Tuesday, July 28, 2009

National Sports Collectors Convention, July 29 - Aug 2, Cleveland, OH

Headed to Cleveland for the National Sports Collectors Convention? I'll be there from Wednesday through Sunday, hoping to land some of those hardest-to-get hits to the wantlist. Most of the time's spent connecting with other traders and dealers, both in and out of the show. This likely means no new #5 profiles, but they could happen if opportunity arises.

Planning to be there yourself? Drop a line and we'll figure out a meeting place in the massive aircraft hangar that is the I-X Center...

Friday, July 24, 2009

1980 Laughlin 300 / 400 / 500 #5, Christy Mathewson

Today's guest, a mighty hurler from baseball's deadball era, won 373 games in a comparatively brief 17 seasons, averaging nearly 22 wins per year. This included 30+ wins 4 times and 20+ for 12 years in a row. Mathewson made Cooperstown's "first cut" of 5 Hall of Fame inductees in 1936, joining fellow non-paraliel legends Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Honus Wagner. Including 2009 inductees Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, and Joe Gordon, the Hall now honors a total of 231 players.

Card front

Credit baseball artist Robert Laughlin for this interestingly canted set that affixed photo craniums to hand-drawn bodies. It hearkens back to Goudey's 1938 set design, which many collectors call the "Heads Up" set. (As a long-time fan and font of card knowledge, I'm sure that's intentional on his part.)

Every player in this 30-card set (full checklist here) reached one of three hallowed marks.

  • 300 wins
  • .400 batting average
  • 500 homers

In 1980, only a select few players qualified for that elite list and this issue presents them on glossy, superwhite card stock reminiscent of Upper Deck's early work.

As blogged by SCD "big book" editor Bob Lemke on July 20, 2009, this set was curiously reprinted sometime after the original release. We can hope Mr. Laughlin himself did the work to satisfy a need for more orders--otherwise, why go to the trouble for an oddball release with fairly low current demand? Perhaps we all live in Glenn Hubbard's world, where some things have no explanation.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Type Site: Carl Crawford Cards

By his own reckoning, my dad amassed the neighborhood's largest baseball collection as a kid. Given the era (1950s and 60s) and occasional "find" made over the years (see 1953 Red Man NL #5, Roy Campanella), it must've been a sweet ensemble of cardboard. Just about every visit involves a baseball game, lengthy discussion, or nostaligic ramble on Brooklyn vs. L.A. We haven't played catch mano-y-mano in a number of years, but the memory stays strong.

Carl Crawford Cards, a #5 type collection follower, tracks not only his favorite, eponymous player, but also a variety of vintage sets and family stories. His July 21, 2009 post includes a similar familial overlap, 1976 Topps' own Father & Son card for Gus and Buddy Bell.

I liked the card's story of Gus bringing Buddy back to the game after a bout of depression.

The younger Bell went on to collect 2500 hits, make several All-Star teams, and win 5 Gold Gloves. That's a lot of success to be thankful for!

Carl Crawford Cards posted almost 70 entries in his first 3 months of writing, an impressive kickoff in both quantity and variety. I look forward to reading more as time goes on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1968 Topps Baseball Posters #5, Catfish Hunter

We're closing in on ten years since today's guest died suddenly after a stairway fall, perhaps related to his struggle with the neurological disorder ALS, more commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. Like its namesake, Catfish Hunter later found home in the Hall of Fame, elected in 1987. Some contend he won "only" 224 games (67th all-time) and benefited from several years in a media-friendly city, but a total of 5 championship rings, 1 perfect game, and 8 All-Star appearances bulwark his place in Cooperstown. (This career path closely resembles other high-performance, short-career power pitchers like Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.)

Poster front (blank back)

Speaking of enshrinement, Hunter's poster image shares one similarity with his HOF plaque--no cap insignia. A photo editor curiously wiped away Oakland's "A" on the hat, but left the uniform alone. (The middle crease proved hard to scan, so looks broken. It's all there in real life.) Not Topps' worst airbrush effort ever, but you can see it from here.

1968 Topps posters measure about 10" x 18" and sit between adjacent years both chronologically and sizewise.
  • 1967 Topps posters: 5" x 7" (single player)
  • 1968 Topps posters: ~10" x 18" (single player)
  • 1969 Topps posters: 12" x 20" (full team)

None of them are slouches, but 1969 marked Topps' "biggest" issue, short of an uncut sheet. Complete all 3 sets and you could nearly wallpaper a room. (I invite photos of anyone who's done this.)

UPDATE: Catfish as a hitter? Baseball-Reference's blog listed most hits in a season without extra-bases and Hunter appears not far down the list with 23 singles in 1972. Guess he didn't even have "warning track power."

