Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fairfield Bubble Pack from Target, Part #1

A couple of weeks ago I was in Target and bought one pack each of 2013 Gypsy Queen and Archives. After I opened them I had the same feeling I had about three weeks into my fantasy baseball league. I'd be better off giving my cash to someone who could put it to good use, like a homeless person.
I spent $6 or $8 or whatever it was and the stuff I got wasn't much fun and was instantly forgettable. But when I had been there I saw some of the Fairfield re-packs that folks blog about from time to time. There were a couple of options including one that guaranteed an 'autograph or relic' card. Cost was $12 I think. Pfffft.... I was not about to drop $12 on an autograph of some schmoe I had no interest in, so I passed. I also saw these $3.99 hanging packs of 100 cards. I ended up not buying any because I had the GQ and Archive packs in hand but I kept them in mind.
I was back at Target a few days later and figured I'd pick one up. There were about eight of them on the rack and I picked out the only one that did not have a 1986 Will Clark All Star card showing on the back. For $4, about the cost of a pack of new cards, I'd get 100 cards and they were sure to be, even if worthless, more interesting than the Charlie Hough on an '87 design Archive. And I was right. On both counts. The 100 cards I received are pretty much without any value but they sure were more interesting than those two packs of 2013s.
I busted one side of the blister at a time and went through them slowly. Here's some of what was among the 50 cards the right side.

Yup, three Jose Mesa cards. They were packed consecutively and near the front of the stack, too. Now, while I dig big ol' relievers with intimidating stuff this wasn't promising. It made me wonder about how these things are collated.
 I waded through more riff-raff like 2010 Topps, '91 Fleers and minor league shiny cards of guys who never made it. But I got a few cards that I liked immediately.

A 1991 Carlton Fisk All Star that also has the 1990 AL Triples leaders listed on the back.

A 1995 Topps Walt Weiss. I had to look at this a second or two before it was clear to me that it's an action sequence of Weiss turning a dp. I haven't seen this used on a card other than this one.

Hall of Famer Robin Yount's 1987 Topps. Now a real '87 card beats a phony '87 card any day, at least in my book.

This card is from a company called Invincible and it's a card of Fernando Seguignol. I looked him up and he played for the Expos and then went to Japan, came back stateside to play for the Yanks before he went back to Japan to continue his career. But the interesting thing was how this card contains some sort of plastic insert. The circle containing the player portrait is semi-transparent and is like a film slide. Never seen that before.

This shiny Upper Deck Matt Kemp card was one of the ones that showed on the outside of the package. It's one of the reasons I selected this particular hanger pack. I have a small Matt Kemp collection. I wish he was so glad he's back helping my fantasy team these days. 

The best of the other 50 cards will come in another post.

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)

I've been to Chicago before but not during baseball season so our vacation last week gave us the chance to visit the 'Friendly Confines' and take in a game. The fact that the Astros were in town was just a happy coincidence enjoyed by my Houston-born sons. 

This is a bit off my usual style of post but I'm going to show a few pics from our stay in the Windy City. First stop out of Midway was a great little family-owned hot dog stand in the shadows of Comiskey Park U.S. Cellular Field.

On Sunday our little group took the 'L' to the Addison St. station and watched the Astros put on one of the worst exhibitions of baseball I've seen since my tee-ball coaching days. Below are my twin boys, Brooks Robinson Andrews and James Palmer Andrews (who came in from Lincoln, NE for the fun). 

Brooks' better half Ashley was making her second trip to Wrigley. They had visited last July.

Here is the merry band of Astro fans in our seats in Section 216. Just out of sight are an Orioles fan husband/wife pairing that were sitting in the row in front of us, a lone Oriole cap-wearing fan in the next section and a couple of O's fans sitting a few rows in front of us that we noticed when the crowd thinned late in the game. Sadly the Orioles were getting crushed by the Jays that afternoon so my family had little to cheer about. But we had a great time anyway.

Pregame panorama. I learned how to take those about 10 seconds prior to this attempt.

I loved seeing the rooftop bleachers. They were packed. And it was a beautiful day.

Joe Torre (that's him leaning on the rail) traversed the catwalk behind the suites just above us several times. Every time I saw him it was too late for a good picture. 

We stayed to the bitter end of the Cubs' stomping of the bumbling 'Stros. You really can't leave until they sing that song and raise the "W" flag above the scoreboard.

So much for the travelog. Here is my only souvenir, the game program. Pretty routine as far as programs go. The usual selected player blurbs, previews of opponents coming in on the current homestand and lots of ads.

