Tuesday, December 20, 2011

1978 Topps - Steady

Eddie Murray falls into my category of under appreciated superstars. He was only one of eight men to play 3,000 or more games. The other seven are legendary players but Eddie is hardly mentioned with the likes of Cobb, Aaron, Rose, Musial, Henderson, Yastrzemski & his teammate for seven seasons Cal Ripken. Truly remarkable accomplishment.

He was so under appreciated that he should have been on the 1977 Topps Rookie Infielders #477 card but the slugger lost out that assignment to slap hitting scrub Orlando Gonzalez.

This oversight left him with his own rookie card for 1978. Which is a rarity unto itself for the era.

In another moment of being under appreciated - even though he won the AL Rookie of The Year he had to make the Topps All-Star Rookie cup at DH (the first and only time that has happened) because Doug Ault beat him out at first base.

Eddie was primarily a DH in 1977 because Lee May took more games at first but in essence it was a 1B/DH platoon between the two & the both produced.

1978 Topps is a simple design. Classic white borders with pennant script for the team name. The design has you focus on the photograph and steps out of the way.

Pictured is a BVG 9 'mint' example. Very strong centering. It's at auction right now with a starting bid a $275. It's certainly worth that but I doubt it was get any bids with that starting point.
If this was a .99 cent auction I think you could fetch $330 with most bidders looking to cross it over to a PSA 10.

One of my crazy hobby side projects is to obtain a PSA 9 or BVG 9 or better copies of this set.
This would be the most expensive card in terms of book value but when you get into PSA registry wars - prices for even the likes of Doug Ault can be outrageous.

Editor's Note
As predicted the card did not sell at an opening bid of $275 - It has been re listed with starting bid of $225. I'll predict once again that this opening bid will garner no action whatsoever.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ron Santo: "This Is My Hall of Fame!"

Ron Santo is now a Hall of Fame player. I've never seen him play but I always knew the name. In that regard he is famous but just looking at the stats this is a dubious distinction bestowed upon a very solid ball player. What's wrong with being just a solid ball player? Perennial All-Star? Perennial MVP Candidate? Wasn't that part of his job - to produce? Why couldn't people be content with Ron having his uniform number retired? 

Well, the Hall of Fame is a business and they constantly need two things to happen. They need players and they need controversial issues. Otherwise, why would you be discussing one person's merits over another. However, the Ron Santo enshrinement is bad timing. First of all, during his entire life he was denied induction, rightfully so, by the writer's AND the veterans committee! Now, in comes a third vote process the Golden Era Committee and kaboom - instant Hall of Famer.

How horrible to think that Ron Santo's best career move was to die? How misguided that this group of 16 voters think that somehow Ron will get wind of this information? It's more insulting than honoring. 

But the greater problem it develops, is that it gives hope to players, that they too, may get a key to the kingdom from the Golden Era Committee somewhere down the line.  

According to Bill James' HOF test where a likely HOF scores 100/50. Ron Santo waltzes in with 88/41. Is that the worse election ever? No, it's not, but it's without a doubt lowering the bar....again. 

Let me put this another way. If you added the 15 votes he got from the Golden Era Committee members to the 1998 Ballot the year Ron got his most votes he still would have fell 136 votes short of election. 

Here at First Ballot we accept the reality that he is in and we will now rectify the "HOF Class of 1980" to reflect that's when Ron Santo got in along side Al Kaline & Orlando Cepeda. 

About the Card
I'm not a fan of this design. Never have been. It hasn't held up over time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

1987 Fleer - They Did The Right Thing.

Spike Lee’s must –see seminal classic on urban society “Do The Right Thing” (1989) features a scene, in which, Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens are being discussed in terms of which pitcher is better. 

About the Card

Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens were on the fast track to the hall of fame. Unfortunately, Gooden was drivin’ that train high on cocaine and he derailed for good in 1994. Clemens had his own drug addiction to steroids. But in 1987, these guys were the premium pitchers in their respective leagues playing in the largest markets on winning teams.

They met for the first time in the 1986 All-Star Game. Fleer recognized an organic moment to make an additional card for both players. It worked really well. 1987 Fleer is known for it’s sky blue background. Never has been this color been so prominently used before. However, you'd think they get a shot of them without people in the background messing up the composition. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What we've got here is a 1993 Flair-ure to communicate.

One of the moves that directly led to the Yankees resurrection was the December 15th, 1992 free agent signing of Wade Boggs.

The Yankees gambled and left the popular Charlie Hayes exposed to the 1993 Expansion Draft and he was chosen by the Colorado Rockies leaving an opening at third.

