“The Next Mickey Mantle” Ended Up As “The Guy Before The Guy”

I’m going to use this post to continue one series — admittedly one I’ve let lapse a bit — and kick off a new series.

First off, the new series. Earlier this season, I was reading the comments on an article that had something to do with the Yankees, and someone said that Gleyber Torres was the best Yankees prospect since Mickey Mantle. This got two immediate reactions from me: 1) Hyperbole from a Yankees fan? How shocking… and 2) I’m in my 44th season of following baseball and I’ve seen my share of “Next Mickey Mantles” come and go.

But then I paused and thought that it might be fun to do an occasional series on the various “Next Mickey Mantles” who – spoiler alert! – were not Mickey Mantle.  We’re going to start off with Tom Tresh, who was before my time but was among the first, if not the first “next Mickey Mantle”.

Going into the 1962 season, the Yankees learned that starting shortstop Tony Kubek would be called into active military duty, and Tom Tresh won the starting job in spring training.  Tresh had a breakout rookie season, batting .286 with 94 runs, 93 RBI, 26 doubles and 20 homers, even while shifting to left field in August because of Kubek’s return.  Along with his impressive rookie stats, Tresh would make the All-Star team, win Rookie of the Year and continue his performance into the postseason where he hit a game-winning homer in Game 5 of the World Series and making a key catch off of Willie Mays in Game Six.

Tresh stayed in the outfield for 1963, spelling Mickey Mantle when the HOFer was injured, made another all-star team and hit two homers in the World Series against St. Louis.

Over the next few years, Tresh would win a Gold Glove and maintain his hitting prowess, but the Yankees dynasty was crumbling around him as the team went from pennant winners in 1964 to basement dwellers in 1966 (cue Edith & Archie Bunker:  “Those were the DAYS!”)  During Spring Training of 1967 Tresh tore up his knee but had been asked/told to play through it.  This turned out to be a turning point in his career as his performance during the season would suffer greatly and even after post-season surgery, he would never be the same.

…And now to the “Guy Before The Guy” part. During Tresh’s 9 years in pinstripes, he wore #15. His Yankee career ended in June 1969 when his request to be traded to the Tigers was fulfilled (Tresh was from Michigan).  A couple of months later, the Yankees gave #15 to a promising young catcher they’d called up to fill in while backup catcher Frank Fernandez was fulfilling his military obligation… That prospect would go on to be the 1970 A.L. Rookie of the year, 1976 A.L. MVP, a 7-time all-star and 3-time Gold Glove winning Thurman Munson.

The Yankees retired Munson’s number after his tragic death in 1979, so Tom Tresh is the player who had a number before the player for whom the number was retired…. in other words, Tom Tresh was “The Guy Before The Guy”.

I Spent Too Much Time Making Customs This Week

It was just that kind of week.  Lots of stuff going on, moderate levels of stress, but it all came in spurts.  During the downtime I had, I didn’t feel like reading or watching TV or doing anything productive, I just wanted some fun busywork… And for me, especially lately, “fun busywork” means making customs.

On top of that, it was a week where most teams had their “Photo Day”, so there were numerous images involving players in new uniforms. Surfing through those photos gave me added inspiration.

Yoenis Cespedes got a lot of attention recently for showing up at Mets camp with a lot of exotic vehicles… Some of which were more exotic than others.  True, his Lamborghini Aventador and his Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione are worth many times what I paid for my own car, but people were beside themselves over his funky-looking Polaris Slingshots, even though they’re something that people outside of the 1% can afford.  Given what Cespedes will earn in 2016 and the Slingshot’s MSRP, he can buy two or three Slingshots for every day of the year if he wants… But that’s beside the point.

