Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Minor league cards are better


As one of the few card bloggers currently blogging who was also blogging in 2008, I can divide those who were writing nine-plus years ago into a few different categories:

1. Still blogging, who knows why
2. Quit blogging, but still collecting
3. Quit blogging, ditched cards, and took up butterfly watching or skeet shooting or whatever
4. Basically quit blogging but throws a post on the old site maybe once a year

I don't want to speak for everyone who was blogging in 2008, but I think anyone who was writing about cards then, whether they're still blogging or not, is somewhat disenchanted with the current state of cards.

Anyone who isn't, hasn't been blogging for almost 10 years.

I think that's only natural. As you grow more experienced, your tastes become more well-defined. You know what you like and don't like. Newer items aren't appealing because they don't match your established tastes.

And so it is when I buy current cards. I still make the effort -- because I'm still blogging -- but new cards don't mean too much to me. I'm past the age of being gaga over the players on the cards, and the designs, well, the designs were made by people much younger than me, and I know what kind of music the people much younger than me listens to, so that tells me all I need to know about the idea machine at Topps.

For cards to have meaning for a 10-year blogger, they need to come from my era or earlier. The trouble with that is I have accumulated lots of cards from my era already (I've been blogging since 2008, you know). There aren't a ton out there that I need.

So, what's left? What am I not disillusioned over when it comes to cards?

Well, I'll tell you.

Not long ago, J.T. from The Writer's Journey sent me a large stack of Dodgers. Truthfully, I had most of them already. Here are the ones that I needed:


Not the most attractive assortment (Hunter Mercado-Hood was drafted by the Dodgers last June, but they didn't sign him).

But they're needs and that makes them very cool.

Am I excited about them?

Well ...

Not as excited as I am about the TCMA set J.T. sent me of the 1979 Albuquerque Dukes!!!

This is what interests me these days.

He said he found the set in a bargain section and got the whole set of 23 cards for $2. That is some kind of hijacking. There are at least a couple of cards in this set that would cost you more than 2 bucks if you found them online.

Let's take a look at the TCMA Dukes four at a time, by card number:


The set starts slowly with four players I don't know. But I love the familiar Dukes uniform from the late '70s and the red-and-gold combination that reminds me of cinnamon lollipops I bought at Parkside Candies in Buffalo as a kid.


The first indication that this set is special. It contains a World Series hero and almost-Cy Young Award winner. This is not Dave Stewart's earliest card, but it is among his earliest.

This foursome gets special Dodger fan bonus points because Dennis Lewallyn is a One-Card Wonder (appears in the 1982 Topps set as a Cleveland Indian) and Dave Patterson repeatedly showed up in the back of Dodger yearbooks as a hopeful prospect. Also, dig those '70s-tinted glasses on Keefe.


This is where we're talking straight awesome. The Mike Scioscia card was featured on the front of the stack with the tag on the front mentioning Scioscia, but yet still cost 2 bucks. You cannot find this particular Scioscia card online for less than 10 dollars.

I mentioned Gerry Hannahs just a few posts ago, and there is another World Series hero in Mickey Hatcher. Plus, John O'BOOTY.


More greatness! Pedro Guerrero as a Duke! Guerrero was also in Topps' 1979 set as a prospect and that's always fascinating when a player is featured on a minor league and major league card in the same year.

Jack Perconte and Kelly Snider were each well-known Dodgers prospects from this time. Perconte moved on to more recognition with the Mariners, while slugger Snider never made it the majors. Alex Taveras came over from the Astros, but outside of a spot on a four-player prospect card in the 1977 Topps set (right there with Kiko Garcia), he's a big-league card no-show.


Del Crandall was the manager for the Dukes at this time but does not have a card in this set. Instead TCMA goes with coach Rich Magner, who left the pros shortly after to coach college ball at Xavier. He retired there just a few years ago.

The other three cards feature several of my favorite up-and-coming Dodgers. Rudy Law would have been my favorite player had he ever been able to stick with the Dodgers (he moved on to more success with the White Sox). I was bothered by Bobby Mitchell being traded to the Twins. And I had high hopes for Joe Beckwith in the Dodgers' starting rotation (he ended up in the bullpen and played for the Series champion Royals in 1985).


The final three don't mean a lot to non-Dodger fans. Bobby Castillo, recently departed, was a notable reliever for the Dodgers and Twins. Claude Westmoreland didn't do anything except make fantastic minor league cards. And, the trainer is required to officially make this a minor league set.

