Thursday, August 30, 2018

What Is That?

I have been in the market for a Jordan Hicks card for awhile.  Towards the beginning of the year his cards were sort of pricy for a middle reliever.  It felt like people really wanted his card because he threw a bunch of pitches over 100, including one that was 105. 

They started to slide back a little bit as the season has progressed.  He still is throwing really hard, but he is not closing out games for the Cardinals, or anything that gets him notoriety on a stat sheet.  I have high hopes for Jordan Hicks, but at this point he is definitely a work in progress.  One day he might get the closers job, but not at the moment.  

So after passing on a few other Hicks autographs, I finally ended up with a Bowman Platinum autograph last week.  This year's design is a real departure from the past issues of this set.  There are aspects of the card that I really enjoy.....

I like the dark background.  I like the contrast between the white/gray writing on the dark background.  I like the picture of Jordan Hicks.  I like the idea that there is some bright color on the card to contrast the dark background.  So, after looking at this card for awhile I just have one question:

What is that in the background?  

A few ideas.  

Some sort of glass blowing.  

Something Dave sees at the end of the movie 2001.  

The backdrop from a Pink Floyd concert.  

One of the distracting backgrounds on PowerPoint that only elementary and middle school kids use.

I will enjoy the Hicks card, but if Topps is going to have meaningless, weird backgrounds on cards they could really learn something from some of the Metal Universe cards from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  

Are those planets behind Ken Griffey Jr.?  I am not entirely sure, but whatever random design is behind him it looks better than Jordan Hicks.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 43 - Willie McGee

Willie McGee made two appearances with the Cardinals during the 1990s.  The decade began with Willie McGee playing centerfield for the Cardinals.  He was an everyday player on a very bad team in 1990, one of the few 1980s WhiteyBall players who pulled his weight while the team was being torn apart that season.

The Cardinals ended up trading McGee at the end of August 1990 to the Oakland A's in exchange for prospects Felix Jose and Stan Royer.  At the time, McGee was near the top of the National League batting leaders, hitting .335 for the season.  Lenny Dykstra was leading the National League with a .340 average, but he hit .269 in September and finished hitting .325.  Since Willie McGee's National League stats were frozen, and he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, he ended up winning the National League crown.  

Has to be one of the more unique batting titles.  McGee's second batting title of his career.  

It's a non-Cardinals card, but this is one of my favorite all-time Willie McGee cards.  It was a 1991 Donruss with an Oakland A's picture and the caption at the bottom celebrating the National League Batting Title.  

McGee ended up staying in the Bay Area after a playoff run with the A's, signing with the Giants.  He is a Bay Area native, so it was not all that shocking that he ended up in San Francisco.  After four seasons with the Giants, McGee sat out the first half of 1995, but eventually signed on with the Red Sox as a reserve outfielder.  Before the 1996 season, the Cardinals resigned Willie McGee to be a bat off the bench and extra outfielder.  

There were not many baseball cards during his first season back in St. Louis, but some of the ones that were put out were nice.  My favorite from 1996 was probably his Circa card.  

Definitely a very modern looking card.  I always liked that these cards had a quote on the front about the player.  Some were better than others.  This LaRussa quote about McGee is sort of lukewarm, but I still like the concept. 

Besides helping to get the Cardinals to the National League Championship in 1996 during his first season back in St. Louis, Willie McGee also appeared in a television spot with Ozzie Smith portraying two old men talking about the 1982 Cardinals at a bar.  

Over the next few years, Willie ended up having a decent amount of baseball cards for a guy who was pulling down 200 to 300 at bats a season.  In spite of his reserve role, Cardinals fans still really liked Willie McGee, and card makers seemed to acknowledge the fact by putting him in more sets than the average fourth outfielder.  

1997 for whatever reasons seemed to be the one exception.  There were only a handful of McGee cards that year.  Not even a base card in the Topps set.  In fact, there was never a Topps base card of Willie after he returned to the Cardinals.  He did appear in a Stadium Club set, but the vast majority of the cards were either in Pacific or Upper Deck sets.  

