Saturday, July 31, 2021

1981 Topps Hal McRae


The front: McRae looks very happy here.

The back: Fourteen years in the majors left no room for a factoid.

The player: Hal McRae was one of the key players of the great Royals teams of the mid-1970s through mid-1980s. McRae was a solid hitter with excellent power, playing in a home park that was more conducive to doubles than home runs. In 2084 games he hit .290 with 484 doubles (leading the AL twice), 191 HR and 1,097 RBI. (He is 80th all-time in doubles.) McRae was very aggressive on the basepaths, known for frequently trying to get an extra base on a hit, and especially for very hard slides (some would say flying tackles) to break up double plays. In 48 postseason games he hit .294, including .400 in four World Series.

The man: McRae managed the Royals from 1991 to 1994 and the Devil Rays from 2001 to 2002. With a 286-277 record with some mediocre teams, you would have thought he would have gotten more opportunities to manage. He is now retired.

My collection: I have 44 of his cards, from 1971 to 1987. I would be interested in trading for 1968 Topps #384 and 1970 Topps #683.

Friday, July 30, 2021

3.5 cent cards

 I won another 7 cent card on eBay, the 2021 Yankees team card. The seller threw in a 2020 Topps Update Jordan Montgomery. Nice!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Big Box from The Collector: Part II

Here are the football cards I got from The Collector in exchange for my unwanted basketball cards. Glad they're going to someone who will appreciate them more than I did. Football has always been my second sport. A few months ago I tried getting heavily into vintage football and found I just didn't enjoy it the same way I did vintage baseball. But I do like football cards. I even made wantlists for the '70s and '80s Topps sets but I haven't published them, I don't really want people sending me a lot of them. But I'm happy to get football cards for some cards that are otherwise hard to trade away.

That autographed card on top is really thick, probably the thickness of four regular cards. Some highlights:

1986 Topps football is the first sports card set I ever collected. It has an all-time great design.

1987 had some fun photos in it.

You don't see fun personal tidbits on football cards as much as you do on baseball cards. Gavin will appreciate this one.

Football Broders are also less common than in baseball, but just as fun!
A little bit of vintage, too! Joe Perry is my first 1960 card.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sam Freeman on baseball cards

 Sam Freeman pitched for six major league teams from 2014 to 2020. In 271 games, all in relief, he went 8-7 with a 3.58 ERA, striking out 232 batters in 233.2 innings. He kindly answered my questions about baseball cards.

"I don’t currently collect cards but I used to. A few years ago I went through the collection and the card that I like the most, even though it’s not in great shape is of Torii Hunter from when he was with the GCL Twins. As for stories of cards of myself, the very first card that came out of myself was after I was drafted, it was a Donruss “school colors” version. I’d probably say that’s my favorite just because it was the first time I was on a playing card. The crustache I was rocking in the photo was terrible and is something I’ve jokingly asked how my teammates allowed me to have hahaha." 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Big box from the Collector: Part I

Recently, The Collector held a basketball swap meet. I had a lot of basketball cards sitting around that I had no use for, so I sent most of them to him in exchange for a few baseball and football cards. Here are some of the baseball cards I got.

In 1990 I bought a pack of Sportflics, was annoyed that there were only three cards in the pack, and never bought another. I guess everyone else felt the same way because I rarely encounter them in the wild. This is just the ninth one in my collection.

Here's some cards from a set I've never seen before, called Origins of Baseball. It's about nineteenth century baseball. Check out Charles Comiskey in his prison uniform. (Not really, but still . . .) From this card I learned that he was the first first baseman to play off of the base.
Lots of recent year set needs.
These BBM cards are a lot of fun. I have very few BBMs. The two regular cards are shiny, and I love the neon orange Home Run Card.

Monday, July 26, 2021

1986 Sportflics Decade Greats Phil Rizzuto


The player: Holy cow, it's the Scooter! Phil Rizzuto was the heart and soul of the great Yankee teams of the 1940s and 1950s. Though he didn't put up huge power numbers or regularly hit over .300, Rizzuto, the 1950 MVP, was a clutch hitter and fantastic fielder, owner of most AL shortstop fielding records when he retired. The master of the sacrifice bunt, he fueled numerous rallies in an era when runs were hard to come by. (For decades after his retirement he taught Yankee hitters the art of bunting.) He is also the owner of numerous World Series records, most notably hitting .455 in three Game Sevens. He lost his age 25-27 seasons, the heart of a player's career, to serving in the South Pacific in World War II; otherwise his career numbers probably would have looked much better and he wouldn't have had to wait so long to make the Hall of Fame.

