Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Project Durham Bulls #48 - Andy Kosco

1960 Durham Bulls 

Andy Kosco is a bit of a local legend in Youngstown, Ohio.  He excelled at football, basketball, and baseball in high school.  By his senior year he had more than 44 football scholarship offers, many from large conference powerhouses such as Michigan State and Ohio State, along with more than 20 basketball scholarship offers, and a deep interest from several baseball teams.  Ultimately, the Detroit Tigers signed Kosco for more than $62,000 in bonus money, which was an enormous amount at that time. 

Kosco appeared for the Durham Bulls in 1960, his second year in professional baseball.  He hit 22 home runs, drove in 75 runs, and won the Rookie of the Year Award in the Carolina League that season.  For the next several years, Kosco lingered in the Tigers farm system, but was ultimately released in 1964 when the Tigers thought his talents had maxed out in the Minors.  He signed with the Twins and made his Major League debut in 1965.  Eventually, he ended up on the Twins World Series roster that fall.  He never got an at bat in the Series though, and the Twins lost the World Series to the Dodgers.

After three partial seasons in Minnesota Kosco began to bounce around the league.  He was sold to the A's.  The A's left him unprotected on their 40 man roster at the end of the 1967 season where he was selected by the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft.  The Yankees traded him to the Dodgers.  The Dodgers traded him to the Brewers.  The Brewers traded him to the Angels.  The Angels traded him to the Red Sox.  The Red Sox traded him to the Reds.  10 years, 7 teams.

In honor of the release of the 2019 Topps Heritage set, I decided to pick a Durham Bulls player who was featured in the 1970 Topps set.  The highly anticipated Topps product is using the design from the 1970 flagship set.  Topps had some pretty bold designs during the 1970s, this was obviously not one of them.  The grey borders were pretty drab, but for me this was one of the first "vintage" sets that I owned a card from, which was a Red Schoendienst manager card.

Kosco's frequent trades made him a frequent subject of airbrushing.  His rookie card in 1966 was airbrushed, along with his 1969 Topps, 1971, and 1972.  Almost half of his cards.  I was actually able to get a pair of Kosco cards for next to nothing, also landing his 1967 Topps card.  Obviously the connection to the this week's Topps Heritage release made me go with this Dodgers card. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 67 - Cliff Politte

Politte's Cardinals career only lasted eight games, but he is someone who still comes up from time to time amongst the team's fans.  Cliff Politte was a local player who attended Vianney High School in suburban St. Louis, and later at Jefferson College, which is just south of St. Louis County.  Eventually he ended up being selected by the Cardinals in the 54th round of the 1995 MLB Draft.

He pitched in the Cardinals minor league in 1996 and 1997 appearing for two different A Ball teams, and the Double A Arkansas Travelers.  The Cardinals ended up starting Politte out in St. Louis to begin the 1998 season.  He won his first start at the Major League level on the second game of the season against the Dodgers.  After a few starts though, Major League hitters caught up to Politte and he was sent back down to the Minors.

A few cards from Politte's time in the Minors.

I usually hold out the best card(s) for the end of the post.  However, with Politte his best card was one of his firsts.  He signed in the 1997 Bowman set, also appeared in the base set.  Obviously this is the better card.  This is not the most common autographed card in the world, not always the cheapest either for a player who had a short career.  I know that there are Bowman autographs that are tougher than others, I would have to imagine that this card is one of those that is short printed.  

Second best card from his time in the Minors.......

has to be his 1998 Bowman, or Bowman Chrome.  The International variation is a must since the card shows Politte as a Cardinal, but also shows his hometown on the map in the background of the card.  Always a little nice when the hometown and the player's team line up.  Bowman also made these cards in 1997, but they had a national flag in the background instead of the map.  Still a nice looking card, I give it a mention, but not a scan.

On to the Major League cards.

Politte has one of those prospect cards in the 1998 Topps set.  He appears with Braden Looper, who was also a short lived Cardinals prospect.  The Cardinals traded him to the Marlins for Edgar Renteria.  Looper returned back to the Cardinals later in his career.  

