SABR 47 Checklist

In preparation for SABR 47 which is just a few weeks a way I have been trying to put together a checklist of cards related to the panels and presentations scheduled for this years conference. The use of the term checklist is a bit of a misnomer here, as this list is nowhere near comprehensive. It is more of a selection of cards that I find interesting that are also related to the subjects at SABR47.

Jim Bouton

Once I saw Jim Bouton was on the schedule re-reading “Ball Four” jumped to the front of my to-do list. I have read the books several times, once as a teenager, again in my 30s, and currently on the edge of my 50s. The book is the most interesting to me now – a large part of that is I have learned more about the Bouton/Seattle Pilots era via card collecting. Also today a lot more information is at your fingertips, I have checked into box scores, stats, and SABR Bios on a few dozen players while reading the book. As a more mature reader I have found parts of the book a little disconcerting, Bouton’s brashness that I found attractive in my youth now seems self-centered and arrogant. There is also the objectification of women which sometimes makes me cringe. The tell-all aspect of “Ball Four” may have been shocking at the time, to a young person today the books revelations may seem trivial – but I can easily see Bouton’s teammates getting upset with the books revelations. In some ways I think he did break some locker room ethics.

1962 Topps #592 Rookie Parade

I picked out Jim Bouton’s rookie card to represent the Pitcher and Author. The card is shared with another player noted for his off the field behavior Bo Belinsky. For the first time, Topps elected to put rookies on shared cards. It is a good idea to squeeze more players into the set but one of the unfortunate results is that the RCs of many future HOFs end upon shared cards (Stargell, Schmidt, Molitor, Rice, Carew, Sutton, Joe Morgan, Gary Carter etc.)

The 1962 Rookie Parade cards run in sequence as an eight card subset that runs from #591 – #598. While none of the cards contain Hall of Famers they do reside at the end of the final series of 1962 Topps and are somewhat scarce. The Bouton card at #592 is the second card in the subset – If you think in terms of numerical precedence this means he is featured on the 2nd Multi-player Rookie card issued by Topps. The Biggest Name on the first card #591 is Sam McDowell. That card also features Ron Taylor, Dick Radatz, Art Quirk, and Ron Nischwitz. Other notables in the set include Bob Uecker (#595), and a couple of Ball Four Luminaries Joe Pepitone (#596) and Denis Menke (#597). The full list can be found at the bottom of the checklist at Cardboard Connection.

1965 Topps #137 Bouton Wins Again

My favorite Bouton Card is from the 1965 Topps World Series Subset. You can read my thoughts on that card here.

Orlando Hernandez

1998 Bowman Chrome International #221

The Latino Baseball Committee is hosting Peter Bjarkman who was featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Brothers in Exile” about Cuban brothers Livan and Orlando Hernandez. I picked out a fun one here. One of the insert sets common to Bowman features the player photo overlaying an image of a map of the country or state from which the player hails. Topps has also done this with flags in the background rather than maps.

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1998 Bowman Chrome International #221 (b-side)

In addition to the map of Cuba, the international flavor of the card carries through to the back which is written in Spanish.

SABR 47 Checker

Those are just two of the cards I thought of when perusing the schedule for SABR 47. A check of other cards would including the following and many more. If you have other favorites post them in the comments. It will give collectors the opportunity to look at their collection from a different angle and in context of the SABR convention.

1953 Topps #1 Jackie Robinson (Jackie Robinson Panel)

1954 Topps #104 Mike Sandlock (RP18 Charlie Dressen’s Pacific All Stars Tour of 1945)

1961 Topps #472 MVP Yogi Berra (Yogi Berra Panel)

1970 Topps #1 New York Mets (George Vescey)

1976 SSPC #37 Dennis Eckersly RC (Keith Olbermann)

1981 Topps #291 Ken Landreaux (Olbermann)

1988 Topps #267 Billy Bean (RP24 Emasculating Rituals of MLB Players)

2002 UD Vintage Day at the Park #DP2 Derek Jeter (A Day at the Ballpark Special Session)

2010 Topps #41 Dodgers Franchise History (RP26 Happy Felton’s Knothole Gang)

2014 Topps #273 Mark DeRosa (MLB Now Panel)

 

Sources and Links

Phungo

Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards – Bob Lemke

Cardboard Connection

Check Out My Cards

Ball Four

Baseball-Reference

You Can Put It On The Cardboard…..Yes!

