Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Blog Bat Around: The all-autograph team

Now here's something I never thought would see the light of day on this blog: a post feautring all autographs!

It's no secret that I'm long since removed from my days of hunting down autograph and/or game-used cards (my blog is called "Dime Boxes," after all). But this recent Blog Bat Around topic from Mr. Zappy of "Torren' Up Cards" fame is a fun one: creating a team out of the best autographs I own. I'm all for making fantasy rosters out of baseball cards, so I decided to bite with today's post (with some slight tweaks of the roster specifications).

So this afternoon, I dusted the cobwebs of my memorabilia-card binder and selected what currently stands as the slightly oxymoronic Dime Boxes All-Autograph Team.

Starting Pitcher #1 -- Bob Feller

We start with a certified autograph of Bob Feller, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

I'm actually not sure where I got this one (I seem to remember it being an Ebay purchase way back in the day) -- but it's still a special part of my autograph collection, even more so considering that Feller passed away in 2010.

SP #2 -- Mark Fidrych

I actually met Mark Fidrych at a card show as a kid, but I had him sign a baseball, not this card.

No, my dad actually picked this one up on the cheap years after we'd both met Fidrych (Dad had him sign the issue of Rolling Stone with Fidrych on the cover), and it makes me infinitely proud to say I own both an autographed card and an autographed ball of The Bird.

SP #3 -- Jim Abbott

Jim Abbott is one of my heroes (and I don't use that term loosely), so having an autograph of his in my binders remains a certified pleasure.

Relief Pitcher -- Bill Lee

One of the reasons I stopped collecting auto/game-used cards is the plain fact that many of them just aren't very visually appealing.

That can't be said for these Fan Favorites autographs, however -- they're absolutely stunning, and I'm honored to own this beauty of The Spaceman himself, Bill lee.

Closer -- Rollie Fingers

One of the first autographs I acquired at the dawn of my misguided memorabilia-crazed days, but also one of the few that I still ooh and ahh over from that era of my collecting life.

All-Around Arm -- Hoyt Wilhelm

Of course Hoyt -- a man who enjoyed success as both a starter and a reliever during his long career -- needs to have a place on this roster!

Catcher -- Katie Vonderau

I still rank the All-American Girls' League autographs I received from a reader during the earlier days of this blog as one of the all-time great surprises anyone has ever sent me.

That wonderful lot included this one of Katie Vonderau, an All-Star catcher who played eight seasons in the AAGPBL and a woman who's still kicking today at the age of 90.

First Base -- Mark Grace

I've personally never experimented with the whole TTM craze, and I've never had much regret about that -- it just isn't my thing.

I have, however, reaped the benefit of other TTM aficionados, such as this one of Mark Grace (my mom's favorite player!) which I received as part of a blog trade a while back.

Second Base -- Rod Carew

Hall of Famer Rod Carew!

Shortstop -- Ernie Banks

Not much competition here.

Third Base -- Joe Randa

Easily the weakest spot on this roster, but significant in that it's one of the extreme few autograph cards I've ever found in a dime box (no, really).

Outfield #1 -- Jimmy Piersall

Still one of the best certified autos in my collection, and a reminder that my adolescent self had at least some good sense when deciding which autographs to spend my money on.

Outfield #2 -- Jim Wynn

I had to find a way to sneak this card into my roster, because like Bill Lee before him, this Fan Favorites autograph of The Toy Cannon is just magnificent.

Outfield #3 -- Al Oliver

In what I still consider to be one of the greatest days of my life, I met Al Oliver and Bill Lee at the same card show about a decade ago.

I had Al sign my copy of his '75 Topps card, and I vividly remember him regaling the line of people before him with tales of Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente.

PH/DH/Utility/SP/RP/Everything Else -- Micah Owings

Micah Owings is still the greatest-hitting pitcher I've ever seen, and fittingly, he's featured on an extremely rare pitcher-at-the-plate autograph card here.

Owings could've pre-Ohtanied Ohtani if only he'd been a little better on the mound -- his career ERA was 4.86, but he did hit .283 with nine homers in just six big-league seasons, which makes him a useful man to have on the bench for this squad.

Celebrity Fan -- Regis Philbin

Because every team needs a celebrity fan, right?

Commissioner -- Pete Ueberroth

Should our all-autograph teams ever take the field and play against one another, might I suggest Pete Ueberroth as the commissioner for our little league (given his days of owner collusion are over)?

