Saturday, September 30, 2017

From My Collection: Mackanin, Hurdle, Searage in 1982

I was looking through my pre-1987 Topps recently, and noticed something in my 1982 Topps:  I saw the current managers for the Phillies and Pirates, and the pitching coach for the Pirates.  Then, last night (Sept. 29), the Phillies fired manager Pete Mackanin.  It turns out I also had a 1982 Donruss of Mackanin.  In honor of his (brief) tenure as manager, here they are:
1982 Topps Pete Mackanin.
1982 Donruss Pete Mackanin.
These should be his last cards, since his playing career ended in 1981.  Mackanin says that next year, wins and losses will matter for the Phillies.  It's disappointing to know that they haven't mattered this year, but I guess the Phils are at the extreme depths of rebuilding.

Clint Hurdle's contract was recently extended as manager of the Pirates.  I don't know pitching coach Ray Searage's status, but I imagine he'll continue for a long time.  It's hard to be optimistic as a Pirates fan, I think; in a perfect world, some of the best players would return for next year, and stay healthy, and they would add some pitching. 
1982 Topps Clint Hurdle.
1982 Topps Ray Searage.
Wikipedia says that Searage went 1-0 with the Mets, and as a batter, went 1-for-1, giving him a 1.000 winning percentage and a 1.000 batting average.  His career record was 11-13.  Hurdle played for the Royals, Reds, Mets, and Cardinals between 1977 and 1987, finishing with a .259 career average.  On Facebook, when the Pirates post, there are a lot of calls to get rid of Hurdle in the comments.  I like Hurdle fine and don't think replacing him would make much difference -- the Pirates need to spend more money on pitching, and try to stay healthy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

My First Beckett: September 1987, Andre Dawson Front Cover

I always had some baseball cards around, but I started seriously collecting in 1987.  There were other kids in the neighborhood interested in baseball and cards.  We could ride our bikes to the 7-Eleven and buy packs of 1987 Topps.   We got our parents to take us to Stale Gum, the card shop in town in Newark, DE.  At some point, naturally, I got a price guide, and this was my first, the September 1987 Beckett.
Andre Dawson and his 1987 Donruss card on the cover of Beckett.
I remember reading about Andre Dawson signing a blank contract to get a deal with the Cubs.  I was impressed that he would do whatever it took to get to play with the team he wanted.  I didn't understand at the time that this was a story of the owners illegally colluding against the players.  The collusion probably kept players like Al Oliver out of the Hall of Fame, and ultimately undergirded the 1994 strike and the cancellation of the World Series (a move which drove me away from baseball for about 20 years).
Don Mattingly on the back cover.
The back cover features a simple headshot photo of Mattingly in his prime.  This was the year Mattingly hit all those grand slams.  The fifth one of those grand slams was on Sept. 25, 1987 in Baltimore; I think my dad might have been at the game.  Dad's company had Orioles season tickets, and he and I went sometimes.  I think he went a few times with people from work and may have been at that game.

The table of contents.
I haven't been able to bring myself to re-read any of the articles.  "Special Sets: What To Look For" still resonates with me, as I can't decide sometimes if buying yet another little set makes any difference to my collection.

I thought maybe I had a subscription to Beckett, but I'm sure now that I didn't.  I have a handful of Becketts; I guess I would get them about once a year or so to have a better price guide, but mostly my magazines were Baseball Cards magazine or similar, which I had mainly for the ads.  Judging by the issues I have, it looks like I had a subscription to Baseball Cards for 1991-1992 or thereabouts.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

My Favorite Card: 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente

I can't imagine any circumstance in which I ever like a card more than my 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente.  I recently sent it to PSA to be graded and slabbed, and it earned a grade of 3, VG.  More important to me than any grade is that the card is significantly more protected than it was before.
My 1973 Topps Roberto Clemente, graded 3 VG by PSA.
You naturally may be asking, Why is this his favorite card?  This is easy.  This is the first "good" card Dad and I ever bought.  When I started to be heavily into baseball cards at age 11 in 1987, I chose the Pirates as my favorite team.   I don't remember the order we did things in, but at some point we got a Beckett price guide (the September 1987 issue with Andre Dawson on the cover) and some other baseball card magazines, we ordered some cards from an ad we saw in a magazine, and we went to a baseball card show.