The point is that I love his Alfa Romeo, and decided it needed it’s own baseball card.
2016 TSRchives 72BOY-1 Yoenis Cespedes
This custom is, of course, based on the 1972 “Boyhood Photos Of The Stars” cards.  I wish I could come up with a better name for the subset, but it’s one of several things about this custom I’d like to do-over, but won’t… Not unless someone else drives to camp in another object of my own automotive lust (Does anybody on the Mets drive a ’57 Chevy?)

Munenori Kawasaki is in Cubs camp as a non-roster guy, but I’m hoping he makes the team… MLB is a lot more fun when he’s around.
2016 TSRchives 75T-1 Munenori Kawasaki
I whipped up this custom template Friday night, and it wasn’t until I was writing this post that I realized that it’s slightly “miscut”.  I think I was so focused on some of the details that I didn’t take a step back and look at the image.  I’ll fix it before I use this template again.

Justin Turner used to be my favorite Dodger, but he’s been usurped in that position.   Sorry, Justin…  But after I saw Photo Day images of minor league catcher Jack Murphy, he became my new Favorite Dodger.  I saw Murphy’s hair and his mustache and knew he belonged on a 1970’s custom:
2016 TSRchives 79T-1 Jack Murphy
Yes, this is a guy on the Dodgers’ current 40-man roster, and yes, he always has the  long hair and mustache… He was traded to the Dodgers in last summer’s deal that sent Darwin Barney to Toronto. He’s an Ivy Leaguer, having attended Princeton, and he’s spent the past four winters playing for the Canberra Calvary in the Australian Baseball League. You can check out several Australian Jack Murphy customs over at the excellent Australian Custom Baseball Cards blog.  Not surprisingly, he’s a fan-favorite in Canberra

Quick Princeton side-track: Their baseball program has clearly had a resurgence because there were four Princeton Tigers in the Majors in 2015 (Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Young, Wil Venable and David Hale), but before them there had been only one Tiger in the Majors during my lifetime (and I just turned 50). That one Princetonian is pitcher Bob Tufts, who pitched in 27 games from 1981 to 1983 and who appears to have only one Major League baseball card (1982 Topps Giants Future Stars, shared with Bob Brenly and Chili Davis).

It was odd to see Jimmy Rollins with the Dodgers last year, but for some reason he looks REALLY odd in a White Sox uniform.
2016 TSRchives 60BZ-1 Jimmy Rollins
This custom template is based on 1960-62 Bazooka, and I used it for my first Hot Stove set during the winter of 2012/13.  Two things that remain unchanged since then:  1)  I still love this design, and 2) I still hang my head in shame that I don’t own one of the originals.  Those little suckers are hard to come by and they aren’t cheap!

During my post about 2016 Heritage two days ago, I mentioned my disappointment that Topps did not make an insert out of the 1967 Venezuelan Topps “Retirado” subset.  For those of you who didn’t know what I was talking about, there was a 1967 Venezuelan set that was one-third Topps cards (sort of Venezuelan O-Pee-Chee), one third players from the Venezuelan Winter League, and one third “Retirado”, which, if I’m not mistaken, is Spanish for “Retired”.  The original subset featured players ranging from Babe Ruth to Sandy Koufax.  Given how Topps likes to beat us over the head with the retired players they have under contract, I thought this would’ve been a natural.

The originals were pretty cheesy looking, but I decided to make a custom anyway, just to show what such an insert could’ve looked like.
2016 TSRchives 67VR-1 Cal Ripken
Topps has done a whole lot worse in terms of inserts.  I call this a missed opportunity.

Last week I was talking about how much of an improvement the new Padres home uniforms were over the previous ones.  This week we got to see on-field shots of the new Diamondback uniforms, and my reaction was… um… not quite as positive.  I think I may have muttered words like “awful” and “fugly”.
2016 TSRchives 68T-1 Paul Goldschmidt
They’re not the worst uniform in the history of Major League Baseball, I won’t go that far… But they are easily the worst current uniform set in MLB.  Such was my disdain for these uniforms that I made a custom using one of the least-popular sets of the 1960’s, the burlappy 1968 design.

