Monday, June 21, 2010

Shopping at the Show- '71s

More from the 5/$1 binders; this time the 1971 black-bordered beauties.

If it weren't for the horrible photography, the '71 set would be one of my favorite issues- I really like the color schemes and the design. Of course, it's difficult to find these things in high grade condition- but I'm not looking to get them graded, so for .20 each, I won't complain.

Trifecta: #432 Bob Didier, #88 Hal King, #244 Bob Tillman

Can't say I remember the last time I've come across a team set with three catchers, and these three are nothing to get too excited about. Tillman actually came to Atlanta in a 1967 trade with the Yankees. Who was he traded for? Only the Atlanta Legend, Bobby Cox. His career was highlighted by catching two no-hitters, homering in his first major league at-bat, and homering three times in one game. Although he appeared on the 1971 issue as a Brave, Tillman was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 1970, and did not play in the majors again.

#306 Jim Nash Nash came over to the Braves from the A's in a trade involving Felipe Alou. He broke into the bigs with the Kansas City Athletics in 1966, finishing 2nd in ROY voting after going 12-1 with a 2.06 ERA. Don't know what happened, but Jim never grew into an ace that he appeared to be that rookie season. He did, however, tell one heck of a tall-tale!

#587 Sonny Jackson

#194 Mike Lum
#147 Bob Priddy
This relief pitcher gave up Home Run #400 to Henry Aaron. 1971 would be his last in the majors.

#81 Felix Millan

#173 Gil Garrido
Light hitting infielder, who in 1970 hit his only major league home run. He hit the blast off of former Brave pitcher Denny Lemaster. Probably didn't hurt that he was playing at home, at the "launching pad."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Killer" Father's Day Quote

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there. One of the better quotes I've heard over the years concerning boys and their dads come from local legend Harmon "Killer" Killebrew. “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass.” “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys.” Words of wisdom, indeed!

One of my most treasured memorabilia pieces is an autographed ball that "Killer" personalized for me. I used to work with his sister-in-law, and she was kind enough to get a ball signed for me.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Shoppin' at the Show

So a friend and I went to a card show today, him searching for Angels cards for his team collection, and me looking for Bravos. Our twenty-five mile trip was quite a successful one, at least on my end, as I picked up many needed cards for a small price (which is always good!) We even saw local hero Ian Johnson- former Boise State U. star, and current Minnesota Viking-doing an autograph appearance. Anyways, onto some of the stuff I picked up to go towards my Topps team sets...

Although one of my least favorite Topps issues, I picked these 1972 Topps out of the 5/$1 binders:

1972 Topps #516 Oscar Brown
Old Oscar was drafted three times within a year: first by the Reds in June '65, then by the Angels in January '66 (not signing with either team), and then finally by the Braves as the 7th overall pick in the June '66 draft. As far as his career goes...I think Mike Kelly won an award named after Brown.

1972 Topps #469 Ron Herbel
It's a good thing that Herbel was a pitcher, because he sure couldn't hit! In 206 ABs over his 9 year career, Ronnie got 6 Hits, and struck out 125 times!! Somehow, he walked a whopping 8 times. Here's a list of the poor saps who have the distinction of walking the man with the lowest career batting average-mininum 100 ABs: Jim O'Toole, Ernie Broglio, Billy McCool, Al Jackson, Curt Simmons, Don Sutton(!!), Jack Bellingham, and Tracy Stallard. Hey guys, at least your name is mentioned in the same sentence as a Hall of Famer! 1971 was his only season in the Atl, and was his last year in baseball. And yet, we get a '72 card of him.

1972 Topps #380 Earl Williams
The 1971 N.L. Rookie of the Year, mashing 33 big flies. His production would slip over each of the next four years, before finally seeing a jump in numbers his final two years. I guess he was more focused on being a thorn in people's side than working on his game.

