Sunday, November 30, 2014

1977 Topps Mexican Howard Stevens

Until I received the checklist I'm using to collect my Colts project cards I had no idea that Topps had issued a parallel football card set in Mexico in 1977. Or if I did know at some point I had forgotten about it completely.

The cards are more expensive than the standard Topps English language cards. I picked up a near complete U.S. issued 1977 Colts team set for $5. That's a dollar less than I paid for this one Howard Stevens card from the Mexican set. Because I'm trying to keep my project costs down I've decided for now that I am not going to pursue these beyond this one example. At some point in the future I may go after this and some of the other insert and minor sets that were issued for the Colts during their time in Charm City.

Based on the Stevens cards there are just a couple of differences in the two issues beyond the obvious language change. The Mexican cards are printed on much thinner stock than the U.S. set. I'd call it 'business card' stock. And the Mexican cards were printed in sheets but cut in a different way than we are used to seeing. They have the little 'perforation' marks or bumps along all four sides. You can see them a bit better on this blow-up of the top edge of the card. I don't know for sure but I'd suppose the cards printed aorund the edges of the sheet would not have these.

The back of the Mexican card is a direct parallel version of the U.S. card:

As is the front. Here they are side by side:

And the two backs are here look to be different color stock but that's because I don't have the U.S. version of the Stevens scanned and this is an internet image on the right. The Mexican card actually shows the exact same colors as the regular ones I have in hand.

Take a look at the wrappers. These are eBay pix. The cards apparently came two to a pack.

And for you Star Wars geeks there is this:

Mexican Star Wars cards. But now that I think about it I guess any truly obsessed Star Wars collector probably knew about these.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Roger Carr's Burden

Roger Carr played 8 seasons for the Colts beginning in 1974, His tenure as a Colt more or less parallels that of QB Bert Jones.  His best season was 1976 when he led the NFL in receiving yards, yards per reception and yards per game. That was his only Pro Bowl year as well.

His cards always have interested me because he is shown as dark and brooding. Maybe he wishes he had a better career, or that he could have played with Johnny Unitas, or played when passing was every team's first option (like now). I don't know. But for whatever reason Topps had a lot of photos of him that make him look like a tragic hero in a Shakespearean play.

These next two are my favorites. C'mon Roger, lighten up.

Nowadays Roger Carr is a high school football coach and church pastor in North Carolina. I hope he's happier now.

Friday, November 28, 2014

1961 Post Hoyt Wilhelm

This is one of those 'what the heck' cards that I grabbed off COMC just to justify the shipping cost. It's pretty rough around the edges (literally) but hey, it came from the back of a cereal box. An 8 year old cut it out.

And it's Hoyt Wilhelm. There are almost no bad cards of Hoyt Wilhelm, kind of like there are no bad Warren Spahn cards.

Hoyt had some pretty good numbers in 1960. 39 walks in 147 innings is pretty low for a knuckleballer, right? One of you sabermetricians can fill me in.

That's all I have for today. Hope your holiday weekend is going well. I'm probably having a turkey-stuffing-gravy sandwich on my homemade bread as we speak.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

If not White Whales...

...then what should I call them?

These two cards are from the 2004 Maryland Lottery set which paid tribute to the Orioles 50th Anniversary. I've had most of the set for a few years, I think I bought a chunk online and received some from other collectors/bloggers. I was about six or eight cards short a few months ago and frankly I'd forgotten about it until Joe Shlabotnik reported on the ones he has.

At that point eBay and COMC provided all but these two cards. Since then I searched without any luck for the McNally and the Jackson. These were not among the handful of 'short prints' so the scarcity made no sense.

I'm sure most collectors have searched for some item that is supposed to be common but eludes capture for some reason. If it's an expensive or iconic item we call them 'white whales'. The 1959 Billy Pierce Bazooka card is mine. But these Orioles Lottery things are cheap. So are they 'white minnows'?

Whatever we call them I'm glad to have the set completed.

Both of these cards used pictures taken from Orioles team issued postcards. A number of others did as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

1956 Topps Baltimore Colts

I knew going in that my Baltimore Colts vintage card quest would mean two things. First of all I'd have a big project that would be fun and occupy my time for months and second of all the posts that came out of it would be mostly ignored.

