Tuesday, June 12, 2018

1951 Topps Ray Robinson

I used to be a boxing fan. Probably stemming from my days as a kid when we lived with my grandparents in Brooklyn. My grandfather watched lots of boxing and wrestling. Nowadays other than viewing some Showtime fights (usually repeats) I haven't a clue about the current state of the sport or many of the fighters.

But that doesn't keep me from nabbing a few cards from the 1951Topps Ringside set when I come across them at a good price.  These two Sugar Ray Robinson cards were offered by a guy on Net54 and I bought them. I usually wouldn't bother with graded versions but these were a bargain.

Ray Robinson, who died in 1989 and won the middleweight crown five separate times, was considered by many to be the best boxer in history. I remember him only as a former champ who fought in the early '60s while well past his prime.

The top card is a beauty on the front. Probably my favorite in the set. The poor grade comes from issues on the back.

The action card is one of a handful in the set that features a specific fight.

Pretty sweet both front and back.

I'll let these two sit in the graded cases until I get more of the set (I have about a dozen of the 96 in the set) and into a binder they'll go.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

1954 Bowman Memo Luna

I really enjoy oddball baseball stories, especially when I have a card to go with the story. And that's the case with this Memo Luna card from the 1954 Bowman set I came across in my collection a while back. I remember when I first saw this card that I couldn't figure out what made it different until it dawned on me that Luna's name was not in the 'signature' style of the rest of the set. He got plain sans serif type.

Guillermo Romero Luna was a 21-year-old phenom out of Mexico when he signed with the old San Diego Padres of the PCL. He debuted stateside in 1949. He'd won 52 games in three seasons in Mexico before he came north. As the back of the card notes Luna was a multi-sport star growing up.

He spent two years with San Diego before being acquired by the Cardinals in September of 1953 for three players and $75,000. The understanding was that Luna would pitch a bit that winter in Cuba and then return home to Mexico to rest his arm and await his first spring traing as a major leaguer. 

Instead of resting after being shut down for the winter Luna cranked it up in the Mexican winter league, blew out his elbow in a February start and was never the same. Luna, who featured a curve, slider and knuckleball, had a poor spring but managed to make the Cardinals '54 roster and drew a late April start. In that game against the Reds he was KO'd in the first inning and sent down to Rochester, the highest ranking of the Cardinals 22 affiliates. Yes, the Cards had 22 farm clubs in 1954!

Luna had respectable numbers in Rochester (although a losing record) but he slipped down the ladder in the Cardinals' chain and eventually ended his career back in the Mexican Leagues in 1961. Although he never again pitched in the majors he had established enough of a legend to be elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

There is something that intrigues me about Luna and especially that card of his. The back featured a nice write-up and a big empty box where his record would  normally be.

I went looking for the original photo that was inhanced for the Bowman card. I found it on the St Louis Post-Dispatch site. The story isn't accessable without turning off my ad-blocker so I can't link it. But here's the photo showing Luna in his Padres gear before Bowman painted him into a Cardinals uni.  

Luna's story, fleshed out a bit. can be read on this Cardinals fan blog. And the artisitc wizard Gary Cieradkowski just last month showed off his Luna card on his Infinite Card Set blog. And he tells the whole colorful Luna tale far better than I can. Highly recommended!

Birds In My Mailbox

Over the past month I've received a pair of Orioles-laden PWEs (or maybe they were manila, I forget). The cards got buried during my office makeover but they emerged over the weekend. I warmed up my scanner today after a rather long break so let's take a look.....

Oh, before I show the cards I have to say that yes, I know the O's are awful. And that takes a shine off the season but I've been through a lot of ups and downs as a sports fan for lo these many decades. I'm used to it.

The first group of cards came from Tom of The Angels, In Order blog. Of these four the highlight is the Zack Britton card from last years Topps All Star run. Poor Zack is gonna return as the O's closer and rarely have a game to close.  The Chris Davis-Jim Palmer spat was embarrassing but JP fired from the hip. I can't fault him for telling the truth. And I don't think Crush is gonna make it to 500 homers. But I do like that card.

I need to tweak my scanner to show the chrome/foil elements on my cards better. This Chris Hoiles card is a Topps Gold from 1994. I'm not sure what that means but it sure is glittery! I don't buy Bowman so I seeing current stars like Manny Machado on Bowmans makes me stop for a second. I always associate the brand with kids I've never heard of. This Machado is pretty nice. I stuck it into my fantasy baseball binder tonight. It bumped a Heritage. Variety counts in that binder don't ya know. 


The binder had no Gypsy Queens of this style either so Trey Mancini makes it. I've had (and cut and re-claimed) Mancini on both my teams this year.

