Sunday, December 30, 2012

1989 Topps Long Hairs

"It was 1989, my thoughts were short, my hair was long..."~ Kid Rock's "All Summer Long"

The players depicted below didn't have what I would consider long hair. Especially when I think of myself back in 1989. Remember, that was in the 'hair bands' heyday, and I was a rock-star wannabe. But for an athlete, I suppose each one does have a little more hair than the average ballplayer.

 Just as hair bands ruled the day in '89, Canseco ruled the baseball world. 40/40. Fast cars. Firearms. Ultimately, we found out, a fraud. I'm pretty sure his hair was real, though.

He rocked the 'do in '89-he rocks the same one today. Something tells me he rocked it as a toddler.

It's not the hair that makes this such a great card. No, it's the dumb look on Krukie's face. 

No one in baseball could rock the jheri curl look like the late Pascual Perez. Dude was in a league of his own.

Long facial hair counts, right?

Second-Team Long-Hair Team

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Braves Book from a Buddy

Who says that an exuberant amount of money needs to be spent in order for a gift to be meaningful? If you're a parent, surely you've received something from your child which they created: a drawing, a poem, an arts and craft project. Inexpensive, meaningful gifts aren't just given by children, however.

I was given this book for Christmas from my friend Rick. We spent Christmas day with them, enjoying good food, fellowship, and a board game. After dinner we exchanged gifts, and I was completely surprised upon opening the package. I wasn't aware that this book even existed, but Rick came across it at a second hand store and probably paid a buck or two for it. As a baseball fan who has a large collection of baseball books, he could have kept it for himself- but because it was a Brave, he decided to give it to me instead. But that's just Rick-always thinking of others. It kind of comes with his gig as a pastor. 

Anyways, I couldn't have been happier. While I was much too young to know about Alou during his playing days, I have long admired him as a manager and as a man known for his integrity. Rick could have given me an autographed Bryce Harper Bowman this or that, but it wouldn't have meant as much to me. Like I said earlier, who says one has to spend much for a gift to be meaningful.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Food-Issue Friday: Hallelujah! New Cereal Cards!!

As I was substitute shopping for my wife this evening, I came across a display of a new special edition Kellogg's Cereal. Knowing that the kids needed cereal, a box of this 2012 Team USA stuff found its way into my cart. Anything similar to Fruit Loops or Cheerios is a popular choice in this household.

Once home, we began putting things away when -lo & behold...Cereal Cards!!!

Granted, they're not baseball cards- they're not even CHL cereal cards, but cards nonetheless!

Here they are in all their red, white, and blue glory...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Cards 2012

This year marks the third or fourth year that my wife has bought me vintage cards for Christmas (and my birthday, as well). The routine is pretty simple: I give her a list with about eight or nine cards from my want list, the conditions to ask about, and the phone number for Dean's Cards.
Now, the size and weight of a card(s) is pretty obvious-so she usually tries to mask the gift by putting it in a large box. Perhaps she will put one of my shirts in the box, to add a little weight. It's never a surprise, though, because I don't really ask for anything else. The only surprise is who will I get.

Well, this year she tried to add a different element of surprise to two of the packages. 

For instance, the first package I opened revealed a book (the classic How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler). Well, I already have that title- of which I remind her. Could she be trying to say something? I wonder to myself.

"Check page 44," she said.

So I open it up to page 44, and sure enough...there's a 1961 Topps Hank Aaron. 

Nice Bookmark!

The next package I open reveals a CD case that has about 10 sleeves in it- each holding a pre-recorded music CD. Many have my own handwriting. I thought this looked familiar. 

"It's like trying to find Waldo," my seventeen year-old son says. 

About the time he repeats "Where's Waldo?" I find a 1961 Topps Warren Spahn.

My wife and I both say, as if on cue, "Where's Warren?" I know- really cute, huh?

The third card- a 1964 Topps 'Tops in NL' Hank Aaron & Willie Mays- card came next. This time, however, it was in the typical shirt box-sans the shirt. That's okay- I've long wanted this card.

The fourth and final card was a 1962 Topps Hank Aaron. This one came in just a plain old top loader that was wrapped in paper. No box, no book, and no black CD case.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Original Cards: Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up

With the Braves having suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals in this year's NL Wild Card game, this post isn't the easiest thing to do. However, after reading about the Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up,  I decided to forgo loyalty and hopefully put the word out for a great fundraising event.

