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Monday, May 10, 2021

A Giant Project: Update #5

I am behind on the updates for my 1964 Topps Giants set.  I need to catch up a bit over the next few weeks.  For tonight, I am just going to post one of the cards from the set that I have added to my collection in the two months since I last updated this project.  

It's a pretty important card.  



Needless to say, I was pretty excited about adding the Mickey Mantle card from the set.  There are 60 cards in the Topps Giants set and a handful of the cards are going to take up the majority of time and money to track down.  This Mantle was one of those cards.  




There are so many Topps Giants cards that talk about players' Minor League careers on the back of the card.  Even the players who had been around for a while in 1964.  Mantle just gets a long write-up about all his Postseason accomplishments.  Wish a few more of the card backs in this set had followed this formula.  Pick something the player did well and talk about it on the card.  

I did alright here.  

Now, about that Koufax.  

Updated checklist.  22 out of the 60 cards.  


1 Gary Peters
2 Ken Johnson
3 Sandy Koufax SP
4 Bob Bailey
5 Milt Pappas
6 Ron Hunt
7 Whitey Ford
8 Roy McMillan
9 Rocky Colavito
10 Jim Bunning
11 Roberto Clemente
12 Al Kaline
13 Nellie Fox
14 Tony Gonzalez
15 Jim Gentile
16 Dean Chance
17 Dick Ellsworth
18 Jim Fregosi
19 Dick Groat
20 Chuck Hinton
21 Elston Howard
22 Dick Farrell
23 Albie Pearson
24 Frank Howard
25 Mickey Mantle
26 Joe Torre
27 Ed Brinkman
28 Bob Friend SP
29 Frank Robinson
30 Bill Freehan
31 Warren Spahn
32 Camilo Pascual
33 Pete Ward
34 Jim Maloney
35 Dave Wickersham
36 Johnny Callison
37 Juan Marichal
38 Harmon Killebrew
39 Luis Aparicio
40 Dick Radatz
41 Bob Gibson
42 Dick Stuart SP
43 Tommy Davis
44 Tony Oliva
45 Wayne Causey SP
46 Max Alvis
47 Galen Cisco SP
48 Carl Yastrzemski
49 Hank Aaron
50 Brooks Robinson
51 Willie Mays SP
52 Billy Williams
53 Juan Pizarro
54 Leon Wagner
55 Orlando Cepeda
56 Vada Pinson
57 Ken Boyer
58 Ron Santo
59 Johnny Romano
60 Bill Skowron SP









Sunday, May 9, 2021

Now, More Arenado Cards

Yesterday, I posted my first Nolan Arenado card in a Cardinals uniform.  

What should I do for a follow-up post?  

How about my second Nolan Arenado card in a Cardinals uniform.  

I dabble in the Topps Now cards, but I am not out to buy them all or even all the Cardinals cards.  Every once in a while I see one that I really like, or that marks an occasion that is worth remembering.  Topps put out a card last month for Nolan Arenado's home run in the Cardinals Home Opening Day win.  

It was a cool moment, so I bought the card.  


The Cardinals started the season on the road and Arenado hit a home run during that trip, so this was not his first dinger with the team, but just a nice feel-good moment.  It was worthy of a Topps Now card and I thought it was one that would look nice in my collection.  

Front of the card.  




The back of the card......




A nice little write-up by Topps on the back of the card.  Rather than mentioning that the win gave the team a four-game winning streak, it would have been cool to see Topps connect the dinger to other memorable Cardinals opening day home runs.  There have been some good ones within the last 20-25 years, with the two best being Albert Pujols hitting one on his first Opening Day as a rookie and Mark McGwire's grand slam in 1998.  


Saturday, May 8, 2021

The First Of Many

Not an expensive card or anything rare, but I feel like this card deserves its own post.  As a Cardinals fan, I know that this is going to be the first of many cards that I add to my collection with Nolan Arenado wearing the birds on the bat.  

This is from the Topps Living Set or the set that never ends while flooding the market with even more baseball cards that borrow the design of the 1953 Topps set.  

Front of the card.  




The art on the front of the card is excellent.  I would have been a little worried that this might not have been the best effort given that it seemed to come up quickly after the trade between the Cardinals and Rockies.  

