2015 TSR: Some Of The Best Names In Baseball

It’s been a while since we’ve had a virtual pack of my custom cards… and we’re still stuck in Series Three even though Series Four was originally scheduled to be released over a month ago.  I apologize, but that’s the tradeoff that’s made when you go with a locally-sourced, artisan, virtual micropublisher instead of one of the corporate giants.

This time around we’ve got a “hot pack” and it’s built around a theme of sorts….  Players who have the best names in baseball.

2015 Series Three Wrapper

Trevor Plouffe has been one of my favorite names in baseball for several years now.  His last name just begs to be in bold and have an exclamation mark after it:  Plouffe!

This year he appeared in a career-high 152 games.
2015 TSR #39 - Trevor Plouffe
Word on the street is that Plouffe will have some sort of special involvement in the 2015/16 TSR Hot Stove set coming out after the end of the World Series!  (Tease, tease, tease).

My apologies to anyone named Darnell for the following comments…
2015 TSR #267 - Darnell Sweeney
…but anytime I run across someone named ‘Darnell’, I hear Jason Lee’s voice in my head saying “Hey, Crab Man!”  The Phillies need to get guys named Earl and Randy in uniform, maybe get Mr. Turtle as a mascot…

Darnell Sweeney was one of the two minor leaguers obtained from the Dodgers for Chase Utley.  He’s played 37 games for the Phils this year, although he hadn’t played above AA before this season.  He appears to be the third player with the first name of Darnell to play in the Majors, after Darnell Coles and Darnell McDonald.

“Guido” and “Knudson” are not two names I would expect to see together, but here they are.
2015 TSR #268 - Guido Knudson
Guido Knudson is not the first Guido in the Majors, nor is he the first Knudson.  Guido Grilli pitched for the Red Sox and A’s in 1966, and appeared on a high-numbered rookie card in that year’s set.  Guido Grilli doesn’t appear to be related to Steve and Jason Grilli.

Mark Knudson pitched for the Astros, Brewers and Rockies in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Doesn’t it seem like a guy with the name Chi Chi Gonzalez should’ve pitched in the 1960’s?
2015 TSR #269 - Chi Chi Gonzalez
Chi Chi pitched a shutout against the Royals in his second big league game.

Travis Shaw isn’t a terribly unusual name, but two years ago, after I pulled a card of his out of a pack of Bowman Draft, I started to run his name together for no good reason:  Travishawwwwwwww!!!
2015 TSR #272 - Travis Shaw
BTW, “Travishawwwwwwww!!!” is the son of former reliever Jeff Shaw, who appeared in over 600 games, mostly in the 1990’s.

I can’t say what exactly it is that I like about Kelby Tomlinson’s name, but it appeals to me somehow.  Doesn’t hurt that he wears glasses like I do.  Any athlete who wears glasses gets bonus points.
2015 TSR #274 - Kelby Tomlinson
Kelby hit an exciting inside-the-park homer against the Rockies this past weekend.

Cheslor Cuthbert is from Nicaragua, was featured in this summer’s Futures Game, and is currently a 22-year-old rookie with the Royals.
2015 TSR FG-2 Cheslor Cuthbert
I’ve featured him before in a Royals uniform, but I’m using this as an excuse to work one of my Futures Game customs in here.

Jedd Gyorko may not be the top middle infielder in the Majors, but he has one thing going for them that I doubt few active players could match: There’s a street named after him.
2015 TSR #316 - Jedd Gyorko
Monongalia County Ballpark, home of West Virginia University baseball and the Single-A West Virginia Black Bears, is located at 2040 Gyorko Drive, and is named after WVU alumnus and Morgantown, WV native Jedd Gyorko.  Now you know.

…and, if you were wondering, Gyorko’s is a Hungarian name and is pronounced “JERK-o”. Well, at least Jedd’s family pronounces it “JERK-o”, I don’t know whether or not Hungarians would pronounce it that way.

So that’s the end of this pack, and probably of Series Three.  Series Four will be coming soon, and will be a season-wrap-y, update-y, trade-y, rookie…y series.

