The Wild, Wild West

The ‘70s and early ‘80s saw a sartorial explosion of color in Major League Baseball. The Astros “Tequila Sunrise” jersey and the Padres various brown, yellow and orange togs are the gaudiest examples. This movement from home whites and road grays was not exclusive to the “bigs;” the minor leagues saw a similar profusion of color.

In addition to decades’ worth of Mariners farm team cards, I have accumulated many other minor league sets. Recently while browsing through a binder of late ‘70s and early ’80 Pacific Coast League cards, I was assaulted with some true “retina burners.” Here’s a look at some seriously questionable uniform designs.

Sexton Toros

This ’80 TCMA Tucson Toros card show the most egregious example of “double-knit” debauchery. Obviously, the Toros were inspired by the Astros but went too far. The desert earth tones, diagonal lettering and orange base add up to a real mess. The caps only make the outfit worse. Supposedly, the colors would “run” when laundered, making for an even more psychedelic effect.

Pietroburgo Tigers  Alston Tacoma

Not to be out done by Tucson, the Tacoma Tigers created a “dog’s breakfast” design as well. These ’80 TcMA cards show two hideous combinations. I know all too well that eight months of gloomy, Pacific Northwest weather can do strange things to the mind, but what were they thinking?!

Harris Vancouver

Tacoma’s Canadian brethren to the north got into the uniform perversion act as well. The Vancouver Canadians sported these mono-chrome Navy “jobs” in this ‘80 TCMA.

Beavers  81 Beavers

The other Northwest entry, Portland, went nuts as well. These ’81 Beavers cards show the mix-and-match style popularized by the Pirates. In ’81, Luis Tiant signed with the Pirates but spent most of the year at AAA Portland where he tossed a no hitter.

Rocky-Bridges 82   Jones Giants

Phoenix Giants donned this forgettable ensemble in ’82. Not even the signature “chaw” in his cheek could make Rocky Bridges look anything else but ridiculous in these “babies.” The “pill box” caps are the perfect accessory to this abomination. This ’81 Tommy Jones shows the uniform in its full glory.

80 Ogden

The ’80 Ogden, Utah A’s had fairly staid uniforms, but what’s up with the cap? It would be more appropriate on the head of a trucker. The yellow undershirt from the parent club worn by Milt Ramirez doesn’t quite match the overall color scheme. Like many of the TCMA cards of this era, this photo was taken at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium.

Allen Lynn

Lastly, I switch to the Eastern League to present this ’80 TCMA Lynn Sailors card of future Mariner Jamie Allen. The uniform manufacturer somehow sold the same awful design worn by Tacoma to the Sailors management as well.

 

You Can’t Judge a Judge (By Looking At Its Sale Price)

I was an options trader for about 20 years. Was I a good one? There were things I was good at and there were things I wasn’t good at. On the whole I did all right.

One thing I was bad at was picking stocks. That wasn’t a skill set I needed for trading, so when I owned stocks (which was infrequently), I tended to ride them into the ground. Unless I stumbled my way into something that was a no-brainer and, through circumstance, had a lot of stock that I needed to blow out. Which I did.

About one month ago, I bought a pack of 2017 Gypsy Queen at Yastrzemski Sports on Main St. in Cooperstown and pulled an Aaron Judge autograph. Judge was already a great story, I’m not trying to take away from that, but he doesn’t do much for me. I’m not overly excited by Aaron Judge and had no emotional reason to keep the card. Plus, it seemed the perfect time to sell high.

2017 Gypsy Queen Judge auto front026

I checked eBay and watched a few auctions that were close to ending. One closed with a final bid of $26, another closed at $28. I saw there were a few Buy It Now listings at $35 that were not selling, so I put in a $30 Buy It Now of my own. In trading, we used to call  marginally improving the market “carping. ” The card sat for about a day, and then Judge hit another home run.

There was a market frenzy! My card was bought, the $35 cards were bought, and then the market seemed to have hit some sort of equilibrium – for a few days. Then he kept hitting home runs. Now he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The card I sold at $30 is going for $100 more than that.