Value: 1968s are hard to find today, especially relative to cards, being both lesser-printed and easier to damage. Expect to drop $10 - $20 for one in decent shape and more for superstars like Aaron, Mays, and Mantle.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace.

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Non-vintage review: "Gems of the Game" box break

    [Prepare yourself, this one's got almost as many pictures as a Dinged Corners post! :-]

    Every now and then, a visit to Wal-Mart grabs some glossy, modern stuff to keep my finger on the new card pulse. (Disclaimer: Anything after 1980 seems "new" to me.)

    Yesterday's trip picked up a Gems of the Game re-gather of packs from the last couple of decades. They contain mostly Topps, Upper Deck, and Fleer high-production remnants, with the slim possibility of something better. First thought: "Look, another sucker's bet to enrich the ghost of Sam Walton." That said, $20's not a terrible risk. Might it turn up treasure, a la A Pack A Day? Let's check the contents.

    1. 2007 UD Masterpieces (4 cards, smallest pack)
    2. 2008 Upper Deck Timeline (6)
    3. 2007 Upper Deck Series II, 2 packs (8)
    4. 2008 Topps Baseball Series I, 2 packs (10)
    5. 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights (12)
    6. 2005 Topps Bazooka (8)
    7. 2007 Topps Baseball (6)
    8. 2008 Topps Opening Day (6)
    9. 2006 Upper Deck First Pitch (5)
    10. 2008 Upper Deck Series I (18, biggest pack)
    11. 2008 Upper Deck First Edition (10)
    12. Tri-Star Hidden Treasures (listed as 5, actually had 6)
    13. 1989 Topps, 2 packs (15)

    My GotG box contained 16 packs with 3 duplicates. Most of the Upper Deck sets picture Derek Jeter on the front. Others (primarily Topps) show Cal Ripken, Manny Ramirez, Josh Hamilton, Joba Chamberlain, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and Ryan Howard. With no high-value sets on the list, I adjusted my hopes down to "autograph" or "game-used." As things played out, the best it could do was "interesting."

    1. 1982 Fleer #457 Brian Downing (Tristar Hidden Treasures). Back in the 1980s, I thought of Downing as a "Mariner killer," always getting key RBIs and knocking around my otherwise reliable relievers. (REALITY CHECK: everyone hit well against the Reagan-era Seattle bullpen.)
      Don't adjust your TV set, the 1982 Fleer photos really are that blurry.

    2. Yankee Stadium Legacy #5434 (2008 Upper Deck First Edition). Mattingly's the only Yank I care about and this one features kung-fu mullet action.

    3. 2008 Upper Deck Series I #369 Padres Team Checklist. Jake Peavy, full leg kick, bright yellow Pads uniform. Let's call it "visually arresting."

    4. 2006 Upper Deck First Pitch #149 Ryan Howard. Great shot at moment of impact, with helmet, gloves, bat, and ball in alignment.

    5. 2007 Upper Deck Series II #591, Manny Ramirez running hard down the first base line. That's proof it happened at least once.

    6. Joe DiMaggio, The Streak #35 (2007 Topps Series II). The Clipper homers off Hal Newhouser on June 22, 1941.

    7. 2005 Bazooka #33 Carlos Zambrano (gold parallel). Our favorite burly, switch-hitting pitcher batting from the left side.

    8. 2007 UD Masterpieces # 46 Michael Jordan and #39 Frank Thomas (green border parallel). Surprised to find a recent Jordan baseball card, but a cool Chisox reminder, and The Big Hurt finds it easy being green. I like just about every card in this set, so will keep an eye out for them at the National later this month.

    The box yielded a few other parallels and serial numbered cards, but nothing to celebrate having or regret losing. If you're working on a set listed above, point me to the wantlist and I'll try to hit it!

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    1958 Topps Baseball #5, Willie Mays

    Today's superguest built his career across both phases of the NY/SF Giants franchise and eventually closed out with the post-'mazing Mets in the early 70s. This "poor old baseball card," featuring a freshly-moved team, fits right into my low-grade 1958 set.

    Card front

    The card itself sacrificed everything for some fairly sharp corners. Paper loss, glue marks, and tape residue? Check, check, and check. I'm tempted to get a ball-point pen and complete Mr. Mays' look with a "NOW A MET" update.

    Card back

    Topps leaned on the Say Hey Kid's popularity with 3 different cards in the 1958 set. Along with #5, he co-starred with Duke Snider (#436, "Rival Fence Busters") and as a Sport Magazine All-Star (#486). I remain a little disappointed with 1958's design, given all the solid-color backgrounds and frequent sub-par posing. Think of the great 1956 design, 1957's good stab at full-color photos, and then compare it to these selections.