But George Steinbrenner’s hunch that a supposedly broken down 34-year-old Wade Boggs, coming off a career worse year, would be an upgrade over Charlie Hayes - paid off.

Headed into 1993, a lifetime Red Sox who doubled as a thorn in the side of Mattingly’s batting titles coming to join the Yankees to win a ring wasn’t as weird a proposition, as you would imagine.
Boggs wouldn’t had been available had he had his regular year. It was a good bet that Boggs would bounce back.

The Yankees upgraded the third base position from Charlie Hayes .297 OBA to Wade Boggs .378 OBA. Not only that, but Boggs’ presence on the team led to career high in OBA for Paul O’Niell, Mike Stanley and he dramatically effected Don Mattingly and Dion James’ OBA as well.

About the Card

In 1993 Fleer gambled as well. They entered the super-premium card market with Flair.
What they got right was the card stock and the glare. The thickest and glossiest card ever made. They also came packaged in cool miniature cardboard boxes that had the cards wrapped inside cellophane as well. It was fun to open. What they got wrong was the design. First of all, we are presented with photos that appear to be taken at spring training the give away is the background. Secondly, we get an in game shot with a super imposed close up action shot but it’s uniformly really bad use of space.
Boggs nose is touching his elbow. Huh? Thirdly, can someone make sense of the first letter of the last name being emphasized in script and in larger front to correlate with the Flair logo? I can’t. Fourth point is there wasn’t a notable rookie to obtain or great chase card. All in all, Flair never rose to the heights of Finest or SP.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

1995 Zenith, Rookie Roll Call. A TOUGH INSERT

In August 1995, Pinnacle rolled out their new brand Zenith. It was produced to compete with the likes of Flair, Select, SP and Finest. The name is conspicuously redundant because Zenith means the same thing as Pinnacle.

It was the 28th different brand released that year. To think, Topps was shitting their pants over one competitor twenty years earlier. Fuck you Topps for being anti-free market capitalists with your bogus monopoly now and then.

If you count all insert sets from 1995 you get a grand total of 184 different sets.

1995 Zenith had three distinctive insert sets and the Rookie Roll Call is considered the second toughest because it seeds at a 1:24 ratio which in turn was 1 per box. Because the set includes 18 players the odds of pulling any one particular player was 1:432

That's a tough pull. But aside from the ratio, the fact of the matter is, cases of Zenith are still unopened. It's not like this was flying off the shelf. When the base card highlight was a Japanese-version of a Hideo Nomo card you're in trouble. Point is, this product is fairly uncirculated. Check Out My Cards doesn't have any raw A-Rods available.

I like this insert set a lot. The player selection at the time was right on the money. In hindsight the only players missed from this set were Garret Anderson and possible future HOF player Andy Pettitte. Pinnacle used a double side Dufex process on these cards. They look and feel great. Pictured here is, remarkably, a GEM MINT 9.5 copy!! I would not classify 1995 Zenith as condition sensitive but the way they were packed in the box left the corners in a precarious position exposed for dings. This slab is currently on eBay for a Buy It Now of $199.99 which is absurd. That will not move at that price. I have it on my watch list and hopefully the seller will come to his senses and drop that price significantly or put it up for auction. I'd go as high as $35.00.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Johnny Damon limboing his way into Cooperstown.

On September 13, 2011 Johnny Damon once again finds himself on a list populated with immortal players. Damon became the ninth player in MLB history to hit 200 homers and steal 400 bags.
How did he find a common ground this time with the legendary Rickey Henderson? Easy. All Damon had to do was not steal an extra 1,006 bases and hit 68 less home runs. How is it possible that Barry Bonds and Johnny Damon would be in a club that only has nine members? Simple. All you have to do is take away 533 home runs and 112 stolen bases from Bonds.

It's still mind boggling that Rickey Henderson was not an unanimous selection into the Hall of Fame. In fact, 28 baseball writers felt he wasn't worthy of that distinction. What an embarrassment.

Back in 1986, Rickey Henderson was one the premier players in all of baseball. Nothing like him before or since. 1986 Donruss decided to capture his all around greatness with a headshot as he's leaving a spring training game.

A testament for his knack to scoring runs, he had a career low OBA of .358 but still led the league with 130 runs scored.

Growing up in Manhattan, I saw Rickey play in person many times. He was truly a force.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

1981 Topps: The Empire Strikes Back

Prior to in-depth statistical reference books, the back of a baseball card was where you found the raw stats from the year before.

On top of his drinking problem, Eck pitched with a bad back the entire year of 1980. For the first time in his career (looking solely at the basic numbers) Eck had a bad season.

