The 1970’s, A To Z: Pete Falcone to Al Ferrara

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


PETE FALCONE

1977 Topps #205

Played 1975 – 1984
1970’s Teams: Giants, Cardinals, Mets

1970’s Highlights:
Won 12 games with the Giants and Cardinals; In his rookie season he held the Braves hitless for 7.2 innings before a Rod Gilbreath single broke it up… Falcone would give up two runs in the 9th but got the win

Career Highlights:
In a 1980 game against the Phillies, he struck out the first 6 batters and tied a league record

Fun Stuff:
Went to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, the same school attended by Sandy Koufax, Bob and Ken Aspromonte, John Franco… and one other player who appears later in this post and who I won’t mention yet (but whose last name obviously starts with ‘F’); Falcone’s second cousin is Joe Pignatano, former catcher and Mets coach

Card Stuff:
His 1977 O-Pee-Chee card (#177) features an airbrushed portrait for reasons unknown (he’d pitched 32 games for the Cardinals in 1976)


CARMEN FANZONE

1973 Topps #139

Played 1970 – 1974
1970’s Teams: Red Sox, Cubs

1970’s Highlights:
Caught pop out to complete Milt Pappas’ no-hitter against the Padres, 9/2/72

Fun Stuff:
Plays the trumpet and the flugelhorn in jazz bands and played the Star Spangled Banner before a Cubs game; His wife, Sue Raney, is a jazz singer, has four Grammy nominations and also sang the anthem before Game 6 of the 1978 World Series in Dodger stadium

Card Stuff:
Appeared on three Topps cards from 1973 to 1975 and Fanzone tricked Topps into “correcting” his birth year each year, so he appears to have turned 32 three years in a row (his correct birthday is on his 1973 rookie card)


ED FARMER

1974 Topps #506

Played 1971 – 1983
1970’s Teams: Indians, Tigers, Phillies, Orioles, Brewers, Rangers, White Sox

1970’s Highlights:
In March 1974 he was part of a 3-team, 5-player trade (along with Jim Perry and Walt Williams) that sent him to the Yankees, and then two days later he was sold to the Phillies; Made one appearance in 1977 where he gave up a single and a walk before being pulled, and both batters scored giving him an infinite ERA (and that was his career with the Orioles, BTW)

Career Highlights:
An All-Star in 1980, a season where he had a by-far-career-high 30 saves and a White Sox club record at the time; In the All-Star game he pitched 2/3 of an inning, gave up no runs on one hit and got Pete Rose to ground into a DP to end the inning

Fun Stuff:
Was a member of the White Sox broadcast team from 1992 until his passing away this past April; Grew up a White Sox fan on the south side of Chicago; Was married at pitchers mound in Wichita 9-3-70


JOE FERGUSON

1972 Topps #616

Played 1970 – 1983
1970’s Teams: Dodgers, Cardinals, Astros

1970’s Highlights:
Played in the 1974 and 1978 World Series, and his 2-run homer in Game 2 of the 1974 Series put the Dodgers ahead to stay in the only win LA got in that series; Also, while playing the outfield, threw out Sal Bando at the plate in one of the more memorable moments of that series; Broke up Luke Walker’s no-hitter by leading off the 9th with a home run, 7/18/71; Started a 2-6-5-6 Triple Play against the Reds on 4/6/78

Fun Stuff:
Appeared in the movie “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training”

Card Stuff:
Ferguson’s 1977 O-Pee-Chee card has him airbrushed into the uniform of his new team, the Astros

The “other” Joe Ferguson:
There was another Joe Ferguson on Topps cards in the 1970s – he was the Buffalo Bills quarterback – and they “overlapped” from 1974 (Football Joe’s rookie card) until 1983 (Baseball Joe’s final card)


AL FERRARA

1971 Topps #214

Played 1963 – 1971
1970’s Teams: Padres, Reds

Career Highlights:
Was voted “Dodger of the Year” in 1967 after leading the team with a .277 average and 16 homers; Got a hit in his one at bat in the 1966 World Series, leaving him with a 1.000 postseason batting average; Was an original Padre, having been selected from the Dodgers in the expansion draft

Fun Stuff:
Al tried a career in acting and appeared on Gilligan’s Island, Baretta and several episodes of Batman; He was also a contestant on the TV game show Match Game ’74; Appeared as a solo pianist at Carnegie Hall as a teenager

Yes, he’s the other guy mentioned in Pete Falcone’s “Fun Stuff”:
Al Ferrara went to Lafayette HS in Brooklyn where he was a teammate of Bob Aspromonte

Card Stuff:
As one of the better players on the expansion Padres, he appeared in some insert sets from 1969 to 1971, including an “Al Ferrara Story” comic

Stalking Mike Marshall

As some of you might know, 1970s relief ace Mike Marshall was not a huge fan of Topps… or maybe baseball cards in general given that he didn’t appear in 1975 Hostess despite winning the Cy Young the season before.  Of course, Hostess cards were created using Topps photos… at any rate, I won’t get into the details here, other than to say that he was well known for not cooperating with Topps photographers and was completely missing from baseball cards for four years towards the end of his career, including one season where he lead the league in appearances and saves.

I recently looked over his cards as a whole and thought it would be fun to just do a career retrospective of sorts and take a look at how many different things Topps did to get Mike Marshall on their cards.

Things start off normally enough with his 1968 rookie card.

