Monday, February 28, 2011

Gary Matthews Sr. Asks, "When Does It All End?"

Gary Matthews Sr., aka "Sarge," is one of the players I have vivid memories of from my youth. Although he was in the MVP conversation several times and was the ROY in 1973, he only went to the AS game once in 1979. He was, like many ballplayers, perennially underrated. His lifetime OPS+ of 117 supports that.
And like many underrated ballplayer, he played for some godawful teams (Phillies, Braves, Cubs). Now, those teams DID have some successful years and there are a few pennants in there,  but there's A LOT of futility mixed in there. Growing up in the south and watching the Braves on TBS for many a year, I feel that nothing says "Braves baseball in the 80s" quite like this card.

I'm sure Gary's looking up the line for a sign, but he looks lost, like he just wandered out on the field and has no idea where to go, who he is, or what he's doing. And if you watched a good bit of Braves baseball in the 80s, you probably wondered those same things, perhaps at high volume, while watching the Braves struggle. 
But Gary, Gary was one of the good guys (despite being, on occasion, just as lost as everyone else). He was a bright spot for the Braves and, along Andre Dawson, would go on to be a bright spot for some sour Cubs teams. Some below average players seem larger than life because fortune smiles on them and they play for great, winning teams (ahem David Eckstein). And then there are guys like Matthews who fade into your memory because they never won too much despite being good ballplayers. It makes you wonder how they dealt with those relatively meaningless at bats as the season dwindled in August and they were somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 games out of first. Did they bother to look in for signs? Did they take in long foul balls to left for some relief? Or did they just feel lost, like Gary here in 1980?

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Walt Alston was a HELL of a manager (despite what Zimm writes in his book!), but he never quite got it together as player in the majors or the minors. Makes you wonder what he thinks he's doing around those bats, but have you ever seen a better composed manager card? Usually they are visually uninteresting throw-aways, but a pensive Walt hanging over the bat rack is pure gold.
Funny thing about this card is that, in 1962, you'd think Walt was kind of a lion in winter. He'd managed the Dodgers to 2 consecutive second-place finishes, and that was on the heels of a WS victory in '59. These days that'll get you on the HotSeat on one of those WWL shows where a scrawny balding guy and a rotund blowhard loudly trade pretty insults for an hour while ostensibly discussing sports. 

But Walt had A LOT left in the tank. He'd not only managed the Los Dodgers for another 14 years, but lead them to 4 more WS (2 championships). Yeah, you can tell from his eyes here that Walt Alston knows something we don't, and that's why he's the manager and we're people who blog about baseball or read blogs about baseball. Walt Aston knows. The rest is insignificant.

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2002 Bowman Draft Picks: Taste the Rainbow

So here we have it: the first honest-to-God CC rainbow in the pc. 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks is a bit redundant as a set, but I've got ALL of it in its various stylings nonetheless. On to the cards!

Top left: Bowman Draft Picks; Top middle: BDP Gold; Top Right: BDP Chrome
Bottom left: BDP refractor, /500; Bottom middle: BDP xfractor, /250; Bottom right: BDP gold refractor, /50.

And there you have it, the goal of every player collector out there. In all honestly I ended up BINing the gold refractor for more money than I'd normally throw down (how much: $15, I'm cheap!) but it was the last card I needed and, so far, the ONLY one I've seen hit the 'bay. Long story short I scooped it up and put it in the pc.

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes: Early 80's Stone(r)

Let's get this straight: I LOVE Steve Stone. Like many of you, as a kid growing up I knew him as the straight man to Harry Caray's antics on WGN. It's a shame the Cubs ever let him go and a much deserved kick in the pants that the White Sox picked him up. 

Well, a while back I came across this card of Steve's from what were apparently his wild man days:

And I DO mean wild. The hair, the 'stache, the "who gives a rip?" expression, it all points to a man on the edge. And I guess he was, as in "on the edge of a great season." In 1980 the previously average Stone would go ape in Baltimore, compiling a 25-7 record with an ERA+ of 123. He made the AS team for the first (and only) time, as well as landed the Cy Young. And what isn't a man like that capable of?

