Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Right Here Waiting (Not a Post About Richard Marx, So Please Keep Reading)

Warning: This post contains large pictures. You'll see why.

You may have had the same experience as me growing up. I became a baseball fan maybe around age eight or nine. When I entered my mid to late twenties, as certain players began to retire, I came to the realization that I had never known Major League Baseball without them. It was a weird feeling, and it kind of made me feel old. For my timeline, those players would include the likes of Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, and of course, Jamie Moyer, among others. When baseball season began, these guys were always right there waiting.

I've always been fascinated by players with long careers, and one reason for this was being able to see line after line of their stats on the back of a card. This was my earliest cherished baseball card, and remains to this day right up there on my list:

1994 Collector's Choice #249, Nolan Ryan

27 season of greatness from the Ryan Express. A simple picture and design on the front and 27 years worth of grit chronicled on the back. Years later, I think this card probably served as inspiration for one of my mini-collections. I was able to get a list of players with 15 or more years of service with the help Fred Worth at SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). He was able to mine the baseball-reference.com database and produce such a list. The best I could find was a list of the players with the longest service time, but that only went down to 18 years. At the time (about two years ago), the list of 15+ players amounted to 1,011.

My goal with this mini-collection is to find a card of each of the players on the list, but the card needs to list the statistical record for that player for at least 15 seasons of his career. To date, I have 364 cards in the collection. A recent boon to this collection was a lot of Conlon cards I found at a cheap price. So I thought I would showcase the cards I have of players who played 25 or more seasons in Major League Baseball. There are 10 players that fit that category.


Can you name them? Quiz yourself if you'd like, or just scroll down.


Here's the list:
1) Nolan Ryan - 27 seasons
2) Cap Anson - 27
3) Deacon McGuire - 26
4) Tommy John - 26
5) Rickey Henderson - 25
6) Jamie Moyer - 25
7) Jim Kaat - 25 
8) Charlie Hough - 25
9) Bobby Wallace - 25
10) Eddie Collins - 25

I have cards of seven of the players, including the Nolan Ryan card shown above. I probably could easily find one of Cap Anson, and cards of Deacon McGuire and Bobby Wallace probably exist, too, but this is a "passive" collection. That means I don't usually actively seek out cards to put into the binder. It's just as I come across them. Here's the gallery:

Tommy John - 26 seasons (1963 - 1989)

1989 Fleer #255, Tommy John

The career of Tommy John through 1988 is chronicled on the back of this card. Tommy lost a chance to tie Nolan Ryan and Cap Anson when he missed the 1975 season due to injury, but at least he got a surgery named after him as part of the deal. John first pitched during the Kennedy administration and finished his career during the George H. W. Bush administration (7 presidents). Let that sink in.

Rickey Henderson (1979 - 2003)

2000 UD MVP #118, Rickey Henderson

This card shows Rickey's stats through the 1999 season. Henderson first appeared during the Carter administration and finished his career during the George W. Bush administration (5 presidents).

Jamie Moyer (1986 - 2012)

2006 Topps #358, Jamie Moyer

Career spanned Reagan to Obama (5 presidents). Moyer's stats through 2005 are featured. He did not pitch in 2011 after having Tommy John (remember him) surgery in December 2010 at the age of 48. He came back and pitched one final season in 2012, topping out at something like 82 mph on his fastball. Insane.

Jim Kaat (1959 - 1983)

1980 Topps #250, Jim Kaat

Career spanned Eisenhower to Reagan (7 presidents). Hard to read the stats due to the horizontal arrangement. This card shows Kaat through the 1979 season, but I have a 1983 Fleer lying around somewhere...

Charlie Hough (1970 - 1994)

1994 Topps #625, Charlie Hough

A great card, though the alignment on the back is again horizontal. Gotta love the photo on the front. Old man Charlie gripping that knuckler and smirking like he knows how ridiculous it is that he's still throwing softballs up there in his mid-40s.  

Hough's career spanned Nixon to Clinton (6 presidents). He finished his career with two years pitching for the Florida Marlins in 1993/1994. Hough pitched the first game in Marlins history in 1993. He got the win, pitching six innings, allowing three hits and three runs against a lineup featuring Brett Butler, Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, Tim Wallach, Eric Karros, and Mike Piazza. He beat Orel Hershiser. He was 45 at the time. No biggie. 

