Thursday, June 28, 2018

Local Cardinals

A quick post.  The Cardinals traded outfielder Stephen Piscotty this offseason to the A's for two prospects.  I picked up and posted a card of infielder Yairo Munoz awhile ago, but have not had the chance to sit down and do anything with the second prospect in the trade, infielder Max Schrock.

Schrock played high school baseball at a parochial school in Raleigh and collegiately at South Carolina.  Since the trade, I have run into a few people with some Max Schrock stories.  All good of course.  I was pretty patient in waiting to track down one of his cards, but I recently picked up a copy of his 2017 Bowman Chrome autograph.

Sharp looking card.

My choices on cards of Schrock came down to one of these Bowman cards, or a Panini Elite from his brief time with the Nationals organization.  The Nats actually originally drafted him out of South Carolina, but they traded him to the A's for Marc Rzepczynski.  There is a blast from the past for all of my Cardinals readers.  The Panini card has all the usually Panini problems of being unattractive because the logos are airbrushed off of the uniforms.

Can we just get him in a South Carolina jersey?  Please?  Panini should just make College Baseball cards.

On to the back of the card.

My executive summary of Schrock's card back goes like this:  He is good at hitting baseballs and he is a decent prospect because of his ability to hit baseballs.  Schrock can also steal bases, but chooses good spots to run.  He's also only 5'8, so I guess he's pretty short too.

That's it.  Posts like this are why I used to write one per day back in the day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 37 - Tom Pagnozzi

The Cardinals have had a pretty good string of defensive catchers dating all the way back to the 1980s.  Over the last 30 years, the Cardinals catchers have won 14 of the National League's Gold Glove Awards.  Many of those belong to Yadier Molina, but two of his predecessors also won a few Gold Gloves too.

Mike Matheny actually was the last starting catcher the team employed before Molina, and took home a few Gold Glove Awards with his first coming in 2000.  There were a few years in the late 1990s when the team cycled through a few different catchers, but for the majority of the decade the catching duties were handled by Tom Pagnozzi.

Pagnozzi was slow and pudgy, did not hit much some years, but he was always a very good defensive catcher.  He won a total of three Gold Gloves and has some great defensive stats to back up his awards.  Not just someone who won an award because of his reputation as a good defender.  There was a season he led the National League in defensive WAR, several where he finished near the top, several seasons with almost 50% of base runners caught, etc.

Pagnozzi also had some nice baseball cards over the years.  There is always some player on every team who always ends up with really nice cards in spite of the fact that they are not necessarily a name player.  You'd think that there were be some more time spent on Ozzie Smith or Mark McGwire, or possibly we could get good cards of the majority of players.


I am going to share more than the usual three cards for this post.  The good Pagnozzi cards show him playing defense, but my favorite card of the former Cardinals catcher has to be his 1995 Pinnacle card where he is arguing with an umpire......

There are not a ton of cards made with players and umpires arguing.  The card also has a really old picture on the front.  Pagnozzi is clearly wearing one of the polyster uniforms that the Cardinals wore in the 1980s and early 1990s.  The team ditched these uniforms after the 1991 season.  Mind you, Pagnozzi actually came up with the Cardinals in the late 1980s and was Tony Pena's backup for several seasons.  Even played in the 1987 World Series, so this card has a picture that is potentially seven or eight years old from the time it was printed.  If I had a cool picture of a player arguing with an umpire I would throw it on a baseball card too, even if it was older.

A few nice Stadium Clubs.

This his 1996 card from that set.  Another photo that you do not see too often on baseball cards, catchers running down foul balls around the back stop and netting.  I am pretty sure that Pagnozzi caught this ball and is turning to check on a base runner.  The fans in the stands do not seem to be moving either, which would likely happen if the ball was over the netting.  The old guy in the Rockies hat is calling the batter out.  

This is his 1995 Stadium Club.  Nice photo of him throwing, guessing a bunt or something hit in front of the plate.  Good early 1990s Busch Stadium background too with the blue wall and astroturf.