So be it. I know football cards are not particularly popular in the blogging world but ya gotta do what ya gotta do, and so here we are. These three '56 Topps cards are part of my recent eBay binge. And they are probably typical of the cards that will fill out my checklists, used but not abused.

George Shaw is the 'guy before Johnny Unitas' in my Colts' addled mind. He was drafted in '55, started that season and then lost his job to the great Unitas in '56 following a minor injury. Here is something I just learned today...Shaw was the Vikings starter in their first game ever. He played the first half of their 1961 opener against the Bears, went 2 for 3 passing and made way for Fran Takenton. I see a pattern here.

Bert Rechichar shows up in almost every Colts set from the 50s. He played both offense and defense and served as their kicker for many years. As the card states he set the then-NFL record with a 56 yard FG in his first attempt ever. He played a year for the Browns prior to his tenure with the Colts and played baseball in the Indians' farm system.

this is how all team cards should look.. I count six NFL Hall of Famers on this one: Ray Berry, Weeb Ewbank, Don Shula, Gino Marchetti and Artie Donovan. Buddy Young, who should be in the Hall of Fame for his on and off the field contributions to the NFL, is also here.

The back of the card is pretty neat as well. Love the blurb about the Colts fans buying the season tickets to assure the teams existence. The item about the Colts 'reentering Pro Ball in '54' is not accurate. The Colts were one of the teams from the AAFL that were absorbed by the NFL for 1950. After one season they folded. They 'reentered' as an 'expansion' team in 1953, not '54. The Colts 1953 club was actually the remnants of the '52 Dallas Texans but that's neither here nor there. The fact is that Baltimore was back in 'Pro Ball' in 1953.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Billy Pierce Phone Card

Remember phone cards? For awhile these things were part of the memorabilia landscape. I had a couple of Oriole phone cards. You could usually find them at shows on the same tables where you found Broder cards and Bammers. I still see them for sale from time to time, mostly in ethnic grocer stores and aimed at those wishing to phone folks back in the old country. In my neck of the woods that means Mexico and Central America. I think they work by keying in a number found of the back which equates to the way one would pump coins into a pay phone. You kids may need to ask someone what the hell all that means. Pay phones? WTH?

My fiend Mike McKay recently tipped me to this Billy Pierce phone card. As you can see below on the packaging this was a New Comiskey Park giveaway in 1996. The card was placed into the middle of a foldout with some of that gummy glue.

These two scans are the front and back of the folder:

Minnie Minoso and Nellie Fox were the two other Sox old-timers that were honored with a $5 card. Here is the complete center of the foldout with the phone card attached:

I picked this one up on eBay and it came in the original sealed plastic packaging. It's another in my ever growing collection of oddball Pierce items. A big thanks to Mike for bringing this to my attention. I'm not sure how it managed to evade on of my numerous 'saved searches' revolving around Billy Pierce.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback #39 Joe Theismann 1986 Topps

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: Joe Theismann had a standout college career at Notre Dame before his played professionally with Toronto of the CFL and the the Redskins. With Washington he was an NFL MVP and Super Bowl winning QB. He played for 12 seasons before a horrific leg injury he suffered in a Monday Night Game versus the Giants ended his career. He's a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and currently works for the NFL Network. He owns a restaurant in the D.C. area and other interests.

Fantasy Impact: I drafted Theismann as my 2nd or third QB in 1980, our league's first season. A week later, after seeing Dan Fouts in action and watching Theismann stink up the joint in a Monday night loss to the Cowboys I packaged him in my very first fantasy football trade. The deal brought me Mike Pruitt and Ken Anderson (who I never started either).

The Card: The 1986 Topps football set isn't the greatest set ever but you can count me as a fan. Something about the green striped layout appeals to me. The back is pretty mundane and the color combos of the front can be a bit much but overall I'm good with it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cardboard Art 1933 Goudey Paul Richards

Just a quick post on a busy Saturday. This card came in Friday's mail and it took some of the gloom off a pretty rocky day. I showed an internet image of this one a week or so ago when I featured Paul Richards 1960 Topps managers card (among others). 

I only have a couple of Goudeys and NONE of them can touch the 'cool' of this one. What a fabulous pose with Richards painted as he prepares for a game. When I came across the image online I knew I needed to pick one up for myself. I dug around and as I expected there were not a lot of cheap examples out there. I looked for and found the least expensive one in acceptable shape. It ran me about $18 I think, plus shipping but for me it's worth every dime.

