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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tedious reorganization does its job again

I've failed you and did not take a picture of my reorganization of my giant Dodgers box of dupes -- and accompanying satellite boxes of dupes.

It took three days to finish and was conducted entirely while sitting on a hardwood floor. Needless to say, breaks were mandatory.

I normally conduct this exercise once a year, in September. But life got busy and the dupes piled up and I finally found a little time last week. Normally I use the dining room table, but there were too many people about for that. So I commandeered the spare bedroom and started piling stacks of cards by decade that needed to join the rest of the dupes.

Some may wonder why I go through such a tedious routine for cards that are duplicates. Why do I organize stacks, then ad those stacks to the box, then pull out more cards from the box, and join more cards from the stacks to the more cards from the box, and repeat the process over and over to a mind-numbing degree, more mind-numbing than reading this paragraph.

It's simple. I've said it before. I always find a card that I need from that giant box of dupes.

This particular time wasn't as successful. I average discovering maybe 5 or 6 or more cards that I need per dupes reorganization. This time it was just two cards.

This was one of them. It's a forgotten insert from 2007 Topps, one of those "Hit Parade" leaders cards.

Luis Gonzalez had such a short stint with the Dodgers that I automatically assume I own most of his Dodgers cards. How many Dodger Gonzalez cards could be created, let alone in a single insert set?

The answer to that is "two." There are two Luis Gonzalez Dodgers cards in the 2007 Topps Hit Parade insert set. We must recognize all of the hits and RBIs accumulated by Gonzalez, 98 percent of which did not come in a Dodgers uniform.

I don't know what made me look at the Hits card and realize that it wasn't a dupe. The two cards look practically alike. But thank goodness for the back of my brain, it's filled with all kinds of baseball card nuggets.

The second card that was unearthed was actually one that I searched for myself in the dupes box, searched for in a panic.

While the dupes box reorganization was going on, I was also updating all of my Dodgers binders (I don't know why I do all this at once when I have no time). The Dodgers binders update is still going on and likely will through the new year.

While updating, I reached the 1989 Topps portion of my Dodgers, a well-tread portion of my collection. Cards I've owned for decades, sometimes 20 of the exact same card. I came to the page containing the "H"s for the Dodgers and saw the Danny Heep card.

Except it looked like this:

But there was no Danny Heep card without the ridiculous "Rediscover Topps" stamp on it. I started to freak out.

I looked behind the surrounding cards on the page -- sometimes I slip a card behind another card by accident. But no luck.

OMG! OMG! OMG!!!!!

There better be a Danny Heep card in the dupes box!!!

I started to think of all the terrible things that could happen if I didn't find a Heep in the dupes: actually purchasing a 1989 Danny Heep card online, placing a 1989 Danny Heep card on my Nebulous 9 list, actively begging for a 1989 Danny Heep card! The shame. The ridicule. The removal of my 1980s Master Collector badge. So many thoughts. None of them good.

I somehow managed to hold off in looking for the card until I reached the 1989 segment of my reorganization. When I finally arrived there, I found it:

One 1989 Danny Heep card in the dupes box. One. Not 12. Not seven. One.  I do not remember there being a run on Danny Heep cards, but apparently there was.

Of course, I do have other versions of the '89 Topps Danny Heep card. There is one in my completed 1989 Topps set binder. There is another one in another completed set of '89 Topps in a box.

But you collectors understand that neither of those would do. The Heep had to come from the box of extras. And it couldn't feature A BLASTED STAMP.

We're all good now.

The reorganization is done and some cards were unearthed (I also found a few cards I could reassign, potentially trade and/or sell). I've returned the spare room to its original pristine state and the dupes box and all of its satellite boxes are back under the card desk where they belong. Another reorganization is scheduled for next September.

I hope it isn't quite as panic-inducing as this time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Something I can control

I am a big believer in the saying, "if you want something done right, do it yourself."

To some, that is the mark of a control freak, someone who can't delegate, not a team player.

I am probably guilty of some of that although I don't think I make it too obvious. I don't like that I'm such a big believer in that saying. It's just that it keeps proving itself true over and over.

