Finishing off a promo set… sort of

20 05 2020

I have kind of neglected a set of posts I started 3 or 4 years back.  Neglected in that I didn’t post them, not that I was necessarily not making progress on the subject.  I started doing posts called the “Elusive Eight”, as a method to show which cards have proved particularly… Elusive … in tracking down.  The 1995 Topps Promo spectralite parallel version of Travis Fryman has been on the list since day 1!  I’ve had eBay searches for this card for at 7 years.  I check COMC, Beckett and Sportlots every month or two (at a minimum).  I’ve tried other… less acceptable… means.   Just kidding, really just those first two things.

One of the eBay searches came up in my email a month ago.  And it looked promising, it’s a Travis Fryman spectralite card.  It is numbered PP5!  It has “pre-production sample” in the 1994 stat line!  OK!

Except, as noted in the eBay auction that I bought it from – it’s a Proof.  It doesn’t have the gold foil on the front!

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades… and occasionally in baseball card collecting.  At least this particular baseball card set for me at least!  I’m counting this bad boy.  The promo sets came one per pack of 1994 Topps, with 9 of the regular promos and one spectralite version.  I could keep buying up those factory sets until I got one, but that didn’t seem as prudent to me as paying $5.31 for this card (plus $2 shipping) and calling this set, and the 1995 Topps Master set, finito!

Here’s a scan of all the promo sets.

RIP Al Kaline, 1934-2020

18 05 2020

The last of my 4 missed “in memoriam” posts is Al Kaline, who died early last month.  His death didn’t quite hit as close to home as Frank Robinson’s did, but he’s a guy who I’d got an autograph before and remember him seeming super nice like many of the greats from his generation.

Al Kaline was born in December 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression in Baltimore.  His father was a semi-pro ballplayer and Al got his genes from his dad and went on to have a historic high school career.  The Tigers scout that signed him (Ed Katalinas), thought that Kaline “was the prospect that a scout creates in his mind and then prays that someone will come along to fit the pattern.”  He was signed right after high school, and because the Tigers were particularly bad in the years leading up to 1953 – he got some playing time as an 18 year-old.  He’s become one of the answers to various trivia questions like “who had 100 hits in his teens”.  In fact, Kaline won a batting title and led all of MLB in hits before he was allowed to buy a beer.  In that 1955 season, his 2nd full year (3rd season overall) with the Tigers, Kaline hit .340 with 200 hits.  He never eclipsed those totals again, but he became a metronome of consistency for the Tigers for the next two decades.

Kaline played his entire career with the Tigers, and while he never won the MVP he was the runner up twice and placed 3rd another time.  He was an All-Star 15 of his 22 seasons and was renowned for his Gold Glove winning defense in both Center and Right Field.  He could cover ground or showcase a live arm depending on what was needed.  To showcase his longevity – Kaline was a standout rookie in 1954, but in 1968 he was the best hitter on the World Series champions.  Mickey Lolich (deservedly) won the 1968 World Series MVP, but Kaline hit .379 with 8 homers and 2 RBI in the game’s biggest stage.  He finished his career with 3,007 hits, helping the Tigers to one other postseason berth in 1972.  His 399 homers are such an interesting stat – I’m glad he got over the 3k hit barrier! He’s one of those rare players who played 20+ years with the same team.  Like all the other guys I’ve posted about the last few weeks, the baseball world surely misses him.

RIP Frank Robinson, 1935-2019

11 05 2020

The third of my “in memoriam” posts that I’m catching back up on is the one that hit home the most.  Frank Robinson was a Red, one of the ten numbers retired by the team.  The trade they made to send him to Baltimore easily represents the biggest mistake the Reds made.  I’d argue it’s the second biggest “oops” trade in the history of baseball behind the Red Sox dealing Babe Ruth to the Bronx for cash.

Robinson is one of the greatest players in baseball history.  But he sometimes gets forgotten.  He’s one of the great black players who stormed baseball after segregation had truly ended, but he’s always remembered after Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and even sometimes after Roberto Clemente.  He didn’t play in New York so he isn’t revered like Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider.  But he had the numbers and talent to be mentioned with all those guys.

