Sunday, October 18, 2020

Buck O'Neil Book Report

 With some extra time on my hands this summer I decided that I'd do a lot more reading than I had been. And I don't mean online. I'm sort of a dinosaur in that I still like the feel of a book in my hands. I'd been looking at The Athletic website (100% worth the subscription cost, btw) and came across Joe Posnanski's series chronicling the Top 100 Players in baseball history, at least according to him. It was a wonderful distraction from the lack of a season in the spring and early summer.

 He did it as a countdown, and while there were plenty of arguments to be made about where he put certain players, there could be no argument that his essays were marvelously written. Just terrific stuff, day after day. If you are not familiar with Posnanski's work, you are missing out.

When he got down to the last ten it was really fun to speculate on who would reign as #1 (it was Willie Mays). But, as I said, every player's story was so well written. Many suggestions rolled in that he publish the entire list in book form. I'd pre-order that for sure.

Soon after the series finished I check and found that Posnanski had written a book about Buck O'Neil. Entitled The Soul of Baseball, it is a travelogue of sorts which follows the year Posnanski spent on the road with O'Neil as the 90-year-old Negro League vet did what he'd been doing most of his life, spreading the gospel of baseball in general, the Negro leagues in particular.


I wasn't sure what to expect but I was bowled over as I read it. Posnanski came to really love O'Neil as they met fans at minor league parks, at baseball gatherings and at funerals of Buck's former teammates and rivals. The book made me laugh and tear up. And it made me do something I don't think I've ever done before...I went back and immediately re-read it. Not every page, mind you, but I dug through to find some of the wonderful stories that the book held. Posnanski shone a light on a one-of-a-kind human. 

Soon after I finished I shipped the book off to someone I know who will appreciate it. My guess is I won't get it back. But that's OK.

Then I went and found an authenticated signed pic of Buck O'Neil for my wall. As the book makes clear, Buck signed a lot of autographs. So many that I doubt anyone would bother to forge his signature. just no profit in it.


Buck O'Neil passed away just about the time the first edition of the book was being published. And that was not too long after the special committee that named many Negro League players and pioneers to the Baseball Hall of Fame but failed to include Buck. O'Neil himself would tell you he was a good, not great player. And while he was the first black coach in the majors, he never got a chance to step into the spotlight as the first black manager. 

But you can't possibly read this book and not see what a travesty his exclusion is. Naming an award after him doesn't make up for the lack of a plaque on those walls.

The book is available for five dollars or less in paper form at various sites. It's probably a $2 download to your Kindle. If you love baseball, or even if you want to feel better about humanity, it's money very, very well spent.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

My Five Favorite Pink Cards

Collecting Cutch is running a contest to raise money for breast cancer awareness. Here is his intro post with the details. I can't keep up with the parameters due to some projects but I figured I'd contribute one post at least. Hey, I LOVE pink cards, always have. That, and the fact that my sister is just getting over fighting this battle, is why I'm trying to help in some small way.

The list is restricted to cards I own. I've seen a few nice ones on other blogs over the last few days but I'll just show mine. In no order (except the last one) here they are.


'65 Topps Clemente. He had some really nice cards in his time. Who doesn't like the '65 set and it's Clemente, shown with a nice closeup in a pink frame. I've always liked how the team colors were reflected via the pennant on the Pittsburgh cards (and some of the others).


Yaz at Yankee Stadium and happy to be a ballplayer. I can't recall a Yaz card that was issued before this great '66 issue that had him smiling. It's a good look for one of the greats.

 


Bobby Layne was kind of like Stan Musial and Ted Williams. They were winding up great careers when I was just beginning to appreciate greatness in athletes I watched. My father had some stories of watching Layne play against his Giants, but like Williams, I can't remember having seen him although I'm sure i must have. Full disclosure...that's not my scan. Mine seemed out of focus for some reason and I don't want to dig the card out of the whatever random box I have my aborted '58 Topps build hiding in.


'58 Ryne Duren. Another guy my Dad loved. He never failed to tell me about Duran squinting in to see the signs and throwing warm-up pitches into the screen, all in an attempt to intimidate hitters. I'm not sure how it escaped me until now that Duren is wearing an Athletics uni on this card. Seems like airbrushing out the piping would have been even easier that adding a NY logo to the cap. 

This last card is my favorite pink card. I just showed it here last week. Hey there, Gibby!


OPC Gordie All-Star card

I recently went hog wild on eBay and put my eBay Bucks towards a bunch of 1967 Topps stars. They showed up today but I wanted to get this card posted before I dig into those.

This 1970/71 OPC Gordie Howe All Star is one I've seen a few times and just never got around to bidding on/buying. Then the same Net54 poster that had the Spahn card available had this for sale as well. 

The look on Howe's face is pure 'Gordie Howe'. He looks like he's eyeing the guy who just scored against the Wings and is celebrating a little too much. I'd hate to be that guy. The back of this card is hardly worth scanning, let alone posting. 

