Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pack eleven

Pack 11 +6
(duplicates are indicated by bold text)
293 Vance Law
42 Mike Witt
385 Keith Hernandez
454 Sandy Alomar, Jr.
198 Carney Lansford
304 Danny Jackson

470 Terry Kennedy
179 Dave Winfield
372 Ron Darling
343 Rick Dempsey
147 Fred Toliver
294 Shawon Dunston

The first appearance of doubles. The frustration in opening two boxes of 1987 Topps was the blocks of doubles. It was very rare to have one duplicate card appearing alone in a pack, it happened, but no more than five or six times in 72 packs. Most doubles come in blocks like we see here. This particular block was from pack seven.

I'm hoping the box doesn't go sour from here, but this was the one frustration I didn't want to encounter so early on.

This is Topps collation of the 80's for anyone interested, and if you open enough boxes of this stuff you can begin to piece back together full printing sheets just based on what cards are in what order.

Even with only six new cards, the pack wasn't a complete bust. Here's a Hall of Famer:

Come back tomorrow. Hopefully I won't be as frustrated with the next pack. And look out for the final '09 Topps Series 1 post on 1988 Score sometime tomorrow afternoon (the last three cards were in my mailbox today).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pack Ten, two mullets and a checklist

Pack 10 +12
336 Tim Belcher
72 Harold Baines
482 Checklist
392 Don Carman
120 Kurt Stillwell
148 Jeff Reardon
283 Mitch Williams
237 Rafael Palmeiro
394 Ken Howell
94 Doyle Alexander
324 Jim Clancy
5 Dave Schmidt

With this pack, I'm one quarter of the way through the set with no doubles yet. At this pace, I hope to be close to 80% complete when the box is empty. I learned my lesson with '87 Topps and I will not buy a second box of Bowman. That second box of '87 was more frustrating than fun with horrible collation, don't want to risk that a second time.

I don't have a whole to to say about any particular player in this pack, but I do want to look at a two mullets. I have long hair, but equally lengthy (I'm a metal head, don't try to change me) but I just don't get mullets. I just don't see the draw of the mullet. Who the hell ever thought it would be a good idea to cut their hair short on the top and sides and let it hang down in the back? I'm sorry, there is no justifiable excuse for having a mullet.

Who ever wrote the Wikipedia entry on mullets must be a mullet person because the article goes way out of its way to justify what it calls the mullet subculture. Mullets are no more a subculture than the afro.

Well. Now that I've gotten that out of my system... Here's a checklist.

I've always been a fan of old school checklists and I like them as part of the set. The checklists in '09 Topps base and Heritage are fine too and the team checklists in Upper Deck are ok. But there's just something nice about a dedicated checklist.

But I know not everyone likes to have a checklist included as a numbered card in the set. The checklists in '89 Bowman are a good compromise for everyone. They're numered into the set, but they're the final four cards. I prefer checklists to break the set into parts, but this is ok too.

To end this strange post, everyone have a look at a goofy shot of Doyle Alexander.

'89 was Alexander's final year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pack Nine

Pack 9 +12
339 Tim Leary
277 Dion James
316 Eric Davis
154 Tim Laudner
116 Charlie Leibrandt
311 Barry Larkin
358 Dave Wainhouse
221 Drew Hall
327 Alan Ashby
139 Dale Sveum
211 Tino Martinez
115 Tom Gordon

Today's reprint card is nice. Hall of Fame center fielder and Phillies broadcasting legend, Richie Ashburn. Shown here on a 1949 Bowman card.

The original '49 Bowman set featured a color background with "colorized" black and white photographs. It was a 240 card set and sold in five card packs. Inserted into packs of 1949 Bowman in certain regions were cards of Pacific Coast League players. There were 30 PCL cards and they were all in color.

Here's the second card of a future Hall of Famer that I've shown today.

Barry has a very nice signature that's partially obscured by the shadows of the dugout wall, but this is another one that has no better place for a signature. If this card were produced today, the signature would most likely be in foil or silver ink.

Now let's have a look at two rookie prospects.

Here we see a young Tino Martinez. As we saw yesterday with Ed Sprague, this is another player who signed in 1988 and hadn't yet seen professional action at the time the cards were printed. The background looks rocky, which makes me think Arizona. But for this to be spring training it would have to be 1989 and that's not very likely. The Arizona League Mariners play in Peoria, AZ, but if Martinez didn't make his professional debut until 1989, what's he doing in Peoria in '88?

I'm really curious about when this set was printed. Early in '89 to be released with base Topps, or later in the year? I'm not really sure where to go to find these thigns out.

Moving right along to another prospect.

Who? I've never heard of this guy, but he stuck around off and on until 2000. He was drafted in the first round by the Expos in June 1988 and made his Major League debut in August 1991. He pitched in 85 games in parts of seven seasons between '91 and 2000, a grand total of 105 innings with a poor strike out to walk ratio, 66K - 61BB. All that with a 7.37 ERA. Oops. 1998 was his only season with an ERA+ above 100, but he only pitched in ten games. His career ERA+ was 66. Oops, again.

