Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #2

1954 Topps #2 Gus Zernial
Zernial wasn't just one of the best ball players no one remembers, he also was supposedly the guy who introduced Joe DiMaggio to Marilyn Monroe, although there are conflicting reports about that story. Here's a brief bio of Gus, entitled A Tale of Two Cities, from the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society website.


Monday, January 28, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #3

1956 Topps #3 Elmer Valo

More relationships between the number of the card and stats and useless info on the player. As mentioned in yesterday's post, it sounds kind of like numerology. I'm beginning to be concerned about myself...

  • During his career, Elmer had three consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better ('46-'48)
  • Over the course of a twenty year major league career, Valo walked 3x more than he struck out.
  • Valo was part of three franchise shifts: playing for both the Kansas City Athletics& Philadelphia Athletics, the Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Washington Senators & Minnesota Twins. 
  • Wore the #3 for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957 and then also for the Los Angeles Dodgers a year later
  • Holds the ML record for most bases loaded triples in a season with 3



As a member of an Athletics team which in recent years had finished in eighth place, one year 34 games out, and then 49, 55, and finally 60 out of first place, Valo once reached third base and asked the umpire, "Where do I go from here?"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #4

A Hand Full of Hanks

It's not always easy coming up with content for a blog post. It's times like that when baseballreference.com comes in handy.

Take today's feature, for instance. Four cards numbered 4, four Hanks. A quick look at the BR page for Hank Foiles easily revealed the info included below. Good starting point for something different, but after finishing this I'm afraid I sound like some sort of numerologist.


1954 Topps #4 Hank Sauer

The Number 4: During Sauer's 1952 MVP season, the slugging outfielder finished fourth in the N.L. in doubles with 31, fourth in adjusted OPS+ at 143, fourth in errors by a Left Fielder (with 6), fourth in putouts by an outfielder (with 327), fourth in fielding % as a left fielder (.983), and finished fourth in Offensive Winning % (.703- this category represents the winning % if team had nine of this player batting).














1958 Topps #4 Hank Foiles
The Number 4: In 1958, Foiles ranked fourth in the N.L. for games at catcher with 104, and finished fourth among N.L. catches in assists with 41.


















1968 Topps Game #4 Henry (Hank) Aaron
The Number 4: Hank recorded four triples during the 1968 season, finished fourth in the N.L. in the following categories: slugging % (.498), games played (160), stolen bases (28), Runs Created (104), Adjusted Batting Runs (39), Adjusted Batting Wins (4.4), Win Probability Added (5.5), Putouts as an Outfielder (330), Assists as an outfielder (13),
















1974 Topps #4 Hank Aaron Special 1962-1965
The Number 4: Looking back on the Hammer's career, he is fourth in Career Runs Created (2552), fourth in Runs Scored (2174), and hit 44 homers 4 times during his career.




Saturday, January 26, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #5


1952 Topps #5 Larry Jansen
It has been speculated that Jansen is holding up the seven fingers to represent each of his seven children, but I haven't seen that where that has ever been confirmed. Whatever the case, I'm thinking that Topps should have assigned card no.7 to the Giants pitcher.

 In a perfect world, the release date for 2013 Topps I Baseball would get pushed back two days and this could be viewed as some sort of prophetic vision of Jansen, reminding us (hypothetically) that Topps 2013 is  now seven days away.





Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #7

 For this collector, the front of a card should always take precedence over the back of the card. It is, after all, the front- it contains the design that it will be judged by, and is that which we will remember it by. It contains the photos which bring back memories, the team logos which we identify ourselves with, and is where you're more likely to find a signature.

1960 Topps #7
1960 Topps #7 Master and Mentor (Willie Mays, Bill Rigney) Front




And so with that in mind, I find it only fitting that the back of this card focuses not on Willie Mays- but on his manager, Bill Rigney. I mean, how often do you find a card back that's more memorable than the front?

Exactly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #8

The 1968 Major League Baseball season was scheduled to open on April 8th, with 10 games on the slate. But with the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the start of the season was delayed two days in order to accommodate the funeral, which was to take place in Atlanta on Tuesday the 9th.

1969 Topps #8 ERA Leaders
When Opening Day finally arrived, Atlanta opened up in St. Louis, facing Bob Gibson and the Cardinals. Trailing 1-0, the Cardinals scored a run in the bottom of the 8th, and then another in the bottom of the ninth to win it 2-1. Gibson, who pitched 7 innings that night, allowed only 3 hits, 1 run (un-earned), and walked only one while getting a no-decision.

