Saturday, April 21, 2018

Blog bat around: the all-autograph team

I think we're in the second golden age of the Blog Bat Around.

Only a couple of weeks after finishing off my own BBA, another one has surfaced. This one is from Torren' Up Cards.

Kenny, an autograph collector, put together his all-autographed cards team and invited others to join in.

I don't collect autographs. It's never been a priority. I'll see one I like sometimes and buy it, but most of my autographs -- and they're a very small part of the collection -- have arrived from fellow collectors.

Because of this, the vast majority of my autographed cards are Dodgers. They're really the only players that I care about when it comes to autographs. Own an autographed card of a Ranger or a Brewer or a Royal?? Why? Own an autograph card of a Yankee or a Giant or a Diamondback?? Eww, get it away!

So, yeah, this All-Autograph team of mine will be solely Dodgers. You'll see that bias come through when I shove a couple of autograph notables (i.e. Hall of Fame players) into the honorable mention category. But the rules go like this: If the autograph ain't a Dodger, I ain't interested.

Let's see the All-Autographed Dodger Team:

Catcher: Russell Martin (number of autographed cards: 4)

The catcher position suffers from the fact that there are relatively few autographed Mike Piazza cards available. But you should see the Martin autographed cards I have. They are SNAZZY. No shame in having Russell Nathan Coltrane squatting for this squad.

Honorable Mentions: Paul Lo Duca, Steve Yeager, Rick Dempsey, Joe Pignatano, Carlos Hernandez

First Base: Steve Garvey (number of autograph cards: 5)

Garvey's got a messy signature. That sort of matters to me. It's like Derek Jeter's signature. I've never understood all the squiggles.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Karros, Franklin Stubbs, Mike Marshall, Harmon Killebrew

Second Base: Steve Sax (number of autograph cards: 1)

I've dropped the ball in getting a Davey Lopes signature. There's a few around that I could nab, but I just don't get the autographed card itch very often. When I do get a Lopes signature, Sax is headed to bench. You've got to be able to throw to first base on this team.

Honorable mentions: Alex Cora, Chad Fonville, Dee Gordon, Wilton Guerrero, Juan Samuel, Derrel Thomas, Bobby Grich, Phil Garner

Shortstop: Maury Wills (number of autograph cards: 3)

Wills is the rarity in that all of the autographs I own of his are on-card.

Honorable mentions: Bill Russell, Jose Offerman, Greg Gagne, Rocky Bridges, Dave Anderson

Third Base: Ron Cey (number of autographed cards: 18)

Third base is a loaded, LOADED position on this squad. But my bias is winning out all the way through this thing. I must get my all-time favorite player on the squad.

Honorable mention: Adrian Beltre, Mike Blowers, Blake DeWitt, Andy LaRoche, Mickey Hatcher, Tim Wallach, Wade Boggs, Robin Ventura

Outfield: (LF): Pedro Guerrero (number of autographed cards: 1); CF: Duke Snider (number of autographed cards: 6); RF: Matt Kemp (number of autographed cards: 3)

Lots of competition in the outfield. I don't feel good about leaving off Mondesi, Baker or Buckner but I only have to answer to me, so who cares?

Honorable mentions: Raul Mondesi, Dusty Baker, Bill Buckner, Billy Ashley, Brett Butler, Roger Cedeno, Andre Ethier, Todd Hollandsworth, Stan Javier, Von Joshua, Ken Landreaux, Rick Monday, Wally Moon, Manny Mota (no pinch-hitter on this team, sorry), Joc Pederson, Dave Roberts, Scott Schebler, John Shelby, Cory Snyder, Reggie Williams, Delwyn Young, Jim Greengrass, Bobby Thomson

No. 1 starter: Sandy Koufax (number of autographed cards: 1)

I've seen several all-autographed teams that limit the pitching to a starter and a reliever, or a LHP, RHP and a reliever. But this is the Dodgers. Pitching is their thing.

