Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Guess who turned 21 today?  I'll give you a hint: His baseball card may or may night be slightly north of this sentence.

Can you believe that Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez is just turning the tender age of 21?  And already he's won seven big league games while posting an ERA south of 3 through 20 starts.  Not to mention an All-Star game appearance.  Not to mention a 13-strikeout, 8-inning gem against the Pirates last Sunday.  Not to mention he's doing this on a team with the worst record in the league.

He's certainly got my attention.  And the attention of the entire baseball community, for sure.

Thankfully, the Mets will miss him and his devastating curveball during the current four-game series down in the Miami Municipal Fish Tank.  All the more reason to wish the youngster a happy birthday!

The above Bowman Chrome mini was a COMC purchase a couple weeks ago.

So was this Bowman Top 100.

Ditto for this 2011 Bowman Chrome refractor.

I've been in my own little Mets world of late, thus I forgot to give these cards the love and attention they deserve.  I put in the order for these a day or so before Mrs. K surprised me with a pair of Jose cards, including the regular non-refractor version of the Chrome card.  So, I felt a little bad after the fact for ordering these on my own.  But, not that bad, since each was very economically priced.

Fernandez.  Harvey.  Strasburg.  Boy , the N.L. East is certainly stocked with some young, Grade-A arms!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Angel in the Envelope

For his prolific 16-year career, Vladimir Guerrero collected 2,590 base hits, smacked 449 home runs, and drove in a whopping 1,496 runs.  He made nine All-Star squads, won eight Silver Slugger awards and, in 2004, was named the A.L.'s Most Valuable Player.  Career batting average?  How about .318?!

There wasn't much on a ball field that Guerrero couldn't do.  At the plate, in the field, or on the bases, Vlad was someone for whom you had to gameplan.  He was the essence of a five-tool player.  And his ticket to Cooperstown is all but assured.

A big 'thank you' to Bert of Swing and a Pop-Up for recently floating me this 2007 Fleer Ultra jersey card of the great Vlad.  And, thus allowing me to wax a little about one of the game's all-time greats.

As far as PWEs are concerned, they don't get much better than this.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Cranberry, Strawberry, We Love Throneberry!

The part of my brain dedicated to card collecting has seriously been overtaken by all this All-Time Mets Project business. So much so that I've kinda put 2013's set pursuits -- Heritage and Series 2 flagship -- on the back burner.  In fact, at the Concord Mall sports and hobby show this past weekend, I didn't even attempt to search for any cards to help any of my set collecting needs.  Instead, it was all about combing through dime and nickel boxes searching for Mets.  Old Mets, new Mets, forgotten Mets, lousy Mets -- you name it.

But, let me not get too off-tracked.  This post isn't about all my card-show finds from the weekend; that'll have to wait til later this week.  Instead, I've gotta make up some ground on the Mets additions that arrived from my recent eBay prospecting.

When I first envisioned doing the Mets project, one of the first names/cards that came to mind is the one you see above.  "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry is one of the most notorious figures from Mets lore.  But, unlike Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Gary Carter, Throneberry's notoriety didn't stem from his on-field greatness.
Rather, Marv became the iconic posterboy from the lovably inept days of New York's newly-minted National League club.  Scorned throngs of Giants and Dodgers fans who saw their favorite teams whisked 3,000 miles west flocked to the Mets in 1962 and, so happy to have NL baseball back in the Big Apple, placed little to no importance on quality of play or results.

And that's where Throneberry came into focus.  Once a highly-prized power-hitting prospect for the Yankees, Throneberry's numerous defensive gaffes and baserunning blunders during the '62 season are the stuff of sports mythology.  Real, fabricated or exaggerated, these anecdotes endeared Marv to the masses in spite of it all.

I've read conflicting accounts of Throneberry's reaction to this goofball mystique.  In some renderings, Throneberry took it all in stride, and actually played up the persona.  Conversely, I've also read about how Marv took the facetious treatment of his exploits with copious amounts of sadness.  Consider, after all, that this guy at one time was regarded as the next Mantle when he was bashing his way through the minors.  To fall from that height to being the butt of jokes for a historically inept ball club can't be an easy pill to swallow.