Not found on the baseball card was that his ERA + had dropped from averaging 129 throughout his career to 99.
And just 50% of his starts qualified as quality.

It was a down year for Eck but Topps made it look spectacular by capturing his Darth Vader helmet hairdo!

The 1980 Boston Red Sox featured four other future hall of famers: Carlton Fisk, Tony Perez, Jim Rice, & Carl Yastrzemski. I assume aside from Yaz, no one was thinking they were watching five future HOF's when watching this team play.

About The Card

1981 Topps was the first set I was truly serious about collecting. My dad even made room on his bookshelf so I can stack my cards.
I’ve written about this set here, here & here. By virtue of my age, it’s one of my favorite Topps set. I missed out winning this slab on eBay but I didn’t go full bore for it because I rather submit my own copy. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

1974 Topps & The New All Time Home Run King

Although the record books has the incomparable Barry Bonds atop the career Home Run list the majority of baseball fans ignore that bit of accounting. In the hearts and minds of the casual fan Hank Aaron is still the Home Run King. What's cool about this card is that it was printed and released PRIOR to Hank actually breaking the record. Topps wasn't going out on much of a limb. It was inevitable that Hank would break it but it's cool they acknowledged it as the first card and made it his base card too.

It's a great design. How come the whole set wasn't this graphic?

As far as the condition of this particular card it could be argued that you're looking at a minor miracle. Thankfully, it's now housed in a Beckett slab.  Currently, there are 25 copies listed on checkoutmycards.com ranging from $9.00 - $40.00 with only 3 showing 50/50 centering. But even those are only good to excellent condition. Graders at PSA and Beckett both weigh centering the most because of how it effects the overall eye appeal of a card. However, centering is the one aspect that is completely out of the collector's hand. PSA's solution was to incorporate 'qualifiers' such as OC but Beckett didn't want to deviate from the notion that somewhere in this great big world there exists a perfect copy of any ole card. In this case, they were proven correct. It's hard to imagine how this card came to be. I would guess it was sitting in an unopened pack until recent history. Considering this was the way cards were handled (pic below) back in 1974 it's still a minor miracle that it ended up in this condition.
In a bit of good timing a BVG 9 example of this card just went to auction at eBay from Superior Investments. I'll watch it to see where it ends up. My prediction is $375.85.  The Gem Mint is owned by Pristine Paper and they are asking for $10,000.00 which I think is too high. But at least we can see a nice gauge of things. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

1968 Topps. Reach for the Stargell

1968 is one of the most volatile years in America history. The 1968 Topps design reflects absolutely no notion of change. It's tweed! The psychedelic counterculture in full bloom did not penetrate anyone at Topps. If you were to judge what was taking place in the country based on this design you would guess no better than everyone is comfortable at home eating TV dinners, right? The only thing subversive about this card is that Stargell plays for the "Pirates". I still don't get what this team nickname has to do with baseball. Anyhow, this copy is a stunning gem mint. How it stayed in this condition for over 40 years is an answer you would only get tripping on Lysergic acid diethylamide.

Even baseball itself got caught up in the winds of change. After the 1968 season baseball had to lower the mound by 4.5 inches to give the hitter's a chance. Apparently, most teams had raised their mounds past the regular height of 15 inches which in effect killed all the offense. After the mound was lowered and enforced to be a standard 10.5 inches modern day baseball was born.

Stargell had the dismal yet relative OPS of .757 in 1968. The following year he posts the Hall Of Famish OPS of .938! Baseball had literally leveled the playing field.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

1986 Donruss. A guide to framing your Picasso's.

Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr. were the starting left side of the American League All-Star team from 1986-1996.

About the Cards
As grading cards has gained wider acceptance and are no longer just a niche in the hobby for collectors with deep pockets the market has shown that most submit to BGS for modern cards and most submit to PSA for vintage. Will you see modern cards graded by PSA and vintage by BGS? Yes but the premium for the same grade can be vastly different.

Although the standards by which the card is being judged is virtually the same
BGS holds a distinct advantage by showing you a detailed report with sub grades.

BGS also holds the advantage in aesthetic and protection. The BGS slab includes an inner sleeve housed inside what amounts to a brick. It’s 100% tamper evident. One time I actually opened a PSA slab with no detection. Most likely that particular encapsulation was faulty but there is zero chance anyone can open a BGS slab without knowing.  The BGS slab is thicker and heavier. You feel you're Indiana Jones holding onto a precious artifact. A PSA holder feels like a fixture that needs to be attached to some Ikea desk.

A BGS Gem Mint label is written in GOLD. Its screams ‘this card is important’! The PSA label looks like it was done up on a Brother P-touch with a red marker by someone rushing to leave work. Not to mention it has the completely distracting George Orwellian bar code as well. 

