Friday, May 22, 2020

1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes Set

One of the many superstar card bloggers out there posted an image from the 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes set a while back, and it totally caught my eye and my rapt attention. I was instantly smitten with the design, particularly the main vertically-standing cards that have the colorful diamond in the lower right-hand corner with a disembodied player's head. I decided I was going to need to procure each and every card from this set, at once.

One order from CardBarrel later, and I'm about halfway there (CardBarrel doesn't have everything, you know). I really dig this set because their definition of "all-time hero" is quite broad. I mean, take a look at Marv Throneberry here. Here's what the back of his '94 UD All-Time Heroes card says:

"Throneberry wasn't necessarily remembered for his stellar play on the field, but rather, more for the style in which he attempted to play. His seven-year career is mostly remembered for fielding miscues, strikeouts, and classic base-running blunders - the epitome of the inaugural '62 New York Mets. But it was this kind of comic futility that captured the hearts of the new breed Mets' faithful, who affectionately tabbed him, 'Marvelous Marv'".

I just finished reading Roger Angell's "The Summer Game", and he captures that era of Mets fandom really well; it's clear that there was a segment of New Yorkers delighted to have non-Yankees baseball back in any form, underscoring just how raw the exit of the Giants and Dodgers was for the city. Anyway, these cards have stuff like that to recommend them. It's not just all Cobb / Williams / Musial etc. Some are focused on great moments; others on great players; still others are real stretches, such as Ken Brett's card (he was a pitcher who homered in 4 straight games - and was George's brother - but still). Really cool set, and I'm looking forward to slowly piecing it together. Here are a few from my initial batch that I thought you might wanna take a peek at.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

My Burgeoning Hall of Idiots

There's no question that I started pulling together "idiot cards" because of Nick at Dime Boxes blog. He doesn't call them that, but he's the guy that has long put together card vs. card surveys in which we're asked to judge which of two cards is the more ridiculous. Actually, he doesn't even provide that instruction - he really just leaves it to you the criteria on which to judge the cards. Each typically has a photo that really shouldn't be on a baseball card, at least by traditional standards: guys breaking bats, guys getting Gatorade poured on them; guys taking phone calls in the dugouts; guys horsing around with mascots and so on.

This really got to me when I first started seeing his posts - in a good way. It made me appreciate just how a "frankenset" could truly be anything one wanted it to be: a team, a player, a pose, a position, a pantheon of ridiculousness, etc. I started buying some of the ones Nick wrote about, and, when I started this blog all of two months ago, he kindly sent me some doubles of his of a few more. Then I found some others I really enjoyed, and we were off to the friggin' races.

For me, the kingpin card in my hall of idiots is this 1973 Topps Dick Green. The error being made, the cloud of dust, the face he's making - it's just perfect. To me, the best cards in this would-be frankenset are ones that show things going wrong, like errors, broken bats, weak pop-ups or awkward slides. It thrills me no end that Topps, or Pinnacle or whomever said "that's it - that's the picture we want of this guy". I mean, aside from the Dick Green card, does it get any better than this 1993 Pinnacle Bob Zupcic? Hit the deck, Bob! Jesus H. Christ.

Another gem that I learned about from Dime Boxes is this absolutely absurd Ryon Healy card. It was just a couple of seasons ago when every Oakland Athletic who gave a post-game interview and had just done something great got a pie in the face. This one, with the unnamed teammate soaring above him with two pies, milliseconds before the point of impact, is a true work of art.

Those are my top 3 idiots that I own. Here are the other 7 that round out my Top 10 - for now. We're just getting started here, folks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Big Time Timmy Jim

Before 2010 - before the three World Series victories - we SF Giants fans were in the midst of yet enduring another run of frustration, circa 2005-2008. All four were losing seasons, and the only real succor was this kid Tim Lincecum who was on the way up the organization. I started hearing about him in 2006, and then, as he was about to be promoted in 2007, I'll never forget the buzz and energy on KNBR (local sports station and Giants broadcaster) that entire week. Tom Tolbert was whispering "Lin-ce-cum...." at the top of every commercial break. The manchild who would save us and make us great again.

As you may recall, that's exactly what happened. Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young award in both 2008 and 2009. He helped us to win our first World Series in 2010. I seriously remember almost weeping with excitement when he came on in relief into an NL Championship game vs. the Phillies on only two days' rest. Of course he was going to blow it by Utley, Howard etc. Of course that's what happened.

I've talked before about how Pablo Sandoval is my favorite player of the modern, 21st century era, and it's why he's my top player to collect. Big Time Timmy Jim is right behind him, though. Just a phenomenal guy to be watching every fifth day for that relatively short period where he was dominating. A fun and hilarious human being - yes, I even had a "Let Timmy Smoke" t-shirt and I think pot is for dopes. (I also had a bootleg "Fuck yeah" t-shirt that I bought for $5 after a game - it memorialized this moment).

