Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pair of Pennants

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Old Autograph Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venerable Old Card Part 19

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

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

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

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

From the Whiteyball era Cardinals.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National League pitcher.....

The American League pitcher.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Great Minor League Card

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Durham Diamond Kings

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

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

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

 Here's a look at the Snell.

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Phil Dixon's Negro League Set Part 2

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

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

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Venerable Old Card Part 18

This week I am going to skip by the card aisle and make more of a toy post, or at least it feels that way to me.  What is the oddest sports cards that are in your collection?  Sometime ago, like the early 2000s, I picked up a copy of a 1997 Topps Pro Shooters Ron Gant marble.  It was cheap, weird looking, and the seller swore it was super rare.  Here is a look at the Gant:

I think it sat in a box for about a year before I discovered that there was a Ray Lankford in this set and could not find it anywhere with good reason.  After checking into the set a bit it turns out that the Topps ProShooters set was a test issue that was released a few places, supposedly Canada and the northeast US.  You can find them every once in awhile on Ebay, but they can be rather pricey.  

There are actually three Cardinals in the ProShooters set.  Outside of Gant and Lankford, there is also a Brian Jordan marble.  I managed to pick up a copy of the Brian Jordan about six or seven years ago on Ebay.  It was selling for right around $20.  Not a bad price for one of his rarer cards, err, marble.  Here is the Jordan.....

Which left me with just the Ray Lankford.  I have seen several pop up over the past few years, but they have always been fairly pricey.  While I really like Lankford, and do as much as possible to collect as many of his cards as possible, I will not break the bank for things.  Last year I ran into an Ebay auction for one of those old Donruss Crusade cards and it nearly ended up at $200.  Too much for a Lankford.  

So, a week or two ago I finally find one for a reasonable price and even got the seller to know it down a bit more with a Best Offer.  It feels good to add this card, or marble, to my collection....

Definitely one of the more challenging Lankford's I have tracked down, both due to price and scarcity.  I am also happy to pull together the Cardinals team set out of this product.  While I am sure that someone out there has managed to put together the entire set of ProShooters marbles, it can't be that many, I am really proud of assembling a team set.  

and a little bonus for this week....

I don't go out of my way to collect oddballs, but outside of the ProShooters marbles that I just highlighted in this post, I have one other really cool test issue card from back in the day....

This is from the 1971 Topps Greatest Moments baseball card set.  It too was a test release by Topps and the cards carry a pretty hefty price tag for the most part.  I had a very generous individual give me this Nate Colbert card as a gift.  If I collected this set I would probably target the Cardinals cards, but Nate Colbert is from St. Louis, so this is still a really sweet card. 

The Ryan Hendrix Experience

I spend a few days out of every summer watching some of the best college baseball players compete for the USA College Baseball team.  The team's home is only a few miles from my house and I enjoy getting to see a lot of future Major Leaguers play there over the years.  I could go back through my programs and make some big long list of players I have seen over the past decade, but I try to stick to stand out plays and moments with the team.

The team is usually run similar to an All-Star team.  You get glimpses at players, sometimes they impress, sometimes they do not.  For example, I saw Dansby Swanson a summer or two ago and was not all that impressed.  Just sort of bland, but I am sure it was just those few games that I saw him play.  I never saw him play a game for Vanderbilt.  I heard he was pretty good while he was playing there.

While Swanson did not impress, I once saw Vandy alum hit a home run that cleared the centerfield berm in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  Excuse Enny Romero warming up in the foreground, but the berm is in the background with the distance to the wall being 400 feet away.

I am not sure how big that hill is, but the home run was easily one of the most impressive shots I have seen at this stadium.  While Alvarez has not turned out to be the power hitter that many envisioned while he was playing in college, I still enjoy finding his cards all because of that home run.  Which brings me to my latest baseball card pickups based on a game I saw last summer.....

The ending to the game was totally subdued considering what is happening in this video....

