Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I think Ginter is trying to tell me something

If you've collected for long enough then you've probably done that goofy thing where you give the cards you purchase powers of knowing.

They're inanimate objects, yet sometimes, I could swear they know what I need. Or at the very least, they are trying to tell me something.

It's the only way I can explain my recent experiences with Allen & Ginter. I haven't bought a lot of 2016 A&G because I'm not trying to complete the set. But A&G is one of my first choices during impulse buys because I still like the set and, oh yes, minis.

So, speaking of minis, I pulled this one.

Now, I had pulled the same mini when I bought my first blaster of A&G and posted its contents. And I had just sent that mini to a fellow collector. So what are the odds of getting that mini again? Yeah, I know some math guy is going to tell me and say that the probability is actually not all that unusual. Don't spoil my post. The A&G cards are trying to tell me something, man! They want me to have this Orlando Cepeda mini!

So, not long after that, I picked up a rack pack of A&G, again solely for the minis. One of the minis that fell out was this one:

Heavens to Murgatroyd, this is the second time I've pulled this mini. What are the odds of pulling two of the same mini twice, math guy?

I know that A&G wants me to have this mini, but I sent it to a fellow collector, and then I sent the second one I pulled to another fellow collector!

I fully expect to pull a third Pedroia mini within the next month.

Ginter's gentle hinting isn't confined to minis either.

The Tom Murphy card at the top of the post is one of the short-prints. It's card No. 336.

But given my limited A&G purchasing I don't know how to explain this:

I had no idea who Tom Murphy was the first time or two I pulled his card.

But then something happened that sent a chill up my spine.

One of our sportswriters did a story on Murphy. It turns out he grew up an hour from me. I don't necessarily collect players who came from the same area that I did or lived near where I live, but I know a lot of collectors who do and apparently Ginter thinks I should!

Unfortunately, Ginter, I have no intention of collecting a Colorado Rockie, no matter how many Tom Murphy cards you throw at me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The power of the mustache

I'm expanding on my most recent post from the 1985 Topps blog. That's the advantage of having more than one blog -- the other blogs sometimes give you ideas for the main blog, and that is very key. Until Topps issues a product every day (don't say "ToppsNow," wise guy) or there's a card show every day, it will always be a challenge to come up with material on a daily blog.

So, this post is about the power of the mustache, specifically referring to one player.

I would hope that everyone familiar with 1970s/80s baseball players knows about the power of the mustache. The sudden surge in ability for players like Ron Cey, Mike Schmidt, Davey Lopes, Steve Rogers, etc., once they grew some lip hair is right there in the statistics.

But for me there is one player who documents this phenomenon better than any player.

Dwight Evans enjoyed a long and prosperous career, mostly with the Red Sox, from 1972-91. But the tone of his career shifted about midway through. Prior to 1981, Evans was known as a gifted fielder with a terrific arm and a wonderful sense of anticipation. His fielding ability was so good that it won praise on the biggest stage in baseball, the World Series.

But Evans' offensive ability was only slightly above average. He could hit 20-plus home runs periodically, but he was prone to season slumps, struggling particularly between 1976-78.

From 1972-80, here are Evans' offensive statistics:

AB: 3,394; Hits: 888; Avg: .262; Home Runs: 128; Total Bases: 1,521; Slugging Pct.: .448; Walks: 415, HBP: 21; Sacrifice Flies: 21; On-Base Pct: .344; OPS: .832.

Pretty good, but in a lineup that included Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, George Scott, etc., it's a good thing he had that glove. He was overshadowed.

OK, now:

Here are Evans' offensive statistics from 1981-91:

AB: 5,602; Hits: 1,558; Avg.: 278, Home Runs: 257; Total Bases: 2,709; Slugging Pct: .483; Walks: 976, HBP: 32; Sacrifice Flies: 56; On-Base Pct: .385; OPS: .868.

Evans was a far better hitter the second half of his career than the first.

Now you can argue that Evans received greater opportunity in the 1980s then the 1970s. With players like Yaz, Fisk and Lynn gone, the Red Sox relied on Evans' offense even more, particularly his power. Players like Boggs, Buckner, Stapleton and Barrett were not power guys. The Red Sox had Rice, Tony Armas and Evans and that was about it.

But I prefer to focus on the power of the mustache. The mystique of the mustache.

The difference between Evans from 1972-80 and 1981-1991 is not only in the stats, but in his facial appearance. Evans grew a mustache in 1981 (or perhaps during the 1980 offseason). And that 1981 season was unlike any other he had ever experienced.

Even though the strike wiped out a third of the season, Evans' numbers that year were better than some of his previous full-season numbers. He led the league in five categories. He had never led the league in any offensive category prior to the mustache year of 1981.

