Thursday, March 31, 2022

A Year of Topps Designs: 1983

Topps revisited some 1960s baseball designs for their two major sports issues in 1983. Topps celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 1963 set with a similar design, with a second photo in a circle at the bottom of the card. The colors are less vibrant than the original '63 set. Meanwhile, the football set strongly resembles the 1967 baseball set, though the font for the team name is very Eighties.

The only other sports issue for Topps in '83 was a set featuring great Olympians of the past, in anticipation of Olympic fever for the LA games the following year. The design is a bit similar to '74  baseball and '76 football, this time with the Olympic logo and country flag dominating. (I wonder if there is a Cy Young Award in javelin?)

Topps put out several non-sport sets as well. As a six-year-old in 1983, the Return of the Jedi was the first trading card set I ever collected (and completed!) The design is classy but oddly sparse for a Topps non-sport release. Empire Strikes Back didn't have a movie logo either but at least had a very futuristic look. There were two series, the first in red, and the second in blue. I picked a blue card to go with the one random A-Team card I have. This one is more typical of Topps designs, with a prominent A-Team logo.

The third Star Wars movie was not the only Part 3 in '83. Superman 3's black borders don't really match the goofy vibe of this installment of the superhero franchise. 

Not surprisingly, the title character dominates the design for Jaws 3-D. Looks like the shark is groaning at the lover's smooch.

Topps put out one music-related set in '83. This design for Menudo is one of the most colorful ever by Topps.

Finally, there was one more set that Topps put out in 1983. A few years ago Billy Kingsley posted it to A Pack to be Named Later, calling it "one of the best packs of cards I've ever opened". Two of the comments to the post called it the greatest set of all time, while others had comments like "Love These!" and "Hall. Of. Fame." 

The design is quite simple, which is effective in emphasizing the subjects of the photos. Nameneko, marketed as Perlorian in the US, was a Japanese fad which involved dressing cats up as people and taking photos of them.  They were hugely popular in Japan, and it seemed Topps was anticipating a similar phenomenon in the US. Though they never really took of in the US, this set is still beloved by certain collectors to this day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Time Travel Tradition

Here are my latest pickups from the monthly Time Travel Trades with Matt of Diamond Jesters. It's his birthday today!

Every year he buys a new pack of the flagship Topps set to add to the Time Travel Stack. For the past three years, it's been my tradition to wait a day for people to claim individual cards, and then I claimed the remainder for my first new cards of the year.

I basically like this year's design, front and back, with the exception of the quite glaring flaw of the card backs facing different ways. That is very frustrating for someone like me who collects whole sets and stores them in boxes. Still, happy to get a card of new Yankee Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and newish Yankee Anthony Rizzo, as well as the sunset card for Andrew Miller, and the Jonah Heim card which is quickly becoming a blogger favorite.

I also waited a day to claim some football cards I didn't have. I picked up a lot of '77 Topps.

Some modern football as well. My favorites were the shiny Julio Jones card, and the relic card of Sterling Shepard. Shepard has been one of the few bright spots on the dismal Giants teams of the past few years.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Wood vs. Wood #86

Only five votes last time, with 1962 squeaking by, 3-2. Will this matchup generate more interest?