Anyhow, Throneberry is an important piece in the patchwork of Mets history, and I was thrilled to snag his 1963 Topps card for a mere 40 cents (plus shipping).

To be fair, it should not have taken me this long to get a copy of this card, Mets project or no Mets project. But, better late than never.

In a separate transaction, I was able to scoop up a seven-pack of Mets from 1965 for about four bucks shipped. All in pretty good condition.

I know the '65 design, replete with the neat little team flag, is a favorite among most collectors.  And I can't raise a dissenting voice on that front.  [Ed. Note: Boy, is next year's Heritage set is gonna be under major scrutiny or what?!?]  Not even the curious combination of a green inner border and a yellow pennant can muck up these cards.  Furthermore, Mets cards from '65 are likely to feature the ultra-cool 1964 New York World's Fair patch, as seen on the left sleeves of Messrs. Smith and Locke.

This was by far my favorite of the lot.  If not for the big-baseball-headed mascot who runs around Citi Field, Ed Kranepool would be a prime candidate for the Mr. Met moniker.  Seaver was the Franchise, yes, but Kranepool was the ironman of the franchise.  He played 1,852 games over 18 years for the Amazins -- by far the longest tenure of any player to suit up for the Mets.  He debuted in 1962 as a cocky 17 year old from the Bronx and bowed out after the 1979 season at the age of 34.  Kranepool would make his lone All-Star team in 1965, the same year as this card.  That, coupled with a great portrait shot of Kranepool, makes this a prime choice for binder inclusion.

Not counting the Kranepool or Hunt cards (since I already had cards for each), that's six more pick-ups for the ATMP.  A pretty good appetizer for the 20+ additions that awaited me at the Concord show...


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Have You Met...? Mets Cards From Up North

I know there are plenty of fine bloggers from our friendly neighbors to the north [Ed. Note: In case you didn't win the 8th grade geography bee like I did, that would be Canada.], but I've never had the opportunity to strike up a deal with any of them.

But all that changed a couple of weeks ago when Douglas from the blog Sportscards from the Dollar Store dropped me a line in regards to my then-newly minted All-Time Mets Project.  A fellow Mets fan (and a Jays fan, as well), Douglas was nice enough to offer up a pretty colorful list of Mets that I was still lacking from my collection.

Among the biggest hits was the above 1976 Topps Traded of Mickey Lolich.  To my knowledge, this is one of only two archival cards that exist with Lolich in Mets duds.  Albeit this one is airbrushed.  But, I can live with that since there aren't too many '76 Traded cards floating about.  That makes this card of the former Tigers All-Star a pretty special addition to the ATMP.

A pair of other old school Mets also found their way onto the roster of cards from Douglas.

In four seasons as a Met, Cal Koonce crafted a 15-12 record primarily as a reliever.  He appeared in 40 games, going 6-3 with a 4.99 ERA for the Miracle Mets of '69.  Martin, meanwhile, was also a member of the '69 Mets, where he was the primary backup to regular catcher Jerry Grote.

Two Mets from wayback, two Mets from the '69 World Champs.  Can't beat that!

From more recent days, Douglas unearthed some pretty great names.  

Hey, I said great names, not necessarily great players.  The Mets got Bubba along with reliever Rick White from the Devil Rays at the 2000 deadline in exchange for Jason Tyner and former Generation K member Paul Wilson. Bubba was a key pinch hitter and role player down the stretch for the eventual NL champs in 2000, and even contributed three RBIs in the Fall Classic that year.

Zambrano was Tampa Bay's all-time leader in wins and strikeouts when the Mets acquired him in a most controversial trade at the 2004 deadline.  New York saw fit to part with mega pitching prospect Scott Kazmir in order to get Zambrano, who was 9-7 with a 4.43 ERA at the time of the deal.  Rick Peterson, the Mets pitching coach at the time, really pushed for this trade, bragging that he could tutor Zambrano into a front-line starter, while pronouncing the diminutive Kazmir essentially unfit for the majors.  Well... Zambrano went 10-14 in 39 games as a Met, while the 'iffy' Kazmir won 45 games and appeared in two All-Star Games in his first four years as a Ray.  If you look hard enough, you can still find a few Mets fans who bitch about this trade.

