Completed insert set – 1999 Topps All-Matrix

29 07 2015

I’m biding time a bit right now on this blog.  I have a trade incoming and I’m going to the National Collector’s Convention at the end of this week.  So here’s another completed insert set from 1999.  I thought I’d do this one because the only 2 Hall of Famers were just inducted last weekend.

Info about the set:

Set description:  This 30-card set is really 3 smaller sets.  The first 13 cards is the “Club 40” for batters who had smashed 40+ homers in 1998.  That’s right – 13 guys with 40 homers.  This includes Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s record breaking totals.  The next 10 cards are “99 Rookie Rush” for players whose rookie season was coming in the 1999 season (most notably Roy Halladay).  The last 7 cards are “Club K” and includes a who’s who of power pitchers at the turn of the century.  Each subset has a different design.  The background of the cards have reflective foil with the name of the subset included.

Set composition:  30 cards, 1:18 odds (1999 Topps series 2)

Hall of Famers:  2.  Shockingly, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson are the first two HOF-ers in this set.  Griffey will join them next year.  A lot of steroid guys in this set.

Card that completed my set:  #AM3 – Ken Griffey Jr.

I got this card from COMC back in December, as part of their Black Friday promotions.

How I put the set together:

  • 2 cards from my series 2 hobby box
  • 2 cards from trades
  • 1 card from the National card show
  • 25 cards from Sportlots/Beckett/COMC

Thoughts on the set:  These sets where the background is the super-shiny aren’t my favorite, but this is a really good one.  I like the first and last subsets.  Club 40 is a good idea – if you had over 40 homers, you were in the set.  If not, you weren’t.  Club K is my favorite design.  I don’t particularly like the rookie subset.  It’s always risky because you may get guys who weren’t particularly memorable.  That was true for just about every guy in this subset except Roy Halladay and Carlos Lee.

Best card (my opinion):  #AM29 – Pedro Martinez

I like the Club K design the best, and this is the best card from that subset.

My Favorite Reds card:  #AM4 – Greg Vaughn

Vaughn became the 2nd Reds player to hit 50 homers in 1998.

1999 Topps All-Matrix_0001 1999 Topps All-Matrix_0002 1999 Topps All-Matrix_0003 1999 Topps All-Matrix_0004


Completed insert set – 1999 Topps Hall of Fame Collection

27 07 2015

I completed a 1999 insert at the end of last year, and thought that posting it right after the induction speeches was appropriate.  The Hall of Fame induction was yesterday, and it’s always one of my favorite things to watch.  The small part I’ve watched of this year’s has been no different.  I’m going to watch the rest tomorrow night.

I had hoped to do a “Sunday Stories” post last evening.  I’m reading Pedro’s autobiography, but I couldn’t quite finish it.  You know, life stuff.  I’m 81% of the way.  I know this, because the Amazon Kindle App tells me.  I’ve never been a big fan of Petey, but it sure is interesting and I am a fan now.  I’ll hopefully have a post up for that next Sunday.

Anyway, here’s the 1999 Topps HOF Collection set.

Info about the set:

Set description: Topps was really getting into gear with the retired player tributes at the end of the century.  They had reprint sets for Mantle, Mays, Clemente and in 1999 added Nolan Ryan.  Topps Gallery was including the first Topps Heritage cards as inserts.  Tributes were all the rage, and this set was the first insert set from Topps flagship featuring multiple retired players.  The set features 10 different Hall of Famers with their Cooperstown plaque as a background and a black and white photo in the foreground.

Set composition: 10 cards, 1:12 odds (1999 Topps series 1)

Hall of Famers:  10.  Obviously all of them.  Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, Stan Musial, Willie McCovey, Eddie Mathews, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Whitey Ford, Bob Feller, Yogi Berra

If I go by primary position, this “team” has no center fielder (I figure Mr. October plays right, Stan the Man plays left) and is missing a second baseman and a third outfielder while having 3 different 3rd baseman.

Card that completed my set: #HOF7 – Ernie Banks

Mr. Cub was one of 3 cards I purchased from Beckett’s website last December.

