Thursday, May 31, 2012

'56 of the month: Harry Chiti

OK, let's start with the name.

Many people want to pronounce this poor, poor man's name "Harry Shytie."

It's not pronounced "Shytie."

Others want to pronounce it "Sh*tty."

(What a sh*tty thing to do).

It's definitely not pronounced "sh*tty."

Harry Chiti's name is pronounced "chee-tee."

Pretend that you are a flunkie in class and the only way you are possibly going to pass a test is by looking over the shoulder of the egghead in front of you.

You are the "cheater."

Egghead is the "chee-tee."

Harry Chee-tee.

Chiti played for poor teams his entire career. Signed by the Cubs as a free agent in 1950, he played for Chicago from 1950-52, left the Cubs for two years to serve in the Army (no truth to the rumor that he left willingly), and returned to the Cubs for 1955 and 1956. The Cubs finished no better than fifth during his stay in Chicago.

He then went to the Kansas City A's, and played on teams that finished seventh, seventh and eighth. After that it was Detroit, where the Tigers finished 6th in 1960. The Tigers were second in '61, but Chiti spent all but five games in the minors that year.

Then, the final indignity. He played for the 1962 expansion Mets.

The Mets acquired Chiti from the Indians in a swap for cash on April 26, 1962. Chiti played 15 games for the Mets, hit .195, the Mets said "never mind" and returned Chiti back to the Indians.

He is famously considered the first player ever traded for himself, although I don't know if that's totally true.

But baseball stories are more fun if players get traded for themselves and when their names are pronounced "Sh*tty," aren't they?

There's a famous saying in journalism, "never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

It's used as a way for editors to criticize overzealous writers who are so eager for a scoop that sometimes the facts don't add up.

I think we're all guilty of doing that, especially when telling tall stories about baseball players who have been dead for 10 years.

Babe Ruth did not call his shot in the 1932 World Series.
Jackie Robinson was not the first black player to compete in the major leagues.
Bill Buckner's error did not blow the Red Sox's lead in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

But before I totally kill romance in baseball history, let me underline the fact that Chiti WAS rejected by the 1962 New York Mets, one of the worst teams of all-time. After 15 games, the Mets said, "please take him back." Chiti would never play in the major leagues after that.

And Chiti DID play for all those horrible teams. He was actually dealt to the Yankees from the Cubs, but the A's made sure he didn't play for anyone THAT good and acquired him in the Rule 5 draft.

So, there you go. Wacky things really did happen to Chiti during his baseball career.

You might even say "sh*tty" things.

Just don't call Harry that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I will probably never watch an NBA game, for more than a couple minutes, for the rest of my life.

This is no surprise. I've made it through half a lifetime without doing it so far. A guy tends to get set in his ways the second half of life.

But it came to mind about a week or so ago when I heard about how excited Los Angeles was about its sports teams. The Dodgers -- the best team in baseball -- could barely get any coverage because the NBA's Lakers and Clippers were deep in the playoffs, and the NHL's Kings were making an unexpected charge to the Stanley Cup.

And I thought, "if I was living in Los Angeles, I'd be pissed about this."

I am a Dodger fan, and almost nothing else. The NHL sort of exists for me, but the NBA is a non-entity. Who cares what the Lakers, Clippers and Kings are doing? Who are they? The DODGERS are the best team in baseball!!! Everyone in L.A. should be paying attention to them!

But then I'm an odd bird.

Even when Michael Jordan was doing his thing in the NBA -- when he was drawing legions of new fans to the sport and everyone wanted to be like Mike, I was turning to page C6 of the sports section, saying, "I wonder how the Twins did against the Royals last night."

If Michael Jordan could not get me interested in the NBA, then nothing can get me interested in the NBA.

To legions of sports fans, the No. 23 means Michael Jordan. No one else. How can it mean anybody else?

But not to me.

To me, No. 23 is attached to a handful of Dodgers of note. A lot of L.A. Dodgers have worn the number, but a couple in particular made it memorable, right about the time that Jordan was doing his thing.

Let's travel through the timeline, shall we?

The first Los Angeles Dodger to wear 23 carried it from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Infielder Don Zimmer was 23 in Brooklyn and in L.A. He wore it from 1954-59.