I’ve been selling a lot on eBay lately and if you sell enough, things even out. I sold a lot of 1969 Topps hockey cards in overall VG condition for over $60. I thought I get $20, if I was lucky.

1969 Topps Hockey front #1022

Did I learn anything from this? I don’t know. It seemed like a good move to sell and who knows, Judge might be Babe Ruth or, as so many previously burned rookie card buyers have cited, Kevin Maas.

In 2000, I sold a Tracy McGrady Topps Heritage autograph card for 75 bucks. It was a similar kind of situation – McGrady was hot, but I didn’t care, so I sold the card. Years later I looked and the card could be had for less than $10. Now that McGrady is a Hall of Famer it goes for around $20.

s-l1600

In options trading, all options have an expiration date. I won’t get too technical but on an option’s expiration, either it’s worth something or worth nothing. You could’ve sold it for $.50 and you could’ve sold it for $100 but if it goes out worthless it goes out worthless. You just don’t know until the cycle runs its course. Selling Aaron Judge was like selling an option early and riding out the wave to see where it ends up. And here I thought I left trading behind!

2017 Topps #287 Aaron Judge (catch or no catch?)

I am Paul Ember and this is my first post for SABR Baseball Cards. I am out of SABR’s Connie Mack Chapter and typically concentrate on Phillies and Vintage cards.

However for my initial SABR column I would like to turn my attention to a new card that is creating a buzz in the collecting community.

2017 Topps Aaron Judge

2017 Topps #287 Aaron Judge (rc)

The 25 year old Judge is getting significant accolades for his 2017 batting outburst which has included AL Rookie of the Month honors for April.

Consequently his Topps “Rookie” card is also getting noticed. With the many different Bowman and minor league issues one could debate the validity of this as a RC, but that isn’t what I want to discuss here. I will just mentions this is Aaron Judge’s first card in Topps Flagship and leave the Rookie-ness of the card up for others to argue.

I like the card. It is a solid photo selection on Topps part, although I suppose one could quibble with selecting a defensive shot for a player projected to be an offensive threat. I think the 2017T design is ok, it does work well for a player jumping vertically so it is a plus for this particular card.

However one could argue for better cropping…

Did Judge Make the Catch?

Getty Aaron Judge

2016 09 07 Aaron Judge (Photo by Rich Shultz. Picture swiped from Getty Images)

If I was putting this card together I would have included the Baseball in the shot. Not sure why Topps elected not to, perhaps they wanted to avoid some apparel branding among the fans.

The shot was taken by New Jersey based Photographer Rich Schultz . His work has been featured in a number of Magazines and on several New York Post Covers. Over the last few years I have also found his photographs used on a few Topps Phillies cards including the 2015 Topps Chase Utley Team Issue card.

September 07 2016

The nice thing about Getty Images is that the photos are date stamped, which tells us that the Aaron Judge Photo was taken on September 7th of last year, a 2-0 Yankees victory over Toronto. Judge did not start the game, he entered the game as a defensive replacement in the 7th inning.

As to the question of Judge’s play on the ball, I am happy to report for him that yes he made the catch. The detailed description on the Getty Image not only tells us that Aaron Judge made the play but that the batter was Edwin Encarnacion. The play was the final out of the eighth and was one of two putouts that Judge recorded during three innings in the field.

As a batter Judge came to the plate once in the game facing Roberto Osuna. He flew out to Left Field.

Aaron Judge Rookie Card

There you have it, if Aaron Judge becomes the star that the Yankees hope he will become we now know that his Topps Rookie Card features a photo taken on September 7 2016 while making a catch of a fly ball off the bat of Edwin Incarnation. As a defensive replacement in the game Judge only batted once and did not get a hit. It was the 22nd game of Aaron Judge’s rookie season, at the time he had recorded a grand total of three career home runs.

Flip

2017 Topps Aaron Judge B-Side

2017 Topps #287 Aaron Judge (b-side)

Not sure why Aaron Judge goes with the handle @theJudge44 as his number is 99. Perhaps it is a tribute to Hank Aaron. Also wanted to note that his height is 6’7″. Don’t see that on the back of many baseball cards.

