Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ars Longa Art Card, 'Phenomenal' Smith of Baltimore

Great name for an 1880s ballplayer! 'Phenonenal' Smith was born John Francis Gammon in Philadelphia in 1864. Baseball Reference says he grew up in New Hampshire and played pro baseball from 1884 through 1891. His career including stints with six different major league teams in both the National League and American Association. He is pictured on this 'art card' as a member of the Orioles, the team he pitched the majority of his games with during a stay that lasted from 1887 through '88. For that version of the O's he went 39-49 but he had a decent ERA of 3.72.

He received his whimsical nickname when he struck out 16 batters in a game in 1885 while pitching for Newark, with no batter hitting the ball out of the infield. After his major league pitching days he played  as an outfielder in the minors and showed his batting prowess by winning a batting title with the Manchester club in 1901. He spent the bulk of those minor league seasons as a player/manager. His most notable accomplishment was discovering Christy Mathewson when the future legend was a collegian pitching at Bucknell. After baseball Smith served as a police officer in Manchester, NH and lived there until his death in 1952. His Sporting News obituary makes for entertaining reading.

Here is a story from Wikipedia concerning this unique baseball personality:
On June 17, 1885, while playing for the Brooklyn Grays, his team decided to punish him for his perceived brash and cocky demeanor by intentionally committing 14 "errors", losing the game 18-5. All eighteen runs against the brash left-hander were at first scored as unearned‚ but record books indicate that eleven of the runs were earned. Having been nicknamed "Phenomenal", he reportedly claimed that he was so good that he did not need his teammates to win. The intentional misplays of his teammates caused club President Lynch to fine the guilty players $500 each‚ but he reluctantly agreed to release Smith to ensure team harmony.
I really can't do Phenomenal Smith justice in a few paragraphs. Check out Bob Lemke's blog post from a couple of years back for the detailed story. Bob does great work and you really should be reading him regularly.

As for the card, it is from a small home based company out of San Jose, California. Their cards are all of players and pioneers from the long gone days of baseball. As I poked around their eBay store I found Phenomenal' and took a shot with a small bid and won. The cards are 'distressed' by hand and look terrific. Check out the Ars Longa homepage for a look at their work. Currently the eBay store is empty but I believe that they post cards several times each year. An more in-depth story about the cards and their creator can be found on the Sports Card Magazine site

Here is the back of the Smith card. 

This advertising piece that came with the card is a work of art in itself.

Friday, May 30, 2014

'75 Topps Bob Gibson

'75 Gibson, not a mini. But sweet nonetheless. Just a bit(!) off-center but then again aren't we all? The corners are nice and the colors bright...and that wall of stats on the back. Holy cow! Kind of neat to see a player who plays his whole career with one team and to read down the rows of stats.

I was struck by Gibby's reduced load in 1967 so I checked Wikipedia and was reminded of the broken leg he suffered that year. I also found this little gem of a story told by the Giants' Jim Ray Hart:
"Between games, Mays came over to me and said, 'Now, in the second game, you're going up against Bob Gibson.' I only half-listened to what he was saying, figuring it didn't make much difference. So I walked up to the plate the first time and started digging a little hole with my back foot...No sooner did I start digging that hole than I hear Willie screaming from the dugout: 'Noooooo!' Well, the first pitch came inside. No harm done, though. So I dug in again. The next thing I knew, there was a loud crack and my left shoulder was broken. I should have listened to Willie."
—Jim Ray Hart
There were not many pitchers like Bob Gibson.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Good News, More Good News, Bad News, and then finally Good News again

Well, tonite either Captain Canuck or I am going to be pretty damn happy, but not both. LOL. I was hoping the Rangers would win Tuesday night so I could go the the Orioles games without having to track the hockey game from the stands at Minute Maid Park but it wasn't to be. If I'm lucky the MMP wifi connection will be as good as it was last season when I was able to watch feeds in there.

I'm posting my latest Henrik Lunqvist card here today. I don't believe in jinxes or omens so the fact it arrived on the day of The King's Game Five meltdown has no meaning. The post title refers to the transaction that involved it. The 'good news' is I won the auction pretty cheap for it being his rookie card (or one of them I suppose). The 'more good news' was that the seller included about eight other hockey cards. It's always cool to get a surprise with an eBay transaction. The 'bad news' is that he used scotch tape to attach the 'bonus' cards to the outside of the hard case the Lundqvist card was in and one card was ruined. The 'good news again' is that the ruined card was that of a Canadiens player.