I remember some details of that first show.  I am sure that it was at the Concordville Inn in Concordville, PA.  We lived in Newark, DE, and this was an easy trip -- up I-95 to 202, turn right on US-1, and pretty soon you're there.  I don't know if we agreed how much I could spend or anything like that, but I was clear that I wanted a Clemente card.  When we got into the main room, we went up to a dealer with a few binders, and Dad asked if he had any Clemente.  He turned right to this card, and Dad asked how much.  This is where my memory falters, I think -- for the past several years when I've thought of this, the price in my memory is $25.  According to the price guide from that time, that would have been way too much.  Maybe it was actually $10 or $15.  But, Dad looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted it, and I was sure, so he bought it for me.  We got the Clemente card first thing, and after that, stood in line for a Brooks Robinson autograph; I'm sure we also looked around and bought some less important stuff.  I had a great time.  I don't know when the show was; from some partial information I found online, I think maybe November 1988.  I don't remember every detail, but the big picture remains -- this is the first good card my Dad and I got.

Clemente was a special talent and a special human being, and this will always be my favorite card.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

From My Collection: Ken Griffey, Sr.

Many people of my collecting generation were enamored with the 1989 Upper Deck set, and with the Ken Griffey, Jr. card in particular.  A good description of how meaningful the card was to some people can be found here, at the Commons 4 Kids website.  That does not describe me, though -- I thought Upper Deck was too expensive.  Maybe my family was having a rough time financially in 1989; there are a few odd gaps in my collection from that year.  Before I quit collecting in 1994, I only ever got a few packs of Upper Deck across the various years.   For me, and I think for my friends who collected at the same time, the 1987 Mark McGwire rookie card was more iconic.

I am interested in filling gaps in my collection, but really I am considering gaps from pre-1987 almost exclusively.  Ken Griffey, Sr. is more relevant than Junior, then.  I looked through my collection, and I can only find two pre-1987 cards of Senior. 
1982 Topps Cincinnati Reds 1981 Batting and Pitching Leaders.
One of these reflects Ken Griffey's 1981 batting average of .311, which led the Reds.  He placed 6th in the NL, with Bill Madlock leading with .341, with Pete Rose, Dusty Baker, and Mike Schmidt in places two through four, and with Bill Buckner of the Cubs also with an average of .311.  Buckner was in 5th and Griffey in 6th, though, if you go out to more decimal places.

1984 Fleer Ken Griffey (Sr.) card.
By 1982, Griffey was no longer playing in Cincinnati.  This 1984 Fleer shows him with his new club, the Yankees.  He kept performing, hitting .306 for them in 1983.

I've mentioned having a few vacancies in my binder, and I'm going to aim to fill at least one of those with a 1970s Griffey, probably his 1974 rookie card.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