To further illustrate Judge’s size, here is a photo of him standing next to Ryan Howard at a Spring Training game in 2015.

Aaron Judge Ryan Howard

Can’t recall many times I saw Ryan Howard standing next to a player bigger than himself.

Sources and Links

the Phillies Room

Rich Schultz

Getty Images

MLB

Baseball-Ref

Twitter

Results: Topps Amid the Counterculture

Thanks to the 189 of you who took our poll to determine the best Topps sets of the 1960s — or rather, the Topps sets that we collectively enjoy the most. As with the 1970s, every set was loved by someone, and all sets finished last in at least three surveys as well. So there is no true consensus. Which I think is a great result.

Chick here to read about the poll and to see images of each of the card sets (front and back). I am not going to repeat the images here.

What follows are our results, with my comments. The average score is computed as a 10 for a first place vote, 9 for a second, etc.

 

f60678b6cb5093053f2aae4b0e5f3381

1. 1967 (7.05 average score, 47 first place votes)

It ended up being a two-set race for the title. Every time I checked the results over the weekend 1965 was winning, but when I closed the poll this morning I noticed the top 2 had switched.

This has always been my favorite Topps set of all time — I like my sets to be simple (not many design elements) yet to have distinct colors. And I love the backs as well — vertical seems more natural to me, and the missing stats columns (games and runs for batters) seemed dispensable for the extra text.

 

2. 1965 (6.90, 38)

I admit that it was not until recently that I realized how great this design is. A year ago I suggested to someone that it was Topps’ most “childish” design, which my friend thought I meant as a criticism. Anything but — Topps did best, in my opinion, when it appealed to kids first and foremost. Most kids would rather have cartoons than a player’s WAR value. That flapping pennant on the front is pure genius.

 

3. 1963 (6.12, 21)

This was the first result that surprised me, as I had this ranked fairly low. For me, its the second picture on the front which is generally out of focus and superfluous. But 21 people thought it it the best set of Topps’ best decade, an impressive result.

In 1963 Topps switched to a lighter card stock, ushering in the “glory days” of card backs. For eight wonderful years, Topps had a light and colorful back filled with statistics for the player’s entire career (and often his minor league years as well). In 1971, Topps literally embraced the dark side, ushering in two decades of card back mediocrity. So, bravo 1963.

 

4. 1966 (5.28, 7)

This is another set, like 1967, in which the player’s photo takes up maximum space on the front of the card. My favorite sets generally have wall-to-wall photo, so I was meant to love this set. And I do.

The color-coded team name going diagonally across the upper left made this the absolutely best set of sorting by team, as all right-thinking people do.

 

5. 1969 (5.26, 13)

This card set had its problems, the reasons for which I have documented elsewhere. However, those problems had nothing to do with the design — which is what we are supposed to be ranking here. The design, for someone in the minimalist school, is great. It has a big photo with child-like design elements laid atop, and it has a bright colorful back. The top 50 cards from this set are as good as the top 50 of any year.

I expect there is a strong correlation between the people who love the elegant 1957/1961/1967/1969, vs. the colorful 1958/1959/1972/1975.

 

6. 1961 (5.22, 10)

After three years of anti-photo experimentation, Topps went simple in 1961 with a very elegant set of cards. There are a lot of deliberate head shots here — cards where Topps obviously had tons of material on hand but showed the head and face anyway. Clemente, Aparicio, Kaline, Mays. Beautiful cards if you want to see what the players look like.

 

7. 1964 (5.04, 4)

Topps most “meh” set of the 1960s, reflected in the lowest number of first place votes. Two years ago I would have said, without thinking, that this was a much better set than 1965. Having recently spent a lot more time with the cards from this era I have now flipped completely on this.

One thing I absolutely love about this set should be mentioned. I am a set collector, but I organize my cards by team. I love the color-coded teams (all Red Sox have a team name in green, with a red bar at the bottom with name and position. Topps’s designs made the team name the primary color element for the rest of the decade, which, as I came aboard in the late 1960s, is probably what influenced me to sort my cards the way I do.

