Saturday, December 31, 2011

A look back at 2011: A big year in life and cards

As 2011 winds down, I can't help but look back. It was the most challenging and eye-opening year of my life.

Luckily, my cards were always there for me to fall back on when things got out of control. So, if you'll indulge me, here's a look back at the year of 2011.

Hope everyone out there has a safe and happy new year!

January: Off on the wrong foot

1969 Topps #43 Joe Niekro
My initial college semester wouldn't go well. I'd transfer out of that absolutely horrible college (which shall remain nameless) in December 2010. Since that college couldn't get my transcripts together for whatever reason, I found myself out of luck on going to college for the 2011 spring semester. I couldn't transfer anywhere without those credits; I would've had to start all over again.

So, I set out looking for a job for the spring and summer. It seemed like it would be nice to have a whole seven or so months off of school. Or so I thought.

In late January, I hit a card show that's about a half-hour away from my house. I used up what was left of my Christmas money. I'd been looking for this '69 Joe Niekro for a while. I picked up this mis-cut copy for a quarter. A success!

February: My birthday and card season on the horizon

2011 Topps "CMG Reprints" #CMGR-1 Babe Ruth

I'd heard rumblings about 2011 Topps being in retail stores. For me, nothing beats the excitement of seeing those first cards of the new year on the shelves. To my surprise, I had a little extra money in my wallet. 

I had a job interview that day (I think it was the 12th), so I figured I'd take the five minute walk to Target to see if they had the spoils. Even more to my surprise, they did. I grabbed five or six packs and ran back to my house (okay, I didn't really run). I didn't end up getting that job.

I'd seen this CMG Babe Ruth card on the checklist. It was my #1 want of the set. I was about halfway through opening the packs when out popped the Ruth. I literally jumped for joy (yes, I actually did). Only three packs into the new card season and already a pull like this!

Luckily, my birthday nicely coincides with the first release of the 2011 card season. I only asked for one thing and, by gosh, I got it! A 2011 Topps hobby box. Not one of my finer pictures, though.

March: A different card show and Opening Day
1977 Hostess #128 Rich Gossage

Around mid-March, I was still without a job. Yet I was able to save up enough birthday money to hit the first of three card shows at the Rosemont Convention Center (it's where the National was held for anyone who went there).
This was the first show in years that I went to without my dad. He was in Vegas, after all. It definitely felt weird being alone at times, but dime boxes are a perfect antidote for that. One of the big finds of this show was the Hostess Gossage card. I'd been looking for a card of him in a Pirates uniform (even an airbrushed one) forever, and had pretty much given up looking until I stumbled across this one for a mere 50 cents.

Opening Day on March 31 would be one of the few high points of the spring and summer. 

April: The flea market opens 

1974 Topps #80 Tom Seaver
The flea market opening in April was about the last thing I had to look forward to. It was cold and rainy the first couple weeks, so I didn't go. Finally a sunny Sunday came around and my mom and I were able to go. 

I found this Seaver one of the first weeks we went. Going there each week was like going to a mini-card show 15 different times over the course of the spring and summer. The few dealers who set up every week always had something new for me to go through and always cut me a deal since I was there almost every week. No matter how bad of a week I had Monday to Saturday, I could count on finding happiness at the flea market. That took on a whole new meaning in 2011.

June: Topps Series 2, and all comes crashing down

2011 Topps "Red Diamond Exclusive" #RDT-20 Sandy Koufax

I was lucky enough to go to my first baseball game of the year with one of my friends in June, to see the White Sox take on the Mariners (I finally got to see Ichiro!). That was an especially good day because I didn't get a chance to see many of my friends during the spring and early summer; most of them were away at school. We had some time to kill before the game, so we took a trip to Target. As in February, I'd heard that these were on the brink of release. They had 'em again! I grabbed eight packs and left them at home before taking off to US Cellular Field. 

The Sox won! On the train ride back, I remembered I still had those packs to open at home. I nearly jumped for joy again when this Koufax card fell out. Wouldn't you? It's such an awesome card.

