Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!!!!

It's been awhile. Just dropping in to wish ALL of you Happy Holidays!!!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mounds View Meet Up with GCRL

Last week I hinted that I picked up something cool at the little show in Mounds View, MN, where I had the privilege of meeting another blogger, GCRL, in person. It's kind of weird to use the word "privilege" but let's face it: we're all busy, we all have things to do. We might be near/in the same area, but stories of bloggers meeting up aren't as common as you'd think they would be. At any rate, he took the time to come out, I took the time to stop, it was cool I hope that next time I have more minutes on my hands so we can talk some more shop!

At any rate, he said several time (and in his post!) that he was bummed the show was so small and that the vintage guy wasn't there. Still, it was a show, and it's been awhile since I've been to one. Next one on my neck of the woods will February.

So I had a max budget and was looking to get a few set needs taken care of. There was a Henderson RC (started at $20, on condition I had it $12-15) I was after that I figured I'd drop a $20 on if the guy tossed in a CC Gypsy Queen auto he had on hand. I'd even go as high as $25 for both. So I inquired about the CC...$30. This wasn't going to go anywhere.

Not to be deterred, as I headed out there was a guy with a few autos from the 2001 Fleer Greats of the Game set, among them this one:
Marked $25 I offered him $20, we both walked away happy. It was a small show, but I'd put scoring a Kaline on-card auto for that is a nice score. 

Anyway, thanks again, Jim. And thanks for the info on upcoming shows in the Twin Cities!

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Seasons come and go...

and somehow THAT's the constant. The teams don't even stay the same (hello Nat's, goodbye Expos), much less the players.

The October 2 post on former-Ray Fernando Perez's tumblr feed gave me a good laugh. Birds crapping all over everything, particularly advanced metrics (have you seen Baltimore's run differential!), and tonight the Rays season. (But seriously, major ups to the O's. Now go kick some ass.)

As for Fer, he was one of the great Durham Bulls I loved watching back in grad school. As a graduate of Columbia University he was also, truth be told, the kind of player a dorked-out grad school baseball fan could really get behind. At one point other orgs thought highly enough of him that he was included in the Matt Garza trade, going over to the Cubs in exchange for a ton of prospects. Sadly, as his twitter feed reads, he's out of a job. Guess that means he's no longer one of MLB's working poor, but it's bottom of the barrel 47%. Or something like that. Guess that's how most poets end up.

With the Rays out of the hunt, thoughts have turned to who'll no longer be with the club next year. BJ is gone. Someone (Price? Hellickson? Shields? Niemann?) from the starting staff will be traded. When the Rays traded Garza I was bummed to lose a great pitcher, but losing Fer, a speedster in the CC, BJ, and DJ mold, was what hurt. I simply enjoyed watching the guy, and he was another link to the great Durham teams I watched as a finished up grad school.
When the compa got her PhD last year I asked him to give me a retweet from the patron saint of educated ballplayers. His response was to say, "I think that's Canseco." Miss seeing you play, 'nando. Hope things are treating you well.

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

Monday, October 1, 2012

Catchers Finding Jesus: Bob Watson

It's later at night than I normally like it to be when I nod off, but I'm still grading after a great weekend away with the compa. Heck, I even met a fellow blogger GCRL IN PERSON, which was way cool. Added bonus was I got to give him an overdue trade package, which saved me a few ducats. Anyway, more on that later. 

Without further ado, the latest catcher finding Jesus, Bob "Bull" Watson
Technically he's not listed as a catcher here, but his 1969 card lists him as a C/OF, so he did know the position. According to BB reference, Bull even played a total of 10 games at catcher in a 17-year career, a full 1 of them (a whopping 2 innings worth!) in 1969. 

But here, on this card, he's listed as an OF and appears to be posing as if he were catching a pop-up (or witnessing the second coming of Christ), while wearing a catcher's mitt. And seriously: who needs Jesus more than a catcher who, inexplicably, has gone in to play the OF with his catcher's mitt? The ball is in the air, it's coming in his direction, and yes, he'll need divine intervention for this to come out right.

Indeed, who among us hasn't been the metaphorical Bob Watson?

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Feelin' kinda pensive: Coco Laboy

For reasons not fit to publish anonymously on the inter-tubes I've been in-and-out lately, pretty turned around. Things are fine, it's most just the shock of working in a high-stress environment. There are several blogger emails I need to get to (I'm on it!), and things are so crazy I came back across the country but forgot the central card I was sending away in a massive trade with Scott Crawford. Ugh.

Over the summer I put together a 100-card 1970 Topps starter set at the local. I figured the commons were 20 cents per, roughly equal to what I could expect to swing on ebay, so I figured, "why not?" I threw down a little more on a few select cards I thought were cool, and got out of there for not too much over $25.

All of which brings me to this:

If you've never heard of him before, José "Coco" Laboy had a 5-year career in the majors, all with the now-defunct Montreal Expos, Requiescat in pace. In 1969 he finished second in the ROY voting to Ted Sizemore, with such awards generally being a sign that things are moving in the right direction. 