I've gotta be honest.  I've never heard of Kevin Lomon.  I had no idea someone with such a name played a game for the Mets.  And I certainly wasn't aware that a card of his appeared in the '95 Fleer Update set.  All the more reason to celebrate this addition to the Project!  Kevin's tenure with the Mets, by the way, lasted all of 9 1/3 innings over six games during the 1995 season.  The next year, with Atlanta, he saw time in six more games and then disappeared from the bigs forever.  The moral of the story?  You could pretty much throw your cap on the field and find yourself on a piece of cardboard during the prolific 1990's baseball card landscape.

Jeff Duncan, Star Rookie from 2003.  There was a time when Duncan figured to play into the future outfield plans in Flushing.  But a .182 average over the course of two major league stints pretty much knocked that notion off the table.  My wiki-research tells me that Duncan, formerly an assistant at Purdue University, will be the head coach of Kent State baseball in 2014.

And the final piece to show off is a real dandy.

I've always been fascinated by Japanese players coming into the majors.  And the Mets have had their fair share over the past 15 years or so.  Some have been successful, but most have been, well, duds.  Takahashi, though, would have to be considered a success in his one year with New York,  Hisanori -- one of two Takahashis to play for the Mets in their history -- won 10 games and posted a 3.61 ERA as a long man and spot-starter for the 2010 club.  This Chrome card represents one of the few Takahashi-as-a-Met cards that were produced.  He was featured in the Bowman set that year, but not the regular Topps or Topps Update set.

Thanks for your contribution to the All-Time Mets Project, Douglas.  These are all awesome grabs!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Charlie O'Brien: You Make the Call

Okay, I need some assistance from you.  Yes, you.

I always knew the former Brewer/Met/Blue Jay/Brav -- erm, too many other teams to name, so let's just say former big leaguer, okay? -- had a lot of neat-looking cards.  Never known for his plate prowess, O'Brien survived many a year in the Show by being an elite defensive catcher.  Thus, a number of his cards showcased Charlie in his catcher's gear, performing feats of competitive greatness.

But, I had no idea how many good ones ol' Charlie had til I started going through my COB cards in an effort to pick the one for my All-Time Mets binder.  Needless to say, it all became too much for me to process.

So, instead of agonizing over the decision, I figured I'd enlist the valued opinions of you good souls out there who might be reading this.

Thus, I submit to you the "Prime 9" Charlie O'Brien cards from my Mets collection.  Only one of the following will make the cut.

So, who's it gonna be?

1991 Score -- I love the black-bordered cards from this set.  Here we see Charlie springing into action, ripping the mask off.  Tremendously cool action shot.

1991 Upper Deck -- Not as much of an action shot, but I'm a sucker for '91 UD.  Plus, we get a rare peak at Charlie wearing a normal ball cap, and not the backwards shell.

1992 Ultra -- Another sequence with COB disposing of the mask in order to do his thing.  But, this one is presented in full early-'90s HD gloss.

1992 Score -- Did he swing??  Charlie sure thinks so, but he's looking for a little help.  Very unique photo.

1992 Stadium Club -- I've seen this card bounced around the blogosphere in the past.  A pretty amazing action sequence, even though the Chuckster appears to be flubbing the play.

1992 Upper Deck -- The orange chest protector and shin guards in all their glory.  A classic pose.

1993 Donruss -- Many cards from '93 Donruss are going to find their way into the ATMP binder.  It's an incredibly beautiful set and, thanks to this project, my eyes have really been opened to that fact.  Could this be one of the many that makes the cut?

1994 Score -- The de-masked O'Brien jogging into action.  Kinda crazy that the Score brand is responsible for one-third of the cards in this poll.  But, they deserved the love.

1994 Topps -- Is that Steve Finley who's about to get tagged in the mug?


So there you have it.  If you feel strongly about one of these fine candidates, do your old boy Kaz a favor and vote in the poll in the upper right-hand column.  And feel free to justify your decision in the commentary section. I'll need all the rationale I can get!

I'll keep the poll open through the weekend and I'll formally present the winner next week.

