Friday, May 29, 2020

1974 Caruso Phoenix Giants

Honestly, I expected it would be a bit of a grueling and expensive task to collect entire minor league sets from the 1970s when I set out to do so. Yet every time I try and find a Phoenix Giants set on eBay from the Me Decade, it's almost always there - and it's almost always going for ten bucks or less.

Take this 1974 Caruso Phoenix Giants collection that I just picked up for a whopping $5.99. No, there are no stars in there - unless you count our hero Mike Sadek as a star, as I do - and it's only 11 cards. Yet that's still only 55 cents a card, and as you can see, they're quite cool in a very DIY/minor league way. I don't know a ton about the Caruso cards in general, but they weren't just made for the Phoenix team - they were for all of the AAA / Pacific Coast League teams of the era: the Tucson Toros, the Sacramento Solons and the like. If the TCDB is to be believed, the first Phoenix Giants set ever to be created was this 11-card collection.

They kept it going for a while, as well - just check out how awesome the 1976 cards look - but Caruso had competition in the 70s from Circle K-branded cards in some years, Coke- or Pepsi-branded cards in others, and Valley National Bank in still others. I've been buying those up as well, sometimes for as low as $2.99 a set. The Carusos - at least these 1974s - don't have anything on the back, so that's a bit of a demerit - but otherwise they're definitely something I like having around.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 1974 Phoenix Giants!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Carrying On With The 1970 Seattle Pilots

One of my early joys here, now that I'm back collecting cards as I am, has been putting together the 1969 Topps Seattle Pilots team set - then finding out that there was a 1970 Pilots team set as well, photographed and assembled mere moments before the team packed up and moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. I talked about the '69 cards here, and scanned my first four cards in the '70 set here.

You'd think that collecting those two Topps sets would be the end of it, right? Get those two Pilots teams assembled and you're all done? Nah, it doesn't work that way. Trading Card Database says there are 463 of 'em to gather, if you're so inclined. Here's what I'm doing: getting those two Topps sets, picking off the two 1970 Kellogg's Pilots cards that I know about - and then figure it out from there. I'll skip the O-Pee-Chee version of the 1970s set, and maybe go deeper into a regional issue or two, perhaps something a gas station put out. They look really cool.

What you're seeing here are the 1970s Kellogg's cards for Don
Mincher and Tommy Harper. Relatively speaking, those were the guys that raked for the Pilots in their inaugural - and only - season in 1969. My Harper card is a bit beat-up, but it'll do for now. Keep in mind that he stole 73 bases for them that year - then went on to hit 31 homers for Milwaukee in 1970 (!).

I'm pretty smitten with both cards. Shlabotnik Report wrote about the Mincher one here. I guess my question to you folks out there is: once you've got the Topps and the Kellogg's, are there other Pilots sets and/or cards worth going after? I think I could be happy with this 1983 Renato Galasso set in my possession. There, I just added it to my want list (and just as quickly removed it, after finding the set on eBay for a decent price). What else?

I've scanned up all the 1970 Topps Pilots that I've added since my last post about them. I've still got twelve more to add (all listed here), and listen, if you've got extras of those lying around and enjoy trading with like-minded obsessives, I'm right here. That said, buying them online is fairly straightforward and not all that expensive, either. I'll be sure and give 'em a good scan-n-post once I've completed that set.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Willie Mays "20 Giants Seasons" Set

This year's Topps Heritage not only looks fantastic - based on the beloved black 1971 Topps card design as it is - but it's got a special set of twenty bonus cards for SF Giants maniacs like myself to collect. These are the Willie Mays "20 Giants Seasons" cards that are sprinkled in with normal 2020 Topps Heritage packs; nothing particularly rare nor especially hard to find - just 20 you need to grab if you want to see various Mays landmarks that played out over his 20 amazing years with the New York and San Francisco Giants, circa 1951-1971.

Today I got Card #18 - the 1970 card - in the mail to complete my set. It commemorates Mays' selection as "Player of the Decade" for the 1960s by the Sporting News. Each of these cards shows off the stadium that Mays was playing in during the year in question - so, the Polo Grounds for his NY Giants years; Seals Stadium during the first couple of years in San Francisco, and Candlestick Park for the remainder of his Giants career. I myself have seen him in person at Oracle/AT&T/SBC/Pacific Bell Park - a wonderful stadium that many of us have lobbied to be called "Mays Field" instead. Whenever I meet someone at a game, it's always by the statue of Mays out front, because everyone knows where and who that is.

Of course, I'd love to be a Mays card collector. It's just not financially feasible for me. I'm already realizing that McCovey is going to be a bit of a grind, and in order to be a completist, I'll need to settle for some low-grade cards of his from the late 50s and early 60s. (I'm already doing great on McCovey circa 1968-1980, and am working my way backward from there). Mays is a different beast entirely. You guys know he's still alive, right? We need to celebrate this guy and his contribution to our greatest sport every single day. This 20-card set is a nice and relatively painless way to do so.

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.