Friday, October 30, 2015

Nelson Rockefeller Pinbacks

Lately I've been so caught up in chasing and posting the '63 Fleer set and the '61 Topps MVPs that I've pretty much shoved most of my other collecting off to the side. But not blogging about them doesn't mean I was not adding anything.

A few weeks back I won this small lot of Nelson Rockefeller campaign pins. Rocky was the governor of New York State back when I was growing up and was a favorite of my (then) liberal leaning parents. He tried for the Republican presidential nomination several times but never won it. He later served as Vice President under Gerald Ford when Ford ascended to the Presidency following the resignation of Richard Nixon. He chose to retire and didn't run on the ticket with Ford in 1976.

I've always found him a fascinating character, perhaps because his political and social beliefs so closely paralleled my own. His Wikipedia page is recommended as a primer on the now very forever dead liberal branch of  the Republican Party.

In the photo above the upper left button is obviously from 1964 and the larger 'For President' red and blue one comes from 1968. I'm not sure about the blue one or the large button below.

These are not my first Rocky pins but these are the first that I am certain are legit and not reprints. (Why anyone would reprint a Nelson Rockefeller pinback is another story altogether.) There was another pinback in the lot that came along for the ride. The seller didn't realize that it wasn't a Nelson Rockefeller pin. It's pictured below and it's a pin that actually refers to this musical Brit group. [warning...the music video plays automatically].

Honestly I can understand the seller's mistake. Bella Abzug was a feminist/political activist and New York State Representative in the 70s.  The button might have seemed to the seller to be a strange political mashup or something. Unlike the real Rocky buttons, this one already hit our recycling bin.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

1961 Topps MVP Campy!

There are only 16 cards in the 1961 Topps MVP subset but oh, boy it's packed with star power. Here is one on my favorites. Roy Campanella had his career cut short due to the injuries he sustained in a car accident in January of 1959. He lived not far from where my family was living on Long Island in those days, on the north shore in Glen Cove.

How great a player was he? Well, he won three MVP awards over the course of just five seasons. Just for grins here is the list of the top NL MVP vote getters in 1955, the year Campy won his third trophy:
  • 1    Roy Campanella                                               
  • 2    Eddie Mathews                                                
  • 3    Duke Snider                                      
  • 4    Red Schoendienst                                          
  • 5    Warren Spahn                  
  • 6    Robin Roberts    
  • 7    Ted Kluszewski                                                
  • 8    Stan Musial                        
  • 9    Carl Erskine
  • 10  Carl Furillo 
  • 11  Pee Wee Reese                                               
  • 12  Jackie Robinson

And don't forget that Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were in the league as well. That's some serious competition. Lots of info on Roy Campanella out there. The more you dig the more interesting stories you find. Here is a snippet of Campy's bio on SABR's site:

Like most of the first generation of black players to cross the color line, Campanella took a steep pay cut to enter Organized Baseball and was forced to start at a level far below his ability. A top star in the Negro leagues, he found himself competing against a bunch of inexperienced kids, most of whom would never rise above Class A ball. Furthermore, he would be making only $185 a month for six months at Nashua rather than the $600 a month he’d been earning with the Baltimore Elite Giants.   
Campanella hit .290 and drove in 96 runs in 1946 to win the Eastern League MVP award. Early in the season, Nashua manager Walter Alston, who doubled as the club’s first baseman, asked Campy to take over the team for him if he ever got tossed out of a game. His reasoning was that Roy was older than most of the players and they respected and liked him. Sure enough, in a June contest Alston was ejected in the sixth inning and Campy became the first black man to manage in Organized Baseball. Moreover, his strategic move resulted in a comeback victory when he called on the hard-hitting Newcombe to pinch-hit and was rewarded with a clutch home run.

Roy’s experience in Nashua also changed his parents’ life. Fences around the Eastern League were virtually unreachable, and a local poultry farmer offered 100 baby chicks for every Nashua home run. At the end of the season, Campy collected 1,400 chicks as reward for his league-leading 14 circuit shots. He had them shipped to his father, who promptly began a farming business on the outskirts of Philadelphia.  

I'm down to just two cards from this subset on my want list, the Aaron and Yogi Berra cards. I keep bidding and losing but I'll get lucky at some point.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

1963 Fleer....Willie Mays and his National League friends

When it came time to pick up the pricier cards from the '63 Fleer set I figured I'd settle for lesser conditioned examples. I mean I'm not opening an art museum or anything. I just like to be able to flip through a binder and appreciate the cards for what they are. 