From My Collection: Gary Carter until 1980

On the advice of a friend, I am reading the book The Bad Guys Won!, about the 1986 Mets.
Book cover of The Bad Guys Won!
It's about how terrible the players were as human beings, apparently.  I'll find out as I read it.  You can see Gary Carter, excited about the World Series win, on the cover of the book.  While I might post more as I read the book, this made me want to post some of my older Gary Carter cards.
Gary Carter's rookie card.
At some point I acquired a Gary Carter rookie card, which is a 1975 Rookie Catchers-Outfielders card that he shares with three others, Marc Hill, catcher for the Giants, Danny Meyer, outfielder for the Tigers, and Leon Roberts, outfielder for the Tigers.  This awkward Catchers-Outfielders construction perhaps shows the problem of putting 4 rookies per card, something Topps stopped doing a few years later, I think.  You can see in the photo that the card is badly damaged -- there is a thick crease at the top, and another thick crease (maybe harder to see) in the corresponding position at the bottom of the card.  The card was cheap -- getting it in this condition was the only way I was going to afford Gary Carter's rookie card at the time.
1977 Topps Gary Carter.
Early in my collecting days, I bought a 1977 Topps Gary Carter and a 1980 Topps Gary Carter at Stale Gum, the local baseball card shop in Newark, DE.  I remember showing them to a friend in my backyard.  They went missing from my collection after that, and my friend then sold the cards to another friend, a Mets fan, right in front of me a couple of days later.  We moved away from that neighborhood soon after, and I didn't have to see those "friends" again.  I replaced the cards a few years later.
1979 Topps Gary Carter.
I kind of hated Gary Carter in the 80s, not because of anything he did, but because he was on the Mets, and the Mets were rivals to the Pirates.  Also because when my Dad and I went to Phillies games against the Mets, awful Mets fans would come down from New York and New Jersey and ruin the game for us -- the Mets fans were loud, obnoxious, and looking to start fights.  I guess the book will tell me more specifically why I was right to dislike those Mets.
1980 Topps Gary Carter.
This post hasn't really been about Gary Carter, so let me at least say something about him as a player.  Carter won the first of his three Gold Gloves in 1980.  He was an 11-time All-Star, first in 1975, and then every year from 1979-1988, winning the All-Star MVP award twice.  Of his time with the Expos, some of his best offensive years were 1977, when he hit 31 HR with 84 RBI, 1980, when he hit 29 HR with 101 RBI, and 1984, when he hit 27 HR and led the NL with 106 RBI.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his sixth ballot in 2003.

Monday, September 25, 2017

From My Collection: Lee May (The Big Bopper)

I don't like to have too many cards that I think of as one-of-a-kind in my collection.  I posted this 1972 Topps card of Willie Stargell, Hank Aaron, and Lee May (the 1971 NL home run leaders) earlier as an affordable way that I was able to get Hank Aaron into my collection back in the 80s.  But given that I have a few slots in my binder to fill out, I thought maybe I would try to buy a nice Lee May card, so that this isn't my only example of him in his prime. 
Lee May on a league leader card.
It turns out that I don't need to buy anything new, though.  After looking through my binder and planning out my goals to fill it out, I looked back through my box of pre-1980 Topps cards.  I already have a great example of Lee May in his prime, his 1969 Topps card.
1969 Topps Lee May
The card isn't in perfect shape but it has sharp corners and is in better shape than the handful of other 1969s I have -- especially my beat-up Harmon Killebrew, which I'll post someday.  May started in the majors with the Reds in 1965, playing in 5 games, and returned for 25 games in 1966.  In 1967, he was in the majors for good.  This is his fourth Topps card, as he was on a Reds Rookie Stars card in 1966, again in 1967 (both times paired with Darrell Osteen), and had his own card in 1968, which showed the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy.  In 1968, May batted .290 with 22 HR and 80 RBI; this was the first of 11 straight seasons with 20 home runs and 80 RBI.
1982 Topps Lee May card.
May is mainly known for his time on the Reds and Orioles, but played for the Astros and Royals for a few years each, too.  Here you see my 1982 Topps Lee May card.  I've said it before: my cards from this era lived on my bedroom floor and I was only 6 years old.  They didn't make it through unscathed.  The creases indicate I've had this since 1982, and it wasn't a later acquisition. 
1983 Topps Lee May Super Veteran card.
I like these 1983 Super Veteran cards that Topps made; I don't know if they ever did this again.  I thought it was a nice way to honor players who may be near the end of their careers.  May ended his career in 1982 with 354 home runs, 1244 RBI, and 2031 hits.  He's in the Reds Hall of Fame, the Orioles Hall of Fame, and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.  This card is in great shape, indicating that I acquired it not in 1983, but when I was older.

