Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Baltimore Colts White Whale! (or at least the tail)

I've had this on my want list for quite a long time. It's a 1968 Topps Test Issue team card of the Baltimore Colts. They were never distributed nationally and are relatively scarce. With a crease and a stain dinging it's value I was able to grab this with a lowball offer on eBay.

The wonderful Fleer Sticker Project blog posted a lot of info on these in 2010 and you can see that here. In a nutshell these things came in a pack that featured a cloth patch. I dig the team card alot more than the patch but I was never asked to take the test so what do I know? The FSP post I linked has a shot of each of the available cards and stickers.

The back listed the players in the team pic. Topps issued one for 25 of the then 26 teams. The Cincinnati Bengals were a startup franchise and had no team pic to use.

I know that the scans run over the border of the box but using a smaller photo setting kind of makes the card look like a mini. The actual size is 2 1/2" x 4 11/16" which is about equal to a 'tall boy' card turned on it's side.

I'm still actively searching for the Colts patch. I'm optimistic because it seems like my luck in uncovering long sought items is improving. The same week I found this card I also discovered a guy selling another item I've had on my Colts list. That is arriving this week and will appear in another post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Teeny Target Trip

So on the way home from my most recent card show visit (that's a different post) I stopped at a Target I usually never bother with. But I was in dire need of an iced coffee and that was the nearest Starbucks location.

Of course I hit the card aisle and ended up grabbing this box on a whim. I didn't quite know what they meant by the 4 packs/50 cards/bonus business but I soon found out. Here's what was inside:

The packs were pretty mundane. The two Draft Picks packs were a waste. Logo-less cards of guys I've never heard of. The cards suck. And there were only four to a pack...which made me think of the Woody Allen bit in Annie Hall where he retells the old joke about the food at a Catskills resort.

I already have the Babe Ruth set so that pack is dupes. The Heritage pack wasn't bad. I pulled a Manny Machado and a card I could use in my fantasy binder, Andrew Cashner.

The white box held the 50 cards. It was a John Smoltz hot box as I got three(!) cards of his and a load of other trade fodder. The Smoltz trio was interesting because I was listening to him educate Joe Buck on big league pitching as I was flipping thru the cards. Everything else was the same sort of thing that shows up in every Fairfield repack...junk wax era Donruss..2012 to 2015 Topps and a scattering of 1990s cards featuring lots of gold foil over fake granite borders...i.e. 1994 Pinnacle Select.

The 'bonus' was two packs of TeenyMates. I will admit that I've never seen these things before. Each pack contained two 'mates' representing MLB teams, a couple of puzzle pieces and a foldout which serves as ad piece, checklist and info sheet.

I was puzzled by them being all catchers but I went to the webpage and figured out that there are several series of these things and each series featured a position or baseball pose. They also listed some special 'TeenyMates' and gave the a category of  'common', 'rare', and 'ultra rare'. The rare ones are 'gold', glow-in-the-dark or uniform variations. They have them for all the major sports. Who knew?

From the front I had a hard time seeing which teams were represented among my four new little friends. My crappy phone pics don't help here so I'll tell you that I got a Padre, Pirate, Cub and Brewer.

Here are the two sides of the enclosed flyer. I gotta say that I liked these more than a soon-to-be 65 year old probably should. I'll end up giving these to my wife to use as rewards for the kids she tests but first I'll let them sit on my desktop and watch a bit of postseason ball with me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ben Hawkins 1944-2017

Another of my old school favorites passed away recently. Ben Hawkins was a few years ahead of me at Nutley High. I recall sneaking under the fence at the Park Oval to watch him terrorize Montclair and Clifton on Saturday afternoons. 

He went on to a great career at Arizona State and played for the Eagles and Browns  in the NFL and with Philly in the WFL. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1967.

He was known for having that loose chinstrap flapping around when he played. In the video at the bottom he explains how that habit came to be and shows a few clips of him having his helmet knocked off.

Nice little video. Love hearing that north Jersey accent he never really lost.

RIP, Hawk

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Billy Pierce Collection additions

Back in December of 2014 I was able to find an affordable Swifts Meats Billy Pierce. It took me by surprise to nab one in nice shape that I could afford. These are neat and unusual collectibles. When I posted that first one I did some research into how they were distributed when they were issued in 1957. 

It turned out that they came with packs of hot dogs AND via a mail-in order form. That post has much more detail and some links to info/checklists. Click here to go back to it

About a month or so I came across another listing for one of these in my general Billy Pierce search on eBay. The seller described it as a 'Type card', i.e. 'a piece of junk you can own just to say you have one'. But in the pictures it looked just fine, very collectible.  And he wanted $31 for it. I don't recall what I paid for my first one (it was 'graded' by some fly-by-night company) but it was over $100, maybe closer to $125. I mean these babies are pretty hard to find. And a quick search on eBay shows how much the going rate normally is.

