Friday Flicks: Sandlot Cinema #1 – Major League

30 01 2015

I’ve been wanting to expand the “Baseball & Culture” posts, and I did a couple of posts about songs with baseball connections.  I called those “Tuesday Tunes” – and the next thing to do would clearly be movies!  I loved the Major League movie set that Topps inserted into Archives last year – so that seemed like a good reason to go back and watch a movie I hadn’t seen in probably a decade.

Major League Blu Ray case

Here’s the obligatory statement (that hopefully isn’t necessary for a 1989 movie) – SPOILER ALERT!

Movie/Studio: “Major League”, Morgan Creek Productions (distributed by Paramount), 1989

Director: David S. Ward

  • Charlie Sheen – Ricky Vaughn
  • Tom Berenger – Jake Taylor
  • Wesley Snipes – Willie Mays Hayes
  • James Gammon – Lou Brown
  • Margaret Whitton – Rachel Phelps
  • Corbin Benson – Roger Dorn
  • Dennis Haysbert – Pedro Cerrano
  • Chelcie Ross – Eddie Harris
  • Rene Russo – Lynn Wells
  • Bob Uecker – Harry Doyle
  • Charlie Cyphers – Charlie Donovan
  • Randy Quaid – Johnny the Fan

Plot:  The movie features a fictional version of the Cleveland Indians, who had been the most futile organization in baseball as of the late 1980’s.  Rachel Phelps inherited the Tribe from her late husband, and plots to move the team to Miami by inviting only has-beens and rookies.  The players include:

  • Ricky Vaughn, a fireballer from the California Penal League,
  • Jake Taylor, a former All-Star catcher now in the Mexican League,
  • Eddie Harris, a washed-up spit-baller,
  • Cuban defector / voodoo practitioner Pedro Cerrano,
  • expensive narcissist Roger Dorn,
  • speedy Willie Mays Hayes, who wasn’t actually invited, and
  • manager Lou Brown who was selling tires in the off-season.

The team starts off poorly as expected.  Taylor runs into his old girlfriend, Lynn Wells, who is engaged to a lawyer; he spends the rest of the movie trying to win her back.  Vaughn starts to pitch better when he gets subscription glasses, and the team gets to .500.  When Brown learns of Phelps’s plan, he lets the team know.  They try to “win the whole damn thing”, and catch the Yankees by the end of the year to force a 1-game playoff for the division title.

Unfortunately, when Dorn’s wife realizes that he’s been cheating on her, she seduces Vaughn, who Brown has benched for the more experienced Harris.  Vaughn is brought in to relieve Harris in the top of the 9th with the bases loaded.  After awkward moment at the mound, Dorn tells him to strike the guy out.  Ricky blows three fastballs by his nemesis, Yankee slugger Clu Haywood.  With 2 outs Taylor beats out a bunt and Hayes scampers home to clinch the division.  Taylor looks up into the stands and sees Lynn, who has called off her engagement.

Big League Players in the Movie:

Brewers announcer and former Major Leaguer Bob Uecker plays Indians announcer Harry Doyle, and provides as much comedy as any player on the field.

Former Brewers reliever Pete Vuckovich plays Yankee slugger Clu Haywood, who Vaughn strikes out in the top of the 9th of the one-game playoff.  Doyle announces Haywood as the triple crown winner from the year before early on in the movie.

Steve Yeager, former Dodger catcher, plays the Indians’ third base coach and also acted as a technical advisor to the movie.

Willie Mueller, another former Brewer pitcher, plays the Yankees’ closer, known as “The Duke”.

Baseball card connection:  There are 3 ties to baseball cards in this movie.  First, there are cards in the actual movie itself.  Cerrano has all kinds of voodoo paraphernalia in his locker to help his bats hit the curveball.  But he also has a few recognizable baseball cards in his locker:

  • 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson
  • 1954 Topps Hank Aaron RC
  • 1968 Topps Game Roberto Clemente
  • 1971 Topps Willie McCovey
  • 1984 Donruss Eddie Murray Diamond King
  • Another card I can’t tell – but looks like either Monte Irvin or Willie Mays

Major League Pedro Cerrano locker

In 1989, an 11-card set issued to promote the movie.  The cards have blue borders and show some of the players on the team.  They are hard to come by – as noted in this Beckett article.

1989 Major League Cards - Chelcie Ross

Finally, Topps came out with a set in 2014 Topps Archives last year that honored the 25th anniversary of the movie.  It’s done in the design of the 1989 Topps set, coinciding with the year the movie came out.