Taking a step back from that, this remains one of the most poetic baseball card photos I've ever seen, on par with the greatest CC ever. Despite the auspicious start, Laboy remains trapped in the reality of being a 29 year-old rookie. He's not looking at the photographer, he's not even acknowledging us, as if he's all too conscious of how quickly seasons change, bats break, the balls stop finding holes or extra effort results in career-altering injury instead of a sharpening of one's skills and more success

And it's not as if his extensive minor league experience outlines a player undeserving of a shot in the Majors. And yet a career that began in 1959 wouldn't lead him to the majors until 10 years later. He was plagued by injuries, was solid yet unspectacular, and then when he finally got his chance was betrayed by his body one last time. And already, on the front of his 1970 Topps card, he is a man afraid to stare too hard into the future, looking instead into the uncertainties of the bat rack and the day's game, knowing that the individual pitches, at-bats, and days are faced in isolation, alone. With or without the roar of the crowd, Coco Laboy embodies life's apprehensions for all of us, the sic transit gloria fugit we  continually defer in our daily activities. 

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Denny McClain, Denny McClain...

there will never be another like Denny McClain---Ernie Harwell

Over the summer Denny McClain made a stop at a Chas Riverdogs game to sign and sell copies of his new book, I Told You I Wasn't Perfect. I'll review the book later on. McClain seemed like a nice enough guy, but the book really complicated that picture. At any rate, let's say I did a lot more reading about him this summer than I otherwise would have. The night of the game I was simply excited to meet the game's last 30-game winner with my dad, who reared me on stories of McClain's '68 season. Somehow the quick flameout thereafter never came up, but I digress.
I had to place an emergency COMC order to land this card since I called virtually every card shop in driving distance that I knew of and all of them said they had no Denny McClain cards. I then took a trip to the local (30 minutes away!) and, lo and behold, there were a few of these hiding out. I ended up with 4 of them and gave some away to the kids with me in line who had no McClain cards. Anyway, it's a great 1970 addition to  my Topps All-Time Project. 

McClain was sensational back in the day, something that gets overshadowed by the 30-game-winner memory and, well, lots of other things. 9 Shutouts is insane.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 2: Who is this guy? Contest

Day Two of the Contest over here.

Chunter has a great tip: it IS at a Chas Riverdogs game.

Leave an answer over on the original post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rain Delay Contest: Who Is That?!

Going on a trip after a long, worked-filled, awesome summer. 

Funny thing is, I ended up in no less than 7 rain delays, including last Friday and Saturday. The Saturday game was supposed to be a day/night double header, but ended up being a rain-shortened 1st game and a cancelled 2nd. Booo.

Well, not really. One of my favorite things is scoring games, which allows me to be pretty myopic about what I pay attention to once the anthem has been sung and pitches are being thrown. Rain delays give me an opportunity to explore other goings on in the park. I almost always have a blast.

There will be a more expansive post on the park next week once I'm re-settled, but until then, who is this guy?
I know, and at least two bloggers I've been corresponding with lately SHOULD know (keep quiet!), but I'll throw it out to the rest of you for fun. Winner will get something cool TBD.

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

Friday, August 10, 2012

Throwing (Through) Smoke: Lowell Palmer

On my final trip to the LCS (a site that rendered much more affordable once the guy told me the prices on the cards were 1/2 of the sticker), I grabbed this cool looking Lowell Palmer card.

Now, I'm not the first guy to make such a discovery. The Fleer Sticker Project has produced the definitive post on this card and all-thing-Lowell-Palmer not once, not twice, but three times. ESPN the Magazine even linked to one of his meditations on this card's awesomeness.

As evidenced by a lifetime K/BB ratio that approaches 1 (239/202) and the fact that he plunked 23 batters in 106 lifetime appearances, Palmer had something of a control problem. Despite what you might think based on the photo this is not, apparently, because Palmer was MLB's first blind pitcher.

I'd like to think the sunglasses point to our own inner fears, in this case Lowell's being all of 21 and finding himself on a mound in the big leagues. Like the nut jobs you see wearing sunglasses at poker tournaments, Lowell's shades try to cover up the fact there are moments when he's scared sh!tless. A deception that all the more points out the state of scared-sh!tlessness. He looks awesome, and that's the point. Behind the awesomeness is a guy who's struggling to get the ball over the plate.

If you've seen the film Bang the Drum Slowly, there's a moment where the pitcher Henry Wiggin tells his catcher Bruce Pearson about how he gets through days when he knows he doesn't have his best stuff. Perason tells Wiggin that Wiggin has a confidence in his own abilities that Person himself lacks. Wiggin responds that's nonsense, on those days "It's pure bullshit gets me through."

Whether it's the fictional Henry Wiggin or the actual Lowell Palmer, there's a lot of truth in that.

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CC went all "Pete Rose versus Ray Fosse" on some dude

I finally grabbed a copy of the 2012 Topps CC, a card that still gives me chills every time I look at it.
I mean wow. CC is absolutely blowing up the catcher for the Royals on a classic play-at-the-plate. And let's not forget, CC was a big-time football prospect coming out of high school, apparently to the point that ESPN produced an article conjecturing whether or not CC going to Nebraska could have ultimately saved a former coach's job there. I know: ESPN articles full of wild conjecture are about as rare as Area 51 UFO conspiracy websites. Point taken. All the same, dude knows how to lay the beat on someone, and it's amazing everyone walked away from this.

CC's been turning it up a bit after a slow start back from an extended trip to the DL (now at 284/314/506), but he's taken quite a beating from a number of folks in the interim. Bobby V says CC doesn't need TJS. CC was called a racial slur at a minor league game for which the heckler, a cop, was eventually fired

At any rate, need any proof CC is a guy who leaves it all on the field? Thanks, 2012 Topps.

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ebay Shenanigans: Caveat Emptor, Willie

Things are good but busy.

