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.