 

8. 1960 (4,91, 15)

A lot of people love this set, which surprised me considerably. For me, it combines some of my pet peeves — the dreaded secondary photo, the single-season stat lines on an otherwise nice card back. I am also anti-horizontal. It is not as bad as Topps using them for “some” of the cards (which it tried from 1971-74, and is doing again today).

I am actually slowly building this set at the moment, so what do I know?

 

9. 1968 (4.89, 21)

Talk about divisive: only two sets got more first-place votes, and only one set got more last place votes. Certainly a big set from my childhood, but I don’t have nearly the nostalgic draw for them as I do for 1967 or 1969. Another set that got crushed by the player boycott, and also by the Athletics move, and also whatever was going on the with the Astros.

 

10. 1962 (4.38, 9)

The two brown bordered sets ended up at the bottom. I kind of like the border myself, although the backs are terrible and the set is plagued with a lot of mediocre photos. In fact, Topps photography got better throughout the decade (pre-boycott), which makes 1966 and 1967 quite easily the best photos if you like bright uniforms under sunny cloudless skies.

 

So there you have it. What should strike you is that the best set had an average score of 7 (a fourth place vote) and the worst around 4 (a seventh place vote). So we are … conflicted.

 

 

Topps Amid the Counterculture

Several weeks ago, our group put our brains together and determined, once and for all (?), the best Topps set of the 1970s.  Here is the original article, and here are our results.

At the time I promised that we would be running other polls, tout de suite, but things got kind of crazy for a while, and here we are.  Let’s get back to it, shall we?

I ask today that you consider the best Topps designs of the 1960s.  I suggest (please) that you not vote for a set because you like the great rookie cards, or your grandpop got you the Mickey Mantle for Easter.  If we do that it just becomes a big nostalgia battle.  I have nothing against nostalgia, it is the reason many of us still haul out our cards.  But for this poll I am trying to set aside that element.  This could mean that the card set that you voted for in some other poll last year, or in some other blog post back in 2012, is no longer your answer for this poll.

Further, I ask you to consider the front of the card (the size and quality of the photos, the way the design elements work together or are prioritized) and the back of the card (readability, statistics, cartoons, quizzes, etc.).

I next present an example of each set for your consideration.  At the bottom of this post is a link where you can vote.  Look at these cards carefully, and then get to it.

 

1960

ARMOUR PART03 1960 AaronHankFront  ARMOUR PART03 1960 AaronHankBack

 

1961

ARMOUR PART03 1961 AparicioLuisFront  ARMOUR PART03 1961 AparicioLuisBack

 

1962

ARMOUR PART04 1962 ClementeRobertoFront  ARMOUR PART04 1962 ClementeRobertoBack

 

1963

ARMOUR PART04 1963 McCoveyWillieFront  ARMOUR PART04 1963 McCoveyWillieBack

 

1964

ARMOUR PART05 1964 KillebrewHarmonFront  ARMOUR PART05 1964 KillebrewHarmonBack

 

1965

ARMOUR PART05 1965 RobinsonFrankFront  ARMOUR PART05 1965 RobinsonFrankBack

 

1966

ARMOUR PART05 1966 FordWhiteyFront  ARMOUR PART05 1966 FordWhiteyBack

 

1967

ARMOUR PART05 1967 PalmerJimFront  ARMOUR PART05 1967 PalmerJimBack

 

1968

ARMOUR PART06 1968 YastrzemskiCarlFront  ARMOUR PART06 1968 YastrzemskiCarlBack

 

1969

ARMOUR PART06 1969 RobinsonBrooksFront  ARMOUR PART06 1969 RobinsonBrooksBack

 

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE POLL.  Note that there are two questions in addition to the rankings.

 

Popcorn Refill

My previous post on Seattle Rainiers and Angels popcorn cards from the ‘50s and ‘60s omitted a unique promotion that allowed kids to trade the popcorn cards for photos. Much to the chagrin of modern collectors, this exchange unintentionally created a scarcity of high grade cards from certain years.

