Friday, February 28, 2014

Three Rules for joining my Hockey Collection

Rule One... Be a Rangers card.

And this one of Ranger Defenseman Ryan McDonagh fits the bill. It is a 2013/'14 Score and came from Jeff at 2x3 Heroes and was part of his 'Tis the Season giveaway. He had cards up for grabs and all you needed to do to claim them was ask. I asked for his hockey stack and I got it, with a bonus.

McDonagh's card is a good one, too. He's wearing the Rangers' beautiful blue sweater, the card colors match the team colors and there is a team logo. Ipso facto, I like it.

Rule Two... be a card of an Original Six player. No curmudgeonly rant but I just like those old school unis the best. Lot's of memories of a time I knew all six goalies in the league, hell I knew every player in the league. 

And Jeff's mailing contained Original Six guys:

Growing up there were a few 'givens' among me and my friends. First, school sucked; second, Barbara C., who none of us had the guts to talk to, was hotter than Annette Funicello any day; and finally, the BlackHawks wore the best uniforms in the history of forever.

You couldn't go to your computer and order you one up like you can today obviously. The only place that you could see (and touch!!) a Hawks' sweater that wasn't on a players' back was at Gerry Cosby's Sporting Goods outside on the ground floor of the Madison Square Garden building. And to a couple of kids making $10 a week throwing the Newark Evening News, a real NHL jersey was a pipe dream at best.

The Habs', Leafs', Bruins' and Wings' gear isn't too shabby either, is it? 

Rule Three..... be a goalie's card. I'm partial towards goalies and always have been because that was my spot. And there were plenty in Jeff's stack.

Here are a few.

And there was also a nice card of the guy Ranger fans love to hate... MAAAAAARTY!  MAAAAARTY!

Jeff thought the hockey stack was inadequate (it wasn't, I loved it) so he added in a pile of Orioles cards. I'll make another post out of those. 

Thank's Jeff, You are one of blogging's 'good guys'!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Campaign Buttons, Losers and a Winner

Wendell Willkie was a lawyer with no previous political campaign experience when he ran against the two term incumbent, Franklin Roosevelt, in 1940. Willkie lost but became a Roosevelt confidant, adviser and a sort of unofficial 'ambassador at large'. After the loss to FDR in 1940 be wrote a successful book on his world affairs and travels and he was an outspoken civil rights activist.

I recently picked up the three buttons above. They are the first Willkies in my collection. He is a pretty fascinating character worth checking into.

Dwight David Eisenhower ran and won two presidential campaigns with Dick Nixon as his running-mate. 'Ike's' campaigns where run in 1952 (when I was born) and 1956 so everything I know of them is what I read.  Ike always appears so reserved and laid back. But according to a book released last year he was a pretty tough guy in his dealings with his second in command and the two were anything but close.

I have several Eisenhower buttons (and many Nixons) but this is new and it's easily my favorite. Love the Capitol dome motif.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hoops for the Hell of it

I haven't been an NBA fan for many, many years but once upon a time I followed the pro hoopsters, at least to some extent. Unlike baseball, football and hockey I didn't have a team I could call 'mine'. That would have required too much of an investment of emotion. Rather, I just watched the Sunday afternoon games on ABC with Chris Schenkel doing play-by-play and enjoyed the skills of player I liked. I was a a fan of Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Gus Johnson, and Connie Hawkins. 'The Hawk' had extraordinary talent and carried around lots of issues as well. His life story is pretty interesting. But his flash and dash on the court was mesmerizing.

I only have two Hawkins cards, one vintage, the '72/'73 Topps and the modern Fleer card below. Under that is a YouTube video of Hawkins worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm trying not to smirk

I mentioned in this post a few weeks back how I was getting close to finishing my Orioles yearbook run and the only one I lacked was the 2008 edition. I discussed the guy on eBay who had one for sale for the exorbitant sum of $18 which I was willing to pay to finish my collection. Turned out he had me blocked as a buyer. Why he blocked me I'll never know because I had no records of what he claims was bad feedback I left for him. Whatever.