But contained in the centerfold was a good old fashioned heavy stock scorecard. What was really cool was that the 30-something (and very attractive) gal in front of us was keeping score on hers! I haven't seen anyone keeping score at a ballgame in ages. 

We were in town when Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals was going on at the United Center but we were at a wedding and had to track the game on smartphones during the reception. It was really fun to see the city decked out in Hawks flags. They were all over the place downtown.

We've seen the Blackhawks at the United Center (a great experience!) and when I was growing up the Bruins were my Rangers' major rival (always fighting for 5th/6th places behind the playoff bound Hawks, Wings, Leafs and Habs). Somewhere along the line that animosity seemed to fade a bit but it never left me so, given all that, I was pulling hard for Chicago. I sprung for the $5 to be able to watch the big 6th Game on Monday night's flight out of Midway. Lots of fun. Here is my only card of a current Blackhawk. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

1939 Play Ball Babe Dahlgren...and a story worth telling.

While doing some digging for my latest 1960 Topps managers card post I read Joe Gordon's SABR page and came across this paragraph, note the line in italics:

[Joe] Gordon plowed new ground in 1941. Dissatisfied with the play of Babe Dahlgren, Lou Gehrig's successor at first base, the Yankees traded Babe to the Boston Braves of the National League in February and moved Gordon to first base. (It probably didn't help Dahlgren that he was the subject of rumors that he smoked marijuana. In 1943, Dahlgren voluntarily took a drug test, which was negative.) New York brought up shortstop Phil Rizzuto and second baseman Gerry Priddy from their Kansas City Blues farm team of the American Association. Under the tutelage of teammate Johnny Sturm, Gordon learned to play first base in short order. But Priddy was having troubles at second base and on May 15, after a 13-1 pasting at the hands of the White Sox, he was benched. Gordon moved back to second base (he had played 30 games at first) and Sturm was inserted at first base.
Marijuana? A 1941 drug test? Interesting. With all the talk of PEDs these days we tend to forget that previous generations of ballplayers had their own issues (alcohol, amphetamines, etc.). I'd heard of Babe Dahlgren. I knew he was the guy who had the job of replacing Lou Gehrig at first base for the Yanks, but never knew that story and I wanted to know more. So I poked around and discovered this book, written by Dahlgren's grandson Matt which sheds light on the subject (a glaring spotlight, really).

 In writing the book Matt Dahlgren was trying to find the source of the rumors that essentially ruined his grandfather's career and haunted him until his death in 1996. And he succeeded. New York Times writer Murray Chase sums up the Babe Dahlgren story and talks about the book far better that I can in this Times article from 2007.

I ordered a used copy of the book from Amazon and it was here waiting for me when we got back from vacation but there are a few in front of it in my reading queue. I'm looking forward to it.

Also waiting for me was the 1939 Playball Babe Dahlgren that is shown above. It's my first card from that set I think. It's really in nice condition, too. A little off center but everything else about it is top notch. For about $10 shipped on eBay I am very happy with it. The Play Balls have a clean design as you can see, picture on the front, a write up and particulars on the back. Plenty of background info on this groundbreaking set is available thru the magic of the interwebs.

Bonus section... Matt Dahlgren has put several videos featuring his grandfather on a You Tube page. Well worth checking out for the historic value. There is also an interview with Babe Dahlgren about his replacing Gehrig. I'm going to embed one of the videos. This is my favorite. Look carefully for Al Schacht, the 'Clown Price of Baseball', doing his routine on the mound prior to Game Two. And this is extremely rare color footage of the '39 Series. Priceless stuff.

Joe Gordon and Charlie Grimm

Joe Gordon played 11 seasons in the big leagues with the Yankees and Indians. In nine of those seasons he was an All Star. In five of them he was in the top ten in MVP voting and he won the award in 1942. He's a Hall of Famer

He was a manager for four AL clubs over six seasons although he managed only two full seasons, with the '59 Indians and the '69 KC Royals. His best finish was a second place with that Indian club. None of that really tells the story of Joe Gordon. Larry Doby, who followed Jackie Robinson into the big leagues and blazed his own trail in the AL, credits Gordon with being a big factor in his career, both as a mentor and as a teammate who befriended him when others wouldn't. Gordon's SABR page is highly recommended. Lots of interesting stories there including the Gordon/Doby friendship, his Steinbrenner/Martin type of relationship with Indian owner Frank Lane, being traded for another manager, his war experiences and much more.

Charley Grimm, known as 'Jolly Cholly', packed a lot of baseball into a professional career that stretched from his debut with the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics through his final season as a coach on the Cub's 'College of Coaches' staff in 1963 and on to a job in the Cubs front office until his death.

