Monday, July 30, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 40 - Ernie Camacho

I actually ran across an article last month about Ernie Camacho last month on Twitter and decided he would be sort of a cool player to feature on an upcoming 1990s Cardinals post.  He only pitched 6 games for the team in 1990, but if you collected baseball cards during the 1980s, there is a good chance that you will at least remember the face.  No matter the year, he always had those same silver rimmed glasses and 1980s mustache. 

Ernie seems like a good guy.  His career was not long, he did not earn a ton of money, but he has managed to be a pretty productive person outside of baseball.  He has spent time working as a maintenance man at a school district in his hometown of Salinas, California, raises money for Alzheimer's disease, and has an educational foundation which helps run baseball camps and gives out scholarships for kids to help pay for college.  

Which brings me to Ernie Camacho the baseball player.  He was drafted by the A's in 1976 and was in Oakland by the end of the 1980 season.  He was traded around his first few seasons in the Majors going from the A's to the Pirates, the Pirates to the White Sox, was released by the White Sox and signed by the Brewers, who then traded him to the Indians in June of 1983.  If you are doing the math that's 5 teams between the end of 1980 and the middle of 1983.  

Cleveland stashed him away in Triple A for the majority of 1983, but he was given the closers job in 1984.  Camacho led the Indians with 23 saves and posted a 170 ERA+ and 3.5 WAR as a relief pitcher.  How good is that?  The 3.5 WAR are in line with a lot of Mariano Rivera's seasons and it would have been good enough to be one of Trevor Hoffman's better seasons too.  

He didn't make the All-Star Game and did not receive a single Cy Young vote that year.  Kind of a shame.  

Camacho had some arm injuries which limited in 1985, bounced back for another 20 save season in 1986, but was never the same after that season.  He pitched in Cleveland until the end of the 1987 season, joined the Astros in 1988, the Giants in 1989 and start of the 1990 season, and finally the Cardinals.  In all of the stops, he never pitched more than a few games with each of the teams.  

Clearly, that 1984 season bought him several other chances to play.  

The Cardinals signed Ernie Camacho on July 2nd, 1990.  The Cardinals were in last place at that point in the season and manager Whitey Herzog had already quit his job.  He was placed with the Triple A Louisville Redbirds for a stint before they team called him up with expanded rosters in September.  

September of 1990 was a brutal month for the Cardinals.  The team went 10-18 and they effectively had parted ways with several of the 1980s Whiteyball Era players who were on the roster, but did not leave the bench for long stretches of time.  Terry Pendleton had 6 at bats after the first week of September and Vince Coleman played in one game after the second week of September.  Camacho appeared in 6 games from mid-September through early October.  He gave up runs in four of the six appearances, but also did not figure in the decision for any of the games.  

His last Major League game pitched was the final game of the 1990 season for the Cardinals.  In fact, he closed out the game, which was a 9-2 loss to the Expos.  The Cardinals were actually winning the game 2-1 in the 7th inning when the Expos batted around on Ken Hill and Ken Dayley, scoring 7 runs.  The final Expo run came in the 8th inning on a home run off of Camacho by catcher Nelson Santovenia.  In better news, the last pitch that Camacho threw in a Major League uniform struck out Hall of Famer Tim Raines.  

Camacho also managed to squeeze a baseball card out of his 6 appearances with the Cardinals.  

This card is airbrushed, not originally a Cardinals picture.  Amazing sometimes the details that people miss while they are trying to change baseball cards.  Sure, the shoulders look really goofy, which is the first thing that tells you that the card might be airbrushed, but check out his shoes.  Those black and orange cleats in the background are pretty sloppy.  Make the Nike swoosh white and it would be passable, maybe it is hard to black shoes airbrushed into red shoes.  I will say that the astroturf and blue wall actually make the card look like the photo was taken in Busch Stadium.  Maybe that is airbrushed too, maybe it's not.   

Back of the card.  

and the stats on the back.  Not the prettiest card style wise.  I have posted a few other cards from this set in past 1990s sets.  It comes from the 1990 Topps TV set, which was an order by phone set that Topps put out.  The design is very 1990s, but the checklist is pretty solid.  It has all of the regular players you would expect to see, but it also has a good number of minor league players and players who just passed through town for a short time.  

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pink Cards Are Underrated

There are not many pink baseball cards in my collection, but I feel like anytime I run across one I am never disappointed.

Vintage pink baseball cards are nice.

