Monday, May 25, 2020

The Greatest Card of All Time?

Any time a card captures a significant moment in baseball history, it deserves attention. Like this Lenny Randle card that Nick featured recently.

I found the glorious card I am featuring today in a dime box (!!!) at a local card shop a few months ago. I'll miss that shop and its dime boxes, as it closed a couple of months ago. The fact that I got this for 10 cents makes it even better. It depicts a classic and unforgettable scene from the early 90s. It's 1993. Nolan Ryan is on the mound in his final season at the ripe old age of 46. Robin Ventura is an up and coming star with the White Sox. The two teams had some bad blood boiling around this time, and Ventura took a stand when Ryan plunked him in the back an inning after Texas outfielder Juan Gonzalez took a beaning. Here's the visual:



Ryan pounding on Ventura's head while another Hall of Famer, Ivan Rodriguez, tries to keep the peace. The card captures that perfect moment where Nolan has Robin in an old school headlock. 

The card is one of 15,000 (Rare? I have no real point of reference. Most cards were being produced with like two million copies at this time, so let's call it rare.) In any event, the back of the card is dripping with a sarcastic, punny goodness that puts the finishing touches on a legendary card:



And you gotta love that upside down answer. 

So as I see it, the list of the greatest cards of all time might look something like this*:
Something like that. But honestly, #1 is so far above the others that it really doesn't matter.

Finally, I will leave you with the obligatory link to the YouTube video showing the iconic scene so the glory can be relived yet again. If you haven't seen it yet, you're welcome. 

(*For the record, although the Nolan Ryan card is truly an awesome card, I don't believe it is the greatest of all time, so please don't argue with me in the comments. But do feel free to leave your choice for the best baseball card ever. I'm not totally sure what my #1 truly is. The others I listed are very iconic and I do enjoy them. Honestly, due to sentimental value, this other Nolan Ryan card might be my favorite card ever.)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Abolish the DH: My Favorite Frankenset Card by Page; Page 5 (Cards 37-45)

I'm not a fan of the designated hitter. Most people either love it or hate it. I understand the arguments for each side, but land on the side of wanting the see the pitcher hit. I'm more of a baseball purist by nature, and I feel this is the way the game was intended to be played. I like the strategy involved. It's fun to see a guy who is talented enough to both pitch and hit at a high level. But I do understand the other side. More offense can be fun and it's nice to see some guys be able to squeeze a couple more years out of their careers by way of the DH (or a decade; see David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez). I feel like it's only a matter of time before the National League adopts the DH, and it sounds like it could come as soon as this season.

This is all a lead-in to my favorite Frankenset card from page five of the binder. As usual, I'll show you my top three, in reverse order. 

#3: 2013 Topps Heritage Minors #40, Mike Piazza (Arkansas Travelers, Double-A affiliate of the California Los Angeles Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, California)



The pitcher version of Mike Piazza (a cousin of the Hall of Famer) topped out at Double-A in 2014.


#2: 1986 Donruss #42, Rick Surhoff



I've said before that when a card fits two separate categories of my Frankenset that it's hard to beat. But despite its greatness, this card finishes in second place. Richard Clifford Surhoff is so much of a lesser known compared to his brother, William James (better known as B.J.) that when you type in Rick Surhoff into baseball-reference.com, it yields no results. Apparently, he was known as Rich, not Rick. Or WAS it Rick? Who knows. What we do know is that his mustache is incredible. I had to research its name, and it is known as a horseshoe and is commonly confused with a Fu Manchu. 


#1: 1995 Upper Deck #37, Pat Hentgen




The winner this week is the reason I started this post by discussing the designated hitter. This card is a puzzling sight. 

I was confused. An AL pitcher batting in an age before interleague play? When would this have happened? Well, I first thought about the All-Star game. Pat Hentgen made the All-Star team in both 1993 and 1994. In 1994, the All-Star game was held at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, a National League park. This meant the DH was not in play. Hentgen pitched, but didn't bat in the All-Star game that season...

