Monday, March 2, 2015

Top five for Minnie

This has not been a good year for Chicago baseball so far.

First we lost Mr. Cub, and now Minnie Minoso. The "Cuban Comet" passed away at the reported age of 90 on Sunday. (His exact age is debated due to a lack of proper birth documentation.)

I don't know if the news of Minoso's passing will receive the nationwide attention that Ernie Banks's did, but Minnie was just as big of a personality in the city of Chicago. The news of his death made yesterday a pretty gloomy day for me.

I had the pleasure of seeing Minoso in the flesh at the first of two White Sox games I attended last year. You can see him there next to (now former) Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza as part of a special pre-game ceremony. The Cuban great was only about twenty rows away from where I was sitting.

I felt honored just being in the same ballpark as the guy.

One of my earliest baseball memories involved Minnie.

Back when I was about seven or eight years old, my mom picked up a copy of Minoso's book at a garage sale for a dollar. (The book itself is pretty tough to find these days.)

I don't recall if my mom bought the book knowing that it was autographed or not...but, yeah, the copy she found was actually signed by Minnie himself inside the front cover. I don't think I ever read it, largely because I was too stunned at the autograph to go any further. (Although I plan on giving it a read soon.)

I can't say for certain, but that experience might've been my introduction to Minnie Minoso.

I've been a devout fan of the guy ever since.

Saturino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso was one of the first Cuban ballplayers to play in the bigs. He actually broke in with the Indians in 1949, but he broke the White Sox color barrier when he was dealt to Chicago two years later.

Minoso's first few cards, including his '52 Topps rookie, list him under his given name, Orestes.

After fifteen years of greatness in the bigs, though, no one knew him as Orestes.

He was Minnie to fans and friends alike.

Although he made brief stops with other teams (Indians, Senators, and Cardinals), Minoso was, first and foremost, a beloved member of the White Sox. He loved the city of Chicago, and the city of Chicago loved him right back. He was, by all accounts, a true ambassador for the game of baseball.

Sadly, his cards are fairly sparse, as companies have pretty much ignored him as of late. You can probably count the number of cards he's had issued in the last ten years on one hand. He's not as well-recognized in the card community as, say, Ernie Banks. But he should be.

Still, since I'm not great at writing these teary tributes, I thought I'd honor the "Cuban Comet" the only way I know how.

By making a list, of course.

Here, in all their glory, are my five favorite Minnie Minoso cards.

#5 -- 1964 Topps #538 Minnie Minoso

We start, oddly enough, with Minoso's sunset card. (Kind of...but more on that later.)

Minnie was on his last legs by the time this one hit the streets. He'd already had a few mediocre years with the Senators and Cardinals by the time he rejoined the White Sox in '64. I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing that Minoso wanted to end his career in Chicago, the city he loved so much.

He played in just 30 games with the '64 Sox, but Topps was gracious enough to grant him a card that year nonetheless.

I couldn't have been happier when I picked it up for a couple bucks at a show last year.

#4 -- 1958 Topps #195 Minnie Minoso

This card and I go back a long ways.

I bought it at one of the first shows I attended after getting back into the baseball card game, likely around 2005 or so. I don't recall exactly what I paid for it, but it was part of a big bin full of discount vintage. I trotted it around in my hands all day after that.

I can't say I remember a ton about my life in 2005, but the memory of digging up this card for my budding collection is a moment that will stay with me forever.

#3 -- 1955 Bowman #25 Minnie Minoso

When we're talking classing designs, 1955 Bowman has to be right near the top for me.

It was one of the first vintage sets I ever fell in love with. Although I'm sure some would disagree, the color TV look is an iconic one in my book.

Minnie's card from the set fell into my hands for a mere four bucks at a show a couple years ago. He seems to be caught in between a bunt and a swing here. Not the most conventional shot, but still beautiful.

Anything from 1955 Bowman is always beautiful.

#2 -- 1956 Topps #125 Minnie Minoso

This was another four-dollar pickup from a card show last year.

I usually have to stop and think about buying anything that costs more than two or three bucks, but this one was a no-brainer. It's Minoso on one of the all-time best Topps designs, complete with a terrific action shot. It's also the first time Topps listed him as "Minnie."

With any other player, a card this spectacular would probably be #1 on the list.