Love him or hate him, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson has been an outsized character in baseball for six decades. From his battles with Charlie Finley in Kansas City to his “mod” wardrobe featuring “Nehru” jackets, he was a distinctive individual within the staid baseball world of the ‘60s. As a player, the Hawk had one exceptional season for Boston during the “Year of the Pitcher” in ’68. Injuries and desire to be a professional golfer prematurely ended his career in ’71. Of course, he would go on to be a broadcaster, most notably with the White Sox. His zealous support for the White Sox grates on many people, creating a love/hate dichotomy.

During Harrelson’s relatively brief career, he had some beautiful cards. The green and gold A’s combo and classic Indians vest uniform created great visual appeal. In addition the Topps photographers captured Hawk in some classic poses. On the flip side, the player boycott resulted in some duds as well. So button up your “Nehru” jacket, “grab some bench” and get ready to view some great cardboard. Mercy!

64 Hawk  65 Hawk

Hawk’s ’64 and ’65 cards are routine spring training shots, but the navy and red accented, vest uniforms-worn briefly by KC in the early ’60s-provides a novelty factor.

66 Hawk

The ’66 card is a personal favorite. The classic first baseman’s “stretch” pose coupled with the green and gold trimmed uniform combines to make a classic. The Yankee fan heckling Hawk during the photo shoot is a great example of backgrounds making cards more interesting.

67 Hawk

Harrelson’s conflicts with A’s owner, Charlie Finley, resulted in Hawk’s departure to Washington during the ’66 Season. Topps’ photographers took multiple shots of Ken in a Senators uniform in 67 spring training and early in the season at Yankee Stadium. The latter resulted in another wonderful card. Hawk looks down at his bat as if assessing its weight and worthiness. Topps often used this shot for “sluggers.”

Charley Finley was notorious for having “trader’s remorse” and would reacquire players he previously jettisoned. Hawk comes back to the A’s in mid-season of ‘67 only to become embroiled in a controversy surrounding Finley’s firing of Manager Al Dark, resulting in his release. After losing Tony Conigliaro the Red Sox need a power bat, so they pick up Hawk for the stretch run and World Series.

68 Hawk

However, the players’ boycott of Topps resulted in Ken never being pictured in a Red Sox uniform.  A “nostril” shot is used in ’68, which clearly defines why Ken was nick-named Hawk. The red piping on the hat is a clear indication of his time with the Senators. His “League Leader” photos are also from his Senators stay.

69 Hawk  69 All Star Hawk

The ’69 regular card and All-Star card has him sans cap with his A’s green and gold uniform.

69 Deckle Hawk

The “deckle edge” also has him on the A’s but with a not too convincing Boston “B” drawn on the cap.

69 decal

Topps reverts back to a Senators photo for the decal insert.

70 Hawk

Much to the consternation of Red Sox fans, Hawk is dealt to the Indians early in ’69, which results in a ’70 card that is truly a wonderful creation. The colorful uniform, Yankee Stadium location and the “two bats on the shoulder” pose all add up to perfection. Note the golf gloves for batting. Hawk is often credited with popularized the use of batting gloves, although others had used them before Ken. Also, Hawk appears to have taped his wrists.

71 Hawk

Since “he gone” from baseball at the end of the season, ’71 marks Ken’s final card  This “candid” shot shows him in mid-laugh under a shock of shaggy hair.