 In his second start of the season- again, against Atlanta- Gibby  received another no-decision while pitching seven innings and giving up 3 runs (all earned) on 5 hits. It would be the last time he pitched less than 8 innings that regular season.  




AMAZING! (One year early)
  • His 1.12 ERA during the '68 season is the lowest for a starter in the modern-era.
  • In thirty-four starts during the '68 season, Gibson completed 28 of them. Yes- that's correct: 28 complete games. And, with the exception of those first two starts, he never pitched fewer than 8 innings in any one game that regular season. 
  • After two no-decisions during his first two starts of the season, he would only have one more (and that not coming until August 4th). 
  • With a record of 3-5 and an ERA of 1.52 after his May 28th start vs. the Giants, Gibson went on to win 15 out of his next 16 starts (his August 4th start was a no-decision, despite pitching 12 innings)
  • After Gibson won his 20th game of the season (September 2), his ERA stood at 0.99
  • In one stretch of 92 innings (10 games) during the months of June and July, Gibson allowed only two runs-and the first run allowed during that period was scored on a wild-pitch. He had thrown five straight complete-game shutouts.
  • During said 92 inning stretch, Gibson threw complete game shut-outs in eight of the ten starts (he allowed one run in each of the two non-shutouts, but both were complete games).
Gibson's domination continued into the World Series that season, as the Cards faced the Tigers. While facing  31-game winner Denny McClain in Game 1, Bob won the game 4-0 and struck out 17 Tigers- breaking Sandy Koufax's record for most strikeout's in a World Series game. Gibson started game four, and struck out 10 more Tiger hitters. Once again, Bob threw a complete game- allowing only 1 run on 5 hits. Proving that he was human afterall, Gibson took a Game 7 shutout into the seventh and retired the first two hitters before giving up four consecutive hits. The three runs scored by Detroit that inning proved too difficult to overcome, as St. Louis lost the game and the Series. 

"As I recall, he didn't make one bad pitch over the plate that year."~ Lou Brock

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #9


1976 Topps #9 Paul Lindblad
Teams don't win championships without the Paul Lindblad's of the world. The late reliever, who died New Year's Day, 2006, won three rings while a member of the Oakland A's ('73 & '74) and the New York Yankees (1978).

As a middle reliever, Lindblad was easily the forgotten man in the bullpen- he did, after all, pitch on teams which featured future Hall of Fame closers Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. But Lindblad was a solid arm out of the 'pen for fourteen major league seasons with Kansas City/Oakland, Washington/Texas, and the Yankees.

And just as teams need the Lindblad's of the world, so too do the card manufacturers. One of the beautiful things about the base Topps set has been the inclusion of the 'nobodys'- the light hitting shortstop, the reliever who collects 30 IP over 80 appearances, and the 30 year-old AAA catcher who shares a card with last year's first round draft pick- who just also happens to be a backstop.


Two notable events in Paul Lindblad's pitching career:

While pitching in the 10th inning of Game Three of the 1973 World Series, Lindblad got Willie Mays to hit into a ground out to short to end the inning. It would be Mays' final major-league at-bat.

On the final day of the 1975 regular season, Paul combined with starter Vida Blue and two other relievers (including Rollie Fingers) on a combined no-hitter against the Angels.



Cards- er, Girlfriends You're Not Likely to See

Cards Girlfriends You're Not Likely to See: Manti Te'o Allen and Ginter

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #11

1985 Topps #11 Ralph Houk

"Ralph learned leadership the hardest way possible-seeing his friends and comrades die around him in the Battle of the Bulge."~ former Yankee Tony Kubek

The Major, as former manager Ralph Houk was called, might have learned leadership the hard way, but he also inherited a pretty good team to manage in his first term as a major league skipper.

After three minor league seasons, Ralph Houk enlisted in the U.S. Army, and soon entered World War II- seeing combat under the command of General George S. Patton. While serving, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart. By the time he exited the Army, he had attained the rank of Major.

Upon returning to baseball in 1947, Houk spent the next eight years in the Yankees organization as a back up catcher. After his playing days were finished, Houlk spent three years managing in the minors and then another three as a coach for the Yankees. He then succeeded Casey Stengel as manager of the Yanks- leading them to three World Series in his first three seasons (winning two of them) before moving into the front office as GM. Returning to the field three years later, The Major would go on to manage the Yanks from '66 until a group led by George Steinbrenner bought the team in '73.