The Cardinals Care program will be hosting the 2013 Winter Warm-Up January 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. The Winter Warm-Up is the largest of many fundraising events which help underprivileged children in the Midwest. In the past sixteen years, the group has invested nearly $18 million in the lives of children- not only in youth baseball, but with off-the-field programs as well.

The following players are just a few of many who are scheduled to sign in person, or have signed balls available from a pre-event signing. Some autos are included with the paid event ticket. Others require a separate paid ticket. But like I said earlier, it all goes towards a great cause.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects: Blue and Orange

Blue and Orange is a common color scheme where I live. That's because I live in the heart of Boise State University country-where Bronco fans, myself included, abound. And there's no doubt that wherever I may go today, I'm sure to be swimming in a sea of Bronco blue (they are playing the Washington Huskies in the MAACO Bowl today).

Another blue and orange I've become fond of are the Bowman parallel cards. I may no longer desire to collect the base Bowman set, but I certainly won't pass up the parallels-should they be had for the right price. I recently picked these up for next to nothing, hoping that each player can eventually work their way up to the big league club.

2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects #BDPP56 Blue Justin Black (128/500)
Black, the Braves 4th round pick in '12, struggled during his professional debut in the the Gulf Coast League.   The toolsy, but very raw, player posted a slash line of .182/.292./.258 while striking out 54 times in 132 at-bats. As a player coming out of the state of Montana, where his high school didn't even have a team, Black lacked the experience that most draftees have, and that certainly could explain his struggles. One thing is clear: Black is a huge upside player who will not be rushed through the system. One would think that the Braves will send him to extended spring training before assigning him to their advanced-rookie club in Danville, Va.

2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects #BDPP47 Orange Bryan De La Rosa (156/250)
 Atlanta certainly isn't lacking in catching prospects, and De La Rosa is the latest in the pipeline. Like Black, De La Rosa began his career in the GCL, where he too struggled offensively with a slash line of .162/.194/.221 and 30 strikeouts in only 68 at bats. Defensively, the third round selection is agile with good hands and got rave reviews on his defense-particularly for his great catch and throw skills. He projects to be an above-average to plus defender, but it's his bat that will determine whether or not he will be a starter or a back-up. Sounds very similar to Braves prospect Christian Bethancourt, but with perhaps a better approach at the plate.

2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospectxs #BDPP129 Blue Fernelys Sanchez (294/500)
A Sixteenth-round selection from George Washington High School in NYC (Manny Ramirez' high school), Fernelys is yet another 'toolsy' type of player, whose primary tool is his speed-which rates as a 70 on the scale of 20 to 80 (he was considered one of fastest players in the draft). If not for the broken left fibula he sustained in March, Sanchez, ranked as Baseball America's 58th top high school prospect in 2012,would have gone much higher in the draft. Despite falling to the sixteenth round, Sanchez was thrilled with the opportunity to go to the Braves, and he, too, began his career in the Gulf Coast League. The switch-hitting outfielder appeared in 17 games, in which he had 58 at-bats, with 32 strikeouts, 3 stolen bases, and 1 homer along with a line that reads .155/.269/.224

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayans, Cubans, and the End of the World

I often enjoy beginning a post with song lyrics which I find relevant to whatever it is that I'm writing about. However, I will forgo the temptation to do so today with the lyrics of a certain popular band out of Georgia-sparing my readers of having to listen to (or, in this case, read) it for the bajillionth time today...
During his six-year career in his native Cuba, Yunesky Maya went 48-29 with a 2.51 ERA for the Pinar del Rio Vegueros. He also pitched in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, as well as the 2009 games. Maya would win the Cuban equivalent of the Cy Young Award during the 2009 season- his final one in Cuba- going 13-4 with a 2.22 ERA.

After signing a 4-year, 6 million dollar contract with the Washington Nationals in August of 2010, Maya started only five games in the Nats' system before making his MLB debut on September 7, 2010, taking the loss against the Mets that evening. Maya did not pitch very well down the stretch for the Nationals, going 0-3. He wouldn't pitch very well for Washington in 2011, either, appearing in 10 games, giving up 19 runs in 32.2 innings, along with a 1.531 WHIP.