From 1981 on, Evans posted league-leading totals 13 times. He finished in the top five of MVP voting twice.

I am almost certain that if Evans ever thought about shaving his mustache, his numbers prevented him from doing so.

Don't mess with the power of the 'stache. If he had that thing from the beginning, he'd be in the Hall of Fame by now.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Card show proxies

I don't like missing card shows, because there are so few of them and they're shrinking by the year. So even though I was lucky enough to go to an unexpected show a couple of weeks ago, it's still eating me up that there is another show next month staring me in the face that I am going to miss.

It is very much like me to focus on what I can't have instead of what I do have. Getting myself converted to a more positive way of thinking is a constant battle.

So this is my attempt to focus on the PRO column in my hobby life, rather than the CON column.

I may have just a couple of card shows to attend each year, but I also have many other card shows available to me from around the country. That's the benefit of writing a semi-well-read blog. People read about what you like, go to their show in Dreamland, Arizona, or wherever, and -- wham! -- you have card show cards in your possession.

I like to call these people who go to a card show in distant lands "card show proxies." I don't necessarily commission them to get cards for me, but still the cards arrive from them. You want to talk about a hobby positive? That's one right there.

In Texas, apparently, there was a card show recently. Commishbob went to it and, no doubt, brought home a pile of vintage. He also sent some to me, as my latest card show proxy.

Let's see what he blessed me with:

Not many people seemed to care about my '77-84 TCMA post about Larry "Nap" Lajoie, but keep sending cards from this set to me. I love them. I own the Hodges card already, but this will simply go in the set-build quest. One day you will see a want list, and then expect me to bore the heck out of you with these for repeated posts.

This 1970 Bill Singer Story Booklet represents an upgrade over the one I already own. Here is the other one.

It's sad that Connie's story booklet is being replaced, so maybe I can read the story in her honor.

Once upon a time, this dude played baseball and basketball at the same time. Yup, Bill Singer invented Baseketball and is very bitter about not receiving credit. He doesn't like finishing second.

It's been years since pitchers were able to drill holes into bats with fastballs. That's how watered down today's game is. Or how shoddy the bats were then.

Here, the Bill Singer story tells you how the win is meaningless, even though three of the four panels are about the win.

And that's the Bill Singer story, Connie. You can have your storybook back. I have an extra.


Moving on to another set in touch with its comic side. The Commish found a bunch of '56 cards in the 50 cents stack. He said some of these might be just fillers for the time being, but I'll be the judge of that.

Yeah, I guess there's a couple I may replace someday, but right now I'm just too giddy about all of those '56s in one spot.

Plus one card from the previous year, and a Dodger card I needed!

The final card I'm showing is something I'd never be able to get at a card show, because I don't know the dealers all that well.

This is very cool!

Nomo signed, Bob said, for a dealer friend of his. Weeeee! This card allows me to boast of a Hideo Nomo trifecta -- a rookie card, relic card and autograph card.

Part of me would like to know more about the circumstances of this autograph: where was the dealer when Nomo signed, etc. But ... no, I am committed to the positive here: There is no way I would find a Nomo autographed card if I went to a card show.

And that's why I have card show proxies.

When you can't be there yourself, they get the job done.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Showing all I have (of him) because he showed all he had (to us).


Saturday, September 24, 2016

C.A.: 1977-84 TCMA Galasso Greats Larry Lajoie

(Greetings on International Rabbit Day. On this day of caring for and protecting the welfare of the ear-endowed creature, hug a bunny today. But don't let it loose in your house. Those things chew electrical cords. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 247th in a series):

This card, from one of my favorite oddball retro sets of the 1970s, is a missed opportunity.

Larry Lajoie was one of the finest hitters of the early part of the 20th century, a Cleveland legend, and known for being the American League's first superstar, someone who helped bring legitimacy to the upstart league. He is also on the front of one of the most famous rare/expensive baseball cards, his 1933 Goudey card.

His full name is Napoleon Lajoie. On the 1933 Goudey card he is listed as Napoleon (Larry) Lajoie. I haven't heard many references to Lajoie as "Larry," but apparently it was a thing as he's "Larry" on a few of his cards.

Many more of his cards list him as "Nap" Lajoie. And that's how I came to learn of the player, as Nap Lajoie. If I were to bring him up in conversation -- which, sadly, never happens -- I would refer to him as "Nap Lajoie". For crying out loud, Cleveland was named the "Naps" when Lajoie was with the team!