(OK, fine, I kinda like 1968… But I guess we’ll find out just how much I like it when Heritage hits the shelves next year.)

So there goes that bit of creative output… Which frankly makes me feel a little guilty because I *really* should be finalizing my 2016 TSR original custom set instead of cranking out TSRchives customs…  But it was just one of those things where I had to go where my muse took me.

…And speaking of customs I should be making, I did have an outstanding request for some 1974 customs, and the requesting party should rest assured that I have not forgotten.

Unexpected 1968’s, Part Three

So here we are with the third an final chapter of “1968 Topps cards I got recently without realizing just how many I had acquired until the dust had settled”.

Bud Harrelson… Another step towards a Mets team set I’ll likely never achieve because of the Nolan Ryan rookie (and I’m cool with that).
1968 Topps Bud Harrelson
In 1968, Bud was coming off of his first full year in the majors, and he was the starting shortstop for the Mets.

Don Buford is capless and in pinstripes because he came to the Orioles in the same trade that sent Luis Aparicio to the White Sox
1968 Topps Don Buford
I almost hadn’t noticed the “2B – 3B” designation on this card.  Buford played the outfield for most of his time with the O’s, and even though I have at least one card featuring Buford with the Chisox, I didn’t realize he was an infielder.  According to baseball-reference.com, he was an outfielder with the University of Southern California, was converted to the infield by the White Sox and converted back by the Orioles.

Dean Chance was an All-Star in 1967… with the Twins.  I didn’t realize he’d played for the Twins.  I knew he started with the Angels and won a Cy Young in 1964, I knew he pitched for the Indians and Mets towards the end of his career, but I missed the Twins in the middle.
1968 Topps Game Dean Chance
Even though he appears with the Mets on his 1971 card, he only pitched 3 games for them in 1970.  Guess I should have had him on my “Short-term Mets” team.

Dick/Rich/Richie Allen was the NL Rookie of the Year, he was the AL MVP, he was a 7-time All-Star, and none of these things happened in 1968.
1968 Topps Game Dick Allen

Rod Carew is a ground out?  How can you have a guy with a .328 career BA be represented by a ground out?
1968 Topps game Rod Carew
When this card came out, Carew was 22-years-old, the reigning AL ROY and just starting a 19-year career where the only season he didn’t make the All-Star team was his last season in 1985.

Like his Orioles teammate Don Buford, Pete Richert is also capless and in pinstripes… Unlike Buford, they’re Senators pinstripes, not White Sox pinstripes.
1968 Topps Pete Richert

This last card is a Bob Tolan card I bought solely because I liked the photo.
1968 Topps Bob Tolan

An Unexpected Number Of 1968’s, Part Two

Here are some more of the 1968 cards I got recently without meaning to buy as many as I ended up buying (but it’s all good)…

Dave Leonhard played 6 years for the Orioles, first as a starter, then as a reliever. He’s the last Major Leaguer to come out of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
1968 Topps Orioles Rookies Leonhard May
Dave May played for the Orioles, Brewers and Rangers, and is famous for being the guy traded to the Braves for Hank Aaron in 1974.

A 1968 Game insert featuring Matty Alou wearing one of those weird Pirates hats with the logo apparently on a patch instead of being embroidered directly into the hat.
1968 Topps Game Matty Alou
Matty Alou lead the NL in batting in 1966, and was in the top 4 in batting from 1967 to 1969.

Tommie Agee is capless because he had been acquired from the White Sox in December, 1967.
1968 Topps Tommie Agee
Agee won a Gold Glove and Rookie Of The Year during his first full season, but he disappointed in his second season, so the White Sox shipped him off to the lowly Mets.

