Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trading with the mayor

I've traded cards with a wide variety of people since I started this blog. I've swapped cards with people living in England, France, Australia and several places in between. I've made deals with teachers, students, lawyers, writers and those with jobs that I'm sure I could never describe.

One of my most recent trades was with a mayor. The mayor of Cooperstown.

If I'm being honest, that sounds like a job out of fictional book for children. Cooperstown is already a magical place to many, myself included. And you're telling me there's a mayor of this fantasy land?

Yes there is. His name is Jeff. And I'm sure he lives in a regular house, not one with baseball-shaped hedges in the front and a doorbell that plays ballpark organ music. He is a well-known baseball fan and SABR member, and has written the book Split Season, which is about the 1981 baseball season (and we all know how that one ended!).

He also happens to be a collector.

We recently struck up a deal in which I'd send him a smattering of 1968 and 1969 Topps cards and he'd send me some cards for the 1973 Topps set I'm trying to complete.

I still need a whole bunch of the cards from this set, so I'm an easy mark. Jeff found several delightful cards for me including the above Luis Tiant card, which I believe is the first 1973 Topps card I ever saw when I was a kid. Tiant looked like a little doll figure to me back then -- one of those weird associations one makes when they're young.

Among the other cards were '73s that I once owned but then traded away.

Can you believe I traded away the Joe Rudi card that does not feature Joe Rudi? What was wrong with me?

But this is all part of the process of being a collector. You have to figure out what you really like through trial and error, sometimes taking two steps forward and one step back. The important thing is the non-Rudi Rudi card is back in the collection.

How about these heavyweights? I still have a thing about thinking New York players are more difficult to obtain than players from other teams. It's a product of where I grew up and where I live. But I'm sure happy to cross off Munson and Seaver.

More notables from the '70s. Hooton in a Cubs uniform still looks strange to me.

It's the '70s, so that means league leaders and team cards, as was written in the constitution. I think we should all write our congressman to get team photos back into sets. With all the bat boys included!

Lots of airbrushed Phillies pitchers in the 1973 Topps set. It looks like the logo on Wayne Twitchell's card is getting ready to run away.

Don Stanhouse's rookie card. That meant something before he came to the Dodgers. (And that reference means something only if you were a Dodgers fan in 1980).

The late, great Chuck Tanner and his coaches. I dig that manager silhouette. I don't think a manager has taken that pose in the history of this great game.

A bunch more '73s that authorities in the hobby would call "commons." But I can tell a story about almost all of them and get downright freakishly detailed about a couple. They're not common to me.

That's why I'm collecting this set.

For that reason, and, of course, the cartoons on the back.

Here are three cards with some cool cartoons:

The 1973 set features among the best cartoons that ever appeared on the back of Topps cards.

But the best of the group that Jeff sent to me is still the first 1973 card I ever saw:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

One-card wonders: update 6

Exactly 40 years ago, the king of novelty records during the 1970s released a so-bad-it's-good 45 called "In the Mood".

Ray Stevens released the song in 1977 under the pseudonym "The Henhouse Five Plus Too" (kind of makes me think of the blasters that advertise "seven packs plus one extra pack!"). It was a song that consisted entirely of Stevens clucking like chickens to the tune of the Glen Miller Band's "In the Mood".

Shockingly, it made the Billboard Top 40, peaking at exactly No. 40, making it officially a one-hit wonder.

Depending on your viewpoint, the song is painful to listen to or amusingly silly. I think the latter. It reminds me of something I would see on The Muppet Show back in the '70s and I was so convinced that I first heard chickens singing "In the Mood" on The Muppet Show that I looked for it online. What I found was the top 10 songs sung by Muppet chickens, but "In the Mood" wasn't one of them.

So how does this song tie into the latest One-Card Wonder post?

Well, since I'm focused on 1977, I have looked up all of the players in the 1977 Topps set who have their only card in that set.

There are five of them. And one of them, like The Henhouse Five song, is so bad it's good:

This painted gem is Rick Jones' only card in a major set. You can find him, looking much more realistic, in several minor league issues, as well as in a Red Sox team photo set.

I've often wondered what Rick Jones thought of this being his only Topps card. It's not even really him. And that's his only major card.