I see that Lee May died just recently, on July 29, 2017, just before I began this blog.  May he rest in peace.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sets in My Collection: 1988 Fleer Toys"R"Us Baseball MVP Set (Dunne, Higuera, Hough, Seitzer, Sheets)

This Sunday's featured set is the 1988 Fleer Toys"R"Us Baseball MVP set.
A Toys"R"Us exclusive.
The top of the box is really the only thing to indicate the Toys"R"Us connection.  I have at least one other Toys"R"Us boxed set, and those are clearly marked on the fronts of the cards.  These are more of a generic card design; maybe they made the cards first and figured out which retailer would get it later.
Very generic box front.
Not much on the front of the box.  Very generic.  Some of these boxed sets have a logic to them, and others don't.  For example, a set of season highlights, or a set of rookies, or a set of players who led their teams in some statistical categories, would have some logic to it.  This, Baseball MVP, is completely meaningless.  There obviously aren't 44 MVPs in one year, so this is just a box of cards of some players that are at least pretty good.

Pirates rookie Pitcher Mike Dunne.
Mike Dunne went 13-6 in his rookie season (1987) with the Pirates.  It was fun to watch him do so well, and to watch the Pirates start their resurgence, as they were building up to three consecutive divisional titles.  Dunne was traded early in 1989, and his career ended soon after.

Brewers Pitcher Ted Higuera.
The Brewers were in the AL back then, there was no interleague play, and they didn't make the playoffs.  So, I may never have heard of Ted Higuera without these boxed sets.  He had a few solid seasons, going 20-11 with a 2.79 ERA and making the All-Star team in 1986, going 18-10 with a 3.85 ERA in 1987, and going 16-9 with a 2.45 ERA in 1988.  It was downhill from there for him, though, and he finished his career in 1994 with a lifetime record of 94-64 with a 3.61 ERA and 1081 strikeouts.  More than half his career wins and more than half his career strikeouts came in those three years.
Rangers Pitcher Charlie Hough.
People only ever talk about Charlie Hough by prefacing his name with "knuckleballer."  So, here we have knuckleballer Charlie Hough, a journeyman pitcher who debuted in MLB with the Dodgers in 1970.  Despite 1987 being his 18th major league season, he was going strong, and led the AL in games started with 40 and in innings pitched with 285.1, earning a record of 18-13.  In 1993 he joined the expansion Florida Marlins, and with them his 25th season was his last in 1994.  Hough retired with a 216-216 record, a 3.75 ERA, 61 career saves, and 2362 strikeouts.

Kevin Seitzer of the Royals.
The name Kevin Seitzer is vaguely familiar to me from the 1980s.  He was in the majors from 1986-1997, and was an all-star with the Royals in 1987 and again with the Brewers in 1995.  He was the runner up for Rookie of the Year, behind Mark McGwire, in 1987, having batted .323 and having led the AL in hits with 207.
Larry Sheets of the Orioles.
I'll close this post with Larry Sheets.  I have no memory of Larry Sheets, but it looks like he had the best season of his career in 1987, batting .316.  He was in the majors from 1984-1990, and again in 1993.  His career totals are 607 hits and 339 RBI, with a .266 average.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

From My Collection: 1987 Topps Mail-In All-Stars

If I had to guess how many 1987 Topps wax packs I ever opened, I would guess about 150.  And in every one, I think, there was this red advertising card -- win a trip for 4 to 1988 spring training!  I don't know that I ever entered, but I did take advantage of the other offer, at least once.  If you send in $1 and 6 of these cards, you got a 10-card glossy set of either all-stars or hot prospects. 
1987 Topps Ad Insert
I have about 15 of the all-star cards, so I must have either sent in for them twice and then traded a few of the cards, or I sent in once and picked up a few more cards here and there.
1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Dave Parker.
Dave Parker was one of my favorite players in the 80s.  I had a bunch of his cards from his time with the Pirates, my favorite team, and it wouldn't be long before he joined the A's for their 1989 World Series championship.  I don't remember much about his time with the Reds, though.
1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Johnny Ray.
Every team has to have an All-Star, but it turns out that Johnny Ray wasn't that guy.  He wasn't an All-Star until 1988, with the Angels.  But he's in this All-Star set anyway.  The 1987 Pirates All-Star was Rick Reuschel, and the 1986 Pirates All-Stars were Rick Rhoden and Tony Pena.  Nothing against Johnny Ray, though -- he was a good second baseman for the Pirates for several years, winning The Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1982 and a Silver Slugger in 1983.  (I haven't checked for the other players in this post as to whether they were actually All-Stars.)
1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Lance Parrish.
Lance Parrish is showing up in this blog much more than I would have expected.

