Monday, April 30, 2012

Oriole Player Postcards Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson played one year with the Orioles. He was a Bird in 1976 between his much more publicized stints in Oakland and New York. He missed the month of April but managed to finish with 27 homers. The O's finished 2nd to the Yanks that year but never were really a threat and they were 10 plus games back when the season ended.

Pictures of Jackson in Oriole garb are uncommon. Seeing him in the hideous orange jersey/orange cap combo is even more uncommon. I sent him one of these cards to sign c/o the Yankees a few years later, maybe '79 or so. Needless to say I never got it back.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

1961 Topps Don Mossi

I pulled this card out of a cheap vintage bin at the last card show I attended. I like the '61 set and I like Don Mossi so it was an easy purchase. Nice to Tiger/Briggs Stadium in the background as well.

No cheap Don Mossi 'appearance' shots from me. They've all been done. Instead a link to a chapter in Mike Shannon's Tales from the Dugout book that I found that gives an insight into the guy. It's worth a look. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frank Robinson 1994 Nabisco All-Star Legends

Tonite the Orioles will honor Frank Robinson with the unveiling of a bronze statue at Camden Yards. I wish I could be there. As with any Oriole fan who was aware of the club during his playing tenure I have an enormous amount of reverence for Frank. His arrival in Baltimore in 1966 turned the team into a championship club and a contender for the better part of a decade. He played baseball that way it was meant to be played. I always thought that among his many talents his most valuable was his knack for making everyone around him play better. He was instantly recognisable on the field whether he was hitting...


...or just running out a dinger.....

...he had a certain classic grace and style.

My Dad and I were at Yankee Stadium the night in June of 1966 when Frank made a spectacular catch while tumbling into the seats to save an Oriole win in the first game of a doubleheader. With a two run lead in the bottom of the ninth Eddie Watt put a pair of runners on and was relieved by Stu Miller. Roy White greeted Miller with a drive to right that Frank leaped up for and grabbed while going backwards over the railing.

 I had a back cover of Baseball Digest that showed the sequence of him catching it, falling into the stands and getting up. Had it on my wall for years. BTW... Ralph Houk got tossed when he was arguing the call during the lineup card exchange for the second game.

In 1969 I took a banner to Yankee Stadium I painted with Frank's #20. I stood along the rail by the vistors' dugout before the game. A bat boy offered to take it to the clubhouse since we had missed batting practice. Soon after that Frank came up the steps of the dugout with the signed banner, asked who's it was, and gave it back to me. I still have it.

One final Frank story, and my favorite. I was with my University of Houston buddies watching the Cougars play Arizona State in 1972 in the Astrodome. At one point I turn around and in the aisle is a guy who looks just like Tommy John. Dawned on us that it WAS Tommy John, the Dodgers were watching the game right behind us while killing time before their game with the Astros that night. Then we saw that the whole section was filled with the Dodger team and Frank was sitting at the end of my row. I had to go over and say 'hello' and make some stupid small talk about the O's missing him while he signed my football program.

It should be a great nite in Baltimore. Thanks for the memories, Frank Robinson!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oriole Player Postcards Eddie Watt

Another example of my Oriole postcard collection. This is a late 60's issue of reliever Eddie Watt. Eddie, an Iowa native, debuted as a starter for the O's in 1966 but quickly was transformed into a major cog in the Orioles' bullpen committee that served them so well during the 'glory days' of the franchise. His career numbers are pretty impressive: a record of 38-36 in 411 games pitched, 240 games finished, 80 saves, and an ERA of 2.91.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Batman The Movie cards, Robert Wuhl

A week ago my wife and I and many friends attended a University of Houston alumni gala honoring, among others, my friend and former roommate, actor Robert Wuhl. I've known Robert since 1972 or so. He's a great guy and fun to be around. 

He's had a very successful career as a comedian, writer, director and actor. He's done dozens of movies and TV shows. His best film work, in my opinion, was as Al Stump in Cobb which starred Tommy Lee Jones as the great ballplayer, intense and prickly in retirement.

You might know him as HBO's Arli$$ or one of him many supporting roles in films such as Bull Durham and Good Morning Vietnam.

