baseball-Reference are pitchers like Jerry Koosman, Luis Tiant, and Jerry Ruess.  Not too shabby, but also not Cooperstown.  

Lolich has had several certified autographs over the years.  I wasn't all that particular about which card I ended up with since they are all Tigers cards.  Not to knock the Padres or Mets, but Mickey Lolich is one of those players who is associated with one team.  Not to worry though, nobody has made a Lolich Padres/Mets autograph.  I ended up with this 2001 Archives autograph, which I feel might be the best of his signed cards.  The Team Topps autograph from 2002 is essentially the same card, but there is an extra foil stamp on the card.  I have heard some people argue that the two cards were produced at the same time and Topps just added the extra Team Topps stamp so they could package them in a different product.  However, the Archives stamp is on the other side of the card on the Team Topps autograph. Either way, I am good with just having one foil stamp on the card instead of two.   Lolich has always had the very tiny signature, but it is very consistent.   Somewhat neat with kind of a half cursive/half print look.  Very happy with the card and happy to have the an autograph from one of the better players in the history of the Durham Bulls.