This one has issues, especially on the reverse but the staining isn't too awful. It just adds to the charm as far as I'm concerned. It goes immediately into the 'grab this if the house is on fire' binder.

As for Richards he was in his rookie season in '33. He's had a pretty successful five year string in the minors and had gotten a handful of at bats with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1932 and then had his contract bought up by the Giants. After a few seasons as a platoon catcher with the Giants and Phils he returned to the minors and had another string of seasons in which he hit very well.

His hitting prowess in the minors never transferred to the majors but his handling of a staff and his defensive abilities got him back to the majors in 1944 with the Tigers and he backstopped them to the 1945 World Championship. He got some MVP consideration in 1944 and '45 despite hitting no higher than .256. 

Of course he went on to a long and distinguished career as a manager and team executive in his post playing years.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I'm a Big Dope

Here we go with Exhibit A in my trial. I'm charged with 'Being a Sucker for Anything'.

The 1964 Bill Pierce Topps card is a pretty good one. I tend to favor cards/sets where the colors accent the uniform colors of the player/team pictured. That's certainly the case with the Giants' players in the '64 Topps set. Add to that the fact that the pose is not a common one and the fact that it's Billy Pierce and it all adds up to it being, in my eyes at least, a great card.

Granted I prefer his White Sox cards (not that I'm a fan of either team exactly) because that's how I first saw him...with my Dad, as a White Sox pitcher in Yankee Stadium.

And that leads me to this 'rainbow' of sorts of '64 and '64-'style' Pierces. It's because I don't follow modern cards that I have a hard time figuring out what all the different 'heritage' cards are that I have listed on my Pierce checklist. I have others listed as 'wants' but I'm halfway convinced that they are just different ways people describe these same cards. I tried sorting it all out one night and it gave me a massive migraine.

I've ended up with these six cards. I don't know it they are all separate 'official' Topps releases or just different ways that people have had him sign the heritage card. For what it's worth, this is what I have pictured:

Top Row:
left) actual '64 Topps regular
right) Venezuelan '64 Topps

Middle row:
left) 2001 Heritage 'blue sig'
right) 2013(?) red sig numbered to 64

Bottom Row:
left) just a plain ol' 2001 Heritage
right) 2001(?) blue sig Heritage with '7X All Star' inscription

Outside of the top two cards, that actual vintage versions I have no idea what to make of these cards. Of the Heritage only the red signed one cost more than a couple of bucks. But the fact that I bought them at all sort of dismays me.

The Venezuelan version was $12 if I recall correctly.  The 'best' one is still the original '64 Topps Billy Pierce.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

1958 Billy Pierce Yellow Letter team name variation aka "I hate slabbed cards"

I mean what's the point of having had this card graded? I'm sure I'm missing something here. It's a decent card, not torn up or showing any evidence of having been abused but it's obviously not pristine. Yet someone paid (what does PSA charge?) to have it graded and stuck in a plastic tomb.

All of which is fine but those damn slabs are so hard to open. I understand that's how it must be to prevent fraud but I sure hate having to risk actually damaging the card to put it in my Pierce binder.

Sorry for the rant but using a pair of pliers to crack the slab caused me to crimp the upper right hand corner. Now this card, one I've been patiently chasing for a long time, has some fresh damage. 

But I've got it. The team name variations are not as coveted as the yellow player name versions but I didn't pay much of a premium for it and it helps flesh out my Pierce collection.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

1981 TCMA John Unitas

I started my Baltimore Colt project in earnest last week. I've found some pretty good bargains to fill in holes in the run of Colts cards from 1950 through 1983. I started by digging up a checklist that an online seller had for a couple of bucks. It was easier than cutting and pasting my own.

He has listed lots of the various oddball and small sets that came out that included Colts. He also has included the Topps inserts from the 60s and 70s. I'm still in the process of deciding if I am going to track some/all/any of those down. It's doubtful I will. I am planning on collecting the cards that you could get by opening packs. That includes Topps, Fleer, Bowman and Philly Gum. 

I did notice that he had a single Colts' card listed under the 1981 TCMA heading. It was this John Unitas. I had been unaware of it previously but several were available very reasonably online so I bought one. 

