Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Carl Furillo played the outfield for 15 seasons with the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers. He was an integral part of the Dodger dynasty of the 1940s and 1950s. Nicknamed “the Reading Rifle”, Furillo was noted for his strong and accurate throwing arm. He recorded 10 or more assists in nine consecutive seasons and led the National League in 1950 and 1951. As testament to his defensive prowess, he once threw out Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mel Queen by two feet at first base after Queen had apparently singled into right field. Furillo was a decent offensive player also, batting over .300 five times and winning the 1953 batting title with a .344 average (the highest average by a Dodger since Oyster Burns hit .354 in 1894). In his 15 year career, Furillo batted .299 with 192 home runs, 1910 hits, 1058 RBI, 895 runs, 324 doubles, 56 triples, 48 stolen bases, a .458 slugging average and 514 walks for a .355 on base percentage. Sure he wasn’t Mantle (or even Duke Snider), but he was a very good major league player. Unfortunately he left baseball on very antagonistic terms. The Dodgers released him in May 1960 while he was injured with a torn calf muscle. Furillo sued the team claiming they released him to avoid his pension and medical expenses.
Furillo reportedly died a very unhappy ex-major league ball player, feeling that baseball had forgotten him and his accomplishments. Well I can tell you that I’m one baseball fan who will never forget Carl Furillo. He and his 1959 Topps card will always hold a special place in my collection. I wouldn’t trade my Furillo baseball card for a Mantle. Unless of course it was that Mantle I dreamed was hiding in a dusty shoebox in a dark corner of Grandma’s attic.
Monday, December 29, 2008
My baseball heroes include one you probably wouldn't know from my blog or comments, and that person is Tim Wakefield. Yes, Wakefield plays for my favorite team, but that’s not the whole reason why I consider him one of my favorite players of all time. I count him among my favorites more for his team minded mentality that seems so rare in pro sports these days, and for his off field charitable contributions. While it seems like every pro athlete these days has a foundation in their name, I think most of them do it at the advice of their accountant as a tax shelter. I never get that feeling with Wakefield who shows up unannounced at children’s hospitals and who, while make millions less than many of his peers, supports numerous charities in Boston and in his hometown of Melbourne, Florida.
Every New Years I resolve to complete those pesky unfinished sets in my collection. Actually, this is the first year that I’ll be making a baseball card related resolution. One of the first things I did when I decided to get back into collecting was to blow the dust off of all of the old shoe-boxes and catalog what it was I had. I discovered that I was tantalizingly close to finishing up numerous sets from my childhood and began a quest to complete them. I succeeded in completing a few through trades, but also added a few with the new products I decided to collect. So in 2009 I’m going to strive to complete as many unfinished sets as I can.
What is your favorite baseball book? I haven’t read a ton of baseball-themed books. Despite my love of all things history, I just find them very hard to read. I guess I’m too used to fast paced fantasy and mystery novels. One of the few I have read is Faithful, by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan. While it’s not a great piece of literature, it is a great archive of the 2004 Red Sox season.
What is your favorite card? I featured my favorite card in my first Monster Card of the Week – 1991 Fleer Pro Visions Mike Greenwell. Ah, I can't resist. Here it is again. After all, it is my favorite!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Its a shame that BBCM is no longer published. Beckett may be the standard in price guide publications (again, like it or not), but in my estimation they fall short as a hobby magazine. Their articles just aren't memorable and their reviews... well I think we all know about their reviews. There's avoid in the magazine department that is just aching to be filled. I for one would be first in line if someone published a magazine on the level of BBCM again.
Monday, December 22, 2008
One of these sets, produced in 1993 was a 5-card Red Sox set that featured Carl Yastrzemski, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant and Bobby Doerr. Front Row/Spectum offered autographed versions of these cards and it is a pair of these that are this week's Monster Card of the Week.