How I put the set together:

  • 3 cards from my series 1 hobby box
  • 4 cards from Sportlots
  • 3 card from Beckett’s marketplace

Thoughts on the set:

It’s easy to forget now, but I’m sure having a retired player set with this kind of clout back in 1999 was a big deal for the Topps flagship brand.  I really like this set and the design is great with the HOF plaque in the background.  This set was only inserted in series 1.  Having 10 more Hall of Famers (think Mays, Aaron, Morgan, Bench) would have made it even better.

Best card (my opinion): #HOF10 – Yogi Berra

All the cards are great, but Berra has his catching gear on in a pose I haven’t seen anywhere else.

My Favorite Reds card:  There are none.

1999 Topps HOF Collection

1999 Topps HOF Collection_0001

Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #59 – Ommegang Valar Morghulis

25 07 2015

My next beer is another from Ommegang.  I had one of their specialty brews earlier this year and, whenever I have a new Ommegang beer I do one of these posts!  This is one of those where you can only get this at a bar or in the 750 ml corked bottles.  Since this is Hall of Fame induction week – this felt appropriate

Ommegang Valar MorghulisBrewery:  Ommegang Brewery, Cooperstown, NY

(Now owned by the Duvel Belgian Brewery, though still operated out of Cooperstown)

Beer:  Ommegang Valar Morghulis

Description:  Ommegang struck a deal with HBO to brew various beers related to the Game of Thrones TV show.  The phrase means “all men must die”.

From the label:

“When confronted with the most feared saying in high Valyrian, take a sip and choose your words wisely, for all men must die, and all men must serve.  Enjoy rich aromas of caramel and ripe fruit with deep flavors of malty sweetness and fruity esters.”

This is a dubbel ale, meaning it’s a fairly strong and moderately heavy brown ale.  It has a dark cherry red color, and has a taste of darker colored fruit like cherry or raisins.  It was definitely hoppy, but the full body of the beer covers that taste up.  It’s a good beer, but not one to drink quickly!

Medium:  A large bottle (1 pint, 9.4 oz).  The bottle comes with a cork.  These were sold in Binny’s beer/liquor store in Chicago.  I think you can find them at some bars on tap.

How it’s related to baseball:  The beer itself isn’t really related at all.  The Ommegang Brewery is a Belgian-style brewery that has been around for 25 years.  But the bottom line?  It’s in Cooperstown – home of the baseball Hall of Fame.  I recently went to Cooperstown with my dad, and we didn’t stop here, but I’d had a couple of these beers when I went to Cooperstown for Rickey Henderson’s induction.  The brewing tradition in Cooperstown actually goes back much further than the baseball tradition does, and these have been my Saturday Suds posts over the Winter.  I’ve only got one more Ommegang to post about, unless I find one of the rarer beers they have!

My final All-Star adventure – the Nasty Boys!!!!!!

22 07 2015

2015 AS Game logo

This is my last post about the whole All-Star experience.  For my post last Friday – I pointed out that I got quite a few autographs on my 1990 Reds pennant.  I held off my last 3 autos because they were also the ones I was most excited about.  As you can tell from above, I’m talking about the Nasty Boys.  They signed at CEI’s Cincy Fest.

Nasty Boys at Fanfest

They were one of the big reasons the Reds did so well in 1990.  Unlike the team they swept in the World Series, the Reds needed a lock-down bullpen.  That bullpen also included guys like Tim Layana, Tim Birtsas and Scott Scudder, but its success was anchored by Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers.

nasty boys

Here was my tease of the World Series pennant in my post last Friday.  No Nasty boys are seen.  Other than Jose Rijo (hard to see in this picture – but its the silver sharpie over the World Series logo), all of the autographs are in blue.

1990 World Series pennant - cropped

I had Rijo sign in silver, which shows up better on a dark background.  Same thing with the right side of the pennant, where I had the Nasty Boys sign.  This was a blue background, and it turned out great.  Inscriptions came with the price, so I had Dibble and Myers add NLCS MVP to theirs.  Randy had the idea to add “Nasty Boys” at the top – and who am I to argue!  More on that later.

1990 World Series pennant - Nasty Boys signatures

I still have some autographs to get – most notably Paul O’Neill, Hal Morris and Tony Perez (who was the hitting coach).  Rick Mahler and Tim Layana have passed away, so those are 2 guys I’ll never get.  Jack Armstrong may be the toughest – I’ve never heard of him signing.  But I got quite a few this week, and I am sort of running low on room!