Robinson grew up in West Oakland California, the youngest of ten children.  He signed with the Reds out of high school in 1953 and climbed his way to the big leagues in 1956, where he took the National League by storm.  Slugging 38 homers, Robbie tied a rookie record that stood until Mark McGwire broke it in 1987.  He led the NL in runs scored and won the Rookie of the Year award. The Reds hit MLB record-tying 221 homers that year; they went 91-63 and were eliminated from pennant contention on the second to last day of the season.

From there, he was a consistent slugger in the latter half of the 50’s who led the Redlegs to general success they hadn’t seen in over a decade.  They couldn’t break through, however, until 1961.  Robinson really broke out that year, hitting 37 homers and knocking in 124 batters to take home the NL MVP.  Robinson’s great season was out-shined by the home run chase between Roger Maris and Mantle.  The Reds made the World Series, though they were sent home in 5 games by the Bronx Bombers.

Robinson was 4th in the MVP voting the next year, and statistically he was actually even better (39/136/.342, leading the Majors with 51 doubles and 134 runs scored).  He was solid if not quite as outstanding the next few years, and Cincy management thought they were seeing a decline and attempted to jump ahead of it.  They packed Robinson off to Baltimore for Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson.  Pappas pitched 2+ so-so years for the Reds and Simpson logged a total of 138 at bats for the franchise.  Robinson, meanwhile, put together one of the great seasons in baseball history in his first year for the Orioles.  In his career, Robbie led the league in homers, RBI and average one time each – all of them in that 1966 season.  He hit .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBI in an era that had become known for pitching domination.  The Orioles steamrolled the American League and then the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.  Robinson was the Series MVP, and is kind of viewed as the ultimate “I’ll show em” in baseball history.  Robinson got hurt the next year and was never quite as effective; but he did help the Orioles to three more World Series berths, including one win over his former team in 1970.

Robinson finished his career out for the Dodgers, Angels and Indians, and in Cleveland he became the first black manager in MLB history.  He managed 4 different franchises – notably being at the helm for the Montreal Expos during their transition to Washington DC.  He was involved with MLB’s leadership through much of his later life, and was universally respected and admired throughout the game.

I’ve got Robbie’s autograph on a couple items – a baseball that’s part of my collection of 500 Home Run autos, and the card above.  I’ve had the idea of getting autographs of Reds MVP’s on their MVP year card; his is the only one I actually got.  My dad grew up near Dayton, and loved the Robinson and Ted Kluszewski teams from the late 50’s.  He was really nice both times I met him; the second time was in Chicago and I mentioned that my dad loved him and Kluszewski, he said “Big Klu was something else”.

Robinson died last February, and the world was a worse place after losing him.

RIP Willie McCovey, 1938-2018

9 05 2020

As I mentioned in my last post, I missed a number of “in memoriam” posts that I do when a Hall of Famer passes away.  This is the third of four Hall of Famers who passed away since I stopped paying much attention to this blog.

Like Doerr from a couple days ago, I always thought of McCovey as the main sidekick to one of the all-time greats.  But Willie M #2 stands out on his own.  “Stretch” was another really interesting read on the SABR biographical website.  I always thought of him as a physical specimen, but there are some specifics of his career that I just didn’t realize.  For example, when he debuted in 1959, he won the NL Rookie of the year while playing every game at first base.  The year before, fellow HOF-er Orlando Cepeda had won the Rookie of the Year for the Giants while also playing every game at first base.  There’s almost no way this will ever happen again for a position player.  But while it’s amazing, it also meant the Giants had a tough time figuring out where to play these 2 particular future Hall of Famers.  They had some amazing talent – with Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and of course Mays, they had a few years with five Hall of Famers on their team.  They made the 1962 World Series, but never could lock down a title.

In that series, McCovey famously made the last out with what many described as the hardest ball they’d ever seen hit.  There were 2 out, the Yankees held a tenuous 1-0 lead with Mays on second and Matty Alou third.  Unfortunately, McCovey’s screamer was hit right to Bobby Richardson and that was the last chance he’d get to play in the Fall Classic.

McCovey is a member of the 500 home run club, and I’ve been able to recite that total of 521 matching the great Teddy Ballgame for about 31 years.  But when I looked closer at his stats, I realized he was probably the best player in baseball for a 3-year span (1968-1970).  And it was interesting to read that pitchers feared his line drives more than any towering home runs.