So, after returning to the Minors for the second half of the 1998 season, Politte struggled a bit.  At the end of the season, he traded to the Phillies.  The first paragraph from this UPI wire story is a gem....

Obviously Politte ended up being the prospect the Cardinals sent to the Phillies.  Garrett Stephenson, who had squabbled with Curt Schilling in Philadelphia was the "marginal major-league prospect" that was sent to the Cardinals.  

Politte still popped up in a few baseball card sets in 1999.  Not many, but he did get one final appearance as a Cardinal in the Upper Deck Black Diamond set.  

Politte is also in the Metal Universe set wearing a Cardinals uniform, but the markings and logos on the card are of the Phillies.  

As far as the rest of Politte's career, he played a few seasons with the Phillies before heading over to the Blue Jays.  They converted him over to a relief pitcher, which gave his baseball career a little bit of life.  Eventually he ended up on the White Sox for a few seasons, including 2005.  

Politte appeared in 4 games during the White Sox run to the World Series title, including three against the Astros in the World Series.  His 2006 was rough and led to Politte being released mid way through the season.  In 2007, he tried to come back with the Indians.  In 2008, he tried a comeback with the Cardinals.  Politte ended up pitching a handful of games in Memphis, but never made it back to St. Louis.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Cards, And A Bull, For Some Cubs

A quick trade post.  I am a little behind with a few stacks of cards on my desk, this is one group of cards that got lost in the shuffle for a week or two.  I picked these up from Shane, who can be followed on Twitter, or at his blog Off The Wall.  Good baseball card follow.

We worked out the trade around a group of oddball Cubs cards which had been sitting in card closet for a few years.  They were given to me by a college friend who was dumping off different parts of his collection.  I was sent a Facebook Message one day about a box of baseball cards, a few days later there was a box on my front porch loaded down with all sorts of 1980s Cubs oddballs.

As a Cardinals fan, it was really hard to fit them in with any part of my collection.  There were not any Durham Bulls players in those sets either.  Eventually, the Cubs cards just ended up in a random box, but luckily they have found a good home.

Which brings me to what came back in return for the Cubs cards.  Obviously, some cards that better match my collection.

Let's start off with a pair of Ozzie oddballs.

I was actually surprised to find that I did not have either of these cards.  I don't have any Wonder Stars cards in my collection, but I do have a bunch of the Jimmy Deans.  These were the prototypical oddball cards from the 1990s.  Love them both.

One other modern Cardinals card from the package.....

This is from the 2013 Topps Archives set from the 4-in-1 insert.  I like all the 1980s and 1990s stolen base guys on one card.  I was big into the steals, very nice.  

A few older cards.  

Next up is Reggie Smith from the 1975 SSPC set.  I always think of Reggie Smith as a Red Sox or Dodger, but he was with the Cardinals for a few years in the middle of his career.  Might be one of the better Cardinals players who really lacks a presence in my collection.  Not sure why, but just have never gone there.  I am a big fan of the SSPC cards too.  Simple designs are sometimes the best designs.  

Which brings me to my three favorite Cardinals cards in the package.  Love those cereal cards.  

First up is a 1962 Post Cereal Curt Simmons card.  He the majority of his career as a Phillie, but had some good years with the Cardinals in the early parts of the 1960s, including the 1964 season, which ended with the a World Series over the Yankees.  These Post cards are fun.  

Next up.  

I have done a bunch with these Kellogg's cards over the past six months, but mostly with the 1980s sets.  Nothing really from the 1970s.  This McGlothen is from the 1975 set.  Beautiful card.  I have barely touched these 1970s Kellogg's, I would really like to add more of these at some point.  This is a great start.  

I like the back of the McGlothen card.  The sketch in the top left hand corner, the old Cardinals logo in the top right corner, all the copyrights across the bottom of the card.  Definitely an interesting card back.  It even has his hobbies up at the top, feels like the 1990s Studio cards might have copied off of these.    

The last Cardinals card, which is tremendous.  Another Kellogg's card.  