Of course, Topps could have had this card in the works with a Rockies uniform and simply reworked the hat and the color of the undershirt.  Not difficult to change.  

Back of the card.  




The back of the 1953 Topps cards has always felt a little busy for me.  A lot is going on here.  In the write-up, the phrase "and has claimed a defensive award for his stellar glovework in each of his eight big league seasons" is weird.  Couldn't you just say that he's won the National League Gold Glove Award for third baseman?  

Still a great card.  

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Not Just Any Team Set

I have been on a roll with finding some tough Durham Bulls team sets and cards during the past year.  My best find up to this point was the first half of the 1997 BellSouth Bulls to Braves set, which celebrated the team's long-running affiliation with the Atlanta Braves.  The cards have proved nearly impossible to find over the years as single cards, and I had never seen them together in any sort of a set before them last fall.  

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I was able to find another really tough team set two weeks ago.  I had been looking for a team-issued Durham Bulls from 2001, but could not even find evidence that such a set existed until 2015 when the set was finally added to the Trading Card Database.  To this day, there are only pictures of a few cards from the set. 

First edit date on Trading Card Database was May of 2015.  


Even though the set first appeared on TCDB in 2015, it has not shown up on Ebay until this year.  

There are always a lot of Major League players who appear in Triple-A baseball card sets, but this set feels like it's above average in terms of quantity.  Here are the cards, starting with the team checklist.  



The front of the card has the team logo.  The back of the card has the team checklist.  



Out of the players with cards in the set, only Norm Hutchins did not appears in the Majors.  The set has a few players with World Series rings, including a World Series MVP.  Also included is a guy who is now a pharmacist, a one-time billionaire who is now bankrupt, a future Durham Bulls manager, and an International League Hall of Famer.  

Here is the basic design of the cards using Brent Abernathy.  



I like that the team put the "Acquired" information on the back of the card.  Feels a little bit like the old Donruss cards.  Plus with Minor Leaguers, you know half of them were traded for Major Leaguers.  Always fun to see some of those names, like Steve Trachsel.  

Here are the rest of the player, coach, and manager cards.  Also Wool E. Bull, the mascot.  

I am not going to talk about every player.  




Two notable names in this group of cards.  

Pat Borders was at the end of his career at this point.  He was nearly 40 years old.  Borders was on the two Blue Jays World Series winners in the early 1990s and won the World Series MVP in 1992 against the Braves.  He played until 2005, retiring at the age of 42.  

Lee Gardner was in Triple-A for 8 years, 5 of those seasons were with the Durham Bulls.  He is in the International League Hall of Fame and I believe he is the Durham Bulls all-time saves leader.  




Two more notable players in this group.  Huff won two World Series with the Giants.  Toby Hall was in the Majors for a few years but was a really good Minor League player.  He was in Durham for roughly 3 years and is considered one of the best catchers to have come through town.  Strictly talking about Minor League numbers with Hall.  




Jared Sandberg is Ryne's nephew and he managed the Bulls for four years.  In his last two years as the manager of the Bulls the team won the International League Championship.  



Now, this is a good group.  

First, we got Jason Tyner.  Jason Tyner was a fan favorite in Tampa.  Scrappy player.  He ended up getting his own bobblehead day with the Rays.  The problem is that he was demoted back down to the Bulls before it was given out.  


Is it too late to get your money back? 

Matt White owned a couple billion dollars worth of Goshen Stone at one point.  Goshen stone is used for swimming pools, kitchen counters, and landscaping.  It currently costs $75 to $150 per ton.  

How did this happen?  

White had an elderly aunt who lived in Massachusetts and needed $50,000 to get into a nursing home.  She sold White some land she owned in a rural part of the state.  White wanted to build a house on the property, but after checking with a builder, the land was too hard.  He called a surveyor who found 24 million tons of Goshen rock on the property.  Rather than settling for part of 2 billion dollars by selling the land to a company that could process the rock, Matt White tried to start his own company.  The company went bankrupt.  He was forced to sell the land for a fraction of its value.  

Ron Wright played in one Major League for the Seattle Mariners in 2005.  He retired and went back to college.  Wright studied pharmacology and now works as a pharmacist in Portacello, Idaho.  