#1 -- 1977 Topps #232 Minnie Minoso RB

But not Minnie.

In 1976, the White Sox brought Minoso back to take a few at-bats with the big club at 53 years young. Part of it was obviously a publicity stunt, since Minnie hadn't played in the bigs since 1964.

I'm sure Minoso was all business, though. Heck, he even managed to knock out a solid single in one of his eight at-bats in '76, making him the oldest player to get a hit in the majors and netting him his very own "Record Breaker" card in the following year's Topps checklist. (The record still stands, by the way.)

Though Topps has a long and storied string of these fantastic "Record Breaker" issues, this is far and away the best one in their catalog. It's one of my favorite cards of the '70s...and one of my favorite cards ever, now that I think of it.

My dad, like so many others of his generation, remembers Minoso's comeback well. In a way, Minnie endeared himself to a whole new era of baseball fans with those eight at-bats in 1976.

The Sox brought him back for another couple of games in 1980, but he didn't get a hit. Although it should be noted that he managed to put the ball in play in each of his two at-bats.

At the age of 57, no less.

It's always tough when baseball loses a member of its family, but it's even tougher when that ballplayer was such an icon of the city you love so much. All I can say to the White Sox this year is to go out and win one for Minnie.

Rest in peace, Mr. Minoso.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The dime box frankenset, Page 53: Numbers 469-477

We have ourselves a good old-fashioned tie.

Last week's frankenset page saw a fierce battle between Rob Murphy (and his trusty laptop) and the action-packed Tom Griffin. Murphy held an early lead, but a late surge by Griffin forced a tie. Both are deadlocked at 15 votes a piece. (For what it's worth, I voted for Murphy.)

As has been the tiebreaker protocol thus far, I ask the first three people who care to comment on this post to leave their choice between Murphy and Griffin. The first card to receive two of those three tie-breaking votes will take the crown.

I'll update this post once the deadlock is broken.

EDIT: We have a winner!

Win -- 1990 Upper Deck #461 Rob Murphy (15 votes + tie-breaking vote)

Place -- 1973 Topps #468 Tom Griffin (15 votes)

Show -- 1996 Upper Deck #462 Luis Sojo (5 votes)

On that note, let's jump into our next frankenset page.

We're back to eight nominees this week, as I still haven't found a worthy member to occupy the #470 slot.

Let's take a look at the contestants.

1998 Fleer Tradition #469 Heathcliff Slocumb

Showing off the hops at Spring Training. 

1991 Upper Deck #471 Shawn Boskie

This Bud's for you.

1991 Topps #472 Kirt Manwaring

Another awesome appearance from Kirt Manwaring, the likely MVP of this frankenset. 

1994 Upper Deck #473 Jody Reed

Not the biggest fan of the 1994 UD design, but there sure are a lot of nice horizontals in this set. 

1991 Stadium Club #474 John Russell

Eat my dust, says John Russell. 

1992 Leaf #475 William Suero

A fantastic double dip for a guy who played in just 33 big league games. 

1971 Topps #476 Dal Maxvill

Double dipping the vintage way. 

1994 Score #477 Kevin Reimer

This week's page closes with a prime example of the faux-back.

The polls are now on the sidebar, and remember to help break last week's tie!

Happy voting!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Card coma

I'm here to tell you that a "card coma" is a perfectly legit medical excuse.

It's a shame that most employers/college teachers still don't recognize it. I tried to use my card coma to get off of school this week, but nobody bought it.

Come on, people. After hours of buying, sorting, and filing Sunday's card show finds, how can I be expected to perform any other daily duties? (That doesn't even mention the mega-Just Commons order I received last Saturday, which I'll be featuring on the blog next week.)

Still, after plowing through a coma-induced week of school, I'm starting to come out of it. It's time to move on from Sunday's show and do other things. Things like, say, featuring more great cards I've received from fellow bloggers. (It feels like ages since I've done a trade post.)

The excitement of posting about another terrific batch of cardboard I received from Weston of "Fantastic Catch" has started to pull me out of my card coma today.

Facemask shots are usually good for that.

There were player collection hits abound in this trade package.

At this point, I'm not sure what else I can say about my appreciation of Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Reddick. I've covered about every possible angle already. I'm tapped out.

