Thursday, June 30, 2011

Player Profile: Willie Aikens

I have eleven cards of Willie Aikens. This one is from 1981 Donruss.

Playing career: Willie Aikens was a first baseman for the Angels, Royals and Blue Jays from 1977 to 1985, topping 20 home runs three times and leading the American League in intentional walks in 1981. He hit four home runs in the Royals’ 1980 World Series loss to the Phillies.

Where he is now: He was hired to be a Royals minor league coach in 2011. He had barely started the job when his wife suffered a stroke, and he went on leave to care for her. The last article mentioning her condition was in March. In June, Willie Aikens was part of a group of Royals representatives that was assisting residents of Joplin,MO in the aftermath of the tornado.

Interesting stories: In 1983 Aikens was one of three Royals arrested for purchasing cocaine. Originally suspended for the entire 1984 season, Aikens and teammates Vida Blue and Jerry Martin were eventually reinstated in May of that year. Aikens returned to cocaine after his playing career, and was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover police officer and using a gun in a drug transaction. He served fourteen years in prison and was released in 2008.

My memories: I remember reading about him but his playing career was a little before my time.

Google Autocomplete results: He is first when you type in Willie Ai, ahead of Willie Aames, a former child TV star. Another prominent Willie Aikens is a former Boeing executive who served on President Clinton’s Commission on Chinese Relations.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Danny Ainge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gotta love rich people

This weekend I answered an ad on Craigslist from a guy who was giving away baseball cards. I usually get in too late on those but this time the cards were still available. The guy said he had three boxes of baseball cards he was giving away, and that I could pick them up from the doorman at his apartment on the Upper East Side. For those of you not familiar with NYC, the Upper East Side is, according to Wikipedia, "the most affluent area of New York City."

I went there after work (say what you want about the subway, it's still a fantastic way to connect such disparate parts of such a large city at $2 a pop) and walked the three blocks to his apartment with my bookbag and a couple of large plastic bags, expecting three shoeboxes with stuff like 1990 Topps commons in it.

I went inside and told the doorman who I was and he took me into a side hallway, where I was confronted with three HUGE boxes - much too big to take on the subway. (The doorman said he was expecting someone with a handtruck.) What I decided to do was open up the boxes and see what was inside, and pick out what I wanted, as much as I could carry on my person. I'm really glad I went on a complete-set buying binge recently because I was able to quickly dismiss, say, a box of mid-80s Topps or early 90s Donruss because I knew I had all the cards. There were plenty of complete sets like 1989 Fleer that I was able to pass on because I knew I had them. There was a 1988 Score box, and I knew I only needed three cards and knew which ones there were, so I picked those out and left the rest (fortunately the set was collated). I left behind all the basketball, football, and soccer cards. There were various books, newspaper clippings, and Becketts that looked cool but I had to leave behind. I left behind a book with Transformers cards that instantly transported me back to when I collected them when I was a kid. I left behind a complete 1993 Ted Williams set, a complete Conlon Babe Ruth set, and I don't even remember what else. There were even marbles with baseball players faces on them - naturally I dropped them and they rolled all over the place, but I think I corralled them all and put them back in the boxes. I walked away with less than half of what was in that hallway.

The pictures don't even do justice to the scale of what I was able to walk away with. I stuffed my bookbag with plastic pages and also a baseball autographed by Phil Plantier (I took it out of it's case because space was at a premium). I then took apart several smaller boxes and filled them up with what I wanted, and put them and the rest of the pages (there were about ten stuffed binders that I pulled the sheets from - there was no way I could take the binders) into my two plastic bags. Before I even got out the door one of the bags was ripping and I was able to get a heavy garbage bag from the custodian. I told the doorman and the custodian to take the rest for their kids or something but they probably just threw them out.

I then had to walk three blocks down 86th Street on one of the most humid days of the year, trying to carry somewhere between 10-20,000 cards in three bags in my arms and back, holding the giant garbage bag up off the ground so it wouldn't scrape open on the sidewalk. I'm in pretty decent shape but I had to take breaks a dozen times a block. I then took two subways - I was "that guy" everyone was tripping over on the escalator and in the subway car. Then there was the railroad, which fortunately wasn't crowded. Thankfully, my wife was able to pick me up at the train station - I was exhausted when I got home.

