Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Trading Post #104: Dime Boxes (Part 2: Random Goodies)

Last time I posted, the League Championship Series were just getting underway. Today, the World Series started, featuring an old NL West matchup between the Astros and Dodgers. It's shaping up to be an interesting series already, as the temperature at gametime was 103°F. That's a scorcher, and much, much warmer than Game 3 of the 2007 World Series, where it was so cold the vendors were selling hot chocolate in the aisles of Coors Field.

My Rockies are long since out of it, and I'm not sure how far they would have made it even if they won the Wild Card game. But I have plenty of cards to write about, such as the team bag of "Random Goodies" that Dime Box Nick included in a recent trade. Unlike the long part 1 post, there are no Rockies to be found in this one, but it's a quintessential Nick trade package.

2017 Donruss #173b Daniel Murphy SP ("Murph" Black and White)
As luck would have it, I commented first on one of his frankenset posts, voting for a Wilson Alvarez card, who was a member of the White Sox in 1993, the first Postseason I ever watched. Or at least the first one I remember watching. That comment earned me a "little something special", starting off with a short print from 2017 Donruss featuring Daniel Murphy. The runner-up for the NL batting title in two straight years is referred to by his nickname "Murph" in a classic Donruss script font.

That nickname reminds me more of Matthew McConaughey's daughter in Interstellar, but I don't regularly listen to Nationals broadcasts, so maybe they really do call him that. Still, it doesn't quite have the same ring as "The Duke of Flatbush" or "Charlie Hustle", players who also got a short-printed variation in 2017 Donruss.

2015 Topps Update Chrome #US377 Taijuan Walker
Like Daniel Murphy, Taijuan Walker exited the postseason in the NLDS, of course earlier than he intended. The former Mariner had a disastrous outing in Game 1 of the NLDS, giving up four runs in the first inning. He got through the first, if you can call it that, but the bullpen took over to start the second inning, and the Diamondbacks didn't muster much of an offense against the Dodgers.

I've been hearing hype about Taijuan Walker for a long time, even picking him for my fantasy team a few years ago. He does have a .500 winning percentage in his five seasons, but I think he's past the "Future Stars" stage of his career. Star or not, I'll add a sparkly card like this from Topps Chrome any day of the week. It's not even a parallel; all the Chrome Update cards that year looked like this. And judging by the cold reception that 2017 Update has received, Topps might want to do something similar to jazz up the set.

Or put Chris Taylor in the set. The guy did just hit Dallas Keuchel's first World Series pitch for a long home run in Dodger Stadium.

2017 Stadium Club Black Foil #18 Fernando Rodney
This Stadium Club card tears at me in two directions. It is a Stadium Club card, and it's a black parallel, which goes quite well with the Diamondbacks uniform colors. But on the other hand, it's no secret that I'm not a big fan of the D-Backs, and Fernando Rodney might be my least-favorite player in all of baseball. There's never a dull moment when he's on the mound, which is fine when you're a Rockies fan, but it's nerve wracking to watch. And this sideways thing he and Pedro Strop do with their caps makes me cringe a bit.

2016 Topps Amazing Milestones #AM-05 Nolan Ryan
Despite his long and storied career, Nolan Ryan played in just nine postseason games. Some of those were in 1969, when he won the World Series with the Miracle Mets, but he never won another Postseason series. He has ties to the Astros organization right now, but he suffered some hard luck when he was CEO of the Rangers franchise earlier this decade.

Of course, he's well known for his eye-popping total of 5,714 strikeouts, which is the subject of this Amazing Milestones insert card. It's a staggering number, but I won't necessarily call it unbreakable. Randy Johnson fell short by close to a thousand when he retired, but the way strikeouts are piling up more and more in today's game, it's not inconceivable that someone might beat that. On the other hand, Rickey Henderson's stolen base record is probably safe, and coincidentally, Rickey was Nolan's 5,000th strikeout victim in 1989, as this card tells us.

2016 Topps Pink #237 Carlos Ruiz /50
The smoke effect of 2016 Topps is replaced by a pattern of small hexagons and "2016 Topps" lettering on colored parallels, just like you might have seen in Opening Day. When it's pink, that means it's pretty rare, and if you flip this foilboard card over, you'll see a silver serial number to just 50 copies! This one is rare enough that I'll probably put it in a toploader rather than a binder.