Modern pink baseball cards are nice too.

There are not many pink cards out there floating around, but one recently caught my eye.  There are pink parallels in this year's Inception set.  There were in the past too, the Taveras card is from the same product, different year.  I have a few favorite players in that set this year, so I had been on the lookout for their cards on Ebay and trade groups.  With one player I specifically set out to find the pink card.  

It caught my eye the first time I saw a copy of it.  

There are many other versions of this Anthony Banda Inception card with lower serial numbers.  They are also different colors.  Some are some are gray, some are red, and some are gold.  None of them look quite as nice as the pink variation in my opinion.  Yes, this card does have a decent patch piece included below the autograph, but I actually think that the picture of Banda in the old purple and green Diamondbacks jersey is the next best thing about this card.  

Another nice thing about this card is the fact that Topps did not airbrush Anthony Banda into a Rays uniform.  He was traded this off-season to Tampa, spent part of the season with the Durham Bulls, before he was called up to the Majors, which is why his cards keep popping up on my blog.  Topps has made a Rays card of Banda, it is just really terrible....

No thank you, I will stick to my pink Diamondbacks card.  A happy addition to the collection.  

Monday, July 23, 2018

Finest? Not This Year.

I am usually a big fan of the Finest product.  If you are willing to give the title of "classic" to a modern card product, this would be a long running brand that would be worthy of that honor in the opinion of many collectors.

In recent years, I feel like the brand has done a good job of returning to its roots.  It had sort of drifted off into the wilderness at some point in the mid 2000s, but Topps did a sort of reboot with the brand in 2013 for it's 20 anniversary/birthday.  The reboot included an insert set with 2013 players on the 1993 designed cards.

Some of the others years since have also been strong.  I have not done much with the base sets, but I have still tried to find the Cardinals and Durham Bulls autographs.  Always some nice cards to add to the collection.  I think my favorite of these autographs has to be a Carlos Martinez I picked up out of the 2016 Finest set.....

Which brings me back to this year's Finest set.  I feel like we are somehow back in the wilderness again with this year's design.  The difference between the Martinez autograph and the cards below are pretty stark.  The Martinez card has a simple colored bar on the right side with a team logo.  Add in a splash of color on my copy.  Simple designs are really easy to like.

Then we have this.....

What in the world is behind the players on this card?  It looks busy and complicated.  Apart of me thinks it looks like some random piece of graffiti which could be spray painted an overpass or sound wall.  You get the point.  

I ended up with five different autographs from this year's Finest set.  I used it as a chance to pick up a pair of autographs from players who are not in my collection and two players who are a focus of mine this year.  One is here just because....  Alcantara is the first, above.  He is no longer a Cardinal, traded for Marcell Ozuna, but Topps did not airbrush him into a Marlins uniform.  Gave me sort of a mulligan to find one of his cards.  

This Shaw card was for sale with the Alcantara card.  Saved a little on shipping, neither cost me much at all.  He is not an All-Star by any means, but a solid player with the Brewers after washing out with the Red Sox.  Saw him play for Pawtucket a few times a few years back too.  Always like getting cards of players I see in Triple A.  

Last three picked up in a trade off of a Facebook group.  

I like Matt Olson and I know that I have picked a few autographs of his last year when he caught fire with the A's.  He's likely to hit 30 home runs again this year, likely to strikeout more than 150 times.  I think he's the sort of player that the "modern baseball is horrible" crowd really hates.  He hits home runs.  This is also some sort of insert card, but it cannot be that hard to find based on the trade package I gave up for this card and the two below it.  

These are the two cards that I was really interested in when I started in on the Finest cards this year.  I have become a pretty big fan of Jack Flaherty this year.  Still not an ace by any means, but he's really young and I would at least go as far as saying he's one of the top two or three pitchers on the team at the moment.  Player collecting kind of stinks nowadays, but I am interested in getting my hands on some of his autographs this year.  

Last one.  I have been working on Banda cards this year too.  He was on the Durham Bulls for awhile this year, spent a bit of time with the Rays too, but was shut down with an elbow injury a few months back.  Banda ended up having Tommy John and is out for the remainder of this year, but I am still out trying to find some more of his cards.  A few more really good ones are coming soon.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Le Grand Baseball Card

At one point I had a want list on this blog.  I was terrible at keeping it up to date, so I scrapped it.  I  still have the small list of cards, but it is now on a miniature yellow legal pad that sits on top of some of the boxes in my baseball card closet.  The list is usually almost all Durham Bulls or Cardinals related cards.