I've been selling a lot on ebay recently with an eye towards making one big purchase, a "purchase of the summer" if you will. I even had a target on this card, a 2001 Fleer Stitches in Time Willie Mays auto. Yep, auction is over, but don't congratulate me.

I was looking at making this card a new cornerstone of my collection and eventually completing a Stitches in Time master set. Naturally, I looked up a checklist online. Then I saw this post over at Sports Card Info. Yep, apparently Mays DIDN'T sign for that set even though Fleer printed up the cards. Some, however, made it out the back door as evidenced from this auction.

In short, there are "Wille Mays certified auto cards" circulating that have no auto on them. This is a DISASTER and, if I can believe my eyes, a big moneymaker for someone. As far as I can tell these don't pop up too often but the seller who sold the Mays card I was going to buy also sold one in December, listed here. Anyone could get duped and sell a fake auto this legit. "A" fake auto, not two or more of them.

Major props to SCI for saving me a lot of cash and grief. I'd have been bummed if I'd fallen into this.

Stay safe out there, everybody!

I'll be at the Rays games in Baltimore this week, if you're watching that'll be my cowbell.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Batting after Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard

I'm more stats-oriented, but I'll confess that I get all smarmy from overblown pieces about topics like baseball as metaphor for the national consciousness and whatnot. The works of A. Bartlett Giamatti come to mind. While that's a topic for another day, it's an appropriate segue into the topic at hand, the Negro Leagues and their legacy. For all of the fanfare surrounding #40, for all of the beautiful things written about the game, there should be broader public celebration of the Leagues themselves as well as of the men who played in them.

With regard to baseball cards, it appears that A&G has dropped Negro Leaguers as their subjects, which is more than a little sad for a set that includes everything from stands of dead presidents' hair to frisbee-catching dogs. As much as we tell ourselves that the hobby can play a part in educating young people about diverse topics, including the game, I'd like to think the Negro Leagues would have an important place in that set.

In the absence of 2012 cards, I went looking for cards from the past.
From the 1992 Front Row set, this Buck Leonard auto is one of my more prized cards. He's a Carolina boy (although from NC, not SC), whom Bill James ranked as the 65th greatest player of all time. He batted behind Josh Gibson on the immortal Homestead Grays teams, and is considered by many to be Lou Gehrig's peer, with Gehrig being the better batter and Leonard the superior fielder. 

From the NLBPA:

Buck Leonard was one batter that pitchers feared the most. Stocky, chesty, with powerfully built arms and legs, plus big hands to navigate a piece of lumber through the strike zone in warp speed. Add to this a great love for baseball, a starving appetite to hit the white apple and a God-given talent to coordinate muscle mass, eye and mind into one powerful swing, and you have Buck Leonard at the plate.

He was one of a number of Negro League stars for whom integration came too late. As quoted in his SABR bio, Leonard said

 “I was not bitter by not being allowed to play in the major leagues. I just said, ‘The time has not come.’ I only wish I could have played in the big leagues when I was young enough to show what I could do. When an offer was given to me to join up, I was too old and I knew it.”

From BR bullpen, this quote from Dodgers scout Elwood Parsons:

"I was talking about Robinson, Campy and Newk making it with Brookyln. I'll never forget Buck's eyes filling with tears when he said, 'But it's too late for me'." -- Elwood Parsons, Dodgers scout

There's a certain, almost tragic commitment to excellence there, as most report that Leonard declined to play in the big leagues because he knew he was past his prime and did not want to embarrass himself. It should also be stated that, although integration began in 1947, it would be awhile before African-American ballplayers would truly be integrated into the game. 

Leonard is a HOFer, and one of the true greats of the game by any measure.

As with the autos of most Negro League Stars, you can get Buck Leonard's auto's for relatively cheap.

This set above including the auto and COA, were less than a discount blaster at Wal-Mart. Franken cuts will cost you more, but given the state of the card companies at the moment I'm not sure what would make them preferable or more reliable.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Larry Doby Week

Alex Remington over at Fangraphs had a tremendous article earlier this month on Larry Doby and the official integration of the American League on July 5, 1947. Doby's legacy is being celebrated around these parts this week during this weekend's series, presumably because 14 was Doby's number and this Saturday will be July 14.

To join in the spirit and honor a ballplayer from my home state, CCC will be focusing on the Negro Leagues for the next few days.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vote Plaschke...

Actually it's Greg Z over here. He's a finalist in a Beckett contest for a Koufax auto. Vote early, vote often, do it for the blogosphere!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Now filling wantlists

At a yard sale yesterday I hit one of those "everything must go"-type bb card collection sales. Most everything is from 95-present, but among other cards I've found are a 84 Mattingly RC and a Donzell McDonald RC (he's Darnell's brother, and I watched him play in Mexico).

At any rate, at first gloss I know I have a ton of '87, '88, '89, and '92 Topps. There's a also a lot of 2002 Heritage and 1999 Bowman.

Beyond that there's mid-90s UD, a ton of Bowman Heritage, and other stuff I'll get to when I can.