The man: Perhaps no broadcaster was more beloved by fans than Rizzuto; certainly, he was my favorite growing up. Even a bad game was fun with Rizzuto's antics. He had various catchphrases - "Holy Cow!", "Huckleberry," "Unbelievable". He told stories, whether about baseball, old teammates, his family, cannolis, or just what he was doing that day, that made him fun to listen to. Most announcers are pretty dry and boring, and it sounds forced when they try to sound relatable. Rizzuto was everyone's Italian grandfather, even if you weren't Italian. Rizzuto also owned a bowling alley with Yogi Berra, did commercials (The Money Store), and raised millions of dollars in various charitable endeavors, most notably for St. Joseph's School for the Blind. 

My collection: I have Rizzuto's 1954 Bowman card. I'd certainly be interested in trading for any other Rizzuto cards. His last card as an active player was 1956 Topps #113.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Wood vs. Wood #39

Last time, eleven people voted. Seven for 1987, three for 1962, one time. Who will win this time?

One again, a fairly typical action shot is matched up with a hatless portrait. Joe Koppe played 91 games for the Angels in 1961, so there is not much excuse for the generic photo. Happy guy, though. Koppe played eight seasons in the majors, mostly as a backup infielder, though he had a lot of playing time for the expansion Angels in '61 and '62. He passed away in 2006. 

Marty Barrett was also an infielder, the regular second baseman for the Red Sox in the late 1980s. He is probably best remembered as the last out of the 1986 World Series. He now works in real estate in Las Vegas. Looks like a spring training photo. Is that a basketball backboard behind the outfield fence?

A Year of Topps Designs: 1977

 1977 certainly seems to be a year where Topps was going for a somewhat unified look on their designs. Here are some '77s I own (all pulled from my trade boxes if anyone is interested in them).

The team name on the baseball and hockey cards looks very similar. And all three sports have the three pieces of information (team, player name, position) in a banner. This allows for a picture basically uninterrupted by design elements. As a kid in the late '80s, I always wished there were more designs like this, where the photo was in an exact rectangle. I really liked '90 Donruss for that reason. However, the disadvantage is that the photo is a bit smaller than in other designs.

I don't have any '77 basketball, but as you can see it follows the theme closely. Very similar to baseball and hockey, with a bit of a slant and the position in the photo instead of the banner. Football really stands out in '77 for having a bit of extra color in the design.

Topps produced one other sports set in '77, a soccer set that once again mimicked a recent baseball design, this time the '76 baseball set.

In non-sports, Topps lucked out in a huge way. In 1977, 20th Century Fox was trying to promote their new film Star Wars. They had sold the toy rights to Kenner, and Kenner owned the Donruss trading card company. Donruss passed on the opportunity to produce Star Wars trading cards. The studio then pitched to Topps president Arthur Shorin who also initially passed, but then changed his mind when the movie started generating some pre-release buzz. (You can read more about it here.) The result was one of the most iconic non-sports sets of all time. The blue first series is most famous, but I've been going on a bit of a yellow theme here. I wish I owned some '77 Star Wars cards . . . 

I never noticed until now, but it looks kind of like the '81 baseball set.

Topps produced one other non-sports set in '77, featuring the hit TV show Charlie's Angels. When I first saw the design, I thought it was half of a two-part puzzle card. Nope, they all have this design. Weird and kind of annoying to have a three-sided border open on the right, but it's something different, at least.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Hollywood bit players on baseball cards: Part 5

 Today's mystery actor was a classically trained pianist as a youngster, even performing at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York at the age of 16. (This was actually not terribly unusual, the hall hosted many youth piano recitals in the 1950s.) He made his acting debut in the same episode of Gilligan's Island as our previous performer. He is the headhunter in the center of the photo.

He was also twice a henchman on Batman, once for Tallulah Bankhead (Black Widow) and once for Zsa Zsa Gabor (Minerva) in the series' final episode.

He also had a brief role in the 1967 film Riot on Sunset Strip. He returned to acting briefly in the mid-1970s with appearances on the TV show Baretta and the movies Mansion of the Doomed and Dracula's Dog.

Have you guessed? It is former Dodgers and Padres outfielder Al Ferrara. Ferrara played parts of eight seasons in the major leagues between 1963 and 1971, hitting .259 with 51 HR and 198 RBI.

I have all but one of Ferrara's Topps cards, just missing 1965.

After his career he was a salesman in various industries, then owned a construction company for 30 years. He now does appearances at events for the LA Dodgers.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Art on the back: 1957

 In 1957 Topps created the first "modern" set, shrinking card size to the one that is still used today. The card backs from this year also became the general standard for baseball cards going forward, focusing on complete statistics and some text, with only a small section for a cartoon. Here's an example:

Back when suicide was good for a cheap laugh on a product designed for kids.