And then it hit me, the World Series! Of course! Sure enough, Hentgen pitched game three at Veterans Stadium against the Phillies, going six innings and allowing just one run as the Jays won 10 to 3. This gave Toronto a 2 to 1 series lead and they won the series in six with Joe Carter's walk-off homerun. In game three, Hentgen went hitless in three at-bats. Mystery solved, I think. So instead of a picture of Hentgen pitching from 1994, Upper Deck presumably went with a photo of him hitting from 1993. Makes sense. And depicting that kind of random on a baseball card wins you page five of the Frankenset. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Bill Clemens, We Hardly Knew Ye

One thing I always liked about the early Donruss baseball cards was the full player's name appearing on the backs of the cards. It was just a quirky detail that someone like me enjoys. It was always interesting to see a player's full name, especially if their first name was a nickname or if they went by their middle name. A couple of my favorite players, Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace, have the middle names Dee and Eugene respectively. I wouldn't know that without the Donruss cards. These cards also told us that Kirby Puckett was the Twins star's full legal name, as is the case for the now infamous Jose Canseco.

But back to those guys who went by something other than their first name. Did you know there are actually a lot of them? And not just random scrub players, but some of the biggest stars of the 80s and 90s. I looked through some 1990 Donruss cards to appreciate the beautiful design (sarcasm, of course) and to see if I could find some players who went by their middle name. I didn't even look at that many and still found several examples. So I'll present those here, in quiz format, because the former teacher in me can't help himself. But if you can't stand the quiz format, just scroll down to see the players/cards in question.

I also had some 88 and 91 Donruss nearby, so I found a couple of the examples from those sets. And now, the quiz:

1) Which member of the 1998 NL Champion Padres went by his middle name?

A) Tony Gwynn
B) Ken Caminiti
C) Greg Vaughn
D) Kevin Brown


2) Which Twins ace preferred his middle name?

A) Jim Kaat
B) Bert Blyleven
C) Johan Santana
D) Frank Viola


3) Which member of the 1993 World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays went by a version of his middle name?

A) Rickey Henderson
B) Tony Fernandez
C) John Olerud
D) Joe Carter


4) Which Hall of Fame pitcher was known by his middle name?

A) Nolan Ryan
B) Phil Niekro
C) Don Sutton
D) Greg Maddux

5) Which pitcher who debuted in the 1980s preferred his middle name?

A) Orel Hershiser
B) Tom Glavine
C) Fernando Valenzuela
D) Roger Clemens

6) Which long-time Mariners slugger goes by his middle name?

A) Ken Griffey Jr.
B) Jay Buhner
C) Alvin Davis
D) Edgar Martinez


I think you'll be surprised by some of these. I know I was, and I'm sure I had seen them all at some point in my life. There are undoubtedly more examples than these (I'm looking at you George Thomas Seaver!), so feel free to leave your examples in the comments below. Anyway, many thanks to our favorite cards of the Overproduction Era, 1988, 1990, and 1991 Donruss. 


1) Which member of the 1998 NL Champion Padres went by his middle name?

A) Tony Gwynn
B) Ken Caminiti
C) Greg Vaughn
D) Kevin Brown

1990 Donruss #343 James "Kevin" Brown

Easy to understand Kevin's decision to go with the middle name. He could have gone with James Brown, risking confusion with the Godfather of Soul. He could have been Jim Brown, knowing he'd be associated with arguably the best football player of all time. He could have been Jimmy Brown, but that just doesn't seem to fit. So Kevin it is!

2) Which Twins ace preferred his middle name?

A) Jim Kaat
B) Bert Blyleven
C) Johan Santana
D) Frank Viola

1990 Donruss #331 Rik ("Bert") Aalbert Blyleven

It worked out alright for 7'4" NBAer Rik Smits to go by his given name when he entered the NBA in the 1980s. Fellow Dutchman Blyleven, however, came to America with his family in the mid-50s, so maybe America wasn't ready for a Rik at that time. 

Additional notes:
1) I think that mark on the card is Donruss puzzle glue stain or something. So the Donruss equivalent to a gum stain.
2) Blyleven was traded to the Angels with Kevin Trudeau. Wonder if it's the same Kevin Trudeau who went to jail after peddling those "Cures THEY Don't Want You to Know About" books.


3) Which member of the 1993 World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays went by a version of his middle name?