Yuni pitched the entire 2012 season at AAA Syracuse, leading me to wonder if the world doesn't end today, will Maya ever pitch in the majors again?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Winter Card Show #3: The Big Chip

More from this past weekend's card show-

1999 Topps Oversized #6 of 8 Chipper Jones
Coming in at 3.25" x 4.50", this card is identical to Hoss' regular issued '99 card-with the exception of its size and card number. There's also a Maddux oversized card out there, calling my name...

January 1991 issue of Baseball Card Price Guide
This was mandatory reading when I re-entered the Hobby in March of 1991, and would continue to be- were it still being published.

While the cards inside the magazine are nice (this issue includes Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Thigpen, Ricky Henderson, Dwight Gooden, and Kevin Maas in the 1971 Topps design), it was the cover that compelled me to purchase this one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2003 Topps Record Breakers John Smoltz

" He's [John Smoltz] survived trade rumors and fortunately they [Braves organization] didn't take him up on his offer at the beginning of the 1995 season to move to the bull pen to be a closer. I don't know what kind of a closer he'd be. He's a nervous wreck at times. Being put in a tough spot every day, I don't know if he could live with that." ~ from 'None but the Braves', Tom Glavine's 1996 autobiography.

2003 Topps Record Breakers #JS John Smoltz
As good as Smoltzie was in 2002, when he set the N.L. record for saves in a season, his 2003 campaign was even more dominant in certain areas. Sure, he appeared in fewer innings (64.1 vs. 80.1) in 13 fewer games, with 10 fewer saves, but topped his '02s numbers in WHIP  (0.870 vs. 1.033), BB/9 (1.6 per 9 fewer), SO/9 (10.2 vs. 9.5), SO/BB ratio (9.13 vs. 3.54), ERA (1.12 vs. 3.25). Two other stats, however, reveal he wasn't as effective in other areas: his '02 save percentage topped the '03 campaign (93% -to-92%), and his IS% (inherited score) dropped significantly from 20% to 37% . Still, over the course of four seasons, Smoltzie proved Glavine was completely wrong in his assessment of John's mentality.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Winter Card Show #2: First Year!

The first season for major league baseball in Atlanta was 1966-the year this group of cards were released. As was typical for that period, the cards for expansion-or in this case, relocated- teams were pretty bland, as evidenced by the five cards featured today.

1966 Topps #28 Phil Niekro, #96 Felipe Alou, #381 Hank Fischer
Turns out I didn't need the Knucksie card- I looked at the wrong year on my checklist as I came across this one. Oh well, it is in much better shape than my other one-time to upgrade. 

Felipe Alou just looks like a ball player, and what a player he was! I always wanted his kid to don the Brave uniform when he was playing, just like the old man did. 

As far as the Fischer card, this is the norm for the Braves cards from the '66 set. Boring. I sure hope that Topps resists the temptation make the '15 Heritage Braves cards to look like this one. If so, I might just have to pass.

                                                                                       WRONG HATS!
                                                                                     1966 Topps #326  Braves Team Card
I guess they couldn't really get past this one. It's supposed to be a card showing the '65 team, and features team leaders from that season. Still. It's just doesn't seem right with the M on all those caps. Maybe they should have air brushed them out

1966 Topps #518 Rookie Stars Herb Hippauf/Arnie Umbach
At last- the caps with an 'A'! The only question is: real or memorex (airbrushed)? The first prospect sounds like a character off of a Winnie the Pooh movie. The second, Revenge of the Nerds. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Custom 1977 Mark Fidrych

Topps recently gave collectors a preview of the 2013 Archives set, and one design I really like is an insert designed after Topps' 1972 NBA set. It's funny that they've done that, as I have been trying to design some customs after retro designs from other sports.

Being a fan of the 1977 Topps NBA set, I recently decided to use it as a template for a baseball set. I've done a couple of things different on this design, however. I've replaced the basketball with the player's position in it with a baseball that has the team logo, and then just listed the position under the city.

When I think of the 1977 Major League Baseball season, the first thing that pops into my mind is that season's World Series and Mr. October. I also think of the Seattle Mariners and it being their first year-I spent many a night for the next few seasons listening to them on the radio. Finally, the '77 Topps baseball cards were the first that I collected on a larger scale, and the one card that sticks out in my mind from that set is the rookie card of the previous season's "Rookie Sensation"- Mark 'The Byrd' Fidrych, the subject of my first 1977 'NBA' inspired card.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winter 2012 Card Show #1: Consistency

  My game plan going into today's card show revolved around, as usual, trying to complete my Braves Topps team sets. I was able to knock a few off of my want list, but the number of cards I brought home certainly is much smaller than what it typically is. Quality over quantity, as they say.