But he gets lots of points in my book for the old school Expos uniform.

I'm now over 100 cards into the set and no doubles have shown up yet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pack Eight

Pack 8 +12
406 Von Hayes
224 Charlie Hough
7 Jeff Ballard
322 Mike Scott
276 Dale Murphy
281 Rick Sutcliffe
252 Ed Sprague
164 Randy Bush
196 Walt Weiss
267 Mike Sharperson
145 Glenn Braggs
413 John Smiley

I've been talking a lot about these sweepstakes insert cards, and I think from here on out, when I pull one that I haven't seen before, I'm going to post it and talk a little bit about it.

This is a reprint of a 1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie card. If you want one that may or may not be the real thing, and have $3,600 burning a hole in your pocket you can pick one up here, or you can buy an autographed copy of the '89 Bowman reprint here for the low low price of $135. $135 may not be a bad price for a Mays auto, I'm not an autograph hound so I don't know what they sell for, but the auction breaks several of my rules of buying success on ebay, so it's not one I'd bid on.

Moving right along.

There's a lot of people who want to see this guy in the Hall of Fame, but is it ever going to happen?

He has an impressive resume: seven All Star selections, five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and, most importantly, two National League MVP awards (with five more top 25 MVP finishes). He racked up over 2000 hits and close to 400 home runs.

Murphy had a lot of good seasons, and a few very poor seasons. His two statistically worst seasons came ten years apart, in 1978 and 1988. The numbers for those years are remarkable similar: .226/.284/.394 with 23HR and 79RBI in 1978, and .226/.313/.421 with 24HR and 77RBI in 1988. Granted, those were two very bleak years for the Braves, and Murphy lead the team in RBIs both years (ouch). But he also struck out a lot over the course of his career, leading the NL in '78, '80 and '85 (his 1748 career strikeouts are 13th all time).

But when he was going well, he was a great player. Excluding 1981, Murphy put up consistently good numbers between 1980 and 1987, and all seven of his All Star selections came in that period.

Hall of Fame? On June 21, 2008 when opening pack ten of my 1988 Score box, I said yes, I think Murphy is a Hall of Famer. I still think he deserves more consideration than he's been given. Two MVP awards must say something about a player, and while his few poor seasons jump out like a pink flamingo on a lake of swan, he had more good seasons than not.

He received 62 votes for 2009 induction, falling well short at 11.5%. If he gets there, it'll be a struggle like Jim Rice endured. Time will tell.

Here's an interesting card. Notice that all the stat categories on the back are faded out. That's because Kelly had never seen a professional pitch at that point. I wonder where and when this picture was taken. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 1988 amateur draft and signed on June 22. So this picture was taken sometime after June, 1988, possibly in a minor league ball park (though he wouldn't play minor league ball until 1989).

Maybe we'll never know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pack Seven

Pack 7 +12
293 Vance Law
42 Mike Witt
385 Keith Hernandez
454 Sandy Alomar, Jr.
198 Carney Lansford
304 Danny Jackson
121 George Brett
73 Charles Nagy
456 Jack Clark
346 Eddie Murray
222 Bobby Witt
82 Bud Black

I've got a lot to talk about today with this pack.

First we're going to look at the sweepstake card. It amazes me beyond belief that people are selling these things on ebay. Fortunately I haven't seen any auctions claiming that it's a real card. I can almost see selling the Tiffany version, but not really. Have a look.

Even though they have a nice picture on the front, they're not much more than the Spring Training cards inserted into base Topps. I've got a stack of those from 1987, maybe I should sell some of them.

That said, I do like them, but I'n not going to claim they're worth anything at all, and the sweepstakes replica card in today's pack is particularly nice.

This is a very nice looking reprint of a 1950 Bowman Jackie Robinson card. The card features a color painting of an actual photograph and it looks great. 1950 Bowman was a small set at only 252 and it was the only nationally available set produced that year.

After some rooting around on ebay, I found this. Sad.

Ok, now let's leap foward in time to 1989 and talk about what we're all here for.

In this day and age of hits and misses, an old wax pack is deemed a success in my eyes if it contains a Hall of Famer. This one (not counting the Robinson reprint) contains two.

The first Hall of Famer in this pack is one of the greatest third baseman to ever grace the field. If it weren't for Michael Jack Schmidt, Brett would be the best, period. .305 lifetime average, 3154 hits, 317 home runs, 13 All Star Selections and a fielding percentage sitting right at league average. A pretty complete package.

I'm curious about that dot on the brim of his helmet. It looks a bit like a penny, but I think it's too red for that. Maybe a manufacturer's sticker on a new helmet that he forgot to take off? Who knows.

Our second Hall of Famer is one of the greatest switch hitters the game has ever seen. Second only to Mickey Mantle.

