Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Short Term Stops: The All-Yankees Team


And so we've come to the end: the Yankees are the final team I've yet to feature in this "Short Term Stops" series (though this won't be the last post in the theme).

It's difficult to be a baseball fan and not have any opinions towards the Evil Empire. They're probably the most successful franchise in sports history, and it seems to me you either love them or hate them. This is one major area where my dad and I differ -- he's a huge Yankees fan, while I most assuredly am not.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a begrudging respect for the 27-time World Champion Bronx Bombers, and like any team with such a rich history, they've managed to assemble quite a Short Term Stops roster over the years.



Pitchers

2003 UD Yankees Signature Series #49 Lew Burdette 

Yankees "Short Term Stops" Accolades:

Lew Burdette (1950 Yankees, 2 games)

This one was actually part of a COMC order I received just a couple weeks ago, so expect to see it again on the blog in the near future.

For now, bask in the glory of the only card I've ever seen of Lew Burdette on the Yankees, a team he spent exactly two games with as as a rookie in 1950, appearing in all of one-and-a-third innings in a brief cup of coffee before being dealt to the Braves the following offseason.



2003 UD Yankees Signature Series #67 Ralph Branca

Ralph Branca (1954 Yankees, 5 games, half-year stint)

The Yankees are such a powerhouse that they've had several major-brand sets devoted entirely to the history of their franchise.

While I'm not sure how I feel about these all-Yankee checklists, they have come in handy with producing some of the only cards I've seen of certain greats in the famous pinstripes, such as the aforementioned Lew Burdette and Ralph Branca here.

I wouldn't have faulted anyone if Branca's quick five-game trial with the '54 Yankees went undocumented on cardboard, but in this case, I'm glad such a Yankee-heavy set exists to preserve what is an entirely forgotten stint.



2011 Topps #189 Kerry Wood

Kerry Wood (2010 Yankees, 24 games, half-year stint)

At this point, Kerry Wood is probably as close as I've seen to a Cubs icon in my baseball lifetime, and given that, he looks obscene in anything other than a Cubs jersey.

I've tried to push Wood's non-Chicago years out of my memory, but fact is he did spend a couple of his later seasons outside of the Windy City, including a short 24-game stint with the 2010 Yankees where he arrived via a trade-deadline deal from Cleveland.

Though Wood was actually quite good as a Yankee -- he posted a 0.69 ERA during his half-season in the Bronx -- it's for the good of baseball that he returned to the Cubs to finish his career.



Catcher

2009 Topps Heritage #65 Ivan Rodriguez

Ivan Rodriguez (2008 Yankees, 33 games, half-year stint)

Ivan Rodriguez, like many great players, probably held on a bit too long and, as a result, jumped around in his later years.

One of his late-career stops came with the Yankees -- he appeared in 33 games with the Bombers at the tail end of the '08 season, hitting just .219 with two homers during his forgettable stint in the Bronx.

Pugde's a Hall of Famer now, and Short Term Stop lovers like myself will forever rejoice at seeing New York, AL on his Cooperstown plaque.




First Base

2009 Upper Deck #277 Richie Sexson

Richie Sexson (2008 Yankees, 22 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Richie Sexson might be the least discussed member of baseball's 300-HR club.

Despite his 306 career dingers -- including two seasons of 40-plus -- you don't hear much about Sexson these days, and surely few people remember that he finished up with the Yankees in 2008. After having been released by the Mariners in July, Sexson went to the Bronx to play out the final 22 games of the season, posting a .250 average and hitting the last of his 306 career homers in the process.

This is the only card I know of to feature Sexson as a Yankee, and it's one of my favorites from late-era Upper Deck as a result.



Second Base

1984 Fleer #120 Bert Campaneris

Bert Campaneris (1983 Yankees, 60 games, sunset season)

Billy Martin, then managing the Tigers, once had to be restrained from going at Bert Campaneris after Campy threw his bat at Tiger pitcher Lerrin LaGrow.

In an ironic twist of fate, Campaneris would end up finishing his career eleven years later playing under none other than...Billy Martin. After having spent the previous season in the Mexican League, Campy closed things out with the Yankees in '83, hitting a sparkling .322 in 60 games as a reserve infielder.

Funny how the history of baseball works itself out sometimes.



Shortstop

1986 Conlon Baseball Immortals #11 Leo Durocher

Leo Durocher (1925, 1928-29 Yankees, 210 games)

In terms of games played, I don't have a great nominee in my binders for the shortstop position on this squad -- but in terms of unfamiliarity, Leo the Lip here certainly fits the bill.