2014 Archives box 2 Major League 2014 Archives box 1 Major League Taylor Vaughn

2014 Topps Archives Major League 5x7 Rachel Phelps

Best quote:  “Juuuust a bit outside.  He tried the corner and missed.” – Harry Doyle, when Ricky Vaughn blazes a fastball to the backstop.

This is one of the 3 best quotes in baseball movie history.  The others I’d consider are “There’s no crying in baseball” and “If you build it, they will come”.  I’d probably go with Field of Dreams for my top spot, but it’s close.  There are quite a few other great lines, but no other quote is anywhere close to being as memorable, or as copied, as Uecker’s quote during Vaughn’s first appearance in the big leagues.

Those honorable mentions include:

  • “You may run like Mays, but you hit like shit,” – manager Brown to Hayes.
  • “You saying Jesus Christ can’t hit the curveball?” – Harris to Cerrano.
  • “Let me get back to you, will ya, Charlie? I got a guy on the other line asking about some white walls.” – Brown when the GM calls to offer him the manager’s job.

Best song:  “Wild Thing” – Easily the most memorable song from the movie.  The song was written by Chip Taylor and is most famous for the performance by the band The Troggs.  For the movie, a cover by punk rock band “X” is played when Ricky Vaughn comes out of the bullpen in the last game against the Yankees.

Other Notable facts:

  • This is one of the cases where life came to imitate art.  When Mitch Williams garnered the nickname “Wild Thing”, playing the song when he came into the game just made sense.  This really gave traction to the idea of the entrance song for relief pitchers, particularly rock and metal songs.
  • “Major League” was #1 at the box office for 2 weeks upon release (April 7th and April 14th, 1989).  Pet Sematary knocked it off the #1 perch.
  • The movie grossed $49 million at the box office, which was 26th out of 1989 movies.  It’s the 10th highest grossing baseball movie of all-time – though at the time of its release it was actually #1, having eclipsed “The Natural” as the highest grossing baseball movie ever.
  • The movie is credited for launching the success of Russo and Snipes.
  • Uecker’s portrayal of announcer Harry Doyle is legendary.  Apparently David S. Ward just let him go with little direction and he came up with some of the funniest lines in sports movie history.

Aside from baseball cards, there were quite a few other historic baseball players featured in the movie.

  • A picture of Jackie Robinson is also seen in Cerrano’s locker.
  • A picture of Sandy Koufax is seen in Lou Brown’s office – though the manager actually refers to him as “Ryan”.
  • A picture of the 1948 World Champion Indians team is depicted in a bar at the starts of the movie.
  • There are a number of newspaper articles in that introductory sequence, including one for the 1954 World Series sweep at the hands of the Giants,
  • Sam McDowell and the 93rd loss for 1969 team (which didn’t really happen),
  • In 1975, Buddy Bell is shown on he last day of the season when they clinched their 7th straight losing season,
  • Joe Carter is shown in 1984, when the Tribe’s postseason futility reached 35 seasons.
  • The outside of Municipal Stadium in Cleveland is shown a few times throughout the movie.  However, Milwaukee’s County Stadium is the site for most of the filming.
  • Yankee Stadium is shown in the middle of the movie as well.
  • Hi Corbett field, which was a legitimate Spring Training site for the Indians, was used for filming some of the Spring Training scenes.

My opinion:  This is one of the best baseball movies out there.  As a comedy, it’s easily the best and is probably the best comedic sports movie ever made.  Even today, it’s a classic.  I’m from Cincinnati, and generally despise the city of Cleveland – but this movie has a way of endearing me to the Indians’ franchise.

Bob Uecker is iconic in the film, and he’s hardly even a “supporting actor”, and the movie is one that has stood the test of time for the most part.  It’s also a movie you could watch with just about anyone – my wife finds it pretty funny as well.  All in all – I can’t recommend it strongly enough!

2001 Topps Overview

27 01 2015

790 cards in the set – 405 in series 1 and 385 in series 2.  This is a huge increase of the sets that were less than 500 the past 5 or 6 years.  Topps was bringing back a lot of older traditions, notably manager cards and team checklists.  Card #7 was still retired at this point in honor of Mickey Mantle (this was the 5th year Topps retired Mantle’s number).