Marshall spent all of 1968 in AAA, was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the 1968 expansion draft, and his 1969 card reflects that with a capless photo… nothing unusual here to the casual observer. Since this photo is clearly taken at Yankee Stadium, I would guess the photo is from 1967.

Marshall pitched in 20 games with the Pilots, but doesn’t appear in 1970 Topps.  After the 1969 season, his contract is sold to the Astros, and then in June, 1970 he’s traded to the Expos.

I have two gaps in my Mike Marshall “collection”… not that I truly collect him… but one of them is the 1971 Topps High #’ed card.  I “borrowed” this image from Trading Card Database.  Gotta love the airbrushing and the solid cyan “sky”.

Still, as he was with the Expos through much, not all, of 1970, his 1971 card doesn’t automatically send up red flags.

1972 Topps seems normal.

1973 is where things go off the rails.  His 1973 Topps card shows him an airbrushed cap when he’d been with the Expos for a couple of years, and with a jersey which seems to have navy Tigers piping on it, which would mean it’s at best from 1968 Spring Training… and the same photo was used on Marshall’s 1974 Topps Traded card.


Update: 

Keith Olbermann, via Twitter, says that this photo is from 1968 when Marshall was with the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers AAA).  The original photo has Marshall holding a fungo bat, and while most of that has been cropped out and replaced by fake sky, you can see the handle on the 1973 card, running between his neck and the “R” in “MARSHALL”

End of Update


For Marshall’s regular 1974 card, it seems like they said “Screw this guy, we’ve got action shots, we’ll just use one of those”.

…But that didn’t help with the “Leading Firemen” card, so they used the image from 1971 Topps.

Marshall’s base 1975 card is the same… let’s use an action shot.

Marshall had a record-setting year in 1974, appearing in 106 games and pitching 208.1 innings of relief.  For the ’74 Highlights card, Topps still used what looks like a “conference on the mound” shot while most of the other Highlights cards used posed shots (Lou Brock’s Highlight card used a dugout head shot).

Most tellingly, on the “League Leaders” card, the photo is an on-field shot while everybody else has a posed head shot.

1975 Kellogg’s managed to get a posed shot of Mike Marshall in a Dodgers uniform… Maybe because they weren’t related to Topps? Maybe Kellogg’s got their photos from a different source?  Or maybe someone jumped out from around a corner and surprised him.

This card’s image is also from TCDB.

1976 Topps went back to the action shot well and since Marshall didn’t set records or lead the league, Topps didn’t have any subsets to worry about.

For 1976 and the beginning of 1977,  Marshall played for the Braves, but nothing changed but the uniform.  More distant action.

OK, here’s where things get even more fun.  We go from stalking Mike Marshall to no Mike Marshall at all.  Perhaps Mike Marshall completely cut ties with Topps, because he didn’t appear on a Topps card after 1977.  Granted, he only made 16 relief appearances that year so you can see him not being on a 1978 card, but after signing with the Twins in May 1978, he pitched well enough that year and the year after to get Cy Young votes… but no baseball cards resulted.

Marshall was on some team-issued Minnesota Twins postcards and I was tempted to make a 1979 custom out of one of them, but naturally “When Topps Had Balls” beat me to it.

1981 Fleer and Donruss don’t have Mike Marshall, which is interesting because they dealt with the MLBPA rather than individual players… but maybe there weren’t any photos to work with.

Suddenly in 1982 Mike Marshall popped up in that year’s Fleer set… Despite the Mets releasing him in October 1981 and Marshall not pitching again after that.  At least we get career stats on the back!

Since then he’s appeared in a couple of very oddball issues, but I’m thinking you’re not seeing this Mike Marshall in Topps Archives or Panini Diamond Kings any time soon.

The 1970’s, A To Z: Andy Etchebarren to Ron Fairly

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


ANDY ETCHEBARREN

1970 Topps #213

Played 1962 – 1978
1970’s Teams: Orioles, Angels, Brewers

Career Highlights:
2-time All-Star and 2-time World Champion with the Orioles; Ended the longest game (in terms of innings) in O’s history with a walk-off homer in 19th vs Senators 6/4/67; Saved Frank Robinson from drowning in 1966 when Robinson, who could not swim, fell into a pool.

Fun Stuff:
In the 1966 World Series, Etchebarren became the last batter to ever face Sandy Koufax; Played 15 seasons in the Majors and never played a position other than catcher (not even as a DH);


DARRELL EVANS

1972 Topps #172

Played 1969 – 1989
1970’s Teams: Braves, Giants

1970’s Highlights:
Hit 41 homers in 1973 and, with teammates Hank Aaron and Davey Johnson, became part of the first trio to hit 40+ homers for the same team; In 1973 he also scored 114 runs and drove in 104; Lead the league in walks in 1973 and 1974

Career Highlights:
Was the first player to hit 40 homers in both the NL and the AL; Won a World Championship and lead the AL with 40 homers with the Tigers in 1984; Was an All-Star with the Braves in 1973 and with the Giants in 1983; Batted .294 as a 40-year-old in the 1987 ALCS; His 414 homes currently ranks 54th all-time and his 1,605 walks ranks 12th (above Musial, Rose, Killebrew, Chipper Jones, Gehrig and Schmidt)

Fun Stuff:
Bill James once referred to Darrell Evans as the most underrated player in baseball history; Evans was on first base when Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th homer;
Evans was drafted by the Cubs, Yankees, Tigers and Phillies before signing with the Kansas City Athletics; He was later taken by the Braves in the Rule V Draft

I Love This:
Because it’s so rarely true, I love this line from Darrell Evan’s SABR Bio: “The Yankees had offered more money, but the Tigers were a better team, and Evans was intrigued by the possibility of playing in a World Series for the first time in his career.”