This was the end of a no-hitter that took place in a game between the College National Team and the Cuban National Team last summer.  Again, the team is run like an All-Star team, was a combined no-hitter between Mizzou's Tanner Houck, Florida's A.J. Puk, and Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Hendrix.  Maybe while I was on my break at the beginning of the year I picked up a card or two of Houck and Puk, but have still been working on Hendrix.  

Actually, of the three he is the easiest to find.  I actually ended up being able to pick up three of his cards from Panini's USA Baseball offering for next to nothing.  The first is a triple jersey card with two pieces of digital cam and one blue piece of jersey.

Don't get me started on camo jerseys.  For more on this topic, just follow my Twitter page.  It comes up every two months.  Back to cards.  I also picked up a pretty straight forward looking autograph of Hendrix.....

The autograph is on-card, but there is no serial number or anything on the card.  I did not open any of the Panini stuff with the USA Baseball autographs in it last year, but it's my understanding that these are the most common autographs and appear to be dirt cheap for many of the players who were not the highly regarded prospects on the team.  Which brings me to my last card of the former Aggies pitcher...

I know that these cards with the clear autographed slabs are the Panini equivalent to the Topps sticker, but they just look so much better.  I dare say they cool and I might actually like these cards when I can find them.  Keep that quiet.  This card is serial numbered to 99, and while many of these clear signature USA Baseball cards sell for decent amounts, the Ryan Hendrix version did not.

I am going to kind of call it good on Ryan Hendrix cards with USA Baseball unless something really cheap comes across my screen, or I can get one in a throw in with a trade.  However, Hendrix was picked by the Reds in the fifth round of the MLB Draft a few weeks back....

Perhaps I can find a Reds autograph in Bowman Draft or next year's Bowman product.  If not, I will always be happy with these USA Baseball autographs and getting to watch him help toss a no-hitter last summer.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Friday Five: Top 5 Raleigh Capitals Players

Earlier in the week I posted a card of Carl Yastrzemski that I picked up from a Carolina League All-Star set that was put out in the mid 1990s.  The card featured Yaz on the now defunct Raleigh Capitals who were an on and off again team that played in North Carolina's capital city until they shit their doors for good 1967 when they were merged with their crosstown rivals the Durham Bulls. 

The Capitals generally spent their time in the Carolina and Piedmont League, both leagues were in the lower levels in the minors.  Add in the fact that there were years were the franchise did not field a team, years where the franchise did not have an affiliation with a Major League team and the window for the Capitals to field quality talent was somewhat limited. 

While the top half of this list is loaded with talent, if I went past five players and expanded the list to say 10, there would be some really unknowns on the list.  Not the unknowns, like that guy played in 1910 and was a solid player, but unknown because the player appeared in 100 games in 1930.  Not good. 

Without further delay, the top 5 Raleigh Capitals players....

5.  Johnny Allen - 1928 - Allen played for the Raleigh Capitals as a 23 year old pitcher on his way up to the Major Leagues.  The North Carolina native spent four years in the minors before making his debut with the Yankees in 1932.  His first few seasons spent in New York and Cleveland went very well.  In four seasons with the Yankees Allen won 50 games, including 17 as a rookie season.  The Yankees ended that season as World Champions.  Allen's first three seasons in Cleveland also were very strong as he posted a 49-19 record before his career drastically fell off during the second half of the 1938.  Allen made the All-Star that year, but was hurt during the break.  The injury was apparently reported with the same accuracy that most NHL teams, or the New England Patriots, report their injuries.  It was reported that Allen fell on a bar of soap, yet his arm was dead. 

4. Wilbur Wood - 1960 - Wood played for the Capitals in 1960 during his first year in professional baseball.  I always think of Wood as a White Sox, but he started his career with the Red Sox.  He spent parts of four seasons in Boston and did almost nothing.  He literally never won a game for the Red Sox in four years, which was really 36 games with 8 starts.  Wood went on to have some great years for the White Sox in the early 1970s, winning twenty games four times between 1971 and 1974.  While the peak of his career was really sharp, he was a really really good pitcher for a brief time. 