2001 Topps Griffey packs

  • Subsets: Season Highlights (#387-391), Postseason Highlights (#400-406), Golden Moments (#377-386, 782-791), League Leaders (#392-399), Managers (#322-351), Draft Picks (#352-361, 737-751), Prospects (#362-376, 727-736), and Team Checklists (#752-781).  As mentioned above, Manager cards were back for the first time since 1993.  Topps went away with the idea of one tribute card – instead they went with a subset called Golden Moments that was a tribute card to great moments in baseball history.
  • Set Design: The card fronts feature a green border with a gold foil inset border.  The player name is at the bottom of the card, with the team logo to the left.  A gold foil logo for Topps’ 50th anniversary is in one of the top corners.  This was the fifth straight year Topps didn’t have a white border.  The backs are horizontally oriented, with a player photo on the left and biographical information right below that.  The player’s name is at the top, with the card number in the right corner.  Seasonal and career statistics are below that, with a write-up if there’s room at the bottom.
  • Packs: Topps decreased to 10 cards per retail and hobby packs (36 per box).  Topps no longer listed MSRP on the packs or the boxes themselves, but it was the same $1.29 from the previous few years.  Packs from both series feature the Topps “50 years” logo on the front.  The jumbo packs were HTA (hobby) exclusive and contained 12 packs per box, 45 cards per pack.  Retail jumbo packs at 15 cards per pack, 24 packs per box.  I’ve also seen 2 types of blaster boxes, both with 7 cards per pack.  The first has 15 packs (14 + 1 “bonus”) for $13.99, while the second has 32 packs (29 + 3 “bonus”) for $28.99.
  • Rookies: After a number of unimpressive rookie crops, this one has a big one in Ichiro (series 2).  Also included are Rafael Soriano, Jake Peavy, Edwin Encarnacion, Travis Hafner, and Hee Seop Choi.  Albert Pujols didn’t make it in until the Traded set.
  • Hall of Fame: 41 Hall of Famers in this set, a huge increase of 9 from the year before.  This was due to the Golden Moments subset.  There was actually one less active player, as Wade Boggs and Tim Raines had their last cards in 2000, while David Ortiz was back after being excluded in 2000.  Hank Aaron (after a tribute card in 2000), was still in the set.  Joining him in the Golden Moments set were 7 other retired players – Bill Mazeroski, Reggie Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Nolan Ryan, Lou Brock and Carlton Fisk.  Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre were back in the Topps set due to the manager subset being brought back.
  • Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell, Harold Baines, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine, Ken Griffey Jr., Vlad Guerrero, Tony Gwynn, Roy Halladay, Rickey Henderson, Trevor Hoffman, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Randy Johnson. Barry Larkin, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, David Ortiz, Mike Piazza, Cal Ripken, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, John Smoltz, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Larry Walker, Aaron (GM), Mazeroski (GM), R. Jackson (GM), J. Robinson (GM), Clemente (GM), Ryan (GM), Brock (GM), Fisk (GM), Cox (Mgr), LaRussa (Mgr), Torre (Mgr)
  • Variations: There are none that I know of.  For once!

2001 Topps box series 12001 Topps box series 2In the previous 4 years, Topps had featured 1 active spokesman and 1 retired player on all their packaging.  This year the products featured 3 current players.  Series 1 boxes had a blue and yellow background, with Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza and Nomar Garciaparra.

Series 2 has a green and yellow background, with Barry Bonds and the two 1999 MVPs – Pudge Rodriguez and Chipper Jones.  Series 1 has a green background; McGwire is shown watching a ball he pulled down the left field line while Aaron is shown in the same batting stance from the front of his tribute card.

The “Topps” logo is large at the top, and the write-up tells you the box has Major League Baseball Cards Series 1/2.  Advertisements on the box promote inserts and the fact that original Topps cards are inserted.

Promo Cards

Unlike previous years, Topps didn’t issue pre-production cards.  They did create 8 super-jumbo cards that promoted the set and were handed out to dealers.  My last post looked at those, but I don’t consider these cards – you have to be able to fit in a binder to be cards!

Update Sets

Topps went away from a boxed set and issued a Traded set in packs.  It was called Traded & Rookies, and this was only the second Traded set to be issued in pack form.  Albert Pujols was the big name in the Traded set.  Also, the new thing this year was that Topps Chrome Traded was included in the same product.

Parallel Sets

There are 4 parallel sets in 2001.  Only one was inserted into packs – that was 2001 Topps Gold, which Topps officially called 2001 Topps 50th Anniversary.  These cards were numbered out of 2001, and Topps would continue that tradition going forward.

