Super Aaron And Red Man Lemon

A friend of mine swears he saw “Super Aaron And Red Man Lemon” open for Parliament Funkadelic when they played Madison Square Garden in the 1970’s and they were AWESOME!

OK, fine, I made that up.  Within the context of this post, “Super Aaron” and “Red Man Lemon” refer to two beautiful, oversized cards I recently picked up from COMC.

“Super Aaron” is my 1970 Topps Super Hank Aaron (or “A-A-Ron”, as Key & Peele now have me thinking). One thing I’ve noticed about COMC is that their scanners highlight every flaw on a card… which is a good thing, since you want to be able to see those flaws… but I’ve found that it often makes a non-mint card look worse than it is.
1970 Topps Super Hank Aaron
This card is obviously miscut, but it looks a lot worse in scans than it does in person. In person, it’s still a nice card that I’m very happy to add to my collection.

Like the football Supers, the back is generally the same as the regular 1970 Hank Aaron, but with a different card number.
1970 Topps Super Aaron back

Here’s “Red Man Lemon”… more specifically, a 1953 Red Man Bob Lemon.  Whenever I’m doing a shopping spree on COMC, I always look to see if there’s anything relatively inexpensive in the Red Man section, and this was the acquisition this time around.  Any Red Man cards in my price range is missing the redemption tab at the bottom, but ask me if I care.
1953 Red Man Bob Lemon
I grew up thinking of Bob Lemon as a manager with the Yankees, White Sox and Royals, but he’s far better known as a Hall-Of-Fame pitcher. What I hadn’t known is that he started out as a position player… In fact, he was the centerfielder for one of Bob Feller’s no-hitters. Lemon lost time to World War II, and that combined with his start as an infielder meant that his pitching career was fairly short for a HOFer.  However,  he had an impressive run from 1947 to 1956. During that 10 year period he went 197-111, struck out 1,185 batters, threw 31 shutouts, pitched complete games in more than half of his starts, was a 7-time All-Star, a 7-time 20-game winner and no-hit the Tigers in 1948.

Here’s the back of the card, which is all about the promotion that Red Man was running.
1953 Red Man Bob Lemon Back

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Hot Stove: Cruz, Markakis & Miller View Baltimore Through Their Rear-View Mirrors

Last week was not a good week for Orioles fans.

I expected Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller to go elsewhere… But to lose both of those guys AND Nick Markakis, the guy who had the longest tenure of any Oriole?  All within the span of 6 days?

Last week was not a good week.

But we must soldier on…  Perhaps we must, to beat a dead meme even more than it’s been beaten, “Keep calm and make customs”.

For those new to this blog, the following are all custom baseball cards based on the 1974 Kellogg’s set, and all three players in today’s post were “Photoshopped” into their new uniforms.  (Although I actually used Paint Shop Pro)

First we had Nelson Cruz head to the Pacific northwest.  Later, Cruz.  Front door, backside.
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #10 Nelson Cruz
I kept my emotional distance from Nelson Cruz last year. The guy signed a below-market one-year contract late in the offseason, so I figured there were two ways it could go… 1) Cruz would have a good season and take off for bigger piles of cash than the Orioles would pay, or 2) Cruz would be worthless without the PED’s and the Orioles wouldn’t want him back. Either way, the guy was clearly a short-timer. I’ll miss his offense, I won’t miss him.

For what it’s worth, the Nelson Cruz custom was made before the official announcement, and was a means of killing time while I was on hold with my internet provider’s support line.

…And then there’s Nick Mar-kick-ass. For a long while it seemed that re-signing with the Orioles was a mere formality. Then talks slowed down. Then they stopped. And the next thing you know, I’m digitally putting Markakis into a Braves uniform.
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #11 Nick Markakis
This just looks wrong, and I’m not talking about my work on the card. Nick is supposed to be an Oriole, what’s he wearing that damn tomahawk for?

For his troubles, Markakis is going to have to switch numbers; his customary #21 was retired for Warren Spahn, so he’s switched to #22.

Before we move on to the third custom, I’ll point out that the Braves will be playing in Baltimore in late July. Should be interesting to see how Nick is welcomed back.

