Truly Reliving My Childhood

Ah, Topps baseball cards… how much money and time did I spend buying wax packs of you back in the day? Chewing that cement-like gum sometimes, throwing it out more often… and sorting through the seemingly endless variety of benchwarmers to cull the great players, hall of famers and stars that I’d want to make sure I had in my collection?

Nowadays, a pack of Topps cards ain’t 10 cards for a dime, that’s for damn sure. And if I as a mature adult (cough) decided to buy this year’s set, I’d probably just buy some factory set on amazon or ebay and then enjoy parusing through it.

But then I’d miss all the fun of wax-pack-discovery…. what I experienced as a kid ripping open pack after pack and seeing the random assortment of cards inside. Maybe there was a Reggie Jackson or a Frank Robinson… more likely there were multiple Fred Lashers and Jim Gosgers.

Nothing against you personally, Fred & Jim, but I lost count of how many hard-earned-for-a-7-year-old dimes went across the counter in pursuit of that Ernie Banks.

AND THEN I MISTAKENLY TRADED IT AWAY…. oh GOD, that’s a sad story for another time.

Anyway, today I was in the local Target checking out some housewares as a diversion from the other grocery store in the same strip-mall, and found myself browing through the packs of sports cards.

They were to the left of the numerous packs of non-sports cards for all sorts of crap I’d sort-of heard of, like Pok√©mon type stuff, and other stuff I had no clue about.

They had hockey cards and baseball cards. (Surprisingly, no basketball cards). Topps puts out what they call a “Heritage” set every year, where they produce cards of today’s players with yesterday’s clearly better, memory-poking and altogether wonderful card designs. This year’s heritage set are styled like the 1970 Topps set, with the gray framing and cursive handwriting.

Not one of my favorite old designs, I must admit… (I’m especially partial to the look of the 1967 and 1973 sets, if you must know) but I prefer it to the new modern themes.

So I started looking through the various cello-wrapped cards out there hanging on those racks…. and found myself doing EXACTLY what I used to do as a kid – I carefully examined each back to see if I could identify the top and bottom card in the stack by looking through the wrapper.

We used to cheat & peel back the wax paper, returning reject packs to the counter & grabbing any pack that revealed a Nolan Ryan, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver or whoever. Today I found myself, a supposedly responsible adult, standing in Target holding cello-wrapped jumbo packs of Topps Heritage cards up to the light & pressing down on them to see enough of that cursive writing to find out if Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar or any other Yankee I’d feel like a happy 7 year old getting in a pack were on the top or bottom of the damn thing.

The only thing missing was some annoying clerk coming over with a “Hey, this ain’t a library, kid” or some other such witticism to completely bring back my childhood.

I woulda shelled out the five bucks if they were. I came up empty, noticing more than one pack with Chris “I get paid even if I suck” Davis and Nick “Who?” Pivetta in more than one pack on the top, CONFIRMING MY LONG STANDING CONSPIRATORIAL BELIEF ABOUT TOPPS that they print WAY more cards for players who SUCK versus the players who don’t.

Funny… I don’t think any of today’s baseball cards featuring big stars will attain the value of the cards of olden days stars. The players’ stats might all be competitive… Hell, Mike Trout puts up numbers that evoke Mickey Mantle with healthy knees, but I know that Trout’s cards will never be as valuable as any Mantle card. I’ll hunt for & buy old cards here and there, every so often… I’d only buy today’s cards for collection filler…. and that’s why I’d much rather they’d still be 10 in a pack for a dime, to be honest. An inflation calculator tells me that 10 cents back in 1970 is pretty much equivalent to a dollar now, and I think a dollar now would feel a lot less to me than ten cents did when I was a kid…. but there’s no friggin way I’m spending five bucks for only a chance at players I’d like to have with only Chris Davis as the guarantee.

The child in the image of the man, after all….

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This Seems A Tad Expensive

Click on image to enlarge

Really? 2.7 million for a 1978 Craig Reynolds card?

I mean, he was a decent player and all, but I don’t think his 1978 card is up there with a 1909 Honus Wagner, y’know?

Maybe I misread the listing. Maybe the card comes shipped in a fleet of Lamborghinis. Or, perhaps it’s for the ACTUAL Craig Reynolds, now a Baptist pastor in Houston. How much do retired shortstops/pastors in Houston go for these days, anyway?

