Friday, August 30, 2013

Clubhouse Correspondence: Tim Wallach Blog

I nice big box of New York Mets cards arrived at Kaz Manor last week, hailing from New Mexico and the lair of Tim Wallach blog's mad scientist, Corey (or Stack, as I call him).

All the cards dated back to the lovable overproduction period -- and I say that genuinely.  I'm never disappointed to receive those splendid "junk wax" cards.  It's my childhood, after all.

Gems like this Jeromy Burnitz '94 TSC card definitely brought a smile to my face.  WOR-TV (or Channel 9 as we in the NY/NJ metro area called it) was the flagship television station for Mets baseball for thousands of years until cable TV swallowed up the entire sports broadcasting racket.  It was a "superstation" at one time, also, as I can recall watching Mets games on WOR when we visited my grandparents in Florida back in the '80s and early '90s.

The Burnitz card is one I've seen before, but never had I witnessed this Ryan Thompson card til the box o' Mets arrived from Stack.  Thompson's trademark style is on full display in this quirky card that could only come from the annals of old-school Stadium Club.

Both of these TSC cards may force themselves into the All-Time Mets Project.  Remember, each player gets just one card to represent them in the binder.  I can't imagine a better specimen of either player.

Speaking of the ATMP, Stack's package produced four new players to my collection.  Undoubtedly a joyous occasion!

Sticking with the Stadium Club theme for a moment longer, we find little-known shortstop Tito Navarro, who appared in just 11 more Major League games following his September 6, 1993 debut.  His only career RBI defeated the Braves in 10 innings on September 18 of the '93 campagin.

The speedy Ricky Otero played in 35 games for the Mets in 1995 before moving on to Philadelphia for a pair of seasons with the Phillies.  He was out of big leagues thereafter.  He managed just seven hits in 51 ABs (.137 BA) as a Metropolitan.

Boy oh boy, did Fleer Update '95 produce some scarce players.  And for that, I love 'em!  Much like fellow hurler Kevin Lomon who also appears in this set, I hadn't a clue a Blas Minor Mets card existed. Furthermore, I had no recolletion of Blas Minor pitching for the Mets.  A double bonus!

The extent of Brook Fordyce's big league service in Queens equaled four games, all within the 1995 season.  His only folly was coming up around the same time as Todd Hundley.  He would go on to play for the Reds, White Sox, Orioles and Devil Rays over the next nine seasons.

Four very obscure and much-appreciated additions to the Mets count.  To be honest, I get more excited about cards of guys like Navarro and Fordyce because they're often times tougher to come by than the established stars.

Thanks for all the Amazin' cardboard, Stack!  And may Wallach be with you, always...


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Four Topps, #700

The gremlins inside must have been in a good mood today because they decided to produce the first power number in the young history of our Four Topps study.  As long time collectors know, only the cream of the crop are tabbed (normally) for the century number cards, i.e. 100, 200, and so on.  Perennial all-stars, future HOFers, record setters, etc.

Well, three of the four cards you're about to see fit into that illustrious mold.  One of them does not.  I think you'll be able to figure out which of the following is the ugly duckling, so to speak.

So, without further delay, TWTTC presents four years of card No. 700...


Hmm.  Through the completion of the 1986 campaign, Dave Bergman never hit more than 7 homers or produced over 44 RBIs in a single season, spanning 12 years.  Ladies and gentleman, card #700 from 1987 Topps.  Hey, Stat Man:  Batted .231 in 65 games for Detroit during the '86 season.


Now THAT'S more like it!  One of the greatest third basemen of all-time, a batting champ, a World Series name it.  This is the type of guy who deserves a card number like 700.  Factor in the sweet baby blue Royals uniform, and you've got one of the best cards from the '88 set.  Hey, Stat Man:  Batted .290 with 22 homers and 78 RBIs for Kansas City in 1987.


If you grew up during the '80s in the NY-metro area, you were either a Mets fan or you worshipped Don Mattingly. I fell into the former category, of course, but I still vividly remember getting this card as a nine year old and being awed by it.  Hey, Stat Man:  Whacked five homers and drove in 20 runs during a sizzling July '88.


Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett was a hittin' machine for the Twins during the late '80s and into the '90s. Absolutely a no-brainer pick for one of the glamorous few century card numbers.  I especially love the color combo Topps cooked up for Twins cards in this set.  Hey, Stat Man:  Eclipsed the 200-hit mark for the fourth consecutive year with 215 in 1989.

And the Winner Is:  A case could easily be made for any of the non-Bergman cards above, but the dugout shot of the bat-brandishing Mattingly makes the '89 card of the Yankee first baseman one of the iconic pieces of the junk wax era.  An admittedly easy pick for a '89 Topps junkie like myself.


Monday, August 26, 2013

A Vintage Six-Pack

Other than a stray eBay purchase last week, I've not treated myself to any cards in roughly a month.  Each time I stroll past the card aisle in Target, Wal-Mart or K-Mart, I talk myself out of squandering my dough on a rack pack of this or a hanger box of that.  Perhaps my subconscious is preparing myself for life with a baby.  [Ed. Note: Yes, Mrs. K is due in late December with our first little one!]

Whatever, the reason, I've fallen behind in my pursuits of Series 2 Topps plus Heritage and Archives.  I'm to the point with each product that any new pack or box purchased is sure to net me mostly doubles.  And I know they're good for trading and such, but I just don't feel like throwing down 10 or 20 bucks on a hefty lot of dupes.

And that's the beauty of card shows.  You can attack set needs efficiently without taking on all the unwanted clutter and excess.  Thus I trekked to the fire hall in my town on Sunday for the monthly card show, fully intending to pursue the three aforementioned sets.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans?  Oh, I went to the show, but my stated mission was a bust.  None of the discount dealers had much of anything in the way of these sets.  Actually, let me be more accurate; I could have paid a quarter or more per card, but I'm much too cheap for that.  If I can't get a Topps common for a dime or less, I'm really not interested.  Unless it's the final card I need for a set, then I might splurge.

Rather than sulking, I made the most of my visit and picked up some other fun items.  I was happy to add on six vintage Mets cards to my collection, including the above '70 Topps "Pitching Leaders" card.  Tom Terrific led the league with 25 victories in 1969, en route to the first of three Cy Young awards he'd capture as a Met.  This, and each of the following, set me back a dollar.  To me, a much better deal than a 2013 Series 2 Colin McHugh card for 25-cents.

Miscut, yes, but a smooth-looking card of the '69 Series MVP.  And also my first card of Clendenon, thus allowing me to cross off this Mets hero from my All-Time Mets checklist.

Very excited to find this card of Cleon.  I've decided to make it a mini-goal of mine to collect all of Cleon's vintage Topps cards, this being my fourth.  And I believe this is his first stand-alone card.  Fun fact from the back: "Cleon hails from the same Mobile suburb which produced Hank Aaron, Billy Williams and Willie McCovey."  Wow, what a neighborhood!

Another from the '67 set.  Strictly according to physical features, Bill Hepler appears to have more in common with Orville Redenbacher or Frank Perdue than, say, Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton.  Well, Hepler did play in the big leagues, which is more than Orville or Frank can boast.  However, his career consisted of just 37 games, all within the 1966 campaign.  But, who's counting?  As long as he suited up for one game as a Met, and Topps or any other company put his likeness on a card, that player's card will be sought after by yours truly.  Another crossed off the ATMP list.

Shamsky, a member of the Miracle Mets and a player who was also lacking from my collection, has one of the best cards from '71 Topps.  At least from those I've seen, and there are plenty of good ones.  I've been hunting for this card and it's unique photo for quite some time.  Happy to own it, finally.

I badly wanted an archival Hodges card for my Project, and this is the cheapest one I've come across that's not torn and chewed-up to Kingdom Come.  It's obviously miscut and ever-so-slightly diamond cut, but it doesn't detract from an otherwise great card.  The famously stoic Hodges, a should-be Hall of Famer, will always be one of the true giants of Mets lore.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Four Topps, #103

The third installment of Four Topps brings us card No. 103.  Clearly this isn't an exotic number, so we normally shouldn't expect to find any Hall of Famers or superstars.  The foursome of cards we're about to check out doesn't stray from expectations, I'm afraid.  But, hey, there can be no 'complete set' without #103, right?

