Saturday, March 25, 2017

C.A.: 1980 Topps 1979 Highlights Garry Templeton

(Greetings on "Waffle Day". A week or so ago I read about somebody putting brownie batter in their waffle maker and I haven't been able to think about anything else since. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 253rd in a series):

Yesterday was Garry Templeton's birthday. Ballplayers' birthdays are always a nice occasion to dig out the birthday boy's card and showcase it on social media.

I chose this particular card because everyone had already shown the rookie cup Templeton card and because who doesn't appreciate the very cool stat of one player getting 100 hits from each side of the plate in a single season?

I've known about Templeton's feat since it happened, it was kind of a big deal. And the record breaker card always helps hammer the achievement home in my memory.

I started to wonder what other switch-hitters had achieved 100 hits on both sides of the plate since Templeton. I had known that Willie Wilson had accomplished the feat the very next year but never heard about anyone else doing it.

So I did a little bit of online research and found out that Templeton wasn't really the first player with 100 hits on either side of the plate, because he never actually achieved it.

(*Mind blown*)

If you check out the splits on Templeton's baseball-reference page, you will see that he managed just 96 hits as a right-handed batter in 1979.

For his 211 total hits in 1979, 115 came as a left-handed batter and 96 as a right-handed batter.

Why the discrepancy? Well, according to this thread, they didn't count the hits up so well in 1979. Someone informed Templeton that he had 93 hits as a right-handed batter when it was really 89. Templeton started batting right-handed every at-bat to achieve the mark (a move that didn't endear him to the next Cardinals manager, Whitey Herzog), and according to the back of his 1980 baseball card, he reached 100 hits as a right-hander with a bunt single.

Except that he didn't. It was really his 96th hit from the right side of the plate.

I don't know what goes into the statistical gathering with baseball-reference and, so I can't say that baseball-reference's stats are 100 percent accurate. But let's face facts. We are far more efficient and fanatical in gathering baseball stats than we ever were in 1979.

The thing that blows my mind is how this was considered absolute fact when it happened and for many years. And Templeton has been credited for the achievement on many a baseball card.

So, not only is the 1980 Highlights card incorrect, but so are the backs of many of Templeton's cards.




Still incorrect.

And there are many more.

1983 Donruss, 1985 Donruss, 1986 Donruss, 1987 Donruss, 1988 Donruss, 1989 Donruss and 1991 Donruss all mention this feat that never happened.

The same goes for 1988, 1989 and 1990 Score. And 1983 Fleer. And 1981 and 1983 Kellogg's.

Damn right, it's close to the impossible, 1981 Kellogg's.

All of the above cards jumped the gun. Templeton never had 100 hits as a right-hander in a single year.

So that means Willie Wilson, who in 1980 was reported to have reached 100 hits from each side of the plate as part of the 230 he accumulated that year, is the first person to accomplish it, right?

Uh, no.

According to his baseball-reference splits, Wilson came up a single hit short on the left side.

(*Mind blown again*)

This is staggering to me. Not merely from the standpoint that I thought all these years that Templeton and Wilson had achieved this, but that it was discovered to be not true and nobody really said anything about it.

When Templeton achieved the feat, it was trumpeted in the newspapers and magazines and a baseball card was made. You can read mentions of it in published books, for crying out loud.

But virtually no mention of "never mind, that didn't happen." Shouldn't MLB or the media or someone have said something?

Looking online, I see virtually no mention of this feat never happening. And it's funny that among the more noted baseball sites and news publications, achieving 100 hits from both sides of the plate is barely mentioned. It's like nobody cares today.

I think that might be because nobody has achieved the mark. I can't find anyone else mentioned besides Templeton and Wilson.

It's funny how certain baseball stats can be so trumpeted and almost sacrosanct for years and then with the passage of time, they are ignored, not even to mention whether they're true or false.

So what is it about these other 1980 Highlights card that isn't true (I'm already aware that Mota doesn't hold the all-time pinch-hit record anymore)?

I don't think I want to know.

Friday, March 24, 2017

I am being bombarded

By work and cards!

March has always been an assault on the senses around here and as I continue to climb out from underneath job and family demands, I am now facing a bombardment of cardboard.