Donn Clendenon is showing off some pretty big arms for 1962. He was as much a man of brain as he was of brawn. Though he is in a Pirates uniform here and spent most of his career in Pittsburgh, he will always be remembered as a Met. Clendenon, whose father died of leukemia when he was a baby, was raised by his stepfather, former Negro Leagues star Nish Williams. Clendenon graduated high school when he was 15 and attended Morehouse College, which had a program that partnered freshmen with "Big Brothers". Clendenon's Big Brother was a recent graduate who was attending divinity school - Martin Luther King Jr. After graduating from Morehouse Clendenon turned down offers from the Cleveland Browns and Harlem Globetrotters to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. By 1962 he was a regular with the team, and became part of Pittsburgh's "Lumber Company" alongside stars like Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. Though he never attained their level of success, he was a consistent hitter with some power. His best season was 1966, when he hit .299 with 28 HR and 98 RBI, while also attending Duquesne University's law school. After a disappointing 1968 season where he led the NL in strikeouts, he was claimed by the Expos in the expansion draft, then traded to Houston. He retired rather than report to Houston, ended up unretiring to stay with the Expos, and was traded to the Mets mid-season to help with their pennant run. Clendenon emerged as a leader for the young Mets, and forever earned a place in team lore by hitting .357 with three home runs in the World Series, earning MVP honors. He retired after the 1972 season and got his law degree. He practiced law for many years, at law firms and as a general counsel. He died of leukemia in 2005. In 1,362 games he hit .274 with 159 HR and 682 RBI.

Nate Snell has a proud, almost shrewd look, on his card. Snell did not break into the major leagues until he was 31, partly because it took him a while to fully corral his stuff, partly because of Baltimore's deep pitching staff. He excelled as a long reliever during his brief major league career. In 104 games from 1984 to 1987, he went 7-6 with 5 saves and a 3.29 ERA. After his retirement he worked for UPS for 28 years, and does community outreach for the Orioles.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Hollywood bit players on baseball cards: Part 17

You may well recognize the man on the right, Chuck Connors, who after a brief "bit player" career in baseball, became an acting star in The Rifleman, and earned a place on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Do you recognize the man on the left, who had just a "bit player" acting career but was a good enough ballplayer to make baseball's Hall of Fame? He appeared in a 1959 Rifleman episode as a character named Jeff Wallace.

Other than playing himself on Father Knows Best and The Geisha Boy, today's bit player had two other acting roles. He appeared as The Cranker in the 1968 Elvis film The Trouble With Girls . . .

Finally, he played a Steamer Fan in the 1990 baseball movie Pastime. 

Did you recognize famous outfielder Duke Snider? He's best known as a Dodger, but my only vintage card of him comes from his brief time with the Mets.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Cards and vintage stuff: September 24-27, 1968

This somber-looking matchbook was produced for the New Jersey State Funeral Directors' Association Convention in 1968. The funeral directors met in Atlantic City and elected Mildred Damiano of Irvington as President, the first woman to be elected to the post.

The Presidential election was also the major focus of international news. Hubert Humphrey, trailing Richard Nixon by 17% in the polls, proposed a series of televised debates with Richard Nixon, recalling Nixon's difficulties in that area in 1960. Nixon declined. Meanwhile, a Republican filibuster successfully prevented Lyndon Johnson's Supreme Court pick, Abe Fortas, from being confirmed. The empty seat would go to a Republican, Warren Burger, in 1969. Political leaders were in the news elsewhere as well. The Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Salazar, was formally removed from office while he was in a coma caused by a stroke. In Burma, Thakin Than Tun, Chairman of the Communist Party, was assassinated by a government agent.

In baseball, the team closest to Atlantic City, the Philadelphia Phillies, was winding up a 7th-place season with games against the Cardinals and Mets. They won in St. Louis on the 24th, lost on the 25th, and won in New York on the 27th. Gary Sutherland was the Phillies' hitting hero all three games. He hit a tie-breaking double in the top of the 9th on the 24th to give the Phils a 2-1 win. In the loss on the 25th he had three hits and scored two runs. And on the 27th at Shea Stadium, he led off the top of the 11th with a double, eventually scoring the winning run on a single by Cookie Rojas.


Saturday, March 26, 2022

Vintage backgrounds: 1973 Topps Bill Freehan

1973 is a tough one for this series, not because the backgrounds aren't rich enough, but because they are so rich, arguably the greatest background set ever, so the backgrounds have already been examined in great detail by others. Case in point is this typically great shot of Bill Freehan attempting to tag the Yankees' Celerino Sanchez. 1973 Topps Photography did the research and determined that Sanchez was out. When Topps Had Balls noticed the cop grabbing the kid in the front row.