Let's see what we've got...

1987: Rick Aguilera

For the first time in three tries, a Mets card finds its way into the Four Topps experiment.  Aguilera is featured here in a classic spring training-style pose, wearing the traditional blue practice top that Mets players sported in Port St. Lucie in those days.  Hey, Stat Man:  Aguilera went 10-7 for the World Champion Mets in 1986, duplicating the exact win-loss record he posted the season prior.

1988: Curt Young

This southpaw from Saginaw, Mich. currently serves as the pitching coach for the A's.  Oh, hey, and is that a wax stain on the right-hand border of the card?  Cool.  Hey, Stat Man:  Went 13-7 with six complete games for Oakland in 1987.

1989: Tim Birtsas

Man, there's a lot of red on this card.  My eyes are drawn to the stirrups and cleats.  Ya know, it's nice to remember how baseball players used to wear cleats, as opposed to the glorified basketball sneakers with spikes that they wear nowadays.  Speaking of basketball, the blurb on the reverse side of this card reads: "Tim graduated from Michigan State University where he was basketball teammate of Lakers' Magic Johnson."  Way cool!  Hey, Stat Man:  Logged 36 innings for the '88 Reds, posting a 1-3 record with a 4.20 ERA.

I'm a '90 Topps guy, I've stated that numerous times.  But, I've never insisted it was a perfect product.  Case in point: using pea green for the team name and name plate on all Phillies cards.  And you thought Phillies cards couldn't get any uglier, right?  Yeesh.  Hey, Stat Man:  Lone appearance in 1989 was a April 24 start at Houston, where he allowed two runs and issued five walks over just three innings.  (The stinkin' Phils actually won, too.)

And the Winner Is:  Take a guess where I'm going with this one.  If you said the '87 Rick Aguilera, give yourself a cookie.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Clubhouse Correspondence: Swing and a Pop-Up

Every so often you come across a photo on a certain card that puzzles you for a moment or two.  Such was the case with this 2001 Mike Piazza card from the Pacific collection.

The hockey-style mask; when the hell did Mike Piazza wear the hockey-style mask?  Then it dawned on me. Since this is a 2001 card, the photo is most certainly from the prior season.  And what happened to him during that 2000 season that might cause Piazza to wear this more protective style of catcher's mask?

Two words: Roger Clemens.  And one more word: Beaning.  Oh, and just one more: Steroids.

In case you forgot, before the whole "I thought the bat was a ball" nonsense from the Subway World Series in '00, Clemens felt the need to throw the ball at Piazza's head in a regular season meeting between the two clubs in July.  Cos, y'know, Mike had essentially embarrassed Clemens in every prior matchup.

Anyhow, as a result, Piazza was advised to wear the hockey-style mask upon returning the lineup following the All-Star break.  From what I recall, Piazza hated the mask and didn't wear it very long.

I've never seen another card featuring Mike with the goalie mask til this one arrived in a package from Bert of Swing and a Pop-Up recently.

To my delight, there were a few amazing Pacific-brand cards included in the mix.  To some, Pacific and its many eccentric sets and styles are something of a blight, but I love 'em all.  If can add unique and colorful cards of my favorite players, like Edgardo Alfonzo, then I'm all for it.  It's, like, pizzazz, man!

Oddballs are always favorites around the Clubhouse.  Whether they came from a package of breakfast sausages or in eggs containing ladies' pantyhose, it's all the same, and it's all good.  Give Jimmy Dean some credit, as this photo captures the iconic pitching motion of Dr. K circa 1990.

I only wish my lawn looked this lush and healthy.  Roberto Alomar, a sure-fire Hall of Famer but a pretty forgettable Met.

The composition of this 2005 Donruss Diamond Kings insert leads me to believe it was designed to hold some fashion of bat or jersey relic, or both.  Kinda like Topps does nowadays for every insert they produce. I certainly don't mind in this case, though, as the Kid can do no wrong even on baseball cards.

I had to do a double-take on this one, because I initially thought it was a card I already had.  But upon further inspection, this one features former Mets hurler Masato Yoshii and not outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, which would be the "East Meets West" card that already owns space in my collection.  A great find, Bert!

