Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Back To The High Tek.....

I remember when Topps Tek first came out in 1998.  The set idea was somewhat simple.  If you collect baseball cards sets there are only 90 cards in this product.  The set idea was also somewhat complex.  If you collect cards of an individual player there are 90 variations of each of the 90 cards.  I like sets and have a copy of each of the 90 cards in the 1998 Topps Tek set.  I player collection Ray Lankford, but I do not own all 90 variations of his card in the set.  Maybe one day.

I like that Topps has brought this product back the last few years.  It's been fun to see newer collectors trying to track down all of the different variations.  Topps has made the product a little bit better the second time around by adding in autographs.  I have picked up quite a few the past few years and posted them here in this space.

This year there is a Bowman Tek, prospects, and Topps Tek, which is veterans and retired players.  I have picked up a few the past few weeks the cards have been out, but the first card I want to share from this year's set has been one of my favorite cards that I have had sitting on my office desk in awhile.

It's player who appeared in the original Topps Tek set.

I wish I could tell you it was Ray Lankford, but I can't do that.  It is a Cardinals player though.  Well, he was a Marlin in the original.  

The checklist was chopped down after 1998, so while Tek ran for a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Renteria did not make the cut when the set shrunk to 45 cards.  So, 19 years later after appearing the original I finally have another Renteria Topps Tek card.  

It's autographed too.  

I am not sure that I like all of the new background patterns on the cards.  A nice picture of the former Cardinals shortstop with an autograph can make me overlook the fact that the design of this card looks like a kid took either a basketball or Death Star stamp to it.  

The patterns run consistent onto the back of the baseball card.  Although for an acetate style card, I think that Topps does a lot better job on the backs of the base set than these Tek cards.  

This is my second Renteria card of the year behind his Topps Archives autograph which I picked up earlier this summer.  Topps has included him in several other products this year too.  Edgar has signed a lot of cards this year.  I will have to spend a little time trying to pick some of them up.

I am happy to see Topps pick up a player like Edgar and put him back into some card sets.  He's not a Hall of Famer, but he had some important moments over the years as a player.  Most baseball fans remember his walk off hit in the 1997 World Series while he was playing for the Marlins, or his decisive home run in the 2010 World Series which gave the Giants the title that season, but he was always a clutch player for the Cardinals too....

but the Cardinals only made one World Series appearance while Edgar was their shortstop.  Unfortunately, the Series did not end well since the team did not hit outside of Renteria who hit .333 with a .945 OPS.  He ended up making the final out, which makes him the only player in Major League history to end a World Series 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 14 - Eli Marrero

Eli Marrero was one of the Cardinals best prospect in the late 1990s.  Baseball America had him as the fourth best Cardinals prospect in 1997 behind pitchers Matt Morris and Braden Looper, as well as infield prospect Dmitri Young.  The overall list that year was deep at the top with Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Todd Helton, Scott Rolen, Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood, and Paul Konerko all appearing in the Top 20.  Marrero ranked 37th which made him the top catching prospect in the game that season.

Marrero popped up on numerous baseball cards that summer.  Of course, as a top prospect, the most logical land spot for him was the Bowman set.  The 1997 Bowman had those great black borders.

This is actually Marrero's second Bowman card.  He had previously appeared in the 1995 set.  I like that card, just happen to like this one a little bit better.  Marrero also had an autographed card in the 1997 Bowman set.  Not sure why Topps listed his name as Elieser on all of his cards, while every other card company had Eli on his cards.

Marrero got a cup of coffee from the Cardinals in 1997 and should have been the team's starting catcher entering 1998, but he ended up missing time due to a cancerous mass being found in his thyroid gland.

From the August 17th, 1998 Sports Illustrated:

Marrero did play a few more seasons for the Cardinals, only appearing in more than 100 games twice.  It is noted several places that following his bout with thyroid cancer, Marrero had difficulty with maintaining his stamina throughout the season.  He never really stuck as a starting catcher with the Cardinals.  Tony LaRussa almost always used him as a utility player bouncing back and forth between the catching, first base, and the outfield.  

Utility player means that the best Eli Marrero cards are all from his early years as a player.  The vast majority are from 1997, 1998, or 1999.  Two of my favorites are from the Fleer sets from 97 and 98.  Fleer had borderless card designs both years.  

