Saturday, June 29, 2013

2013 Topps Pro Debut Braves Checklist

Topps' recently released minor league product features eight Braves in this year's base set. As in years past, the design resembles the major league release and also feature gold parallels numbered to 50. Hobby Boxes are configured as such: 24 packs per box, eight cards per pack, 2 autographs per box, 1 manu-patch and 1 relic card per box.

2013 Topps Pro Debut
#71 Mauricio Cabrera
  73 Christian Bethancourt
  76 Alex Wood
  96 Lucas Sims
114 Jose Peraza
136 Luis Merejo
202 Sean Gilmartin
212 J.R. Graham

Pro Debut Autographs
#PDA-JP Jose Peraza
  PDA-LM Luis Merejo

Side by Side Autographs
#SBS-PM Jose Peraza/Luis Merejo
  SBS-PO Jose Peraza/Roughened Odor
  SBS-PP Jorge Polanco/Jose Peraza

Mascot Patch Cards
#MAS-BL Blooper (Danville Mascot)
  *Do we really need these?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Faux Food-Issue Friday: Iconic Drink, Iconic Player

"I never wanted to play anywhere else. I'm a Southern kid, and I wanted to play in a Southern town where I felt comfortable. And I felt comfortable from day one in the Braves organization."~ Chipper Jones, upon announcing his retirement.

Among the many advertising slogans that The Coca-Cola Company has used, one in particular has always stuck with me. It's the Real Thing. Or so they say. And to be honest with you, I don't know why it is that this one has left such an indelible mark in my memory bank.

Funny thing is, I couldn't agree less. You see, I'm a Pepsi guy; and as far as I'm concerned, they are even better than the real thing. But for the sake of this post, I'll set aside loyalties to the competitor. After all, Coca-Cola is a much more iconic brand name.

Another iconic name is that of Chipper Jones, whom the Atlanta Braves will induct into their Hall of Fame (as well as retiring Jones' number 10) this evening. Jones' uniform will be the tenth number to be retired by the team- which is kind of fitting since he is arguably the most popular player in team history (not to mention, the only of the ten to have spent his whole career in Atlanta).

So in honor of the old Battle Axe, I've tweaked a Topps card from 2002. The manufacturer, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, produced a special twelve card set of the San Francisco Giants. The cards, which came two per specially marked pack and inserted into 24-can cases of the product, were issued only in the Bay area.

Congratulations to Chipper on the fine Hall of Fame career- and while I won't be able to be there to celebrate his achievements with what is sure to be a sell-out crowd, I can observe it thanks to the magic of the internet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 2013 Card Show #3: 1956 Topps Warren Spahn

Come to find out, the seven days between June 15th and June 21st were pretty important ones for those of us who are Warren Spahn fans and/or collectors.

As I posted last week, I finally re-acquired a beauuuutifullllll 1953 Bowman color Warren Spahn card- I sold mine some eighteen years ago, and have been dying to pick up another one ever since. Not only that, but I also picked up this 1956 Topps card of Spahnie at the same card show.

If that wasn't enough to get me pumped up, I just read yesterday an online article from Friday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Warren's son, Greg, has consigned some 406 items of his late father to Hunt Auctions. As Greg put it, "he saved everything," referring to his father's career. The most important pieces will be part of a live auction during the All-Star Fanfest July 15-16.

I won't even begin to list some of the items, but you can read about some of them in the above JSOnline link, or by visiting the Hunt Auctions website.

Now, if I only had money to join in on the bidding...

Oh, and you might wanna give this tune a spin while you're checking out the items on Hunt's website.

Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 Chops #25 and #41: Our Two Dads

Most Braves fans are well aware of the Atlanta-Kansas City connection. From executives such as John Schuerholz and Dayton Moore to a multitude of players including Jeff Francouer and Kyle Davies, each team has had personnel who have called both cities home. There's another connection that I wasn't aware of until doing some research today on Braves third baseman Chris Johnson.

2013 Chops #25 Chris Johnson

Looked at by some as nothing more than a 'throw-in' in the Martin Prado/Justin Upton trade, Johnson has arguably been the Braves most consistent offensive player this season. And while he won't make fans forget Chipper Jones anytime soon, Chris has done as well as could have been expected of the former Stetson University star.

1981 TCMA Omaha Royals Ron Johnson
The first part of our Braves/Royals connection begins with Chris' father, Ron, who was the Royal's 24th round pick in the 1978 amateur draft. After spending his first four-plus professional seasons in the minors, the elder Johnson received a call to Kansas City in September of 1982- where he made his major league debut as a defensive replacement at first base. Johnson wouldn't get his first at-bat until his third game- coming against the Angels on September 22. Ron would collect a total of eighteen plate appearances over eight games that maiden season, hitting .286 (thanks primarily to a 3-3 performance at Oakland on September 26). The next season, Johnson once again received a September call-up, going 7-27 with 1 RBI. Following his playing career, Ron Johnson managed in the Royals minor league system for eight seasons.