"Nap" is short for Napoleon, but this card has me thinking it also meant that Lajoie was known for getting quite sleepy. Look at him on this TCMA card. He's practically in dream land. Yup, that's Nappy. Always dozing in the clubhouse, slumped over at his locker. He was quite perky on the field, but always being nudged awake in the dugout.

How great would it have been to have a photo of this sleepyhead on a card with Nap Lajoie for the name? Photo and caption in perfect harmony!

Something like this:

Night, night.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Define the design: even more set-namin'

It's Friday, people.

You're celebrating because the weekend is here. I'm celebrating because it's looking like this Friday work night will be a little less insane than usual for a September. Small victories. We can't all go to the club and get smashed.

"Define the Design" is a nice lighthearted feature for a Friday. I haven't done one of these all year, outside of naming the 2016 Topps base set just so it would get out of my sight.

In fact, when we last left Define the Design, I had promised to find a name for the 2002 Donruss set, with help from your suggestions. As usual, I completely forgot about that, so it's time to right that wrong. Using a combination of suggestions, 2002 Donruss is now the "pinstripe curtain set." (I really did want to name it "1970s boy's bedroom wallpaper," but sometimes "simple" casts a wider net).

So let's get to naming a few more sets. The only thing this handful of sets has in common is all of them have borders -- rather distinctive borders, in fact. Borders are very helpful when naming sets. Why do you think I haven't even attempted to name an Ultra set? No borders!

So check out some sets with borders. I don't have names for all of them, so if something comes to mind, shout it out in the comments. Contributions are what makes this feature live on.

1971 Topps

Easy one. It's "the black border set." Perhaps that doesn't capture everything that's great about this set, the lower-case lettering, the bold, colorful team name, the first use of action photos for a player's base card. But come on now! The border is black! Where would 1985 Donruss and all those Bowman sets be without 1971 Topps? It's a black beauty. In fact, consider that '71 Topps' alternative name, "the black beauty set."

1986 Topps

So if 1971 Topps is the "black border/black beauty set," what's that make the 1986 set?

I really want to make this the "Ebony and Ivory set," so it can be the baseball card hobby's small contribution to racial harmony. The Stevie Wonder-Paul McCartney song was a hit four years prior to '86 Topps arriving, so it's in sort of the same era. Or maybe I could call it the "black-and-white cookie" set.

None of those names, though, recognizes the huge, sharp-edged team names in '86 Topps. That doesn't seem right. So I'll hold off naming this one for now.

1990 Donruss

I could take the easy route and name it "the red border set." Worked for '71 Topps, right? But that discounts the speckle spatters on every card. (P.S.: If you stare at the '90 Donruss design for awhile, pondering define-the-define names, your brain weirds out and the speckles start to look like mildew on a wall. "The mildew on a red wall set"? Anyway ...).

I want to reference the black speckles in some way and that's why I'm naming it:

The ladybug set.

There's probably a better name out there, but I like this one for now. People are welcome to change my mind.

1983 Fleer

There is already a named "gray border set" -- 1970 Topps. But I think the most positive aspect of 1983 Fleer anyway is the debut of the team logo on the front, which would be a practice for Fleer sets throughout the 1980s (until that dastardly 1991 Fleer).

So the logo needs to be part of the name. I haven't figured out exactly how. "Fleer's first logo set?" That's not it. I will think on this some more.

2001 Topps

The tricky part on the border for 2001 Topps is pinning down what color of green that is. I studied it extensively in last year's Topps flagship countdown and still don't know what color of green it is.

But for naming purposes, I settled on "forest green" as the color. My first thought was cars from the 1950s. But there were all different shades of green cars in the '50s. So I went in a different direction -- towards clothing.

And I found it:

2001 Topps is now the "nursing scrubs set."

I've never liked 2001 Topps more.

2005 Topps

Final set.

There is so much going on with 2005 Topps. Team word marks. Sideways team and player names. A much-appreciated set date in the lower left-hand corner.

But the overriding star of the 2005 Topps is the last name banner. There are other sets to place emphasis on the last name -- all those 3-D Kellogg's sets, for example. But I've never seen it exclaimed so prominently than in 2005 Topps.

So I'm calling this set the "last name first set."

By the way, Topps suddenly started adding "Jr." to Snow's name in 1997 and stayed with it through 2005 Topps. But for Snow's final flagship card, in 2006, he's back to simply "J.T. Snow"! Since the "J.T. Snow Jr." era came during the time when I didn't collect cards, "J.T. Snow Jr." looks very odd to me. I notice most of the other companies ignored the "Jr." I wonder if this was a "Rock Raines" thing by Topps?

Anyway, I think I have at least three solid set names to add to the "Define the Design list." Maybe a couple of more. That's up to you.

What do you think?