No. 2 starter: Clayton Kershaw (number of autographed cards: 6)

No. 3 starter: Don Drysdale (number of autographed cards: 1)

No. 4 starter: Carl Erskine (number of autographed cards: 3)

No. 5 starter: Fernando Valenzuela (number of autographed cards: 1)

Honorable mentions: Andy Ashby, Pedro Astacio, Chad Billingsley, Walker Buehler, John Candelaria, Tom Candiotti, Al Downing, Darren Dreifort, Dave Goltz, Kevin Gross, Kirby Higbe, Burt Hooton, Kaz Ishii, James McDonald, Andy Messersmith, Ricky Nolasco, Hideo Nomo, Claude Osteen, Chan Ho Park, Johnny Podres,  Jerry Reuss, Preacher Roe, Don Sutton, John Tudor, Ismael Valdes, Bob Welch

Reliever/Closer: Eric Gagne (number of autographed cards: 1)

Probably the tightest contest between Gagne and Kenley Jansen. I know some hardliners who would pick Jansen purely because Gagne was a Mitchell Report guy. But I can't be that harsh, especially with someone who welcomed my interview questions and is one of the few major leaguers (possibly the only, I'll have check) in which I've talked to his relatives, too. But give me a year or two more of 2017 Jansen and I may change my mind.

Honorable mentions: Kenley Jansen, Don Aase, Pedro Baez, Ralph Branca, Yhency Brazoban, Rubby De La Rosa, Scott Elbert, John Ely, Yimi Garcia, Mark Guthrie, Charlie Hough, Ken Howell, Hong-Chih Kuo, Josh Lindblom, Jon Link, Luke Prokopec, Paco Rodriguez, Jeff Shaw, Ross Stripling, Eric Stults, Cory Wade, Chris Withrow, Matt Young

So that's my team, as Dodger Blue as they come.

I'd gladly go into battle against any other team with that group.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Shape shifters

It wasn't until I received a package from Matt at Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits that I realized that baseball cards should be used in preschool classrooms.

You want to illustrate "big" and "little" to the tiny tots? Let baseball cards do the job.

This is now the BIGGEST Clayton Kershaw card that I own.

It is a box-topper from this year's Heritage.

Some would say the reverse is the side that I should show first. But even the preschool kids know that's not right. A checklist, a Mariner and a Rockie? Over the best baseball pitcher in the game on a newspaper background?

This is a class for learning. Tell me which is more educational? It says "educational" right at the bottom of the Kershaw card!

Kershaw will be displayed front-side up in my newly obtained three-pocket pages.

This is now the LITTLEST autograph card that I own.

How funny that back in 2003 Topps requested players to scribble their names in a 1.5-inch space. How are we going to get "Garciaparra" in there? I know the preschool kids might be able to scrawl one letter before running out of space.

Now class, just to compare, here they are together:

That's BIG and LITTLE, breaking new ground in my collection from either side.

Here is a bunch more little:

I'm really bad at keeping track of my T206 mini Dodger wants. But I know some of these are new.

OK, moving on, let's throw a wacky shape at you kids:

These are POLYGONS.

No class, nobody got hungry and took some bites out of these cards.

Polygons are filled with all kinds of angles and straight lines. They make for bizarre cards such as you see above. I'm not sure anyone actually asked for diecut Allen and Ginter cards, yet we've got them.

I keep looking at these thinking there's no way they'll fit in a nine-pocket page, but that must be an optical illusion, because they do.

The rest of the cards, I'm afraid, are customary 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 size. But you kids need to learn about rectangles, too!


Hmmm, that Seager rectangle looks familiar. I guess it's up for grabs to the first Dodger fan who raises their hand and asks for it politely.

Matt also sent the LARGEST assortment of the Heritage World Series subset cards that I've received. This is A-plus work. I believe I'm still missing Game 2 and Game 6. Also, if I stare too long at that Game 7 card it makes me want to go into a tirade about "launch angle."

But the class doesn't need to hear that. So class dismissed!

Get your shapes out of here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A collector in my own backyard

Last week, I was toiling at work, staring furiously at my computer, literally less than 20 minutes away from deadline.

