It’s Not Really A “Challenge” If You Pick And Chose: Wrapping Up The 30-Day Challenge

Guilty as charged.  Tony over at Off-Hiatus Baseball Cards went to the trouble of setting up a 30-Day Challenge, and I’m just doing the topics I want to do.  It’s a cop-out, but I have no regrets.

Today I’m going to run down five days worth of topics, and after that it’s on to other things.

Day 3: A card from the first set you tried to complete
This topic gives me an excuse to feature a card I’d scanned and uploaded back in 2012 – good gravy, five years ago!  It’s certainly time to use this one.

I love this card because it’s a cool action shot… because Thurman Munson is the player sliding into home while Healy waits for the throw… and because Fran Healy would be the backup to Thurman Munson in 1976 and 1977.

Unrelated Fran Healy facts: Fran Healy’s middle name is Xavier, he was the 56th pick in the 1968 expansion draft and he is the lead singer and songwriter for the Scottish band Travis. Oh, wait, that’s a different Fran Healy.

Day 5: A certified autograph of one of your favorite players

The key phrase is “one of your favorite players”. I have lots of favorite players. Stubby Clapp is one of them.

Day 18: A card of a player who became manager of your favorite team.
I don’t think that many of you are going to look at Frank Howard and think “Mets Manager”… unless there’s a question mark at the end.

The Mets manager at the beginning of 1983 was George Bamberger, but he quit that June and was replaced by his first base coach, Frank Howard. “Hondo” managed the Mets to a 52-64 record the rest of the way, and at the end of the season he got a pat on the back, a hearty “Well done!” and was told he wouldn’t be the manager in 1984. The Mets instead went out and hired Davey Johnson, who still has the most managerial wins in Mets history.

Day 19: A card from a country other than the United States
This is another card I’ve been meaning to feature for quite a while, and I don’t think I ever have.

It’s not about the card (1991 BBM, from Japan), it’s not about Makoto Shimada (outfielder for the Daiei Hawks), it’s about that Hawks batting helmet.  If you’re reading on a phone or other small screen and can’t quite make it out, the batting helmet’s graphic are meant to evoke the head of a hawk…  You’ve got an orange beak on the helmet’s bill, a white area on top and eyes on the side of the front.  I don’t normally go for “gimmicky” uniform elements… but I love this.

One last note: Shimada played 14 seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters, but this card shows his final 16 game appearance with the Hawks in 1991… a Japanese Short-term Stop!

Day 20: Your favorite parallel card based on the parallel, not the player
I’m not really a “parallel guy”, so I almost skipped this category. For the most part parallels falls into the category of “I’ve already got this card, why would I want another one just because it has a chartreuse border.”

But every so often I get a card like this one… the scan does it no justice, but this is a (takes deep breath) 2015 Topps Chrome Mega Box Rookie Sensations card of Jacob deGrom.

This is just a nice card in general, but the “Mega Box” aspect to it made it sparkle and I just said “Yeah, baby, yeah-HEAH!” when I saw it. I also thought that it was a nice-enough design that I didn’t necessarily need the Mega Box versions.

…So I thought…

I got another card from this insert set, only it was a base one. A dull, lifeless (by comparison) base card. And I was greatly disappointed.

At that moment, the parallel became the cards I would seek… not in addition to the base cards, but instead of. Fortunately, the Mega Box cards would eventually prove to not be tremendously rare or expensive

…And that’s a wrap!  Thanks again, Tony!  I know I’m not the only one that enjoyed doing (part of) the 30 Day Challenge!

PWE Playhouse: A Shoebox From 1982

An off-handed comment during a prior post got me a padded envelope full… or nearly full, as you’ll see… of 1982 Topps. The envelope came from Shane of Shoebox Legends, and the reason for it was because I made a comment along the lines of “I should finish that 1982 set someday”.

I have a soft spot for 1982 because I viewed it as something of a return to form for Topps after the “Meh Trilogy” that was 1979 to 1981.  The fact that I never completed 1982 had more to do with my being 17 years old than with the set itself.  There were other things distracting my attention (even if I was too shy and lacking in self-esteem to generally talk to one particular category of distraction).

Anyway, Shane sent a team-set-sized bag full of 82T, plus two other cards for “protection”.  I won’t feature them all, but here’s a selection of my favorites.