DWIGHT EVANS

1979 Hostess #64

Played 1972 – 1991
1970’s Teams: Red Sox

Career Highlights:
Long-time right-fielder for the Red Sox and one of the finest right-fielders of the day;  8-time Gold Glove, 3-time All-Star, 2-time Silver slugger;  Lead the league in walks three times, On-Base Percentage in 1982 and Homers in 1981; Played in postseason 4 times and in the World Series twice; Scored 100+ runs four times and drove in 100+ run four times

Fun Stuff:
Had a small part as “Maggie’s Father” (with Maggie played by Jenna Fisher) in the 2011 movie “Hall Pass”


AND NOW WE’RE MOVING ON TO F…


BILL FAHEY

1974 Topps #558

Played 1971 – 1983
1970’s Teams: Senators, Rangers, Padres

1970’s Highlights:
1st overall pick in the January 1970 draft; Was seen as a future star catcher but never hit and became eclipsed in the Rangers organization by Jim Sundberg;  Played in 13 seasons but was never a starter

Fun Stuff:
Is the father of Brandon Fahey, an Orioles infielder from 2006 to 2008;

Bonus custom:

My first attempt at custom baseball cards came in 2008 with a faux 1974 set;  one of the customs was for Brandon Fahey, who was a favorite of mine


RON FAIRLY

1971 Topps #315

Played 1958 – 1978
1970’s Teams: Expos, Cardinals, A’s, Blue Jays, Angels

1970’s Highlights:
All Star in 1973 and 1978; Lead the 1977 Blue Jays in Doubles, HR, RBI and Slugging %

Career Highlights:
Named to the 1959 Topps All-Star Rookie team;  Played in four World Series with the Dodgers (1959, 1963, 1965, 1966); In 1969 he was traded by the Dodgers to the 1st Year Expos in a deal that also involved Manny Mota and Maury Wills; Played for both the Expos and the Blue Jays in their first seasons; At one point he held the record for most major league games before his first all-star game (1,866 games, since eclipsed by Nick Markakis); Hit .379 in the 1965 World Series and had at least one hit in each of the 7 games

Card Stuff:
Appeared on a 1979 card but didn’t play past 1978

From the back of his 1974 Kellogg’s card:
“If the National League embraces the Designated Hitter rule, Fairly might never retire”

These Kids Got Carded

I recently saw a sad notice of the passing of Rick Baldwin, who was a Mets pitcher in the 1970’s. Here’s Baldwin’s 1976 rookie card:

One of the the things which struck me was Baldwin’s age… I’m in my mid 50s and Baldwin was 67, and that is less of a difference than I’d remembered.

It got me thinking. A dozen years isn’t tremendously significant when you’re older, but that difference is huge when you’re a kid.

But it also made me ponder something else… When I was a kid, I viewed everybody appearing on baseball cards as MEN. There were no question about it. Some men were older, some men were younger, but all were men… Larger-than-life athletic men.

I don’t know that I really understood that Robin Yount, this guy I knew little about in 1975, was a teenager roughly a decade older than me. Yes, I do realize that his rookie card references his being 18-years-old in 1974… but that was talking about the previous year. He *was* a teenager and he *wasn’t* on a card. Now he’s on a card and now he’s a man.

I got curious about how many of these men from my childhood were really boys, at least as defined by the drinking age. So I started looking at the first sets I collected (1974 and 1975) and looked to see which players were under 21 and had their own cards (I disregarded “Rookie Pitchers” cards and others like it).

So here are the players who had solo cards from 1974 and 1975 but could not, on opening day, legally buy a beer in every state.

Claudell Washington: 20 years old on Opening Day, 1975

Claudell Washington was an All-Star in 1975 and didn’t turn 21 until 8/31/75. He played 73 games in 1974 and made his debut about 8 weeks shy of his 20th birthday.

He also passed away this past June, which doesn’t make me feel better in light of the Rick Baldwin news.

Dennis Blair: 20 years old on Opening Day, 1975

Blair made two starts as a teenager in 1974 and in his debut he pitched into the 9th and got the win.

Larry Christenson: 20 years old on Opening Day, 1974

Christenson was born in November 1953 so he was a teenager during his entire 1973 rookie season. He went 1-4 with a 6.55 ERA, but to be fair those 1973 Phillies did lose 91 games.

I always thought Larry Christenson had something of a baby face, but it didn’t really occur to me it was because he wasn’t that far removed from being an actual baby.

David Clyde: 19 years old on Opening Day, 1974

Clyde is unsurprisingly the baby of the bunch, making his debut fresh out of high school and just a couple of months past his 18th birthday.

David Clyde going from High School to the majors wasn’t something I remembered as more than trivia when I was a kid.  I’m not sure that I ever thought about it along the lines of “Georgie McAllister from around the block has an older brother that’s the same age as this guy who’s on a baseball card”.

Robin Yount: 19 years old on Opening Day, 1975

Robin Yount played one season in low-A before making the Brewers coming out of 1974 Spring Training.  I think you all know how things worked out for him long-term.

The Last From My Stash Of Japanese Packs

Back in 2012 I went to The National and I bought a number of packs of Japanese baseball cards.  Since packs of BBM baseball cards are not the kind of things one runs into at Target (or even hobby shops), I decided to spread the wealth around and only open packs on “special occasions” when the time felt right… much like bottles of fine wine.