So with a bit of patience I found another one. As you can see my 2008 Orioles yearbook arrived yesterday. Cost me $6 delivered. Six bucks. Meanwhile Mr. Smug (I ought to post his emails here...but that would be chickensh*t) has re-listed his $18 book over and over.

But the important thing is that I'm done. From 1954 through 2013 I have all the yearbooks the Orioles have published. They skipped some years during the last few decades but if they issued a yearbook, I have it. I've been working on this collection since I returned to collecting a few years ago and had to play 'catch-up' with the ten books they published since 2002. Glad to have it done.

Just a handful of Orioles and Baltimore Colts publications remain on my want list. I'll get them soon enough.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I'll be THAT guy...

... yes, the one who loves hockey but doesn't give a rat's ass about Olympic hockey. My son's were so pumped when the USA beat Russia a week or so ago [edit: and so pissed about losing on Thursday!]. And yes, I'd rather see us win than lose, but puleeeeze don't compare that win over the Russians to the Miracle on Ice. It's all just NHL guys playing in different unis. And that leads to my other gripe. The NHL season was just getting interesting. We had the outdoor games which I loved. And my Rangers were finally getting it into gear and then :::poof:::, it's Croatia versus Carjackistan.

I know it used to be our amateurs against the Soviet Bloc's pros but that's what made it so cool when we won. Let's put out an amateur team again. Yeah, like that's going to happen. Well, maybe if the rumors that the NHL will not send it's players to the Olympics in four years pan out I'll be happy.


Here are two NHL cards I like. Something old and something new(er).

1971-72 Topps Walt Tkaczuk

Tkaczuk was really just getting his career cranked up when I moved from Jersey to Houston for the second and final time. He played his entire career with the Rangers and centered the "Bulldog Line" with Bill Fairbairn and Dave Balon. He wasn't a high scoring center but played a good defensive game and played pretty physically. 

Next up, my favorite current Ranger skater, Ryan Callahan. It's an Upper Deck rookie card of some sort from 2007-08. I like it because it's Callahan and it has the Rangers' shield logo but it is kind of 'busy', isn't it? Anyway Captain Cally has been the subject of much trade talk in the weeks leading up to the break but he was performing as well as he has in quite awhile and I sure hope he stays put.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Things We Do For Love...

...or at least for our PCs.

Behold the 1955 Robert Gould 'Statue' of Billy Pierce that probably was made in Asia at the cost of two cents. I am not going to say what I paid but it was somewhat more than two cents.

For comparison sake here he is next to a Pacific Trading Pierce that came the same day.

Yes, it vaguely replicates his pitching form but without the name across the base it could really be almost any lefty pitcher of the era. I mean it's cool to have a relatively rare little do-dad issued during his career but I could have picked up an ungraded '51 Topps Blue Back of him with that $$ and some patience.

On the other hand I did get this for about half of what I've seen on eBay for it before. So there's that.

The statue was issued in conjunction with a trading card back in '55. The cards, which I believe were held to the statue with a rubber band, is crazy expensive. The few I see up for bid or sale go for $300 and up.... way up. Needless to say that's a white whale that I will not be harpooning anytime soon.

For that money you'd think it would at least be attractive.

EDIT: I have found a 2012 auction for contracts that were signed by several Hall of Famers re: the issuance of statues in their likeness in a second series of these, a series that was never produced. The contracts paid the players $100. I still don't have much background on these.


1955 Robert Gould Statues Checklist:

1 Willie Mays
2 Gus Zernial
3 Red Schoendienst
4 Chico Carrasquel
5 Jim Hegan
6 Curt Simmons
7 Bob Porterfield
8 Jim Busby
9 Don Mueller
10 Ted Kluszewski
11 Ray Boone
12 Smoky Burgess
13 Bob Rush
14 Early Wynn
15 Bill Bruton
16 Gus Bell
17 Jim Finigan
18 Granny Hamner
19 Hank Thompson
20 Joe Coleman
21 Don Newcombe
22 Richie Ashburn
23 Bobby Thomson
24 Sid Gordon
25 Gerry Coleman
26 Ernie Banks
27 Billy Pierce
28 Mel Parnell

You can find them checklisted by team at this site (unofficial).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Junk Koufaxs (Koufaxes?) (Koufax'?) (Koufax's?)

