Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I'm a Big Dope

Here we go with Exhibit A in my trial. I'm charged with 'Being a Sucker for Anything'.

The 1964 Bill Pierce Topps card is a pretty good one. I tend to favor cards/sets where the colors accent the uniform colors of the player/team pictured. That's certainly the case with the Giants' players in the '64 Topps set. Add to that the fact that the pose is not a common one and the fact that it's Billy Pierce and it all adds up to it being, in my eyes at least, a great card.

Granted I prefer his White Sox cards (not that I'm a fan of either team exactly) because that's how I first saw him...with my Dad, as a White Sox pitcher in Yankee Stadium.

And that leads me to this 'rainbow' of sorts of '64 and '64-'style' Pierces. It's because I don't follow modern cards that I have a hard time figuring out what all the different 'heritage' cards are that I have listed on my Pierce checklist. I have others listed as 'wants' but I'm halfway convinced that they are just different ways people describe these same cards. I tried sorting it all out one night and it gave me a massive migraine.

I've ended up with these six cards. I don't know it they are all separate 'official' Topps releases or just different ways that people have had him sign the heritage card. For what it's worth, this is what I have pictured:

Top Row:
left) actual '64 Topps regular
right) Venezuelan '64 Topps

Middle row:
left) 2001 Heritage 'blue sig'
right) 2013(?) red sig numbered to 64

Bottom Row:
left) just a plain ol' 2001 Heritage
right) 2001(?) blue sig Heritage with '7X All Star' inscription

Outside of the top two cards, that actual vintage versions I have no idea what to make of these cards. Of the Heritage only the red signed one cost more than a couple of bucks. But the fact that I bought them at all sort of dismays me.

The Venezuelan version was $12 if I recall correctly.  The 'best' one is still the original '64 Topps Billy Pierce.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

1958 Billy Pierce Yellow Letter team name variation aka "I hate slabbed cards"

I mean what's the point of having had this card graded? I'm sure I'm missing something here. It's a decent card, not torn up or showing any evidence of having been abused but it's obviously not pristine. Yet someone paid (what does PSA charge?) to have it graded and stuck in a plastic tomb.

All of which is fine but those damn slabs are so hard to open. I understand that's how it must be to prevent fraud but I sure hate having to risk actually damaging the card to put it in my Pierce binder.

Sorry for the rant but using a pair of pliers to crack the slab caused me to crimp the upper right hand corner. Now this card, one I've been patiently chasing for a long time, has some fresh damage. 

But I've got it. The team name variations are not as coveted as the yellow player name versions but I didn't pay much of a premium for it and it helps flesh out my Pierce collection.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1981 TCMA John Unitas

I started my Baltimore Colt project in earnest last week. I've found some pretty good bargains to fill in holes in the run of Colts cards from 1950 through 1983. I started by digging up a checklist that an online seller had for a couple of bucks. It was easier than cutting and pasting my own.

He has listed lots of the various oddball and small sets that came out that included Colts. He also has included the Topps inserts from the 60s and 70s. I'm still in the process of deciding if I am going to track some/all/any of those down. It's doubtful I will. I am planning on collecting the cards that you could get by opening packs. That includes Topps, Fleer, Bowman and Philly Gum. 

I did notice that he had a single Colts' card listed under the 1981 TCMA heading. It was this John Unitas. I had been unaware of it previously but several were available very reasonably online so I bought one. 

Johnny U's 'in front of a cinder block wall' pose reminds me of some of the 60s hockey sets that were filled with shots of guys in hallways, probably just outside arena and stadium dressing rooms. There is a certain hokey charm to stuff like this.

Anyway I'm slowly building my Colts collection, scrounging for bargain lots and also working on a want list that will be linked here. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

70/71 Topps Lew Alcindor and Friends

Surprisingly the 2nd year Lew Alcindor (soon to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is a very reasonably priced card in the 1970/71 Topps basketball set. I expected it to be the most costly but then again my knowledge of hoops sets is very spare. With only one season of stats to put on the back Topps had plenty of room for a nice write up of the most heralded player of his generation.