Bill Evers is the second-winningest manager in team history.  For a long time, he held the record but was passed by current Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.  

I have wanted to write about Mako Oliveras for a while.  I have several of his cards, low-key really important player and coach.  




Last group of cards.  

Joe Coleman was a pitching coach forever, including for the Cardinals while Joe Torre was managing the team.  Mickey Callaway was the Mets manager and the pitching coach for the Indians and Angels.  He is currently unemployed for good reason. 

Wool E. Bull.  What would he say about this card?  

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Fan Of Game-Used Dirt

Twenty years ago relic cards were pretty popular.  Half-inch swatches of swatches of bats and jerseys that may or may not have been worn or used by a player during a game.  At some point there was a huge scandal with these cards, which I am not going to rehash in this space, and they have slowly disappeared over the last few years. 


I have boxes full of these bat and jersey cards.  I am not sure what to do with the relic cards at this point, other than to pull them out and look through them.  I don't think they are worth anything and I do not know anyone who collects them at this point. 

Still, there are some of these relic cards that are still really fun and unique. 


One of my favorite all-time relic sets was the Stadium Club game-used dirt inserts, which were in the 2000 set.  Still pretty popular cards, so I understand why Topps has recreated these cards and put them into Opening Day the past two or three years.  

I don't do much with Opening Day, but I really like the dirt relics.  

The player choice was a no doubter, although Jack Flaherty also has a game-used dirt card.  That might be a card that I had to my watch list.  


I am 100% that this game-used dirt was likely never touched by Blake Snell or even his cleats.  I am basing that statement on the disclaimer on the back of the card.  


I am just going to ignore that statement.  I am a fan of the game-used dirt.  

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Old Bulls On New Cards

I am always on the lookout for new cards of Durham Bulls players.  There are plenty of easy and obvious targets out there, but every once in a while there is a name on a checklist that surprises me.  When the 2021 Topps Heritage set was released, I was really happy to see Jake Cronenworth had an autograph in the set.  Unfortunately, that card is also selling for a ton of money at the moment.  Luckily, there was also a surprising name in the mix on the Topps Heritage checklist.  

This guy.  



Phil Regan was a starting pitcher for the 1957 Durham Bulls.  It was a great year for the team.  Future Tigers outfielder Bubba Morton broke the color barrier for the Bulls franchise, and the team won the Carolina League championship defeating the High Point Hi-Toms led by Dallas Green.  It's hard to believe 64 years later, players on the team are still appearing on baseball cards. 

Sure, Regan played on some good teams with the Tigers, Dodgers, and Cubs, but look at the second line of the stats.....



This card is exactly the same as the actual 1972 Topps Phil Regan card.  I never realized that this set had Minor League playing stats for veteran players.  A bit of a rarity, but I checked out a few other former Durham Bulls players and they also had their Minor League stats listed.  Might have to go find the former Durham Bulls in this set at some point.  

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Wizard of Art

Topps has a new art set this year.  I saw the promotional stuff for the Project 70 cards and swore that I was not going to buy a single one.  There are several early cards in the set, which reaffirmed my decision not to spend much time or money of art cards this year.  However, there are a few that have caught my eye along the way.  

You know how these things usually go, so I am going back down this path again this year.  Here is my first card out of the Project 70 set.  



The packaging is similar to the Project 2020 cards.  




This Ozzie Smith was really hard to pass up, great looking card based on the 1990 Topps set.  I love that the picture shows Ozzie doing a flip, which is one of his trademarks, but I do not think it has appeared on many cards.  He had a Stadium Club card a few years back that showed him doing a flip in front of the Hall of Fame.  Is that it?  Maybe.  

Back of the card.  



Same set up as the Project 2020 cards.  Efdot, the artist on this card, was also involved in the Project 2020 cards and I am glad to see him back.  He made several of my favorite cards in that set, probably my favorite artist overall.  I started following him last year on social media and really enjoy his artwork, not just the work he does with baseball cards.  

His work last year had a lot of "Easter Eggs" within the design.  The Jackie Robinson card might be the best example with the Army uniform collar, the sports he played at UCLA in the bottom right corner,  the date he played his first game on the bottom left border, and the Kansas City Monarchs logo on the name plate.  



