Monday, August 13, 2018

1990 Topps Minis #17: Bret Saberhagen

Next up in our quest to show the entire 1990 Topps Mini League Leaders set is 1985 and 1989 AL Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen.
Bret Saberhagen.
After typing the above line about Saberhagen being a two-time Cy Young winner, I wondered how many two-time Cy Young winners aren't in the Hall of Fame.  Other than active players and the not-yet-eligible, it's just Saberhagen, Roger Clemens (tainted by steroids), and Denny McClain.  Saberhagen was, as they say, injury plagued, and didn't do as well after 1989 even though he played in the majors through 2001.  His career record turned out to be 167-117 with a 3.34 ERA and 1 save, and 1715 strikeouts.
Bret Saberhagen card back.
As the 1989 AL Cy Young winner, Saberhagen easily had the stats to make it into this league leaders set.  As the card back shows, he was #1 in the AL in wins with 23, in ERA with 2.16, as well as in innings pitched and complete games.  He was third in strikeouts with 193 and third in batting average against at .217.  He tied for second in shutouts and tied for fourth in starts.  He had a good year.

Thanks for reading -- our next installment in this series will feature Saberhagen's fellow Royal Kevin Seitzer.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Recently Acquired Sets: 1986 and 1987 Fleer Minis

Fleer mini sets are something that I used to see in ads in Baseball Cards magazine, but which I don't recall ever seeing in the shops or at shows back in the day.  Having decided to pick up a few of these old sets, the 1986 and 1987 Fleer Minis seemed like a good choice, especially since I could get them both for about $5 each, shipped, from eBay. 
1986 Fleer Mini set box.
Having bought this 1986 Fleer mini set scratches an itch for me, and I no longer feel interested in getting a complete 1986 Fleer set.  This set is 120 cards and there were 26 teams back then, so it's approximately the 5 best players from each team.  It's not uniform of course -- some teams may have fewer than 5 and some more than 5.  But it's about the 5 best from each team.  This is just about perfect from my point of view.  I've been sometimes showcasing the 1990 Donruss Best of the NL set, which has about a dozen players from each team.  And other small sets, like the Chef Boyardee or Fantastic Sams sets I showed recently, are so small they don't even get one player per team.  This is a good sweet spot, so that it can really cover the players I'm most likely to have remembered from back then.
Steve Carlton and Von Hayes.
The 1986 set wasn't wrapped in plastic or anything, so it was an easy decision to open the box and take a look at the cards.  The seller claimed that this is the way they came from the factory and that it had never been opened; that's plausible for 1986, I think.  The cards weren't in numerical order, and the first cards out of the box were my childhood in cardboard form: the Phillies that I grew up watching.  Here we have Steve Carlton, who by 1986 was a bit past his prime, and Von Hayes, who was a star of some not very good Phillies teams of the 80s.
Juan Samuel and Mike Schmidt.
Juan Samuel was also a star of those not very good Phillies teams of the 80s, being an All-Star second baseman.  Mike Schmidt was of course the local legend, and he had one more great season in him, winning another MVP award in 1986.
Harold Baines and Dave Parker.
I have some small player collections of Harold Baines and Dave Parker, so these are good to have, although they'll live with the set and not in the binder.  Love the old Sox logo.
Tom Seaver and Reggie Jackson.
Tom Seaver and Reggie Jackson were just about at the end of their great careers.  Tom Seaver spent the end of 1986 injured on the Red Sox bench; if he hadn't been injured, maybe the Red Sox would have ended the curse of the Bambino several years earlier.  Reggie Jackson broke through the 500 home run mark in the 1984 season, and spent 1985 through 1987 adding to his total a bit, and helping the Angels in their postseason run.
Fernando Valenzuela and Carlton Fisk.
I had always watched some baseball but mostly started watching seriously around 1987, so I missed much of Fernando's greatness.  I'm always glad to find cards of him, though.  Carlton Fisk was very popular in my prime collecting years, circa 1990, based on his longevity.
Lonnie Smith and Dwight Gooden.
Lonnie Smith was part of some of my very early baseball memories, since he was a rookie star on the 1980 championship Phillies.  He finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, behind winner Steve Howe and runner-up Bill Gullickson.  He went on to win the World Series in 1982 and 1985 as well, with the Cardinals and the Royals.  He was on the losing side of the 1991 and 1992 World Series as well, with the Braves.  He had a solid career but would have likely done better without his involvement with drugs, as one of the players in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials.  Of course, here's a young Dwight Gooden, too, who (like many of the 1986 Mets!) famously had his own drug issues.
Andre Dawson and Tim Raines.
Here I've scanned together a couple of the all-time great Montreal Expos.  I'm a fan of both of these guys, for the power and the speed, and I'm glad they both made the Hall.
Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield.
Here, again, I've scanned together a pair of teammates and two all-time favorites, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield. Seeing these guys together likes this makes me wonder why those 80s Yankees teams weren't better.  The 1985 Yankees did go 97-64, it turns out, which is pretty good, but in those pre-Wild Card days, was just not enough to make the postseason since the Blue Jays went 99-62.
Bill Madlock and Cecil Cooper.
Finally, I'll close out the cards in this post with another two favorites in the sub-Hall of Fame category, Bill Madlock and Cecil Cooper.  I'm sure glad those 1979 Pirates bolstered their already impressive lineup with frequent batting champ Bill Madlock.  I posted a buch of Cecil Cooper cards a while ago.
1987 set.
And finally finally, here's the set box for the 1987 set.  You might be able to tell it's wrapped in plastic.  I've decided to leave it undisturbed.  I've said before I struggle with the question of whether to open things like this -- for the 1986 set it was easy because there was no plastic wrap.  Mainly I want to enjoy the cards, and I sure did enjoy going through these 1986 cards.  But also I feel like if something has made it for 30 years in the condition it left the factory, maybe it should go on a bit longer still.  Having bought both the 1986 and 1987 sets, I can have it both ways -- I enjoyed the '86 cards, and can leave the '87 set intact.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