Several of the cards on my list are out there, but beyond reach in terms of what I am willing to pay.  Others are not there, rarely pop up, and are hard to nail down when they show up.  Every once in awhile, I am able to wait it out and find what I want at a price that I am willing to pay.  My most recent success on my want list was a Frank McCormick autograph, which I picked up last month.

This card took me almost a year to land.

I recently had a deep regret with my want list.  If I made a list of the top ten to fifteen greatest Durham Bulls players of all-time, I can go into my card closet right now and show you several nice cards of each of those players, along with some sort of certified autograph.  All except one of those players.

I have several nice Rusty Staub cards.  One of my most recent card of the player Expos fans nicknamed "Le Grand Orange" is out of the 1982 O Pee Chee set.

Not expensive, not flashy, not glossy, no foil, no fancy fonts or lettering, not short printed, not serial numbered, just a nice 1980s baseball card.  It's nice to have some players to collect who played before the card boom in the early 1990s.  Love that the card is half English and half French.  

So, here was my regret.  

For years I have watched different Rusty Staub autographs.  Sometimes I lost out on auctions.  Sometimes the list price on eBay Buy It Now cards, or singles on COMC were high.  I found one or two on Facebook trade groups, but could not match up with my trading partners.  Eventually I just ran out of time.  

Staub had been in poor health for awhile and passed away this past Spring.  If you are reading this, and do not know much about Staub, it's worth your time to take a few minutes to watch the video MLB put out to remember him after he died.  He played a bunch of different places in his career and seems to be a fan favorite with each of those fan bases.  

I always thought of Rusty as an old guy on the 1980s Mets teams who came off the bench to pinch hit.  As a young Cardinals fan in the 1980s, I equated him with Steve Braun.  I learned better later in life.  

Anyway, as card collectors we all know what happens after a player passes away.  The prices of their cards are hyper inflated.  Twenty dollar cards magically become fifty dollar cards within half an hour of the news hitting the internet.  Thirty dollar cards become hundred dollar cards.  It shakes out over time, but sometimes it takes awhile.  Someone still has a Staub autograph up right now listed for more than $100.  

That's just sad.  My hopes of finding a Staub autograph have been low over the past four or five months.  Have not even tried to track one down, watched one on Ebay, check to see if there are any on COMC.  Nothing.  I quit and I walked away.

Anyway, I was trying to unload a pretty nice Cubs card that I pulled out of a pack of cards a few weeks pack and found a trading partner on Facebook.  They floated out a few Cardinals cards, but I had them all, or they were Randal Grichuk and Luke Weaver.  I ended up looking through an online photo album and ran across a copy of a Staub autograph.

I asked.  The Cubs card, a Javy Baez autograph, I was trading was roughly a $20 card.  While I was not watching Rusty Staub autographs apparently one sold for a little less than $20 on Ebay.  I missed that one since I was not even watching, but it helped land one in a trade.

and here is my Rusty Staub autograph....

I was actually leaning towards this one over the Greats of the Game card.  While that card is an Expos card, it is also a sticker autograph, and the goldish framing on the edges of those cards gets a little chippy in my experience.  While I was not a huge fan of the 1980s Mets teams, this is the best autographed card of Rusty out there.

Back of the card.

The standard Upper Deck Richard McWilliam letter here.  

Overall, a great card and one that should have been crossed off my want list long ago.  Better late than never.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Semi-Famous Nephew

It’s easy to name off fathers and sons who played baseball, siblings too.  I could make a huge list of players in those two categories with no Google and no Baseball Reference.  However, for this post I am going to be working with an uncle and nephew combo, a little bit more difficult.

Probably the most famous pairs of uncles and nephews are Dwight Gooden (uncle) and Gary Sheffield (nephew), and Moises Alou is the nephew of Jesus and Matty Alou.  Dick Schofield, the 1980s Angels infielder, is the uncle of longtime Phillies and Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth.  Dick Schofield's is father, also Dick Schofield, played for the Pirates and Cardinals in the 1950s and 60s.

Also one of my favorite Cardinals players from the 1990s had an uncle who played baseball, but I am not sure that this is a notable uncle-nephew duo.  Well, the uncle.  The nephew was a really good player.

Ray Lankford's uncle was none other than Astros and Orioles backup catcher Carl Nichols.

True story.