1972 Topps #333 Steve Barber
By the time he arrived in Atlanta, Steve Barber was a relief pitcher; however, he at one time was a very effective starting pitcher. He was the first twenty-game winner for the modern-day Orioles-winning 20 games in 1963, and was involved in one of only two 9-inning no hitters in which the team that was no hit won the game. In 1967, Barber had a no-hitter going against Detroit, when he became wild in the top of the 9th, allowing 2 runs to score that inning. Two walks, a sacrafice fly, and then a wild pitch tied the game. After a third walk, Barber was replaced by Stu Miller, who proceded to allow the winning run to score when Don Wert reached base on an error.

1972 Topps #318 Sonny Jackson

1972 Topps #21 Braves Team Card

1972 Topps #601 George Stone

1972 Topps #351 Braves Rookie Stars: Tom House/Rick Kester/Jimmy Britton
Dr. House (he hold a PhD in Psychology) is best known for catching Henry Aaron's record breaking #715 home run ball in 1974. The former Texas Ranger pitching coach is also one of the earliest admitted steriod users, confessing to usage during the 70's. His experiment with the drugs, he says, was a failure, as it didn't enhance the speed of his 82 mph fastball.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

50 Year Counterparts, Pt. 7- HOF Edition

1961 Topps #120 Eddie Mathews

This 50 Year Counterparts entry is the Hall Of Fame edition, featuring deceased HOF'er Eddie Mathews and future HOF'er Chipper Jones.

Known for his graceful swing and prodigious power, Eddie Mathews holds the distinction of being the only Brave to play for the team in each of the three cities it has called home. He was also only one of a few players to have played, coached, and managed the same team. HOF'er Ty Cobb once paid tribute to Mathews by saying "I've only known three or four perfect swings in my time. This lad has one of them." 'Tis surprising to hear the hardened Georgia Peach speak such words of praise! It's a surprise that Cobb didn't comment on Mathews' toughness, as Eddie was never one to back down from a fight.

As a rookie in 1953, which would be the last year the Braves would call Boston home, Mathews hit 25 home runs and finished tied for third in the N.L. Rookie of the Year award. The Braves would relocate to Milwaukee for the 1953 season, and would see their young third baseman begin an incredible three-year run in which he put up some of the most dominating numbers of any third baseman over a three year span. Mathews would end his sophomore season leading the league in homers with 47, an OPS of 1.033 and finish 2nd in the N.L. MVP voting. In 1954 the moody Milwaukee fan favorite would grace the cover of the very first issue of Sports Illustrated and would would play an instrumental part in the Braves' ascension to glory as they won back-to-back pennants in '57 (World Series Champs!) and '58. Mathews would then have one of his best seasons in 1959, as he finished second in MVP voting and leading the N.L. in home runs. The 1961 season would be the last season Mathews would hit over .300 and post an OPS higher than .900, and the Braves began their slide to the back of the pack in the National League. Mathews suffered torn ligaments in his right shoulder in 1962, and it was after this injury that he would see a decline in production. He would be traded by the Braves to the Astros in the 1966 offseason, and would spent half a season in Houston before being traded to the Tigers. Eddie's final season would be 1968, and despite getting only 57 plate appearances in the regular season that year, he would still get a roster spot for the Tigers as they faced St. Louis in the World Series. Mathews would go 1-3 with a BB that World Series, and would then retire afterwards, becoming only the third Hall of Famer to retire as a World Series winner. He would also end his career at number seven on the all-time home run list with 512 round trippers, falling way short of the 714 of Ruth that many had predicted would some day be Mathews' record.

Upon retirement, Mathews would go into business for a short time before returning to the game in 1971 as a coach for the Braves. The following season, Eddie would replace Lum Harris 104 games into the season as the manager for Atlanta, and would remain in that position until 1974, when he would be replaced by Clyde King after 99 games- but not until after Henry Aaron broke Ruth's home run record in April. Four years later,in 1978, Mathews would be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in his fifth year of elgibility-something that I just don't understand. Sadly, in February 2001, Mathews would die at the age of 69 due to pneumonia and respiratory failure.