The dark aviator shades and seemingly lazy follow-through on the swing make George Foster look more like a hitchhiker than a former MVP.  By the time the original copy of this '86 Topps card came out, Foster's best days had faded and his playing time in a crowded Mets outfield had seriously dwindled.  Still, Foster is a player that intrigues me.  It's always fun to get cards of his.

A neat insert of an obscure Met.  Jorge Toca's last name lent itself to any number of tedious and outright annoying plays-on-words.  For instance, Jorge drives in a run to give the Mets a lead in a late-season ballgame at Shea.  Logically, "It's a Toca Party here at Shea Stadium!"  You might not be surprised to know that Tim McCarver used that exact phrase in a Fox telecast during September 2000.

Some really fantastic Vladimir Guerrero cards made their way into the package from New Hampshire.  Just a couple to highlight here, both inserts.  To play it fair, I plucked one from his Montreal days and one from his L.A. days.  In particular, the level of activity on the New Age Performers insert form Topps Heritage is tremendous.  I guess we have to assume some sort of rundown sequence is unfolding since the catcher appears to be rounding third base in a Piersall-esque manner in pursuit of another baserunner.

Many thanks to you, Bert, for these and all the cards that traveled south from New England recently!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Four Topps, #52

In the seminal edition of Four Topps, gave us a relatively cushy card number (#740).  Though a Topps card number ending in a 0 or 5 doesn't guarantee you a gem, you're going to get a player who was either a league leader or a current/former All-Star.  [Ed. Note: At least that's how it used to be.]

But, what happens when you draw one of those non-conventional numbers.  Say -- oh, I dunno -- number 52? Well, if you're curious about such things, it's lucky that you stumbled upon this page.  Let's find out what card No. 52 offered Topps collectors from 1987 to 1990, shall we?

1987: Keith Atherton

In edition #740 of Four Topps, the winning card was the '88 Sutcliffe, thanks largely to some uber-manly facial hair.  Spoiler alert:  No such distinction can be awarded for the segmented caterpillar growing above Keith Atherton's upper lip.  Oh, and the blurb on the back of the card reads, "Keith played Little League and Babe Ruth ball."  Yeah, and so did I, what's your point?  Stats/Notes:  Atherton compiled a 5-8 mark in 47 relief appearances for Minnesota during the '86 season.

1988: Don Robinson

This is the first of two S.F. Giants cards you will see during this post, so I'm just warning yas.  I know I grew up during the '80s, but I was just a kid when this card came out.  Thus, I can't understand how or why those baggy, ruffly undershirt windbreaker things were a sensible uniform augmentation.  I'm sure they were great at keeping you insulated from the elements, but tell me how that can be comfortable during gameplay.  Stats/Notes: Robinson, who was acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 1987, went 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA in 25 relief appearances down the stretch for San Fran.

1989: Bob Brenly

Say this much for Bob Brenly, he sure didn't sit still after he decided to hang up the shinguards.  He's worked various broadcast jobs both nationally and for local TV, served as a Giants coach for a few years, and then skippered the Diamondbacks to their one and only World Series title in 2001.  Unless I'm mistaken, this is Brenly's final Topps card, as the Ohio native retired at the end of the '89 campaign.  Stats/Notes:  Batted below the Mendoza line (.189) in 73 games with the Giants in 1988.

1990: Jack Daugherty

If you're like me and you have a soft spot for 1990 Topps, it's cards like this one that really do it for ya.  The outrageous color scheme, especially the bright yellow team name and player nameplate, should make this thing an eyesore.  But somehow it works.  Then again, I might not be of sound mind and opinion, so you might disagree with me.  And you might not be wrong.  Stats/Notes:  Cracked his first ML home run -- his lone homer of the '89 season -- off Detroit's Frank Tanana on August 11 in a 7-3 Rangers win.

And the Winner Is:  Brenly is the most notable name of the bunch, even though that notoriety stems mostly from his post-playing days.  No matter, we'll give the former backstop the nod in this four-way battle.  It's tough to beat the creamy silver and black design elements that '89 Topps presents us with.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Have You Met...? Ken Singleton

Before he went on to star for the Baltimore Orioles, and long before he became a talking head for the television station of the Evil Empire, Kenny Singleton was a New York Met.