The best year, card wise, during McGee's second stint with the Cardinals had to be 1998.  There were some nice looking McGee cards that season, several of which had a nice landscape view.  The best of the bunch has to be his Fleer Ultra.....

Wrigley also makes for a good backdrop on cards.  If we are not counting the 1982 World Series, McGee's most memorable game took place in Wrigley in 1984 when he hit for the cycle.  

Cubs fans refer to this game as "The Ryne Sandberg Game".  I am not going to talk about it, go look it up.  

Two other landscape style cards really quick.  

Pacific Invincible was a short lived product, but these were nice looking cards.  At least half of the Cardinals cards in the set have photos taken with the players wearing these St. Louis Stars uniforms.  They are the go-to uniform when the Cardinals do any sort of throwback with the Negro League teams that played in St. Louis.  Nice action shot of McGee hitting is icing on the cake.  

Last for 1998 is an Upper Deck F/X card.  The Upper Deck card is the same, but the picture on the F/X card has a little bit more pop and clarity.  

Last two for this post.  1999 was the last year of McGee's playing career and he managed to squeeze a few cards out of it.  My favorite from that year was his 1999 Fleer Ultra.  I have posted the Gold Version.  

Nice action shot of McGee catching a ball on the warning track.  I like the old school flip up shades that he is wearing.  You do not see any players wearing them anymore.  

Last one for this post.   

I have put other cards from this 1999 McDonad's set before.  It had the big names on the roster, but it also had some roster guys who did not get cards other places.  There was not an Upper Deck cards of Willie McGee in 1999, but he did pop up here.  I always sort of considered this card to be his last from his playing career.  

Willie had a good send off during his last game in 1999.....

Since his retirement, McGee has dabbled in coaching, appearing from time to time as a guest coach during Spring Training with the Cardinals.  This year he is working full time with the Cardinals on outfield defense and base running.  

Willie discussing why Marcell Ozuna should wear shoes during Spring Training.  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Nuke LaLoosh Rides The Bus

This year was the 30th Anniversary of the movie Bull Durham.  The original release date for the movie was June 15th, 1988.  The Durham Bulls did a few things to celebrate the movie.  The Bulls showed the movie at the Durham Athletic Park, they now play in a modern park, one evening the weekend before the anniversary of it's release.  I had long standing plans with the little ones, so I could not attend.  However, I did manage to squeeze a viewing of the movie in before I went into work on the anniversary.......

I pulled off the whole 4 A.M. thing too.  

That start time hurt a little bit by the middle of the afternoon.  

Beyond the movie showing the Bulls also gave away a Nuke LaLoosh and Crash Davis Bobblehead this year as a promotional item to ticket plan holders.  The bobble featured the two main characters from the movie on the Durham Bulls bus from the movie.  

This one.  

There are three main scenes that take place on the bus during the movie.  

The "21 greatest days of my life" scene.  

The nightmare scene where Nuke is pitching in garters and a jock strap.  

and my favorite, the cliches scene.  

Pretty important setting in the film, so it's nice to see the bus make an appearance on this dual bobblehead.  This is the front....

and the back.  

Both the bus and the head bobble.  The actual front of the bus.  

A little closer view.  

It's hard to read with the black print, but the front of the bus says "Greatest Show On Dirt".  Good detail from the bus in the movie.   

Final picture.  

Which is the back of the bus.  

Overall, this is one of my favorite Durham Bulls promotional items that I own.  I love the fact that both the heads and the bus bobble, as well as the fact that the team celebrated the Bull Durham movie with a giveaway item.  One more Bulls promotional item at some point in the next few weeks.  

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #39 Brandon Backe

2003 Durham Bulls 

Backe was drafted by the Devil Rays out of Galveston College in the 18th round of the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft as an infielder.  His career in the Minor Leagues was pretty interesting.  Between 1998 and 2000 Backe was used as a utility infielder/outfielder in the lower Minors by the Devil Rays.  He never hit much and struck out often.  His best season was in 1999, which was split between two A Ball teams.  He hit .220/.325/.351 for a .676 OPS.  I know, I know, that does not sound very good.  It's not.  Backe did hit 10 home runs that season and also had 17 doubles.  That's okay, right?