We'll go in order by year. 

I like catchers cards with their pictures in their equipment.  No hockey style masks in 1997.  Fleer was really good about things like that during the late 1990s before the went bankrupt and disappeared.  The 1998 Eli Marrero card is even better.....

Obviously an older picture on the 1998 card.  If you look at the patch on the jerseys on both cards they match.  The Cardinals wore that patch during Spring Training in 1997 to mark their last year in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The team had gone halfsies with the Marlins on a new Spring Training site after the Devil Rays were announced as an expansion team.  I know that some people don't like when card companies recycle old pictures, but the catchers mask action shot more than makes up for it.  

Plus the card backs were nice......

Full color.  Edge to Edge.  I like that the team logo was incorporated into the background too.  Overall, these were really nice baseball cards.  

The Cardinals traded Marrero to the Braves after the 2002 season along with J.D. Drew.  They got back Jason Marquis and Ray King.  Also some throw in A-Ball pitcher.  Throw in pitcher couldn't even crack the rotation at the start of his career, sat in the bullpen his rookie year.....

Marrero spent time with the Braves, Royals, Orioles, Rockies, and Mets before retiring in 2006.  He worked as a Minor League coach in the Reds organization for a few years.  His son Elih plays, or played - not sure, at Mississippi State.  Seems like a pretty highly regarded prospect, but he only played 4 games last year for "off the field issues" which precluded him being arrested for a DUI.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Second Best Yankees Catcher From St. Louis

If you polled a group of well informed baseball fans from the St. Louis area about some of the great amateur players to come out of the area many would quickly give you the name of Yogi Berra.  Pretty important player, and while he's not Babe Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, or Mantle, he is the best catcher in the history of the Yankees.

10 World Series Championships, 14 American League pennants, 3 MVPs, and a Hall of Famer.

There is another well known Yankees catcher from St. Louis besides Yogi Berra.  In fact, there careers intersected a bit.  By the late 1950s the Yankees actually played Yogi in the outfield.  I think few realize that the left fielder in the 7th Game of the 1960 World Series, the one that drifts back towards the wall on Bill Mazeroski's walk off home run, was Yogi Berra.

I will spare Yankees fans the video, but he's to the right of the scoreboard in this picture of Mazeroski's swing on the home run.

I'm sure that Yogi's knees were worn down or something.  The usual types of things that happen to catchers at the end of their career, but the Yankees had a legitimately talented replacement in the form of St. Louis native Elston Howard.

Beyond replacing Berra as the everyday catcher for the Yankees, which became official at the start of the 1960 season, Howard also broke the color barrier for the team.  The Yankees were actually one of the last teams in the Majors to place an African-American player on their roster.  The two National League New York franchises had both fielded integrated teams since the late 1940s.  Dodgers obviously starting in 1947 with Jackie Robinson and the Giants in 1948 with Monte Irvin.

Elston Howard had a pretty big impact early in his Yankee career, including a few big World Series home runs.

All tolled Howard helped the Yankees win four World Series.  He's not a Hall of Famer, but the Yankees did retire his number 32.  Seems like a pretty good player to add to the old baseball card collection.  For whatever reason, up until I picked up these two cards, I actually did not own any Elston Howard cards.  

Zero.  Pretty rare for me to be missing baseball cards of St. Louis players, whether they were Cardinals players or not.

First up is a 1959 Topps card.  I have seen this card before, always a little curious about the blue coloring on the frame around the card.  The cards in the set have all sorts of different coloring on frames, but the blues are all darker than this card.  I would not consider myself to be a 1959 Topps expert, so I am not sure if the Elston Howard card's border is different for a reason?  I know most of the other Yankees cards in the set have a red or orange border.  

This card did not cost me a ton for a name player in the 1959 Topps set.  The surface conditions on the card are nice, but the centering on the card is off both left to right and top to bottom.  I am not going to spend the money on a high grade card of a Yankees player, so I am good with nice condition over centering.  

Last one.  

This is a 1956 Topps.  It's Elston Howard's first Topps card, but Bowman made a card of him in 1955.  The television set.  I like the action photos on these cards and Howard's is no different.  Looks like an overthrow on a play at the plate against the Tigers...maybe?  The picture on the right kind of bothers me.  The lips, the hat, just so much that looks like it's artificially touched up.  

