Man Spends His Cashes On Guys Who Wear Glasses

Dorothy Parker once said “Men seldom make passes at women in glasses”… I guess I fall into the “seldom” part, because as someone who’s worn glasses for a terribly long time, I have nothing against women in glasses (as evidenced by the fact that I married one).

Because of my long-standing need for corrective lenses, I also recently started collecting cards of baseball players in glasses. Today’s post contains the first batch of vintage cards I picked up specifically because they show players wearing glasses.

One of the stalwarts of any “baseball players with glasses” collection is Claude Raymond. Raymond is French/Canadian, pitched mostly in relief over 12 years with four teams, and made the 1966 All-Star game while with the Astros. He became a hero to the fans in Montreal as he was the first Quebecois to play for the Expos, and he would later do French-language analysis of Expos games.

Claude Raymond is the second-to-last Major Leaguer to go by the name Claude; Claude Osteen being the most recent (and he last played in 1975).

Players over the past 50 years whose given name is Claude but who didn’t go by Claude: Butch Edge, Jayhawk Owens, Skip Lockwood (another glasses guy).

Pete Mikkelsen pitched 9 years with 5 teams, running up career totals of 45-40, 3.38, almost entirely in relief.

I was wondering why I wasn’t more familiar with Mikkelsen’s name when I found out that he did not appear on a Topps card after 1968 despite his being an effective pitcher for several years after that. It would seem that, like Maury Wills, Tony Horton and Rusty Staub, he had some sort of contractual issues with Topps.

I think of Rich Rollins as the Opening Day 3rd baseman for the Seattle Pilots in 1969, but before that he had been an All-Star with the Twins and lead the league with 10 triples in 1964.

Julian Javier played 12 seasons with the Cardinals and 1 with the Reds; during that time he was a two-time All-Star. He was the starting 2nd baseman for most of his time with the Cards, and appeared in four World Series; 1964, 1967 and 1968 with the Cardinals and 1972 with the Reds (which would be the end of his Major League career). In 19 World Series games he batted .333 with 4 runs, 7 RBI and a homer.

Julian was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team in 1960, although Topps had incorrectly identified him as “Manuel Javier” on his rookie card. He’s also the father of former Major League outfielder Stan Javier.

That’s what I picked up this time around. I’m not sure how involved this particular collection is going to get. More likely than not, it will be just a way to pick out vintage commons to buy.

Does anybody else collect (or at least accumulate) players who wear glasses?

Two 1960’s Topps Rookie All-Star Guys

Today we have two cards I obtained last year in a brief run I made towards filling in some of the cards which feature the Topps All-Star Rookie trophy.

Frank Linzy was 3rd in NL Rookie Of The Year voting in 1965, finishing behind winner Jim Lefebvre and 2nd place guy Joe Morgan.  He had some nice numbers that season, all working out of the bullpen:  9-3, 1.43 ERA and 20 saves.  After a quick scan of his quite nice career stats (almost exclusively in relief), I wonder if he would’ve been a better-known pitcher if his career had started even 10 years later.
I find it interesting that despite modern-day statements which make it sound as if nobody tracked Saves before 1969 (the year it became an official stat), almost every one of Linzy’s baseball cards mentions Saves in the writeup.   Hmmm.

Jimmie Coker played in a career-high 81 games in 1960, the season which got him an All-Star Rookie nod.  He’d spend most of 1961 with the AAA Buffalo Bisons and would spend much of the 1960’s as a AAA starter and a Major League backup for the Phils, Giants and Reds.
I love this posed shot with another Phillie in the background.  I also love the huge uniform numbers.  Gene Conley wore #29 in 1960 and before, so would that be him?  This is a 2nd series card, so the photo is probably not from 1961.


Four From The Sixties

I’m a lifelong Mets fan, so it’s no coincidence that all of these cards have a Mets connection… but don’t worry, it’s safe reading for fans of all teams.