These are probably the first autographed cards I ever owned. In fact it would be 15 years before I would added another autographed card to my collection. And you know what? Despite being unlicensed cards produced by a fledgling company that no longer exists, I prefer this pair to the stickered autographs being produced now. The design is simple and the bold blue ink is striking in its matching simplicity on the card. Topps and Upper Deck take note, this is how autographed cards should be done.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Rick Ferrell was a catcher who played for nineteen seasons with the St Louis Browns, Washington Senators and the Red Sox. His Hall of Fame plaque proclaims him as a “durable defensive standout with a fine arm.” Indeed, it is most likely this defensive prowess that earned him a spot in the Hall. Despite setting Red Sox catchers’ records in average, doubles, home runs and RBIs, Ferrell’s offensive numbers are not particularly noteworthy. He only batted over .300 four times in his career and he didn’t reach any major milestones in any other batting category. In fact, his brother Wes, who was a pitcher, hit more home runs (in significantly fewer games no less) than Rick did. Rick Ferrell was named to eight All-Star games, and received MVP votes in four different season despite rarely playing for a winning or contending team. But, his primary claim to fame was that he retired as the all-time leader in games played at the catcher position, a record that would stand for 40 years until Carlton Fisk broke it in 1988. Ferrell is one of the most controversial members of the Hall of Fame. His offensive numbers are clearly not Hall of Fame caliber. There has also been speculation that his election was the result of tit-for-tat voting that resulted in Pee Wee Reese’s induction. Whether that is true or not will probably never be known, but he was elected in 1984 by the veterans committee who, prior to the 2001 rules changes that allowed all living Hall of Famers to vote, was a closed door group that had elected almost half of all players in the Hall of Fame and weathered numerous charges of cronyism.
Controversy aside, Rick Ferrell was most certainly a solid catcher for the entirety of his career. He had a solid .984 fielding percentage and when he retired had recorded the second most career putouts as a catcher. This despite the dubious distinction of having to regularly catch 4 knuckleballers during the 1945 season (with the Washington Senators). There is also anecdotal evidence that suggests how respected he was by his coaches and peers. For example, Ferrell was named to the first All-Star game in 1933 and played all nine innings for Casey Stengel’s American League team despite having future Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey, who were superior offensive players, on the bench. And if the respect of Casey Stengel isn’t enough, Bill James (he of sabermetrics fame) when asked which ten players did not belong in the Hall of Fame, did not include Rick Farrell’s name.
“You never saw him lunge for the ball; he never took a strike away from you. He'd get more strikes for a pitcher than anybody I ever saw, because he made catching look easy.”
Wes Ferrell on his brother's catching ability.
1. 1936 Goudey Wide Pens R314
2. 1937 Kellogs Sports Stamps
3. 1933 Goudey
4. 1934 National Chicle Batter Up R318
Thursday, December 18, 2008
For those of you who might have been living under a rock (possibly to escape the snow and ice that buried the Northeast last week) and missed Ben Henry’s epic Casey at the Bat post, do yourself a favor and check it out. It is perhaps the best blog post you will ever read. Unfortunately, it is also his last post. I’m sure I’m one of countless many who consider Ben’s writing as inspiration for starting my own blog. His was the first blog that I discovered upon returning to collecting (which is the genius of simply calling your blog, The Baseball Card Blog – it appears first on all of the major search engines), and I voraciously devoured every post both old and new. His reviews of sets from the 1980s and early 1990s were like a blast backwards in time to my childhood, and should be required reading for every collector. Ben will be sorely missed in the blogging community. Perhaps one day he will get around to publishing the book he’d been working on (aptly titled, The Baseball Card Book) and we all will get another helping of the quirky humor and keen insights that made his blog so popular. In the spirit of hoping for one more hurrah from Ben in book form, and as a way of saying thanks, here’s the sequel to Casey at the Bat, sans images. After all you can’t top a masterpiece.
by Grantland Rice
Published: The Speaker (06-1907)
There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more;
There were muttered oaths and curses- every fan in town was sore.
"Just think," said one, "how soft it looked with Casey at the bat,
And then to think he'd go and spring a bush league trick like that!"
All his past fame was forgotten- he was now a hopeless "shine."
They called him "Strike-Out Casey," from the mayor down the line;
And as he came to bat each day his bosom heaved a sigh,
While a look of hopeless fury shone in mighty Casey's eye.
He pondered in the days gone by that he had been their king,
That when he strolled up to the plate they made the welkin ring;
But now his nerve had vanished, for when he heard them hoot
He "fanned" or "popped out" daily, like some minor league recruit.