I am probably missed one or two.  

The Ozzie card does not have the small details included in many of the Efdot cards, like the Jackie Robinson card, but I do love the fact that you can flip the card either direction and it looks right side up.  




Really well done.  

I am sure that there will be a few more Cardinals included in the Project 70 set, so maybe a few more will show up here during the summer.  

Friday, April 2, 2021

Baseball Player, Civil Engineer, Leading Exotic Bird Vet.....

The 2021 Topps Heritage set came out this week and I have bought zero packs, along with zero single cards.  Instead, I spent some time and money buying interesting cards from other Topps Heritage sets.  There were a few former Durham Bulls and Cardinals cards I was missing.  They seemed like a better use of my money at the moment.  I have a few of these types of cards to post over the next few weeks.  

First up is Cubs, Cardinals, and Expos pitcher Rich Nye.  

Nye played 5 years in the Majors, mostly with the Cubs.  His stints with the Cardinals and Expos lasted a combined total of 14 games.  Yet, for some reason, Topps gave him a baseball card in the 2019 Topps Heritage set.  Seemed odd.  What's so great about Rich Nye?  

Here is the card. 

 


Well, Rich was a smart guy.  He went to Cal-Berkley, played baseball, and earned a degree in civil engineering.  After his baseball career flamed out......

Career #1  - Civil Engineer

Rich used his civil engineering degree to help build the Sears Tower. 

 

Career #2 - Commodities Trader

Rich switched careers and decided that he would become a commodities trader.  

 

Back To College

Commodities trader was not very "inspirational", so Nye went back to college at the University of Illinois to attend Vet School.  

 

Career #3 - Veterinarian

Rich started working as a vet specializing in exotic birds in Niles, Illinois.  

 

Charter Member and President of the AAV

Apparently there was no professional organization for vets working with birds, so Rich started one.  He also ran the organization as its President.  If you work with birds, it's apparently a big deal. 

 

Career #4 - Commodities Trader

Not really a career switch, just earning money to start a large vet practice that will be the leading facility for exotic birds in the United States.  

 

Career #5 - Veterinarian

Nye started the Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital in Westchester, Illinois.  The practice was the leading research group on exotic birds in the United States.  

 

Career #6 -Textbook Author

Nye wrote several textbooks on avian medicine.  

 

Retirement

Just kidding.  

 

Career #7 -Nye Wood Turning 

Rich started his own wood turning business and makes rings and wooden bowels. 


Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Kinder, Gentler Post About Panini Cards

Let's talk about Jake Cronenworth.  One of my favorite players to recently appear on the Durham Bulls, I don't talk about him enough on here, but there is a good reason.  

Cronenworth was on the Bulls in 2019 and had a great year.  He hit for average, got on base, showed a little pop in his bat, and even pitched a few innings as a reliever.  Cronenworth had pitched while he was at the University of Michigan, but the Rays settled on making him a position player.  The great 2019 meant that the Durham Bulls made a baseball card of Cronenworth and put it in the team set.  

 


There are not actually many cards of Jake Cronenworth.  He had a card in the 2015 Bowman Draft set, but outside of that, there are only a few Minor League team issued cards.  Cronenworth got traded to the Padres after the 2019 season and had a great 60 games last season.  No baseball cards during the 2020 season, but Topps put him on their Topps All-Rookie team.  I figured that he was going to get a card at some point.  

He was not in the base Topps set, but has appeared in both the Inception and Topps Heritage sets.  I have spent time looking at his cards, thinking about buying one.  Just one problem.  

This is where I get annoyed.

 

EIGHTY DOLLARS.  

I should buy another Stan Musial autograph.  

I didn't, because I really wanted a Jake Cronenworth card, but I created a list of reasons why people should not spend $80 or more on a card of the Padres infielder.  

1. He's a 27 year old rookie.

2. He's played less than 60 games in his career.  

3. He hit .183 with a .268 slugging percentage during the last month of the 2020 season.  That's half of his career. 

4. He went to the University of Michigan.  

Seriously, I hope Jake Cronenworth has a great year in 2021.  I would love to see him and Blake Snell get a shot at winning a World Series with the Padres.  I also hope the Padres let him pitch a few innings this year. 