After resigning from New York, Houk went on to manage the Detroit Tigers from 1974 through 1978. It was during his tenure that pitching phenom Mark Fidrych was overused- leading many to blame Houk for the Bird's demise.

Ralph's final three managerial seasons would be spent in Boston, where he led the Red Sox from 1981-1984. While in Boston, Houk would serve as the final manager of Carl Yazstremski's career- as well as the first major league manager for both Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens.

The Major finished with 1619 wins as a major league manager-good for 15th of all-time. And although he made the World Series each of his first three seasons as a manager, his teams never returned to the playoffs.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #12


 I recently came across the obituary for former major leaguer Dave May, who died October 20th in Bear, Delaware at the age of 68.

May played for five major league teams over a career that spanned 12 seasons. The man whom the Brewers traded to Atlanta in order to bring Henry Aaron back to Milwaukee also happened to be the father of former Cub Derrick May (now the minor league hitting coordinator for the Cards), as well as Dave Jr-who's currently a scout for Toronto. 

May's best season in the majors was 1973-when he hit .303 in 156 games, along with 25 homers, 93 RBI, and a league leading 295 Total Bases. Topps captured the image of a slugger in this great shot.


Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #13


1954 Topps #13  Billy Martin
 I used to have a baseball that accompanied me on our annual family vacation. It had seen many miles and a few different ballparks- carried with the hopes of meeting someone I recognized from one of my many baseball cards.

There were the trips to Seattle, to see the still young Mariners, as well as San Francisco. Anaheim, and San Diego. It even made its way to Dodger Stadium- although our seats in the nosebleed section didn't allow for an opportunity to collect a signature.

I was, however, able to collect a handful of signatures over the years. Three of the names elude me (I no longer have the ball)- but two names still stand out: Bill North and Billy Martin.

It was 1982- the summer of my thirteen birthday (one week after it, as a matter of fact)- and we were in Seattle for a rare treat: professional baseball and professional football. The A's were in town, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals/Seattle Seahawks exhibition game.

I only remember that it was before the game, and I was standing along the third-base line railing. As I saw the legendary manager approach us, I felt a little apprehensive. He was, after all, the man I was familiar with from his days as the zookeeper in New York. The yelling, the veins bulging out of his neck as he argued with umpires, and having to be restrained from attacking his star player on national television. The scariest thing about him: he sported that mustache and had those beady eyes. Oh yes, the end of his nose- all of those features reminded me of a rat. And I've always been afraid of rodents.

To my surprise, however, he didn't yell at me, didn't kick dirt my way- didn't even look at me with those beady eyes. He merely signed his name and handed me my ball back.

I guess I felt as if I got off lucky. The man who seemed borderline lunatic and was in the midst of his worst season as a manager, and I walked away without him even noticing me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #14


1961 Topps #14 Don Mossi
While searching a website devoted to TTM auto seekers recently, I discovered that Don Mossi is a neighbor of mine. Well, he's actually about three miles from me, but it's interesting to find out that he lives in the area. Perhaps I will request an auto on something like a copy of his '61 card, since it was (arguably) his best season as a pro.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #15

1989 Buffalo Bisons CMC #15 

 (photo from www.comc.com)

You might have noticed that this card was not issued by Topps. You might also be asking who is Sammy Khalifa.

The name didn't ring a bell with me, either, but I recently read an article in the New York Times about the murder of Dr. Rashad Khalifa-Sammy's father- which happened on January 31, 1990. Khalifa, who was a high draft pick of the Pirates (and played 164 games over 3 seasons for them), walked away from the game-never to play again. The murderer was never found, and the case was eventually closed.

Six years ago, however, the case was re-opened and authorities were able to get a DNA match- leading to the arrest of Glen Francis for the murder of Dr. Khalifa. Last month, Francis was brought to trial, and was found guilty of murder. It's good to hear that justice has been served.




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #16

2012 Topps Opening Day #16
I can't help but think that a practical joker is at work here; perhaps Hank Conger is doing something behind Torii's back that would make the former Angel, um...uncomfortable. The catcher does after all have this photo as his Twitter profile picture.





Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #17


1992 Topps Dairy Queen Team USA #17
 American Pride! 
Time to bring the sport back to the Olympics


At least we have the World Baseball Classic coming up in less than two months.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #18


2002 Topps American Pie American Sluggers #18 Eddie Mathews

I'm not arguing that Mathews is in a set called 'Sluggers'- that's a no brainer. But to include him in the set as a member of the Astros- a team for whom he slugged all of ten homers in one season? Really, Topps?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #19

1989 Topps Big #19 Bret Barberie
Hits:

  • Recorded first base hit in Florida Marlins history
  • Member of the USA team that won the Gold in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul
  • Married at one time to sportscaster/tv host Jillian Barberie (Reynolds)




Misses:
  • Once made ESPN Page 2's 'All Bizarre Injury Team' for missing a game after rubbing chili juice in his eyes.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #20

1955 Topps #20 Andy Carey
I don't mean any disrespect to the late Andy Carey, but he seems an odd choice for card number 20 in this set. Sure, he had a great season in '54 as a twenty-two year old- but take a look at the cast of players who appeared on this card number before and after Carey:
  • 1954- Warren Spahn
  • 1956- Al Kaline
  • 1957- Hank Aaron
  • 1958- Gil McDougal
  • 1959- Duke Snyder





Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #21



1998 Topps #21 Roberto Clemente
 With borders of gold, 1998 was the ideal set for Topps to include a 25th anniversary tribute to the late Roberto Clemente. Besides including the Pirate great in its base set, Topps also issued a 5 card Tribute insert set in Series I-which were similar to the base card by including the Puerto Rican flag, a 19 card reprint set of all of his Topps cards (inserted in Series I: odd numbered cards, while Series II included the even numbered), a Finest Reprint set (same breakdown as the 19 card reprint), and the "Tin" Reprints-19 basic Clemente cards in a factory sealed, gold foiled case found only in special retail tin boxes and were also included one per factory set of 1998 Topps baseball.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #22

1991 Topps Desert Shield #22 Storm Davis

I don't think there's a better card in this set, save the Chipper Jones rookie. Had he gone by his birth name (George), it would have been just another card in this historic set. As it is, the name of the two-time World Series champion evokes memories of Operation Desert Storm and the commander of coalition forces during the first Gulf War, the late General Norman Schwarzkopf.

For a couple of good articles on this set, check here and here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #23

1996 Topps Power Boosters #23

Poor Jarrod Washburn. It seems to me that he's just an innocent bystander-a pitcher included in an insert set that's meant to be for hitters.

Forty-three players hit 30 or more home runs during the 1996 season; seventeen of them hit at least forty. And so you can understand why I must chuckle when I see the 'Power Boosters' insert set from Topps' release that year.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #24


1954 Topps #24 Granville "Granny" Hamner


So, how exactly does one prepare a post for a name like this? Because you know that somewhere someone else has done it- and much better than I could dream of.

Well, let's look at the back of her  his card for something worthwhile, shall we?


'After becoming shortstop at 18, Granny made many errors.'

'He was laughed off the field. Angry and insulted, he wanted to quit'

'But a friendly coach made him keep trying. He improved steadily and in '49 led the league in DPs'

oh, to heck with it...

GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY GO!

Granny led the Phils in doubles last year,
Placed 2nd in homers, ribs and total bases
GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY GO!

His average was best of his big league career,
In '49 he led his peers in assists.
Then the next year he didn't want to sit
GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY GO!

He was a terror in the 1950 Series,
against the damn Yanks, he collected six hits.
Granny be a' hittin' at a .429 clip,
including two dubs and one single trip.

GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY, GO GRANNY GO!




Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #25

With the recent 40th anniversary of the death of the great Roberto Clemente, one story found it's way back in the public eye. Of course we know of the events that took place that evening. One thing I didn't know, however, was that the Pirates' Neil Walker has Clemente to thank for his very life, so to speak. Walker's father, former MLB pitcher Tom Walker, who was playing for Clemente in winter league ball, helped load Clemente's plane- and would have been on board that fateful night, had it not been so loaded down with supplies. As it was, Tom Walker's life was spared and thirteen years later Neil Walker was born.

And so it seems that Neil, born to Robert Thomas Walker was destined to play for his hometown Pirates-just like Roberto Clemente Walker (his mother's maiden name).