So for $31 I had to take a closer look. It's got a stain and one of the punch-out body pieces is halfway 'punched out' but it's not that much worse than my slabbed one. I kept looking for the catch but I never found one so I grabbed it.

I would normally never buy a second copy of something of this ilk but at that price I simply had to pull the trigger. Heck, I'd buy one of these of a random player at that price. 

So anyway, I now have two of these. And at one point I never thought I'd even have one. 

I'm not sure which side of these is considered the 'front' so here are both sides. Click the link above for a look at what they are like when assembled and to see the game board they were supposed to used on.

This next item is much less significant in terms of hobby relevance but it was a more exciting pick-up for me. This is a J.D. McCarthy postcard of Billy Pierce that I never had seen before. I've refined my BP search on eBay to where I have eliminated the Topps cards and all the other common items that were showing up again and again.

One night this thing hit my screen and I didn't hesitate to nab it. McCarthy postcards are a great addition to player collections. I figured that a Pierce or two had been produced but there is no checklist available so I had no way to know for sure.

I'm a post card fanatic. Every season from about 1968 or so I would write to the Orioles requesting a price for their team issued postcard set. After a few years they began sending a souvenir list without my even writing. Once or twice someone in their PR office sent me the late season additions to the year's postcards unsolicited. I spent a decade or so putting together a listing of Orioles team issued postcards only to find out that it had already been done. At some point in the mid 1980s the Orioles got away from producing the sets, or at least including them on their price lists. I remember once calling their offices to inquire about them and getting no real answer. My collection really got moved to the back burner when that happened. (They have since resumed producing that cards but when they did so I have no idea.)

But meanwhile I had come across McCarthy's cards and I've amassed quite a few Orioles examples. The late Bob Lemke came into possession of McCarthy's files and you can read his post concerning that right here.

Well, I've made a short story long but the bottom line is that I've found a BP McCarthy and am glad to have done so. And to make it just a bit better the card was mailed between two of my favorite places, Chicago and North Jersey!

This last piece is another dupe that I added because it was cheap and available. It's a picture pack photo which was done by Jay Publishing as team sets in the early 60s. They were sold at stadiums, by mail order and at places like Manny's Baseballand across Jerome Avenue from the ballpark in the Bronx. I've posted this one and some other Pierce variations before. For a couple of bucks adding a signed copy didn't require much thought.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

TCMA The 60s Set Series II Minor League subset

The nine minor league cards from the TCMA Stars of the 60s Series II set have trickled in and I thought they were worth a post. As is the case with many of the TCMA sets this little subset seems to be random at first glance. Or maybe it isn't. It's as if they needed to fill in a gap so they used whatever photos they had at the front of the folder marked 'Minor League Pictures'. That would explain why there are three 'Andersons', Buford, Beard, Brickell, Cook and Coleman included. Pumpsie Green's picture had probably been misfiled with the guys at the beginning of the alphabet.

These are not in checklist order. 

Fritzie Brickell- Buffalo Bisons

The back of this card of short time Yankee Fritz Brickell lists him as a member of the Buffalo Bisons. That's an uncorrected (and uncatalogued AFAIK) error. He never played for Buffalo and he is wearing the uniform of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played for Toronto in 1961 and '62. 

Interestingly Toronto is listed as unaffiliated with any MLB club for '61 but as a farm team of the Braves in '62. Which leads us to the next card....

Sparky Anderson-Toronto Maple Leafs

Sparky is 27 years old give or take in this shot from his stint with Toronto ('60-'63). He looks closer to 40...or maybe 50.

Below is the back of Sparky's card. It's printed with black ink unlike the rest of Series II (but it matches some of the cards from previous TCMA issues). It's also notable (and weird) that all nine of the cards have 'upside down' backs. In a binder you have to flip the page around to read them.

Ted Beard- Indianapolis Indians

The funny thing about Ted Beard is that he played for Indianapolis in 13 different seasons and through several different affiliations between 1947 and 1963. In between Indy stints he played in seven seasons for the Pirates and White Sox.

Pumpsie Green- Buffalo Bisons

Three things you should know about Pumpsie Green...his brother was Cornell Green who was a five time Pro Bowl safety for the Cowboys...his given name is Eliajh...he was the first African-American player to appear for the Boston Red Sox.

Syracuse was the Mets' AAA farm club and Green played there beginning in 1963.