Finally, Andrew Miller went to the Yankees… and you can’t even say he went just for the big payday, because the Astros offered him more. Frankly, I probably would’ve gone to the Astros – More money, and possibly a brighter future than you have in the Bronx (but that’s probably wishful thinking on my part).
2014-15 TSR Hot Stove #12 Andrew Miller
Useless information: I adapted Miller’s Yankee jersey from an image of Ichiro. I think it’s fairly safe to say that in real life the 6’7″, 210 lb. Miller would not be able to wear the jersey of the 5’11”, 170 lb. Ichiro… But that’s the magic of digital photo manipulation!

I decided to combine the heavy shadow on Miller’s face with a nighttime Yankee Stadium background, thus creating my first night card for the 2014/15 Hot Stove set. You’re welcome, Night Owl.

So there you have it… Three former Orioles moving on.   Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m making customs of guys coming to the Orioles.

Schadenfreude, Pure And Simple

That’s what drove me to turn on the TV and watch the Mets mathematically eliminate the Braves from Wild Card contention.

I mean, what’s a Mets fan to do?  I knew that the Braves’ “Tragic Number” was 2 going into Sunday.  I saw that the Pirates beat the Brewers, dropping the number to 1.  And I saw that the Mets had a 5-run lead going into the 9th inning of their game in Atlanta.

…So I turned on the Braves’ broadcast and I sat down to watch their season draw to a close.

1970 Topps Tommie Agee
(BTW, the Mets cards here are ones I recently picked up at a show.)

From the crowd at the game in the 9th inning, you would’ve thought the game was at CitiField.  Official attendance was over 35K, so most of the fans had already left.

And I sat there and watched the Braves’ thin postseason hopes fade away.

Out

By

Out

1992 Leaf Bret Saberhagen

…And let me tell you, it was a nice consolation prize.  Postseason would’ve been awesome.  A winning record would be great (still not mathematically impossible).  Having a better record than the Yankees would’ve been sweet too.

But being the team to knock out the Braves?  Yeah, I’ll take it.

1993 Toys R Us Todd Hundley

Turns out that there could be another consolation prize on the horizon.  The Mets find themselves a half-game behind the 2nd place Braves.  Dare I dream?

Some of you might be questioning why I would find joy in the misery of others, and to you I say:  “This is my 41st season as a Mets fan.  I’ve gotta take what I can get.”

2000 Upper Deck Roger Cedeno

Is anybody else out there enjoying their team’s role as a spoiler?

1976 SSPC #2 – Tom House (Braves / Red Sox)

1976 SSPC #2 Tom House

Tom House… was a relief pitcher for 8 years in the majors, but that’s the least of what he’s known for. On April 8, 1974, House was in the bullpen and caught Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. After his pitching career, House was the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers and introduced some unconventional techniques, including having pitchers throw a football as a drill.  Whenever you see a junk wax era card of Rangers pitchers throwing a football, that’s Tom House behind that.

He continues to work with pitchers as well as some big-name quarterbacks.

As a left-handed reliever, House pitched for the Braves, Red Sox and Mariners, going 29-23 with 33 saves and a 3.79 ERA

In 1976, Tom House… pitched for the Red Sox after having been traded straight-up for Rogelio Moret.  He made 36 appearances and finished with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.328 WHIP.

Shea-o-meter: Many of the photos in 1976 SSPC were taken in Shea Stadium; Every team came through Shea because the Yankees were temporarily playing in Shea while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. “Can two Major League teams share a ballpark without driving each other crazy?”

This photo was taken in Shea, near the 1st base dugout
Shea: 43
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 7
Can’t tell: 10
Not Shea: 6

SSPC vs. Topps: Tom House appeared in the 1976 Topps set as a Brave, and was airbrushed into an iridescent Red Sox cap for the Traded set.

1976 SSPC #2 Tom House back

What The Heck Is Wrong With Me?

At the last show I went to, I was looking at semi-high numbered 1972 commons. The dealer had two cheap G-VG copies of #591, Paul Casanova.

I looked at the two, went back and forth for a few seconds, and then intentionally added the off-centered one to my stack.
1972 Topps Paul Casanova
I guess I like the xxxx’s from the edge of the sheet, it sort of gives the card character.

But I still don’t know what’s wrong with me.