The last couple of days I've been consumed by a work project. It's a lot of effort, requires quite a bit of input from a variety of people, and there are many elements to it, with lots of scheduling involved. The people under my direction have it down like clockwork. They write quality stories, meet deadlines, provide the right photos. It's the people who are not under my control who repeatedly dropped the ball the last two days.

I can't help but notice that.

That probably means I'm not noticing when people out of my control do their jobs, but seriously, do they have to screw up so massively when  I AM noticing?

Anyway, it's been a very long month (I likely will set a record for the fewest amount of posts in a single month on this blog), but I believe -- I think -- it's just about over.

It is my hope that once November disappears, I can finally get to something I can control: my card collection.

My collection is looking very nice, as always. It's done right. And the reason for that is: I'm doing it myself.

But I do have contributors.

For example, I received an envelope recently from Sports Card Collectors, not long after an out-of-the-blue tweet letting me know cards were on their way.


It was a tasty handful of cards, most of which I needed.

Each of these are appreciated for their own reasons, the Valenzuela because I should have that card by now, the Puig because I'm determined to get the million different Puig cards Panini has issued, the Montas because the purple border reminds me of the color of black raspberry ice cream, and the gold Kendrick because a gold shard has just struck Howie in the head!!! (This design is so weird, but I have no control over that).

Matt did his job. He sent cards to me that I needed for my collection.

I also received a couple of one-card envelopes recently.

This arrived from Waiting 'Til Next Year Tom. It's the only Dodger he pulled from his recent blaster of Topps Gallery. Toles shouldn't have made an appearance in a set that has so few cards, but I have no control over that.

But I wasn't expecting this card from Tom. It simply showed up. He was doing his job as a thoughtful collector.

Finally, a single card from Judson at My Cardboard Habit. This is something that I had a little control over. I saw this card and I asked for it.

Yet, Judson did not screw it up. He said it was mine, sent it off promptly and now I have one of the few Jackie Robinson images that hasn't been beaten to death on cardboard in my collection. He did his job.

So that's a few examples of someone out of my control doing something right.

We need more of these people.

Maybe everyone in the world should have their own card collection.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Internet good, internet bad

Before you get nervous, I consider the internet a lot more good than bad (I'm fully behind net neutrality, by the way).

There is so much good that has come from the internet from my perspective, both in my personal and professional life. Yet, there is so much disgusting, awful, shrill, what kind of cretins am I sharing the earth with, badness about it, too.

I encountered all of this in a matter of days recently, as it pertains to baseball cards.

The other day, I was wandering the blogs when I came across a card that never was of Gerald Hannahs from the creator of When Topps Had (Base) Balls. I naturally paused on the card because, one, it showed Hannahs as a Dodger, and two, almost nobody knows who Gerald Hannahs is or that he was a Dodgers prospect.

The people who do know his baseball days are people from my generation who grew up with the Dodgers. Sometimes they make card creations of Hannahs himself that later show up on CBS (more on that later).

That's because Hannahs was one of those prospects that appeared in the back of Dodger yearbooks in the late '70s/early '80s, meaning I had a great deal of hope for Hannahs.

Look, there he is grouped with Pedro Guerrero and Mike Scioscia, for crying out loud.

There he is again at the very top of the page (so you know he was going to be good). The write-up mentions Hannahs' most famous moment with the Dodgers, when he struck out Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion and George Foster on just 11 pitches during a September game in 1979.

Hannahs was part of that group of Dodgers prospects that I hold dear to this day. People like Guerrero and Scioscia, Jack Perconte and Bobby Mitchell, Kelly Snider and Myron White. Besides, check out that glorious white man's afro that Hannahs wore back in the day.

Hannahs never received his own major league baseball card, so that's why I stopped fast on Gio's blog post of the pseudo '79 card. And then I read the text.

"1979 wouldn't fare much better for the lefty from Binghamton, N.Y. ..."


I'M from Binghamton, N.Y.!

There are so very few major leaguers from Binghamton and the surrounding "Twin Tiers" area, yet I had no idea that one of the natives was a former Dodger.