But getting the autographs from the Nasty Boys and it turning out well wasn’t the best part about it.  These 3 guys were great to interact with.  They all signed together – Charlton first, Dibble next, Myers last.  All 3 of them shook my hand, asked my name and chatted for a few seconds.  Charlton said “nice to meet you, I’m Norm Charlton”, which was funny because, well, of course I know who he is!  I told Myers I was at game 2 of the 1990 Series, and he looked at me and said “Really?  So Was I!”  They’re a cast of characters for sure.  As I mentioned, Myers had the idea of putting the Nasty Boys above the spot they signed.

And they let each fan get a photo with them.  After getting your item signed, you could go to the side and wait.  They’d sign 15-20 items, then go take photos with those 15-20 people.  Charlton said they asked to do this because they wanted it to be a better experience for people than just walking through a line and leaving.  It certainly was for me.

Here’s the full pennant.  I have another pennant signed by the Big Red Machine.  It’s probably worth more, but they were for a different generation.  They were my dad’s team, or at least the team for someone in between the age of me and my dad.  This was my team, and this is my prized sports possession.

1990 World Series pennant

Monday Mascots #4: Mr. Red

20 07 2015

A week ago today I was at the home run derby!  I’m letting my homage to the Reds for the All-Star festivities last week leak over into this week.  On that note, here’s my 4th mascot post.  This is actually the first post about your more “traditional” mascot – meaning there’s a guy who is paid by the team to dress up in mascot attire.  I’ve done a post about Babe Ruth’s personal good luck charm, and one about the Angels’ Rally Monkey.

But, this particular mascot is actually retired.  So I guess I still haven’t done a post about an active mascot yet!

Mascot/Team:   Mr. Red (Cincinnati Reds, 1968-2007)

Mr. Red

Background:   The Reds first came up with a mascot known as Mr. Red in 1953 as part of the Crosley Field All-star game logo.  The character with a baseball head and a handlebar mustache and a bat.  The same character then appeared on either a primary or secondary logo for the team from 1954 through 1967.

Mr. Redlegs 1955

However, this mustachioed gentleman isn’t the guy really known as Mr. Red – the Reds would later dub that guy “Mr. Redlegs” when he came back in 2008.  He’s a mascot for another post!

The clean-shaven mascot known as Mr. Red first appeared in 1968 as part of the “Running Man” logo.  This became the team’s primary logo in 1972.  He donned the number 27, and the Reds were apparently hesitant to hand #27 out to an actual player due to this.

Reds Logo Mr. Red 1972-1992

The creation of this Mr. Red generally coincided with the Reds’ new ownership; Francis L. Dale bought the team in 1967 and committed to keeping the team in Cincinnati by building a stadium downtown by the river.  This was during the best days in franchise history.  From the Big Red Machine to the 1990 Wire-to-Wire World Champions, “Running Man” saw 3 World Series wins, 5 pennants and 7 division titles before he was replaced by the primary logo in 1992 (he functioned as an alternate logo until 2007).

Mr. Red 1975

The “live” mascot first showed up in 1973, when Dick Wagner purchased the team from Dale – he was there for the 3 home games in the 1975 World Series.  In the 1980’s, Marge Schott did away with him in favor of her dog Schottzie, but he returned in 1997 with a more modern look as Schott was on her way out of baseball.

Mr. Red was joined by Gapper in 2003, and he officially retired in 2007 to make way for the return of Mr. Redlegs and a female mascot named Rosie Red.  Those guys and gal will get their own post someday in the future, but this post is for the Mr. Red I was used to growing up!  His retirement didn’t completely last – he came back for a part-time gig in 2012 and can now be seen on selected dates helping the with the Reds’ mascot duties at Great American Ballpark alongside Rosie and Mr. Redlegs.

Mr. Red Mr. Redlegs Rosie Red race

Outside of baseball:   Like any good mascot, Mr. Red could be found off the field at parties, etc. during his days as the lone Reds mascot.  According the Reds website, when he retired you could expect to find “this Running Man sunbathing, vacationing and coaching in Sarasota, Florida”.