Publishers Clearing House, Pt 1: Baseball Purchases From The Past Year

Because, you know, I’m a publisher of sorts… I mean, the button I click on to finalize these posts says “Publish”… and this post is a sort of clearing house for cards that I never worked into a post, so…

Unlike other entities that reference clearing houses and publishers, however, there is no opportunity to win anything.  Sorry.

As a collector of “Captain Kirk” McCaskill, I was more than happy to pick up this minor league card of him with the Redwood Pioneers, his second professional team. This is a TCMA card from 1983, and McCaskill was drafted out of the University of Vermont in 1982.
1983 TCMA Redwood Pioneers Kirk McCaskill
Starting with Bert Abby in 1892, there have been 12 UVM alumni to play in the Majors, and Kirk is still the most recent. The only other UVM alumni over the past 60 years was former Pirate/Red Sox/Astros/White Sox/Mets/Cardinals/Cubs pitcher Jack Lamabe. The Catamounts have done quite a bit better in hockey, with alumni like Martin St. Louis, Patrick Sharp, Tim Thomas and John LeClair.

I like this shot of Brian Roberts, but I’m curious about the other player… Not only do I not know who it is, I’m not even sure what team that is. Looks like some sort of throwback uniform.
2002 UD Brian Roberts 584
Or am I just missing something obvious?

This card of Doctor K is from the 2002 Topps Super Teams set.  I don’t know what else to say other than I need to get more cards from the Super Teams set.
2002 Topps Super Teams Dwight Gooden

A 2013 Opening Day Stars card of R.A. Dickey. If Opening Day had 3-D cards seeded one every pack or two, I would buy a whole lot more packs of OD.
2013 Topps Opening Day Stars RA Dickey

This Jeff Kent card is from the 1993 Toys R Us box set.
1993 Toys R Us Jeff Kent
Kent wore #39 only in 1992, after the Mets picked him up in an August trade that sent David Cone to Toronto.  For the 1993 season, he switched to #12.

Finally, a cheap autograph of Orioles utility guy Ryan Flaherty.
2008 UD USA Baseball Ryan Flaherty
Although Ryan is finishing his 4th year with the Orioles and has never appeared in fewer than 77 games in those 4 years, it wasn’t until 2015 Topps Series 2 came out that he appeared on a nationally-distributed card with the Orioles.  As of right now, if you pulled out my Orioles current roster binder and flipped to the infielders, in Flaherty’s three slots you’d find the above card and two Pro Debut cards.  My Topps flagship factory set hasn’t worked its way into my roster binders yet, nor has the Heritage High Number card of Ryan that I recently got in a PWE… but that’s a story for another day.

My New Favorite Basketball Card

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, there was one thing that would get me to watch basketball of any kind, and that’s when the Harlem Globetrotters were on TV.  I always tried to watch whenever they were on “Wide World Of Sports”, but they generally had a high profile in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  They had their own Saturday morning cartoons, they met the Scooby Doo gang, they even ended up on Gilligan’s Island and The Love Boat.

…And, as I found out recently, they also had their own card set.
1972 Fleer Harlem Globetrotters Bobby Hunter
This is a card of Bobby Hunter from the 1972 Fleer Harlem Globetrotters set. I ran across these cards while shopping on COMC a few months ago and had to pick one up. Most of the names I remember – Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, Geese Ausbie, Bobby Joe Mason – were a little more money than I’d wanted to spend on a set I wasn’t familiar with, but I liked the photo on this card and figured that, if nothing else, it would be a good addition to my very modest basketball collection.

Here’s the back of the card.
1972 Fleer Harlem Globetrotters Bobby Hunter back
These came in wax packs, and there were 84 cards in the set with each player being featured on multiple cards.  As I found out, there was a smaller, nearly identical Cocoa Puffs set which had a facsimile autograph on the back and a Cocoa Puffs logo on the back.

I don’t know how long this card is going to remain my favorite basketball card, because I plan on going back and getting more from this set.

These are new to me, but I’m playing a major game of catch-up when it comes to basketball cards.  Does anybody else have these or the Cocoa Puff “parallel” set?  Feel free to post a link to any blog entries you may have written.


