Friday, December 30, 2011

Five Fantastic Finishes for 2011

Thanks to all my readers for following along in 2011 and hope New Year's dawns bright in 2012! Here's are five of my favorite baseball endings to capstone the year.

1. 1967 Topps #605, Mike Shannon, the last card obtained for a set with teeth-gnashingly expensive high numbers. The Topps Archives did a great bit of research into 1967's short print frequency for Who Ya Callin' Short?! It's useful to remember that determining "real" short- and double-print rests on collectors examining original sheets, since Topps was tight-lipped about production quantity.

2. Even though my adopted Red Sox lost out to Tampa on 2011's final day (and final inning), it ranks as one of most amazing days fans will ever see. ESPN broke it down for their "strange-but-truest last day of the season."

Longoria's homer in the 12th sends Tampa to the playoffs

3. One-time-reader comment of the year: Mike Aronstein (of TCMA and SSPC) complimented my analysis of their 1978 Yankees World Series yearbook. Mike said he expected to attend the 2011 National, but I was unable to track him down. Maybe next year! (I hope this one's a beginning instead of an ending.)

4. Vin Scully calls the 9th inning of Sandy Koufax's perfect game in Sept 9, 1965. This is the same game Koufax's recent biography structured itself around, if you're the literary type.

"There's 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies..."

5. What says "the end" like This Week in Baseball's closing theme?

Any fantastic finishes in your collection this year?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

RIP to a Fellow Collector

Sad news from my group of baseball card traders (, as we learned that long-time member Ryan Diselrath recently passed away. Fellow blogger Chris Stufflestreet wrote a nice post for Ryan at Vintage Sportscards, featuring these classic 1952 Topps.

Ryan and I swapped cards a few times over the years and our trading group kept track of his life and health via Facebook and chats after a seizure paralyzed most of his body. Despite how much that changes everything about day-to-day life, we never saw it dampen his enthusiasm for living. It was great to know Ryan and share his love for baseball.

Monday, December 26, 2011

1979 TCMA Appleton Foxes Baseball #5, Dave White

Ignore Dave White's oversized hat and big lapels--check out that cool, steady gaze instead. Ladykiller.

TCMA's orange-on-white "creamsicle wave" is the obvious part of their 1979 set design, enough that you can forget about the pictures themselves. So many backgrounds wash out to solid black or white, I have to wonder: did minor league photographers only work at night?

Given how poorly this black-and-white look compares to eye-popping 1978 sets from Cramer Sports, I can see why TCMA added a full-color option at some point in 1979 (e.g., Charleston Charlies #5, Gary Woods).

The White Sox drafted Mr. White in the 2nd round of 1978's amateur draft and he played most of 3 seasons with the single-A Foxes. Dave showed pop for a young infielder (20 homers in 272 games), but quit baseball abruptly at the age of 19, perhaps to attend college before a scholarship window closed.

1979 TCMA Appleton Foxes checklist (via
  1. Paul Soth
  2. Dennis Keating
  3. Vito Lucarelli
  4. Ed Bahns
  5. Dave White
  6. Kevin Hickey
  7. Clancy Woods
  8. Jeff Vuksan
  9. Lorenzo Gray
  10. Mike Johnson
  11. Dave Daniels
  12. Ivan Mesa
  13. Mike Sivik
  14. Phil Bauer
  15. Mark Teutsch
  16. Luis Estrada
  17. Jim Breazeale
  18. Vince Bienek
  19. Bob Umdenstock
  20. Mike Mattland
  21. Duane Shaffer
  22. Mark Platel
  23. Don Kraeger
  24. Vic Walters
  25. Paul Gbur

Value: This #5 cost $2 at His teammates didn't include any future big-league stars, so the Foxes remain an affordable team set.

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Steve Christmas (1983 TCMA Tucson Toros)

Only two shopping days until the 25th. Anyone left on your Christmas list? Why not get them a card?

Holiday-friendly catcher Steve Christmas appeared once before in this blog, as a teammate of 1980 TCMA Waterbury Reds #5, Paul Herring. His pictured team, the Tucson Toros, adopted this rainbow-sleeve 80s look of their parent club, Houston, a few short years after their salsa-and-guacamole debacle.

1987 Fleer #67, Nolan Ryan

It's still above freezing in Boston, so who knows if this year's Christmas will also be white. I brought Bing along, just in case flakes start to fall...

