Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Five: My Favorite Players Who Have Played For Both The Cardinals and Cubs

We've got the Cubs and Cardinals playing this weekend, so for this week's Friday Five I am doing a quick countdown of my favorite players who played in both St. Louis and Chicago.  Not arguing the importance of this rivalry, but it's pretty darn important around the Midwest.  Like any good rivalry there have been players who have been on both sides of the fence.  These are my favorite five starting with an honorable mention:

Honorable Mention- Lee Smith RP

More people probably remember Lee Smith for his time with the Cubs over his brief stint with the Cardinals.  However, some of Smith's better seasons took place during his time in St. Louis.  In 1991 Smith recorded a total of 47 saves which set the National League record at the time.  I first got to watch Smith pitch with the Cubs during the mid 1980s when the Cubs games were on WGN every afternoon.  Whether they were playing the Cardinals or not, the daytime Cubs games were always a good way to pass sometime during the summers.  I would be more inclined to rank Lee Smith on this list if it weren't for his partial 1993 with the Cardinals.  It was brutal and there were a lot of blown saves/leads.

5.  Bob Tewksbury SP 

Tewksbury may not be a name that some know, or remember, but he did play for both teams during his career.  His Cubs career was all of 8 games after the right-handed starting pitcher joined the baby bears in a trade with the Yankees for pitcher Steve Trout.  Most of Tewksbury's Cubs career actually took place in Triple A.  The Cardinals signed Bob Tewksbury during December of 1988.  He spent some time in Triple A with the Cardinals too before he landed a gig in the team's starting rotation during the 1990 season.  Playing for the early/mid 1990s Cardinals meant a whole lot of losing, but Tewksbury was a good pitcher.  Not just compared to the rest of the rotation, but actual good pitchers like Greg Maddux.  His best season with the Cardinals, and his career, took place in 1992 when he went 16-5, had an ERA+ of 158, and a WAR of 6.5.  Tewks finished 3rd in the National League Cy Young voting that season.  He bounced around to a few teams after he left the Cardinals, always a fan even if he wasn't always the best pitcher.

4. So Taguchi OF

Taguchi played in St. Louis for a total of 6 years and in Chicago for a single season.  He was not a regular starter for either team, but he was a really easy player to cheer on.  Taguchi's main contribution during his eight year career in the U.S. was as a defense first fourth outfielder.  The highlight of his Cardinals career came in 2006 when he helped the Cardinals advance to the World Series with a key home run off of Billy Wagner during Game 2 of the NLCS.  So Taguchi ended up on the Cubs in 2009 after winning a second World Series with the Phillies in 2008.  He actually spent the majority of the year with the Triple A Iowa Cubs, but was called up for a few games at the end of the season.  

3.  Shawon Dunston SS 

Another 1980s Cubs player who I first saw on WGN watching baseball during summer break.  Everyone who watched a Cubs game in the 1980s knew about the Shawon-O-Meter, a sign which showed the shortstop's batting average.  It always made an appearance at some point during every telecast.  Dunston was a very good shortstop for the Cubs for a dozen years, but spent the latter part of his career bouncing around the league as a bench player.  He appeared for the Cardinals for two seasons in 1999 and 2000.  Dunston was most noted for having a rifle arm, but too me, was just an overall exciting player who had a little bit of everything in his game.  

2. Jon Jay OF 

Jay was a long time start for the Cardinals.  Never a star player, Jay just went out and played everyday the best he could.  Much of his time with the Cardinals was overshadowed by players like Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, but he still spent the better part of 6 seasons patrolling center field in Busch Stadium and getting on base at the top of the line-up.  He's the only active player on this last, and is in his first season with the Cubs, but Jay is one of the former Cardinals player I always check out in the box scores every morning.  His role has been a little bit more limited with the Cubs, but he's still been a positive contributor for the Baby Bears.  