I didn’t expect to stretch things out over 8 years, but it’s not unusual for me to have so many things going on hobby-wise that I would forget about that box of packs sitting on the table.

I did mention the whole “special occasion” thing, right?  Because today *is* a special occasion… it’s the 9th anniversary of this blog!

As they used to sing on Sesame Street….

NINE!  NINE!  NINE!  NINE! 

LET’S SING A SONG OF NINE! 

HOW MANY IS NINE?

Come to learn your numbers, stay for the slapstick involving nine coconut custard pies!

So this last pack is from 2004 BBM Baseball 2nd Version. BBM puts out two “flagshippy” sets a year, but instead of series they have “versions” with different designs. Here’s a card from 2004 BBM first version, a pack I opened four years ago:

…But that’s 1st Version and this is 2nd Version.  The only thing similar about them is the wrapper… and here’s the 2004 BBM 2nd Version wrapper, front and back:

 

First card is a nice-looking one… Ryosuke Sawai

Sawai played a total of 90 games in NPB and it looks like his NPB career was already over when this card came out.  Sorry, Ryosuke.

Here’s the back of Sawai’s card.

OK, next card… Hiroyuki Kobayashi.  Wikipedia says that he pitched in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

I’m pretty sure that Hiroyuki Kobayashi is not related to the Kobayashi Maru.

…That, I say, that’s a Star Trek joke, son!

Check this next card out… Masa Yamamoto pitched 29 seasons – not a typo, TWENTY-NINE – seasons in NPB and with the Chunichi Dragons.  He was 49 years old during his last season and holds NPB records for the oldest pitcher to start a game, win a game and strike out a batter.

I’m pretty sure that Masa Yamamoto is not related to Space Cruiser Yamamoto.

…That, I say, that’s an Anime joke, son!

It’s also a Star Blazers reference, if you’re of the proper age group and nationality.

Moving on… Tsuyoshi Johbe pitched 6 seasons for the Yomiuri Giants.  I can’t find much more about him than that.

Side note:  It wasn’t until the day after I opened this pack and was scanning the cards that I realized that the green-bordered cards are for Central League teams, and the yellow-bordered ones went with Pacific League teams.

Koichi Ogata played 22 seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  Just twenty-two?  What a slacker.  He was an All-Star and won five consecutive Golden Gloves.

It’s Gaijin time!  It took me a minute to remember him (and it didn’t help that his first name is misspelled as “Jarrod” on this card) but Jerrod Riggan pitched 36 games for my New York Mets in 2001, and he also pitched for the Indians.  I’ll blame part of my faulty memory on the fact that I apparently don’t have any of his small number of Mets cards.  I should make an attempt to get Mets cards of some of these guys who weren’t widely represented… but that’s getting off-topic.

Riggan pitched 2 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, came back stateside and put in another couple of years in the Mets organization before retiring.

Another former Met!  Pete Walker played in 144 games over 8 seasons in the Majors and is currently the pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He apparently didn’t adapt to Japan well, or perhaps he was fighting off an injury, because he ended up with a 6.80 ERA over 10 games for the Baystars.

Last card… Atsushi Fujimoto, who played 13 seasons for the Tigers and Swallows and played for Japan in the 2004 Olympics

And that’s the pack! For those of you who enjoy the Japanese cards, that’s going to be it for a while. I would like to get more in the future, but right now I’m putting most acquisitions on hold while I spend some much-needed time organizing my collection.

For those who don’t enjoy the Japanese cards… good news! I don’t have any more to show you!

It’s just as well that I get this 9th anniversary post out of the way… after all you know what happened to 9.

7 8 9!

 

The 1970’s, A To Z: Johnny Edwards to Jim Essian

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


JOHNNY EDWARDS

1973 Topps #519

Played 1961 – 1974
1970’s Teams: Astros

1970’s Highlights:
Set a National League record with 138 consecutive errorless games from 1970 to 1971

Career Highlights:
Three time All-Star and a two time Gold Glove; Set records in 1969 with 1,135 putouts and 1,221 chances; Batted .364 in the 1961 World Series and also had a single plate appearance in the 1968 World Series

Fun Stuff:
Holds a degree in ceramic engineering; In 1968 he was traded by the Reds to the Cardinals for two future managers — Pat Corrales and Jimy Williams


DOCK ELLIS

1973 Topps #575

Played 1968 – 1979
1970’s Teams: Pirates, Yankees, A’s, Rangers, Mets

1970’s Highlights:
No-hit the Padres on June 12, 1970 while high on LSD; Was the starting pitcher in the 1971 All-Star Game; Was the Pirates Opening Day Starter in 1971, 1972 and 1975; In 1976 with the Yankees he bounced back from a losing season, went 17-8 with a 3.19 ERA and won the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award; Threw the first pitch ever at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, 7/16/1970; Won 13 straight games in 1971 (19 for the season)

Card Stuff:
His 1977 O-Pee-Chee card has a different photo; He appeared on a 1980 Topps card with the Mets even though the Mets sold him to the Pirates late in September 1979 (and he didn’t pitch in the Majors after that 3-game stint with Pittsburgh); His 1974 Topps card lists him as one of baseball’s best-dressed players


JOHN ELLIS

1976 Topps #383

Played 1969 – 1981
1970’s Teams: Yankees, Indians, Rangers

1970’s Highlights:
Caught Dick Bosman’s no-hitter on July 19, 1974; Named the 1B on the 1970 Topps All-Star Rookie team; Was the first DH in Cleveland Indians history; Was never a starter at a particular position, but had three seasons where he appeared in 100+ games split between 1B, C and DH