As someone who sits high in the grandstand rather than down at field level during the game, what struck me was how many of the people in the stands had to move to see the play. Some people were standing and some weren't, but check out the boy leaning into the aisle. He had to sit behind an adult the whole game and probably watched the whole time over that guy's shoulder.

Friday, March 25, 2022

1981 Topps Juan Beniquez


The front: Simple spring training shot, with the only background being a white pole and some clouds (distant mountains?) in the background. The card is overwhelmingly blue, white and yellow.

The back: Beniquez was 3-for-12 in the ALCS, including a double. He went 1-for-8 in the World Series.

The player: Beniquez set a record by playing for eight teams in the American League, signifying a player who was good enough to be desired by other teams, but not so outstanding as to be considered irreplaceable by their own team. His best season was 1977 with Texas, when he won a Gold Glove while hitting .269 with 10 HR, 50 RBI and 26 SB. Overall, he played in exactly 1,500 games over 17 seasons, hitting .274 with 79 HR, 476 RBI and 104 SB.

The man: Beniquez still lives in Puerto Rico and is active in baseball coaching there. The municipal stadium in San Sebastián is named Estadio Juan Jose Titi Beniquez in recognition of his achievements.

My collection: I have 39 of his cards, from 1974 to 1988. I would be interested in trading for 1992 WIZ Yankees of the '70s #13.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

1986 Sportflics Decade Greats: Roy Campanella


The player: Roy Campanella was one of the greatest catchers of all time. He is believed to be the youngest player to ever play in the major leagues (he played on weekends for the Washington Elite Giants as a 15-year-old in 1937 before quitting school to play baseball fulltime). Campy started young in other areas as well - by the time he turned 18 in 1939 he was already married with two children. As a result he was not drafted (though he did work in wartime industries) and by 1945 led the Negro Leagues in several offensive categories. The next year he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, and was considered by Branch Rickey as a candidate to break the National League's color barrier. When he did join the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 he immediately became one of the best catchers in the major leagues. An All-Star every year from 1949 to 1956, he won three MVP awards, hitting .300 with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in each of those MVP years. He was an excellent pitch caller and defensive catcher, and he threw out 57% of runners attempting to steal, the major league record.

The man: Campanella was universally considered a great teammate and future managerial candidate. In fact, he was the first Black manager of an integrated team when he filled in as manager in a minor league game in 1946 after his manager was ejected. Campanella's playing career was cut short when he was paralyzed in a one-car accident at 3:30 AM on January 28, 1958. Campanella had left the Harlem liquor store he co-owned after closing at 1:30 AM and was nearly at his home on Long Island when the accident occurred. It would not have taken anywhere near two hours to make that trip at that hour of night, so there is widespread speculation that Campanella was involved in some kind of inappropriate activity before the accident. He and his wife separated not long after. Campanella remained an upbeat, positive figure after the accident, and was considered an inspiring figure for those with similar disabilities.

My collection: I have his 1956 Topps card (thanks, Diamond King!). His last card as an active player was in 1957 Topps. Though Topps did not include him in their 1958 set, seemingly forgetting about him after his accident, they did make a special "Profiles in Courage" card of Campanella for their 1959 set, with the text on the back written by National League President Warren Giles.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

One card but such a good one

To quote a recent Baseball Card Breakdown post, this ties for the lowest number of cards I've gotten in a trade. Ben, who does not have a blog but has a TCDB page, reached out to me after seeing me comment on Night Owl's blog. He PC's Cal Ripken and Barry Sanders and is working on the 1993 Topps Football set. We ended up doing a one-to-one swap. I sent him a Chipper Jones card he needed to compete his '97 Topps set, and in return he sent this beauty from Derek Jeter's first major league stint. It's a really nice photo of the future Yankee captain when he was brand new to the team, signing autographs in front of the Yankees dugout (you can see a bit of the dugout roof at the top right; the photographer must have been inside the dugout). By the time this card came out in 1996 he was taking the baseball world by storm in his rookie year, but at this time he was still just another prospect. Fun card.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Art on the back: 1968

First of all, RIP to former Yankees legend Ralph Terry, who passed away last week. He shared his thoughts on baseball cards with this blog in 2019.