This is all by way of introducing my nascent Tim Linecum card collection. I'm just getting going with the guy. I'm happy to accept any relics, parallels, autographs or any detritus Linecum cards you have laying around, and will try to respond in kind. Maybe you hate the dude. Maybe you only liked him on the Angels. It's quite a mountain for me to scale - he and Posey were really our only post-Bonds superstars, with Bumgarner on the bubble a bit - but I'm willing to try.

Here's a bit of what I've got so far.

And finally, a nice crooked no-hitter scan for ya:

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Round of Applause for The Diamond King

....because he was kind enough to send me a stellar batch of cards in a trade that I will post for you here today. He's one of those guys who just flat-out "gives away" stuff on Twitter, as long as you email him which pictured card it is you're interested in. I did that with a vintage-looking Frank Robinson he was offering up; we got to talkin' on the emails; and then we executed a new trade.

The Diamond King of Vancouver, WA - the other Vancouver - went right off of my teams/players/sets wantlist and found what he could. While this is, of course, my favorite thing to receive in a trade - the stuff I'm actively collecting - I'm so enamored with the PWE trade that honestly, anything that's not early 90s Donruss that shows up in the mail is totally exciting. Xmas every day, baby. I'm actually buying stuff on eBay that I can use to round out some trades from my end, as I'm still new enough to this whole thing that I just don't have a garage-full of trade boxes ready to be plucked (though I already have enough that my wife's starting to ask me to move it all out of sight....a good sign! Ready to trade en masse!)

You'll notice a 2011 Brandon Belt Bowman "Platinum Ascension" rookie card up top. Those of you who don't live in the SF Bay Area may be unfamiliar with how much oxygen "the Belt Wars" have sucked up over the last nine years. Is he an undervalued OBP stud? Is he the weak link of the team? Should we trade him? Is he the core guy on the roster? The Belt wars. For what's it worth, for me he's an above-league average first baseman who seems to flail at all the wrong times. I like him. Now I have his Bowman Platinum Ascension rookie card.

Was also very happy to get some lovely Ichiro cards I'd never seen before:

As well as a few SF Giants prospects who didn't totally pan out. Well, Tommy Joseph panned out - he's the guy we traded to the Phillies to get Hunter Pence...! And Connor Gillaspie had some amazing, lifetime-memory hits in the 2016 postseason. Gary Brown, you got anything left? Come back and show us.

Finally, here are two guys who did end up panning out for the San Francisco Giants baseball club. Thanks again, Diamond King...!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Uh Oh. I Knew The Hockey Card Thing Was Going To Happen.

As a kid, I was baseball-first, no question about it. When I started buying sports cards in 1976 and 1977, it was Topps Baseball only - and honestly, in Sacramento, CA, where I grew up, I only remember baseball cards being available at the local 7-11. I lived and breathed the sport; read everything I could about it; watched every game on TV; and bought cards with every quarter that fell into my pocket.

We moved to San Jose in 1978, and two things morphed me into an NHL hockey fan: one, my local Quik Stop store sold every kind of sports card, and two, ESPN debuted in 1979, and not only did we have cable TV, but I had a lot of time to watch it.

ESPN showed NHL games early on. The NHL and WHA had just merged. I remember watching the Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers etc. and being fascinated with the teams who were not the Bruins, Canadians, Blackhawks etc. whom I'd read so much about. So where hockey cards started showing up at Quik Stop, I bought pack after pack. This kid Wayne Gretzky was blazing through defenses and becoming so well-known that even some Americans talked about him (I even owned this card, but I'm pretty sure it was purged from my room by my mom when I left for college). Still, hockey really seemed like someone else's game, and it had zero presence in my elementary school nor in the Bay Area's sports pages.

That was sort of what I liked about it, and it presaged my own snobbish positioning of my tastes around alternatives - especially music. You like mainstream pop music? OK, I like punk. You like pro football and baseball only? OK, check out my Winnipeg Jets cards. Both the punk thing and the alterna-sports thing has carried on well into this day, forty years later. I still put together a music fanzine and podcast called Dynamite Hemorrhage, and yeah, I still follow hockey relatively closely. We even have a team here now, maybe you've heard of 'em.

So when I returned to collecting baseball cards recently, I knew that the lure of hockey cards would follow. Baseball's still, and will always be, #1. But I got to thinking about how cool it would be to put together sets of all of the 70s California Golden Seals teams; maybe collect a bunch of the defunct WHA teams from that same decade; maybe pull together some Kansas City Scouts and Cleveland Barons; maybe get a collection going of my all-time favorite player, Patrick Marleau....