Eddie Collins (1906 to 1930)

1991 Sporting News Conlon Collection #21, Eddie Collins

Career spanned the Teddy Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover administrations (6 presidents). Played only 12 games in his final two seasons under Connie Mack, with all appearances as a pinch hitter (as opposed to his usual 2nd base). 

Writing this makes me want Tommy John, Jamie Moyer, Jim Kaat, and Charlie Hough in the Hall of Fame because playing that long is unreal. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

When Cards Don't Make Sense

What constitutes an illogical baseball card? I would say the simple definition would be when the picture doesn't match the text. The most commonly cited example of this phenomenon is when a player is misidentified on a card. There have been lists and posts covering that topic, so I won't address it here. Instead, I will show you four cards with the same theme. Try to figure out what they have in common.

1983 Fleer #331, Mike Ivie

1991 Donruss #576 Jack Daugherty

1992 Topps #531, Larry Walker

1990 CMC #9 Greg Booker

The final example probably provides the best clue. The first two are players identified as designated hitters playing the field. The third is a player identified (on the back of the card) as an outfielder, but shown playing first base. The final example is a pitcher wearing catchers gear for some reason. The common theme is the player's position on the card doesn't match the photo. Here's a breakdown of each:

1983 Fleer Mike Ivie

Ivie appeared in 79 games for the Tigers the previous season, all of them as a DH, so the photo on the card is likely from the 1981 season or prior. He would play 12 games at first base in 1983 before retiring. He also played first base in 1980 and 1981, so a logical fix would have been to show him as DH/1B.

1991 Donruss Jack Daugherty

In 1990, Daugherty's position breakdown was as follows:
Left Field: 39 games
First Base: 30 games
Designated Hitter: 21 games
Right Field: 12 games

Donruss just needed to add OF and 1B to the card, but the problem might have been the fact they didn't use abbreviations for player positions on the 1991 cards, at least based what I found in my research. So the right call would have been to put Outfield in my opinion.

1992 Topps Larry Walker

In 1991, Larry Walker played in 100 games in right field and 39 at first base. A simple addition of 1B to the back of the card would have sufficed, and unlike 1991 Donruss, would have fit into the existing design.

1992 Topps #531, Larry Walker (Back)
1992 Topps #506, Todd Benzinger (Back)

Todd Benzinger (96 games at first base and 15 in the outfield in 1991) has the designation that would seem more appropriate for Walker, whereas 1B-OF would fit better for Todd. This made me think... maybe Benzinger's expression on the front of this card was his reaction to Topps's choice for his position designation:

1992 Topps #506, Todd Benzinger

Actually, that look appears to be a version of his "game face."

Exhibit B: from 1989:

What was I talking about again? Oh, that's right. So Walker's position in the photo doesn't match his position on the card.

1990 CMC Greg Booker

This card makes no sense and cannot be salvaged in any way. I'm not saying it isn't an interesting and entertaining card, but in a 10 year career across the minor and major leagues, Booker never once played catcher.

I'm not sure how many more examples exist of this phenomenon. They are harder to spot when looking through a stack of cards than, let's say, a pitcher hitting or a player with a team you never knew he played for. If you have other examples, leave a comment below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

My Favorite Frankenset Card by Page; Page 2 (Cards 10-18)

If you were here for the first installment of this series, welcome back. You must have enjoyed part one enough to return, so thanks! Page two of the Frankenset features card numbers 10 to 18. There are some great candidates:

  • A guy with the first name Debs (named after early 20th Century American Socialist Eugene Debs),

  • Nick Esasky not only with the Braves but with a mysterious mustache, and...
1990 Donruss Best NL #13, Nick Esasky

  • David Cone looking like anything but a pitcher batting left-handed for the Mets.

1992 Stadium Club #17, David Cone

But when a card checks two Frankenset boxes, it becomes hard to beat. In this case, a picture of a guy bunting that makes you say "Why him?" and a wad of chew visible from the upper deck. I present to you another 1990 Donruss Best card, this one from the American League:

1990 Donruss Best AL #15, Mickey Tettleton

It is bewildering to me that you would ask Mickey Tettleton to bunt. Hopefully, he was just showing bunt. Perhaps only Frank Robinson knows (God rest his soul, as he passed in February of last year). Not sure about the technique displayed by ol' Fruit Loops either (apparently his nickname). Looks like his hand would get crushed. In any event, Tettleton is indeed in the bunt position, but you may have been distracted by this fact by the wad in Tettleton's left cheek. This card is just too much for me to handle. And it isn't the first time our Orange bird slugger appeared to be eating a golf ball on a baseball card.