1. Jim Edmonds OF 

There were so many great moments that Edmonds had with the Cardinals during his eight years with the team.  It's hard to remember him as a Cub, but he spent one season on the north side of Chicago.  After the Cardinals traded their center fielder to the Padres for David Freese, he fizzled and was released.  He signed with the Cubs and actually had a good year for the team in 2008 posting an OPS of .937 and 19 home runs in just 85 games.  The Cardinals were not very good that year and the Cubs ended up in the playoffs, so this one hurt a little bit more than the others.  Still really like Jim Edmonds even if he spent some time with the Cubs.  

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.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Dreaded Sticker Conundrum

As collectors there is nothing quite as disappointing as pulling out one of those dreaded blue redemption cards out of a pack of Topps brand product.  The usual scenarios start running through my head when I pull one:

  • How long I am going to have to wait for this card?
  • Will the card ever actually be mailed out?
  • If the card is never mailed out, will the replacement card be a fair replacement?

On and on and on we could go about the negatives of redemption cards.  This post is a little different than the normal redemption post.  I recently ended up with one of the blue redemption cards out of an old box of Bowman.  

Hentgen was a former Cardinals player, just for a year, so naturally I was somewhat more willing to play along with the whole redemption thing than normal.  Plus, a quick search of Ebay showed that there were several redeemed copies of these cards floating around already.  I was hoping that would be a good sign that I would actually see the card, possibly sooner than later.  

All of which brought up a conundrum with the recent redemption cards that have been mailed out by Topps.  Almost every single one of them now comes with a white sticker with a red Topps logo acting as a seal across the top of the top loader.  If you are not familiar, here's an example:

I have seen several arguments about what to do with these stickers?  Do you take them off?  I've seen that.  Do you leave them on?  I've seen that.  If someone takes one of the stickers off the cards, do other collectors trading and buying those cards complain?  I've seen that.  So, what do I think about the red sticker?  Here is my redeemed Pat Hentgen card.....

Now, if I were going to trade or sell this card I would not entertain the thought of taking that red and white sticker off of the top loader.  Honestly, in the long run I am not sure it's really going to matter.  In 20 years, is anyone really going to remember, or care about, which cards were a redemption and not?  Doubtful.  Still, if I am going to sell or trade something I am not going to take the chance of making someone unhappy.  

Since I am keeping this one though......

The sticker over Hentgen's face really bother me when I pulled the card out of the envelope.  Plus, it's not like this is going anywhere.  If a card is going to stay in my collection I want to be able to look at it, see the picture on the front, look at the stats and write up on the back, etc.  You know fun.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Cuban National Team vs USA Baseball College National Team

I had the chance to check out the first game of the USA Baseball College team's friendly series against the Cuban National Baseball just up the road from my house in Cary, North Carolina.  I have done a few write ups on the games I have attended at the National Training Complex in the past, my favorite of which was a no-hitter thrown by Tanner Houck (Mizzou/Red Sox), A.J. Puk (Florida/A's), and Ryan Hendrix (Texas A&M/Reds).

The final out from that no-hitter from the arm of Ryan Hendrix, which was also against Cuba....

I have not been to many games yet this year between kids and work, so a holiday weekend is just what the doctor ordered.  It was a little bit hot at the start of the game, but overall a really nice evening to take in a baseball game.  The USA Baseball complex is a nice place to watch a game.  

There were a few players I was excited to see last night.  The main player of interest however was Clemson outfielder Seth Beer.  The past two seasons the slugging outfielder has been one of the better players in the ACC.  Beer should also be one of the higher draft picks coming up next summer.  

He had some really good at-bats early in the game, worked the counts, and showed good patience.  

The best at-bat of the game took place in extra innings after the game went into the "International Tie-Breaker Rules".  You say you do not know what that is?  Neither did I, nor 90% of the stadium, and likely 100% of the players on the US team.  Here's a quick tutorial.....