Baseball card connection:  I was surprised to see there were only 2 cardboard versions of Mr. Red.  He was featured (with the same photo) in the 2000 and 2001 annual Kahn’s set that was given out as a promotional item at a specified Reds’ home game.

2001 Kahn's Mr. Red

This year there was a Mascot set associated with the All-Star Fanfest.  Five cards of the Reds’ 4 mascots, and Mr. Red was featured on one of them.  I didn’t get this card when I was down there – just Gapper and Mr. Redlegs for me.

Mr. Red

Sunday Stories: Major League Memoirs #2 – “The Day All the Stars Came Out” by Lew Freedman

19 07 2015

In honor of the fact that I was going to the All-Star Game in Cincinnati this year, I read a book about the first All-Star game.  I knew a few things about it already – that it happened in 1933 and that an aging Babe Ruth hit a 2-run homer.  But that was about it.  This was a great read, in part because of the personal fact I was going to this year’s version of the Midsummer Classic.  But in general this was just a really good book.  It was fun going to the game after reading this book – I remember walking into Great American Ballpark and thinking “This is the same tradition that started back in Chicago in 1933 with a Babe Ruth home run”.

I’m calling these posts “Sunday Stories: Major League Memoirs”.  This is the second book I’ve covered.  The first was a chronicle of the home run exploits of Babe Ruth.  So Ruth has played a big part in both posts so far!

The Day All the Stars Came Out Lew Freedman

Title/Author/Publisher: “TheDay all the Stars Came Out: MLB’s First All-Star Game” by Lew Freedman (McFarland, 2010, 231 pages)

Description:  The book is a beginning-to-end narrative of how MLB’s first All-Star Game came to be and then played out.  The game was originally conceived by Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune.  His boss and owner of the Tribune, Colonel Robert McCormick, asked him to put together a sporting exhibition as part of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.


At the time, this was viewed as a one-time deal, dubbed the “Game of the Century” by Ward.  The game was such a success – despite being played in the midst of the Great Depression – that it soon became an annual rite of summer.  Freedman’s book describes the game through the game’s conceptualization and build-up, then covers the playing of the game itself and the impact it would have on the sports world in the future.  Freedman ends with a chapter detailing the accomplishments and the “where did the end up” of each of the players and managers involved.

My review:  Overall, this was just a great book.  It was a fast read, without a single part that seemed to drag.  The first part of the book discusses how the All-Star game came to be – and it really trumpets Arch Ward as the driving force behind the creation of the idea.  The book describes everything from how he got baseball’s power players involved to the fact that he offered up his annual salary if the game wasn’t a financial success.  Ward basically put his career on the line – and then spent the 2 months between May (when the event was greenlit) to July (when it was played) doing everything he could to promote it.   Despite the fact that an All-Star game is obviously about the players – I would say Ward was the star of this book.  Freedman really shows not only how instrumental Ward was in making this first game a success.

He does cover the players, though, and does so in an interesting fashion.  Each inning of the game gets its own chapter, and Freedman covers every single player who played in the game.  He weaves their backgrounds into their current place at the bat or on the mound in the All-Star Game.  For example, when covering the at bats for Bill Terry (the NL’s starting 1B and the NY Giants’ manager in 1933), Freedman covers the relationship between “Memphis Bill” and his former skipper John McGraw (who was honored with the manager spot for the NL).

1933 AS game Babe Ruth homer

Ruth was the star of this game – he hit a 2-run homer to pace the Americans’ victory, and he made an 8th inning catch to stifle a National League rally.  And while Ruth was important, he doesn’t really get any more coverage in the book than any other of the All-Stars.   In fact, Freedman covers Ruth’s homer in a great chapter.  But as opposed to spending 10 pages recapping the Babe’s exploits, he covers the homer from the perspective of the bat boy John McBride.

The book finishes up with a look at the Negro League All-Star game that followed shortly after MLB’s “Game of the Century”.  This was a cool feature, and it made me want to read the book that’s out there about that event.  Finally, the book spends a chapter covering the rest of Arch Ward’s career, and another full chapter covering what each of the players and managers did after that game.  This doesn’t just mean their baseball career – Freedman covers where the players lived and died after their career.  He goes in order of their death, and it’s a cool touch to finish up the book.