This is, if not the largest, then one of the largest single acquisitions of cards I have ever gotten. And it was FREE! Gotta love rich people. (Word of advice to anyone just starting out and needing to furnish an apartment or house - drive around the richest neighborhood around on garbage night, especially in the spring. You'll get a lot of nice tables, dressers, etc that regular people would never throw out, but are easily disposable to the wealthy.)

I haven't even gotten to what was in those bags I brought home. This is about two thirds of the plastic pages. There are more in the big garbage bag.

In those pages are what appears to be (haven't had much of a chance to go through it yet):
- A near complete 1992 Fleer set
- Every update set from 1989 - Topps Traded, Score Traded, Donruss Rookies, Donruss Traded, one or two other I forget. All apparently complete.
- What appear to be complete sets of many of the Topps Glossy All Star sets from the early and mid-eighties
- 1986 Donruss Highlights, the Kmart set from the early 80s that looks like a Topps send-away glossy set but had old-timers, several other similar sets, all apparently complete
- Many, many star cards from the late eighties and early nineties. That blue book in the middle is about half Ken Griffey Jr. cards.
- The Classic major league cards from the early nineties - looks like several different complete sets (red set, yellow set, purple set, etc.)
- A bunch of different Score Young Superstar sets

Among the boxes are:
- A complete 1994 Collectors Choice set
- A lot more 1992 Fleer cards
- A lot of 1992 and 1993 Ultra cards - possibly a complete series 2 for both sets
- A bunch more loose cards from the late eighties and early nineties, and not all junk wax. A big chunk of 1990 Leaf, for example
- Very large cards from 1986 Topps and 1987 Donruss
- Very tiny cards from 1991 Topps and 1992 Donruss
- Mini though not tiny cards like 1987 Topps League Leaders and 1990 Topps Sticker Back Super Stars
- Complete sets of 1990 Topps Debut, 1986 Sportflics rookies, a few different Toys R Us sets, various cards from other oddball sets (Cap'n Crunch, Coca-Cola Tigers, etc)
- A box with some 1991-1993 Upper Deck
- Dozens of cards in hard plastic cases, about half of them Ken Griffey Jr. cards that are either rookies or inserts (though sadly not the UD rookie, I do now have the 89 Score, Bowman and Topps Traded rookies). There were three 1989 Donruss Griffeys if anyone wants for a trade.

To recap for trade purposes, let me know if you have interest in the following:
- 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey
- Cards from just about any traded or oddball set from the mid-80s to early 90s (looks like a few are early 80s)
- Star baseball players from the late 80s early 90s, including rookies
- Star basketball players from the same era - no Jordans or O'Neals but there were some Magic Johnsons, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, etc. I don't collect basketball so that's all up for trade. Theres a card commemorating Larry Bird and Magic Johnson's retirement in there.
- If anyone likes soccer cards, there were some very nice foil hologram cards, I think from UD, that showed the player against a hologram map of their country.
- Any needs from 1992 Fleer.
- Any needs from early 1990s Fleer Ultra.
- Any needs from 1991-1993 Upper Deck.
- Anything else you can think of

There's a lot here that I would love to trade. This is a lot to get through though, so trades may take a while to set up!

All in all this was about eight large boxes of cards, a few smaller boxes, and several hundred plastic pages, heck even an autographed baseball. And it was all FREE!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thanks Thorzul!

Thanks, Thorzul, for sending me these cool Yankee cards. And thanks Thorzul and all you other teachers out there who do such a great job with our children, often under very difficult circumstances, despite the best efforts of administrators and politicians to undermine you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I am the newest member of the Hall of Very Good!

I am proud to be the newest member of the Hall of Very Good. In case you don't know it, the HOVG is a baseball blog that provides humorous commentary on baseball news. The proprietor of the site kindly invited me to do a baseball card segment on the blog, and as a result you will now see on Mondays at the HOVG a new feature, "This Week in Baseball Cards," in which I take some of the stories covered there during the week and give them a baseball card twist. In this weeks feature, see how I link Sam Fuld to 1992 Studio, Jennie Finch to 1990 Topps, and see how this card proves Jack McKeon isn't all that old after all.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Player Profile: Pat Ahearne

I have one card of Pat Ahearne, from 1995 Topps Traded.