3. Joe Medwick - 1951- Medwick was the star of the 1930s Cardinals Gashouse Gang teams which brought the team a World Series Championship in 1934.  He won the Triple Crown in 1937, the National League MVP in 1938, and lead the league in all sorts of offensive categories during the 1930s.  The Cardinals eventually traded to the Dodgers where his career started to fade.  Medwick bounced around between the Dodgers, Giants, Braves, and Cardinals at the end of his career.  He played his last Major League game in 1948 at the age of 36.  Medwick did not really retire at the point, but rather ended up in the Minors where he tried to revive his career.  In 1951, the 39 year old future Hall of Famer was hired to manage the Raleigh Capitals.  The team had no affiliation, so Medwick put his name in the lineup card for 60 games on a roster that filled with older local players who had been long time fixtures in the Carolina League including Duke graduate Crash Davis and Woody Fair. 

2. Hank Greenberg - 1930 - Greenberg came through Raleigh as a 19 year old at the beginning of his career.  He played a total of 122 games for the Capitals and ended the 1930 season with a .314 average, 26 doubles, 14 triples, and 19 home runs.  Greenberg was on the Tigers by 1933 and was an offensive force with the team from the very beginning of his career.  He slashed .339/.404/.600 with 63 doubles, 26 home runs, and 139 RBIs during his first full season in 1934 helping the Tigers reach the World Series.  While his final career statistics are respectable, Greenberg served in World War II and basically lost five years of his career during the prime of his career.  In 1940, the season before he left for the war, Greenberg hit .340/.433/.670 with 50 doubles, 41 home runs, and 150 RBIs.  After World War II, he returned to baseball and put up three good season, the final with the Pirates, before calling it quits in 1947 at the age of 36.  Greenberg was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956. 

 1. Carl Yastrzemski - 1960 - Yaz spent his first season in professional baseball with the Capitals hitting .377/.472/.579 with 34 doubles and 15 home runs.  In 1961 Yastrzemski took over in left field for the Red Sox and spent his entire 23 year career in Boston.  He retired in 1983 with 3,419 hits, 452 home runs, 646 doubles, and 1844 RBIs.  Yaz's final career slash line was .285/.379/.462 with a Triple Crown in 1967 along with an MVP Award.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and is considered the fourth best left fielder of all-time by Jaffe's WAR Score System behind Barry Bonds, Teddy Ballgame, and Rickey Henderson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I did not opening any packs or boxes of Pro Debut this year, opting to just go out and find the singles that fit into my collection.  Really, I am trying to find cards of the Cardinals prospects and the Durham Bulls players.  As a minor league card collector, the players that appear in the Pro Debut are not generally consistent from year to year.

It's nice to see players graduate to the Majors and into the regular Topps base sets where I can continue to collect their cards.  There are many Durham Bulls players I still enjoy collecting whether they are with the Rays, or other teams.

While there is a lot of turnover in the Pro Debut set, one of my favorite Durham Bulls has become a staple of the set.

Of course, I am talking about the one and only Wool E. Bull

There are many people who probably think of the Durham Bulls mascot as the guy from the movie Bull Durham.  Not so.  Wool E. Bull has long been entertaining the fans in Durham and is one of the best parts of watching a Bulls game.  I know, I go to the games to watch baseball.  My baseball sidekick goes for Wool E.  Kyle Snyder gives him a ball almost every game too....

So, it's really an easy choice for Topps to make the Durham Bulls am annual part of the Mascots insert set.  This is the third year in a row that Wool E. Bull has appeared in the set and I proudly own all three.  In the past Topps has made these with color variations, but I am pretty sure that there are just 75 copies of this Wool E.'s card.  Here's a look:

Great looking card and I am happy that Topps continues to recognize Wool E. Bull as one of the best mascots in all of baseball.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Secret Weapon Autograph

Topps did a cool thing a few years back with the Archives autograph of former Cardinals player Jose Oquendo.  If you are not familiar with Jose, he played for the Cardinals for the better part of a decade starting in the 1986.  The Cardinals manager at the time, Whitey Herzog, frequently used Oquendo as a starter.  However, you never quite knew where he was going to turn up on the field earning him the nickname "The Secret Weapon".