With all this commotion why would anyone grade with PSA? Two words: Set Registry.

The PSA Set Registry is the single most important thing to happen to the hobby since Topps’ monopoly was broken up in 1981.

Not only was the idea an obvious and needed one in the hobby it was executed with perfection. You can’t say enough great things about the PSA Set Registry. It brought competition to the hobby and more importantly it brought major value to cards that are normally of none.

In the past 30 years, the hobby has seen a lot of awful sets and baseball has seen a lot of awful players but the PSA Set Registry has given players collectors a reason to seek out horrendous sets and set builders a reason to try and find that Gem Mint Alvaro Espinoza and players of the like.

In a perfect world, you would combine the BGS slab with the PSA Set Registry but the world is not perfect.

Friday, July 8, 2011

1991 Topps. Some come to laugh their past away.

June 24, 1991 39-year old Dave Winfield came to the plate in the eighth inning a triple shy of becoming the oldest player in MLB history to hit for a cycle. 

Prior to the at bat, Winfield had lit up Royals starter Hector Wagner for an RBI single, double and a two-run homer which literally finished Hector's career. 

Winfield never hit a cycle in his career.  "I told the guys on the bench after I got the single, the double and the homer, I said, 'I'm going to get that triple tonight,' [1]

the Royals had played three extra inning games in the past four days their bullpen was completely exhausted. In an attempt to save the bullpen the Royals turned to starter Tom Gordon who two days prior threw 123 pitches across seven innings.

Dave singles off of Gordon for his fourth hit in the seventh.

For Dave's fifth at bat Tom Gordon exits and Royals utility infielder Bill Pecota who was playing first base was now on the mound for the first time in his life facing a red hot Dave Winfield.

Dave connects on Pecota's 1 - 1 pitch for the triple.

All told he went 5 - 5 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBI.  An epic game as Dave became the oldest player in MLB history to hit for a cycle. 

About The Card

This is a great shot and composition of Winfield. This photo captures his imposing presence in the batter's box well. 1991 Topps looks cool if you don't stare at it for too long. I'm always a fan of using the official team logos but Topps insistence on using a pennant as a backdrop ruins it. I don't like the slogan either. Why couldn't they have used the more accurate "40 Years of Baseball Cards"? 1991 Topps also had the dubious distinction of competing against themselves and compared to the landmark Stadium Club line this set is markedly lame.

1. Elliott, Helene, (June 25, 1991) The Los Angeles Times.

wacky side note is that 30 minutes down the road the Grateful Dead played Sandstone Ampitheatre and stunk up the joint worst than Hector Wagner.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

1967 Topps. Roberto Clemente, the transcendent All-Star.

July 11, 1967
This game featured twenty future Hall Of Famers and Pete Rose. One of the twenty was batting second and playing Right Field for the National League. Number 21, Roberto Clemente, appearing in his eight consecutive All-Star game.

Inexplicably, Clemente struck out four times in this exhibition game. How improbable was that? Headed into the All-Star game Clemente had played 1,749 games and only ONCE had he struck out four times in a game! And it was none other than Don Drysdale who struck him out all four times.

Compared to Don Drysdale let's look at the four different pitchers who struck out Clemente four times.  Dean Chance, Gary Peters, Al Downing & Jim 'Catfish' Hunter. 

Aside from Catfish Hunter the other three pitchers combined played in five All-Star games. Even when having a bad day with a national audience watching Clemente managed to do something special.

About the Card

Roberto Clemente was blessed to play baseball at the highest level. And he played it at a level so seldom seen that they built a museum for these men long before called the Hall of Fame but had that museum not been built, it surely would have been, after watching Clemente play and live his life.

This BVG 9 slab sold for $641.78 at auction on eBay from mandlcards on May 16, 2011.
Worth every penny.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1955 Tigers, 79-75, 17 games back, 3 Hall of Famers.

Led by HOF Manager Bucky Harris this team's Pythagorean record was nine wins better. The offense featured perennial All-Star Harvey Kuenn, Ray Boone & the phenomenal right fielder Al Kaline. Al led the American League in hits (200), batting average (.340) & total bases (321). 1955 starts a string of 13 consecutive All-Star games for Kaline. The other future HOF Jim Bunning made 15 appearances for the team as a late July call up. On August 7, Detroit was 5.5 behind the Yankees for first place. They lose the second game of the double header in the Bronx which starts a five-game losing streak leaving them 9.5 games back and their season effectually over.