1969 Topps #630 Bobby Bonds RC

For Father's Day, I went to the flea market with my dad. I'd been eying this Bobby Bonds card for a few weeks, but I never had the extra $5 to buy it. I finally had a little extra cash and was able finally say to the guy, "Sir, I would like to buy that Bobby Bonds card. Do you accept cash (cha-ching!)?". (No, I didn't say that. I said, "Can I get that Bobby Bonds one there?") I was on top of the world.

I was on the way back home to drop the car off at the house before catching the bus. I was going to spend the day at my dad's house. I'd just made a right turn when it happened. My first car crash. A guy swerved into my lane and hit the side of my car. It wasn't a major crash; no one was hurt and there wasn't much damage. But it scared the hell out of me. It took about an hour to sort everything out with the other driver (who, of course, spoke no English).  My school-less and jobless summer had hit bottom. Baseball cards were the last thing on my mind for the rest of that day. 

July: One bright spot

I don't mean to get all philosophical on you on a simple baseball card blog, but I did come to one major life realization in July. You can't just drift through life with no job or no school like I was doing. You have to have some sort of reason for getting up in the morning. I didn't have that.

Luckily, my baseball cards gave me a little inspiration. My hopes of finding an actual job were slim; I'd applied to everywhere I could think of. Nothing. Instead, I worked on sorting my cards during the day, just to have something, anything to do.

I had my work cut out for me for a week or so in July. There's another flea market about a half-hour away from my house. My mom and I went there once before; there was nothing good. My mom had read that there was going to be a small card show there to coincide with the flea market one week in July. So naturally, I went. And it was the most fun I'd had in months. There weren't too many tables, but almost all of the dealers had dime boxes handy. I found this neat Zack Wheat reprint in a 12/$1 box. You don't often find cards of him. I came home with about 400 cards for about $40 all together. Four-hundred cards that needed to be sorted and filed. A job!

August: The National and school

2001 Stadium Club #109 Nick Johnson FS /2999  

Things began to pick up in August. School would be starting on the 22nd. I had enrolled at a community college to get my you-know-what together for a year or so. I didn't want to jump right back into the four-year college experience right away. I was excited to be going back to school.

My trip to the National was my last hurrah before school would be starting again. It was amazing. And it was good to have my dad at my side this time, barreling through the seemingly endless aisles of cards, sniffing out those dime boxes.

I found this Nick Johnson card in one of the dime boxes I came across. I'd just started collecting him and it was a nice find. I didn't even notice it was numbered until I came across it again that night after I'd dumped my 800-or-so new cards out on the floor. I'm not sure why, but I looked it up in my Beckett just for kicks. It was worth 25 bucks. A diamond in the rough. Things were looking up, all right!

School started off great. Earlier that month, I reconnected with some old friends. I made some new ones, too. My classes were fantastic and quite interesting, something I wasn't necessarily expecting from a community college.

October: The best set of the year, but no more flea market

2011 Topps Update Cognac Diamond Anniversary #300b Walter Johnson SP

I was so happy to be back at a school which I genuinely enjoyed going to. I hadn't had that
feeling since I graduated high school in the spring of 2010. 

What's more, the box of 2011 Topps Update I ordered came not too far into October. Update is always my favorite set of the year because it's the first to feature all the guys who were involved in deadline deals in their new uniforms. Aside from the Koufax I showed earlier, this Walter Johnson may be the most aesthetically pleasing card I pulled all year.

 1972 Topps #438 Maury Wills IA

Sadly, October 30th was the last day of the flea market for the year. It was a cold and blustery day, but I wasn't going to miss it for the world. This Maury Wills card was one of the finds of the day, modestly priced at a quarter. 

I was sad to see it go; it gave me something to look forward to all summer. It really meant a lot to me. I'm already looking forward to it opening again in the spring!

November: The last card show of the year

1964 Topps #230 Brooks Robinson

November marked the final card show of the year. It was the third and final Rosemont show. As always, I came home with around 800 cards. (I'm not joking.) This '64 Brooks Robinson was the cornerstone of my dad's collection when he was younger. He bought it for me at that show. 

It's now one of the highlights of my collection.