2013 Chops #41 Tyler Pastornicky

Recalled from AAA Gwinnett last week, Tyler Pastornicky had spent most of the current season at second base- a position he's played at in only 91 of his 486 minor league games. He has also spent time in the outfield this season, which will only help in his search for a major league roster spot next season- whether in Atlanta or elsewhere. It's his bat, however, that will be his calling card, as he's a not strong defensive player. In the meantime, his bat will be a good addition off the bench until Evan Gattis returns, and he (Pastornicky) is once again optioned back to Gwinnett. It would not surprise me to see the Rev, as Tyler's called, get traded for a bullpen arm.

1984 TCMA Omaha Royals Cliff Pastornicky

While I did not know that Chris Johnson's father played for the Royals, I was aware that Tyler's father, Cliff, played for the Royals' organization. Cliff's only time in the majors came in 1983 with Kansas City, where he spent about two weeks in June with the parent club. During those two weeks, Cliff had 32 plate appearances, going 4-32 with 2 HRs and 5 RBI. He was then returned to Omaha-where he finished out the season.

 As mentioned earlier, Ron Johnson's time in KC came in September, but the two dads were teammates at AAA Omaha for that 1983 season.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Food-Issue Friday: Sustenance

Growing up, I seemed to have two staples in life: cardboard (as in cards) and cereal. While the consumption of the grain helped sustain me physically, the cardboard helped sustain my 'baseball is life' philosophy (BTW- there's a great read here which summarizes that philosophy perfectly). Remember, this was back before ESPN, the internet, and all the blessings of modernity which have, at least in part, replaced those childhood treasures as the source of baseball facts and stats.

Ah, so that must explain why I am so obsessed with the Post Cereal cards from the past.

I decided to feed this obsession of mine at the quarterly card show last weekend. And it's a good thing that I added them to my want list while revising it, because I happened across a couple of stacks of 1963 Post Cereal cards on the table of my favorite vintage dealer. Hunger pangs commenced. FEED ME, it cried.

Where else might Mikey have learned that Frank Bolling had played in 72 errorless games at second base? Or that he tied for the AL lead in sacrifice bunts in 1958? Certainly not on ESPN- it didn't exist in 1963!

Legend had it that Joe Adcock hit a homer that traveled 470 feet at Milwaukee's County Stadium. You can't believe everything on the internet now-a-days. But, hey, his baseball card told us that fact- so it must have been true!

 They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while this purchase wasn't as nutritious as my 1953 purchases , it was still filling, nonetheless.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

2013 Chops Series III Checklist

Yesterday may have been the street date for Topps Series 2, but today is the unveiling of the Chops Series III Checklist.

Choosing the player to featured on this checklist was a difficult one. My thinking was that it needed to be a franchise player, and so it came down to either Simmons or Freddie Freeman. While Freddie is a much better hitter, I chose Andrelton for the fact that he's such an exciting player on defense. Freeman will be the player on the Series IV checklist.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Miniature Card, Diminutive Price

2013 Bowman Chrome Mini #CC-AB5 (201/250)

I recently picked up this 2013 Bowman Chrome Blue Wave Mini Sean Gilmartin for a penny. Yes, that's right- one cent. Well, I did have to pay $2.69 for shipping, but I like the thought of buying something for a penny. Especially when the player portrayed on said card is doing absolutely nothing to justify me spending that hard-earned coin.

After getting shellacked (again) on Sunday, Gilmartin's record now stands at 3-7, with a 5.83 ERA in 13 starts this season for AAA Gwinnett. He also has a not so small 1.676 WHIP and a SO/BB ratio of only 1.57. His seven starts in AAA towards the end of last year were equally as ugly, so the organization has to be concerned about the future for the man whom many projected to be on a fast track to the majors, ala Mike Minor. Granted, with soon to be six starters, there's no need for Gilmartin to be major league ready- but he would make nice trade bait.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day?

I wonder what Father's Day was like this year for former Brave Otis Nixon. 

   2013 Archives Dual Fan Favorite #DFF-NU
Nixon was pulled over about 5 weeks ago for erratic driving in suburban Atlanta. Upon inspection of his truck, officers found rocks of crack cocaine, as well as pipes used to smoke the substance. Nixon admitted that the items were what officers suspected them to be, but that they belonged to his son and that he had been planning on getting rid of the items. Otis was then given a field sobriety test, which he passed. 

You might remember Otis battling drug addiction during his playing career- beginning with an arrest in 1987 while he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. He also was handed down a 60-game suspension in September 1991 for failing a drug test. The suspension caused Nixon to miss not only the final month of the season, but also the NLCS and World Series. 