Here are the other one-card wonders from 1977:

The Chip Lang card is very cool, I've thought that since the moment I pulled it in 1977. It's the complete opposite of the Rick Jones card. If you're going to have only one card, make it look like Chip Lang's card!

Lang does have a different-looking card in the O-Pee-Chee set from that year. But it's nowhere as good as his Topps card, and for the purposes of this exercise, it does not count as a second card.

The last time I did a one-card wonder post, I covered 1978, which featured a whopping 10 one-card wonders.

I wanted to compare one of the years next to 1978 and I see that '78 still sticks out when compared with 1977. But there are probably two reasons for that.

The first one is that the '78 set is the first with 726 cards. The '77 set has just 660 cards. The second reason is the 1976 SSPC set effect. There are four players in the 1977 Topps set with only one other card, and that card is in the SSPC set. So I can't count them as one-card wonders.

There are also four other players whose only other card is on one of those multi-player rookie cards. But that disqualifies them as well.

So here now is the updated list:

1967 Topps

#344 - Ossie Chavarria, A's
#388 - Arnold Earley, Cubs
#489 - Doug Clemens, Phillies
#497 - Ron Campbell, Cubs

1974 Topps:

#8 - George Theodore, Mets
#33 - Don Newhauser, Red Sox
#37 - Dave Sells, Angels
#77 - Rich Troedson, Padres
#421 - Dan Fife, Twins
#457 - Chuck Goggin, Braves
#573 - Mike Adams, Twins 

1975 Topps

#288 - Bruce Ellingsen, Indians
#407 - Herb Washington, A's
#508 - Bob Hansen, Brewers
#524 - John Doherty, Angels
#587 - Chris Ward, Cubs
#651 - John Morlan, Pirates 

1977 Topps

#118 - Rick Jones, Mariners
#132 - Chip Lang, Expos
#137 - Jeff Terpko, Rangers
#616 - Tommy Sandt, A's
#641 - Dan Larson, Astros 

1978 Topps:

#224 - Jerry Tabb, A's
#303 - Sam Hinds, Brewers
#311 - Jose Baez, Mariners
#386 - Bob Gorinski, Twins
#502 - Pat Rockett, Braves
#516 - Gary Beare, Brewers
#521 - Steve Staggs, Blue Jays
#591 - George Zeber, Yankees
#667 - Jeff Byrd, Blue Jays
#719 - Randy Elliott, Giants

1980 Topps:

#59 - Eddy Putman, Tigers
#72 - Fred Howard, White Sox
#156 - Tony Brizzolara, Braves
#221 - Joe Cannon, Blue Jays
#233 - LaRue Washington, Rangers
#291 - Randy Scarberry, White Sox
#347 - Harry Chappas, White Sox

1981 Topps:

 #491 - Gordy Pladson, Astros

1982 Topps:

#356 - Denny Lewallyn, Indians

1984 Topps:

#116 - George Bjorkman, Astros
#159 - Darryl Cias, A's
#163 - Lorenzo Gray, White Sox
#337 - Kevin Hagen, Cardinals
#382 - Chris Nyman, White Sox
#474 - Greg Bargar, Expos

1994 Topps:

#491 - John Hope, Pirates

I will probably cover 1979 Topps next to gauge the follow up to 1978. Then I'll tackle some other brands besides Topps.

I apologize if you have that chicken-fed "In the Mood" song in your head now. Here are some other one-hit wonders from 1977. Maybe they'll work better:

"Torn Between Two Lovers" - Mary Macgregor
"Don't Give Up On Us Baby" - David Soul
"Undercover Angel" - Alan O'Day
"Don't Leave Me This Way" - Thelma Houston
"Smoke From a Distant Fire" - Sanford Townsend Band

Hmm, maybe chickens singing big band music isn't so bad.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Another natural enemy of baseball cards

Throughout the years of being a card collector, I've learned about the natural enemies of baseball cards.

Heat and moisture were the two biggies. As I read about collecting as a youngster, those wiser than me would warn about storing collections in attics or basements. And it didn't take much research to know what water could do. One drop into a puddle or a tour through a washing machine and I had my sad answer.