This is the only card I have of Durocher as a Yankee, and had I not owned it, I doubt I would've known that young Leo broke into the big leagues as a Yankee infielder in the mid '20s. 

It's a stint made all the more strange given that Leo would later enjoy managerial fame with the Dodgers and Giants, both of whom were crosstown rivals of the Yankees at the time.



Third Base

1998 Ultra #375 Mike Lowell

Mike Lowell (1998 Yankees, 8 games)

Even the greatest teams in history are bound to screw up.

I don't know if a team has enjoyed more sustained success in my baseball lifetime than the three-peat Yankees squads of the late '90s. And they very could've had a young Mike Lowell manning third base soon after were it not for a disaster of a trade that sent Lowell to the Marlins for peanuts.

Lowell was brought up for a cup of coffee with the Yankees in '98, collecting four hits in eight games with the club, but one wonders what he might've done in the pinstripes had he been given more of a chance.



Outfield

1982 TCMA Greatest Sluggers #39 Rocky Colavito

Rocky Colavito (1968 Yankees, 39 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Rocky Colavito isn't much remembered as a Yankee these days -- he hit the last five of his 374 career homers in the Bronx during his sunset season in '68, which he split between the Dodgers and Yankees.

If there was anything notable about Rocky's brief time in the Bronx, it's that he actually collected a win in a pitching appearance during a game against the Tigers in which the Yankees came back from a late 5-1 deficit to win, 6-5.

Colavito held down the fort with two-and-two-thirds innings of scoreless ball, and would become the last position player to earn a win until Brent Mayne did it with the Rockies in 2000.



1976 Topps #380 Bobby Bonds

This is one of many classic cards from the 1970s, and it almost overshadows the fact that Bobby Bonds only played a single season with the Yankees.

The elder Bonds was a great player that, for whatever reason, could never seem to find a permanent home. Though his 32-homer, 30-steal season made him an All-Star in '75, the Yankees dealt him to the Angels the following offseason, and Bonds would wind up playing for seven different teams during the final seven years of his career.

In terms of pure aesthetics, this is easily one of the best cards in Short Term Stops history.



2004 UD Yankees Classics #35 Jim Wynn

Jim Wynn (1977 Yankees, 30 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

And just when you thought it was over, here it is: another all-Yankees set -- but again, though, this one documents a handful of forgotten sights in the franchise's history, including the brief 30-game stint of the Toy Cannon himself, Jim Wynn. 

Wynn hit just .143 as a Yankee before being released and signed by the Brewers, where he'd finish the season and his career. Wynn's crowning moment in the Bronx probably came when he held back Reggie Jackson from going after Billy Martin during the infamous Fenway dustup. 

Until Mr. Shlabotnik told me otherwise, I thought this was the only Yankee card of the Toy Cannon, and until I started researching this post, I thought for sure there were no Brewers cards of Wynn (into the COMC cart that one goes!). 



Designated Hitter

2004 UD Yankees Classics #9 Dave Kingman

Dave Kingman (1977 Yankees, 8 games, quarter-of-a-year stint)

The very last Short Term Stop on the very last Short Term Stop roster makes history: this is the first quarter-of-a-year stint I've featured in one of these posts.

Once again, an all-Yankee set comes to the rescue by producing the only card I own of Dave Kingman with the club. Somewhat miraculously, Kong was traded from the Mets to the Padres, selected off waivers by the Angels from the Padres, and traded from the Padres to the Yankees...all in 1977 alone.

Kingman closed out his four-team whirlwind by appearing in eight games with the Bombers, belting four of the 20 homers he'd hit that year during his brief run in the Bronx to cap off an infamously historic season.

And there you have it: the last and final Short Term Stops roster is in the books.

As always, thanks for tuning in, but don't worry, it ain't over yet -- join me next time when I put together the Ultimate Short Term Stops team, stocked with the best of the best from each of the 30 rosters I've recapped in this series!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Top Five: Steve Garvey


My grandfather passed away last week.

The news hit myself and the rest of the family hard. My grandfather was a big part of my upbringing, and in addition to being a Vietnam vet, was just a great person who'd always treated me with nothing but love and respect.

While I don't believe my grandfather was ever huge on sports, he and my grandmother lived in San Diego for a few years in the '80s, and it was there that my grandmother became a big Steve Garvey fan. She's acquired several pieces of mostly Padre-centric Garvey memorabilia over the years, a fair amount of which she's since passed down to me.

It's mainly because of my grandmother that Steve Garvey sits near the top of my player collection hierarchy, and in honor of her and my late grandfather, I'll be taking a look at my Top Five Garveys on the blog today.