At any rate, get your lists out. This promises to be random, but if you cover shipping I'll trade you/sell you what you need for cheap!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Settle Down, Young Man: Bob Oldis Takes Down My Father-in-Law

Posting about ttm successes is cool, but I also just enjoy hanging out over beers and telling people stories that ballplayers share. Awhile back I was with my father-in-law and told him about my plans to write IA sports legend Bob Oldis. For context, Iowans tend to be sports nuts and when I'm out-and-about with family up there the people around me frequently do things like watch grainy footage of high school football games from the 1950s, attend jv girls basketball games at 4 PM on a Thursday, pay 5 figures for the local bar to bring in an Australian ringer for its men's fast-pitch softball team, and stay up until 3 AM following the LA Dodgers. In a sports-mad society like Iowa, it's no exaggeration to state that former major leaguer and baseball lifer like Bob Oldis really is a legend.

Despite this status or perhaps because of it, Oldis apparently did a lot of refereeing for high school sports in and around Iowa City. Coincidentally, the father-in-law was a coach in Iowa City during the 70s and 80s. The story goes that one year the father-in-law coached the freshman team to a victory over the sophomore team during the high school's annual intra-squad game. A big Saturday morning event, parents show up, the cheerleaders are there, and the school even hired refs. Like you can imagine, the freshmen upsetting the sophs was a big deal, and it helped that the father-in-law's 9th graders were led by Mark Gannon, one of the top 20 all-time basketball players from the state and future 8th Round pick of the now LA Clippers in 1983. With Gannon now a sophomore, the father-in-law had to prove it was his coaching, not Gannon's skills that led the freshmen team to victory the previous year.

So it was on. Screaming, yelling, trash-talking, riding the refs, all for a game played between members of the same team at the same high school on a Saturday morning in the late-1970s. The ref, however, was Bob Oldis, and after my father-in-law began calling for a lane violation after a certain play he blew his whistle, walked over to the bench, and said something like the following: "Now settle down, son. It's early on a Saturday morning and none these people came to see you." He then blew his whistle and play resumed.

You can imagine, of course, I typed all of this up and sent it to Bob Oldis.
For starters, he laid a sweet signature on his 1953 rookie card for me. Does the farmhouse beyond the OF wall say "I'm gonna make this guy look like he's from IA" or what?

I asked him about his one career SB attempt which came with the Phillies in 1962 and resulted in a CS. He responded that the hit-and-run sign was one but didn't name the name of the batter who busted the play (he's a consummate pro!).

He had a seven-year career, posting a career slash of 237/297/275, but one of the more feared defensive catchers of the day. For example, during Maury Wills's record setting 1962 season when he stole 104 bases in 117 attempts, Oldis gunned him down twice. The secret to throwing runners out, Oldis said, is "Being in position to throw the ball and quick feet." 

He also added the following note to the bottom of the page:

"Tell father-in-law, Dean, Hello--Those were great days and Dean was always great. Thanks, Bob Oldis"

Very, vey cool. 

Going fishing for the next few, so I hope everyone has a great weekend. And goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Last Game of Catch

While revising my manuscript I have several rituals I engage in to break my concentration, relax, and come back fresh in 15 minutes. My favorite is walking to the street to see if the mail is here. The mail came early today, so I spent some time throwing a baseball to myself in the backyard. This got me thinking back to last week and some time I spent with my dad.

My father has been legally blind for most of his life. During the Vietnam War he was classified 4-F for the draft, meaning he was exempted from service because he just couldn't see. At any rate, coke-bottle glasses and all, he taught me how to love and play baseball, and during the summer when I was a kid he'd come home from work and we'd frequently play catch in the backyard. Looking back I now realized he managed although the ball was something of a shapeless white blur for him. He managed because he enjoyed the game and loved being in the yard with me.

Looking forward to being home this summer, I thought a lot about how great to would be to play catch with the old man. As far as I can remember the last time we were out there together was about a decade ago. He's in good health but, realistically, he's about to hit 70. We've got more days behind us than are ahead of us.

So last week we went outside. He tossed me the ball from about 35 feet away. I threw it back and hit him in the chest. He picked it up, moved closer, threw it back. Realizing something was wrong I tossed it really soft and he kind of swatted at it as it went by, saying "I can't see it too well." He retrieved the ball, sent it to me again, and we repeated the process. I guess he could get it to me because I stood out against the landscape into which the ball, leaving my hand, simply disappeared. I don't know why but after no more than 4 throws the compa came out and said something needed fixing with one of the lights in the house. We kid that she's "The A#1 Best Wife in the World" for doing stupid things like going to the autofest with me yesterday, but what makes her special is, for example, how she bailed my father and I out of a situation neither of us could handle. My father and I both knew it was over, there will be no more games of catch in the yard, but because of the compa we didn't have to admit that to each other, maybe not even to ourselves. We went inside to look at a bum light, not because my dad can no longer see.

Garfoose (Dirk Hayhurst) has a similar enough story in his book, which makes me think this story happens more often to us than we commonly acknowledge. At any rate, Garfoose's story helped me get through this. Maybe some day someone else will come face-to-face with their father's mortality in a game of catch, come across this post, and take a bit of comfort from the fact we all do this, knowingly or unknowingly.  Life gives you the promise of an infinite number of games of catch with your father until there are no more and the number is frozen forever.

If you've got kids, go out tonight and play a game of catch. It's simple, it's stupid, but one day it'll mean the world to them.

Baseball, Apple Pie,...Bill Murray? SAL AS Fanfest

Yesterday I was fortunate to be able to head down to the Joe (where the Riverdogs play) for the official SAL AS fanfest. I will admit: I wasn't there for the video games, jump castles, or slides, just the autos and a chance to talk to a player or two.