1976 SSPC #15 – Biff Pocoroba (Braves)

1976 SSPC #15 Biff Pocoroba
Biff Pocoroba… was a catcher who was with the Braves from 1975 to 1984. In 1978 he was named to the All-Star team and caught the 9th inning as a defensive replacement.

In terms of sheer numbers, his best season was probably 1977 when he set a number of career-high totals, including 113 games, .290 average, 8 homers, 44 RBI and 24 doubles — three times as many doubles than he hit in any other season.

BIFF!  When I was a kid, I loved Biff Pocoroba’s name… not only is it fun to say, but it’s featured in the opening credits of the 1960’s Batman TV show:

Batman Biff

How many Major Leaguers can say that?

In 1976, Biff Pocoroba… was a backup to starting catcher Vic Correll. He appeared in 54 games, started 51 as a catcher, batted .241 with 0 homers and 14 RBI.

Shea-o-meter:   If you asked Biff Tannen from the “Back To The Future” movies whether this is Shea Stadium, he might whack you upside your head and say “McFly!  Wake up, McFly!”
Shea: 34
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 6
Can’t tell: 6
Not Shea: 5

Betcha didn’t know… His name actually is Biff… Biff Benedict Pocoroba.

Cardboard History: This card, along with 1976 Topps, are his rookie cards.

Nothing to do with the card, but I’ll say it anyway: The Braves are one of a number of teams to introduce an “Alternate Batting Practice Cap” this year. As Yogurt from the movie “Spaceballs” would say, “MOICHANDISING!!!”

The new cap pretty much looks like the cap Biff is wearing, except it’s navy blue instead of royal blue.

1976 SSPC #15 Biff Pocoroba back

Rockin’ The Suburbs

Like pretty much everybody else, I was shocked and stunned when the word got out that the Atlanta Braves would be leaving not-yet-legal-drinking-age-if-it-were-a-person Turner Field for a new ballpark constructed specifically for them in Cobb County, north of the city of Atlanta.

2010 Upper Deck #542 - Atlanta Braves BP - Courtesy of COMC.com

2010 Upper Deck #542 – Atlanta Braves BP – Courtesy of COMC.com

From a sheer business standpoint, it’s a no-brainer.  Your lease is coming up, someone’s gonna give you a far better deal, you jump at it.

From a more subjective standpoint, this seems kind of shifty somehow.  Of course, as a Mets fan, I don’t need any encouragement towards thinking that the Braves are pond scum.

I also wonder what this will do to the Braves attendance.  On the website dedicated to this project, they’ve got a “blood spatter” map that shows that the new ballpark is in the heart of Braves country, at least when you consider where the people buying tickets are located… but that’s where the ticket buyers live.  The real question is “Where are they coming from when they go to games?”   How many of them go to weeknight games from work, and how many work in Atlanta?

1994 Score Atlanta Braves Checklist

I know this isn’t Turner Field, but all of my Braves “stadium” cards feature Fulton County Stadium.

As someone who follows minor league baseball in terms of both prospects and the business thereof, the other thing that sprung to  mind is the plight of the AAA Gwinnett Braves.

The Braves talked up a good game when they moved their AAA team to a different Atlanta suburb from the one they’re moving the big team to.  It sounded great on paper… Putting a minor league team into a market where they have an instant fan base.  The Brooklyn Cyclones do great in the Mets’ backyard… The Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Reading Fightin’ Phils do extremely well in the shadow of Philadelphia, as do the Frisco Roughriders in suburban Dallas/Ft. Worth.

But check out the average attendance figures for the G-Braves since they moved to Gwinnett County:

2009:  First season, brand new ballpark, disappointing honeymoon – 5,966 avg. attendance, 12th in the International League, 20th in AAA

2010:  4,818, 13th in the IL, 26th in AAA

2011:  5,095, 12th in the IL, 24th in AAA

2012:  4,680, 12th in the IL, 26th in AAA

2013:  4,762, 13th in the IL, 26th in AAA

…So in 5 seasons in suburban Atlanta, the G-Braves have never averaged 6,000 fans per game, and have never finished higher than 12th in the league in average attendance or 20th in AAA.  I know there are probably several dozen reasons why it doesn’t apply to the Major League club, but it does makes me wonder.