December: My trek into the blogoshere and the last great set

  2011 Topps American Pie #157 Capone's Vault

My last day of school before break was December 8th. The day before that marked my introduction into the blogging world. I'd been reading Night Owl's blog for a couple months before, and often wondered if I should start a blog. I'd always thought they were impossible to set up. 

Nope, they're quite easy to set up, as I found. I made about six posts after I got home after taking my last final on the 8th. For the first time in months, I felt good about not having to wake up at any specific time or having any homework deadlines. This was winter break!

The day I found out that American Pie was released was the same day I found out I'd gotten straight A's in school for the semester.

Not a bad day, eh?

Of course, Christmas and New Year's are always fun. Call me crazy, but I'm actually looking forward to starting a new semester of school in January.

Well, that's it. As you might've guessed, 2011 was a wild and crazy year for me. At the least, I hope you've enjoyed my blog for the first three weeks of its' existence!

A happy 2012 to all!  

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Baseball Card Sequel

I don't know why, but this afternoon I was thinking about what a sequel to the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" would look like. The original is one of my favorite movies.

Then I got to thinking about baseball cards (what a surprise!). I remembered a few cards I had recently picked up.

Then, I combined by thoughts and, voila, a sequel appeared!



...and Automobiles!

I knew I had cards of planes and automobiles, but I didn't think there was a card that featured a train. A simple google search found the 2010 Astros train card. The train scoots down the tracks whenever the Astros hit a homer or win a game. As a result, the train hasn't been seen for the last three years or so.

That's Bo Jackson standing next to a Navy plane for his 1995 Pinnacle photo. How did they arrive at that for his picture? Bo: "So, I'm thinking I want to stand next to a plane for my baseball card. A Navy plane or something like that." Photographer: "Why did you drag me to this Navy runwa...oh. Okay, since we're here already, we can do that."

Apparently blindingly yellow sports cars were all the rage in 1997. That's Benito Santiago ('97 Fleer) and Omar Vizquel ('97 Collector's Choice) being photographed with them. (Is it the same car?) Vizquel's showcasing some hardware, from the looks of it.

Okay, we'll stick to the original film.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Zero-Year Cards, Part 10

2002 Topps #435 Jose Canseco (Expos)

This card is so bad, that it', it's just bad. Kinda funny, though. And it's a zero-year card, so, hey, it's got that going for it.

Canseco just looks so clueless in this picture, actually believing that he can still play in the bigs. He was signed by the Expos on February 21, 2002. He was released the following month, on March 27th, before ever playing in Montreal. For some reason, the White Sox felt compelled to give him another shot, signing him in April of 2002. He'd play that year in the minors without getting called up. He made comebacks in the minors in 2006 and 2010. He's still in organized baseball, playing for Yuma (an Independent League team) for 64 games in 2011.

There comes a time in every player's career where they have to realize that there's nothing left in the tank. Otherwise, it just drags on without a purpose. It's kind of like that friend you have that never wants to end the conversation when you're talking to him or her on the phone. No matter how many times you say "All right, well I'll see y..." or "Sounds good, talk to ya lat...", they insist on dragging the conversation on and on.

Jose Canseco is that person who never gets off the phone.

Quite the catch

I just got home after having a gigantic dinner at a steakhouse. I've got the feeling that looking at a card with as much action as this one is going to make me sick very soon.

Nevertheless, cards like these are amazing. Donruss managed to get the ball and Tony Gwynn in the same frame for this card. I'm surprised Gwynn managed to make it that far up the wall, considering he only measures in at 5'11".

I still maintain that this is the greatest catch ever made. Yes, better than the Willie Mays catch. To climb up the wall, spin around, and catch it over your shoulder is simply unbelievable. Usually, cards showing the backs of players aren't very flattering. Not this one, though.

Upper Deck certainly did a fantastic job in capturing the moment with a lot of these famous catches. Who could ever forget this catch? If Endy Chavez was an inch shorter it would've been out of his reach. Baseball truly is a "game of inches".

Who says white men can't jump?