In 2001, Backe moved on to pitching and ascended the Devil Rays Minor League system quickly.  He ended up in Tampa by the end of the 2002 season appearing in 9 games.  His 2003 season was split between the Majors and Triple A with the Bulls.  In all, Backe pitched 16 games in Durham with a 4.64 ERA.  His Triple A numbers look rather pedestrian.  During the 2003 off season, he was traded to the Astros in exchange for Geoff Blum.

He had a good run for a few years with the Astros, including their 2004 and 2005 playoff teams, which reached the National League Championship Series and World Series.  Houston did not get a World Series winner out of those teams, but it was not Backe's fault......

Upper Deck also had some nice autographed cards in there sets.  Not sure that the 2007 batch was their best effort.  First, these were sticker autographs, which many of the other 2000s autographs were too.  However, I think that the sticker is really poorly blended into the card.  It's a sticker autograph and it's obvious, pretty hard to do with a clear sticker.   Not even sure it's on the card straight.  Second, the "Star Signings" emblem is almost as big as the picture of Backe.  Seems like you'd want the primary focus of the card on the player, maybe the autograph.  So why did I get this card? 

All of Backe's autographs span a a five year period from 2002 through 2007.  Most of the early autographed cards are from Playoff products.  Those cards are also all sticker autographs, but they have those giant silver stickers on the front.  Clearly a step down from this Upper Deck.  Backe's later autographs are from Upper Deck products, one of them is a Fleer which was owned by UD at that point, and all of them are nicer than his older signatures.  However, on sites like COMC, they are also not as dirt cheap as I would like them to be.  For example, his 2007 Fleer autograph is almost $5 on there.  Can't pay that much for a guy who had two good seasons.  In the end, I am collecting Durham Bulls autographs, but for some players I am going for a blend of affordability and design.  This was more about affordability. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

One Fine Topps Series Two Card

I have done nothing towards collecting the second series of this year's Topps set.  No packs, no single cards, absolutely nothing.  I did put together the first series and I also put together the 1983 Topps insert set.  The 83s are also in Series 2, but I do not think I am going to do anything with them at the moment.  Still enjoying the first set......

I finally found a Topps Series 2 card that caught my interest last week doing my usual scan of saved searches that I have on Ebay.  The card was initially a little more than what I would have wanted to pay, but luckily the seller had a "Best Offer" attached to the listing, and was actually willing to move the price closer to my comfort zone.  

The results......

I ended up with an acetate parallel of one of my favorite former Durham Bulls, and current Ray, pitcher Blake Snell.  I have tracked down several of these over the years since they first came out in 2014.  Mostly Cardinals and Rays.  

I like the front of this card, the serial number on the right side is a little hard to read, but the picture is nice.  These are still numbered out of ten.  The acetate cards have a different looking finish, not sure that it really comes out as well on this card.  Maybe it's the cards from this year, or maybe it's that this Snell card has a dark background.  

Flip the card over because......

this is one of the best parts of the acetate cards.  Again, I think the dark background of the card gets in the way of this card a bit.  The player is always black and white on these cards, and with a brighter background, that features really gives the back a little bit of pop.  Contrast is nice. 

Just a quick comparison to my favorite acetate card of all-time.....

Much brighter look, higher contrast.  

Still love the Snell card.  It's a tough find of one of my favorite players.  Topps cannot go around picking out photos based on how they will look when they make certain parallels of their base cards.  Snell is young, plenty of career left in front of him.  I am sure I will end up with another one of these at some point.  

In the meantime, this card is the finest Topps Series Two card in my collection.  Not even close.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hall Of Fame Weekend Part Two: Ray Lankford

The Cardinals added three new members to their Hall of Fame yesterday afternoon when they inducted outfielders Ray Lankford and Vince Coleman, along with 1940s pitcher Harry Brecheen.  The team had a nice ceremony at the Ballpark Village, it's the building across the street in left field with the rooftop seating, which houses the team's Hall of Fame.  All of the living members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame were invited back......

there was also a little ceremony on the field before the game last night against the Brewers.  

