Friday, October 12, 2012

Outside the lines

I'm not sure how manager cards were received back in the day.

I doubt kids got too excited over pulling cards of Sparky Anderson or Don Zimmer. I know I never got too thrilled when I saw a name like "Jim Tracy" staring back at me from inside a pack of baseball cards.

Still, they should have their place in the hobby. Managers have more control over the outcome of a baseball game than in any other sport.

You'd never know that judging from recent checklists. The last few series of flagship have omitted them all together.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

On the one hand, manager cards can feel like "filler" at times. I'd much rather see bench guys like Tony Campana or Nick Punto get a spot in a flagship checklist over Terry Collins.

However, there's a part of me who really wants to see former players-turned-skippers like Robin Ventura and Kirk Gibson in a flagship set once again.

If the last few years have been any indication, Heritage is quickly becoming the only source for manager cards in the hobby.

They're a great reminder that there's more to the game of baseball than just the nine guys on the field.

The "pipeline" goes far beyond just managers, though.

To date, I only have about a half-dozen umpire cards in my collection.

While they're not that high on my priority list, the few I have are certainly a pleasure to own. Topps' inclusion of the late Eric Gregg in their Fan Favorites checklist was a nice move on their part.

Truthfully, I doubt we'll see umps get any part of the spotlight these days.

Even so, I'd like card companies to sprinkle in an ump card here or there, just to let us know that they still exist.

That's all I ask.

Sometimes, baseball cards can stray a little too far "outside the lines".

Cardboard just doesn't mesh with suit-and-tied individuals, after all. I'd be immensely disappointed to pull a card of some front-office guy.

As one of their many "gimmicks", Topps included autographs of general managers in this year's Update series.

Perhaps even worse are those Bowman scout autos from a few years back. (They're also pretty touchy about them, apparently.)

I'd say commissioners are the "best" of the group, pretty much by default.

I guess I'd like to see a card of Bud Selig sometime down the road. He's the only commissioner I've known during my life around baseball. If "Happy" Chandler gets a card, Selig should get one.

It wouldn't be any great tragedy if he didn't, though.

As with managers, announcers play a more vital role in baseball than any other sport.

Between visits to the mound, foul balls, and hitters adjusting their batting gloves for the 800th time, there's quite a bit of time to fill during the course of a ballgame.

Because of that, the viewer relies on the announcer to make those gaps entertaining.

In that area, I feel that things have taken a turn for the worse.

Maybe it's just in my head, but from what I've seen, the subpar/plain bad announcers in the game are starting to outweigh the good ones.

I understand that almost every announcer is a "homer" to a certain extent, but some guys take it to the absolute extreme. I hate that more than anything else.

Although I'm rooting for them in the postseason, the few Nationals games I've watched haven't been fun. Same goes for the Yankees, at least as far as the latter part of that sentence goes.

And please, please, please don't get me started on Hawk Harrelson.

Thankfully, there are still a few bright spots left. I've always looked forward to hearing Mike Krukow and Duane Kupier whenever MLB Network picks up a Giants game. Gary Matthews is always an enjoyable listen during Phillies games as well.

Perhaps I'm biased because of my fandom, but the Cubs' "Len and Bob" have always been near the top of my list. (Although that might just be a side effect of listening to Hawk Harrelson on a regular basis. Literally anything else would sound good after sitting through a game with Hawk.)

I've heard enough of the late Ernie Harwell to know that he belongs in the ranks of the greatest announcers in history. I've always considered myself lucky to own this beautiful Topps Gallery issue of Harwell.

It's a masterpiece.

Of course, there's one name that should always come up when talking about baseball announcers.

Vin Scully.

As far as announcing goes, no one can even hold a candle to Dodger games. It's like witnessing a wonderfully-crafted work of art for three hours.

All that makes me even more surprised that Scully has barely even been recognized in the hobby. I can only find record of a single card of his, one that I don't yet own. And he had to share the spotlight on that one.

Seriously, Topps. 

Just give us a card of Scully already.

To say he deserves it is a gross understatement.

I'm not saying that every manager, umpire, or announcer should get a baseball card. That would be crazy.

I'd just like to see them get a little recognition in the hobby. Maybe just to shake things up a bit. 

After all, a lot happens outside the lines in baseball.


Spiegel83 said...

It may be Vin Scully's choice to not have many cards out. It took years for him to get a bobble head at Dodger Stadium. He finally had one this season.

hiflew said...

I have always loved the manager cards. The best one were the years in which the manager's career batting/pitching stats were on the back (I think 1992 Topps maybe). I also like any that had lines of career managerial record on the back (not just a quick W-L record, but every year listed in detail).

Manager cards being missing from the flagship set is not that big of a deal to me simply because they are included in Heritage. My biggest problem there is not every team is included (the expansion teams notably). The Rockies manager has NEVER received a card in 12 years of Heritage and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. In fact, speaking of Jim Tracy, he has not ever gotten a Rockies card made and now he probably never will. It need to be all or nothing.

night owl said...

You realize you posted that card of Eric Gregg on the anniversary of possibly the worst umpiring performance ever -- his calling of Livan Hernandez's 15-strikeout game in the '97 postseason?

Nick said...

I actually didn't realize it, although that game was the first thing that popped into my mind after I scanned the card. Just a happy (or unhappy) coincidence, I guess.

I think you actually sent me that Gregg card, if I'm remembering correctly.

JediJeff said...

Gotta be straight with you, Nick: Len and Bob suck. Royally. It's a good thing I hate the Cubs and don't listen on a regular basis (except when I want to catch the score of how bad they are losing). Then those two minutes of them talking makes me want to kill myself, if their drab, boring talk doesn't lull me to sleep first.

No - definitely kill myself.

Nick said...

We can't all agree, I guess.

AdamE said...

They are not as bad as the other Chicago team's announcers. Every time that tool says "he gone" I want to scream shut the hell up at my tv.

night owl said...

Speaking as someone who has no interest in either the Cubs or the White Sox, Len and Bob are vastly better than Hawk and the others in the booth who inexplicably try to follow his lead.