Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Short Term Stops: The All-Royals Team

If you want an example of how much of a hypocrite I can be, look no further than the Kansas City Royals.

I have long been a staunch opponent of bandwagon sports fans, and believe me, I see my fair share of them around Chicago. But admittedly, I'm no saint in the matter: after a lifetime of apathy towards the Royals, I found myself screaming and hollering at the TV during their recent World Series runs, wildly rooting for them to win.

I felt defeated when the Giants bested the Royals in the 2014 Fall Classic (did the Giants really need another title?) and just as ecstatic when they finally won it all, beating the Mets the following year. All this despite the Royals barely registering on my radar prior to about three years ago. Such a bandwagoner.

But like so many other smaller-market teams, Kansas City has long been home for many middling players in transition and/or one-time stars on the downswing of their respective careers, which makes their Short Term Stops roster a formidable one.


1984 Fleer #352 Gaylord Perry

"Short Term Stops" Royals Accolades:

Gaylord Perry (1983 Royals, 14 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Gaylord Perry -- seen here doing his best Uncle Sam impression on what would turn out to be his only true sunset card -- finished out his career as a Royal.

Perry found a home in Kansas City shortly after having been released by the Mariners midway through the '83 season. He'd collect the final four of his 314 career wins across 14 starts with the Royals on his way to Cooperstown.

Though both Topps and Donruss featured Perry on combo cards in their respective '84 checklists, Fleer was the lone company to give him a true ride into the sunset, all by himself.

2008 Topps Triple Threads Sepia #79 Hideo Nomo /525 

Hideo Nomo (2008 Royals, 3 games, sunset season)

This is, without a doubt, one of the strangest cards in my Short Term Stops collection.

I still have absolutely no idea how Hideo Nomo -- a guy who hadn't pitched in nearly three years at the time of his brief 2008 comeback -- snuck into a high-end set like Topps Triple Threads, a checklist normally reserved for big-name rookies and stars. Even more confusing is the fact that it turned out to be Nomo's only card as a Royal.

Following a dismal 2005 season with the Dodgers, Nomo pitched in the Venezuelan League for a couple years before attempting a comeback with the cellar-dwelling Royals in 2008. In short, it didn't go well: Nomo posted an ERA of 18.69(!) across three appearances before being released and retiring for good, likely before anyone even noticed he was back in the first place.

I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Topps Triple Threads.

2015 Topps Update #US-304 Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto (2015 Royals, 13 games, half-year stint)

In your classic rent-a-player scenario, the Royals acquired ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds at the 2015 trade deadline in preparation for their run at the World Series.

Cueto turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment in his 13 starts after the swap, going just 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in the second half. He did, however, pitch a complete-game two-hitter against the Mets in his only World Series start to help the Royals capture their elusive World Series title.

You could say 2015 was a good year for Johnny Cueto: he'd get a World Series ring with the Royals and a fat contract from the Giants the following offseason, truly the best of both worlds.


2011 Topps Heritage #164 Jason Kendall

Jason Kendall (2010 Royals, 118 games, sunset season)

A fan favorite during his time with the Pirates, Jason Kendall would jump around a bit during the later stages of his career and eventually wind up with the Royals in 2010.

He'd play in 118 games with Kansas City that year -- quite an accomplishment for a 36-year-old catcher -- and hit .256 in what would turn out to be his final season.

Though Kendall received many terrific action-packed cards during his career, his 2011 Heritage finale provides for a nice, tranquil ride into the sunset.

First Base

2006 Upper Deck #641 Doug Mientkiewicz

Doug Mientkiewicz (2006 Royals, 91 games)

Three things I know about Doug Mientkiewicz:

1) It took me about twelve years to learn how to spell his last name without having to consult a secondary source.

2) The Twins released David Ortiz in order to make Mientkiewicz their first baseman of the future.

3) He long refused to give up the ball he caught for the final out of the 2004 World Series when he was part of that historic Red Sox team.

I do not, however, remember the 91 games Mientkiewicz spent with the 2006 Royals -- does anybody?

Second Base

2013 Topps Update #US-170 Miguel Tejada

Miguel Tejada (2013 Royals, 53 games, sunset season)

Miguel Tejada would probably like you to forget about his time as a Royal, but for better or worse, I'm here to record it for all of history.