What all these cards have in common is a uniqueness that, in my humble opinion, has been missing from Topps regular issue cards over the past 20 years. The Heritage cards are an improvement, but the staging eliminates oddities in the background.

If you can, track down “Don’t Knock the Hawk” (a novelty song from ’68). And read his BioProject article written by Alexander Edelman.

 

It’s Hard

It can’t be easy being Dick Pole. Here’s a guy who was a major league pitcher for six years, including the 1975 World Series, then became a successful pitching coach, cited by Greg Maddux as a major influence. But his claim to fame is that his name is Dick Pole. Dick Pole! And then to be Dick Pole on the Beavers?  Come on, cut the guy a break.

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There’s a super cool 1981 TCMA Sandy Koufax card from when the great Koofoo was a roving minor league pitching instructor in the Dodger chain. TCMA put him in their Albuquerque Dukes team set but when word got out that they shouldn’t have assumed they had the rights to do so, the card was pulled. It’s not very expensive, $15-20, but it is relatively hard to find.

1981 Koufax front002

I’ve got a bunch of minor league sets, most I picked up in big lots years after they had plummeted from peak value. They’re fun, very goofy, and sometimes you come across a real gem. As I rifled through my 1981 sets, all in alphabetical order by team city, I hit upon this poor schnook.

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You’d think that with a name like Johnson Wood, to my ears even more ridiculous than Dick Pole, I’d have either heard of him or remembered him from when I got the 1981 Burlington Bees set. His card came as an incredibly funny surprise. I had to know more.

That’s when it became difficult. Wood had a nondescript minor league career, going by the name of John Wood to save his dignity, popping back up to manage in the Western League, guiding the 1998 Pacific Suns to a 28-62 record. Not so good.

I wanted to find out more about him but I can’t find much more online. I’m sure if I ducked to the Hall of Fame library I could dig up old articles and pictures. I’m not that interested. I thought I could find out some critical mass of information from my desk chair. No luck.  I also Tweeted out to Tom Candiotti, who was Wood’s teammate in 1983 in El Paso. I’m curious how much of a hard time his teammates gave good ol’ Johnson Wood. I’m still waiting for an answer.

Having a double phallic name has got to be tough, at least from the first moment of adolescent when your friends realizes that both of your names are synonyms for penis. I can’t imagine. I got a reasonable amount of shit with a last name of Katz!

I’ll probably stay on the Johnson Wood story for a little, maybe see what files the Hall has. I feel like this dude had it hard enough, what with his name, his less than illustrious minor league career and one horrendous season managing in the independent Western league.  We should all have a little empathy for the Johnson Woods of the world, doing their best to stand tall and firm against the stress and pressures that affect a lot of guys who, occasionally, fall flat.

 

Thriller Decade Part 1: Results

Thanks to the 160 of you who took our poll to determine the best cards sets, annually, from 1981 through 1985. Click here to read about the poll and see the fronts and backs of the fifteen different sets.

One overall observation (spoiler!): there is probably a lot of Topps Loyalty out there, people who grew up with Topps in the 1970s (or earlier) and stuck with them through the years even until today as most of their competition has come and gone.

Anyhow, here are our favorite sets, year to year.

Note: scores are average point totals, where a 1st place vote is a 3, 2nd place vote a 2, 3rd place vote a 1.

1981 Topps (2.46), Fleer (1.91), Donruss (1.64)

1981to3

In July 1980 Fleer finally won their court case against Topps, when a judge ruled that the player’s association must grant a license to at least one other company to produce baseball cards. As it happened, they awarded two: one to Fleer, and one to Donruss. The two companies had just a few months to put together card sets, including the gathering of several hundred photographs.

Given the timeframe, the existence of the two sets is remarkable. But not remarkable enough to produce designs as well as Topps, who had been at it for 30 years.