Which brings me to a pair of new baseball card.  I do not write much about Alex Rodriguez.  I think the last time I did write about him it was during his steroid suspension and I was excited that all of the $100 ARod cards were now $20 cards.  That was a fabulous time, not that he was suspended, but that his cards plummeted in value.  Really helped out with finishing off some sets.

Welp, believe it or not, ARod has a nephew.  Pretty shocking stuff.  I even found a picture of the two of them, we were all at the same football game.  Meaning me, Alex Rodriguez, and his nephew. No word on J-Lo.  ARod's picture via Instagram....

Alex Rodriguez was standing in one end zone, meanwhile down the sideline in the other end zone....

I was watching my Wolfpack lose to Alex Rodriguez's Miami Hurricanes.  Did he even graduate from there?  I am guessing no.  

At least ARod did not wear some Miami junk to the game, his nephew is wearing the red NC State polo shirt on the right.  I kind of think that Don Mattingly is standing to left.  His nephew actually played for the baseball team at NC State the last few years.  Pretty nice player who ended up getting drafted by the Marlins last year.  

Meet Joe Dunand.  

I know the whole "He's Alex Rodriguez's nephew" has been played up in some circles, both during his time playing for the Wolfpack in Raleigh, and since he entered the Minors.  I think Dunand's a decent prospect, certainly worth watching, but I am not going to go crazy over him just because he is related to someone else who was really good at playing baseball.  Remember Dale Berra.  

Once, I got another Joe Dunand card from a Leaf Perfect Game product.

Huge jersey swatch, nice autograph, and I paid next to nothing for this card.  I actually set my budget sort of low for this card, but there used to be copies of this card with huge patch pieces floating around for less than $20.  My copy cost me slightly more than $5 shipped.  I found it hard to pay $20ish for someone in college who is not a slam dunk as a professional.  There is one of these on COMC right now for $70.  Should have bought the $20 one and sold it.  Shrug.  

Dunand had a Bowman card last year. The colored parallels sell for a decent amount of money considering that he has been playing in Double A for the last month and he is hitting .129.  Someone even recently paid $100 for one of the printing plates for his Bowman card.

No bueno and I place the blame squarely on "He's Alex Rodriguez's nephew".  It has hindered my ability to add anymore Dunand cards to my collection.  Whether he makes the Majors, or not, he was still a good player at NC State and worthy of some cards in my collection.

Luckily, Panini has stepped up with a few Dunand cards.  I love that they have a licensing agreement with the NCAA and can make cards with players in their college uniforms.  Dunand had a few cards last year in the Extra Elite Contenders set, including two autographs.  I have had an eye on the two autographs for awhile and I was finally able to land a copies of his cards.

This is a nice looking card.....

I wish that the picture showed his NC State uniform a little better, but I like how the red pops out against the grayish/silver background.  Both of his autographs use this same picture.  The other card looks a lot like a Dennis Smith card that I picked up in January.  Like the Smith autograph, this Dunand hails from the Contenders product.  Well, this is the baseball version.  

Again, same picture as the card up top, which seems a little bit lazy.  The other big difference between the two Dunand cards is the fact that the top card, out of the Elite set, is signed on-card.  The Contenders card is a sticker.  You can see the outline of the sticker on the scan.  Overall, happy to have added a pair of cards from a good player out of NC State, regardless of his uncle.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Nothing About Pitching?

There was a Cardinals card from 2017 that I still really wanted to add to my collection, but I had not been able to find it for a price that I was willing to pay.  Last year's Archives set was loaded with Cardinals players, even if some of them were not pictured with the team on their card.

I have already picked up Edgar Renteria.....

and Joe McEwing.....

and Brian Jordan.....

and Jim Edmonds.  

That's a pretty good group of modern Cardinals players.  There were some older Cardinals too, like Tito Francona and Wally Moon, but they really do not fit in with this post.  I am on modern players at the moment.  

So, the last Archives autograph that I was missing belonged to former Cardinals pitcher/outfielder Rick Ankiel.  Beyond finding the card at the right price, this was also an exchange card.  Initially, after the Archives product was first released last year, this card was inexpensive.  However, I just do not like guessing about whether Topps is actually ever going to send out the card, or I am going to get a Henry Owens card as a replacement.  The Ankiel card is on a 2001 Topps designed card, like the rest of the former Cardinals, it just seems to be missing something important.  

Front of the card....