1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Tim Raines.
I've said before that I was always a fan of the base stealers; Raines is fifth on the all-time stolen base list with 808 in his career.  I'm glad he was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame.  I remember very clearly when he won the 1987 All-Star MVP award, for a game-winning hit.
1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Harold Baines.
I've said before that Harold Baines was one of my favorite players.  I'll be developing something more of a player collection for him, looking for 1980s oddballs of him and other interesting cards.
1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Eddie Murray.
Same goes for Eddie Murray -- I'll be looking to collect more offbeat cards of his for a player collection.  I grew up in Delaware in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and while we were mostly Phillies fans, we were close to Baltimore as well.  Eddie Murray was the other local home run hitter, after Mike Schmidt.
1987 Topps Mail-In All-Star card of Joe Carter.
In 1988, I started 8th grade, and my social studies teacher, Mr. Kennedy, was an Indians fan (and especially talked about Larry Doby).  I had some 1988 Topps folders for my school work, including one of Joe Carter of the Indians.  I took an interest in his career after that, and was happy for him when he ended the 1993 World Series with a home run (not exactly the same as Bill Mazeroski's 1960 Game 7 blast, but similar) even if his home run did defeat the Phillies.

Friday, September 22, 2017

From My Collection: 1987 Kraft Cut-Outs

1987 Kraft Home Plate Heroes, Tony Pena and Ozzie Guillen.

I guess these must have come from a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese, which was something we didn't eat much when I was a kid. So, these two Kraft cut-out cards are (almost) the only such things I have.  As the picture shows, I wasn't especially good at cutting them out, so I left a lot of space around the dotted line.  For some reason, many food-issue cards like Kraft, Post, and Ralston-Purina don't get the license to use the logos (unlike Hostess and Kellogg's, though); I always thought less of these cards because of that.

Even if I dislike the airbrushed caps, at least I like the two players.  As a Pirates fan, I always liked Pena, although by the time I started really paying attention to baseball he was the former Pirates catcher; he was traded to the Cardinals on April 1, 1987.  At least the Pirates got some talent for him, especially Andy Van Slyke.  I remember Guillen mainly as the 1985 AL Rookie of the Year, but he of course distinguished himself later as a manager by breaking the White Sox drought, winning the World Series in 2005, the first for the White Sox since 1917.

I say that these are almost the only Kraft cut-outs that I have.  That's because I got a couple of Kraft cards from the 60s at the consignment shop that I mentioned in a previous post. I'll post about them another time.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First Cards Back from PSA: Schmidt, Henderson, Yastrzemski

When I bought my Mike Schmidt rookie card, I opted to save a little money by not buying a PSA-graded card.  The dealer who sold it to me represented it as an EX-5 card.  I decided to send it to PSA and also a few others, mostly to protect them in the slabs, not so much to get the grades.  I also sent out a bunch of autographed cards that I had, mostly to get the authentication.  The autographs aren't back yet, but the 4 cards I sent for grading and slabbing are.  I'll make a separate post about one of them, but here are the other three, including the Schmidt.

PSA-graded 1973 Topps Mike Schmidt rookie card.
I was skeptical that the card would earn a grade of EX-5 like the dealer said, but sure enough, that's what we have.  The September 1987 Beckett  that I have lists this card as $100-$150.  After the market really got overheated, the April 1992 Beckett lists it as $300-$460.  This was way, way more than I could ever have spent, or asked my parents to spend, on a card at that time.  I paid just over $100 for it now, and the kid inside me still can't believe I own a Schmidt rookie.  (Nothing against Ron Cey, or even John Hilton, but to me this card is all about Schmidt.)

I bought my Rickey Henderson rookie card off a friend in high school, when he decided he would rather have some money that a small piece of cardboard; I don't remember how much I paid him for it, but I do remember taking the condition into account.  PSA gives it a VG-3, which I won't argue with.  I sent this mostly to protect it within the slab, since it is personally important to me, because I'm a fan of Henderson and the connection to my friend, despite the lack of sharp corners.

