Sunday, February 28, 2010

Best baseball card deals evar!

I came across an unintentionally funny baseball bard card selling site today called "Curiosities Items". Does the girl with the 1995 Bazooka cards in her shirt catch your attention?

Check out these low, low prices! A 1988 Donruss Bill Ripken for just $45,000! And a 1989 Donruss Cal Ripken for $55,000!

And if you click on the picture, you'll see it's not the standard mint version, but the ultra-rare "run over by a truck" version. What a steal!

Other great deals:
A 1988 Donruss Kirby Puckett (also in poor condition): $3,400
23-card Nolan Ryan Pacific set - $100,000
1992 Donruss Fred McGriff - $650 (get on this, SpastikMooss!)
431 1993 Pacific cards - $650,000
256 1991 Topps cards - $450,000
1993 Upper Deck Ben McDonald - $15,000
1990 Topps Randy Johnson with only a little writing on the back - $75,000

I searched the whole site for the punch line but apparently it's for real.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interview with Jeff Kunkel

Jeff Kunkel played eight years in the major leagues, as a middle infielder for the Rangers from 1984 to 1990 and the Cubs in 1992. He now runs Jeff Kunkel's Baseball Fundamentals in Texas. He kindly answered my questions about his baseball card experiences, including a great story about his teammate, the late Darrell Porter.

- Do you have any stories about cards of yourself or of other players?
As child and young man, my brother and I would collect baseball cards with almost every cent we would make or be allowed to spend. I remember trading, flipping cards, betting stacks of cards with distance throwing, playing leaners, etc....Many rainy days, we would sort and resort the cards to fill the day and better understand which cards we were missing for our set.

A funny story regarding a baseball card occurred during spring training with the Texas Rangers when Darrell Porter was signing one of his cards for a fan. After signing the card and returning it to a young girl, the girl's mother returned to Darrell infuriated and reprimanding him that he has some nerve writing his room number on the card. Darrell was a devoted Christian that would sign his cards with a bible verse below his signature. On that day, Darrell signed with Rom. 8:28. He calmed the mom's anger by explaining what Rom 8:28 means and she left relieved and appreciated him spreading God's word.

- Do you have a favorite card of yourself or of another player?
My favorite Card is the 1991 Score....

My wife likes the 1991 Leaf Studio card....She thinks it shows the fun side of my personality.

My favorite collected cards are some Reggie Jackson rookie cards & Nolan Ryan rookies.

- Do you collect baseball cards?
I collected cards up to the time the market flooded with many companies.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Donn Pall on baseball cards

Donn Pall pitched for the White Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Cubs and Marlins between 1988 and 1998, going 24-23 with 10 saves and a 3.63 ERA. He is now a Vice President of Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. He kindly shared his thoughts on baseball cards.

"The first couple of years in the major leagues, it was an absolute thrill to see a baseball card of myself. That's when you knew you actually "made it".

I collected cards as a kid growing up. Like everyone else, my mom eventually threw them away. I remember putting certain cards of the "not so good players" in the spokes of my bike to make the motorcycle sound. Some kids were probably doing that with my cards too.

I have no stories though. No real favorite card. I did like the ones from Upper Deck that would print out a paragraph about the player and quotes from people about them."

Thanks! He seems to be referring to the Circa sets from 1996-1998, like this one of Wade Boggs. (Pall did not appear in those sets.)

Here is my favorite card of Pall, because it's the closest I have to a Yankee card of him.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baseball photo story from Bean Stringfellow

Bean Stringfellow pitched for five years in the Braves and Mets organizations, going 24-18 with a 3.57 ERA. After his retirement he became a successful agent. He is the Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Proformance Sport, which represents over 40 current and former major leaguers, including Francisco Cordero and Billy Wagner. When I wrote to him about his baseball card experiences, he shared this funny story about the 1987 Greenville Braves team photo:

"Only story would be for a team poster of the Greenville Braves in 1987 and I was teammates with Ned Yost. We were friends and when it came time to do the poster Ned and I wanted to stand beside each other but the photographer insisted that we be separated due to height or something. Ned and I decided to protest by giving a scowl during the picture. We did too."