I was curious enough to email the seller:

Hi

This turned up in my suggestions and caught my attention. The price seems slightly high. So I’m curious.

I really want this price not to be a typo. I’d like to think people have made you ridiculous offers for this card thinking it’s some sort of rare error or the like. If so, more power to you.

My other theory is that you ARE Craig Reynolds. If so, you were a pretty good SS for the Astros.

In any case, I’d love to hear the story behind this listing if you want to answer, thanks in advance! If not, I’ll enjoy the mystery.

I’ll update this post if I get an answer.

Maybe more wacky suggestions will turn up in my ebay feed since I bought a few old cards the other day. Who knows?

In the meantime, make those best offers. Craig’s not getting any younger.

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1952 Duke Snider

How ’bout a story?

When I was a kid collecting baseball cards, before the friggin’ boomers destroyed the hobby by bidding up the prices of various cards beyond belief by the 1980s, it was often possible to search out & find classic old cards of great stars and legends at affordable prices, or amazingly cheap prices.

One day at an antique show my mom got interested in at the ol’ Midland Mall in Rhode Island, turned out one guy had a small box of several dozen absolute MINT condition 1952 Topps baseball cards.

4 for a dollar.

Yeah, I know – where’s Biff Tannen to come back in a Delorean and tell 1972 me that I should buy the entire box? It’s the first real Topps set, amazingly in demand, where mint condition cards are extremely rare and pricey. The Mickey Mantle rookie in set sells for multiple thousands of dollars.

Believe me, I combed the box for Yankees. The only one was Hank Bauer, but it, along with more stellar names – Bob Feller, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider rounded out my dollar’s worth.

These were immediate status symbols amongst the neighborhood friends who collected and traded cards with me. They were older, I’d gotten lots of cards from them from before my time, mostly commons but some star players in there, here and there, depending on what I’d traded away for ’em.

I got repeatedly badgered by one guy for one of the 1952s… haggling went back and forth, and in what seemed like a good deal in 1972, I traded the Duke Snider for a ’64 Koufax, Drysdale, and Tony Kubek, to get a Yankee in there.

I like having the Drysdale and Koufax cards…. to this day, they’re the only cards of either of those guys in my collection, I think… but over the years, parting with that mint Duke Snider has always haunted me. And I did NOT want to pay anywhere from the $300 -$2000 I’d seen the near mint to mints go for to get it back in that condition.

BUT – we have a happy ending to this tale. Recently on ebay, I found one in decent enough condition, not mint, but an undergraded good to very good one – no creases or marks or pinholes, only some corner wear visible on the front and not quite-perfect centering. And it fit right into the “I think I’ll buy myself a birthday present a month early” category at fifty bucks.

I spent nearly as much on sushi the other night, I figured. (All you can eat, too!)

Should I fixate on my memory of leaving the Warren Spahn and Richie Ashburn cards behind to take the Bauer back in ’72 and spring for those on ebay? Well, maybe next birthday. By then, maybe I can skip enough sushi to save up, who knows?

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1972 Topps “Boyhood Photos of the Stars” Jim Fregosi

You’d think they’d be more consistent in using kid photos of baseball players actually playing baseball, from their little league days or whatever.

Most of the cards in this section of the monster 1972 Topps set featured just that – the Tom Seaver or Willie Stargell show ’em both in their caps and uniforms back in their childhood days.

But Jim Fregosi, notable as a star on the Angels for a number of years who the Mets, being the Mets, traded Nolan Ryan for, only gets to play the accordion.

Maybe that’s why the Mets wanted him.

“Let’s unload a guy on the way to being one of the all time greatest pitchers ever, who’ll pitch a staggering 7 no hitters, pitch deep into his late 40s and set the all strikeout record….FOR AN ACCORDION!!!!!”

Actually, Fregosi broke his thumb with the Mets, lasted a year with them, went to other teams as a backup and eventually became a manager back with Angels, the team he’d had his best hitting years with, along with some Gold Glove fielding.  And in his mangerial stint with the Angels, he’d have Nolan Ryan on his pitching staff.

Not sure about the accordion.

Joe Torre’s boyhood photo is a nice one, too. It reminds me of when kid Henry Hill comes home to his mom wearing a new suit and mom scowls “You look like a gangster!”

The car is a nice touch. Just out of shot, Tom Hagen is telling Tessio “Can’t do it Sallie!” and Torre’s about to help him into the back seat.