During his first season as a starter with the Cardinals during the 1987 season, Oquendo played 37 games in right field, 32 games at second base, 23 games at shortstop, but also appeared in games as a third baseman, left fielder, center fielder, first baseman, and he also pitched an inning.  In 1988 Oquendo appeared at all nine position including catcher which brings me to my latest card from the 2012 Archives set.  Here is a look at the front of the card.....

I like that Topps used the 1988 design for Oquendo's card considering what they did with the Oquendo autographs.  There is a nice action shot of Oquendo on the front.  If you search Oquendo's 2012 Archives autograph on a site like Ebay or COMC you will see that there are many different pictures on the card fronts....

The difference with the Oquendo cards takes place on the back of the cards.  Specifically on the top right hand corner of the card where the player position is listed.....

My latest card has Oquendo's position listed as a 1B.  I have picked up a few of these cards over the last few years, not all, but several.  It's a pretty cool idea by Topps to make different Oquendo cards for all of the different positions during the 1988 season.  That's all of them.  I wish the pictures on the fronts of the cards matched the player position on the back of the card.  I would love to be able to collect the entire set of Oquendo Archives autographs, but they are not that cheap, given you are collecting Jose Oquendo cards.  Plus, there are a few that rarely pop up.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Finest Tsunami

I have not done a lot with opening Topps Finest boxes the last few years, but I have still enjoyed picking up a few of the single cards here and there.  After all of these years its still a very nice product and one of those that appears year and year out.  

This year I was a little bit torn about picking up cards from this product.  Earlier this spring Topps announced that it was going to skip over local card shops and just sell Finest directly to customers in their online store.  I know a lot of card shops on social media voiced concerns about the decision by Topps.  The general concern is that Topps will continue to do this with other card products and cut out the card shops altogether.  

That would be horrendous for the hobby.  

I am not even sure when Finest was released, but I decided long ago to completely avoid the boxes being sold by Topps in their store.  So, late last week I dipped my toe into the water and picked up a Finest autograph from one of my favorite Cardinals pitchers: Carlos Martinez.  

Here is the card:

Finest is one of those products that has 15 different parallels with all sorts of different colors and serial numbers, but with Finest I just keep it simple and find the green cards.  I know that there are rarer and shinier Carlos Martinez autographs in this set.  With the Martinez card I really like the red accents on top of the green card.  The red on Martinez's glove and uniform really pop on this card.  Easily my favorite Finest autograph since I picked up this Shelby Miller a few years back. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 17

I know I said a bunch of stuff about finishing sets when I came back the other month, so I am going to work on catching everyone up on that stuff later in the week.  Meanwhile, I found a card that I have been on the lookout for the past two or three years.

At some point I ended up with a big chunk of the Carolina League 50th Anniversary set which was put out in 1994.  There are a lot of great names in the set.  Being a few cards away from completion I am giving serious thought to making this a project for later in the summer.  Here is a look at the checklist.  I am missing seven of the cards and the guy who gave me this set was not really into giving me the name players from the set...

I think we can pull this one off.  Last week I was missing eight of the cards, but picked up a card of the best Raleigh Capitals player in the set.  The Caps are long since defunct and their stadium has been torn and replaced by a parking lot for service vehicles for the City of Raleigh.  I hopped a fence or two, and ventured down an alley last year to check out the teams former stadium Devereux Meadows.  There is still a wall there with some plumbing and electrical fixtures sticking out of the concrete.....

and the team's most famous player?  None other than Carl Yastrzemski.  This is his card in the Carolina League's 50th Anniversary set....

The back of the card has his statistics with the Red Sox and also with the Caps during his time in the Carolina League.  Looks like Yaz had a pretty good year playing in Raleigh.