Hey, I'm kidding (sort of... had the card been a Ranger I'd have been kind of annoyed).


The rest of the cards were pretty cool actually. They were all Panini cards from 2011 or Upper deck Victory cards from the same year. For all I know about modern that may all be the same set somehow.

The Paninis were kind of different, at least to my eye. They had some unusual pictures. Here's the best one:

It shows Radim Vrbata of Phoenix working on his stick with a hacksaw. The write-up says the photo was taken before a Coyotes win in Los Angeles over the Kings. But... isn't that a home sweater he's wearing?

The next one shows a playoff ending handshake between Pekka Rinne and Roberto Loungo.

I first thought this was going to be a shot taken at a skills contest (do they still do that?) but it turns out Vernette and Gerber are old friends, at least according to be card back.

Here is the now retired Teemu Selanne. I failed to scan the back but the pucks he's holding are from a hat trick against the Avs in 2011.

And finally it's the highly skilled Ryan Getzlaf on another Upper Deck card. Both Selanne and Getzlaf are west coast guys and I don't know much about them.

 Nice cards. I don't collect this sort of thing but I'll put them in my hockey box.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Moose and his friends

I always picture Moose Skowron in a Yankee uniform, sometimes as a White Sox but not ever as a Senator. But here he is on his '64 Topps Giants card. He just arrived with these four of his friends to bring my number of missing cards in this set to five.

Granted those five include four real stars, Clemente, Mantle, Mays and Aaron. Dick Stuart is the fifth of the group. But those cards are not really expensive. It's just a matter of me digging around the net to find acceptable examples at decent prices. I'll knock it off this summer.

Meanwhile here is the rest of the group fo short prints that came with the Moose.

Bucs' ace Bob Friend rocking what looks to be the rubber windbreaker under his jersey. Back then guys actually showed up at Spring Training needing to get in shape.

Elston Howard. He was likely my first in-person autograph. I told that story over on my 1959 Topps blog.

Wayne Causey was an Oriole signee and played parts of three seasons with them. He had a couple of pretty solid season with the Athletics in '63-'64.

Galen Cisco was coming off a 15 loss season when this '64 was issued and he went on to lose 19 that year. But his numbers show he pitched better than his record. He never won more than seven games in a season but he learned enough about the game to coach in the majors for 30 years. He has two sons and a grandson who played pro ball.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback #12 (Tuesday Edition) 2006 Score Vince Young

In this ongoing series of posts I am going to feature cards from my fantasy football player collection, specifically the 117 quarterbacks I've had on my team's roster since 1980. I have one selected card for each player in my All-Time Flyers binder. Through the years I've tried to use as many different card varieties as possible while holding on to my preference which is: a card issued in a year I owned the player showing him in the proper team uni in a vertical format. Card availability and my whims have had a big impact on that standard as we will see. 

NFL Info: It just doesn't seem possible it has been eight years since Vince Young came out of college at Texas with all that incredible hype. If you were not in Houston then you probably won't understand how stupid it became. The Texans had the first pick in the '06 draft and the Vince Young boosters (hometown loyalists plus the way beyond obnoxious UT alums) were screaming to hear his name when the pick was announced. Another, nearly as loud contingent wanted Reggie Bush. Me? As a Texans season ticket holder didn't want either one. I felt Young wasn't a solid NFL prospect and didn't think Bush would help turn the franchise around.

Turns out the Texans surprised us all with the Mario Williams pick. He turned out to be a solid choice and helped the Texans' 'D' improve over time. Young in the mean time was taken 3rd in the draft by the Titans at the urging (order?) of owner Bud Adams, made an early splash with his athletic ability. But the NFL quickly caught up to him thanks to his inability to read defenses or learn a playbook, his inaccurate arm and propensity to leave the pocket. He made two Pro Bowl (other guys bowed out), won enough games to make the playoffs and he even won the offensive R-O-Y award in '06 but that was all a mirage. After five up and down season with the Titans Young has bounced around the league trying to catch on someplace while reportedly going broke. He recently was the property of the Cleveland Browns for about two weeks. As soon as the Brownies drafted Johnny Football it was say┼Źnara for Young. God help me I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy. I don't know why he hasn't tried to play CFL ball.