Thanks! I couldn't find this picture online, but here is a card of Stringfellow from his time with the Richmond Braves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This is one way to reduce offense in baseball

Make the players use little wiffle bats.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A bit cruel, Upper Deck

In the 1998 Upper Deck set, there was a subset called "postseason headliners." One of the choices for "postseason headliner" was Tony Fernandez, which is a bit cruel because, while he had a pretty good series with the bat, his big headline was the huge error he made in the eleventh inning of Game 7 to pretty much give the game to Florida.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Enrique Wilson, 1998 Upper Deck

This card has great spring training shots on both sides!

Front: The shades go flying as he prepares to fire the ball to first.

Back: Rocking the rarely seen collared batting-practice t-shirt.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unfair advantage

Is it easier to win when you have three second basemen?

It worked for the Pirates on June 3, 1997, as they beat the Cubs 3-1, as the three-bodied Womack got three hits, one for each body. The Womack trio turned this double play in the fourth inning.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Awful photos from 1981 Fleer

Some of the head shots from 1981 Fleer are really pretty terrible. The cameraman seemed to have trouble getting the players to look at him.

Here's Gene Garber not looking at the camera.

Jim Fregosi not looking at the camera with a goofy grin.

Joe Rudi not looking at the camera with a dazed expression.

Of course, just looking at the camera isn't enough to ensure that your picture doesn't look ridiculous. Is this Rafael Ramirez card the worst baseball card photo ever?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Exhibition Stadium

You don't see a lot of cards with pictures taken in Canadian ballparks. An exception is 1981 Fleer, which has a lot of nice shots of the old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.

I am curious about the large building with the green (oxidized copper?) roof behind Dave Stieb in that last shot. I took a look in Google maps and the best I could come up with is that it could have been a part of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, but I could be completely wrong. Any Canadians familiar with this building?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brian Tollberg on baseball cards

Brian Tollberg pitched four years for the San Diego Padres. His best season was 2001, when he went 10-4 in 19 starts. He now owns the Tampa franchise of Edible Arrangements, which creates fruit bouquets for personal and business gifts. He kindly shared with me his thoughts on baseball cards.

"I always loved collecting cards when I was a kid. I used to get the complete sets and put them in sleeves to show friends, trade, etc. I loved when there were error cards to try and find...good memories.

As far as a favorite of myself, I think it would be one from an Upper Deck collection that I signed 1500 of for random inserts into packs. It was by far the best picture take of me and it sells for the most money when I see it on Ebay.

I collected baseball cards when I was younger and still have the complete Topps sets from 1983-1990, including the traded sets. That's why it was such a thrill when I actually had my own made and to have kids send them to me in the mail to get signed."

Thanks! I couldn't find a picture of the card he was referring to (I believe it is 2000 Upper Deck Pros & Prospects #118), but here is a picture of the one Tollberg card I do have, from 2001 Topps.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kirk Gibson, 1981 Fleer

I thought this was a cool card. It's a rookie card of a cool player, and I like the guy with the big cowboy hat in the stands at Anaheim Stadium. Kirk Gibson played only one day game at Anaheim, a 4-0 Tigers win on May 11, 1980. Gibson was 1-4 with an RBI single as the Tigers centerfielder.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A comic card

This may be the weirdest card in 1992 Pinnacle. Apparently David Cone's idol is Jackie Gleason. He isn't particularly funny as a YES announcer, so he isn't really living up to Gleason's legacy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Follow the bouncing ball

Here's a fun example of a card that makes the players look a little foolish.

Hubie Brooks is looking to left field like he laced a double down the line. The catcher has his glove in the dirt like he is catching a ball in the dirt. They're both wrong - it's a foul ball aimed right at the camera.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The two sides of Jack McDowell

Thanks to 1992 Pinnacle and it's "sidelights" insert set, we get to see the two sides of Jack McDowell.

First there is the fearsome-looking fireballer in the White Sox uniform.

Then there is the much less imposing guitar strummer with bangs and a leopard-print vest.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baseball card stories from Matt Merullo

Matt Merullo caught for six years in the major leagues for the White Sox, Indians and Twins. He is now a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks and kindly shared some baseball card stories with me. Read on for a new angle on the Billy Ripken card, another umpire card, and how baseball cards help him in his scouting job.

"Years ago I met Billy Ripken when he was playing briefly for Cleveland. He told us a story about how he posed with a bat resting on his shoulder. The card was released before anyone realized the knob of the bat had some four letter words on it. The best part was when I signed a player years later as a scout and that player's father happened to be the plant manager for the Fleer company that made the card unknowingly. I went to the house to sign the player and his father proceeded to tell me the whole story of the Ripken card from his angle. His boss was not amused but within weeks they sold more cards than ever! He kept his job.