But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate all the Vlad and Reddick cards people send me.

Because I do.

Weston has dropped quite a few trade packages on me in the past.

One thing I love about the stacks he puts together is the fact that he included a lot of cards from long-forgotten sets, like these two bat-themed singles. 2000 Bowman Draft? 2005 UD Pros and Prospects?

Without Weston, I wouldn't have had a prayer of finding these two cards here in 2015.

I'm torn on how to feel about that Lankford.

I'm Mike Scioscia fan and all, but it is kind of funny to see someone running up his face on the Dodger Stadium outfield wall.

At first, I thought the Ross was some kind of photo variation short-print. Turns out that it's just Ross's standard base card from last year's Topps Update.

See, not all the quirky shots have to be limited to photo variations.

If you want quirky, look no further than minor league cards.

Willie Greene isn't about to let the chilling cold stand in the way of his pack of sunflower seeds. A name like Michael Goodnight (yes, he's a pitcher) is the catch phrase-crazed announcer's dream. I can hear it now.

Strike three looking! MICHAEL SAYS GOODNIGHT!

It's too bad the guy was completely out of baseball last year.

With a name like that, he seemed destined for the big time.

When someone specifically attaches a note that says "Look him up," I look the guy up.

I'm both glad and sad that I did, because I otherwise wouldn't have known about the tragic story of Evan Chambers.

Chambers was a third-round pick by the Pirates in 2009. Sadly, after a few years in the minors, he passed away in his sleep at the age of 24 in December 2013.

I feel honored to own a card of the guy.

Sorry to get all somber on you there in a simple trade post.

But I know mini-collections are always good for a pick-me-up. Weston threw quite a few of those into this trade package.

We start with this play at the plate of Miguel Montero, one of the newest Cubs. I'm actually more intrigued by the Morgan Ensberg cameo here (the subject of one of my oldest player collections), since the former third baseman never had an official card released during his days with the Padres.

I guess I'll have to settle for this.

More from the mini-collection archives.

I'm pretty sure the card on the left is my first-ever "college pitcher at the plate" shot.

I'm not one to play favorites, but I think throwbacks are right near the top of the list with my mini-collections.

I love when people find new retro jerseys to send me. Especially ones of greats like Griffey and hometown heroes like Bobby Jenks.

Jenks even has the portly physique of a lot of pre-war ballplayers.

Since Weston is a big Cardinals fan, I guess it's fitting that we'd close with The Wizard.

This double dip is one of the finest Ozzie Smith cards I've seen, and we even get Dodger Stadium in the backdrop as a bonus.

I can feel the card coma slipping away already. But it wasn't looking good for most of the week, I'll tell you.

Next time you feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of cards on your sorting table, just tell your boss you're feeling a card coma coming on. It's a perfectly reasonable excuse.

I'm sure they'll be happy to give you the day off.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The birthday show, Pt. 3: Name your price

Aside from the nickel and dime cards I've already featured, the prices were all over the place at Sunday's show.

I've never set up a card show before, but I'd love to know how vendors sort their inventory. Okay, this one'll go in the quarter box. Toss that one in the 3/$1 bin. That one's fifty cents. That's dollar box material. Hmm...put it in the quart -- no, put it in the fifty cent bin. It all fascinates me.

The cards you'll see in this post had all kinds of different price tags on them. In terms of pricing, they were probably the most diverse bunch I've ever picked up at a show. And, hey, the cards themselves weren't half bad either, folks.

As I mentioned in Wednesday's post, the very first table I found on Sunday had a couple dime bins. One of them was an all-vintage dime box. I didn't find a whole lot (it was mostly common no-namers from the early-to-mid '70s), but I did land this sweet trio. I don't usually seek out League Leader cards, but I couldn't pass this one up.

I mean, it's criminal to pass on anything featuring Vida Blue for a dime.

Right next to the dime box was a little snap case that made my heart jump.

I didn't believe it at first, but when I leaned in closer, I read the words over and over again in my head.


DID YOU SAY O-PEE-CHEE?!?!?!?!?!?!

The snap case wasn't that big, but I ended up buying about a third of the cards in it. I was surprised to see a few stars. I sure never thought I'd unearth guys like Keith Hernandez or Fred Lynn in there for fifty cents a pop.