Fantasy Angle: I actually drafted Young myself in 2006 with a 10th round pick. He was my third QB and I figured it might be a value pick given his ability to pick-up running yardage. I never played him and at the trade deadline shipped him off for a future draft pick to an owner in a bind at that position.

The Card: This is one of the crappier cards in my fantasy football Frankenset binder. Looks to be one of those rookie camp pictures. The back has lots of white space. They couldn't have had more to say about a player so hyped and coming off a National Championship game? But it is an '06 card which fits the year I had him and I refuse to spend a dime on a better Vince Young card.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Reprise.... Eddie Grant

NOTE: Today being Memorial Day I thought I would reprint the post I made a year ago showing Eddie Grant, the first major league player to die in combat in the service of the United States. My usual 'Monday Morning Quarterback' post will run tomorrow.

The first major league player to die in the service of his country was Eddie Grant. With a law degree from Harvard he was quite unlike most of his contemporaries. It was said that instead of the usual "I got it!" called out when a player has a bead on a pop-up, Grant would shout "I have it!"

A native of Franklin, Massachusetts, he played 9 seasons of baseball with four different clubs, most notably the Phillies for whom he held down the regular third base job for most of four seasons, 1907 through 1910. Although only a .249 career hitter Grant nonetheless was able to lead the NL in singles in 1909 and 1910 and in hits overall in '09. A better fielder than hitter he finished near the top of several defensive categories when he was a regular.

Grant appeared in the 1913 World Series with the New York Giants as a pinch hitter and pinch runner. He left the game after the 1915 season to open a law practice in Boston.

He enlisted when his country called as we entered World War I in 1917. Wikipedia summarizes his Army service and the details of his death on the battlefield in France in 1918:

Grant was one of the first men to enlist when the United States entered World War I in April 1917, and he served as a Captain in the 77th Infantry Division. During the fierce battle of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, all of Grant's superior officers were killed or wounded, and he took command of his troops on a four-day search for the "Lost Battalion." During the search, an exploding shell killed Grant on October 5, 1918. He was the first Major League Baseball player killed in action in World War I. He was buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in LorraineFrance.
This New York Times article (opens as a .pdf file) from October 22, 1918 relates the story in full.

I have the Eddie Grant T205 Gold Border (shown above) as well as his T206. The Gold Border cards are just a wonderful set and Grant's is a great portrait I think. Here are a few more pics and details from the life of Captain Eddie Grant found around the 'Net:

Here is the plaque that was installed in the Polo Grounds by the New York Giants to honor him.

It's position in the stadium is visible in this famous shot of Willie Mays' catch in the 1954 World Series. It's on the left under the 483 distance marker.

And finally, Eddie Grant's grave marker in Lorraine, France. R.I.P. and Thanks for making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, Capt. Grant.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Randon Friars on a random Sunday

What better day than a Sunday to post some Padres I've had scanned for awhile with no purpose in mind. I like the 1980 Ozzie Smith because he's got his eyes closed while following through on a huge cut. Random facts about the Wizard I didn't realize till now:

  • He finished second to Bob Horner in the 1978 ROY balloting but Horner played in about half as many games.
  • He's from Mobile, Alabama. I drove through the hardest rain I've ever experienced in Mobile one night in the early 70s. I was on my way to Florida with a girlfriend and when we got out of the tunnel that goes under Mobile Bay and the rain was coming down so hard I thought my Malibu had landed in the damn Bay. I literally drove blind for awhile. I'll never forget that and I think about it every time someone mentions Mobile. 
  • He only played four seasons in San Diego. I thought he was there longer. And he hit .231 over those four seasons.

1981 Topps Dave Winfield card on which Winfield just plain looks like a badass who I wouldn't want to pitch to. Winfield and Ozzie played together for Smith's first three seasons. Winfield finished up his playing career with the Indians. I'd have lost a bet on that for sure! The Indians?