2012 Topps Black #25
(photo courtesy of COMC)

Yes, the black bordered Topps cards are great. But-one picturing a Buc and the black and gold border? Stunning! I also like that the picture captures the ivory at Wrigley-adding to its throwback feel.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #27

1957 Topps #27 Ted Kazanski
1957 Topps #27 Ted Kazanski Front

One would expect a player with a name like Ted Kazanski to be a slugger. Perhaps even a superstar, especially considering that he made his major league debut at age nineteen.

According to the back of this card, Teddy Kaz was considered a great major league prospect by the time he graduated from high school. Every team was after him. Philadelphia signed him for a whopping $100,000.

However...it also goes on to inform us that he was sent to Terre Haute for seasoning in 1951, and that he proved himself to be 'a fielder of unusual talent.' The next season, he 'led the International League in fielding.'

Uh, oh. That's the kiss of death for a player.

Kinda like being told your blind date is a nice person.

Surely he was a slugger, though, right?

RIGHT?

The stat line on the back of his card (for the years 1953-1956) reads like this: 855 AB, 173 Hits, 8 HR, 70 RBI, .202 average.

By the time he finished his final season in the majors (1958), Kaz had finished with 14 homers in 1329 at-bats.

Maybe I was thinking of Ted Kluszewski. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #28


2003 Topps Hit Parade #28



Next Wednesday (January 9), Major League Baseball will reveal the latest players to be inducted into its Hall of Fame. One player that many are speculating will be inducted is Craig Biggio. Is he a Hall of Famer? I think so. Whether or not he's a first ballot guy, well, that's another thing.

Let's look at some of his accomplishments:

3000 hits, 4x gold-glove second baseman, 7x All-Star, 5th most doubles in history (most by right handed hitter), Winner of Silver Slugger Award at two positions, 33rd for total bases, 10th most plate appearances, 15th most runs scored/career.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #29


2012 Topps Chrome Blue Refractor #29 



Carl Crawford may have been a football player at one time, but he's got nothing on University of South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.



In case you missed The Hit from the Outback Bowl on New Years Day, check it out- Clowney knocks RB Vincent Smith clear into 2014.


2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #30

well apparently Topps tweeted the wrong info yesterday by stating that Series 1 was 31 days away-today they tweeted it's 29 days away, which is what the calendar originally showed. So, we will be doing two today. #29 will come later...

1964 Topps #30 Ron Perranoski



I find this card strange- perhaps even creepy.

Most vintage cards showing a pitcher in his wind-up used the 'hands and glove over the head' type of shot. Not this one. No-this card of Perranoski has him posing with glove at waist and his head turned in an ever-so-strange way. My first thought was, 'his head's gonna start spinning'-ala Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

Whatever  it is, is just doesn't look natural.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Topps Baseball Release Countdown #31

With the New Year comes a decision to begin a new blog. It's not my first venture into the baseball card blogosphere- that began in April of 2010 with my other blog: The Card Chop, which is dedicated (primarily) to Atlanta Braves cards and collectibles. And while my collecting interests remain with the Braves, I still love the game of baseball and wanted an outlet to do some other things that aren't Braves related-which is where this blog comes into play.

The idea for Baseball Picture Cards actually started two years ago, with a blog of the same name I started on another site. After the first two or three posts, I realized it was still focused on the Braves, and didn't do anything else with it. Hopefully that won't be the case this time.

Enough with the introductions...

As I was perusing my twitter feeds this morning, I was reminded by Topps that we are now only thirty-one days away from the release date for their flagship product. I still look forward to the release of the product each year; it is, after all, looked at in the hobby as the 'Opening Day' of the cardboard universe. However, it no longer holds the excitement that it once did.

Am I excited for new Braves cards to add to my collections? Absolutely! But with the frustrations that many of us set collectors have experienced over the last few years, I no longer anticipate the release date as a set collector. I will abstain from any rants-I will only say that I won't be collating a set this year.

So with only thirty-one days until we have new cards-whatever our collecting habits might be- I though it would be a good time to do a countdown.

2011 Topps Black #31 Eric Aybar
Being a Braves fan, it was awful tempting to put either the '55 Spahn or '56 Aaron card here (each is numbered 31). However, since I'm trying to do a blog that's non-Braves related, I'll resist and just include this card.
 (photo from www.comc.com)

I love black bordered cards, and this is one of the best that I've seen. Not only is the photo great, but the colors go really well with the black border.