Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'56 of the month: Murry Dickson

I subscribed to Baseball Digest last year. It was an offering in one of those magazine-drive things, and it had been years since a magazine came to my mailbox. Feeling nostalgic for both Baseball Digest and periodicals arriving on my porch, I took a chance.

It wasn't the same. Baseball Digest isn't a monthly anymore. It's bigger, but contains fewer pages. I also find that I'm just not interested in some of the Digest articles that are simple, extended recitations of a player's statistics. I didn't renew my subscription.

The best parts of the magazine remained the various lists throughout the magazine, and especially the fans' letters.  A lot of the letters are of the "baseball was better in my day" variety. But I appreciate those submissions from older folks because they cause me to investigate players that I know only by name.

The recent issue -- and my last issue of Baseball Digest -- brought up Murry Dickson, a pitcher for several teams during the 1940s and '50s. The letter writer mentioned that Dickson delivered pitches from four different arm angles -- overhand, three-quarters, side-arm and submarine.

That got my attention, so I did the smallest amount of research possible (I'm fighting a stomach illness and am not up for anything involved) and came up with these other notables on Murry Dickson:

  • His career lasted 20 years, from 1939-59, although he missed two seasons because he was serving in World War II.
  • His first name, "Murry" -- I wonder how many times it was misspelled "Murray" -- was also the name of the country doctor who delivered him.
  • While Dickson was pitching for an American Legion team at a prison in 1933, convicts took over the stands and took the warden hostage in a bid to escape. Prison guards halted the game and and thwarted the escape try.
  • He was nicknamed "Thomas Edison Jr." by manager Eddie Dyer because of his inventions on the mound. Not only would Dickson throw from four arm angles, but he had six pitches and threw from both sides of the rubber.
  • He came up with the Cardinals and was a member of the 1942 World Series championship team, but didn't pitch. The following year, the Cardinals played the Yankees in the Series again. Dickson was drafted into the Army, but he received a special furlough from the commissioner so he could pitch in the World Series.
  • During World War II, he rose to the rank of sergeant and participated in the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine. His unit fought through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. He was a member of a reconnaissance unit that went on top-secret missions behind enemy lines. He earned four battle stars.
  • Faced with another dinner of K-rations on Thanksgiving Day during the war, Dickson said he took out his slingshot and brought down several chickens for the meal.
  • Dickson returned to the Cardinals in 1946, won a spot in the rotation despite abundant competition, and went 15-6. The Cardinals tied the Dodgers for the N.L. pennant and played a best-of-3 series. Dickson pitched the decisive Game 2, leading St. Louis to the Series and an eventual title vs. the Red Sox.
  • Dickson pitched Game 7 of the '46 World Series, but was taken out in the eighth inning. He didn't see Enos Slaughter's famous score from first base because he was so upset at being removed that he listened to the final inning on the radio while driving in his car.
  • Dickson was sold to the Pirates in 1949 and led the league in losses for three straight seasons. But he also won 20 games for a seventh place team in 1951.

  • Dickson was an amateur magician and entertained teammates with his tricks during long road trips.
  • After 1953, he was sent to the Phillies, where he lost 20 games in '54, but turned it around for a respectable 1955 season.
  • He returned to the Cardinals in 1956 and increasingly relied on the knuckleball.
  • He played in the American League for both the A's and Yankees while past age 40. When asked about his longevity, he credited his eating habits --  he had just one meal a day, keeping his weight down. (His cigarette habit also kept his weight down).
  • He played for a fourth World Series team in 1958 with the Yankees, working as a relief pitcher against the Braves.
  • Dickson briefly led the majors in most home runs surrendered during his career. He surpassed the record in 1957 set by Red Ruffing, but Robin Roberts broke the mark a year later. Jamie Moyer now holds the record, meaning three of the last four pitchers to hold the mark have connections to the Phillies.
  • He worked in carpentry after his career and continued his fishing hobby. His wife died of cancer in 1963 and a second marriage didn't work out. His son was an American Legion star, but small like his dad and didn't receive any looks from scouts.
  • I think his 1958 Topps card is great.

Dickson died in 1989 at age 73 of emphysema. But he's just more confirmation for me, that players lived a lot more full and interesting lives back then than players do today.

Maybe those crotchety Baseball Digest letter-writers are right.

(Thanks to SABR for most of these facts).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A public service announcement from 1985

Just wanted to let those interested know that I've created a blog for the 1985 Topps set. It's called, quite creatively, 1985 Topps.