Fun Stuff:
Was part of a 6-player deal that brought Graig Nettles from Cleveland to the Yankees; Is the only alumnus of Mitchell College (New London, CT) to play in the Majors


MIKE EPSTEIN

1970 Topps #235

Played 1966 – 1974
1970’s Teams: Senators, A’s, Rangers, Angels

1970’s Highlights:
Hit home runs in 4 straight plate appearances in 1971; Lead the league in 1971 by being hit with a pitch 12 times; Hit a solo home run in the 1972 ALCS

Career Highlights:
Got MVP consideration in 1969 and 1972; Had three seasons with 20+ home runs; Set an AL record by making 32 putouts in a 22-inning marathon against the White Sox, 6/12/67

Fun Stuff:
Played for the Senators and also for the Rangers, but was on the Oakland roster when the team moved from Washington DC to Dallas/Ft. Worth

Card Stuff:
Appeared on 1967 Rookie card with Orioles but only played 15 games with the O’s before being traded to the Senators; Appeared on a 1969 combo card with Ted Williams (“Ted Shows How”); Has two Kellogg’s cards and a couple of Topps inserts


JIM ESSIAN

1976 SSPC #142

Played 1973 – 1984
1970’s Teams: Phillies, White Sox, A’s

1970’s Highlights:
Hit an inside-the-park Grand Slam vs Blue Jays 6/10/79; Was the A’s starting catcher in 1978

Career Highlights:
Was named the manager of the Cubs in May 1991 and stayed to the end of the season (and got a card in 1991 Topps Traded)

Fun Stuff:
Jim Essian was kinda sorta traded twice for Dick Allen twice within a year… this is going to take some explaining:  Late in 1974 Dick Allen told his White Sox teammates that he was retiring from baseball, but he never filed the paperwork declaring himself retired.  Since the ChiSox held his rights, that December they were able to trade his rights to the Braves for a Player To Be Named Later and cash. Allen refused to come out of retirement for the Braves but said he would play for the Phillies, so in May 1975 the Phillies traded Essian and Barry Bonnell to the Braves for Dick Allen and Johnny Oates. Eight days later Essian was sent from the Braves to the White Sox as the PTBNL in the December 1974 deal.

…So Jim Essian was traded twice in just over a week in two different deals involving Dick Allen!

Why I Got A 2020 Topps Factory Set When I Don’t Much Like 2020 Topps

So as you can figure out from the title of this post, I recently bought a 2020 Topps factory set.  This did not come without it months of deliberation (or hemming and hawing, if you want to put it that way).

Y’see, I’m not a fan of 2020 Topps.  If this were the 1980s or 1990s I would just say “Sucks to be Topps” and instead focus my attention on Fleer, Donruss, Score, UD Collector’s Choice or Pacific.  As it is, my favorite set of the year was Big League, with Heritage coming in second place.

But the problem, such as it is, comes from the way I enjoy cards of the current season.  Since I was a kid I’ve kept each year’s cards (and older cards as needed) organized by current rosters.  Here’s an example, it’s the first page of the Diamondbacks section of my NL West binder.

Each page has a row for every player on the 40-man roster, and I fill them with the 3 most recent cards I have for that player.  (If I don’t have three cards for a player, I fill empty pockets with non-sports cards  – that’s a promo card for the 1995 Cornerstone Monty Python’s Flying Circus set in the lower right corner).

Most current sets don’t have a big enough checklist to update these binders like I prefer, so I’m kind of stuck with Topps flagship to a large degree… and even that won’t get me all the way home, as you can tell from the Madison Bumgarner row (MadBum has not had a Topps card since 2017)

Flagship Topps normally fills many of those cards I would want… but how many “wants” are we talking about, and does it justify buying a factory set?

We’ll start with the teams (Mets and Orioles) and the various players I collect:  For those, I’ve got 67 straight-up wants.  I’d be chasing these 67 cards down regardless of my Current Roster binders.

For my second tier “needs”, when I take the players who are in Flagship Topps but aren’t in Heritage or Big League — guys like Felix Hernandez, Delino DeShields, Martin Maldonado, Brusdar Graterol, Rich Hill, Manuel Margot and Isiah Kiner-Falefa — then that adds about 200 cards to my overall wantlist.

If I picked up those 267+ cards on an online commons website, let’s say $0.15 per card on average (and it will be more than that for rookies, even if they’re not Luis Robert), then it would cost me $40 right there.  Even if I got them all out of a dime box, which isn’t very likely, we’re still talking at least $27.

Sure, I could swing deals with my trading buddies who have excess doubles, but then there’s shipping of a couple of hundred cards… that’s not something to be overlooked.

I ultimately made a decision that any difference between what I could’ve spent and what I did spend would be more than made up for by the time I didn’t spend creating wantlists and tracking cards down.  This set frankly isn’t not worth my spending a lot of time on.

Besides, I do love the way a factory set looks coming fresh from the manufacturer…

But as crazy as this year has been, even deciding to buy the factory set wasn’t the end of it… because I didn’t find any factory sets for a while, and then I heard that you need to check the shrinkwrap on any sets just to make sure that nobody made off with the rookie variation cards and then re-wrapped them.  I honestly don’t care much for the variation cards themselves, but as it’s part of the value of the factory set, I want to make sure I get them.