On to the baseball cards.  

The first half of my post featured Vince Coleman cards.  He is a little bit older than Ray Lankford and played for the Cardinals before the real explosion of brands and sets that started in the early parts of the 1990s.  It was not hard to come up with a few Vince Coleman cards with the Cardinals simply because there are some limitations on how many there are floating around out there.  Lankford is a different story though.  

While Ray Lankford was never a real star player with the average baseball card collector, he was the best player on the Cardinals for the majority of the 1990s, which means he showed up frequently.  In some of the high end products that started popping up as the decade went along, often with a limited checklist of 100 to 200 cards, Lankford was often one of the few Cardinals in the set.  

If you have followed along with this blog from the beginning, you probably have seen enough Lankford's with serial numbers or were somehow scarce.  There are plenty of other Lankford cards floating around, so I thought I could do a post with Ray Lankford base cards.  

I went through and pulled a favorite base case card from each year that he played for the Cardinals.  No Padres cards.  All of these cards are likely in some sort of nickel, dime, or quarter box at your local card shop.  Maybe if you live in St. Louis some of these are fifty cents.  


1990 Upper Deck- Always been my go to Lankford rookie card.  It's not obvious from the front of the card that it was likely a Spring Training photo, but if you flip the card over he is wearing 57.  The Cardinals turned over a lot of their roster that year, but Lankford was not the prospect of note in that wave.  No cool prospect stamps on these cards, that sort of thing was reserved for Todd Zeile.  

Nice little blurb on the back of the card about the number of extra base hits he had while he was in the Minor Leagues.  Love the Double A statistics on the back of the card.  Those are pretty impressive.  

1991 Topps- This was the year that I really became a fan of Ray Lankford.  It was his first full season in the Majors, not necessarily his best year in retrospect, but you could see there was a lot of potential.  Lankford stole 44 bases, led the National League in triples, and had a few pretty notable moments during the season.  

This is a classic around St. Louis....

Apologies Phillies fans.  I know that's a tough play to watch. 

Lankford also pulled off a cycle during a September game against the Mets.  I went to this game and is probably the moment that hooked me on following Ray Lankford's career.  

I still have my ticket stub and program from this card.  I have thought about getting them framed to hang up in my baseball card room.  It has not happened yet, but someday soon.  

1992 Topps Gold- I know this is not technically a base card, but we are talking about a card that was in packs of 1992 Topps.  They are not hard to find and probably cost fifty cents on the high end of things.  I love the Topps All-Star Rookie cards.  Seems a little weird that he got one of these cards after he had been in the Majors for almost 200 games.  

1993 Kansas City Life/St. Louis Police Team Set- The Cardinals had some really nice team sets during the late 1980s and early 1990s.  I know there are a lot of collectors who like some of the borderless Cardinals team sets, but I still dig the blue border.  These were giveaways at baseball card night, not sure of the number that were available.  Seems like every card shop in St. Louis has a box of these in the store with some sort of sign pointing out that they are really really cheap.

1994 Upper Deck- Not sure where this picture was taken, maybe Mile High?  I really like the action shot of Lankford playing defense.  The vast majority of his cards seem to be batting, nice to see something different.  The Cardinals played the Reds on Opening Night in 1994.  Lankford was the first batter of the season.....

Pretty neat accomplishment.  

1995 Topps- Sunglasses, eye black, earrings, homemade arm sleeve.  I like the MLB Anniversary patch too.  

1996 Bazooka- I like baseball card that were taken in Busch Stadium II.  Surprised that the astroturf does not have heat emanating from it in waves.  1996 was a good year for Ray Lankford.  He made his first appearance in the playoffs after helping the team win the National League Central.  Lankford had a shoulder injury though, which limited his playing time in the Postseason.  