So I did a little research. Aside from the dudes who played one season back in 1909 or earlier, here are the major leaguers from the Triple Cities area where I grew up:

Mike Coolbaugh, 2001-02
Binghamton, N.Y.
Infield, Brewers, Cardinals

Scott Coolbaugh, 1989-94
Binghamton, N.Y.
Third base, Rangers, Padres, Cardinals

Doc Farrell, 1925-35
Johnson City, N.Y.
Utility infielder, Giants, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Red Sox

Rob Gardner, 1965-73
Binghamton, N.Y.
Pitcher, Mets, Cubs, Indians, Yankees, A's, Brewers

Bill Hallahan, 1925-38
Binghamton, N.Y.
Pitcher, Cardinals, Reds, Phillies
3-time WS champ, led league in wins in 1931

Gerry Hannahs, 1976-79
Binghamton, N.Y.
Pitcher, Expos, Dodgers

Jim Johnson, 2006-active
Johnson City, N.Y.
Pitcher, Orioles, A's, Tigers, Braves, Dodgers

Johnny Logan, 1951-63
Endicott, N.Y.
Shortstop, Braves, Pirates

Pete O'Brien, 1901-07
Binghamton, N.Y.
Infielder, Reds, Browns, Indians, Senators

Mel Queen, 1964-72
Johnson City, N.Y.
Pitcher, Reds, Angels

John Pawlowski, 1987-88
Johnson City, N.Y.
Pitcher, White Sox

There are other former players, like Mickey Scott, who weren't born in the area but grew up there and became associated with the Binghamton area, but still, there aren't a lot of them.

I had forgotten that Jim Johnson had pitched for the Dodgers (I'm sure it was a subconscious wish given his pitching for the team). So Johnson and Hannahs are the only natives from my area to have played for the Dodgers.

All of this information was gained from the internet and that's why the internet is good. So much knowledge obtained in such a short period of time.

I was so pleased to know that Hannahs was from the Binghamton area that I went right out and got one of the only cards of him that I know that exists, from one of my favorite sets, the 1980 TCMA Albuquerque Dukes set. That's the card you saw at the top of the post.

This is another good part of the internet. I can order up cards like that in an instant.

Not long after I received that Hannahs card, another Hannahs card arrived at my door. You'll see that in a later post, but that is yet another good part of the internet, people sending me cards through the connections I have made online.

So what else good did the internet offer? In my research on Hannahs, I had learned that he started with the Expos and was the first Expos pitcher to pitch a win in Olympic Stadium. What else was there about him? I needed to know.

It didn't take me long to turn up what's bad about the internet.

Hannahs is now known as the father of Dusty Hannahs, who starred in basketball for the University of Arkansas and was the topic of discussion during the NCAA Tournament last March. That was when the homemade card of Gerry Hannahs showed up on the TV screen from CBS.

CBS was discussing Dusty's dad and the family's athletic genes. It was then that Dusty relayed a story to a reporter about how a couple of times when he was growing up, when Gerry felt like Dusty hadn't performed well in a basketball game, that dad would lock Dusty out of the house, leaving only a basketball for additional practice outside.

Dusty wasn't bitter in telling the story. It was an interesting bit of color. But a slew of internet parents pounced immediately, screaming "CHILD ABUSE!" The outrage was in full effect, which is why when I did a search for Gerry Hannahs, one of the first things that the internet gave me was: "Did Dusty Hannah's dad commit child abuse ..."

For heaven's sake, internet.

Gerry Hannah's parenting style in this particular instance may not have been mine, but I would never judge anyone over a single, relayed, out-of-context story, let alone spew my opinions all over the interwebs. What right do I have to say anything about that?

And that is why I hate the internet. So much judgment. So much judgment of people who those doing the judging don't even know.

It's tasteless. It's ugly. It doesn't make anyone look good, most of all the person doing the judging. And I see it on the internet every day.

If the FCC in all of its wisdom could erase all of the online judging while it attacks net neutrality then that might be one good thing in this very bad move.

But even with all of the garbage I have to see, I still consider the internet more good than bad and why net neutrality must remain.

I have my Gerry Hannahs card and I have the internet to thank for it.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Care package

Since the Dodgers lost the World Series, I've received a handful of "pity packages" from thoughtful individuals.

OK, I guess "care packages" sounds better. That's why they're called "care packages." Nobody wants your pity.

But cards? Yeah, I'll take the cards.