Willie Mays' '63 Fleer card came from COMC. It was one that had a "Warning: this card has issues" pop-up when you clicked 'add to cart'. Which didn't deter me. The creases aren't as pronounced in hand as they show in the scan. there is some back damage that seems to come from being pasted onto a page but it wasn't a deal breaker for me. The card of a smiling Willie in his old stomping (Polo) Grounds is very welcome in my collection.

Hey kids...It's Maury Wills! On a baseball card! 

Topps failure to sign a young Maury Wills is one of the more well known baseball cards 'legends'. He made a cameo on Topps' 1960 World Series Game #5 card but other than that this is his only appearance on a standard issue card. The yellow diamond on his card got a special MVP designation instead of the usual generic player artwork.

As a kid growing up with a lot of Dodgers fans as friends I was well aware that Wills never had a card from Topps although we never knew the story as to why that was. 

The rest of these were commons from the same purchase.

Bob Aspromonte posing in front of a brick wall. I always think of the old hockey sets that had so many photos of players seemingly taken in the hallway outside the clubhouse. I like the old .45s cap. I have one of those and wear it on my visits to Minute Maid Park when I'm rooting for the Astros (i.e. when they are not playing the Orioles).

Smoky Burgess, pinch hitter deluxe.

And finally one of my favorite Mets, lefty Al Jackson. Yes, back then I did have 'favorite' Mets...right up until October 16, 1969. After that it took about four decades for me to look at the Mets as 'just another team.' Yes, I held a grudge and was pretty bitter, sue me.

But anyway Al Jackson was a Texas-bred member of some terrible Mets' clubs and he always had the reputation as a hard-luck guy who deserved more support. He attended Wiley College which never was much in sports but had a top flight debate team that was made famous in a Denzel Washington movie.

After his active playing days Jackson was a pitching coach in several organizations, including the Orioles. Here is an interesting fact from Al Jackson's Baseball Reference Bullpen page: "A number of pitchers from that awful 1962 Mets team that went 40-120 became pitching coaches besides him, including Roger Craig, Bob Miller and Galen Cisco."

I'm down to seven cards on my '63 Fleer want list including the elusive short printed Checklist. None of the cards are actually hard to find. I just haven't seen them in the condition/price 'sweet spot' I have targeted. I'm very patient.

Friday, October 23, 2015

More from the 1961 Topps MVP Subset

I thought I'd toss these up since I had them scanned. They span a decade of  MVP winners and include a bunch of well known players. Nellie Fox, for example. There he is with the chaw. He won his MVP while leading the White Sox to the '59 AL crown.

Al Rosen missed out on the Triple Crown in 1953 when he finished barely behind Mickey Vernon of the Nats for the AL batting title. But he was a unanimous choice for MVP.

The Pirates' Dick Groat won the batting title, a World Series ring and the MVP Award in 1960. In 1963, his first year with the Cardinals, he finished second in the voting to Sandy Koufax.

Ernie Banks won back-to-back MVPs. I'm sure he would have traded them both for a shot at a World Series. This card came at a discount because some kid was kind enough to add the name of Ernie's team below his name.

Hank Sauer is the 'least celebrated' player in the group. His winning year, 1952, saw him lead the league in HR and RBIs. Robin Roberts, pitching for a fourth place Phillies club, won 28 games, had an ERA of 2.52 and a WHIP of 1.021 and finished second in the voting. I might have voted for him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

1961 Topps MVP Mickey Mantle

At the risk of becoming 'Mr. Vintage Subset' I decided to chase the 1961 Topps MVP cards. I started with the Don Newcombe that I posted last Monday. I already had Jackie Jensen, Roger Maris and Bobby Shantz so it was a matter of finding the others in this 16 card subset.

I thought Mantle was going to be the tough one and I had figured that it would take me quite awhile to find one that was in my price range but still presentable. But I got lucky. Right out of the gate this one showed up with a reasonable price and a 'Make Offer' option. My offer was accepted and here he is.

The scan doesn't really show how nice this card is. It's off center but that doesn't detract from the condition in my eyes.