…Well, OK, this isn’t exactly a favorite in that it’s not a great picture of Pete Rose, but Charlie Hustle had a base card, a “1981 Highlight” card, a Phillies Batting/Pitching Leaders card, and this card.  They can’t all be winners.

Phil Niekro wearing an early 1980’s Braves uniform.  At the time I didn’t care much for these unis, but now… Eh, who am I kidding, they’re still not great. They’re not bad, but the current ones are much nicer.

Expo Alert!  Ray Burris went 7-13 for the 1980 Mets, but let’s be fair:  The 1980 Mets sucked.  If you’re wondering about his signature, yes, his first name is Bertram, and yes, his middle name really is just “Ray”.

Speaking of Mets, here’s one of my favorite all-time Mets.  I’m certainly happy to add this one to my Mets binders.

Don’t tell Night Owl, but I really didn’t like Steve Garvey when he was an active player… Mostly because he played for the Dodgers and even 20+ years after they left Brooklyn, the Long Island air was full of disdain for the Dodgers.  It couldn’t help but rub off on impressionable youth such as myself.

Andre Dawson!  It’s terrible to say, but I still think about that commercial where they pull him out of the Wrigley Field ivy and Dawson asks what year it is.  I can’t remember what the commercial was for, but does that matter?  Not really.

When he was a Mets rookie, Benny Ayala hit a homer in his first Major League AB, a solo shot off the Astros Tom Griffin on 8/27/74.  Benny would hit a total of 38 dingers over his 10-year career.

If you’ve ever seen the show Robot Chicken, the closing credits feature a song sung by “chickens” and ends with a long “Buuuuuuuck”.  I say that every time I see Buuuuuuck Martinez.

…Because “Chris Chambliss In Action” sounds better than “Chris Chambliss waiting for a pitch”.

…or “George Brett getting ready to catch anything hit his way”.

The Astros current uniforms are overly generic.  We need rainbows!

J.R. Richard had already pitched his last MLB game when this card came out, all because of a stroke he suffered in 1980.

That wraps up the 1982 cards…and now for the mega-ironic twist to this PWE… the 1982 cards were protected on either end by 2017 cards!  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Gabriel Ynoa pitched 10 games for the Mets last year, but he was sold to the Orioles in February (which is just fine with me since I like the O’s as well).  He’s currently in AAA Norfolk, but given the way the Mets’ pitching staff has fallen apart this year, they might be regretting that sale tiny bit.

Curtis Granderson is struggling this season, and once Yoenis Cespedes comes off the DL, he’s going to be the odd man out… Although I’m sure that Terry Collins will work him in on a regular basis (if only because he’s an expensive benchwarmer otherwise).

Thank you so much, Shane! I apologize for being slow on the restitution, but it’s been a bit crazy at work lately (and I know you can sympathize). I’ve got a long holiday weekend coming up to get some PWE’s ready.

Show & Tell Without A Lot Of ‘Tell’: “Texas Express” Cards With A Mets Slant

An “All Hands On Deck!” work project ate up much of my time this weekend, so I’m going to show off a number of cards I got from a dimebox a number of months ago.

The dimebox had a lot of cards from the 1991-92 Pacific “Nolan Ryan – Texas Express” set was a two-series set devoted to Nolan Ryan. There are 110 cards in each series and the cards show Ryan with the Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers, plus other cards that show him outside of the ballpark.

As you might expect from a set with 220 cards devoted to one player, there’s only so much variety one can have. To quote the villain from the Beatles’ movie Help!, “My gosh! They all look the same in their similitude”.

I’m not a Nolan Ryan collector, so I only snagged the cards which showed him with the Mets. Here, with little additional text, are most of the cards I got (leaving out a couple which were very similar to ones shown here).

Fun fact #1:  The Mets are the only one of Ryan’s four teams which have not retired his #30.

Fun Fact #2:  Nolan Ryan is still in the Mets record book:

Most Walks — 116     Nolan Ryan     1971

Fun fact #3:  Nolan Ryan once held the Mets team record for strikeouts in a game, and he held the record for four days!  Ryan struck out 15 Phillies on 4/18/1970, and Tom Seaver struck out 19 Padres on 4/22/1970.  David Cone tied the record in 1991.