Charlie and I appreciate your assistance!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Wrong Pinstripes, and Other Musings (A Trade Post)

Monday afternoon's mail delivery brought me an unexpected pleasure -- a big ol' yellow mailer stuffed with cards from T.J., the Junior Junkie.  And when I say stuffed, I mean stuffed.  Two big bundles of assorted Mets favorites as well as other players I actively pursue.

Now, as much as I despise seeing the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden or David Cone in Yankees pinstripes, I couldn't help but choose the above '97 Fleer Ultra of Straw to be the header for this post.  In it's greatness, this card defeats any bias I harbor towards that other New York ball club.

Likewise for another couple Strawberry cards, which feature the man in foreign-colored pinstripes.

What can I say, I'm a sucker for that leg kick.  Darryl is one of those guys who can't help but being the subject of a great-looking baseball card.

That being said, T.J.'s assortment of Strawberry cards did include Darryl wearing the right kind of uniform.

I go back and forth between these two cards and just can't settle on which one is my favorite all-time Topps card of #18.  If you forced me to answer right now, I'd side with the '88.  In fact, I'm even leaning towards using that very card for the All-Time Mets Project binder.  Then again... that '89 has the iconic batting stride. Plus, '89 Topps is my personal favorite set, so there's that.

You know, I've never had the pleasure of being bipped before, and I'm not sure if there is a card-minimum by definition, but...

Wellp, I can cross that off my bucket list now!  (This is one of Doc's best cards, by the way!)

Oh, and getting back to that ATMP binder, T.J.'s generosity also included some hits for my ongoing project.

Score!  Well, Topps actually, but you get my meaning.  Mike Marshall, who played in 53 unflattering games for the Mets in 1990 after an offseason trade with the Dodgers, was included in the '90 Traded set.  The photo on this card perfectly captures what I remember most about him from his time in Queens: Doing a whole lotta nothing.  Nonetheless, I'm still excited to cross another name off my player list.

Ditto for this next guy, who I wasn't even aware had a card in Mets garb.

The thing I remember most about Armando Reynoso was his pickoff move which, at the time, was regarded as one of the best by a RHP.  Also, Reynoso will always hold a fond place in my heart, as he was the Mets starter for the second-ever regular season game between the Mets and Yanks back in 1997.  I was at Yankee Stadium for that game, and it was one of the most amazing atmospheres I've ever experienced! Unfortunately, Reynoso got knocked out in the second, and the Mets lost, 6-3.  Still, it was an unforgettable night for 16-year-old Me.

I've already got cards for both Darrin Jackson and Robert Person, but I think these two might supplant those for the purposes of the ATMP.  I love the shades Jackson is sporting, plus you get the full effect of the short-lived swoosh underneath the Mets jersey script.  Person, meanwhile, is wearing the look of a competitor. On top of that, I think '95 Bowman is a sharp-looking set.

This is another card that might work its way into the running for ATMP inclusion.  I've never been a huge fan of 'Draft Pick' cards, but Topps put forth a winner with their DP designs in the 1995 set.

Payton, the everyday CF for the 2000 NL Champs, has quite a few good cards out there.

See what I mean??  An awesome card!  This one from '96 Topps.  Payton was a heckuva athlete who crafted himself a few really good seasons in the bigs.  In his rookie year of 2000, he batted .291 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs in 149 games.  Tremendous numbers for a rookie who hit near the bottom of the batting order.

Sometimes a card I might consider a real gem just doesn't fit the mold for what I envision of cards in the ATMP binder.  Case in point: 1995 Finest Bill Pulsipher.

I love the look of '95 Finest, and I especially love it when it features a Mets player.  But, perhaps this is a bit too busy-looking to make the ATMP cut.  After all, this card might be sitting in a binder page next to a 1982 Fleer or '78 Topps card of another player, which might create too much visual distortion for your's truly.

Then again, T.J. sent me two of these Pulsiphers, so maybe if I peel the protective coating off one of them it'll alter my thinking.  Maybe?  Only one way to find out, I guess...

Okay, so I fulfilled my Mets quota for this post.  Time to dig into some of the other neat findings from T.J.'s robust trade package...

Another awesome card from Pinnacle '96.  You would be forgiven if you forgot that Todd Zeile played a partial season in Philadelphia.  He did play for 11 different teams during his 16-year career.  Zeile smashed 20 homers in 134 games for the Phils in '96 before being dealt to the O's at the deadline along with Pete Incaviglia for the infamous "players to be named."