#5 -- 1982 Fleer #5 Steve Garvey

Although bat-barrel shots are one of my mini-collections, I'll admit that they have a tendency to get redundant.

This Garvey, however, is anything but: it's one of the cards that reminds me how great bat barrels can be.




#4 -- 1988 Score #225 Steve Garvey

This is Steve Garvey's only true sunset card -- almost every company passed on including him in their 1988 checklists given that Garvey played in just 27 games with the Padres the year prior.

Score was the lone brand to give Garvey a proper farewell, and they did so with a terrific mid-swing action shot that anyone would be proud to have grace their sunset card.




#3 -- 1974 Topps #575 Steve Garvey

Surrealist masterpiece or vintage classic?

I vote both.




#2 -- 1973 Topps #213 Steve Garvey

This has remained a cornerstone of my Garvey collection for many reasons:

1) You don't often see post-homer congratulations featured on baseball cards.

2) As others have noted, it's almost like Topps was using this shot as a metaphor for the Passing of the Torch in Dodgerland. Wes Parker was nearing the end of his career while Garvey was beginning his at the time, and it wouldn't be long before Garvey replaced Parker at first base for the Dodgers, thus beginning a long road of fame for the young superstar.

3) It's a perfect example of the off-kilter beauty that is 1973 Topps: the photo is about 70 percent Wes Parker and 30 percent Garvey, but yet it's Garvey who gets the card.




#1 -- 1971 Topps #341 Steve Garvey RC

I've mentioned it before, but this remains one of the most nostalgic cards in my collection for the sheer fact that my grandmother passed it down to me when I was a young baseball fan.

I was probably about ten years old at the time, and I couldn't quite process the fact that I owned a rookie card of someone as famous as Steve Garvey (part of me still can't). It was one of the first "big" rookies I ever had, and it remains as such to this day.

There are so few cards in my collection I can point to and say -- Now THAT'S one of the reasons I'm still collecting today. This is one of those rare items, a sacred cardboard portal that has always seemed like so much more than a simple baseball card to me.

RIP, Grandpa -- you and my grandmother have impacted me (and my collection) more than you'll ever know.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

But I did go to a Holiday Inn card show last weekend


I've stayed at a hotel maybe a half-dozen times in my life.

My family never traveled much when I was growing up, and hotels always made me a bit uncomfortable on the rare occasion we did. Even just last weekend, as I roamed the hallways of a suburban Holiday Inn, I could sense some of that old reluctance creeping through me. I can't put a finger on what exactly it is about hotels that makes me feel the way I do, but it's still there.

Given all that, you ask, what the heck was I doing driving to a Holiday Inn on a cold Sunday morning in the first place?




Three words: HOTEL CARD SHOW! 

I'm lucky enough to live in an area where hotel card shows are still a thing, and my local monthly one is held at a Holiday Inn about a half-hour from where I live. With a good amount of Christmas cash in my pocket and a Sunday to myself, Dad and I decided to make the journey this past weekend.

It's a smaller show, so you're not likely to secure any gigantic finds. Case in point: until the dying minutes of the day, the whopping $2.50 I paid for the Stephen Wright Heritage black refractor (numbered to a mere 67 copies) at the top of this post was the most I spent on a single card all afternoon.

And the only reason I pulled the trigger was because, as you see above, I've sort of stumbled into building a Wright rainbow -- I now own the base, chrome, chrome refractor, purple refractor, and (now) black refractor versions of it.




For reasons I've detailed in the past, these smaller hotel card shows are easily the best fit for my quiet, introverted collecting personality.

It's well-attended but not too well-attended to the point where people start throwing elbows at you. Most of the cards are affordable. The vast majority of the dozen-ish vendors are regulars, and I've been going to this show long enough to recognize most of them by now (a couple even wished Dad and I a Happy New Year).

And here's the biggest draw of the Holiday Inn show: almost every table has a dime box (and even a couple nickel boxes), and with a little digging, it's easy to find stacks and stacks of great cards like these.




To put it in perspective, I came home with about 700 cards over a good three hours at the show -- and remember, this is just one small hotel banquet room we're talking about here.

While the finds largely skew towards newer stuff, that doesn't eliminate the possibility of a Card Show First: somehow, these are the first singles I've found from the online-only years of the Turkey Red brand (which was always a favorite of mine).




And like I said earlier, not one cent I spent came from my own pocket: the whole thing was funded by holiday cash I received from relatives.

There's no greater feeling than coming home from a card show that didn't put a single dent in my bank account -- not even these high-end goodies, which, aside from the Aparicio (a dollar), were all dime box finds.




Dime box minis remain a supreme card show joy.