My favorite card is one where I am tagging out a runner at home and the ump is right behind me pumping his fist calling him out. When the card came out the umpire in the shot (Al Clark) said he loved the card and that it had taken him 20 years in the majors to get a picture so good of himself. I told him we should get the actual photo from the company and he said "great idea". 3 weeks later when I was in Chicago, a framed autographed photo that was identical to the card was waiting for me in my locker. It was signed 'To Matt, it doesn't get any better than this my friend!--Al Clark". I have it hanging in my home.

I am not a collector but I do have quite a few cards around. As a scout I like to use them as references to players I'm comparing."

Thanks! That card shows this game from June 27, 1991, a 5-2 White Sox victory. In the second inning Pete O'Brien was thrown out trying to score from first on a Jay Buhner double as Lance Johnson and Ozzie Guillen executed a perfect relay to Merullo to get O'Brien. In the bottom of the third Merullo would drive in the game's first run with his second hit of the game.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More from Pink Hat Day

I have posted several times about cards from Pink Hat Day, that bizarre Yankee Stadium promotion from June 23, 1991 that Yankee and Twin cards from 1992 show in abundance. Here are two more I got from 1992 Pinnacle.

Gene Larkin went 1-4. My guess based on this swing is that it was his fly-out to left field in the fourth.

Scott Leius went 0-4. This could be from when he struck out swinging in the ninth.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kory DeHaan on baseball cards

Kory DeHaan played seven years of professional baseball, including 102 games for the San Diego Padres in 2000 and 2002. He is now the hitting coach for the Arizona League Padres rookie league team. He kindly replied to my request for his stories about baseball cards.

"I feel honored to be on a card with Mike Darr, an up and coming star that was killed in an auto accident in spring of '01.

I really like the card that has a piece of game used wood on it. I need to find it because I don't even have it yet.
I loved collecting baseball cards when I was in Jr. High and High School. I had a chance to buy an '89 Upper Deck card of either Jerome Walton or Ken Griffey Jr., for $10. I picked Jr and have loved seeing him put together a HOF career."

Thanks! The bat card is 2003 Bowman Future Fiber Bats #KD if any of you readers have it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trade with Tiger Sportscards and Other Ramblings

The blizzard conditions here in New York didn't prevent the mail coming through with a box of several hundred cards from 1981 Fleer and 1992 Pinnacle, from a trade with Don of Tiger Sportscards and Other Ramblings, in exchange for some cards from his wantlist. Only time to post a couple of cards before I go back out to shovel more snow.

1992 Pinnacle is a pretty nice, typical Score set. Here is one of the nicer cards.

1981 Fleer, like all early-80's Fleer sets, is absolutely awesome, with lots of cards with character. The most appropriate is this Ellis Valentine card, with the rain-soaked fans in their slickers behind him. At least it was only rain and not snow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The wrong way to prepare your bat

I love the 1997 Upper Deck set because they tell you the date the picture was taken. Usually they have something good to say about what the player did that day, at least on the back if not the front. This Michael Tucker card says "Prepares his bat for game vs. Angels, 8-11-96."

Usually, if not on the front, at least the back of the card tells you how the player did that day. That is not the case here, so I looked it up on Retrosheet and, sure enough, Tucker was 0-3 in the Royals' 6-5 loss with a pop-out and two ground-outs. He did reach base via walk in the ninth. So I guess whatever preparations he did with the bat that day were a failure.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dan Smith is looking for his baseball cards

You may remember my interview with former Expos pitcher Dan Smith a few weeks ago. He recently contacted me to let me know that he is looking for two copies of each of his baseball cards for his own collection. I don't have any of his cards, but I figure some of you readers might. There are several Dan Smiths who appeared on cards, so I made this list below, and am also giving his baseballcube link in case you are not sure which Smith you have. If you do have any cards you want to send his way, let me know and I will get him in touch with you.