The players came in on a parade led by bagpipers from the police department. Honestly, they really made a big deal of it, which was cool. I'm always shocked there aren't more folks at these evens, even if it's only A-ball, but the compa (who came with) reminded me that real people work. The point is well taken.

Anyway, there's a good local-news report here. At around the 38 second point there's even a clip of yours truly showing off my cards (at that point unsigned!) for the camera.

Here are some of the cards afterwards:
And yes, that bottom card IS Bill Murray, who was in attendance. He's part-owner and officially the Director of Fun. That mostly means he shows up and does Bill Murray things like this. When we met him he was singing Adele and encouraged us to go tarp sliding during a rain delay should the opportunity ever arise. I pointed out we'd get arrested, but he didn't seem to think that was a problem. In an alternate reality I'm already pondering how the "Bill Murray Defense" would hold up in court.

Other highlights: 
Telling Braves prospect David Filak I enjoyed watching him pitch back on May 20. That game was the Evan Rutckyj rules the world game (8K in 5 IP) and Filak only allowed 2 ER. Great pitching matchup.

Also got to chat up Riverdogs Mason Williams  for a sec and asked if he really is related to Walt "No Neck" Willams. Turns out he is. 

And finally, getting to tell Delino DeShields, Jr. how much I loved watching his dad back in the day. Having come of age in early-90s baseball, there were fewer guys this side of Rickey Henderson more exciting than Sr. He even signed one of my two AS balls right on the sweet spot. Very cool!

In total, with the compa's help I got signed Riverdogs cards for myself and the proprietor of The Lost Collector, as well as two AS Logo SAL balls that have the signatures of both North and South teams between the two of them. Overall a great day!

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hellickson to the DL?

Oh no. I'll be off in a corner crying into my Miller High Life.

The SAL HR Derby was Where?

The rumors are true. It WAS on a decommissioned aircraft carrier. My hometown rag has a good write-up here. It was cool but also very strange. There was no way to tell what would/wouldn't count as a HR, and as it turns out it was only the first round. Who knew? But the event was incredibly well organized and, well, was on an aircraft carrier!

I'm obviously not one of the paid photogs, but this will kind of give you an idea. There were boats, jet skis, and Coast Guard out in the harbor to collect the balls.

The most awesome thing was just mingling with the players. I didn't try for any autos b/c there's a special fanfest tomorrow for that, but it was awesome to just see them hanging out. A lot of them were non-AS just there to support their teammates, there were a number of girlfriends and wives, a number of parents. After the derby we were all just kind of up there in the afternoon sky.

On the way out I grabbed this pic of players for the WV Power heading out. 
As you can tell, in single-A you gotta carry your own bats to and from the derby! Bet it's not like that in the majors.

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Fathers Day

My Dad doesn't read the blog or know I have one, but:

We (Dad, friend Fernando, Mom, and I) just stayed up watching the SC-FL game. It's 1 AM, everyone has gone to bed, tomorrow we're scheduled to go to breakfast and watch Bang the Drum Slowly. Thanks, Dad, for always being there when it counted. Nobody is perfect, but you're a good approximation. Thanks for teaching me about baseball, the game, your memories, and the memories we've made together. Thanks for everything. Staying up WAY past the christian hour to go to sleep reminded me how much a stupid game can mean to folks and their kids.

Daddy D, thanks for being a stand-up father-in-law, I couldn't have gotten luckier as a son-in-law. looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Remember: I married her because her dad has a fabulous bb card collection!

And R., thanks to you, too. Not everyone follows baseball, but nobody is perfect (see above). Maybe I'll pay closer attention to football next year?!

And: props to all the players, dads and non-dads. Without you, what would the rest of us spend endless hours recounting and arguing about?

Again finally: happy father's day to all you bloggers out there!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When cards were cards: Birdie Tebbetts

Been way too focused on ttms lately and want to get back to appreciating other kinds of cardboard. Cards like this 1952 Bowman Birdie Tebbetts (SABR bio here).
We've got two kinds of writing here: the Bowman "Birdie Tebbetts" facsimile signature and the note that Tebbetts went on to become manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The latter is written lightly in pencil, then traced over in pen. It kind of foreshadows the 1970's Topps Traded cards and recalls a time when cards were for keeping track of players and their stats. Guy changes teams and/or positions? Just add it to the card. What's curious (to me, anyway) is that there is no position listed on the front of the 1952 Bowmans, but this kid added it on between 1954 and 1958 (the years he managed the Reds). Kinda cool when you think about it. I mean, when was the last time you wrote on a card? Sometimes I think we could use a lot more of this in the hobby and our lives in general.

Trivia: Tebbetts was even on the cover of Time in 1957.

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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ticket to ride: Going to some games

Just got a flight to Baltimore for the O's-Rays series in July. Lord, oh Lord am I excited!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wait, you were hit twice?: TTM from Tom Saffell

As I revise my book MS the compa let me take on a special ttm project for the summer to keep my mind occupied: writing men listed in the list of the 100 oldest MLB players, limited to guys who have some sort of cardboard icon out there. It gives me a focus to obsess about, prevents me from drowning in the open-ended process of revisions that do not have an open-ended deadline, and gives me a solid excuse to walk out to the mailbox and clear my thoughts every hour or so.

The latest success came courtesy of Mr. Tom Saffell. He had a four-year MLB career with the Pirates and KC-A's, compiling a slash line of .238/.293/.216. However, he played in the minors until his 40s (even rambling through my neck of the woods in ND in 1962!) and managed into the 1970's. He's got a great bio up at the SABR project, so I'll let that speak for itself. Apparently he's also something of a baseball collector!

