Sunday, July 26, 2020

Leaf Me Be

The last brick in the 1960 Leaf set wall has been put in place thanks to my long-delayed COMC delivery. I bought this baby in March and I'm happy to have it in the binder today.

I had a few other needs in the set when I nailed down ol' Gene here, but they all came months ago thanks to eBay and the very generous gifts I received from a Twitter acquaintance, Talmer Curry, who dropped the last of these jewels on me.

Green was a long-time Cardinals outfield prospect who finally made the majors in 1957. In his career, which spanned all or parts of seven seasons, he had the distinction of leading both leagues in Grounding Into Double Plays. He was a regular in the outfield for St. Louis in '58 and hit .281 with 18 doubles and 13 homers.

In December of 1959, after his playing in just 30 games, the Cards traded Green to the Orioles for smooth-swinging outfielder Bob Nieman. Green by this time had taken up the tools of ignorance as a big-league side hustle. The photo for this card must have been in Spring Training of 1960 because Green spent the season at AAA Miami before being called up in September.

He played right field against the Senators on September 23, a week or so before the end of the season. That game, those four at-bats (a ground out, a single, and two pop-outs, one of which ended the 4-0 O's loss) are his only appearance for the Birds. After the season he was left off the protected list and was taken in the expansion draft by the new Washington Senators.

He was the Nats' regular catcher in 1961 and he had another good year fueled by frequent work as he hit .280 with a career-high 18 homers.

Sports Illustrated had a story about the expansion Senators in '61 and Green rated a paragraph:
Gene Green, an outfielder and reluctant catcher with the Cardinals years ago, is now, at the age of 38, a more enthusiastic pupil of catching under Coach Rollie Hemsley. His strength, though, is at the plate, not behind it.

He moved on the Indians and (briefly) the Reds for a bit before leaving the game after the '63 season. He was only 47 when he died in 1981.

Poking a bit down a Google rabbit hole I found that Green is a member of the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame. From their site:
Outfielder/catcher Gene Green played three seasons (1956, 1957 & 1959) with the Red Wings. One of the best players to play for Rochester during the Cardinals era, Green helped lead the Red Wings to the Governors’ Cup championship in 1956 while batting .300 with 23 home runs and 96 RBI. Green, a two-time International League All-Star, finished his Red Wings career with 62 home runs and 254 RBI in 371 games.

Looking at his listing on the Trading Cards Database I realize I have an entire run of Gene Green's major release cards. Which is something I guess.  His rookie card came in the '58 Topps set:

Green got a pink one in '59. Outside of the black cards, pink ones are my favorites.

I haven't posted his 1960 card on that blog yet but it's coming up before too long. That's the Polo Grounds behind him on both the '59 and 1960 cards.  Same photo session, even the folds in his jersey are identical.

Here's his 1961 Topps card. Probably a photo from 1960 Spring Training since that appears to be an Orioles road jersey. The Cards didn't use the piping like that.

 In '62 Topps added a 1B listing to his card. That's strange because he'd yet to play a game there in his career and he was unlikely to push past Tito Francona for the Tribe's 1B job. He had two appearances at first that year.

This '63 is the only one here that's not my own scanned card. My '63s are in a box buried in a closet. But I know I've got Gene...he's on my 'Got It' list. He's back to being a OF-C guy. And this is his final card.

If you are a 'card back geek' you can decide for yourself which of the sets from those years you prefer. I'm a 1960 back fan.

And Google Books turned up this quote from The Gigantic Book of Baseball Quotations

I picked up some other fun things in the COMC delivery. I also have ventured into the murky waters of SportsLots and came away in one piece, if a little bumfuzzled by their arcane website. I'll toss those up here in the next few days.

Stay Healthy my friends.

Monday, July 13, 2020

'62 Mars Attacks, I bet Sister Claire still has mine

I spent most of my elementary school years at St. Mary's in Nutley, NJ. The church and parish are still there but the school building I spent so many hours in and around is now a privately run school for young people with special needs.

I've mentioned the place here previously and showed the ramp which was our card flipping backdrop. Lots of good memories and stories for sure. My friends and I  collected more than just baseball and football cards.

Over the last few years, I've set out to collect (for the second time ¯\_㋡_/¯ ) the non-sports cardboard that so fascinated us. I've succeeded in finishing the Batman and Civil War News sets. I'm working sloooowly through the more-complicated-than-it-needs-to-be '67 Soupy Sales set. And I'm really within range of finishing this beauty, the original 1962 Bubbles (aka Topps) Mars Attacks set of 55 cards.