The jersey number inscription on the autograph is a little odd looking with the giant 2 and smaller 4, but always nice when the player signs more than just their name.  The front of the card obviously shows Ankiel during the second half of his career while he was playing the outfield.

Back of the card....

No pitching stats, just Ankiel's numbers as an outfielder.  Not to take anything away from Ankiel's career, going back to the Minors and working your way back up as a position player is awesome, but I would have loved to see an Ankiel card as a pitcher.  Especially with the 2001 card design, he might have been in the Minors at the point, or maybe even on the disabled list, but he was still a pitcher.

Ankiel returned to the lower Minors to work on transitioning to the outfield in 2005.

It's really a shame that there is little left of Ankiel's time as a pitcher.  MLB has essentially erased all videos of him pitching in their repository of published clips on YouTube outside of the playoff game against the Braves where he threw five wild pitches in an inning.  He was a phenomenal pitcher.  I have often wondered how far some of the early 2000s Cardinals teams would have gone with Ankiel pitching at a similar level as he did in 1999 and 2000.

It would have been fun to watch.

While I still want that Ankiel pitcher card, I still have an appreciation for Ankiel the outfielder.  If you are a fan of the game, and appreciate a good defense, their are some great highlights of Ankiel throwing from the outfield.  It's pretty spectacular.  

Monday, July 9, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 39 - Fernando Valenzuela

Fernando Valenzuela was a really good starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers for the better part of a decade.  In 1981, he won the National League Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young Award, and helped the Dodgers win the World Series.  Fernando was a unique pitcher.  He was short and did not really exude the appearance of a top flight professional athlete, but that's what he was for a long time.

Fernando's best pitch was a screwball, which you do not see very often nowadays.  Hitters could not hit it, at least not during the 1980s.  From 1980 through 1990, Fernando won 141 games and had a 3.31 ERA, which was all worth 33.1 wins above replacement (WAR).  Roughly the same as Whitey Ford's best years.   He was great in the Postseason too.  In 8 career Postseason starts, all during the 1980s, he went 5-1 with an ERA below 2.  Fernando did make a relief appearance in the Postseason, it was actually against the Cardinals in 1996.  

Enough 1980s Fernando.  Let's get to the 1990s.  The decade started out alright for him, especially a start against the Cardinals in 1990 where he pitched a no-hitter.  

Interesting that he got the final out against Pedro Guerrero.  How many games do you think they played together on the Dodgers?  The number is high.

The rest of the decade was unkind to Fernando.  He pitched two games for the Angels in 1991, but was released after a month.  Fernando sat out the rest of the 1991 season, signed with the Tigers in the spring of 1992, but could not crack the roster.  The Tigers finished last in the American League East that season if it gives you an idea about where Fernando was at this point.  

Sorry, no Tigers or Angels cards, but his Wikipedia page has a picture of him on the Angels.  

The next few years would probably be better explained on a map with arrows going in between cities, but I am not going to take the time to do that.  The Snorting Bull is strictly a short writing window. 

So, he went to Mexico and pitched at home in 1992, came back to the US and played for the Orioles in 1993, he then sat out the first half of the 1994 season, but ended up signing with the Phillies in the middle of the season.  The 1994 Phillies were the defending National League Champions, and while expectations were pretty high, only one of their starting pitchers managed to make more than 15 starts.  Really, Fernando was there out of attrition.  

I am going to show you baseball cards with Fernando on the Cardinals, but we can pause for a second on Fernando's time on the Phillies?  You are going to want to see this card, because it is incredible.  

Fernando only won a game for the Phillies and we got a baseball card of him hitting.  One game.  My favorite Fernando cards are the pair of Cardinals that are going to appear later in the post, but this is high on the list.  Really high.  I'd show you the back, but the picture is just Fernando pitching.  

Eventually, Fernando ended up on the Padres.  

He pitched for the Padres during the 1995, 1996, and part of the 1997 season.  Fernando won a total of 23 games in San Diego.  Pretty good total considering that he won a total of 9 games in all the stops in between the Dodgers and Padres.  

You get a Padres card, not as good as the Phillies one, because someone at Upper Deck is good at putting pictures of Fernando batting on baseball cards.  

So, Fernando started out 1997 by going 2-8 in his first 13 starts of the year.  Kind of disappointing since the Padres had been to the playoffs the previous year.  In fact, the whole Padres team was pretty disappointing that year.  Meanwhile, in St. Louis the same types of things were happening.  The Cardinals had been to the playoffs the year before and they were not very good in 1997.  Especially the offense.  