2010 Topps Heritage #120 Chipper Jones

Most of the talk about Chipper Jones this year has been centered on his supposed retirement at the end of the season. Although Chipper has seen his batting average and power decline over the past few years- he hit a career high .364 only two years ago, for his first batting title- he's still providing some help by getting on base in front of Brian McCann and the remerging Troy Glaus by drawing a fair share of walks. The consumate team player, Chipper had reportedly told manager Bobby Cox earlier this season that he would be willing to move down in the order if it would help the team. It never materialized, and he has remained in the three-hole when he has been in the line-up. Should Chipper announce his retirement at the end of the Braves' 2010 season, it will be interesting to see if he is offered (and accept) some kind of role within the organization. I can't help but think he'd be a great hitting coach- it would be nice to see his impact and influence upon Jason Heyward this year be extended upon future Brave position players.

Monday, June 14, 2010

That's One Dandy (Yankee) Mascot!

So hated are the Yankees, that you've got to revel in any embarrassing moments in team history. Thanks to Scott Cacciola and the Wall Street Journal, we now have information on a deep, dark secret...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In Honor of Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean, perhaps best known to some of us as the entrepreneur who started the Jimmy Dean Meat Company (Jimmy Dean Sausages!), died today at the age of 81. Prior to his business venture, Dean was actually a well-known country music artist who won a Grammy for the 1961 smash hit, "Big Bad John"- a song about a coal miner who saves the lives of fellow coal miners after a mine roof collapses. Later, he would host a television show, The Jimmy Dean show, and then in 1969 Dean started his meat company. In February of this year, Dean was elected into the country music hall of fame, and was to be inducted later this year. Too bad we won't be able to enjoy the induction ceremony.

So, to remember the fallen legend, let's take a look at one of the Jimmy Dean Signature Edition cards from 1991.

1991 Jimmy Dean Signature Edition #3 Dale Murphy

The 1991 set was the first in a series of sets put out by the sausage company, and was included in packages of their various products. Included in the set were the typical stars included in the early '90s odd-ball issues: Griffey Jr., The Big Hurt, Nolan Ryan, and the Dale Murhpy shown above. While I'm usually not real crazy about the color scheme used on this set, I think it actually works this time. I also think that the Jimmy Dean logo in the upper left corner is a great addition to the front of the card. As was the case with most (if not all) odd-ball issues from this time, the cards were not licensed by MLB. Thus, they were not permitted to use any of the logos associated with MLB. Thankfully, the photo of Murph that was used for his card didn't need to have an artist try to cover up a team name or logo. The back of the cards struck out, though. Using the yellow border reminds me of the 1991 Fleer baseball product, which in my opinion was one of the ugliest sets of all-time. I do, however, like the rest of the back-particularly the facsimile autos. What would have been cooler, though, would be an empty spot for the collector to try to get an authentic signature.

Friday, June 11, 2010

50 Year Counterparts, Pt. 6

1961 Topps #84 Lee Maye
Today's 1961/2010 Counterparts are two men who, although played for the Braves, found much of their success in the city of Angels.

Lee Maye began his professional baseball career in my neck of the woods (Boise, Idaho) in 1954, playing for the Boise Braves of the Class C Pioneer League. Lee would make it to the majors in 1959, and would be a member of the Braves until their final season in Milwaukee in 1965. Although not a star by any means, Maye was a good contact hitter who had good speed, as well as some pop in his bat. In 1961 Lee had one of his better seasons, hitting .271 in 110 games with 14HR, 11 2B, 5 3B, 10/11 SB. His 1963 season almost mirrored the '61 stats, and then he followed that with his breakthrough year in 1964, when he led the league with 44 doubles (he also had 5 triples and 10 homers that year). At the height of his career, Lee suffered an ankle injury at the beginning of the 1965 season and was traded to the Astros after his recoveryt. Maye would go on to play six more seasons in Houston, Cleveland, Washington, before finishing with the ChiSox in 1971.