More Blogiversary: Favorite Cards Bought in the Last Year

Picking up on the theme of yesterday's post, I'm showing some of my favorite cards I've bought since resuming collecting about a year ago.  I'll make a few more posts like this, reflecting on my first year back in the hobby.

These will be in no particular order.
1954 Jackie Robinson, 1973 Mike Schmidt.
Here's where it started: it dawned on me that after all these years, I could accomplish my childhood dream of owning a Mike Schmidt rookie card.  I also wanted to get a Jackie Robinson card for my son, who had just turned two.  I told my wife and she supported both ideas.  And I was off.  When cards were viewed as an investment in the 80s and I was a kid with an allowance, there was no way I could have gotten anywhere near these cards.  But all of a sudden I realized that as an adult with a job, and long after the card bubble popped, dreams can come true.
Dick Allen.
Dave Parker.
I always collected a lot of 70s cards back in the late 80s and early 90s, but of course I couldn't get everything.  I was limited to what I could afford and to what I came across in the shops and at the shows.  With online commerce now, though, cards are less rare.  And these two card scream 1970s, with the red White Sox uniform and the black Pirates uniform, not to mention Dick Allen's glasses and mustache.  In my opinion these two greats belong in the Hall of Fame, and I'm delighted to have these very 1970s cards of them in my binders.
1940 Jimmie Foxx.
The 500-home run club was a big deal to me as a kid, since I got into baseball seriously around the time the local hero Mike Schmidt joined it.  And I remember hearing the story that when Jimmie Foxx hit his 500th home run it wasn't considered a big deal, since he was only the second one to do it after Babe Ruth, and Ruth had 700+ home runs.  So, if that's true, people hadn't really calibrated yet how special it was to reach 500.  And apart from all that, even though he's pictured with the Red Sox, Foxx in a way represents old Philadelphia in my collection since he was known for his time with the Philadelphia Athletics.
1970 Kellogg's Willie Stargell.
This 1970 Kellogg's Willie Stargell is great for its minimal design.  The later Kellogg's cards are great, too, but something about this, with its plain white border and simple baseball text field in the corner, not to mention the young Willie Stargell depicted, stops me every time I flip past it in the binder.
1960 Topps Frank Robinson.
I only ever had a handful of Topps cards from the 60s.  I collected the 70s pretty well, much more than most kids in the 80s going to card shows.  But the 60s were more distant and more expensive, too.  I don't recall knowing what the 1960 design looked like.  But when, in the past year, I saw this 1960 Topps Frank Robinson card online, I knew I had to have one.  It's a beautiful design, and capturing one of the game's greatest sluggers and all-around players when he was a young man (chances are he was 24 when this picture was taken) makes it all the better.  I've now added a few more 1960 Topps cards to my main binder, and will show the others in due course.