I hesitate to call any card that features the best pitcher I've ever seen a 'junk' card but what else could these be called? These were all cheap 'add-ons' to an order I made from an online dealer. Since the shipping was that same for one card or a dozen I pinned these to the tail of the donkey I was buying.

Of course I could have gone to WalMart or Target and bought a pack of 2013 or 2014 cards. Odds are I'd get a Koufax that way. I don't know if I just happen to attract Koufax cards or if Topps likes putting him in packs. Anyway, here are the ones I bought:

First up: "Dodger Blue", a Topps something or other from 2001.

Of course I recognized Koufax right away, and Don Drysdale after a half second but without the name on there I wouldn't have known Kevin Brown if I guessed for a week. I googled him and saw that he was once an Oriole. I missed all that because it was right after the strike/lockout and I wasn't paying attention. I also saw he was in the Mitchell Report. I vaguely remember him being scorned for something. Was this it? Or something else? 

Next up a much better card (I guess... it couldn't be worse, could it?). 2002 Upper Deck All-Time Classic Sandy Koufax. If you are going to use a black and white picture a color background helps. I like the Timeless Teams cards from Upper Deck but the ones that have black and white pics just look too... dull, I guess. The gold background around the classic Koufax pitching form makes this one a decent card.

Here we have a Koufax World Series Heroes. It commemorates the two wins he had in the 1965 Series versus the Twins. He pitched pretty well on short rest to win the Series. Again the black and white photo is balanced out with a nice color design. Maybe a bit too cluttered with the pinstripes, stars, bars flags and logos but I'm OK with it. It's another 2002 issue from Upper Deck. They were busy folks, weren't they?

Friday, February 21, 2014

1965 Jay Publishing Yankee Yearbook

When I was growing up in Nutley, New Jersey I spent a good part of my free time hanging with my best friend at a little store near my house run by a man named Lee Jentis. It was a typical suburban Jersey candy/newspaper/cigarette/soda fountain place. It had originally been owned and operated by a guy named Sam but the crowd he allowed to hang out at the fountain was pretty intimidating to a couple of Catholic elementary school twerps. The high school-aged crowd were what we referred to as "hoods". They generally wore pink 'high-roll' collared shirts and greased their hair back. We'd go in to buy our baseball cards and candy or a newspaper for our folks on the weekend but we gave those 'hoods' a wide berth. We were very happy when Lee bought the place and made a big deal of telling everyone that the 'hoods' were no longer welcome.

Lee gave me my first 'job'. I filled in for his helper during a summer break the guy took. I recall feeling pretty damn self-important to be behind the counter and serving the Cokes instead of buying them. I think I worked several hours each day. I'll never forget that he paid me $5 each week which my Dad thought was not nearly enough but I was thrilled to get.

A few years later my buddy and I had a Newark Evening News paper route that we shared. I delivered the east side of the route, he did the west. There was an old dark but well kept apartment building on my side of the route just full of old folks who seemed to always be cooking. I can still remember how that building smelled. When we were done we would pedal our bikes as fast as we could and meet back at Lee's and have a fountain Coke or a 16 oz. Royal Crown Cola in a bottle and a Drakes Cakes treat. We might buy a pack or two of cards or some cheap 2 cent candy.

I also liked to flip through the magazines. I remember finding a Yankees' unofficial yearbook put out by Jay's Publishing. I was familiar with yearbooks, I had lots of them.... Orioles, Phillies, Mets, Yankees, White Sox and more. My father would let me buy them at Manny's Baseball Land across from Yankee Stadium. But those were the official yearbooks. The Jay's book was a strange animal. I never saw them other than at Lee's although I know if Lee had them then they had to be at other newsstands.