And so there's the Dime Boxes All-Autograph team -- all that's left is to fill out the Opening Day lineup card (season tickets are in the mail, Regis).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Top Five: Anthony Rizzo

As I scroll through the names I've covered in past Top Five posts, I realize I've somewhat subconsciously focused on older subjects throughout the life of this series.

A lot of that is because guys from the generation before mine ('70s and '80s) simply seemed to get more memorable cards. But is that really true, or is the passage of time just playing tricks on my mind? It is, after all, tough to deem something memorable while you're actually living through it. But still, I do get the feeling that we might not be recalling a lot of cards from today's Flagship 20-30 years from now at the drop of a hat.

All this isn't to say that today's players aren't getting good cards, though: I was able to assemble today's Top Five list of Dime Box favorite Anthony Rizzo with ease.

#5 -- 2014 Stadium Club #24 Anthony Rizzo

Maybe I'm biased, but I think Wrigley Field makes for the best baseball cards (especially autograph shots!).

#4 -- 2010 Bowman Prospects #BP-101 Anthony Rizzo

As if being a Cub great and all-around good guy wasn't enough to make me collect the guy, Anthony Rizzo also has a glorious zero-year card to his name.

Rizzo was drafted by the Red Sox in 2007 but was dealt to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez trade before ever suiting up for Boston -- but, much to the delight of this zero-year fanatic, that didn't stop Bowman from making a card of him with the Sawx.

#3 -- 2015 Topps Opening Day "Franchise Flashback" #FF-5 Anthony Rizzo

It's not every day you see Federal League throwbacks.

#2 -- 2017 Topps Opening Day "Superstar Celebrations" #SC-4 Anthony Rizzo

The exact moment 108 years came to an end (and why are there no Superstar Celebrations in Opening Day this year?!).

#1 -- 2017 Stadium Club #53 Anthony Rizzo

There's little doubting that Stadium Club is leading the charge in today's Memorable Cards department.

Flagship may still be good for the consistency and tradition it represents in the hobby, but no one can hold a candle to Stadium Club in terms of producing just plain brilliant cardboard. I continue to be astounded by this Rizzo, a perfect image of a man who has a knack for making wall-climbing catches.

For now, it's the most memorable card in the still-forming legend of Anthony Rizzo.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The rookie card craze hits Dime Boxedonia

A few weeks ago, I finally experienced a collecting rite of passage: I undertook a mass reorganization of my doubles.

Like any project of the sort, it was quite tedious and took almost an entire night. Most of it consisted of me taking many of my dupes -- which were scattered across a number of smaller boxes in my room -- and condensing them into a couple larger boxes. It also involved freeing up space in those larger boxes by picking some cards to go to Goodwill. Sounds fun, huh?

But I'm here to tell you that, for all their dullness, mass organizations are worth it. Not just for the reduction in clutter, but for the fact that you might actually find some cards you need which were mistakenly cast off as dupes (which did indeed happen to me) or even a couple things you might be able to turn into cards you need.

As was the case with this Bryce Harper rookie, which had been sitting in a white box in a dark corner of my room ever since I pulled an extra copy of it six years ago. Knowing full well about the odd and extreme uptick in rookie card values lately, I decided to check and see what the Harper was commanding...and I was shocked to discover that copies were selling for upwards of thirty dollars.

Even then I thought it was some kind of ruse, but I listed mine on Ebay with a $29.99 BIN, figuring it'd sit on the auction block for a few days -- only to find that my copy had sold in under an hour.

And so there was a good $25 (after shipping and fees) sitting in my bank account that would've never been there without a closer look at my dupes.

So what'd I do with it? I went out and bought a '59 Clemente, that's what. Few sets receive more universal applause than '59 Topps (rightfully so), and the opportunity to add a tough card of my all-time favorite ballplayer was just too good to pass up (and with a few bucks to spare!), especially when you consider it came at the cost of something that'd been collecting dust in my room since 2012.

Before this, I'd only watched the skyrocketing prices of basic Topps rookie cards from afar. It still boggles my mind that Trout and Kershaw Topps rookies -- no less common than any other cards in those sets -- go for triple-digit figures.

And then, out of nowhere, here was my opportunity to cash in on the craze, and I did my best to make it count.

