Monday, November 30, 2015

Why I love '70s cards and baseball so much

It's pretty obvious that I enjoy '70s baseball and baseball cards more than baseball and cards from any other decade.

I think I've made that rather clear in seven-plus years of posts.

But because I enjoy self-examination so much and because I thought it might be handy to have it all in one place, I decided to review the reasons why I like '70s baseball and cards so much. These are solid, concrete reasons that need to be known.

And I'm going to do this with some cards that I received recently from mr. haverkamp that all relate to the '70s.

First, let's get the big one out of the way:

1. I was a kid then.

Most of us view our childhood years through a nostalgic filter. The days were carefree, candy was 5 cents, the sun shined every day and the snowstorms were epic. We don't even notice that those last two memories conflict with each other.

I'm not immune to this. In fact, I roll around in nostalgia too much. My childhood was pretty average and by no means perfect, but it certainly was less free of distractions, so I could notice that baseball and trading cards were brand new and filled with wonder. The cards I pulled out of packs for the first time and the baseball I viewed on TV for the first time all took place in the mid-1970s. It's difficult not to see those moments as the most pure and ideal of my life.

This is not unusual. It's the same reason why younger collectors regard '90s cards as the most collectible. I view them with pity, but I completely understand.

In fact, just about everything I mention after this is also related to the the fact that I was kid in the '70s.

2. The complete lack of "this is something."

In the '70s, cards still were for kids. Collecting cards didn't even cross the minds of adults. This was so obvious a kid's activity that suggesting that an adult collect cards would be the same thing as suggesting that mom go buy a Fisher Price farm toy and play with it on the floor for two hours. Cards were for kids.

Because of this, cards were not affected by adult perspective. Nobody complained about cost or collation. Nobody campaigned for better photography. Certainly, nobody talked about value. There were few gimmicks, enticements (outside of gum and maybe an advertisement on the wrapper), nor too many sets to absorb. Collectors didn't hunt for errors. Rookie cards were barely a thought. These were simply picture cards meant for kids. Nothing more. "Here you go, kid, here's your picture cards." Everyone understood the relationship. It was simple.

Simple cards are the best cards. The '70s had simple cards.

3. The '70s were colorful.

This isn't a '70s card, but it pays tribute to the '70s and the reason we know this, outside of the player pictured on the front, is because the design is practically yelling at you.

Not every set in the '70s featured loud, vibrant designs, but many of the most memorable did. And they remain among the most collectible sets to this day.

Today people rip on the '70s for the garish colors and loud clothes, but I so prefer that to drab sophistication. I think the fact that I grew up in the '70s is the reason why I enjoy color so much. The kitchen in my home was orange, yellow and green, my pants were purple, the TV shows were funky and, yes, "funky" is a color.

Baseball players wore red, orange and yellow rainbow uniforms. They wore gold banana uniforms. They wore brown-and-yellow uniforms, for goodness sake, and nobody really thought it was odd. Today, fans are so desperate for some color in their world that teams constantly bring back those '70s uniforms and the internet lights up every time they do. Let's see a uniform from the '40s do that.

4. The '70s were both "old enough" and "new enough."

The '70s were old enough that you could still view baseball in black-and-white on your TV. But the decade was new enough that you could view every program in color on your TV.

The '70s were old enough that Willie Mays was playing. But they were new enough that Willie Mays Aikens was playing.

The '70s were old enough that hippies were still protesting, but they were old enough that disco was dying.

It was a decade of change and baseball reflected that. The "We Are Family" Pirates of 1979 probably could never happen in 1970. And there was a changing of the guard in general in the sport in the '70s. Mays, Aaron and Clemente left. Brett, Yount and Dawson arrived.

5. Again, cards were for kids.

OK, I said this already. But I can't stress this enough. As a kid, cards were ours. Adults couldn't have them.

I knew this because of where you found cards that weren't in packs in the '70s. You found them on boxes of Hostess Twinkies. You found them with ice cream. You found them in boxes of Frosted Flakes. You found them in grocery items that only kids ate.

Nobody was handing out cards with an oil change or when you got your taxes done. Cards were a double-special kid treat then. You ate your twinkie and then, oh yeah, cards!

6. '70s fashion.

I didn't pay much attention to fashion when I was a kid. I wore whatever my mom bought for me. But years later, I have a certain respect for '70s fashion, particularly when it comes to hairstyles.

I like '70s hairstyles. Everyone had long hair. I like long hair. Baseball players grew out their hair and added a mustache. As a kid, these were the coolest players that existed. I wanted to look like that and play like that when I got big.

Today, people are a little too well-groomed. I cringe when I see current ballplayers' hair. It looks like they spent the entire day getting work done. It's entirely too much thought when all you need to do is go without a haircut for a few months. Keep it simple, stupid.

7. Simple '70s delights.

The Bicentennial. The Expos. The forced baseball poses. Spotting someone in gold slacks in the background. Large sunglasses. Young mothers with printed scarves over their heads. When I see these things on cards, I know I'm in the '70s. It feels good.

Realistically, the '70s aren't any better or worse than any other decade when it comes to baseball or baseball cards. It has its good and bad, although I challenge you to find a bad baseball card from the '70s because it doesn't exist. I SAID it doesn't exist.