Legend said that mothers were a natural enemy of baseball cards. But although my mom didn't understand baseball in the least, she never threatened to do away with my cards.

During the early years of this blog I documented the conflict between dogs and baseball cards. My dog has chewed up cards in my collection a time or two. But he's older now and his willingness to chomp on everything he sees is diminished.

That's good, because my cards are dealing with another natural enemy right now: hardwood floors.

More than a year ago, we had all the carpeting taken out of our house (and by "we," I mean "she") to show off our "beautiful" (that's what all of my wife's female friends tell me anyway) hardwood floors. There is now rock, solid floors with no coverings in the living room, dining room, upstairs, downstairs. There is literally no place for a baseball card to hide.

It took me awhile to get used to the lack of carpeting, although it's no big deal now, except, of course, when I drop baseball cards.

This just happened to me today.

I was preparing to blog about a stack of cards sent to me by Julie from A Cracked Bat. I brought the cards downstairs and plopped them onto the computer desk on top of a padded envelope. As I was getting some stuff together to head out the door, the top part of the pile slid off the stack -- because everything has to be so damn shiny and slick -- and fell -- WHAP! -- onto the wooden floor.

"Oh no! Oh no! DINGS!" I said to myself.

There were five or six cards on the floor. I picked them up and sure enough, one had a brand new ding in the bottom right corner.

Chrome Kershaw. Come on, man, Kershaw?? Really, floor?

The scanner doesn't show it off well, but believe me, it's there.

I'll get over it, but I sure don't like carrying my cards around with the feeling that the floor is booby-trapped.

Let's take a look at some other cards from Julie to get my mind off of it.

Here -- here is another Kershaw card with all four corners safely sharp. This makes me feel better.

More shiny cards that made it past my hardwood floors unscathed and into my collection (although there's still the matter of carrying these cards on a trip back upstairs, where they could potentially squirt out of hands and fall to their sharp-corner death).

These mid-90's Score Summit parallels are as glittery and sparkly as the 2015 Topps Bolsinger bath beads parallel above (sorry, I forgot what they're actually called). They were 20 years before their time (or
Topps is rehashing ideas).

Speaking of natural enemies, Topps Triple Threads cards are the natural enemy of binder pages.

More shiny. Here is my first look at the revitalized Gold Label brand. I'm not anyone who longs for the days of Topps Gold Label, but I can see why collectors from that time are disappointed in these. The card stock is much thinner than original Gold Label. No self-respecting late '90s Gold Label card would curl.

Julie really loaded up on the shiny cards, no wonder things were slipping and sliding! Here are two cards of the always talked-about Yasiel Puig. As usual, we had to be dragged into a tired conversation about bat flips this postseason. At least Puig was able to smooth it over with his charm.

The '90s are all about filling holes in my collection I don't even know I have until I look up the cards. Here are two previously unknown needs from 1998 SP Authentic.

Some parallels that found a place in my collection. The less said about these the better.

Finally, another parallel of the guy who has turned the Dodgers' bullpen from semi-suspect to well worth the praise.

At the start of the postseason, when the national broadcasters talked about the Dodgers' excellent bullpen, I was confused. Despite being one of the better bullpens during the season, they still had issues, mainly they couldn't find a set-up guy.

But with Kenta Maeda's arrival in the bullpen and Brandon Morrow climbing to another level, the Dodgers are now 2-0 in the NLCS! The announcers do know what they're talking about!

However, I'm quite relieved I get a break from watching stress-filled games today. I'm now off to root for the Astros. There will be much less stress tonight.

Except ...

Wish me luck as I transport these cards to their proper home.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

C.A.: 1982 Donruss Rick Cerone

(I am writing this in the midst of postseason stress. Yesterday was fun ... from about the fifth inning on. But now it's over, the Dodgers won and I'll agonize through another game less than 24 hours after the first one. Maybe the NBA playoffs have it right: we need a few days to recover before the next heart attack. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 264th in a series):

A few days ago, I was in a yank about the length of time since the Dodgers had been in a World Series, counting up the winless streak in the NLCS (currently at four straight), when I decided to relive the good old days.

I found Game 6 of the 1981 World Series and for the first time since it happened, watched it from beginning to end.