I was greeted by an entire year's worth of cards a couple days ago. I'll explain what I mean in  more detail next week but the whole thing is taking awhile to process. Then, yesterday, I was tackled by a maxi package of minis (again, I'll explain more next week). And today, I was warned that I would be visited by 1984! As a reader of Orwell in 10th grade, I don't like the sounds of that. But I've been assured it's good news.

In between that deluge and a spring sports special section that must be completed by Monday at work (spring! ha!), I thought I should squeeze in some smaller packages that I've received over the last week or two. Besides, it's been an entire week since I've written a Dodger-centric post. How are people going to know I collect Dodgers if I don't show them???

There we go. Fandom restored to normal.

This card came to me from Max of Starting Nine. You might have read about his harrowing health scare and the fallout since. I'm really glad he's well enough to post a little bit and send out some cards. We need Mets fans around. We're overpopulated with Yankees and Braves fans. Every Mets fan helps keep that in check.

The above card is a foil parallel. Topps loves these things. All they do for me is remind me of my helplessness as a team collector.

Card companies really got maximum mileage out of the seven games Jose Peraza played for the Dodgers. I now have a Dodger Peraza card for every game he played for L.A.

More unlicensedness! This is an insert from 2013 Triple Play. I'd like to know if anyone at all tried to complete this insert set, which I think was 30 cards.

This shiny card makes me sad. The Dodgers have done fine without Matt Kemp, but I can never say anything bad about him. His best years were with the Dodgers.

In the loosest definition of the phrase, yes, this is a Dodger card. I had no idea there were GI-Joe cards. I was a big GI-Joe fan, back when the dolls were a foot tall and had kung-fu grip. But even then I don't picture myself collecting GI-Joe cards.

I know what you are all wondering: no, this isn't going in the Dodger binder. I could, however, give it to my dog, Dodger, to do what he wished.

Moving on to a PWE from Gavin at Baseball Card Breakdown.

Gavin's another collector who's been suckered by ... er, attracted to ... Panini. I, myself, love Panini's Hometown Heroes set. It's ridiculous for a retro set like that to contain bordered parallels -- it just looks weird. But I will dutifully place this gold bordered Gibson next to my black bordered Gibson to impress the hell out of ... I don't know ... me, I guess.

Gavin does have solid taste with the Panini products. Diamond Kings looked pretty good last year (as long as it was an old-time player).

Now we're getting to a mutual love. The Retired Signatures sets from about a dozen years ago are very cool. I don't bother with the autographs that Gavin collects. I just like all cool old players -- most with pictures I haven't seen before -- on the current designs.

This was when Topps was really killing it with its retro sets, between this and Fan Favorites. Now it just has Heritage (we won't discuss Archives) and it's doing its best to ruin that.

Black refractors will never be as cool as they were in 2004 and 2005. Gavin knows this, too. He thwas nice enough to leave me one of his crumbs. I hope he does the same when Gavin Lux becomes a superstar.

The final envelope I'm showing here today is from Jason at The Writer's Journey.

He came upon some cards from the Snowflake set from last December. He wanted to know if I had the following Dodgers:

Josh Reddick
Clayton Kershaw
Corey Seager
Julio Urias

I checked my giant spreadsheet on the wall, and even though I have several of the Snowflake Dodgers, I had none of those four! Send them all!

And he did.

Very nice. I must be close to the end with these.

And they are not inappropriate for the season at all. It snowed earlier this morning.

We're never going to get to Opening Day.

Or the end of March.

Just keep sending me that cardboard to take my mind off of it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

If it didn't happen on a baseball card, did it make a sound?

I finally requested shipment of this card today. It had sat in my COMC cart forever and there is no reason that it should have escaped me for so long, too many card interests or not.

This card, to me, is confirmation -- proof, if you will -- that Mark Fidrych did, indeed, smooth the mound from his knees in the middle of pitching a game.

My brain, even without this act appearing on a card, knows that Fidrych did this. I read about it in the newspapers and The Sporting News when I was a kid in 1976. I saw it on television. I can go back and watch his mound maintenance on youtube. There might be even be a picture of him doing it an old Baseball Digest I have stashed somewhere.

But you know the media. Fake news. They lie. Cards is where you can find the truth.