This was actually his first season playing in the minors and was promoted all the way to Triple A in 1960 before joining the Red Sox in 1961.  The minor league systems were roughly the same size that they are today by the time Yastrzemski rolled through the minors, so jumping to the Majors after two years of play was just as big of accomplishment then as it is today.  More on the Raleigh Capitals on Friday....

Hoppers Fever

I am enjoying my first summer with tee ball for my son Cooper.  He is five and we signed him up to play in the local Y league not far from our house.  We've had a couple of games so far, a few more left to go, but Coop is really enjoying playing so far.  Really, he likes hitting, and is working on the fielding aspect of the game.  We have had a tee and a bat since he was two or three.  This is him as a three year old hitting off a tee in the snow.....

One of the best parts of having my son in the tee ball league is the fact that the teams are named after Minor League teams in the area.  There are the obvious local choices like the Bulls (Durham) and the Mudcats (Carolina-Eastern Raleigh suburbs), but then there are a few others that maybe not all of the kindergarten aged tee ballers know very well.  For example, yesterday his team played the Sand Gnats which was a team that played in Savannah (not too nearby) up until this year when they moved to Columbia, South Carolina and are now the Fireflies.  

Of course, Cooper's team is also named after a near by team too.  He is playing for the Grasshoppers which is named after the Marlins A-Ball affiliate the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  

Complete with the orange scheme and the Grasshoppers hat.  This is Cooper patrolling second base against the Bats (Louisville).

Anyway, the exposure to minor league teams has peaked his interest a little more in some of my cards he has traditional ignored.  If I got a new card and he recognized the team, like the Cardinals and Tigers, he would ask me some particulars about the card.  Durham Bulls cards too, but the rest of the Minor League teams were completely irrelevant.  So, this week when this card showed up in my mailbox.....

There were a lot of questions and comments....

Is this guy on my team?  Not sure he's really a Grasshopper.  

We wear orange shirts with a grasshopper, not green shirts with a grasshooper.

Is that my coach?  

Do you really want this card?  I like this one, you can get it back later this afternoon.  

Luckily I got it back unscathed and put it in my scanner, then found it a home in a card box.  In exchange for returning my card back to me, we are going to go check out a Greensboro Grasshoppers game in few weeks during our summer vacation away from school.  I actually went to a Hoppers games last summer and sat right behind Tyler Kolek while he was charting pitches.  

Kolek will not be there this summer since he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the whole run in kind of made me a fan.  I haven't picked up too many of his cards, but I also like the patch cards out of Topps Pro Debut, so this one was a easy choice.  Hopefully I can keep it in my card box and avoid having it wander off this summer....

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Motter Bat For A Good Cause

Taylor Motter does not have many baseball cards, so I do not spend too much time talking about him here in my little corner of the blogosphere.  However, he is one of my favorite Durham Bulls players over the last two years.  In 2015, Motter put up a .292/.366/.471 slash line with 14 home runs, 43 doubles, and 26 stolen bases.  He ended up winning the team MVP award.  Well deserved.

One of the best qualities of Taylor Motter's game is his versatility.  The Bulls played him all over the diamond which I thought would help earn him a job with the Rays.  I was a little surprised to see Motter back in Durham to start the season.  Early in the season Motter appeared on the "Ask Me" segment on the Durham Bulls Hit Bull Win Blog and answered my question about the number of gloves in his locker.

With very few cards of Motter out on the market I have kept my eyes open for anything cool of his that I can find floating around.  Sometime last month I saw a picture of a Motter bat float across my feed from Signatures for Soldiers.  Simply put, they raise money for disabled veterans through donations of signed items/baseball cards.  There have been quite a few players who have signed cards for this charity.  There are lots of pictures on the social media sites of the cards and athletes who have signed and a list on the website.  You can follow their Twitter page here , Facebook book page here,   and homepage here.  

It's a great cause if you are looking for an autograph.  I strongly encourage you to check out their items.  