This is from the 1970 set.  One of the best oddball card sets of all-time, such a great looking product.  The other Kellogg's sets have all sorts of colored borders and designs, but the 1970 set has this simple white border.  I think it makes the pictures really pop.  

The back is really pretty standard with the stats and player vitals at the top of the card.  These last two cards really make me want to go out and find some more of the 1970s Kellogg's cards.  They are a project for another day, but still going to get added to my baseball card to do list.  Even if it does not happen for a year or two.  

Last card in the package, and the only Durham Bulls related item.  

Jim Morris was a popular player in the early 2000s.  The movie "The Rookie" starring Dennis Quaid was based on his journey from high school science teacher and baseball coach, to player for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  He was actually a Minor Leaguer for the Brewers and White Sox back in the 1980s, played a few seasons, but blew out his arm.  He made a bet with the players on his high school team that if they won their district championship he would try out for a Major League team.  There is more story in there, but he made his way through the Rays system, which included a stop in Durham, before he reached the Majors.  

It's a decent movie.  Not Bull Durham though.  

Overall, a really great trade package from Shane.  Some great cards in here that will have a good place in my collection.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Project Durham Bulls #47 - Ed Figueroa

1968 Raleigh-Durham Mets 

Figueroa joined the Mets organization in 1966.  He spent his first few seasons bouncing around between the Mets Rookie League and A Ball teams.  In 1968, he joined the Mets Carolina League team, the Raleigh-Durham Mets, formerly the Durham Bulls, for seven games.  Figueroa's ERA was over 6, he hurt his arm, and he was then drafted into the Marines for the Vietnam War.  He spent 1969 in Vietnam before returning to baseball in 1970, signing with the Giants as a free agent.  Figueroa would eventually find his way onto the Angels, who then traded him with Mickey Rivers to the Yankees for Bobby Bonds.  

Figueroa had four really good year during his eight year career starting in 1975 with the Angels.  He won 16, 19, and 20 games for the Yankees from 1976 through 1978.  While he did not pitch well in the postseason, Figueroa was a key part of the Yankees World Series teams in both 1977 and 1978.  He only won 10 games over the last three years of his career, but retired as the only Puerto Rican born pitcher to have ever won 20 games in a single season.  

Upper Deck had some really good product out in the mid 2000s with some older signers.  There were some that were centered around the Yankees, which is actually where I thought I would get an autograph of Ed Figueroa if there was one available.  However, I like these Timeless Teams autographs too, which came out in 2005.  The set is based around World Series teams, and while there are some big names from big teams in the product, there is also a good blend of players whose names are not household names.  In many ways, this set reminds me a lot of some of the Topps Archives sets in terms of the autograph checklist with just a little bit more focus.   

Monday, February 18, 2019

Y'all Crazy

Last summer the Cardinals drafted Nolan Gorman in the first round out of some high school in Arizona.  He had a good summer in Johnson City with the Cardinals Rookie Ball team, also spent a few weeks with the Peoria Chiefs in A Ball.  Good year, seriously. 

The first Nolan Gorman cards in a Cardinals uniform, he was in a few USA Baseball sets, came out late in the fall in Bowman Draft.  I really like Nolan Gorman, I hope he becomes a good player, but y'all are crazy. 

Do I want a Nolan Gorman Bowman Draft?  Yes. 

Let's see what people have spent on them.

$675?  The guy is in A Ball.  '

$395.  Speechless.  

$600 Benjamins.  What the hell? 

Listen.  The lawn chairs on my patio are not comfortable enough for me to spend $600 on a baseball card, but if I were going to risk the aftermath of buying one card worth that much money I would go with something from a more proven player. 

Look at what $500 on a Stan Musial card buys you.....

That's quality.  

Still, I did not give up my dream of owning a Nolan Gorman autograph in a Cardinals uniform.  I need to break out the USA Baseball one for a post one of these nights.  In the meantime, this card cost me an Andrew Jackson.....

and I am not sleeping on a lawn chair on my patio tonight.  This is from the Bowman Best set, so I am not sure what makes this card twenty-some dollars and the cards above $500.  I love collecting baseball cards, but somedays I do not understand people. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 66- Bryn Smith

Bryn Smith is pretty emblematic of the Cardinals ventures into the world of free agency during the 1990s.  The long time Montreal Expos pitcher signed with the Cardinals in late November of 1989, towards the beginning of the free agent signing period.  Salaries were different then, but 3 years and 6 million dollars seems like it was a pretty fair contract at that time for a mid-rotation starter. 