    Something about the one-note design set a low ceiling and lessened the chance to include any really great cards. Aaron and Mantle on #418 is pretty nice, but why is it vertical instead of horizontal? It's like sticking Baby in a corner. Overall, the overuse of close-up shots, omission of stadium backgrounds, and indistinct team photos place this release lowest on Topps' 1950s totem pole. I say, "Hey, let's look at that 1956 set again."

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    1975 L.A. Dodgers Baseball Postcards #5, Bill Russell

    The Dodgers knocked out several official postcard sets during the 1970s. They probably went out to fans at the stadium, local businesses, or for team promotions. Only two issues included a numbering system and solid shortstop Bill Russell filled that role in 1975. (Charlie Hough sat at #5 for 1976.)

    I like Bill's throwing pose, an unconventional release shot, though today's photographic quality would far exceed this card's somewhat blurry colors. Russell played in the famous 70s L.A. infield with Garvey, Lopes, and Cey and also answers the trivia question, "who replaced Tommy Lasorda as Dodger manager?"

    The back's as blank as any postcard should be, aside from the address space and vertical divider. Can you spot the #5 designation? It's waaay up in the stamp square as a "-5" suffix. Beggars can't be choosers--a type card by any other name would fill the 4-count sheet just as well.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    1946 Remar Bread Oakland Oaks Baseball #5, Hersh Martin

    Earnest and always quick with the bat, today's guest switch-hit his way through a 6-year career with PHI (1937-1940) and NYY (1944, 1945), missing a few to the war in-between. He appeared (but didn't bat) in 1938's All-Star game as a reserve outfielder, the same year Gehrig made his final appearance before retiring in early 1939.

    Today, we sometimes tag the All-Star game as a piano recital of top performers for each league, where everyone gets a turn at bat and polite applause. In 1938, though, all but 2 starters played a full 9 innings. Gehrig pinch-hit (for 3B Buddy Lewis) and took over at 1B in the 5th, but rather than bow out, Jimmie Foxx simply moved over defensively to 3rd. Backup third-sacker (and Lou's NYY teammate) Red Rolfe stayed in the dugout.

    While a good hitter in 1945, and still able to leg out several triples, the late-30s Martin soon found himself unable to compete in the Yankee outfield. Joe DiMaggio's return from the war keyed a replacement of all three starting positions, something seen in many post-war ballparks. Hersh instead caught on with the PCL Oakland Oaks, a AAA team performing well under eventual HOFer Casey Stengel. (See 1947's Oaks #5, Ray Hamrick, for more detail on the "Old Perfessor.")

    Hersh's card resembles three other Oakland Oaks issues from the same era. Local stores sponsored 4 total for the popular team, including 2 in 1947. Smith's made men's clothing.

    Check out the 1946 Remar set at TCDB.com for some nice front and back scans. Curiously, it contains 5 unnumbered cards; numbered versions start with Martin and continue to #22, Bo Palica.

    Value: As a minor league set, individual cards don't cost a ton, but also aren't too easy to find. $10 and patience should net you a low-grade common.

    Fakes / reprints: I've seen modern reprints of Remar's original, as well as retro sets that repurpose its base design with different players; see my 1948 Sommer & Kauffman post for an example. Watch out for cards on thick stock or with strong gloss. Originals from this set use thinner stock than typical cards today and almost gloss-free paper.

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    1972 Pittsburgh Press "Buc-A-Day" Pirates #5, Dave Cash

    Card front (newspaper back)

    Like many newspapers, the Pittsburgh Press once dominated their media market with a three-pointed strategy.
    1. Timely investigative journalism
    2. News that you can use
    3. Pictures of Dave Cash auditioning for the Mod Squad (also see the real Topps set at RetroHound.com)
    Glenn Hubbard with a python aside, this is one of the oddest pictures I've seen on a baseball issue. Today's guest could easily be re-selling a leather coat or sports car instead of posing as himself, the Pittsburgh second baseman. (Click through the image for a full-size 70s scan.)

    Collectors obtained this unique set by clipping each elongated "card" from the Press sports section. As nothing but newspaper, folks needed to work to keep them in good shape. (Given the age, yellowing's almost unavoidable.) Fronts include photos--most in non-baseball poses--and a player bio. Backs are actually a section of the classified ads.

    I picked up the entire Buc-a-Day set on eBay last month for less than $20. Though rare, this says something about both their desirability (not high) and our current economy (lower than not high). Folks unable to find them as a baseball collectible can also check for March 1972 Press back issues. (Roberto Clemente, for example, went out on March 20.) Good luck!