Horizontal cards are always welcome, and I particularly like that we're staring directly down the barrel of a TV camera in the background. And it's always a bonus when the parallel color matches the team colors reasonably well. The shades are rarely exactly perfect, but close enough, I say.

1991 Stadium Club #388 Jeff Bagwell (RC)
A very young-looking Jeff Bagwell was a highlight of 1991's inaugural Stadium Club set, marking the year when Topps starting taking their upstart competition seriously. Full bleed, gold foil, a colorful back. Put yourself in your 1991 shoes and remember how amazing (and expensive) this card once was. It was cutting edge, and let's not forget that we're looking at 1991's NL Rookie of the Year, back when the Astros were still in the NL West. Or in the National League at all, for that matter.

The Hall of Famer wasn't always a big-leaguer. Once upon a time, even future MVPs had to take practice next to the metal bleachers behind the school. 1991 wasn't that long ago, and while Heritage still gives us images like this, it's hard to picture a current flagship card showing us such humble beginnings. Let's be honest, this doesn't look too different from our Little League team photos, does it?

2016 Topps Archives Bull Durham #BD-T Tony / Tom Silardi
Nick finds oddballs better than just about anyone. I realize this is an official Topps insert set from Archives, but it's just whimsical enough to qualify as an oddball in my book. Topps accurately used the 1988 design for their Bull Durham insert set, starring none other than Kevin Costner, the king of baseball movies. The '88 film has plenty of memorable scenes, including the rainout scene, where Tony, the subject of this card, wants a day off in the middle of a dry spell. Crash Davis sabotages the sprinkler system, and minor league antics ensure.

There's already been a Major League insert set, and with the number of baseball movies out there, Topps could milk this idea for years to come. You can bet that I'd chase a Terence Mann card from Field of Dreams. Or maybe a Danny Hemmerling card from Angels in the Outfield, featuring a young Adrien Brody.

2017 Topps MLB Network #MLBN-10 Dan Plesac
So I guess the question before us is this: can Topps make an oddball? They're the only licensed brand left, and they're practically synonymous with the hobby, at least from a postwar standpoint. But this is the second guy in a suit and tie to make it onto the blog this month, and both have been Topps cards. Most of my Dan Plesac cards show him in a Brewers uniform, where he's the career leader for Milwaukee in ERA, saves, and a few other categories. But now he's part of the MLB Network crew, with a card that somehow looks less like a TV graphic than some recent Topps sets.

The photo is rather fuzzy, just like Tony's card from Bull Durham. Topps might be using some inferior screen captures for these cards, and it's conspicuous considering how sharp Topps Bunt cards look to my eye. So yes, even though they're the juggernaut of the industry, my vote is that there can be oddball Topps cards.


2006 Greats of the Game Nickname Greats Autographs #NG-JM John Montefusco The Count (AU)
It's been all Topps so far, but Fleer got in on the action, too. Here's a beautiful autograph from Giants pitcher John Montefusco, a player I must admit I'd never heard of. "The Count" was 1975's NL Rookie of the Year, but had somehow escaped my baseball knowledge until now. I forget where, but I just saw another card from this set on another blog recently, and judging by today's nicknames, I doubt we'll see a set like this anytime soon featuring current players. As much as Donruss insists, I just don't see "Murph" showing up on a sticker autograph.

Bonus points to this card for giving us just a tiny bit of gold foil on the back, in the form of a Fleer logo.

1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes #179 Don Baylor
There's an error on this card. It's not that Don Baylor is pictured with a Rockies hat, as he was managing the young club when this card was printed. It's not a flipped negative or anything like that. The error can be unearthed in the paragraph on the back, where Baylor is said to have been hit by 244 pitches in his career. That number happens to be incorrect.

It's just one of those statistics etched into the baseball area of my brain, but Don Baylor was hit by 267 pitches. This was mentioned rather frequently in early Rockies TV broadcasts, and is rather difficult to forget once you hear it. I also remember when Craig Biggio took over this record, and these guys must have nerves of steel. My career HBP in little league was about two. Once on the helmet, once on the elbow. That was about enough for me. And I was not facing Major League pitching. I imagine that would look something like an old Western, where a single shotgun blast sends a bad guy tumbling backwards through a wooden wall and into a trough.

1980 Kellogg's #56 Don Baylor
That familiar-looking UD card highlights Baylor's MVP 1979 season. Kellogg's gave him a card in their 1980 set, and the fragile plastic has only picked up a single crack in over 35 years. No Angel had won the MVP award before Baylor, and only Vladimir Guerrero and of course Mike Trout have picked up the award since. The back has the old California Angels logo, which is just the outline of California with "Angels" written vertically down the state, a little halo up at the Oregon coastal border, and a tiny star right in Anaheim.