I know, wha?! This was wild man Stone during that magical 1980 season. He looks like he'll be stopping by the house later to sell you some insurance, doesn't he? Oddly, having recovered from his Hell's Angels years, he 1981 was to be his last year in baseball as, according to the Wikipedia, he was plagued by tendonitis all that year and decided to hang it up. Guess he was the Iggy Pop of early-80s pitching. 

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"E" for Effort: John Pacella

John Pacella bounced around the Majors and minors from 1977-86, compiling a career record of 4-10 in six seasons of work. There's no doubt, though, that those numbers didn't come from lack of trying.
We all know a guy who's THAT guy, a little bit performative and not too natural. Maybe he's the hipster, maybe he's the guy who makes a point of keeping the complete works of Tolstoi on his desk, maybe he's always dropping by to ask you how your day was as a pretext to going on about his own. THAT guy. 

Was John Pacella THAT guy on the '80 Mets? At first glance this card is kind of hokey: the photographer happened to get a shot of Pacella losing his hat on a pitch. Or did he? There's a LOT of airbrushing going on down there, from the shadow to the cap itself, so I wonder. But then check out the back of the card: 
Yep, Pacella lost his hat on EVERY pitch. Unique? Sure. A bit much? You decide. But there's no doubt Pacella's got a well maintained coiffe going on there, so why not show it off? Or why not just put your $##$ cap on tight and not lose it 20 times a game? Either way it's pretty funny. Effort or show, only John Pacella knows.

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Friday, February 18, 2011

2002 Bowman CCs

For Friday, the 2002 Bowman CCs.

top left to right: 2003 Bowman, 2003 Bowman gold
botton left to right: 2003 Bowman Chrome, 2003 Bowman Chrome refractor, 2003 Bowman Chrom xfractor.

As far as I know I'm the gold refractor away from the rainbow!

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crinkly Contest

Not to be missed! Check it out.

The Stig-man Cometh: TTMs from Dick Stigman

I've previously covered the glory of Dick Stigman's bic-fueled signature here

Based on that signature from Twinsfest, I decided to send Mr. Stigman some cards to sign. First up, the 1962:
In the letter I told Mr. Stigman a) how awesome it was that he was signing with a bic pen at Twinsfest and b) that during a conversation between my father-in-law and I we decided that the guy with the flat-top on this '62 Topps LOOKS like a bic-pen kinda guy. Mr. Stigman (per comments on my letter) swears he wasn't asleep for the photoshoot. The evidence might suggest otherwise. 
And then we've got the classic back. Stigman looks dominant, imposing in that cartoon, but...the cartoon is of a righty. Stigman was a lefty. C'mon Topps!

And speaking of the cartoons, check out the 1959:
Crazy card, another great sig. 

And notice on both cards: he signed with a bic pen!

Thanks for the sigs Mr. Stigman, and God Bless.

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lamar the Giant Has a Posse

Doesn't Lamar Johnson just look uncomfortable here? 
What I really find appealing here (aside from the awesome ugly White Sox PJs Lamar is sporting) is the unity between the card and the subject, how at first glance you almost think Johnson is hunched over, trying to fit onto a card that's just a bit too small for him. And, in a nutshell, isn't that pretty much the essence of card collecting, this notion that there's something a lot greater than the actual cards captured by the little squares of cardboard we shell out all the money for? This card actually gives the 6'2" Johnson the larger-than-life quality we all attribute to ballplayers. It's a strange, beautiful shot.

Johnson had a solid, slight above average career (109 OPS+) that lasted nine seasons for the White Sox and Rangers. Wikipedia claims Johnson sang the national anthem before a game in 1977, but Wikipedia says a lot of things. He's currently the Mets minor league hitting coordinator, though given that farm system I imagine that might be like saying "I'm the guy on the Titanic responsible for training the people in charge of navigation." Still, I hope he can help the Metropolitans get things turned around.