AD

From ’56-’58 a local drive-in chain (Gil’s) and grocery store (Ralph’s Thriftway) sponsored the card exchange promotion. The merchants gave away an 8X10 glossy photo–identical to the card or a full version of the cropped card shot–in exchanged for nine popcorn cards. The accompanying ad from a 1956 Rainiers program whetted kids’ appetites for popcorn and the card swap. Former major league star Vern Stephens is featured in the ad.

Balcena card
Popcorn card

 

Balcena 8x10
8×10 photo
glynn
Popcorn card

 

57Popcorn8x10Glynn
8×10 photo

These Bobby Balcena and Bill Glynn cards and photos are examples of the exchange. By the way, Balcena was the first Filipino-American to play in MLB. He had a “cup of coffee” with the Reds in ’56. Glynn played for the Phillies and Indians in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s.

SmithLombardi

Employees at Ralph’s and Gil’s would stamp, punch or mark the cards before returning them to the kids in order to prevent them from presenting the same cards to get additional photos.   The Vic Lombardi card shows both a stamp and mark. Note the ad promoting the card/photo exchange on the backs. Lombardi was in the starting rotation of Brooklyn Dodgers in the late ‘40s. He started and lost game two of the ’47 World Series. The Milt Smith card shows a hole punched by a “soda jerk” at Gil’s. Milt had a brief stint with the Reds in ’55.

58PopcornBasinski

I will conclude this “corny” narrative with a player whose off season job was atypical for a “jock.” Eddie “Fiddler” Basinski was Brooklyn’s starting shortstop during the war year of 1945. With the return of the regulars from the war effort, Eddie took up residence with the Portland Beavers of the PCL for 11 seasons. He played for the Rainiers in ’57 and ’58. After the season, Eddie returned home to Buffalo where he was a violinist in the Buffalo Symphony.

Popcorn Cards

 

Fans who attended Pacific Coast League games between 1954 and 1968 at Seattle’s Sicks’ Stadium had the opportunity to collect cards featuring Rainiers and Angels players, managers and coaches. These 2”X 3” glossy, black-and-white cards were imbedded in boxes of popcorn, protected by a translucent sleeve of waxed paper.

wills 2

341 cards were produced over the entire 15 year run. 1959 saw the most cards produced (37), ’63 the least (15) with most years in the high teens or low twenties. Depending on the year, the card backs were either blank or had an advertisement. Almost every set has variations which include: misspelled names, wrong positions, blank backs instead of ads and cards with different pictures of the same player. The most prominent error card is the ’57 Maury Wills, which refers to him as “Morrie.” No collector is known to possess all the cards, although some are close.

Hutch 2

Few would argue that Seattle’s most beloved ball player is Fred Hutchinson. He was a schoolboy sensation who moved across the street from Franklin High School to Sicks’ Stadium after graduation. Fred won 25 games for the 1938 Rainiers with victory 19 coming on his 19th birthday. “Hutch” returned to manage the Rainiers in ’55 and ’59 resulting in two cards.

57PopcornODoulLemon 1

Besides “Hutch” several other former major league players served as manager. Lefty O’Doul ‘57 and Bob Lemon ‘66 are two well know examples. Connie Ryan, Johnny Pesky, Mel Parnell, Chuck Tanner and Joe Adcock all had stints as Seattle’s skipper.

Artie Wilson

Artie Wilson, who had a brief career with the New York Giants, integrated the Rainiers-along with Bob Boyd-in ’52.

58PopcornPinsonpetrocelli r

Vada Pinson ‘57, and Rico Petrocelli ‘64 are two of many Rainiers and Angels who went on to have long major league careers. Vern Stephens, Larry Jansen, Claude Osteen, Andy Messersmith and Jay Johnstone are additional examples of players whose likenesses could be found amongst the kernels.

Pattin Angels

Marty Pattin ‘66 is one of five Angels who became Pilots when Seattle went “big league” in ‘69. 

58 Orteig

Ray Orteig is representative of the many career minor league players with cards. The stalwart catcher had four cards over the years. He owned a night club and tavern near my home town.

grilli

Next time you dig into a box of popcorn at the ballpark, check closely. Guido Grilli may be lurking under the kernels.