The Latest Stop On The Kelly Johnson World Domination Tour

Before the season ends, I want to pay tribute to the happy wanderings of Mr. Kelly Andrew Johnson, who began his Major League career as an Atlanta Braves outfielder, then their starting second baseman, and has recently been playing anywhere for anyone.

Kelly Johnson was drafted by the Braves in 2000 and made his debut as an outfielder in 2005.  He missed most of 2006 and came back as a 2nd baseman in 2007.
2009 Topps Kelly Johnson

In December, 2009, he signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent.
2011 Topps Kelly Johnson

In August, 2011 (his “walk year”), he was traded to the Blue Jays for for Aaron Hill and John McDonald. (This is where the fun starts)
2012Topps Kelly Johnson
He became a free agent but re-signed with the Jays.

After the 2012 season, he became a free agent again, this time signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.
2013 Topps Kelly Johnson

After one season in Tampa, he became a free agent again, and signed with the Yankees.
2014 Topps Kelly Johnson

At the 2014 trading deadline, he was traded to the Red Sox for Stephen Drew.
2014 Topps Update Kelly Johnson

One month later, Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar were traded to the Orioles for Ivan DeJesus and Jemile Weeks. (This card is a custom, BTW).
2014 Schmeritage Kelly Johnson

When he got traded to the Orioles, he completed the cycle by playing for all five AL East teams.

Over this past offseason, he went back to the Braves, and I held off on this post until after I got my 2015 Topps factory set, thinking that Kelly Johnson would be on one of the 700 cards — but I was mistaken.  We’ve got to wait for Topps Update or Heritage High Numbers to get Kelly Johnson on a 2015 card, so I’m going to repeat the 2009 card to stand in for a 2015 Braves card.
2009 Topps Kelly Johnson

In July the Braves traded Kelly and Juan Uribe to the Mets for two minor league pitchers.
2015 TSR #307 - Kelly Johnson

Just to recap, that’s 8 teams over the past 5 seasons, including all of the teams in the AL East and two out of five in the NL East.  So far this season, he’s played at first, second, third, short, left field, right field and DH (although only one game each as a shortstop and DH).

Just for fun, here’s another custom I’m “reprinting” from last year featuring Kelly Johnson and Kelli Johnson of Comcast SportsNet.
2014 TSR PP-3 Kelly Kelli Johnson
Kelli Johnson’s also been on the move;  this past winter she moved from Comcast SportsNet Houston to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.  Before that, she was with Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.

Shoebox PWE: Doby, Robinson, Franco And Howe

Another welcome PWE from “Shoebox Legend Shane“, another cool postage stamp.
Canceled Larry Doby US Stamp
No doubt about it, I need to hit the post office and find some kind of interesting commemorative for the next PWE I send him…

For those of you who aren’t philatelists, let’s move on to the cardboard…

First off, a 2007 Heritage insert showcasing a young Brooks Robinson.
2007 Topps Heritage Flashbacks Brooks Robinson

Another card from the “Bowman Is Back” tossback to the 1989 Bowman set. I’d like these cards just fine if they were non-sparkly-shiny (and 1989-Bowman-sized), but I like them just fine as they are.
2015 Bowman Is Back Wilmer Flores
Again, I feel I should point out that they only scan blue, they’re not blue in person.  And for those who don’t know Mets by sight and can’t read the scribble, this is Wilmer Flores.

More Stadium Club goodness, this time in the form of Manny Machado… Putting a good dent in my Oriole team set needs while only buying one pack.
2015 Stadium Club Manny Machado

I’ll have to make a point to not show this card to Mrs. Shlabotnik; She still gets angry at the mention of Glenn Davis’ name.
1993 Stadium Club Glennn Davis
The O’s traded Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling to the Astros for Davis and the Astros got the better of that deal… by far. This happened before I met Mrs. S and became an Orioles fan, so I welcome a new Orioles card into my collection.

Shane has provided me with the two Finest hockey cards in my collection… That’s “Finest” the brand, if not the adjective. The next two cards are from 1994-95 Finest Hockey.
1994-95 Topps Finest Joe Juneau
I always think of Juneau as a Bruin, even though he played there for just the first couple of years of his career. He actually played for the Caps longer than any other team, but he also comes towards the end of the Caps’ time as my favorite hockey team.