1988 Donruss #103, Mickey Tettleton

In any event, this page goes to the Mickster.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Blurrification of Carney Lansford

Some of my collecting tendencies have a rationale that makes sense to most people, like the player collections I have or sets I am trying to complete. Others, however, are let's say... less intuitive. After all, everyone has their own tastes and that is something that makes it fun to read and discuss others' perspectives. I'm not sure there is anyone else out there that sets aside cards when the picture is blurry. That's really the only criterion - blurry picture. Certain sets seem to produce more of these gems than others: 1986 and 1990 Topps are at the top of that list. Here are some examples of those, with an 88 Topps thrown in just for funsies (and to see Steve Trout in an unfamiliar Yankees uniform). 

The scans don't do these cards justice, but in a different way than how that phrase is typically used. The scan doesn't show just how blurry these cards are. That is, the scan doesn't make them look bad enough, when the opposite is generally true. In any event, I marvel at these cards and set them aside whenever I rummage through a box of commons. 


If that box of commons includes 1982 Fleer. Because if I set aside every blurry card I found in that set, I might as well just compile the entire set. The examples of blurry cards from Fleer's second year back in the hobby are abundant. 

Take a good look at this guy, who will be traded during the 1982 season to the Phillies for Larry Bowa and a 22-year-old 3rd baseman named Ryne Sandberg:

Problem: You can't really get a good look at him, even in this close-up picture, since it's so out of focus. 

And it's unfortunate, really. Another travesty is the fact that in this Carney Lansford card, we are deprived of a good look at Carney's perfect 80s mustache and awesome glasses.

Also interesting to note is that there is some blur-variation within the set, even with different copies of the same card. Here, I have two copies of the same card (yay, duplicates!), both of Glenn Hoffman (Trevor's brother. Yes, I'm serious. Look it up.) Though both copies of the card have a blur factor, the one on the left is just slightly fuzzier. 

Even sadder in this case because it appears that Hoffman has both feet off the ground in this photo. Pretty cool, I would say. Or an illusion caused by the blurriness. You decide! 

So how did this happen? All this blurriness. I'm not certain and researching it seems unappealing, so I made up a story in my head instead. 

It all starts with a guy named Phil. Phil has been with Fleer for over 20 years now, and one thing you need to know about Phil is that he came up with the idea for the 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats series. Actually, Phil was only in charge of one picture on one card, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown. It's a card I would love to own.


1961 Fleer Baseball Greats #11, Mordecai Brown.

Instead of a photo of Brown in his 19-aught-6 glory (1.06 ERA!), Phil dug up a photo probably taken at a Chicago Old-timers banquet. But please, give Phil some credit, since he found a card of Brown when the Cubs ace was 93 years old, when Three Finger actually died at the too young age of 71. 

Fast forward to 1982. Fleer is battling with fellow little guy Donruss and behemoth Topps for a piece of the baseball card pie. They put Phil in charge of some photos. And Phil takes the bull by the horns, completing his portion of the set just two days after taking the snapping the pictures. He brings his completed work to the Fleer executives.

Fleer executive: OK, Phil. Whatcha got?
Phil: OK, so I had this great idea to expedite the whole card making process. I took the pictures of the players...
FE: Yes...
Phil: And got them developed at the Snap and Save (made up photo place). 
FE: OK...
Phil: Then I rushed back to the office, made color photocopies of the pictures (no idea if that was possible in 1982), and then cut and pasted them onto the card template.
FE: Wait, wait, wait a minute. So take us through this again. How did you ---
Phil: AND THEN, I took those templates, photocopied them AGAIN, and cut them up myself into the individual cards. Took maybe a total of 90 minutes.
FE: (Stunned silence) OK Phil. (Pause) How much did you spend?
Phil: $31.83.
FE: Well... unfortunately, our budget for the whole set was $38. So we'll have to just go with it. Alright people, let's get these puppies printed!

And this concludes the story of how 1982 Fleer cards became so blurry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

My Favorite Frankenset Card by Page; Page 1 (Cards 1-9)

I'd like to introduce you to my Frankenset (in progress). I won't bore you here with the details of how I pick the cards for the set (if you do want to be bored by that, go here!). Instead, I want to give you a taste of some of my favorite cards, one page at a time. So why not begin with page one?

Page one features some gems:

  • Jose Canseco in a Devil Rays uniform courtesy of a set apparently called Fleer Impact. This was before the "Devil" was taken out of Tampa. 