Merry Steve Christmas, y'all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1964 Topps Rookie All-Star Baseball Banquet #5, Election Committee (with Jackie Robinson)

Thanks to his HOF career and all-round significance, one of these Topps Rookie All-Star Team Honorary Election Committee members is somewhat better-known than the others. See if you can identify him. :-)

4" x 6" card front (blank back)

This stately group of gentlemen helped pick Topps All-Star Rookies between 1959 and 1964, usually designated as such on the card itself. Willie McCovey's rookie card is one of the best.

1960 Topps #316, Willie McCovey 

In 1959, collectors could mail in votes for All-Star Rookies, thus the "selected by the youth of America" tagline.

Topps hosted a 1964 banquet in honor of their trophy-winning ballplayers and gave them a commemorative boxed set of 35 cards. Today's #5 includes a "page 5" note at lower-right because their set copied the event's full-sized program design note-for-note.

Will only a few hundred attendees, it's no surprise that very few All-Star Rookie boxes reached the 21st-century collectors market. Some singles appear on eBay, but complete sets usually sell at higher-profile auctions.

New York uniform trivia #1: Yankee reliever par excellence Mariano Rivera continues to hum along as the last guy to wear All-Star Rookie consultant Jackie Robinson's #42. The MLB retired for his uniform number for all teams in 1997, but allowed active players to continue using it.

New York uniform trivia #2: Once New York retires Derek Jeter's #2, the only active number under #11 will be #6, which they've left unissued since Joe Torre's departure in 2007. Jeter might be the last Yankee to wear single-digit pinstripes.

New York uniform trivia #3: The Yankees retired #8 for HOF catchers Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey at a shared ceremony on July 22, 1972, one of baseball's few such double-dips.

Superlative card blog The Topps Archives showed scans of these 1964 Rookie All-Star cards (and program) in A Moveable Feast? and Feast on This. (The latter article includes a full 35-card checklist.)

Value: I bought this #5 for $120 on eBay. Since so few exist, the market price varies significantly based on how many collectors go for a given auction or listing.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace. Not sure if enough people care about this set to make reprinting it worthwhile. (Jackie Robinson's popular for collectors, so #5 would be vulnerable to fakery if any exists.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Type Site: Oriole Bobble Head of the Week

I've plugged The Great Orioles Autograph Project before, but check out its featured Baltimore bobble head for this week. None other than HOF #5, Brooks Robinson!

Brooks holds a special place in my heart as the first HOF to answer a letter of mine way back at age 13. Find a scan of my questions and his response in the profile for 1973 Johnny Pro Orioles (fielding) #5.

Didn't occur to me until today, but Brooks appears on quite a few type collection cards. (Five in all!)

Orioles (and autograph) fans should keep tabs on The Great Orioles Autograph Project for more bobbles and other good stuff.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1979 TCMA Clinton Dodgers Baseball #5, Matt Reeves

Matt Reeves, master of the blank stare. Look deep into those eyes. You are getting very sleepy. Sleeeepy.

Forget Dave Stewart's intimidating glare. I'm surprised batters could stay awake against Mr. Reeves, if this TCMA rendition is true-to-life. (Should more teams consider the secret weapon of sedation?)

Reeves never pitched above single-A for Los Angeles, but overlaps with two significant players for the major league Dodgers.

1982 Topps #114, Ken Landreaux

Number 1: Following 1980, LA traded Matt Reeves, Mickey Hatcher, and Kelly Snider to Minnesota for their All-Star CF, Ken Landreaux. Kenny roamed the Dodger outfield through 1987, helping them reach the postseason three times and win the World Series in 1981.

Number 2: Former Clinton Dodger Mickey Hatcher returned to the parent club in 1987. He and LA's other utility players--Tom Lasorda dubbed them the "stuntmen"--helped overcome Oakland's Bash Brothers to win the 1988 World Series. (Hatcher slugged a pair of homers in the series after hitting only one all year and famously sprinted around the bases after each.)

1979 marked Matt's first pro season, so TCMA didn't have any stats to print on the card back. He finished the year 8-8 with a tidy 2.85 ERA, more than half-a-run better than team average. (Teammate Orel Hershiser, another 1988 World Series hero, went 4-0 for Clinton in his own pro debut.)

Value: This #5 cost $2 at Guys who reached the big leagues run more, depending on how famous they became. Steve Sax is the most valuable card in this team set.