O-Pee-Chee was like clockwork with the "Now With....." 

I know that 1989 was long before the world of sabermetrics and analytics and the number crunchers that are around the game today, but there was a lot to like about signing Bryn Smith.  While he only won 12 and 10 games in 1989 and 1988, Smith was actually coming off his two best seasons as a starting pitcher.  There was not WAR and ERA+ back then, but Smith was at 5.1 WAR in 1989 and 125 for ERA+.  Those two numbers were just about equal to Greg Maddux's numbers that season.   

The point is, the Cardinals signed a good pitcher.  Further, playing in a pitchers park like Busch Stadium should have helped his cause, along with having a left side of the infield with Ozzie Smith and Terry Pendleton.

Smith likely was out in Montreal after ripping the city in a Sports Illustrated article that ran in 1989.....

"There are two things that really get to the players. They don't serve ketchup with french fries. They serve gravy. Then when you order a Coke, they don't put ice in it. They don't know how to make iced tea. Ice is hard to come by, and if you ask for it, they tell you in French that you're stupid because you get more Coke without the ice."

so the Cardinals made a good landing spot. 

While on paper it seemed like a great idea, just like so many other 1990s Cardinals free agent signings, Smith did not work out very well for the Cardinals. 

On to a few baseball more baseball cards.  The O-Pee-Chee card was obviously one of the first Bryn Smith cards as a Cardinal, sans uniform.  He also had a Topps Traded card.  Smith did have a few regular issue cards that did not include a giant "Now With Cardinals" stamp across the picture. 

The two best in my opinion were....

his Bowman, which came out of the "Rainbow" set.  I bought a bunch of packs of these back in 1990, did not really care for them very much at that time.  They have really grown on me over the years.  There are a lot of good update type cards in this set with these posed photos from Spring Training.  Kind of a good way to give a veteran player their first card with a new team without having collectors wait all the way until the end of the year. 

He was also in the regular edition of Leaf.  Although, this picture looks like someone snuck up to him to take the photo.  Still, the Leaf set is one of the better products that came out in 1990, so it's nice that they snuck Smith into the Cardinals cards.  

The 1990 Cardinals were terrible,.  Smith had a 9-8 win/loss record, he had an ERA north of 4, and missed a chunk of time at from the end of July to the beginning of September.  He only ended up pitching 141 innings on a team that could have used some quality innings.  No matter the metric, Smith was a below average player during his first season with the Cardinals.  

He had a few traded cards released towards the end of the season.  I like the Score Traded card.  It's bright orange and has a decent action shot of Bryn Smith.  

His 1991 was a little bit better on the field, but still not great.  Between 1991 and 1992, Smith had a decent slate of cards.  Most interestingly was Topps using nearly identical photos, one on the road and one at home, on his 1991 and 1992 cards.  

His 1991.....

which was taken on the road.  Leaning towards Shea Stadium.  

His 1992........

Astroturf.  Blue walls.  Early 1990s Busch Stadium.  

Two more cards.  

A little front and back of a Cardinals team issued card.  I have put up a ton of these on recent posts, was thinking about just doing major releases for this week's 1990s Cardinals post, but I like the stove cartoon on the back of his 1992 Cardinals team issue.  

Last Cardinals card.  Well, sort of Cardinals card.  

Smith left the Cardinals after the 1992 season and signed with the expansion Rockies.  His last card, as far as I can tell, with a picture of him in a Cardinals uniform is his 1993 Fleer.  During his final season with the Cardinals, Smith only appeared in 13 games, with just one start.  He missed almost the entire season.  Yet, the Rockies signed him and gave him a starting slot.  In fact, he started their first home opener.....

Smith ended up winning this game.  He pitched seven shutout innings.  However, by June his ERA was over 8 and the Rockies ended up releasing him at the beginning of the month.  He did get a few Rockies cards though....