I'm almost done with the look of it, and I'll take suggestions if anyone has any. No guarantee I'll go through with any of them. But there's always the potential for ideas out there that I'd be willing to steal.

Anyway, you can find it thusly.

The look of the blog is a tribute to the back of the '85 Topps cards.

I've often considered the card backs from '85 Topps to be among the more intimidating in terms of readability. The colors may be in keeping with the season, but red-on-green is nothing that an ophthalmologist is going to endorse.

However, the write-ups at the bottom of the cards are often quite interesting. So I'm looking forward to that. And I promise to keep the blog as legible as possible.

As for the tabs across the top of the blog, I fully plan to keep a running log of the various goings-on in 1985. It's one of the few years in which I can do this. As a kid I wasn't aware of what was going on outside of my little world. At 46, I'm growing less interested in the nonsense out there. (There's a reason TV likes that 18-45 age group). But in '85, I was on top of it all, so I want that to be addressed on the blog.

I don't know what shape each of those tabs will take. We'll see.

I also don't know what the posts will look like yet. Like I said, they'll be brief. But hopefully informative/interesting.

Also, just because the blog is up doesn't mean I'll be starting early. It's still scheduled to begin sometime in January.

Consider this a preview.

And, yes, the '71 Topps blog is still on its way. Haven't done a thing with that yet.

Now, for a real public service announcement from 1985:

The want list is updated!

I know what you guys are doing to me. I finally get my massive want list updated. It takes me two months and I'm discovering sets and parallels that I never knew existed on a weekly basis. But I finally hit 2010 the other day, and it's finished, and I'm taking a break before I go BACK through it to include 2011 and everything I missed between 1950-80.

So what happens?

I get a package from Spiegel that contains cards from the 1977 Topps set.

He knows I'm collecting it, so it's totally a generous act on his part. But what he doesn't know is that while I was updating the want list, I went back and forth and back and forth about whether I wanted to put up a want list for '77 Topps.

I decided against it. Because I've really got to get '71 finished and then seriously start hitting '72s with an animal frenzy. A wide load of '77s would only derail the mission.

But I really agonized over it. I do love the '77s for many reasons and getting cards from that set is like ending up in Mrs. Fiato's sixth grade class all over again (that's actually a good thing). So why would I want to discourage that?

This collecting biz gets me so messed up.

So, here are the '77s that Spiegel sent that will lead me to putting up a want list for '77 Topps. Eventually. Later. In the future. When I have some irrational compulsion to type in hundreds of numbers (because I really do need hundreds of cards for the set).

Anyway ...


I am in inexplicably drawn to cards of Paul Lindblad. His '74 card. His '75 card. His '79 card. I haven't even gotten to his '78, '73 or '71 cards. Which are all great.

Here's another one. Once you absorb everything there is to view on this card, take a gander at Lindblad's signature, and tell me what he was trying to achieve with that. It's like some majestic script that you'd see on the end credits of a 1940s movie.

I am all out of jokes comparing Tice here to the famed boxer. You'll have to draw a connection yourself.

This card, by itself, brings back a flood of memories from the 11-year-old chapter of my childhood. I think everyone under the age of 14 -- both male and female -- wanted this card in 1977.

Chet Lemon's first solo card. And he gets a Lemon-colored rookie cup, too. Lucky guy.

My scanner absolutely despises 1977 Topps. It cuts off the border on every '77 card. I had to scan each of these cards twice because I'm such a trusting soul when it comes to my scanner.

Anyway, Mr. Etchebarren, there's no need to be self-conscious. There's no truth to the rumor that my scanner cut off your card in a spasm of "OMG! What is THAT?"

"OK, Joe. We just want you to stand right there. Right there. Yes. Don't do anything. Trust us. It will be riveting. Just you and the catcher's glove. And the No. 13. And the helmet. And the mustache. See? What did I tell you? Riveting."

We coveted cards of players who changed teams during the first big free agent year of 1976. We were dying to see what they looked like in their new caps and uniforms, which was actually what Topps guessed they would look like in their uniforms if the uniforms were devised by children with no artistic ability.

Darrell Johnson in his train conductor's cap will be a fine captain for these newfangled Mariners.

OK, that ends the 1977 chapter of Spiegel's package -- and, no, I haven't changed my mind about adding a '77 want list -- but there were plenty of other goodies, too.

There were two Lineage '75 minis cards, which get me giddy every time I receive one in the mail.

There was a single A&G high number need. I am going to set a personal worst in terms of completion time for this particular A&G set. Don't worry. I've already alerted the proper channels.