Because of all of this, I bought a factory set as soon as I saw one in the proper Topps shrinkwrap.  I would’ve liked to have waited until there was a discount through the Target app (as I’ve heard there was this past weekend), but I didn’t want to take the chance of waiting and missing out.

My set came from Target in a purple box which advertised a Chrome rookie variation and I did OK on that one…  as long as Luis Robert doesn’t turn into Jason Dellaero before I get around to selling this.

And, to wrap up, here are the other standard-issue rookie variations.




The 1970’s, A To Z: Steve Dunning to Dennis Eckersley

Recap: I’m going through all of the notable and somewhat notable players and managers of the 1970’s and I’m basically making like it’s an all-encompassing 1970’s throwback baseball card set. For the “card front”, I’m sharing my favorite 1970’s card of that guy. I’m also including a card back’s worth of information and thoughts about him and his cardboard.


STEVE DUNNING

1971 Topps #294

Played 1970 – 1977
1970’s Teams: Indians, Rangers, Angels, Expos, A’s

1970’s Highlights:
Was the 2nd overall draft pick in June 1970 draft, went straight to the Majors and got a win over the Brewers in his first Major League game, 7/14/70; Was the last pitcher to hit a grand slam before the implementation of the DH; His best season was 1971 when he went 8-14 4.50 with 132 K’s

Career Highlights:
Is in the Stanford University Athletics Hall of Fame

Fun Stuff:
I love this from his 1972 card: “Was voted All-Avocado League 3rd baseman in Junior year [of high school]”

Card Stuff:
There was a five year gap between his next-to-last and last card (1973, 1978)… He appeared with the A’s on a 1978 card but he pitched for the Padres AAA team that year and then was done in pro ball


LEO DUROCHER

1970 Topps #291

Played: 1925 – 1945
Managed: 1939 – 1973
1970’s Teams Managed: Cubs, Astros

1970’s Highlights:
Had a winning season in each season he managed in the 1970s, including in 1972 when he was fired by the Cubs after 91 games; Was hired later that season by the Astros and he finished the 1972 season and all of the 1973 season before retiring;  Signed a contract to manage a Japanese team, the Taiheiyo Club Lions, in 1976 but that deal fell through because of Durocher’s poor health at the time

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994; Won two World Series as a player and one as a manager; Managed for 24 seasons with the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs and Astros; Currently sits at 10th on the all-time list of MLB managerial wins; Three-time Sporting News manager of the year; Was a three-time All-Star

Fun Stuff:
Played himself in guest roles on Mister Ed, The Donna Reed Show, The Munsters and The Beverly Hillbillies


DUFFY DYER

1979 Topps #286

Played: 1968 – 1981
1970’s Teams: Mets, Pirates, Expos

1970’s Highlights:
Caught John Candelaria’s no hitter on 8/9/76; Was named NL Player of the Week for June 12 – 18, 1972 after batting .364 with 2 doubles, 2 homers, 4 runs and 7 RBI

Career Highlights:
Was a college teammate of Sal Bando and Rick Monday at Arizona State; won a World Series with the 1969 Mets and played in the 1975 NLCS with the Pirates; His first Major League homer was a pinch-hit, three-run, bottom-of-the-ninth homer against the Expos on Opening day of 1969 (but the Expos still won their first game, 11-10);  Inducted into Arizona State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986


…and that brings us to the end of the D’s and into the E’s!!!!


RAWLY EASTWICK

1978 Burger King New York Yankees #11

Played 1974 – 1981
1970’s Teams: Reds, Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies

1970’s Highlights:
1976 NL Fireman Award winner and lead the league in Saves in 1975 and 1976;  Got 2 wins and a Save as a rookie in the 1975 World Series;  Signed a big-for-the-day contract with the Yankees going into the 1978 season but only pitched 8 games before being traded to the Phillies;  Pitched two perfect innings and got the win in the wild 23-22 Phillies win over the Cubs on 5/17/79, and was the only pitcher on either team to not give up a hit

Fun Stuff:
His full name is Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III

Card Stuff:
The featured card isn’t tremendously exciting in and of itself, but it’s a 1978 Burger King card which works as an update to 1978 Topps (where he was airbrushed into a Cardinals uniform) and fits the description of one of Dime Box Nick’s “Short-Term Stops”;  The photo on his 1977 O-Pee-Chee card is cropped tighter than on the Topps counterpart


DENNIS ECKERSLEY

1976 Topps #98

Played 1975 – 1998
1970’s Teams: Indians, Red Sox

1970’s Highlights:
His 2.60 ERA in his rookie season was good for third in the American League, behind Jim Palmer and Jim Hunter; Pitched 22.1 hitless innings over 10 days in 1977, a streak that included a no-hitter against the California Angels; Won 20 games in 1978, his first season in Boston after a 6-player trade; Was named the 1975 Sporting News AL Rookie Pitcher; Was the Indians’ opening day starter in 1976 and 1977 and the Red Sox opening day starter in 1979

Career Highlights:
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004 and his #43 was retired by the A’s in 2004; Won the MVP and Cy Young awards in 1992 while accomplishing a 1.91 ERA and leading the league with 51 saves; Those 51 saves still stands as a team record; Holds the Athletics team records with 525 games, 320 saves, a .218 batting-average-against and a 0.95 WHIP; Was named the MVP of the 1988 ALCS after getting saves in all four games of the sweep of Boston; Earned 30 or more saves in six consecutive seasons

Fun Stuff:
Has two career postseason at-bats and a .000 postseason batting average; Made an appearance in the 2005 movie “Fever Pitch”

Card Stuff:
Eckersley is a 1970’s rarity in that he has 5 different 1976 rookie cards: Topps, O-Pee-Chee, Hostess, Kellogg’s and SSPC, plus he appears on two more 1976 cards if you count the Earned Run Average Leaders cards from Topps and OPC; Has a “pre-rookie” postcard from the 1975 Indians team issued set; Appears on MSA discs and a Sportscaster card


The last time we moved into a new letter, I included a song with that letter in the title.  I couldn’t find one like that for E – not without going once again to the They Might Be Giants well – so I figured that if I couldn’t find a song about E, I’d feature a song *by* E.