A couple fun dime box randoms: despite what my scanner is trying to tell you, that rookie card of switch-pitcher Pat Venditte is actually a foil parallel, and no, I have no idea what's going on with that bottom card, either.




I know going into this show that vintage isn't much of a possibility, so I'm not disappointed that the vast majority of what I took home on Sunday was comprised of cards issued within the last few years.

It's always fun knocking out needs from recent sets, and that goes doubly so for (now-former) Dime Box Dozen needs like that Stadium Club Spahn (dig the vintage billboards!).




Better yet, Sunday proved to be an introduction to a few current brands I'd probably never see without box-busting vendors like the ones I've gotten to know at this show.

The Upton comes from this year's Chrome Updates which either my Target never stocked in the first place or sold out of within days of its release, because I checked multiple times and found exactly none on the shelves. I like the colorful Bowman's Best design a whole lot more than Topps Gallery, but both the Darvish and Springer were easy buys at a dime.

The Benintendi is from something called Topps On Demand(?), and while it seems to be a blatant Topps Now ripoff, I couldn't resist adding one to my binders for a mere two bucks.




Also present was my first look at the new Panini Chronicles, which are butt-ugly but have one major plus going for them: they actually show trade-deadline guys on their new teams.

The train-wreck that was 2017 Topps Update meant that guys like Bruce and Frazier never got cards in their new duds, but at least Panini kinda managed to pick up the slack there (also, bonus points for the Bloody Mary Indians throwback).




I know a few fellow bloggers who would've been in heaven at this show, because at least half the tables there had a considerable amount of cheap buybacks for sale.

I did pick up a nice stack of 'em to distribute among my fellow blogging buddies, but these top-tier player collection hits are staying with me -- including local hero Tom Gorzelanny and a beautiful '75 Vida Blue (sorry, Greg).




This show may lean heavily on the latest-and-greatest stuff, but that doesn't mean there aren't goodies from years past to enjoy.




A quartet of pure dime box fun here: the Nuke LaLoosh is really the only card I wanted from last year's Bull Durham inserts, and if you look closely, that Remlinger is autographed (and I actually collect him!).

Also, in this edition of Card Show Education, I never knew Easton issued baseball cards, and apparently Upper Deck distributed stamped team sets for the expansion Rockies and Marlins in '93.

The more you know.




Horizontal shiny!




Vertical shiny!




'90s Dufex shiny!

(That Mondesi may be one of the greatest cards I've ever scanned in the history of this blog.)




Come on, guys, were you really expecting to slip framed GQ parallels past me at a dime a piece?




Examples of the great cards Panini can produce when they put their mind to it.




One of the regular vendors always has a large all-retired dime box, and it remains among my most enjoyable card show experiences.

These are just four of the hundred-plus cards I plucked from the guy's inventory (with the Satchel Paige probably being my personal favorite).




In taking a page from a couple other bloggers, you may have noticed I've added a second want list to the sidebar of this blog with "Keep Dreaming" cards that are most assuredly not Dime Box Dozen commons.

It's more for my own reference than anything (though if you have a spare '58 Maris or '63 Musial, by all means...), and I sure as heck wasn't expecting to hit anything from it at the Holiday Inn this past Sunday. But then, just as things were wrapping up, there it was: an '83 Fleer Ryno, the very same card I'd just added to my inaugural "Keep Dreaming" want list!

The vendor had it priced at $10, but I managed to talk him down to $7 -- not the Steal of the Century or anything, but a small price to pay for a card that completes my Ryno Rookie Card Triad (Topps, Donruss, and Fleer).




And somehow I initially missed the card sitting right next to Ryno the whole time: an '83 Donruss Tony Gwynn rookie...also from my "Keep Dreaming" wants!

Like the Sandberg, this Mr. Padre was priced at $10, and again, the vendor took $7 for it. And like the Fleer Ryno, this was the card standing in the way of completing Gwynn's Rookie Card Triad.

And so with a bag of over 700 baseball cards in my hand -- including a pair of "Keep Dreaming" cards I no longer had to dream about -- I bade adieu to the suburban Holiday Inn and walked out into the winter afternoon, feeling somehow warmer than I did when I'd entered the automatic doors just hours before.

Maybe hotels aren't so bad after all.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Top Five: George Brett


By the time this post goes up, I'll either be at or returning from my first card show of 2018 (wish me luck!).

Whenever Card Show Day comes around, I start thinking about where I'd be without shows. In addition to simply giving me specific afternoons to look forward to on the calendar (which are especially treasured in the winter months), card shows are where my collection forms and takes shape before my very eyes.