1997 Denny's Hologram- For whatever reason, I could think of several, Ray Lankford was only an All-Star once during his career.  All-Star voting is stupid.  He was also in the home run derby that year.  The Cardinals were horrible that season though, so I am not sure many noticed Lankford's great season.  Marquis Grissom made two All-Star Games.  Two.  Still, his stat sheet seems to indict that he set several career highs during the season.  Dante Bichette, Lance Johnson...managers picking players are ridiculous too.  

As for the card, I am not a fan of Denny's restaurants, but they gave out some nice baseball cards some years.  The 1997 set reminded me a lot of some of the old Hostess sets, or SportsFlix.  No consumption of Denny's took place in acquiring this baseball card.  

1998 Pinnacle- Not many cards out there celebrating Ray Lankford's appearance in the 1997 All-Star Game.  Almost certain that this is the only card that commemorates his participation in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby.  I am not saying that Ray came in last in the home run derby, but it was not a strong showing.  

Still, 1998 was one of the best seasons of his career.  He spent the whole season batting behind Mark McGwire while he was breaking the Major League home run record doing things like this.....  

1999 Stadium Club- The Cardinals do not change up their jerseys, rightfully so, and they do not wear a ton of different throwback jerseys either.  For a few years in the late 1990s though, the played a few times in Negro League uniforms.  I believe that they always used the St. Louis Stars uniforms.  Pretty sharp looking threads.  

2000 Fleer Ultra- I do not like the Cubs.  I do like pictures of players playing against the Cubs, especially if it involves having the ivy walls in the background.  This card is so green.  

2001 Topps Heritage- Last one for this post.  This was the beginning of a great baseball card product that is on the must have list every year now.  There were some really good looking Cardinals cards in this set, Lankford is no exception.  I like the orangish background on the card contrasted with the full color photo.  2001 was the end of the line for Lankford and Cardinals baseball cards in my collection.  He was traded to the Padres for Woody Williams during the 2001 season.  Lankford returned in 2004, but only had a card in the MLB Showdown set.  You know the card game.  Are those really even baseball cards?  I lean towards no.  

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hall Of Fame Weekend Part One: Vince Coleman

The Baseball Hall of Fame had their induction ceremony a few weeks back in Cooperstown.  There were a bunch players going into the Hall this year.  I really enjoyed watching some of those players over the years.  Chipper Jones was always on the wrong team, Cardinals fan here, but I definitely can appreciate his the impact he had on those 1990s and 2000s Braves teams.  Same can be said for Guerrero, Thome, and Trammell.

Although, I never Trammell play in person.  Still my in-laws are all Tigers fans, I have heard plenty of stories.  Good numbers too.

I disagreed with the two other players to various degrees, Hoffman and Morris.  Hoffman I can live with to some degree, not a fan of some of the closers.  Morris really irks me, long story, could be its own post.

Which brings me to this weekend.  This is Hall of Fame weekend for the Cardinals.  The team is inducting three new members in the their Hall.  Two of the players, Ray Lankford and Vince Coleman were core players on teams that I watched growing up.  The third player is Harry Brecheen who was a starting pitcher for the Cardinals in the 1940s and helped the team win two World Series titles.

For this post, I am just going to stick to Vince Coleman.

I moved around a bit as a kid, but at some point during the summer of 1984 I moved to St. Louis.  Not a great summer for the Cardinals.  The next year however was the first time that I really liked a baseball team, not just some baseball player because I had their baseball card, or I saw them on a random Saturday Game of the Week.  

There was something pretty incredible about the 1985 Cardinals and it all started with their leadoff hitter Vince Coleman.  He stole a ton of bases, a lot more than any other player in baseball, and that was still an era where players still tried to run.  Teams actually used small ball to score runs.  Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson, Davey Lopes, Juan Samuel, Wille McGee, etc. 

The list could go on.  In my eyes, as a seven year old living in St. Louis, Vince Coleman was the greatest base stealer in the game.  Even thirty some years later, what is not to love about plays like this......

which broke Juan Samuel's rookie stolen base record, which had just been set the season before.  Coleman's only home run of the 1985 season?  You can almost guess what happens here..... (the video is the whole half of the inning, Coleman's home run is right away) 


Naturally as a baseball card collector I had to find a Vince Coleman rookie card.  I usually got baseball cards from Dierberg's when my parents went grocery shopping, or from the Ben Franklin in Webster Groves during the summer.  More than anything else during the summer of 1986, I wanted a copy of his Topps rookie card.  