He played Alexander Knox in the first of the Batman films and appeared on several cards issued by Topps for that movie. Here are a few. At the bottom is a shot of Robert and my late father at the 2005 World Series. We were Robert's guests and watched Game Two from Roger Clemens' suite in Minute Maid Park. My Dad was thrilled to be there and despite the Astros' loss he had a ball. It's a great memory for me and I'm very grateful that Robert made it possible.

The two series of Batman the Movie cards are the only modern non-sports cards I own, the only full set I have picked up since I collected Mars Attacks and Civil War News cards as a kid.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Oriole Player Postcards Rudy May & Mike Flanagan

The Orioles, like many other teams, produced player postcards that were originally intended for use as 'mailouts' by players who received autograph requests. The Orioles still produce and sell the postcards. I've seen some of the newer one featured on autograph collector sites such as The Great Orioles Autograph Project and Eutaw Street Cardboard and others.

I collected the postcards from the mid 70's though the late 80s. Most of the ones produced during that time-frame are similar to the ones above, outdoor shots with Memorial Stadium in the background or studio shots with blue backgrounds. There are lots and lots of variation, even among the 'same' card of the same player. Different cropping, font size and such varied from one year to another.

The earliest cards, circa 1954, were issued in black and white. There were specialized issues such as 'Health' series which featured safety messages, etc. One collector who cataloged the Oriole cards reported variations as minuscule as the amount of white space between the name and the picture itself. There were cards with 'postcard' backs (address line, stamp 'here' boxes and a message area) but the majority of mine are of the blank back style. Ed Allen has a site that is devoted to Oriole postcards and he has a 'book' available with photocopies of all the cards.

For a long time I tried to collect all the variations and bought bulk lots of the postcards sight unseen hoping to find some different cards. As a result I have multiple boxes and binders of them taking up closet space. I also have some that are autographed and some I received via player requests.

Like the Tadder photos these combine to show a timeline of personnel and uniform changes through the years. I'll through a few up on the blog from time to time.

Rudy May came to the Orioles from the Yankees in a huge June, 1976 trade that also saw the O's acquire Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez and Dave Pagan. May won 29 games for the Birds in a season and a half before being traded to the Expos after the '77 season.

Mike Flanagan was a star for the club in the late 70s and early 80s and won three postseason games for the Birds. He was the AL Cy Young winner in 1979. He won a total of 141 games in Baltimore and 26 more for the Blue Jays late in his career. He's a member of the Orioles Hall of Fame. He served as pitching coach, broadcaster and General manager for the Orioles following his retirement. Flanny died in 2001.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

T206 Christy Mathewson

I've got the itch...again. I've been looking at my vintage stuff a lot lately. This T-206 Mathewson (brown cap/Old Mill back) is the coolest card I own. At one time a long time ago, before I had a family and worried about stuff like saving for kids college educations, I went to card shows looking for tobacco cards in decent shape. Prices then were no where near what they are now. Graded cards were around but I paid no attention.

I'm not sure what I had hoped to do except buy as many as I could afford. I knew damn well I wasn't going to complete any of the sets! I just got a kick out of holding a card that some kid had held seven decades before. I bought this Christy Mathewson, one card each of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. And I tracked down the nine Baltimore Oriole minor leaguers included. I expanded to some other tobacco cards, mostly the gorgeous T-205 Gold Borders.

But eventually I could no longer justify spending that kind of money even though the prices then were very reasonable (I bought most of the Baltimore cards as a package for maybe $30 or $40). But with the sale of the Wagner card in the news I got to thinking about how I enjoyed obtaining these beauties and how much easier it would be now with eBay to add a few.

So I'm on a quest. I've got my eyes on a few 1895 Mayo Cut Plug cards on eBay now that, while far from pristine, look acceptable and are at a decent price of are listed with the 'make on offer' option. I'll see what I come up with. I like having a project.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

1991 Pro Set Fred Couples

My wife and I were at a University of Houston Awards Gala this past Saturday. They were auctioning off some great 'packages' to benefit the general scholarship fund. Three were golf related and contained signed Fred Couples items. My boys and I are big fans of Fred. I bid on a couple of the packages but I was left in the dust by the big spenders pretty quickly. Oh well.

This Pro Set card is one of several my sons received back from Fred after he won the Shell Houston Open in 2003 and became the first UH golfer to win the hometown tourney. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

1961 Fleer Bill Russell

For awhile when I was in college at Houston I had a job doing the p.a. and/or electronic scoreboard for the women's varsity basketball games. Through that job I ended up spending one Sunday afternoon working as the scoreboard operator for an ABC televised NBA game between the Pistons and Rockets at Hofheinz Pavilion on campus.

