Huh? Whuzzat? Hockey’s Back? Oh, Well, Here Are Some Hockey Cards I Got 6 Months Ago

I went to a show last spring and while I was at the table of one of my favorite dealers, I decided to go through the “Hockey bargain bin”.  Ever since I finished my 1975 Football set, I’ve been turning to 1970’s hockey as my main non-baseball sideline…  This is despite the fact that I’ve largely regarded the NHL with disdain since they shut the game down for an entire year.  That’s OK, I get NCAA hockey on one of my cable channels, that does me just fine when I need a fix.

I started thinking about sharing these during the summer and said “Eh, might as well wait until hockey starts again”.  And hockey has started again.  So here we go…

Despite growing up on Long Island, I am not now, nor have I ever been a fan of the New York Islanders. They spent their first few years of their existence as “That other team” in the New York market, but four Stanley Cups quickly generated a bunch of smug, “1940”-chanting bandwagon fans.

That being said, there are some 1970’s Islanders who I look back on with some amount of fondness, mainly guys who played during the “That other team” period.

Lorne Henning ranks behind Lorne Greene and Lorne Michaels in the list of “All-Time Great Lornes”… But he did win a couple of cups with the Islanders.
1973-74 OPC Hockey Lorne Henning

Bobby Nystrom is another guy who bridged the gap between the “Other Team” and “Smug Fan Magnet” eras. Nystrom was born in Stockholm and moved to Canada when he was four. I didn’t know that.
1974-75 Topps Hockey Bob Nystrom

Jean Potvin eventually fell into the shadow of his HOFer younger brother Denis.
1974-75 Topps Hockey Jean Potvin

Just like I’ve never been an Islanders fan, I’ve also never been a Rangers fan… not exactly. My father was a die-hard fan of the Blueshirts, but for various reasons I never connected with the team as a whole… but there are a significant number of Rangers that I have fond memories of, and those are the guys I tend to collect.

Rod Gilbert was the first Ranger to have his number retired.
1976-77 Topps Hockey Rod Gilbert

Jean Ratelle was the first Ranger to score 100 points in a season.
1972-73 Topps Hockey Jean Ratelle AS

Needless to say, I also was not a Flyers fan, not if I wanted to stay in the house owned by my Ranger-loving father. I mainly bought this because I’m considering making a run at the 1977/78 Topps hockey set…
1977-78 Topps Hockey Bobby Clarke

…as well as the Glossy insert cards from that same year.  Even though they were issued in the same packs, I’m not entering them into the same “complete the set?” debate.
1977-78 Topps Hockey Glossy Richard Martin
This is Richard Martin of the Sabres, by the way.

Jude Drouin was an Islander when I first started following hockey. More importantly, this is one of the few 1971/72 Hockey cards in my collection.
1971-72 Topps Hockey Jude Drouin

Carol Vadnais would later be a NY Ranger. This photo makes him look like… well, let’s just say he doesn’t look his best.
1972-73 Topps Hockey Carol Vadnais

I’m not entirely sure why I bought this card.  Probably just because it was cheap, 1970’s, hockey and I like the Atlanta Flames uniforms.
1973-74  OPC Hockey Jacques Richard

Is This The End Of The Dynamic Duo?

Things suddenly got very busy for me – damn that real life for interfering with my blogging activities! – so I haven’t been able to post as often as I’d like, nor have I been able to show off some of the cards I just got from COMC… heck I still haven’t even scanned all of them.

Since I was looking for something relatively quick to post, I decided to show off the three 1966 Batman “Black Bat” cards I got.

“Grim Realization” is probably the most “stand-alone-y” interesting of the three.
1966 Topps Batman Black Bat Grim Realization

My original goal was just to replace the cards I had as a kid that mysteriously vanished, but then I decided that I had enough cards from the 11-card “Batman vs. The Joker” subset to attempt to finish that off… each of the subsets tells a story, and “The Joker In Jail” is the 11th card in this particular “story arc”.
1966 Topps Batman Black Bat The Joker In Jail

I do enjoy these cards (and the awesome Norman Saunders artwork) an awful lot, and I’ll probably keep working towards the entire 55-card “Black Bat” set, but that’s a long-term goal at this point… unless I unexpectedly run into a bunch of cheap cards.