Finally this bad boy...

That looks like a '78 Murray but it actually comes from a Topps reprise Rookie Cup in 2017. Again, I'm lost when it comes to keeping up with the comings and goings at Topps but this card is currently propped up against the base of my new lamp here on my desk because it's a way I can look at my favorite card regularly without risking ruining a real one with a coffee spill. This one has that shiny coating that's probably impervious to coffee.

Thanks, Tom. I know I have some Angels around here someplace for ya. 

The next envelope came from Joe Shlabotnik. Joe is an Orioles guy (well, he's a Mets guy but the O's are his second team). He was probably happy to get these out of his house. Me, I'm just enough of a masochist that I enjoy Orioles cards even though they serve as a reminder of how lousy my team is. 

The O's won on Opening Day this year but it all went south from there. The first card from Joe's pile is a '17 OD card featuring The Bird. He also sent a card of the nat's Racing Presidents which will land in my Presidential cards binder once I firgureout where I put it.

There are five Presidents on that card. Must be a reunion of all the ones they've used.

Joe sent a group of Orioles from the current year and the past two. All but one is new-to-me. My favorite of this first group is Chance Sisco. He's not hitting much but I like his grit. Next to him is Kevin Gausman winding up to serve a hanging slider that will be launched 495 feet towards the Warehouse.

In this next bunch we have Manny, Schoop and AJ10. My three favorite current Orioles. Plus Ryan Flaherty who I miss. As of tonite he's hitting .270 for the 1st place Braves. I'm happy for him.

Nice cards, one and all. Thanks, Joe! Here's something for you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Catching Up

I've fallen way behind on posting. Lots of reasons...from lack of inspiration to a complete revamp/remodeling of my hobby room/office. I've also been doing some work on the home network and switching over from Chrome to Firefox. FF, btw, while cleaner and quicker than Chrome, doesn't play well with Blogger. I smell a conspiracy. Off-topic...I haven't used a Mozilla product since their first attempt at a browser (Phoenix) but I was a hardcore Netscape Navigator user back in the day. My school district was an early adopter.

But that up above doesn't mean I haven't been busy when it comes to picking up cards and memorabilia. Most of my new acquisitions are additions to my Billy Pierce and Charles Bender collections.My posts of those guys never get much in the way of readership so I'm in no rush to scan and post them.

One group of cards I do have scanned is my card show haul from April. I followed myusual MO....sifting through the cheap vintage boxes and snatching whatever caught my fancy. Some of these I already owned but who wouldn't want a second copy of the '67 Ed Charles?

So here they are. Starting off with some '82 Kelloggs. I have to admit I'm coming around to seeing past Rickey Henderson's quirks and I'm beginning to appreciate what he did on the field.

Schmidt...best NL third baseman I've ever seen.  ;-)

The Wizard of Oz. I always thought the two-tone cap detracted from this uni. Now I'm not so sure.

Here's the back of Ozzie's card blown up so you can read the teeny font used to describe the drama surrounding his trade to the Cardinals during the winter of '81-'82.

Mike Cuellar, at Shea. I think I've written about the time I sat next to him and Fred Gladdingin at a game in the Astrodome. Both were DL'd and sitting right behind home plate. Cuellar was charting pitches. My Dad and I were in the seats he sometimes got from Shell Oil. They were pretty sweet.

Here's The Glider! I hear Bob Murphy's voice in my head whenever I think of this guy. Love that A's uni.

I have this Elston Howard on my PC but I keep thinking that one day I may chase the  '64 set.

Richie Allen. Why isn't he in the Hall of Fame? I think he belongs.

'67 Boog. Because why not?

'64 Juan Pizzaro. See my remarks on the Elston Howard card. Exactly the same here.

This Palmer wasn't a need but I kind of hate leaving his cards in a bargain box.

Love the '61 Post Cereal cards and I love Wally Moon cards so this was a no-brainer.

And I'll finish up with a pair of 1969 Topps Deckle Edge inserts. I really need to dig thru my cards (and that's the plan for the summer) and pull out what I have of these. I'd bet I'm fairly close to the whole thing.

Richie Allen in his 'Rich Allen' mode.

And a sorta stoned-looking Jerry Koosman.

That's it for now. I'll try to do better next time.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Tale of Two Mickeys

A few years ago when I was putting together my '58 Topps set I had to hunt around for a Mantle card that was in decent shape yet still affordable.Atone of the TriStar shows here in Houston I found the card above in a dealer's case and asked about it. The price he quoted seemed too good to be true but he proceeded to mention that he had submitted it to PSA and had it sent back ungraded. He suspected it was trimmed. After showing it to a couple of people at the show that I've dealt with and trust I ened up buying it.