Cards were not necessarily against the rules at St. Mary's. You just needed to keep them out of sight during instructional time. LOL Fat chance. I had my share of cards taken up by the lay teachers and, particularly, by the nuns, the Sisters of (not much) Charity. Baseball and football cards were returned to us (usually) at the end of the week with a warning that the next time we wouldn't be so lucky. But getting nailed shuffling through your stack of Civil War News or (gasp) Mars Attacks cards meant you could kiss those babies adios. If you were living right (and had a teacher that wasn't wearing a habit), you knew they were gonna get trashed. If you were caught by a nun...well you got to watch her tear them up and then had to endure a shot from her yardstick or long, wooden pointer across the arm.

But I'm getting too wordy here. My set chase began back near the first of the year. My goal was to put together a presentable set without going nuts on price. And that isn't easy with the Mars Attacks set. These things get pricy quick. I've picked up 45 of the 55. I have been able to gather most of them in the $14-$18 range. I've done that by ignoring the fact that many are off-center. But now the available cheapies are picked over. I get lucky from time to time but the last few I've obtained were in the $20 range with a few closer to $25.

Supposedly Topps pulled these from production due to a harsh response from the public (read 'parents') over the graphic and violent images. That may or may not be true. What is true is that the cards were graphic and violent. Right up our alley!

Card #21 is reputed to be the hardest to find other than card #1. It certainly is priced that way. Here's something else I found interesting..Topps, according to the Heritage Auction site, used the 'Bubbles, Inc.' 'imprint' when they were publishing a set that they thought would be viewed as controversial. I'd wondered about that and had never heard that explanation of it. And it makes sense.

The backs of the cards contain the narrative for the artwork on the front. You'll be relieved to note that, according to the back of card #21, the young lady in the clutches of the Matian was able to escape.

The project was conceived by two giants of the card industry at the time, Woody Gelman and Len Brown. The illustrations were drawn by Wally Wood and Bob Powell and were then hand-painted by the great Norm Saunders. That same crew, more or less, was also responsible for the Civil War News set which was completed in 1961. Everything you could ever want to know about the Mars Attacks set, and more, can be found here at the Old Sports Card site.

These are two scans of the same card. I bought it with the notation of  'stained' from the seller. When I pulled it from the toploader to scan I noticed that the 'stain' was some gum or candy residue which flaked right off without a trace. When it comes to building this thing I'll take whatever break comes my way.

BTW.. you can use the title of #5 here to make up your own joke.

My needs list is over on the right-hand column. I'm figuring that card #1 will be the final card to hit the binder. Then again, considering that I've had cards from this set sitting at COMC for months without any indication if they will ever be shipped, card #1 may be yellow and brittle before I finish loading pages.

I'll save my 'Why does COMC send me multiple emails every day about their auctions if they are too locked down to ship?' rant for another day.

And speaking of Mars Attacks... Kickstarter, along with Topps, is issuing another crowdfunded Mars Attacks set next summer.  I'm a backer and the previews look fantastic. I figure its 50/50 on whether that set is in my hands before the '62s I have at COMC.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Some Pretty '67s

I'm at an odd spot with my 1967s. I'm past the point of no return, as it were. I've made a couple of decent-sized 'lot' purchases which kind of commits me to the set. But I'm not yet to the point where I'm trolling COMC and eBay to begin filling in slots. In fact, I don't really know what slots I have open.

I don't collect McCovey cards per se, but I sure do enjoy onwing some. The one up top is one of my favorites. A great portrait shot.  The '67 set is so clean.

 Jim "I'm not in the Hall of Fame you dummy' Kaat looked like a high schooler himself. And he did for another 20 years.

We moved from New Jersey to Houston (for the first time) in the summer of '67. It's hard to believe now, but the house my folks bought was just about at the western edge of Houston civilization. There wasn't a whole hell of a lot between us and San Antonio. But we were close to a shopping center where there was a brand new supermarket and an Eckert's (now CVS). Both sold cards and I bought plenty of them since I didn't know a soul and had nothing else to do but continue to build my '67 collection. Lord knows it was too damn hot to do anything outside.

Another lefty, Whitey Ford. If I had a buck for every time I saw him pitch at Yankee Stadium...I'd probably have thirty bucks. At least.

Don Drysdale. here's a fun fact...from Opening Day right up through the month of June in 1968 Drysdale made 18 starts. Only once in those 18 starts did he allow more than two earned runs. Once. 'Year of the Pitcher' or not, that is damned impressive. And of course, that run included his stretch of six consecutive shutouts.

Joe Nuxhall, former 14 15-year-old big leaguer, and wearer of the short-sleeved rubber sweat top.

Rico Carty who kept his wallet in the back pocket of his baseball pants because he didn't trust banks fo the clubhouse safe. At least according to Jim Bouton in Ball Four.