Mark Oliver Everett, who goes by the stage name ‘E’, put out a couple of solo albums before becoming the frontman for The Eels… and as it turns out, The Eels have a new album out today! Holy coincidence, Batman!

Living In A Land Of Make Believe

I was thinking about what I’ve been posting lately and how I wish I had some new cards to show off here… when it occurred to me that there are plenty of cards I’ve gotten at shows that I’ve never posted here… and if I really wanted to, I could say that they were new acquisitions and you wouldn’t have any way of knowing otherwise.

But I wouldn’t do that to you!  I’ll admit that they’re not new but show them anyway.

Would you believe I got this 2017 Topps Pro Debut Pete Alonso card for just 20 cents?

Of course, it helped that I acquired it in 2018.  It’s all in the timing, don’tcha know.  BTW, Alonso played 30 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2016 after being drafted out of the University of Florida in the 2nd round.

Because of a childhood exposure to “The Great American Baseball Card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book”, I’ve long had an appreciation for Don Mossi cards.

1957 Topps and the original Yankee Stadium are among the things I gained an appreciation for later in life.  I’m not exactly collecting Don Mossi, but I’m also not not collecting Don Mossi.

So here’s a bit of trivia I learned yesterday… The first shutouts in Blue Jays and Mariners history were both thrown by pitchers who worked primarily as relievers and who already had earned a Save before throwing their shutout.  For the Blue Jays it was Pete Vukovich, and for the Mariners it was Dave Pagan.

The Jays and the M’s were the first baseball expansion teams I was exposed to, so I have this weird fondness for 1977 cards of those teams.  I can’t believe it took me until the 21st century to realize that 1977 Hostess cards also had those airbrushed caps.  In the defense of the airbrush artists, there’s no telling what they had to work off when trying to duplicate a cap that nobody had worn on the field.

This 1984 Donruss card of Steve Garvey came out of a dime box. It doesn’t fit in any defined part of my collection, but…. it’s an 84D Garvey for 10 cents!!!  I just couldn’t leave it behind.

My first year of collecting was 1974 and Danny Murtaugh was the first Pittsburgh Pirates manager I was aware of.  I didn’t know at the time that he was in his fourth stint managing the team and in his first season as a manager his Pirates would play against those long, long lost teams I heard about from my parents’ generation, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants.

Even now that I know better, it still seems terribly odd to see Danny Murtaugh on a 1960 Topps card.  Murtaugh was in his early 40s in this shot.

At one point… back when I had goals that I tried to achieve… I had an idea of getting one card from each vintage Topps basketball set. Like much of my collecting ideas, this is on hold while I reorganize and reassess, but I do have this 1969-70 Topps “tall-boy” card of Dick Barnett with his jersey on backwards, as was often done when being photographed for Topps sets.

Dick Barnett won two championships with the Knicks.  Me, I’m old enough to remember when the Knicks won championships.

Here’s the back, for anyone who isn’t familiar with this set…

I became a Steelers fan in college in the early 1980s and all I knew about the team’s history prior to the dynasty of the 1970s was that they generally sucked… an opinion that wasn’t entirely true or fair.  They were doormats for much of their history, but they had their seasons and their players.  John Henry Johnson played six years with the Black and Gold, was the first Steeler to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and is in the Pro Football HOF.

Here’s something I didn’t know… There are three Steelers who wore #35 and are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame… but the Steelers have not retired #35.  Aside from John Henry Johnson there’s also “Bullet Bill” Dudley (who played for the Steelers in 1942, 1945 and 1946) and Walt Kiesling (1937-38).

OK, I guess I’ve shown you enough from my card show in the Land of Make Believe…

An Attempt At An Overview Of “Sports Illustrated for Kids” Cards

Over the weekend I decided to bring some order to the Sports Illustrated For Kids cards sitting in my “inbox”.  I’ve been on a general drive to organize my horrendous mess of a collection, plus a potential custom card project had me looking at SI Kids cards as a sort of “visual research”, and that made me want to focus on those sets in particular.

I tried Googling for some sort of overview of these cards… what designs went with what years, how the numbering worked, the meaning of the “SERIES” listed on the back of some of the cards.  I came up empty, so I started compiling data in Trading Card Database in order to upload it into my personal database… and after putting a number of hours into this and discovering patterns and finding stumbling blocks, I decided to share what I have.

Now I’ll point out that I am really not the person to be writing a post like this.  I was several years out of college when SI4K (as I’m going to abbreviate it) debuted, so I was never a kid – chronologically, anyway – during the magazine’s 32-years-and-counting run.  I have never bought nor read an issue, at best I’ve flipped through a magazine in a store before putting it back on the shelf… that’s when I could remember whether the store I’m in files this magazine under “Sports Magazines” or “Children’s Magazines”.