There are plenty more cards I could include.  I've been buying pairs of Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn cards in honor of Dad's memory, since he was a fan of those Whiz Kids when he was little.  But none of the cards stand out to me individually; they mean more to me as a group.  And I'll write a followup post to talk about some of my favorite newly acquired sets that I've bought in the past year, so I'm not including cards from those sets here.

Having said all that, here are a couple more cards, which we might call honorable mentions:
Tony Gwynn.
Wade Boggs.
To a lesser extent than the Mike Schmidt rookie card, there were a bunch of cards that would have been nice to have but were serious investments.  I did manage to get a Rickey Henderson rookie card, but that was off a friend, and I got a Dave Winfield because it was badly off-center.  But the rookie cards of the then-future Hall-of-Famers were hit or miss, a kid couldn't get them all back then.  So two big ones were from the 1983 Topps set, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs.  I didn't have them back in the day, but can get them now for just a couple of bucks each.  They make good additions to the main binder.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

First Blogiversary; 245th Post; Roberto Clemente Acquisitions

It's been one year of blogging for me today.

My original goal was to tell stories about the cards I bought as a kid, with the idea that my son (who is now 3 years old) might one day read them.  Collecting cards was the best part of my childhood, and I wanted to get some of that down in writing.  Things quickly evolved, though.  While the original goal still holds, I also started a vigorous program of adding to my collection.  I posted as part of a blog bat-around what I was working on with my collection.  I originally said that I felt that I was working on completing my collection, and I think at this point, it's almost complete.  In the bat-around post, I said I was working on completing my main binder and some small player collections, and that's all done now with my most recent COMC shipment.  I am working on a 1972 Topps set, so that I can say that I've put together one vintage set on my own.  I'm about half done with that and will see it through.  I said I was starting to work on a 1959 Topps set, but I've decided to cancel that plan.  The 1972 set plus a few select 1959 cards will be enough for me.  Other than the 1972 Topps set, the only big thing I still plan to do is finish my small PSA-graded subcollection.  I have about 30 cards there, and have a plan to get about 30 more, over time.

While I feel like my program of adding to my collection is winding down, I do plan to keep blogging, perhaps for as much as a couple of years.  I think I have more to say about the cards I do have.

For now, I will show four cards of The Great One, Roberto Clemente, that came in my recent COMC box.
1970 Topps Super Roberto Clemente.
1970 Topps Roberto Clemente.
I posted a while ago some 1971 Topps Supers that I picked up from eBay.  The point of getting them was in part to get the 1971 Clemente Super, and in part to get any of the older Topps Supers.  (I had some 1981 Topps Supers before, which I showed here and here.)  Knowing that there was a 1970 Super of Clemente, I naturally wanted that as well.  So here it is.  I also picked up the regular Topps 1970 card of Clemente; in my original collection, I had the 1971, 1972, and 1973 cards of him.  I object to any card which calls him "Bob" rather than his name, Roberto, so I am uninterested in most other Topps cards of him.  In 1970, though, they were back to calling him Roberto, so this is a good pickup for me.
1994 Yoo-Hoo Rawlings Gold Glove Roberto Clemente.
My original collection stops at 1994, although I mainly switched to collecting comics around 1991 or so.  Still, seeing these 1994 Yoo-Hoo cards on COMC, I had to pick up a few.  I've posted many cards in my collection that were sponsored by various food products, like cereals, sodas, and fast food chains, among others, and adding some Yoo-Hoo cards seemed like a natural choice.  So of course Clemente was one of the Yoo-Hoo set I chose to pick up to represent this set in my collection.  Clemente won 12 Gold Gloves for his play in right field.
1972 Topps Roberto Clemente.