But I will prefer to collect cards from the '70s for the rest of my life. And I will discuss with anyone who has any interest (youngsters who respect their history are my favorites) the Swingin' A's, the Earl of Baltimore, The Bird, the Big Red Machine, the Great Dodger in the Sky, Nolan Ryan as an Angel, the powder blue Royals and Phillies, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek, and many other baseball aspects from that decade.

That will then morph into discussion of the '70s sitcom and '70s rock n' roll.

I can even list for you every No. 1 song from that decade. Just don't make me do it in order. Not that you want to hear that anyway.

The '70s had its bad points, sure, but I still prefer a lot from that decade, beyond baseball and cards. For example, saying "have a nice day" and actually meaning it was a product of the '70s. Today I am forced to hear "have a good one," which has always annoyed me, but if I do hear "have a nice day" I wonder if they're being sarcastic.

Yup, the '70s were a simpler time.

That's what I want to collect.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dr. Robert(s)

Dave Roberts was named the Dodgers' manager last week, reuniting him with the team he played for from 2002-04.

Roberts debuted with the Indians, ended with the Giants, had his best season with the Padres, and is probably most known for his steal of second base and sprint home for the Red Sox during Game 4 of their epic ALCS comeback over the Yankees in 2004.

But he solidified himself as a major leaguer with the Dodgers and now they're depending on him to help fix what ails L.A. on the field (hopefully without using anything referenced by the Beatles). The Dodgers don't have too many problems in the talent department, but their decision-making in the field, on the bases, at the plate, has been an issue for years. Combine that with a rash of injuries, bullpen problems and a manager with the dopiest decision-making of all, and, no, it's not a surprise that the Dodgers are eliminated in the playoffs each year.

I don't know if Roberts is the answer, but I'm hoping he's not the handicap that Don Mattingly was.

Anyway, Roberts has also been trumpeted because of his Asian and African backgrounds, but what I find the most interesting in the category of irrelevant facts is that Roberts is the first of four major league Dave Roberts to manage in the majors.

Four Dave Roberts have played for 13 different teams in MLB history. The first, a 1960s outfielder for the Colt .45s and Pirates, has but one solo card, a high-number in the 1966 set.

The second two are the Dave Roberts of my childhood, a much-traveled pitcher who finished second in the NL in ERA with the Padres in 1971, and a utility infielder who also started quickly for the Padres, then faded into obscurity.

I know of several cards of both of those '70s Roberts and there is no question what the best card of each player is.

The best card of the utility infielder Roberts:

The best card of the pitching Roberts:

No, I do not own either card, but I will someday.

But while I've known my favorites from the two '70s Roberts, I've been very neglectful in examining the cards of the only Roberts to play for the Dodgers, their current manager.

Since Roberts played for L.A. during a period when I wasn't collecting, I've had to play catch-up with his cards and I've accumulated 18 different ones so far. I thought it'd be appropriate, given his recent hiring, to select the top six Roberts Dodgers cards in my collection.

Why six, you ask?

Because that's the number of World Series he's going to win for the Dodgers, OK, wise guy?

Here are my top six:

6. 2003 Topps

Roberts burning around the bases. Roberts stole 118 bases during less than three seasons with the Dodgers. He was quick and smart. I don't know what that means for the Dodgers. Current management doesn't seem too enamored with filching bases.

5. 2003 Upper Deck

If you want to know the inspiration for Topps' 2015 design it could be from early 21st century Upper Deck sets like 2003 flagship. "Grids and blips" is what I should call the 2003 UD design.

4. 2003 Upper Deck

While most card companies were omitting Roberts from their sets in favor of stars and rookies during the early '00s, Upper Deck decided to issue two cards of Roberts in its base set. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but God love ya, UD. Here, Roberts visually explains how difficult it is to run. As someone who runs periodically for exercise, this sums it up here. That's what it feels like. In other words, why does anyone do this?

3. 2002 Fleer Tradition Update

Buuuuuuuuuunts!!!!! Oh, no, Twitter's gonna have a collective coronary if the Dodgers play the way Roberts did. Roberts had 13 sacrifice bunts while with the Dodgers and 41 for his career. It makes for a great card though.

2. 2003 Fleer Platinum

Candid baseball card photos are the best baseball card photos. And the best part of this picture is the bag. Bags for baseball bats are always awkward. They either don't fit, or the bats are strapped to the side just waiting to poke someone's eye out. Even if they do fit, it looks like you're carrying around a bazooka.

1. 2003 Upper Deck Vintage

Woo-hoo! Roberts re-signs with the Dodgers! Everyone's super happy! Why a relatively minor signing like this deserves a card is a wee-bit puzzling, but I don't care! Look how happy he is!

This is my best Dodgers Dave Roberts card so far.

I've actually added another Dodger Roberts card to my COMC cart recently. It's going to challenge laughing Roberts for the top spot, I think.

This card from 2003 Studio is humorous in that Roberts doesn't get his own card in the set. Shawn Green has a separate one, but Roberts is forced to share one with Green.