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What are YOU looking at: Is this card awesome or awful?

Most folks would agree that '89 UD came a long and blew the big four out of the water photo-wise, but is this card a part of UD stepping up its game or someone in quality control falling asleep at the wheel?
On the one hand, you could not have possibly found a worse picture of Astros superutility guy Jim Pankovits. At first glance you think he must be spitting on fans or responding to someone's inane "a guy walks into a bar" joke. Either way, this ain't pretty.

On the other hand, it's a bit like an English bulldog, so ugly you start thinking, "Hey, there are some positives here." And yes, there are, starting with a quick rundown of how many absolutely off color baseball cards you can think of off of the top of your head. See, there aren't THAT many of these, which makes this "Eat $#%" look from Pankovits something of a rarity in baseball card photography. And why not? There are some questionable cards floating around out there, but I imagine photographers generally tried to make guys look as good as possible. Sometimes they might not have had much to work with, but you get the idea. So why rip on Pankovits?
Well, for one thing he went to the University of South Carolina, or THE USC as no one but the most die-hard of Southcarolinians call it. But that's all I've got for you. Like most of us in most of the things we do, Pankovits was solid if unspectacular as a player, but was highly thought of as a "citizen of the game" and so went on to a number of minor league managerial roles after the conclusion of his 6-year career. It really makes you think this was kind of a butthead move by the UD photographer, using that photograph of a guy whose main position, according to Baseball Reference, was "pinch hitter." There must be a story out there but as far as I can tell "mum's the word."

So what do you think: is this card awesome or awful?

Here's a cool interview with Pankovits from 2001.

And then of course there's the trivia that he actually has a STAT named after him.

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Monday, February 14, 2011

If cupid were a ballplayer: Vito Valentinetti

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I give you Vito Valentinetti. And let's be honest: if I popped into your office today and said, "Hey, did you know there was a ballplayer named Vito Valentinetti?" you would have thrown a stress ball at me. The name is impossibly cool, the stuff of legends and late-night drinking trivia. In fact, before I found this card this morning, I would have bet $5 there was no such guy. And yet, here's the evidence:
Valentinetti had a 5-year career, bouncing around between Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington in addition to yo-yoing between the Majors and Minors. I hope he at least had a nice set of luggage to get through all of that traveling around. He was a starter and a reliever who retired with an almost break even W-L (13-14) and a 4.73 ERA. 

This is also a pretty solid card from the '59. If it were made today Topps would most likely photoshop him into the middle of the diamond with fireworks going off overhead, but less is more here: posed follow through, empty stands behind the subject, understated card design. Like many of the cards from this set, it's really zen-like in its simplicity.
One of the things I really enjoy about the '50s and '60s card backs is the time capsule-like quality they have, making oblique references not only to Vito's service in Korea (no one in the '50s would have had trouble making the connection), but to minor league towns and leagues that haven't existed for years. Is the "A.A. /American Association" still around in any form? There's the current Indy League that bears the name, but does it have a real connection to the old league other than its tag? I also like the line about the Senators' "much-worked" bullpen. Guess Topps didn't pull any punches in those days. 

If you're interested here's a link to more info about Mr. Valentinetti written by a relative of his.

Well, have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Original Photoshop Distasters: 1973 George Scott

I was sorting through cards for my 1973 set and this one jumped out at me for all the right reasons.

At first glance we've got a solid horizontal action shot of George "Boomer" Scott, colorful who had a 14-year career, mostly with the Sawx and Brewers. That's the speedy Bert Campaneris sliding into first during a season in which he stole 52 bases, so he's obviously the kind of guy you'd want to keep honest. 

But step back for a second. Do you notice that weird halo around the two players where their figures overlap with the stands behind them? And check out the foul line in relation to the stands. This IS a shot of action at 1B, but the stands appear to intersect the foul line about seven feet beyond the frame of the card. And THEN the stands themselves: the yellow paint on top of the railing would make this the OF, right? For that matter, proportionally those stands at that distance would seem to make Scott and Campaneris about 15 feet tall. 