PSA-graded 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie.
Finally for now we have my 1972 Topps Yastrzemski, which I like for two reasons.  He was a fine player of course but I don't feel too strong a connection for that reason.  But, it is almost the card mentioned on The Simpsons -- the Carl Yastrzemski with the big sideburns -- but they really meant the 1973.  I am undecided on whether or not I should get the 1973 for that reason.  Second, I remember getting a good deal on it at the time.  There were many card shops circa 1990, and one that I went to sometimes had this card in a glass display case, among many others; I noticed that I thought the price was low.  I think it was marked at $5, and in the price guide it was more like $15.  I noticed it the next few times I was at that shop, and one day I bought it.  The next time I was in the shop, another of the same card took its place, priced more like $15.  It appears to be in good condition, and I don't think the condition is why it was priced low -- I think they had the card for a number of years and just hadn't updated the price.  And if there's a third reason that I like the card, it's that in the 1972 Topps design, sometimes it looks better than others (I think the design doesn't work for the A's cards, for example), but with the Red Sox and Yastrzemski, the design works and it's a nice-looking card.  PSA gave it a 4, so I was right in thinking this was in better shape than some of my other cards, but I was a bit surprised it was only a 4.  I wasn't necessarily looking for a high grade, though, and mainly wanted it slabbed to preserve it.

PSA-graded 1972 Topps Carl Yastrzemski.
I'll post the 4th card I got back another time; it's my favorite card of all time, so it gets its own post.  And, I hope to have my autographed cards back before too much longer, and will post them as well.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

No Longer Unopened in My Collection: Two Packs of 1980 Topps

Among the unopened portion of my collection, I had two packs of 1980 Topps.  No longer!  I made the decision to open them up and see if I had a second Rickey Henderson rookie in my collection after all.  No such luck, but other than Henderson, I was hoping for maybe a Schmidt -- success on that count!  The two Hall-of-Famers I pulled were a Schmidt and a Yastrzemski, and also a Bruce Bochy, who could be a future Hall-of-Famer as a manager.  I put those three right into protective sleeves and didn't scan them, and I'll send them out for grading someday (I actually already had a 1980 Schmidt, Yastrzemski and Bochy, although the new one are certainly in better condition).  Here are a few cards I got that I found interesting, other than the Schmidt, Yastrzemski, and Bochy.

1980 Topps Lance Parrish.
I wrote earlier about Lance Parrish's short time with the Phillies.  He was much more successful in the AL, especially with the Tigers. 

1980 Topps Johnny Oates.
I remember Oates not as a player, but as the manager of the Orioles in the early 90s.  Those were good teams, with Brady Anderson and Ben McDonald.  They challenged, but never won the division.

1980 Topps J.R. Richard.
This is a nice action shot of Astros pitcher J.R. Richard.  I remember Richard from the league leader cards, as he was a two-time NL strikeout leader (1978 and 1979).

1980 Topps Ken Forsch.
At first I was confused, since I remember Bob Forsch better than Ken Forsch, I guess.  Turns out they're brothers.  In 1979 he pitched a no-hitter against the Braves, making him and Bob the only brothers to pitch no-hitters.

1980 Topps Willie Montanez.
Montanez had a decent career stretching from 1966-1982, but the main thing I know about him is his involvement in Curt Flood's case against the reserve clause.  When Flood refused to be traded to the Phillies, the Cardinals sent Montanez instead.

1980 Topps Fred Lynn.
Fred Lynn is another of the sub-Hall-of-Famers I like so much.  Rookie of the Year and MVP both in 1975, 9-time All-Star, and 4-time Gold Glove winner, he was great when he was at his best.

1980 Topps Indians Future Stars.
There was a Larry Anderson who appeared in the majors between 1974 and 1977, but I'm not sure it's the same guy -- the transaction info in Baseball Reference never has him with the Indians.  Maybe it's a different guy, and this one never made the majors?  Bobby Cuellar pitched 6.2 innings for the Rangers in 1977, and otherwise didn't appear in the majors.  Sandy Wihtol appeared for the Indians between 1977 and 1982, pitching a total of 57.2 innings, with a W-L record of 1-0 with 1 Save and a 3.75 ERA.