Along the way he played first base for 20 seasons and compiled a .290 lifetime average, mostly for the Cubs and Pirates. He managed for 19 seasons, for the Cubs and Braves and had a winning percentage of .547 while winning three pennants. He playing and managing overlapped as he did both for the Cubs from 1932 through 1936.

His managerial jobs came in four different decades and include three separate terms on Chicago's North Side. In between he managed in the minors for Bill Veeck and was a coach in the majors.

Grimm played in two World Series with the Cubs and hit .364 although he didn't win a ring. He homered in Game Four of the 1929 Series to help the Cubs establish and 8-0 lead that disappeared with a 10 run explosion by the Athletics in the home half of the 7th.

A good bio of Charley Grimm can be found here. It discusses many aspects of his career including the uncorroborated charge that he had a say in preventing Buck O'Neill from being a member of the College of Coaches therefore keeping O'Neill from serving as the majors first black manager.

Grimm's association with the Cubs lasted until his death in 1983 and lasted about 50 years. After he died his ashes were spread in Wrigley Field.

Monday, June 24, 2013

1973 Topps Carlton Fisk

Carlton Fisk, hero of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Any baseball fan old enough can in all likelihood tell you about where he or she was when they watched that dramatic blast. I know i can. I was in a friend's room in the dorms at the University of Houston. Big crowd of buddies watching. I don't even remember who I was pulling for, probably the Sox. But I remember the uproar when Fisk hit it out off Pat Darcy to force the Reds into a 7th game.
I'm not a big fan of the '73 set but I've got a nice size stash of them. This is Fisk's second card, he shared a '72 rookie cards with Mike Garman and Cecil Cooper. The Topps 'Rookie Bowl' trophy isn't as cool as the 'Top Hat' one but it's still a nice addition to the cards.
Here is a video of that moment including a postgame interview with Fisk.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hammer Time #3

Technically this is not a part of my 1959 set that I'm blogging. This is my 'other' Hank Aaron '59 All Star card. I wrote about how I ended up with two of these over on that blog.

I mentioned in that post that I'd be happy yo trade it for something. I got no takers but the offer still stands. If you have a '58 or '60 Topps All Star card that you'd be willing to trade for the Aaron, I'd be all ears.

These '59 All Star cards have grown on me as I've dealt with them but I still rank them behind both the 1958 and 1960 All Star subsets.

Random Hank Aaron Fact: When Hank left the Negro League's Indianapolis Clowns his 2nd base slot was taken over by the first of three women to play in that league, Toni Stone. She is a pretty interesting character and I may have to dig a little deeper on this.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hammer Time #2

This is just the second example of an NL player from the 1958 All Star subset that I've posted. It's a favorite subset of mine and I'm slowly crawling towards completion. S-L-O-W-L-Y being the operative term.

One thing I like is the stats versus opposing teams that filled the back. Hank hit 10 homers against the Pirates in 1957. Ten! When you played 7 other clubs 22 times each in your season stuff like that could happen. But still. Ten homers in twenty two games means one almost every other game. I wonder if the Bucs' staff ever knocked Hank down?

Random Hank Aaron fact: There is a Hank Aaron State Trail. It runs between Milwaukee's Miller Park Stadium and the Lake Michigan lakefront

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hammer Time #1

From my stacks of slightly worn 'vintage' cards comes the first of three Hammerin' Hank Aaron cards. There is no special reason for this short three post tribute to Henry. It's not his birthday week, I'm not a Braves fan (except for their Milwaukee-era caps) and I'm not heading to Atlanta as far as I know (in fact I'll be in Chicago later this week).

I simply was going through some cards and came across three Aarons and figured 'why not?'. This is, of course, the 1973 Aaron, numbered 100 in the set. It brings out mixed feelings in me. First it's good because it's Aaron, one of the greatest players of his or any era, a guy I was lucky enough to see play many times.

OTOH it's not a one of the classic Aaron cards. For one thing he's listed at 1st Base. For another he's wearing that goofy Braves' kit that featured sleeve feathers. I might not have hated it so much but for the fact that the Braves have had some great uniforms through the years. This isn't one of them.

And the '73 Topps set in general kind of leaves me flat. There is that generic silhouette, the odd color combos and most of all, ABSOLUTELY most of all.... the 'action' photography, much of which appears to be taken by an 11 year old from the box seats on Camera Day.

But I dig the Aaron. It's much more tightly cropped and it has one of my favorite card features... a huge ass wall of stat text on the back. All those wonderful numbers lined up in columns. They were just begging to be compared and contrasted by the 'much younger and more into stats' me.