Notable Mets to also wear #30 (Courtesy of Baseball Reference):
Michael Conforto (2015-2017)
Josh Thole (2009-2012)
Cliff Floyd (2003-2006)
Mike Torrez (1983-1984)
Mike Scott (1979-1982)

For the record, here are Nolan Ryan’s stats from his time with the Mets (4 seasons plus a 1966 cuppa cawfee):  29-38, 3.58 ERA, 105 G, 510 IP, 369 BB, 493 K’s

2017 TSR: Four Quickies Are Better Than Nothing

This post and the four customs attached were largely done during surreptitious breaks while working from home on a project that unnecessarily occupied a good chunk of my Saturday.

Given that this post was done on the fly, there’s not a whole lot of deep thoughts involved here today… but I hadn’t done any customs in a couple of weeks and I didn’t want to let it slide any further… besides, making the customs kept me from getting excessively irate with certain co-workers.

And so…


Greg Holland has been lights-out for the Rockies so far. At this early stage, he’s one of the best, if not the best, free agent signings of this past offseason.

Dovydas Neverauskas is the second Lithuanian to play in the Majors; the first was Joe Zapustas who played 2 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1933.  Baseball Reference says that Zapustas was born in Latvia;  I don’t know if this is because of fluid borders in the Baltics, or Zapustas was an ethnic Lithuanian, or because one of my sources is wrong.

Seth Smith has quickly become one of Mrs. Shlabotnik’s favorite Orioles.  I’m sure he’d be one of mine if I’d have enough time in the past two months to keep on top of both the Mets and the O’s (sorry, Baltimore)

T.J. Rivera has done a nice job of filling in for… well, half of the Mets position players at this point, but mainly David Wright and Lucas Duda.

Oddball Odyssey: 1990 Topps Major League Debut Box Set

Today’s post was indirectly inspired by Ray Giannelli, who had two cups of coffee in the Majors in the 1990’s.  Like me, Ray is from Long Island – well, OK, Ray was born in Brooklyn, but he went to high school at Long Island and played high school ball with a guy who would later be a friend of mine.  My friend was very excited when the Blue Jays called Ray up, and even though I’d never met Ray, I still had a connection to him so I got very excited as well.

Anyway, I got to thinking about Ray the other day, and wondered if there were any cards of him outside of the three nationally-issued minor league cards I already have.  The only Topps card I could find was from the 1992 Topps “Major League Debut” set, which in turn got me thinking about the 1990 “Major League Debut” set that I own and given that people aren’t generally familiar with this three-year run of Major League Debut (hereafter abbreviated MLD) sets, I thought it might be fun to dig mine out and write about it.

A year after JuniorMania, everybody wanted to have the next big rookie card, and I guess Topps figured that featuring everybody who made their debut in a season was a good way to catch both the heavily hyped prospects and the “out of nowhere” rookies.  In some ways, it was similar to what Topps Now currently does, just in a box set form.

My own reasons for buying the set had nothing to do with prospecting.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’ve long kept my cards organized by each team’s current roster, so I thought the MLD set would allow me to have real cards for a bunch of players who might otherwise be represented by a placeholder.

No matter the sales of the MLD set, it was probably doomed from the start.  When a set features everybody making their debut, that means a lot more “cup of coffee” guys than collectors really want.  Also, when one set is lacking in star power, that makes the following year a hard sell.  I don’t know what exactly lead to its demise, but the fact that a lot of people aren’t familiar with it is pretty telling.

I don’t specifically remember what kept me from buying the 1991 and 1992 sets, but I think that the 1990 set was more “miss” than “hit” for me.  The guys who had success were ones I had multiple cards of anyway, and many of the lesser players would come and go and end up in the “Not on a 40-man roster” box.

When I decided to write about this set, I thought that along with featuring the bigger names to appear in the set, I would also try to figure out which guy was the ultimate “cuppa cawfee” guy, the guy who would win the title of “Mr. MLD” by having the shortest Major League career.  You’ll see who that is at the end of the post.

But first, let’s compare the MLD cards to the standard Topps set;  For this, I’ll use the Robin Ventura card from both sets.

As you can see, the basic card design is the same, but the MLD set had a unique color design, and the team name is replaced by a parallelogram containing the date of the player’s debut, a box which mirrors the one on the bottom of the card.  In addition, the cards were on the same white card stock that was used for the traded set, so the picture looks a little clearer.

Speaking of the card stock, here are the two backs;  Topps on top, MLD on the bottom.

I love that the news story is from “The Register”.  Fake News!

Oh, and BTW, the MLD card back isn’t quite as glowing as it looks here, my scanner tends to wash things out a bit.