After not appearing in the bigs at all in 2012, Tejada came out of the woodwork to become a utility guy with the Royals the following season. It wasn't a terrible stint -- he hit .288 with three homers in 53 games -- but what makes it dubious is the fact that Tejada was suspended for a whopping 105 games following two positive drug tests for amphetamines in August of 2013.

He never did serve the suspension, as he never played another game in the big leagues.


2002 Upper Deck Vintage #83 Neifi Perez

Neifi Perez (2001-02 Royals, 194 games)

I don't have a great binder nominee for the shortstop position on this roster, so here's a card of gloveman Neifi Perez -- who played in parts of two seasons for the Royals -- that I hope does nothing else than remind you that Upper Deck blatantly stole vintage Topps designs for a few years in the early 2000s. 

Third Base

2010 Topps #387 Josh Fields

Josh Fields (2010 Royals, 13 games, sunset season)

I'm also a bit thin on third base nominees, so I'm forced to go with Josh Fields, a one-time top prospect for the hometown White Sox who never lived up to his potential and briefly resurfaced with the Royals in 2010.

Fields would fade into a string of stints that took him to Winston-Salem and Albuquerque and Mexico and even Japan before retiring from baseball in 2015.


1981 Topps #473 Jose Cardenal

Jose Cardenal (1980 Royals, 25 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

If Jose Cardenal is remembered for one thing these days, it's his legendary 'fro -- and if he's most assuredly not remembered for one thing, it's the time he spent with the Royals at the end of his career.

The Royals acquired Cardenal from the Mets (I still can't figure out if he's wearing an authentic KC cap or an airbrushed Mets cap on this, his only sunset card) late in the 1980 season for a stretch run that would eventually take them to the World Series, where they'd lose to the Phillies.

Jose hit a robust .340 in 25 games for Kansas City to close out the regular season before going on to become the rare player to have played his final games in a World Series, going 2-for-10 in the Royals' six-game defeat.

1992 Fleer #157 Kirk Gibson

Kirk Gibson (1991 Royals, 132 games)

Kirk Gibson played for four teams in his career: two of them (Tigers, Dodgers) cemented him in the iconography of the franchises' respective narratives, and the other two (Royals, Pirates) were almost completely lost to history.

The injury-prone Gibson enjoyed a rare full season with the 1991 Royals, though the numbers were a bit slim. He hit just .236 with 16 homers in 132 games with Kansas City in a stint that I'm sure passed many fans by completely.

He'd play in 16 even more forgettable games with the Pirates the following year before returning to the Tigers for the final three years of his career.

2010 Topps National Chicle #152 Rick Ankiel

Rick Ankiel (2010 Royals, 27 games, half-year stint)

In one of the more improbably transitions in baseball history, Rick Ankiel transformed himself from a flamed-out pitcher to a legitimate big-league hitter in the span of a few years.

He signed with the Royals for the 2010 season, hitting .261 with four homers in 27 games before being dealt to the Braves. Ankiel would bounce around the bigs a bit before retiring after the 2013 season, ending his career as a hitter seven full years after it started. Unbelievable, considering his checkered past.

This is one of Ankiel's few cards as a Royal, hailing from Topps's one-and-done National Chicle release in 2010, a set I never thought got the credit it deserved.

Designated Hitter

1976 SSPC #168 Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew (1975 Royals, 106 games, sunset season)

Any weaknesses on this Royals roster are immediately negated by the presence of Harmon Killebrew.

Killer as a Royal is one of the ultimates in the long history of Short Term Stops. He spent just a single season in Kansas City at the tail end of his career, hitting a paltry .199 and smacking the final 14 of his 573 lifetime homers in what turned out to be a forgettable year.

For some reason, however, Topps neglected to grant Killebrew a true finale in their '76 checklist, which robbed collectors of seeing him as a Royal on a Topps card. But against all odds, the oddball SSPC brand was there to pick up the slack, giving us what I'm pretty sure is the only card in existence to feature him as a Kansas City Royal.

For that, we are all infinitely indebted to SSPC.

That just about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.

Thanks for tuning in.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

On customs, Big Fun Games, and meeting Gavin

Why is some random customer snapping a picture of me at work, you ask?

Because that's not a random customer at all: it's Gavin of the legendary "Baseball Card Breakdown" blog! Last month, Gavin had let me know that he was flying through O'Hare and, luckily enough, I happened to be at work in the bookstore during the time of his layover. We chatted about cards and other things, and he snapped this picture of he and I (with me holding his Tony Gwynn wallet card) for posterity.

