Friday, January 19, 2018

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 12 (mildly NSFW)

So, it's 10 PM on a Friday. I'm normally asleep after a long week in the mines.  But, for whatever reason, I am sitting in my home office with a glass (or more) of Jameson's Black Barrel, listening to my classic rock playlist on iTunes, watching political Twitter meltdown over a potential government shutdown, and trying to figure out how to move this shit forward.

Most men my age are having existential crises that, for some reason, involve sports cars. Me? Not so much. A Ford Fusion is plenty sporty enough for me. My midlife crisis involves an autographed sports card collection. I've mostly exhausted by 1963 Fleer project and have moved on to a similar effort regarding the 1960 and 1961 Fleer sets. I've struggled with this project on a couple fronts.  First, how to approach the project. Second, how to blog about it.

With regard to the first issue, there are a total of 233 cards in the aggregate of the 1960 and 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats sets.  It is my estimation that, of those 233 cards, there is a maximum of 135 cards that could be autographed by the cards subject.  I am pondering whether I just move forward as I have to date, with no clear plan other than serendipity? Or do I focus in on one year in particular? How do I apportion my limited hobby resources between this project and my vintage Topps set building efforts? Heck, do I even want to continue given that a Jimmie Foxx autograph would set me back four figures? I have no answers other than I hope I hit the Lotto before I have to face those big decisions.

With regards to the second question, who the heck knows. I'm just gonna wing it.

The only decision I can make, at this point, is whether that a third glass of whiskey will  make tomorrow's hangover that much worse.

The text on the back of this card reads as follows

Haas's brief minor league career earned him a trial with Pittsburgh in 1925, but he was sent to Atlanta for two seasons, and then sold to the Athletics. He starred for the famous Connie Mack pennant clubs in 1929, '30 and '31. He played from 1933 to 1937 with the White Sox, 1938 back with Mr. Mack, and then launched into a managing career in the Texas League. He returned as White Sox coach for ten years.
Let's be clear about something. Haas doesn't qualify as a baseball great.  He was,  though, a notable major leaguer.

The referenced 1925 trial with Pittsburgh consisted of 3 plate appearances in 4 games that resulted in exactly zero hits in three plate appearances and one run scored.  He did manage to to tally 12.4 WAR over a 12 year career. One win over replacement (on average) per year ain't that great. But, he did manage a 12 year career that saw him post a .292/.359/.402 regular season slash line and three World Series appearances (including two Series wins.) He did a couple tours through my adopted home of Oklahoma City, both as a player in 1924 and as a manager in 1939. There isn't much information that my drunk ass can suss out regarding the historic Texas League statistics/game logs, so I am just going to publish this post and hope for better on the next.

Random observation:   Fleer doesn't believe in the Oxford comma.

Non-Random observation: I'm gettin gcloser to Part 14, which is a doozy.

What I am Listening to: Slipping Away by Dave Edmunds

Sunday, January 14, 2018

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 11

To give you some context about how far I am behind, I acquired the card below in July of 2017.  My hobby activity over the intervening 6 months has been minimal, so I don't have a huge backlog to catch up on.  But, I do need to get my act together if I am going to return to a normal hobby year in 2018.

I want to keep moving my set building moving forward, since I am 91 cards away from finishing the 787 card 1972 Topps flagship set, 156 cards away from finishing the 720 card 1970 set, and 63 cards away from finishing the 340 card 1956 set.

But, anyways, on to the reason for this post.   An autographed 1961 Fleer Red Ruffing:

Ruffing had a 22 year MLB career, the first six in Boston. An early season trade in 1930 sent him to the Yankees where he stayed for 15 seasons and participated in 7 world series. He missed 2 full and a partial third season to military service during WWII. He compiled a 273-225 record, with a 3.80 ERA across those seasons. Though he doesn't represent well under modern statistics, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. 

What isn't as known about Ruffing is that he was actually a good hitter, racking up a career slash line of .269/.308/.389.  He was often called upon to pinch hit during his career.  Unfortunately, the statistics in Baseball Reference get sketchier the further back you go. I tried to look up his career batting splits by position and they don't add up to his career totals.  Suffice it to say, he actually totalled 15.0 WAR as a hitter!

What I am listening to:  Keep Between the Lines by Sturgill Simpson

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Nice Surprise

A special Christmas gift arrived yesterday.  It is the 14th autographed 1961 Fleer card I've added to my collection. And, it is a doozy. However, since I just published a post on the tenth card yesterday, I still have several posts to go before I get to show it.  This post is not going to move that ball forward.