Last Stadium Club.

Always fun to see a slow catcher get on base on a ball hit on the infield.  Pretty certain that the Giants first baseman, not Will Clark, has missed the ball here.  I also like that Pagnozzi is off the ground.  Does not seem like the type of guy who would have any sort of leaping ability, but here we are.....

I had fun finding these cards of Pagnozzi, so you are getting a few more.  

Favorite Topps card.  Again, kind of a unique picture you do not see often on a baseball card.  

Last base card.  

I don't even remember this card being made, and I have a ton of these Emotion XL cards.  Gritty is such a catcher word, or maybe a backup middle infielder.  Pagnozzi is definitely "gritty".   This was only a 200 card set, a little surprised that Fleer would even include Pagnozzi.  I'd tip my cap to your set designers for adding him to the checklist, but your company went bankrupt awhile ago.  

Last card.  If you had to own one Tom Pagnozzi card it should be this one.  There are some pretty nice Cardinals cards in the 1996 Leaf Signature Series autographs, along with several players who were only around the team for a short time.  Cards of Rick Honeycutt and Mike Gallego are in a Cardinals uniform in that set, but they are not really Cardinals players.  Brian Jordan, Mabry, and Pagnozzi are much better cards if you are truly looking for a Cardinals card.  

Sunday, June 24, 2018

1995 Durham Bulls Team Set

I post the Durham Bulls team set every summer when it comes out.  We are getting into the middle of the season and this year's edition of the team set will likely be appearing at some point during the next month.  Thought it would be fun to go back and check out some of the older Durham Bulls team sets in my collection.  I have a box of these sets that run the gambit from the early 1980s through their most recent teams.

Thought we'd start out with the 1995 set.  It's a good mid point.

It was the first season that the Bulls played in their current stadium The Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  They were still an A Ball team in the Carolina League at this point, not in Triple A yet.  They were also still a Braves affiliate.  The Rays and Triple A are still a few more years away.  

Like many of the older 1990s Durham Bulls team sets almost all are sponsored by The Durham Herald Sun.  It's the local Durham newspaper.  This set is also sponsored by Crystal Springs Water.  I am not sure if I have ever had Crystal Springs water, not sure I really want to though.

The 1995 Bulls finished dead last in the Carolina League, but they did have a few Major Leaguers on the roster and they also made an ESPN Page 2 list for greatest brawls in the history of baseball.  The fight took place on May 22nd against Winston-Salem Warthogs.  It rates as the fifth best baseball fight of all-time.

A description from ESPN:

The occasion: "Strike Out Domestic Violence" night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The catalyst: Warthogs pitcher Jason Kummerfeldt, who hit three Bulls batters before the third inning ended. The charger: Bulls batter John Knott, who was sure Kummerfeldt was doing it on purpose. The end result: fisticuffs and one kick to the face of Winston-Salem pitcher Glen Cullop, who ended up hospitalized with a broken jaw and lost five teeth. A splendid show for the anti-domestic-violence fans who cheered on their Bulls when the punches started flying. Ten players were ejected, and within a few days Carolina League president John Hopkins meted out $6,000 in fines and 124 days of suspensions, penalizing every player on both clubs except the next night's starting pitchers, who were both in the stands charting pitches. 

The card design is very 1990s.  They made Saved By The Bell cards at one point, this team set reminds me of something that could be a design for that type of set.  A quick look at the back of the card.  

Anyone of note in this group of players above?  Gator McBride actually ended up in the Frontier League playing for the Chillicothe Paints where he enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in league history.  He is now in the Frontier League Hall of Fame.  Pretty impressive feat.  

Not many Major Leaguers in this set of cards, but Randall Simon is one of them.  Although, his best known moment in the Majors involved hitting one of the sausage racers in Milwaukee with a bat while he was playing for the Pirates.  Probably be cooler if I could say he had an important hit in a playoff game, but no.  