Other Notable nuggets:  This book has so many things that I just didn’t know.  But it’s not just stuff about the more famous guys like Ruth, Gehrig, or McGraw.  Here’s a few of them.

  • I knew about the 1911 benefit game to help the family of Addie Joss after his untimely death.  That game was a collection of AL All-Stars playing against his old team, the Cleveland Naps (now the Indians).  But I didn’t know about the All-Star barnstorming tour that Joss actually played on as a rookie in 1902.  The book covered this in one of the early chapters, discussing how Win Mercer killed himself after ostensibly gambling away his fellow players’ proceeds from the trip.
  • FC Lane, a writer for Baseball Magazine, had championed the idea of an All-Star Series nearly 2 decades earlier.
  • The Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 was a similar scale event as the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The 1933 Fair introduced us to the All-Star game, but the 1893 version also produced another baseball staple – Cracker Jack!
  • The book covers the unique relationship between Terry and McGraw, which began as extremely contentious before morphing into a situation where McGraw recommended Terry as his replacement.  It also covers the relationship between Jimmy dykes and AL manager Connie Mack.  Mack had been forced to sell Dykes to the White Sox the year before, but the two had a great rapport and Mack taught him well enough for Dykes to become a manager for over two decades himself.  Like Terry and McGraw – Dykes wound up replacing his mentor when Mack retired in 1950.
  • It’s all too common for today’s athletes to be tattooed to the gills.  But one pitcher on the 1933 team, Al “General” Crowder was notable for having enough tattoos to be called a “human picture gallery”.
  • The NL and AL used different balls back then (they actually did so until 2000).  Like the selection of Comiskey Park over Wrigley Field, this was a point of contention.  The umpires switched balls mid-way through the game, after the top of the 4th.
  • The 2nd All-Star game was played in the Polo Grounds in 1934.  It had a national fair tie-in as well – for 300 years of New York sports.
  • Ward was offered the role of NFL commissioner, but turned it down to stay at the Tribune.  He later helped form a competitor of the NFL – the AAFC.  He also created the annual Chicago All-Star Football Classic.
AL Roster

AL Roster

NL Roster

NL Roster


Saturday Suds: Baseball & Beer #58 – Golic’s RBI Rye Ale

18 07 2015

2015 AS Game logo

I haven’t done a beer post in a while, but I just had one that was perfect for these posts!  I mentioned in my post yesterday that my dad and I went down to watch Mike & Mike early on Monday morning.  It was held at the Moerlein Lager House down on the river, and they brewed a special beer for Greeny & Golic.

Moerlein Mike & Mike taps

Brewery: Christian Moerlein Brewing Company in Cincinnati, OH

Moerlein Golic's RBI Rye pintBeer:  Moerlein Golic’s RBI Rye Ale

Description:  This is a special brew made for the Mike & Mike event.  They were at the Lager House on Monday and Tuesday, and had a contest to see whose beer was drank the most.  Mike Greenberg picked his beer to be a lighter ale, since that’s what he likes.  According to Mike Golic, they asked him what kind of beer he wanted, and he answered “beer”.  So he got the darker rye.  This beer lost to Greeny’s short hop ale, which is to be expected.  People are just more likely to drink a lighter beer.  But not me, or at least not when I’m drinking my breakfast!

This is a robust American Brown Ale brewed with malted rye for a distinct finish.  It poured brown and it tasted like a brown ale – it’s pretty heavy and “bread-y”.  I don’t know if that’s a technical term.  It also had some chocolate and spice to it.  It’s not a beer for a hot summer day, but for me it went well with eggs, sausage and potatoes from the breakfast buffet.

Medium:  I bought a pint at the Moerlein Lager House last Monday morning.

How it’s related to baseball:  It was one of two beers brewed specially for Mike and Mike for their trip to do their show for the All-Star game.  Or at least they re-named existing beers after the two co-hosts.  And they gave them a baseball name and created logos in the design of the All-Star logo.  Both Mikes have mustaches and the pill hats on the design.  It was a cool event, and despite the fact I gave up on some sleep, I’m glad we went.

2015 All-Star Game Mike and Mike break