There were two terrific Fleer oddballs from the late '80s. Before I went on my mini-kick, I was going to go on a mission to gather up every Fleer oddball Dodger need from this period in a single scorched-earth act. I may still do that. But only after the mini-love.

There was this Ruddy Lugo refractor, which really doesn't have a blue border. Tragically.

There was this Donruss Preferred Paul Konerko checklist. How does a guy who had next to no MLB at-bats at this time earn himself a checklist back?

There was this greatly appreciated 1990 Leaf Mike Scioscia card in my marathon quest for the team set. Only two more to go!

And just to bring this post to a screeching halt, there were these two J.D. Drew cards.

Sorry, but 2006 Finest is just too good for Drew.

Spiegel sent a few other Dodgers and a couple of night cards -- stuff you'll probably see some other day.

But back to the real news of the day.

The want list is updated!

I want to enjoy this for a few days.

(P.S. You can still send '77s if you like. I can always supply a haphazard, wildly inaccurate want list in email form).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Awesome night card, pt. 131

Earlier today, there was some head-shaking over the news that Ken Griffey Jr., the star in the Upper Deck stable for years, had reached a signing deal with Topps for 2012.

It was another sign that Upper Deck is finished in the baseball world. The man whose face appeared on a card in 1989 that launched UD as the most innovative and anticipated card brand -- especially with a certain generation of card collector -- has vacated what's left of an apparently doomed organization.

The news doesn't mean much to me. Griffey's card arrival came when I was almost 25. Too late for me to see him as a revolutionary. In fact, I do not have nor have I ever had the desire to own Griffey's 1989 Upper Deck card. If I should stumble across it for a buck or less, I'll take it. But I will never feel as if my collection is incomplete without it. If I was going to collect ground-breaking cardboard, I'd be out there with all the others scrambling for a '52 Mantle.

Although I can comprehend collectors' fascination with Griffey and Upper Deck, I will never "get" it. It's much like what people 25 years younger/older than me find amusing. I don't "get" much of it. It's not funny to me. Generational thing, I guess.

Take this Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck 1992 night card. Griffey and Upper Deck are at the height of their powers at this time. And Upper Deck has decided to experiment and show players in multi-exposure format. Some of the multi-exposure cards are pretty cool.

But this one I just look at quizzically. I can't even make out how many images of Griffey are in the photo. Three? Four? Also, the fact that his face is blurred in every image is annoying to me, and I can't follow the sequence that well.

It's too much work to decipher.

But that's probably just me. Upper Deck, Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Jackson, Beckett Magazine, rookie card collecting. It all arrived after I left childhood behind. So why would I be affected by today's news? When have I ever cared about the items I just listed?

Other than the lack of competition thing, I have no reason to mourn UD. Or Griffey jumping ship.

I'm glad people will be able to pull an autographed card of Griffey from a Topps product next year.

But I'm still trying for that Koufax.


Night Card Binder candidate: Ken Griffey Jr., 1992 Upper Deck, Card #424
Does it make the binder?: Yeah, until I can find something better.

Sick scoreboard card, pt. 9

It's Monday. The Monday after an extended holiday break. I'm in need of a softball post. How 'bout you?

This is a card that won't get in the way of you figuring out which game is depicted on its front. In fact, you might have more difficulty figuring out the pitcher on the mound, given Topps' two-decade-long foil addiction.

But I'll go easy on you on that one, too. It's Jon Garland, the two-time Dodger pitcher slumming it with the Diamondbacks.

For the specific game information, we go to the broad scoreboard display behind our cardboard hero. It's immediately above the commercial for reblended tap water and the commercial that has ruined your viewing of the NCAA basketball tournament for most of the 2000s.

(Sorry, Black Friday tends to bring out my anti-corporate side).

It's obvious from the scoreboard that Garland is pitching in the middle of Interleague Season. Plus, since this is a card from the 2009 Topps Update set and Garland began pitching for Arizona in 2009, this is definitely a picture of a game from 2009.

Two of the games visible on the scoreboard have gone final. The Braves beat the Blue Jays 10-2. The Royals beat the Cardinals 3-2 in "The Battle of Missouri" (ah, I love it when college football mentality invades baseball).

So, with that bit of knowledge, it's easy look up what day featured those outcomes, and then make the connection that Arizona is facing Oakland in the game pictured here. Garland actually took the loss in this game, going six innings and allowing three runs, all in a fateful sixth. The A's went on to win 6-2 on Sunday, May 24, 2009 in Oakland, California. It was a day game. Ten percent of the 13,792 in attendance ingested nachos, including two people who ate a dropped corn chip off the concourse floor.