None of this group made it to the Majors, but in some ways Lou Benbow did, at least in the movies.  He was an extra for the movie Major League II prior to playing the Bulls in 1995.  That's sort of like playing in the Majors...

Micah Bowie is another of the Major Leaguers in this set.  He appeared in games over six different Major League seasons, but that only totaled 88 games.  Most of those 88 games came during a two year stint with the Washington Nationals in 2006 and 2007.  They used him as a long reliever and a spot starter, which added up to half of his career games in the Majors.  

Carey Paige was actually a high draft pick who never got out of A Ball.  He has a bunch of cards in products like Best and Front Row, many are with the Bulls, but he never got very far for whatever reason.

Matt Byrd led the team in saves, almost led the team in strikeouts too, but was bested out by one of the starting pitchers.  The 1995 Bulls were not a very good team, but Byrd was one of the few players who had a good season.

David Toth is the most successful player in this group.  He made it all the way to Triple A, but never got called up to the Majors.  Of all the cards in the set, this might be my favorite card.  The placeholder card in the front of the set celebrated the opening of the Bulls new stadium, but very few of the cards actually show much of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  

This card shows the first base side of the stadium.  I would recognize the green beams and beige bricked press box anyway.  Nice to see a little bit of the new stadium in a set that is advertising the fact that it's new and shiny.  

It's not a new stadium anymore, but it is still fairly shiny.  

Not much going on here.  The Jaime Hicks card is another that shows off parts of the new stadium.  It looks similar to its current self with the bullpen in the same place, in play, down the first base line.  

John LeRoy is one of the more interesting cards in this set.  Yes, he is wearing a blue t-shirt that looks a little out of place in the set, but he is another player from this set who reached the Majors.  LeRoy actually only pitched in 1 Major League game against the Mets at the end of September of 1997.  He pitched two innings and picked up the win.  LeRoy returned to the Minors the next season, making an appearance with the Durham Bulls, but this time the Triple A version.  There are a few other players who played for both the A and AAA versions of the Bulls, but the list is short.  

Ryan Jacobs actually led the 1995 Durham Bulls in wins and strikeouts.  There were only three pitchers on the team with more than 20 starts, and Jacobs had the most out of that group with 25.  In all, he won 11 games in 25 starts, which is pretty good considering the team only had 61 wins and finished 17 games under .500.  

Jeff Bock was actually a local player who ended up in the Braves organization, eventually finding his way to playing at home with the Durham Bulls.  He went to Cary High School, which is about 15 to 20 minutes away from downtown Durham.  After high school he attended Barton College, which is in Wilson, North Carolina, about an hour east of Raleigh.  

Jamie Arnold is another player who made it to the Majors, appearing for the Dodgers in 1999, again in 2000, before ending his season with the Cubs after a trade in late July.  

Let's save Snitker for last, obviously the most important person in this group.  

Matt West managed the Bulls for two seasons in 1994 and 1995.  Both seasons ended with the team under .500.  West also played for the Bulls in the early 1980s, starting 12 games, and winning two of them with the 1983 team.  Interestingly enough, that 1983 team was managed by Brian Snitker.  That brings us back to the current Braves manager.  

First off, Snitker played 3 games for the Durham Bulls in 1980.  It was his final season as a player in the Minor Leagues, all of which were spent in the Braves system.  

Snitker has actually been in the Braves organization forever.  His first managing job was with the 1982 Anderson (South Carolina) Braves in the South Atlantic League.  During the 1983 and 1984 seasons he managed the Bulls, ended up elsewhere for the 1985 and 1986 seasons, before he returned to the Bulls for 1987.  In all, Snitker managed a Braves Minor League team during 20 different seasons between 1982 and 2016.  The seasons he did not manage, he worked as a coach.  

Nice that the Braves gave him a chance to manage the Major League team.  The team appears to be headed in a good direction.  

Wonderful Monds is one of the all-time great names in baseball.  He never made it to the Majors, but had some nice years during his time in the Minors.  