About The Card
Al Kaline's 2nd year card graded NM-MT 8 by PSA went for $316 at auction at American Memorabilia on September 20, 2007

1955 Topps improved on the prior year by making the action shot color as well. This set marks the first time a horizontal design was used.

This simple design is quite wonderful. A monochromic color in back surrounded by a small white border. The bottom line gave you all the relevant information.
Player name was in all capital letters, position followed by Team Name.

Topps again used the official primary team logo. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

1985 Fleer. Hall Of Fame Teammates.

August 26, 1985 Cal Ripken & Eddie Murray destroy the Angels. Eddie hits 3 HR and 9 RBI. He had 2 chances to hit a 4th HR but in the 7th he flies out to centerfield & in the 9th he walked. Ripken contributed with 1b, 2b, 3 runs, 2 rbi, 1 bb. 

About The Cards
This design is basically their 1983 design flipped up. I'm positive there was no one with the title 'Art Director' employed at the three major baseball card companies in the 1980s. 

1981 Topps and Johnny Damon's attempt to learn the secret password.

June 18, 2011 Johnny Damon becomes the 11th player to amass 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 homers and 2,500 hits in a career. The other ten players that have met this criteria reside in Cooperstown. Does this incredible accomplishment automatically make Johnny Damon a Hall of Fame player? The answer is NO. 
In short, he will need at least two more above average seasons to accumulate enough stats to make all points moot. 

Does Elias Sports Bureau generate these lists? If so, a closer look reveals the threshold of 2,500 hits can be upped to 2,600 plus. 

Damon didn't hit home runs in the 'steroid era' but it's not like his game is made up of subtleties either. For a non power hitting outfielder he didn't make up for it with defensive prowess.

Regardless, Damon currently doesn't belong in these guys company in any other circumstance. For all his fame he only made two all-star appearances. Considering he played for the Red Sox and Yankees (plus brought championships to both teams) that's your tell-tale sign that his game does not resonate with fans. 

It's not just the fans who kept quiet during the prime of his 17-year career. He never managed a top ten MVP vote although he was a media darling. 

About The Card
1981 Topps is Classic Topps. There are no earth shattering rookies in this set so it doesn't get the recognition it deserves. I love the design. Colorful and simplistic with nothing jarring about it. I love that Topps made their own bootleg team hats. This is the last time they used the ALL-STAR banner. Here's Paul sitting on the bench most likely loaded on cocaine. His position is listed as 2B-SS but he was moved to Centerfield in 1981 because manager Buck Rodgers felt that Jim Ganter was ready to be the everyday second basemen.

On May 3, 1981 Paul tore ligaments in his left ankle trying to beat out an infield hit. He missed 40 games due to surgery and recovery. Unfortunately, Paul would be plagued with injuries his entire career. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

1986 Fleer: Condition Sensitive

August 1, 1986 Bert Blyleven torched the A’s by striking out 15 and becoming the 10th pitcher in major league history to record 3,000 strikeouts. The other nine pitchers were either already in the hall or headed there. Bert would retire 3rd on the all-time strikeouts list. He currently stands 5th.

Fellow Hall Of Famer Kirby Puckett hit for the cycle in the game as the Twins routed
Oakland 10 to 1.

It was Bert’s 10th win for the team, which were 14 games under .500 at that point.  Pitching for bad teams was Bert's forte.

About The Card

It’s 1986 and no one is taking baseball photography too seriously.

The remarkable thing here is the condition of this card. 

Beckett's Price Guide defines this set as "extremely condition sensitive commonly found with chipped edges" Beckett lays the blame on the blue borders but the fact is these cards were printed on toilet paper and the edges literally crumble apart in your hand. Centering from top to bottom also plagued this set.

For that reason plus the utterly boring design not one was particularly interested in this set. To this day, no one has completed this set in the PSA registry.

Not even Jose Canseco’s rookie card could have saved this set.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

1985 Topps. The Slanted Stamp of Approval.

A friend of mine once remarked succinctly “I collect players, not reputations.”

Although these sell for one-third of what they sold for years ago they're still a decent investment to continue to submit your own copies to BGS. Their careers are unparalleled and they have the popularity to match. 

About The Cards

Although Fleer’s update set beat Topps to the punch in 1984 with their Rocket & Puckett card their 1985 Topps’ counterparts are still considered Rookie cards.

Topps' real coup was having Big Mac appear in the 1985 set due to a great subset for the 1984 Summer Olympics Baseball Team (which was only a demonstration sport).

There is a segment of collectors’ who still regard McGwire’s 1987 Topps as his “True” rookie card but that logic doesn’t make much sense.

A Gem Mint slab of Big Mac's 1985 Topps card graded by BGS just recently sold for $280.99 at auction from Pristine Paper on eBay on June 6, 2011.