Anyway, Cuba was the road team, so they batted first and scored twice.  The US team then put Cuba in a bind by scoring two runs, loading the bases, for Mr. Beer.  The Cubans brought in the infield and their pitcher actually made a decent pitch breaking his bat, but......

Very cool game to watch.  Not as cool as the no-hitter game, but still one of the better amateur baseball games that I have ever attended.  I need to do one of those Friday countdown things this week to share out the cool ones.

There were autographs too.  Towards the middle of the game there was a table set up on the concourse of the stadium with different signers.  A few Olympians that I did not really know and a member of the 1984 Olympic Baseball team, former Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt.  He signed a ticket for me......

I mentioned being a Cardinals fan and the fact that I saw him pitch for the Cardinals in 1998.  He didn't seem thrilled that I remembered him as a Cardinal.  Not his best year.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 58

I usually do these posts about cards from the 1980s or 1990s, but the next few of these posts are actually going to be true vintage cards.  As a Cardinals fan there is frankly little better than landing a cool Stan Musial baseball card.  Unfortunately, while Stan the Man was playing baseball he was not really all that interested in being on baseball cards.  There are kind of limited amount of cards that were produced during the prime years of his career.

The 1950s were especially sparse.  There are a few cards here and there, but not many.  I am happy to say that I have recently added one to my collection.

This is a 1952 Red Man Tobacco card of the Cardinals Hall of Famer.  If you are going to go for a 1950s Musial card these are both affordable and a nice looking card.  My copy is actually missing the tabs on the bottom of the card, but is otherwise in very good condition.  The tabbed cards look like this....

Really the tab has the player name and card number on them, but it also has the words "cut along this line".  Obviously most card collectors from the 1950s cut their cards from this set.  I am happy to have a Musial card from the 1950s regardless of whether it has the little tab thing or not.  

This Musial card is actually my second Red Man Tobacco Cardinals card.  Here is a look at my other Cardinals card, also without the bottom tab....

Love the coloration on this Eddie Stanky card.  The pink lines on the Cardinals card are something that looks more in line with a Turner Movie Classics artificially colored movie.  Red Man people with their pink Cardinals unis still look better than anything Ted Turner......

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Two Roads Diverged In A Yellow Wood

I have had two Pro Debut autographs sitting on my desk now for the better part of three weeks.  I have actually been waiting for the short season to start so that I can write a little bit about one of the players.  I probably should have just gone ahead and done some sort of write up instead of this one with a Robert Frost quote as its title.

The two prospects have kind of gone in two different directions this year.  Two roads if you will.  Numbers say they are diverging, not converging.

High road first which belongs to one of the greatest Wake Forest Demon Deacon baseball players ever.  Here is the card....

For years Will Craig was in Winston-Salem and all he did was hit the baseball.  He's now playing for the Pirates in A-Ball, after being their first round draft pick in the 2016 amateur draft, and all he is doing is hitting the ball.  In 70 games with Bradenton in the Florida State League the 1B prospect has a .291/.392/.423 line with 5 home runs, 18 doubles, and 37 RBIs.  I know a lot of people, myself included, thought he was going to hit for a ton of power in professional ball, but I am thinking something more along the lines of Sean Casey.  

This is my second Will Craig autograph.  Cool to see him in a Minor League uni on a card, especially because I think this might be my first West Virginia Black Bears card.  I am not sure at what point they changed their name to the Black Bears from the Power, but I like it.  Cool little logo too.  

Nothing to sneeze at.  Now the player I wrongly stalled for, or the low road.  Card....

Delvin Perez was drafted by the Cardinals last year in the first round because he failed a drug test and slipped all the way down the bottom of the first round.  His cards have still been expensive and there is still plenty of hype around the young shortstop.  I was hoping the season would start off well for Delvin and I could make a cool post.

Not really happening.

Like all else that has gone terrible for the Cardinals this year Delvin Perez is off to a rather slow start.  I mean like a bad six games, but I am impatient.  So far he has a .130/.230/.130 slash line with just three singles.  Seems like a drastic flip out over a small size.  True, but I am also going on vacation and trying to clear off my desk.