I recall the hoopla that surrounded Alcindor when he was approaching his college decision. He played at Power Memorial located on West 61st St. in Manhattan and wasn't far from where my father had his office. Later I saw him in the 'Game of the Century' at the Astrodome against Elvin Hayes' Houston Cougars. I've told that story several times here and won't repeat it now.

Some of these Topps hoops cards have terrific cartoons and Alcindor's is one of them. Who knew Big Lew played the congas for fun? But this isn't the best cartoon of this group. Hold on, that one is coming up.

And here is a trivia bit that I was unaware of until just as I was checking some facts a few minutes ago: his given name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. 

Gus Johnson was a rim-rattling forward with the ability to bring the arena to it's feet with some strong and acrobatic moves. He was a lot like one of my favorite players, Connie Hawkins but he had more bulk and strength.

Otto Moore moved on the the Houston Rockets in 1972 when I was watching them closely and he was a crowd favorite (although 'crowd' may be too generous a word). He was second to Rudy Tomjanovich in rebounds and scored 11 PPG.

This is the only 'leader card out of the set that I've picked up so far. I've put off looking for them because they don't excite me much.

Now here is the back of Gus Johnson's card. Sorry for the crooked scan but check out that cartoon!

Is that priceless or what?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback #38 Jim McMahon 1989 Pro Set

In this ongoing series of posts I am going to feature cards from my fantasy football player collection, specifically the 117 quarterbacks I've had on my team's roster since 1980. I have one selected card for each player in my All-Time Flyers binder. Through the years I've tried to use as many different card varieties as possible while holding on to my preference which is: a card issued in a year I owned the player showing him in the proper team uni in a vertical format. Card availability and my whims have had a big impact on that standard as we will see. 
NFL Info: Jim McMahon may be the most 'un-Brigham Young-ish' guy to ever play for BYU. But he did and he's in their Athletic Hall of Fame. In the NFL he was best known for his part in leading the  Bears to the Super Bowl win during the 'Shuffle' season of 1985. During a career that covered 15 seasons for six different clubs he was the full time starter in about half of those. While he never led the NFL in any significant categories and only made one Pro Bowl squad he did accumulate one impressive stat: he had a winning record of 67-30.

He is currently involved in litigation with the NFL over the effects of the concussions he suffered throughout his career.

Fantasy Impact: For me...none. I had him in 1989 during his one season with the Chargers and he didn't play. I had Joe Montana as my starter that season and I lost in our championship game. McMahon was one of six quarterbacks I had roster-ed that year. Back then, before the 'net made fantasy football so easy, our league had very big rosters (as did most others). Waivers were problematical. Once or twice a season we'd sit down at the local ice house (that's Texas talk for beer joint, usually with garage door style open front) after our city league flag football games and hold waivers. Out of town guys had to send me wish lists and hope they'd get a guy or two. So we had 18 or 19 player rosters to be sure we always had enough players.

The Card: Pro Set football sets are the butt of lots of jokes centered around errors and the over-production the company was guilty of back than. But I never let that lessen my enjoyment of them. The '89 set, while not as nice as the same year's Score offering, is pretty sweet. Maybe I was just happy to see someone giving Topps some competition.

They certainly packed a lot of info onto the back of the cards. Color photos on the backs were new then. And the fronts beat most of the Topps sets that appeared around that time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Topps 1960 Managers Subset... AL Edition

The American League managers in the '60 Topps set have some interesting photos and back-stories. 

Casey Stengel needs no words from me. He's Casey. Paul Richards (his middle name is 'Rapier'... how cool is that?) was a baseball 'lifer' who managed the White Sox and Orioles among the numerous jobs he held in the game. He was the Tigers' regular catcher during the mid-40s and helped them win the 1945 World Series. BTW.. his 1933 Goudy is IMHO among the best baseball cards ever produced:

I like the fact that Memorial Stadium is visible on Richards' managers card.  

Al Lopez played in the majors for 19 years and managed for another 17 winning pennants with the Indians and White Sox. After a 22 year playing career Jimmy Dykes managed six different clubs in the majors, mostly with the White Sox. He never won a pennant.