It felt strange to see the Dodgers doing so well on the biggest stage in baseball. I've experienced that feeling twice in my life, but the last time was 1988 and I've become accustomed to inevitable failure no matter how well my team is doing.

The circumstances of a game played 36 years ago were both amusing and heartening. ABC aired the World Series that year and the broadcasting team was Keith Jackson, Jim Palmer and Howard Cosell. Only one of those guys possessed a real appreciation for baseball and I am still amazed ABC let that happen (yes, I know, this is where someone will start yelling, "Joe Buck!"). But seeing all those players from my childhood brought me back to everything I first loved about the game.

ABC panned the stands just like TV likes to do now. This was the time when network TV broadcasts discovered ballplayers' beautiful wives, and there were shots of Barbaralee Monday, Diana Murcer and Cindy Howe. It also showed a couple of celebrities so Cosell could fawn in only the way that Howard could. Gerry Cooney and Marlo Thomas were at the game.

As for the game, it was played quickly back then, much more quickly than today. Not much stepping out of the batters box. Relatively few trips to the mound. The Dodgers brought in one relief pitcher -- Steve Howe in the sixth inning -- and he pitched the rest of the game.

The Dodgers beat the Yankees, 9-2, with most of the scoring being done in the fifth and sixth innings. Pedro Guerrero, just being discovered by baseball fans at the time, knocked in five runs and featured supreme confidence every time he batted.

The most controversial moment came when Yankees starter Tommy John was removed after four innings with the game tied 1-1. The cameras showed John grousing in the dugout and the broadcasters discussed it throughout the game, but I couldn't help but think about how much more significant this would have been if it happened now, how loud the noise would be. I had completely forgotten that John had been removed so quickly, leading to a collapse by the Yankees bullpen. There's no way I would have forgotten it if something similar happened today. Heck, Clayton Kershaw was removed at five innings yesterday, the Dodgers ended up winning and people still acted like the Dodgers did something wrong.

But perhaps the most interesting moment of the game, to me, happened in the sixth inning.

The Dodgers just had taken a whopping 8-1 lead and the Yankees came to the plate with Cosell yammering about wholesale changes in the offseason. Graig Nettles reached Dodgers starter Burt Hooton for a single, bringing Rick Cerone to the plate.

Cerone ended up walking on a 3-2 count. Hooton threw ball four, which was nowhere near Cerone, yet Cerone proceeded to launch his bat disgustedly toward the dugout while staring angrily at Hooton.

Cerone then trotted to first and while he was on first, started barking at Hooton. I couldn't figure out what Hooton had done to make Cerone so upset. I had to have Palmer, the only guy in the booth paying attention to the game, to explain it.

According to Palmer, Cerone was upset because Hooton had not "challenged" Cerone with fastballs. Hooton's offerings to Cerone were a mixture of fastballs and the knuckle-curveball for which he was known. Palmer, naturally supporting the pitcher, said in his usual slightly sarcastic manner that Cerone felt Hooton should be throwing fastballs so Cerone could be successful.

The incident baffled me.

"How bizarre," I thought, "this game was back then."

Is that the way ballplayers thought then -- off-speed pitches were for weakling pitchers?  Today, pitchers throw four, five, six pitches and the larger the repertoire, the more impressed I am. If pitchers actually were discouraged from throwing off-speed pitches for fear of being branded "weak," then I have to say that is something I much prefer about the game today. I want each side to use everything at their disposal. Intellect and skill. Pure power can only get you so far.

Of course, perhaps Cerone's histrionics had to do with a seven-run deficit in what was a must-win game for the Yankees. Teammate Lou Piniella threw a similar fit on the bases that inning when a runner ahead of him didn't score.

Or, after consulting the back of Cerone's 1982 Donruss card, maybe it was just the last straw in a long year:

Maybe that's why Cerone is keeping his face shielded on the front of the card.

Friday, October 13, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 70-61

I have some gall placing a countdown show in the middle of the baseball postseason. Doesn't Major League Baseball have a rule against that? No transactions or countdowns while the playoffs are going on!

I'm not feeling that guilty about it however.