I'm looking forward to my Roberts cards soaring exponentially in value as he leads the Dodgers to pennant after pennant.

Friday, November 27, 2015

If at first you don't succeed, 72, 72 again

A month or two ago, I documented how well the Nebulous 9 worked by recounting how four different people had sent me this Maury Wills In Action card in a very short span of time.

Obviously, I needed just one Maury Wills In Action card, so three of the senders didn't meet their objective.

None took that more to heart than one of the senders, Keith, a.k.a., EggRocket.

I received a package from him recently with the accompanying note:

Ah, so you really wanted to send me some cards that I needed, huh?

All right, I'm game, let's see what you've got.

I opened the wrapped stack and nearly 30 cards off my 1972 Topps want list came out.

This is so much better than a single Maury Wills card.

Let's look at these card-by-card from lowest number to highest:

#297 - Claude Osteen

I recently revamped my '72 want list because I discovered I needed several more cards than I had listed there. I'm not sure what happened the first time I wrote the list -- drunken research, probably. Anyway, some Dodgers cards were notably absent from the list.

#298 - Claude Osteen, In Action

A little known fact that Claude Osteen pitched with just one leg. Shame of the internet for not informing you of this.

#308 - Steve Renko, In Action

OK, I confess, I had this card already. Here it is:

Well-loved cards that are from pre-1950 or from my collection are cool. They tell a story. But otherwise, they're kind of creepy. I don't want to know that the gross kid who smelled and farted his way through school kept this card in his back pocket, because I knew kids like that in 1972.

#382 - Joe Gibbon
#407 - Chuck Taylor

These are lumped together because I know I owned both cards at one point. I probably traded them when I didn't have any thought of completing the 1972 set. In other words, when I was a clueless owl.

#408 - Jim Northrup

Northrup stopped to swing a bat after hopping off his tractor. So fantastic.

#460 - Al Downing

Every '72 Downing card I have come across is drastically miscut left-to-right, most so off-center that you can see the "xxxxxxxx" cut marks down the left-hand side. This one has just a hint of that in the upper left (I cropped it out). But it's very welcome in my binder.

#498 - Brooks Robinson, Boyhood Photos of the Stars

This completes the Boyhood Photos subset for me. And at 16 cards that's no joke. 1972 Topps is the king of the vintage subsets.

#547 - Indians team card

This package was filled with team cards. Here is the first.

#582 - Expos team card

Here is the second. Team records are listed on the back and the Expos, entering just their third year at the time, featured Rusty Staub as the leader of all 11 batting categories.

#650 - Sal Bando

The player walking at left appears to be wearing No. 28, which would be outfielder Steve Hovley. I think the man in the white cap is manager Dick Williams, unless A's coaches also wore white caps in the '70s.

#651 - Reds team card

The Big Red Machine is easily identifiable. I'm not going to name the guys in the picture, you can probably pick them out yourselves.

#662 - Stan Bahnsen

When you scan these cards, you focus on the strangest things -- like what is that red garment in the dugout and why is it there?

#663 - Fran Healy

I never knew Healy played for the Giants. He's always been a Royal or a Yankee to me.

#672 - Archie Reynolds

I don't know how Reynolds is able to put his hands over his head when the world is tilting behind him. That's talent.

#682 - Mike McCormick

This card is interesting in that McCormick returned to the Giants after being released by the Royals in June of 1971. But he never played again in the majors, which means this photo is from 1970 (the last time he played for the Giants) or earlier.

#688 - Cardinals team card

This card has a few issues but not enough to prevent me from crossing it off the list.

#698 - Jerry Koosman In Action
#700 - Bobby Murcer In Action

Both of these feature puzzle pieces on the back.

I don't believe I've completed either puzzle yet, but when I do, you'll be the first to know.

#707 - Tim Foli

I am astonished at the pristine condition of some off-center cards. This looks like I pulled it out of a pack today. Honestly nothing wrong with this card.

#713 - Gene Michael

The always on-point Cardboard Junkie mentioned recently that there is no appreciable difference in terms of price or scarcity between 1972 high numbers in the high 600s and the 700s, but there's just something intoxicating about No. 700 '72s that must be what it feels like to be 13, female and at a One Direction concert.

#727 - Jose LaBoy

Flasher at 9 o'clock.

#737 - Len Randle

I'll say one thing about 1972 Topps airbrushing -- they at least perfected it enough that there were few ugly blotches at the center of the cap, like we saw in previous years. This could be a Panini card from 2012.

#749 - Walter Alston

Walter Alston is pointing to the heavens, acknowledging his late grandmother, after a particularly astute pitcher-outfielder double-switch in 1971.

#771 - Giants team card


#764 - Dusty Baker

Wew! This card is a bit of a toughie. I expected it to be one of the final cards I needed. Of course, there's still Rose, Aaron, Seaver and Carew to go.

#781 - Jim McAndrew

Final card. This is a long way down from his card from the previous year.

Well, Keith, you've succeeded. Nobody has sent me any of these cards recently.

And with my modifying of the '72 want list and these crossed off of it, I know for a fact I need 51 cards to complete the set.

I think I have my goal for 2016 already.