Friday, February 19, 2016

Antique Mall Mystery Pack: Yankees

If you've hung around for all the Mystery Packs from the Brass Armadillo antique mall these past few months, then this one will look a little bit different. That's because these next few came from an entirely different vendor clear across the store. In fact, they weren't mystery packs at all. Rather, these were in a full 9-pocket page, front and back.

But I want to keep the theme going. "Antique Mall Fully Visible Page" doesn't have the same ring. And anyway, they're definitely older than most of what you've been seeing lately.

1976 Topps Traded #528T Dock Ellis
Clear back to the 1970s, in fact. Thanks to the awesome No-No: a Dockumentary movie that came out recently, Dock Ellis, the Pirates pitcher who famously pitched a no-hitter while on LSD, has become much more well-known in recent years. Though he spent most of his career as a Pirate, he wasn't happy with getting sent to the bullpen in 1975, and following a team-imposed suspension, was dealt to the Yankees in the 1975-1976 offseason, earning a spot in the second-ever Topps Traded set.

Ellis is definitely not in a real Yankees uniform here. I'm sure that's a National League stadium in the background, and his hat has that fuzzy watercolor look common to airbrushed photos. But more tellingly, Ellis still has his mustache and sideburns, which is just barely within the limits of the Yankees' facial hair policy. It's a nice bridge between the 1972 In Action card I found in the Pirates pack and the next card.

1977 Topps #71 Dock Ellis
Following his departure from Pittsburgh, Ellis probably decided not to deal with testing Steinbrenner's limits and just went clean shaven. He passed away several years ago, after dealing with drugs, alcohol, and a domestic violence incident, both during his career and afterwards. As depicted in the movie, he spent a lot of time in his later years working as an advocate and coordinator in drug rehab programs.

Sure, the guy who dropped acid on game day had a lot of things to say about drugs, but he certainly wasn't the only one. The movie focuses quite a bit on Dexamyl, the drug of choice for many MLB players of the time, both on and off the Pirates. Drug use in the Majors goes way back, long before the recent round of steroid use, and Ellis himself contends that even guys like Ruth and Gehrig had to have been using something to play a day game after spending the night drinking.

I'm not saying that pro athletes should be involved with illegal drugs, but I am saying that it's bogus to single out steroid users while ignoring the 1970s, or even the 1920s, as Ellis alleges.

1976 Topps Traded #27T Ed Figueroa
Ellis didn't have the only 1976 Traded card in this page. The Yankees sure were busy shoring up the rotation on December 11th, 1975, acquiring Ed Figueroa the same day as Ellis. Figueroa got the airbrushed treatment too, though Topps did a much better job on Ellis' pinstripes.

Topps Traded was still finding an identity in the mid-'70s. The torn newspaper headline is a nice touch, but the card numbers are what I found most interesting. In 1974 and 1976, they used the same card number for a player's Traded card as in the base set, simply adding a "T" on the end. It's an interesting idea, if a bit confusing. Dock Ellis' card is 528T, but the Traded set wasn't anywhere near that large.

1981 was a bit different, as the Traded set just picked up at card 727, right where the base set left off. It wasn't until 1982 until we saw the numbering system we know today, staring at 1 and having a "T" as a suffix, or maybe as a prefix, or with a UH or US in the card number in the most recent sets.

Frankly, it's always been a bit of an odd set. They were printed on white paper stock instead of cardboard, they used to come in those tiny 132-card boxes, and though now it's grown to the size of a full series, it's pretty much the set commemorating the All-Star Game.

I like the 1981 numbering scheme the best. It makes it feel like it's a continuation of the base set, not some after-hours secret project.

1977 Topps #656 Ron Guidry
Ron Guidry was just getting his Major League career going when this card was printed, though he'd go an amazing 25-3 in 1978 on his way to the Cy Young award. A bunch of guys have won 24 games in a season since then, and Bob Welch managed 27 in 1990, but Guidry's still pretty far up the list of single-season wins going back to the mid-1970s.  Even better, his career lasted into the early days of the overproduction era, so I definitely pulled a few of his cards as a kid buying packs of 1987 Topps.

1977 Topps #162 Mike Cuellar
The seller that put this page together must have run out of Yankees, as a rogue Oriole stole a spot. Mike Cuellar had a pretty solid career himself, winning the Cy Young award in 1969 and a World Series ring in 1970. But by 1977, his career had come to an end, pitching a few innings for the Angels before calling it quits. To use Dime Box Nick's term, this is Cuellar's "Sunset Card", as he never got a card for his brief appearance in Anaheim.

Speaking of Nick, the birthday boy bid us "somewhat of a farewell" today, but still plans to engage with the Cardsphere. Though we may not see (m)any more posts from him, his impact on this community, including the very existence of Infield Fly Rule has been tremendous. And for that, Mike Cuellar's Sunset Card and I thank him.

1971 Topps #358 Danny Cater
But this blog goes on, continuing to the black-bordered greatness of 1971 Topps. I've never heard of Danny Cater before, but it's from the set that reached #3 on Night Owl's countdown, and it's definitely worthy of that lofty position. In fact, it was one of the sets on my second-ever post, part of the contest winnings from Nick that kicked this blog off.

Wow, I mentioned Night Owl and Nick in the same paragraph. Are those guys influential or what?

1972 Topps #22 Rob Gardner
Why is it that these miscut cards always have such nice edges? The card itself is in better condition than almost every other card from the page, but there's a tiny bit of the "tombstone" cut off the top, and a bit of the next guy's card below. If anyone has memorized the sheet layout of 1972 Topps, and can tell me who had a green-colored tombstone on a card beginning with the number 3, I'm rather interested to know whose card I have 1% of. Or who has 1% of my Rob Gardner card, for that matter.

1978 Topps #335 Bucky Dent
Jumping from one of the oldest cards on the page to the newest, here's the hero (or spoiler) of the 1978 AL East tiebreaker game, Bucky Dent. The Aaron Boone of 1978, if you will. And Dent is looking mighty dangerous at the plate with that bunt.

As is true for about 25% of baseball seasons, the Yankees won the World Series that year, thanks in large part to Bucky Dent, who went on to be named the MVP of the '78 Series. Aaron Boone's heroics didn't lead to a championship in 2003, but that was one of many home runs I have in my memory banks. Others are McGwire's 62nd (I was on the phone with my Grandfather), Brosius, Jeter, and Soriano from the 2001 World Series (best Series I've ever seen, though my team didn't win that one), and Matt Holliday's home run in Game 3 of the 2007 World Series (I was there!)

Sorry for all the Joe Buck.

Looking at that list, it comes to mind that you could get a pretty darn good baseball education just by watching World Series home runs. Joe Carter, Carlton Fisk, Bill Mazeroski, David Freese, Derek Jeter, Kirk Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Kirby Puckett. And an even better one if you extend it to pennant-winning home runs like Boone, Dent, and Bobby Thomson.

It only got them to the ALCS, but I'll put Jose Bautista in there too. Something about that bat flip seems important for the future of the game.

And of course, there's the most famous home-run hitter of them all, Babe Ruth.

I didn't run across any cards of him at the antique mall, but a page of guys that all played in "The House That Ruth Built" works for me.


  1. Great stuff. Any Dock Ellis post is rock solid... and that Bucky bunt card is beautiful.