Once I get started on O-Pee-Chee...'s hard for me to stop.

This one actually came from a dollar box that the first vendor had on display. My dad actually dug through it on my behalf since I was busy with the dime bins. I don't think he knew it at the time, but Dad found a card I've wanted for a while with this Tony Perez.

Unlike most OPCs, this is a completely different shot than the one featured on Perez's standard 1977 Topps issue. OPC went and got a shot of the former first baseman in his brand new Expos duds to bring collectors up to date.

Kind of like a vintage Topps Update, if you will.

Here's a couple more from the dollar box.

Even in rough shape, finding any vintage Billy Williams for a buck is quite an accomplishment here in the Chicago area. Vendors (understandably) have a tendency to overprice the hometown heroes quite a bit.

The Hershberger brings me one step closer to my lofty goal of obtaining every vintage Topps Seattle Pilot card ever made. I'm down to mostly high numbers from the 1969/70 Topps checklists now.

Not bad for a project I never expected to come close to finishing in the first place.

Bob Gibson for a buck?

I couldn't give the guy my dollar fast enough.

Let's shift from that fantastic first table to the very last table I stopped at on Sunday.

My last purchase was a single-card buy, something that isn't too common for someone used to buying hundreds of cards in one sitting. Mr. Cash were was priced at six bucks in a half-off vintage bin. So, three dollars.

I actually saw him earlier in the show, but passed. As Jeff, Dad, and I were packing up to leave, however, I happened to drift by the table again. That's when I remembered Norm Cash, and figured what the heck. What else is three bucks going to get me?

You've got a good home now, Norm.

Not all my "money" purchases were vintage though.

I spent more than a dime on all four of the cards you see here. The two Archives Reserve singles and the Nestle Quisenberry were a quarter each. The Gossage box bottom was fifty cents.

Big spender, I know.

One of the tables I found had a big 3200-count box packed with recent inserts.

Trouble was, none of them were priced. Like most collectors, I'm skeptical of anything without a price tag at a card show. However, Jeff said he'd stopped at this table earlier and got a pretty good deal on some cool inserts, so I felt a little more at ease digging through the guy's inventory.

In the end, I spent nine buck on a stack of about 25 inserts. Not bad. Not bad at all.

This police badge (am I the only one who sees it?) Adam Jones Chrome insert will kickstart my new player collection of his.

I've been itching to get my hands on some more Stadium Club inserts.

The photography in the "Field Access" series is just as good as most of the base cards. Joe Mauer can attest to that.


A see-through Dickey!

I'm forever blessed (cursed?) with a twelve-year-old's sense of humor.

Seriously, though.

Most of what I bought from the guy's table came courtesy of Panini. I'm sure I'll be finding Topps inserts left and right throughout the course of the year, but Panini's have a tendency to fly under the radar.

The first five cards on this page are from the Classics brand, while the last four are from Golden Age. The Golden Ages are epic (as usual), but I'm not too keen on the Classics inserts. Still, as I've said over and over again with Panini, the player selection keeps me coming back.

It'll be centuries before Topps produces a Heinie Groh card.

These Golden Age inserts had my name all over them.

I'm a huge fan of newspaper-themed designs, and these two happen to cover a couple of my favorite historical events. The Black Sox scandal and Beatlemania.

I say "favorite" in terms of the 1919 White Sox not because I endorse what the players did, by any means. The whole saga is just so fascinating, as anyone who has ever read or seen Eight Men Out will tell you. That's the first card I've found that specifically commemorates the actual trial.

Maybe "commemorates" isn't the right word.

Hey, did you know there was a new card of Reggie the Oriole on the market?

Neither did I.

When I saw Reggie's name in the 2015 Topps "Baseball Highlights" checklist, I assumed it'd be another card of him as an A or Yankee. Nope...he's an Oriole.

A rare new card for what might be the greatest "Short Term Stop" ever.

I could go on a rant about buybacks, but I won't.

I'll just say that scrounging up old cards (of which thousands and thousands of copies exist), stamping them, and repackaging them as some kind of new, high-dollar insert doesn't seem right to me. But again, I won't rant.

Especially considering I actually bought one of them on Sunday. I came across this J.R. Richard in a  box of miscellany one vendor had on display. My feelings on stupid buybacks are clear...but I am a big Richard collector. Stupid...J.R. Richard. What to do?