1982 Topps (2.55), Donrus (2.03), Fleer (1.40)

s-l225 (3)

Topps won a minor reversal in their legal battle, so beginning in 1982 neither rival was allowed to put gum in their packs. (In 1981, all companies had gum.) The 1982 Topps set also turned in its second decisive victory.

In my opinion, Donruss took a big leap forward in design and photography, but Fleer was the opposite — cards so uninspired and blurry that I wondered whether they would bother continuing. (I joked on Twitter that the photos look to have been taken by your stoned friends on Florida spring break. And they do.)

1983 Topps (2.71), Fleer (1.76), Donruss (1.49)

83-topps-last-card-ripken

The most decisive victory in the poll. I could be wrong, but I think this is more a reflection of people’s love for the Topps entry rather than a reflection of the other companies. This is my favorite Topps set of the 1980s, so I sympathize.

Where I differ from the consensus is that I love the 1983 Fleer set. In fact, Fleer was a game changer for me. I was now out of college, and I had pretty much decided that I was just going to be a Topps guy, that the usurpers, while admirable, had not done well enough to convince me to buy multiple sets. So I got my Topps set early that year and called it a day.

And then I wandered into a card shop one day, saw some Fleer cards, and basically fell in love. The use of the logo instead of (not “in addition to”, like 1965 Topps) the team name was genius, the overall design was attractive (the first non-white border since 1975 Topps), and the backs were much better than Topps (and had been from the beginning, to be honest).

As I said, I really liked the 1983 Topps set, but I still like Fleer better all these years later.

1984 Fleer (2.05), Donruss (2.03), Topps (1.97)

murphy-84f

This was basically a 3-way tie, and if I ran this poll again using a different methodology it is anyone’s guess which would win. In fact, Fleer had the lowest total of 1st place votes (although the margin was also razor thin). But Fleer is the winner.

I assumed Donruss would win as it is one of the most famous sets ever. It was famous in 1984 for supposedly being scarce, and for having a great Don Mattingly rookie card. I have seen a number of articles or surveys about the best card sets ever, and this set is often mentioned.

Personally, the 1984 Donruss and Fleer sets are my favorites from the 1980s. As for Topps, I didn’t like their repeat of the second photo on the front. They went 20 years before using it in 1983, and should have exercised the same patience before going back to the well. (Admittedly, I am a one-photo guy.)

1985 Topps (2.21), Donruss (2.02), Fleer (1.81)

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Topps is back on top in another very strong year for all three companies. After Fleer showed the way in 1983, Topps used team logos for the first time in 20 years. This was much preferrable to the second photo, in my opinion.

Donruss also debuted the team logo, and (like Fleer) used it instead of the team name. Donruss was the winner for me, but Topps was our (mild) consensus.

So there you have it. Topps takes four out of five, and easily could have swept. But by the mid-1980s I think it is clear that all three companies were on relatively equal footing, each having pros and cons. In 1981 we wondered: could the market really handle three card companies? A few years later, we knew the answer.

The best of The Thriller Years, Part 1

In previous polls, we have debated the best baseball card designs of the 1970s and the 1960s.  This was the heart of the Topps Era, when there was only one card set to worry about so we were ranking 10 sets per decade.

To tackle the 1980s, I decided to mix it up.  First of all, there were 31 cards sets in the decade, and I did not really want to ask you to ponder whether the 1983 Donruss deserves to slot ahead of the 1989 Score set in 27th place.  Check that: I did not really want to ask myself to do that.  So instead, we will start out by picking the best card set of each year.  We will skip 1980 for the moment (Topps was the only set).

Reviewing the rules:  Please, I beg you, do not vote for the set that had the best rookies, or the best update set, or the best retail value.  All those things being equal, if you look at 25 random cards from each year which are the most attractive? The End.

We are just going to do five years now, and finish up next week.

So, first review the photos below, and then vote.  The link is at the bottom.