Who thought altering a photo like that was a GOOD idea? And what was so BAD about the original shot to warrant all that work? At any rate it's pretty good for a laugh 30+ years later.

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cards that'll make you weep: 1987 BK Darrin Duffy

I've been discussing Topps's great photography this week, and it convinced me to break out this badboy:
1987 Burger King Huntsville Stars Darrin Duffy, courtesy of the father-in-law. Where to start?

I'm a big fan of minor league ball, but I'm a fan of minor league ball the way it used to be when I was a kid, when there were bleachers with 3/4 inch of lead paint behind home plate, ill-conceived nickel beer nights, no entertainment between innings besides begging the OF to toss you a ball, and living with the hope that your babysitter, because she was dating a guy working the souvenir stand, could land you one of the cracked game used bats that guy sometimes produced from a rubber tub in the corner. (Yes, she did, and no, she never could, or at least didn't)

And here we have Darrin Duffy like a ghost from that time, dwarfed by the distant OF fence and almost crushed by the evening sky. Is that the ball coming in from the left or a piece of trash? Does it matter, the runner looks like he's safe. Duffy played 7 seasons, all in the minors, the first three seasons of which are largely unrecorded by baseball reference. No Ks, no BBs, no RBIs, just blank spaces. His stats are like the half-visible OF ads out there on the wall, the fragments of a memory of another time only accessible when glanced at from the side.

I've never been to Hunstville but growing up I must have seen a thousand games like this, with moments like this, involving players like Duffy and the anonymous base stealer, peering out into the falling darkness as these little dramas played out, and played out for what? So no one would record the stats, so that years later all involved would be operating gas stations, bagging groceries, or going to law school in their respective hometowns, and some idiot kid in the stands, now older and 1000 miles away, would get nostalgic over it 23 years later.

Great card!

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2001 Bowman CCs

This is the first card that shows CC doing what he does best: stealing bases. As you can tell, though, it's not the most heroic card, and it gives you the impression he's sliding in after a pick-off attempt or looking up to the ump only to realize he was thrown out. 

Unsurprisingly, I guess, it's the weakest year of my early 2000s CC collection.

Top left: Bowman; top right: Bowman gold
Bottom left: Bowman Chrome; Bottom left: Bowman Chrome Xfractor

Need: Bowman Chrome refractor; Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eric Young Jr., Master of Levitation: More 2011 Topps Photography

Here's another shot I love from the 2011 Topps rackpacks I grabbed the other day.
Judging from this photo the game comes too easily to Eric Young, Jr. (despite the career OPS+ of 54, but bear with me).  We've all seen the "turning the double play" shot, but this one is far from mundane. The Phat Panda has taken time out from his ruinous campaign with my Chingones team in Goose Joak's Fantasy League, apparently, to roll into second base and "try" to break up the double play. I say "try" because with effort like that there's no chance he "will."  

Young Jr., with the visiting Rockies, easily avoids the Panda. What kills me is he's not even paying attention to the Panda. He's suspended in the air, arms straight down, leaning over as if to look in and see if the runner at first is out. Usually the 2B or SS is upended, sprawled out, more dramatic about things, but not Young. He's  down on the field, about 5 feet in the air, watching the game with the rest of us.

And THEN we've got the iconic Yahoo! signage on the OF wall at corporate-owned AT&T Park, almost nostalgic and yet undeniably modern. And THEN the blurry fans in dead centerfield---have we ever seen the CF fans in a double play card before?

In short, a brilliant card. Again, Topps, well done!

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yet Another 2011 Topps Post: In Praise of the Photography

Compa is laid up with a neck cramp which means I was flying solo to the Target for groceries. Of course I swung by the card aisle and you can guess what happened next.