Bill Slack is another interesting story on this team.  He was a Minor League pitcher for the Red Sox for 14 seasons between 1952 and 1966, and for some reason a White Sox Minor League team for one game in 1959.  Slack never reached the Majors, so he went into coaching.  

He started at age 28 in 1961 with the Waterloo Hawks, a Red Sox Minor League team, and managed the team to a record that was 30 games over .500.  Slack then spent the next forty years managing, or coaching, various Minor League teams.  The first twenty five years of his coaching career were spent with the Red Sox, the second 15 were with the Braves.  

In 2002, Slack was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  Did I mention he was from Canada? 

Last card, we have got the batboys and a picture of the DBAP.  I know there are people who make fun of teams when they throw in cards of trainers, batboys, or clubhouse guys, but I always think it's nice when they get a card too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

So Many Reds Hall of Famers......

There are two Durham Bulls players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, or at least there will be later on this summer.  There is former Astros and Reds second baseman Joe Morgan.....

who actually came through Durham in the early 1960s while the team was an Astros affiliate.  There is also Chipper Jones, who is going into the Hall of Fame this summer.

Chipper came through Durham while they were a Braves affiliate in the early 1990s.  I am using Chipper's 1991 Topps card for this post, but he actually has several Durham Bulls cards out there.  Morgan has a recent one too.  

That's two Hall of Famers off of the Durham Bulls who have been enshrined in Cooperstown.  Then there is the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.  The Bulls actually have three players who are members of that franchise's Hall of Fame.  Joe Morgan is in their Hall of Fame for his role with the 1970s Big Red Machine teams that won a pair of World Series titles.  

Pitcher Johnny Vander Meer also played for the Bulls and appears in the Reds Hall of Fame.....

being best remembered as the only Major League pitcher to throw no-hitter in back to back starts.  The prime of his career was interrupted by World War II, but his pitching numbers with the Reds prior to his service time were very good.  Which brings me to my newest card, obviously the player was on the Durham Bulls and is now in the Reds Hall of Fame.  

Card front....

Which shows off the signature of the National League's 1940 MVP, Reds first baseman Frank McCormick.  In the six years that I have written in this space, I do not think that I have ever posted a cut signature.  Well, I think I have a Kyle Skipworth out of Topps Pro Debut, so outside of that one this is all that I have in my collection.  The signature is on a notecard and comes out of the Donruss Limited Cuts set.  I do not know much about this product, but I am pretty sure that the main purpose of buying these cards is to get cut signatures.  

They just happen to be a little less expensive than some of the other cut autograph products.  I know that McCormick, who died in 1982, has other autographs done in this fashion.  I know there is a Leaf one, not sure if Upper Deck has ever put him into a set.  

Card back....  

which gives a little snippet into the career of Frank McCormick.  I will give you a little more.  He played for the Bulls in 1936, most importantly while he was there, Bulls manager Johnny Gooch changed how he gripped his bat.  The changes allowed McCormick to hit over .380 with the Bulls, record more than 200 hits, and almost 50 doubles during is one season with the team.  He had several great seasons during the late 1930s through the mid 1940s, his best year's are in line with those of Hall of Famers, but his career was just too short.

My favorite McCormick stat, which I am borrowing from SABR, shows the difference between the slugging first baseman of the 1930s and 1940s, and their modern equivalents.  In almost 6,000 career at bats McCormick struck out 189 times, which is almost the same number of strikeouts Ryan Howard had in 2007.  There were three seasons during his career where he had more home runs than strikeouts.  During his thirteen year career, there was only one season where he had more strikeouts than doubles.  Amazing.

McCormick's best season, as mentioned before, was his 1940 MVP campaign.  His 1944 season was comparable, but winning the World Series in 1940 tilts the argument in favor of the earlier season.