He left the Dodgers after '59, but returned in 1963, and reclaimed No. 23 for himself.

While Zimmer was playing for the Cubs and the Mets and the Reds, a few no-names wore the number for the Dodgers. Pitcher Ed Palmquist from 1960-61. Pitcher Willard Hunter in 1962. Infielder Marv Breeding in 1963. I have to say I vaguely know only who Breeding is.

After Zimmer departed the Dodgers for the second time, No. 23 went to Bart Shirley, a young infield prospect, who has already appeared on one of these uniform number retrospectives.

Shirley bounced between the Dodgers, Mets and the minor leagues during his career. By the time Topps thought he deserved a card, in 1969, Shirley had already switched to No. 11, and was out of the major leagues.

Claude Osteen had taken the number from Shirley in 1965 and made it his own for nine years. A mainstay of the Dodgers' rotation from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, Osteen was the most successful No. 23 on the Dodgers for a long time.

But then in December of 1973, Osteen was traded to the Astros for slugger Jimmy Wynn, who assumed the No. 23 and brought it to the outfield for the first time.

Wynn also enjoyed success with the number, winning Comeback Player of the Year honors in 1974. But he was traded two years later in the deal that brought Dusty Baker to the Dodgers.

The No. 23 then went to a series of role players:

Ted Martinez, 1977-79

Vic Davalillo, 1980

Dave Sax, 1982

Current Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt wore No. 23 when he came over in a trade with the Rangers in 1983.

But he shortly switched to No. 40, the number he wore in Seattle and Texas, for the rest of his Dodger career.

R.J. Reynolds, a player that I wanted to be a star, looked positively smoking in the No. 23 from 1983-85.

The number continued to bounce around in the '80s. New acquisition Enos Cabell -- whipping boy of Bill James -- wore it in 1985.

Pitcher Tim Leary also wore it for a year, in 1987, after coming over from Milwaukee.

And then Kirk Gibson changed No. 23 for all time. You have Michael Jordan. I have Kirk Gibson. He IS No. 23 for me.

Gibson wore the number for the entirety of his all-too-brief time with the Dodgers.

When he left, he left the number in good hands.

Eric Karros is the most successful No. 23 in Dodger history. He is the franchise's all-time home run leader and wore the number for 12 years, from 1991-2002.

The number has bounced all over the diamond since then.

Third baseman Robin Ventura in 2003-04

Pitcher Derek Lowe from 2005-08

Third baseman Casey Blake in 2009-11.

Today, outfielder Bobby Abreu is wearing No. 23. I don't anticipate him being with the team for long. So No. 23 will bounce to someone else soon.

Of course, in baseball, the No. 23 is also associated with Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly, and a host of others.

Nobody as famous as Michael Jordan. Nobody with his legacy.

But we all know baseball is the only sport that matters.

I've probably just upset Cardboard Junkie again

I seem to have this habit of periodically annoying dayf at Cardboard Junkie. I don't mean to do it, but before you know it, I've said something, and there, I've done it. He starts insulting one of my favorite sets, and I say one of his favorite sets can burn for all eternity, and it's ... well, it's weird.

Because except for the Braves, and the ponies, and the fact that I swear sometimes his blog is in a foreign language, I am quite interested in what he puts out there. I don't want to set him off, what if he leaves forever for Twitter? That would be terrible.

But then I go and do something, like, well, like this ...

A little while I go, I landed some Yankee cards that could only be found as a special promotion that went along with a new book release. I thought those four cards might be able to get me something nice that I wanted, and I told people to make me an offer.

I got two offers.


Apparently, Yankees collectors aren't as rabid as I've read. Either that or I've scared them all away from my blog because of few disparaging words I might have made about their favorite team.

But two offers are better than none, and both people offered some cards that I really wanted, so that's good.

But, let me keep you in suspense about that for a moment.

Fast forward to the post in which I was trying to determine the biggest bust and improvement among Donruss sets. Wow, that unleashed a lot of pent-up energy. Donruss totally isn't worth it, but I guess some people take their cardboard seriously.

In the feedback, someone ragged on my favorite Donruss set -- 1984 -- and I fired back. And then dayf started calling '84 the most overrated set since '52 Topps. Not one to back down about affairs of complete inanity, I lashed back by saying 1953 Topps -- a set everyone loves except me -- is overrated.