I’ve been a collector of autographed baseballs for guys with 500 homers and/or 3,000 hits.  I never did get Stretch to sign a ball at the shows I went to; he was at a couple early shows but his declining health kept him away in the later years.  Like Doerr – he was quite the player, much more than a sidekick and I’ll always think of him when I see a homer hit into the water at Pac Bell Park.


RIP Bobby Doerr, 1918-2017

7 05 2020

I missed a number of “in memoriam” posts that I do when a Hall of Famer passes away.  Four Hall of Famers have died since I last did one of these posts, and while it feels a little weird to do a tribute to guys who passed away years ago, I’m all for consistency.  Plus, this is quite a list; 3 of the 4 were either a member of the 500 Homer of 3,000 Hit clubs.

The first one was not, but he’s a great man to write about nonetheless!  Anyone who lived into their 100th year, played Major League Baseball and fought in World War II lived an interesting life.  I’ll start with the closest connection I had to Mr. Doerr.  My wife and I went to Cooperstown for the first time in 2009, mainly for Rickey Henderson’s induction.  I was always a big Rickey fan growing up, he’s my favorite player that never played for the Reds.  We stayed at a great Bed & Breakfast up the lake a mile or 2 from downtown Cooperstown.  The B&B had 3 rooms, and obviously was full for Induction Weekend.  One of the other two groups were two guys who came every year, and got “seats” as Doerr’s guest (I assume every HOF-er gets a few seats for family or friends).  The guys seemed just a tad bit older than me but a big baseball fan as well.  Doerr was one of the guys godfathers, and it seemed really cool that he got his family friend a seat every year.

Doerr was born in 1918 in Los Angeles and started playing professionally at the age of 16 for the Hollywood Stars – who in 1936 were moved to San Diego and became the minor league San Diego Padres.  It was there that Doerr played his first season with a lanky young San Diego kid named Ted Williams.  After that season, future fellow HOF-er Eddie Collins scouted Doerr for the Red Sox and picked up his contract.  As Williams was a couple years younger, Collins said he’d come back for him.

Doerr made the Red Sox the next year, and went 3-for-5 in his Opening Day debut as the team’s leadoff hitter!  He wasn’t a full-time regular until the next year.  Gold Gloves weren’t a thing back then, but Doerr would have been a regular winner at 2nd base in the 1940’s.  He was a great defensive player from the start, became a competent batsman by his second year and was an offensive star leading up to the War.  In 1944, he led the AL in slugging but was called away to war with a month left in the year while the BoSox were in the thick of the pennant chase.  He finished 7th in the MVP vote, though had he not missed the last 29 games may have won the award.

He came back in 1946 and along with Williams led the Red Sox to their first World Series since Babe Ruth was toeing the mound in Boston.  He was Boston’s best hitter in the 7-game loss, going 9-for-24 in the Series.  They never made it back.

Doerr was still a star for 4 or 5 years after the war, but hurt his back midway through the 1951 season.  He decided he’d had a good career, and at 33 hung up his spikes.  From there he worked on and off for the Red Sox, and was the hitting coach for the Blue Jays for a time.  He spent a lot of time in his home in Oregon.

Doerr was the 13th HOF-er to pass away since I started this blog.  He died 2 and a half years ago, and I always thought of him as Ted Williams’ sidekick.  While that may have been true, when I read through his SABR website to do this post, I was struck by how down-to-earth he seemed.  He was the last living player to debut in the 1930’s, and the baseball world certainly misses him.

Completed insert set – 2016 Topps Archives Bull Durham

5 05 2020

As I mentioned on the last post, I finished up two insert sets from 2016 Topps Archives via a Black Friday COMC purchase and I’m just now getting around to posting them.  This was a set in honor of the Bull Durham movie in the 1988 Topps design.  Great idea!  The Execution?

Info about the set:

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Set description: The big thing for Archives this year was the inclusion of insert cards from the movie Bull Durham.  Since the movie came out in 1988, Topps used the 1988 design.

Here’s my previous post on the set at the time I bought the product.