John Anderson- Toronto Maple Leafs

The second of three Andersons among the nine cards belongs to pitcher John Anderson. He appeared in 24 games over three seasons for the Phils, Orioles, Cardinals and Colt 45s. He pitched for Toronto for three seasons in the early 60s.

Don Buford- Indianapolis Indians

Discounting Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson's dugout career Don Buford represents the best on-the-field major leaguer included. His time with Indianapolis was from 1962 to '63 when the team was affiliated with the White Sox. He put up some terrific numbers both seasons.

After some decent seasons with the Sox he was traded to the Orioles in 1968 and became 1) a handy and valuable switch hitter for three pennant winners and 2) one of my very favorite big leaguers. His stance was memorable and one I liked to imitate when we played corkball outside the dorms when I was in college.

Buford later managed in the Orioles organization, played several years in Japan and had a son, Damon, who played big league ball.

Choo Choo Coleman- Syracuse Chiefs

Clarence 'Choo Choo' Coleman was an Original Met having been claimed from the Phils in the '61 expansion draft. He began the '62 season in Syracuse which is when this picture must have been taken. He was with the Mets later in 1962 and 1963 and had a return six game engagement in 1966. Meanwhile he spent plenty of time in the Mets' system and finished his career with two seasons in Mexico.

If Baseball Reference is to be believed (and I do) then TCMA erred in saying on the back of Coleman's card that he was with Syracuse prior to his major league debut with the Phillies in 1961. Coleman, as noted above, played with Syracuse in 1962 after he was selected by the Mets. Spokane is probably the team they should have made mention of.

Craig Anderson- Buffalo Bisons

I've already posted these last two cards. Craig Anderson won three games and lost 17 for the 1962 Mets. He pitched for Buffalo during parts of each season from 1963 thru 1965.

Cliff Cook-Buffalo Bisons

Cook was a third baseman and outfielder who played one season's worth of games (163) over the course of five years for the Reds and Mets. He played for Buffalo in 1962 and '63.

And that wraps up my posts on the TCMA sets from 1978 and 1981. It was a fun project. A comprehensive  TCMA project would include more sets than I could ever hope to track down. Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein were very prolific producers of cards back in their heyday. All sorts of reprint, specialty and minor league sets flooded the marketplace in the late 70s and early 80s. None of them (or these 'Stars' sets) can compare with the mother of them all, their original SSPC monster, but these in particular are a whole lot of fun.

Lastly several folks have commented or emailed about collecting these Stars sets. Words of advice from someone who has tracked these for a long time. If you look online, particularly on eBay, you'll see wildly divergent asking prices for these things. I've seen Series I and II listed for over $120...each! I've also seen them going as a complete package for half that. So the advice is 'have patience'!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

TCMA The 60s Set Series II (Pt 2)

I need to apologize for these photo laden TCMA posts. I have a hard time narrowing down the cards I think are scan/post worthy. So many fun ones...and quite a few 'dogs' as well. I really believe that's part of the attraction of these things.

Anyway here are some more from the TCMA Stars of the 60s Series II set.'s a 188 card 'extension' of the 1978 Series I offering. It has lots of posed action and portrait shots like the original but adds some group/multi-player cards, game highlight cards (which I dubbed "TCMA Now") and some action photos. There is also a nine card subset of big leaguers of varying career success levels in their minor league uniforms.

Some of the better action shots are seen on horizontal cards.

Jose Tartabull in the yellow and green of the KC A's.. He's the father of a major leaguer, Danny Tartabull and the guy who won a big game for the Red Sox in August of 1967. Tartabull caught a fly with one out and Chicago's Ken Berry on third in the bottom of the ninth. His throw to Ellie Howard nailed Ken Berry at home and the game was over. That 1967 AL race was something else.

Dick Egan pitched in 70 games for the Tigers, Angels and Dodgers. In his career he allowed 13 homers. Not a single one came with his team behind on the scoreboard. I have no idea what that signifies but I found it interesting.

Bob Moose, a guy I collect. I saw his no hitter at Shea in 1969.

Yup, Teddy Ballgame gets a card in this one. He retired after the 1960 season so technically he qualifies as a 60s star. Hey, if you have a nice shot of Ted Williams in the batting cage in Sarasota  you use it. Ted gets a nice one paragraph career wrapup on the back.

Like the previous editions this TCMA release is comprised mostly of portraits. They run the gamut from mundane and/or poorly shot to damn near artistic. I've scanned some of interest for inclusion here. Such as this gem:

Rick Reichardt was an accomplished baseball and football star at the University of Wisconsin and the bidding war for his services led to the baseball draft being instituted. He hit the first homer in Anaheim Stadium according to Wikipedia.

I've never really gotten used to seeing Lou Brock as a Cub. Nice pic though.