There were plenty of popular cards during the mid 1980s, in my world the popular card was that Vince Coleman rookie card.  In fact, if I built my own list of personal iconic cards, his 1986 Topps would be on there and it's a no doubter.  

Still love this card even today.  

Vince eventually left the Cardinals for the Mets, which moved Vince Coleman's baseball cards from the "loved" category into the traitor category.  Jack Clark was banished there too in 1988.  Basically, Clark and Coleman were sorted away from Willie McGee and Terry Pendleton in my Cardinals cards, and forced into an area where the Mike Heath and Kurt Kepshire cards were stored.  

I was aware of Coleman's career after he left St. Louis, just could not ever really get behind him again.  Even when he was on the Mariners, a team I kind of enjoyed watching in the 1990s, it was still hard.  I really rediscovered Vince Coleman in the early 2000s.  He had an autograph in the 2003 Archives set, with a 1986 style design.  A card shop owner in South St. Louis County sold the card to me on the cheap......

I had to endure a lecture on him throwing firecrackers at people outside of Dodger stadium, but it was worth it to own this card.  Brought back some good memories of Vince.  Since then, he has popped up in a few other different card products along the way, and also appeared here and there in the news as a base running coach for several different teams.  

A few of my favorite Coleman cards from his post-retirement days, let's start with a pair of Panini cards from 2013.  

I cannot stand Panini cards, until they make something really nice, or they make some cards with people in their college baseball uniforms.  Oh, the USA Baseball cards too, those are nice.  This card with Ozzie Guillen, along with the card below with McGee, have to be my two favorites.  The card with Guillen celebrates the two 1985 Rookie of the Year winners, just in case you were scratching your head as to why these two players are on a basebll card together......

Then there is this card, which really needs no explanation.  Between these two cards out of the America's Pastime product, this McGee/Coleman dual autograph is an absolutely incredible baseball card.  I think of this as a must have for 1980s Cardinal collectors.  

Last card.  Topps put Vince Coleman in Tier One two years ago during 2016.  That marble background makes this card look really fancy.  It's on decent card stock, but this is probably one of those cards that you would be disappointed to pull, if you actually spent money to open some packs of cards from this set. 

It is nice to see a childhood favorite get a place in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.  I miss all of those running Redbirds from the Whiteyball era teams.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Under The Radar

Blake Snell has to be the most under appreciated player in the game. 

I have been on a roll lately with Anthony Banda cards, but I took a little break to seek out a few Blake Snells.  It's not like it really costs much to collect either player, but I am roughly paying the same price for each of their cards.  Banda is a hard throwing pitching prospect who is out for the season after Tommy John.  Snell is having the best year of his career and is easily one of the better starting pitchers in the American League. 

Top 5, not even joking, completely serious.

Former Rays pitcher Chris Archer, that hurt to type, went on a campaign of sorts after the All-Star team rosters were announced in early July.  He had a video and an Instagram post, possibly a few interviews too.  They all gave the same message......

See my point above, top 5 pitcher in the league and the numbers support it, and the players around the league are completely missing out too.  Snell is completely under the radar.  

Snell has been on the disabled list since the All-Star break, but is coming off for a start tomorrow afternoon.  You do not even have to watch the whole game, just a few minutes.  You will not be disappointed.  

Two cards.  

I love the looks of the Inception set.  Not sure why Topps made this set chalk full of sticker autographs.  The original set had a design that was in the same neighborhood as this card, but no stickers.  They were nice.  Considering these cards are less than $10 shipped, I am willing to live with whatever minor flaws are present here.  

Last one for tonight.  How much is a box of Topps Museum Collection?  This came out of a $200 box of cards, but it costs me slightly less than $10.  There is so much to like about this card.  Decent two colored jersey swatch.  It's autographed.  I did not pay $200 to pull it out of a box of cards.  I think the last one might be the best one.