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1979 TCMA Asheville Tourists Baseball #5, Wayne Terwilliger

Today's TMCA team of minor league hopefuls is that rare set where the manager's career experience might exceed his starting lineup's...combined.

Wayne "Twig" Terwilliger spent more than six decades playing, managing, and coaching in pro ball. His web site--updated in 2009--cites a managerial retirement date of 2005, but Twig continued to coach first base for Fort Worth of the American Association through 2010, pushing his total to 65 years.

Hate to quibble, Asheville Police Department, but how is riding one kid per bike a CRIME prevention tip? Are they saying "don't be a getaway driver for bicycle bandits?" (That might be what they're saying.)

Twig appeared on Topps cards (as a player) way back in the 1950s. His 1956 action pose captures a nice slide into home, though it looks like the ball arrived first and they've got Wayne dead to rights.

Both Wayne's 1956 card and today's TCMA #5 appear in his site's baseball card gallery.

Value: This #5 cost $2 from Wayne garnered plenty of cardboard in his day, but never rose to star level for collectors.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Type Site: The Phillies Room

I've tracked Jim's line of custom Chachi cards on The Phillies Room for quite a while. Hard to miss today's post, as #5 in a series of off-season transactions.

2012 Chachi Transactions #5 Ben Francisco

Ben Francisco moved to Toronto yesterday in a "major leaguer for minor leaguer" swap, opening a roster spot for further movements prior to spring training. Jim tracks all past deals in each off-season post, giving readers the full picture of how teams--even successes like Philly--plan and rebuild between October and April.

Find many, many more custom cards and Philadelphia loyalty at The Phillies Room. And hey, this is Number 5 blog post #600! Happy to use it to honor team fandom anytime and anywhere.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

1979 TCMA Quad City Cubs Baseball #5, Bill "Tex" Morgan

1979 meant mostly orange waves under black-and-white photos for TMCA minor league cards, as seen in several earlier team sets. This doesn't mean founder Mike Aronstein and his staff avoided full color; they'd already put it to use for MLB retrospectives like The 1960's (#5 profile). Small-town A and AA-ball teams promoted their players on thin budgets, so might've asked for "cheap" over "pretty." By 1980, TCMA added color and plenty of teams took that option. (Funny how people will spend more for a premium product when you give them the choice.)

TCMA card editors called this man Bill--born William Arnold Morgan--but knows him by the more memorable moniker Tex Morgan. If I were Bill, you can bet Tex is what I'd want on anything sports-related. Bats, autographs, hats, you name it. Give me a Tex monogrammed sweat towel!

Tex spent 1979 and most of 1980 shagging flies for these Cubs. He never crested above Midland's AA team, unfortunately, as hitting .212 in the minors rarely means success in the majors, and retired after 1981.

Marvel Comics ran their own Tex Morgan comic back in the 1940s and 1950s, which I suspect inspired guys named Morgan to adopt it themselves; can't get more cowboy than six-shooters, spurs, and a bandana. (Follow the image link for more comic covers.)

Value: This #5 cost $2 from, about right for late 70s cards of guys who didn't reach the majors.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any 1979 reprints. TCMA did reissue some 1980 team sets in the late 1980s, so it's possible 1979 cards also reappeared. (Unfortunately, I'm not sure how you'd tell them apart.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1979 TCMA Buffalo Bisons Baseball #5, Tony Pena

This man's done some of everything on the baseball diamond, from 5-time All-Star catcher to Kansas City manager to title-winning bench coach for the Yankees in 2009. I remember Tony Pena mostly for his unorthodox half-sitting stance, but it didn't keep him from leading the league in throwing out would-be base stealers or being the consensus best defensive catcher of the 1980s.

That kid looks super-excited to be batboy and I can understand why. Nothing thrills a 10 year-old baseball fan more than the thought of being so close to your favorite players and having a real job to do on the field.

This orange-on-cream card style matches TCMA's other 1979 team sets and reminds me of summertime creamsicles. (Mmm, sweet and fruity.)

Buffalo elected Tony Pena to their franchise Hall of Fame in 2011. While it probably didn't generate the same excitement as winning a ring with New York in 2009, the embers of youthful nostalgia glow a little warmer when you're recognized for past achievements.

Value: Pena's minor league cards cost more than guys who never reached the bigs. A friend traded this one to me, but I estimate they'd cost $5 or so.

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen 1979 reprints in the marketplace, but know that TCMA made late-80s reissues of 1980 teams, so it's possible they did so for earlier years.