It's a pensive Duke of Flatbush with the Mets at the Polo Grounds in 1962.

Len 'Boom Boom' Boehmer He had a cup of coffee with the Reds after a long minor league career and then got about a hundred at bats with the 1969 Yankees. He rented a house that summer in Nutley, New Jersey which was where I grew up and isn't much of a hike to the Bronx. I was living down the Shore by then but when I visited friends in Nutley we attempted to find Len in my old neighborhood. We were unsuccessful.

I think this is a sweet shot of Ron Fairly. That first baseman's mitt looks huge!

Billy McCool is here for two reasons. First. I always thought that was a fun name. And second there is some sort of wheeled vehicle on the field with him. Tractor? Motorcycle? Dunno.

If I drew up a list of big league pitchers I'd hate to face on the mound Don Wilson would be fairly high on it. He could bring it and he had a touch of Don Drysdale in him. Four years ago I posted this with another Wilson card:

"......when we moved to Houston and went to games in the Dome it seemed like Don Wilson was always the Astros' starter. He was a 'take no prisoners' kind of bad azz dude. His no-hitter in May of 1969 against the Reds came a day after Don Maloney had no-hit the Astros. Knowing Wilson the general assumption was he getting some revenge for the previous night's humiliation. But in this great game story from the Houston Chronicle it's clear that Wilson carried much more than that into the game."

Bo Belinsky...sorry for the lopsided scan. His New York Times obit is an interesting read. Bo got a lot of press for a lot of off the field notoriety.

Who else but Don Mossi?  Mossi pitched his last minor league season in 1953 in Tulsa. His manager was Joe Schultz.

Wally Bunker whose Rawlings glove I grew up using. I'm thinking of having it refurbished.

A nice shot of Richie Allen sporting the 'windbreaker under the jersey' look. If you think he's Hall of Fame worthy I won't argue with you.

Paul Blair wearing the number that Eddie Murray made famous in Baltimore. PB wore it in 1964 and 1965 before switching to #6.

Nelson Mathews played 157 games in center field for the A's in 1964. He hit .239 with 14 dingers and 60 ribbies. He led the league in whiffs as well. Why am I having a hard time even remembering him. Or the sharp uni the A's wore in 1962?

Bobby Shantz during his brief stint with the Houston Colt 45s in early 1962. Even at 92 he remains one of the surest TTM signers around. I oughta send him this card. It would look nice signed.

TCMA had some really nice portrait shots in their files. This one of Jim Bunning at Yankee Stadium is terrific.

Tim McCarver...batting practice shot. There are a handful of these in the set. I liked McCarver a lot more as a player than I did as a TV color man.

Bud Harrelson and Al Weis in one of those simulated infield action pics that you usually associate with the 1950s.

Tommy McCraw. I just like this card. The powder blue Sox uni is nice. McCraw made the last out and got the last hit for the Washington Senators. And while his one year playing for Ted Williams wasn't very productive he always credited Ted for teaching him the 'mental aspect' of hitting.

Larry Burright was a Dodger signee who was dealt to the Mets for the 1963 season. He got about a hundred at bats and was shipped to the minors before losing the 2nd base job to Ron Hunt. His nickname was 'Possum'. How does a kid from California end up with that name?

Wally Moon was Rookie of the Year in 1954 with the Cardinals, went on to win a Gold Glove, make two NL All Star teams and finish as high as fourth in MVP voting.

Don Hoak, another '1957 Topps-esque' card. the more I look at it the more I get a 1961 Topps vibe out of it.

The great Billy Williams. Can a Hall of Famer be 'underrated'? Maybe. Or maybe Williams was just a quiet guy who we never really think about these days.

Roy White. Whenever I see him I remember the great catch my father and I saw Frank Robinson make at Yankee Stadium in June of 1966. He robbed White of a game winning homer as he fell over the short right field railing. Ralph Houk got tossed out of the second game of the DH that evening during the lineup card exchange because he was giving the umps hell over the call. Houk could really pitch a fit when he needed to.

Joe Moock. I included this card because I'd never heard of the guy. He was a September call up in 1967. I'd moved to Houston (first time) in August of that year so I just missed him when I was going to Shea that summer. In the minors in 1966 he had 191 hits including 23 homers and 130 RBI. Never did anything approaching that before or after. In 1998 Steve Rushin of SI wrote The Ballad of Joe Moock about the Mets never-ending search for a good third baseman.

So that's a look at the third piece of the TCMA Stars sets. I received 6 of the final minor league cards I was lacking yesterday. When the last one arrives I'll scan them and post them. All I need to do now is page these things up in a binder. It's been fun.