I am managing my expectations for the Cardinals the rest of the summer.  The bar is pretty low at this point.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I Wish You Were A Cardinal...Part 3

More Archives.  I have really spent a lot of time trying to pick up the Cardinals autographs out of this year's set, but many of the former Redbirds in the set are actually wearing some other uniform on their card besides the birds on the bat.  A quick review.

There was Joe McEwing, pictured as a Met, but started out his career as a Cardinal.

and there was also an Edgar Renteria card.  Edgar started out with the Marlins, but spent some of his better years in St. Louis.  One of the really good postseason performers of the past twenty years with essentially two World Series clinching hits.

While he wasn't on the Marlins for long, I get that he had a World Series walk off for them.  That seems pretty important.

On to another Archives card of a former Cardinals player, not pictured as a Cardinals player on their baseball card.  Although it was really awesome to see Topps put a card of this guy into a new product.  He was one of my favorite Cardinals players from the 1990s.  Here's a glance at one of his most important hits as a Cardinal....

Bo Jackson's best years as a baseball player were better than Jordan's best years, but Jordan had a better overall career than both Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.  I really enjoyed Jordan as a Cardinals even though he played on some bad teams during the 1990s and ended up being overshadowed by Mark McGwire during his prime years as a Cardinal.  

Here's a look at the Archives card of BJ as a member of the Atlanta Braves.  

Jordan was still a pretty solid player as a Brave and he had played in Atlanta as a member of the Falcons during his football career.  He also ended up playing with the Braves in four different Postseasons.  His best moments playing in Atlanta probably came in 1999 when he hit 3 home runs and drove in 12 runs in 10 postseason games against the Astros and Mets.  

Back of the card. 

That's a pretty nice career right there.  I am happy that Jordan was a signer in this year's Archives set. He has not really done a lot of certified autographs with the last one coming in the 1999 UD Hologrfx World Series Relics which were limited to just 33 copies.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #17: Wes Helms

1996 Durham Bulls 

Wes Helms is a North Carolina native, from Gastonia which is near Charlotte, and ended up on the Durham Bulls two years after being drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves.  Helms had a pretty good year in 1995 while playing for the Macon Braves in the South Atlantic League, but his real breakout year in the Minors took place in Durham during 1996.  He started the year with the Bulls in the Carolina League and only stayed for a total of 67 games.  He posted a .322/.367/.562 slash line with 13 home runs, 19 doubles, and 54 RBIs.  Pretty impressive line over basically half of a season.  Helms reached the Majors for the first time in 1998, but only stayed for 7 games.  He returned again for 6 games in 2000 before he stuck with Atlanta for good in 2001.  Helms ended up playing a total of 13 seasons in the Majors with most of his time coming with the Braves and Marlins.    He also had stops with the Brewers and Phillies.  

This is the second Best autograph that I have posted in my Project Durham Bulls posts.  The first being a Randall Simon autograph a few weeks ago.  While there are a bunch of these 1990s Minor League sets with a lot of no frills autographs, that are kind of dumpster dives at this point, they are great if you are trying to find cards of a particular team.  I am spreading out my Durham Bulls posts a bit, I am not going to do one everyday and miss out on talking about other cards, but in trying to assemble cards for my collection, these have been really helpful sets.  While you can find these cards in the fifty-cent bin at card shows, there are actually a surprising number of players who are in these sets who actually made it the Majors and were there for awhile.  Wes Helms was never an All-Star or anything, but he stuck around for 13 years and played in more than 1200 games.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Volunteer Baseball Player

I have been able to seen a lot of really good college baseball players by attending USA Baseball games in the summer to watch the College National Team.  Lots of first round draft picks, a few number one overall draft picks, and plenty of players who have gone on to become solid Major League Baseball players.