1955 Topps #31 Warren Spahn
From 1947 to 1963-a period which spanned 17 seasons- Warren failed to reach 20 or more wins only four times. 'Fitty-Five was one of those seasons. It was also one of only three seasons during the same period in which he failed to make the All-Star team.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Food-Issue Friday: 1990 Starline Long John Silver John Smoltz

Modeled after the Starline Posters and looking like it should have a Pepsi Cola logo on the front, the 1990 Starline/Long John Silver cards were a rather forgettable odd-ball set which featured 40 cards of the same cast of characters that littered the 80s and 90s oddball cards. Many of the players feature multiple cards in the set, each with a different picture.

1990 Starline/Long John Silver's #14 John Smoltz

1990 Starline/Long John Silver's #34 (back) John Smoltz

Card number 34 features a different front and back photo of Smoltz

The card fronts actually remind me of some of the unlicensed cards from that era, while the backs are a little bit more mainstream. Team color schemes paint the front and back sides. In fact, the back of the set is kind of reminiscent of the back of the 1991 Fleer baseball set. And now that I think of it, the front of the '91 Fleer set looks like it could have been the ever-so-slightly better looking child of an ugly parent '90 Long John Silver set.

Ugly or not, the Smoltz' are still a great addition to my collection.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Strange But True

I read a tweet yesterday morning informing us that three pitchers recently traded within a 48 hour period (Trevor Bauer, James Shields, and Mike Montgomery) all came from the same high school in Newhall, CA. Sounds like something from the X-Files or Twilight Zone.

Given my interest in weird and unusual things, I knew I just had to create a post which passed on this great bit of news.

2010 Topps Pro Debut #319 Mike Montgomery

Given Tampa's history of developing great pitchers, it will be interesting if they can turn around the career of the once bright star of the Royals farm system. Time shall tell...

2012 Bowman Platinum #BPP4 Trevor Bauer

It's really hard to believe that the D'Backs traded away the highly touted Bauer. That being said, his failure to make adjustments last season caused concern for many scouts. The numbers at the major league level weren't impressive-but he was only a year removed from being drafted third overall out of UCLA. 

2012 Topps '87 Mini #TM41 James Shields

Is he an ace? Yet another hotly debated topic. He will be expected to lead the Royals into the postseason for the first time since 1985. If not, Dayton Moore's days in KC will be over.

So it got me thinking- what other major league players has Hart High School produced? Thanks to Baseball Reference, it was just a click away...

1988 Topps #349 Bob Walk

1992 Topps #275 Todd Zeile

2009 Heritage #448 Kevin Millar

1995 Stadium Club #492 Andrew Lorraine

Monday, December 10, 2012

TTM Autos: Milwaukee's Best

   I was once an ambitious collector of through the mail autographs. This was about twenty years ago when I was a prospector of minor leaguers, and the weeks leading up to spring training were perfect for preparing envelopes for the latest crop of invitees. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of collecting, it was a short lived venture. It certainly wasn't due to a lack of success; rather, I think I just found other things to occupy my time (like dating my future wife).

  The one group of players whose autographs I never really sought out were retirees. Of course, twenty years ago, it was much more difficult to find addresses to send the requests to-so it wasn't on my radar. While I may have failed in this area, I'm glad that others didn't.

  One person who took advantage of having veterans sign TTM is my friend and pastor R.H. He's a SoCal native who just so happens to be an Angel fan, so I usually try to set aside any Angels I pull out of packs for him. These trades in the past have usually netted me some Braves cards which I might have missed out on during my sabbatical from the card collecting world in the early 2000s. More recently, however, they netted me a couple of old-timers whom I had been looking to pick up.

Johnny Logan
What can I say? The first of the two John Logan signatures is seriously awesome. 1957 World Champs. With not one, but two, exclamation marks to get the point across. The card, on the other hand, is a beauty-it's too bad Mr. Logan signed it in the area he did, as the black box hides part of the signature.

Lew Burdette
Yet another nice signature. Whatever happened to taking pride in one's signature? Today's players could learn a thing or two from the players of yesteryear. One thing that would make this sweeter would be if he included '57 World Series MVP'
With the information available on the internet today, I need to stop saying I'm going to start sending requests off in the mail and just do it.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Twenty Years Ago Today

On this day in 1992, Free-Agent pitcher Greg Maddux signed with the Atlanta Braves.