It's part of a puzzle (I hate 'puzzle back' subsets) and it shows just a piece of the border and some shadowing. The set had two different puzzles as part of the All Stars, Gordie and Gilbert Perreault of the Sabres. (I could be wrong on this, my memory is lax and I'm too lazy to do any digging right now.)

I did find a pic of the back of this Howe so I avoided having to crank up my cranky scanner.


 What did I tell ya? 😏


Monday, October 5, 2020

'52 Spahnnie

 

 

I've wanted to add a '52 Topps to my Warren Spahn pages for some time. I finally scored this one from someone over on the Net54 card forums. It's got some flaws, but don't we all?

The write-up on the back called him 'smooth and graceful', and he certainly was that. I only got to see him in person at the tail end of his career but it was still a kick to watch him (pun intended).

Spahn is one of those guys who doesn't seem to have ever had a 'bad' card. OK, maybe the '65 where he's a cap less coach isn't all that attractive, but it's still a '65 of one of the greats. BTW...he won 363 games despite losing three full years while serving in WWII in the U.S. Army in Europe. He was 22 when he entered the service. It's hard to believe he wouldn't have been a 400-game winner had he pitched during those years. But he sacrificed a part of his career as did many Americans, ballplayers and otherwise.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Gibby

Another bit of terrible news. 2020 just keeps getting worse.


I don't care how bad this card is. I'll never upgrade it. It's been mine since 1959. I love everything about it. Gibby's smile...he's happy to be a ballplayer... the pink frame...I love pink cards...and the fact that I've owned it for over 60 years.

My oft re-posted Gibson story:

I was fortunate enough to see Gibson pitch and believe me, he was a real badass on the mound. My favorite memory comes, ironically, from 1975, his last season and the final time I saw him perform. I attended this game in mid-August with a friend of mine who happens to be a lifelong Cardinal fan. As Gibby's career came to an end he struggled through a year that saw him saddled with a 3-10 record and an ERA over five. But on this day Gibson came into the game after the Cards had taken a one run lead in the top of the eleventh. I distinctly recall watching from seats behind the Cardinal dugout as he stalked out to the mound with that look that few pitchers had. My friend and I both saw it and said to one another 'Game over." And it was. Gibby blew away three Astros (looking!!) to wrap up the game. Awesome.

Rest In Peace. One of the greatest ever and the best right-handed pitcher I've ever had the privilege to watch.


 






Sunday, September 27, 2020

My Kind Of Town

The neighborhood mailwoman delivered a big white envelope last week. It was from Jedi Jeff of 2x3 Heroes. Jeff is almost as sporatic as I am when it comes to posting lately but at least he's had an excuse...he's a grandfather again!. (I'm jealous..my kids and their spouses only add pets to their households). 

Jeff's gift was Chicaco and Baltimore-centric. It led off this this gem:

That 8x10 beauty immediately earned a place above my desk. I had a signed Billy Pierce photo there already but this is an upgrade. The old one wasn't nearly as clear or bright a photo. This one made and inmmediate improvement to my Wall of Fame....

Before:


After:
 

 

Better, right? I think so. 

Jeff included a couple of nine-pocket shhets filled with Orioles, some shiny, some special, most I've not seen before. Here are the two sheets but I hadn't realized until I scanned them that most of the pockets had two cards so double this goodness.

BTW...here's Earl's quote from the front of that Upper Deck card:

I bet he never admitted that theory to Jim Palmer.

That Ben McDonald is the legit version of his rookie card. The logoless ::cough:: 'error' ::cough:: is the card that made me give up on cards back then. The Schoop and Jones cards are unique enough to have bumped cards from my fantasy baseball binder.

Jeff included some signed 4x5s of White Sox guys, two that have a connection in the 1960 set. Gary Peters and J.C. Martin have their photos swapped on their '60 Topps cards.
 

That's the old Comiskey. I really regret that I never got to a game there.


 There also signed photos of guys with Sox-Orioles histories, like Greg Walker


Good stuff all the way around. And doubly appreciated in these times when adding new stuff without card shows is a challenge. To say nothing of our cancelled trip to visit our daughter in Chicagoland.

Thanks, again Jeff. Enjoy that new granddaughter. She's a cutie.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

RIP Gale Sayers

 I had intended to post a wonderful gift package that arrived yesterday but I'll hold off a day or so on that. I just saw the headline announcing the death of Gale Sayers. He was 77.


I've been a football fan for as long as I can remember. Sayers, as I have droned on about many times here, was as dynamic a player as I've ever seen. For pure jaw-dropping ability he ranks up there with Jim Brown, Lenny Moore and Barry Sanders. His career reminds me of that of Sandy Koufax. He wasn't around long, but while he was, he was dazzling.

I'll re-post some of the Sayers items I've shown here before. And finish off with a video or two of his highlights. First, one of the best cards I own. His Philly Gum RC from 1966.







Trust me whan I tell ya this video is worth the time.