Sure I've got baseball playoff fever. My Dodgers are still alive (playing those Cubs again, who don't have that "we haven't won in a century" sob story to get fans on their side anymore). And there's still lots of work to do getting rid of those Yankees.

But I also know that the games last six hours and 12 minutes on average. And one-fourth of that time is filled by bourbon commercials. So you've got time to look at a countdown of some of the greatest cards the 1970s ever made.

So, if you haven't made yourself a baseball meal tonight yet, might I suggest something:

Grab a bowl of Freakies cereal and pour some Nestle's Strawberry Quik on it. Then, if you're still not fired up over the '70s after that, watch about 25 episodes of "This Week in Baseball" back-to-back, followed by the James Caan movie "Rollerball".

That ought to do it.

It's the greatest cards of the '70s, numbers 70-61:


Pete Rose, 1979 Topps Burger King, #13

The 1978 season was over. The Yankees had defeated the Dodgers in six games for the second straight year in the World Series.

The Cincinnati Reds, the former Big Red Machine, had finished out of the postseason for the second straight year. These were restless times for the Reds and no one was more restless than Pete Rose.

Rose wanted to be the highest-paid player in baseball. Everyone knew it. The man who had hit in 44 straight games that summer had taken turns with Reds management batting down contract offers. Then, it happened on Dec. 5, 1978. Rose, a Red as long as just about everyone had known him, was now a Phillie.

The concept was baffling. If you weren't a Reds fan, you probably spent most of your time rooting against Rose and Cincinnati. I know I did. But he was always a Red. That's how you found him, scuffling to first in crimson trim between Aqua Velva commercials. How weird would it be to see Rose as a Phillie?

It took a Burger King baseball card, an oddball card, to show us.

Even though I was never a Reds, Phillies or Rose fan, this card was on my want list from the day I knew it existed. And it stayed on that list for decades until I landed one a year or so ago. Those who see nothing more than Pete Rose in an airbrushed Phillies helmet simply don't understand what Rose and the Reds meant to 1970s baseball.


Willie Mays, 1973 Topps, #305

I am assuming that seeing Willie Mays as a Met on cardboard was just as jarring as seeing Pete Rose as a Phillie on cardboard. Mays' transition from the Giants to the Mets happened before I started following baseball.

But I can appreciate the strangeness. And from the looks of Mays' expression, he can, too.

"Whaaat?" he seems to be saying, "I'm a Met??????"

Yep. Get a load of you, Say Hey Kid, you're wearing blue pinstripes. This is Mays' final card of his career, other than the World Series card featuring him in the 1974 Topps set. It's not exactly the kind of card that you'd want for your finale.

But then, hitting .238 in his last two seasons, both with the Mets, maybe that's the card Willie Mays deserved.


Bud Harrelson, 1970 Topps, #634

There aren't a lot of cards from the 1970s that I haven't seen before, especially now after doing research for this countdown.

But I discovered the 1970 Bud Harrelson card for the first time maybe two years ago and fell in love with it instantly.

It was off my radar for so many years because I didn't bother paying attention to 1970 Topps for a long time, what with those drab borders. But also because Harrelson's card falls in the high numbers and those high number cards just don't seem to get distributed so people can see them.

Photos of players signing for fans are always pleasing. But this one is special just because of the almost private moment captured on cardboard. Harrelson is thoughtfully signing for a single fan. We're so close to the scene we can almost make out the type of pen being used.

I still don't own this card. I need to get it.


Tony Horton, 1971 Kellogg's, #69

I can't imagine what kids who didn't grow up in Cleveland thought when they pulled a 3-D card of Tony Horton out of their cereal box.

Tony Horton? Who is Tony Horton?

In those days before the internet or cable television, kids learned about baseball players from baseball cards. But Horton didn't show up on baseball cards. Topps didn't make a card of Horton during his time with the Red Sox or the Indians. He hit 27 home runs in 1969. No card.

Horton, who likely did not have a contract with Topps during his time in the majors, ended up leaving baseball at age 25. He dealt with mental health issues and the game was too trying for him. In fact, this card appeared after Horton had quit the game.

It is the only 1970s card of Horton created during his career.