Recently I received one of my favorite kinds of card packages. Not only was it sent to help me get over "the Dodger blues," but also as thanks for writing the blog. This always warms my feathers, because even though I must write regardless of whether anyone's reading, it's still nice to know it's not just me yammering into the electric void.

Jeff from Ohio sent a whole mess of Dodgers, many of which I had already because you have to stay up pretty late in the evening to sneak a Dodger card past me. But the best part of packages like this is the cards I unearth amid the 2008 Upper Deck and 1989 Score that slide right into my collection and make me so happy.

Like 1990 Leaf. What a pain in the behind this set is. I think out of all the regular early '90s sets, the only one that's more reluctant to show up at my doorstep is 1992 Bowman. The above two cards were both team set needs. I must make it my mission to clobber both '90 Leaf and '92 Bowman soon.

Needs from the late '90s. Just throw a bunch of late '90s Dodgers at me. Something will stick. I'll look at the weird card weirdly and nod, "Yup, need that one."


Finally. This card is mine.

A precious Sportflics from that tricky 1988-90 period. I still don't know why these don't show up as often as Sportflics from other years.

An always welcome addition from the Upper Deck Fortyman sets. These go with 1990 Leaf and 1992 Bowman on my One Day I Will Wipe Out Your Team Set In One Fell Swoop list. Such elusive little buggers.

Ooo, special credit to Jeff for this one. We could call this a 2017 World Series special. Daryle Ward may have been one of the worst Dodgers in history, but I'm glad to have this card because I never would have tracked this down myself.

I honestly don't know who collects these. No licenses, the players look like they work at the sewage processing center, the shiny stuff picks up dirt and fingerprints, plus, who are these guys? (Jeff Brigham has never gotten out of Class A and is pitching in the Marlins organization).

Jeff also sent some 1973 Topps high numbers for my set pursuit. I've already crossed the Angel Mangual off my want list. The other guys are in kind of rough shape. I'll hold on to them until an upgrade comes along.

There were a couple of unexpected non-card items to accompany the rest of the care package.

I love old-school All-Star ballots. I still remember seeing the display as I walked into CVS during the 1980s. This is the second one I own, and it's way before I started watching the All-Star Game. It's interesting to see who was on the ballot back then. Joe Azcue, Ted Uhlaender, Coco Laboy.

I'd advise you writing in Alex Johnson's name. He's going to win the batting title in a couple of months.

How about this? Remember these?

I was long past Cracker Jack age when this was offered back in 1991. The tiny Topps minis could be pulled out of boxes of Cracker Jack and promptly disappeared down sidewalk cracks and heater vents.

Then the Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Card Collectors Album came to the rescue!!

If I was 10 in 1991, I'd be all over this.

But I love it now, too, because finally there's a place to store all of my teeny tiny cards from 1991 and 1992.

There is the first of six pages in the album. (Jeff added those three cards, although I believe all of them are already tucked away in a box somewhere where they can't escape behind the dryer).

I can't wait to fill this up. But my hope is I will never need all six pages. That's way too many microscopic cards.

This package certainly did cheer me up. The sting of the World Series hasn't disappeared but I'm coping better now.

However, I feel a bit of Dodger blue sadness creeping in ... better send some more packages!!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 29-21

Greetings, food-preppers and TV vegetators. It's the day before Thanksgiving and I've got a post that hopefully will last you the whole holiday.

Perhaps you've seen that map of the United States separated into regions according to the side dish that is most prominent on the Thanksgiving table. The Northeast was declared squash country. I've lived my whole life in the Northeast and have never had squash at Thanksgiving.

In fact, the whole map was filled with stuff I never eat at Thanksgiving -- macaroni and cheese, cornbread, salad. Here is a proper Thanksgiving table according to me:

STUFFING (in capital letters as it deserves to be)
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes (I like the melted marshmallows on top)
Cranberry sauce
Green bean casserole (this comes from my wife's side of the family, it's OK)
Rolls of some sort
Pies (any kind will do, but pumpkin must be an option)

Most of these food traditions are rooted in the '70s when I was a kid. I like these foods. They make sense to me. As long as you're not using Stove Top stuffing (or good lord, putting raisins in it) and scrimping on the cinnamon in your pumpkin pie, then it's difficult to screw up.