There were also 3 types of full parallels available via “factory sets”.  First was Limited Edition factory sets, which were made in the idea of the old Tiffany sets, with only 3,850 sets produced.  These have the words “limited edition” on the bottom and were printed on thicker stock than the base cards.

Home Team Advantage sets were back for the 2nd year – they are stamped with a “Home Team Advantage” logo.  Finally, there were about 150 sets given out to Topps employees with a different “Topps 50” logo in the upper corner.

  • 50th Anniversary Gold – 790 cards (1:17 s1, 1:14 s2)
  • Home Team Advantage – 790 cards (in HTA factory sets)
  • Limited – 790 cards (in Limited Edition factory sets)
  • Employee Edition  – 790 cards (in Employee sets)

Insert sets

After Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Ryan and Aaron as tribute players, Topps celebrated its 50-set anniversary with reprints of players from across the decade.  In general, the inserts were less “shiny” than the last few years, and had a lot more relation to the company’s focus on Topps’ history.

  • Combos – 20 cards (1:12)
  • Through the Years – 50 cards (1:8 series 1)
  • Golden Anniversary – 50 cards (1:10 series 1)
  • Tradition Continues – 30 cards (1:17 series 1)
  • Look Ahead – 10 cards (1:17 series 1)
  • Noteworthy – 50 cards (1:8 series 2)
  • Before there was Topps – 10 cards (1:25 series 2)
  • What Could Have Been – 10 cards (1:25 series 2)

There were no insert parallels this year.  Hoo-ray!  There were also no box-toppers (I kind of like those)!

Autographs & Memorabilia

Topps had been inserting autographs for a few years at this point.  The Golden Anniversary autographs were the current year version, containing an impressive checklist of current and retired players.  The autographs were inserted in tiers just like the year before.  There was also a pretty cool card inserted into series 1 – a dual autograph of the “Shot Heard Round the World” – Ralph Branca & Bobby Thomson.

2001 was the 2nd year of inserting relics into the flagship product.  King of Kings Relics included three different players in each series, with a rarer triple card with multiple relics in each series.  This was the first multi-relic card in Topps flagship.  Topps Originals inserted uniform pieces into reprints of 10 different players’ first Topps card.  Hit Parade relics were retail-only cards with a piece of bat inset.  All 6 players had 3,000 hits or 500 HR (or in the case of Eddie Murray, both).

Base Hit were autographed relic cards inserted into series 2 packs.  They contain 28 of the 30 MLB managers and a piece of a base used on opening day.

  • Golden Anniversary Autographs – 99 cards (1:346 s1 / 1:216 s2)
  • Shot Heard Round the World Autograph – 1 card (1:7,299 s1)
  • King of Kings Relic – 6 cards (1:2,056 s1 / 1:2,391 s2)
  • King of Kings Triple Relic – 2 cards (1:8,903 s1 / 1:7,205 s2)
  • Topps Originals – 10 cards (1:1,172 s1)
  • Hit Parade Relics – 10 cards (1:2,607 s2 retail)
  • Two of a Kind Relic – 1 card (1:30,167 s2)
  • Base Hit Autographed Relics – 28 cards (1:1,462 s2)

The factory sets provided a few versions of “preview cards” for 2001 Topps Archives – called Rookie Reprints.

  • Future Archives Rookie Reprints – 20 cards (5 per hobby factory sets)
  • Future Archives Gold Bordered Rookie Reprints – 20 cards (5 per HTA factory sets)
  • Future Archives Reserve Rookie Reprints – 20 cards (5 per Limited factory sets)

Factory Set

There were again quite a few different Topps factory set options in 2001.

First, the hobby factory sets were packaged with a blue grid background.  The 6 players who were featured on the series 1 and 2 boxes are shown on this set’s packaging.

2001 Topps factory set

The retail factory set was packaged in a gold background with no players and the Topps 50th logo.  This set had 5 Topps Archives Rookie Reprints, and, like the hobby version had just the base set.  As you can see, the retail price was $54.99.

2001 Topps factory set retail

There was a Home Team Advantage factory set, that had 5 Gold-bordered versions of the Topps Archives Rookie Reprints.  It looks the same as the retail version, with an HTA logo stamp.

2001 Topps factory set HTA

The Limited Edition factory set was presented in a nice wood box with a logo for the 50th anniversary.  It’s reminiscent of the Tiffany sets.  As I mentioned, the LE cards were on thicker card stock.