These cards are so cool that Gypsy Queen devoted an entire insert set to them in 2011. Here's Ichiro defying gravity. I'm pretty sure that's at Comiskey Park (okay, US Cellular Field).

Looks like Marcus Thames couldn't quite reel this one in. It's still cool, though. Those numbers behind him are making my head spin.

This is the best wall-climbing card out there. No contest. This card made me single-handedly start collecting Russell Branyan. It's hard to see on this scan, but Branyan is actually listed as a third baseman on the front.

Are we sure that Spiderman's alternate identity isn't Russell Branyan?

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 7: 1988 Pacific "Eight Men Out"

The story of the 1919 World Series is one of the most fascinating tales in baseball history. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series in exchange for a nice payday from gamblers. In the end, the ballplayers got very little of the money they were promised, and most of the gamblers came away penniless after the White Sox allegedly double-crossed them after not receiving their money. The players were later banned from baseball, even after being found not guilty in court.

The most tragic member of the 1919 Sox was third-baseman Buck Weaver. He always insisted he never took a penny from gamblers (he was blackballed because he knew about the fix and never said a word). He unsuccessfully tried to clear his name until his death.

The 1988 film "Eight Men Out" chronicles this tale. I rarely see this movie pop up on anyone's "Favorite Baseball Movies" lists. It's my personal favorite baseball film (if "The Sandlot" doesn't count).

Pacific released a set to coincide with the movie's release. Like the movie, I almost never see this set get any recognition. It's a great set. Since it was unlicensed, Pacific was able to produce cards of the "Eight Men Out", something that Topps, Donruss, and Fleer didn't have the ability to do.

The design of this set works well with the time period it seeks to recognize. The player cards are made to look like "old-timey" picture frames. The neat throwback Sox logo in the top-right adds to the look of this set.

Chick Gandil and Swede Risberg were the two ringleaders of the fix. Risberg certainly did his part, as he batted just .080 in the series.

The guys needed the ace of the Sox staff if they were ever going to get serious about throwing the series. Eddie Cicotte was the man they needed, as he had won 29 games during the regular season (he received $10,000 for his part in the fix). He pitched terribly in the games one and four and lost both. He won game seven (it was a nine-game series), but it was too late to save the series.

Happy Felsch probably would've been lost to history had he not participated in the fix. He was an average player in the 1910's. He hit just .192 in the 1919 series.

Another thing that's great about this set is that they feature some of the 1919 White Sox players who had nothing to do with the fix. Future Hall-of-Famer Ray Schalk was the catcher for the Sox that year, hitting .304 in the series.

Another future HOFer, Red Faber, was also part of the 1919 White Sox squad, but he was injured and didn't participate in the World Series.

Some of the opposing Reds players are featured in this set as well. Morrie Rath was the second baseman for the 1919 series-winning Reds. An interesting tidbit from the back of this card: Rath's last day in the majors came on October 2, 1920, when he became one of just four players to have played in a modern-era tripleheader.

Pat Moran was the Reds' manager in 1919. He always maintained that the Reds were better than the White Sox that year, no matter if the series was fixed or not.

The person who banned the eight members of the "Black Sox" was commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The actual Judge Landis is shown here beside his actor portrayal in the 1988 film.

Another great part about this set is that it features turning points in the film. The top card shows the two sportswriters who would later uncover the fix (Hugh Fullerton and Ring Lardner) expressing their concerns to manager Kid Gleason before Game 1. The film is fairly similar to the Eliot Asinof book (which the film was based off), but one difference is that it was actually former pitcher Christy Mathewson who worked with Fullerton during the 1919 series, circling plays that looked odd to them (although Lardner did play a role in blowing the lid off the fix as well).

The bottom card shows manager Gleason confronting Cicotte before Game 7, telling Cicotte that he won't be starting that day. Cicotte convinces Gleason to let him pitch and rewards him with a masterpiece victory.

Some of the cards showcase the actors that portrayed the players in the film. This one shows Don Harvey, who played the role of "Swede" Risberg.

I really wish I had more cards from this 110-card set. The ones I've shown in this post are about all I have. I've been lucky to pluck a handful of these out of dime boxes over the last year or two. One of these days, I might break down and buy a box or the complete set, but I'm going to try my luck with dime boxes for a little while longer.