Finally, like I said, I'm working on a 1972 set, but I already had the 1972 Topps card of Clemente.  I decided to pick up a second copy, so that my old, beat up version can stay at home in my main binder.  While the 1973 card is my all-time favorite card because it's the first good card that Dad and I bought together, I have to think that this 1972 might be just about the greatest baseball card of all time.  In addition to the card itself, I have fond memories of it from the 1987 Topps Turn Back the Clock subset, since 1987 Topps is the set that got me seriously collecting in the first place.

Thanks for reading!  It's been a good year.

Monday, August 6, 2018

1988 Starting Lineup Talking Baseball: Pirates Team Set

I posted before about the Starting Lineup Talking Baseball game.  I got this as a gift for my 13th birthday in 1988.  I went through the two sets of cards that came with the game: NL All-Stars and AL All-Stars.   I had one expansion cartridge beyond what came with the game, and that consisted of the Pirates, Phillies, and Mets.  Here are the Pirates cards.  If you saw those All-Star cards, you'll notice that those featured photos, while these feature drawings instead, for some reason.

I've been a Pirates fan since soon after I started opening packs of 1987 Topps.  I grew up between Philly and Baltimore, a bit closer to Philly, in northern Delaware.  Everyone was a Phillies fan.  Mike Schmidt was every boy's hero.  I had always had some baseball cards around, but in early 1987, the neighborhood kids and I started seriously purchasing 1987 Topps packs from our local 7-Eleven.  I decided to pick a favorite team, and I looked through all the cards I had so far to inform my decision.  I somehow settled on the Pirates, which is funny because the 1986 Pirates those cards were based on were not a good team at all.  But I stuck with my choice, and was in time to see them rebuild into a three-time NL East winner.
Andy Van Slyke.
Brian Fisher.
Andy Van Slyke was one of the cornerstones of that rebuild.  Really, in trading All-Star catcher Tony Pena to the Cardinals, the Pirates got several pieces which would serve them well.  Van Slyke became a 3-time All-Star himself with the Pirates.  I picked up several of his rookie cards back in the day, and just recently got an autographed card of him, which I'll feature when it comes in the mail.

Brian Fisher I don't really remember.  He pitched with the Bucs 1987-1989, going 19-22 with them, with a 4.72 ERA.  He played one more year with Houston afterwards.
Mike Dunne.
Jose Lind.
Mike Dunne was another piece of the Pena trade with the Cards.  He had some promise, but didn't work out in the long run.  Jose Lind was an acrobatic infielder, winning a Gold Glove in 1992.
Sid Bream.
Bobby Bonilla.
If you're a Pirates fan, then Sid Bream surely broke your heart.  That the Bucs missed the 1992 World Series because of Bream's hit for the Braves was a terrible moment in my adolescence.  Bobby Bonilla was another of the cornerstones of those division winners, except that he was gone by the third year.  By 1992, Bonilla had moved on to the Mets.
John Smiley.
Junior Ortiz.
John Smiley was a staple of the rotation for those late 80s/early 90s Pirates teams.  He even led the NL in wins in 1991.  Junior Ortiz I only barely remember; he was mainly the backup catcher for the Bucs, through the 1989 season.
Jim Gott.
Darnell Coles.
My first memory of Darnell Coles is as a Tiger, although he started out as a Mariner.  The Pirates traded 1987 team batting leader Jim Morrison to Detroit for Coles and a player to be named later, but then traded Coles back to Seattle for Glenn Wilson soon thereafter.  Seattle then traded him back to Detroit.  The main thing I remember about Coles is reading a story, many years ago, about Coles throwing a ball out of the stadium, over the roof, one game (here's a story that refers to that).  Jim Gott was in the Bucs' bullpen from mid-1987 through 1989, and played with the Blue Jays, the Giants, and the Dodgers otherwise in his career between 1982 and 1995.
John Cangelosi.
Mike Diaz.
John Cangelosi played with the Bucs from 1987 through 1990, as a utility player/backup outfielder.  Mike Diaz was a utility player in the majors in 1983 and from 1986 through 1988, mainly with the Pirates but also with both Chicago teams.
R.J. Reynolds.
Jeff Robinson.
R.J. Reynolds, of the same name as the tobacco company, was with the Dodgers from 1983 through mid-1985, then with the Pirates for the rest of his career until retiring in 1990.  His best year was probably 1987, with 51 RBI and a batting average of .260.  There were two pitchers named Jeff Robinson in the late 80s/early 90s, both of whom played at one point with the Pirates.  This is Jeff D. Robinson, the relief pitcher.  In 1988, he pitched in 75 games with the Pirates for 124.2 innings, with a 3..03 ERA.  The other Jeff Robinson was a starting pitcher and was only with the Bucs for part of 1992.