2013 Archives #212 (SP)
While it certainly is easy to reach a 'guilt' decision concerning Nixon's recent possession charges, given his prior history, another event happened last week (and which I just read about prior to writing this) which causes me to re-think my judgement. One week ago today, a fire broke out in one of the houses that Otis owns, and which his son (whether it's the same son or not, I don't know) lives. A neighbor was arrested and charged with arson. Apparently, the fire was the result of a dispute between the suspect and a man who lived in Nixon's house. 

 Whatever the truth might be in the two incidents, it's a sad story. If Nixon indeed has gone back into drug use, then yes, it's sad. And it would be even sadder if he's trying to place the guilt upon his son for his own transgressions. I really hope that's not the case. I hope that he's telling the truth and that his son can get the  help that he needs. The fact that arson took place only leads me to believe that perhaps it's the same son and that it was drug related. 

2013 Archives Mini Tall-Boys #MT-ON
As far as the featured cards...I was surprised to hear that Otis was going to have so many cards featured in this year's Archives set. He was never an All-Star, and was relatively an unknown. One card, yeah- I can see that. But having four? 

I'm still undecided about picking up an autographed card from this set. If the price is right, then I will try to buy it. 

Anyway...I hope you all have had a nice Father's Day!! For those without any children, I hope that you had an opportunity to spend time with, think about, or talk to your dad. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 2013 Card Show: Sweet 53's

Where has the time gone? Summer is here (at least the weather has been summer-like), so it's time for our quarterly card show again.

After having picked up the '58 Mantle/Aaron World Series card at the Spring show, my expectations were back to normal this time around. Heading into this weekend, I expected to get the typical 10 cent cards, vintage commons to go towards finishing my Topps Braves team sets, etc. Most of the cards I brought home certainly fall under those categories, but I did manage to pick up two cards that, for me, are major acquisitions. One, in fact, has been at the top of my Fourteen Fugitives, while the other was pretty close to cracking that list.

                                                          1953 Bowman Color Warren Spahn

Who doesn't love the '53 Bowman colors? To me, this was the most beautiful set ever produced. You can have your '52 Mantle- I'll take this one. I at one time had this card (in much better shape, I might add), but decided to sell it off when my wife and I got engaged. Money was much tighter back then, and we needed the dough to help fund our wedding. I've never regretted that decision. But I'm much happier to have this card once again.

1953 Topps Ed Mathews
Mathews had a superb freshman season in 1952, but he followed it with what would be his finest season as a pro. As a sophomore, the hard-hitting, hard-drinking Mathews clubbed a career-high 47 home runs, 135 RBI, .627 Slugging, 1.033 OPS, and an 8.3 WAR.

Sure, this card is pretty rough. But so was Ed.

"Eddie hit him [Frank Robinson] with three punches that not even Muhammad Ali could have stopped."~ Warren Spahn, years after Mathews pounded the Hall of Fame third baseman in August of 1960.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two Jumbo Rack Packs

A recent trip to Target resulted in a couple of Archives rack packs. As was the case with last year's product, this is a fun product, and I wouldn't mind busting a box just for the pure entertainment value.

While I won't list everything from the two packs, I will highlight a few of the cards

Dual Fan Favorites Matt Williams/Buster Posey #DFF-WP
I certainly don't like the Giants, but a nice insert set, nevertheless.

#22 Alex Rios- Anything else other than a throwback uniform, circa 1972, on a card modeled after the 1972 Topps would be unacceptable.

1972 Topps Basketball Design #72B-KG Ken Griffey, Jr.
  Speaking of 1972...One of the better inserts in recent memory. Groovy!

It's crazy, I know, but...while I've never been a fan of the 1990 Topps design, I've got to admit- the cards I've seen in this Archives set with the '90 design are actually not bad looking. My favorites from this set are still the 1985 designs, but '90 ranks close behind.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

64/13 Counterparts: #152 LeMaster and Huddy

"He was never a flaky left-hander, he was very normal, very together. Denny should have been right-handed."~ former teammate Bob Ueker.

1964 Topps #152 Denny Lemaster
As a youngster, Denny Lemaster would walk over a mile a day to the bus stop, throwing rocks at fence posts along the way. But fence posts weren't the only thing he used for target practice. Birds in trees were fair game, as well- and the future big league pitcher could knock them out of their perch seemingly at will.

So it's no surprise then, that the left handed Lemaster later became a hot commodity as a pitcher for Oxford High (Ca). Denny possessed a repertoire that included a tailing fastball and a very good curve that would drop off the table; but it was his great control and the ability to mix his pitches up that really sold Braves scouts on him- and led them to signing Lemaster to a $90,000 signing bonus in 1958.

The 1964 season would be Lemaster's third in the majors. And while he led the majors with a career high 20 wild pitches that season, he also won a career high 17 games.