This 1965 version doesn't look familiar to me but that year is right in my collecting wheelhouse so maybe I had one. I hadn't thought of them in awhile but when I was searching for some Jay's Picture Pack photos this thing popped up and it brought a wave of nostalgia over me. I put it on my watch list and it was relisted a few times. Finally my sentimental side overcame my fear of losing my 'Orioles Fan Card' so I bid and won. On a Yankees item. Yikes.

I guess 'unofficial' in those days meant you could use pictures of the players in their uniforms but showing the team stand-alone logo was off-limits. And there are no ads in this thing. The title page has a fun picture of the volatile Joe Pepitone raging on an ump with the since fired manager Yogi Berra coming to fan the flames. Note the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.... "Not an official publication".

First up is a story about the Yankee 'dynasty' and a compelling picture of the ever stuffy Col. Jake Ruppert.

Next we see a three page essay on the 1964 World Series. I remember watching some of those games on TV at my grandparents place in Brooklyn. And the nuns at St. Mary's in Nutley always had the TVs on for the World Series so we saw a lot of the weekday games as well.

When I heard about it I was fascinated by the fact that both teams cast  off their managers that winter. And the Yanks signed ex-Cardinal manager Johnny Keane.

After the Keane bio there are two page spreads of the Yanks' high profile players. Each is the same as this Mickey Mantle spread, a full page photo ...

...and then a bio/stat/smaller photo page.

Second line stars and regulars got one page. I played ball with Jim Bouton's cousin Danny. He was good. Bouton has an interesting bio here. Painting and designing costume jewelry. Wasn't long before he added 'author' to that list of hobbies.

I always liked Al Downing so I'm showing his page, too.

Subs and prospects are two to a page. Elvio Jimenez' bio mentions that he is the brother of "the Kansas City A's gardener Manny Jimenez." I have never heard that term used to describe an outfielder if indeed that's the reference.

The final pages had this 'Immortal Yankees' feature with bios and pics of the guys who were memorialized on the three monuments way out in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. 

And the back cover promoted the rest of the Jay's lineup of yearbooks and the fantastic 'Picture Packs'. 12 photos for a quarter with a dime for postage. Only a handful of Orioles pictures have survived in my collection from those days. I've added a few more along the way and recently purchased a six picture lot of Billy Pierce photos on eBay. 

I'd be curious to see other Jay's yearbooks and I might look for some online but the price would have to be right.

And just for comparisons sake here is the Official Yankee yearbook for 1965. This one I DO remember from back then.

Oh, as for Lee's? It's long gone. I recently found out that Lee had passed away in 1977 at the age of 68 and 'Mrs. Lee' had moved to Florida and lived to the age of 90 before she died in 2010. Thanks for the great memories.

This screenshot from Google Maps Street View shows the corner of Franklin Avenue and Vreeland Avenue in Nutley where the store once stood. That does not look like the same building so maybe it was rebuilt or completely remodeled. The Starbucks two doors down was a shoe and boot repair shop back in the day. Right there where the cab is was where we caught the 13 Broad New Jersey Transit bus to school every day.

Sorry for the maudlin stroll down memory lane. I feel privileged to have grown up when and where I did. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

'52 Topps Billy Pierce and it's autographed shadow

My terrible scans can't hide the greatness of this Topps Billy Pierce from 1952. He doesn't look old enough to have debuted in the majors seven years prior but he really did see his first action in 1945 with the Tigers. 1952 was his fourth year as a regular member of the Sox' rotation.

Here is an interesting Pierce nugget: he is one of three Highland Park, Michigan high school grads to pitch in the majors and he was a teammate with one of them, Ted Gray, on the Tigers' staff in 1948. The third member of that 'club' was Bob Bruce. Bruce pitched for Detroit beginning in 1959. All three were signed out of high school by the Tigers.

These '52 have such great write-ups and data on the back. Hair color? How nice is it to know that BP has dark brown hair? LOL I love the flying White Sox logo. It's rather crude but so very cool.

This is a (2011?) Topps Lineage that replicates the original '52 but adds an actual signature. It's got slicker card stock and richer colors but it can't hold a candle to the real thing!