Thursday, May 24, 2018

Brush with greatness: Donovan McNabb

I love these Press Pass Xs and Os cards from 1999.

When I was looking for a Donovan McNabb card to fill out my collection of Brush With Greatness topics (i.e.: athletes I've interviewed), I wanted just the right card. I don't really collect football so I wanted only one card of him.

Any card of McNabb with the Eagles wouldn't do. I didn't interview him then and that Eagles' color scheme makes for boring cards. I like the helmet with the wings, but all that dark green really dulls down a card. And forget about the Redskins or Vikings when McNabb was on his way out.

No, I wanted something from his Syracuse University days and something snazzy.

I covered McNabb at Syracuse during his first year on the football field (he red-shirted the 1994 season). It may be difficult to believe now, but at the time of McNabb's first spring practice on the roster, he was not a sure thing as the starting quarterback for SU.

The starting job was considered a toss up between McNabb, Kevin Johnson (who would go on to be a receiver for the Cleveland Browns) and the most experienced of the group, Keith Downing. That was the party line given by SU head coach Paul Pasqualoni at the time and nobody at SU was budging from that.

But during the spring game in 1995, it became obvious that they couldn't hide McNabb on the bench. He was the clear star of that game and that was the theme of my story. For the next few months, SU continued to list three possibilities as the starting QB, but I -- and I'm sure many others -- knew that when it came to announce a starter, it would be McNabb.

The 1995 season was a fun one. Not only was it McNabb's breakout year that would lead to four years as a starter and one of SU's all-time greats, but it also included receiver Marvin Harrison, fullback Rob Konrad and safety Donovin Darius. The Orange played in the Gator Bowl that year and annihilated favored Clemson 41-0 as McNabb threw three touchdown passes.

McNabb was on his way.

I've always been happy I covered that particular season -- the only season I covered SU football for the entire year (I covered games here and there afterward). McNabb was fun to write about and a pleasant interview.

Each Monday that season, SU would hold a weekly press conference and luncheon. Reporters would interview the achingly boring Pasqualoni and then two players. The players were different each week, chosen by the sports information department. Sometimes the same player would appear 2, 3 or 4 times during the season. I would always hope McNabb was a repeat appearance.

McNabb, no surprise he was a broadcast major, just got it. He didn't offer anything revealing, but he was always open, personable and gave you good quotes. You could tell he didn't mind being interviewed, which is very much a different attitude when it comes to athletes.

McNabb has encountered a number of issues the last few years, from DWIs to getting fired from his ESPN job because of reports of unwanted sexual advances.

Like I said, I last covered McNabb in the late 1990s and that was long before McNabb experienced the thrill of being a quarterback in the Super Bowl and all the excitement and baggage that comes with it. It's sure to change a man. I hope he gets his act together.

Because way back then, I was just thinking, "Come on. They HAVE to start this guy."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Team MVPs: 1984 Fleer

I'm offering another apology to 1981 Topps.

I've promised twice now that the next set that I would profile in this Team MVPs series would be 1981 Topps. But I'm delaying that yet again, because I keep completing sets!

Since my last '81 Topps promise I have completed 1984 Fleer. Since I'm going back in time with this series I can't continue to go back to the past without taking care of more recent sets! This is my first chance to determine the best card for each team in a Fleer set.

I've noticed a benefit to Fleer right away. The cards are numbered by team, so each team's cards are grouped together. That allows me to review each team all at once instead of the piece-by-piece process I go through with Topps sets.

It's also a lot of fun to determine the "best" card in a mid-1980s Fleer set as many of the photos have so much character. However, you'd be surprised how many photos are also boring as all get-out. Entire teams are boring as all get-out. I wasn't expecting that.

So, here we go, the best card for each team, separated by the MLB division breakdown in 1984:

American League East

Orioles: Rick Dempsey; Red Sox: Mark Clear; Indians: Gorman Thomas; Tigers: Enos Cabell; Brewers: Jerry Augustine; Yankees: Graig Nettles; Blue Jays: Roy Lee Jackson

Team with the best cards: Blue Jays, by a landslide. Nothing in the AL East comes close. Almost nothing in the entire league comes close.

Team with the worst cards: Indians/Tigers tie. Enos Cabell won because he was smiling, that's how tough it was for the Tigers.

Team I should go back and review: Yankees. No, not because I didn't put Mattingly's rookie card here (this is not how we determine "best" on this blog), but because I'm so enamored with the rare appearance of a Graig Nettles mustache.