Playing career: Pat Ahearne has been pitching professionally since 1992. He made the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1995.

Where he is now: A player/coach for Draci Brno, the leading Czech baseball team. At the end of May he was 3-1 with a 0.36 ERA.

My memories: Was not aware of him outside of baseball cards.

Interesting stories: In 2009 he shared with me some great stories about baseball cards. He is also a baseball instructor and a photographer, and has his own blog, The Way of Baseball.

Google Autocomplete results: He is third when you type Pat Ah, between Pat Ahumada, the former mayor of Brownsville, TX, and Pat Ahern Chicago, referring to the CEO of Rainbow Hospice & Palliative Care. There do not appear to be any other prominent Pat Ahearnes.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Willie Aikens.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Player Profile: Rick Aguilera

I have 49 cards of Rick Aguilera. This one is from 1992 Fleer.

Playing career: Rick Aguilera came up with the Mets in 1985 and was used varyingly as a starter and reliever. He would have been the goat of the 1986 World Series for the Mets, giving up two runs in the top of the tenth inning, until he was bailed out by Bob Stanley and Bill Buckner. He was traded to the Twins in 1989 and blossomed into a premier closer, and pitched much better in the 1991 World Series as he won a second World Series ring. He also pitched briefly for the Red Sox and Cubs. A three-time All Star, he saved 318 games, 254 of them with Minnesota.

My memories: As a Yankee fan I was glad to see a Met get traded and then do well. I also remember the Red Sox renting him for the 1995 stretch run and then he went right back to Minnesota.

Where he is now: He does some real estate investing and some baseball coaching. In June he returned to New York with several other former Mets to help City Harvest pack potatoes to fight hunger. Click here for a picture of Aguilera today, his trademark beard now gray.

Interesting stories: He does speaking engagements through Premier Athlete & Celebrity, charging $15,000 an appearance. His bio on the Premier site states that he “never got into trouble on or off the field.” In 1986, Aguilera was one of four Mets arrested in a bar fight in Houston. The charges against Aguilera were later dropped.

Google Autocomplete Results: He is first when you type Rick Ag, in front of Rick Agolli, owner of York HVAC Systems. Another prominent Rick Aguilera is a VP, Application Development at JP Morgan Chase.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Pat Ahearne.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Does anyone have any of these cards from 1992 Score?

Well, it's happened again - I bought a box of cards on the cheap and some cards were missing. This time the culprit is 1992 Score. Although this wasn't a sealed box, I don't think it was the case that cards that the seller took out, because in the same area that cards were missing (the 700s) there were several cards that were duplicated, so I think it was another factory set error. Do any of you have any of these cards to trade?

725 Mel Rojas

727 Roger Mason

728 Kirk Dressendorfer

731 Allan Anderson

732 Dana Kiecker

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Player Profile: Chris Aguila

I have one card of Chris Aguila, from 2006 Upper Deck.

Playing career: Outfielder Chris Aguila had brief stints with the Marlins from 2004 to 2006, and with the Mets in 2008.

My memories: Never heard of him until I got his baseball card from 2006 Upper Deck. Looking two quickly at the card, I actually thought his name was Aquila for a while.

Where he is now: Back in the Marlins organization. At AAA New Orleans, he is hitting .282 with 9 HR and 40 RBI. He last played June 20 against Oklahoma City, going 0-4 with 4 strikeouts. (Perhaps that's why he hasn't played since...)

Interesting facts: Second Samoan to play Major League Baseball, after Tony Solaita.

Google Autocomplete results: He is third when you type in Chris Ag, between musician Chris August and actor Chris Aguilar. Another prominent Chris Aguila is the owner of Felicity Intertrade.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Rick Aguilera.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Player Profile: Luis Aguayo

I have 21 cards of Luis Aguayo. This one is from 1989 Donruss.

Playing career: Luis Aguayo played eight seasons as a backup infielder for the Phillies, never appearing in more than 94 games or having more than 209 at bats in a season. He finished his career with brief appearances with the Yankees and Indians.

My memories: I remember him coming over to the Yankees, but like most mid-season acquisitions in the late eighties, he made little positive impact.

Where he is now: Manager of the Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League. In his seven previous seasons as a minor league manager his teams have never finished above fifth place.