Here is a look at the Motter bat that I picked up from the Signatures for Soldiers site:

It's a Hickory Bat with good game use.  The bat looks whole, but when you tap the handle against the ground it has the broken bat sound.  No visible cracks though which is really nice.  The signature on the bat is done in silver.  You can see a little bit more of the ball marks in this picture.  There is a giant impact mark right above the words "Pro Ash"  

One of the other cool features on the bat is the handle which has a Tampa Bay Rays 38 sticker.  I have about seven or eight game used bats in my card room and all of them have a hand written player number, or some sort of writing on the handle.  I know that the stickers have become popular in recent years, but this is my first bat with one of these....

Overall, this is near the top of my game used bat collection.  Definitely the tops of my Durham Bulls players.  I need to get a bat holder and find a place for this on the wall.  I will post some pictures when it gets up.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Venerable Old Card Part 16

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the 1996 St. Louis Cardinals.  Not many people, unless you are a Cardinals fan, are going to recall exactly what happened that season with the team.  Here's a brief summary:

  • August Busch III sold the Cardinals to current Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt.  Busch had a tight wallet and only spent money when he absolutely had to spend it.  Basically, they were a part of Anheuser-Busch and made a good marketing tool.  
  • New owner Bill DeWitt hired former A's manager Tony LaRussa to manage the team. 
  • DeWitt signs free agents Ron Gant, Gary Gaetti, and Andy Benes, traded for Dennis Eckersley, Todd Stottlemyre, and a bunch of other players.  
The Cardinals went from a 62-81 record in 1995 to a 88-74 record in 1996.  The team won the National League Central edging the Astros and Reds making the playoffs for the first time since 1987.  In the playoffs, the Cardinals beat the Padres in the Divisional round, before falling to the Braves in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.  

In summation, the 1996 season was the end of the pain and suffering that Cardinals fans experienced during the first half of the 1990s and began the Tony LaRussa era which yielded the Cardinals 2 World Series titles, 3 National League pennants, 7 National League Central crowns, and 2 Wild Card appearances.  Sure, the Cardinals still had some rough seasons in 1997, 1998, and 1999, but the teams were at least exciting with Mark McGwire, Ray Lankford, Edgar Renteria, and others.  

So, for this week's Venerable Old Card I am going to go with one of the least popular Cardinals of the past two decades: Ron Gant.  

Here's the card I am picking:

Two things to talk about here:

1.  Ron Gant had a bad falling out with the Cardinals at the end of the 1998 season.  There was a lot of back and forth with LaRussa and Gant, some name calling, failure to live up to his contract, etc.  The Cardinals ended up trading him to the Phillies for closer Ricky Bottalico and Garrett Stephenson in an effort to fix the team's bullpen.  Botallico flopped as the team's closer, but Gant was done as a full time player two years later.  

2.  Way back in the mid 1990s there were some card products that there inexpensive and still fun to collect.  Upper Deck's Collectors Choice product was always a good cheap pack, a pretty good sized set that was a little bit of a challenge to put together, and they had some good promotions inside the packs.  The "You Crash The Game" cards featured power hitters along with a date on the card.  If the player hit a home run in that time period you could mail the card in and get a prize card.  I never redeemed my Gant card, but this was a winner with two homers against the Cubs....

While the teenage version of myself did not find the effort to mail in this contest card to Upper Deck, years later I found the exchange card cheap on COMC.  Here's a look at the exchange....

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Friday Five: Five SEMO Players With Baseball Cards (Don't Say Who)

The NCAA College Baseball Tournament starts Friday.  While most readers who stop by here regularly will no doubt know that I have a degree from NC State, few know that I also have a degree from Missouri's finest teachers college: Southeast Missouri State or SEMO.  Before we go all in on SEMO, let me say that I hope NC State goes far.  They should.  On to SEMO....