This last card is more of an “advancing the plot” card than an example of visually stunning artwork, but I like the thuggish gentleman lurking in the background… a bit of Norman Saunders’ pulp magazine experience shining through.
1966 Topps Batman Black Bat Crime Czar

The Joker is administering a Lie Detector Test to his fellow hoodlums, and if you were wondering  how things turn out for this particular gentleman, I’ll refer you to a card I’d shared last December…

1966 Batman - Black Bat - Poison Pellet

When I get the whole subset, I’ll post all 11 cards, front and back, in one post… so that everybody can share in the excitement of Batman vs. The Joker!  It’s the next best thing to sticking  your head out the window to find The Caped Crusaders climbing the side of your building!

Master Set Completed: 1974

1974 Topps Rookie Pitchers Large San DiegoI accomplished a long-standing goal when I was at the National, but never wrote about it until now.  Bad Joe!  Bad!

With the purchase of this “Large San Diego” variation of the #599 Rookie Pitchers card, I’d completed my master set of 1974 Topps.  This particular card (one of three versions) seems to be relatively hard to find, and yet I got this one for 50 cents.  That’s the way it goes sometimes (not that I’m complaining).

I’d completed the base Topps and Traded sets back in the Seventies, and I’d pulled a McCovey “Washington Nat’l Lea.” card out of a pack in 1974.  That eventually lead to collecting most of the Washington variations and I was satisfied with that for years until I ran across a cheap “No Position” Jesus Alou card at a show.  At that point, I figured I may as well go all the way and collect the master set.

For the record, here’s what a master set of 1974 Topps consists of:

The 660 card base set.
1974 Tom Seaver

The 44 card traded set.
1974 Traded Luke Walker

The 24 team checklists.
1974 Mets Checklist

The “Washington ‘Nat’l. Lea.’” Variations.
1974 Gaston WNL

The “No Position” Jesus Alou card.
1974 Jesus Alou No Position

The Apodaco/Apodaca rookie card variation.
1974 Topps Apodaco Apodaca

The three versions of the above card:  the common “Washington”, and the less common Small San Diego and Large San Diego.
1974 Freisleben comparison

Somewhere in my clutter, I’ve also got the “mail-in” version of the team checklists;  I haven’t seen it in years, but I’m too much of a pack rat to have gotten rid of it.  If I remember correctly (and by all means, correct me if I’m wrong), you’d mail in a wrapper or two and some small financial amount, and they’d send you a small, folded, uncut sheet of the team checklist cards.  Mine is checked off and probably creased 50 different ways, but I can’t say for sure what condition it is.  You can be sure that I’ll share it with you should I unearth it.

There is one more 1974-related thing I’d like to acquire… A wrapper from a wax pack.  I don’t think I’d try to get every variation on the 1974 Topps wrapper, but then again I never thought I’d try to complete the master set to begin with.  I wouldn’t go as far as to try to acquire an unopened wax pack unless a very, very cheap one presents itself to me.

Happy Birthday, Dennis Maruk!

Dennis Maruk was the first hockey player to earn the title of “my favorite player”, and to this day he’s one of my all-time favorites.  Back in the late 70’s, I was one of the few Washington Capitals fans on Long Island (and pretty much anywhere).  While I liked guys like Yvon Labre and Robert Picard, there was something about Maruk…  The offensive output, the awesome Fu Manchu, the two All-Star Games… and though I don’t think I consciously realized it at the time, the fact that he’s relatively small for a hockey player (5’8”) didn’t hurt.

Dennis started out his career with the California Golden Seals, moved with the team to Cleveland and was part of the “absorption” of the Cleveland Barons into Minnesota North Stars.  After two games with Minnesota, he was traded to the Caps for their first round draft pick.  I’ll bet the guy who airbrushed this card was pissed to find that his work was largely for nothing.

Maruk had 50 goals and 47 assists in 1980/81, but it was in 1981/82 that he made his mark on the Capitals record books.  That year he had 60 goals and 76 assists for a total of 136 points, which still stands as a team record for assists & points.  The 60 goals was a team record until Alex Ovechkin scored 65 in 2007/08.  Maruk’s 60 goals was the third best in the league that season, behind Wayne Gretzky (with 92!!!) and Mike Bossy (64).