Similarly, I think of Mark Tinordi as a North Star. This is probably one of the few cards which picture Tinordi in the “Old School Capitals” uniforms; the following season, the Caps switched to those fugly blue, black and bronze uniforms. Bleah.
1994-95 Topps Finest Mark Tinordi
There is one good thing for the fugly Caps uniforms of the late 1990’s – they give me an arbitrary ending point for my Capitals collection. My loss of interest in the Caps didn’t exactly coincide with the ditching of the classic unis, but the horrendous new unis didn’t help, and now it gives me a handy, if rough, ending point for my Caps collection… If the uniforms are the classic set, I want the card. If not, well… it depends.

A lovely John Franco card from 1995 Bazooka. I had a fair number of cards from this set, but no Franco (until now).
1995 Bazooka John Franco
There were a few nice sets that came out under the Bazooka brand, I would like it if Topps replaced Opening Day with a Bazooka set… Not that I harbor any illusions that such a thing would happen, but I would like it.

Finally, the highlight of every PWE I’ve received from Shane has been a 1960/61 A&BC Footballer card from across the Atlantic. This time around, we have Don Howe… and I know enough about British footy to know that “W.B.A.” stands for West Bromwich Albion.
1960-61 A&BC Don Howe
One thing that’s struck me about these cards is how dark the football is.  I’m guessing that at some point they made changes to the ball so that it would show up better on black & white TV’s, and it just stuck.

Don Howe played for West Brom, Arsenal and for England.  After his playing days were over, he coached for 30 years with a number of teams, and writes some articles for the BBC and Arsenal’s magazine.
1960-61 A&BC Don Howe back

Thanks again, Shane, for yet another great PWE!

Are You Sure The Mets Can’t Blow The Division Lead Somehow…?

So I was out with my wife last night, and at one point I checked my phone and said to her “Oh, the Mets are up 10-2, looks like they’re going to clinch tonight”.
2015 TSR #401 - Jeurys Familia
When we got home, I fired up MLB.TV and watched the ninth inning, and then spent what must have been an hour watching postgame interviews and celebrations. I enjoyed that, I enjoyed watching the players go back out on to the field and celebrate with the Mets fans who were in Cincinnati…
2015 TSR #402 - Lucas Duda
…But even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t get excited. This is what 42 years of following the Mets will do to you. There’s always a voice inside me that resists the urge and says “Oh, no… You’re not pulling a fast one on me again!” Oddly enough, the voice often sounds like Daffy Duck during one of those cartoons where he repeatedly gets his beak blasted off by Elmer Fudd’s shotgun. (Bugs: “Wwwwwwwwwwabbit.”, Daffy: “Duck! FIRE!!!!” – BLAM!!!)
2015 TSR #403 - Curtis Granderson
But this morning, just in case I had any lingering doubts, there it was showing up on my laptop and in the newspaper… 2015 National League East Champions.
2015 TSR #404 - Wilmer Flores
So now all attention turns to the Dodgers, and getting home field advantage against the Dodgers.
2015 TSR #410 - Matt Harvey
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Nationals, where the season started with talk of 100-win seasons and World Championships, and here they are in late September, eliminated from a playoff spot and still with a chance of finishing below .500.
2015 TSR #425 - David Wright
My apologies go out to the Pittsburgh Steelers… I’m not the most dedicated fan of the Black And Gold in that I don’t pay much attention to football until baseball is over for me… and this year, it’s going to be later than usual. We’ve been here before, the Steelers will get by just fine without me.
2015 TSR AS-7 Jacob deGrom
I’m sure that the upcoming postseason will all sink in during the coming week, and I’ll start to get excited. The Dodgers have their ginourmous payroll and an impressive one-two punch in Kershaw and Greinke, but they are not infallable. Both pitchers went 1-1 against the Mets this year, and it needs to be pointed out that the Mets lineup which Kershaw shut out on July 23rd had Eric Campbell playing third and John Mayberry Jr. batting cleanup (and Mayberry’s not even in the organization anymore).
2015 TSR #400 - Yoenis Cespedes

I’d Buy That For A Dollar: 1988 Brewers Police Set

I was at this show… somewhere… sometime… in the past… Ohhhhh, I don’t know… couple of years… Anyway, at this show there was a dealer who had a table where everything on it was a dollar. Among the junk wax cello packs and the like was a Brewers police set from 1988. Now I have no particular love for the Brew Crew… But it’s a buck. How can you go wrong?