A) Rickey Henderson
B) Tony Fernandez
C) John Olerud
D) Joe Carter

1988 Donruss #319 Octavio Antonio "Tony" Fernandez

Tony, who in my mind is quite underrated, passed away in February. If you ask me, Octavio is pretty cool. Certainly worked for Octavio Dotel. That guy played for 13 teams! 


4) Which Hall of Fame pitcher was known by his middle name?

A) Nolan Ryan
B) Phil Niekro
C) Don Sutton
D) Greg Maddux

1990 Donruss #166 Nolan Ryan

Can you imagine Nolan Ryan going by Lynn? Neither can I.

5) Which pitcher who debuted in the 1980s preferred his middle name?

A) Orel Hershiser
B) Tom Glavine
C) Fernando Valenzuela
D) Roger Clemens

1991 Donruss #81 William "Roger" Clemens

I wonder if Clemens was the guy Sheryl Crow was singing about in "All I Wanna Do." In the song, she meets a William whom she is sure went by "Bill or Billy or Mack or Buddy." No Sheryl, he went by Roger. Which works, I think, because Bill Clemens just doesn't have the same ring to it. 

6) Which long-time Mariners slugger goes by his middle name?

A) Ken Griffey Jr.
B) Jay Buhner
C) Alvin Davis
D) Edgar Martinez

1990 Donruss #365 George (Ken) Kenneth Griffey Jr.

Let's let this one sink in for a minute. 

George Griffey Jr... 

GEORGE. 

If the most marketable baseball player of the last half century would have gone by his given name, would he have been as marketable? I don't think so. I guess we have the original George Kenneth Griffey (Sr.) to thank for that, since he's the guy who went by Ken to being with. 

Really, these guys all had pretty normal first names, but apparently just chose to go with their middle name, probably for a variety of reasons. But I don't think that was to case for everyone. Why, you ask? Because of Andy Hawkins. Who is Andy Hawkins? A middle of the road pitcher with a couple good seasons who spent 10 seasons in the bigs. Win/loss of 84-91, 4.22 ERA, 1.3 WAR. Pretty much your run of the mill major leaguer. I don't really have a great grasp on how it's calculated, but I feel like going by this first name would somehow drop you like 10 points in the WAR formula.

1989 Donruss Traded #T-52 Melton (Andy) Andrew Hawkins

Poor Melton. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

More Positional Hijinks

A while back, I shared with you my dismay at situations where the player's position on the card did not match the photo. I didn't really shame the card companies involved, but instead offered simple suggestions on how the cards could have been salvaged.

But today, no mercy. Maybe because I'm crabbier now or maybe because the new error I found is simply mind boggling. 

"Why in the world would you do that" mind boggling. 

Here's the card in question:

1992 Leaf #134, Dante Bichette

First, I need to tell you why I noticed something off about this card. Because, you see, in the early to mid-nineties, there was a Brewers/Padres/Marlins slugger that used to play third base that switched exclusively to the outfield. This man is the crazy bat-waggling Gary Sheffield. So I knew about Sheffield going from third to the outfield. 1992 Leaf lists Sheff as a third baseman, which makes sense since he had spent the last couple of years playing only third and appearing in just a few games as a DH for the Brewers (remember when they were an AL team?). But Dante Bichette? He was a third baseman, too? It didn't seem right. Baseball-reference.com to the rescue. 

Quiz time! How many games did Dante Bichette play at third base in 1991? Maybe 30? Or maybe just 20. Something like that. Right? 

No.

Less than that.

Much less.

One game.

And here's the kicker.

One INNING of one game.

Oh, so you think, maybe in 1990 he played some third base. Or was slated to play third in 1992. Nope. One inning. In 1991. His entire career. ONE INNING.

Leaf, what is wrong with you? (Insert Canadian joke? No, we love our neighbors to the north. We're very close to them here in North Dakota. Yes, you now know that someone indeed lives in North Dakota.) 

I looked at a few other cards in the 1992 Leaf set that listed players at multiple positions. Six cards to be exact, including cards of guys like Monty Fariss and Donnie Hill, so I had to do some research. Of these, five of the cards more or less made sense. But then I got to the Dave Martinez card. I knew Martinez as an outfielder, so the CF on his card made sense, but the card also listed 1B.