2001 Topps Limited Factory set

And there was the employee set, which is super rare – a factory set would cost you somewhere between $500 and $1,000 these days.

2001 Topps employee factory set


In conjunction with the 50th Anniversary promotion, Topps inserted cards in what it called its “History” program.  Every previously released Topps cards was inserted into packs, which list them at a rate of 1:911.  I actually pulled a 1991 Topps card in my series 1 box.  Tough luck to beat such odds and get an overproduced early 90’s card!  Mickey Mantle’s complete card run was included in packs, at odds of 1:27,370.

Additionally, Topps inserted a number of promotional flyers into packs for Topps apparel & accessories

Other releases associated with the Topps flagship set

#1 – Topps again issued the “Topps Chrome” product – its 6th year.  For the first time, it wasn’t a full reproduction of the base set.  Topps only included 660 of the 790 cards.

#2 – Topps issued its 4th “Opening Day” set in 2001.  Again, the 165 card set was retail only, and features the same photos from the base set.  The border is blue instead of green, and there is an Opening Day logo instead of the Topps logo.

RIP Mr. Cub, 1931-2015

25 01 2015


I was sad to hear yesterday of the passing of Ernie Banks.  Like the other baseball immortals who have passed away since I started this blog, I can’t add much to anything that has been said and will be said about him.  Tony Gwynn was the last Hall of Famer to pass away, and like Gwynn, I think you could just tell that Mr. Cub was one of the good guys.  More than that, he was clearly one of those genuine guys.  A friend of mine’s dad met him a few times at a BW3 near where they live, and he said he was as friendly as you could be.  I met him a few years ago when I went to an autograph show in New Jersey.  I’ve been collecting autographs of 500-HR and 3,000-Hit guys, and Banks was a great guy to meet.  My mom is from Chicago, and though her favorite player was Ron Santo, everyone was a fan of Ernie Banks.  I told him how my mom was a fan, and he thought that was pretty cool.  He joked with my wife about the engagement ring I got her – he pretended like it was too bright for him to look at.  He spent a few minutes talking with us, much more than many autograph shows I’ve been to.  I remember thinking that he clearly just liked talking to fans of baseball.

Banks is the 10th HOF-er to pass away since I started this blog.  Though the world is a little less bright without him in it, hopefully Mr. Cub is playing two in a better place today.

2013 Topps Banks mini

2001 Topps Promo Sheets

23 01 2015

For what amounted to a one year hiatus, Topps didn’t issue the pre-production set that they had used, in essentially the same format, since 1991 to promote and preview their flagship design.  As opposed to standard size cards, Topps did issue 8 jumbo “cards” to dealers that Beckett refers to as “2001 Topps Press Release Jumbos”.  I use quotations around the “cards” because they are ENORMOUS.  They measure 9″ x 12″ – so I don’t really consider them cards.  They’re really sell sheets with giant pictures of some of the cards on the front.  Here’s an example of the back for the one that shows the design of the base card.  Mark McGwire is on the front.

2001 Topps promo McGwire back

They came in 3 card “packs” from what I can tell.  That’s some humongous packs!  The theme for 2001 Topps was capturing as much as possible with the Company’s 50th set.  Everything went after the Golden Anniversary.

2001 Topps promo jumbo pack

The 8 “cards” used for these sell sheets are listed below.

  • Title Card
  • Checklist
  • Mark McGwire – Base
  • Mike Schmidt – Golden Greats
  • Bob Gibson / Pedro Martinez – Combos
  • Hank Aaron – Through the Years
  • Nolan Ryan – King of Kings Relic
  • Johnny Bench – Golden Anniversary Autograph

The Hank Aaron card promotes the Through the Years and Originals insert sets, with Aaron’s 1954 rookie card shown on the front.  Topps actually used his 1965 card in the Through the Years set.  Also, the Bench card isn’t a real autograph and the Ryan card doesn’t have a real relic 🙂

Completed insert set – 1997 Topps All-Stars

21 01 2015

I got another 1997 insert set knocked off the list.

Info about the set:

Set description: 22 cards featuring the top 11 players at each position, as voted on by Topps employees.  The cards are printed on foilboard with a firework background.  The card backs have three players – the 2nd and 3rd team selections are also included.

Set composition: 22 cards, 1:18 odds (1997 Topps series 1 packs)

Hall of Famers: 4. Frank Thomas, Cal Ripken, Barry Larkin and Tom Glavine.