As you can see it's really a beauty. I stuck it in the slot in my '58 binder, knocked off the last few cards I needed for the set, and figured I was done. But something nagged at me. What if PSA had rejected the card because it was a reprint/counterfeit? Trimmed I could live with. Heck, I have cards with writing on them and it doesn't bother me. But the thought that it might not be real bugged me.

Flash forward to this spring and during one of eBay's 20% off days I happen upon a cheap graded Mantle for a good price. With that discount and beaucoups of eBay Bucks I nabbed it for less than $70.

Meanwhile, with a verified Mantle in hand I did what I'd wanted to do for a long time. I sent my trimmed(?) Mickey to SGC for authenticating. It was my first venture into the world of paying to have cards graded and slabbed. SGC has a box on their submission form which allows you to request them to slab a card even if it is altered as long as it's deemed to be real. It took a couple of weeks and about $30 but back it came, looking good in a slab:

It was a relief to know it was a real 1958 Topps mantle even though by now I had another one. And it didn't stay cooped up in plastic long. Once I' scanned it I broke it free and Mickey returned to his rightful spot in my '58 Topps binder. Right there in the sheet with, among others, Don McHahon, Les Moss and my slot-filling Bob Lemke-made #145 Ed Bouchee card.

It's a beautiful thing.

That newer Mantle will stay in it's slab until I decide what to do with it.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Charles Bender M101-2 (Sporting News Supplements)

This is my first venture into these Sporting News Supplements. I really knew nothing about them until I was digging into affordable pieces for my Bender PC.

This one is from the M101-2 set which was distributed as a subscriber incentive with TSN between 1909 and 1913. Here is what Old Cardboard has as a summary:

  • Second major supplement series issued by The Sporting News
  • Borderless eight-by-ten-inch images printed on heavy paper
  • Vast majority of the M101-2 cards were blank-backed
  • Promotion offered with $2 annual subscription
The M101-1 series was issued ten years earlier. Those, btw, are just incredible

M101-2 contains 100 photos (cards?) with a checklist that features some of the game's great names from its early years. Bender was included with the December 8, 1910 TSN and it followed supplements of the A's and Cubs which had been the World Series match-up that year. Bender and Jack Coombs combined to pitch every inning of the five games. Bender went 1-1 with a tough-luck 10th inning loss in Game Four.

The copy I picked up is obviously flawed but with really old items like this that's going to be the condition of the pieces that fit my budget. I'm excited to have it, chipped corners and all. 

For the record here is one I found on the 'net in prime condition. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Blog Bat Around -- Autograph Lineup

The Torren Up Cards blog started a Blog Bat Around where bloggers present a baseball lineup using autographed items from their collection. I'm not much of an autograph collector but I have enough to put this together. I played fast and loose with the original guidelines but I'm sure nobody cares. 

For one thing I expanded the lineup to a nearly full team. I used signed items I had already scanned (most have been posted here previously) and it is heavily weighted towards the Orioles. But let's roll with it. 

The Starting Rotation:

Sandy Koufax kicks it off. Not the best card ever produced but when you have to purchase a Koufax auto card you take what's affordable. 

After a lefty you schedule a righty. Jim Palmer on an Orioles team postcard. It was signed to my son when we met JP at a Jockey promo event in 1989. My boys were just a few months old.

Next in the rotation...my man Billy Pierce. This '61 Topps is one of the cards I sent him to sign.

The back end of my four man rotation is El Presidente!! Dennis signed this O's postcard for me a few years ago when he was the Astros bullpen coach.

Spot Starter: 
Do they even use the term 'spot starter' today? Back in the day when I heard that I immediately thought of Dave Leonard for the Orioles. Holding down the slot for my 'all sig' team is Hideo Nomo on a '96 Fleer. This one should get an asterisk because that signature could be anything!

The Closer:
Tippy Martinez on an 8 x 10. I believe I've told this story before but my wife brought it up again not long ago. I dragged her to Arlington to watch the O's one night about the time Tippy was debuting for the O's. Her being Mexican-American and me being an idiot I convinced her to ask him in Spanish if he was happy in Baltimore. He looked at me and said "I hope to do well in your city" in perfect un-accented English. I later learned he was from Colorado.

The Set-up guy: 
Kent Tekulve on an Archives sig card. Cool shades, bad uni. I got this card to fill out a '4 for $5' purchase at a recent card show.

The long man:
Moe Drabowsky on a Milton Bradley game card. A long-ago card show purchase.

And the position players.....

Catcher (and team ambassador):
Ellie Hendricks on another Orioles postcard. Outside of maybe Ernie Banks nobody loved being a big leaguer more than Elrod. He signed this for me at Yankee Stadium during his coaching days.