I knew a little more about Martinez's career, and the 1B didn't seem to really fit. From 1986 through 1991, Dave Martinez had played every game of his career in the outfield. The only saving grace for this card, in my opinion, is that Martinez would play 21 games at first base for the Reds in 1992. 

But Dante Bichette? Not in 1992, not for the rest of his career in 2001, did Bichette appear at third base. 

A puzzling choice from Leaf.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

More of the Same or Double the Fun? ... Plus Trading Updates

I have to start by saying thank you for clicking on this post despite the thumbnail for the post displaying a 1988 Donruss common. I hope you aren't disappointed. 

I have an odd fascination with duplicate cards. I'm not entirely sure why. Now before you say I'm nuts, I do have to provide context. First, I must say that when opening a pack of cards, NO ONE, including myself, wants to keep pulling ones like this:


1988 Donruss #514, Bob Walk


And that's how it happens when opening packs. Instead of duplicates of a player you like or a valuable card or even an interesting card, you get the same dud over and over. If I had kept every one of Mr. Walk's mustachioed face I ever owned, I could have created a wall mural for the Pittsburgh Municipal Library. Instead, they were purged long ago. At least I thought they were. I just found one. Like a weed in the garden. Just when you thought you got them all. 

Anyway, though I have yet to open a pack of 2020 cards (blasted quarantine), I believe I can still provide you with the equivalent card from this year's Topps base offering.


2020 Topps #116, Daniel Murphy


I don't want duplicates of that card. No one wants duplicates of that card.

But if it's a card I like, I say, bring on the duplicates!

In a bizarre sequence of events, I ended up with duplicates of a card I featured in a recent post just days after it was posted. The cards came from a USPS medium flat rate box full of cards I bought on eBay. I got about 2500 cards for $20 (including shipping). I've done this before when I just want some variety to look through and hope there is a gem or two graciously thrown in by the seller, who only makes a couple of bucks on the sale. I was pleasantly surprised to find 8 copies of this legendary card.


1988 Fleer #7, Steve Carlton (just 7 pictured - because one is in my Frankenset)


It's neat to have eight copies of a card when the first time you saw that card, you had trouble believing it even existed. I also enjoy seeing a player's long career spelled out in stats on the back of a card so that's another reason I enjoy this particular card. Speaking of a long statistical chronology, that reminds me of the card in this box with easily the biggest number of duplicates. Sometimes when you buy these boxes, you get several of the same card, though sellers try to limit this to a few or several of the same. So the most I found of any card before I got to the big stack was probably 10 or so. And then these came, all together.


1987 Topps #673 Don Sutton (x 45)


45 cards. As I flipped through them, it seemed like the never ending pile. And remember my liking of long statistical records? Here's the back of this card:




Nine shutouts in 1972. NINE!

These duplicates made my day. Weird, I know. 

These late-career duplicates of players with long careers seem to just find me (not in the same box referenced above, however). If you don't believe me, behold the greatness of the following:


More 1987 Topps! More Carltons! (x 11! Card #718)



Lefty strikes again! 1987 Fleer #490 (Base card x 5) and #635 (4,000 Strikeouts x 4)



The return of Tommy John (1989 Topps #359 x 20!)



Tom Terrific! 1987 Topps #425 (x 8!)



1990 Upper Deck Fred Lynn #771 (x 10)



You had to know Knucksie was coming! - 1986 Topps #790 (x 7)
 

These were easier to find because I keep a bunch of players' cards sorted for trades and such, but I knew these were there. Because they find me. And I keep them for some reason. But I would trade all of them away for duplicates of this next card. As a kid, I opened a fair amount of 1989 Donruss and developed an affinity for the set that continues today. Besides the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card (of course) there was another card in the set that I was always thrilled to find in a pack. And unlike Bob Walk, I kept them. At some point I ran across a bigger stack of them, and so, at 58 cards, this is my favorite big stash:


1989 Donruss #105 Ryne Sandberg (x 58)

I will gladly accept an unreasonable number of this card in trades.