How I put the set together:

  • 2 cards from my series 1 retail box
  • 2 cards from trades
  • 1 card from a card show
  • 5 cards from Sportlots
  • 3 cards from COMC

Thoughts on the set:

Randomly inserted in Series one hobby and retail packs at a rate of one in 18 and one in every six jumbo packs, this 22-card set printed on rainbow foilboard features the top 11 players from each league and from each position as voted by the Topps Sports Department. The fronts carry a photo of a “first team” all-star player while the backs carry a different photo of that player alongside the “second team” and “third team” selections. Only the “first team” players are checklisted listed below.

Topps really fell in love with the shiny stuff during the late 90’s.  This was right in the midst of that infatuation.  I like the set, though – it’s a good crop of players from an era I can relate to.  And the cards scan really nice – they look great all right next to each other as a full set.

Card that completed my set: #AS10 – Barry Larkin

Like the Season’s Best set from my last post – I got this from a Beckett Marketplace dealer back in May of last year.

Highest book value: #AS9 – Cal Ripken

Beating out Bonds – at least according to the last Beckett I looked at.

Best card (my opinion): #AS18 – Tom Glavine

The placement of the fireworks goes perfectly with the Glavine photo here.

My Favorite Reds card:  #AS10 – Barry Larkin

This is always really easy when there’s only one Redleg.

1997 Topps All-Stars 1997 Topps All-Stars_0001 1997 Topps All-Stars_0002

Any other tidbits: I figured I’d compare my all-star selections from my 1996 season to the ones the Topps employees picked.  Here’s how we stacked up – I’ll only note it if there was a difference.

  • C – Pudge
  • C – Hundley.  I had Piazza.  Hundley had slightly better power stats, but Piazza’s average and OBP were 70 points higher – so I think I made the right pick.
  • 1B – Thomas.  I picked McGwire.  I could have gone either way.
  • 1B – Galarraga.  I picked Bagwell.  In both first base cases, I noted that the Big Hurt and the Big Cat were really close.  I took Bagwell because he had an incredible year and because Galarraga was clearly helped by Coors (look at his road/home splits – it’s night and day).  But I’ll say that any of those 4 guys are good picks.  For
  • 2B – Knoblauch
  • 2B – Eric Young.  I took Biggio.  I don’t think it was even close – Biggio may have been the best player in the NL in 1996.
  • 3B – Thome
  • 3B – Chipper.  I went with the MVP in Caminiti.  I probably wouldn’t have voted him the MVP – but he did deserve the nod here.
  • SS – Ripken.  This is a Topps nostalgia pick.  A-Rod was the best player in baseball in 1996.
  • SS – Larkin
  • OF – Belle
  • OF – Bonds
  • OF – Griffey
  • OF – Burks
  • OF – Gonzalez.  I picked Brady Anderson.  Juan won the AL MVP, but he was my 4th outfielder.
  • OF – Sheffield
  • LHP – Pettitte.  I didn’t pick Pettitte as one of my 3 pitchers.  This is just a difference in how I picked them – I picked the 3 best hurlers, regardless of what side they threw from.  Pettitte would have been my top southpaw.
  • LHP – Glavine.  I also didn’t pick Glavine.  I noted in my write-up that he was my 4th pitcher, and he would also have been my top lefty.
  • RHP – Hentgen
  • RHP – Smoltz
  • RP – Hernandez.  I went with Mariano Rivera, who was the Yankee set-up man in 1996. But still the best reliever.
  • RP – Wohlers.  I went with Hoffman, and I think Jeff Brantley would have been ahead of Wohlers as well.

Trade with blog reader Ken

19 01 2015

Another trade I finished up recently was a trade with a blog reader named Ken.  Ken reached out saying he had some cards from my wantlists, and guessed correctly that I might have some cards that he could use.  Ken is a Yankee fan, and is collecting Yankee cards from all the Tops sets, Baseball Flashbacks from Heritage, as well as league leader cards from Topps or Topps Heritage.  So I went through and found about 40 cards that fit the bill to send his way.

Ken sent me 12 base Heritage cards – I’m now down to only needing a few of the non-SP cards.  He also sent me a Baseball Flashback of Señor Clemente.  One card left before I wrap that set up.

Trade reader Ken - 14 Heritage

He also sent over a few ’89 mini die-cut inserts from 2014 Topps.  This is a 150-card set, and it’ll take me quite a while to finish it. 4 more cards toward that goal!