Set composition:  7 cards, 1:12 (2016 Topps Archives)

Hall of Famers: Not really applicable, but Tim Robbins has won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Mystic River).

How I put the set together:

  • 2 cards from my hobby box
  • 1 card from a trade
  • 4 cards from COMC

Card that completed my set:  #BD-NL – Nuke Laloosh

I got 3 cards last year on Black Friday from COMC, I’m trying to conserve scans so I’ll go with this as the one that counts!

Thoughts on the set:  As I mentioned, great idea.  But come on Topps! Not putting the 2 main characters in the set?  And you do have a small number of autographs available?  That’s f*cking stupid!  So it’s not like they didn’t have the rights to use Kevin Costner or Susan Sarandon, they just wanted to drive hype by only having their autograph cards.

Honestly, that kind of thing is what I don’t love about the baseball card hobby these days.  Selling lottery tickets to pay for the rest of the product.

Best card (my opinion):  #BD-NL – Nuke Laloosh

I think you have to include the only one who qualifies as a star of the movie to make the set!

My Favorite Reds card:  N/A for this set

Any other tidbits:  I’ve posted a lot about this move on this blog.  This set is a pretty good alternative that does have Crash Davis and Annie Savoy.

Also – they put this guy in the 2013 Archives product, would have been pretty cool if they just randomly reprinted his 1988 card and added it to this 2016 set for no reason!

Completed insert set – 2016 Topps Archives Father Son

3 05 2020

I finished up a few 2016 Topps Archives inserts from my Black Friday COMC purchase and I’m finally getting around to posting them!  There were 2 sets that were “low hanging fruit” of that release and I got the Francona Father-Son card to finish this bad boy up.

Info about the set:

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Set description:  One of two 1985 subsets that were recreated in 2016 Topps Archives, the father/son cards from 1985 were numbered 131-143 in the original 1985 Topps set. You have the Dad with one of their original cards here and the son with a more recent picture.

Set composition:  7 cards, 1:12 (2016 Topps Archives)

Hall of Famers:  3 – Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Perez

1 Father, 2 Sons – and it’s likely the junior Tito will make it a 4th guy and a 3rd son someday for his exploits as a manager.

Also, with that list, it’s hard not to think of the Griffey trade to the Reds where Tony would not let Griffey Junior wear his retired #24 for the Redlegs.  I don’t blame him, it was just always interesting.  I think it was a combination of Tony (correctly) never felt like he got his due soon enough and he and Griffey senior just weren’t that close.

How I put the set together:

Card that completed my set:  #FS-FF – Tito and Terry (Tito) Franconas

I picked this card up on COMC last Black Friday.  Someday COMC will start shipping cards again!

Thoughts on the set:  I always love a throwback to 60’s, 70’s or 80’s subsets!  I think the execution could have been better – see my comment on Alou’s and Boone’s throughout.  They could have made this a 15-20 card set with some minor contractual additions, and a 10 card set by just including some guys they already had elsewhere in the product!

Best card (my opinion):  #FS-AAL, #FA-AL – the Alomars

I’m gonna cheat and go with 2 cards here.  The cards that have the same dad get the nod, it’s pretty damn rare to have two sons be All-Stars in the majors.  If Topps had included both Boone brothers I’d have gone with 4 best cards!

My Favorite Reds card:  the Griffey card has Senior with his 1980 Reds card, but even though I named my card Griffey, you have to go with the one that has 2 Reds on the card!!!

Any other tidbits:  There is one duplicate here – Terry and Tito Francona are in the 1985 subset and the 2016 Archives card.  The really cool one is the Boone boys.  Ray and Bob Boone have a card in 1985, whereas Bob switches over to the left side in 2016 and his son Bret comes in on the right.  Sandy Alomar appears on 2 cards with both of his sons – something I wish Topps had done with Aaron Boone.

One thing kind of frustrating with this insert – there are 7 cards in the regular set but 8 in the autograph set.  Topps printed a card of Felipe and Moises Alou, but then they didn’t make a regular, non-auto version.  Kind of frustrating – since the autos are only numbered to 10, that’s a damn hard card to come by.  I’d consider getting it if it was a more normal autograph, just to augment the set.  But out of 10?  I’m not paying $50 to $100 for it.