This is two vintage posts in a row.  Don't worry, I will go back modern on Monday.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Original Bow Wow

I traded for a few cards a week or two back, trying to close out a few sets, and my trading partner threw in a few a pair of 1950s cards.  One of the cards was a 1956 Topps Roy Sievers.  

Kind of a cool action shot with the long time outfielder leaning backwards over a fence to catch a ball.  Sievers is actually from St. Louis and spent the first few years of his career on the Browns.  Welcome addition to the card collection.  The other throw in card just seemed like a random St. Louis Browns card.  Here is the front.....

At first glance I thought this was just going to be a nice 1951 Bowman common.  Definitely generous for a throw in when you put it together with the Sievers card.  Then I flipped the card over to the back and a few things stood out....

First, Arft's nickname is Bow Wow.  That's a pretty incredible nickname.  He should probably get some royalties from the "Like Mike" movies or some of the albums that the other Bow Wow has put out.....

since Arft appears to be the original namesake.  Curious as to how Arft gained that nickname, here is a quick explaination from his biography on the SABR site....

"On July 27 at Sportsman’s Park, the seventh-place Browns took the field with a record of 32-53, 19½ games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics. Arft made his major-league debut, playing first and batting seventh. He recalled, “We were playing the Yankees and the first time up I flied out to Joe DiMaggio. The next time up I struck out, but my third time at bat I hit a triple to drive in two runs off Tommy Byrne. My last time up I hit a home run off Frank Hiller! We shut out New York 4-0. That was a great feeling.” The next day “cheers of ‘Arft, Arft’ were bestowed upon Hank the nickname he will embrace forever – that of ‘Bow Wow.’

Beyond the nickname, Arft is also from Manchester, Missouri.  He is the only Major League player to list that town as his place of birth, which is also the town where I lived while I was growing up outside of St. Louis.  Since there is not a hospital in that town anymore, just a shopping mall with a giant dove in the parking lot.....

he will likely remain the only player with that distinction for the foreseeable future.   In fact, I was trying to find players who have Manchester listed on a baseball card as a hometown.  There are several who are from bordering towns like Ryan Howard, Max Scherzer, and David Freese. 

I thought it was a pretty cool find, so I actually ended up picking up another Hank Arft card for under $5.  It's a 1952 Topps card with an out of focus picture......

and the centering is really off, but I might have to pick up the few other cards that Arft had during the late 1940s and early 1950s.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #24 - Rich Thompson

2012-2013 Durham Bulls 

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 13 - Kerry Robinson

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

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

This is where Kerry Robinson leaves the Cardinals.

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

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

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

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

First up are two Bowman products.  

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

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

Last card.  

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Minor League Goodness

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

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

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

First up the two Durham Bulls.

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

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

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

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

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

Fort Wayne Tincaps.  Hilarious.

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

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

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

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

Moving along.  

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

Last two cards for today. 

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Farewell Beltran

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

On to baseball cards.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

First up.  

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

I also got this card.  

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

I have moved on.   

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 12 - Gary Gaetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to baseball cards.  

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A 1997 song from the IPod.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Story About Two Docs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #23 - Mickey Lolich

1959-1961 Durham Bulls 

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 11- Dennis Eckersley

If you really like Dennis Eckerlsey this might hurt just a little bit.  I have no problem with Eck being in the Hall of Fame and can say that he was truly a great pitcher throughout most of his career.  As a person who grew up in the 1980s/1990s I remember him best as a starting pitcher for the Cubs and a relief pitcher for the A's.

Those A's teams were always entertaining and won a lot of games, even if they only managed to win a single World Series.

Eck was brought over to the Cardinals before the 1996 season along with half a dozen other former A's players.  It wasn't one of his better efforts, but it sort of all got swept under the rug.  The Cardinals ended up making the National League Championship Series that season and Eck saved 30 games.  He was good when it counted....

but the next season was a different story.  The Cardinals were not very good in 1997 and Eckersley was part of the problem.  The fans, often portrayed as "the best", booed Eckersley after he blew saves.  The Cardinal years were basically the end of his career.  Eckersley returned to the Red Sox for a season in 1998, but he was not their closer.  