And here we are. I'm deep in the "California Golden Seals" phase of the program. It's not difficult at all - they're quite inexpensive, and there aren't that many of them. I suspect I'll have at least all of the Topps cards by this summer, and maybe will move onto some other specialty sets from there. I would not be surprised if I'm gripped by a bit of hockey card mania from time to time, the way I have been with baseball over the past year. I'm not expecting this blog to turn into a joint baseball/hockey card blog, but just thought I'd highlight this weird and totally unsurprising new chapter in my collecting odyssey.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mike Sadek Card Collection Postscript

Last week I wrote a little something up about how I ended up working in the same company as one Mike Sadek, the son of 1970s/early 80s San Francisco Giants catcher Mike Sadek (Sr.). Consequently, I'd decided to collect Mr. Sadek's cards, remembering him well from my childhood and teenage San Francisco Giants obsession.

The younger Sadek told his dad about the post, and Sadek the elder just today sent me a phenomenal batch of signed ephemera as a token of goodwill. It's fantastic. Here's a picture of the signed cards and several photos I received. Thanks, Mike Sadek, and thanks for being such a staple of the 1973-1981 Giants teams I grew up with (though I truly only remember the back half of your career, with a special emphasis on that life-changing 1978 team). 

Anyone know how to get in touch with Rennie Stennett's children?

Monday, May 11, 2020

I Nearly Completed a Rennie Stennett Collection

This collect-an-entire-player's-career-cards thing is a total piece of cake, isn't it? That is - if you work on a player who retired before the age of Fleer and Donruss (i.e. pre-80s), and especially if that player wasn't a superstar, and was therefore was left off of specialty cards both during his own time, and is generally also absent from our modern era of tribute cards, historical cards, autograph cards, relics and so on.

Rennie Stennett mostly fits the bill. Why did I decide to collect his cards? It's funny, that. My memories of him as a San Francisco Giant in 1980 and 1981 - his final years as a major leaguer - are rose-tinted, even though they have no reason to be. I remember him as being a really solid member of the squad. His "best" year as a Giant was 1980, when he hit .244 with 2 home runs and 37 RBIs and stole a big 4 bases. No, Rennie Stennett's lore in my muddled head must have come from his days as a Pittsburgh Pirate. Not only did he once go 7 for 7 in a game, he also had some truly magnificent years for the Pirates - like in 1977, when he hit .336 and stole 28 bases, while also compiling a deserved reputation as an outstanding defensive 2nd baseman. There was a real halo effect that came over to SF with the guy, and I guess it never left my head despite all evidence to the contrary.

Moreover, there's his name. Rennie Stennett. It's an outstanding name, right up there with "Bake McBride". Not a funny name, not a cute name - just a cool name. Stennett played from 1971 through til 1981 before retiring. Bookended his Pirates years with two World Series victories - one in his rookie year of 1971, then another with the 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates, beating the Baltimore Orioles both times. Have a nice decade, Rennie!

I decided early on, once I learned that it was standard practice to just collect one dude's cards, to grab all the Stennetts I could. Here's a bunch of them - most of them, actually. I'm still missing his 1976 and 1978 Hostess cards, and a couple of tribute cards from the 21st century - but not many more that I know of. Something like four or five more, and I've got 'em all, including the O-Pee-Chee versions of his 70s Topps Pirates cards.

Here's what his history in cards looks like, more or less, minus the ones I decided not to scan and the few I don't yet have:

Then there's these cards....the first of them is a 1976 MSA Blank Back Disc, and the one at the bottom is a 1989 Topps "senior league" card. Awesome.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Why Not Collect Some Closers?

An idea came to me last night for a set I'd like to start pulling together. I'm going to guess my idea is in no way unique, radical or even interesting to most of you pros. That said, I have an unorthodox level of admiration for the closer, and always have. It probably goes back to the days of watching Greg Minton and/or Gary Lavelle mop up for the late 70s San Francisco Giants - when they'd win or be winning, of course - and then, as the role morphed from afterthought "fireman" to bonafide pitching stud, seeing guys like Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith and Rod Beck come in with a slim lead in the 9th and just dominate. So much fun. I even counted Eric Gagne - of the Dodgers! - as one of my favorite players for a while.

So the set I'm going to start building right now, today, is one of "closers who saved more than 45 games at least once". Why 45? Because "40", which I was originally going to do, has too many guys on it. 45's a little more manageable. You get all the heroes I just mentioned, plus some dudes I don't even remember. Jeff Shaw? Mike Williams? Antonio Alfonseca? Duane Ward? Who dat? It'll be fun to find out if I ever knew who those guys were. (I've forgotten a few things over the years, kids).