That's right. I'm talking about Steady Eddie Murray, pictured here in his first year in a Dodger uniform.

In 1989, Eddie batted only .247/20/88 in 160 games. But by 1990 he'd figured out National League pitching and led the majors with a .330 batting average (though he didn't win the NL batting title because Willie McGee hit .335 with St. Louis before being traded to Oakland where his season average dipped to .324).

Eddie's number 33 has been retired by the Orioles and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Lately I've been posting some cards to show the interesting placement of signatures. But here are two where Topps failed miserably at making the signature readable.

They're there. And at least Jack Clark's is readable (barely), but Alomar's is actually much easier to see on the scan. On the card it almost disappears. I will concede that in the case of the Alomar card, there really isn't a better place to put it, but they could have used a different picture where he wasn't wearing the dark brown jersey.

But Topps and the occasional photographic blunder go hand in hand.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pack Six

Pack 6 +12
467 Scott Garrelts
193 Terry Steinbach
306 Tom Browning
101 Matt Nokes
360 Tim Burke
57 Jerry Reuss
44 Bill Schroeder
361 Nelson Santovenia
326 Alex Trevino
261 Mel Stottlemyer
138 Joey Meyer
403 Tom Herr

Nothing really great to speak of today. Tom Browning had an ok career, but he gave up a lot of home runs. Look at 1988 in particular. He gave up 36 home runs and still managed an 18-5 record.

There are two cards that I do want to touch on a bit though.

1989 was Jerry Reuss' final full season in the majors, he pitched in four games in 1990. He had a long and relatively productive career, including a no-hitter in 1980. But what I really wanted to show with this card was another nice signature placement. Instead of trying to stick it down at the bottom where it would be almost entirely obscured by the black jersey, they choose to put it over the blue sky. There are no signatures that are unreadable in this set, but there are certainly some that could have benefitted from better placement.

The second card I want to feature today is one of the father and son subset cards.

1955 Bowman meets 1989 television technology. The back of the card tells us where to find Mel Jr. and Todd. The other father/son cards are Sandy Alomar, Ken Griffey and Cal Ripken. Maybe we'll get to see those before the box is over.

So far I'm happy with the box. Six packs in and no doubles have shown up yet. I don't want to jinx it though.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pack Five and a Revelation

Pack 5 +12
28 Marty Barrett
419 Sid Bream
36 Ellis Burks
313 Paul O’Neill
98 Mike Henneman
55 Bobby Thigpen
167 Dave Righetti
400 Dickie Thon
132 Mike Birkbeck
330 Rafael Ramirez
223 Jamie Moyer
420 Austin Manahan

Pretty good pack here, but first my revelation. Once again, I admit that sometimes I'm slow, and sometimes it takes a little time for me to catch on. I'm sure what I'm about to say is old news to 99% of you who have any experience with this set. But I realized after opening this pack and putting the cards in their place that the checklist is set up by team. Beyond that, it looks like they're set up alphabetically by division.

Several days before the box arrived, I was setting up my checklist in preperation for opening the box. I noticed something a bit odd and thought to myself "that looks like a lot of Orioles in one place." But from time to time there will be a run of cards of the same team. I didn't give it another thought until a lot of cards very close together were players from the same team. So off to Baseball Reference I went to have a look at the 1988 Orioles roster and the clouds parted, the angels sang and it all became clear.

So yeah, I'm a bit slow sometimes.

Anyway, the cards.

Several guys here had great careers: Burks, O'Neill, Righetti. The former single season saves leader, who has been relegated to a footnote in the annals of baseball history, is here too And we come across the second player who's still around.

And that's where I'll start.

1989 was Moyer's first year as a member of the Texas Rangers. Moyer is of course best known for his ten years in Seattle and for the past several seasons with the Phillies (where he's under contract throug 2010), but the first ten years of his career was spent moving around with five different teams.

I didn't really pay much attention to Jamie Moyer until the past several years and the more I see him the more I like him. Is he Hall of Fame material? I don't know. He's certainly a very good pitcher who's flown under the radar for much of his career. Two more good seasons (15-8 or so) could earn him some serious consideration for Cooperstown. I doubt he'll be in, but I'd give him my vote if I had one.

I wonder if the photo is posed. I think it is because at this angle, we should be seeing the shortstop and maybe the centerfielder, and the look on his face isn't one of effort. Not a terrible photo though.

Not as bad as this one. Here we see a classic baseball card pose, with some unfortunate shadows and what looks like a charred left arm. The reason I'm showing this card though, is the nice placement Topps used for the signature. Too many of these cards have the signature near the bottom where it can be obscured by shadow or darker parts of the outfield wall. The placement of Marty's signature makes it look more like a real autograph.

Finally we see 18 year old Austin Manahan. Prospecting are we? Mr. Manahan never progressed higher than AA Orlando in the Cubs system. And his minor league stat line isn't all that impressive.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.