This set is truly a gem for any fan of baseball history!

And the wedding "Bells" ring at the All-Star game

I recently decided to start collecting Heath Bell. After seeing his famous slide at the 2011 All-Star game and his swan dive into his pool on MLB Network's "Intentional Talk", I decided this was a cardboard necessity. (Send me your Heath Bell cards!)

I recently received this 2010 Topps Update Bell card via trade. I noticed something funny about this one.

Apparently, someone just got married judging from the sign over Bell's shoulder. Whoever it is, their marriage is probably the first ever immortalized on cardboard. That could have good and bad implementations...(I'm sorry, I had a brief "writer's" block there. I'm watching "The Office" and a Conan O'Brien commercial just came on. I can't believe how unfunny one man can be.)

Anyways, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, marriage, baseball card, Heath Bell. Good and bad things. On the one hand, if the marriage works out, you've got a new photo for your album. And one of the best wedding presents one could ever receive.

On the other hand, if it doesn't work out, you could never destroy all the evidence out there. Unless you want to track down each copy of this card. That wouldn't be easy. And you'll never pry this one off of me!

So a belated congratulations to the couple that was "just married" over Heath Bell's shoulder. Hopefully they're Heath Bell fans.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Glory of Their Time, Chapter 4: Wilbur Wood

We always hear about "throwback" players in the game today. They were around thirty years ago when my parents were kids, and they were around when my grandparents were in their teens.

In that span, I don't think a player has ever earned the "throwback" tag more than Wilbur Wood. He pitched more than a quarter of his team's games. As pitching philosophies were changing, Wood stayed constant. Even his name sounds like it belongs in the 1800's. (His middle name is Forrester, if "Wilbur Wood" didn't sound old-timey enough.)

His career progression is among the more interesting to track.

2001 Topps Archives #47 Wilbur Wood

Wilbur Wood's major league career began with the Red Sox in 1961, pitching in six games.

He wasn't a regular pitcher in his first few big-league seasons. He'd be brought up for one game in '62, and would go 0-5 in 25 games in '63. He'd be gone from Boston soon after his rookie card was released in '64.

1965 Topps #478 Wilbur Wood

Wood was dealt to the Pirates midway through the '64 season. This '65 Topps card is the first one I'm featuring on my blog that I don't currently possess (although I hope to in the future). His stats for Boston in the first part of '64 were about as unflattering as his '65 Topps picture: 5 2/3 innings pitched and a bloated 17.47 ERA. He'd pitch in just three games for Pittsburgh in '64.

He'd have his best season yet in '65, posting a 3.16 ERA in 51.1 innings, mainly as a reliever (he made one start that year).

1969 Topps #123 Wilbur Wood

Wood was dealt to the White Sox in October of 1966. I'd use an earlier card for this portion of the post, but this is the earliest issue I own of Wood as a White Sox (or Sock?).
He'd spend all of 1966 in the minors, pitching for Columbus of the International League. He went 14-8 with a 2.41 ERA, with eight shutouts. It would be the last time he played in the minors.

He was called up to the big club for the '67 season, where he'd stick for 12 seasons. Still being largely used as a reliever, Wood posted a fine 2.47 ERA in '67.

Wood pitched in an amazing 88 games in 1968, posting a miniscule 1.87 ERA and saving 16 games. 1968 would be the first of three consecutive years that Wood would lead the league in games pitched.

For the first seasons of his career, Wood would not start a single game in 1969 or 1970. It looked like Wood was going to be a bullpen mainstay for the Sox in future years.

1973 Topps #150 Wilbur Wood

1971 was the first year that Wood was used as exclusively as a starter. After never starting more than eight games in a single season, Wood started an amazing 42 games in '71. All he'd do was go 22-13 with a 1.91 ERA in 334 innings, dazzling American League hitters with his classic knuckleball. It was his first of four consecutive 20-win seasons.

Wood was just as good in '72, with an amazing record of 24-17 and a 2.51 ERA, this time pitching in an unheard of 376 2/3 innings in 49 starts.