This set had sat around in my house in its original shrinkwrap for quite a while, but I recently opened it up and found that my $1 was well spent.

For starters, I added an oddball to my B.J. Surhoff player collection.  Anything after this is just gravy.
1988 Brewers Police BJ Surhoff
Naturally, the Surhoff card is the only one with a minor crease in corner. Ain’t that always the way?

Here’s the back.
1988 Brewers Police BJ Surhoff back
Whenever a card like this quotes a player, I can’t help but wonder how much of it actually originated with that player.

I was mildly amused by the sponsoring radio station… “You’re listening to WTMJ:  Temporomandibular Joint radio!”  (If you don’t get this joke, ask your doctor or pharmacist).

B.J. was the player I was most interested in, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t other players of interest.

There’s Twins manager Paul Molitor, who I hear was a pretty decent player as well.
1988 Brewers Police Paul Molitor

Robin Yount, the guy from the 1975 rookie card.
1988 Brewers Police Robin Yount

Teddy Higuera was almost a star, but injuries derailed his career. He was an All-Star in 1986, his second year, and the same year he won 20 games and finished 2nd to Roger Clemens in Cy Young voting.
1988 Brewers Police Teddy Higuera
Higuera was also second in A.L. Rookie Of The Year voting in 1985, although he finished closer to Ozzie Guillen in that vote than he did to Clemens in the Cy Young vote.

Sabermetrically, Higuera lead the league with a 0.999 WHIP in 1988, and had the highest Wins Above Replacement in 1986 (9.4).

Jim Gantner appeared in 17 seasons with Milwaukee, and I confess I sort of think of him as Robin Yount’s sidekick.
1988 Brewers Police Jim Gantner
Here’s a fun Gantner fact I picked up from baseball-reference.com… On 8/29/79, Gantner pitched an inning of relief in a blowout game where the position players pitched more effectively than the pitchers. Jim Slaton started and pitched only 2/3 of an inning before being pulled (he gave up 5 runs). Reggie Cleveland pitched 2.1 innings and gave up 6 runs. Paul Mitchell came in, gave up 3 hits and 4 runs without getting an out… and this is where the fun starts.

In the bottom of the 4th, with no outs and the Brewers down 12-4, Sal Bando moves from third to the mound. The Brewers would give up their DH, but that wasn’t a problem as position players would pitch for the remainder of the game.

Bando pitched 3 innings and gave up 2 runs. In the bottom of the 7th, Bando and Gantner swap positions and Gantner would give up 2 singles but no runs.

In the 8th, Buck Martinez (normally a catcher) came off the bench and gave up a run and a hit in one inning. In the top of the 9th, Buck would get his run back by singling with men on first and second.

Final score: Royals – 18, Brewers – 8. Jim Gantner was the only pitcher for the Brewers to not give up a run.

Getting back to the set, I included Bill Schroeder because his card features the best photo in the set.
1988 Brewers Police Bill Schroeder
Bill Shroeder had more career homers (61) than walks (58), and had held the record for most career homers by someone who had more homers than walks, but Todd Greene (71 homers, 67 walks) broke that record… According to baseball-reference.com, anyway.

Former Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who’s a cousin of John Olerud (I either did not know that or I forgot that).
1988 Brewers Police Dale Sveum
Dale Sveum says, “Sure, I coulda made the playoffs with the Cubs if I had Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta!”

Time for Trebs!
1988 Brewers Police Tom Trebelhorn
Tom Trebelhorn used to be a coach with the Orioles, and at the time he had an entertaining pre-game TV segment that endeared him to Orioles fans across the Mid-Atlantic.

So those are the best cards from the set. Not the most exciting set, but it’s a police set and it’s a dollar.