OK, I'm being facetious. But, really, as a kid growing up in the '70s, visual evidence was limited. There were pictures in the newspaper -- and let me tell you, photos of Detroit Tigers in upstate New York were rare. There was Sports Illustrated. There was Game of the Week, and a few New York games if you had cable. That was it.

For true, lasting evidence, I needed my baseball cards. Back before "pics or it didn't happen," there was "cards or it didn't happen."

But, sadly, as I've mentioned many times before, cards didn't do a great job of capturing the baseball of my childhood. Thank goodness the uniforms were so goofy in the '70s -- at least I have proof on cards that happened -- but everyone was so trapped in batting and pitching poses, they didn't look at what was around them. (P.S.: this is why the 1976 SSPC set is so treasured, it captures the time so well).

These are the only two cards that I know of that showcase the cap-wearing bullpen carts that were so ubiquitous during the mid-to-late 1970s. But you'd never know they were so plentiful looking back at the cards now.

So it goes for other staples of the 1970s: MIA on cards are pillbox caps on teams other than the Pirates, the glorious golden-tinged scoreboard graphics, and Morganna the Kissing Bandit. And, of course, also absent on baseball cards was Johnny Bench's mustache.

"Wait a minute," you're saying.

"Johnny Bench didn't wear a mustache."

Yes, up to about a month ago, I would have agreed with you. Of course not. Of course, Johnny Bench didn't wear a mustache.

Here is just a selection of cards I own of Johnny Bench from his playing days:

Do you see a mustache on any of them? Of course you don't.

Because Johnny Bench didn't have a mustache. It's there in the cards. The Reds have carried a very strict rule against facial hair for years and it was in full force during Bench's playing days. Absolutely no facial hair, certainly no must ... ach ... es ...


Hi, he's Johnny Bench. He has a mustache.

You could have knocked me over with a 1981 Donruss card when I saw this image.

I'm going to admit to you right now, with no sign of shame, that I was watching a few old Hee Haw shows a little while ago. Hee Haw reminds me of growing up the '70s, too. It was on almost every Saturday evening after dinner. And although I was too young to appreciate corn-pone jokes, big-haired country singers or low-cut blouses, I didn't mind watching it. There was a lot of laughing on Hee Haw. I liked laughing.

Apparently, so did baseball players from Oklahoma.

Several baseball players appeared on Hee Haw. Bench, Mickey Mantle and Bobby Murcer all did and all were natives of Oklahoma. Dizzy Dean was also on the show. He was a native of Arkansas, which I suppose is close enough.

I don't know why Oklahoma-bred players gravitated toward Hee Haw, it's not the only country-fried state in the union. But never mind that, because, "You guys! Johnny Bench is wearing a mustache!!!"

There he is with Gunilla Hutton! Mustache!

The episode I was watching aired on Feb. 5, 1972. I'm assuming it taped much earlier, but it still likely taped during the baseball offseason, which I guess was when Bench figured he was free-and-clear to grow a mustache.

By the time spring workouts rolled around and baseball card photographers started roaming the field looking for ballplayers, Bench had shaved off his mustache to keep in compliance. And to let the kiddie collectors know that Bench was a clean-shaven follower of Cincinnati Reds' law.

We were all fooled.

I had no idea that Bench had a mustache.

I still don't know if I believe it. Because it didn't happen on a baseball card.

But there he is again with Barbi Benton (Bench is 6-1, which tells you how tiny and super-cute Barbi is).

Nice outfits.

Since I made my discovery, I've found a couple other references online to Bench's brief mustache appearances. They're as blown away by it as I was. I'm assuming they were also baseball card collectors.

Because baseball cards back then were proof of everything that happened in baseball. That's how we knew our players.

Cards or it didn't happen.

Cards or it didn't make a sound.

Until 40 years later.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Got me

As a writer, I have a relationship with the stories and posts that I write. You've probably heard writers describe their stories as their "children" and I can relate.

While some can pound out a post, hit "publish" and then forget about it once the sun goes down, it doesn't work that way for me. I write some posts that I want to forget, but can't. And I write other posts that I like ... a lot. I have favorites when it comes to posts.