This is some kind of jersey swatch Tony Gwynn card from Donruss in 2001. Gwynn led the NL in hits seven times and made the NL All Star squad fourteen times over a 15 year span from 1984 through 1999. In 1989, his rookie year, he hit .289 and never hit below .300 again, even in his last year at the age of 41. When it comes to just pure hitting ability who's better in the last 40 years? Rod Carew? Wade Boggs? Ichiro Suzuki? ::::shrug::::

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Look, I used a pound sign a tic-tac-toe board a hashtag! What a cool dude I am!*

This Sports Illustrated came from Mark Hoyle. I remember having it back when it was new. I've mentioned in the past that I was a Sport Magazine guy growing up. Sports Illustrated was weekly of course and I figured it was published for libraries and barber shops. I bought only the issues that featured my teams on the cover. I had a nice stack of those from the 60s and 70s but somewhere along the way I lost them. I big tip of the cap goes out to Mark for sending this my way. He included another one which I'm saving for another post. The cover is one of those fold out dealies and the other part looks like so:

This issue is from early March of 1970. That spring was a giddy time for Ranger fans. It wasn't long after this issue that the Rangers made a miracle entry into the Stanley Cup playoffs on the last day of the season. My buddy and I cut school that Monday to go to the Garden and buy tickets. We got them for Games Three and Four. Game Three was an unforgettable night and it's outlined in the Wikipedia entry below.

Boston Bruins vs. New York RangersThe Boston Bruins and New York Rangers were paired in the East Division playoffs. The Bruins clobbered the Rangers 8–2 in game one and Ranger coach Emile Francis yanked Ed Giacomin when the score reached 7–1. Terry Sawchuk took over in goal. Sawchuk replaced Giacomin in game two, but a new goalie was not the answer as Boston won 5–3. Game three featured a hostile welcome for the Bruins when they skated out on Madison Square Garden ice. The fans booed and shouted obscenities at the Bruins players, shook their fists at them and made obscene gestures at them. Two Bruins players made obscene gestures at the fans. Gerry Cheevers, the Bruins goaltender, was the target of eggs, coins and rubber balls. The Bruins won the opening face-off and Giacomin made the save on Phil Esposito. The line of Derek Sanderson, Don Marcotte and Ed Westfall replaced the Esposito line to the boos of the crowd. Just before the face-off, Giacomin skated to Sanderson and reportedly said "We're being paid to get you tonight." On the face-off, the puck went behind the Ranger net and Sanderson went after it. He was immediately smashed into the boards by Walt Tkaczuk and Arnie Brown. Then he collided with Dave Balon. Sanderson dropped his stick and gloves and went at Balon, which brought Brad Park and Bill Fairbairn into the fight. Don Marcotte joined in. Then the game erupted into a series of fights. The fans, turned on by the mayhem, threw eggs, apple cores, an aerosol shave cream container, oranges and other debris. When Sanderson was ejected from the game, he screamed at referee John Ashley. Police grappled with fans trying to attack the Bruins players at the Bruins players bench. The game erupted into more fights and brawls on the ice and fans threw eggs, nails, coins and other garbage. It took 19 minutes to play the first 91 seconds of the game. When the most violent, penalty-ridden game in playoff history [to this time] was over, the teams had set a record 38 penalties for 174 minutes. Almost forgotten was that the Rangers won 4–3. Game four had Rod Gilbert score two goals in a 4–2 Ranger win. Giacomin was brilliant in goal for the Rangers and one of the highlights was stopping Derek Sanderson on a shorthanded breakaway. Game five was won by Boston 3–2 as Esposito scored two goals. Bobby Orr set up the winner when he stole a pass at center ice when the Rangers were foolishly caught on a line change. Game six was won easily by the Bruins and featured another disgraceful exhibition of fan abuse. Bobby Orr scored two goals, including the winner. Fans threw eggs, and ball bearings on the ice, and when the outcome was no longer in doubt, they set fires in the mezzanine of Madison Square Garden. Sadly, Terry Sawchuk died a few weeks after the playoffs ended. His career ended with 447 wins and 103 shutouts, records that would not be broken for the next 4 decades.
I tried to get Game Six tickets with my girlfriend later that week but we got there too late for the SRO tix. We got d-hall for cutting school. It was my second offense in a weeks time. LOL

I've scanned a few pages from the mag. Flipping through it I am amazed that I can recall the articles for the most part. The last one on the contents page was 'written' by Bill Freehan of the Tigers and is a pretty open account of life in the clubhouse with Denny McLain.