I'm down to five 'needs' in this little group of '61s and I'll get to those soon enough. I'm going to finish off the '63 Fleer set and add a few 1060 Topps before I worry about these.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Great Gift...a signed Lenny Moore card

Hall of Famer Lenny Moore holds a special place in my heart. I haven't met many of the old Baltimore Colts but I was able to meet him briefly in the lobby of a hotel in Dallas quite by accident many years ago. He was very gracious and it didn't seem to bother him that some random fan came up to him and wanted to talk Colts while he was waiting to check out. I don't recall what I said to him but I was so in awe of meeting one of my heroes, one of the most exciting football players ever, that I probably mumbled something stupid.

I recently received a very nice surprise from my friend Mike McKay from Chicago. He's a prolific TTM collector and he was kind enough to send along a card he received back from Lenny recently. And I have the perfect place to slot this one.

Last football season as my fantasy team spiraled towards the worst record I've had in 35 years I went in to the league system and created a three custom players, Ray Berry, John Mackey and Lenny Moore. Then I picked them all up on waivers for one day just so I could put their cards in my fantasy football binder. Sure it's dumb but hey, you collect your way and I'll collect mine. ;-) And besides, there is precedent. I did the same thing for Johnny Unitas a decade ago.

Even unsigned I'd like this card. It's a 1988 Swell Gum card and the set commemorates the HoF's 25th anniversary. The shot is from a Colts-Rams game in the LA Coliseum and Johnny Unitas makes a cameo after handing the ball to Moore.

Mike included a copy of the letter he sent to Moore who answered his questions. Mike always customizes his letter with a logo or helmet like he did here. It's a nice touch. This Lenny Moore 'gift' isn't the first time Mike has been very generous, btw.

Thanks so much Mike. Let's work on meeting up next June in Chicago!

Monday, October 12, 2015

1961 Topps MVP Don Newcombe

Late in September Night Owl featured Don Newcombe in his 1956 Topps Card of the Month feature. It's a sweet card and it reminded me that Newk was included in the Topps MVP subset from 1961. It's a group of cards that I've been (very) casually collecting for what seems like decades.

I went out and found this copy on eBay and am very happy to add it to my collection. Don Newcombe is a often overlooked figure in the history of baseball in general and the Dodgers in particular. Night Owl outlined much of the story in his post.

I commented over there that Newk never got much consideration for the Hall of Fame and that's understandable I suppose. He got a late start in the majors due to a couple of factors. He came of age in a time when he wasn't going to be signed by a major league team. He spent a few seasons pitching in the Negro Leagues before Jackie Robinson broke through those barriers. And once signed by the Dodgers he had to climb up that incredibly deep farm system put together by Branch Rickey. In the end his numbers don't hold up to those pitchers enshrined in the Hall but his reach was much greater than just baseball stats. A recovered alcoholic Newk devoted much of his post-career time to assisting others to reach sobriety.

My father, a pinstripe-bleeding Yankee fan, had good things to say about Newcombe. And that was high praise considering that my old man lived just blocks from Ebbets Field and yet held the Bums in such low esteem that he never even walked the few blocks to see a game there until the Yanks played a World Series game in Brooklyn.

As for me I never saw Newk pitch but I do remember him being acknowledged one Sunday evening after his retirement as he sat in the audience at the Ed Sullivan show.

A few final random Newcombe thoughts:
  • I couldn't find a Newcombe bio in a quick Amazon search. With as many baseball books as are published each year I'd have thought he would be the subject of one.
  • He hit .271 as a major leaguer with 15 homers and over 100 RBI. The Astros have a first baseman who hits under .200. I'm just saying.
  • He finished his career with a season in Japan as a first baseman/outfielder and hit 12 dingers and batted .262. Those numbers, at the age of 36, placed him 11th and 12th on the league leader boards in those categories. 
  • Someone was kind enough to add the year of this card to the back. It doesn't bother me one bit. It shows that once upon a time someone cared.

Here is a checklist of the 1961 MVP subset. The ones I own are in red italics and I'm looking for the rest.
  • 471 Phil Rizzuto - New York Yankees MVP
  • 472 Yogi Berra - New York Yankees MVP
  • 473 Bobby Shantz -Philadelphia Athletics  MVP
  • 474 Al Rosen - Cleveland Indians MVP
  • 475 Mickey Mantle - New York Yankees MVP (added Oct 19)
  • 476 Jackie Jensen - Boston Red Sox MVP
  • 477 Nellie Fox - Chicago White Sox MVP
  • 478 Roger Maris - New York Yankees MVP
  • 479 Jim Konstanty - Philadelphia Phillies MVP
  • 480 Roy Campanella - Brooklyn Dodgers MVP
  • 481 Hank Sauer - Chicago Cubs MVP
  • 482 Willie Mays - New York Giants MVP
  • 483 Don Newcombe - Brooklyn Dodgers MVP
  • 484 Hank Aaron - Milwaukee Braves MVP
  • 485 Ernie Banks - Chicago Cubs MVP
  • 486 Dick Groat - Pittsburgh Pirates MVP