He soon began to sulk and loaf, his batting eye went lame;
No home runs on the score card now were chalked against his name;
The fans without exception gave the manager no peace,
For one and all kept clamoring for Casey's quick release.
The Mudville squad began to slump, the team was in the air;
Their playing went from bad to worse - nobody seemed to care.
"Back to the woods with Casey!" was the cry from Rooters' Row.
"Get some one who can hit the ball, and let that big dub go!"
The lane is long, some one has said, that never turns again,
And Fate, though fickle, often gives another chance to men;
And Casey smiled; his rugged face no longer wore a frown-
The pitcher who had started all the trouble came to town.
All Mudville had assembled - ten thousand fans had come
To see the twirler who had put big Casey on the bum;
And when he stepped into the box, the multitude went wild;
He doffed his cap in proud disdain, but Casey only smiled.
"Play ball!" the umpire's voice rang out, and then the game began.
But in that throng of thousands there was not a single fan
Who thought that Mudville had a chance, and with the setting sun
Their hopes sank low- the rival team was leading "four to one."
The last half of the ninth came round, with no change in the score;
But when the first man up hit safe, the crowd began to roar;
The din increased, the echo of ten thousand shouts was heard
When the pitcher hit the second and gave "four balls" to the third.
Three men on base - nobody out - three runs to tie the game!
A triple meant the highest niche in Mudville's hall of fame;
But here the rally ended and the gloom was deep as night,
When the fourth one "fouled to catcher" and the fifth "flew out to right."
A dismal groan in chorus came; a scowl was on each face
When Casey walked up, bat in hand, and slowly took his place;
His bloodshot eyes in fury gleamed, his teeth were clenched in hate;
He gave his cap a vicious hook and pounded on the plate.
But fame is fleeting as the wind and glory fades away;
There were no wild and woolly cheers, no glad acclaim this day;
They hissed and groaned and hooted as they clamored: "Strike him out!"
But Casey gave no outward sign that he had heard this shout.
The pitcher smiled and cut one loose - across the plate it sped;
Another hiss, another groan. "Strike one!" the umpire said.
Zip! Like a shot the second curve broke just below the knee.
"Strike two!" the umpire roared aloud; but Casey made no plea.
No roasting for the umpire now - his was an easy lot;
But here the pitcher whirled again- was that a rifle shot?
A whack, a crack, and out through the space the leather pellet flew,
A blot against the distant sky, a speck against the blue.
Above the fence in center field in rapid whirling flight
The sphere sailed on - the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight.
Ten thousand hats were thrown in air, ten thousand threw a fit,
But no one ever found the ball that mighty Casey hit.
O, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun,
And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun!
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall,
But Mudville hearts are happy now, for Casey hit the ball.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
1. an ornamental object used in a central position, esp. on the center of a dining-room table.
2. the central or outstanding point or feature: The centerpiece of the evening was a play put on by the employees.
The first card that I might consider a centerpiece to my collection is Mike Greenwell’s 1987 Topps rookie card. While this card is pretty much worthless in terms of dollar value, Greenwell was my favorite player when I was younger so it has significant sentimental value to me. The 1987 Topps set is also an iconic set from the 1980’s and was the first set I completed in my earlier collecting days (by opening wax packs no less) so it has that going for it too. All of that factored in, it just doesn’t scream centerpiece to me, so I dug a little deeper.
And arrived at Carl Yastrzemski’s 1960 Topps rookie card. To me this is a card that is definitely centerpiece-worthy. While I really don’t care for the 1960 set design, I think the Rookie Star subset design is outstanding. And Yaz looks like the quintessential all-American baseball player on this card. But, while this card has decent monetary value, it has little sentimental value to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love this card. But I bought it at a card show years ago and it has no real story to it. So I went back to my collection once more.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The most interesting thing about this box to me was the "Random-Sequencing" that the box proclaims. In my mind, it was anything but random and it makes me suspicious that people who bought multiple boxes ended up with piles of duplicates. There were 4 stacks of packs in the box. I opened one whole stack at a time. The cards in each stack were random within each pack, but there was a definite pattern from pack to pack in each stack. For example. here's the number sequencing for the first three packs in a stack:
Pack #1 - 453, 425, 347, 559, 502, 129, 182, holo, 249, 299, 693, 646, 41, 64, 326
Pack #2 - 454, 426, 348, 398, 560, 503, 130, 183, holo, 250, 300, 694, 647, 42, 65, 327
Pack #3 - 455, 427, 349, 399, 561, 504, 131, 184, holo, 201, 251, 695, 648, 43, 66, 328
See the pattern? This repeated through the whole box. And each stack was sequentially tied to the others. It doesn't take a genius to see that if you ended up with two boxes that followed an even remotely similar sequencing you'd end up with a huge stack of doubles.