So, here's the 1951 Bowman Mr. Saffell signed for me. The scan is super-high res, so the actual card isn't as washed out as it looks:
And I was particularly excited to see if he'd write me after I read the back:
Yep, he spent time down here in Charleston, SC. And he DID write!

His best moment in the game was taking the field for the first time with the Prirates at Wrigley Field against the Cubs in 1949. 

And what does he remember most about his time down here in Charleston?
  • I was hit in the head twice in the same game - both times sliding into second base trying to break up a double play.

That must be a record of some sort, but it's certainly something memorable! And when you think about it, it demonstrates that Mr. Saffell was a tough-as-nails kind of player. Hit twice in the head breaking up double plays in the same game? That's a guy who's definitely putting winning above all else.

And speaking of hard-nosed baseball, he was a hard-nosed manager as well, incurring a 30-game suspension for not allowing his team to play the day after a bad call cost them a game there the night prior. Have you ever heard of that? I asked him why no one does that anymore:
  • Because it will cost them too much money in fines plus suspensions plus the loss of the game which the club loses 9-0, also the umpires today are much better. They go through much better training!

A great response on a lot of levels. Today's managers get ejected as a show, but I think he's right that the high salaries prevent them from really making a point. And the umpires? They're also better today! 

Thanks again Mr. Saffell!

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Post #501: News of Pumpsie Green

Now that I'm more settled I'm editing my manuscript for publication. This entails a set work schedule in which I've included time to blog and send out an obscene amount of ttms. Otherwise I'd go crazy. You know what they say about work, Jack, and being a dull boy.

I've had the addy for awhile, but recently took the plunge and wrote to the one and only Pumpsie Green. Despite the mythology I'd like to believe about Green, teammate Gene Conley, and an ill-fated attempt to reach enlightenment on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the raw data of the matter concern two men stuck in traffic on a team bus and a desire to go AWOL and have a few drinks.

Pumpsie Green was and is a ballplayer who during a 5-year career with the Red Sox and Mets amassed a respectable .721 OPS and a 95 OPS+. His best season was perhaps 1961, when he had a slash line of .260/.376/.425 in 88 games for the Sox. Oddly, the next year he was shipped to the Mets. 

As you read the back of his 1961 card, you'll notice something is missing, namely the fact that when Mr. Green took the field for the Sox in 1959 he did so as the first black player in Sox history. (His 1960 card also omits this fact) Yep: over a decade after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, the Sox still had no African-American players. Rather than diss the Sox further, I'll just point you to a scathing 2002 NPR piece on the backstory. 

Green himself was characterized as a "reluctant pioneer" in this milb article, which I found a fairly straightforward reminder of how history is often thrust upon folks who really aren't that different from the rest of us. Indeed, all Pumpsie wanted to do was be a ball player, be accomplished as a ball player, a guy for whom baseball was fun and not so much a matter of professionalization. 

And so it is fun, hopefully a lot more today than it was 60 years ago. With that I'll get the day started. Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are (even though I know you live in El Cerritos, CA!).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Post #500: Jim Rice TTM auto

Starting with a big shout out to 30-Year Old Cardboard for sharing info on the signing in the post here.

For post #500 (something of a milestone in cardblogging I guess) I thought I'd roll out the Jim Rice auto I scored through the paid signing 30YO mentioned on his site. The price was WAAAY beyond what I usually shell out for autos because a) it was more than $5 and b) I can be tight with cash, but I got the compa's permission. I wanted this not because Rice is a HOFer but because he's from Anderson, SC, and being from SC myself I'm always on the lookout to connect with Carolina ballplayers. So, with no further ado:
The 500th post is a big deal, so who better to put up today than HOFer Mr. Rice? He gets a ton of crap from some analysts (not enough walks, only led the league twice in RBI, three times in HR, never THE man in the league, etc.), but he was a HELL of a ballplayer in the offensively challenged 70s and 80s. For me the legacy of those decades is skewed by the steroid era that followed them, so his accomplishments more than justify inclusion.

Back in the saddle around here. Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Catchers Finding Jesus: Clint Courtney

Things have been nuts, but should only be like that for another week or so. I've moved (temporarily) across the country, and am slowly getting back into the order of things should be go to go late next week. There are a few emails I haven;t responded to yet (sorry!) but I'll get there.

Anyway, I'm back in my hometown for awhile and, like most of us, the first thing I did when hitting the area was goole card shops. When I left (in 1994) there were none left. Thankfully, one apparently opened up in 1995 and is still going strong. The need for an oil change gave me the perfect excuse to check out Hooked on Cards. I'll give a rundown of the store later (nice little place with a friendly owner!), but wanted to showcase this gem I picked up while there, an 1955 Bowman Clint Courtney, the latest update in the Catchers Finding Jesus series.

What's that? Something's amiss? You're right. Not only is this catcher finding Jesus, he's also wearing glasses. He's definitely one of the first catchers to don spectacles, and at least one source has him as THE first.

But don't let that fool you. His nicknames were "Scrap Iron" and "The Toy Bulldog," both of which make sense for a guy who caught, wore glasses, and stood all of 5' 8".  He was, apparently, a natural lefty who taught himself to catch right-handed, robbing the world of another in the line of distinguished left-handed catchers. He was also, according to Wikipedia, myopic.