There have also been a few duds along the way too, but that is for a different day.

For the last few months I have been on the lookout for a card of former Tennessee Volunteer, and current Detroit Tigers prospect, Christian Stewart.  He has a few Tigers cards in Bowman, Topps Pro Debut, and a few different USA Baseball and Tennessee issues with Panini.  I kind of dig the Tigers, my wife is from northern Michigan, and my in-laws are Tigers fans.

Still, I saw Stewart play with USA Baseball, so I was really holding out for a card of him in the red, white, and blue.  I succeeded.

It's obviously a sticker autograph which is a bit of a negative, but overall I really like the appearance of this card.  Yes, I know the jersey is wrinkled or something too.  Is that one of those crease lines you get on your dress shirts/pants when you first buy them?  

Stewart has faired well in his Minor League career so far with 30 home runs last season split between A Ball and Double A, with another 15 dingers 50 games into this season.  Might have to pick a Stewart autograph in a Tigers uni sooner than later.....

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 57

This past week saw the NBA Draft come and go.  There were several NC State in the draft, but the only one who had a legitimate shot at getting drafted was Dennis Smith Jr.  In a normal year, where there are not half a dozen point guards amongst the top players in the draft, it's likely that he would have gone higher in the draft than 9th to the Mavericks.

I like the idea of Smith going to the Mavs.  The Mavs have been down the last year or two, but I figure that Mark Cuban is the type of owner who isn't going to let his team slip too far down the NBA food chain.  While I am not an huge basketball card collector, I have started adding cards of former NC State players the last year or two.  I am excited to add to my Dennis Smith collection which currently stands at just one.  

This is the one, it appeared in a post two weeks ago.  

The whole Dennis Smith draft excitement got me thinking a few weeks ago about other high NC State draft picks.  There is the obvious David Thompson pick from the 1970s who was the first overall pick in both the ABA and NBA drafts.  He was not on the Flint Tropics.  So, besides that the highest NBA draft pick out of NC State was this guy.....

Googs was drafted sixth overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 1992 NBA Draft after averaging more than 22 points a game with 10 rebounds during his senior year in Raleigh.  He wasn't a great pro by any means, but a 16 season career with 13 points per game, including two over 20, has to be at least deemed as solid.  

So, I didn't have a Gugliotta autograph until a week or so ago when I found this gem for next to nothing.  

Seems like a pretty cool card, makes me miss Upper Deck baseball cards a little bit.  I used to love the SP Authentic sets and the autographs.  I have picked up a ton of them over the years.  The basketball versions look pretty nice too.  On card autographs, nice spaces for the players to sign, and classic Upper Deck design.  

I also looked around to see if he had any NC State autographs, but I could not find any.  Considering that card companies have gone back to make autographed cards of Vinny Del Negro and Spud Webb in Wolfpack uniforms I was hoping I could find a Gugliotta.  Besides, I am not sure I have seen Spud or Vinny at a State game recently, Googs still goes and he had that one run in with Karl Hess......

North Carolina is a basketball crazy state, and there is much that fans of the big 4 ACC schools can find to argue about, we are all in agreement that Karl Hess is/was a horrible referee.  The ACC actually canned him a year or two ago for a rather nasty incident at a Wake Forest game.  

More basketball cards later in the week.  

I Wish You Were A Cardinal....Part 2

I have already spent a little bit of time on Joe McEwing this week, so I am not going to rehash the whole thing with Cardinals and and the former utility player.  There is a little history with Cardinals utility players popping up in Archives sets.  One of the coolest autographs that Topps has put into this product in recent years were the Jose Oquendo cards which were in the 2012 set.

Oquendo was dubbed "The Secret Weapon" because he was always somewhere in the lineup, but Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog played him all over the place.

So when Oquendo signed for the 2012 set they included nine different variations for his autograph, one for each of the positions that he played during his career.  That's all of them.