Let’s run through some of the bigger names in the set…

Albert Belle went by “Joey” at the beginning of his career.  He, like another player on this list, put in a less-than-spectacular stint with the Orioles towards the end of his career and is a member of “Shlabotnik’s Hall Of Disdain”.

Dave Justice had a cup of coffee in 1989, but would be the 1990 NL Rookie Of The Year.

Neon Deion Sanders was a two-sport star who had more success in the NFL than in MLB.
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Jim Abbott went 12-12 in his rookie year of 1989 and finished 5th in ROY voting behind winner Gregg Olson, Tom “Flash” Gordon, some kid named “Griffey” and Craig Worthington.

John Olerud was one of those guys went straight from college to the Majors without playing in the minors.

It took a few years and a couple of trades, but John Wetteland would become an all-star closer with the Yankees and Rangers.  In December, 1987 he was selected by the Tigers in the Rule V draft, but returned to the Dodgers near the end of spring training.

Speaking of “some kid named Griffey”… This is his MLB Debut card, but not his rookie card.

Larry Walker put together a nice career and was the 1997 NL MVP while with the Rockies.

Marquis Grissom would twice lead the league in stolen bases and twice make the All-Star team… and interestingly enough, we’re talking about four different seasons here.

1989 was the first of 24 seasons for Omar Vizquel in the majors.  Between his longevity and his “Hall Of The Very Good” career, Vizquel is one of those guys who strikes me as being fun to collect.  Does anybody have a Vizquel PC?

Sammy Sosa played  just 25 games with the Texas Rangers and is the “Hall Of Disdain” member I’d previously mentioned.  His cap is airbrushed, his jersey is not;  I suspect the original photo was taken when he was a member of the Port Charlotte Rangers, Gastonia Rangers or GCL Rangers.

Here is the guy I am hereby labeling as “Mr. 1990 Major League Debut”.

Bobby Davidson pitched one inning in the Majors and the only other Major League card I could find of him was from the 1990 Topps “TV” Yankees box set, which was very likely issued in much smaller numbers than the ML Debut set.

So here’s the details on his game:  July 15th was a Saturday afternoon and the Yankees were facing the Royals.  The Yanks are losing 5-1 going into the 9th, and coming in to pitch for the Yankees is Davidson.  Willie Wilson grounded out to second, Kevin Seitzer walked and then George Brett comes to bat.  Davidson gets behind 2-0 when Brett takes him deep to right field, putting the Royals ahead 7-1.  Davidson would then get Danny Tartabull and Jim Eisenreich to ground out, and that was Bobby Davidson’s Major League career.  The Yankees would go down in order in the bottom of the 9th.

Davidson would pitch in AAA in 1990 and 1991, and then call it quits.


So, those are the highlights of the set… or are they???? I realized shortly before putting this to bed that I missed the Juan Gonzalez card, which makes me wonder if it’s misfiled somewhere instead of being in the binder with the other better MLD cards. If someone asks me nicely, I may do another post featuring Juan Gone and some other players I didn’t cover like Steve Finley, Kenny Rogers and Jose Vizcaino.

It’s Bunt! It’s Bunt! It’s Bunt! It’s In My Head…

I had been anticipating the release of the non-digital 2017 Bunt set… Much to my surprise.  It’s not because I’m a fan of the app… I do have it on my phone, but only because I haven’t bothered to remove it.

I was looking forward to it because I liked the promotional images I saw, and I also want to support any low-price-point cards on an original design.  In a world full of “It’s kind of pricey for what it is” packs, it’s a good thing to spend just a buck per pack.

…Or a blaster for $10, which is what I did.

With everything being about the Cubs in 2017 products, I sometimes wonder… if the hobby in 1970 had been like it is today, how omnipresent would the 1969 “Miracle Mets” have been?

Anyway….

So here’s the first card of the first pack…

Raimel Tapia, a Rockie Rookie who has appeared in 3 games and has a .125 OBP… but the season is young.

The first thing which caught my eye was starburst-y streaky light show in the background.  I’m not loving it, but it’s far from a deal-killer.  The overall design I like;  Simple, appealing, and (for a guy with aging eyes and an outdated glasses prescription), legible!  I have such high standards.

Next up, Dallas Keuchel.

The starburstiness of it is more pronounced in orange, bur the round Astros logo works better with the design.  As with last year, Bunt gets big ol’ Shlabotnik points for featuring action shots where you can — My goodness, me! —  actually see what the player looks like.