Monday, June 18, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 36 - Joe Torre

There is a really good chance that you remember Joe Torre's second managerial position during the 1990s better than his first gig.  Between 1996 and 1999, Torre managed the Yankees to three different World Series titles, which occured in 1996, 1998, and 1999.  Between the middle of the 1990 season, and the middle of the 1995 season, Joe Torre once got the Cardinals to finish second.  That happened in 1991 when they finished a mere 14 games behind the Pirates.

Torre did not take half a season off, from the middle of 1995 until the start of the 1996, and magically learn how to manage a baseball team.  He was not actually half bad with the Cardinals, especially considering that the team's ownership, August Busch III, was cheap.  Just only so much you can do with Bryn Smith taking up a spot in your starting rotation.  

For example, in 1993 the Cardinals were actually 16 games above .500 at the All-Star break, within five games of the eventual division winning Phillies team.  Most teams would take that sort of success as a sign to improve their roster and push for the postseason.  The 1990s Cardinals?  Not so much.  Lee Smith was broken and there were several other suspect arms in front of him in the bullpen, which was one of the major shortcomings of the 1993 team.  Rather than trading for a quality relief pitcher, the Cardinals picked up Todd Burns from the A's. 

Burns appeared in 24 games for the Cardinals and gave up 21 runs.  The most brutal stat I could find was that he struck out only 10 batters in those 24 games, but managed to give up 8 home runs.  Don't know if I have ever seen a 1:1 ratio on home runs, but Burns almost pulled it off.  Burns did not even make it to the end of the season, the team released him in September, and even went as far as trading off Lee Smith.  

Not Torre's fault.  

I am not a Yankees fan by any stretch of the imagination, but it was nice to see Torre go somewhere and do well after getting shafted by the Cardinals ownership.  I hear all the arguments about the Yankees having high payrolls and good talent, that it would not actually be hard to get those sorts of teams deep into the playoffs.  However, after watching the Cardinals the last five years, with Mike Matheny managing, or mangling, some really good teams, it's to hard to brush off the manager as completely irrelevant.   

Here are my three favorite Joe Torre cards with the Cardinals, while he was the manager.  If there were player cards in this post, there would be a Kellogg's card.  Since he won an MVP Award with the Cardinals though, I will still post the cereal card as a bonus.....

Those are sideburns.  Why won't any cereal companies put cards into boxes anymore?  Now back to the manager cards.  

I really like these Studio cards, also liked that they put some of the managers in the set.  The Topps base set was always a slam dunk for having the team managers, but the other card brands that started to pop up at this time in the early 1990s were hit and miss on these cards.  The black and white photographs on the Studio cards were always nice with the color reddish colored frames on the 1991 set.  Torre actually appeared in the Preview cards of the set.  Tony LaRussa is in the regular set, if you are into Cardinals managers and the whatnot.  

Another 1991 card, this one is from the Topps set.  Something has always seemed off on this card.  I have never quite decided whether Topps airbrushed in Torre, or the background with the other players and coaches are on some sort of Olan Mills photo studio backdrop.  Just something off about the card.  There are only two Topps solo base cards of Torre as the Cardinals manager, the other is in the 1992 set, but this is my favorite of the two.  

Last card.  

 Generally, I hate these dual managers cards.  They make the managers seem like an afterthought.  This one is actually really cool though.  Torre and Piniella are two of the more recognizable managers from the 1990s, so it's nice that they are on the same card together.  While Lou is not a Hall of Famer, both have won at least one World Series, feel like everyone always forgets that Piniella was with the Reds who won in 1990, both won Manager of the Year multiple times.  For what it's worth, Lou actually won the award three times to Torre's two times.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Cardinals From COMC Part 2

A few more random Cardinals cards from my latest COMC run.  I made my first post about this batch of cards last week, which were all filling various holes in my collection, whether they be apart of a complete set, team set, or just cool card of a favorite Cardinals player.  A few more cards in this post, which is more heavy with veteran players.

The cards in this post span a decade, from 1997 through 2007, so I am going to post them in sequential order by year.  First up.....