Saturday, October 10, 2015

1963 Fleer Warren Spahn (and friends)

With Spahnie it's all about the angles. Smile tilted one way, nose bent another way, cap brim cocked to a different angle altogether. Add in the terrific Milwaukee Braves gear and the result is almost always one fine baseball card.

I'm now at 56 60 of 66 in my pursuit of the 1963 Fleer set. Spahn was the first 'star' card I picked up once I knocked off almost every common. To get those commons I set myself a goal of collecting them in decent shape and priced at $2 or less. I couldn't quite pull that off but I wasn't much over in most cases. I don't have all 60 in hand yet but with the group I nabbed off COMC last week in route it won't be long.

It may not appear so in the scan but the card of Glen Hobbie shown below is the worst of the 'commons' in terms of condition. That visible crease on the lower right is much longer and more pronounced in hand. But for a dollar card I'm good with it.

Sometimes my friends and I would be captivated by a player due solely to his name. Bill Monbouquette was one such player. We'd like to imitate Red Barber describing a Monbo outing against the Yankees. I can still hear that in my head.

With what I know of Turk Farrell I'm guessing he was a real blast to have as a teammate.

I dabbled with the Phillies as a NL team to follow way back when and Demeter was a favorite of mine. The crease on his card is pretty ugly. This one may some day get upgraded.

Dick Howser on a card that includes a bat rack and the iconic old Yankee Stadium facade and lights. Bonus points for the cool Athletics sleeveless tops. One of my favorite cards in the set. RIP Dick Howser. A baseball 'lifer' whose life ended much too short.

Bob Purkey in the Polo Grounds.

That's old Griffith Stadium behind Tom Chaney. I have no memories of those caps. This is another creased card. Since I bought this one I've seen others in better shape for $2 or less. Sometimes my impatience costs me.

I've posted my remaining needs for this set over near the top of the right side column. I have no illusions of someone discovering that they have a spare Joe Adcock and dropping it on me but, hey you never know.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Billy Pierce Sketch Card

I bought this on a lark. While I usually like oddball issues (and I have lots of Pierce oddballs) a 'sketch card' seemed kind of...I dunno...'out there' I guess. But I've bought some here and there and I liked this one and for the price I figured "why not?"

The artist has a lot of more limited types of cards on eBay but this is an 'unlimited' edition, whatever that means...probably that he made a bunch of them. I put in a bid for a numbered Johnny Unitas sketch card as well. That will be ending soon. It's rather nice and I'd like to win it. In fact the artist does some pretty good work. I've seen a lot of sports art and some of it is pretty awful but this Edward Vela has talent.

Anyway this is the first addition I've made to my Billy Pierce PC since his passing back on the 31st of July. It'll fit in nicely.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I guess I collect Frank Thomas (the old one)

I picked up this '58 card of 50's/60's slugger Frank Thomas a couple of weeks ago for a handful of change. I've debated collecting the '58 set for the longest time. Back when I first joined eBay I began finding and buying random cards '58s. I have noted before that this is the first set I remember seeing as a kid.

It's garish and has too many head shots for sure. Despite it's flaws it holds a great deal of appeal for me. I can't see myself collecting and blogging another vintage set any time soon, but who knows?

But back to Big Frank. His 1960 card was on my 1960 Topps blog in May. I wrote a long post about his when I featured his card on my 1959 Topps blog. You can read that post by clicking here. But here are the highlights if you'd rather not click thru here are a couple of notes of interest:

-He was traded by the Phillies to Houston in 1965 for starting a fight with teammate Dick Allen on the field. Now considering that Thomas supposedly earned his nickname because of his lousy people skills a fight with the charisma impaired Dick Allen was probably a hot wager in the Phillie clubhouse.
-Bill James's win shares (of which I am clueless), sez he was the worst fielding third baseman ever among those among the top 300 in innings played at third.
I never cared much for the abbreviated stat format on the backs of some Topps issues but it does leave room for a lot of other issues and some classic cartoon art.

Not a bad card for fifty cents.