Here are my personal favorite cartoons from the '57s I have:

Dis inning is moider!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cards and vintage things: Roy Face matchbook

 I picked up a lot of matchbooks that features this fun one featuring Pirates pitcher Roy Face. I don't have many Face cards, so I paired it up with the oldest one I have, from 1964. While many athletes owned restaurants (and often had matchbooks printed up) that doesn't seem to be the case here. I found only one reference to Face with the restaurant, the Golden Triangle Restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh, near Forbes Field. Looks like he was a luncheon host there in the offseason of 1958-1959 (possibly other years as well).

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Vintage backgrounds: more 1970 Topps Dodgers

Last time I posted Jeff Torborg's '70 Topps card, and gcrl noted that Billy Grabarkewitz's card was a photo taken right before it. Here are three other Dodgers which look to have been photographed around the same time.

Here's pitcher Jim Brewer, posed in front of a fence, behind which a couple of older gentlemen in yellow shirts watch the action while standing by the parking lot.

You can see those two men closer up on Joe Moeller's card.
There are some people in the distance of Bill Singer's card, which features a parked car more prominently than the other two cards. Can't spot the two guys from the other cards, though.


Monday, July 19, 2021

Wallet Card where drinks are made to perfection.

 "Warren Ministries in Christ Jesus . . . Where Drinks are Made to Perfection." Signs from two defunct establishments on one building combine for a funny juxposition. Far Rockaway, NY.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

Matt Young on baseball cards

Outfielder Matt Young played nine seasons of professional baseball, including stints in the major leagues with the Braves in 2011 and Tigers in 2012. In 25 major league games he hit .190 with 0 HR and 2 RBI. In 1,020 minor league games he hit .280 with 26 HR, 340 RBI and 209 SB. Now a hitting coach for the Dunedin Blue Jays, he kindly answered my questions about baseball cards.

"I think my favorite card is the 1st bowman card I had as a minor leaguer. Old school look and something my Dad got in a pack. I do collect, but i shoot for basketball. I’m a huge Mavericks fan so Dirk and Luka are the guys I like to collect. I also try to complete sets. I just pick a set that is reasonably priced and try to get all the base cards and work from there."



Vintage mix from Night Owl

 Reading the blogs today, it seems that Penny Sleeves and Night Owl both have birthdays today. Two great bloggers born on one day (though not the same year). They are also two of several bloggers I've been saving cards for to send out soon, but Night Owl already sent me his return package, a nice mix of fifties, sixties and seventies vintage.

'76 is my favorite hostess set due to the bicentennial design. And though neither are in the Hall of Fame, Munson and Rose are two of the biggest names in this era, bigger than many Hall of Famers.

I may have all the '67 checklists now, I'll have to check. A couple of nice 1970 cards too.
The centerpiece of the trade was these two beautiful '56s. I especially love the view of Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Courthouse on Ray Narleski's card.
If you like "art on the back", these two are surefire winners, especially the Sullivan.

Friday, July 16, 2021

1981 Topps Mike Tyson


The front: Tyson is at bat in Shea Stadium. He appeared in six day games at Shea in 1980, going 1 for 9 with a triple and an RBI.

The back:Tyson's grand slam off of Pittsburgh's John Candelaria gave the Cardinals a 5-0 lead, and proved to be the margin of victory in their eventual 7-3 win.

The player: Mike Tyson was a good fielding, mediocre-hitting second baseman for the Cardinals in their lean years in the 1970s. He also played for the Cubs in 1980 and 1981. In 1,017 games he hit .241 with 27 HR and 269 RBI.

The man: When Tyson's son was born in 1975 he named him after his Cardinals teammate Joe Torre. Torre Tyson ended up playing four seasons in the Yankees organization. Mike Tyson was a car salesman after his playing career but now appears to be retired.

My collection: I have 15 of his cards, from 1974 to 1982. I would be interested in trading for 1974 Topps Stamps #NNO.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Yankees stickers

 I don't actively try to get stickers for my 1980s Topps stickerbooks. I got them just to put in all the stickers I'd accumulated over the years. However, I picked up the 12 Yankee stickers from the 1981 book for $1.20 and was glad I did.

Eight team stickers, plus four four the league leaders pages. I already had Guidry, so he's available if someone is working on an '81 book or has a Guidry PC.

Here's the completed team page, I think it looks great. Notable here is new acquisition Dave Winfield. I think it is an airbrushed hat, if it is then it is much better than usual Topps airbrushing.

The seller even threw in a bonus sticker, a shiny Winfield from 1982.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Nick Ciuffo points out a baseball card error

 Catcher Nick Ciuffo has been playing professional baseball since 2013. He had stints in the majors in 2018 and 2019 with Tampa Bay, hitting .186 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in 19 games. He is now in the Orioles organization, playing at AAA Norfolk. He kindly answered my questions on baseball cards by pointing out an error on one of his cards.