In July, 1983 he was traded back to the North Stars for a 2nd round draft choice, and his Capitals career was over.  He remained a steady player with the North Stars, but never achieved the kind of numbers he had in Washington.

With the exception of some “Team Leaders”cards and a cameo on someone else’s card, this is pretty much the extent of my Dennis Maruk collection; I’m going to make it an early 2013 goal to add some more Maruk to my life.

Eddie Yost, The Walking Man

Former major leaguer Eddie Yost passed away this past Tuesday; his nickname, ‘The Walking Man’ came from his ability to draw a large number of walks. Over 18 seasons, Eddie lead the AL in walks six times, had 100+ walks eight times, was in the top 10 in walks 10 different times and twice lead the AL in on-base percentage. What makes this really impressive is the fact that nobody was pitching around Eddie like they would pitch around Ted Williams or Babe Ruth, he just had that good of an eye.

Eddie Yost was a Mets coach when I first started following baseball, and the more I learned about him, the more I came to appreciate him. He was 17 years old when he made his Major League debut during WWII with the Senators.  He never played a day in the minors, but did spend some time in military service.  He was the Senators’ starting third baseman from 1947 until he was traded to Detroit after the 1958 season.

At the time of his retirement, Yost was fourth on the all-time walk list behind Babe Ruth, Williams and Mel Ott, all power hitters who nobody wanted to pitch to.   He now ranks 11th on the all-time list, behind Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Ruth, Williams, Joe Morgan, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Thome , Mickey Mantle, Ott and Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas. Among the players with fe wer career walks are Stan Musial, Pete Rose, Harmon Killebrew, Chipper Jones, Lou Gehrig, Mike Schmidt, and Willie Mays.

He wasn’t completely about the walks; he was an All-Star in 1952, he lead the AL in doubles in 1951, runs in 1959 (his first year with the Tigers).  He was also a fine defensive third baseman;  eight different seasons he lead the AL in putouts by a 3B, and twice in assists by a 3B.

About the 1952 Red Man card pictured above:
I love Red Man cards, but this is the only one I own.  The main reason I don’t own more is because there aren’t many players I collect who appeared on a Red Man card… although I’m thinking that I should do with Red Man what I started doing with 1956 Topps, which is buying affordable commons that visually appeal to me, regardless of who’s pictured on it.

1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball Félix Millán

I used to watch Japanese baseball on TV, even though I’ve never been in Japan.  Back in the late 1970’s there was a UHF station in New Jersey, outside of New York City, which featured international programming.  I used to flip over every now and then to see what kind of unusual-to-me shows or commercials I might see and not understand (because they were often in languages other than English).  I always enjoyed the Spanish commercials for Colgate toothpaste because they pronounced it as a Spanish word:  Col-GAHT-eh

One night I flipped over, and there was a baseball game from Japan.  The play-by-play was all in Japanese, but fortunately you don’t need to understand the broadcasters to follow a game.

What I really didn’t need a broadcaster to understand was when former Met Félix Millán stepped up to the plate.  It was cool enough to be watching this familiar, yet strange game, but it was off the charts when a player formerly on my favorite team, a guy who me and my friends used to choke way up on the bat to imitate, is on my TV in a Yokohama Taiyo Whales uniform.  I think it safe to say that “freaked out” is an appropriate phrase.

Although I didn’t get to see a whole lot of games – that station wasn’t listed in my newspaper’s TV listings, so finding games was hit-or-miss – it started a lifelong fascination with Japanese baseball.  I bought the entire TCMA set that this Félix Millán card is in (it was relatively cheap back in the day), I read Robert Whiting’s “You Gotta Have Wa” and other books, and until fairly recently every Japanese player who came over to this side of the Pacific was instantly a player I collected.  This only stopped because it got to be too many guys and not all of them were worthy of excitement.  I also reached a certain degree of “Ichiro Fatigue”.

When I went to the National in 2010, one of the highlights of the show was the one dealer who was selling Japanese cards;  Not only was it something I was very interested in, it most definitely fell into the category of “Cards you don’t see at most shows”.  Japanese cards will be near the top of my want list for this year’s National.

My collection of Japanese cards is relatively small, but I’ll be sharing more of these cards in the future.