Frustrated at his card prices, I went a bit of a different direction to add one of his cards to my collection.  If you are a long time reader, you know that I am not a big fan of Panini.  Buying a Panini card is usually a last resort.  I love team logos and cards that are actually autographed by the player.  I love when the card says, "Cardinals" or "Padres" and not "St. Louis" or "San Diego".  

Welp.  Here is my Jake Cronenworth card from the Donruss set with no logos and an autographed sticker. 

 

I did not spend $80 for this card.  

Not even close.  

Hopefully, the prices of some of the other Cronenworth cards come down significantly and maybe one will find its way into my collection.  In the meantime, I wanted to post one more former Bulls player who also appeared in this year's 2020 Donruss set.  

This is where I say nice things about Panini.  

While I pick often pick on Panini, I will say that the company does a good job of getting some different players to sign autographs for their sets.  Topps always seemingly has the same 3 or 4 players for every team in every set.  Panini sometimes branches out and throws in an unexpected player.  

Like this one. 



Who is Josh Fleming?  

Why should you care about Josh Fleming?  

Josh Fleming was on the Rays last season, started a handful of games, before being sent to the bullpen for the playoffs.  He became a starring member of "The Stable", a group of younger, hard-throwing relief pitchers.  Fleming spent the end of the 2019 season with the Durham Bulls.  I was not really expecting Josh Fleming to appear on any baseball cards this year.  Happy to find this one.  Sometimes Panini does something right in my world. 


I actually got to see Fleming's Triple A debut.  If you read the scoreboard, you will see that he attended Webster University, which is in Webster Groves, Missouri.  I have spent a little bit of time running around Webster Groves, Missouri.  My parents worked in that town and I am pretty sure that a large percentage of my mid and late 1980s baseball cards came from the Ben Franklin store there.  I had an apartment in Webster for awhile as an adult.  Nice place to live and right down the street from Webster University. 

Josh Fleming at Webster University.  

Picture courtesy of Webster University Athletics

Sadly, after finding the Fleming card above, I actually found out that Panini made a card of him at the end of the 2020 season.  I should probably be a little nicer towards Panini and pay a little more attention to their cards.  On card autographs and logos aren't everything, right?   I will have to find a copy of the other Fleming card and post it. 

 


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Set Appreciation Post #12 - 1988 Donruss

It has been a week.  I am doing a whole lot of nothing this weekend and it feels great.  Writing a blog post about the 1988 Donruss set seemed like a really huge time waster, so here I am.  Maybe I just hang out with the wrong people and follow the wrong accounts on social media, but the 1988 Donruss set seems wildly unpopular.  Is it just me, or does it often get lumped in with sets like 1991 Fleer?  

I am going to hold my opinion to the end of the post, but I will probably give away it's ranking somewhere around the top of the post.  

Special guest appearance by Aaron Boone via screen shots.  I learned this week that I attended his Major League debut.  He was ejected after being tagged out at home on a throw from right-fielder Brian Jordan.  

 

Actual screen shot of Aaron Boone after getting run from the game.  Deion Sanders homered off of Matt Morris.  The Reds won.  The Cardinals fans booed Deion Sanders and none of them could tell you why they booed him. 

Let's go.  

BASE CARD

 

Many of the cards in the post were actually opened by the 10 and 11 year old me.  Pack fresh.  You're going to find this hard to believe, but I have never gone back and worked on improving my 1988 Donruss set.  The first base card in the set is Mackey Sasser.  Actually, the first two dozen cards in Donruss sets were always the Diamond Kings cards.  I will get to those in a few minutes.  

The Rated Rookie cards were always great.  That little logo in the corner of the card is always a bonus in my book.  One of the great things that came out of 1980s baseball cards. 

Shall we talk about the border design? 

 

I never quite understood what was going on with the blue, red, and black lines.  I have looked at these cards from time to time over the last 33 years and I have no idea how this design was picked for a large baseball card set.  If this was the best design option at the time, what did it beat out?  

The back of the card. 


 There were always pros and cons to the card backs in the Donruss set.  The con was when you got a card of some player who had been around forever, but they only put five years worth of stats on the back of the card.  I like the highlight section better than Topps and I also like that they put down how the player was acquired.  You could find some really bad trades on the back of these cards. 

