Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mini-Collecting: 42

In my last post I revealed that I was there the night Jackie Robinson's #42 was retired by Major League Baseball. I'm a Dodgers fan. And I'm a fan of civil rights (which is about as political as I want to get here). So this mini-collection seems like a natural for me.

I now collect cards of major league players wearing #42, after it was retired by MLB, and as long as they weren't among the thirteen players wearing the number in 1997 who were allowed to continue doing so. At first, that sounds like some kind of impossible brain teaser, until you remember that everyone now wears 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. So, in other words, I collect cards with pictures taken on Jackie Robinson Day, where you can clearly see the uniform number.

Here's what I've found so far.

2008 Upper Deck Rich Harden OAK #599

The number is featured so prominently on this card that even I managed to notice it. It's the card that got me thinking this would be a nice idea for a mini-collection. I frankly have no idea how prevalent such cards are. I haven't done any research, and I don't plan to, yet. I have no idea what year they began this tradition. I have a vague recollection that it was one player per team who wore 42 at one point. But I kinda want to find out about it as I go along and infer the facts from context.

Of course, I could have included the thirteen grandfathered players. For the record, here's the list: Mariano Rivera, Mo Vaughn, Jose Lima, Butch Huskey, Scott Karl, Tom Goodwin, Lenny Webster, Mike Jackson, Dennis Cook, Jason Schmidt, Buddy Groom, Kirk Rueter and Marc Sagmoen. The idea of getting people to send me all of their Mariano Rivera cards was a tempting pipe dream.

Actually, I do think I'll try to find one card for each of those players, if possible, which prominently shows the uniform number. That seems reasonable. (Though probably not possible. I'm looking at you, Marc Sagmoen.)

Oh yeah, and then there's this guy.

1954 Topps Jackie Robinson BRO #10

I know you can't see a uniform number, but I think we're probably all willing to give this guy a break, right? So this will be the honorary Jackie Robinson card for this collection. Incidentally, this is yet another card given to me by my cousin Craig about thirty years ago from what was left of his childhood collection. Truly a gift that keeps on giving.

That makes it three mini-collections, so far. I had ideas for about five or six others, but I don't want this getting out of control. Plus it's more fun when they mean something to you. So I'm just going to reveal one or two more, and leave it at that for now. Then I'll put together a little primer about the subtle details and other Random BS, and we'll be off and running with the Playing With My Cards mini-collections.

Whoo hoo! Long live the Random!

Speaking of Random, two pieces of trivia:

1) The last player to wear #42 for the Dodgers? Ray Lamb, 1969. Seriously.

2) I have not seen the movie, 42 (or Moneyball, for that matter). The answer to the question forming in your mind: many things. Many things are wrong with me. But I'm not sure which things, exactly, contribute to my delinquency in watching these films. I'll get around to it. I promise.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Was There: Jackie Robinson's #42 Is Retired

This is Part III of a series (and a contest) that was introduced here.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ New York Mets, Shea Stadium, 4/15/1997: Jackie Robinson's #42 Is Retired

This was one of the very few times when the baseball game itself was a forgettable afterthought. For the record, the Mets beat the Dodgers 5-0. Five-and-a-half months later, the season would end with neither team continuing into the post-season, each finishing with identical 88-74 records.

But the sellout crowd of 54,047 on that chilly Tuesday night at Shea wasn't really there for the game. This was the 50th anniversary of the day that Jack Roosevelt Robinson broke baseball's sad and pathetic color barrier, making his big-league debut for the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. And Major League Baseball had something unprecedented in mind for the occasion.

After Jackie's grandson, Jesse Robinson Simms, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the game got underway with an anticipatory buzz filling the ballpark. From our seats high above the home plate area, my friend Odin and I had the perfect view of the flashing lights of the presidential motorcade as it made its slow approach toward Shea Stadium during the early innings of the game.

At the end of the fifth inning the game was halted and a podium quickly set up around the second base area. Jackie's wife, Rachel Robinson, Commissioner Bud Selig and President Bill Clinton took the field, the President on crutches following a recent golf-related knee surgery.

Selig was the first to speak: "No single person is bigger than the game. No single person other than Jackie Robinson. Number 42 belongs to Jackie Robinson for the ages. Number 42, from this day forward, will never again be issued by a major-league club."