On to the 1968 edition of Art on the Back. As in 1967, Topps went with a vertical format on the back which gave little room for the cartoon. Unlike previous years, Topps did not make the cartoon about the player, but instead made it part of a trivia question about a team. The questions were pretty much the same for each team (what led the team in HR last year, what is the capacity of their stadium, who is their manager, when did they last win the pennant, etc). It was probably a good way for young fans to learn the recent history of baseball, but it did not make for the most interesting cartoons as the same subjects are repeated over and over. 

Here's one that's pretty typical, but the World War One soldier with the Red Sox last World Series victory made me chuckle.

This one is a bit confusing. I get that Milt Pappas is the best pitcher on the team, hence the "Ace" tattoo. But why is he holding a bat? (It's not like he was a good hitter for a pitcher; he hit .097 in 1967.) I wonder if the cartoon was originally meant for someone else.

I've mentioned the "whitewashing" of Black players a few times. Most Blacks were whitewashed, like Don Wilson. An exception seems to have been made for Ferguson Jenkins, but the cramped space made the cartoon come out rather poorly.

Whoever owned this card before me took it upon themselves to color in Tommie Agee.

I wonder what Bill White thought of the cartoon of a player getting hit from the stream of a fire hose on the back of his card. That would have been a rather provocative image in 1968.

There were a few other cartoons that stood out to me, though not as many as in '67.

Monday, March 21, 2022

A Year of Topps Designs: 1990

After a very simple design year in 1989, Topps must have brought in some new blood to their creative department in 1990. Perhaps feeling the pressure from upstart Upper Deck, but not yet ready to commit to matching them on the photography front, Topps went all-in on big designs for their 1990 sets.

The brightly colored borders on the baseball set are well known, in one of the "loudest" baseball designs Topps ever produced. While football and hockey had more reserved designs, the football and hockey stick dominating the two designs make sure to hit the collector over the head with what sport they are in.

The big TV hit of the year was The Simpsons. Considering how big a fan base this show has, I'm surprised there aren't more Simpsons cards. Or maybe there are and I'm not aware of them. I happen to have a couple of beat up 1990s. Topps went for a cartoon-style TV look, vaguely reminiscent of the Brady Bunch set or 1955 Bowman Baseball.

Unlike 1989, most of the big movie "hits" of 1990 didn't last as classics. Dick Tracy was supposed to be the next Batman but fizzled badly. The design is not bad, kind of art deco with what I guess are supposed to be shortwave radio waves. A lot of collectors seem to dislike yellow borders, unfortunately.

Gremlins 2 had a cute design with Gizmo and some Gremlin footprints. Most cards featured two photos like this one.
For some reason the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie border went with a generic movie design, as if this was the first time trading cards were meant for a movie. You can barely make out a turtle shell on the filmstrip behind the movie camera.

Topps produced one other movie set in 1990. RoboCop 2 has to be one of, if not the most gory sets ever made for kids. I've never seen any of the RoboCop movies, but it certainly seems to be quite graphic. Quickly browsing through some of the cards on TCDB, within the first seven cards I found one of a dead body covered in blood and two of characters graphically losing their arm or hand. Even the design has a bloody feel to it.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Carlos Capellan on baseball cards

Infielder Carlos Capellan played eight seasons of professional baseball, mostly in the Twins organization. In 652 games he hit .268 with 13 HR and 210 RBI. Now a coach in the Mets organization, he kindly answered my questions about baseball cards.