In 1967 with the Astros, Mike Cuellar was an All-Star and a 16-game winner.  In 1969 with the Orioles, Cuellar won the Cy Young award.  In 1968…. well……………….. not so much.
1968 Topps Mike Cuellar
I’m guessing that Cuellar’s airbrushed hat means that it’s really a Colt .45 hat.  The team was the Colts from 1962 to 1964.  That’s the Shea Stadium scoreboard in the background, and Shea opened in 1964.  I’ll let you do the logic to determine what year this photo must be from.

Update:  I’d assumed that the airbrushed cap on Mike Cuellar meant that it wasn’t an Astros logo, but in the comments for this post Tony L. pointed out that *every* Astro in 1968 Topps has the cap airbrushed (or no cap at all), most likely due to the same legal dispute between the Astros and Topps that resulted in the cards saying “HOUSTON” rather than “ASTROS”.  Thanks, Tony!

Manny Mota, on a card I just liked.
1968 Topps Manny Mota
I so thoroughly associate Manny Mota with the Dodgers that it’s strange to see him in a Pirates uniform, even though he played six years in Pittsburgh.  I won’t get into his short stints with the Expos and Giants.

Another Game insert, this one of Tommy Davis, who I believe is in a Dodger’s uniform even though he played for the Mets in 1967 and the White Sox in 1968, because he’d been traded by the Mets in the Agee deal.
1968 Topps Game Tommy Davis
I didn’t intentionally include both in the same post, but it worked out quite nicely.

Al Ferrara played piano at Carnegie Hall as a child, and guest starred on Gilligan’s Island and Batman (as I’ve mentioned a couple of times before… Sue me, I think it’s cool).
1968 Topps Al Ferrara
I found this clip of one of the episodes of Batman he was in, I believe he’s the taller of the two henchmen carrying the boxes containing giant spiders (It’s 1960’s Batman, just go with it).

“Black Widow” was played by Tallulah Bankhead, in what was her final role.

An Unexpected Number Of 1968’s, Part One

I’ve noticed a particular phenomenon when I go shopping on COMC, especially during a free-shipping promotion.  I’ll do some shopping, do some other things, do more shopping, do more things, and so on during the weekend… and it won’t be until I get the box from COMC that I get a handle on exactly what I bought.

One thing I realized about my last two shopping sprees was that ended up getting a lot more 1968 baseball cards than I’d intended or even realized. Some of them came off of wantlists but a bunch of them were impulse buys which just sneaked up on me.

Dick Selma puts me one step closer to the Mets team set… a goal I won’t likely reach unless I miraculously find a Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman rookie that falls in my budget (HAH!)
1968 Topps Dick Selma

An Orioles team set is somewhat more realistic, but I didn’t grow up an Orioles fan so I don’t have any huge attachment to the O’s before when I started following them in the mid-1990’s.
1968 Topps Sam Bowens
I knew very little about Sam Bowens before buying this card. Now I know he had a good rookie season that he never quite recaptured, but stuck around because of his defensive capabilities.

I don’t remember why I bought this… probably because it was unusually cheap, and old enough that “unusually cheap” is sufficient cause for me to buy it.
1968 Topps Woody Fryman

I do remember buying this card… I bought it because I liked it. Not the greatest card out of 1968, but it has it’s appeal.
1968 Topps Chico Ruiz
Chico Ruiz was one of the last Cubans to leave before the border was shut down, played every position but pitcher and center field, and was still an active player when he was killed in a car crash in early 1972.

As  you can see, Dick Dietz was a Topps All-Star Rookie, and was later an actual All-Star.
1968 Topps Dick Dietz
Dick Dietz seemed to have had a career and then he didn’t.  I’ve seen a couple of references to him having been blackballed because he was a player representative during the 1972 baseball strike.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it would not surprise me in the least.

For some reason, I’ve been picking up late 1960’s and early 1970’s Yankees.  Yes, I am a Mets fan.  No, I can’t explain it.
1968 Topps Bill Monbouquette
Bill Monbouquette was a 20-game winner with the Red Sox, and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. 1968 was his last year as an active pitcher, but he would go on to server as a pitching coach for a number of years, including two years as the Mets pitching coach. I should’ve just said that up front instead of admitting that I buy Yankee cards on purpose.