I  do hope that this is a bad move for the Braves, because the fewer chanting, foam tomahawk-waving zombies there are, the better.

At any rate, it’s all good for the Atlanta Braves, because in their new ballpark they’ll be rockin’ the suburbs…

 


A message to readers of The Shlabotnik Report: I’ve noticed that many of the blogrolls show my most recent post as being from this past Friday, but as you may have noticed, that is decidedly not the case.

Please be aware that I publish every day, usually around 7am EST, so if I’m not showing up on the blogroll of your choice, please don’t think that I’ve abandoned you.

Thank you,

Joe S.

Take Two Mets And Call Me In The Morning

At the beginning of the week I was talking to my friend Frieda, who’s a Braves fan. Forgetting who was playing who after the wild card games, I said that the only matchup that could result in my rooting for the Braves was if they’d played the Dodgers. As a kid in the 1970’s I took a general dislike to the Dodgers, and I’ve never completely let that go.

Frieda said, “The Braves do play the Dodgers on Thursday, so are you going to root for the Braves?”

The rivalry hasn’t been much over the past 5 years, the Braves aren’t AMERICA’S TEAM! anymore, and Chipper’s gone, so I grudgingly said I would try… although I’d still be rooting for the winner to get no further than the NLDS.

So I happened to have the beginning of the game on last night. The foam tomahawks came out, the extremely obnoxious chanting started, and that was as much as I could take. Sorry, Frieda.

So my more realistic assessment of the series is that I hope it’s a high-scoring, extra-innings 5-game affair that will leave the winner worn out for the NLCS.

…and I feel a strong need to cleanse the palate…

1976 Topps Tom Seaver RB

1995 Donruss Top Of The Order Todd Hundley

…Aaaaah, that’s better.

1976 SSPC: #33 Darrel Chaney (Reds/Braves)

1976 SSPC #33 Darrel Chaney

Darrel Chaney… Was a shortstop/utility infielder who played 11 seasons in the majors, mainly with the Reds and Braves and mainly as a reserve.  He played in the 1970, 1972 and 1975 World Series.  Due to an off-season trade, he’s listed on the back of the card as a Brave, which is why this post’s subject line lists both teams.

In 1976, Darrel Chaney… was the Braves starting shortstop after being acquired from the Reds for Mike Lum.  He hit a career-high .252, and drove in a career-high 50 runs.  He also lead the NL with 37 errors, but don’t tell him I said that.

Betcha didn’t know… Chaney was an All-American quarterback in high school and turned down 35 football scholarships to sign with the Reds.

About this card… As you can see on the back of the card (below), Chaney was traded on 12/12/75, making it one of the later trades to be reflected in this set.

That’s an interesting knob on Darrel’s bat… or at least interesting to me.  It’s more of a flaring-out of the bat than a proper knob, and I didn’t know they did that in 1975… but I’m anything but an expert on bats, so don’t listen to me.  I’m just talkin’ here.

I tried to figure out who’s in the batting cage behind Chaney.  It looks like the number on the uniform is 31;  if that’s the case then the player is pitcher Clay Kirby.  Anybody have any other suggestions?

1976 SSPC #33 Darrel Chaney back

1976 SSPC: #18 – Cito Gaston (Braves)

1976 SSPC #18 Cito Gaston

Clarence “Cito” Gaston… is best known these days as the manager of the Blue Jays’ two World Championship teams in 1992 and 1993.  Before that, he had an 11-season career as a Major League outfielder, mainly with the Braves and Padres.  As a Padre in 1970, he batted .318 with 29 HR and 91 RBI, and was a National League All-Star.

In 1976, Cito Gaston… was a 4th outfielder with the Braves, hitting .291 in 69 games.

So… take your time… and tell me… Is it Shea?  Indubitabubitably.

Betcha didn’t know… The Padres drafted Cito from the Braves in the 1968 expansion draft;  he was the last player selected by the Padres.

SSPC vs. Topps: Gaston’s 1976 Topps card has a similar “fake batting pose in a road uniform” photo.
1976 SSPC #18 Cito gaston back

Favorite songs from 1976:

We want the funk.  Give up the funk.  We need the funk.  We gotta have the funk.