Amazing what you can find out from, huh?

OK, I made up that part about the nachos.

But still easy, right? Modern cards make it simple.

As for the players behind Garland, I'm not as sure. My guess is that's second baseman Augie Ojeda to the left of Garland. He played second in that game.

Moving on to the guy in the distance. If that's right field, then the guy out there is Gerardo Parra. Apparently, the right corner of Oakland-Alameda County Stadium is where they keep annoying halfwits. Parra and the "Can You Hear Me Now" guy make a perfect couple. Now, where's the mute button?

So, there you are: some simple deducing for the start of the work week. If I accomplish nothing else today, at least I'll have this.

Have a good Monday.

(P.S.: Close your ears, official sponsor of MLB, but water out of the tap, in most cases, is fine -- certainly no worse than what's in bottles).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

OPC, eh?

I live close enough to the Canadian border that I know the Grey Cup is presented at this time every year.

The 99th version of the CFL title happens to be tonight, featuring the Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs. the BC Lions.

I don't pretend to know anything else about the matchup or the league. I used to know a couple of people who were big followers of the CFL. But they've kind of faded away and so has my knowledge of that sport with the really wide field. (As an example of my stunted knowledge of the CFL, I still repeat the old Martin Short Roughriders joke about once a week).

However, today seems like an appropriate day to recognize another Canadian institution, even if it's not the same sport.

How about some OPC, baseball style???

I received a bunch of OPC Dodgers from 1967ers of Diamond Cuts and Wax Stains. Virtually all of them were from the '70s, which is my favorite collecting decade. So let's have a lookie, eh?

Here is the oldest card, from 1971. These cards are particularly fun because you're expecting the usual dull-green backs when you turn the card over.

But no! It's yellow! With Frappeurs! And Lanceurs! And printed in Canada! Damn, right!

Moving up to 1972. I also received the '72 Jim Brewer OPC card, but I'm showing Bobby Valentine because he might get the Red Sox managerial job, and that is just so bizarre and vaguely concerning for someone who roots for the Red Sox. Interesting guy. But I don't know.

Let's see if the back of the '72 Valentine can top the '71 back.

Nah. Pretty much the same as the Topps '72 card backs, except with a lot of tiny type. Canadian kids must've gone blind trying to read all those super-small letters. ... Sorry, that was very American of me to say.

It's '73's turn now. I don't know why the position name isn't in French. That would make things a lot more fun.

Pete is still waving his fork around on the back of the OPC card, but I'm imagining there is French food on the table at the banquet this time.

The highlight of the whole package. This is the solo debut of my all-time favorite player in OPC form! I received a whole mess of '74 OPC Dodgers, but this one jumped right out at me. I can't wait to see the back.

More yellow (which I knew already). Look at all that French. If these cards just managed to filter a few miles to the south when I was in high school, I would have done so much better in my foreign language class, instead of loathing every minute.

Skipping all the way to 1978. The best player on the 1978 Dodgers team, according to Don Sutton. Here's the back of the card:

Not much to say about that. So here's Don Sutton:

So disappointed that they didn't squeeze the French words for "All-Star" onto the front to create a monster OPC All-Star shield.

Finally, we've reached the '80s. I thought about showing the Rick Monday card that I received, but that would be mean. So instead, here's Steve Garvey. I love an OPC Garvey card.

You can see the ragged right border, which is pretty common with OPCs.

The back:

Good to see OPC retained the blue. One of my favorite card backs ever.

I really love these cards. 1967ers even sent me an OPC night card, which I'll feature at some point soon.

Thanks for the cards! Go, Blue Bombers!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A belated thanks for the mmmmiiiinnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssss!!!!!!!!

I've been a little out of it the last few days. I'm one of those folks who has to transport the family hours away in order to celebrate Thanksgiving. So blog following has been a tedious and sporadic exercise recently. Posting has been reduced to what was available in the draft folder.

Fortunately, I didn't miss much. NBA closes in on a deal. Meh. College football plays some "big" games. Double meh. Cowboys beat the Dolphins. Meh, meh, meh, with a side of pumpkin meh.

What I did miss were my fellow bloggers. While I was away, someone said they like my blog best of all. I owe a thank you on this blog for that. Plenty of people churned out blog posts despite the holiday. Thanks to those posts, the boredom of the last few days could not consume my sanity.