Kellogg's was giving us middle names of players before Donruss was around to educate us, and I'm glad to have a couple new cards of Donald Edward Baylor, who passed away just a few months ago.

1964 Beatles Black and White #145 John, Paul, George, Ringo
Further to my point that Topps can make oddballs, Nick found a card of The Fab Four from 1964, the year The Beatles became a worldwide sensation. Nick is a huge Beatles fan, so I'm not surprised that he sent me something like this. The back is plain, containing little more than the card number and copyright date, and this particular example has a bit of adhesive tape residue on both sides, and a little conveniently-located paper loss on the front.

Not to mention a facsimile signature of John Lennon.

I'm sure a rock-and-roll buff could pinpoint this photograph quite accurately, the way we baseball nuts can find out which game George Brett's sunset card is from. I'm not that expert, but I'm happy to add a card from the most influential rock band in history to my collection.

1969 Topps #285 Don Mincher
Many of my Seattle Pilots cards are really hastily rebranded Brewers cards. And the others probably came from Nick. I have a half page worth of 1970 cards, but the expansion draft took place in late 1968. That gave Topps enough time to get an actual Pilots team set together for the 1969 set, but not with new jerseys. Rockies and Marlins collectors in 1993 ran into that a lot. Don Mincher (another player I'd never heard of) is an airbrushed California Angel, selected in the 1968 draft just a few years after the Angels themselves came into existence.

That led me to wonder how the Rockies and Marlins fared in the 1997 Expansion Draft to stock the newly-created Diamondbacks and Devil Rays, and it turns out that two of the first four picks came from the Marlins and Rockies. Tony Saunders was taken first overall from Florida, then the Rockies lost Quinton McCracken in fourth. Both teams had playoff appearances under their belt by then, and the Marlins were fresh off a World Series championship.

I wasn't really collecting in 1998, nor did I have much geographic proximity to either of the new teams, but I remember the card industry being a lot more focused on the Rockies and Marlins than on the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays.

Of course, I obviously wasn't collecting in 1969, either. Although I did find it interesting to see that the Padres, Expos, Pilots, and Royals all had to stay in their respective leagues for the '68 draft, and Mincher went second overall on the AL side of things.

And it was a much safer draft than some other drafts that took place in the late 1960s, if you get my meaning.

1962 Topps #133 Felipe Alou
I'll never know why a past owner of this 1962 Topps card decided to mark it with a large "W" in ballpoint pen, but it's a prominent feature. Felipe Alou would later go on to manage the team he used to play for, as well as one of those '68 expansion teams, and also presided over one of the worst baserunning blunders in baseball history.

I notice that these older sets were more likely to talk about a player's minor league performance. This was Alou's fifth Major League season, but the card back mentions his 1958 Pacific Coast League season, and his cartoon calls out his league-leading.380 batting average from his time in the Class-D Florida State League in 1956. .380 is great and all, but wasn't there anything he did on the 1958-1961 Giants besides have a brother on the same team?

Even Mickey Mantle's 1962 card was not immune. Despite Mantle winning six World Series rings by then, numerous consecutive All-Star appearances, a Triple Crown (which the paragraph at least mentions), and leading the league in pretty much everything for a decade, the cartoon could do no better than to feature Mantle's .383 average in the Western Association with Class-C Joplin in 1950.

Suddenly some design gripes here and there on modern cards don't seem so bad.

By the way, I also checked Al Kaline's 1962 card. Kaline never played in the Minors, according to the back, so Topps had no choice but to make the cartoon about his 10 All-Star appearances.

Regardless of any, um, customization that was done to this card, and despite some less-than-relevant statistics, it's my favorite vintage Topps set ever. I'll forgive a lot for a woodgrain design, apparently.

You never know where these vintage cards will take you. I hadn't even heard of two of these guys before. As well as you think you know this sport, or this hobby, there's always more to learn. And Nick is a great guide.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you found a few good ones in the random pile! I think Topps can indeed make an oddball: those Bull Durhams are oddballs to me, and the mini League Leaders sets they put out in the '80s just scream oddball.

    P.S. -- Never knew Adrien Brody was in "Angels in the Outfield," so thanks for that bit of trivia.