Once dubbing himself, "The Best Singing Athlete Who Ever Lived", Maye's playing career might have been overshadowed, if not hurt by, his singing career. Beginning in Los Angeles during the 1950's, Lee was an R & B singer for his "doo-wop" band, Arthur Lee Maye and the Crowns. With the Crowns, Arthur Lee Maye (as he was known in the music biz) would record his biggest hit, "Gloria" (not the Van Morrison or Doors hits). Another noteworthy recording he appeared on was the original "Louie, Louie" by Richard Berry.

No. 84 in the 2010 Topps Heritage set belongs to last year's left fielder for the Braves, Garret Anderson. Although not a professional musician, Anderson could definitely be described as a professional hitter. In a weird twist of irony, Garret also began his professional baseball career by playing in Boise for 25 games in 1990 (although he first appeared in 32 games for the Angels Arizona Rookie team). He would then go on to play 14 years for the Angels, becoming one of their most popular players. In 2009, his first season for another team, Garret would get his 2500th career hit, placing him 89th on the all-time list.

While Anderson's playing career has surpassed that of Maye, I think that their numbers could have been quite similar, had Maye not suffered his ankle injury and been given more consistant playing time.

Interleague Play, Round 2


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

(South) Carolina in My Mind

While Yankee Javier Vazquez may finally be turning things around (he's 2-0 in his last two starts w/ only 3ER allowed in 14 IP, 5 H, 16K and 5BB), and Atlanta starter Derek Lowe continues his roller-coaster ride, Braves fans still have a reason to rejoice. Arodys Vizcaino, the key piece to the trade that send Vazques to the Yankees, was promoted to High A Myrtle Beach today. Before his promotion, the 19 year-old Vizcaino was 9-3 in Low A Rome with a 2.34 ERA in his 12 starts, sporting a beautiful 0.995 WHIP, 66K in 69.1 IP. With Arody's advancement, the Pelicans now have what is arguably the best pitching staff in the minors. Try this one on for size: Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Vizcaino, and J.J. Hoover. Not too shabby! I was really disappointed to see that Bowman didn't include the former Yankee in their 2010 set, but perhaps there will be a team set issued that will include all four.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

2010 Bowman Blaster Break

My daughter and I were at Target this afternoon, shopping for my wife's birthday, when I heard a box of cards calling my name. As I began scanning the shelf that holds the blasters, I located it: the sole box of 2010 Bowman baseball. Knowing the odds of hitting anything big were just about nil, I still couldn't pass up the dang thing. I've been telling myself I wasn't going to buy any packs- my interest in Bowman has really waned over the years. Each year it's the same thing and they've gotten to be really boring. And if not for the Strasburg's, I really don't think this set would even be relevant. That being said, I'm still a sucker for that possibility of getting something good.

Pack #1
#216 Eric Hacker- RC
#145 David Wright
#114 Chris Tillman
#8 Scott Baker
Alex Rodriguez 1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT3

I really like this set. Judging from the negative reaction I've heard about the Topps 2 Vintage Legends (which I also love), this may not be well received by collectors either.

#BP61 Josh Donaldson
#BP84 Yowill Espinal
#BCP110 D.J. LeMahieu
#BCP57 John Lamb
#166 Brian McCann- Gold (Nice...A Bravo!)

Pack #2
#218 Dustin Richardson
#31 Jhoulys Chacin
#96 Tim Hudson

- I know this is nothing new, that Topps was guilty of this 40+ years ago, but c'mon! With all the photo's on file in this day and age, you mean to tell me that you use the same photo as the 2010 Topps Hudson card?!

#BCP49 Brian Baisley
#BCP46 Abner Abreu
Bowman Expectations #BE40 Matt Garza/Jeremy Hellickson
Topps 100 #TP56 Jarrod Parker
#BP82 Jacob Elmore
#BP67 Evan Anundsen
#62 Christian Guzman-Gold

Pack #3
#74 Kosuke Fukudome
#137 Delmon Young
#108 Lance Berkman
#71 Yovani Gallardo
#BCP37 Mitch Moreland
#BCP23 Alexander Torres
1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT10 Matt Cain
#BP48 Simon Castro
#BP91 Nolan Arenado
#76 Michael Young-Gold
Will someone please tell me why Topps doesn't include their Topps Attax cards in Series 2 as an extra card (as they did with this checklist), instead of being counted as one of the 10 cards in their pack?