In the end, I haggled and managed to secure it as a throw-in with what ended up being my most expensive purchase of the day.

Seeing as how this was my birthday show and all, I wanted to treat myself to something nice.

I just kind of assumed that the "something nice" would be vintage-related. After the dust settled, however, it was a modern card. A 2015 card, for that matter.

This, as you might know, is actually a photo variation from 2015 Topps. What we have here is Yu Darvish taking some hacks in the on-deck circle, which makes it a coveted American League "pitcher at the plate" shot.

I was hesitant at first, but (like the Norm Cash) I figured what the heck and handed over eight bucks for it. And, as I mentioned, I got the J.R. Richard buyback in the deal as well.

Sometimes you have to treat yourself.

While I didn't make a huge vintage purchase, there were some nice bargains to be had.

One of the vendors had a box on display that literally said BARGAIN BOX. Most of the other cards he had were woefully overpriced, but I managed to scrape up a few nice gems from the bargain bin. The McCarver, Marichal, and Kranepool were two dollars each, and the Garvey cloth sticker was a buck.

Bargains, indeed.

Most vendors were starting to pack up as I made my final rounds through the rest of the show.

One of the few remaining tables left had a bin full of 7/$5 cards. Jeff was actually the one who first found it.

My bag was heavy with awesome finds at that point, but I was still a little disappointed with the fact that, aside from the aforementioned Kranepool, I hadn't really found any Hostess or Kellogg's cards. Those are card show staples for me.

With that in mind, I started digging. At first, I didn't find much. Eventually, though, my luck started to change.

This neat "A's Stars" trio was well worth the 7/$5 price tag.

As were these two.

It's tough to tell from the scan, but the card on the left is a Michael Young rookie card. He never played for the Blue Jays, which makes it a much needed zero-year issue.

Matt Kemp, of course, did wind up suiting up for the Dodgers. Ten years after the release of his rookie card, however, he'll be playing for the Padres.

It'll take some getting used to, I'm sure.

It was right around here when I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Jeff was actually the one who discovered this Hostess Johnny Bench. Thankfully, he didn't need it. I was pretty much frothing at the mouth for oddballs at this point, so Mr. Bench immediately went into my purchase pile.

Sadly, it'd be the only Hostess card I'd find from the 7/$5 box.

But, hey...

...I can't complain too much.

Especially when the rest of the box was loaded with Kellogg's. These 3-D beauties were tucked away into the very back corner of one of the rows. It almost seemed like someone was trying to hide them from me. Nice try, but I'm no rookie.

Unlike most discounted Kellogg's cards I've found, these are all in fantastic shape. And, seeing as how they were in a 7/$5 box, I was astounded by the sheer amount of star power in this stack. Yaz, Seaver, Schmidt, Eck, Sutton...the list went on and on. It's safe to say that my oddball thirst was quenched by the time I finished digging.

Kellogg's made for the vast majority of the twenty-eight total cards I picked out from this guy's table, mine for a cool twenty bucks.

Okay, I guess I've gone on long enough by now. It's finally time to reveal The Greatest Find of the Day in this, the final installment of these card show posts. For this one, we have to go all the way back to those nickel boxes I talked about earlier in the week.

I don't know how I can possibly build up to something like this, so I'll just show it.

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you.

Yes, that is an actual 1967 Topps Bob Uecker. His sunset card. Only my second vintage Uecker. From the nickel box. Nickel, as in five pennies.

No, I'm not lying. You can ask Jeff if you don't believe me. He was there. Finding this elicited an audible WOW from both Jeff and the guy standing next to him.

It had to be some kind of mistake. I didn't find any other vintage cards in any of those nickel boxes. Uecker doesn't usually end up in dollar boxes, much less nickel boxes. I kind of felt like I was getting away with a crime or something.

Well, you know what the kids on the playground say. Finders keepers, losers weepers.

To tell you the truth, I'm still in shock. Bob Uecker for a nickel? That's not real. That couldn't possibly happen. But it did. It did happen.

Finding all these terrific cards did happen. Stumbling upon a treasure chest of Kellogg's did happen. And, most of all, spending a fun-filled afternoon with Jeff and my dad did happen.

As hard as it might be to believe, it happened.