And, of course, what are 1968 Topps cards without the Game inserts? I’m sure you don’t need any introduction to Brooks Robinson…
1968 Topps Game Brooks Robinson

…Or Ron Santo.
1968 Topps Game Ron Santo

As you can guess from the heading, this is just the first batch of 68’s… I didn’t want to dump them all on you at once (and I wanted the opportunity to have some relatively easy posts in the near future).  Stay tuned!

Ya Get Whatcha Get: I Was Supposedly Saving You From Something Or Another

This post was originally started over a month ago and the subject line was “Saving My Readers From A Tortured Analogy”.  One month later, I don’t remember what the tortured analogy was… I guess I saved myself in the process.

Whatever. On with the cardboard!

Horace Guy “Dooley” Womack achieved a not insignificant amount of fame by being traded for Jim Bouton during the season covered in Bouton’s book “Ball Four”. Bouton wrote “I’d hate to think that at this stage of my career I was being traded even-up for Dooley Womack”.
1968 Topps Dooley Womack
Bouton was no doubt relieved to find out that the Pilots also got minor leaguer Roric Harrison in the deal… Harrison would later pitch for the O’s, Braves Indians and Twins.

The above card is the third in my Dooley Womack PC; unfortunately his rookie card is a high-number he shares with Bobby Murcer, so I don’t think the “return on investment” is there for me.

Jim Hardin had a career year in 1968, going 18-13 with a 2.51 ERA. It was his only season with double-digit wins or losses.
1969 Topps Jim Hardin
Hardin had just 24 hits in 268 plate appearances, but he did some damage when he made contact… His 24 hits included a double, three triples, three homers and 17 RBI. He hit a walk-off homer in relief on May 10th, 1969.

Tom Seaver had 12 career homers, half of them coming with the Mets. If he hit any walk-off homers, I couldn’t find any reference to it.
1975 Hostess Tom Seaver

I think I first saw this next card over on the Dime Boxes blog… it’s the only baseball card to feature Goose Gossage in an honest-to-God Pirates uniform (instead of being airbrushed).
1978 Kelloggs Rich Gossage

COMC Spree: Five Cards From The 1960’s

Back at the end of July I made a 100+ card purchase from COMC, and I’m slowly working my way through the stuff I got. Today I’ll share five vintage cards that share the unifying element of being vintage… and being cards. Say, has anybody seen my brain, I could’ve sworn I left it around here somewhere…

I’ve recently had a bit of a fixation on cards picturing players who would later be the MLB managers of my youth. Del Crandall was the manager of the Brewers when I started collecting, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I found out that he was an eight-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner.
1965 Topps Del Crandall

Similarly, Bill Virdon was the manager of the Yankees back when I started following baseball. While I’ve always been a Mets fan, I started out also liking the Yankees… until I came to discover that George Steinbrenner’s style did not match my own. Bill Virdon was fired with a winning record in the middle of the 1975 season… apparently he was fired because Billy Martin became available after the Rangers had sacked his ornery ass. Can you tell I don’t think much of Billy Martin?
1963 Topps Bill Virdon
Bill Virdon the player does not have the same credentials as Del Crandall, but he was the 1955 Rookie Of The Year and was considerate an intelligent player and an excellent fielder. He was also the winner of the first annual MLB “Father Mulcahy” impersonation contest… Jocularity! Jocularity!

Naturally, me being a Mets collector, I got some Mets. Joe Christopher was an original 1962 Met, and is one of only a handful of players to have come out of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
1965 Topps Joe Christopher

For some reason, I’ve latched on to Ron Hunt and collect him with both the Mets…
1965 Topps Ron Hunt

…as well as with other, less lovable teams.
1968 Topps Ron Hunt

You know, I often have a problem with ending posts, so I’m thinking that maybe I should take a page from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, shun the conventions of the medium and just abruptly –

THE END

I’ll Bet The Kids In 1968 Loved This Card…

1968 Topps Mike HeganI never experienced this card as a kid, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve thought it was cool… The fake action pose is pretty good, but what really sells the card is Mike Hegan staring right into the camera. Dude, he’s looking right at us!!!