Best Game 1964:  September 11th
 Lemaster threw a complete game shutout while allowing only one hit against the Reds. The hit, a lead off single by Reds shortstop Leo Cardenas, came in the top of the sixth- and was the first hit of the game. Reds' starter Jim Maloney had matched Denny's great game with a no-hitter of his own at that point, as well.

In his retirement years, Lemaster began carving custom duck decoys, which he entered into international competitions- twice taking second place and a third place in 1992. He has also sold some for upwards of $1500 each.

2013 Topps Heritage #152 Tim Hudson
Whether or not Huddy has any hobbies that could earn him money in his retirement years (like he will need it), I don't know; he is known, however, to be a joker.

Like that time he scared coach Eddie Perez on video. Or when he recently stuck a remote control in Mike Minor's face along with all the other devices during a post-game interview. During a spring training game this year, the Braves veteran threw a knuckleball to good friend and former teammate Adam LaRoche, who got a good laugh out of it. That wasn't the first joke he's pulled on LaRoche, either. He reportedly once filled Adam's glove with, um- dung. As an avid outdoorsman, I'm sure LaRoche would have preferred one of LeMaster's decoys.

2013 Season:
Tim may not be the Braves' best pitcher this season, but so far he has been their best hitting pitcher. He leads the staff in hits (6), RBI (3), Walks (2), Average (.250), OBP (.308), and SLG (.417).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I'm a little behind on this one- Braves 2012 2nd Round pick Alex Wood was recalled from AA Mississippi last week, and being on vacation I didn't have an opportunity to put this one up.

I've previously posted about Wood- which you can read here. So far, the lefty has appeared in two games- with 3 hits allowed, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts while allowing 0 runs. With both Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty out for the season after under going Tommy John surgery, Wood could be an important lefty coming out of the pen- unless management pick up a more experience reliever via a trade.

Lucas Sims, the Braves 1st Round pick last year, got off to a slow start this year as he began the year coming out of the bullpen. The righty allowed 3 runs in his first three appearances (5.2 IP), but did not give up any runs over his next 5 games (13.1 scoreless innings).  After making ten appearances out of the bullpen, Rome moved Sims into it's starting rotation- where he has made two starts, with the following stats: 8.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 BB, 16 K. For the year, opposing batters are hitting only .168 against Lucas, so if he can continue to produce a lot of outs and cut back on his walks (17 total in 31.1 IP), then he should be another in a long line of Braves pitching studs.

Oh, one other thing- how cool would it be to hear Alice In Chain's "Would?" as Mr Wood's entrance music out of the  'pen?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hit Parade

"Boy the way Glen Miller played, songs that made the hit parade. Guys like us we had it made-those were the days...Didn't need no welfare state, everybody pulled his weight. Gee, our old LaSalle ran great-those were the days!"~  "Those Were the Days" (Lee Adams), from the television series All in the Family.

I've been planning on a post featuring three of today's cards for a few weeks now, I just haven't taken the time to do so. I've got my excuses: work, yard work, graduation & party, vacation. Really what it all comes down to has been laziness. I haven't wanted to put much thought into the blog lately. Even writing this now isn't easy.

 When word came out this past weekend that actress Jean Stapelton of All in the Family fame died, I decided it was time to get to work on this particular post. What was originally going to be a post about Julio Franco has now morphed into something different.

You young 'uns might not remember the show All in the Family. In case you're not familiar with it, the show ran from 1971-1979, with a second sitcom (Archie Bunker's Place) following it from 1979-1983, and was centered around a conservative working-class bigot named Archie Bunker and his family- which included his 'dingbat' (his words) wife Edith (played by the late Jean Stapelton), feminist daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her hippie, liberal huband Michael (aka Meathead, played by Rob Reiner). For most of the series, Gloria and Michael lived in the Bunker's basement while the latter attended graduate school; this living arrangement is really a recipe for disaster, as the two men continually clash over world views. The show really was groundbreaking for the time, as it tackled various subject matter such as racism, women's liberation, abortion, rape, and menopause- all of which at the time were considered taboo.

The show itself has absolutely nothing to do with sportscards- but , like the lyrics above, many of us long for the days that we consider to be better. Days when packs contained gum, cards had grey (or clay) backs and had no foil, and there was only one card manufacture. Call us the Archie's of the collecting world.

Then there's the Michael's. They are more progressive- seeking to bring innovation to the hobby. Thanks to these Meatheads, we have videocards, die cuts, cards made of wood, metal, and plastic.

I would like to think that most of us are the Edith's of the collecting family. We're the ones who are caught in between, realizing that there's room for both types of family members. We rarely take a hard-line stance, but when we do, watch out. We can be told to stifle it only so often.

1971 Topps #528 Wally Bunker

1983 Topps Traded #34T Julio Franco

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go searching for some of the recently released Archives- I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.