"If you look at my Topps jersey card for the 16u team USA it’s got Tyler Alamo’s picture on it instead of mine."

Thanks! Here is a card of him from my collection.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

1986 Sportflics Decade Greats: Pee Wee Reese


The player: Shortstop Pee Wee Reese was a top Red Sox shortstop prospect in the late 1930s. The team's manager, Joe Cronin, was also the team's shortstop. Wary of Reese's competition, Cronin convinced team ownership to trade Reese, and they eventually sold him to the Dodgers, one of many bad Red Sox trades. Reese came up with the Dodgers in 1940, and played through their first season in Los Angeles in 1958, missing three years fighting in the Pacific in World War II. An outstanding fielder with more power than a typical shortstop from his era, Reese was a ten-time All Star. In 2,166 games he hit .269 with 126 HR, 885 RBI and 232 stolen bases. In 44 World Series games, Reese hit .272 with 2 HR and 16 RBI.

The man: Despite being one of the smallest players in the league, Harold Reese's nickname came from the Pee Wee marble - he was known for his skill in marbles as a child. Despite his numerous playing heroics, Reese is best known today for his friendship with Jackie Robinson. Most notably, he responded to fierce racist heckling from a crowd by putting his arm around Robinson, an action later memorialized in a statue outside the Brooklyn Cyclones' field in Coney Island. (The year and location of the incident are unclear.) After his career, Reese was an announcer for several years and worked for many years for Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of Louisville Slugger bats. He died in 1999.

My collection: I do not have any playing-days cards of Pee Wee Reese. His last card as an active player was 1958 Topps #375.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Wood vs. Wood #26

 Last time, ten people commented on the post. Six preferred the '87, four preferred the '62. Can '62 finally get a win this time?

The '62 card features Chris Cannizzaro of the expansion New York Mets. Cannizzaro had played in 13 major league games at this point, all for the Cardinals. Without any Mets logos to work from in all likelihood, I have to give Topps a pass for this hatless card. Cannizzaro went on to a thirteen year big league career. His best season was for another expansion team, the '69 San Diego Padres, where he was the team's first All Star selection. He passed away in 2016.

The '87 features a posed photo of Greg Brock batting in front of a palm tree. Ever since I got this card as a kid my eye was drawn to the bandage on Brock's finger. Brock played ten seasons in the major leagues, five for the Dodgers and five for the Brewers. He hit 55 home runs in his first three full seasons but failed to live up to his early success. He is now a high school baseball coach in Colorado.

Giant surprise from Wax Pack Wonders

Wax Pack Wonders surprised me with a PWE of New York Giants cards.

Three great cards of Super Bowl heroes. Well, Carson might not be a great photograph but I love the '85 design.

Three from the late '70s and early '80s, when the Giants weren't very successful, but did have a pretty good defense.

Whenever I get an envelope from Jeff, I make sure to check out the stamps. Here's an Olympics stamp from 41 years ago.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

A year of Topps Designs - 1980

 I was pulling basketball cards for The Collector's Basketball Swap Meet and decided to throw in the two 1980's I had, so I snapped this photo first so I could cover 1980 for this series.

I also have 1980 Baseball and Football. Not the most inspiring year for card design, is it?

Very simple designs. The baseball set has a couple of pennants/ribbons, very similar to the 1974 set. Football's design is a little more original, though the name in the football kind of looks like a hot dog in a hamburger bun. The basketball set is completely ridiculous - tear-off mini cards that must have gotten lost so easily, with a design nearly identical to 1978 baseball.

Maybe even more ridiculous is what Topps did for Hockey that year. The cards were full sized, but the player's name only appeared on the front, not the back, and you had to scratch off a coating to find out the player's name. I had first heard of this quite recently from the Nine Pockets blog. Stealing this image from that blog as well:

And for soccer, Topps did something pretty similar to basketball. Looks like the '74 American Football set, with the goal posts turned into a full rectangle.

By far the best design to come out of Topps in 1980 was their Empire Strikes Back set. (I collected the entire Return of the Jedi set when I was six years old in 1983; I don't own any older Star Wars cards, unfortunately.) The silvery, metallic-looking background really stands out.

The other movie set put out that year, Superman II, seemed pretty tame by comparison, though colorful. I imagine every child who pulled this card out of a pack decided that Clark Kent was smelling something that rhymed with scoop.

Other than the usual Wacky Packages, the only other set put out this year was Weird Wheels, with all kinds of bizarre cars. The focus here is on the artwork, with the image's name a part of the painting.