Donn Clendenon was the MVP of the 1969 World Series, but in 1964 he was the Pirates’ starting first baseman.
In case you’re wondering about Clendenon starting at 1st for the Pirates when future Willie Stargell was on the  team… Pops was a 24-year-old all-star who split his time between first and left.

Roy McMillan’s 1964 card shows him with the Milwaukee Braves, but after a May trade he spent the bulk of the season as the Mets’ starting shortstop.
McMillan was an All-Star twice and won three Gold Gloves, all with the Reds in the late 1950’s. He managed the Brewers for two games in 1972 (in between Dave Bristol and Del Crandall) and managed the Mets after Yogi Berra was fired in August, 1975, but wasn’t brought back in 1976.

I have something of a Ron Hunt player collection, and I’m not entirely sure why.  I’m sure many of you can identify with that.  Sure, he was one of the Mets first young stars, and the first Met to start an All-Star game (in 1964), but I have a nearly-complete run of Ron Hunt Topps cards, from his early cards with the Mets through the Dodgers, Giants, Expos and unfortunate 1975 airbrushing into something approximating a Cardinals’ cap (and he only played 5 games with St. Louis).
The main piece coming back to the Mets in the Ron Hunt trade was Tommy Davis, and interestingly enough both players played just one season for their new teams.  Before the 1968 season Hunt was traded to the Giants and Davis to the White Sox.

Finally, we’ve got Norm Sherry listed with the Mets, but he was photographed in a Dodgers uniform and had the logo airbrushed out.

Sherry would play 1963 with the Mets and 1964 with the AAA Buffalo Bisons before retiring and becoming a minor league manager.  Sherry would manage the California Angels in 1976 and 1977 and would appear as a “thumbnail” on the 1977 Angels team card.

Whetting Our Appetites With Some 1967 Topps

After the less-than-enthusiastic reaction that greeted 2016 Topps, I’m guessing that many of us are looking forward to Heritage a little more than usual.  As this year’s Heritage set is based on the 1967 Topps design, I figured I’d share a number of cards from that set.

We can only dream of Heritage having a posed combo card like this one featuring Ed Kranepool and Ron Swoboda…  Kranepool & Swoboda might seem like “common squared” to many of you, but these two are both favorites among long-time Mets fans.
1967 Topps Kranepool Swoboda Mets Maulers
In Heritage, it’s more likely that we get two players who happen to be standing near each other…or even worse, photoshopped into the same image.

Lee Elia is probably best remembered as the manager of the Cubs and Phillies in the 1980’s, but he had a couple of cups of coffee as a player.
1967 Topps Lee Elia
He played 80 games with the White Sox in 1966, and 15 games with the Cubs in 1968. Despite his short career, he made it on to 4 cards as a player.

After seeing this card of Arnold Earley on several other blogs, I knew I had to add it to my collection. How many cards look like they feature a state trooper?
1967 Topps Arnold Earley
License and registration, please…

This is Earley’s only baseball card (not counting a 1978 TCMA card).  He pitched in over 200 games, mostly with the Red Sox, before getting this moment of cardboard glory.  He pitched 2 games with the Astros in 1967 before calling it a career.

Chuck Estrada is one of those guys who lead the league in wins one year (18 in 1960) and losses another (17 in 1963). He had a great rookie season, going 18-11, making the All-Star team and being named the Sporting News Pitcher Of The Year, but control issues and elbow problems were his undoing.
1967 Topps Chuck Estrada
Interesting stuff: In 1960, all three players who got votes for A.L. Rookie Of The Year were Orioles – Estrada, Jim Gentile and winner Ron Hansen – which would seem to be laying the groundwork for future success in Baltimore. However, none of the three were still on the team when the Orioles swept the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.