Yo!  The Bunt Gods smile upon me and grant me a Met with my third card.

Three cards in and I still like the design.  I’ve got a comment that I just obtained from “Faint Praise R Us”:  This may be the best card front design of 2017 so far.

And I just realized I’ve yet to look at the back.  Let’s all look at it together, shall we?

Ohhhhhh….  Time to insert a Jim Palmer groan (if you’re familiar with the Orioles broadcasts) …

HOLY CRAP, TOPPS!!!  WHAT ON EARTH IS UP WITH THE TEENY-TINY CARD NUMBER????

To quote a movie I’ve never seen, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”

(And this is the point where the entire Blogosphere stops, stares and says, in unison “You’ve never seen The Sandlot???  You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”)

OK, back to the pack.

Tyler Austin is…um… very blue.  Very blue indeed.  This is a one-per-pack parallel.

To make a reference to a movie I have seen:  Today… Pepperland goes BLUE.

My first proper insert:  Infinite.

I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  I think it works a bit better in digital form than it does “in hand”.

Evan Longoria…  one of just 2 Tampa Bay Rays in the base set.

These cards were all from the first pack… from here on out I’ll just skip through a number of other cards from the half-blaster I’ve ripped.

Ralph Kiner from the Perspectives insert set.

From what I’ve seen on eBay, the rest of the insert set is much nicer than this.  This particular card is just odd, and it took me a little while to even work out that the background is (I’m thinking) a questionably-colorized B&W photo taken in… Forbes Field?

Another insert:  Programs.  This is very disappointing, because as interesting as last year’s insert was, this is… not.

Every Programs card has the same “tears” in the faux cover.  The overall just doesn’t work for me.  The back of the card features a “contents page” just like last year’s insert, but I was so disappointed in the front I didn’t even scan the back.

Visual proof that the set does include Orioles.  Nowhere near as many O’s as Red Sox or Cubs, but at least it’s more than the Rays.

I don’t know what the hell Topps has against the Orioles. They haven’t had a losing record since 2011, they finished in 2nd last year, they’re in first this year, and yet they get as much representation as the perennial doormat teams.  Where’s Chris Tillman?  Jonathan Schoop?  J.J. Hardy?  Dylan Bundy?  I’ll even pick on my other team for this rant:  How can you give Jose Reyes or David Wright a card over any of these Orioles?  (Sorry Jose & David, you know I love you, but…)

And David Ortiz?  Not that I have anything against him, but it seems a shame to have a card of a retired player when other teams are woefully underrepresented in this set.  #Cardboard_1%

My own personal gripe against having Big Papi in the base set is that it’s a new card that I can’t use in my Current Roster binders.  To put it in a way that fans of classic Star Trek can understand, “It does not serve Vaal.”

My reaction to this green parallel is best summarized as follows:  “GAAAAHHH!”  In-hand, this card is a very bright green.

This is really…. Wow…. um…. yeah.

My immediate reaction to all of the parallels is “Why did they color the entire card blue/green/etc.”? Then I remember that it’s just easier that way, and this is a low-end set. These parallels are about as welcome as a checklist card, but that’s just me.

Because I scanned and uploaded them, I’ll feature two more base cards before the next insert…

This is the Galaxy insert, numbered to 99.  In terms of appeal, this is the best insert I’ve pulled so far.

These come with some sort of code on the back for use in the app.  It’s the grey-black 1990’s-design box towards the bottom of the card.

So here’s my summarized reaction all bullet-pointed up:

  • Don’t let my griping about the inserts and parallels fool you, I really like the base set.
  • Is it a classic set?  Nope.
  • Is it a fun oddball set?  You betcha.
  • …except for the ridiculously hard-to-read card number
  • …and the small (200 card) checklist.
  • The inserts – or at least the ones I’ve pulled – are largely uninteresting.
  • I will buy these again.

Here’s the breakdown of the base set by team:
11 cards – Cardinals, Cubs, Red Sox
10 cards – Astros, Mets
9 cards – Rockies, White Sox
8 cards – Indians, Nationals, Tigers, Yankees
7 cards – Dodgers, Pirates, Royals
6 cards – Athletics, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mariners, Rangers, Reds
5 cards – Marlins, Orioles, Phillies
4 cards – Braves, Twins
3 cards – Angels, Brewers, Padres
2 cards – Rays