Friday, July 11, 2014

My kind of team sets

Not everyone can be Brooks Robinson.

Even in today's money-hungry sports world, there's a part of me that believes guys want to stay with one team their whole career.

Brooks Robinson, of course, was a lifetime Oriole. Topps even gave him a card to commemorate his loyalty. I love and respect Mr. Robinson for being a one-team man.

Still, I'd be lying if I didn't say I didn't enjoy guys who moved around a bit. Heck, I've devoted an entire part of my collection to some of the more well-traveled players in baseball.

They're what I like to call "team sets".

To most people, a team set is getting every card of a squad from a particular product.

In my crazy mind, however, a team set is landing at least one card from each team a guy played for during his career. It's easier said than done in a lot of cases.

With one or two-team guys, it's simple. Todd Zeile, on the other hand, is quite a different story. The man played for eleven different teams in his career.

His time in the bigs began with the Cardinals in 1989.

The rest, as they say, is history.

His big league career consisted of stops with the Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Mets, Rockies, Yankees...

...and Expos.

He is undoubtedly one of the most well-traveled players in baseball history. On top of that, his career actually ended with a second stint with the Mets in 2004. 

That begs another question when it comes to my kind of team sets.

What if a guy made multiple stops with one team during his career?

I actually don't have a card of Zeile's second go-around with the Mets. I do, however, have ones featuring all four of Rickey Henderson's stops in Oakland.

To me, getting a card of each individual stint is preferred, but not necessary for a complete team set. 

It was just a happy accident that I managed to land this Rickey quartet, I guess.

Henderson's team set was a blast to build.

On top of his four stops with the A's, he also played for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres (twice), Angels, Mets, Mariners, Red Sox, and Dodgers. His time in Anaheim proved to be the final piece of my team set puzzle, as there aren't a ton of cards that feature Rickey in Angels gear.

I guess even some of the most talented players have a tendency to jump around a bit.

Just ask Kenny Lofton.

He's pretty much the go-to guy when this sort of topic pops up in the world of cardboard. Like Henderson, he's the rare star who made a lot of stops in his career.

Lofton was probably the first big time team set I completed. His inauspicious beginning with the Astros is still one of the best unfamiliar uniform stints in history.

As you probably know, he went on to have quite a career... a lot of different cities.

After Houston, he donned the uniforms of the Indians (three times), Braves, White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers...

...and Rangers.

Kenny Lofton is the man who got me interested in the world of "short term stops". He played for eleven different teams during his 17-year career.

Ten of those seasons came with the Indians, which means he packed the other ten squads into a grand total of seven years.

They should've called him "Suitcase".

Here's another quirk in the world of team sets.

Doyle Alexander played for eight teams in his career. Dodgers, Orioles, Rangers, Braves (twice), Giants, Yankees (twice), Blue Jays, and Tigers. (I don't have a card featuring his initial stint with the Bronx Bombers in 1976.)

Trouble is, I only have cards of him in seven of those uniforms. Though it's been a white whale of mine for some time, I'm almost positive Alexander's 17-game stint with the Dodgers as a rookie in 1971 was never documented on cardboard.

So, then, is what I have considered a complete team set?

Kind of. I call my Doyle Alexander collection an unofficial team set.

Complete as possible, but still missing a piece.

In a perfect world, every guy would have a card issued every year.

If that happened, my concern with "unofficial" team sets would never see the light of day. I have to give card companies some credit, though.

While he was never a huge star, they were right on the ball when it came to Royce Clayton. Though you don't hear his name as often as Kenny Lofton's, Clayton also played for eleven teams during his 17-year career.

He broke in with the Giants in 1991.

From there, he moved to the Cardinals, Rangers, White Sox, Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Reds, Blue Jays, and Red Sox.

His final stop in Boston was the only one not featured on a card. Seeing as how it consisted of just eight games at the tail end of the 2007 season, however, I can forgive the people at Topps and UD for that.

Ten of eleven still ain't bad.

Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs, and Ron Villone played for twelve teams during their respective careers.

Trouble is, none of them are in my binders...yet. The man at the top of the team set hill, however, is.

Octavio Dotel holds the (dubious?) record of playing for thirteen teams during his 15-year career. He's the most well-traveled player in baseball history.

It all started with the Mets back in 1999.

After a four-and-a-half-year stint in Houston, Dotel's career went into a bit of a tailspin.

From there, he spent time with the A's, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays, Cardinals...

...and Tigers.

His stops in Pittsburgh, L.A., and Colorado actually all came in 2010, though he only received a card with the Dodgers that year. Other than that, though, he's had at least one issue with every team of his whirlwind career, which is impressive.

I don't think he's officially retired from baseball yet, either. Perhaps there'll be more to add to the Octavio Dotel team set in the future.

This is one of those topics that I can go on and on about. It's been an obsession of mine for a long time, and it's been a ton of fun trying to complete various team sets over the years.

While I may appreciate guys like Brooks Robinson, I have a lot more fun with the Octavio Dotels of the baseball world.


Alex Markle said...

I was waiting for Octavio Dotel's name to pop up throughout my time reading.

I'm still waiting to see a guy play for every organization.

petethan said...

This is actually as close at it comes to defining what kind of collector I am. I collect EVERYTHING. But if I had to narrow down the goal to something short of every baseball card ever, it would be what you're talking about here.

By the way, Doyle Alexander has a card in the 1990 Target Dodgers 100th Anniversary set, and he's even pictured wearing a Dodgers cap. Go get it, Dime Box King...

petethan said...

In the meantime, though, his 1972 Topps card features him in a Dodger uni... airbrushed into an Orioles cap. Not a bad stop-gap, if your OCD will let you count that.

Metallattorney said...

Royce Clayton actually has a Red Sox card in the Danbury Mint 22 kt. gold set commemorating the 2007 World Championship. I own this card and will provide a scan as soon as I can. Unfortunately the card is tough to find on the secondary market and could only be purchased in the first place as part of the complete set. Each card cost $10.00.

Unfortunately my Sandy Alomar Jr. team set will never be complete as he has no cards of him with the New York Mets. The best I could do was to add the New Orleans Zephyrs minor league card. I do have cards of him with the Padres, Indians, White Sox (all three tours), Rockies, Rangers, and Dodgers.

gcrl said...

yes, what petethan said about doyle.

also, i'm a big fan of that 1994 stadium club rickey card.

finally, and in a similar vein to this post, i'm working on a mike morgan post after doing similar 'on the road' writeups about tommy davis and bob miller.

good stuff nick.

jacobmrley said...

Oh man, I have a post like this in my drafts with Zeile, Sheffield, and Lofton. I like that you included Dotel.