Diamond Kings 

I wanted to pick a Cardinals card for this spot, but the 1988 Donruss set had Jack Clark with a pink background.  I like the pink background, but 1988 was not a great year to be a Cardinals fan and see Jack Clark in a pack of cards. 

Why?  

I am going to slip in a screen shot of Mike Bush from NewsChannel 5. I think Mike is a news anchor now, or somebody serious.  Hopefully Zip Rzeppa is still doing sports in St. Louis. 

It also started the Bob Horner era in St. Louis.  

I decided to pick this Mark McGwire card instead.  Big Mac was coming off setting the Major League rookie home run record.  If you didn't know the year of the card, you can tell it's early in his career, because he looks to be a normal size in the picture.  I like the colored bars in the background too, very 1980s.  

Aaron Boone screen shot. 

There are probably better Diamond Kings cards in this set, but I am sticking with McGwire.  Solid design and he actually had a really good 1987.  

Cool Card of 1988 

I never got the whole idea of spending a ton of money on players with very little Major League experience.  Yes, it's been really bad the past two decades with Bowman, but it's not like that was the start of the trend.  Bowman just made it worse.  The 1988 Donruss set had one of those "hot" rookie cards way back in 1988.  

The 1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies card was a really big deal back in the late 1980s.  People were pretty sure that he was going to be the next great hitter in the Majors, win a few batting titles, and be in the Hall of Very Good or the Hall of Fame.  

A lot of people spent a lot of money on this card. 


 

Other people just pulled the card from a $0.35 pack of cards from Ben Franklin.  

While we are here.  It really bothers me when people label Gregg Jefferies as a "flop" or a "bust".  He was a really good player who just happened not to live up to very lofty expectations.  I saw him play for the Cardinals for two years in the 1990s, excellent player.  Great hitter. 

Best Non-Cardinal Card 

I am a sucker for flip-down sunglasses.  

Why don't players wear these types of sunglasses anymore?  

I don't wear glasses.

I don't wear sunglasses.  

If I did wear glasses, they would be flip downs.  

Thank you, Aaron Boone.  Yes, Eric Davis is also a really good hitter.  

Best Cardinals Card 

 

Wrigley makes a good backdrop for baseball cards.  The Ozzie Smith card is a Spring Training picture.  The Vince Coleman card was also taken in Wrigley, but he is bunting.  Easy choice here. 


 Thanks, Aaron. 

Best Durham Bulls Card 

Let's wrap up this post.  I thought about going Brad Komminsk on the Brewers, but I am going to fly under the radar a bit here and go with Milt Thompson.  Really, there were not that many great choices.  The Bulls produced a lot of Braves players during the 1980s, but none of them have great cards in this set. 

 


Milt Thompson, if you did not watch baseball in the 1980s or 1990s.  Good player for the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, and back to the Phillies for a second time.  I think there might have been a few years with the Astros at the very end of his career.  Good hitter, good defender.  I like the portrait style photo, just wish the photographer had backed up a little bit.  Milt had a really unique batting stance, but I cannot find a good picture of it.  His bat is actually too high in this photo.  Normally it was behind his back shoulder, he stood deep in the box, but stuck his front leg out straight in front of him. 


 Yes.  

How Does It Compare?  

You're probably thinking that this set is going to end up being in the last spot, but that's not going to happen.  I have no problem putting the 1988 Donruss set ahead of the bottom 3 sets.  It's not better than the 2017 Topps Heritage Minors set, so I am really trying to decide whether to put it above or below the Emotion XL set.  

The major flaw with 1988 is its design.  If Aaron Boone had been a design manager at Donruss during the late 1980s, this might be a conversation he had with his team.


Aaron Boone was in high school in 1988. 

Emotion XL has a good design, but some of it's cards are really dumb.  Let's remember that Dante Bichette's "emotion" was "The Heat".  Still think that the Emotion cards are better overall set than Donruss, especially when the quality of the cards is taken into consideration. 

I am going to go ahead and put the 1988 Donruss set in 9th place in my Set Appreciation rankings. 

Sorry, I am out of Aaron Boone screenshots.