American League West

Angels: Bobby Grich; White Sox: Julio Cruz; Royals: John Wathan; Twins: Kent Hrbek; A's: Dan Meyer; Mariners: Richie Zisk; Rangers: Larry Biittner

Team with the best cards: Royals, ever so slightly ahead of the Twins and Angels. I may have given the Twins demerits because of this:

Team with the worst cards: Mariners were pretty boring.

Team I should go back and review: White Sox. The Greg Luzinski card is kinda cool and probably should overthrow Cruz and his batting cage.

National League East

Cubs: Jay Johnstone; Expos: Al Oliver; Mets: Jose Oquendo; Phillies: Tony Perez; Pirates: Larry McWilliams; Cardinals: Joaquin Andujar

Team with the best cards: Expos, although there are several classics with other teams.

Team with the worst cards: Probably Cardinals, although every team is pretty strong in this division.

Team I should go back and review: Phillies. I subconsciously omitted the SuperStar Special cards from consideration, which means no "Reds Reunited" card for the Phillies (or the "Pine-Tar Game" for the Royals). This is a faux pas, I admit, but there's no time to rescan cards now.

National League West

Braves: Glenn Hubbard; Reds: Johnny Bench; Astros: Jose Cruz; Dodgers: Steve Howe; Padres: Steve Garvey; Giants: Bob Brenly

Team with the best cards: Braves. Reds are a close runner-up, followed by the Padres. Also, how awesome is that top row, featuring a snake, an ESPN mic and a barbell???

Team with the worst cards: Dodgers. Very nondescript for a team that won the NL West the previous year.

Team I should go back and review: Giants. Jeff Leonard is offering his all-time glower on his card but I went with Brenly just because he appears to have consumed all of the tobacco in the clubhouse and is now regretting it.

So that's the first look at Fleer in the Team MVPs series.

I promise you'll be seeing the 1981 Topps set next, and sooner than later. With Archives using the '81 design this summer, it seems like perfect timing.

Monday, May 21, 2018


I do not go along with the crowd. That's well-established. Both in the hobby and in life.

For example, I do not take part in sales.

This is very un-American of me, because wherever I go, inside of the hobby or out, there is someone mentioning how they "got a deal" on this or that. When I used to work in retail, there were legions of shoppers who'd wait for the weekly circular and then stampede to the mall to wipe out all the sale items before Sunday had ended.

In the card hobby, I don't have to tell you it's all about finding a sale. Dollar boxes, quarter boxes, dime boxes, nickel boxes. Finding the best deal on ebay. Finding the best deal on your favorite online shopping site.

Each year, my favorite site -- COMC -- announces several different sales. The most popular is the Black Friday sale. At that time of year, there is blog post after blog post showing off Black Friday purchases. But I've never taken part.

It's not that I don't like saving money. I'm certainly not rich and I can't afford to just throw my money around. I know there are millions of coupon-cutters out there and more power to them.

I think it's the nonconformist in me. I just don't like being told what to do and that involves when and how I should spend my money. You've got a sale? Great. I'll spend my money now if I feel like it.

So, that explains how I happened to participate in a COMC sale for the very first time, even though I've been buying cards off of COMC since 2009.

COMC recently conducted its Spring Cleaning sale and I just barely got in on it before the final day.

It was just coincidence that I was ready to order some cards when everyone started marking down inventory. It was quite nice. The stars had lined up so someone was ready to take my money with a discount at the exact same time I was ready to give them my money.

So I gathered a few items that seemed right to be discounted and hit 🚢!!!!

Let us begin:

This was a holdover from when I thought it would be cool to own a Dodger card of Yu Darvish. Remember those days?

Today, it seems like the perfect thing to be marked down.

On any given day, a Clayton Kershaw card is being stolen from my COMC cart. I've almost gotten used to it. I'll put a Kershaw card in there and think at the same time "well, you won't stay in there for long."

Fortunately, this fake-retro card from Archives stayed put.

My excruciatingly slow attempt to obtain any 1977 O-Pee-Chee card that looks different than a 1977 Topps card inches a few millimeters forward with this dynamite Dave Collins OPC card. He is not wearing a mustache on his '77 Topps card. How cool is that?

Speaking of slow slogs, here are three needs from the 2008 Stadium Club set that almost no one remembers. It is a battle to see which 2008 set that I've stopped caring about I complete first: Stadium Club or Heritage?