It was at that point that one of the prepress guys, the one running the show no less, ambled upstairs to the newsroom and plopped himself into a chair in the sports department, ready to shoot the breeze.

It always amazes me how oblivious people are to other people's situations. The deadline time at the newspaper hasn't changed in years, I haven't been any less busy in trying to meet it, the prepress guy has been working his job probably almost as long as I have (we were on the same work softball team over 15 years ago). Yet, he's getting chatty.

But my exasperation turned quickly into the feeling of wanting to be in two places at the same time because prepress guy suddenly asked whether I collected baseball cards! 😮  He had told one of my co-workers that he was at a card show in Syracuse (the same one I was at) and that co-worker told him that I collected cards.

And then press room guy didn't stop talking about baseball cards.

Oh, dear, he had found my weakness.

I'm probably not making deadline.

I tried, really tried to assemble the baseball roundup on my computer screen, but behind me someone was talking all about his baseball card collection, how he collects, where he goes to get cards, buying cards online, selling cards online, old cards versus new cards -- just about everything that is all I ever want to talk about.

I am very good at staying focused on my work. I have worked straight through some horrible, terrible things, the Oklahoma City bombing, Sept. 11th. While co-workers dropped everything and ran to the TV, I stayed on track, the section had a deadline to meet, I was going to meet it.

But baseball card talk?

I was reaching system overload.

I kept turning around to talk to him. I kept giving him tidbits of information about various collecting tactics, explaining what I collected, scoping out the next show. He turned me on to a show coming up that I didn't know existed (it happens to land on a terrible weekend, not sure if I can go). And, all of a sudden it occurred to me:

FINALLY! I know a collector in my own backyard!!!

It had been so long. Not since Carl (remember Carl?) had I known someone at my job who collected cards. And I remember all about how that went. Carl also worked downstairs, near the employee entrance. My dinner breaks started to get longer and longer as I always stopped at Carl's desk to discuss baseball cards. I started to feel guilty about how long I was spending time talking cards, and then, in a sign of how far gone I was, suddenly didn't care how long I was spending talking cards.

Was this going to be Carl all over again?

Probably not. That is, not unless prepress guy makes repeated visits to my department. I'm not going to cross paths with him downstairs -- the prepress area is a bit out of my way and all that machinery whirring around makes me nervous.

Also -- and this shouldn't matter, but -- he does not collect the way I do at all.

For starters, he's a Yankees fan. A big Yankees fan. He's such a big Yankees fan that he takes trips to the Yankees' spring training site every year. He also goes to special functions in Florida where players are available to sign autographs. This most recent spring, he and his girlfriend went down and she stood in one line and he in other line to get autographs of Judge and Stanton and the rest. The lines were looooooooong.

I mean, come on, you know me. I don't collect the Yankees. I don't collect autographs. And I DON'T stand in line.

But I'll take what I can get when it comes to chatting cards.

The prepress guy is personable. A friendly guy. He's pretty big and burly, too (you should have seen him wail on that softball). We'd look kind of weird together at a show, little ol' me and Big Yankee Pinstripe there. But you know, Angus at Dawg Day Cards isn't exactly ducking under "you must be this tall" signs and I go to shows with him.

So we'll see.

It was quite the surprise and pretty damn cool. After all, many of us are on the internet writing about cards because we can't find anyone near us who likes cards or even knows anything about them. It's like finding your best friend from third grade again. Remember when both of you brought cards to school, day after day? So, yeah, this is cool.

But I'm not standing in any line for any Yankee.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Brush with greatness, online edition

Last week, while navigating in the haze brought on by my work shift change, I happened to check my email and came across a note from the son of a major league baseball player.

It took me awhile to figure out exactly what it was or who it was. I barely know the time most days of the week, but the man sending the email said he had worked the night shift, too, and, oh by the way, what a great write-up you did on my dad!

The son of former Red Sox and Giants catcher Russ Gibson had dropped a line to let me know how much he appreciated my 1971 Topps post on his father. "Funny and factual," he said, which I'm happy to say are two key goals of my writing. He said he loved it, in capital letters. Then he told a story.