Anyways, enough rambling, onto a sampling of cards from the second half of the box.
Let's start with a pair of opposites. A guy in Mussina who fulfilled the expectations of a "Top Prospect" and a guy in Zeile who failed to live up to even a fraction of his hype.
Here's a pair of guys who had better secondary careers than they did as baseball players. Sanders was a much better football player than he was a baseball player, and Farrell is a much better pitching coach than he was a pitcher.
It's Red Sox madness!
Speaking of madness... Jose lind has some serious spring in his step. And is anyone else scared of Saberhagen after seeing this photo... like serial killer scared?
How about some more stunning Upper Deck photography?
How about some 1990's fashion trends... Alex Cole's goggles always bugged me. And I just love the Upper Deck self advertising.
I had to post Gladden for my sister-in-law... she has a mullet fetish. And Incaviglia... well, I can't think of anything witty to say about him right now.
And finally, how about some players with funny names. There's something ironically funny about a pitcher whose last name is Plunk. I wonder if Mr. Klink is related to Colonel Klink (Hogan!!!!)?
Friday, December 12, 2008
These will be the new primary Road uniforms and are an updated version of the road uniforms from the early 1980's. In the background (and on the sleeve of the uniform) is the new logo for the team, referred to as the "hanging sox". This replaces the circular logo with a small version of the hanging sox in the middle:
The team also announced new secondary home and road uniforms which will be worn with an alternate hat featuring the new hanging sox logo instead of the "B".
My opinion - I like the new unis, both primary and secondary. The primary (gray) have a classic retro/modern look to them that I find appealing. I'm not sure how I feel about the hanging sox logo on the hat and am glad that it will only be worn with the alternate uniforms. To me replacing the "B" logo on the hat would be sacreligious.
All photos courtesy of Boston.com.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
First up are a pair of cards from two of the most dominant pitchers of the 1990's. Between them they won nine Cy Young awards. Both are sure fire Hall of Famers.
A couple more pitchers photographed doing things other than pitching. I love the photo of Jim Abbot. Everyone has seen how Abbot handled pitching and the transition to fielding. I hadn't ever seen a photo of him batting before.
Of course I scanned my favorite player's card. Its a pretty good action photo too. Blauser's in mid-leap after a line drive. This is the kind of photography that set Upper Deck apart from all the other card companies right out of the gate.
Speaking of photography that set Upper Deck apart, Fernando-mania meets patented UD triple exposure. I also appreciate Upper Decks creativity when it comes to checklist cards. This one would fit right in over at Night Owl Cards.
Rookie extravaganza. Not a bad pair of rookie cards to pull from a box. Both have an excellent chance of being Hall of Famers.
When I pulled the Chipper, I thought I had pulled the best card out of the box. I had forgotten about the Michael Jordan insert card. This card was the shit when it first came out. I remember going to card shows and seeing this card selling for obscene amounts of money. Topps isn't the only company to indulge in a little hero worship.
Not only was Upper Deck one of the first companies to put full color photos on the back of their cards, they put good photos on the back. In fact, I think some of the rear photos are better than the ones they put on the front.
More good photos from the backs of cards. Nice visualization of the knuckleball grip. Somehow I think Mr. Parrish is done for the day (and not happy about it)!
Thought I'd finish up part one with a couple of oddball photos. My memories of Dave Stewart of of this ultra-intense guy with the death ray stare. Seeing the lighter side of him is just... odd. And I'm not sure, but I think Fisk and Ventura are reinacting a scene from Field of Dreams... "if you build it..."