But there are two folks I'd like to thank specifically.

As I was exiting the house for my trip, I saw the mail truck on my street. I had to fight every urge that I had to make up some excuse to remain home for an extra 10 minutes and then proceeded to drive off.

But I should've gone through with the excuse. Two of the packages really got to me and shouldn't have been forced to wait.

The first is from Ted of Crinkly Wrappers.

He put my '75 Lineage minis total at 90:

That would have been plenty, but he also threw in:

Some Allen & Ginter needs, including the Michael Cuddyer at the top of the post.

The entire 2002 Topps 206 team Dodgers set. Kaz Ishii centered between the good and evil Shawn Green.

And, the Duke, in cloth-sticker form.

Isn't that terrific?

The second package is from mr haverkamp from The Bench.

He recently asked for my list of '75 Topps minis wants, and then sent a package back thanking me for supplying the list.

Here are the cards he sent:

I forgot to tell him that I've since acquired most of the Dodgers minis -- although the Manny Mota is much, much appreciated, and I will no doubt find purposes for every last mini.

I especially like the Buckner card for its back.

Note the orange X. (it looks red here, but it's really orange).

Now note the back of my Dick Bosman mini card from the same year:

Orange was the color of choice for scribbling in 1975.

Also, I received this finely miscut mini card of Cesar Cedeno. Thanks to this post, I was able to determine that card showing at the top is of Claudell Washington.

And just in case I wasn't impressed by all those fantastic '75 minis -- the best kind of card of all-time -- mr. haverkamp knocked off two cards from the Nebulous 9.

Now, if you think I'm done saying thanks to these two great collectors, you're wrong.

Here is where my feelings of thanks really lie:

I have a difficult time finding cards for both of these guys. I've managed to send Crinkly Wrappers some cards -- hopefully a few that he could use -- but I know he busts a lot of cards and I don't know if any of my cards I send make much of a dent.

As for mr. haverkamp, I know he's interested in Mike Schmidt cards from Topps Lineage. Anybody find any of those they're willing to trade? Because I certainly haven't. Let me know.

But even with my struggles, both guys continue to send me cards.


I don't know what to say, other than, I'll keep looking and I'll keeping writing.

And thanks.

Two days late.

But thanks.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cardboard appreciation: 1973 Topps Frank Robinson

(Today is Black Friday. This day, since I stopped working in department stores, has meant only one thing to me -- stay away from any store at all costs. I will do my Christmas shopping on a random Tuesday morning, thank you. And stay sane while doing it. Here's to appreciating sanity. And baseball cards. It's Cardboard Appreciation time. This is the 126th in a series):

I finally decided this week to take this card out of my binder of random sets from the 1960s and '70s and place it in my Dodger binder with my other Dodger cards from 1973.

This is a big move for me. Because this card does not meet any of the criteria for gaining admittance in a Dodger binder.

Robinson is not listed as a Dodger. He is not wearing a uniform that advertises the Dodgers. According to words on the card, he is absolutely not a Dodger.

But we collectors know better. This card has been shown many times, mostly because it is one of the most blatant examples of a last-minute fix ever depicted on cardboard.

In my business, there are different editions of the newspaper. The later editions are distinguished by affixing a star onto the top of the pages that have been altered. I don't know why it's so urgent that there be a star on those pages, but the folks who run the presses get really anxious when a last edition page does not have a star. They get so anxious that if it's late enough and there's no time to add the star through the usual computer means, someone will get out a pen and scribble a third-grade star on the top of the page.

I often wonder what readers think when they see the scribbled star while drinking their morning coffee. "I always knew that third-graders wrote these stories."

It's probably along the same lines of what they thought when they saw this Frank Robinson card.

"What third-grader applied WHITE-OUT over the word 'Dodgers' on his uniform?"

Everything else about this photo screams Dodgers. The numbering, the rest of the uniform, the helmet, the scoreboard, the dugout, the seats, the fans, the stadium. There is no mistaking that it is a Dodger game, featuring a Dodger in Dodger Stadium.

There is nothing "Angels" about this card. Who reads the tiny lettering at the bottom anyway?

So, I am breaking my own rule. It is now a Dodger card and goes in the Dodger binder.

Of course, that leaves the door open for cards like this:

That is Brett Butler about ready to dump Geronimo Pena on his head. I doubt I'll ever put this in a Dodger binder. But there is a whole lot of Dodger goodness on this card.

It makes me wonder if what I'm doing with F-Robby is a good thing.

This team collecting stuff isn't easy, you know.