However, the season Wood would have in 1973 is among the most amazing of the last half-century. He'd again lead the league for a second straight year with 359 1/3 innings pitched. He'd post his highest ERA since 1964 with a 3.46 mark. But what makes his '73 season so special was his record. He won 24 games. He lost 20. It's a hard enough feat to win 20 games in a season. It might be even tougher to lose 20.  Yet Wood found a way to do both in a single season.

If that's not a "throwback" season, I don't know what is.

1974 Topps #120 Wilbur Wood

Wood looks confident in his '74 Topps photo; he deserved to be after his amazing '73 season.
He'd come extremely close to matching his unheard of 20-20 feat in '73, just missing it by posting a 20-19 record. He'd lead the league in games started for the third straight year with 42 in '74. With 320 1/3 innings, it would be the last time he'd pitch over 300 innings in a sesason.

Unfortunately, it would also be his last good year in the bigs.

1975 Topps #110 Wilbur Wood

Someone as old-school as Wilbur Wood looks a little out of place with the "futuristic" '75 Topps design. 

Wood wouldn't have a great year in '75. Although he did win 16 games, he led the league with 20 losses and posted an unspectacular 4.11 ERA. He'd lead the league in games started (with 43) for the fourth and final time.

1976 Hostess #99 Wilbur Wood

This Hostess card represents Wood's final three seasons in the majors fairly well. The dark of night is creeping in as this photo is taken; Wood looks to be alone in the ballpark save for a lone figure in the distance. This day looks to be coming to a close. So does Wood's career.

He'd pitch in just seven games in 1976. 

1979 Topps #216 Wilbur Wood

Wood did last long enough to see those ugly "softball" uniforms the Sox introduced in the late-'70s. This 1979 issue is his final Topps card.
After a forgetful 7-8 campaign in '77, Wood would give it one final go in 1978. He'd post a respectable 10-10 record, although his bloated 5.20 ERA was his highest since 1964. 

He'd retire after the 1978 season.

1976 Topps #368 Wilbur Wood

With the way pitching has changed in the last few decades, we'll never see another pitcher like Wilbur Wood. No one will ever come close to matching his 20-win 20-loss season. No one will ever pitch 376 2/3 innings like Wood did in '72. To put it in perspective, Justin Verlander led the league with 251 innings pitched in 2011.

Wood's career is a lot like this 1976 card. A guy who stood out in a crowd. His name, his stats, his knuckleball, everything. 

Everything in Wilbur Wood's career just stood out. And that's what makes him so interesting.

Only I would buy this card, Pt. 3

1966 Topps #580 Billy Williams
1967 Topps #584 Jim Piersall
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. Those cards have holes in them. And the corners are cut off.

Holes and chopped corners aside, these are some pretty neat cards. They're both high-numbers. The color blue appears to be the motif for the Williams. It's everywhere! The '67 Piersall is his final player issue. I never thought I'd own a copy of this card.

The '66 Williams cost me fifty cents, and the Piersall set me back a quarter. If these two cards were in tip-top shape, they'd be worth 100 bucks together. I love looking at how much some of my beat-up vintage cards would be worth if they were in good condition. And then I laugh. 

My vintage collection would be about 100 times smaller if I was a stickler for condition. The way I see it, I'd rather own a crappy copy of a card I want than drool over the same card in better shape, which I could never dream of having.

That's what I think, anyway.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm a sucker for vintage (A team-by-team look into everyone's favorite, VINTAGE!) , Pt. 1: Angels

I'm excited to finally get started with this concept. It's been jumping around in my head for a while but haven't been able to create a post about it until now.

I've decided to discontinue my binder posts in order to salvage some writing material for posts down the road.

Instead, "I'm a sucker for vintage" will feature my top five favorite vintage cards from each team binder. (Some more recent teams will obviously not have posts for these.) For the purpose of these posts, I'll consider "vintage" to be any pre-1980 cards, even though the technical term for vintage is cards from 1973 and before. But what fun would this be if I were to leave out all the '74s and '75s? Also, no player will be represented more than once per team.