1980 Topps Ed Ott.
Finally, I'll close with Ed Ott, who was one of the catchers on the 1979 Pirates World Series winners.  He shared catching duty with Steve Nicosia; Ott appeared in 117 regular-season games and Nicosia appeared in 70.  Ott played in 3 games in the NLCS and 3 games in the World Series, going 4-for-12 in the World Series with 3 RBI.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Favorite Players: John Candelaria

John Candelaria was always one of my favorite players; I've never met anyone else who could say the same thing, but maybe in the Pittsburgh area or in New York there are some other fans.  I've mainly lived at the other end of the Pennsylvania, when I've lived anywhere close.
1976 John Candelaria rookie card.
Candelaria, or The Candy Man, did very well with the late-1970s Pirates.  His 1979 Topps cards is actually one of my first memories of baseball; you can see below how beat-up it is.  I made sure to get his other early cards, including his rookie card from the 1976 Topps set.  I really like how the colors work in the card, with the yellow and green border matching the yellow of the uniform and the green of the ball field; you can see that "CANDY" is written on his glove.  I feel like you can see how tall he is in the shot, too -- his height was usually listed as 6'7''.

1977 Topps John Candelaria.
Candelaria had a great early career, throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 1976.  In 1977 he led the NL with a 2.34 ERA and was an All-Star.

1978 Topps John Candelaria.
Candelaria was also a key part of the 1979 Pirates World Series champions.  He had a respectable 14-9 record in the regular season, with a 3.22 ERA.  He had one no-decision in the NLCS, and went 1-1 in the World Series. 

1978 Topps ERA leaders card.
In the 1979 World Series, the Pirates were down 3 games to 1.  They then won the last three games not because they were the better team, but because they got the performances they needed from key players at the right moments.  One of these was Candelaria's start in Game 6, where he pitched 6 scoreless innings despite his back bothering him.  He was relieved by the Pirates' closer Kent Tekulve, and they combined for a shutout, sending the series to game 7.

1979 Topps John Candelaria, with many creases.
I was born in 1975, and the first cards I remember seeing in my house were a handful of 1979 Topps; a guy across the street was a couple of years older and had some 1978 cards as well, so 1978 and 1979 Topps are both early memories for me.  I think this Candelaria was among that handful that we had, and that explains why it is in such terrible shape (similarly to my 1982 Fleer Cal Ripken, Jr. card I wrote about before); these mainly were kept on the floor.

Candelaria represented on the Angels Wall of Fame.
Candelaria was moved to the bullpen by the Pirates at some point in the 80s, and then traded to the Angels.  The Angels made him a starter again, and he did well, earning the Comeback Player of the Year award.  He was with the Angels in the 1986 ALCS, going 1-1 with a 0.84 ERA in 2 games as the Angels lost to the Red Sox (in Game 7, he gave up 7 runs, but they were all unearned!).  He continued in the majors until 1993, playing for several teams, but ending his career with the Pirates again.  He ended with very solid career numbers, 177-122 with a 3.33 ERA and 1673 strikeouts.  Baseball Reference ranks him as being similar to Jimmy Key, Bret Saberhagen, and Ron Guidry, which I would say is good company to be in.

Some Candelaria cards 1981-1983.
Some 1983 Candelaria cards.
An '84 and an '85 Candelaria.
Collecting has changed in many ways since I was a kid.  Candelaria's 1976 Topps rookie card means a lot to me as a part of my collection, so I plan to send it to PSA to get it slabbed to protect it.  I've written before about how when I collected, there was no internet to speak of.  Now that my collection has rejoined the modern world, I've just ordered 19 more Candelaria cards (well, 18 cards and 1 sticker), including Kellogg's, Hostess, Mother's Cookies, and others, representing his time with the Pirates, Angels, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, and Expos.  I'll post them when they come in!  This is the kind of acquisition I meant when I said before that I would be developing some deeper player collections, like the George Foster collection I discussed before.

Candelaria on '86 and '87 Donruss, with the Angels.