Pack #4
#62 Christian Guzman
#95 Victor Martinez

This is a great shot! I can't remember seeing a better photo of the ball coming off of a player's bat.

#210 Tyler Flowers-RC I really hope this kid gets his confidence back behind the plate! Another former Braves farmhand.

#12 Jose Reyes

#BCP12 Bo Bowman-Great name for a guy included in the set. Even if he was the worst player in the minors, he would still have to be included in the Bowman set!

#USA18-BC14 Brian Ragira
Topps 100 #TP44 Felix Doubront

#BP10 Aroldis Chapman- While it's not a Chrome card (or the Strasburg), I'll still take it. Haven't heard much about him lately...

#BP3 Cole McCurry
#144 Alex Rios-Gold

Pack #5
#15 Ubaldo Jimenez
#144 Alex Rios

#160 Roy Halladay- hmm...two of the first three cards are of pitchers who have thrown no-no's this year (one a perfect game). Can't say that's ever happened to me before!

#204 Eric Young Jr.-RC
#BCP2 Melky Mesa

#BCP69 C.J. Retherford- Purple Refractor #698/999
Are you serious? The one card in the blaster that might have some kind of value, and I get one with this bad of centering?

1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT26 Josh Beckett
#BP34 Scott Shaw
#BP26 Cody Satterwhite
#148 Hideki Matsui-Gold

Pack #6
#5 Zack Greinke
#60 Ian Kinsler
#150 Miguel Tajada
#BCP19 Tyson Gillies
#BCP25 Pedro Florimon
Bowman Expectations #BE10 Ryan Braun/Mat Gamel
Topps 100 #TP36 Chris Withrow
#BP92 Rex Brothers
#BP40 Domingo Santana
#15 Ubaldo Jimenez-Gold

Pack #7
#101 Jorge Posada
#214 Daniel McCutchen-RC
#83 Jimmy Rollins
#16 Jason Kubel
#BCP44 Allan Dykstra
#BCP36 Trevor May
1992 Bowman Throwbacks #BT34 Jorge Posada

#BP105 Julio Teheran- an absolute STUD! This kid may very well one day anchor the Braves staff!

#BP98 Alexia Amarista
#153 Max Scherzer-Gold

Last, but not least...Pack #8
#21 Luke Hochevar
#58 Johnny Cueto
#207 Brent Dlugach
#55 Matt Holliday
#BCP56 Rolando Gomez

#USA18-BC3 Garin Cecchini- I think these Team USA cards are one of the few bright spots in the set. Glad to see Team USA cards are back with Topps. Hopefully he can come back strong from his torn ACL.

Topps 100 #TP25 Jake Arrieta
#BP71 Bo Greenwell

#BP86 Michael Wing- Dear Topps: Please, please stop including guys in your Prospect set whose future is seen as a "promising utilityman."
#5 Zack Greinke-Gold

Well, after breaking this box, my thoughts on Bowman were confirmed: If I feel like I must have some of this product, I would be better off just buying the singles and forgoing purchasing any packs or boxes. Same old crap, year after year. Hopefully next year Topps will shed the black borders with red, blue, and/or green frames. Better yet, just make it a Chrome Prospects product only.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

50 Year Counterparts, Pt. 6

Turning the clock back once again to 1961, we see a strange pairing of cards #105: from the '61 Topps, Carl Willey, and from the 2010 Topps Heritage, Tim Hudson.