While I ideally would've liked to have met Gavin in a more card-structured environment -- one where I wasn't wearing a maroon uniform and asking customers if they needed a bag every thirty seconds -- it was still an absolute pleasure meeting Gavin, a great guy behind what has long been one of my favorite blogs.

Better yet, Gavin gifted me a snap-case of cards during our meeting, which resulted in a glorious first for me: the first time I've sorted baseball cards on company time.

First up was this Bruce Sutter from this year's Archives, a terrific card of a guy who doesn't pop up in many modern checklists.

Gavin knocked out my last few remaining needs from 2016 Archives -- including that beautiful Aaron -- and also included a few surprise Cubs, including a Corey Patterson (remember him?) x-fractor that very nearly caused my scanner to combust.

A couple more recent needs, with the Trumbo being a much-appreciated SP.

But here were the unquestioned centerpieces of Gavin's in-person gift: a couple Hoyt customs done up in the old-time Goudey design.

Both "loved" and Gem Mint examples of these were included in my snap-case, and the shot is a rare image of Hoyt's stint with the Cuban League's Havana team which Gavin also used for a magnet he sent me around Christmastime last year.

Safe to say that meeting Gavin and flipping through awesome customs and others made for the best half-hour I've ever spent at my often dull job.

I guess it was fitting that Gavin and I would eventually meet, because our paths had crossed trade-wise quite often in the preceding months.

I received a PWE from him a while back that immediately won my heart by featuring this '92 Leaf Goose Gossage, one of the few cards of Goose as an Oakland A and a former Dime Box Dozen need of mine.

Also included were a couple Jake Arrieta rookies I believe I specifically requested from Gavin at some point, cards I'm happy to have even though I doubt Arrieta will throw another pitch for the Cubs after 2017.

But as you already know, a package from Gavin isn't complete without customs.

This PWE was centered around a couple Cards That Never Were, the first being this faux-rookie of Bill Madlock on the '73 Topps design. No card, to my knowledge, has ever been produced during Madlock's brief 21-game cup of coffee with the '73 Rangers, which made seeing something like this a longtime dream of mine.

And as great as the front is, don't sleep on the flip side, either: that's a pretty darn virtuosic rehashing of the actual '73 Topps backs.

But the customs didn't stop there, because HOYT!

Though Hoyt did pitch in 16 games with the '72 Dodgers, Topps chose to leave him out of their set the following year, robbing us future Wilhelm devotees of seeing his career stats on the back of what should've been his true sunset card.

Still, over 40 years later, here came Gavin, ready and able to create the hallowed Sunset Card That Never Was -- lengthy career stats and all -- and thus bringing a long-awaited sense of peace and closure to my Hoyt collection.

And even that wasn't all from Gavin, because I had the privilege of participating in the Big Fun Game he ran on his blog a couple months back.

The Big Fun Game theme has been sweeping the blogosphere as of late, and Gavin certainly didn't hold back with his. The number I originally selected would've resulted in an eye-opening prize all on its own: a couple of Gavin's customary customs alongside a beautiful Tony Oliva auto from Topps Retired Signature.

But as is the crux of Big Fun Games, I had my prize stolen, though it admittedly wasn't much of a surprise since Brian (a noted Twins fan) was selecting a few slots after me.

So, like a true five-year-old child, I responded by stealing someone else's prize: a lot of nothing but Gavin's many awesome customs I'd had my eye on ever since it'd been revealed in the Big Fun Game.

As great as Oliva & Co. would've been, this was the prize I really wanted, and I prayed and prayed with each passing pick that no one would steal it from me.

And my prayers were answered, because no one did!

Through the rubble and fire that was the Big Fun Game, I emerged with a generous stacks of Gavin's brilliant customs, all of which took their places right alongside standard cards of guys like Neshek and Reggie and even Scullys from companies like Topps and Fleer in my team binders. Although I will say that the above Nolan Ryan threw me for a bit of a loop given the odd Astros-Padres crossover.

A little digging, however, revealed that it's a shot from the '85 All-Star Game in which the Ryan Express had seemingly forgotten he'd have to bat in the contest, borrowing the helmet of a rival Padre as a last resort.

Much like the Hoyts I'd receive during my in-person meeting with Gavin, here's a couple Goudey-styled customs of Teddy Ballgame during his minor league days with the Padres, then of the PCL.

Just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any better...Hostess customs!