1981

Steve-Garvey-(Surpassed-21-HR-on-card-back)  83-56aBk

s-l225  84-640aBk

1981to3  wpeE5

1982

s-l225 (1)  87-34Bk

s-l225 (2)  Robin-Yount

s-l225 (3)  89-390Bk

1983

$_58  download (1)

92-601Fr  92-601Bk

83-topps-last-card-ripken  download

1984

s-l225 (4) 95-151Bkmurphy-84f  96-186Bk

100_2721  25513-510Bk

1985

s-l225 (5) - Copy  100-222Bk - Copy

carew - Copy  101-297Bk

43648c5c004c7bf68b09711b4d8d9cd3  download (2)

OK, now go vote!

Stardom “Staehled”

68 Bench                          

Topps’ ability to project stardom for young players has always been mixed. For every Nolan Ryan and Johnny Bench who appeared on the “Rookie Stars” cards of the ‘60’s and ‘70s, there was a Mike Brumley or a Ron Tompkins. Of course we all know baseball is the most difficult sport to project success beyond potential. Nonetheless, the talent evaluators in Brooklyn could be decidedly dogged in their insistence that some youngsters had star potential. Thus, there are several instances of the same players featured on multiple “Rookie Stars” cards.   I included the ’63 version-which is not team specific- in the survey.

64 Piniella

69 Staehl

In most instances statistical evidence did not back up Topps’ talent appraisals, with a few exceptions. The most well known is “Sweet” Lou Piniella who appears on three cards for three different teams. Lou vindicated Topps loyalty by emerging as a solid player for the Royals and Yankees. Darrell Knowles is another multiple card rookie who had a good but not spectacular career. One of the “Miracle Mets” chief “linchpins,” Tommy Agee, was another excellent player who-like Piniella- earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

63 Simpson

64 Simpson

65 Simpson

66 Simpson

However, the majority of the guys who appear two, three or four times never lived up to Topps’ lofty expectations. For instance Dick Simpson is on four different cards starting with in ’63.  He bounced around with five teams before his potential ran out in ’69 after a stint with Seattle. Bob Davis shows up three times and Ron Stone has a “triple” as well. The before mentioned Ron Tompkins, Roberto Rodriquez, Darrell Osteen (who appear together in ’68 for Reds) and Richie Scheinblum (paired with Lou Piniella as ’68 Indians) all had “doubles.”

65 Staehl

66 Staehl

69 Staehl

Marv Staehl is a classic example of overhyped potential. He appears on the White Sox “Rookie Stars” cards in ’65 and ’66 and for the Pilots in ’69. Marv played a total of 47 games for the “Pale Hose” but never played with Seattle, having been optioned to AAA Vancouver at the end spring training. He does hold the distinction of being the first player with major league experience signed by the Pilots.

After being dealt to the Expos, Marv finally exceeded his rookie status in ’70 by playing in over 100 games. The Expos are not impressed and cut him in April of ’71. He latches on with the Braves but is released after 22 games and a .111 average. Though his major league career ends, ’71 is not all bad for Marv. Topps finally gives him a card of his own, even if the cap emblem was inexpertly airbrushed away.

71 Staehl

Several months ago erstwhile blog contributor and Mayor of Cooperstown, Jeff Katz, informed me that Marv Staehl was once his insurance agent in Illinois. Marv had to be an All-State agent since he was known for having “good hands” around second base.

If I missed a multiple “Rookie Stars” player, let us know.

 

Goin’ Horizontal

When this blog did its poll of favorite 1970’s sets, I was surprised that 1974 was my #1. Before I truly thought about the decade’s offerings, I would have flippantly said 1972 or 1977. Maybe even 1971. When I really got to thinking about it, I found I loved ’74 the most.

A prime reason I’m fond of that year’s cards is the huge amount of horizontal cards, especially the subset of 13 player cards. It’s not really a subset; I just think of them that way. They are my favorite cards in my favorite series, and they should be yours too. They’re great.