Friday, as I was helping my wife get ready to host her bunco group,  I wandered out to the mailbox to pick up what was likely bills and junk mail. I was surprised to find a bubble mailer with a return address in Watertown, NY.  It was, of course, from Night Owl.  Before running into town on another last minute shopping run, I quickly opened it up to see what was inside.

There was a small stack of cards, accompanied by a note reading "I don't know if you need any of these, but they seem to be about your speed."  There are two implied questions in the note:  Do you need these? Do you want these?  The answers were "mostly yes" and "definitely yes."

Of the 20 cars in the package, I already had two: a 1991 Conlon and a 1993 Ted Williams.  Beyond that, I needed, and wanted, all the cards.   There were three mid-1990s Upper Deck cards: a 1996 Jackie Robinson and 1994 All Time Heroes cards of Manny Mota and and Bill Mazeroski.

 The All-Time Heroes is a nice set that I would like to build some day.  Alas, unopened boxes are selling for $120 right now, so that is something that will need to wait.

The star of the show, so to speak, was 15 cards from the 1990 Swell set. 

As an aside: is it just me, or is seeing Johnny Podres as a Padre disconcerting?  Not because of the awkward alliteration, but I just always think of him as one of Roger Kahn's Boys of Summer.

Anyways, this is a set I have always liked. I actually have two cards from this set already, both autographed: Johnny Vander Meer and Enos Slaughter. I've always wanted to put it together, but with too many other open books in my collecting, it has never risen above the level of passing thought.  But now that I have over 12% of the entire 135 card set, I guess I am officially collecting it.

Thanks, NO!

What I am listening to: Better Bad Idea by Sunny Sweeney

Saturday, January 6, 2018

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 10

Enough of the non-trading card interlude.  Back to the main event: my tenth autographed 1961 Fleer card.  This one of the second of two Dutch Leonards to play major league baseball.

This Dutch Leonard, no relations to the first, pitched for 20 years in MLB between 1933 and 1953. He was a knuckleballer and compiled a 191-181 record over those 20 seasons. That may not sound like an overly impressive win-loss record, but the modern statistic ERA+ shows that he was at least league average, and often significantly better,  every year of his career save one.  He racked up a 51.7 career WAR. That included years of 6.6 and 6.3 WAR in 1947 and 1948, which saw him only compile a W-L record of 29-29 over that time. It probably didn't help that he played for the hapless Philadelphia Phillies in those years.

Hoyt Wilhelm, successor to the mantel of the most significant full time knuckleballer on Leonard's retirement, said that he learned the pitch from photographs of Dutch. Thus, Leonard's legacy continued on for another 20 years after his retirement and on into Cooperstown.

What I am listening to: American Metalhead by Sebastian Bach

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Alternate Collection Update #5

A few years back, San Jose Fuji asked if sportscard bloggers collected any non-sportscard items and I do. Well, to be specific, my wife and I do as our alternate collection relates somewhat to her hobby.  Plus, we don't have any children. So, we collect animals.

Here are the updates along the way

Original Post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3
Update 4

I had mentioned a few posts ago that we had a pony that had foundered and we were trying to get stabilized by treating the laminitis directly, while also trying to control the underlying cause, Cushing's Disease. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the Cushing's under control and the laminitis worsened.  Since the pony, Lady, was already 26 years old (horses normally live 25-30 years), and the probability of a successful outcome was so low, we made the decision to have her humanely euthanized.  She was rescued out of a bad situation about 11 years ago and had a good life with us.   She definitely leaves a hole in the herd.

So, anyways, speaking of rescues and holes in the herd:

Oklahoma is a convenient waypoint for horses bought at auctions elsewhere in the nation and being transported to Mexico for slaughter.  Now, I could go on about the slaughter industry, and my opinion might surprise you, but I know you are here for sports cards and are probably already looking for the exits, so I'll stop there.

Anyways, there are rescue groups on Facebook that go to the kill lots and look for good horses to try to save.  Thursday night my wife came across a Facebook post that included these pictures, among others:

She sent it to me and I have to say I was drawn to the fellow. He has a kind eye and was obviously calm in what was undoubtedly a strange and frightening environment.  We talked about it Friday night and decided to drive up to the kill lot and have a look at him. So, Saturday morning we headed out in the winter weather, which included freezing rain that got worse the further we traveled.