Doug Drabek.
Barry Bonds.
Here we have two stars of the early 90s Bucs.  Doug Drabek won a Cy Young award in 1990, going 22-6 with a 2.76 ERA.  Barry Bonds, of course, is Barry Bonds, and probably wasn't doping at this point in his career.
Felix Fermin.
Mike Lavalliere.
Felix Fermin was only with the Pirates for his first two seasons, 1987 and 1988.  He got a chance to play everyday after being traded to the Indians in early 1989.  Mike Lavalliere was one of several good pickups for the Bucs in the Tony Pena trade to the Cardinals.  He became the starting catcher, was a good hitter, and won a Gold Glove in 1987.
Al Pedrique.
Rafael Belliard.
Al Pedrique was a Topps All-Star Rookie in the 1988 set.  He did bat .301 for the Pirates in 88 games in 1987.  Things didn't work out, and 1989 was his last season in the majors.  Rafael Belliard had a long career, with the Bucs from 1982 through 1990, and then with the Braves until retiring after the 1998 season.  He only played everyday for a couple of those seasons and was a lifetime .221 hitter, but was valuable enough as an infielder to keep around for that long, and started all 6 games of the 1995 World Series for the champion Braves.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Recent Acquisition: Barry Latman, 1962 (or 1963) Jay Publishing Cleveland Indians

Now that I'm buying cards again, I'm finding that I am enjoying the occasional freebie that sellers throw in with whatever I bought on eBay.  I bought some 1984 and 1985 Topps Supers recently, and will post them before long.  But a real oddball was included along with the cards I bought, and I wanted to feature it in a quick post.
Barry Latman.
This is more of a photo than a baseball card, but it shows up in the Trading Card Database.  It's not too hard to track down, either, since Barry Latman only has 49 total cards to choose from.  The database has it down as part of the 1962 Jay Publishing Cleveland Indians, which judging by this one, was a set of 12 unnumbered black-and-white 5x7 publicity photos of the Indians.  Or 1963; Jay Publishing used the same picture for both, so I guess it could be either.  I'm not familiar with many of the players, but I do see that Tito Francona, father of Terry, current manager of the Indians, is one of them.  Barry Latman pitched in the majors from 1957 through 1967 for the White Sox, Indians, Angels, and Astros, primarily as a starter, putting together a record of 59-68 with a 3.91 ERA and 16 saves.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Recent Acquisition: Hires Root Beer Clem Labine

In the COMC Spring Cleaning sale, I got a coupon for free shipping, which I just redeemed.  So I've been building a haul in my COMC account for about half a year, and I just received the 200+ cards.  The subject of this post is just one of those cards, which sits at the intersection of two of my interests: soda, and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I love soda.  I'm sure I drink way too much of it every day.  And as a kid, Hires root beer was one of my favorites.  I'm not sure they even make Hires anymore, but a couple of years ago I at least was able to order some from Amazon.  The Baseball Cards magazine repli-cards that I posted a while ago included a "card that never was" of Mickey Mantle, from the nonexistent 1956 Bowman set.  That design, though, was used for the 1958 Hires Root Beer set.  I've always wanted to get a card from the Hires set, and now I have one.
Clem Labine.
Like I said above, I've also long been fascinated by the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The move of the Dodgers from Brooklyn to the west coast was a defining moment in the 20th century, giving a definite marker for the rise of California in our culture.  That they did it after at last beating the Yankees in a World Series was at least some consolation for the people of Brooklyn, I think.  Clem Labine went 1-0 in that 1955 World Series, pitching in four games in relief.  In his career, Labine played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, and then for the Tigers, Pirates, and Mets, having put together a 77-56 record with 94 saves and a 3.63 ERA.

Thanks for reading!