Speaking of the '70s, it's time to turn my attention to the cards I collected then. I'm afraid this edition of the Greatest 100 Cards of the 1970s is only nine cards long because I goofed the last time and gave you an 11-card segment instead of 10 (I repeated the No. 32, perhaps some of you eagle-eyes caught that before I changed it).

But these are nine really good cards, so I think that makes up for it.

So, ready? Switch on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special (it debuted in the '70s, of course), plop that paper pilgrim hat on your head, and give your mom a hand in the kitchen, please!

It's the greatest cards from the '70s, numbers 29-21:


Pete Rose, 1976 Topps, #240

There were few major league players more well-known to the general public in 1976 than Pete Rose. And, Rose, well, Rose was in your face.

In '76, Rose made his first on-air appearance for Aqua Velva aftershave, actually singing -- a ballplayer singing -- on television. Rose was everywhere. In the newspaper, on magazine covers, on your TV. He was an all-star, a World Series champion, that guy who runs to first base after every walk.

He was in your face.

The '76 Topps card of Rose is most appropriate. We could not possibly get any closer to Rose than we are with this card. There is Charlie Hustle, that pugnacious stare, the sideburns that won't quit, his own name brandished on his drop-down sunglasses, up close and personal.

I got tired very quickly of Rose being in my face. But I never tire of this card.


Jose Laboy, 1970 Topps, #238

I've mentioned earlier on this blog that there are several "bat-selecting" photos in 1970 Topps. They're all great. There's even another one on this countdown in Tony Taylor back at No. 94.

So what makes this bat-selecting card better than all the other bat-selecting cards in the '70 set?

It's quite obvious:

1. Expos uniform
2. rookie trophy
3. red shopping cart

I could add chain-link fence, freezing Expos coach sitting in the background, the fact Jose was more well-known as "Coco," the list goes on.

I fell in love with this card the minute I saw it. It's a well-established Cardboard Appreciation subject and deserves all of the praise that it gets. When I get down on the 1970 Topps set -- and I have plenty of times over the years -- I need to remember this card.


Joe Hoerner, 1976 SSPC, #456

Joe Hoerner died in a farm accident when he became pinned between a tractor and a tree. He was once involved in a boating accident that killed two people and injured others. The last pitch he threw in the majors hit a batter and the last thing he did on the field in a major league game was punch a player in the face. He survived numerous blackout scares on the mound, the result of heart problems that may have come from a debilitating car accident when he was a teenager.

Hoerner endured quite a bit in his life. So let him wear a sunhat if he wants.

Hoerner was also a well-known prankster, which is probably why we see him wearing a woman's hat. It is the most charming card in the entire 1976 SSPC set, which is known for its charm. Perhaps the best part of the image is how pensive Hoerner appears to be as he wears that very silly hat.


Bobby Bonds, 1976 Topps, #380

You may think this is ridiculous, but certain baseball cards come with their own sound. They are few and far between but this is one of them.

As a kid, I would look at Bonds' muscular arms and hear Bonds' bat shattering the card wall between me and him. I didn't need 3-D or holograms or whatever gadget card companies came up with to sell kids on cards 20, 30 years later. I had already seen a card that featured its own sound effect.

Bonds was a Yankee, he had just completed his first season with the Yankees. Because this was a Yankee card, I could only stare at it from afar. I didn't get to own many Yankees cards because I was surround by their fans and they always demanded them from me. I didn't much care, but I sure wanted this particular card.

I don't think I ever owned it until I was completing the 1976 set several years ago. When I did obtain it, I could hear that noise all over again.

It's a mighty card. One of the mightiest of the '70s.


Hank Aaron, 1974 Topps, #1

No doubt, this is a great piece of cardboard.

But I am obsessed with it for two reasons.

First, I feel that Aaron was robbed of a card that looks like all the other cards in the 1974 set. Sure, I know, he was on the cusp of the greatest achievement that baseball had ever known at that point in time, but wouldn't you want a regular card of Aaron, too, to mark his place in time with all of the other Aaron cards?

Second, I am perpetually amazed at the assumptions made with this card.

