Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The day 1990 -- the whole damn year -- came to my door

I have never consciously attempted to complete a run of Topps flagship sets. As a set-collector, it just kind of happened.

By happy accident, I've completed Topps sets from 1974 through 1989. I'm two cards away from completing 1972 and that will spur me on to tackle 1973. With 1971 Topps and 1991 Topps already finished, landing the '73 set would mean I would have an even 20 years worth of Topps sets completed, from 1971-1991.

Except for one tiny issue.

I've never tried nor wanted to complete the 1990 Topps set.

I don't out-and-out hate the set, even though when I bought 1990 Topps for the first time that year, I wanted to throw them out as soon as I saw them. The 200 or so cards from that set I own sit in a binder, which means that someday, someway I may actually try to complete that set.

Well "someday, someway" happened last week.

A few weeks earlier I had been reading the blogs when I came across a post by Brad's Blog. He mentioned that his wife wanted the thrill of pulling a 1990 Frank Thomas no-name card, so she bought four boxes of 1990 Topps from a dealer. That might be the coolest thing I've ever heard of a wife doing (outside of buying me a Ron Cey-Fleetwood Mac lamp).

Inspired, and realizing how stupid I would sound saying "I have every Topps set completed from 1971 to 1991, except 1990," I took Brad up on his offer. He was willing to send out a bunch of extra 1990 Topps that had accumulated in the unsuccessful search for Thomas no-name to anyone who asked.

I know this sounds like insanity -- actually asking for 1990 Topps -- but it's not like I was paying for those garish cards.

Last week, a box arrived on my porch. Man, was it heavy. I opened it up and it was 12-plus pounds of cards!

That's right. Twelve-plus pounds of cards from one year and one year only, 1990.

I didn't ask for the 1990 Donruss or 1990 Upper Deck. Nor did I ask for the 1990 Fleer, Score or Bowman (they're there too although you can't see them). But Brad sent me the whole damn card year.

Fortunately, the non-Topps '90 cards made up just a small part of the box.

The whole rest of the box looked like this:

Wild colors that don't go together for as far as the eye can see. A bottomless pit of 1990 Topps.

I don't know how many cards of this stuff that Brad sent, but it was a lot more than 792 cards, I know that.

So, I knew I had quite the sorting task on my hands to see whether I had complete the 1990 set thanks to this 12-pound box.

Sorts like this take up a lot of time and space. Fortunately, the other people in the house went on an out-of-state trip over the weekend, leaving the dining room table free for a multiple-day, card-sorting task.

After sorting through Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I had almost the entire 1990 set.

It's just begging for a binder.

But the set still wasn't complete. I had determined that 12-freakin' pounds of cards doesn't finish a set, and I was 21 cards short.

Brad took care of one of those cards with a separate item in the box:

Sammy Sosa will be breathing the fresh, clean air very soon, mint 10 or not.

For the remaining 20 cards, I took my pen-scrawled want list to the binder with the 1990 Topps I already owned and hoped it contained all of those cards.

I was able to cross off several key cards, Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas (not the no-name one), Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray, Walt Weiss. I crossed off 11 cards total.

But that left nine cards remaining:

Rob Dibble
Mike Felder
Rock Raines
Mike Gallego
Bret Saberhagen
Kevin Seitzer
Jerry Browne
Pat Clements
Tony Gwynn

Now, don't go running toward your silo full of 1990 Topps to find these cards for me. I already mentioned the nine I needed on Twitter and several collectors pulled a muscle trying to rid themselves of some 1990 Topps.

I'm getting all nine cards from one collector and then I can say I've at least completed 1974 through 1991.

I thought after sorting through all of those cards that I might grow sick of them. You know how 1990 is with sickly green paired up with orange and purple joining red. But, instead, my admiration grew for the Lichtenstein set with cards that look more like a comic book than any other Topps flagship set.

Some of the cards actually look quite nice. Here are just a few:

So that giant box of cards will accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. It will lead me to completing the 1990 Topps set and erase that glaring gap in my series of completed sets.

Of course, I do have a number of extras left over. I don't suppose anyone wants any 1990 Topps, but on the off-chance someone is crazy enough I have a few hundred extra.

I also have quite a few 1990 Donruss, Fleer and Score that's just waiting for someone to say the word. I don't ever plan to complete those sets.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Forcing the action

A number of bloggers have observed that Topps has zoomed out a bit on their subjects in the 2017 flagship set, and isn't it about time?

After five years of viewing every bead of sweat on a batter and every nostril hair on a pitcher, we mercifully are starting to see almost all of a player's limbs again.

Here are a couple of examples of the difference between this year and last year:

That's not to say that it's a drastic change or even close to what I'd like to see, but it's progress.

How much progress there will be in the future in this area, I have my doubts.

You see, Major League Baseball is obsessed these days with action. They are trying to convince people -- people who barely watch the sport, I might add -- that baseball is nonstop action. And to force that action, it wants to artificially speed up the game by adding pitch clocks and other such nonsense.

Baseball, by its nature, is full of ebb and flow. That's what baseball is. If you turn it into a hyperactive version of itself, it's not baseball anymore. They're going to have to come up with another name for it.

But anyway, because of baseball's desperate need to appeal to the ADD crowd, it will promote itself as an action-packed sport as often as possible. And part of that advertisement will appear on baseball cards. Cards and Topps have been boasting about "getting you close to the action" for a long time now, and I expect that to continue if not more so. That means tight shots on action-filled plays.

It also means we won't see this in anything besides Heritage:

I really miss this. More and more by the day.

I'm not talking so much about the posed shot. I'm referring to the background. Look at the story the background tells. A couple dudes hanging loose on the bench. One -- is that Al Hrabosky? -- appears to be reading a book. That's baseball, my friends. Deny it if you like, but you can read a book at a baseball game if you want. That could be considered an insult to people who don't understand the game, or who can't sit still, but it's actually a good thing. There's nothing wrong with lazy and hazy if the promise of action is just around the corner. Have some patience and wait a second.

You probably won't see players hanging out by the batting cage anytime soon either (that's John Milner wearing No. 28). That's because Topps doesn't have its own photographers or shoots spring training anymore. It's all canned action shots purchased from Getty Images, which happens to be well-equipped for shooting action. But dudes standing around the batting cage really do still exist. It'd be nice to see them on cards again.

Batting cages and players in the distance tell me it's baseball. And just from a simple background, I can find the scoreboard and tell whether the photo was taken in Kansas City ...

... or in Chicago.

The background might even be able to tell you which team the player is about to play. In this case, Dewey is going to face the Oakland A's.

And because it was the 1970s, you could identify a player in the background even if you couldn't see his entire uniform number. I'd know Oscar Gamble's hairdo anywhere.

But if you wanted to identify the player by number, you could do that, too. Except it's spring training, and that guy in the distance may be wearing a 72 or a 74. The only Dodger I know wearing 74 is Kenley Jansen and he wasn't alive back then.

Backgrounds show you guys heading to work ...

... practicing their swings ...

... or just standing around.

You know, real baseball stuff.

Baseball is not action 24-7 and as in your face as possible.

If you want that, there are other sports. Or go to an amusement park. Or cliff-diving.

Baseball should be proud of what it is.

And not force the action.

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 retrosheet.org, 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.