Willey pitched for the Braves over the course of five seasons ('58 to '62) before being purchased by the New York Mets at the beginning of the '63 season. Over those five years, he pitched in 142 games for the Braves, starting 83 of those games. His win/loss record for the Braves was 28-40 with an ERA of 3.94. Looking at his record, his strikeout/walk ratio and his WHIP, one wonders why Topps would place Huddy opposite him in this years set at card #105. Coming into the '10 season, Hudson has 34 more wins in his time in Atlanta than Willey had in his Milwaukee tenure (both having, incidently, 40 loses), as well as a better K/BB ratio and WHIP. And considering that Hudson is the ace of the Braves vaunted staff, while Willey was the #4 starter in '61, you wonder why Huddy wasn't paralleled with Lew Burdette.

Anyway, Willey's career early on looked as if he might just be a future ace. His professional debut in 1951 saw him go 15-5 with a 1.95 ERA for Quebec in the Class C Provincial League. The next year he would pitch for the Atlanta Crackers, a AA team in the Southern Association, going 10-6 but with a 4.19 ERA. After years serving in the military, Carl would pitch three more seasons in the minors, eventually making it to Milwaukee in 1958- the year the Braves would make it to the World Series. That season he would be named the NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by the Sporting News after going 9-7 with a 2.70 ERA in 19 starts (and appearing in a total of 23 games), including 9 complete games and finishing first with 4 shutouts! Willey would never be able to match the success he had that first season in the majors. The 1961 season would be his second to last season with the Braves, and he would get the most inning in his career to that point. While he posted a losing record of 6-12, his ERA and his WHIP would drop from the previous two seasons. The record he posted would be on par with what was happening in the Milwaukee organization at that time- a decline in wins. Since their glorious late '50s, the once proud Braves would continue to drop in the standings until their move to Atlanta in 1966. After his playing days, Willey spent time in the Phillies organization as a scout. In 2009, Carl would die of lung cancer at the age of 78.

I have to admit I was somewhat surprised that the Braves would sign Hudson to an extension after the 2009 season, considering the arm problems he had and the failure to match the success he had had while in Oakland. With the year he's having in 2010,Huddy is making me look like a real genius. In his first 11 starts, he's 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Considering all the success in Oakland, this year Huddy has actually given up the fewest hits/9 IP in his career. And even though his walks are up, his WHIP is back to where it was in his days in Oakland. Barring some disastrous outings in the next few weeks, Tim looks to be a lock for the All-Star game this year.

As far as the cards go, both share the somewhat familiar background of a shot with stadium seats. Both pitchers also share that same icy stare, although the photo of Willey is kind of difficult to really tell since it's not a very crisp shot. The back of Hudson's card declares that he's had 5 starts in which he's allowed just 1 hit. I did not know that- yet another reason to like the retro cards, they give you some pretty cool facts about the player.

The Kid Retires

The Kid's final at bat of his great career. Monday, May 31, 2010.

Shocked! That is the only word, other than perhaps saddened, to describe the feelings going through me a few minutes ago as I learned that Ken Griffey Jr. has retired. You knew it was coming, with the season he was having and the injuries he's endured throughout the years. But still...

I can't help but feel incredibly blessed to have watched him over the years, and even more so in saying that we were at the Twins/Marinier's game on Monday night when Jr. had his final at-bat. With Seattle trailing late in the game, we were tempted to leave and beat the traffic, so that we could get back to our hotel at a decent hour. We were leaving Tuesday morning, and I didn't want to face an 8+ hr drive back home on little rest. However, I had this hope that somehow The Kid would make it into the game. I knew that this would be my only chance to ever witness one of baseball's greats live, and that is what led me to wait it out. Yes, my daughter was squirrly, wanting to leave- but thankfully we hung around for the final out. With Josh Wilson (the tying run) on first base and no outs, Griffey came to the plate-his first appearance in eight games. I was disappointed when he hit a weak ground ball that appeared to be a double play ball, but first baseman Justin Morneau couldn't field the short hop and Griffey was safe at first. Not really an ideal final at bat for such an illustrious career. But you know what? Selfishly, I don't really care. I will remember Junior for his smile, his sweet swing, his amazing defense, and scoring on Edgar Martinez' single in the bottom of the 11th to beat the Yankees and win the 1995 AL Divsional series.