Sure, Aaron was just two home runs away from setting the career home run record at the end of the 1973 season. If he played in 1974, and his contract said he would, then he'd break the record.

But he was still two home runs away when the 1974 cards were starting to be created. And Topps had already declared him the new all-time home run king! On the first card in the set! What if Aaron -- perish the thought -- got hit by a bus in the offseason? He was getting death threats by the end of the '73 season! That had to be common knowledge, right? It seems like a risk taken that was totally out of character with what Topps had done prior.

The back makes the assumption, too. "Hank becomes baseball's all-time homer king in 1974." Not "will become," not "likely will be," but "becomes."

Fortunately, it did happen. And that's why this card is tremendous and worthy of the countdown. But there had to be some Topps people sweating bullets when cards were being made between the 1973 and 1974 seasons.


Fred Lynn, 1975 Topps, #50

Fred Lynn is the first rookie sensation that I ever knew.

Lynn won the Rookie of the Year Award and the AL MVP award in 1975. No one had ever done that before. As a kid in a Red Sox family (dad and brother Red Sox fans), that was some powerful stuff. Fred Lynn's image on a three-foot poster soon appeared next to my brother's bed.

Lynn's first solo card was highly coveted. The fact that it was an action card made it much more amazing than the card of the other half of "the Gold Dust Twins," Jim Rice. (Still a fine card, by the way).

Star Wars wouldn't become public knowledge until trailers of the movie appeared in the fall of 1976, but Lynn's bat appeared to be a light saber in his hands. A light saber or a scythe. Clearly, Lynn was doing damage with that thing (although he likely has just fouled a ball into the dugout).

I also liked the red theme that travels through the entire card, from the border, to the then-new-style Red Sox uniform, to the card base.

This was the beginning of an appreciation for the Red Sox that continued until they won it all in 2004 (the interest is somewhat diminished since, but they'll always be "good guys" to me).


Billy Martin, 1972 Topps, #33

I wasn't collecting cards in 1972. Too young. But if I was, I'll bet I would have missed Billy Martin's middle-finger address to the photographer.

I don't know if Martin was intending for kids to miss the gesture. I don't know if he thought this photo would end up being cut. I do know that Martin probably didn't think of any of that or even think his gesture meant anything other than signaling a temporary annoyance with something -- who knows what -- from the perpetually bothered Billy Martin.

But it's interesting to come up with scenarios of what potentially happened. Was the photographer being too intrusive? Had Martin admonished him repeatedly? Was it one of those deals where Martin suddenly noticed he was the target of a picture, thought, "oh, fuck that" and instantly stuck out his middle digit?

There are those who believe Martin is merely resting his finger on the bat. No big deal.

Having grown up with Martin in the news, I don't believe that for a second.


Roberto Clemente, 1972 Topps, #309

It's a little bit sad that some of Roberto Clemente's greatest cards are some of his last cards. At the pace he was going at, imagine the later cards! That 1975 Topps Clemente would have been a doozy!

I like this '72 Clemente a lot, it's probably my favorite Clemente card. The casual ball toss almost always makes for a great card, but it's particularly interesting here as Clemente was perceived as a serious individual. The photo contrasts with the perception.

It adds to the fun of what it is a very fun set, 1972 Topps.


Oscar Gamble, 1975 Topps, #213

If someone were to come up to me and ask me, "what were the 1970s all about?", I would hand them Oscar Gamble's 1975 Topps card and proclaim "THIS!"

If they asked me to clarify further, I'd just keep repeating "THIS!"

Is it the Mickey Mouse ears afro? "THIS!" Is it the sideburns and mustache? "THIS!" Is it the neon pink and yellow border? "THIS!"

This card is so of the '70s that it could not appear in any other decade. It would be laughed at in any other decade. Oscar Gamble would be laughed at in any other decade (he toned down his act as the '80s progressed).

Oscar Gamble and 1975 Topps came along at the exact right time to make one of the most wonderful cards that I have ever seen. I pulled this card during the very first year I collected as a 9-year-old during the summer of 1975.

It looked 100 percent normal to me.

That concludes the latest edition of the countdown. Just 20 more cards to go!

I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving, no matter what they eat or how they celebrate. Even you people eating salad.