"I have my cards and those of the All Star Game."

 Thanks! I have one card of his in my collection, from 1991 Line Drive.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Ranger lot

This lot is kind of similar to the Dodgers lot I got recently, though a lot smaller. Advertised at 100+ cards, it was about 140. I put the minimum bid ($8 shipped) and I guess there weren't any Rangers fans out there so I ended up with it.

Like the Dodgers lot, there was one particular recent Stadium Club card that caught my eye. This one wasn't any kind of fancy short-print. In an era of orchestrated celebrations where there don't seem to be many genuine "characters" in baseball, the antics between Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre really stood out to me. I didn't know there was a card of Andrus trolling Beltre, but when I saw it I knew I wanted it. A genuinely fun, unique card.

"What, me worry?" Here's another fun card that was in there.

This was one of several Mothers Cookies cards in the lot, it seems they did a lot of Nolan Ryan-specific cards during his stint with the Rangers.

The lot was very Ryan-heavy which I don't mind at all. He's always been a big name, a hard-to-get guy to complete sets. It amazes me that someone who is in a set like '94 Leaf is also one of the most-valued cards in each Topps set from the late 60s and early 70s.

This was one of those "vintage to modern" lots. There was very little vintage, just three cards from the team's Washington Senators days. Of these I only needed the '64 Stenhouse. The '68 Casanova (high number!) and '71 team card (Ted Williams sighting!) are available for trade.

The modern cards were the usual mix of junk wax and more modern stuff. A nice surprise with the junk wax was that most of the '87 and '88 Fleers turned out to be the glossy parallels. Here are some of the cards that stood out to me as the shiniest in the lot.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Wood vs. Wood #82

 Last time 1962 won a tough matchup, 6-3. Who will prevail this time?

Two very similar looking cards, just one taken at more of a close-up.

Deron Johnson wearing the interlocking K-C of the Athletics; always weird for someone my age to see the A's not wearing green. Deron Johnson was a big man with a big swing who came up with the Yankees in 1960 as one of many players over the years whom the New York press dubbed "the next Mickey Mantle". The next year the Yankees traded him to KC for Bud Daley. Two years later the A's sold him to the Reds where he had his best seasons, including leading the NL with 130 RBI in 1965. He failed to live up to that season and after a terrible 1967 was traded to the Braves, and ended up playing for five more teams after that. He finished his career with 245 home runs. In 1992, while coaching for the Angels, he died of lung cancer at the age of 53.

Rob Murphy also had his best seasons with the Reds, going 14-11 with 7 saves and a 2.60 ERA in his three full seasons in Cincinnati. Murphy pitched for eight teams in eleven seasons, and when he retired in 1995 he was the NL's all-time leader in percentage of inherited runners stranded. He now owns a horse-racing business, and in 2009 shared some baseball card stories with this blog.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Flipping Mantle

I found a good home for the extra '65 Mantle HR Leader card I got recently in Jeff of Wax Pack Wonders. I sent him that card, plus some others that he needed, and I got a very nice return package. Lots of quantity and quality!

The centerpiece of the deal was the '72 Topps Cecil Cooper/Carlton Fisk rookie.

Jeff also sent some needed 60's commons.

The last vintage card was this one. I'd never owned a '73 checklist card before . . .
and I still don't! This liste de controle pour l'equipie is an OPC! I don't even have any '73 OPC Rangers (or checklists, for that matter).
Jeff also sent a couple of large stacks of modern cards. The one on the left is all '01 Topps Archives, while the right is a variety of cards topped off by a Jorge Posada rookie, which I personally think is pretty comparable if not better than a Carlton Fisk rookie.
Most of the newer cards were oddballs and Yankees. Broders are always fun, but how often do you notice the backs? This is a fun one.
Nice oddball Denny McLain from 1985.
I liked this unusual Babe Ruth photo.
Finally, I'd never seen a set dedicated to the Arizona Fall League before.