On this card, Bob Buhl looks pretty damn menacing… like he’s auditioning for a movie role as “Henchman #1” or maybe a character named “Ruk” or “Mongo”.
1967 Topps Bob Buhl
“Mongo only pawn in game of life…”

Finally, the pièce de résistance… A 1967 Frank Robinson card which is gloriously miscut, colored-in and helpfully labeled to let us know that he was the A.L. MVP in 1966.
1967 Topps Frank Robinson
I love this card and even if I were given a better copy, I would keep this one.

The 2016 State Of The Union Address (Weigh-In #53)

Ladies and Gentlemen… The President of The Shlabotnik Report

Madam Speaker… Mister Subwoofer…  Members of the Blogosphere… My fellow Collectors…

TSR State Of The Union

2015 was a notable year for The Shlabotnik Report and for the collecting community.  Flagship Topps had an outstanding design; Stadium Club’s photography had everybody talking.  A lot of accomplishments were made, but there are a lot of challenges remaining as we move into a new year.

However, 2015 was also a year without structure, a year of following impulses rather than pursuing the declared objectives.  There’s a lot of good to be said about following  impulses and doing what feels right at the moment, but the end result is a number of unfinished projects, unopened packs and box sets.

While we’ve been successful in keeping our spending in line with previous years, and also in keeping a handle on incoming cards, the fact is that we’ve had a large drop-off in the number of exports in the form of cards leaving the house.  As you can see from this table…

2012 2013 2014 2015
Inbound 4,335 5,378 5,337 4,200
Outbound 8,894 19,677 8,562 2,881
Added 1,719 3,223 2,833 2,322
Removed 2,389 3,908 3,202 1,189

…During Fiscal 2015, the number of cards leaving the house (listed in the “Outbound” row on the above table) were significantly down from prior years.  While it’s true that 2013 was an aberration caused by the recycling of large quantities of junk wax doubles, the truth remains that 2015’s totals were still nearly 6,000 cards below the previous lowest amount.  Similarly, the number of cards removed from the collection were down in 2015.  Better efforts need to be made to return these to their previous levels.

In light of these shortcomings and challenges, a series of initiatives are being considered;  some may be implemented as they stand, some may be modified before being implemented, others may get vetoed.

While a “budget” has often been referred to in this blog, the truth of the matter is that “I’m on a budget” is often a euphemism for “I’m cheap”.  That being said, I don’t have a handle on how much is spent on the hobby during any given year.  One initiative being considered for 2016 is tracking the money spent on cards, mainly out of curiosity but also to see whether the return on investment is there for certain expenditures (i.e. lunchtime Target runs).

Similarly, alternate retail strategies are being considered.  In 2014 and 2015, the plan was to buy factory sets of flagship Topps while getting most of the pack-busting stimulus from Heritage.  Studies have concluded that while factory sets are economically prudent, there is a significant shortfall in the amount of “fun”.  While Heritage expenditures will continue in fiscal 2016, alternates to the factory set strategy are being explored.

One such strategy being floated is to focus more on Opening Day than on flagship Topps, which would allow for an easier set-building goal plus more enjoyable inserts.  However, it’s recently come to this administration’s attention that 2016 Opening Day will no longer have 3-D cards, which diminishes the projected return on the Opening Day investments.

An initiative being explored is a two-pronged effort to devote more time towards domestic resources rather than imported resources;  in other words, being more involved with cards already in the house rather than those in stores or on COMC. Part of this initiative would involve spending more time and energy with cards already in the collection, while the other part would involve exploring the vast cardboard reserves believed to exist on the surface of my dining room table.

One obvious place where cutbacks can easily be made are with inserts and with current cards of retired players.  More and more studies are finding that inserts provide a short-term level of enjoyment;  they may seem appealing when acquired, but later become something of an afterthought.  I’m proposing a more strenuous screening process that would allow entry only to those inserts and retired players who fall into the collection in some predefined way.  For instance, Cal Ripken would be allowed, as there’s a established Cal PC.  Nolan Ryan would be welcomed if pictured with the Mets, but Nolan Ryan with any other team would be turned away… This is due to a distinct surplus in non-vintage Nolan Ryan cards.