He didn't like that.

But it's a true feeling. I'm not a big fan of painted sets -- unlike many of my blogger cohorts. I love the '56 Topps set, and after that, you can have all the painted sets. Diamond Kings and all that stuff, take it all away.  1953 Topps is very well-done, it's just not my mug of beer.

OK, now back to the offers.

One of the offers came from dayf, which surprised me. He's not a Yankee fan.

But he offered some good cards.

The other offer came from A.J. at The Lost Collector.

He's a Yankee fan. And I decided to go with his offer.

Here is the main card that swayed my decision:

I know.

I'm a terrible, terrible, terrible night owl. How could I do such a thing? Claim to dislike '53 Topps and then go and accept one offer over another because of a '53 Topps card? What's wrong with me? I should just take my cards and go home because obviously I can't play well with others.

But there is a really good reason why I took A.J.'s offer and not dayf's.

While both featured cards I wanted, A.J.'s card was the opportunity to get something that doesn't come my way very often. 1953 Topps aren't easily found, or as easily found as more modern stuff. Anytime I can cross something off from the '50s -- even something in which all the creases make Preacher Roe look like he's 279 years old --  I take it.

The other reason is A.J. loves the Yankees. It's weird and bizarre, but if I'm going to get rid of Yankees cards, it makes sense to send them to a Yankee fan.

So that's why I did what I did.

It really wasn't done to get dayf riled up, even though it looks that way.

I know this probably means he'll show 50 Brooklyn Dodgers cards that I don't have on the blog sometime soon.

What are you going to do?

By the way, A.J. also sent these cards, among others:

He also sent this card:

A San Diego Padre?

Apparently I've upset A.J. about something, too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hate to cut and run

No time yesterday, no time today. You people with your five-day weekends.

I have about as much time today as the kid who cut out this 1961 Post Wally Moon card. It looks like he started out fairly well up at the top, and then he got called to dinner, or Gunsmoke was starting, and sharp corners were the first thing to go.

This card came from Max. I've already dedicated two posts to cards he sent. So I might as well dump the rest of the cards here and give some other card package a chance for once.

Here are the rest of the goodies:

1994 Sportflics Raul Mondesi. Why do I bother scanning sportflics cards?

2004 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion Brad Penny. I think "baseball player" was about 13th on Brad Penny's list of top career choices.

2004 Topps Chrome Eric Gagne. Someone asked me at work what I have against Jonathan Broxton. That gave me an excuse to launch into the glory of Eric Gagne and Takashi Saito. He was sorry he asked.

2012 Topps '87 mini Adrian Gonzalez. Not sure why this card arrived. I love '75 minis and A&G minis. The rest are just tiny cards.

1992 Pinnacle Idols Reggie Sanders-Eric Davis. Sanders and Davis are six years apart in age. My idols were a lot older than me. That's what happens when you're the oldest child.

1996 Pinnacle Foil Chan Ho Park. I totally wish this card looked like this at all times.

2003 Playoff Portraits Joe Thurston. And I'm out of time.

Got a nice fat day of work ahead of me. After working Memorial Day. And Saturday.

But I'll get all of you "we didn't use all our snow days so we have a five day weekend!" folks back. I have Wednesday and Thursday off!

OK, so that's only two days.

 And it's Wednesday and Thursday.

Sorry, that's all I've got. They're slave-drivers over here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Awesome night card, pt. 143 (and poll results)

Among my favorite kinds of night cards are the ones in which a card company was forced to use a photo from a night game because the game was one of the only chances it had to feature that player in his new uniform.

This often happened with late-season acquisitions, and it often happened in the early '90s when it was important to feature a player in his new uniform, avoiding airbrushing at all costs, but also when taking pictures during daylight hours was still ritual.

Alejandro Pena was acquired from the Mets in late August of 1991, leaving Donruss just a month of the regular season to get a photo of him in a Braves uniform. Fortunately for Donruss, the Braves reached the World Series that year, so they had the whole postseason, too.

And, so, unlike several other 1992 Donruss cards, the picture on the card matches the team listing on the card.

A game at night saves the day.

This card also serves as a nifty lead-in for the final results of the Biggest Improvement and Biggest Bust in Donruss history.