And as if all that wasn't enough, the '59 Clemente represented a watershed moment in my collection: it marked the completion of two rows of Clementes on The Wall above my bed.

Initially, I thought my quest to own every Topps Clemente would be close to impossible. But here I am about halfway there with a '58, '59, '65, and a complete run from 1968-73 (though I do admittedly have a lot of toughies to go). Maybe it's not so absurd after all, and I'm happy this strange rookie card craze helped me check a big one off the list.

But no, I still don't believe I basically just traded a Bryce Harper rookie (a double, remember) for a '59 Roberto Clemente -- that seems like something that would only exist in a dystopian world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The mean Reds

"The mean reds are horrible. You're afraid, and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is."  -- Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

One reason I remain a devotee of the blogosphere is the fact that I can come here and read about baseball cards anytime I start to feel like I'm getting the mean reds, which, lately, has been a bit more often than I'd like.

Even better for the mean reds is a masterful trade package in the mail, such as the assortment of mean Reds (mean being used in the positive sense here) and others I received from Matt of the recently revived "Red Cardboard" blog recently.

I'm not a team collector, but I always enjoy getting dupes from devout team collectors like Matt because their extras are better than many entire collections and often consist of cards I need.

These two Jose Rijo parallels were welcome sights -- and it seems to me that Rijo may well have the highest Memorable Card percentage of any player ever.

Barry Larkin is one of those middling collections for me -- I pick up cards of his here and there with little consistency or vigor.

But these four were each much appreciated, including a parallel of the famous "leash" image from Pinnacle Summit (which is really the only positive thing I can say about Pinnacle Summit).

A couple terrific minis here with another Larkin and my first card of Negro Leaguer (and Hall of Famer!) Pete Hill from the stunning Helmar brand.

Oddballs, including a minor league Tim Wakefield which was one of my favorite pieces of this trade package.

There was a time in my younger years when I'd buy any and every Washington Senators card I saw.

I don't chase Senators with much vigor anymore, but I certainly won't turn down any that come my way (especially of the vintage variety) because the novelty of owning cards of a team which no longer exists is still a thrill.

Topps Fire: a set which I should probably hate but actually kinda like.

I always love when fellow traders take a stroll through my want lists, as Matt obviously did with this mix.

An already well-rounded trade package was made even more so by this nice helping of Cubs, a longtime rival of Matt's mean Reds.

These were, at the time, my first looks at the 2017 Topps snowflakes, and while we're on the topic -- why is there snow on the ground outside in the middle of April?

But perhaps the most intriguing cards in this package came in the form of a couple nifty oddballs -- firstly, this one, which allows me to honestly say I could stitch a patch of Pete Rose (or at least some weird cartoonish version of Pete Rose) to my jacket if I wanted to.

I have absolutely no information about what these are except for the fact that I also found a Mark Fidrych at a card show a while back.

And while I still have yet to find a good way to store these '70s discs (or any other disc-shaped cards, for that matter), I'm always happy to add them to my collection, especially when they feature big names like Tony Perez here.

With trade packages like this one from Matt -- featuring minis, Senators, discs, and just about everything else in between -- who has time for the mean reds?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Top Five: Carlton Fisk

Over the years, I've looked for reasons why I should collect something rather than reasons not to, and I suppose this has either be a peril or a joy depending on how you look at it.

Many of my collections have been triggered by an article I read or a story I heard. Sometimes it's not even that much. Maybe a year or so ago, I was looking through the handful of Carlton Fisk cards I owned. I didn't have many because he wasn't a guy I ever felt much of a connection with. But that day, for whatever reason, I thought to myself: this guy's a legend, a hometown favorite...why am I NOT collecting this guy?

I couldn't come up with a good answer, and so a collection was born -- a collection which now houses well over 100 cards, the Top Five of which I've selected for today's post.

#5 -- 1982 Topps #111 Carlton Fisk IA

One of the greatest cards of the '80s -- and now that I think of it, probably the only non-league-leader horizontal of the decade (why am I just now realizing this?!).

#4 -- 1974 Topps #105 Carlton Fisk

It's been a joy to collect Carlton Fisk because the guy has some just plain fine cards out there.

So many, in fact, that otherwise memorable ones tend to get overshadowed -- this '74 Topps is a gem I don't see mentioned too often in the Legendary Vintage discussion.