As far as the design I’m not sure what the thinking was putting the extra
TEAM NAME on the front. It’s kinda just slapped on there for no reason.

Topps returned to this design for their 2007 eTopps brand.

A Quad Gem Mint slab of Kirby Puckett's 1985 Topps rookie card sold for $78.00
at auction on eBay from Maple Leaf Sports on June 17, 2011.

Friday, June 10, 2011

1989 Topps

Unfortunately, this is Bruce Sutter’s final Topps card during his playing days.
Sutter tore his twice-repaired rotator cuff again during Spring Training in 1989 forcing an early retirement.

In terms of bookkeeping, Sutter’s contract with the Braves has to be one of the all time bust signings.

In December 1984 after a season where he saved 45 games, pitched 122.2 innings and had an outstanding ERA+ of 229  with the Cardinals, billionaire Ted Turner signed the premier closer on the market to a record six-year $10 million contract. 

Return on investment: 152.1 innings, 40 saves, a disastrous ERA+ 85 across three years. Colossal Bust. 

About The Card
Bruce Sutter is a rare hall of famer to have a true final year card. What I mean by that is when you flip over the card to read the statistics you can see his entire career.

It’s 1989. Upper Deck’s pioneering product is on the block. Score is relatively new and somewhat innovating. Topps has now officially fallen asleep at the art direction table.

The design is utterly boring pennant style team logo with the name is all capitals. What else is there to say? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yeshua, The Ignitor & 1988 Topps

At his Hall of Fame induction ceremony Paul Molitor said "I'd like to thank God for his many, many blessings in my life, including my salvation that he's allowed me through his son, Jesus."

After his 1987 campaign, Paul was headed to heaven but he didn't look like he was headed to Cooperstown. Milwaukee's star player had already missed 439 of a possible 1,569 games to various injuries.  

He retired ninth on the career list with 3,319 hits.  Remarkably, he got dramatically better in his 30's (which is the calling card for steroid use) during the "steroid era", however, there was never any suspicion on Molitor.

About The Card
And you wonder why Upper Deck took the baseball card world by storm the following year?

Bland is the best word for the design. The color scheme for the Brewers was particularly bad. 

1988 Topps features Tom Glavine's rookie card but even that can't help this set from being an all time junk wax product.

Completely uninspired. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

1982 Topps In Action (literally)

Reggie signed a 4-year deal with the Angels in late January after Topps had gone to the presses in November.  Reggie would be featured as an Angel in the traded set later in the year.

Don Baylor said during Spring Training “Reggie’s Mr. October. Now all we have to do is get him that far.” [1]

They made it there with Reggie leading the way with a league leading 39 Home Runs. The Angels fell in 5 games to the Milwaukee Brewers.

About The Card

In 1982, Topps made three adjustments to keep pace and stay ahead of the new card companies.

First, Topps expanded their set to 792 cards. They did this by eliminating the 66 Double Print card practice.

(The Double Print practice was due to the way the printing machine was set up from 1978 -1980.)

Instead of the Double Print cards three subsets were added. The three subsets were AL All-Stars, NL All-Stars and ‘in action’ cards.

It marked the first time since 1974 and 1972 respectively that these subsets appeared but the reason they had to add these cards is because Donruss was “Featuring Extra Cards Of Star Players.”

The only thing this subset kept from 1972 was the name. The design is more or less the same as the '82 base set. I like that the bottom border is crooked but it comes at the expense that the title in not aligned with the stripe.

  1. Fimrite, Ron (March 15, 1982) Sports Illustrated

Saturday, May 14, 2011

1979 Topps, Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?

In 1979, the cost of a wax box was $7.20

In 1979, Topps had record sales of nearly $74 million. [1]
Factoring in rack and cello boxes that would mean at least 8 million boxes sold.

In 1979, the brightest star in the MLB galaxy was Reggie Jackson. Playing in just 131 games was once again immensely productive posting an OPS+ of 150, that ranked 5th in the AL.

About The Card

Using a banner instead of a straight block text it’s a slight variation on the 1976 design.
The other difference is that for the first time Topps put their logo on the front left hand corner. I believe this was done because Fleer had been battling Topps in court since 1975 and perhaps by 1979 they were sensing the monopoly would be coming to an end.

The set is known primarily for housing Ozzie Smith’s rookie card but this Reggie Jackson card is timeless. Sun beating down on shiny helmet. Aviator sunglasses. Afro. Mustache. And card number 700.

I much preferred when they put the ALL*STAR banner on the card instead of when they made it a separate card.