He has done some coaching both in the Minors and college levels since his retirement.  

One More From 2018

My interest in Tim Beckham cards started a few years back when he played for the Durham Bulls.  He was a former first overall pick, and while he did not seem like a superstar type of player that teams hope to get with the first overall pick, Beckham seemed like a solid everyday player at worst.  There were some good ones out there.....

this card out of Topps Pro Debut was my favorite.  Obvious reasons.  

Somewhere along the line Beckham was suspended for drugs, endured a lot of ridicule for not being Buster Posey, and was eventually traded to the Orioles.  He actually hit well during his first half season in Baltimore, there were more than a few people who were encouraged. 

The sweet Beckham cards started to pop back up last year.  It was sort of a bumper season for his baseball cards.  Bunches of autographs.  These were two of my favorites.....

The year was actually a complete disaster for Beckham and the Orioles on the field.  He did not hit and he struck out a ton.  The Orioles ditched Beckham at the end of the year, set him out to find a new team.  Beckham ended up signing with the Mariners early in January.  

There was one last Beckham card from last year that I really wanted to add, closing out the book on his time with the Orioles.  The card was out of the Triple Threads set, it was a little too expensive for what I would be willing to pay for a Beckham card, when the set first came out.  I hadn't looked at it in awhile, but I checked a few days ago......

and it was in my mailbox yesterday.  

Triple Threads has not changed much over the years, and I feel a little bored with it at this point, but this is a really nice card.  I love the green color on the background, the gold foil is a nice touch too.  Not sure what the future holds for Beckham's cards with the Mariners, but it was a nice 2018.  

Friday, February 15, 2019

Lau or Lowe?

One of my favorite Durham Bulls from last season was infielder/outfielder Brandon Lowe.  He was easily the best offensive player on the team for the brief window he played in Durham.  In just 46 games, he ended up hitting 14 home runs, 14 doubles, and 35 RBIs.  The Rays eventually called him up to the Majors.  While his batting average was a little low, he continued to show some pop.  Lowe had 14 extra base hits in less than 150 at bats.  

I have not really talked about Lowe before on my blog.  There are not many cards of him, not many people know him.  In fact, there are just not that many people who talk about him. 

One of the problems seems to be that there is a lot of confusion about how to even say his name.  


pronounced like Lowe. 


pronounced like Lau.....

Which is correct?  

Lowe like Lau.  

Luckily for me, and other Durham Bulls fans, Topps included Brandon Lowe in their 2019 Topps Series 1 cards.  Better yet, is the fact that they made him one of the 1984 Topps inserts.  Better yet, it's even autographed.  

Nice action shot of him at Fenway Park on the front.  I like the purple name printing and the blue Rays printing on the side.  If the Rays had been a team in 1984, this seems like it might be a pretty good guess at the color combination that would have been used on their cards.  

Back of the card.  

I like the 1984 card backs.  I would love to see some Durham Bulls stats on the back of this card, but I guess Topps has to put this "Congratulations!" thing on the card since it is signed.  I already knew what it was going to say.  

Perhaps Topps will put out a few more Lowe (Lau) cards before the end of the year.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Middle School Field Trip 30 Years Later

Middle school really stunk.  I was not a really motivated student, there were a few too many teachers who were really not all that good at what they did, and it was middle school.  Kind of stinks for everyone.  However, my middle school did excel at field trips.

In seventh grade, we went to Springfield, Illinois.

Visited all the Abraham Lincoln stuff.  Apparently you have to actually turn in your homework to have the good luck kick in from rubbing Abe's nose, the good luck does not do math assignments for you.  I am sure that everyone in Springfield loved having a hundred middle schoolers from St. Louis County run amuck in their museums either.

In eighth grade, I got to go to a mall in the middle of the day to play Christmas carols, I was in band,  for people shopping.  It was a weekday.  It was the morning.  There was nobody at the mall.  Just a bunch of middle school kids playing music next to a fountain.

I don't remember much about the music part of the field trip.  I will just borrow this music video about malls.

