Monday, March 30, 2009

Pack Thirteen

Pack 13 +12
446 Eric Show
251 Kelly Gruber
161 Greg Gagne
50 Chili Davis
342 Mike Scioscia
78 Doug James
461 Tony Gwynn
61 Jack McDowell
225 Nolan Ryan
334 Cameron Drew
287 Lloyd McClendon
228 Julio Franco

This pack 13 was a lot better than my last pack 13. At least this time I have no expectations of being able to complete the set out of this box.

Today we get a very nice reprint card. Everytime I see pictures or hear stories about this guy, I just think what could have been...

What could he have done had he spent his prime in the Major Leagues? Records from the Negro Leagues are so spotty in some places that today it's hard to get a real good idea of just how well he really pitched. The stories about him are amazing, and more than anything else, it's unfortunate that better records don't exist.

I won't debate the racial issue in baseball at the time. Looking back at it nearly 60 years later it seems wrong that the color of someone's skin kept them out of the game. But it's hard to say that they were wrong in doing so because they were following society's lead. The world is a much different place today. We're still a long way away from settling our racial problems, and we won't settle them until people of all races realize how stupid it is.

The game of baseball is of course a lot better off now than it was before integration and knowing what we know now, and thinking the way we as a society do now, segregation wouldn't have lasted very long. But the fact still remains that baseball was racially segregated and a lot of people missed out on seeing some great players. And a lot of great players missed a chance to proove themselves at a national level and in the end a lot of careers have been lost because of substandard record keeping.

I've been interested in Negro League ball ever since watching the Ken Burns Baseball documentary back in the early 90s. Their style of play was exciting and their uniforms were a lot more interesting. Us white folk don't know how to wear brightly colored uniforms.

One of my favorite things on my baseball shelf is a replica of a 1938 Philadelphia Stars cap.

It's between my old Braves hat (I really should get a new one), and a replica 1914 Chicago Cubs road hat. Next to the old Cubbies hat is a Hickory Crawdads hat that I got at one of my many trips to LP Frans stadium in the late 90s. I'm hoping to ad an Asheville Tourists cap to the shelf this year. Not seen in the picture is a modern Cubs hat and a Baltimore Orioles cap that I got at Camden Yards back in '97.

Ok... I didn't intend for that section of the post to be that long. Oh well. Let's more on to the rest of the pack now.

I've said before that I deem a pack successful if it includes a Hall of Famer. When a pack gives me one of my favorite players, it's also a success. So far, of the first thirteen packs, this one has been by far the best. Not only did we get a Hall of Famer, who happens to be one of my very favorite players of all time, I also pulled another of my all time favorites.

I'll start with the Hall of Famer first.

Next to Cal Ripken, there's not another player in the history of baseball that I have more respect for or like more than Tony Gwynn. He played for twenty years with one team, he played the game the way it was meant to be played, and he was fun to watch and watching him you knew he was having a lot of fun playing.

The only times I didn't enjoy seeing Gwynn play was when it was against the Braves. Tony Gwynn batted against Greg Maddux more than any other pitcher, 103 plate appearances. His stat line against Maddux reads .429/.485/.538 with a 1.023 OPS, with 10 walks, 9 RBIs and no strike outs.

He batted .312 against Glavine with only two strikeouts, .462/.482/.738 with 12 RBIs and two home runs against Smoltz, and .357 against Steve Avery.

And this is yet another Padre where the signature is nearly unreadable.

It'll be a long time before we see another player like Tony Gwynn.

Up next is another of my favorite players.

I'm still all for Julio making the Hall of Fame. He'd get my vote. Maybe when the time comes, I'll sit outside Cooperstown and lobby for him.

The next card I want to show for two reasons.

First, this is a Padre with a readable signature. So they're not all that bad.

But, the combination of the pose and the facial expression make this a highly disturbing card. He either looks like a used card salesman, or a pedophile. I'm having a hard time deciding which.

Also, this is the second pack in a row with a player who died well before his time because of substance abuse (we saw Frank Williams yesterday).

This was a lot longer than I had intended, so I'll stop here. Check out 1988 Score, for the first post in a series about the Rookie Prospects of 88 Score.