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