Disappointing team and another disappointing team make a trade?  It was basically just a whole bunch of garbage on the Padres team being traded for a bunch of garbage on the Cardinals team.  So, the Cardinals got Fernando, Scott Livingstone, and Phil Plantier.  Phil Plantier's arm flap was in the trade too.  The Padres got Danny Jackson, Rich Batchelor, and Mark Sweeney.  I think that Sweeney might actually be the best player involved here at this point in their careers.  

Fernando went 0-4 with the Cardinals and made a total of 5 starts.  He gave up 19 runs in 22 innings and he walked 14 batters versus 10 strikeouts.  The Cardinals traded for Fernando on June 13th and they released him on July 15th.  

His last game pitched for the Cardinals was against the Reds.  Fernando did not make it out of the 3rd inning, but did manage to walk the bases loaded twice before he got pulled.  Somehow the Reds only scored three runs.  The game opened by Deion Sanders get a single to the pitcher.  There should be video of such an event.....

Alright.  Time for the cards, both 1998 Upper Deck cards.  

Clearly photoshopped, which is disliked on this blog, but I am going to roll with it.  One thing that Upper Deck used to do, back when they made baseball cards, was put out a "Final Tribute" card of notable players at the end of their careers.  It's the little logo up in the right corner of the card.  If there is a staple Fernando Cardinals card, this is it.  In fact, if you watch the Old Baseball Cards show on Yahoo with Mike Oz, he had CC Sabathia open a pack of 1998 Upper Deck cards in the last episode, and he pulled this card.  Both were surprised that he played for the Cardinals.  

Card back.  

Gives you a good idea about the first half of Fernando's career versus Fernando's second half.  Pretty stark difference.  I like that they have the trade date on the right hand side of the card.  Picture is another airbrush masterpiece.  

Last card.  

This card is a little less common than the Upper Deck base card shown above.  A little surprising since this card is from Upper Deck's Collector's Choice product.  I know Upper Deck is not around now, but if you did not collect cards in the 1990s, this was a really low price point product.  I am not sure if they were even a dollar per pack.  You could find them easily at retail outlets, or you can now buy whole boxes of these for next to nothing on Ebay.  

First, the photoshopping on this card is off.  I actually think that this picture was taken in Busch Stadium, looking at the ads in the background that were above the outfield walls.  Only I am almost sure he was pitching for the Padres at the time.   The Cardinals do not wear blue hats at home, the numbers on the back of the card are off, and the team wears red belts, not blue belts.  I could point out that the under shirt is blue, but I have actually seen a few Cardinals players over the years not wear a red undershirt, including Pujols.  The pants actually look a little on the grey side too, like they did not quite get them white enough while they were airbrushing.    

The card back is great, and very well done, especially given the hitter theme that shows up on the Upper Deck cards during the second half of his career.  

I love the bats over the shoulder.  Great way for Fernando to go out on his last baseball card as an active player.  Again, the hat and turtleneck, how 1990s is that thing, are both airbrushed and I could care less.  I am going to go back through my Dodgers cards to see if I can find more cards of him hitting.  If I find a bunch I am going to make a post out of it.  

Project Durham Bulls #37 - Alex Cobb

2011-2012, 2016 Durham Bulls 

The Rays drafted Alex Cobb in 2006 out of high school in Vero Beach, Florida.  It took him a few years to reach Triple A with the Bulls, but once he made it there he pitched great.  During his first year with the Bulls Cobb went 5-1 with a 1.87 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning.  His work in Durham was good enough to get him onto the Rays for a few starts that season.  In 2012, the majority of Cobb's time was spent in Tampa, but he also made a few starts in Durham.  From 2013 forward he stuck with the Rays and became a dependable mid rotation starter.  In 2012, 2013, and 2014 he won double digit games each of the three seasons.  His ERA was consistently below 3, but his strike outs dropped once he reached the Majors.   

He missed 2015 with arm problems, had Tommy John surgery, which is why he ended up back with the Bulls in 2016.  Cobb bounced back and had a good 2017 season before leaving the Rays for the Orioles via free agency.  His time with the Orioles has been rough so far.  