Cheap, Cool Cards: The Shlabotnik nominee

Fuji recently asked for suggestions of cheap, cool cards which everybody should have in their collection.  I could probably do a month’s worth of posts on the subject, but for now I’ll go with this 1992 Pinnacle Tom Glavine.  I’ve always liked this card, and it’s spent the last 20 years in a binder of cards which are not sets/teams/players I collect, but are just too cool not to have.

What’s great about this card is that they could’ve just handed Glavine a hockey stick or shown him skating around in a generic hockey uniform… but instead he suited up in his Braves uniform, lace up the skates and hit the ice.  It really makes for a interesting photo, much better than the others in this “Sidelines” subset.

Tom Glavine played hockey in high school, and was good enough to be drafted in the 4th round by the L.A. Kings, ahead of future Hockey Hall Of Famers Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille.

Perhaps if Glavine chose the Kings instead of the Braves, the Kings might’ve won it all sooner… either that, or he’d be saying “Oh, sure, now they win the Stanley Cup”.

Baby, Baby, Where Did My Cards Go? Part 2: 1966 Batman (Black Bat)

Like yesterday’s World Series card, I used to have a handful of these cards;  unlike those World Series cards, I’m almost positive that the other ones are long gone.  I’m up in the air as to how far I want to go with the Batman cards;  I’m definitely going to re-acquire the ones I used to have, I could go further and get the whole 55-card first series (referred to as “Black Bat” because the front has a black bat graphic) or I could finish the whole 1966 run (adding the Red Bat and Blue Bat series).

I love the artwork on these cards, and I just found out that these were painted by Norm Saunders, who was also the artist for Mars Attacks and Wacky Packs (and a whole lot of other things).  Even though I don’t have any of the original cards, I’m looking forward to the Mars Attacks Heritage set coming out later this year.  I’m thinking that the money I’m not sinking into Archives or  Bowman (or apparently Attax) will go into Mars Attacks.

As for Norm Saunders,  there’s more I’d like to say about his work, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Do we have any 1966 Batman collectors out there?  I’ve read some stuff that said that the first series is far superior to the other two, do you agree with that?

1966 Topps Buc Belters: Willie Stargell and Donn Clendenon

Ah, the Golden Age of multi-player cards, when two players actually posed together rather than being photoshopped into the same image.  Those were the days…

Fellow Mets fans will know why I have this card (hint:  It ain’t because of Willie).

Donn Clendenon was a 1st baseman who came up with the Pirates and finished a distant second to Ken Hubbs in the 1962 Rookie Of The Year voting.  He was taken by the Expos in the 1968 Expansion Draft, and before the 1969 season the Expos traded him and Jesus Alou to the Astros for Rusty Staub, but Donn threatened to retire rather than report to the Astros, so the trade was re-worked.  Instead, Clendenon was traded to the Mets in June, and he became a key part of that 1969 “Miracle Mets” team.  He batted .357 and hit three homers in the 1969 World Series and was named series MVP.  Interestingly enough, he didn’t play at all in the 3 game sweep over the Braves in the NLCS;  Ed Kranepool played first in all three games.

Donn played with the Mets until 1971, played with the Cardinals in 1972, and that was the end of his big league career.

1974 Week: Matty and Felipe Alou

I’ve always liked this card, can’t say exactly why.  Part of it is the coloring of the photo, which seems to go well with the Padres border, even though he’s in a Yankees uniform.  Matty was with the Yankees in 1973, sold to the Cardinals in September and then sold to the Padres after the season.

(Side note:  This card is one of the Padres which weren’t “Washingtoned”)

Just for grins, and to see how much the Padres border accentuates the photo, I slapped a Yankees border on Matty’s card…

Yeah, it’s not the same.  I think the brown and yellow on the Padres card brings out the warm colors of the photo.

Matty wasn’t the only Alou brother jettisoned by the Yankees in 1973…

Felipe was claimed on waivers from the Yankees in September, 1973 and played 19 games for the Expos that season.  He would only play 3 games in 1974, and they were with the Brewers.  If I were unemployed or otherwise had plenty of spare time, I’d try to update the 1974 set, including putting a Brewers border on this card.  …But I already spent more time than I should’ve putting the Yankee border on Matty.

Update:  20 minute after posting this, I realized that Felipe had a Traded card which put him in an airbrushed Brewers cap, so not only do I have no time to update the card, I have no reason.