This incredible slab is listed at $250 at Pristine Paper. That's not an outrageous sum in context but I would guess at auction it would fetch about $125


1. Hammond, Keith (April 25, 1982) New York Times

Friday, May 13, 2011

1982 Topps, Cal Ripken's Rookie Card

Topps touting Cal Ripken as a 'Future Star' turned out to be an understatement. For Bobby Bonner & Jeff Schneider it was an incredible overstatement. Ripken is labeled as 3rd Base but he actually was a 3B/SS. 

On July 9, 1982 Earl Weaver shifted Cal to shortstop for good. It wasn’t until July 16, 1996 that he played third base again.

About The Card
Ripken really stands alone in many respects so it’s unfortunate that he had to share his rookie card with two players that were completely nondescript. That's one of the reasons that his 1982 Topps Traded card is valued higher than the regular issue plus the perception that the traded set is scarcer. However, there is no evidence to suggest that’s the case. 

This slab will set you back anywhere between $125 - $175 on auctions. It's well worth the investment. It's a lot of fun buying some 1982 Topps wax to bust yourself & find your own gem copy but you'll most likely end up spending the same amount of money.

1981 Topps. The Real One!...Not Really

Due to two new rivals, Topps billed itself as “the REAL one!”. The branding strategy that implied that Donruss and Fleer cards were fake didn’t work as intended. The fundamental psyche of a collector is that you’re always on the look out for something new. The next five years total sales for all three companies would grow dramatically.

Bert Blyleven was traded (again) in December 1980 to another perennially also-ran Cleveland Indians.  This is the reason why he is featured as a Pirate. However, this would be corrected later that year in the return of the traded set.

In the strike shortened season, Bert has one of his banner years for a yet another terribly mediocre team. The 1981 Cleveland Indians team hit 39 home runs in 103 games. Perspective? Mike Schmidt had 31.

From April 18 – May 22, Bert threw 6 consecutive complete game wins. The first and only time he had such a streak.

About The Card

The 1981 design work really well for the Pirates because their team colors were incorporated in both the team cap and border. I can’t think of one instance where I was searching for or ever asked about a Bert Blyleven card. I’m not trying to demean his enshrinement. He deserves it but he has to be one of the least popular players of his era.

Update May 17, 2011
This slab sold for $23.23 from Perfect-Score at auction on eBay with a starting bid of $9.99. It only garnered 2 bids. Once again proving the very little hobby support Bert Blyleven receives.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1971 Topps

Jackie Robinson broke the morally unjust color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 but it wasn’t until 1971 – 15 years after he retired that a Major League baseball team fielded an entire starting line up consisting of only men of color.

That team was the Pittsburgh Pirates led by manager Danny Martaugh. This moment took place on September 1, 1971.

This monumental factoid was brought to my attention in Bruce Markusen’s The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Roberto Clemente batted 3rd and Willie Stargell batted 4th that day as they normally did that year.

I never saw Willie Stargell play but everytime I see his baseball cards it brings a smile to my face. Willie Stargell for whatever reasons had trouble staying on the field so there is element of 'What If…' to his career. Even the most conservative estimates would have him hitting at least 50 more home runs in his career.

Aided by no longer playing his games in the cavernous Forbes Field, Willie led the National League in Home Runs in 1971 with a career high of 49.

About the Card

Anytime you’re dealing with black borders you’re going to be dealing with chipping and fraying that always looks worse because of the cracking stands out in contrast to the color.

But now factor in 1971 paper stock and you’re talking about an impossible card to be found in Gem Mint. This absolute stunner sold for $4,300.00 at PWCC Auctions January, 2010

Saturday, March 12, 2011

1968 Topps, O Tweed!

Vic LaRose started just one game in his career. September 14, 1968 vs. Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. Hall of Fame manager Lou Durocher filled out the line up card and had Vic batting 8th and playing shortstop. He fielded the ball cleanly three times. At bat, he was hit by a pitch, stuck out & grounded out.

But the real story is that he shared the field with two hall of fame players, Billy Williams and Ernie Banks.

About the Card

1968 Topps is a relatively boring design. The late 60s was a volatile time in our country yet Topps decided to stick with the tried and true. I was never sure what the tweed background was supposed to represent. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1993 Select

 Score limped in with their 2nd "premium" issue. They already had the well received Pinnacle but this set seemed forced. When the selling point is "only 405 cards" you know something is wrong.
Although green is very much a part of the baseball landscape it doesn't particular work on a baseball card.

However, they did one thing that was absolutely right. Derek Jeter's Rookie Card.