Three Cardinals cards out of the Pinnacle Totally Certified set.  The set ran off of colored parallels, with each color having a different print run.  This is still a really popular set, a sure fire favorite of collectors from the late 1990s.  I already have the complete run of Lankford's out of this set, along with one or two different colors from the three players shown above.  I should probably try to assemble a complete set of these cards, but for the moment I am sticking with putting together the Cardinals cards.  These are three sharp looking cards.  

Next up, a card from a set that I am trying to put together.  I have a ton of 1997 Topps and Topps Chrome cards.  The base sets are both complete and I am deep on several of the insert sets.  Working on finishing out those missing cards, I actually got some non-Cardinals cards in this lot, but Andy Benes was the only Cardinals insert that I was missing.

This Eckersley is here for the same reasons as the Andy Benes card, but it's from the 1998 Topps set.  This scan really mangled his hat for some reason.  Looks like one of those old man baseball hats with the rope looking piece going between the bill and body of the hat.  Eck is old on this card, but not that old.  Plus, nobody with hair like Eckersley would ever wear a hat like that, way too cool.  

This Cliff Politte card is a spillover from the first post.  I had several of the Cardinals from the 1998 Leaf Stars & Rookie set in that post, but somehow I missed this card.  My bad.  

This is a set that I own,  Always liked the Black Diamond sets.  I have several of the parallels from the Cardinals players, just trying to finish out the team set of parallel cards.  I will have to double check my accounting, but I believe this is the last card I was missing.  

Non-Cardinal card of a former Cardinals player, Preston Wilson was on the 2006 World Series winning team.  Not specifically collecting Preston Wilson, never minded him as a player and I like him on television, but I actually really liked the Fleer Mystique set back when it came out.  I have the base set assembled, but I am missing a few of the short printed rookie cards which are all serial numbered.  

I am actually a little disappointed by the printing around the serial numbers on this card.  They looked scratched, or something happened to them.  I looked at a few other cards that I have from this set, none of them.  I am going to overlook the scratching for the moment, maybe I will go back later and get a different copy.  

I am not a big fan of the Donruss Fan Club set.  It was a pretty cheap box back in 2002 and the cards seemed somewhat repetitive from the Donruss base set.  If you cut off the words Fan Club, this feels like the runner up design for the Donruss base set.  I do like So Taguchi however, so this was sort of a necessary evil.  2002 had a lot of serial numbered rookie cards, at the time I skipped a ton of them. Slight case of fatigue from chasing down Pujols rookie cards from the previous year combined with the fact that Taguchi spent his first year with the Cardinals in Triple A.  

So turned it around and eventually became a pretty useful player for the Cardinals in the mid 2000s.  He hit an important playoff home run off of Billy Wagner in the 2006 NLCS and also was always brutally honest about the mosquito problems at Busch Stadium.  

It's a serial numbered Ray Lankford, and it's not a difficult one to find.  This is not already in my collection?  Well, it was, but child #2 somehow get her hands on this card.  I still have it, but it's in pretty poor condition at this point.  

Two more.  

I did work on the 2005 Upper Deck Reflections set back in the day, but did not touch the 2004 product.  Both were generally the standard mid 2000s Upper Deck product, but the 2005 set had some really distinctive dual signature cards.  The 2004 set was rather boring autograph wise, mainly just a few rookies, not sure any of them are really highly sought after, or worth much.  

Back to the card.  I liked Renteria a lot in the mid 2000s, but I really slowed down on collecting his cards once he left the Cardinals for the Red Sox at the end of the 2004 season.  There are quite a few serial numbered cards from his later years in St. Louis that I just never took the time to find, they are all very affordable now.  

I really like the looks of this card.  An obvious Upper Deck card.  

Last one.  I did not touch the 2007 Topps Rookie 52 set.  Seemed repetitive.  I think I have an Edward Muijica autograph, since he was on the Cardinals, but that's about it.  Did you know that it has a Jim Edmonds card in it?  I didn't either, now I own one.