First Base:
Boog Powell on a Ted Williams Company card. Show pickup I think.

Second Base: 
Davey Johnson, lousy sig on O's postcard. Obtained at Memorial Stadium by my uncle who, btw, pretty much gave up on the club when Peter Angelos ran Johnson off as manager. Me? I was already pretty much off the baseball boat due to the '94 strike. But what little rooting interest I had at the time was lost when Johnson was pushed out the door.

Yet ANOTHER Orioles postcard.  Cal Ripken signed this in Arlington on one of my last visits to the old (and much funner) Arlington Stadium.

Third Base:
The great Brooks Robinson. Not long after we had our daughter in 1987 we received this 8x10 from Brooks. It arrived out of the blue from his office at Crown Petroleum. He obviously had even filled out the address and return addy himself. Turns out my aunt got his phone number from a mutual friend and called him. He sent two pics when my boys were born a couple of years later, that time personalized to them. Again prompted by my aunt.

Bonus Brooksie sig on an Exhibit card, just because.

The Outfield:
Stan the Man on an Exhibit reprint. I got this thru his estate's website when they were selling off signed items.

Paul Blair on an Archives sig card. Bought on eBay.

Frank Robinson on a banner I made for display at Yankee Stadium in 1969. The story as posted here previously:
In 1969 I went with a buddy, also a Oriole fan, to see the O's play at Yankee Stadium on a mid-week afternoon. We'd decided that we'd make a couple of banners to support our club. We set to work dividing an old bed sheet and, with orange paint and a marker, we each created a work of art. His was the number '5' for Brooks Robinson. Mine was a '20' in orange with 'RF' added on.
We missed the Orioles' batting practice session but we hung out near the third base dugout in hopes the players would see our signs when they warmed up. Then a batboy approached me and asked if I would like him to take my banner to Frank in the clubhouse and show it to him. I said 'Sure' and handed it to him not knowing if I'd see it again. Moments later here comes my banner up the dugout steps being carried by Frank Robinson himself. He asked whose it was and brought it over to me and thanked me for bringing it. He asked for my pen and signed it right in the middle on the '0'. 42 48 years later I still have it. It's discolored and been stained a bit along the way, the orange color had darkened to a pinkish red and the autograph has faded some. But that banner still means more to me than any piece of memorabilia I own. 

A better look at the sig.

And a better FRobby sig on a Nabisco card.

Designated Hitter:
Manny Machado's card came from a Topps Now preseason set (I forget what they called it). Manny is the only reason to watch the O's in 2018.

Pinch Hitter:
Minnie Minoso. This was from a stack of $1 signed cards from a dealer I've known since we worked together at the Houston Post in the early 70s. More of these used below.

The Bench:
Rick Dempsey is the backup catcher, porn 'stache model and rain delay entertainer. I bought a bunch of these signed 4x6 photos years ago. They are made from 'Tadder' photos. Mort Tadder was the Orioles' team photographer from 1961 through 2003 when he retired at 74. During those years he shot thousands of pictures of Oriole players, stars and otherwise. 

Lee May, Tadder 4x6

Richie Ashburn from that $1 stack.

Eric Davis. This was my first (and only) big-time player sig pull from a pack. Colon cancer survivor, Comeback Play of the Year, Oriole late in his career.One of the most talented players I've ever watched.

Kenny Singleton. $1 stack card.

Alan Trammell. Ditto. He's headed to Cooperstown in late July. Well deserved.

Bip Roberts. Because it's a blog. $1 signed card stack.

Ron Hansen on a 1960 Rookie Stars. I love this subset.

Earl Weaver. On the couple of occasions that I met Earl and had a chance to talk to him I didn't want to ask for an autograph. This Tadder photo may be the only sig I own.

Coaching staff:
Cal Ripken Sr. on a Donruss from 1982. Once a friend and I (he was a huge O's fan as well) were among the first to enter the old Arlington Stadium when the gates opened in the late afternoon for an Orioles-Rangers game. We went down behind the Orioles dugout and found Cal Sr. sitting in the box seats near the field, smoking. We asked him a few questions and he talked with us for quite awhile. I don't recall what the conversation was about but I do remember he said something funny about Earl Weaver.

Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Sparky Anderson. Just imagine sitting around a table at a hotel bar and listening to the baseball stories this staff would tell. All these are $1 stack cards.

General Manager:
Fuji...on a signed Fuji card! This team will need a smart, funny front office guy who's a tough negotiator. I figure Fuji, with his flea market-honed dickering skills, would be perfect.

So there it is. My Blog Bat Around signature All Star team. I'd go to war with these guys.