So without further ado, here is the inaugural "I'm a sucker for vintage" post. Comments or suggestions are more than welcome. Enjoy!

Honorable Mentions:

1967 Topps #265 Lou Burdette
1970 Topps #485 Jay Johnstone
1976 Hostess #18 Bobby Bonds

The Countdown:


1973 Topps #597 Mickey Rivers

Fun Fact: "Mickey is a recreation director in the off-season."
This is just Rivers' second Topps issue; he made his Topps debut in '72. 

I was debating for a few minutes on whether to include this one or the '76 Hostess Bobby Bonds in the countdown. The backdrop on this card is what won me over. The 1970's Angel Stadium background has been featured on many cards, and it makes all of them ten times better. There's just something about that big scoreboard in the background (with the haloed "A" towering over the field, although it's not completely visible in this one).


1969 Topps #653 Aurelio Rodriguez

Fun Fact: "In 1966, Aurelio led the Mexican League with 16 triples."

You knew it was coming.

This is the classic baseball error card. Rodriguez played a prank on Topps; the photo is actually of sixteen year-old Angels batboy Leonard Garcia. I guess guys had to do something to keep themselves amused during the long seasons. Apparently, pulling pranks on Topps photographers was right up there with hot-foots and dugout razzing. I've mentioned the classic 1959 Topps Lou Burdette error-o-rama card before. 

Any serious baseball card collector should have this one somewhere in their house.


1971 Topps #105 Tony Conigliaro

Fun Fact: "Tony has had success as a writer and rock-n-roll singer."

1971 would be the only year Conigliaro would spend in California during his brief but memorable career. He'd possibly be a Hall of Famer right now had he not gotten hit in the face with a pitch in 1967, which pretty much smashed any of his HOF hopes. He hit 84 homers in his first three major league seasons, all by the age of 21. He'd have a nice year in 1970 (36 HR's and 116 RBI's), but he could never get over that horrific injury and was pretty much done by '71 (he made a brief comeback with the Red Sox in '75).

This is Conigliaro's final Topps issue. One can only wonder how many more he would've had if everything had worked out the way it was supposed to.


1965 Topps #172 Jim Piersall

Fun Fact: "One of Jim's top thrills was cracking six hits in six at bats in a game played in '53."

Jim Piersall is one of my all-time favorites. I've had this card for as long as I can remember

1965 is my favorite non-'50s Topps set. I love the pennant with the team name in the bottom-left corner. I can't wait for the Topps Heritage remake of this set in 2014. Topps got really lazy with a few of Piersall's phots, though. His 1964 and 1967 cards look like they're from the same photo session as his '65 issue. 

Piersall paired with the 1965 Topps design was almost my favorite Angels card. After thinking about it, though, my favorite Angels binder card is...


1966 Topps #505 Jose Cardenal

Fun Fact: "Jose homered in his first big league at bat off Whitey Ford."

A pre-Afro Jose Cardenal plus the famous Topps rookie cup equals the number one card on my Angels countdown.
Some of the "fun facts" on the back of cards are way better than others. I'm not sure what could beat homering in your first at bat off a future Hall-of-Famer. (It sure beats Aurilio Rodriguez hitting 16 triples in the Mexican League.) 

I liken Cardenal to a cult film. Among baseball card collecting circles, he's pretty popular with all his iconic cards from the '70s. But as far as stats go, he's not widely talked about in hardcore baseball circles. My dad surprised me at the last card show we went to together in November, buying a 1964 Topps Brooks Robinson for me. He was going to buy this Cardenal card for me too, but the guy he bought the Robinson from threw in the Cardenal for free.

Not a bad deal for the my favorite vintage Angels card, huh?

Heck, who doesn't like vintage? I guess we're all "suckers" for it.

A slice of American Pie

How could I not feature a card about blogging?

My 2011 Topps American Pie base set arrived in the mail today. It's the first complete set that I've ever purchased, surprisingly. Two-hundred cards of fun.

I have to say, this is one of the most unexpectedly good releases in recent years. I didn't even hear about it until a couple days after its release.