Finally, several existing programs, – “1966 Batman” project and the “Steelers Team Sets” project, just to name two  – will be temporarily put on hold and reevaluated at an undetermined future date.

In conclusion, we are pleased with the state of the collection as well as that of The Shlabotnik Report, and there is no doubt that 2016 will be a landmark year for both.

For additional statistics on 4th quarter performance, I refer you to the following statistics, illustrated by some imports from The Republic Of COMC.

The numbers here reflect changes since September 14th.

Net change in the collection since 9/14/15: +147 (442 added, 295 purged)

Net change to the # of cards in the house since 9/14/15: -1425 (1304 in, 2729 out)

1964 Topps George Brunet

In the below figures, “to date” means since I started tracking this stuff on 10/16/2011.

Total # of cards purged from the collection, to date: 11,784

Net change to the collection, to date: -1,476

1966 Topps Mike McCormick

Total # of cards which have left the house, to date:  44,743

Net change to the number of cards in the house, to date: -25,533

1967 Topps Jack Baldschun

Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 51,662

Number of cards that make up the sets flagged as completed in my Access database: 17,623

1970 Topps Joe Moeller

…which means I’ve got at least 69,285 cards in my collection.

Thank you, and good night.

1961 Topps Joe Christopher

Thoughts On The Mets, Plus Recently Acquired Mets Cards

I’ve been pretty quiet about the playoffs so far, and I would guess that some of you are wondering why a Mets fan hasn’t weighed in on the subject.

I’ll admit, part of my silence was not wanting to jinx the Mets.
1969 Topps Cleon Jones

When this season started, my expectations were “This is the year we don’t suck!” A wild card spot would be cool, but being something other than painful to watch (not to mention putting the whole “LOLMets” meme to bed) was my wish for the season.
1992 Stadium Club Dwight Gooden
Halfway through the season, that’s about what it looked like. The Mets were a decent team, but didn’t look like world-beaters.

…But then again, neither did the Nationals (despite all the preseason talk of 100 wins and a championship).
1997 Pinnacle Denny's Todd Hundley
Then the Mets made a move where they actually traded away prospects for major league talent, rather than the other way around. They picked up Kelly “The Happy Wanderer” Johnson and Juan Uribe for two fringey pitching prospects. I liked the deal, and thought that would be THE big move towards acquiring mid-season help. After all, the Mets weren’t going to be serious contenders until next year, right?

2013 Topps Archives Howard Johnson
They also picked up Tyler Clippard to bolster the bullpen, another nice trade to help the team without selling out on the future.

Then, much to my surprise, they picked up Yoenis Cespedes. It was at that point that I realized that they had more than meaningful September baseball in mind.

2013 Topps Finest Matt Harvey
But all along, I kept in mind that this wasn’t necessarily supposed to be happening. I enjoyed the Nationals falling apart because that franchise’s arrogance annoys the crap out of me (a subject for another post, another day), but I didn’t get carried away about the division title… Hell, both wild card teams had better records than the Mets.
1962 Topps Gus Bell
I tried to keep in mind that the Mets, like Dante in the movie “Clerks”, were “not even supposed to be here today”.

They beat the Dodgers, which was thoroughly enjoyable because I’d run across a fair number of Dodger fans who were beating their chests about how unbeatable Kershaw & Greinke were…. Plus I’m still pissed about the Dodgers beating the Mets in the 1988 NLCS.
1964 Topps Jim Hickman
The Cubs made the NLCS difficult for me because the Cubs were my second-favorite team in the postseason and I have a few friends who are Cubs fans. As games between the Mets and Orioles have taught me, it’s harder to enjoy a game when you like both teams.