Sporting News ROY in 1952 and an original Oriole, he had a solid 11-year career, but as his nicknames would lead you to believe he's best remembered for being an all-out ass kicker. Wikipedia, BR Bullpen, and The Baseball Library all dedicate significant verbiage to his brawls, fights, and fines. Even his obituary mentions the endless fines he received for on-field shenanigans. Seriously, check out those links for details on some of the fights. They're good stuff. WWJD, indeed.

Great surprise card to find during a brief stopover. Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Monday, April 30, 2012

EJ with the Walkoff!

Way to go, man!

2005 Bowman EJ Rainbow: ¡Complete!

Watching the game tonight getting ready for a temporary cross-country move. I'm battening down the hatches to make major progress on my ttm projects this summer (Topps 1951-present and Topps Rookie AS Team) and was thinking about any projects I'd actually managed to finish. The CC collection is rolling along, but I haven't bought any wax and have yet to acquire any 2012 CCs.

So, what have I done? Recently the final card I needed to complete the 2005 Bowman Elliot Johnson rainbow popped up on eBay, the /5 red refractor. I held my breath for about a week while the auction wound down. Fortunately I was the only bidder, making this collection complete:
If I land a plate at some point, great. If not, great. It looks good to me!

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Everybody Hurts: CC Edition

It's been a while since I posted anything about CC, but it's been a while since he's played. According to reports, CC is going to talk with THE Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. Ugh.

So I thought I'd throw this card out there. When they first came out they sold for WAY too much, about 6 months went by, one sold for $20 BIN, and then this copy rolled around at auction and I managed to scoop it up. It's actually the second Brock/CC relic I own, but this one is definitely my favorite.

First, the symmetry of the design is awesome, with the mirror effect broken by the fact that Brock and CC are running left. Second, both relics are a bat (the other is bat/jersey). Third, the picture of CC here is the same picture that was used to produce the 2010 SP, only on that card he was airbrushed into a Sawx uni. In a way that makes this, perhaps, his last card in a Rays jersey (sniff).

Anyway, get well soon, CC. Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Monday, April 23, 2012

TTM from Gil Coan: OK for a Dook fan

One of the cooler things about the blogging community is the general willingness to help others out. Tom over at Baseball by the Letters posted a great success he'd had from NC-native Gil Coan and that piqued my interest in sending Mr. Coan a letter. No fear. After a brief email exchange Tom helped me out with the addy and, after some ebay magic, my letter was off to Mr. Coan.

The '53s tend to be tough cards to fit signatures on if only because they're mostly close-up portraits. This card is even stranger because the background is a scoreboard with the writing clearly visible up behind the subject. All the same, Coan laid a nice sig on here. 

Coan played 11 seasons in the majors from 1946-56, mostly with the Senators and New York Giants. I like reading about those Senators (guys like Cecil Travis, Buddy Lewis, Eddie Yost, Roy Sievers, etc.) and the fact that Coan was from NC was a huge bonus. He was even born in Monroe, right next door to Wingate University where, coincidentally, I started my college career. 

Coan's finest season came in 1951 when, at 29, Coan batted .303 with 62 RBI and 85 R. He even garnered a few MVP votes for a teams that went 62-92 and finished 7th in the American League. 
This 1953 Bowman color set me back a touch more than I would have liked, and I admittedly wasn't thinking to clearly in terms of "is this a card that is easily singable," but like a lot of former ballplayers Mr. Coan found the perfect (if only!) spot on the card where the signature would look good. 

Mr. Coan even responded to my questions about his life in baseball. His favorite player when he was a kid was Dizzy Dean, and his best moment in the game was Opening Day 1946 when he took the field for the first time with the Senators at Old Yankee Stadium. Unless I'm mistaken, the card above is Yankee Stadium, too. Like a lot of guys from the 40s and 50s, the toughest pitcher he had to face was Bob Feller. 

As for being from NC, he was pretty diplomatic when asked if he preferred Western-style (ketchup-based) or Eastern-style (vinegar-based) bbq. His answer: all of it. 

As the title of the post suggests, he has a much clearer opinion of things when basketball season rolls around and cheers from Dook. 

If you've never rear Tom's blog seriously, go check it out! His approach to ttm-ing is genuine and sincere, and I keep a lot of his advice in mind when thinking about sending someone a request. Thanks again, Tom!

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lost in Eden: TTM from Johnny Schmitz

Sometimes incongruous landscapes make the most sense, to the point they become natural, almost preferred, and the impossibilities we can conceive of unmoor us permanently from our surroundings.

Which leads me to ask: where the Hell is Johnny Schmitz on this 1951 Bowman? He's looming up in a clearing in these anonymous woods, playing baseball with no one in particular and yet not in the least self conscious about it. Like a lot of cards in the set, as observers we're asked not to inquire overmuch about Schmidtz in these fantastic surroundings. 
But where else would we find someone nicknamed "Bear Tracks"? It's oddly appropriate that a man best known for shuffling around on the mound with size-14 feet is silhouetted against the salmon mountains, peering in at a batter somewhere down and to our left. Delivering the pitch Schmitz is huge, dominant, leering, our primary focus. Yet he's dwarfed by the mountains in the distance, their presence rupturing our attention and inviting us to something beyond Johnny Schmitz, to something like life beyond baseball.
Many folks have posted about the fact that Schmitz passed away this past October 1. I was fortunate to have sent this card to him over the summer and received it back in no time flat. It makes me sad when the older players I've heard from pass away, because since I was a kid I've always thought of guys from that generation as eternal, our legacy as fans.