I have a pretty nice collection of Cobb autographs.  He is not someone that I have actively sought to collect, it's just kind of worked out that I have been in the right place at the right time.  Low print runs, shiny cards signed in silver pens, sparkly surfaces, I have them all.   A nice card is a nice card, right?  So, in looking for cards for these posts I am looking for cards that are from a good product with an on card signature if possible. What else is there?  I found this Alex Cobb autograph for next to nothing.  Topps Chrome is always a quality product, expect for 2010 when the cards did that crazy bending thing, and are nice autographs long run to own.  I like on the 2011 cards that they have a big whitish space for the player to sign.  Gives the cards a little cleaner look than having the player sign over their picture.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Last Time We Saw Tim......

was almost two and a half years since I last posted a new Tim Beckham baseball card.  He was one of my favorite Durham Bulls players for awhile, but then a few things happened that slowed down the flow of his cards into my collection.

Here was the last card from January of 2016.

Here are three quick reasons for the dearth of Beckham baseball cards......

1. Beckham stopped signing cards.  It has been four years since he had a certified autograph, which was in a Panini product.  The last certified autograph Beckham had in a licensed product was his 2012 Bowman Platinum autograph.  I tried to buy one of those once.  Seriously, the guy wanted $200.  

I wonder if anyone ever actually bought this card?  There is one currently listed on COMC, but its $40, which is still about twice as much as one should pay for a Tim Beckham autograph.  

2.  I actually took a vacation from talking about Beckham around Rays and Durham Bulls fans on social media.  Did I know that the Rays drafted Beckham in front of Buster Posey?  Did you know that Buster Posey has won a bunch of World Series with the Giants?  I did know all of that, but none of that makes Beckham a terrible person.  

Not sure that certain people around Tampa cannot help lump the two players together.  Absolutely brutal comments on these sorts of things.  I wonder what would have happened to Sam Bowie, guy drafted in front of Michael Jordan,. if he played during an era where there was social media.  

3. Beckham was traded to the Orioles last year and he had a great stretch for the team at the end of last year.  In 50 games in Baltimore, Beckham hit 10 home runs, 13 doubles, 26 RBIs, with an OPS of .871.  There were some Rays fans that were pretty silent.  

I tried starting a Beck-O-Meter, based on the Shawon-O-Meter......

from the Cubs games while Shawon Dunston was their shortstop.  At first the Beck-O-Meter was a success.  I expanded to include some stats outside of just batting average....

but unfortunately, Beckham has been injured most of this year.  The stats are low, but it's also a pretty small sample size at this point.  Just 30 games.  Maybe after break.  

Which brings me to the good news, which is that Tim Beckham is back signing in Topps products again this year.  There are three different sets in which he appears so far, I have managed two of his autographs.  Although, you know that in today's day and age there are about seven different colored variations of each of these cards.  

I am just happy to have two new Tim Beckham autographs.  

This is my favorite of the two new cards.  I worked on putting together the 1983 inserts from the Topps Series 1 earlier in the year, and included a few autographs as I was putting those cards together.  I am not sold on doing the same for Series 2, but I am still going to pick up another autograph or two.  This card, with the number 1 inscription, was the number one card on my list.  

The signature is a little off center, but Beckham signed the card on the lighter backgrounded side of the card.  Kind of considerate.  

The next card is a little bit nicer, in terms of brand.  I really do like the 1983 Topps style card the best.  This is out of Tier One, which seems like a little bit high end for Beckham.  In fact, the whole reason I tracked this card down was because I saw a few case breakers complaining about the fact that they pulled a "utility infielder" out of a pack that cost $125.  

That's why I do not open boxes/packs that cost that much.  I do appreciate the autograph though.  

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Five: Favorite Don Baylor Cards

My Friday Five posts are usually just a short introduction with a bunch of cards posted that make up the majority of the post.  "I won't waste your time" sorts of things.  Not this week.  

I am a pretty big fan of former Cardinals coach Don Baylor.  I really did not know much about Don Baylor outside of the fact that he was almost their manager back in the early 1990s, but ended up working briefly as the team's hitting coach.  The Cardinals job ultimately helped him land the manager's job with the expansion Colorado Rockies.  He went on to manage and coach in a few other places until he retired a few years back.    

Unfortunately, Baylor passed away last summer after battling from multiple myeloma.  He died the same day as former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, so the news of Baylor's passing almost slipped my attention.  

I actually learned of the news off of Dexter Fowler's Instagram page....  

who had coached him while he was playing for the Rockies at the beginning of his career.  

I spent that evening watching a Cardinals game.  It was a bit a snoozer, had to go back and look the game up, but they played the Royals and won handily.  The important thing was, that I also spent time that evening shuffling through some mid 1980s Topps cards.  I passed a Baylor card and stopped at it, and ended up flipping the card over.  