The set captures moments in American history from the end of WWII (which is card #1 in the set) to the present (Hurricane Irene is the final card). I'll feature a few cards from each decade, as well as my favorites from the music-themed cards in the set at the end of the post.

Also, I'm looking for many of the foil cards and other inserts from this set if anyone happens to have any for trade.

The set kicks off with the decade of the 1940's. A couple of fantastic photos here. Abbott and Costello in the middle of their famous "Who's on First?" routine, what better shot of them to use for a baseball card of theirs?

I'm not a huge boxing fan, but this Joe Louis shot is among the finest in the set. Louis staring calmly into the distance while chaos erupts around him.

On to the '50s. The "Most Boring Day" card is one of the best pieces of trivia I picked up from this set. According to calculations, it was determined that April 11, 1954 was the most boring day of the 20th century. I'm not sure how, but they managed to nail it down to a single day.

Another great boxing card with the Rocky Marciano issue. He's well on his way to one of his 49 career boxing wins (without having lost a fight).

I bet that very few people my age even know who these two guys are. No big deal, only two of the greatest comedians of the 20th century, of course. I've never met anyone at school who knows who the Marx Brothers are.

The 1960's. The times are a'changing. I'm not a huge fan of horror films, but how could I leave that Hitchcock card out of this post?

Topps did a fantastic job of choosing which comedians to feature in American Pie. Lenny Bruce was arguably the most influential comedian since...well, ever.

The '70s was the best time for comedy (thanks mostly to Lenny Bruce's influence). Just watch anything of Carlin or Pryor. None of this Dane Cook junk.

More from the '70s. A great picture of one of the most daring feats in recent history by Philippe Petit.

A card of John Belushi. This set gets better by the minute!

The "Miracle on Ice" card is one of the greatest from the set. I wish I were alive to watch that game. I can't fathom anything like that happening in sports today.

The "Seinfeld" premiere managed to sneak into the '80s (the pilot was in 1989). It will always be my favorite TV show.

There weren't a whole lot of great ones from the last two decades. I had to settle for showing cards of Napster and the Unabomber.

Social networking galore. I was a Facebook holdout until about a year ago. I have to say though, it's a good way to keep in touch with people after high school. People didn't have that advantage twenty years ago. You can tell that's a picture from Facebook's early days because it's still called "TheFacebook" (see, I did learn something from "The Social Network").

A not-so-discreet plug for Topps in their card featuring the advent of Twitter (which I will never join, mark my words).

I told you this card would eventually be in my hands. I think this is now my favorite card of my non-baseball collection.

Topps did a great job of spreading musical figures throughout the checklist (save for the unfortunate appearance of Kanye West and Taylor Swift). Kudos, Topps.

I already featured a few music cards I pulled in the American Pie blaster I got for Christmas. Here's some of my other favorites.

Can't say that I'm a huge fan of Hank Williams or Johnny Cash, but I certainly respect what they did for music. But that was the best picture of Cash you could find, Topps?

On the other hand, that is a great picture for the "Rock Around the Clock" card. Featuring Bill Haley and the Comets in full swing mode.

There was a card featuring Motown in the 2001 American Pie release. I'm glad they brought it back again in 2011. The history of music wouldn't be complete without it.

I'm not quite sure why "Sir Paul" is on a card featuring the Guinness Book of World Records. But hey, it's Paul McCartney!

I have a hard time choosing between the Beatles and Ramones for my favorite band. But few performances were more groundbreaking than the Beatles' performance at Shea Stadium. Where's Ringo in that shot, though?

Queen isn't one of my favorite bands, but Freddie Mercury is one of the best and most influential frontmen in rock history.

Boy do I wish MTV was still as unpretentious as it was when it started in the early '80s. When they re-aired MTV's first ever hour of programming a few months ago, I was surprised to find that a brief clip of the Ramones found its way in. Good luck with finding anything like that nowadays. I know it wasn't exactly perfect in 1981, but it's better than the junk they're showing now, right?

I know most baseball card collectors don't go out and buy much of this type of product, but do me a favor and try a pack the next time you're at Target or Wal-Mart or wherever.

It might grow on you.