I have no use or need for all of these duplicate cards. Does anyone? Probably not. But card collecting is a hobby where not everything needs an explanation. We like what we like and sometimes can't even really explain why. And I think that's just fine.

Trading Updates!


Just finished a few trades and got some neat stuff. I'll highlight my favorite card from each trade. Besides these cards, I got some help with my 81 and 85 Topps sets.

Brian from Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary would have had no way of knowing one of the cards he sent was on my unofficial Sandberg wish list, but there it was! 


Great series and a great nickname. Thanks Brian!

Tom from The Angels, In Order sent me this sweet auto after we did our original trade. I owe him! 


Coste is from my hometown here in Fargo and I watched him growing up as he started his career with the independent minor league team in town, the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks. He didn't make the major leagues until age 33, and he wrote a book about his journey, which I recommend. He's a nice guy and a class act.

Finally, Jay from Card Hemorrhage sent some nice Cubbie cards, but this one was my favorite (as a long-suffering fan, the reason is obvious).


Check these guys out. They do good work on their blogs and their trades! Thanks for welcoming me into the card blogging community!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Sitcom Throwback: My Favorite Frankenset Card by Page; Page 4 (Cards 28-36)

Picking a winner for page four was a tough call. Two pairs of glasses, a classic nickname, and a legendary mustache were involved.

Not being one to sport facial hair, I am not privy to the ins and outs of the practice. But I feel like even those who possess a beard or a mustache might have trouble explaining how it is possible to have this amount of volume above the lip. In third place this week:



1982 Topps Sticker #28, Tim Blackwell


Legendary.


The runner up this week is a card that immediately reminded me of a sitcom episode from the 90s. Maybe you've had this happen, where there are certain cards when you see them for the first time, your immediate thought is, "That looks like _____." I find that it's usually someone you know, but not always. (Hmm... that sounds like a future post.) In any event, fans of Seinfeld will remember an episode where Jerry ends up wearing a pair of thick glasses basically to avoid rattling the fragile psyche of a character named Lloyd Braun.

For Seinfeld fans, that will be enough introduction for this card. For others, do a quick Google search and see if you agree with me!

Here it is:


1985 Topps #36, Fred Breining


The pose makes it an even more perfect match to Jerry Seinfeld's borrowed glasses.

Alright, now the moment you have all been waiting for.

Usually when a card checks off two categories in the Frankenset, it is hard to beat. And that was the case with the final card, the Frankenset champion of page four. There's so much to love here: An unequaled pair of sunglasses, and embroidered button up sweater, and of course, perhaps the most memorable nickname of 80s baseball.



1986 Leaf #35, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd


I'm grateful to the makers of Leaf for this gem. They were also very thoughtful to put "Oil Can" in quotations just to make sure we didn't think it was his real first name. The more I look at this card, the more I appreciate its brilliance. And with that, it is the king of page four.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Griffey, Canseco, and Mariano Rivera Rookies

The title of this post is misleading. Purposely misleading. Why, you ask? It seems pretty straightforward, right? You're thinking, he's going to talk about some awesome rookie cards of three of the great players from the 90s and 00s.

Well... not exactly.

Because, you see, this post is really about a strange mini-collection. Instead of explaining the nature of that mini-collection, let me first show you the cards referenced in the title of this post.


1995 Upper Deck Minors #59, Craig Griffey


2015 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects #114, Mariano Rivera


1991 Score #346, Ozzie Canseco


I call this mini-collection the "Lesser Knowns." There are various categories of lesser knowns that I have developed within this mini-collection. The Craig Griffey and Ozzie Canseco cards fit into a category of lesser knowns within the same baseball family. The Mariano Rivera card fits into a category of lesser knowns with the same name as a considerably more famous baseball player.

The other categories:

  • Lesser knowns with the same name as a considerably more famous non-baseball athlete.

1981 Topps #294, Mike Tyson

  • And finally, lesser knowns with the same name as a considerably more famous non-athlete.

1987 Donruss #484, Jim Morrison

I'm sure you can think of examples of some additional players who would fit into each of the lesser known categories. Feel free to leave yours in the comments below. At some point, I might just reveal my entire list of cards in this mini-collection. There are several mixed into the Frankenset, so be on the lookout.