I found myself one seat away from the guy doing the color commentary, none other than Bill Russell. Other than his saying "Hello" to me (and everyone else working the table) I had no interaction with him. And I knew better than to ask for an autograph. He was a notorious non-signer back then. But it was a cool thing to be that close to a legend, especially a Celtic legend like Russell. If I had a rooting interest in an NBA team growing up, the Celtics were it. The Boston-Los Angeles playoff rivalry was worth watching even if a lot of the NBA wasn't.

I had been wanting a vintage Bill Russell for a long time. The field of possibilities was narrower than getting a Johnny U or even a Gordie Howe card. But patience (and a compromise) paid off.

I found this one on eBay. It was pretty cheap. It has back damage as it appears to have been glued down (carefully) to an album page or some such thing. Not much to the front of these as you can see. Black and white shot, name and card title, and a color block with the team name and logo.

Two things about this card:

1) I like that you can see Russell's black Converse, a Celtic 'trademark', and

2) Look at how much the Celtic logo guy's pose resembles Russell's leaping 'pose' on the card. Well, sort of. If you squint a bit.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ranger Blue Books

Publications, particularly team yearbooks and media guides, are a big part of my collection. I was always able to buy Oriole yearbooks at Manny's Baseball Land across the street from Yankee Stadium or on a trip down to Baltimore. They sold their media guides through their marketing department for many years. You sent a letter and back came a list of available items like player postcards, 8x10's, and media guides.

The Rangers sold their 'Blue Book' at the Garden in the 60s. and into the 70s.. It's essentially a media guide with 'yearbook-style' bios. I got one every year. I read and re-read every page. Somewhere along the line I lost track of my collection of them. Now I'm in the process of re-acquiring them thru eBay and online auctions. It's an expensive process with the 60's versions running from $30 to $60 for the most part.

Through the years I have picked up some Rangers' media guides (they changed the name from Blue Book sometime in the 70s I think). Filling in the gaps for guides from the 80's and later is much cheaper thankfully.

This eBay-bought '68-'69 Blue Book replaces my lost one. That was one of the last I bought at the Garden before I went off to college and lost touch with hockey for a bit.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Let's Go Rangers!! Clap, Clap, Clap-Clap-Clap

The NHL Playoffs began last night and my Rangers are taking on the Ottawa Senators tonite in the first round. That's one of my favorite cards of my favorite player. It's the 2007-08 Hot Prospects Henrik Lundqvist card. King Henrik had a great season. He'll need to continue to do so if the Rangers are going anyplace this playoff season. The grabbed the #1 seed in the East but their play down the stretch didn't do much to inspire my confidence

I've been a Ranger fan since... well, I can't remember NOT being a Ranger fan. I went to games with my father in the old Madison Square Garden fifty years or more ago. With there being only six teams back then the rivalries were very intense. And most of the teams only played one goalie all season so if felt almost like a 'club'. My friends and I knew every player. 

I'm very lucky. I've had a chance though the years to became acquainted with, or at least spoken to, nearly all my favorite sports figures. Except one, the great Eddie Giacomin. 

I cried when the Rangers traded him to Detroit. It was one of the most traumatic sports related experiences of my life. It's is right up there with the '69 World Series, Super Bowl III and the Colts leaving Baltimore.

I sure hope that  wearing my genuine Ryan Callahan jersey brings the Blueshirts luck. 

btw..... Potvin Sucks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mort 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. 

I can't remember how I got my first Tadder 8x10 B&W Oriole portrait. I can tell you that I bought many through the years from the team and from memorabilia dealers through the mail back when I was an active collector. The Orioles would send a list of available prints if you sent a letter asking for info on mail order souvenirs. I have a couple of hundred most of which are from the early/mid 60's through about 1980.  

I kept the in binders in roughly chronological order. They make a nice timeline of the Oriole roster and uniform styles. Most, but not all, have the "Tadder" word-mark in a corner of the print. Most, but not all, have the player's name below their portrait. The typography of the printed name changed through the years.