This photo is not only timeless but foreshadows his once-a-game-usually-unneccessary-jump throw. No one minds a little flair when you could hit like Derek has for 15 plus years. Although he is an iconic player I never got the sense he was beloved like Mattingly, Munson or even Paul O'Neill for that matter. Perhaps, it's due to his cold, corporate personality or perhaps his lifestyle isn't that identifiable. To his credit he has never got in trouble with drugs, alcohol or steroids but then he loses out on that back page redemption storyline.  He's not a family man but then dates B-List celebrity girls. Joe DiMaggio was married to Marilyn Monroe. Catch my drift? And maybe just maybe it's because he has never been on a truly bad team. Regardless, 5 years after he retires he will reside in the Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 7, 2011

1954 Red Sox, 69-85, 42 games back, 3 Hall of Famers.

This terrible team had three hall of famers. Manager Lou Boudreau two years removed from player/manager, the incomparable Ted Williams & George Kell.  Despite missing 37 games, Teddy Ballgame led the league in walks with 135.  George Kell was traded away in late May for Grady Hatton & $100,000.

In terms of baseball cards, Sy Berger, the Father of the Modern-Day baseball card [1], states in this interview that the 1954 design was a favorite of his.

1954 Topps only had 250 cards and Ted Williams book ended the set. Never before or since has a player had the first & last card of a set. But that's Ted Williams for you. These two copies are in beautiful condition. 

George Kell was one of many stars not to have a card in the 1954 set. 

Apparently this is a self-annoited titled. 1. Lidz, Franz, (May 25, 1981) Sports Illustrated.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

1990 Topps, Frank Thomas' Rookie Card

One of just 4 players in history to have complied a career .300 average with 500 home runs, 1700 RBI, 1400 Runs & 1600 walks. The other 3 are Mel Ott, Ted Williams, & Babe Ruth.

About the Card

1990 Topps is in the conversation for worst design ever. Nothing about it looks good or makes sense.

The Frank Thomas card in particular is truly sad. a.) Why do they have Thomas in his college uniform?  b.) Why is he playing baseball against a faceless player?  c.) Why did they alter his left arm with fake sunlight?

Frank's most popular & valuable rookie card is his 1990 Leaf. Normally, the Topps rookie is the most valued but not only was Leaf produced less but had the superior design.

These slabs which are easy to find go around $30 a pop. At that price you're better off submitted you're own copy. 1990 Topps is junk wax.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

1992 Ultra Award Winners

During the final season at Memorial Stadium, Cal Ripken had a career year.

His batting line for the year was .323/.374/.566 with career highs of 34 Home Runs & 114 RBI winning his 2nd MVP in the process.

Although he was headed to the hall prior to the season after 1991 Cal cemented his place in Cooperstown.

About the Card

In the early 1990's insert cards were a new hobby trend. Twenty-years later the trend has long become a staple. Early on, there wasn't much innovation going on. In the case of 1992 Ultra they had produced 3 insert sets. The Award Winners set was wholly uninspired in concept and design. Duplicating the base set - all Fleer did was slap on an Award Logo.

It's still a strong card with beautiful photography but in context it's a bore.

Randomly inserted in Series 1 packs these card fell about 3 to 4 a box.

Roughly 90% of my collection I've submitted to BGS myself but you can find great deals on eBay.

I picked this slab up for $23.30 shipped from Just Collect. When you consider it costs on average $7 to slab with BGS picking up a gem mint copy of a card you want is well worth it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1980 Topps, Rickey Henderson's Rookie Card

Significant for being the last set before the Topps monopoly ended.

The seminal card is the Rickey Henderson's rookie card. It's fitting that no other rookie in this set compares.

1980 Topps was the first set I collected as a kid. I shutter to think of how many Rickey's I tossed aside looking for Reggie, Ryan, Guidry, Foster, Dent or Rose cards.

About the Card
This slab pictured sold for $259.45 [1] Another BVG 9 sold for $239.21 in mid-January [2] & a PSA 9 fetched $306 back in late-November [3].

Centering is difficult for this set and you'll find that the borders are prone to chipping.  You can see here that neither centering nor chipping is an issue. It's just a very solid mint card.

Rickey Henderson's rookie has been heavily counterfeited making it even more advantageous to buy an encapsulated version by a reputable third party grader - BVG, PSA or SGC.

When this card is available in graded mint condition expect to pay at least $250 and know its worth every penny.

Finding this card in GEM-MINT condition is virtually a white whale I don't foresee the market getting flooded with gems ever. Only 10 PSAs, 5 BVGs & 3 GAI's have ever received a gem grade as of this post.

1. February 27, 2011 eBay
2. January 16, 2011 eBay
3. November 21, 2010 eBay