This set doesn't include everyone on the Dukes' roster that year, but it comes pretty close.

Here are the hitters and pitchers for that season:



Outside of Crandall as the manager, the most notable player not in this set is Vic Davalillo, pinch-bunter extraordinaire, and Ted Power, whose most productive years were with the Reds.

Dodger fans from my era also would note that touted prospects Myron White and Steve Shirley are not included in the set. But I think overall, the key people are included.

I was ELATED when this set showed up. The Dodgers minor league sets from the late '70s and early '80s are my all-time favorite minor league sets. They are all a major goal of mine, even though I've never put them on my want list.

This is so much better than getting a pack of whatever sitting on the shelves in 2017. So, so, much better. It's phenomenal. This is the stuff, along with oddballs and vintage, that excites me the most about collecting these days.

If you don't get where I'm coming from, well, maybe you just need to blog for 10 years straight. Then I think you'll see.

12 comments:

  1. Awesome team set for sure. As a member of the "blogging since 2008" club I can CERTAINLY relate to the disenchantment you refer to. Especially lately. That's the beauty of the hobby though, I couldn't tell you the last time I picked up a pack or even saw a new set that really grabbed me, yet there are still thousands of older cards I'd love to add to my collection. I'm assuming, and hoping, that it will always be that way. Great post as always Night Owl!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm #4! I'm #4!

    Still reading, still collecting a little, posting very very randomly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Still collecting, blogging occasionally, since 2008. There is something coming your way from me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Definitely past the age of being gaga over the players on the cards and the designs. Collecting 60's and 70's.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It doesn't get any better than the type of font used on those uniforms.

    Hand drawn and completely awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with you wholeheartedly. My own collecting focus is vintage and oddball, and that focus came about over the past 10+ years of blogging. BTW, the only reason I even write or post up pics of the current Dodger cards is because if I didn't, I would never know what they look like. It's doubtful I'd ever buy them, but I like seeing them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jeez, you guys are making me feel guilty about still enjoying (to some degree) current cards... although I've only been blogging since 2011. Maybe I'll catch up with all y'all in three years.

    Even without the Dodger connection, I'd be proud to include this Dukes set in one of my binders. Shoot, just the fact that it's a COLOR minor league set from 1979 makes it special. My oldest minor league sets all feature B&W photography.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Like you, Greg, I have been collecting since the mid-70s. I would rather go through a box of commons from the late 70s or early 80s than spend time looking at almost any cards made in the last 15 years. A particular card -- like a certain song -- can instantly take me back to a specific moment of my childhood, high school or college years. And team card sets are just one of the reason I far prefer following minor-league baseball to the majors most of the time.

    By the way, I had the opportunity to meet Jack Perconte a couple of weeks ago. He's been a youth hitting instructor in suburban Chicago for many years, and my niece is taking lessons from him during the off season. I took my niece to her lesson, and afterwards he talked to us cor a few minutes and signed some cards for my niece and me. (All Mariners and Indians -- I didn't have any of his minor league cards.

    Another great post!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm in category #1, so I should probably seek some sort of professional help.

    I grew up with PCL baseball (Portland Beavers, of course!) so I got to see the Dukes play plenty of times. That is a hell of a set.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've only been blogging nine years - but I always prefer an assortment of cards of random years to just the current year. In fact I never buy retail - I let the current year's set trickle in via trades.
    And dime box 1970s minor league cards - wow!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I started buy cards again in 2008, didn't blog until 2010. I guess the current state of cards is irrelevant to me as I only go for the Topps base set, and focus 95% of my attention on vintage from the bubble gum era. I do think the exclusive license for Topps has been a great thing. I stopped collecting when I stopped being able to figure what the basic Topps set was in the late 90's awash in the countless garbage sets. It was Albert Pujols on a bright green wrapper blaring the beautiful and familiar word "TOPPS" that caught my attention from a distance in a K-Mart of all places, unobstructed by 50 other crappy brands and sets, and led to my complete re-immersion in cards.

    You may have just inspired me to start a Dukes/Isotopes binder, which again, will fill a collecting itch for years to come and be completely detached from the current state of cards.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've seen that Stewart a few times and have thought about adding it to my A's collection. He's a legend here in the Bay Area.

    ReplyDelete