To be fair, not every '73 live action type card sucked. The Jim Palmer is one of my favorites of him.

Random Hank Aaron Fact: On June 14, 1952, Aaron made his professional baseball debut at Carson Park with the Eau Claire WI. Bears.

There is a bust outside that ballpark commemorating that.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Dunno What It Is, You Tell Me..... #2

A few weeks ago I received an email from another blogger who thanked me for including his blog in my 'blogroll' but said that while he read mine from time to time he wasn't going to add it to his 'blogroll' because I posted about things that hardly any of his readers are interested in.

And that's OK. I get it. I know not everyone has the same interests. And I realize that one factor in my having only 32 'followers' is that my collection is pretty lame compared to all the great stuff that most everyone else posts about. But I'll just keep truckin' along, putting up my stuff. I'm sure not looking for affirmation in posting about the email, either. It was just a perspective I had never given much thought to.

These two items are probably exactly what that blogger was referring to. Actress things. The first is some sort of collectable picture and fact sheet of Greer Garson, hole-punched to fit into a 5x7ish binder. The scan of the front side cuts off the left 'hole punch' section. It's USA made but don't know anything about the set it's a part of. But if it's Greer Garson, and has a great picture that shows her great beauty, and only cost a buck....why not?

And next is a French item featuring Claudia Cardinale of Italy that looks like it is related to the Jennifer Beals 'card' that I posted the other day. Same size, shape, photo credits and general layout but nothing to indicate if it originated as part of that same set.

Ms. Cardinale is another favorite of mine based largely on her work in Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time In The West. If you've never seen it, you should.

Here is Claudia Cardinale's Google image page. You're welcome.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Three Crafty NL Managers from the 1960 Topps set

Three more from the 1960 Managers subset. First up this time we see the Dodgers longtime skipper, Walt Alston

Alston has one at bat in the majors. One. On September 27th of 1936, as a member of the Cardinals,  Alston entered the game at first base after Frankie Frisch pinch hit for the ejected Johnny Mize. He came up to bat later and fanned. Made and error at first as well. Never saw the field in a major league game again, as a player at least.

 That didn't deter him from having a standout Hall of Fame career in the Dodgers' dugouts in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. He took over the Dodgers from Charlie Dressen in 1954 and held the job for 23 seasons. His clubs won for World Series' titles and seven NL pennants. he managed 3658 games and won 2040 for a '558 winning percentage. Only four times out of those 23 seasons did the Dodgers finish in the second division of the NL.

The serious and studious looking Alston never signed more than a one year contract as manager of the Dodgers. As always he appears on his card looking like your favorite old uncle. 

Danny Murtaugh on the other hand played in the big leagues for nine seasons as an infielder for the Phils and Pirates and, for a handful of games, the Braves. He took two years to serve his country during WWII. He played almost half those seasons as a regular with his best year being 1948. He led the league in several defensive categories as a 2nd baseman and hit .290 with 71 RBI.

He managed in the Pirates chain after his playing days, coached with the big club and then took over the helm in Pittsburgh in the middle of 1957. Through the years Murtaugh had four separate terms as Pirate skipper totaling 15 years. He won the World series in 1060 (thanks to Bill Mazeroski's dramatic homer) and in 1971 when Roberto Clemente and friends knocked off the Orioles.

In just over 2000 games Murtaugh's Pirate clubs won at a .544 clip.

Danny looks pretty managerial on his card. He's posing as if giving the home plate ump the 'what for' over balls and strikes. Note the batting helmet he's wearing. As I understand it Branch Rickey wanted every member of the team to wear a helmet at all times during a game. Even the pitchers. That's why you frequently see Pirate cards that show someone like Ron Kline wearing a helmet.

Here is the late, great Chuck Thompson's call of the Maz homer.

Now Bill Rigney really looks like a manager. Arms crossed and leaning on the dugout (wood???) rail. Mouth clenched, eyes hard. I bet he's hacked because when he asked his star Willie Mays to sign a ball for his grandkid Mays never looked up and then rolled the signed ball across the table at him. Hey, it's possible likely.

Rigney played all around the infield for the New York Giants from 1946 to 1953, four of those years as a regular. He made the '48 All Star game and drew a walk after subbing in for Red Schoendienst. He began managing with the Giants in New York in 1956 and was a fixture in dugouts in both leagues right through 1976 when he returned after four years as an exec to manage the Giants a second time. 

In addition to his six seasons with the Giants he managed the Angels for nine and the Twins for three. His 1970 Twins team won the AL West title but fell to the Orioles in the playoffs. After managing he served in the front office of the A's and was a broadcaster.