Monday, June 29, 2009

Cardboard appreciation: 1991 Line Drive Grady Hall

(Another check of the holiday insights calendar reveals that today is "Camera Day." Wow, where would baseball cards be without cameras? There's a piece of technology worth appreciating. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 37th in a series):

During my first installment of card collecting, I rarely saw minor league cards in person. The only place I could view them were in mail-order catalogs. Teams would give team sets away at the park. But I didn't live anywhere near a professional ballpark.

In fact, the first minor league cards I ever saw in person was the 1989 team set of the now-defunct Niagara Falls Rapids, a Class A franchise of the Detroit Tigers. I covered that team and actually appeared in that team set. I blogged about it here.

So, when I read that there would be a minor league set issued nationally, by some company called "Line Drive," I was intrigued. It was 1991, and I would make weekly trips to the only drug store in the tiny college town of Potsdam, N.Y., to buy cards. They had Topps and Fleer and Donruss. Score and Upper Deck. And then, about midway through the collecting season, I was pleasantly surprised to find Line Drive.

I bought those cards as regularly as I would buy from any of the other companies. It was cool seeing minor league prospects. This was long before Bowman became "Home of the Rookie Card," or the arrival of Tri-Star, or even before Upper Deck would issue its minor league sets. So it was very much a novelty.

Even today, it's cool to see Mike Mussina or Kenny Lofton in their minor league uniforms in the Line Drive set (they issued both Triple A and Double A sets). But probably my favorite card of the ones that I have is the Grady Hall card.

Hall was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 1986. He is shown pitching for the White Sox's Triple A team at the time, the Vancouver Canadians. Hall never made it to the major leagues.

But I don't care about all that. What I care about is the great photo. Hall is in some sort of exaggerated throwing pose with ball propelled from his fingers but still in view. The Vancouver uniform at the time was fantastic. It looks like a traveling fast-pitch team's get-up. Plus, Hall looks like he's wearing a trucker cap.

The clincher, of course, is the grin on Hall's face. If you ever thought that this was a pitch in an actual game, Hall's smile just gave it away.

Oh, and did I mention that Hall is a lefty? That's always a bonus with me.


  1. When I was in Omaha, the card shop across the street from the ballpark had a few packs of these. I bought all 13 of them for 50 cents a pop (and the 13th was free). I think that every photo is staged, but there are a couple like this one where the pitcher actually threw the ball. That is a nice touch.

  2. Oh yeah, those Canadians jerseys definitely have a Molson feel to them with the alternating colors.

  3. That photo is really wild. He almost looks like he could be catching the ball with his bare hand.

  4. Hah! I bought a pack of these when I was staying at a motel in Gouverneur NY (my dad and I were doing a Stamp/Coin/Postcard show in Clayton NY, motels were cheaper away from the St. Lawrence). Not too far from Potsdam!

  5. Very intersting. I've been to that stamp/coin/postcard show the last 3 years. I'll probably be going again next month, although the sports cards tables have dwindled down to next to nothing.

  6. Heh, I was set up there two years ago - we had mostly postcards and stamps. I will be there to look around this year. But yeah, back in the 90s it was almost 50% cards. Not it's 4 or 5 dealers at best. Of course, the entire show was bigger way back too... Shadow of its former self, sadly.