Trade reader Ken - 2014 Topps 89 minis

Finally, Ken sent me 3 inserts from 2014 Topps Update.  This was my first All-Star Access card from last year’s Update set.  The Power Players set is probably my favorite insert set in 2014 Topps – the color is great!

Trade reader Ken - 2014 Topps Update inserts

Always happy to knock a few cards off my wantlists!  Thanks for the trade, Ken!

Chopping Cards

17 01 2015

I completed a few trades recently, and one of them was with Steve from the Card Chop.  I sent Steve a Mike Kelly Golden Spikes card that I’d purchased an extra one on eBay.

Steve sent me a bunch of recent Topps insert cards in return.  Here’s scans of the cards he sent.  First are the best cards of the lot.  These 1951-style red backs are from 2010, and I think you could only find at Target packs.  Those are harder to find than most, so getting 3 is certainly a good thing.

Trade Card Chop - 2010 Red Backs

Next up were a newer trend – reprinting old Topps designs in miniature format.

Trade Card Chop - Mini inserts

After that, Steve also sent a few retail-only inserts.  Since I buy hobby packs for the most part – I don’t have too many of these from ripping packs.  So these are pretty good to find via trade!

Trade Card Chop - retail inserts

Last but not least are a few more inserts from last year and 2013 that you can get in any packs.

Trade Card Chop - 13-14 inserts

All told, about a dozen cards off the insert wantlist!  Thanks for the trade, Steve!

Completed insert set – 1997 Topps Season’s Best

15 01 2015

Another late 90’s insert set that I completed.  I couldn’t have told you the name of this set, since Topps decided to break this insert set (and a number of others) up into subsets.

Info about the set:

Set description:

This 25-card set features 5 top players from five statistical categories:

  • “Number Crunchers” – batting average
  • “Bleacher Reachers” – home runs
  • “Kings of Swing” – RBI
  • “Hill Toppers” – wins
  • “Leading Looters” – stolen bases

The fronts display color player photos on prismatic foilboard. The backs have a second player photo and the relevant statistics, including the player’s ML rank in 1996 and his career total for that stat.

Set composition: 25 cards, 1:6 odds (1997 Topps series 2)

Hall of Famers:   4 – Tony Gwynn, Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, John Smoltz

All of the Hall of Famers come from the batting average portion of this set.

How I put the set together:

  • 6 cards from my series 2 retail box
  • 1 card from a trade
  • 1 card from a card show
  • 17 cards from online dealers

Thoughts on the set:  Topps didn’t just create a set to throw Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey or Cal Ripken in there (though Griffey made it on merit!).  This set has a specific theme and it sticks with it.  I always view that as a plus.  Additionally, I like the colorful design and I like the fact that Topps created subsets based on statistics.  This set wasn’t the super shiny hologram-type stuff like Sweet Swings from the same year.  This may be my favorite insert from 1997 Topps.

Card that completed my set: #SB11 – Andres Galarraga

I got this card from Beckett Marketplace in May 2014.  I was 1 card short on this set for nearly a year.

Highest book value: #SB8 – Ken Griffey Jr.

No Bonds or Ripken, so Griffey is the book value king here.

Best card (my opinion): #SB8 – Ken Griffey Jr.

The sweet follow-through of the Griffey swing goes great here!  The McGwire card is cool for the same reason – he’s shown at the end of his recognizable swing.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.

Any other tidbits: This is essentially a league leaders set.  I noticed a few interesting things with who was included.  The first thing has to do with Alex Rodriguez.  He was still holding out from Topps in 1997, so he wasn’t in this or any other set.  A-Rod was the AL batting champ and the overall MLB leader in 1996 – which meant Chuck Knoblauch got included as he had the 6th best average.

Also, there was a tie for 5th place in homers (47) between Juan Gonzalez and Galarraga.  Topps went with Galarraga, probably because he was the NL leader in the category.  This meant he got back-to-back cards since he was the MLB leader in RBI (150).  What a different statistical world we lived in back then!  Galarraga and Albert Belle are the only players who made it twice in this set.