Here are the final tallies:

Biggest Improvement

1983 to 1984: 25 votes

1984 to 1985: 6 votes
1992 to 1993: 5 votes
1981 to 1982: 4 votes
1990 to 1991: 4 votes
1986 to 1987: 3 votes

Biggest Bust

1989 to 1990: 14 votes

1987 to 1988: 12 votes
1995 to 1996: 8 votes
1985 to 1986: 7 votes
1982 to 1983: 3 votes

The "Biggest Improvement" featured a much more clear consensus than the "Biggest Bust." 1984 Donruss is easily the winner. Donruss broke away from its childish, copycat design of 1983 and went with something more sophisticated and photo friendly.

Obviously, I agree wholeheartedly with the 53 percent of voters who picked 84 over 83. Nothing came close enough to consider. 1984 to 1985 picked up a couple reactionary votes after I announced that 83-84 was running away with it.

As for the "Biggest Bust," 1989-90 barely edged 1987 to 1988. I'm not crazy about 1990 Donruss, but I wouldn't have gone with either of the top two vote-getters. 1996 Donruss is just atrocious, 1986 Donruss is an affront to good mental health, and 1983 would be illegal if it wasn't produced by the same company as '82 Donruss. And I haven't even discussed 1991 and 1992 Donruss, among my least favorite sets ever made.

But the voters have spoken, and the biggest improvement and biggest bust in Donruss history will take up residence on the sidebar.

As someone who isn't much a fan of both Upper Deck and Donruss designs, I'm relieved we're done judging both companies. I'm looking forward to Fleer and Score and Pinnacle and a few others.

Uh, oh, I just remembered Bowman is still out there, too.


Night Card Binder candidate: Alejandro Pena, 1992 Donruss, #772
Does it make the binder?: Probably not. I don't plan to feature cards with numbers that high in the binder.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

From "nebulous" to "certain"

As in "certain" that this card is now in my collection.

The Nebulous 9 is now down to a mere six cards. That's both due to my laziness in adding more wants and a sudden blitz on the list by fellow collectors.

I've received four cards from the Nebulous 9 in the last couple weeks, including this mere 1989 Topps checklist, which came from cynical buddha. Now I can add it to the '89 binder with the rest of the unchecked checklists and everything will match.

We must feed the OCD monster.

Here are two other cards that came with the checklist:

Two ugly Gypsy Queens (although the inserts are just a tiny bit pretty). I need one more base card Dodger and then you can expect never to see these cards on the ever blog again -- unless I'm doing an end-of-the-year post about which set most resembles the outside of a 12th century asylum for the criminally insane.

Thanks, CB!

This former Nebulous 9 need -- a 2002 Fleer Greats Maury Wills -- arrived from coronado2010. He's a devoted TTMer.

I think it's interesting that I already had the autographed version of this card and then a TTM expert sent me the regular version.

OK, you don't have to think it's interesting, too.

This was easily the most appreciated Nebulous 9 get of the recent four. This came from 2 by 3 Heroes. I recently worked out a trade with Jeff, and this was the kick-starter.

I am absolutely certain that A&G 2011 was the least-collected A&G set of the last four years. In the past when I've begged and pleaded for current-year A&G cards, they've arrived in my mailbox almost instantly.

Getting this particular card -- which isn't even a short-print -- took months. And I'm still searching for the Manny Ramirez short-print. I will be ordering it in my next online binge, because I can't take buying a single pack of 2012 A&G without knowing that 2011 is feeling whole in a binder.

Jeff also sent a bunch of Dodger wants, including this card:

It's the last Dodger I needed to complete the 1992 Upper Deck team set. I put this card up on the Nebulous 9 after I received the '89 Topps checklist. And then Candiotti arrived the NEXT DAY from Jeff. It was freaky.

Here are some other cards from him that didn't freak me out:

OK, these next two freaked me out a little:

I'm not looking forward to putting a Yankee logo and a Braves uniform in with the rest of my Dodgers.

But thanks all for every card that I received. I promise I'll be adding to the Nebulous 9 list soon.

In the meantime, see if you have that 1996 Classic Hideo Nomo phone card under a couch cushion. That thing has been on the Nebulous 9 since Day 1.