My wife watches this show, I do not understand all of the running gags, but they make fun of Canadians often.  I need a running gag for this blog, but nothing about Tim Horton's.  

So, the mall is empty.  We are middle schoolers.  The best thing at the food court in this mall was either an A + W Root Beer or a McDonald's Express.  I also believe that those were the only two restaurants in the mall.  Yet, the mall is in the Department Store Museum.  

Hard to believe.  

So, after playing for awhile, and not eating at the food court, what do middle school kids do at a mall while they are on their lunch break?  

Go to Musicland?  

Nah.  My mom only gave me $5 for lunch, no room in the budget for $20 CDs. 

Make fun of the goofy clothes at Structure?  

Please.  Nobody bought clothes from this store.  

We were band kids.   

We went to the toy store.  

The Kay-Bee Toy Store in West County Mall had a card section.  It wasn't the best, not the Ben Franklin in Webster Groves, but it was better than eating at a McDonald's Express.  I had pretty much conquered the 1990 baseball card sets, so I went out on a limb and bought some basketball cards.  Such a great 1990s design.....

Here are two other good cards from my other stack......

and also Bernard King.  

Totally underrated player.  

Great looking 1990s cards out of Skybox.  I believe this was their first basketball card set, but I am not a huge basketball card person.  I might be wrong.  

These cards have been sitting in a miscellaneous box for the past thirty years, along with a whole bunch of other cards from this set.  Miscellaneous being code for junk box of checklists and contest cards that I do not really care about, but I am not going to throw them away either.  

So, in the past thirty years I have not done a lot with basketball cards, but I have dabbled.  

There were some Mizzou cards.  

which I actually wrote about five years ago during a snow day.  

There have also been basketball games that I have picked up by attending NC State games.  

Sorry, no J. Cole card yet.  

I have also picked up some single cards of players I enjoyed watching at NC State.  My favorite is obviously T.J. Warren....

or Tony Buckets.  

All the while, my Skybox cards sat in a box.  So, I recently became interested in my middle school field trip basketball cards again after learning an important factoid about Skybox:

The company started in Durham.  

The story goes like this....

At some point in the late 1980s, some people at Liggett Myers Tobacco Company decided that they needed to master other parts of culture in North Carolina beyond tobacco.  I guess they could have branched out and done something with vinegar based barbecue, race cars driving in circles, but instead they decided to dabble with basketball cards.  Why not?  

The Liggett Myers building in Durham does not actually advertise the fact that they branched out into basketball cards.  Probably why I am just learning about this now.  

They formed Skybox International. 

As a baseball card collector, my mind wandered to my favorite products that were put out under the Skybox label.  Probably my all-time favorite being......

the late 1990s Skybox EX sets.  

Though, the idea of Skybox being in Durham did not really make much sense because I always associated them with Fleer, which is not in Durham.  It's somewhere else.  So, this is the point at which I did a little more digging.  

It turns out that in 1995 Marvel, the comic book people, bought Skybox from Liggett Myers.  They already owned Fleer.  Marvel then merged Fleer and Skybox together into Fleer/Skybox, which is the actually company that made the great looking Edgar Renteria card pictured above.  

Since moving to North Carolina some 14 years ago, I have really enjoyed collecting cards of the local players both past and present.  Just this morning I tweeted out a card of Greg Luzinski because he was on the Durham Bulls 50 years ago.  

Back when I lived in St. Louis, he was just some guy who hit a bunch of home runs for the Phillies and White Sox in the 1970s and 80s.  Wasn't he in a bunch of Miller Lite commericals?  Perspective.  

So those Skybox cards in the miscellaneous box from my middle school field trip suddenly have a cool local connection.  I went and dug them out to scan a few of them for this post.   I have also  decided that I have neglected them long enough.  

I have basketball cards, but have never put a set together.  I decided to find a pair of Skybox basketball boxes.  They are dirt cheap and easy to find.  

Not quite sure where I am going to post the final results of the boxes, but I am excited to follow up on a few packs of cards that were bought thirty years ago, 800 miles away, but were made a few miles away from my house.  Should be fun.