For The Record was a good way to catch up on little news blurbs your local papers might have buried.

About as much fun as the old stories are the ads. Take a gander at these:

Anyone else join one of those record 'clubs'? I was a member for awhile of the Columbia record Club. I got a new LP every month.

This is the second part of the double truck ad and it's got a picture of a record player. I wanted to make sure the younger readers got a look at it.

Mustangs!!!! I wish I had a nice 1970 'Stang. Love that one option was an AM/FM stereo radio system!

But this is the sweetest ad of all. I remember those posters as if I had them on my walls right now. I had the Giacomin, Howe, Elvin Hayes and Havlicek. The only one of that group that doesn't ring a bell is the Earl Monroe. I've seen that Bill Bradley shot a million times but I don't remember it as a poster.

Thanks again, Mark. The mags brought back some great memories.

*=LGR means Let's Go Rangers

Friday, May 23, 2014

A few more of my '64 Topps Giants Hall of Famers

Here are four more out of this under appreciated set. 

Joe Torre is among the most recent H-O-F class and will be inducted this summer. He never got a ton of voting support when he was being considered for his playing career and I think that's a shame because he has excellent numbers, especially when you consider his position. He was a nine time All Star, the NL MVP in 1971 when he hit .363 and led the league in total bases as well as hits and RBI while winning the batting title. But it was his tenure as manager, particularly as Yankee manager, that got him elected by the Veterans Committee.

This shot was taken in the Polo Grounds. 

The great Al Kaline. He's a Baltimore native who went to Southern High School which is in the same Federal Hill area of Charm City in which I was born. And, just like me, he never played in the minor leagues (the fact that I never played in the majors is besides the point, isn't it?). I've never heard or read a single negative thing about Kaline. He was called 'Mr. Tiger' and a nickname like that pretty much reflects how much you mean to an organization.

Orlando Cepeda with Shea Stadium behind him. At least I think it's Shea, sure looks like it to me. The placed opened in 1964 so this shot was taken not long before the card was produced.

And finally we have Billy Williams. Like Al Kaline he did everything on the field well and yet never was much for the spotlight.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Some '64 Topps Giants Hall of Famers

Sorted and scanned a bunch of my '64 Topps Giants cards. I'm still 10 short of completing it but I plan to knock it off this summer when I'll have more time.

I'd love to know where the Bob Gibson shot was taken. That looks like a hotel in the background. Maybe Spring Training. I loved watching Gibson but I've told my Gibson stories a few times already so I'll spare you a repeat.

I'l post one card-back. Here is the Gibson.

Ron Santo was elected by the Veteran's Committee a few years ago. He had a real 'cult' backing his bid for election. I'm glad he made it.

Juan Marichal. This linked SI story about the epic Marichal-Spahn duel in July of 1963 is a great read!

Frank Robinson. I have so much 'Robby as an Oriole' stuff that sometimes seeing him in Reds gear makes me blink once or twice. Gorgeous uniform though, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vintage Connie Hawkins

Floating heads in the house! Awesome card from Mark Hoyle. I posted an internet image some time back and then Mark sent me the real thing. Here are the players on the card, according to Hoyle [insert bad pun induced groan here]:

Top row. C. Hawkins, Goodrich, Riley, Stu Lantz
2nd row. Cazzie Russell, H. Hairston, Zelmo Beaty, Kareem, L. Allen

And a few more for the Connie Hawkins Collection, some from Mark, some from eBay. I scanned them together and kind of lost track. Oops.

First up is the '74-'75 Topps. The Hawk is flipping a pass out towards the left corner while being trapped by John Gianelli (I think) and Henry Bibby.

'75-'76 Topps with a shot of Hawkins in the Garden, probably the same game as the previous card. I think that's Phil Jackson getting a taste of Hawk's elbow. Clyde Frazier is on the right. This card definitely came from Mark because it arrived Monday and I just scanned it.

'73-'74 Topps, a 'studio' shot. No, a hallway shot. As usual Hawkins is rockin' the great sideburns. Walt Frazier had the mink coats and the wild hats and the attention of the media but Connie Hawkins was just so damn cool.