Lets talk about Eckersley cards.  First up, why have card companies made baseball cards of Eckersley as a Cardinals player since he retired?  I'd love to own a nice Eckersley card with him on the A's, Indians, Red Sox, maybe even the Cubs.  The Cardinals?  

Say it ain't so.  Let's look at some 1997 Cardinals Eckersley cards.  I am going to go with three different cards for this post. 

First up is a 1997 Bowman card.  I have posted other cards from this set in other posts in this series.  More or less, I love the black border on these cards.  I know these are not the best Bowman cards from this decade, but I just love the way that these cards look.  Plus, I love the picture of Eck on this card.  One eye closed and his hair blowing in the wind.  Sweet picture.  

This is a really good picture too.  The Flair Showcase cards were high gloss, great card stock, and high end for the late 1990s.  I really like the contrast on these cards with the color picture in the front and the black and white picture in the background.  

This is another favorite from 1997.  The first year that Skybox issued the EX product.  It didn't have too long of a run, but there are a lot of 1990s cards collectors who love these translucent cards.  The sky in the background with the purple and pink frame are an unusual combination, but they work.  I also like the picture of Eckersley pointing.  That was sort of his signature move at the end of a game.  

A Bargain, All Because Small Children Are A Hazard To Baseball Cards

There are two children who share the same roof as my baseball cards.  The older of the two, who is currently seven, has been great around my baseball card collection.  He went through a short phase with one of my 2001 Topps Sean Casey cards taking the brunt of his cardboard curiosity.....

He dabbles in baseball cards and helps me open packs from time to time.  There is a 1986 Sportsflics cards that shares space on his dresser with Ben the Beta Fish.  There is a Tony LaRussa bobblehead up there somewhere too.

Then there is the one year old.

This picture isn't current, mainly because I do not want to encourage the destruction of cards, which is already a huge issue with this one.  She's mobile, curious, and not afraid to break things.  I try really hard to keep my cards put away, or at least out of reach.  However, about a month ago she figured out how to pry open one of the shoebox storage boxes where I keep my autographs.  The carnage was limited to a Topps Archives Jose Cruz.

It was Jose Cruz, so it could have been much worse.  I also wasn't too worried about replacing card.  I think I had originally picked up the card because it was $2 at a card show.  Well, that was until there was a really good deal posted on a Facebook card group with a Jose Cruz Archives auto.

In fact, there were two....

and a whole bunch of other cool Archives autographs too.

Some of them are kind of blahzay.  Randy Jones was cool for about two years in the mid 1970s, but I am not sure about the rest of his career.  He's got a nice signature.  That's a positive.  Outside of this Randy Jones card, I was really happy about the rest of the cards in this lot and I paid roughly $2 a card after shipping.

Frank Howard on a blue bordered parallel.  It's numbered out of 199, which is high in today's world of baseball cards, but I always like getting autographs of the 1950s and 1960s players.  I believe that "The Capital Punisher" ended his career in the early 1970s, but I always think of him as a Dodger and Senator.  The bad version of Frank Howard, 1970s, was on the Rangers and Tigers.

On to cards with connections with teams I follow....

Jeff Conine, not a Cardinal and not a Durham Bull, but his son plays for Duke and should be a high draft pick next summer.  Apparently Jeff hangs out and takes in a few Duke games.  I don't bother people during baseball games, especially parents, so this seems like a safe route to pick up a copy of his autograph.

Most of the cards in this post are from the regular Archives sets, but this one is from the 65th Anniversary set last year.  Kind of a hot mess of a set.  Cool looking card fronts with mismatched card backs.

Eduardo Perez.  LaRussa era bench player and current, I think, ESPN employee.  Although, they've fired all of their employees, so I am not sure Eduardo is actually still there, or if he's off announcing a 1-AA college football game somewhere.....

Long time Astro, one time member of the Cardinals.  His Cardinals career last two months: September and October of 2006.  This happened.  Jose is on the right side of the picture wearing jersey number 13.

Two more Cardinals from the 1960s.  

Curt Simmons spent most of his career with the Phillies, but he had a great year with the Cardinals in 1964 helping the team win the World Series.  This is from the 65th Archives Anniversary set.  Simmons signature looks a little shaky, but it's still a great looking card.

I posted another copy of this card, it was a blue framed parallel, a few weeks ago.  Not a Cardinals card, but Francona was on the team for a year or two in the mid to late 1960s.