I'm down to needing just four Stadium Club cards, so I think SC might win. That is if I don't forget about both sets completely and they both expire a handful of cards away from the finish line.

There were just a few non-baseball cards mixed in with my sale purchase. You saw the gorgeous Martina Hingis card at the top of the post, now how about these two baddies?

These are two 1975 Topps cards that I practically worshipped as a 10-year-old boy. The '75 year was the first for me purchasing cards and it was spent mostly with the glorious baseball set of that year. But as a brand new card consumer with An Allowance And Everything, I felt the duty to buy some football and hockey, too.

Of the tiny number of packs that I bought of each, these two cards emerged as absolute titans of what I had bought. I knew nothing about Alan Page and Gerry Hart but I apparently was drawn to defensive destroyers because both were mayhem in their chosen sport.

I'm a firm believer in possessing the cards that thrilled you as a child, even if it means repurchasing them. I am so excited about these two.

Let's move to something I'm collecting right now, the 1973 Topps baseball set. Being cost conscious counts when you're in the final stages of a vintage set. I'll certainly pay attention to sales in these circumstances. I got both cheaply.

All right, NOW, the sale is speaking to me!

There is nothing quite as annoying as seeing these buyback cards go for stupid prices -- and by "stupid" I mean more than the cost of a non-stamped 1975 Topps card. You're defacing the original and you want more money for it?

So all of these buybacks came for much, much more reasonable prices and with this lot I now have 237 of the '75 Topps cards in buyback form or more than one-third of the set!!!

I am very happy with this particular acquisition as there are several notables: Messersmith, Lyle, Wood, Fuentes, North, as well as cards like Harrison, Kirkpatrick and Lintz that were part of my '75 childhood. Also, to the COMC dude who has been holding the Mike Wallace buyback hostage for like two years, I GOT IT CHEAPER BUD!

Hey, maybe I'm getting sold on this sale stuff.

Final card in the sale package (well, final one I'm showing now anyway).

These early '80s Superstar cards leave a lot to be desired with their black-and-white, newsprint-like photos. But how many times to do you see Koufax and Aaron on a card together?


I had fun with my first COMC sale go-round. That doesn't mean I'll dutifully wait for the next sale to get my next batch of cards. Like everything that I consume, I get it when I want it and if I don't have the cash to get it, I wait until I do, sale or no sale.

The next coupon I cut will be the first.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Awesome night card, pt. 283: more no-hit fun

The last time I wrote a post, I led off with a Nolan Ryan card. The last time I wrote an Awesome Night Card post, the topic was no-hitters.

And I'm showing a card I received from Johnny's Trading Spot for the second post in a row.

I can repeat myself with the best of them.

I'm showing this card basically because I've never seen it before and I am fascinated with it, mostly because it's taken me so long to find this particular night card.

It contains a lot of things that I love in a card. It captures a moment in time -- Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter on June 11, 1990 against the A's. It shows a salute to the fans, a tip of the cap. It comes from that time when satin jackets were the height of cool. You can also see a scoreboard in the distance and that's awesome. And, of course, it all happened at night.

The only dorky part is the lettering on the photo that says "No Hit KING". I don't know why "king" is all in caps and without the hyphen between "no" and "hit," it appears that Leaf is touting Ryan's inability to get hits, "he's no hit king!"

Ryan's sixth no-hitter merely broke his own established record. Nobody had thrown more than four no-hitters before Ryan came along. But the feat, established almost nine years after his fifth no-hitter and pitched at age 43, was so mind-blowing at the time that somebody HAD to make a card.

In fact, 1990 Leaf was ahead of the game with its Ryan no-hit recognition, thanks to being issued later in the year. Most 1990 card issues were recognizing Ryan's 5,000th strikeout, which happened in 1989. By the time those card companies got around to noting Ryan's sixth no-hitter in 1991, Ryan had thrown another no-hitter, against the Blue Jays in May of 1991.

That's what makes this 1990 Leaf card special.


Awesome Night Card binder candidate: Nolan Ryan, 1990 Leaf, #265
Does it make the binder?: He is the no-hit KING. It fills an open slot.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Welcome senility

Earlier today I read a post on Torren' Up Cards about Kenny's blogging disaster in which he spent eight months -- eight months! -- writing up a post related to some cards he received from Johnny's Trading Spot and then accidentally deleted the entire thing.