#3 -- 2007 UD Masterpieces #5 Carlton Fisk

I own many, many cards featuring Fisk's dramatic game-winning homer in the 1975 World Series, but none do it better than this one from UD Masterpieces (one of the few epically-named sets to live up to its moniker).

#2 -- 1977 Topps #640 Carlton Fisk

Few cards sum up a single rivalry better than this one, perhaps the most famous image from '77 Topps.

#1 -- 1991 Topps #170 Carlton Fisk


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Short Term Stops: The All-Forgotten Team

For all my complaints about Topps (and other card companies), I will say that they've done a pretty good job of documenting the rich history of baseball.

If Topps failed to depict a certain moment in time, more often than not another company would step in and pick up the slack. The fact that I was able to create a Short Term Stops roster for every big-league team (without having to stretch too often) should speak to that. The reason I can even collect Short Term Stops is because most of them have been depicted on a card at one time or another.

Still, a few gaps have naturally appeared over the years. If I were ever put in charge of Topps, the first thing (and I mean the first thing) I would do is create a special insert set or whatever that fills these holes.

But for now I'm just a mere blogger with a Short Term Stops series, and that's why we'll be looking at those select few under-the-radar stints in baseball history that were never (to my knowledge) depicted on cardboard.


Warren Spahn (1965 Giants, 16 games, half-year stint, sunset season -- image courtesy of Pinterest)

More often than not, Topps has done a fine job in the past of documenting the farewells of even the most mediocre players, so it remains a bit puzzling why someone as big as Warren Spahn was left by the wayside.

After spending the first 20 years of his Hall of Fame career with the Braves, Spahn split his final season between the Mets and Giants in 1965. He was little more than average in his sunset campaign, going a combined 7-16 with a 4.01 ERA with the two clubs.

Spahn's final Topps card shows him as a capless, balding New York Met, and it remains a pity that his even more unfamiliar stint with the Giants has never seen the light of day on cardboard.

Jim Bouton (1969-70 Astros, 45 games & 1978 Braves, 5 games, sunset season -- Astros image courtesy of Bob Lemke)

As you'll soon see, a few players do double duty on this roster by having no cards of multiple stops in their career -- but none of them are quite as egregious as the crickets Jim Bouton received during the later stages of his baseball life.

Though a card of Bouton during his unthinkable comeback as a 39-year-old with the '78 Braves would've been cool (doubly so considering he hadn't pitched in the bigs for eight years), I can understand why Topps chose to leave him out of their '79 checklist. Bouton was only a Brave for five games, after all.

But the fact that no Astros cards exist of Jim Bouton is a crime, plain and simple -- he pitched in 45 games over the course of two seasons in Houston, and the only reason I can think as to why Topps would ignore him is some leftover hostility from his publication of Ball Four.

Fernando Valenzuela (1991 Angels, 2 games)

Unlike Spahn and Bouton, however, it's easy to see why certain stints were lost to baseball card history.

I hold no grudge, for example, over the fact that Fernando Valenzuela has no cards as an Angel. His entire career with the club lasted all of two mid-season starts in 1991. Valenzuela was released by the Angels not long after and spent all of '92 in the Mexican League.

Though an Angels card of Fernando would've been neat in hindsight, it's hard to blame any of the major companies for bypassing this long-forgotten stint.


Tim McCarver (1972 Expos, 77 games, half-year stint)

Sometimes it takes a perfect storm of unfortunate events for a certain stint to be lost to history.

Tim McCarver was traded to the Expos in midseason in 1972, too late for him to receive a card with the club that year. The Expos, in turn, dealt him to the Cardinals just after the end of '72, which meant that Topps had enough time to airbrush him into a Cards jersey for the following year's set (or maybe they just used an old photo of McCarver as a Cardinal, it's hard to tell).

And thus the baseball card world was never blessed with the sight of Tim McCarver as a Montreal Expo.

First Base

Dick Allen (1977 A's, 54 games, sunset season)

The fact that Dick Allen never received a sunset card as an Oakland A pains me for a couple reasons.

One, Allen is among my all-time favorite players, and knowing that I don't own a true final tribute of his is like a knife through the chest. Two, Allen was granted permission to wear "Wampum" on the back of his jersey during his lone season in Oakland in honor of his home town of Wampum, PA. Now how cool would it have been to see that on a baseball card?