The email was sent shortly after the Yankees-Red Sox brawl. A friend of Gibson's son on Facebook had asked why the Red Sox catcher had not tried to stop Tyler Austin from charging the mound (I often wonder this as I watch the catcher just stand there). The friend then reminded Gibson's son that Gibson had done exactly that.

It was 1971, when Gibson was with the Giants. They were playing the Dodgers. A young Bill Buckner was plunked with a pitch. It hit Buckner so hard that he was injured by it. But that didn't stop Buckner from trying to charge the mound while still carrying his bat. Yet, Gibson grabbed Buckner to stop the "festivities." Gibson's son added it wasn't much of a threat because Buckner was hurt.

I was thrilled by this email. What a cool connection to make!

As a sportswriter, my job is to unearth stories like this in my interview subjects. I've interviewed several professional athletes and reviewed my encounters in a series on this blog called "Brush With Greatness". But as an editor, I don't do a lot of interviewing anymore and I haven't connected with any pro athletes in a long time.

So it's kind of terrific to still make that connection online, even if it's from a player's relative and not the actual player. It may not be as meaningful as my face-to-face interviews, but it's still exciting when it happens. It doesn't happen much.

Here are the other online connections I've made that I can recall:


Since we're operating in an online world, you can never be absolutely positive that the person commenting is actually that person. But I'm relatively sure in this case.

Baldwin, who was a submarine pitcher for the Senators, Brewers and White Sox, was known for his intelligence and later became a systems engineer, genetics researcher and author. His '71 card is quite distinctive thanks to Baldwin's "hairstyle" and after several comments made on the 1971 Topps post about him, someone named Dave Baldwin commented five years after I made the post:

Typo aside, I'm pretty sure that's Mr. Baldwin.


One of my favorite interactions, this came on my 1975 Topps blog post.

I went through the trouble of establishing that Pedro Borbon never smiled on his cards by going through all of the cards on which he appeared. I wasn't a fan of Borbon as a kid, since he played for the Big Red Machine back when the Reds and Dodgers shared the same division.

That struck a chord with Borbon's daughter, who wrote:

This was in the blissful days before Borbon passed away. But it remains a treasured comment and I enjoy Borbon's cards so much more now.


I can't find the email that was sent to me from one of Brye's relatives. She was married to Brye's cousin and was amused by the story that I told about how when my brother and I were little we made Brye the favorite player of my brother's stuffed lion (as kids we had characters and voices for all our stuffed animals).

She found that a hoot (and probably thought me a bit bizarre) and wondered how we landed on Brye as the subject of the stuffed animal's devotion.

I told her I had no idea. We were kids.

It was the first time that anyone related to a major leaguer had reached out to me, although I had seen it on other blogs (the interaction between Madison Bumgarner's father and Mario from Wax Heaven is burned into my brain). And it really underlined that we do not operate in a vacuum when we write our blog posts.


Another 1975 Topps blog-related communication.

Buskey's daughter emailed me to make a correction to my post about her dad. I had received some misinformation on how Buskey had died and she wanted the information correct for the record.

I can always appreciate wanting to ensure that facts are accurate for the public record and immediately updated my post.


Hedlund commented on my 1971 Topps blog in response to another comment. I was kind of surprised that it received a reaction from a player as it was nothing controversial or provocative. It was simply an observation about his pose.

Mike wrote to confirm that, yes, he and Royals teammate Dick Drago featured similar poses.

And here are the two cards side-by-side:

It's fun when you receive confirmation of what you see straight from the source!

I mentioned this particular interaction last year on this post. So I'm kind of repeating myself here, and except for the Gibson story all of this just one great big repeat! But I've got to get all these interactions all in one place!


During the Wild West era of card blogging (2007-10, I'd say), you never knew what was going to happen. Blogging was the online medium and it captured a varied and diverse crowd of people, probably more varied than the current crew, I'd say.

One of those varied characters was The Collective Troll (remember him?) and he had a few connections down in spring training land. One of those was Jerry Reuss, who has always been well-connected with fans. Reuss told the Troll that he did indeed read card blogs (he was a collector who once had a site with all of his own cards) and he read mine, too!