Then President Clinton: "Today every American should give special thanks to Jackie Robinson, to Branch Rickey and to all of Jackie's teammates with the Dodgers for what they did. This is a better, stronger and richer country when we all work together and give everybody a chance. He scored the go-ahead run that first day in the major leagues, and we've been trying to catch up with him ever since."

Finally, Rachel Robinson: "I believe the greatest tribute we can pay to Jackie Robinson is to gain new support for a more equitable society, and in this heady environment of unity it is my hope that we can carry this living legacy beyond this glorious moment."

Then the game continued. And nobody cared. The stadium was, maybe, 20% full by the time the Mets put three runs on the board in the seventh to put the game away. Butch Huskey, now officially the last player to wear 42 for the Mets, struck out in his final two plate appearances. Maybe the pressure of wearing the number was too much for him.

I've been to many baseball games. But this is the only time that I've been in the presence of a U.S. President. And I was there the night Jackie Robinson's number was retired across all of Major League Baseball for all time. Surreal.

As for the Surreal Seven contest, the shutout continues. Nobody was able to come up with the games at The Big A, Kingdome, or Shea Stadium. But we're about to take up residence in the House That Ruth Built, so you know there's some winning on the horizon. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 26, 2013

It Pays to Be Random!

1950 Bowman Walter "Hoot" Evers DET #41

This is now my oldest card. And it didn't cost me anything, thanks to the power of Random. At some point at around age thirty, right around the turn of the century, I had a bit of a paradigm shift. I embraced the random nature of reality and the human condition. I went from being someone who needs to know where he's going and what's going on at all times, to someone who loves surprises and enjoys getting lost and exploring. And it made me a much happier person. In short, I dig the Random.

2003 Upper Deck Leading Swatches Ichiro Suzuki SEA #LS-IS

Thanks to the Random, this Ichiro card was free. I'm not one to get excited about relic cards. I enjoy getting them in packs, because that's Random. But this one was Random, too. And I dig it. First of all, I respect Ichiro. I'm a fan. Plus, I actually really like this card design, which isn't very common when it comes to relic cards. I like that green. (Is that hunter green? I'm not good with nomenclature for the various breeds of color.) I like that the swatch is enhanced by that nice-looking number one. Good card. Happy me.

1984 Topps Cardinals Leaders: Lonnie Smith/John Stuper #186

All of the cards you're going to see in this post are Random. (Well, except for one.) There are 34 cards here. An appropriately Random number. In some ways this is the most Random of these cards. Maybe. Is it really possible to be more or less Random? I probably already had five or eight or twelve copies of this card. And here it is again, thanks to the power of Random.

1981 Donruss Tom Seaver CIN #425
1991 Fleer Billy Ripken BAL #489

Tom Terrific drops and drives his way out this card's frame. It's a Reds card where the team name appears in yellow. And enveloped in a sea of yellow, that's Billy, not Cal. Random.

1991 Post Ken Griffey Jr. SEA #11

Another yellow border, with the Random quotient kicking into overdrive. A mini-collection hit! Junior in a turtleneck and matching airbrushed cap. He appears to be stunned by the Randomness.

1987 Topps Pete Rose MG CIN #393
1985 Topps Cal Ripken BAL #704

Random is the player with the most hits in baseball history not being in the Hall of Fame. And... oh wait, there's Billy's brother. Random.

1983 Donruss Rollie Fingers MIL #78

Random is getting into the Hall of Fame for your mustache. And you're still looking at free cards. Bear with me, this gets even more Random.

1991 Topps Archives Hank Aaron MLN #317
1991 Topps Archives Willie Mays NYG #244

Okay, here we've got a couple of cards from set that reprints '54 Topps. Except for Billy Loes. And including cards that didn't exist, such as Hammerin' Hank here. Random. Did Topps really think that Photoshop cartoon looked like the artwork gracing the rest of the cards in the set? And is it really that hard to match such a simple font? Weird. And totally Random.

2012 Topps Blockbusters Patches Jay Buhner SEA #BP-6
2012 Topps Blockbusters Patches Gary Carter NYM #BP-4

Patches manufactured for baseball cards. That's definitely Random. So is the fact that Topps designed these in such a way that the player's picture awkwardly obscures part of the patches. I have to admit that I kinda like the patches, though. They're colorful and fun to touch. They make me really want to get a Dodgers patch... via some appropriately Random method, of course.