Johnny U's 'in front of a cinder block wall' pose reminds me of some of the 60s hockey sets that were filled with shots of guys in hallways, probably just outside arena and stadium dressing rooms. There is a certain hokey charm to stuff like this.

Anyway I'm slowly building my Colts collection, scrounging for bargain lots and also working on a want list that will be linked here. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

70/71 Topps Lew Alcindor and Friends

Surprisingly the 2nd year Lew Alcindor (soon to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is a very reasonably priced card in the 1970/71 Topps basketball set. I expected it to be the most costly but then again my knowledge of hoops sets is very spare. With only one season of stats to put on the back Topps had plenty of room for a nice write up of the most heralded player of his generation.

I recall the hoopla that surrounded Alcindor when he was approaching his college decision. He played at Power Memorial located on West 61st St. in Manhattan and wasn't far from where my father had his office. Later I saw him in the 'Game of the Century' at the Astrodome against Elvin Hayes' Houston Cougars. I've told that story several times here and won't repeat it now.

Some of these Topps hoops cards have terrific cartoons and Alcindor's is one of them. Who knew Big Lew played the congas for fun? But this isn't the best cartoon of this group. Hold on, that one is coming up.

And here is a trivia bit that I was unaware of until just as I was checking some facts a few minutes ago: his given name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. 

Gus Johnson was a rim-rattling forward with the ability to bring the arena to it's feet with some strong and acrobatic moves. He was a lot like one of my favorite players, Connie Hawkins but he had more bulk and strength.

Otto Moore moved on the the Houston Rockets in 1972 when I was watching them closely and he was a crowd favorite (although 'crowd' may be too generous a word). He was second to Rudy Tomjanovich in rebounds and scored 11 PPG.

This is the only 'leader card out of the set that I've picked up so far. I've put off looking for them because they don't excite me much.

Now here is the back of Gus Johnson's card. Sorry for the crooked scan but check out that cartoon!

Is that priceless or what?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Quarterback #38 Jim McMahon 1989 Pro Set

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: Jim McMahon may be the most 'un-Brigham Young-ish' guy to ever play for BYU. But he did and he's in their Athletic Hall of Fame. In the NFL he was best known for his part in leading the  Bears to the Super Bowl win during the 'Shuffle' season of 1985. During a career that covered 15 seasons for six different clubs he was the full time starter in about half of those. While he never led the NFL in any significant categories and only made one Pro Bowl squad he did accumulate one impressive stat: he had a winning record of 67-30.

He is currently involved in litigation with the NFL over the effects of the concussions he suffered throughout his career.

Fantasy Impact: For me...none. I had him in 1989 during his one season with the Chargers and he didn't play. I had Joe Montana as my starter that season and I lost in our championship game. McMahon was one of six quarterbacks I had roster-ed that year. Back then, before the 'net made fantasy football so easy, our league had very big rosters (as did most others). Waivers were problematical. Once or twice a season we'd sit down at the local ice house (that's Texas talk for beer joint, usually with garage door style open front) after our city league flag football games and hold waivers. Out of town guys had to send me wish lists and hope they'd get a guy or two. So we had 18 or 19 player rosters to be sure we always had enough players.

The Card: Pro Set football sets are the butt of lots of jokes centered around errors and the over-production the company was guilty of back than. But I never let that lessen my enjoyment of them. The '89 set, while not as nice as the same year's Score offering, is pretty sweet. Maybe I was just happy to see someone giving Topps some competition.

They certainly packed a lot of info onto the back of the cards. Color photos on the backs were new then. And the fronts beat most of the Topps sets that appeared around that time.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Topps 1960 Managers Subset... AL Edition

The American League managers in the '60 Topps set have some interesting photos and back-stories. 

Casey Stengel needs no words from me. He's Casey. Paul Richards (his middle name is 'Rapier'... how cool is that?) was a baseball 'lifer' who managed the White Sox and Orioles among the numerous jobs he held in the game. He was the Tigers' regular catcher during the mid-40s and helped them win the 1945 World Series. BTW.. his 1933 Goudy is IMHO among the best baseball cards ever produced:

I like the fact that Memorial Stadium is visible on Richards' managers card.  

Al Lopez played in the majors for 19 years and managed for another 17 winning pennants with the Indians and White Sox. After a 22 year playing career Jimmy Dykes managed six different clubs in the majors, mostly with the White Sox. He never won a pennant.