I love the Nats uniform worn by Cookie Lavagetto on his card. The 'reverse drop-shadow' "W" and pinstripes and not features I usually associate with that team. Billy Jurges never managed a full season. He was hired during the '59 campaign by Boston and fired during May of 1960. He was a three time NL All Star middle infielder.

Joe Gordon's card shows Municipal Stadium in the background. A nice touch. Joe Gordon played for 11 seasons with the Yankees. He made nine All Star squads and was the 1942 AL MVP. His managing record isn't nearly that good but he is a Hall of Famer. 

Bob Elliott is shown in his only year as a big league manager. His playing career covered 15 seasons. He hit .289 and he was selected to multiple All Star squads and was the 1947 NL MVP with the Boston Braves. His nickname was "Mr. Team". And while his card makes him look like everyone's favorite goofy uncle he is not to be confused with the Bob Elliott who made up one half of the radio comedy duo of Bob and Ray. Look 'em up, kids.

Here is a look at the backs of a few of these. I've included the Jimmy Dykes card because it's about as pristine a 1960 card as I've seen outside a grading slab. The back is even whiter than the scan shows. The backs of the '60 set cards tend to brown over time as shown in the Gordon and Alston cards. Jimmy Dykes has escaped that fate for whatever reason. Sharp corners as well. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Topps 1960 Managers Subset.... NL Edition

I thought that since I had posted the '58 All Star subset I'd go ahead and post another of my completed projects of a similar size. I've been sorely tempted over the last few months to jump into the 1960 Topps set full time. I've mentioned before that it's the first set I clearly remember collecting with a purpose as a kid.

I'd seen a friend's 58's and I had received some '59s but the 1960 set was the one I bought by the pack. Truth be told it was my folks that bought them, with much begging from me. I remember the hanging cello packs they had at Korvettes stores around my part of New Jersey. Sometimes my Dad would bring home a pack he had bought with his newspaper for the commute home. So this set has a lot of nostalgic value to me. Not to mention that I love the look of it and I think the backs are among the best Topps has produced.

I don't feel up to tackling another vintage set (and blog) right now. But maybe sometime in 2015 I'll get the urge and jump in. Meanwhile I've put together the managers 16 card subset. I love everything about these. These guys just look like 1960 era baseball managers, don't they? Bill Rigney leans on a wooden(!) railing. Did Seals Stadium have a wooden railing in front of the dugout? Maybe that's a spring training shot. Either way, it's pretty neat.

Solly Hemus was in his second year as manager in St. Louis and he looks pretty comfy in the job. In 1959 he began as player/manager but in June he hung up his glove. Interesting that he is listed as being 'released' by the Cards that month. I guess technically he was. Walt Alston and Chuck Dressen had almost 40 years on big league managing between them. Alston won four titles with the Dodgers.

Fred Hutchinson managed three teams but was best known as skipper of the Reds. He died tragically of cancer soon after the 1964 season. Here are a couple of interesting facts from his baseball Reference bio:
The Hutch Award has been awarded since 1965 to a player who exemplifies the courage and desire of Fred Hutchinson. The first recipient was Mickey Mantle. Bill Hutchinson, who diagnosed his brother's condition, later founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle in 1975; it has become one of the world's leading research institution in the field of oncology.
On December 24, 1999, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named Hutchinson Seattle's athlete of the 20th Century, ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr.
Charlie Grimm hit .290 in a 20 year career as a player and he won three pennants in his first go-round as the Cubs' manager. He managed the Braves for five season in the fifties, was out of the dugout for four years and returned to Chicago in 1960. He lasted 17 games and was out of the job months before this card was issued.

Eddie Sawyer managed the Phils for nearly a decade including the Whiz Kids club of 1950 but in 1960 he was gone even faster than Grimm was from Chicago. He managed ONE game before quitting with a famous good bye quote: “I am 49 years old and want to live to be 50.” Two games later the Gene Mauch era began in Philly.

All-in-all it's a pretty cool subset I think. The pennant would reappear as the dominant feature of the classic 1965 Topps set. And the fact that these are so different from the 'base' cards in the 1960 set makes them stand out. As I recall all these National League managers cards came dirt cheap. Only the Stengel out of the complete set of 16 cost enough to even give the price a second thought.

I'll post the American League managers in a day or so.