2003 Donruss 20th Anniversary Reprints Johnny Bench CIN #16
2003 Donruss 20th Anniversary Reprints Nolan Ryan HOU #3
2003 Donruss 20th Anniversary Reprints Andre Dawson MON #12
2003 Donruss 20th Anniversary Reprints Eddie Murray BAL #14

These are really thick, really glossy reprints of 1983 Donruss cards. Just the fact that reprints exist of 1983 Donruss cards is wonderfully Random. I love that that's what these turned out to be. I hadn't been expecting that. Surprise! Random. And free.

2012 Panini Father's Day Rookie Cards Dylan Bundy BAL #11 (116/499)

A card with a serial number. That's Random for me. And a first for this blog. It's card number 116 of 499, to be Randomly specific. And it's a Father's Day card. That's cool. I'm a dad. A Random dad, in that I have five kids, though I didn't actually make any of them myself. Is Dylan Bundy still a prospect, or did he transition to suspect when I wasn't looking? A Random toss of a coin would adequately reflect my knowledge on the subject.

1975 Topps 1957 MVPs: Mickey Mantle/Hank Aaron #195

Random pink and purple frames these 1957 cards on a 1975 card that we're looking at in 2013. And check out those friggin' beautiful swirly squiggles in the middle. This card makes me want to go to a ballgame... a day game... and get some ice cream. That would be wonderfully Random right now.

1968 Topps Dave Boswell MIN #322
1963 Topps Hector Lopez NYY #92

Wait, weren't we just looking at shiny serial-numbered cards? What's up with these things? One is bordered with what appears to be burlap, the other features candy-like green and red. They're so Randomly beautiful. And free.

1960 Topps Larry Osborne DET #201

Speaking of colorful Random beauty, what about '60 Topps? I just made the connection between this set and 2008 Topps, with their use of alternating colors. How Random is that? Can two sets be any more different than 1960 and 2008?

1960 Topps Billy Goodman CHW #69

The White Sox logo is a sock with wings. Billy Goodman was a batting champion who never really had a set position on the field. Random...

1961 Topps Billy Goodman CHW #247
1961 Topps Don Nottebart MLN #29

So Random that he shows up twice. And now we've got a little '61 Topps. Get ready to look at these things, 'cause I got Random again, and you'll all be reaping the repercussions of that Randomocity over the course of next few weeks.

1961 Topps Fred Hutchinson MG CIN #135
1964 Topps Bud Daley NYY #164

You're still with me here, right? I'm guessing you are, because there's just something irresistible about Random. It's the fact that you don't know what you're going to see next, or why, that makes it impossible to look away. In 1961, managers were framed by red, white, blue and orange. Bud Daley is a free Yankees card from the '60s. Random.

1969 Topps Deckle Edge Curt Flood STL #28
1977 TCMA Galasso Glossy Greats Willie Mays NYG #8

This Curt Flood is my first of these original Topps Deckle jobs. Black and white, with a faux autograph in blue. Thin stock, with a super-shiny coat of gloss. And deckles. What are deckles? They're Random, that's what. So is Willie Mays posing in such a way that it looks like he's a statue, rendered in motion, and held secure by a post coming out of his crotch. Or is he just happy to see us? Random.

1957 Topps Johnny Antonelli NYG #105
1960 Fleer Baseball Greats Arky Vaughan BRO #11

Did this turn serious at some point? How did we get here? One moment we're looking at a 1983 Donruss Rollie Fingers, the next we're gazing upon a 2012 Panini Dylan Bundy. And now, somehow, we're looking at a 1957 Topps Johnny Antonelli. And it's beautiful. I love the colorful sets, like 1960 or 1972 or 1975 or 1990 (yes, I really do), or 2010. But I also really love the simple sets that let the pictures really come forward, like 1957, or 1961, or 1978, or 1989. I just love baseball cards. Because they're Random. Like Arky Vaughan here. He might have been the second best shortstop in baseball history. That's where Bill James ranks him in his Baseball Abstract. But his name hardly ever comes up. Maybe because the second best shortstop in baseball history is also the second best shortstop in the history of the franchise he played most of his career for, the Pittsburgh Pirates. And here he is as a Dodger. And he's got a couple of interesting red pucker circles on his card. One of them looks like an earring. And it's a card made by Fleer in 1960. Random. And free. And I love it!