Southeast Missouri won the Ohio Valley Conference this year and defeated Jacksonville State to win the conference tournament and receive the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.  SEMO has been to the NCAAs before in baseball, but this year feels a little bit different.  Sure, they are a four seed.  Yes, they are playing national seed Mississippi State in their first game in Starkville.  It's just that this year's SEMO baseball team has a lot of talent and are considered by many to be a dangerous team.  D1Baseball writer Aaron Fitt has a good break down here if you are looking for some specifics on the Redhawks (they were the Indians when I went to school there).

If you rate your baseball team's based on their acting ability, then watch this, and know that SEMO is likely going to be a national title contender.....

On to the baseball cards.  I know you are really excited to go look through your collection and find a few players who attended Southeast Missouri and played on the baseball team.  For this week's Friday Five I present: Five SEMO Players With Baseball Cards.  

There are actually six.  

1. Shae Simmons P Atlanta Braves 

I will throw a current name out at you first.  Shea Simmons has one year under his belt with the Braves.  The Scott City, Missouri native reached the Majors in 2014 appearing in 26 with 23 strikeouts in 21.2 innings and a 125 ERA+.  Simmons was shut down last year after Tommy John, but is working his way back and should be with the Braves at some point this summer.  Simmons has a bunch of cards out, including several autographs.  Really good player, really inexpensive autograph.  

2.  Kerry Robinson OF Rays, Reds, Cardinals, Padres, and Royals

If you watched baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s there is a chance that you might remember Kerry Robinson.  He just might be mentioned in the Tony LaRussa book 3 Nights In August.  Anyway, besides attending SEMO, Kerry Robinson also played for the Durham Bulls and the Cardinals.  Sort of a cool trifecta.  My best memories come of him as a Cardinal.  Especially this home run against the Cubs....

Thanks to Kerry Robinson's YouTube Channel for the video.  

Kerry also has a bunch of different baseball cards.  He was drafted by the Cardinals, ended up on the Devil Rays in the expansion draft, and then ended up back with the Cardinals after a few stops along the way.  HIs 1997 Bowman card with the Cardinals is nice, but I also like some of his Devils Rays cards too.  Oh, and I own his baseball card contract from Topps.  

3.  Steve Bieser C-OF Phillies, Pirates, and Mets

Bieser is the current coach of the Redhawks and has done a great job of running the program the last few years.  He was drafted by the Phillies in 1989 and made it to the Majors with the Mets in 1997.  He actually has a 1997 Collector's Choice card, but it appears that I don't own one.  I have a ton of cards from that set, which I probably bought at the Venture in the Cape Girardeau Mall while I was at SEMO, but not a Bieser.  So, here is a Minor League card.  Bieser was in the Minors for awhile and has a bunch of different cards in some cool 1990s minor league team sets...

4.  Justin Christian OF Yankees and Giants (Durham Bulls too)

I best know Justin Christian as a Durham Bulls player.  Yes, he was on the Yankees and Giants, but Durham Bulls.  He played one full season with the Bulls in 2014 posting a .271/.344/.434 line with 10 home runs, 4 triples, and 37 doubles.  Here is Christian batting for the Bulls against the Gwinnett Braves.....

As far as baseball cards, there are several cards of Justin Christian.  Of course, several minor league team issues, but also a few Yankees cards from his early years in the Minors.  Probably his easiest to find is his 2008 Bowman card.  

Somewhere I have a Justin Christian Durham Bulls card lingering.  I need to go find it and post it at some point.  Onward, upward....

5a.  Tom Upton "Muscles" SS Browns and Senators 

I don't know a lot about Upton other than he went to SEMO and he has a card in the 1951 Topps set.  Sure I am missing a lot of details here, but I have to work tomorrow.  Plus, did I mention 1951 Topps.  It's a classic even if he had a .225 career average.  

5b. Ray Ripplemeyer P  Reds and Senators 

Ripplemeyer never played a game for the Reds, only the Senators.  He was in the Reds minor league system for awhile and ended up in the 1961 Topps set as a Red.  Ripplemeyer also appears to have attended SIU-C, or Southern Illinois-Carbondale.  That's like Carolina to all ACC schools and people who went to class in college, Kansas to Missouri, etc..