Fortunately I got some help on this from @ElCaminoBilly of the Cardboard History blog.  Billy told me he’s been intending to write an overview on these cards but has never had time… but he was gracious enough to share some information.  Thank you, Billy!

So one thing I discovered is that nothing is clear-cut with this long-running line of cards.  Over the 32 years there are a number of designs and borders, a number of “Series”, a number of times that the card numbering started over at 1… but if you break down the nearly 3300 cards by year and those three categories, you’ll get four different breakdowns.

I put the word “Series” in quotes when talking about these cards, because that will get confusing for reasons you’ll see. Instead I’m going to refer to the different designs and to the different “runs” of card numbers (from #1 to… whatever).

When the magazine debuted in January, 1989 it started out with what I think of as “The Very Nineties Design” even though it technically preceded the decade.

They seemed to have this green border for all of 1989 and most of 1990.

Late in 1990 they switched to this red and blue border  and used it for most of the rest of the first run of 324 cards (ending in 1991).

The second run of card numbers started in 1992 with the same basic design but with a different border design.

These are labeled as “SERIES 2” on the back, which make sense because they restarted the numbering without significantly changing the design.

For 1993 the kept the basic design and switched to a pink and blue “lava lamp” border.

Although the borders and some of the “flair” changed over the run of the sets, and there were some special “subsets”, the basic design stayed the same for over 4 years.

Starting with the second issue of 1994 the cards shifted to a brand new design, but the numbering didn’t change and it’s still “SERIES 2”.

Any reason why the design changed at this point is not clear to me, maybe it has something to do with a redesign of the magazine itself… That’s just a guess, though.

In 1995, the design shifted to a gold and silver themed design which was very similar to the previous year’s cards but is a little cleaner, and sort of evoked Olympic medals with the silver and gold fake metallic borders.

Unlike the previous designs, these alternated between silver and gold within the same sheet.

With the shift to a new design, the numbering remained the same but the Series on the back changed to Series 3… for one issue.  They switched back to Series 2 (by mistake?) for another issue, and then shifted permanently to Series 3.

Here’s a image to show that there are many different designs and borders used for cards labeled as “SERIES 2”.

At the beginning of 1998 the card numbering which began in 1992 continued but the design changed and the notation on the back changed to “SERIES 4”.

FYI, this card is part of an April Fools theme for one issue, that’s why Mike Piazza has goaltending equipment.

This design ran through then end of 2000 and finished up this second run of card #’s at 963.

The third run of card numbers started at the beginning of 2001.  The cards also have a new design and a new SI4K logo… I would guess that this is all related.

Starting with these cards, they also seemed to drop any mention of “Series” from the back of the cards, as well as the month and date (i.e. 9/98) of the issue the cards came from.  This makes things a bit of a pain when trying to figure out what year a card is from.

In the middle of 2004 the card numbering continued but the design changed to this:

This design lasted for a year and a half and closed out the 2001 – 2005 run of card numbers (with #540 being the final in this run).

With the last issue of 2005, the fourth run of numbering started and a new card design came in.  Note that the SI4K logo remains the same… for now.

This design lasted just 6 issues which makes it the shortest-lived design of the whole bunch, even when you factor in that the original design changed the border design each year.

In the middle of 2006 this similar white-bordered design started.  Note that the “transparent” SI4K logo is now missing from the front of the card.

You can see in the lower right-hand corner of the back that the magazine’s logo has changed with this design… At this point it appears that the magazine name dropped the word “for” and is just “Sports Illustrated Kids” from this point forward.

With some color variations for the themes of particular issues, this design remained until the end of 2010.  I believe it’s the second most used design

With the start of 2011 came the start of the 5th (and current) run of card numbers, as well as a new design.

Near the end of 2014 they introduced another design without changing the card numbering.  When I started working on this post, I thought this was still the current design:

This design picks up with – I think – Card # 388 and runs through # 898.  This design had the longest run out of any of them, but I can’t say for sure that there are more cards in this design than any others because SI4K has been known to change the design for special issues (i.e. Olympics, Super Bowl) without changing the numbering.

In the final twist of researching this set I was reminded of something I’d discovered a few months ago and had forgotten about:  A new design was introduced early this year… but not with the first issue of this year.  This is another case where they redesigned the magazine logo (and probably the magazine’s layout) and changed the card design as well.  It looks like the magazine also shifted from monthly to bi-monthly (which means fewer cards per year… bummer).

This design looks like something I would make as a custom, and that is, of course, very much a compliment.

AND SO, TO SUMMARIZE MY FINDINGS:

  • There are eleven different primary designs at play, some didn’t last a full year, others ran through a number of years.
  • There are five different runs of card numbers:  1989 – 1991 (324 cards and one design), 1992 – 2000 (963 cards and four designs), 2001 – 2005 (540 cards and two designs), 2006 – 2010 (531 cards and two similar designs) and 2011 – present (currently at 934 cards and three designs).
  • From the perspective of someone currently collecting these cards, the “Series” printed on the back seems to matter only when it comes to distinguishing the first 225 cards of the first numerical run from the first 225 cards of the second numerical run (those cards are largely done with “The Very Nineties design”).  Of course, you can also differentiate them based on the border design.

Looking back on my research, it’s no wonder I couldn’t find an overview of these cards… I spent a number of hours on this researching and refining my post, and I feel like I’m still missing significant parts of the set’s history.

But anyway, there you are.  I hope someone finds this useful.

...AND PLEASE… if you find any mistakes or omissions in this post, let me know.  I will gladly correct any flubs I’ve made.