…which is why, after the Mets swept the Cubs, I switched my AL rooting interest to the moderately obnoxious Royals. I decided that, win or lose, the World Series would be more fun with a bad guy. Hopefully I won’t come to regret that.
1967 Topps Bob Shaw
So here we are, on the cusp of Game 1. I still maintain my mindset that this season is already an overwhelming success, and anything else is just gravy. Sure, I want the Mets to win, but given all the unexpected joys of this season, all I really ask for is that the World Series be fun to watch.
1970 Topps Tom Seaver
Let’s Go Mets!

Cards I Got From “Diamond Giveaway”… OK, So I’m A Little Behind…

I didn’t know what to write about today, I wasn’t feelin’ the posts I had in my Drafts folder, so I went poking around my unused scans… and that’s when I found images of these cards I’d redeemed from Topps “Diamond Giveaway” promotion back in early 2012.

…And I said “Ah, what the hell.”

Rule #1 with Diamond Giveaway was always “Fill the oldest need possible”, but not everybody was willing to trade their 1963 Duke Snider for my 1991 Milt Thompson. So, Rule #2 was “work towards completing sets which I’m reasonably close to completing”. In this case, I turned a 1983 Bruce Hurst (which I already had) into this Winfield. Naturally, a recent Fairfield repack I got had this card in it… But how was I to know that in 2011?
1986 Topps Dave Winfield
I don’t know why, but I think I appreciate Dave Winfield more now than when he was active… Maybe because as an all-around athlete (drafted in three sports!) he just looks good on a card.

I’m not a fan of the Cardinals or Alex Johnson, but this is easily the best card I got from Diamond Giveaway, and many others agreed with me – I got far more trade offers for this card than for any other.
1967 Topps Alex Johnson
I’m not even 100% sure about what it is that I find appealing, I just know that I look at it and think “Now that’s a baseball card!”

This is “Action” only in the sense that takes place during a game. Doesn’t matter to me, I’m not one to turn down some free-but-not-really-free 1972’s!
1972 Topps George Mitterwald

1980 Topps was another set I worked towards through Diamond Giveaway. I’ve got 99.85% of the 1973 set, complete sets from 1974 to 1978 and again in 1981, and I feel like I should have complete sets from 1979 and 1980 as well. Maybe I should bump up the priority on those two. Like Dave Winfield, 1980 Topps has also grown on me over the years. At the time I thought it was a little too much like a reworked 1974 design, but I think I’ve grown to appreciate it on its own.
1980 Topps Jimmy Sexton
I like Sexton’s belligerent expression in this card. He’s either trying to look bad-ass or he’s angry because he doesn’t like to do Standard Baseball Card Pose #27. “There, I’m doing your stupid pose. Are ya happy? Huh? Are ya?”

I’ve got plenty more Diamond Giveaway cards to share… Maybe they’ll surface on another uninspired Saturday.

“The Champs” Then…. The Champs Again?

In 1966, The Orioles had just switched to the “cartoon bird” caps, went 97-63 and finished 9 games ahead of the 2nd place Twins (and the Red Sox & Yankees finished in 9th & 10th… those were the days).  The O’s would sweep the Dodgers in 4 and bring a World Championship to Baltimore for the first time.

Here’s hoping that “Cartoon Bird 2” brings the current Orioles the same fortune.  I’m going to fight off the temptation to make any predictions;  right now, I’m  happy the Orioles don’t  have to face the red-hot A’s.

Two of the guys on this card are currently immortalized in bronze at Camden Yards…  Well, no, not the guys themselves, it’s not a Han Solo thing where Frank & Brooks are in suspended animation.  I’m talking about the new bronze statues… very nice bronze statues, if I may say so.

The guy in the middle is Orioles manager Hank Bauer.  I’ll tell you, “24” has ruined the name Bauer for me.  Back when Rick Bauer was a pitcher for the Orioles, and 24 was on the air, Mrs. Shlabotnik and I referred to him as “Federal Agent Rick Bauer”.  Now I find that phenomenon has spread to Federal Agent Hank Bauer.  Yep, Jack, Rick and Hank Bauer, the terrorist-fighting dynasty.