Well ... since we're confessing about stupid blogging things we've done recently while showing cards from Johnny's Trading Spot, I have one.

Remember that "Best set of 1991" post I published a couple of days ago?

I already published one of those. About cards from the exact same year. Published it four months ago. Even worse, I selected a different "best set" in that post.

Welcome senility. I've been waiting for you.

I fully expect myself to forget things. That's why I use labels for my posts so I can remind myself on whether I've written something already. But the labels failed me and when I clicked on the "best set series" labels, the most recent post that came up was from last May when I covered the sets from 1990.

So I dutifully did everything I did already four months ago, pulling cards from the same sets, writing basically the same thoughts that I did four months earlier. The weirdest thing about this is that nobody else seems to remember I already wrote that post either. The more recent "Best set of 1991" received much more reaction than the previous '91 post, and maybe everyone is just being nice, but the comments didn't give any hint that this post was a repeat.

I was so horrified when I found out (I'm being flip here but there's a tinge of seriousness given my mother's recent short-term memory issues and my grandmother's well-known memory problems, guess what's in my future?) I instantly deleted the previous post from January. It's gone.

To make it up to you, I'll be writing a "Best set of 1992" post fairly soon. I just need to wash away the whole ugly affair.

Meanwhile, like I said, I have a whole bunch of cards from Johnny's Trading Spot to display.

I received four healthy stacks wrapped in newspaper -- as many of you did. Most of the cards I owned already, that's just the way it is when you've been blogging and collecting for as long as I have. This is the breakdown:

Cards I needed on the right.

But that's plenty. Oh, that's plenty. The cards on the left will go to other Dodger causes (there's this dude trying to accumulate one million Dodgers). I have 26 binders filled with Dodgers cards. Space is at a premium.

It took me more than hour, however, to determine exactly what I needed. I can blame part of this on senility's arrival, but I mostly blame it on the 1990s. The moment I turned my back on the hobby in 1994/95, the card companies went on a card-making bender.

There you go. Most of those are from the '90s. After a number of minutes, I finally figured out I needed them all.

Kind of all from the '90s, or the turn of the century (some 2003 Ultra up top). Senility or not, I knew right away that those 1999 Pacific Paramount cards had never visited my collection before.

This is a combination of '90s/'00s cards that I either knew right away that I needed (a green Green!) or it took many binder openings and closings before finally figuring out they were needs.

A sure-fire cure for senility is to throw a parallel at me. "Well!" I'll respond instantly, "I certainly need that one! It's a blasted parallel!"

A combination of the wonderful Jeff Shaw Ultra parallel card with some more modern parallels. The Urias Inception card has really fancied itself up, but it still loses the beauty competition to the Shaw card.

Modern goodies and very welcome. There's my first "return of Matt Kemp" cards, including the "whoops -- tee hee -- we forgot the black plate" parallel.

Oddballs! All needs, although I probably have the rubdowns already. I've never thought to put them with my Dodger cards until receiving them all at once like this.

Some unlicensed needs. Not very exciting are they?

Johnny came across a bunch of tobacco minis and checked with me before sending them. These two I picked out as needs.

And finally among the non-Dodger needs were some night cards, that great Nolan Ryan card at the top of the post and this 1961 Fleer football card. I have never seen 1961 Fleer football in person. That's pretty cool!

So those are just about all of the cards (I got a little sick of scanning after awhile) that I know I need.

It seems somewhat tedious figuring out what cards you need, especially when it comes to '90s cards, but I'm willing to bet it helps keep the senility at bay reminding your brain what you have and what you don't.

Either that or all my card knowledge is pushing other valuable stuff out of my brain -- like "posts I've published already."

Thursday, May 17, 2018

One-card wonders, update 7

The year 1986 overflowed with wonderful one-hit wonder pop records.

"Rumors," by the Timex Social Club. ""Hanging on a Heart Attack, by Device. "I Wanna Be a Cowboy," by Boys Don't Cry. "The Rain," by Oran "Juice" Jones. And "Out of Mind Out of Sight," by the Models.

Then there's "The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)," by Timbuk 3, a one-off hit that became so confused as an optimistic eye to the future that it was used as graduation music fodder, as nobody bothered to notice the obvious references to nuclear annihilation.

One-hit wonders from Regina's "Baby Love" to Billy Crystal's "You Look Marvelous" to Yello's "Oh Yeah," took our minds off the growing arms race of the '80s. And if you were a card collector, you had tiny pieces of cardboard to forget about the cold war.