It was largely thanks to card shows that I realized I was omitting adding '80s and '90s stars to my binders. I started to see more and more Tony Gwynns, Ryne Sandbergs, etc. in dime boxes before it finally hit me a couple years ago: Hold on, why am I not collecting these guys?

My collection of George Brett, for instance, has more than tripled since I came to this realization, and as a result there's no shortage of material to choose from for this week's Top Five.




#5 -- 1982 Fleer  #405 George Brett

It's always a treat to see the game's greatest hitters flashing the leather on their cards.




#4 -- 1976 Hostess #114 George Brett

I can't tell you exactly why, but George Brett and Hostess just seem to mesh perfectly in my mind -- he's one of the few guys whose Hostess cards appeal more to me than his Kellogg's.

The '76 Hostess design is my favorite of the bunch, and thus this one gets the nod for inclusion in the Top Five.




#3 -- 2015 Stadium Club #210 George Brett

An iconic "autograph" shot of Brett, and one that inspired a chart-topping song a few years back (though not a tune I particularly liked).




#2 -- 1994 Topps #180 George Brett

This might be my favorite card of the '90s -- I don't think I need to explain why -- and for just about any other player, it'd top this countdown.





#1a & 1b -- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett RC (washer-used & standard)

I'm not sure, but there's a good chance that my "washer-used" '75 Brett rookie has been shown on this blog more times than any other single card in my collection.

It's just so perfect for the type of kooky stuff I often write about here, and in some ways, it might be responsible for my decision to start the blog in the first place. I dug the bedraggled Brett out of a 50-cent bin at a show just a month before I launched "Dime Boxes," and perhaps my fascination with it is what convinced me to sit down and start writing about the off-center beauty of such cards, ones that often get ignored in today's money-centric hobby.

While I did later acquire a standard Brett rookie -- a near-pristine one, I might add -- it's the washer-used copy that continues to be tops on my blog and in my heart.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

This year's post, last year's trades


This was probably the least eventful New Year's I've ever had -- I worked until 10 at night, didn't watch the big 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, and went to bed shortly after midnight.

I've never been one for resolutions, especially when it comes to my cards. My collection really isn't structured in much of a goal-oriented way and it doesn't make much sense to start now. Any of my hopes for 2018 mainly come via this blog, and one of the key mandates is something I'm addressing in my very first post of the year: catch up on my trades, dammit!

Packages like this one, which I received from none other than Greg of the hallowed "Night Owl Cards," have been sitting in my trade folder for several months now, and that's just egregious.




It's not that composing trade posts feels like a chore (they're actually among my favorites to write), it's just that they get lost in the shuffle after a big pickup or card show haul or whatever else sometimes.

And although they might seem like old news to some by now, I was still thrilled to check off several recent insert needs off my want lists with this quartet from Greg (who, ironically, just yesterday posted some cards I recently sent him).




I bought more Archives than any other 2017 brand, but these both managed to slip past me while I was pulling triples and quadruples of other cards because of the dreadful collation.




Unlike 2016, my box of 2017 Topps Bunt didn't yield a complete base set, but thankfully people like Greg are around to help me close the gaps.




I've been trading with Greg for about six years now, and he's always been one of the deadliest forces when it comes to my want lists.




Also among Greg's attack on my want lists was this page of A&Gs, including a handful of "What A Day!" inserts which, from what I can gather, not many people besides myself liked.




But Greg's trading talents don't just come from want list takedowns.

This Gatorade shower/pie-in-the-face/interview (wow!) Josh Donaldson is a coveted photo-variation SP and instantly takes its place near the top tier of my player collection of his.




Greg knows a quick way to my heart: left-of-center shots from early Fleer.

I've flipped through stacks of '81 Fleer on countless occasions, but even now, I still always manage to find great cards that have passed me by all these years (and that's perhaps the most epic Green Monster cameo ever on the Wortham).




And here's an even quicker way to my heart: vintage!

This one card single-handedly captures so many things I love about old-timey cardboard -- a posed bunt, a gloriously large Rookie Cup, and a nice, basic Topps design without bells and whistles. And don't sleep on that "& SS" written under Johnson's "2B" designation, pencilled in (or, in this case, penned in) by some unknown young collector who I like to imagine was a baseball nut not unlike myself.

I don't believe I'd ever seen this '67 Davey Johnson before Greg sent it to me, and if I had, I stupidly passed it up. Just goes to show that sometimes my trading partners know me better than I know myself a lot of the time.

So here's to 2018, a year which I hope goes down in history as one where I did better by the many people who were generous enough to beef up my treasured baseball card collection.