I love the Nats uniform worn by Cookie Lavagetto on his card. The 'reverse drop-shadow' "W" and pinstripes and not features I usually associate with that team. Billy Jurges never managed a full season. He was hired during the '59 campaign by Boston and fired during May of 1960. He was a three time NL All Star middle infielder.

Joe Gordon's card shows Municipal Stadium in the background. A nice touch. Joe Gordon played for 11 seasons with the Yankees. He made nine All Star squads and was the 1942 AL MVP. His managing record isn't nearly that good but he is a Hall of Famer. 

Bob Elliott is shown in his only year as a big league manager. His playing career covered 15 seasons. He hit .289 and he was selected to multiple All Star squads and was the 1947 NL MVP with the Boston Braves. His nickname was "Mr. Team". And while his card makes him look like everyone's favorite goofy uncle he is not to be confused with the Bob Elliott who made up one half of the radio comedy duo of Bob and Ray. Look 'em up, kids.

Here is a look at the backs of a few of these. I've included the Jimmy Dykes card because it's about as pristine a 1960 card as I've seen outside a grading slab. The back is even whiter than the scan shows. The backs of the '60 set cards tend to brown over time as shown in the Gordon and Alston cards. Jimmy Dykes has escaped that fate for whatever reason. Sharp corners as well. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Topps 1960 Managers Subset.... NL Edition

I thought that since I had posted the '58 All Star subset I'd go ahead and post another of my completed projects of a similar size. I've been sorely tempted over the last few months to jump into the 1960 Topps set full time. I've mentioned before that it's the first set I clearly remember collecting with a purpose as a kid.

I'd seen a friend's 58's and I had received some '59s but the 1960 set was the one I bought by the pack. Truth be told it was my folks that bought them, with much begging from me. I remember the hanging cello packs they had at Korvettes stores around my part of New Jersey. Sometimes my Dad would bring home a pack he had bought with his newspaper for the commute home. So this set has a lot of nostalgic value to me. Not to mention that I love the look of it and I think the backs are among the best Topps has produced.

I don't feel up to tackling another vintage set (and blog) right now. But maybe sometime in 2015 I'll get the urge and jump in. Meanwhile I've put together the managers 16 card subset. I love everything about these. These guys just look like 1960 era baseball managers, don't they? Bill Rigney leans on a wooden(!) railing. Did Seals Stadium have a wooden railing in front of the dugout? Maybe that's a spring training shot. Either way, it's pretty neat.

Solly Hemus was in his second year as manager in St. Louis and he looks pretty comfy in the job. In 1959 he began as player/manager but in June he hung up his glove. Interesting that he is listed as being 'released' by the Cards that month. I guess technically he was. Walt Alston and Chuck Dressen had almost 40 years on big league managing between them. Alston won four titles with the Dodgers.

Fred Hutchinson managed three teams but was best known as skipper of the Reds. He died tragically of cancer soon after the 1964 season. Here are a couple of interesting facts from his baseball Reference bio:
The Hutch Award has been awarded since 1965 to a player who exemplifies the courage and desire of Fred Hutchinson. The first recipient was Mickey Mantle. Bill Hutchinson, who diagnosed his brother's condition, later founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle in 1975; it has become one of the world's leading research institution in the field of oncology.
On December 24, 1999, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named Hutchinson Seattle's athlete of the 20th Century, ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr.
Charlie Grimm hit .290 in a 20 year career as a player and he won three pennants in his first go-round as the Cubs' manager. He managed the Braves for five season in the fifties, was out of the dugout for four years and returned to Chicago in 1960. He lasted 17 games and was out of the job months before this card was issued.

Eddie Sawyer managed the Phils for nearly a decade including the Whiz Kids club of 1950 but in 1960 he was gone even faster than Grimm was from Chicago. He managed ONE game before quitting with a famous good bye quote: “I am 49 years old and want to live to be 50.” Two games later the Gene Mauch era began in Philly.

All-in-all it's a pretty cool subset I think. The pennant would reappear as the dominant feature of the classic 1965 Topps set. And the fact that these are so different from the 'base' cards in the 1960 set makes them stand out. As I recall all these National League managers cards came dirt cheap. Only the Stengel out of the complete set of 16 cost enough to even give the price a second thought.

I'll post the American League managers in a day or so.