Regardless of this awesome card, Mike Hegan would have a place in my collection solely because he played for the Seattle Pilots.  He must’ve been one of the earliest members of the Pilots, because baseball-reference.com lists him as having been sold to the Pilots in June, 1968… Close to a year before the Pilots would take the field.  He spent all of 1968 in AAA, so maybe that was part of the arrangement.

Here’s a 1969 Topps Scratch-Off I’ve previously featured…
1969 Topps Scratch Off Mike Hegan

No Rhyme Or Reason: Three Arbitrary And Unrelated Cards

1968 Topps Fred WhitfieldI’ve had this card since I was a kid. In a collection full of 1970’s cards, it was one of the few 1960’s cards I had.

At the time, I thought of Fred Whitfield as “really old”, but it wasn’t until I grew up and looked back on it that I realized that it wasn’t so much about his age as much as how he seemed like he was from another era. The ballplayers I was familiar with were very hairy guys… Long hair, big afros, sideburns, moustache, or some combination of the above. This stern-looking guy with the close-cropped hair and the zippered vest…well, he was not of this Earth.

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This Miguel Tejada card has personal significance, but not in a good way.  For sets like Heritage where I bust plenty of wax but don’t try to complete it, I had several criteria I used to make up wantlists after I was done ripping wax.  This Tejada was a short print that was on my want list because even though he’s pictured with the A’s, he’d played for the Orioles.  Tejada’s a relatively big name and a former Oriole, but I don’t like him and don’t think much of him, and that resulted in a huge case of buyer’s remorse as soon as I pulled this sucker out of the box from COMC.  True, I only spent a couple of bucks of COMC credit for it, but it bugs me a little that I could’ve gotten something more enjoyable, even a handful of commons.  It was this card that caused me to change my wantlist criteria for Heritage to “Mets, Orioles and players I like”.

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Back in the spring I bought a complete set of 1988 Big Baseball (shelled out all of $5 for it and probably paid too much). I pulled out the cards I wanted, and put the rest in a box headed out the door for parts unknown. This is one of the cards I kept, solely because I like it.

Cory Snyder trying to turn two, Kevin Seitzer trying to stop him, cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium as the backdrop, undoubtedly filled with hundreds of screaming fans…

Mets Monday: 1968 & 1969 Bill Short

1968 Bill Short says “Aw, man!  I got sold to the Mets!”

1969 Bill Short says “Aw, man!  They’re using the same photo they did last year!”

Bill Short’s presence on a card in the first place is a bit questionable (no offense intended, Bill).  Although he pitched in 1960, 1962 and 1966-1969, he never appeared in more than 34 games in a season (in 1968 with the Mets) and never pitched more than 46 innings (in 1966 with the Orioles and Red Sox).

Bill played for six different teams without getting traded.  He started with the Yankees, was drafted by the Orioles in the 1961 Rule 5 draft, was sold to the Red Sox, who sold him to the Pirates, who sold him to the Mets, who then lost him in the 1968 Rule 5 draft to the Reds.  I wonder how  many players have been drafted twice in the Rule 5 draft?  Certainly not many were drafted 7 years apart, but back then the Rule 5 draft was more for guys trapped in the minors than it was for taking a flyer on guys with no experience outside of the minors (which is what happens most of the time these days).

BTW, while he might’ve said “Aw, man!” about being sold to the Mets, he might not have felt that way about going to New York.  He was born in Kingston, NY (2 hours from Shea) and went to high school in Newburgh, NY (90 minutes from Shea).