Gavin even included what might be my favorite part of finding old Hostess cards in these rehashings: the dotted lines, which often reveal how inept or masterful some unknown '70s kid was with a pair of scissors.

Last up was (what I believe is) a complete run of Gavin's specially-made Cardsphere Heroes set, which documents the predominant player collections of many of the most prominent names around the blogs.

The idea is great, and the execution is even better: customs or not, these are some of the best cards I've seen of any of these guys.

I'm sure the Cardsphere Heroes themselves -- like Tony and the Junior Junkie himself -- would tell you the same thing.

And finally, here's a truly magnificent action shot of the Penguin, one I'll bet made Mr. Owl quite happy.

As I flipped through my Big Fun Game winnings with a mix of awe and wonder, one question kept crossing my mind: why does Gavin not have a job at Topps yet? With the quality of original design and card ideas the guy has (as well as just plain thoughtful trade packages), I'm sure many of my blogosphere comrades have wondered the same thing over the past few years.

If anyone out there at Topps is reading right now, know this: I, like everyone else around the blogs, can vouch for Gavin.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Frankenset Redux, Page 10: Numbers 82-90

(Weekends have been hectic as of late for me, causing a lengthy delay of these frankenset posts as a result. But I'm happy to report that the theme is making its grand return this afternoon with a new page of nine dime box heroes. Enjoy!)

Page #10 (Numbers 82-90):

Completion Status: 9/9

Numbers Needed: None.

The Players

1992 Stadium Club #82 Jeff Treadway

Action amidst a cloud of dust at Wrigley. 

2015 Topps Update #US-83 Nelson Cruz AS

Although I'm very much anti-selfie, this card is kinda fun. 

1988 Score #84 Tom Herr

Turning two on Score's inaugural design. 

2015 Gypsy Queen #85 Jon Singleton

Best. Throwbacks. Ever. 

1992 Score #86 Jose Lind

Jose Lind and his...sword? 

1993 UD Fun Pack #87 Brett Butler

If Paul Bunyan played baseball. 

1991 ProCards #88 Otis Green

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout / But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out. 

1992 Leaf #89 Mike Greenwell

Celebrating at home plate (with a batboy cameo!). 

2012 Topps #90 Adron Chambers

Are you not entertained?


Cards By Decade:

1980's -- 1 (Running total: 8)
1990's -- 5 (Running total: 47)
2010's -- 3 (Running total: 21)

Mini-collection Hits:

Throwbacks -- 2 (Running total: 11)
Double Dips -- 1 (Running total: 16)
Cards with Kids -- 1 (Running total: 5)
Behind the Camera -- 1 (Running total: 2)

Best Cameo(s)

Tough to beat appearances from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on the same card.

This Magic Moment

Double play shots are my main targets for date trackers, and I'm going to guess and say this particular twin killing comes from a Giants-Cardinals game at Candlestick on May 13, 1987.

The Cards turned a 5-4-3 double play in the bottom of the fourth in that contest, with Tom Herr forcing Will Clark at second (the runner certainly looks like Will the Thrill) before firing to first to get Bob Melvin, thus completing the double dip.

The Cardinals would win that afternoon in a nail-biter, 7-6.

Kick Out the Jams

A song applicable to both this card and my collection as a whole.

Lessons in Card Backs

Somehow it seems fitting that Jose Lind's favorite movie is Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice).

Best of the Rest

1994 Upper Deck Minors #88 Tyler Houston

Look fast and you might miss the point-of-impact shot of poor Tyler Houston getting nailed in the sternum by a stray foul ball.

Toughest Draw

1970 Topps #89 Juan Rios

Batboy cameos are always a treat, but Greenwell and Co. didn't have a prayer of taking down Juan Rios's vintage bat-rack shot from the Inaugural Frankenset -- quite possibly the best card ever granted to a guy with exactly one year of big-league experience (87 games with the '69 Royals).

Second Guessing

1997 Upper Deck #88 Mike Macfarlane

The Macfarlane is about as action-packed of a PATP as you'll ever find (flying catcher's mask!), but cards with nods to classic poetry aren't exactly common, which has me feeling like I left mighty Otis Green out to dry in Mudville.

Favorite Card

I mean, it has to be...right?

I can honestly say that this is the only card I've ever seen with a gosh-darn sword on it, and it's infinitely hard to believe that one even exists in the first place -- as is the often underrated and off-kilter joy of early '90s Studio.

That's another frankenset page in the books.

Thanks for reading!