Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who would have thought?

I'm not sure how my obsession with "unfamiliar uniforms" started.

For as long as I can remember, though, "one-year" or "half-year" cards have been among the most important aspects of my collection. 

Whether it's a "short term stops" card of a Hall of Famer or a more obscure player is pretty much beside the point. Absolutely any unfamiliar piece of a "binder guy" instantly moves to the forefront of my organizational system.

For the most part, I've noticed that many of these types of cards can be placed into three distinct categories.

Perhaps the most common is the "over-the-hill" type. These are cards of once-great stars that didn't quite know when to hang 'em up, unfortunately. 

Often times, these types of players spend their waning years in one or more unfamiliar jerseys. Dale Murphy as a Colorado Rockie and Steve Carlton as a Minnesota Twin are good examples.

Perhaps the rarest kinds are the "transitional" pieces. These take place during a brief detour in the middle of an otherwise star-studded career. Think Reggie Jackson as an Oriole or Mike Piazza as a Marlin.

The final category, which is what I'll be addressing in tonight's post, is what I like to call my "Who Would Have Thought?" collection.

Inspired by the title of a short-lived Topps insert set, this batch of cardboard features future stars who were dealt early in their career, before they had the chance to shine for that original team.

Willie Randolph as a Pirate is a prime example.

Randolph spent just 30 games with the Pirates in 1975. He'd be dealt to the Bronx Bombers later that year in the trade that sent Doc Medich to Pittsburgh.

Although I have yet to own the lone solo card I've seen of him in the black-and-gold, this "combo" piece is a fine placeholder for now.

Perhaps one of the more well-known aspects of this particular category is Fergie Jenkins's extremely short tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies.

For the record, Fergie's actual '66 Topps rookie card also features the long-forgotten Bill Sorrell. While I do proudly own a copy of that one, I like the fact that Topps isolated the future HOFer's portion for this "Shoe Box Collection" insert.

After pitching in seven games with the Phils in '65, he was dealt to my beloved Cubs after appearing in just one game for Philadelphia during the '66 season.

The rest, as they say, is history.

For whatever reason, getting a card of Moises Alou as a Pirate was one of my biggest goals as a young collector.

I searched and searched and searched before finally landing his 1990 Bowman rookie card. As you can probably see, I "loved" it quite a bit back in the day.

Four cards of Alou now reside in my Pittsburgh binder, although two of them are minor league issues. Considering the fact that his Pirate tenure lasted all of two games in 1990, I think that's quite an accomplishment.

He collected exactly one hit for Pittsburgh before being dealt to the Expos in August of '90.

Although he's probably not remembered as Pirate these days, this is easily my favorite Moises Alou card.

It's not even close.

While it wasn't quite Hall of Fame-worthy, Kenny Lofton had a long and distinguished career.

I'm a huge, huge fan of the guy and his cardboard, but part of the reason I've become such a devoted collector of his has to do with the sheer number of uniforms he wore.

The guy is represented in over a third of my team binders. He sported eleven different jerseys throughout his 17-year career. (Including the Expos, I have 31 different team binders.)

While he's probably most well-known for his time with the Indians, lots of fans probably forget that his big league clock started with the Astros back in '91.

He spent a grand total of 20 games in Houston that year, swiping the first two of his 622 career steals with the franchise.

As you can see on this up-to-the-minute O-Pee-Chee piece, Lofton was dealt to Cleveland on December 10, 1991. The Astros got Willie Blair and Ed Taubensee in return for the soon-to-be speedster.

I think the Indians got the better end of that one.

Sometimes, a once highly-touted prospect will wind up having an extremely short career with the team that drafted him.

As a result, the games-to-cards ratio can get quite out of whack with guys like Jack Cust.

From what I've read, he was a can't-miss phenom for the Diamondbacks during the late '90s. Although he'd later have a few solid years in the bigs with the A's, he never quite lived up to his potential.

After playing in just three games for the franchise in '01, Arizona dealt Cust to the Rockies for reliever Mike Myers in January of the following year.

Having collected a hit and a walk in his three plate appearances with the Diamondbacks, Cust ended his Arizona career with a .667 on-base percentage.

There's your fun fact of the day.

However, due to all the hype that had surrounded him during his "prospect" days, a multitude of cards were released of him as a Diamondback in the late '90s.

I currently have 26 of them in my collection.

Not bad for a three-game tenure.

As far as current stars are concerned, Hanley Ramirez is the one that stands out in my mind.

Although he's had a couple off years as of late, the guy is still probably one of the more talented players in the game. For what it's worth, I think he'll have a bounce-back year with the Dodgers in 2013.

I've never had much interest in acquiring his Marlins cards, but his few Red Sox pieces are at the forefront of my Boston binder.

After all, his entire Red Sox career consisted of two at-bats in 2005.

Although their tenures were quite limited, guys like Alou and Cust did manage to collect at least one hit with their "original" teams.

Not Hanley, though.

He struck out in both of his Red Sox at-bats.

Later that year, he'd be dealt to the Marlins in the huge "mega-deal" that brought Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett to Boston.

While they don't usually come cheap, I'm always willing to fork over the money for a rare Hanley Ramirez Red Sox card.

Then again, maybe I should just wait until they pop up in dime boxes. Despite what you might believe, it has happened before.

The list of these types of cards goes on and on. Personally, it's one of my favorite topics in the world of cardboard.

As I said earlier, I'm not exactly sure why I'm so interested in cards like these.

They've sure been fun to collect over the years, though.


Mark said...

Randolph's '76 RC also pictures him as a Pirate, though it's one of the quad player cards.

hiflew said...

I had never seen the Who Would Have Thought insert set before. Is it from the flagship set or the traded set? I might have to look into getting those.

gcrl said...

They were inserts in 2001 Topps traded and then part of the actual traded set in 2002 if I recall correctly.

Robert said...

I had forgotten that Alou was a Pirate, albeit briefly. I think that this is the first time I've seen that card as well.

I've always joked as well that Lofton was a "hired gun", moving from team to team during that last 6-7 years of his career.

Fuji said...

Wow... Randolph was a pirate? I actually think I own his 76 rookie card and never realized he wasn't in a Yankees uniform.

Great post... loved seeing those guys in unfamiliar uniforms.

CaptKirk42 said...

Despite the other teams he was on (Rangers or whoever else) Fergie will ALWAYS be a Cub in my eyes. Just as Tom Seaver is a Met not a Red. Also Babe Ruth is forever one of the powerhouse Yankees even though he began with the Red Sox