Google Autocomplete results: He is fourth when you type in Luis Ag, between photographer Luis Aguirre and Luis Aguilar Biografia, referring to a biography of the Mexican actor. Another prominent Luis Aguayo is a neurophysiology professor in Chile.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Chris Aguila.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Player Profile: Juan Agosto

I have 31 cards of Juan Agosto. This one is from 1990 Upper Deck.

Playing career: Juan Agosto was a relief pitcher from 1981 to 1993 with the White Sox, Twins, Astros, Cardinals and Mariners. Led the National League in games pitched in 1990. How bad was he? In every stop but Houston he was known to his team’s fans as Juan Disgusto. His career 4.01 ERA would have been a lot higher except for three years of sub-3 ERAs in Houston, who played in the most pitcher-friendly park in the National League, the Astrodome. Even his post-season stats are deceiving – he has a 0.00 playoff ERA, but the only postseason batter he faced actually hit a sacrifice fly.

My memories: His card was a frequent pull in the junk wax era, but I don’t have any specific playing memories of him.

Where he is now: Director of Royal Palm Ranch in Sarasota.

Interesting stories: Here is a very detailed description of his home in Sarasota as of 1994, when his baseball career ended.

Google Autocomplete results: The first two results when you type in Juan Ago are Juan Agosto and Juan Agosto baseball, ahead of Juan Agosto Alicea, Chairman of R&G Financial. Another prominent Juan Agosto is the Art Director at BFW Advertising.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Luis Aguayo.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Player Profile: Benny Agbayani

I have one card of Benny Agbayani, from 2001 Topps.

Playing career: Benny Agbayani played 383 major league games, mostly for the Mets, hitting .274 with 39 HR and 156 RBI. Despite his brief major league tenure, he was a very popular Met, best known for a walk-off home run in the 2000 NLDS. After his major league career ended with brief stops in Colorado and Boston, he went on to reunite with former Mets manager Bobby Valentine in Japan. Agbayani retired after the 2009 season.

My memories: Agbayani made such an impact in New York that I was surprised to see how brief his major league career was. He was a very popular Met, and seemed to get a lot of clutch hits. I guess he didn’t get enough hits overall.

Where he is now: Assistant coach at Hawaii Pacific University. Also established a foundation called MYTH: Motivate Yourself to the Highest and is an educational assistant at Mililani High School.

Interesting facts: Wrote an autobiography called Big League Survivor.

Google Autocomplete results: Benny Agbayani is fourth when you type in Benny A, between Benny and Joon, a 1993 Johnny Depp movie, and Benny and the Jets Chords, referring to the Elton John song often played when Agbayani would bat at Shea Stadium. There do not appear to be any other prominent Benny Agbayanis.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Juan Agosto.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Player Profile: Jeremy Affeldt

I have one card of Jeremy Affeldt, from 2005 Topps.

Playing career: Jeremy Affeldt has been primarily a middle reliever for the Royals, Rockies, Reds and Giants since 2002. He pitched in the 2007 and 2010 World Series, and earned an MVP vote in 2009, remarkable as he won two games, saved none, and struck out less than a batter an inning.

Where he is now: In the Giants bullpen. He has already appeared in 33 games this season and is 1-0 with a save and 3.81 ERA. He last pitched on June 16th, hurling two scoreless innings in a loss to Arizona.

My Memories: I was aware of him as a pitcher for the Royals and Giants. I had no memory of him with the Rockies or Reds, nor that he was good enough to merit MVP consideration.

Interesting stories: Affeldt is very involved with charity work, particularly in the area of human trafficking. He donates $100 to an organization called Not For Sale for every strikeout that he records. He also gives a great deal of time and money to this organization. The website has a section called Free2Play where children and adults can join Affeldt, Matt Holliday and others to make similar sports related donations, like 25 cents for every basket made in youth basketball. He also founded Generation Alive, a Christian which aims to get youths working with others, and the Jeremy Affeldt Foundation, a youth ministry.

Google Autocomplete Results: He is fourth when you type in Jeremy A, between Jeremy Allen White Age (the actor from the show Shameless is 20) and Jeremy Abelson, President of Urban Hostess. There do not appear to be any other prominent Jeremy Affeldts.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Benny Agbayani.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Player profile: Troy Afenir

I have six cards of Troy Afenir. This one is from 1992 Fleer.