But before I go there, why do folks buy blasters versus jumbo packs? The blasters get you 80 cards, a manupatch, and a diamond giveaway card for $20. For the same cash I got 4 jumbo packs which netted me 144 cards and three diamond giveaway cards. No CC (curses^%#^%$#) but I did get some cards that'll be popping up shortly.

In the meantime: anyone else notice Topps REALLY stepped up its game this year, photowise?

Exhibit A:
Oh man, this card is nice. It's not just the great "OF stealing a HR" shot, either. We've got the empty seats, the sweatshirts hanging over the rail, the OF suspended in the air about to crash into the team logo. And Saunders is a young OF cutting his teeth on a team trying to find its way.  Is there any better summary of Mariner baseball at this moment, from the franchise in transition to the hope of its minor league prospects, than this card? It's gotta be one of the best cards I've seen in a while, and I pulled several cards in ONE AFTERNOON I like as much as this one. Well done, Topps! 

I like the photography so much I might even consider collecting this set. ("Might" being the key word, of course.)

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Woodie Fryman passes (1940-2011)

Per the AP.

A country boy from KY, Fryman had an 18-year career with the Pirates, Phillies, Detroit, and Expos, among others. He was a rubber-armed SP and RP, and a two-time AS.
As more guys from the '50s and '60s pass, the baseball community loses a little more of its history. And when guys like Woodie pass, I'm reminded of the mortality of my own parents, who not only grew up watching baseball during that era but are also of that same generation.

RIP Mr. Fryman.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And now, the Swamp Fox

It's funny. I'm assuming that Al Dark was known as the Swamp Fox because he was from the Louisiana bayou or some such, but he currently lives in South Carolina, home of the "original" Swamp Fox. Coincidentally, he resides in Easley in the SC upstate, where a good number of my people are from and many still reside.
This arrived the same day as the 1950 Bowman from Mr. Shantz. It's the only mgr.-card ttm I've done and it came out pretty well. The red, white, and blue background with a portrait is nice, clean, and classic. The signature has to be the shortest name in existence: 6 full letters. Very cool. 

This 1961 is a strange card for Mr. Dark. If cards usually commemorate the previous season's accomplishments, this one is about the coming season. 1960 was Mr. Dark's last year an active player (with the Braves and the Phillies) and 1961 was his first as a manager (with the Giants). So technically he's not really the manager of the Giants yet but is instead a member of the Braves, hence the light, barely noticeable airbrushing of his hat. In short, Dark's switching over to managing saved the Topps folks a lot of work.

Thanks Mr. Dark!

Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rhymes with "pants": Classic ttm from Mr. Shantz

I've posted before about Mr. Bobby Shantz, so I'll spare you about how awesome I think he is. And I'm not alone. Mr. Shantz is real tolerant of us ttm aficionados and his praises are all over the blogosphere. In fact, every day I'm a bigger fan of mid-20th century because of guys like Mr. Shantz, Mr. Trucks, and Mr. Sievers (and there are tons more!)

Last December I bit the bullet and grabbed this 1950 Bowman Shantz RC with the intention of sending it off. I sent it to Mr. Shantz a few weeks ago and got it back within 10 days.

As a card this thing is AWESOME. It's one of the "knothole-gang" type portrait cards from the 1950 Bowman that reminds you of wooden fences and apple pie baseball. Mr. Shantz loos 12 and the wood-plank wall looks, well, GREEN. 

And then there's the sig: ^%$^ that's nice, even better than I'd pictured it or could have reasonably expected.

Of course, the backs of these things speak for themselves.
Thanks again Mr. Shantz and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ramblin' man: the Travelin' Lee comes to town

I needed to get rid of some cards a while back. I sent some Mannys over to the Brooklyn Met at Clear Cut Cards and ended up with this guy:

Should I be offended? Scared? Overjoyed? Lee himself looks pretty pensive, like he's not sure either.

Anyway, Travelin' Lee is pretty awesome and make me wonder: whatever happened to Cy Seymour? Anyone seen him?

These Prices tagged along with Lee, making this a lefty-centri package:
Thanks again Met and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!