And last but certainly not least, one of the big cards from the high number series...#600 Brooks Robinson. I really love this card. I own one that's slabbed as well as this one which will go in the set binder. I used to have a couple more of this but at one point while I was at college my brothers, and some cousins who were visiting decided to make a 'scrapbook' of Orioles cards and cut them up into their component pieces (name, photo, team name, etc) and glue them into spiral notebooks. Lucky me.

I also sent one to the first person I got to know when I joined the hobby community online. He was an Orioles fan in Australia and I sent him a box of Orioles cards, maybe 100 or more. I never heard back from him. He never again responded to my messages. I wasn't looking for something in return or even a thanks, but to just ghost me was pretty weird. I hope he enjoyed the cards.

I'll commit to this set with some energy once I clear off some of the projects that are sitting on my desk right now. One of those projects, something I've wanted to tackle for maybe three decades, is finally coming to fruition. I'm saving that for another post.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Generic Fun with Football

The 1980 Topps set represents the first year of my fantasy football league. And that's why I bought it. That, and the fact it was cheap. It is a Topps-without-a-license set but that doesn't bug me as much as it does with baseball sets. Probably because I'm used to seeing football cards with portrait shots taken on the sidelines. Would it be better with a team logo in the design? Absolutely. But sets can work just fine without them.

The set kicks off with a 'Record Breakers' subset as shown in the Harold Carmichael card up top. Unlike the '86 and '87 sets I've posted recently, this one is not grouped by team. It's done in the usual random player checklist pattern.

I'd like to think I'm the only person alive who can say he had Matt Robinson (who?) on his fantasy team. On a side note... this is supposed to be out 41st season. I think the odds of it coming off as less than 50/50 right now.

My QB that year ended up being my pal Tommy Kramer.

The card design is pretty simple as you can see. That football with the name inserted reminds me of this:

All Pro players with the appropriate banner.

At first glance, I thought Allan Ellis' pic was taken at Memorial Stadium but looking closer (and factoring in his uniform color) I'm thinking that it's Soldier Field.

The backs had stats, vitals, and a random fact related to the featured players' team.

Some helmet airbrushing made the player look like The Great Gazoo.

The Cleveland 'No Logo' Browns didn't have to concern themselves with airbrush nonsense.

Photos from some angles make the lack of logos irrelevant.

The highest cost card of the set is Phil Simms' rookie card.

Sweetness's card is cool no matter what.

Sideline capes, the football version od bat rack shots.

There were some helmetless shots which showed off that's 80s hair look.

BTW...Doug Kotar...or Waylon Jennings? You make the call.

There were a few scattered game action shots. Like this one of Mike Phipps.

And that card brings up one of the mysteries of this set. Check out DE Fred Dryer in that photo. The Rams' helmets were not tinkered with. Their iconic horn graphics were allowed on the cards. Like so:

I tried to find out why that was done but came up dry. Perhaps the 'horn' graphic was OK because it wasn't considered the team's official logo. The team used a ram's head for that. But that doesn't explain why the Vikings helmets' were airbrushed. The Viking horn on the helmet wasn't their official logo either, the Viking profile was. Who knows?

The Chargers had their 'bolts' obscured. It doesn't look as bad on the white unis as it does on the blue.

Scattered through the set were team cards that featured stat leaders. The Giants have always been my 'second team' and even I don't really remember Billy Taylor. He led the team in rushing yards in 1979 while starting nine games. The '79 Giants were terrible.

there was also a League Leaders subset. Joe Washington was fun to watch.

And the playoff subset covered the conference finals and the Super Bowl.

Dan Pastorini as a Raider, My drinking buddy Kenny Stabler as an Oiler. We're living in the Upside Down, people.

At first, I wondered if the black armband was an airbrush attempt to obscure the Cardinal unique sleeve stripe pattern. then I remembered.

The black armband covering their multiple sleeve stripes were worn during the 1979 season following the training camp death of TE J.V. Cain on his 28th birthday. Cain had been the 8th overall pick in the 1974 draft.

Joe Lavender was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

I showed this Paul Coffman card to my wife and she burst out laughing. She said 'You were playing pro football and I didn't even know it!".

Yes, he's my long lost twin. At least he's doing what I'd be doing on a pro football sideline, sitting it out.

I've decided that since I have the set from the first year of our fantasy league that a fun little project would be to nab a set from each of the five years I won the league. I'm working on that right now.

I also found the 30 card Super Football set. Topps loved 5x7 cards back then. They were pretty nice, truth be told.

Good stuff. And 30 cards for just a few dollars made it easy for me to pick it up and include it in the binder.

I won't burden everyone with the sets I pick up for my championship years, or maybe I will!