Playing career: Troy Afenir played parts of four seasons for Houston, Oakland, and Cincinnati. He was known more for his glove than for his bat.

My memories: I remember the name, an interesting and unusual one, but nothing specific from his brief MLB career.

Where he is now: Bullpen coach for Palomar College and private baseball and softball instructor at Visual Edge Athletic Instruction and Development.

Interesting facts: Brother Tom Afenir and nephew Buck Afenir played minor league ball.

Google Autocomplete Results: He is second in Troy Af, between Troy After the Trojan War (apparently it was destroyed by an earthquake) and Troy ROTC (referring to the officer training corps at Troy University). There do not appear to be any other prominent Troy Afenirs.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Jeremy Affeldt.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Player Profile: Steve Adkins

I have three cards of Steve Adkins. This one is from 1991 Topps Debut.

Playing career: Steve Adkins started five games for the 1990 Yankees. In his major league debut, he started the game and was taken out in the second inning while pitching a no-hitter, because he walked eight batters, including the last five in a row. He also gave up Cecil Fielder’s 50th home run, at a time when hitting 50 home runs in a season meant something.

My memories: This is how much I blanked on that awful 1990 season for the Yankees: I didn’t know Fielder even hit his 50th against the Yankees until after the season, and I didn’t know about Adkins’s wild debut until writing this piece.

Where he is now: For someone who got a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and played major league baseball for the New York Yankees, he sure does keep a low profile. Anyone know where he is now?

Google Autocomplete results: He is first when you Google Steve Adk, ahead of Steve Adkisson, an author who writes about running. When you Google Steve Adkins, before you get the ballplayer you get an international trade attorney in Washington, DC and the wrestler better known as Seth Skyfire.

Coming up next: the next profile will be Troy Afenir.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Player Profile: Nick Adenhart

I have one card of Nick Adenhart, from 2008 Stadium Club.

Playing career: Nick Adenhart made four starts for the Angels before being killed by a drunk driver on April 9, 2009.

My memories: I had not heard of him until his death.

Interesting stories: Perhaps no image better captures baseball’s drinking problem than the Angels celebrating their 2009 division title by pouring beer on Adenhart’s jersey. Since his well-publicized death, major leaguers who have been arrested for drinking and driving include at least Miguel Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Coco Crisp, Austin Kearns, Adam Kennedy, Derek Lowe, and most recently Mark Grace. All received the slightest slap on the wrist from the law, and no consequence from Major League Baseball. And yet they did absolutely nothing different than the man who killed Adenhart, who was sentenced to 50 years in jail, they were just luckier. Our sport and our nation’s collective yawn when it comes to drunk driving is a disgrace.

Google Autocomplete results: He is tenth when you type Nick A, after Nick and Toni’s NYC, a restaurant near Lincoln center. There do not appear to be any other prominent Nick Adenharts.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Steve Adkins.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Player Profile: Jim Adduci

I have four cards of Jim Adduci. This one is from 1989 Topps.

Playing career: Jim Adduci played parts of four seasons for the Cardinals, Brewers and Phillies. His most memorable moment was a diving stop at first base to save a no-hitter for Bob Forsch for the Cardinals in 1983. You can read more about his playing career in his profile on The Greatest 21 Days.

My memories: I remember getting his cards in the 1989 sets but his career was too short to make much of an impression on me.

Where he is now: He has worked for the Bulls Sox Training Academy in Chicago for the past fifteen years, and is currently Director of Regional Baseball Operations.

Interesting stories: The life of a long-time pro baseball player who did not stick in the major leagues can be a very difficult one. Adduci and his family moved 38 times during his ten year career. You can read about those difficulties in an editorial he wrote for the Chicago Tribune during the 1994 baseball strike. In that article, he also mentions how his nine year old son wanted to be a major leagues. Seventeen years later, Jim Adduci Jr. is now close to that dream, currently playing at the AA-level in the Cubs minor league system.

Google Autocomplete Results: He is seventh when you type in Jim Ad, between Jim Adkins Bio, referring to the singer for the band Jimmy Eat World, and Jim Adelizzi, the Vice President, Strategic Planning & Analysis at Prometheus. Another prominent Jim Adduci is an international trade attorney in Washington, DC.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Nick Adenhart.