You’d think it would have been Clemenza, but Tessio was always smarter.

But Joe won 4 World Series managing the Yankees.

Play THAT on your accordion.

Baseball Card Of The Day, All Star Break Edition: 1993 Craig Lefferts

Time for a break from baseball.

So why not pour yourself a cold one?

Craig Lefferts pitched for six teams in twelve seasons, starting and relieving as an all purpose work horse. He appeared in 696 games and holds the distinction of being the last pitcher to hit a walk-off home run, all the way back in 1986.

Don’t know about you, but I hope that’s bourbon and not Gatorade in that cup. That’d make this a true “action” card.

L’chaim Craig!

Regular baseball resumes Friday. And how ‘BOUT them Yankees?

Baseball Card Of The Day, Cranky Old Man Edition – 1968 Bob Gibson

Gibson had arguably the greatest single season performance of any pitcher in the modern era in 1968 – a record of 22-9, with 268 Ks in 304 innings…. along with a phenomenal 28 complete games and a seemingly impossible ERA of 1.12.

But look at these amazing stats that log every game of his in ’68 and zero in on June and July – he pitched FIVE complete game shutouts in a row during a stretch where he won ELEVEN straight complete games, EIGHT of them  shutouts.

His shortest start all year was his first – where he went 7 innings.

And now consider baseball in 2018 – the era of pitch counts, 7th inning left handed batter ground ball specialists, having five different guys come out of the bullpen to pitch the last three innings and other such SABERMETRIC BULLSHIT, and then hark back to the days when REAL MEN LIKE BOB GIBSON went out on a regular basis and dominated the living shit out of hitters who included Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Pete Rose and the rest.

Gibson’s iron manliness was the rule and not the exception, either. Those 28 complete games were NOT the league lead – Juan Marichal pitched 30 of ’em for the Giants. Gibson’s World Series opponent Denny McLain would also have 28 complete games for his amazing 31-6 record. Gibson would beat him twice in that series, but would get bested by Mickey Lolich in the end after a bad 7th inning.

Last year, Corey Kluber led the majors with 5 complete games, total.

Gibson did that in a row, in a month, all shutouts.

Kluber is no slouch, either, I’ve watched him beat my Yankees enough times. Cy Young winner, the whole bit. But Gibson intimidated the living crap out of batters. He was notorious for brushback pitches, yet did not hit many batters. He just made you think he did. His scowl and aura from the mound made it look like he didn’t just want to get you out, he wanted to KILL you and have your entire family watching in the stands die of heart attacks. You’d be thankful after all he did was strike you out.

We live in times of too much overthinking and finesse. And you kids better stay off my lawn.

And stay off Bob Gibson’s lawn too, he looks like he wants to kill you.

Baseball Card Of The Day: 1992 Robin Yount (Fleer)

Not sure what the graphic designers of this beauty were thinking. “Let’s give Robin a longer neck, and put him into a CONCEPT LANDSCAPE! I can SEE IT NOW!!!! A UNIVERSE OF BASEBALLS!!!! With Robin Yount, all-star shortstop, first ballot hall of famer, SURVEYING THE PLANETARY UNIVERSE OF BASEBALLS LIKE A HAPPY GREEK GOD…”

Seriously, wtf is up with this card?

I like the idea of surrealist influenced baseball card art, though. They should have done more of it, or hired Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and so forth to design their cards. Yount’s ’92 Fleer bizarro card reminds me of Dali’s Galatea with all those floating spheres, maybe a little of a Magritte sky of fluffy clouds.

Or just replace that green apple in front of the guy’s face with a baseball, perhaps.

Baseball cards would be a lot more interesting if they were done in styles of great artists and well known paintings. A team photo staged as Velazquez’ “Las Meninas.” Michaelangelo’s God giving life to Adam as one of those “Casey Teaches” type cards with Reggie Jackson in heaven with the ’77 Yanks touching Aaron Judge’s finger in Eden. Perhaps Clayton Kershaw could pose as the “Dodger Blue Boy.”

I’d start buying bubblegum packs again, for what that’s worth.

Pie Day

1972-Kelloggs-All-Time-Baseball-Greats-8-Harold-Pie-Traynor

… although you had to eat a lot of Kellogg’s Danish-Go-Rounds in 1973 to get THIS bastard.

But I saved room for pie. Urp.

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