Here they are – not the horizontal All-Stars, team cards, Hank Aaron #1, playoffs, World Series (although there are some spectacular horizontals there) and leaders cards. These are the special baker’s dozen (non-Dusty variety) players that made the recumbent grade.

#28 – Manny Sanguillen 

I’ll admit this is not the best card to start with to prove my point. It ain’t much, but it’s a start and, you’ll have to admit, has its own look. Manny looks as sad as the Clemente-honoring black armband on his left sleeve.

$_58

#80 – Tom Seaver 

Possibly my favorite card of my favorite player. Fierce Seaver follow through, big Shea crowd behind him. I always figured this had to be taken during the 1973 World Series, but there’s no Seaver started day game in Flushing. Maybe Game 5 of the NLCS? Sure, why not.

s-l225

#86 – Joe Ferguson

Ferguson was a caveman with a rifle arm. He doesn’t look too imposing here, kinda dorky, but he had some power. Speaking of dorky, the Phillies’ batter is Craig Robinson. If it was Hot Tub Time Machine Craig Robinson, that would make a killer card.

$_58 (1)

#105 – Carlton Fisk

Fisk’s second full card and was there ever a better one? The guy played 20 more years and 1974 may be the pinnacle of his card-dom.

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#153 – Jon Matlack

The Seaver-Matlack 1974 combo was potent on the mound and unrivaled in this set.  Same looking day as the Seaver card, same looking crowd, but there’s no 1973 post-season Matlack appearance that fits. I have no idea, but it doesn’t matter. This card rocks.

s-l225 (1)

#238 – Fran Healy

No star, but Healy gets to go horizontal. Odd choice. I know nothing about camera technology, but the dark dark background is a signature period look. Plus, you get Thurman Munson, a future Healy teammate on the Yankees from 1976-78.

1974-fran-healy

#270 – Ron Santo

Like Sangullien’s card, not solid evidence that the 1974 horizontal cards are the best, and yet there’s something to this. The askew helmet is so goofy, and so appropriate for often silly Santo. Though small, who should be centered but bald old Leo Durocher. That’s good stuff.

1974-Topps-Baseball-Ron-Santo

#386 – Gary Matthews

This is a great action card. I’ll hear no objections. Everyone’s doing their job – Wayne Garrett’s waiting for a throw, John McNamara is showing excellent third base coach clapping skills and Matthews is clearly busting it out for a triple. Except he’s not. It was August 25, 1973, Matthews had singled in the top of the fifth off Seaver and hustled to third on a Tito Fuentes single. He was stranded when Bobby Bonds ended the inning with a fly out to Don Hahn in center field.

1974-gary-matthews

#392 – Dick Green

Green doing what Green did best, guarding the keystone and turning double plays.

Green74

#490 – Vada Pinson

That Vada Pinson always had a handsome card and this latter day Angels’ action shot is a keeper. I’m a big fan of veterans finding themselves on the Angels in the 1970’s. Frank Robinson in the Halo uni is my favorite. Another vet is still to come in this post.

s-l225 (2)

#575 – Steve Garvey

Another non-star, but not for long. 1974 was Garvey’s breakout, MVP season. Good scouting Topps! Like the dark Healy card, this one has a classic sports photo look, with the out of focus crowd providing a gauzy backdrop. Unless early ‘70’s crowds were themselves out of focus. Lots of drugs back then you know.

150899

#640 – Milt Pappas

Pappas had a late career revival in Chicago, with back to back 17 win season in 1971 and 1972 (when he nearly, and sort of did, pitch a perfect game. He was robbed). 1973 was his last season and this is his last card. A good one to go out on.

s-l225 (3)

#650 – Mike Epstein

In 1972, the Hebrew Hammer belted 26 homers for the champion A’s and finished 16th in AL MVP voting. Then he was traded to Texas to open space for Gene Tenace, then on to California. 1974 was his last year and, like Pappas, this was his farewell card. It’s a fine example in the washed up veteran on the Angels series.

74-650Fr