Of course they left baseball, married, divorced, had kids, were triumphant, were failures, and did things largely like the rest of us. Adulating baseball players for their accomplishments is like taking snapshots of someone's life through a keyhole. And yet, if we're honest, that's how all of us want to be remembered, how all of us want to be judged: as being who nonetheless shined while dwelling in the shadow of the mountain. 

It's a baseball card, but it speaks to me the same way that may favorite paintings, poems, and novels do. There is no field like the field on the card, and Johnny Schmitz never played on the edge of these woods. But we can put him there, then and now, painting the black in the twilight. If there's a heaven, Johnny Schmitz is pitching on this field. If there's not, Johnny Schmitz is pitching on this field. This field that only exists because we said it did. He's there because we put him there, because the world is a thing of our own creation.

Thanks again for the ttm Mr. Schmitz. Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hope: Bernie Carbo TTM

Given the well-publicized substance abuse struggles of a number of ballplayers (from Hamilton to Bush to Jenks) recently, I thought this tom would be appropriate.

Bernie Carbo was a 1st round pick (16th overall) in the 1965 draft. Playing for the Reds, he made the Bigs for good in 1970 and finished second in the ROY voting to Carl Morton.
And like the badass portrait on the card suggests. it was an awesome year. Carbo had a slash line of .310/.454/.551 with an OPS+ of 164. The sophomore slump hit hard, and he was moved to St. Louis in 1972, who then traded him to Boston not too long after. 

He had a solid 12-year career, but what happened?

Despite his All-American appearance here, Carbo would go on to be guy who introduced Keith Hernandez to cocaine (see this article). That makes him, basically, the 1970s cocaine version of what José Canseco was to steroids in the 1990s. How bad was it? Carbo says he was high during the 1975 WS. I'd say that's pretty bad.

That said, Carbo eventually got clean and, apparently, has remained clean for almost 20 years. He even started his own ministry in 1993. Here's hoping some of the guys currently struggling with similar issues manage to get things turned around, if not for their careers then for themselves and their loved ones. 

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tromp's Sports Cards with the hookup: New Online Card Resource

It's been awhile. I've been thinking things would get less hectic (and they have!) but things are still crazy. Or crazier than usual.

Anyway, I've been cruising the intertoobs trying to complete 2008 Stadium Club Elliot Johnson rainbows (minus the plates, which would still be a HUGE bonus). While looking for the blue proof /99 I came across Tromp's Sports Cards. It was, literally, the ONLY place in the www that had one. I dropped the owner, Mike, an email to make sure it was the blue proof of the variation I need and he got right back to me.

Price? .79 with a VERY reasonable $2.50 shipping, for a grand total of $3.29. Seriously: can't beat that.

Card arrived secure in a bubble mailer, etc., and here it is:
Here it is with the other 3 variations:

Now I need the Platinum 1/1 plus the plates (maybe one of them) and it'll be complete!

Thanks again, Mike! Seriously, check his site out!

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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Any good cardshops between Charlotte and Durham?

Taking the show on the road the next few day and hoping for a spare moment or two to do some looking around. Any suggestions from bloggers in the area?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Extreme ttm: 1941 Al Brancato

I'm slowly (but surely!) getting my ducks in order to start posting regularly (or semi-regularly!) again in the near future. An article I was working on has been revised and resubmitted to a journal, and today I landed my first book contract. I'm feeling good about things. Kinda like this guy:
I posted a 1940 Eddie Joost awhile back before he passed away, and had wanted to get Mr. Albert "Bronk" Brancato to sign a copy of this 1941. The Playball cards are iconic to begin with, but this one really sums them and whole era up. "Bronk" is a Philly boy, born and raised, and wound up playing for Mr. Connie Mack and his hometown A's. His smile and the early color printing technology really come together nicely with the almost art deco background you almost miss thinking it's the dugout or piece of the stadium. 
Then of course we have the classic Play Ball back: simple, to-the-point narrative stats. Beautiful. 

Mr. Brancato was also kind enough to answer my questions about his career, which was awesome, because there's not a lot out there on him on the intertoobs. I'll share that here pretty soon.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One of These Cards is Not Like the Other: Ernie Banks TTM

A while back I wrote about landing a 1959 Ernie Banks at a show in Fargo. Well, at the pre-Super Bowl show I grabbed another one:
In the meantime I'd sent the other one out after seeing that Mr. Banks was doing some ttm signing. The DAY before the show it came back.

For me, this card IS Ernie Banks. It's sunny out, he's playing catch, people are slowly filling out the stands. On a day like today where it's snowing outside and the temperature is dropping yet again it's the kind if card that reminds me spring (and then summer!) will get here. That baseball will be back.

And then of course the classic cartoons on the '59 back. ¡Cannot wait!

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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012 Topps Editing Fail

Maybe someone else already posted about this (I'm not as wired in as I used to be) but check out the stats of, say, Dustin Ackley, Jason Kipnis, Jose Bautista, or Billy Butler on the back of a 2012 Topps. The stat line up top reads" H 3B 3B HR" etc.

If you're keeping score at home, according to this rather lazy printing error, the 6'1", 240 lb. Butler has had 22+ 3B since he broke in, with a career high 51 in 2009. This, in fact, IS a sign of the Maya apocalypse. How could I not have noticed before?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Los is coming home!!!!

The compa is one happy lady. News here.