Mort Tadder did much more than just these portraits. As the 'official' team photog he shot the team's yearly picture, game action and more. I have quite a few of his other work, particularly his team photos, but the portraits are what I collected the most. He also shot the Colts while they were in Baltimore and was acclaimed for his shots of the Beatles during their Baltimore stop on the 1964 tour. He also worked with visiting clubs.

Mort's son Tim Tadder has inherited his fathers knack for photography and has a business in Southern California. He does sports photography and much more.

Some of his other pictures including an iconic Baltimore moment:

The 'Vintage Player, Modern Card' Craze

I'm not sure how long this has been popular with Topps. Probably for awhile. But I've really noticed it since I began looking at contemporary cards again in the last two years after having been out of the card collecting hobby for quite some time. I'm sure someone can fill me in. 

Last year I bought a rack pack or two of the regular Topps issue and Lineage among others. I got a couple of Sandy Koufax cards and it kicked my Koufax love idolatry fanism collecting interest into high gear. As neat as some of these new Koufax cards are (lots of them have pictures I've never seen) they just can't touch the real vintage stuff. How great is the '57 Koufax?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Listening to the Birds

I've got Sirius radio and they've recently added MLB broadcasts as part of their internet listening add-on. As I type this I've listening to the O's/Yankees broadcast with Joe Angel at the mike. It's my first time to hear an O's game on the radio in quite some time. I like Joe Angel so far. He's got a touch of Jon Miller in his voice and style. You people with MLB packages that get 100s of games on your TV will laugh at me but this is a big deal for me.

When my family moved to the Jersey Shore for my last two years of high school I made a wonderful discovery. The radio in our kitchen picked up WBAL pretty clearly at night! I got to hear a lot of games in the 68-70 seasons at the kitchen table. It was heaven.

The O's lead broadcaster in those days was the terrific Chuck Thompson. Everyone has a favorite broadcaster, Chuck Thompson was mine.

"Ain't the beer cold!"

How 'bout those Orioles?

Three and oh to start the season. I'm trying not to read too much into it. Here's an Adam Jones card to celebrate!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Muhammad Ali..... and me! UPDATED

I went back and dug up the Sports Illustrated issue that was published late in July of '71 that mentioned the gym training session I attended. You can read it on SI's Vault site. I really don't recall the Ali-Ellis byplay that Tex Maule writes about but I'm sure I was in a fog at that point. And just to show that you can't believe everything you read, not even in the unerring Sports Illustrated (sigh), Maule mentions Ali being behind the first row while kibitzing Ellis. We were in the 3rd or 4th row of about five. I know because the other writers all turned around and came back to surround us. A tiny matter, but it's bugged me since July of 1971.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Over My Head

A couple of weeks ago I got myself talked into joining a fantasy baseball team. I don't know what I was thinking (I know what they were thinking...'We need a patsy and more cash for the prize pool'). I guess I'm expecting that by having a team I will be forced to follow baseball on a day-to-day basis. I haven't done that in many years. And I've come to sort of miss it.

I still like baseball. I go to an occasional Astros game when my sons are in town because they are big fans. And I hit college games when I can because I really enjoy the atmosphere at those, the parks are fun and the tickets are cheap. But as far as MLB... well I am one of those that bailed during the strike/lockout/stoppage of 1994 and never came back.

Obviously success at fantasy baseball requires an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the players. And that presents a problem. I know a handful of players on the Orioles and barely any others.

I'm not proud of that or anything, it's just how it is. So I decided to plunge in. If I was going to do this I was going to try and do some research going into the draft (online ESPN league) so I'd not embarrass myself to badly. I found a 'cheat sheet' online, unearthed the meaning of '5x5' and figured I was ready. Once the draft started I learned how quickly 90 seconds go by when you're trying to choose a middle infielder from a rapidly dwindling pool of guys you've never heard of.

I think I did OK. Time will tell. I know I made two errors. I drafted these guys:

Why didn't I figure out that they were available late for a reason. Doh. I've replaced them but it sure starts me out behind the eight ball.

Anyway this whole story has been to introduce my latest collection. I'm going to pick up one card of each of my players. I've done this for fantasy football since I started that in 1980. I've got a jumbo sized binder nearly full with cards of the players I've had through the years. I've had a few players with no known card so I made my own (poorly I'm afraid). 

My quest began today. I usually buy a pack of two of Topps when they arrive each year so I had this card, the first of my collection of members of the Baltimore Elrods:

I'm giving myself until the middle of May before I lose interest.