The Mets made Singleton, a New York native, the third-overall selection in the 1967 amateur draft.  Three years later, at the age of 23, the Hofstra product made his big league debut for his hometown club.

In two years in Flushing, Singleton played in 184 games and smacked 18 home runs.  But, prior to the 1972 season, the Mets sent their former first-rounder in a package to the Montreal Expos in exchange for the great Rusty Staub.

The '71 Topps card of Singleton you see above came to me in a PWE courtesy of the GCRL blog.  Judging by the corner wear and what appears to be a piece of scotch tape along the top edge, this boy has been well-loved and well-traveled.  When I come across cards like this, it makes me wonder what sort of stories a piece of cardboard could tell (if it could talk, of course).

Regardless of condition, I really dig the photo of Kenny.  Plus, it's a player that was previously lacking from my All-Time Mets collection.

In addition to the Singleton, Jim included a couple of 1977 set needs in the envelope.

Naturally, one of the cards would have to be a Dodger.  I appreciate this Tommy John card, and I'm happy to admit it to the collection, but I'm all Dodgered-out after the past three nights of baseball torture the Mets endured in Chavez Ravine.

Now this is a player I can get behind.  Perhaps he's not wearing the right uniform, but Tug McGraw is still Tug McGraw regardless of the clown costume he's pictured wearing here.

Many thanks for the goodies from the '70s, Jim!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Four Topps, #740

A basically simple post premise for an undoubtedly simple man.  One card from each Topps set from the four years representing my roots as a baseball card collector.  Those years would be 1987, '88, '89 and '90.  With a random card number that could only be generated by the ghosts in the machine at, we'll take a look at that number's card from each of the four sets.  And at the end I'll decide which one is the pick of the litter.

Shall we have a go?  Good!

In this maiden voyage of Four Topps, the digit du jour is 740...

1987: Rich Gedman

I'll assume most of you reading this probably overwhelmingly favor the '87 Topps style over any of the remaining Topps efforts you'll see below.  However, this is not a study solely based on a biased reaction.  If that were the case, the card from '89 Topps would win every time, hands down.  But, that's just me.  Gedman, by the way, socked 16 homers in 135 games for the AL-champion Red Sox in 1986.

1988: Rick Sutcliffe

As somebody who's tried to wear a beard the better part of four years, I have to say that Sutcliffe sports an exemplary specimen.  His broadcast work on ESPN baseball telecasts is a whole 'nother story, however.  In 1987, Sutcliffe paced the Senior Circuit with 18 victories.

1989: Dan Plesac

Another ballplayer-turned-broadcaster, but Plesac is downright pleasing with the work he puts forth as an analyst for the MLB Network's studio show.  Plesac saved 30 games for the Brewers in 1988, making his second of three career All-Star teams.

1990: Jesse Barfield

His nickname had to be Barf, right?  Unless Jesse was the type of guy who had zero sense of humor and would kick anyone's ass who dared poke fun at him.  In that case, I guess his nickname was Sir or Mister.  Anyhow, Barfield batted .240 with 18 homers in 1989, his first season in the Bronx.

And the Winner Is:  None of these absolutely jumped out and declared itself above the rest, but I'll give the inaugural Four Topps blue ribbon to Rick Sutcliffe from the '88 set.  Sure, he's not doing a damn thing on his card, while you've got assorted action shots on each of the other three samples.  But, the Cubs cards from '88 Topps are so perfectly done (I'm a sucker for shades of blue) and, well, Sut doesn't have any boogies up his nose or anything.  And that's a plus in my book.  Way to go, Rick!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Ten Nickels

It's always a treat to come across an iconic card for a bargain basement price.  Example A is Willie McGee's 1983 Topps rookie card.  You might not consider it to be any sort of cardboard mile marker, but I've always held it in pretty high esteem.