Monday, December 5, 2011

1952 Bedard and Donaldson (aka, "Laval Dairy") Provincial League Baseball #5, Georges Maranda

Georges Henri Maranda is one of those guys who hung around the lower minors long enough to get not one, but two shots at the big leagues. Today's card shows him at age 20, pitching for the Quebec Braves, a Canadian farm team of Boston's NL franchise. He pitched solidly as a starter and survived their move west to Milwaukee in 1954, when the C-league team itself shifted to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

1950 Bedard & Donaldson #5, Georges Maranda (blank back)

Georges continued to toil for Braves minor league teams throughout the 1950s, but ultimately reached the majors with San Francisco in 1960 (17 games) and Minnesota (32 games) in 1962 (career stats at

Vintage card guides called this black-and-white issue "Laval Dairy," but modern research shows they (and a contemporary hockey set) came instead from Bedard & Donaldson, Ltd. Cards cover local minor league teams known to Montreal and Quebecois fans, explaining why it's one of the few baseball sets in all French.

1951-52 Bedard and Donaldson hockey #92, Jacques Plante (HOF)

Bedard & Donaldson's 114-player checklist shows an ambitious commitment for that era; only Bowman published sets of similar size in the American market prior to 1952. I think Bedard's 1951-52 hockey set sold well enough that adding baseball images seemed financially viable, but unfortunately no similar issues followed in later seasons.

Value: I bought this VG version of #5 from a longtime dealer and friend for $20. I've seen online sites list singles in the past for $10-20, and Legendary Auctions sold a near-set for $657. (They're pretty rare, so prices are volatile, depending on how many collectors want a particular card.)

Fakes / reprints: Haven't seen any in the marketplace, but someone might've produced a direct-to-collectors version, given the rarity.

Friday, December 2, 2011

1967-1968 Coca-Cola Boston Red Sox Baseball Caps #5, Darrell Brandon

The late 1960s Coke caps comprise several brands, all still sold today in one form or another: Coca-Cola, Fresca, Tab, Sprite, and Fanta. Most feature players with blacked-out team insignias, given the changing nature of player and team licensing in the mid-60s union upheaval, led by the stronger MLBPA and director Marvin Miller. Mr. Brandon's hat has an O or zero on it, which might've been scratched in by a young collector. Other team logos remain, including the LA on 1967 Coke Dodgers #5, Don Sutton.

Collectors differ over what to call these Coke toppers. The Sports Collectors Digest annual price guide calls them bottle caps, which I favor despite its ho-hum descriptiveness. Others call them crowns to separate them conversationally from baseball uniform caps and match the worldwide cap collectors market. (See for an extensive non-sports collection.)

Coke used Darrell "Bucky" Brandon as #5 for their 1967-68 sets. This checklist turned over nearly half of Boston's 18 players between the two years (1967 / 1968 below).
  1. Lee Stange
  2. Carl Yastrzemski / Gary Waslewski
  3. Don Demeter / Gary Bell
  4. Jose Santiago / John Wyatt
  5. Darrell Brandon
  6. Joe Foy
  7. Don McMahon / Ray Culp
  8. Dalton Jones
  9. Mike Ryan / Gene Oliver
  10. Bob Tillman / Jose Santiago
  11. Rico Petrocelli
  12. George Scott
  13. George Smith / Mike Andrews
  14. Dennis Bennett / Dick Ellsworth
  15. Hank Fischer / Norm Siebern
  16. Jim Longborg
  17. Jose Tartabull / Jerry Adair
  18. George Thomas / Elston Howard

If you've seen Jose Santiago caps with different numbers (4 vs. 10), now you know why!

Value: Nipped this scan from an eBay auction, where Mr. Brandon sits at the asking price of $3.

Fakes / reprints: I doubt it's economical to fake a Coke cap.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bobby Valentine to Manage Boston Red Sox

Did you know Bobby V was in the mix for Boston's bench? I sure didn't. Inevitable he ended up managing again somewhere, though my vote was for Seattle about 3 years ago, given his experience in Japan.

That's not my favorite Valentine card, though.

1981 Topps #445! Love the face mask and vertical uniform striping. Ellis wore the half-football bars to protect his injured cheekbone, as pioneered by Dave Parker not long before.

Sweet mother of mercy, that's creepy. Find the whole story at Aggh! It's Dave Parker at the Plate! by Paul Lukas.

And now the circle to "Valentine's Day Massacre" is complete. Welcome to Boston, Bobby V!