1954 Topps Hank Thompson NYG #64

If you want real proof that this is an exercise in the Random, look no further than this Hank Thompson card. It's the second key vintage card in this collection that is a Giants card. Here. On my blog. Giants. I have to admit that my love of the Random was tested by the cartoon on the back. Tested, but not found wanting. After all, Hank was free, too.

But I did pay for something...

Wanna see it?

1954 Bowman Larry Doby CLE #84

Is that a flingin' flangin' beautiful card, or what? The dude was the Jackie Robinson of the American League. Jackie Robinson had to put up with racist anger and violence. People wanted him dead because they couldn't stand the idea of a black man being given the opportunity to be better than they could ever be. Larry Doby went through the same thing, just three months later. If this were a Jackie Robinson card it would have cost me, what, about $500? I don't know, because I could never afford such a thing. How much did this unbelievably awesome card, with vibrant color and no creases, cost me?


You're not normally going to see this card, in this condition, selling for anything like this price. But that's what I paid for it. And all of the others? Free.

Why? How? It's all thanks to the power of Random. You see, all of these cards, all 34 wonderfully Random pieces of cardboard, were sold as one lot on eBay. The person looking for a 2003 Ichiro relic is not the same person who's looking for a 1950 Bowman Hoot Evers. The person looking for a 1991 Fleer Billy Ripken isn't looking to spend anything close to $10. The person looking for Arky Vaughan in a Dodgers uniform isn't seeking vintage New York Giants. The person who wants a '75 Topps Mantle/Aaron card isn't in the market for four of twenty 1983 Donruss reprints from 2003.

Unless that person is Random. It's because I embrace the power of Random that I was able to get this beautiful 1954 Bowman Larry Doby card delivered to my home for $13.87... along with the 33 other fabulously Random cards you see here. Or maybe I paid just under 41 cents per card, if you want to look at it that way. Maybe I paid $6 for Doby, $3 for Hoot Evers, $2 for Arky Vaughan, 17 cents for Ichiro and 9 cents for each of the rest. Doesn't matter, cuz it's RANDOM.

But these cards aren't in Random order. I've presented them in very close to the order that they were in when they arrived. The Doby card was second to last.

1955 Bowman Bob Miller PHI #110

The final card was Bob Miller, coming at you in 1955 Bowman Color TV technology. I didn't remember that this card was part of the order until I saw it. When I placed my winning bid on this lot I didn't have any mini-collections. By the time the cards had arrived, Getting a Grip was already a part of my world. Thank you, Random. I wouldn't want to know what life would be like without you...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mini-Collecting: Getting a Grip!

When I discussed the fruits of a recent trade with Nick at Dime Boxes, I mentioned that I had one more card to show. And I had a good reason to single it out, as it represents the honorary first card in my favorite mini-collection. This is appropriate since Nick is the king of such collections. I have no designs on usurping his throne, even if that were possible. But I just couldn't ignore the fun of this type of collecting. Let's play...

1960 Topps Fork & Knuckler: Roy Face/Hoyt Wilhelm #115

This is the card that cemented the deal. Even though you can't see the grips on the card, it's a card about grips, which certainly works for me.

I can't say things were the same for Nick, but I wouldn't be surprised if his collections just kinda found him, rather than the other way around. That's the way it's been for me. This one really started when I pulled a Steve Avery fastball grip card out of a pack of '92 Pinnacle a couple of weeks ago. Shortly thereafter, this card popped out of another pack:

1992 Pinnacle Tom Candiotti Grips LAD #610

Loving pitching as much as I do, I really dug this subset. And it had an effect on me

I started seeing grips...

1994 O-Pee-Chee Pete Harnisch HOU #73
1993 Bowman Blas Minor PIT #486

Then I started looking for grips...

1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Alejandro Pena PIT #458
1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Trevor Hoffman SDP #494

Then I remembered that I've got a grip...!

1954 Topps Hoyt Wilhelm NYG #36

And we come back to Hoyt Wilhelm, and his knuckleball. I should mention that this was another of my cousin Craig's gifts from his collecting days as a kid, like the Roy Campanella card that I showed on the very first post at this site. So it's come full circle. (Which reminds me, I gotta find a good circle change grip!)

There are some gray areas when it comes to Getting a Grip, but I'll discuss them in a few days, after I've revealed the rest of my new mini-collections.