1994 Charleston RiverDogs (two different sets)
1998 Tulsa Drillers Team Issue #11
1998 Tulsa Drillers Texas League Champions #21
1999 Fleer Tradition Update #U71 [pictured above]
1999 Ottawa team set?
2000 Pawtucket PawSox Blueline #25
2000 Pawtucket PawSox Dunkin Donuts #25
2001 Buffalo Bisons Choice #10
2002 Ottawa Lynx Choice #20
2003 Expos Team Issue #35
2003 Upper Deck 40-Man #554
2003 Upper Deck 40-Man Rainbow #554
2004 Topps Total #714
2004 Topps Total Parallel #714 [pictured below]
2004 Topps Total Press Plates Black #714
2004 Topps Total Press Plates Cyan #714
2004 Topps Total Press Plates Magenta #714
2004 Topps Total Press Plates Yellow #714

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Baseball card stories from Brent Mayne

Brent Mayne caught for fifteen years in the major leagues, mostly for the Kansas City Royals. Since his retirement, he has become a successful catching instructor with his own website,, and is author of the popular book The Art of Catching. He kindly shared some great baseball card stories with me.

"I don't have any real favorite cards of myself. Maybe the first one, my rookie Topps or Score cards just because they were my first. I do have a couple cards I don't like though, mostly because I don't like the way I look in them. (I sound like a girl, huh?)

I used to collect cards up until my soph or junior year of high school. Then I just stopped. I think I pawned a good many of them to buy fishing rods or guitars or surfboards. I did have a pretty decent collection of cards going deep into the mid fifties Ted Williams, Mantle, Clemente, etc cards.

My best baseball card story deals with the one below. It's a card of me getting angry at umpire Terry Craft. I can't recall what the disagreement was all about, but I remember Terry coming up to me the next year begging me for a bunch of the cards. He wanted to have them as HIS baseball card! In reality, I guess it's just as much his as it is mine."

Thanks! This game was August 1, 1992 against Oakland (the only day game at KC that year in which Mayne caught and Craft was a base umpire) and it was a wild one - five batters were hit by pitches and two Royals pitchers, Hipolito Pichardo and Steve Shifflett, were ejected. This picture was presumably taken after one of the ejections. KC won despite the ejections, 8-4, in part due to Mayne's two runs scored.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tagg Bozied on baseball cards

Tagg Bozied is a first baseman-outfielder currently in the Phillies organization. In nine minor league seasons, mostly at the Triple-A level, he has hit 128 home runs. He kindly shared his thoughts on baseball cards.

"My favorite card of mine is one that I share with Xavier Nady. He is one of my closest friends and randomly getting to share a card like that is rare and consider myself lucky to have it as a keepsake.

I used to collect cards when I was a kid. The height of my card collecting days was when upper deck first came on the scene. Thinking how long ago that was in my mind and the fact that one of my card memories was of a Ken Griffey Jr upper deck rookie card makes me appreciate a great player like he has been over time. Card collecting for me was something that help my love for baseball grow when I was a kid and now that I an adult helps me reflect on the innocence of baseball. Something that as you grow in the professional game is hard to maintain.

I do not currently collect any cards and haven't for years. They, predictably, are still in my old room's closet at my parents' house that I break out and dust off every time I am home."


Friday, February 5, 2010

Dan Pasqua on baseball cards

Dan Pasqua, a lefty slugger with a swing made for Yankee Stadium, hit 42 home runs in just 746 at bats for the Yankees between 1985 and 1987, when the Yankees dealt him to the White Sox in the ill-fated trade for Richard Dotson. He retired in 1994 with 117 major league home runs, and now gives hitting lessons out of the Bulls Sox Baseball Academy. He also has his own website,, and a Facebook Fan Club. He kindly answered my questions about his baseball card experiences.

"I collected cards as a kid back when you'd flip with your friends for cards. I gave all my baseball cards from when I was a kid to my brother who is an avid collector, even today.

The Upper Deck baseball card taken in '91 (but considered a '92 card) where I am sliding into home at Comiskey Park, won an award for the photographer that year. That is my wife's personal favorite baseball card of me.

My Topps Yankee Rookie card is obviously special to me, growing up in the NY/NJ area and being a Yankee fan as a kid and then being drafted by the Yankees was a dream come true.

I don't really "collect" per-se nowadays, but my 9 yr. old son and I every now and then will buy a pack of cards and see who we get. My son has a few books with cards in them, but nothing that he keeps up with on a regular basis."

Thanks! Some readers may remember that I wrote about that card a few months ago - he actually was safe!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Balancing Act

Vladimir Guerrero balances on his right foot as he prepares to swing for the fences. Bernie Williams balances on his left foot as he takes a rip at Yankee Stadium's short porch. Greg Vaughn balances on his left butt cheek as he tries not to fall off the photographer's tiny stool.