Yesterday's post was a favorite. I couldn't wait to get the idea up on the blog. It didn't get the biggest response, but that's OK. The cool people know why I liked the post so much. I was writing to them.

But since I like to offer variety on my blog and because I knew I had probably bored the "what's new" crowd with last night's post, I thought I'd find something for them. I was getting a few birthday goodies for my daughter today when I ambled over to the card aisle and grabbed a single 24-card pack of this year's Opening Day.

Opening Day is virtually useless as a product, moreso than in years past when it could at least draw the anti-foil collectors. It's two selling points these days are price and inserts. That right there tells you the set doesn't need to exist.

I figured I'd show this pack, write some dismissive words and then show a few cards that I received recently from a fellow collector, cards that I really wanted. I even had a working title: "A pack of Opening Day plus some other cards I actually like". Snarky but effective.

But then something happened.

The card gods got me. They caught me being cynical and decided to teach me a lesson, using this very pack of Opening Day.

So let's see what was in that Opening Day pack that I was pretty sure before it was even opened that it would be the only pack of the stuff I would open all year.

First we have the cards we've all seen in 2017 flagship already. This is OD at its most sleepy. I actually do like these better because the Opening Day logo fills in that useless gray patch in the bottom right corner. But really these cards can't possibly register with collectors. Unless all they are buying is Opening Day.

Here are the cards of players you'll be seeing in flagship Series 2. These are always mildly interesting. You can see Edwin Encarnacion in his new (photoshopped) Indians duds. Many of these same photos will appear/are appearing in respective team sets.

The one Dodger in the pack. Now I know what Kenley's Series 2 card will look like.

As is customary, the inserts showed up in the middle of the pack. This is one of the mascot cards and it is a real live mascot. It's pretty amusing pulling an actual monkey on a card. Opening Day inserts are fun, which makes me wonder why flagship's inserts can't be as much fun (it has "First Pitch" and that's about it).

I was happy to pull one of the Incredible Eats cards. People are a bit up-in-arms about the accuracy of these, especially those who regularly attend ballparks. I go to MLB ballparks so seldom I couldn't tell you a single thing on the menu at any park. I just know that I now want a hot dog (but get that sauerkraut away from me).

This is an insert set, redundantly titled "Opening Day," that showcases opening days at various parks (with as little words as possible, apparently). This was an insert set in flagship like 10 years ago, so I can't get excited over this.

With the inserts out of the way, it was time to look at the rest of the base cards, which is almost always the most boring part of the pack. I did pull the Jansen in that second half (it was the last card), so it wasn't a total snoozer.

Plus the first card after the inserts was this:


They got me.

Dusty Baker here is walking away after slaying Bryce Harper with some humor. He got him good. It is an awesome photo for a card and I knew -- with very little knowledge of 2017 flagship or OD photos -- that this was a variation pic.

I have incredible luck with pulling Washington Nationals variations.

These aren't super-difficult pulls, the odds on the pack list base card variations as 1:75 packs. But, still, I can't afford to buy 75 packs in one shot, not even Opening Day.

This isn't the only Bryce Harper photo variation in Opening Day, because of course not. But it's the best one. I took a peek at what this is going for on ebay. Please, someone, hold me back from listing this.

That doesn't mean I will keep it forever. I'd trade it quickly for something cool.

The important thing for me in this is that I shouldn't be so dismissive of the cards. Even something like Opening Day. A pack of cards is a pack of cards. It holds a promise and some hope. It's up to you to decide how you will react to what's inside.

Happiness. Disappointment. Disgust. Elation.

It doesn't matter the product, it's all there for you. It's about the experience.

And that's what blogging is, about the experience. Some posts connect, others don't. People are different. Some are like you. Some are not.

Just as long as we keep writing and keep collecting.


Before all this, I scanned some cards I received from Chris, the Braves fan who regularly sends me envelopes. I don't want to scrap posting them just because a pack of Opening Day became a revelation.

So here they are:

A couple of Bills cards straight from 1975.

Another Bills card from that set I love so much, 1977 Topps.

Some 2017 Heritage Dodgers needs. I hope to have a want list up tonight.

And a couple more (I actually pulled the Kershaw card in an earlier pack purchase -- I saw it peaking through the wrapper and couldn't resist).

All great cards.

I like them.