Sadly, we'll probably never know.

Second Base

Tony Lazzeri (1939 Giants, 13 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Tony Lazzeri could've been another double-duty player on this roster, as I don't own a card of his stints as either a Dodger (14 games) or a Giant (13 games) in 1939.

But there is a Dodger card of him out there -- from the massive Target Dodgers set, of course -- I just don't own it yet (one day!). I'm fairly certain, however, that nothing of Lazzeri as a Giant exists despite the fact that it's where his Hall of Fame career came to a close.

Understandable, given the brevity of his Giants career, but still a shame.


Bucky Dent (1984 Royals, 11 games, sunset season)

Also lost to history were Bucky Dent's 11 games with the '84 Royals.

Dent spent the majority of the '84 season in the minors with the Yankees before being cut loose and signed by the Royals late in the year. Kansas City brought him up for a brief 11-game trial in August which saw Bucky came to the plate exactly ten times (he went 3-for-9 with a walk and an RBI) before being released at season's end.

Ten at-bats didn't leave much of a chance for Topps, Donruss, or Fleer to snap a shot of Bucky in the Royal blue, which makes this another understandable gap in my Short Term Stops collection.

Third Base

Bill Madlock (1973 Rangers, 21 games)

I do have an unofficial card of Bill Madlock in my Rangers binder, and it's all thanks to Gavin who was nice enough to send me an extra copy of this spiffy custom a while back.

At the time, however, Madlock's 21-game cup of coffee with the '73 Rangers was completely ignored by the major card companies. Madlock would then be dealt to the Cubs the following offseason in a blockbuster deal that sent Fergie Jenkins back to Texas.

While Fergie is still a beloved figure in Chicago, the Cubs got the better of that deal -- Madlock won two batting titles in three seasons here, making his brief career as a Ranger little more than a distant memory.


Dave Kingman (1978 Padres, 56 games & 1978 Angels, 10 games -- quarter-of-a-year stints)

Dave Kingman's 1978 season has become the stuff of legend -- he played for four different teams in that year alone.

It's odd considering that Kingman was still a big slugger at the time of his strange '78 campaign. He has many cards as a Met (where he started the season) and at least one as a Yankee (where he ended it). But his brief sandwich stints with the Padres and Angels have been all but lost to history (save for one of those '70s disc cards which I won't count since Kingman may as well be wearing a trucker's hat there).

Dave Kingman hit 442 homers in his long career, but for me, the fact that he played for four different teams in a single season is a much more impressive feat.

George Foster (1986 White Sox, 15 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

Oh how I wish George Foster had a White Sox card.

I like to imagine Foster was one of the final cuts when Topps was plotting out their '87 checklist -- he had, after all, played in 87 games the year before, the final 15 of which were spent with the White Sox after being released by the Mets (the last of his 348 career homers came with the Sox).

It's not exactly egregious that Foster didn't get a place in the following year's sets, but I'm sure you could pick out quite a few far less deserving players who appear in '87 Topps/Donruss/Fleer.

Jose Bautista (2004 Devil Rays, 12 games & 2004 Royals, 13 games -- quarter-of-a-year stints)

Jose Bautista's career trajectory has been downright strange.

Dude pulled a Kingman by playing for four different teams in his rookie season alone (Pirates, Devil Rays, Royals, Orioles), and even after that, his peak seemed to be as a weak-hitting, Quad-A third baseman with the lowly Pirates.

But somehow he came out of all that and became a six-time All-Star with 331 career homers under his belt (including a 54-homer season in 2010) -- but don't let that distract you from the fact that he once played for four teams in a single season, please.

Designated Hitter

Willie McCovey (1976 A's, 11 games, half-year stint)

As I mentioned with Tim McCarver earlier, Willie McCovey's A's career was lost to history due to a perfect storm of bad timing.

The A's purchased McCovey from the Padres in August of 1976, well after he could've ever gotten a card with Oakland in Topps that season. After just 11 games with the A's, he then returned to San Francisco in January of the following year, giving Topps just enough time to sneak him into the '77 set wearing an airbrushed Giants cap.

Poor Willie -- it's a tragedy because he looks pretty darn good in the kelly green, I think.

As usual, thanks for reading -- and because I'm not quite ready to let this theme die, tune in next time for the All-Zero Year Short Term Stops club!