My rules for this set are simple. I only need to grab two cards for each guy. One can be a nice-looking base card, not necessarily from the year in which they saved 45 (some guys, of course, saved 45 or more multiple times). The other card needs to be a little more special - like this Topps 150 card for Gagne, for example - or perhaps something with a relic, an autograph, a Chrome version or what have you. If I start with, say, a shitty-looking Donruss card of Bobby Thigpen (I have one of those now), I'll need to upgrade it to a nicer base card, then look for a "special" Thigpen card to compliment it before I can say "I did it. I got all the Thigpens I need". That's it. Just the two.

I'm starting from practically zero, honestly. I just thought of this wacky, crazy, cuckoo idea last night. What an epiphany! Anyone who wants to help out with this and likes tradin', well, I like tradin' too. My contact form is to your right on my sidebar.

Here are the 49 guys who saved 45 at least once in their careers!

  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Bobby Thigpen
  • Eric Gagne
  • John Smoltz
  • Trevor Hoffman
  • Randy Myers
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Rod Beck
  • Dennis Eckersley
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Jim Johnson
  • Marc Melancon
  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Francisco Cordero
  • Jose Valverde
  • Brian Fuentes
  • Fernando Rodney
  • Trevor Rosenthal
  • Jeff Shaw
  • Brian Wilson
  • Heath Bell
  • Armando Benitez
  • Zack Britton
  • Alex Colome
  • Chad Cordero
  • Greg Holland
  • Jason Isringhausen
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Joe Nathan
  • Lee Smith
  • John Axford
  • Tom Gordon
  • Bryan Harvey
  • Jose Mesa
  • Dave Righetti
  • Mike Williams
  • Antonio Alfonseca
  • Joe Borowski
  • Eddie Guardado
  • Jeff Montgomery
  • Robb Nen
  • J.J. Putz
  • Dan Quisenberry
  • Kazuhiro Sasaki
  • Rafael Soriano
  • Bruce Sutter
  • Duane Ward
  • Bob Wickman

Love to see that J.J. Putz made the cut. I'm just super-bummed that Aurelio López - who was awesome, and known as "Señor Smoke" when I first saw him - never saved 45. I might just have to collect him anyway. Check out this article on him from Wax Pack Gods.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mike Sadek, San Francisco Giants Catcher

Last year I was interviewing for a new job, and one of the folks I was talking with was a forty-ish guy from the company's sales department named Mike Sadek. He and I got along extremely well, and my interview hadn't even wrapped up yet and he'd already told me I'd be a great fit for the company; that he'd try and help me in the door, and whatnot. When he saved time for my questions at the end, I figured it was finally safe to ask what was hovering in the back of my mind the whole time: "Did you know you share a name with a professional baseball player?".

"That's my dad", came the reply. Hot dog! Mike Sadek's super-cool son! Mike Sadek, backup catcher on my life-changing 1978 San Francisco Giants (.239, 2 homers, 10 RBIs). Turns out I got the job, and Sadek the younger was as cool a co-worker as I had anticipated, a fount of baseball knowledge and the possessor of some really funny anecdotes from his Dad's playing days. I reckoned, as I started pulling baseball cards into the house again, that I was going to need to put together a Mike Sadek baseball card collection.

Here's some of the fruit of that endeavor. The Phoenix Giants card you see up top is Sadek's 1975 card there - he'd previously spent some time down on the farm 1969-72 before being called up to San Francisco for the entirely of 1973, then was sent back down to Phoenix for the whole '74 season. Solid work there had him at Candlestick Park for good starting in 1975. So actually the earliest card of his I have - so far - is this 1974 Topps to your left, from before he was sent down. Handsome fella.

I'll admit that the priority level of the catchers on the 1977-1980 Giants are a blur to me, we had so many of them platooning with each other. Marc Hill. Milt May. John Tamargo. (Am I wrong, or did Tamargo later get arrested for something in the 80s? I have a strange teenage memory of this, but no evidence seems to exist online). Seemed like Hill got most of the starts, based on the stats I can find online, but his place in the starting lineup each day was anything but assured.

Not like Sadek was ripping the cover off the ball each night - he hit a total of 5 home runs in 946 lifetime plate appearances in SF - his only team. Clearly, however, he was of value to us during a rough stretch of years, having played for San Francisco from 1973 through 1981 before retiring, with over twelve years in the organization overall. To this day, a lighter-hitting catcher with excellent glove work and pitch-calling ability is a huge asset to a team, and it seems like every team still employs one. David Ross had a legendary career as one of those.

Here are a few of Mike Sadek's cards during his time behind the plate for the Giants. I only have another ten of so to go before I've got his entire career covered, so we'll get a follow-up post going once we do.