See, I used to have a baseball card price guide a long, long time ago -- I'm talking long ago, like "I bought it at my grammar school's book fair" long ago.  And the 1983 Topps pricing section featured Willie's card as a sample of what I assume the publisher deemed one of the more important cards.  Well, when you're 8 or 9 years old, you tend to put a lot of stock in that sort of thing.  Thus, I always hoped that someday I'd have a copy for my own.

Plus, you know, this is one of the more outstanding photographs to ever grace the face of a baseball card.  Its real beauty lies in the quirky nature of the cropping.  You've got half a first baseman and only 7/8 of McGee's head.  And the action sequence is amazing.  Looks like a scene from Veritgo.  And I haven't even touched on the background, replete with blue Shea Stadium wall, tarped-over bleachers and steel light stanchions.  Did we yet mention the inset photo, with a sneering Willie?

Easily, McGee's '83 issue is one of the top cards of the decade.

This card and the ones I'm about to feature were among the hundreds I snagged for a nickel each at last month's mall show.  Best deal in town!

Not only is Tom Terrific "in action" on this '82 Topps card, but he happens to be in action at Shea Stadium.  The Schaefer beer advertising panel int he background is a dead giveaway!

I've really become fixated on '82 Topps lately.  I guess I can thank this year's Archives release for that.  In some far-off day, I'll begin the task of putting the set together.  Until then, I'll just enjoy some individual pieces, like this Koosman.

...And this Dave Parker All-Star card.

The 1984 Topps design is kind of a 'meh' experience for me.  As others have stated numerous times before, the '84 effort was essentially of a weak redo of the previous year's template.  Still, with the right player and the right photo, an '84 Topps card can really pop.  The above Gary Carter is a fine example of this.

Mid-to-late '90s Topps is basically an unexplored frontier for me.  I bought very few packs between 1995 and, well, 2010, but the sets from '98 to 2004 are the most alien to me.  Thus, I was happy to find quite a few cards from sets like 1999 Topps.  This set, like the 2000 set, is odd because it doesn't feature the standard 660-plus cards.  It's considerably smaller.  The reason for that, I don't know.  But, the quality of the individual cards didn't suffer much at all.  In fact, it probably improved quite a bit.  Travis Fryman's '99 Topps card is solid proof of that.

Does anyone remember the other Pedro Martinez?  You know, Pedro A. Martinez?  I recall 1994 Collector's Choice had cards of both, the other being a Padres pitcher at the time.  That was the first time I became aware there were two Pedro Martinezes.  The Pedro you see above was only beginning to make a name for himself, so he still received the middle initial treatment from certain companies on some of his cards.  Before too long, however, the middle initial would disappear, just like the other Pedro Martinez.

I've always been fascinated and borderline obsessed with baseball caps.  I was constantly wearing one when I was growing up.  Whether I was playing ball with my buddies or eating Easter supper, I would always have my ball cap.  I kinda outgrew that once I got into my 20s, but I still love a good cap.  I suppose that's why I'm partial to cards with players fooling with their caps or adjusting them or taking them off, etc.  I'm not sure what Big Mo is doing with his cap, but he's having a good time of it.

In 2004, the Mets tried moving Mike Piazza to first base on a part-time basis to extend his career and keep his bat in the lineup without creating a defensive liability at the catcher's position.  And since the Mets play real baseball -- aka the National League -- and there's no such thing as the DH, the most likely place to 'hide' a player is first base.  He wasn't very good there, either, but you can't blame the Mets for trying.  Anyhow, you don't see too many cards of Piazza playing the field, so I got a kick out of this one.  By the way, the less areas of life that ESPN oozes itself into, the better!  So I'm glad this set didn't last.

I dabble in a little social media from time to time, but I'm not one of these obsessed people who has to tweet or drop Facebook status updates when they're in the hospital waiting room.  Hell, my phone doesn't even have a data plan.  Anyhow, it was  my own personal social media "Story of the Year" when I recently received an email notification that Jose Bautista -- the real MLB Jose Bautista, not Jose B. from 125th Street -- was now following me on Twitter!  How and why, I can't say because I don't know.  I don't even really tweet that much.  Irrespective of circumstances, I puffed my chest out a little further in the aftermath of that knowledge.

Now, if I can just get more than five people to read this blog, I'll be ready to take on the world...