It was a 1985 Topps card.  I really did not remember him as a Yankee, but as soon as I saw the card it looked vaguely familiar.  I flipped the card over and found that Baylor was a lot better player than what I had remembered him to be.....

The stats on these cards do not really scan well, but in his prime he hit 20 to 30 home runs a year, drove in 80 to 90 runs, and even swiped 20 to 30 bases a year early in his career.  His best season in 1979 ended in Baylor winning the American League MVP with the Angels. 

I started reading a bit more on Baylor.  

There was a lot more to his story than just having some good numbers on the back of a baseball card.  During his 20 year career he spent time with the Orioles, Angels, and Yankees with a few stops in between with the A's, Red Sox, and Twins.  He appeared on a Postseason roster seven of the twenty years he played.  Not a baseball card stat, but you make the Postseason, you are doing something right.   Also not a baseball card stat, but Baylor also retired as the all-time leader in being hit by pitches.  Craig Biggio passed him by a few years back.  

Baylor's back story, before he was a professional baseball player, is great.  I had never heard a word of it, but it immediately caught my attention and made me even more of a fan.  

The younger Don Baylor played was directly involved with the efforts to integrate the public schools in Austin, Texas where he grew up.  While he was in elementary school Baylor had to take a city bus across town to attend school since his neighborhood school was all white.  By the time he reached middle school, Baylor was given the choice of attending a school of his parent's choosing.  They sent him to O. Henry Middle School where he became one of the first African American students, along with two other middle schoolers, to integrate the entire public school system in Austin.  

There are many different accounts of some of the problems that Baylor faced during his time attending middle and high school as one of the first African-American students in that city if you are interested in reading more.  The articles are out there.  Baylor also became the first African-American to participate on the sports teams at his high school Stephen F. Austin.  He played baseball and football there.  

Baylor was a good enough football player that he also became the first African-American to ever be offered a football scholarship to play at the University of Texas.  He was offered the opportunity to be the player who integrated the school's athletic program.  However, he ended up being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2nd Round of the 1967 draft and signed his first professional contract at the Texas State Capitol.  

I started a small Don Baylor collection.  Mainly just interesting cards that I could find on the cheap.  I am not out to find all of his cards or anything, just a few that are unique.  I feel like I finished off my collection today with a package I got in the mail, but I have a few other cards that I have found over the last year that fit my criteria of being unique items.  

Here are my favorite five Don Baylor cards.  

5. 1981 Kellogg's 

I miss cereal cards.  I have had good luck finding these cheap at the Raleigh card shows over the years in the quarter and fifty cent bins.  At least the cards from the 1980s.  Some of these crack and bend, but this card is in pretty good shape.  The yellow might be fading a little, still really happy with the overall condition.  

4. 1976 SSPC 

I see these classified as oddball cards.  They are really a pretty standard baseball card, just low budget, and completely unlicensed.  Just a really simple concept though.  White framed cards with a portrait photograph.  It works for me.  

3. 1983 Kellogg's 

You can never have enough cereal cards.  I like the design on this card better.  The white frames around the edges have a cleaner look than the yellow on the 1981 cards.  Although I feel like Don Baylor is sort of falling off the edge of the card.  Just feels a little cut off.  

2.  1975 Topps 

This is the most seventies of the seventies sets.  I like the 1971 set a lot, but it's so clean.  Two toned, bright colors.  I love these cards.  This is my favorite of Baylor's Topps base cards. 

1. Johnny's Pro Stand Up 

I do not know much about this card.  From what I can tell, this set is a local product that features only Orioles players.  I have also seen a few of these with Wes Unseld from the Bullets on them.  In some ways they remind me of the stand up cards that Upper Deck put in the UD Choice set during its final year or two.  This card has a more serious look though, not a cartoon body.  

One last card.  I always try to find autographs of players that I collect.  While I am sure that many people out there with a better collection of Don Baylor cards than my small and modest stack of cards that I have scanned and put up on my blog, it did not feel complete without this final card.....

I had several options.  I actually missed out on a few copies of an autograph he had in a Topps Archives product about five or six years ago.  I finally landed this card.  I love the Greats of the Game cards, I just wish they had matched the picture of Baylor in the Angels uniform, which is a great photograph from the early 1980s, with a time appropriate logo.  The late 90s/early 2000s Angels logo was horrible.