Even though there were three companies making cards in 1986, there are a fair amount of one-card wonders -- players who received only one card in a major set and no other. With the help of a list that Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life! provided me a few years back, I was able to determine eight players as '86 one-card wonders.

Donruss has five of them.

The above Carlos Ponce card is the first 1986 Donruss card I ever owned. That's how prominent one-hit wonders were in 1986. One pulled one in one's very first pack.

I knew nothing about Carlos Ponce then nor did I know anything about '86 Donruss. I didn't buy anything but a few handfuls of Topps in 1986. And by the time I got to '86 Donruss I was recoiling from the disorienting horizontal lines. My distaste for '86 Donruss is well-established, despite its Max Headroom nickname.

Here are the '86 Donruss one-card wonders:

32 - Johnny Abrego, Cubs (Rated Rookie)
42 - Rick Surhoff, Rangers (Rated Rookie)
461 - Dave Leeper, Royals
510 - Steve Engel, Cubs
595 - Carlos Ponce, Brewers

Topps features three one-card wonders in its 1986 set.

#451 - Mark Brown, Twins
#502 - Glen Cook, Rangers
#567 - Jeff Barkley, Indians

All pitchers, which is not a surprise considering how disposable pitchers can be.

Fleer, interestingly, does not contain a one-card wonder in 1986. (There is a player on a two-player rookie card that appeared in just the '86 set but I don't count those). One of the close-but-no-cigar players is White Sox pitcher Bruce Tanner, who also appears in the 1985 Fleer Traded set as his only other showing.

So here is the updated list of what I've done so far:

1967 Topps

#344 - Ossie Chavarria, A's
#388 - Arnold Earley, Cubs
#489 - Doug Clemens, Phillies
#497 - Ron Campbell, Cubs

1974 Topps:

#8 - George Theodore, Mets
#33 - Don Newhauser, Red Sox
#37 - Dave Sells, Angels
#77 - Rich Troedson, Padres
#421 - Dan Fife, Twins
#457 - Chuck Goggin, Braves
#573 - Mike Adams, Twins 

1975 Topps

#288 - Bruce Ellingsen, Indians
#407 - Herb Washington, A's
#508 - Bob Hansen, Brewers
#524 - John Doherty, Angels
#587 - Chris Ward, Cubs
#651 - John Morlan, Pirates 

1977 Topps

#118 - Rick Jones, Mariners
#132 - Chip Lang, Expos
#137 - Jeff Terpko, Rangers
#616 - Tommy Sandt, A's
#641 - Dan Larson, Astros 

1978 Topps:

#224 - Jerry Tabb, A's
#303 - Sam Hinds, Brewers
#311 - Jose Baez, Mariners
#386 - Bob Gorinski, Twins
#502 - Pat Rockett, Braves
#516 - Gary Beare, Brewers
#521 - Steve Staggs, Blue Jays
#591 - George Zeber, Yankees
#667 - Jeff Byrd, Blue Jays
#719 - Randy Elliott, Giants

1980 Topps:

#59 - Eddy Putman, Tigers
#72 - Fred Howard, White Sox
#156 - Tony Brizzolara, Braves
#221 - Joe Cannon, Blue Jays
#233 - LaRue Washington, Rangers
#291 - Randy Scarberry, White Sox
#347 - Harry Chappas, White Sox

1981 Topps:

 #491 - Gordy Pladson, Astros

1982 Topps:

#356 - Denny Lewallyn, Indians

1984 Topps:

#116 - George Bjorkman, Astros
#159 - Darryl Cias, A's
#163 - Lorenzo Gray, White Sox
#337 - Kevin Hagen, Cardinals
#382 - Chris Nyman, White Sox
#474 - Greg Bargar, Expos

1986 Topps:

#451 - Mark Brown, Twins
#502 - Glen Cook, Rangers
#567 - Jeff Barkley, Indians

1994 Topps:

#491 - John Hope, Pirates

1986 Donruss:

#32 - Johnny Abrego, Cubs
#42 - Rick Surhoff, Rangers
#461 - Dave Leeper, Royals
#510 - Steve Engel, Cubs
#595 - Carlos Ponce, Brewers

I had planned to tackle 1979 Topps next, but I'll save that for the next time. I just happened to hear "The Future's So Bright" on the radio today at about the same time I popped on my sunglasses in the car and I took that as a sign.