I remember sitting at the table the evening of December 9, 1993, watching Sports Center, as they aired the  unbelievable news that Atlanta had signed Greg Maddux to a 5-year deal. Shocked by the news, I probably startled the nosy neighbor lady with my whooping and hollering. It didn't take long, however, for the shock to turn to pure joy. Ahh- baseball bliss! And that it was a screwing of the Yankees at the same time only made it that much sweeter!

Custom 1993 Donruss Greg Maddux
The '93 Donruss set could never get me as excited as I was the day that Maddux signed; in fact, with the exception of a few cards, I have never been able to get too excited about this set. The design itself wasn't too bad-but the photography ranks up there with some of the worst of the past twenty or thirty years. And unfortunately for Braves fans, Maddux was included in the set as a member of the Cubs-leading me to customize this card.

My fondest memories of 1993 Donruss has to be the Rated Rookie cards of Chipper, Javy Lopez, and Melvin Nieves. Those three players helped the 1992 Greenville Braves AA team win 100 games (against only 43 losses), and anticipation ran high for their inclusion in the new products. Despite its shortcomings, those three made the set worthwhile for this collector. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2013 Chops #5 Freddie Freeman

This past weekend, I debuted the first of a new series of original cards I've created. Dubbed Radiance, the cards were designed with a more mid-scale card in mind. The base set, with a Freddie Freeman pictured above, is just plain Chops.

 Those who are staunch defenders of advanced metrics swear that Freeman isn't all he's cracked up to be on D. But you know what? I could care less about the number crunchers-the fact of the matter is that there's always going to be aspects of a players game that can stand to improve. Every player has areas of his game which are stronger than others- and Freeman is no different. The areas where he is weak-say 8 chances to start a double play, with one successfully turned- are often picked up by another player (say, a pitcher getting a ground ball for a double play, a strikeout, etc). In the same way, Freeman can pick it like no one's business-saving countless errant throws by his infielders. In this sense, I believe his glove work has saved more runs than his deficiencies has allowed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cards You're Not Likely to See: Hot Stove League

With ARod in need of another hip surgery, I heard today that the Yanks are serious in their pursuit of Stephen Drew. At least it's not this Drew...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Mail- from the Night Owl

Coming home from a long day at work (and a Monday, no-less), all I could think of was enjoying the family during dinner, relaxing on the couch, and spend (hopefully) an uninterrupted forty or so minutes with my wife as we watch last night's episode of The Walking Dead. One thing I didn't expect to come home to was a package in the mail. And since cards (and baseball in general) are a nice diversion from the grind of the work week, these couldn't have come at a better time.

I recently sent a few cards to the gnarly nocturnal one- the Night Owl- for a couple of sets he has been working on. In return, he sent me a nice Braves package which consisted of 13 cards-10 of which I didn't have. Here are seven of the more fascinating ones...

2012 Triple Play #236 Brian McCann    &    1986 TMCA #7B Tommy Holmes
Two sets which I have a total sum of zero in my collection. I've been intrigued by the TMCAs for years, but have never picked any up. This might just be the jump start I've needed. As for the Triple Play- definitely a unique addition to the hobby. I think they missed the boat by excluding stats on the back (at least on the McCann), but do like the team trivia.

 1994 Upper Deck International Flavor Andre King #109
Another Andre King! I recently posted an entry about King, who was part of the
Screw Topps 100 Card Challenge. For the life of me, I can't think of which set this came out of-it reminds me of Collector's Choice, but has the minor league player (others were included, as well). Perhaps it was from the UD Minor League set? Anyone? Anyone?

2007 Bowman's Best #33 Brian McCann  & #9 Andruw Jones

My first Bowman's Best cards from the 2007 set. I was out of the hobby until late 2009, and wasn't even aware of these things until today. Wow- talk about thick card stock!

2012 Bowman Heritage High Numbers #H612 Tyler Pastornicky  & #H622 Reed Johnson

Yeeeeeeesssss! While the Andrelton Simmons card is the only card from this set that I truly give a crap about, I'll gladly take the other two Bravos from this set. Owl actually sent me another Andrelton as well-which will go into my Simmons PC.

Thanks again to the Night Owl for the great cards.