I absolutely loved these "You Crash the Game" cards back in the day.  Sure, they were essentially game pieces, but they were akin to landing an insert card back then.  Especially in Collector's Choice packs, which didn't feature too many inserts at all, if I'm remembering correctly.

Ah, one of my favorite all-time cards of Albert (Joey) Belle.  This is Belle's Topps rookie, if you don't count his appearance in the '89 Major League Debut set.  You could just tell how menacing this man would be with a bat (on and off the field, ahem) just by looking at his physique here.  One thing you can say about Belle, he wasn't no twig even as a rookie like, say, Barry Bonds.  I *hope* that indicates his career of elite power and production was legit.

From 1997, another gorgeous example of Topps Finest at its best.  Man, has Topps plunged that brand into the muck of banality or what?  I used to hold the Finest brand in the highest regard, even during the '90s when it was one of the many glossy, shiny faces in the crowd.  Now, it's rare that I go out of my way to grab a latter day Finest card of my favorite player.  The designs are bland enough, but what the heck am I gonna do with a card that's practically bowed into the shape of a U?

Sorry for that depressing opinion.  Let's finish on a high note.

Over the past year-plus, the blogosphere has blessed me with so many fantastic cards of my favorite players. I've found this especially be the case when it comes to Carlos Baerga.  I'll have to go back and review all my Baergas to be sure, but I'm gonna go ahead and put this in the top-5 in terms of most badass cards of Carlos.  Can you get any closer to the action than this?

Everyone together now: We miss you, Upper Deck!

What can I say, this trade package rocked, T.J.!  Thanks a million for the amazing stuff!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Prince and a King (but no royal baby)

So I heard the "royal baby" was born on Tuesday.

Moving right along, an old trading partner of mine popped onto the radar recently.  All the way back in February, Kyle in Illinois came through with a most incredible assortment of cards from my all-time favorite Stadium Club set, which would be the 1997 edition.  That trade still ranks among one of the most unexpected and enjoyable to date.

This time around, Kyle managed to hone in on a few more of my pressing set-collecting needs.  Take, for instance, the baseball 'royalty' pictured above.  Former Home Run Derby champ and current Tigers slugger Prince Fielder found himself in the Heritage short print category back in 2011.  Naturally, this is one SP that I needed.

And, not to be outdone by his royal underling...

...all hail the King!  King Felix, that is.  Yet another SP from that pesky '11 Heritage set.  Still got a ways to go on this checklist, but these two were pretty significant pickups, without a doubt!

I've still got a couple of open books from the 2012 collecting season, too.

Is that Koufax pose one of the most overused images in the Topps arsenal or what?  I think we've now seen it in every insert set over the last three years.  Anyhow, these two jagged little pills leave me just five cards shy of putting this Series 2 insert set to bed.

Of course, a big item on my collecting menu from 2013 is the Wal-Mart Series 1 blue parallel set.  And Kyle was able to conjure up eight cards that were lacking from my collection, including one of the game's most dominant hurlers.

This is one of the most perfect Series 1 cards, by the way.  Perfect utilization of the horizontal landscape. Anyways, with eight more cards added to the pot, I've now reached the 250-card plateau.  In other words, I'm three-quarters of the way home!

Finally, my lone vintage set pursuit -- at least for the time being -- is the '77 Topps issue.  A nice assortment of cards from that set found their way into this trade package, as well.

Tim McCarver the broadcaster doesn't really drive me to drink as happens to be the case with so many of my fellow baseball fans.  Though, he was really skating on thin ice during this year's All-Star Game when he begin reciting a spoken-word version of "Enter Sandman."  I guess we might consider that a fail-safe sign that Timmy is bowing out of the booth at the right time.

Love him or hate him, he was a pretty darn good backstop during his big league time.  Caught a couple of good pitchers along the way, I'd say.  And what else can we say of Dave "Kong" Kingman?  Well, forgetting about the man, this could potentially be a great Kingman card to include in the All-Time Mets collection. Stay tuned...

Many thanks, Kyle, for another terrific trade.  It's always a pleasure swapping cards with a fellow set collector!