And then he commented on it.

I had to sit back and take a moment to process what had just happened. Needless to say, our little community went berserk over the comment for a couple of days.

It's just about the most excited as I've been writing this blog. And there have been a lot of exciting moments.

The email from Russ Gibson's son brought it all back.

These kind of interactions don't happen very often. I'd say maybe once a year on average.

It's also one of the perks of running a set blog. Although writing set blogs can get monotonous and there are fewer readers, it's a better way to attract major leaguers and their families than a more general blog, like Night Owl Cards.

I find it interesting, though, that I'm almost 780 cards into my 1985 Topps blog and I've never received a player or relative interaction on that blog. I have a couple of theories about that: the players are more recent, there's much more about them on the internet, the players are much more well-off than those who came before and I believe there is more of a separation between players and fans from this era as well as the eras that came after it because of that.

That's why I appreciate these interactions so much. It confirms that these players are just people, with families, just like us.

It's the same feeling that I'd get when interviewing one of those players face-to-face.


Programming note:

If you missed out on the post from two days ago, I'm holding a milestone contest for reaching 4,000 posts.

This is post 4,002 but if you want to enter, go to this post and follow the instructions.

The contest will close at 2 a.m. EST tonight.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hits from an unlikely source

I'm quite familiar with what fellow bloggers collect. I know their relative ages, the card eras that interest them, what they have in their "inventory," and what items I might receive from them.

So it's a surprise when something arrives from someone that is "uncharacteristic" of them.

These showed up from Commish Bob of The Five-Tool Collector.

You know, the guy who collects old-ass stuff. Cards from the '50s and '60s and much, much older. Players that have long since retired, retired before I even knew what baseball was, or played before I was born. He's showing some Japanese items right now. I'm not 100 percent sure what they are, but I do know that they are ancient.

They're definitely from long before the period when people began to think it was a good idea to cut up clothing and glue it into cards.

But that's what came out of the package. Two relic cards from this year's Heritage, and another relic card of former Dodger catcher Russell Martin (I admit I have the Martin relic already, mostly because he was playing in L.A. during my peak relic-accumulating days).

The Seager jersey card -- I believe -- is the first Corey Seager relic card I own. How about that Commish Bob?!? Who knew?

I am also very happy to get the Kershaw relic card. People don't send me hits of Kershaw much anymore. They've all figured out who he is. I have to do my own work. So this is very cool.

Before you think the Commish has gone all modern on us, here is something more in keeping with his collecting tastes -- and mine, too:

Here are some 1973 Topps from my want list. Some real quality gap-fillers, too. Carew and McNally and the last card in the set, Fred Scherman.

Plus, three of the rookie prospects cards. These have been the slowest-arriving cards in the set. The page is practically blank. Nobody on these three cards ended up a star (Gary Matthews, you could make a case for), but we must hoard our rookies.

By now, you're saying to yourselves, "Come on, where is the GOOD stuff? You know, the old items you two enjoy so much?"

Never fear.

Hot dog! Some 1956 Topps to cross off the want list!

These get me very close to having nothing but stars left to acquire. We're on the verge of me deciding whether my daughter really needs that fourth year of college or plopping it all down on a Clemente or Aaron card.

Good times.

The Irv Noren card has some paper loss on the back, which seems to be a prerequisite for Yankees in this set (did all Yankees fans glue their cards to pages?). I don't know if I'll try to upgrade. I'm a little more sure I'll do so with these three though. I almost got the Ray Boone card at the recent card show.

Commish Bob even threw in a signed Carl Erskine card. Erskine is such a great signer. I'll be happy to add this to the collection.

The relic cards momentarily threw me for a loop but the Commish came back strong with the vintage goodies. And those Heritage relics look so nice -- really among the best-designed relics ever -- that how can you resist?

Even we vintagephiles love feeling up a tiny piece of cloth in our cards.


Programming note:

If you missed yesterday's post, I'm holding a milestone contest (yes, another one).

This is post 4,001. But check out post 4,000 if you want to enter.