2000 Fleer Impact #2, Jose Canseco

  • Ellis Burks with a glove on his head, because why wouldn't you wear your glove on your head? Especially when you spent the previous year hitting .344 with 40 homeruns. Then you can do pretty much anything you want. Well maybe not anything you want. But when you ALSO knock in 128 runs and steal 32 bases, then I think doing anything you want is back on the table as an option.

1997 Score, Colorado Rockies Team Edition #4 of 15, Ellis Burks

But the pick of the litter for page one is a card with a haunting, ghostly image of a Hall of Famer.


A man you almost certainly don't associate with the team for which he is pictured.


A left-hander with well over 300 wins.


A Minnesota Twin (although only briefly).


And here he is!

1988 Fleer

Card #7

I just stare at this card and think, did that really happen? Was Steve Carlton really a Minnesota Twin? Yes, yes he was. And he pitched terribly for them, unfortunately. He hung it up after an April 23, 1988 outing where he gave up eight earned runs over five innings of work. I was only a toddler at the time, so I would be curious to know how baseball fans from the time remember Steve Carlton. As the ace of the Phillies for a decade and a half, or as the journeyman who spent the final three years of his career trying in vain to recapture his old glory? This card says so much, and thus, it is my favorite card from page one.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Things I Like (That you probably don't)

I have tossed around the idea of starting a baseball card blog for a couple of months now. I have really enjoyed reading some of the other card blogs out there over the past year and felt like I had something to offer with my perspective. And that's what's been fun about reading the various card blogs out there: unique perspectives. I have visited Nick's Dime Boxes and Night Owl Cards most often, but have enjoyed many others along the way. The inspiration for my inaugural post is something Night Owl recently wrote about, adapting a "things I don't like" theme and turning it positive. I liked the idea and thought it would give you a good introduction to me as a collector. So here are ten things about baseball cards that I like and that you probably don't.

10) Topps Opening Day

Pretty simple reasoning here. I am of the belief that cards should be affordable, especially for young kids. I feel one way to get more kids into the hobby would be to make more inexpensive products available. Topps Opening Day packs are usually only a dollar or two, and as such, are the only new product I typically buy. It's either because I'm cheap, stubborn, or both that I can't pony up more than that for a pack.

9) Any brand of plastic pages (except those old, hard, brittle ones of course)

They can be the far superior Ultra Pro pages or flimsier pages probably meant for photos or something (but still the standard size). I'm good either way.

8) Miscut Cards

I know some people actually do like these. But I'll go out of my way to buy a 1977 miscut of a random guy out of a dime box. It's kind of a shame these cards have gone extinct (unless there are still miscuts today of which I am unaware).

7) Commons

I love looking through a big box of cards, even if I know most will be commons. Why? Because of my Frankenset/many mini-collections (more on those at a later date). It's fun to be able to find a "hit" that most people would pass by without a thought. This Frankenset card sums up how I view a box of commons:

6) Manager Cards

Especially when they are of a player from my youth (mid-nineties). And more especially if they have managerial stats on the back.

Love the 1992 Topps. So many stats on the back. Here we are treated to the lengthy and successful managerial career of George Anderson.

5) Duplicates

I'm not sure why I enjoy having a dozen or twenty or thirty of the same card, but I do. It might stem from my younger days when I had far fewer cards and thus, had a better grasp and appreciation for my inventory. Filling a page with nine of this card was an early thrill for me.

Am I or was I ever a Mark Langston fan? No, but it didn't matter!

4) and 3) Jumbos AND Minis

They're hard to store and display, but other than that, I think they are really neat. I like minis more, but my aging eyes prefer jumbos.

2) 1988 and 1989 Donruss

The designs aren't great. Neither are the photos. But they are the cards of my youth. And I'm partial to a team logo on the front, so there's that.

1) "Junk" Wax Rookies

These were the gems of my youth. The most exciting of them all was the 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. I didn't grow up with a lot of money to spend on cards and rarely got them as gifts because I just don't think they were on people's radar. So when I did get my hands on some packs in the mid-nineties, it was often the reviled "overproduction era" cards. Junk wax as they are so unfairly called. So I say, give me your 1988 Alomars, Graces, and Glavines yearning to breathe free. Your 1989 Griffeys, Biggios, Schillings, Smoltzes, and Sheffields. Even your 1990 Thomases, Sosas, Gonzalezes, and Oleruds. After all, these were the guys I grew up watching. Why not add a few more to the dozens I already have? No one else wants them anyway, right?