McEwing's entry into the Archives set isn't quite as cool as Oquendo's entry into the Archives set for two reasons.  First, there are not nine different variations of the McEwing card.  "Super Joe" also never really played all nine positions though, so I can live with that one.  Second, the McEwing Archives autograph features him as a Met.

and the back of the card too.  

While a McEwing card with him in a Cardinals uniform would have fit my collection better, he actually spent the majority of his career with the Mets.  Still happy to have this card and also really surprised that Topps even made a McEwing autograph.  Very cool card.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

I Wish You Were A Cardinal....Part 1

Edgar Renteria spent almost half of his playing career wearing the birds on the bat.  He was in St. Louis for a total of six season which included the best season of his career in 2003 when he hit .330/.394.480 with 13 home runs, 100 RBIs, 47 doubles, and 34 stolen bases.  Yet, the average baseball fan, when asked about Renteria would probably bring up two things.

This from the 1997 World Series.....

and then at the other end of his career in 2010 he had this home run for the Giants in the 2010 World Series.....

Both were great moments in Renteria's career, but I obviously prefer his time in St. Louis.  He did not have the postseason heroics with the Cardinals that he had in other places, but he was still a really good player on some of the best Tony LaRussa managed teams.

One of my favorite moments of his time in St. Louis was this grand slam off of Mark Prior.  

When I heard that Edgar Renteria was going to be in Topps products this year I was naturally excited.  My heart sank a little bit when I saw he was going to be a Marlin on his Topps Archives card, but I was still more than happy to go out and try to find a copy of his autograph.  He was never a great signer and has a really limited number of certified autographs.  

This is the front of his Topps Archives autograph.......

It's a 2001 design, Edgar was a Cardinal that year, but we get a Marlins picture.  Hmm.  Renteria's signature has also regressed a little bit over the last decade plus since he last signed some baseball cards.  Still, I am happy with the card regardless of the signature quality.  

Back of the card.....

which shows all of Edgar's playing stats.  Some pretty nice numbers there at different points in his career.  He really bounced around a lot after leaving the Cardinals for the Red Sox.  Card wise, Topps did a really good job of getting the small details right on the backs of these cards.  The stock is a little different, but the rest of the back is a perfect recreation.  They even got the Topps 50th Anniversary logo up at the top of the card in between the player name and picture.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Wish You Were An Expo

I am not going to put together an Archives set for this year, but I am on the look out for a few of the autographs.  I picked up a few the other week from my favorite case breaker and will be sharing them over the next few days.  A whole bunch of Cardinal types, but I am going to start out by sharing a non-Cardinal.

Most people who were around for the 90s probably best remember Mark Langston as a member of the Angels.  If you were around for the 80s you probably also remember him as a Mariner.  Langston had a few other stops in his career outside of Seattle and Anaheim, many of which happened at the end of his career, but there was also one year with the Expos in the middle of his time in the Majors.  He traded from the Mariners to the Expos for some prospect named Randy Johnson.  Fair prospect.

I saw Mark Langston as an Expo.  I also saw him as a Padre, but that's for another day, if not a completely missable post topic.  I never saw him in person as an Angel, but here I am with a Mark Langston Angels card out of this year's Topps Archives set.....

I didn't really have a choice in teams, but I wish this was an Expos card.  Sure, the 1990s Angels had those three cool left handed starters: Langston, Chuck Finley, and Jim Abbott.  Still, who doesn't want more Expos cards?  I have never heard anyone say, "I am so tired of all these Expos cards" 

At least the back of the card mentions the Expos in his career stats.....

There it is near the top of the yearly stats.  That Padres year is also in there.  Pretty sure I saw one of the 4 wins against the Cardinals on my 21st birthday.  Topps should get some kudos here for making a nice 1992 Topps card.  I like the 1992 set, but you know what else was around in 1992?  The Expos.  I wish this was an Expos card.  I will wish some other card was some other team tomorrow night, or maybe Friday.