Mickey Mantle/Maury Wills, 1975 Topps, MVP subset, #200

The internet is stuffed to the rafters with "cards that never were," created by inventive types, often using familiar Topps designs.

But Topps created some of the first "cards that never were" in its 1975 set.

A subset that year commemorated each league's MVPs for the life of Topps' cards, from 1951-74. Topps decided to showcase the player's card from the year he won the MVP.

There was one problem with that. The MVP didn't always have a Topps card the year he won the award. That was the case a couple of times with Roy Campanella, so Topps created a mock-up of Campanella in a 1951 and 1955 card for its MVP subset.

And it created a 1962 mock-up for Maury Wills.

Wills, like Horton, didn't have a contract with Topps for much of his career. But the created "card" for the subset seemed so real that for years I thought there was a Wills card in the 1962 Topps set. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

Topps then reused that "card" for other cards in later sets, solidifying this "card" in reality even though it doesn't actually exist.

The repeated use of the image is fascinating to me. And it's why this card is on this list and the Campanella cards are not. (OK, Mickey Mantle has a little bit to do with it).


George Scott, 1977 Topps, #255

George Scott was almost a mythical figure to kids in the 1970s.

A large man who blasted something he called "taters" into the stratosphere became an instant favorite to me and others I knew.

The significance of his 1977 Topps card escaped me for a few years though. Again, I wasn't following baseball when a Milwaukee Journal reporter asked George Scott in 1975 about the "beads" he wore on a necklace.

Scott's famous response was: "those are second basemen's teeth," which if I had heard it at the time, I would have dropped everything and become a Milwaukee Brewers fan. The necklace is actually a combination of various shells, but you wouldn't have had a difficult time getting a kid to believe that they were actually some nasty old teeth from a middle infielder. Ewww! Is that dried blood?


Bud Harrelson, 1971 Topps, #355

How about this? Bud Harrelson's second appearance in this countdown segment!

Unlike his 1970 Topps card, Harrelson is not on prominent display, despite making the tag on Astros baserunner Jimmy Wynn. It's an interesting action shot that could have benefited from some closer cropping.

But it's fortunate that Topps' editors didn't crop too closely. The beauty of this card is future Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan at right giving the out call, even though Wynn was likely safe.


Reggie Jackson, 1977 Topps, #10

I will never own the blank back Reggie Jackson card featuring him in a Baltimore Orioles uniform. It's disappointing because the 1976 season was all about Reggie Jackson playing as an Oriole. I remember that Sports Illustrated cover as one of the wildest, because who would have ever considered Reggie Jackson wearing orange and black?

Then the news grew noisier Jackson became a Yankee. During that wild offseason, the first for unfettered free agency, Jackson signed up for the soap opera that was The Bronx in the 1970s.

The best that Topps could do was airbrush yet another card for the 1977 Topps set. We kids knew that Jackson wasn't really wearing a Yankee helmet or jersey. But still, we felt ready for what was to come in '77 because Jackson was shown with his proper team.


George Brett, 1978 Topps, #100

There was this thing that Topps did when a player was a superstar. Topps liked to get in the player's face.

Zoom up real close, so close that you almost can't tell whether the dude is a ballplayer by simply looking at the photo. But also don't lose the personality of the player. Find something that says "this is Mr. Superstar".

The Brett card accomplishes this. Brett had hit over .300 for a third straight year and was now in the conversation as one of the best hitters in baseball. Topps zoomed in real tight, but also showcased two aspects that still tells you that this is Brett:

His long blond hair is waving in the breeze.

He's sucking on a wad of tobacco.

Topps added the all-star shield just in case you still didn't know.


Doug Rader, 1976 SSPC, #59

For years, there must have been an unspoken agreement between Topps and its photographers:

"Make sure to feature the baseball player in nothing but the best light. Nothing negative, nothing gross and no silliness."

SSPC broke that wall. Players want to be silly. Boy, do they ever.

What's sillier than someone nicknamed The Rooster choking up severely on a bat while wearing the most famous horizontally-striped jersey and a wild grin on his face?


At least SSPC could figure out that something like that should be on a card.

And that's 10 more down for the week as the fourth installment is complete.

I hope you enjoy the game (I hope you notice I ended with an Astro).