Let me tell you, if fish tailing a car gives you a fright, try it in a one ton pickup truck pulling a 24 foot horse trailer.  Having learned to drive in the winters of upstate New York, I was able to pull out of the skids but grew increasingly anxious as we continued to pass accidents and cars flipped over on their side in the median of the interstate.  At the first opportunity to do so safely, I pulled over and put the truck into 4 wheel drive and proceeded on. 4WD helped a lot and we proceeded along slowly until the roads improved after we got off the interstate.

The kill lot was an odd experience.  There were probably 100-150 horses there. Some were really nice (I saw a beautiful buckskin quarter horse in a distant pen) and some were in poor condition.  The lot itself was clean and well maintained.   The horses all had access to clean water and surprisingly good quality hay.  Not what I expected at all.

We went in to see this fellow and he was scared, but not dangerous. I was eventually able to halter him and give him a good look over.  He has some bad habits, but nothing we can't train out of him. Needless to say, we wrote the check and brought him home.

Here he is watching our other horses.  He is definitely buddy sour, but needs to be quarantined until we can treat a case of the snots and have the vet look at him.

.So, there you go.  The ongoing saga of my alternate collection.

What I am listening to: Buckskin Stallion Blues by Amy Annelle

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 9

It's hard to believe it has been so long since my last post. Indeed, it is hard to believe it has been nearly 3 months since I got back from vacation.  My wife and I took our 3rd annual pilgrimage back to Ohio.  Our vacation always starts with a weekend trip to Cedar Point, the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, which opens for weekends from mid-September through the end of October for Halloweekends.  We stay in the old section of the Hotel Breakers and spend Friday night, and all weekend, riding roller coasters, going through haunted houses, and eating fair food.

After that, we visit family. My wife was born and raised in Ohio. I am originally from Rochester, NY but moved away after college. My sister and brother-in-law moved to Cleveland over 20 years ago for his work.  About 10 years ago, after my grandmother passed, my parents moved to Cleveland to be closer to my sister and the grandchildren.  Cleveland may not excite you, but it is actually a fun town. I am going to try and go back this summer for the National Sports Collectors Convention.

Hobby-wise, life has been quiet. Until this week, I've not done anything since I got back from vacation. I did get a nice Christmas present for my Fleer autograph project and I am excited to share it.  But, I need to play catch up first.  So, I am going to try and knock a few posts off this week. Wish me luck!

This Lew Fonseca was the ninth autographed 1961 Fleer card I have acquired. Fonseca was born in 1899 and died in 1989 at the age of 90. With the exception of one outstanding year, he was mainly a slightly-above-replacement level player. His major league career spanned 12 seasons between 1921 and 1933, playing for Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and the Chicago White Sox. The last two years, he was the player/manager for the hapless White Sox. His best year was 1929, when he won the AL batting title with a .369/.427/.532 slash line.  His high slugging average was not due to any inherent power as he only jacked 6 home runs that season. His SLG benefited from counting 44 doubles and 15 triples amongst his 209 base hits.

Fonseca's main claim to fame is to be a pioneer in using game film to study opponents. He also editted, directed. and occasionally narrated World Series highlight films from 1943 to 1969.

What I am listening to: Washington Square by Chris Isaak

Saturday, September 16, 2017

1961 Fleer Autograph Project - Part 8

Life is hectic around here.  I'm trying to get ready to go on our now-annual fall pilgrimage back to Ohio to visit family and spend a weekend at Cedar Point. Additionally, one of our horses foundered seriously a couple weeks ago and it has been a bit of a struggle, with multiple visits from the vet and the farrier, to get her stabilized.  So, I am going to knock one more out before I likely go back on radio silence for a few weeks.

Here is the 8th autographed 1961 Fleer I have added to my collection.  It cost me the crazy low price of $23.49 delivered.

Charlie Gehringer was the stalwart second baseman for the Detroit Tigers for a 16 year period from 1926 through 1941.   Over a 19 year career, he put up a .320/.404/.480 slash line with 2839 hits, an MVP win in 1937 (when he barely edged out Joe Dimaggio), and a World Series win in 1935.

In reading his SABR biography, I found an interesting tidbit about his later life. Apparently, as one of the oldest living ballplayers (at the time) he was overwhelmed with autograph requests.  Since many of those requests were from folks who intended to resell them, Gehringer began to charge for autographs. His friend, baseball writer Jim Hawkins, said “Ninety-five percent of the requests were from people planning to resell Charlie's autograph......That was when and why Charlie began charging for autographs and requesting that all such mail be sent to me. We did so until the end of his life. But believe me, he didn't do it for the money. He did it for his quality of life and peace of mind.”

What I am listening to: Factory Girl by The Chieftans with Sinead O'Connor.