1997 Topps Seasons Best1997 Topps Seasons Best_0001

1997 Topps Seasons Best_0002

Tuesday Tunes: Diamond Ditty #2 – “Slide, Kelly, Slide” by George J. Gaskin

13 01 2015

Continuing one of the newer posts on this blog – “Tuesday Tunes: Diamond Ditties” – where I post about a song that has something to do with baseball!  I did a fairly random song (from a baseball perspective) with my first one of these posts.  So with the second one I decided to do a pure baseball song released 2 centuries earlier than “Royals” by Lorde…

Artist/Title/Album: “Slide, Kelly, Slide” by George J. Gaskin (1892)

Slide Kelly Slide

Description:  Performed by George J. Gaskin, a popular 1890’s Irish-born singer.  Gaskin was one of the first recording artists when the industry was starting up in the late 19th century; he recorded around 20 #1 hits.  The song puts to music a popular poem, written by Frank Harding, about one of the most famous baseball players from the 19th century – Mike “King” Kelly.

Recognition:  Given that this was one of the earliest songs in the recording industry, awards hadn’t been developed yet.  However, the song was one of the most popular of its era and is often credited as the first “#1 hit” from that time.  It’s one of the earliest recorded songs on Thomas Edison’s gramophone invention.

How it’s related to baseball:  The song is written from the perspective of a baseball fan attending a game where Mike “King” Kelly is one of the players.  Kelly, a future hall-of-famer, was the best player in baseball in the early/mid-1880’s, but was a few years past his prime when the poem and song first came out.  Kelly was the highest paid player in the game; his contract was sold from Chicago to Boston for an exorbitant sum, earning the nickname “$10,000 Kelly”. He wasn’t just a ballplayer, he was a celebrity who had a brief career as an actor before his early death in 1894.

1888 Goodwin Kelly

Kelly was known for skipping second base when the lone umpire wasn’t looking, and his baserunning antics caused fans in the stands to chant the phrase “Slide, Kelly, Slide”.  Harding eventually penned a short poem using the phrase in 1889, and Gaskin recorded the song a few years later.  It’s at times credited as the first pop song in American culture.  The song also gave rise to a movie of the same name some 35 years later (though it was about a fictitious pitcher for the 1927 Yankees).

There have been a number of re-recorded versions since.

Slide, Kelly, Slide!
Your running’s a disgrace!
Slide, Kelly, Slide!
Stay there and hold your base!
If someone doesn’t steal ya’,
And your batting doesn’t fail ya’,
They’ll take you to Australia,
Slide, Kelly, Slide!

Swapping cards with the Common (Card) Man #3

11 01 2015

After about 3 years since our last trade, I recently traded with Tony from the blog Common (Card) Man.  Tony sent me a bunch of cards right before Christmas, and I dug up some cards to send his way a few days ago.  I sent Tony a few Griffey Jr’s he didn’t have, a few Platinum Diamond cards from 2011, and a few set needs.

First off – thanks for the cards Tony!  Second, here’s the highlights of my receipts from our trade – by various categories.  The first was 4 or 5 base Topps cards I needed.  Getting closer to finishing up the 1994, 1995 and 1998 sets!

trade Common Card Man - 90s Topps base cards

Next up were a few older Topps insert cards.  Out of all the cards Tony sent my way – these are the most appreciated.  I primarily get these kind cards by making purchases online – COMC, Beckett Marketplace or Sportlots.  So whenever I can make a trade that involves even one of these cards, it’s great!

trade Common Card Man - 90s Topps inserts

Next up were some inserts from 2012 and 2014.  Newer inserts, yes – so not as rare to find as the ones above.  But still cards I’m looking out for, and it’s great to cross them off the wantlist!

trade Common Card Man - 2014 inserts

Tony also sent me quite a few Heritage SP cards from 2013.  Also cards that I am constantly looking for but are fairly hard to come by through a trade!

trade Common Card Man - 2014 Heritage

Tony also sent me a few cards from Goodwin Champions and Panini Golden Age.  More cards that it’s hard to come by via a trade.  The Goodwin cards are SP’s, and the Fosbury card is great.

trade Common Card Man - Golden Age & Goodwin

Finally, Tony sent me a full set that wasn’t on my wantlist.  All 88 cards of the 1990 Topps Mini Leaders set.  This was the 5th (and final) year Topps issued a set of League Leader cards in mini format.  I haven’t included these as part of my Lifetime Topps Project, because they were issued separately from the main set – with their own packs and everything.  However, the design is always based on the current year Topps set, so it’s certainly a related product.  What I probably should do is add them to my overview from each of the sets from 1986-1990.  And I may go down the road of collecting them in the future – because they are very nice!

trade Common Card Man - 1990 Mini Leaders

Again – thanks for the trade Tony!